How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Book Review: Alice in Wonderland

“Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don’t exactly know what they are!”

Maybe what Alice said of the Jabberwocky poem in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland isn’t entirely accurate for my experience reading this book and its sequel Through the Looking Glass, but it’s cute to start out articles with quotes.

Arthur Rackham's illustration - wikimedia commons

This was another children’s classic that I visited this year for the first time, quite different from Heidi … but still about a little girl. Although I understand why some have reservations toward it, I wanted to see what it was like for myself and so tried to come at it with no preconceptions; and I enjoyed it for the most part. To me, it read like a dream you would have in the middle of the night, a long, unbroken dream that you don’t remember when you wake up but would read very much like Alice’s experiences if you could write it down. It was quirky and made me laugh, because dreams morph nonsensically from one thing to another and yet still maintain a sort of plot, just like these two books. In dreams, people say things that don’t make sense, and objects and issues that you ponder in your waking hours often appear, albeit in surprising forms. Alice in Wonderland was like that. Childhood’s imaginative ramblings play a big role in the plot—cards and flowers and chess pieces could talk and have adventures—as did mixed-up school lessons, in history, grammar, and the like, At times the nonsense got to be a little too much for me, but then came amusing wordplay and logical (or illogical!) reasoning to save my good opinion.

The quotes you can take from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass (1871) were one of my favorite parts; these books seem made for snipping out phrases and sentences that put a different spin on a variety of topics. One of my first exposures, long before I read Lewis Carroll’s classics, was this quote on my Wordly Wise vocabulary workbook:

“‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’”
(Appropriate for a vocabulary book, no? She’s talking to Humpty Dumpty about his misuse of words—he thinks a word “means just what [he] choose[s] it to mean—neither more nor less.”)

Here are some others I enjoyed:

“‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ [asked Alice.]
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.” (So true!)

“Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.” - The Duchess 

(I find this to be true, and even good advice for living! It makes you contemplate the choices you make daily.)

“I don’t see how he can ever finish it, if he doesn’t begin.” - Alice, of the Mock Turtle 

(Good advice for procrastinators, especially for writers, since Alice was waiting for him to begin a story)

“‘Begin at the beginning,’” the King said, gravely, ‘and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’” 

(Works for my brain, but granted, there are writers and other creative individuals who must do things differently)

“Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don’t exactly know what they are!” - Alice, of the Jabberwocky poem 

(I can say the same of several poems I have read)

Have you ever read Alice in Wonderland? What do you think of it? Too weird for your tastes, or delightfully peculiar?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

When I Read, I Dream

Books and dolls make a lovely pairing, in my opinion at least. Have you ever heard of the “When I Read, I Dream” series by Mattel? I received this set of four dolls inspired by four heroines of children’s literature when I was ten or eleven or so, and I’ve treasured them ever since. I pulled them out of my closet for a photoshoot to share on my blog today.





I would have enjoyed it if they had produced more girls for the series ….They could have made Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz (Barbie did one for the movie); Alice from Alice in Wonderland; Laura from Little House on the Prairie; Rebecca from Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm; Sara from A Little Princess; Mary from The Secret Garden; Wendy from Peter Pan … my list goes on! (Perhaps it was best that they stopped, for my bedroom’s sake.)

What about you? Do you have any dolls or other figurines inspired by literature?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Heidi Life

Today is a very special blogging day … because it is the 200th post on my blog! Two hundred? How did I get that far? What did I write about? I especially wonder that on weeks when I have no clue what I’m going to write, which happens more often than I’d like to admit. But it just so happens I have an idea this week … which I came up with on Monday (I usually come up with my blog post ideas a day in advance … though sometimes it’s the selfsame day … yep, I’m a procrastinator ….)

I read Heidi for the first time in April. While I think I would have been more captivated with it as a young girl, I found plenty of things to enjoy now. Heidi, a little girl, comes to live with her bitter, hermit-like grandfather in the Swiss Alps above the village of Dorfli. Because of her sweetness, she gradually melts his heart into repentance for his angry, standoffish ways. Others come to depend on Heidi for companionship—Peter the goat-herder and his blind, lonely grandmother. But then Heidi’s aunt Dete takes her away to Frankfurt to be the companion to a wealthy invalid girl, Klara, who has everything but happiness and health. Her governess/nurse/housekeeper Fraulein Rottenmeier doesn’t appreciate Heidi, but she is the one in charge when Klara’s widowed father is away, thus causing Heidi some grief. Two very distinct sets of people, miles apart, love and need this little beam of sunshine named Heidi … but what does Heidi need? Will she ever go home to the mountains she pines for? And how can she help all of her friends and loved ones at once?

File:Heidi-chapter3c - You can have that. I have plenty.jpg
wikimedia commons

Heidi’s mountain home seems to embody the simple and idyllic way of life, one that many (especially we dreamy types) wish we had. Living on a quiet mountain away from the bustle, though within walking distance of a village for occasional stimulation. Few possessions, only what is needed for convenient living. Wholesome, simple food, requiring little preparation, and healthful mountain air. Breathtaking beauty every time you look outside your window. Whole days spent doing nothing but exploring nature, rejoicing in it, and watching some goats. Lots of stillness for prayer, reading, and whatever creative pursuits are yours. Ministering to those who love you and need you nearby.

Something like this is what I imagine as being in store for God’s people when the Messiah reigns in the new heavens and the new earth, when all creation shall be at peace (Isaiah 11:6-9, 65:17-25; Micah 4:4; etc.). And while it would be lovely to have it now, we aren’t necessarily promised that (John 16:33; Psalm 73; Romans 5:1-5; etc.). In fact, what makes Heidi’s idyllic mountain home so satisfying and rewarding is that she returns to it after she perseveres through an unpleasant sojourn in the city. We have work to do for our Lord and Savior and shouldn’t strive to make our earthly life a paradise at the expense of our real tasks.

So while we can’t expect a Heidi-like, perfect existence in the here and now, I think we can use the spirit in which she lived her life as inspiration to make our sojourn on this earth more in line with God’s ideals, thus making it easier for us to serve Him. Things like living our lives for others’ sakes and helping those in need. Simplifying—discovering, like Heidi did, the truly essential things in life and concentrating on them. (I read Heidi during a time when I was sorting through clutter, and the contrast between her life and mine, how she had to spend very little time taking care of physical stuff, was more than a little convicting.)

I love it when a book speaks to my life! What fictional book have you read recently that impacted your life? And if you’ve read Heidi, what did you think of it?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Bookshelf Tag

What book-lovers don’t like to talk about their books, their own personal collection that they can pick up whenever they have a hankering for their stories, or sort them with rapt and dreamy attention in stacks or on shelves? This one sure likes to. And what book-lovers don’t like studying other people’s shelves? (Marielle does this at Mrs. Parker’s house in England Adventure as a matter of fact.) So when I saw “Bookshelf Tag” on Elisabeth Grace Foley’s blog, The Second Sentence, I wanted to participate myself and share it with my blogging friends. It originated from Natalie on Raindrops on Roses & Whiskers on Kittens. And also, because of time constraints, I’m not including all the questions … so please, check out Natalie’s blog to find the whole list! Without further ado:

Describe your bookshelf (or wherever it is you keep your booksit doesn’t actually have to be a shelf!) and where you got it from (you can include a picture if you wish):
I consider four bookshelves as mine. Two match: tall, brown, with sliding doors concealing two shelves of books on the bottom; those are in my bedroom and decorated with knickknacks. Two others, in the library/study/craft/old school room, are also the same size, with three shelves each, but one is brown and the other is maple-ish. The two tall, brown shelves have been in my family longer than I have; the small ones came from Walmart, I think.

Do you have any special or different way of organizing your books?
Probably not in any way no one has thought of before … I try to organize by subject, author, and size.

What’s the thickest (most amount of pages) book on your shelf?
An old Bible1712 pages!

What’s the thinnest (least amount of pages) book on your shelf?
That’s hard to say because I keep a lot of children’s picture books behind the doors in my tall shelves. But I think the winner may be one of a tiny boxed set of Beatrix Potter tales … topping out at ten pages.

Is there a book you received as a birthday gift or a Christmas gift?
Probably quite a few of them I received that way … such as my Anne of Green Gables boxed set, Chronicles of Narnia, Jesus Freaks, Dear Princess, Queen Victoria’s Sketchbook …

What’s the smallest (height and width wise) book on your shelf?
Any one of my miniature Little Golden books. They measure 2 ¾ by 2 ¾ inchesso cute!

What’s the biggest (height and width wise) book on your shelf?
The Jews in Their Land, conceived and edited by David Ben Gurion. It measures 12 inches tall by 8 ½ inches wide and barely squeezes onto its shelf.

Is there a book from a friend on your shelf?
Yes! In two different ways: some have been published by friends, and some have been given to me by friends, like Queen Victoria’s Sketchbook mentioned above.

Most expensive book?
Not sure … I buy most of my books secondhand.

The last book you read on your shelf?
A Secret Gift, a book about stories of the Great Depression, by Ted Gup; I read it in January.

Do you have more than one copy of a book?
I do, actually. Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John. One is a vintage hardback from 1950 and was given to my aunt when she was a little girl and the other, a white paperback, is from the 1990s (I’m estimating).

Do you have the complete series of any book series?
Several. Anne of Green Gables, most of the American Girl six-book series, the History Mysteries series, Little House, the Royal Diaries … and perhaps more. I love having whole series.

What’s the newest addition to your shelf?
I think Little Hood is one of them, illustrated by my friend E. Kaiser Writes!

The oldest book on your shelf (as in, the actual copy is old)?
A beautiful edition of Under the Lilacs by Louisa May Alcott, which seems to date from 1888.

A book you won?
The Experiment, by Morgan Huneke.

A book with a special/different cover (e.g. leather bound, soft fuzzy cover, etc.)?
A leather-bound Bible that was my dad’s from the 1960s.

A book that is your favorite color?
There are several that are blue, so I’ll go with Emily Climbs, because that has the prettiest cover of all the blue ones, I think.

Any signed books?
At least seven! In Search of Adventure, From the Dark to the Dawn, and Remembering the Alamo by Alicia A. Willis; The Experiment by Morgan Huneke; The Sparrow Found a House by Jason McIntire; Journeys of Faithfulness by Sarah Clarkson; and Behind the Stories by Diane Eblesigned by Bodie Thoene, whose story is included in the collection.

If you would like to participate, consider yourself tagged! And don’t forget: if you want the complete list of questions, check out Raindrops on Roses & Whiskers on Kittens.