October 24, 2011
This is simply one of my favorite books. For that matter, Marguerite Henry is simply one of my favorite authors. I’ve always loved horses, and I love the way she makes her characters and animals come alive. Add Wesley Dennis’ superb illustrations and you have the captured feelings and expressions as well!
King of the Wind is the fictionalized story of the Godolphin Arabian’s journey to greatness. Beginning in Morocco, a colt is born just as the fast of Ramadan comes to a close. Agba, a mute horse-boy who has charge of merely ten of the twelve thousand horses in the Sultan’s stables, names the colt Sham because he was born at the rising of the sun. Sham has the mark of the wheat ear on his chest: a sign of misfortune, or ‘bad luck’… but on his hind heel he has a white spot, promising swiftness.
The head horse-keeper, Signor Achmet, promises Sham’s mother will die and believes Sham should die as well because of the bad luck of the wheat ear. As he said, the dam does die; but this could be easily explained as the outcome from having limited eating supply during the last month of pregnancy. Sham, however, thrives on the camel’s milk Agba feeds him – and bonds to the boy who is both a father and mother to him - as he grows strong and swift to live up to the promise of the white spot.
Throughout this book the ‘powers’ of the wheat ear and white spot weigh in on the scales, commonly explained as the luck and chance of one or the other. Agba and Sham, along with seven other horse-boys and their charges, are chosen to be sent as a gift to King Louis XV. The unexpected happens on their journey and when they reach the king’s court they are considered nothing but laughingstock (“Nothing but skin and bones, and a crest so high you can hang your hat upon it!”). Agba and Sham are chosen to stay and work for the chief cook, but the cook takes a strong dislike to Sham because Agba is the only one who can handle the spirited horse. Without Agba’s knowledge, the cook sells Sham off to a nasty carter who works him very hard. Agba and Sham’s paths cross again though, and after a time of working for the monstrous carter and acquiring a faithful cat named Grimalkin (not to be confused with the black cat with green eyes from Henry’s other masterpiece, Benjamin West and his cat Grimalkin ), they find happiness for a time with Quaker Jethro Coke and his cheery housekeeper, Mistress Cockburn.
Yet again, misfortune strikes, and Sham becomes a horse for hire at The Red Lion Tavern. Agba is allowed to stay with him as a groom for a while, but the owner’s wife hates him distinctly, and Agba is thrown out to the streets again… then deposited in Newgate Prison and labeled a ‘horse thief’ after going back and trying to spirit Sham away from The Red Lion. Mistress Cockburn comes to see him (after what I would call an extremely providential run-in with the Duchess), and Agba is released and given a job as a groom at the Earl of Godolphin’s stables. While there, Sham’s health begins to improve and he meets Lady Roxana, a filly imported to be bred to the pride of Gog Magog, Hobgoblin. In a fight between the two stallions, Hobgoblin is injured, and the angry Earl sends the threesome (Agba, Sham, and Grimalkin) into the gloomy Wicken Fen. You’ll have to read this book to find out what happens in the end! (Don’t you just love it when reviews leave you in suspense?)
A truly captivating book of the touching friendship between “the King of the Wind and the slim brown horseboy who loved him.”
October 18, 2011
This is a humorous look into the life of Claudia Kincaid; the average public-schooled kid from the 1960’s. Claudia is tired with the monotony of life and the unfairness of it all (“Perhaps it was because she had to both empty the dishwasher and set the table on the same night while her brothers got out of everything”). Though this may seem a silly reason to recruit her most trustworthy (and not to mention rich) brother, Jamie, and run away to New York City; Claudia nonetheless follows through with her plan, right down to the last detail.
