Book Wisdom

A Few Lessons From Stuart Little About Life, Family, and Friendship

I recently got back into puzzles. Yes, this is also a very random way to start a blog post, but I blame Target. While Christmas shopping, they had puzzles on sale (it was of a tiger) and for reasons I still don’t know, I thought “that sounds fun, I’m going to buy myself a Christmas gift.” It’s been at least two decades since I’ve done a puzzle, but I enjoyed it and found it relaxing, so I bought myself another one. This time featuring covers of famous children’s books. After I finished that one, I did what any book nerd would deem necessary – decided read all the books featured in the puzzle throughout the coming months (It’s gonna be such a struggle when I have to re-read The Hobbit and the two books from The Chronicles of Narnia).

Thus bringing me to a little mouse named Stuart Little. I have a small collection of children’s books and since I already owned this one, it’s the one I started with.

While not Charlotte’s Web nor E.B.’s best work, I think it’s still a fun read for children. It’s a random collection of Stuart’s adventures, with only a few tied together. It ends without some answers, but there are plenty of takeaways. I thought the end quote was quite fitting for life.

We always don’t know what the outcome will be (in Stuart’s case, if he will find his best friend, Margalo), but that shouldn’t stop us from moving forward:

“Stuart rose from the ditch, climbed into his car, and started up the road that led toward the north. The sun was just coming over the hills on his right. As he peered ahead into the great land that stretched before him, the way seemed long. But the sky was bright, and he somehow felt he was headed in the right direction.”

Just like a life of faith. Sometimes it’s enough to know you’re headed in the right direction, even if you don’t know the final destination.

Stuart also teaches us how fulfilling life can be when we live it to the fullest, whether that’s seeking adventures in our own backyard or taking some steps a bit further away. He was always up for trying something different or something new.

We also see his love for home. Never is his family and home far from his thoughts, wherever he finds himself and of course there’s friendship. True friendship is one that loves at all times. We see that in his final quest to find his best friend Margalo.

If you haven’t read a children’s book in a while, I invite you to. There’s always something to be gleaned and as my friend C.S. Lewis once wrote: “Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

Finally, if nothing else, how about these life rules? While “substitute teaching” Stuart asks the class what is important:

“A shaft of sunlight at the end of a dark afternoon, a note in music, and the way the back of a baby’s neck smells if its mother keeps it tidy,” answered Henry.

“Correct,” said Stuart. “Those are the important things. You forget one thing though. Mary Bendix, what did Henry Rackmeyer forget?”

“He forgot ice cream with chocolate sauce on it,” said Mary quickly.

“Exactly,” said Stuart. “Ice cream is important.”

I’m good with that.

Book Reviews, Fiction

Dracula by Bram Stoker | A Discussion

Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England so he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. Dracula has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, the gothic novel and invasion literature. Although Stoker did not invent the vampire, he defined its modern form, and the novel has spawned numerous theatrical, film and television interpretations.

I have long said I hate scary things. Outside of a couple of exceptions in my lifetime, I avoid scary things (and will close my eyes and ears during a scary preview….why do they have to make kids creepy in horror movies?!). But Dracula is its own beast (I’m so clever). Not only because it doesn’t add in what today’s films do, but it truly shows the battle of good vs evil, even how enticing evil might seem. I love everything about this novel and really enjoyed re-reading it.

The story has such bravery and courage. Friendship and love. I think we need those books that display evil so clearly, because it reminds us of the battles out there. Although I have to admit, I have to break up this book with a light novel, otherwise my dreams get all kinds of strange. Not freaky/nightmare, but y’all, weird. I always laugh at myself when I wake up.

When people find out this is one of my all-time favorites, they ask if I’ve seen the movie. To which I answer NEVER! I refuse to taint my love of this book by watching the movie (although I am a fan of many of the actors in the film. Don’t know what I think of Mina’s casting in the 90s version though).

A few thoughts on some characters

Mina: Talk about going through the wringer! She has no idea where he soon-to-be husband is for the early part of the novel, then she finds out he’s been through hell and back, loses her best friend, finds out her best friend became a vampire, is bitten by Dracula and then is forced to drink his blood. That’ll would put me out of the game for a few months. Yet, she’s a strong woman (they couldn’t have beat the Count without her).

Lucy: Every time I think of her, I get sad. One night of sleep walking did her in. Poor Lucy, especially after she found her love. I thought the scene, right before she died, when she thanked Van Helsing for protecting Arthur was a touching last show of her love and devotion.

Jonathan: Same as Mina, he went through the wringer as well – even more so with having to live through the Count’s Castle shenanigans, then fear that he might lose Mina. I do love his bravery, devotion and love of Mina. I mean, if he were real and alive in 2017, I wouldn’t say no. 😉

Arthur: Such a brave soul as well. Imagine having to drive a stake through the undead version of the love of your life? Again, sentences I would never say in real life, but I thought Stoker did an excellent job with his development from then on out – from his commitment to go after Dracula to his weeping with Mina.

Van Helsing: Can I be as rad as him when I’m old?

Renfield: Another soul I felt so bad for.

Dr. Seward was a great character as well, although I don’t have much to say beyond that. Also, why did it have to be the Texan to die? #Hatin #RIPQuincey

Favorite quotes

One of my favorite things about Stoker is his ability to set up the scene. While we all knew what was coming, I enjoyed early on Harker’s observations before he officially met the Count:

“I could hear a lot of words often repeated, queer words, for there were many nationalities in the crowd, so I quietly got my polyglot dictionary from my bag and looked them out. I must say they were not cheering to me, for amongst them were “Ordog”–Satan, “Pokol”–hell, “stregoica”–witch, “vrolok” and “vlkoslak”–both mean the same thing, one being Slovak and the other Servian for something that is either werewolf or vampire. (Mem., I must ask the Count about these superstitions.)”

“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!” Seeing, I suppose, some expression in my face strange to him, he added, “Ah, sir, you dwellers in the city cannot enter into the feelings of the hunter.” Nah, I’m good.

Some lines, just spot on:
“In silence we returned to the library, and after a minute or two I went to my own room. The last I saw of Count Dracula was his kissing his hand to me, with a red light of triumph in his eyes, and with a smile that Judas in hell might be proud of.”

I call this “Worst Nightmare:”
“When I got almost to the top I could see the seat and the white figure, for I was now close enough to distinguish it even through the spells of shadow. There was undoubtedly something, long and black, bending over the half-reclining white figure. I called in fright, “Lucy! Lucy!” and something raised a head, and from where I was I could see a white face and red, gleaming eyes.”

This is one of my all time favorite lines of the book (from Van Helsing)

“Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all, and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain.”

Have you read this Classic? Would love for you to share your thoughts, favorite characters, quotes and such!