What’s Ashley Reading?: The Mouse and the Motorcycle

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

First line: Keith, the boy in the rumpled shorts and shirt, did not know he was being watched as he entered Room 215 of the Mountain View Inn.

Summary: A young mouse named Ralph is living in a knot hole in Room 215 when a small boy comes to stay. Ralph loves to watch the guests, especially children because they are always dropping food around the hotel. As he watches Keith he sees him playing with his toys cars and a motorcycle. Ralph has always wanted to ride a motorcycle. When the boy is not in the room Ralph gets his chance. However, it does not work out as planned. He falls into the trash can. Keith soon discovers the small mouse and they quickly become friends. With Keith’s permission Ralph is allowed to ride the motorcycle all over the hotel. This is when the adventure Ralph has been craving truly begins!

My Thoughts: This was one of my all-time favorite books as a child. I loved everything I read by Beverly Cleary but Ralph definitely holds the top spot. His adventures were lots of fun and quite funny too. And to have one of your favorite novels also be a movie was so cool! I spent many a summer day watching the movie version of this book as well.

When I just reread this charming story I realized that Wichita is mentioned in it. How cool is that?! The teachers who are staying at the hotel are from Wichita and consider taking Ralph home with them to live in their classrooms. I thought this was a fun little tidbit to find as an adult.

On my most recent trip to Oregon I stopped in Portland for a few hours. While looking for things to do I learned that the Multnomah County Library in Portland has a Beverly Cleary Children’s Library. I immediately added it to my itinerary. We stopped into this beautiful library for a short visit. As a fan of Cleary’s and a librarian I was in heaven. If you get a chance go and check it out.

FYI: If you are looking for a bit of nostalgia then this book is perfect.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Finding Dorothy

Living in Kansas it seems to be guaranteed that everyone knows the story of  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.  However, the book and the movie (starring Judy Garland) are quite different.  But how much do you know about the man who wrote the story?  Years ago there was a made for TV movie called The Dreamer of Oz, starring John Ritter, who portrayed Mr. Baum and detailed his life and the writing of his famous novel.  In a new book by Elizabeth Letts we get a look at Maud Gage Baum, the wife of the author.

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts

First line: It was a city within a city, a textile mill to weave the gossamer of fantasy on looping looms of celluloid.

Summary: Maud Gage Baum, the widow of the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, visits the set of the filming of The Wizard of Oz where she meets the young star, Judy Garland. Maud immediately feels a connection and need to protect the sixteen year old actress who will be portraying Dorothy. Told through flashbacks we see Maud’s life with husband, L. Frank Baum as they start out touring the country with a theater group to owning their own dry goods store to becoming a literary success.

Highlights: This was a fun jaunt through the history of one of the greatest movies/books of all time. I remember watching the movies numerous times as a child before I ever picked up one of the books. It is so much different but each are wonderful in their own ways. Nothing beats Judy Garland singing ‘Over the Rainbow’.

I know that the author took some liberties with the history to help suit the timeline and layout of her novel but the background of this iconic story is fascinating. Such a successful man (or so I would have assumed) struggled so much trying to find his place in the world. He tried multiple different careers before he wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Even though his story is entertaining, his wife was the strong one.

Maud Gage Baum was the daughter of famous suffragette, Matilda Joslyn Gage. She was a strong advocate for women’s right to vote, fighting alongside Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Maud learned from her to be bold and speak her mind. As I read I could tell that having such a strong mother helped Maud navigate her life with an eccentric husband and battling the studio to do justice to his novel.

Judy Garland and Maud Gage Baum looking at a copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

I loved every interaction that Maud had with Judy Garland. It is hard to imagine that Judy was only sixteen when she was cast in the role that sky rocketed her career. The poor girl had to deal with unbelievable things while preparing for this role including smoking 80 cigarettes a day and taking diet pills to keep her trim. It is outrageous. Maud tries to help Judy as much as possible in order to keep her promise to Frank to watch over “Dorothy”. This is the most heartwarming part of the novel, watching Maud make sure that Judy is Dorothy and Dorothy is Judy, and fighting for her.

Lowlights: There were several historical inaccuracies that are easily overlooked but at times also drove me a little crazy. One of Maud’s sisters was completely left out of the story. And the idea behind the character, Dorothy, was changed. However, the story does not suffer for any of this. Letts does a great job of weaving a fun and intricate story filled with all the magic of Oz.

FYI: Pick up the Oz books! Watch the movie!

Harry Potter

2017 marks the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter!  As a person who loves all things Harry Potter this is a big year.  But this has not always been the case.

When the books were first released my dad bought them in the hope that they would get my younger sister interested in reading.  She has never been a reader and he had heard that this was something that was getting kids to read more.  But try as he might he never got her to pick one up.  He read the first four in quick succession.  I can remember listening to him laugh while he read the scene where Mad-Eye Moody turned Malfoy into a ferret and bounced him around the halls of Hogwarts.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry at Universal Studios Orlando

I was not very interested in the stories of a young wizard because I preferred historical fiction.  They seemed silly to me until the day that one of my friends started reading them.  She started telling me how much she liked them and I decided to break down and try them out.  I was hooked from the first page.  I was a sophomore in high school when I started Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and the first movie was coming out in November.  In a month I had read books 1-4 and then the wait began for book 5 (in which I cried my eyes out at the end).  Then 6.  Then 7.  But the wait was worth it.

Fire breathing dragon above Gringotts at Universal Studios Orlando

Ever since I picked up that first book I have been a devoted fan.  I have pre-ordered all the books, went to the theaters for all the movies and visited the theme parks in Orlando.  When I visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter I was instantly transported into the books.  The shops, actors and rides were breathtaking.  I spent Thanksgiving morning eating an English breakfast at The Three Broomsticks.  I downed multiple glasses of butter beer outside the Hog’s Head Inn.  I rode the Hogwarts Express.  I battled dragons, escaped from Gringotts and flew on a broom through the grounds at Hogwarts.  I even got myself a wand.  This is every Harry Potter reader’s dream!

Ashley in front of the Knight Bus at Universal Studios Orlando

I thank my dad (and my friend) every day for introducing me to the world of Harry Potter.  I found something that made me even more passionate about reading and expanded my world.  I love that still today I have kids come into the library looking for the books I read and love.  They are experiencing them for the first time and I envy them.  I re-read/re-listen to the books regularly and each time find something I missed before.

And now I have to go to London to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour and see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on stage at the Palace Theater.

 

Drag Queen Story Time

On my most recent trip to Denver I was lucky enough to visit a small bookstore, Second Star to the Right.  It is an older home converted into a children’s book store.  The walls and tables are covered with toys, books and activities for all ages.  The staff was knowledgeable and welcoming to all visitors.  The place is truly magical.  I think I was having just as much fun as the kids.

However, the main draw of the day was the Drag Queen Story Time!  Out behind the book store was a lawn covered in blankets and pillows for the kids to sit down on.  Spots were quickly filling up as we waited for the presentation to start.  When the queens, Maleficent and Pocahontas, arrived the crowd cheered and clapped.  Each of the queens read several books to the children and performed a song from their respective movies.  Every kid was in awe of them and were excited to take pictures with them after the show.

The money raised from the performance was given to The Center in Denver, an LGBT community center.  This is a monthly program run by this little book store.  As a librarian it is fun to see different ways to interest kids in reading and to see love of literacy spread to all ages.