Sunday, February 28, 2021

Thrusting the Snow Aside: February 2021 Inklings

It's still February, so I still have time to join this month's Inklings link-up hosted by Heidi here at Along the Brandywine.  This month, the prompt is a snow scene in book or film.

I'm choosing the attempt to pass through the Redhorn Gate in the White Mountains of Middle-earth in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien.  The fellowship is trying to make their way through the mountains, but a mysterious and evil snowstorm falls upon them and forces them to halt.  They realize they must turn back, but they've become cut off by vast mounts of snow, both before them and behind them.  The snow is so deep, it's far over the heads of the hobbits, and they'll never be able to struggle through it.  So Aragorn and Boromir decide to force a path through it for the others to follow.

Aragorn was the tallest of the Company, but Boromir, little less in height, was broader and heavier in build.  He led the way, and Aragorn followed him.  Slowly they moved off, and were soon toiling heavily.  In places the snow was breast-high, and often Boromir seemed to be swimming or burrowing with his great arms rather than walking (p. 284).

I love that image of the two mighty warriors and leaders of men turning themselves into snowplows to make a path for the smaller members of their company.  And that's not all they do!  When they return, the hobbits worry that still the snow will be too deep underfoot for them to get through.

"Have hope!" said Boromir.  "I am weary, but I still have some strength left, and Aragorn too.  We will bear the little folk.  The others no doubt will make shift to tread the path behind us.  Come, Master Peregrin!  I will begin with you."

He lifted up the hobbit.  "Cling to my back! I shall need my arms," he said and strode forward.  Aragorn and Merry came behind.  Pippin marvelled at his strength, seeing the passage that he had already forced with no other tool than his great limbs.  Even now, burdened as he was, he was widening the track for those who followed, thrusting the snow aside as he went (p. 285-86).

Again, what an amazing example of true leadership!  The heir to the stewardship of Gondor and the rightful king of all Middle-earth use their strength to serve others.  They're not too proud or too busy or too filled with their own self-importance to serve even the smallest person.  What mighty leaders!

(Mine from my Instagram account.)

I'm eager to see what Heidi's prompt for next month is!  Here's hoping I don't wait to participate until the very last day next time ;-)

Saturday, February 27, 2021

"Faces to the Sun" edited by S. J. Blasko

This is a collection of poetry and short stories all written by people who struggle with mental health and mental illness.  The point of the anthology is to help other strugglers to see they're not alone, and to help people who don't deal with mental health troubles to understand what that can be like.  It succeeds admirably at the latter, for me.  

All proceeds from sales of this book go to organizations that provide mental health services, which I think is neat.

I liked so many pieces in this book, so I'm just going to list my favorites, in the order in which they occur:

  • "From Suns to Moons" by Karen Nelson
  • "The Sunflower Cycle" by Adrien Farinas
  • "While Gardening" by Theo Oliver
  • "Bouquet" by Beka Gremikova
  • "Dichotomy of Queen Anne's Lace" by Maggie D Brace
  • "Walls" by Lucinda Cylights
  • "Wormwood: A plant that smells so sweet and looks so nice but will kill you if you take a bite" by Erik Olson
  • "Dandelions" by Katie Hanna
  • "the noose" by Cassandra Hamm

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for some discussion of panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, and other things that younger readers probably aren't ready for yet.

This was my 9th book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: I Dearly Love a Laugh

This week's Top Ten Tuesday prompt from That Artsy Reader Girl is "books that made me laugh out loud."  I dearly love a laugh, much like Elizabeth Bennet, and so a book that can make me laugh aloud is one I will probably like a lot.  Here are my top ten, with all titles linked to my reviews:

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery -- An orphan girl with a big imagination is adopted by an aging brother and sister and spreads sunshine and bemusement wherever she goes.

Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster -- An orphan girl with a big vocabulary is sent to college by an anonymous donor and must write him letters detailing her progress.  The sequel, Dear Enemy, is also very funny.

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis -- Lots of fairy tales get mixed all up together in this story about a woodcutter's daughter, a frog, and a heap of fairy tale antics.

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim -- Three middle-aged London ladies pool their resources and rent a villa in Italy, where they rediscover what it means to be alive.

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart -- Three eccentric sisters are harassed by a bootlegger until one of them takes the law into her own hands.  Based on the real-life adventures of one of New Jersey's first female police officers, Constance Kopp.  The whole series is a delight.

