Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Introducing FIVE (yes, five!) new mini-challenges

I can't stress this enough. If you want to sign up please indicate which challenge(s) you want to join in your comment.

The rules for all the challenges are the same.

1) Read and/or watch TWO works by the author in question (Bronte, Dickens, Dumas, Gaskell, Twain)

For example:
Watching two movies
Reading two books
Reading one book; watching one movie

You can always read (or watch) more. But two is the minimum. I don't know that this has ever come up, but you CAN count abridged versions of the novels. You CAN also count audio books.

2) The challenge will run through November 15th, 2008. That gives us a full six months and a few extra weeks to read. I had considered going through December. However, I decided with the fall being what it is--Thanksgiving, birthday, Christmas, Librarians' Choices, and possibly (???) Cybils, that I would not be getting much read for challenges anyway. I figured that you'd be busy celebrating, planning, shopping, dealing with your own chaos and drama as well. So November 15th it is.

I'm going to be super-nice especially since it serves in my best interests. Any book you've read by any of these authors in the year 2008 can count towards your challenge. I've just read The Three Musketeers (this past weekend!) I'm so going to count that.

*Also re-reads are allowed if you like.
*So is overlapping with other challenges.

3) No blogs are required. No lists are required. You don't have to tell me which books for which authors you're going to read. But I would *appreciate* hearing from you which two books/movies you went with as your choices. I'd also *appreciate* some feedback. For example of how BRIEF that feedback can be you can write "3 musketeers; thumbs up" or "Jane Eyre, recommended" or "Great Expectations, boring" It can be really really really short and sweet. But I would like to know what you ended up with and if you liked it or loved it or hated it. If you do have a blog and want to write a review, go for it. If you give me the link, I will read what you have to say!

So (drumroll please) here are your five new choices for mini-challenge fun. Bronte Sisters Mini-Challenge, Charles Dickens Mini-Challenge, Alexandre Dumas Mini-Challenge, Elizabeth Gaskell Mini-Challenge, and the Mark Twain Mini-Challenge.

To sign up, leave a comment. Be sure to leave your name (or your online nickname is fine) and your blog address (but only if applicable). And please, please indicate which challenge(s) you want to join. "This sounds fun, I want to join!" is a great comment. But I won't have a clue which of the five it applies to unless you tell me.


Travel the World: How I Learned Geography

Shulevitz, Uri. 2008. How I Learned Geography. FSG. Review by Becky Laney.

"In this story, based on his childhood memories of World War II, Uri Shulevitz tells how a map and his imagination took him far away from his hunger and misery."

How I Learned Geography is the story of a little boy who finds the world at the tip of his fingertips when his father brings home a map instead of bread to nourish his family. With money being so scarce, and the demand for food being so great, he doesn't have enough to satisfy his family's needs. Hunger is a part of their life, unfortunately. But this young boy soon realizes that though they may have many needs, this map of the world can and does feed his soul and give him hope for a better tomorrow.

The author's note explains it all in greater detail. This would be a picture book for older kids especially.

The illustrations are wonderful.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

PB & J Challenge

I love reading picture books. I love reading "j" books. (J being Juvenile.) If you do too then you might want to join me for the PB & J Challenge. This "challenge" is to just incorporate the good stuff into your reading lifestyle. It's for all ages. It would be a great challenge for parents or grandparents, a place to discuss the books you read with your kids or grandkids. (Or if you're an aunt or uncle, those books shared with your "favorite" niece or nephew.) But kids are not a requirement by any means. All are welcome. All book lovers are welcome that is!

Sometimes I feel I don't read enough of "the good stuff." Meaning I get subtracted by other reading and forget how much fun it is to just sit back and enjoy this type of book. Picture books. There are all sorts of picture books. Picture books for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, as well as school-aged children. And "j" literature can incorporate read aloud classics like Winnie the Pooh as well as early readers and chapter books both old and new.

I created PB & J so I could 'challenge' myself to read more steadily in this genre. I would love some company!

Is it a traditional challenge? Yes and no. If you want to set a goal for yourself then yes it can be a traditional challenge. 12 picture books and 4 kids books (j fic) in three months or six months or whatever. But if you want to look at it as an ongoing, perpetual "challenge" then you may do that as well!

I'd love to set a goal of reading twelve picture books a month. I don't know that I can do it. But I'm hoping that if I make it a "challenge" I can.


Le Guin, Ursula. 2004. Gifts.

Gifts had me practically at hello. "He was lost when he came to us, and I fear the silver spoons he stole from us didn't save him when he ran away and went up into the high domains. Yet in the end the lost man, the runaway man was our guide." (1) If the first chapter didn't hook me (which it did) then the second would have certainly, "To see that your life is a story while you're in the middle of living it may be a help to living it well. It's unwise, though, to think you know how it's going to go, or how it's going to end. That's to be known only when it's over." (15) I hope that gives you a small glimpse of just how magical this fantasy can be.

Here is how the jacket describes it, "Scattered among poor, desolate farms, the families of the Uplands possess gifts. Wondrous gifts: the ability--with a glance, a gesture, a word--to summon animals, bring forth fire, move the land. Fearsome gifts: They can twist a limb, chain a mind, inflict a wasting illness. The Uplanders live in constant fear that one family might unleash its gift against another. Two young people, friends since childhood, decide not to use their gifts. One, a girl, refuses to bring animals to their death in the hunt. The other, a boy, wears a blindfold lest his eyes and his anger kill. In this beautifully crafted story, Ursula K. Le Guin writes of the cruelty of power, of how hard it is to grow up, and how much harder still it is to find, in the world's darkness, gifts of light."

Gifts is the story of Orrec and Gry and the outsider, Emmon, that unknowingly showed them the way out. I loved the story; I loved the characters. Highly recommended. It is a story beautifully and powerfully told. It's not quite your typical framework of storytelling. But it works. It really works.

"Grieving, like being blind, is a strange business; you have to learn how to do it. We seek company in mourning, but after the early bursts of tears, after the praises have been spoken, and the good days remembered, and the lament cried, and the grave closed, there is no company in grief. It is a burden borne alone. How you bear it is up to you. Or so it seems to me." (202)

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Becky's Online Reading Group--Questions

Have questions about the “online reading group“? Just ask!!!

