Monday, October 28, 2013

Spring Forward, Fall Back: Reading with the Seasons

As we prepare to turn our clocks back here in the US next Sunday (and gain an hour of sleep - bliss!), I thought I'd do something different today.


Do you ever try to read seasonally? I don't mean reading Christmas or Hanukkah stories near those holidays. I mean, by the season itself. For instance, every few years I re-read The Secret Garden in the spring. It has to be in spring, when the grass is growing greener and the forsythia and magnolias are blooming. Reading along with the season seems to give the book more meaning, makes it more of a celebration.


So this autumn, I decided to re-read The Fledgling, by Jane Langton. Part of the Hall Family Chronicles and still available in paperback; the first image (on the left) is a photo of my well-loved Harper & Row hardcover from 1980. I bought the book before it was awarded a Newbery honor in 1981. The second image shows the Harper paperback from March 1981. Personally, I prefer the hardcover image.

This gorgeous story about Georgie, a young girl who gets flying lessons from a goose, is a beautiful evocation of childhood and the universal dream of flying, but it's also a song of praise to autumn. This book is rich in sensory images of New England in the fall: leaves turning scarlet, the air growing crisp and cool, geese flying south for the winter -- and oh, their honking, which Langton brings to life in a most creative way.

This quiet little story may seem old fashioned today, when stories have to be faster-paced, with less description, but if you let that stop you from picking it up, you'll be missing a great read. Yes, it's descriptive. But there's plenty of conflict, since both the nosy neighbor Miss Prawn, and the bank president Mr. Preek, are trying to stop Georgie from going on her nightly flights with the Goose Prince.

What books have you read that bring a season to mind?

20 comments:

  1. Two adult novels that come to mind when I think of "autumn" are Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury and The Cider House Rules by John Irving. Bradbury had a lot of stories with a fall setting, and while Irving's novel covers many years, it has a recurring aspect of fall in an apple orchard (and also his wonderful characterization and intertwined lives touched by weird events and also dealing with a BIG TOPIC -- this time abortion. While that's hot fire-poker of a topic, the overall writing and characterization in the book is quite good).

    Also, I think of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird because that's set in the fall.

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    1. Ah, thanks, Chris! I need more suggestions for adult books since I read so much MG and YA (and, gulp, I'm ashamed to admit I've never read John Irving). I have, of course, read To Kill a Mockingbird and it's probably my all-time favorite book. Funny, I'd forgotten it was set near Halloween.

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  2. That sounds like a great idea - reading seasonally. I like the first cover, too. At first glance, I thought they were in water on the second cover. And, I like descriptive passages!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Janet. It does look almost as if they're swimming in that second image, doesn't it?

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  3. I've only done this on purpose in spring, when I can't avoid Anne of Green Gables. (Even though it crosses seasons, it's always seemed to me that spring is the most vividly-evoked season in its pages!)
    I just started reading THE WATER CASTLE, though, and was pleasantly surprised to find it set in autumn. It is extra-special to see my own fall leaves outside while reading the author describe the ones in her story.

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    1. That's so true, Faith! I never really thought about it, but you're right. Anne does belong with spring. And THE WATER CASTLE sounds like fun.

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  4. Sounds like a fun story! I'll be sure to pick it up now that you brought it to my attention. And I agree, I like the hardcover cover best too.

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    1. It's different, Barbara. A little more serious than a lot of MG books today, but there are certainly some fun elements.

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  5. I've never really thought of reading books with the seasons. I love your idea of reading The Secret Garden in the spring. That's a great idea. And yay for more sleep next weekend.

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    1. Yes, I'll be you can use that extra hour of sleep, Natalie! :)

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  6. It never occurred to me to read seasonally. It's an interesting idea. I'll have to keep it in mind as I read.

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    1. Give it a try, Rosi. It adds a whole new dimension to the story.

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  7. Great idea! The Fledgling sounds interesting. I would like to learn to fly from a goose. Cool idea!

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    1. I would like to learn to fly too, Erik!

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  8. I haven't read this one. Thanks for pointing it out to me.

    I don't think I read by season. Maybe I need to pay attention more to what I read, because maybe I do.

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    1. It's a classic, Medeia. Whenever you're working your way through Newbery winners, you should definitely read this.

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  9. I loved reading The Secret Garden out loud to my daughter last year... I don't know if it was spring though. So apparently I don't read by season. Sometimes more description is a nice change of pace... and I agree about liking the hardcover over the paperback.

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    1. I agree Julie, more description can be refreshing sometimes.

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  10. I would love to read this book. I don't think old fashioned will stop me.
    Talking about slow books, I did notice that most adult books are slow compared to all the fast paced middle grade I've been reading. I think I got spoiled. lol
    Oh and the only time I try to read by season is during Summer.

    ~Akoss

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    1. I've noticed that too, Akoss, about adult books. Newer books tend to be more fast-paced too. I'd be interested in hearing what books you read in the summer.

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