Friday, August 19, 2016

Greyfriers Bobby, by Eleanor Atkinson

Last year, when we traveled to England, we made a day trip to Edinburgh. We didn't have any firm plans or even remarkable expectations for our day there. We selected a few sites that we wanted to see, and beyond that we figured on wandering around and being surprised.

My focus when planning the trip was always on England and a day in Scotland was more just to say we'd been there than anything else. (I know that sounds like an awful attitude to have towards Scotland but we are planning to one day travel to that country and explore it more thoroughly. It's turn will come! Patience, patience . . . !) Because I hadn't really done any research on Scotland, I really had no idea what to expect and found myself surprised by a few literary discoveries. One such surprise was discovering that Edinburgh was the home of Greyfriars Bobby.

First, we passed by his statue which caught my eye immediately. Glancing rapidly around I saw Greyfriars Kirkyard and my excitement increased. I recognized all of this from my list of Disney movies based on books. (Yes, I am remarkably educated, thanks. Heh.) Greyfriar's Bobby has been on my list of books I'd been wanting to read, but I had not yet purchased a copy. It seemed like the perfect day and the perfect location to buy a copy of the book! As it turns out, it was a good idea to buy the book there because nice looking copies do not seem to be readily available in the U.S. The copy I picked up is the one I have pictured here.

Here's a photograph of the statue, if you'd like to see it:

Now here is where I also must confess that at the time of our visit I had no idea what the story was about, other than it being about a dog (that apparently lived in Edinburgh). In case you are also unaware of the story line, I'll fill you in so that you can decry ignorance and be better informed than I was. Greyfriars Bobby is the true story of a highland terrier that was extremely loyal to his master, a man by the name of John Brown who died of tuberculosis in 1858. After his death, Brown was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard. The profession of John Brown is in dispute; some say he was a shepherd and some say he was a policeman. It is more commonly believed that he was a policeman but author Eleanor Atkinson decide that, for the purposes of her story, she would make him out to be a shepherd. One thing is certain, no matter Brown's profession was, it is pretty safe to assume that no one would remember him at all if not for his dog. Bobby was an extremely loyal animal and mourned his owner's death for the remainder of his life. Bobby refused to leave the graveside, keeping company with it for the next fourteen years. Dogs weren't allowed in the Kirkyard but they had a hard time keeping Bobby out! This loyal little dog, through persistence and loyalty, was eventually made a pet of the neighborhood but spent every single night sleeping on his master's grave, no matter the weather.

What I did not realize until I was done reading the book is that the author, Eleanor Atkinson, was an American who never actually visited Scotland. (So if anyone is upset with me for not doing more thorough research on that portion of our trip, I think I should win back some brownie points for at least visiting.) The story was written in 1912 and although she wrote a handful of other books, this is the one that she is best known for. The Disney version of the film is based on her version of events. Critics have argued that she didn't understand the geography of Edinburgh very well and that is a fair thing to note. Having walked the city, I was confused a bit by her placement of the castle, in particular, but for someone who had never been I think she did quite well. She is assumed to have researched the names and people directly related to Bobby's story, keeping as true to his account as possible. Obviously she embellished the tale a bit with the use of her imagination but that is to be expected of any author.

While this story is thought a great one for children (and it is) I had a hard time reading it even as an adult because she wrote dialogue using a Scottish accent. Here's the example that Wikipedia provides to give you an idea of what I mean:

"I wullna gang to the infairmary. It's juist for puir toon bodies that are aye ailin' an' deein'." Fright and resentment lent the silent old man an astonishing eloquence for the moment. "Ye wadna gang to the infairmary yer ainsel', an' tak' charity."

Because of this, I had a really hard time working my way through the story. I found myself skimming past dialogue, hoping to pick up enough out of the conversations between characters to track with the events until I could get back to the narrative. I can't imagine this being an easy read for a middle schooler (although not impossible). I confess that I will never attempt this book as a read aloud. The story is interesting enough but it doesn't feel accessible. I suspect that watching the movie is going to be the easiest way to educate one's self about this remarkable dog. I'll have to let you know whether that is true because now that I've read the book, I am permitted to watch the movie. (*wink*) I am very curious to see the Disney film now.

