Family tradition is one of those things that everyone has, even if you don’t mean to. Drink yourselves silly? Tradition. Always play boardgames? Tradition. Always, always, always fight over the amount of pepper to put in the gravy? Tradition. Open a gift Christmas Eve? Tradition. Don’t spend your holiday season with your family – bam, that’s your tradition. Doesn’t matter how it started, it’s something you expect to happen. For me, two of my family traditions that fill me with that warm, cozy feeling are weirdly related to the BBC.
The first is the Doctor Who Christmas episode. This used to be a just me tradition. For an hour every Christmas, I head off to the kitchen, settle down on the floor, and watch the new episode (last year I was allowed to watch it on the big TV – shocking). I recognize that this may sound sad to some people, but for me it is a blissful moment of silence in an otherwise high energy couple days. Over the last few years, my niece and nephews have started to get more interested in the show. Especially my niece. The first time she toddled into the room to sit down and watch with me, she was a year and a half. She now watches it with me yearly.
I read this book in grade 10 English. At the time, I hated it. I wasn’t reading any science fiction at that age and I didn’t get the genre. But this should have been my first inkling of things to come. The book stuck with me. When it came time to write our grade twelve departmental exams, this was the book I remembered the most clearly. I wrote an essay on it. I no longer remember what that essay was about – or really what the book is about.
I know it was dystopian fiction before dystopian was the thing it is now. The characters are trying to hide mutations from a society that would reject him. Eventually some of them run away. This is where I was introduced to the literary device of deus ex machina (my computer keeps autocorrecting this to machine. If I meant machine, I wouldn’t have changed it back half a dozen times!). At the time, it seemed cool; now, I’m not so sure. It’s so often used a cop out ending. I remember little except for some machine coming from the sky to save them in the end and something about a toe or a foot or something.
I should probably give this thing a good re-read. Maybe compare it to some modern/older dystopian stories. Does anyone else remember reading this book? Do they still read it in schools? What do my teacher friends think about this book? Should it still be read or has new writing surpassed the lessons learned in The Chrysalids?
Written in 1961 by Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth is a whimsical adventure – kind of like a boy’s version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (even though boys and girls should read both of them). Confession time – I’m not 100% sure I read this book, but I think I did. If I didn’t, I should’ve. However, I did watch the movie.
I have a lot of ‘memories’ from when I was a kid about books and movies that I’ve virtually given up hope ever figuring out. There’s one about this woman (who may have magical powers) in this beautiful dress with bell sleeves that lives under the water. It involves a lot of music. It’s in that style/time of The Last Unicorn but no one has ever known what I’m talking about. I’m beginning to think that my over active kid imagination made it up, or it’s the remnant of a dream – it would not be the first time. But damn it, I want to figure out what it is! I’d include a picture of it here to see if anyone could help me, but then I’d have to know what it was and the vicious circle continues its crazy making journey.
The Phantom Tollbooth was one of these things. For years, I didn’t know that’s what my memories were from. I just had this weird memory of this dog with a watch in his belly in this cave with things that made you lazy. That was it. I had nothing else attached to it, except our family tv room with its ugly orange couches covered in farmhouses and wagon wheels. Then sometime last summer I was at the cabin with friends, spending a lazy morning watching tv, and bang there was the movie. The second it started, even in the live action portion, I knew what it was.
I loved that stupid dog, and all the puns! It’s delightful. If you’ve got kids in your life, make this part of theirs. Make them punny as soon as you can.
Today’s throwback goes all the way back to before I was born to when my mom was just a wee teen devouring her own collection of books. The apple does not fall far from the tree. My love of teen heroines solving mysteries (cough cough – VM TTT coming at some point) was in the genes. Now, if my life was a book/movie, my mom passing her books down to be would be some touching scene with soft lighting and armchair reading. But since this is simply my life, I have zero recollection of how her books landed in my lap. I just know that at some point, I started reading her Donna Parker books.
Published from 1957-1964, this is a seven book series written by Marcia Martin (Levin) following the adventures of 14 year old Donna and her friends. Things happen. I don’t remember what things, but there’s a summer camp, a trip to Canada (Yay!), and a visit to Hollywood. How much mystery solving actually happened in these books, I honestly don’t remember, but I’m sure there was something. My brain says there was definitely a mysterin the Hollywood book, but let’s be frank, I could totally be mixing it up with another book . These were the days of wholesome reading!
I saw a couple of these at my Mom’s on a recent visit and had a little rush of nostalgic love. I loved the covers with their shiny pictures. Without those covers, I probably would have forgetten about this series. Did you read any of your parents’ books?
As a add on throwback – whenever I hear the name Donna, I automatically get “Donna Martin graduates” chanting in my head. And since I have to have it, now so do you. You’re Welcome.
Remember when you were a kid and you had a book series you loved but you wished the books were longer? I could devour a Baby-sitters Club book in an hour or two. Normally not a big deal. I would just grab another book from my bookshelf. But when we’d go on vacation (especially camping), I’d end up packing an entire bag of books. Then came the era of the Super Edition!
Lots of teen girl series ended up coming out with these books, but the BSC are the first ones I remember and the ones I liked the best. They started coming out towards the end of my BSC reading life, but I may have kept reading them long after I should have stopped.
The super specials opened with a bang by sending the baby-sitters on a cruise with a bunch of their clients. I remember reading it and wondering how all that stuff be on one boat? This sounded like the most amazing thing ever (and when I finally went on a cruise a couple years ago, it lived up to expectations).
And then in the second book they were camp counselors – which I also went on to do in my teens. It is one of my best memories from my teen years.
Third book is full of snowy wonderfulness on a class trip – awesome! I loved week long class trips. And winter olympics… best idea ever.
These three books became beloved go-tos for me in elementary school. I have no idea where they are now and that makes me kind of sad. These longer books appealed to me because , as mentioned, they were longer, they always involved some kind of adventure, and everyone got a bit of a storyline. That meant my favourite characters would have something to do in every book – even if it was probably pretty lame – and I wouldn’t have to suffer through and entire book about Jessi or Kristy.
The super edition was a blessing for any avid book reading pre-teen. For an in-depth review of each of the super specials wander on over to my new favourite blog.