How do I participate? I’ve signed up…now what? I will let you know about the next book several weeks in advance. I’m hoping that all of my choices will be available to you through your local library. But I will often let you know what the book costs on Amazon–just in case you’re so inclined. I get nothing from Amazon, by the way, I’m not trying to sell you a book. I just like to sell people on reading! A few days before the book begins, you might want to start reading. Most times the reading is 30 to 50 pages. Some might think that is one day’s worth of reading and start the night before. Others might want to take a few days. If you want to comment on the first day though, you’ll want to have read the first section before the official start date. If you want to wait to read it that day and post the next day, that’s fine too. (See below). Essentially your participation comes through comments. You can opt to post about the book, about the reading experience, on your own blog if you have one. But you’d need to come to my blog to post a comment with that day’s link. Otherwise, join in or participate through comments. Share your thoughts. I appreciate honesty. You can love, hate, like, dislike, praise, criticize, whatever.

Do I have to participate on the assigned days? No. You can, of course, but post whenever you have finished the reading for that day. It can be in the interim between assigned reading days, or it could even be a few days later. Even after the next “reading” day has gone by. The purpose is to hear back from you.

What if I get behind? If you get behind, don’t give up. Just comment on those posts as you get to that chapter. It doesn’t matter if you’re behind schedule. I’m still interested in what you have to say! I’d rather have you a day or two (or even a week) behind schedule, than for you to give up and drop out.

What if I start the book and hate it? Do I have to keep going? That’s up to you completely. Your comments (or posts if you blog about it on your own site) can be as negative as you like. But if you seriously hate a book and don’t want to waste your time, then drop out if you must! I’d rather you do that than come to hate me by association ) I’m not going to *force* you to read anything!

What if my copy is back due at the library before our discussion schedule is “finished”? If you don’t want to renew–and I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t want the hassle–then you can always finish it ahead of schedule. You might want to jot down a few notes about the chapter(s) if anything strikes you as being outstanding–either good or bad. The number of notes you might have to take will vary. If you think you can retain it for a week or two, then none may be necessary. Otherwise, jotting down a key idea or two might help.

What if I read really quickly? What if I finish that month’s book in two days? Do I have to “slow” my reading down just to participate? If you want to read at your own pace, feel free to do so. Just comment when you can! Take a few notes if necessary. But basically just retain enough to let your opinions be known as we go along.

How can I suggest a book for the group to read? Is Becky open to suggestion? Is she easily influenced? You can always email me with your ideas on what to read next, AND your ideas on how to improve the group overall. I am always, always wanting feedback. Always. So email me with your thoughts and suggestions.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

April Carnival of Children's Literature!!!!

Ellsworth Journal is hosting the April edition of the Carnival of Children's Literature!!!

Also newsworthy--though in a much different way--have you seen this yet???

Baby Got Book!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Nonfiction Monday: From Rags to Riches

Sills, Leslie. From Rags to Riches: A History of Girls' Clothing in America

FROM RAGS TO RICHES is a nonfiction guide to the history of girl's fashion from Colonial times (1600's) to present day. Attractive layout and generous use of both colored and black and white photographs and illustrations, add readability to the well-researched text. Arranged chronologically, FROM RAGS TO RICHES consists of twelve chapters ranging from two to four pages in length. For example, "Bustles and Ruffles: Stylish Girls of the Late Nineteenth Century" is three pages in length and contains seven illustrations (both photographs and sketches). In addition to illustrations, FROM RAGS TO RICHES contains sidebars for many (if not all) of its chapters. Italicized words in the text are words defined in the glossary. Bustle for example is defined as "a cotton pad mounted on a steel or cane frame, then attached by hooks or laces to a waistband under a skirt." Bibliography and webography are included as are listings of museum and organizations.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Top 20 meme

As seen on Miss Erin's blog.

The rules: Top twenty favourite books in no particular order. Don’t think about it for too long. Take twenty minutes only to compile your list. Bold the ones you’ve read, or reread, since you’ve started blogging. Include novels, non fiction and plays.

  1. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
  2. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
  3. Worthing Saga by Orson Scott Card
  4. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  5. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  6. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  7. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  8. War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  9. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  10. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  11. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  12. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  13. A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
  14. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  15. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  16. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  17. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
  18. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  19. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  20. Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

August's Book Selection

Originally, I thought The Accidental Time Machine might make a good selection for June. However, after learning that it will be released in paperback in July, I've decided to save it for the month of August. That way if folks want to buy a copy--emphasis on if--it won't be so expensive. I'm hoping that it will be available at most libraries, however. Hardcover. Paperback.

The Accidental Time Machine
by Joe Haldeman

Day One: Chapters 1 - 4
Day Two: Chapters 5 - 9
Day Three: Chapters 10 - 11
Day Four: Chapters 12 - 13
Day Five: Chapters 14 - 15
Day Six: Chapters 16 - 18
Day Seven: Chapters 19 - 22

I'm thinking Tuesdays-Thursdays might be good. But I'm open for feedback. (8/5; 8/7; 8/12/; 8/14; 8/19; 8/21; 8/26) I honestly don't know what works best for people: two assignments per week? three? Monday, Wednesday, Fridays? Tuesday, Thursdays? Tuesday, Thursday, Saturdays? If you've got a strong preference let me know. Otherwise, I'll just pick whatever strikes me at the moment I'm making the schedule.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Survey about Online Reading Group....

Click Here to take survey

Please take a moment or two to answer my survey! I'd really appreciate it!

The Golly-Whopper Games

Feldman, Jody. 2008. The GollyWhopper Games.

If Gil Goodson was to have a chance, any chance at all, he would have to run faster than he was running right now.

I enjoyed The GollyWhopper Games. It's part Chasing Vermeer. Part Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Part The Mysterious Benedict Society. In other words, it's a whole lot of fun. The Golly Whopper toy company is having a contest, a true once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Thousands and thousands of kids want to make it, hope to make it, but no one wants it more than Gil Goodson. His father was fired from the GollyWhopper company--falsely accused of embezzling the company's funds. He's been proven innocent, but the Goodson family is still the town's scapegoats. Gil Goodson wants to win, and if wanting gives you power, then he's fully charged and ready to go. But is he ready to face all of the obstacles and challenges in his path?

Gil is a likable narrator. He is. He's a kid--much like Charlie Bucket--who you want to win. I should note that the other contestants aren't as detestable as Charlie's competitors. The games, the challenges, require mental, emotional, and physical prowess. The finals of the game--for example--require each team of five to solve a logic puzzle. After the mind has been stimulated, then there is a physical stunt required. The puzzles are puzzling. Meaning, the reader can have just as much fun as the characters themselves. For those that love the puzzle-solving elements of Chasing Vermeer and Mysterious Benedict Society, The GollyWhopper Games might be just what you're looking for.

