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?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham

1956 Newbery Winner
Finished 12-25-08

Our family owns this book, and as such, I’ve read it several times throughout the years. Funny story: it took me for-ever to figure out that Nathaniel Bowditch was a real person. I always thought it was just a nice story about some fictional guy. I don’t really remember when I discovered that Nathaniel Bowditch actually lived—I just remember sputtering to my sister over it. She was pretty amazed that I’d never figured it out.

At any rate, the book is a retelling of the life of Nathaniel Bowditch, a man who did much for the art of navigation in the 1700s. Nat loves working with numbers, but at the age of twelve, he is forced to drop out of school and become indentured for nine years. Yet he refuses to give up. Using hard work and perseverance (what he calls “Sailing by the ash breeze”), he teaches himself all he can about mathematics and things related to it. In addition, he learns three new languages—all the result of plain hard work.

After his indenture is over, Nat signs on a ship. There he learns about navigation and teaches the common men on the ship that they, too, are smart enough to learn how to navigate if only they work hard enough. He soon becomes disgusted with the quality of the books of that day on navigation, and makes it his goal to write a book that even the unschooled seaman can understand.

I’m not sure whether it’s good or bad that it took me so long to figure out this wasn’t a fictional book. I’m inclined to think it’s good. The author worked the facts so smoothly into the book, that I obviously didn’t even notice. It’s filed in the biography section in one of my local libraries, but it doesn’t read like a long list of facts. The author created fictitious dialogue, so it isn’t strictly a facts book at all. It’s more like the story of his life. I, for one, really like that effect.

The character of Nathaniel Bowditch is definitely memorable. His sister claimed that he couldn’t even “pay a compliment without arithmetic”, he was so enamored with mathematics. Jean Lee Latham brought him alive for me, and for that reason, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch makes my top ten list.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi

2003 Newbery Winner
Finished 12-18-06

I remember when I first started working at my local library, one of the librarians, in an attempt to find out what I liked to read, asked me if I liked Avi. Avi, I thought. Who in the world is Avi? And why does he have such a weird name? The conversation slipped from my mind until I saw this book on the Newbery list and picked it up. Oh yeah, the guy with the weird name.

Crispin is a wolf’s head. Anyone can kill him without getting into trouble. How did this come about? Well, Crispin doesn’t really understand it himself. He was accused of a crime he didn’t commit, and forced to flee for his life. A man named John Aycliffe seems to be behind all this trouble. Crispin does his best to protect himself, but John Aycliffe is a powerful man. Will Crispin’s wits, and the help of his new friend Bear, be enough to keep him alive?

I was predisposed to like this book, because the cover flap promised adventure. Those types of Newbery books seem to be more of a rarity, and I usually enjoy the ones I come across. And sure enough, the book delivered what I was expecting. It wasn’t ever slow or boring.

The other thing that I really enjoyed about this book was the time period it was set in. It gives an interesting picture of the Medieval age—and not the glamorous one with knights and ladies either. It was quite realistic and kind of a revelation to me that things weren’t as sappy sweet back then as sometimes is implied.

So, now I know who Avi is. I must say, I enjoyed this book quite a bit, and directly after reading it, resolved in my Newbery notebook that I would try more of this author.

Monday, March 3, 2008

My Top Ten List

After I mentioned in my review of The Giver that it would be on my top-ten list of Newbery books, I thought, "Hey, it might be kind of fun to make a top-ten list." So I did.

Please understand that I'm not trying to say that these are the best Newbery books. I'm saying that they're my personal favorites. I absolutely know that someone else's list would look completely different.

Also, this list is incomplete, for the simple reason that I've got, oh, 200 something more books to read. Ha. Yeah. I'm planning to repost the list about once a month, and tell whether it has changed and why.

Without further ado, here is my top-ten list of favorite Newbery books. It includes both Winner and Honor books. The books are listed in no particular order.

The Giver by Lois Lowry, review here

I love the way this book is so accessible, yet it makes me think. It has the perfect balance between the two.

The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander
The High King by Lloyd Alexander

I debated about putting two books from the same author AND the same series on this list, but in the end I couldn't help it. I love Lloyd Alexander. His characters captured me and I'm still as enthusiastic about them now as when I first read the books.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

I loved this book for its sweetness and simplicity, and for its awesome characters.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, review here

The impulsiveness of Meg. The creepiness of IT. The triumphant ending. Okay, mainly the triumphant ending. All these combined to make an unforgettable book for me.

