25 March 2008

Books Read Since February 27

I seem to have gone through a spate of re-reading before getting back to my stack (which grew in the meantime...LOL).

• Re-read: Especially Dogs, Gladys Taber
My first introduction to Gladys Taber was in this volume which I first found in my junior high school library. I was immediately smitten with Taber's cocker spaniels and Irish setters at her Connecticut home, Stillmeadow. Taber begins her narration with her girlhood setter Timothy and his relationship with her father, only the first amusing touch in this readable dog memoir.

• Re-read: Rose in Bloom, Louisa May Alcott
Having re-read Eight Cousins, could its sequel be far behind? Uncle Alec, Rose, and Phebe, back from two years in Europe in which Phebe took voice lessons, finds the two girls ready to begin their adult lives. Rose chooses to play the butterfly for a while, but is saddened by false friends and troubled by Charlie's new attitude toward her, while Phebe's concert brings her a way to earn a living, but heartache in what could be an inappropriate match. The eight cousins grow up in Alcott style, with a bit of lecturing and some hard lessons.

• Re-read: The Horsemasters, Don Stanford
Tremendously readable book about an American teenager who attends a British "Horsemasters" course in order to get an instructional certificate so she can attend the college of her choice. She finds that caring and riding are harder work that she thought, but not only becomes a good rider, but matures as well. The text sneaks in many facts about horses, riding, and care in whithout being pedantic or boring; the book is a page-turner from beginning to end. Perfect gift for a horse-crazy child who thinks owning a horse is some fairytale vision of galloping in slow motion across flower-strewn fields with no thought to the expense and work needed to keep the animal happy and healthy.

• American Science and Invention: A Pictorial History, Mitchell Wilson
From 1954! Last discussion, predictably, is the atomic bomb. I found the earlier entries more interesting than the modern ones, but that's just me.

• The Encyclopedia of American Radio: An A-Z Guide to Radio from Jack Benny to Howard Stern, Ronald W. Lackman
I have to say I merely skimmed through this, since John Dunning's On the Air is so complete and formidable. The photos are the main draw here.

• Main Street: Best Friends, Ann Martin
Flora and Ruby and their best friends in Camden Falls, Olivia and Nikki, are back in the fourth installment of the Main Street series. Camden Falls' 350th anniversary is approaching and all the girls are involved in preparation for the event, especially Ruby, who is starring in a play her grade is putting on about witch trials that took place in Colonial times. But Olivia is having trouble with the idea that Flora's former best friend, Annika, will be visiting during the celebration: can she ever measure up to Flora's inventive friend? The Main Street books are nice in that they present a child's world without downplaying some of its sadder aspects—an elderly neighbor's wife has Alzheimers and is confined to a rest home; Nikki's dad, who has abandoned the family, is an abusive alcoholic and she lives in fear that he'll return—or realities—Olivia's dad is jobless and her family will be opening a store; a neighbor's son has Down syndrome but is eager to make an adult life for himself.

• The Religion Book, Jim Willis
An A-Z listing of the world's religions, religious figures, events, and philosophies. This could have been quite dull, but Willis' style is informative, concise, and touches of humor are scattered throughout. Enjoyable overview.

• Sara and Eleanor, Jan Pottker
Oh, I so wanted to love this book! I have several books about the Roosevelts (both the Hyde Park clan and the Oyster Bay contingent) and Theodore Roosevelt is by far my favorite president. I did enjoy the story of Sara Delano Roosevelt's background and her interesting childhood (as a little girl, she "shipped to China" on a sailing vessel with her family), not to mention the history of the Delano family and the "color" of some of the historical events, like the visit of King George VI and his wife to the U.S. in the 1930s. I also appreciated a text that did not demonize "Mamá", as Sara Roosevelt has become an antagonist in most texts and media. Eleanor Roosevelt's half of the story, however, reveals nothing new—her sad childhood, her depression and insecurity because of it, her slow rise to independence—and suffers at the expense of the author's efforts to improve Sara Roosevelt's image. In addition to a list of historical errors mentioned in Sylvia Jukes Morris' featured "Washington Post" review on Amazon.com, there is an extremely grievious one: Pottker talks about the events of March 1911, then follows with two paragraphs about the "next month," concerning an oceanic calamity: the sinking of the Titanic! Except the Titanic sank in April *1912*. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. Does no one edit these books any longer?


Anonymous said...

If you enjoy Gladys Taber, you'll love this website dedicated to her work: http://stillmeadowshoppe.spaces.live.com

itsasign said...

I couldn't agree with you more about Sara and Eleanor. I don't think I've ever been more frustrated by a piece of "non-fiction." I was so annoyed by the book that I googled it to see what the original reviews were (and your blurb is one of the few I found.) The book doesn't seem to have been widely reviewed. Go figure.