Hooked

by A C Wise

What if Captain Hook wasn’t the worst villain in Peter Pan? What if Peter Pan was a spoiled adolescent who forces people into acting in roles that serve his play? What if Pan forced James Hook into reliving his death by drowning over and over again so that he could play his game of make-believe over and over and over again?

Hooked is a reimagined tale of Peter Pan. The Darling children are now adults living in a world where they now perceive their time in Neverland as a time that wasn’t always fun and carefree.

A string of murders have been committed in England, and James Hook, who has somehow escaped Neverland, feels Peter Pan is somehow responsible. After a chance encounter with Wendy, the two of them, with the help of Wendy’s daughter, take it upon themselves to try to stop “the Boy Who Would Never Grow Up” from doing any more harm.

This book was a great read. Dark and fast-paced it is more than a retelling of an old fairy tale but also a story of the repercussions of war and familial love.

What Was Your First Chapter Book?

Do you remember the very first chapter book you read cover to cover ON YOUR OWN as a little kid? How grown-up you felt. That feeling that you had accomplished something huge, a grand achievement. I signed my first out of the school library when I was in third grade. We returned from the library, and I settled into my little desk in our detached portable classroom. I opened The Story of Dr Dolittle. By Hugh Lofting. Got sucked right into the story, I mean who would want the ability to talk to animals? It must have been a very short read, less than 200 pages I’m sure. And I remember the cover was grey and yellow with etchings of Dolittle his menagerie interspersed between the pages. I loved it. It was the first time I got so enraptured in a story; it was all I could do not to open it up every opportunity I got. In during math, during music…during lunch hour. It was the first time I REALLY felt the magic reading can have on a person.
I thought of Dr Dolittle today because they are remaking the movie (link to trailer here:  based on Lofting’s books. Robert Downing Jr. is Doolittle himself (a perfect choice, I believe). I will absolutely be going to watch the film once it comes to theatres. I’m sure it won’t be as magical as the books, but I’m sure watching Dolittle at work will conjure feelings of third-grade nostalgia in me as I watch.

What was the first book YOU read that introduced you to the magic of reading?

Little Women

Beware, spoilers abound.

I must have been around eleven years old when I first read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. My mother had a collection of classic children’s literature ranging from Black Beauty to Aladdin, Aesop’s Fables, to Little Women. I think I read it in the matter of a day. I loved it. It quite possibly could have been the first time I cried over a book. The death of Beth traumatized. I couldn’t imagine losing my own sisters even though at eleven both were driving me bonkers in their own way.
Needless to say, like most girls, I fell in love with the story of the March sisters. I especially loved Jo. I thought Jo was fearless. Jo was a writer unafraid of sharing her writing. Jo was unafraid to talk to boys. Jo wasn’t afraid of cutting her hair (her only true beauty, according to her sister Amy). And I was so so shy, so I lived vicariously through her.
Jo and her sisters were a lot like me and my sisters.. We skated on a frozen pond, like the March sisters, we created and performed plays for parents and visitors just like the March sisters. We often only had each other growing up just like the March sisters.
The book is so relatable, and so loved so naturally there have been movies made portraying the March family. I first remember a black and white version with Katherine Hepburn. The second I viewed had Susan Sarandon and Winona Ryder. The third version, directed by Greta Gerwig, has just hit theatres and it is absolutely wonderful. I would say it is my favourite. Gerwig does take creative liberties but respectfully upholds the integrity and beauty the original story possesses. Last night I attended this movie with one of my sisters. I cried. I laughed. I enjoyed it so much I promptly downloaded from Audible and listened to it on my morning run. And yes, I cried as I ran.

Have you read the book? If you haven’t you must. And if you can, you must go and view the movie. Take your sisters. If you don’t have a sister, take a friend. If your friends are busy, take yourself.
The audible version I bought is narrated by Laura Dern who plays Mrs March in this new movie.

Convenient Company

“How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book”.

~Henry David Thoreau, Walden


I’ve always relied on books for company. In fact I can remember the titles of specific books that have kept me company during some of the loneliest times in my life. Even when it was difficult to concentrate for any length of time because of some sort of emotional tumult, I’ve always reached for a story to soothe or distract me.

They were convenient company.

As a child my closest friend lived over a mile away and the sisters and I weren’t always the most bosom of buddies so I would lose myself in Nancy Drew. I still have a lovely collection of yellow bound Nancy Drew Mysteries sitting in my cupboard. And discovering Judy Blume’s “Blubber” was a moment I’ll always remember because the voice was familiar and the story could have been taken directly from the halls of my elementary school (and I as a chubby girl so I could relate). But I think the MOST important book of my childhood was “Gone with the Wind”. I would read, and reread the story, reading all of Scarlett O’Hara’s lines aloud pretending to be a “Southern Bell” instead of a Northern Alberta farm kid.

Junior High, that purgatorial time of melodrama and moodiness, I found distraction from bullies and boys with the likes of Agatha Christie (“The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” and “Curtain” being my favourites). I was also entranced by Mary Stewart’s Merlin series (“The Crystal Cave”, “The Hollow Hills”, “The Last Enchantment”). Puberty was all about murder and intrigue or magicians and knights.

High School, when most of my friends would sit and snuggle in the school hallways with their boyfriends or walk to McDonald’s for a lunch date of fries, I’d sit with my newfound love Charles Dickens. I remember reading “Great Expectations”, paper lunch bag at my side, eating my cheese and lettuce (no mayo) sandwich and questioning Miss Havisham’s reason for warping Estella’s view of men. Years later, after my first break up with a boy, I understood Havisham’s motivation for wanting to rip out someone’s heart and stomp it into a grimy pulp. I also loved Daphne du Maurier’s “Jamaica Inn” and thought Jem was one of the most dashing figures in literature. It’s hard not to fall in love with a horse thief.

At university, when I’d feel insecure in my relationship with the boyfriend at the time, I’d read and re-read “Wuthering Heights”. It just seemed appropriate. As an adult, I remember the titles of books that have kept me company during chosen times of solitude. “Mrs. Dalloway” when took to London by myself. Then sitting on a deck chair by a lake in Jasper trying to get through” Wings of the Dove” by Henry James but being too distracted by the fact I had my heart-broken. “Anil’s Ghost” by Michael Ondaatje whilst on my way to Paris. Sitting silently with my mom on the deck of a cruise ship in the middle of the Caribbean reading “The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi” by Jacqueline Park and thinking how wonderful it was to have my mother to myself.

The latest “new era” defined by a book started two years ago when I was in an automobile accident. For about four months I was unable to concentrate for any length of time on story and could only consume magazine fodder. Many a night I would lie awake unable to read the pile of books calling to me from the corner of my room. The whole experience was frustrating and distressful. To me, the inability to read for any length of time was like losing the ability to take a deep breath. I could inhale little shallow catches of prose in magazines and newspapers, but I could not breath deeply the essence and delicacies of a well-told story. That was until four months later when I went on a weekend excursion to the “big city” with my sister and attempted to read “Angelology” by Danielle Trussoni.

And I read and read and read and took a deep breath.

Since then I have surrounded myself with books waiting patiently to be read. I think I may be somewhat fearful of feeling alone and desolate without my “friends” though and am over compensating. I now have collected a multitude of hardcovers, several eBooks (as well as 4 digital titles signed out of the library). I wonder if this is a sign I’m afraid to be lonely and feel the need to surround myself with “friends”?

Probably.

But patiently they’ll sit waiting for me to invite them into my life and keep me company even during the most trying times.

To Write About the Moon

I want to write about the moon.

It’s been demanding attention the last two days fully exposing itself on my drive home and then sneaking through the tiny slit in my bedroom blinds to blind me in it’s brilliance.

I have to admit I was a bit worried. Wednesday my ninth graders were in fine full moon form so I was expecting a pack of wackadoodle werewolves yesterday.

But, they were freakishly good. Maybe it was me who was lupine like.

A full moon is really quite spectacular. Sometimes it looks so close it seems you could easily reach out, delicately pluck it out of the sky and place it in your pocket.

There is some wonderful “moon” imagery in literature. One of my favourites is from Earl Birney’s poem “David” where a“peek was upthrust. /Like a fist in a frozen ocean of rock that swirled/ Into valleys the moon could be rolled in”. The big old boulder of a moon rolling in a valley like a ball in a pinball machine.

Maycomb in “To Kill a Mockingbird” has “lady in the moon…She sat at a dresser combing her hair.” I tried looking for her yesterday as I sat at a red light. She must have wandered off because I couldn’t find her.

Emily Dickenson “watched the Moon around the House/Until upon a Pane – /She stopped- a Traveller’s privilege- for Rest”. The moon last night didn’t just stop upon a pane, she pressed her nose against it and stared at me as I tried to sleep. He obtuseness was a tad creepy.

If the moon is full where you are tonight, go out and gaze up at her in wonder.

Appreciate her brash brilliance

and write a verse or two.

I dare you.

Christmas Book Ideas

I teach High School English.  One of my classes has decided they wanted to have a “secret Santa” so

I acquiesced but only on the condition that the gifts MUST be a book

and not just any book

a used book

nothing over 5 dollars.

Well, the enthusiasm that ensued was far beyond my expectation.  Students have been leaving little notes on my “Potluck and Prose” for Secret Santa informing him of their literary preference.

Recently I received a post asking what “were the books that “have most stayed with me in some way” (Thanks Darlene!) and I compiled a list…then proceeded to send the same post to a few of my friends.