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, review here

The slightly comical tone of this book is one of the reasons I like it so much. Among many other things.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham

This might seem like a slightly odd choice, but me and this book have a long history. I've been rereading it since I was a kid, and it's always held up. Very enjoyable.

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

I knew as soon as I saw the cover of this book that I was going to like it. And like it I did.

These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Fine, I admit it. Sometimes I fall into a big, wet, sloppy puddle over a romance. This is one of those times. Awwwww.

Holes by Louis Sachar

Why do I like this? Does the fact that it's fun count?

I can't wait until I get to kick a book off this list, just because it means that I'll have found another book to drool over, to force in front of the noses of all my friends and relatives. It will be great fun.

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Giver by Lois Lowry

1994 Newbery Winner
Finished 12-14-06

Jonas lives in a world as near to perfect as it can be made. Every citizen of his community respects every other citizen. Each person has his or her place. The community runs like a well-oiled machine. Jonas is perfectly happy with this—until. Until he meets the Giver. Suddenly Jonas’s wonderful perception of his community begins to rust away, flake by flake.

When I started out reading the Newbery Award and Honor books, I was basically rereading. I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time going “Well, I read this about five years ago. Should I count that as having read it for this project?” So I just decided to reread everything. We had quite a few Newbery books laying around the house, so I gathered them into a pile, and using the highly scientific method of eeny-meeny-miny-moe, began reading. None of the books were really new or exciting to me.

The Giver was one of the first Newbery books that I borrowed from the library, one that I hadn’t read yet. I think I’d kind of heard of it. But really, I wandered into it unawares, and came out grinning like some kind of overly happy clown. Looking back in my Newbery notebook, I see that I babbled somewhat incoherently about how great it was after I was finished.

What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said by dozens of other reviewers? I can tell you why I think it clicked for me. It was the mixture of depth and accessibility. When I think of a “serious” book, words like “slow-moving” and “dull” come to mind. That’s probably a wrong assumption—but that’s a topic for another post. What I liked about The Giver was that it actually moved. Yet it also made me use my brain, and challenged ideas I had taken for granted.

If you haven’t read the book, you may not want to read this paragraph of the review. I want to give my opinion on the ending. A lot of people seem to dislike it because of its ambiguity. Me? I don't mind not knowing what happened to Jonas. It's obvious to me that he is going to be fine. I want to know what happened to the people he left behind. What about Asher and Fiona? And Jonas’s family? Do they change for the better? Those were the questions I wanted badly to be answered.

If I had a top-ten list of Newbery books, this would make the cut. Is that recommendation enough?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

1998 Newbery Winner
Finished 12-14-06

The dust bowl is hard for Billie Jo and her family, but they still have each other, and Billie Jo can lose herself by playing the piano. Then an accident occurs, and everything changes. Bereft of so many things important to her, Billie Jo struggles to deal with the circumstances she finds herself in.

The word that comes to mind when I think of this book is “raw”.

I don’t mean like unpolished, or any of that stuff. I mean, it almost hurts to read it. None of the words are wasted, and as such, they pack a powerful enough punch to knock you down. The emotions aren’t excessive, but they’re so undiluted that they sort of take your breath away.

I’m slightly allergic to books written free verse. After all, why write a book with all those funny little lines when you could just put them in perfectly nice paragraphs? Much more organized. I won’t say that this book won me over to free verse, but I will say that I don’t think this book would have been nearly as good had it not been written in free verse. So if you, like me, are a little worried about the format of this book, I would give it a try anyway. I think most will like it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Mr. Popper's Penguin's by Richard and Florence Atwater

1939 Newbery Honor
Finished 12-13-06

When Mr. Popper, a dedicated Polar expedition fanatic, tunes in to the broadcast of the Drake Antarctic Expedition, he gets the surprise of his life.

“’That’s nothing,’ said Mrs. Popper. ‘Just a lot of men at the bottom of the world saying “Hello, Mamma. Hello, Papa.”’

‘Sh!’ commanded Mr. Popper, laying his ear close to the radio.

There was a buzz, and then suddenly, from the South Pole, a faint voice floated out into the Popper living room.

