Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Review: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Image result for where the mountain meets the moonThe Newberry Honor book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon," Grace Lin, is a great read.  The story focuses on Minli, an only child in a small Chinese village. In order to help make her mother happy and bring fortune to her family, she leaves on an adventure to find the Old Man on the Moon, who can answer any question. On her way she meets many friends and discovers that most answers lie in the heart.

Minli's story is facilitated by Chinese folklore. I loved reading the folk stories inside the larger story. It really felt authentic, until I read the author explain that they weren't.  It took a little of the depth and oomph out of the experience for me but the story still remained a great story. Minli is a strong little girl with a good heart. Her traveling companions are stalwart and true. Her discovery at the end of journey, although predictable, is welcome and satisfying. 

Young readers may be a little put off at first with the folklore and becoming accustomed to how the folklore relates to the overall story. But I think it is a great cultural experience and would encourage any and all to read this book. It won't take long and it will be worth your time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review; One Crazy Summer

Image result for one crazy summerI absolutely loved "One Crazy Summer" by Rita Williams-Garcia. As you can see from the cover, this book has won a lot of awards and it deserves them. 

Delphine has taken care of her sisters ever since her mother left them alone with their dad. It was still a good life, living with her dad and grandma, but her mom was a completely absent person. Until the summer of 1968her dad decides to send them from their home in Brooklyn, New York, to visit their mother, Cecile, in Oakland, California.

The problem is, Cecile doesn't really want them. The children are then left in the care of a woman who forbids them to enter the kitchen and sends them off to the Black Panther summer program down the street to fend for themselves.

I just fell in love with Delpine and all her oldest sibling characteristics. She had to grow up much to quickly and it shows. She and her sisters have several adventures of their own. They travel the city, they learn about the Black Panthers and their mission, which is vastly different from what they had learned from the tv and their grandma. It's the story of an important time in our history and an inside, child's view into the black panthers. It's a story of growth and understanding. It's not a nice and tidy ending but it is satisfying and complete. I would love for all of my children to read this book. I highly recommend it for all ages.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Book Review: Maisie Dobbs

Image result for maisie dobbs"Maisie Dobbs" is a fantastic novel, written by JacquelineWinspear. It is set near the turn of the century and includes World War I. 

Maisie Dobbs is the daughter of a grocer. Her mother died when she was young, so it had just been Maisie and her father for quite some time. Eventually, Maisie finds herself working in a wealthy household as housemaid (think Dowton Abbey). While there, she impresses her employers who send her to Cambridge to gain an education. From there, she enters World War I as a nurse. When she returns, the world has changed and she cannot resume the life she once had. She opens her own investigative business and begins a dangerous mission to uncover deadly secrets. It's Downton Abbey meets private investigator. It's fabulous.

The story is fleshed out from beginning to end. There is just enough of each segment of her life to satisfy. The glimpse into the early 1900's is delightful. The front lines of the war, in France, are harrowing and real. The investigation is tense and fantastic. Oh, the whole book is fantastic. This is a must read. 

Here are a few of my favorite passages, regarding veterans of the war. They are really touching and insightful.

“So what do you do when you cannot sleep?”
Billy looked down at his hands and began pulling at the lining of his cap, running the seam between the forefinger and thumb of each hand.
“I get up, so’s not to wake the missus. Then I go out. Walking the streets. For hours sometimes. And you know what, Miss? It’s not only me, Miss. There’s a lot of men I see, ‘bout my age, walking the streets. And we all know, Miss, we all know who we are. Old soldiers what keep seeing the battle. That’s what we are, Miss. I tell you, sometimes I think we’re like the waking dead. Livin’ our lives during the day, normal like, then trying to forget something what  ‘appened years ago. It’s like going to the picture ‘ouse, only the picture’s all in me ‘ead.”
And another passage:

“Shame, isn’t it? That we only like our heroes out in the street when they are looking their best and their uniforms are ‘spit and polished,’ and not when they’re showing us the wounds they suffered on our behalf.”