Monday, 22 June 2009

End of Challenge

A big thank you to all of you who joined me in this challenge.
I hope you enjoyed reading your childhood favourite books as much as I did.
I've rediscovered a few more of them thanks to your reviews and will be re-reading them over the years.
Many thanks to all
Lynda ;0)

Sunday, 21 June 2009

What Katy Did Next by Susan Coolidge

Katy - Book 3
Published: 1886
Pages: 178
My Rating: 4 stars

Sarah Chauncey Woolsey was an American children's author who wrote under the pen name Susan Coolidge. She died in 1905 and is best known for her classic children's novel What Katy Did (1872). The fictional Carr family was modelled after the author's own, with Katy Carr inspired by Susan (Sarah) herself, and the brothers and sisters modelled on Coolidge's Woolsey siblings. Two sequels follow Katy as she grows up: What Katy Did at School (1873) and What Katy Did Next (1886). Two further sequels were also published: Clover (1888) and In the High Valley (1890) - wikipedia

This is another one of my mother's books that I also loved as a child. The totally adorable cover shows a picture of Katy and Ned on the Grand Canal in Venice. I can't locate book 2, What Katy Did At School so I've gone straight to book 3 which takes place 3 years after Katy Carr leaves Hillsover boarding school and returns home to Burnet.

Katy cares for a neighbour's daughter, Amy Ashe, while Mrs Ashe cares for her nephew who is stricken with Scarlet Fever. After many months, a grateful Mrs Ashe asks Katy to accompany her and Amy on an extended holiday to Europe. What follows is a travelogue through England, France and Italy and the reader is given glimpses of the growing love between Katy and naval lieutenant Ned Worthington, Mrs Ashes's younger brother. The glimpses mind you, are little more than fleeting mentions, we are talking 1880's children's story (wouldn't want to sully a young girl's mind lol)

I particularly loved Katy's journey through story-book England. Katy had a penchant for visiting places she had read about in novels, one such being 'Wimpole Street'

"That is the name of the street where Maria Crawford in Mansfield Park, you know, 'opened one of the best houses' after she married Mr Rushworth. Think of seeing Wimpole Street! What fun!"

Another nostalgic read; adorable, outdated and slightly 'kitschy' story but nonetheless thoroughly enjoyable. This also completes the Childhood Favourites Challenge for me.

Posted on my blog The Eclectic Reader

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Childhood Favourites #5: A Watcher in the Woods

A Watcher in the Woods

Florence Engel Randall

First Hardcover Printing: 1976

New York: Atheneum Publishers

Jan Carstairs is 15 (almost 16) when she and her family move into the old Aylwood place. Jan wasn't happy about the move in the first place, she's used to the city; not the isolation of this country estate. But there is something else, something more unsettling that has Jan so upset. She felt it that first day, a presence in the woods. The old woman knew it was there too and after talking to Jan, decides to "take a chance" on the Carstairs, reluctantly leaving her home and the Watcher behind.

It isn't long before odd occurrences have the entire Carstairs family upset. Mirrors are mysteriously broken, always in the same X pattern. 10-year-old Ellie begins to "hear" things and relate messages in mirror writing. The TV becomes a bridge of communication when strange programs are transmitted late at night. With help from their nearest neighbour and Jan's new friend 19-year-old Mark, the Carstairs race against time to piece together the identity of the Watcher in the Woods!

I was 11-years-old in grade six when I first read A Watcher in the Woods. I've always considered this one my crossover book; my first step onto the bridge between children's literature and the world of adult books. Skip ahead thirty years and though I remember the thrill of reading this book, some of the details were sketchy. Revisiting this childhood favourite became great fun with all the "oh yeah, now I remember!" moments because try a I might, the ending would not come back to me 'til the end!

In 1980 Scholastic released a paperback edition with the slightly altered title The Watcher in the Woods to coincide with the Disney film version in theatres the same year. To complete The Childhood Favourites Challenge, this 1980 edition is the one I had to borrow on an inter-library loan.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women is at the top of my list of childhood favorites. I'm not alone, as almost every female friend and acquaintance I know says the same thing. Louisa May Alcott wrote this book in 1868. It was an instant hit and has continued to remain a hit.

It's a story loosely based on the author's own family experience. In it we find a family of four daughters (Beth, Jo, Meg and Amy). a mother (Marmee) and a father who is away from home as a civil war chaplain. In addition, we have Aunt March, old Mr Laurance, his grandson Laurie, John Brooks and so many more. This novel is rich with characters. 

