Historical Fiction

Great Expectations Revisited

“Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.” Charles Dickens

Yet again, a classic novel has found purchase in our modern world through film.  “Great Expectations” opened November 8 in limited release, and cast Helen Bonham Carter as the creepy Miss Havisham, Ralph Fiennes as Abel Magwitch, Holliday Grainger as Estella, and Jeremy Irvine as Pip.

According to the movie critics from the filmrejects website, the movie stays true to Dickens’ novel, although the central mystery of who is Pip’s mysterious benefactor is revealed much earlier.  Their overview of the movie reiterates my point about movies and books: “Done well, a Great Expectations film can hit all the notes of Dickens’ novel, and the machinations of the book’s storyline can be so convoluted that a finely tuned visual companion can only help. (No, we’re not advocating the use of films instead of books here, but taken together, a fuller understanding is possible).”http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/features/romeo-and-juliet-and-great-expectations-film-adaptations.php

Charles Dickens’ 497-page novel spans the early years and adult life of main character, Pip. Fellow wordpress blogger Jessica of The Bookworm Chronicles nicely summarizes the plot:

“Great Expectations follows the life of a young orphaned boy nicknamed Pip. When we join young Pip he is living with his strict sister and her big-hearted husband Joe Gargery. At which point Pip has little to no expectations other than to join Joe as an apprentice in his smithy. A series of strange events and encounters are to set Pip on a completely different road though. As a young man, he is visited by a London lawyer who informs him that he has a secret benefactor who wishes to pay for Pip to become a gentleman. Pip moves to London with his great expectations looking to make a name for himself and finally claim the hand of the woman he loves.”

http://thebookwormchronicles.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/the-classics-club-great-expectations/

Reading Dickens’ novels can be a challenge because of the time commitment and mental energy required. Five hundred pages filled with English vocabulary not in use today may daunt the most courageous reader, but to be truly literate we must become familiar with the literature that makes up the references we encounter in coursework, speeches, movies, and books. Just to use a few examples from Dickens’ novels: When you hear that a person is a “Scrooge”, do you know what that means? To what does he refer in this quote: ““Bah,” said Scrooge, “Humbug.”? Do you know this famous line from another Dickens story? “Please, sir, I want some more.” (Oliver Twist holds out his tin plate and dares to request “seconds” from the miserly orphanage overseer.)

We came across a literary reference just this week from Oliver Twist in Alan Bradley’s second Flavia DeLuce mystery novel, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag. The author described a female character as “The Nancy to his Bill”. I knew what Mr. Bradley meant about his character, Nia. She was just like Dickens’ “Nancy” who put herself under the sway of a powerful and unscrupulous man. In Great Expectations, Miss Havisham was jilted at the altar and seeks to use young and lovely Estella to take vengeance on the entire male gender. What a great cautionary tale to use to describe the damage that can be done by manipulating others and seeking revenge.

“Pip, Estella and Miss Havisham”, by John McLenan, published in 1859 by Harper’s Weekly.

The purpose of understanding literary references goes beyond simply feeling pride in our knowledge. We share these mentions with one another in order to explain, connect, and create context. We use common knowledge all the time, often simple instances like describing the power of a waterfall by saying it roared like Niagara Falls.

As a person of an older generation, I possess huge deficits in my own literary background, but that just means I still have a lot to learn. How much more do younger generations need exposure to Shakespeare’s characters and quotes, and those of great authors like Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, A.A. Milne, and Daniel Defoe.

What does it mean when you are “tilting at windmills”? Who is someone who is like “a man, Friday”? What does it mean to have a “Capulet-Montague” type of situation? Whose signature exclamation is “Oh, bother!” What does it mean to “chase a white rabbit”?

