Saturday, December 8, 2007

Posts will continue January 1st

I'm planning a break from the internet for the rest of the month. I will resume posting at the beginning of January.

Friday, December 7, 2007

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

1963 Newbery Winner
Finished 11-29-06

Meg Murry’s father hasn’t been heard from for a year now. He simply disappeared into thin air. Meg’s mother firmly believes he is still alive, but everyone else who knows about the situation is convinced he is gone for good. One day Meg meets three mysterious women named Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who. Soon she finds herself traveling through the fifth dimension, along with her brother Charles Wallace and her friend Calvin. Their mission is to rescue Meg’s father from the planet of Camazotz where the forces of evil are holding him.

Do you know the experience of having a gift card to a certain bookstore, and knowing you only have a certain amount of money to spend? You pick carefully through the books, looking for just the right ones to buy. It has to be something you know you like. Preferably something you know you LOVE. If you know what I’m talking about, then you’ll know what it means when I say that I bought A Wrinkle in Time with my gift card last time I was at Barnes and Noble.

I love the deeper themes in this book. The epic struggle between good and evil, and how it reminds me that I, too, am in a battle against evil. The triumphant theme of all-conquering love. Those are a big part of what gives this book substance.

Of course, you can find those kinds of themes in a lot of other fantasy books. So why else do I like it? I think one thing that makes this book stick more with me is because it’s not weighted down with a lot of wordy and unnecessary descriptions like a lot of fantasy can be. Many times I’ll get lost in the extra fluff of a book and miss out on the important things that are happening. For me, one thing that makes A Wrinkle in Time memorable is because the book moves forward at a good pace without getting bogged down.

In case you’re not convinced, I present you with one final argument. Note the first line of this book: “It was a dark and stormy night.” Read it aloud to yourself in a dramatic voice. How can you not want to read a book that starts like that? It’s awesome.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates

1951 Newbery Winner
Finished 11-29-06

At-mun was supposed to be a king. Instead he is a slave. When he was just a boy, slave traders abducted him. He is sold in America and his name is changed to Amos. Amos Fortune, Free Man is a chronicle of his life from that point, until his death at the ripe old age of ninety.

Amos Fortune really was an inspiring man. Despite the way he had been wronged, he did not harbor anger in his heart. His goal in life was to make people free: some from slavery, some from poverty, and some from hatred.

But (here it comes) I really think this could have been written more compellingly. It wasn’t difficult to read. It wasn’t terrible. I just think the book could have made Amos Fortune come more to life. I’m not a big nonfiction reader, so if I’m going to like something that’s nonfiction, it has to be really good. The way the book was written felt okay—but it wasn’t great.

I do think Amos Fortune was a man worth writing about. I’m just not sure that this book did him justice.

(Wow, that’s three somewhat-negative review in a row. I promise, promise that I will do a positive review next time.)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski

1946 Newbery Winner
Finished 11-28-06

When the Boyer family moves onto their new farm in Florida, they are more than anxious to be neighborly. Unfortunately, the Slaters don’t reciprocate the feeling. In fact, Mr. Slater employs various methods to try to run the Boyers of their farm, from letting his cattle trample the Boyers strawberry crops, to cutting fences, to setting a fire. We see all this through ten-year-old Birdie Boyer’s eyes, as she attempts to sort out her feelings about the whole mess and struggles with how to treat the Slater boy, Shoestring.

I’m afraid that Lois Lenski books and I have never gotten along too well. I think it’s because I can never relate to her characters. Their emotions, the way they react, seem so out of place to me. They have so much harsh and abrupt anger, and they change from nice to ornery faster than you could blink. Maybe it wouldn’t bother me if I understood the reasons behind the changes, but to me, everything seems so abrupt.

Something that bothered me particularly about this book was the sudden resolution of the conflict. I don’t want to give away what happened, but it just seemed like a cop-out to me. I would have preferred a more gradual build-up to the resolution rather than the quick, easy fix that happened.

On the good side, however, I enjoyed the setting of the book. You don’t read much about the pioneers of Florida. The only other book I can think of (which doesn’t mean their isn’t more) that is set in the wilds of Florida is The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.

So overall, I’m afraid I wasn’t very fond of Strawberry Girl. If you know you enjoy Lenski’s style of writing, I’d recommend it. Otherwise, not so much.