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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Laptop screen dead. Ability to post tomorrow in doubt.
readallthenewberys: animated gif of Snoopy writing a story with multiple strange subplots (Default)
[personal profile] justice_turtle
So. The next book on this list that I actually have is Spice and the Devil's Cave, Newbery Honor 1931, available free here thanks to the University of Pennsylvania.

bad research and a lot of misogyny )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: First-person narration tells the life story of a wooden doll named Hitty (short for Mehitabel), from the time she is carved in Maine in the late 1820s to her placement in an antique shop in the late 1920s.

Reaction: This is a really well-researched, really well-written book. Hitty's narrative voice is clear, distinctive, and always in character. There were a couple spots where I questioned Ms Field's decision to write a book that would naturally include this particular naive perspective on, e.g., post-Civil-War black life in the US South; but I never questioned that, given Hitty's origins, life experience, and her personality as established from page one, the perspective was the one she would have.

(I also don't question at all that the Major Traumatic Plot Twist around the 40% mark was a deliberate stylistic decision. It was obviously deliberate, and it works. It could have felt like Before The Twist and After The Twist were two separate books jammed together in an accidental train-wreck, but it doesn't. I may feel that it was a fairly upsetting stylistic plot choice - this is one of those books like Watership Down that should carry a warning, "Do not assume this book is appropriate for sensitive children just because it's about [a doll/rabbits]", although unlike Watership Down it is for mature kids rather than for adults primarily - but it makes the book what it is, and I can't argue with that.)

Conclusion: Four stars, because I don't want to give five to a book whose portrayal of non-white people I do dispute, on a Doylist level if not a Watsonian one. But this book did very, very definitely deserve the Newbery Medal it won. This is children's literature in the highest sense of the word.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
So. Hitty.

This is a really hard book for me to liveblog. It "seem[s] a bit above my likes and dislikes", to quote JRR Tolkien. It's... it's Literature, I guess, in a way that the other Newberys so far have not been: I can interrogate the text all I want, but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what I or anyone else thinks of it. The book stands alone.

but it's still a Newbery and I still have to deal with it )

...okay, you know what? I give up. This book has defeated me. It took me forty minutes to write the section above, and that covers four pages. It'd take me most of a forty-hour work week to finish the book at that rate. I'm not enjoying it enough to do that.

So I'll just run through a quick chapter-by-chapter summary of the plot here, with some Thoughts where appropriate.

summary and Thoughts )

DONNNNNNNNE DONE DONE DONE DONE!!!!! :D I skipped so many details. This is a long book. It's only 207 pages, about half the length of a lot of 1920s Newberys, but it's so very tightly packed! O_O
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Things are going much better now, but I didn't have any posts prepared for today, so Read All the Newberys will return next week. Thank you for your patience. :-)
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
No post this week. Life is lifeing at me and I can't Newbery. Hopefully I'll be back next week.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
I AM DONE WITH THE 1920s FOREVER. *whew*

...and for the first time ever, I've given five stars each to two books from the same year. Cool!

1929 )

I honestly can't decide which of those last two books I'd award the Newbery Medal for 1929, if it were my choice! On the one hand, Millions of Cats is a perfect choice to win the medal named after the man who created The Little Pretty Pocket Book. On the other hand, Tod of the Fens should absolutely be up there with Island of the Blue Dolphins and The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler among Newbery Medal winners everyone's heard of. I... I may have to give these a shared Mock Newbery Medal.

Anyone out there have any votes on the matter? :D (You can read Tod of the Fens online for free, and any library in the US should have Millions of Cats, though I can't speak to other countries. Canadians, Brits, Australians - I'm curious now, do your local libraries stock Millions of Cats?)
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: The story takes place just after the American Revolution, and follows three protagonists - a shipyard owner's young heir, a fugitive French revolutionist, and a young sailor-lad - in their twin quests, first, to save a New England town's failing economy via the two-year voyage of a trading ship carrying trade goods ventured by all the townspeople, and second, to discredit the traitorous townsman who SABOTAGED the economy out of jealousy for the shipyard owner! ...yes, it really is presented as that Dramatic, and that easily fixed.

