Jane Austen (Little People, BIG DREAMS)

Jane Austen (Little People. BIG DREAMS) by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara

Another Jane Austen biography for children?

What can I say?

But before I start my review, let me pause and say:

Happy Birthday Jane Austen!

Yes, today marks her 246th birthday, and I thought what better way to celebrate than by reviewing a Jane Austen biography.

This year for my littlest niece’s (5 years old) Christmas gift, I bought her some tiny tea cups that she could have tea with. You see when she visited this summer I converted her to a love of tea and tea parties and want to reenforce that as much as possible.

Party time!

Of course something else I am trying to brainwash encourage in the younger members of my family is a love of Jane Austen. I had already bought this niece the Babylit books and needed something else Jane Austen related that fit her age. I thought about gifting her the same book I gave my 10 year old niece, A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, but decided to wait as that book was more advanced and designed for older children. Instead I starting searching for something suitable for a 5 year old.

Hmm…?

I started searching through Amazon (I don’t have a local bookstore) and found this biography from the Little People, BIG DREAMS series. It looked cute so I ordered it, and of course had to give it a quick read and review.

I really liked the amount of pictures to text this book had as it was a great balance for a children’s book. It gave a basic biography in easy to understand terms, while still telling a cute story that children in the age range of 4-7 years will enjoy following.

I also loved how it highlighted her playwriting and the way her family would act her works out.

But the thing I enjoyed most of all about this book is that instead of just mentioning Pride and Prejudice or Elizabeth Bennet, it actually highlights all the heroines of her novels. You hardly ever see anything that mentions Fanny Price/Mansfield Park, Catherine Morland/Northanger Abbey, or Anne Elliot/Persuasion in kids books and I’m so happy this one did. I need to lay the groundwork for Northanger Abbey.

If there are parents, or kids, who are interested in knowing more about Jane Austen, there is an expanded short biography in the back of the book.

I thought it was a cute book and a great one for kids.

If interested in purchasing, click on this link. (If you do choose to purchase through the link provided, a small percentage does go to me through the Amazon affiliate program).

For more Jane Austen children’s books, go to A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice

For more Jane Austen biographies, go to Jane Austen: Her Heart Did Whisper

For more picture books, go to How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea

Jane Austen Birthday Party: Croquet

So as you know if you have been following my page, I just celebrated my 29th birthday with a Jane Austen Garden Tea Party.

Party time!

Some of you might be wondering why I am so extensively going through all the party planning and it was because I had been planning to have this two years ago, in my last year of being a Jane Austen heroine (Anne Elliot) but life got in the way so I decided to wait and now I’ve finally been able to have it.

So far we have gone over invitations, decorations, prizes, and how to make your own piñata, etc. Now I ended up having four games, but I know not everyone is interested in being a part of games-and I had four little girls who needed something to occupy themselves with. So I started thinking what else could I offer my party guests?

So the first thing I had planned was paper fan making. I thought the young girls would have a lot of fun making those, plus if the adults got overheated they could make one too.

But that would only occupy them for a short while. So I started thinking of something else to have…

Hmm…?

So one thing I really, really wanted to have at my party was croquet. I love croquet, but I wanted it not only because I like the game but because I wanted to be like Austenland.

Ah, if only I had JJ Feild: Mr. Tilney or Mr. Nobley. I’d settle for any of them.

I’m all about him!

So I started looking and I couldn’t find any croquet sets that weren’t costing an arm and a leg. I searched everywhere, every site I could think of and just gave up. I thought I would just have to find something else to do.

Sigh

But then in April, about two weeks before my party was planned, I went antiquing with some friends. I found some teacups, mugs, and other things in this amazing multilevel store. As I went to go outside to the shed, I spotted something sad, forlorn, dirty, and ignored.

I’m not sure how old it is, but it is certainly vintage. I got the set (minus the arches) for $30

This set needed a lot of work, someone had not been kind and left them out in the elements: they were dirty, full of cobwebs, the paint was peeling, etc. And of course after I purchased this set every site then had full new croquet sets for sale.

