Farmer Boy: The Midnight Garden Classic Middle Grade Read-along (November)

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Illustrated by Garth Williams

First Published 1933, Harper & Row, 373 pages

#3 in the Little House Series

Recommended for All!

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I LOVE the Little House books! I grew up with the yellow paperback boxed set, and it’s still one of my prized bookish possessions. I also watched the Little House on the Prairie television series with my family, so I had a hearty dose of Little House goodness throughout my childhood.

How excited I was to discover that the November book for The Midnight Garden’s Classic Middle Grade Readalong was Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder!

So here I am to share some thoughts about the story I haven’t read in years, before heading over to The Midnight Garden to join in on the discussion there. I hope you’ll stop by as well! (Next month the book is Little Women!!)

I still remember those gorgeous, thick descriptions of food in the Little House books. Menus, maple sugar making tips, pie and pancake eating—Farmer Boy especially is chock full of such wonderful things.

Here are a few examples:

“Big yellow cheeses were stacked there, and large brown cakes of maple sugar, and there were crusty loaves of fresh-baked bread, and four large cakes, and one whole shelf full of pies” (25). YUM!

Or how about this:

“Mother was frying pancakes and the big blue platter, keeping hot on the stove’s hearth, was full of plump brown sausage cakes in their brown grave…There was oatmeal with plenty of thick cream and maple sugar. There were fried potatoes, and the golden buckwheat cakes, as many as Almanzo wanted to eat, with sausages and gravy or with butter and maple syrup. There were preserves and jams and jellies and doughnuts. But best of all Almanzo like the spicy apple pie, with its thick, rich juice and its crumbly crust. He ate two big wedges of the pie” (38).

If I could get invited over for one of the meals from Farmer Boy, that would be a treat!

farmer boy meal uaAlmanzo’s story is a delight—this stand alone novel gives us more times with the boy who would become Laura’s husband—and what memorable times they are.

I had forgotten the perils of being a schoolteacher that are discussed in that first bit of the book, when Almanzo treks to school as a nine year old. That’s right—Almanzo’s school teacher actually faces the possibility of getting “thrashed” by the big boys at school who are disrespectful and just general HOOLIGANS!

Then the teacher breaks out a whip that Almanzo’s father supplied him with, and puts those boys in their place. This sounds a bit intense, doesn’t it? A teacher with a whip?? What’s going on with that?? I was shocked to read that the previous schoolteacher DIED after he was beat up by the bigger students. Did you know that school could be so dangerous back in rural New York state in the late 19th century? I hadn’t remembered any of this from my childhood reading, so it’s been fascinating revisiting FARMER BOY. This definitely also makes me want to do some research and find out more.

As I read, I actually used stickies to mark all the foodie passages. There’s a lot of apple pie being eaten, that’s for sure! And stacks of pancakes with maple syrup. Who wouldn’t want to visit Alamanzo’s house? Taking part in one of those meals would be fantastic.

Speaking of spirituality in children’s literature—I think there’s something to say about that here. To me, sharing a meal with people can be a spiritual activity. Not every meal, but there is something significant and intimate that can happen among family and friends when you eat together. The descriptive passages of the meals eaten in the Little House books highlights (at least to me) the importance that families in this culture placed on sharing a meal. After all, they had worked so hard to grow and prepare that food. I think there is a significant aspect of the book in those passages—there’s something to be said about how sharing and partaking of food encourages community. Go check out the descriptions of Almanzo eating at meal times and let me know what you think…

And–Almanzo and his siblings learn how to run the farm! I was amazed at the way Laura Ingalls Wilder describes so many of the activities a boy of Almanzo’s age living on a farm in the late 19th century would learn. Planting corn, keeping corn from freezing, protecting the potato crop, sheep shearing, getting ice for the ice house, breaking calves—the list goes on! All that hard work as a family would surely play a role in its strength—and I think this is apparent in the story.

Can you believe the way Eliza Jane saved Almanzo from getting whipped for ruining the wall in the parlor?

How about that exploding potato?

And the half dollar Almanzo’s father gives him after he asks for a nickel?