Reaction: I may have just plain grown out of Cornelia Meigs's writing style, but everything in this book just felt so obvious to me. Sympathize with this character! Don't sympathize with that character! Here's foreshadowing for the ENTIRE PLOT! Everything will be fixed in the end when this one Bad Person gets his just desserts! :P Not to mention all the weird segments of racism and classism scattered throughout. :-(

I'm... I know I've never liked her "boys' books" as well as her "girls' books", but I'm really starting to wonder if any of her books are as good as I thought. I'm still going to have The Covered Bridge on the Mock Newberys list, even though it'll be an interlibrary loan, because I seem to recall that being a really good book, but -- I'm revising my expectations downward. :P Which is sad.

Conclusion: No stars. I feel like I've been giving out zero stars a lot, but actually this just brings "zero" up to par with "one", "four", and "five", at five books each. And there was really nothing in the part of this book I read that I would give a star for.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: cut for spoilers )

Reaction: On the one hand, I was really epically impressed by the amount of detail research the author obviously did, and by the light hand with which she distributed the details to draw a clean, memorable picture. I was also massively impressed by the illustrator, Harrie Wood (definitely not the Australian civil servant), who did a full-page illustration in period style for the beginning of each chapter.

On the other hand, after a rather hopeful first chapter or two with spoilers ), the writing kind of devolved into "sympathize with THIS side!", and every single time it was the whiter side. (Except I don't know about spoilery conflict ). Was there a whiter side in that one?) Every time. I quit on the chapter about spoilery name ) the Muslim pirate, because the writing was all about how he was EVILLY EVIL and really he was a pretty cool guy. He just did his pirating at Europeans instead of at brown people, like proper European pirates do. *end ALL THE SNARK*

I learned a massive amount from all the Wiki-searching I did to check things this book was saying, though. It was packed chock-full of references to historical events and characters I'd never heard of before. I wouldn't have wanted to read it pre-Google - there wasn't quite enough background provided to help check anything - but I enjoyed it as it stood.

Conclusion: Three stars, out of five possible. It wasn't bad, it just could have been so much better, and all it would have taken is some more balanced writing. It came so close.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Before I forget - Read All the Newberys won't be posting this Monday. I've had some health issues that kept me from working on it; I'm fine now, but I'm spending the weekend working on financial issues that caught up with me while I was sick. I'll be back next week.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
...312 pages, due on Friday. Or Thursday. The library website and the interlibrary loan notice on the front of the book disagree. :P *sigh* I might need to check this one out again.

onward! -- classism, racism, the myth of the One True Passion In Life for each worker, and me getting overexcited about many things )

Sorry, Cornelia Meigs. I think I may have outgrown you. :P
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
more liveblogging )

...You know what? I'm bored. I'm bored of this book. I don't want to do the last two chapters. (There are only two, about Barbarossa and Garibaldi respectively - and I really, really don't want to hear any more about the Piratey Muslim Wickedness of Hayreddin Barbarossa.) I'm done.

At least I know who Hayreddin Barbarossa is now. ;-) It was really a fairly educational book, if by "book" I mean "source of search strings I never thought to look up before". ;-)
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Okay, let's see if I can get any further here. This book has to go back on the 18th, finished or no.

we were on top of a mountain )

...aaand it was Monday somewhere back there. What did I get, like two pages further? O_O

I now have another interlibrary loan as well, due the day after this one, so I'm going to have to put in a lot more work on Newberys this week if I want to finish either one. :P
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
I have another interlibrary loan in -- the last but one of the 1920s Newberys. :D This is called The Boy Who Was, and I know nothing about it except that I'm fairly sure it's not a predecessor to the Harry Potter series. *g*

(This concludes your Harry Potter jokes for this liveblog, as I've never actually read those books.)

to the liveblog! )

* Oof, I'm on page 10. I'm not exactly bored, but this is a lot of long work, googling all these things and putting together ideas. RESEARCH.

And it is Monday (ish - it was Monday twenty minutes ago? ;P), so I post.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: A collection of eighteen short stories and poems, previously published separately in a children's magazine, here gathered as a book and illustrated with 200 silhouettes by the author.

Reaction: Humor is a very subjective thing. Let's just put that out there. Me, for instance, I've never heard a Joss Whedon joke I unequivocally liked, but 99%1 of geeks seem to think he's the last word in humorous adventure writing.

1: 55% of all statistics are made up on the spot - including these. ;-)

So it's hard to criticize a book like this whose only stated purpose is humor. But, well, I didn't like it. I only managed to get through the first two stories, one of which was a long poem set in a "China" which only resembled any historical or traditional version of China in that the men wore their hair in braided pigtails and the women had tiny bound feet -- oh, and one character was a mandarin. ;P The other story was about a Caliph of Definitely-Not-Baghdad (this does not seem to refer to a Caliph in the specifically religious sense, the leader of a whole sect of Islamic worshippers, but to a more-or-less secular ruler of a city) who buys a clock from a Yankee con man in order that Mr John Bennett may try to write a parable on Daylight Savings Time, and fail miserably. You don't spork DST by ignoring how it actually works.

And the inherent racism in having a city full of "laughable" brown people conned by a Yankee deus-ex-machina, which left a bad taste in my mouth by itself, is followed up - in a later story (I flipped forward) about the same fictional Caliph - by an entire court of Persian astronomers and mathematicians who didn't know the earth was round. :P On which I gave up.

Conclusion: One star. I'm really tired of giving no stars to book after book, and this one's illustrations are impressively detailed and lively for silhouette-work, even though I am well prejudiced against them because of the offensive subject-matter: they started with a Chinese laundryman using his queue or pigtail as a clothesline, and didn't get any better. :P

I don't know if Mr John Bennett's older book Master Skylark, set in Shakespeare's England, is any good, but you can read it from Project Gutenberg at that link if you want a sample of his writing. ;S Like I say, humor is subjective, and he might not be as racist in Elizabethan England.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Disclaimer: The Newbery Medal and all related terms and images are owned by the American Library Association. No infringement is intended and I make no money from this blog.

About commenting: OpenID commenting is turned on. Anonymous commenting is on but screened, to discourage trolls and spammers. IP address tracking is on. If your comment includes material you can reasonably expect to be upsetting or triggering (see list below), please put a warning in your header. Please use child-safe language in comments.

This is intended to be a QUILTBAG-friendly, feminist-friendly, anti-cissexism, anti-racism, anti-classism, anti-ableism blog. That said, I am a fairly sheltered American white man of Northwest European racial extraction and fundamentalist Christian upbringing (homeschooled for purer ideology ;P), so if I say anything offensive, PLEASE CALL ME OUT if you feel up to it.

I use a good deal of fannish slang. Please speak up if my terminology is unclear, and I will happily clarify.

This blog's language is G-rated, but its themes include sex, violence, and oppression. I will always use a cut with a trigger warning for racist/sexist/otherwise offensive language, for any discussion or depiction of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse/assault, self-harm, eating disorders, drug use, or PTSD, and for the comfort of people with various common phobias or squicks (emetophobia, creepy-crawlies, injury/amputation, embarrassment squick, anything else I think of at the time). If you have something you'd like me to warn for, please speak up. If I did not put a cut over something you find upsetting or triggery, please speak up if you are able to do so, and I will cut it, no questions asked.

All polite discussion is welcome. (I love being contradicted! Yay, new perspectives! Warning: contradicting me will probably get you a long and rambly comment in which I try to figure out exactly why I said what I did and how incorporating your new perspective or information changes that. I'm not formally trained in analysis or critique, and only a little bit in logic.) Do not use offensive language about other people. Do not tell me "it's just a book" or any other form of Stop Critiquing Things.

No comment is too long or too short. "You need to google [search term] before you talk any more about [topic]" is just as acceptable / awesome as a three-page essay on the history of interracial marriage or second-wave feminism. "101-type" questions are welcome; you will receive a warning if I think these veer into trolling. Do not link people to "Let Me Google That For You" or any site with the same intent; I consider this intellectual snobbery, unkindness, and borderline derailing, and all such comments will be deleted.

Correcting my spelling, grammar, formatting, or vocabulary is very welcome. I write these posts up offline ahead of time, and unclosed HTML tags often slip through.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
I have an interlibrary loan! ...I can only assume from the title and what I can see of the front cover that this is another glowing example of early 20th century chinoiserie, like Shen of the Sea. Because cultural appropriation always makes for happy kiddie fun times, am I right or am I right?

(Huh. Maybe I've had this the wrong way round. Maybe a snarky writing tone doesn't make for more interesting liveblogs; maybe if you liveblog terrible books long enough you inexorably develop a snarky writing tone, like it or no. ;P)

Anyway. ONWARD. And, uh, downward? Certainly not upward. *dry grin*

The Pigtail of Ah Lee Ben Loo )

* You know what? I took a break to let my brain recover, and then I flipped forward, and "The Persian Columbus" begins with the "renowned Caliph Haroun Al Huck El Berri" discovering from the newspaper that Columbus says the earth is round, a thing which none of his Persian advisers and mathematicians know... and I am just done. DONE DONE DONE. I don't like this guy's sense of humor and I don't care to give this book another chance.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: cut for spoilers )

Reaction: Was... was this an experiment of some sort? Was Ms Montgomery trying to see how much irrational behavior by everybody involved she could fit into a Girls' Story? Or how much gratuitous emo!whumping it would take to make us keep sympathizing with a thoroughly dislikable protagonist surrounded by even more dislikable antagonists? WHAT IS THIS BOOK, Ms Montgomery? Was 1923 just a terrible year for children's books? I didn't expect much from Charles Boardman Hawes, but I know L.M. Montgomery could write. She just hasn't done it here. O_O

Nobody had a consistent personality. Nobody's actions made any sense. In the third of the book I managed to slog through, there was no humor and very little of the eerie or macabre - and LMM's pairing of humor and horror has always been her strongest point with me. The author kept protesting that Emily was mostly happy and mostly loved her life, but what we saw was UNRELENTING MISERY; not a speck of happiness was portrayed that did not get ruthlessly smashed in a predictable manner.

Had somebody in Ms Montgomery's life recently died? Wiki claims she suffered from depression; had she just plain run out of cheerful? Was the collapse of the post-WWI idealism bubble on which she floats Rilla of Ingleside (her previous book) getting her down? Did the demand for more stories cause her to pull out an old pre-Anne manuscript and not rewrite it sufficiently? (It reads a whole lot like the stories Anne is said to have written as a teenager, down to the heroine's raven-black hair and violet eyes.) WHAT HAPPENED?

Conclusion: No stars. I feel like I'm giving out the low ratings with a bit of a free hand here, but there was nothing in this book that I could hang a star on. Even the descriptions cloyed, and the one sympathetic character was a Magical Intellectually Disabled Person whose "disability" consisted solely of sassing at the over-serious characters, writing poetry, and occasionally going a bit psychic. I could have borne him as a 1920s portrayal of a high-functioning autistic person, but his "disability" was supposed to come from a bump on the head which materially changed his personality, and just... just, no. No.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Hitty: Her First Hundred Years keeps defeating my attempts to liveblog it - it's a very densely packed book, I could write a dissertation on it, but not in a week! - so while I figure out what to do with that, I'm stepping back a few years to 1923, the year when The Dark Frigate by Charles Boardman Hawes was the only book on the Newbery list.

In 1923, Canadian author L.M. Montgomery, already famous for the Anne of Green Gables series, published the unrelated novel Emily of New Moon simultaneously in the US and Canada. That means Emily is eligible for my "Mock Newberys of the Past" series under the same section of the Newbery rules which allowed Neil Gaiman's Graveyard Book, published simultaneously in the US and Britain, to win the 2009 Newbery. (I don't know if Emily would have been eligible at the time, but I follow modern Newbery rules throughout, not having a complete list of year-by-year changes to the Newbery rules to work with.)

Sooo I'm liveblogging Emily of New Moon as a Mock Newbery candidate opposite The Dark Frigate. MAY THE BEST BOOK WIN. ;P

and GO! ) And I am just DONE with this Emily-can-do-no-wrong, everybody's-picking-on-her, mess of a book.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: Four siblings, seventeen years old and younger, move to South Dakota to live on a homestead there for fourteen months, beginning in summer 1910. They encounter not only blizzards and hard work but evil claim-jumping neighbors. Eventually they triumph over all odds.

Reaction: I wanted to like this book. I really, really did. The first few pages were so well-written in a spare, casual, well-pruned style. And it's set in South Dakota! Land of my heart. :-)

But. :P this got long )

And then there was the bit where I flipped to the end and found the author agreeing with seriously nasty victim-blaming, and just ugh. I'm going to link the online edition for completeness, but I really don't recommend it.

Conclusion: No stars. Which is a shame. It had potential. :P

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