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Semicolon Book Recommendations

I just found this site, called Anne Knows Books, which offers personalized book recommendations for a reasonable price ($3.00 a month) based on a book profile that you fill out and update regularly. I also noted this post, Why I’m Not Making a Holiday Gift Guide by Alyssa at Everead, in which Alyssa offers to give you personalized book recommendations for yourself or for those who are on your Christmas shopping list.

Well, I generally give book recommendations at the end of the year to those who add a link to their “best of” reading lists at the Saturday Review of Books on the Saturday just before or after New Year’s Day. (The Saturday Review of Books, Special Edition for Book Lists will be January 3rd this time.) But I’d love to get a head start. If you have some Christmas shopping to do, and you’d like to buy a book for someone special, or if you’d like to have suggestion or two about what you might want to read next, leave me the following information, and I will suggest three or more books for you to choose from for your gift-giving. I need to know the gift recipient’s:

Age and gender
A few interests and hobbies
Two or three favorite books or genres, if you know

You could try Alyssa, too, or Anne Knows Books, and see if we come up with the same ideas. Have fun giving a book or two or three for Christmas. I’ll leave my suggestions in the comments section here, and I might compile them into a post at some time later in the season.

October 25th

1154: Henry II becomes King of England. Henry was married to the much older (nine to eleven years older) Eleanor of Aquitaine, who had been previously married to the King of France, Louis VII, until she managed to get her marriage annulled. Henry himself was nineteen years when he married Eleanor and only twenty-one when he became King of England. Henry and Eleanor had eight children, thereby creating much opportunity for future confusion and conflict regarding the throne of England. (I also have eight children, but no throne for them to fight over; therefore, I hope to see no internecine conflict among my progeny.)

Movies/drama featuring Henry II: Becket, The Lion in Winter, Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot.

Historical fiction:
When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman
Time and Chance by Sharon Kay Penman
Devil’s Brood by Sharon Kay Penman
A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by E.L. Konigsburg

1400: Geoffrey Chaucer (birthday unknown) died on October 25, 1400. His Canterbury Tales begins with the words:

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tender croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his half cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(So Priketh hem Nature in hir corages),
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages …

1415: The Battle of Agincourt on St. Crispin’s Day.

1764: John Adams (28) weds Abigail Smith (19) in Weymouth, Massachusetts. Their marriage lasted 54 years.

You bid me burn your letters. But I must forget you first. John Adams in a letter to Abigail Adams, April 28, 1776.

John Adams’ Advice to His Children.
On the Character of John Adams.

1854: The Battle of Balaklava during the Crimean War and the Charge of the Light Brigade. Tennyson wrote his famous poem about the charge after reading a newspaper report.

1881: Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain.

1952: Engineer Husband was born in Buda, Texas. Happy Birthday, my love.

Poetry Friday: October’s Bright Blue Weather by Helen Hunt Jackson

Novelist, poet, and activist Helen Hunt Jackson was born October 15, 1830. She wrote a nonfiction book titled A Century of Dishonor in which she exposed government mistreatment of the Native American peoples. “Jackson sent a copy to every member of Congress with a quote from Benjamin Franklin printed in red on the cover: ‘Look upon your hands: they are stained with the blood of your relations.'” (Wikipedia, Helen Hunt Jackson) She also wrote a novel, Ramona, in which she endeavored to dramatize the plight of Native Americans in the same manner as her friend Harriet Beecher Stowe had done for black slaves in her novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Ms. Jackson’s poetry was much more light-hearted and celebratory than her prose.

O suns and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October’s bright blue weather;

When loud the bumblebee makes haste,
Belated, thriftless vagrant,
And goldenrod is dying fast,
And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

When gentians roll their fingers tight
To save them for the morning,
And chestnuts fall from satin burrs
Without a sound of warning;

When on the ground red apples lie
In piles like jewels shining,
And redder still on old stone walls
Are leaves of woodbine twining;

When all the lovely wayside things
Their white-winged seeds are sowing,
And in the fields still green and fair,
Late aftermaths are growing;

When springs run low, and on the brooks,
In idle golden freighting,
Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
Of woods, for winter waiting;

When comrades seek sweet country haunts,
By twos and twos together,
And count like misers, hour by hour,
October’s bright blue weather.

