Notes of Encouragement while wandering in the Park

Two things happened recently, one good, and the other… also ultimately good.

The first is that the winter weather finally left, and it’s spring! That is definitely a good thing.

The second is that I was recently laid off from my teaching job. It felt bad at first. But if you believe as I do that God makes all things work together for good for those who love Him, it will turn out for the better. It will be exciting to see how things go!

Anyway, it certainly has its advantages in the short term:

 

 

The combination of these two things has brought about a wonderful change to my schedule. Now that I don’t have to rush around weekday mornings to prepare for–and drive to–work, I can go on early morning walks to the park!

Ahhh. When the sky is clear, I love to grab my camera, and walk a block to the urban park near my home, Fish Creek Park.  It is referred to as one of the largest urban parks in all of Canada, and here it is considered one of the BEST.

First, let me share with you some of the sweet messages of encouragement some very talented artists have created and shared since mid-March. These adorn one of the paths I take when I want the best chance of seeing wild animals.

 

 

 

Notice that not all of these have written messages, word messages. Some are merely pictures. Yet those still convey a message, don’t they?

And I think we’d agree that all give a message of hope and happiness, a warm feeling that yes, “every little thing gonna be alright”.

I hope these made you feel that way, too!

Next, let me share with you a few of the other joys of the morning walks from the past few weeks, mostly birds. More good vibes!

 

Goose and gosling

 

Mallard

 

Morning dew

 

Woodpecker

 

Smiling tree trunk, ha ha!

 

Bald eagle hunting

 

Pelican taking off

 

Yellow-rumped warbler?

 

It is my sincere hope that all of you are well and safe, and that you were able to take a few deep breaths of peace, joy and nature from these photos and messages.  God bless!

Calgary spring used book sales – the 2020 version

UPDATED ON MAY 31, 2020    

At this time of year, I usually post information to help you plan for the Calgary’s biggest and best used book sales, but this year things are (obviously) a bit different…

 

RESET Calgary usually holds the first used book sale at the Crossroads Market. Here is the note on their website:

“We have made the decision to postpone the 18th Annual Book Drive & Sale. We are truly sorry that the Book Drive & Sale will not be able to move forward in the spring as in previous years, but we are feeling excited about the possibilities for this event next year.

This is an extremely important fundraiser for our agency as it provides over 12% of our revenue and we thank you for your considering supporting RESET Society in other ways during this time: https://resetcalgary.ca/how-you-can-help/”

The Calgary READS sale is usually at the Calgary Curling Club, and they are planning their used book sale for the fall of 2020. BUT in the meantime, they need your donations of new and “like-new” CHILDREN’S books NOW. 

“If you are able to donate “gently used” children’s books, please contact us at info@calgaryreads.com and we will provide instructions on how to donate.”

 

And for those who just can’t wait for the in-person used book sales, you can still shop online. Although the following do not offer as many incredible deals as RESET and Calgary READS will offer, here are some used book stores to get you started:

Calgary’s Fair’s Fair used bookstore updated their webpage: Our Inglewood store will be OPEN to the Public effective THURSDAY, MAY 14th 10:00 am – 4:00 pm – 7 DAYS A WEEK“.

Calgary’s Better Books and Bibles (new and used Christian books) has posted this notice on their website: We are opening our doors again on Saturday May 30th! Our hours will remain the same (10-2) but will increase if business calls for it. We are very excited to see all of you again!” https://www.betterbooksandbibles.com/

AbeBooks, founded in Victoria, B.C., Canada, now worldwide, has a page for searching for books with free shipping to Canada.

Better World Books has free shipping to Canada, and has several deals happening now. As their website says, “Every time you purchase a book on betterworldbooks.com, we donate a book to someone in need.”

Powell’s Books is included in my list because it is near and dear to my heart. This “City of Books” was established in 1971 and is also one of the top attractions in the city of Portland. In the two hours I had allotted to explore it in 2007, I only made it through about a third of this unique store.

Happy reading to all!

 

Wishing you all health, safety, sanity, and patience as we get through this time!

Life is still beautiful. Consider yourself hugged.

 

[Warm appreciation to photographer Artem Beliaikin for the “Pile of Books” image!]

