News Flash!

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For all our wonderful and loyal followers, we have a News Flash for you!

The Scriblerians have opened up a new site!

http://www.scriblerians.com   (click on book reviews to subscribe)

We will still post here, but we are hoping you will check out our brand new idea for the literary world. Here is a description of who we are and what we will be providing.

About the Scriblerians

The Scriblerians is a group of nine authors and critique partners who write for student readers. We agree that our target audience is not the students, per se, but their parents, teachers, and librarians. We want to nurture relationships with those adults who make book-purchasing decisions for their student readers by providing an essential service to them.

We want to provide reviews for books, especially those written for the Middle Grade and Young Adult markets, evaluating both content and literary quality.

This will help us recommend engaging, well-written books and offer discussion questions for popular books that may include questionable content for a Christian-worldview reader.

 

Here is an excerpt from of a critique done by Loraine Kemp.

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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is a bittersweet teen fiction about a boy struggling to come to terms with his mother’s serious illness.

Synopsis:

Connor, a twelve-year-old-boy, is faced with unbelievable stress – a dying mother, a father who has split from the family, a recurrent nightmare, a domineering grandmother, and bullies at school. Then, a monster visits. But this monster, which Connor initially believes is just a dream, insists that Connor “called” him. Between dealing with the above problems, Connor must listen to the monster’s stories that force him to confront his anger, confusion, and frustrations. And at the end of the monster’s three tales, Connor is forced to reciprocate by describing his nightmare – a story of truth, and the root of his depression and anxiety.

 

For the rest of the post including pros, cons, and general impression, hop over to our site http://www.scriblerians.com

Again, to subscribe, click book reviews and plunk away. We would love to see you there!

 

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Incredible Journey

Vintage reads

Who remembers the movie, Homeward Bound, subtitled, The Incredible Journey? Yes, an entire auditorium of raised hands fills my vision.

homeward-bound_dvd_cover

Now. Who remembers the book titled, The Incredible Journey? Hmmm. A few uplifted hands spike from the audience like corn volunteers in a soybean field. (Can you tell I live in the Midwest?)

Yes, boys and girls, The Incredible Journey was a book long before Sally Field and Michael J. Fox lent their voices to a foolish dog and a sassy cat. Don’t think I’m criticizing Homeward Bound. The producers and director made sure the heart of the story remained true to the book, and I love that movie. It’s one of the few I’m willing to watch again and again and again.

Sheila Burnford published The Incredible Journey, the novel, in 1960. Between the slightly foreign voice of a Canadian author and the acceptable writing style from over half a century ago, kids today will have a harder time appreciating the original story than they did back when I first read the book.

Wait a minute. I’m assuming you know the premise of the story. In case you don’t: because a family has a temporary living situation that doesn’t allow pets, two dogs and a cat have been boarded with a friend of theirs. Of course, the animals don’t know why they’ve been separated from their beloved owners, so they run away from the caregiver and head home.

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The book and both movies pull at the same heartstrings. Yes, both movies. Before Homeward Bound, there was another film, appropriately titled The Incredible Journey. It was completely faithful to events in the novel and narrated in much the same way as the omniscient narrator tells the story in the print version.

 

You would think children would not enjoy the older movie. It’s black and white, narrated, and has no animal voices provided, but my six-year-old granddaughter sat in front of the television, enthralled. Similar to the 1986 comedy-drama, The Adventures of Milo and Otis, children of today still get wrapped up in a story of real animals against the elements.

If you haven’t read The Incredible Journey, go for it. Insist your kids read it, or make it a family read-aloud. Like I mentioned in my September 10th post, make sure your children eat their literary vegetables.

Madeline: A Wholesome Choice in a Kid Lit Diet

 

 

Madeline

“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.”

So begins the story of Madeline, and so begins every book in the series.

Madeline lives in a convent most likely in the 1930’s. Her teacher and governess is a nun, Miss Clavel. When I was a child, I thought it was terrible that little girls had to live away from their parents. I assumed Miss Clavel was mean like Snow White’s stepmother. After all, the girls were forced to walk in two straight lines. Because Madeline was the smallest girl, I expected the others to bully her like Cinderella’s stepsisters. Obviously, I’d been reading too many fairytales! Imagine my surprise when I found out that Miss Clavel cried when Madeline had to have an emergency appendectomy, and the other eleven girls begged to visit her in the hospital!

My favorite of the six original books is Madeline and the Bad Hat. Not only is Madeline her spunky, red-headed self, she shows tremendous wisdom in differentiating right and wrong behavior. She will have nothing to do with the boy who is mean. However, once he shows he has changed his ways, she is quick to forgive and happy to be his friend. What a great choice to read aloud over and over again so kindness sinks into our children’s hearts.

Madeline’s creator, Ludwig Bemelmans (1896-1963), emigrated to the United States from Austria in 1914. My Austrian grandfather, only two years older than Bemelmans, also arrived in this country shortly before World War I began. Perhaps, that is one more reason I have an affinity for the author. Both men lived in Brooklyn; both traveled internationally. I wouldn’t be surprised if they knew each other! Unfortunately, I can’t ask them. My grandfather died in 1963 as well.

