Nestled outside of the village of Bishop Lacey sits the manor house of Buckshaw. Its inhabitants include the absent-minded widower (and avid philateliNestled outside of the village of Bishop Lacey sits the manor house of Buckshaw. Its inhabitants include the absent-minded widower (and avid philatelist) Colonel de Luce; his three somewhat annoying daughters, Daphne, Ophelia, and Flavia; and the Colonel’s factotum, Dogger, who suffers from the occasional bout of PTSD, stemming from the war. The story centers around the precocious youngest daughter, Flavia, who is a budding scientist, as was her mother, Harriet, who died while Flavia was quite young but whose presence still looms large around the estate.
The same curiosity and attention to detail that serve Flavia in her experiments prove useful when unusual events start to occur. First, a dead bird is left on the doorstep with an unusual stamp pierced by its beak. Then a stranger is overheard arguing with her father in his study late at night. Finally, she discovers a man dying in the garden.
When the police arrest Flavia’s father for the man’s murder, it is up to his youngest, know-it-all child to piece together a complete story from random facts, odd scientific know-how, and bits of 30-year-old stories from the Colonel and other residents of Bishop Lacey. But will the truth be revealed before it’s too late for the de Luce family?
I guess it would be fair to say I liked this book, but I found the heroine to be more than a little annoying. Perhaps she cut a little close to home in some of her attributes? Nonetheless, there was something gripping about Flavia’s tenacious quest for the truth, her overtly ambitious quest to be the person to solve the mystery, and her deductive grasp of facts. And it was impossible to read the story without being at least occasionally affected by the competition between the three girls for their father’s rare attention and their desperate desire to find an expression of love in their emotionally stunted lives.
I offer a tentative endorsement of the book. If you like other self-absorbed sleuths (Poirot and Holmes spring immediately to mind), I feel Flavia will suit you well. I liked it well enough that I will probably read the second book in the series, but not so much that I will run right out to request it....more
A cute story about two seven-year-old neighbors. Impish Bean is non-stop energy. Ivy seems more restrained, with her nose always in a book. And neitheA cute story about two seven-year-old neighbors. Impish Bean is non-stop energy. Ivy seems more restrained, with her nose always in a book. And neither girl is interested in befriending the other, particularly because their mothers recommend it as a good idea. When Bean’s prank on older sister Nancy goes awry, leaving Bean on the hunt for a way to leave the scene of the crime, Ivy comes to her aid and initiates Bean into the ways of magic. Their worlds will never be the same.
Perfect for the preschool set as a long read-aloud or for young elementary school readers who are moving on to chapter books. This is the first in a series....more
Somehow I missed this children's classic when I was growing up, but periodically since leaving college it has popped up on my radar screen and I alwaySomehow I missed this children's classic when I was growing up, but periodically since leaving college it has popped up on my radar screen and I always think, "I should track this down the next time I go to the library." But by the time I next am choosing books to check out, it's slipped back into the crevices of my mind.
This time, though, I was contemplating what to read for the Back to the Classics challenge and remembered to go looking for it at the library.
I'm so glad I did.
The general synopsis is this: Six families/individuals are approached about moving into an empty, five-story, luxury apartment building on the banks of Lake Michigan. The rents are just what each of them can afford and they sign the leases immediately. Later in the fall, each of them (as well as the building's three general employees) are called to the mansion of the building's reclusive owner, Samuel W. Westing, paper magnate, to hear the reading of the will of the recently departed millionaire.
Instead of receiving a straight-up inheritance, they find they are paired off and tasked with solving who is responsible for Westing's death. Each team is presented with a $10,000 check that both must sign to cash and four words to puzzle over.
Everyone returns to the apartment building to meet up with their partner and begin pursuing their task. As time goes on, they begin spending more time with one another, and, to their surprise, they find that their partner gives them just what they need, if not to help win the game, then to win at life.
I heartily recommend this to fans of mysteries, regardless of age, because it will keep you guessing until the end. Its madcap style also will appeal to fans of Clue (the boardgame, but I suppose also the movie), Monty Python, or It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
I also want to note that the 2003 edition, which is what I borrowed from the library, contains the most heart-warming introduction I've ever read written by Ann Durell, Raskin's editor and friend.
