Monday, March 29, 2010

Rain, Rain

Wouldn't you know it? It's the first day of Spring Break, and it's pouring out there. *sigh*

Sometime this week, I have to catch myself up on everything. I've let the blog slip, the laundry slip, the writing slip...I know it's because I am SLAMMED at work, but still. So, this week, playing catchup. And doing the taxes. And the laundry. And maybe doing something Spring Break-y.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Newbery Update: 1960s

Now we're on a roll. The 1960s are the first decade where I had multiple reads already. Let's see what else popped up:

Onion John by Joseph Krumgold - This book marks the first time an author won the Newbery more than once (other double winners include E.L. Konigsburg, Lois Lowry, Katherine Paterson, and Elizabeth George Speare). This book didn't charm me as much as ...And Now Miguel, his first Newbery title. Onion John, the town eccentric, becomes the focus of a town-wide improvement plan, with interesting results. Sometimes weird is best, and best left alone.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell - I remember being fascinated by this story as a girl. Based on the true story of the Lost Woman of San Pedro Island, this book explores the life of a Native American woman, abandoned when her tribe evacuates to the mainland, and her daily struggle to create community with the animals of the island--most notably a wild dog--when the people have gone.

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare - This book was not at all what I expected, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Daniel chafes under the Roman rule in first-century Israel and readily joins a tribe of Zealots hiding in caves. A friendship develops with a young Jewish scholar and his lovely sister, and Daniel's life is changed when he has to assume the care of his fragile sister. Daniel's thirst for vengeance is tested by his sister's friendship with a young centurion and called into question by a young rabbi you might have heard of--Jesus.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle - This is one of those books I probably should have read and treasured as a child, but it somehow escaped my notice until now. Meg Murry is a little too much like me at her age--smarter than what's good for her, impossible hair, glasses, misunderstood. Meg is drawn into an interplanetary adventure to both rescue her father and save our world from an encroaching darkness. It's a great ride, a fascinating blend of physics and love.

It's Like This, Cat by Emily Neville - What boy doesn't feel misunderstood by his demanding father? Dave Mitchell brings rebellion into the house in the form of an alley cat named (surprise!) Cat and ends up learning about life, growth, tolerance, and maturity while romancing a girl and coming to the aid of a young man with no allies.

Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska - In a way, this is the story of Ferdinand the Bull (DH's favorite children's story), told from the point of view of a reluctant young matador. Manolo has lived his whole life expected to become a great bullfighter like his deceased father Juan. Manolo's secret? He is afraid and lacks the afición, or desire, necessary to be brave in the ring. Or is he being called to another destiny? I've never understood the whole bullfighting "thing," but this book is marvelous.

I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino - Juan de Pareja is a Moorish slave inherited by the Spanish court painter Velázquez. Told from "Juanico's" point of view, we learn about the artist's life, and how painting truth, even when it's ugly, is far preferable to being second best at creating beauty. The question of slavery is deftly handled, and considering that the book was published in the 60s, at the height of the Civil Rights movement, it is an amazing tale of how mutual respect and affection can transcend society's rules.

Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt - This is an oddball, a coming-of-age tale that stretches from the day young Julie Trelling's mother dies until the day Julie graduates from high school. Julie's road is indeed slow, hampered by her impatience and a well-meaning secondary cast that includes a prim maiden aunt, a charming drunken uncle, a father scrambling to make sense of life, lost loves, rivals, city vs. country...there's a lot packed in here. Pretty good, but definitely a girly book.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg - One of my top ten favorite books ever, the Newbery book I pushed onto my kids before any other title. Some of the references are dated (the fountain and restaurant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art are long gone, and hardly anyone these days has any clue what an Automat is), but the story, a combination of mystery, art, and cleverness, will live forever. Bless E. L. Konigsburg for creating Claudia and Jamie, and even more for Mrs. Frankweiler and her witty, cynical voice, which I enjoy more and more the older I get.

The High King by Lloyd Alexander - This book is the conclusion of a five-book series, the Chronicles of Prydain, which explore a magical land very much like Wales, complete with double f's, double l's, and lots of y's in the names. In The High King, the former Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran achieves his destiny as a warrior and fulfills an ancient prophecy. You're familiar with Prydain if you've seen the Disney film The Black Cauldron. High drama, swordfighting, magical creatures, bards, and a kick-butt princess, so good fun all around.

And the winner is...

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

I have to admit, I think the fix was in as soon as I read the titles of the 1960s winners. I adored this book when I was a child. Claudia was so clever and resourceful--very much a role model for a bookworm like myself. Besides, how cool to live in a museum, for Pete's sake? And the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for that matter? When I finally did visit the Metropolitan as an adult, you can bet I went looking for things I first learned about in the Mixed-Up Files: the Egyptian sarcophagus where Claudia and Jamie hide their instrument cases, the carved platform bed where they sleep. The Automat and fountain, alas, were long gone, but I have to admit to a teeny tiny fangirl squee anyway just from being in the building. When I grow up, I want Claudia's sense of possibility and Mrs. Frankweiler's attitude. She rocks.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Gah! Air Travel!!

This morning, Ms. Without-Shopping and I woke up at o-dark thirty to catch a 6:30 flight to a conference. Flying anywhere for any professional reason almost never happens to teacher types (it involves money), so we're excited--until we get to the airport. We park and hustle into the terminal. Turns out the e-ticket is one of those "operated by" tix, so we're at the wrong airline. On the wrong side of the terminal, it turns out. While we're crossing over, we see that the TSA screening line stretches from here to Chicago (at 5:45 am?? Hello??). So basically, no plane for you!

So now I have a day off from work, but I'm spending it in the airport on standby. My life is an encyclopedic justification of Murphy's Law. Air travel FAIL.

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