readallthenewberys: animated gif of Snoopy writing a story with multiple strange subplots (Default)
[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. ;-)
readallthenewberys: animated gif of Snoopy writing a story with multiple strange subplots (Default)
[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
readallthenewberys: animated gif of Snoopy writing a story with multiple strange subplots (Default)
[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.
readallthenewberys: animated gif of Snoopy writing a story with multiple strange subplots (Default)
[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 )
readallthenewberys: animated gif of Snoopy writing a story with multiple strange subplots (Default)
[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).
readallthenewberys: animated gif of Snoopy writing a story with multiple strange subplots (Default)
[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*
readallthenewberys: animated gif of Snoopy writing a story with multiple strange subplots (Default)
[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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