Modern Classics 2018 Wrap-Up

This year I did not read a single book that I had thought I might, but I did read some good books! Planning books to read in the new year is fun, but seeing what you actually ended up reading is very enlightening. Just like the book of quotes I keep from books that have inspired me tell the story of how my thinking has changed over time, the books I plan to read and the books I actually read also tell as story of the place I am at and the things I am open to learning!

For the Modern Classics Challenge 2018, I read:
1) Book from the 1970s – The Worst Witch
2) Book from the 1980s – The Power of Myth
3) Book from the 1990s – Of Swords and Sorcerers
4) Book from the 21st Century – Austenland
5) Nonfiction – 12 Rules for Life
6) Biography or Historical Account – 84 Charing Cross Road
7) Fiction – The Bookshop on the Corner
8) Children’s Book – Magic Tree House: Dinosaurs Before Dark
9) A Banned Book – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
10) An Award Winning Book – The Sisters Grimm: Council of Mirrors
11) A Book in Translation – Catlantis
12) A Book Made into a Movie – Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

What does my list tell me about my year? It tells me I have spent a lot of time either reading with my kids or reading books I think they might like! This list also represents that I have managed to remember that sometimes it is ok to just have fun! Every book you read doesn’t have to be a great book, and everything you do in life doesn’t have to be of serious importance. It is important to play! Not a bad take away from the year…and not a bad lesson to carry with me into the new year!

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Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief

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For the Modern Classics Challenge 2018 category of A Book Made into a Movie I read Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. Actually, I have read four of the five books and plan to finish the last tomorrow! The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series has been immensely popular with middle schoolers, and it is a great concept. The Greek gods and goddesses are real, only Olympus changes depending on where the center of Western civilization is, so currently it is in New York City above the Empire State Building, and the gods and goddesses still enjoy procreating with mortals so all those kids running around with ADHD and Dyslexia are Half-Bloods (half mortal and half god) whose brains are honed for quick reactions in battle and reading Greek, not English! I think it is a fantastic twist on Greek mythology!!

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Do I think it will become a classic? No. As much as I enjoy the series, think it is fun, and have even found some quotes I can appreciate, the language and references within the book will become dated rather quickly. On top of that, its just missing that little extra something….complexity, depth of character….something like that. But, I still think they are great fun reads for anyone who enjoys mythology!!

Catlantis

 

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For the Modern Classics Challenge 2018 category of A Book in Translation I read Catlantis by Anna Starobinets. Catlantis is only about 120 pages, but I absolutely adored it!! It is the story of a cat named Baguette who is a descendant of the ancient Catlantians from the island of Catlantis. Baguette is one of the few time traveling cats, which works out really well because the modern day cats have forgotten which flower is the famous Catlantian flower whose scent gives all Catlantians nine lives. Baguette travels back in time to find this flower in order to prove his love for his beautiful fiancée. Along the way he gets lost in the Middle Ages and loses the flower, but it all turns out alright in the end!


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Do I think it will become a classic? I think it is an adorable and very creative story! It obviously was thought to be good enough to translate from Russian into English! Will it become a classic though? I am going to settle on maybe. It doesn’t have any of the problems other books have (only being relevant to the time it was written in, not having any type of uniqueness that causes it to stand out, etc), but it can also can be more difficult for a translation to break into English Classic market….and I have no idea if this book could be considered a Russian Classic. If I had to choose one way or another, I would put my money on Baguette just because I enjoyed the story so much and hope he does become a classic!! The mere fact that I read this book as an adult and have thought about it multiple times since speaks well of it!

