Seriously! Me Read The Lord of the Rings?!!!

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I’ve stopped the lament about the dearth of edifying, smut-free, uplifting and thought-provoking books being published recently.  I’ve even taken a further step and am reading well-known classics (some are awful, by the way, and don’t deserve finishing) and lesser known but quite excellent books, such as Beverly of Graustark, and Elizabeth Goudge’s ever-so-marvelous Pilgrim’s Inn.

But today I have made up my mind to read books recommended by my family, books I’ve resisted for a number of years, throughout our home school journey.

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Experience says this is a good idea.  Case in point:  The HobbitSince high school when my girlfriend urged me repeatedly to read it, I have said, “It’s not my thing.  I know I won’t like it.”

My kids have also relentlessly pestered and badgered me to read The Hobbit, and finally, after years of resistance, I relented and read it.  And loved it!  And over the past three weekends, the three Hobbit movies have been our excellent viewing entertainment (greatly enhanced and understood because of first reading the book).

So where does all this go?  To the classic literature they have all read, the books they pity me in my ignorance of, and stubborn resistance about – The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

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There seems to be a sort of secret affinity and understanding, a club of higher thinkers if you will, that those of us who haven’t read The LOTR books simply cannot fathom.  Therefore, it would behoove me, methinks, to read these literary masterpieces and make everyone in my house believe there is hope after all, that miracles do indeed happen, and that Mom is redeemable – perhaps even interesting – now that she is learning the difference between an orc and a ring wraith, and can even speak a bit of Gollum.

Here’s the Challenge:  Read things you don’t think you’ll like, just to make someone else happy.  Who knows what could happen?  Maybe the next time I want them to read something marvelous about which they have reservations, they’ll just read it!

What a concept – reading something new and different just because it will make someone else happy, just because it’ll give you insights into their strange conversations, just because it’s the way into “The LOTR Club” of higher thinking individuals.  This sounds like a no-lose deal.

And who knows, I might even like it, orcs and all.

 

THE INESTIMABLE POWER OF GOOD BOOKS, AND SOME FAVORITES FOR ALL AGES

A child in the direst of circumstances, experiencing the darkest of childhood horrors, can learn of, and be programmed to seek, better worlds via the reading of good books.

But what is a good book?  One of sacrificial love, heroic acts, and a victorious ending.  One reflecting what and who we are – created in the very image of God to create new worlds, to overcome old evils, and most of all, to love forevermore.  Such a book, if we’re very lucky as adults, will be full of beautiful description, and if we’re children or reading along with children (yay!) will grant us the privilege of gazing upon anointed artwork.

Escape from “reality”?  Not so much as adventurous travel to a higher and more honest “reality.”  That’s because a good book, perhaps especially the most amazingly fantastical of them (think Tolkein, Lewis, Rowling) draws us into and takes us along with people becoming more than they ever dreamed or imagined they could be.  And that is what we really want in a book – humans being who we truly are, doing what we’re truly capable of doing.  More than conquerors.

Enough of such reading and a child will decide that the paltry, dingy, and the defeated is the fantasy, and that he/she is going to live on a higher plane, just like that hero and that heroine in that most excellent of gifts – a good book.

Toward the end of promoting your and your child’s literary delights, I have, with the assistance of my children (now more or less grown-ups) compiled an abbreviated list of excellent reading.  Many of these books are endorsed by not only all four of our (my and husband John’s) children, but by John and me as well.

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So, here goes, more or less ordered from early read-aloud picture books, to adult literature.

IF I HAD A LITTLE TRAIN by Larry DiFiori

GOODNIGHT GORILLA by Peggy Rathmann

BARNYARD DANCE by Sandra Boynton

GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU by Sam McBratney

TIMOTHY TATTERCOAT by Maryel Cheney THIS IF ONE OF MY FAVORITE READALOUDS

HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON by Crockett Johnson

FROG AND TOAD (ALL OF THEM!) by Arnold Lobel ANOTHER FAVORITE READALOUD FOR MOM

LITTLE CRITTER (ALL OF THEM) JOHN’S FAVORITE READALOUDS

THE COMPLETE PETER RABBIT by Beatrix Potter

STELLA LUNA by Janell Canon

THE LADY AND THE LION by Jacqueline K. Ogburn and Laurel Long (marvelous illustrator)