For your viewing pleasure: “First Novel”, a NFB film

I hope all of you authors and aspiring authors out there will get a chuckle from this 1958 film. I did, and as a writer I also found it encouraging.

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Actor Len Birman as the author in “First Novel”

While researching video viewing options online, I ran across many sources of entertainment and education (see below), including the National Film Board of Canada. I decided to check out this vintage work because it was about the writing life.

This 30-minute film, “First Novel“, dramatizes the struggles of a novelist. In spite of the excitement of finding a publisher for his book, he gets a reality check from the editor, a visit from a college buddy who wants help to write his own story, and neighbors gossiping about the faithful wife who goes off to work everyday while her bum of a husband “doesn’t work”. And of course he battles self-doubt, and the ever-present worry about the lack of money coming in (look Ma, no pension!).

It has the feel of a 1950s film or television show, wholesome and rather endearing. The author and his wife are being pulled by the typical dilemma of a writer, or any other artist: practicality, or “writing what you want to write and letting the money take care of itself”.

While I watched it, I tried to figure out the purpose of the film. Was it to encourage Canadian authors? (Or discourage them?) I kept waiting for someone to break into the story and say something profound to the would-be-authors in the viewing audience.

The script was co-written by the well-known award-winning Canadian author Mordecai Richler, no doubt inspired by some of his own experiences. “First Novel” also stars Len Birman as the author in one of his first screen appearances.

…And about those other online viewing options, here are a few gems that caught my eye:

PBS: News Hour, and Exploring Antarctica’s Threatened Glaciers.

Open Culture – “The best free cultural and educational media on the web” : watch Cary Grant in the classic comedy “His Girl Friday“, or listen to  Albert Einstein read The Common Language of Science .

Internet Archive – “A non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more”: a weather report from 1974, “The Day of the Killer Tornadoes” (not Tomatoes)

…and speaking of weather, I love the Weather Channel videos, like Let the Weather Come to You, or Rescuing a Moose. Or not so weather-related videos, like Chris Hadfield’s Guide to Self-Isolation.

Pluto TV: All Aboard (train trips in Norway, Spain, wherever–I can’t take my eyes off the screen)

YouTube: Classic movies

and, of course, YouTube: Kitten Academy Live Stream, just purr fun!

Happy Watching!

 

Happy Leap Day! Leap Year in Literature

Just for fun, since it only comes once every four years, I decided to look around for Leap Year-related literature. I was pleasantly surprised at what I found!

The Pirates of Penzance

Having a birthday on February 29th makes you a “leapling”, and sometimes one birthday every four years can get you in trouble!

This is a comic opera that premiered in New York City on 31 December 1879, and is still being performed 140 years later!  Here are some lines from The Pirates of Penzance, or The Slave of Duty, by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.

For some ridiculous reason, to which, however, I’ve’no desire to be disloyal,
Some person in authority, I don’t know who, very likely the Astronomer Royal,
Has decided that, although for such a beastly month as February, twenty-eight

days as a rule are plenty,
One year in every four his days shall be reckoned as nine-and-twenty.
Through some singular coincidence — I shouldn’t be surprised if were owing

to the agency of an ill-natured fairy —
You are the victim of this clumsy arrangement, having been born in leap-year,

on the twenty-ninth of February.
And so, by a simple arithmetical process, you’ll easily discover,
That though you’ve lived twenty-one years, yet, if we go by birthdays, you’re
only five and a little bit over !

You can read the entire work here.  I was fortunate enough to see a performance of this in 1981 in San Diego, but at the time I didn’t know enough about it to appreciate its fame and longevity!

Humorous short stories and plays

Tradition said that men should do the asking when it comes to becoming engaged to marry, but during a leap year, a woman was “allowed” to propose marraige. This topic inspired plenty of writers around the turn of the 19th century!

A 1907 short story by John Kendrick Bangs called “The Genial Idiot Discusses Leap Year” appears in The Wit and Humor of America, Volume X of X. You can read this volume here. It is full of surprises, laughter and we can see from the standpoint of 2020 that we’ve come a long way, baby!

The Misses Pringle’s Leap Year: a Comedy in Two Acts, by Amaryllis V. Lord, is a 1912 play which also centers around this theme of women having the “privilege” of proposing marriage–in this case, it is the bachelor parson! You can find it at Amazon and at Forgotten Books.  Here is a blurb about it advertised in another book:

THE MISSES PRINGLES’ LEAP YEAR

A Comedy in Two Acts by Amaryllis V. Lord
Ten females and the apparition of a man. Costumes, modern ; scenery,
unimportant. Plays half an hour. The Misses Barbara, Priscilla and
Betsy Pringle, while scorning matrimony in public, have a secret inclina-
tion toward it, and taking advantage of leap year, each, without the
knowledge of the others, proposes by letter to Deacon Smith with sur-
prising results. Very easy and amusing, requiring no scenery and but
little rehearsing. Price, 7cents

And here is one more, an 1885 play I found on Hathi Trust, called Leap-Year: a Comedy in Four Acts for Nine Characters, by Susa S. Vance. The entire play can be downloaded here. Who knew that Leap Years would inspire so many humorous stories?

I even ran across a lovely 1913 Leap Year song that has the sweetest lyrics!

 

 

 

From this century….

Here’s a cute Tigger and Pooh book called Leap Day, read aloud on You Tube.

Leopold’s Long Awaited Leap Year Birthday is also worth watching. And there are plenty more at LeapYearDay.com where they have gathered together loads of “LEAPIFIED BOOKS.”

For the science side of things, you might want to check out my post from 2016 or this fascinating article !

 

Happy Leap Day!

Valentine’s Day Toss-up: Something old, something new

With all the romance novels out there, it’s hard to know where the good quality reads are.

So here are some recommendations of clean, well-written romance novels I’ve read over the past couple years.

Some are set in past history, others are set in present day, and one is both!

Calgary Zoo Conservatory - Valentine's Day 2020

 

Falling for June

by Ryan Winfield (2015)

This is a sweet story about a foreclosure clerk Elliot who meets David Hadley, an elderly man living as a hermit in rural Washington State. David needs Elliot’s help to fulfill a promise to his wife June, whom he met in his fifties at the top of a 70 story building. A unique, beautiful love story.

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Fair Game

by Elizabeth White (2007)

A classic example of me falling for the cover, but this time the image delivered what it promised! Humor, excellent writing, good plot, wholesome values and witty dialogue. Jana wants the land for wildlife rescue and Grant wants it for hunting. But God knows even stubborn enemies sometimes fall in love…

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Vinegar Girl

by Anne Tyler (2016)

I read this voraciously, as I do all of her books. The introverted 28-year-old devoted daughter of a brilliant microbiologist is asked to do her father a very big favor in order to help bring all of his years of research to a successful conclusion. Brilliant fun, good-hearted book!

Vinegar Girl

 

The Grand Sophy

by Georgette Heyer (1950)

Sophy is a free-spirited young woman who has been left alone far too much by her ever-traveling father, much to the consternation of proper society. A typical Georgette Heyer heroine, this one is shockingly direct and audacious. While he is overseas for an indefinite period of time, she is sent to live with stuffy relatives. They certainly don’t want her there and they look down their noses at her, but she is a take-charge gal and sets out to solve the many problems in the bedeviled family. Along the way, however, she stirs up some new problems. You can’t guess how it’s going to finish until the very end of the breathtaking roller coaster ride, in the last few pages. The version I read was 403 pages, but I didn’t want it to end. It lived up to its high rating as one of the greatest written by this best-selling author of 57 books.

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Love Letter

by Rachel Hauck (2018)

In this excellent split-time novel, a love letter is found by someone in the twenty-first century who is related to the writer of the eighteenth century love letter. It switches from authentic depictions of characters, relationships and historical events in 1780 South Carolina, to intertwined storylines in present day Los Angeles. The characters are realistic, with fallible personalities and struggles with faith. Brilliant storytelling, and suspense as the author flips back and forth between the two time periods and the two couples, make it a fascinating read!

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I hope you’ll share your favorite Valentine’s Day reads in the comments section below!

Happy Valentine’s Day reading!

Calgary Zoo - Zoo Lights

Unsung heroes in Canadian History

I grew up in the U.S. in a predominantly white neighborhood during the sixties and seventies. My city’s school system began forced busing when I was eleven years old, just as I was leaving elementary school and preparing to start junior high. It was a controversy that sparked violence and unrest.

From a social media group established for our 40 year high school reunion, I know that many people of all races suffered from this mandatory integration. Personally, aside from a couple minor incidents, my memories of that time are good.

I enjoyed meeting new friends of all races, and grew in my respect toward my non-white classmates. I am sure that the forced busing policy accomplished some of its goals to intermix blacks and whites successfully.

(If you’re interested, here are two articles I saved from the city newspaper in the early 1970s. One covers a sit-in protest by students, and another shows a more peaceful option for trying to find common ground among different races.)

So did that experience influence the writing of my third book? You decide.

Last year I was pleased to write another educational book intended for the Canadian school curriculum. It turned out to be my favorite so far!

This is the first biographical work I’ve done, and I so enjoyed discovering many unsung heroes!  It was nearly impossible to choose which to include in the book, but I am so happy with how the book turned out. I especially love the many full-sized photos.

Some of the heroes included are:

Rose Fortune, Viola Desmond, Addie Aylestock,

Oscar Peterson, Willie O’Ree, Portia White,

Drake, Phylicia George, and Eugenia Duodo.

I hope you’ll be curious enough to look up these great Canadians!

Black History in Canada is a series of educational books published by Beech Street books. My book is entitled Famous Black Canadians and intended for students in grades 4 through 6.

 

For any teachers out there, you can find the series at Beech Street Books‘ website and order from there, or from Amazon .

 

Holiday Gems

One of the joys of the holiday is settling down

after all the energetic activities

to read inspired holiday fiction.

 

You are no doubt familiar with some of the well-known holiday books and short stories…

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol…     The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson…

Eugene Field’s The First Christmas Tree…          O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi…

A Visit from St. Nicholas   (‘Twas the night before Christmas) by Clement Clarke Moore…

And, of course, the sacred Bible accounts of the first Christmas.

 

Well, here are some gems that I’ve recently discovered.

They are not as well known, perhaps, but are some of the most beautiful holiday stories I’ve read!

Christmas Day in the Morning” by Pearl S. Buck

A farm boy works so hard, only to see disappointment in his father’s eyes, until one Christmas he overhears his parents’ conversation and learns what Dad really thinks of him.

 

My Christmas Miracle by Taylor Caldwell

A true story of the lowest point of her life

 

A Christmas Inspiration” by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Fun-loving young women living together in a boarding house take notice of one of their quirky, quiet neighbors.

 

A Gift from the Heart” by Norman Vincent Peale

The true story of a young Swiss girl employed by a wealthy American family and her Christmas surprise.

 

The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien (1976)

A collection of letters the author wrote from 1920 to 1943 to his children “from Father Christmas”.

 

and, my VERY favorite,

The Man at the Gate of the World by W.E. Cule

The Magi Caspar’s quest to find the Saviour of the World, and his obedience to the call to stand at the Gate of the World—in the city of Damascus—and wash the feet of weary travelers.

Most of these I found during the past few weeks of reading these two books:

A Classic Christmas, and The Fireside Book of Christmas Stories.

 

For more selections

here is American Literature’s beautiful collection of Christmas Stories, and

(I can’t resist!) Linus’s version of the first Christmas.

 

Wishing you many peaceful, happy hours of reading, and

A HAPPY NEW YEAR 2020!

 

Discovering Ralph Connor

In July of 2009, I went for a hike in our nearby Rockies. It was on Grotto Mountain, an expansive mountain that fills the landscape east of the mountain town of Canmore, Alberta, one of my favorite towns in Alberta.

Here is a photo I took from the trail on Grotto Mountain, looking south….

….and another looking west at a group of peaks called The Three Sisters:

After hiking I went into Canmore and took some pictures of the town, including this one:

… and I loved it so much, I used it for my Gravatar!

Okay, that’s all to set up the fact that I love the area around Canmore.

While on another hike this past summer, I’d met someone who recommended a tour of the Canmore Mines, so I thought I’d get some information about it, to plan a visit.

Well, one online rabbit-trail led to another, and soon I was on a webpage and map of Historic Sites in Canmore. Good! More things to see when I go there the next time!  Included was this note:

Ralph Connor United Church, a little farther down 8th Street, was built in 1890 and is now a Provincial Historic Site. The church is named for its first reverend, Charles Gordon, who used the pen name Ralph Connor for the 35 books he authored.

Hmm, never heard of him.

Did it say he wrote books?!

With the description, I was surprised to see a photograph almost identical to my photo of the mountains behind the church:

Wow, that’s “my church”, now I’m interested! So who is this obscure author Ralph Connor, and what kind of novels did he write?

It turns out that from 1890 to 1893 he served as a missionary in the Northwest Territories (including what is now Alberta, which didn’t become a province until 1905) before moving to Manitoba.

Okay, now I’m really interested. Here is more detail of Rev. Charles Gordon’s fascinating background in a section from an excellent archived article in Maclean’s magazine November 15,1953:

He was Canada’s most prolific bestseller at the turn of the 19th century!  So why haven’t I heard of him before?

Probably because a preacher-author in the early 1900s writing about hard-drinking lumbermen in Canada being moved to prayer couldn’t have much of a following.

Wrong.  The same Maclean’s article says:

“From Calcutta to New York… five million copies… Canada’s all-time best-selling novelist” ?!  And in the United States police were called out to control crowds attending lectures he gave… President Woodrow Wilson admired his books and Henry Ford, as Connor’s luncheon host, sent a servant to his library to get a pile of them for the author to autograph.

That was then, in about 1900.

Yet, even now, he is included in the Canadian Encyclopedia’s article about best selling English books in Canada. I have found his novels in hardcover at a local bookstore, available at my library, and at Amazon and other booksellers online, including gutenberg.org.

This October 15, 1959 article and photo in the Glengarry Ont newspaper honors Ralph Connor, as well as this very moving account written in 2016 about the Reverend Charles Gordon as a Chaplain in World War I.

In 1921 a silent movie was made of his book Sky Pilot , starring Colleen Moore (who was a popular silent movie star).

I’m currently reading his book Black Rock: A Tale of the Selkirks , which is written about the Canmore area. It only took me a few sentences to understand why his books have been so popular–excellent writing, brilliant dialogue and inspiring, gripping plots!

Today I went back to my original 2009 photo and zoomed in on the sign in front of the church.  Sure enough, there it is, “Ralph Connor”. I had never noticed the sign, I was only looking at how beautiful it was to have the mountains in the background of the church steeple.

Now I look forward to visiting the church on my next drive to Canmore, knowing the history of Reverend Charles Gordon who built the first church in that town (which is still going strong after 125 years!), and through the lifelike “sermons” in his novels, became famous as author Ralph Connor.

Am I the only one who hadn’t heard of Ralph Connor? Have you read any of his books? If so, let me know what your favorites are! If not, I hope you have a look at one of his novels and let me know what you think!

Fun and Frolic: Stories for the Young from the 1800s

Such a pleasant peek into the

simple family life of the late 1800’s

Ah, the simple innocence of that era. It makes one want to time-travel there for a day, or a year! Obviously, not everyone in 1888 had the leisure shown in this book, there were certainly just as many who had hard and meager lives. But no doubt a book like this brought smiles to many.

This sweet picture book of 45 pages has a short story or vignette that fits on one page, and an illustration in color or black and white to go with it. In tiny writing on the bottom left corner of the cover it says, “Copyright 1888 by J.L. Blamire.”

 

On the front cover, children are spending time indoors with an unhurried mother, playing with wooden animals and soldiers. It’s interesting to me that children throughout history have enjoyed playing with toy animals, and that animals in general have drawn the attention and affection of children.

I have also seen toys, and toys in books, from various periods in history that include soldiers and equipment for battles. Does that mean that wars are constantly raging throughout history, and children are aware of them because their fathers are away fighting? Or perhaps many of the famous men and women in countries all over the world have been war heroes, and the children grow up wanting also to be heroes?

The inside cover has the neatly hand-written name of the book’s owner, whose last name appears to be Ratledge. But with a little imagination it could instead be Routledge, to match the name of the publisher…a gift from the publisher, Uncle Routledge?

The stories in the book are not earth-shattering or dramatic. They are everyday happenings. But they are related here as the little joys that are present in each day, if we pay attention to them.

The first story pays homage to the world’s grandmothers, which I appreciate, being a grandma of 14 months. It tells of a grandson who learned to whistle before his first birthday, from hearing the other boys in the neighborhood whistling as he was wheeled around in his carriage.

