Girl Fiction

Reading For Pleasure

The pleasure of outdoor reading

The pleasure of outdoor reading

The idea for this blog came from my cousin, Jennefer, about a year ago as I was, once again, waxing eloquent about some book I wanted her to read.

I started pineneedlesandpapertrails as a blog to recommend my favorites, not provide a deep critique what’s out there – new or old. I realized, too, as I blogged, just how fervently I believe in the benefits of reading.  Literacy – yes – but not just literacy for the sake of job advancement or the achievement of educational goals; I mean reading for enjoyment.

Inspirational author Gladys Hunt challenged us to have “honey” in our lives so we can give it away: “Many years ago Erich Fromm wrote in The Art of Loving that children need two things: milk and honey.  Both are necessary to thrive as human beings.  Milk symbolizes the necessities – like good food, brushing your teeth, drinking your milk and plenty of sleep. Honey is just as important. It means finding sweetness in life, like beauty and goodness that nourish the inner person…Good books are full of honey.  It reminds me of the proverb that says ‘Pleasant words are like a honeycomb; sweet to the soul and healing to the bones’.” [Proverbs 16:24] blog post, dated September 12, 2008 http://www.tumbon.com/honey.

Mrs. Hunt’s Honey for a Child’s Heart and Honey for a Teen’s Heart are excellent resources that offer book lists and inspirational chapters on why children should read, but few people realize that she wrote Honey for a Woman’s Heart for adults. This wonderful book spurred me to read for pleasure in the midst of my busy, and sometimes chaotic, life. It also helped me to climb out of the reading rut I had fallen into (British or historical mysteries) to try new genres.

I am not telling you WHAT to read this summer.  Some novels are written perfectly to be read in one afternoon on the beach, other books are best read in installments. The Sherlock Holmes detective stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, for example, were originally published as serial articles in a magazine.  My seatmate on a recent airplane trip was a writer who described reading a classic novel too quickly from cover to cover like “eating an entire pan of fudge at one sitting. It would not be very enjoyable.”

Just read! Pick up a classic to stretch your mind, or read a light novel!

Okay, I admit I have some personal favorites. You can check out my recommendations for the year on the “My Library” page of this blog.  I love Neta Jackson’s Yada Yada Prayer Group series, At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon, a wholesome, hopeful book set in a North Carolina small town.  City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell, the story of a missionary couple in China, containing heroism, tragedy and romance all in a fascinating historical setting.

You could take a dip into mystery with The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey, or Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers.

For fantasy, the Narnia Chronicles always delight. I blogged about my favorite, The Horse and His Boy. My friend, Lynne, suggests reading them in the order C.S. Lewis wrote them:  Lion, Prince, Voyage, Silver, Horse, Magician’s, Lastly, I recommend Beyond the Summerland, the first in the Binding of the Blade fantasy series by L.B. Graham.

A final thought! If you are a parent or grandparent who wishes that the children in their lives would read this summer, be sure to put your own nose in a book – the power of example.  My posts with short reading lists for boys and girls are found in the month of November.

Happy Reading!

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Categories: British novels, Classics, Fantasy, Girl Fiction, Historical Fiction, Inspiration, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

Vicarious Heroism – Daughter of China

We can strip the knight of his armor, to reveal that he looks exactly like us, or we can try on the armor ourselves to experience how it feels.  Fiction provides an ideal opportunity to try on the armor.”  C.S. Lewis

Nineteen year old Mei-lin, the fictional hero of Daughter of China, lives in a modern-day rural village.  She faces fierce persecution and demanding personal choices as her story unfolds.  The author, C. Hope Flinchbaugh, based her novel on true testimonies of persecuted Christians in China and that authenticity shines out of every page.

Although it was published ten years ago (Bethany House, 2002), Daughter of China is not just a banner waved and then furled; it still speaks profoundly to us about religious persecution and the repression of the one child policy in China.   Mei-lin pursues her beliefs in a government system that does not offer religious freedom.  Her heroism is striking due to her youth; all her life is before her, and yet she continually risks her safety to follow her conscience.

