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Phil the Fiddler

As I’m behind in my 2020 reading challenge, I needed to read something quickly, so I went to Horatio Alger and chose Phil the Fiddler. I knew the novel for kids would be formulaic but I also knew I’d learn some history, which I did.

Phil the Fiddler’s hero is 12 year old Filippo, whose father sold him to a padrone, a Fagan type character who exploits his boys. The padrones, like the one in this novel, paid poor Italian families $75 for their children, whom he’d send out into the streets of cities like New York to play for money. These children would work from morning to about 11pm. They were expected to bring $2/day back to the padrone. If they failed, they’d be beaten. The padrone supplied a hovel to sleep in and breakfast and dinner, which consisted of bread and cheese.

Filippo (Phil) has a young friend Giacomo, who’s weaker and never makes enough money. This character shows how often these children met tragic ends.

I didn’t know anything about this history, but I wasn’t surprised as throughout the world, even today, poor people will sell their children into slavery or servitude.

Filippo impresses many of the people he meets and as is usual in these stories does encounter cheats and bullies. Alger provides a happy ending, but also notes that most children like Filippo did not get a happy ending.

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2020 in Children's Lit

 

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Poem of the Week

Autumn

By Francis Ledwidge

Now leafy winds are blowing cold,
And South by West the sun goes down,
A quiet huddles up the fold
In sheltered corners of the brown.

Like scattered fire the wild fruit strews
The ground beneath the blowing tree,
And there the busy squirrel hews
His deep and secret granary.

And when the night comes starry clear,
The lonely quail complains beside
The glistening waters on the mere
Where widowed Beauties yet abide.

And I, too, make my own complaint
Upon a reed I plucked in June,
And love to hear it echoed faint
Upon another heart in tune. 

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2020 in fiction

 

Their Eyes Were Watching God

My latest read for my latest book club.

No Fixed Plans

I read Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God for a new book club I was invited to join.

Story: Sixteen year old Janie dreams of a bright future as she’s smooching with a Johnny Taylor, but she’s thwarted when her grandmother arranges marriage with a successful farmer who’s a much older man. Grandma prioritizes financial security and  turns away from Janie when she visits pleading for help out of an unhappy marriage. Granny thinks Janie’s ungrateful and impractical.

Janie remains stuck living with a husband who just wanted a maid till sweet talking Jody comes to town. When she gets a chance, Janie runs off with Jody to Eatonville, a Florida town where all the townspeople are African American. Charismatic and visionary, Jody convinces the people that they need a store, a street lamp and a mayor. Once he’s mayor he develops the town till it becomes…

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Posted by on November 14, 2020 in fiction

 

Guilty Reader Tag

1. Have You Ever Re-Gifted A Book You’ve Been Given?

Yes, but rarely. I haven’t wrapped it up and presented it as a book for an occasion, but I’ve given books I haven’t gotten to and decided I probably wouldn’t to someone who might like it more.

2. Have You Ever Said You’ve Read A Book When You Haven’t?

I think I did in school once or twice for a book report. I do recall reading part of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and expounding on it on a test. I got a great grade for that response.

3. Have You Ever Borrowed A Book And Not Returned It?

A friend lent me a book and I got part way through it and tried to return it but she said to keep it.

4. Have You Ever Read A Series Out Of Order?

I read The Ladies’ Paradise by Zola before I knew it was part of a “series” called the Rougon-Macquart series. Many people suggest not reading Rougon-Macquart books in the order of publication, but rather in this order. It’s not a straight up chronological series.

Now I’m reminded to resume reading Zola.

5. Have You Ever Spoiled A Book For Someone?

No one’s said I did.

6. Have You Ever Dog-eared A Book?

Yesterday, I wanted to mark some pages in Paul Johnson’s Heroes.

7. Have You Ever Told Someone You Don’t Own A Book When You Do?

No. I can’t see why I would.

Not for fiction, perhaps for school, I’ve had a book which only some chapters were assigned.

9. Have You Ever Bad Mouthed A Book You Actually Liked?

That never would occur to me. I’m not sure what the upside would be.

I think my biggest guilt as a reader is that I don’t make time to read as much as I’d like.

Are you a guilty reader? Do you feel any other reading guilt? Let me know in the comments!

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2020 in fiction

 

Poem of the Week

Poem of the Week
 
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Posted by on September 23, 2020 in fiction

 

High Tea and Afternoon Tea in the Age of Austen

Inquiring readers, I once enjoyed afternoon tea in Fortnum and Mason’s in London. It was an exquisite, elaborate, and unforgettable experience. It …

High Tea and Afternoon Tea in the Age of Austen
 
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Posted by on September 23, 2020 in fiction

 

Book Club: Up From Slavery

Carol Swain

Carol Swain, PhD, discusses Up from Slavery with Michael Knowles. I remember reading parts of it in junior high. It’s back on my reading list.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2020 in 19th Century, African American Lit, Book club

 

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The Snow Queen

snow queen

After watching the Hillsdale College Classic Children’s Literature lesson on The Snow Queen, I had to read the story for myself. I got a version of this Hans Christian Anderson story, which was illustrated by Yana Sedova. The pictures were sumptuous with lots of icy blues to capture the world of the story.

After watching the lecture, I noticed so many facets of this tale and its theme of reason vs. imagination (a false dichotomy if ever there was one). I don’t remember ever reading The Snow Queen though I had a vague familiarity with its plot. I liked it’s depiction of friendship and loyalty as well as its emphasis on friendship.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2020 in book review, Children's Lit, fiction

 

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Hate That Cat

hate cat

Sharon Creech’s Hate that Cat is a super quick read, perfect if you have a book report due tomorrow and hadn’t started a book. Though Creech’s Walk Two Moons is among my favorite novels for children, Hate that Cat didn’t grab me.

Evidently, Hate that Cat is the second book in a series. The hero writes letters to his favorite teacher and shares all his thoughts about poetry, cats, dogs, and writing with the teacher. The book introduces young readers to poets like William Carlos Williams and Edgar Allen Poe. The most interesting facet of the book was that the narrator’s mother is deaf and he can sign ASL.

For a mature reader, there isn’t much in the theme that isn’t well worn ground. The book doesn’t delight readers of all ages, which is a hallmark of the best of children’s literature. The narrator seemed like a cookie cutter Creech hero, but one who shares little of his personality or background.

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2020 in book review, Children's Lit, fiction

 

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Coming Soon on the Book Club

Next on Prager U’s Book Club, Brave New World. I’ve ordered it from the library so I can reread it.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2020 in fiction

 

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