The story is filled with these episodes that paint a colorful picture of Almanzo Wilder’s life—the story delighted me as a young reader and it fascinates me today.

What about you? Did you grow up with the Little House books? Did you read Farmer Boy as part of The Midnight Garden read-along??

Do you have a favorite foodie passage from the book?

Top Ten Sequels I Can’t Wait to Read! (Top Ten Tuesday)

It’s Top Ten Tuesday again with the Broke & Bookish!

This week, we’re sharing upcoming sequels we REALLY want to read!

As you may know, many books in the world of YA (and even Middle Grade) are series books. There might be two or three or four or even more books in one series. Take Inkheart, for example. Girl of Fire and Thorns. The list goes on. So when you start a novel, you may not be saying goodbye to its characters at the end. That can be a good thing.

But it can also be a bad thing.

It can be frustrating to wait for the sequel to a book you absolutely love.

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Seriously. A year is a long time to wait.

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I can relate to this with the first two books I share below. I’m DYING to get to these sequels by Marie Rutkoski and Danielle Paige.

And those are just the beginning….read on to find out what other sequels I’m most excited about reading!

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The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

(The Winner’s Curse #2)

The Winner’s Curse was one of my favorite reads of 2014, and probably my favorite high fantasy read of the year.

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The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige

(Dorothy Must Die #2)

Dorothy Must Die was one of my favorite debut reads of 2014!

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Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman (Seraphina #2)

I just got the first book, Seraphina, and am already excited about the sequel!

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Winter by Marissa Meyer (Lunar Chronicles #4)

I just finished Cress a few weeks ago and I CAN’T WAIT for this to be out. The world needs Winter now!!! Reworked fairy tales are some of my favorite kinds of stories and I adore the Lunar Chronicles. Can’t wait for this one. We’re in trouble though. This isn’t coming out until November 2015. What is to be done??!?

 This is almost too much, so I’m not going to think about it.

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fairest2Fairest by Marissa Meyer (Lunar Chronicles 3.5)

Of course I can’t wait for this one too, which is out sooner than Winter, so that’s a good thing.

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Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke

by Anne Blankman (Prisoner of Night and Fog #2)

The first book in this series was FABULOUS!! YA Historical fiction at its finest, in my opinion. This one is coming out soon so I will be jumping up and down when I get a hold of it.

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The Stars of Summer (All Four Stars #2)

by Tara Dairman

If you read my post about Tara’s book from The Midnight Garden’s Blog Tour, you will remember how much I loved All Four Stars #1! An ARC of this will be coming my way soon so I’m VERY EXCITED!

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And now for a few of the coverless sequels!

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The Ninja Librarians #2

by Jennifer Swann Downey

Ok, so there isn’t even a GoodReads entry for a sequel for this middle grade fantasy, but there must be one soon!! I loved the first installment in what I expect is going to be a series, so we need #2!!! Time traveling Librarians who are ninjas. That’s all I need to say.

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The Time Traveler’s Wife #2 by Audrey Niffenegger

Somewhere out there, Niffenegger has said something about a follow up to TTTW in which we find out more about Henry and Clare’s daughter, Alba. I need this!! But I may not be getting it anytime soon because GoodReads doesn’t even have an entry and my only evidence was a segment of the book that was published in a special edition of TTTW.

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The 5th Wave #3 (The 5th Wave Series)

This is coming out in August 2015. I just finished the second book in the series, but I really can’t wait to find out what happens to Cassie and her band of friends and whether they survive the alien invasion.

What sequels are you most looking forward to? Share your links as I want to know!

This weekly meme is hosted by The Broke and Bookish—check out their fabulous blog if you haven’t yet.

Here’s what they have to say about Top Ten Tuesday: “Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly link-up in the community where we provide a prompt and other lovers of listmaking join in on it with their own top ten list. Feel free to have less than 10 or more if you need to at times and put a spin on the topic if you need to! Just please link back to us if you are participating :)”

**Thanks to What Sarah Read for reminding me how much I enjoy using gifs in my posts!

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Want to Re-Read

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This weekly meme is hosted by The Broke and Bookish—you can check out their blog here.