The plot revolves around the daily activities of the four girls and follows them for several years as they grow from girls into women. Each of the four girls have different personalities, with strengths and weaknesses. I enjoyed reading how they were all so creative when it came to devising ways to entertain themselves and each other. One of the activities included a secret society, The Pickwick Club, or P.C. as they called it. Gardening was another activity. Each girl had her own quarter where she planted her favorite flowers. All that is, except for Jo, who liked to experiment with different flowers. The girls also had various chores and other jobs.

The book follows the girls with various friendships and as they contemplate marriage and what they will do with the rest of their lives. There are various issues in the book that I didn't notice in previous readings. I liked the strong feminine determination they each showed. As a child I remember liking Jo because she was such a tomboy. I still like her for that. 

It's been 140 years since the book first came out and it's still relevant for today's girls/young women. I was thinking about this book for my ten-year-old granddaughter but I've decided to wait a year or two. I'd recommend this for 12 and up.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

This is the story of a little orphaned girl, Heidi, who has been raised by her Aunt Detie.  As the story opens Heidi and Aunt Detie are on their way  up to the top of a Swiss mountain. Heidi must now live with her grandfather. Aunt Detie can no longer take care of her as she has a job with an important family in Frankfurt. 

At five-years-old Heidi is a bubbly and kind little girl. It doesn't bother her that Grandfather is grumpy and not liked in the village or that he lives in a hut and there is no extra bed or chair for her.  This spirited little girl wins him over. She also makes friends with Peter, the boy who takes care of the goats and with Grannie, a blind neighbor.

Heidi and Grandfather settle in and make it a happy and pleasant home in the Alps. They become very attached to each other. It's been two years but one day Aunt Detie shows up with a new plan.

Detie takes Heidi back with her for a "visit" to Frankfurt. She has secured a place for Heidi as a companion to the invalid daughter of a very rich man. Clara is confined to a wheelchair, is taught by a private tutor, but she has no friends her age. Heidi is just what Clara needs.

On this year long visit Heidi learns to read and write. She looks forward to the day she can read to Grannie. Although Heidi and Clara are good friends, Heidi is very homesick. Her health begins to fail and Clara's doctor suggests she return to the Alps.

Once back in the Alps Heidi gains back her health, she teaches Peter to read and write. Grandfather is reconciled with the people in the village, and Clara comes for a visit. Yes, things turn out okay and everyone lives happily ever after. This is probably where I first started my love for the happily-ever-after stories. 

Sunday, 14 June 2009

What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge

Published: 1872
Pages: 178
My Rating: 4 stars

This book was my mother's when she was a young girl, passed on to me & enjoyed numerous times as a child and now re-read in adulthood for pure nostalgia. It's battered, the book jacket is torn & worn, the story is out-dated but I love this childhood favourite just because it was one my mum adored.

Katy Carr was not a bad girl, but she was a very impulsive and thoughtless girl, and this led her, and the younger members of the Carr family who followed her lead, into many scrapes. Aunt Izzie who helped Dr Carr with his motherless children was very prim and proper and thoroughly disapproved of Katy's behaviour... Disobeying Aunt Izzie's order not to ride on the new swing, Katy did so and met with a bad accident. It was thought that she might never walk again. Then followed many miserable months of pain and inactivity before Katy, with the help of all the family and especially Cousin Helen, regained her courage and learned to be patient and thoughtful for others. - book jacket

This is such a sweet story and while hideously out-dated, it certainly made me smile to think how many young girls given this book were encouraged to model themselves on Katy's reformed character.

Set in a small town in the late 1800s the story begins with an introduction to the six Carr children, their kitten, and their best friend Ceci as they make a trip to 'Paradise' - "wild and endless and full of adventure as any forest of fairy-land" - the children's secret picnic place in the marshy thicket near their house. They argue over which path to take to Paradise; Pilgrim's Path & the Hill of Difficulty, the Path of Peace or Sassafrass Path and as usual Katy, the eldest of the Carr children has her way.

The descriptions of the Carr children and their escapades were enchanting; Katy, Clover, Elsie, Dorrie, Joanna (John) & Phil are captivating characters & actually quite believable and I was kept entertained with the spats & pranks, recitals & games. One day Katy is late to school, in a terrible temper and a spate of trouble all because she hadn't bothered to sew in the string of her bonnet & her father quotes her this - (one I'd heard many times from my own grandpa!)

"For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail."

When 12 year old Katy falls from a swing & is bedridden for years, she is inspired by her invalid cousin Helen, to strive to be the sweet natured, uncomplaining, bed-bound "heart of the family."

While I know this story had a serious underlying moral tone in its time, I thought it very entertaining & found myself laughing at the quaint Victorian theme of self-sacrifice and humility helping little girls grow into good women.

Published on my blog The Eclectic Reader