Let There Be Books (The Holiday Gift Guide)

It’s Black Friday, and I wish you a warm fire in the coziness of your own home. I wish you brilliant turkey bacon grilled cheese sandwiches and all your Christmas presents bought online.

That’s not just an idle wish, either. I can’t send you the grilled cheese, but I can help you out a bit with that Christmas shopping. What’s the little saying I’m always seeing these days? “Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.” We’ve got the “something to read” covered. Check it out (and just click on the image if you want to buy it right away):

1.  For the little guys.  Mac Barnett is one of my son’s favorite authors.  Such a great sense of humor.  I’m thinking of pairing it with this for fun.

2.  For the Lego Lovers among us.  If they can read, even better, but the pictures are the awesome part of this one.

3. For any young reader. It’s little enough to be a stocking stuffer and short enough to be read in those two boring hours between presents and Christmas dinner. Also check out Neil Gaiman’s other books. I love this one.

4. For the future Jane Austen lover. With the added bonus that this book just looks like Christmas.

5. For the hard-to-shop for preteen. It’s educational AND cool. Win.

6. For the teenage crowd. This is the best non-Hunger Games series I’ve read yet. It’s not as well-known as some, so your teen probably hasn’t read it yet, and it’s clean and awesome, so you can buy it for your niece without horrifying your brother-in-law.

7. For your budding storytellers. If they just need a little help getting going, this book will walk them through the process. Fun illustrations and great layout.

8. For your sister. She probably already loves Rainbow Rowell, and this book (her latest) is a love story for married grownups. That’s an unusual genre of book, and it’s lovely (which is just what you expect from Rowell by now).

9. For your sci-fi loving brother. Or your hipster brother-in-law. Or the inscrutable literary fiction lover. It works on many levels. Cat’s Cradle: A Novel
is the best old-book-I-should-have-already-read that I got around to this year. It’s short (reads super quickly) but full of win. You can see how many other sci-fi works have borrowed from Vonnnegut. Pair it with his letters, which tell his life story, and you’ve got some great hours of reading.

Happy shopping, everyone! And happy laying around eating leftovers. And happy putting up Christmas trees.

And (because it’s okay if you just bought them for yourself), happy reading!

Seriously, It’s Worthy of the Book

We’re going to see the new Hunger Games movie today, and it’s got me thinking about all of my favorite books-turned-movies.  We need to get into this, I think.  This is a very important topic.

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I really like movies.  Maybe not quite as much as books, but almost.  It’s because medium is not the issue.  Stories are the issue.  And good movies tell a story just as well (though quite a bit differently) as good books.  Someday we’ll dish on my all time favorite movies, but for today let’s just stick with the ones that were based on my all-time favorite books.

In fact, let’s narrow it down even more, and let’s deal with movies based on children’s and YA books.  We’ll do the adult version (why does that have to sound icky?) some other day.

To be clear from the start, the main thing I’m looking for when they take one of my favorite books and make it into a movie is that it capture the essence of the book.  It has to get the feeling right.   I’m not a crazy purist.  The medium is so different that it’s okay to mess around with the actual facts and features a little, but you have to keep the heart of it.  When you crush that, you ruin the whole thing.

Agreed?

Okay, let’s do this.  I’ll give you an overall rating for the movies that are in a series, but I’m going to have to add individual ratings for each movie, as well.  Each one will be given a letter grade on how it holds up as a movie all by itself, on how it adapts the story, and on how it captures the essence of the book.  I’m taking this seriously, people.

A+ (It Elevated the Book)

The Chronicles of Narnia – These movies get this category to themselves.  Here’s the deal:  those books are really short and (I say this with great love as I am a huge fan) lacking in depth and detail.  The movies round them out and give them life.  They are wonderful movies.  I absolutely recommend kids watching the movies even before they read the books, and if you keep reading, you’ll see that that’s really saying something.

  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – A+ as a movie on its own merit.  The moment where Lucy meets Mr. Tumnus is pure magic.  A for straight up story adaption.  I’ve never seen a movie that so closely sticks to the book.  A+ for capturing the essence.  Just really.  Whoever made this movie loved this book. You can tell.
  • Prince Caspian – B+ as a movie on its own merit.  Solid, and with a few moments of greatness (mostly just Edmund) but not over the moon.  B for story adaption.  It departed a bit, but not too significantly.  A for capturing the essence.  The conflict between Peter and Caspian is the heart of this story, and they got it.
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – A as a movie.  This was always my favorite story of all the books and it makes a great tale on the big screen, too.  B- for story adaption.  They had to invent a bad guy (or in this case, a bad mist).  It was necessary, but it changed things.  A for capturing the essence.  The stuff with Eustace is perfect.  And Lucy’s self-discovery.  And Caspian really growing up.  It’s great.

A (The Experience Isn’t Complete Until You’ve Seen the Movie)

Harry Potter – We love these movies.  Not as much as the books, but very, very much.  We come back to them time and again.  BUT.  I definitely made my kids wait until we had finished each book before watching the corresponding movie.  It was the right move.  There are so many, I’ll be brief in the breakdown:

  • The Sorcerer’s Stone – A on its own merit, A for adapting the story, A+ for capturing the essence (it’s so darn magical)
  • The Chamber of Secrets –B on its own merit (to be fair, this is my least favorite book, too), A for adapting the story (it was a simple one, so it worked pretty well), A for capturing the essence (what there was to capture)
  • The Prisoner of Azkaban – C on its own merit (I didn’t like this movie much.  It was a good book, but they didn’t do a good job in the movie of making sense of it all.) C for adapting the story (again, it’s complicated.  You have to make sense of it), B for capturing the essence (the important stuff was mostly there)
  • The Goblet of Fire – A+ on its own merit (This is a fantastic movie), B for adapting the story (it’s such a long book, I give them a pass, but it doesn’t stick to the facts too closely), A+ for capturing the essence (this book was a turning point in the series and so is the movie.  And Hermione.  She’s wonderful.)
  • The Order of the Phoenix – A on its own merit , B for adapting the story, A for capturing the essence (because the parts with the D.A. are perfect.)
  • The Half-Blood Prince – B on its own merit (not bad, just completely forgettable), B for adapting the story, B for capturing the essence
  • The Deathly Hallows (Pt1) – B on its own merit (those scenes with Harry and Hermione in the tent really drag it down), A for adapting the story, A for capturing the essence (It’s just that the essence is so dreary.  It’s hard to take without the second half.)
  • The Deathly Hallows (Pt2) – A on its own merit (Just really wonderful), B for adapting the story (they had to break away from the actual events a little to make it work), A+ for capturing the essence (It’s note perfect.  Really.)

The Hunger Games  – I haven’t let my kids read these yet, and they’ll definitely wait on the movies until they have.  I can’t wait.

  • The Hunger Games – A on its own merit.  Just such a great film.  A for adapting the story. I was worried that it would be impossible because so much of the book is inside Katniss’s head, but Jennifer Lawrence totally pulls it off.  Other than being condensed, this is dead on.  A+ for capturing the essence.  One word.  Rue.
  • Catching Fire – A on its own merit.  A for adapting the story.  A++ for capturing the essence.  This movie really brought the book alive.  I was pretty blown away when I saw it.  So now I’m nervous about Mockingjay because how can it measure up?

Lord of the Rings – I’m in the middle of tormenting my kids with making them get through the books before watching the movies.  No regrets, though.  Those books are a masterpiece.  If you watch the movie and then ever read the book, you’ve basically committed a crime.  BUT, once you’ve read the book, you should definitely watch the movies.  They are wonderful.  I’m not breaking these down, because it’s basically all one long story.  A+ on its own merit.  If you like long movies, these are basically perfect.  A on adaption of story.  This was an epically difficult job, and they totally pulled it off.  Of course, it doesn’t stick perfectly to every detail (The Two Towers really should get a C here, because its the worst), but considering the scope, it’s amazingly faithful.  A+ on capturing the essence.  The work they put into the world, to the details of the different cultures, really reflects Tokien’s vision.  And it’s just stunning.

