Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald

Yes! I'm on schedule this month! I finished this month's book club read with one day to spare!

Actually, I wasn't sure we were going to make it, but then Bookworm3 was being very weepy yesterday morning and so I sent her back to bed and she slept the entire morning away! That was highly unusual but it left the boys and I to fend for ourselves so we crawled under some blankets and cuddled on the couch while reading the last few (eight) chapters of George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin. (Apparently we can get a lot of reading done when the girl sleeps. Grant it though, a couple of those chapters were super short.)

If you didn't have a chance to read along with us this month, here is the storyline, in a nutshell:

Princess Irene is living a very innocent, carefree life with her nurse maid in one of her father's summer houses. One day she and her nurse venture a little too far away from the home and Irene discovers that life is not all sunshine and daisies. She discovers that there are goblins who live in the mountain next to her home and that they aren't very nice creatures. As it turns out there is an old bitter feud between the goblins and the royal family and the goblins would like nothing better than to catch a pretty princess for the goblin prince's wife. Thankfully for the Princess, there is a also a brave young boy named Curdie who is unafraid of goblins and who comes to her rescue on more than one occasion.

This book is classified as a children's fantasy story and it is filled with soft-footed goblins, miners protecting the king's home from goblin destruction, and strange grandmothers who magically appear when most needed. Our kids loved it and I'm very glad to have read it aloud with them. It should be noted, however, that in certain spots in the story I found the language to be rather archaic and the vocabulary words quite beyond my seven year old. So as I read along I changed the words to match MacDonald's meaning in order that my kids would be able to appreciate the tale. I think they did as it happened that as I was closing the book, my boys requested we immediately start the sequel, The Princess and Curdie. (We aren't going to do that, however. I want to get to Peter Pan.)

One of the aspects of this story which, I think, helped make it so interesting for us is that last month we were able to tour a silver mine up in northern Idaho. This was a fascinating experience wherein we were taken down into the mine and shown equipment, what it would be like chipping rock in the dark with only a candle to light the area, and how to gather samples. Of course, we also experienced how cold, echo-y and eery it is in the dark of a mountain. As a large majority of the story of The Princess and the Goblin takes place in a mine, I think our recent experiences brought the book more to life. It was much easier to imagine the scenes which MacDonald was painting, that's for sure!

Here is one of the pictures that we took inside the mine. Our guide was showing us how they loudly take samples from the rock:

Wanting to know a little bit more about the book itself, I looked up some "fun facts" on the fabulous research tool known as The Internet. There isn't much detailed info about the book online, but there are a few things I discovered:

  • The book was first published in 1872.
  • MacDonald went on a lecture tour in America that same year.
  • There is a ten year gap between when the first Princess book was published and the sequel, The Princess and Curdie.
  • Both C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien have credited this story by MacDonald for inspiring them to write their own fantasy stories.
  • George MacDonald served as a mentor for Lewis Carroll.
  • George MacDonald's obituary is lengthy and impressive. I wouldn't mind my own obituary looking like that, with a discussion of my lineage and belief system included. That's so awesome.
  • Critics find MacDonald's works to be too heavily religious and there is some concern being expressed that his stories do not fit neatly into the 20th and 21st centuries.

I find that last bit rather humorous. No, his stories don't fit our modern mold for stories, hallelujah. These days we are relentlessly taught that bad guys aren't really all that bad if we could just understand them. We're are told to sympathize with them. Love means looking away rather than pointing out the evil in order to help them and others deal with it purposefully and effectively. Our modern vision is currently being blurred and we are left confused about what we are supposed to support and when we should stand opposed. This is why I'm particularly glad that I read The Princess and the Goblin to my boys. It's not just a fun fantasy story these days but necessary reading! Children need to know and understand how to differentiate between right and wrong and MacDonald has given us story to help educate them how to do so.

In MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin he created a race of goblins which are in every way loathsome. There is no question that you are not to like them. Their motives are impure and their plans to kidnap and, essentially, to destroy are pure evil. There is no doubt. MacDonald also gives us a hero in Curdie, a young boy who isn't afraid to step on the toes of others (literally) when called upon to do so. Curdie admirably pays attention to what the goblins' plans are so that he can warn, defend and protect the King, the Princess and the royal property. He is brave in the face of fearsome creatures and I found him to be quite inspiring when it comes to wanting to do right.

This story might make certain people balk but from where I stand, we need more heroes today who aren't afraid to stand for right even when it threatens to cost them something dear.

MacDonald gives us a treasure of a story in The Princess and the Goblin and I'm so glad that Rebekah recommended that we read this one. If you didn't get around to this book this past month, make some time for it in the near future. As for our family, shall keep it on our shelf and re-read it often.

This song comes to mind and I have to share in case you have not heard it. It fits the story well.

