Ten Interesting Posts of the Week (5/19/19)

Post Round-Up

Around the Blogosphere

  1. Holly lists books she wishes she had been assigned to read as an English major.
  2. Sammie lists powerful books featuring strong mothers.
  3. The Orangutan Librarian talks Rocking the Rainy Day Reads.
  4. Michael asks what compels us to spoil things.
  5. The Orangutan Librarian discusses blogger love in books.
  6. Xandra talks about her good reading habits.
  7. Interesting Literature explains why the Trojan horse almost certainly wasn’t a horse.
  8. Sammie asks: Where are the adult superhero books?
  9. Kelly asks: Are tropes as terrible as we think?
  10. Interesting Literature features the best examples of metaphysical poetry in English literature.

At Pages Unbound

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10 Interesting Posts You May Have Missed So Far in May

Post Round-Up

Around the Blogosphere

  1. Melanie at Grab the Lapels asks if her blog is actually feminist.
  2. Kelly at Another Book in the Wall discusses what makes YA so popular.
  3. Jackie at Death by Tsundoku reflects on the future of the Holocaust novel.
  4. Jane at Greenish Bookshelf suggests 7 books if you like Anne of Green Gables.
  5. The Orangutan Librarian discusses Rogue One vs. The Last Jedi.
  6. Kim at Traveling in Books has another roundup of bookish headlines.
  7. Annemieke at A Dance with Books talks about reading Discworld.
  8. Nicole at Read. Eat. Sleep. Repeat shares an infographic with suggestions on what to read next.
  9. Kiri at Star Wars Anonymous posts on My Comic Relief about Fictions Fearless Female – Rey.
  10. Jack at Jack’s Bedtime Reading discusses the best and worse changes in Game of Thrones.

At Pages Unbound

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden

Information

GoodreadsThe Secret Garden
Series: None
Source: Gift
Published:1911

Summary

When Mary Lennox is orphaned, she is sent from India to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven, in England. The Craven estate, however, seems lonely for a child, until Mary discovers the key to a garden that has been locked for ten years and begins to make friend with a local boy who knows all about animals, gardening, and the magic of the nearby moors.  Soon, “Mistress Mary Quite Contrary” begins to grow happy and healthy–and learns there are more secrets in her new home beyond the garden.

Star Divider

Review

Spoilery if you are not familiar with the story.

The Secret Garden was one of my favorite books as a child and one of the first full novels I read on my own, in second grade.  Though protagonist Mary is, as some unforgiving children in the novel call her, often contrary, I fell in love with the beautiful English setting on the moor and with the idea of a secret garden that one could call one’s own.  Since there is a new movie adaptation of The Secret Garden set to be released 2020 (with primary billing given to Colin First as Archibald Craven, as if the man is in more than two scenes of the book), I decided to reread it to see if it there were just as much Magic was I remembered. Spoiler: there is.

Often when I fall in love with books, it’s because of the characters, but I actually think the setting of The Secret Garden might be its biggest strength.  That isn’t to say I don’t like the characters; the book, of course, is focused on two major transformations: that of protagonist Mary Lennox as she changes from an ill-tempered, imperious child used to having her to way to a kinder one full of life and laughter and that of her cousin Colin Craven, as he learns to stop thinking of himself as sickly and doomed to die and embrace his own health (and kinder attitude).  This premise could, of course, come across as moralizing; The Secret Garden was certainly written in an era where using books to teach children’s lessons was very in vogue. (Ok, let’s not kid ourselves; many people still think children’s and teen lit is about teaching Correct Ideas.)  However, the character arcs are so well-written that it’s hard to actually think of them as preachy, in spite of asides about how children should play, fresh air is good for you, one must believe in oneself and think positive thoughts, etc.  Mary and Colin simply read like real characters, real children who learn not to be spoiled.

I have more reservations about Dickon.  I believe I liked him as a character when I was a child because he is incredibly kind, responsible, etc. really older and wiser than his 12 years AND he makes friends with animals.  Mary and Colin are enchanted with him, and I was, too.  A boy who can talk to birds and tame a fox?!  Now, he seems a little over-the-top to me, a trifle unrealistic in his role of animal-whisperer, but he’s still an interesting addition to the story.

But the beauty of the book is that they learn not to be spoiled through the beauty of nature, primarily in their secret garden.  The idea of a secret garden is, itself, incredibly alluring, and I think many of us would love to have a walled-off, secret place full of trees and flowers and blooming roses run wild that we could retreat to where no one would bother us.  However, what really strikes me about The Secret Garden (and, in fact, a decent amount of older literature, such as works by L. M. Montgomery) is the sheer love and knowledge of nature that the author herself seems to have.  When I read books written today, descriptions of nature are often cursory asides; they seem to be there because the author thinks a book needs some description for world building and all that, but secretly they think readers don’t care for it and they should hurry on to more important matters because they don’t really care about the flowers or trees they are describing either.  The Secret Garden, however, revels in descriptions of nature–of the garden and flowers, of course, but also of animals and of the English moor.  I believe Frances Hodgson Burntett liked nature and was knowledgeable about it, and that’s what allows her to convey her passion and its beauty to readers.  Even if you don’t have a secret garden of your own, you can imagine yourself in Mary’s.

