Once upon a time (or, Susan’s book pick: Fanny’s Dream by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner)

Sometimes I fantasize about organizing a “too much stuff” intervention for my parents. I try to tell them, nicely, that we have libraries, Blockbuster, and WalMart for a reason: so we don’t have to stockpile every last ding-dang thing in our own homes.

But ever since Sally learned how to read, it’s been kind of nice that they have too many old hardback copies of Nancy Drew, The Secret Garden, and Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint. Susan and Spot love Grandma’s picture books. Like toys, someone else’s books are always much more exciting that your own.

A couple months ago, Susan set down Grandma’s copy of Rapunzel long enough to discover Fanny’s Dream, an enchanting pseudo-Cinderella-type fairy tale. Fanny’s fairy godmother doesn’t arrive in time to send Fanny to the ball. Instead, her good friend Heber comes calling and offers her “one hundred and sixty acres, a little log cabin, and dreams of my own . . . and good food and great company.”

Fanny accepts, though she warns him that she doesn’t do windows. So Heber and Fanny settle down to a mundane life of farming, parenting, and laughing.

Here’s my favorite part (and a good candidate for fridge lamination):

As for Heber, he figured that it hadn’t been easy for Fanny to give up her dreams, so he made it a point to wait on her at least once a day, as if she were a princess, and every so often he wiped the grime off the windows.

When Fanny’s fairy godmother finally shows up, after three kids and a house fire and pig slopping, butter churning, and outhouse pranks played on Heber, Fanny has to decide whether she wants her current life or her dream life. I don’t want to give away the plot, but let’s just say I haven’t finished reading it yet without crying.

Last time I read it to the girls, I noticed an inscription on the title page: To Mom and Dad, love Jane and Dick, Christmas 1998. That was just six months after Dick and I were married. And I think I gave it to my mom because I know she gave up a lot of her dreams when she got married at 17, had me at almost-19, and then mothered continues to mother the five of us and grandmother the kids that we have added.

I guess it’s okay to hang on to some books forever.

Obviously, Fanny’s Dream Works for me!

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Sally Reviews The Princess Academy; Everybody is Guest-Post Writing

I learned about Shannon Hale from Stephenie Meyer‘s Breaking Dawn acknowledgments page: Thanks to my peer support, Shannon Hale, for understanding everything.

Oh! How joining that group would be sweeter than all the Be Fri – St Ends necklaces in the world.

The next best thing was a trip to the library, where I got Austenland, Shannon Hale’s first grown-up book, and Sally got The Princess Academy, her Newberry Honor book.

At first Princess Academy wasn’t princessy enough for Sally, who’s seen Barbie as the Island Princess one too many times. A few weeks later, after a detour through the old Nancy Drew books, Sally picked up Princess Academy again, and this time she was hooked. I sat down with her last night to see if it’s something I’d like to read:

On a scale of 1 to Harry Potter, how was it? I liked it as much.

What was your favorite part? When the bandits came.

Was it set in the real world? No, it was set in somebody else’s world, but that world seemed real.

Would you like to live in that world? No, it’s all cold on Mount Eskel.

Would you recommend it to your friends? Yes. What about the boys? I think boys would like it — there are princes and stuff in it.

There you have it: Two Thumbs Up for The Princess Academy. Sally is seven, but I think it would appeal to tweens, teens, and even grown-ups who remember reading Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books and Ursula K. LeGuin.

As for Austenland, I couldn’t help comparing it to the Twilight series, even though they are incredibly different. The authors share many characteristics — they’re both female, Mormon, mothers of small children, and both write YA books. They also both write romance-y books for a PG audience.

The first half of Austenland was delightful. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I read Melinda’s copy of the Complete Jane Austen when I was thirteen, and that I watch both the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth and Keira Knightley/Matthew MacFadyen Pride and Prejudices regularly. Hale’s writing is fantastic. One of her images still thrills me: she compares an middle-aged woman suddenly outshone by a younger flirty woman to a wilted carrot in the back of the refrigerator. I’ve had enough sad carrots in my crisper to love this image!

But the romance/plot is ultimately unsatisfying. I want to be convinced that my hero and heroine belong together. That they deserve each other, fit together, that their relationship will last. And she couldn’t convince me of that. Contrast that to Stephenie Meyer, who is not the world’s greatest writer. And who could use an editor like that carrot could use a shot of adrenaline.

But Stephenie Meyer is an incredible storyteller. Her plots are satisfying and convincing and I feel like I will die if her characters don’t end up together.

Is it too much to ask for great storytelling and fantastic writing all in the same book? Maybe they could collaborate? I mean, when they’re not busy understanding each other?

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If you’ve ever wondered how to (or if you should) express your religious beliefs in your online writing, check out my guest post at Segullah today: Have you born your testimony on YouTube yet?

And for a great example of the power of blogging for good, check out Blog Community Supports Injured Couple. Tara at The Well-Rounded Woman talks about how bloggers have raised money and pulled together for Stephanie and Christian Nielson.

Aack. I just realized I’m a week behind on the theme. Sorry! Next month I’ll have a children’s book. Promise.