B4U: Classics

Anne of Green GablesMoira’s Favorites (Age 22):
Anne of Green Gables Series by Lucy Maud Montgomery
First Book: Anne of Green Gables
Genre:  Comedy, slice of life
Publication Date:  June 1908
Publisher:  L.C. Page & Co

What’s Anne of Green Gables about:
Marilla Cuthbert and Matthew Cuthbert, middle-aged siblings who live together at Green Gables, a farm in Avonlea, on Prince Edward Island, decide to adopt a boy from an orphan asylum in Nova Scotia as a helper on their farm. Through a series of mishaps, the person who ends up under their roof is a precocious girl of eleven named Anne Shirley. Anne is bright and quick, eager to please but dissatisfied with her name, her pale countenance dotted with freckles, and with her long braids of red hair. Being a child of imagination, however, Anne takes much joy in life, and adapts quickly, thriving in the environment of Prince Edward Island.

Moira’s Thoughts:  I originally read this series because my middle name is based on her first name.  (Does that make me her namesake?)  I fell in love with the world: Gilbert (I was in love with him before Anne ever was.), her friends (I have always wanted my own “bosom” friends.), red hair (I am a ginger lover to this day.), and freckles (They are now my pride and joy and that wasn’t always the case.)  I also loved Marilla and Matthew.  Marilla may seem salty while Matthew is sweet but you could still see the compassion, love and admiration that Marilla felt for those that were precious to her.  While listing people and places that have become beloved to me, I would be amiss if I did not include Prince Edward Island.  I highly recommend this series; it will make you laugh and cry, take you to exotic locations, teach you a little history, in a word it has a lot of “scope for the imagination.”


The Quiet GentlemanThe Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer
Genre:  Regency, Romance
Publication Date:  1951
Publisher:  William Heinermann

What’s The Quiet Gentleman about:
Less than a hero’s welcome…

Returning to his family seat from Waterloo, Gervase Frant, seventh Earl of St Erth, could have expected more enthusiasm for his homecoming. His quiet cousin, stepmother, and young half-brother seem openly disappointed that he survived the wars. And when he begins to fall for his half-brother’s sweetheart, his chilly reception goes from unfriendly to positively murderous.

Moira’s Thoughts:  The heroine was what enticed me to read this novel.  One of the things that I love about Georgette Heyer was that she never does the same hero and heroine twice, and this heroine was her own unique person.  She was not a beauty (at least not according to those in the novel) but was very practical.  She spends most of the novel trying to keep her love interest alive without falling in love with him (she continually says this because she felt that that would be “ridiculous”.)  The hero however may have been responsible but he was definitely not practical.  I would classify him more as a Corinthian, outdoorsy and athletic.  He was more concerned with keeping his step-mom and half brother off his back and figuring out who was trying to kill him to do anything else.  The mystery that is woven through out this novel is rather good (which is not surprising considering Heyer wrote several Mysteries) and will keep you guessing till the very end.  We own most of Georgette Heyer’s books – Mysteries, Romance, and Historical Fictions – and I have read a vast majority of them (and love all that I have read) but this is one of my favorite.


FrankensteinDylana’s Favorites (Age 20):
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Genre:  Horror, Gothic, Romance?, Science
Publication Date:  1818
Publisher:  Lackington, Huges, Harding, Mavor, & Jones

What’s Frankenstein about:
Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

Frankenstein, an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever.

Dylana’s Thoughts:  Victor Frankenstein was a true emo.  He spent most of the story hating on himself, though he had good reason to; he did create life in the wrong way.  The monster was super creepy (stalker creepy), very intelligent (enough to be self-taught which is not easy), and not undead (contrary to popular belief).  Obviously, this classic is on book lists for schools, but I recommend reading it for fun.  It is better than any of the slasher films today for bringing out the fear.  I read this because I was curious about the old monster stories.  This one was one of the more compelling reads, and I had no trouble finishing.  I enjoyed finding out for myself what was true and what was fiction from all the myths I have heard all my life.  I found it interesting that you take away from the book the moral “don’t play God or you will very likely regret it for the remainder of your life” which I have never found in any of the modern renditions of this tale.  What ever reasons that you find to pick up this book, I would encourage you to do so; it is a truly memorable read.


The Scarlet PimpernelScarlet Pimpernel Series by Emma Orczy
First Book: The Scarlet Pimpernel
Genre:  Adventure, Historical
Publication Date:  1905
Publisher:  Hutchinson

What’s The Scarlet Pimpernel about :
In this historical adventure set during the French Revolution, the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel sets out to rescue men, women and children facing the horrors of the guillotine, while evading the relentless pursuit of his arch enemy, Chauvelin.

Dylana’s Thoughts:  I can not begin to express how cool the Scarlet Pimpernel is!!!  I want to turn this into a Shoujo Manga some day.  I don’t know why it hasn’t yet.  Anyway, enough fan-girling, the Scarlet Pimpernel is so on top of his game that when the villains are chasing him he is at some point actually with them helping them chase himself (this shouldn’t be a spoiler).  The first book in this series is hands down my favorite because you are reading from the point of view of a protagonist, but I still enjoyed the other books in this series (of which I have read several).  There is some historical references, and I grasped what was going on before and during the French Revolution better with this series than I did listening to the musical Les Miserable (of which I have most of the songs memorized.  I know I have a problem.)  When looking into this series, don’t forget to check out the prequels The Laughing Cavalier and The First Sir Percy though I would still begin with the original…The Scarlet Pimpernel.


