Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Parnassus on Wheels

 “When you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue - you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night - there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book I mean.”- from Parnassus on Wheels
It's about time that I tell you about a little book that is one of my favorites - Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley, pub. 1917.  It is related to the name of my blog. It's not a heavy, deep book.  Rather, it's a lovely, sometimes humorous read with lots of book titles involved.  What's not to like?  I've read it a few times and it brings me a little bit of joy each time. Any book about a mobile bookseller from the early 20th century will have my interest. (Jan and Gary Bloom, anyone?)

To read the dust jacket, one might conclude that Roger Mifflin is the main character.  He is a well-read bachelor who roams the country in his book wagon, Parnassus, seeking to enlighten all he can convince with his selection of great literature. But right away we meet the self-deprecating Helen McGill, spinster and caretaker of her famous country author-brother, Andrew. She leaves the farm and sets out on a series of adventures, sometimes with and sometimes without Roger. My edition is the Book Club edition.  It has an introductory section titled "Certain Essential Preliminary Footnotage" by John T. Winterich"  - don't miss it.

Did you know that the first full-fledged bookmobile was started in Hibbing, MN in 1915?  I didn't, until my friend Sandy sent me The Horn Book Magazine with an article about mobile booksellers (and how Parnassus on Wheels was an inspiration).  You can read the article, "Treasure Island by the Roadside", here!

Now,  just when you thought I wasn't going to tie any of this (besides books in general) to Charlotte Mason...a connection has been uncovered! My friend Kerri, a mobile bookseller herself of sorts, found this gem in the archives from a 1921 Parents' Review book review:

Parnassus on Wheels, by Christopher Morley. Here we have a most racy tale of "the most godly diversion known to man,-selling books." A man who loves books and knows a book when he sees it sets up 'Parnassus' which is a van containing many books and many comforts for the natural man and very naturally drawn by 'Pegasus.' He meets 'Helen McGill' the sister of a popular author who tries to keep farm and home togehter while her brother makes books. He sells his van to her and goes a trial run with her that she may learn the trade. Of course they marry. "What I say is, who has ever gone into highroads and hedges to bring literature to the plain man, to bring it home to his business and bosom? The farther into the country you go the fewer and worse books you find...It's a great work, mind you, it is like carrying the Holy Grail to some of these wayback farm houses." Here Mr. Mifflin gives us the motif of Parnassus on Wheels.

I may or may not have shouted with glee when she sent this to me.   Some of you will understand.

Hopefully,  I have mentioned a new book for your enjoyment!



Extra goodness:

A modern day Parnassus on Wheels!

Librovox audio of Parnassus on Wheels!

Parnassus on Wheels has a sequel - The Haunted Bookshop which is great fun, too!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

"A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" - Resources for Richard III

A new year, a new Shakespeare play! In case you didn't know, all my Shakespeare posts can be found under the TBG tab above (just scroll down).  I keep them all there for quick reference. Speaking of Shakespeare, I will be presenting an hour-long Shakespeare immersion in Washington, D.C. on February 3 at the In A Large Room retreat and I can't wait! (Registration will close soon - around the 15th!)

The horse quote in the title is a famous line from Shakespeare's play, Richard III, shouted by the now powerless and lonely Richard in the final battle scene from the play which we read this past semester.  The ending was a relief and a favorite for me, mainly because of brave and true Henry Richmond and the realization that Stanley will be reunited with his son. This is a good play to read in middle/high school after you have read widely in other areas, especially history because most of the complex characters and the timeline of monarchs are drawn from fact. That, and a certain level of maturity is needed to observe and evaluate Richard's fascinating and evil behavior.

Talking through the Way of the Will and The Way of Reason is imperative with this play.  And it makes for good talk, too. If your students keep a Way of the Will chart in their Citizenship Notebooks or elsewhere, this play has plenty of fodder.  Even Charlotte Mason saw that in Richard III:

"A due recognition of the function of reason should be an enormous help to us all in days when the air is full of fallacies, and when our personal modesty, that becoming respect for other people which is proper to well-ordered natures whether young or old, makes us willing to accept conclusions duly supported by public opinion or by those whose opinions we value. Nevertheless, it is something to recognise that probably no wrong thing has ever been done or said, no crime committed, but has been justified to the perpetrator by arguments coming to him involuntarily and produced with cumulative force by his own reason. Is Shakespeare ever wrong? And, if so, may we think that a Richard III who gloats over his own villainy as villainy, who is in fact no hypocrite, in the sense of acting, to himself––is hardly true to human nature? Great is Shakespeare! So perhaps Richard was the exception to the rule which makes a man go out and hang himself when at last he sees his incomparable villainy, and does not Richard say in the end, "I myself find in myself no pity for myself"? For ourselves and our children it is enough to know that reason will put a good face on any matter we propose; and, that we can prove ourselves to be in the right is no justification for there is absolutely no theory we may receive, no action we may contemplate, which our reason will not affirm." 6.153

The Hollow Crown - Richard the III
Here are some of the resources we used:

Before beginning the play, the students were to have read and narrated pp. 263-285 of Our Island Story. This gave them the backstory of the War of the Roses. (Most of the students had previously read this but it was helpful for those who had not and gave them the necessary scaffolding.)

My cover/information sheet that each student receives - Richard III cover page.

Secrets: Richard III Revealed on Netflix - This was so interesting to watch!  Crazy but true story about a body found under a parking lot and the scientific sleuthing needed to see if was really him.

The Hollow Crown - Richard III - Benedict Cumberbatch is outstanding in his portrayal of Richard III. I used many clips from this with the students. Parental discretion is advised! Loved the chessboard motif - just perfect for this play.

