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[personal profile] justice_turtle
[Written right before posting:] So I finally gave up on this... miserable object... (I tell you, I'm really regretting right now that I didn't make this blog R-rated) and decided to post what I had. In hopes that people will wail back at me and share my pain. O_O

In other notes, I've finally realized that putting the warnings in the actual post body as well as in the cut would be useful for anyone who ever gets linked here from anywhere. I'll do that from now on, and at some point go back and edit them into all the old liveblog posts. :D

**************

[Earlier:] ...I have no idea whether "New Finland" here means a place that is not Finland, like New York or New Zealand, or whether it means "contemporary Finland" as opposed to "traditional Finland with Lapps and reindeer and that".

LET'S FIND OUT. (Since I only have this book on interlibrary loan till October 7. ;P)

WARNINGS: normative arranged marriage, suicide, misogyny, classism, wildly skewed Finnish history... I may have missed something there because after 'suicide' the problems started coming so thick and fast I forgot to warn at the time )

* You know what? I'm done. This book is SO BIASED, and every bad sort of -ist possible [except maybe racist, which it made up for by being AS CLASSIST AS POSSIBLE, like the Dynne in The Phantom Tollbooth whose middle initial "A." stood for "AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE", only with classism]. I have no more interest in it whatsover. Blaaaaaaah. Done.

ETA: I found and fixed my own overflowing link. Aren't you proud of me? ;P Yes, this book has addled my brain. Addled, I say.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: Retells in English the life story of Fionn mac Cumhall, one of Ireland's great mythic heroes, and of his comrades the Fianna, from Fionn's boyhood through to his old age.

Reaction: Ella Young, like Padraic Colum, was a member of the Gaelic Revival and Celtic Revival movements in the early 20th century. Like Padraic Colum, she is an AMAZING writer in her field -- incredibly talented at use of language and at structuring a retelling so a reader without background knowledge can follow it and find it fascinating.

Conclusion: Five stars. Highly recommended for anyone with any interest whatever in Ireland, Irish mythology and legend, or good writing.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Sorry about the delay in posting. I had a day. A couple of days.

*****************

Today in Returning Newbery Authors we have Ella Young, whose previous tour-de-force The Wonder Smith and His Son was made of awesome and win, and took the second of our six five-star ratings so far. :D Once again she's retelling pre-Christian Irish folk tales -- this time from the story of Fionn mac Uail (pronounced "Finn Mac Ool"), one of Ireland's two best-known legendary folk heroes. (The other one is Cúchulain.)

let's go! )

That was a good book.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: cut for spoilers )

Reaction: The most heteronormative possible treatment of a set of cultural customs with a LOT of potential for questioning gender relationships. about spoilers )

(I use past-tense verbs because the Communist takeover of Albania included efforts at eradicating gender oppression, and I don't know the current situation very accurately.)

And it's treated of in a GAAAH ) and none of the gender oppression stuff is questioned at all, just treated as an integral part of the structure of the story. Which is one way to handle writing about oppressive cultures, but I VERY VERY STRONGLY judge Ms Miller's choice to write this particular narrative (rather than, say, spoilers )). :P

Also, it's an incredibly slow book, laden down with exhaustive detail about Albanian rural life of the (unstated) time period. And due to a couple of odd wordings about a festival Mass, I don't even know how much I trust the author's research. O_O

Also also, in the spot where changing one attribution would have made Pran the first female Newbery protagonist to have agency - just letting her, instead of her boyfriend, suggest that she go have an effect on the plot ), and then just not having her GO ALL WIBBLY AND UNSURE ABOUT IT! - she, well, doesn't. :P One word. I'd have given this book four stars (lopping off the fifth because it's slooooow) if that had been the case. :PPPPPP

Conclusion: One star. Because the use of language and the research is relatively good, but I'm so angry about how pointless it was to make our formerly quite assertive-seeming heroine into a wishy-washy catspaw of her beloved Man-Hero at that one spot. BLAAAAAAAGH.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
This is an out-of-print interlibrary loan, 257 pages long. Here goes.

a book, a book! )

This was a really slow book. And I'm really disappointed with the one pivotal scene that kept this from being the very first Newbery book about a female protagonist with agency. :P
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: Tells the story of one year in the life of teenage French orphan girl Marguerite "Maggie" Ledoux, indentured to an English-American family that settles in Maine in 1743.

