A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Birthday greetings to First Lady Michelle Obama and heavy-weight boxing champion Muhammad Ali.
- Itâ€™s the birth date of John Bellairs (1938â€“1991), The House With a Clock in Its Walls, Robert Cormier (1925â€“2000) The Chocolate War, A.B. Frost (1851â€“1928) Stuff and Nonsense.
- Benjamin Franklin (1706â€“1790) and Al Capone (1899Â¬1947) were both born on this day. Read Ben and Me by Robert Lawson, and Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko.
- Itâ€™s Hunt for Happiness Week (Jan 17â€“23 this year) created by the Secret Society of Happy People. Read The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt.
January has been designated Book Blitz Month, a great time Â to indulge in the books of your favorite author. For me the perfect author to pick up in January during the long, cold New England nights, would be Eva Ibbotson. She wrote so many different kinds of booksâ€”all of them combining literary excellence with child appeal.
The Star of Kazan, ideal for fourth to seventh graders, has been set in Vienna, Austria, in the early 1900s. A love of all things Vienneseâ€”from the beauty and richness of the city to its exquisite pastriesâ€”permeates the narrative. As the story opens a foundling left in a church is discovered by two tourists named Ellie and Sigrid. Although they try to drop the baby off at a convent, a typhus outbreak causes them to bring the girl to live with them in a house where they provide cleaning and cooking services for three professors. There Annika grows up, a delightful child who loves cooking and learns to be useful in service. On her birthday the professors take Annika to special places; at one point she gets to see a performance of the royal Lipizzaner horses. When neighbors take in an impoverished great aunt, Annika cares for the old woman, spending time with her and learning her story. When the woman dies, she leaves all her possessions to Annika, stored in an old chest that Annika believes to be filled with costume jewelry.
But the chest contains a great deal more than mere paste diamonds. Suddenly Annikaâ€™s â€ślong lost motherâ€ť shows up and takes her to a run-down and decrepit ancestral home. The family is only one step ahead of the bill collectors and do not have enough money to eat well, but they have a planâ€”one that involves Annika and her trunk! As in all the Ibbotson books, readers need not worry about the final outcome; Ibbotson always admitted to being a â€śhappy ending freak.â€ť But The Star of Kazanâ€”with orphans, jewels, scheming aristocrats, and a gypsy boy with a talent for training horsesâ€”keeps readers happily engaged for over 400 pages. If Wilkie Collinsâ€™s The Moonstone had been written for children, it might read a great deal like The Star of Kazan.
Happy Book Blitz Month. I hope that you are able to pick up titles as fabulous as The Star of Kazan.
Hereâ€™s a passage from The Star of Kazan:
At first Annika did not like the sound they made; it was so different from the lilting Viennese waltzes she was used to. This music attacked you; it was fierce and angryâ€¦at least it was at first. She listened to it with clenched hands. Then suddenly one of the fiddlers stepped forward and played a melody that soared and wreathed and fastened itself round the heart â€“ a sad tune that sounded as if it was gathering up all the unhappiness in the world â€“ and then the other musicians joined in again, and it was as though the sadness had been set free. The music was no long about life being sad and lonely. It was about life being difficult, but also exciting and surprising and sublime.
Originally posted January 17, 2012. Updated for .