O sun and skies and flowers of June,
Count all your boasts together,
Love loveth best of all the year
October’s bright blue weather.

Rejoice in God’s gift of a new October. Count the hours like a miser, and enjoy the bright blue weather in pairs or alone. That’s my plan.

Poetry Friday Is On! at the Miss Rumphius Effect.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to the Great Wall, The Forbidden Palace, and Other Tourist Attractions by Lenore Look

Alvin Ho is back again, kind of like his namesake, the chipmunk. (Actually, the two have nothing to do with one another. I just was reminded of Alvin the Chipmunk for some reason and wanted to post a picture. Maybe because both Alvins have a penchant for getting into lovable trouble.)

This time Alvin Ho goes on a trip at Christmas time to China with his family to visit his relations who live in a tall scary apartment building. And Alvin has to fly across the ocean in an airplane, aka tin can, to get there. And there are maybe a billion people in China who could squash you. And you might have to use a squat toilet or be stuck all over with acupuncture needles like a pincushion. Scary, right?

Those are only a few of the dangers Alvin faces as he explores, or tries to keep from exploring, a new country. I’m getting a little jaded on Alvin, but I think this book might be just as funny and just as comforting to the average second or third grader as were Alvin’s previous adventures.

I did especially like chapter 15, You Can Make a Friend Anywhere, where Alvin does something very generous and kind in spite of all of his fears and phobias. The rest is standard Alvin Ho fare, although it provides a good introduction to the tourist attractions and interesting aspects of a visit to China. I felt sorry for Alvin’s dad, though, who is forced to be very, very patient and forgiving with Alvin’s childish anxieties and careless misdeeds.

Read this one if you’re a fan or if you want a painless introduction to China or if you have yet to meet the inimitable Alvin Ho.

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Setting: Wintertime, almost Christmas, in an old four-story smugglers’ inn at the top of Whilforber Hill near the village of Nagspeake. Each floor of the inn has a beautiful stained glass window, and the guest rooms also have greenglass windows and old-fashioned, but comfortable furniture. There’s an attic full of treasures and junk, and the inn has outbuildings and a garage to explore, too. Plenty of room for mystery, treasure-hunting, and clues.

Characters: Milo Pine, the innkeepers’ adopted son, Mr. and Mrs. Pine, Milo’s parents, and several mysterious, unexpected guests.

Plot: Milo and his friend Meddy attempt to solve the mystery of Greenglass House and its history by taking on roles as players in a role-playing game. Milo is a blackjack, and Meddy is his scholiast.

Almost every review I read of this little gem of a book compared it either to The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin’s Newbery winner and mystery classic, or to Agatha Christie. And without having read those reviews beforehand, I also thought of The Westing Game and of Christie’s The Mousetrap or other books where the cast is snowed in or otherwise isolated (And Then There Were None). Greenglass House is not your typical children’s mystery story. In fact, you can read about three unspoken rules that author Kate Milford breaks in her novel, to the betterment of the story IMHO, in Betsy Bird’s insightful review at A Fuse #8 Production

I noticed, and enjoyed, the loving and involved adoptive parents. Mr. and Mrs. Pine are very busy with their inn and their unexpected guests, but not too busy to check on Milo and to do things with him and for him to make his Christmas special. I also liked the fact the the story is set at Christmastime. And it feels like an old-fashioned Christmas with a Christmas tree, a Christmas Eve gift for Milo, father/son sledding, hot chocolate by the fire, and story-telling. The setting is indeterminate, sort of Victorian with no cell phones or computers in evidence, but also modern with an electric generator for back-up electricity and up-to-date speech patterns and behavior. So that gives Christmas at Greenglass House a timeless feel.

Milo is a great protagonist, too. He’s very conscientious; he does all of his homework on the first day of vacation so that he can have the rest of the holidays to play. He’s resistant to change, but also intelligent and adventurous. He and Meddy make a good team since she inspires and encourages him to step out and use his imagination to solve the mysteries that the two of them encounter.

Greenglass House would be a lovely Christmas read-aloud book for a class or a family in the holiday mystery mood. I recommend it.

Nagspeake Online: The Nagspeake Board of Tourism and Culture.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.
This book is also nominated for a Cybil Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.

Autumn Nature Reading

I found these two related posts about good nature books for children and adults in a long ago Carnival of Children’s Literature that I can’t get to now. I’m glad I saved the links.

