Children’s Book Week!: The Phantom Tollbooth

Children’s books are a wealth of knowledge that lasts with us far beyond our initial reading. One of my absolute favorite books as a child was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I still have the copy my father gave me for Easter in 1997 (I think!) I was 10 years old, and I fell head over heels for that crazy world. As an adult, I still manage to turn back to it for a bit of wisdom.

If you’ve never read The Phantom Tollbooth, pop over to your local library and pick it up today. You won’t regret it in the least! The essential premise of the story is a young boy named Milo, who is always bored with life, comes home to find a mysterious tollbooth in his bedroom. He hops into his toy car and drives through to a world where letters grow on trees, numbers are mined, and the Princesses of Pure Rhyme and Sweet Reason have been banished to the Castle in the Air (cue scary music!) by their warring brothers King Azaz and the Mathmagician. Milo with his friends Tock–the watchdog who ticks and the Humbug head off to rescue the princesses. Crazy adventures ensue filled with clever wordplay and a million life lessons.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“Expect everything, I always say, and the unexpected never happens.”

“You must never feel badly about making mistakes … as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”

“…many places you would like to see are just off the map and many things you want to know are just out of sight or a little beyond your reach. But someday you’ll reach them all, for what you learn today, for no reason at all, will help you discover all the wonderful secrets of tomorrow.”

“Just because you have a choice, it doesn’t mean that any of them ‘has’ to be right.”

Happy reading!

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Children’s Book Week!

May is here! And along with the delightful mixture of fresh flowers and petrichor, May brings one of my favorite literary celebrations–the celebration of Children’s Literature!

When did you fall in love with reading? Chances are if you are anything like me it was a very young age. I have vivid memories of going to the library with my mother and listening as she read me my favorite stories. (She was a genius and also recorded said stories so that I could listen to them over and over again as many times as I wished!)

I remember my father, who was a submariner, leaving me a book that he’d loved as a child  whenever he went off to sea. I voraciously devoured Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and my absolute favorite The Phantom Tollbooth anxious to share in the things my father loved.

I remember most vividly that beautiful evening when my mother let me accompany her to the house of a friend who happend to work in a bookstore. Knowing my love of books she gave me a copy of one she’d recently read and adored. It was the story of a boy wizard, and she thought I enjoy it.

Fastforward nineteen years later, and here I sit writing to you as a 30 year old woman finishing her masters in library science with a dream of working with children and young adults to share that love with the world.

Stay tuned because this week I’ll be writing about things that I love in the world of Children’s Books!

So what about you? Care to share your favorite children’s books with me?

 

Love Letter to a Book: The Bear and the Nightingale

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‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’

Have you ever read a book that you enjoyed so much that in attempting to describe it you threw out were generic phrases that never seemed to be enough?

“It’s absolutely brilliant, I swear!”

“This is one of the best books I’ve ever read!”

“It’s just….SO GOOD!!! AH! READ IT!”

In truth, this doesn’t happen to me often. I read a lot of books that I really enjoy. Those books that I know I will revisit a million times over simply for the sake of living in the world again. Being around those characters that became like a second family to me whilst lost among the pages that brought them to life. I in no way want to downplay the beauty of those books.

Sometimes, however, I read a book that leaves me speechless. I close the final page and simply sit in stunned awe. For me, The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is the latest to inflict me with a love beyond explanation.

Set in in medieval Russia, The Bear and the Nightingale tells the story of a young girl named Vasya who has the ability to see the spirits that guard her people. When a priest arrives attempting to nullify their pagan leanings for the sake of the church, Vasya essentially defies everyone to keep them safe.

This story is that perfect mix of history and fairytale that keeps my heart yearning for more! Vasya is wild and strong both physically and mentally, and manages to constantly retain her youthful spirit. I found myself constantly cheering for her, yearning for her to be able to break free of the chains placed upon her because of her sex.

“All my life,” she said, “I have been told ‘go’ and ‘come.’ I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me.”

I remember quite clearly the moment that I finished this book. I was sitting on my boyfriend’s bed in Colorado while he sat working on his computer. I held the book to my chest and closed my eyes. I sat in silence trying to take it all in. Kyle disrupted my revery, “Are you okay?” he asked quietly. I opened my eyes and turned to him and immediately burst into tears. He looked at me shocked (and then proceeded to laugh because he’s never seen my reaction to the ending of a book!) I tried to explain why I was crying, but that only made me cry even more.

That was in December. It is now April, and I have only just gained the words to talk about why I loved this book!

 

If you decide to read it, or if you’ve already done so, let me know so we can chat about it!

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrick Backman

“You were never easy, darling difficult sulky you, never diplomatic. You might even have been easy to dislike at times. But no one, absolutely no one, would dare tell me you were hard to love.”

During the summer of 2010, my beautiful grandmother died of dementia. I was out of the country at the time, and could not make it home for the funeral. My memories of her are filled with happy times, but there is also the darkness that covered her last years. I watched as she slowly disappeared; transforming from the vibrant woman of my youth into a depressed, lonely woman in a nursing home. Losing her both broke my heart, but also gave me peace because I could see how painful life had become for her. If I close my eyes, I can still see her smile and hear her beautiful voice telling me she loves me and that is what matters most.

