Review: ‘Over the Hills and Far Away:’ The Life of Beatrix Potter


My Beatrix Potter story



My own most vivid memory of  a Beatrix Potter tale is over the version broadcast on PBS in 2003. My kids and I were watching The Tale of Samuel Whiskers–suddenly the poor guy is wrapped in pie crust and ready to be baked! My daughter, understandably, fell to pieces. She clutched our beloved big orange cat, Stanley, and wept uncontrollably.  I tried to reassure my daughter that all would be fine and that, more importantly, it wasn’t real and that our big guy was fine. She didn’t let our cats out of her sight for a week. It took hours to get her to sleep–and this was the kid who collapsed so early, I cheated and put the clock ahead so she’d go to bed! No need to tell you that no more Beatrix Potter happened at our house!

Matthew Dennison’s Book

Dennison chose to tell Beatrix’s story a little differently. He anchors each chapter with a quote that goes with the theme of the chapter.  He also tried, whenever possible, to show what aspects of her children’s books came from real life. So we learn of scenery being at real places Beatrix lived or that certain real animals were involved–that real children dear to Beatrix were the first to receive her stories as illustrated letters.

He also tells the story of Beatrix’s isolation. Her eccentric parents went above and beyond the normal Victorian mantra of keeping daughters at home. Starved of company outside her family circle, she turned inward. With no one to befriend, she befriended a menagerie of animals and shared her thoughts in her carefully coded journal.  From childhood into early adulthood she was very lonely.  Her parents kept such a tight reign on her that even as an adult with her own home she was forced to spend most of her time as a sort of lady in waiting to her parents. I found this very sad.

I  loved learning that in addition to her children’s books with their marvelous illustrations she also quite an amateur natural scientist. She was especially fascinated by fungi–mushrooms. Nature journals, were a popular past time for Victorians and Edwardians. They would find specimens, draw or watercolor them and label them beautifully. Her nature drawings were of a professional standard as her parents had at least given her excellent tuition in art from private teachers. The book includes a few color plates with some of her nature drawings. Her love of nature also led her to be an early land conservator–buying up land to protect if from encroaching development.

Having loved the movie Miss Potter,  I was pleased to learn the real stories of her first engagement and later marriage. For having such a lonely, often isolated childhood, she at least found someone with whom to share some aspects of her life.



Finally, I was so pleased to see that the author and published used such lovely endpapers for they were a fixation of Beatrix’s in her own books.








Reading The Globe: Dominican Republic: How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents



My Thoughts on This Book


This is a not-so-typical immigrant-slash-coming-of-age story aimed mostly at young adults. I did skip one story-line that bothered me. Overall, I enjoyed this one. Cross-cultural experiences always hold my attention, and immigrant stories are among the most interesting. This was very well written. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarz. [This review was originally published on my old blog on July 23, 2013.]

A few of my favorite quotes from this book:


“…his eyes lidded with hopefulness….”

“…how we lie to ourselves when we fall in love with the wrong man….”

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

Cover Art

Happy Birthday to author Buchi Emecheta and a book list




Ms Buchi Emecheta is a favorite of mine–I devoured her books when I returned home from my Peace Corps service (Malawi) in 1991. Ms Emecheta was born July 21, 1944, so to celebrate her birthday I’m listing may many favorites among her books. Her books deal with African womanhood, both at home and abroad. The expatriate experience was fascinating to me in 1991. I’d also just spent two years with some of the best educated women in Malawi–research scientists in agriculture, so I found her topics of women’s empowerment vs the pull of tradition to be very meaningful.



source unknown


Here then are my favorite– listed in no particular order, though, I would say The Bride Price is my favorite.




The Joys of Motherhood






bride price



The Bride Price









In the Ditch









Head Above Water

This is Buchi’s autobiography.









Second Class Citizen







Double Yoke






I’ve read elsewhere, and completely agree, that author Zadie Smith,  writes in ways very like hers. I enjoy both authors.

If you’ve been trying to Read the World, or to find a book or two from a country new to you, or just enjoy good books about strong women, then I urge you to give at least one of her books a try.


Happy Birthday, Ms Emecheta!



Buchi Emecheta

Portrait by Marina Elphick @

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set Outside the USA

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Over at the great blog The Broke and The Bookish, they hold a fun link party called Top Ten Tuesday.  (Yes, I KNOW it is Wednesday–I found it late, ok?) This is my first time participating, but I know it won’t be my last! This week it’s 10 Favorite Books Set Outside the USA.  In my bullet journal post last week, I showed how I track books read by geography. Naturally, as I write this list, I do not have that journal at hand! Typical me. Happily, I do have my Goodreads lists of books read by year.

I also decided to make it more difficult. I do love travel books and live-abroad books, but those are nonfiction. These needed to be novels, set in current day (or very close…well in MY lifetime at least) and not be about Americans abroad if possible ( I gave in and put one in since it was Malawi and Paul Theroux). I read tons of British fiction so I only chose one set in the UK and one featuring Brits abroad. I also chose books that were reasonably current in terms of publication date.

So, here are ten favorites–in no particular order.



Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Britt Marie Was Here by Fredrikh Backman

No, 1 Ladies Detective Agency (series) by Alexander McCall Smith

White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey

Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol

Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji

Lower River by Paul Theroux

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Siji


Do you like books set abroad? Want to geographically expand your reading? Head over to The Broke and the Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday where you’ll find a tremendous selection of books set in foreign places!







Reading Across the USA: Oregon


Previously I’ve written about tracking the books I’ve finished in Reading Around the World. (And here, too.)Today I’m beginning a look at those I’ve finished in Reading Across the USA–with a caveat. I’m skipping those books in New York City and Los Angeles. America needs more books set in other locations and more published writers who have never lived in either place. I gag on the phrase “the heartland,” and sick-to-death of “the Bible belt,” and want to gag the person who coined the oh-so-precious “Red State” and “Blue State” moniker, because how a state votes doesn’t really tell all.

IfIstayTo start us off I’ve picked one of the hippest places on Earth–Oregon and a genre I don’t often read: Young Adult. But, let me tell you, this is a novel to savor. That it has a sequel is even better. And, did I mention? It is zombie- and vampire-free? No one eats their young. There are no dystopian elements–at least not by my definition.

Gayle Foreman is a master storyteller! The world of music and teens–superb canvas. Characters? Completely believeable. Dialog? Real LIfe. I loved this. Loved the sequel. Just read it!


If I Stay and the sequel, Where She Went, by Gayle Foreman.