Beth at Real Learning has a whole 12 weeks worth of autumn nature reading suggestions for an intensive nature study. I’m thinking we should do this someday. Maybe I’d become more of a nature lover if I made myself get outside and read and study and observe along with the urchins.

At the imponderabilia of actual life, Sandy lists her favorite nature books for children. Her favorite and featured author is John Himmelmann. I’m not familiar with this author, but I’m going to grab some of his books on her recommendation. The books sound wonderful.

Some of my favorite nature books and authors:

Jean Craighead George. Ms. George has written over 100 books, some fiction and some nonfiction, all related in some way to nature and the great outdoors. My favorite fiction of hers is My Side of the Mountain, a Newbery Honor book about Sam Gribley, a boy who leaves his home in New York City to live alone on the side of a mountain. She’s also written some delightful nonfiction, including Acorn Pancakes, Dandelion Salad, and 38 Other Wild Recipes, All Upon a Stone, and One Day in the Tropical Rain Forest.

Jim Arnosky. Mr. Arnosky is both a wildlife artist and an acute observer of nature. His drawing books, about how to draw animals, and his guidebooks that encourage kids to observe and learn, are all fantastic.

Gail Gibbons. Ms. Gibbons is the queen of nonfiction, as far as I’m concerned, writing about almost everything science and technology-related. However, her books The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree and The Pumpkin Book are two of my favorite autumnal treats.

Margaret Waring Buck. “Margaret Waring Buck wrote and illustrated a number of books explaining how animals live in the wild. The typical Buck nature book contains detailed black-and-white drawings of the plants, animals, insects and birds to be found in a particular outdoors location, along with an explanatory text ideal for young naturalists who are beginning to learn about the subject.” ~Dodd Center

Anna Botsford Comstock. Mrs. Comstock was an artist, conservationist, teacher and naturalist during the first half of the twentieth century. Her Handbook of Nature Study became a standard text for teachers, and she was the first female professor at Cornell University.

Diana Hutts Aston. Ms. Aston wrote A Seed Is Sleepy and An Egg Is Quiet and A Butterfly Is Patient, all three wonderful introductions to the wonders of the natural world that God made. An Egg Is Quiet, illustrated by Sylvia Long, won the first Cybils award for picture book nonfiction in 2007.

Nic Bishop. Nic Bishop is known for his nature photography. His book Nic Bishop Frogs won a Cybils award in 2008 for its just right combination of beautiful photos and informative text.

Who are your favorite nature study authors, and what books do you recommend for nature study as we move into the autumn season?

I Know What Your Mother Really Wants for Mother’s Day

'' photo (c) 2008, Kimberly N. - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/Well, I should qualify that statement: If your mother is a Christian, if she really, truly loves Jesus, and if she’s one of those “religious” moms who goes to church every Sunday and prays for you every day and embarrasses you by listening to old-timey hymns and posting Bible verses on her Facebook feed. If she’s one of those moms who took you to church and helped you memorize Bible verses and and taught you the plan of salvation and told you that God loves you and has a plan for your life. If your mother is an old-fashioned, Bible-believing, hope-filled, Jesus-loving Christian.

Then, more than she wants chocolate-covered strawberries or twelve dozen roses, more than a diamond ring or a dime store bracelet, more than breakfast in bed or lunch in a fancy restaurant, more than cards or phone calls or words of appreciation, more than new clothes or shoes, more than a trip to the movies or to the Bahamas, more than your gratitude and even more than your love, I know exactly what your mother wants for Mother’s Day.

She wants you to love Jesus, too. She wants you to know Jesus, obey Jesus, live for Jesus, worship Jesus and follow Jesus through this life and straight to heaven. She wants you live where Jesus leads you to live, even if that’s far away from where she is, and to do what He calls you to do, even if it’s something she would never have imagined you doing. She wants you to be filled with the Holy Spirit, connected to God’s church, and busy with the work of God’s kingdom. She wants you to be reading your Bible and praying and listening to the voice of Jesus. She wants you, her beloved child, to be His child. For Mother’s Day and every day, your Christian mom wants St. Patrick’s prayer to be incarnate in both of you:

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right,
Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length,
Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

If you can’t give your mom what she wants for Mother’s Day, Jesus can. Just ask Him. Then get yourself humbled and accept His forgiveness and grace. Then follow Him. Then tell your mom.