My pet name for this type of fiction is a “hero book”.  We, as Americans,  will most likely never travel in the flesh to these places, nor live in the time periods of hero books set in the past.  It is vitally  important that we open our eyes and our hearts through stories like this so that we are stretched and move beyond our current culture and lifestyle.  This type of vicarious living is definitely not escapism.  This novel made me ask myself: “What would I do if it were me in that time and place?”  I am convinced that we, as readers, can try on C.S. Lewis’  “armor” through any genre of fiction or non-fiction as long as we have the “knight”!

Thankfully there is a sequel, because Mei-lin was a heroine I didn’t want to be parted from.  Across the China Sky (Bethany House, 2006) chronicles Mei-lin’s continued struggle in her native China.  Hope Flinchbaugh’s third novel, I’ll Cross the River (Destiny Image, 2008), brings the reader into current day North Korea and the plight of those locked into the suffering created by a corrupt communist system.  I have the honor of knowing Hope Flinchbaugh personally as a member of my local church. She is a hero in her own right telling t,he world of the persecution of our international brothers and sisters through her writing and publishing.

http://www.historymakerpublishing.com

http://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com/2014/01/across-china-sky-c-hope-flinchbaugh-one.html

Categories: Chick lit, Children's Books, Girl Fiction, Historical Fiction, Inspiration, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Books for Girls: Timeless Virtues

One of my personal tests to determine whether a book heroine is “timeless” is if you, as a reader, remember her name, not just what she did.

For some of our most beloved female protagonists we even know the last name: Sara Crewe, Kit Tyler, Christy Huddleston, Jo March,  Anne Shirley, Laura Ingalls, Lucy Pevensie. Mary Lennox, Maria Merryweather, Fern Arable and Charlotte the Spider.  I feel as if I know these characters. 

As my daughter Rachel says, “They are like real people that I have in my cell phone contact list.  I feel as if I could call them up to ask them for advice”.

Fiery-tempered, imaginative Anne  (“with an e”) of Anne of Green Gables finds what her hearts longs for -belonging in her adopted family and community.  She wins the life-long friendship of Diana, whom she calls her “bosom friend”.  We watch Anne grow up and see her find her unique beauty, her intelligence, and her place in the world.  If Anne can do it, so can I.

Mary Lennox, the main character in The Secret Garden, is drawn by a mixture of compassion and curiosity to discover the sufferer secreted away deep inside the manor house: “The door of her room was ajar and the sound came down the corridor, a far-off faint sound of fretful crying… She felt as is she must find out what it was… The corridor looked very long and dark, but she was too excited to mind that.  So she went on with her dim light, almost feeling her way, her heart beating so loud that she fancied she could hear it.”  This young girl becomes the agent of restoration for a sick child and an entire household; not just a garden.  How about us? Aren’t we restorers too?

Christy Huddleston (Christy by Catherine Marshall) exhibits kindness, mixed with determined bravery as she leaves behind her citified, comfortable life to teach destitute children in the Appalachian Mountains.  What a culture shock she faces, but Christy rises to the challenge and grows into a mature young woman who changes Cutter Gap.  I am destined to change the world like Christy.

Hannah, my youngest child, loves Lucy Pevensie of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe because Lucy is the youngest sibling and yet sees with eyes of faith and doesn’t doubt.  In later adventures, Lucy sees Aslan when no one else can.

We may have missed certain books during our growing up years, or perhaps read them with only half our attention. It’s not too late; we can go back and scoop them up again.  If we didn’t get enough faith, hope, kindness, purity, courage, and destiny in our youth, it is all still waiting for us in these tales of inspiring fictional characters. Sharing these nourishing books with our daughters and granddaughters makes them come alive again for us.

I have never read Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin or Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink.  My 13-year-old friend, Emma, tells me Heidi by Johanna Spyri is a must-read also. So I have some catching up to do! Which girl heroines live in your heart? Drop me a comment and let me know.

My Top Ten in alphabetical order:

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (wonderful illustrator – Garth Williams)

Christy by Catherine Marshall

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (best illustrator – Tasha Tudor)

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (best illustrator Tasha Tudor)

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

Categories: Classics, Girl Fiction, Humorous, Inspiration, Read Aloud, Romantic Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

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