Book descriptions

Jan Morris, Travel Writer and Historian — an Introduction

Jan Morris (October 2, 1926 – November 20, 2020), the historian and travel writer, was born and mostly raised in England, but identified as Welsh. Renowned for the Pax Britannica trilogy, a history of the British Empire, she was also esteemed for her intimate and insightful portraits of several great cities of the world. 

Jan published under her birth name, James, before completing her transition to female in 1972. She was one of the first public figures to come out openly as transgender, making her a pioneer to the generations of trans writers (and others) who came after her. 

This introduction to the ideas and accomplishments of Jan Morris is excerpted from Mightier Than the Sword; Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World Through Writing by Rochelle Melander, illustrated by Melina Ontiveros. Copyright © 2021 Beaming Books. Reproduced by permission. Read More→

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Remembering the What Katy Did Series by Susan Coolidge

There are some books from one’s schoolgirl years that stay with you, and the What Katy Did series by Susan Coolidge (1835–1905) certainly falls into that category for me. I read and re-read those books through many vacations. Before realizing it, the actions of favorite characters begin to have an effect on me, as the reader. 

The American author of the What Katy Did series (five books in all) was born Sarah Chauncey Woolsey but gained fame with her pen name, Susan Coolidge. The first book of her Katy Did series was published in 1872. 

What Katy Did deals with the adventures of twelve-year-old Katy Carr, who lives with her Aunt Izzie (after having lost her mother at the age of five), her father, Dr. Carr (a hardworking doctor, who is away from home for long spells), three sisters, and two brothers. Her friend, Cecy, also plays an important role in the first novel.  Read More→

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To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927)

Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941) is recognized as one of the most groundbreaking modernist authors of the twentieth century. She is perhaps most widely known for iconic novels like Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and her semi-autobiographical novel, To the Lighthouse (1927).

To the Lighthouse was Woolf’s fifth novel, and has remained one of her most highly regarded works. Inspired by recollections of her childhood summers spent on the Cornwall coast, To the Lighthouse depicts the fictional Ramsey family and their assorted house guests spending a vacation in the Hebrides, on the island of Skye.

The first part of the novel, “The Window,” finds six-year-old James Ramsey eagerly awaiting a promised trip to the nearby lighthouse, a promise not to be fulfilled until ten years later when, in the third section, “The Lighthouse,” James is nearing adulthood and many of the other characters have disappeared. 

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A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1905)— a Timeless Tale

Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849—1924) was a beloved, poet, playwright, and children’s book author. She penned more than forty novels, plays, and dozens of poems and short stories throughout her lifetime. She’s perhaps best remembered as the author of The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, though her prolific output went far beyond these now-classic works.

The story of A Little Princess follows a young girl with a vivid imagination as she faces abandonment at a posh boarding school in London with a cruel headmistress. The novel is an expansion of Burnett’s novella, Sara Crewe: or, What Happened at Miss Minchin’s Boarding School, first published in December 1887.

The riches-to-rags story was so successful that in 1902, Burnett adapted the story of Sara Crewe into a three-act stage play under the title, A Little Un-Fairy Princess. After a successful production of the play on Broadway, Burnett’s publisher urged her to expand the story of Sara Crewe into a full-length novel. Read More→

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Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (1934)

Agatha Christie (1890—1976) was the most widely published and best-selling author of all time. She authored sixty-six crime novels and short story collections, fourteen plays, and six other romance novels. Murder on the Orient Express, an intricate crime fiction novel, is one of Christie’s greatest mystery novels featuring the illustrious Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

Murder on the Orient Express was first published in the United Kingdom in 1934, and soon after in the United States, retitled Murder on the Calais Coach. Christie drew inspiration for the plot from recent headlines.

Around the time when Murder on the Orient Express was published, the murder of Charles Lindbergh’s son had yet to be solved. This real-life mystery, coupled with Christie’s first journey on the Orient Express in 1928, inspired the iconic detective story. Read More→

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