The Sisters Grimm: The Council of Mirrors

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For the Modern Classics Challenge 2018 category of An Award Winning Book I read The Sisters Grimm: The Council of Mirrors by Michael Buckley. This is the ninth and last book in the award winning Sisters Grimm series. The series is also a New York Times Bestseller. The series is about the Grimm family, descendants of the famous Brothers Grimm. In the early days of the United States of America, the Brothers Grimm brought the Everafters (fairy tale people) on a boat to the United States to escape persecution. However, because the risks were so great with so many villains running around, the brothers eventually devised a force field to keep the Everafters from ever leaving the town of Fairyport Landing. Ever since the Grimm family has been working as detectives to solve all the mysteries that are bound to turn up in a town full of Everafters! When Sabrina and Daphne’s parents disappear from their New York City apartment, they eventually end up at their Granny Grimm’s home, except their parents had never told them anything about their Granny, Fairyport Landing, or the fact that the fairy tales were real. Their parents were taken by a sinister group called The Scarlet Hand. Throughout the series, teenagers Sabrina, Daphne, and Puck (oh yes, the Trickster King himself!) work together to try and defeat the Scarlet Hand. In this final book, we learn that the power to defeat the Scarlet Hand once and for all lies with Sabrina and Daphne. The girls overcome their own demons and defeat the Scarlet Hand once in for all, and they all live happily ever after (except the villains)….including Sabrina and Puck about 10 years later!

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Do I think The Sisters Grimm is a classic? No, but I do think it is a fun and darling little series that allows kids to have fun with the traditional fairy tales they’ve heard in a new way. Note: The romance factor is definitely not too over the top for kids and is not too idealistic.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix


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For the Modern Classics Challenge 2018 category of A Banned Book I read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling. This was not my first time reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but it was my first time reading it with my kids! I love all of the Harry Potter books! I do not understand why so many people have tried to ban them. All I can figure is that it is because it is a work of fantasy, but there are tons of other stories out there that are fantasy as well that don’t take the heat the Harry Potter books have taken. I believe they are well written, have multiple layers, reference many different works of art, science, and historical events, and to top it off they also delve pretty deeply into psychology and the human condition. I was particularly struck this go around by how the Boggart is an excellent analogy for anxiety. Anxiety is our fearful and paralyzing reaction to what we are afraid of, and the only way to vanquish that fear is to recognize just how that fear is ridiculous. For example, you might be afraid that something might happen to your children (I think that is every mother’s greatest fear). You can recognize that fear as being ridiculous on several levels: 1) Odds are it will never happen. 2) You say “your children” as if they belong to you, but do they? 3) Is the purpose of life really to avoid pain? There are probably many others, and maybe you thought of an even better example.


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Do I think Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a classic? Absolutely! I see these books being around for a very long time thanks to the reasons I listed above!

Magic Tree House: Dinosaurs Before Dark

 

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For the Modern Classics Challenge 2018 category of A Children’s Book I read Magic Tree House: Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne. After hearing so many people rave about these books, I had to read one for myself to see what the fuss was about. The story concept is pretty simple. The children find a magic tree house near their home that allows them to travel in time depending on what book they pull off the shelves. In this first book, the tree house takes them to the land of the dinosaurs. The book includes some great factual knowledge and is definitely a lot more interesting that some of the options for hundred pages and under crowd. However, they are rather predictable.

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I bought quite a few of these for my kids to try since they are both going to be in the hundred pages and under crowd for a while, but neither of them has been terribly taken with them so far. Overall, I think they are fun and a great concept; however, I do not believe they will be a classic. Stories like Sarah Plain and Tall, My Father’s Dragon, The Hundred Dresses, etc have made the cut, but all of those books offer a bit more depth to their characters than does the Magic Tree House series. But as fun, light reads for struggling readers that are also educational? You betcha!

The Bookshop on the Corner

 

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For the Modern Classics Challenge 2018 category of Fiction I read The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan. It is the story of a librarian who looses her nice and boring, yet dependable job and decides to create a traveling bookshop out of an old van. I agree with another reviewer on Goodreads that the first half of the book was a marvelous ode to the love of books, but the second half turned out to be just your standard romance novel with a few books thrown in (it was still cute though). In addition to that, the book that is most often mentioned as a childhood favorite in this book, wasn’t even a real book!!! It was a missed opportunity to turn people on to a forgotten children’s classic, perhaps something like Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit! I did love the recognition in the book that when we order and read our books online, it limits public conversations we might have with strangers about books. I also loved some of the little snippets in the beginning about the importance of books. The romance part was pretty standard though a bit steamier than what I usually go for. But, seriously, what is not to love about a book set in Scotland…especially when listened to as an audiobook!!

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Do I think it will be a classic? No. There are some good quotes in the beginning, and it definitely can be a book that can have an impact on our time and our current conversations as is evidenced by the book truck that recently opened in my area, Story Tree Books. But no, I do not believe it will be a classic.


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