Fleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin

Fleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin (2014)

Franny Katzenback of Pittsburg lives not too far from Dr. Salk’s search for a polio vaccine.  However, it is too late for her.  She has gotten paralytic polio, and spends months in the hospital, including time in an iron lung.  While she was in the iron lung, a nun comes to hospital regularly to read to her.  She reads her a brand new book: Charlotte’s Web. Franny falls in love with this book, and the nun gives her a copy of it to take home with her.  Finally Franny can breathe outside the iron lung, and can go home in a wheelchair.  A physical therapist comes regularly to see if she can get Franny back on her feet again (and back to school.)

Franny is short on friends now, because all the kids and their parents seem to think that Franny is still contagious (even though she’s not, of course), so they will not come close.  However, Franny does have a new friend who lives on her dog . . . Fleabrain.  Fleabrain writes her messages and does lots of things to get her attention.  It turns out that Fleabrain is even better than Charlotte the spider!

Summer Reading Online – 15 of 30

Best Kept Secret (Family Tree Book 3) by Ann. M. Martin

Best Kept Secret (Family Tree Book 3) by Ann M. Martin

This is the latest installment of the Family Tree series by Ann M. Martin.  I must say that i picked up the first book because I love genealogy and the idea of a “family tree” type of series thrilled me.  However, the first and second books kind of left me cold – not in a Stephen King kind of way – but in the way that some members of this family do not get along.  Another way they left me cold is in the style they are written.  Sometimes they feel like warm family stories and at other times, I feel detached and separated as the reader, as each chapter sometimes skips months or even years from the one before.  This book and the first two leave me with very mixed feelings.  This third one also ended with the main character, who grew up during the 1970s and ends in the 1990s, in a relationship and pregnant just as the first two did.  These books are also trying to explore both mother/daughter relationships and father/daughter relationships, and in many ways are probably fairly realistic of some families.    

I want to see what is going to happen in the fourth installment.  I thought that this third one didn’t quite leave me as “cold.”  It was wrapped up a little better, although Francie’s mother, Dana (the main character of the second book), still has an ongoing battle with her mother Abby (main character of the first book).  I still can’t discern the exact reason. They just don’t quite get along because of decisions they’ve both made.  

In this book, Francie is age seven when the book opens, and it struggling to learn how to read because of dyslexia.  Soon she’s made life-long friends, but over the coming years her immediate family goes through changes.  The next book will feature Francie’s daughter.

I don’t know what age I would actually recommend these books for.  I suppose ages 9 to 13.   I would have probably enjoyed these when I was about eleven years old, to be specific.  I might have been annoyed then, too, that some things are never resolved in this story.

Overall, I gave this one four out of five stars on LibraryThing.  

Little House and LIW in my life: Part One

As a young girl of about eight years old, I became obsessed with all things to do with the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  To note, by that time I’d seen a handful of the television show episodes (I saw more of them the next year when a local channel started carrying syndicated reruns.) The show’s original run was nearly coming to an end by then.  Anyway, I’d seen enough to know that the tv show was really nothing like the books, and had already become a separate entity in my mind.  (I know there are still people out there who think the events and people in the tv show are the complete real-life truth.)

When I was five years old, my mother read Farmer Boy aloud to my brothers and I.  The chapter that sticks out the most in my memory is when Almanzo and his siblings are left alone for the week to mind the house and farm on their own.  They use up almost all of the sugar making and eating sweets, and Eliza Jane has to repair the parlor wallpaper from where the blacking brush hit the wall after Almanzo threw it.

A couple of years later, I borrowed Little House in the Big Woods from the Wanamaker Branch of the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library.   I remember really enjoying it, and then borrowed Little House on the Prairie.  I was reading ahead of where they had me in reading group in elementary school.  (My fourth grade teacher finally recognized that I could read very well, and moved me up to where I should be – in the highest reading group.  It was just previously – in first grade – I was so shy and nervous that sometimes my speaking/reading aloud was not great, but it was just nerves! Same in second and third grades. . . even though I was reading chapter books on my own silently just fine.)  In fact, I usually read the entire reading text books at the beginning of the school year, and it was pretty borrowing the remainder of the time.  

Anyway, I digress. 

I think steadily read the whole little house series so that by the summer I was nine I was re-reading the whole series.  I had my favorite titles.  I have shared one or two of my favorites in the past on this blog.   I still think Little Town on the Prairie was and is one of my absolute favorites of the series.  I loved seeing Laura growing up and having some fun with friends and family.  This book also is not quite as bleak as some of the others.  As an adult, I think I appreciate the later books in the series as well because apparently Rose (Wilder Lane) may not have done quite as much work on them.  Rose did a great job shaping the books, etc, but according to Pamela Smith Hill, author of Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life, Rose simply did not have the time or energy to put quite as much time into re-writing her mother’s stories later on as she did with the first books in the series.  
I have more to say about the books, and also about my visits to a couple of the home sites over the years, but  I will tackle those things in a future post!

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson (Published in 2008)

I just read this book a couple of weeks ago.

