Tag Archives: children

Beware of The Stranger

Our children are always interested in what we are reading on the list.  Back in the early days my husband and I were happy to regale them with both major plot points and entertaining details from the selections.  Over the past few novels this has gotten increasingly more difficult.

Their questions about The Stranger were no exception.  I dodged the, “What’s it about?” with a simple, “It’s not my favorite.”  In our house that sentence translates to, “Yuck, gross, this is awful, blech.”  It’s a statement that sometimes hovers around mealtime.  And the boys saw right through my discourse.

“Why don’t you like it, Mom?”

Still filibustering, I answered that it wasn’t exactly the novel that I disliked, so much as the main character who was telling the story.  I didn’t think he was a very nice guy.

I should have known that this would lead to an inquiry about what made him “not a nice guy.”  My mind raced.  Do I tell them that he didn’t even know exactly when his mother died?  Do I mention his distraction at her funeral?  Should I tell them about his hook-up with a girl right after he got back into town?

That was all wildly inappropriate, but I had to say something.

“He doesn’t care that his neighbor is mean to a dog.”

The shock and horror in their reactions makes me think that none of them will be willing to pick up Camus for a long, long while.  I just wish I’d had the same warning.

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Posted by on October 2, 2013 in The Stranger


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Seven Reasons to Read Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Her children.  Seven of them, including a set of twins, and a boy that died at 18 months.

Above all, Harriet Beecher Stowe is a mother, and certainly one who is unafraid to appeal to the very hearts of other mothers.  Here she is talking directly to us in Chapter 7:

If it were your Harry, mother, or your Willie, that were going to be torn from you by a brutal trader, to-morrow morning, – if you had seen the man, and heard that the papers were signed and delivered, and you had only from twelve o’clock till morning to make good your escape, – how fast could you walk?  How many miles could you make in those few brief hours, with the darling at your bosom, – the little sleepy head on your shoulder, – the small, soft arms trustingly holding on to your neck?

As I read this, I had to resist the urge to strap my babies in the jogging stroller, take the school-aged boys by the hand, throw the preschooler onto my back and head out for a training run.  Christine, bring the Garmin – I want to know how fast and far I can go to protect my children.


Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Uncle Tom's Cabin


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Like You’ve Never Read it Before

Once upon a time there was a whale named Moby-Dick.

He was cut-out to be the roughest, toughest, sneakiest whale in all the seven seas.

There was also a ship, known as the Pequod.  Its daunting black color and triple masts made it a formidable foe to all the blubber afloat the ocean waves.

On a beautiful day the Pequod unfurled her sails, while underneath the surface of the water loomed an underestimated danger.

Watch out, Pequod!

And just like that, the fierce Moby Dick came up fast and furious under the great ship.

And the rest is history.  Well, fiction, I guess.


Posted by on May 5, 2012 in Moby-Dick


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It is On!

Remember when I told you about my oldest child taking the “real” copy of Moby-Dick to school to read during achievement tests?

She read twenty-seven chapters in one day.


I furiously read to twenty-nine to get ahead of her.

Now when she reading it at home, she calls out the number of the chapter she’s starting.

I will win this race.

Does anyone know of a whaling ship that will take sixth graders?


Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Moby-Dick


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Great Illustrated Melville

Look what I have!

When I first started Moby-Dick, I thought I might need a little help, so I went right to my children’s school library where I found the Great Illustrated Classics version.  Ismael quickly drew me in and before I knew it, I had read several chapters.

But since this is a DIY master’s class, I figured an abridged version might not make the cut.  I’m back to reading the real deal and enjoying it so far.  Although I’m kind of missing the illustrations.


Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Moby-Dick


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Your N-R-I-A-B is not using his N-I-A-R-B.

bairn – n. a child

Classical Usage:  Rochester uses this chiefly Scottish term to refer to Adèle when Jane asks if she may accompany them on their first trip into town as a couple.  “Do you really wish the bairn to go?  Will it annoy you is she is left behind?”  Jane gets her way.

Classically Mad Usuage:  We all have bairns.  Also, most of our bairns are old enough to figure out when we are trying to speak in code about them to our husbands.  Maybe referring to them as a bairn will help make the code a little less breakable.  Especially if we spell it.  Backwards.


Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Jane Eyre


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“The Pursuit and Escape”

 “The Pursuit and Escape” is what Dickens titles chapter L of Oliver Twist.  Have you reached this chapter yet, readers?  If not… consider this a spoiler alert and come back to this post when you’ve finished the chapter.

You’re done already?  Wow, you are fast readers.

Chapter L is the chapter where Bill Sikes flees to the “house” on Jacob’s Island.  The angry crowd finds him there.  He plans to escape off the roof using a rope. 

“At the very instant when he brought the loop over his head previous to slipping it beneath his arm-pits…”

You remember what comes next: Sikes’ accidental hanging.  This is almost as gruesome as Nancy’s death. 

Let me show you the original illustrator’s depiction of this chapter.  George Cruikshank called it “The Last Chance”.  We see Sikes on the roof with his dog.  If we look closely, we can see a few faces in the windows of the nearby houses.

This is the picture from the same chapter in the Great Illustrated Classics version.  Illustrator Ric Estrada also shows Sikes and the dog on the roof with the rope, but he chose the perspective of the crowd on the ground.

I almost didn’t include the next illustration.  In fact, I purposefully left the size small because I found it so disturbing.  It comes from the Bullseye Step Into Classics series.  For this children’s adaptation of Oliver Twist, Jean Zallinger was the illustrator.  Zallinger decided to focus on the moment after Sikes was haunted by “the eyes” and fell to his death.  If you can ignore the body (which I’m not sure is possible), I rather like the horror depicted on the faces of what used to be a blood-thirsty crowd and is now a traumatized group of people.  Unlike Dickens’ original story, Oliver witnesses Sikes’ death in this version.  Quickly skimming the text, I found that there were lots of changes made to condense the story.

I am sure Dickens had his reasons for destroying Sikes in this particular way.  Just as I’m sure each of the illustrators had their reasons for depicting the scene in their own ways. 

I am particularly disturbed by the last illustration: both for its content and for the children who were meant to view it.  This book is a beginner chapter book.  Amazon has this title listed for children in grade one and up. 

Up until now I have really enjoyed the children’s adaptation of books that I have found.  Remember this one?  and this one?  There was even this one.  

But as the topics of our classic novels get darker, I’m going to be more cautious when I scout out children’s copies.

Fellow readers with children, how do you feel about versions of classic works made for kids?


Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Oliver Twist


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Good Grief! More Gulliver?

Look what I found.  No, it’s not the next title in the WEM list.  It’s a collection of classic stories Usborne has illustrated for children.  Check out the titles:

  • Robin Hood
  • Moonfleet
  • Around the World in Eighty Days
  • Robinson Crusoe
  • The Canterville Ghost

and wait for it…

  • Gulliver’s Travels

See why I had to immediately put a library hold on this book?!

This version of Part 1 of Gulliver’s Travels was retold by Gill Harvey and illustrated by Peter Dennis. 

Although some adaptations have been made, I think the story truer to Swift’s original than the pop-up book.

Gulliver is transported on a wooden cart to the capital city.


Gulliver's pockets are inspected for dangerous items.


The nobles compete in the game of "Leaping and Creeping".

 There are pages devoted to egg debate.  Of course Gulliver steals the naval vessals from the people of Blefescu.  There’s even an illustration of the fire that Gulliver puts out.
This version has him throwing water over the palace to save it. I prefer the change.
This version has Gulliver throwing “water over the palace to save it.”  That’s a small change I prefer.  One detail the storyteller did not change is how the nobles want to kill Gulliver or at least blind him at the end of Part 1.  Don’t worry.  Just like in Swift’s version, Gulliver escapes in a boat and is rescued by people his own size.
I like the Usborne version of Gulliver’s Travels, and I can’t wait until the library informs me that my next hold is ready for pickup.

Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Gulliver's Travels


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Gulliver In Lilliput: a pop-up book

Here’s the treasure I found in the used book section of the thrift store. 
Isn’t it great?!  I think that my family had a copy of this book when I was a child. 
Mom, is that right?

I have a memory of the first page with Guliver tied down by the people my son calls “Little-putians”.

The book was adapted by Edward Cunningham and published by Hallmark Children’s Editions, but the glory goes to Michael R. Hague who did the illustrations and to Howard Lohnes who was in charge of Paper Mechanics.  There is no copyright date on the book. 

The story hits a few Gulliver’s highlights while in Lilliput:

Gulliver stretching out a handkerchief so that soldiers could ride their horses around in the air.

Gulliver peeking into the windows of the Imperial Palace.

Gulliver stealing the enemies boats.

Here Gulliver is receiving the honorary title of Nadac for his heroic deeds.

And this is where the children’s version veers off from the original text.  It seems that Gulliver missed his family.  (Who knew?)  The emperor was sad to have Gulliver leave, but he ordered a boat be built for the giant man’s voyage home.  I guess the parts about poisoning him and putting out his eyes weren’t appropraite for a children’s pop-up book.

“For weeks, Gulliver stood watch by the sea, hoping to catch sight of an English vessel.  And finally his prayers were answered.  Calling the Lilliputians together, he thanked them for their friendship and bid them a fond farewell.
     “Good Luck, Man Mountain!” said the emperor.
     “And God bless you always!” added the empress.
     Then, as ten thousand Lilliputians waved and cheered, Gulliver hurried out to meet the ship that would carry him safely back to his home.”

So, the original ending of Part 1 is missing from this version, as is Gulliver from this page’s pop-up.  The white parts on this page show where Gulliver used to be.  For the twenty-five cents I paid for the book, I’ll just imagine Gulliver stepping into the vessel waving good-bye to the little people. 

What classic novels are hiding on your children’s bookshelves?


Posted by on December 6, 2011 in Gulliver's Travels


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Oliver’s Sequel

I drug took my children to a resale shop after school last week.  I had seen that this particular store was having a 50% off sale on all books.  Now this DIY master’s degree that I’m working toward through the WEM program is cheap on tuition but costly on books.  Have I mentioned that I have to read over thirty novels?  Because of this I am always on the lookout for used classics.  In fact I carry a list of needed titles in my purse.  Truth be told, I even have lists for my co-bloggers as well.  What can I say?  We’re frugal gals.

Now let me paint the picture.  My three children are seated in the book section of the store.  They are occupied with swiveling office chairs (“Mom!  These chairs are for sale!”) and a few Christmas books that were set out on a table.  I am scanning titles as quickly as I can, wondering why no one parts with his copy of Moby Dick or Anna Karenina

As I was promising for the second time that I was almost done, my middle child interrupted,

“Mom!  Come look!  I found Oliver Stone.  I think that’s the sequel to Oliver Twist!”

Oh, buddy.  Ummm,  no.  But thanks for trying to help.  

I guess this sometimes happens when you expose your children to great works of literature.

PS.  I was able to score two copies of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and two copies of Hardy’s The Return of the Native for 50 cents each!

PPS.  Anyone out there need seven copies of The Scarlet Letter?  I know where you can find them.

PPPS.  I also found a children’s version of a classic we’ve already read.  I’ll share it with you tomorrow. 
         Any guesses as to what it is?


Posted by on December 5, 2011 in Oliver Twist, The Blog, Well-Educated Mind


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