Monday, December 2, 2013

October Reading

63. The Penderwicks at Point Mouette - book 3 in the Penderwicks series
by Jeanne Birdsall
middle grade fiction, 2011
Kindle book
library book
finished 10/31/13



Without giving away the plot in the second book, I’ll just say that Skye, Jane, and Batty go on a vacation to Maine with their aunt Claire, who featured in The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. Much of the book involves the second in age, Skye, being the one in charge because Rosalind, the oldest, is off to New Jersey with her best friend’s family. This is a real trial for her. So many good things happen in this book to further the reader’s delight in the series.

62. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street - book 2 in the Penderwicks series
by Jeanne Birdsall
middle grade fiction, 2008
Kindle book
library book
finished 10/28/13





We learn in the first book that Mrs. Penderwick died of cancer soon after the youngest daughter Batty was born. The second book begins with a letter she wrote before her death to Mr. Penderwick’s sister Claire saying she didn’t want her husband to be alone, and that after a few years she wanted him to begin dating. So the sister, whom the girls adore, shows up hell-bent to follow the instructions. After a couple disastrous dates, the girls begin a Save Daddy campaign, and they get him fixed up with really terrible prospects so he won't have to marry again. Meanwhile, he begins talking about a woman he is seeing. We readers know right off that she is a literary device, not a real person. The Penderwicks have new neighbors, a widow and her young son. Batty loves this little boy. I thought this book even more wonderful than the first, probably because I got to know the characters more. This is just the best series!

Addendum: I came upon a wonderful blog post - Ten Things I Love About the Penderwicks. It is here.

61. E.B. White on Dogs
edited by Martha White
nonfiction, 2013
finished 10/26/13



We went with friends to see Martha White on a beautiful September Sunday afternoon at the wonderful Main Street Book Ends in Warner, New Hampshire. She spoke about this new E.B. White collection, and signed books afterwards. She was a delightful storyteller, and such a nice person. I expected I would love the book to pieces, but sadly I didn’t.  There were some articles or letters that mentioned dogs in only a sentence or brief paragraph which I didn’t think were worth including. Possibly a slimmer volume, with a strict focus on White's writings about dogs may have worked better.







60. The Red Trailer Mystery - book 2 in the Trixie Belden series
by Julie Campbell
middle grade mystery, 1950
Kindle book
library book
finished 10/25/13




I so enjoyed the first Trixie Belden book, The Secret of the Mansion (June Reading), and because it had a sort of cliffhanger ending, I’ve been eager to read the second book. The Red Trailer Mystery was every bit as good as the first in the series. Very literate. Such good descriptions of the natural world and interiors and people that the reader has no trouble visualizing the scenes.

What strikes me most as I think back on the book is the freedom that the children have. They ride horseback (without helmets), swim in quarries, and wander in the woods with complete adult approval. The parents of Trixie, and in this book the governess of Honey, Trixie’s friend, rarely say ‘be careful’ or ‘don’t do such and such.’ These aren’t kids who are drinking, or using the phone or internet in inappropriate ways. As I said in my book notes of the first book, they ‘really live.’ I don’t know when I’ve read about such an enviable childhood. I want to be there, in those times, in those books. Granted, horrible things could have happened. Trixie falls off the horse, but isn’t injured. Some really bad guys are talking about their crimes while the girls are hiding in the barn loft just above them. I suppose it is all an idyllic world, and maybe it never existed, but it is sure appealing. Honey doesn’t have an easy life, though she is very rich, but Trixie is always optimistic that things will work out, and of course they do. These girls are given the space and freedom to make their own decisions, good or not-so-good, and are the epitome of ‘empowered’ girls. Heady stuff for the late 1940s and 1950s, and indeed, for today. There is nothing they can’t do. We are never presented with a scenario where boys are luckier or more adventurous or more capable.

