Five Favorite Authors – Friday Favorites

5. Ann B. Ross – If you find yourself a little down in the dumps, you need to read the Miss Julia books. I have never laughed so hard in my life! Laughter is a medicine, and I’ve often healed myself reading Ann’s words!

4. Jan Karon – I call the Mitford series “Vacation in a book”. Often times I find myself encumbered by life with too much to do, with the demands of a wife and mother, and maybe filling too empty to give the way that I should. When this happens, I know that it’s time to grab a Mitford book. Her character development is pristine. I know that somewhere there must be a Father Tim and an Uncle Billy. They are too real not to be real. My daughter recently asked me what literary character I’d most like to be, I answered, “Cynthia!” She is so charming, and has such a positive, fun outlook on life. She is who I long to be.

3. Ann Voskamp – Isn’t she pretty? It had been a long time since I read words that stirred my soul the way Ann’s do. Her poetic prose is rich with image and feeling, and she conveys her beautiful heart so effectively. I love the way she thinks, and even more I love the words she comes up with to portray her thoughts; her thoughts the color on canvas, her words the brush. She had me from the first line, hanging onto every word. While reading her book, A Thousand Gifts I found that I would have to put the book down, just to savor the gift she had just unwrapped before me. Sometimes, I’d even meditate a day or two before returning because there was so much to learn from her. Not only is her book brilliant, (and a New York Times bestseller), but her blog draws me into her world as an intimate friend. I feel loved.

2. C.S. Lewis – My first taste of Lewis, was The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I was in elementary school at the time, and very willing to be on the look out for a wardrobe of my own. The Chronicles of Narnia were a huge part of my spiritual formation. The next book I read was Screwtape Letters, and then Mere Christianity. I admire Lewis’ logic and clear philosophy.

1. Madeleine L’Engle – One of the greatest regrets of my life is having missed the opportunity of hearing Madeleine speak at Wheaton college. I guess I thought she and I had all the time in the world..but we don’t. A Wrinkle In Time is the first book of hers that I read. I so much identified with Meg. I was the geeky, uncomfortable in her own skin Meg with glasses and no self-esteem. Her triumphs were my triumphs. I read all of her young adult books with so much vigor! She opened a whole new world of deep thought to me, and dared me to think outside the box. And then as an adult, I found out about her wonderful non-fiction books. How I love to read her thoughts! I agree with some, disagree with others, but love the originality of her thought. I can not wait to spend time with her in heaven!

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – Books That Inspire

One of my favorite books as a elementary aged student was the Newberry Award Winning, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  Looking back on the book, it is obvious that it was written in a different time for a different audience, because the hero and heroine run away from home, walk around the city of New York by themselves and never seem to be in any danger.

One of the classic points of this book is how E. L. Konigsburg has the children face adult sized problems with intelligence and grace.

How did this book inspire me?  For one thing, it provoked in me a love of museums.  The children run away and live in the Metropolitan Museum  of Art in New York City.  If you’re going to run away, why not sleep in a Queen’s bed?  I also loved how responsible the children are; budgeting their money, and bathing in museum fountains.

To this day, when the Field Museum has sleepover parties, (they do by the way), I dream about going and pretending that I am Claudia.


The Witch of Blackbird Pond – Important Lessons on Judgement

Now that I’m done ranting and raving about defining the words “morality” and “Christian“, I’m back to my Monday series on Books that Inspire.  Today’s book is a book that I greatly influenced me as a young woman and consequently made a staple in my home school curriculum.

In my opinion no one has written young adult historical fiction as well as Elizabeth George Speare in The Witch of Blackbird Pond.  She has made her main character Kit sympathetic enough for any young lady to “feel” her circumstances, and yet has infused every moment with vital information from the setting and time and history of the story.  As an aspiring author of my first historical fiction, I’ve studied this book as a “how to” in this writing genre.

One of the things I have appreciated most about Ms. Speare’s writing is how deep the conflicts and characters are.  For instance, when one writes about the Puritans and Quakers during the colonial days, it can be a temptation to write stereotypically.  However, this book clearly includes the good, the bad and the ugly.  This is one of the biggest lessons I learned from this book:  when looking back in history, things are rarely as black and white as we report them to be later.  There are as many characters to be admired as there are to be despised in her story, and even those who are of good heart can become confused in the mass hysteria of a what the general public has decided.

