Oh, April–your fickle weather kept me indoors reading instead of being outside weeding. Not necessarily a complaint. Here are the five star reads of the month that kickstarts the beginnings of spring.
Going down the same path of mitigating various dramas in Mitford, this seventh installment touches on a topic not usually addressed: depression among clerics. Father Tim has blown his diabetic diet once again, and this time there are dire consequences. As always, Karon provides humor in serious situations along with valuable life lessons.
Well-written, and though aimed at middle readers, Grisham presents a plausible story that veers towards drubbing those kids who stray from the straight and narrow. He does bring home the importance of how one wrong choice can have huge consequences. Seventh and perhaps the best in the series, Grisham takes on the bail bond system when one of Theo’s fellow Scouts and classmates becomes inadvertently an accomplice to armed robbery. Basically, Grisham wants his readers to know how flawed the legal system can be at times. The storyline includes the inevitable animal court where Theodore shines as a burgeoning lawyer. The case this time is a flatulent bunny who terrorizes the neighborhood canines.
With a nod to Agatha Christie and more than a couple of winks to the murder mystery industry, Horowitz provides a clever meta fiction that features his ability at creating an engaging storyline. A plot about a murder mystery that is the core to a story about an actual murder is clever meta fiction indeed.
While it seems as if readers are reading an homage to Agatha Christie they are in truth reading about how a book editor has become a detective trying to solve the murder of the murder mystery writer. Lots of winking going on here.
Horowitz brazenly nods to several mystery writers and even trots out Agatha Christie’s grandson for extra measure. If it weren’t all so obvious it would be irritating to have a murder mystery interrupted at the denouement to become a murder mystery.
Horowitz was obviously having fun.
So much fun that he shamelessly promotes his Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War series. He even takes the time to insert a mild diatribe how real murders aren’t as common or convoluted as novels present them to be.
A reluctant five because it is difficult to ignore that Horowitz is a talented and clever writer and has produced an engaging whodunnit, despite all the winking and nodding going on. For those who enjoyed Knives Out.
While many readers have expressed negative views of Thomas‘s Sherlock Holmes pastiche, a deeper appreciation of the cavalcade of historical detail can be summoned. Thomas captures the voice of Watson well, Sherlock somewhat. Of the five stories “Peter the Painter” provides as much action and intrigue as “The Hound of Baskerville.”
Read any good books lately? Do tell. Do share.
For all the other books read and reviewed be sure to check out my Good Reads reading challenge.
THE DETAILS: Pages read: 29,532 Books read: 102 Shortest book read: 40 pages
Longest book read: 1,008 pages
Average book length: 289 pages Most popular: Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library–over 1 million reads (although I did not favor it) Least popular: Lucius Adelno Sherman’s What is Shakespeare: An Introduction to the Great Plays (not everyone appreciates Shakespeare) Average book rating: 4.3 (I must be particular) Highest rated by Goodreads readers:
First review of the year:One Hundred Years of Children’s Books in America, Decade by Decade edited by Jane Yolen and Marjorie N. Allen. An underrated and overlooked sampling of books and the history of America from the early 1800s to the 1990s–would like to see a more current edition. Five star rated books: 11 (I really am particular discerning)
Hitting my reading goal of 101 (the year isn’t over yet) creates a fine sense of accomplishment, especially since it became increasingly more difficult to sit down and focus on reading. After school started I found myself with a certain lassitude that gravitated towards passive viewing of animal shows, Western movies, and of course, my old standby of Dr. Who reruns.
Your Turn: Did you hit your reading goal for the year?
Any stand out reads? I’m always looking for the next TBR item.
I have my reserve in for the new Hamnet. I am anticipating and checking my library notifications frequently. If you are unaware—
This is a fictional account of a playwright (who is supposedly not named in the story) and his 11 year old son, his only son, who dies, perhaps of the bubonic plague. Of course it got my attention. If it looks like Shakespeare, talks about Shakespeare, might shed more light about Shakespeare—gotta read it. Being a Bardinator sets one up for mandatory reading at times.
Since I have yet to read the novel, I thought this installment of Bard Bits would focus on what others have said of the play, which is supposedly a reference to Hamnet, Shakespeare’s son, whose name is thought to have alternately been spelled Hamlet. There is ongoing academic conversation about that connection.
So-no thoughts yet on Hamnet. However, here are what some think about the titular character of the play:
A rich kid from Denmark.
A sad, screwed-up type of guy.
A half a dozen characters rolled into one.