A book that encourages higher thinking skills? A book that encourages team work? A book that encourages determination and diligence? What's not to love?




Some--but not all--readers might find it a bit predictable. Some might not be on the edge-of-their-seats waiting to see if Gil wins the big game. But even if it is a wee bit predictable on that front, it is satisfying. And being satisfying is important too. After all, I wouldn't want anyone other than Gil to win!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Three Musketeers

Dumas, Alexandre. The Three Musketeers. Translated by Richard Pevear. (This translation was published in 2006. The original was published in the 1840s.)

On the first Monday of the month of April 1625, the village of Meung, where the author of the Romance of the Rose was born, seemed to be in as total an upheaval as if the Huguenots had come to make a second La Rochelle. Many of the townsmen, seeing women fleeing along the main street, hearing children crying on the doorsills, hastened to put on their breastplates and, backing up their somewhat uncertain countenances with a musket or a partisan, headed for the Jolly Miller Inn, before which jostled a compact group, noisy, full of curiosity, and growing every minute.

Thus begins the classic novel The Three Musketeers. It may not be much of an attention-grabber--especially these days--but believe me, there is more than enough adventure to go around (and then some) in this wonderful classic. Set in seventeenth century France during the reign of Louis XIII, the novel focuses on the life and adventures of a young man d'Artagnan. His friends. His enemies. His frenemies. His lovers. d'Artagnan is a man without much fortune; when we first meet up with him he is almost penniless--not quite--and is the not-so-proud owner of a yellow nag of a horse. Despite his father urging him to not sell the horse, the first thing d'Artagnan does when he gets the chance is to unload himself of the poor creature. He may not have much, but he has BIG dreams and BIG potential. He's also rather confident for being who he is. The first to want to duel at the slightest insult. The first to demand honor and respect. He has a clumsy way about him--at least at first. He seems to rub every one the wrong way at the beginning. His first day in town--in Paris I believe--and he ends up with three men wanting to challenge him. Athos. Porthos. Aramis. Three of the king's own musketeers.

But it is to "be" a musketeer that he is there in the first place. To be a musketeer, to serve his king and country, to earn glory (and money) his only ambition. (Well that and to get the attention of the ladies.) I won't get into the specifics--I hope you'll pick this one up yourself--the duels come to a rather unique resolution. The three men already being the very best of friends decide to take d'Artagnan under their protection, to make him part of this tight circle of friendship. To be part of the exclusive all-for-one and one-for-all club.

Friendship. Love. Hate. Revenge. Secrets. Danger. Adventure. Adventure. Adventure. Adventure with a dash of romance. Swordfights. Duels. Honor. Jealousy. Agendas. Ambition. Greed. Lust. And more than a little humor and sarcasm.

I really can't recommend this one highly enough. I loved every moment of it. Dashing men with swords. Dashing men that wear hats with feathers. Had me at hello. Seriously. Once I started, I didn't want to stop. I did of course. I wasn't able to read 704 pages in one sitting. But I doubt anyone could. It was thoroughly enjoyable. And I didn't want it to end.

I would definitely recommend this edition over the others as well. It has some incredible foot notes. :)

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Weekly Geeks #1

This week's theme: DISCOVER NEW BLOGS WEEK

To find out more about weekly geeks fun, visit Dewey.

 Natasha is hosting a giveaway. A very generous giveaway. To read more. To see the books being given away.

We're in many of the same challenges, by the way, but this was my first time (at least in a while) to explore her site in depth. I learned from this site about Kate's plan to do a group read of Anne of Green Gables in June.  The group site will be here.

One of the things I noticed right away is her oh-so-cute button that says "Reading Challenge Addict." That lets me know right from the start we're bound to have a few things in common. And sure enough, I found that we like some of the same books. She's recently read Goose Girl and Dingo. Oddly enough, it took about ten tries to leave a comment here. Those letters WOULD not behave. 

I noticed that she reviews YA books. As you know, I LOVE YA books. So I'll definitely be going back here. Here is her interview with Elizabeth Scott. One of my favorite authors ;)

I found several lit-related quizzes on this site. I'm going to have to put on my thinking cap here before I allow myself a chance to look at the answers. Oddly enough, my best section is #6: Neither Flesh, Fish, Nor Fowl.


You're Invited!

In case you're not a super-detective that spotted my new little badge right away, I wanted to let everyone know that I have joined the Book Blogs network. It's only been around a week (or so) There are only eighteen members so far. But it has great potential. :) You can view my page and my blog there. Anyway, I'd love it if you'd join too :)

My blog there? I'm going to keep some lists there. And I'm going to be putting my favorite-favorite-favorite best-of-the-best books there as well. 

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Dragon's Child

Yep, Laurence and Kathleen Yep. 2008. The Dragon's Child: A Story of Angel Island.

The Dragon's Child is a fictional story. However, the book is based loosely on the author's family history--his father and grandfather, etc. It is also based on hours and hours and hours of research. The book highlights, in a way, my ignorance when it comes to the immigrant experience. Perhaps I should say that most of my 'familiarity' is of European immigrants entering through Ellis Island. The Dragon's Child focuses on Chinese immigrants--mainly all male immigrants--entering the U.S. through Angel Island.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, Chinese immigrants flooded America. Primarily for economic reasons, they saw America as a land of golden dreams, golden opportunities. For their families to survive--yes, survive not thrive--they needed one or more members of the family to live in America, in the United States, to send money back to their families in China. Families fortunate enough to have a handful of members in America, were seen as especially prestigious, or wealthy. Wealthy by Chinese standards, not American ones. But this life was hard for several reasons. It required separation from one's family for long periods of time. A person never knew quite when he'd be back to see his wife and his children. It may be a few years. It may be a decade. There were laws in place that would not allow a man to bring his family with him. And a law in place that kept Chinese women from emigrating. I suppose the Americans thought that if they didn't allow these immigrants to have a wife and family, then they could control the population.

Immigration then and now could be a hot topic. The laws in place certainly show that it's something they looked down upon. Perhaps viewed as a necessary evil.

The process of immigrating or the process of traveling back and forth between countries was intense. The government kept track of everything. It was all so precise.

