tempestsarekind: (dido plus books)
The trailer for Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time film came out yesterday (or at least, I saw it for the first time yesterday):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4U3TeY2wtM

My first, entirely shallow thought was that it needs FAR more Gugu Mbatha-Raw in it. But as I chewed on this shallow thought over the course of the day yesterday, it became a little less shallow - because it touches on the main thing that's not quite sitting right with me about the trailer:

It starts with Chris Pine.

Okay, that's a bit facetious. But it does feel wrong to start with Mr. Murry, and not with Mrs. Murry or Meg. One of the things I really loved about A Wrinkle in Time as a child was how thorny and prickly the beginning of the book is: not just Meg getting in fights at school (although that was Important), but Meg's feeling of not fitting properly into her own skin, in contrast to her beautiful and brilliant mother; her desperate worry about Charles Wallace - and then, the nastiness of the people in their insular little town, who sneer at Mrs. Murry and snicker that her husband must have just run away, who make fun of Meg's beloved baby brother for being different. One of the things I loved about the book is that we don't start with the adventurer, making his scientific discoveries: we start with his family, who don't know what's happened to him, who have to hope and believe that they aren't in the sort of tawdry, shabby story that the snickering neighbors think they're in.

And obviously, this is just the trailer, so who knows what the actual movie will be like, or how it will begin. But it feels a bit as if all of those rough, important edges have been sanded down, and the story has been made smoother and glossier than I'd like. (This extends to the look of the film as well, though I haven't written about it here: I want Mrs. Whatsit to be tramping around in rubber boots and muffled by layers and layers of ill-fitting clothing - utterly unremarkable before becoming utterly magical. I want things to be sort of shabby and ramshackle around the edges. That may be expecting something one is not likely to get from a big Disney film.)
tempestsarekind: (ofelia)
Oh gosh, I like this line: "Schulz knew that shyness has no narrative arc: the shy just have to carry on being shy."

And I love this bit about the Moomins: "But the Moomins themselves are more successful role models for the shy. They like to wander in the forest alone, enjoying its silence and stillness, or to burrow into warm, private spaces. But they sulk and skulk only fleetingly. Mostly they retreat so as to think deeply and make something – a painting, a poem or a boat carved out of bark – as a way of whittling meaning out of a frightening world. Jansson’s lesson is not that shy people should come out of their shells; it is that they should embrace that shyness and put it to artful use."

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/aug/20/introvert-fiction-agatha-christie-alan-bennett-morrissey-shyness

[One of my favorite childhood books was Comet in Moominland - my mother brought it home in a mixed bag from a library book sale, so it was a while before I realized that there was a series of books involving Moomins! Consequently, Comet is the only one I know well, even though I've read many of the others; for a long time it was the only one I owned, and so the only one I could easily reread. Then, too, something about the…wry doom? pragmatic anxiety? cheerful foreboding? of the book spoke to me as a somewhat anxious child who, for a while (after a science video shown in class with a less than clear timeline), was afraid that the sun was about to turn into a red giant every time it set, and life on earth was therefore over. Seeing the Moomins fear the comet but then survive it was important to me.]

[I also had this great Peanuts anthology that I used to reread all the time; I liked things that were wry and gentle and a little bit melancholy, apparently. At least a part of me did.]
tempestsarekind: (little women)
A series of four essays on Little Women, one for each of the March girls:
http://avidly.lareviewofbooks.org/category/littlewomen/

Incidentally, I always forget how much more familiar I am with the 1994 film than I am with the novel (I did read it two or three times, but it wasn't a favorite - not in the way that The Secret Garden or Charlotte Sometimes was).
tempestsarekind: (it is margaret you mourn for)
This piece by Katie Riophe on Maurice Sendak is haunting:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/03/maurice-sendak-art-of-death/472350/

Even as a tiny child in Brooklyn, Maurice was unusually alert to the prospect of dying. He was floored by every childhood sickness—measles, scarlet fever, double pneumonia. “My parents were not discreet,” he said. “They always thought I was going to die.” He laid out the toy soldiers on the blankets of his sickbed. He watched other children play through the window.

