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)

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Wish there was an ocean off my patio! (photo by Barry Winiker)
Where I live in Southern California, it's been in the mid-to-high 90's the past few days - the perfect excuse to lounge around with a good book and a glass of iced tea.  After spending so much time exploring the world of children's books, I try leave time for some grown-up reading.  And a friend recommended a gem (thanks, Monika!)...

Evelina Publisher: Oxford University Press, USAFrances Burney's EVELINA, OR, THE HISTORY OF A YOUNG LADY'S ENTRANCE INTO THE WORLD, was the chick-lit novel of 1778 and I'm loving it in 2011!  "Fanny" Burney was a predecessor and influence of Jane Austen, and was described by Virginia Woolf as "the Mother of English Fiction".

EVELINA, Burney's first novel, was penned in secret and published anonymously, since women writers in the eighteenth century risked disapproval for displaying a worldly understanding of things that might be considered inappropriate for a well-bred young ladies.  (Unless she wrote out of financial need, a woman's literary endeavors were usually viewed as merely frivolous labor and a blight upon her character.)
Written as a series of letters, EVELINA follows the experiences of this naive heroine during her stay in London, as she communicates back and forth with Mr. Villars, a kind country clergyman who has been her guardian since the death of her mother (and rejection of her father). Having been raised in rural seclusion and sheltered from the ways of society until the age of seventeen, Evelina is now reluctantly allowed by Mr. Villars to travel to London, where she is introduced to society by Mr. Villar's trusted friends, Captain and Mrs. Mirvan and their daughter (who is Evelina's age). But while in London, her sensibilities are attacked and questioned by her vulgar grandmother - who has suddenly found interest in meeting her - and her pretentious and ill-bred cousins. After many adventures, her poise and beauty (despite her innocent and often humorous faux pas) earn her the attention of a distinguished nobleman, Lord Orville.  And finally, pained by the fact that she has no "name" in the eyes of society because of her father's disownment, she finds herself in a search for her lone parent, Lord Belmont.

Frances Burney's novel was an instant success, praised not only for its moral tone, but for its unique narrative and lively dialogue. Part of the charm of EVELINA is that it exposes and satirizes the social mores of the very society in which it is set.  I'm enjoying every bit of it and have found myself not wanting to put it down!

Are you engrossed in a good book? Please leave a comment and let me know what you're reading (or are planning to read) this summer. You can read my post from last year, listing good "Summer Reading Choices for Adults", HERE.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and RedemptionUNBROKEN: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand.  This book was no small undertaking - it took seven years of research and interviews by the competent author of another book about a forgotten hero, Seabiscuit.  

UNBROKEN is true story of Louie Zamperini, a juvenile delinquent-turned-Olympic runner-turned Army hero.  His plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean during a routine search mission.  Over the next three years of his life he not only survived the horrors and degradations of life in a Japanese POW camp, but somehow maintained his selfhood and humanity in the process.

From the author:
"Eight years ago, an old man told me a story that took my breath away. His name was Louie Zamperini, and from the day I first spoke to him, his almost incomprehensibly dramatic life was my obsession.

It was a horse--the subject of my first book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend--who led me to Louie. As I researched the Depression-era racehorse, I kept coming across stories about Louie, a 1930s track star who endured an amazing odyssey in World War II. I knew only a little about him then, but I couldn’t shake him from my mind. After I finished Seabiscuit, I tracked Louie down, called him and asked about his life. For the next hour, he had me transfixed.

Growing up in California in the 1920s, Louie was a hellraiser, stealing everything edible that he could carry, staging elaborate pranks, getting in fistfights, and bedeviling the local police. But as a teenager, he emerged as one of the greatest runners America had ever seen, competing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he put on a sensational performance, crossed paths with Hitler, and stole a German flag right off the Reich Chancellery. He was preparing for the 1940 Olympics, and closing in on the fabled four-minute mile, when World War II began. Louie joined the Army Air Corps, becoming a bombardier. Stationed on Oahu, he survived harrowing combat, including an epic air battle that ended when his plane crash-landed, some six hundred holes in its fuselage and half the crew seriously wounded.

On a May afternoon in 1943, Louie took off on a search mission for a lost plane. Somewhere over the Pacific, the engines on his bomber failed. The plane plummeted into the sea, leaving Louie and two other men stranded on a tiny raft. Drifting for weeks and thousands of miles, they endured starvation and desperate thirst, sharks that leapt aboard the raft, trying to drag them off, a machine-gun attack from a Japanese bomber, and a typhoon with waves some forty feet high. At last, they spotted an island. As they rowed toward it, unbeknownst to them, a Japanese military boat was lurking nearby. Louie’s journey had only just begun.

That first conversation with Louie was a pivot point in my life. Fascinated by his experiences, and the mystery of how a man could overcome so much, I began a seven-year journey through his story. I found it in diaries, letters and unpublished memoirs; in the memories of his family and friends, fellow Olympians, former American airmen and Japanese veterans; in forgotten papers in archives as far-flung as Oslo and Canberra. Along the way, there were staggering surprises, and Louie’s unlikely, inspiring story came alive for me. It is a tale of daring, defiance, persistence, ingenuity, and the ferocious will of a man who refused to be broken.

The culmination of my journey is my new book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. I hope you are as spellbound by Louie’s life as I am." - Laura Hillenbrand


  1. Is that REALLY a photo of you? So beautiful. I love that hammock. Have you read all the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency books? I have an anxiously await another book from Alexander McCall Smith. I also really loved "The Help." AND the teen series "Hunger Games" (I read those last summer)!

  2. Martha - Haha, no (it could be my patio, but I don't live on the ocean and I'm not good at photoshop! This photo was taken in the Cayman Islands - I found it when I googled images of "reading books in a hammock"!!! The girl actually could be my sister though. Looks just like her!)
    I like your picks - did you know THE HELP is coming out in theaters this summer? Haven't read all the No.1 Ladies, just a couple...I'll have to look up "Hunger Games".

  3. You're welcome! I am so glad you are enjoying it! In the class I read Evelina in we had started with the first novels such as Roxana and Pamela and worked our way through the development of the novel all the way to Evelina and finally Pride and Prejudice! It was such a fun way to read those books!
    Sadly I haven't been engrossed in a page turner this summer. Frankenstein is next on my list (I'm reading a lot of gothic right now) and I saw you recommended it so I am so excited to read it for the first time :o)

  4. Monika,
    I think you will really enjoy Frankenstein. There's another book I've heard of, but not checked into yet, about Mary Shelley - it's ANGELMONSTER, I think.