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[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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[personal profile] justice_turtle
*deep sigh* Sometimes it's hard to believe there will ever be a good Newbery again, you know? ;P Further up and further in...

I could be watching Stargate right now )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: Biography of Marie-Jeanne Roland, a participant in the Girondin faction of the French Revolution.

Reaction: WHAT DID I JUST READ. I keep thinking it couldn't have been as weird and confusing and patronizing and bad as it was, but... it was. O_O Most of the book consisted of digressions on whatever bits of French social or geographical history could be squoze in, which I wouldn't mind (I genuinely enjoyed Moby Dick, okay?) if they'd been entertaining, but they weren't. And the history was just -- I had to google pretty much everything, but whenever I could find a Wiki article about whatever I was trying to check, they didn't match up. She did the obnoxious thing where everyone is either 100% beautiful-heroic-perfect Good or 100% ugly-fat-rude-faily Bad. I gave up when she told me Robespierre, whose Wiki article is about half quotations, wasn't a good speaker.

Rating: Zero stars. How off-target do you have to be to make a mostly ignorant reader indignant about your mistreatment of fucking Robespierre?
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Okay, let us continue through this unholy mess of a book. Perhaps I will get really overwhelmed and stop; perhaps I won't.

When last we left our heroine, she had married the middle-aged and sickly Monsieur Roland and they had a daughter, Eudora. Their circle of friends was ramping up to become, presumably, the Girondin faction of the French Revolution -- not that I know any of the names that are being introduced. It is 1784.

two-thirds of the book to go )

*flops* I didn't think maligning goddamn Robespierre was gonna be what did me in, but holy Hannah, people. The constant twisting of history to support her own sympathies was just so blatant. You can't tell me fucking Robespierre was a bad speaker and anti-republican, not without some damn solid evidence, and keep me reading. WHAT THE SHIT JUST HAPPENED.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Gods damn it, I don't want to have opinions about the French Revolution. I'm totally unqualified -- I've just about grasped that Jacobins are to be contradistinguished from Jacobites, for chrissakes. And I took an earlier stab at this book, which my iPad somehow ate, and I really don't want to have opinions on a condescending view of the French Revolution tailored for Philadelphia private-school girls in 1930!

*sigh* But the book is due in a week, I've been trying to get to it off and on since 2013, and I suppose needs must when the devil drives. Or when my own past overoptimism about the average quality of Newberys drives, in this case. :S

what the fuck )

* Or maybe not. I'm only a quarter of the way through the book, though god knows how much of that is lesson plans and addenda. *pokes* Okay, a third of the way through the actual book. It's 1784. I think I will go to bed and tackle the last ten years of Mme Roland's life later.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: A young man in 1830s Minnesota becomes a logger and pioneers the technique of felling trees during winter so that the spring thaw will carry them to market.

Reaction: The distressing thing about Cornelia Meigs is that I always remember her other books I haven't reviewed yet as being better than the one I'm reading. :P Like The Windy Hill and Clearing Weather, this one suffers from a human villain whose actions don't come across as remotely realistic, either psychologically or (sometimes) in the realm of physical possibility. Our plucky young hero and his teammates on the side of Good have the same problem, actually -- physics and human psychology bend to their convenience, while twisting to hinder the villain's purposes. I mean, not just in normal storytelling ways, but in noticeable, "what the fuck does anybody here think they're doing" ways. :-(

Rating: One star. Because she did have the fools' gold identified as such from the start, which I don't think I've seen done in any other story that referenced fools' gold, and she described it accurately enough that my geologist's instincts twigged it straight off (though I didn't trust her enough to believe I was right).
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
When last we left our hero on page 27, he had met a cute boy he isn't going to hook up with, had quarreled with his constructedly mean uncle, and had revealed that he wants more education than he's had from the local one-room schoolhouse. Then I went on a tear about the apotheosis of book-larnin' and gave up for the night.

now i have dust in my sinuses )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Well! Roller Skates really knocked me off kilter. It's only been a week, but it feels like more.

This is the last Cornelia Meigs I'll be tackling for a while, as for some inexplicable reason the library hasn't got her Newbery-winning Invincible Louisa, nor The Covered Bridge (which I recall as being excellent), and my interlibrary loans are still stuck in 1930-1931. :S I know I like her "girls'" books better than her "boys'" books, and this is one of the latter, so I've no very high hopes for it, but let's dive in.

here goes! )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: Ten-year-old Lucinda Wyman spends roughly a year in New York City, living with her schoolteacher Miss Peters while her parents have gone to Italy for the winter due to her mother's poor health. She befriends all sorts and conditions of (mostly white Christian) people while traveling all around the city on the titular roller skates.

