Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Reading List!

I did it again! For the second year in a row, I've accomplished my children's classic reading list. Yay me!

Here's the quick summary of everything I read and what I thought about it. If you care about last year's list, you can read about it here. I read the last four in one week. It just goes to show what you can do when you panic.

Kipling: Captains Courageous 12/11
Written in 1897 by Rudyard Kipling, this is the story of a spoiled 15-year old rich boy who falls overboard his ocean liner and is picked up by a passing fishing boat. The transformation his character makes over the next several months is wondrous - it's a typical do-good book from the 19th century - bad boy overcomes weaknesses to become a valuable man. Although Harvey Cheyne's transformation happened (in my mind) altogether too quickly and permanently, it was a relief to read a story about someone who makes GOOD choices and has consequences for his actions. Good book to recommend to boys, especially older ones.
 
Le Guin: A Wizard of Earthsea 6/11
Snore. I read this because I've seen it for years. Published in 1968, it reminds me very much of new-age mysticism and balderdash. I didn't admire Ged (stupid name) and couldn't really see what he did that was so special. I wouldn't recommend except to kids who really like magic and wizardry. And who don't mind stupid names like Ged.
 
Lindgren: Pippi Longstocking 3/11
I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!!!!! Pippi is a hoot and hilarious and I want to visit her and her house. She is a good person and very sensible. Admirable! Recommend to both boys and girls - perhaps the same crowd that likes Junie B Jones.
 
McKinley: The Hero and the Crown 5/11
Oh my gosh. I read in Orson Scott Card's book A Storyteller in Zion (I think?) that you cannot help but put your own era in your writing. You can't get away from the mores of the society you live in. I see it all the time in 1950's SF - they always have the men working out long math problems by hand while women make coffee and ham sandwiches in the kitchen. Anyway, this particular book was written 1985 and is very Girl Power, complete with self-esteem issues and SEX (IN  A CHILDREN'S BOOK!!!!). It was a really long book to listen to and I kept thinking we'd reached the climactic scene when another adventure would start. It's okay. It won the Newbery Medal, but I wasn't all that impressed. Girl book, definitely. 
 
Naylor: Shiloh 3/11
Another Newbery book. I hate books about animals and this is the last year I'm making myself read books about animals. Especially dogs. Sorry all you dog lovers. This is a story about a young boy from a really poor family who rescues a dog from a mean owner. It's all about how he hides the dog from his family but is found out and then has to earn the dog from the rightful (mean) owner. Everyone loves it. This is what it says on Wikipedia: Marty learns that morality is confounding and must choose between two unpalatable choices: rescuing the abused Shiloh through stealing and lying or allowing Judd to keep abusing Shiloh. Good for boys. Good for dog-lovers. 

Norton: The Borrowers 3/11
Little people live in houses and they call themselves "Borrowers" instead of thieves. They use all the stuff in our houses so they can survive. More power to them. Boring.
 
O’Dell: Island of the Blue Dolphin 2/11
Absolutely wonderful book. A tribe of people lives on this island and they decide to migrate. The girl's brother is missing from the ship that's taking them away. She jumps off and swims back to shore. The little brother (5 years old) was trying to get something he'd forgotten. And something bad happens to him that made my stomach clench and still haunts me. :( The girl survives on the island for YEARS. Apparently this is a true-ish kind of story. Excellent for both boys and girls. 
Peck: Soup 12/11
This was the last book I read - I finished in on the 30th. I *really* didn't want to read it because I hated the name and thought it was a dumb boy book (dumb book, not book for dumb boys) but it was HILARIOUS. It took me less than an hour to read and I howled at the surprising funny parts and lines in the book. I need someone else to read it, too so we can share funny lines. :) Great for boys and girls, but boys especially. I might even read the next ones in the series.