This week, it’s the Top Ten Books I Want to Re-Read! Some of these are favorites, and they’re books I will probably be re-reading until kingdom come. They are from a mixture of genres—children’s, young adult, and adult, so enjoy…

anne box set

1. Anne of Green Gables Series

Anne of Green Gables is one of my favorite books of all times, and I never get tired of L.M. Montgomery’s series about Anne Shirley. There’s always something new I take away with every reading. With the approach of fall, I think I might have to pick up with Anne of Windy Poplars right away though (the fourth in the series).

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2. Little House on the Prairie Series

I have the yellow boxed set of these books and have been planning a re-read FOREVER! It’s time I sat down with Little House in the Big Woods and started.

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3. The Time Traveler’s Wife

Another one of my favorites, and a well-loved fantasy I never get tired of.  Definitely easy to pick this as one of my top ten.

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4. Her Fearful Symmetry

I didn’t like this title as much as Time Traveler’s Wife, and there were very strong reactions to this one, but ever since I finished it, I have known I would need to read it again. There were points in the story I found myself asking: What just happened? Why did she do that? How can this be? In order to get some answers, perhaps a re-read is in order.

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5. I Capture the Castle

Another one of my favorites—the book and the film! I adore Dodie Smith’s style in this book. There are laugh aloud moments that no fan of Anne of Green Gables should miss. A classic that will always be on my favorites shelf and is such a fun one to read!

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6. The Invisible Bridge

I love historical fiction, and I read a lot of it. This one, set during WWII, is so good! If you haven’t read it, please check it out! I haven’t re-read it since the first time I finished it, so it’s about time I enjoyed it again. Loved it.

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7. The Historian

The suspense and intrigue in this one is fantastic. Some readers loved this, and other didn’t like it so much. I couldn’t put it down and ate the book up over several days. I especially enjoyed the geography covered in the book—it also might make you do a bit of research on Vlad the Impaler. But don’t take my word for it. Check it out.

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8. Hitty, Her First Hundred Years

This was a favorite of mine as a young reader, and a book I’ve been longing to return to again. I have several paperback copies of this one, and it’s definitely a classic of children’s literature that earns a spot in my top ten re-reads.

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9. Our Mutual Friend

I love Charles Dickens, and though there are other novels I’m equally in love with, I have been wanting to read this one again. I have a fond memory of reading this for a 19th century British lit. undergraduate course, and I remember our discussion was so enthralling and my reading of it was so enjoyable, I am definitely ready for a re-read.

woman in white

10. The Woman in White

I admit it. I’m a fan of Wilkie Collins’s sensationalist fiction. I first read The Woman in White while studying in London for the first time, and I remember not leaving my room in South Kensington for a few days. I accidentally stumbled up on the book at a bookstore on Charing Cross Road, picked it up, and have been thankful for this serendipitous book meeting that came my way one London afternoon. I also have the graphic novel of The Woman in White, and never get tired of the story.

Are any of these on your re-read list? How did you come up with your titles? How many of these do you think I’ll get to in the next three months??

Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust (2014) by Loic Dauvillier, Marc Lizano, & Greg Salsedo

Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier, illustr., Marc Lizano, Color by Greg Salsedo, Trans., Alexi Siegel (2014, English translation)

Suggested age range: 10 and up (First Second, 80 pages)

Rating: 4/5 stars

Source: Library

Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel

hidden

“It was hard…but we were together.”

The Book:  When her granddaughter finds Dounia crying late one night, Dounia takes Elsa on her lap and begins to share her story. Hidden tells the story of Dounia, who was forced to hide from the Germans in France in 1942.What ensues is a touching, and at times saddening tale of one child’s experience during the Holocaust. Her parents do all they can to keep Dounia safe, even at the expense of their own lives. Originally translated from the French, Hidden underscores the bravery and courage of those who helped Jews during the Holocaugreek hiddenst, but also highlights the resilience of the very young during a terrible time in world history.

