Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis

My first book of 2020 was graphic novel for children based on history.

I really liked this graphic novel; it’s heavy and well written and drawn. I like the use of water colours and images from historical times. Even though the story is not real history, it is based on it and I believe some of the elements concerning the religious aspect is true. I really enjoyed the folk and fairy stories in it as well. That would be true to the Tudor and medieval era.

The story is a classic one about an orphan who comes of age and learns much about herself. It is dense and has a great cast of characters. I really enjoyed reading this on a wet winter’s day. It’s a cozy book. I hope there are more graphic novels for children like this. I love the historical aspect and would have liked it as kid as well.

I believe the author is planning a sequel which I will devour if I get the chance.

Read January 11, 2020.

Two Children's Books Set in NYC

I finished 2019 by reading these two children’s books.

The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright

I really liked this one. It was published in 1941. With the Agatha Christie books and this one, I was put into a real pre-war mood. The novel is quite similar to the Boxcar Children as well.

I thought there was a lot of clever writing and it makes me miss this early 20th century writing style. No one writes like this anymore.

December 29-30, 2019.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

This has a good premise. It was written and set in the 1960s and I definitely thought of “Mad Men” in a couple of moments. There was some fun moments in the book, but I didn’t love it like I did with the Saturdays or other children’s books. I can’t say why exactly. It’s similar to how I felt about Pippi Longstocking.

December 31, 2019.

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

Part of my spontaneous reading challenge to read children’s books. I have heard about this book growing up. I vaguely remember the 1997 movie but I never watched it. The only time I really became interested was when Studio Ghibli released Arrietty.

I like the descriptions and the world building but the book did not win me over until the last third. I think the movie is better than the book in this case.

I do become more invested in the book by the end and I intend to read the sequels. They are easy to read and I like the light fantasy of this book and others (Indian and the Cupboard was the same). It’s gentle fantasy fiction because it is for children. Fantasy for adults or young adults have become saturated and a bit too overwrought these days. I don’t find it as escapist anymore.

These books are working for me. I think I will try to rewatch Arrietty over the holidays and read the sequels to this book.

Read December 21, 2019

Four Children’s Books

When I finished Voracious a few months ago, I was inspired to put a few children’s books on hold. As a kid, most of my non-school book discoveries were self-initiated so I missed out on some of the books below.

Home Price by Richard McClostky

This was a cute one to start off with. It was published in 1943 and has all the references and illustrations from that time. Homer is an industrious young protagonist. I liked that he tamed and kept a pet skunk. The best story in the book is the one about the doughnuts.

Read October 15, 2019

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

This was very sweet and nice. It was written in the 1930s. I found it relaxing as the characters were so nice. It may be a bit too cute and idyllic but there is something classically about this children’s book. This was the first one I really wished I had read when I was a kid.

Read October 20-21, 2019

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

I really enjoyed this. It may have even been worth a standalone post. It has a lot of heart and outside from some dated concepts; I actually thought the writer was thoughtful about the character development. Now I’m really curious about the adaptation and the sequels.

Read November 13, 2019

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

I have mixed feelings on this book. It’s not that I did not like it or the characters, but there were times where as an adult, I did not have much patience with Pippi. On the other hand, I do like her. She’s a true rebel and nonconformist. It took me longer to read this book because of it. I think this is a good children’s book but it did not work for as well as the others.

Read November 27, 2019 – December 5, 2019


Overall, I’ve found reading children’s literature really enjoyable as compared to other books. The stories are straight forward and they don’t take as much time. Philosophically, I like the optimism of these books which can be sometimes missing in adult day to day life. I have put more children’s books on hold.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This was the right spring time book for an Easter read. I’ve seen more than one adaptation of this book on TV and movies. I also think I read at the very least an adapted version of this as a kid.

I liked the transformation of spoiled and sour Mary into a kinder and more robust one. I was less interested in Colin and the move shifts more to him in the latter half. Dickon is a funny character too. I do genuinely like the kindness of the characters that Burnett writes about it here and in A Little Princess.

What I liked most about this book was that my hard cover was big and had lovely illustrations by Inga Moore. I think that was a big part of why I enjoyed the story as much as I did. As a child, I loved a similar style book of Peter Pan. It really makes a worthwhile reading experience when children’s books are presented this way.