Madeline and the Cats of Rome

After Bemelmans’ death, one would assume the Madeline books were done. Enter John Bemelmans Marciano, the author’s grandson. Marciano is an artist and author in his own right. By studying his grandfather’s notes, John wrote five more Madeline tales, eventually adding his own personality to the later books, but Madeline remains the same feisty, mischievous but good child she always was.

In 2014, Marciano put down his pen and declared there would be no further Madeline stories in the foreseeable future. In the same year, he collaborated with the New York Historical Society in preparing an exhibition for the 75th anniversary of the first Madeline book. The curator of the Society, Jane Curley, stated, “We live in a throwaway society, but Madeline endures.”

I agree. Like an overabundant buffet table, our literary world is filled with addictive stories that lure us into the ultra-rich desserts of exotic fantasy worlds (and I love rich desserts!).  Readers toss away perfectly ripe apples of the last century’s bestsellers. We still need the healthy meat and potato meals of solid, simple fiction. What other healthy staples in established literature would you recommend?

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It’s Complicated

its complicated
Life is complicated. If you’re like any of the people whose posts I’ve seen on FB lately, or if you’ve lived into your teen years, you’ll already know this. But finding a good book to read doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, Laura L. Smith has tools for us to make reading her books simple!
First, you can get her book along with 6 other great YA books for the bargain price of $0.99 in the Turning Point YA boxed set.
I’m hosting a Summer Book Club where we’re reading and discussing each of the seven books on my blog. This week is It’s Complicated. I’ve already read it, and I can’t wait to discuss it. I’d love for you to join us! (And Beth Steury – if you haven’t read this one, you absolutely should. It deals with abstinence and renewed abstinence!)
Second, she has a Bible-based discussion guide for the first four chapters of the book and she’s offering it to you for FREE! Wouldn’t it be great to read the book and discuss with your teen or youth group? Love this idea, and I plan to check it out!
“To claim your free copy, fill out the contact form below.” Whoops! The form isn’t working. To claim your free copy, please leave a comment in the post below saying you would like one. Sorry!
Third, another one of her books is currently available for FREE! Skinny: She was starving to fit in… I love that this author tackles issue-driven teen fiction. Her writing is great and I have great hopes for this series. I already have the book. Snag it while it’s free by clicking on the cover.
Skinny

CLICK HERE FOR A FREE COPY

Finally, if you’re the kind of person that loves Pinterest and enjoys checking out pictures of characters as the author envisions them, here are links to the Pinterest boards for It’s Complicated.
Kat 
NOW YOU: Thoughts on book clubs, issue-driven fiction, and life complications in general. Go!

Guess What Kids Are Reading!!

2015 is shifting into gear, but while most are looking forward to what’s around the corner, I spent some time analyzing a 2014 Scholastic survey concerning kids’ reading habits.

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I skimmed over the report with mild interest, but a few points caused me to stop and reflect. While I predicted a few of their findings, some were not at all what I expected.

The part of the survey that immediately perked up my ears, being a writer, was what kids wanted in books. We spend long hours trying to predict this very thing so I fast-forwarded to this part. Little surprise that 70% of kids (more in the 14 and below age group) prefer books with humour, and less surprise that most wanted to read a mystery, or at least about a problem that needed to be solved by the main characters. Hence the popularity of Harry Potter, Captain Underpants, Diary of A Wimpy Kid and the Percy Jackson books.

Teens that were 14 and up seemed to still enjoy a laugh but appreciated books that had romance and/or helped them forget about real life for a while. Hence, the popularity of Hunger Games, Divergent and Twilight. But one of the biggest sellers was the Harry Potter series. Still! That caught me off guard. Not that they aren’t good books, but that teens still read them.

There were interesting but predictable findings about what makes frequent readers and how many books are read by different categories of readers, but what made me take another glance were the surveys concerning e-readers. From 2010 to 2014, there was a 40% increase of kids who’d read e-books. That wasn’t a big ‘ahaa moment’ for me, but what I saw next, was.

77% of kids from 6 – 17 said that most of the books they read were print books, and furthermore 65% would read print books even if e-books were available. I figured that most kids would far rather be reading on screens of some kind. Is this because kindles, and e-readers are not as available to kids that age?

I like to think that maybe I’m not as old fashioned as I thought I was. I still like to curl up and finger the pages of a book, breath in the smell of a new book, and keep them on my shelves as old friends that I like to visit every now and then.

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But take a look for yourself at the link. Tell me if there are any things that jump out at you.

http://www.scholastic.com/readingreport/

 

 

 

The Chronicles of Narnia: Which Book is Your Favorite?

Imagine you’re a teenager in Britain whose godfather is the writer extraordinaire C.S. Lewis. One day he comes to visit and presents you with his latest manuscript. Not only does he use your name as one of the main characters, he dedicates the book to you. That’s exactly what happened to Lucy Barfield in May of 1950.

