November 15th, 2013


Arcadia by Tom Stoppard

I recently read Arcadia, a two-act play by Tom Stoppard which shifts back and forth between the early 1800s to present-day to reveal events that happened at the same location, the same home, in two different centuries. In the opening scene, we meet a tutor and his pupil in 1809; in the next scene, we are introduced to modern-day inhabitants of the house as well as two others who are interested in researching the previous occupants. Each character has a clear voice and storyline, and as those characters interact and those storylines intersect, they become even clearer and stronger. By the time the final scene comes around, things are overlapping, but instead of being confusing it's very easy to distinguish between the now and then, and the parallels are easily drawn between the two time periods and the characters, each trying so hard to find and share their personal truths.

Reading this play has made me want to see it or appear in it, naturally, the feeling I always get when I read and enjoy a script, and I definitely enjoyed this play. Some of my favorite passages were rather poetic, so I thought I'd share them here today, as it is Poetry Friday.

From Act I, Scene 1:

Thomasina, a 13-year-old girl: "You cannot stir things apart."
Septimus, her tutor: "No more you can, time must needs run backward, and since it will not, we must stir our way onward mixing as we go, disorder out of disorder into disorder until pink is complete, unchanging and unchangeable,and we are done with it for ever. This is known as free will or self-determination."

Later in the same scene:

Thomasina: "If you could stop every atom in its position and direction, and if your mind could comprehend all the actions thus suspended, then if you were really, really good at algebra you could write the formula for all the future; and although nobody can be so clever as to do it, the formula must exist just as if one could."

From Act I, Scene 3:

Thomasina: "Each week I plot your equations dot for dot, xs against ys in all manner of algebraical relation, and every week they draw themselves as commonplace geometry, as if the world of forms were nothing but arcs and angles. God's truth, Septimus, if there is an equation for one like a bluebell, and if a bluebell, why not a rose? Do we believe nature is written in numbers?"

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Spotlight: Alice McKinley series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Here's a special post spotlighting the Alice McKinley series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor has combined the frankness of Judy Blume's writing with the fun of L.M. Montgomery's stories, creating a likable protagonist that would be pals with Anne Shirley, were they contemporaries. Alice McKinley is, at times, awkward, uncertain, and shy; in other instances, she is bold, brave, and determined. She lives a good, clean life and makes good decisions most of the time, but is not afraid to ask questions and make her own decisions.

Alice lost her mother at a young age and barely remembers her. She adores her father, who works at a music store, and her older brother Lester. She has two best friends, one mama's girl and one slightly wild child.

Readers can grow with Alice. As the series progresses, Alice gets older, and the reading level (due to content) goes up too. The series tackles everything - name-calling, dating, religion, school, death of a parent, remarriage and stepparents, peer pressure, and more - without ever being preachy or saccharine. Alice discusses life issues and questions taboos with her father, brother and friends without shame, without fear - just openness and honesty. In turn, readers should feel encouraged to discuss these books with their families.

I recommend reading the books in order of publication:

The Agony of Alice - PG - ****
Alice in Rapture, Sort of - PG - ***
Reluctantly Alice - PG - ***
All but Alice - PG - ***
Alice in April - PG - ****
Alice In-Between - PG - ***
Alice the Brave - PG - ***
Alice in Lace - PG - ***
Outrageously Alice - PG - ***
Achingly Alice - PG - ***
Alice on the Outside - PG-13 - ***

The Grooming of Alice - PG-13 - ****

Alice Alone - PG-13 - ***
Simply Alice - PG-13 - ****
Patiently Alice - PG-13 - ****
Including Alice - PG-13 - ****
Alice On Her Way - PG-13 - ****
Alice in the Know - PG-13 - ****
Dangerously Alice - PG-13 - ***
Almost Alice - PG-13 - ****
Intensely Alice - PG-13 - ***
Alice in Charge - PG-13 - ***
Incredibly Alice - PG-13 - ***
Alice On Board - PG-13 - ***

Now I'll Tell You Everything (formerly known as Always Alice), the final volume in the series, follows Alice from her first day at college through much of her adult life.

Some of the books have been released omnibus-style, with three full novels bound in one super-thick oversized paperback. So if you pick up Please Don't Be True; I Like Him, He Likes Her; It’s Not Like I Planned It This Way; and You and Me and the Space In Between, make sure you check the table of contents and find out which books are inside. For example, Please Don't Be True is a collection of Dangerously Alice, Almost Alice, and Intensely Alice.

They have also released boxed sets of the books.

Naylor also wrote three prequels which feature Alice in elementary school. These are for kids who enjoy characters like Ramona Quimby, Judy Moody, and Anastasia Krupnik.

Starting With Alice - 3rd Grade - G - ****
Alice in Blunderland - 4th Grade - G - ***
Lovingly Alice - 5th Grade - G - ***

The official website offers book excerpts, reading group guides, and more.