Friday, July 24, 2015

Children's Books for Adults has a list of seven children's books every adult should read. I heartily agree with their choice of Charlotte's Web which I reviewed here. We all know the famous C.S. Lewis quote about the best books being for all ages; so, obviously, a lot more than seven books should be on the list.

Three of my very favorite books are children's lit titles that I discovered as an adult: Wind in the Willows, Tuck Everlasting, and Peter Pan. The Narnia and Little House on the Prairie books are age-range friendly as well.

What about you? What are some of the children's titles that have touched you as an adult?

(Sidenote: I find it annoying/amusing that a web site and magazine called "Real Simple" should be so cluttered with advertisements that it's hard to find their content.)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Woe is I by Patricia T. O'Conner

"Most of us don't know a gerund from a gerbil and don't care,
 but we'd like to speak and write as though we did."

Woe is I was written to help those who are intimidated by correct grammar usage. O'Conner (an editor at The New York Times Book Review) does her best to demistify the rules by giving helpful illustrations. In describing punctuation marks, she writes, "A comma acts as a yellow light, a period is a red light, and a semicolon is a flashing red light."

Although the book is meant for novices, it was just as enjoyable to someone like me who knows quite a lot about English. Because I appreciate beautiful, precise language, I enjoy an occasional refresher course in how to use it. I skimmed over the sections on rules I know well, and focused on the ones that give me problems.

And I revelled in grammar trivia like 1) the word "kudos" is singular, 2) "myriad" used to mean ten thousand, and 3) the word "oblivious" is followed by the word "of", and not "to".  It is weird how I get a kick out of stuff like that.

I discovered I've been using parameter interchangebly with perimiter, which is not the same thing. Also, minuscule is spelled with a "u" and not an "i". I am always puzzled by the use of "graduated" without a pronoun, but O'Conner clears up that confusion on p. 110.

This helpful little book, which is written with plenty of tips and writing samples (and a good dose of dry humor), would be excellent for use in a high school, homeschool setting.


Friday, July 10, 2015

The Kitchen Madonna by Rumer Godden

Janet and Gregory Thomas are the children of two busy architects. Janet (7) is pretty and friendly. Gregory (9) is shy and small for his age. After a series of unsuccessful nannies, Marta is hired. Unlike the other nannies who played games with the children, she is more sad and serious and Gregory identifies with her.

Marta tells stories of her childhood in the Ukraine and especially of her family's warm and cluttered kitchen. During one of her story-telling sessions she admits that she misses having an icon in the room. Gregory sets out to get her one by first going to the British Museum to study them, and then by going to an expensive jewelry store to buy one. Learning that he cannot afford anything close to what she described to him, he determines to make her one.

With no materials of his own, he has to overcome his shyness and ask the hatmaker and the candy shop lady for scraps from their trade. As the project develops so does his courage and ingenuity - and his willingness to give up his own comforts for the good of another. In fact, when the gift is finished, Marta does not cry and hug him (as his mother does) but shakes his hand as if he were a grown man.

No matter what your religious convictions, this is a beautiful story of the transforming power of self-giving love; it's definitely one of the loveliest stories I have read in a long time.

Rumer Godden is a fine author who skillfully weaves stories of faith without the saccharine. She wrote The Kitchen Madonna in 1967. Previous Godden titles that I've reviewed are: China Court, In this House of Brede, and Kingfishers Catch Fire.