Thursday, December 27, 2007

 

The Festive Reading Season

Ah, the Christmas holidays. Cooking, wrapping, chocolate, movies and reading!

First, let me chat about a couple of weekends ago when the local library branch finally launched its renovated—well, rebuilt, really—self. Awesome space! Husband observed that though one is aware that these are politicians with an interest in saying the right thing at the right time to the right people, it was STILL nice to hear them speak of their own library memories. There was an amazing crowd at the event, and I smile now to think of the people I encountered there from other spheres of my life. For example, a swimming acquaintance with whom I had just that week struck up what became a satisfactory conversation. She was there with her family; and I thought, well, I shouldn't be surprised! For the first time, I sidled over to the Easy Readers section to see if my book was there, and it was. Somehow, that means more than seeing it at the bookstore!

Now down to business.

Wise Child
by Monica Furlong (Random House, 1987); why did it take me so long to find this book? It is excellent, and I shall run back to the library to get the companions, Juniper and Colman. Once again, a thoughtful author holds up to our eyes a piece of the world and time where Christianity and an Auld Way run side by side for a while. The relationship between the Child of the title and her mentor is lovely.

Someday Angeline by Louis Sachar (HarperCollins, 1983). Cute. A nice story.

Are We There Yet? by David Levithan (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005). A YA book which I read as an adult book, strangely. Well, until about halfway through. It is well-written and sold and I can't say anything bad about it. It just didn't speak to me, particularly. I wonder what Gay Friend With Three Brothers would think of it? Must ask him to read...

Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge (MacMillan, 2005): Great read, couldn't put it down! A fantasy story set in a world similar to pre-Industrial-Revolution England, this is another lesson in the hazards of unbridled religious fervour. Since The Gammage Cup, I have never met such perfect fantasy naming: humorous, but not arch. The plot is complex, the characters multidimensional.

Finally, The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint (Viking, 2004). It would be churlish of me to complain about anything in this excellent fantasy, which places faery in a New World, urban setting so competently and completely. But it did take too much time to explain faery lore, sometimes, and got maundery. Otherwise, a very good story.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

 

Readarama Weekend

Last weekend I read a lot; whether because I had lots of time or squeezed it in, I'm not sure. But somehow I found myself with a stack of books beside the computer, reproaching me for not speaking about them. So here goes.

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney (Aladdin Paperbacks, 2005); well, heck, Christian homeschoolers will just LOVE this yarn! America just loves its mythical heartland.

Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen (Wendy Lamb/Random House, 2007); and on the other end of American myth-making... a funny tale about an inadvertent (and underage) tycoon. Complete with enforcer!

The Curse of the Shaman by Michael Kusugak (HarperTrophy, 2006): Cool, an Inuit novel! Although it got off to a bumpy start (the editor should have been harder on repetitive and unnecessary explanations and language explanations) it was a fine story with lots of humour and solid characters. Loved it!

Poop: A Natural History of the Unmentionable by Nicola Davies/Neal Layton (Candlewick, 2004). I read this for work; what funny work I get to do! In the end it proved to be a little much for my purposes, but it is a very funny little book and quite exhaustive on its subject. Thereby contradicting its own title!

Pure Spring by Brian Doyle (Groundwood, 2007): This plus Boy O'Boy and Mary Ann Alice are my three favourite BDs, I think. Martin O'Boy returns; he's living with his friend and rescuer Buz's grandfather, and acquires a job with a soft drink company. He has to figure out a way to keep what needs (self-respect, the love and trust of others, work) while dealing with a crooked co-worker.

Jakeman by Deborah Ellis (Fitzhenry&Whiteside, 2007): Alas, this bored me. I must have Son read it to see what he thinks. And maybe one of the nephews, too.

Diamonds in the Shadow by Caroline B Cooney (Waterbrook Press, 2007): How well and lovingly Caroline portrays and instructs the ignorant American teenager! This book is excellent--even better than Burning Up. In it, an American family takes into their home the African refugee family their church is sponsoring. The African family is shadowed by a thug (posing as another refugee) who has forced them to smuggle rough diamonds for him. The American parents shake their heads in ignorant sympathy over the African family's strange behaviour and extreme skittishness; "poor sufferers" they think. But the kids are suspicious—why do the parents and older brother never speak to, never even look at, their mute, limp daughter/sister? Why does brother/son's English sound completely different from his parents'? Why do the two kids look nothing like their parents--or like each other?

The main point of view in this story is the American son's, and Cooney lets him damn and redeem himself without comment or judgement. The main force of her tenderness is directed toward the traumatized African daughter, to whom she applies the best of Christian morality and symbolism. In the end, this "least" of children gives up her life for her friends—and is saved, forgiven and welcomed into the family in a baptism of cathartic tears.

Do the Math: Secrets, Lies and Algebra by Wendy Lichtman (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2007): Well, I don't really get math, except in the most basic arithmetical way, so math as a metaphor doesn't do anything for me. But at least I finally understand the utility of algebra.

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