One day his grandmother, who had emigrated from the shtetls outside Warsaw, dressed him in a white suit, white shirt, white tights, white shoes, and took him out to the stoop to sit with her. The idea was that the angel of death would pass over them and think that he was already an angel and there was no need to snatch him from his family.
tempestsarekind: (wtf?)
‘Little Women’ Series Produced By Michael Weatherly In Development At CW
/2015/07/little-women-series-michael-weatherly-cw-1201487185

(LJ keeps blocking the post because the article is from Deadline dot com, so I removed that bit of the URL.)

"Written by Jolly, Little Women is described as a hyper-stylized, gritty adaptation of the 1868 novel by Louisa May Alcott, in which disparate half-sisters Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy band together in order to survive the dystopic streets of Philadelphia and unravel a conspiracy that stretches far beyond anything they have ever imagined – all while trying not to kill each other in the process."

WHAT

THAT IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING LIKE LITTLE WOMEN

(HALF-SISTERS. HALF-SISTERS.)

DID YOU EVEN READ THE BOOK

IT IS LIKE THE CW LOOKED AT REIGN AND DECIDED THEY HAD STAYED TOO CLOSE TO THE SOURCE MATERIAL

(Note: this is not the same Little Women modern adaptation that I posted about before here:
http://tempestsarekind.livejournal.com/468817.html
That one gets mentioned at the end of this article, but it's not clear what its status is.)
tempestsarekind: (your strange behavior puzzles martha)
According to Nicholas Orme in Medieval Children, "faunt" is a medieval word for "infant." Which, it occurs to me, means that Little Lord Fauntleroy is really redundant: it basically boils down to "little lord infant king."

I don't really know what to do with this fact.
tempestsarekind: (little women)
I Smell a Gritty Reboot: "Modern Take" on Little Women Coming to ABC
http://www.themarysue.com/little-women-abc/

(link via Bookshelves of Doom.)

My actual problem with this is that I simply can't imagine it. Sherlock, and then Elementary, was an easy fit for imagining how modernization might work because people had been telling Holmes-inflected stories on TV for years before that (House, Psych, The Mentalist, a host of shows I've forgotten - and even crime procedurals that aren't explicitly wedded to the "super-smart and observant male detective" model draw on some of the same elements). I don't know how closely Revenge hews to its original source material, but the idea of revenge was still a part of the TV landscape before the show aired.

The thing I keep getting stuck on is that the concerns of the March family, and the ways those concerns are dealt with, are so located in their specific time period - not the fact that the father is away at war (sadly - although I don't understand the "military scandal" part in the synopsis), or the family's straitened circumstances while he's away - but the way self-abnegation is such an important part of the story, for example. (Not that this isn't a modern value, but it's not one we see on TV all that often.) I guess this is the question I have about the difference between "inspired by" and "retelling" or "adaptation of." House is not really an adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes stories, even though it's clearly inspired by them - and that's fine. Reign would make fifteen times more sense to me if they just told a story inspired by Mary, Queen of Scots, instead of purporting to be based on her life but getting every single detail of it wrong and having no allegiance to anything resembling actual history. A modern story inspired by Little Women is one thing - and actually, the more it makes sure to stand on its own without constantly looking back to the novel, the better it would probably be - but an actual adaptation is another thing entirely, and much harder to figure out, especially when the original has such specific and important values at its heart.

(This is also why the two recent-ish adaptations of Mansfield Park - the Rozema film, and then the miniseries with Billie Piper - annoy me so much; they both rewrite Fanny Price entirely, to make her more "palatable" to a "modern" audience, instead of taking her seriously as a character with values that are important to her role in the story.)
tempestsarekind: (ofelia reading)
(Is the New Yorker's new stance "no one should like reading anything unless it is approved by us"? Didn't they just publish one of these finger-wagging pieces for adults? Did they feel like they weren't scolding enough readers with that last one? Thought they'd cast their net a little wider, did they?)

"What if the strenuous accessibility of 'Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods' proves so alluring to young readers that it seduces them in the opposite direction from that which Gaiman’s words presuppose—away from an engagement with more immediately difficult incarnations of the classics, Greek and otherwise? What if instead of urging them on to more challenging adventures on other, potentially perilous literary shores, it makes young readers hungry only for more of the palatable same?"

"The Percy Jackson Problem," Rebecca Mead
http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/percy-jackson-problem

(link via Neil Gaiman's Tumblr.)

Won't somebody please think of the children??? (What if the books are so enjoyable that children can't help themselves? What if they're like drugs?)