—George Bernard Shaw
An Anglo-Saxon bore who talked too much.
What Hamlet is, before he is anything…is an authentic tragic hero who is himself a man of genius.
Hamlet doesn’t care if he bites the dust. He’s dangerous. He’s a human time bomb.
Indeed. Hamlet is a bit of all these impressions. But beyond his perceived personality is the remaining core of who Hamlet is and the engine of the play: he is a son who has lost a father. What is notable, is the play is written by a man who lost a son. The play is about how a father and a son are both lost. Sometimes it’s a fine line between life imitating art and art reflecting life.
All quotes are from the fun and fabulous The Friendly Shakespeare by Norrie Epstein. It is a treasure of a Bardinator resource.
What are your thoughts on Hamnet? No spoilers, please.
Feel free to add your two cents to thoughts on Hamlet. Having watched too many adaptations I have to push aside Mel, David, Jude and cohort before deciding on my own ideas. Above all else, I think Hamlet is a grieving young man who truly missed his father. I think Shakespeare did indeed reflect how grief wears heavy on a person in his play about how a person grapples with significant loss and how loss is absolutely a very personal experience.
March began in the usual way: school, home, the routine of routine. Then murmurings of a really bad flu flutter into the periphery around the middle of March (ironically teaching “Beware the Ides” with Julius Caesar walking to the forum). Routines are jarred as parents pull students from school and we watch and wonder if our school will also shut down with one week to go before spring week. We did and in two weeks all has changed and routine is a daily challenge.
Where does reading fit into this new normal? Reading used to be my anticipated reward, my stress reliever, my defrag from working with screens. Now, with only a scant handful of books (paper, not electronic, preferred) to last, who knows how long, reading becomes a quandary. Reading helps wile away the hours and keeps my brain from fogging over from too much screen time. Yet, I will clearly run out books on hand sooner than anticipated. Why didn’t I grab more books from the library before it closed?
Highlights of March:
The Rope Walk by Carrie Brown ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ A bit like To Kill a Mockingbird with a tomboy, an odd playmate, a mysterious neighbor and a life lesson.
Moonfleet by John Meade Falkner ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ An old fashioned adventure in the style of Robert Lois Stevenson
In the Jellicoe Road by Marlena Marchetta ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ A YA that combines the ruthlessness found in Lord of the Flies with the mind-warping plot twists of I Am the Cheese.
Letters from Yellowstone by Diane Smith ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️ One of those mad grabs off the shelf before the library closed and an unexpected joy as the book reveals the early days of Yellowstone Park through the witty and informative epistolary exchanges of a hodge podge of characters pursuing science.
Dandelion Summer by Lisa Wingate ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Imagine Henry Fonda from his role in On Golden Pond and a teenage Queen Latifah, you then would have Norman Alvord and Epiphany Jones, better known as J. Norm and Epie. These two form a symbiotic friendship as they battle their dysfunctional families.
The Least of My Brothers by Harold Bell Wright ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ A classic re-edited by Michael Phillips. Turn of the century story of the difference between being a disciple of Christ and a member of the church, with plenty of drama and characterization and a minimum of preaching making for a thoughtful consideration of what defines a Christian.
Ender’s Shadow by Scott Orson Card ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️ Having read Ender’s Game several years ago I thought it time to read its counterpart. Read it in a couple of days since I was able to dedicate that much time to reading a 400+ page book being on spring break.
A mixture of titles and interests as usual. As my library stash dwindles I will begin getting creative (or desperate) and begin prowling my meager collection which consists of read and reread classics or dipping into my hubs’ technical journals and how to manuals.
One aspect of ushering out the year of previous is reflection. The year of 2019 has been one of changes—some sad, some significant, and some ongoing.
Among these changes are milestones. A couple worth mentioning:
WordPress has informed me that I began my journey with them eight years ago. In dog years, which is somewhat equivalent to blog years, that would be nearly sixty years of contributing and sharing my thoughts with others. Thumbs up!👍🏻
Goodreads notified me that I’ve read 139 books for the year, up four from last year. And I should have 140 read by this weekend. Woo hoo! 👏
I applied for a part time librarian position at our local high school in 1999 and twenty years later I am in the classroom having become a certified English teacher, expounding on the merits of literature, language, and composition. Whew!😅
In 1992 Highlights for Children published a story of mine, “Marvin Composes a Tea.” It was awarded their Author of the Month and is the title-lead story in a Boyd’s Mills Press anthology. Although I thought my author career had started with a flourish, and I anticipated dozens of published books by now, twenty-seven years later my picture book Someday We Will: a book for grandparents and grandchildren was accepted by Beaming Books. A little later than expected, but happy nonetheless! 📚
And a very significant milestone is that my mother turns 93 at the end of 2019. Having survived Hitler’s war as a teenager in Germany, she has also survived cancer, a heart attack, and has buried three husbands, a son, two brothers, her parents, and keeps forging on. Yup, she’s feisty and tenacious of life. So happy birthday, Mom!🎊🎁🎉
I’m looking forward to 2020–difficult to avoid that 20/20 comparison of seeing life with a clear focus.
