It's not every day that a Grandpa & Grandma are the hero and heroine of a novel, but B.E.H. Smith ("Papa") and Mary Smith ("Mama") are no ordinaryIt's not every day that a Grandpa & Grandma are the hero and heroine of a novel, but B.E.H. Smith ("Papa") and Mary Smith ("Mama") are no ordinary grandparents. When they realize that their spoiled children could use a wake-up call and their overly enthusiastic grandchildren could use more space, they pack up and escape, searching for adventure.
Unfortunately (or not), nurturing is in both their natures, and they find themselves trying to shrug off homesickness all along the way. They also find a lot more adventure than they expected when they cross paths with a free-spirited orphan named Butch, who changes their plans, and lives, for good.
This is a fun and heart-felt story with beautiful illustrations. I highly recommend it....more
This was a really pathetic book - a sad departure Levine's other fantastic novels. The idea was interesting (a take on the story of "Snow White" whereThis was a really pathetic book - a sad departure Levine's other fantastic novels. The idea was interesting (a take on the story of "Snow White" where her desirable trait isn't beauty, but instead is her singing voice), but the execution was horrible.
The book staggered under one major inconsistency: the main character is horribly ugly, but the prince falls in love with her very quickly anyway. Hopelessly romantic? Perhaps. But I call it an inconsistency because Aza was not only unlovely, but almost unlovable. Many wonderful heroines are not particularly beautiful (Jane Eyre, Jo March, Anne Shirley, Princess Amy, etc.), but they have wit, strength, courage, charm, or passion that makes them remarkable. Aza had none of these - she was whiny, miserable, thoughtless, and full of self-loathing throughout the entire book.
Also, the prince likes her almost immediately, before he has any chance to get to know her: this would suggest to me that either the prince has horrible taste in looks, or that Aza really isn't as ugly as she constantly tells us she is (which would only make her whining all the more exasperating). Her amazing voice and ability to compose music are impressive to him I suppose, and her "ability to make him laugh" was apparently important...but he lives in Ayortha, where almost everyone sings and composes well, and he was called "merry," "smiling," and "laughing" long before Aza captured his heart. Even knowing that she deceived him, he falls for the ugly wet blanket. She was never clever, except in her skill at singing. She didn't do anything smart, and certainly didn't act brave. Her sister says she is kind, but we never see her acting like it. What on earth is there to like about her? Her characterization, in my opinion, ruined the entire book.
There were other problems as well: Couldn't Levine have come up with a more realistic antagonist than...Lucinda? Of course everyone who read "Ella Enchanted" dislikes her already - it was so much easier to use her, than to actually design a characterization for someone who would hand out such a dangerous gift at weddings. Unfortunately, it didn't fit her character at all (Lucinda loves attention and admiration - she would never visit the bride alone and give the gifts with absolutely no ceremony or a huge crowd of people around; and why would she give a potion of disguise to someone she was making beautiful?), and it even discredits her change of heart that comes at the end of "Ella." It was a total cop-out.
Last of all, it was predictable. Not just in the way that all fairy tales are rather predictable, but in the way that makes the book really boring because the main character is being such a blind fool, predictable. Besides the fact that it was clean, there is nothing in this book to recommend....more
This is a powerful and beautifully written novel, led by a main character who seemed everything right to me from the very first moment he is introduceThis is a powerful and beautifully written novel, led by a main character who seemed everything right to me from the very first moment he is introduced to us. Daniel's personality is one of intense compassion and pathos.
I felt early on that the hardest thing for me to bear was his having to share the book with a "heroine" so entirely opposite of him in designs, history, and temperament. I understand the desirable foil of the two characters, but spending such a large portion of the beginning of the book on her pettiness, entirely unrelated to Deronda, left me bored enough that I considered setting the book aside.
I am very glad that I didn't! The intricate plot and and inherent mystery were very rewarding and the character of Deronda continued to be exactly as I hoped in every detail. Even Gwendolyn came to be a lovely, tragic piece of womanhood to me. Her character arc from selfishness to humiliation seemed all the more real for its being a slow and complex evolution.
In any case, the book is well worth the read, despite being so long: by the time I was two-thirds though the book, I could hardly put it down!...more
Very cute, very fun little book. I loved Christian, Ed, and Marigold - their characterization was great. But, I agree with another reviewer that theyVery cute, very fun little book. I loved Christian, Ed, and Marigold - their characterization was great. But, I agree with another reviewer that they kind of fell too far into the background in the last third or so of the book.
I think the only real drawback was the fact that it went a little too far in being "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" - almost to the point of being bizarre. The writing was charming, witty, and self-aware, with creative and endearing characters ...but sometimes it felt over the top, like it was trying hard to be zany and overshot the mark.
It's still a fun little romance, though, and one I would recommend as a light read for anyone interested in YA literature, or a read-aloud book for tweens....more
The story is a very simple (and idyllic) description of the process of adoption. It would probably be useful for adoptive families to have in their hoThe story is a very simple (and idyllic) description of the process of adoption. It would probably be useful for adoptive families to have in their home, as a prompt for answering questions a child may have about how they arrived in their adopted family, but I don't think it's the "classic children's story" that the cover promises. That is, I wouldn't consider it very entertaining. The illustrations were not very engaging, either....more
A simple and entertaining book for young readers or those interested in adoption. Jane - the protagonist - is a somewhat flat character, but she was dA simple and entertaining book for young readers or those interested in adoption. Jane - the protagonist - is a somewhat flat character, but she was determined and spunky enough to keep my interest anyway. The abrupt ending was disappointing. However, anyone who enjoys reading about childhood romps in general should enjoy it very much....more
This book was a real eye-opener to me. It is offers both praise and wonder at our "land of liberty," as seen through the eyes of Christoph, a young reThis book was a real eye-opener to me. It is offers both praise and wonder at our "land of liberty," as seen through the eyes of Christoph, a young refugee from East Germany in the early 1950s.
At times he is horrified by the waste and carelessness of Americans, but he also admires the hard work and "pioneer spirit" of ranch cowboys, children in 4H, and especially American housewives (who do their own cooking and cleaning, as opposed to his experiences in Germany, where such things were done by a maid or serving woman). He finds himself both impressed and dismayed by the huge cities full of sky-scrapers that he encounters here, then discovers a place that truly feels like home on the gorgeous California coast.
Reading this book, and realizing it is a reflection of the author's experiences immigrating from Germany to the United States, I felt profoundly grateful for the freedoms that we have and for the abundance we enjoy in this country.
Though not actually a sequel to Benary-Isbert's "The Ark" and "Rowan Farm," Christoph does cross paths with some of the Lechow children a couple of years after "Rowan Farm" would have taken place....more
This was recommended to me as a book about adoption; but now that I've read it, I don't think it fits that category very well. At least, it doesn't caThis was recommended to me as a book about adoption; but now that I've read it, I don't think it fits that category very well. At least, it doesn't cast the "adoptive mother" bird in a very positive light.
That aside, it is a very cute book. Most of the characters are charming. I'd say it's more about friendship and appreciating others' differences. The illustrations are great, and the non-fiction pages about bats at the end were very simple, yet informative....more
This is a beautiful and well-written little book about a mother adopting a baby from China. The delicate font and lovely, simple illustrations are a pThis is a beautiful and well-written little book about a mother adopting a baby from China. The delicate font and lovely, simple illustrations are a perfect complement to the narrative. The intended audience may be a fairly small niche, but for families involved in adoption - especially cross-culturally - this is a wonderful picture book that shouldn't be missed....more
Taken separately, I would give the text 4 stars and the illustrations 2 stars. The story is pretty sweet and straightforward - the "voice" of the bookTaken separately, I would give the text 4 stars and the illustrations 2 stars. The story is pretty sweet and straightforward - the "voice" of the book is a child who had obviously been adopted, reminiscing with her parents about the stories they've told her about the night she was born. The voice didn't sound much like a child, though, which was distracted me a little.
Not remotely as distracting as the illustrations, however. I am firmly convinced that they were put in to keep the parent who is reading the book entertained, rather than the child. They were certainly colorful, but not very well drawn. Also, there were "jokes" thrown in all over the place (a book with the title "Slim Thighs in 30 Days!" appears on a regular basis; when mom sings a lullaby the baby is looking at her with an "I can't stand this" expression on her face, etc.), which kept me rolling my eyes rather than smiling.
My overall recommendation: go ahead and read it, if the topic is relevant to your family... but, borrow it from the library....more
This cute little story is a lot like the picture book "Are You My Mother?" except that the ending is quite the opposite. It has a sweet message aboutThis cute little story is a lot like the picture book "Are You My Mother?" except that the ending is quite the opposite. It has a sweet message about what a mother really is and does, even an adopted mother. It might seem a bit cheesy to picky audiences, but I think young children would enjoy it very much....more
This was a gentle, quiet book with a good message. I felt at times that the author was more interested in presenting her research than telling the stoThis was a gentle, quiet book with a good message. I felt at times that the author was more interested in presenting her research than telling the story, which made the plot seem a bit contrived. It is as sweet story, though, with intriguing characters....more
It would take a book longer than the one I'm reviewing to write all the things I love about Anne of Green Gables. It is fanciful without being fantaIt would take a book longer than the one I'm reviewing to write all the things I love about Anne of Green Gables. It is fanciful without being fantasy, charming without being cheesey, uplifting and inspiring without being heavy-handed or moralizing; its characters are almost idyllic, while still being endearingly flawed. Best of all, it is a well-written and sincere coming-of-age story that speaks to readers of all ages and backgrounds. I highly recommend this book as one of my all-time favorites....more