…I sometimes wonder if people would be less odd and panicky about this if we didn't live in a culture that was so concerned with precocity and early development. Let's say children don't pick up difficult incarnations of the classics - let's say they don't read them until high school or even, god forbid, college. (I'm assuming for the sake of this argument that reading the classics is a good thing that we would like people to do at some point, but it is not the only way to build a life.) Is that so bad? And let's say - brazen thought, but humor me for a second - that when they do read those classics in high school or college or even (gasp) when they're not in school at all (because I hear tell that people do still develop interests once they graduate), they feel more comfortable with them because they remember some of the stories from reading Rick Riordan's books: where, exactly, is the problem?

I feel like these articles all seem to operate under the impression that if you're not reading it (whatever it is) by the time you're ten, it's all over for you, and you're intellectually stunted forever. But I can never take these handwringing pieces seriously, because my own experience was so different. I was a pretty precocious reader as a child, in some ways: I started reading when I was two, I read well above my grade level, and I had a pretty well-stocked vocabulary. And Rebecca Mead would probably have approved of me, because for some odd reason I was obsessed with Bullfinch's Mythology (I…appropriated my mother's copy without actually thinking about it, to the extent that she found it on one of my bookshelves a couple of years ago and commented, "I used to have this book…"), and my first encounters with a lot of Greek and Roman myths happened in that book (although I have a very strong memory of first reading the story of Pandora's box in Virginia Hamilton's collection In the Beginning). (I didn't really latch on to the D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths - mentioned in Mead's piece - but oh, how I loved their version of East of the Sun and West of the Moon. I wish it would come back into print.)

But I didn't "graduate" to reading "serious" adult fiction when I was a child, or even very much when I was a teen. I was quite happy in the children's section, for a long time. I read and loved Matilda, and thought wistfully about how nice it would be to have been a prodigy, to impress somebody like Miss Honey because I loved Dickens - but I never went out and tried to read any Dickens. Even in high school, I liked most of what we read in school, and I understood it pretty easily - but even after reading and loving Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion for class, I didn't run to seek out any other Austen novels. I was far too busy at the time reading Robin McKinley and Patricia McKillip and Josepha Sherman, and trying to find all the Gillian Bradshaw novels I could get my hands on. I knew Fortinbras as the Murry family's dog in A Wrinkle in Time well before I knew he was a character in Hamlet.

And you know, I think I turned out okay. I read the rest of Austen's novels in college, and fell as ardently in love as anyone could wish. It turns out that I really liked Bleak House, once I got around to reading it. Shakespeare pretty much knocked me over the head and dragged me off to grad school, where I don't seem to have done any worse because I didn't read all the plays when I was twelve. And if I still haven't read Tolstoy or a bunch of other things yet - well, I've still got time. Because I haven't stopped reading, and changing, and learning that things I heard about when I was younger actually come from other sources that I can choose to explore even though I didn't then. (Baby Me would not have been ready for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, even though she had read a retelling of it. Baby Me was not ready for Twelfth Night, even though she could understand it perfectly well in her seventh-grade English class, because she hit backspace, appalled and embarrassed, at the first joke about venereal disease. Who knows what other riches Baby Me has left for Grownup Me to explore?)

The books that made me love reading - that turned me into the kind of person who could love Austen and Shakespeare as entirely as I do - were unabashedly children's books, populated with Moomins and dragons and children who ran away to hide in museums, and girls who traveled through time. The books that kept me in love with reading were the sorts of genre books that critics often sneer at (books that still have a purchase on my heart). Certainly the books that made me want to be a writer when I was younger, that made me think about how words worked together, were those kinds of books. (I literally started writing about writing because I wanted to figure out how McKillip's Riddlemaster books worked.) My reading abilities didn't atrophy and desiccate just because it took me a little longer to get around to the kinds of books that Rebecca Mead would consider important. So I bet those kids reading the Percy Jackson series are going to be fine.
tempestsarekind: (amelia pond (ready for adventure))
Er. I appear to have tripped and committed meta.