Oh well…

So I set to work taking care of it. I had to clean everything, then sanitize it, paint it, and in the end varnish it. I had a lot of help, which was good, as this was tiring.

From The Iron Giant

And I think it came out pretty great.

The official rules of croquet were published in the mid 1800s, but people had been playing long before that.

For those who don’t know, the game of croquet is a race of hitting balls on the lawn. Similar to golf, one must hit their ball but through an arch or hoop to score points, then tap the pole at the end to win.

  1. The role of play is on the wickets and the peg, you must play in the order of the colors.
  2. The first player gets one strike and whacks their ball in an effort to get it through the hoop.
  3. Each player gets one shot and they are played in turn (unless extra shots get earned).
  4. Running a hoop‘ (passing through the correct hoop) gains one extra shot. Hitting one of the other three balls (a roquet) gets you two extra shots as well.
  5. You can hit another ball (make a roquet) and earn two extra shots. In this case the first of those (the croquet stroke) must get played by placing it in contact with the roquet ball. To do that, you move your ball and place it anywhere in contact with the ball that got hit. The roqueted ball must move or shake with the next strike.
  6. Balls can get struck off the lawn. How I’ve always played is like golf, you hit where it lands. But official UK rules say that if a ball is knocked out of bounds, you may move it one meter inside the lawn.
  7. Players must hit each ball clean and without moving any other balls, hoops, or pegs. The best croquet strategy is to strike the balls with the face of the mallet to make a clean shot. (Or as seen in the Austenland video, hold you ball with your foot, and smack it into another to move them out of the way.)
  8. The ball gets removed from play once it hits the peg at the end of the course.
  9. You score one point for getting the ball through each hoop. You get an extra point for hitting the peg. First person or team to do so, wins!

We played with it, the young girls did as well, and we all had a great time.

I’ve been having so much fun sharing all these things with you, and even though the party has ended I will be continuing to share all my other party plans!

For more of my Jane Austen Birthday plans, go to Jane Austen Birthday Party: Paper Fan Making

For more Jane Austen party ideas, go to Jane Austen Birthday Party: Decorations

For more Jane Austen games, go to Marrying Mr. Darcy: The Pride and Prejudice Card Game

Miss Marple and Jane Austen: You Can See Human Nature From Anywhere in a Small Village

So today marks the birthday of a very important writer:

I first was introduced to Agatha Christie when my nana noticed me reading Sherlock Holmes. As she was a lover of mysteries herself, she gave me a few Agatha Christie novels and then that was it, I was an utter fangirl.

Agatha Christie is one of my favorite authors. She revolutionized the way mysteries are written, and created a wonderful collection of characters. Not only are her plots amazing, but I like how she presents all the information to you that she gives her detective characters, putting the two of you on equal footing, although, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot tend to always be smarter.

This year I have been honoring her and her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, turning 100-by reviewing a mystery every month. But as I was rereading The Tuesday Club Murders AKA The Thirteen Problems and it got me thinking about some similarities to Jane Austen.

What??

I know you are probably confused, but hear me out.

Mystery, you say?

So one of Agatha Christie’s detectives is Miss Marple. Miss Marple is an elderly spinster aunt, always watching and observing. People overlook her because of her age, her inexperience (she has lived in a small village), but she is extremely intelligent and has amazing powers of deductions.

When asked how she knows and can figure these things out, she always remarks it is because of her village life. She shares that being in the village she has learned a lot about human nature, and as people are alike all over there is always someone from “back home” that reminds her of others and the clue that reveals the ending-the solution.

In a lot of her books, not just Miss Marple, we see how the characters, their motives, their reasons for why they do what they do are relatable-often many characters you find yourself sympathetic. Agatha Christie knew how to write people so that you connect to them.

Reading that made me think of Jane Austen immediately. Here is a woman who spent a majority of her life in a small village, but yet with what most people would say are limited experiences and a lack of human knowledge-she was still able to write characters that are relatable to people all over the world, 200 years later.

