Tuesday, March 5, 2019

A Well-Planned Surprise

When I learned that my twin nieces would be reading The Hobbit as part of their homeschool curriculum, I volunteered to re-read the book and have weekly FaceTime discussions with them...and it was so much FUN!

Our first meeting began with a discussion about J.R.R. Tolkien and how he originally wrote/told this story for his children. We looked at the Wilderland map showing the various locations Bilbo and the dwarves traveled through in Middle Earth and Thror's map with the finger pointing to the secret door to enter the Lonely Mountain. 

Each week, we discussed several chapters in-depth, then went through the questions and vocabulary in their workbooks (which we'd usually already covered in our discussions). The seventieth anniversary edition of the book (which I was reading) has a dustjacket with Tolkien's original three-color jacket design, as well as his illustrations throughout the book; so, we also discussed how these resembled or changed the way we imagined the scenes as we read. One week, I had the girls read the dialogue between (the dragon) Smaug and Bilbo that took place deep inside the mountain, and they did a fabulous job bringing that scene to life!!

As we neared the end of the book, I called my sister and we planned a surprise for the girls. We had our final FaceTime scheduled for a Wednesday afternoon, and they were all set up in one of the back bedrooms, waiting for my call. Unbeknownst to them, I had been on the road all day so we could have our last meeting in person! (It's been over five years since the last time I surprised the girls with a visit!)

My sister went into the room ahead of me and captured this fabulous group of photos as the girls turned around stunned when I walked in, then jumped up in excitement for a big hug.

It was so much FUN to discuss the final chapters of the book with them in person. I'm thrilled to report that both of them thoroughly enjoyed the book. They had each taken notes to keep all the characters (especially the thirteen dwarves) straight and their insights and understanding of the plot and theme and the various conflicts was excellent.

After a delicious dinner out at one of our favorite restaurants to celebrate their 14th birthday, we stayed up late that night watching the 1977 animated movie based on the book.

This 90-minute movie is a very shortened version of the story, much of it told through narration and/or from Bilbo's perspective. We paused the movie quite a few times to discuss the differences between the book and the movie, especially how disappointed we were that they left out the entire chapter about Beorn (and his animals serving the meals) and did not even include the Arkenstone (and its impact on Thorin and Bilbo's decision to give it to Bard). We also discussed how we could see the influence of J.R.R. Tolkien's illustrations for the animations in the movie and that the words to the songs were directly from the book.

If you've been reading here for a while, you know that I enjoy reading and discussing books, and it was even better being able to share a book I really like with these two beautiful young ladies! And, this well-planned surprise visit made it even better!

Have you planned any surprises lately?


  1. That was certainly a great surprise, and one that was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone! Love that last photo.

  2. Wonderful Auntie Melissa strikes again! What fun reading the book with them & having face time ... The Hobbit is one of my favourites.

  3. I'm willing to bet with all that discussion with their wonderful auntie, those girls will be well prepared and ace any test or required writing for the book!

  4. You definitely get the fun aunt award for your efforts, and you get to have fun right along.

  5. What a fun auntie you are! So happy that it worked out well!


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