Category Archives: Guest post

#18 Matilda

Reading through the Top 100 Childrens Books (as compiled by Betsy at A Fuse #8 Production), I have come across many Roald Dahl books.  Actually, besides J.K. Rowling, he is the author that makes the most appearances on this list.  Instead of hearing me blabber on about how fabulous he is again, I want to give Bri a chance to share her love for Matilda.  Be sure to check out her blog after reading this post.  She is so sweet and has a tremendous passion for books.

I can’t pinpoint when I read Matilda for the first time.  I probably pulled it from the shelves at my middle school library, looking for something beyond my usual reads of the Baby-Sitters Club and the illustrated classics.   I do know I read it once then tried to read it again immediately after.    I was always trying to do this; I hated to leave the world of a good book.

Matilda was a very good book.

I think the reason Matilda is my favorite Dahl books (and probably one of my favorite books of all time) is it was the first book I read as a child that spoke of the magic of reading and its power. Here was Matilda, shy and ignored, taking solace in books.  I didn’t have negligent criminal parents or a magical power, but one thing I could share in common with Matilda was our love of reading.   Reading takes us to magical words, just as the faded library posters used to tell us. It’s not just marketing kids, it’s fact.   And as Elizabeth Bird points out, Matilda was our early Harry Potter.  Who didn’t want a teacher as sweet as Ms. Honey or to have the upper hand when it came to a bully, especially if we could defeat them using magic?

I adore Dahl because he was always aware of his audience.  He knew what kids want.  At that age, I wanted books that were more than just drama over school spirit day or who won a spelling bee.  Dahl never fell into that category.  His books have a running theme of how children were much smarter than adults, and how they should never be ignored.   Good vs. evil was much defined and good wins.  His good characters, however small or significant seeming, were always empowered.  Matilda was no exception.  But with Dahl, every character – even those that were good – were allowed a bit of a wicked side, especially if it allowed them to win in the end.   As a kid, I enjoyed that. I still do.

I’ve got to say I was surprised at how high Matilda placed on the Fuse # 8 Top 100 List , but I was happy to see its ranking.  Matilda definitely deserves to be on the list, yet I’ve always assumed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or James and the Giant Peach were more beloved by readers. It was great to find out that Matilda, the story of a girl with a love of books, still impacts readers young and old today.    I think that’s a great feat, especially in our generation of technology,  something Dahl himself would’ve loved.


by Roald Dahl

Originally published in 1988


#24 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Let’s give a warm welcome to my good friend Melanie from Reclusive Bibliophile, who is stopping by today to share her thoughts and love for the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series.  Melanie is a big Harry Potter fan and a wonderful blogger and you are just plain crazy if you don’t take some time to check out her blog.  Meanwhile. . .

“Anybody who read the Harry Potter books as they were released will remember the anticipation they felt while waiting for the seventh and final book in the series. It was a mix of pure excitement and pure dread. I wanted answers: Where are the rest of the Horcruxes? Is Harry a Horcrux? Will he make it out alive? Yet, I was reluctant because I knew that once I turned those final pages, it was The End. Hank Green probably sums up these feelings best in his song Accio Deathly Hallows. All of mugglekind was indeed under Harry Potter’s spell.

The funny thing about the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is that, like other important life events, I have a flashbulb memory of the day it came out. My guess is that a lot of people can remember what they were doing that day quite vividly. At the time, I was working at a residential summer camp in the Poconos. I had the youngest campers, so at first I felt all alone in my wait for the book’s release. I planned ahead to have my pre-order go to camp instead of my house, and I asked a Senior Staffer to check the mail room for me to let me know when my book got there because I had to stay with the kids at activities all day.

This turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated. On the day of the release, the mail room was PACKED with Harry Potter books. Almost all of the older kids had asked their parents to have their books shipped to camp. The enthusiasm for these books was perhaps the most magical thing about them. Never in my life before or since that day have I seen kids so caught up in reading. The camp was abuzz with Potter talk. Some kids were racing to see who could finish first, forgoing activities to read. Others savored the book, trying to make it last, and demanded that those around them remain spoiler-free.

Unlike the kids, I couldn’t quite skip out on activities. Once I got the book in my greedy little hands, I had to tuck it away for a few hours until my campers went to sleep. I tried to stay up and read it — I had read the rest of the books in a single sitting — but I was sick all throughout that summer, and that sickness ended up driving me to bed only 100 or so pages in. I spent the rest of the week trying to read during rest hour, though my young campers didn’t quite grasp the significance of my reading time, and then again at night after they went to bed. It took me about a week to get through the book. It was tough to keep the campers in the activities I supervised to stay quiet about what happened, but I managed to make it through without any spoilers. It wasn’t quite the reading experience I imagined for myself, but it was amazing nonetheless.

I’ve since reread Deathly Hallows while healthy and more coherent, and I loved it even more, but my strongest memories of the book will always be tied back to that summer. Anyone who has ever questioned the value of Harry Potter need only watch a camp full of kids eagerly picking through piles of books to find their own copy in order to understand the power these books hold. They need only see the intensity with which these kids read, and the light in their eyes when they talked to each other about what they were reading. That is the true magic of Harry Potter.”