In this book, the girls go off with Miss Trask the governess in a trailer pulled by the car, in search of Jim, the boy who took off at the end of The Secret of the Mansion. They feel certain he is applying for work at one of the three summer camps upstate from the Hudson Valley where the girls live. They need to find him because of a revelation we learned of in the first book. While parked at Autoville, the tourist trailer campground, they fall into mystery upon mystery, beginning with a red trailer named Robin parked next to them. The Robin is beautiful and expensive, but the family is obviously very poor. They are uncomfortable around Honey and Trixie. Then we find out there are trailers being stolen in the area. They are stripped of all their fittings, and then left. Trixie and Honey become involved and begin their adventures.

Their dogs, Reddy the Irish setter and Bud the cocker spaniel accompany them on the trip and they live as free a life as the girls, running wild in the woods and making their own discoveries.

I am quite surprised at how much I have enjoyed these first two books in the series. I’ve taken a few reading trips back to a couple other older series, Nancy Drew and The Bobbsey Twins, and have been disappointed by each one. Julie Campbell wrote only the first six books, and perhaps after that they aren’t as good, but the writing in books one and two is really very good. The pacing kept me reading far into the night. I cared about the characters. I like these girls. They are kind, interesting, intelligent, and still very much kids. Thirteen-year-olds today may be more knowledgeable about the world, but it seems to me that Trixie and Honey know about the important things in life.

There are dear illustrations in which the personalities of the characters leap right out at the reader.




59. The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn - book 3 in the Inspector Morse series
by Colin Dexter
mystery, 1977
Kindle book
finished 10/23/13





58. Last Seen Wearing - book 2 in the Inspector Morse series
by Colin Dexter
mystery, 1976
Kindle book
finished 10/19/13





57. The Puzzle of the Silver Persian - book 5 in the Hildegarde Withers series
by Stuart Palmer
mystery, 1934
Kindle book
finished 10/9/13





Love, love, love this series. Hildegarde is unlike any female sleuth. I can’t imagine why Miss Marple is so well known, and Hildegarde Withers is not. She is strong, forthright, happy in her life. Rare for a woman in a book written today, let alone those published decades ago. This book begins on-board ship as Hildegarde heads to England on vacation.

56. Last Bus to Woodstock - book 1 in the Inspector Morse series
by Colin Dexter
mystery, 1975
Kindle book
finished 10/3/13





I saw that Amazon was offering the first three Inspector Morse books on the Kindle for $10 and I thought this would be a good chance for me to make the acquaintance of characters I’ve known only from television. I think that Inspector Morse, Lewis, and Endeavour are some of the very best television ever done. The late, sorely-missed John Thaw made Morse his own. And then some brilliant people decided to make a series starring Morse’s sergeant Lewis taking over after Morse’s death. And then some more brilliant people decided to go back to Morse’s beginnings as a policeman. Endeavour is Morse’s first name. 

So, with all this wonderful television background, I proceeded to begin the books. They are quite different from the programs, which I think is good. The personalities of Morse and Lewis are somewhat different, as is their relationship. I could jump right into the stories as if these were new characters to me. I found each book excellent. The whole town and gown thing is fascinating - how they are separate and yet how they come together. 

18 comments:

  1. I have only read one of the Penderwicke books, looks like I should find some others. I would love to read some Trixie Belden again. It really brings back childhood in a multitude of ways--the freedom we had and the pleasure I derived from reading. I have to admit I'm not as big a fan of Hildegarde Withers as you are but I found the one I read mildly interesting. I couldn't finish one of them.

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    1. If you have a device on which to read ebooks, your local library should offer a link to your state's downloadable books site. In my little state, there are a multitude of books offered - both new and old. I read the Penderwick books and Trixie B. books from there. It is a wonderful service.
      Another friend wasn't as wild about 'Hildy' as I am, either. That's the great thing about reading that there are so many books to choose from. We don't have to waste a minute on a book if we don't love it. I'm just so smitten with the character.

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  2. Your description of the Trixie Belden books makes me so want to get them! I do remember having read (and probably owned) one of the books when I was a child, but I can not remember anything about the story itself, just the cover, which was re-done in the 1970s to make it look more "modern" to us back then, I guess.

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    1. I had some of those re-done cover versions of that ilk of book when I was a kid, too. I can remember the slick feel of them. As I noted, perhaps it is Julie Campbell's writing which makes these books so good. I hope to read all six that she wrote, and then try one she didn't write and see if there is a difference. Perhaps they get formulaic later on. I just don't know at this point.

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  3. You're reading some lovely books at the moment, Nan. And I see from Goodreads that you're also enjoying some Christmas books. I shall see what I have very soon too, not feeling all that Christmassy just yet. I love the name 'Batty'... over here that's an old-fashioned term for someone who's a little eccentric. Does it mean the same over there?

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    1. I'm not currently reading any Christmas books, other than Adam Gopnik's Winter. I just randomly make note of books I've read, or books that have caught my attention that I want to read at Goodreads. And I've stopped listing any current reading.
      Yes, Batty means the same thing here. The late mother's name was Elizabeth and that is Batty's real name so it is probably a form of Betty. I do find the name a bit distracting.

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  4. Lovely post Nan..love the Dog header too!
    Morse in the books is quite different isn't he..satisfying in a different way from the TV ..I have an audio recording of Colin Dexter chatting somewhere I'll have to find it for you.
    The Penderwicks are Old friends but the Trixie is new to us..I think the girls would enjoy her so onto the library list she goes :0)
    Now I'll just look out My Christmas music and think fond and festive thoughts of you and yours!

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    1. Thank you so much!!!

      I hope libraries still have the Trixie Belden books.

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  5. I came to visit you this morning, jumped over to Amazon to order the Insp. Morse books and just now remembered that I forgot to come back to thank you. I think I already told you that I've been buying a "new" Hildegarde as soon as I finish one, ever since you told us about her. I actually remember reading Trixie Belden when I was in the fourth or fifth grades I guess. I used to hide library books in my desk and read them when I was supposed to be reading geography or science.

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    1. I'll be interested to hear what you think of Morse. Am tickled you are also fond of Miss W.
      Love the school story!

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  6. I had those Trixie Belden books when they first came out, and I grew up in that era of enormous freedom in a suburb with woods and valleys all around and we could do anything we wanted as long as we showed up for meals and came in when the sun set. It is not that nothing bad ever happened, but it was so outweighed by the freedom and the closeness to the natural world...

    I've been watching Morse on netflix and I think I've seen all those titles. And I bought the Stuart Palmer for my kindle at your recommendation and have begun to read it. thanks, Nan!

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    1. I don't know how I missed them as a kid, but am so happy to have found them now. Love the story of your childhood. It was perfect.
      If you haven't seen Lewis or Endeavour you are in for a great treat!
      Not everyone is as wild for Hildegarde as I am :<), so I'll be interested in what you think.

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  7. I've been thinking I should re-read the Inspector Morse books--I bought them as I was watching the PBS Mystery series years ago, so my image of Morse and Lewis was already in place.

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    1. Mine, too. But I found as I began reading that the tv versions rather slipped away out of my mind.

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  8. I enjoy reading your posts and was particularly interested in the book signing with Martha White. I always wonder about famous authors' backgrounds, families, and so on... I'm not sure why I've never gone to a book signing... A signed copy of something would make a great Christmas present wouldn't it? I also liked your lighted dog ornament that was a previous header! :)

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    1. She had wonderful stories to tell about the family. It was clear there was much love there.

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  9. Nan, I'm almost afraid to come here, for fear you'll tell me about more books that I will need to add to my impossibly huge "books to read" list! That list has 872 books on it--they'll have to tuck a few into my coffin, I'm sure. I LOVED the first Penderwick book, which I read when I was still working as school librarian before retirement, and now you've reminded me to read some more of them. They remind me of Elizabeth Enright's Melendy family, which I adored reading about as a child. Thank you, as always!

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    1. That is quite a number!! Love your thought about the coffin. Like those societies that would put treasures in.
      I am very fond of the Melendy family too. I actually wrote about the first two books here a few years back (and you commented!!):

      http://lettersfromahillfarm.blogspot.com/2009/03/saturdays-by-elizabeth-enright.html

      http://lettersfromahillfarm.blogspot.com/2009/03/four-story-mistake-by-elizabeth-enright.html

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