I mean that is one thing I love about her books, how the stories and characters transcend Regency England so that the motifs, personalities, and points raised in her books are still relevant today. Who hasn’t meet a social climber like Caroline Bingley? A schemer like Lucy Steele?  Manipulators like Isabella and John Thorpe? Had a regret like Anne Elliot? Met a flirt like Henry Crawford? Known a person who wanted so badly to have a friend they did whatever someone asked of them like Harriet Smith? Haven’t we all been accused of being an ice queen like Elinor Dashwood? Let our heart rule our actions like Marianne Dashwood? Misjudged someone and actively disliked a person when they insulted you like Elizabeth Bennet? Had to make a choice whether to stick to what we believe in, even if it meant losing something you hold dear like Fanny Price? Disliked someone because they were better than you at some things like Emma Woodhouse? Let our imagination run away with us like Catherine Morland? Lost someone we love like Anne Elliot?

I mean it is just so easy to connect to her work.

If you haven’t read Agatha Christie, I definitely recommend checking her works out, and of course:

For more Agatha Christie, go to I Won the Cederberg Tea Giveaway + Book Club Picks: The Insanity of God

For more Jane Austen, go to The History of England By a Partial Prejudiced and Ignorant Historian or is Jane Austen a Precursor to Drunk History?

For more comparison posts, go to You Ever Notice That The Gossip Girl TV Show is a Lot Like Persuasion?

For more mysteries, go to Catherine Morland’s Reading List: Cat Burglar Black

Non-Austen Films for Austen Fans: Walking on Sunshine (2014)

So after you watch every single version of Jane Austen movies, what do you have to watch next?

Hmm…I don’t know!

That’s why I started this list, to have non-Austen films that Austen fans can enjoy.

I can’t stop watching!

Here we go with:

So lately Amazon has been horrible in their recommendations, they have bee listing off films and TV shows I have zero interest in.

I was scrolling through the list of recommendations and I saw this ’80s jukebox (songs that are not by the same artist or band) and I had to watch it. I love anything ’80s!

Taylor (Hannah Arterton) is from England vacationing in Italy before she starts University. While on her vacation she met a handsome Italian man, Raf (Giulio Berruti) and the two fall in love.

Raf wanted her to stay with him, and logical, practical, always sensible Taylor thought about it. After all her friend Elena (Leona Lewis) fell in love and is staying. But as tempted as she is, she can’t and instead says goes home-singing Holiday.

Three years later Taylor has just graduated from University and is called by her sister Madison (Annabel Scholey) to join her for vacation in Italy. Taylor arrives in the same place she had vacationed years earlier, Puglia. Taylor is pleased to be spending time with her sister as she’s been so busy with school. She also is looking for some girl time as her sister has finally broken up with her horrible boyfriend Doug, they have been on and off for the past five years.

She arrives and finds their family friend Lil there too and the biggest surprise of her life-her sister has only been there a few weeks and has fallen in love, along with being engaged to be married to an Italian guy, and is going to be married in two days.

This isn’t the first time Madison has made a horrible decision regarding men and love as she is extremely romantic, emotional, and always going with what feels right in her heart.

Madison will not be swayed, espechially after Lil drops that Taylor had a lover in Italy. Madison is surprised her sensible sister could ever have a fling as she has never dated anyone, this “Italian guy” must really be special if he is the only one to ever touch her heart. Madison tells Taylor that they will have dinner with her guy, and she, after singing Venusgoes to get ready.

Taylor starts to the beach and runs into her friend Elena and Raf’s friends. She wants to see Raf, but her friend’s warn her that things are different now. She doesn’t stay but searches the beach for Raf, singing How Will I Know. When she reaches Raf he’s mad. He asked her to stay, and she left him brokenhearted.

The two are starting to talk with Madison comes over and introduces her fiancé Raf to Taylor. 

Both Raf and Taylor are in shock. Raf never put it together as she and her sister look nothing alike, Taylor is a super common name, they have only been together for weeks so he hasn’t met her family until now. Taylor is just stunned.

Dinner that night is an awkward affair for Raf and Taylor, but Madison is full of happiness for all those she loves to be together. She then sings The Power of Love

Raf is not pleased with this turn of events and wants to tell Madison right away. He doesn’t want any secrets, but Taylor convinces him to keep it secret as it will only hurt her sister and might break them up and damage the relationship with her sister.