Here are the titles that appeared.  All of them wonderful suggestions for gift ideas (new and used) this Christmas.  After reading the list please add a few of your own in the comments!

What were some books that stayed with you over the years??

  • .Watsons Go To Birmingham 1963
  • Harry Potter -series
  • Sanctus
  • The Giving Tree
  • Press Here
  • The Pact
  • Misery (taught me that a book can scare you 1/2 to death)
  • Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
  • Catching Fire
  • Morris The Moose Goes To School
  • Gone with the Wind.
  •  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  •  The Book Thief
  •  Cold Mountain
  •  Wuthering Heights
  •  Great Expectations
  •  Are You There God It’s Me Margaret
  • The Sound and The Fury
  • The Pilgrim of Tinker Creek
  •  Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
  • The Hobbit
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Dune
  • Marcovaldo
  • A Wizard of Earthsea
  • Nonsense Novels
  • The Tombs of Atuan
  • The Elements of Style
  • Hocus Pocus
  • Catch 22
  • Heidi
  • Famous Five Series
  • A Christmas Carol
  • The Secret Scripture
  •  That They May Face the Rising Sun
  • Chocolat
  •  The Bodhran Makers
  • No Great Mischief
  • A Christmas Memory

Books as Convenient Company

“How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book”.

~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I’ve always relied on books for company. In fact I can remember the titles of specific books that have kept me company during some of the loneliest times in my life. Even when it was difficult to concentrate for any length of time because of some sort of emotional tumult, I’ve always reached for a story to soothe or distract me.

They were convenient company.

As a child my closest friend lived over a mile away and the sisters and I weren’t always the most bosom of buddies so I would lose myself in Nancy Drew. I still have a lovely collection of yellow bound Nancy Drew Mysteries sitting in my cupboard.  And discovering Judy Blume’s “Blubber” was a moment I’ll always remember because the voice was familiar and the story could have been taken directly from the halls of my elementary school (and I as a chubby girl so I could relate). But I think the MOST important book of my childhood was “Gone with the Wind”. I would read, and reread the story, reading all of Scarlett O’Hara’s lines aloud pretending to be a “Southern Bell” instead of a Northern Alberta farm kid.

Junior High, that purgatorial time of melodrama and moodiness, I found distraction from bullies and boys with the likes of Agatha Christie (“The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” and “Curtain” being my favourites). I was also entranced by Mary Stewart’s Merlin series (“The Crystal Cave”, “The Hollow Hills”, “The Last Enchantment”). Puberty was all about murder and intrigue or magicians and knights.

High School, when most of my friends would sit and snuggle in the school hallways with their boyfriends or walk to McDonald’s for a lunch date of fries, I’d sit with my newfound love Charles Dickens. I remember reading “Great Expectations”, paper lunch bag at my side, eating my cheese and lettuce (no mayo) sandwich and questioning Miss Havisham’s reason for warping Estella’s view of men. Years later, after my first break up with a boy, I understood Havisham’s motivation for wanting to rip out someone’s heart and stomp it into a grimy pulp. I also loved Daphne du Maurier’s “Jamaica Inn” and thought Jem was one of the most dashing figures in literature. It’s hard not to fall in love with a horse thief.

At university, when I’d feel insecure in my relationship with the boyfriend at the time, I’d read and re-read “Wuthering Heights”. It just seemed appropriate. As an adult, I remember the titles of books that have kept me company during chosen times of solitude. “Mrs. Dalloway” when took to London by myself. Then sitting on a deck chair by a lake in Jasper trying to get through” Wings of the Dove” by Henry James but being too distracted by the fact I had my heart-broken. “Anil’s Ghost” by Michael Ondaatje whilst on my way to Paris. Sitting silently with my mom on the deck of a cruise ship in the middle of the Caribbean reading “The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi” by Jacqueline Park and thinking how wonderful it was to have my mother to myself.

The latest “new era” defined by a book started two years ago when I was in an automobile accident. For about four months I was unable to concentrate for any length of time on story and could only consume magazine fodder. Many a night I would lie awake unable to read the pile of books calling to me from the corner of my room. The whole experience was frustrating and distressful. To me, the inability to read for any length of time was like losing the ability to take a deep breath. I could inhale little shallow catches of prose in magazines and newspapers, but I could not breath deeply the essence and delicacies of a well-told story. That was until four months later when I went on a weekend excursion to the “big city” with my sister and attempted to read “Angelology” by Danielle Trussoni.

And I read and read and read and took a deep breath.

Since then I have surrounded myself with books waiting patiently to be read. I think I may be somewhat fearful of feeling alone and desolate without my “friends” though and am over compensating. I now have collected a multitude of hardcovers, several eBooks (as well as 4 digital titles signed out of the library). I wonder if this is a sign I’m afraid to be lonely and feel the need to surround myself with “friends”?

Probably.

But patiently they’ll sit waiting for me to invite them into my life and keep me company even during the most trying times.

What am I reading now?  “Bellefleur” by Joyce Carol Oates and “S” by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst.

What books help date a new “era” in your life?

Potluck and Prose

My AP Engish class wanted to have a potluck.  So we did.  And while we were eating our delectable meal we discussed…

what else

our favourite books EVER.

Favourite books from our childhood.

Favourite books from middle school.

Favourite books from present day.

And what a lovely discussion it was.  The snow fell in heaps and bunches outside our window…and inside our toasty classroom we ate, and chatted about the most heartwarming of subjects

books.

Here are some of the titles discussed:

The Maze Runner

Eragon

Boy Toy

The Vast Fields of the Ordinary

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

Les Miserables

Pandora

The Algabrist

The Girl With the Pearl Earing

Anything by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Catch 22

Room

Metro 2033

The Book Thief

Anything by author Cassandra Clone

Warriors Series

The Night Circus

Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief

The Ranger’s Apprentice series

Cloud Atlas

Sleepless

A Song of Ice and Fire

Safe Haven

The Little Princess

The Lucky One

Stolen

The Road

Coraline

The Five Ancestors

The Fault in our Stars

Demonata Series

The Tempest

Beyond the Shadows

Being by Kevin Brooks

Stargirl

His Majesty’s Dragon

Thin Executioner

Airborne

Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief”

“People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it’s quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations with each passing moment. A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors. Waxy yellows, cloud-spot blues. Murky darkness. In my line of work, I make it a point to notice them.”

― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

If you haven’t read “The Book Thief” you should. The novel’s narrator is Death. That’s right, the Grim Reaper himself. But his persona is gentle and wise and he is an entity who as a heart…and this heart is often broken when he witnesses pain experienced by the human race.

Our poor narrator is Death

in Germany

during the Holocaust,

so, needless to say, he is a busy reaper.

“Death” is correct in saying people only, “observe the colors of the day at its beginnings and ends”. How often do we comment on the gloriousness of the sunrise, or the passionate vibrancy of the sunset but never do we take the time DURING the day to notice not just the colours that surround us,

but the sounds and smells and tastes that we encounter as well?

We are too busy trying to get from point A to point B, or mentally checking off lists of tasks that we miss, or rather dismiss, anything of substance because they seem insignificant to some success that we hope to achieve in the future.

The beauty of the day is subtle. Just like the beauty of life is subtle. If it had to hit us upside the head with it’s obviousness then it is more garish than delicate.

When we are children basking in the morning light of our life we want to touch and taste everything. We find joy and fascination with everything we encounter whether it be mud or marshmallows.

And then, when we age and get closer to the light of the sunset, we go on the search for beauty and meaning, trying to fill our remaining days with all the loveliness and “newness” we can find,

or we give up looking for it because we figure there is nothing left in this world that we would find enchanting.

So, today go out and look. Really REALLY look and the “waxy yellows” and “cloud-spot blues” that come across your path.

And see what kind of day it will be.

For the Love of Tomes

Today I bought two books.

Tomes actually.

Any day a book is purchased is a good day.

I was a farm kid. The farm was a wonderful place for a child to cultivate an imagination, no matter how peculiar.

My sisters and I defended tree forts from imaginary marauders. Cooked witches brew in an old metal kettle above an invisible fire.

And pushed the cat around in our doll carriage and attempted to feed it water out of a plastic baby bottle.

But

once in a while I would find a quiet corner rifle through my mother’s bookshelf and cozy in for a good read. Often I would fall so far into a book I would pack it around and bury my nose in it wherever we went, even if it was to the neighbor’s barbeque,

or sitting on a bench in a shopping mall as my mother shopped for shoes.

The larger the book the better… it meant I’d have something to do for a

good

long

while

– a world to visit for days on end.

Those bulky books with bounteous pages included: Gone with the Wind, Christy, Little Women and Little Men (both in the same volume!), Desiree, Queen of Sweden.

I loved them so much I used to pick a character and read aloud all of his/her dialogue….using voices…a skill that now comes in handy when I try to hook high school students onto Macbeth (I make a pretty convincing first witch).

And now,

when I find a book a good 500 pages or longer a feeling of contentment comes over me knowing I will have some place to “go” for 800 pages

and in this particular instance in New Zealand for the 832 pages of Eleanor Catton’s Booker Prize Winning The Luminaries

and

771 pages (and 11 years of waiting) for Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch.

Are you a fan of big books? What are some of your childhood favourites? If you’ve read “The Luminaries” or “The Goldfinch” let me know your thoughts!

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