6 stars! I had ordered the mini edition because it costs only about a third of the regular hardcover, but after squinting very hard to get all the tin...more6 stars! I had ordered the mini edition because it costs only about a third of the regular hardcover, but after squinting very hard to get all the tiny, marvellous details - there are even more that in the two cardboard adventures meant for toddlers - I quickly decided that I needed the large original to keep and "read" over and over. I don't know who I like best. Cow Lieselotte (in the US edition she is called Millie) herself, or the hens (who are forever knitting, eating popcorn, styling their combs with hair curlers, or making shadown figures on the wall while listing to the lady farmer's good night story in the cow shed), or the pigs, ... or the timid goat and the pony, who are afraid of tigers crashing in on them after dark, or maybe the sturdy lady farmer in overalls, wellingtons and meticulously made up lips? I don't know. I love them all and would hug and lick the book - had I not wrapped it up again. Plus, the jumbled disarray of everyday things (from notes to cheese to bonsai trees) in the farmhouse reminds me a lot of the house I grew up in. Ah, nostalgia.(less)
"'I told you that love sucks. But is anyone listening to me? No. England could fall off the map and you’d just smile and keep playing soccer.' JANE IR...more"'I told you that love sucks. But is anyone listening to me? No. England could fall off the map and you’d just smile and keep playing soccer.' JANE IRANIAN"
Oh, yes, in this sandwiched volume soccer-playing Gracie Faltrain takes control – of lots of things and unfortunately not in a good way at all. When I closed my copy of The Life and Times of Gracie Faltrain, Gracie had finally learned the lesson that soccer is a team sport and that winning takes the combined efforts of all players, but when I delved into the sequel I quickly understood that there is plenty of important stuff Gracie is very far from understanding. Apart from the fact that Gracie needs to become less self-centered and explosive, the most important mantras that have to be forced into her skull are “Winning at all costs might be quite costly” and “Helping others starts with respecting them.” To exchange the second hand-stitched proverb for a simile I could also say that Gracie barrels through people’s lives like a highly-motivated bulldozer driver, who deliberately mistakes rare wildflowers for weeds while keeping his earplugs in to drown out the noise of the tree huggers. Or, if I wanted to express Gracie’s problem without a trace of pomp, I would say: Because Gracie thinks she knows what is best for everybody, she meddles without restraint and without looking back whenever she can:
- For months Gracie is convinced that her best friend calling from overseas will unquestionably be grateful to be interrupted, because it is obvious that Gracie’s problems are more urgent, more severe and much more interesting than the ones she was about to elaborate on. - Gracie pulls all possible strings to “rescue” her quiet, brilliant, library-affine and moderately contented replacement friend Alyce from staying unpopular and - in her unwavable point of view – unhappy forever. (view spoiler)[She forces Alyce to attend parties, to buy different clothes, to flatten her frizzy hair, to tutor a nice, but simple-minded jock for romantic purposes; she ignores her outspoken protest and signs Alyce up for a speech competition; she brazenly avenges every bad word class queen bee Annabelle shoots into her friend's direction - not noticing that crashing into a personal defensive protector actually triggers the inner bully in her arch enemy -, and she makes one of her soccer mates ask the poor girl out to the ball and then brags so loudly about Alyce having scored a date that the embarrassed guy can only save his face by rescinding his invitation. (hide spoiler)] - Although Gracie’s dearest wish is for her parents to mend their relationship, she ruthlessly ruins the first tender moment between them, because she immediately needs them to act on her behalf. - Gracie decides to ignore both her mother’s and her boyfriend’s plea not to do anything and calmly destroys the fine layer of scrab that had recently formed on the festering wound that had been inflicted when Martin’s mother left her family years ago (view spoiler)[by putting an ad into the local paper (hide spoiler)]. - Gracie tries to pressure her boyfriend into ending his friendship with her nemensis by resorting to childish name-calling and popcorn blitzes at the movies. - In order to build up some victory feeling among her team mates Gracie humilitates other soccer teams on the field and then makes sure that they know that they have been bested by someone smaller, quicker and fitter. ”’We’re the only team everyone hates. What does that tell you, Faltrain?’ I ask. 'It tells me we’re better than everyone else, Martin,’ she answers. ‘Faltrain, they should measure your head for science. I reckon it’s the biggest I’ve seen.’ MARTIN KNIGHT”.
Even though I have to admit, that I saw a little something of my younger, impulsive self in Gracie, because I grew up in a family that did not snub shouting, dumping the contents of water bottles and sugar pots on people’s heads or asserting one’s opinion by force as part of the daily war, and because “Live and let live” was a motto that did not come naturally to my parents, Gracie’s enthusiastic hole-digging, which lasted almost 200 of the beautifully worded pages and – regardless of several intervention attempts by her mother - got her in deeper and deeper, was a pretty painful process to behold.
If I had not had the chance to get to know and treasure Gracie so much in the multi-angled first installment, I would probably have lost patience with her antics and rated the story, which is mostly told from Gracie’s one deluded point of view, down quite a bit.
But since it is a middle book, I suffered, but I suffered in hope. ”'Boy meets girl. Girl meets ground.' LOCAL NEWS WEEKLY” writes about a game of Gracie’s team. And so I never really doubted that once Gracie hit the bottom hard she would wake up, come to her senses and finally get it right.
”‘I’ve lost him, haven’t I?’ Love’s like an egg. Break it, and you might still have almost every bit of yolk and white, but there’s no way you’re getting that back in the shell. And even if you could, there’d be still all the cracks. It’s why Mum and Dad are taking all winter to grow the smallest bit of green. It’s why Mrs. Knight never came back. ‘Yes, Gracie, love.’ Mum doesn’t bother lying. ‘I think you’ve lost him for now.’” (less)
I must point out to you quite forcibly now that in no way could a whale live in your pond. You may not know that whales are migratory, wh...more„Dear Emily,
I must point out to you quite forcibly now that in no way could a whale live in your pond. You may not know that whales are migratory, which means they travel great distances each day. I am sorry to disappoint you.
Although Emily receives unquestionably polite but incredulous answers like this one each time she writes, she does not stop pestering Greenpeace for advice. For there is a huge, blue whale in her pond in Plymouth, Devonshire, England, and who would be more capable of helping her make him feel comfortable than the famous experts on all things wildlife and environmental?
I remember picking up this wonderful picture book by the British illustrator Simon James in the 90s, when I was backpacking England and already had dangerously overloaded my backpack with dusty paperbacks and alltime picture book favorites like Me First. Reluctantly I resorted to just jotting down the bibliographic details and stuffing away the paper with an epic sigh. Because seventeen years ago I already loved each of Emily’s letters – flourishly signed with “Love Emily” -, because she never resents Greenpeace their inability to believe the unbelievable. She just sifts through the lines she receives and picks out the usable facts, like the whale’s need for saltwater, its preference for tiny-sized nourishment and its urge to go from place to place. She even reads the letters to her new friend and comes to understand why he might feel a bit restricted and sad.
Now after finally buying a copy to keep I wish I could borrow a piece of Emily’s cheerful tenacity, which refuses her to be disappointed just because someone suggested she might be so. And I hope that I’ll be always not quite grown-up enough to say something stupid like “There is this cute book about that whale-loving kid with a too vivid imagination.” I want to remain that adult who states: “Let me introduce resourceful Emily. She’s got a whale! In her pond! And she exactly knows who to ask for information without even having to involve her parents.”
An interesting thing that I discovered while chosing the correct edition to match my copy here at Goodreads was that the American “translation” not only transports the story from Plymouth to Nantucket (understandable) but it also replaces Greenpace for Emily’s teacher, Mr. Blueberry, which also calls for a different title (Dear Mr. Blueberry). It makes me a bit sad, because Greenpeace and whales are such a great match. And it makes me wonder why the publisher had this essential environmental beacon of our time deleted out of the script. Is Greenpeace an institution not sufficiently known to American prescoolers? Or is Greenpeace an institution American parents do not want their kids to become penpals with? I vividly recollect my own childhood which included the Greenpeace members’ magazine gracing the footstool next to the toilet and my parents making me study the alarming pictures and encouraging me to part from a little of my pocket money to help safe the Aral Sea from drying out or the Siberian tiger from going extinct. I really hope Emily of Plymouth, Devonshire, born in the early 90s of the last century, does not represent the end of something good and necessary.
“ALYCE: 'Gracie's got brown hair, like me. She's about the same height, too. People notice her. I think it's her voice. It's always louder than you ex...more“ALYCE: 'Gracie's got brown hair, like me. She's about the same height, too. People notice her. I think it's her voice. It's always louder than you expect and covered with laughter. I was surprised when she said she didn't want to work with me. I don't know Gracie very well, but I remember once in Year 3 she gave me an invitation to her party. She spelt my name right. Everyone always spells it with an 'i', even the teachers. Ever since then I thought she would be nice. I never thought she'd look at me like I was nothing.”
The blurb on the cover of my paperback edition of Cath Crowley’s YA debut says "A novel about scoring the perfect goal ... and the perfect boy" and the back cover text starts with “Goal-kicking supergirl, soccer star”. In combination with the rather bland design and the simplistic title I imagined the book to be a middle-grade story about a girl who has to keep her balance between starring in a mainly male domain and being just a girl in love. A story about gender, thinly coated with a layer of romance. A story like Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, but aimed at a younger audience and told with a lighter, fluffier voice. A story I might like.
My conclusions turned out to be very wrong. I would say The Life and Times of Gracie Faltrain is a book about relationships. It depicts how what we do and say and feel affects others and how others affect us. I never would sort it as middle-grade (Gracie is in Year 10), and although it contained more than a few laugh-out-loud-moments and a truckload of hope, 'fluffy' and 'light' are words I wouldn’t tolerate to be used around it. Gracie Faltrain is a very short book. Most of its pages are not even half-way filled with words. But the sentences are on the spot, heart-wrenching and almost poetic. I want to quote them all. I want to read them again. I do not like the book. I love it, fiercely. I treasure it even more than Graffiti Moon and I immediately went over to the Fishpond to order the sequel, Gracie Faltrain Takes Control.
Soccer team striker Jake Morieson complains about Gracie that "She plays soccer like she’s out there alone. And that’s no way to play." Gracie herself claims that "The game’s won when I get on that field." Statements like these do not paint a pretty picture of the main character – or of any other character either. The narrator flips the point of view from head to head and treats the reader mercilessly with the repercussions one person’s behavior has on the others. If you tend to judge people you meet very early you might quickly decide to dislike Gracie for perpetually hogging the ball, for mooning about a shallow boy, for being upset about her best friend’s departure to Europe - without even once asking her how she dealt with being relocated to a far away and unknown country - and for being mean to her classmate Alyce. You might cluck your tongue because Martin Knight’s mother left her kids without a goodbye and because Gracie’s father Bill returns less and less frequently home to his family on the weekends although his daughter and wife need him. But if you patiently wait for the respective opposite point of view, it almost audibly clicks inside your head you begin to feel and root for everybody, because somehow you get their emotions and you find a bit of yourself in most of them. But at no point the interwoven thoughts and fates turn the story into something soppy. The book always felt incredibly real and honest to me.
Surprisingly the voices I liked best were the ones of Gracie’s parents, Helen and Bill, who love each other, but who feel their common ground and their reasons to hold fast to each other slip quietly away:
"BILL: I'm always looking for what will make me whole. What will make me happy? Somewhere along the way I started to think it wasn't Helen anymore. She hasn't changed. Her laugh is still the one I remember. Her finger is still the one I put the ring on all those years ago. I can't understand why I don't want to curve next to her, keep her back warm anymore. Surely you don't lose love like keys?"
”HELEN: [...] That’s when I see him again for the first time. Really see him. He is forty and tired and travelling everywhere with the books he loves so much piled in the back of his car. 'I forgot about your bookshop,’ I say. ‘Baby, you and Gracie are more important to me than books or a shop,’ he answers, and I think two things: when I get back I will find a way to give him his dream, but more importantly for the moment, he called me baby."
Cath Crowley managed to express their thoughts about each other and about their crumbling bond so achingly beautifully that I wished she would attempt to write an adult contemporary in the future. I am convinced she would ace it as well. She is simply that good at words and at understanding how a human being ticks – no matter how old or young.
”ANNABELLE: Did you see those undies? NICK: You have to admit, she has a great body.” (less)
I hope I'll carve out some time to review, but I have to say this is how a fairytale retelling should be in my opnion. Thank you so much, Teccc, for p...moreI hope I'll carve out some time to review, but I have to say this is how a fairytale retelling should be in my opnion. Thank you so much, Teccc, for parting with your copy. It would have taken ages - or maybe forever - until I decided to finally buy it.(less)
I am so glad I picked it up again after deciding to let it go around page 60 (Somehow the beginning of Mina Smiths' story about a twelve-years-old, bl...moreI am so glad I picked it up again after deciding to let it go around page 60 (Somehow the beginning of Mina Smiths' story about a twelve-years-old, black girl during the 70s, who is desperately trying to start a ballet dancer's career in an all-white summer camp, breezed past all my emotional buttons without even brushing them lightly). And I am pretty dazed about the fact that it kept me up reading last night until my eyes protested. It's not as wonderful as Homecoming or Dicey's Song, but it's still peculiarly impressive and moving. In fact, the dancing thing quickly became just a part of Mina's past.
Cynthia Voigt is one of those very special storytellers whose heroines are at the same time familiar and strange. I already noticed that, when I first read On Fortune's Wheel (I grabbed the German translation from a bargain bin at the train station and directly fell under its spell), but since I was disappointed by Jackaroo and a bit ambivalent about Elske, it took a long time for me to go out and buy her first Tillerman book and even longer to buy the second and third. Silly me.
And now I am wondering again if the last two volumes and the spin-off about Dicey's uncle Bullet are up my alley or not. What's that irrational notion that always makes me hesitate in spite of all those wonderfully pleasant surprises?(less)
I breezed through Outpost, the sequel to Enclave, in a matter of hours and I wish I could go with Deuce and her friends on her next frighteningly dang...moreI breezed through Outpost, the sequel to Enclave, in a matter of hours and I wish I could go with Deuce and her friends on her next frighteningly dangerous journey through freak-infested territory by devouring Horde right now. It doesn't happen so often that I am that contented with a second/middle volume.
I suppose, I definitely could do without the love-triangle - although it's not a very sharp-angled or annoying one since the heroine's preferences are pretty clear and remain that way. Another tiny blotch is the occasional use of words which Deuce with her cut-off-from-topside-life-and-civilization-background should not know yet.
The rest has been almost perfect: The post-apocalytic setting, the action, the mystery of the fast evolving zombie freaks, the extraordinarily wonderful heroine, her clashes with an equally strict, but completely different society - world, even - from what she is used to that do not cause her to cower or back down, but also do not tempt her into gloryfying her former life as a Huntress in the College enclave; plus I liked the the accute picture of how circumstances and good or bad experiences form or damage people and how important and necessary second chances can be.(less)