Greenwillow by B. J. Chute -- People living in rural England in the early 1900s have gentle and funny adventures.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen -- Country girl Catherine Morland goes to the big city of Bath, reads too many novels and starts thinking she's living in one, and eventually opens her eyes to the truth about love.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen -- Girl meets boy.  Girl hates boy for being a snob.  Boy secretly thinks girl has fine eyes.  Boy insults girl.  Girl insults boy.  Girl gradually learns it was she who was being a snob.  Boy continues to think girl has fine eyes.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman -- True love, pirates, princes, princesses, giants, sword fights, and the Pit of Despair.  What's not to love?

A Sidekick's Tale by Elisabeth Grace Foley -- A ranch hand tries to stop a family feud, help a young couple realize they love each other, and figure out who rightfully owns an heirloom.

Have you read any of these?  Did you do a TTT list this week?  Do share!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" by J. K. Rowling

My Year with Harry Potter continues rolling delightfully along!  I basically inhaled The Chamber of Secrets in three days.  I just kept sneaking off to read it whenever I had a few minutes, and that's such a delightful way to live :-)

My plan for this year is to make myself read at least two books between each installment of the Harry Potter series so that I won't just smush them all together in my head.  And to make their joy last longer.  I do love to savor things I particularly enjoy.  And I love to anticipate things -- sometimes the anticipation can be as pleasurable as the actual experience or even itself, to be honest.  So I simply cannot pick up the next book (which is my favorite) until I finish a cople of the books I have going right now, and that is kind of killing me... but also, I'm loving how much I am looking forward to it!

I find this book SO MUCH BETTER than the first one, which I reviewed here a couple weeks ago.  Of course, it helps that we don't have to spend as much time explaining the wizarding world, though Rowling deftly catches any potential new (or forgetful) readers up to speed on things like Quidditch and the Sorting Hat and why everyone's so scared of Voldemort.  But overall, the pacing in this second book is so much tighter than in the first one.  The mystery about the Chamber of Secrets gets rolling quickly, and the book's tension builds so beautifully to the very thrilling climax.  Having high human stakes for Harry to fight to protect was extremely effective.

Once again, we have characters learning to be kind to people who are different from them, how to be a good friend instead of a wishy-washy one, and how to treat those who some would say are inferior to you.  A huge theme here is the importance of actions versus words.  Good or bad intentions are not as important or as powerful as good or bad behavior.

Also, Dobby makes me laugh a lot.  The whole book does.  Wonderful stuff.

And Mrs. Weasley is #MomGoals.

(From my Instagram account.)

Particularly Good Bits:

Mrs. Weasley was marching across the yard, scattering chickens, and for a short, plump, kind-faced woman, it was remarkable how much she looked like a saber-toothed tiger (p. 32).

"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities" (p. 333). (I know that gets quoted a lot, but It's Just So True I Must Mention It.)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for some rude humor, children in danger, and a pretty creepy gathering of ghosts.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

New Short Story "Run, Run" Now Available!

I have a new FREE short story available for both Kindle and Nook!  "Run, Run" is a follow-up to my Snow White retelling, One Bad Apple.  As such, it does give away the ending of that book just a little, in that you'll know a lot of characters who survive to the end.  If you're sensitive to spoilers and haven't read One Bad Apple, you might want to save it until you've finished the book.  That kind of goes for the synopsis below, too.

This story retells The Gingerbread Man, and here's the official synopsis:

Levi Dalton, his siblings, and his cousins want to give a nice Christmas present to the uncle who is raising all seven of them. But their plans go awry when someone runs off with their basket of gingerbread! A wild chase through a small town leads to disaster, but an old friend suggests a plan that just might save the day in this short story sequel to One Bad Apple.

If you're in the mood for something short and sweet, give it a try!  As a bonus, I've included a recipe for gingerbread at the end that's based on real 1800s gingerbread recipes!

Subscribers to my newsletter were able to read this story back in January already.  One of the perks of being a subscriber!  If you want to sign up yourself, you can do that right here.

Monday, February 15, 2021

"Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass" by Frederick Douglass

I can't believe I'd never read this before!  You'd think with all the history classes, all the literature classes, surely someone would have assigned Frederick Douglass's Narrative to me.  But, nope.  You'd also think I would have gotten around to reading it before now, on my own, especially since I've owned a copy for at least two years.  But, nope.

