It's Friday! Whatcha readin'?

It's Friday!  And what a cold, dreary Friday it is, too.  I just finished baking what I thought was 69 loaves of pumpkin bread, but apparently my counting was way off - she picked them up as I baked - and I really baked 78 or something.  But that's okay!  They ordered 21 more!  Yay!

As you can imagine, I haven't read as much these last couple of days, but I didn't do a Friday Reads post last week, so I have two weeks of reading to share.

Let's start with what the girls and I are reading together.  The last two nights, we've taken a break from the wonderful Patchwork Girl of Oz to read the second Betsy-Tacy book!

Betsy-Tacy and Tib by Maud Hart Lovelace,
illustrated by Lois Lenski.
Original edition published by Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1941.
Reprint edition by HarperCollins, 2000.
 We "read" Betsy-Tacy via audiobook on our trip home from Oklahoma last month.  The amazing Sutton Foster did the reading, and I asked the girls if they would like to continue the series on audio at home.  "No, we want you to read it."  Really?  They prefer me to Sutton Foster?

These books are so warm and cozy.  I had never read them before, although I learned a lot about them through one of the Mother-Daughter Book Club books, Home for the Holidays.  The girls are enjoying this one very much.

Big Sis has been reading Fudge-A-Mania by Judy Blume at school. It's her teacher's copy. Occasionally she remembers the American Girl mystery book she has checked out from the school library.  She's allowed to pick out two books at a time from the school library.  Besides the American Girl book she keep re-checking, she has also checked these out:

Bad Kitty Meets the Baby (2012) and Bad Kitty Gets a Bath (2009)
by Nick Bruel.  (Square Fish) 
I haven't read any of the Bad Kitty chapter books, but apparently they're hilarious.  Big Sis rips through them quickly, as they're easier and heavy on the illustrations.  They certainly look funny!  It was quite a coincidence when she started checking these out, as I had just read this over at Pen Pals & Picture Books! Here is the book trailer for Bad Kitty: School Daze (2013).

Little Sis has been on a Junie B. Jones kick lately.  She isn't reading on her own yet, although she's in the fast reading group at school and I'm sure she will be there by the end of kindergarten!  When Daddy is home and not sleeping - the sad reality of being a railroad conductor - she pesters him to re-read Ivy & Bean to her. Big Sis and I read Junie B. to her, and this is the one we all read together, in memory of Barbara Park:

Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying
by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Brunkus.
Random House Books for Young Readers, 1994.
 So, so funny.  Big Sis had read it before, but it was new to Little Sis and me, and we laughed and laughed and laughed.  I'm so excited, because next month, the children's theatre is doing Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells as part of their Once Upon a Time series for little ones.

Now what have I been reading on my own?  Grown-up books!  Really!  I'm trying to rush through books on my shelves and in the library bag, before I devote the rest of the year to my holiday/seasonal binge-reading.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon 
by Sarah Addison Allen.
Random House, 2010.
I had ordered the next two novels by Sarah Addison Allen soon after completing her first two, both of which my mother had given me.  "You love Alice Hoffman, you love southern fiction.  You'll love these!"  Yes, Sarah Addison Allen definitely still reminds me Alice Hoffman, but Hoffman at her most magical, literally and/or figuratively:  Practical Magic, Seventh Heaven, The River King, The Probably Future...  I really enjoyed this one.  I liked the characters, particularly Julia. I'm still not sure what I thought about the magical twist, which I can't give away, but which did verge on cheesy.  The tale was told so well and the characters were so appealing, I let it go.

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen.
Random House, 2011.
 The Peach Keeper was especially wonderful.  The characters draw you in, the descriptions of the southern town and its social history put you into the story.  This one might be my favorite of the four.

Sarah Addison Allen's next book, Lost Lake, comes out in January!  There is a book trailer:

After completing these literary excursions through the Deep South, I ventured to Australia and England via Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden.

The Forgotten Garden  by Kate Morton.
Atria Books, 2009.
I have an advanced reader's copy of Morton's first book, The House at Riverton, which sounded promising.  I read it and didn't care for it.  I know this, because I had to struggle to even remember the story. That will not be a problem with The Forgotten Garden.  I loved this book so much, I regaled poor Mr. B with the entire storyline, and it's a very layered storyline.  The book jumps through time periods and characters, telling the story of a woman who finds out on her 21st birthday that she isn't who she thinks she is.  She was found alone in Australia on a ship from England when she was four years old.  The book is about her search over the years to discover where she came from.  We follow her, the people in her past, and her granddaughter after her death, as the book weaves its sad tale.  Bonus props to Morton for writing some truly beautiful fairy tales for her Authoress character.  I would read an entire book of these.

Moving on, I am now reading the second book in Alex Grecian's Scotland Yard's Murder Squad series.

The Black Country by Alex Grecian.
Putnam Adult, 2013.
I won a lovely hardcover copy of Grecian's first book, The Yard, a couple summers ago.  Coincidentally, Grecian is a fellow Kansan - he's from Topeka - and a theatre friend of mine tagged his father, another theatre person, on my "omigosh, I won stuff" Facebook post.  You would never guess some guy in Kansas wrote these books.  They take place in Victorian England, post-Jack the Ripper, and are darkly atmospheric crime novels.  I am about halfway through this one, and I recall the greatest strength of The Yard:  its dry sense of humor.  There is some wonderful dialog, and the humorous lines are so subtle the humor could easily be missed. Looking forward to seeing where this one is going!  I can't find a trailer for it, but here is the trailer for The Yard.

I have several massive stacks of holiday books from the library, and I plan to feature some Thanksgiving and harvest-themed titles next week.  I have Christmas stuff swirling like sugar plums in my head, but I will not do the Christmas (or Advent!) thing until Thanksgiving is over and done.  I will say, I've found some goodies!

Merry Weekend!  Happy Reading!

Thankful Thursday

Next week is the ultimate Thankful Thursday.  Can you believe November is almost over?

This week, I am thankful for...

The Patchwork Girl of Oz

The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by John R. Neill.
Published by Reilly & Britton, 1913.
Books of Wonder facsimile edition published by HarperCollins, 1995.

Okay, okay - last Oz post for a while, I promise.

This is the one we're reading right now.  This is the one I was eager to get to, because this is the one where we finally meet my favorite character in Oz.

This is Scraps, the Patchwork Girl of Oz.  This is also my favorite illustration.

The Patchwork Girl of Oz was L. Frank Baum's return to the series.  If you remember, at the end of The Emerald City of Oz, Baum had Glinda seal his fairyland off from the rest of the world.  He ended the book by telling his readers he no longer had access to any of the stories.  However, back in the real world, Baum experienced some financial setbacks, so two years later, he returned to the Oz books, as they were always surefire sellers.  

Now let us admire John R. Neill's glorious endpapers.

In his prologue, Baum explains that one of his young readers suggested that perhaps he could communicate with the citizens of Oz via telegraph.  Apparently, the Shaggy Man dictated this whole story to Baum using Morse code.

One of the reasons Baum did not want to write any more Oz books was that he had other fantasy worlds and amazing characters he wanted to write about.  And he did write many non-Oz books, but the public only wanted Oz.  Well, if he was going to be stuck with the Oz series, who says he had to stick with his regular cast of characters?  Who says he couldn't venture to other fairylands, as long as the book returned to Oz?

At the beginning of Patchwork Girl, we meet a young Munchkin boy named Ojo, who ventures with his Unc Nunkie to the nearest neighbor's home in search of food.  The neighbor is Dr. Pipt, the Crooked Magician, who has almost completed a new batch of the Powder of Life, which he plans to use on a life-size doll sewn by his wife, Margolotte.  Margolotte needs a servant girl, so she has fashioned one out of a patchwork quilt.  She intends to give her only enough brains to make her an obedient worker, but when her back is turned, Ojo adds a great deal more to her stuffed head.  We also meet another favorite character of mine, Bungle the Glass Cat, brought to life by the same Powder, who has a hard ruby heart and pearly pink brains - "You can see them work."

An accident leaves Unc Nunkie and Margolotte frozen like marble, so Ojo sets off in search of the items Dr. Pipt needs to set them free.  He is accompanied by the crazy, clever Scraps and the vain, brittle Glass Cat. Their first item is found when they come upon The Woozy, another wonderful Baum creation, a square dog-like animal with skin so tough, no one can pull out the three hairs in his tail (the needed ingredient).  We meet some other interesting creatures before we finally find a familiar face - The Shaggy Man.  From there, the rest of the adventure unfolds, as our new heroes meet old heroes.  The entire book is full of some of Neill's most beautiful illustrations, including some spectacular double-page spreads.  Seriously, if you have ever thought about reading these books, this one should convince you to give them a try.

A few bonus items:

A year later, Baum would once again experience a financial setback.  His Oz Film Manufacturing Company made several feature films, including a rather different Patchwork Girl of Oz, all of which were commercial failures. 

Did you know that Walt Disney had once planned his own Oz feature film?  Here is some footage from an episode of "The Mickey Mouse Club" from 1957.  His planned film would have been called The Rainbow Road to Oz, and seemed to be a hodge-podge of this book and The Road to Oz.

One last thing to share with you today.  One of my very favorite items at the Oz Museum in Wamego was this little Woozy figure, handmade by L. Frank Baum himself, not long before his death.

And now I am done.

I have to be.  I will soon have a month's worth of holidays to be obnoxious about.  You're going to long for the days I droned on and on about Oz, wink wink.

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The Emerald City of Oz (A Little Golden Book)

The Emerald City of Oz (A Little Golden Book)
by L. Frank Baum, adapted by Peter Archer,
illustrated by Harry McNaught.
Simon & Schuster, 1952.

Look what just arrived in the mail!  I finally have a copy of the Little Golden Book edition of The Emerald City of Oz.  Like the LGB edition of The Road to Oz, this one is illustrated in charming 1950s fashion by Harry McNaught.  Unlike that book, this one is not currently in print.  Mine is an A copy from 1952!

This simple edition revolves solely around Dorothy, Aunt Em, and Uncle Henry's move to Oz - no Nome King to be found.  The threesome move to Oz, where Aunt Em and Uncle Henry feel out of place.  Ozma (looking much older than Dorothy) sends them on a tour of Oz with the Wizard, Shaggy Man, and the Sawhorse.  They do visit the Cuttenclips, then skip straight ahead to the Tin Woodman's palace in the country of the Winkies.  Upon returning to the Emerald City, Em and Henry inform Ozma they wish to stay after all.  Glinda and Ozma tell their friends of their plan to cut Oz off from the rest of the world.  The end.

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Sad News

"Junie B. Jones Creator Barbara Park Dies at 66"

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