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