Well, I've read it now, and I found it both enlightening and enjoyable.  While sometimes Douglass does start to sound a little bit... oratorical... he mostly tells his life story in a straight-forward and easy-to-read manner.  Certainly, he was writing this with an agenda, namely to convince people of the evils of slavery, but it rarely felt like a lecture or an argument.  Just a man telling you about his own experiences, and letting you conclude for yourself whether or not his life was typical or atypical for those living in slavery.

I was a little sad that he couldn't give a more detailed account of his escape to freedom in the north, but he withheld most of it to protect those who helped him, who were still alive and possibly in danger of reprisals, so it was understandable and wise of him to omit that part, I thought.

It was really interesting to read this on the heels of The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby because it succeeded in something that I thought Tisby failed at.  Douglass did a great job of pointing out that the failure of Christian churches toward enslaved people is not the fault of Christianity, but of individuals claiming to be Christians.  Tisby lumped those together, but Douglass clearly separated them, especially in the book's appendix, where he wrote:

What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference -- so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt and wicked.  To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other (p. 71).

If you're looking for something to read for Black History Month, this gets my vote.  It's a quick read, not difficult, and both historically and culturally important.  Since yesterday is believed to have been Douglass's birthday, I thought it was a good time to read it, and I'm glad I did.

Particularly Good Bits:

The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears (p. 9).

The silver trump of freedom had roused my soul to eternal wakefulness (p. 24).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-15 for descriptions of whippings, beatings, and other acts of violence, as well as discussions of sexual misconduct and force.  Those were non-graphic, but I won't have my kids read it until high school because I don't think they'll be ready for it.

This was my 16th book read for my 3rd Classics Club list, and my 7th book read off my unread shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

"Further Chronicles of Avonlea" by L. M. Montgomery

Well, I just didn't like this collection as well as Chronicles of Avonlea.  There were fewer funny, cheerful stories, and more with unpleasant characters.  I did enjoy many of the stories, but not all of them.

My favorites were "Aunt Cynthia's Persian Cat," "The Materializing of Cecil," "The Brother Who Failed," "The Return of Hester," and "Only a Common Fellow."  I especially loved "The Brother Who Failed" because it made me cry.  Which is odd, given that I didn't like this as well as the first volume because not as many stories made me laugh, but there it is anyway.

It was interesting how a theme of selfishness ran through so many of these stories.  Parents selfishly trying to stand in the way of a son or daughter's happiness.  Siblings stopping siblings from getting married.  Adults trying to selfishly control other adults, or children.  It was kind of a weird theme.

But Montgomery's writing is always a pleasant way to spend your time, even if sometimes she's more pleasant than others, and I'm not sorry to have read this collection.  It earns a place on my shelves because it had more stories I liked than disliked.

Particularly Good Bits:

When you have an unencumbered aunt with a fat bank account, it is just as well to keep on good terms with her ("Aunt Cynthia's Persian Cat," p. 2).

A man's heart -- aye, and a woman's too -- should be light in spring.  The spirit of resurrection is abrod, calling the life of the world out of its wintry grae, knocking with radiant fingers at the gates of its tomb.  It stirs in human hearts, and makes them glad with the old primal gladness they felt in childhood.  It quickens human souls, and brings them, if so they will, so close to God that they may clasp hands with Him.  It is a time of wonder and renewed life, and a great outward and inward rapture, as of a young angel softly clapping his hands for creation's joy ("The Dream-Child," p. 59).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG overall, though one story ("The Education of Betty") had overtones of possible grooming, and another ("Tannis of the Flats") had characters with blatantly derogatory attitudes toward American Indians that were hard to read.

This is my 15th book read and reviewed for my 3rd Classics Club list, and my 6th book read from my own TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

"For the Sake of the Game" edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger

Hmm.  While this book was a fun, fast read, I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the earlier collections in this series, A Study in Sherlock, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, and Echoes of Sherlock Holmes.  Like those first three, this is a collection of short stories somehow inspired by the Sherlock Holmes canon, by a very varied group of writers.  Some stories have Holmes and Watson in them, some don't, etc.

I think that a lot of the stories in this collection were less charming and quirky, and more edgy, and that's why I didn't like it as well.  I don't know, it just felt... colder and darker, somehow.  Instead of five favorite stories in it, I only have three:

+ "The Case of the Missing Case" by Alan Gordon, which has a young Sherlock Holmes learning some lessons from a master of disguise and putting his already formidable talents to work.