What literary references have you run across lately? I would love to hear about them.

http://www.litlovers.com published great discussion questions on Great Expectations: http://www.litlovers.com/reading-guides/13-fiction/402-great-expectations-dickens?start=3

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Categories: British novels, Classics, Historical Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I Want To Be Like Mrs. Mike

“If Katherine Mary Flannigan who passed away years ago knew Mrs. Mike continues to have readers in the twenty-first century how amazed and pleased she would be.”
(excerpted from the Introduction of Mrs. Mike, 2002 Berkley Publishing Group)

I have a new heroine. She lived over a hundred years ago and bravely traveled from cultured turn-of-the-century Boston to the frontier town of Calgary, Alberta at the tender age of sixteen in order to recover from pleurisy. Katherine Mary O’Fallon not only adjusted to life on the edge of civilization, she pushed deeper into the Canadian wilderness wrapped in blankets on a dogsled led by her new husband, Canadian Mounted Police sergeant Mike Flannigan.

Mrs. Mike, first published in 1947 after interviews with the main character and extensive research, provides some wonderful romantic stomach flutters and broad grins at the couple’s courtship and early married life. But like the territorial movement deeper into the unknown, the story dives deep and quick into the harsh realities of wilderness life in the early 1900’s. The authors, Benedict and Nancy Freedman, did not spare the reader. Somehow I managed to survive this story without a completely shattered heart.

Mounties were the ultimate multi-taskers filling the offices of policeman, priest, and doctor in the remote outposts of the Canadian wilderness. The Flannigans are called on again and again to succor the dying, bind up those wounded by wild animals, and face their own tragedies. Kathy Flannigan shows the reader the miracle of starting over while keeping her heart open to love and faith. Like Job of the Bible, she doesn’t curse God and die. Not all of the book’s characters manage this which underscores the miracle of Kathy’s life.

I confess that I have spent much of my suburban life trying to avoid pain and whining at any adversity. The life of Kathy Flannigan humbles me, as does the story of the authors who faced illness and setbacks of their own. Journalist Peggy Orenstein, writes of the Freedmans in her article entitled “The Story of My Life”: “As children of the Great Depression, they never much trusted wealth or stability.” (O Magazine, December 2007). Orenstein read the novel to her husband and then asked him what he had taken away from the book. “That’s easy”, he said, with a half smile “Life is hard. But love is strong.” http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Mrs-Mike-Changed-My-Life

Photo Credit: Travis Roberts

Photo Credit: Travis Roberts

We still have much to survive today. While childhood diseases such as small pox or diphtheria are prevented by modern-day vaccination, American lives are still at risk due to cancer, natural disasters, traffic accidents, addiction, mental illness, and suicide. Are we overcomers who can go on – seeing the light at the end of our tunnels and trusting that God is good?

“Originally published in 1947, Mrs. Mike was a main selection of the Literary Guild, serialized in the Atlantic Monthly, condensed in Reader’s Digest, appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, and translated into twenty-seven languages.” (Introduction, p. xxvi, Mrs. Mike, published 2002 by Berkely Trade)

Kathy’s true story is the basis for the novel which means some events were fictionalized by the authors. Not much research is available on the real life characters of Katherine and Mike Flannigan; although accounts state Sergeant Mike Flannigan died of a ruptured appendix in 1944. Kathy remarried and died in 1954 in Calgary, Alberta. Authors Benedict and Nancy Freedman passed away within the past three years.

I hope I whetted your appetite to read this lyrical, poignant novel for the first-time or over again to be inspired to truly live and love.

Other Notes:
Pleurisy is an inflammation of the pleural membrane which surrounds the lungs and results in symptoms of chest pain when inhaling or exhaling, shortness of breath, cough and fever.

Lesser Slave Lake is located in the current-day province of Alberta, Canada

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

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!

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

City of Tranquil Light – A Story of Unfailing Love

city of tranquil light“A woman of forty-seven who has been married twenty-seven years and has six children knows what love really is and once described it for me like this: ‘Love is what you have been through with somebody.'” James Thurber

The publishing industry floods us with romantic fiction.  Hollywood movies too, are so often either thrillers or romantic comedies.  These matchmaking novels and movies entertain us and have the additional value of showing us whether or not two individuals are well-suited, though sometimes I feel compelled to yell at the protagonist in frustration: “He’s not the right one! Don’t choose him!”