I'll be checking out Raskin's other books to see if they, too, are as sweet and as worth reading as The Westing Game ended up being. ...more
Written in the same vein as Edward Eager’s and Edith Nesbit’s series, The Penderwicks takes a family of children, plunks them in a foreign situation,Written in the same vein as Edward Eager’s and Edith Nesbit’s series, The Penderwicks takes a family of children, plunks them in a foreign situation, and gives them a period of mostly adult-free time in which to sort out the world around them.
The story opens as the girls, their father, and faithful Hound try to locate their summer rental. After several wrong turns, they discover they’ve booked a spacious “cottage” that gives each girl her own room on an old estate’s property. The land is owned by Mrs. Tifton, a stuffy, overprotective woman who objects to children tromping through her prized garden and who certainly does not want her darling son, Jeffrey, interacting with the riff-raff tenants. Jeffrey and the girls, however, have other ideas, which makes for a fun romp of a summer for all of them.
Although this particular book is magic-free (unlike the Nesbit and Eager books mentioned above), the tale hearkens back to a period of time when kids were able to spend time entertaining themselves without parents over-scheduling and overseeing every movement. The story is clearly not written in the here and now, as no cell phones interrupt the peace of a country summer, but laptops exist, so I’d probably place it roughly in roughly the mid-1990s.
I found the book charming and can fully understand why it was awarded the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature....more
During each of the past three Januarys, I have read a book that ultimately ends up on my list of favorite reads for that year. I suspect this year wilDuring each of the past three Januarys, I have read a book that ultimately ends up on my list of favorite reads for that year. I suspect this year will be no exception, having devoured When You Reach Me earlier this week.
Set in New York City’s Upper West Side in 1978-79, the novel focuses on Miranda, who has lived with her single mother in a state of normalcy since she was an infant. Her best friend, Sal; the neighborhood bodega; her school; the older boys on the corner; even the book she reads over and over again (A Wrinkle in Time): all of it has achieved an air of similarity until one day everything changes. A boy neither of them knows punches Sal. And from then on, nothing will be the same for Miranda.
Sal turns away from Miranda, who is forced for the first time to make friends with some of her other classmates. With two of them, she takes on a lunchtime job. Madeleine L’Engle’s novel sparks conversations with two others. Her mother is accepted as a contestant on The $20,000 Pyramid. Their home is broken into. A laughing, kicking homeless man appears in the neighborhood. And Miranda begins to find notes written to her in odd places.
I don’t want to say too much more about this book for fear of giving anything away. Just read it, particularly if, like me, you were a fan of Madeleine L’Engle’s fiction growing up. And even if you weren’t, I still think you should read it. It was that good....more
A couple of bloggers whose taste runs similar to mine had favorably reviewed this detective novel, so when I saw it at Christmas, I reminded myself toA couple of bloggers whose taste runs similar to mine had favorably reviewed this detective novel, so when I saw it at Christmas, I reminded myself to request it from the library. However, after the first few chapters, I was a little afraid I was going to loathe the main character, Vish “Chubby” Puri, who is old-fashioned, opinionated, and more than a little obnoxious. He dislikes being compared to Sherlock Holmes, because Holmes is both a foreigner and a fictional character. Compare him to Chanakya, instead, please. He dislikes the “modernization” of India, which contributes to a seething unrest amongst the lower classes and which so often separates adult children from loving parents who can keep them out of trouble. (Of course, he’d prefer his own Mummy stay at home with the aunties and leave his business alone.)
But after a while, the good parts of his character drew me in. Chubby is dedicated and tries to do right by people, regardless of their class. He has a keen eye and quick intellect and values others with the same traits. Much of his current business is focused on looking into the backgrounds of those entering into arranged marriages, since now that so many people live in the cities, it’s harder for local matchmakers and aunties to make sure the unions they’re advocating are right.
Interspersed between these cases, though, Chubby does try to do some other sleuthing. For instance, he’s on the lookout for the person who shot at him as he was gardening up on his roof. He’s not having a lot of luck with leads, though, and he’s going to be really grumpy if he finds out that his Mummy has disobeyed his direct order to stop looking into the incident.
But what is occupying most of his time is the case of a lawyer noted for taking on the corrupt system who approaches him, saying he’s been wrongly accused of causing one of his maids to disappear in the night. But when officials up the charges to murder and imprison his client, Chubby must hurriedly move his ring of undercover agents into place in order to find out what really happened to a girl known to everyone only as Mary.
I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good mystery or who is interested in other cultures. There is a solid glossary at the end of the book that helpfully defines Indian terms, although I found it to be a little distracting to have to keep flipping back and forth during some of the exposition....more