Site we use for students to choose their recitation pieces - Shakespeare's Monolgues.

Here are more posts related to Richard III -
Opinions During This Political Season and Always
Planning Post 2016!  Should You Have Your Child Reread Books?

One more amazing quote from Mason on The Way of Reason, once again so fitting for our current times and stating that Reason, while limited, is full of beauty and wonder - 
We need no longer wonder that two men equally upright, equally virtuous, selected out of any company, will hold opposite views on almost any question; and each will support his views by logical argument. So we are at the mercy of the doctrinaire in religion, the demagogue in politics, and, dare we say, of the dreamer in science; and we think to save our souls by being in the front rank of opinion in one or the other. But not if we have grown up cognisant of the beauty and wonder of the act of reasoning, and also, of the limitations which attend it. 6.144

Beauty and Wonder,

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Reader's Journal 2016

It's the most wonderful time of the year! I love it when we share with one another what books we have finished.  Here are my reads for the year, starting with my top picks.  If you wrote a list of the books you read this year, please feel free to link to it in the comments below. (My list doesn't include my Bible reading, CM's 6 volumes, or the books I read in our school. ) Surely we will then have many ideas for some serious mother culture in the new year!

1. The Lighted Heart by Elizabeth Yates
Beloved author Elizabeth Yates writes the true story of her marriage to Bill and their exciting life.  Bill went blind and everything changed - for the better! I thought this was a remarkable account of how a seeming tragedy opened up a full and beautiful life for both of them.

2. Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and Murder of a President by Candice Millard
This book is a fascinating account of the life and assassination of my favorite president, James A. Garfield. (Doesn't everyone have a favorite president?) Millard's recounting of the brokered convention where Garfield is nominated was surprisingly one of the most suspenseful things I have read in a while. Real life usually is.

3.Silence by Shusaku Endo
This book changed me.  It made me examine my faith and look at life differently. I am thankful that my husband read it, too, so that I could bounce my thoughts off of him as I read. There were times that I just had to put it down as it was too intense. I don't know that I will see the movie as I am still reeling from the reading. Would make a great book discussion in Sunday Schools, quite frankly. Website for digging deeper and discussion!

4. Silence and Beauty by Makoto Fujimura
Perfect follow-up to Silence.  Makoto takes us into Japan and helps us make some sense of the culture and traditions that were part of Silence and still relevant today. And I really did wonder why Anne of Green Gables was crazy-popular with the Japanese.  Now I know. The first third of the book was a little slow but it picked up after that.

5. The Sacred Journey by Frederick Buechner
Loved this memoir.  Especially the part about how the Wizard of Oz drew him to Christ.  Really. I've been on a Buechner binge ever since reading this.

6. A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-1918 by Joseph Loconte
The title pretty much sums up what this book was about, but I loved it because it gave me the context and zeitgeist of when Charlotte Mason lived and wrote. The way she writes about heroism is challenging to me as our culture has changed so much. This book helped me understand this more clearly.

Here is the full list:

Destiny of the Republic by Millard
Charlotte Mason: Hidden Heritage and Educational Influence by Coombs
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt
River of Doubt by Millard
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
Parables of the Cross by Lilias Trotter
Sabbath - Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest by Wayne Muller
Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright
A White Bird Flying by Bess Streeter Aldrich
Mrs. Appleyard and I by Louise Andrews Kent
Silence by Shusaku Endo
Pioneer Girl - The Annotated Autobiography editor Pamela Smith Hill
Silence and Beauty by Makoto Fujimura
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
The Daughter of Time by Joesphine Tey
The Lighted Heart by Elizabeth Yates
The Sacred Journey by Frederick Buechner
A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and a Great War by Joseph Loconte
Gold Cord - The Story of a Fellowship by Amy Carmichael
You Are What You Love - The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K.A. Smith
The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Kelly
The Magnolia Story by Gaines



Past lists of reading goodness:

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Christmas Book for 2016

The mother sighed. "So he sits with half-shut eyes, dreaming, dreaming, not one word has he heard!"

Hans Christian opened his eyes. "Truly, my mother, every word has gone deep into my heart. I but closed my eyes that I might see more clearly - see that small town of Bethlehem on a night of stars and cold."  
                                       -The Young Hans Christian Andersen by Elizabeth Yates

It has become a tradition on this blog to share with you some of our favorite Christmas books.  This year I am recommending It's Time for Christmas by Elizabeth Hough Sechrist and Janette Woolsey. It is similar in format to another book by this duo, It's Time for Thanksgiving. And now I'm curious about Elizabeth and Janette but can't seem to find any personal information on them, other than the fact that they collaborated on quite a few books.

The book begins with The Nativity, moves on to Legends and Traditional Stories, Customs, Carols and Their Composers, Poems, and Stories. There's a brilliant story sequence that I like to read. It begins with "The Young Hans Christian Andersen" by Elizabeth Yates which shows us that we might not know what God's will is for our life and then goes right into "The Fir Tree" by Andersen himself. That is followed by "The Tree That Didn't Get Trimmed" by the delightful Christopher Morley.

I hope you have found a special rhythm in your homes and schools this month and of course I hope that includes lots of snuggling on the couch and reading good books, no matter what the age of your children. And just a quick reminder that I will be leading a Season 1 and a Season 3 for Living Education Lessons starting January 5th, just in case you are looking for some Charlotte Mason, Mother Culture and Full Living in the New Year!


Here are my previous posts on Advent and Christmas books:

What to Read For Christmas
Full Hearts
On Christmas Traditions and Books
Good King Wenceslas
The Canticle of the Bees
Longing and Waiting 
Christmas Books!
Christmas Books 2014 
Simple and Holy: Favorite Advent Readings
A Christmas Read-Aloud