Children's, Classic Fiction, Fiction, Porter-Eleanor H.

#900 Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

Pollyanna by Eleanor H. PorterPollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

Pollyanna’s mother has died and she’s going to live with her spinster aunt. Nobody can say Aunt Polly is too pleased about it, but it’s her family duty. Pollyanna arrives talking a mile a minute. It seems she never shuts up. She has this game she plays. It’s the Glad Game. She tries to find something to be glad about in every situation.

Pollyanna starts visiting people around town. At first, people are sour about her Glad Game, but some of them start catching on. They find reasons to be glad.

She even befriends the local grumpy man, who becomes so enamored with Pollyanna that he invites her to live with him. There is a romantic mystery involved as well. Aunt Polly used to love someone, but was it the grumpy man or the doctor?

Tragedy strikes and Pollyanna has trouble finding reasons to be glad, but the other people she taught to be glad, show her how to be glad again.

What I liked

There is certainly a lesson to be learned from this book. There is usually something good about everything. You could say you’re looking for the silver lining or being optimistic or being thankful. No matter what you call it, it’s finding a way to pick the good out of all situations, even the awfully, horrible ones. This can be really difficult. Sometimes, you just know– you just know, that something is going to turn out awful and there isn’t a lot to be happy about in those situations. Is trying to be happy in a situation like that better than letting the misery of it compound? I don’t know.

What I didn’t like

Pollyanna seems like the kind of kid who would tire you out after five minutes of being around her.

She reminds me of my youngest brother in that aspect. My youngest brother is autistic. When he was younger, for some reason, he had diarrhea of the mouth. We would go on long car trips to Atlanta, to go to dollar stores(not making this up, my mom loves $1 stores), and he would talk incessantly. We would ask him to be quiet, which worked for about three minutes, then it would start up again. Pollyanna reminds me of those types of situations.

What happens to Pollyanna is really sad. It’s heavy for a children’s book, but so is Leslie’s death. You’ll know what I’m talking about if you’ve read the book I referenced. I think I’m right there with Pollyanna on this one, what is there to be glad about in this situation? Are you even supposed to be glad in a situation like that? Isn’t it perfectly legitimate to feel sad sometimes? I believe Mister Rogers said it was ok to be sad sometimes, so you kind of have to take his word for it.

Overall

I’m glad that Pollyanna does not live with me.

Weigh in

Are children who talk incessantly, although not particularly misbehaved, difficult to deal with?

Do you try to be glad about all things in life?

#900 Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter was originally published on One-elevenbooks

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Classic Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Fitzgerald-F. Scott

#879 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Curious Case of Benjamin vButton by F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Mr. Button had expected a regular baby, but when he arrived at the hospital, he found an old man instead. Everyone assured him that the old man was in fact his child. They were more than ready for him to take his child and leave. No one had ever heard of such a thing and they were all personally offended by the birth of Benjamin Button.

No one asked about the logic of the situation or biological possibility of such a thing. Benjamin was taken home, where he whined about the state of the world, smoked cigars, and generally spent his time with his grandfather lamenting about the state of the world like the two grumpy old Muppets on The Muppets Show.

As Benjamin grew, it appeared he was getting younger. When he was near twenty, he got married to a woman of the same age, though they didn’t look the same age. They had a son, who aged normally. Benjamin went to college and joined the military. The older he got in years, the younger he continued to look.

He got younger as his life got older. He had the experience of life, with the body of a young man, then a boy. When he was old and when he was young, both periods seemed to make him disregarded by society.

What I liked

This is an interesting thought question isn’t it? What if you lived your life in reverse, age wise? How would people treat you?

As Benjamin found out, he garnered almost the same lack of respect as a child and as an old man; it doesn’t matter that he did it backwards. People still disregarded him. This story proves that only the prime of life seems to be taken seriously. This is an interesting observation about how we treat people.

We think children don’t have enough experience to have worthwhile opinions and we often think the experience the elderly has is too out-of-date to be relevant.

What I didn’t like

This was sad. I feel as if Benjamin watched the whole world flow by without being able to participate normally.

I feel that Benjamin’s distaste for his wife when she gets older is awful. Everyone​ ages. You’re not allowed to get tired of your spouse just because they got some grey hair and wrinkles.

Overall

I thought this was an interesting story with interesting thoughts about how we treat people at different ages.

Weigh in

Do you feel you weren’t taken seriously as a child?

Do you feel like the elderly people in your life aren’t taken seriously?

#879 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald was originally published on One-elevenbooks

Books set in Europe, Classic Fiction, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction, Stevenson-Robert Louis

#690 The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis StevensonThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

One Mr. Utterson finds himself in a strange turn of events. He hears of a man named Mr. Hyde. This man is a strange-looking person accused of assaulting a little girl and murdered a member of the parliament. Mr. Hyde seems like an altogether evil person, but somehow he’s closely associated with one Dr. Jekyll, who Mr. Utterson knows of and is even on somewhat friendly terms with.

