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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Stickypost!

For standard disclaimer, blog rating information, and comment policy, go here or to the comm profile page.

Liveblogs are linked to titles, reviews to the "# stars". Asterisk denotes a book I think should have won the Newbery Medal, whether it did or not. Free online editions are linked in parentheses if available. Bold means previously read, not reviewed yet. Strikeout means unavailable to me except through interlibrary loan. Italics mean I couldn't finish. Plus sign means not a Newbery winner or Honor Book (usually added because another book from the same series or by the same author is on the list, e.g. Little House on the Prairie).

cut for length )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: Ten-year-old Lucinda Wyman spends roughly a year in New York City, living with her schoolteacher Miss Peters while her parents have gone to Italy for the winter due to her mother's poor health. She befriends all sorts and conditions of (mostly white Christian) people while traveling all around the city on the titular roller skates.

Reaction: I genuinely do not know what the fuck to do with this book. It's unique, and weird as hell. It starts with a now-adult Lucinda (though that's deliberately not made clear) meeting her past self. I don't know that I buy the framing conceit of adult!Lucinda having completely forgotten all the friends and incidents in the book until past!Lucinda reminds her to reread her old diary, but it sure is a hell of a conceit.

I think if I had to pick one word to describe this book, I'd go with "daring". It's aggressively anti-classist, though casually racist in the way it ignores its black servants, and its one Jewish character is very strongly implied to have murdered his wife. It's structurally very odd -- you don't expect, when your heroine discovers the murdered body of a friend, to not have any investigative follow-up after she reports the matter, just her own internal attempts to deal with tragedy. There's no overarching plot, but it's so extremely unlike the standard "cozy" string-of-incident books it superficially resembles that I just... straight-up do not know what to do with it. How to file it in my head. Anything.

It reminds me, for some reason I cannot pin down, of Island of the Blue Dolphins. I don't know why! They're nothing alike! But there's something in the tone, the feel it gives me. Perhaps it's the ending, the bittersweetness of leaving this independent existence which was not always happy but was always good. The feeling, explicitly stated here, that our heroine has left a ghost of herself in this time and place, maybe? I don't know. I'm thinking (for reasons I cannot articulate) of this cover on my childhood edition of IotBD, and of Rontu, and of the creepy underwater cave of the ancestors. I don't have answers, so I'm giving you impressions.

Rating: Three stars. I think it might be Literature, though far more avant-garde (I keep wanting to say Art Deco) and perplexing than Hitty; I don't think I liked it, and I'm extremely glad I didn't read it as a child, but it sure as hell made an impression; I docked it a star for the racism, and one because Uncle Earle skeeved me out so badly. Not in a sexual way, I think, but the only word I have for his relationship with Lucinda is "grooming". For what, I don't even know.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
So this is one of the Newberys people have heard of, I think. I've never read it and know very little about it. My bio-incubator insisted there's a traumatic incident where our young heroine finds an elderly friend dead in bed, but she also always insisted the fireworks scene from "Gray Dawn" was actually in "Beautiful Joe", so we'll just see, that's all.

let us investigate )

* I don't even know what the shit to do with that. I have literally no idea. O_O Part of me feels like it might be Literature, and part of me feels jumbled-up and peculiar. Perhaps it'll make more sense in the morning. That's a hell of a thing, for sure.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: A boy named Garram is BETTER THAN EVERYBODY, either in his home village among the central Nigerian hills or in the nearby Muslim-controlled town. He demonstrates this through a series of adventures.

Reaction: Well, this book does have one redeeming quality, which is that nobody talks in horribly stereotyped "eye dialect". I think this may be the first Newbery in which a black character talks proper English (though only as a translation of his native language). For the rest, though, it reminds me painfully of Charles Boardman Hawes -- the conflation of embarrassment with humor, the lack of consistent characterization, the way everybody kind of obviously lands in whatever position the puppet master decided would make Garram look coolest, the way even the laws of physics bow before our hero. Oh, also a lot of Haha Funny Stupid Muslims shit, idek.

Rating: Uhhhhh. Zero stars? I did get through the whole thing, but it was pretty painful. Like, in what universe does it make sense to forcibly dye your nemesis indigo before sending him home? Not in any way where the punishment fits the crime, either. Just, "haha I will stick you in a dye vat all day and have an entire town laugh at you, cos I'm the HERO!" *headshake*
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Oh look, one of my interlibrary loans has arrived! Let's see what it's like. :D

social studies fiction ahoy! )

Jesus motherfucking Christ, what WAS that? O_O
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: A scholarly biography of Davy Crockett, intertwined with a selection of the contemporary stories and legends about him, aimed at middle-grade kids.

