Category Archives: Book to Movie

Congratulations, a favorite book, and some pictures

DSC_0005My good bloggy buddy Carrie of Reading to Know fame is celebrating 8 years of blogging!   Carrie is hosting a giveaway in celebration of her 8 years, and the requirement for entry is that we post a picture of ourselves with our favorite book.  Well, that’s no easy task, of course.  I’ve written a long list of books I love here, I frequently tag books I particularly enjoy as Best Books, and every year I publish a list of my top picks.  (To see those lists, click on Booklists in the header and then pick Booklists by Year.)  When it comes to favorites, though, a few come to mind from different times in my life.  My favorite book from the past decade–maybe even two decades–is Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. You can read my faltering thoughts about the book here, but you should really just skip reading my review and read the book for yourself.   The subject of the book, Mr. Louis Zamperini, passed on to his eternal reward back on July 2, 2014, and a movie based on Unbroken debuts Christmas Day.  I plan to read the book again before I see the movie in December, and I hope to get as many people as I can to read it before they see the movie, too.  The trailer is below:

I can’t remember exactly when I first started reading Carrie’s blog, though I know it has been over five years.  I think I first started reading Reading to Know through her L.M. Montgomery Challenge.  (My first post for the challenge was way back in 2009!)  That was way back when I only had two children, only one of which was school age (and that unofficially, since she was only in kindergarten).  I feel like Carrie and I have been through a lot (and a lot of books!) together, and I definitely consider her an IRL friend.  :-) (Even though we’ve never actually met–one day!  And if not here, on the other side!)

And just because I really can’t just post one book, I’ll share a few shots of my very disorganized bookshelves where some of my lifelong favorites reside.  :-)

Narnia L.M. Montgomery


Congratulations, Carrie!  You’ve enriched my life, and I’m very happy and proud to call you my friend!

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39 Books I Have Loved, in Honor of My Birthday

(This is a post I published two years ago on my birthday, and I thought I’d re-share it again this year.  I thought and thought about writing up a history of my reading life like Carrie and then Barbara did, but I haven’t had time yet, and besides, between what I’ve re-read and reviewed on my blog and this list, I’m not sure how much more there is to say.  I am adding two more books to the end of the list in honor of this year’s birthday. )

Thirty-seven Thirty-nine years ago today tomorrow I entered this world.  I’ve had a good and interesting life, and much of the goodness of it has been brought to me through reading.  I thought it would be fun to make a random-ish list of thirty-seven thirty-nine books I have loved during my lifetime so far, even if I don’t necessarily still love them today.  I have given myself the stipulation that I can’t have reviewed them on my blog, so that necessitates the leaving off of several books that I still love, even to this day.  Links on the list will be to wherever I want them to go–sometimes my blog (if, say, I’ve merely mentioned the book before or I’ve written about the author before, etc.) or elsewhere.  Most titles are links to my Amazon Associates account.

Without further ado, the list:

  1. More Spaghetti, I Say! by Rita Golden Gelman.  This is a book that I loved so much as a child that I think my mother and daddy both had it memorized from so many repeated readings.  Of course I had it memorized.  I really hadn’t thought much about it until a few years ago when Steady Eddie (to whom I had obviously mentioned it at some point) came home with it from some meeting he attended.  Steady Eddie speaks my love language!  This is a beginning reader with lots of silliness and rhyme, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.  :-)
  2. Mother Goose–but not just any old Mother Goose book.  This one had a dull red and cream cover that was sort of toile-like and was illustrated with old timey line drawings.  I really need to see if my mother still has it.  (Note to self:  ask her!)  Obviously our reading of Mother Goose took.  I was the quiz team member in high school to whom everyone looked if ever a nursery rhyme question was asked.  It was my one area of expertise.
  3. Bear Circus by William Pene Du Boise.  At least, I think this is the book I remember.  All I remember about it is an image:  koala bears in eucalyptus trees that have been stripped of their leaves by locusts.  An internet search led me to this book; I sure would like to find a copy to see if it’s the one I remember.   This is one of only a very few picture books that I do remember, so it must’ve made an impression on me.  Maybe it was because of the unfamiliar subject matter.
  4. A Horse Named Cinnamon by Jeanne Hovde.  (That’s the Amazon link over there, but you can see a copy of it here.)  I think this one started my horse-crazy stage, a stage that I believe approximately 67.998% of girls go through.  I never owned a horse, but I sure did love to read about them.
  5. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.   Old Dan and Little Ann.  Need I say more?  This is one that definitely falls into the “I still love it” category.  Although I don’t consider myself an animal person, really, I was surrounded by animal lovers growing up, and enough of that must’ve rubbed off on me to cause me to tear up at the end of this story every time I read it.  I don’t even think you have to like animals to get teary-eyed over this tale of devotion.  (Incidentally, I did mention this one here and here, if you’re interested.)
  6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.  I’m not sure I loved this when I read it, a sixth grader just beginning to grow into her intellect.  I think I love it now because it was the first book I remember being really challenged by.  Perhaps it was because it is of a genre I had probably never read before.  Whatever the reason, L’Engle is an author who is perpetually on my TBR list, at least the one I carry around in my brain.  Since I began this blog, I’ve read and reviewed a couple of books by her (The Love Letters and The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas, which I mentioned briefly here), but I hope there are more in the future.
  7. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin.  I don’t really remember too much about the story, other than that I liked it.  I brought the audiobook home from the library a few months ago, and we all tried to listen to it on a trip in our van.  It’s a somewhat dense story, and the girls just didn’t take to it.  We’ll try again.
  8. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg.  I like a good mystery, and I liked Claudia’s independence (then–now, I just think about these two children running away from home and EEEEEEEEEEK!).  This is one of those stories that never gets old to me.
  9. The Cayby Theodore Taylor.  I don’t remember the first time I read this book, but I do remember listening to an audio version of it after I was a young adult.  This is such a good story.  I can’t believe I haven’t read the sequel!
  10. Treasure on Squaw Mountain by Marjorie Zimmerman.  This is one of the first volumes of Christian fiction (for kids) that I remember reading, and while I’m sure it’s not fine literature, I still remember the exciting plot.  I think I still have a copy around somewhere, to pass on to my children in a couple of years.
  11. Once Upon a Summer by Janette Oke.  This is the first book by Janette Oke that I ever read.  I read it as a student at a small Christian school, and I remember feeling very grown up to have read such a book.  Although it doesn’t contain much romance at all that I remember, it must’ve had just a hint for me to feel this way.  I went on to read everything Janette Oke wrote for many years, as is evidenced by the next two numbers.
  12. When Calls the Heart and sequels by Janette Oke.  I think this is my favorite of Janette Oke’s old series.  I can’t offer an opinion about her newer books because I haven’t read anything she has written in the past dozen years, I guess.  I thought Elizabeth and Wynn’s love story was so. . . so. . . romantic as a young adult, and I have a secret inclination toward adventure.  The idea of moving into the Canadian wilderness with my very own Mountie?  Swoon.  (Mind you, I would have never admitted this as a young adult.  Never!)
  13. Loves Comes Softly and sequels by Janette Oke.  I imagine that this story has been co-opted by all the movies that have been based on it and its sequels, but I remember Marty when she wasn’t so beautiful;-)  Somehow I never imagined her as beautiful in the stories, although Janette Oke might very well have described her as such and I just never picked up on it.  This one of Janette Oke’s prairie love stories tells the most compelling story of redemption, and I read and and very much enjoyed the original series.  This was about as sappy and romantic as anything I’ve ever read, but I still recommend it, if you haven’t read it.
  14. Archie comic books.  I remember buying these off the rack in the check-out line in the grocery store.  I don’t remember any particular episode from the serial, but I sure did enjoy them.  I still see them around and wonder if the story is still the same.  I think Veronica‘s skirt has gotten shorter, but maybe it’s just me and my Puritanical ways. ;-)
  15. White Flower by Grace Livingston Hill.  I don’t even remember much at all about this story now, but I still have an old, library-bound copy of this book on my shelf.  (Ah, yes!  I went and pulled it off the shelf, and now I remember–it’s a bonafide damsel-in-distress story!)  I want to think that this is my friend Gena’s favorite GLH story, and that perhaps that’s why I picked it up.  GLH is known for her gentle, Christian romances, and I have to say that there’s usually a good bit to them theologically, too.  If you expect the resolution  to be very complicated, you’ll be disappointed, but isn’t that the way it is in real life, too?
  16. City of Fire by Grace Livingston Hill.  This one is my favorite GLH title.  I even quoted a portion of it in an “all about me” project I did for a creative writing class in high school.  (My protoblog, maybe?)  GLH”s novels are romances in which it’s usually the girl’s goodness and faithfulness that brings the man back to God, a formula that I don’t think has been tried too much lately.  I found this website while poking around the ‘net, looking for these old GLH titles.  It looks interesting.
  17. Christy by Catherine Marshall.  I loved it before it was a television series, although I loved the series, too.  I’ve read this one many times, and it always moves me to tears.  Idealistic and romantic?  Maybe.  Beautiful, true(ish) story?  Yes!  Read it, if you haven’t.
  18. Julie by Catherine Marshall.  This is a different story entirely from Christy, but it’s just as absorbing.  I enjoy historical fiction that’s based on fact, and Julie is based on the Johnstown, Pennsylvania, flood of 1889Julie is usually overshadowed by Christy, but it’s just as good.  I think I might’ve inherited a cousin’s copies of both of these books, and they’re both in tatters now.  I tried to re-read Julie a few months ago, but I just couldn’t stick with it.  I’ll read them both again sometime, though, I’m sure.
  19. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.  I was pretty young when I read this the first time–maybe ten or eleven.  Knowing the subject matter, I think–Wow!  I can’t believe my mother let me read that!  It obviously didn’t scar me, though, since I’ve read it again and again and again.    I have read many of Corrie Ten Boom’s other books through the years, but none is as inspiring as this story.  I love it.