For more information about Greyfriars Bobby, check out this website. It is a rather interesting tale.

If you want to learn more about Greyfriars Kirkyard, there are plenty of videos available through Youtube that will broaden your knowledge of this small portion of the globe. Our family spent some time wandering about the graveyard (because apparently J.K. Rowling named some of her famous characters after names she found on tombstones at this site!), While I like wandering around graveyards as a general rule, I have to tell you this one was a little creepy. It wasn't until I was doing a bit of research for this post that I discovered why I felt the way I did about it. If you're curious, see Youtube. Videos there range from informative to downright spooky!

Have you read this story? I'd be curious to know, if so!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Middle Grade Fiction (That I'll Take a Pass On)

Alright, I know the title of this post is harsh and I'm sorry. Harsh, I know, has a tendency to hurt people's feelings and I don't really care to do that unnecessarily. Books can be very personal things that we identify with closely and I've discovered a fair number of people who really take it to heart when you say that you do not care for a particular book that they themselves love. Such may prove to be the case with the following two titles but, ultimately I have to confess that I just didn't care for them, for various reasons.

I've mentioned that this year I'm involved in a little project which requires that I spent a lot of time reading Middle Grade fiction released in 2016. This should help to explain the increase of this genre being featured around these parts. Bear with! Both of following titles are due to be released here shortly and I received both for review purposes.

In the case of The Bicycle Spy, I have to say that I really wanted to love it. Written by Yona Zeldis McDonough, this book is set in France during World War II. It tells the story of young Marcel who dreams of one day riding in the Tour de France. At the time the book opens though, we meet him making deliveries of bread from his parent's bakery on his bicycle. It doesn't take too long for him to become suspicous as to why his parents are having him deliver so much bread and he rather quickly discovers that his parents are part of the French Resistance. Quicker still, he confesses to his parents that he knows what they are up to and he becomes involved in their plans and movements.

I like what McDonough is trying to do this book. She is hoping to share with her young readers a brief history of World War II and what life looked like in a French household during the German occupation. This is all well and good, but as an adult reader I found the tale less than convincing. Her writing style just flat out didn't appeal to me. The only way I know to describe it is to say that it was "simple", lacking artistry. I found Marcel's activities unbelievable and his internal thought processes too mature for the age of his character. He just didn't work for me and so I found the majority of the story a bit eye-rolling, I am sorry to say.

Again, I love the idea for the story but it felt too stilted somehow and lacking in depth.

I know it seems rude to say thank you to Scholastic Books for sending a copy of The Bicycle Spy my direction but I am grateful for the opportunity to read it, even if I didn't particularly care for. I wish to assure the general public that I received no additional compensation for this review and that all of my opinions are 100% my very own.


Secondly, I was sent a copy of The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes by Wade Albert White. Let me say that I find the cover art incredibly attractive and the title quite intriguing. I was very excited to launch into this one . . . and was very quickly disappointed by it.

This book tells the story of young Anne, an orphan who lives under a cruel and terrible guardian at a home for "Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children." The day before her thirteenth birthday she is rescued from her life situation and accepted into a school by a Wizard counsel. (Wait. Wait. Where have I heard this idea before?) I got about 100 pages into the story before I couldn't take it anymore, whereupon I skimmed a few chapters in the middle and read the final two to discover this is the first story in a series of books. This bit of info should strike fear into your very hearts and minds.

Unlike other authors who have written about orphans and wizards, White doesn't appeal to the best in his reader. I felt very much as if he assumed I couldn't (or wouldn't?) track with his storyline unless he provided a laugh a minute. If I wanted to be super fair to him, I'd say our senses of humor simply do not jive and so we just could not connect. White is a bit over the top for my tastes and, in my (ever) humble opinion he dumbs down his verbiage and tries to be too clever by being overly flippant which I found unbearable annoying. The best way I know how to describe his writing style is to quote him:

"Sorry I dragged you into all of this," said Anne suddenly, "I thought we were heading off to a wonderful adventure, not getting dropped into the middle of a horrible one."
"Are you kidding me?" said Penelope. "This is the best thing that's ever happened to us. I mean, yeah, okay, so whacking my head on the drawbridge hurt a lot, and the zombie sharks and the iron knights were all kinds of terrifying, and I was unconscious for part of the time, and research is boring and makes me sleepy, and I thought we were finished for sure when those suits of armor attacked us and then that rope bridge broke. And of course, the thought of falling off these steps in our sleep is scary beyond belief, and who knows what we're going to find at the top of this tower, and sure, if we fail miserably, we'll spend our formative years stuck in a dungeon somewhere. But, you know, other than that, I'm having the time of my life."

Maybe someone else out there would revel in passages like this (on every page) but I couldn't. I was in all out forehead smacking territory by the time I read about the cat named Her Royal Highness Princess Fluffington Whiskers of the Mousetrapper Clan.

I'm going to take a pass on this one for sure and you won't find a recommendation for it in me. If you think you can stomach it though, be my guest!

This is a horrible point in the review process to say "thanks" to L-B Kids for sending a copy my direction. I'm sure this wasn't the type of review that they were hoping for. Everyone should rest at ease in knowing that I did not receive any additional compensation for writing this and the opinions expressed are 250% my very own. I invite you to second and third opinions! In the words of LaVar Burton, "You don't have to take my word for it!"

And that, as they say, is that.

Boy, this is a Monday post if ever there were one, isn't it? Sorry.

Moving on then . . . 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Seventeen, by Booth Tarkington

Seventeen, by Booth Tarkington was my in-town bookclub's reading choice for the month of July. (I've held back my review a bit because we were delayed in getting together to discuss it.) It was supposed to be a light and jolly summer read and I can see how it would be perceived and marketed as such. I'm afraid I'm gaining a bit of a reputation for being a really snarky reader who nitpicks too much. But in the case of Seventeen, I think I have some room to nitpick.

This is the first Booth Tarkington book which I have read and despite my feelings towards it, I still have plans to read another. (That's because I'm already in possession of Penrod so I feel I ought to go ahead and read it but I am going to go with a two strikes and you're out if Tarkington annoys me again.) I feel, in part, that I shouldn't be completely annoyed with the author because he did win a Pulitzer Prize - twice - in his lifetime. I do realize that this is a reason to respect him but world accolades have never stopped me from disliking a person before. Unfortunately I think my not liking Seventeen boils down to the fact that I don't like Tarkington.

In the book Seventeen we meet the insufferable William Sylvanus Baxter, who is referred to frequently as "Seventeen" not so much to name him as to offer a description. William Baxter is the sort of character who you might say has been struck with more than a bit of 'moonstruck madness' and who goes about the place 'pitching and mooning'. He is in the height of his teenage prime when he meets Miss Pratt, a girl who is visiting some friends in the town where he lives. Miss Pratt is equally insufferable as she seems extremely unable to speak the King's English. She engages with others only through "baby talk" which can cause you to want to gauge your eyes out or cut your ears off. Anything to stop the madness can begin to sound agreeable! William and Miss Pratt are quite the pair, singing about love, talking about love, looking down on creation. The point of the book is most definitely to make fun of the immaturity of teenagers but as I don't really enjoy this behavior in real life, I certainly did not enjoy reading about it in my spare time. Surely I can see the humor that was intended but the length caused it to be more of a reading chore than anything else. Personally, I think this book would have worked better as a short story. In fact, I discovered after finishing the book that it began as a series of short stories which were combined into a book. Apparently Tarkington couldn't leave well enough alone.

There was one - and only one - character that I really loved and that was the character of Mr. Parcher. Miss Pratt was visiting the Parcher family so any of her potential young suitors would come calling at the Parcher home. Mr. Parcher really had a time of things, having to endure the idle chatter and inane speech of the young folk. There is a chapter wherein Mr. Parcher is writhing in agony as he is forced to overhear the chatter between William and his lady love. Tarkington writes:

"And when the galled Mr. Parcher wondered how those young people out on the porch could listen to each other and not die, it was because he did not hear and had forgotten the music that throbs in the veins of youth."

I confess I had to set the book down I was laughing so hard at that line. It expressed the way I was feeling about the main characters precisely.

"Love," William continued, his voice lifting and thrilling to the great theme - "love is something nobody can ever have but one time in their lives, and if they don't have it then, why prob'ly they never will. Now, if a man really loves a girl, why he'd do anything in the world she wanted him to. Don't you think so?"
"Ess, 'deedums!" said the silvery voice.
Despite Tarkington's ability and desire to go on and on and on (and on and on) about the silliness that is youth I might still have liked him but for one major issue: his racist attitude.

I would like to pause here and point out that there are very few people that I would label as being racists. (Thoughtlessness is probably more rampant a problem than racism, which is not to say that the later doesn't exist because that would be a foolish declaration all its own.) The reason I hesitate to label anyone racist without certifiable just cause is because I feel that has become a label which  is overused and overplayed. As a result, I tend to shy off in making use of it. In order to agree that any one individual is a racist I need to see good reason and solid proof. Some people will argue that I move too slowly in using the word but I think a bit of caution is wise in this modern world in which we are all about the business of taking offense. Also, my hesitation comes from having some people label me a "racist by association" which I find completely ludicrous and is a charge I find both offensive and very, very hard to take seriously. I struggle to think anyone would say and/or think such a thing about me. (This is especially the case if you know my family and have seen a picture of us. For those of you who haven't, I'll give you a hint: we aren't all white!) Since I know this to be a term misapplied to myself I really hesitate to use it on others. With this disclaimer, I still have to say that Tarkington is racist.

Now, to be fair, I think I must point out that Seventeen was published in 1916. There are certain books that you can read read from an earlier time period in history and find black people in positions of employment and/or who are treated as 'lesser thans' and not feel so very disturbed because you, as a reader, have a grasp of history. We don't just stop reading certain books because of the time period during which they were written! There is a way which authors can treat their black characters which leads you to understand that they were writing from experience and personal witness and that is all. You don't read it and fault them for their opinion so much as you understand that they are a product of the times in which they lived. These types of writers I can thoroughly accept. Tarkington is harder to swallow because he writes of the black man has a worthless creature. His attitude is much more clearly one of condescension and superiority and, to be frank, I absolutely could not stomach it. Although Tarkington writes to be funny, he just wasn't because his view of mankind was completely screwy. It is very clear that Tarkington did not think kindly of his fellow black man and communicated his worldview in such a way that I felt quite uncomfortable. Truthfully, Tarkington made me flat out angry. I did a surface level investigation of his positions and discovered he's been called a "casual racist". I understand the description but it doesn't make it any better. If this is how Tarkington writes of his fellow man than I really can't say that I want very much to do with him.

Seventeen is definitely not going on my re-read list. As I say, I'll give Penrod a go only because I already own it. But if it's anything like Seventeen then I'm very done with Tarkington.

Again, I can see how other people might be able to read this book and see only the humor. (I mean, I can sort of see it with the help of my fantastic imagination.) Maybe other people can get beyond Tarkington's state of mind regarding blacks but I just absolutely could not. It's not very often I'm so disgusted by an author, but I found Tarkington over the top and wouldn't make a habit of recommending him to others. Like I said, I'll give Penrod a go but if I find more of the same I'm likely to become an Anti-Tarkington reader all the way. I think in some ways, I already am.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Still Glides the Stream, by D.E. Stevenson

It was time for me to indulge in some D.E. Stevenson again. After all, it had been a few months! I went to an estate sale about a month ago and discovered the former owner of the house had very similar taste in books to my own. There I found one lone Stevenson book upon the shelf which I snatched up immediately.

As an aside, I've been to a few estate sales recently where from the moment I walked into the house I knew that I was in a friendly place. The dishes were designs that I liked, the books were ones I had read or would want to read and other quirky things that make me both interested in and sad about the sales. In those instances, I didn't feel like I was purchasing things from a stranger, but rather that I've been gifted them by someone who would have been my friend, if that makes any sense at all. I feel like something has been passed down for me and mine to enjoy instead of simply "discarded." Does that make sense? Apparently I just needed to share that thought. Bear with me.

As I was saying, I brought home Still Glides the Stream a few weeks ago but this past week have been down and out with a cold. I find that a D.E. Stevenson book is perfect medicine when sick. Per usual, I was drawn into her story within the first chapter and proceeded to devour and enjoy the entire book in short order. Stevenson makes for such easy reading.

Still Glides the Stream is set in a small town on the Scottish border post-WWII. We meet the main character, Will Hastie, right away, as he is returning to his childhood home and estate after retiring from the Army. He quickly settles back down on the land that he loves, picking up an old friendship with the neighbors straight away. As a young boy,  he used to play with a brother and sister duo in the neighboring estate. The brother, Rae, was killed in action during the war but his sister, Patty is still living at home with her parents. Will discovers very little changed about the neighbors except that they are still mourning the loss of their son and brother and that Patty is engaged to be married to a cousin of hers. Add to the story a mysterious letter from Rae to Patty that was mailed before his death and we have ourselves a plot line.

Now, this is a D.E. Stevenson story and so it's all's well that ends well. There's nothing particularly stunning about the read - it's just pleasant! Stevenson is incredibly predictable (this makes her an excellent author to want to read when you aren't feeling so great and/or you just want to relax with a book) but she did throw a moderate surprise at me towards the end which was a pleasant surprise. As I'm typing out the fact that Stevenson is a predictable author, it occurs to me that L.M. Montgomery is the same and I'm starting to wonder at what it is that makes me love both of these female authors so very much. Both are good students of human nature and know how to write out both the thoughts and dialogues between characters in a believable fashion. They both add just a touch of humor to their tales, which I think matches up with real life being a serious business but with a laugh around the corner when you need one. I think I also am drawn to the fact that they tell their stories at a relaxed pace, allowing the reader to just sit back and take in the story. Both authors also love their homeland which is something I find terribly appealing. They take me out-of-doors, so to speak, and I can picture the surrounding in my mind's eye. They both appeal to the beauty which can be found in this world, All of these things contribute towards my like of them. Whatever it is that draws me to them, I like them for it and inevitably close their books with a smile on my face.

If you've not yet read a D.E. Stevenson book, do! Still Glides the Stream is a great one to start with.  It's hard to go wrong with Stevenson or Montgomery though so if you need a lazy book for a lazy day, look into one of these authors! They are sure to please.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Paper Wishes, by Lois Sepahban

Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban is a beautiful treasure of a story. Set in World War II, it tells the story of ten-year-old Manami and her Japanese American family. Manami and her family live on Bainbridge Island off the coast of Washington state until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. As the armchair historians among you will recall, after Pearl Harbor Americans were suspicious of Japanese (and Asians in general). To preserve a sense of safety, the government allowed for the removal of Japanese American families to internment camps for the duration of the war. Such is the case with Manami's family in this piece of historical middle grade fiction.

Paper Wishes begins after the attack on Pearl Harbor has taken place and tracks life with fictional families for the following year of upheaval and change as they are moved from the island to the Mojave Desert in California. Sepahban describes this experience to her readers chiefly through the characters of Manami, her parents, and her grandfather. Manami also has a brother and sister who are both away attending college in the Midwest. Through this family, the reader comes to understand how the internment camps effected entire family units and individual lives through use of creative story telling.