I should have read it earlier, but to be honest, I forgot about it.  I remember a co-worker reading it in 2008, but at the time, my son (the first one) was struggling for his life and then died, and then we were packing up to move 1,800 miles away.   I just did not have the time or energy just then.  And then I forgot about it.  Perhaps I forgot about it on purpose, because it was not written by my beloved L. M. Montgomery.   Nevertheless, it happened, and a couple of months ago, it was suggested to me as something I might like on GoodReads.

I have been more active again on GoodReads in the last few months because I was mostly curious about what recommendations it could produce based on what I’ve read.   I still don’t have everything I’ve ever read listed there.  I am still short, a bit, on LibraryThing, where I have been a full member for over five years as I still prefer it over GoodReads any day.   I’ve been trying to get every book I’ve ever read listed on there, but that will be difficult because even though I started keeping lists of books I’ve read age age 11, I only counted books that were 50 or more pages in length.   Picture books I am way behind on.  I am already trying to remember.

Anyway, I borrowed this book from the library, and reluctantly started reading it.  Within the first ten pages, I had trouble putting it down.   What I liked the most were the glimpses into the short lives of Anne’s parents. There was not really enough about them! (One of my only criticisms of this book.)  The saddest parts were how Anne cannot go to school very often due to the circumstances of the families she lives with.   She wanted so badly to go to school.  She wants so badly to have real family and friends.  Actually, it is fairly depressing at times – but I had to finish the book anyway to make sure everything would lead up to Matthew picking up Anne in Bright River.

The author does not try to capture L. M. Montgomery’s voice, which was good, because that would have been difficult to do. The author herself does a fine job in her own voice trying to capture the story of Anne before she arrives on Prince Edward Island.

I award this book five stars, despite it being rather depressing at times!

One more note:  The most upsetting section of this book is when ALL of Mrs. Hammond’s children are given away.  She does not get to keep even one of them.   That did make me want to vomit.  Perhaps I will give this book 4.5 stars instead.   

T is for These Happy Golden Years

Title: These Happy Golden Years
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Original Publication Date: 1943
Year I First Read:  1984
Category: Fiction, Juvenile Fiction, Teen/YA Fiction, Historical Fiction

Basic Summary:  In the beginning of the story, Laura is on the way to her first teaching job, which is away from home.  Every week in the cold and snow, Almanzo comes to pick Laura up and take her home to her family.  Later, Laura returns to going to school in town, and many more events take place until the end of the book when she marries Almanzo.
What I remember:  This is hard to say I have re-read this book so often since then.  I was nine-ish when I first read it, though, after I had read the rest of the Little Series over the previous two years or so.  Several things made the biggest impression on me when I first read it, though.   One is when May came home from college in Iowa to visit. Another is the chapter with the tornado with three funnels that kills a boy and two donkeys.   Another is when Laura and Ma are preparing Laura’s clothes for her wedding.   
What I Took Away From the Book:  Don’t go riding out in the country in a buggy when there might be a tornado.  Your true love might show up at the door with wild horses to be broken.  If you are teaching school for the first time, don’t stay in a house with knives.  And finally, life can be difficult, but it gets better. 
Rating (1-5 Stars): 5 Stars (Then and now.) 

O is for One-Way to Ansonia

Title:  One-Way to Ansonia
Author: Judie Angell
Original Publication Date: 1985
Date I First Read: 1988
Basic Category: Juvenile/Teen Historical Fiction
Basic Summary: Rose immigrates to the US from Russia or Eastern Europe at age 10 in the 1890s.  It is the story of her growing up in difficult circumstances in New York City.
What I Remember About the Book: I remember really liking this book.  I loved historical fiction, so this one was perfect for me.   I remember most that she got married really young, and had a baby.   She went to English classes. 
What I Took Away From the Book:  Don’t have a baby really early. Wait.  (Um, yes, I actually waited until my 30s.)  Work hard and you make things happen.      
Rating (1-5 stars):  4 (at the time – I need to re-read it!) 

These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

These is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901, Arizona Territories: a Novel by Nancy E. Turner (1998)

First, let me say I loved this book, eventually. . . and it is “adult fiction”.

I borrowed this book on the spur of the moment a couple of months ago (July), and read the first few pages. They seemed rather depressing, and I didn’t continue, partially because the book was due by then. However, a week or two ago, I was informed that the author goes to the church I’ve gone to the last couple of weeks. This book was nominated in 2007 to be the One Book AZ book. (By the way, I’d like to see Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald for One Book AZ 2008!!) So, I tried These is My Words again. It is not easy reading. . . several people die in just the first 41 pages or so. However, by then, I had to know what happened. I have to say that this is the kind of book I’ve appreciated for years, since I was a kid (historical fiction in journal/diary format).

Wow, I was sorry when I reached the end of the book. Fortunately, there are sequals. There are several very sad portions, and some wonderful portions (for instance, I didn’t realize the University of Arizona here in Tucson was the first university in Arizona) about the joy of reading and education. Sarah never got to go to school formally, but studies on her own, and eventually passes the 12-grade exams. She moves into Tucson with her husband, even though she hates being in town, so that her children could have the privilege of going to school. She runs a ranch on her own. Sarah is a very strong woman. If you go to the author’s website, there are pictures of the woman Sarah is based on. Sarah is based on the author’s grandmother’s diaries and experiences.

An excellent read! I highly, highly recommend it!