‘This is Admiral Drake speaking. Hello, Mamma. Hello, Papa. Hello, Mr. Popper.’

‘Gracious goodness,’ exclaimed Mrs. Popper. ‘Did he say “Papa” or “Popper”?’

‘Hello, Mr. Popper, up there in Stillwater. Thanks for your nice letter about the pictures of our last expedition. Watch for an answer. But not by letter, Mr. Popper. Watch for a surprise. Signing off. Signing off.’”

After this mysterious message, Mr. Popper can hardly wait to see what the surprise could be. And one day a package arrives. It is covered with warnings, like “Unpack at Once” and “Keep Cool”, and it has holes punched in it. And lo and behold, when Mr. Popper unpacks it, he discovers a penguin inside! Thus is the beginning of a wonderful adventure for the Popper family.

This book is a wacky, fun ride. The authors don’t in any way attempt to make the book believable, and in a way, that’s the best part of it. The reader is asked to sit back for a few hours, suspend practicality, and travel along with Mr. Popper and his penguins (notice the plurality of the word) on a wild adventure.

There are plenty of laughs along the way. Mr. Popper’s mischievous penguins interrupt a diva in the middle of her operatic concert, cause havoc on a train by giving in to the temptation to climb the porters’ ladders, and come close to getting into a fight with half-a-dozen seals.

An engaging and amusing book for anyone who’s willing to give it a try.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder

1940 Newbery Honor
Finished 12-12-06

When we meet the Ingalls family in this book, there have been drastic changes. Mary has gone blind from the affects of scarlet fever. The Ingalls are once more preparing for a move, this time to Dakota Territory. Their hardships and triumphs are recorded here.

It seems like the older Laura gets in these stories, the more I enjoy them. In this book, she is forced to become more unselfish in order to help Mary. I can relate to her more as she deals with more mature problems.

You can read my review of On the Banks of Plum Creek here.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Newbery trivia

For any Newbery fanatics out there, here's a fun quiz at Linda Sue Park's website. (Linda Sue Park won the 2002 Newbery Medal for A Single Shard.) Head on over and see how much you know about the Newbery award. There's a couple of stumper questions. Here's another quiz she did that isn't Newbery related--but I'll post it anyway. Children's books, Newbery award, they're all related, right?

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

1984 Newbery Honor
Finished 12-10-06

Being chased by a swarm of bees isn’t the best way to meet friends, but that’s what happens to Matt. His father has left him to protect their cabin in the Main wilderness while he goes to fetch his wife and daughter, and Matt was doing perfectly fine—that is, until he decided that it might be a good idea to get some honey from a bee tree. His plan backfires. Fortunately, two Indians rescue him. One of them is a boy his age named Attean, and soon Matt and Attean strike up a tentative friendship.

Days pass. Months pass. Soon, it is way past time for Matt’s family to return. The Indians are moving to better hunting grounds, and they invite Matt to come. It is a difficult decision for Matt. Will he stay, clinging to the hope that his family will return? Or will he move on with his friend?

I liked how the author showed both Attean's and Matt's way of living. It didn’t feel like she had an agenda, to show that one or the other way was better. Neither was shown in a bad light. I felt as if it was a very fair and accurate representation of both worlds.

I enjoyed reading the book through once, although I don’t think it would become a favorite of mine. The reason for that is simply because I’m not a huge fan of wilderness survival stories. I think it would be an excellent book for any adventure-loving boy.

An interesting aside—Elizabeth George Speare only wrote four books in her lifetime. Three of them made the Newbery list—two were winners, and this one was an honor. That’s pretty amazing. It’s a shame that she didn’t write more books.

Monday, February 4, 2008

King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry

1949 Newbery Winner
Finished 12-10-06

When Sham is born, Agba knows there is something special about him, and that he will be a swift horse. And indeed, Sham is one of the horses sent by the Sultan as a gift to the King of France. Agba is sent with him, and ordered to care for the horse as long as Sham lives.

When the horses arrive, however, they are scrawny from the journey, and the king rejects them. One by one, people reject and underestimate Sham. Agba knows Sham can be great, but who will recognize this?

