Category Archives: nonfiction

The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes

This is less a review and more of a gushing post, over this book as well as the series in general. I discovered Downton Abbey around November 2011, if I’m recalling correctly, and stayed up well into the night watching the first five episodes of season 1 on Netflix. I love everything about this show, especially that opening music. I always get a thrill when the opening first comes on, even though I’ve watched both seasons multiple times now. The World of Downton Abbey was released in December from St Martin’s Press, but I didn’t pick it up until after season 2 had finished airing on Masterpiece Classic.
What’s nice about this book is that it isn’t just about the show of Downton Abbey. It talks about the real world of this time that Downton’s based on, and gives information from actual butlers and maids, as well as information from the higher class. It covers 9 areas of interest: family life, society, change, life in service, style, house & estate, romance, war, and then a behind the scenes look at the cast and crew of Downton Abbey. I’d have to say my least favorite chapter was the war chapter, because war has never been one of my interests. I have a three way tie for my favorite chapter between society, life in service, and house & estate. It’s fascinating to read about the division of classes, the give and take between them. Especially interesting was those who work in service. Nowadays it seems like you’re looked down upon if you have work like a maid or something similar, but then it was considered the best kind of work you could have. And then, as now, you were lucky to have a job at all.
English nobility has always been a fascination of mine, mostly stemming from what we see of them in Jane Austen’s novels. I love seeing how they change over the years, and also seeing how little they really do change. Sometimes it seems as though mostly the only change is in fashion, but that’s not entirely it. Ideas and what’s commonly accepted also shift gradually over the years. In Jane Austen’s time I doubt it would’ve been at all acceptable for a woman like Lady Sybil to marry the chauffeur. While in Lady Sybil’s time it is possible. Still not excepted totally, but with the war bringing change it’s not as outlandish as it once would have been.
Reading The World of Downton Abbey has only rekindled my passion for this series, and has made me want to look for similar things to watch and read while waiting for season 3. Another similar movie would be Glorious 39, set during World War II, about a family much like the Crawley’s. It’s more of a mystery, but was definitely enjoyable. Novels that I’ve been acquiring to read include The House at Riverton by Kate Morton, The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons. Nonfiction books that I’ve gotten to read include To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol MdD. Wallace, and Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by the Countess of Carnarvon. The former served as inspiration for Downton, and the latter will be highly interesting since it’s the history of the location of Downton Abbey. I can’t wait to dig into all of these.
If you love Downton Abbey as much as me and many many others, I definitely suggest getting The World of Downton Abbey. Chock full of fascinating information about the show itself and the history of the time it’s set in, and the people, you’re sure to enjoy this. A perfect way to pass the time until season 3 comes early next year.

Review: Your Child’s Writing Life by Pam Allyn

Your Child’s Writing Life: How to Inspire a Love of Words and Instill Lasting Confidence and Creativity in Your Child by Pam Allyn
Publisher: Avery Trade 
Release date: August 2, 2011
Source: Publisher via NetGalley 
Format: eARC 
Series: N/A 
Purchase: Book Depository 

Summary from Goodreads:
An illuminating, first-of-its-kind resource to help parents foster a love of writing in their child’s life.

New educational research reveals that writing is as fundamental to a child’s development as reading. But though there are books that promote literacy, no book guides parents in helping their child cultivate a love of writing. In this book, Pam Allyn, a nationally recognized educator and literacy expert, reminds us that writing is not only a key skill but also an essential part of self-discovery and critical to success later in life. Allyn offers the “the five keys” to help kids WRITE-Word Power, Ritual, Independence, Time, and Environment-along with fun, imaginative prompts to inspire and empower children to put their thoughts on the page.

A groundbreaking blueprint for developing every child’s abilities, Your Child’s Writing Life teaches parents how to give a gift that will last a lifetime.

I don’t actually have any children at this time, nor do I plan to in the immediate future. I will someday though, so I accepted this request for review, especially since the subtitle says at any age. I can remember in school writing was a chore for me. I didn’t enjoy it, and I know I used to when I was younger. I remember having a journal where I’d write stories that popped into my mind. And when that one became full my mom gave me another to start in. Somewhere along the way though I lost my passion for it. I want to rekindle that passion. Not only for myself, but for the sake of any future children I have.
What I love about this book is that the prompts Pam Allyn suggests for getting your kid started is writing about what you see, what you feel, which is also a great way to become aware of the world around you. If we get children passionate about writing when they’re young, and being aware, they will grow up with that awareness and hopefully cherish it. They will see something and question why that is, and marvel at it. And then write about it. With awareness and literacy hand in hand, I think as children grow up, they would be less likely to take life for granted, because they’d have the skills they need to live life to it’s fullest.
She also talks about the importance of reading. I’ve heard it said by many people over the years that reading helps you write better, and that is absolutely true. With all of the writing tips she gives the reader in her book she also mentions picture books and chapter books that fit whatever idea she’s currently talking about. Examples for your child to see how poetry is written well, or humor. Anything. She also lists twenty books that are excellent at showing all the different writing styles there are, and how and why they work. And that while for writing there are some set rules, it’s also a creative outlet for your child to express themselves, however they want to. It allows them to think outside the box.
The last chapter is a wonderful resource for anytime you or your child has writer’s blocks. There are prompts about what to write when you’re lonely, where you think up an imaginary friend and write about him or her, about who that person is, what makes them that person. And almost all prompts also have an offering of books that talk about that topic in some way.
This book also got me thinking about traditional writing as well as writing with all the new technology we’ve gained even in just the last ten years. In the beginning I think you should definitely stick to traditional materials like paper and pens, pencils, crayons and markers like she says. And when the child is older add in the computer. Be careful though about how much time the child spends on the computer, because I know from personal experience that it is very easy for a younger child to get addicted to everything the computer and internet can offer, which can be a detriment to child’s development. Finding a balance between the mediums will allow him or her to get the best of both worlds.
This is definitely a book you’ll want in personal library if you have children, or are planning on having them soon. All of the ideas in this book can only help enrich their lives, help them appreciate everything around them, and like Pam says, keep your family close throughout the years, because you are actively helping your child in this process, instead of being a bystander.