A few letters are delivered into the hands of various people in relation to Utterson, one of them being a mutual friend of Dr. Jekyll and Utterson. There is one letter that was supposed to be opened if Dr. Jekyll ever disappeared or died. One day Utterson and another man make the trip to Dr. Jekyll’s house because the servants are pretty sure he’s gone. What they find there is not Dr. Jekyll. It’s Mr. Hyde and he commits suicide right before the two men get into the room. There they see Mr. Hyde as a dead man and suppose that Dr. Jekyll may still be alive somewhere, but there is no luck in that.

The letter is finally opened. There is an account of what has happened. The mutual friend has had a falling-out with Dr, Jekyll because of his science experiments. He details an occasion when Dr. Jekyll sent some items to the man’s house and mixed them together and transformed right before his eyes into some hideous creature. The hideous creature would be Dr. Jekyll.

Dr. Jekyll’s letter tells the story of how he came to be Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll was a scientist, and as such, experimented with all manner of things. He was able to create a potion, that when drunk, transformed him into another person, well not another person entirely. This other person was the bad stuff inside of Jekyll himself. This other person was ugly and misshapen, younger, and generally not as well-formed. This is because Dr. Jekyll was not necessarily a bad person, but he had bad in him, just like anybody. The story goes on to tell how Dr. Jekyll soon could not control Mr. Hyde getting out and he could not replicate the potion to keep him away. Ultimately, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde killed himself because he could not handle the wicked side of himself getting out so easily and terrorizing people. This is how Dr. Jekyll came to an end.

What I liked

This is sort of like the quintessential “mad scientist” story. Dr. Jekyll wasn’t “mad” as in crazy, but he was a little crazy. One has to be a little crazy to experiment with such unknown and terrible things. Would you turn up some weird concoction, that fizzed and bubbled, and drink it, not knowing what it would do? Some of you wouldn’t and some of you would. Those of you who would, are the mad scientists of this readership. The mad scientists are the people willing to perform the experiment for the sake of experimenting and to satisfy curiosity. Being a mad scientist isn’t necessarily bad, but it can be. Sometimes, people who can be classified as so-called mad scientists take things too far. They take the experiment to extremes. “Maybe that small amount of gas really could kill a lot of monkeys, wouldn’t it be interesting to find out?”–this is how science goes too far in relation to our “mad scientists.” The thing is, this hypothetical scientist may not kill a monkey otherwise. Maybe they wouldn’t harm one hair on a monkey’s head, but when science is involved, don’t ask questions, just experiment.

Dr. Jekyll’s story has been repeated and repeated through the years. The version I remember most is the one with Bugs Bunny. I think the cartoon even got the color changes of the potion correct. This story is a part of our culture.

What I didn’t like

I was confused by the last part of this book. I’m not sure exactly how it tied to the rest of the story and I may be missing something. I get that it ties in morally, but where does it come from otherwise? Is it just there as a morality tie in?

Overall

Pop, pop, fizz, fizz, oh, what a joy it is!…what?!

Weigh In

If you could unleash the bad part of yourself into a different person, how much would that person look like you?

Would you drink a strange, fizzy potion, not knowing what it would do to you?

Books set in Europe, Classic Fiction, Fiction, Social Commentary, Vonnegut-Kurt, WWII

#673 Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Billy Pilgrim is drafted for WWII, like many other young men, very young men. Billy is a chaplain’s assistant and does not carry a gun, but this does not serve him well later when he is captured by the Germans. At this point, Billy becomes unhinged from the current time. The story moves from one time period to another, even one where Billy has been captured by aliens and put in a zoo.

Billy does get out of the war. He goes to school to be an optometrist and he marries the daughter of the man who runs the school. He starts a normal life, but his life is not normal, or so it seems.

Billy is hospitalized for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Later on, Billy is in an airplane accident, where he is one of two survivors. This is when Billy’s wife dies, but not in the accident, from something else.

Flashing back to the war, Billy is imprisoned by the Germans. First they go to a place where prisoners are gathered up. Then they are put on train cars to be shipped to another place. Nobody likes Billy, in fact, death is blamed on Billy and nobody wants to sleep around him. During this whole time Billy jumps from one time period to another.

Ultimately, Billy and the other American Prisoners of War are taken to Dresden where utter destruction awaits them. Billy does make it out alive, as we see, but he’s never quite the same again.

What I liked

This story is somewhat autobiographical for Kurt, and we all know how much I like memoirs and biographies. It’s not all autobiographical of course. Kurt was in WWII and he was imprisoned at Dresden, where he survived the fire-bombing by hiding in a meat locker at the slaughterhouse is was imprisoned at. I like that this book echoes real life in that manner.

