I was in the 4th grade when I discovered this book in my elementary school library. It became an instant favourite. I checked it out countless times o...moreI was in the 4th grade when I discovered this book in my elementary school library. It became an instant favourite. I checked it out countless times over the following two years, and after graduating to middle school, I bought my own copy, which I still have more than 20 years later.
This is a book designed to spark the reader's imagination, with each page containing a title, a picture, and one line of a story. The reader is left to imagine or create the rest.
The illustrations are as haunting as they are beautiful. I have always loved Van Allsburg's unique artistic style, and own several of his other books, but this one remains my favourite.(less)
There's no cohesive plot here, so I would hesitate to recommend this to someone who has not already read and enjoyed "Every Day". It's just some littl...moreThere's no cohesive plot here, so I would hesitate to recommend this to someone who has not already read and enjoyed "Every Day". It's just some little vignettes from earlier points in A's unusual life, which provide a bit more insight into the formation of the character.
The only part that was a little jarring for me was that the wording of the thoughts of a much younger A were as vocabulariffic as teenage-A's. I would have expected things to be expressed more simply in a first-person present-tense narrative.(less)
Meet A. A has no race, no class, no gender, no name apart from the letter ze has assigned hirself. Also no family, friends, possessions, or plans for...moreMeet A. A has no race, no class, no gender, no name apart from the letter ze has assigned hirself. Also no family, friends, possessions, or plans for the future. Ze can't. Because every day A wakes up in a different body, in a different life. There are rules regarding how this works -- A is always someone of the same age as hirself, is constrained to a limited geographical area, and can access the memories of the body ze is possessing, but not the person's feelings or consciousness -- and there are the rules A has made for hirself: don't harm anyone, and don't disrupt the borrowed life more than ze can help.
All of this changes on the day that A inhabits a boy named Justin, and meets Justin's girlfriend Rhiannon. Then it all begins to fall apart, because A is falling in love. Ze starts bending hir rules -- just a little at first -- and things begin to spin out of control.
The genius of this novel lies more in the concept than in the execution. A giant "WHAT IF?" is asked of the reader which a novel of this length can barely begin to scratch the surface of answering. It raises questions about identity, and about how much agency one has a right to when one can only ever be a guest in the body of another, and has no independent existence to call one's own. In some ways, A's life is very free. Ze almost never has to face consequences for hir actions, and ze gets to see first-hand a very broad range of human experiences. One day, A might be on the high school football team, the next day, an underage, undocumented housekeeper, or a drug addict desperate for the next fix.
There were some elements of the romance between A and Rhiannon that I found problematic. A is somewhat pushy, coming close to demanding that Rhiannon make room for hir in her life, and all the uncertainty that comes along with that. It's a lot to ask of anyone. While I don't necessarily agree with the way A handles things all the time, I feel nothing but sympathy for the desperation A experiences. With no possibility of sustained relationships or anything else to call one's own, who wouldn't be hungry to forge a connection with another person?
The twist that came at the end was surprising. I thought I knew what was going to happen, but my expectations were turned upside down. The ending itself was rather abrupt. I was left wanting more. I hope Levithan intends to write a sequel. There is still so much to explore here and so many more questions to ask.(less)
I'm still trying to decide how I feel about this book. I read it slowly, and the plot had a slow build as all the pieces of the story and the characte...moreI'm still trying to decide how I feel about this book. I read it slowly, and the plot had a slow build as all the pieces of the story and the characters were moved into place, and I admit I was a little bored through the first half of the book. It didn't help that two of the first important characters introduced have no redeeming qualities, and it took a while for me to feel more than lukewarm about a few of the other central characters. The story is told out of sequence in some places, and I wish I had paid more attention to the dates earlier on, so I could have a better sense of when everything was happening. If you are looking for a fast-paced, action-packed plot, this is probably not the book for you. About halfway through, it all starts to come together, with a fairly satisfying conclusion. I especially liked the description of how the Circus's fandom, the reveurs, came into being. A visually evocative book. I wouldn't be surprised if someone tried to make it into a movie sooner or later.(less)
After re-reading The Amber Spyglass, I was not quite ready to put Pullman's world back on the shelf. I've had this small book for some time, but had n...moreAfter re-reading The Amber Spyglass, I was not quite ready to put Pullman's world back on the shelf. I've had this small book for some time, but had never gotten around to reading it before now. It was nice to see Lyra's story continuing, and to find out how she was doing two years after the events of the series. In some ways, she has reverted back to her old self, from before her adventures began, but she is more grown up, and has learned many things which inform her actions here. There is much discussion in this story of symbolism, and of how some things have broader meanings which are not readily apparent. And that's more or less how this story feels -- like one piece of a puzzle -- a keyhole into Lyra's life. I wonder if Pullman will ever get around to answering some of the questions raised here?(less)
On all four of my previous readings of this series, this has been my favourite book. I'm not sure that's so any longer. It's still very good, with som...moreOn all four of my previous readings of this series, this has been my favourite book. I'm not sure that's so any longer. It's still very good, with some great characters, fascinating storylines and breathtaking scenes, and Will is still possibly my favourite character in the series, but on this reading, I noticed for the first time how much of a middle book it is. While some new plot arcs begin here and some are concluded, it doesn't have the same sort of tight, self-contained plotting found in The Northern Lights/The Golden Compass. I am very much enjoying re-reading this series alongside the Mark Reads His Dark Materials blog. Mark's love and amazement for this series is infectious. I find I'm appreciating the themes and the Pullman's writing style a lot more as a result of the chapter-a-day format, taking the time to think about and discuss the ideas raised in each chapter. A great series, which teaches the importance of friendship, self-sufficiency, and critical thinking.(less)
To anyone who thinks Milne only wrote books for very young children: boy, are you missing out! A. A. Milne is the author of an extensive canon of clev...moreTo anyone who thinks Milne only wrote books for very young children: boy, are you missing out! A. A. Milne is the author of an extensive canon of clever, whimsical and humorous writing, and this charming fairytale, according to the author himself, is one of his favourites. Written in 1915, this story includes a power-hungry Countess, a couple of foolish kings, an arrogant prince and his much-preferable wing-man, and a princess who is not at all sure she needs to be rescued. I can't help it; anymore these days every reading I do is a feminist reading. That's just the filter through which I see the world now. I'm not saying this is a perfect piece of feminist literature (it was written by a privileged white male in 1915, after all, and that would be a LOT to ask), but I have few complaints about the story, and they hardly seem worth mentioning in the face of all the giggles and enjoyment Milne provides. The female characters are no more silly or otherwise flawed than their male counterparts, nor are they any more in need of rescue. Sure, you have the stereotype of the conniving, older gold-digger versus the conventionally "good" young princess and her sweet and innocent maidservants, but neither of the lead females are two-dimensional, and I loved the fact that when the king goes off to (an admittedly very silly) war, he has no qualms about leaving his 17-year-old daughter in charge. She takes her role as ruler very seriously, and seems much more concerned about governing well than about romance. How could one not love a fairytale wherein the princess thinks of the handsome prince who comes to her rescue: "Moreover he was just a little too sure of his position in her house. She had wanted his help, but she did not want so much of it as she seemed to be likely to get." All in all, Milne spins a wonderful tale, turning many of the usual fairytale tropes on their heads. A great read, especially for ages 9-12. Highly recommended.(less)