Thursday, December 1, 2011

Books Read in November 2011

Picture Books

Susanna continues her love affair with the My First Little House books. We re-read all of the series a few times this month, and found A Farmer Boy Birthday at the library. There was great rejoicing, as it was the first time we've read that one. (I kept refusing to buy it.) I have to say, when I first saw these books years ago at the library, I was appalled at the thought of "dumbed down" classics, but when I perused them, I found them to be excellent. The illustrations are reminiscent of the original Garth Williams illustrations, and they use the sentences from the originals, for the most part, just simplified. We love them. They have been favorites of all my girls. And it segued nicely into reading the original novels as they grew old enough.

Wolf! Wolf! by John Rocco. The story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, from the wolf's perspective. (Warning: it might undermine the moral of the original!) Fun story. Great pictures. My girls really enjoyed it.

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by John Scieszka. The wolf's version of the story, claiming it was all a big misunderstanding. Funny, clever story. My older girls thought it was great, Susanna wandered away. This is definitely one that needs a certain level of maturity to be understood and appreciated. (Ages 7 and up.)

Waiting For Winter by Sebastian Meschenmoser. Susanna's new favorite book. Charming story about some hibernating animals that have never seen snow, but stay up to watch for it. And then, thinking that they have somehow missed the first snowflake, they search the forest floor for it, with hilarious results. The pictures had Susanna giggling all the way through. (They had me giggling, too.)

The Snow Day by Komako Sakai. This one just didn't appeal to me or my girls.

Snow by Uri Shulevitz. (Caldecott Honor book) Fun illustrations; I love the palette. But the story didn't really excite my girls.

White Snow, Bright Snow by Alvin R. Tresselt; illustrated by Roger Duvoisin. (Caldecott Medal) Not very kid-appealing. My four-year-old's attention was lost less than half-way through. My 7 and 8 year olds' reaction was "That was kinda boring."

Young Adult

Plain Kate by Erin Bow. Very well written, interesting story, great characters, and I couldn't put it down. But it was also quite unrelentingly depressing, with just a few clutches of hope.

The Shakeress by Kimberley Houston. I picked up this book from the library shelves, knowing nothing about it, but intrigued by the title (because I'm fascinated by the Shakers) and the great cover. There are so many ways this could have been a great book based on the plot, but it just fell flat for me. It turned into a typically done Mormon conversion story.

Chime by Franny Billingsley. I reviewed this one already. Clicking on the title will send you to my review.

The Bargain Bride by Evelyn Sibley Lampman. This is a book that I picked up from a library sale because I vaguely remembered reading it when I was young, but couldn't remember if I liked it. It was a good read, but not stand-out. Twelve-year-old me would probably have liked it more.

Adult Books

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson. I couldn't finish this one. The overblown "lushness" of the language just turned me off. I felt like the author was trying too hard to make each sentence a work of art, and by the end of it I had no idea what she said. The other thing that bothered me was the blatant similarity to Du Maurier's Rebecca. There were other things I found wrong, but I won't belabor the point.

When Autumn Leaves by Amy S. Foster. Overall fun to read despite certain weaknesses (e.g. weak dialogue, flat-feeling characters. Sometimes I felt like the author was talking about life situations she had no experience with and hadn't fleshed out the emotions of very well. Other situations I felt she knew intimately, and those really worked.)
I like the premise of the story. But my main problem with the book is this: have you ever been talking to someone and you're right in the middle of an interesting conversation that gets interrupted, and you never get back to it? Reading this book feels like that. I felt like I had barely begun to learn about each woman before I was whisked away from that particular person.
Quite possibly that was the intention, since the whole premise is about new beginnings.
I'm looking forward to reading Foster's next book.

The Mousewife by Rumer Godden. An allegory for repressed womanhood. It's a quick read, well-written, but ultimately disappointing (for me).