Coming out of my Harry Potter immersion, I picked up The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling. The Tales plays a role in the seventh Harry Potter book, and after she finished the series, Rowling actually created this book, straight out of Harry Potter’s world. It’s a collection of tales much like Aesop’s fables or Grimm’s fairy tales, but what they would be like if they’d come out of the wizard community. It doesn’t contribute to the Harry Potter plot at all, but it was cute and another example of Rowling’s amazing creativity.
I read the entire Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling for the second time. I first read them about 12 years ago. The story of the boy wizard facing off against the evil Lord Voldemort is well-known and loved by many. I was surprised by how much I didn’t remember, which made it fun as the story unfolded – it was almost like experiencing it for the first time again. I did remember enough that I picked up more connections and foreshadowing, which makes me marvel at how masterfully crafted this series is. Rowling really wove together a fantastic, deep story of good versus evil. Certainly enjoyed these!
Sinclair Ferguson is an intimidating author, and for that reason I’ve never read any of his works. But I know he’s a great theologian and when Ben got me Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification I figured it was time to give him a try. This is a dense, thorough book about the ins-and-outs of sanctification in the Christian’s life. It took me about four months of slow reading to wade through but it was completely worth it. It is so rich and edifying, and a good challenge to stretch my knowledge and understanding.
Inspired by Wild Things, I decided to try some Beverly Cleary. I have never read any of her books, but I had a cool, old hardback copy of Ramona the Pest I’d picked up at a thrift store a while ago. This short children’s novel tells the story of Ramona beginning kindergarten. She’s excited she’ll finally be going to school like her older sister, Beezus, and learn to read and write. Each chapter tells of the many new experiences she encounters at school and the difficulty of discovering her way in the world. It’s not really my kind of book though I can see the appeal to children. One aspect of it I did appreciate was how Cleary captures the different way children view the world, deciphering their own meaning from words they don’t understand or the mysterious compulsion to pull another girl’s curl and watch it go boing.. I won’t be delving into any more Cleary anytime soon.
Snagged this children’s novel for a buck. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill is a Newberry-award-winning fantasy novel. Every year in the Protectorate the Elders choose an infant to be left to the witch in the woods as a sacrifice to keep them safe. Every year Xan, the witch that lives in the woods, rescues an abandoned baby from outside the Protectorate. She carries the infant through the treacherous woods, feeding it with starlight along the way, and gives them to a family in the towns on the other side. One baby though, Xan is particularly taken with and accidentally feeds her moonlight. She decides to raise the baby, naming her Luna, as her granddaughter. But all that moonlight left Luna full to the brim with magic and Xan has to somehow teach her to control it. This was a delightful, creative story and another easy read to get through long nights.
I would not have picked this book except that it was a couple bucks on Kindle, and it turned out to be an enjoyable read. The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood is the story Ona Vitkus, a 104 year old immigrant woman who is assigned to the titular boy as a Boy Scouts project. The story revolves around Guinness world records, the complexities of family, and finding friendship even when you’re the outsider and a little different. It was a sweet book, in the vein of A Man Called Ove, and an easy read for late nights.
I really enjoy reading children’s books, and I thought Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult would be a love letter to those beautiful and magical books that capture our imagination as kids. Bruce Handy discusses many beloved authors and titles, starting with picture books for little kids and moving through novels aimed at older children. However, his essays are less about what adults can reap from these stories, and more a critical review of their content with some author and story background. Though different than I expected, it was still interesting, and I enjoyed his look at some of my favorites, like Where the Wild Things Are and The Chronicles of Narnia, and an introduction to some I’ve never read but now want to, such as the Ramona Quimby and Little House books.
Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool was a book recommendation I picked up in The Read-Aloud Family. Plus, I’ve already read Vanderpool’s second novel, so was excited to read her debut novel and Newberry Medal winner. Moon Over Manifest takes place in the Midwest depression-era of the 1930s and follows Abilene Tucker, a girl sent to Manifest, Kansas, by her father while he roams for work. She struggles with being separated from her father and is convinced her time in Manifest is temporary until he comes back for her. But while she lives with the bootlegger/Baptist pastor and works for the town fortune-teller, she begins to hear stories about the town and its inhabitants during World War I, forming an attachment she doesn’t expect. This book is wonderfully written with a rich, relatable story of longing for home and belonging. Vanderpool looks at how our past affects us and how community can become true family. It reminded me a bit of To Kill a Mockingbird with a young protagonist dealing with difficult themes of racism and oppression. Though labeled a children’s book, it’s a great book for adults too.
To round out my E. B. White reading, I picked up Stuart Little. This little book tells the story of Stuart Little, the second son of the Littles who very greatly resembles a mouse. Just going about his daily routine is an adventure for Stuart as he lives in a full-size world, but is only about two inches tall. He also travels out into New York City for boat races on the pond and bus rides around town. After his friend Margalo suddenly leaves, he sets out on a mission to find her. This is an odd, whimsical tale, from the first page where a human couple has a baby that resembles – is? – a mouse (Their first child was a human boy, why was their second a mouse? Why was it not just acknowledged they adopted a mouse?) to his odd experience as a substitute teacher. This was my least favorite of White’s three children novels; Charlotte’s Web is by far his best work.
I got on a bit of an E. B. White kick after Charlotte’s Web. The Trumpet of the Swan tells the story of Louis, a trumpeter swan born without a voice, which is a big problem. Without a voice, Louis can’t talk to his family or woo a lady swan. So he sets out on an adventure with the help of his human friend Sam Beaver to find ways to communicate with his fellow fowl. It’s a sweet story with some funny little characters, like Louis’ loquacious father and no-nonsense mother, though it didn’t resonate with me the same as Charlotte’s Web.