For many months, I’ve wanted to change the sidebar on this blog to have a “What I’m Reading” widget, but I haven’t bothered to look for one. And since I’m not likely to bother in the next few weeks, I decided I’d just write a post about it.
First, you should know that over half of my reading, I do with my kids. Of course, the books below are not the sum total of what I read to them. My daughter really likes Disney princess books (can I poke out my eyes, please?), which read like they were written by a committee comprised of reps from the legal department and a hack writer on speed.
Doug finally asked, “Can we declare a moratorium on Disney princess books?” So the next day, when I went to the library and found an inch-thick anthology of Disney princess stories on hold for us, I handed it straight back to the circ desk clerk.
Of course, two days later my mother-in-law came for a visit and brought Jane a two-inch thick anthology of Disney princess stories. She was in heaven. I was…not.
Anyhoo, back to the real books we’ve read this month:
Catwings (and three sequels!) by Ursula K. LeGuin.
These are wonderful short chapter books – each about 50 pages long with a delightful illustration by S.D. Schindler on almost every page. I long for more such books that combine lovely language with stories complex enough for my six-year-old and simple enough for my three-year-old. A tall order, I know. Especially since Jane also wants the pictures.
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
We’re working our way through the Little House books. Both kids loved Little House in the Big Woods, which we read in May and Little House on the Prairie, which we finished earlier this month. Farmer Boy is a harder sell for Jane. There aren’t as many pictures as in the earlier books, and she really likes Laura and Mary and doesn’t understand why they’re not in this book. Jack, on the other hand, loves it. He won’t say why, but I suspect it’s because it’s about a boy only a little older than he is.
Skylark by Patricia MacLachlan.
This beautiful story is the sequel to Sarah Plain and Tall, which we read in February, and like Sarah, it has no illustrations. I wasn’t sure Jane would be able to sit through it, but we read it in two sittings, and she did just fine; she even brought it back for me to finish.
And here are the books I’ve read or am reading this month:
The Passion of Mary-Margaret by Lisa Samson.
The “autobiography” of a modern-day mystic, this book spans 70 years, weaving its way from present to past and back again. Given the structure of the novel and the long timeline, the story could have been a confusing mess, but Samson keeps it focused and always makes sure you know where you are in both time and place. And she draws such fascinating, compelling characters you just want to keep reading to see what happens to them. A beautiful and captivating read.
Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart.
Sort of Jane Eyre meets Rebecca, this is a slowly gathering story of suspense and romance, with delicious Gothic darkness hovering over everything.
Now that we all have ADD, I’m afraid they just don’t write them like this anymore, alas.
Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis.
I’ve long meant to read Lewis’s autobiography, and finally got around to it. Though it has its moments of lovely language and captivating story-telling, it deals too much in generalities. The places it’s strongest are when Lewis recalls specific incidents. I realize it’s risky to take on someone as august as Lewis, but this book is definitely not his finest. I think what keeps it in print is simply Lewis’s name on the cover (she said nervously, looking over her shoulder to see if anyone was coming with a billy club…)
Till We Have Faces, also by C.S. Lewis, and in my humble opinion it’s hands down his best book. Rich, layered, and nuanced, symbol piles upon symbol in this story until it’s impossible to unravel. You simply read it and are amazed that anyone could write such a compelling story with such deeply nested and almost unsearchable symbolism. I am in awe.