During their time spent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, they meet ‘Angel’, as they affectionately call her, a statue that was possibly carved by Michelangelo. When Claudia becomes determined to find out more about Angel and her past, the hunt takes them from spending hours doing research at the library, to spending their literal last cent to get to a mansion – where they meet Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
Although there are some problems with this book – such as the carved statue being a feminine angel (we believe, in accordance with our belief in the Bible, that there is no such thing as a ‘girl angel’ – the only angels mentioned in the Bible are men); there is one illustration that is inappropriate; and there are mentions of gambling and cheating throughout the book. For our family, these were minor problems, but it is something to watch out for.
Overall, this is a timeless classic recommended for ages 8 through 81. Enjoy!
Kelsey’s favorite quote:
Janitor: “Where did you come from?”
Jamie Kincaid: “Mother always says that I came from Heaven.”
Cory’s favorite quote:
Claudia Kincaid: “I’ll bet she knows for sure if Michelangelo did it.”
Jamie Kincaid:“Sure she does… Every morning when she got up, Mrs. Frankweiler would throw her arms about the statue, peer into its eyes, and say, ‘Speak to me, baby.’ One morning the statue answered…”
October 17, 2011
The Saturdaysis a lovely read about the four Melendy siblings, their father, and their housekeeper, Cuffy. Oliver, Randy, Rush, and Mona range in age from 7 to 12, with Randy (short for Miranda) being the star of the story.
It makes perfect sense for the rambunctious, twirling, dancing, and art-loving 10-year old to take center stage – after all, it was Randy’s idea which led to the forming of the Saturday Club – officially named I.S.A.A.C.; which led to Rush, the eldest brother, finding a lost dog after seeing the opera on his Saturday; which ultimately leads to the pup (now also named Isaac) rescuing the Melendy family from death by coal poisoning! Not to mention Randy meeting the true Mrs. Oliphant on her Saturday outing, which not only avowedly changes the siblings from calling Mrs. Oliphant “The Elephant”, but ends up sending them somewhere they would’ve never before dreamed of spending the whole summer…
Enjoy all this and more with a delightful dip into the life of The Saturdays!
Kelsey’s favorite quote:
Randy: “Not just the Elephant. She’s swell, she’s a friend of mine now, and I’m going to see her. She was kidnapped by gypsies and lived with them for weeks.”
Rush, startled: “Recently?”
Randy: “No, no. Years ago when she was a little girl in France…”
Cory’s favorite quote:
Cory’s favorite quote consists of the entire book.
And please be sure to read the three sequels!
December 7, 2010
The Basket of Flowers… Yes, that is how it all started. Mary, a gardener’s daughter, delivers flowers to the local landowner’s property. There she meets Amelia, the landowner’s daughter, and despite their different upbringings they form a friendship.
Mary’s father has taught her all about God, purity, character, and morals through the beautiful flowers he grows. Amelia has been raised in a home that is “better-off” and has not learned all the same things Mary has. After Amelia gives Mary one of her gorgeous dresses, an unexpected turn of events takes place, and father and daughter find themselves exiled from the land, home, and beautiful garden they love. Mary’s innocent, child-like faith is tested as she experiences hardships and imprisonment.
What happens in the end? Well, I can’t give it all away, but there was this one certain jealous maid named Juliette involved…
December 7, 2010
The Story of Ping, by Marjorie Flack, was one of our favorite childhood books. We still love the good message and adorable illustrations.
Ping is a story about a little yellow duckling who lives with his mother in a boat on the Yangtze River in China. Also living with him are a bunch of other little yellow duckling siblings and cousins, and aunts and uncles and such. During the day, everyone disembarks and goes out for a day of fun and foraging. At night, they all waddle back to the boat and up the ramp to go to bed.
Except… every night, the last one on board gets a little “spanking” for being late by the man who stands at the end of the ramp to let them back onto the boat. One day Ping takes a nap that lasts a leeeetle too long, and realizes he will be the last up the ramp.
Oh no! Ping wants to go join his mother and friends, but he doesn’t want to get smacked with the stick. What will he do? Read the book and you’ll find out!
Tip: Our mom read this book to us when we were little, and then afterwards we all made paintings with little Ping floating around in the Yangtze River.