Wednesday, February 28, 2024

February Reflections

In February, I read thirty-eight books. 

Books reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

14. Mexikid: A Graphic Memoir. Pedro Martin. 2023. 320 pages. [Source: Library] [Nonfiction Graphic Novel; MG Graphic Novel; Newbery Honor]

15. Little House on the Prairie. Laura Ingalls Wilder. 1935. 335 pages. [Source: Bought] [children's classic] 

16. Not Quite a Ghost. Anne Ursu. 2024. [January] 288 pages. [Source: Library] 

17. The Frozen River. Ariel Lawhon. 2023. [December] 432 pages. [Source: Library] [adult historical fiction] 

18. Fighting With Love: The Legacy of John Lewis. Lesa Cline-Ransome. Illustrated by James E. Ransome. 2024. [January] 48 pages. [Source: Library] [nonfiction picture book; picture book biography; civil rights movement] 

19. The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn. Sally J. Pla. 2023. [July] 336 pages. [Source: Library] [J Fiction; J Realistic Fiction; MG Fiction, MG Realistic Fiction; dysfunctional families]

20. Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint. (Danny Dunn #1) Jay Williams. Illustrated by Raymond Abrashkin. 1956. 154 pages. [Source: Library] 

21. Making It So. Patrick Stewart. 2023. 469 pages. [Source: Library]

22. Mrs. Quinn's Rise To Fame. Olivia Ford. 2024. 384 pages. [Source: Library] 

23. All-of-A-Kind-Family. Sydney Taylor. 1951. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

24. Nothing Else But Miracles. Kate Albus. 2023. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

25. Heroes. Alan Gratz. 2024. 272 pages. [Source: Library] 

26. Wait! What? The Beatles Couldn't Read Music? Dan Gutman. 2023. 144 pages. [Source: Library]  

27. Who is Nathan Chen? (Who Was? Series) Joseph Liu. 2023. 56 pages. [Source: Library] 

28. What was the Children's Blizzard of 1888? Steve Korte. 2023. [November] 112 pages. [Source: Library]


Books reviewed at Young Readers

My Dog and I. Luca Tortolini. Illustrated by Felicita Sala. 2023. [November] 48 pages. [Source: Library] [Picture book, Humor, Pets, Animals] 

13. [Board book] Teeny Tiny Turkey. Rachel Matson. Illustrated by Joey Chou. 2023. 16 pages. [Source: Library]

14. [Board book] If Mama Sings. Laura Wittner. Illustrated by Maricel R. Clark. 2023. 16 pages. [Source: Library]

15. [Board Book] The Bedtime Book. Katy Hedley. Illustrated by Paola Camma. 2023. [October 17, cybils eligible] 20 pages. [Source: Library]

16. [Board book] Lion, Lion Peekaboo. Grace Habib. 2023. 8 pages. [Source: Library]

17. [Board book] Baby On Board Train With Tabs to Push and Pull. Sebastien Braun. 2023. 8 pages. [Source: Library]

18. [Board book] You're the Apple of My Pie. Rose Rossner. Illustrated by Jill Howarth. 2023. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

19. [Board book] Winter with Hedgehog. Elena Ulyeva. Illustrated by Daria Parkhaeva. 2023. 20 pages. [Source: Library] 

20. [Board book] Bundle up, Little Pup. Dori Elys. Illustrated by Elena Comte. 2023. 20 pages. [Source: Library] 

21. The Fabulous Fannie Farmer: Kitchen Scientist and America's Cook. Emma Bland Smith. Illustrated by Susan Reagan. 2024. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

22. Board book: Apple vs. Pumpkin. Jeffrey Burton. Illustrated by Lydia Jean. 2023. 22 pages. [Source: Library]

23. Board book: Some Cats. Illustrated by Lydia Nichols. 2023. 12 pages. [Source: Library] 

24. Kitty and Cat: Bent Out of Shape. Mirka Hokkanen. 2023. [November] 40 pages. [Source: Library]


Books reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

12. Simplify Your Spiritual Life. Donald S. Whitney. 2003. 208 pages. [Source: Library] [Christian nonfiction; theology; Christian living]

13. A Season of Harvest (Leah's Garden #4) Lauraine Snelling. 2024. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

14. Just Once. Karen Kingsbury. 2023. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

15. My Jesus: From Heartache to Hope. Anne Wilson. 2022. 196 pages. [Source: Library] [Memoir, Biography, Music Industry]

