Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I'm stepping out of the world of children's literature today to share a few favorites from my own bookshelf (in case any of you grown-ups need some summer reading ideas!) And please share yours with me - I'm always looking for a good book!

HISTORICAL FICTION--Gillian Bradshaw has written several novels that utilize fictional characters to illuminate historical figures - in my two favorites, the protagonists are women:

THE BEACON AT ALEXANDRIA - St. Athanasius has a "bit part" in this story about Charis, a 4th Century young woman who, after being forbidden to become a doctor, disguises herself as a eunuch and flees to Alexandria.
IMPERIAL PURPLE - The twists and turns of the plot in this story surround Demetrius, a Byzantine era state slave in Tyre, who is secretly ordered to weave a cloak of royal purple as part of a scheme to overthrow Emporor Theodosius II. She and her husband are drawn into the treacherous plot and end up in Constantinople themselves.

KRISTIN LAVRENSDATTER: The Bridal Wreath; The Mistress of Husaby; The Cross by Sigrid Undset. This historical epic trilogy, set in 14th Century Norway, chronicles the life of a passionate and headstrong woman from her youth to her death. Kristin's joys and trials in the different seasons of her life are universal. Intelligent, but impetuous, she stuggles through her teen years, makes choices (some are bad ones), and lives with the consequences of her choices. Undset's writing is very descriptive and emotional and her characters are very real, with a balance between character action and contemplation. It is a study of human nature that will hold your attention, despite it's length.

THE FRIENDLY PERSUASON by Jessamyn West. I started this book mainly because the author once lived very close to my house! (There is now a park there in her name.) It's a collection of short stories, very light-hearted, about a Quaker family, headed up by Jess Birdwell (a rather free-spirited Quaker) and his wife, Eliza Birdwell (a Quaker clergywoman!), set in Civil War-era Indiana. Humorous and sweet!

THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett. Set in Jackson, MS, during the early years of the civil rights movement, "The Help" refers to the black maids who worked for the white women and basically raised their children for them. The Washington Post says, "In a page-turner that brings new resonance to the moral issues involved, Ms. Stockett spins a story of social awakening as seen from both sides of the American racial divide." Great characters and story - I literally couldn't put this book down!

84 CHARING CROSS ROAD by Helene Hanff. Hanff's simple wit really sets her writing apart for me...this is a collection of 20 years of correspondence between the author (an outspoken writer, living in New York) and a London bookseller and the friendship that develops between them. Their letters are written between 1949 and 1969 and though they never meet, Helene and Frank become pen pals and not only exchange book orders, but news of their lives and families. Poignant ending that is bitter-sweet - this is a quick read and a beautiful story.
Other favorites by the same author: UNDERFOOT IN SHOW BUSINESS (Hanff's first book, published in 1961, is the humorous account of her unpredictable struggles to make it as a playwright in the world of showbusiness in New York.); Q'S LEGACY (an autobiography of how she came to be a writer in the first place: she searched for books on English Literature, starting with "A", and found nothing readable. There was only one "Q", ON THE ART OF WRITING, by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch...she ends up losing it, looks up "Out of Print Books" and discovers the bookstore in London, located on 84 Charing Cross Road!); DUCHESS OF BLOOMSBURY STREET (the sequel to 84 C.C.Road); APPLE OF MY EYE (a celebration of the author's lifelong love of New York City - almost a walking tourist's guide).

LORD PETER: THE COMPLETE LORD PETER WIMSEY STORIES by Dorothy Sayers. I started with this colletion of shorter mysteries and then moved on to the longer novels with "love interest", Harriet Vane: STRONG POISON; HAVE HIS CARCASE; GAUDY NIGHT; BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON; THRONES, DOMINATIONS. If you ever read and enjoyed any Agatha Christie mysteries, you'll love Dorothy Sayers' stories of this 1920's London gentleman detective even more!

Summer is a great time to catch up on the Classics that you never read (or want to re-read) by Dickens, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Tolstoy...


  1. Wendy-I read "The Help" a few months ago when it first came out, and LOVED it. I was moved in so many ways, especially since I have childhood memories from that era, and since my family is all from the south, I saw a little of it first hand. I love your blog, by the way, even if I am not in the same place that you are! Keep up the great work-love you-Meliisa

  2. Thanks for posting this Wendy. I will have to put in a plug for our church book club's favorite author. Her name is Elizabeth Goudge. She lived in England and wrote in the 40's and 50's primarily. Although most are out of print, you can get them on the internet as used books and our library system has a good many of them. We have have read quite a number of them as a group and love them all. Another favorite of mine are the novels by Wendell Berry. And my current favorite novels are The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and The Last Aloha, about the last queen monarch of Hawaii before America took over. (Can you tell I like to read??!!)

  3. Yes, Corinne! And those sound like great suggestions! I'm not familiar with any of those authors, so I think I have lots to look forward to!!! Thanks for the suggestions!

  4. Good call on Kristin Lavransdatter!

  5. Wendy.... I highly recommend anything by RICHARD PAUL EVANS. I just recently finished The Walk, his newest book that will be part of series. When I recommend him to other people, I describe him as a "cleaner" Nicolas Sparks as his characters do not sleep with each other before they are married. I particularly liked The Last Promise which was set in Italy, and even though this author is Mormon, he recognizes all kinds of Christian faiths in his books, and in this particular one the female main character is Roman Catholic and she stands by her beliefs even in the midst of temptation. The first book I read was The Sunflower and I couldn't finish it fast enough. The books are entertaining yet give a message of hope, keeping with your faith in God, and recognizing temptations or making mistakes but learning from them. Your mom has read a book by him that I recommended but I cannot remember which one. She said she liked it. I can hardly wait to read another. I liked his books so much that I went on a read a thon and read about 8 books of his in a row.. I still have a few more to pick up! I really really like his books and highly recommend them.

  6. umm... should have identified myself.... RICHARD PAUL EVANS - recommended by your Alaskan sister in law, Jen!

  7. Thanks for the great blog Wendy. I love the kids' books recommendations for the grandkids and the new book list for adults! I also read The Help and loved it. Couldn't put it down. Wish I had more time for reading. Now I have an even longer list of books I want to read!