FIVE DOLLS AND THEIR FRIENDS by Helen Clare

THE LITTLE WHITE HORSE by Elizabeth Goudge

BALLET SHOES by Noel Streatfeild

PIPPI LONGSTOCKING by Astrid Lindgren

MRS. PIGGLE WIGGLE by Betty MacDonald

THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE by Kate DiCamillo

MARY POPPINS by P. L. Travers

HANK THE COWDOG and all other books by John R. Erickson

BLACK BEAUTY by Anna Sewell

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA by C. S. Lewis

THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER AND HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Mark Twain

A LITTLE PRINCESS and THE SECRET GARDEN by Frances Hodgson Burnett

LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS, ON THE BANKS OF PLUM CREEK, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, and THE LONG WINTER by Laura Ingalls Wilder

LITTLE WOMEN and LITTLE MEN by Louisa May Alcott

A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle

TARZAN OF THE APES by Edgar Rice Burroughs

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by L. M. Montgomery

KIDNAPPED and TREASURE ISLAND by Robert Louis Stevenson

THE GOOSE GIRL TRILOGY by Shannon Hale

HANS BRINKER AND THE SILVER SKATES by Mary Mapes Dodge

THE LEGEND OF HOLLY CLAUS by Brittney Ryan and Laurel Long

THE BLACK STALLION by Walter Farley

UNDERSTOOD BETSY by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST by Richard Henry Dana

LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER by Deborah Wiles

THE NICKEL PLATED BEAUTY by Patricia Beatty

THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON by Johann David Wyss

PRINCE ACROSS THE WATER and THE ROGUES by Jane Yolen

THE PERILOUS GARD and THE SHERWOOD RING by Elizabeth Marie Pope

RASCAL by Sterling North

THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND by Elizabeth George Speare

MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN by Jean Craighead George

CROWN DUEL by Sherwood Smith

THE STORY OF KING ARTHUR AND HIS KNIGHTS by Howard Pyle

CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E. B. White and Garth Williams

ROBINSON CRUSOE by Daniel Defoe

OLD YELLER by Fred Gipson

THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY by Trenton Lee Stewart

BEAUTY by Robin McKinley

BY THE GREAT HORN SPOON and anything else by Sid Fleischman

THE MUSHROOM PLANET SERIES by Eleanor Cameron

A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST and FRECKLES by Jean Stratton Porter

RIFLES FOR WATIE by Harold Keith

ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS by Scott O’dell

DRAGON CODEX SERIES by R. D. Henham

THE HARRY POTTER SERIES by J. K. Rowling

JANE EYRE by Charlotte Bronte

JUBAL SACKETT and THE LAST OF THE BREED by Louis L’Amour

THE HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY by J. R. R. Tolkein

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen

DADDY LONGLEGS and DEAR ENEMY by Jean Webster – ALL TIME BEV FAVORITES

BLEAK HOUSE by Charles Dickens

STRANGER AT WILDINGS by Madeleine Brent (ANYTHING BY MADELEINE BRENT!!!)

THE P. G. WODEHOUSE COLLECTION by P. G. Wodehouse

ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL by James Herriot

WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Bronte

 

These are a few books that at least two of us agree to be exceptional books.  Obviously this list could be much, much longer and include more of your favorites as well.  But I hope that you find something there you’d forgotten about and want to read again, as well as something you always meant to read, and something you never even heard of, such as Daddy Longlegs, or By the Great Horn Spoon.  Happy Reading Adventures!

 

 

 

 

 

Is This Romance or a Colossal Waste of Time?

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So many books, so little time.  Why, then, am I reading the most forgettable of books?  Because I am trying to escape laziness by being lazy.  Say what?

I recently read two very different books.  The second one is so forgettable (by a very successful modern author) that I won’t bore you with its title.  The first book, however, sent me to Alibris.com to see what else I might find by the author.  I started this book during Thanksgiving week, so it took a while to finish.  But even as I was busy with other quite enthralling and enjoyable activities, I was thinking about the book, about the main character’s dilemma.  I was, as I explained to my family, “intensely involved’ in this story.

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Right.  The name of the book:  Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon.  This book enhanced my thinking, revved up my mental engines.  Like another recently enjoyed excellent book, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, Lady Audley’s Secret satisfied my heart’s desire for new insights and revelations, as well as reacquaintance with deep and almost forgotten heart’s truths.

So, why again do I pick up twaddle and use up precious hours of my life reading it, and then forgetting it as soon as possible?  It’s called “escape” and aptly so, but to where?  I escaped to intriguing worlds with Mary Elizabeth Braddon and with Elizabeth Gaskell, but with the author who must not be named I escaped to . . . I don’t remember.