Match making is a fairly harmless natural instinct. It’s even possible to find novels in this genre that avoid descriptions of sexual encounters which is where my my personal moral bar is set.  My complaint is that the stories are so one-dimensional and only take us on the attraction journey between people.  It can easily become a mono diet of romance that ends only in a wedding ceremony.  I need more than that. I need answers to the question of how do I live in love for a lifetime with one flawed person? Or on the flip side, how does my spouse live with my immaturity and shortcomings?  Deeper romance books are helpful too, for young people waiting to make the decision to marry, and the many who have been married and divorced.

I believe the novel City of Tranquil Light offers an answer.  The author, Bo Caldwell, researched the history of her grandparents’ lives as missionaries in China that gives this story a wonderful realism. Poignantly, Caldwell describes China in the 1920s and the resultant suffering as the Communists defeat the Imperial government.  Along with their Chinese friends, the missionary couple of the story endures this troubled period in an ancient and beautiful land. The opening chapters detail the couple’s initial meeting, but the majority of the book takes place as they walk out their married life together.  Author Bo Caldwell documents a tender, enduring love between Katherine and Will in adversity.

I gave this novel to my reading club friend April, to test out if it was “bloggable”  Putting into words why she loved it, April wrote: “I loved this book because I was drawn to the story of this couple following God’s call on their life. Even though they experienced many hardships, and the personal cost was great for them, they didn’t feel it was a sacrifice. Their obedience to God and their love for each other and the people and country of China was very inspiring.”

The Kiehn’s married relationship echoes the marriage vows so many of us are familiar with “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death”. p 427 Book of Common Prayer. (BCP) Less well-known are the powerful words in the BCP which describe the purpose of marriage: “The union of husband and wife in heart, mind, and body is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord.” p 423.

If we remove for a moment the consuming occupation of nurturing our children, a deeper layer of bonding in marriage becomes more visible: a shared mission.  In the case of Katherine and Will Kiehn, each individually goes to China to serve as a missionary. They meet and marry “on the mission field”.  Serving as missionaries together as a married couple certainly isn’t the only way to share a “mission”.  Katherine and Will, by the way, have very different abilities and gifts which they exercise while in China.  In our case, my husband is a skilled family and marriage therapist and an athlete.  I am a writer, homeschool teacher and women’s group leader.  But we share the same mission to show others the reality of a loving God.

So put aside the other type of romantic novels, and check out City of Tranquil Light

Many novels depict interesting married couples including:

Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, Strong Poison, Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers – four of her mysteries recount the courtship and marriage of Lord Peter and Harriet.

Father Tim and Cynthia, At Home in Mitford, A Light in the Window and the other “Mitford” novels by Jan Karon

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, The BeeKeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King. King has written twelve novels that showcase their partnership to solve crimes and bring the guilty to justice.

Benjamin January and Rose, A Free Man of Color and other novels by Barbara Hambly – a fascinating mystery series set in New Orleans in the 1830s.

Categories: Chick lit, Historical Fiction, Inspiration, Romantic Fiction, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Great Expectations – Read the Classics

“A sense of permanent worthwhileness surrounds really great literature.  Laughter, pain, hunger, satisfaction, love, and joy —the ingredients of human life are found in depth and leave a residue of mental and spiritual richness in the reader. “ Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Child’s Heart

As human beings, we are designed to deepen.  Many opportunities lie before us to do so: school classes, on-line tutorials, life experiences.  What about great literature as a teacher? These titles have stood the test of time as a source of teaching and inspiration.  Between their covers are stored enduring themes, memorable characters, and vivid plots which often do not leave our hearts and minds – ever.

All of us have the capacity to enjoy a classic book.  Although there is no harm in following a favorite genre of fiction or seeking a “light” read; the mental challenge in reading classic literature propels us into new depths — past the shallow waters of  superficial plots and stereotypical characters.  Reading a more densely-written book builds our mental muscles. It definitely fulfills the Al-Anon recommendation: ”Just for today I will try to strengthen my mind…  I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration.”

My unashamed bias is that classic literature should be appreciated in its unabridged form.   Many abridged versions cut out plotting, descriptions, or vocabulary.   An example of this is Daniel Defoe’s main character, Robinson Crusoe, who chronicles an episode of intense spiritual enlightenment which you wouldn’t want to miss.  Much of the vocabulary in classic books which tripped us up on SAT tests can be understood in context.  This is true for children as well.  Often they can hear and understand above their own school grade reading level, or they may choose to read the unabridged book later.   Also, many classics are now available at the library as wonderful audio productions with rich-voiced narrators.