I hope that by now everyone who reads The Scriblerians would already be aware of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, but in case I’m wrong, let me introduce you. The first book published in this series of seven is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Set in 1940 England as well as in the fantastical land of Narnia, the story highlights the adventures of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy when they walk into a magical wardrobe and find themselves in a different world.

 

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While the children do become heroes as they fight epic battles against evil, another hero outshines them all, beyond what any excellent king or queen of Narnia would ever hope to accomplish. Aslan, the great and terrifying Lion. (“’Course he’s not safe, but he’s good. He’s the King.”) He knows the deepest magic, and he sacrifices himself for the unworthy.

“Hmmm, 1950,” you’re thinking. “The world was more conservative then. I bet this book was accepted with open arms by the reading public. What wonderful lessons for our children!”

Think again. The literary leaders in the U.K. had already been bitten by liberal theology. Strike one: the book was fantasy, not realism. Stories of witches and make-believe worlds should only be in picture books for little children. Strike 2: using a novel to display an obvious Christian allegory was a method of brainwashing older children. Strike 3: the story was too violent. Children might be frightened.

However, Lewis and his publisher did not strike out. Children loved the book, and it sold, and it sold, and it sold.

 

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Later, in some fundamentalist circles in America, he had the opposite problem. The word, “witch,” was in the title. What kind of Christian author writes about witches? While I was teaching in a Christian school in the 1990’s, one of my students was not allowed to read the book in our literature unit.

In recent years, movies have been made that remain quite true to the novel, but if you haven’t read it yet, READ IT! Words on the page of a classic can outperform the best actors and scripts every time. And once you’ve read it, keep going.

My advice? Don’t read them in order of publication. The Magician’s Nephew has so many delicious secrets to reveal, it would be a shame to miss odd details throughout the series by reading it last! Either read them in chronological order of the characters’ adventures, which means start with The Magician’s Nephew, or do what I used to with my fifth grade classes. I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe aloud first, followed by The Magician’s Nephew. The final chapter elicited so many delighted “ahas,” the local library had a difficult time keeping Prince Caspian and the other four books on the shelves!

 

chronicles of Narnia

Short survey: which of the seven books in the Chronicles of Narnia is your favorite? My best friend loves The Last Battle. Mine is the Magician’s Nephew.

 

Hinds’ Feet on High Places

My good old 1980 edition of the New World Dictionary of the American Language defines (in my own paraphrase), “classic:” 1) being a model of its kind, 2) having a balanced, formal, and objective style, 3) well-known, 4) able to last because of its simple style.

classic little black dress courtesy of www.elleink.wordpress.com

classic little black dress courtesy of http://www.elleink.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I choose to review class books, and a few others that have not yet stood the test of time, because I don’t want these marvelous stories to fade into oblivion. We are a culture that constantly anticipates the next hot item, another shiny, new bauble. Some of the bright and attractive novels of today will become classics; most will not.

credit to privatelibrary.typepad.com

credit to privatelibrary.typepad.com

 

To start 2015, I’ve chosen to review (or introduce you to) Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. Like John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Hinds’ Feet is an allegory.

“Allegory:” a story where people, things, and events have symbolic meaning; used to teach moral principles.

Do kids even read allegory anymore? Think about it. Every novel that teaches Biblical truth in an author-created fantasy setting is a subtle form of allegory.

Hurnard and Bunyan are more direct. People’s names describe their personalities. Place names inform the reader of the problem to be solved, the obstacle to be overcome, or the conflict to be resolved.

Would I have read Hinds’ Feet as a child? I’m not sure. I wasn’t brought up with a Biblical worldview, but I’ll assure you of one thing. During the rare crises in my family, I would have read Hinds’ Feet from cover to cover.

The main character is named Much Afraid. How many teens do you know who are afraid? Of peers, of the future, of their own inadequacies. Much Afraid goes on a journey with the Shepherd.

credit to pastorwcdq.blogspot.com

credit to pastorwcdq.blogspot.com

For nineteen chapters, the Shepherd leads her on a circuitous route to the High Places. He assigns to her two companions, Sorrow and Suffering. As they travel together,  Much Afraid gains strength until she —

I don’t want to give the end away! For now, be content to know Hurnard uses wonderful parallels to portray the Christian walk and dying to self. (And for more on dying to self, check out this month’s post at www.my2ndnature.wordpress.com on taking tests over and over again.)

If you know a kid going through rough times, if you are going through a tough, terrifying season in your own life, I can’t recommend Hinds’ Feet on High Places highly enough. In fact, I believe if your walk with Christ is going smoothly right now, you can read it, enjoy it, put it down, and say “nice story.”

KEEP IT. Jesus leads all of us on a circuitous route of rugged mountains to climb, desert wastelands to cross, and raging rivers to ford. When those times come, read Hinds’ Feet again. Hannah Hurnard’s words will soothe your soul.

 

When I am afraid