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Posts Tagged ‘Classics’

Pride and PrejudicePride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
ISBN: 9780141439518
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Date of Publication: 2002 (Originally Published in 1813)

Reader’s Annotation:
Elizabeth Bennet struggles with balancing the needs of her family when a new neighbor moves near the Bennet’s family home.

Plot Summary:
Elizabeth Bennet is the second-oldest daughter of the Bennet household. Her older sister is named Jane and she has three younger sisters; Mary, Catherine “Kitty” and Lydia. Jane and Elizabeth are the more mature sisters, while Kitty and Lydia enjoy their immaturity. Mary is the quiet one, preferring to study instead.

Mr. Bennet, the father of the girls, has a dry-wit and enjoys irritating his wife. Mrs. Bennet is an excitable woman whose only focus is successfully marrying her daughters off to single eligible men. She often pushes potential relationships at the expense of her daughters’ humility, creating more trouble than success. Her reasons for her actions do lie in necessity. Mr. Bennet has no male heirs and the house will go to his nephew, Mr. Collins, when he dies. The girls will be left with nothing.

As the story begins, news of the Bennet’s new neighbor have reached the household. Mrs. Bennet is excited in that Mr. Bingley is wealthy and single. When the Bennet household meets Mr. Bingley, he becomes instantly smitten with Jane, and she with him. During this first encounter, the Bennet family meets a friend of Mr. Bingly, a wealthier young man by the name of Mr. Darcy. A quiet, proud man, Mr. Darcy insults Elizabeth in their first meeting, leading her to have a harsh opinion of his character. At the same time, a regiment of soldiers have settled in the area. Elizabeth befriends one of the soldiers who has a past connection with Mr. Darcy.

From these different meetings, miscommunication and misunderstanding begin to emerge and all parties involved find themselves to be in a fine mess of their own doing. But who is right and who is wrong? And what does it mean for the Bennet sisters?

Critical Evaluation:
Jane Austen’s classic about misunderstandings continues to be an influence on modern literature and modern popular culture. Many romantic comedies continue to use the format, most famously Bridget Jones Diary which was an adaption of Austen’s material. Austen’s ability to observe and comment on the absurdity of class situations and the needs of society provide for witty dialogue that readers will enjoy.

The story remains interesting in that it highlights how unsure the concepts of love can be for those experience the feelings for the first time. As the characters come from a time in which physical contact in improper situations can create scandal, the power of a mere handshake can create disjointed feelings within each party. Combine this confusion with the issues of social class (only being able to marry within your economic ranking) and wealth (seeking a marriage partner that will lead to a lifetime of welfare comfort), it’s no wonder that Darcy and Elizabeth were left in a confusing state for the majority of the novel.

The issue of marriage is an interesting one for modern readers in that it again mirrors our modern times. How much pressure is there for young girls to marry, even in this more feminist driven society. Female self-worth is deemed by beauty and the success of a relationship. The question of “Do you have a boyfriend” are asked to single girls and they are looked upon as hopeless if they fail to marry. While this has slowly changed throughout the decades since Austen’s time, there is still an emphasis on the value of a woman based on her ability to marry and reproduce. The important lesson of Austen’s novel is that Elizabeth still chooses to be with who she wants to be with. She has a choice and it leads her to happiness. And that’s an important lesson to remember, no matter what era you live in.

Information about the Author:
From Jane Austen’s Wikipedia Page, born in Hampshire, England in 1775, Austen left very little information about herself due to her desire for privacy after her death in 1817. Her sister Cassandra fulfilled her sister’s wishes and burned a majority of Austen’s letters.

From what has been ascertained about Austen’s life is that Austen was born in a large family to a father who was a rector. Austen began to write at an early age and eventually published her first full novel in 1911. Austen wrote six books, with some work unfinished. She died at the age of 41 due to illness that had lingered in her body for over a year.

Genre:
Romance, Classics

Curriculum Ties:
English Literature

Booktalking Ideas:
Has your mom ever done something to embarrass you?
How important is a first impression?
Reading Level/Interest Age:
14 and up

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
I’ve recently have become addicted to a YouTube series produced by Hank Green, John Green’s brother. The series is called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. It’s a video blog about Lizzie Bennet and how she copes with her parents, her sisters Jane and Lydia, and the strange boy she’s just meet, William Darcy.

The series is a modern adaptation of a classic using a format rarely used for this type of storytelling. The series is compelling and fun. Fans of the show are looking towards the original material to compare and discovering the joy that is Jane Austen’s words.

YouTube: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
Tumblr: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Reference:
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Jane Austen. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Austen

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Jane-by-April-Lindner-Book-Cover

Jane
By April Lindner
ISBN: 9780316084192
Publisher: Poppy, an imprint of Hachette Book Group
Date of Publication: 2010

Reader’s Annotation:
Forced to find work after her parent’s death, Jane Moore becomes a nanny for the daughter of Nico Rathburn, world famous rock star.

