How Could I Have Forgotten the Forgotten Door?

Vintage reads

What if people were always kind, not selfish? What if they were generous, never greedy? What if animals could sense the goodness in those people? Having no fear, they would approach the humans and enjoy their company. Even better, what if the animals and the people could communicate by signaling and receiving each other’s thoughts? All these what-ifs are the basis of the children’s science fiction novel, The Forgotten Door.

Forgotten Door

Written by Alexander Key and published in 1965, the United States and the Soviet Union stood nose to nose in the Cold War while every other nation held its collective breath waiting to see if we teetered into a full-fledged World War III. Man’s inhumanity to man had become all too obvious after two global wars in less than thirty years. Key uses this as background undergirding the immediate setting.

The Forgotten Door. I remember the title. I’m sure I read it at a young age, so it must have been shortly after its debut. Pieces of memory flash excitement; this was a good book. And my only other association with the familiar title was a sense of wistfulness…if only…

So I reread all 140 pages of it last week. How could I have forgotten The Forgotten Door? A boy who is stargazing in his world takes a step back, falls through a hidden door long forgotten by his people, and lands in our world.

starry night-sky-1469156_640Suffering from bruises and a concussion, Jon finds himself on a mountainside on Earth. A doe and her fawn lead him to a nearby road. He doesn’t understand the ugly attitudes in most of the humans he meets. His intelligence is light years above ours. He hears people’s thoughts and can communicate with animals. With help from one kind family and a ferocious dog, he tries to figure out how to get home. Except, as events progress, the family will need his help in order to survive. The story is filled with what-ifs, conflicts, and a happy ending—everything any fiction reader would desire.

Perhaps best known for Escape to Witch Mountain, Alexander Key (1904-1979) touches the core of the human heart. Most of Key’s books follow a similar format: the world may be evil, but there are good people who will help those in need. The grandson of a Methodist minister, Alexander Key apparently did not have a Christian faith. Others who write about him believe he was part of the Freethinker movement, a philosophy based on human reason and kindness. Yet he hints at a world created by intelligent design.

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Since I’m a devout Christian, why would I recommend a book written by a freethinker? Because of Romans 1:20. All humans recognize good and evil. God put that knowledge in them whether they acknowledge Him or not. The Forgotten Door and Key’s other books show the triumph of good over evil, which is enough of a start for me to share an excellent story with my grandchildren.

Now, I’m on the hunt for the rest of Key’s children’s novels still in print. Are any one of them your favorites?

Teen’s Book Sells Millions

bestseller

 

The teenager from the title above took two years to write her book. Since publication, it has sold over thirty million copies in seventy or more languages. Yet she never saw a penny of the profits.

How unfair! Who robbed her of what she justly earned? Unscrupulous agents? Greedy relatives? Crony capitalists?

She was robbed, all right, but not by any of the above. No one stole her money. Instead, she was robbed of life. She never lived to see its publication.

The author’s name? Anne Frank. If you never heard of her before, it’s time to be educated.

Anne Frank

Anne was a Jewish girl living in Holland. Her parents had already fled Nazi Germany a few years earlier, but once Hitler invaded the Netherlands, the family had nowhere left to go. They created a hiding place in a warehouse and relied on the help of trusted Christian friends.

Anne had received a diary for her thirteenth birthday in June of 1942. Like any other teen diary, she filled it with all the innocence and joy of a well-loved child, and she eventually shared the normal teen angst of young love and the struggle to gain independence as an adolescent.

But time was marching every Jew in Europe toward annihilation. The shadow of the Gestapo attacked Anne’s happy-go-lucky view of life. While she maintained a clownish exterior, on the inside, Anne became a deep thinker. She began to record her thoughts on a world at war, on life, on humanity. For the next two years, she grew into a serious young woman, determined to hold onto joy.

On August 4, 1944, Holland’s secret police force, deputized by the Nazis, hauled away Anne, her family, and all those known to have helped them. After ransacking the apartment, the thugs left her diary on the floor as part of the debris. Friends found it and kept it.

diary of a young girl

Her father was the only one to survive the Holocaust. Anne, her mother, and sister perished in the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen.

When Otto Frank read the diary, he agreed the world needed to know Anne’s story and her unsinkable, victorious spirit.

Other autobiographies have been written covering the atrocities of World War II. What makes the Diary of Anne Frank so special?

I think there are three reasons.

  1. Anne Frank really was an excellent writer. Who knows what novels or essays she might have written if she had been allowed to mature to adulthood? The words on the pages of her diary provide us with accurate and heartrending pictures of what she and the others went through living in the Secret Annexe.
  2. She wrote it in the “now.” Diary of Anne Frank really is a diary; it’s not a memoir. She recorded what happened on the very day the events occurred, or at least within the week.
  3. In spite of everything, Anne believed in the “good of man.” Her statement smacks of secular humanism, but having read the book several times, I believe she could see God’s image in man. Every person has the potential of God’s goodness in them. Her worldview strikes a chord in all of us. We want it to be so. We want Anne’s courage and optimism.

Jesus has overcome the world

Tomorrow, as we celebrate Christ’s victory over sin, may we be able to praise Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. This world still holds the evil that created the Holocaust. We are in the throes of a renewed holocaust as we hear of atrocities in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Sudan, Nigeria, and a host of other nations hostile to anything but their own creed.

But be of good cheer. Jesus has overcome the world.

 

Is This Your Child?

My heart was heavy when I saw this video. I really identified with its message. Have a look…

I was born and raised on a farm loving the outdoors and playing non-stop with my horses, cats, dogs, and friends on our property. I wasn’t into sports as much as our kids, but still preferred to be outside rather than inside, and invented very simple games to occupy my time.

But today, to be completely honest, I do enjoy my time in front of my screen, with FB, emails, or whatever. I can certainly see the draw of watching youtube videos and movies, but can’t say that games are much of a temptation.

Our kids’ generation’s screen habits started gradually, but have burst into their lives with video games and phones. We tried to limit our sons’ time on the computer when they were young and they didn’t own phones. And it worked most of the time. But when they went over to friend’s houses, how could we control that? Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but kids are almost considered weird if they don’t have phones. (I won’t go into that personal pet peeve)

I feel that this draw also takes them away from reading, and as a writer, I wonder how we can recapture their hearts and time. We as parents can try as much as we can while our kids are at home, but what happens when they leave? I am trying to picture how these kids who are hooked on games etc. will bring up their own kids. I have confidence that there will always be kids in sports etc. and I am encouraged by commercials on tv. about trying to get our kids off screens. And I know that many kids are able to moderate their time on screens. But there is much that we can’t identify with as adults who weren’t raised with these temptations. There is the world of difference between how we spent our time as kids, and how our kids spend their time.

Can I safely say that if I was raised today, I wouldn’t be hooked on screens too? I can’t, in all honesty.  I doubt it, but I will never know.

As a blog writer, I feel that I should have some answers, but all I can do is present the very complicated problem, and offer what we did as parents. I’m very interested to hear what your thoughts are on this!!

Never Too Crazy to Read

The past four months have been the craziest of my life.

Take one couple’s residential pack-up and a move nearly 500 miles spanning three states, traveling in a small sedan with four dogs weighing a total of 130 lbs., and you have the setup.

movingboxes

Image courtesy of Morguefile free photos

Yet, mentally and physically exhausted at night, I continued my habit of reading a novel for at least a half-hour or more before falling asleep. Fiction took me by the hand and led me into worlds far removed from the stress of boxes crowding every room, dozens of accounts requiring changes, and last-minute veterinarian and doctor visits. Each fictional world–even an unfamiliar one–felt more normal than the real one I lived in and gave me a short period of peace and relaxation.

I’ve always loved books, but their priority struck me when I made a note (on one of many lists) to be sure to include my Kindle in the car with essential personal items in case the moving van arrived late at the new house. It was critical that I immediately have something good to read.

When I hear someone say life’s too crazy and there’s no time to read, I smile a gentle little smile and hope one day that person will discover the truth.

During which difficult times did you find solace in a book?

Less Than Perfect

My seven-year-old and I love Monster High. And one of it’s big themes is flaunting your “freaky flaws”. Of course, they’re all monsters, so it’s having things like green skin, snake hair, scales, fur, or fangs. In real life, I like my characters to be less-than-perfect too.

Right now, I’m a bit tired of dystopian fiction and wasn’t quite ready to pick up a new series. However, when I read a review of Rachelle Dekker’s The Choosing, I picked it because one of the main characters stutters. Now that I’m into the book there appears to be a psychological reason for this, and I’m dying to find out what it is. Please oh please don’t let this be a McGuffin. Because we all know I hate those creatures!

I am not a big reader of contemporary fiction/romance, but I decided to try Melissa Tagg’s From the Start based on the sample chapters. The heroine meets the hero while she’s in her pajamas and has traded her contacts for glasses. If I were a single woman, that would be my worst nightmare. That the heroine is nearsighted and not portrayed as a nerd like most characters who wear glasses won me over. I finished the book and want to read the entire series, because I’m now in love with the family and locale.