Philbrick: Freak the Mighty 3/11
The cover on this book was weird so I'd never wanted to read it, but so many kids had asked for it over the years that I told myself to read it. It was wonderful. I loved the story of the two boys and how they were both misfits who really cared about each other - I love boy friendship books that show good relationships with true compassion and real situations being handled. The story makes you cry at the end. Embrace it. Good for both boys and girls, but mostly olderish boys.
 
Rawlings: The Yearling 4/11
I dreaded reading this 8000 page book, sure it was all about the lovely happy adventures of a boy and his deer, living an idyllic life with all things happening in a carefree fairy-tale environment. HA! Nope! It helped that I listened to this on tape because I can't read in dialect and that was very important to this story. It takes place in Florida (Huck Finn era?) and is... wonderful. I was so completely wrong about it that I can't even begin to explain how it moved me. First of all, it takes place over a year, a year in which a young boy learns a ton of real lessons that actually change him in believable ways and even changed me. It was good enough that when I came to the cassette that was damaged (#10 out of 14-ish), I went ahead and checked out the book and finished it a day later. Yep. That good. There is good and bad parenting. There is friendship and death. There is dishonesty and disabilities and oh, there is a deer, the Yearling. Excellent for older boys. This boy is more admirable than Huck Finn and actually does something with himself, unlike Huckster.
 
Rodgers: Freaky Friday 12/11
I've seen both movies. I like the one with Lindsay Lohan (pre-stupid). The book, on the other hand, was a complete surprise. Remember what I said earlier about books having their time in the story? This one has parenting. There was the n-word because the housekeeper was prejudiced (and it was great to see what happened to her). There was no sex and no allusion to it. There was a mother who needed to teach her daughter a lesson. The daughter learned the lesson and was better for it. The mother did not 'learn a lesson' being in her daughter's shoes. You know why? BECAUSE SHE WAS THE PARENT AND ACTUALLY KNEW BETTER. Great for boys and girls, but mostly girls.
 
Ryan: Esperanza Rising 4/11
This book changed my life. I am so sorry for everything I've ever thought about Hispanics before I read this story. It takes place in the town next to Bakersfield (OH MY!) and I knew all the landmarks mentioned. I know the fields and crops they talk about. I was pained to read about the growing up process Esperanza had to endure and the discrimination she experienced, but I am a better person now. No wonder everyone here reads it. I had always thought the Okies got the short end of the stick. Guess there is a shorter end I didn't know of until now. Good for boys and girls. They should all read it.
 
Saint-Expery: The Little Prince 12/11
The person who wrote this must have been on drugs. I couldn't understand why everyone loves it. It was psycho from beginning to end. I did learn that you are responsible for anything you tame and that anything you tame will love you. Is that deep?
 
Sewell: Black Beauty 4/11
Again, another animal book that I dreaded. Horsies! I listened to this one and it was strange having a female voice narrate a male horse's character. I learned a lot about how horses were treated in different walks of life. Did you know that there are some harnesses that hold a horse's head so far up that it damages their necks? This type of harness, a 'bearing rein', was popular in Sewell's time and part of the purpose of this book was to make people aware of the harm they were causing to their horses. This book led to a general public awareness of the treatment of working animals. Sewell died before publication of this book and never saw how successful it was (apparently it's the sixth most popular English-published book). I read this about the funeral: "Ironically, at Sewell’s funeral her mother noticed that all the horses in the funeral procession were wearing bearing reins and she insisted that they be removed. " Duh.
 
Sharp: The Rescuers 5/11
I would have been happier if Miss Bianca had been caught in a mousetrap and eaten before page two. The story would have been better. I hate this book and wouldn't recommend it if it were the last book in the world. So there.
 
Snyder: The Egypt Game 4/11
Very 1960's. Surprising in that it mentions child murder. Okay book. Glad I read it. Don't see who would really like it unless Egyptian stuff becomes popular again. It's about a bunch of apartment kids who like Egypt and use a vacant lot to act out their imaginations about Egypt. And in the background there is a neglectful mother, a mixed-race friendship (surprising again!) and rain. Meh.
 
Taylor: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry 4/11
This is the only book I did not read through to the end. As I was listening to it (dialect again), the emotions hit me so hard and made me so fretful that I became argumentative for a week with my husband and he suggested that I just read a summary of it and let it be. Civil rights injustices hurt me way too much to read. I hate the irrationality of prejudice based on nothing real - it's like when people hate Mormons because of rumors they hear (I really do only have one mom) and say we're going to hell 'just because' (insert eye roll here). Anyway, it is a very good story, but it was too hard for me to read. Because of this experience, I am giving myself permission to skip any and all books dealing with prejudice and the Holocaust. Except for Anne Frank. I will try that one. Keep your fingers crossed I don't drive my husband away.
 
Taylor: The Cay 10/11
Surprising! I thought this was going to be one type of book and it just goes to show me (again) how much I can be mistaken! World War II time. Boy living in Caribbean with father and mother. Mother hates the island and wants to return to mainland. Father *really* disagrees with idea. Mother and boy go anyway. Boat torpedoed. Boy adrift at sea with old black man (pronounced 'mon' :) ). They end up stranded on tiny islet in the middle of an untraveled area of the ocean - no hope of rescue. The boy was hit on the head when he went over the boat and it made him blind. The story is of him and the man on the island. The man is wonderful. He teaches the boy hard, hard lessons. The boy learns. A storm comes. The man protects the boy by lashing him between the palm on the highest point of the islet (40 ft) and himself, taking the brunt of the storm. Read it to find out what happens next.
 
Travers: Mary Poppins 2/11
I have no idea where Disney got Julie Andrews' character from this book. This woman is a mean, belittling, strange person who does not engender love or devotion, yet seems to earn it. I'm glad I read it, but have no desire to read the rest of the series.
 
White: Stuart Little 3/11
Again, another mouse that should have been caught in a trap or eaten by a cat.
 Wiggin: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm 12/11
I thought this was going to be like Anne of Green Gables. It isn't. It has more real life in it. A girl who lives with poverty, isn't the best at everything, isn't pretty at all (except for her eyes), but provokes people to love her and overcomes life anyway. Sweet. Good for girls. I related to it.
 
Wrede: Dealing With Dragons 4/11
Girl power. Yay. Stupid, trite, weak, boring story. A princess that doesn't want to marry. Doesn't like the knights and princes. Whatever. DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS ON AUDIO - IT IS THE WORST DRAMATIZATION I'VE EVER HEARD. Okay for people who like light fantasies. Not good for anyone who likes real fantasy. 
 
Wright: The Dollhouse Murders 4/11
This was the first book I read. I was delighted with the story - it was real enough to be edgy, and old-fashioned enough that I envied a simpler time. Good mystery. Blood! Spookiness! Goosebumps! Good for boys and girls - especially those looking for a ghost story. 
 
Wyss: The Swiss Family Robinson 10/11
Okay, I've never seen the Disney version of this, but it couldn't be anymore unreal than this book. Don't get me wrong, I loved it! If you can suspend your disbelief in reality, this is a very good story. It was originally written as a book of natural history education for the author's children. It's about a family who shipwrecks on an island which is home to every climate and type of animal and plant on earth. That's the part you just have to go with. I thought I'd heard the audio wrong when they talked about flamingos and penguins cavorting on the beach together. Yep. Again, just go with it. It's all about making the most of every situation you are in and focusing on the learning aspect of it. It was actually rather refreshing. There were no terrible crises in the book and that's okay. Good for boys mostly. Young boys. Make sure to let them know it's all just pretend, though, and flamingos and penguins don't live in the same region on earth. Nor bison and kangaroos. It reminded me of the Garden of Eden, maybe.

1 comment:

  1. I love the fact that there's someone else in this world who loves Pippi Longstocking and well... doesn't quite like The Little Prince :)

    ReplyDelete

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