Today I completed my reading goal for the year: 52 books. Perhaps now I’ll try to work my way through three books that I inadvertently abandoned along the way (The House of the Seven Gables, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, and A Visit from the Good Squad). Meanwhile I feel bad that I never mentioned some of the books that I finished, so here are some quick words about a few of them.
Walking the Maze by Margret Shaw
“Books are dangerous. You can get lost in them.” That line and the cover image of an old-fashioned garden maze sold me on the book. In this story, teenager Annice’s fascination with a gallery painting threatens her hold on reality. I thought the ending was a letdown. There was a lot to enjoy along the way, though. The garden was so important to the story that it was almost a character, and it was a creepy garden! It takes a lot to creep me out, so I was impressed. I also enjoyed the many references to Shakespeare’sĀ A Midsummer Night’s DreamĀ (Annice’s class was putting on a performance of the play). That’s why the book still gets a B+.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
I wanted to love this story about a preteen girl living at the time of a global disaster. It kinda broke my heart, though. There was great storytelling throughout, but it was so unremittingly gloomy. I stuck with it but was disappointed by the ending. While I can see why the author thought she could get away with the way she ended the book, I don’t think it worked. To sum it up: great writing and awesome premise ruined by nonstop gloom and a weak ending.
The Boggart and the Monster by Susan Cooper
This is a very silly story about a pair of kids and their Boggart friend, but I enjoyed it. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been in love with Scotland, and I have very fond memories of Loch Ness, the location where much of this story takes place. Whatever the reason, I liked it just enough to keep it (for now), but not enough to give it an A. This book is a sequel to The Boggart, which I have never read.
Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
The main character of Daddy-Long-Legs is Judy, an orphan who is given the chance to go to college by an anonymous sponsor. The only payback required of her is that she write to her sponsor every month to let him know about her progress. Judy is a remarkably modern woman for a story written in 1912. Yes, this story is a hundred years old, and yet it holds up better than many stories of more recent vintage. Judy, whom we get to know through her letters to her unknown benefactor, is so likable that the story is not ruined by its predictability. Highly recommended.
BTW, I also watched the musical Daddy-Long-Legs, starring Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron, because it was based loosely on the book. The filmmakers obvious worried that the audience of the time would think Fred Astaire’s character was an old lecher preying on an innocent girl. Excepting their heavy-handed attempts to avoid that accusation, it’s a good movie. It has some great dance numbers (my favorite was the one in which Astaire was Caron’s “invisible” guardian angel). Leslie Caron, who normally doesn’t do much for me, was charming in this film.
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabott
Teenager Mia Thermopolis has just found out that she’s a princess of an obscure European country. She doesn’t think she’s the princess type and she’s not afraid to say so. The story is told in the form of diary entries.
I enjoyed The Princess Diaries. But, having just read Daddy-Long-Legs, which is similar in that the whole story is told through the main character’s writing, I have to say that it’s unlikely to hold up as well over time. It’s full of pop references. Also, Mia’s character is somewhat negative and shallow, which is unlikely to give her lasting likability. She discusses adult topics freely in her diary entries, so I would not recommend this book for younger readers.
The book is different from the movie version starring Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews. Fans of one might not necessarily appreciate the other. I liked them roughly equally, but I thought the movie characters were nicer.
The Story of Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
In this, the first book of the series, Dr. Dolittle travels to Africa to cure a band of sick monkeys. I loved the Dr. Dolittle stories when I was a kid, and I was thrilled to find that their magic still works for me.
Note: Parts of this book might be considered racist by today’s standards, but I recommend reading the original, uncensored version, if for no other reason than that the subject of racism is always food for thought. I also think it is wrong to rewrite someone else’s book without their permission. But more importantly, I think it is unwise to rewrite history.