2016 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 4

Every year I record my favorite books. There were quite a few last year! 

Just Patty by Jean Webster

In this prequel to When Patty Went to College, we find Patty and her friends getting into all sorts of mischief and shenanigans as they complete their final year at their private boarding school. The environment and tone reminded me some of A Little Princess, but it is less morally smug and more fun. Webster is a favorite author of mine and Just Patty is a charming story for girls of all ages. 

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Admittedly, a great part of this book’s charm came from the copy I had, illustrated by Robert Ingpen. The pictures were almost as wonderful as the words. However, even without the pictures, this book was lovely. It is a fairy-tale, both dark and light. It was different from the movie and yet so much better. The story entices the imagination and introduces (or really, re-introduces) a whole host of memorable characters. I was really charmed by this one. 

The Four Feathers by A.E.W. Mason 

A delightful romance in the traditional sense of the word where bravery and honor are virtues above all others. Our hero, Harry Feversham, commits an act of cowardice and receives four feathers in censure. Determined to redeem his name, he embarks on an adventure to save his accusers and prove his courage. Though the beginning is a tad slow, the story is one of those charming classics full of nobility and fun that leave you feeling just a little bit happier with the world. 

Pictures of Hollis Wood by Patricia Reilly Giff

Hollis Wood is an orphan constantly in and out of the foster system. She always runs away, even from the one family that offered her a permanent home. Now she has been placed with Josie, an elderly artist who manages to work her way into Hollis’s heart. However, something is wrong with Josie and Hollis is determined Social Services will not find out. This book was absolutely wonderful: emotionally gripping and beautifully written. I had vague recollections of the movie, but of course the book is better. Recommended for 10 on up. 

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes 

This Newbery Award winning children’s novel is a real treasure. It is the story of Wanda Petronski, a Polish girl who lives in Connecticut and who is bullied by her classmates for wearing the same dress every day. She tells them she has a hundred dresses, every color, at home. Then one day, she stops coming to school. A book about discrimination, growing up, and learning to value other people, this story was lovely and sweet. 

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stephenson

This book got 5 stars primarily for the audio book. I doubted I could have made it through the book without it, but I am sure glad I did.  It is a wonderful adventure with historical significance and action but with decidedly Scotch language. What I like most is how realistically hardship is portrayed. You can almost feel the exhaustion, dehydration, worry, etc. The characters can be unlikable and annoying but their devotion is real and believable. Another terrific classic. 

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

Douglas H. Gresham writes in the introduction to this book that “every grief is different.” This is A Grief Observed; it is Lewis’s personal journey of struggle and discovery. Yet grief is also recognizable, it transcends specific circumstances. In this way, Lewis’s journey is personal to him but also personal to everyone who have ever lost someone close. This isn’t an easy read. It is painful and raw. However, it is meaningful and touching and I am glad I got to read it. This isn’t a book to make you smile or present a rational argument for pain but it is a reminder that grief is real, valid, and part of the human existence. Lewis’s willingness to be open and honest makes that existence a little bit more understandable. 

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