Reading to Know - Book Club

Monday, September 29, 2014

Remember, Remember (The Fifth of November): Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About British History With all the Boring Bits Taken Out, by Judy Parkinson

I did it (finally)! I finished Remember, Remember (The Fifth of November), by Judy Parkinson. The fact that it took me several months to do so should absolutely not reflect ill upon the book; it is quite an enjoyable read. The only quibble I have with it is the suggestion made in the title that there are "boring bits" to history. Some of us happen to like all of the nitty, gritty details. I have no idea how many interesting details were taken out by Parkinson but I hardly believe her purpose is to misguide or frustrate history lovers with this book. On the contrary, I believe her intent is to create interest in the history of Britain for who might think (incorrectly, I might add) that history is dull and bothersome. The only reason that history can ever be blamed as being "boring" is if you have a bad teacher of it. Avoid bad teachers of history. History is thrilling good fun and there is much to learn from knowing what happened in the past.

Parkinson is not a boring teacher of history. She does a wonderful job giving the basic facts of British history without being one little bit dull. At times she is quite witty in pointing out ironic behaviors and actions. She is very good at keeping things hopping along. If I were to summarize this book, I would say that it is "Thrilling good fun!" (But then, I do like learning about the past.)

I found Remember, Remember (The Fifth of November) to be perfect for me at this time. I love learning about times, events, and people who have gone before. However, as a mother of four little people, I don't really have time for tomes. That said, I still want to learn. Parkinson gives one page of information per person and/or event. From the Romans to Winston Churchill she provides a big picture layout in short passages which I found to be incredibly helpful in setting the stage, if you will, towards deeper understanding. Now I feel like I can go and choose more in depth works and enjoy them, understanding where William the Conqueror fits in and how Britain's relationship with France has changed through the ages. A comprehensive big picture was just what I needed and this book fit the bill perfectly.

If you are looking for a book which explains the timeline of British of History and keeps a clever, fast pace about it in doing so, look no further. Remember, Remember (The Fifth of November) is perfect and I loved it.

Highly recommended. Which is why I used a lot of italics.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Read the Story - Fall Reading List

Remember the Fall Into Reading challenge? And how it is no more? Well, Suzanne at Living to Tell the Story has decided to host this challenge (renamed) and I just must participate.

Remember how I said that I wasn't getting very much reading time lately? That's still somewhat true (a bad back has increased my reading this past week though!). Although I may not accomplish a TON with this fall reading challenge, surely I can accomplish something. I've been more impressed this past week that the reading year is coming to a close and there are some goals that I would like to hit before we wave goodbye to 2014. With that in mind, I'd like to sort of "map out" my reading plan for the remainder of the year to help keep me focused.

Here are a list of some books that I definitely want and/or need to get to in these next few months.

1. Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. I sort of want to laugh and cry when listing that one. Let's just laugh. Anyway, Shonya threw that title out for my Facebook Reading Challenge in which I said that I would read the first six books that the first six people suggested. I bought a copy of Atlas Shrugged (used on Amazon) and so I would like to get to it to complete the FB challenge.

By the way, I plan to reissue the same challenge next year so if you follow the Reading to Know Facebook page you can prepare yourself to speak up quickly!

2. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking was put forward by Amber M. for the same FB challenge. I just picked this one up on the Kindle this morning and read through the Introduction. I'm on my way, people! I'm. on. my. way.

3. I will also read Redwall (Book 1) which Stephanie from Simple Things recommended. I'm halfway through with this one at the time of this post and am enjoying it immensely!

4. Stephanie from Everyday Family Living asked me to read 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, by Jen Hatmaker so I shall do that also. Actually, I'm really curious about this one having recently begun the project of clearing excess from our home. I'm hoping to find this book very, um, inspirational.

5. Lastly (for the FB challenge), Amy from Hope is the Word gave me the title So Brave, Young, and Handsome, by Leif Enger to read. I'm rather looking forward to that one.

Moving on then, there's the Reading to Know Classics Book Club and a few more titles to read there.

Reading to Know - Book Club

6. In October we'll be reading How I Know God Answers Prayer The Personal Testimony of One Life-Time, by Rosalind Goforth. It should be noted that this book is only 86 pages and is free on Kindle. What's your excuse to NOT read it?!

7. Number the Stars, by Lois Lowrey is the November read and the discussion is being led my friend Heather.

8. December is Annette's (from This Simple Home) month to lead the discussion and she chose To Kill a Mockingbird which will be a re-read for me.

After that, there are books that I've purchased to read and would like to actually do so.

9. Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey which Jonathan bought for me some time back and which I would really, really like to get to.

10. The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century which looks so fun.

11. Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her which I picked up at a local used book store because I lacked the ability to resist.

Then, of course, there are the books which I would like to read with the kids before the year is out.

12. I mentioned the other day that we are planning to read Peter Pan. Bluerose mentioned that she hated this book when she first read it a few years back. Same here. I have read it previously and also remember disliking it. However! With England on the horizon, I'd feel a bit remiss if I took my kids over there with only Disney knowledge to rely upon! (Just doin' my duty.)