16. God Is Kind. Jamie Calloway-Hanauer. Illustrations by Patrick Brooks. 2023. 24 pages. [Source: Library] [Board book, children's book]

17. The Watchmaker's Daughter. Larry Loftis. 2023. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

18. If the Boot Fits. Karen Witemeyer. 2024. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]

19. The Bookends of the Christian Life. Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington. 2009. March 2009. Crossway Publishers. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Bibles reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

1. WHOLE BIBLE. New King James Version, Sovereign Collection, Wide Margin. God. (Thomas Nelson Publisher). 2022. 1696 pages. [Source: Bought] [Bible]

2. WHOLE BIBLE. New American Standard Reference Edition. 1973. God. 1899 pages. [Source: Bought]

 2024 Reading Totals

Books Read in 202474
Pages Read in 202416606
Books read in January36
Pages read in January6875
Books read in February 38
Pages read in February9731


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

28. What was the Children's Blizzard of 1888?

What was the Children's Blizzard of 1888? Steve Korte. 2023. [November] 112 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: January 12, 1888, started out as an unusually warm and sunny winter day in much of the central and midwestern parts of the United States. This area was known as the Great Plains.

Premise/plot: This nonfiction book for young readers answers the question, What was the Children's Blizzard of 1888. It is part of the WhoHQ series of books. This book focuses--though not narrowly--on an event. It provides different "snapshots" of what happened. There are small stories--vignettes--from many different people chronicling their experiences. This was a big-interest news story back in the day, and these stories were captured in newspapers--many, many from all across the country. There are happier stories and sadder stories. 

My thoughts: I definitely enjoyed reading this one. I always have had a big interest in history. This is a good introduction to the Children's Blizzard of 1888. There are plenty of books on this event/subject. (Though many are for adult readers.) Some nonfiction. Some fiction. Many if not most are fascinating and haunting. 

IF kids enjoy the I Survived series--which are mostly historical--then I see this one could having great appeal to the same audience. 

I mentioned earlier that the focus wasn't narrow. I haven't decided if that's good or bad. This one pulls in a LOT of what might pass as "context" if you are kind or "filler" if you are mean. I have to remember that it is written for young kids and it assumes no previous knowledge of American history. This makes sense when talking about weather forecasts especially. I'm going to guess that most kids haven't wondered HOW weather was forecast/predicted a 140+ years ago. It is so ordinary, so common place, to have MANY ways to get alerts about bad weather. The book could have perhaps gone into more when it comes to early meteorology. But some places felt a little history-dumping of more general knowledge that didn't really directly connect to the story. (Indirectly yes.)  


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

27. Who Is Nathan Chen?

Who is Nathan Chen? (Who Was? Series) Joseph Liu. 2023. 56 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: During the 2022 Winter Olympics, Nathan Chen stood alone in the middle of the ice rink in Beijing (say: BAY-jing), China. His legs were spread apart and his arms were relaxed at his side. He was dressed in black pants and a red shirt covered in stars. The stars were not like those you see on a flag. These were more like stars you see in space.

Premise/plot: Who is Nathan Chen? is a biography for young readers--think elementary aged. It is part of the Who HQ series. Who is Nathan Chen? A figure skater--from the United States--who, for a time, dominated the sport and many competitions. The sport is an ever-constant in its changing. Skaters come. Skaters go. Legacies can be formed, for sure. But there's always "new" and "better." I use quotes because there's SO much room for subjective speculation in the sport. There are a million and one factors involved in judging. One person's "better" is another person's flop. Fans can and do disagree with judges. Fans can and do disagree with other fans. The book is a basic, straightforward biography of an athlete, an Olympian.

My thoughts: I just remember so much RAGE of the 2022 Olympics when it comes to figure skating. Though not particularly the men's competition. (I was bitter/am bitter at the LACK OF DECENT coverage on television. But that's another story not for another day). The writing of this one was serviceable and decent. It works okay. I thought the writing was a little lacking, but it was far from horrible.

Do kids watch figure skating? Maybe. Maybe not. Do kids get assignments like read a biography? Yes. Probably. Are athletes a more interesting choice for such assignments? For some, sure. Are living subjects infinitely more exciting than dead ones? Probably. Maybe. This one will have an audience.


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, February 23, 2024

26. The Beatles Couldn't Read Music?

Wait! What? The Beatles Couldn't Read Music? Dan Gutman. 2023. 144 pages. [Source: Library] 

First sentence: Most teachers don't really want you to know anything about the Beatles! They want you to know about Abraham Lincoln and educational stuff like that.

Premise/plot: This is a "nonfiction" book. The framework is fiction, a fictional brother and sister duo battle it out to see who knows more about the Beatles. The information they're sharing is factual and nonfiction.  

The book talks about the band, The Beatles. It talks about the four members of the band, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Each Beatle gets his own personal biographical chapter. Other chapters talk more about the band as a whole--chronicling the timeline of the band. 

My thoughts: Did I learn anything new? No. Is that surprising? Not really if you KNOW me. I liked this one. I did. I was slightly annoyed by the fictional framework. However, I do appreciate that this one focused on the band AND the individuals within the band. I do think the Beatles are best introduced by their music. I know this is impossible to do in a book. Or perhaps not impossible, challenging enough, but the best way to get to know the Beatles is by....listening to the Beatles. Without that immediate connection to the music itself, I'm not sure how memorable or impactful or interesting or entertaining the book is. 


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

25. Heroes

Heroes. Alan Gratz. 2024. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "It's an attack!" Stanley cried. "Enemy airplanes--dozens of them. Coming in low over the water!" 

Premise/plot: Frank and Stanley are best friends living on [one of the islands] of Hawaii in December 1941. When the novel opens, these two are bonding over comic book superheroes. In fact, these two want to write and illustrate their own comic book series. So many ideas. So much potential. But that near-perfect day is soured when bullies enter the scene. Stanley stands up to the bullies, and Frank, well, Frank is too scared to stand up for what's right and just. The next day, December 7, will be a big day. Frank must find a way to repair his relationship with Stanley. The two will be going on a tour of a battleship. But Frank's confession of a deep, dark secret takes second place to the drama-trauma of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Can Frank and Stanley be heroes when it counts the most? 

My thoughts: I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, crazy-loved this historical novel for children and middle grade. Definitely my best read of the year--granted it is February. I loved Frank. I loved Stanley. I loved all the talk of superheroes and origin stories and comic books. I loved the creativity. I loved the HEART and substance of this one. I thought the book was great at SHOWING and not telling. Of course, that is my perspective. I loved the narrative. The writing was outstanding.

 I already want to reread this one.

© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

24. Nothing Else But Miracles

Nothing Else But Miracles. Kate Albus. 2023. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:  If you were looking for Dory Byrne--not that there's any reason you would be--you'd most likely find her at the Castle. Which makes it sound as if this is a story about a princess. It isn't. Castle Clinton, as it was known to most people, wasn't actually a castle at all. It was--or had been--at various points in its history: 1) a fort, 2) a restaurant and opera house, 3) an immigration processing center, 4) an aquarium, 5) a ruin. Which is what it was now. An empty place, half-demolished. Derelict. Dangerous, even. But a place whose remaining ramparts, if you were a slightly underfed girl of twelve who wasn't afraid to climb over a little rubble, provided an excellent view of the Statue of Liberty. So now you know.

Premise/plot: Dory and her family--siblings--are on their own...mostly. Their father is away fighting in the war (World WAR II) and the three siblings are relying heavily on each other AND on their neighbors AND on their community. But a difficult, uncompromising landlord changes their more relaxed approach to surviving. Can Dory brainstorm a way to keep their family together and safe while they wait for news of their father? [And the funds he sends...]

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. It is set in the Lower East Side of New York City during the Second World War. I loved the setting, the story, the characters.


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

23. All-of-a-Kind Family

All-of-A-Kind-Family. Sydney Taylor. 1951. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "That slowpoke Sarah1" Henny cried. "She's making us late!" Mama's girls were going to the library, and Henny was impatient.

Premise/plot: Ella (12), Henny (10), Sarah (8), Charlotte (6) and Gertie (4) are sisters that make up [part of] an "all-of-a-kind family."  The book is set in the Lower East Side of New York City at the turn of the twentieth century. It chronicles the adventures of a Jewish family in the course of a year (or most of a year). The book opens with a bittersweet library visit and ends with the birth of a new sibling! There are highs and lows.

My thoughts: I love this book. I'm excited to read all the sequels. I remember reading this one a few times as a kid. This is my second time, I believe, to read it as an adult. (I first blogged about it in 2008). I enjoy the storytelling and characterization. I love the old-fashioned, traditional feel. I think it has acquired that through the decades. It wasn't particularly 'traditional' at the time it was published. I was reading the introduction to the one of the sequels and it was pointing out all the ways this book was 'novel' aka "new" and unconventional.

© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, February 15, 2024

22. Mrs. Quinn's Rise to Fame

Mrs. Quinn's Rise To Fame. Olivia Ford. 2024. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It was a December night, the sort which usually makes being inside feel wonderfully cozy, but tonight it didn't. 

Premise/plot: Mrs. Quinn's Rise to Fame is a "coming-of-old-age" story. (To be clear, "coming of old age" is on the publisher description of the book. I didn't come up with the phrase). Jenny Quinn loves, loves, loves, LOVES to bake. But as much as baking has saved her--in a way--she can't help feeling a little out of sorts and empty. She decides somewhat impulsively that it's time to do something "risky," and apply to a television show--Britain Bakes. She keeps her application and audition secret from her husband, Bernard. The two have been married almost sixty years, but, there are a few things he doesn't know about her. And it is one very big secret that is eating away at her one bite at a time. 

My thoughts: I mostly enjoy Great British Bake-Off. I don't always love the un-funny, often crude jokes. Some of the hosts have been absolutely awful. But the contestants and the baking are very enjoyable to follow. I also LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Call the Midwife. Mrs. Quinn's Rise to Fame was a good fit for me. 


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

21. Making It So

Making It So. Patrick Stewart. 2023. 469 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: We called it t'bottom field, never wondering where, in relation to "t'bottom," t'middle field and t'top field might be. 

Premise/plot: Making It So is Patrick Stewart's memoir. It doesn't get more straight-forward than that. He writes of his family, growing up, friendships and romantic relationships, and his career on stage and on screen. He has spent more time, I believe, on stage--doing live theatre productions--than on screen. But only because there have been decades where he was able to do both. 

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. Not all chapters are equally enthralling or fascinating. But all chapters were well written. The book covers so much more than just his years playing Jean-Luc Picard or Charles Xavier. He does mention that he watched the WHOLE Star Trek The Next Generation series before starting his memoir. He does talk about THE INNER LIGHT the absolute best episode of TNG. I think I will like it even more now--and I didn't think that was possible.

© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

20. Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint

Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint. (Danny Dunn #1) Jay Williams. Illustrated by Raymond Abrashkin. 1956. 154 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Space Captain Daniel Dunn stood on the bridge of the Revenge with his eyes on the viewer screens. He could see the fiery trails that were the rocket ships from Jupiter. Adjutant Dan Dunn ran up to report. "Sir," he cried, "They've got us surrounded!" 

Premise/plot: Danny Dunn is a daydreamer. His current obsession is space [the final frontier]. Should he be spending class time daydreaming about exploring space? Probably not. Is he punished by his observant teacher? Yes. Does that lead to a real adventure in space? Perhaps. Danny's mom is a housekeeper who works for a scientist professor, Professor Bullfinch. Danny finds the Professor fascinating. Danny "accidentally" helps the Professor invent something unexpected and unintended--anti-gravity paint. This discovery will lead them [and two others, I believe] into space in a ship of their own, a ship not powered by rockets but by anti-gravity paint. Will they arrive on earth in time for Danny to turn in his homework??? Will they return at all????

My thoughts: It's silly, but it's vintage silly. Vintage science fiction can be a hoot. This is the start of a long series. I'm not sure I'm up to reading them all. But I definitely enjoyed this one. Does it deserve to be widely read today? Probably not. Though I don't recall anything particularly offensive or inappropriate.  Though to be fair, it has been over a week since I've read it. I enjoyed it because of the glimpses into the imagination. It captures a time and place where ANYTHING was possible in terms of space exploration. It isn't grounded in science but in fantasy. I do imagine that there were a LOT of young children [boys and girls] who were interested in space in the 1950s and 1960s. This children's book isn't set in the future. It doesn't star adults, it's an ADVENTURE story starring a young child that probably many original readers could relate to.



© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

19. The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn

The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn. Sally J. Pla. 2023. [July] 336 pages. [Source: Library] [J Fiction; J Realistic Fiction; MG Fiction, MG Realistic Fiction; dysfunctional families]

First sentence: I learned this great calm-down trick recently. It was the end-of-the-year seventh-grade dance, back in Houston, which is where I live during the school year with my mom and stepdad.

Premise/plot: Maudie McGinn looks forward to spending summers with her dad in California, but a wildfire destroys "plan A" and the two quickly come up with a "plan B." Maudie didn't plan on spending her summer learning to surf while her father hunts for a job. But ANYTHING is better than having to spend the summer with her mother and stepfather instead. Will Maudie share her deepest, darkest secret by the time the summer is over?

