Laddie by Gene Stratton-Porter

My girls and I finished our latest nighttime read-aloud, Laddie:  A True Blue Story by Gene Stratton-Porter, while on vacation last week.  I picked it up in August on a whim because it was the Reading to Know Bookclub pick of the month, though I had no hope of actually finishing it that month.  It’s long!  (My copy is just at 400 pages!)  It turns out that it took us about two months to read it, but read it all we did.   I had a good bit of experience with Gene Stratton-Porter, having read and loved both A Girl of the Limberlost and Freckles in the past.  I knew this would be a dense, time-consuming read, but the girls hung in there very well and followed the story better than I did.  Of course, the story itself isn’t all that complicated:  Little Sister narrates the story of her family, particularly the story of her older brother Laddie’s romance with their neighbor, Pamela Pryor, also known as The Princess.  It’s as much the family’s story as it is Laddie’s and Little Sister’s, though, because in this huge, old-fashioned family, nothing is done without the involvement of the whole clan.  The problem of the story is whether or not Laddie will win the heart of The Princess, mostly due to her rather difficult father and her own prejudices against a man who works the land.  There are plenty of side stories, too, but all of them go back to the main complication.  Rich in detail and description, this book requires way more attention than anything published in the last fifty years.

This story is old-fashioned in both its language and its message and theme.  Because the story mostly involves the marriageability of Laddie (as well as a few of the other Stanton siblings), we get to see how this plays out in a big family where mother and father most decidedly hold the reins, all the while letting their young adult children make decisions on their own.  I’ll admit that my girls and I didn’t quite understand or appreciate the obvious preference that Mother Stanton gives to Laddie, a paragon of virtue and good looks.  Still, though, there’s much to be learned from a family like the Stantons.  There’s also a good bit of humor in this story, despite its romanticized and idealized view of both life in general and family relations in particular.  My girls and I laughed aloud numerous times throughout the story, mostly in the episodes that involved either the teacher who boarded with the Stantons or brother Leon, who is quite the rapscallion.  Like Stratton-Porter’s other novels, Laddie ends with quite a bang:  a huge mystery involving the Pryors is solved in a most improbable fashion.   Given the story, though, I was not surprised, and I must say it was quite satisfying.

Reading this story aloud to my girls made me consider again the influence that books have on us in terms of the formation of our expectations about life, etc.  While Laddie isn’t a Christian romance novel per se, there is a basic understanding about the Stantons and their faith, and the Pryors stand in stark opposition to that.  Faith is definitely a part of the equation.    I’ve read articles before (none which I can cite, unfortunately) to the effect that reading Christian romance novels and the like can set young people (women, in particular) up for disappointment about life in general and romance and marriage in particular.  I’m not sure I buy that.  I’ve expressed before how I want my children’s literary friends (the ones they meet in books) to help them becomes their best selves.  In fact, while mulling over what I think about this whole issue, I realized that I had already explained it in my review of Freckles–how my own reading shaped my own thoughts about the type of man I would (and eventually did) marry.  I think it’s something that worked in my favor.

My girls and I give Laddie–all 400 pages of it!–a Highly Recommended.  In fact, I had to borrow our copy from Lulu, who decided to go back and re-read it, to write this review.  If that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is.  (1917)

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The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

I read The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer for Carrie’s Reading to Know bookclub, which was hosted in March by Shonya from Learning How Much I Don’t Know.   Tozer is an author I’ve wanted to read for a very long time, and in fact I had begun a different book by him not too long ago, which I regret to say I never finished.  I’m very happy to say I finished this one on the first day of April.  It took me much of March to read it, not because I found it terribly long or I had to force myself to read it, but because I read most of it on my iphone.  I downloaded the free copy (linked here) for my Kindle, and then my Kindle went on the fritz.  I wouldn’t recommend reading long-term on such a tiny screen, but hey–it was free!  😉