+ "The Adventure of the Six Sherlocks" by Toni L. P. Kelner, in which a murder at a Sherlock Holmes fan convention gets solved by a reporter and her unexpected sidekick.

+ "Hounded" by Zoe Sharp, which retells The Hound of the Baskervilles in the modern era and inserts an extra character into it, with some surprising results.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13/R -- some stories are decidedly on the R side, with others being much tamer and cleaner.

This is my 4th book read from my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

"The Color of Compromise" by Jemar Tisby

I read this for Jamie Lapeyrolerie's book club.  Unfortunately, due to some kind of weird library snafu, I got my copy the day of the club discussion, so I'm only now finishing it.  Yes, it took me about three weeks to read this book, not because it's long, but because it is hard.

Now, the first five chapters, I felt like I wasn't really learning much new stuff.  Those were talking about the history of slavery in the US from the early days of colonialism through the onset of the Civil War.  And I've read a lot of books about race relations pre-Civil War, slavery, and life in the USA in that era, so... what Tisby was saying made sense, but it also wasn't new to me.  If that's not an era or subject you've read and studied about, then you'll learn a lot from those first few chapters.

But the chapter where I really started to learn new things was the sixth one, called "Reconstructing White Supremacy in the Jim Crow Era."  And boy, did that open my eyes to things.  Not to how bad Jim Crow was, because I've read a lot about that too.  But to the way that, after the Civil War, some people in the South started rewriting the collective memory of the South, as to what the Antebellum era was like.  And how much of that has trickled down to today.  And that's when it got really personal, for me.

My family moved to North Carolina when I was twelve.  Until then, my view of the Civil War was very straightforward: North = Good, South = Bad.  I didn't want to move there, in fact, because that view had been branded into my brain by my history books, a couple movies that involved the Civil War, and just the general viewpoint of the people I interacted with in Michigan while I was growing up there.

But, between moving to NC when I was 12 and going to college in MN when I was 18, that changed.  Because, guess what?  I made friends in NC.  The people at our new church embraced us.  A local homeschool group embraced us.  I came to view NC as my home, and I still do.  I still love my church family there, and my other friends as well.  They are dedicated Christians.  Most of them are also white.  But... I gradually came to believe that you could fly the Confederate flag as a symbol of your family's heritage as brave soldiers and people who opposed "big government," and not as a statement of white supremacy.  That some slave-owners were evil, but most were kind.  That the Civil War was really about states' rights and not about slavery.  I became convinced of these things, because so many people I encountered were so fully convinced of them.

And here's the thing: I truly believe that the people who changed my mind, oh so gradually, about things like that... didn't realize that those ideas came from people after the Civil War trying to rationalize away the evil they had allowed to exist in their midst.  They did not understand.  They knew not what they were doing.  They were repeating things that they had been taught by their parents, who had been taught them by their own parents, and they are so far removed from the origins of the collective memory-replacement that they have no idea that they're perpetuating something untrue.  

By retrofitting the people of the South with a gauzy, rosy view of the past, one filled with delicate belles and stalwart soldiers and happy slaves, those people stopped the healing that the South should have done.  You know how, if you open a wound to light and air, it heals, but if you cover it and keep it dark and closed up, it festers and rots?  I think that's what happened here.  Instead of letting the horrors of slavery be exposed to light and air, and thus healed, people in the South after the Civil War strove to cover it all up and forget it.  And so racial hatred got worse, and worse, and worse.  Until people can't even tell anymore that the things they think are true about the past, aren't.  Until people can't see that the memory that's been handed down to them... is a lie.  Is founded in hatred and fear.

Today, I'm convinced you should not display a Confederate flag, unless in a museum, because it's going to cause hurt to someone Black who sees it.  It inevitably will.  Even if YOU aren't meaning it to be a symbol of hatred, that's what it's become, and that fact needs to be accepted and respected.  It's kind of like a reverse version of the cross -- originally, that was a symbol of oppression and agonizing punishment, but Christians have turned it into a symbol of God's unfailing love and redemption for all mankind.

Now, I think the same can be said of the people in the North, actually.  What I learned there as a child was that everyone in the North was an abolitionist, anti-racist hero who set out to rescue those enslaved in the South.  I can see now that such was not the case there either -- that the victors created their own gauzy, rosy narrative about their role in the affair as well.  

