Thursday, October 30, 2008

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

by E.L. Konigsburg

This is another runaway tale, also set in New York, but that's about all it has in common with My Side of the Mountain. This is the tale of Claudia Kincaid, a kid growing up in Connecticut. She finds suburban life to be quite unbearable, what with homework and chores and all, so she decides to run away from home. Being a child accustomed to comfort, she decides to eschew the traditional lot of a runaway such as sleeping in alleys, begging for meals, and the like. Instead she decides to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She drags her brother along--purely to exploit his savings, mind you--and the two set up residence in the museum. While their life isn't exactly one of luxury, they do manage to have a comfortable time of it. And then a mystery surrounding a beautiful statue on display sends the Kincaids' adventure in an unusual direction. Ms. Konigsburg writes her tale with just the right touch af attitude. The story takes neither the world or itself too seriously. The characters are a tad annoying, but the unique setting more than makes up for it.

Check it out.
LibraryThing link

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My Side of the Mountain

by Jean George

This book struck me as being like a dramatization of the Boy Scout Manual. (Not that I ever read the Boy Scout Manual--I washed out after the first year of Cub Scouts.) It's the tale of young Sam Gribley, a New York City lad who runs away to his ancestral lands in the Catskill Mountains and starts to live off the land. He describes all his methods of obtaining food, shelter and clothing, equipped only with a penknife, a ball of cord, an ax, some flint and steel and $40. On one hand, all the survivalist trivia is interesting, but as far as the story goes, it's pretty weak. Sam is extremely capable for a city boy and manages to get just the right breaks to enable him to survive to the end of the book. That ending is rather disappointing. To me, it seemed that the plot did a U-turn and ended in failure. Other readers amy disagree. They can go write their own review.

Perfect waiting room material for those long winter nights in the wilderness.
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Saturday, October 25, 2008

War, Terrible War

by Joy Hakim

This is an account of the American Civil War. It could also be called an Abraham Lincoln love-fest. If Ms. Hakim had anything negative to say about him, it was lost in all the accolades and pro-North sentiments. As an Illinois Yankee, I wasn't too bothered by that. But I did recall that there are other viewpoints out there and that Mr. Lincoln is hardly without fault. (Fortunately my daughter's curriculum makes the effort to present the opposing viewpoint. Sometimes to the point where I have to question their bias.) Overall, the book is as enjoyable and informative as the rest of the History of US series--an excellent introduction to American History.

Check it out, if you can stomach Yankee propaganda.
LibraryThing link

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Blue Willow

by Doris Gates

This is a tale about Janey Larkin, the daughter of migrant workers in 1930s California. They arrive at the San Joaquin Valley and set up housekeeping in an abandoned shack. Janey wearily settles in for yet another temporary home as her father works the cotton harvest. The story follows a few months in the family's life, showcasing some of the aspects of the workers' lives. It's a rather pedestrian and predictable tale, but Ms. Gates does do a good job of establishing the setting and making it seem real.

It's just waiting room material.
LibraryThing link

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Friday, October 24, 2008

The Count of Monte Cristo

by Alexandre Dumas

Here's a book that I both want to put on my shelf and toss into the Elbe River. Why? Because I was really enjoying the book until I discovered that the copy I had purchased and was reading was an abridged version of Mr. Dumas' classic tale. I felt cheated, I felt shame at reading a lesser version rather than delving into a (reported) big, fat, honking, 19th Century novel. So if you are at the book store and see the 441 page Bantam Classic version--don't buy it! Hold out for the real deal. Accept no version that you can easily carry with one hand.

Unless, of course, that's the only version you can find. Even though I was a victim of poor packaging, I had to finish reading the book--puny as it was. The Count of Monte Cristo is the tale of Edmond Dant├Ęs, a young man facing a bright future. Even though he is barely twenty, the young sailor is looking forward to rapid promotion in his job and a joyous marriage to the love of his life. Unfortunately Edmond has rivals for each and these men conspire to get him out of the way. Through their actions, Edmond is falsely accused of conspiracy and imprisoned. Years pass and life passes Edmond by. Eventually people assume that he is dead. The truth however, is that Edmond eventually escapes imprisonment and finds the means in which to prepare an elaborate revenge. I truly enjoyed the story, though it was a bit disillusioning to discover that Batman, the Shadow and Captain Christopher Pike weren't quite as original as I thought.

LibraryThing link

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Invaders Classic

by Roy Thomas, Frank Robbins, et al

This was purely a comic book fan-boy purchase from the Friends of the Library sale. I really enjoyed Roy Thomas' work on DC Comics, All-Star Squadron, so naturally I would pick up this collection of Marvel Comics' Invaders series. I mean, they both tell the tales of super-heroes during World War II and all, right? Yeah, sure. For the record, let me state that while The Invaders does offer an enjoyable read, it's not quite a classic--even by comic book standards. Frank Robbins art is dynamic, but it's a style that I've never quite enjoyed. And the writing is somewhat formulaic. Fortunately Mr. Thomas did better when he tried his hand with another group of wartime heroes. But none of this is important when there's a collection to complete, eh?

Eh, waiting room material.
LibraryThing link

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Monday, October 13, 2008

A History of Christianity in Asia, Volume II

by Samuel Moffett

Finally! I've been "reading" this book since forever. It shouldn't have taken that long, but it was an easy book to put down. This one is the second part of Dr. Moffett's historical overview of Christianity in Asia. It picks up in the year 1500, where Volume I left off, and covers four centuries (more or less) of the church's activity. Professor Moffett cycles around the continent, covering a block of time in each region (with the exception of "Western" nations like Russia and the middle east) and then repeating the process for subsequent eras. That's what made it easy to put down. A chapter on, say, Japan in the 17th Century, wouldn't necessarily lead me to jump into the next chapter covering Korea. The flow of the story was broken. Of course, if I had been really fascinated by the happenings in Japan, I could have easily skipped ahead to the next Japanese chapter and continued the tale. Maybe I'll do that the next time I read the book.

Yes, I will be keeping the book. It's a great resource, overflowing with information. I didn't enjoy Volume II as much as I did Volume I, but I don't know if that's necessarily a failing of Professor Moffett. Volume I covered times and places with which I was totally unfamiliar, hence I found the book fascinating. Volume II, in contrast, had a flavor that was less exotic. From the sixteenth century onward, the Christian churches in Asia were interacting with Europeans. The cultural and ecclesiastical conflicts were all too familiar. But don't let that prevent you from picking this up and giving it a read.

Check it out!
LibraryThing link

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Year Down Yonder

by Richard Peck

I think this is a first. Never before have I read a sequel before reading the original novel. (At least as far as I can recall.) (The Discworld books don't count. They aren't organized in a proper order, are they? You can't call a book a sequel unless it's called a sequel on the cover.) (Well, I suppose I can make an exception if it has a number on the spine.) I usually hold out for the original, but in this case my daughter's curriculum assigned her to read this volume and, unlike my daughter, I wasn't able to check the original out in time. (Smart kid. Must take after her mum.) Anyway, A Year Down Yonder is the tale of Mary Alice, a teenaged Chicago girl suffering from the recession of 1937. Her father has lost her job and the only way the family can make ends meet is if Mary Alice goes down to live with her Grandma in downstate Illinois. With a premise like that, one would envision a warm tale of discovery as the city girl discovers the wonder and beauty of rural life in the loving care of her kind and wise grandmother. Yes, that's quite a vision. In this tale, however, Grandma's a cantankerous old bird with a shotgun behind the woodbox and a reputation for causing trouble. It makes for an enjoyable book. Mr. Peck doesn't quite offer us a laugh riot, but there are plenty of chuckles, a few surprises and occasionally something that feels like a tug on the heartstrings. I probably should try to check out this book's predecessor.

I'm glad to have checked it out.
LibraryThing link

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