The next day is the day before the wedding and Madison has a whole list of things that need to be taken care of-asking her maid of honor and sister to do it with Raf. Raf and Taylor do not want to spend anytime together, but do everything-people commenting that they are an adorable couple and it makes them both upset as feelings surface and they end up spending the whole time arguing.

Meanwhile, Madison ran into her ex-boyfriend Doug (Greg Wise) who is a horrible player of a man. He wants her to get back with him, but she refuses as she is getting married. The two sing “Don’t You Want Me Baby” but Doug convinces her to have one last dinner with him to say goodbye.

Back and the villa, Raf and Taylor return, having argued about how much they loathe each other and they run into Madison. She is happy that everything has worked out and asks if Taylor wants to bring the only man she ever loved, her Italian lover from three years ago. Raf is stunned as he thought Taylor saw him as a check off her summer list, all these years he didn’t realize she cared as deeply as he did.

Hmm…

He leaves, and Taylor and Madison talk. Flowers arrive from Doug and when Taylor questions Madison she just laughs it off as a farewell dinner with Doug. No big deal.

Taylor feels otherwise, but Madison is stubborn and unconvinced. While Madison gets ready for her date and hen party/bachelorette party and Taylor and friends all go to the Tomato festival. They are supposed to throw tomatoes at each other and this scene gets hilarious fast as Taylor and Raf angrily sing Walking on Sunshine at each other. But even though they are upset, a little spark is kindled.

They go to the beach to clean up and Taylor sings about her feelings and how much she still cares with Eternal FlameShe kisses Raf and then after realizing what she has done, runs off.

Uh oh

Madison and Doug have an extremely romantic dinner in the Coliseum. But while it is everything she has ever wanted, Madison realizes that no-she doesn’t want Doug. This part, the wooing, the chase is what he does well but the commitment boyfriend part-not so much. She wants more.

She heads back home to get to her hen party/bacheleorette party when she runs into Raf and Taylor talking. Madison quickly puts together that the Italian guy from Taylor’s past is Raf. She is shocked, but Taylor quickly shares that yes he was, and that Raf wanted to tell but she convinced him not to. She is sorry that she was pulled along by the memories and kissed him b-but she does not have feelings for him anymore.

Really Taylor?

Madison loves and trusts her sister so the girls get dressed up like Tina Turner and Madonna and the boys like Boy George. They go out singing  Girls Just Wanna Have Fun/The Wild Boys. After the night out Taylor realizes she does love Raf and leaves for the airport-as she can’t stay and cause trouble between her sister and him. She loves her sister more and wants her to be happy.

Meanwhile, after the party, Doug is waiting at the villa to try and seduce Madison by singing FaithMadison tries to fight him off, almost gives in, and is surprised by a proposal by Doug.

Wow!

Lil went to the airport with some pilots she met and discovers that Taylor there. Lil convinces Taylor to come back as she is the only family that Madison has, and she needs to be there. They hurry to White Wedding

Taylor does come, but the groom is missing as one of his friends drunkenly taped him to a tree. He does get there and the wedding goes on, with Doug trying to object to it and being ignored.

They are going to say I Do, when Madison actually stops the wedding. She realizes that she doesn’t know who she is-she came to Italy to get over a love and just went right into another relationship. She turns him down as she doesn’t love him, but loves love.  She cares for him but realizes that someone else truly is in love with him.

Raf is furiously heartbroken. First one girl rejects him, and after three years he opens himself to love another girl, who rejects him.

Taylor decides to finally take a chance and goes after him-telling him she has loved him for the last three years and wish she never left him in Turn Back Time.

We end on a happy note with Raf and Taylor reunited, Doug after Madison but she choosing to be single and figure out what she wants, Elena and Enrico discover they are going to hve a baby, and Lil and Mikey together with Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.

So in a lot of ways it feels like this movie was copying Mama Mia. We don’t know a lot about the characters-whos is the younger or older (I’m assuming Madison is older), what Taylor was studying in school, what Madison does/why she is in Italy, etc. But the story was cute and the music is awesome as I like the songs.

But why do I recommend it for Jane Austen fans?

