The Gift of the Magi and Other Short Stories by O. Henry

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Title: The Gift of the Magi and Other Short Stories by O. Henry

Premise:

This is a collection of short stories by O. Henry.  It includes “The Gift of the Magi,” “The Cop and the Anthem,” “Springtime à la Carte,” “The Green Door,” “After Twenty Years,” “The Furnished Room,” “The Pimienta Pancakes,” “The Last Leaf,” “The Voice of the City,” “While the Auto Waits,” “A Retrieved Reformation,” “A Municipal Report,” “A Newspaper Story,” “The Ransom of Red Chief,” “A Ghost of a Chance,” and “Makes the Whole World Kin.”

My thoughts:

I read this book specifically for “The Gift of the Magi,” a Christmas story.  The book is so short, though, that I decided to just go ahead and read the entire thing.  A couple of the stories were familiar to me (“The Last Leaf” in particular), though I can’t think of where I would have heard/read it before.  Overall, I really enjoyed the book.  Most of the stories were well-written, clever, heartfelt, and several had twist endings.  Henry’s writing is challenging to read, so you’ll want to keep a dictionary at hand.  You will certainly expand your vocabulary!

You should know that there are three instances of the n-word in this book.  I believe they are contained in only two stories, but in any instance where an African American is included in a story, they are talked of in a condescending way.  For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend the book to anyone younger than an adult.

I recommend The Gift of the Magi to adults who enjoy short stories.  Most of the stories in this volume are satisfying reads.

Possible Objections:

  • There is a general air of condescension towards African Americans
  • Outdated/offensive racial language (3 uses of the n-word)

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

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Title: Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

Notable: Book #1 in the Sarah, Plain and Tall series; Newbery Medal winner, 1986

Premise:

Anna and Caleb live on the Great Plains with their father.  Their mother died after Caleb’s birth, and their father has never quite recovered from the loss.  One day, Papa informs the children that he has advertised for a wife and a lady named Sarah has responded.  Sarah agrees to visit them on a trial basis to see if things will work out.  Anna and Caleb become attached to Sarah, but they’re terrified that she will decide to go back to her brother’s home in Maine.

My thoughts:

I read this book when I was a kid and it’s just as good today as it was back then.  It’s amazing how such a touching story can be contained in such a short book.  My copy is a mere 58 pages.

I feel so sorry for poor Anna and Caleb who are pining for a mother’s love and for their father to recover some of his joy again.  When Sarah sweeps into their lives, she’s like a breath of fresh air.  She tells them about her beloved far-off sea and the creatures who live there.  They go swimming in the cow pond, slide down a hay “dune,” and Papa teaches Sarah to ride horse and drive the wagon.  But when Sarah visits town by herself, the children worry that she won’t return.

It’s that climactic final scene when Sarah returns and reassures the family that she intends to stay, when your heartstrings are tugged the most.  I just love this touching story about loss, hope, family and new beginnings.  It’s a beautiful story.  🙂

I recommend Sarah, Plain and Tall to kids who are reading beginner chapter books, or as a poignant family read-aloud.

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL SERIES POSTS:

Pippa Mouse by Betty Boegehold

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Title: Pippa Mouse by Betty Boegehold

Premise:

Join Pippa mouse and her friends, Weber Duck, Gray Bird and Ripple Squirrel, as they take part in some fun and wholesome adventures!  The friends build nests, work together, play on the ice and celebrate Christmas together.

My thoughts:

I absolutely adore this book!  It is so fun, cute and innocent that you can’t keep from liking it.  Pippa mouse is a playful and inquisitive young mouse who likes to get others to join in her adventures.  Each story features one of her short adventures.

The overall story is very simple, reminding me of the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel.  They have that same story form and wonderful drawings which are just as integral to the story as the text.

The illustrations are by Cyndy Szekeres and are done in nature-centric 70’s style.  They are thoroughly charming and make the animals look so cute you could just gobble them up.  Just seeing the drawings of Pippa Mouse kind of makes you fall in love with her.  🙂

I recommend Pippa Mouse to young readers, and to families as an excellent read-aloud story.  I think it will become a new family favorite.

 

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl

fantastic-mr-fox

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My kids recently discovered the joys of Fantastic Mr. Fox.  I read it many years ago when I was a kid and absolutely loved it!  Was it a part of your childhood too?

Premise:

Mr. Fox and his family are being hunted by three greedy farmers who are tired of sharing their bounty with the animals.  Mr. Fox must outwit the farmers and provide for his family and the other animals on the hill who are now in danger from the gun-crazy farmers.  Can he find enough food for all of the animals and keep them safe from the farmers–Boggis, Bunce and Bean?

My thoughts:

This book is super-short and could be finished in one sitting–making it perfect as a beginner’s chapter book.  The illustrations should also help keep it interesting for the younger kids.  The book pictured above is illustrated by Quentin Blake who has a very whimsical style.

Boggis, Bunce and Bean are a bit boorish–what with their nose-picking, gun-toting and general uncouth manners.  Their uncivilized behavior is nicely contrasted with the animals’ more polished manners and speech.  It’s a nice juxtaposition of the two types of characters.

This version is the one that I read when I was a kid.  I much prefer the illustrations in this version over the one pictured above and they are at least half of the reason that I found the book so charming when I was younger.  I’ll have to buy a copy of it for our family’s library once we get moved into our new house.

I recommend Fantastic Mr. Fox to children who are just starting chapter books, to fans of Roald Dahl, and to families who want a fun read-aloud book.  I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine does!

Possible Objections:

  • One instance of somebody saying “shut up”
  • The farmers use guns, though they don’t actually shoot and kill any animals

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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