Okay, so, that was what hit me the hardest, in this book.  I learned many things from it besides that, but that's the lesson I'm going to be carrying with me forever.  That you can't separate reality and history and current life the way that has been done so much, because you will just perpetuate hatred and hurting, and prevent healing.

One thing that disappointed me about this book was the absolute lack of any discussion of the Lutheran church, any of its synods.  Various Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, Fundementalist, Reformed, and even Roman Catholic church bodies get talked about, regarding their historic relationship with racism.  But there is literally one mention of Lutherans, and it's only that a Lutheran man in Illinois gave wallet-sized pictures of Jesus to his friends in the 1950s as a statement against card-carrying Communists.  

I don't know why this is.  Have Lutherans in the US, historically, been more racially tolerant or accepting?  Do they simply not fit the narrative focus that Tisby had in this book?  Are there just not enough of them to matter to him?  I am not sure.  

I do know that Booker T. Washington viewed Lutherans very favorably as being eager to put their time and money to use helping Black people after the Civil War.  From reading Light in the Dark Belt by Rosa Young, I learned a lot about Lutheran support for poor Blacks in the south in the first half of the twentieth century.  Being a lifelong Lutheran, I was disappointed to have them so entirely overlooked in this book, as if we had nothing at all to do with this issue in any way.  Which, obviously, cannot be the case, since there have been Lutherans here since before the American Revolution. 

I was also disappointed by Tisby's seeming attitude that the Gospel message ruined other cultures by wiping out their traditional religions.  He never once talked about the Gospel being the only way to heaven, and that bothered me.  I understand that attitude from non-Christians, because they don't believe that faith in Christ as the Savior of all mankind is the only way to heaven.  But he was writing from the perspective of a Christian, and so, yeah, that bothered and disappointed me.

Particularly Good Bits:

The refusal to act in the midst of injustice is itself an act of injustice.  Indifference to oppression perpetuates oppression (p. 15).

The ability to weep with those who weep is necessary for true healing (p. 23).

...if people made deliberate decisions to enact inequality, it is possible that a series of better decisions could begin to change this reality (p. 27).

The "Lost Cause is a narrative about southern society and the Confederate cause invented after the Civil War to make meaning of the devastating military defeat for southern white Americans.  The Lost Cause mythologized the white, pre-Civil War South as a virtuous, patriotic group of tight-knit Christian communities.  According to the Lost Cause narrative, the South wanted nothing more than to be left alone to preserve its idyllic civilization, but it was attacked by the aggressive, godless North, who swooped in to disrupt a stable society, calling for emancipation and inviting the intrusion of the federal government into small-town, rural life.  Confederates reluctantly roused themselves to the battlefield not because of bloodlust or a nefarious desire to subjugate black people, but because outsiders had threatened their way of life and because honor demanded a reaction (p. 93-94) (This is EXACTLY what I learned when living in the South.)

History is about context, so studying history remains vital.  It teaches us how to place people, events, and movements within the broader scope of God's work in the world (p. 194).

Those who declare that Confederate symbols represent "heritage not hate" must recognize that part of that heritage was hate in the form of slavery and white supremacy (p. 201).

Black people have somehow found a way to flourish because of faith.  It is a faith that is vibrant and still inspires black Christians to endure and struggle against present-day forms of racism.  The entire church can learn from believers who have suffered, yet still hold onto God's unchanging hand (p. 203).

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It: R.  There are multiple discussions of rape, torture, and murder, all the more awful because they all happened in real life.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" by J. K. Rowling

I have not read the Harry Potter books since 2007, when I reread the first six books to prepare for the seventh book's release.  So, I've decided it's high time to reread the whole series, and I'm calling 2021 My Year with Harry Potter.  

I've read Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone three times before, which is once more than books 2 through 6 and twice more than book 7, which I've only read once.  The reason I've read this one an extra time is that, when I was a senior in college, I did an internship working for one of my college's literature professors.  I helped her teach classes, write tests, grade tests and papers, and so on.  It was great experience that has helped me a lot in teaching my own kids, my nieces and nephews, and the kids in our homeschool co-op.  I helped primarily with two classes: Poetry and Drama, and Creative Writing.  And for Creative Writing, this was one of the books the students studied.  I hadn't read this before, so I had to quick read it so I could help teach it.

