Monthly Archives: November 2020

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


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