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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Hi! I'm sort of back. I don't actually have any new books in the pipeline yet, but I'm working on getting the rest of the 1929 Honor Books through interlibrary loan.

Now that we're past the years which had no Newbery Honor Books, I've decided to make a summary post as I finish each year (and some retrospective posts, of which this is the first), commenting on each book in brief and noting which one would have received the Newbery Medal if I'd had the final say. ;-)

This is largely to keep me motivated, but I'm hoping it will also make the comm more navigable and possibly more interesting. XD

1922 )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: Attempts to tell the history of the human race from caveman times to 1922, that being "the present". Succeeds in telling the history of white people, sort of, with a strong anti-religion skew.

Reaction: I had high hopes, because it was acclaimed the first Newbery winner by 163 librarians and has remained in print ever since, being repeatedly updated with chapters on the end - my 1980s edition finished with "Looking Toward the Year 2000". And the writing quality is really, really fabulous; if nothing else, I recommend opening the Gutenberg version and reading the author's preface for a large dose of gorgeousness.

But that does not excuse the repeated blatant distortions of history the author pulls out of his hat! Things like asserting that Sparta didn't care at all whether the Persians invaded northern Greece, and then going straight into a retelling of Thermopylae that skips the part where Leonidas - King Leonidas, thank you very - and the fabled Spartan 300 (actually 7,000) were volunteers on a suicide mission DURING. THE. OLYMPICS. I may have flailed a lot about that.

Honestly, I learned a lot via this book, but most of the actual info came from Wiki after I said "WHAT?!" and googled something. ;-) Also, it's very much The Story Of White People, with a few suitably pale brown people graciously whitewashed. :P Black people are almost completely ignored, except for a couple of sentences using them as the nadir of uncivilization - I ditched out after cut for racism ) :P

Conclusion: Three stars. Because the writing really is that good (I do highly recommend reading the prologue, a gorgeous paean to the importance of history books; you can find it here), the history at least attempts to be a lot more comprehensive than the Brit-centric '50s Eurasian history I grew up on, and he did teach me some things. I think toward the end, we were just about breaking even on things I had to google because he was wrong versus things I had to google because I was wrong.

ETA: ...there's a movie. A Marx Brothers movie. With Vincent Price as the Devil, Peter Lorre as Nero, Hedy Lamarr as Joan of Arc - it sounds like a hot mess. "The council of elders of outer space is deliberating on a very important subject: Must mankind be allowed to survive, or is it so essentially evil that it must be destroyed? A devil and an angel act as prosecutor and defense for the human race", presenting (I assume) scenes from human history as evidence. It's a Cold War moral tale, it seems: if the human race is found wanting, we're going to blow ourselves up with nuclear bombs. O_O

I'm so glad I'm not trying to watch all or any of the movies that have been made based on Newberys. ;-)
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
The last post brought us up to page 207, anyway. I did some math: I'm 43% of the way done!

This book has taken me over a month to review. Admittedly, part of that was being on official hiatus, but part of it was just... this is a very dense book. It's got a lot of references I don't know anything about; my search history has probably hit the point where anyone who subpoenaed it would just be utterly perplexed. (Not that it was ever very incriminating. The basic stew of "[contact info/hours/address for X]", "what time should i go to bed calculator", and "muffaletta" has just been spiced up a bit by the addition of "venice council of ten", "milled coins history", "otto emperor" etc.)

Anyway. ENTER THE RENAISSANCE!

this way to the egress, I mean Renaissance )

Halfway point! The next chapter looks to be taking us Eastward to talk about Buddha and Confucius for a bit, so I'll cut this off here... good grief. I talked that long about only thirty-odd pages? I'm going to be here FOREVER. AND A DAY. O_O

ETA: No I'm not. I flipped forward to look at the chapters about WWI, because their titles are uncommunicative, and ran across this paragraph near the end of the book:

cut for racism )

He's trying to explain World War I happening, which is an admirable if futile enterprise... but I gave you three chances not to be casually racist above and beyond the demands of whatever your publisher wanted, Hendrik Willem van Loon. You just blew the last one. I'm out of here (except for the review).

I don't say The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle is going to be any BETTER, but at least I won't have to fact-check it! O_O
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
And that's the first third of the book done with. I'm never going to finish if I don't speed up, but I really do want to do it justice... :P Part of the trouble is just that nonfiction is really dense compared to fiction. But the chronic googling of "what on earth did he just SAY?" doesn't help either. Not to mention that we're getting pretty solidly into medieval politics now!

Heigh-ho, medieval politics! Awaaaaaaay! :D )

* I mean. I'm going to quote the first chapter head for the Renaissance in full, and then stop and post. "People Once More Dared To Be Happy Just Because They Were Alive. They Tried To Save The Remains Of The Older And More Agreeable Civilisation Of Rome And Greece And They Were So Proud Of Their Achievements That They Spoke Of A Renaissance Or Re-Birth Of Civilisation".

Wow.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Apparently it's National or International Read A Book Day - I didn't quite catch the modifier - so I decided I'd post this tonight, though I meant to get to the Crusades in this section.

(On the other hand, maybe it's as well; I seem to be picking up some of Mr van Loon's speech patterns. *g*)

******

Enter the Middle Ages! For the record, everything up through the Fall of Rome has taken the first quarter of the book by number of pages (I'm on page 130 out of 482).

here we goooooo!!! :D )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Onward the course of History takes its way! XD

...this is a really weird book. I'm partly quite enjoying it - there are bits, especially the illustrations, that are downright adorable - and partly I just can't look away. The sociopolitical tone is so off-the-wall, I can't wait to see what happens next. ;P It's like it isn't even the history of the world I know.

So. Livebloggy tiem! )

* ...I'm afraid I'm letting this book come off worse than it actually is. The trouble is that the well-done parts aren't usually very interesting, and the bad parts are HILARIOUSLY QUOTABLE. It makes for a skewed sample. :P

* Anyway, that chapter ends with a nice little paragraph on how the Church saved Civilization. I'm guessing that's the subject of the next chapter or so. Which means we're getting into the Dark/Middle Ages (they're lumped together here, more or less, as I see from the table of contents).
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
And now we reach the first-ever Newbery Medal winner: The Story of Mankind, by Hendrik Willem Van Loon! *round of applause* ;-)

And liveblog! :D )

I'm just going to stop Section 1 of the liveblog there, because... well, because next we're getting into the Peloponnesian War and the Punic Wars, and they're long. But also because I'm kind of busy flailing a lot about Thermopylae. :D

*has neither the time nor the training to write a better history book* *keeps thinking about it anyway*
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[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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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, books aren't, Newberys belong to the ALA.

...I'm going to put the full title of this book under the cut, because it's one of those that pulls a Moll Flanders and tells you half the story in the subtitle. ;-) The short title is The Great Quest by Charles Boardman Hawes. It isn't on Gutenberg, so if you want to read it you'll have to find it yourself. I don't yet know if that's worth doing.

LIVEBLOGGING THEREOF; warning for mental ableism, racism, graphic violence, bad writing, and reviewer's extreme familiarity with the more popular works of Robert Louis Stevenson )

...I can't handle this book anymore. I'm skipping. I've given it enough of a fair chance to make a judgment, in my own opinion. IT STEEEEEEEEENKS. 120 pages is a fair chance, right? Can I make it the 100-page rule instead of the 50% rule, now I'm out of Gutenberg books and the rest will be dead-tree versions? I'm going to, I think.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Sorry, that was kind of an epically busy week I didn't plan for. Note: Read All The Newberys will be on a more official hiatus August 6-15 while I'm offline, in case I don't post again before then.

Standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, books are not, Newberys belong to the ALA. No profit is being made from this endeavor. Anonymous commenting is enabled, IP logging and CAPTCHA are on, anon comments are screened for review.

Summary: Dickon, the teenage son of a lord in feudal England, meets Cedric, the teenage son of a yeoman or forester, who is a crack shot. Adventures ensue.

Reaction: Well, the language is fabtabulous. Mr Marshall balances readability with accurate quasi-Shakespearean English better than anyone else I've encountered. All the characters are well-drawn, most of them are likable, and Dickon manages to be a hotheaded teenage boy without making me want to knock him over the head at any point. :D

The plotting is INCREDIBLE. Wikipedia (warning: major spoilers in the book's Wiki summary, that's why I don't link it) mentions that the author was compared favorably to Sir Walter Scott but also quotes a critic disagreeing with this assessment. I have to say - the only way in which Mr Marshall falls short of Sir Walter's standards, imo, is that things HAPPEN in this book, at breathtaking speed. XD Every time I thought I'd figured out what the main story arc might be, it was wrapped up in the chapter and another one introduced. My liveblog post (spoilers at link!) is full of "I'd predict such-and-such, but I'd probably be wrong".

The research isn't the best, though; I'm pretty sure crossbows - a major plot fulcrum - don't work that way, and I'd've sworn the book was set in the 15th century till most of the way through. SPOILER ) For me, the excellent writing made up for that. YMMV. I especially liked the way not everything turns out perfectly but the book isn't a paean to bleakness either; it seemed very realistic to me.

Conclusion: Four stars out of five. I'd have given it five, but I hated the ending, which altered historical events in a way that had some pretty awkward implications. And I refuse to bog myself down in partial stars. ;P

Still highly recommended. To quote my liveblog post, "This is the kind of fast-paced excellent writing I expected from the much-adulated G.A. Henty; why is this book not better known?" Read it here! Talk to me about it! Seriously, fantastic book, I want to read his other four novels now. (Well, not right now. *g*)
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, books are not, Newberys belong to the ALA. No profit is being made from this endeavor. Anonymous commenting is enabled, IP logging and CAPTCHA are on, anon comments are screened for review.

This week I'm reading Cedric, the Forester by Bernard Gay Marshall, a Newbery Honor Book of 1922. Do you know how hard it is to come up with clever things to say above the cut here? ;-)

liveblog is long )

Warning, this book is FULL OF PLOT TWISTS and I pretty much spoil them all. If you prefer to read well-plotted stuff unspoiled, you might want to wait for the review post... or just read the book on Gutenberg. It's worth your time. ;-) The ending is a bit weird and un-historical, but overall it is an extremely good book.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
summary and reaction both cut for spoilers )

Conclusion: No stars. I said in the liveblog that this author should have been set to write acid trips behind the scenes of the universe instead of anything near kids, and I stand by that assessment. This book doesn't deserve to be dredged out of obscurity, although for completeness' sake I include the Project Gutenberg link. ;P

If you want a kids' book with better writing, equally unexpected silliness, and lower creepiness levels, I recommend anything by Edward Lear. I know he's not American; I think I had something else I was going to recommend that this reminded me of, but I've forgotten it. :P
readallthenewberys: animated gif of Snoopy writing a story with multiple strange subplots (Default)
[personal profile] justice_turtle
TRIGGER WARNING: you don't want to read this liveblog if you have a "stranger danger" trigger. Seriously, don't.

Standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, books are not, Newberys belong to the ALA. Anon commenting is on, IP logging and CAPTCHA are on, anon comments screened for review.

Today's book is The Old Tobacco Shop: A True Account of What Befell a Little Boy in Search of Adventure by William Bowen, but I can't fit all that in the post title.

Liveblogging under here )

In brief: lots of ableism, racism, awful people, and general facepalmery. Not worth reading at all; I'm not sure the liveblog is worth reading. :P
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: An anthology of Ancient Greek myths tied together by the frame-story of Jason and the Golden Fleece; most of the stories are told to the Argonauts by Orpheus at appropriate points in the narrative, as backstory to their own adventures.

Reaction: This is some of THE BEST English epic prose I have ever read in my life, and that includes the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

And, as if that wasn't enough recommendation on its own, it's also a surprisingly feminist-friendly story: Jason's mother gets a personality, Atalanta is one of the Argonauts (only one of whom puts up any fuss about "omg a GIRL", and he's explicitly characterized as a boor), Medea has actual character conflict over betraying her family to help Jason... seriously, considering that this was written by a man in 1921 and is based on well-known traditional stories - one of the world's better excuses for leaving things misogynist, not that there are any good excuses - I am boggled by how far out of his way he goes to pull in gender equality.

I'm also rather amused and pleased by the way Mr Colum extends his delicate 1922-style handling of the many sexual relationships in the myths to Hercules/Hylas and Hercules/Iolaus, treating them exactly like the het pairings, so that I didn't even have to check Wiki to make sure they were pairings. :D

Furthermore, there are a LOT of stories included here, in detail; it's not a short book, and it's well worth putting in the time to read. (Also, the satirical tale of the Battle Between the Frogs and the Mice is gloriously hilarious. The quality of all the writing, in various tones, is amazing.)

Conclusion: Five stars out of five. Highly recommended. And because the universe is a wonderful place, it's on Project Gutenberg.

I'm looking forward to the other two Padraic Colum offerings on the list.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Weekends are going to be a bit heavier on posting than weekdays, I think, for obvious reasons. Sadly, I cannot find a "scheduled post" function here on Dreamwidth.

Standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, books are not, Newberys belong to the ALA. Commenters, keep the language G-rated, please.

This book is available on Project Gutenberg. Also it is AWESOME, go read it. :D

SPOILERS - The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: cut for spoilers )

Review: I should mention up front that until the ending, this book's plot is very similar to another of the author's books ), so I was (consciously or unconsciously) comparing them throughout. Therefore, while this book does have good sections and excellent prose, I was most struck by its relative fail compared to the other book, cut for length and vague spoilers )

Conclusion: One star out of five, where a three-star rating is "meh". I'd strongly recommend reading other books by the same author instead, because she has done a lot of much better ones. Three suggestions:

* The Covered Bridge is arguably her best, certainly her most excerpted; it's set in post-Revolutionary War Vermont, and guest-stars Ethan Allen. Also, a little girl and an old lady are the central characters, and as I recall (it's been a while), the flashback stories are much better integrated than in most of her other books: not gems in a setting, but well-crafted parts that fit with the whole.

* Wind in the Chimney, also set in post-Revolutionary War times, is another excellent story, with a much more nuanced portrayal of the antagonist's motivation for her actions; it also features a good balance of male and female characters, with the female ones a bit more memorable imo, and the pacing of the various subplots is extremely well-handled.

* The Kingdom of the Winding Road, set in medieval-esque European-fairytale times, is a set of short stories with no frame, tied together by featuring the same mysterious wandering minstrel in bit roles. It's one of my very favorites - slightly reminiscent of Agatha Christie's Mysterious Mr Quin in tone (with fantasy replacing the murder-mystery elements), and absolutely beautifully written. Worth a look.

Overall, I'd say Ms Meigs's historical fiction is much better than her contemporary work. The Windy Hill is possibly the least good of her books I've read, partly because some things that wouldn't be as discordantly faily in a historical setting (feudal-style landownership, attitudes toward characters of color) stand out badly against the "latest improvements" modernity. It's a shame this is one of the ones that made it onto the Newbery list.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
So I'm just going to work my way straight up this list, then. (I do not think I would read Old Yeller again if I didn't have to finish it to get to Miracles on Maple Hill. *g*)

Standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, books are not, Newberys belong to the ALA. Feel free to disagree with or add to anything I say. Anon commenting is on, IP logging and CAPTCHA are on, anon comments screened for review. I'll try to keep the language all-ages-friendly; commenters, please do the same.

Up first: The Windy Hill by Cornelia Meigs, Newbery Honor 1922. This book is available from Project Gutenberg.

liveblogging under the cut - SPOILERS )

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