How about you, what milestones happened for you in 2019?
For a short month February provided ample time to plow through a bevy of satisfying and diverse books. Two snow days from school helped in getting some serious cozy cocoa and recliner reading done. So many great titles and discoveries to share with you!
The Warrior Maiden by Melanie Dickerson
A reimagining, rather than a retelling of the Chinese folktale of Mulan, Dickerson’s version is set in 15th century Lithuania. In this version, Mulan is the illegitimate daughter of Mikolai, a warrior father who has died. Mulan serves as a warrior to save her mother from becoming homeless, and to escape from an unwelcome arranged marriage.
The first half of the plot relates Mulan’s adventures as a soldier. With realistic detail, Mulan struggles to meet the demands of fighting amongst men, while trying to hide her identity. During battle she meets and becomes friends with Wolfgang, a duke’s son. Inevitably their friendship develops into something deeper once Wolfgang discovers why he is attracted to and is protective of the young soldier known as Mikolai.
Unfortunately, the second half of the story becomes enmeshed in being more of a romance novel than the adventuresome first part. Attention to historical detail and the smooth rendering of the multiple points of view, lean this more towards a four star than a three star review.
This title refers to characters from the previous book in the Hagerheim series, yet it can be read as a standalone.
NOTE: received as review copy from the publisher in exchange for an objective review
The Long Game (The Fixer #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Sequels are tough. For the most part The Long Game continues the energy from The Fixer, and weaves in enough referrals to keep new readers abreast of previous action. The Long Game focuses on action instead of characters and character dynamics is what made The Fixer such a riveting story. There is not a mention of Gramps in The Long Game and considering how important he is to Tess and Ivy, it seems an injustice to drop him from the plot. Tess is one amazing young woman, yet she is a high school teen not Jason Bourne. Still, the writing is superb, the plot twists darn right surprising. Just wee bit too intense with a few plot holes holding it back.
Ben and Me by Robert Lawson
I am not sure how this book escaped my attention as a kid. Best to make up for lost time. It is a classic and has all kinds of charm—YET—I’m not sold out on Amos. I can’t get past how only Ben could hear Amos talk, and all those other plot holes, like how does a mouse buy a hat? The illustrations are the best part of the story, and they were actually better than the story. Just saying.
NOTE: I had to scurry and read this for our February Debatable–which was a doozy of a debate. What? You missed it? Best check it out [my choice of best mouse won with Reepicheep of Narnia series fame]
At Freddie’s by Penelope Fitzgerald
This one of those literary novels that are Joycian in how there is no plot, rather it’s one long character study with a tableau of characters. Nothing really happens, yet there is an urgency that something might. And it takes ever so long to realize it doesn’t. Brilliantly written, of course.
NOTE: since the library doesn’t own The Bookshop, which I hope to read before watching the movie, I grabbed this instead. If this were made into a movie I would envision Bette Davies as Freddie.
The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe
Avoidance of Holocaust books is my usual modus operandi, yet a based-on-a-true story about a library in Auschwitz? I pulled it down from the shelf with anticipation.
The beginning is absolutely riveting as the young Dita attempts to hide a couple of books during a spot inspection. Will she be caught? From that auspicious start the plot veers into a medley of different characters with historical facts woven in for good measure. The omniscient present tense creates a distance, making it difficult to fully embrace the story. Dita is amazing, but she is not truly the focus. The atrocities began to burden the story until it began to be a reading of endurance instead of interest. Of course a book set in a concentration camp is going to have tragedy; however, I was drawn in by the title—a librarian at Auschwitz? That sounded like a story based in hope.
The research and details are well-done and this, perhaps, is what creates a barrier from establishing a solid connection with the characters—a bit of a textbook mingled with a dynamic storyline is the result. It almost works and maybe it worked better in the author’s original language. Translations sometimes do lose some of the story’s essence.
