Discussion Series Invites Adults to Read Children’s Classics

The Lansing Community Library will present a three-part book discussion series beginning in October 2016 on “Childhood Classics.” Members of the community are invited to attend the free programs, which will take place at the Lansing Community Library, 730 1st Terrace, Lansing, Kansas.

The series is sponsored by the Kansas Humanities Council (KHC), a nonprofit cultural organization, as part of its Talk About Literature in Kansas (TALK) program. KHC is furnishing the books and discussion leaders for the Lansing TALK series. For more information about KHC, visit www.kansashumanities.org.

Childhood Classics

Remember curling up in a cozy chair as a child with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, or climbing onto the lap of a favorite aunt to read The Jungle Book?  The classic books of our childhood allowed us to travel the world, visiting some of the most famous living rooms, barns, and castles in literature.  As adults, we discover that the books that delighted us as children still have a great deal to say.

“Only the rarest kind of best in anything is good enough for the young,” writes Walter de la Mare.  In Childhood Classics, we encounter literature that not only entertains and educates but also endures, thanks to superb plots, realistic characters, and universal themes.  Any children’s book worth its paper must endure for adults as well, telling our stories of the past as well as our possibilities for the future.  The books in this series, written by authors in Great Britain and the United States, can all be read for pleasure at any age and also for insight into the history of child-rearing, family, and community life from the Victorian area to the present.

These staples of childhood libraries of the 20th century also allow us to examine the very fibers of our culture.  Society’s most cherished values are often reflected most clearly in the books and stories we give to young people.  The importance of family and love, the courage of being true to oneself, the need for friendship and faith – all of these qualities unfold in the books that we continue to pass down from generation to generation.  Most of all, these books honor the power of the imagination to shape and inform our visions of ourselves and our world.

Redeem Your Golden Ticket

The first meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 13, 2013, at 5:30 p.m. Nicolas Shump (pictured at right) will lead discussion of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.  The gates of Mr. Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory are opening at last, and only five children will be allowed inside: the good-hearted Charlie and a pack of spoiled, destructive brats. Nicolas Shump teaches history and English at the Barstow School in Kansas City, Missouri.  He received his M.A. in American Studies from the University of Kansas. Shump joined the KHC TALK program as a discussion leader in 2012.

The idea of a special literature for children dates only to the nineteenth century, when writers began to produce both fantasy and realistic family stories for young readers. “Childhood Classics” features some of the most enduring books written for children over the past century in the U.S. and Great Britain. Adult readers will discover that the books that entertained and educated them as children have much to say to them now about courage and faith, friendship, character, and the power of love.

Mark Your Calendar

In this series, readers will also discuss A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett on January 12, 2017 and The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame on April 13, 2017.

To check out books and for more information about the reading series, contact the Lansing Community Library at 913-727-2929 or visit their website at http://lansing.mykansaslibrary.org.

Reading List

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (1916-1990)

Roald Dahl’s very witty and popular novel tells the story of a good-hearted boy living in the most dire of economic conditions.  Young Charlie is a shining light, especially among four spoiled, misguided, and destructive children who, along with Charlie, find the golden tickets in their candy bars that win them a tour of Willy Wonka’s factory.  This humorous and satirical novel also speaks of how, with enough trust and love, a child can inspire the adults around him and transform his family’s life.  Dahl, often called a literary genius, creates in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory a modern-day fairy tale about the evils of greed and corruption and the wonders of honesty.  162 pp.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924)

Burnett’s turn-of-the-century Cinderella story tells of a little girl who goes from riches to rags to riches again, all along maintaining her compassion and love for those around her.  After wealthy Sara Crewe moves into a strict girls’ boarding school, she learns that her father is dead, leaving her both penniless and an orphan.  Her faith in her father and her sense of justice enable her to overcome poverty, hardship, and abuse, and to create her own family and community.  Burnett, a playwright and novelist for adults before she wrote children’s books, never over-simplifies the complexities of a dangerous world; at the same time, she never forgets what it’s like to view that world as a hopeful child.  242 pp.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932)

Few children’s books create such memorable characters as The Wind in the Willows, and few appeal as universally to both children and adults.  The struggles of Badger, Mole, Water Rat, and the incorrigible Toad allowed Grahame to imbue his tale with the “deepest sense of the meaning of his own adult life,” says scholar Clifton Fadiman.  The four animal characters, with all their foibles, exhibit many adult characteristics.  They survive each others’ limitations and escapades, face the loss of their home due to corruption, and muster enough loyalty, ingenuity and humor to prevail over evil.  In doing so, they show us how to survive our own personal challenges and limitations at home and at work, as adults.  244 pp.


Book Review: The Age of Innocence by Wharton (3 Stars)

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

3 out of 5 stars

Read in October 2008

At times, I wanted to strangle Newland Archer for being so naive, so blind to what was happening around him. Especially from his sweet subservient fiancé. I really connected with Ellen and longed for her to have more scenes, rather than just hearing the rumors about her from various members of the families involved.

I admire all the characters stoic resolve to play the cards dealt them and make the best of their lives. In today’s society with disposal marriages and relationships, it was refreshing.

Downloaded the free ebook from Project Gutenberg – http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/541

Continue reading “Book Review: The Age of Innocence by Wharton (3 Stars)”

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee (4 Stars)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

4 out of 5 stars

Read in June 2009

As Atticus said “Rape, riot and runaways” mixed together with prejudice and intolerance told from the eyes of a spunky young girl nicknamed Scout in 1930s Maycomb Alabama. The antics of the children, Scout, Jem and Dill, caused me to shake my head in wonder. But the adult antics merely sickened me, aside from the glimmering lights in the darkness of Atticus, Miss Maudie and Arthur Radley.

The story was well written and sparks discussion even today. Lest History repeat itself, I recommend this to everyone so that we can all be on guard against bigotry and discrimination.

Continue reading “Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee (4 Stars)”

Reader of the Vast Tomes

For the third day of my ‘Thirty Days of Thankfulness‘ I wish to express my appreciation of reading books.  I can’t remember of a time when I didn’t know how to read, going clear back to when I was three or four years old.  By the time I finished second grade, I believe I had finished all the Laura Ingalls Wilder Prairie books and started working through my mom’s old collection of Nancy Drew novels (printed in the 30s or before), as well as a few Hardy Boys and Trixie Beldon mysteries.  I also remember reading Black Beauty and Little Women several times.  Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass come to mind as well as some Jules Verne.  I loved (and still re-read) C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia and own a large hardcover omnibus edition, which I place prominently on my Shelf of Honor.

As I approached middle school age, I became exposed to other genres, including science fiction and horror.  During my early teen years, I couldn’t read enough Stephen King.  I still consider The Stand to be one of his best novels and a great example of post-apocalyptic fiction.  But there came a point when the thrills paled and the terror became predictable.  I did an about-face, a complete one-eighty and dived into epic fantasy.  I have rarely, if ever, looked back.

Epic Fantasy Tomes

Why did epic fantasy appeal to me?  The size of the books.  Yes, I prefer tomes.  The longer the book (or series), the happier I am.  I read fast (not as fast as I did during my young adult hood, but still no slouch).  Of the three novels shown in the photo above, the Janny Wurts novel on my Nook Color is the longest, weighing in at 749 pages.  The classic, by Twain, and Vinge’s Rainbow’s End are actually approximately the same size in length: between 350 and 400 pages.  If I put my mind to it, had few distractions, and really enjoyed the novel, I could finish either of the paperbacks in a day.  Janny’s writing, however, is dense, rich and full of revelations and layers that require concentration.  I will enjoy her prose for a minimum of ten days, and again in the future, because there’s always something new to find in her work when you re-visit it.

While Janny’s latest publication, the very recently released Initiate’s Trial, seems long to the casual reader at nearly twice the size of a normal paperback, to me it is a good sized epic fantasy novel.

The longest books I’ve read in the last three years include:

  1. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (read in 2009) ~ 1,024 pages
  2. The Way of Kings (read in 2010) ~ 1,007 pages
  3. The Wise Man’s Fear (read in 2011) ~ 994 pages

For more of my book stats, visit my stats page at GoodReads.

Book Clubs

I spent most of the 90s and the first half of the 00s raising children and helping my chronically ill husband all while working full-time.  So basically, for a decade or a decade and a half, I stopped reading.  Not completely, of course, because I read technical manuals and references guides for work and I occasionally picked up a novel off the new release shelf at the library.   But I had blinders on and wasn’t taking advantage of the wealth of information available via the Internet.

About three years ago, a friend on Facebook invited me to join GoodReads, a social network site for bibliophiles.  I felt like I’d found the keys to the gates of heaven.  I quickly found online book clubs that aligned with my readings interests, signing up immediately with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club.   That quickly followed with Beyond Reality (which seems to be my favorite place to hang out for the moment).   Eventually, I joined (and now help moderate) the Fantasy Book Club and the sister group Fantasy Book Club Series.

My awareness of reading and reviewing skyrocketed and pushed me to branch out in the ‘real world.’  Conveniently located in the building I spend Photo0960.jpgevery weekday in is a branch of the Kansas City Public Library.  I participated in reading challenges and seasonal book clubs, some of which I’ve written blog posts about here (including:  ‘A Taste of Victorian Literature‘; ‘Altered States‘; ‘Readers in the Rue Morge’; and, ‘The Big Read‘ featuring Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer).


Accessible Authors

As if reading, reviewing and discussing novels wasn’t wonderful enough, the real icing on the cake comes from the authors themselves.  Unlike in the 80s when I had to write a letter on a manual typewriter and snail mail it to one of my favorite authors with a question (I did this with Barbara Hambly, Piers Anthony and Stephen R. Donaldson – all of whom replied courtesy the self-addressed stamped enveloped I provided them), today’s authors write blogs, tweet via Twitter and participate eagerly at GoodReads either as discussion leaders or via dedicated Q&A topics  posted for the chosen Book of the Month they wrote.  Without their talent, imagination, perseverance and passion, I would have less to read, both in quantity and quality.

I highly recommend the following author blogs:

Back to the Future

I still love the heft of a heavy hardcover edition of a treasured classic epic fantasy … for about five minutes.  I may have turned the final page of my last new hardcover.  Any future purchases will be made solely to support a favorite author, with the hope of meeting the author and asking for their autograph on the title page.  For the lion’s share of my reading, and to preserve both my weakening eyesight and the strain on my hands and arms, I will peruse the hundreds of novels and thousands of pages on my Nook Color ereader tablet, which is smart enough to turn off the light and mark my page when I doze off to sleep each night.  Thanks again to my husband, for gifting me with this amazing product.