That first time through, I thought it was reasonably clever and enjoyable, but I didn't love it.  I didn't feel any desire to read more of the series, so that was that.  But in 2004, I started seeing trailers for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in the theater, and I just loved how they set Shakespeare's "Double, double, toil and trouble" to music.  Really loved it.  And, well, I quite like Gary Oldman.  So that made two reasons why I wanted to see the movie in the theater.  However, I didn't want to see the third movie in a series in the theater without having read the books first.  And possibly seen the first two movies too, so I'd know what they were doing with the stories.  

So I got the first three books and first two movies out of the library.  I reread the first one and still thought it was okay.  Read the second one and thought, hmm, this is getting pretty interesting.  Read the third one and fell madly in love with Sirius Black and the series as a whole.  Even had time to watch the first two movies before going to see the third.  Then read books four and five.  Told myself I wasn't going to buy book six when it came out, but would wait for the library to get it, and then promptly bought a copy the first night it was available because I worked at Walmart on third shift, and there it was, and I could not resist it.  And put in a preorder for the last one, which is another story for another time.

Well, this is the first time I've reread any of these since the last one came out, so it's the first time reading them with full knowledge of how everything turns out.  I have to say, that makes it really poignant to read all about Harry's beginning, and his faith in Dumbledore, and the way he gets treated by Snape, and so on.  I really liked this first book better this time through than any of the previous ones.  It made me laugh aloud so often, and chortle with glee at how cleverly Rowling was setting things up for even the very last book, already here.  Wow.

I think one of the things I love most about these books is the theme of standing by your friends even when you don't agree with them.  That's an idea we need more of right now -- that you can disagree with someone, but not discard or dismiss them.  That it's okay for friends to have different views and ideas and even beliefs, and that friendship is what lets people be comfortable with those differences.

Anyway, I'm eager to dive into book two, but I have to finish a couple other things first before I can.  Soon!

Oh, and if you don't know, in this book, an orphaned boy named Harry Potter learns that he is a wizard when he turns eleven and gets invited to leave his repressive and abusive aunt and uncle to go attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  

Although it has the word 'witchcraft' in the school title, this has nothing to do with actual witchcraft, black magic, the occult, or Satanism.  All the spells are humorous variations of Latin words, all the potions require pretend things like dragon teeth, and you can't do any magic at all if you aren't born a magical person.  I see no danger of this book teaching children -- or adults -- how to do magic. It is entirely, obviously imaginary.

I do see, however, that there could be a danger of people thinking that because the magic in this series is imaginary and harmless, all magic in the real world is also imaginary and harmless.  The Bible teaches us that there is such a thing as black magic, sorcery, and Satan-worship, and that we are to have nothing at all to do with them.  So I make sure my kids and I discuss the difference between fake magic like this and the stuff practiced by the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, which is harmless make-believe, and the kind of real-life magic that draws its power from Satan and which we must never get anywhere near.

Particularly Good Bits:

Harry felt a great leap of excitement.  He didn't know what he was going to -- but it had to be better than what he was leaving behind (p. 98).

"Always the innocent are the first victims," [Ronan] said.  "So it has been for ages past, so it is now" (p. 253). (In an amazing bit of coincidence, I read this part on the day of the annual March for Life.)

"Me!" said Hermione.  "Books!  And cleverness! There are more important things -- friendship and bravery and -- oh Harry -- be careful!" (p. 287).

"Always use the proper name for things.  Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself" (p. 298).

"There are all kinds of courage," said Dumbledore, smiling.  "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.  I therefore award ten points to Mr. Neville Longbottom" (p. 306).  (This part makes me cry.)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for a couple minor cusswords, some rude humor (looking at you, Peeves), and children in peril.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Announcing a "Sense and Sensibility" Read-along!

I am pleased to announce that I will be leading a read-along of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility this spring!

We will begin March 1, and I am planning an easy pace of about 6 chapters a week.  I hope to post three times a week, discussing two chapters per post.  Most of the chapters are quite short, so I think that will be very feasible, and will let us finish up in mid-May.

I hope you will join me!  It doesn't matter if you've read Sense and Sensibility before, or never read it -- all will be welcome to celebrate Jane Austen's classic story of family, friendship, and love.

If you'd like to join in, there's no need to sign up, but any cheering you'd like to do in the comments is always welcome :-)  Feel free to use any or all of these buttons to spread the word!