The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
YA usually comes in the flavors of dystopian, supernatural, romance, strong female protagonist, sci fi, high school drama, adventure; however, the newest menu choice is political thriller. The Fixer is surprisingly addicting and amazing in how it takes the high school drama trope, mixes in some adventure, with a strong female protagonist, and tops it off with political intrigue. Unexpectedly refreshing.
Tess, who hails from Montana, suddenly finds herself planted in Washington DC in a life far different than her previous. Although shoveling muck out of horse stalls and brooking a strong intolerance for bullies are skills that serve her well in DC.
The writing is superb, as is the pacing, and the plot twists are to be applauded. This is a reluctant 5 star due to the difficulty of totally accepting the maturity and capabilities of this group of teens. Then again, living in DC is not for sissies.
Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
Santos had me at Cary Grant. All the mentions of classic black and white films was a bonus to the imaginative plot, dynamic characters, and lyrical prose. To be perfectly honest though, this is more of a 4.85 rating as the ending half began to unravel a bit with tying off of loose ends. The author’s background in poetry serves her well, since the descriptive imagery practically sings, yet doesn’t overshadow the plot. A couple of unexpected plot twists, a winsome little girl, and a mystery mom, along with unconventional storytelling techniques makes this a memorable read. And it’s her first one–looking forward to more.
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
Harbor Me is in the vein of Wonder in how it brings people together with its message of acceptance. Although it is a middle read, its prose is rich and well-crafted and is, quite frankly, thoroughly amazing. A niggling concern is how in the world could a school legally get away with having an unsupervised “chat” room for students? Definite artistic license superseding legal responsibilities. Setting that aside, the conceit of ARRTful sharing works in how it opens up the world of a diverse group of children on the verge of becoming teens in a world becoming more and more complicated.
The Citadel by A.J. Cronin
A solid classic. Strong, memorable characters, engaging storyline, and enriching details come together to purport the tale of a young, penniless doctor who rises out of the obscurity of backwoods coal mining towns to becoming a rich, well-respected London physician. His trading out of idealism for a comfortable life comes with great costs, yet the story just falls short of moralism. Due to the style found in the time period of publication,some of the story techniques are a bit antiquated, as in the tried and true, “tell rather than show” instead of having the story evolve from the characters themselves. There is also some melodramatic moments. Nevertheless, it is still well-written and a meritable read. It’s not surprising that the book was made into a film and a BBC series.
Don’t Close Your Eyes: A Silly Bedtime Story by Bob Hostetler illustrations by Mark Chambers
Playfully engaging, the rhyming text teams up to the whimsical illustrations to coerce its audience to NOT fall asleep. That’s right. Instead of the usual drone of encouraging young listeners to gently enter slumber, this book keeps cheerfully reminding its readers to stay awake. The reverse psychology is fun and children will no doubt enjoy the gentle nudge to keep their eyes open wide open instead of closing them for the night.
One of those books that invite multiple reads.
NOTE: received as review copy from the publisher in exchange for an objective review
The last entry is not so much a dissapointment, but it just didn’t fulfill the hope of being better:
The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman 3 stars
Historical novels set around WWII easily catch the interest, especially when it’s a unique view of the war effort through work done at the Springfield Armory. The jacket blurb indicates family drama: two sisters who cannot reconcile petty jealousies and misunderstandings that fill their relationship from childhood to being adults.
What could have been a deep study of family relationship interaction became a bouncing point of view telling with several women each telling their perspective. The intermittent timeline weaving and flashbacks made it difficult to truly connect with the characters. Multiple viewpoint stories run towards the problem of thinly spreading the plot too wide. Well-placed setting, though, as it is obvious the author did her research
Reading is my go-to for stress relief. And December is stressful. Some of you know what I’m talking about. Especially if you either teach or are a student or are a parent with children in school. Or are a person just dealing with the holiday rush. That about cover everyone? I suggest reading to calm that December tension. Here are my highlights. BtW: I read everything. I volunteer at our library when I have time and shelve books. Somehow I always end up with the children’s cart. I usually take home a couple. Channeling that inner child? Umm, how about it’s work-related research? I like to think I’m staying informed of what my students read.
Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Excellent. Uniquely presented and memorable. The old story of two misfits by society’s standards gets a new fit as the Kevin the Freak(y) little brain teams up with Max the Mighty (big kid). Middle schoolers will gain from this book that there is so much more to first appearances. Those who appreciated Wonder will add Freak the Mighty to their list.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
It’s understandable why this is a Newberry Honor book. A WWII story with a different lens, one dialed in on looking at how some people are survivors in a different type of war. Ada is a survivor, and this is her story.
Set in Kent, England just as the war is starting, Ada and her brother Jamie are evacuees and slowly learn what love is once they are taken in by Susan, a survivor in her own manner.
The rushed ending prevents this being a solid 5 star review; however, it is a story of recommendation.
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Another heartbreaking story from Gary Schmidt.
In this one, Jack tells Joseph’s story because Jack has Joseph’s back in more ways than one. Jack is able to convey well Joseph’s pain at being separated from what he cares for in life, and Schmidt relates Joseph’s emotional and physical travail through Jack’s honest observations. While there are moments of happiness, much of the story dwells on the sad, thought-provoking life of Joseph who is among the growing number of characters Schmidt portrays as having abusive fathers, and trying to make the best out of hard situations.
Schmidt’s storylines are reminiscent of Chris Crutcher’s penchant for telling hard stories about kids who need a break in life. But without the swearing.
The Happy Bookers by Richard Armour
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Armour, a prolific punster of over 50 books, creates a light-hearted history of the librarian. Written in 1976, it’s a tribute to celebrating the double anniversary of the American Library Association and the Dewey Decimal system.
Interwoven in all the puns are history nuggets about the library and their keepers. It is difficult not to laugh out loud at some of the humor. People overhearing your snickers will want to know what’s so funny. Save time and hand them the book to enjoy.
Julie by Helen Markley Miller
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Julie fits in well with other titles focused on young women who have to make adjustments to a new environment, such as Kirby Larson’s Hattie Big Sky. Centered on the growing town of Twin Falls, Idaho, Miller tells the story of how sixteen year old Julie traveled with her father from the comforts of family life in Iowa to start a new life out west.
Full of lively dialogue and characterization, readers come to appreciate this story of how a town grow up out of the desert, and a young girl grew up to become a young woman of dreams, yet have her feet planted firmly in Idaho soil.
Twisted Tales From Shakespeare by Richard Armour
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Irresistible. Seriously, Shakespeare shouldn’t be taken as seriously as he tends be. After all, he knew how to have pun with words. Richard Armour also knows his way around puns and takes on Hamlet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, and Othello and paraphrases these well-known plays with wit and plenty of wordplay.
A gem of amusement of both students and scholars. A four only because some of the punnery became a wee bit extreme. I can mock fun of Shakespeare just so much. I am a Bardinator after all.
I hope one of the listed titles intrigues you, and I am open to suggestions. I am always scouting out other reader blogs.
The usual monthly Debatable format shall be slightly different this month. Mike Allegra, that talented, and becoming increasingly prolific writer, is off on a month-long fellowship diligently working on his book. This means he does not have the time, nor can he spare the creative pundit, to dabble in quibbling and debating. In his stead, he has asked Jilanne Hoffman, a capable author in her own right, to quibble and debate upon a chosen topic. He likened it to her being a tribute. I promise no life-threatening survivalist tactics will be forthcoming. Instead, I offer a warm welcome for Jilanne. Please feel free to trot over and check out her blog. I suggest signing up her updates and such while you are there. She has a fascinating bio: Jilanne Hoffmann has been a zoo train engineer and a “real” engineer, but switched to freelance writing 20+ years ago and now enjoys writing stories for kids and adults. She has an MFA in Creative Writing, has read at Listen to Your Mother – San Francisco, and is an alumna of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and the Rutgers One-on-One Conference. One of her stories is included in a forthcoming anthology (Feb 2019), “She’s Got This: Essays on Standing Strong and Moving On.” She is currently at work on a new adult novel and many, many picture books.
Today’s Topic: What is the most ominous winter scene from a juvie book?
I have selected the passage from the C.S. Lewis classic The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, where Edmund meets the White Witchupon his entry into Narnia.
Jilanne has decided upon the scene where Scrooge meets up with Jacob Marley in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.
The same guidelines apply: we each have 300ish words to state our case, and then another 150 to counter argue.
Let the quibbling begin!
First off, a definition of ominous is needed:
om·i·nous/ˈämənəs/adjective:giving the impression that something bad or unpleasant is going to happen; threatening; inauspicious.
For those not familiar with the Chronicles of Narnia, the first book introduces readers to the Pevensie children: Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan. Lucy finds her way into the enchanted land of Narnia, yet her siblings disbelieve her.
