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Heartbreak and Hope

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

// Book Review //

“But this tree in the yard - this tree that men chopped down...this tree that they built a bonfire around, trying to burn up it's stump - this tree lived! It lived! And nothing could destroy it.” -Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a story of heartbreak intertwined with hope and sets the standard for the lofty title of “great American classic”. Francie Nolan has permanently seated herself at the favorites table in my bookish heart. Many would describe this book as a coming-of-age story that takes place in Brooklyn during the early 1900’s. This is an accurately simplistic statement that only scratches the surface.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn contains layers upon layers upon layers that examines and lays bare the human condition and spirit. The story reminds me of the many rings on a tree trunk which represent the growth of the tree over the years. Betty Smith covers a multitude of themes over Francie’s seventeen years including: poverty, intolerance, family relationships, alcoholism, pride, gossip, womanhood, bullying, telling the truth, escapism, imagination, sisterhood, land ownership, democracy, pregnancy, hypocrisy, sexual assault, personal defense, social pressure, socioeconomic division, union support, family bonds, trust, misconception, ignorance, dignity, self-respect, faith, hard work, grief, remembrance and repentance. My favorite themes cover the importance of education and the role of writing to document, create and escape.

There were many poignant moments throughout the story. Two of my favorites include Francie’s gift of flowers from Johnny at her graduation and the incredible “story-within-a-story” where Francie’s teacher tells her to burn her writing because it is ugly and no one would want to read it. This is an alarming and unbelievable statement when we consider that A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a semi-autobiographical novel reflecting the author's life experiences as a young girl growing up in Brooklyn. Could you imagine an English teacher telling Betty Smith that she should burn her manuscript of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn because it is ugly and therefore no one will want to read it?! This book is ugly and beautiful wrapped in struggle, hard work and the will to survive which in turn makes me want to read it!

Betty Smith best summarizes both her life’s philosophy along with the underlying theme in this book when she wrote in a magazine article, “I came to a clear conclusion, and it is a universal one: To live, to struggle, to be in love with life - in love with all life holds, joyful or sorrowful - is fulfillment. The fullness of life is open to all of us.” Those are beautiful words to ponder and apply to each of our lives!

I also thought it was interesting that A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was shipped for free to US military personnel serving in World War 2 and quickly became one of the most popular books released as an Armed Services Edition. The Wall Street Journal printed part of a letter written to Betty Smith by a Marine. The Marine wrote, “I can't explain the emotional reaction that took place in this dead heart of mine...A surge of confidence has swept through me, and I feel that maybe a fellow has a fighting chance in this world after all." I agree.

I listened to the majority of this book on audio. When I picked up my paperback in the evening before bed, I found myself wanting to return to the audio with my headphones. This story is superbly narrated by Kate Burton. I thoroughly enjoyed her Brooklyn dialects along with the Irish, German and Jewish accents. She is talented beyond measure and I highly recommend her recording.

This book will stay with me for years to come!

There are so many quotes that I love from this book. I have included a handful below:

“Dear God,” she prayed, “let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry...have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere - be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.” 

“Forgiveness is a gift of high value. Yet its cost is nothing.” 

“From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood.” 

“Who wants to die? Everything struggles to live. Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains. It's growing out of sour earth. And it's strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong. My children will be strong that way.” 

Author: Betty Smith

Narrator: Kate Burton

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 978-00607362

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The Emily Collection

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The Emily Collection by L.M. Montgomery

Thank you to Tundra Books for the complimentary review copies.

This beautiful collection of L.M. Montgomery’s Emily series is published by Tundra Books. The series contains three books: Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest. These gorgeous paperback books featuring the artwork of the talented Elly MacKay will brighten your bookshelves!

Check back each month for a review and photos of each individual book in this series! In the meantime, if you would like to add these beauties to your collection, I have included the book details below…

Publisher: Tundra Books

Illustrator: Elly MacKay

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 978-1770497474 (Emily of New Moon)

ISBN: 978-1770497498 (Emily Climbs)

ISBN: 978-1770497511 (Emily’s Quest)

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Anne for the Little Ones

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Anne’s Colors and Anne’s Numbers by Kelly Hill

// Book Review //

Thank you to Tundra Books for these beautiful, free, review copies.

