I was looking for a history of anti-racism, and found Bonnett's book in the Harvard Library. Bonnett is British, and he tries to take an international...moreI was looking for a history of anti-racism, and found Bonnett's book in the Harvard Library. Bonnett is British, and he tries to take an international view, looking at the history of anti-racism internationally, not just from a British or American perspective. Particularly valuable for me was his discussion of the practice of racism -- I wanted to know about different ways people have "done" anti-racism work in the past, as I'm currently writing an article about how race works in the HARRY POTTER books.(less)
My husband, Keith, reads to me before bed most nights. We've been on a Terry Pratchett run of late. I was familiar with his books for teens, which I l...moreMy husband, Keith, reads to me before bed most nights. We've been on a Terry Pratchett run of late. I was familiar with his books for teens, which I like enormously, but hadn't read much of his work for adults. We read through several of the witch books first, as some of the witches featured in the Tiffany Aching books. Keith wanted to switch to the Guards books, which we are currently working on. Fun for before bed reading...(less)
I bought ONCE UPON A MARIGOLD thinking that the author was the British Jean Ferris, whose work I like. But she's American... I read the first book with...moreI bought ONCE UPON A MARIGOLD thinking that the author was the British Jean Ferris, whose work I like. But she's American... I read the first book with my daughter and we both enjoyed it -- a light fantasy, lots of humor, minor fairy tale parodies, a cute romance. So when I saw that there was a sequel, I picked it up for my daughter. She didn't want to wait to read it together, and read it herself quickly. She recommends it, so I'm in the midst...
I found this sequel far less interesting than ONCE UPON A MARIGOLD, although it is a pleasant read. Because the focus is less upon Chris and Marigold, and more upon the evil stepmother Olympia, and we know that in this funny world, evil will never be allowed to triumph, there isn't as much suspense. The author relies too much on readers' having read the first book and liked the characters, rather than developing new problems for them to solve. The new minor character lazy Susan interested me, but she wasn't developed in enough detail to make the book memorable.(less)
Read this on the recommendation of Farah M. A school story fantasy that inverts the sub-genre -- magic school here is hardly the wish-fulfilling, ego-...moreRead this on the recommendation of Farah M. A school story fantasy that inverts the sub-genre -- magic school here is hardly the wish-fulfilling, ego-boosting institution seen in Harry Potter and others. Much darker, YA. The one gripe I had with the book: it doesn't come to a sense of closure. Even books that are meant to be part of a series should have a sense of closure, I feel. Definitely will want to read book 2, though...(less)
I haven't read much fantasy for adults -- I have a hard enough time keeping up with the new fantasy that keeps pouring out for kids and YA's. But at t...moreI haven't read much fantasy for adults -- I have a hard enough time keeping up with the new fantasy that keeps pouring out for kids and YA's. But at the IAFA conference, I received a copy of MISTBORN, and decided to give it a go. It's a rousing adventure story, in the "pulling off the big heist" film vein. The big heist here, though, is overthrowing the god-ruler! There's a strong young female protagonist, and an intriguing secondary world, which are draws. The characters are pretty flat, though -- fairly stock, not surprising given the genre conventions Sanderson draws upon. The romance parts are pretty awful -- something out of a bad regency romance. But the fast pace, surprising plot turns, and appeal of the central character all make the book well worth the read. I even picked up the second book in the series (from the library), because I wanted to know what happened next...
Stacy Whitman, a former student who now works in publishing, is thanked on the credits page -- part of the Mormon fantasy community from which Sanderson emerged.(less)
My daughter's class (7th grade) is reading this, and she asked me to sit down and read it, while she read it (again) over her shoulder. Not as stand-o...moreMy daughter's class (7th grade) is reading this, and she asked me to sit down and read it, while she read it (again) over her shoulder. Not as stand-out as I had hoped; a bit more heavy-handed and too much focused on personal self-acceptance rather than social change for my taste...(less)
It's difficult to read a book that has had so much good press -- it's tough for any book to live up to such high expectations. Having hearing Adrienne...moreIt's difficult to read a book that has had so much good press -- it's tough for any book to live up to such high expectations. Having hearing Adrienne Kertzer's presentation on the work at ChLA (which I admired very much, by the way!), I also knew some of the major themes and plotlines in store, which took away some of the pleasure in reading the novel. But I still found Alexie's book well-worth many of the accolades it has received. What struck me in reading was how different in tone this novel was from the short stories and poetry by Alexie that I've read and taught. The anger and passion that characterize much of Alexie's work for adults seems missing here. Arnold just felt so NICE compared with Alexie's other narrators/protagonists. I wonder if Alexie's awareness that he was writing for a YA audience led him to this shift? Though, as some reviewers note, Alexie "pulls no punches" in his depiction of life on the reservation, there is some sense of hope by the end of the novel -- another key characteristic of much children's lit. I haven't read Alexie's novels for adults yet -- I'll have to add those to my "to read" list, to see if these differences in protagonists hold true...(less)
As a scholar of 18th and 19th century children's literature, I was immediately drawn to a book purporting to be a parody of "old fashioned" books. But...moreAs a scholar of 18th and 19th century children's literature, I was immediately drawn to a book purporting to be a parody of "old fashioned" books. But I was unimpressed by Lowry's actual novel. Perhaps because I had in mind a definition of parody that means something beyond just a "funny" imitation; most parodies are written to ridicule or satirize the genre they imitate. Lowry's book doesn't imitate to critique, or to satirize. Or perhaps it is because Lowry's idea of "old fashioned book" is just a broad one, stretching from Dickens and Charlotte Bronte to Roald Dahl, that her "parody" doesn't really hold together. The book seems confused about just what it is making fun of -- mean parents? Sexist children? Improbable events? Latent sexual content? -- and the fact that it ends happily, as do all of the old fashioned books she makes fun of, seems to belie its parodic nature. Or perhaps it is just because many of the "old fashioned" books she draws upon would not be a part of many contemporary children's reading matter, making the audience for her book more of an adult than a child audience. All in all, I'd take E. Nesbit's THE STORY OF THE TREASURE SEEKERS, or Lemony Snicket's work, over this confused volume...
My daughter asked me to read the first book in this series to her, as she had read it at school and thought I would like it. We read that one, and now...moreMy daughter asked me to read the first book in this series to her, as she had read it at school and thought I would like it. We read that one, and now we're in the midst of the NOBODIES...
I thought that that NOBODIES was a little all over the place, but the sequel is much more focused. The intrusive narrator is funny, the plot moves along at a good clip, the magic is believable and desirable, and, like the previous book, THE NOBODIES ends with a lovely message of redemption. I particularly like the way the books portray the emotional lives of the child characters. We're looking forward to reading book 3, THE SOMEBODIES...(less)
I've been teaching Divakaruni's SISTER OF MY HEART for the past two years in my multicultural literature class. Each year, it is one of the most popul...moreI've been teaching Divakaruni's SISTER OF MY HEART for the past two years in my multicultural literature class. Each year, it is one of the most popular reads of the semester, in lager part because of the romance and fairy tale elements, I believe. I usually don't like to read sequels to books I'm teaching, as I find that my memories of a book get muddied -- did this happen in the book we're reading, or in the later book? But as I'm not gong to be teaching this year, I decided to go ahead and find out how Divakaruni decided to continue the story of Anju and Sudha, two cousins raised almost as sisters in India.
At first, I found this new book difficult; the narrative voice is far different than the first person alternating narratives of SISTER. But as I read, I began to see why Divakaruni had chosen the multiple ways of narrating her story (switching point of view, switching from the first person to the third, switching discourses). Sudha and Anju are no longer as sure of themselves as they were as teenage girls; the third person allows Divakaruni to show us her characters from a distance, from the outside, almost as they themselves are feeling -- distances from their home,as immigrants in the U. S., but also distanced from themselves. Who am I, each struggles to discover. What do I desire? While the answers to these questions aren't as pleasing to readers as they were in SISTER, they made for a rich, thoughtful study in character.(less)
My daughter received a copy the film version of HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE on DVD for her birthday, and we've both watched it with pleasure. But it made me...moreMy daughter received a copy the film version of HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE on DVD for her birthday, and we've both watched it with pleasure. But it made me long for the depth and sheer craziness of the source book. And, I'm also in the midst of HOUSE OF MANY WAYS. Both these experiences made me turn back to Jones' original book. I'm in the midst of reading it aloud to my daughter, a chapter every other night. She's enjoying it so far, and so am I. Revisiting a favorite, especially when you can share it with someone else, is great!(less)
Although the Victorian period is noted for its idealization of the family, Thiel suggests that children’s literature of the period more often featured...moreAlthough the Victorian period is noted for its idealization of the family, Thiel suggests that children’s literature of the period more often featured “transnormative” families rather than those that embodied the ideal. The term “transnormative,” which Thiel coined, is defined as “those family units headed by single parents, step-parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings or the state that exists in opposition to the ‘natural’ and ‘complete’ family of husband, wife and children…. [T:]he transnormative family is identified primarily by the temporary or permanent absence of a natural parent or parents, often by the presence of a surrogate mother or father, who may or may not be related to the child, and, frequently, by the relocation of the child to an environment outside the ‘natural’ family home” (8). Thiel suggests that the appearance of transnormative families in Victorian children’s literature “question the validity of the domestic ideal as a concept by undermining its very feasibility. The mere existence of transnormative groupings implicitly challenged the notion that the ‘perfect’ home and family were freely available, while the tensions between reality and ideology that emerged in transnormative family narratives exposed the domestic ideal as a fragile illusion that could rarely, if ever, be sustained” (157).