B (You’ll Enjoy this Movie But Not In The Same Way As The Book)

A Series of Unfortunate Events – My kids saw this movie before they read the books, but that didn’t stop them from totally enjoying both.  The movie only covers the first three books and changes quite a few things, but it’s so weird and delightful that it’s okay.  A on its own merit (the moment where they create a sanctuary is perfect in every way), C for adapting the story (they didn’t even really try to be faithful), A+ for capturing the essence.  They nailed the feeling of the books exactly.

Anne of Green Gables – Basically the first movie is lovely and faithful and you should watch it (before or after the books, it won’t really matter) and the second movie is okay as a movie but has nothing to do with the books, and the weird third movie should be avoided at all costs.  I’m not giving these grades because the above is really all I have to say about it.

Ender’s Game – Solid movie, but this book needed to be a miniseries.  A movie just didn’t have time to make you really buy his genius as a leader, and without that, something was lacking.  It was pretty faithful, but they were forced to skip over so much of his battle school experiences, and that weakened his character and the overall impact of the movie.  A- on its own merit, B for adapting the story, B for capturing the essence.

The Hobbit – Not nearly as faithful as The Lord of the Rings.  In fact, though I liked the first movie, the second one disappointed me enough that I’m not even excited to see the third.  I’m treating these as one, as well.  A- on its own merit.  Still better than most movies out there.  C for adapting the story.  It’s not the stuff they leave out.  They have to leave stuff out to condense to movie form.  It’s the stuff they add in that kill it (I’m looking at you, weird elf/dwarf love scenario).  B for capturing the essence.  They are doing a good job showing the growth of Bilbo’s character and of tying this in with The Lord of the Rings which is great, but they’re getting a little lost in the huge set pieces, which is pulling the focus away from the there and back again nature of the book.

F (This Will Ruin A Book You Love)

Where the Wild Things Are – If all the weird adaptions of Dr. Seuss books have taught us anything, its that you really shouldn’t try to put a picture book into a movie (unless you are doing a cartoon short a la The Grinch Who Stole Christmas) As a full-length movie, it’s a disaster.  This movie was actually painful.  Which didn’t just make me sad.  It made me mad because I love that book.

I’m sure we could do a bunch more, but I’ll leave it at that.  I mean, we could dish about this all day, and I’d never be tired of it.  But Mockingjay is waiting.

What do you think?  Am I wrong about these?  What am I missing?  Any other movies that really capture your favorite kids’ books?  Bring it on.

Fortunately, this Book

So I mentioned to some friends the other day that I wanted to find someone to do pen and ink drawings to go along with a short story I’m working on.  I had this idea that it would be cool to have simple drawings but have them interact with the words.

“So, have you seen Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, the Milk?” the friend asked right away.

No, but I liked the sound of that.  I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman.

The next day I looked up the book and immediately bought it.

It is exactly…exactly…the sort of thing I’d envisioned (though admittedly on a slightly bigger scale). And somehow my friend knew that instantly.

My friends are so much cooler than I am.

You guys, this book.  It is wonderful.  I’m already thinking of all the kids in my life who need it for Christmas.  I mean, not my own kids, because the second they saw it lying on my desk, they were all over the title and the cover illustration and had read the whole book before I even knew what was happening.

Here, take a look at it really big and you’ll see why:

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Yes, that is a dinosaur in a hot air balloon. Yes, there is a mysteriously wonderful red button about to be pushed.  Yes, the main character is sporting a manic grin and a fabulous scarf, not to mention the ever important bottle of milk.  You know you want to know what’s up with that milk.

