Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Little Women: Yet Another Movie Version Released

Last updated 7/6/2020.

Little Women

Louisa May Alcott

First Publication: 1868

Category: coming-of-age novel

Sales: 1 million


About the Book:

“Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters,” BN “united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War.” BN “Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy.” BN

Although Little Women is set in a very particular place and time in American history, the characters and their relationships have touched generations of readers and still are beloved.” LC “Far from being the ‘girl’s book’ her publisher requested, it explores such timeless themes as love and death, war and peace, the conflict between personal ambition and family responsibilities, and the clash of cultures between Europe and America.” BN

“The novel is a classic coming of age story which follows the development of the young women into adulthood.” AZ “Central to the theme of the novel is the issue of overcoming one’s character flaws. For Meg it is vanity; Jo, temper; Beth, shyness; and Amy, selfishness. Through the various activities of the four sisters told throughout the novel lessons are learned of the consequences of these particular flaws.” AZ

“The story begins to unfold during Christmastime. With their father away at war, the family must endure great poverty induced hardship, often times going hungry.” AZ “It is no secret that Alcott based Little Women on her own early life. While her father, the freethinking reformer and abolitionist Bronson Alcott, hobnobbed with such eminent male authors as Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne, Louisa supported herself and her sisters with ‘woman’s work,’ including sewing, doing laundry, and acting as a domestic servant. But she soon discovered she could make more money writing.” BN

Little Women brought her lasting fame and fortune.” BN “This first edition…was published in 1868 when Louisa was thirty-five years old. Based on her own experiences growing up as a young woman with three sisters, and illustrated by her youngest sister, May, the novel was an instant success, selling more than 2,000 copies immediately. Several sequels were published, including Little Men (1871) and Jo’s Boys (1886).” LC

The book has been adapted seven times for film, first in 1917 and most recently a 2019 version directed by Greta Gerwig. It starred Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Emma Watson as Meg, Florence Pugh as Amy, and Eliza Scanlen as Beth. The cast also included Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, and Chris Cooper. Some critics called it “the definitive adaptation.” WK

Resources and Related Links:

In July 2018, I became the organizer of the Classic Novels Book Club. Check out the Book Club tab here or Meetup for more information. This is our March 2020 book.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe published 300 years ago today!

First posted 7/6/2020.

Robinson Crusoe

Daniel Defoe

First Publication: April 25, 1719

Category: adventure novel

Sales: 1 million

Accolades (click on badges to see full lists):

About the Book:

Robinson Crusoe is one of the most popular and influential adventure stories of all time” BN and “a pioneering work of realist fiction.” AZ “This classic tale of shipwreck and survival on an uninhabited island was an instant success when first published in 1719 and has inspired countless imitations.” BN “Inspired by the real life story of Alexander Selkirk, a castaway who lived on an island in the Pacific for four years,” AZ “it was widely believed to be a true account of actual events.” AZ

“At the beginning of the novel we find Robinson Crusoe desiring a life at sea, despite the wishes of his parents for him to pursue a more sensible career. Despite numerous disasters and misadventures at sea he is not to be deterred from his life choice. Ultimately he finds himself stranded on a deserted island when his ship is destroyed in a storm.” AZ

Forced to overcome despair, doubt, and self-pity, he struggles to create a life for himself in the wilderness.” BN “He makes do with the supplies that he has salvaged from the wreckage and the resources he finds on the island.” AZ “His many adventures are recounted in vivid detail, including a fierce battle with cannibals and his rescue of Friday, the man who becomes his trusted companion.” BN

“Full of enchanting detail and daring heroics, Robinson Crusoe is a celebration of courage, patience, ingenuity, and hard work.” BN

Resources and Related Links:

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Children’s Novels: Top 50

First posted 2/19/2019.

This list has been moved. It has been consolidated with the list of top young adult novels to create a new list, "The Top 100 Novels for Children and Teens."

Children’s Picture Books: All-Time Top 50

First posted 2/17/2019; updated 2/19/2019.

image from

These are the top 50 children’s pictures books based on an aggregate of titles’ appearances on more than a dozen best-of lists specifically about children’s picture books, 25+ more general children’s book lists, and another 50+ general book lists. Words and pictures are both by the same person unless noted otherwise (w = words, p = pictures).

  1. Maurice Sendak Where the Wild Things Are (1964)
  2. Eric Carle The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969)
  3. Margaret Wise Brown (w)/ Clement Hurd (p) Goodnight Moon (1947)
  4. Dr. Seuss The Cat in the Hat (1957)
  5. Dr. Seuss Green Eggs and Ham (1960)
  6. Shel Silverstein The Giving Tree (1964)
  7. Beatrix Potter The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1901)
  8. Ezra Jack Keats The Snowy Day (1962)
  9. Shel Silverstein Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974)
  10. Judith Viorst (w)/Ray Cruz (p) Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (1972)

  11. H.A. & Margaret Rey Curious George (1941)
  12. P.D. Eastman Go, Dog, Go! (1961)
  13. Robert McCloskey Make Way for Ducklings (1941)
  14. Crockett Johnson Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955)
  15. Don Freeman Corduroy (1976)
  16. Laura Numeroff (w)/Felicia Bond (p) If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (1985)
  17. Dr. Seuss The Lorax (1971)
  18. Ludwig Bemelmans Madeline (1939)
  19. Robert Munsch (w)/Sheila McGraw (p) Love You Forever (1986)
  20. Jon Scieszka (w)/Lane Smith (p) The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (1989)

  21. Esphyr Slobdkina Caps for Sales (1947)
  22. Bill Martin Jr. & John Archambault (w)/Lois Ehlert (p) Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (1989)
  23. Russell Hoban (w)/Lillian Hoban (p) Bread and Jam for Frances (1964)
  24. Harry Allard (w)/James Marshall (p) Miss Nelson Is Missing! (1977)
  25. Ian Falconer Olivia (2000)
  26. Munro Leaf (w)/Robert Lawson (p) The Story of Ferdinand 1936)
  27. Sam McBratney (w)/Anita Jeram (p) Guess How Much I Love You (1994)
  28. Dr. Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1964)
  29. Chris Van Allsburg The Polar Express (1985)
  30. Bill Martin Jr. (w)/Eric Carle (p) Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (1967)

  31. William Steig Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (1969)
  32. Watty Piper (w)/George & Doris Hauman (p) The Little Engine That Could (1930)
  33. Dr. Seuss Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990)
  34. Jean de Brunhoff The Story of Babar (1933)
  35. Judi Barrett (w)/Ron Barrett (p) Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (1978)
  36. Virginia Lee Burton The Little House (1942)
  37. David Shannon No, David! (1998)
  38. Arnold Lobel Frog and Toad Are Friends (1970)
  39. Philip C. Stead A Sick Day for Amos McGee (2010)
  40. Chris Van Allsburg Jumanji (1981)

  41. P.D. Eastman Are You My Mother? (1960)
  42. Dr. Seuss One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (1960)
  43. Dr. Suess Hop on Pop (1963)
  44. Virginia Lee Burton Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (1939)
  45. Jan Brett The Mitten (1989)
  46. Gene Zion (w)/Margaret Bloy Graham (p) Harry the Dirty Dog (1956)
  47. Wanda Gag Millions of Cats (1928)
  48. Dr. Seuss Horton Hears a Who! (1954)
  49. Margery Wlliams (w)/William Nicholson (p) The Velveteen Rabbit (1922)
  50. Mo Willems Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (2003)

Saturday, February 9, 2019

10 Books Which Impacted Me

First posted 2/9/2019.

These are the books which have most inspired me to read, write, imagine, and create. These titles span from childhood to adulthood, presented (as much as I can remember) in the order in which I discovered them.

A.A. Milne The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh (1994)

This is a packaging of Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and House at Pooh Corner (1928), the two classics which introduced the world to Christopher Robin and Pooh, his stuffed-animal bear. Pooh is a self-admitted bear-of-very-little-brain, but his optimism and heart of gold modeled a way of life we should all try to emulate. In fact, Benjamin Hoff’s The Tao of Pooh (1982) is another favorite book of mine because of how well it captures the essence of Pooh in describing a philosophy of life.

J.R.R. Tolkien The Hobbit (1937)

In the summer after my sixth grade year, my family went down to Georgia for a week, as we did every summer. My grandmother was bed-ridden and a neighbor, feeling like my brother and I might be bored, brought over a box of books. I plucked The Hobbit from the stack. I’d heard of it, but didn’t know much about it. I devoured it that week – and many times after that throughout junior high and high school. Read a more in-depth review of the book here.

John Steinbeck Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976)

This was Steinbeck’s adaptation of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (1485) and my introduction to King Arthur when I read it in English class in 8th grade. It led to a fascination with King Arthur, even resulting in me writing my middle-grade fiction series, Otter and Arthur, which retold the legends of King Arthur through the eyes of a mouse.

Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)

Like millions of others, I was exposed to this book as required reading in high school. Also like millions of others, I was completely drawn in by Lee’s powerful story about Scout, a young girl who comes face-to-face with racial discrimination in her small town – and recognizes her own prejudices in how she judges her reclusive neighbor, Boo Radley. Having re-read the book multiple times, I’ve come to be enamored with the story-telling style of the book and how it makes the small-town setting essential to the book. Read a more detailed review of the book here.

John Irving The World According to Garp (1978)

I saw the movie version of Garp when I was in high school. I watched it because I was a Robin Williams fan, but fell in love with the movie because of its quirky characters and unique story. I eventually read the book, which led me to devour everything Irving had written prior to that. Since then, A Prayer for Owen Meany has supplanted Garp as my favorite John Irving novel and one of my favorite books of all-time, but this was the one which introduced me to him as an author.

Joel Whitburn Top Pop Singles 1955-1996 (1997)

As a music chart fanatic, I was overjoyed when I found Whitburn’s Record Research company, which published books compiling chart data from Billboard magazine. The granddaddy of them all was this book, which gathered data for all songs to ever hit the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart and then listed them by the recording acts. Not only have I gone through multiple editions of this book, but I have gone on to line my shelves with other Record Research books covering rock, country, R&B, and album charts.

Otto Kroeger and Janet M. Thuesen Type Talk: The 16 Personality Types That Determine How We Live, Love, and Work (1989)

I dropped out of college in 1989, a semester-shy from graduating. It forced me to go to work and I stumbled into the afterschool arena. I soon realized that was what I wanted to do with my life and within a few years finished my degree. In that second time around, I was reinvigorated by having a career focus and specifically wanting to gain a better insight into personality types and how they affect learning. One of my professors steered me toward the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and whetted an appetite in me for recognizing how people learn differently.

Dave Whitaker Games, Games, Games: Creating Hundreds of Group Games and Sports (1996)

Sometime in the mid-‘90s, my supervisor recommended I go to the airport to meet Rich Scofield, a publisher in the afterschool arena. I showed him the game activity book I’d created for work and he told me it could practically be published as it was. This was not only the first of some twenty-something books I’ve now published (see my author page at Amazon), but sowed the seeds for me to start my own company, Toolbox Training, focused on providing resources, training, and consulting to afterschool programs.

Dave Marsh Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989)

The Whitburn books fed my interest in charts. This book fed my interest in collecting lists which ranked songs without consideration to chart performance. It led to the creation of my Dave’s Music Database website and my own self-published, list-oriented books, including The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999, The Top 100 Albums of All Time, and The Top 100 Songs of the Pre-Era, 1890-1953.

Howard Gardner Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (1983)

My undergraduate degree was marked by my fascination with Myers-Briggs. My pursuit of a Masters in Education in the early 2000’s was marked by my discovery of Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Like Myers-Briggs, it had important implications on my understanding of how people learned differently – and deserved to be understood as individuals. My final thesis resulted in my second published book, Multiple Intelligences & After-School Environments: Keeping All Children in Mind (2002).