A princess and her maid are locked up in a tower for seven years when the princess refuses to marry a cruel prince. The maid takes center stage in thiA princess and her maid are locked up in a tower for seven years when the princess refuses to marry a cruel prince. The maid takes center stage in this engrossing retelling of an obscure Grimm tale, set in medieval Mongolia. Although I had difficulty believing that the main character could have maintained her dogmatic obedience, that does ring true to my idea of a medieval mindset. Regardless, I kept reading and loved the narrator's voice. Recommended! ...more
I just don't believe it. I think his mom was completely out of character and just wouldn't have made the choices she made in this book. I was with JoeI just don't believe it. I think his mom was completely out of character and just wouldn't have made the choices she made in this book. I was with Joey and especially with his mom through the other books, but this one lost me....more
I really looked forward to this book. E.L. Konigsburg is one of my favorite authors, although reading her books often feels like chatting with an odd,I really looked forward to this book. E.L. Konigsburg is one of my favorite authors, although reading her books often feels like chatting with an odd, socially-awkward, intriguing wallflower at a party. Perhaps it's her lack of contractions: there's a piece of me that's always a little detached but interested. This book was a disappointment, though: didactic and predicated on relationships that just didn't feel real. ...more
I didn't like this one all that much when I was a teen, but it was strong enough on this re-read to leave me waiting to read the others. The relationsI didn't like this one all that much when I was a teen, but it was strong enough on this re-read to leave me waiting to read the others. The relationships and the characters' voices were completely convincing. ...more
Normally I stay far away from books in verse and from stories about mentally ill parents; as a former-wannabe poetry professor with mental illness inNormally I stay far away from books in verse and from stories about mentally ill parents; as a former-wannabe poetry professor with mental illness in my family history, they spell cringeworthy disaster. The positive reviews from the kidlit world kept this on my list, though, and I'm glad I read it.
The story begins with Rachel's mom leaving, and traces (in her voice) the next year of learning to survive without her mom and building a relationship with her dad. I'm a sucker for stories featuring good parents, and it was definitely the father-daughter relationship at the core of the story -- with its remarkable growth -- that tugged at my heartstrings.Hugging the Rock packed a punch for such a slim book, and I'll admit it: I cried even though I was on the bus.
I hadn't considered getting this for my elementary library because I assumed it would be better for older readers, and I still think it would be most appropriate for middle schoolers and older... but I think I may have some kids for whom this is "the right book at the right time." The content would be challenging for a reader of any age, but I think that the format, text, and the powerfully positive, stable relationship that develops between Rachel and her dad would make it a book that my fourth and fifth graders could handle. A strong new offering to the body of children's literature featuring families impacted by mental illness. ...more
I had high hopes for this book, so my two stars may be more reflective of my disappointment than of the book's overall quality.
It's 1971 and FrannieI had high hopes for this book, so my two stars may be more reflective of my disappointment than of the book's overall quality.
It's 1971 and Frannie lives with her Deaf brother, her often-absent (but loving) father, and her pregnant mom on the black side of the tracks. She worries a lot: about her mom, who has already lost babies to miscarriages, about her handsome brother, who's scorned by hearing girls, about her best friend, who's becoming increasingly religious, and about the new kid in her class, a white (maybe?) kid that all the other students call "Jesus Boy" because of his long hair and pale skin. He's mysterious -- he knows sign language, cries in class, and stirs up all sorts of strange emotions in his classmates. Frannie's best friend thinks that he may well be the Messiah redux, but at the end of the book she's convinced otherwise and it's up to Frannie to didactically ruminate that "perhaps Jesus is in all of us."
This is a short book, and perhaps it's the length that made it feel choppy and unfinished, with loose ends that turn out more baffling than poetic. Surprisingly, for a storyteller of Ms. Woodson's caliber, this book felt like a cautionary tale about "showing, not telling": I felt like it was a series of lessons, but without much real substance. Also, I couldn't help being irked by some of older brother Sean's passages: in addition to his saintlike personality, his conversations with Frannie have awfully grammatical English syntax that just didn't seem to flow in the way that ASL does. I know that this was a stylistic choice, as I've read that Ms. Woodson studied ASL for many years and knows whereof she writes. But along those same lines, one weird moment in the book was when Frannie is in the car with her dad and reflects that it's strange to hear him speak because "it's so quiet in the house, what with all the signing and all." (I paraphrase here.) It might be just my experience, but every time that I've been in Deaf spaces, silence is rarer than it is golden: all sorts of sounds are around.
Even though it felt a little idealized, I did love that Sean was attractive, smart, funny, cool, independent, and Deaf, with a foot in both Deaf and hearing cultures... and I don't know of any other African-American Deaf characters in fiction for young people. Even though the hearing girls are rude to him, it's clear to Frannie and to any reader that they're ignorant and just plain wrong. I wish we saw more characters with those qualities, but even more fleshed-out. ...more
I'm not a mystery reader, and I've never fully appreciated whodunits, so by rights I should have been irritated with the Attolia books rather than entI'm not a mystery reader, and I've never fully appreciated whodunits, so by rights I should have been irritated with the Attolia books rather than enthralled by them. Unguessable twists and turns are the hallmark of the series: the reader can't possible figure out exactly what is going on because we don't have the information necessary, but we're haunted by the certainty that something more is going on than what the other, non-trickster characters are seeing. This was a sick-day reread for me, and I was just as captured by it this time, even knowing the upcoming twists (those that I could remember, anyway).
Eugenides, the Thief of Eddis, has acceded to the throne of Attolia. He sleeps through official meetings, plays the fool, and generally convinces his attendants, Guard, and other members of the court that he is either weak or a buffoon. Most of the narrative is from the perspective of Costis, an honorable guard who's fallen into the unenviable role of being Gen's lackey. He's not the brightest, and his opinion of Gen is nearly as contemptuous as everyone else's, at least in the beginning. What makes the book interesting is that the reader knows better.
The King of Attolia is, IMO, the absolute best of the three books. What makes it so excellent is that Megan Whalen Turner's sleight-of-hand with the plot mirrors the complexity of the relationship between the new King and the Queen. Even through the cloudiness and uncertainty of the plot, there are glimpses of powerful emotion that kept me hanging on to every word and possible clue. The backstory of their relationship -- the Queen's torture of Gen, the uncertain coercion of their marriage -- plays a huge role, coloring every important element of the story.
There's been a lot of discussion about whether the narrative gaps in this book are an intentional plot tool or due to its being a sequel. Many people believe it could stand alone. I think it's clear that the narrative gaps are a tool, but I think the whole emotional web that gives the book such intriguing weight is dependent on the The Queen of Attolia. (I think The Thief serves primarily to show that Gen is more than he appears.)
I heard a rumor that a fourth book is on its way, and as there were several Sounis-related loose ends that weren't tied up in this book, I'm hopeful! These keep getting better and better. Please write more! ...more
Conor is a genius obsessed with flight: he's also handsome, a gifted swordsman, loved by a beautiful princess, and he practices tai chi. When he getsConor is a genius obsessed with flight: he's also handsome, a gifted swordsman, loved by a beautiful princess, and he practices tai chi. When he gets framed (sort of) in an improbable conspiracy to kill the small island's beloved king, he's imprisoned in a corrupt prison camp and has to heroically persist and save the day... and fulfill his dreams of flight. Luckily he's our hero, and with all those heroic qualities he can't help but come out on top.
Action-packed but tedious and comically predictable. It reads like historical fiction -- although the incidents and context of the Saltee Islands are imaginary -- and feels like watching a blockbuster action movie, complete with running gags about the effeminate concerns of ultra-manly men. (Not Conor, of course: his inevitable meathead prison buddy.)
I think this will be a great book for some reader, just not me. The thing is that it's not easy reading but it's not very substantial, either... I wouldn't really call it a YA novel in terms of complexity and substance, but the language makes it inaccessible to all but strong readers. It's a solid middle-grade novel for adventure-lovers, and could be good for those strong readers in my elementary library who have exhausted much of what I've got... especially if they're more interested in action than substance. With a tiny collection and such a small budget, this isn't going to be first on my purchasing list, but I'll keep an eye out for a used copy and ask around to see if any of my readers are excited.
I offered the Julius Lester version of the Uncle Remus tales to a second grade teacher as an alternative to the Joel Chandler version that she'd beenI offered the Julius Lester version of the Uncle Remus tales to a second grade teacher as an alternative to the Joel Chandler version that she'd been reading to her class for years. I suggested this version because even though I hadn't read them myself, I trust Julius Lester to retell the stories with humor and without a racist lens.
They were a huge success, but required some improvisation and quick thinking on the teacher's part, as they're hilarious but not entirely appropriate for a second-grade clasroom. The kids loved them and begged for more. The teacher loved them -- despite the last-minute skipping of certain sections or stories -- and plans to read them again next year.
Of course I needed to read them for myself. I really appreciated Julius Lester's introduction, which laid out a context for the Trickster in general and Brer Rabbit in particular... and helped to address the moral qualms that come up when you're with Brer Rabbit and he acts badly. Along the same lines, I loved the moments when the narrative voice cut in and gives commentary on the action. I think I'll reread the Joel Chandler Harris version too, to see how they compare, and revisit them again when the third graders learn about Trickster tales later this year. ...more