Plot Summary:
When a tragic car accident kills Jane Moore’s parents, she’s left with nothing. With no money to pay for college, Jane begins to look for work. Her luck improves when she’s hired as a nanny for a young girl named Madeline. Her father is the famous rock star Nico Rathburn.

When Jane arrives at the Rathburn mansion, Thornfield Park, she is unprepared for the beauty and size of her new home. As she learns to adapt to her new life and surroundings, Jane begins to hope that one day she can go back and finish her degree. This desire changes when Nico returns from his latest tour, sending Jane into a fit of unexplained emotions. As Jane and Nico become closer, strange sounds begin to linger in the mansion; strange things that happen in the dead of the night. And soon Jane discovers that secrets have a way of rarely staying hidden.

Critical Evaluation:
April Lindner’s modern adaption of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is a treat to read, especially for those readers who are fans of costume dramas. While Jane Moore might not have the harsh background that Jane Eyre experienced in her youth, there are still similarities that still lead the modern Jane to Thornfield with equal parts sadness and excitement. Modern Jane is described as plain like original Jane but still posses the previous incarnation’s desire to be from their forced situations.

Nico Rathburn is a lovely substitute for Mr. Rochester. The use of rock star mythology fits with Rochester’s own questionable background in that it allows the character to be mysterious and distant while still pulling us readers, unknowingly, into his fiery personality. The other cast of characters have been tweaked to fit the modern age, but the original spirit still remains.

The story is entertaining and well-written. Fans of the book, intrigued by the plot, might be better served seeking the original version. The original version still packs more of a punch mostly due to the gender inequality of Bronte’s time. While modern Jane still is hindered by her low self-confidence, her strength in finding her voice isn’t as strong as Original Jane’s journey. The impact of Jane and Nico’s reunion does feel like a checkpoint of the Bronte plot, though Linder still provides a great ending for those who might not be familiar with the original material. Linder’s adaption is a great gateway novel for readers to explore the classics.

Jane Eyre

Information about the Author:
From April Lindner’s Webpage, Linder is a professor of English at St. Joseph’s University. Lindner originally intended to major in art at the University of New Hampshire. She met her husband at said University. They currently live in Philadelphia area.

Lindner is also a poet and has had a collection published. She recently returned to the world of the Bronte sisters with a modern adaption of Wuthering Heights called Catherine. Lindner is currently working on a adaption of Charlotte Bronte’s Villette, called Lucy.

April Lindner on Twitter

Genre:
Romance, Modern Adaptation

Curriculum Ties:
English Literature (Adaptation of Classics)

Booktalking Ideas:
What would it be like to work with someone famous?
Have you ever wanted to escape from a relationship?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews gives a suggested age range of 15-18.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential Issues would include language and sexual situations.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
Having been a fan of the original book, I was wary of this new version. I was surprised to find I enjoyed it. The book is a great way to introduce a wonderful classic to those readers who might be reluctant to read classic literature.

References:
Kirkus Reviews. (2010). Jane by April Lindner. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/april-lindner/jane-lindner/
Linder, A. (n.d.). About Me. Retrieved from http://www.aprillindner.com/about

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I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip
By John Donovan
ISBN: 9780738721347
Publisher: Harper & Row (Flux for the reprint edition)
Date of Publication: 1969

Reader’s Annotation:
After the death of his grandmother, Davy adjusts to his new life with his mother in New York City.

Plot Summary:
Davy’s grandmother has just died, leaving Davy and his dachshund Fred, without a home. Eventually his mother takes Davy and Fred back to New York City, enrolling him in a private school. Davy is unsure about his future and the path of his new life. Davy’s mother is happier at a party with a cocktail in hand. Davy’s father has a new girlfriend who connects better with Davy than his own mother.

When Davy enters his new school, he meets Douglas Altschuler, a competitive jock who slowly becomes Davy’s friend. As the boys grow closer, a question begins to form in Davy’s mind: Why do I care so much about this boy? Breaking through the taboo topic of homosexuality, John Donovan’s landmark novel is the story of what it means to grow up and to become an adult in a already confusing world.

Critical Evaluation:
John Donavon’s tale of friendship and maturity is a quick but interesting read. At times the story seems too simple in that Davy’s voice is more childlike instead of a young teen’s voice. As the novel progresses, the first-person voice improves, highlighting Davy’s entrance into maturity.

In regards to the sexuality of the book, the homosexuality act between Davy and Douglas is conducted off the page. From a 21st Century perspective, this seems too tame. Yet, to even suggest such an act, especially in Young Adult fiction, would have been an incredible risk in the late 1960s. Donavon almost treats it like an afterthought. The parental reactions are a true reflection of their characters and it would have been surprising if the parents had acted differently.

Donovan’s themes of childhood maturity doesn’t just stem from sexual identity but from family situations. Davy acknowledges that his life was better because of his grandmother and that his parents will never achieve that inspirational status. One might question why Davy was placed in the care of his grandmother but it becomes apparent with Davy’s interactions with his parents that his brief encounter with his grandmother was a blessing. Towards the end of the novel, it’s clear that Davy was actually better off without either of them, which is why Davy’s maturity will be stronger than he could imagine.

