May 17, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Finally Friday! And a beautiful Friday here, so let’s kick the weekend off with some good ol’ fifteen-word book reviews:
2. Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary
Made me realize there were a few Salems in the US. Some outdated racial awkwardness.
3. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
A romantic comedy with stunningly complex characters. Portia can be cruel, Shylock can be sympathetic.
4. We Are in a Book by Mo Willems
Metafiction for the preschool set, as only Willems can do.
5. Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Robin Hood with a kickass lady thief? Teen Annie would have been all over this!
May 14, 2013 § 1 Comment
Today in literary history, Virginia Woolf’s classic Mrs. Dalloway was published in 1925. It’s one of my favorite books–the plot is simple, but the writing is so gorgeous. I love how Woolf imbues the everyday with so much meaning. And it makes me feel a deep connection with other people. For example, one part that sticks with me is when Lady Bruton imagines her connection with Richard Dalloway and Hugh Whitbread after they leave her home:
“And they went further and further from her, being attached to her by a thin thread (since they had lunched with her) which would stretch and stretch, get thinner and thinner as they walked across London; as if one’s friends were attached to one’s body, after lunching with them, by a thin thread, which (as she dozed there) became hazy with the sound of bells, striking the hour or ringing to service, as a single spider’s thread is blotted with rain-drops, and, burdened, sags down.”
I love that image so much and I totally feel that when I part from friends. Even though the thread may sag, I love the fact that it’s there at all. We’re deeply and invisibly connected with the people we love.
Buy yourself some flowers today and celebrate Mrs. Dalloway!
(image: Rubin Starset)
May 13, 2013 § 14 Comments
With The Great Gatsby movie out this week, even non-English majors are talking about the book. I was particularly interested in one article about hating the book, even though it’s considered the Great American Novel:
“I find Gatsby aesthetically overrated, psychologically vacant, and morally complacent; I think we kid ourselves about the lessons it contains. None of this would matter much to me if Gatsby were not also sacrosanct. Books being borderline irrelevant in America, one is generally free to dislike them—but not this book.”
Kathryn Schulz goes on to explain why she finds Gatsby lacking, and I can totally see her points, even though I don’t agree. I grew up in a house of Gatsby-haters. When I read the book in eleventh grade, I already knew that everyone in my family thought Gatsby was foolish and Daisy was brainless and the story was pointless. I didn’t expect a lot from the book, but ended up loving it–I thought it was dramatic and shocking and had a powerful ending about how fantasies and goals are so easily destroyed.
Does that mean I went on to change the minds of everyone in my family? Nope. I’m firmly in the camp of You Don’t Have to Love All the “Great” Novels. If you don’t love The Great Gatsby or Pride and Prejudice or Moby Dick, that’s okay. Not every book necessarily connects with every reader, even if it’s beautifully written and revered by lots of very knowledgable people. It’s not a moral failing for not loving a particular book. It just means there are probably other books out there you’ll like more.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try lots of classic novels. Schulz has given Gatsby five tries so far. I think she can cut her losses. A few years ago, I read Anna Karenina because I thought, “Hey, there’s a novel I never had to read in school. People seem to like it?” I spent the whole thing waiting for Anna to get hit by that train. Not the book for me. Sometimes I think maybe I should give it another shot, but there are so many other wonderful books in the world–I think my time is better spent moving onto one of them.
Which “great” novels do you hate?
May 10, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Happy Friday, everyone! It’s almost Mother’s Day, so let’s celebrate early with a few mother-themed fifteen-word book reviews:
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Mrs. Weasley wins Mom of the Year for her line “Not my daughter, you bitch!”
3. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flag
Idgie and Ruth combat racism, serve barbecue in Depression-era Alabama. Read it, immediately started rereading.
4.Matilda by Roald Dahl
Clever Matilda has a heinous family, so she forms a new family with Miss Honey.
5. Grandma Gets Grumpy by Anna Grossnickle Hines
Grandmas get upset sometimes–they were moms once, after all.
May 6, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Updates from NESCBWI coming when my brain isn’t fried, but first, a lovely video about why we should all be bookish kids, no matter how old we are:
I love the idea of everyone processing their own story and realizing the expanse of possibilities through reading. Maybe you’re not going to tesser to other planets and save your dad from a giant brain, but you can still better process your own life and the lives of those around you having learned about Meg Murry’s expansive love and bravery. All kinds of art can show you the possibilities of other stories, but I think there’s something to be said for reading in particular–it’s intimate and personal while still being expansive.
