children’s literature

2017 Reading List #4: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling

It’s probably silly of me to try to objectively review this book knowing my feelings about Harry Potter, but I’ll give it a fair shot.

I received the illustrated edition of Chamber of Secrets for Christmas, and, like last year, my mom and I reread it together, just as we did when first reading the books many years ago.

Again, it was perfect, and the added bonus of Jim Kay’s beautiful illustrations only makes the reading experience more enjoyable. I’m particularly fond of his detailed illustrations of  the Mandrakes and the Phoenix.

These illustrated editions of the series are the perfect way to enjoy some quality time revisiting the series that has forever changed me. Though I am starting to think I need an entire bookcase dedicated to Harry Potter books and their related texts. I guess I’ll have to continue my dreams for a home with a library…

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2016 Reading List #7: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling

So, this post could be one of two things:

  1. I could just say, “hey, I’ve written/said far too many things about my love for Harry Potter in my life, so what’s the point of trying to add anything new?” Or…
  2. I am far to passionate about my HP feelings to keep them quiet, so either quit reading or enjoy a bit of indulgence.

Yeah, I choose option #2.

I received the recently-released illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for my birthday in November and immediately had to sit down to read a chapter or two (because it’s impossible not to). But, for nostalgia’s sake, my mom and I decided it’d be fun to read the book aloud together, like we did when I received my first copy of Sorcerer’s Stone for my eighth birthday in 1999.

Because we took this approach and didn’t have any urgent need to get through the book, we took our time reading it.

The more often I revisit this story, the more emotional it makes me; reading about Harry’s visits to the Mirror of Erised and Neville winning the final house points for Gryffindor cause me to have semi-ridiculous reactions. You’d think I might be numb to it by now, but that is clearly untrue.

The fact that this reading was from this brand new edition of the book was a particularly gratifying treat. Jim Kay’s illustrations are beautiful–it’s so fun to take a moment when turning to a new page to examine his intricate work and see a new perspective on the story.

Though I didn’t expect to have so many rereads this early in 2016 (this, Attachments, and Death of a Salesman are all on my completed or current rereads that have made it to this year’s reading list), but this was one I couldn’t resist. In fact, I can already feel myself just itching to crack Chamber of Secrets open. 2016 might mark my next of countless ventures back to Hogwarts. We shall see…

Book #66: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne

I first encountered The Boy in the Striped Pajamas via the book’s film adaptation, though I’d known of the book’s existence for some time. Since I knew the story already, I guess I only have myself to blame for the emotional turmoil I’ve inflicted upon myself.

As the back cover of my copy of the book says, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a story about a nine-year-old boy named Bruno, but this is not a book for nine-year-olds.

Bruno is a young boy living in Berlin in the early 1940s, a clear indicator of what larger conflict will put the book’s action into motion. Through Bruno’s naive sensibilities, we learn that he’s the son of an important Nazi soldier sent to command Auschwitz (which Bruno mistakenly calls “Out-With”).

Bruno, a lover of adventure and stories from the Middle Ages, is an explorer at heart, and after feeling lonely in his new home, is delighted to meet a boy his age who lived on the other side of a fence.

The fact that the story is so innocently told from Bruno’s perspective adds something fresh to a familiarly desolate Holocaust narrative. Bruno doesn’t understand what happens at Auschwitz or what it means to be Jewish, and this ignorance is what makes the story ultimately all the more tragic.

And because I’m apparently in a particularly cruel mood today, I also spent the better part of this afternoon watching Schindler’s List for the first time (not exactly a holiday favorite, but a great movie none-the-less). It was interesting to note the parallels between the two narratives, especially because of the starkly different perspectives. Both a tragedies worth experiencing if for no other reason than to see a horror that we can only hope will never be repeated.

So now that I’ve finished my unofficial Holocaust entertainment unit, I’m moving on to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first nobel, This Side of Paradise, which could be my last read of 2015.

Look for my post on my favorite reading projects of the year in the coming days!

Book #73: Matilda, by Roald Dahl

I’m a life-long lover of children’s literature, so even though I’m in grad school, I think it’s important to take the time to read wonderful kids books. I somehow missed reading Matilda as a kid myself (though I did read lots of Roald Dahl’s other books; The Twits has always been a favorite of mine), so I recently bought both English and French copies of the book at a used book store.

As an adult, Matilda takes basically zero time to read, but it’s a thoroughly fun experience. I also come from the generation that  grew up watching the 1996 film adaptation, so this is a story that’s near and dear to my heart. And considering Dahl first published Matilda in 1988, the story still feels fresh and timeless. This is the kind of story I can’t wait to share with my own family in the future.

Book #20: The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin

Book #20: The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin

I recently found myself reminiscing over how much I loved The Westing Game when I read it in middle school, so my friend Ryan graciously lent it to me so I could rediscover my enjoyment of it. I think it’s been ten years since I last read it, but I can honestly say that The Westing Game is enjoyable for readers of all ages.

The book functions as a murder-mystery; sixteen heirs are gathered for the reading of millionaire Sam Westing’s will, a document stating that Westing’s heirs will only receive their inheritance after solving the mystery of his own death. Basically, if you like the game Clue, you’ll like this book.

One thing I didn’t really remember about the book is its odd assortment of characters. There are themes and characteristics that I think read much different for adults than for the book’s young target audience. I think there are a few characterizations that I think are a bit dated and border on stereotypes (the book was originally published in 1978, so it’s understandable), but it’s overall story isn’t really affected by these issues.

So, now that I’ve finished this, I’m moving on to what I expect will be a crappy teen romance novel, but I got it as a free download, so whatever. Besides, I’m in my last semester of college, so a little light, trashy reading might just be exactly what I need.