Newbery Honor: Ood-le-uk the Wanderer (Alice Lide & Margaret Johansen)

*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 )

Review: A Daughter of the Seine: The Life of Madame Roland (Jeanette Eaton)

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?

Newbery Honor: A Daughter of the Seine: The Life of Madame Roland (Jeanette Eaton), Part 2

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.

Newbery Honor: A Daughter of the Seine: The Life of Madame Roland (Jeanette Eaton), Part 1

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.

Review: Roller Skates (Ruth Sawyer)

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.

Newbery Medal: Roller Skates (Ruth Sawyer)

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.

Review: Garram the Hunter: A Boy of the Hill Tribes (Herbert Best)

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*

Newbery Honor: Garram the Hunter: A Boy of the Hill Tribes (Herbert Best)

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

Newbery Honor: A Day On Skates: The Story of a Dutch Picnic (Hilda van Stockum)

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 )

Review: Dobry (Monica Shannon)

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*

Newbery Medal: Dobry (Monica Shannon)

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 )

Review: Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze (Elizabeth Foreman Lewis)

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.

Review: New Land (Sarah Lindsay Schmidt)

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.

Review: Big Tree of Bunlahy, Stories of My Own Countryside

Summary: A sadly disjointed collection of Irish folktales that can't decide whether it has a frame story or not. Spans a lot more eras than just the standard Fianna and Tain Bó retellings that generally fall under the head of "Irish folktales", though, and in a couple of stories explicitly references the Catholic/Protestant political split that's so much a part of Irish culture for the last 400 years, which honestly impressed me -- children's books don't usually go there at all if they don't have to.

Reaction: I wanted to love this book, I really did. I love and admire Padraic Colum and what he did for Irish literature, and "Stories from My Own Countryside" sounds like a topic he should be brilliant on, but this just falls flat. :-(

Rating: Two stars. I couldn't bring myself to go lower, and even as good as the prose truly is, it doesn't deserve higher. :-(

Newbery Honor: New Land (Sarah Lindsay Schmidt)

I have no idea what this is about, only that it's public domain and available here, which saves me having to wait on interlibrary loan for it. ^_^

let us adventure )

Newbery Honor: The Big Tree of Bunlahy: Stories of My Own Countryside (Padraic Colum)

Another collection of retold folktales, this one by Padraic Colum, who's usually pretty good. Judging by the frontispiece, this purports to be a collection of tales told under a particular tree outside a small Irish village. Let's see, then.

here we go )

* I don't know. That's not a very satisfactory book. It's kind of all over the place, for all that it tries to tie the stories together with a cohesive framing narrative. :S

Newbery Honor: Vaino, A Boy of New Finland (Julia Davis Adams)

[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.

Newbery Honor: The Tangle-Coated Horse and Other Tales, Episodes from the Fionn Saga (Ella Young)

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.

Newbery Honor: Pran of Albania (Elizabeth Cleveland Miller)

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

Newbery Honor: Calico Bush (Rachel Field)

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 )