I wasn’t very fond of the other book I read by Marguerite Henry, Misty of Chincoteague, but I liked this one better. The plot was innovative, I enjoyed the character of Agba, and the ending was fitting. I’m sure that horse-lovers will like this one, but I think it will appeal to others as well.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Abel's Island by William Steig

1977 Newbery Honor
Finished 12-10-06

When his wife’s scarf blows away during a thunderstorm, Abel, a gallant mouse, attempts to rescue it. Through a series of circumstances, he is stranded upon an island that seems to have no way off. Abel is naturally dismayed. He must get back home to his wife—but how?

It’s hard to pinpoint what I didn’t care for about this book. It may have had something to do with the length of the book. The book is interspersed with illustrations, and isn’t horribly long, and I wanted it to be either longer or shorter. It seemed to fall a little bit too much in the middle of the two. Abel spends quite a while on the island, and the events seem a little too summarized.

My other problem, I think, was that I found there to be a lack of excitement. Even when exciting things happened, the author told them in a way that I felt was slightly yawn worthy.

If I were to recommend this to someone, it would be to a child who was just starting to read chapter books. The length would probably be good for him or her, and hopefully the author’s style wouldn’t bother him or her.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

1953 Newbery Honor
Finished 12-9-06

Wilbur the pig is having the worst day of his entire two-month-old life. The rain ruins all of his nice plans for the day, he doesn’t have any friends, a rat is eating his breakfast, and Mr. Zuckerman dosed him with sulphur and molasses. As he is trying to go to sleep that night, wallowing in his misery, a voice speaks up and offers to be his friend. Wilbur can hardly sleep that night in anticipation, and when he wakes up in the morning, he meets his new friend: a spider named Charlotte. And though neither of them knows it, Charlotte’s friendship with Wilbur will save him—from death—in a way he can’t even imagine.

I loved the gentle humor in this book. The whole foundation of the book is the friendship between Charlotte and Wilbur, and the combination of the cluelessness of Wilbur and the zip and bite of Charlotte is often a comical contrast. The other characters from the barn are creative as well, and provide some entertaining moments.

For those of you who have heard of the ending, and are hesitant to the read the book because of that, I can assure you that it’s not how you think it is. Though at first it might seem like it would end the book on a sour note, to me, the very ending is sweetly satisfying. Even though the book has its sad moments, I don’t get that desire to rewrite the ending as I always do when I read a book that has a dissatisfying ending.

If you haven’t yet, this is a must read. On a side note, this book only garnered a Newbery Honor. It will be interesting to read the Winner from that year and see what could have been placed over Charlotte’s Web. I already suspect that it can’t be as good. But if it is, I’ll stand corrected.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry

1948 Newbery Honor
Finished 12-9-06

Paul and Maureen live with their grandparents on the island of Chincoteague. Not too far away, on Assateague Island, bands of wild horses roam. Every year on Pony Penning Day, the men of Chincoteague round up horses to sell for the benefit of the fire station. This year, Paul is resolved to catch an elusive horse named “Phantom”. He and Maureen are so confident that he will be able to accomplish this that they begin to save up money so they can buy Phantom at the sale. But a small surprise throws a wrench into their carefully laid plans.

I won’t deny that this is a lovely book for some. But I have to question how wide its appeal is. For me, the plot ended up being sort of ho-hum because it centered around the love that Paul and Maureen had for horses. I wasn’t able to relate to that at all. Add to it that I felt that one essential part of the plot was unrealistic and the ending was stereotypical, and it wasn’t the best read for me.

However, as I said, it could be a really good book for some. It’s quite likely that if it were put into the hands of some young horse enthusiast, he or she would end up loving it to death. For someone who isn’t into horses, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

1962 Newbery Honor
Finished 12-8-06

Ranofer lives with his half-brother Gebu and works at a goldsmith’s shop. His one ambition is to become a master goldsmith worthy of making jewelry for the queen. His problem lies with Gebu. Gebu cruelly takes Ranofer away from the goldsmith’s shop and apprentices Ranofer at the stonemaker’s shop, and all of his dreams are dashed. His misery is only lightened by his friendship with Heqet and the Ancient. Then one day Ranofer’s little world is rocked. He discovers a golden goblet in Gebu’s room that could have only been stolen from a tomb. Gebu—a tomb robber? Ranofer resolves to stop Gebu and earn his freedom from the stonemaker’s shop at the same time.

