Archive for the 'Children’s/YA' Category

Monday, October 9th, 2006

Title: Howl’s Moving Castle
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Genre: Fiction — Young Adult

Why I liked this book: Old-fashioned fairy tales about magic castles, talking fireplaces, and possibly-evil wizards should, in my estimation, always include an underlying emotional story about how to understand your own talents and find your place in the world.

Shy Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three sisters, and finds herself quite inconveniently cursed to live as an old woman. She realizes she can’t go on as she is, so she marches off to find the Wizard Howl, whose moving castle is usually found skulking outside of her town of Market Chipping. Once inside the castle she finds a fire demon in the fireplace, a sweet-natured apprentice who’s in love with her sister (but which one?!), a flighty wizard who may or may not be evil, and a castle that is nothing like it appears on the outside. Once she’s come to terms with all of that, she finds herself in the middle of a quest for a missing wizard, protecting a family in modern Wales, a search for the King’s lost brother, and the fight against the witch who cursed her. And her role in all of those quests, problems, and fights is nothing at all like she would have expected… nor are her powers.

Diana Wynne Jones, with typical dazzling skill, pulls together what feels like twenty disparate storylines in one neat and tidy climax — as all fairy tales should end. This was a fun, smart, and interesting read, even if it is ‘juvenile’ fiction.

The College Libraries own a copy of this book — check Bearcat for the call number and to see if it’s on the shelf.

Tuesday, September 5th, 2006

Title: Farmer Boy
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Why I liked this book: Like many young American girls, I grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, the fictional and somewhat autobiographical stories of Laura Ingalls and her family as they traveled and built new homesteads in the woods and prairies of America. Farmer Boy is similar homesteader fare, however the central character is not Laura, but Almanzo Wilder, a nine-year old boy who prefers his farm chores to schoolhouse learning. Farmer Boy follows Almanzo as he faces the challenges of living off the land, in a world where if you want to sweep the floor, you first have to make your own broom from the straw that you planted last Spring. If you ever wanted to know how to train young oxen to the yoke, or how to grow a milk-fed pumpkin, this is the book for you. Occasionally reflecting the sexism and brutality of its time, this is a classic that can be read by anyone who has an interest in the life and culture of rural America in the late 1800’s.

The real treat is that Farmer Boy is set in northern New York, outside Malone. The sites and locations mentioned in the book are familiar, as is the extreme weather, political landscape and related events. To make your treat a double delight, I would encourage you to visit the Wilder Homestead in Malone after reading the book. The Wilder Homestead is the birthplace of Almanzo Wilder, the author’s real life husband whose reminiscences about his childhood on the farm became the basis of Farmer Boy. There you can see the original farmhouse and reconstructed barns which were rebuilt based on the archaeological findings of SUNY Potsdam faculty and students. The museum and homestead are full of antique farm tools and household artifacts from the late 19th century. Wilder Homestead tour guides demonstrate many of the artifacts and relate them to events and descriptions in the book. Hurry! The Wilder Homestead closes on Sept. 30th!

Monday, May 1st, 2006

Title: Persepolis
Author: Marjane Satrapi
Genre: Memoir

Why I liked this book: Satrapi’s memoir of her life from ages 6-13 is a story worth reading in a time when we could all benefit from learning more about Iran, revolutionary governments, and the human toll of war. To quote from the publisher’s description of this graphic novel,

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran: of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life and of the enormous toll repressive regimes exact on the individual spirit. Marjane’s child’s-eye-view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family.

Satrapi’s tale of her childhood is by turns an instructive lesson in the tumultuous political and cultural history of Iran, an extraordinarily funny tale of childhood and rebellion, and a gutwrenching exploration of the cost of war and regime change. Satrapi (and her translators) have written a story that, in conjunction with the stark but never spare black-and-white images, brings a sadly gripping story to life, with enough humor and familiarity that the tragic events of Iranian history don’t overwhelm the reader. But they will probably make you think, and, if you’re like me, make you wish you knew more. (Fortunately, Satrapi has continued the family saga in Persepolis 2 and Embroideries.)

Monday, August 29th, 2005

Title: Tithe
Author: Holly Black
Genre: Children’s/YA

Why I liked this book: Tithe is the kind of YA novel that puts the “Adult” in “Young Adult”. Holly Black’s grip on the realities of teenage life – particularly the dark, gritty, growing-up-too-fast side of teenage life – is superb, and her descriptions are sharp and evocative. Equally important, I believed in her characters, fantastic as they are.

Most faerie tales are about the good faeries, about sparkles and joy and light and happy… about the Seelie Court of faeries. Black’s heroine Kaye discovers that she’s linked to the Unseelie Court. There is no joy. There is no light. The sparkles all have a twisted, menacing force behind them. The Court is a scary, scary place — but it can still make a hero out of an unlikely young girl.

This isn’t the sort of book that appeals to everyone — adult or teen — but it’s a tightly written adventure with memorable characters — and some amazingly wicked visions of faeries dancing through the plot.

This book is available at Crumb Library… coming very soon!

Monday, July 25th, 2005

Title:Harry Potter and the half-blood prince
Author:J K Rowling

#6 in the series – we’re almost done! Six hundred-fifty pages as read-aloud is a bit of a chore. I supposed I’m lucky it’s not that bad. Certainly not great literature, but it does have it’s moments, and the plot is cleverly complex. When Harry finally graduates from Hogwarts (if he does – there is some doubt!) what will all the JK Rowling devotees turn to? If the seed of a reader has taken root – who can carp? Maybe next will come Tolstoy, or Mann, or even Henry James!!