North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
This was an enjoyable classic, and I'm glad I gave Gaskell another chance after reading Cranford a few years ago. I wouldn't say she's one of my favorite British authors, but it was a well-paced, period piece in which the characters brought the distinctions of industrialized England into sharp focus. Aside from a few melodramatic scenes, which seemed out of place for the very reserved characters, it had none of the silly pettiness of Cranford.
Did you know A. A. Milne wrote more than Winnie-the-Pooh? Murder mysteries, to be exact? Well, this was a fun diversion, if not a very complex plot, and I'd recommend it.
Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
(Who names their child Jerome Jerome?) This is described as a comic travelogue, but for some reason I just wasn't in the mood for such humor. I think (I hope) it was intended as a parody on idle young gentleman who think too highly of themselves, but I had my fill of that with Brideshead Revisited. Now Three Men in a Boat was not so disheartening as Brideshead, but for some reason it put me in a real reading funk, perhaps because I didn't have a real grasp for it's size on the Kindle and it seemed rather interminable. I found it soooo tedious, yet I kept reading thinking it would surely get better. There were, in fact, a few interesting historical divergences in a vast sea of stream of consciousness rabbit trails, but it still took me more than a month - a month! - for me to read this relatively short book. I persevered, mostly because I thought it would be helpful to have the background before reading To Say Nothing of the Dog. This more recent time-travel story sounds fascinating, but the original was so disappointing that I'm almost afraid to start it.
The Hobbit (or There and Back Again) by J. R. R. Tolkien
If I had nothing better to do, I'd spend a year or so reading Tolkien's entire corpus. I find that his idea of "true myth" gives me much to ponder, though it's all too easy to get caught up in the adventure and miss the broader truths. I appreciated the read-along posts on Redeemed Reader this November, particularly this one which explores his true myth concept in more detail.
Yes, we've seen the movie. I loved parts of it and was really irritated by other parts. That almost always happens with books adapted to screen, especially when I've just read the book before seeing the movie. With more distance I might be able to appreciate the movie for its own merits, but not this time.
Harry Cat's Pet Puppy
Chester Cricket's Pigeon Ride
Harry Kitten and Tucker Mouse
Chester Cricket's New Home
by George Selden
Yes, we've read them all, and if there are more I don't want to know! While it was a pleasant journey, the sequels aren't as good as the original Cricket in Times Square. I think E. B. White knew what he was doing when he brought Charlotte's Web and The Trumpet of the Swan to a satisfying close and didn't try to capitalize on whatever success they gained. If your children are voracious readers, I'm sure they would enjoy these continuing tales of unlikely animal friends. However, I'm a little sorry that we spent so much time on these read-alouds when there are so many other wonderful children's classics to read.
Such as Homer Price and Centerburg Tales by Robert McCloskey!
These books are just downright fun bits of Americana. Since I grew up in a small Ohio town not far from Robert McCloskey's own hometown, these stories just ring true to me. I'm afraid I might even pick up the dialect a little too well! My kids love them, too! They are funny enough to appeal to kids, but there's some subtle humor for the grown-ups, too.
Our home school co-op of 6 families read Homer Price for a book club week, and each family acted out one chapter, which was loads of fun! While the older kids did some art and map projects, the younger children then did activities related to Make Way for Ducklings - another favorite of mine!