I've finally gotten around to finishing off the Harry Potter series. I was probably dilatory in this mainly because I found the last few book...more3.5 stars
I've finally gotten around to finishing off the Harry Potter series. I was probably dilatory in this mainly because I found the last few books very disappointing.
I find this one a little hard to judge, because like any book that has achieved giant success, it ends up being about more than itself. Does this series convey some Harmful Messages to Our Young People? Well, yes. Quite apart from all the kids-in-danger and not-telling-trusted-adults objections I've heard to the earlier books, I am not mad on the idea that everyone meets their True Love by the age of 17. But I think all that stuff may be too much burden to put on what is, after all, pretty much a YA fantasy book. I'm not sure it's fair to put some extra societal standard pressure on it just because the series was a runaway success.
So setting all that stuff aside, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this last installment. The characters were not as whingingly immature (aka, devastatingly accurate depictions of teenagerhood) as in the last few. While there was a certain amount of stumbling around on the part of our heroes, the eventual plot reveal was compelling and surprisingly tight after seven sprawling books (obviously this is a woman who knows how to outline!) In the end, the plot managed to hit several necessary/foreshadowed points, fulfill some suspicions and expectations, surprise me, and yank on my heartstrings. I was really pleased with some beloved secondary characters' arcs. In short, the last third or quarter made the book for me, and I finished listening with a complacent heart about the series as a whole. Pretty impressive, given my previous disaffection.
That's not to say that I was completely happy: I did feel like certain inter-character squabbles were repetitive (from previous books), a little undermotivated, and generally pumped up to add conflict to a slow section. I have some niggling concerns about the nature of evil and how many of the characters, despite a few notable exceptions, are ugly outside if they are inside, and vice versa. And perhaps most importantly, I do feel like Rowling has gotten "too big to edit", which isn't necessarily her fault -- even if you're sweet and unaffected by success, that success will intimidate people into silence or sycophantism -- but this book definitely had hundreds of pages of flab that could have been cut to the benefit of the whole.
Short version: Despite my misgivings and its occasional flab, it made me smile and cry, and put a nice bow on the series.(less)
Cute little picture book/comic book. Binky's fantasies about his space-cat duties and the 'reality' of certain fantastic elements in the narrative wil...moreCute little picture book/comic book. Binky's fantasies about his space-cat duties and the 'reality' of certain fantastic elements in the narrative will amuse children as they get older and more inquisitive. The great drawings -- I particularly love Binky's ears and the "Right Stuff" shot of him with his mousey on the cover -- will appeal to every age.(less)
Those who have read a lot of Beverly Cleary books, as I have, will recognize some of the incidents and themes of her characters' lives here, albeit se...moreThose who have read a lot of Beverly Cleary books, as I have, will recognize some of the incidents and themes of her characters' lives here, albeit several decades beforehand. What is so striking, and shouldn't be surprising, is how keenly Cleary remembers and understands the inner lives of children -- both herself and the occasional friends and foes in the narrative. It's also delightful to find out how early Cleary resolved to be a writer, and some of her memories -- including one of her earliest! -- are remarkable and interesting.
This book, gentle and personal, is written at a level that child fans of Cleary's should be well able to access, but its attempts to understand and feel compassion for all the characters in the author's life allow it to succeed for an adult reader, as well.(less)
A sad little book about some of the less well known casualties of World War II: animals in Tokyo's zoo. The watercolor illustrations are lovely, and t...moreA sad little book about some of the less well known casualties of World War II: animals in Tokyo's zoo. The watercolor illustrations are lovely, and the story is moving. The small focus, on the lives of a few elephants, may be particularly effective in making the cost of war clear to young readers.(less)
I saw Margaret Wise Brown's name on this book of my baby nephew's and had to pick it up. While I prefer the art on classic Goodnight Moon, this is a...moreI saw Margaret Wise Brown's name on this book of my baby nephew's and had to pick it up. While I prefer the art on classic Goodnight Moon, this is a very cute little farm picture book. It teaches many different kinds of critters, ends with going to sleep (helpful hint for listening kiddos!) and is written beautifully to read aloud. (less)
I give this five stars under its influence. Only time will tell if it lives up to them, by growing in my mind or drawing me back to re-read.
I have alw...moreI give this five stars under its influence. Only time will tell if it lives up to them, by growing in my mind or drawing me back to re-read.
I have always loved Lloyd Alexander's writing, and this, his last book, seems to stand among his greater works. Golden Dream has the inimitable style, the ragtag companions and the innocent romance that characterize Lloyd Alexander in general, but it also has a thread of deeper meaning and seeking that is characteristic of my favorite Alexander works, the Chronicles of Prydain. Where Prydain is concerned, more or less, with growing up and forming/finding the self, my first impression is that The Golden Dream is about what you want in life and why, what's worth striving for, with a side-current on what art does or attempts.
It's definitely its own book, however. Carlo is not Taran, and his companions will not be familiar to Prydain wanderers. Carlo is his own brand of feckless, self-deprecating dreamer ("I never had much occasion to use my conscience. I never suspected I actually owned one.") and his friends have their own outlooks on the world. Carlo's journey twists and wriggles appealingly, and took one turn at the end I did not predict, but which felt beautiful and right.
If I were asked to think of a negative about it, I'd say that the Arabian-inflected world of Keshavar is spun out of stories and icons and may contain a few stereotypes. However, the book makes a sharp nod of acknowledgment to that with its inclusion of the book of tales, more or less the Arabian Nights, which Carlo is reading at the beginning. Moreover, Lloyd Alexander's books consistently are woven out of dreams and legends of places on our Earth, all over our Earth. He is careful to place these worlds outside our own, and I do not think that a child reading this book would try to match its characters and cultures to the real world. I'm reaching for a negative, and that's the only one I find.
The world of the book is thoroughly imagined, the characters charming, and the story vintage Alexander. It would be marvelous read aloud, but however you read it, mind the cliff-hangers or you'll be up past your bedtime! I'm glad I hoarded this book for a year so I would have it to look forward to. I was not disappointed. It made me smile, it made me think, it made me cry, and it gave me the heart-glow that comes of being told a great story.(less)