The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White is one of those books I've been hearing about my whole life, and everyone who has ever read this has loved and told me that I have to read it because it is just so amazing. I read Charlotte's Web as a kid and really enjoyed it, so I fully expected to love this book.
I bought a really nice copy of it on impulse a couple years ago, because I just knew it would be awesome, and pretty copies of awesome books are great, right? I had a feeling it was going to be a while before I would get to it, so when Adam over at Roof Beam Reader started his 2011 TBR Reading Challenge, I thought it would be a great excuse to read this book.
So, I read the book. And, I didn't like it. I mean, it was okay, I guess. I actually really enjoyed the first couple of chapters, when the boy is our main character and the story is told by him and from his perspective. He goes camping in the wilds of Canada with his dad, and stumbles across a nesting pair of Trumpeter Swans, which are big, loud and beautiful. Being a nature and animal enthusiast, he does what he can to observe them and share a little part of their world. He's quiet and doesn't move as he observes the swans, because he doesn't want to alarm them, both because he doesn't want to threaten the home they have created for them and their eggs, but also because swans get downright nasty and you do NOT want to be on the receiving end of their territorial attacks.
And then we get a section from the swans point of view about this strange human boy who has invaded their space. But, it's kind of all right, because he just sits there, quietly, never moving. Just watching. So the swans get used to him. And then, a fox tries to attack the Mrs. and the boy saves her. So, they like the boy and allow him into their world, and when their chicks hatch, he is part of their lives also, at least for a few weeks.
If that was the only time we heard from the swans themselves, I would have been just fine. But it's not. The entire rest of the book becomes narrated by the swans and I didn't like it. They are ridiculous and far too human for me to believe any of it. And their understanding of the world is far too advanced for an animal. Like the son who cannot speak. He goes to school and learns to read and write on a little chalk board that hangs around his next. The teacher, of a first grade classroom, allowed a giant bird, notorious for its mean streak, into a classroom full of small children so it could learn to read, and it does.
And then even more craziness ensues, including the aforementioned swan learning how to play a magnificently beautiful trumpet, that more than makes up for the fact that he cannot 'trumpet' himself. Something has been wrong with his vocal cords since birth. But here's the things guys. I have played a trumpet. I know how they work. I know how hard you have to work to play one. And, if you don't have a working set of lips, you ain't getting any sound out of that thing. And if you can't depress the keys with your fingers, which takes more effort that the feathers on a wing could manage, you are vastly more limited in the notes you are able to play. So I didn't buy it.
I will admit right from the start that I want nothing but contemporary from my contemporary and realistic novels. I do not think there is any room for the abstract or unimaginable when I'm reading a book that I fully expect to be a realistic contemporary. If my book has impossibilities mixed in with it, I'm automatically more inclined to dislike it, and I didn't believe a single thing in this book after the swans took over the narration. And, it doesn't help that the father swan was one of the absolute most annoying characters I have ever read. He's full of ridiculous bluster, rambling pretension, and thoughts of inflated self, while his lady swan was very down to earth, practical and calm.
I feel bad that I didn't like this book, and I recognize there is a good chance I would have liked it a lot more if I had read it as a kid. But, I didn't. I read it now, and I didn't like it. The only thing that would possibly motivate me to read it again would be reading it aloud to my future kids someday.
Really more of a 3.5, but today, I'm choosing to round it up.
This book was an interesting one for me. I really *like* books set during WWII. SomethinReally more of a 3.5, but today, I'm choosing to round it up.
This book was an interesting one for me. I really *like* books set during WWII. Something about that time period draws me in a book. This is about an orphan who knows NOTHING except how to steal food, and be fast enough to not get caught. He's later taken in by a street gang of orphans, particularly Uri, who gives him his name and becomes his family.
There was something frustrating and yet endearing about Misha. I liked him at the same time he frustrated and confused me and I struggled to ever fully connect to him, or really, unfortunately, to his story. It's not a bad book, and it's not poorly told. It's just not one of my favorites to be told about this time period.
Also, Janina drove me NUTS. She's spoiled, selfish and stupid. I loved her dad and I totally understood why Misha connected so strongly to them (especially AFTER they move to the ghetto) but Janina was so frustrating to read about. I wanted to smack her silly. She was reckless and stupid and put herself, her family, and Misha into FAR more danger than she helped them by bringing a few more potatoes and whatnot that Misha did alone. ...more
I read this book, even knowing that I'm not the audience for it, because of how large it is culturally. It's one of those stories that everyone knowsI read this book, even knowing that I'm not the audience for it, because of how large it is culturally. It's one of those stories that everyone knows about, even when they haven't read it themselves. So, I read it. And, I must say, I was disappointed. I didn't find it funny or witty, just bland, absurd, and the unfortunate type of ridiculous. Then again, I've never been fond of the overly ridiculous... I'm glad I checked it off my list, but I have less than zero desire to continue with the series. There is absolutely an audience for this book, and I can understand that. I'm just not it....more
I'm glad in finally read this. I grew up listening to the musical version (if you don't know what that is, look it up, ohmygoodness I love it). I grewI'm glad in finally read this. I grew up listening to the musical version (if you don't know what that is, look it up, ohmygoodness I love it). I grew up familiar with it, talking about it, listening to it, and familiar with the Orson Wells radio broadcast story. And I'm glad I finally read it. It is short, and easy to read through. There's less constant action than I expected, but overall, my feelings are very favorable. Also, the idea that this was really the first alien invasion story, and the HUGE amounts of stories that have followed us incredible....more
By the time I got around to actually reading this book, it had been sitting on my shelf for about 3 years. It was a text book for one of my Political Science classes in college. This book was used entirely for in class discussion. All of my classes that semester had a large reading load, and this one didn't seem as important to get read as the actual texts and published articles.
I read the first 3 chapters along with the class, before I prioritized (well, probably more like got lazy) and set it on the back burner. But, I enjoyed the book and the information it presented, and I've always planned to go back and read it. So, I added it to my Fill-in-the-Gaps list, and on my list for Adam's TBR Challenge, over at Roof Beam Reader.
I liked this book. A lot. The writing is mostly smooth, and the questions asked and the information presented is readable, entertaining, and interesting. Levitt is a somewhat unorthodox economist, claiming he isn't very good with numbers, and the traditional economic subjects don't interest him too much. He'd much rather decipher why drug dealers still live with their mothers if they are all supposed to be rich, or whether or not your name can really make a difference in your future careers. Dubner is a journalist who interviewed Levitt. They liked working together, and decided to collaborate on a book, detailing some of the studies and analysis they did to answer some of these questions.
I liked that the questions asked were a little unusual, but also relevant and pertinent to life. Economics can be broken down into the study of incentives, and it's interesting to note what they believe to be highly motivating. Incentives aren't always monetary. They can also be social, and moral. These incentives are often connected. Breaking apart or changing these incentives give us an added insight into human behavior, and why people do what they do. I don't know that I agree with everything they theorize about in this book, but I can say that they have done a very thorough job with their research, and it was never dull.
It's not a book for everyone, but then- I don't think much non-fiction is. But, this is a book that will make you think a little differently about the world and ask a new set of questions, even if it only happens while actually reading the book. I'm glad I finally finished this one. It was definitely worth it.
Have any of you read this book, or their blog? What do you think?...more