I like that we follow the story through Annemarie's eyes, ever aware that we're a little person in a big, dangerous world. This perspective seem appli...moreI like that we follow the story through Annemarie's eyes, ever aware that we're a little person in a big, dangerous world. This perspective seem applicable to both little and big people, since adults seem equally quick to see themselves as little, insignificant, powerless figures in the global theater. But Number the Stars says that young and old people can make a positive difference in the world, mainly through how they view and treat their neighbors. Instead of seeing helpless children and adults, we see adults and kids helping each other overcome obstacles and dangers. It's a good message, supported by the historical records of how many Danish citizens helped save their Jewish neighbors from the Nazis.
My primary concern with this book is that the Germans were overly demonized. This is a tricky subject since it's true that many Nazi soldiers did terrible things during WWII. But not all Germans were terrible people, not even all soldiers were. War makes people do awful things, but that's true of all sides of the conflict. Lowry makes a rather flimsy attempt at the beginning of the novel to humanize a Nazi soldier, but after that every Nazi is basically a devil. I understand this is a children's book and is strongly influenced by fairy tale narratives, but I still think more effort could have been made to avoid painting an entire people with such broad brush strokes. Unfortunately, too many holocaust stories (children and adult alike) fall into this trap.
Still, this book can be a really good story for kids just learning about the Holocaust. The primary message of the story is a good one and kids can gain a lot of reading this book and talking about it with their parents. Just don't let this be the only story you or your kids ever read about the Holocaust. (less)
For whimsical young adult fantasy, Howl's Moving Castle is one of the most charming stories. Especially in the first half, it often doesn't feel like...moreFor whimsical young adult fantasy, Howl's Moving Castle is one of the most charming stories. Especially in the first half, it often doesn't feel like much of a story at all, rather it just ambles along, often sitting back and taking its time, simply enjoying watching Sophie interact with these interesting, humorous characters. I liked just watching her interact with Calcifer, Michael, and Howl so much that I didn't really care if the story ever went anywhere. Almost like Sophie herself, I kept forgetting that she actually wasn't supposed to be an ornery, yet endearing old woman, and that there really was an obstacle for her to overcome. Jones' style is light and fun, but never void of substance. She has a point to this novel, but she has a rather round-a-bout, light-hearted way of expressing herself. By novel's end, I understood why the first half felt like such a non-story - the story is in the details, even details missed or at least not understood. Like a Dickens novel, Jones brings all the strands - including the seemingly tangential, extraneous ones - together in an entertaining and illuminating way. Kinda how life's lessons often come after the related events are passed and we can look back on what happened, Howl's Moving Castle shows that what might appear to be something friendly, threatening, or unimportant can actually be just the opposite. Sometimes we've gotta be paying closer attention and willing to reevaluate our initial judgments. It's a nice lesson, told through light and whimsical means, in a delightful little world that I wouldn't mind spending more time in.
My only issue is one of taste: she uses too many adverbs, especially in the first half of the book. By the latter half, she reigns in the adverbs pretty well. This is a small complaint, and one that I'm very willing to overlook so as to spend more time thinking about all the great things about this book. I know this is a popular book, and I'm aware that I'm a late-comer to Diana Wynne Jones' work - so how good this book is might only be news to me. But if you have already read it, remember, it's a fast read, and a fun read; so, if you have the time, why not revisit this lovely world?(less)
It was fun to pull this quirky collection of (bad/silly) poems off the shelf and read them again. They're typical Burton; if you're into his stuff, yo...moreIt was fun to pull this quirky collection of (bad/silly) poems off the shelf and read them again. They're typical Burton; if you're into his stuff, you'll like this, if you're not into it, you won't like this. I'm still fond of these poems, though I don't completely know why. They're just really amusing. I suspect that Burton knows these aren't great poems, and that the kitschy, dopey rhymes are part of the point. These stories address common Burton topics, like: outsiders, alienation, unobtainable love, and familial anxiety - infidelity, birth, strange children, negligent parents, etc. Another look at really unpleasant things in an amusing, laughable, and ridiculous way that might perpetuate as much as it alleviates any personal anxiety we might have towards the topics of this book. (less)