Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Promise Kept

There is a kind of book that we at Victoria used to call Read with Tea. This phrase was originated by Michele Slung. I read a review that Michele wrote of a James Heriot book where she ended her comments about the English vet's animal stories with the phrase read with tea. I called our literary editor, Kitty Ross, into my office and asked her to contact Michele. I wanted her to bring this genre of book to our readers, with her special taste and take on a subject.

Kitty did find Michele and she began as a regular contributor to our pages. We even created a graphic to go with her columns. I read some pretty interesting stuff with my tea, thanks to Michele. And what's even more rewarding is that she and Kitty have become great friends. The three of us have had some delightful lunches over the years. And I had a dream of creating Read with Tea press featuring books that women would find, well, delicious.

Now to the subject of A Promise Kept: I told you that I'd read and review the new biographies of Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Maud Montgomery. Both are pretty heavy going, and I must admit that it took a certain amount of diligence to read them. What we love about their writing is the charm of girls growing up. Of course, not everything in the stories of Little Women and Anne of Green Gables is sweetness and light; but we delighted in their adventures while we held their travails close to our hearts.

When I wrote Jenny Walton's Packing for a Woman's Journey, I pledged to relate the best I had to give. If I have to sum up the lives of these writers, I would say that is exactly what they did. And I almost question why we want or need to know of Lucy Maud Montgomery's troubles with her son Chester, for example.

A friend and former colleague recently said something very interesting--that she doesn't enjoy reading about people's lives when so much of it centers about the difficult times. Rather, she said she wanted to know about and read about accomplishments--and how they were achieved.

I am not, however, discouraging you from reading these two biographies. The Montgomery book is incredibly well-researched and that in itself deserves attention. But these are not casual reads. They will enlighten you about women's lives at the time these women wrote and they will give you the seed bed of their fiction. But they are not read with tea books. They are reads to delve deeply into the creative process and to appreciate how creativity can rise above life's difficulties. For pure joy, I'd return to "the best they had to give"--the stories that helped raise us as women and kept us as girls returning to the library week after week to savor every word.

What is your favorite childhood book? Tell us why...


  1. I was feeling lonely for my old friend Victoria today and I so happened to google you. And low and behold your blog came up! You can't imagine my delight and pick-me-up when I discovered it. Even though Victoria is back, it just does not feel like the old friend I had before. My stepmother surprised me when I moved in my house more than eight years ago with most of the back issues of Victoria starting in 1989. I have read, reread and reread these back issues and am still doing it today. I still discover new items and articles in them. I always think "gosh this magazine is 15 years old, or this issue is 20 years old" however they are all timeless. And it was because of your editorial expertise that made them so and I just want you to know how much I have enjoyed them. I am excited about your blog and will follow it often. Thank you, Nancy for still being there for your old, old friends.

  2. I did want to mention to you too that my other old friend, Joan B. Ross whom I met on the pages of Victoria which featured her in several of their issues, and I speak often. I did get one of her beautiful silver heart charm bracelets by the way and wear it often. Although I cannot talk Joan into producing the beautiful bracelets any longer, her shop, Forget Me Nots still has beautiful and unique items. She is just one of the many friends I found on the pages of Victoria over the years.

    1. The mall that Joan was in has closed now.
      Do you know how I can contact her today?
      I have one of her bracelets too and wanted to talk with her!

  3. Hello Nancy: What happened to your dream of Read With Tea press? It's never too late, you know. My absolute favorite childhood book remains "Anne of Green Gables." It made me laugh, cry, and crawl into Anne's shoes to live her life. Even today, I have a small Anne of Green Gables doll, with pig tails and a straw hat, among the dolls in my collection. Anne is truly a kindred spirit. Thanks for your post. Sincerely, Susan from

  4. Nancy - it's hard to pick just one favorite childhood book, but "Misty of Chincoteague" was certainly one favorite, along with all of Marguerite Henry's books. Taking place on Virginia's Eastern Shore, the story follows two children with pluck overcoming difficulties and earning the love of a wild pony. Thanks for your post - I think "The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society" would qualify as "read with tea."

  5. I love the thought of "read with tea" books. What a lovely thought and definitely worth persueing. I often read wonderful blogs, including yours, with my morning tea. Sometimes as I sit here my husband will even bring me tea to drink as I read.

    I didn't read much as a child, but have made up for it as an adult. I just recently read Alice in Wonderland to help me plan a Mad Hatter Teaparty. It was great fun.


  6. My #1, and a book I gift to babies and new mothers, is Bread and Jam for Frances because it taught me how to be an adventurous eater. My #2 is The Secret Garden and today it's still my inspiration for creating a restful oasis in the midst of a bustling city.

  7. I simply loved Enid Blyton books like "The Faraway Tree", The Naughtiest Girl" and 'The Chalet School and Mallory towers series. These I read in my preteen years and filled me with a desire for adventure and fueled my imagination. As I grew...The Secret garden, Jane Eyre, Sense and sensibility; were my favorites. Jane Eyre was an obsession at one point, where i watched a BBC production over and over again for a two year period. Weird i know.

  8. I'm not sure why, but Scott O'Dell's "Island of the Blue Dolphins" was one I read faithfully, every spring. The story of the courageous Karena, a lone Indian girl on an deserted Alutian island, battling the elements, intruders, animals, and her own fears (with the help of her dog, Rontu) spoke to me in deep ways. I own a copy to this day and return to it when I need a boost of bravery. When I wasn't skimming over the seas with Karena, I could often be found sobbing over Beth's death in an attic with Jo March.
    Love, Karen Marline

  9. The written word and books are as essential to me as breathing. I don't remember a day without reading something either funny or inspiring. Our small town library was my second home as a child. I had so many favorites, but two of my later all-time memorable books have to be "The Secret Garden" and "Heidi." In looking back I think they stood out because both characters were strong, indepedent "thinking for themselves" girls who found the best in their situations. They also won over those around them and changed the lives of those they cared about.

    I love the idea of "special tea books." These books or magazines, specifically my precious "Victorias," transport us to a serene and complerely lovely treat. Add a cup of tea (I love the favored ones) in one of my treasured cups and you have a mini-vacation from the stresses of everyday living.

    In our computer age we find almost anything we wish to read, but they will never take the place of holding a book in your hands and shutting yourself off to the world. Everyone have a safe weekend. Jean

  10. My first best literary friend was Beatrix Potter. My mother and I would walk down the hill and across the railroad tracks in the center of small town to our hometown library. Its minimal shelves were housed in the same little white building as our town hall. I remember how the small, dark grayish-green books were a perfect fit for my young hands. I was hooked, then, on all the little characters that Miss Potter brought to life right on those small pages.

    Not long after this I remember my mother reading The Secret Garden to me, where I met the fiesty Mary Lennox. Though she had endured great tragedy, she overcame it, allowed her curiousity to drive her, and brought joy into the lives of others. What fuel for my young imagination!

    And later, Nancy Drew became a constant companion. I spent hours reading every one of those books that were available when I was a pre-teen. There were weeks when I would devour four or five (of course, not during school) of them. I kept the ones I received as gifts and now my daughter has them.

    As an adult I discovered some of the other books mentioned in the comments here, and what a joy to read them for the first time... definitely "read with tea" books. And I second the comment that it is never too late to start the Read With Tea Press!


