Friday, September 7, 2007

Maybelle in the Soup written by Katie Speck, illustrated by Paul Rátz de Tagyos

This is an amusing story about a cockroach, Maybelle, and flea, Henry, who live in the house of a fastidious couple, Mr. and Mrs. Peabody. (Mr. Peabody looks remarkably like Oliver Hardy.) Maybelle is no longer satisfied eating crumbs off the floor, and so sets out to taste some food from a plate, which puts into motion a series of humorous events that include the Peabodys trying to rid their house of bugs, and Maybelle and Henry narrowly escaping.

I will be interested to see what the kids think of this one. I suspect that the kids in
second grade and younger will enjoy the humor. It also seems likely that we will see more stories about Maybelle and Henry in the future.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

I really enjoyed this one. What an interesting and different perspective on slavery. What Elijah's parents have told him about former slaves is insightful, sensitive, and seems very realistic. In the children's playing slavers and abolitionists (and Elijah's revelation about it), CPC even addresses the tendency to soften slavery in depictions for children. The last few chapters are truly haunting, and yet I wouldn't hesitate to have a 9 or 10 year old read this book. CPC has struck just the right balance of acknowledging and showing the horrors, but without making it too overwhelming for his audience.

One of my favorite narrative tricks is when an author uses a very limited first person viewpoint and is still able to let the reader know more than the narrator. It's one of the things I love about Walk Two Moons (among others), and CPC does it so very well here.

I will definitely be recommending this one to the sixth graders, who study both civil rights and sustainability. I will be very interested to hear their responses to it.

*publication date: October 2007

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

I decided I wanted to reread some Austen before I realized that she was so hip at the moment. I'm still not sure why. I went to see the movie, Becoming Jane, which was good, although played around with history more than I like. Also, I think it did her a disservice, because it made P&P out to be based on her life, taking away the achievement of imagining and creating the story herself.

Anyway, when I saw a copy of P&P lying around at my mother's house, I decided to take it to the beach. It took me a while to get back into the narrative style (so much dialogue!), and of course, it takes a while for the story to pick up. But once I was into it, I really enjoyed humor and social commentary.

One critical essay (Brower, 1951) remarked on Austen's success in combining qualities of sentimental novels with poetic satire, and I agree. The timelessness of the love story keeps the book relevant to modern readers, and the satire prevents the story from drowning in saccharine.

I would have like reassurance that Elizabeth retained her vibrancy and spirit after her marriage to Mr. Darcy. It is alluded to- Miss Darcy in particular is surprised by the liberties that Elizabeth takes with her brother- but, she also seems more sanguine at the end.