May 3, 2013 § 3 Comments
It’s the first Friday in May and I couldn’t be happier about it. There are flowers blooming now, guys! There are buds on trees! And (in case you’ve missed the last couple of posts), I’m psyched about heading to the NESCBWI conference. Certainly, this calls for a New England kidlit author and illustrator-themed Friday Fifteen:
2. Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles
Sensitive look at what it means to be a “slut” in high school.
3. Hush, Little Dragon by Boni Ashburn
Can I use the phrase “darkly adorable?” Hilarious text, awesome illustrations by Kelly Murphy.
4. One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
About hope, family, and what it means to be in foster care. Love Carley.
5. The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss
Only remember “The Sneetches,” but it’s way good. Seuss was from Springfield, MA, don’tcha know.
May 1, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Even though I was a big reader as a teen, I also watched a lot of TV. This list of 9 Female Characters We Wish We’d Been More Like In High School is a pretty excellent reflection of my television heroes. (Veronica Mars, I still want to be you.) In YA, we have an abundance of female characters who are role models in dealing with everything from cliques to evil governments to man-eating wild horses. So, in no particular order:
Lyra Silvertongue from the His Dark Materials series
Why she’s cool: She’s one of the few people in the universe who can read an alethiometer. She hangs out with armored polar bears. She saved all the souls in the universe. She’s clever and rebellious. She has a daemon.
Why it would be good to be her in high school: She’d totally be the girl getting you to skip class so you could go have an awesome adventure and take down the establishment.
Frankie Landau-Banks from The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Why she’s cool: She can outwit her private school’s oldest secret society, plan awesome pranks, and stand up to the patriarchy.
Why it would be good to be her in high school: A lot of teens might be insecure, but Frankie’s not afraid to let anything hold her back. I wish I had that kind of confidence and motivation in high school.
Alanna of Pirate’s Swoop and Olau from The Song of the Lioness series
Why she’s cool: Alanna is a redheaded, magic-doing lady knight, who snuck into knight school by pretending to be her twin brother. Girl has guts and then some.
Why it would be good to be her in high school: Alanna would totally be that girl who was captain of the soccer team, dated the hottest guys, and was awesome to hang out with.
Weetzie Bat from Dangerous Angels
Why she’s cool: Weetzie is a cross between a punk rocker and a fairy princess, living in a kind of magical version of LA with amazing, kind of magical friends and fighting against/learning to accept the darkness.
Why it would be good to be her in high school: Weetzie might not fit in, but she would be that girl who always wears something awesome and knows where the good bands are playing.
Puck Connolly from The Scorpio Races
Why she’s cool: In order to save her family home, Puck enters a man-eating horse race–with her regular horse.
Why it would be good to be her in high school: Puck is the ultimate underdog. But when she’s faced with some major challenges, she tackles them with a tenacity and a ferocity I wish I had when I was facing big math tests or family drama.
Veronica FitzOsborne from A Brief History of Montmaray
Why she’s cool: Veronica is poised, beautiful, the heir to the throne, and (above all) scholarly.
Why it would be good to be her in high school: Veronica would be that girl who makes everything look effortless (straight As! captain of the debate team!), and you wish you could hate her but you can’t because she’s so damn awesome. (I was way more like narrator Sophie in high school.)
Tris from Divergent
Why she’s cool: A lot of YA dystopian characters wish they didn’t have to run from zombies/take down an evil government/survive a creepy life-or-death game. But Tris gets an adrenaline rush from the action and wants to help people–a trait I really like.
Why it would be good to be her in high school: Tris doesn’t always look before she leaps. In high school, I always looked before I leapt. (Heck, I still do.) I could have used a little more of Tris’s daring.
Georgia Nicholson from Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging
Why she’s cool: She deals with normal life stuff (crushes, parents, cats) but also has a wicked sense of humor
Why it would be good to be her in high school: If you can’t change your normal life drama, you might as well be funny about it.
Ginny Weasley from the Harry Potter series
Why she’s cool: I know, I know, everyone always talks about Hermione. But I really like Ginny. Sure, she had a rough first year, but after that she comes into her own–rocking the Quidditch team, doing well in school, and fighting in Dumbledore’s Army. Heck, she manages to get Slughorn’s attention, and usually that’s reserved for major wizard legacies.
Why it would be good to be her in high school: Ginny seems like she’d be the girl everyone admired–smart, talented, but low-key about it. She does what she wants and doesn’t take crap from people.
Which YA ladies would you want/have wanted to be in high school?