  20. The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare.  I can’t remember if I picked up this 1962 Newbery Award winner as an assignment in library school, or if I just did it of my own initiative.  Whatever the case, this is one of my favorites.  I think what surprised me most is that this is a mainstream juvenile fiction selection that reads like a Christian fiction selection, only better.  :-)  (Patricia M. St. John’s books come immediatley to mind.)  Of course, Speare wrote The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and I suppose that’s the one she’s best known for.  The Bronze Bow is an excellent story that tackles difficult problems and comes up with the only solution–that only God can work out some problems, especially the problems of the human heart.  You can read a whole slew of reviews of this book at The Newbery Project blog.
  21. The Landby Mildred D. Taylor.  I think I read this book while I was working as librarian of an elementary school.  While this prequel in the line of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is definitely more appropriate for young adults and adults, I have to say that if you like historical stories that deal with race, this one is absolutely a must-read.  I think I devoured it in two days, and it’s a pretty hefty story.  I want to go back and read the whole little series.  I just remember being completely blown away by it.
  22. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  My only regret about this story is that I share a name with the least likeable of all the sisters.  :-)  I’d love to go back and catalog all the similarities between LW and the Anne of Green Gables stories, starting with the fact that both authors are LMs. 
  23. The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.  I’m cheating here because I’ve actually never read the original, much to my embarrassment.  I read a children’s version some twenty-five years ago, but it really had an impression on me.  I’m not sure that this is the one I read, but it might be:  Little Pilgrim’s Progress: From John Bunyan’s Classic.  The girls and I even got to see a stage adaptation of this classic last year, and I really enjoyed it.  I really need to rectify this deficit in my reading life!  (Edited to add:  I read Little Pilgrim’s Progress aloud to my girls last year, and we really enjoyed it.)
  24. This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti.  Of course, the story is continued in Piercing the Darkness.  These were the first books of this genre I ever read.  Many authors have written stories in the same vein, but I think Peretti did it best.  (I did enjoy this book by Shaunti Feldhahn that is very similar, though.)
  25. Prophet by Frank Peretti.  As much as I enjoyed the two previous titles, Prophet is my favorite of his works.  It deals with a sensitive topic (abortion, in case you haven’t read it), but I just liked both the story and how the change in the characters took place.  I went on to read everything Peretti wrote for a while, but The Oath did me in.  I read it three times, I think, out of morbid curiosity, and then I decided that Peretti’s works had taken a decided turn for the scarier and darker, and he fell off my radar.
  26. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan.  This sparsely and beautifully written children’s story is just about perfect, in my opinion.  I checked it out for Lulu to read a few weeks ago, but I couldn’t interest her in it yet.  As much as I’d love to read it to them (‘though I know I couldn’t do it without crying, but what’s unusual about that?), I think some stories are best experienced privately.  I think this might be one of them.  If you haven’t read it, you can read several reviews here.  Better yet, just pick up this beautiful little novel and read it.  (I can’t resist–“Read it with a box of kleenex!”–can anyone identify this movie quote?)
  27. Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam.  Steady Eddie brought this book home, signed by the author, after he heard Homer Hickam speak at Space Camp the first or second year we were married.  This is a very sad but ultimately inspring true story.  What I remember most about it is the profound disconnect between father and son.  They made a movie from the book, and I think I’ve seen it, but the book impressed me more.
  28. Holes by Louis Sachar.  I thought this Newbery Award winner was so unusual, suspenseful, witty, and entertaining.  More reviews are here.
  29. A Long Way From Chicago  by Richard Peck.  This book and its Newbery Award-winning sequel, A Year Down Yonder, are side-splittingly funny and touching by turns.  Once you read these, you’ll never forget Grandma Dowdel.  Read more reviews here
  30. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.  Like #6, Great Expectations is a book that raised the bar of expectations for my reading and comprehending.  I read it for ninth grade English class, and I remember taking a daily reading quiz on the next five chapters.  That was reading at a nice little clip.  I don’t remember too much about the story, but it didn’t scare me off from Dickens, since I finally got around to reading A Tale of Two Cities last year.  It only took me twenty years!
  31. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. Of all the books assigned to me as a high school student, this one was my favorite, and I still love it today.  It’s much better to me than its darker cousin.
  32. You’re Only Old Once! A Book for Obsolete Children by Dr. SeussConfession:  I am not a huge fan of Dr. Seuss, but this one holds a special place in my heart.  Steady Eddie gave me a wrapped package to take with me on a mission trip I went on the summer we started dating.  His instructions were to open it when I got to Albuquerque.  Inside it was this book.  From our first meeting in the library where I worked until today in our book-cluttered home, books have always been a part of our relationship.  :-)
  33. The Gates of Zion by Brock and Bodie Thoene.  Reading The Gates of Zion started my twenty-plus year love affair with the writing duo Brock and Bodie Thoene.  After reading the Zion Chronicles series, I backtracked and read the Zion Covenant series.  I’ve also finished the Zion Legacy series and started on the A.D. Chronicles.  I love how they bring history to life.  All of my reviews of books by the Thoenes are here.  Visit their website here.
  34. The Honorable Imposter by Gilbert Morris. I purchased the first book in the House of Winslow series as my “souvenir” on a school trip.  (I used to do that a lot, and at one point I could’ve told you where I had gone; now all I remember are the books.)  I loved the book and felt a little bit daring by reading it–after all, it contained romance (tame, yes, but real romance, between a Saint and Sinner, both of marriageable age).  I collected all the books and kept up with the series, more or less, until about eight or nine years ago.  I finally conceded that each story was the same, only the characters and settings were a little different.  I see that there are 40 books in the series now.  Wow.  It was a fun ride while it lasted, but just about all of my books have been PaperbackSwapped now.
  35. The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo.  I have fond memories of this little book because I read it to my fifth graders when I was an elementary librarian.  This is the perfect read-aloud for upper elementary, especially if you want to discuss things like symbolism and theme.  Of course, I think Kate DiCamillo is a mighty fine writer.
  36. Papa’s Wife by Thyra Ferre Bjorn. I remember reading this book or one of its sequels, Papa’s Daughter and Mama’s Way, lying on my back in my parents’ car the summer after I graduated high school.  We were on our way to my senior trip, of sorts–a family vacation to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  It was an angst-y time in my life with all the change, and these stories were a good diversion.  I’d like to go back and re-read them.
  37. The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book by Bill Watterson.  Does anybody else still miss them?
  38. Childcraft series of books published by World Book Encyclopedia.  We had our own set and I spent hours and hours reading these, even the purple parent guide.  Weird, I know.
  39. World Book Encyclopedia.  Please tell me I’m not the only one who read not only the children’s version of the encyclopedia, but the real deal, too.  Anybody?  I particularly remember loving the D volume because I really liked looking at all of the pictures of the different breeds of dogs.

