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Poetry Friday: To love thee, year by year by Emily Dickinson

July 3rd, 2015 (06:00 am)

Current Mood: artistic
Current Song: Doctor Who score music

To love thee, year by year,
May less appear
Than sacrifice and cease.
However, Dear,
Forever might be short
I thought, to show,
And so I pieced it with a flower now.

- Emily Dickinson

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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Booklist: Clean Reads for Early Teens

July 2nd, 2015 (07:50 am)

Current Mood: pleased
Current Song: Law & Order: Criminal Intent score music

Sophie at Pop Goes the Library requested good clean reads for a thirteen year old girl who had "little interest in clothes, makeup, and, to a lesser degree, boys." As my regular readers know, I live for questions such as these. Here is my response:

Sixth Grade Secrets by Louis Sachar
Define "Normal" by Julie Anne Peters
The Encyclopedia of Me by Karen Rivers
My So-Called Family by Courtney Sheinmel
Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis
Tallahassee Higgins by Mary Downing Hahn
Drama by Raina Telgemeier (graphic novel)
Hershey Herself by Cecilia Galante
The Girls by Amy Goldman Koss
The Misfits by James Howe
Multiple titles from Scholastic's Candy Apple imprint
Multiple titles from Aladdin's MiX imprint

Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery
White Fang by Jack London
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Lawson
Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller by Sarah Miller

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
A Doll in the Garden by Mary Downing Hahn
Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassedy
Various books by John Bellairs

The Steps by Rachel Cohn
- Sequel: Two Steps Forward by Rachel Cohn
See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles
Rules by Cynthia Lord
Where I'd Like to Be by Frances O'Roark Dowell
The Face on the Milk Carton series by Caroline B. Cooney
A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin
The Maggie Valley Trilogy by Kerry Madden
Kimchi & Calamari by Rose Kent
Homecoming (and the rest of the Tillerman Cycle) by Cynthia Voigt
The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin
(NOTE: Homecoming and The Rules of Survival are much "heavier" that the other titles listed above.)

Snap by Alison McGhee
Tru Confessions by Janet Tashjian
Multiple Choice by Janet Tashjian
A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass

The Wedding Planner's Daughter series by Coleen Murtagh Paratore
- The Wedding Planner's Daughter
- The Cupid Chronicles
- Willa at Heart
- Forget-Me-Not
- Wish I Might
The Agony of Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
- Note: This is the first in a series of books which follows Alice through middle school and high school, along with prequels which take place in elementary school. Younger readers should stick to the first few books in the series and wait until they themselves are in the appropriate upper grades to read the older books in the series.
Shug by Jenny Han

The OutCast quartet by Christopher Golden and Thomas E. Sniegoski
The Uglies books by Scott Westerfeld
The Midnighters trilogy by Scott Westerfeld
The Keys To The Kingdom series by Garth Nix

Since the customer's daughter is an athlete, I would also refer her to my booklist called Hey There, Sports Fan.

Sophie asked specifically about the book Ida B., so I wanted to recommend additional books of a similar nature:

So B. It by Sarah Weeks
With You and Without You by Ann M. Martin
Amalee by Dar Williams
- Sequel: Lights, Camera, Amalee
Pictures of Hollis Wood by Patricia Reilly Griff
Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown
Pieces of Georgia by Jennifer Bryant
Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass

Related Booklists:
Middle School Must-Haves
If Then for Middle School
Quick Reads and Short Stories
Suggested Sets
Tough Issues for Teens

Little Willow [userpic]

Best Books of June 2015

July 1st, 2015 (09:31 am)

Current Mood: content
Current Song: Girl Meets World score music

June 2015: 8 books and scripts read

Recommended for adults and older teens
Tin Men by Christopher Golden

Recommended for ages 14 and up
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Recommended for ages 8 and up
A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord
BSC Graphix #1: Kristy's Great Idea by Raina Telgemeier

Little Willow [userpic]

Poetry Friday: Much madness is divinest sense by Emily Dickinson

June 26th, 2015 (06:00 am)

Current Mood: excited
Current Song: Crossover by Magnetic Man featuring Katy B

Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
'T is the majority
In this, as all, prevails.
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur, - you're straightway dangerous,
And handled with a chain.

