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.”