Archives for category: Christmas

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In her tales, author Ronee Henson’s birth in June, 1937 is joyous for a few minutes, until her boy twin dies. Within days, so does her eldest brother — of diphtheria. From then on Mother often sighs, “Ach, ja,” and Father becomes enraged for no reason. Instead of drawing together for comfort, each person in the family mourns in their own way. Henson  writes, “Only I, the baby, prattle happily to the sunbeams that find their way into my buggy when it stands in the garden.”

Plot of Faces From Another Time
What Henson has to “prattle” about is the normal, happy childhood, good upbringing and education she had against all odds. It is an ironic book because she is growing up with a brutal war all around her and an abusive father in her own home. The village is suspicious of strangers yet absorbs a multitude of refugees

  •  She starts from a focal point in the church graveyard,  followed by a walk, and lets the names and buildings she sees revive her memory. The book darts back and forth in time.
  • The big crisis in the middle arises when ‘LittleOne’ can’t stop Father from killing Liesl, her pet rabbit and best friend, to make soup. That same night Father beats her brother severely. Both children develop fevers. Mother confronts him, makes him face up to what he has done and makes him help her wrap wet rags around them so they will get better
  • The anecdotes and characters are unified by a theme of compassionate community. Of several role models (e.g. her Mother, Oma and teachers)  one is more poignant and powerful than the next. The deep pathos of the soldier’s story is the climax just before the end of the book
  • The book ends with a wedding feast in 1997 where Henson revels in taking part in her childhood friends’ big celebration, with children of their own who have grown up to be good people. The justice of the peace makes the guests promise to support the young couple so they will do well too
  • In the epilogue, the family moves to the United States in 1949 and Henson has lived happily and compassionately for 68 years after, so far.

Style & Structure

  • Gifted with a phenomenal memory, Henson pictures the story in her mind, then sketches in facial features, gestures and minute details of surroundings
  • Deft economy of words propels the action with the reader totally involved
  • She uses the device of pathetic fallacy beautifully. It is an excellent way to express her theme.  For example, “the old intimacy of sea, wind and salt air still wove its magic for me” and “the wind roars across the countryside… like many voices crying.”

The War Setting

  • The North Sea’s North Frisian coastal flats in northeastern Germany, full of beaches, tides, marshes and meadows, have been inhabited since the Stone Age
  • When world war two breaks out in 1939 Father, being multilingual, gets a job monitoring the BBC News for the German army  from a post in the fishing and farming village of Schobüll (pop. 500.) The family’s house is on the main street
  • Heavy troop-filled trucks roll by them headed towards Denmark all the night of Apr. 8, 1940
  • ‘LittleOne’ dives into their backyard trench whenever sirens sound an alert that Allied planes are flying over. She sees a crash and explosions; the earth shakes
  • Refugees from east Prussia and every other variety of dispossessed people turn up on their door step; some steal all their garden vegetables at night
  • Villagers crowd in around their radio to hear the BBC confirm the rumor the day Hitler dies. The obligatory portrait of Hitler has already been taken down from the wall
  • Everyone suffers from severe food and fuel shortages. They wind rags around their bicycle wheels and walk on wooden clogs or bare feet
  • Returning soldiers in terrible shape straggle back. Mother is insulted and ‘LittleOne’ is bullied when the British Tommies come. They apologize; an officer comes for tea
  • The refugee flood escaping to the “free” north peaks after the Russians invade on the eastern front and Berlin falls
  • Residents revert to the churning, grinding, foraging and clothes-making methods of feudal and primitive ancestors
  • Shops are empty and money is worthless until the currency reform in 1948
  • Authorities cram two more families into their house. Everyone is malnourished. Diseases and intestinal parasites spread. They are inoculated at a clinic.

