Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein, or perhaps more famously known as “The dude who wrote The Giving Tree” has actually written many stories alongside works of poetry; “Where the Sidewalk Ends” is one of those pieces of poetry. 

This collection of poems features works such as “Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too”, “Hug O’War”, “For Sale”, “Sick”, “Me and My Giant” and “Hat”.  These poems are generally short, whimsical, and full of wit.  They are fun to read to kids, to dogs, to parents, to grandparents, or to yourself.  The poems are often satirical.  One such poem is called “The Land of Happy”. 

In this poem Silverstein tells of a place where everyone is always happy, then ends it with saying how plain that would be (Silverstein, 143).  Another is “Forgotten Language” in which Silverstein laments the loss of human connection to nature (Silverstein, 149).  All in all, this is a fun collection of poems for anyone looking for something to read before going to bed or for something to read anytime.

-Ainsley H

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Authors We Love: Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll - Wikipedia

Charles was the third of the eleven children of Dodgson. Charles loves his mother best. He regards his mother as one of the sweetest mothers in the world. His mother is a good housekeeper and pays great attention to the children’s preschool education. At the age of seven, Charles was said to have read Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, as well as Maria Edgeworth’s Practical Education and Hannah Moore’s The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain. At the age of 12, Charles was sent as a boarder to a grammar school in Richmond, ten miles from Croft. He is diligent and eager to learn. The principal told his parents that his eloquence and the ingenuity and diction of his Latin prose proved him to be an extraordinary genius.

In 1846 he was sent to Rugby, which soon came under the rule of Thomas Arnold. When he first went there, he was unhappy and often bullied and called a “fool” (a clumsy athlete). He was often mocked because of his childhood stammer. On the other hand, when he did not receive prizes for classics, theology, mathematics, etc., he seldom went home. During the holidays, he began writing a series of home magazines for his siblings. At the age of 14, his first magazine was called an “inspiring and instructive collection of poetry.” It includes many humorous poems, some of which are in the doggerel style, while others are contemporary traditional poems written for children.

He composed poem in the form of a ballad taught people never to annoy their sisters, followed by a magazine illustrated by Charles himself. After leaving Rugby in 1850, Charles wrote his own masterpiece, The Rectory Umbrella And Mischmasch, while preparing for the Oxford entrance examination at home. The book shows that Charles was already an outstanding writer for a comic magazine. He also wrote plays for a puppet theater. His cousin introduced him to the novelist Francis Edward Smedley. He showed some of the poems to Edmund Yates, who, to compete with Punch, had started a penny magazine called Comic Times. Charles wrote four poems for the magazine.

When the Comic Times closed, he began writing for the latter Yates magazine, The train. Charles’ chief contribution to The Train was poetry. In publishing “Solitude,” Yates chose one of two pseudonyms offered by Charles: Lewis Carroll. These are the two Latin names of Charles, keeping the alphabetical order and then turning back to English. He was a priest and never married. He was very fond of children, and his favorite was a little girl called Alice Liddell. On the fourth of July, 1862, the author and a friend of his took the three Liddells and rowed up the River Thames from Oxford to Gostowe. On the boat, he told Alice a little story, which he later turned into a manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground and presented to her.

The manuscript is only 18, 000 words long, and the illustrations are by the author himself. Later, the author revised it to the present scale, changed the title to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and asked the famous painter Sir John Tenniel to illustrate it. The first edition was published on July 4, 1865, as a memorial to that trip. The story tells the story of a little girl named Alice, chasing a rabbit in a dream and falling into the rabbit hole, began a long and dangerous journey. This fairy tale breaks through the traditional moralistic formula of western European children’s literature with its magical fantasy, funny humor and high poetry, and has since been translated into many languages and travelled all over the world.

Carroll later wrote a companion piece, Alice Through the Looking Glass, which became popular in the world along with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In 1868, Carroll published his encryption method. This type of encryption is known as Lewis Carroll’s ciphers. Cryptography introduces the concept of a secret key, which determines which row of secret tables to replace according to the key, to counter word frequency statistics. The password’s key space size is 26m, so even if the value of m is small, using the exhaustive key search method can take a long time. For example, when m=5, the size of the key space exceeds 1.1*107, which is beyond the scope of exhaustive search by hand calculation.

Charles was writing parodies and satires. Works such as The New Belfry (1872), The Vision of the Three T’s (1873) and The Blank Cheque (1874) attacked the reforms of many colleges and universities. In 1879, he tried to study children publicly. Because he has a terrible stammer, but he can communicate with people through the camera. In his second year at the school (1856), Carroll bought a complete set of photographic equipment (The Wet Print) and photographed Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, and the Prince of England. But he was most attracted to girls around the age of 7, and he took every opportunity to photograph the girls he met. Only in front of the girls, Carol will not have any psychological barriers. The only work he did during this period was Rhyme? and Reason?

-Coreen C.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Bernett

No matter what age you are, almost anyone can enjoy a whimsical and well-written children’s classic. In fact, my most recent favorite is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Bernett. 

The Secret Garden tells the story of a girl named Mary Lennox who whilst residing at her uncle’s house tries to figure out how to get into the secret garden, which has been locked up for a decade. Along the way she makes friends and leaves her mark on the dull and somber manor. 

One aspect of this story I loved was the character development. When we first start out the book Mary is an insufferable, harsh brat who knows nothing about friendship because of her circumstances in the past. But once she opens up to people and learns to see the good in things and people alike, everything changes for her and she transforms into a kind and caring child. 

The character development isn’t limited to just Mary though, her uncle’s son, Colin Craven has been thought to be dying for all of his life. But with Mary’s help, everything seems to change for the better. 

The Secret Garden is very predictable, in the way almost all children’s classics are, but I am in no way complaining. In fact, the predictability makes way for you to become more attached to the characters because of all of their arcs. 

Now if you couldn’t tell I have an infatuation with children’s classics. To me, they are such simple and impacting stories that always change your outlook on life. Frances Hodgson Bernett is my favorite children’s book author right now, seeing as she’s written both of my favorites, The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. Both books which I wholeheartedly recommend. 

In short, if you’re a fellow devotee for good children’s classics like me, then you’ll love this book. 

-Asli B.

Authors We Love: Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl is the author of many fictional books for children.  Most of his books were illustrated by Quentin Blake.  I have always enjoyed these books as well as the illustrations.  Dahl uses very inventive language, including interesting words such as “gnazzle,” “knid” and “snozzcumber.”  His books are very funny and full of entertaining nonsense.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is about a boy named Charlie who lives in a small home with his poor family.  Willy Wonka, the owner of a famous chocolate factory, announces that five lucky children will be invited to tour his factory.  The children would be selected by finding one of five golden tickets hidden inside the wrappers of chocolate bars.  By sheer luck, Charlie receives one of the five golden tickets.  As the story unfolds, we discover the wild and zany rooms in Willy Wonka’s factory, and finally we learn the real reason why Mr. Wonka invited the children to his factory.

The BFG tells of a little girl named Sophie who lives in an orphanage.  Sophie is captured by a twenty-four-feet-tall giant, who takes her to a cave in a faraway land called “Giant Country.”  There she learns that the giant’s name is the “Big Friendly Giant,” or the “BFG,” for short.  The BFG is actually the runt of nine other giants, who are about fifty feet tall and are very wicked, unlike the BFG.  The other nine giants like to gallop off to different countries to gobble up about two to six people at a time.  Sophie and the BFG come up with a plan to put a stop to the other giants’ evil deeds.

In Matilda, a girl named Matilda learns how to read at a very young age, but her parents mistreat her and hardly even notice her talents.  When she starts school, Matilda encounters the giant, nasty headmistress named Miss Trunchbull.  The headmistress terrorizes the entire school until Matilda discovers special powers within herself.  This is my favorite of Roald Dahl’s books because of the charming characters and wonderful story.

Most of Roald Dahl’s books are about ordinary children who discover extraordinary things.  Dahl usually includes fantastical characters, such as man-sized insects and little people known as “Oompa Loompas.”  It is for good reason that his books are very popular and are considered classics for young readers.  I highly recommend these books to people of all ages.

-Oliver H.

The works of Roald Dahl are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Dover Children's Evergreen Classics ...

The novel takes place in the first half of the 19th century in a small town on the banks of the Mississippi River. The hero Tom Sawyer is innocent and lively, dares to explore, pursues freedom avidly,but cannot bear to restrain his individuality and endure boring life. In the antebellum period of the novel, the small town of St. Petersburg is in some ways a microcosm of American society. Through the adventures of the protagonist, the novel satirizes and criticizes vulgar social customs, hypocritical religious rituals and stereotyped school education in The United States, and describes the free and lively hearts of children with cheerful writing.

Tom lost his mother in infancy and was adopted by his aunt. Clever and naughty Tom could not stand the control of his aunt and school teacher. Late one night, while playing in a cemetery with his good friend Huckleberry Finn, he happened to witness a murder. For fear of being discovered by the murderer they know this matter, Tom, Huckleberry and another small friend together fled to a desert island to become “pirate”. Their family thought they were drowned, but they turned up at their own “funeral”. After a fierce ideological struggle, Tom finally stood up and testified against the murderer. Soon after during a picnic, he and his sweetheart Betsy got lost in a cave and faced death for three days and nights. After he manages to escape danger later, Tom Sawyer found the treasure that the murderer buried together with his good friend Huckleberry Finn.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer marks further development of Mark Twain’s realistic creation. This book describes the free and lively psychology of children, and in contrast exposes the vulgar conservative life of small town citizens, highlighting their dull and dreary lifestyle. Mischievous and lively, full of fantasy and justice, Tom planned to go out for adventures in order to get rid of the shackles of reality and enjoy the full pleasure of freedom. All of this contradicts the capitalist living environment and is not allowed by secular morality and church precepts. Generally speaking, criticizing stagnation, vulgarity and religious hypocrisy of American local life can be seen as the main content of the novel.

-Coreen C.

Anne Of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables: Montgomery, L. M.: 9780553213133: Amazon.com: Books

Anne of Green Gables is a coming-of-age novel. From the growth experience of the protagonist Anne, we can know the author’s consciousness of eco-feminism beyond the times. The world is a pluralistic community. Man is a part of nature and forms an inseparable web of life with all things. He should treat other creatures equally. People should love and help each other. Only in this way can human beings get rid of all kinds of crises, obtain a happy life, and build an ideal society of harmonious coexistence between human and nature, a free society that can regulate the relationship between human and nature.

Annie’s experience is a life process that everyone has to go through – growing up, studying, falling in love, getting married, having children, working. In this sense, Anne of Green Gables is a growth novel for young boys and girls to read. It instructs them to go to the hardships and tribulations in life with enthusiasm, innocence, tenacity and honesty like Anne, and to pursue more precious things in the world than money, wealth, fame and status with an optimistic outlook on life.

The novel teaches them to love man and nature, to seek happiness and satisfaction from nature and imagination, to open their hearts to the joys of the world and life, and to illuminate themselves and the people around them with a lively and natural heart. For adult readers, through experiencing Anne’s growth process and mind course, they can understand Anne’s personality charm, gain some lessons from it and then reflect on their own life. In today’s worship of material wealth, man is increasingly alienated from nature.

It is an age where a person increasingly complains about the stress of life and calls for humanity and conscience. People should think about how not to be assimilated by the turbid world around them, not to give up their dreams and hopes under any circumstances, to be philosophically and kind-hearted to save themselves, with the magnanimous heart of Anne, optimistic and persistent struggle for progress, and the pursuit of ideals. Like Anne, they should keep a heart full of passion for the world, find the ability to feel the happiness of family affection, friendship and love, and become closer to nature, closer to oneself, and truly happy.

When Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables, she did not use any particular technique. She only selects comedy events that are close to life and in line with children’s age and psychological characteristics, and employs the most common vivid description of children’s language and actions in traditional children’s literature, while setting off the typical environment. However, it is the successful combination of these traditional writing techniques that makes this work become a world-famous classic of children’s literature.

In this novel, Montgomery resorts to concise and fresh language to vividly depict landscapes, flowers and plants, which can not only cultivate children’s temperament, but also meet children’s various aesthetic needs. With the help of Anne’s eyes, the novel presents the beautiful and unusual natural environment in front of readers. Sweet apple blossoms, white as snow, on the white road of joy. Under the branches, the purple dusk came unawares.

A morning like an oil painting with thousands of purple flowers blooming in a deep purple pond, full of the charm of nature, flowing with the beautiful melody of the birds. The author lavished pen and ink on a fairyland like this. Living in such a wonderful environment, it was no wonder that Anne was often as happy as a fairy. When readers read these, they will be unconsciously intoxicated with them. And so it is in real life. Every year, thousands of tourists from all over the world come to Prince Edward Island to follow in Anne’s footsteps.

Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

In this work, Porter tells us the story of an eleven-year-old girl. The child lost her mother at an early age, experienced poverty and hardship in life, and then lost her father. As a penniless orphan, she was sent to live with her rich aunt. But the rich, eccentric aunt Polly, who lived alone in a large house, did not welcome her niece. She did not even go to the station to meet her. Instead, she sent a maid, Nancy, so that the little girl mistaken her maid for her aunt.

The little girl cried after knowing this, but she immediately found a reason to be happy and turned tears into laughter. Pollyanna had told many, many people in this town about her theory of happiness, and she thought she was playing a happy game. The child’s happy theory and happy games keep divorcing people from getting divorced, make eccentric Pendleton adopt the orphan Jimmy, make the priest change his foolish ideas, and make the town and the world have an amazing change.

As she lay in her hospital bed after the accident, visitors came in droves. This child loves life and everything beautiful. From her father, a pastor, she learned to see life with a unique eye. The secret to happiness is always to explore and find the love and beauty in life and to pass it on to everyone around her. She had told many people in the town of her happy games, which had brought great changes to the indifferent Aunt Polly, Nancy, Mr. Pendleton, Dr. Chilton, and so on, and had brought about amazing changes in the town.

This work is very different from other works of children’s literature. While Pollyanna is physically and mentally healthy and full of life, the adults around her are sickly and twisted. Like the silver lining on the cloud, in this little girl looking for happiness and beauty, those self-righteous adults are just wasting their lives in a dark world. They have forgotten the essence and meaning of life, so they often create a trap for themselves, which seems ridiculous, even hypocritical.

This little girl, adept at finding joy in misfortune, epitomized the modern American spirit of believing, no matter what the circumstances, that everything would be all right. This optimism may seem naive and blind. But when we read this work carefully, when we see the changes of those who were deeply influenced by Pollyanna, we may realize that it is precisely because life is full of hardship and pain that people need to maintain a happy attitude to meet the unavoidable suffering in life. Never complain about the hard things in life, but learn to face them with tolerance, because as Pollyanna said — if you are willing to look for the good things in life, you will find them.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall is one I have been reading for years and have yet to tire of. The series is about four sisters named Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty. Shortly after Batty, the youngest, was born, their mother passed away, leaving their father to care for them. Mr. Penderwick is a botanist who throws out Latin phrases along with advice to his daughters. He can be quite lenient and unsure of his judgement, but he has his daughters’ respect and love. 

I love how each of the sisters is so unique and wonderful in their own way, and how Jeanne Birdsall writes from their perspectives is amazing. The sisters have such contrasting qualities, but these qualities compliment each other. Their father raises them with solid values, and though they make some mistakes, they are incredibly down-to-earth characters who find ways to solve any issues they have.

One aspect I find entertaining about their relationships with each other is the meetings they have, which are called “MOPS”, or Meeting of Penderwick Sisters. The sisters discuss problems they’ve noticed with their family or friends, and how they may be able to solve them. Despite their separate personalities and occasional arguments, the sisters are still so close and supportive of each other.

Rosalind is kind and compassionate, and is a wonderful older sister for her siblings. She is especially fond of her sister Batty, who is very attached to her. Her maturity and leadership results in her sisters looking up to her, even when she questions her own abilities.

Skye is adventurous and impatient with frivolity. Her relationship with Batty is entertaining to read about; Skye is uncertain with how to act with her younger sister while maintaining a tough exterior. 

Jane is a writer, with her mind constantly wandering, even during conversations (which tends to irritate Skye). On the Penderwicks’ trips throughout the series, Jane consistently manages to haul a stack of books with her. 

Batty is curious and shy, and she loves animals. Her sisters are protective of her, even if some of them pretend they aren’t. 

As the series progresses, the sisters grow older, and their changes in character are interesting to see. Though the plots of these books don’t revolve around a real villain or conflict, the stories are still so exciting, engaging, funny, and heartwarming. This really is a wonderful series, and the audiobooks read by Susan Denaker are amazing as well!

– Mia T.

The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.