The next story is in noticeably larger type, and includes dashes in the words to divide the syllables for the benefit of young readers.

These little stories told in first person talk of domestic life and the regular events of mothers and their children, who dearly love their parents, siblings and grandparents.

Fun and Frolic Stories includes poetry and information about nature and animals.

The poem “Blowing Bubbles” is surprisingly philosophical, likening the bubbles to our dreams.  It asks a question of the adult reading the book:

Will it be always so–are we the same?

We blow our bubbles too, changed but in name.

We have fond hopes, that expand and look bright;

We watch our fancies with eager strained sight.

Tucked between the back page and the back cover is a drawing of a butterfly on 5″ x 7″ lined paper, likely inspired by the “Butterflies” poem. I doubt that this is was drawn by the book’s first owner in the late 1800s, or even from the early 1900s. I suspect it was drawn on a lined pad for letter writing from the 1950s or later.

 

The back cover shows another scene of mother relaxing with her child outside on a grassy slope. In the scene are baby birds nesting in a woman’s bonnet, looking for worms from their busy mother.

There are remnants of some dried blue flowers tucked into the pages. I always love little surprises like that!

Various artists contributed their talents to the book, but at that time they apparently didn’t include the names of the illustrators, although some of the drawings include signatures of initials or names in the corners.

I couldn’t find another copy of this book anywhere online, but there are many books from the late 1800s published by George Routledge & Sons, such as Little Snowdrop’s Picture Book, published in 1879, available as a Kindle book. J.L. Blamire appears to be the manager of a New York Routledge & Sons bookseller and possibly an author, and/or editor.

I hope you enjoyed “reading” this with me. What fun to have such a pleasant and colorful history lesson couched in with a lovely piece of literature!

Imagine! The best quality books for free!

Well, you don’t need to imagine it, it’s true!

As a fellow blogger said, “I rarely pay full price for books. Loving classics has its advantages, they are widely available and utterly cheap.”

I couldn’t agree more!

Ever since I figured out how to put them on my Kindle, I’ve had a blast finding vintage treasures on Gutenberg.org, Internet Archive, Google eBooks and many other websites, including searching for free classic Kindle books on Amazon.  I’ve also discovered many books in PDF format that I put on my ancient tablet to read, and many of these have beautiful illustrations.

Here is a sampling of some of my favorites, followed by some links to whet your appetite even more!

After reading biographical information on the poet Francis Ridley Havergal, I learned that, among many other books, she contributed to a holiday book called Christmas Sunshine. Havergal’s rich poetry appears alongside Thackeray, Milton, Shakespeare and Dickens in a beautifully illustrated book, here.

 

Always interested in nature and children’s books, I have found a treasure trove of nature books written for children in the late 1800’s. My favorite is The Child’s Book of Nature by Worthington Hooker, MD, “intended to aid mothers and teachers in the training of children in the observation of nature.” I love that it was a high priority then–let’s reinstate it now!

One that is similar, but written for all ages, is The Beauties of Nature and the Wonders of the World We Live In by Sir John Lubbock in 1892. It is part science, part inspiration, and contains some lovely illustrations, like the one below.

.

 

 

One of my favorite fiction authors is Georgette Heyer, and thankfully she was a prolific author. I can find a lot of her books in paperback in bookstores, but for those that I haven’t run across, I can usually find them online. Among her always humorous regencies, Frederica (which I am currently reading) and The Black Moth are two of several Heyer novels loaded onto my Kindle and tablet.

 

The Practical Herbal Medicine Handbook , although admittedly not vintage or classic, is nevertheless another gem of a book I couldn’t resist including. I loaded it and several other natural healing books onto my Kindle, which I found on Amazon for free!

And here are some interesting websites to get you started as you explore the literary riches of the internet:

Gutenberg.org’s Top 100 eBooks as of Yesterday

Download 20 Popular High School Literature Books

The Library of Congress Classic Books

Classic eBooks by Female Writers

11 places for thrifty bookworms to download free e-books

Classic Children’s Books Now Digitized and Put Online

UCLA Children’s Book Collection at Archive.org

International Children’s Digital Library

 

Enjoy!  And please, share your favorites!