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Classics

  • best boyfriends 01

     

    It’s been a few months since my Worst Boyfriends in Classic Literature list came out, and I’ve been trying to come up with one featuring best boyfriends ever since. The trouble is, there are surprisingly few good men in classic literary relationships. Even the male romantic leads that I like often do deeply troubling things (I’m looking at you and that possible marital rape scene, Rhett Butler). I was also disappointed in myself when I realized that I often find literary good guys super boring (it’s my fault, not yours, Edward Ferrars).

    But never fear, reader dear; there are good men out there, even in the realm of classic literature. Mostly, I have realized, they live in the countryside and children’s novels.

    As with the worst boyfriends list, I’ll warn you there are serious spoilers ahead.

    Honorable Mention: Marius Pontmercy, LES MISERABLES

    Marius

     

    Marius is a good guy, but he’s definitely not my favorite literary romantic lead.

    Bonus points: speaks French, English, and German, courageously holds to his principles, is offended when his friends encourage him to take Cosette as a mistress rather than marry her.

    Deductions: falls in insta-love, has been portrayed by Nick Jonas, does not notice his gal pal is in love with him, loves boring Cosette, initially thinks father-in-law is a murderer, has death wish.

    (photo from the 2012 film, featuring Eddie Redmayne before he decided to become a wizard and go gallavanting after magical creatures)

     10: Joe Willard, BETSY AND JOE

    Joe Willard

    You may not know Joe Willard, but you should. This is especially true if you love the Anne of Green Gables series even a little bit, since this is basically the Minnesotan version. Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series, which is loosely based on the author’s own youth in the early 1900s, follows Betsy Ray and her best friends from age 5 to their twenties. Along the way, Betsy meets Joe Willard, who becomes her main school competitor (echoes of Anne and Gilbert, anyone?), her dancing partner, her writing buddy (she’s an aspiring novelist, he’s an aspiring journalist), and ultimately her husband. His succinct agony column apologizing to Betsy is one of my favorite love confessions in literature.

    A Joe Willard line that only a librarian (or possibly only this librarian) would find romantic: “Say, you told me you thought Les Miserables was the greatest novel ever written. I think Vanity Fair is the greatest. Let’s fight.”

    (illustration from the Betsy-Tacy books)

    9: Faramir, THE RETURN OF THE KING

    Faramir

    It seemed appropriate to throw in a little classic fantasy to shake up this list of nineteenth century British and American novels. Faramir is the ultimate good guy. The appendices to THE LORD OF THE RINGS describe him this way:  “He read the hearts of men as shrewdly as his father, but what he read moved him sooner to pity than to scorn. He was gentle in bearing, and a lover of lore and of music, and therefore by many in those days his courage was judged less than his brother’s. But it was not so, except that he did not seek glory in danger without a purpose.” Add to that the fact that he is never tempted by the ring (unless we’re talking about Peter Jackson’s version), and you’ve got yourself a pretty great man. In The Return of the King, Faramir becomes completely devoted to Eowyn, and I love that they fall in love with each other only gradually.

    Basically, if you like your fellows sweet and sensitive but also able to kick butt when necessary, Faramir’s the guy for you.  

    (photo from the LORD OF THE RINGS films, with Faramir portrayed by David Wenham)

    8: Tom, AN OLD-FASHIONED GIRL 

    1870 success OldFashionedGirl byLMAlcott RobertsBros

    AN OLD-FASHIONED GIRL is my go-to read when I’m feeling blue. It’s not as well-known as LITTLE WOMEN, but I can’t recommend it highly enough if you’re looking for something short, sweet, and lovely.

    For anyone who really wanted Jo to end up with Laurie, I give you Tom. Tom is pretty rambunctious when we first meet him, and he loves nothing better than teasing his sister’s friend Polly. It’s clear that he has a good heart, though, and he and Polly become dear friends and confidantes. In the end, Tom goes West, grows a beard, and works hard to make up for the financial troubles he has caused his family. He never confesses his love for Polly until he feels like he has grown up enough to be her equal.

    Favorite butterfly-inducing moment: Before Tom even recognizes his romantic interest in Polly, he finds himself “idly wondering for a minute if she knew how long and curly her lashes were.”  

    (illustration from the book published by the Roberts Brothers)

    7: Professor Bhaer, LITTLE WOMEN

    Bhaer

    All the Laurie/Jo shippers out there are probably up in arms, but please hear me out on this one. I feel like I should note LITTLE WOMEN is my favorite book, and I’ve reread it at least a dozen times. You can trust that I’ve completely overthought this.  

    I love Laurie. Seriously. I LOVE him. Probably more than it is appropriate for me to feel for an imaginary person. He’s playful, sweet, and fun, and he loves the March women with all his giant heart. BUT, I don’t think he belongs with Jo, and neither did Jo. I must confess that I also wouldn’t mind if Jo had never married anyone at all (though 14-year-old me would vehemently disagree).

    Nevertheless, if Jo must marry, Professor Bhaer is ideal. He might be poor and a little paternalistic, but he’s smart and sweet and an adult. He’s well-read. He’s quiet and humble yet direct. He’s wonderful with children (his interactions with little Tina melt my cynical heart). He darns his own socks. He is fundamentally selfless and kind, and nearly every scene that features him is testament to that. Finally, remember that scene with the ball of yarn and the head bumping? Or the proposal scene under the umbrella? I still get the warm fuzzies thinking of those ones.

    Also, I just realized that the old man character I’ve been picturing isn’t even forty, so now I’m having an existential crisis.  

    (photo: Winona Ryder and Gabriel Byrne as Jo March and Friedrich Bhaer, in LITTLE WOMEN, 1994)

    6: Fitzwilliam Darcy, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE 

    The Many Faces of Darcy

    Oh, Darcy. I have mixed feelings about him because he can be moody and aloof, but PRIDE AND PREJUDICE has hands-down my favorite love story of all time. Darcy has his faults to begin with (as does Elizabeth), but he is ultimately humble enough to change. It’s also worth noting that the story progresses largely through Lizzy’s thoughts and dialogue, and, at least initially, she’s not a reliable narrator where he’s concerned. As the story progresses, we learn that Darcy is a kind and loving older brother, a generous employer, and in the end a selfless romantic lead. Best of all, he loves Elizabeth because she is his intellectual and moral equal. That’s my kind of romance.

    In the words of my coworker: “He better be somewhere on there, because he’s my bae.”  

    (photo from so many film versions of Darcy. Seriously. So many.)

    Part Two coming soon! (update: it's here!) While you're waiting, who would you recommend for the top 5 slots? 

  • best boyfriends 01

     

    I’m sure you’ve been waiting impatiently, readers, and the time has finally come. I’m ready to wax eloquent once again on the merits of classic literature’s best men (read part one in this series here). 

    A few warnings: First, this is nearly 1000 words, which is embarrassingly long. Apparently I have very strong opinions about imaginary men. Don’t judge. Second, as always, spoilers abound in my descriptions. 

    And with that, here are my top five literary fellas.

    5. Almanzo Wilder, Little House on the Prairie series

    almanzo

    First of all, Almanzo was mighty fine in real life. Like many of the men on this list, he’s the strong but silent type, and he supports Laura in her goals wholeheartedly. When she tells him she doesn’t want to promise to “obey” in her wedding vows, he’s completely onboard. He also saved an entire town by riding through a blizzard to find food, so that’s just a little bit impressive. Bonus points: builds a house with an incredible pantry, makes excellent pancakes, was an actual, nonimaginary person. Deductions: started courting Laura when he was 25 and she was 15, which, by modern standards, is 100% creepy.

    (photo of Almanzo Wilder by unknown photographer; public domain)

    4. Mr. Thornton, NORTH AND SOUTH

    thornton

    Thornton has a temper and can be awkward in one-on-one interactions. Nevertheless, he is a kind and, much like Mr. Darcy, is humble enough to admit faults and change his views. Unlike Darcy, he has pulled himself up in society through sheer grit. His father committed suicide, leaving the family in horrible debt. Through intense hard work, Thornton reestablishes the family financially and insists on paying his father’s debts long after creditors had given up on payment. He cares for his flighty sister, and he loves and respects his mama.

    Also, he apparently has incredible teeth, “a set of teeth so faultless and beautiful as to give the effect of sudden sunlight when the rare bright smile, coming in an instant and shining out of the eyes, changed the whole look from the severe and resolved expression of a man ready to do and dare anything, to the keen honest enjoyment of the moment.” (I’m now imagining him with one of those little star things they use to show gleaming teeth for cartoon characters.)

