Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Familiar Favorites

This is the time of year that I like to revisit some familiar favorites. Occasionally, with the reading I have to do for Capitol Choices, Jefferson Cup, and the books I review for School Library Journal, reading sometimes feels more like work than pleasure (however, the benefits of doing this committee/review work far outweigh the occasional grumpiness I feel!). That's when I know it's time to reread one of these old favorites:

Anne of Green Gables

I think I first read Anne of Green Gables when I was in middle school. I love the first three books in the series; after that, Anne gets less interesting to me (actually, Lucy Maud Montgomery did not want to continue the series; she was pressured to do so by fans and her publisher, and I think her lack of interest shows). The first book is such a beautiful treasure; I adore it.

Babe the Gallant Pig

"That'll do, pig. That'll do." Gets me every time. The movie is delightful, but the book is such a lovely gem. Hysterical and tender. I love Dick King-Smith's other books (and recommend them whenever I can), but this is my favorite.

Because of Winn Dixie

Love, love, love this book. Kate DiCamillo is an outstanding writer, but she has yet to top this book in my heart. A sweet, positive, and big-hearted story.

Charlotte's Web

Is this the ultimate pig story or the ultimate spider story? Or the ultimate "one that got away" (vis-a-vis the Newbery Medal)? E.B. White's other books just don't move me in the same way as does Charlotte's Web (The Trumpet of the Swan is a distant second). Looking at it with a critical eye, I have some issues with the story, but looking at it as a childhood's perfection!


I won a Junior Illustrated Library edition of this sucker when I was in second grade; I read the most books in my grade in the library's summer reading program. Why someone thought it would be a grand idea to give 1st-3rd graders Junior Illustrated Library books, I don't know. Consequently, I didn't read this until I was in fifth or sixth grade or something like that. It is a saccharine story and the Swiss names and towns do trip you up at times, but let me tell you something....eating bread and a hunk of cheese never sounded so good. And yes, it is another old-fashioned story of a child melting the heart of an eccentric old person who is hiding a hurt within his/her heart (see: The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, Pollyanna, etc), but I love those stories anyway. I still have my copy that I won in second grade; I have to be careful with it, because the binding is fraying. I can't get rid of it! I once read some Heidi monstrosity sequel in which she and Peter marry, and I once saw a lovely Disney Channel adaptation (way, way back in Disney Channel history); I never want to see the sequel again, but I think the Disney movie is in my Netflix queue.

A Little Princess

I prefer A Little Princess to The Secret Garden (I like The Secret Garden just fine, though). The ultimate poor little rich girl story, perhaps. And for those who say the last movie adaption was bad because it was different from the book...nyah nyah nyah, I can't hear you! At least it's better than that Shirley Temple one! I love that movie.

Little Town on the Prairie

Anyone who thinks that the Little House series is girlish must not have read them recently. It rained grasshoppers, people! And wolves and the family almost starved one winter (well, they almost starved several times in their lifetime) get the point. However, Little Town on the Prairie is probably the one with the least drama; since it's when name cards are all the craze and Laura meets Almanzo, it is the most domestic and "girly" of the books (and Nellie Olsen comes back, but with faded glory). I love rereading all the Little House books (except when Ma goes on about the local Native Americans and Pa performs in blackface), but this one is probably the sweetest.

Little Women

"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents!" I don't really care for Alcott's other works, but I do love Little Women, and can't wait for TMC to show the various Little Women movies (they usually show them a lot during the holidays). Of course, that means I have to watch Margaret O'Brien, clearly aging out of her child star act by this point, but at least she plays Beth and doesn't do much, except die.

Ramona Quimby, Age 8

My second favorite Ramona book. Third grader Ramona cracks an egg against her head, noisily squeaks her shoes on the first day of school, and barfs in front of the entire class. That's my girl.

Ramona and Her Father

My favorite Ramona book. This has more gravitas than her other books (save for Ramona Forever, perhaps, but I think this has more), for Ramona's father has lost his job. I recently reread this book, and believe me, it is not dated. There are lots of Ramonas this year, whose families have to cut back on the small luxuries that they once enjoyed (there are also lots of Mr. Quimbys who accept jobs for which they are overqualified, but are glad to get, as we see in Ramona and Her Mother). It ends with a beautiful Nativity pageant scene, alternating both humor and everyday wisdom.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Yes, definitely not a children's book (I read it in middle school, but it wasn't until I picked it up again in college that I realized what Sissy was making in her factory), but one that I've reread several times. It's an old-fashioned epic coming of age story, but an incredible read. Francie Nolan is a character that you'll long remember.

I really need to reread one of these books! Hmmm....I wonder which one I will choose (I'm leaning toward Heidi, since I wouldn't have to check it out...I have too much checked out already).

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