March Book Madness! Day 17, Top 5 Books That Got Me Into Reading

Child Reading by Vladimir Volegov

Though it may not be Tuesday, this Tag comes from Meeghan @ Meeghan Reads! I’m super excited for this post. I always like talking about my book past because I can relive magical childhood memories. So, without further ado, here are my five childhood reading catalysts!

Charles M. Schulz‘s Peanuts Comic, Age 9

This comic needs no introduction. When I was in Middle School, I re-read collections of Peanuts cartoons for months. Finally, my mother and librarian said enough was enough and told me to find some thing else to read. Though I found new books to love, there will always be a special place in my heart for Charlie Brown and his world.

Arnold Lobel‘s The Frog and Toad Treasury, Age 7

Why do I love Frog and Toad? I’m not really sure. Not much really happens in these stories. The illustrations are beautiful but rather small. The eponymous friends carry on their friendship through mild misunderstandings and misadventures, always ready to forgive each other and forget. These gentle stories are among my favorite kids’ books. I have fond memories of Frog and Toad from my childhood, and I never tire of re-reading them to my 4-year-old daughter. She seems to like them, too.

Goodreads Overview

My mother used to read these stories to me when I was in elementary school. I’ve always had a special love for nature, so the green landscapes were relaxing for the childhood me. Overall, I think Frog and Toad is charming and unforgettable.

Kevin HenkesChrysanthemum, Age 6

Written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes, the nationally bestselling and celebrated creator of Lilly’s Purple Plastic PurseOwen, and Kitten’s First Full Moon, Chrysanthemum is a funny and honest school story about teasing, self-esteem, and acceptance to share all year round.

Chrysanthemum thinks her name is absolutely perfect—until her first day of school. “You’re named after a flower!” teases Victoria.
“Let’s smell her,” says Jo.

Chrysanthemum wilts. What will it take to make her blossom again?

Goodreads Overview

I have so many good memories of this picture book! My mom gave it to me as a present when I started kindergarten. Since I was so shy, I identified with how sad Chrysanthemum felt when leaving home for the first time. As I grew older, I struggled loving myself. When I felt especially sad, I would open this book and remember. Because of this book, I devoured so many other picture books throughout elementary school.

J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Age 10

Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.

Though Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it’s his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.

Goodreads Overview

Behold my penultimate favorite childhood book series! When I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s stone for the first time, I was 10. I always felt Harry and I were on the same life path. We even graduated high school together. (The last book came out my senior year.) I must have re-read the first four Harry Potter books at least 10 times each. They helped me cope with bullying, face hard family situations, and carried me onto a path of never ending reading!

J.R.R. Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings, Age 13

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkeness bind them

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, The Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit.

In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.

Goodreads Overview

I was one of those kids who started reading The Lord of the Rings because of the movies. Though it took me a long time, I finished it by my 7th grade year. To fill the hole it left in my schedule, I started reading every epic fantasy I could find. You could say this is the book series that broke me from middle grade reading. It opened me up to so many other series and books I wouldn’t have tried before then.

There you have it! Thank you for reading! See you tomorrow.

March Book Madness! Day 16, Irish Book Tag

March Book Madness! Day 18, Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale 5/5

Month of Art: Day 19 Ana Juan and the Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland Series

(Part of me wonders if I will ever finish my month of art posts. My mind is scattered in SO many directions.) 

For today, I picked an artist deeply connected to my present mood. Born in Valencia, Spain in 1961, Ana Juan has illustrated for magazines like La Luna, Madriz and The New Yorker, storybooks and created worldwide art exhibitions, even as far as Japan for the Kodansha publishing house. In 1998 and 1999 the Society of Newspaper Design gave her a gold medal for her contributions and in 2010 The Spanish Ministry of Culture awarded her the “Premio Nacional de Ilustración”. 

I often wonder how such famous artists slip into my beloved books. This particular children series, written by the phenomenal writer Catherynne M. Valente, has a quirky style. As Neil Gaiman put it, all the books showcase the “glorious balancing act between modernism and the Victorian Fairy Tale” born from her unique cultural background that even extended to her life in Japan. I first read the series four or five years ago and have since fallen in love with her young adult and children’s literature. (Note: I avoid her adult novels as they tend to be very…. Overtly sensual. Ahem.) 

This series is also peculiar because it started as a crowd funded project released online. The first book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making won the Nebula/Andre Norton Award in 2009 BEFORE its official publication. Finally in 2011, after an overwhelming demand for its publication, it was published peaking at #8 on the New York Times Bestselling list. 

The sequels that followed, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Les the Revels There (2012), The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two (2013), and The Boy Who Lost Fairyland (2015) met equal praise and adoration from fans of all ages who complimented the series wit and insight into politics, ethics, love and perspective. 

Now to the art. True to the series tone and setting, Ana Juan gave the books an older 1940s look both in their covers and chapter headings. The dimensions of the characters varies but the overall feel remains otherworldly.  Reading the series I felt that Juan had captured how I always imagined places of magic to look and feel. 

Each picture is purely magical to me. They seem to say “come away with us for this is where the magic is”. Something inside me bitterly wishes I could have read these books as a child. I can only imagine myself pouring over the images and dreaming of a never ending Fall. (FYI I love love LOVE everything about Autumn and October. Yet another reason my these books appeal to me so readily.) 

I think that in regards to a book’s ambiance, illustrations pay an enormous part in giving the book’s magic a face to remember. For example, I remember very distinctly each chapter picture in the Harry Potter series and still gush over Alan Lee’s talented visions for Tolkiens Lord of the Rings and other works. MY view of each of these series centered on their illustrations because it brought the book to life. The same definitely applies to these magical books. 

Someday I will talk about them in greater length. But for now, let Ana Juan’s imaginative drawings for Valente’s works be remembered fondly as a doorway into the wonder and enchantment of literature. As always, here are multiple examples of Ana Juan’s works. 


Book Quote of the Day: The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two


Listen to me. Love is a Yeti. It is bigger than you and frightening and terrible. It makes loud and vicious noises. It is hungry all the time. It has horns and teeth and the force of its fists is more than anyone can bear. It speeds up time and slows it down. And it has its own aims and missions that those who are lucky enough to see it cannot begin to guess. You might see a Yeti once in your life or never. You might live in a village of them. But in the end, not matter how fast you think you can go, the Yeti is always faster than you, and you can only choose how you say hello to it, and whether you shake its hand.
-The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, Catherynne M. Valente, 2013

Book Quote of the Day: The Wind in the Willows


It’s a goodly life that you lead, friends; no doubt the best in the world, if only you are strong enough to lead it!”Yes, it’s the life, the only life, to live,’ responded the Water Rat dreamily, and without his usual whole-hearted conviction.

‘I did not exactly say that,’ the stranger replied cautiously, ‘but no doubt it’s the best. I’ve tried it, and I know. And because I’ve tried it – six months of it – and know it’s the best, here I am, footsore and hungry, tramping away from it, tramping southward, following the old call, back to the old life, the life which is mine and which will not let me go.

-The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, 1908