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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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[personal profile] justice_turtle
I don't think I know anything about this book, except that it's a 1930 Newbery Honor Book and that it's out of copyright (available here). So!

DISCOVERY! )

:PPPPPP I'm done. I'm just done. It's quite obvious that everything will work out fine for the Linville kids, but that I'll keep calling out unfortunate turns of phrase and weird implications bordering on the offensive, or (as here) crossing well over that border, for the rest of the book. Blah.

***********

...why did I flip to the end. WHY. Now I have icky victim-blaming defense of domestic violence ) stuck in my head. :PPPPPP
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: A Southwestern Native American toddler gets lost in the desert, makes friends with a shepherd boy, and spends the rest of the book trying to find her family again.

Reaction: Oversimplified baby-talk narration, inaccurate representation of Navajo folktales, a protagonist of an unnamed tribe that is definitely not Navajo, and it takes ten pages for anything at all to happen? Plus bonus fat-shaming and chauvinism! Must be a 1920s Newbery, huh? *dry grin*

The setting showed fairly detailed research, but the "What tribe is she? Not Navajo! What tribe is she like? Navajo!" deal really made me eyeroll; it seemed like an excuse for sloppiness. I was reasonably impressed, though, by the existence of a subplot about a white man kidnapping Native children by government sanction to make them go to White-run boarding schools and forget their culture; I've never seen that historical fact addressed in any other work of fiction. Ever.

(I don't know if that says more about my reading than it does about the state of fiction.)

Conclusion: One star. For the boarding schools subplot.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
I'm... less than optimistic about this book, because of the title. It's also out of print - I've got it on an interlibrary loan - but after Wonder Smith, Dream Coach, and Tod of the Fens (on the one hand) and The Story of White People and Shen of the Sea (on the other), I have serious doubts that the survival of a title on this list actually has anything to do with its quality. ^_^

holds nose and dives in; warning: fat-shaming )

...yeah, guess what? I'm done. I don't even care what happens in the rest of this book. Good-bye.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: In the English port town of Boston, Lincolnshire, near the beginning of the fifteenth century, three plots are getting started at once. One concerns a mysterious man who's been repeatedly sneaking into the town in different disguises; one concerns the master of customs, who has gotten (honestly) rich off export tariffs on English wool and sheepskin, but is now starting to act in favor of home industry and the expansion of England's sea power in defiance of the Hanseatic League with which he treats - all of which makes his colleagues on the town council mistrust him; and one concerns Tod of the Fens, a rogue japester, and his band of merry wastrels, who fish for their livings and befool their fellow man at every opportunity for fun. There's also a romantic subplot involving the customs master's teenage daughter. I won't spoil anything further for you. ^_^

Reaction: I was a bit dubious at first, as the book's front-loaded with a chapter full of research and set-up, and another one introducing Tod with, hm, a certain amount of confusion and obfuscation all round. But after that, things get moving at a good pace, and every one of the characters except the major villain (an evil pirate captain! :D) gets a well-rounded characterization... even the Scolding Housewife and the Noble Popinjay. This book is full of the BEST BANTER EVER - I swear, I wouldn't know Shakespeare hadn't written it if it weren't prose - as well as the BEST RESEARCH EVER. The 15th-century characterization is absolutely spot-on perfect in every particular, even to the casual belief in the supernatural with not one occurrence of "of course we 20th-century humanists know better". The clothing is perfectly accurate period, as are the ships, and the geography and even the wind directions are well researched. I can't swear to the political climate but I will lay odds it's perfect. ;-)

Plus, after their first chapter or so, the antics of Tod et alia are way less embarrassment-squicky than I had feared. The romantic subplot with the customs-master's daughter is wonderfully handled; the author works around the social necessity of arranging a marriage by letting the boy and girl meet first, and having them become fast friends so naturally that I squeed over their relationship every time they took the spotlight through the whole book. :D The town's politics and the way everyone's individual purposes interact are extremely well-drawn. And while the pirate company of Evil Germans are Evil, they're not opposed to a uniformly shining company of Englishmen (or Englishwomen), nor do they cause everything that goes wrong in the course of the book. In fact, they're a bit of a distraction. :-) And the goodness or reliability of the characters is not predicated on their social class, or even on their preoccupation with class status. In short - this has the least simplistic characterization and the least OMG 1920S I have yet seen in a Newbery, iirc. :D

Conclusion: Five stars. All in all, a truly remarkable book, and you should read it here posthaste if you have any interest in Merrie England with politics and banter and subplots and RESEARCH. :D (And if you're okay with a lot of "thou" and "shouldst", because the language is pretty accurate, at least compared to Malory. But I found it very readable. Admittedly I find Shakespeare very readable.)
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: spoilers )

Reaction: It's a fairy tale. Wanda Gág grew up on a German-speaking New England farm where Grimm's fairy tales were told regularly; when she grew up she did wonderful English translations of Grimm, but she also wrote and illustrated some excellent, high-quality fairy tales of her own. "Millions of Cats" is one. For very good reason, it's also the oldest American picture book still in print; Ms Gág's distinctive art is some of the best storytelling art, rather than merely supplemental art, I've ever seen. Every pre-reading toddler (except the ones who would be genuinely scared or upset by even this light treatment of the climactic spoiler ) incident - I've known, not to say been, kids like that) should have a board-book of this.

Conclusion: Five stars. I can't criticize Wanda Gág. It's like critiquing Richard Scarry or Dr Seuss. ^_^ MY CHILDHOOD, and objectively good enough to be a recommended part of other people's childhood too.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
This book is available online, thanks to the University of Pennsylvania's "Celebration of Women Writers" website. I don't know... anything else about it. Here we go!

spoily spoilers of spoileriness )

WARNING: if you don't want to be majorly spoiled for a lot of very good plot-twists and good writing, DO NOT READ THIS POST! Read the review instead, once I post it. Or read the book itself. *points to link at beginning of post* It's Merrie Englande historical fiction, Henry IV era, the best research and the best period mentality I have EVER EVER seen done. Ever. The best conversational banter, too, and some darn good plotting and pacing. It's a story that, except for the part where it's also totally comprehensible to the modern reader (as long as the modern reader has a high tolerance for "wouldst" and "thou" etc), could have been written contemporary to when it takes place - it doesn't even have the "of course supernatural is bosh" thing going on. O_O And there is NO SORT OF FAIL AT ALL, within the confines of historical realism - except all the Germans are evil, but she's writing in the 1920s, I can give her evil Hanseatic League Germans. *dry grin*

Seriously. If you have an interest in well-researched historical fiction, especially with mystery or romance or adventure involved, READ THIS BOOK.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
How do you liveblog a picture book you already know pretty much by heart? I DON'T KNOW. Let's try it and see! ;P

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS OF SPOILYNESS )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: cut for spoilers )

Reaction: This is a book about unpleasant people having dysfunctional relationships while terrorizing themselves and each other with punitive religion. I don't like it.

(On a different note, this is the first book on the Newbery list to have a female protagonist. It's a shame she had to be this... painfully agency-lacking little thing whose entire character development, as far as I read, centered around being manipulated by A Boy. :P The really snarky part of me wants to say, no wonder this book was recently republished by a conservative Christian publishing house....)

Conclusion: Two stars, for the admittedly very good research and well-handled stream-of-consciousness emotional evocation. The characterization is actually quite realistic too, given the background of all the characters - it's an extremely accurate portrayal of the terribly strangling way over-structured religion causes people to beat themselves up. It's just, all of that seems to be considered a good thing. Including Dencey's drastic lack of agency. O_O
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Oooh...kay. I tried to read this one before, but couldn't get past the first chapter for, if I recall correctly, personal reasons. Let's see if that's still the case.

Read more... )

Anyway, I'm done. O_O
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: Tells the story of the Gubbaun Saor, the greatest builder in all Ireland or all the world, from the time he finds his trade until his death. Retold in English from traditional Irish folk tales collected by Ms Young.

Reaction: THIS IS SUCH A GOOD BOOK OKAY. The quality of the writing! The artwork! The way all the Gaelic or near-Gaelic words are explained just enough for the reader to understand them! And the way that, despite the male-centric title, all but the very first couple stories revolve in some large part around the cleverness of the Gubbaun's daughter Aunya - who is the cleverest woman in all of Irish folklore, and that is saying a very great deal. (And the incipient misogyny in the first part of the book, when the Gubbaun bewails having "only a daughter" to leave his cleverness to, is only there to make the story work, and is smacked down well and thoroughly as soon as may be.)

Conclusion: Five stars! :D *hugs book a lot* FIIIIIIIIVE. STAAAAAAAARS.

(Why are all the good ones out of print? I don't know! :P Why did "Gay-Neck" beat this? Well, maybe because it's about India, which is much rarer than being about Ireland. And it's not like "Gay-Neck" is badly written - just incredibly slow.)
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Well, what do you know? It's another rare and expensive book! (Sorry, I'm still a little cranky about having moved away from a local library that owned all but half a dozen of the books on this list.) Not that I intend to damage any of these interlibrary loans, but the big "EXPENSIVE BOOK WARNING" banner on the cover is a little unnerving. At least this one would only be $200 USD to replace, instead of six hundred....

Read more... )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: Four unconnected short stories of children having fairy-tale-esque dreams. Very, very Hans Christian Andersen in tone.

Reaction: Story #1 seemed kind of unbalanced for the "happy" ending it was trying to have - it focused mainly on the princess's daytime unhappiness, with no prospect of anything changing in the future, and her only happiness occurring in dreams that are usually flattened the following day. The story ends on a dream, not a flattening, but it's hard to avoid the implication that the princess is in for more unhappiness after the story ends.

Story #2 was, I think, really the most realistic dream of the four. It was very neatly set up and didn't quiiiite make rational sense, but did make excellent dream-sense. I found the snowman's predicament upsetting (especially since he couldn't get anyone to listen to him, which admittedly is quite a normal childhood fear), and that again takes up a little more of the story than is quite balanced, but overall I'd say it's well worth reading.

Story #3 was eminently skippable - racist, moralistic, and just all-around WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON HERE. It's still quite reminiscent of Hans Christian Andersen, and I don't mean to imply any kind of plagiarism or anything offensive to either author when I mention The Nightingale specifically, but... it doesn't quite have the scope or panache that make The Nightingale memorable.

Story #4 was an excellent, excellent nature-personification story of the day; it should have been issued alone, with lavish full-color oil-painted illustrations in a Jessie Willcox Smith sort of style, and it should have been famous and should still be in print due to nostalgia. And it should definitely have taken the Newbery Medal over Tales from Silver Lands and Nicholas, A Manhattan Christmas Story.

But it didn't. In fact, the copyright was never even renewed, so now it's in the public domain. At least that means you can go read it here! :D Story #4 starts on Page 87, and Story #2 on page 29; there are internal links in the Table of Contents. All original illustrations are intact.

Conclusion: Four stars. I'd give it five, but story #3 was really pretty racist in a mild, unintentional, fairytale way that's (imo) kind of worse than intentional racism. :-( And there was just a tad bit of the same in story #1.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
* This is an incredibly old and fragile book. I've seen and handled worse, but never gotten them through interlibrary loan; thus I've never seen a book with a label warning me in large letters that it could cost upwards of $600 to replace, before.

* This copy was printed in 1926. It says "reissued" after the original 1924 edition; does that mean it had already gone out of print / they only did one printing and then remaindered it? I know so little about publishing. :S

Read more... )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: A live Dutch doll about eight inches tall, named Nicholas, visits a fantasyfied New York City to see the sights.

Reaction: This book could have been so, so, so good. I love "virtual tour" stories about places I've never been; if this had been a good example of that genre, I would've had no complaints.

Sadly, it's not an example of the genre at all. It belongs to the very close but distinct genre of "tour guide disguised as fiction" - landmarks aren't clearly described, just mentioned offhand, with very specific directions as to finding them "on the ground", and it's really hard to stay interested in the storyline when whole chapters consist of "they went to this really awesome little place! and this one! and this one!" with no atmosphere to give a sense of the places. It's really clearly aimed at kids who live in 1920s New York and have the ability to follow in Nicholas's sightseeing footsteps.

WHICH IS SAD. A book that did give the atmosphere of these little hole-in-the-wall shops and big department stores would be an invaluable time-capsule story for its era! There are tiny hints of time-capsule things anyway, like the NYC-dwellers counting time by the flashes of the (then brand-new) stoplight at Forty-Second and Fifth - but just not enough. :-(

Conclusion: Two stars. I'd mark it much higher, but it was clearly never intended to go beyond its own place and time, and therefore doesn't really belong on the Newbery list.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
I have finally acquired for review one of the half-dozen Newbery Honor books not even my old home library had! ALL HAIL INTERLIBRARY LOAN. XD This would be one of the 1925 Newbery Honor Books - the year of Tales from Silver Lands. (I've also got the other Honor Book from that year on request, but it's not in yet.)

this is a very old book )

I'm not going to read all the rest of this. I gave it a fair shot, 100 pages, and I see why not even my old library of completism owned it. It was a good book at the time and for the place it was written in, but it doesn't have much interest beyond that place and time.

I still would've voted to give it the Newbery above "Tales from Silver Lands" if it had had that absolute necessity of tour-books which are intended to replace rather than supplement a trip to the place: better visual descriptions, fewer El stops. :P
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
So did I mention that Slacktiverse are going to be linking Read ALL The Newberys in their weekly round-up post of ongoing media deconstructions, from this weekend on? I don't think I did. But I am very excited. Maybe freaking out a little, even. People not actually on my flist are going to see my posts! *eep and also squee*

I mean, that's what the comm is for, but... getting linked someplace with an actual readership. (No offence meant, [personal profile] pedanther.) Eek. ;-)

So for that and other reasons - such as that these are just about the only books I have handy at the moment and I've been wanting to re-read them anyway - I am temporarily ditching the timeline in order to liveblog and review Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright and (if I get through the first book in reasonably short order) its sequel Return to Gone-Away.

here be liveblog, with SPOILERS as usual )

And even though that's only one chapter, I'm going to go ahead and post, because it took me long enough to write it and there's plenty of content in. IMO, anyway. Besides, I don't want to have to rewrite the whole beginning part in order to adjust the timing of the ANNOUNCEMENT. XD
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: In the first half of the book, Prince Henry the Navigator gathers learned men and explorers to discuss the possibility of land across the ocean at a great banquet. We hear four main stories - Atlantis, Maelduin (I never heard of him before), St Brendan, and Leif Ericson. The second half of the book focuses mainly on Columbus, with a chapter on Ponce de Leon, one on the exploration of Virginia by the English, and an epilogue in which a young Martin Waldseemuller meets Amerigo Vespucci.

Reaction: Well, it's a good thing he titled it Legends And Histories. Given that qualification - it's a good book. Not quite up to Golden Fleece standards; it suffers a lot more from "then this happened, then that happened!", which I think is partly because the bits I recognize are very close translations of the original tales. The Leif Ericson chapter, especially, is just about as detailed (in a Padraic Colum writing style) as the translated-into-prose Vinland sagas that I read a few years back!

It is not entirely historical - not that I quite expected it to be. ;-) The Ponce de Leon chapter, of all things, was the one where I kept having to tell myself "it's a fairy-tale, sit back", because it's a lot more fantastical than some of the other chapters for the same time-period.

Conclusion: Four stars. I'd give it five, but by sticking so closely to the original European sources he chose, he very firmly sidesteps any questions about Spanish or English treatment of the First Nations peoples in the Americas. *frowny face* I'd like to be clear, he does try very hard to paint the First Nations people in a good light, and even gives some of their own names for places (as Guanahani for San Salvador / Watling Island) - but he also does not cast ANY shadows on Columbus and his ilk. For which I judge him. *judgey judge judge* *ilk ilk ilk* ;-)
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Yay, more Padraic Colum! :D I hope this is good. Obviously the concept - "Atlantic discovery" - is a bit inherently racist in that America had been discovered a lot of times before white people did it across the Atlantic. But... I'm hoping it'll be good apart from that? :S

hold your nose and dive in )
readallthenewberys: animated gif of Snoopy writing a story with multiple strange subplots (Default)
[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: SPOI-LERS! )

Reaction: Well, I only got through 120 pages, and I was quite happily reading Moby Dick at bus-stops before I started this project. ;P The writing is... I can find no other word for it than "hilarible". The book reads like it was written by a young Anne of Green Gables, with "instinctively felt" and overuse of italics all complete. None of the characters' actions make any sense beyond the thinnest of tissue-paper Plotty Reasons; I can't even introduce the thought of them having coherent personalities long enough to dismiss it with dignity, it merely pokes its head into the room and retreats holding its nose. :D

In addition, it becomes more drastically racist and offensive as we get closer to Africa; I gave up in Cuba, after flipping forward a few times and discovering lines like "three of us [were] arrant scoundrels, but all of us at least white of skin, surrounded by a black horde". And as if that weren't enough - I hesitate to use the p-word, but there are at least a great many very strong homages to Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped, starting indeed with the frontispiece. I went into more detail in the liveblog post. You can, if you care to, also read the book itself via Project Gutenberg.

Conclusion: One star out of five, for doing quite a good pastiche of Mr Stevenson's writing voice (English-style, not Scottish-style; I would have forgiven a good deal for Scots dialect), and for not being The Old Tobacco Shop. It's a bit nice to have had the nadir set so early... ;P I just hope I never have it reset any lower.

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