Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Desper - O

The Tale of Despereaux:
Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread
by Kate DiCamillo

What a wonderful, wonderful, WONDERFUL book! I just posted two lukewarm (closer to ice cold) reviews and I'm so glad I get to post this one as well. I think this book is pure genius. Perfection in writing. It is so simple, but so powerful at the same time. The narrative voice is delightful. The characters are beautifully developed. The language is lyrical. But the thing that makes this work outstanding is its plot. The only other author that I have seen weave together people, places, times and even objects in such perfect harmony is Charles Dickens. But Despereaux is a children's book. I can't wait to read it to Sarah. I think she'll be ready for it soon. There are some heavier moments in it. Maybe another year or so.

One of the things I loved most about this story is the way characters and human nature are explored. It shows how all people (or even mice and rats) have good and bad, light and dark mixed in them. I think a story where you can feel for and empathize with the "bad" guys is so much more powerful and poignant. We can all relate. We've all had difficult trials. Hopefully we choose to make ourselves into heroes (and heroines) instead of giving into our darker natures.

After reading this book I had to fight the urge to throw my writing notebook into the rubbish. I wish I could create something as beautiful as this book! Nothing I'm working on right now even comes close. Despereaux is an amazing book! (Did I already say that?) It even won the Newbery Medal. Read it.

P.S. Anyone seen the movie?
P.P.S. Anyone else crave soup after reading this?

Charlie Bone... Take 7

Charlie Bone and the Shadow
by Jenny Nimmo

This is the kind of series where you wonder if the author really has a planned out story arc, or if she just intends to keep writing sequels forever, no matter the quality. Not that it was a horrid book. But it's the seventh. And it didn't end. I almost didn't read it. The first five were fine. Some good moments, but nothing outstanding. The sixth totally bombed. But book seven here was better. It seemed to me like the plot had been tightened up considerably. I just wish she'd finish up the series so I wouldn't feel compelled to keep reading them!

Friday, February 6, 2009

A little less J.K., a little more Beedle would have been fine

The Tales of Beedle the Bard
by J.K. Rowling

This is a pointless book. Sorry, that was blunt. But true. It seemed to me that it was J.K. Rowling saying, "Finally! I can write whatever I want and express my personal political opinions and people will buy it because it's Harry Potter and I can make more, more, more money!!! Bwa-ha-ha!" The stories weren't great, and the commentary by "Dumbledore" didn't quite seem to have his voice. I vaguely liked "The Fountain of Fair Fortune", but that about sums up any positive feelings I had about this book. There was even a very slight, ever-so-subtle, practically unnoticeable reference to a certain something which shall not be named (you know...that thing revealed about Dumbledore that had everyone up in arms). *Honestly*

Monday, February 2, 2009

Better start ducking bullets...


Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.


(quoted from the title page)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

But that's not the reason that Tom got shot. Yes he did get shot!! Hang in there until the end of the blog and I'll tell you who done it. Let's talk about Huck.

Huck's story meanders as much as the river it takes place on. It's not nearly half as much light-hearted fun as Tom (that is, not until Tom himself makes a reappearance in the last few chapters). The book has its own merit, though. Basically it follows Huck's adventures as he runs away from home and floats down the Mississippi river with a runaway slave named Jim. Some of the things they experience are downright ugly (and I'm not talking about how they caught catfish in the river every day...have you ever seen a catfish?...bleh). There's murder, drunken beatings, family feuds ending in massacres, con artists, and just about every kind of filth imaginable. Huck meets up with the lowest of the low on his adventures. Is that really the kind of person he belongs with?

I just don't understand Huck. Several times he has a chance for a new life. People who want to adopt him, educate him, clean him, dress him well, etc... Huck himself has a fortune of over $6,000 dollars at the beginning of the book. What does he do? Runs away. Leaves it behind. Why? He doesn't want any of it. He'd rather be poor and free to do whatever he wants. Is he a bad kid? I don't think so. He makes plenty of good decisions. He's smart too. So why does he keep running away from good society to go back to the slummy type? Perhaps it's because that's what his father is like. Nurture?...or nature? It's up to the individual reader to decide.

Ok, enough rambling. So...who shot Tom Sawyer? I bet you'd like to know. Alright, I'll tell you. But I'll set it up a bit for you first. At the end of the book Tom and Huck are conspiring together to free Jim (the runaway slave) who's been captured once more. They have several easy opportunities, but Tom has his opinions on how it should be done. He wants it done with flair. So after doing several things to make Jim's life as a prisoner more miserable (because that's how all good prisoners in books are) they're finally ready to execute the escape. Except once again Tom thinks it's too easy. So he "nonnamously" tips off Jim's captor about the escape attempt. As a result 20 farmers with guns are guarding Jim when the time comes. Tom and Huck still manage to get away with Jim (at least some of Tom's brilliant planning was effective) but not before leaving Tom with a bullet in the calf. I don't know if anyone in this world has been as thrilled as Tom Sawyer was when he discovered he'd been shot. Honestly. Boys. And if you know one you should tell him to read these books. They're great.