Friday, May 9, 2008

Temporary abondonment

I've decided to temporarily abandon this blog, simply because it's slowing me down quite a lot. Perhaps sometime in the future I'll start it up again, but for now, I'm planning to give it a rest.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Newbery on YouTube?

Browsing on YouTube, I found this two part video on the Newbery Award. It's kind of interesting, if you have the time to watch it.

Cool things on this video: Lloyd Alexander!

This video has a couple of really cute parts with some students performing poems from the Newbery Winner A Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Your Official Update on My Progress

I’m a little over one-fifth of the way through this project, and I must admit, the going is getting tough. This is probably due to several reasons.

One, frankly, is this blog. The added step of writing a formal book review for every book I read has been slowing me down. I thought about quitting this blog for a while, for the sake of finishing the project, but I’ve decided to try to stick it out for a while. If I ever disappear, though, you’ll know why.

The other big reason I haven’t been as enthusiastic about reading the Newbery books is that I haven’t come across one that I really loved in a long time. Early in the project, I had some real moments like that, where I said, “Wow, I can’t believe I haven’t ever read this book before!” But it’s been a long time since that has happened. I’ve liked a lot of books, but not loved them.

I almost have the feeling that I’ve already read all of the really good books on the list. Which seems highly unlikely when I think of it clearheadedly, because I still have 280 books to go.

I’d love to hear some favorites from the Newbery list. In fact, if anyone wants to go to the extra work, you could click on the “View my progress” link on the sidebar and look at the books I’ve already read. If you find a book that you really like, and I haven’t read it yet, do tell me so. I could use the encouragement.

Hence, my reading has wandered somewhat from this project, and on to other subjects. There’s so much good stuff out there! But I’m going to discipline myself more. In the month of May, I hope to read at least five Newbery books. That sounds achievable, does it not?

In the month of April, however, I think I might be out of luck…

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien

1972 Newbery Winner
Finished 1-2-07

Mrs. Frisby the mouse is faced with a real dilemma. Her youngest son is sick with pneumonia and is too weak to move from the house. Yet Mrs. Frisby must find a way to move him, for very soon the farmer will plow up the field in which her family is living. Desperate for help, she visits the owl for advice. He tells her that there is just a chance that the rats might help her. Her deceased husband did them a service once.

Mrs. Frisby is quite surprised to hear this. What connection could her husband have had with rats? Nevertheless, she goes to visit the rats’ headquarters. And it is then that she hears a very surprising story, about her husband, and the rats of NIMH.

The biggest problem I had with this book was the balance between the stories of Mrs. Frisby’s dilemma with her son and the rats of NIMH. I wished the author had focused more on either one or the other of the stories, rather than balancing pretty much equally between the two. That part just didn’t work so swell for me.

However, the writing was good, and I wouldn’t be one to deny that this was a very exciting book. I wouldn’t hesitate to hand it over to a kid.

There were some unsatisfactory loose ends, but I understand that the author’s daughter, Jane Leslie Conly, wrote a sequel called Rasco and the Rats of NIMH. If someone was really dying to find out what happened, and wasn’t a real purist, that could be read in conjunction with this book.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

1968 Newbery Winner
Finished 12-30-06

Claudia has been developing a master plan for weeks. She is going to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, find some excitement, teach her parents to appreciate her, and come home. Oh, and she’ll take her younger brother Jamie, because he happens to be the rich one in the family. The plan is executed, but it takes an unexpected turn when the museum acquires a statue of an angel, supposedly sculpted by Michaelangelo, that fascinates Claudia. She is determined to find the true origin of the statue.

When talking about this book, a point that a lot of people bring up is the utter lack of concern that Claudia and Jamie have for how their parents will feel when they turn up missing. And it’s true, that did bother me a bit. I ended up feeling like the author was kind of ignoring the issue. It would have added a whole new dimension to the book had she dealt with that, and my guess is that she simply didn’t want to go into that. After a little bit of thought, I decided that definitely wasn’t something worth getting up in arms over.

Claudia and Jamie were portrayed well. They displayed a moderate amount of sibling irritation towards each other, yet this was shown in almost a humorous way. Their relationship had elements of realism, but never turned overly sour. I was glad for that. I didn’t want to read a book all about sibling rivalry.

I liked this book a lot, but didn’t love it as much as many others do. Still, it was a worthy Newbery book, and the enthralling idea of “running away” to a museum will keep its appeal for many generations of kids.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Quotable ~ The Golden Goblet

“'Then all my wishes have been carried out,' the queen was saying. 'Excepting one.' She paused and leaned forward; her tone changed a little. 'Ranofer the son of Thutra, all is well in the tomb of my beloved parents because of you and your courage. I wish to reward you. Tell me, what do you crave most in all the world? You have only to ask for it.'

Ranofer lifted wide, incredulous eyes. He could ask for anything? Anything? Visions of golden collars and vast palaces flashed through his mind, and then out again. He knew what he wanted.

'Your Majesty,' he said tremulously, 'could I have a donkey?'”

The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, page 247

Read my review here

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

1985 Newbery Winner
Finished 12-28-08

I feel extremely guilty writing this review. See, everywhere I look, people love this book. They identify with the main character, they love the excitement, and so on. And the truth of the matter is—I didn’t. So if you’re a big fan of this book, you may want to read no further. Because I dislike it for a very silly reason.

However, summaries first. Aerin is the daughter of the king, but she doesn’t feel like she has a place with the royalty. The people whisper that her mother was a witch. On top of that, Aerin doesn’t display “the Gift”, like all persons of royal lineage are supposed to do. She decides to make her place by taking up a very dangerous occupation—that of a dragon killer.

It sounds ridiculous, but I believe that reason behind my apathy for this book is because of the author’s use of semicolons. They were everywhere! It seemed like practically every other sentence contained a semicolon. I don’t know if that was an effect the author created on purpose, but it drove me a little zonkers. Okay, a lot zonkers. For me, the semicolons often created the feel of a run-on sentence. I would think, “How can this sentence go on so long?” Then I would look at it more closely, and there would be a semicolon plopped in the middle of it.

I sincerely thought of giving this book another try, simply because so many seem to like it. Then I picked it up at the library, flipped it open, and saw a few of those semicolons. Already a feeling of annoyance was creeping over me, so I decided to call it quits on this one.

I do have to read The Blue Sword, the book’s sequel, as it is on the Newbery list as well. I’m hoping to like it better; if I can just get past those semicolons…

P.S. I just looked at the reviews for this book on GoodReads, and not a single person mentioned semicolons! *sigh* Am I crazy?