Reaction: I like Maggie. I like a lot of the descriptions. The research is as thorough and accurate as I've come to expect from Rachel Field. I don't like the repeated emphasis on how out-of-place Marguerite is among the anti-French English settlers of the day, and I really don't like the... sudden realism, I guess: the one incident with a harshly unhappy ending in a book where almost everything turns out well. It's very like the twist in Hitty where spoilers for Hitty: Her First Hundred Years ) -- a relatively light, fluffy book at the start, with a sudden twist to the darker side of life. And this book's unhappy twist was really severely grim, involving spoiler; if this works right there should be another cut with warnings under this cut ); I'm glad I didn't read it as a kid. :-(

Conclusion: Two stars. It's well-written and well-researched, and I like some of the characters, but I don't like the book as a whole. I don't like the... feel of it, I guess. Call me unliterary, but I like fluff. ;P
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
I'd never even heard of this book before I started reading Newberys, but it's by the author of Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, so I'm expecting - at a minimum - solid research and reasonable use of language. :D

here we go! WARNING: child injury, traumatic child death )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: cut for spoilers )

Reaction: After a slow start, a surprisingly sweet little book, quick to read and full of memorable, likable characters. By the end of the book, I really cared quite a lot about the welfare of this train engine. ^_^ Highly recommended. WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE OUT OF PRINT. :P If I am ever a multi-millionaire, one thing I'm going to do is buy up the rights to some of these books and reprint them for modern readers.

Conclusion: Four stars. I docked it one for the slow start and for some infelicitous language choices, like the use of spelled-out "Negro dialect" in the one spot where an African-American porter appears.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
I'm jumping ahead to 1934 here because The ABC Bunny is due back at the library in a week and I'd rather not have to order it on hold again.

and yet another picture book )

*sigh* At least the Caldecott will come along in a few years and send the Newbery to focus mostly on non-picture books for older readers?
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Little Blacknose by Hildegarde Hoyt Swift... is apparently about a train engine. Specifically, the Dewitt Clinton -- the first steam engine built for the New York Central Railroad, according to this book's blurb. It ran between Albany and Schenectady, and literally the only other thing I kind of vaguely know about it is that there was a torchlight procession or some such thing when it was commissioned. I think. This factoid appeared in a Boxcar Children book one time. Unless it was about the opening of the Erie Canal under New York governor Dewitt Clinton. ;S

here we go! )

* And you know, I'm glad he gets a happy ending, at least in the story. I've come to love this little old engine over the last 150 pages. :-)
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
[Note: I'm planning to post Mondays and Thursdays for a while. Also, I have my laptop hooked up to a desktop monitor and it seems to be working okay.]

Summary: A fictionalized version of the year or so leading up to Vasco da Gama's 1497 voyage to India, seen through the eyes of the young Ferdinand Magellan and a highly fictionalized Jewish banker named Abel Zakuto.

Reaction: Oh, where to start? O_O I only got 13% of the way in before I gave up on this mix of bad research and utter nonsense with a nice thick scoop of misogyny on top.

Every single thing that could be slanted to the glory of Western explorers has been slanted so. Every single reference to women in the book is derogatory and stereotyped. There are two female characters, but by the point I stopped, it hadn't passed the Bechdel test even by implication, because one of them didn't talk, even offscreen.

And as far as I can figure, the portrayal of the political situation in Portugal at that time was made up out of whole cloth... to the point that "Abel Zakuto" was made up as a separate character from real-life Portuguese Royal Astronomer Abraham Zacuto, and was given most of Abraham's true history and accomplishments, apparently just to separate "Sympathetic Hero Character" from "person who has any sympathy or respect for the Portuguese monarch"! O_O BECAUSE CONFLICT, that's why. If you don't have a villain, make one up! *sigh*

Conclusion: One star. Half because because Mrs Hewes has an enjoyably brisk writing style well-suited to adventure stories, and half because -- even though it wasn't actually meant to come across as a romance -- the budding gay teen romance between young Ferdinand Magellan and fictional character Nicolo Conti was adorably sappy and quasi-realistic.
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[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: 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
...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
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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