Things are shaping up here at Leaning Tower. Check out my sidebar, which I tidied yesterday. Swept the cobwebs away and dusted off the book lists.
And dusting book lists leads me to, what else? Thoughts of books, of course. Memories of dearly loved books, to be exact. As a child, I delighted in stories with "housekeeping" themes. Still do. Do most people enjoy them? I am not such a good housekeeper. I'd much rather talk about it and daydream about it than actually do it.
Here are a few titles I remember very fondly, plus a new one I recently discovered:
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
My mother read this one aloud to us, her three children. This story of four orphan siblings who have to figure out how to survive on their own -- they find a boxcar to live in -- had us captivated. As the oldest, I was then in charge of our Boxcar Children games. We did not take on the particular roles of the children in the book; rather, we were ourselves, in a Boxcar Children dilemma, and must make do with what we had.
Do you want to know what we had? A typical play session involved a collection like this: four wooden matches (little twigs we'd broken and lined up on a step), one small pot for boiling water on our pretend fire, a cup that we pretended was cracked, like Benny's, and a small handful of raspberries we'd picked, laying on one of our father's old handkerchiefs. Delicious, all of it. I remember begging our parents to let us scrounge up treasures at the dump, and wondering why they didn't think that was a good idea.
This was the first chapter book I read aloud with Skye, when she was just turning five. She was just as fascinated with the details -- Benny's cracked cup! -- as I remember being. We plan to read it with Felix soon.
Mandy by Julie Edwards
This was another of my mother's read-alouds. I'll have to ask her where she first heard of this one. I remember her telling us proudly that this was the author's pen name. It was really Julie Andrews, in disguise! Lovely Mary Poppins/Maria wrote a children's novel? I was sold from the start. (Of course, now I know Julie Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, are big kidlit advocates.)
Mandy is an orphan, and hops over the orphanage wall one day -- which is really out of character for her, and shows you how desperately lonely and restless she feels. She soon has the good luck of finding a little abandoned cottage, and proceeds to clean it out and tidy it up and create a secret space for herself.
I hope to read this one aloud to my kids someday soon, and relive the abandoned cottage fantasy with them.
Miss Suzy by Miriam Young
Melissa Wiley reminded me in a recent blog post of this lovely picture book. When I was little, my mom signed me up for a Parents Magazine Press book club. So exciting, to get books in the mail! This is my original copy.
I just read the story to my kids tonight. Miss Suzy has a sweet little house in an oak tree. "She liked to cook, she liked to clean, and she liked to sing while she worked." One day, some mean red squirrels chase her out and eat up all the nuts she had stored for winter. (At this point, I looked up at my silent kids; their faces showed clear feelings of horror. "Why are they mean and quarrelsome?" asked Felix. I always have a hard time giving a satisfactory answer to questions like this. Why, indeed?) Eventually, Miss Suzy discovers a dollhouse in an attic, and noticing the cobwebs and dust, she can't help but clean it up. Soon, she finds herself settling in there, with five toy soldiers for company -- she found them in the attic, too. Can you guess what happens next? It's Skye's favorite part. Felix tells me his favorite part is the "quarrelsome squirrels."
Do go over and read Melissa Wiley's post about this book. A descendant of the author responded in the comments! I'm crossing my fingers that we'll see another Miss Suzy/Miriam Young post soon at the Bonny Glen.
The Maggie B. by Irene Haas
This is the new discovery, a housekeeping book I would have loved as a child. I believe I first saw mention of this one over on the Fuse #8 blog. Now I can only find a brief mention of it there, with a link to this post from a different blog (Jenny Reads Books), so I'm assuming I clicked over and read about it and then requested it from our library.
This sweet book tells of Maggie and her little brother, who set sail for a day in a boat named for her. Their adventures mostly involve homey comforts, like Maggie creating meals (fruit trees grow on the boat, and a goat and chickens give them milk and eggs), giving her little brother a bath, and singing him a bedtime song. My kids and I felt so cozy after reading it. We went on an Irene Haas binge after this.
As for blog housekeeping, I'm still trying to decide what to do with my current list of reads for 2010. My 2009 list is now a blog post, and it became neater when I separated it into categories: what I read for me, with my daughter Skye, with my son Felix, and for the literature circles I led. Something like that could work in the sidebar, but could get unwieldy as the year goes on. Hm. Maybe I'll keep a running blog post for the list instead.
Oh, and I think I'll use hokey cross-stitch phrases for the titles of my posts from now on.