Cinderella's fairy godmother turned a pumpkin into a coach, mice into horses, and rats into a coachman and a page. But what if the pageboy had run off...moreCinderella's fairy godmother turned a pumpkin into a coach, mice into horses, and rats into a coachman and a page. But what if the pageboy had run off to play with some of the palace children and so missed his ride back to Cinderella's cottage--and stayed in human form? A rat, shaped like a child, able to walk and talk but with a curious propensity for eating trash and chewing on wood, and of course, without any understanding of society, or how he ought to fit into it.
I think this is a social commentary more than a book for children. It's interesting, certainly, and the boy's adventures are exciting enough. But there's not a lot of characterization, and the newspaper articles the pop up--I'm not sure how much of them actual children would understand.(less)
Narrative nonfiction for the middle grades is rare enough, but good, compelling, readable narrative nonfiction is startlingly difficult to find. This...moreNarrative nonfiction for the middle grades is rare enough, but good, compelling, readable narrative nonfiction is startlingly difficult to find. This fits the bill, 100%. An informative look at the Salem Witch Trials that is easy to read, interesting, but not...well, not any more sensationalist than it has to be (being an account of an event that was entirely sensationalist as it happened).
The artwork was pretty sensationalist--very dark, reds and blacks and white highlight spaces, depicting demon mouths breathing out flocks of doves and a dozen women drinking blood from goblets, but I think what the art does more than anything else is highlight the insanity of the accusations. It's so overblown that you just have to tilt your head and think, "So people really believed this was happening? Whackjobs." Which is...well, that's the moral of the story right? That's why it's still taught in schools. "Don't start rumors; it makes you look crazy."(less)
Beverley is still a child when he finds out who his father is; it's not something he's known all his life, even though he's known the man, but his mam...moreBeverley is still a child when he finds out who his father is; it's not something he's known all his life, even though he's known the man, but his mama had to wait to tell him until he was old enough to keep a secret. His father, you see, is Master Jefferson; his mama is a slave. Beverley's a slave, too, even though he looks white and has a president for a father. He also has a sister, Harriet, and eventually, two little brothers, Maddy and Eston. Their lives are all easier than are those of fellow slaves, and they all grow up knowing that they'll be freed when they turn 21. Some of them, Beverley, Harriet, maybe even baby Eston, will be able to pass for white, then, and they'll disappear into white society; they'll never see their mother again.
So this is that story. A fictionalized account, of course, but the author says in the notes in the end that she wrote nothing here that could not have been true. Madison and Eston both left written accounts of their lives when they died, and Kimberly Brubaker Bradley's research is evident in the rich historical detail. And it's pretty amazing. It's a trial, reading this book. Thomas Jefferson, a great man, a man who helped shape our country, a man who wrote the Declaration of Independence and owned his own children--owned them, and treated them as, sure, well-treated slaves, but slaves. His conscience didn't compel him to free them as children, and didn't compel him ever to free their mother, his mistress. And that's a fact.
What this book does, and does so very, very well, is that it makes slavery feel real. It was, I know that. But what you know and what you can imagine are two very different things, and the slavery of record--the terrible slavery full of desperation and fear and families being sold apart and people being whipped to death--it's too terrible for me to imagine. These children, though, don't have terrible lives. They see a whipping or two, but they're never beaten themselves. They're not afraid of being sold. They aren't worked--well, they work, but not really very hard. They have bright futures, so they're never desperate, never looking to run. They have comfortable, safe lives. But they're not free, and that's. Not something you read about, often. That's something that's horrible, but horrible within imagining.
And then, with the third point of view, Peter, a fellow slave and friend of the Jefferson's sons, but one with no blood connection to the Jefferson's, Ms. Bradley pulls out the rug from under you. There's no safety for him. No comfort. No promise of freedom. It's a sneaky, dirty trick, easing you into a mind frame of belief, of imagining and seeing it as real, and then making it as horrible as you already knew it was. And it's extremely effective.
And I cried my way through the author's note, and I cried long past that, because oh my God, that happened. Maybe not exactly that to those exact people, and maybe they didn't feel exactly that way about them, but it all happened, and it happened to millions of people. And I knew it, but I didn't know it in the same way, before.(less)
Chingis and Nergui appear in Bootle, England. In this tiny town where no one new ever comes and nothing happens, these two Mongolian immigrants appear...moreChingis and Nergui appear in Bootle, England. In this tiny town where no one new ever comes and nothing happens, these two Mongolian immigrants appear, wearing huge, strange coats and acting and speaking in ways that are totally unfamiliar to the other children at the school. Chingis, the elder, gives the teacher orders and refuses to let his little brother out of his sight. He has a Polaroid camera, and pictures of Mongolia so bizarre that it seems like another planet all together. Julie, our narrator, is enchanted by them; she learns everything she can about Mongolia and gives a report on it to the class, and the boys name her their Good Guide. And Chingis and Nergui insist that there's a demon after Nergui, a demon who makes things vanish, wants to make Nergui vanish, and Julie is swept up in it, culminating in a strange, quiet afternoon when the English landscape becomes unfamiliar and Mongolia appears before their very eyes.
So, I didn't really dig this book. It has text, in the form of first-person narration, written from a grown, present day Julie looking back on those strange months with the boys. And it has photos, the Polaroids that of Chingis's, each printed on it's own page, interspersed throughout the book. And I'll tell you, maybe it's me, because Miss Peregrins Home for Unusual Children felt the same way, but it seems forced. Like Mr. Cottrell Boyce found some pictures and built a story around them. And I know that's not how it happened, because the extremely touching author's note at the end makes it clear that the story came to him first, but it's apparently not a format that works for me. I will say, I loved the author's note, and I found it rounded out the book, made it more personal and real, and much, much more touching.(less)
Harriet M. Welsch is a spy. Every day after school, she goes home to have cake and milk, and then she walks her spy route. She records her observation...moreHarriet M. Welsch is a spy. Every day after school, she goes home to have cake and milk, and then she walks her spy route. She records her observations in her notebook--all of her observations, all of the time. Things about Mr. Dei Santi, the grocer, and Harrison Withers, who makes bird cages and has a lot of cats--these people, she observes through their windows. She also makes notes about her friends, the kids at school who are not her friends, her parents, and her nurse, Ole Golly. Not all the notes are exactly nice, though they are all 100% true, so when the kids at school actually read her notebook...well, Harriet's going to have to have some serious amends to make. That is, if she can ever realizes that there's anything to apologize for.
I had a lot of trouble doing a plot summary for this book, only because--well, the plot isn't the point, and there's not really one big issue. Reading the book is a certainly fascinating, not really because of what happens, but just because of Harriet. She's complex and has a million flaws and you want to shake her, but you just love her anyway. Well, I loved her, anyway. And Sport. I loved Sport so much and wanted to snuggle him and make him sandwiches, and also, I totally want Harriet and Sport to get married. I just feel they are MFEO.
It is kind of a disturbing book, though, and there's not a chance that it'd be published as is, today. Harriet's friend Janie is constantly threatening to blow up things, people, even the school...and she has a lab in her room where she's trying to develop explosives. And there aren't any negative consequences for her. Harriet herself is basically a sociopath, and while there are consequences, (view spoiler)[she doesn't actually have to change anything about herself in order to win back her friends. She just apologizes, publicly, and even then, it's not genuine. She knows, and it's stated explicitly in the text, that the apology is a lie, and that she's only doing it to win her friends back and make her life easier. She doesn't feel any remorse for hurt she causes, just for the hurt she feels. (hide spoiler)] But it's a classic for a reason. All children are sociopaths, right? And Harriet is, ultimately, incredibly relatable. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I read this book in college, for a Young Adult Literature class, and I was blown away. I didn't remember, then, how intricate, how emotional, how matu...moreI read this book in college, for a Young Adult Literature class, and I was blown away. I didn't remember, then, how intricate, how emotional, how mature books written for childrens and teens could be.(less)
I read this book in fifth grade, and I loved it. I read it again in college, and I loved it. I even read it aloud to my boyfriend (now husband), becau...moreI read this book in fifth grade, and I loved it. I read it again in college, and I loved it. I even read it aloud to my boyfriend (now husband), because I wanted him to love it, too. And because he refuses to read for himself.(less)