My most recent efforts to read classics:

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.  I spent three-fourths of the book hating Pip for his poor choices – especially how he treats the humble man who raised him with such disdain. Included in the adventure Dickens weaves is the threatening escaped convict who invades Pip’s life. This complex character is one of many memorable individuals which populate Dickens’ novels. Fellow wordpress blogger Jessica of The Bookworm Chronicles comments on the plot: “Great Expectations reminded me of a previous Dickens’s read Nicholas Nickleby because they both span a great deal of one individual’s life. There was plenty of time to really get to know Pip, his virtues as well as his faults and failings, and how he goes on to grow and change from a boy into a man.” http://www.thebookwormchronicles.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/the-classics-club-great-expectations/

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.  It has been three decades since I last read it in its entirety.  In some ways,  it was like being introduced to the adventure for the first time.  Twain masterfully crafted a humorous, poignant and thrilling tale from beginning to end.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is next on my list, partly because I want to continue to reach beyond  my comfort zone and partly because I want to read what my 13-year old has been assigned to read for English class.

My teenage children’s favorites: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.

As an adult in any life stage, you now have an opportunity to catch up on those great books you missed or glossed over during your student years.  Keep enjoying your favorite books this year, but also challenge yourself to read a classic (or two)!

Categories: British novels, Classics, Historical Fiction, Inspiration, Read Aloud, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The_Guernsey_Literary_and_Potato_Peel_Pie_Society

Recently, I found “a window into reality” by means of the novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,  a heart-warming story written in epistolary form (written correspondence between the book’s characters).  The setting is the Channel Island of Guernsey immediately following World War Two.  Novelist Mary Ann Shaffer, an American from Martinsburg, West Virginia, first encountered Guernsey on a vacation trip.  She fell in love with its charming beauty and discovered that, shockingly, this small piece of British soil was occupied for five horrific years by the Nazis.

Shaffer thoroughly researched this dark period in the history of the Channel Islands and the result is this eye-opening account of the oppression that the Guernsey islanders experienced under the cruel hand of the Third Reich.   Mixed in with the bitter tragedy is plenty of humor, however.  The Guersney Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (GLAPPPS) began as a cover for an illegal pig roast which some islanders didn’t want the Nazis to discover.

The plot develops as the main character, Juliet Ashton, known in London as a light-hearted journalist, seeks a new book idea.  Juliet has just experienced her first literary success with the publication of Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War (a collection of her weekly newspaper columns written during the war). What begins as a self-centered career opportunity to observe and write about the Guernsey islanders becomes much more as Juliet’s heart is drawn irresistibly into the lives of the unlikely comrades of the GLAPPPS.

The book includes letters from numerous members of the Society to Juliet describing the wrenching deprivation, starvation conditions, and mistreatment during the occupation.  The quirky characters and sense of community pour off the pages of the letters, as do the sweetness of loving sacrifice and romance.

Author Mary Ann Shaffer lived much of her life as a librarian and editor.  This is her first  (and last)novel.  The book still needed revisions when Mary Ann became terminally ill.  Annie Barrows, the author’s niece, stepped in to finish the manuscript for the publisher.  Sadly, Ms. Shaffer passed away in February 2008 at the age of 73 – able only to see the publication of her novel in England; not in the United States.  Ms. Barrows describes her aunt’s choice of the letter form for her novel:

My aunt thought it would be easy and those are the types of books she liked to read.  We loved reading people’s letters and diaries.  I think we were born snoops.  And of course, writing the book did not turn out to be easy.” (The Journal [Martinsburg, West Virginia] August 2008)

guernsey #6Another notable epistolary novel is The Screwtape Letters.  Author C.S. Lewis masterfully composed letters from the fictional demon “Uncle Screwtape” to his nephew “Wormwood”.  Screwtape  offers diabolical advice on how to tempt Wormwood’s human assignment. Lewis writes letters solely from Screwtape’s perspective and cleverly alludes to what Wormwood has written.  In 2009, Focus on the Family produced a wonderful Radio Theatre edition of The Screwtape Letters with the vocal talents of Andy Serkis (Gollum).