Thiel’s introduction and opening chapter read like a “prior works” section of a dissertation; her discussion of previous work on the family, and on literary critics’ analyses of depictions of the family in novels for adults, adds little that is original to the discussion. Only occasionally does it point to the ways that children’s literature may challenge some of the conclusions reached by critics who examine adult literature only.
The next three chapters each focus on one type of transnormative family as portrayed in children's novels: the orphan, the family with a stepmother, and the family headed by an aunt or uncle. Chapter 2 discusses one particular kind of orphan: the “street arab.” Thiel breaks little new critical ground by arguing that street arable novels display “overt classism that depicted the poor as incapable of rearing children…. For the middle-class child, the transnormative family is usually portrayed as ‘second best’ to the ‘natural’ family unit. For the destitute child, a transnormative family, infused with middle-class mores, is invariably depicted as superior to the child’s ‘natural’ family” (18).
Chapter 3 focuses on stepmothers, in particular “the impossibility of re-establishing the family ideal in the wake of maternal death and in the shadow of the perfection of the dead mother” (18). Though denying it on the surface, the four texts that Thiel analyzes re-affirm the close connection between the fictional stepmother and the evil stepmother of fairy tale. Ultimately, “[w:]hile several of these authors attempt to conclude their texts with an image of family unity, each serves, albeit in different ways, to confirm that the nineteenth-century stepmother can never replicate the sainted persona of her predecessor, although she may, in some cases, achieve a semblance of the domestic ideal through manipulation” (18). Thiel seems to ignore the ways that manipulation by real mothers is also at the heart of many novels for children in the period.
Chapter 4 turns to aunts and uncles, arguing that “gender bias privileged the male figure and condemns the unmarried aunt” (19). And “while authors largely ignore the problems inherent to transnormative families, including the absence or death of parents, they frequently offer a model of domestic contentment that is achieved, to differing degrees, through the benevolent single uncle. However, the uncle is often depicted as little more than a child and so is implicitly poorly equipped to assume the role of surrogate parent” (19). The anti-spinster trend is unsurprising in books written during a period when a woman could almost not be considered feminine if she was not a wife and mother. Thiel argues that the spinster aunt “is perhaps the most subversive of family members in terms of nineteenth-century domestic ideology; her very existence exposes the domestic ideal as a phenomenon that is both elusive and selective, while her propensity for disruption represents a serious threat to the allegedy idyll that is the Victorian home” (106). I wonder, though, if such figures presented a real challenge; if they chose not to marry and have children, and the text sees them as poor embodiments of domesticity, then they in fact confirm the “rightness” of domestic ideology, don’t they? And, as Thiel notes herself, most of the bachelor uncles who foster their nieces and nephews end up marrying in the end, once again reinforcing domestic ideology.
Chapter 5 discusses women as writers of children’s literature. “The role of the female author was in many ways maternal and the female author of domestic fiction was essentially a surrogate mother with responsibilities for both educating and edifying future generations” (19), Thiel suggests. She examines “the ways in which the narrative voice assumes the role of parent, aunt, friend, or potential foe, and the extent to which this voice perpetuates or subverts the nineteenth-century domestic ideal” (19) and argues that influence of such narrators “was potentially as duplicitous as that of the surrogate carers whom they often implicitly, or explicitly, criticized” (130), for they often “guided their readers to question, rather than collude with, prescribed doctrines” of domesticity (p. 134).
Thiel’s conclusion provides a brief discussion of the remnants of the Victorian idealized family in contemporary children’s literature, as well as the depiction of transnormative families, suggesting that “the proclaimed resistance to a happy-ever-after closure in portraits of transnormative family life is perhaps the most distinctive feature of many contemporary texts and one that differentiates them from their nineteenth-century equivalents” (163). Still, though, the transnormative family continues to be constructed as inferior to the “natural” nuclear family of Victorian ideology.
After noting the many copyediting problems that plague the book, Claudia Nelson concludes her review of Thiel’s volume by noting “Thiel’s is a sensible, low-key, and clearly presented investigation, distinguished particularly by its knowledgeable selection of texts. Researchers interested in Victorian children’s literature, women writers, and the history of the cult of domesticity should benefit from reading it.” (H-NET review http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev....). I'm afraid I found this book even less compelling that did Nelson. While it is good to see attention paid to these overlooked texts, I’m afraid I found Thiel’s arguments fairly obvious, and without any insights that would extend the ongoing critical conversation about Victorian children’s literature into new territory.(less)
This second book in the Dreamhunter Duet starts more slowly than its predecessor. But Knox makes up for this with her lyrical writing, her blood-pound...moreThis second book in the Dreamhunter Duet starts more slowly than its predecessor. But Knox makes up for this with her lyrical writing, her blood-poundingly exciting plot twists, and a depiction of a family bound by true affection for one another. The type of book that you want to pick up again immediately after finishing it!(less)