Reading this book also buided me in times when someone in my oikos is being accused of an action, not to merely judge on the facts of the accuser, but to investigate the whole of the situation.  We are all shaped by our fears and prejudices, and must be careful of the conclusions we draw from surface information.

There is much to be learned from the relationship between Kit and her  Quaker neighbor  who is suspected to be a witch, simply because she worships differently from the Puritans. Kit follows her convictions and conscience; something all of us need to be encouraged in from time to time.

Another lesson of importance found in The Witch of Blackbird Pond is the reminder to always consider culture when considering a person’s differences.  Kit had come from Barbados, where the rules about what was proper for a young woman were quite different from those of Puritan America.  All of the conflict in this novel could have been avoided if the Americans would have considered the culture from which Kit came from and if someone had warned her of what was socially acceptable in the new land to which she traveled.

Lastly, this book taught me something about religion and history.  It was this book that first made me aware of the irony of  the Puritan’s hatred of anyone different from themselves, seeing that the reason they came to this country to begin with was to escape persecution from those who ridiculed them for believing differently than mainstream England.  Isn’t that true of all of us?  We fight for a particular freedom only to impose our restrictions on someone else?  It kind of reminds me of the parable Jesus told about the man owing a debt.  He was forgiven his huge debt, but then harshly demands a much smaller amount from someone owing him.

Speare, in her masterful writing, caused me to become aware of the dangers of imposing restrictions and standards of what it means to be a Christian or in this case a witch beyond  the confines of God’s Word.  Making up our own rules outside of God’s rules get us and others in trouble every time.  No where does the Bible qualify a witch as someone who can float, or swim, yet this is the standard by which Kit’s accusers begin to investigate her life by.

If you’ve never read the book, you can check out this blog.  Or if you would like to download a free study guide for your home schooled student or co-op class, you can download this.

How Madeleine L’Engle Tilted My Planet – Books That Inspire

For a wonderful book review on this and many other books, please visit my friend’s blog The Warden’s Walk.  He also makes some very pertinent objections to some of the theology in the book.

Perhaps my favorite of the original three Time Quintet, A Swiftly Tilting Planet plays with the idea of time travel and the importance of the choices each person makes.

This book skips ahead nine years. Charles Wallace is the main character, although Meg and the rest of the family play a fringe part.  His journey on a time traveling unicorn causes the future to alter, by influencing people of the past to make different decisions in order to change the future.

Naturally, one of the most important things I learned from this book as a young adult is the importance of my decisions and how they may affect the future.  I found it very thought provoking when Charles and Gaudior would find themselves in a “projection”  which is a picture of what could be or a “Might-Have-Been” to see what could have been if different choices were made.  I also learned a lot about history in this book; not facts and dates as much as how history has taken us from where it once was, to where we are now.

Another thought I found interesting, and it has literally shaped my philosophy to the point that I have based much of my writing on it, is the thought that, “It’s not where, but when.”  It is more natural for Guadior (the time traveling unicorn), to travel in time, but it is easier for Charles Wallace to travel in places. If you are reading my series about New Glarus, you can see how this book affected me.  In this series, I write about the same place, but in different times of my life.  I have Madeleine to thank for that.  I wish she were still here.  I think we would have very passionate discussions, in which we agreed, and agreed to disagree.  One of the things I love most about her is I think she would allow me the freedom to do that – to disagree that is…

Little House on the Prairie – Books That Inspire

Every Sunday evening, I spent in front of the TV in order to see how Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert were going to make me cry.  The second installment of my Monday series, Books That Inspire is the Little House on the Prairie series.  These books are some of my mother’s favorites, and I remember her reading them out loud to me.

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about what it was like to grow up in an America with less than fifty stars on a flag, and before automobiles and skyscrapers.

If I summarized how these books influenced me, I think I would respond that they made me feel as though with hard work and ingenuity, man could accomplish just about anything he set his mind to.  The stories of survival in a once very wild America instilled within me an awe and reverence for the pioneer.  I loved to imagine what it would have been like to live here before all of our modern day conveniences.  I couldn’t imagine a world in which one could be so self-sufficient.

The relationships in the book were ideal to say the least.  I didn’t realize this until my second or third reading.  Ma struggled to be the always supportive, submissive wife.  The girls obeyed their parents and learned to work out their differences even with the ever-snobby Nellie.  Many of the moral and relationship themes are timeless.

These books also create a healthy interest in the time in history when their were still skirmishes with Indians, a growing railroad and new and when modern inventions were arriving at an alarming rate.

Tell me, which Little House book or story was your favorite?