 

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So many bad (inane, intelligence insulting, smut-filled) books.  So many good books.  I choose good.

Oh, and one more thing!  Beware the “poignant” books.  This usually means the author’s life stinks and he/she wants yours to, also, via reading this tripe.  Try instead something whose very feel in your hands makes you say, “I wonder what’s in here.”

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Beautiful Outlaw – A Book for all Reasons

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One of the many beauties of home education is the time to read, and to share great books.  When I bought John Eldredge’s Beautiful Outlaw for my son Benjamin, I wasn’t worried about his not reading it.  Even if he didn’t read it, someone at our house would.  This I knew from experience.

Not only did Benjamin read the book, and quote from it often, he urged me to read it.  I don’t think I’m unique in liking to pick my own books, and being somewhat resistant when people insist I read something.  But since Benjamin is not the insistent sort, and because I know John Eldredge can be trusted, I picked up the book.

I would breeze through it, job done.  Wrong.  I savored this book–reading a bit and smiling and stopping to consider.  As I neared the book’s end, I slowed down.  I didn’t want this journey with John Eldredge and Jesus to end.

What a privilege to, if you will, have a conversation with a free thinker.  A radically Christian radical.

When a book speaks to an 18-year-old young man as well as to his mother, there’s something going on.  When I love a book, yet can’t quite bring myself to part with it, there’s something going on.  And when a book changes and clarifies my thinking in a way that electrifies my joy in Christ, well, I just have to rave.

How About a REAL Romance!

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They’re the books my junior high principal used to entice non-reading boys, and they worked like nothing else.  They’re the books beginning with cliffhanger action, getting more exciting with each page, and ending satisfactorily every time (the boy and the girl have an understanding).  They’re Jubal Sackett, Sitka, Last of the Breed, and SackettThat’s right, they’re Louis L’Amour westerns (well, a few of his books, including Last of the Breed, aren’t westerns, but they’re still great books).

By “great” I mean, for starters, they have heroes worth remembering.  I remember, for instance, the Sacketts.  There are certain arroyos, canyons, and long vistas that take me back to a reading moment, and I say, “Look, I think Tell Sackett’s down there in that gulch.”  And there’s no doubt he’s about to do the right thing.  Not the easy thing, but the right thing.

So, no, these books aren’t Putlizer winners, they don’t have endorsements on the back telling us how “poignant” they are.  We won’t impress our “intellectual” acquaintances by stacking them about our living room.  And if we do try stacking them, they won’t remain stacked as do all the “right” books and the “must-reads”.  Rather, they will be read!

Every freeschooled bookwyrm has turn-on books.  Hannah, for instance, began her love affair with books by reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Secret GardenHer only Louis L’Amour book was The Last of the Breed.  Our other three bookwyrms have read, as have their parents, every Louis L’Amour (as far as we know) more than once.  Of course, bookwyms read almost all genres–anything and everything worthwhile, and some books not so worthwhile.

“Not so worthwhile” includes many recommended books, best sellers, and “must-reads” which are missing at least one of those main ingredients–worthy characters, an interesting plot, and a satisfactory ending.

Let’s stop worrying about what other people say we “should” read and let’s please ourselves with books that deliver.  Like say, a real romance.  Say, maybe, a Louis L’Amour.

School in the Trees

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Remember field trips–the best part of school?  It didn’t matter where you went, just that you got to go outside!

Since the kids were small I have seized opportunities to go outside–school on a quilt in the back yard; school as we pulled the littlest child on the biggest quilt in the red wagon.  We didn’t call it school as we ate dusty blackberries picked from the roadside to enjoy as we read Timothy Tattercoat by Maryel Chaney.

But oh, the lessons learned. Years later we didn’t call it school when we climbed and scooted and grunted our way to the top of the tallest rocks in the mountains behind our house, and stood reaching for the sky and talking of dreams.

I certainly don’t call it school when I demonstrate the ultimate in relaxation.  Sometimes, no matter how enthralling the book I’ve chosen to read on my quilt atop an aspen leaf/pine needle carpet, I fall asleep in the sunrays shining through the trees.  Whiling away afternoons celebrating the short but glorious Rocky Mountain summer is a lesson in, well, does it always have to be a lesson?

There is nothing difficult about any of this “schooling” – watching butterlies and humming forgotten tunes, telling stories of my childhood, experiencing my children. Perhaps more than wondering what the lesson is for my children, I should consider the message:  Life is wonderful.