Manami's family was given six days' notice before they were to be transported to the camp. They weren't told where they were being sent, they were only told that they could bring one suitcase each. Manami's mother packs and repacks their suitcases, deciding which clothes to take, which family heirlooms are important to hold onto, and has to think about what dishes they need to bring along to use for meals. Manami and her grandfather both share a special love for the family dog which they are required to say goodbye to, for dogs were not initially allowed into the camps. Leaving her dog Yujiin behind ends up causing Manami the most emotional distress, ultimately leading to such grief that she finds herself unable to speak. People in the camp understand her grief and it is generally understood that she cannot talk due to the stress and the pain of relocation and loss of home and normality. We understand Manami's thought processes, but her voice is removed from the story as it progresses.

Through Sepahban's characters the readers come to understand how schooling was arranged for the children in the camps, how gardens were attempted, what jobs people might have taken on, and generally how life was lived in this bizarre captivity. Paper Wishes is a brilliant introduction to this period in American history. Although the treatment of the Japanese Americans can clearly be deduced as being unjust and unfair, Sepahban is not here to present a political argument. She tells her story with grace and humility, wanting us to understand and love the characters for their own sake. This, I found, was easy to do. I appreciated her straight forward manner of story telling which allows the readers to draw their own conclusions, avoiding any forced ideas or political arguments. The story speaks for itself, exactly as it should.

Paper Wishes is a quick read for adults (it took me all of an hour and a half to consume). It should make for easy reading for burgeoning readers. I borrowed a copy from the library but I'll be purchasing my own to have in our home library. It's worth owning.

If you are looking for a way to introduce your children to the plight of Japanese Americans during the war, I doubt you'll find a better story with which to do so. Beautifully told, this book is a memorable winner of a tale.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, by Jonathan Auxier

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard is the second in an apparent series of Peter Nimble books by author Jonathan Auxier. If you haven't read the first one (I had not) there's no need to fret. Although Peter Nimble features heavily in this tale, Sophie is the main character and Peter is more of a sidekick. Auxier weaves Peter's story into Sophie's, providing just enough background to make you want to run out and purchase the first title but not so much that you feel lost by this present tale.

I checked out a copy of Sophie Quire from the library and enjoyed it thoroughly precisely because of that. My regular readers are likely familiar with my general discomfort when it comes to checking out books from the library. (Why, you ask? Fees! I can't ever seem to get a book back in time!) In fact, when I went to check out this title and some others, I discovered that my card had expired and there was a little matter of fines. (Sigh.) I used the receipt they gave me as a bookmark so as to better remember when my books are due back! That all explained and squared away, let's get back to my thoughts about this book, shall we? As I said, I liked it because it was a library book. If I were to have bought it, I think I would have been a bit disgruntled by some of the content and would have liked it less. Because it was read on loan, without any (really big) cost to myself, I could relax and enjoy it and that is exactly and precisely what I did.

Sophie Quire mends books in her father's bookshop in the town of Bustleburgh. Her mother died when she was but a baby and she lives alone with her father surrounded by what she loves best - books! In the town of Bustleburgh there lives a man named Prigg who desires nothing more than to rid the world of "nonsense" and who is slowly and methodically removing all signs of magic from the land. One of the things Prigg wishes to eradicate is books because books, as anyone can tell you, are magic and therefore "nonsense" and therefore dangerous. Enter: Peter Nimble. He delivers a book to Sophie for her safe keeping entitled The Book of Who. This is one of four magic books (Where, When, and Why being the others). The Book of Who is to be safeguarded by Sophie who is also charged with collecting the four volumes from their hidden locations and bringing them together again. As she discovers, these four book are more magical than most and her attempts to collect and protect involves a great deal of danger. It would appear that her own mother was murdered as a result of these books and one of Sophie's additional missions is to discover who committed the murder.

Sophie Quire and the last Storyguard is an adventure story extraordinaire. Auxier has a very engaging writing style which draws his reader into the tale. His sense of humor definitely appealed to me, as did his insights into the world of books, stories, and what makes us love them. This is an altogether fun and imaginative read.

I had only two qualms with the story which cannot go unmentioned. Both Sophie and Peter are both twelve years and there is a great emphasis placed on the idea that they have a crush on one another. Many of the other characters in the book tease them about being boyfriend and girlfriend and, while I totally understand that this is an age where crushes are becoming the norm, I'm not impressed with the focus all the same. I find the idea of twelve year olds having significant others completely absurd. There is plenty of time in life for such matters but I don't think we really need to kick such ideas into gear in children so young, so I would offer a caution as to this content to the parents who agree with me. (You might not agree with me and that's ok. I'm good with my opinion even if it isn't yours.)

Similarly, I have a concern with the character of Madame Eldritch who is a person of suspicious motives throughout the story. It is hard for the reader to tell if she is good or bad but in keeping with modern story telling, Auxier would seem to want us to deduce that bad conduct and bad character can have good intentions and therefore be good. Which, when you think that idea through for about one minute you're forced to come to the conclusion that that can't possibly be correct. Bad character and bad behavior display a person's heart motive and do not in any way express goodness. I will agree with Auxier that someone who "starts off" bad can become good but the becoming involves a great deal of character development with a healthy dose of repentance. Repentance is not a part of the equation with Eldritch so I have a hard time buying the fact that I'm to like her "badness" in order to successfully confuse it with "goodness." Good is not bad, it is good. Bad and good are mutually exclusive and in order to show signs of redemption you can't just have your character do something that you like for sympathetic reasons. Bad is bad because good is good. That's how it works. Sympathy is a bad reason to like bad things. Eldritch's character spends the entirety of the book thwarting the plans of Sophia only to have a slight turnabout at the end which I found utterly unconvincing. Add that to the fact that Eldritch also encourages risqué dress and manners for the express purpose of catching the attention of men, I found her a rather concerning and distasteful influence in my middle grade fiction.

As a result of the above two concerns, I won't be handing this title over to my own son who is the right age to be reading this. (This, assuming there is a "right age" to enjoy a piece of middle grade fiction which I don't believe there is.) As an adult, I enjoyed it thoroughly. He can make his own judgement call on this book later but for the present we're going to discourage romantic relationships and suggestions that seduction should be used for manipulation purposes. That being said, I think Auxier is a fun adult read and I fully intend to pick up the first Peter Nimble book to preview for Bookworm1. If that title is a little more free of innuendo and pre-teen romance then I'd love to hand it over to him.

In conclusion, at one point in the story Auxier is explaining the concept of a Royal Storyteller. Auxier writes:

"Should you ever be so lucky as to encounter an author in your life, you should shower her or him with gifts and praise."

From my review you might assume that I have more negative feelings about this book than positive ones but you would be wrong. I was royally entertained by a terrific storyteller and I offer this book up for the consideration of others who are free to make their own decisions with regards to the issues I've raised. These things which are issues for me might not be issues for you and that is totally fine. As an adult, I found this story extremely entertaining and wonderful. I'd feel remiss if I didn't list my concerns as I think honesty is the best policy, but this does not preclude anyone else (or their children) from full enjoyment of it.

Many, many thanks to Jonathan Auxier for the good time and also to my library for giving me another go. (Ha!)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge (2016) :: Conclusion

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge

Yet again we've reached the end of another Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge which I hold each year here at Reading to Know during the month of July. If you missed this go around, fret not! There's always next year and I'll continue hosting until I weary of reading Narnia (i.e., never). There'll always be a second chance for you and yours with this challenge!

If you did read Narnia, or anything about C.S. Lewis, or experienced something related to Narnia and wrote up a blog post about it, now is the time to share it. You can leave a link to your blog post(s) in the comment section below.

As for what my family managed to accomplish within the month of July this year:

I'm grateful for every little bit. Truthfully, if I didn't set aside a month specifically to focus on some aspect of Narnia, I don't know that I'd get to it. It's a series that I would be sorry not to immerse myself or my children in, so further up and further in we go!

Looking forward to hearing what journeys you might have had into Narnia this year if you "played along" with me!
Top  blogs