On Moffat, Misogyny, and Children’s Stories

“The Leopard of Little Breezes yawned up and farther off from the rooftops of Omaha, Nebraska, to which September did not even wave good-bye. One ought not to judge her: All children are heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb tall trees and say shocking things and leap so very high that grown-up hearts flutter in terror. Hearts weigh quite a lot. That is why it takes so long to grow one.” --Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making


I read an old post on the internet about that perennial issue of Moffat’s misogyny in Doctor Who, which is a frustrating topic for me. It’s certainly not that I think Moffat has no issues at all – there are those stupid jokes about women and driving, for example – but I also think that the discussion is largely driven by people who don’t take into account either the prevalence of Moffat’s favorite story ideas with male characters as well, or the kinds of stories Moffat tells.

cut for length - seriously, it's really long - but no spoilers for the finale, although Clara is mentioned in passing a few times )
tempestsarekind: (ofelia reading)
Occasionally my best friend asks me for book suggestions for her...step-nephew? He likes the Percy Jackson books (which I've not read), so I'm trying to keep my recommendations to fantasy with a mythological bent, although occasionally I slip up and just recommend a favorite that doesn't quite fit the criteria. Here's what I've recommended so far (with asterisks next to books I haven't actually read):

- the D'Aulaires' book of Greek myths
- Pamela F. Service, The Reluctant God
(this was the book about which my friend said, "oh, I don't think he's at the stage yet where he'll read books about girls," and I got all ragey, like, NO THAT IS NOT HOW THAT WORKS)
- R. L. LaFevers, the Theodosia Throckmorton books; the Nathaniel Fludd series*
- Diana Wynne Jones, Howl's Moving Castle; The Chronicles of Chrestomanci
- Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time and the rest of the Murry family books
- Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising series*
(I know, I know, I'm a horrible human for not having read these - although I did read Over Sea... at long last, so maybe there's hope for me)
- Neil Gaiman, Coraline; The Graveyard Book; The Books of Magic
(being slightly self-indulgent with this recommendation)
- Virginia Hamilton, The Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl
- Lloyd Alexander, The Arkadians; the Prydain Chronicles*
(as you can see, I'm no good at reading series)
- Robin McKinley, The Hero and the Crown; Dragonhaven*
- Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn
(this might be a bit "old" for him)
- Franny Billingsley, The Folk Keeper
- Jane Yolen, Foiled
- Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, The Spiderwick Chronicles*
(though these might be a bit young)

Anything you can think of that I ought to suggest? I think he reads a lot, so it might be worth having a lot of recommendations at the ready.
tempestsarekind: (Default)
You know, it occurs to me that if I never see another movie that makes a parallel between a nature program and a character's sex life, it will in fact be too soon.

Also, I learned today that I have very little patience for statements like, 'oh, I just don't think he's at an age to read books with a girl main character,' even when I love the person making the comment. If you never even offer boys books with heroines, you are in fact teaching them by omission not to read them!


Posted via m.livejournal.com.

tempestsarekind: (eleven and amy)
Actually, two thoughts.

spoilers for aired episodes and 'Pond Life,' but no spoilers for 7x05 )

In news that is actually not as related as it looks, I stopped in at the bookstore yesterday on my walk home because...of reasons?, and found a lovely 50th Anniversary edition of A Wrinkle in Time in the children's section. I didn't buy it, but I really, really wanted to have someone to buy it *for*. Anyway, I found myself thinking about how much I loved those books, especially A Swiftly Tilting Planet - and suddenly it was like someone had hit me upside the head with realization, and I had to stop myself from exclaiming "Time can be rewritten!" out loud in the store. Of course I love that storytelling move of Moffat's so much, when I read that book so often and loved it so dearly. It's obvious, when you think about it; it's embedded in my narrative DNA.
tempestsarekind: (eleven and amy)
Can you believe I hadn't read A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones yet? Me either. I thought the ending was rather sudden (I mean the *very* ending, the "what are we to do with Vivian, then?" bit), but I spent a good deal of the book being overcome by conscientious android feelings and wanting there to be time ghosts in, like, every book ever.

(It is entirely too hot for a proper review, but this will do as a placeholder.)

