Nostalgia Reads: Shel Silverstein

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer . . .
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh] – noun:

A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

You may recognize these lines from Shel Silverstein’s classic Where the Sidewalk Ends. One of the clear memories I have of visiting the school library when I was very young is wanting to get my hands on Silverstein’s books. They had all these weird drawings and silly words and so many rhymes! I recall that oftentimes they were checked out, but when they weren’t, my friends and I would gather around and giggle over poem after nonsensical poem.

I’m not really one for poetry, but to this day I enjoy his work and it still makes me chuckle. I have a few of his books in my personal library and they’re wonderful for a trip down memory lane, as well as a few laughs. April was National Poetry Month and the Read to a Child program I volunteer with brought out some of Shel’s books – I was so excited! I snagged A Light in the Attic and was ready to dive in with my little reader, but to my (extreme) disappointment, he wouldn’t even give Shel a chance. No way did he want me to read anything from that book to him!

Like many great writers, it seems that Shel was rejected for years. Many publishers found his book, The Giving Tree, moving and beautiful, but feared it wouldn’t sell because it might be too sad, or it wasn’t quite appropriate for children or adults. I’m so glad that he was finally given the chance to put his work out into the world! I’ve learned from browsing his website that Shel was not only a writer, but a musician as well. He even won a grammy for his album for Where the Sidewalk Ends. I don’t remember if we ever listened to his work when I was in school, but part of me feels like we might have.

Silverstein has inspired countless creations across various forms of media, such as more poetry and art, jewelry with quotes, quilts, writers blocks (yes, actual blocks!), pins, notebooks and even candles! I’m sure I tried my hand at a few silly poems after reading his work as a kid.

I love that Shel’s work can be serious and sad as well as whimsical and humorous – for those kids out there who look for a touch of something different, his work is refreshing. If you’ve never read his work, I highly suggest picking up and of his books, but I personally love these four, as they’re the ones I read most as a child:

Do you have a favorite Silverstein book or poem?

All artwork used is from Shel’s website. For games and puzzles, activity kits, book information, and some tidbits from Shel’s life, I recommend you check it out!

Nostalgia Reads: Goosebumps

nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh] – noun:

A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.


Small bumps on your skin that are caused by cold, fear, or a sudden feeling of excitement.

As a child, reading R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps novels certainly gave me feelings of fear and excitement. I have no idea what the first Goosebumps novel I read was, but I recall having a pretty sizeable collection. I ate them up – creepy stories about regular kids, around my age, finding all sorts of horrible and magical misadventures. But I was safe at home, living through the adventures without having to run from demonic scarecrows or colorful beasts that wanted to play deadly games.

The internet tells me that in the span of 5 years, 62 Goosebumps books were published, the first being Welcome to the Dead House. I’m not sure how many of the original series I read, but I’m willing to be it was the majority of them.

His books even inspired me to create some fan art. I recall drawing several of the covers (the one with the scarecrow and the one with the snow man come to mind), but this is the only one I still have.

I’m not sure how old I was when I drew this, but honestly, at 28, I’m not sure I could draw a better hammerhead, or a better swimming boy. Not quite as creepy as the original, but I’m still pretty proud. I also loved to write stories as a child and many of them were pretty grim – I can’t help but think I was inspired by Stine.

There was a TV show as well, but I have to say, I never watched it. I was a fan of Are You Afraid of the Dark? and didn’t need a second creepy show. And of course, they recently made a movie about R.L. Stine and his creepy creations, but I haven’t given the film a chance either.

The internet (via Stine’s Twitter account) also tells me that Stine would come up with a book title before devising the plot of a book. I can especially imagine that with Say Cheese and Die – it sounds like something catchy someone thought up and then built a book around. He also says he started writing at the age of nine!

I’d love to dive into the Goosebumps series again and relive the cheesy fun from my childhood. Alas, I don’t own any of the originals anymore, but I do still have a couple books from the Fear Street series (geared more towards teens) and every few years I slip back into their familiar pages and I still enjoy both books.

Were you ever a fan of the Goosebumps series or any of the spin-offs? I recall a few choose your own adventure type books as well…

Nostalgia Reads: Blood and Chocolate

nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh] – noun:

A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause is a book I’ve been reading since middle school when I stumbled upon it in the teen section of my local library. I remember being pulled in first by the title, then by the alluring (and somewhat sexy) cover, and then finally hooked by the blurb – teen werewolves?! I’m in! I’ve always been more of a weregirl than a vampgirl. I loved the story when I was younger and I still love it today!

I totally want this edition.

“Vivian Gandillon relishes the change, the sweet, fierce ache that carries her from girl to wolf. At sixteen, she is beautiful and strong, and all the young wolves are on her tail. But Vivian still grieves for her dead father; her pack remains leaderless and in disarray, and she feels lost in the suburbs of Maryland. She longs for a normal life. But what is normal for a werewolf?

Then Vivian falls in love with a human, a meat-boy. Aiden is kind and gentle, a welcome relief from the squabbling pack. He’s fascinated by magic, and Vivian longs to reveal herself to him. Surely he would understand her and delight in the wonder of her dual nature, not fear her as an ordinary human would.

Vivian’s divided loyalties are strained further when a brutal murder threatens to expose the pack. Moving between two worlds, she does not seem to belong in either. What is she really–human or beast? Which tastes sweeter–blood or chocolate?”

I loved Vivian from the start – she’s vain, confident, utterly beautiful and powerful. But she learns humility throughout the story and that it’s not always easy to stand out from the pack. She struggles to balance the human parts of her life with her wolfish nature and she was somehow relatable to me (even though I was probably ten or eleven when I first read this book.) I still love Vivian now and I also love me some hunky werewolf action too (Gabriel! -swoon-) There’s just something familiar about the characters and I always found it easy to imagine myself in Vivian’s shoes (I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a hot weregirl?) and now I’ve read the book so many times that it all just feels like home.

There is (of course) a movie adaptation out there as well. It came out in 2007 from Lakeshore Entertainment, and I thought about watching it before writing this post, but then I read a description of the movie…

“Vivian is a nineteen-year-old werewolf born in Bucharest, Romania to American parents who then moved back to America. When Vivian was nine years old, her parents and two siblings were killed by two hunters who then proceeded to burn down their house. She then moved back to Bucharest to live with her aunt Astrid, who was the mate of the pack’s leader, Gabriel at that time. To Astrid’s distress, Gabriel left her after seven years in accordance with pack law to choose a new mate. The culmination of another seven years is only a few months away and Gabriel wants the reluctant Vivian as his.

This is not, however, what she wants. She begins a romance with a graphic novelist Aiden who is researching for his latest book. Though he is human, he knows much about her kind, the Loups-Garoux. Their romance is closely watched by her cousin Rafe and his friends. Believing that she is telling him all their secrets- as seen by a drawing he did of her and wolves because he knew her as “The Wolf Girl”- and may grow to be a danger to their pack, Rafe tells Gabriel of them. Gabriel then tells Rafe that Aiden must leave or he must be dealt with.”

This is already so off course from the book that I’m mad. I read the full description on Wikipedia and…just…UGH. They took the character names and the barest bones of the plot (Vivian is a werewolf who falls in love with a human and her pack doesn’t like it) and then ran away to Cheeseville so they could completely ruin a solid YA paranormal romance novel.

Some highlights from Rotten Tomatoes:

“Cheap special effects and banal dialogue rule.”

“Numbingly pedestrian.”

“So little happens in Blood and Chocolate that it almost serves as a cautionary tale about traveling to Romania – even if you’re a werewolf, you’re going to be sullen and boring.”

“There isn’t enough absinthe in all of Romania to obliterate the taste of this clunker.”

Because I’m a sucker for punishment, if it ever makes it to Netflix for free, I’ll watch it, but I won’t give a dime to see one of my favorite young adult books bastardized into a terrible movie.

At any rate, I still love the book, and you might too!

Nostalgia Reads: Island of the Blue Dolphins

nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh] – noun:

A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell is a middle grade novel written in 1960. It tells the tale of a young girl, Karana, stranded alone on an island and how she survives for years. The internet tells me it’s based on a true story about Juana Maria, a Native American who lived alone for 18 years on an island during the 19th century.

I’m not sure how young I was when I first read this book, but I would guess I was in fifth or sixth grade. I do remember that Mum recommended this book to me and I did not want to read it. I thought it would be boring. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it was because I was mostly interested in fantasy (and Goosebumps) and had yet to discover the joys of historical fiction. Why would I want to read something real?

But somehow she talked me into reading the book (or perhaps bribed me?) and I loved it. It made me cry then and during my re-read in the last year or so, it made me cry again. I sure do love books that move me to tears!

If you haven’t read this book, and you enjoy strong female characters and survival and natural elements (or if you know a stubborn little middle-schooler who will totally love this book even though they don’t realize it yet), I highly recommend it.

Over at Hello Giggles, Kerry Winfrey wrote a nice little appreciation post and touches on some of the appeal for young readers:

“Did the idea of hunting and gathering present an interesting juxtaposition to our lives full of Lunchables and Dunkaroos? I don’t know, but despite my meager survival skills, I still kind of thought I would rock at making arrowheads and identifying non-poisonous plants.”

Personally, I never had such delusions about my own survival skills – many camping trips with my family proved my inadequacy in the wild outdoors. But this book still appeals to me.

There’s a sequel to the book, Zia, which was published in 1976. Apparently it takes place after Karana is reunited with her people. I haven’t read it and likely won’t. Island of the Blue Dolphins is one of those rare books I’m satisfied with as a stand-alone. Other examples are Ender’s Game and Love Virtually. Sometimes I just like to have some questions unanswered or endings unresolved, you know?

There’s also a film adaptation from 1964, directed by James Clark. Personally I don’t recognize any of the cast: Celia Kaye, Larry Domasin, Ann Daniel, Carlos Romero, George Kennedy and Hal John Norman – but I’m not well versed in older films, so this will surprise no one. I might try to find the film and give that a go, but I have a feeling it just won’t capture the magic or the nostalgia that the novel holds for me.

My face when I realized I had no clue who anyone from the film cast was.

I don’t know if this book has a large following today, but I think if it’s not required reading in school, it should be!

Fabulous fanart by kelleybean86 on DeviantArt.

Any other fans of Karana out there? Let me know!

Nostalgia Watch: Jane Austen Movies

nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh] – noun:

A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

pic from google

Long before I was reading Jane Austen’s novels, I was watching films based on them. To be honest, I probably didn’t realize Sense and Sensibility was a novel the first time I watched the movie adaptation starring Alan Rickman. Alan Rickman was the sole reason I borrowed that movie from the library – well, actually, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet also had something to do with it, but Alan was the key factor in my interest.

pic from google

I mean, look at that sultry stare!

This film, directed by Ang Lee was released in 1995 with a screenplay by Emma Thompson (which is news to me!) Apparently it took Thompson five years to adapt the novel for the screen, but I think she did a wonderful job, and her writing won an Oscar, so I can’t be the only one to think that!

But I recall borrowing S&S from the library repeatedly (until some years later when I had my own copy on DVD) for my Alan and regency romance fix. I mean, who doesn’t love a helpless lady being carried through the rain by a hot man?

pic from google

Yes, I used to wish that was me.

After this, I moved on to the BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice (also from 1995) starring Colin Firth, because in high school my quest for hot (albeit older) British men was (and still is) unstoppable.

However, it turned out that the six part, five and a half hour (probably incredibly faithful) adaptation was not handsome enough to tempt me! *cough* I mean, it was boring. All Firth’s beauty couldn’t get me more than a few hours in. I hadn’t read the book yet and I think that’s part of what failed to keep my interest. I think I’ve attempted to watch it once since that first time and still never finished.

Mr. Darcy is grumpy because I’m missing out on the iconic lake scene, which is most certainly not in Miss Austen’s novel but is most certainly appreciated by female fans. Perhaps this month I’ll actually manage to watch this…

pic from google

It was some years later before I started my next round of Austen inspired films. This time, I actually read the book first: Bridget Jones’s Diary. Excellent book, by the way. And wouldn’t you know, the film has a couple of my old favorites, and no strangers to Austen films, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant!

Directed by Sharon Maguire, 2001

This film provided me with a more modern Darcy that I could really get behind. My memory is fuzzy, but I don’t think I’d read Pride and Prejudice yet, but this film did give me a good idea of what the plot contained. Now, having read the book, I know Bridget is not the modern adaptation of Lizzie Bennet, however she’s a more relatable character for viewers than a literal translation of the original.

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Me, in bed, watching Bridget Jones

I’m not sure how I discovered it, but Bride and Prejudice had me instantly interested. Still not sure if I’d read the novel at this point, but who wouldn’t love a Bollywood rendition of the classic?

pic from google

I’ll admit, I’ve never see another Bollywood film, so I’m not sure if this is at all true to the genre, but boy is this movie fun. I went right out and bought this on DVD too. This was released in 2004 and I wish I’d been able to see it in theaters.

Bright colors, song and dance, possibly the most obnoxious Mr. Collins type of all time, and another pretty sexy Darcy…what’s not to love?! Seriously, check it out.

pic from google

Now, I know I read Pride and Prejudice and solidified my love for Jane Austen before I found another great British min-series – Lost in Austen. This beauty is from 2008 and lets Darcy lovers watch their fantasy unfold when main character Amanda gets the chance to walk right into the world of Pride and Prejudice. She even makes Darcy recreate the infamous lake scene from Colin’s series (and now I’m really wondering why I haven’t dedicated six hours of my life to watching that…)!

pic from google

This movie was a fun spin on P&P especially because Amanda doesn’t just magically replace Lizzie, Lizzie jumps at the chance to explore the modern world.

pic from google

Next comes the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice which I was late to watch because I’m not a Knightley fan (I just think she’s bland and has a fish mouth, but she gets great roles!) and Darcy wasn’t an old British man. But I have to admit, they did a great job with the adaptation. They even put in a nice kissing in the rain scene (not in the book, but should be) and a kiss at the end as well (also not in the book and really should be!)

pic from google

He’s a bit young, but still a decent Darcy

Last, but not least in my Austen related film journey is Austenland – another fun adaptation from 2013. It’s also a book, on my TBR this month, but who knows if I’ll get to it?

pic from google

In this film, adorable Keri Russell pays to attend Austenland, a sort of interactive Austen lovers getaway, where you can immerse yourself in the world of her novels. Only Russell doesn’t have the cash that it takes to get the best package, so she’s treated much like one of Austen’s middle class heroines.

There’s plenty of cute guys in it too!

So tell me…

Any films here that you particularly enjoy? Or any cinematic Austen adaptations you think I’m missing out on?

Nostalgia Reads: Holiday Stories

nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh] – noun:
A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

Since it’s December I wanted to do a sort of holiday post – in reviewing my bookshelf, I realized there’s a lack of holiday-themed books, but I found a few cuties from my childhood to reminisce about.

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Nostalgia Reads: The Claidi Journals

nos·tal·gia [no-stal-juh] – noun:
A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

I decided to start another segment here to appreciate some of the books from my past that I love to re-read (or want to re-read). I know not everyone re-reads books, and I understand that because there are so many new books to read. But I do enjoy re-reading old favorites. I find certain books to be comforting, like visiting an old friend, and sometimes it’s nice to pick up something I know I’ll enjoy. In some cases, I’ve even picked up on details I never noticed, or maybe understood something better due to being older or having a different mindset than when I last read the book.

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