    Note: If we’re talking classic literary film adaptations, then Mr. Thornton is without question my favorite male lead. In the 2004 BBC miniseries, Thornton is played by Richard Armitage, a god among men (and dwarves) with the voice to match. “Look back at me…”

    (photo: Richard Armitage. Copyright BBC.) 

    3. Mr. Knightley, EMMA  

    knightley

    Knightley is my favorite Austen hero because he’s Emma’s best friend long before he’s a romantic interest. And he’s a true friend who communicates honestly, even when it might hurt his standing with her. He’s loving and truly a nice guy, but he’s also willing to call Emma out on her crap (and let’s admit it, Emma occasionally makes choices that deserve calling out).

    Although he’s a member of the gentry, he’s not a snob. He respects and befriends farmers and governesses without judgment. He is kind even to awkward Miss Bates, and he continually protects and defends her. He’s also gentle and respectful toward Emma’s father, in spite of his irrational behavior. (Side note, there’s a delightfully zany academic theory that Mr. Woodhouse is the villain of Emma. I swear I’m not making that up.) Knightley even offers to leave his own estate after marriage so that Emma can stay with her father! That’s true love, y’all.

    Favorite warm fuzzies line: “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”

    (photo: Jeremy Northam in Miramax's version of the classic. Probably don't look at his current IMDB page; just let him live in this regency getup forever). 

    2. Gilbert Blythe, Anne of Green Gables series  

    gilbert

    Initially, Gilbert is a little bit smug, but then, so is Anne. He’s misguided in his first flirting attempts (carrots, anyone?), but he more than makes up for it. In spite of all of Anne’s prickliness and resentment, he is always kind to her after their initial interaction. I love that they fall in love through friendly academic rivalry (intellectual equality = my kind of romance); they push each other to be better.

    Other things I love about Gilbert: He loves Anne completely but remains her friend when she doesn’t feel the same. He lets her know how he feels and then waits patiently without pushing her for more. He never tries to change Anne, but loves her for all her quirks and foibles. He encourages her to write and offers great advice. He works hard, eventually becoming a caring doctor. He selflessly gives up his teaching spot in Avonlea so that Anne can stay at Green Gables after Matthew dies (*sob*).

    After Anne and Gilbert marry, “their happiness was in each other’s keeping and both were unafraid.” Isn’t that just lovely?

    (photo: Jonathan Crombie in CBC Television's masterful miniseries)

    1. Gabriel Oak, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

    gabriel

    Gabriel is kind, humble, loyal, dignified, intelligent, and incredibly hardworking. When the universe hands him an awful situation (via Bathsheba’s rejection and his dog’s excessive enthusiasm for herding sheep) he doesn’t mope. Instead, he goes right back to work and isn’t too proud to start over again. He loves Bathsheba through all of her rejections and bad choices: “I shall do one thing in this life – one thing certain – that is, love you, and long for you, and keep wanting you till I die.” He never demands that she love him in return, though; throughout it all, he respects her right to marry whomever she chooses or not to marry at all. He also believes in her ability to run a farm, which is pretty impressive considering the book was written in 1874. Most importantly, he brings Bathsheba a pet lamb when he proposes, which totally would have worked on me.

    (photo: Matthias Schoenaerts in the Fox Searchlight Pictures adaptation)

    Writing this list has brought about several revelations, some of them unsettling. It appears that I like my (literary) men intelligent, dignified, hardworking, and pro-feminism. Bonus points if they have a farm or country house. Accents are also a plus. More alarmingly, I don’t seem to be bothered by old men or May-December romances. I also appear to have a thing for pining/one-sided love that is ultimately requited. And for imaginary men. Off to see a therapist now.

    psychiatric help

    What do you think? Who did we miss? Disagree with the top pick? Battle it out (nicely) in the comments!

    Wondering about the scoundrels we denounced in the worst boyfriends lists? Revisit parts one and two of that list. 

     

  •  Horror on the Silver Screen

    Looking for a movie to send chills down your spine? While the horror genre has had some great films in recent history—from the Oscar-winning GET OUT, to the John Krasinski breakout, A QUIET PLACE—there have been many classic movies that have scared the pants off audiences. Here are some hits from yesteryear to get you in the mood for Halloween. 

    10.26 The InnocentsTHE INNOCENTS
    Directed by Jack Clayton
    (1961)

    Based on the American novel, THE TURN OF THE SCREW, this British adaptation combines everything you’d want in Victorian horror — haunted estates, women in distress, and creepy children. A woman becomes the governess to a young brother and sister who may be much more than they appear. Are the apparitions she sees real? In this film, you can never really trust what people say—or what they see. If you are a fan of modern gothic films like THE WOMAN IN BLACK or THE OTHERS, check out THE INNOCENTS. 

    Fun Fact: The screenplay for this film was worked on by Truman Capote, who took a break from his true crime classic, IN COLD BLOOD, to finish the movie script. 

     

    10.26 Abbott and CostelloABBOT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN
    Directed by Charles Barton
    (1948)

    If you are looking for some good scares and good laughs, check out Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Made after the heyday of monster movies like DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN and THE WOLFMAN, this movie manages to put all of them into one story. The “Avengers” of Universal horror films, the film manages one of the first “crossover” plotlines, pitting each monster against one another or our protagonists.  

    Abbott and Costello both pull off one-liners with their usual skill, poking fun at the monsters while still allowing for some scary moments. The fear factor is helped by the fact that most of the creatures are played by their original actors—who are perfectly happy to howl, bite, and groan amid the jokes. My personal favorite is when Lon Chaney (the Wolfman) attempts to warn Costello over the phone about Dracula’s plot. Instead, Costello quickly becomes more and more irritated with Chaney’s “barking dog.” 

    If you enjoy this film, be sure to check out other Abbott and Costello horror crossovers, such as ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY and ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN. 

     

    10.26 Cape FearCAPE FEAR
    Directed by J. Lee Thompson
    (1962)

    This film was initially worked on by Alfred Hitchcock, before he passed it onto his colleague, J. Lee Thompson. One of the best thrillers of the 1950’s, it tells the story of how one ex-con terrorizes the family of the lawyer who sent him to prison. Robert Mitchum pits himself against the upright everyman, Gregory Peck—who was known for playing another famous lawyer in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.  

    Mitchum manages to play both cold, calculating villain and out-of-control maniac. It is his personality that truly makes the audience fear for the lawyer’s family. This film would be made again in 1991 by Martin Scorsese, starring Robert De Niro in the ex-con role. However, if you are interested in other horror films that showcase Robert Mitchum’s talent, I recommend the beautiful and horrifying THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER

     

    10.26 The HauntingTHE HAUNTING
    Directed by Robert Wise
    (1963)

    Based on the 1959 book by Shirley Jackson, THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, which is widely considered to be the scariest book ever written. Both the movie and its classic film adaptation tell the story of four people invited to investigate not a house that is “haunted,” but is rather “diseased,” with a mind of its own. We soon realize the disturbing effect it has on each person who stays there, including the poor, lonely Eleanor.  

    This film came out just 4 years after the book’s initial publication and was directed by Robert Wise—who had just come off a successful adaptation of WEST SIDE STORY (and would later go on to direct THE SOUND OF MUSIC). Don’t let the director’s background in musicals fool you, this movie will certainly keep you up at night. This film truly takes to heart the old adage that what you don’t see is scarier than what you do. From great acting, to terrifying sound design, this movie will drag you down into the madness that has enveloped the people staying at Hill House.  

    In addition to the 1963 film, The Haunting of Hill House has had plenty of adaptations. These include a recent Netflix adaptation, of the same name, and a 1999 film with Liam Neeson, Owen Wilson, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. (Despite the star-studded cast, please do not subject yourself to this film.)

     
  • classics to love 1

     Classic
    /’klasik/

    Adjective
    1. Judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstand of its kind            
    Synonyms: definitive, authoritative

    Noun
    1. A work of art of recognized and establish value
    Synonyms: model, epitome, paradigm, exemplar

    Classics: I. Love. Classics. They're not everyone’s cup of tea, but when you find the good ones they can really speak to your soul. I recommend classics to build well-rounded readership but also because they are well written and are something you can sink your teeth into. They are fiction, but not silly fiction that will fade with every new trend. They aren’t necessarily your fun, poolside entertainment kind of books, but you can become just as absorbed if you give them a chance.