I also like this whole statement about babies fighting a war, children fighting a war. Eighteen-year old boys are exactly that, eighteen-year old boys. They’re babies. They’re so young. My two youngest brothers are around that age. Could they go off and fight in a war? Certainly not. They can’t even live on their own or make their own money, let alone go fight in a war. I don’t think war is ever good and I don’t think it’s right to send our young people as sacrifices into the battlefield.

Kurt probably looked back at himself and the boys he served with and realized how young they all were and, as a result, this book happened. I think we can certainly use our talents to try to get an idea across. Words and art can certainly change the world. Kurt’s book was about Dresden and the waste of war, other artists have done similar works, including Picasso and his painting about Guernica.

What I didn’t like

This book is respected world-wide, people love it for the message it has and they love it because it’s a Vonnegut. While I think Kurt is great, sometimes I have problems with his work. His timelines always hop around like crazy. The story always hops around like crazy. He’s always inserting a narrator with random thoughts in his stories and maybe the narrator is telling the truth, or maybe he’s a liar, maybe he’s exaggerating, who knows. Kurt’s books aren’t necessarily difficult to read, but they can be a bit spastic and sometimes it’s just hard for me to keep up with what’s what because the books jump around so much.

Part of the foundation of this book is that Kurt states, in the book, that Dresden was more deadly that Hiroshima. It wasn’t. Dresden only had about 25,000 deaths total, which is nothing to scoff at, because it’s still awful, but it’s less than half of the number that died in Hiroshima. Kurt’s point still stands though. The bombing of Dresden was questionable. Did it really need to happen? Did that many people really need to lose their lives for something that may or may not have been a strategic move?

PTSD– that’s a thing in this book. Billy goes to war and Billy gets screwed up because of the war. I doubt Billy actually got abducted by aliens and put in a zoo. I’m not self-centered enough to think that humans are the only intelligent life in the universe, but I seriously doubt that Billy Pilgrim was abducted by aliens and put in a zoo. Of course Billy had trouble the rest of his life with PTSD. I cannot imagine going to war and seeing all of those atrocious things and being able to function normally, and this is from a person who has seen death and experienced abuse and I have problems functioning from that sometimes. I cannot imagine adding war onto that. War ruins lives.

Overall

I’m glad I’ve read it to say I’ve read it, but because of the content and what it’s about, I doubt I will read it again.

Weigh In

Is war ever a good thing?

Do you think Kurt’s book has had any impact on our affinity for war?

Children's, Classic Fiction, Cleary-Beverly, Coming of age, Family dynamics, Fiction

#604 Ramona Forever by Beverly Cleary

Ramona Forever by Beverly ClearyRamona Forever by Beverly Cleary

Ramona’s world is once again changing. She’s older now. Things are still kind of tight at home, but things are moving on. Howie’s rich uncle is coming to visit. Ramona doesn’t like him, nor does Beezus. Ramona begs to stay home instead of going to Mrs. Kemp’s house after school. The parents decide that Ramona and Beezus are responsible enough on their own to stay home.

Beezus tells Ramona that she thinks their mom is going to have a baby. They keep a careful eye and one day their father tells them not to do anything that would upset their mother, so the two believe their suspicions are confirmed. One day the two girls come home from school to find Picky-picky, the family cat, dead. They know this will upset their mother, so they prepare a coffin for Picky-picky, they dig a grave in the backyard, they hold a funeral, and they bury him, all on their own. They try to make out like everything is ok when their parents come home, but Beezus has blisters on her hands from digging the grave.

Finally, it comes out that their mother is pregnant. They’re expecting a baby and another surprise is also on the way. Their aunt Beatrice is getting married to Howie’s uncle of all people. A quick wedding is planned, in which Ramona saves the day, and soon the family welcomes a new family member.

What I liked

Ramona is growing up. She’s learning to take on more adult tasks. She and her sister learn to mind themselves, but they also learn about some harsh things in life. Cats die. Sometimes people they love marry people they don’t necessarily like. This is life. You have to love people despite the choices they make and you have to go on with life, even if the cat dies. You just put on your big girl panties and deal with it.

What I didn’t like

I find it awfully sad that Ramona’s family never seems to get ahead in life, but that is an accurate depiction of life. Sometimes we seem to climb one hill after another and never seem to get anywhere. It’s life. It happens.

Overall

Ramona is turning into a fine young lady.

Weigh In

Do you think dealing with Picky-picky’s death will help Ramona and Beezus come to terms with the idea of death in the future?

How will Ramona and Beezus have to grow up with the new baby?