To understand just how detailed these records were, try drawing a map of the block on which you live. List all the people in each house and what they do, and also list all their pets. Then record the births, deaths, and marriages of all your immediate family--including uncles and aunts, parents, brothers, sisters, and grandparents--for three generations and describe what the current living relatives do and where they live. Finally write down how many windows and doors the houses have and in which direction they face. That will give you some idea how much a Chinese immigrant was expected to know. (114)
It was by reading some of these records, these documents that the Yeps found inspiration for the story they wanted to tell. A story of a young boy, a ten year old boy, who upon meeting his father for the first time in his memory--though they did meet when he was a toddler--comes home to China to visit. The boy is told that he will go back with his father to America. And that in order to go to America he has to pass a test. He has to convince the officials that he is who he says he is--his father's son. If he fails his test, if they doubt him, then they could refuse to let him and his father into the country. The boy is a bit anxious, a bit scared, a bit excited. He doesn't know what he wants. He likes the idea of America in some ways. But he doesn't like the idea of being separated--perhaps forever--from the life he has known in China.

The story is emotional and authentic.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Asking a favor...

I would really really appreciate it if you could spread the word on May's online book club discussion of Life As We Knew It. I'd love to know if you plan to participate. And even if you're not going to join in, if you could just promote it...that would be really great. :) I don't know if the turn out is so low because everyone that is anyone has already read the books I'm choosing. Or if people just don't know about it. Or if people don't have the time. In case it's the second--not knowing--I'd really appreciate you spreading the word to all your book-reading friends.

The book should be available at your local library. Or you can buy it in hardcover or paperback for a fairly reasonable price.

Amazon has the hardcover at the bargain price of $6.99. That’s the price for a NEW copy. But in true Amazon fashion, they don’t take down the other Life As We Knew It entry, the one that costs $11.56. They like to trick people I think. Used copies begin at $3.29.

The paperback editions officially release May 1. But Amazon has it in stock already. (I found this out through Susan Beth Pfeffer’s blog.) That is $6.95.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Friday, May 9th, 2008; Ch. 1-3; May 7th through May 19th
Monday, May 12, 2008; Ch. 4-6; May 20th through June 25th
Wednesday, May 14th, 2008; Ch. 7-8; July 2 through August 4th
Friday, May 16th, 2008; Ch. 9-11; August 6th through September 5th
Monday, May 19th, 2008; Ch. 12-14; September 6th through October 24th
Wednesday, May 21rst, 2008; Ch. 15- 17; October 26th through December 21rst
Friday, May 23rd, 2008; Ch 18-19; December 24th through February 7th
Monday, May 26th; Ch. 20-21; February 9th through March 20th

Expanding Horizons Challenge Completed

1. Revolution is not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine
2. The Girl with the White Flag by Tomiko Higa
3. Yellow Umbrella by Jae soo Liu
4. Year of the Rat by Grace Lin
5. The Fold by An Na
6. The Mats by Francisco Arcellana
7. Guji, Guji by Chih-Yuan Chen
8. The Dragon's Child by Laurence Yep

Warning: May Overwhelm You, But...

The Spring edition of the Bloggy Giveaways Quarterly Carnival is up. Some of the contests end today, Friday. Some go through the weekend. Most are over with by Monday, though. To say that the list is huge would be an understatement. A big understatement. There are over 900 contests that you can enter. 900. What's being given away? Well, all kinds of things. Books. DVDs. But the most glorious thing--in my opinion--are the gift cards. I love gift cards. Seriously. Some items are homemade. Some are 'girly'--(soap, lotion, bath stuff, candles, etc.). Many are mom related. Things for moms and things for babies and kids of all ages. While 900 is a lot to browse through. I'm sure--confident--you'll find something you want.


Levine, Gail Carson. 2008. Ever.

I am huge in my Mati's womb, straining her wide tunic. She is Hannu, Akkan goddess of the earth and of pottery. My pado, Arduk, god of agriculture, sits at Hannu's bedside, awaiting my birth. It is too tight in Hannu's belly! I thread my strong wind into her womb, and my strong wind thrusts me flying out. Fortunately, Arduk catches me in his big, gentle hands. Although Hannu lies in bed and Arduk stands holding me, we are also floating above the earth. In the air over volcanic Mount Enshi hovers Enshi Rock. From its center the temple rises: our home, a tower of porous white stone mounted on four stout stone legs. Never has there been such a temple! When my diaper cloth is tied in place, I kick. When I'm lowered into my sleeping basket, I cry. If a blanket is tucked around me, I bellow. I am the god of the winds, and I hate confinement.

Olus, god of wind, immortal son of immortal parents, has a fascination with mortals. Especially one mortal in particular, a young girl named Kezi. She is young. She is beautiful. She weaves and dances beautifully. (That's not to say she dances while she weaves or weaves while she dances.) She also lives in another country, another region from Akkan; she lives in Hyte. The people worship a different god, Admat. Kezi and her family take their beliefs, their worship very seriously. Which is why her father's oath is so daunting. Her mother is sick. Everyone has done everything they possibly could. They've left it all up to Admat. Her father vows to offer up--as human sacrifice--the first person who congratulates him on his wife's recovery--if she recovers that is. She does. And he does. But no one expected Kezi to be involved. No one. His young daughter, his only daughter, a sacrifice to his god? It must be. And yet....

Olus, the god of wind, is there watching, listening. He loves Kezi. How can he stand by and watch his love be sacrificed. He's got to do something. He won't--can't--let her die.

Olus and Kezi's story--their destiny--unfolds in Ever.

I loved this one. Loved, loved, loved it. It is so wonderfully magical. Olus and Kezi are great narrators. And their story is compelling and fascinating. I could not put this one down at all.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Poetry Friday: Judith Viorst: Fifty States

Someday Someone Will Bet That You Can't Name All Fifty States

by Judith Viorst

from Sad Underwear and Other Complications (1995)

California, Mississippi,
North and South Dakota.
New York, Jersey, Mexico, and
Hampshire. Minnesota.
Vermont, Wisconsin, Oregon,
Connecticut, and Maine.
Hawaii, Georgia, Maryland.
Virginia (West and plain).
Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas,
Illinois, Alaska.
Colorado, Utah, Florida,
Delaware, Nebraska.
The Carolinas (North and South).
Missouri. Idaho.
Plus, Alabama, Washington,
And Indiana. O-
klahoma. Also Iowa,
Arkansas, Montana,
Pennsylvania, Arizona,
And Louisiana.
Ohio, Massachussetts, and
Nevada. Michigan,
Rhode Island, and Wyoming. That
makes forty-nine. You win
as soon as you say _________.

This week's round up is at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Jewish Literature Challenge Wrapup

Callista is hosting a new challenge, the Jewish Literature Challenge. It does have its own blog. I'm assuming she'll invite participants so they can post their as well as on their own blogs.

Golden Dreydl by Ellen Kushner
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
The Entertainer and the Dybbuk by Sid Fleischman
I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree by Laura Hillman
The Mozart Question by Michael Morpurgo
The Cage by Ruth Minsky Sender
Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank
I Have Lived A Thousand Years by Livia Bitton-Jackson
My Bridges of Hope by Livia Bitton-Jackson

Reading Full Circle Completed

Thoughts of Joy is hosting the Reading Full Circle 2008 Challenge. I’m not exactly sure on the dates. The NovelChallenge group says it’s a year-long challenge. The original post doesn’t say. And the Mr. Linky post says through March. The goal is to read six “linked” books. The rules are on the sign up page if you’re curious and want to join.

Here is my list:

Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Diaries of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain

Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray

Gone with The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Girl with the White Flag by Tomiko Higa

White Lilacs by Carolyn Meyer

I Will Plant You A Lilac Tree by Laura Hillman

Gone With The Wind

Mitchell, Margaret. 1936. Gone With The Wind.

You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need...

--The Rolling Stones

Because I used to love her, but it's all over now...
--The Rolling Stones

Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. (5)

Thus begins Margaret Mitchell's classic novel Gone With The Wind. Does it surprise you that Scarlett O'Hara "was not beautiful"? Can you conceptualize (fancy word for imagine) a Scarlett O'Hara that isn't beautiful? Try. Really. I bet you can't help but think of the beautiful Vivian Leigh. And that is where I think Hollywood did a huge disservice to the world. I have a love-hate relationship with the movie. I do. The movie has its moments of brilliance. Moments I love. But the movie has little to do with what Margaret Mitchell actually wrote. It got a few of the surface details right, I think, but it makes a mockery of it in places. Mitchell's novel has heart and soul and substance. Actual substance. The movie? Well. It's more stereotypes. Hollywood's version of the South is far from the South portrayed in Mitchell's pages. Especially when it comes to Scarlett and Tara. (But I digress.)

What did Scarlett look like? We're told that "it was an arresting face, pointed of chin, square of jaw. Her eyes were pale green without a touch of hazel, starred with bristly black lashes and slightly tilted at the ends. Above them her thick black brows slanted upward, cutting a startling oblique line in her magnolia-white-skin" (5).

Even if you've never read the book, I would imagine you've got a fairly good notion of what Gone With The Wind is about. At least on the surface. It's the story of the spoiled-rotten Scarlett O'Hara and her quest to win her heart's desire through any means possible. Scarlett is one that doesn't ask if it's wrong or right. She only lives by this question--does it get me one step closer to what I want? If it does--then look out!

Scarlett. Rhett. Ashley. You probably know the basics. A woman wants what she can't have. She wants it until she can have it. The moment she has it. She doesn't want it anymore. Scarlett is in a perpetual state of frustration. The man in her bed doing her bidding is rarely the man in her heart.

The book is about much more than Scarlett and her quest for love, however. It's a love story, I won't deny it. But there is much more than love at stake in the novel. War. Reconstruction. Civilization. Society. Culture. Class. Race. Money. Politics. Survival. It's a novel of contrasts. The Old South vs. The New South. Conformity vs. Individuality. The haves vs. the have-nots. If asked to sum up Gone With The Wind in one word, most would probably say "Love." I'd say gumption. People who have it; people who don't. What do I mean by gumption? Partly spirit. Partly courage. Partly determination. Partly ambition. People with gumption act. They do what they must when they must.

One of my favorite non-love scenes from the book is Scarlett's conversation with Grandma Fontaine. A wonderful, wonderful character by the way. The setting is after Gerald's funeral. Scarlett is pregnant with Frank Kennedy's baby. (Yes, the movie killed Gerald, her father, off too soon.)
"We bow to the inevitable. We’re not wheat, we’re buckwheat! When a storm comes along it flattens ripe wheat because it’s dry and can’t bend with the wind. But ripe buckwheat’s got sap in it and it bends. And when the wind has passed, it springs up almost as straight and strong as before. We aren’t a stiff-necked tribe. We’re mighty limber when a hard wind’s blowing, because we know it pays to be limber. When trouble comes we bow to the inevitable without any mouthing, and we work and we smile and we bide our time. And we play along with lesser folks and we take what we can get from them. And when we’re strong enough, we kick the folks whose necks we’ve climbed over. That, my child, is the secret of the survival.” And after a pause, she added: “I pass it on to you.”

The old lady cackled, as if she were amused by her words, despite the venom in them. She looked as if she expected some comment from Scarlett but the words had made little sense to her and she could think of nothing to say. (709-710)

It's a novel that goes above and beyond the central character of Scarlett. Even if you hate Scarlett, I'd imagine you'd find some character to love. Be it Melanie. Rhett. Mammy. Uncle Peter. Grandma Fontaine. How could you not? There are so many characters, so many individual stories. Stories of triumph. Stories of loss. Stories of hope. Stories of disappointment. Stories of survival. Stories of failure. There is depth and meaning that the movie doesn't even try to accommodate. Depth and meaning that even diehard fans can't help but learn something new with each rereading.

I don't want anyone to think I'm glossing over some of the book's issues. You'd have to be a fool to not realize that Gone With The Wind has more than a little potential to be racially offensive. It could be seen as abrasive even. It uses these words interchangeably: n-word, darkie(s), slaves, and Negroes. A good many of uses of the n-word come from slaves/servants conversing with one another. But there are many that aren't. And regardless of who is speaking it in the novel, the context of the novel, you can't escape the fact that it is a white author. There are phrases, there are scenes, that you can't deny are racist. You just can't. It's no wonder that this book is challenged in some places. But I'm not a book banner. Obviously.

My rule is context, context, context. My second rule is that it is better to discuss and employ critical thinking skills than it is to deny, hide, or censor. There are two contexts for reading Gone With The Wind. The first is that of the author. Margaret Mitchell. A Southern woman growing up in turn-of-the-century America. The 1920s and the 1930s. These were the years that Margaret Mitchell was living and working on her novel. This is the culture and mindset of the author and of the original audience. Gone With The Wind is not alone. It doesn't stand out from the crowd. Many books, many authors used the n-word without batting an eye. Many wrote with the mindset that whites are superior--intellectually at least--to blacks. It doesn't make it true then or now. But that is the mindset. The second is that of the setting of the novel. 1860s-1870s America's South. You can't be true to history without going there. It's a fact in America's history. There's no disputing or denying it. It's not pleasant; it's often ugly. But there you have it. You've got to know where you've been so you can measure how far you've come. And so you can measure how far you've still got to go. America--both as a nation and as a people--has never been perfect. Will probably never be perfect.

As a reader, I can enjoy the story without being brainwashed. I can see. I can question. I can realize when I'm being fed bull. Lines where the former slaves still faithful servants are talking about how they've never wanted freedom??? about how they've never wanted money or independence??? I think I know that Mitchell was full of it. I think most readers can make that division. I hope.

Changing topics now. I just want to bring to your attention one more thing. The last chapter was written first. (The first few chapters were written last.) Margaret Mitchell had in her mind how the story would end. It was these characters in this last and final state--the frustrated and pleading Scarlett and the resolute and pitying Rhett--that were her characters. Her characters just as she wanted them; just as she first imagined them. Everything that comes before is leading up to this grand emotional finale. Every scene, every conversation. All the little plot twists. All were to lead up to this. It wasn't the other way around. The ending wasn't tacked on because Mitchell didn't know where to go next. This unhappy and emotionally draining scene was her perfect ending. Which is why I find the idea of sequels so laughable.

There is so much more I could say. How much I love Melanie. How much I love Rhett. How irritating Ashley can be. How unforgettable most of the character are when you get down to it. But if I were to post every thought I had on GWTW... then that would be much too much. If I were to share every *favorite* quote...again much too much.

I first read Gone With The Wind when I was eleven or twelve. (I had first typed elven. But I've never been elven.) I've read it maybe seven or eight times since then. I read it every year for a while. But around the age of twenty, I outgrew it. Moved on. This was my first time to read it since then.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Herding Cats Challenge Update

This list is subject to change. Mostly subject to grow as the master list grows. As of 4/23/08, there are 416 books to choose from. It's only going to get larger as more and more people join the herd.

We're only required to read three books. But more, of course, are fine if you're a bit on the obsessed side. This is my narrowed-down-thinking-about-it list

Watership Down (prpl_pen) by Richard Adams. (I might choose this one since it's on the Mythopoeic (sp?) Challenge list. Crossovers can be a good thing!)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (Though I can't look at it without smirking about a student that called it Jane Airy.)
Possession by A.S. Byatt (Might choose this one since it's on my Book Awards Challenge.)
Enchantment by Orson Scott Card. (Might choose this once since it's on my Twisted Fairy Tale/Once Upon A Time II Challenge.)
The Three Musketeers
by Alexandre Dumas (trans. by Richard Pevear) (I haven't read this new translation. And it looks like fun. In fact, I've got it checked out right now.)
A Room With A View by E.M. Forster (I did just see the movie. This might be fun.)
Howards End
by E. M. Forster
American Gods
by Neil Gaiman
An Abundance of Katherines
by John Green (This would work for the Printz Challenge...)
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Anne of Green Gables
by L.M. Montgomery
Anne's House of Dreams
by L.M. Montgomery
The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger
Mister Monday
by Garth Nix
by Garth Nix
Island of the Blue Dolphin
by Scott O'Dell
Lord of the Rings
by J.R.R. Tolkien

Travel the World: Ireland: One Voice, Please

McBratney, Sam. 2008. One Voice, Please: Favorite Read-Aloud Stories.

One Voice, Please is a delightful gathering of stories--some familiar, some not-so-much--perfect for reading aloud to children of all ages. Family-friendly reading, if you will, that while kid-friendly is not unappealing to adults. Most stories are two to three pages, and could easily be read in a few minutes. This is a good thing. Perfect reading to fill in those gaps during the day when you don't quite have enough time to get settled into a longer book--like a novel or even a traditional picture book.

Originally published in Great Britain in 2005, the collection has recently been published in the U.S. With over fifty stories, there is sure to be something that is just right for your mood. The book would be a great edition to the classroom as well. My personal favorite was "Many Littles Make A Lot."


The "My Ramona" club

Okay, so this month's edition of the Carnival of Children's Literature is a fun one. (And the deadline to submit is April 25th.)
So The Writer is inviting children's book bloggers to create their own society for their favorite children's book series or author or character. Make up your own fan club! Plan expeditions to author sites, conventions, newsletter, club activities, menus for dinners, secret handshake. Best of all, you are President for Life and you get to wear a big shiny medal on a red ribbon.
Growing up, I loved many books. So I could have gone a variety of ways here. But I choose Ramona. Ramona Quimby one of the most colorful characters ever as far as I'm concerned. Her pestiness knows no bounds--at least not in the beginning--and her enthusiasm for living life to the largest is inspiring. She's a role model (spokesperson) for younger sisters everywhere!!!

So if I were to start a club, it would have to be related to Ramona. Perhaps a club for sisters--Beezus deserves some credit too after all for making the Quimbys such a great family--to join together. Our theme song--because who doesn't love a theme song???--would be "My Ramona" to the tune of My Sharona. Part of every club meeting (until all were agreed) would be trying to think of fun and clever lyrics for the verses.

Other club activities could be reading (and discussing) books. Maybe sharing "commercial" book reviews. (I can't believe I read the whole thing!) Playing checkers perhaps. Riding bicycles. (since tricycles would most likely not be feasible for most members.) Going to the park and playing on the playground. Drawing. Yes, drawing would probably be standard at most meetings. Since Ramona definitely loved getting creative and artsy. There would be arts and crafts. But no smashing other's works--even if they do copy you! For the more aggressive members of the bunch, I suppose smashing bricks might be appealing. Playing dress up perhaps--but beware of dangerous attics. We wouldn't want members falling through the ceiling and showing their underpants. And there would definitely need to be a few parades every year!!!

And of course every meeting would involve a snack. Hardboiled eggs, maybe. (But no cracking them on your head, just in case.) Applesauce. Zwieback bread??? And cake! Of course, it wouldn't have to be Ramona-related. After all, Ramona and Beezus did get into trouble in the kitchen that one time. (And I'm not talking about poor old Bendix). I'm referring to the meal they tried to prepare. The "cornbread" made from cream of wheat and banana yogurt. (Yuck!)

Bunny ears are optional.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

My Bridges of Hope

Bitton-Jackson, Livia. 1999. My Bridges of Hope.

My Bridges of Hope is the sequel to I Have Lived A Thousand Years. It is the middle book in a trilogy of the author's memoirs. (Though each book can and does stand alone just fine.) The book opens with Elli Friedmann and her mother and brother returning to their home town of Samorin after they were liberated by the Russian soldiers. Unlike some of the other returning Jews, they did find their home relatively intact. Stripped of furniture, yes, but still standing. The neighbors are shocked, extremely shocked to see them again. Shocked that they're living skeletons. But most of their closest neighbors are helpful. They give what they can, do what they can to make the Friedmann's home habitable again. This doesn't mean that every neighbor is this nice. And it doesn't mean that the family's possessions are returned from the neighbors who took them for safekeeping at the beginning of the war. But a few are ethical enough to return and restore.

"Out of Samorin's more than five hundred Jewis citizens, only thirty-six returned, mostly young men and women. Those who did not--our children, parents, grandparents, siblings, husbands, wives, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and lovers--have been replaced by an abyss." (18)

Imagine that if you will. Really think about it. My Bridges of Hope tells the stories of those in between years. Those years between 1945 and 1951 when Elli was growing up in such a strange and foreign environment. It looked a bit like her old home, her old town. But so many people missing, so many new people in their place, so many strangers--the Russians, the Communists coming to town and taking over. Nothing is ever the same, nothing could ever be the same.

In these years, Elli dreams of going to Israel. At the beginning of the book, it isn't even a state or nation yet. But the dreams, the Zionist dreams, are there both in Elli and in her friends. But it is decided that America will be their destination, if they can get in.

These are years of waiting and years of growing. A turbulent time of changing for Elli as she matures from a fourteen year old girl into a young woman of nineteen or twenty. The book records her hopes, her dreams, her loves, her losses, her disappointments.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Looking for Feedback

I'm considering simplifying my blogging life, but I wanted to get some feedback first. For several reasons. (Can you tell I try to be a people pleaser?)

Anyway, I have a blog Becky's Christian Reviews. It is for the most part a neglected blog. I try my best, but except for posting my CFBA book reviews (weekly). And the occasional book review, it isn't an active blog. Furthermore, it's not a popular blog. I would be surprised if it had a regular readership at all. Really surprised. That's not shocking. It is the unfavored child of my blogs. I don't mean to treat it differently from Becky's Book Reviews and Young Readers and even Becky's Challenges and Becky's Online Reading Group. It just is one of those things filed under sad but true. It's not poplar because it doesn't get the energy and the effort and the time that my other blogs do.

That blog, Becky's Christian Reviews, is for reviewing Christian books for all ages. My question is this. I'm considering (I haven't decided anything definitely) incorporating Christian reviews into this main site. Those posts might be thought of as "off topic" for some folks looking for YA book reviews. They might get annoyed with me there. And I suppose it's possible I might offend people if I review Christian books on my main site which is typically not affiliated or associated with being a "Christian" site at all (or a spiritual/religious site for that matter.) I don't want to lose any readers. Or bore any readers. But I also like the idea of just having one main blog to do all my book reviews.

How many reviews? I'm not sure. It could be something that's once or twice a week. Though more likely it will be a once a month (or twice a month) thing. If my luck continues on, it might be an every-other-month thing. So chances are the content would only shift occasionally. You might not even notice it.

Another reason I'm considering is that I feel slightly guilty (is guilty the right word? probably not...) that the few reviews I do write up for the other site are neglected. They're not in a place to attract any attention. I don't feel I'm adequately promoting the (relatively few) books I'm receiving from publishers. (The number of visitors I receive in six months on my Christian site, I receive in one week here at Becky's Book Reviews.) So if my reviews were on my main blog, I'd feel I was giving back more, offering more for the authors and publishers.

So is this something that would bother/annoy/offend you? Do you care at all one way or the other?

I wouldn't be eliminating Becky's Christian Reviews altogether because I'm signed up for the CFBA Blog Alliance and I wouldn't know how (exactly how???) to go about switching my information for them to the new site. (Though I suppose it's possible to figure that out at some point? Maybe?)

Defining "Good"

Good is one of the most ambiguous words, yet one that is hard for a reader and/or a reviewer to escape. It's a multi-purpose word. And it can mean whatever you want it to mean, essentially. But it's hard to sometimes convey your intended meaning with the interpreted meaning sometimes. The context is key, of course, but it's still a slippery word.

Good can mean average, better than average, or slightly better than average.
Good can be a polite form of "it's okay."
Good can mean enjoyable or pleasurable.
Good can mean it's worth your time and/or money.
Good can mean that it's something you'd feel comfortable recommending.

There are good books that are "good" because they're junk, they're fluffy, they're predictable, they're formulaic, they're just right. There are books that are like potato chips and candy bars. They're good in that comforting and indulging and satisfying way.

But sometimes good is followed by silent and implied partners. Words like "but" and "enough." Good isn't necessarily good all the time.

It's good but not great.
It's good but not for me--it's not my kind of book.
It's good (objectively, quality, style) but not one that I connected with or enjoyed.
It's good but not something I'd want to read again.
It's good but not enjoyable, not comfortable.
It's good but a little disappointing. I was hoping for more. Wanting more.
It's good but not timeless. It's here today, gone tomorrow. Not worth keeping in print.

It's good enough that I finished.
It's good enough to read once. (But it's forgettable.)
It's good enough for a library read. (But I wouldn't want to spend my own money on it.)
It's good enough for a light and fluffy read. (But lacks substance and quality.)
It's good enough that I'd want to read the sequel.
It's good enough that I'd read that author again.
It's good enough to spend your time on. (But it's not an award-winning, life-changing, must-read.)
It's good enough that you're not embarrassed by it, ashamed to be seen reading it or discussing it, but it's not making your top hundred any time soon.

Good doesn't necessarily correlate with a book being quality (literature, literary worth) or being popular. It can mean either. It can mean both.

The problem with words like "good" or even words like "like" and "love" and "enjoy" is that they can be so bogged down in the subjective that they have little objective value. Recommendations and reviews whether given on a blog, an Amazon (or other bookseller site) or in person, are always going to be subjective and personal.

