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[personal profile] justice_turtle
I AM DONE WITH THE 1920s FOREVER. *whew*

...and for the first time ever, I've given five stars each to two books from the same year. Cool!

1929 )

I honestly can't decide which of those last two books I'd award the Newbery Medal for 1929, if it were my choice! On the one hand, Millions of Cats is a perfect choice to win the medal named after the man who created The Little Pretty Pocket Book. On the other hand, Tod of the Fens should absolutely be up there with Island of the Blue Dolphins and The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler among Newbery Medal winners everyone's heard of. I... I may have to give these a shared Mock Newbery Medal.

Anyone out there have any votes on the matter? :D (You can read Tod of the Fens online for free, and any library in the US should have Millions of Cats, though I can't speak to other countries. Canadians, Brits, Australians - I'm curious now, do your local libraries stock Millions of Cats?)
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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.
readallthenewberys: animated gif of Snoopy writing a story with multiple strange subplots (Default)
[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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[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.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
I'm... less than optimistic about this book, because of the title. It's also out of print - I've got it on an interlibrary loan - but after Wonder Smith, Dream Coach, and Tod of the Fens (on the one hand) and The Story of White People and Shen of the Sea (on the other), I have serious doubts that the survival of a title on this list actually has anything to do with its quality. ^_^

holds nose and dives in; warning: fat-shaming )

...yeah, guess what? I'm done. I don't even care what happens in the rest of this book. Good-bye.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: In the English port town of Boston, Lincolnshire, near the beginning of the fifteenth century, three plots are getting started at once. One concerns a mysterious man who's been repeatedly sneaking into the town in different disguises; one concerns the master of customs, who has gotten (honestly) rich off export tariffs on English wool and sheepskin, but is now starting to act in favor of home industry and the expansion of England's sea power in defiance of the Hanseatic League with which he treats - all of which makes his colleagues on the town council mistrust him; and one concerns Tod of the Fens, a rogue japester, and his band of merry wastrels, who fish for their livings and befool their fellow man at every opportunity for fun. There's also a romantic subplot involving the customs master's teenage daughter. I won't spoil anything further for you. ^_^

Reaction: I was a bit dubious at first, as the book's front-loaded with a chapter full of research and set-up, and another one introducing Tod with, hm, a certain amount of confusion and obfuscation all round. But after that, things get moving at a good pace, and every one of the characters except the major villain (an evil pirate captain! :D) gets a well-rounded characterization... even the Scolding Housewife and the Noble Popinjay. This book is full of the BEST BANTER EVER - I swear, I wouldn't know Shakespeare hadn't written it if it weren't prose - as well as the BEST RESEARCH EVER. The 15th-century characterization is absolutely spot-on perfect in every particular, even to the casual belief in the supernatural with not one occurrence of "of course we 20th-century humanists know better". The clothing is perfectly accurate period, as are the ships, and the geography and even the wind directions are well researched. I can't swear to the political climate but I will lay odds it's perfect. ;-)

Plus, after their first chapter or so, the antics of Tod et alia are way less embarrassment-squicky than I had feared. The romantic subplot with the customs-master's daughter is wonderfully handled; the author works around the social necessity of arranging a marriage by letting the boy and girl meet first, and having them become fast friends so naturally that I squeed over their relationship every time they took the spotlight through the whole book. :D The town's politics and the way everyone's individual purposes interact are extremely well-drawn. And while the pirate company of Evil Germans are Evil, they're not opposed to a uniformly shining company of Englishmen (or Englishwomen), nor do they cause everything that goes wrong in the course of the book. In fact, they're a bit of a distraction. :-) And the goodness or reliability of the characters is not predicated on their social class, or even on their preoccupation with class status. In short - this has the least simplistic characterization and the least OMG 1920S I have yet seen in a Newbery, iirc. :D

Conclusion: Five stars. All in all, a truly remarkable book, and you should read it here posthaste if you have any interest in Merrie England with politics and banter and subplots and RESEARCH. :D (And if you're okay with a lot of "thou" and "shouldst", because the language is pretty accurate, at least compared to Malory. But I found it very readable. Admittedly I find Shakespeare very readable.)
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: spoilers )

Reaction: It's a fairy tale. Wanda Gág grew up on a German-speaking New England farm where Grimm's fairy tales were told regularly; when she grew up she did wonderful English translations of Grimm, but she also wrote and illustrated some excellent, high-quality fairy tales of her own. "Millions of Cats" is one. For very good reason, it's also the oldest American picture book still in print; Ms Gág's distinctive art is some of the best storytelling art, rather than merely supplemental art, I've ever seen. Every pre-reading toddler (except the ones who would be genuinely scared or upset by even this light treatment of the climactic spoiler ) incident - I've known, not to say been, kids like that) should have a board-book of this.

Conclusion: Five stars. I can't criticize Wanda Gág. It's like critiquing Richard Scarry or Dr Seuss. ^_^ MY CHILDHOOD, and objectively good enough to be a recommended part of other people's childhood too.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
This book is available online, thanks to the University of Pennsylvania's "Celebration of Women Writers" website. I don't know... anything else about it. Here we go!

spoily spoilers of spoileriness )

WARNING: if you don't want to be majorly spoiled for a lot of very good plot-twists and good writing, DO NOT READ THIS POST! Read the review instead, once I post it. Or read the book itself. *points to link at beginning of post* It's Merrie Englande historical fiction, Henry IV era, the best research and the best period mentality I have EVER EVER seen done. Ever. The best conversational banter, too, and some darn good plotting and pacing. It's a story that, except for the part where it's also totally comprehensible to the modern reader (as long as the modern reader has a high tolerance for "wouldst" and "thou" etc), could have been written contemporary to when it takes place - it doesn't even have the "of course supernatural is bosh" thing going on. O_O And there is NO SORT OF FAIL AT ALL, within the confines of historical realism - except all the Germans are evil, but she's writing in the 1920s, I can give her evil Hanseatic League Germans. *dry grin*

Seriously. If you have an interest in well-researched historical fiction, especially with mystery or romance or adventure involved, READ THIS BOOK.
readallthenewberys: animated gif of Snoopy writing a story with multiple strange subplots (Default)
[personal profile] justice_turtle
How do you liveblog a picture book you already know pretty much by heart? I DON'T KNOW. Let's try it and see! ;P

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS OF SPOILYNESS )
readallthenewberys: animated gif of Snoopy writing a story with multiple strange subplots (Default)
[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: cut for spoilers )

Reaction: also cut for spoilers )

Conclusion: Two stars. It has a clever plot with plenty of foreshadowing and twist reveals, hard to summarize in a sentence or two, and one of the female characters gets to save the lives of the two titular male heroes at one point. (Admittedly, by running to fetch male deus-ex-machina character spoilers ); it doesn't speak well to the general quality of adventure-stories that even this amount of agency for a young lady strikes me as very rare in adventure stories with a male main.) But its historicity runs to the dubious, and the levels of racism, classism, and especially ableism are really terrible.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
I'd like to polish off what I can of the 1920s here (there are about half a dozen books left I'll have to interlibrary-loan), so the next book I'll tackle is Trumpeter of Krakow. ...at least we're starting to hit things that are Children's Classics rather than Did You Ever Hear Of That Me Neither. Whether the "classic" status is deserved, we'll find out.

(I've read this book before, but it's been many years, and Shen of the Sea shook me badly. ;P)

Come away with me then, to... oh never mind. XD )

And I'm only up to page 48, but it's Monday, so here we are: posting time. :-)

I may not get back to this book by next Monday, as I've got an interlibrary loan in - The Dream Coach by Anne Parrish, a 1925 Honor Book - and it's extremely rare and fragile and I have to return it in two weeks. So that's priority.

After that's done, though, it's Trumpeter of Krakow and then (except for the seven interlibrary loans not yet gotten) we'll wind up the Roaring Twenties in grand style with Millions of Cats. XD

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