    Classics give historical perspectives of the authors and help describe how society and culture is formed. These books can give deeper insights on life—growing up, family dynamics, love, betrayal, school, marriage, work, race, religion, war and so much more. Some of these I first read as a teenager when I’d ask my dad for book suggestions, but I’ve come back to these over the years. At different ages and stages of life these books have held deeper meaning. All of these favorites would be excellent for men and women, at all ages, teenage and above. 

    Here are 20 Classics to love—or at least make you feel something (preferably not disgust): 

    • LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott
    • EMMA by Jane Austen
    • PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen
    • CRIME AND PUNISHMENT by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    • COUNTE OF MONTE CRISTO by Alexandre Dumas
    • ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by LM Montgomery
    • THREE MUSKETEERS by Alexandre Dumas
    • LES MISERABLES by Victor Hugo
    • NORTH AND SOUTH by Elizabeth Gaskell
    • FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD by Thomas Hardy
    • DRACULA by Bram Stoker
    • A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith
    • CHRONICLES OF NARNIA by CS Lewis
    • THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA by Gaston Leroux
    • TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
    • THE LITTLE PRINCE by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
    • THE LORD OF THE RINGS by JRR Tolkien
    • ANNA KARENINA by Leo Tolstoy
    • DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL by Anne Frank
    • FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley

    classics to love 3

  • love languages

     

    In February, our thoughts turn naturally to romantic love.  A great book about keeping romantic love alive for couples of any age is The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman . My husband of 28 years and I read it together last summer and thought it was really worthwhile.  Since then I have been trying to figure out other people’s love languages.  Sometimes it is pretty obvious, and other times it is a bit trickier to figure out. The five love languages are

    • Giving or receiving gifts
    • quality time
    • words of affirmation
    • acts of service
    • and physical touch.

    The other day I was watching the A&E version of Jane Eyre (for the umpteenth time) and I suddenly thought, Wow, Mr. Rochester obviously shows love by giving gifts. He showered Adelle’s mother with expensive gifts, and then the first thing he does after becoming engaged to Jane is to take her shopping. But what is Jane’s love language? She certainly enjoys talking with Mr. Rochester, but isn’t totally hooked until he takes her hand after she saves him from the fire. I think her primary love language is physical touch.  

    Of course, that got me thinking about other literary couples.  What are their love languages?  Here is what I think:

    Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Her primary love language is “words of affirmation.”  She is initially charmed by Wickham’s flattery, and turned off by Mr. Darcy’s first unflattering proposal.  Mr. Darcy, on the other hand, shows love through “acts of service.” He is impressed by Elizabeth’s devotion to her sister, Jane, while she is sick, and ultimately confirms the depth of his love to Elizabeth by performing the service of saving Lydia from disgrace.

    Maryanne Dashwood and Mr. Willoughby from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility both show love through “quality time.”  That is why they hit it off so quickly, and spend so much time together.

    Margaret Hale from North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell definitely shows love through “acts of service.” It is basically what she does all day.  Mr. Thornton is a little tougher to figure out.  He is offended when Margaret won’t shake his hand, so maybe “physical touch,” but he also keeps finding excuses to hang out at her house, under the guise of taking lessons from her father, so maybe “quality time.”  What do you think?

    5 LOVE LANGUAGES:
    Get the book  
    or on Overdrive

    PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
    Get the book
    Get the movie

    SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
    Get the book 
    Get the movie

    NORTH AND SOUTH
    Get the book 
    Get the movie

    JANE EYRE
    Get the book 
    Get the movie 

     

     

  • classics busy

     

    Reading classic novels is not only enjoyable, but also makes you feel sophisticated. However, some classic novels can be lengthy and heavy. Sometimes we are all a little too busy to sit down and begin a 400 page novel full of complex sentences. Here is a list of my five favorite classics to read when I want to feel sophisticated but I don’t have time for heavy reading.

    jekyll and hyde

     

    THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
    by Robert Louis Stevenson

    Not only is Stevenson’s story of the doomed man with dual identities incredibly brief, it reads like an engaging thriller. This book can be finished in one sitting. Way before Bruce Banner, there was Dr. Jekyll.

     

     

     

    scarlet pimpernel

      

    THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
    by Emma Orczy

    This tale of the original masked hero with a secret identity is an exhilarating adventure full of romance and daring escapes. It is not a particularly short book, but the excitement of the story makes this one a quick read.

     

     

    martian chronicles

    THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES
    by Ray Bradbury

    This book is a little lesser known than Bradbury’s other classic, FAHRENHEIT 451 (which is also a quick read), but is a great science fiction classic that recounts various tales of man’s interactions in the new colony on Mars. This quick read is essentially a collection of short stories that each present a unique story with a distinct feel.

     

     

    christmas carol

     

    A CHRISTMAS CAROL
    by Charles Dickens

    Beloved by all, read by too few, the classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s change of heart is a short book that is so uplifting and so well-written that it ends altogether too soon. You can’t help but respect anyone who is reading this masterpiece.

     

     

     

    around the world 80

     

    AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
    by Jules Verne

    Verne’s classic story full of memorable characters and nonstop adventure leaves the reader wishing Phileas Fogg was still on his trip around the world. Lighter than some of Verne’s other works, this book’s good natured tone and rapid succession of events makes it a quick read.

     

     

     

  • great musicals

    So anyone who knows me knows that I love most every musical that I have come across. The only one I have seen so far and do not like is Carousel. I love the signature song but hate the plot. Musicals have a lot of different backgrounds for their stories. There are musicals like MAMMA MIA that were written to fit the music, or there are some like SHREK and THE ADDAMS FAMILY that were based off of a movie or a television show, and there are some like THE MUSIC MAN that are a representation of life experiences.  But did you know that there are many musicals that are either loosely or strictly based off of a book? Oh yes! This makes me so happy because it combines two of my most favorite things. So let me share with you some of my favorite book to musical adaptations.

    9.15 Oliver TwistOLIVER TWIST
    By Charles Dickens
    (1838)

    OLIVER!: This is one of the few cases where I loved the musical more than I liked the book. I think that Charles Dickens helped try to start a revolution of change that sadly did not really start rolling until much later, but it is such a sad story with not a particularly happy end. I love how the musical keeps the spirit of how desperate things are and then brings hope for Oliver at the end.

     

     

    9.15 Alexander HamiltonALEXANDER HAMILTON
    By Ron Chernow
    (2004)

    HAMILTON: So weirdly enough I loved this musical. I say weirdly because 99.99% of the time I HATE Rap music. It does absolutely nothing for me and I don’t enjoy it. But I love the story/ tragedy of Alexander Hamilton. Even more than his story I love the story of his wife Eliza. She was the one who really worked to make sure that her husband’s legacy lived on and that he was a name that people would recognize in the history books.

     

     

    9.15 A Little PrincessA LITTLE PRINCESS
    By Francis Hodgson Burnett
    (1905)

    A LITTLE PRINCESS: My favorite song from this Musical is "Good Luck, Bonne Chance." I love how they bring out the storytelling talent that Sarah Crew has in the book paring it with a fun, catchy tune. I love this story so much! I like stories where people are still good and kind even when life kicks them while they are down, then karma comes and bites everyone else, and then good things happen to the main character.

     

    9.15 The Wizard of OzTHE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
    By L. Frank Baum
    (1900)

    THE WIZARD OF OZ: So if you didn’t know The Wizard of Oz is an entire series of books. There are 14 books written by L. Frank Baum which all provide a different facet of the world of Oz. The first book came out almost 40 years before Judy Garland played as Dorothy. I love the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." It has always been one of my favorite songs.

     

     

    9.15 The Scarlet PimpernelTHE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
    By Baroness Orczy
    (1905)

    THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL: This is one of my all-time favorite stories in almost every single version I have ever seen. Each version is slightly different, but consistently my favorite part is when Percy finds out that Marguerite loves him and never betrayed him. I love how they adjust that part of the story every time.

     

     

  • classics for kids

    We’ve got a lot of old stuff here in the children’s library, and I’m not talking about the carpet and the computers—I’m talking about old books. Some of which are so burned into our cultural consciousness that they still get a lot of attention, such as LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott, which was first published in 1868; or the BOXCAR CHILDREN books by Gertrude Chandler Warner that started publication in 1924. Unfortunately, from my perspective as a children’s librarian, much of our older stuff doesn’t get enough attention.  

