Sunday, June 24, 2018

Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss

Swiss Family Robinson (c)1812
by Johann Wyss
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss is a fun, adventurous classic with lots of action and excitement.
It was first written in 1812, and translated into English in 1814.

It is the story of a family, dad, mom, and four sons who are shipwrecked on a deserted island and who have to make the best of things waiting for help to arrive.

They had the luck to have quite a few domestic animals with them on the ship when it ran onto rocks, but none of the crew of the ship survived. The crew abandoned the family on the ship and took to lifeboats in the storm, and since we never hear from the crew again, we, and the Robinson family can only assume they all drowned.

During their time on the island, they find and tame many wild creatures, and even rescue a young lady who is also shipwrecked on another part of the island.

While I found it a little farfetched that an island would have so many different kinds of animal life, from penguins to ostriches living natively on the island, I didn't let that bother me, and simply enjoyed the story. I believe that anyone who enjoys a good adventure story, especially one that involves people using ingenuity and cleverness to adapt themselves to their new environment, and their new environment to themselves, would enjoy The Swiss Family Robinson.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Drowsy Chaperone, presented by The Midvale Arts Council

The Midvale Performing Arts Center 
The Midvale Arts Council is finishing up presenting a hilarious musical, The Drowsy Chaperone which has played since the 8th at The Midvale Performing Arts Center. The Drowsy Chaperone is a fun, and playful tale, a story within a story, as we first meet The Guy in The Chair, a character in the present who breaks the 4th wall and addresses the audience as he listens to The Drowsy Chaperone, a story on a black vinyl record.

The Drowsy Chaperone by Bob Martin,
Don McCellar, Lisa Lambert,
 and Greg Morrison
The Drowsy Chaperone takes place in the 1920s, and is filled with music reminiscent of that time period. Part of the conflict is that Janet, an actress, is about to get married to Richard, and is going to give up her acting career to do so. But that's only a small part of the story! Throw in her chaperone, who isn't a very good one, a director, two gangstas posing as pastry chefs, and a whole host of other characters, and we get a delightful story that doesn't let up until the end!

The cast and crew at The Midvale Performing Arts Center did a great job, and I am confident that they will perform many excellent productions in the future! I hope I can go see more!

The Drowsy Chaperone was written by Bob Martin and Don McCellar with music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. The original story was first written in 1997, and, following alterations, opened on Broadway in 2006.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Heidi (c) 1880, 1881 by Johanna Spyri
Heidi by Johanna Spyri, first published in two parts between 1881 and 1882, is a delightful children's story about Heidi who comes to live with her reclusive grandfather in the Alps when she is just five years old.

Her grandfather is a bit bitter toward the world, but soon warms up to his little granddaughter, and the two become good friends. Heidi loves the mountains, and the little goats her grandfather owns, which are goat-sat every day in the spring and summer by Peter who takes all the goats of the town up to the pastures near where Heidi and her grandfather live. These two become good friends as well, but when people start to think that her grandfather is a poor guardian for her, and then come and take her away to live in Frankfurt with a young girl who is confined to a wheelchair and her caretakers, what does Heidi do?

Clara, her new friend is very sweet and kind, but Heidi still misses the mountains and her grandfather. Will she ever be able to get back to them, and will Clara ever grow strong enough to leave her wheelchair?

I really enjoyed this book, and recommend it to readers young and old who enjoy stories of childhood and happy endings.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Zion Trail by Marsha Ward

The Zion Trail (c) 2016 by Marsha Ward
The Zion Trail by Marsha Ward is a fun, historical novel about young Elijah Marshall and his family, and their struggles, losses, tragedies and triumphs after they meet a couple of Mormon Missionaries, and convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The book begins in the early 1800s when Elijah, or "Lije" is fifteen, and follows him through the next several years as he and his family head west with the rest of the Mormons. The going is not easy for Lije, and he suffers loss and grief along the way. But he also grows in unexpected ways, and discovers that he hasn't quite lost as much as he thought.

I recommend the book to LDS historical fiction lovers, and to anyone who enjoys a good historical novel set in west. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow a short story by Washington Irving, first published in 1820 is a story about Ichabod Crane, a school teacher, originally from Connecticut, who moves to Sleepy Hollow, a small town not far from the Hudson River.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (c) 1820
by Washington Irving
Ichabod is a funny guy, who looks not unlike a crane, being very skinny, with a beak-like nose, and long limbs. He is also given to superstitions, believes in witches, and is frightened of what he fears is out in the dark. This makes his walks home at night a bit scary for him. But otherwise, Ichabod's adventures wouldn't have been all that noteworthy, if Katrina VanTassel hadn't gotten in his path. He takes a liking to her, and also her father's vast farm which Katrina will inherit someday, but Brom VanBrunt, one of the local lads, has already taken a liking to her. 

What happens after a Halloween party at Katrina's (in which she finally makes her disinterest in Ichabod painfully clear) is the main climax of the story, and my favorite part.

The story is often labeled as "horror" but, to me at least, the story is not remotely scary, and is actually quite hilarious. The language, as expected of something written in the early 1800s, is a little old fashioned. Some readers may need a dictionary for some of the old words, but for the most part, even unfamiliar words become understandable, as the meanings of the words tend to be made clear in the context of the sentences in which they are found.

Washington Irving's style is humorous, and often witty and playfully scarcastic. I enjoyed the story immensely, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys classical stories.

Spirit Animals Book 4: Fire and Ice by Shannon Hale

Spirit Animals Book 4: Fire and Ice
(c) 2014
by Shannon Hale
Book 4 of Spirit Animals, published in 2014, written by Shannon Hale, continues the adventures of Abeke, Rollan, Connor, and Meilin. This time, they're traveling to the frozen north to find their next great beast, a polar bear and its medallion which will help them in their fight against the Conquerers. And of course, the Conquerers, are always just a few steps behind the kids, trying to get their own hands on the medallions of the great beasts. Plus, the Conquerers are coming up with their own version of the nectar, a liquid that assists in helping young people bond with spirit animals, if it's their fate to so, but rather than nectar that simply assists in the bonding, they've invented bile, which actually forces a bond with a spirit animal, and what trouble that will lead to in the future, is anyone's guess!

The Spirit Animals series is a fun set of books for young kids, and young middle grade readers, from 8 to 12 who enjoy fantasy adventure, will enjoy this series.

Spirit Animals Book 3: Blood Ties by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Spirit Animals Book 3: Blood Ties
(c) 2014
by Garth Nix and Sean Williams
Spirit Animals Book 3 by Garth Nix and Sean Williams continues the quest of the four kids, Connor, Abeke, Meilin, and Rollan. The story starts with the friends separated though, as Meilin has gone looking for her father, took a wrong turn in the massive bamboo maze, and is lost. Meanwhile, the Conquerers are taking over cities in Erdas and oppressing the people. In this book, the kids are trying to find their third Great Beast, an elephant this time, get its cooperation (hopefully) and borrow its medallion. But it's not so easy to get to, being located in a swamp filled with giant crocodiles. And of course, the Conquerers aren't going to make it any easier for the kids! If you enjoy adventure stories for kids, you will enjoy this book!