26 April 2004

The Re-reading Files #2

More books for the list:

Esther Forbes: Johnny Tremain. I've been in love with this book since fifth grade and our student teacher Miss Greenberg "insulted" the lot of us by starting to read it to us after lunch. I mean it. Now there are books about reading aloud for all ages and if you read older books, you will see that reading aloud was old-fashioned family entertainment in the last century. But we were 1960s children who read on our own; only "little kids" got read to. Anyway, we didn't spurn Miss Greenberg long; in fact in less than two weeks you couldn't get a copy of Johnny Tremain in the school library. I still love the entire cast of characters, including egotistical Johnny--and especially his horse, Goblin.

Katherine Kurtz, Deborah Turner Harris: The Adept. Oh, the reviews I've read of these books online--"Mills and Boon romance with the occult thrown in" is one of the common ones. Chill, folks. That's what I like about them, and I'm generally not a fan of the romance genre: they have heroic, attractive heroes fighting the forces of darkness. Yeah, okay, the breathtaking beautiful and doelike Julia Barrett is a bit wet, but she exists only as a love interest for Peregrine, not as a real person and she doesn't appear much. These are fantasy books, after all. I love the descriptions of the beautiful homes, horses, grounds, and landscapes of Scotland in storm and fair weather, too; Kurtz and Harris draw everything in high detail.

Obligatory New Book:

Lynn Truss: Eats, Shoots and Leaves. Entertaining British bestseller about the death of proper punctuation--her chapter with the listing of misplaced apostrophes is hilarious and should not be read by those still hospitalized after surgery for fear of popping open staples. The title, by the way, comes from this anecdote:
A panda walks into a bar. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

"Why did you do that?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda walks towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

"I'm a panda," he says, at the door. "Look it up."

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

"Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."

...now back to our story:

Dorothy L. Sayers: The Nine Tailors. The Anglophobe who reviewed No Graves as Yet on Amazon.com would find this Lord Peter Wimsey offering even worse than Murder Must Advertise. The titles and epigrams on the chapters, plus part of the plot, all center around the English custom of change-ringing of church bells. How horrid for this poor woman; something not strictly American that she can't easily understand. [End sarcasm alert.] Richly textured novel about small-town English fen-country life in the 1930s, an unsolved robbery, clues including a fantasy cipher and French underclothing, and delightful characters--besides Lord Peter and Bunter, of course--such as the Reverend Mr. Venables, "Potty" Peake, and "Nobby" Cranton.

Kate Seredy: The Chestry Oak. Absolutely wonderful, compelling story about a young Hungarian prince whose proud father pretends to be a puppet of the Nazis during World War II and how the boy, with the help of his motherly nurse, helps the cause and later escapes from the enemy, but at a stunning cost. It's illustrated with Seredy's own beautiful creations, but her words are pictures all in themselves. I dare you to get through the conclusion of this touching book without having tears in your eyes.