    It’s understandably hard to sift through everything there is to read. There are now ELEVEN Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, and Rick Riordan has written THIRTY-FOUR kids’ titles! So I understand that it can be hard to branch out if your kid wants to keep reading familiar stuff. But maybe it’s worth avoiding the next new series for awhile (who wants to wait a year between installments anyway) and pick up something a little more classic. Kids may find they actually like reading “old stuff.” Here are four of my favorite classic children’s novels that withstand the test of time. And if you need more ideas, come in and get one of our “Classics for Kids” booklists.    

    9.29 Doctor DolittleTHE STORY OF DOCTOR DOLITTLE
    Hugh Lofting
    1920 

    The idea that Doctor Dolittle taught himself to speak to animals was beyond amazing to me as a child, and the writing style of this story is just “old-fashioned” enough to make it sound “true.” Kids reading this may come away with a hopeful belief that if they just study hard enough, they can learn to talk to animals too! Doctor Dolittle’s adventures both in England and on the African continent supply all sorts of wild entertainment that will still interest kids in the 21st century. The second installment in the doctor’s adventures, THE VOYAGES OF DOCTOR DOLITTLE, won the Newbery medal in 1923.   

     

    9.29 The Call of the WildTHE CALL OF THE WILD
    Jack London
    1903 

    As a kid I was pretty typical: I loved books about dogs. Buck, this story’s protagonist, is a mix of whatever breeds create a dog big enough and hardy enough to survive both the dog fighting arena and the Alaskan wilderness. This book is a great place to learn about the harms of animal cruelty, as well as the reality of how harsh the Klondike gold rush was on would-be millionaires. The story is told from the dog’s perspective, so readers are bound to fall in love with this gentle canine giant, urging him on through thick and thin. And don’t worry, Buck gets a happy ending.

      

    9.29 Treasure IslandTREASURE ISLAND
    Robert Louis Stevenson
    1882 

    This feels like the pirate story that started them all. I mean, if there’s a muppet show about it, it must be good. And what child doesn’t want to join the intrepid Jim as he takes to the high seas? Trying to navigate the complicated relationship between Jim and the friendly but deadly John Silver can teach a hard but necessary lesson about the problem of attempting to see life in black and white, good and evil. On a lighter note, TREASURE ISLAND has all the fantastical elements, adventure, and daring that any fan of Percy Jackson could hope for.   

    9.29 Black BeautyBLACK BEAUTY
    Anna Sewell
    1877 

    As many 10-year-old girls do, I went through a serious horse phase. In my opinion, horse stories have produced some great classic reads for kids, and BLACK BEAUTY has to take the cake. Like CALL OF THE WILD, this book contrasts animal care with animal cruelty. The overall message is that an animal treated well will be loyal to it’s human, but there’s a deeper message about the importance of friendship in any situation. Readers will cheer on Black Beauty and come out a little bit better for it.

     

     

  • not original

    Unless you live off-grid, it’s no news to you how sequels, spin-offs, remakes, and reboots seem to dominate the box office, TV schedules, and even bookshelves. According to an article written in June 2015, only 39% of the high-grossing films released between 2005 and 2014 were fully original, non-derivative content. Three years later, it seems like the trend has only grown. But I’m not here to bash remakes, adaptations, spin-offs, etc. because if truth be told, there are plenty of great ones that deserve to be celebrated. 

    I’ll share some of my favorites from the library’s shelves with you in a series of posts, of which this is the first. Today’s list will focus on movies whose plots are actually adapted from/inspired by classic literature - and you may not have even noticed: 

    10.10 10 Things I Hate About You10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU
    Directed by Gil Junger
    (1999) 

    Adapted from William Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.
    Starring Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt.

    This modern take on Shakespeare is anything but a bland teen rom-com. Along with the mishaps of teenage romance, this film offers much more, exploring coming-of-age themes such as forming identity, evaluating priorities, navigating social and familial expectations, reputation/image, and the importance of self-respect. Oh, and Heath Ledger does a musical number, in case you still needed persuasion. 

    10.10 CluelessCLUELESS
    Directed by Amy Heckerling
    (1995) 

    Adapted from Jane Austen’s EMMA.
    Starring Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy, and Paul Rudd. 

    Really! Austen gets a 90’s makeover in this film, where the English countryside society is swapped for the 90210 – Beverly Hills, that is. And for those of you who have a hard time liking the meddling Emma in the original story, her antics are more endearing coming from a pampered 16-year-old. Which of us didn’t think we knew everything at that age, right? Despite the peak 90’s styles, tech, and culture, the movie still holds up; you’ll envy Cher’s closet-organizing software - I sure do! And then there’s the question of how Paul Rudd hasn’t seemed to age since 1995…  

    10.10 O Brother Where Are ThouO BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?
    Directed by Joel Coen
    (2001) 

    Adapted from Homer’s THE ODYSSEY.
    Starring George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson (all with honey-sweet southern drawls).

    Mythical adventure gets down-to-earth in this adaptation of Homer’s epic poem. Hilarity ensues as three jailbirds in in 1930’s Mississippi dodge the law, unsavory folk, and more as they seek “The Treasure.” This is one of my all-time favorites for several reasons; you’ve got loveable scamps on a passionate quest, rich historical setting, flawless soundtrack (featuring the stars themselves), and laughs galore. It pulls you in so well you’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time. Homer even gets credited as co-writer! 

    10.10 Shes the ManSHE’S THE MAN
    Directed by Andy Fickman
    (2006) 

    Adapted from William Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT.
    Starring Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum.

    I make no apologies for including another Shakespeare play on this list, particularly when Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum are involved. Bynes is at the top of her game in this hilarious tale of love triangles (seriously there’s about five…five and a half…I tried to chart it out once, it’s a mess) and mistaken identities. While definitely a comedy, there’s also a good dose of warm fuzzies with themes of going after your dreams and being yourself. 

    10.10 The Scarlet PimpernelTHE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
    Directed by Clive Donner
    (1982)

    Adapted from Baroness Emmuska Orczy’s THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL and ELDORADO.
    Starring Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, and Sir Ian McKellen. 

    I know this may seem like a stretch, but hear me out – this movie totally belongs on this list. The reason I’m including it here is…drumroll please…The Scarlet Pimpernel is not just a book, it’s a series! Okay, that is a bit of a stretch, but I for one had no idea there was a whole series of the Scarlet Pimpernel’s adventures. This film version is based on two books in the expansive series written by the Baroness, mostly drawing from the book Eldorado rather than The Scarlet Pimpernel. Mainly though, this made the list because it is a great flick; it’s just plain fun and ever so quotable. “Sink me,” I love it so!  

    What titles would you have put on this list? Stay tuned for more adaptations and remakes worth your time!

     

  •  Judging a Book By Its cover

    We all know the old adage about not judging a book by its cover, but cover art nevertheless can make a huge difference in a book’s success. Think about it. When you’re browsing the shelves of the library or a book store, books with distinctive covers or spines are the ones you notice, right?

    Personally, I’m drawn to gorgeous typography. While cover photos and illustrations are all well and good, beautiful print, especially if it has a feminine, vintage vibe, calls me to a book better than anything short of a glowing Kirkus review.

    You know you’re a librarian when you have not only favorite books and authors, but favorite book covers and cover illustrators. These are a few of my favorites:

    9.28.2 Dorian GrayJESSICA HISCHE

    Jessica Hische's work is what first sucked me into the world of cover art, and she's my favorite cover illustrator to this day. I'm a book hoarde... ahem, collector, but I started off just buying paperbacks, not caring what the covers looked like. In an act of youthful folly, I even bought the movie tie-in paperbacks of the LORD OF THE RINGS series many years ago (*shudders*). There was no looking back once I started buying Hische's gorgeous collection of Barnes and Noble leatherbound classics, though. Her work is all about intricate lettering, and in addition to her Barnes and Noble designs, she's created lovely covers for Penguin's Drop Caps series, Audible, and McSweeney's Publishing. Thanks to her, I began buying books for their beauty as well as their readability, and, eleven copies of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE later, it's been a beautiful and expensive path from there.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    9.28.2 The Fox and the StarCORALIE BICKFORD-SMITH

    First of all, we need to acknowledge that Coralie Bickford-Smith's name is AWESOME. With a name like that, she should be either the protagonist of a novel or the lady of an English manor house. Okay, with that out of the way, let's talk about her cover art. 