Reaction: I genuinely do not know what the fuck to do with this book. It's unique, and weird as hell. It starts with a now-adult Lucinda (though that's deliberately not made clear) meeting her past self. I don't know that I buy the framing conceit of adult!Lucinda having completely forgotten all the friends and incidents in the book until past!Lucinda reminds her to reread her old diary, but it sure is a hell of a conceit.

I think if I had to pick one word to describe this book, I'd go with "daring". It's aggressively anti-classist, though casually racist in the way it ignores its black servants, and its one Jewish character is very strongly implied to have murdered his wife. It's structurally very odd -- you don't expect, when your heroine discovers the murdered body of a friend, to not have any investigative follow-up after she reports the matter, just her own internal attempts to deal with tragedy. There's no overarching plot, but it's so extremely unlike the standard "cozy" string-of-incident books it superficially resembles that I just... straight-up do not know what to do with it. How to file it in my head. Anything.

It reminds me, for some reason I cannot pin down, of Island of the Blue Dolphins. I don't know why! They're nothing alike! But there's something in the tone, the feel it gives me. Perhaps it's the ending, the bittersweetness of leaving this independent existence which was not always happy but was always good. The feeling, explicitly stated here, that our heroine has left a ghost of herself in this time and place, maybe? I don't know. I'm thinking (for reasons I cannot articulate) of this cover on my childhood edition of IotBD, and of Rontu, and of the creepy underwater cave of the ancestors. I don't have answers, so I'm giving you impressions.

Rating: Three stars. I think it might be Literature, though far more avant-garde (I keep wanting to say Art Deco) and perplexing than Hitty; I don't think I liked it, and I'm extremely glad I didn't read it as a child, but it sure as hell made an impression; I docked it a star for the racism, and one because Uncle Earle skeeved me out so badly. Not in a sexual way, I think, but the only word I have for his relationship with Lucinda is "grooming". For what, I don't even know.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
So this is one of the Newberys people have heard of, I think. I've never read it and know very little about it. My bio-incubator insisted there's a traumatic incident where our young heroine finds an elderly friend dead in bed, but she also always insisted the fireworks scene from "Gray Dawn" was actually in "Beautiful Joe", so we'll just see, that's all.

let us investigate )

* I don't even know what the shit to do with that. I have literally no idea. O_O Part of me feels like it might be Literature, and part of me feels jumbled-up and peculiar. Perhaps it'll make more sense in the morning. That's a hell of a thing, for sure.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: A boy named Garram is BETTER THAN EVERYBODY, either in his home village among the central Nigerian hills or in the nearby Muslim-controlled town. He demonstrates this through a series of adventures.

Reaction: Well, this book does have one redeeming quality, which is that nobody talks in horribly stereotyped "eye dialect". I think this may be the first Newbery in which a black character talks proper English (though only as a translation of his native language). For the rest, though, it reminds me painfully of Charles Boardman Hawes -- the conflation of embarrassment with humor, the lack of consistent characterization, the way everybody kind of obviously lands in whatever position the puppet master decided would make Garram look coolest, the way even the laws of physics bow before our hero. Oh, also a lot of Haha Funny Stupid Muslims shit, idek.

Rating: Uhhhhh. Zero stars? I did get through the whole thing, but it was pretty painful. Like, in what universe does it make sense to forcibly dye your nemesis indigo before sending him home? Not in any way where the punishment fits the crime, either. Just, "haha I will stick you in a dye vat all day and have an entire town laugh at you, cos I'm the HERO!" *headshake*
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Oh look, one of my interlibrary loans has arrived! Let's see what it's like. :D

social studies fiction ahoy! )

Jesus motherfucking Christ, what WAS that? O_O
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: A scholarly biography of Davy Crockett, intertwined with a selection of the contemporary stories and legends about him, aimed at middle-grade kids.

Reaction: I mean, I'm not being as harsh on this as I am on a lot of Newberys. Still and all, it's a childhood favorite that the Suck Fairy hasn't visited. :-) The writing and structure is genuinely really good, and like a lot of the best historical writing, it gives a really good sense of the atmosphere along with the facts. I mean, this is the book that established for me how you write history, it's not like it was going to come up lacking by that standard. ^_^

Rating: Five stars. Actually really good, I highly recommend reading it, though obviously there's also a nostalgia factor here for me.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
It's harder to liveblog rereads, because I have Opinions about them. Also, I've owned and loved this book since I was three. (I was a precocious child.) So, yeah, I might be cutting this one some slack. ^_^ Still and all, it's a legitimate scholarly biography that includes tall tales entertaining enough to hold a toddler's attention, how often does that happen? :-)

I haven't read this in a few years, let us hope the Suck Fairy has not visited )

This book has influenced me more than any other single book I've ever read, and I think I would even include Lord of the Rings in that assessment. It's absolutely worth reading if you can get ahold of it, especially if you have any interest in folklore.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: A class of nine-year-olds from a Dutch school go on a day-long skating trip with their teacher.