Read March 27, 2016.

Little House series round-up post

I am counting this as one Classics Club entry because technically I’ve reread most of the books except two.

  1. The Little House in the Big Woods
  2. Farmer Boy
  3. Little House on the Prairie
  4. On the Banks of Plum Creek
  5. By the Shores of Silver Lake
  6. The Long Winter
  7. Little Town on the Prairie
  8. These Happy Golden Years
  9. The First Four Years

When I started this read-along, I wanted to judge if the books were as good as I remember them and if reading them as an adult coloured my views. This was not my absolute favourite series as a kid, but it definitely had its moments. I’m someone who has always been pulled to the country and simpler life. I have a lot of old fashioned tastes and hobbies so the books worked on me in that level. I also enjoy history.

I was perturbed and saddened to find that Pa Ingalls did seem to be an irresponsible father at times. As much as he loved his girls, he was a bit shady and a poor man with finances. Most kids would have a lot of this stuff go over their heads, but even as a kid, I never understood why Charles Ingalls moved his family so much across the country. I also disliked the racism especially as voiced by Ma.

I would still read or recommend these to children, even though I have the aforementioned qualms. One of the best aspects of the series is Laura herself who is honest, brave yet realistic. She is inherently relateable to most young girls. The writing is good too. I think Wilder is a lovely writer. There is some memorable images and fun moments from these books. Credit to Laura and maybe Rose Wilder Lane for that. I think it’s written well for the most part.

More than ever, this readalong has really made me excited for Pioneer Girl. I look forward to reading Laura’s even less embellished childhood.

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The more I re-read these books, the more uncomfortable I am with Charles Ingalls. While the books have some lovely moments especially with Laura exploring the wild and the glimpses of frontier life, I get annoyed with Pa.

He buys lumber for a house in the spring on credit of the wheat he will harvest later. It is a big lack of foresight because the last wheat harvest by the previous owner was poor. He does not research the area they move into very much at all. Unsurprising that they have locusts for two years. It’s horrifying to read though.

On a positive note, I continue to like Laura. She relatable to most girls. Aside from the moment where Ma gives Charlotte away, I have to hand it to Caroline. She does very well under the circumstances. I have also liked Christmas scene in the book so far. I like how it was a cherished time of family, love, and unselfish behaviour among people. There is a deep sense of gratitude and warmth in the gift scene. I also think Caroline and Charles do really love each other. Charles loves his family, and I feel sorry for him and his family.

I continue to have mixed feelings about the books, but some of my favourite moments will come as Laura grows up.

Reread August 30th-September 3rd, 2014 on Kindle.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Compared to the first book, lots of things happen in this novel. So also begins the
the restlessness of Charles Ingalls.

This novel had moving, travel, house building, Indians, malaria, and more. A lot of the stuff was on the scary side such as the creek crossing part, almost losing Jack the dog, and basically all the parts with wild animals.

It was a bit interesting to watch them travel and build a home on the prairies. Pa also seems to be a great hunter. I do like his endearment to Laura being “half-pint of sweet cider half drunk up.” I also liked the introduction of Mr. Edwards; I liked him when I was a kid too. I enjoyed the Santa Claus chapter and laughed out loud with that line: “In the Southwest, Santa Claus rides a pack mule”

The Scotts’ racism against Indians was a low point though. Pa wasn’t particularly prejudiced, but I’m wary about this whole land issue in the book.

I can’t judge this book without reading the others I feel. There are some nice moments that exemplified Laura’s (or Rose’s) writing ability.

Reread August 23, 2014 on Kindle.

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

This book in the series is known for its food, and there is lots and lots of food at the beginning stages. Almanzo’s childhood is relatively stable and abundant when compared to Laura’s. I think Laura wrote all the food to emphasize how much Manly had, but also how much she herself didn’t have growing up.

This is actually a really good standalone children’s book. There are a lot of period details about farm life from harvesting, weaving, animal husbandry, the fair, and much more. I only felt bad for the women and girls. Alice, Eliza, and Mother seemed to have been in the kitchen their whole lives. Alice even says “Boys have all the fun.”

The other discomfort would be the outdated stories about the Indian at the fair and playing “Indian”. The other annoying thing was Almanzo randomly getting $200 at the end for no reason really. None of the kids get “tanned” by their parent in this story. In fact, Father Wilder seems to be an incredibly savvy and benevolent man.