It's funny, how few DWJ books I've actually read. When I was younger, I was an enthusiastic but not a completist reader, which meant that I'd read the same book over and over again, but not necessarily search out other books by that author unless they came to my attention in some way, like being shelved nearby or being listed in the Troll Book Club flyer. (I didn't know, for example, that Penelope Farmer had written other books about the Makepeace girls besides Charlotte Sometimes until I'd graduated from college, when a friend of mine told me.) (And Madeleine L'Engle is the exception to this rule, I think because our school library had a copy of one of the books with endpapers that listed the characters in "Kairos," or "real time" books (the Murrys), versus those in "watch-time" books, like the Austins, and where they intersected. I remember being fascinated by that chart, and photocopying it so I could keep up with all the books I could get.) And the actual first DWJ book I read was Witch Week, without having read any of the other Chrestomanci books; I loved it but forgot who it was by, or even that I'd read it, until much later, after reading the Dalemark books and thinking I should read something else by her... Anyway, what this means is that every year or so, I find the new DWJ book that looks most likely for my current mood, and read that.
tempestsarekind: (cheveril glove)
So this is a thing that exists in the world, which means that I totally just embarrassed myself by flailing on a street corner in front of the local bookstore window:

The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth
http://www.randomhouse.com/book/89119/the-annotated-phantom-tollbooth-by-norton-juster

Though it did result in a nice exchange with a bookseller:

Bookseller: Can I help you find anything?
me (in ridiculous blurt-fashion): Um, yes. I just saw a book in the window [pointing thumb over shoulder, in case it's not clear where or what "the window" is]. The Annotated Norton Juster--I mean Phantom Tollbooth--"
B: Oh, yes--it's beautiful. [walks over to book] Here you go.
me: Thanks so much! Now I just have to decide who needs this for Christmas.
B: Who doesn't need this for Christmas, I think is the question.
me: Very true.

I like it when people like books.

The Phantom Tollbooth has a special place in my heart; it's not one of the books that I read every other week, like The Secret Garden or The Egypt Game, but it was a book that taught me that you could play sly, expansive games with language. That's not something I'm good at, mind, but it's something I love when others do it, and I suspect that I learned that (and what "the doldrums" were) largely from this book. Which I now want to reread, right now.

This book also exists in the world, so I embarrassed myself again by snorting with uncontrollable laughter while reading the flap copy:
Rome and Rhetoric: Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, by Gary Wills
http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300152180

This was the bit that did it: "Renaissance plays and poetry in England were saturated with the formal rhetorical twists that Latin education made familiar to audiences and readers. Yet a formally educated man like Ben Jonson was unable to make these ornaments come to life in his two classical Roman plays."

Inexplicable slam on Ben Jonson!

The frequent buyer sale is Sunday, so I have my eye on some purchases now.
tempestsarekind: (cheveril glove)
So this is a thing that exists in the world, which means that I totally just embarrassed myself by flailing on a street corner in front of the local bookstore window:

The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth
http://www.randomhouse.com/book/89119/the-annotated-phantom-tollbooth-by-norton-juster

Though it did result in a nice exchange with a bookseller:

Bookseller: Can I help you find anything?
me (in ridiculous blurt-fashion): Um, yes. I just saw a book in the window [pointing thumb over shoulder, in case it's not clear where or what "the window" is]. The Annotated Norton Juster--I mean Phantom Tollbooth--"
B: Oh, yes--it's beautiful. [walks over to book] Here you go.
me: Thanks so much! Now I just have to decide who needs this for Christmas.
B: Who doesn't need this for Christmas, I think is the question.
me: Very true.

I like it when people like books.

The Phantom Tollbooth has a special place in my heart; it's not one of the books that I read every other week, like The Secret Garden or The Egypt Game, but it was a book that taught me that you could play sly, expansive games with language. That's not something I'm good at, mind, but it's something I love when others do it, and I suspect that I learned that (and what "the doldrums" were) largely from this book. Which I now want to reread, right now.

This book also exists in the world, so I embarrassed myself again by snorting with uncontrollable laughter while reading the flap copy:
Rome and Rhetoric: Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, by Gary Wills
http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300152180

This was the bit that did it: "Renaissance plays and poetry in England were saturated with the formal rhetorical twists that Latin education made familiar to audiences and readers. Yet a formally educated man like Ben Jonson was unable to make these ornaments come to life in his two classical Roman plays."

Inexplicable slam on Ben Jonson!

The frequent buyer sale is Sunday, so I have my eye on some purchases now.
tempestsarekind: (ofelia reading)
Instead of doing anything useful today (well, besides a load of laundry), I accidentally read a book. (It was a very short book.) It's a children's book called When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, which was recommended in this book by the editors of Horn Book:
http://www.hbook.com/familyofreaders/default.asp
(Incidentally, I'm not going to tell you what the lag time was between my learning what a horn book is, and my connecting the implications of that to the name of the magazine, but trust me: it was a stupidly long lag time.)