I’m sure that the moment I hit “publish,” I’ll think of three books I should’ve included, but here it is.  And here’s to 37+ 39+ more years of reading good books!

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Read Aloud Thursday–Hans Brinker by Mary Mapes Dodge

I don’t think I’ve ever had as many mixed feelings about a read-aloud as I have about Hans Brinker by Mary Mapes Dodge.  When I started reading this story to the girls way back in July, I had no idea that it would take us two months (more or less) to finish it or that it is as dense and detailed as it is.  All I can say is whew.  Between the Dutch names and the travel log commentary, I felt like giving up on it on more than one occasion.  However, we have a longstanding tradition of never giving up on a book, mainly because the girls never want to (I’m the wimp here, I admit it!)  When it was all said and done on Friday afternoon, I ended the book with teary eyes and a happy sigh, and I think I can say that it was worth the hours of mental and lingual gymnastics it took for me to read this one effectively to my girls.

You see, the problem is that there are basically two threads running through Hans Brinker.  First, there’s the story of the Brinker family, a family on the brink of financial ruin because the father was injured while working on the dykes a decade earlier and has been “an idiot” (used here in its old, clinical definition) since.  The children, Hans and Gretel,  are brave and loving children, but are treated somewhat as outcasts in the village because of their poverty.  This part of the story is lovely, really–it’s all about village life and ice skating (lots and lots of skating!), and it involves several little mysteries.   I won’t provide any spoilers here, but the mysteries are heart-warming, if a little too coincidental.  (I don’t mind a deus ex machina here or there, myself.)

