Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

  One of my favorite movies as a child and as an adult is Mary Poppins.  After watching the movie, Saving Mr. Banks, I decided I needed to read the story that inspired two wonderful movies.
   The book starts out similar to the movie with the narrator looking for Cherry Tree Lane.  Inside 17 Cherry Tree Lane Katie Nana is leaving, and Mr. and Mrs. Banks are upset with Jane and Michael for running yet another nanny out the door.  The story continues with Mary coming from the sky with her umbrella and carpet bag.
   The adventures that take place in the book are similar to those in the movie, but are combined or changed.  The movie combines the first four books in the series.  If you watch Saving Mr. Banks, you see how Walt Disney fought with Travers to make changes from the book for the movie - Mr. Disney won!  One noticeable difference (and most difficult difference for me) was Mary Poppins was kinder in the movie. 
    I am glad I read the book but as for me, I like the movie better!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rebel Yell by S.C. Gwynne

One of the “big names” when it comes to Civil War generals is Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.  Gaining national recognition and the nickname Stonewall at the Battle of First Manassas in 1861, Jackson’s rise to the top of the command structure of the Confederacy was fast, and short, ending with his death in 1863. J.C. Gwynne capture’s Jackson’s life in all of its brilliance, and quirkiness.  Gwynne writes the book with great thought and detail, but does so in a very engaging manner. The pages and chapters zip by as you learn more and more about what made Jackson, well, Jackson.  All of the phases of Jackson’s life are covered, from youth, to marriages, as well as all of his military experiences— Jackson fought a heroic and skilled campaign in the war with Mexico in 1848 that not too many people are familiar with. Gwynne presents some new thoughts when it comes to Jackson, but he also retells the General’s story with zeal and the skills of an accomplished storyteller. Rebel Yell is a very good read.



Thursday, January 8, 2015

Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life by Marta McDowell

This was a delightful biography about the children's author and illustrator of such books as "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" and "Benjamin Bunny", those little white books that you've see as a child or read to your children. The book shows how Beatrix Potter had an interest in plants from her earliest childhood and how she developed as an artist, estate farmer, and naturalist. You learn what she liked to grow from season to season - many of the flowers and old fashioned cottage plants appear in her many drawings and books. The little animals you might see in your garden are developed into the characters of her stories. This study of her life helps you to appreciate the nuances of her experiences that molded and shaped who she became as a person. The book is also filled with numerous photos and drawings. Being a person who loves gardening and children's books, I found this biography very interesting.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

Elfrieda and Yolandi are very close sisters who grew up in a Mennonite community near Winnipeg with eccentric parents.  While Elf becomes a successful concert pianist with a loving husband, Yoli is twice divorced and struggles to raise two children and write a novel.  Despite her success, Elf is suicidal and determines to end her life.  Yoli tries her best to help her sister, but what can you do when someone is clinically depressed?  Most of all, can Yoli prevent this same tragedy repeating in her family?
AMPS is filled with endearing dialogues and is heart-wrenching.  I enjoyed the Coleridge and Wordsworth poems in the context and simply couldn't put this book down, hoping that Elf would be OK in the end.