I'm about to write a lot of spoilery stuff about this book, so if you plan on reading it, look away.

spoilers below )
tempestsarekind: (ofelia reading)
Instead of doing anything useful today (well, besides a load of laundry), I accidentally read a book. (It was a very short book.) It's a children's book called When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, which was recommended in this book by the editors of Horn Book:
http://www.hbook.com/familyofreaders/default.asp
(Incidentally, I'm not going to tell you what the lag time was between my learning what a horn book is, and my connecting the implications of that to the name of the magazine, but trust me: it was a stupidly long lag time.)

I'm about to write a lot of spoilery stuff about this book, so if you plan on reading it, look away.

spoilers below )
tempestsarekind: (london flower of cities all)
Well, except for the last adjective. It's not exactly crazy around these parts.

I decided that yesterday needed to be another no-internet day, so instead I read a children's historical novel, Alchemy and Meggy Swann. This is the first book I've read by Karen Cushman, even though I always meant to read Catherine, Called Birdy, way back during one of my "service assignments" in high school (I don't know how I lucked out and got school library duty that year, although it is also true that several of my classmates thought the librarian was mean and snappish), and nearly bought Matilda Bone once (only I wasn't entirely sure I wasn't holding onto it because of the Trina Schart Hyman cover, so I didn't).

Anyway. None of that has anything to do with anything. I did quite like the book--and I'm actually somewhat picky about books set in Elizabethan London, though you might not know it. Because my brain is mush today, and I know I won't do the book justice, here's the page for the book on the author's website:
http://www.karencushman.com/books/alchemy.html

One of the things I liked about the book, though, was that it wasn't a rollicking adventure story, but instead a slower examination of Meggy's life in London, and how she begins to come to terms with it. The plot is the sort that in another novel might have involved a lot of sneaking around and derring-do, but here it's...I don't want to say it's an afterthought, but it's not the main event.

I've been reading a fair amount of children's/YA historical fiction of late, in part because it exists in almost total opposition to the "famous person fiction" I'm not that interested in. For the most part, the protagonists are the unrecoverable people--the sorts of people who don't show up in the historical record, or make the most fleeting of appearances. I can understand why people would want to read about, say, Elizabeth I or Anne Boleyn, to imagine that they can know these historical figures from the inside out, but I relish fiction's ability to shine some sort of light on people who aren't already the subject of biographies and films, and fiction for younger readers seems far more likely to do that, much of the time.

Oddly, I also seem to find that historical fiction for younger readers is more likely to try to recreate some flavor of the language of the period--though I haven't done any sort of survey, so I could be completely wrong about that. But I'm thinking about books like Gary Blackwood's Shakespeare Stealer series, or Alchemy and Meggy Swann. I find that interesting, since young readers are probably far less likely to know what words like "belike" and "gorget" mean, but the authors seem more willing to trust that the readers will work them out from context.
tempestsarekind: (london flower of cities all)
Well, except for the last adjective. It's not exactly crazy around these parts.

I decided that yesterday needed to be another no-internet day, so instead I read a children's historical novel, Alchemy and Meggy Swann. This is the first book I've read by Karen Cushman, even though I always meant to read Catherine, Called Birdy, way back during one of my "service assignments" in high school (I don't know how I lucked out and got school library duty that year, although it is also true that several of my classmates thought the librarian was mean and snappish), and nearly bought Matilda Bone once (only I wasn't entirely sure I wasn't holding onto it because of the Trina Schart Hyman cover, so I didn't).

Anyway. None of that has anything to do with anything. I did quite like the book--and I'm actually somewhat picky about books set in Elizabethan London, though you might not know it. Because my brain is mush today, and I know I won't do the book justice, here's the page for the book on the author's website:
http://www.karencushman.com/books/alchemy.html

One of the things I liked about the book, though, was that it wasn't a rollicking adventure story, but instead a slower examination of Meggy's life in London, and how she begins to come to terms with it. The plot is the sort that in another novel might have involved a lot of sneaking around and derring-do, but here it's...I don't want to say it's an afterthought, but it's not the main event.