I have read this book three times and can highly recommend it. Each time I learned something new and appreciated Henson’s literary talents more. I hope it will be made into a movie because, with all the human interest and minute details recalled by Henson, the director has half of his or her work already done expertly.

http://www.margaretvirany.com   http://www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany

pinocchiofizaGetting children to read classic books, even hilarious ones like Pinocchio, is not always easy but the stakes couldn’t be higher. They’re our best bet for ever achieving our dreams for self-realization, rebirth, peace, redemption and goodwill to all mankind. A good boy was what Geppetto was trying to carve out of his outrageously impossible, willful puppet. What classic books come to tell us is that the paradise-on-earth we dream of is never easy but can always happen. With more than ever readers, available books, gift-giving grandparents, creative teachers, informed parents and technological tools, we should be able to progress: – the Gutenberg Project offers free e-book versions of all books in print – you can download excerpts from movies of classics on devices; e.g. a mother I know used  Frozen (from a Hans Christen Andersen story) to organize a birthday party – a variety of audiovisual resources can be used in classrooms to stimulate interest pathanChampioning the cause is the beautiful, brave Fiza Pathan, a perceptive, passionate, young teacher and author who says she was “born to read”. She has just written How We Can Encourage Children to Read the Classics as a sequel to her bestseller, Why We Should Encourage Children to Read the Classics. An appendix and index tie her second book to her first for easy reference.She also portrays the poverty of her native Mumbia, India in a powerful novella about Nirmala the Mud Blossom, a tragic slum girl whose parents punish and beat her for reading After reading Pathan’s first book, I accepted her challenge of reading a classic a week. Luckily, I uploaded the original unabridged, illustrated version of my childhood favorite, Pinocchio. I was stunned to find out it’s about much more than your nose growing long if you lie. It is a nightmarish, heartrending, fantastical tale that veers in and out of life and death via sea monsters, evil deceivers, whippings, starvation, cold, burning, hanging and metamorphosis into a donkey’s body before the hero stops being other people’s puppet, realizes how much he loves his father (plus his conscience and good fairy) and how right they were. Chicago would have no gang and delinquency problems if all adults read this book to their children when young, and the child reread it in the unabridged version when older. Pathan’s two 100-page handbooks, based on her own experiences, should be bought by anyone who has anything to do with kids. The sequel contains tips, approaches, methods, book lists, quizzes, puzzles and insight to help you and yours get over the barriers that stand in the way of making reading the classics a habit you will love. Pathan spent hours in a school library in early childhood instead of with a babysitter. The librarian helped her select which books she wanted and they became her best friends. Today she is familiar with a huge number of books, continues to be an avid reader of contemporary as well as classic books and has acquired a sizable collection which she loans out to children. Some of the 10 pointers are for teachers and some for parents. Others apply in the classroom, library, group, one-to-one, home or other settings.

How to Use Pathan’s Handbooks to Encourage the Success of Children You Know

1. Find quotes to motivate yourself, remind yourself of the names and authors of time-honored books, refresh yourself on the difference between classics and other books and keep your mind clear about why this is important. 2. Have fun, educate and inform yourself by doing the puzzles and quizzes. 3. Be alert to small strategies, such as placing stacks of modern books and classics on different tables or corners of the room. 4. Develop the traits, patience, skills, persistence and loving approach you will need to successfully introduce a child to one, first classic you sense will suit them. 5. Use your imagination and resourcefulness to adapt and expand on Pathan’s advice with your own ideas. 6. Assess her observations that by reading classics a student gains descriptive powers, logical thinking, scientific skills, knowledge of history, philosophy, morals, better all-round performance, creative skills, compassion and empathy. 7. (Teachers) Try out her basic, direct classroom methods of showing a movie first, reading snippets in class, doing quizzes and having the students read a classic as a study-room or exam-writing break. Different children learn in different ways. 8. (Teachers) Also use her indirect classroom techniques such as PowerPoints, having the children make charts and do research, giving them roles to act out the books as plays. Teacher or parent can prepare and give a talk on the importance of reading the classics. 9.(Parents) She describes how she works with parents in her private tutoring classes and book club for children and wants to do more. Reading stories (abridged classics) out loud to young children is basic. Reading books conspicuously in front of older children sets an example and arouses curiosity. 10. Support school initiatives such as rapid reading, holiday reading, using excerpts from classics in comprehension classes, creating school libraries and classroom bookshelves. If your school has ‘value education’ or ‘moral science education’ classes, as in India, material from the classics could be part of the resources. Fiza Pathan has taken on a huge task. To help her campaign snowball or to buy her books, contact her at www.insaneowl.com, or www.amazon.com/author/fizapathan. If you have comments or ideas to share, I’d be delighted to get them and pass them on. Thank you for dropping by. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertain. Topics vary from how to build a canoe to how my mom moved from “prince to preacher and fog to bog” as a war bride after world war one. We pass on writing advice by word and example. Find out more about A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, Kathleen’s Cariole Ride and Eating at Church  by clicking here.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

fican encourage