  11. Oh, definitely Nancy Drew. She sparked my love of mysteries. :)

    As an adult, I loved The Wind in the Willows for the warm and cozy home and food scenes. :)

    As an encouragement from my readers, I spent January reading Elizabeth Goudge books. What took me so long? Wonderful books and definitely "Read With Tea". :)

  12. I do read often with cup in hand and love your "Read with Tea" idea and hope you pursue it.

    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is, indeed, a tea reading book, and Reisen's Louisa May Alcott book is definitely not. I just finished it and have to admit it took me about 6 weeks. Not a hard read, but it holds a great deal to absorb. Little Women is my favorite childhood book and like so many others I still cry when Beth dies. I surprised myself, however, when I read Reisen's words in the last pages of the biography that Louisa died alone. All she endured and gave up for others to breath her last breath alone saddened me and I found myself crying for her as much a I have over time for the character Beth.

    I would like to cite Lois Lenski and her series of rural America books that captivated me as a young girl. Strawberry Girl and Flood Friday were my favorites, but I poured over Boom Town Boy and Cotton in my Sack and Lenski took me to areas of the country I didn't know existed, where folks had it rough and young girls and boys were spirited and pushed through. I have slowly been finding these books, castaways in used book stores and old library books being tossed. I hope some of your readers try them.

  13. Yes, "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society" qualifies!

    Then there are "Read with Hot Chocolate Books," (we've talked about Colette and chocolate here), which would have to include Joanne Harris and perhaps Tracy Chevalier...

  14. I have loved reading since I was a boy. I remember reading a series of illustrated classics. My favourite was Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Hound of the Baskervilles". There was something in this tale that really captured my imagination. To this day fantasy and horror tales are to my liking. I do read my share of romantic and heart warming stories too.

  15. Little House on the Prairie series, Louis May Alcott, and Nancy Drew were my first serious reads. With my children we discovered The Box Car Children, The Secret Garden and the land of Narnia.

    Recently I have discovered Elizabeth Goudge. I love many of her novels, definitely tea worthy. I highly, highly recommend her children's book The Little White Horse. My granddaughters will be reading this one! An absolute charmer.

    Amazon carries it for $6.99.

  16. Nancy, I just want to say nearly the exact same thing that "Anonymous" above said. All of my old Victoria magazines are stored in the wonderful storage boxes that were offered through the magazine and I have them arranged by months (all Feb. issues together etc.), and each month I bring out all of that month's issues and spend that month brousing and enjoying them all over again. As I was going through my Feb. issues this morning I just thought to google your name and what a wonderful surprise and gift to find your blog. There has never been any magazine that has ever come close to the beauty of Victoria and I think that those of us who dearly love her know that it was your lovely guiding hand that made it so. My daughter who is now 22 years old has been for several years as thrilled with my old Victorias as I am and through ebay has just purchased her own complete set of back Victoria issues. The new Victoria that is being published just does not measure up in any way. Now to actually comment on what was asked in this post. I have many favorites in children's literature, but one of the ones that I consider at the top of my list and is actually a find that I did not myself read as a child but instead came across when my daughter was young is the Betsy-Tacy series. My own childhood was harsh and violent and these wonderful stories are warm and loving and also take place during a more gentle and innocent time. My daughter and I both have read and re-read the entire series several times. I also would love a "read with tea" list. Thank you Nancy for all of the beauty and graciousness that you have brought into the lives of so many women. I am so very happy to have found you here.

  17. Home, sick in bed, I have been reading 'The Pantry' by Catherine Pond while I drank my hot lemon and honey tea.


  18. How I long for "our" Victoria! My first literary hero was Winnie the Pooh but then I fell in love with all the Oz books, especially the ones illustrated by Jno R Neill. His interiors look like they could have come out of Victoria magazine.

  19. What a gift I unwrapped today when, after picking up my well worn copy of "Jenny Walton Packing for a Woman's Journey" I decided to google you and discovered your blog! As Lady Bird Johnson encourages us to "Do things that make your heart sing" I have indeed done so today in reading through all your posts!

    Now, in answer to your question regarding a favorite book my vote is for "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith. I read it first as a thirteen year old and picked it up again and fell in love with it all over again.

    Blessings dear Nancy and thank you for opening your heart to us once again!

    Tracy Klehn