Thursday, December 18, 2008

Currently Reading

I should blog about something besides books. Like "actual life" even, imponderable or not.

But not today! There's a snow storm coming tonight and tomorrow morning (the media are beside themselves with excitement. Will it be a snow day? Do you have enough ice melt, bread, milk, beer, and egg nog?) and I have stuff to do before it hits.

I did want to mention one of the books I'm reading now, though.

I'm really enjoying The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West, by Sid Fleischman. It's on the short list of books that the "Mock Newbery Committee" is considering for the 2009 Newbery Awards (if you want to know more about that, check out this blurb I wrote on The Newbery Project). It's written for older kids, so its short chapters are the perfect length for reading in bits and pieces, but the vocabulary and syntax are not child-like in the least. I was thrilled to run across "farm sass" again (see the lengthy post I did on "garden sass" a few years ago), as in:

Meanwhile, the tightfisted wife of the publisher provided meals notable for their trifling portions. News of the great potato famine then raging in Ireland could not have escaped backwater Hannibal, and Sam must have felt himself to be a cosufferer. To sustain himself, Sam felt obliged to raid the cellar at night for potatoes and other farm sass taken in barter for subscriptions (p. 28).

I also learned that when he was in his 20's, the young Samuel Clemens planned to travel "to the headwaters of the Amazon and collect coca and trade in it and make a fortune" (p. 34), which is fun to know.

I don't think that Fleischman's biography is going to win the Newbery (only a couple of other biographies have won - one on Abraham Lincoln in 1988, and one of Louisa May Alcott in 1934) - but I'm happy to recommend it for older kids and adults alike. If you want a more critical review of the book, I recommend Wendy B.'s review on, because she said everything I was vaguely thinking but couldn't articulate.

No comments: