Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Little City of Hope  -  1907
F. Marion Crawford
214 pages
genre  -  General Fiction, Christmas
my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

John Henry Overholt is an inventor. His first invention was considered very successful, and John Henry is now working an a new idea, an 'air-motor'.

Quite a bit a money has already been invested, with the 'air-motor' no where near completion. John Henry is running out of money, time and hope.

John Henry and their 13-year-old son, Newton, are staying in a run-down house in Connecticut while he works on this new invention. And on the theory that two can live cheaper than three, Mrs. Overholt has taken a job as a governess and is with that family in Germany.

I love the names of the nine chapters:

I.   How John Henry Overholt Sat on Pandora's Box
II.  How a Man and a Boy Founded the Little City of Hope
III.  How They Made Bricks Without Straw
IV.  How There Was a Famine in the City
V.  How the City Was Besieged and the Lid of Pandora's Box Came Off
VI.  How a Small Boy Did a Big Thing and Nailed Down the Lid of the Box
VII.  How a Little Woman Did a great Deed to Save the City
VIII.  How the Wheels Went Round at Last
IX.  How the King of Hearts Made a Feast in the City of Hope

The title of the story refers to a model of the town that Newton is building. "It was entirely made of bits of cardboard, chips of wood, the sides of match-boxes, and odds and ends of all sorts..." Or maybe the title could signify the Overholt family and their little circle of support and love. A wonderful story full of perseverance and sacrifice.

About the Author  -

Francis Marion Crawford was born on August 2, 1854, in Bagni di Lucca, Italy, the only son of the American sculptor Thomas Crawford and Louisa Cutler Ward. He studied successively at St Paul's School, Concord, New Hampshire; Cambridge University; University of Heidelberg; and the University of Rome.

In 1879 he went to India, where he studied Sanskrit and edited in Allahabad The Indian Herald. Returning to America in February 1881, he continued to study Sanskrit at Harvard University for a year and for two years contributed to various periodicals, mainly The Critic.

In December 1882 he produced his first novel, Mr. Isaacs, a brilliant sketch of modern Anglo-Indian life mingled with a touch of Oriental mystery. This book had an immediate success, and its author's promise was confirmed by the publication of Dr. Claudius (1883).

In May 1883 he returned to Italy, where he made his permanent home.  In October 1884 he married Elizabeth Berdan, the daughter of the American Civil War Union Gen. Hiram Berdan. They had two sons and two daughters.

Crawford died on April 9, 1909 at home in Sant' Agnello, Italy of a heart attack.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Bells  - 1863
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
7 stanzas, 35 lines
genre  -  poetry
my rating  - 4 out of 5 stars

I have sung this hymn at Church every December for as long as I can remember.  I didn't realize until today that there were two stanzas missing.

See if you recognize the song by those missing lines:

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
          And with the sound
          The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
          And made forlorn
          The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

During the American Civil War, Longfellow's oldest son Charles Appleton Longfellow joined the Union cause as a soldier without his father's blessing. Longfellow was informed by a letter dated March 14, 1863, after Charles had left. "I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave but I cannot any longer".

Charles was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church (in Virginia) during the Mine Run Campaign. Coupled with the recent loss of his wife Frances, who died as a result of an accidental fire, Longfellow was inspired to write "Christmas Bells".

It's nice to hear 'the rest of the story'.  While I really liked the hymn, and could relate to the words, it always seemed as if the 4th verse of the song came out of nowhere.  Now I understand.  And we are promised "The Wrong will fail, the Right prevail."

About the author  - 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on February 27, 1807, to Stephen and Zilpah (Wadsworth) Longfellow.  He was the second of eight children. 

In the fall of 1822, Longfellow enrolled at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. His grandfather was a founder of the college. There, Longfellow met Nathaniel Hawthorne, who would later become his lifelong friend.

After graduating in 1825, he was offered a job as professor of modern languages at Bowdoin.  He accepted the position after traveling abroad for several years. 

On September 14, 1831, Longfellow married Mary Storer Potter, a childhood friend from Portland. In October 1835, Mary had a miscarriage about six months into her pregnancy. She did not recover and died after several weeks of illness.

In 1836, Longfellow took up a professorship at Harvard. 

In 1839, Longfellow began courting Frances "Fanny" Appleton.  On May 10, 1843, after seven years, Longfellow received a letter from Fanny Appleton agreeing to marry him. They were soon married. They had six children.

In March 1882, Longfellow went to bed with severe stomach pain. He endured the pain for several days with the help of opium before he died surrounded by family on Friday, March 24, 1882.  He is buried with both of his wives at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Colonel Crockett's Co-operative Christmas  -  1906
Rupert Hughes
66 pages
genre  - Humor, Christmas
my rating  - 4 out of 5 stars

If you were away from your family on Christmas Day, what would you do?

Well, the first year this happened to Colonel D. Austen Crockett, he moped around feeling sorry for himself. In his own words, it was "the miserablest night I ever spent in all my born days".

But the next year when it happens again, Colonel Crockett comes up with a very clever idea.

This short story is actually two letters from Colonel Crockett's to his wife with a commentary from an 'editor' in-between the letters.

I loved reading the Texan slang, and I'm purdy sure there was some exaggeration somewheres, especially when Col. Crockett reports that "the fire department was called and played the hose on the crowd. This thinned 'em off a bit on the outsquirts". 

The first time I read this, it was just an ebook I got from Amazon.  I really enjoyed it, and told my family all about it.  Then my husband found a pdf version, which included all the wonderful pictures in colors.  If you decide to read this book, I highly suggest you take the time to find a copy with the illustrations.  Each page of the book has a border with drawings inside, and then there are six pictures.

About the Author  -

Rupert Hughes was born on January 31, 1872 in Lancaster, Missouri. Rupert spent his early years there until age seven when the family moved to Keokuk, Iowa. He was the brother of Howard R. Hughes, Sr. and uncle of billionaire Howard R. Hughes, Jr.

After receiving his basic public education in Keokuk and at a private military academy near St. Charles, Missouri, Hughes attended Adelbert College in Ohio. Hughes later attended Yale University, earning a second degree in 1899.

Hughes worked at various times as a reporter for the New York Journal and editor for various magazines including Current Literature, all the while continuing to write short stories, poetry, and plays.

Some of Rupert Hughes most notable early writing involved music. Hughes was a musician and composed several songs including ones for his first venture as a playwright, the musical comedy The Bathing Girl (1895).

Hughes was married three times: Agnes Wheeler Hedge in 1893 (ended in divorce in 1903), Adelaide Bissell in 1908 (she died in 1923), Elizabeth Patterson Dial in 1924.

Rupert Hughes health began to fail in the late 1940s, leading to a non-fatal stroke in 1953. He suffered a fatal heart attack while working at his desk on September 9, 1956.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Miss Santa Claus of the Pullman  -  1913
Annie Fellows Johnston
196 pages
genre - Young Adult, Christmas
my rating  -  3 out of 5 stars

William (age 4) and his sister Libby (age 7) have been living with Grandma Neal in Junction.  Their mother "went off to heaven" a couple of years ago and Papa has been too busy to care for them. 

But now Papa has married and the children will be traveling to the city to join their father and stepmother on the train that goes through their town at least once a day. 

The journey was made extra exciting when the train makes a special stop to pick up a young lady.  "She was not more than sixteen...her hair was tucked up under her little fur cap with its scarlet quill, and the long, fur-bordered red coat she wore, reached her ankles. One hand was thrust through a row of holly wreaths, and she was carrying all the bundles both arms could carry."

Miss Santa Claus!  And she tells them a secret: "You must always get the right kind of start. It's like hooking up a dress, you know. If you start crooked it will keep on being crooked all the way down to the bottom..."

I really enjoyed reading this story.  It keep my attention the whole way through.  I could tell that the book was meant to inspire certain virtues in children, but the promptings were subtle enough not be annoying.

About the author  -

Born on May 15, 1863, Annie Julia Fellows grew up on a farm in McCutchanville, Indiana.  Her father, who was a Methodist minister, died when she was only two, but left his influences through his theological books. 

Annie began writing as a girl, producing poems and stories.  She was known to have read every book in her Sunday school library.  She attended district school, and taught a year when she was seventeen.  

Annie attended the University of Iowa for one year (1881-82), then returned to Indiana to teach for three years, and later to work as a private secretary.  She traveled for several months through New England and Europe.

When she returned, Annie married William L. Johnston (a cousin and a widower with three young children.)  He encouraged her to write, and she began contributing stories to periodicals.  William died in 1892, leaving Annie a widow with his children to support.  It was at that time that Annie began her career as a writer.

Johnston wrote The Little Colonel in 1895, and it quickly became a success.  Twelve more volumes of the Little Colonel series would appear over the next thirty years

In 1910, Johnston moved to Pewee Valley, Kentucky, and lived there until her death on Oct. 5, 1931.