Two more books endeared me because of their main characters’ not-so-freaky “flaws”. I am going through the NPR 100 Best Young Adult Books list and selected Anna and the French Kiss. Oo-la-la. The heroine rocks a gap-toothed grin, and the hero has been equally untouched by an orthodontist. He’s also really short completely wrecking the YA boy hero archetype. The sequel, Lola and the Boy Next Door features another nearsighted heroine and a way-too-tall genius hero. NOTE: For those who read The Scriblerians for recommendations let me warn you that Anna and Lola are not Christian titles and contain a certain amount of objectionable content.

The irony of this post is that I too escaped orthodontic intervention (because I didn’t need it) and managed to make it to my mid-twenties before I needed glasses. Being a teen in the 1980s and then an engineering student, I graduated from college feeling a bit like a unicorn. Seriously what middle-class kid hasn’t suffered through braces, and engineers are known for being bespectacled nerds? Granted I fit into the second category although I almost always wear contact lenses in public, and I prefer being called a GEKE.

So what book did I just pick up from the library – Uglies?

Do less than perfect characters draw you in or do you prefer heroes and heroines to be idealized?

Fascination with the Dead

No trees survived on the lot where my new house stands. They were destroyed by wildfire in 2011, long before my husband and I began searching this particular county for a place to call home.

One tree on the lot behind ours stands as a reminder of an area once thickly forested. It stands for only a little while longer, we suspect. A house is being built on that lot, and we know that when the yard is landscaped, that dead tree will be a goner.

The Tree

It is beautiful, I think. Naked, though dignified and graceful, while all the trees nearby sport new growth. I expressed my sorrow to my husband over losing it from our view, even though safety requires that it not stay.

Is it strange that I’m interested in something after it is dead or destroyed?

I study the forms of dried flowers and seed pods. Of skeletons, both human and animal. I’m fascinated by the finds from sites of ancient civilizations. I read about dead artists, celebrities, and politicians.

Maybe I truly appreciate and understand the composition of a living thing or a thriving system after its life is over.

Have you read either fiction or nonfiction that focused on the state of death or dying or perhaps a decaying civilization? Were you particularly fascinated by what you read?

The Aesthetics of Genre: Horror

deep-sea-anglerfishWhen it comes to the genre of horror, many Christians have pronounced it ugly, sinful, nasty, and won’t give it the time of day. Others may enjoy the adrenalin rush of a good scare from the safe distance of a book or theater seat, but may not admit it to their church friends. Then there are individuals, like myself, that find the genre of horror useful.

 

I like to read things that make me better, challenge me in someway. Good horror, like good science fiction and fantasy, will do that for me.  That’s not to say that contemporary fiction or YA fiction doesn’t do that either, but good horror has a very special way of challenging a reader on deeper topics. Before you chastise me for not mentioning the Bible, remember that you will find all the known genres, including horror, in that Book of books.

People seldom equate being frightened as useful.Like I pointed out in my last blog entry, being afraid of the right things can be helpful. To me, good horror isn’t about inciting blind fear or terrifying an audience. There is horror like that, and I almost never waste my time on that. Good horror it’s about challenging fear in the right way. This is where aesthetics come in. All genres have aesthetics (linked to definition above), it is what happens when an author’s story collides with a readers expectations, imagination, and world view. These are a few that a great horror story will touch on for me.

  • What is beauty?
  • What makes something beautiful?
  • What is good?
  • What makes something bad?
  • What is evil?
  • What makes something or someone evil?
  • If something looks beautiful, is it automatically good?
  • Can God redeem Evil?
  • Should God redeem Evil?
  • Should those given to Evil be redeemed?
  • If something is ugly to me does that make me the monster?
  • What happens when a human tries to play God (you know mad scientists)?
  • What does it mean to be human?

As frightening as a horror story may appear on first blush, it is my response to it that always interests me. Some of the most frightening stores to me portray Evil as banal or everyday. A good example of this is the bureaucracy of Hell in Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.

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There are several things I find useful in good horror, and it isn’t blood and gore or the fact that a story may give me nightmares for months. In fact, the shock and gore horror is something I rarely care for, much like jump scare scenes in movies. Such tactics are nothing more than a trick at your audience’s expense, tricking an audience is inexcusable.

cartoon-angry-monster-face_fkTFzKhd

All fiction has the ability to challenge and inform. What makes horror so different is it’s ability to challenge specifically the things we fear. When done right, even cause us to evaluate those fears and perhaps strengthen our humanity. For your viewing pleasure, here is a good example of something from a sub-genre of horror. Something that actually hits a little closer to home and current events. The type of horror I find useful (It’s in two parts).

 

 

Would you classify these videos as horror? Why or why not?

 

The next post I do is on the topic of sub-genres of Horror. You might be surprised as to what you find in them.