The second thread, and the one that almost drove me to distraction, is the one that involves a cadre of the village boys (teenagers, really, but all the “children” in this book are older–but seem much younger, thankfully–than we expect them to behave nowadays) who take “a long skating journey” of fifty miles from their village of Broek to The Hague.  Joining these Dutch boys on their journey is a British cousin of one of the boys, so what follows is an opportunity for them to show off their country in grand style:  they take Ben to every landmark and place of note between Broek and The Hague.  We learn all about a variety of Dutch curiosities–artists, ice breaking equipment, famous churches, you-name-it.  Have I mentioned that this is the part that frustrated me?  :-)  I love to travel and I’m as interested in other countries and cultures as I can be, but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why, oh why, Mary Mapes Dodge had to break up her lovely little story with almost 200 (yes!) pages of travel commentary.

And then I read the preface.  (There’s a very good reason why it’s called the PREface.)

This little work aims to combine the instructive features of a book of travels with the interest of a domestic tale.

Ah-ha!  But wait!  There’s more!

Should this simple narrative serve to give my young readers a just idea of Holland and its resources, or present true pictures of its inhabitants and their every-day life, or free them from certain current prejudices concerning that noble and enterprising people, the leading desire in writing it will have been satisfied.

Somehow, knowing that she meant for the story to be read that way made it a wee bit easier to take for me.  Still, though, if it hadn’t been for my girls insisting that we keep on keeping on, I would’ve cast this story aside long about page 125.  I do think that they have a sense of what life in Holland was like, and I was surprised every time I questioned them about something that I had just read–they could almost always answer my questions!

Our copy of Hans Brinker, which I’ve linked above and here to used copies at Amazon, is illustrated by Paul Galdone, a Caldecott honoree best known for his re-tellings of fairy tales.  The illutrations are simple line drawings interspersed throughout the text.

I’ve also learned that Mary Mapes Dodge was the first editor of St. Nicholas magazine, a fact that I find interesting after reading about E.B. White’s early experiences as a writer.  As a child, White had some of his writing published in St. Nicholas, as did quite a few other well-known writers.

So am I recommending Hans Brinker?  I don’t know.  It takes a lot of perseverance, both for the reader and the listener.  However, there are many, many worthwhile things about it, the least but most entertaining of which is that you will get to say the name Jacob Poot approximately 173 times, and your children will laugh great belly laughs about it the first 52 times.  :-)  (I mention this in kind-hearted jest, having stumbled upon this site that claims many inaccuracies in the naming of people and places in Hans Brinker.  The site also mp-3 files of the correct pronunciations of the Dutch words, but alas, I cannot get it to work.)

(Doubleday, 1954; first published 1875)

Of course, I have to link back to this post in which I review The Greatest Skating Race by Louise Borden, a book also set in Holland, as well as this post at A Spirited Mind in which Catherine highlights a nice assortment of picture books set in Holland.

We celebrated the completion of this protracted read-aloud experience with a showing of the 1962 Disney adaptation of the book.  While my busy-ness during the viewing of this movie (I was preparing lots of outgrown little girl clothes for a consignment sale and riding herd on the DLM) prevents me from giving it a thorough treatment here, I can say that while many of the details are left out or changed altogether, it retains the spirit of the story.  My eldest daughter swooned at the romantic element (when and how did this happen, I ask?), which is very tame but emphasized much more than I ever did in my reading of the story.  The tour-guide parts of the story are achieved not with a bunch of teenaged boys skating through Holland, but with a voice-over narration.  The scenery in the story is lovely, and my girls (who don’t watch much television, so your mileage may vary) were not disappointed.

Have you ever set aside a long read-aloud?  Do you have a certain rule that you go by (maybe reading so many pages before abandoning it)?

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Practically Perfect in Every Way

Yes, that’s me, masquerading as the unflappable nanny herself.   While I’m nowhere near as, well, perfect as Mary Poppins, I did enjoy my date with Bert the Chimney Sweep at our homeschool group’s annual themed parent dinner this past weekend.  The high school students did a fabulous job of presenting a Night at the Oscars.  This has, of course, given my girls a hankering for the book again (we read it a few years ago, and I mentioned it briefly here), but I’m not sure I’m up for it yet.  The movie sanitized the Travers version a good bit, in case you haven’t read it.  :-)

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