To Kill a MockingbirdClaire’s Favorites (Age 17):
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Genre:  Courtroom Drama, Historical, Southern Gothic, Coming-of-age
Publication Date:  July 11, 1960
Publisher:  Lippincott

What’s To Kill a Mockingbird about:
A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father—a crusading local lawyer—risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.

Claire’s Thoughts:  I picked up this book because, while volunteering at the library one summer, a mother signed up her son for the summer reading program, and his name was Atticus.  My mother asked if it was after the character in To Kill A Mockingbird, and she said it was.  I really liked the name and the fact that someone would name their child after a character peaked my interest.  From the moment I started reading the book I couldn’t stop talking to my sisters about what was occurring in it.  We talked so much that Dylana decided she didn’t need to read the book because most of it had been quoted to her.  The father, Atticus, was a good father that continually displayed mercy for those that thought differently from him.  I don’t know if he was a Christian, but I think he was because no one could put up with that much with out the Holy Spirit to give you strength.  I also liked Scout and Jem because they were interesting and I really liked the way she wrote their sibling dynamic.  The author fairly and accurately displayed life in the South at the time, and prejudice and anger that was perpetrated by all.  This novel may have been dark and rather sad at times, but I’ll never regret having read it.


North and SouthNorth and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Genre:  Social, Historical, Romance
Publication Date:  1855
Publisher:  Chapman & Hall

What’s North and South about:
As relevant now as when it was first published, Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South skilfully weaves a compelling love story into a clash between the pursuit of profit and humanitarian ideals. When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the North of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction. In North and South Gaskell skillfully fused individual feeling with social concern, and in Margaret Hale created one of the most original heroines of Victorian literature.

Claire’s Thoughts:  This novel is one I decided to read after watching the BBC miniseries on PBS.  It was so well made but the ending was abrupt, and I was curious to see if the book’s ending would be equally abrupt.  It was.  Ending aside, I really liked this book.  The two different points of view of living in the South of England verses living in the North in the 1850s was fascinating.  Margaret was very prejudiced against the North when she first moved there but as she got to know the people and help them in their struggles she grew to love it as much as she had loved the South.  Though this book brings to light many social problems of the time, it is primarily a romance.  You get a strong Pride and Prejudice feel when you begin the novel but she quickly moves the characters in directions all their own.  It is not an easy book to find here in the States, but you may have some luck with inter-Library loans, Project Gutenberg, or possibly Amazon or Hastings.


Alice Adventure in WonderlandIdelle’s Favorites (Age 14):
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Genre:  Fantasy
Publication Date:  November 26, 1865
Publisher:  Macmillan

What’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland about:
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is an 1865 novel written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells of a girl named Alice falling through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. The tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children. It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre. Its narrative course and structure, characters and imagery have been enormously influential in both popular culture and literature, especially in the fantasy genre.

Idelle’s Thoughts:  I like to see life as whimsical and fun, and this book for me embodies all of this.  If you choose to read the book looking for deep meaning, you can enjoy it; but for me it will always be the capricious nature that made me come back over and over (and I have read every version I could get my hands on including picture books, a toddler version ?, the unabridged version twelve times, abridged versions, and spin offs.)  No matter what version I read though the characters will always be my favorite – even though they are all crazy.  The way Alice interacts with all the characters is highly humorous for example she uses flattery and politeness to get her way with the Mad Hatter and March Hare, but when she is dealing with the Queen, she is firm in her convictions (“straightens her spine” and “gets a stiff upper lip” and all that “wot wot”).  If you haven’t given this great novel a try, you should drop everything get to the store or library (which ever is your choice) and read it immediately before all the rainbows and unicorns join together to form one huge uni-rainbow-corn and all craziness brakes out.


The Legend of Sleepy HollowThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
Genre:  Speculative Fiction, Horror
Publication Date:  1820
Publisher:  Tribeca Books (reprint)

What’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow about:
It tells the story of Ichabod Crane, a lean, lanky, and extremely superstitious schoolmaster from Connecticut, who competes with Abraham “Brom Bones” Van Brunt, the town rowdy, for the hand of 18-year-old Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter and sole child of a wealthy farmer, Baltus Van Tassel. As Crane leaves a party he attended at the Van Tassel home on an autumn night, he is pursued by the Headless Horseman, who is supposedly the ghost of a Hessian trooper who had his head shot off by a stray cannonball during “some nameless battle” of the American Revolutionary War, and who “rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head”. Ichabod mysteriously disappears from town, leaving Katrina to marry Brom Bones

Idelle’s Thoughts:  I would never have picked up this book normally because horror isn’t my usual choice, but we are strongly encouraged to branch out and this happened to be the classic that I found for that month.  Upon reading I discovered that I quite enjoyed it.  I was afraid that I would be “scared witless”; however that was not the case.  The author wrote in great detail and strengthened the illusion that I was there.  He used such vivid words that really helped the novel come to life.  It is an American classic, and I highly recommend it.


Final Thoughts:  You should encourage your child to try and read all kinds of books: Non-Fiction, Biographies, Humorous, Historical Fiction, Mysteries, Realistic Fiction, Adventures, Fantasy, Folk Tales, Mythologies, etc.  Classic versions of any of these genres are ones that we would definitely include in your  “to read this year” list.  It may not be were you want to start because the vocabulary can be larger, but your child’s reading will improve when they are included.  There are lots of delightful children’s classics to try such as George MacDonald’s Princess and the Goblin or The Anne of Green Gables Series that was mentioned above.  Start by reading them aloud to your children if you have to; and before you know it they will be sneaking the book when you are not looking because you aren’t going fast enough (and then you’ll be set! – – This really happened with us.  Didn’t it, Claire?)

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