Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Newbery Winners: One Recommended, One Not

I've done reviews for two more Newbery winners over at The Newbery Project: A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers, by Nancy Willard (1982 award), and The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley (1985 award). I can hardly imagine two more dissimilar books - one is aimed at older kids, and I think the other is meant for parents to read to their younger kids. Both are fantasy, but they are still as different as chalk and cheese.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Another Literary Meme

I was tagged by Bookworm Julie, who lives a few miles northeast of me. I think these answers are going to make me look very lowbrow, but I'll try to be honest anyway. I read a lot of non-fiction, and I'd love to meet a lot of the people in those books, or the authors, but noooo this is all about literary characters. Or is it possible to have a literary character in a non-fiction work?

1. If you could host a party with 7 literary characters, who would they be and why?

- Cutuk from Ordinary Wolves, because I want to hear about Alaska, and he'd be happy with pizza.

- Joshua from Lamb, because who wouldn't want to talk to the historical Jesus? Especially if he's anything like the character in Lamb.

- Abby Normal from You Suck (why yes, I do like Christopher Moore's books), because I want to read her descriptions of the party afterwards.

- Maye Roberts, from There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell, by Laurie Notaro, because she would be a lot like her creator, I think.

- Stephen Maturin (Julie can have Jack Aubrey and Awkward Davies and the rest), because I love natural history and medical trivia.

- Ranger, from Janet Evanovich's books, just because.

- Anthony Bourdain - I know his books are supposedly non-fiction, but honestly, he must at least exaggerate himself in those books, right? And I want him to cook.

2. Who is your literary role model?

Harriet Vane (from Dorothy Sayers' classic mysteries), though I don't want to be put in gaol (or jail).

3. Which literary house would you like most to live in?

Misselthwaite Manor, probably because I read about it at such an impressionable age (in A Secret Garden).

4. Which literary couple would you like most for parents?

Aral and Cordelia Vorkosigan.

5. Pick 3 literary characters you would like to have as siblings.

Well, with Aral and Cordelia as parents, that would leave Miles as a brother, which would be entertaining. I would still need a sister or two, or another brother, though - and most of the good ones seem to be from children's literature. Hmm, is there even any adult fiction out there with happy sibling relationships?

I guess I'll take Sam Gribley from My Side of the Mountain, and Claudia from The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I could get the best of both nature and culture then.

6. Who is your favorite literary villain?

Frankenstein's monster.

7. Name a character that most people dislike, but that you do not. Why do you like them?

Poor Frankenstein's monster. He tried so hard, reading to educate himself. It was hard to hate him.

8. Which minor character deserves a book all to themselves, in your opinion?

Becky Thatcher from Tom Sawyer. I want her to kick Tom's ass, and I want to hear things from her perspective.

9. Which character do you identify most with in literature?

Kate from Jennifer Weiner's Goodnight Nobody. Except in the midwest, with less money and a better husband.

10. If you could go into a novel, which one would it be and why?

The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde. And this is really one of those cheating answers, like when you wish for a hundred wishes, because in The Eyre Affair characters get to go into any novel that they choose.

11. Name 3 — 7 books that you rarely see on people’s favorite book lists, that are high on your own.

George & Sam: Two Boys, One Family, and Autism, by Charlotte Moore - this is non-fiction, but it is as well-written and funny and touching and gritty as any fiction I've read this year. Read it, do. Don't let the fact that it's about autism scare you away.

A Complicated Kindness, by Miriam Toews

A Year Down Yonder, by Richard Peck (I'm on a crusade to convince more adults to read children's literature)

A Primate's Memoir, by Robert Sapolsky (yes, another non-fiction book)

The Lake, the River, and the Other Lake
, by Steve Amick

12. Which is your least favorite book of those that are considered “classics”?

The Great Gatsby.
I just wanted to smack all of the characters.

Tag you're it, reader with a blog!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Human Dalek Corn

Did you ever notice how the roots of corn look a lot like the head of a Human Dalek? Weird.

Corn really is a freaky looking mutant tropical grass. I wish the local sweet corn was ready. This picture is from the field corn from the farm behind our house, which is probably going to become high fructose corn syrup and starch and cow and pig feed.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dinner Suggestions

...yesterday, from my 5-year-old daughter: a "really big" marshmallow, cookies, and cake. No, that's not what we had. I really wonder if she will ever voluntarily eat a vegetable.

In other news, my ten-year-old son and my husband spent Friday night sleeping in a tent in the backyard. This didn't help convince my husband that camping is fun, because it was the coldest night since early May. When they came in at 6:00 am, it was 46°F.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Reviews of Two More Newbery Winners and a New Mystery

The reviews of the Newbery medalists are up over at The Newbery Project: The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin, and Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, by Paul Fleischman (winners in 1979 and 1989, respectively). Check them out - for you or your kids - if you like classic mysteries or cute read-aloud poetry about insects.

I've also read A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini; Lean Mean Thirteen, by Janet Evanovich; and Origin, by Diana Abu-Jaber; in the last couple of weeks. A Thousand Splendid Suns left me pretty much speechless (in a good way), from both the writing and the story, and there's not a whole lot to say about Evanovich's Thirteen - it's like the earlier ones, but with less sex and more humor - but since Diana Abu-Jaber's new book isn't as well known as the other two, I thought I'd describe it here.

I liked both Crescent and The Language of Baklava by Abu-Jaber (a novel about Iranian emigrants, and a memoir about the author's childood) a lot, so I was intrigued when I saw that Abu-Jaber's latest was a mystery. It's a very gritty mystery - full of difficult people and uncertain relationships, freezing winter nights on the streets of Syracuse, NY, loss, and office politics. The main character, Leda, reminded me a bit of Smilla from Smilla's Sense of Snow, and a bit of Mallory from Carol O'Connell's mystery series. The story was chilling (even apart from the sections on hypothermia), unpredictable, and entertaining. The ending was a little too pat for me, but after such a good read, I could hardly begrudge Abu-Jaber for tying up the loose ends so neatly. A warning, though - there is a lot about SIDs and infants getting murdered in this book - it's probably not something anyone wants to read in their postpartum period, or perhaps even with a baby in your house if you're a very sensitive person.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Dust and Books

Rothstein, Arthur. Son of farmer in dust bowl area.
Cimarron County, Oklahoma. April 1935.
America from the Great Depression to World War II:
Photographs from the FSA-OWI, 1935-1945,
Library of Congress.

I have another post up over at The Newbery Project: Dust, a review of Karen Hesse's poetic* 1998 winner, Out of the Dust.

rebel from www.sybermoms.com suggested I take a look at The Kids' Book Club Book: Reading Ideas, Recipes, Activities, and Smart Tips for Organizing Terrific Kids' Book Clubs, by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp, so I requested it from the library, and noticed happily that Out of the Dust is one of their titles for "grades 4-7". The six pages on Out of the Dust (with spoilers! yes, you can have spoilers in a book of poetry) include a recipe for apple pandowdy, some wonderful quotes from Karen Hesse, and Hesse's recommendation for Woody Guthrie's Dust Bowl Ballads. My kids aren't in a book club, but I think we will listen to Woody's cd on the drive to my parents' this weekend.

*literally as well as metaphorically - the book is a collection of poems that tell a story