This book. It does the same thing. Backman creates an almost sweet story from a heartbreaking topic. He reminds us both of the pain and the joy of loss. The relationships between Grandpa, Noah, and Ted made me want to laugh and cry. The moments that Grandpa lost himself in the memory of grandma left my heart wanting more. Imagine what it would be like to no longer remember the person you love. It is a pain that no one can describe or understand, and yet somehow Backman allows us to feel some semblance of empathy for Grandpa’s plight.

Short, but dense. This book left my heart a bit better than before I read it.

Booksmithies Recommend

What is the best gift you can take away from a year of working at a bookstore?

Book recommendations, obviously!

In the month before my departure from Boston I presented my fellow booksellers with a challenge:

  1. Pick a book that you love, and that you think I should read
  2. Write an inscription inside of said book
  3. Stay tuned for my thoughts!

I knew from the start that this would be a difficult task for most. When you have a deep love for books, it is nearly impossible to choose just one, BUT this beautiful family of mine rose triumphantly to the challenge before them. Below is the assortment of books that sit rather proudly on my “Boston Recommends” bookshelf.

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Throughout this year (and well, until I finish them all) I will be writing my thoughts on each. You can follow the reviews with the tag #booksmithiesrecommend, and if you’d like to purchase any of these books, click on the links which

In no particular order the books are:

  1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon recommended by Amanda (This one I’ve already read, but I very much intend to re-read it and send my love!)
  2. Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty recommended by Katie
  3. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides recommended by Jess
  4. These Dreams of You by Steve Erikson recommended by Dan
  5. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray recommended by Paul
  6. Fables: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham, Lan Medina, Steve Leialoha, and Craig Hamilton  recommended by Travis
  7. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson recommended by Liz
  8. The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra by Thict Naht Hanh recommended by Gwen
  9. A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit recommended by Shuchi
  10. And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrick Backman recommended by Joell
  11. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken recommended by Alex
  12. Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will by Judith Schalansky recommended by Lydia

Not pictured:

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I highly recommend that you ask your friends to do the same. These recommendations make me feel so close to my friends despite being nearly an entire country apart, and no matter where I go in life, I will have these books and so a constant tether to them.

Happy reading!

2016 in Review!

2016 was a strange reading year for me. Between getting into my core classes in my masters to working in a bookstore, I found little time for writing and a surprising amount of variety in my usual reading choices. I started the year optimistic that I would complete a rather specific reading challenge, and by the end of it realized that while I believe it was one of my most satisfying years as a reader, it was certainly my least well-tracked.

Without further ado, Reader, I will now share a few of my favorite books from 2016! Continue reading

What’s in my suitcase?

Every time I take a trip, I find that my suitcase is overly full of books–I will forsake extra clothes, and gladly repeat the same shoes for the entirety of my trip if it means that I can add more books to my bag. I never want to be the person who is stuck without something exciting to read, and so I tend to overcompensate. (I am trying to get better about this!) As I type this blog post, I am in the process of making a list of things to take with me on a month-long journey across the pond to study British libraries in England and Scotland! In an attempt to minimize my luggage, I am only taking four books outside of the ones that I need for my classes. My current plan is to bring one book that I have never read which will be something to lose myself in at night when my mind is racing from the excitements of the day. The other three must be something that I have known and love that warm my heart in some way, and that I can hopefully gift to friends I meet along my journey! (Because I will undoubtedly buy MORE books while I’m there, and what better way to commemorate new friendships than with books?)

Here are the books that made the final cut!

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

I absolutely adore fairy tale retellings, and somehow this one evaded my grasp! After listening to Clarissa gush about it for the past few months I decided to give it a shot, and it was an excellent choice! I’m only halfway through it because I’ve had to devote my reading time to the world of Academia, but I find myself thinking of it often when not actively reading it. This, to me, is the mark of a great book to travel with!

Great Mouse Detective: Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus

Sherlock Holmes as a mouse! I’ll primarily be living in London during my journey, and while I already know there aren’t any visible mouse holes at 221B Baker Street (though I wasn’t able to visit the cellar upon my last visit so who knows!) I’d feel rather incomplete making the journey without this childhood favorite! Alex and I literally squeaked with delight when it appeared on our shelves! The adventures of Basil and Dawson are as legendary to my younger heart as those of Sherlock and Watson are to me now!

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

A story in which the reading aloud of a book can bring the characters into our world while simultaneously taking someone else into its own inky depths? Sign me up! What better story could accompany a future librarian on her journey? I haven’t visited this world in ages, but it is one of those books that strengthened my love of reading, propelling me onto my current life path. Amy’s rec says it all, this is “a book for people who love books.”

My Mama Says There Aren’t Any Zombies, Ghosts, Vampires, Creatures, Demons, Monsters, Fiends, Goblins or Things by Judith Viorst

Pure nostalgia here. I adored this story as a child. My copy–though still somehow in tact!–is rather worn and battered. My mother read me many stories as a child, and this is one that left a strangely permanent mark on my heart. Bringing it with me is like bringing her with me as well!

So there you have it. A rather concise list that should keep me entertained without going over the weight limit for my suitcase leaving room for me to bring as many books back home with me as I am able!

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*This post was also published on the Brookline Booksmith blog.