- Emily Dickinson

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

Little Willow [userpic]

Tin Men by Christopher Golden

June 23rd, 2015 (08:41 am)

Current Mood: anxious
Current Song: Bittersweet by Ellie Goulding

Christopher Golden's novel Tin Men hits stores today - and it's hitting hard. Without giving too much away, l can tell you, this timely story is going to stay with you. Here's the mini-summary from the publisher:

Brad Thor meets Avatar in this timely military thriller for the drone age, which spins the troubles of today into the apocalypse of tomorrow. A rocket ride of a read packed with high action, cutting-edge technology, and global politics, Tin Men begins with the end of the world as we know it and takes off from there.

I love sci-fi stories that are based in science and technology, stories that present us with possible, plausible situations that stir up society as we know it - I adored the original Twilight Zone and was intrigued by Black Mirror - and Tin Men is right in that category. Christopher Golden's take on technology, society, and responsibility will make you think about very real near-future possibilities. Are all of these advancements in medicine, military, and media doing more harm that good? Fueled by strong characters made stronger through interwoven stories, Tin Men will open your eyes to how the world could be, for better or worse, because of human decisions and indecision, action and inaction.

Leave your thoughts in the comments below. Bonus points for those willing to discuss the various Cybermen storylines from Doctor Who with me.

Read an excerpt from TIN MEN by Christopher Golden.

Check out the awesome reviews TIN MEN has received. (Yay, Publishers Weekly!)

If you're on the East Coast, drop by the book's launch parties:

Tuesday, June 23rd at 7 PM
River Run Bookstore
Portsmouth, NH

Thursday, June 25th at 7 PM
Haverhill Public Library
Haverhill, MA

Little Willow [userpic]

Booklist: Tough Issues for Teens

June 22nd, 2015 (08:40 am)

Current Mood: hopeful
Current Song: Just Enough by Aslyn

One afternoon in the bookstore, a young woman in her late teens approached me and said, "Excuse me. Can you help me? I want some books like . . . " She named a few teen fiction titles that dealt with drug abuse and anorexia. She looked slightly uncomfortable but mostly excited. I told her that I could recommend many good books. Within minutes, she was sitting on the floor in the teen fiction section, a plastic basket full to the brim with books, with additional titles in her hand and next to her knees and her feet.

We had a great discussion. I was happy on any levels: happy that she felt comfortable enough to come to me, happy that she was open-minded, happy that I got some realistic, well-written books in her hand. This urged me to make a list of books dealing tough issues - eating disorders, loss and grieving, addiction, abuse, and so forth.

Due to subject matter, many of these books are recommended for older teens as well as adults, be they parents, teachers, librarians, or simply avid readers.

I've read every title on this list, and have given each book a rating according to the United States movie rating guide - G, PG, PG-13, or R - based on content, and a number of stars - four being the best - based on quality (my personal opinion).

PARENTAL ABUSE OR NEGLECT - Physical or emotional abuse, alcoholism, etc.
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ABUSE BY OTHERS - physical or emotional abuse; date or acquaintance rape; accusations, secrets and lies
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TEACHER/STUDENT RELATIONSHIPS - be they romantic relationships or rumors or no romance, but a definite abuse of power
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POSITIVE & PLATONIC TEACHER/STUDENT RELATIONSHIPS - teachers positively influencing and educating their pupils
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PARENT/CHILD RELATIONSHIPS - reconnecting with or distancing oneself from absentee parents, dealing with restrictions and expectations
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LONG-LOST SIBLINGS - reconnecting with siblings, or meeting them for the first time
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PHYSICAL DISORDERS/INJURIES/SPECIAL NEEDS - protagonist, siblings, friends
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BODY CHANGES - growing up and dealing with natural physical changes (as opposed to health, weight, or body image issues; disorders/injuries are in a separate list above this one)
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TEENAGE PREGNANCY - may also deal with adoption and/or abortion
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DIVORCE, SEPARATION, AND/OR STEPFAMILIES - parents dating, getting remarried, etc
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CAR ACCIDENTS (and similar accidents)
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ADOPTION - Also foster care, group homes, and counseling
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ACADEMICS - cheating, excelling, or otherwise dealing with academic pressure
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SOCIAL STATUS - at school or otherwise with peers; popularity, bullying, et al.
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INTERNET SAFETY - and/or cyberbullying
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SEEKING SHELTER - family shelters, homelessness, runaways
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I hope that this list helps readers of all ages find books they may be too shy to openly discuss with a bookseller or librarian. I want those readers to know they may leave a comment here and tell me which books they have found valuable. Most of all, I want them to know they can talk to their friends or adults they know in order to get the answers and help they may need.

If you would like for me to add more titles about a certain subject, or if you want more information about any of the books on the list, please leave a comment.

Special thanks to those who have shown their support of this list by offering me links, comments, and compliments, such as Jen Robinson, Bookseller Chick, Robin Brande, Sassymonkey at BlogHer, Daisy Whitney, Caroline, Bookstore People, and Jennifer R. Hubbard.

Little Willow [userpic]

Poetry Friday: The Mariposa Lily by Ina Coolbrith

June 19th, 2015 (06:00 am)

Current Mood: sleepy
Current Song: Home by Gabrielle Aplin

Insect or blossom? Fragile, fairy thing,
Poised upon slender tip, and quivering
To flight! a flower of the fields of air;
A jewelled moth; a butterfly, with rare
And tender tints upon his downy wing,
A moment resting in our happy sight;
A flower held captive by a thread so slight
Its petal-wings of broidered gossamer
Are, light as the wind, with every wind astir,-
Wafting sweet odor, faint and exquisite.
O dainty nursling of the field and sky,
What fairer thing looks up to heaven's blue
And drinks the noontide sun, the dawning's dew?
Thou wingëd bloom! thou blossom-butterfly!

- The Mariposa Lily by Ina Coolbrith

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

Little Willow [userpic]

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

June 13th, 2015 (03:39 pm)
Tags: ,

Current Mood: happy
Current Song: You Got Me by Jillian Edwards

Peyton's crimes and convictions had skewed the view people had of my entire family. People in the neighborhood either stared or made a point of not looking at us; conversations at the pool or by the community bulletin board stopped when we came into earshot. It was like stepping into a fun house of mirrors, only to find you had to stay there. I was the sister of the neighborhood delinquent, drug addict, and now drunk drinker. It didn't matter than I'd done none of these things. With shame, like horseshoes, proximity counts.

Readers who have felt overshadowed by an older sibling or overlooked by their parents will relate easily to Sydney, the protagonist of Sarah Dessen's latest novel, Saint Anything. Sydney's charismatic older brother, Peyton, was the apple of their mother's eye - until he started acting out. Now he's in jail, sentenced to seventeen months for driving drunk and hitting and paralyzing a young boy.

Shortly after the sentencing, Sydney begins her junior year of high school. Legal fees have severely altered her family's budget, so she switches from private school to public. Ready to be anonymous, she welcomes the change. Instead of going the expected route of reinventing herself and/or lying to people about her brother or her family, she stays true to herself and keeps her head above water rather than wallowing or whining. Kudos to Dessen for letting her character remain authentic and genuine.

Because of that, Sydney finds people who accept her for who she is: specifically, Layla and Mac. Both are perceptive, Layla in a more direct way, while Mac stands quietly just one step away, ready to protect and help his loved ones whenever they need him. Layla, in the same grade as Sydney, is lively, lovely, and unlucky in love. Mac, Layla's brother, is one grade up. They understand family entanglements and obligations: their mother suffers from MS and is often resting at home; their father runs the family business, a pizza place called Seaside; and their older sister, Rosie, once a promising figure skater, recently had a brush with the law. The more time Sydney spends with Layla and Mac, the more comfortable she feels with them and in her own skin. She starts hanging out and helping out at Seaside whenever time allows.

Meanwhile, Sydney's mother Julie, always organized and ready to put a positive spin on things, tries to stay involved in her son's life - and you'd think by the way she was acting, he was away at school or on a long trip, rather than in prison - while she's still somewhat oblivious to her daughter. Julie can't wait to go to Family Visiting Day at the jail, Sydney doesn't know if she wants to. Julie trusts Peyton's friend Ames, who gives Sydney the creeps. Ames (supposedly) cleaned up his act and keeps in contact with Peyton, so Julie sees him as an extension of her son and uses him as a sounding board and messenger. Sydney doesn't like how Ames looks at her, how he stands a little too close; he makes her uncomfortable, especially when he jumps at the chance to be her chaperone when her parents are away. The attention she wants but doesn't get from her parents and the attention she gets but doesn't want from Ames becomes trapped in the same four walls.

Sarah Dessen always gives her characters dimensions and realistic attributes. Rather than simply being Sydney's support group, the supporting characters in Saint Anything have their own storylines and interests (ask Layla how she likes her french fries; consider Mac's hobbies, or those of Sydney's long-time friends Jenn and Meredith). Some orbits cross and interact while others are separate. There is also music, though not as prevalent as in some of Dessen's other works, more of a gentle underscore here and there, playing in the background at the pizza joint, then at in the Chatham home, then growing louder as Sydney gets to know a local band. Dessen's dedicated readers will notice subtle connections to characters and places from her previous novels, further enriching the world she's created.

The title comes from something Sydney is given, something that gives her hope. For anyone who is searching for that hope: may you find it, and share it, and never lose it.

My favorite quotes from this novel include:

"There's no shame in trying to make stuff work, if how I see it. It's better than just accepting the broken." - Mac to Sydney, page 244

I would have love to know how it felt, just once, to have something fall apart and see options instead of endings. - pages 244-245

You only really fall apart in front of the people you know can piece you back together. - Page 387

When faced with the scariest of things, all you want is to turn away, to hide in your own invisible place. But you can't. That's why it's not only important for us to be seen, but to have someone lookfor us, as well. - Page 401

"I can go with you," he said. "If it would make it easier."
"It would," I told him. "But I think I need it to be difficult."
- Page 415

If you like Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen, you will also like The Opposite of Invisible by Liz Gallagher and The Queen of Everything by Deb Caletti. If this was your first foray into the world of Sarah Dessen, make sure to check out her backlist. Click here for my reviews of all of Sarah Dessen's novels.

Related posts at Bildungsroman:
Interview: Sarah Dessen
Booklist: Tough Issues for Teens
They Tried to Ban This Book Today, or, There's a Sticker on the Cover of This Book: Reacting to the Challenge of Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Roundtable: Sarah Dessen Novels
Roundtable: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Playlist: This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Author Spotlight: Sarah Dessen

Little Willow [userpic]

Author Spotlight: Sarah Dessen

June 13th, 2015 (08:42 am)

Current Mood: accomplished
Current Song: The Twilight Zone theme song

Once upon a time, a customer tapped a book that was facing out on the shelf. It was called This Lullaby. Her finger still on the cover, she turned to me. "Have you read this?"

"No, actually," I replied.

She was surprised. "But you've read everything!"

I smiled. "Not everything. Not that one - not yet." I told her that I hadn't read anything by the author, Sarah Dessen, but I intended to do so.

And I did. At the urging of one of my regular customers, a very passionate reader who was in high school at the time, I read Dreamland first. I quickly blazed through Sarah's backlist, reading them in the order they had been released. By the time I got to This Lullaby, Sarah had firmly secured a place on the list of contemporary authors I enjoyed. She has a strong following, and I feel she has earned it. Her writing is consistent, engrossing, and straightforward. I've enjoyed all of her novels and look forward to more.

Here is an overview of her books, in order of publication:

That Summer

All of Sarah Dessen's books have fitting titles and realistic leading ladies, and her debut is no exception.

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Someone Like You

Some best friend pairs are comprised of one outgoing person and one introverted person. Such is the case with dynamic Scarlett and quiet Halley.

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Keeping the Moon

Nicole "Colie" Sparks isn't the only girl who feels embarrassed by her mother. She is, however, the only daughter of Kiki, a woman who has become known for informercials. Both Kiki and Colie have lost a great deal of weight, but while Kiki seeks out the spotlight, Colie would rather hide out in the shadows.

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To simply say that Dreamland is the story of a girl who has an abusive boyfriend would be selling the book - and the girl - short. Though the physical abuse is a large portion of Sarah Dessen's darkest story, that is not all. Dreamland is also about the dissolution of a family.

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This Lullaby

My second favorite Dessen novel revolves around a girl who has no interest in romance and is haunted by a song.

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The Truth About Forever

When Macy was little, her father used to drag her and her older sister Caroline out to local marathons with him and sign them up for the kids' track. By the time she was eight, Macy knew she was a good runner - fast, focused, flying. Caroline was no longer interested in running, so it became something that Macy shared just with her father. He'd help her prepare for meets, and they ran together in the mornings.

One morning, that all changed.

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Just Listen

Annabel Greene lives in a glass house.

No, really.

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Check out the roundtable discussion of Just Listen with the postergirlz.

Spoiler alert: One of Annabel's sisters has an eating disorder, so I included Just Listen in my post about Weighty Matters at SparkLife for SparkNotes (...and I'm realizing I should have included Keeping the Moon there as well!) and my post here about Eating Disorder Awareness.

Lock and Key

Ask twenty people to define "family," and you'll get twenty different definitions. Ruby's definition of family is about to change, and she's not quite sure what that means.

For years, Ruby and her mother moved from apartment to apartment. They lived in random places and cramped spaces above other people's garages. When Ruby's mom takes off and doesn't come back, Ruby does just fine on her own - until child services steps in and sends her to live with her older sister, Cora, who hasn't seen Ruby in ten years.

( Read my full-length book review... )

Along for the Ride

Read but not yet reviewed. My apologies!

What Happened to Goodbye

Mclean used to be a fairly well-adjusted girl, living in a house with both of her parents, content to be who she was. Then her mother cheated on her father and everything changed. Her parents divorced, her mother remarried, and Mclean decided to hit the road with her father, a restaurant consultant whose job caused them to move a few times a year. Mclean impulsively decided to reinvent herself in her new town, and kept doing so in every new town. Each time they moved, she used a derivative of her middle name, Elizabeth, and tried out a completely different personality: Eliza, the rah-rah girl; then Lizbet, who hung out with the drama kids and dancers, wore black clothes, and "made everything in a production"; then Beth, the student council secretary who also worked for the yearbook, the newspaper, and a tutoring service.

Now Mclean and her father have moved again, this time to Lakeview, to save (or close) a restaurant called Luna Blu - and instead of renaming herself yet again, Mclean unintentionally shared her real first name with someone and is now unsure how to act. How can she "just be herself" if she's not sure who that girl is anymore?

( Read my full-length book review... )

The Moon and More

This is the summer between high school and college. This is the time that Emaline has the chance to reconnect with her father. This is the time that she has to face what's going to happen with her boyfriend. This is the time that she connects with her half-brother and an unexpected out-of-towner, and pulls her close friends even closer, to make their last summer at home a memorable one. Filled with the swells of the ocean, the heart of this particularly effective coming-of-age story pulses steadily as Emaline's first-person narrative expresses her thoughts.

( Read my full-length book review... )

Saint Anything

Readers who have felt overshadowed by an older sibling or overlooked by their parents will relate easily to Sydney, the protagonist of Sarah Dessen's latest novel, Saint Anything. Sydney's charismatic older brother, Peyton, was the apple of their mother's eye - until he started acting out. Now he's in jail, sentenced to seventeen months for driving drunk and hitting and paralyzing a young boy. Shortly after the sentencing, Sydney begins her junior year. A change of school and a change of pace at home starts a change in her.

( Read my full-length book review... )


All of Dessen's books are set in the same fictional town(s), Lakeview and Colby. No book is a sequel/prequel to another book, but the books do have connections. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll put it this way: Keep your eyes open and you will see some familiar faces make cameos.

Though The Truth About Forever is my favorite Dessen novel, I can relate a little more to Ruby from Lock and Key than to Macy - though not to Ruby's family situation, thank goodness, or the "bad stuff." I share elements of Ruby's personality: her stubborn streak, her determination to do things on her own and her reluctance to let others assist her. This is similar, in a way, to how I "get" Jade from Deb Caletti's novel The Nature of Jade - though I think I'm more like Jade than Ruby.

That Summer and Someone Like You were combined to make the film How to Deal. It was odd to see them mixed together into one film. Some characters weren't there, while others were combined. Some of my favorite moments from the books weren't in the movie.

Sarah has contributed short stories to anthologies such as Sixteen: Stories About That Sweet and Bitter Birthday, One Hot Second, and Twice Told: Original Stories Inspired by Original Artwork.

Related Posts at Bildungsroman

In 2006, when Just Listen was released, I had the opportunity to interview her.

In March 2008, Sarah will be the featured author at readergirlz, with Just Listen as the book group pick of the month. Learn more. Read the March 2008 issue of readergirlz.

I've also hosted two roundtables dedicated to Sarah's books: the first with the postergirlz talking about Just Listen, and the second with me and Suze chatting about all of Sarah Dessen's novels.


Many thanks to Sarah for noting this post at her own journal. I'm honored!

Watch Melissa Walker interview Sarah Dessen on rgz TV (the readergirlz YouTube channel).

Visit Sarah Dessen's official website and LiveJournal.

Little Willow [userpic]

Poetry Friday: Into the Noiseless Country by Thomas William Parsons

June 12th, 2015 (06:21 am)

Current Mood: sleepy
Current Song: I Love Lucy score music

Into the noiseless country Annie went,
Among the silent people where no sound
Of wheel or voice or implement - no roar
Of wind or billow moves the tranquil air:

And oft at midnight when my strength is spent
And day's delirium in the lull is drowned
Of deepening darkness, as I kneel before
Her palm and cross, comes to my soul this prayer,
That partly brings me back to my content,
"Oh, that hushed forest! - soon may I be there!"

- Into the Noiseless Country by Thomas William Parsons

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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