I've been reading a fair amount of children's/YA historical fiction of late, in part because it exists in almost total opposition to the "famous person fiction" I'm not that interested in. For the most part, the protagonists are the unrecoverable people--the sorts of people who don't show up in the historical record, or make the most fleeting of appearances. I can understand why people would want to read about, say, Elizabeth I or Anne Boleyn, to imagine that they can know these historical figures from the inside out, but I relish fiction's ability to shine some sort of light on people who aren't already the subject of biographies and films, and fiction for younger readers seems far more likely to do that, much of the time.

Oddly, I also seem to find that historical fiction for younger readers is more likely to try to recreate some flavor of the language of the period--though I haven't done any sort of survey, so I could be completely wrong about that. But I'm thinking about books like Gary Blackwood's Shakespeare Stealer series, or Alchemy and Meggy Swann. I find that interesting, since young readers are probably far less likely to know what words like "belike" and "gorget" mean, but the authors seem more willing to trust that the readers will work them out from context.
tempestsarekind: (rory died and turned into a roman)
You know, I keep thinking I should try my hand at the 30 Days of Shakespeare meme, but a quick glance at the questions leads me to believe that way too many of my answers would involve Twelfth Night for there to be any suspense in the undertaking.

Anyway. Instead of doing Shakespeare memes, I have been reading children's and YA books:

1. The Eagle of the Ninth - Rosemary Sutcliff (at long last). I expected I'd like it, and I did. Though I don't tend to go for adventure stories as often, this was very entertaining and a good way to spend an afternoon. You have probably read it already, because you're better than I am.

2. Newes from the Dead - Mary Hooper. A YA historical novel based on the true story of Anne Green, a young woman who was convicted of infanticide in 1650 and was hanged--but didn't die. The novel alternates between Anne's point of view and that of a young medical student prepared to watch the dissection of her body. There are a few awkward moments at which Anne's point of view clashes with the needs of the narrative, but the story is, as you might expect, pretty gripping and the era is pretty well established. Also, the edition I read included a facsimile of one of the seventeenth-century pamphlets that told Anne's story, so that's a nice bonus.

3. Foiled - Jane Yolen; Mike Cavallaro, illustrator. I picked this up from the library basically on the strength of the illustrations and the fact that it was written by Jane Yolen--and it was a good thing I was willing to, because the book flap tells you absolutely nothing about the book except that the protagonist, Aliera Carstairs, doesn't feel like she fits in with the cliques in her school, and that she's a fencer (hence the title). Aliera is fun to keep company with; she's tenacious, wry and level-headed, even while developing a raging crush on the mysterious new boy in her class. The story is less strong, perhaps because the graphic novel spends as long as it does establishing Aliera's character; the plot arrives rather unexpectedly, and the resolution of it happens through explanation rather than action. It ends with enough dangling threads that I'm assuming it's the first of a series.

4. The Good Neighbors, Book One: Kin - Holly Black; Ted Naifeh, illustrator. This book and Foiled traverse somewhat similar territory, so it was instructive that I read them back to back. Where Foiled is strongest on character and weaker on plot, Kin hits the ground running with regard to plot but leaves its heroine, Rue, a bit shadowy; everything that was revealed about her, mostly through flashback, was directly related to the plot. If you liked Tithe, then you'll probably know about what to expect here, and you'll probably enjoy it. First in a series (the third one's out in October).

And my absolute favorite of the batch:

5. The Brothers Story - Katherine Sturtevant. I suspected that I would really enjoy this book, because I'd already read and admired her other two YA historicals, At the Sign of the Star and A True and Faithful Narrative (both of which follow Meg Moore, daughter of a London bookseller, in the 1660s). [Edit: 1670s, actually.] This novel is set during the Great Frost of 1683--which is shiveringly evoked here--and follows Kit, a teenager who flees to London to try to make something of himself, leaving behind his mother and his developmentally challenged brother, Christy. What I admire so much about all three of Katherine Sturtevant's books is that she writes sympathetic characters without making them anachronistic, and yet also without making them didactic examples of "what people thought back then"; their ways of looking at the world are revealed naturally (though sometimes startlingly, when one is reminded of the gulf between them and us). This book is particularly frank about certain elements of seventeenth-century life, but not merely for shock value; instead the details create a solid world. Highly recommended.

Profile

tempestsarekind: (Default)
tempestsarekind

July 2017

S M T W T F S
      1
2345678
91011 12 13 1415
16171819 202122
23242526272829
3031     

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 23rd, 2017 02:46 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios