Re-reading Pooh is such a lovely thing, taking me straight back to the best parts of my childhood. And I remain captivated by the story of the Hundred...moreRe-reading Pooh is such a lovely thing, taking me straight back to the best parts of my childhood. And I remain captivated by the story of the Hundred Acre Woods, from Rabbit to Eeyore. I think part of the secret is that I can see different aspects of myself in all of them. Piglet–I am a Very Small Animal, after all–and Eeyore’s conviction that no one will celebrate his birthday.
Dear friends who told me that I would enjoy this book several years ago, why did you not hunt me down (yes, clear across the country!) and FORCE a cop...moreDear friends who told me that I would enjoy this book several years ago, why did you not hunt me down (yes, clear across the country!) and FORCE a copy into my hands?
Yes, I did enjoy it.
Enemy Brothers is a story that takes place against the backdrop of WWII, but it's a story that is fundamentally about family, and about the power of love (not romantic, in this instance) to save us. When the book starts, we meet Dym Ingleford, part of a large family, whose youngest brother Tony was kidnapped as a baby. When he comes across a young German prisoner, he is convinced that this is his brother. He brings the boy, called Max, back to his home in an attempt to reinstate him in the family life. Max, however, is entirely convinced that this strange English airman is wrong, and that he, Max, will escape back to Germany as soon as possible.
The central premise of the story, the kidnapping and reappearance of Tony, stretched the bounds of my belief a little, but I was able to read past that. It's also an old-fashioned book in some ways--the values that are promoted are honor, courage, and fighting for what is right. At the same time, though, I was interested to find that it doesn't promote unthinking nationalism or even might is right. In a sense, I think what Enemy Brothers provides is the best kind of moral story--a story which is actually a story, and which promotes certain morals but does it in a natural and thinking way. I personally never felt preached at or intruded on.
And also, I love books about families and that, fundamentally, is what this one is. The connection between Dym and Max, the relationship between the younger siblings--that's what made the book work for me. I could believe that Max might slowly come to realize that Dym might be right after all, because of the way he and the other Ingleford interacted.
I said at the beginning that this is also a book about how love can save us. That strand is definitely most clear in the relationship between Dym and Max. Max, at the beginning of the book, completely believes the Nazi ideology he has been taught. It's Dym who slowly, over the course of the story, shows him that there's a strength in love that the culture of hate he knows cannot touch. Constance Savery manages to write a character in Dym who has an almost palpable care and love for this younger brother who keeps trying to escape from him. And yet, I didn't feel like Dym was necessarily too good to be true--though Max is certainly the one that provides the excitement in the story!
Finally, any WWII story I read at the moment will inevitably be compared to Code Name Verity. Interestingly, I felt like Enemy Brothers was quite close in some regards. First, it has an intimate scope, focusing on this one family. Also, one of the things I liked about Verity and Maddie was that, without reviling the Germans, they never lost sight of what they were fighting against. I think the same is true here. Obviously, the intended audiences are quite different, and Enemy Brothers did NOT reduce me to sobbing tears for an hour.
So, if you're looking for a nice, slightly old-fashioned story about families and finding your place in the world, with a touch of adventure and a nice sense of redemption, try Enemy Brothers.
Book source: public library Book information: Not sure of the original publication info, but this edition is from Bethelehem Books. I'd say middle school or lower high school for the age range.(less)
I meant to write a whole post on this and then it just didn’t happen. But I found it both a fascinating take on the Theseus story, and a huge influenc...moreI meant to write a whole post on this and then it just didn’t happen. But I found it both a fascinating take on the Theseus story, and a huge influence on Tracy Barrett’s Dark of the Moon and Megan Whalen Turner’s worldbuilding in the Queen’s Thief series. (I am worried about what the latter means, given the whole king sacrificing self theme.) [Feb 2012](less)
I was looking for something light to read on a Saturday night, and this fit the bill. I was struck, since I haven't read this in awhile, by how sympat...moreI was looking for something light to read on a Saturday night, and this fit the bill. I was struck, since I haven't read this in awhile, by how sympathetically I remembered Claudia. Really, she's a bit awful, but I was also the oldest and knew the injustice of having to wash the dishes and sweep the floor on the same night. (Dec 2011)(less)
Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-t...moreRetro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.
I haven't done a Retro Friday post before, but I read plenty of older books and enjoy talking about them anyway, so I may try to work this into a regular thing. Anyway, I had recently re-read Elin's Amerika by Marguerite De Angeli, so I thought I'd talk about that today.
Marguerite De Angeli is probably best known for her Newbery winning book, A Door in the Wall, but she was a fairly prolific writer/illustrator, and also wrote a loose series of books about young people in America's history. This isn't as daunting as it sounds; one of De Angeli's strengths is her ability to, without making her characters contemporary, create relateable and likeable characters. For the most part, her children work as of their time, while at the same time being sympathetic to De Angeli's audience, and even to us today.
Elin is a young Swedish girl, living somewhere in what will eventually become Pennsylvania and New Jersey. She has three brothers, Peter, Knute, and Axel. Axel is working on one of the ships that brings new settlers and supplies to the area. And, in the midst of all this strangeness and maleness (her neighbors all have boys too) she longs for her friend back in Sweden and wishes for another girl to play with.
I was a little worried about Elin's Amerika, simply because of the fact that I knew these were earlier settlers interacting with the Native Americans and...you know, it's always both annoying and sad when a favorite childhood book turns out to be a problematic. By and large, I think Elin comes out okay in this regard. There is a tribe that attacks the settlers, but there are several others who help them, and De Angeli seems to be trying to depict a sort of cooperative harmony between the Swedish settlers and the neighboring Native Americans (at one point, Fader says, of the others "They just don't know us," which is very simplistic, but better than They are evil). How close that is to the historical reality is probably highly debatable; I simply don't know, so I'm not going to try to get into it, but overall I'd say that this is one I'd feel comfortable reading to children, especially if we were able to discuss a few points afterwards.
One of the strong points of De Angeli's books are her beautiful illustrations. Elin's Amerika is no different--the traditional Swedish embroidery is beautifully rendered, and there's a picture at the very end, which I can't find online, of Elin and her family walking through the woods on their way to the Christmas service that's just gorgeous. The one I was able to find is the family gathered around their fire in the evening.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I continue to like poor lonely Elin and the ups and downs of her first year in America. For those who like such things (I do) there are nice descriptions of housekeeping and everyday life, as well as a healthy dose of excitement and potential danger.
Book source: public library Book information: originally published 1941 by Doubleday; reissued by American Swedish History Museum in 2007; children's, illustrated(less)
I don’t have too much to say about this one, because I loved it! Jo Walton is pretty much always great. Here she writes a Victorian novel of manners (...moreI don’t have too much to say about this one, because I loved it! Jo Walton is pretty much always great. Here she writes a Victorian novel of manners (AND, I was SO happy, this really is Victorian, not Austenesque!) whose main characters are dragons. Also, brilliant use of Tennyson. (less)
One of the reasons I loved Lavinia was the fact that I felt it brought a forgotten character of the source material to life, while still being in harm...moreOne of the reasons I loved Lavinia was the fact that I felt it brought a forgotten character of the source material to life, while still being in harmony with the source. Now, granted that I know Beowulf a lot better than I know the Aeneid, this is exactly where Coming of the Dragon falls short. It’s a nice coming of age story, but to me it never read as Beowulf. [Sept. 2011](less)
The sequel to A Small Rain. It was fascinating to see the years that had gone by in terms of L’Engle’s writing and approach to life and religion and a...moreThe sequel to A Small Rain. It was fascinating to see the years that had gone by in terms of L’Engle’s writing and approach to life and religion and all sorts of things. I don’t think either book will ever rank in my favorites, but I did like it, especially for the wrapping-up of a couple of stories from the Austin books.(less)
L’Engle’s first book. It’s very different from the Austin and Murry series, which are what I’m most familiar with. Still, L’Engle’s writing is lovely...moreL’Engle’s first book. It’s very different from the Austin and Murry series, which are what I’m most familiar with. Still, L’Engle’s writing is lovely even this early.(less)
I admit that I read this with a lot of trepidation. A sequel to Little Princess? How could it work? But it does work quite well and I found it all sat...moreI admit that I read this with a lot of trepidation. A sequel to Little Princess? How could it work? But it does work quite well and I found it all satisfying. [Nov. 2010](less)
Opening line: "The First Lord of the Admiralty was unpopular at Pin Mill."
So, I have already documented the depths of my Arthur Ranso...moreby Arthur Ransome
Opening line: "The First Lord of the Admiralty was unpopular at Pin Mill."
So, I have already documented the depths of my Arthur Ransome obsession love. Oh, the red caps! The sailing lessons! The singing of "Drunken Sailor"! The tacking at recess!
Anyway, it's been awhile since I actually read any Ransome. When I saw Secret Water sitting on the new book shelf at the library I snatched it up, especially since I remember it being one of my favorites.
And, oh my friends, I love this book. Here is the basic premise: after the events of We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea (which is just as exciting as that title leads one to believe) the Walker children are reunited with their parents who have, in the Ransome parent way, devised an Exciting Adventure as a reward. They will all go to a secret location somewhere around Ipswich and, armed with a blank map, set forth to explore unknown regions. Also, they receive a card from Nancy that says "Three million cheers!" in semaphore, so clearly something is afoot.
But then the First Lord recalls Captain Walker and he has to go off and it looks like they won't be able to have their fun after all.
Of course, that's at the very beginning of the book.
Bridget is always a nice addition to the gang and this is one of the first where she figures as a real character (as opposed to Vicky-the-baby). I giggled quite a bit over her human sacrifice part towards the end of the book. I have more sympathy for Susan than I used to. John and Titty are still great favorites. There were some nice additions to the regular gang on this one as well.
All in all, I was somewhat startled by how well this held up to a re-read. There was enough understated tension to keep things interesting, while of course you know all along that everything will turn out all right in the end. This is Arthur Ransome after all.
(And Nancy...you guys I still love Nancy so much.)
Now I'm thinking a grand S&A re-read is in order.
Book source: public library Book information: Godine, 2005 (first published 1939)(less)
I remembered this being not nearly as good as the rest of the series and, for once, I remembered correctly. While the central dilemma Ella faces is an...moreI remembered this being not nearly as good as the rest of the series and, for once, I remembered correctly. While the central dilemma Ella faces is an interesting one, the charm of the earlier books isn’t present. I especially missed the illustrations.(less)
I really love this family. It's one of those where I can believe that the girls would really both bicker and love each other as they d...moreby Sidney Taylor
I really love this family. It's one of those where I can believe that the girls would really both bicker and love each other as they do. And actually, there's not a lot of bickering. I think my favorite has always been Ella, just because she's the oldest and so am I (I tend to really identify with oldest children in books. Yes, I have problems with fairy tales.)
I also loved and love the glimpse into another culture. The family are observant Jews and their faith is the main underpinning of their life, shaping their experiences and year. This book gives just a taste of what it might have been like to celebrate Purim, Seder, and Succos. While I've never actually attended a Jewish service, in some ways this part seemed oddly familiar. I think that it's because, like Judaism, my own faith celebrates its festivals deeply. Like the girls, I grew up in a world where the circle of the year was shaped by the different feasts.
I think that really this book is wholesome in the best sense of the word. When I read it, I feel whole. Taylor doesn't gloss over the difficulties of tenement life in the early 1900s, but at the same time they don't define the girls' lives. Their parents work hard and are sometimes discouraged, but they also love their children and try to give them the best life possible.
Book source: public library Book information: Random House, 1951 (originally)(less)
I read this for my Medieval Intellectual History class. I found it fascinating, especially as a meditation on relationship between Dante the Christian...moreI read this for my Medieval Intellectual History class. I found it fascinating, especially as a meditation on relationship between Dante the Christian and Dante the poet and where they overlap and where they don’t and how the shaping of the identity of one ties into the shaping of the identity of the other. Also, it was odd to read it while finishing my thesis, because now I think I could write an essay about the ways in which the Paradiso shaped Monna Innominata. [April 2011]