Guernsey #3On a more light-hearted note, the children’s book, Little Wolf’s Book of Badness (the first book in a series by Ian Whybrow) is a collection of hilariously misspelled and illustrated letters home from a well-behaved little wolf cub who is sent away on purpose to become “bad” – as wolves should be – at Cunning College for Brute Beasts under the tutelage of Uncle Bigbad.

 

In addition, non-fiction books that are records of written correspondence are another excellent way to see into the lives of people.  I recently re-read a novel published in 1970 which chronicles twenty years of actual correspondence between New York screenwriter Helene Hanff and the London antiquarian bookstore staff members who helped her find out-of-print books.  84, Charing Cross Road is full of humor and pathos.

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My renewed interest in epistolary books also reminds me to read my Bible epistles as letters.  They were composed to someone  and I dearly wish we had access to some of the answers the biblical authors must have received.  For example, the apostle Paul’s response from his letter to the Philippians (Chapter 4) may have run something like:

“Dearest Paul, Euodia and I have made up and have started a weaving business together… Love, Syntyche”.

 

Categories: Historical Fiction, Inspiration | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Books for Boys: Stories for the Wild Hearts

Explore, build, conquer – you don’t have to tell a boy to do those things for the simple reason that it is his purpose.  But it’s going to take risk, and danger, and there’s the catch.  Are we willing to live with the level of risk that God invites us to?”

John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, 2001:Thomas Nelson Publishers

Good books can help build the man.  The young boy needs all the help he can get to rise up to the heights of his unique calling.  Through stories that flesh out endurance, sacrifice, and fighting for the right, he can attain his destiny.  A well-rounded male protagonist demonstrates to the young reader that success must be hard-won and involves taking risks and will inspire him to believe he can make a difference.

Good stories well-told can breathe on the embers that lie dormant in all boys and men to activate that their strength and power is rise up and do big things for their families and the good of others.

These great “boy books” offer plots and settings that show the resolution of a boy’s inner conflicts: “Do you think I can do this?”  “Am I any good?”  “Am I heroic?” Our world needs men who use their strength for the protection of others —  men who overcome and walk out their bigger purpose.

The titles listed here represent a few stories that showcase a male character facing adventure, danger, and risk. My list is eclectic and loosely organized into recommended age categories.  Keep in mind that often a good book will be a wonderful reading experiences for many age groups.

Pre-Teen:

The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop – William is off on a quest into a fantasy world

Honus & Me by Dan Gutman – one of 5 “Baseball Card Adventures” – a boy goes back in time to meet his sports hero.

The Matchlock Gun by Walter Edmonds – a young boy must defend his family against Indian attack

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgliesh – a boy must find out for himself if there are bears on the mountain

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman – a spoiled prince and a commoner team up for adventures

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes – a silversmith apprentice in Revolutionary Era Boston finds his courage

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George – a runaway survives in New York’s Catskill Mountains

Mid-Teen:

The Pendragon Cycle by Stephen Lawhead – wonderful re-telling of King Arthur and Merlin

Call Me Francis Tucket by Brian Paulsen – a 14 year old faces trials in 1800’s American West

Hatchet by Brian Paulsen – a teenager must survive alone in the Canadian wilderness

Little Britches by Ralph Moody – a heart-warming saga of pioneer life in Montana in the 1800s

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare – a young boy faces dangers in Palestine at the time of Christ

Late Teen:

To End All Wars by Ernest Gordon – a WWI Japanese prisoner of war overcomes torture and deprivation

God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew – a Dutch missionary smuggles Bibles behind the Iron Curtain

Midshipman Hornblower by C.S. Forester – a British naval midshipman endures hardships during the Napoleonic War

Last of the Breed by Louis L’Amour – an escaped American soldier evades captures in Soviet Siberia

Also: Treasure Island, Kidnapped, or The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson

Categories: Children's Books, Classics, Historical Fiction, Inspiration, Read Aloud | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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