I've found this to be true, and maybe you have as well. But sometimes it all comes down to being in the right time and place for a book. Your reaction, your personal reaction--love, hate, like, dislike, whatever--is sometimes dependent on all of the little small (and sometimes moody) details of your life. Your state of mind, your expectations, your mood, your atmosphere. A book may not be working for you when you first pick it up. Sometimes you just have to put it down and go with something else that is. Then hopefully a week or a month or six months later you can go back and have it be the moment for that book. I don't like to force a book. It's never a good idea to force a book. It definitely doesn't do the author much justice. Though sometimes, especially if this 'disconnect' happens more than once, it might be the book. Might. It's usually in these cases where I then look up reviews online to see if I'm the only one having trouble getting into the book. Am I the only one feeling that way, responding that way. That can let me know if it's me or the book.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Crispin by Avi

Avi. 2002. Crispin: The Cross of Lead.

I honestly didn't know what to expect from this one. Not the most clever way to start out a review, but true nevertheless. The cover. I was not easily won over with the cover. It is ugly and unappealing. It doesn't shout out "read me, read me." But I'd heard good things about it, of course, and it did win the Newbery in 2003. So I knew that I had to get past my initial misgivings.

Here's how it begins:
England, A.D. 1377 "In the midst of life comes death." How often did our village priest preach those words. Yet I have also heard that "in the midst of death comes life." If this be a riddle, so was my life. The day after my mother died, the priest and I wrapped her body in a gray shroud and carried her to the village church. Our burden was not great. In life she had been a small woman with little strength. Death made her even less. Her name had been Asta.
Our narrator is a young boy. At first, we only know him as Asta's son. Later his real name is revealed, Crispin. Here is a young boy, a peasant, tied to the land for life. But the day after his mother's funeral everything changes. (Or maybe it's the day of his mother's funeral.)

Told by John Aycliffe (boo, hiss) that he must return the ox to the manor since his mother is died (and he's now an orphan) he is told that he can starve. His life, his welfare is of no concern for this substitute lord-of-the-manor. Upset, he runs into the woods. He's working out his emotions--anger, grief, confusion, etc., but a fall and a bump on the head changes his life. Or you could say saves his life. He wakes up at some point during the night. He sees two men. One is John Aycliffe (boo, hiss) and the other is unknown to him at that time. What he hears confuses him. He can't make sense of it. But when he is seen, he gets a sick feeling that his life is in danger.

He is able to get away and hide for the rest of that night and the day. But the next night, he makes his way to his trusted friend, the priest, Father Quinel. What the priest tells him doesn't erase his questions. If anything, it just adds to his confusion. He's told that his mother could read and write. He's told that he was baptized (albeit secretly) Crispin. He's told that he MUST flee for his life. That John Aycliffe (boo, hiss) has started spreading lies about him. Accused him of theft. Is offering an award for whoever kills him. The priest gives him a few things to do on his own, and makes arrangement to meet him again before the two part ways forever.

His errand? To go to Goodwife Peregrine's house and pick up a cross of lead. But on his way to meet the priest one last time, the time where all would be revealed, he is met by another man instead. A man who claims he comes in the priest's place. But something doesn't feel right.

Crispin doesn't know who he is or exactly why John Aycliffe (boo, hiss) is out to kill him. Why Aycliffe (boo, hiss) wants him dead so very badly. He doesn't know who he is or where he needs to go, he just knows that his life is in danger and he is being pursued relentlessly.

Crispin's journey could have been a lonely one. But he meets an unusual friend, a man called Bear, who takes him under his protection. Together they try to make sense of it all. But the journey won't be easy.

I loved this book. I can easily see now why it won the Newbery. I definitely recommend this one to lovers of historical fiction. Also for those that love coming-of-age novels.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Eponymous Reading Challenge Completed

Hosted by Coversgirl, the Eponymous Reading Challenge can be found here.

All my books are by Beverly Cleary.

Beezus and Ramona
Ramona the Pest
Ramona the Brave
Ramona and Her Father
Ramona and Her Mother
Ramona Quimby, Age 8
Ramona Forever
Ramona’s World

Ramona's World

Cleary, Beverly. 1999. Ramona's World.

Ramona's World is the final in the Ramona series. In our last encounter with Ramona, Ramona Forever, her sister, Roberta Day Quimby, is born. Ramona's World opens several months later. Ramona is starting fourth grade. And she's relatively optimistic. She loves being a big sister (most of the time). In the first chapter we read, "She was often excited. She liked to be excited." Isn't that a great description? It does describe Ramona. But it also describes me. I knew there was a reason Ramona and I were such good friends.

In Ramona's World, Ramona gets a best friend. A girl best friend, Daisy. She also has more than a few battles over the evil that is spelling. Ramona has never liked to spell. But it comes to a head in Ramona's World. Spelling threatens to ruin her happiness, unless she finds a way to conquer it once and for all.

I love this quote: "All this made Ramona feel surrounded by words. There were words every place she looked in books and newspapers, on signs and television, on cereal boxes and milk cartons. The world, Ramona decided, was full of people who used their dictionary skills and probably weren't any fun."

There are quite a few things I could highlight from Ramona's World. Elements I loved or found charming. But I think one of my favorite recurring elements are about Mrs. Quimby and her book club. Now that she's back at home, Mrs. Quimby wants to join a book club and stimulate her mind. The first book that the club chooses is Moby Dick. Every now and then, Ramona has some key insight into her mother and her mother's club. It is just really fun.

Example 1: Ramona picked up her mother's book. Moby Dick. "What's this about?" she asked.
"A whale that bit off a man's leg," said Mrs. Quimby. "Our book club decided to read a book we had all heard about all our lives but had never actually read."
"Sounds exciting." Ramona opened the book, which turned out not to look exciting at all. The print was small, the lines were close together, and there were almost no quotation marks. She closed the book. She liked her own writing better. (22)

Example 2: Mrs. Quimby found more time to read Moby Dick, a book with so many pages that members of the book club, most of them mothers or women who worked outside their homes or both, had difficulty finishing it. They postponed their meeting for another month. Ramona wondered why they didn't just skip the hard parts. (40)

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, April 21, 2008

Looking for Alaska Reminder

Becky's Online Reading Group

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Monday, April 21rst one hundred and thirty-six days before - one hundred and nine days before (roughly 3-50)
Friday, April 25th one hundred and one days before - the last day (roughly 51-133)
Wednesday, April 30th; the day after - twenty-seven days after (roughly 137-182
Friday, May 2nd; twenty-eight days later - end (roughly 182 - 221 unless you read the author’s note in which case it would be 182-225)