In chapters three and four Edmund follows Lucy into a wardrobe during a game of hide and seek, and unexpectedly enters Narnia, where it is winter. His paradigm has definitely shifted. A stranger in a strange land, he decides “he did not much like this place.” Tension builds. He can’t find Lucy, he is freezing cold, and wonders how to get home. Desolation increases–that feeling of”something bad or unpleasant is going to happen” is about to happen.
In the distance a sound of bells. They come nearer. What can be approaching? A threat forms. Suddenly a sledge drawn by reindeer driven by a bearded dwarf appears. This is not promising. What’s really startling is the formidable woman seated in the sledge, who holds a wand and wears a crown. Her severe manner startles Edmund into stuttering out his name. She demands information from him. The interview’s only bright spot is the Turkish Delight she provides. But wait! Readers are informed that the candy is tainted with her evilness, creating a craving for more, to the point of Edmund promises to turn over his brother and sisters to this imposing woman to satisfy his craving.
Minutes later, Lucy and Edmund reunite and Edmund discovers he’s been fraternizing with a witch, the dreaded White Witch. Edmund is sick with his realization (not to mention the overindulgence of Turkish Delight).
This scene is truly frightening: a lost child, cold, made more miserable upon understanding how badly he’s messed up. Lewis knows how to capture the fears of childhood, and creates an absolute memorable ominous scene.
I nominate Jacob Marley’s chilling scene from A Christmas Carol. It has always terrified me. Scrooge feels a “strange, inexplicable dread” as bells clamor in his gloomy house and then stop, followed by “a clanking noise, deep down below, as if some person were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the wine merchant’s cellar….the cellar door flew open with a booming sound…the noise much louder on the floors below, then coming up the stairs, then coming straight towards his door.” I cowered behind my mother as she read, my head under the covers, hoping this ghost would take only her and let me live.
Jacob Marley, a “bristling” specter drapedwith the miserly chains of cash boxes, ledgers, and purses he forged in life,has “death-cold eyes” and a handkerchief wound round his head like a bandage.Although he sits still, his “hair and skirts and tassels were still agitated asby the hot vapor from an oven.” When Scrooge doubts his vision, Marley removesthe bandage, releasing his lower jaw onto his breast. Aghhhh! Dives below theblankets yet again, and stays there.
Marley hears “sounds of lamentations and regret, wailings inexpressibly sorrowful and self-accusatory” outside the window. He joins in “the mournful dirge” before floating “out upon the bleak, dark night.” Scrooge peers out the window and sees “phantoms wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went.” Each wore chains like Marley’s ghost. This scene could turn anyone but Voldemort into a philanthropist.
Ah, even in Mike’s absence, quibbling is still a part of the format. So—
Cricket’s Rebuttal: Quibble point #1: Yes, ghosts are scary. Yet, does winter really play into this scene? Ghosts can appear any time of the year. Marley’s ghost is not even associated with Christmas specifically; he’s just the forerunner of other visitors. And is Scrooge actually intimidated? He is doubtful and doesn’t become a philanthropist at that point. A scary scene, but not really ominous.
Quibble point #2: Did Dickens write this for children? Wasn’t he actually trying to soften the hard hearts of adults?
Main point: The cold, foreboding setting of the perennial winter forest creates an unpropitious mood. Add in that austere White Witch and her toxic Turkish Delight, and a menacing winter scene designed just for children is created. Lewis imbues an impactful lesson: taking treats from wicked witches can lead to all sorts a serious trouble beyond tummy aches–becoming a traitor is indeed ominous.
Winter plays a HUGE role. Scrooge’s rooms are bitterly cold and dark, like his heart, a stark contrast to generosity and warmth. PLUS Scrooge does fall to his knees, asking for mercy when Marley raises “a frightful cry.”
Ditch authorial intent. It’s like asking Maurice Sendak if he really wrote for children. By the time kids reach the age of reason (seven), they know this story and its meaning: be generous and compassionate toward those less fortunate.
My quibble for you:
Edmund’s not scared. He’s cold and in a strange place, but he spies a bearded dwarf (Santa!), a sleigh, and reindeer. Fun! The queen’s just a brittle genealogist seeking to identify Edmund’s siblings. Plus the promise of a title! Who doesn’t want to be a prince and eat sweets, bellyache notwithstanding? Marley’s ominous promise, OTOH, led me to save my quarters for charity before I was five years old!
And there we have it–two scenes that should elicit feelings of something threatening or bad about to happen.
Readers: as a child reader, which is more ominous to you?
Let the voting begin–and, of course, comments are always encouraged.