Monday, June 11, 2018

MMGM- Essential Fandoms

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Always in the Middle and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

This is a hard post to write. When I was in middle school, I was completely and totally addicted to both the Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie series. I owned the books, and I did not own many books. I was able to do an oral book report for which I forgot to prepare on AoGG because I had practically memorized the book. I watched the first movie in college. I bought all the paperbacks. I had Montgomery's journals. I also had a prairie dress, skipped a 5th grade skating party to watch the LHotP television show, and coerced my parents into traveling 100 miles out of our way on summer vacation so I could visit DeSmet, SD. When I say that these books are the base of my essential fandoms, we are talking hard core.

And now...meh. For one thing, my students don't read the books. My own daughters didn't read the books. As quintessential a part of the reading life of women my age as these were, I just don't think they are as relevant as they once were. Wilder's work comes under constant scrutiny about the family's dealing and attitudes with Native Americans.  As far as Montgomery goes, I came away from this newest treatment of her life feeling that while she had challenges in her life, they were mild compared to what many women faced, and she comes across TO ME as spoiled, entitled, and very selfish. Since as an adult I have found Anne herself to be overly precious and annoying (She would be the sort of modern student who wears animal ears to class every day and then doesn't understand why classmates thinks she's weird and don't want to be her friend. Actions have consequences.), the Montgomery book, no matter how well done, was the final nail in the coffin for my love of this author and her work.

As for the Wilder book, it was also very well done. There's just no reason for me to have either of these books (especially the Wilder one, due to content) in my library. Your library may be different. Proceed accordingly, and remember that my opinions are my opinions, and you are just as entitled to your own. Please feel free to express them without being rude about it.

36369872Rosenberg, Liz. House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery
June 12th 2018 by Candlewick Press
E ARC from

There is a lot of information available about Montgomery's life, and Rosenberg does a good job of putting together an in-depth overview of the writer's life and career. Since many of Montgomery's stories are largely autobiographical, readers who are very familiar with Montgomery's work will find this to be extremely informative. It is also an interesting look into the life of one women in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Montgomery was far from the only women not raised by her own parents at this time, and the fact that she was able to get an education was rather remarkable. She was able to get a decent number of teaching positions, even if they weren't exactly to her liking. Her struggles with finding a life partner are interesting, because they seem so atypical of the time. She had many men interested in her, but they didn't suit for one reason or another, and the man she eventually married was not a particularly good fit. By the time she married, she was well on her way to a solid writing career, but she didn't particularly seem to enjoy her extremely good fortune in this regard. There is an informative time line at the end of the book, and this is as complete a biography as I have read on this particular author.

I read a digital ARC of this; perhaps the final copy has photographs? It seems odd that there wouldn't be any.

There are a few things that should be kept in mind-- there are a couple of passing mentions of sex, and frank discussion of the various mental illnesses that both Montgomery and her husband are said to have suffered from. While nothing is graphic or disturbing, some younger readers might be confused or disillusioned. Just something to keep in mind.

Miller, Sara. Caroline: Little House, Revisited
Published September 19th 2017 by William Morrow
E Book from Ohio E Book Project

I always sort of wondered about the long suffering Ma. Pa always seemed like a less than ideal partner, which made it seem hard for me to imagine that Ma would have been really swept off her feet enough to leave her family and travel into the wilderness. As the family leaves the Big Woods, Ma is pregnant, which adds a whole new layer of complication to sleeping in a wagon, crossing perilous rivers, and all manner of things. I loved the detailed descriptions of what was needed to have to make the journey in a covered wagon, and thought it was interesting that Ma thought a lot about Bible verses-- she would have, most likely, but I never really thought about it. Trips to the general stores, setting up housekeeping... all of these are details that I loved about the originals, and it was fun to revisit them through Ma's eyes. Then we get a little surprise with Ma and Pa that makes this not a book for young readers.  So, I enjoyed it, but I won't be buying it for my library. It's really more of a book for women my age who loved Wilder's books when they were young.

Anyone else remember the television series, when Ma went back east for a reunion and sort of rekindles a romance with a classmate? Now, Michael Landon was kind of cute, but I still remember sort of rooting for Ma to leave him! At least in this  book he is a bit kinder and sweeter to Ma than he was in Wilder's stories.


  1. Anonymous11:27 AM EDT

    I too loved Anne of Green Gables and all the Little House books, my daughter loved them also but I am fairly confident that my granddaughter will not share the same fondness for them. However, I am still nostalgic enough to want to read these.

  2. I was the same as you. I loved both series but I find that they don't age well. Neither of my two daughters had any interest in either series (nor Nancy Drew either). I think their time has passed. Honestly, if there were books with characters that looked like me, I would have read them instead. Perhaps part of these books appeal was the lack of diversity back then. It was pretty much all we had.

  3. Interesting that you make those comments. I tried to get my daughter to read Anne, thinking she'd be right up her alley, and she tried, but couldn't get into it. I think you're right that we've moved beyond that sort of precious feistiness into more genuine, diverse independence, particularly for girls, and I can only be glad for it.

  4. Ahhh, it's so interesting how things appear as we look back. I was actually super thrilled when my daughter chose to read one of my all-time favorite books from my childhood and said it was her favorite book. But I'm nervous to re-read it now for fear that it will be destroyed. LOL Our family is currently watching all of the Little House television episodes since we purchased the whole batch a couple years ago. I am adding Caroline: Little House, Revisited to my TBR list as I think it would be a very interesting read after the books and tv episodes/movies. Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. I read Little House in the Big Woods for the first time about 10 years ago for a college. My wife read all the Little House books to our daughter when she was 4 and she loved them. (TBH, I didn't read them all but often listened in)Personally, I think it's a shame that these books, which are about family, love and sticking together though tough times and good times, (especially in a world not saturated with technology) are going out of fashion. On the other hand, they are always checked out of my library. And, yeah, the people in those days had their blind spots, but don't we? What will people 100-plus years from now shake their heads about when they look at us?

  6. We invited Liz Rosenberg here in Singapore six years ago thereabouts, and I remember being riveted by the beauty of her writing - she read a few passages aloud from her books.