Reaction: I mean, I'm not being as harsh on this as I am on a lot of Newberys. Still and all, it's a childhood favorite that the Suck Fairy hasn't visited. :-) The writing and structure is genuinely really good, and like a lot of the best historical writing, it gives a really good sense of the atmosphere along with the facts. I mean, this is the book that established for me how you write history, it's not like it was going to come up lacking by that standard. ^_^

Rating: Five stars. Actually really good, I highly recommend reading it, though obviously there's also a nostalgia factor here for me.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
It's harder to liveblog rereads, because I have Opinions about them. Also, I've owned and loved this book since I was three. (I was a precocious child.) So, yeah, I might be cutting this one some slack. ^_^ Still and all, it's a legitimate scholarly biography that includes tall tales entertaining enough to hold a toddler's attention, how often does that happen? :-)

I haven't read this in a few years, let us hope the Suck Fairy has not visited )

This book has influenced me more than any other single book I've ever read, and I think I would even include Lord of the Rings in that assessment. It's absolutely worth reading if you can get ahold of it, especially if you have any interest in folklore.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: A class of nine-year-olds from a Dutch school go on a day-long skating trip with their teacher.

Reaction: Well, that was a lot more action-packed than I expected. :-) Also a lot longer -- it's almost a novelette, not a picture book. The pacing is excellent, as is the sense of place, and the preteen boys who form most of the Plot act like preteen boys. The girls didn't seem to add much to the story at all, though, and Afke seemed a lot younger than her twin brother Evert, to whose adventures and mishaps she spent most of her time reacting.

Rating: Three stars. If the girls had had more to do (i.e. anything at all) I might have given it four. The art is also fantastic.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
As far as I'm aware, this is another author-illustrator's picture book, shoehorned into the Newberys because the Caldecott wasn't yet a thing. (The Caldecott will start up in 1938 and take most of these off our hands.) At least it's available online, so you can follow along and form your own opinions about the pictures. ;-)

here we go then )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: Traditional life in a Bulgarian village. Also a boy named Dobry has artistic talent, falls in love with the only available girl, and ends up going off to art school.

Reaction: It's clunky. I'm not sure if the prose is bad or just... I'm going to pull my favorite(?) line here: "[He looked] at the grandfather with the questioning wonder everybody feels when he sees a really living person who warms other people with that spark of God he always keeps burning in himself." I don't even know what's happening here, okay. ^_^ Nobody sounds like a human being, but -- well, it's a ride. :D

Rating: One star. I dislike Dobry as a character, the book isn't progressive or outstanding in any way, it's hard to follow what's happening or when anything is, and I yelled at the endgame kind of a lot. But it was entertainingly enthusiastic about whatever the hell it thought it was doing, which is more than you can say for a lot of these. *looks pointedly at The Old Tobacco Shop, still and hopefully forever the nadir of Newberys*
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
The trouble with good books is that you finish them, and then you have to read other books. ;P Oh well, once more into the breach...

back to books I've never heard of )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: Teenaged "Young Fu" (he has a full name, but nobody uses it) and his mother move to Chongqing after his father dies. The book follows their first five years in the city, during which Young Fu becomes an accomplished coppersmith, learns to read and write, and has several adventures.

Reaction: *flomps* Glory hallelujah, we are DONE with chinoiserie! :D Young Fu is a realistic teenager living in (as far as I can tell) an accurately portrayed 1920s Chongqing. Sometimes he's full of himself, sometimes he screws up, but he's a generally good kid who works hard and takes good advantage of the luck he has. I feel like he might be just a titch too modern-Western in his kind of "pssh, evil spirits" attitude at times, but it is mostly earned.

Rating: Five stars. I'm so bloody happy to have a really good book set in China that I can't even criticize it. :D And it is honestly a good book.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
I know almost nothing about Chinese history, so I started this off with some googling. Apparently this story's contemporary setting is the Republic of China (not Communist), not to be confused with the People's Republic of China (Communist). The Republic of China lasted roughly from 1912 (fall of the Empire) to 1949 (rise of Communist rule in China), although its government only gained actual control of all of China in 1928, and from 1937 onward it was focused on fighting a Japanese invasion. So this story will take place, it seems, in a sort of brief 9-year halcyon period when China is united, not Imperial, not Communist, and not particularly at war.

let's see where we go from here )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: A family of would-be homesteaders in Depression-era Wyoming get embroiled in the conflict between a heroic teacher of vocational agriculture and an evil alfalfa magnate.

Reaction: Well, it's... very 1930s, that's for sure. I might have liked it a lot better had I read it as a teenager. These days the character interactions read kind of... overblown to me, with all the main characters solidly Heroic or Villainous (until the last couple chapters when things move toward a sort of truce by way of resolution) and all the side characters split along the same lines, as Loyal to the good or Duped by the bad.

As a narrative of its own time and place, though, it is accurate as far as I can tell, and I got all the way through it -- the prose isn't bad. It might make a fairly good research resource; I just don't find it particularly compelling as a story.

Rating: Two stars. The research is solid, which is a hella relief after "The Jumping-Off Place", and the book is honestly pretty readable, just not stellar.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: A sadly disjointed collection of Irish folktales that can't decide whether it has a frame story or not. Spans a lot more eras than just the standard Fianna and Tain Bó retellings that generally fall under the head of "Irish folktales", though, and in a couple of stories explicitly references the Catholic/Protestant political split that's so much a part of Irish culture for the last 400 years, which honestly impressed me -- children's books don't usually go there at all if they don't have to.

Reaction: I wanted to love this book, I really did. I love and admire Padraic Colum and what he did for Irish literature, and "Stories from My Own Countryside" sounds like a topic he should be brilliant on, but this just falls flat. :-(

Rating: Two stars. I couldn't bring myself to go lower, and even as good as the prose truly is, it doesn't deserve higher. :-(
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
I have no idea what this is about, only that it's public domain and available here, which saves me having to wait on interlibrary loan for it. ^_^

let us adventure )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Another collection of retold folktales, this one by Padraic Colum, who's usually pretty good. Judging by the frontispiece, this purports to be a collection of tales told under a particular tree outside a small Irish village. Let's see, then.

here we go )

* I don't know. That's not a very satisfactory book. It's kind of all over the place, for all that it tries to tie the stories together with a cohesive framing narrative. :S
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: Retold tales from the Kalevala, surrounded by a frame story about the Finnish Civil War of the late 19-teens. The frame story follows a preteen boy named Vaino (presumably there should be diacriticals there, but the book uses none) and his family through the conflict.

Reaction: No suspense, a lot of "oh, war is fun and thrilling!", very little nuance, no character development at all. I didn't like it enough to finish it.

Rating: One star, because it wasn't as gobsmackingly bad as most of the zero-star offerings we've had. I don't recommend reading it, though; there are far better Kalevala retellings out there, and the frame story is boring as hell.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
And then I finished the book in the scraps of time while waiting for my interwebs to load, so the rest of this liveblog is technically more of a re-read. *shrugs*

Read more... )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Okay, so, yeah, wow. That was a hell of a year. But I'm back in stable housing now, going to college, got a car, got state-funded health insurance(!!!), ready to work on this "time management" stunt. ;-)

The library in my new area has a lot of the reliable-old-classic Newberys - Little House, Charlotte's Web - and a pretty up-to-date selection of this century's, but not a lot of the obscure 1930s ones I still haven't tackled. Rather than wait for interlibrary loans to trickle in, I think I'll first tackle what's available locally, in no particular order. We start with A Wrinkle in Time because it was part of the Banned Books Week display and caught my eye.

Read more... )

* Anyway. Where the hell was I?

* Okay, my room's enough of a wreck that I physically cannot find this book after I set it down for a minute. It's a big-assed hardback, this is untenable. I'mma go ahead and post this section of the liveblog and then clean my room. ;P

Hiatus post

Oct. 8th, 2013 10:39 pm
readallthenewberys: animated gif of Snoopy writing a story with multiple strange subplots (Default)
[personal profile] justice_turtle
Okay, posting will be irregular or possibly nonexistent till Christmas, because I'm doing Yuletide.

(Well, technically, I'm not. Yuletide proper - one story, 1000 words minimum, write it any time after October 14 - wouldn't take that much time. What I'm doing, because I overcommit to things, is writing AS MANY STORIES AS POSSIBLE between now and Christmas... and of course, reviewing the books and movies and TV shows I'll be writing about. So I won't have much time to read Newberys or liveblog.)

So, yeah. I most likely won't be posting much or at all (except the Vaino review, probably) till after Christmas. We'll see what happens at that point, because I'm hoping to go back to college, but depending how my commute works out for college... yeah. :-)

Have a good autumn/spring, everybody! ^_^

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