However, in spite of the emphasis on spring, change, and positive thinking, there are some underlying dark elements of the story that I don’t know that I thought fully through on my first reading as a child.  Colin’s father and Mary’s uncle, Archibald Craven, is, of course, essentially absent from the book, a father figure who means kindness towards the children but is too wrapped up in his own grief to actually interact with them.  One could write him off as a typical tragic hero figure, undone by the death of his wife, but, well, it’s just sad if you actually think about it.  I also think the death of Mary’s parents is sad.  They, of course, were also absent parents, but the whole plot of the book rests on the fact they died; their deaths is what allows Mary and Colin to actually thrive.  That’s pretty dark, too.  (There is also, of course, some exoticism in the descriptions of India, as are typical of the timer period the book was written.)

Overall, however, the book truly is magic.  The dark elements do not overwhelm the book; indeed, one could probably make some argument about the circle of life or death leading to new life, etc. that make the dark parts natural, necessary in order to make the magic of springtime, flowers, and new beginners all the sweeter.  I highly recommend reading the book, whether or not you plan to see the movie this year.

4 stars Briana

2019 Tolkien Reading Event Giveaway

Tolkien Reading Event 2019

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Tolkien and the Mysterious. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts!


Giveaway Details

To kick off our Tolkien Reading Event 2019, we are giving away a Tolkien book to one lucky fan!  You will be able to choose any Tolkien book you like from the Book Depository, valued up to $11.50 USD.

You can see some of the available Tolkien books here.

Giveaway Rules

    • The giveaway is open internationally as long as the Book Depository ships to you.
    • You should be 18 years or older to enter or have your parents’ permission.
    • We will email the winner once the giveaway closes.  The winner will have 48 hours to respond before we pick a new winner.
    • You do not need to be a follower of our blog, though you can get extra entries for this.
    • Anyone found cheating will be disqualified from this and any future giveaways.
    • We are not responsible for lost or damaged prizes.
    • We will not do anything with your address besides ship the prize to you.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Nine Interesting Posts of the Week (3/10/19)

Post Round-Up

Around the Blogosphere

  1. Alex talks about rereading some of the earliest stories she wrote.
  2. Lauren shares advice for using Canva for blog design.
  3. Stephanie explained how to avoid reading slumps.
  4. Michael writes about the evolution and devolution of comic book characters.
  5. Interesting Literature lists five of the best poems about sons.
  6. Xandra discusses what makes a great plot twist.
  7. Margaret shares 10 female characters who inspire her.
  8. Wonderfilled reads recommends classics.
  9. Michael writes: Captain Marvel: Where the MCU’s Been and Where It’s Going.

AT Pages Unbound

Our Annual Tolkien Reading Event will Start March 24!

Review: Penguin Minis

In October 2018, Penguin launched a new line of books called the Penguin Minis.  Designed in the Netherlands in 2009, the format, known as the flipback, measures about 5″ by 3″ and is meant to fit in the palm of the hand.  The flipback features a hinged spine that allows the pages to be flipped up vertically as the reader progresses through the text.  The paper is the thin kind used in Bibles.  Press releases indicate that Penguin, as well as John Green, whose books were used as a sort of pilot for the concept, hope that the format will appeal particularly to teens, who are used to holding a cell phone in their hands.

The initial buzz around the flipback failed to impress me.  The idea that teens will read more if a book is similar in size to a cell phone is incredibly superficial.  I failed to see why the flipback would turn non-readers into readers and wondered if the text in a mini book would be too small for easy reading.  However,  when my library acquired the four John Green books currently available as Penguin Minis, I checked one out to see what the experience would be like.  (And I read my first John Green book in the process.)

The Penguin Mini turned out to be surprisingly fun to read and I firmly believe that the novel experience of flipping my pages up with one hand helped me to finish a story (Paper Towns) that I somewhat hated.  The book fits nicely into one’s hand and is incredibly lightweight.  It is easy to transport and can be tucked into a purse or perhaps even a roomy pocket, so one is never without something to read.  Even reading lying in bed turned out to be a pleasant experience as my arms did not tire from holding a book up for an extended period of time.  Verdict: I would gladly read more in Penguin Mini form.

Sadly, only four John Green books are currently available as Penguin Minis, but more will be released in the summer and the fall of 2019Matched by Ally Condie, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton,  Legend by Marie Lu, and Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys are scheduled for a July 23 release.  Some classics will be added to the line on October 22 with the release of Heidi by Johanna Spyri, Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, and A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Let It Snow by John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson will also hit shelves on October 22.  Book collectors will no doubt purchase this exciting new format, but I think casual readers will also enjoy the experience of the lightweight Penguin Mini.

Ten Interesting Posts of the Week (2/24/17)

Post Round-Up

  1. Remnants of Wit posts: Tolkien’s Faerian Drama is the Tabletop RPG.
  2. Nandini shares 5 underrated books by diverse authors.
  3. Drew argues there is no right or wrong way to review.
  4. The Orangutan Librarian shares some tropes she doesn’t mind and some she even likes.
  5. Interesting Literature lists the best poems about money.
  6. The Orangutan Librarian lists contemporary YA books that are about more than romance.
  7. Kat explains 4 ways to modify a free WordPress theme.
  8. Rita discusses why she’s moving on from YA.
  9. Samantha asks if you tab or annotate books.
  10. Kat discusses creating a brand for her blog.

At Pages Unbound