This book, written right after WWII, is about an 8-year-old boy, Barney. He's relatively well-off it seems, but he hasn't yet learned the prejudices o...moreThis book, written right after WWII, is about an 8-year-old boy, Barney. He's relatively well-off it seems, but he hasn't yet learned the prejudices of his family or grasped the idea of class. He talks to the black garbage man and plays with the colored children, to use the laguage of the book, and invites the Italian gardener to his birthday party. At first it seems like it's going to be a good moral tale about how he brings round his stuffy grandmother and gets her to let him play with the black kids he likes instead of the stuffy rich kids from his school, but it doesn't turn out that way. It kind of tries to walk a middle line showing things for what they were at the time, but not judging. The black family he befriends initially bring him home when he's lost and then they willingly accept charity from his rich grandfather to help their sick daughter. The tension between the races and classes are occasionally alluded to delicately, but most of it is just assumed to be understood by readers.
It's a nice story, where goodwill between everyone prevails, and even though the issues underlying it all are felt by the reader, they aren't directly addressed by the author. Perhaps at the time it wouldn't have been published had it been any more explicit.
The second half of the book is taken up by his father's escape from France when his 'spitfire' plane is shot down. It is the sort of lucky escape adventure with the help of the French underground that I have often heard before. The Germans and Japs are the bad guys, the French, English and Americans are the good guys and no one is conflicted about any of that. I wonder if it felt that simple at the time?
For a book about WWII it was remarkable that there were no Jews in it and the Jews were never even mentioned although they did throw darts at a picture of der fuehrer at Barney's birthday party. Overall an interesting little time-capsule of the of the zeitgeist of the era. Set in Pittsburgh.(less)
1973. A thirtenn-year-old heroin addict in Harlem. Told in the voices of various characters. The main character, Bejie, his mother, stepfather, grandf...more1973. A thirtenn-year-old heroin addict in Harlem. Told in the voices of various characters. The main character, Bejie, his mother, stepfather, grandfather, best friend, teachers, etc. Benjie is convinced he's not an addict, but he keeps stealing from his family to get a fix. Pretty cool.(less)
1972. This awesome book was marred by didacticism and preachiness, somewhat. It's about a twelve-year-old black girl in Harlem who is thrown out of he...more1972. This awesome book was marred by didacticism and preachiness, somewhat. It's about a twelve-year-old black girl in Harlem who is thrown out of her twelfth foster home for breaking a mirror. All she has with her is a library copy of Through the Looking Glass. She kind of hallucinates her way through two days of horrors, pretending that she's in a giant chess game at the end of which she will become a queen. Her grip on reality is very tenuous and it seems like it's better that way. The local drug pusher is trying to get her to deal for him, live with him or take heroin. Race seems to define her reality and she seems to be saying I just want to be a little girl. I don't want to be defined as black, as either bad or stupid or less than or having to 'know my place'. I'm just me. The bits about race are the didactic bits. I think if the author had gone more free-form or stream-of-consciousness with it and not butted in with the moralizing, it could have been quite brilliant. But she would put long expositions into the mouths of grown-up characters, as if she believed that her audience really was too dumb to get it otherwise. A major short-coming.
One awesome part is a reinterpreting of Jabberwocky as the white man's code for how horrible 'those people' are. Really far-fetched, but hilarious.(less)
This is about a kid who gets put on probation for selling pot in high school. It's pretty moralistic and pedantic, but at least he doesn't go straight...moreThis is about a kid who gets put on probation for selling pot in high school. It's pretty moralistic and pedantic, but at least he doesn't go straight at the end and everything isn't all hunky-dory. (A bunch of white kids with money and cars in the burbs.)(less)
Okay, I finished it. ****Spoilers**** will definitely follow so don't read this if you ain't finished. I'ma says who's good, who's bad, who's dead and...moreOkay, I finished it. ****Spoilers**** will definitely follow so don't read this if you ain't finished. I'ma says who's good, who's bad, who's dead and whether the whole damn thing was worth the effort.
Okay, so, Harry's not dead. Harry kills Voldemort just like all the books/prophecies say he has to do all throughout. I was a little disappointed in this. I was expecting it to be less predictable than that.
No major characters die, well, Ron and Hermione and Harry and Neville and Ginny and Luna don't die.
So who does die, you might ask? Dobby dies, and that was pretty sad. Fred dies and George loses an ear. Dark curses are apparently unmendable. Tonks and Lupin die, right after their son is born too, but I didn't feel that strongly about them, so it didn't move me that much.
Most of the whole book is incredibly stressful. It's open war with the death eaters and you expect them to appear and kill someone every second, but I suppose that's partially because of all the rumours that were flying around about how some major character was going to die.
It almost felt implausible how frequently they appeared or even Voldemort himself appeared and tried to kill Harry and Harry escaped again and again.
There was a lot of really interesting back story about Dumbledore and an evil Wizard he dueled in 1945 called Grindelwald. Throughout the book Harry is in doubt about whether Dumbledore is really good or not (he is), and yes, Dumbledore gets to talk to to Harry quite a bit. This is possible through his portrait and also, when Harry is nearly dead and goes to the light, so to speak, and hangs out with Dumbledore and then has to go back to being alive and keep fighting.
Dumbledore also has a brother Aberforth, who is alive and ends up helping them a lot.
So what of Snape? He is made to look evil throughout, but at the end you find that he has helped Harry all along, so I guess he's not. Snape dies. I still didn't care because I thought he was evil and he did so many evil things in the course of the series. I never liked Snape. I know lots of people do, so perhaps that's the death of the major character. You can see I practically forgot it when I was totting up the deaths.
On the whole it was like all of them: heavily plot driven. You have to keep reading to find out wht happens. It's exciting, dangerous, interesting, but not brilliant otherwise. We're always complaining that her writing isn't that great and Narnia it ain't. Now I get to see what everyone else says.
PS. I did like the whole 'deathly hallows' thing. The Deathly Hallows were a legend about a very powerful wand, a resurrection stone and an invisibilty cloak that would give the owner power over death. Harry has the cloak, but Dumbledore had the wand and the stone. Eventually Harry gets them all.(less)
This is the greatest little book in the world. It is about a little beatnik girl growing up in the Village. Her parents are artists and she digs poetr...moreThis is the greatest little book in the world. It is about a little beatnik girl growing up in the Village. Her parents are artists and she digs poetry. Illustrations by Louise Fitzhugh of 'Harriet the Spy' fame.(less)
1968. This book was pretty good. It's about a kid who freaks out on acid and recovers. A little moralistic, but cool scenes in the Village and on the...more1968. This book was pretty good. It's about a kid who freaks out on acid and recovers. A little moralistic, but cool scenes in the Village and on the subway. Hippies and the Digger's Free Store. Pleasingly dated. They make the scene and say groovy.(less)