Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Library Books

An appealing and diverse armful of books was waiting for me at the library tonight, but I already had Stairway to a Secret with me for the gym so haven't started on them yet . . .

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Grand Sophy

I am pleased to be hosting the Georgette Heyer Classics Circuit today, discussing The Grand Sophy, one of my all time favorite books. My mother introduced me to Heyer when I was in junior high, and I checked them out one by one from our shabby old library in Newton Corner (and started again at the beginning once I had read them all). Some of those hardcovers were the original US editions with beautiful Arthur E. Barbosa covers (see below). Sophy is appealing for a variety of reasons: first, she is a vivacious and entertaining heroine, and the reader never knows what she will do next. Second, this is one of Heyer’s most amusing books, containing humorous situations and quirky characters as well as a heroine who appreciates both and encourages others to see the funny or less expected side of situations. Heyer uses Sophy’s unpredictability and humor to turn the conventions upside down repeatedly in this novel. Finally, as someone who likes to organize people, I have always appreciated Sophy’s tendency to meddle – undertaken, as she says herself, with the best of intentions!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Reflections on Elizabeth Bird's List

Several weeks ago I submitted my recommendations for Elizabeth Bird's, a NYPL librarian, top ten list of middle grade novels. I could easily have chosen ten books that were beloved but not known by anyone other than me (and my family) but I tried to pick a mixture of books that were popular favorites and not just hidden gems. It was impossible to rank them properly and in some instances it was very difficult to pick one title by an author I love (such as Edward Eager or Maud Hart Lovelace). The minute I sent my list to Betsy, I thought of several I had inexplicably forgotten (The Mixed Up Files, The Sherwood Ring, an E. Nesbit). There are some books I have reread dozens of times like The Wizard of Oz or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, or Swallows and Amazons that never occurred to me to include (perhaps because hidden from view on my overcrowded book shelves).
To the surprise and delight of many book lovers, Betsy has been counting down from 100 to 1 all the books that were voted on and her installments are eagerly anticipated. She has done an amazing job of including background on books and I also love the assortment of cover treatments she has included. Inevitably, her list has caused me to make my own lists: books I forgot to include, books I need to reread, books I never read, one book I never even heard of! Although her countdown is not done, I assembled a list of the books I have not read thus far. It was more extensive than I expected. Some are books that were published relatively recently. My nieces have read several I have not and helpfully lent me a couple they owned. I hope to have all 100 read before Betsy has the energy to ask for our top ten YA favorites (that list, I think will be more heavily skued toward recent pubs).

Here is my unread list (partial) of the Top 100:

97. Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane/DiCamillo #
96. The Witches/Dahl #
91. Sideways Stories from the Wayside School / Sachar #
80. Graveyard Book / Gaiman
77. City of Ember / DuPrau (I never even heard of this book!)
76. Out of the Dust / Hesse
68. Walk Two Moons/Creech #
67. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher/Coville
64. A Long Way from Chicago / Peck
61. Stargirl / Spinelli
55. The Great Gilly Hopkins / Paterson #
54. The BFG /Dahl #
53. The Wind in the Willows /Grahame
52. The Invention of Hugo Cabret /Selznick *
50. Island of the Blue Dolphins / O’Dell #
49. Frindle/Andrew Clements #
47. Bud Not Buddy / Curtis
46. Where the Red Fern Grows/ Rawls
37. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry #
34. The Watsons Go to Birmingham #
26. Hatchet /Paulsen (other than Arthur Ransome, I don't really like books with too much nature in them)

I really have no interest in The Wind of the Willows and did not like Harriet the Spy (which I sense will rank pretty high), so it may be a challenge to read all 100 but I am motivated. . .

# Indicates a book read by one or more nieces: nice for them to provide reading guidance to me for a change.
* My younger sister has read this so there is some partial family credit.