I have no idea what kept me from this 110-year-old classic for so long. I love the movie. I’ve read Gregory Maguire’s response. Heck, I even read the...moreI have no idea what kept me from this 110-year-old classic for so long. I love the movie. I’ve read Gregory Maguire’s response. Heck, I even read the second book in the Oz series as a kid. But I am pleased to report that the wait was well worth it. And this centennial edition, a hardcover with gilt edges and a bookmark ribbon featuring W. W. Denslow’s original illustrations, was a beautiful introduction to Baum’s story.
If your exposure to the Oz series comes exclusively from the Judy Garland film, you will notice several differences when you sit down with the book. First, no Miss Gulch. No running away. The shoes are silver, not ruby-hued. And all who enter the City of Emeralds must wear a pair of green spectacles to protect their eyes from the “brightness and glory” that would blind them otherwise.
But you will find the story not unfamiliar. A cyclone still sends Dorothy and Toto and their house swirling into Munchkinland. The way to the Emerald City is still along the road of yellow brick, which leads past a cornfield with a scarecrow who longs for some brains and through the forest where a Tin Woodman rusted solid while pining for a heart and where a Cowardly Lion quakes in terror that his fellow animals might realize he’s all roar and no bite. And the way back to Kansas and Aunt Em, for, according to the great and terrible wizard ruler, in Oz, “everyone must pay for everything he gets,” still lies with the destruction of the Wicked Witch of the West.
An enduring classic I’m delighted to have finally encountered in its original format.(less)
Mandy is pregnant and looking to give her child up for adoption. Jill’s recently widowed mom, Robin, is looking to adopt a baby, and an open-adoption...moreMandy is pregnant and looking to give her child up for adoption. Jill’s recently widowed mom, Robin, is looking to adopt a baby, and an open-adoption website helps them find each other. Robin invites Mandy to move in with them while they wait for the baby’s arrival — two decisions that cause Jill, still reeling from her dad’s death, to flip out.
It’s like her mother has become someone Jill doesn’t even recognize. Jill has enough to worry about without a pregnant stranger living in her house and without her mother making what seems like a sudden and insane life decision: Jill’s about to graduate from high school, but while she knows she doesn’t want to head to college right away, she’s not sure what she does want to do.
She suspects, though, that at least the short term answer may involve a boy — either her reliable on-again, off-again boyfriend Dylan or Ravi, the sympathetic anti-fraud manager who works in the corporate office of her after-school bookstore job and who, it turns out, attended high school with her briefly.
Meanwhile, Mandy has moved into a house that’s way nicer than the ones she grew up in. Robin is far kinder to her than her own mother had been, and she can see that the baby she’s bearing will have the childhood she never did. Sure, she might have glossed over a few things to make the story work out better, but she’s sure it will be for the best. Now if she could only figure out what her own happy ending might look like.
Told in alternating chapters by two teenage girls, this novel is about figuring out what you want out of your own life and what makes a family. You’ll end up caring about all of the characters — and hoping that each of them can find their path forward.
Personally, I found it such a compelling read that I had to stay up late to finish it just to find out. (less)
In this feminist retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, author Robin McKinley takes the power away from the prince and puts it squarely in the h...moreIn this feminist retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, author Robin McKinley takes the power away from the prince and puts it squarely in the hands of the cursed princess.
Rosie can remember no other life before coming to live with Aunt and Katriona, two fairies living in a remote corner of the kingdom. Aunt, she has been told, came and fetched her when her parents died suddenly just a week after Katriona returned home from an ill-fated naming ceremony of the year-old princess. She has lived with the two of them ever since, running in the forest, hanging out with the local iron monger, and conversing with the local animals — a rare gift, even among families with fairies in it as strong as her aunt and cousin.
What they have not told her is that she is not their kin, but the nation’s princess in hiding. Katriona, in fact, ran off with her in the minutes after a dark fairy capped off a list of useless fairy godparent gifts (following the trend of long eyelashes and extraordinary embroidery skill) with a death threat. Aided by the animals of the land, who assist her in finding milk, Katriona drags the baby across the kingdom, taking three months to lug Rosie home to her aunt.
Believing their princess to be in a secure location with her mother and aided by a bit of glamourizing magic, the townfolk have no reason to doubt Rosie is who the fairies say she is (although a few nastily suggest Katriona might be the girl’s mother, rather than her cousin). And neither does Rosie, who grows up independent, self-confident, and capable, generally unfettered by the gifts her godparents gave her so many years before.
That is until the final year before the princess and Rosie turn 21, the age by which Pernicia swears she will be killed. With the kingdom seemingly under attack by negative magic and its people desperate for the heir to the throne to appear, Rosie’s past is about to knock on her door and throw her life into disarray. And that’s provided she isn’t murdered by a magical curse first.
Spindle’s End is one of those stories where you’re glad to have read it nearly as soon as it begins. The core elements of the original story remain intact — princess, fairies, evil, spindle, ignorance, sleep, briars, a “prince” and his “kiss” to awaken the main character, and buckets of true love — but it is made real by a three-generation cast of kick-ass women, several pretty awesome guys, and communicative animals, as well as a quest to keep things lively.
If you have read any of McKinley’s other works, I highly suggest this one as their equal. If you have read and enjoyed other feminist retellings, such as Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon or The Firebrand, I think this is far less convoluted a retelling and gets its pro-girl message across without throwing out the contributions of men to society and the story. If you have a daughter or a granddaughter or a friend or a self in need of reminding just how capable and wonderful they can be solely by being who they are, then sit them down with a copy of this book right now. They’ll thank you for it.(less)
Rudi asked me what I thought of Persepolis, and I had a hard time formulating an answer. Don’t get me wrong. These two graphic novels (Persepolis and...moreRudi asked me what I thought of Persepolis, and I had a hard time formulating an answer. Don’t get me wrong. These two graphic novels (Persepolis and Persepolis 2 are combined into one longer book) are good. But I think my problem with them lies less with the story and more with the graphic novel format itself. I am an immersion reader, surfacing for air only periodically from novels I love. But graphic novels don’t put me squarely into a character’s brain, at least not in the same way. So I’m just not sure I can experience them in the same way as with traditional novels.
That said, I found Marjane’s story of growing up in a liberal family in Tehran as the Islamic Revolution erupts around them to be a fascinating one. She is outspoken as a girl in a society that doesn’t value educated women or individualistic behavior. Her family doesn’t encourage her to temper her rebellious nature, but instead eventually opts to send her abroad to protect her from what could have been a disastrous situation. She goes on to spend five years in Austria, eventually returning home to figure out how to reconcile her expatriate experience (not dissimilar, I would imagine to that of many of today’s immigrants in this country) with a homeland whose government does not particularly welcome her.
It was a valuable story to read, and I’m not sure that I would have been able to get through a more explicit telling of that place and time. If you haven’t read these graphic novels, but enjoy history, politics, or stories featuring strong female characters, I’d suggest giving them a shot.(less)
We’re constantly asking people how they’re feeling. “How are you? How’ve you been?” We say it dozens of times a week. And while sometimes we want to k...moreWe’re constantly asking people how they’re feeling. “How are you? How’ve you been?” We say it dozens of times a week. And while sometimes we want to know, usually the answer we’re seeking is the equally familiar, “Fine. And you?”
Imagine if every time you rotely inquired about someone’s emotional state, they told you in raw and intimate detail. Everyone, every time. You’d stop asking in short order.
Now imagine you didn’t even have to ask. People just randomly sprung this information on you each and every time you turned around. This is what happens to Rose one afternoon just before she turns nine. Suddenly, with every bite of food, she is privvy to the food handler’s most intimate emotions. Desperately sad? She can tell. Bored with your life? She knows. Furious with the world? Got it.
For an unknown reason, that is now Rose’s unfortunate special gift. She can tell from the smallest nibble of sandwich that her mother feels lost and that her best friend’s mother is full of overwhelming love. It’s just too much to handle and she starts forgoing homemade food in favor of vending machine fare and processed food — although she can eventually distinguish where the ingredients are grown and manufactured, usually there is little human contact to rub off on it — and raw fruit and vegetables.
She tries to explain to her family, but her parents write it off as a random oddity (maybe she has the flu?) and her odd, distant older brother has difficulty processing anything emotional, instead preferring the hard facts of science. The only person in her life who is sympathetic is her brother’s friend, George, who does some experimentation to validate her experiences.
Rose is going to have to figure out how to deal with this for the rest of her life — and how to deal with the secrets she learns about those closest to her.
This was a compelling read, although I won’t go so far as to say I liked it. Don’t get me wrong, the author was brilliant, the story was taut, and the novel deserves every single accolade it’s received. [And my rating here reflects that.] But its eventual ending took me to a dark place and that’s just not where I want my fiction to leave me. I recommend it, but caution those who, like Rose, ingest emotions to tread carefully.(less)
Nestled outside of the village of Bishop Lacey sits the manor house of Buckshaw. Its inhabitants include the absent-minded widower (and avid philateli...moreNestled 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.(less)
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 neithe...moreA 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.(less)
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 alway...moreSomehow 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. (less)
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,...moreWritten 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.(less)
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 wil...moreDuring 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.(less)
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 to...moreA 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.(less)