Reading Roundup 2013: week 2
Posted January 19, 2013on:
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
This was a gem of a story and completely deserves it’s mention as a Newbery honor book. Minli lives in poverty with her parents, growing up with little food and fewer possessions but plenty of tales of daring and great deeds. Until one day she sets out on her own adventure in the hopes of bringing fortune and joy to her family and her village. Along the way she makes new friends, performs many amazing tasks, and, of course, collects even more stories.
Part of what makes this novel so wonderful is the way that Lin uses Minli’s experiences to emphasis how much she and her parents had to be thankful for in the first place, while still making it clear that the journey was ultimately a good decision, not some foolish dream better left alone. It’s so common for western stories with a similar premise to either fail to interrogate our constant quest to consume more or to come across as discouraging children to want better for themselves; Where the Mountain Meets the Sea manages to maintain an elegant balance between these two extremes.
I don’t know enough about Chinese culture or fairy tales to say whether Lin represents them accurately,* but to me at least her stories appear respectful and she manages to present a thoroughly non-Western fantasy at a level that elementary school children will enjoy and connect with.
Half Magic by Edward Eager
A magic coin that only grants half of what you wish for should not be so easily thwarted by four juvenile siblings, even in a lighthearted fantasy. It makes for an entertaining and interesting children’s novel though. I’m not sure what it says about me that I found what happened with Katharine’s wish to be completely unfair** and that I was rather unsettled by the bit near the end with the mother thinking she was crazy. Other than that it was a fun story with not too much fail, considering it’s age. I picked it up to give to my niece, but I suspect it will be more useful as a research book for me, so I might hold onto it for a bit longer.
The Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone
The second half was entertaining, if flawed. I must admit that I got choked up a bit once or twice at the angst and moral conundrums of teen lovers torn apart by time and teleportation. Unfortunately, I had to read through the first half of the book to get to the actual drama. During which not much happened and there is plenty of opportunities for my mind to wander to such thoughts as “why is it always the boyfriends that have super powers?” and “why is she putting the money in the safe for the night and then going to lock the store entrance?” and of course “why did the editor not edit the first 150 pages right out of the book?” and so on. While the second half was promising enough that I will consider trying more by this author – maybe, possibly - I can’t recommend this particular book.
Crow Girl by Katt Cann
I made it through 14 pages of this and that was about 13 1/2 too many. Lilly is dealing with bullying and weight issues; the author seems to think this means she should spend a lot of time cataloguing what her middle school protagonist eats. I stopped reading at “Lilly wasn’t aware of it, but walking in the woods and the change of diet were making her look a lot better.” Because this is what is important when someone is being bullied to the point that they miss half a semester, yes? That she is finally looking a certain way.
So sad, because that cover really deserved a much better book. More importantly, I am never getting those 5 minutes back.
Peek-a-Moo by Marie Torres Cimarusti
Has everything a picture book for toddlers is supposed to have: animals! making sounds! flaps! to fold down! repetition! bright and simple graphics! etc. It is a good, solid book to own if you have (or work with) two or three year olds. No more, no less.
*fyi – I hope to write up a longer review later, and will do research on this before I do so.
**Why yes, I am a middle child. Why do you ask?