While the book is not primarily focused on LGBT issues, it’s still a great book to suggest to a young LGBT audience. Audiences might feel a connection with Davy’s confusion and gain an understanding of the history of LGBT issues.

Information about the Author:
From his Obituary in the New York Times, John Donovan was a graduate of  the College of William and Mary. He gained his law degree from the Univeristy of Virginia and worked with the Library of Congress in their Copyright Office.

He served as the executive director of the Children’s Book Council. He was the author of four books and two short plays. He died in 1992 at the age of 63.

Genre:
Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Family Relationships, Sexual Identity

Booktalking Ideas:
Who do you turn to when you need to talk to someone?
Is there a place you like to escape to when everything becomes overwhelming?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
14 and up

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential issues would include homosexuality, substance abuse, and poor family relationships.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
This was the first book that addressed homosexuality in a neutral fashion. This would be a great addition to any teen seeking advice about their sexuality identity.

Reference:
New York Times. (1992). Obituaries: John Dovovan, 63; Wrote, Books and Plays. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1992/05/01/obituaries/john-donovan-63-wrote-books-and-plays.html

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The Outsiders
By S.E. Hinton
ISBN: 9780143039857
Publisher: Penguin Books (First Published with Viking Press)
Date of Publication: 1967

Reader’s Annotation:
Ponyboy Curtis, a Greaser, finds himself in trouble after an attack from a Soc.

Plot Summary:
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, there are two sides, two types of people; the Socs who are the rich kids and the Greasers who struggle to make ends meet. Ponyboy Curtis is a one of the greasers. With his parents dead due to a tragic car accident, Ponyboy’s older brothers, Sodapop and Darry, work hard to support the family while pushing Ponyboy to finish school. Ponyboy sometimes resents that he’s forced to focus on school, never understanding the sacrifices his brothers have made to support his eduction.

Ponyboy’s best friend is Johnny, a boy who has suffered too much violence in his young life. Together, Ponyboy and Johnny make up the younger part of their Greaser group, alongside their reckless friend Dallas, Two-Bit and Steve. One night Ponyboy meets Cherry Valance, a doc who helps Ponyboy to break down the ideal barriers of the Greasers versus Soc mentality. That same night, Ponyboy and Johnny face-off with Cherry’s boyfriend, Bob. What happens from that encounter changes everything for Ponyboy and he must face the consequences of that night and the actions that followed. In the end, Ponyboy discovers what it means to have a label and that a family is what we have when we stand by the ones we love.

Critical Evaluation:
S.E. Hinton’s tale of different social classes have stood the test of time mostly because Hinton wrote from personal experience. Hinton felt that her generation wasn’t being portrayed honestly in Young Adult fiction and set out to tell the truth about her life.

This is a a story about social struggle and how being a teenager doesn’t change that struggle but sometimes makes it worse. Ponyboy knows that his life isn’t ideal and as a teenager, his voice is constantly ignored by those who have his “best interest” at heart. But like millions of teenagers across the globe, Ponyboy feels misunderstood and begins to find his voice in the midst of all the confusion.

Ponyboy’s relations to the social class scheme is an important lesson for readers in that it shows the world is not fair and never will be. What’s important is that a connection is formed with friends and family that will last a lifetime. That support is important in that it shows it’s not easy to go through life alone. An example of this would be in the action of Dallas, who suffers for being a loner, despite his varied personal connections.

The story still resonates with Young Adult readers in that the concepts of alienation and social class remain prevalent, even more so in this ultra-connected society.

The A.V. Club on The Outsiders

Information about the Author:
From S.E. Hinton’s Webpage, Hinton first published The Outsiders as a response to lackluster teen novels that had been published in the 1950s and 1960s. Being a teenager herself, Hinton wanted to present a story in which a reader would understand the real issues that faced teenagers.

After the publication of The Outsiders, Hinton found that she was experienced writer’s blog and didn’t write anything new for three years. Luckily, her future husband encouraged writing bits at a time until she eventually finished the book That Was Then, This is Now. Hinton continued to write Young Adult literature, growing in strength as a writer. She has also written the adult novel, Hawkes Harbor.

S.E. Hinton’s Webpage

Genre:
Realistic Fiction, Family Relationships

Curriculum Ties:
Drama, Classic American Literature

Booktalking Ideas:
What would you do for your family?
What would you do for your friends, if they were threatened?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
As the book was written when Hinton was in her teens, the book has an intended audience of such. Recommended age range would be 15 and up.

Challenging Issues:
The Outsiders is a frequently challenged and banned book. Complaints against the book cite gang violence and obscenities as some of the reasons. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged again in the future.

Why did I include this book in the titles selection?
This book pushed the boundaries of what teens read in the 1960s. The story still resonates with teen and adult readers. While there are some faults with the narration of the story, the themes of alienation and family/friend connections are issues that teens continue to face. This is a book about teens, written by a teen for teens.
Reference:
Hinton, S.E. (n.d.). Biography. Retrieved from http://www.sehinton.com/bio.html

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