I reread this one with my boys, who are 10 and 8. The last time I read it, I was probably about the same age as my older son. It was one of my favoritI reread this one with my boys, who are 10 and 8. The last time I read it, I was probably about the same age as my older son. It was one of my favorite little house books back then. As a child of the Cold War, I was always pretty sure that I'd one day find myself living with my family in a nuclear fallout shelter of a basement, and I spent considerable amounts of time and mental effort trying to figure out how we would survive. Laura's story was my real-life, 19th century version of a model. I found comfort in the family's ability to make it through the never-ending winter, even without light, without heat, without food.
Now, as a middle-aged woman who is living in a world with no Soviet Union and is fairly certain she won't ever have to wait out a nuclear winter in her basement, I was more taken in by Pa's character, which seemed so different than the Pa I knew and loved from the other Little House books. This Pa was a bit raw and brazen. Starvation will do that to a person, I suppose, but Pa forcibly takes wheat from Almanzo, steals food off of a train, leads a mob into a store that is price gouging, and goes on a crazy rant one night in the cabin. This is a different Pa from the principled, idealized, practially-perfect-in-every-way one in the Little House stories, and I suspect he's a little closer to the real Pa. He's a kind man, yes, but tough and not afraid to lose some of his principals when it is the only way to keep his family alive.
My own grandfather grew up in a family of settlers. It took a certain amount of stinginess (more kindly termed frugality) and selfishness for the families who made it as settlers. Now, granted, by most measures Pa Ingalls was not the most successful settler out there, and maybe that was because he was in fact more altruistic or principled than your average pioneer, but still this more nuanced version of Pa and of the family, with their occasional spats after living in one room together for months on end, feels closer to life.
I'd love to be able to read this book in the original Spanish. In English, the prose is a bit halting, with occasional hints that the original is probI'd love to be able to read this book in the original Spanish. In English, the prose is a bit halting, with occasional hints that the original is probably more poetic. But the big themes come through even in translation - gender inequality, collective guilt, guilt by inaction, and our propensity to act only when it is too late. The 'what-if's' and sense of fatality at the basis of the book give the reader plenty to ponder. ...more
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I grew up in a city in southern Wisconsin decades after the stories in Mr. App's book. All the same, the stories feltI thoroughly enjoyed this book. I grew up in a city in southern Wisconsin decades after the stories in Mr. App's book. All the same, the stories felt so familiar, partially because they are like the ones my father and grandfather tell of growing up in the north and partially because some of the experiences he describes in the quiet and the beauty of our longest and coldest season are ones many of us who grew up here enjoy. Even my 10 year old son, who still doesn't fully believe that his grandpa remembers life without indoor plumbing and electricity, enjoyed the stories immensely. Thank you for a great book, Mr. Apps! ...more
A heartbreaking and beautiful history a set of wealthy Viennese Jewish families that runs from the turn of the century through the present day. The paA heartbreaking and beautiful history a set of wealthy Viennese Jewish families that runs from the turn of the century through the present day. The painting and Gustav Klimt play a rather minor part for most of the story, simply tying together the various characters and story lines. Definitely worth a read, although it can be hard to keep all of the players straight, and readers looking for more information about Klimt and the painting itself will be disappointed. ...more
A beautiful book with a plot that is simple on the surface, Sheep touches on some very difficult subjects in a way that is easy for kids to digest. LoA beautiful book with a plot that is simple on the surface, Sheep touches on some very difficult subjects in a way that is easy for kids to digest. Love, loss, growing up and finding your way, finding meaning and place in life (and death), and learning how to treat others - it is all here. The book is written from a dog's point of view, so the prose is very simple and sometimes feels a little stilted. This means, though, that it is a book a young reader could pick up and handle on his or her own without difficulty. That said, given the difficult themes in the book, it might be a better one to read together.
My oldest son, who is ten, found passages which contained brutal animal abuse very difficult to read. Those passages led to great discussions, though. My youngest son, who is seven, had only one complaint with the book - he wanted it to be longer. He wanted to hear more about Jack's adventures after the story ended. He and his brother made their own stories about what came next for Jack after the book ended. ...more
I am reviewing a copy that I won through a Goodreads giveaway.
It is clear that Mr. Paulsen is writing on a topic that he is very interested in. His paI am reviewing a copy that I won through a Goodreads giveaway.
It is clear that Mr. Paulsen is writing on a topic that he is very interested in. His passion comes through in the text. And the story he has to tell about the Medjool Date and how it came to be grown in the United States is fascinating.
Where the book falls short, though, is in its cultural myopathy. Mr. Paulsen has a lot to say about the Western scientists who helped save the date from extinction after disease struck in its native Morocco. And truly, their work is to be commended. But he has significantly less to say about the role of the Moroccan specialists' role in saving the trees, and really doesn't discuss other successful efforts to safeguard the plants in other parts of the Middle East, such as the one which led to Medjool date farms in the Jordan valley. A reader would be forgiven if after reading the book they thought that Southern California was the sole reason that Medjool dates exist today. I would have liked to see more rigorous research on the history.
That said, the story of the Native American role in helping establish dates here in the United States was fascinating, as was a section on the difficulty and effort required to grow and harvest dates commercially. I will no longer grumble over the price of dates when I buy them in the store.
Approximately half of the book is taken up with recipes. Many look delicious, but as dates are very expensive where I live and are eaten promptly when we splurge on them, I have not tried them.
Most regular museum goers realize that they get to see only a portion of a museum's collection on display. Other items sit in storage, because the musMost regular museum goers realize that they get to see only a portion of a museum's collection on display. Other items sit in storage, because the museum does not have space to display them, or the item is too delicate to withstand the environmental stressors of the museum floor, or (perhaps most interestingly) because ownership of the item is disputed and the museum prefers not to draw attention to it.
Oldfield offers a fantastic opportunity to go behind the scenes of a couple dozen museums around the world and see a few of the items they do not display to guests. Ranging in size from items as small as Nabokov's collection of preserved butterfly genitalia (really)to an authentic blue whale skeleton, with books, costumes, bits of Mars and everything in between, the book is nothing if not eclectic. And it her best, as when she is describing how that butterfly genitalia collection came to be or how the crown jewels were once stolen from the Tower of London, Oldfield's storytelling abilities bring the items to life in a way that even seeing them in a museum would not.
Unfortunately, she's just as likely to get waylaid by an aside about her own likes and interests, which can make the book seem like a bit of a vanity project. The book would have been improved had passages like this one on the Tower of London, from page 235, been edited out:
"...I was taken up a winding staircase within the Tower. It wasn't really my kind of place: there were a lot of guns, some belonging to Henry VII, a jousting kit and a mummified cat that used to be kept inside the roof of the Tower. I found a pile of medieval castle decorations made entirely out of scraps of weapons - bullets, knives and swords. They aren't displayed anymore at the museum, as they are out of fashion at the moment with the curators. There was one I liked, a snake made solely from bullets, but I wouldn't put it up at home..."
I get that she was going for personalization, for bringing these historical items into the present with us, and it is interesting to think how current tastes affect the collections we see, but it ends up feeling a bit like a high school essay instead of a published work. Luckily, there weren't too many passages like this.
Many reviewers have complained about the lack of photographs of the items. Instead, Oldfield presents a referential collage at the beginning of each chapter, showing the central item she will cover. Within the chapter, tiny thumbnail photographs of the items (less than 2" across) and more little collages in the margins are used to illustrate the text. I get what she was going for. A book like this always runs the risk of becoming nothing more than a coffee table book, with text that is at best skimmed, at worst skipped altogether, as readers ogle the lovely photographs. Leaving the photographs out forces the reader to actually read the stories behind the items. That makes it all the more unforgivable, though, that the stories are often light on factual information about the items highlighted, and tend more towards the author's impressions. And in some cases, such as the chapter on the beautiful hand-painted dress of Margot Fonteyn which is illustrated with a tiny black and white photo of the dress, it feels almost like the author is gloating about the opportunity she had to see something beautiful that you, dear reader, will never get to see even by photograph. Perhaps that is a little harsh, but I don't think the decision not to include photographs was altogether successful. ...more