Traveling to My Favorite Book Settings

I love traveling! It is something my family and I have always done, and we love to connect our reading to our trips. I am so thankful to my family for all of the amazing experiences that inspired me to write this blog.

plum_creekThe first book series that I can recall reading is the Laura Ingalls book series. Just like so many little girls out there, once I read the first book in the series, I was hooked! After I read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s On the Banks of Plum Creek, my family and I went on a summer trip to the actual Plum Creek that Laura Ingalls played in! While we were there in southern Minnesota, we also drove down to South Dakota to walk around the Ingalls’ homestead and dirt-covered sod house that Laura’s Pa built. To top it all off, we also attended a reenactment of the Ingalls’ lives with actors and actresses in the middle of a giant field! They were spectacular and a trip like that really made the book come to life!

I have also read many books that take place in England because I love the classic style of Old English writing. Some of the books I have read include Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier; At the Mercy of the Queen by Anne Clinnard Barnhill; and Doomed Queen Anne by Carolyn Meyer. The novel At the Mercy of the Queen takes place in Hampton Court in England.

hampton_courtI actually got the opportunity this past summer to visit and tour the grounds where Queen Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII entertained guests! The rooms were so decorative and ornate, and the reenactments with professional Shakespearean actors were perfect! I definitely recommend taking a day to see Hampton Court if you are planning on travelling to England!

Rebecca also takes place in England, but as this is a mystery novel, the stormy coasts of England is the setting. I love the descriptions in the novel of the “miserable” weather of England (though naturally as a Californian, I love it). I got to see part of the English coasts by train and ferry, and of course, both views were breathtaking! After my trip to England, I want to read even more novels set in the beautiful country, and I might even want to live in England someday!

I have had the chance to go to some gorgeous places and stand where some of the most amazing characters and historical figures have stood. The next place on my list to visit is Prince Edward Island, the setting of my favorite book series of all time: Anne of Green Gables.

I hope this blog has inspired you to explore the world with your favorite books in your suitcase! Please post a comment telling me places you’ve been or would like to go based on some of your favorite reads!

-Kelsey H., 10th grade

Book Review: Marie, Dancing, by Carolyn Meyer

marie_dancing_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

Have you ever wondered what goes through a ballerina’s mind when she dances?

What could she possibly be thinking about as she takes the audience’s breath away? The spotlight is on her, her and nothing else. For a few seconds, minutes or even hours, it’s as if nothing else exists in the world while dancing. Dancers learn to hide their emotions on stage. You can’t show nervousness, fear, or any type of imbalance. You have to keep tempo, stay with the music, and perform the grand jetés, fouettés, and combinations that you practiced so hard to be able to do. Nothing else matters.

The amazing story of Marie, Dancing is an excellent book written by Carolyn Meyer because of her descriptive language and engaging plot. Meyer has also written Doomed Queen Anne, Jubilee Journey, White Lilacs, and many more. This is another one of her great books that teaches perseverance, honesty, and passion. These were the three most common lessons I found throughout the book.

Marie, Dancing takes place in beautiful Paris, France, mainly around the Seine River at her ballet school called the Paris Opera. The story is revolved around a sculpture called The Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen, which is actually in the Louvre today sculpted by Edgar Degas. This is what makes this story unique because it is revolved around a sculpture, unlike many stories.

Marie’s goal is to become a famous dancer, but she has a lot of hardships and set backs such as living in poverty and issues with her family. She is in intense ballet training while a world renowned artist; Edgar Degas offers her a job to pose for his new sculpture. Edgar Degas is a bitter and cold man, but an amazing artist: “He didn’t wait for me to reply or to change my clothes but simply walked off, motioning me to follow his command” (4). She agrees, and every week for one year she went to his studio and posed for him. This helped her get a little closer to her dream of stardom. Meanwhile, she has big ballet examinations coming up to determine if she gets to say at the Paris Opera Ballet School. Her older sister ends up in prison for three months, and she is risking her practice time for the examinations by visiting her troubled sister. Will she get that dream of stardom that she is desperate to have? Will she ever dance again? Will she ever forgive her sister for what she has done?

One of the obvious reasons I love this book is because of the main character, Marie. She is an example of a 14 year old dancer in the 1880s who lives deeply in poverty, but has a huge passion for what she does. Three words to describe her are determined, helpful, and kind. I would say that she is determined because she really wants to become a famous dancer, and trains every moment she has. Marie is also helpful because she basically raises her 10 year old sister Charlotte while her mother is off drinking, and her oldest sister is very selfish. She gets payed by Edgar Degas to model, and she uses the money to pay off the rent on their house. “I reached Rue de Douai and climbed the dimly lit and rank smelling stairs” (137). Lastly, I found that Marie is kind. One of the reasons why she is kind is because when her older sister was in prison, she risked her ballet career just to go give her scraps of food.

This book also kept me engaged because I really like how the author wrote very descriptively, and it was easier to paint a picture of the setting and imagine the the plot in my mind. I would recommend this book to middle school students. Although, this book got off to a slow start, it eventually went by faster and it was very enjoyable to read. Overall, this is a book that I would definitely recommend.

-Valentina M., 7th grade