If you have little ones with little hands, these two books are for you!

Inspired by ‘Anne of Green Gables’, these books are a creative and fun way to introduce Anne to an age group who would otherwise be too young to learn about the world of Anne Shirley! Both Anne’s Colors and Anne’s Numbers are sturdy, colorful, educational board books designed for toddlers and young book lovers!

Some of my favorite Anne of Green Gables moments such as Matthew’s gift of a dress with puffed sleeves, Anne and Diana’s first meeting and Gilbert’s hair pulling are included. These books will delight both the very young and the Anne Shirley fan in all of us!

Title: Anne’s Colors and Anne’s Numbers

Illustrator: Kelly Hill

Publisher: Tundra Books

Format: Board Book

ISBN: 978-0735262843 (Anne’s Colors)

ISBN: 978-0735262850 (Anne’s Numbers)

  Anne’s Numbers  features colorful designs illustrating the numbers one through ten.

Anne’s Numbers features colorful designs illustrating the numbers one through ten.

 Each spread portrays a number with an adorable illustration.

Each spread portrays a number with an adorable illustration.

  Anne’s Colors  teaches colors ranging from pink to blue to white to green. Each color is displayed with a charming companion illustration on the opposing page.

Anne’s Colors teaches colors ranging from pink to blue to white to green. Each color is displayed with a charming companion illustration on the opposing page.

 The color green is represented by a sweet rendition of Green Gables.

The color green is represented by a sweet rendition of Green Gables.

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2018 Olives

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I was so excited to see the titles that were selected for the 2018 Harper Perennial Olive Editions. Some of my favorite classics are part of this year’s collection. This set of Olives are for sale for a limited time if you are interested in collecting one (or all) of these editions. The publisher’s link and ISBN’s are listed below for your reference. 

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Collection: 2018 Olive Editions

Titles (top to bottom as pictured in photo):

‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen, ISBN: 978-0062870605

‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte, ISBN: 978-0062870599

‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens, ISBN: 978-0062870650

‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte, ISBN: 978-0062870636

‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott, ISBN: 9780062870629

‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Oscar Wilde, ISBN: 978-0062870612

‘Gulliver’s Travels’ by Jonathan Swift, ISBN: 978-0062870643

‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley, ISBN: 978-0062870667

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Which titles in this collection are your favorites?

 

 

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Wonderful Whimsy...

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“We miss so much out of life if we do not love. The more we love the richer life is.” -L.M. Montgomery, Rainbow Valley

Rainbow Valley by L.M. Montgomery

// Book Review //

Rainbow Valley (1919), the 7th chronological book in the Anne of Green Gables series, has received many mixed reviews over the years. Some readers love it and others complain that Montgomery gives too much attention to the Manse children while ignoring Anne and her family. I am an unabashed Anne fan so I was curious to see what my personal response was going to be as this is my first reading of this book. All in all, I found myself completely captivated by the antics, shenanigans and adventures of both the Manse children and the Blythe family.

Set in the idyllic forest playground the children lovingly call “Rainbow Valley”, we the reader, experience moments of humor, sadness, joy and the fun of childhood. Montgomery expertly incorporates themes of family, charity, sibling loyalty, the innocence of childhood, adventure, bossiness, kindness, hard work, the role of parenting, gossip, church politics, judgementalism, love, loss, grief, hope, forgiveness and new beginnings. I found the book delightful until the very end of the last chapter where I was left with a foreboding fear of the war to come. Stay tuned for Book 8!

“It is never quite safe to think we have done with life. When we imagine we have finished our story fate has a trick of turning the page and showing us yet another chapter.” -L.M. Montgomery, Rainbow Valley

*** I must mention this cover… Isn’t this just the most gorgeous book cover ever!!! I am a big fan of Elly MacKay and her art. If you get a chance, check out her work flow on how she creates such beautiful art in her paper theatre! Elly’s website is listed below…

Title: Rainbow Valley

Author: L.M. Montgomery

Illustrator: Elly MacKay

Publisher: Tundra Books

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781770497436


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