    Even if you haven't heard Bickford-Smith's name, you've probably seen her work. Penguin has released a series ofclothbound classics which feature her gorgeous and whimsical art and which you've inevitably come across in one book store or another. I'm also a fan of her F. Scott Fitzgerald covers, which have a decidedly Art Deco flair that fits his Jazz Age themes perfectly. My absolute favorite cover of hers, however, is from her very own book THE FOX AND THE STAR. The silver, the swirls, the sweet little fox - like Mary Poppins, it's practically perfect in every way.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    9.28.2 Wink Poppy Midnight

    LISA PERRIN

    Lisa Perrin's work is a recent discovery for me. WICKED LIKE A WILDFIRE by Lana Popovic has been getting a lot of buzz in the YA community lately, and when I first saw the cover, I was immediately curious about both the book and the artist. After researching a bit, I found the cover for WINK POPPY MIDNIGHT, and I loved it even more. Perrin has the same intricate, feminine, and typography-based style that I love from Bickford-Smith and Hische, but she also uses color and weaves in animal and botanical patterns in a way that reminds me of Scandinavian folk art. The result is eye-catching, playful, and absolutely lovely.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  •  Little Women

     It may be a couple of days past Mother’s Day, but every day is a good day for celebrating moms, right? In addition to the wonderful women in my life – my mother, grandmother, sisters, and neighbors – I’ve been raised by a number of literary mothers. These women have taught me the value of courage, kindness, hard work, self-improvement, and having an open heart, and I love them as if they were real. Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order.

    A Wrinkle in TimeKate Murry
    A WRINKLE IN TIME
    by Madaleine L'Engle
    (1962)

    Dr. Murry is a brilliant microbiologist who sets an example of hard work, passion, courage, and love for her four wildly different children. She loves awkward Meg, athletic and level-headed twins Sandy and Dennys, and wise Charles Wallace equally and individually. She treats them as rational thinkers and speaks to them with respect as well as warmth. She also immediately welcomes Calvin O’Keefe into the family, sensing that the popular boy comes from an unstable home. Even with her husband missing, Dr. Murry keeps the family together and provides a loving, stable home. She makes delicious stew over the bunson burner, comforts Meg, and conducts experiments in her home lab all at the same time, and that’s pretty darn impressive.  

    little womenMarmee
    LITTLE WOMEN
    by Louisa May Alcott
    (1868)

    Marmee’s a “tall, motherly lady, with a ‘can-I-help-you’ look about her which was truly delightful.” Is there a more quintessential mother in all of literature? I adore Marmee. It’s not because she’s longsuffering and calm and perfectly good. Instead, I love her for the conversations she has with her daughters when they’ve made mistakes. Her love is unconditional, but she gently helps them understand themselves, to make amends, and to grow. Because she loves them, she guides them to be better than they are. She’s not focused on her daughter’s achievements, but she’s determined to help develop their character.

    Tangent: I will forever feel annoyed that someone addresses Marmee as Abigail in the 1994 film adaptation of Little Women. Her name is Margaret! Meg is named after her! If the filmmakers had really loved Marmee, they would have known that.

    No, I’m not going to get over it. You can’t make me.  

    RoomMa
    ROOM
    by Emma Donoghue
    (2010)

    I expected Room to be a more disturbing book than it was. After all, it’s narrated by a little boy who has never been outside of the hidden underground room where his mother is held captive by a brutal abuser. Because of Ma’s great love for Jack, however, the boy is happy, and the story is often surprisingly gentle. Ma creates structure for their days, plays with Jack, teaches him, makes sure he receives the exercise and nutrients he needs, and protects him from her captor. When Ma decides it’s time to escape, she helps Jack make the difficult transition to understanding there’s a world outside their room. Her situation is horrifying, but she endures it with incredible courage for the sake of her son.  

    Harry PotterMolly Weasley
    HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE
    by J.K. Rowling
    (1997)

    You knew Molly would be on this list, right? She’s warm, fiery, funny, and kind. As much as I love her relationship with her own children, who she treats with equal amounts adoration and exasperation, I’m even more touched by her love for Harry. The moment where Harry receives his first Christmas sweater and a box of home-made fudge from Molly after a lifetime without a real Christmas present leaves me a little teary. In spite of the Weasley’s financial struggles, she takes the orphaned boy into her family with all her giant heart. She’s also an excellent cook and knitter and hug-giver. And then there’s that famous line when Bellatrix almost kills Ginny…

    Molly’s the best.  

    The Secret Life of BeesAugust Boatright
    THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES
    by Sue Monk Kidd
    (2001)

    August may not have her own biological children, but she unquestionably has a mother’s heart. When heartbroken Lily stumbles into her life, she takes the girl into her home, where she already takes care of her two sisters and a beekeeping business. She knows who Lily is instantly, but waits for the girl to reveal her identity in her own time. A former teacher, August is intelligent and knowledgeable, nurturing without being pushy, and a wonderful combination of independent and community-oriented. She becomes the ballast and mother figure Lily has spent her life longing for, and she beautifully represents the power of female relationships.  

    Anne of Green GablesMarilla Cuthbert
    ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
    by Lucy Maud Montgomery
    (1908)

    Initially, Marilla Cuthbert is gruff and unkind toward sensitive Anne. She intended to adopt a farmboy, so the dreamy, trouble-prone little girl is only a source of frustration. Marilla’s softness and sense of humor gradually appear, however. Her love for her brother is apparent from the beginning, and she relents about keeping Anne at Green Gables for his sake. Though she remains a strict disciplinarian, Marilla and Anne smooth out each other’s rough edges; Anne becomes more practical and disciplined under Marilla’s teaching, and Marilla becomes gentler and happier. After Matthew’s death (which will never stop breaking my heart), Marilla finally opens up in the most beautiful way:

    “We’ve got each other, Anne. I don’t know what I’d do if you weren’t here – if you’d never come. Oh, Anne, I know I’ve been kind of strict and harsh with you maybe – but you mustn’t think I didn’t love you as well as Matthew did, for all that. I want to tell you now when I can. It’s never been easy for me to say things out of my heart, but at times like this it’s easier. I love you as dear as if you were my own flesh and blood and you’ve been my joy and comfort ever since you came to Green Gables.”

    Don’t you just love Marilla?

    the helpAibileen Clark
    The Help
    by Kathryn Stockett
    (2009)

    "Taking care a white babies, that's what I do, along with all the cooking and cleaning. I done raised seventeen kids in my lifetime. I know how to get them babies to sleep, stop crying, and go in the toilet bowl before they mamas even get out a bed in the morning." Having lost her own son, Aibileen Clark is more mother to her charge than the white mother she works for. As THE HELP unfolds, she develops a special relationship with toddler Mae Mobley. After spending three years trying to protect the little girl from her mother's neglect, criticism, and racism, Aibileen decides to counteract all that unkindness with active words of love. We all know her motherly affirmation: "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." 

    Books and the characters within them can profoundly shape the way we view the world. I'm so grateful for the inspiring mothers I've found in a lifetime of reading and for all that they've taught me. So here's to the mothers, both literal and literary!

  • read a romance 1

    When it comes to literary genres, I feel like Romance gets a raw deal.  It can be very stigmatized since a good number of us automatically think of books whose covers feature bare chested men embracing partially dressed women with flowing hair…actually sometimes the men have flowing hair as well. And while that does describe a subset of the genre, there are so many other types of romances.  It isn’t hard to find a romance that would feel at home on anyone’s reading list.

    August is Read-A-Romance Month!  For the next few weeks, we'll share Romance subgenres that you may want to check out. Make room for a little love this month and hopefully you’ll discover a new author or genre you can dive into throughout the year.

    ROMANTIC CLASSICS

    If you are in the mood for something timeless check out one of these classics.  They have withstood the test of time and proved themselves worthy of our attention. 

    8.15 North and SouthNORTH AND SOUTH
    By Elizabeth Gaskell
    (1855)

    Through Margaret Hale, a middle-class English southerner who moves to the northern industrial town of Milton, Gaskell skillfully explores issues of class and gender in the conflict between Margaret's ready sympathy with the workers and her growing attraction to the charismatic mill owner, John Thornton.

     

    8.15 Jane EyreJANE EYRE
    By Charlotte Bronte
    (1847)

    In early nineteenth-century England, an orphaned young woman accepts employment as a governess and soon finds herself in love with her employer who has a terrible secret.

     

    8.15 Gone with the WindGONE WITH THE WIND
    By Margaret Mitchell
    (1936)

    A spoiled young Southern belle vows to rebuild her family plantation home after the Civil War and is swept off her feet by a man who infuriates her.

     
    Next week we'll be sharing some of our favorite proper romances and historical romances. Which ones do you love?
  • Read to Travel

    Once again I’m back to talk about places I have traveled because of books that I have read—or places that I loved going to visit  because of the literature that was written there. Hannibal, Rome, London, and Concord have all made my list. Today I’m going to talk about my second favorite place(s) to go on vacation due to books I have read. And yes, if you noticed, this place is really two places. It would have been three  dream places if my time hadn’t been so short. 

