Category Archives: children’s

Horseradish by Lemony Snicket

horseradishThis collection of tales and thoughts from the mind of Lemony Snicket is composed of “bitter truths you cannot avoid in this world” (p. 9). I decided to pick it up (from my local library since it’s currently out of print…) during my recent A Series of Unfortunate Events binge. It begins with a 10-page story about one character and I had assumed the rest of the book would be a series of similar vignettes, but they were actually short statements about life (at most spanning 1.5 pages). I ended up copying down so many quotes from the book that I finally started a quotes journal that will consist of all of my favorite book related quotes that I find.

While reading the collection, I noticed that one of my favorite quotes was directly lifted from The Wide Window, which I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t just finished re-reading it! As I continued, I noticed that other things were repeated quotes from A Series of Unfortunate Events. All was revealed when I finally read the inside book flap of the book, which described the collection as “a bouquet of alarming but inescapable truths from the work of Lemony Snicket, along with selections from his unpublished papers,” hence some quotes would clearly be repeats, but some would be entirely new to me. That said, I still loved rereading them and they felt revelatory, even out of context. I wish the book was still in print so that I could flip it open whenever I wanted! I’ve included some of my favorite quotes are below.

“Sometimes words are not enough.” (p. 78)

“One cannot spend forever sitting and solving the mysteries of one’s history.” (p. 141)

“Grief, a type of sadness that most often occurs when you have lost someone you love, is a sneaky thing, because it can disappear for a long time, and then pop back up when you least expect it.” (p. 112)

“Everyone disappoints everyone eventually.” (p. 26)

“Wishing, like sipping a glass of punch, or pulling aside a bearskin rug in order to access a hidden trapdoor in the floor, is merely a quiet way to spend one’s time before the candles are extinguished on one’s birthday cake.” (p. 62)

“No matter who you are, no matter where you live, and no matter how many people are chasing you, what you don’t read is often as important as what you do read.” (p. 71)

“She wondered if life was more than traveling from one place to another, suffering from poor emotional health and pondering the people one loves.” (p. 4)

And this quote which I plan to use with my undergraduate students before discussing a book that will encourage diverging interpretations of the text, “Entertaining a notion, like entertaining a baby cousin or entertaining a pack of hyenas, is a dangerous thing to refuse to do. if you refuse to entertain a baby cousin, the baby cousin may get bored and entertain itself by wandering off and falling down a well. if you refuse to entertain a pack of hyenas, they may become restless and entertain themselves by devouring you. but if you refuse to entertain a notion — which is just a fancy way of saying you refuse to think about a certain idea — you have to be much braver than someone who is merely facing some blood-thirsty animals, or some parents who are upset to find their little darling at the bottom of a well, because nobody knows what an idea will do when it goes off to entertain itself.” (p. 63)

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Mini Review: The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket

widewindowThe Wide Window falters in comparison to its predecessors. While I laughed out loud a few times with The Reptile Room, I never even chuckled with The Wide Window. While I obviously still love the series, this is one of the weaker showings because of a few bits: 1) as an adult, I find the grammar quirks of Aunt Josephine are awfully annoying, but I’m sure the youthful grammar snob that I was loved it as a kid, 2) the big plot twist with Aunt Josephine happens much earlier in the book than I would’ve thought which makes the narrative flow strange, and 3) the ending was resolved a bit too quickly and smoothly as if it were hastily strewn together.

All that said, there were some quotes that really stuck with me even if this story won’t. Most of my favorite quotes were coincidentally from Chapter 5.