I thoroughly enjoyed and was greatly encouraged by this book.  I suspect this has much to do with where I am spiritually at the moment more than (necessarily) anything about the book, though given its popularity I assume many people feel similarly about it.  I’ve spent the past year (or more) really thinking about Christianity deeply–it has become cerebral for me, and I miss the more emotional part of my faith.  In fact, I think I had slipped over into a dangerous place where I discounted the “felt” part of faith, and this book helped bring me back to a middle ground.  (Please don’t misconstrue or misunderstand–I do NOT think our faith is based on feeling.  However, I do believe that feeling can have some part in it at times during our lives.  In fact, leaving our emotions entirely out of it is surely not what God intended!)  Tozer speaks to this very thing:

Between the scribe who has read and the prophet who has seen there is a difference as wide as the sea.  We are today overrun with orthodox scribes, but the prophets, where are they?  The hard voice of the scribe sounds over evangelicalism, but he Church awaits for the tender voice of the saint who has penetrated the vail and has gazed with inward eye upon the Wonder that is God.  And yet, thus to penetrate, to push in sensitive living experience into the holy Presence, is a privilege open to every child of God.

When I first started reading it, I thought it would be a great book to take chapter-by-chapter and journal or blog through.  However, my life being as busy at it is, I couldn’t manage that.  I did read it one chapter at a time and without breezing through it like I usually do.  I think this made a huge difference in my enjoyment and appreciation for this book.  I truly enjoyed many of the chapters (and I have the highlights and bookmarks to prove it–I really don’t know when I’ve highlighted or bookmarked more!)  I think my favorite parts of the book, though, were the prayers.  I’d really like to go back and re-read the book and think about it some more.  I at least think re-reading the prayers would be beneficial.  (And dare I say that actually praying them might even be more beneficial?  😉 )

I wish I could share deeper theological thoughts about it than this.  Instead I’ll close with just a few excerpts from my favorite chapter, chapter nine, which is entitled “Meekness and Rest.”  This is something I think about a lot, so this chapter really ministered to me.

The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority.  Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself.  He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life.  He knows he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels.  In himself, nothing; in God, everything.  That is his motto.  He knows well that the world will never see him as God sees him and has stopped caring.  He rests perfectly content to allow God to place His own values.  He will be patient to wait for hte day when everything will get its own price tag and real worth will come into its own.  Then the righteous shall shine forth in the Kingdom of their Father.  HE is willing to wait for that day.

The heart of the world is breaking under this load of pride and pretense.  There is no release from our burden apart from the meekness of Christ.  Good keen reasoning  may help slightly, but so strong is this vice that if we push it down one place it will come up somewhere else.  To men and women everywhere Jesus says, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest.”  The rest He offers is the rest of meekness, the blessed relief which comes when we accept ourselves for what we are and cease to pretend.  It will take some courage at first, but the needed grace will come as we learn that we are sharing this new and easy yoke with the strong Son of God Himself.  He calls it “my yoke,” and He walks at one end while we walk at the other.

This is definitely a book and an author I want to revisit.  Thanks, Carrie and Shonya, for the encouragement to finally pick this one up!


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Odds & Ends: To Kill a Mockingbird Edition


I did not get around to reading To Kill a Mockingbird this month for the Reading to Know Bookclub.  However, I did want to share a few pictures I took of TKM-related “stuff” when we took a field trip to the Alabama Archives in Montgomery back in August.  I’ve been meaning for oh, about four months now to share pictures from that trip because it was so good, but for now these few pictures will have to do.


This movie poster caught my eye in the children’s hands-on room in the Archives.  I just love Gregory Peck as Atticus, don’t you?

At the entrance and exit to the Alabama Voices portion of the Archives, there is this really neat wall of pictures of famous Alabamians.  Do you see Harper Lee?



There she is!

DSC_0136Outside the Archives is a huge map of Alabama.

DSC_0162I was just so tickled to see To Kill a Mockingbird on the map!


We have friends who recently moved to Monroeville.  Maybe now we’ll actually get down there for a visit!  🙂

Harper Lee’s sister, Alice Lee, passed away last month at the age of 103.  This article about her by Alabama historian Wayne Flynt is particularly touching.

If you’re interested in Harper Lee’s life and how she came to write her one-and-only novel, I recommend Mockingbird:  A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields.

In this post I link up quite a few really neat To Kill a Mockingbird resources.

I shared a few favorite quotes here and here.



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The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

I read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken for this month’s Read to Know Bookclub, and I am so glad I did!  I chose to not read this one aloud to my children because I thought it might be scary, but it turns out that think this is one that we would’ve all enjoyed as a read-aloud.   Although this book has been on my radar for a while (after all, it was published in 1962!), it’s not one I’ve ever been inclined to pick up on my own.  I steer a pretty wide path around anything that seems like it might be scary or have questionably evil undertones, and for some reason that’s the impression I’ve always had of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.  While this story does contain a trio of dastardly villains (not to mention some pretty creepy wolves!), there’s nothing in here that I predict would cause my ten and eight year olds to have trouble going to sleep at night.  What is does have is adventure aplenty, with a duo of spunky heroines and a helpful gooseboy who comes to their rescue.  What I particularly love are the Dickens-esque characters and characterization and the delightfully descriptive writing:

“So I should hope!  Am I right in supposing that you are Miss Green?  I am Miss Slighcarp, your new governess.  I am also your fourth cousin, once removed,” the lady added haughtily, as if she found the removal hardly sufficient.

I was pretty sure from the outset that having a governess named Miss Slighcarp couldn’t be good.

Cold in spite of their furs, the children were glad to be sat down before a glowing fire in the night nursery, while Pattern scolded and clucked, and brushed the tangles out of their hair, brought in with her own hands the big silver bathtub filled with steaming water, in which bunches of lemon mint had been steeped, giving a deliciously fragrant scent, and bathed them each in turn, afterward wrapping them in voluminous warm white flannel gowns.

Next she fetched little pipkins of hot, savory soup, sternly saw every mouthful swallowed, and finally hustled them both into Bonnie’s big, comfortable bed with the blue swans flying on its curtains.

Doesn’t that make you want to curl up in Bonnie’s cozy bed and take a nap?

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is described as an “alternate history” of England, though I didn’t really notice anything terribly amiss in this particular story.  (Read more about this in Carrie’s post about the author, or on the author’s website.)  It did make me think about the steampunk genre, something I admittedly know next to nothing about but have been intrigued by.

I loved this story of orphans and near-orphans, villainous governesses, courageous girls, and one heroic gooseboy.  The only thing that seemed a bit off to me was the title; wolves enter the story only peripherally, so the title seems odd.  I can overlook that, though, and it makes me more eager to read more of the series.  I’d like to check out more of Aiken’s works, particularly her Jane Austen sequels.   I give The Wolves of Willoughby Chase a Highly Recommended, and I offer an enthusiastic thank you to both Carrie and the bookclub hostess for the month of May, Tammy of Bluerose’s Heart.

Reading to Know - Book Club

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My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

I’m usually not a fan of short stories, but My Man Jeeves hit the spot after my long and arduous trek through Gone with the Wind.  I was first introduced to Jeeves and Wooster a few years ago when I read Jeeves and the Tie That Binds, so I knew something of what I was getting into.  It turns out that I think the short story is the perfect vehicle by which to enjoy the antics of Bertie Wooster and his cadre of perpetually-in-the-soup friends and acquaintances.  I have a terrible time keeping characters straight, so the reintroductions made necessary by the short story format were very helpful to me.  One thing about this volume perplexed me, though–the appearance of two or three stories right in the middle with Reggie Pepper and his man, Voules, as the main characters.  I didn’t expect that.  This Wikipedia article sheds a little light on the subject, and for once, I wish I had read up on this volume a bit so I wouldn’t have had to pause to scratch my head in the middle of my reading.  Another thing that came to me, rather forcefully this time, is how much Wodehouse’s style (particularly his way of sizing up a character in a few wry and pithy observations) reminds me of Richard Peck’s.  Peck is a very prolific juvenile and YA author, and I’ve only read his historical fiction.  I would dare to make an assumption here that anyone who enjoys Wodehouse would likely enjoy Peck.  Of course, Peck’s works are decidedly American (and mostly about country kids), so there are many, many differences, but their styles are similar.   Here are a few of Peck’s books that I’ve reviewed here at Hope Is the Word:

My favorites of his books are A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago, both of which I read long before I started blogging.

I read My Man Jeeves for this month’s Reading to Know Bookclub.  Many thanks to Carrie and this month’s hostess, Cassandra, for the push to get back to Wodehouse sooner rather than later.  

Reading to Know - Book Club

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