    Bath & Chawton, England

    I know I already mentioned London earlier—and I still love that choice. But I seriously took two major detours when traveling in England for one author: Jane Austen! So yes, London is amazing; however, Bath & Chawton—specifically Chawton—were places that I went specifically because of reading (and I was not disappointed!). 

    The only reason I went to Bath was because of Jane Austen’s PERSUASION (and if pressed possibly because of Northanger Abbey as well). Without Jane and her novels I probably wouldn’t have been persuaded to go visit Bath. And to be completely honest without this adaptation of the movie PERSUASION, I probably wouldn’t have recognized just how beautiful Bath is and wouldn’t have had such a desire to go and see where Anne Elliot lived and finally got her happily ever after. While in Bath we visited the Roman Baths and the Royal Crescent (yes, that one spot that every movie set in Bath uses because it is that beautiful). I swear Anne Elliot must have been just around the corner while we were there… 

    classic Bath

    Joella at the Roman Baths in Bath

    bath

    I couldn’t travel to Jane Austen country without actually going to Chawton, England—the place where the Jane Austen Museum is. It was here that Jane wrote and/or revised all six of her completed works: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, MANSFIELD PARK, NORTHANGER ABBEY, EMMA, and PERSUASION. Not only that, but at the museum you can see the writing table where Jane wrote everything. The. Desk. Where. All. The. Things. Were. Written! Plus you can see Jane’s ring—the ring that lived on her finger! This is the vacation spot for all of you who wish to geek-out about all things Jane Austen! 

    chawton

    When walking around Bath or in the gardens at the Jane Austen Museum, I truly got a feel for what it might have been like for Jane Austen to live there and write there. These two locations had some of the most fan-girl-like moments to connect one to Jane Austen. It truly felt like I made some sort of pilgrimage to be in my favorite books written by my favorite author (and for a librarian who likes SO MANY books, this is quite the confession)!

     Jane Austen s writing table

    Joella at Jane Austen s House

    The only thing that would have made this literary vacation even better was if I could have gone up to see the Pemberley location from the 1995 movie version of Pride and Prejudice. That would have possibly sent this vacation to the very top of my read to travel list. Alas, with only so much time over the pond it didn’t happen…but there is always next time, eh? 

    Joella reading on a beach while traveling

    So there you have it, my penultimate literary vacation spot. Only one more left. Where do you think it will be? 

  • Read to Travel

    Hopefully you all aren’t tired of these random  vacation  posts yet! I have been talking about some of my favorite places to travel because of the books that are associated with them—or perhaps they have become some of my favorite books because of the places I have traveled…

    Either way, I have talked about Hannibal, Missouri; Rome, Italy; and London, England so far. Today I’m talking about another location that I had planned to visit for years, Concord, Massachusetts.

    3. Concord, Massachusetts, USA

    When I first went to Concord, Massachusetts, it felt like a dream come true! At that point I had just graduated from college with a Bachelor’s Degree in English (note: this means I had read a lot of American literature, and I do mean A LOT). I had studied so many wonderful American authors, and was surprised that so many authors that I loved lived and wrote in Concord—and all at the same time! In fact, one of my final papers for one class was all about how every English major that studied American literature had to eventually go and visit Concord. 

    My absolute favorite place to visit in Concord (and the main reason why I wanted to travel there) was to visit the home of Louisa May Alcott. I loved visiting the place where Alcott wrote LITTLE WOMEN. And now whenever I reread anything about the March sisters, I can’t help but think of Orchard House in Concord. Such a beautiful setting that feels like Jo March must be around the corner writing everything all down. 

    Orchard House

    My second favorite place to visit in Concord is Walden Pond. Yup. That Walden Pond. The one made famous by Henry David Thoreau and his book WALDEN. I loved going and hiking around the pond (not just looking at the little replica cabin that mimics Thoreau’s simple living quarters, though that was fun too). But to actually get away from the parking lot and to just feel the peacefulness of nature—it was a happy moment. 

    Another place that felt like I was stepping into a book was at the Ralph Waldo Emerson House. I studied so many Emerson essays (again, I was an English major) that I felt like going to his home was adding another layer to why Emerson wrote what he wrote. Then there is a trip to The Old Manse (where Emerson wrote his first draft of Nature and where Nathaniel Hawthorne—yes that Nathanial Hawthorne—lived). Plus there is also the idea that The Old Manse looks at the Old North Bridge, the bridge that was mentioned in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride." 

    Man—who knew there was so much literature to “visit” when planning a vacation to Concord, Massachusetts? Well, my English professors did, which is why they inspired me to actually plan a trip out to the East Coast—just so I could take in all the settings of so many books I love. 

    I have two more spots left—favorites vacations where I traveled to because of the books I have read. Yup, these two places were solely vacations planned based on beloved books. Keep reading to find out where they are!

  • read to travel

    As far as my favorite literary vacation spots so far I have talked about Hannibal, Missouri and Rome, Italy. This next one has EVEN MORE literary references than the other two destinations (if you can believe it). I mean, how could it not!?! Today I am talking about London, England, number four on my countdown of six favorite literary vacations. 

    4. London, England

    Tower of London

    The first time that I went to this city it was part of a college Literary Tour. And the fact that it was introduced as a major stop in literary history means that every time I go back I can’t help but think of all the great books that are set there. 

    Seriously, this one city has totally spoiled me for literature. One of the first stops my friends and I made was to go to see some signs of SHERLOCK HOLMES around Baker Street. Granted, we didn’t find the famous sleuth (or Benedict Cumberbatch—sigh!), but we did enjoy looking at London from the “perspective” of Holmes and Watson. 

    Also, while traipsing around London I happened to find the home of Charles Dickens. This literary mastermind set a lot of his novels in jolly old England—London in particular. And as I spent hours walking around (potentially getting a little lost once or twice…) I started getting hungry—not only for good spots to remind me of good books, but for actual food. “Please, sir, I want some more.” Thankfully, unlike OLIVER TWIST, I had plenty of options to choose from so I could keep wandering around town. 

    One magical place to go is to Kensington Gardens. There—after quite a bit of meandering—we were able to find the PETER PAN statue. Because this is where James Barrie wrote and perhaps was inspired to write the famous play. And with this fun statue of Peter, of course there is an invitation to celebrate the imagination of this masterpiece that has had such an impact around the world—and I can’t help but imagine that Wendy, John, Michael, or Tinkerbell might appear beside Peter as I walked around the garden. 

    Peter Pan

    And, who can go to London without going to the Globe Theater—the replica of all things William Shakespeare—who may justifiably be considered the master of all things literary! While at the Globe we saw JULIUS CAESAR (which helped me love my literary journey in Rome that I talked about last time). We got the cheap tickets, so we had to stand for the entire play. And we were out in the elements so when it started to drizzle rain/slush on us…it was a little uncomfortable; however, it was an experience that I will never forget! I felt like I could be in the 1600s listening to the Bard. I don’t think my love for Shakespeare has ever been the same. 

    Yowzer! London has so many literary greats! It is no wonder that this one city has hit my list of places I wanted to see and visit because of works I have read. And I haven’t even talked about Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. Or HARRY POTTER—which has some scenes in London… Yeah, if you love reading, then you have to visit London on vacation. It is basically a must! 

    Joella Reading a book in a bookshop on vacation 1

    Keep reading to see what other vacations I thought were reading havens!

  • Read to Travel

    So here is the thing, I like to read AND I like to travel. And it is a sweet spot when both things happen at the same time (meaning, sometimes I pick where I travel based on a book I read or sometimes I read books based on places that I have traveled to or will travel to). If you love to read and love to travel, this series of posts is for you. I'll be sharing my top six destinations that hit the sweet spot of good books and great location, where the place has as much personality as the characters in the books. Granted, due to my being a little long-winded, it might take a few posts to get through all my favorites… 

    6. Hannibal, Missouri, USA

    I will confess, the first time that I went to Hannibal .…I didn’t choose to go. I was nine and my mother made the decision for a family vacation. So we went. But I liked it so much that I went two more times - that is saying something, right?

    Basically this is the literary travel spot for all things Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens). Think TOM SAWYER and HUCKLEBERRY FINN. Think of all the cave spelunking and riverboat rides. In Hannibal you can tour the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum Properties. I loved looking at the white picket fence and thinking about how Tom tricked everyone else into white-washing it for him. When I was in Hannibal (many years ago) I also toured around other museums and saw where “Becky Thatcher” would have “lived."