I’d reread this in the future. There was some sweet moments, but the ending was a bit abrupt.

Reread August 19-21, 2014 on Kindle.

The Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

This is part of a readalong of the Little House series I am organizing on an internet forum I moderate.

One of the reasons I organized the readalong was to see if they were as good as I remembered, but also to look critically for things. Rose Wilder wrote a lot of these books with her mother, and her political views are sprinkled throughout. Secondly, reading between the lines, a lot of other readers wondered if Pa Ingalls as that good of a family man after all.

The Little House in the Big Woods

This book was more boring than I remembered. Actually, maybe this book is so idyllic, it edges onto tedium.

I did enjoy some aspects, particularly the food parts: butchering, cheese-making, butter churning, maple sugaring, and more. I like the hunting moments, Christmas family moments, and Ma making hats. The ending is sweet too.

Some of the stuff I wasn’t loving was the punishments, spankings for birthdays, and the rivalry between Mary and Laura in general was a bit discomforting. I didn’t like how they wrote about how Laura was not noticed because of her brown hair and curls: “They were ugly and brown.” Poor Laura.

Why did they move? I don’t know how the woods were so crowded when Laura and Mary had never even seen two houses together let alone a town or a store.

All in all, this was a lackluster start. It had its moments. I may consider it for children’s reading.

Reread August 18, 2014 on Kindle.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

The Giving Tree

My parents did not read to me as a child so I had to read a lot of children’s classics on my own as a kid or now, later as an adult. I also remember being read to a few times in school of course, but not this classic.

Most people know this story already but essentially it is about a tree who loves a boy

I really liked the book as I read it, and I had certain expectations for the ending such as the boy repenting about what he did to the tree or treat it with respect. But no, he just sits on her stump and she’s just happy about it. I was perplexed about this. Then I read all the polarizing views about this book. Frankly, I am not sure what I would rate this book.

This book is highly subjective. Many people likens the relationship to that of a parent and child, some see it religiously (Tree as a Christ figure), others frame it in political/economic terms, and more directly, a story about humans and the environment. Having recently read Cloud Atlas, I’m inclined to the human nature, greed and abuse of the planet aspect of it.

There is also the interpretation the relationship between the anthropomorphic tree and the boy represents all loving relationships and how selfless or self-sacrificing love is or should be at the end of the day. In love you give, but you ask nothing back in return. On the other hand, if this book really is about parents and children since there seems to be a story of growing up with the boy, it is the idea that all parents must give to their children. Where this analogy takes a real dark turn is that the parent must be cut down for the child.

After the ending and thinking it through, I am not sure I would read this to a child. I think if I read this as a child, I’d be really sad about the tree and quite angry with the boy (so I haven’t changed much in that regard). Also, perhaps guilty about human nature’s inclination to take things from the environment, from each other, etc. It could make me feel that you should not ask for so much from anything nor you should take things for granted. It is not spelled out like that at the end though. I do not mind sad endings even for children’s books, but this ending was very ambiguous. It felt unsatisfactory in its lesson whatever that may be.

I rated the book out 3 of 5 on Good Reads in the end because I think it is though provoking. Not many other picture books can generate this much interpretation or controversy and doubtless will continue to. It makes you consider the book at all angles. I recommend it to most people just for that reason.

Read January 31st 2013.

Anne of Green Gables

By L. M. Montgomery. I missed on reading this Canadian classic when I was kid. I really wish I had. I’ve been fairly busy these past weeks (a couple more weeks and I’m on free), so it took me much longer than usual to finish such a book. It was a bit slow at first, and I wasn’t sure I had warmed to Anne, but I think she won me early on. I liked all the characters in this book. The dialogue was clever and observant, and while loquacious at times, Anne is such a great character. I think she should be the type of character children should read about. I love her curiosity, kindness, ambition, and dreaminess because I can be quite similar, and her love of the outdoors and of Green Gables. From the get-go, I really loved the characters of Marilla and Matthew. The book is also very Canadian in my humble opinion. Montgomery seems to really know her characters and their quirks. It’s no wonder this book is a classic. I’ve been a bit maudlin lately, and this book did make me shed a couple of tears. It started off slow, but I enjoyed the simple life of Anne at Green Gables. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.