Children's, Classic Fiction, Cleary-Beverly, Coming of age, Fiction

#603 Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary

Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly ClearyRamona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary

Ramona is eight years old now and is in third grade. It’s her job to be nice to Willa Jean so her mother can work and her father can go to school. In the new school year, Ramona encounters a bit of a bully. He steals her eraser and he calls her big foot. Ramona counters with, “That’s Superfoot to you,” which seems to form something of a friendship between the two children.

Life is still difficult at home. Money still has to be stretched. Ramona still doesn’t get along with Beezus. She still has to be nice to Willa Jean. Life goes on.

One of the things Ramona does is break a raw egg onto her face. She thought it had been boiled, but it wasn’t; it was raw. Egg was everywhere and it happened in front of everybody. Ramona thought everyone would talk about it for years to come, but it seems they don’t.

At one point, Ramona throws up in front of her entire class and thinks she will be shamed for life, but no one really talks about it. Her mother assures her that other people have other things to think about.

What I liked

We all did embarrassing things as children that we thought people were going to talk about forever. To our relief, they didn’t. Like Ramona, I also threw up in front of my entire class, second-grade as I recall. I was just sitting in the middle of class, then…blah! It was awful.

But wait…there’s more!

In kindergarten, I flicked a loose tooth out of my mouth and across the room. In middle-school, I fell off of the bus steps in front of everybody. I mean, really, how much can one person endure?

In the end, no one remembers any of this, except for me. We all have moments like this.

As a child, or even a teenager, we think our embarrassing moments are the end of the world, but they’re not, really. I liked that this book about Ramona teaches children that life will move on, even if you do something really embarrassing.

What I didn’t like

I can’t really pick out anything I didn’t like about this book. It’s quite light-hearted and humorous.

Overall

Remember, no one remembers that really embarrassing thing you did back in middle school–you know the thing.

Weigh In

Do you ever talk about those embarrassing moments with your friends?

Do you think Ramona will remember half of her embarrassing moments as an adult?

Children's, Classic Fiction, Cleary-Beverly, Family dynamics, Fiction

#602 Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary

Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly ClearyRamona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary

Ramona has moved onto second grade. She’s growing up day by day. One of the things Ramona wishes is that people would tell her that she is her mother’s girl, like they do with Beezus, but no one ever does. Beezus sews with mother. Beezus helps her mother out in the kitchen, but Ramona doesn’t do these things with her mother. Ramona desperately wants to be her mother’s girl.

The first thing she tries is sewing with her mother. Ramona wants to sew pants for her stuffed elephant. Ramona’s mother tells her that pants for an elephant might be difficult, but Ramona says that she can do it. Needless to say, it doesn’t work out.

Ramona knows she is a big girl now, but she still gets an itch to do mischievous things, like Willa Jean, Henry’s little sister. Ramona wants to squeeze an entire tube of toothpaste out, just to see what it’s like. Also, needless to say, people aren’t happy about this. Ramona has to scrape up the entire tube of toothpaste and put it in a bag for her own personal use.

Ramona is a big girl, but she still has a lot of growing up to do.

What I liked

I had forgotten the toothpaste incident; it’s pretty great. Sometimes, when you’re a kid, you just want to do something to see what will happen. Sometimes, you do that as an adult as well. What happens if I press the button? Well, what does happen? Press the button; see what happens.

Like, when I’m in a store and there are things that make noise when you press them, I have to press them. I have to see what happens. So if you’re ever in Target and you see a grown woman pressing all the children’s toys to make them do whatever it is that they do, it’s me. Then, I will totally walk away and leave a bunch of dancing and/or singing toys going off by themselves.

What I didn’t like

I kind of wish these books were a little more real and pertinent to today. Ramona at one point has sixty-five cents… like that could actually buy anything. Back in the day when these books were published, maybe Ramona could have bought something with sixty-five cents, but not today. Five dollars is a bare-minimum sort of thing if you want a cheap snack and drink from a convenience store.

If you read between the lines, you start to get the picture of Ramona’s family. They’re poor. The dad is a college drop-out who dropped out when his wife got pregnant with Beezus, actually, we don’t even know if they were married at that point. Maybe Ramona’s mother and father weren’t married at that point and Beezus was an unplanned pregnancy, well, she definitely was an unplanned pregnancy, but maybe she was an unplanned pregnancy that caused a marriage.

Ramona is a child and is somewhat oblivious to her family’s plight, but her family is in a very real-life type of situation. Everything is not perfect in their family. They don’t have the ideal situation. I just wish all of this came out a little more in this series.

Overall

Maybe Ramona will someday be her mother’s girl.

Weigh In

Do you think Ramona becomes more aware of her family’s situation as the series progresses?

Would the series be more true-to-life if it was addressed in a more grown-up perspective?