    8.6 tom sawyer statue

    There is something to be said for skipping rocks and having a picnic next to the mighty Mississippi River, the very river that Huck Finn and Jim sailed down on a raft. In fact, there are a lot of places in Hannibal where you can just sit and watch that river. And possibly contemplate all of those many big things that Mark Twain leads you to think about when reading Huckleberry Finn. 

    8.6 Mark Twain Cave with Joella

    But the highlight for this area is the Mark Twain Cave Complex. There you can explore where Becky and Tom got lost. And if you happen to have an older brother the way that I do—perhaps you might jump every now and again due to said older brother’s shenanigans. Seriously. There's nothing quite like going inside just after reading the scary chapters about Tom and Becky being lost in that same cave (the very one!) and then having your brother do his best to scare the heebeegeebees out of you. Literature definitely came alive for me in that moment!

    8.6 Mark Twain Cave

    And with festivals and theater performances giving nods to all things Mark Twain, this is a travel destination totally connected to all things literary. 

    Bonus: There is also a movie and a graphic novel adaptation of Tom Sawyer and not one but two different graphic novel adaptations for Huckleberry Finn. 

    8.6 Tom Sawyer TwainTHE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
    By Mark Twain
    (1876)

     

    Tom Sawyer FilmTOM SAWYER
    (1986) 

     

    8.6 Tom Sawyer HallTHE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER: A GRAPHIC NOVEL
    By Margaret Hall
    (2014)

     

    Huckleberry Finn TwainADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
    By Mark Twain
    (1884)

     

    8.6 Huckleberry Finn RatliffTHE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
    By Tom Ratliff
    (2008 

     

    8.6 Huckleberry Finn SilvermoonADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
    By Crystal Silvermoon
    (2017)

     
    Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for other literary vacation destinations that I have loved!   
  • Read to Travel

    Last timeI talked about the good ol’ literary home of Tom Sawyer on the Mississippi. My number five pick for literary vacations takes us abroad…to Italy! And really, I could have included the WHOLE COUNTRY on this literary smorgasbord. But I was good and I narrowed it down to one city—Rome!

    5. Rome, Italy

    This location is one hotbed of history—and thus literature! Think about it, how many times do people reference JULIUS CAESAR? Or Roman Mythology? Or parts of the Bible that took place in Rome? There was so much that happened here. “Et tu, Brute?” 

    colosseum1

    When I visited Rome, one of my favorite things was going to the Roman Forum. There I saw where Julius Caesar and Mark Antony delivered their famous speeches. I don’t think I would have appreciated this attraction as much if I hadn’t read the great Shakespeare classic Julius Caesar or studied various Roman Mythology in middle school. (Plus there are a plethora of other books like Rick Riordan’s THE MARK OF ATHENA or Jennifer Nielsen’s MARK OF THE THIEF—both of which I better understood because I had traveled to this ancient land and saw the Roman Forum.) 

    For those who are really into art, history, and mysteries, touring around the various churches in Italy brought to mind Dan Brown’s book ANGELS AND DEMONS. I mean, if you are enjoying art work by some of the world’s masters—you might as well think of a suspenseful mystery book… right? 

    For those moments when I wondered about the various people that lived in Roman history—including children—I thought of THE THIEVES OF OSTIA (a kid’s mystery book that takes place in ancient Rome)—because walking on all the cobblestone streets reminded me of passages in the book where kids have to go from place to place to figure out a mystery.   

    Basically, there are a bunch of books that have portions of history that take place in ancient Rome. And having traveled there I feel like I understand the literature just a little bit more. Not to mention there is the famous Colosseum across the street, the great Spanish Steps, and the Pantheon that all have a lot of history—and make their way into various books and movies that take place in Rome. I know it isn’t literature, but I couldn’t help myself—when visiting the Colosseum I pictured all that happened there in BEN HUR. And I smiled at the memories of watching ROMAN HOLIDAY when going to the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and Pantheon. 

    colosseum2

    Thankfully I also had my RICK STEVES’ ITALY tour book so not only could I think of great literary masterpieces as I toured around Rome, I could also find the best place to eat gelato and create my own Roman memories! 

    So there you have it, my #5 literary destination pick (a city with a zillion book and movie references). Keep an eye out for my next pick for a literary destination vacation.  

    Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for other literary vacation destinations that I have loved!   

  • austen ranking

    Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

    I've been lucky enough to meet a lot of incredible authors through our AuthorLink events, but there’s only one I’d completely geek out over. Unfortunately, she’s been dead for nearly 200 years.

    I’m one of those people. Janeite, Austenite, actual crazy person, nerd – whatever you want to call me, I have to confess that when it comes to Jane Austen, I’m more than a casual fan. After reading each of her novels countless times, researching her life extensively, poring over Austen scholarship, and writing a master’s thesis about Austen adaptations, I’ve come to two conclusions:

    1. I’m WAY too invested in the life and writings of a dead person

    2.  Austen 100% lives up to the hype

    If you’ve never read an Austen novel, I’m begging you to do it, even if you’ve seen the film adaptations and think they’re not your thing. The humor, rhythm, and genius of her writing never completely transfer to the screen, and you don’t quite know Austen if you’ve never read her books.

    That being said, Austen adaptations are prolific, ranging from the merely okay to the brilliant, and most of them are worth watching at least once. Fortunately for you, I’ve seen them all, with one notable and a few not so notable exceptions, so I can save you time in choosing where to start.

    Austen nerd that I am, I’ll spend the next few weeks sharing my favorite and not-so-favorite Austen adaptations (except for PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES and a handful of obscure adaptations from the 50s and 60s that I still haven’t seen. Whoops.) 

    Miniseries, films, and YouTube adaptations are all up for grabs, but there are a few films I won’t be ranking. Here's why:

    4.26 Death Comes to PemberleyDEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY
    Directed by Daniel Percival
    (2013)

    Because it’s a sequel, not an adaptation of the original. It is on Netflix, though, if you like your Regency period drama with a dash of murder.

     

    4.26 Becoming JaneBECOMING JANE
    Directed by Julian Jarrold
    (2008)

    Because it’s a (romantic, but not terribly accurate) biographical film, not an adaptation of an Austen novel.

     

    4.26 Miss Austen RegretsMISS AUSTEN REGRETS
    Directed by Jeremy Lovering
    (2008)

    Because, again, it’s a biopic, not an Austen adaptation. Maybe it's good that it's not on the list, because our library doesn't own it, and neither does the Orem Public Library. I definitely don't own it, so how did I ever watch this in the first place?

    It's a mystery.

     

    4.26 AustenlandAUSTENLAND
    Directed by Jerusha Hess
    (2014)

    Because, though this film is a joy, it's a Shannon Hale Adaptation, not a Jane Austen adaptation. It is, however, a hilarious homage to Austen, Austen fans, and people who think Austen fans are ridiculous. You should watch it.

     

    4.26 The Jane Austen Book ClubTHE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB
    Directed by Robin Swicord
    (2007)

    Because, though it draws on Austen in its plots, it's in that fuzzy territory between Austen-inspired and a full-fledged adaptation. Feel free to disagree.

     

    4.26 EligibleELIGIBLE
    TBA

    Because, regrettably, I am unable to time travel into the future, even for a modernized Austen adaptation. In the meantime, the book is available.

     

    So, with those banned from the competition, now’s the time for guessing. I'll try to be diplomatic in my analysis, but you don't have to be. Which adaptation do you think deserves the number one spot? Which adaptations are an abomination, defiling all that is good and holy and Austenesque? Let us know in the comments.

     
  • austen ranking 1

    Part 1, Part 2, Part 4, Part 5

    Now that we've covered the not-so-great adaptations of Jane Austen's classic novels, it's time to move on the the merely okay! Ummm... yay?

    Whether it's altered characters, terrible kisses, or unfortunate placement of manholes, each of these adapatations had something about them that was just a little off. They aren't the worst, but they definitely aren't the best. Here's why.

    6.27 Mansfield Park 200720) MANSFIELD PARK
     Directed by Iain B. MacDonald
    (2007)

    Billie Piper's performance is such an odd take on Fanny. She never quite meshes with the historical setting, and the hair and costume choices don't help (why does she keep wearing her hair down?!?!). Though the 1999 adaptation, which we'll get to later, makes serious departures from the book, those alterations at least feel intentional and carefully thought out. The changes to the characters here, particularly in making Fanny lively and playful, just don't make sense. Plot points are also rushed or skipped over entirely. While MANSFIELD PARK is certainly Austen's most serious and difficult novel, this adaptation feels frothy and frivolous.