“Tears are curious things, for like earthquakes or puppet shows they can occur at any time, without any warning and without any good reason.” (p. 79)

“Oftentimes, when people are miserable, they will want to make other people miserable, too. But it never helps.” (p. 74)

“To have each other in the midst of their unfortunate lives felt like having a sailboat in the middle of a hurricane, and to the Baudelaire orphans this felt very fortunate indeed.” (p. 214)

“Aunt Josephine had been so careful to avoid anything that she thought might harm her, but harm had still come her way.” (p. 79)

“She was so afraid of everything that she made it impossible to really enjoy anything at all.” (p. 193)

Mini Review: The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket

reptileroomI’m very slowly making my way through an A Series of Unfortunate Events reread — a series I loved as a child since I was a tinge morbid and macabre. I’m slowly purchasing these books individually and sequentially through thrift store finds. Despite purchasing this in April 2015, I didn’t start the second book until Netflix released their adaptation of the series. I want to complete re-reading the first four in the series before beginning the Netflix series as the first season covers Books 1 – 4. Luckily, I’ve already snagged books 3 and 4 so I can easily snap them up whenever I’m feeling exhausted from graduate school reading.

These are so quick and fun to reread as an adult because you can catch references to prolific writers/artists/creatives that likely went over your little kid brain. I only gave the second in the series 4 stars as it’s not one of the books that I found most memorable upon reflection. That said, it was still a quite enjoyable read though!

Mini Review: Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris

onceuponamarigoldMy high school bestie is recently engaged and I was trying to think of something I could send her to commemorate her snazzy new life stage. Enter: book we both loved during our childhood that has a marriage-centered plot. While this book doesn’t stand up as well in adulthood as I remembered it, it was still fun to re-dive into this read that we both enjoyed as kids. I scribbled in the margins things relevant to her own wedding planning so hopefully she views this as a fun gift and associates fond memories with it when she rereads it or sees it on her bookshelf in the future. Rereading was a bit of a slog through the first 100 pages, but it picked up quickly thereafter and was closer to the book I remember reading. It’s a very sanitized love story that an 8 – 10 year old would find cute.

This book is the first in a trilogy, but I never read the subsequent books as a child and have no desire to complete the series as an adult either.

peter pan by j. m. barrie

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie audiobook cover

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie audiobook cover

After being completely obsessed with Jim Dale’s narration of the Harry Potter audiobooks, I sought a new read that he also narrated. Luckily, I quickly found a match on my to-read list in the form of Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie.

I’ve had a small fascination with Peter Pan for a while, likely connected to the fact that some writers have deemed my generation the “Peter Pan generation” because of our desire to be children for a lengthier period of time than our predecessors. However, instead of attempting to stay a child forever, I dove-tailed a teensy bit and decided to immerse myself into the world of children’s culture and media as my occupation. Subsequently, I’ve been trying to read some of the children’s literature classics that I haven’t read yet and dive back into those I really want to re-read.

While I was in high school, I had tried to read Peter Pan in physical book form and couldn’t get into it at all because I felt like it was too childishly written and I wasn’t in a mental space to appreciate that. To me, it felt like a story that needed to be told to me, which makes sense since the story was originally written as a play and thus felt like it needed to be performed in some way for me to appreciate it. Later that year, I saw Peter Pan performed in San Francisco the summer before I left for college… and let’s just say, I felt quite a few emotions.

That said, there are parts of the text that are definitely dated which makes it hard for me to recommend this book as a read for children who aren’t aware enough to understand the historical and social climate that existed when this text was first published. When most American individuals read novels like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, they are likely reading it as part of a middle or high school curriculum with English teachers who explain the historical and social context that existed when the novel was written. When most people encounter the story of Peter Pan in whatever format they consume, they are too young to understand some of the dated language (every time the phrase “red skins” was used I cringed). Thus for those younger audiences (2-12 year olds), I think they should encounter a newer version rather than the original text that has adjusted some of the language and removed some of the racial undertones that seep into the story. Unfortunately, I haven’t read such a version so I’m not able to recommend a specific publication. Because of this, I think the best time to listen to this book is when you’re a young adult, perhaps reflecting on your own experience with childhood, but are also aware enough to recognize some of the faults that exist within the original text.

If you choose to read Peter Pan, I definitely recommend reading the story in audiobook format, specifically the Jim Dale version if possible, over a physical copy.

On that note: if you have any recommendations for other literary works performed by Jim Dale, please send them my way!

Original Publication Date: 11 October 1911 by Scribner. Format: Digital Audiobook from Listening Library.

Author: J. M. Barrie wiki

Narrator: Jim Dale web