My thoughts: Maudie has autism but that is not the whole story; that is not what the whole book revolves around. I love seeing Maudie begin to live life more fully and freely. The book does have a happily-ever-after, rosy ending, BUT, only after much worry and angst. Maudie does deserve some happiness after living with her stepfather for several years and enduring much cruelty. 

I do think most of the characters fall into two categories--either perfectly perfect saints or dastardly villains. But overall I enjoyed this one very much. 


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

18. Fighting With Love

Fighting With Love: The Legacy of John Lewis. Lesa Cline-Ransome. Illustrated by James E. Ransome. 2024. [January] 48 pages. [Source: Library] [nonfiction picture book; picture book biography; civil rights movement]

First sentence: Before John Robert Lewis was old enough to read the word "love" in his Bible, he could feel it all around him. 

Premise/plot: Fighting with Love is a nonfiction picture book biography of civil rights activist [and politician], John Lewis. 

My thoughts: There are a handful of picture book biographies of John Lewis. In fact, I think there are biographies of John Lewis for just about every age reader--children, middle grade, young adult, adult. I have read a few of these in the past. I wasn't expecting to learn something new. [Be reminded of previous facts, yes, yes, always yes. My memory doesn't hold onto all the details from every book.] What struck me with this picture book is the spread about how the activists [college students mainly] PRACTICED nonviolent protests. 

Quote: They took turns playing the part of the angry whites they would face, and acted out standing silently while being shouted and cursed at. They practiced how to curl in tight on the ground to protect themselves from kicks and punches that would beat down on them. They remembered to look into the eyes of their attackers, reminding them that a child of God was looking back. After hearing the words and feeling the fists, some never finished their training at Highlander, leaving as fast as they'd come, asking what kind of love means you've got to be beaten up outside and in. But John knew. "It is love that accepts and embraces the hateful and the hurtful." And so, John stayed and practiced some more.

The illustrations are quite engaging--bright, bold, colorful. 


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

17. The Frozen River

The Frozen River. Ariel Lawhon. 2023. [December] 432 pages. [Source: Library] [adult historical fiction]

First sentence: The body floats downstream. But it is late November, and the Kennebec River is starting to freeze, large chunks of ice swirling and tumbling through the water, collecting in mounds while clear, cold fingers of ice stretch out from either bank, reaching into the current, grabbing hold of all that passes by. 

Premise/plot: Martha Ballard, a midwife, witnesses much in her community. She often ends up testifying in court sharing her observations and notes. IN The Frozen River, she is struggling with the injustice of it all. A local woman has been gang-assaulted while her husband was away; she's identified the men involved. Martha visited her days later and can testify to her physical and emotional state. But despite both being willing to testify in court--despite the horrendous nature of the crimes--justice seems unlikely within the system at least. One of the perpetrators is the dead man found in the frozen river. The second, well, he holds a position of power. 

The novel chronicles about a year of time, I believe. Much happens within the community. 

My thoughts: The novel is loosely based on a historical figure. This is not the first book about Martha Ballard, a real midwife in early America. The author details how much she changed, rearranged, condensed, and reimagined for her novel. 

This one was LONG. It is definitely more of a journey than a destination, in my opinion. In other words, IF you start the novel and are drawn into the story by the characters, keep reading you'll likely enjoy the book as a whole. I personally would have preferred fewer flashbacks. Flashing back to Martha's past did nothing for me. None of the flashbacks seemed to move the present story forward.



© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, February 05, 2024

16. Not Quite a Ghost

Not Quite a Ghost. Anne Ursu. 2024. [January] 288 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The house stood a little apart from the rest of the block, as if it did not quite fit in. Perhaps it was wary of the other houses, or perhaps it was the other houses that wished to keep their distance from it. If only houses could talk, then one of them could tell us which it was. Of course, if houses could talk, they could also lie.

Premise/plot: Violet Hart is struggling--struggling with her health, with her friend group, with starting middle school, with getting along with her older [oh-so-moody] sister, with her new house, with her new attic bedroom. It seems the world is out to get her--no lucky breaks. But is the world truly out to get her? Or is it merely her YELLOW WALLPAPER out to get her?

My thoughts: Not my cup of tea. Oh how I WANTED this one to be my cup of tea. Definitely has Twilight Zone vibes. A blend of super-creepy and supernatural WITH your typical angsty coming of age novel. It's this back and forth between the supernatural AND the super realistic that is conflicting me. On the one hand, it doesn't embrace the haunted-ness and pure creepiness of the house. On the other hand, the slightly supernatural elements are at odds with the very real struggles of her invisible illness. At least to me. The author shares how she struggled (struggles) with her invisible diseases, and as a kid/teen it was impossible (or nearly so) for doctors to validate her symptoms, take her seriously, and diagnose her. This could have been compelling--alongside her friends not understanding why she's so tired and unable to join in on their daily activities--on its own. But the direction is an adaptation of the short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper." YET the conclusion isn't really the same if my memory is accurate. (Which to be honest it's been a LONG time since I last read it.) 

I think like the wallpaper itself this one is a little too busy/chaotic for my own personal liking. BUT I could see how this might be a good fit for another reader. 


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, February 04, 2024

15. Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the Prairie. Laura Ingalls Wilder. 1935. 335 pages. [Source: Bought] [children's classic]

First sentence: A long time ago, when all the grandfathers and grandmothers of today were little boys and little girls or very small babies, or perhaps not even born, Pa and Ma and Mary and Laura and Baby Carrie left their little house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. They drove away and left it lonely and empty in the clearing among the big trees, and they never saw that little house again. They were going to the Indian country.

 Premise/plot: Laura Ingalls travels with her family to Indian Territory [aka Kansas], but alas the family must move again by the end of the novel when the government forces them out. 

My thoughts: Though Little House on the Prairie is the name of the television show and seems to represent the "brand" of the "Little House" books because of that, this one--Little House on the Prairie--is not my favorite or best. I'm not sure if it's because the plot is ultimately pointless OR if it's because the content is the most problematic of the whole series. Perhaps a bit of both.

First, I don't hate Little House on the Prairie--this specific book, the series as a whole, or the television series. I am NOT part of the cancel culture that has arisen surrounding this author and series. 

Second, NEWSFLASH, Laura Ingalls Wilder is recalling and chronicling a mindset from sixty to seventy years prior. It was not her job as an author in 1935 to course-correct the "Manifest Destiny" mindset. The "go west, young man" philosophy that would colonize the entirety of the United States--from "sea to shining sea." NEWSFLASH if you were a pioneer settling in the WEST chances are you felt entitled and 'in the right' to settle and 'claim' your property with the government. 

Third, while the book has half-a-dozen (perhaps a few more) scenes that are problematic, the scenes could have been worse. That's not to justify anything. It's not. (The scenes that are there are cringe at best and extremely offensive at worst.) Laura and Pa seem more curious than hateful. That is not justification. Again, that's not my goal. It would be an uphill battle that is ultimately doomed. The fact that Laura is so curious and interested is in part because of her innocence (a small part) and a larger part in that she views the Indians as "other." She is a product of her upbringing. But she would not have been alone. It wasn't that the Ingalls were above and beyond the ultimate propagators of this mindset. They were just one of many. It is a whole culture that contemporary readers are at war with. I think the books and author are often the target. People seem to single her out as if she is solely to blame. 

Fourth, Laura usually depicts Pa as practically perfect in every way. She idealizes him in her books. This one is no different. I, as a reader, don't see Pa as perfect. I see his MUST GO WEST AT ALL COSTS and drag my family around and make their lives as difficult as humanly possible philosophy off-putting. Life can be hard no matter where you live. But Pa's "the grass is always greener on the other side" wanderlust is annoying.


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, February 01, 2024

14. Mexikid

Mexikid: A Graphic Memoir. Pedro Martin. 2023. 320 pages. [Source: Library] [Nonfiction Graphic Novel; MG Graphic Novel; Newbery Honor]

First sentence: They call me Peter...but my real name is Pedro.

Premise/plot: This one is a graphic novel MEMOIR. It is set in the summer of 1977. Pedro Martin is recalling/chronicling the adventures/misadventures of a family (round trip) road trip from California to Mexico (and Mexico to California). Being the seventh in a family of nine kids, he's got plenty of stories to share. Long story short, his family is going to Mexico to spend time with the grandfather and make preparations for his return with them to the United States. 

My thoughts: This one is great when it comes to details. I'll try to explain what I mean. His details help put you right there in the scene. The sights, sounds, smells, tastes, etc. He is especially good at grounding the book in TIME and presumably in culture. 

I enjoyed this one much more than I thought I would. I am not usually a graphic novel reader. It's not my usual type of book to read. 

I will say that this one might not be for super-sensitive readers. Namely, his grandfather's "mission" to accomplish before they leave for the United States might make some readers squeamish. 


© 2024 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews