Sunday, June 08, 2008

Cindy Pon's Celebrate Reading Pick:

Today, we welcome Cindy Pon as Celebrate Reading Month Guest Blogger.

About the Guest Blogger: after over four years of staying at home with her sweet pea and munchkin, cindy pon finds herself suddenly employed again as an author and artist. her debut novel, spirit bound, will be published in 2009 by greenwillow / harpercollins. major themes in the young adult fantasy include a girl's expected place in society, filial piety, food and unrequited love. cindy's favorite color is red and her only childhood pet was a salt and pepper miniature schnauzer named cupcake. she got cupcake on her 10th birthday after seeing a love boat episode featuring a lot of dogs (those wacky love boat shows!) and harassing her father for one. cindy still dreams of cupcake to this day.

first off, thank you to miss moonrat, for inviting me to guest blog about an influential book in my life. it's a difficult question, but after a few moments of thought, i knew it would be between two books: island of the blue dolphins by scott o'dell or a little princess by frances hodgson burnett.

i chose the latter because i think it is less well known--especially since most who read frances hodgson burnett probably read the secret garden.

i have this theory that books that we read as a child often resonate well into adulthood. perhaps because we read with an open and uncluttered mind. or because every experience is so new, and so are the stories that take us to places of wonder. i'm not one to reread books. but my childhood favorites have been read and reread, well into my thirties. i've scanned in the cover of my beloved copy of a little
princess, with its creased binding and yellowed pages smelling of must. it's a 10th printing from 1981 priced at $1.75. on the first page is a definition written for me in my older sister's neat handwriting: london--capital of england--the biggest city.

as an esl student (english as a second language), i remember using the book to improve my vocabulary. going through the pages (upon a second or fifth read) with my sister's giant dictionary as companion. any unknown words were not a deterrant in savoring this wonderful tale, however. and i look forward to reading the story again to sweet pea and munchkin.

sara crewe is a polite and precocious child. we first meet her driving through the damp streets of london with her father, captain crewe, a man of means. her mother had died, we learn, when sara was born. she is brought to a posh boarding school headed by miss minchin, a mean, hard-hearted woman whose kindness directly correlates with the wealth of her clients. she fawns over sara, promising captain crewe she will
have the best of care at her school.

when sara is introduced to her classmates, we see those who are jealous of her status. sara proves to be a kind-hearted and thoughtful girl, befriending the unpopular students at the school as well as the cleaning girl.

everything changes when her father dies in india, leaving sara destitute, having invested all his money into the diamond mines. miss minchin shows her true self and without a word of kindness, moves sarah from her luxurious suite to a barren attic upstairs, keeping her as a servant.

burnett does such a wonderful job in creating a courageous, compassionate young heroine. we cheer her on through the dark times after her father's death, even as she struggles but never gives in to meanness--she is "a little princess" despite her poverty. when an ailing gentleman moves in next door to the school, her life is changed forever once more.

i know it's hard to convince adults to read a middle grade book--but if you have young children, i recommend it highly. burnett has skillfully woven a delightful and moving tale that will always be a classic. i have no doubt that a little princess is one of the reasons i am a writer today.


Ello said...

Aw, Cindy! I loved the Little Princess and I was so happy to buy it for my daughter! Great review of course!

Bernita said...

Cindy, thank you.I shall look for it. I certainly still enjoy middle grade books.

Gina Black said...

This was one of my favorite stories as well--also Island of the Blue Dolphins. Both about girls who were abandoned and had to survive through their own pluck.

cindy said...

yay! i'm glad that others have enjoyed a little princess as i have. and gina, that's exactly right. i loved both books for heroines that were in them! b, let me know if you ever do pick it up to read!

moonrat said...

i LOVE a little princess. love love love love. this is one of the ones my mother used to pick on me for reading again and again and again. (as, incidentally, were island of blue dolphins and secret garden.)

Charles Gramlich said...

This is one I missed out on.

ChrisEldin said...

What a fabulous review!! Your energy resonates!

I read The Secret Garden for the first time last year. The best middle grade novels have, to me, better character development than many adult books.

I have "Island" at home on my reading list--which will now be bumped to the top.

JES said...

"books that we read as a child often resonate well into adulthood. perhaps because we read with an open and uncluttered mind. or because every experience is so new, and so are the stories that take us to places of wonder."

I agree completely. (And I sometimes wonder about the books I don't even consciously remember having read -- bet they're still up in my head somewhere, doing their devil's work. :) When people say things like, "Oh, I never read much at all when I was growing up" -- well, it's hard for me to imagine how someone builds an interior landscape out of just the things that have actually happened to him/her.

Thanks for the review!

Sminthia said...

"i know it's hard to convince adults to read a middle grade book"

I read more MG than grown-up books. "Grown-up" books take themselves much too seriously. And they take forever to read, if you can even get past the first chapter.

I loved A Little Princess! Although I enjoyed both movie versions (Shirley Temple and Alfonso Cuaron), I think it was mostly because they evoked memories of the book. Both had cop-out endings, though. Why do they do that? Do they think that kids can't handle the original version?

Precie said...

I loved that book in my youth!! Thanks for the reminder!!

writtenwyrdd said...

I also loved this book, but haven't read it since I was a teen. Much better than the (gak!) Shirley Temple movie. Sara Crewe did not pout, even cutely.

moonrat said...

yeah, i got to be honest--when i was a kid, i found the movies a HUGE disappointment. i thought the happy endings really trivialized sara's experience. the Cuaron was slightly closer, but still did cop out.

Chumplet said...

When the 90's movie version of The Little Princess was released, I loved the story. I remember a Shirley Temple movie, too.

It's a lovely story about perservering through hard times.

cindy said...

wow, i'm so happy to know that a little princess have touched your lives, too!

and charles, i don't know if you meant to be funny, but your comment made me laugh. =D it's not too late to pick it up!

i didn't even know there were movies out--that is how esl i was. hahaha!

i think childrens books are great for their simplistic storytelling and the "payoff" is always always spot on. burnett does it with such finiesse!

Sminthia said...

Through the magic of the internet, I give you the Shirley Temple version.

On looking at it again, I realize how selective childhood memories can be. Luckily, we can now fast forward, which I especially recommend for the dream ballet.

wheelmaker said...

I looooved this book as a kid, and The Secret Garden. The movie version that I like best is a British one that was on PBS when I was young. I don't think it's out on DVD, though. It was pretty faithful to the book.
I recently got a copy of The Annotated Secret Garden, but haven't had a chance to read through all the notes yet.