It will be the best Mother’s Day present ever. Trust me. I really, really know.

March 17th: St. Patrick and Kate Greenaway

I have written in past years about this poem, The Breastplate, attributed to St. Patrick, but probably not actually composed by him. However, we do have a couple of written pieces that most probably were the work of St. Patrick, one of which is his spiritual autobiography, St. Patrick’s Confessio. For today’s Lenten reading, I suggest you take a few minutes to read through Patrick’s confession.


“I was like a stone lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me, and raised me up, and placed me on the top of the wall.”

“For beyond any doubt on that day we shall rise again in the brightness of the sun, that is, in the glory of Christ Jesus our Redeemer, as children of the living God and co-heirs of Christ, made in his image; for we shall reign through him and for him and in him.”

For a fictional treatment of Patrick’s life and work, I recommend Stephen Lawhead’s novel, Patrick, Son of Ireland.

And here’s a list of picture books for St. Patrick’s Day from Amy at Hope Is the Word.

And yet another list of St. Patrick’s Day picture books from Mind Games.

Celebrating the Irish at Semicolon.

'Image taken from page 43 of 'Little Ann, and other poems. ... Illustrated by Kate Greenaway, etc'' photo (c) 2013, The British Library - license: http://www.flickr.com/commons/usage/

March 17th is also the birthday of British author and illustrator, Kate Greenaway (b.1846, d.1901), whose name is used for the Greenaway Medal, the British award for distinguished illustrations in children’s books. Her illustrations are very Jane Austen-esque, aren’t they, although Greenaway herself would have been more of a Victorian/Edwardian era illustrator. Ms. Greenaway was homeschooled until she was twelve, and then she attended the Finsbury School of Art for six years. Her first book, Under the WIndow, was published in 1879 and almost immediately sold out of its first printing of 20,000 copies. The Book continued to sell well for years, and Kate Greenaway’s illustrations and artistic style was widely copied and admired in England and in the U.S.

Greenaway was friendly with Randolph Caldecott, the other famous illustrator of children’s books of the time, and she maintained a twenty year long correspondence with John Ruskin, the famous critic. Ruskin and Greenaway eventually met; however, her relationship with Ruskin, who was probably mentally ill and morally corrupt, was not good for Kate’s confidence or for her art. Kate Greenaway died in 1901 of breast cancer, convinced that her public had rejected and outgrown her art.
~Information taken mostly from the website, Women Children’s Book Illustrators.

'Image taken from page 10 of 'Little Ann, and other poems. ... Illustrated by Kate Greenaway, etc'' photo (c) 2013, The British Library - license: http://www.flickr.com/commons/usage/

Poetry Friday: A Madness Most Discreet

A Slice of Life by Edgar Guest

'Sailing' photo (c) 2013, Miroslav Vajdic - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Let loose the sails of love and let them take
The tender breezes till the day be spent;
Only the fool chokes out life’s sentiment.
She is a prize too lovely to forsake . . .

Come Live With Me and Be My Love by Christopher Marlowe

COME live with me, and be my love;
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dales and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

She Walks in Beauty Like the Night by Lord Byron

'Starry night, My copy' photo (c) 2013, Saad Faruque - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that ‘s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes.

Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe.

But we loved with a love that was more than love–
I and my Annabel Lee–
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

Young Lochinvar by Sir Walter Scott

'Knight' photo (c) 2011, Sam Howzit - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

So daring in love, and so dauntless in war,
Have ye e’er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?

As I Walked Out One Evening by WH Auden

‘I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street.

If Thou Must Love Me by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Sonnet 116: Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds by William Shakespeare.

Oh, My Luve’s Like a Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns.

'Red rose' photo (c) 2011, Marina Shemesh - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my Dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun!
O I will luve thee still, my Dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

How Do I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

A Birthday by Christina Rossetti.

My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these,
Because my love is come to me.

The Bait by John Donne

'Golden hair' photo (c) 2010, Andrey - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Come live with me and be my love
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands and crystal brooks,
With silken lines and silver hooks.

“Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs;
Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes;
Being vexed, a sea nourished with lovers’ tears.
What is it else? A madness most discreet,
A choking gall, and a preserving sweet.”
~Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Linda at TeacherDance has this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup.