Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mini reviews - The Four Seasons, The Faithful Gardener, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever & The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas

I need to knock out reviews even faster and all four of the following books are from my personal library.  There's really not all that much I have to say about them, so it makes sense to keep them brief. Mini time!

The Four Seasons: Japanese Haiku Second Series is just what it sounds and looks like - a slim volume of carefully-selected and translated Haiku poetry.  There's a nice little 2-page "Note on Japanese Haiku" which talks about the poetic form and describes the known masters whose poetry are most frequently quoted in the book.  At 61 pages, The Four Seasons is the kind of book that you can gobble down in 30 minutes, if you so desire.  But, I prefer to read poetry slowly and let it roll around in my head.

The Four Seasons was published in 1958 by Peter Pauper Press.  My copy is definitely showing it's age, but it's the kind of book you want to hold onto to reread.  Some of the haiku verses are funny, some sad, some thoughtful.  It's a nice selection.  This is one of my favorites:

I particularly love Haiku that makes me smile.  If you love Haiku and can find a copy, this is a great little book.

The Faithful Gardener by Clarissa Pinkola Estes is another quick read, only 81 pages long, published by HarperCollins in 1995.  When I finished the book and set it down, I remember thinking it was going to be hard to describe but I'll do my best.  The author says The Faithful Gardener is a book of stories within stories, much like Russian Matryoshka dolls and, yes, it is definitely that.  But, the basic framework is the tale of her family's storytelling tradition and her education in storytelling at the knees of her family members blended with their terrifying history and how they emigrated to start a new life.

An uncle was among one of the people who were closest to the author and who helped teach her the importance of stories to understanding life.  Many of the author's family members were killed by the Nazis; her uncle was among those who survived and fled to the U.S.

At one point, the U.S. Government takes over some of the family's land by eminent domain, which sends Uncle into despair because the taking of everything he owned was the beginning of horror at the hands of the Nazis.  What Pinkola Estes' uncle does to restore the land and his soul is deeply moving.  Highly recommended to lovers of stories (which pretty much covers everyone reading this, right?) and those who are interested in WWII.

I bought The Four Seasons and The Faithful Gardener at the Mississippi College Library's awesome book sale, a few weeks ago.  My check was written out to "M C Library" but I wrote the "c" smaller than the "M" and "L", so it looks like I made the check out to "McLibrary".  Haha.  There's a concept.

I have almost nothing to say about The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, a reread and another short one, originally published in 1972 (and there's a movie, but I haven't seen it).  My copy was published by HarperCollins. You've probably read it.  If you haven't, you should.  The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is one of the cutest Christmas stories I've ever read.  A family of wild children takes over all the major roles in an annual church Christmas pageant when one of the children hears that doughnuts are served at church.  The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is a riot, but at the same time it manages to be sweet and touching without landing in "totally sappy" territory.  I love it and will continue to reread it at Christmas, when the mood strikes me.  Also, I discovered I cannot spell "pageant" without really focusing.

Last, but not least, is a book that looks Christmasy but really isn't:

The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas by Julia Romp was an impulse purchase.  I tell myself I'm not impulsive when it comes to books (I don't pre-order and almost never go running out to buy a book on its release date) but I lie to myself.  Sam's Wholesale Club is my downfall.  I should never walk down the book aisles.

More suitably titled "A Friend Like Ben" in Great Britain, The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas is as much about the author's experience raising an autistic child as it is about how the cat, Ben (nicknamed "Baboo"), broke through young George's shell and helped him learn to socialize.  It is also about the cat's disappearance, although that happens toward the end of the book.  When author Julia Romp and her son George went to Egypt with a friend on their very first vacation ever, the cat disappeared.  The author details her search and how George regressed during the cat's absence.  Fortunately, as the title indicates, The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas does have a happy ending.

I love cat stories, of course, so I really enjoyed The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas, but do be aware that it's more of a memoir than a Christmas story.  If you're an animal lover, you won't care.  I definitely recommend the book, although it's not one I'll hang onto for a reread.  I would happily frame that kitten cover, though.  That is not actually Ben on the cover, incidentally. If you google an image search of the author, you'll get to see the real Ben.  The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas was published in the U.K. in 2010 but was just released in the US in October of 2012, published by Plume, an imprint of Penguin.

Woot!  4 down!  Are we having fun, or what?

©2012 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. Anonymous8:36 PM

    As soon as I read McLibrary I thought there had to be something clever to say regarding super-sizing, but my mind, it is blank.

    1. The idea of super-sizing alone conjures good things, though, doesn't it? ;)

  2. I love The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. We saw the play several years ago and it was delightful!

    1. I'd love to see the play/movie. It's such a funny book, definitely one to read when you need a quick upper.

  3. The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas sounds like a great read!

    1. It is very good. I love stories of pets who improve humans' lives and Ben is extremely special, having broken through the shell of autism.


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