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: Swift Rivers (Cornelia Meigs)

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).

Newbery Honor: Swift Rivers (Cornelia Meigs), Part 2

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 )

Newbery Honor: Swift Rivers (Cornelia Meigs), Part 1

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! )

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

Review: Davy Crockett (Constance Rourke)

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.

Newbery Honor: Davy Crockett (Constance Rourke)

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.

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

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.

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: 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

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

Summary: Retold tales from the Kalevala, surrounded by a frame story about the Finnish Civil War of the late 19-teens. The frame story follows a preteen boy named Vaino (presumably there should be diacriticals there, but the book uses none) and his family through the conflict.

Reaction: No suspense, a lot of "oh, war is fun and thrilling!", very little nuance, no character development at all. I didn't like it enough to finish it.

Rating: One star, because it wasn't as gobsmackingly bad as most of the zero-star offerings we've had. I don't recommend reading it, though; there are far better Kalevala retellings out there, and the frame story is boring as hell.

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.

Review: The Tangle-Coated Horse and Other Stories, Episodes from the Fionn Saga (Ella Young)

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.