12. After Peter Pan it's a toss up. I'm debating whether or not we have time to read three more books together before the year is out. If that were to magically be the case, I think I'd go with The Secret Garden first.

13. Next I'd like to read another Paddington Bear book, given that there is a new Paddington movie being released at Christmas. Have you seen the trailer for it? We've watched it a few times. Let's just say that the boys are greatly amused and if the movie follows form, we'll be having a grand old time at the theater over the Christmas holidays.

14. Lastly, I think I would like to read them Dickens' A Christmas Carol in full this year. I see no reason whatsoever not to. And then when we're done we can watch the Muppet version as well as my personal favorite - Mickey's Christmas Carol.

Beyond that I'll just read whatever it is that I can squeeze in and enjoy.

Many thanks to Susanne for being willing to step in and host this challenge. It surely does help me "number my days" and make a plan. I'm realizing more and more that if I don't plan for it, it's likely not going to happen. So here goes . . .

If you'd like to participate in this Fall Reading Challenge and share your list with the group, go HERE to learn more from Susanne and also to link up!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Home Team (Giveaway x 4!)

Remember my review of The Home Team published last week? (No? Go read it first, please.)

I'm rather excited to say that Shepherd Press has offered to give away FOUR copies of this title to four readers here at Reading to Know.

I truly did find The Home Team to be a great encouragement and I think it is a very worthy read. If you are building family (or in need of repairing it) I highly recommend this read and am so glad for the opportunity to pass out four copies!

Would you like to win a copy? Simply leave a comment below. This contest is open to U.S. Residents only and will be open through Friday, October 3rd. 

Please remember to leave a valid e-mail address in your comment entry so that I can contact you if your name is selected. I cannot tell you how many times I've had to choose a different winner because someone failed to leave an e-mail address and I had no idea how to contact them!

Thank you, Shepherd Press, for this amazingly generous offer!

Monday, September 22, 2014

What's On My Nightstand - October

What's On Your Nightstand

I think this post should almost be titled, "Why it is utterly pointless for me to create a Nightstand Post." Then I would provide the following subtitle: "But I'll do it anyway because it is fun." Really though, it's pretty pointless. I read only one book from last month's post and I didn't even finish it (because I loathed it).

Still, perhaps we will get somewhere in our reading this next month. (That's called living with undying hope!) There are a few reasons for me dragging through the remainder of this reading year. One of them is the arrival and integration of Bookworm4 into our family. This has caused a certain amount of upheaval and a lot of time and attention has been being given to helping him adjust. I'm happy to say that our youngest (age 2) is doing quite well and is a happy, perky member of the family. But those smiles sure haven't along very easily and I have to give myself permission to not be so demanding when it comes to my personal reading time. Yes, I think about reading a lot. It just doesn't happen as frequently as I've been accustomed to! But that's ok. My attentions are needed elsewhere for a season.

One really quick announcement before I launch into my hoped-for reading list for this coming month.

Reading to Know - Book Club

Our October Book Club read for the Reading to Know Classics Book Club has changed. Instead of reading To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson we will instead read How I Know God Answers Prayer The Personal Testimony of One Life-Time, by Rosalind Goforth.

There are two reasons for this change:

1. The Goforth book is shorter in length (which will hopefully allow people to finish it on schedule).
2. The Goforth book is free on Kindle!

Hopefully that change will allow you to be able to read along with us. I was glad that Barbara, who will be leading the next discussion, thought to consider these things and suggest the change.

Now. As to what I would like to read next month, well . . . here goes nothing . . .

1. I am planning to read Peter Pan to my kids immediately after we finish up The Princess and the Goblin which we are chipping away at and enjoying immensely.

It's so weird to think that we only have a few books left to pack in before the end of the year. I wanted to tackle Peter Pan before the year was out so we'll get right on that.

2. I'm hoping everyone will pretty much have forgotten that I said I was reading this. Seriously. I'm on the last few "chapters" and then I'm done!!

3. Redwall. I am also just about out of time to read this one. Some of you might recall this Facebook Challenge which I gave at the beginning of the year to read the first six books that six people recommended to me. The only book that I've read so far off of that list was Harriet the Spy. I've got to get to Redwall this month!

4. Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey

5. I've been slowly working my way through this series on managing the home from

With the addition of the fourth child it began to become desperately clear to me that we needed a more orderly and organized life. Slowly I've implementing a new schedule which is helping already. It is a slow learning process to me. Most people tend to think I'm uber organized but that's not actually the case. I have rather enjoyed flying by the seat of my pants, more or less, up to this point. The past few months have pretty much caught my pants on fire though so "doing whatever" is no longer an option. I find the kids and I operate well on a schedule and going through these materials has been an interesting lesson to me in many ways. I'm grateful for the help it has provided in organizing my thoughts and now it's just to find a workable plan that keeps our family peacefully productive!

6. Let's not go any further, shall we? I hate to disappoint (myself).

Life is an adventure which books are not to be left out of, that is for sure and certain. Off we go for another month of reading and living!
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