Tuesday, June 5, 2018

7 Stories:1 Week {what I read and watched on staycation}

do i want to post this expression of me....hmmm....
A couple of weeks ago after selling War of Loyalties at our state homeschool convention, I retreated with a pile of books and movies and the aspiration of taking a staycation. My teaching was finished for the year, I had a couple weeks off another job, and it was time to recharge the batteries. So I read and watched, constantly taking in stories both new and familiar. It felt like a steady stream of good nutrients filling up my mental compost heap--not a firehose of stories crammed in without the time to chew them; just a constant stream of goodness. Here's what I took in.

Little Women
We caught this as it aired on PBS on Sunday night. While I wasn't quite sure after the first episode, I was crying by the third. While I don't think Beth's personality was correctly portrayed, and Laurie's first scenes felt awkward, I loved Meg's sweet face and grew to love Jo's tempestuous and emotional experience of life. The fight scene where Amy burns Jo's book and the way they hurl hurtful words in that scene was a particularly vivid fight--and as an author, I understand the hurt. I loved the scene where John Brooke goes off to war with the girls singing Land of the Leal over the clips. And Episodes 2 and 3 hit me because they capture the bittersweet pain of growing up--a pain our family is experiencing as we all go on life adventures.

Monday morning I curled up on my bed with the Paddington movie, which I had gotten the previous week from the library. I had timed it all carefully so I got it before our busy weekend, especially because the library is closed on Monday--just when I wanted it. There is no greater luxury than watching a movie on a Monday morning. And to be honest, kids' movies are a great choice for vacation, because they're a little less drama than anything schuyler picks   Dickens and whatnot.  Paddington is a bear who comes to London from Darkest Peru and is adopted by the Brown family. In the movie, Mr. Brown is a hyper-vigilant accident analyst played by Hugh Bonneville (who I like to imagine as Peters in WoL.) and Mrs. Brown is Sally Hawkins (2007 Persuasion, 2016 Great Expectations.) The theme of family in this movie, and family defending Paddington from an evil taxidermist curls up in my heart and stays there, along with the perfect actor performances. Sally Hawkins' sweet, adventuresome spirit in contrast with her husband's cautious reserve makes this her best role yet--and Mr. Brown's character arc is simply perfect.

The Promise of Jesse Woods
This book. I am convinced Chris Fabry has a talent for storytelling--weaving memory and personalities, conflict and hurts, nature and travel and the painful growth of the human soul. His book has a dual timeline as a grownup Matt travels home to stop his childhood friend from breaking a promise for the first time--by marrying someone other than him. That might sound cliche, but it's not. Along with that, we have chapters that flashback to the 70s and their experience of becoming friends. This book deals with the church shunning outcasts, with a boy's practical witness of Christian behavior, with baseball, and with the sin of hiding sexual abuse. I'd put it at a definite PG-13--a year ago the heavy themes would have sidelined me, but somehow I was able to take them in this time and appreciate the beauty. If I could describe his writing in one word, it would be craftsmanship. I definitely want to get my hands on a copy. 

Gone Away Lake
I planned to read this book last year. It didn't happen, but this year I picked it up again. My mom would read one of the Gone-Away books out loud every summer, so it was a classic part of our childhood. The lines were so familiar--Julian telling Portia her braces looked like the front end of a Buick. The A.P. Decoction. Baby-Belle Tuckertown. Mrs. Cheever's chocolate cake. ("I believe fudge cakes should be built.") And tons of fun cousin adventures. Not only does this book not have romance and crushes in it, which is a little unique today, but it also represents 11- and 12-year-old kids being best of friends with a senior brother and sister. Books like that are important. They normalize cross-generational friendships and dramatize how fun it is to be outdoors and enjoy stories about the past. I'm reading Return-to-Goneaway right now and loving it even more.

Far From the Madding Crowd 
Actually, this was the only strike-out this week. I started reading the book and didn't get very far, so I thought, "why not? I've always wanted to see the movie, and it's at our library, let's check it out." I watched it, but it wasn't what I was expecting, and when a movie doesn't line up with your expectations, sometimes even the best of stories end up not jiving with you. I think I was expecting Bathsheba Everdeen to be like Ada Claire in Bleak House--sweet and naive instead of a capable farm mistress. Plus, I really, really wanted another *spoilers* Gabriel/Bathsheba riding scene at the end, *end of spoilers* and it wasn't there like I expected it to be--nor was the beautiful quote on this Pinterest pin, I think? It was well done, just different than I thought.

But it's cool to hear British people pronounce Bathsheba because I always pronounced it quite differently.

How to Train Your Dragon 
This was an absolute for sure winner this week. I've listened to the soundtrack several times while writing. I mentioned it in Homeschool Diaries (one of the guardian angels has a weakness for Poptarts and How to Train Your Dragon).

schuyler, that's just weird 

I even had a student turn in a paragraph about HTTYD in a writing class a year ago. So I put that on hold at the library along with Paddington. When I was younger, you couldn't catch me dead watching many animated movies--for some weird reason they offended my cherished sense of dignity. After Inside Out in March, I don't care anymore. They can grab emotions and be just as beautiful, and I've learned my lesson. How to Train Your Dragon has some goofy teenage crush talk/sibling rivalry moments among Hiccup's fellow consorts, but it's an easily skipped element, and the whole theme of Hiccup's journey is so over-all worth it. Hiccup's friendship with the most dangerous dragon known to Vikings is enough to melt your heart. Hiccup isn't a brawny or strong Viking--but as he struggles with his smallness, he learns to use his strengths--his mind and inventive abilities--and finds satisfaction in that. And Toothless is the absolutely cutest, melt-your-heart buddy on the planet. I don't know how I'd pick a favorite between them. Toothless basically has a kitten heart in a dragon's body, and if that's not a recipe for success, I don't know what is.

Mirriam Neal summed up several aspects of my and sis's opinion of Solo. Sis and I had so much fun going to see it with our dad on his birthday, and man, that villain's double-bladed red knife was cool in the climax. But as far as canon goes, I think it would have worked better as a film with independent characters. Let's face it: seeing him with a girlfriend besides Leia sort of tastes sour at first. Also, I am concerned that Star Wars is staying too angsty, and I'm normally someone who likes angst. I feel like Rogue One and Solo are changing the flavor to a bleaker tone. In Rogue One the angst was very appropriate, and The Last Jedi was awesome, but Solo didn't hit the right notes for me. Give me some scenery with color. Give me some joy-ride adventure. Would I watch it again, though? Yeah. I always like to see a movie twice to get a good feel for it, and even if it's not quite Han, I don't mind having it in the collection. I think people who grew up with a deep love for Han might not like his representation, though.

Out of seven stories I experienced that week, five of them were new, and four of them were fun. Three were home runs. There was an eighth story I can't talk about yet, but that was super fun too--and you know, just a week of listening to The Greatest Showman and wearing my TinyKittens t-shirt and having nothing going was one of the best things ever. Soul-restoring. Mind-renewing.

I count that a pretty successful staycation. Even if I did accidentally put our mail on hold for a few days. ;)

Do you love any of these stories? Or hate them? Flail or wail with me in the comments! ;)


  1. Gone Away Lake sounded like fun, so I glanced at the Amazon previews of that one and The Saturdays by the same author, and they look absolutely darling! I think they're going on my to-read list.

    And if I feel a little funny about reading children's books at my age, I can just say I'm looking into them for hypothetical future offspring. :)

    1. Oh, Elisabeth, I'm glad you enjoyed Gone-Away-Lake! It was such a classic. Return to Gone-Away is so good too! I've actually never read The Saturdays, but your comment makes me want to read it. :)

  2. Gone-Away Lake! We have those books and I've hardly met anyone who knows about them (though of course I recommend them to some, so maybe that counts). And I agree with everything you said. It's so refreshing to find books with lots of friendships and no romances, especially when the friendships are between kids and old people.

    HTTYD is good too, except for the occasional unnecessary line of dialogue. The music is really good (my sister bought a CD of the soundtrack and we listen to it when we go on long drives).


    1. Yes! Totally agree about HTTYD (like you said, without the unnecessary dialogue) It made me tear up the first time I watched it! That's a grand soundtrack for a long drive!

  3. This looks like an interesting and diverse set of stories you experienced in one week. I have experienced two of the stories mentioned above, and I enjoy them pretty well. I'm glad your staycation went well. ~ A.J.H.

    1. Yes, they were so many different genres! I'm glad you've enjoyed some of them, too! :D


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