The whole book is like this, you guys.  The story is super fun.  Quirky and strange, which you would expect from Neil Gaiman, but the kind of weird that made both me and my kids laugh out loud.  And the illustrations (done by Skottie Young) have the exact same feeling.  I hate to use the overworked word whimsical, but they are.  Simple, too, but with enough detail to be fascinating.

The best part is the way the words and illustrations interact.  I can’t get enough of it.

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I won’t give away any more, but every page is a delight.  Every page, people.

It’s a small book, a quick read even for a kid, and if you know anyone aged 8-12, you should buy them this book.

In my not-at-all-pushy opinion.

(Unless you know the same kids I do. Then ask me first. I probably already bought it for them.)

Oh, did I mention that it’s all about a dad making up a story for his kids?  Yeah.  It is.

Thank you, Neil Gaiman. You’re my hero.

(And if any of you like to do pen and ink drawings, I have this odd little story I’d like to talk to you about…)

Get Your Terror On (Even if You’re a Pansy Like Me)

I don’t do vampires.

I don’t do zombies.

I don’t do horror.

These are the rules.

I am not one of those people who hides from the reality of evil.  I know people suck.  I know bad guys are real.  I know life is full of pain and horror.  I just choose to confront harsh realities in…reality.  I choose to spend my life diving into the pain around me, and I turn to reading mostly for escape.  That’s the kind of reader I am.  I generally want something adventurous to give me a break from the humdrum.  I generally want something light and magical to let me forget the dark and tragic in the real world.  I generally want happy endings to satisfy the part of me that sees to many sad endings.

So I don’t do the dark stuff.

Except sometimes.  Sometimes I do.  Under very strict circumstances.

Here are the requirements:

1.  The book has to come highly recommended by people I respect.  It’s a limited pool of people, but if they tell me I should read it, that means a lot.

2.  It has to be about something.  I mean, something besides the fact that humans can be horrible and twisted or that there is terrible evil out there, possibly in the form of monsters.  I know this is true.  I just only want to read about it if a greater purpose is being served.

3.  It has to be really, really well written, with characters I can care about, at least one of which has to be someone I can root for.  Absolutely no books with no good guys.  I can’t handle it.  They don’t have to be perfect.  They can be very, very flawed.  But I have to be able to want someone to win.  Otherwise, what’s the point?

Want to know which ones have made the cut?  Here are the scary reads I think you should absolutely try:

  • The Stand by Stephen King – If, like me, you mostly avoid King’s stuff because it’s not your cup of tea, you should still read The Stand.  Seriously good end of the world stuff, and yes, there’s some horror, but it’s way more about the characters, almost all of whom are fascinating, and the relationships between them.  There’s some epic good vs. evil here and a healthy dose of “who knows what spiritual nonsense may turn out to be real”, but the part that clenched it for me is the fatalistic streak that runs through the whole thing.  I really dig it. I’ve actually read this more than once.  It’s that good. (And the mini-series is definitely worth watching, but only after you’ve read the book.)
  • World War Z by Max Brooks – If you saw the movie, just disregard all of that, as it’s nowhere near the same thing.  (Though to be fair, I liked the movie.  It did take a few of the great elements from the book and use them wisely.  It also avoided almost all of the potential traps of a zombie movie.)  This is the only zombie novel I have ever consented to read, and the reason I stuck with it was that it read like a history book.  I loved the feel of reading a history of something that never happened.  And I loved the problem-solving, survivalist, how-to-rebuild-the-world elements.  There are some disgusting parts, but that’s not the main point of the book.
  • The Passage  by Justin Cronin – I was quite a long ways into this book before I realized it was about vampires (sort of).  I almost put it down then (because, principles), but I couldn’t.  I was too interested in Amy’s character.  This book is broken into two sections and both have amazing characters.  This is also an end-of-the-world scenario and reads similarly to The Stand, but the horror here is laced through with such sadness that it is somehow even more human.  In a way, that makes it creepier, but it also makes it impossible to put down.  For the record, this book (and its sequel The Twelve) is still the only vampire book I’ve ever read in its entirety.  Because, principles.