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

by J.K. Rowling

Originally published in 2007


Guest Post: Wizard of Oz

For fear that you might get tired of hearing me ramble on about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, I have invited a good, good friend of mine to give her thoughts about the Oz phenomenon.  Abby and I have known each other for 20+ years, worked at a library together, graduated high school together and now live just 20 minutes away from each other.  She is very dear to my heart and I am so excited for you, my readers, to have the chance to hear from her.

“There’s no place like home.” Unless you have lived under a rock since 1900, you know exactly what I am referring to. Images of terrifying flying monkeys, glimmering red slippers (or silver), a glorious green city, and meek Dorothy Gale might pop into your mind. For those who have seen the movie or read the book, most have some kind of emotional connection to the tale.

As a child, I loved the movie, but the book allowed me to create my own images. I remember wanting so badly to have the kind of adventure that young Dorothy went on, all to come back home safe and sound. She was a courageous protagonist, but still simply a young girl. I was shocked when I first saw the movie and noticed that the silver slippers were a shocking color of red!

When The Literary Wife asked me to write a bit about “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, I wasn’t sure what specific part I needed to focus on: the 1939 movie, the book, the memorabilia, the myths, the munchkins, the crazed fans, the author, the fan fiction? As a reading teacher, I wanted to focus solely on the book, but decided to describe the impact of the 1900 novel.

I had the opportunity to work at a museum in my hometown that focuses on one hundred years of Oz.  Although I worked there for only a year while in college, I gained a ton of knowledge and met even more interesting people. I was already familiar with the tale because my mother was the curator at this museum for five years.  I had no idea what it really meant to so many visitors.

I can’t count how many times I saw someone start sobbing as soon as they walked through the doors of the museum. People would drive across the country just to walk through the museum and then claim it was the best moment of their entire life. I have met many women whose names were Dorothy and many dogs named Toto. I have seen numerous Oz related tattoos that people would proudly show. I have seen men, women, children, and dogs dress up as the characters. I have held people back from rushing the living munchkins from the 1939 movie, L. Frank Baum’s grandsons, Judy Garland’s son, or prominent Oz collectors. The amount of books related to Oz is astounding. From Pink Floyd, to Michael Jackson, to Kristin Chenoweth, you can easily relate the Wizard of Oz to many of great entertainers of our time in some way. I have heard hundreds of stories about what the story means to people. You would be surprised how many adults are still scared of the flying monkeys to this day! The impact that the original book has had on the world is absolutely amazing and speaks volumes of the timelessness of the tale.

I would encourage you to go back and read the original 1900 tale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Get lost and allow yourself to remember how you first felt when you initially heard the true American fairytale.


#48 The Penderwicks

Today, you have the privilege of hearing from one of my good book blogging friends, Amanda, from A Patchwork of Books.  Number 48 on our Top 100 Children’s Books list is one of her favorites and I am delighted that she wanted to share some of thoughts on her love for this book.
My love for The Penderwicks started just this past summer, on a road trip home to Upstate NY. For the past couple of years I had been told by dozens of friends/bloggers/librarians that I needed to read the book and that I would absolutely, without-a-doubt fall in love with it, but until this particular trip, just hadn’t been motivated to do so. I think I was almost afraid that it would be one of those books that just didn’t live up to all the hype. All it took was seven hours in the car with the audiobook, read by Susan Denaker, and I was smitten with four girls, their father, and a dog. The Penderwicks captured my heart.
The adventures the four sisters encounter while on their summer vacation reminds me so much of the time I spent running around on my own summer vacations. There certainly weren’t computers or XBox systems or Ipads while I was growing up and since my mother was a single parent, money was scarce. My brother and I were encouraged to spend our days outside, using our imaginations and  playing with what we had. In our case, it was a huge cow pasture directly behind our house, scattered with trees and streams (and cows, of course). We had more adventures in that cow pasture than I could ever remember and though the cows always stayed far away from us, they were always central characters in our stories.
I think the pure simplicity of the story is what really made me fall in love with The Penderwicks and its characters. Such innocence is displayed on the pages and in such a realistic way. I love that the girls’ father has this loving, supportive way about him, while letting each girl become their own person. The dialog is done beautifully and I found myself both tearing up and laughing while driving my car along Route 15, up to the boonies of NY. The girls and their antics stayed with me throughout my entire vacation and helped me to remember a time when my life was simpler and more innocent.
When life gets too crazy and I start to get overwhelmed, I flip through the pages of The Penderwicks (because, of course I own a copy now) and try to remember simplicity…imagination…pure happiness. Jeanne Birdsall put into words something that I never thought could be written. She gave me a look back at my childhood and made me feel so blessed to have been raised in the way that I was. All children should get to experience a summer like Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty did and even in the midst of electronic overload, I hope kids will indeed get that summer vacation.
The Penderwicks
by Jeanne Birdsall
Originally published in 2005