    To be honest, I probably should have put this on the "Not So Good" list, but I temporarily forgot it existed and have since had to renumber everything in that post. Whoops.

    6.27 I Have Found It19) KANDUKONDAIN KANDUKONDAIN (I HAVE FOUND IT)
    Directed by Rajiv Menon
    (2000)

    This Tamil film, the first Indian adaptation of an Austen novel (correct me if I’m wrong), is a movie I wish I liked. The tone is uneven, with a jarring mix of war scenes and music video-style montages of dance and song. And then there’s the unintentionally hilarious fact that (spoiler!) instead of falling ill near the end of the story, the Marianne character instead falls into a manhole. Nevertheless, the songs are fun, Aishwarya Rai is lovely as ever, and it’s the film that eventually led to BRIDE AND PREJUDICE, so I can’t complain too much.

     

    6.27 Pride and Prejudice18) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: A LATTER-DAY COMEDY
    Directed by Andrew Black 
    (2003)

    AKA “the Mormon one.” This movie isn’t quite good enough to stand on its own as a film or an Austen adaptation, but if you’ve ever experienced an LDS singles ward, it resonates. The transition of an early 19th century England to early 21st century Provo is surprisingly smooth, given the shared obsession with early marriage. It’s mildly entertaining in a slapstick sort of way, and I’ll never stop thinking the scene with heartbroken Lizzie and Jane in the grocery store is funny: “Triple choc-choc-choc-chocolate chunk? Or Uncle Bubba’s Big Belly Batter Brickle?”

     

    6.27 Bridget Jones17) BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY
    Directed by Sharon Maguire 
    (2001)

    Is it fair to call this an Austen adaptation when it’s already the adaptation of another book? I’m not sure, and I struggled with its placement since it’s so popular but not a personal favorite. It’s funny and satirical and very British, and it makes some clever nods to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (including the casting of Colin Firth as Mark Darcy). I think my main hang-up with this one is Bridget as the main character. Where Elizabeth Bennet was clever, charming, and witty, Bridget is a lovable hot mess. It’s easier for me to like her and the film if I separate it from Pride and Prejudice altogether.

    I know that fidelity is a nebulous, unattainable goal, or whatever, but don’t mess with my favorite characters (I’m looking at you, every LITTLE WOMEN adaptation I've ever seen).

     

    6.27 Persuasion16) PERSUASION
    Directed by Adrian Shergold
    (2007)

    This movie would have been much, much higher up the list but for one thing: MINUS ALL THE POINTS FOR THE WORST KISS IN CINEMATIC HISTORY. Anne’s out of breath from running through the streets of Bath, and she’s left with her mouth gaping open like fish while Wentworth waits an absurdly long time to bend down and meet her kiss. *shudders*  

    I need to watch the final scene from NORTH AND SOUTH as a palate cleanser after even thinking about it.

     

    6.27 Pride and Prejudice 194015) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
    Directed by Robert Z. Leonard
    (1940)

    If you’re obsessed with fidelity, this is not the adaptation for you, but as a stand-alone film and piece of cinematic history, it’s charming. Released in 1940, producers worried that the film would make our British allies seem stuffy and prejudiced, so certain characters (*cough* Catherine de Bourgh *cough*) were significantly altered. The time period was also moved forward to capitalize on the popularity of GONE WITH THE WIND in its flamboyant costume design.

    So, the storyline is a far cry from Austen’s original, but Lawrence Olivier was destined, both in appearance and manner, to play Fitzwilliam Darcy. In fact, I think he may actually be Darcy. Can a fictional character be reincarnated as an iconic movie star?

     

    6.27 Emma Approved14) EMMA APPROVED
    Directed by Bernie Su
    (2013-2014)

    Bernie Su’s creative follow-up to THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES is unfortunately not quite as good, though I still enjoyed watching it. The production quality is better (this is a very pretty adaptation) but the setup feels forced. Where Lizzie was a vlogger, Emma is simply recording videos for posterity, and it stretches credibility a little too much. The storytelling isn't as clever and insightful as THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES and the characters felt less real, but the series grew on me over time.

    Why? The chemistry between Alex Knightley and Emma is a major redeeming quality. The rest of the plot struggles initially, but the sexual tension is A+.

     
  • austen ranking 1

    Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 5

    Well, my friends, the Austen obsession continues, and this week we move on from the tolerable to the amiable. This adaptations are good, but they just missed being included among the best of the best. Here’s why.

    7.13 2008 Emma12) EMMA
    Directed by Jim O'Hanlan
    (2009)

    I found this adaptation enjoyable, but forgettable. Bonus points for Johnny Lee Miller playing his second Austen hero and bonus, extra, super points for casting Ramola Garai, who is a gift to us from the period drama gods.

     

    7.13 Bride and Prejudice11) BRIDE AND PREJUDICE
    Directed by Gurinder Chadha
    (2004)

    I think the bland male leads and a slightly disjointed storyline are what hold me back from loving BRIDE AND PREJUDICE completely, but the film is still a whole lot of fun. The best known cross-cultural Austen adaptation, it’s frothy and colorful and a little bit whacky, and it’s hard not to enjoy it. And it’s a MUSICAL, which few other Austen film adaptations can claim. Plus, Aishwarya Rai is a delight.

     

    7.13 Persuasion10) PERSUASION
    Directed by Roger Michell
    (1996)

    We're finally getting to the point where I feel guilty ranking the adaptations, because from here on out, I love them all deeply.

    This is a quiet adaptation that doesn’t get as much fanfare as many of the others, but it’s lovely nonetheless. Amanda Root is absolutely perfect as Anne – her subtle performance manages to capture Anne’s pain, her exasperation with her relatives, and her quiet determination as well as her shyness.

    I do have to confess something, though. As a teenager watching this movie for the first time, I found myself wondering where all the pretty people were. The cast of this film is surprisingly normal looking, which is a refreshing change from typical Hollywood casting and seems particularly appropriate for the time period.

     

    7.13 Mansfield Park9) MANSFIELD PARK
    Directed by Patricia Rozema
    (1999)

    A lot of people hate this adaptation (my mother among them), but I’m a fan. Fans of other Austen adaptations are sometimes thrown by just how dark and gritty this version is, and by, well, the brief nakedness (there’s understandably not much nudity in most Austen adaptations). In addition to showing that Fanny was pulled out of serious poverty by her not-always-kind cousins, this version also addresses MANSFIELD PARK’s elephant in the room: the Bertrams earned their money in the West Indies, which means that slaves earned it for them. It’s not always a pretty adaptation as a result, but that honesty adds a depth and context to the adaptation that I really appreciate.

    I’ll add that Fanny Price is the only Austen heroine I don’t like very much, so I don’t really mind that the film turned her into a completely different character.

     

    7.13 emma8) EMMA 
    Directed by Douglas McGrath
    (1996)

    This adaptation of Emma and the adaptation of Mansfield Park I just wrote about are a study in contrasts, and I love them for completely opposite reasons. Emma holds a special place in my heart for simply being so PRETTY. The costumes, the sets, the hairstyles, the script - they're just so fluffy and beautiful and charming, much like Emma herself. Gwyneth Paltrow annoys me as a human being, which is probably why I adore her as Emma.

    If you enjoy period dramas, it’s hard to hate this one. And the score by Rachel Portman is delightful. All the fluff, very little of the substance.

     

    7.13 Sense and Sensibility7) SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
    Directed by John Alexander
    (2008)

    This adaptation didn’t get as much attention as I think it deserved, and I hope you’ll watch it if you haven’t already, as it's certainly the best of the 2007 and 2008 ITV/BBC Austen reboots. The opening scenes are surprisingly scandalous for an Austen adaptation, but don’t let them scare you away from the miniseries.

    It pains me not to include this as one of the best of the best, since it's a personal favorite. As great as Emma Thompson is, Hattie Morahan is exactly how I pictured Elinor, and Charity Wakefield is lovely as Marianne. It's a full-length miniseries, which allows it time to cover plot points that the 1995 adapation didn't have time for. And it does it so very well.

    Note: For fans of the "Darcy emerges from the pond" scene in in the '96 Pride and Prejudice, this Sense and Sensibility gives you Downton Abbey's Matthew revived from the dead and angstily chopping wood in the rain. Enjoy.

     

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