Hunger Games – Victorian Style

By Chris Abouzeid

I have a confession to make:  I’m addicted to Victorian “hunger games.”  No, I’m not talking about some new infestation of bastardized romance novels, like Pride and Prejudice and Decapitation or Sense and Sensibility and Swordplay. And I’m not referring to little known versions of Jane Austen or Charlotte Brontë novels where the heroines are marooned on an island and must eat raw monkey hearts and build canoes out of coconut trees before they can meet the man of their dreams.  (Though that would be a fun read, wouldn’t it?)

I’m talking about the recent wave of Young Adult books featuring Victorian girls and women who live on their own, run their own businesses, disguise themselves as gentlemen or sailors or errand boys, have adventures that would make most Victorian men wet their trousers, and defeat the bad guys time and time again. I’m talking about a particular type of hunger and a particular manner of survival in a time that was far too particular about what women could or could not want.

Read more

On Reading: Books My Kids Found For Me

By Kathy Crowley

Although it can be hard to remember mid-tantrum (or mid-eyeroll depending where you are in the parenting adventure), there are an awful lot of great things about having kids.  There’s the big deep heavy stuff (e.g. realizing what your own parents did for you, feeling more responsible for the state of the world because it’s being passed along to people you actually know), the driving biological piece (can you hear those selfish genes screaming between chest bumps, “YES. We are STILL in the game!”), and then… the little stuff.  Like peanut butter.  What ever came between us? Maybe it was that falling out in college over grams of sugar and saturated fat.  Or books.  Books I loved and love to read to my kids, books I somehow missed, and new books that I would never have even tried if I didn’t have children.

For example, A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck.  If you haven’t read it, don’t wait for your kids to turn you onto it.  Just get thee to a library (or your local  bookstore) now.  Set in the depression, A Long Way from Chicago tells the story of two children sent to spend the summer with their grandmother in rural Illinois.  Grandma Dowdel, as she is known, is one of the greatest literary creations I’ve ever come across – fierce, cantankerous, large in every sense of the word. At first she seems to be a scary force of nature, but as the book — and its sequel, A Year Down Yonder — move along, it becomes clear that she is also a force of compassion and justice.

Read more