I really loved this book. It's gorgeously written, full of wisdom, and hard to put down. The thing is, I'm not entirely convinced it's a children's boI really loved this book. It's gorgeously written, full of wisdom, and hard to put down. The thing is, I'm not entirely convinced it's a children's book. Someone told me the author originally imagined it being marketed to adults but she was persuaded to turn it into a middle grade novel. Even if that's not true, it seems true. Like The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird, this book is complex enough for any adult, but happens to follow the experiences of a young person. Does that in itself make it a YA or middle grade book? As I was reading I noted many places where the meaning was so subtle, I had to re-read it and then put the book down for a minute to ponder. It was also so heart-wrenching at times, so real, that tears sprang to my eyes. I'm not saying this book is "inappropriate" for children. I'm saying most children are probably not mature enough to really sink their teeth into it. The voice of the narration is that of an older Annabelle looking back on the year before she turned 12. It's not fully an 11-year-old's voice, though the narration accounts for what she perceived at the time, versus what she understands in retrospect.
Literature is literature, no matter who it's marketed to, but I feel like this will present a challenge to award committees. This is, without a doubt, one of the finest books I've ever read. But I can't imagine recommending it to many children. Teens, yes. Adults, definitely. It is my sincere hope that it finds a wide readership despite being sold as middle grade fiction. It explores prejudice against people who are perceived as "odd" and the difficult balance between doing what is right and what is expected. Annabelle's mother has some wonderfully powerful lines - the one about numbness and hurt comes to mind. Toby is a character that reminds me (and a lot of readers) of Boo Radley, but he also made me thing of The Things They Carried, especially because he carries those heavy guns on his back. Annabelle as a narrator reminded me a little of Briony in Atonement because of her perspicacity and also her unusual position of power as a child in an adult world. Betty, though a villain, still inspires traces of sympathy. But, I have to admit, I thought mostly of Macaulay Culkin's character in the movie The Good Son (which I just googled and learned was written by Ian McEwan! Who knew?)
If you've made it this far and haven't read the book, I hope you do. ...more
LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! I'm obsessed with this book. It's so lovable.
(view spoiler)[The only thing I did not love about this book was the ending. I think RLOVE! LOVE! LOVE! I'm obsessed with this book. It's so lovable.
(view spoiler)[The only thing I did not love about this book was the ending. I think Rowell made the literary choice by leaving it so open to interpretation. But I would've preferred a more concrete ending. And I don't really understand why Eleanor ignored Park after she moved in with her uncle. I suppose it was because she just couldn't deal with having a long-distance relationship with him, but it seemed so cruel (doubly cruel! --both to me as a reader and to Park as a person). When she finally does contact him, she only writes him three words on a postcard. What are the words? The author doesn't say. But I think most readers will assume she finally tells him, "I love you." (hide spoiler)]...more
I blubbered and sobbed my way through the last of this. I'm completely gormless. Kiss me, Hardy! Ugh. I'm going to go to back to crying now and I'll tI blubbered and sobbed my way through the last of this. I'm completely gormless. Kiss me, Hardy! Ugh. I'm going to go to back to crying now and I'll try to write a review later.
Notes to self: -Anne Frank, Maddie comparison -Atonement comparison -Book Thief comparison (which is better? can I choose?) -want to listen to audiobook -I hate Nazis ...more
It's clever, funny, dark, and touching. It's Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl and dare I say a touch of the ol' J.K. And it's over too soon! The KneeboneIt's clever, funny, dark, and touching. It's Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl and dare I say a touch of the ol' J.K. And it's over too soon! The Kneebone Boy straight charmed the crap out of me. I wanted it to be longer, or at least be the start of a series, but I believe it's just an awesome little standalone gem I'll have to reread soon and often.
This is the story of the three Hardscrabble siblings: Otto, Lucia, and Max. These kids are outcasts in their hometown of Little Tunks because their mother disappeared and the whole town suspects Otto killed her and their father buried her in the backyard. But no one really knows what happened to the mother. She may be dead. She may have been kidnapped. It's been long years since anyone's seen her and the Hardscrabbles have precious few memories of her.
Then one day their father has to go on one of his portrait-painting trips and leaves the kids with their cousin in London. Only it turns out their cousin isn't in London and they are stranded. Unable to reach their father, they decide to seek out their mysterious Great-Aunt Haddie in a town called Snoring-by-the-Sea. I will not give away any more plot, which is quite twisty, but I will go on a little about why I loved this so much.
First and foremost, the narration is outstanding. We're told in the beginning that one of the Hardscrabble siblings is writing the story, but can't say who it is: "They said it's because the story belongs to all three of us, and I suppose they're right, but it seems unfair since I'm doing all the work. No one can stop you from guessing though." It's pretty easy to guess who the narrator is, but it's also really fun that the story is told in both third and first person. It has great flow, but can be broken up by asides about the writing of the story itself (very Series of Unfortunate Events--if you didn't like those books, you probably won't like this). The asides are very funny and very meta. If I were more industrious I'd quote a long passage from page 87 that illustrates how great they are, but I'm not feeling industrious, so you're just going to have to read the book.
The relationship between the siblings is another of this book's strong suits. To me, it was so real. Each of the siblings' personalities seemed molded by their siblings. Otto doesn't speak, but communicates with a secret sign language he developed with Lucia. Max is just ten years old, but hyper-intelligent, so the very proud Lucia is often upstaged by him, which just makes her act even more haughty. They fight childishly. They bond touchingly. It's a dynamic that's familiar to most people, but not often captured so well in an adventure like this book.
One last compliment for Ms. Potter: I believe you are American, so bully for you for writing in so many cheeky Britishisms. I mean, I'm American too, so I can't truly say that you got them all right. But it sounded super awesomely British to me. The audio book could be great.
In the end, this book is about what all good adventure books are about: danger and discovery. And, as the narrator says, "Here is my most important message to you: All great adventures have moments that are really crap." Or, in a more philosophical vein: "You have to work really hard at being astonished by life."
One last thing: the cover art is perfect. Do you see how the cat has extra toes?
Jeremy draws a monster into being (a la Harold and the Purple Crayon) and then must answer its demands until he figures out a way to send him packing.Jeremy draws a monster into being (a la Harold and the Purple Crayon) and then must answer its demands until he figures out a way to send him packing. Though the real joy of this book is the monster's personality ("Draw me a hat. I'm going out!") it's also a story about Jeremy overcoming his shyness.
I loved it! The art is perfect (esp. the monster's big red hat). ...more
Totally, completely enjoyable. It's great to follow Izzy Spellman and her family because they're eccentric without being overly adorable. There are aTotally, completely enjoyable. It's great to follow Izzy Spellman and her family because they're eccentric without being overly adorable. There are a lot of laughs in this book. Highly recommended for a vacation read.
But a word to the hardcore mystery fans: this didn't strike me as being about untangling a complicated web of clues. As Isabel says in Chapter 2 (The Interview), "The truth about the PI is that we don't solve cases. We explore them. We tie up loose threads, perhaps uncover a few surprises. We provide proof of a question for which the answer is already known."
So don't expect Agatha Christie; it's more about a family of private investigators than it is the actual private investigating. I'm looking forward to getting to know them better in the next few books. ...more
This is my favorite Anne Tyler novel. I read it years ago and I still remember how hard I laughed at Macon and his crazy family. But don't go thinkingThis is my favorite Anne Tyler novel. I read it years ago and I still remember how hard I laughed at Macon and his crazy family. But don't go thinking this is a cheery beach read. Tyler's books always tackle the pain and sadness lurking in everyday life. ...more
This was Sophie's favorite when she was four. She'd go around the house chanting "Isabel, Isabel, self-reliant!" Even though that's not an exact lineThis was Sophie's favorite when she was four. She'd go around the house chanting "Isabel, Isabel, self-reliant!" Even though that's not an exact line from the poem, it surely captures its spirit. ...more
SO GOOD. I took off a star, though, because I felt conflicted about enjoying the Hunger Games, when the whole point of the book is that it's sick forSO GOOD. I took off a star, though, because I felt conflicted about enjoying the Hunger Games, when the whole point of the book is that it's sick for people to enjoy the Hunger Games. Right?
Still, I couldn't put this down. Collins has a gift for keeping the story moving without sacrificing character or setting or humor. I loved Gregor the Overlander for that, and this book has the same appeal.
But The Hunger Games does not describe a fantasy world like Gregor did. Instead, Collins takes real modern entertainment (like reality television and violent video games) and ratchets up the stakes in a post-apocalyptic America where the government uses fear to control its subjects.
So, yes, this book is violent and a little disturbing, but it's also a great love story that made me cry.
I can't believe the second in the series doesn't come out until September 2009. I can't wait! ...more
I read this book like ten times when I was in middle school. The suspense! The high seas! The adventure! Getting all up in Charlotte Doyle's life alwaI read this book like ten times when I was in middle school. The suspense! The high seas! The adventure! Getting all up in Charlotte Doyle's life always helped me get out of my own. Whatever problems I had with soccer or school seemed small compared to being accused of murder by an evil sea captain. Charlotte's story helped me take the long-view, to the see the big picture, to get some perspective on life. I love that there's no romance in this book at all. Sadly, many of the books I read as a kid lead me to believe that true love is the end-all and be-all of life. At the end of Charlotte's journey, she just wants to get out of her corset and into some comfy clothes. Amen, sister.
In fact, I think Charlotte Doyle is one of the great inspirational characters in children's literature. She transforms from a snobby, scared sheep-girl into a strong, brave, sailor-woman. She stops letting other people dictate her life to her and takes control. You can almost feel her spirit uncoiling as you read. It's breathtaking. It's transporting. It's awesome.
Reading this for maybe the tenth time (the first nine times were during my childhood), I was struck by a few things:
1. This book still rocks my socksReading this for maybe the tenth time (the first nine times were during my childhood), I was struck by a few things:
1. This book still rocks my socks off.
2. The 1970s is long enough ago that there were a few cringers. For example, "She had a retarded daughter...a Mongoloid child." And, "Proud of her liberalism, Grace Windsor Wexler stood and leaned over the table to shake the black woman's hand." These are not deal-breakers, but they take some historical context explaining.
3. 16 characters and 16 pieces on a chess board! The chess theme was not apparent to me as a kid, but it's was glaringly obvious this time. You've got to anticipate your opponents' moves.
4. I totally thought the Wexlers and the Hoos were headed towards a wife-swap situation. Grace Wexler starts calling James Hoo "Jimmy" and Jake Wexler eats at the Hoo's restaurant every day and helps Sun Lin learn English. It really seemed like they were with the wrong people, right? There's a grown-up reading of a kid's book for you.
5. Berthe Crow is really very truly creepy. ...more
Toot & Puddle are two very different little pigs who are best friends. One goes off to see the world, while the other stays home. Their friendshipToot & Puddle are two very different little pigs who are best friends. One goes off to see the world, while the other stays home. Their friendship endures through love and postcards....more