Spirituality in Hidden: Needless to say, there are several ways this story revealed a spiritual landscape. First, in the area of relational connectedness: I love the stronger connection that develops between Dounia and her granddaughter as she shares her past—including its joys and tragedies. Because Dounia is opening up about her history, she also develops a deeper bond with her son, and this is revealed visually at the very end of the story. That alone is a strong spiritual aspect of the story and could be a meaningful point for readers. Another spiritual aspect to highlight with any group discussion of the book is the bravery and sacrifice of those who risked their lives and gave of their resources to help hide children during the Holocaust.

A question for you to think about: What’s so spiritual about people helping others they don’t even know? And risking their lives for them? Both the textual and visual geography of this graphic novel further reinforce the potential spirituality of children’s literature.

Who Should Read This Book: Recommended for age 10 and up. This would be an excellent book for the classroom, and I think it’s a graphic novel that would be equally as meaningful shared between parent(s) and child reader. Just as the story opens with Elsa on her grandmother’s lap, hearing about her grandmother’s past and heritage, children and parents could talk about their own family background after the reading of this story. There’s a plethora of other types of discussions that groups of readers could dive into with this story, and I’m sure educators would see a lot of potential for curriculum development with this book related to both language arts and social studies curriculum.

The Final Word: The teamwork revealed through this book among author, illustrators, and translator is brilliant. I especially would look closely at the relationship between the words and the pictures. There are rich gaps within the story—pictures that extend the text, and text that fills in gaps in the pictures. This isn’t a simplistic graphic novel, but a rich and rewarding experience. This is another one that might require the tissue box, but it’s worth it.

Strongly recommended! I waited too long to read this one, and I read it all in one sitting. A fantastic addition to the already rich field of middle grade graphic novels for 2014.

Have you read it? What did you think? Are there other graphic novels set in this time period that you would recommend?

Check out the French cover below:

french hidden

Endings Can Be Beginnings: Counting by 7s (2013) by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan (2013)

Suggested age range: 9 and up (Dial, 380 pages)

Rating: 5/5 stars

Source: Library

Genre: Contemporary Realism

“And endings are always the beginnings of something else.”

counting by sevens

The Book: This heartwarming story opens with a tragedy, but is surprisingly hopeful and unique throughout the rest of the novel. In the narrative, we meet twelve year-old genius, Willow, who counts by sevens, is a math whiz, and loves making things grow. The story charts Willo’ws journey to discovering a community and a new family. The beauty and wonder of the natural world is celebrated through Willow’s reflective and unique perspective of her surroundings.

Spirituality in Counting by 7s: Willow’s journey into becoming comfortable with herself, a girl without parents, is one spiritual aspect of the story. I was particularly interested in the way the author revealed Willow’s spirituality though her gardening. The people Willow encounters affect her spiritual identity, and with them she develops community. The way Willow’s community support and love her represents a part of the story I fell in love with—as a reader I was cheering for Willow and the search for her to discover a place in a community that would value her. Her discovery of these people and  of a purpose really made this a strong book for me.

Who Should Read This Book: This middle grade novel is similar to ones by Kate DiCamillo in that I think it’s a story almost any age would enjoy. Whether you’re twelve or twenty, I think you can appreciate this story and Willow’s journey as she navigates a world without family. Readers may discover some aspects of Willow’s journey to relate to—we are all searching for belonging and identity in some way, and this journey doesn’t stop at a certain age, though it may become easier.

Using this book with young readers? After reading the book, you could give your readers the opportunity to either journal in response to a question such as: What is one thing in your life that makes you feel like you belong?” or draw a picture about something in the book they liked. Arts-based response would be fabulous with this book. Either way, there is a lot of potential for curriculum with upper elementary students, or any age for that matter. Discussion is a must for any activity that you use with your young readers.

The Final Word: The book is refreshing in the way it’s not predictable and features some surprising turns. That’s one of the reasons why I give this book such a high rating. I leave you with a quote from the book that relates well to that notion:

“What we expect rarely occurs; what we don’t expect is what happens.”

This 2013 story is not to be missed, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the book, in spite of my worries about it being too sad initially. Don’t be put off by the potentially tragic premise—Sloan’s novel is brilliant!