Hmm…

The first thing it made me think of was Sense and Sensibility. We might not know a lot about Taylor, but all the characters comment and allude that Taylor is the logical, responsible, and practical one. She never lets loose, she is never one to take chances or risks, only does what is a sure thing. She had a fling in Italy on her holiday and the guy asked her to stay with him, and she thought about it-but she knew she could never do it as it isn’t sensible or practical. Of course she needed to go back to her real life and university. The rest of the film she plays it the same way until the very end when she realizes she does want to open her heart-she does want to take a risk and fall in love-not knowing if it will work out-she throws all that aside and takes a leap.

Madison on the other hand is such a Marianne. She is emotional, is in love with love, and doesn’t make the best decisions when it comes to men. Taylor lists off her past relationships and Madison is just a romantic and can’t resist L’amore. Before Raf she was perviously dating a rascally rogue (played by Greg Wise [who was Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility (1995]). I mean she hardly knows Raf, but loves him and is getting married. I like that they made Madison not dumb as they often do (a smart sister and pretty sister) but she was just hopeful and trusting-things that Marianne also shared. I liked how we saw her progression of character as she decides she doesn’t need to throw herself into another relationship, but to figure out who and what exactly she wants.

Madison in the end has learned to temper her feelings and use sense, while Taylor to open herself up and release her sensibilities.

One thing the movie did really was show the way the death of their mother affected the girls. While the loss of their mother made Madison search for love and ultimately be a little too desperate in her search for happiness, Taylor has become more closed off to love as she doesn’t want to lose anyone. While the characters of Elinor and Marianne were formed to events prior to their father’s death, it made me wonder if that affected Marianne in her pursuit of love. Maybe Marianne wouldn’t have thrown herself so hard at Willoughby if they had their father around, maybe she wouldn’t have been so overtly searching for love if she didn’t have a hole from her loss.

The other thing I liked about this was that I thought it also echoed the sisterly love and devotion we see in Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Both the Bennets and Dashwoods care about their sisters and will keep secrets to protect them, nurse them, do anything they can for them. In this Taylor wants to protect her sister and have her be happy, so she doesn’t tell her the truth about how she feels for Raf. She goes to the wedding to be there for her sister, even though watching her love marry someone else is more painful than anything. At the church steps Madison gets cold feet, but Taylor just encourages and supports her. Madison shows the same love and devotion when she refuses Raf, knowing they would have a wonderful happy life together-but he’d have a better one with Taylor his true love.

This film also made me think of Persuasion. In Persuasion, Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth fell in love and were engaged, but Anne ended it as she was persuaded it wasn’t a good decision. They are young, he’s going off to war, he could die, her father wouldn’t like it or help her, etc. Years later, she has never married and Frederick has returned-a captain and is hurt over the past. They are put together in situations and it can be very awkward. In fact, the awkward tension the dinner table in Walking on Sunshine made me think of the scenes when they are thrown together in Persuasion. Not to mention seeing the person you love into someone else.

That last scene of Raf and Taylor singing Turn Back Time, I wish someone would recut Persuasion with it because it was perfect. In Persuasion, Captain Wentworth realizes he was a fool and still loves Anne, has only loved her, and writes her a beautiful love letter. In this Taylor does what she said she would never do-she sings her love for Raf from the rooftops.

If interested, this film is on Amazon Prime. 

For more Non-Austen Films for Austen Fans, go to Super Power Girl, Blackmail, Gangsters, and a Serial Kidnapper: Strong Woman Bong Soon (2017)

For more ’80s music, go to Darcy’s ’80’s Power Song

For more Greg Wise, go to Sense and Sensibility (1995)

For more musicals, go to Pride & Prejudice: A New Musical

Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: Homespun Bride

So this is something I started a while back. We all love Jane Austen and it is such a bummer that there isn’t more of her works to read.

Variations are a ton of fun, and there are great ones out there, but sometimes you don’t always want to read the same story. You want Austen-like works, but what to read?

Hmm…

That’s why I started this series. I will review books that have the things we love about the Austen novels, but is something fresher than a retelling.