This was quite an exciting read. There was a lot of tension and excitement throughout the book, and I think it would hold the attention of most readers. I liked how the author offered some humor in the person of Heqet in contrast to the tautness of the rest of the book.

Another really great think about this book was that it gave an interesting portrayal of Egypt in the Ancient Times. For anyone who is studying Ancient Egypt, it would be a wonderful resource. It seemed historically accurate, and it showed the way people lived, worked, ate, their superstitions, and many other informational things.

I say that entertainment and education are lovely things to mix together, so I would definitely give this book a thumbs-up and a recommendation.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The big winner

The 2008 Newbery Winner and Honors were announced today at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting.

Winner: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz

Honor: Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

Honor: The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

Honor: Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson

I haven’t read any of these—another four for my list, then.

Friday, January 11, 2008

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

1938 Newbery Honor
Finished 12-5-06

It is the Ingalls family’s first year in Minnesota—a fresh, new start. They are hoping for a good wheat crop, but instead, grasshoppers come and eat every green thing in sight. And the next year, a whole new batch of grasshoppers hatch. How will the Ingalls survive if the grasshoppers keep eating all their crops?

The nature of this book is that it has a rather ordinary, everyday sort of feel to it. Because of that, it was a little difficult to get into, but once I did and became attached to the characters, it was a very good read.

There are 5 books more books by Laura Ingalls Wilder on the Newbery list, so I plan to keep each review pretty brief. But if you’re interested in reading the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I would recommend that you start with Little House on the Prairie. Each book can stand alone, but they read better as a whole.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry

1941 Newbery Winner
Finished 12-02-06

Mafatu is afraid of the sea. It claimed his mother when he was just an infant, and Mafatu is sure that it will claim him, given the chance. That is why he never goes out in the canoes with the other boys his age. But one day, Mafatu gets tired of being looked at with contempt because of his fear. He takes off in a canoe, planning to prove his bravery and return to make his father proud. And as it turns out, he will have plenty of chances to prove his bravery…

The majority of this book is set with Mafatu alone on an island. The obvious pitfall there: no dialogue=boredom. At least, for me. I like dialogue. However, the author did manage to make the book interesting despite that. He worked in some dialogue with Mafatu talking to his dog, and other than that, there was enough action that it didn’t really bother me.

Another thing that was potentially a turn-off for me was the descriptions. I don’t always follow descriptions very well, and this book was a little heavy on them. But for once, I was actually able to understand what Mafatu was seeing and feeling pretty well.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the desert island survival stories. But for guys around the age of 8-12, I think this would be a perfect book. It has a strong male protagonist, plenty of excitement, and an enjoyable conclusion.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Favorite Sentences from A Wrinkle in Time

Last year for a writing class, I had to pick ten sentences from a book that I thought were good representatives of the author's writing. I picked sentences from A Wrinkle in Time. Of course, my favorite line is "It was a dark and stormy night.", but I wasn't really sure that was good writing. So I didn't put it down. Here are the ones I chose:

“What could there be about a shadow that was so terrible that she knew that there had never been before or ever would be again, anything that would chill her with a fear that was behind shuddering, beyond crying or screaming, beyond the possibility of comfort?”

“Her heart tried to beat; it gave a knifelike, sidewise movement, but it could not expand.”

“It was a pulsing not only about her, but in her as well, as though the rhythm of her heart and lungs was no longer her own but was being worked by some outside force.”

“Behind the trees clouds scudded frantically across the sky. Every few moments the moon ripped through them, creating wraithlike shadows that raced along the ground.”

“This was the moment for which she had been waiting, not only since Mrs. Which whisked them off on their journeys, but during the long months and years before, when the letters had stopped coming, when people made remarks about Charles Wallace, when Mrs. Murry showed a rare flash of loneliness or grief.”

“The voice was Charles Wallace’s voice, and yet it was different, too, somehow flattened out, almost as a voice might have sounded on the two-dimensional planet.”

"The pupils grew smaller and smaller, as though he were looking into an intensely bright light, until they seemed to close entirely, until his eyes were nothing but an opaque blue.”

“Something in the pot was bubbling, and it smelled more like one of Mrs. Murry’s chemical messes than something to eat.”

“'He is a physicist.’ Meg bared her teeth to reveal the two ferocious lines of braces.”

“There was the brain, there was IT, lying pulsing and quivering on the dais, soft and exposed and nauseating.”