Hmm…now that I’ve written this out, I realize that maybe my unspoken requirement all along was that the book has to involve the end of the world as we know it.  I guess that would fit the escapist bill.  Blowing up the world: the ultimate escape.

So what do you say?  Want to watch the world end this Halloween?  You can do it in your pajamas from the comfort of your own bed after one quick trip to the library (or a few clicks on Amazon).

You’ll probably want to leave the lights after, though.  Just saying.

 

 

Favorite Fall Reads

Am I the only person who starts getting the itch to re-read Harry Potter when the weather turns cold and pumpkins are all around?  It’s like I can tell Hogwarts is frosting over and Hagrid is carving giant jack o’lanterns and I get this craving to hang out in the Great Hall and drink some butterbeer for a while.  Don’t worry, that’s not really what this post is about.  I was just wondering if I am weird or if this is maybe a cultural phenomenon?  Never mind.  Don’t answer that.

Let’s talk about Fall books, though!

For me, every season has a feeling, so I like my fall books to make me feel like fall.  How does fall feel, you ask?  Fall has a split personality.  On the inside, fall feels cozy and filled up and satisfied with abundance.  On the outside it feels windy and shivery and mysterious. Fall is a time for books with lots of food description. (Old books are best for this.  I’m looking at you, Dickens.)  Fall is a time for ghost stories, nothing too gory, of course, just a curious, creepy, and slightly wistful tale, something like Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Fall is a time for Sherlock Holmes.  You need to be out following clues on a misty moor or tracing a criminal through the rainy streets of London and then home for tea and maybe a brandy or two.  I mean it, grownups.  I know you love Sherlock.  I respect you enough to assume that much.  But have you actually read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books?  If not, this is the perfect season to try them out.  They’re wonderful.

As for the kids, I have a few favorites.  By category!

My favorite general Fall book:  Autumn Story by Jill Barklem

This is part of a set, one book for each season, and they are completely delightful.

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This book wins Best Fall  Book because it’s about fall and it also captures that fall feeling perfectly.  It’s all stored up nuts and berries and adorable cozy details.

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I want to live in Brambly Hedge.  Really, I do.

My favorite Halloween Book: Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly.

Ed Emberly is one of my favorite illustrators, and this book is so cute and clever as each page adds to the scary monster, right up to the midpoint, where the kids get to banish him…one feature at a time.  Just really great in concept and execution.

My favorite Thanksgiving Book: Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin.

This book is old.  Like, so old I found it in a mildewy old box of books.  But I love it for that very reason.  The story is old-timey and classic Thanksgiving.  My favorite page:

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Yes.  That.  And it ends with this old recipe for Cranberry Bread.  The whole thing is a delight.

I have this little basket where I keep books that correspond to the current season.  It’s one of my favorite corners of my house.  Picking things to go in it is one of my favorite activities.  I’m nerdy like that.

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So while I’m off resisting the urge to try a big flagon of pumpkin juice, what do you think?  What other books should I put in the fall basket?

As Books Were Intended to Be: Lizzy Bennet’s Diary by Marcia Williams

Have you guys seen this book?  I’m absolutely in love.


Lizzy Bennet’s Diary: Inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Marcia Williwams

You guys, this book is everything ten-year-old me ever wanted. When my own ten-year-old got it for her birthday, I actually had retroactive jealousy. Just look at the adorable detailing on the cover (those mice are my favorite):

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And there’s more inside! Those adorable pictures! And their captions!

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I sat and stared happily at the map on the end paper for at least ten minutes.

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The writing is charming, too. It tells the whole story of the novel from Lizzy’s point of view, with little extra tidbits of their daily life thrown in. The author has done a great job of showing how Lizzy matures over the course of the story. The tone of the writing is quite silly at the beginning and gets more reasonable over time, without losing Lizzy’s playful spirit. It’s a fun read.

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I love how the author has put in all the letters Lizzy receives, in word-for-word form, just as if she had tucked them into her diary. They even fold out!

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The happy ending is even happier told in Lizzy’s own words.

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This is one of those books that uses visuals so perfectly. It’s very size and shape communicate coziness and happiness. It makes me want to sit down in front of a crackling fire on a cold day leading up to Christmas and just read all afternoon with a cup of tea in my hand.

Don’t even try to tell me that’s not what books were made to make you feel.

I’m proud to report that it’s not just me, either. Ellie flew through the book with the same speed that she read the Manga Pride and Prejudice, and I’ve even caught the five-year-old carefully flipping through the pages. Christmas is coming, people, and I’ve found the perfect present for the girls in your life. You’re welcome.

Go forth and be happy! (And take this book along if you need some help.)

The Boy’s Favorite Books, Then and Now

It’s my son’s birthday today (He’s 8!), so I’m feeling a little sentimental. Here’s a look at the boy’s favorite books, year by year.

Age 1 and 2

Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boynton

He made me read them every night until we could both quote them by heart. That’s when I got my first clue that he was going to be a kid who knew what he wanted…and one who loved routine.

Age 3 and 4

Animalia by Graeme Base, The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone, and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

The boy loves puzzles and riddles and things you have to figure out. He adored hunting for the little self-portraits Graeme Base had hidden on each page. He loved the trick of words that makes the end of Monster so funny. And he just really, really liked shouting at that pigeon.

Age 5 and 6

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park, and The Magic Treehouse by Mary Pope Osborn

My plan was to just read the first few Harry Potter books with the kids. I worried that the later books were too much for them at their age. Yeah, that lasted until we finished book three and they were so into it that we just had to keep on going. As for the others, the boy was an early reader and both of those series were easy chapter books with lots of fun and adventure to keep him interested. Plus, they each have tons of books in the series, so he could stick with his favorite characters for a while. The boy likes to stick with things.

Age 7 and 8

The Brixton Brothers by Mac Barnett, Missile Mouse by Jake Parker, Potterwookie by Obert Skye, and A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Nothing is more entertaining to the boy than a good mystery, and The Brixton Brothers was the first series of self-read books he really obsessed over. Missile Mouse wins as the comic book series that has most held his attention. This is one he likes to loan out to friends now. In Potterwookie (and all the other Creature from My Closet books) he found the inside jokes he always wanted. Skye takes all the boy’s favorite worlds (Harry Potter, Star Wars, fairytales and myths) and mashes them together in easy-to-read adventures. What could be more fun? And now, at eight, the boy is five books into A Series of Unfortunate Events and shows no sign of slowing down. Thirteen books should take him at least a few more weeks.

There you go! Who says boys don’t read? There are tons more I could have put, of course, but I tried to keep it to the absolute favorites. It was pretty fun to think back over the years and trace the development of his interests. I may try this same thing for my girls soon.

How about your kids? What are their favorites then and now?

The Best Fictional Couples

(I was going to call this “My Favorite Fictional Couples,” but then I realized this went beyond opinion.  This isn’t just my preference.  This is good versus evil.  Seriously.  I’m right about this.  I don’t say that often, but in this case…yeah, I’m right.)

As my daughter moves into the double digits this weekend, I’m bracing myself for the interest in love stories that’s headed our way.  This is how I brace myself.  By thinking back over all the couples I’ve loved and hated over the years and making lists. (As always, always, always these are in no particular order. I am not capable of ranking things.)

Here we go…

Famous Couples That Give Love a Bad Name


They aren’t a great couple, but you should still see the movie because Claire and Leo, obviously.

  • Romeo and Juliet – Could we please not call teenage obsession (“I can’t live without you”) love? This is a fabulous work of literature.  But it’s about hate, not about love.  And as a couple, R and J have nothing but pretty words.  They are everything that is boring about adolescent romance.
  • Mr. Rochester and Jane – Sorry.  I love you, Jane.  But Mr. Rochester is a giant creep.  I mean, I didn’t want you with that weirdo St. John, either.  But you deserve a man of passion who doesn’t play weird mind games with you to find out if you love him. Or, you know, lie about already having a wife.
  • Catherine and Heathcliff – I almost couldn’t make it all the way through Wuthering Heights.  Both of these kids are whiny and melodramatic, not to mention selfish and petty.  People like that deserve a tragic end.
  • Paris and Helen of Troy – Even if you’re an ancient Greek and there are gods involved, you don’t get to start wars over a beautiful face.  It’s just not okay.
  • Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky – I’m terribly sorry for the way they oppressed women then.  Truly.  I know sometimes women were abused and mistreated and had no way out then.  But Anna?  Anna wasn’t.  She just fell in love with someone more interesting.  And then had a flaming affair with him.  That’s not cool.  And just because men did it all the time and got away with it doesn’t make it any more cool.  (And they can pretty much stand for the hordes of adulterers throughout literature.  I don’t care if you did need to break free, Age of Innocence.  It’s not okay to abandon your kids for a childish view of romance.)

Okay, enough of the bad.  Let’s get on to the good.

Couples I Want My Daughter to Read About (Someday)


Don’t even worry about the eminently boring Claudio and Hero, Beatrice and Benedick will steal your heart.

  • Beatrice and Benedick  – If you only ever read one Shakespeare play in your life, it should be Much Ado About Nothing, and B and B are the best part of it.  They are both witty, which makes them both a bit arrogant, and they are both sharp-tongued, which means they each puncture the other’s ego.  So they hate each other.  Until their friends trick them into getting past the ego part.  Then they realize they are perfect for each other.  This is a love that comes straight out of real life (with admittedly better dialogue), and getting to the happily ever after is so much fun.
  • Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy – For once, a couple that deserves their fame.  Pride and Prejudice is all it’s cracked up to be.  Say what you want about Mr. Darcy’s stodgy awkwardness, any couple in which the woman makes fun of the man regularly and he recognizes it as a good thing is awesome.  Especially if he’s all action when she needs it and she’s all apology when it turns out she was being an idiot.  The world needs more men who act and women who admit it when they’re wrong.  Am I right? (I am.  I’m right about this.)
  • Anne and Gilbert – Speaking of women having to admit they were wrong.  Sigh. I mostly just had to include them because they were the first to steal my heart.  They pushed each other to be better and they wanted all the same things in life and they grew up and grew up until they finally figured it out and got married and raised awesome children.  Yeah, that’s where it’s at.
  • Henry and Claire – Oh, The Time Traveler’s Wife.  I wanted to hate you, but I couldn’t.  Henry and Claire were all too real, and their life was so abnormal and it was awesome and it sucked, and they were good to each other and they weren’t, but the thing was, in the end, they did it all together and didn’t regret that.  And I was sucked in.  My daughter has to wait a looooong time for this one, but it goes on the list.
  • Eleanor and Park – I don’t particularly like teenage love, but… “Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”  Yeah. Rainbow Rowell is a genius, and I could give you a million quotes that show how perfectly she captured the helpless feeling that real love give you.  Seriously, it’s beautiful.  Beautiful enough that I’m putting them on this list.  And I didn’t want teenagers on this list.
  • Katniss and Peeta – I know.  I said no teenagers.  But.  The thing is that they had each other’s backs and put each other’s needs before their own long before they recognized that as love.  Plus, they are weak and strong in all the opposite places, and the last book is the absolute best and it ends exactly as it should.  (You can argue if you want, but I’m right about this, too.)  (And if for some reason you haven’t read the whole Hunger Games trilogy, go do so right now.)

That’s it.  That’s all I’ve got.  I perused all my bookshelves and couldn’t find any more couples I actually admire.  But.  Just because I’m right about these (and I am) doesn’t mean there might not be some I’ve overlooked.  What do you say?  Are there any I missed?

 

Don’t Forget What You Used to Love

Every night after my kids “go to bed” at 8:00, I let them read quietly for an hour or so before real sleeping happens.  My eight- and ten-year-old do a pretty good job with this.  The five-year-old looks at books and makes up not-so-quiet stories about them and then occasionally causes mayhem.  Because that’s us.  We roll with the chaos.  And by “rolling with the chaos” I mean I yell up the stairs that they need to be quiet or reading time is done.  It’s very effective.

Sometimes my son likes to read to his little sister, and even though that obviously isn’t quiet, I encourage this because it’s so great for both of them.  He has introduced her to a lot of his favorite chapter books, and she LOVES the time with him.  Sometimes I even hear him asking her comprehension questions as they go along and then complimenting her listening skills.  They’re adorable little nerdlings.

Where was I?  Oh, last week.

Last week, I heard the boy reading out loud upstairs and didn’t think anything of it.  Like I said, it happens.  It wasn’t until I went up to tell them it was lights out that I saw that my youngest was actually already in bed.  The eight-year-old and the ten-year-old were sitting on my bed, each with a big brown book in hand, taking turns reading their favorite poems out loud.  It was just so wonderful, you guys.  So wonderful that I slowly backed away and gave them an extra fifteen minutes. (And we all know that at bedtime, fifteen minutes is an eternity.)

The books?  Shel Silverstein, of course.  Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic.

I know that you remember these books from your childhood.  I really, really hope you own a copy for your own kids.  If not, please buy them.  Today.

Some very dear friends gave us these two books when our first baby was born.  Over the years, we’ve brought them out from time to time for reading.  There was a while when they were younger that we read one or two poems every night before bed.  The favorites would be requested over and over to the point where I’m pretty sure my kids could still quote you Hungry Mungry verbatim.  Still, we have a big library, and I would say it’s been over a year since we took them off the shelf.  Until last week.  And last week, listening to them read and laugh and point out the pictures and interrupt each other with “Listen to this one!”, I was reminded all over again what a joy they are.

Remember how much you loved this one?  And this one?  And the bear in your Frigidaire?  And that silly old peanut butter sandwich?

I hope you haven’t forgotten.  If you have, it’s not too late to bring them back.  Because you know how poems are supposed to make you feel something?  These ones will make you feel happy.  Guaranteed.

THE SECRET SOURCE!!

TSS_COVERangle

I was going to write a whole thing about sending this, my latest baby, out into the world.  I was going to draw all the parallels with my flesh and blood baby starting school.  I was going to really sap it up.  But you know what?  I’m not feeling it.

Maybe it’s because I used up all my introspection on that first day of Kindergarten.  Maybe it’s because it’s my birthday and I’m too full of cake.  Maybe it’s because I’m already hard at work on Book 4, so I’m just really happy that you all can take Book 3 off my hands.

That’s how I feel.  Happy.  So happy.  I’ve been living with this book for a year and I’ve made friends with it and I’m just so dang excited that you all get to meet it now, too.

SO.  Enough talk.  THE LINKS!!

To buy The Secret Source in paperback from Amazon.

To buy The Secret Source from Madison House Publishing.

Buy The Secret Source on e-book.

And (today only) to get The Book of Sight (Book 1) for FREE.

In case you’re wondering what this book is even about…

Alex, Dominic, Adam, Logan, and Eve have finally learned to trust each other, but now they know there is an enemy who wants to destroy them. When they discover a web of stone lying hidden under their small town enabling the enemy to spy on their every move, they know what must be done.

The secrets surrounding the Book of Sight will remain locked until they track down the secret source of the enemy’s power. They’ll never be safe from that power until they find a way to disarm it.

Get yours today!