Homespun Bride (The McKaslin Clan Historical #2) by Jillian Hart

Thad McKaslin has returned home after being away for eight years. He always wanted to live in Montana-dreaming of owning a plot of land and having a ranch for him and his wife-who he hoped to be Noelle Kramer. There was no happier day than when he proposed and she said yes.

How sweet!

But it was not to be as her father, the banker who owned the mortgage on Thad’s family farm, threatened to evict his family-including his sick mother-if he didn’t leave his daughter alone.

Choosing not to meet to elope with Noelle at their meeting place, he instead left for the West and cattle drives-planning to never return, but did when his family needed help-his younger brother (who got into trouble) has just been released from jail and his older brother widowed.

Aw, that’s sad.

He expects Noelle to be married to her father’s choice, have children, and to never run into her. But as he is out running an errand, a runaway horse almost plunges two women and their carriage into a river. He helps them and is surprised to see they are Noelle and her Aunt Henrietta, and Noelle is blind!

Huh?

Noelle was heartbroken when she went to meet Thad and he wasn’t there. When she returned him crying, she confessed to her father who assured her she was better off than to be with that cad-probably persuaded by the thrill of going out West and sowing oats than being married. Noelle had given up on love and planned on marrying her father’s choice as she didn’t care anymore…

But then Noelle was in an accident that killed her mother and father and left her permanently blind.

Her fiancé didn’t want “damaged goods” and left her-her aunt and uncle (and their four girls) moving from the East to take care of her. Noelle has never stopped loving Thad but having him back makes her anger come out-how could he have been persuaded by the Wild West, how could he have left her.

Thad realizes that Noelle doesn’t know the truth of what happened, but decides to not say anything as he knows how much she loved her father and he doesn’t want to taint her image of him. He decides to stay far away, but her matchmaking aunt who worries about all her girls being settled and her uncle Robert who has no horse sense and is in severe need of aid, keep him coming around.

After Robert has an incredibly dangerous fall, Thad joins the household by taking care of the ranch and spending more time with Noelle, his love reigniting. Will the two be able to move forward? Or be stuck in the past? Will each be able to overcome their insecurities of not being enough (Thad’s “lower class background” and Noelle’s blindness) or will they let that keep them far apart?

So the first reason why I recommend this for Austen fans is that it instantly made me think of Persuasion. Two people in love, separated by youthful persuasion, reuniting wiser and more experienced, a bad fall bringing them together, etc.

In this, Thad is like Anne Elliot- In Persuasion Anne wants to marry Frederick Wentworth, but is persuaded by the fear that he could die, she’d be left alone, etc outweigh her love and she refuses him-him thinking that it is because he is lower than her, not knowing really how Anne loved him. Thad is the same way as he knows the full reason why the engagement ended and has both hurt and pain, but not anger or bitterness.

Noelle is more like Frederick. Both have misunderstood the reason why the person they loved left and start the first half of the book angry and bitter, but then after a bad fall (for Noelle, her uncle Robert and Fredrick, Louisa Musgrove) they realize who they love and want to be with that person. While Frederick writes a letter of his love for Anne, Noelle anonymously sells the land she owns that Thad has been dreaming of buying to show her love for him.

Aunt Henreitta reminds me of a combination of Mrs. Bennet, Mrs. Jennings, and Aunt Gardiner. Aunt Henrietta is the mother of four girls and is constantly worrying about marrying them off, providing dowries, etc.

Hardly a page goes by when she isn’t plotting some sort of matchmaking, but unlike Mrs. Bennet she isn’t silly or has gauche behavior. Like Mrs. Jennings she wants to marry off any eligible man or woman she likes and has a forceful presence. Like Mrs. Jennings, Henrietta will back and protect anyone she cares for, so don’t mess with either one’s girls.

But unlike those two ladies, Henrietta is also very sensible and has a great relationship and love with her husband Robert. She reads the emotions of Thad and Noelle early and tries her best to get them together.

I thought it was a cute story and recommend it for Jane Austen fans.

For more Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers, go to Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters

For more on Persuasion, go to You Ever Notice That The Gossip Girl TV Show is a Lot Like Persuasion?

For more Westerns, go to Will We Survive the Night?: Rawhide (1951)