Reaction: Well, that was a lot more action-packed than I expected. :-) Also a lot longer -- it's almost a novelette, not a picture book. The pacing is excellent, as is the sense of place, and the preteen boys who form most of the Plot act like preteen boys. The girls didn't seem to add much to the story at all, though, and Afke seemed a lot younger than her twin brother Evert, to whose adventures and mishaps she spent most of her time reacting.

Rating: Three stars. If the girls had had more to do (i.e. anything at all) I might have given it four. The art is also fantastic.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
As far as I'm aware, this is another author-illustrator's picture book, shoehorned into the Newberys because the Caldecott wasn't yet a thing. (The Caldecott will start up in 1938 and take most of these off our hands.) At least it's available online, so you can follow along and form your own opinions about the pictures. ;-)

here we go then )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: Traditional life in a Bulgarian village. Also a boy named Dobry has artistic talent, falls in love with the only available girl, and ends up going off to art school.

Reaction: It's clunky. I'm not sure if the prose is bad or just... I'm going to pull my favorite(?) line here: "[He looked] at the grandfather with the questioning wonder everybody feels when he sees a really living person who warms other people with that spark of God he always keeps burning in himself." I don't even know what's happening here, okay. ^_^ Nobody sounds like a human being, but -- well, it's a ride. :D

Rating: One star. I dislike Dobry as a character, the book isn't progressive or outstanding in any way, it's hard to follow what's happening or when anything is, and I yelled at the endgame kind of a lot. But it was entertainingly enthusiastic about whatever the hell it thought it was doing, which is more than you can say for a lot of these. *looks pointedly at The Old Tobacco Shop, still and hopefully forever the nadir of Newberys*
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
The trouble with good books is that you finish them, and then you have to read other books. ;P Oh well, once more into the breach...

back to books I've never heard of )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: Teenaged "Young Fu" (he has a full name, but nobody uses it) and his mother move to Chongqing after his father dies. The book follows their first five years in the city, during which Young Fu becomes an accomplished coppersmith, learns to read and write, and has several adventures.

Reaction: *flomps* Glory hallelujah, we are DONE with chinoiserie! :D Young Fu is a realistic teenager living in (as far as I can tell) an accurately portrayed 1920s Chongqing. Sometimes he's full of himself, sometimes he screws up, but he's a generally good kid who works hard and takes good advantage of the luck he has. I feel like he might be just a titch too modern-Western in his kind of "pssh, evil spirits" attitude at times, but it is mostly earned.

Rating: Five stars. I'm so bloody happy to have a really good book set in China that I can't even criticize it. :D And it is honestly a good book.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
I know almost nothing about Chinese history, so I started this off with some googling. Apparently this story's contemporary setting is the Republic of China (not Communist), not to be confused with the People's Republic of China (Communist). The Republic of China lasted roughly from 1912 (fall of the Empire) to 1949 (rise of Communist rule in China), although its government only gained actual control of all of China in 1928, and from 1937 onward it was focused on fighting a Japanese invasion. So this story will take place, it seems, in a sort of brief 9-year halcyon period when China is united, not Imperial, not Communist, and not particularly at war.

let's see where we go from here )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: A family of would-be homesteaders in Depression-era Wyoming get embroiled in the conflict between a heroic teacher of vocational agriculture and an evil alfalfa magnate.

Reaction: Well, it's... very 1930s, that's for sure. I might have liked it a lot better had I read it as a teenager. These days the character interactions read kind of... overblown to me, with all the main characters solidly Heroic or Villainous (until the last couple chapters when things move toward a sort of truce by way of resolution) and all the side characters split along the same lines, as Loyal to the good or Duped by the bad.

As a narrative of its own time and place, though, it is accurate as far as I can tell, and I got all the way through it -- the prose isn't bad. It might make a fairly good research resource; I just don't find it particularly compelling as a story.

Rating: Two stars. The research is solid, which is a hella relief after "The Jumping-Off Place", and the book is honestly pretty readable, just not stellar.

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