First, What Are You Reading? Volume 34, September 2013

Here are the questions I ask and answer on the first of each month, most of the time (I’ve taken a little summer break, I guess).

Last month I participated in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Twitterature, and I would like to continue to do that, perhaps linking up this post to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s reading link-up.  But I’ve been reading a ton lately, though not writing about it much, and I may just do another post when Twitterature rolls around.

The questions, as always, are:

first, what are you reading?


what do you like best about it?


what do you like least?


what’s next on your list to read?

As always, I hope you’ll consider your current reads on your blog and/or sharing here in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter. Happy reading!

First, what are you reading?

I read late last month A Spoonful of Sugar: A Nanny’s Story by Brenda Ashford.

Earlier in the summer I finished Betsy Was a Junior, one of the high school books in the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. That put me on a Maud Hart Lovelace kick.

I also just finished a read-aloud of Five Children & It by E. Nesbit. It’s at least the second and possibly the third time I’ve read this one aloud.  I read this one on my Kindle App, which makes for easy highlighting and bookmarking.

What do you like best about them?

A Spoonful of Sugar is charming in a British and old-fashioned way.  I loved it. Brenda Ashford is “Britain’s longest-serving nanny” and a graduate of Norland College, a once venerable, now-shuttered and world-famous institute for training nannies.

The book begins with the 92-year-old relating a typical daily schedule, and then provides a first-person narrative of that time, followed by “nanny’s wisdom” and perhaps a recipe. Each chapter begins with a schedule of her day as a child, young student, young nanny and so forth. Wow, was she busy.

Anyone who has had small children can definitely see the sheer amount of work it takes to keep things running smoothly.

I found myself wanting to jot down different “nanny’s wisdom” notes from Nurse Brenda, such as:

“As long as the mother is happy, the household will be happy.”

“Respect for the opposite sex is the foundation for good manners. Impeccable manners are something I always insisted on from my charges. It’s the little things that count in life; and for many people, just to know they are in someone;s thoughts will cheer them up no end.”

Betsy Was a Junior.  Love.  As I’ve written before (and even made a pilgrimage) I always love Betsy-Tacy books, and Betsy is a Junior is no exception.

What I found really poignant about it is when Julia, Betsy’s older sister, leaves for “the U” when she goes off to the University of Minnesota, and how sad everyone is. It reminded me a little of saying goodbye to our oldest, even for just a week at choral camp, as we did earlier this summer.

At one point, Julia comes home for the weekend, and says, “I never knew, until I went away from home, how nice we all are!”

Quotes like that make me realize all that goes into making a happy home, as well as the importance of enjoyment as a family.

Five Children & It: As the first several times I read this aloud, we laughed our way through it. Certain times I couldn’t keep reading, I was laughing so hard, and the four children (and their baby brother, Lamb) have one misadventure after another as they are granted a wish each day by an irritable sand-fairy. Hilarious and highly recommended.

Edith Nesbit influenced the work of some of our other favorite authors, such as Edward Eager and Jeanne Birdsall, so I’m not surprised how much humor is a part of this excellent book.

Reading a book like Five Children & It puts a much-needed smile on my face and allows me to just relax into a fun read, and especially a read-aloud.

What do you like least about them?

A Spoonful of Sugar is a little light, and clearly ghost-written, but I do believe the co-writer did a very good job of getting the “voice” of Brenda Ashford. A few times it was a little bit clunky as Brenda, but I suspect the co-writer, mentioned cultural “milestones” like the Kinsey Reports on sexuality. Really? That would have been on a nanny’s radar? Don’t think so. But otherwise it’s a lovely memoir capturing the personality and voice of a delightful woman.

I love everything written by Maud Hart Lovelace, and I’ve read almost all of it, including her novels for adults. My only concern about any of them is a ouija board that figures into Heaven to Betsy (if I’m not mistaken), as I want to keep as far away from that kind of stuff as possible.   But in our case, that has helped me have discussions with my children about something that wouldn’t normally come up, and why we stay far away from things like that.

Five Children & It: Practically perfect in every way. My absolute favorite “wish gone wrong” of the children is when one wishes “the Lamb” would be grown up, and he is perfectly awful and spoiled, or it’s the wish to be “as beautiful as the day.”

What’s next on your list?

On the suggestion of Margaret Sullivan of Austenblog, I’m reading Among the Janeites by Deborah Jaffe. Oh, and am I loving it so far!!! She’s a kindred spirit.

I’m also reading C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity for the first time since my 20s.  We’re reading and discussing it, one section at a time, in a small book group. This the way to do it, in my opinion.  Even though I own a paperback copy, I went ahead and bought the Kindle edition to make it easier to take and share notes.  I’m so glad I did.

I know these aren’t books, but there are several articles that have really stuck with me in recent days I wanted to share here.

My sister-in-law shared this article on youth literature with me last week, and I’ve been pondering it so much.  I will be writing about this very soon–there’s a lot to say, and I’m really interested to hear what a lot of perspectives on this.

I know this may make me an old fuddy-duddy, but I’ve truly been so very, very sad about the Miley Cyrus kerfuffle last week, and we were never Hannah Montana fans here.  This article from Meg Meeker and this one from Simcha Fisher (“girls cannot give consent”–preach it, sister) have helped me process it some.

So, what are you reading this month?