Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dealing With Dragons, April 22

I have just reread an excellent book by Patricia C. Wrede called Calling on Dragons. Although I have already read it, I am still impressed with Wrede's very witty and clever writing style and I am always eager to "wrede" more. I've always wanted to be like the main character, Cimorene, even before I had read the book! I think this is a J-R book because I understand it, but I still can like it without thinking it is too childish.
One of the characters that definitely changed was Alianora, Cimorene's friend. At first, like when he and the other dragons' princesses came to Kazul's (the dragon that kept Cimorene) cave, she was timid. I also thought she was sort of being held back by Keredwel and Hanahh, the other two princesses. However, by the end she was very sure of herself, and helped stop the plot by the wizards. Cimorene changes later on in the series, but not so much now. Someone who really changed was the stone price. He seemed rather silly and didn't know what to do without orders (which I thought weird for a prince) but near the end he showed quick thinking when he melted Zemenar, and he was pretty self-confident (though stuff like that takes time), even when threatened by Antorell.
I liked how the resolution was solved, with Woraug the traitor turned into a frog and the wizards melted but not defeated and everyone living happily ever after. There isn't much I would like to change about the book; it's just too good, but I thought that the court philosopher claiming magic was trickery and smoke and mirrors and the like, given the fact the kingdom was on the edge of an enchanted forest, but I guess some people are like that.
I think the author's message is that rocking the boat is sometimes good.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Civil War Get on Board

I just read a great book called Get on Board by Jim Haskins. It was very interesting and I was endlessly surprised by Harriet Tubman and the other "conductors'" bravery. What was really amazing is was that Harriet Tubman went into the "Deep South" disguised as a tradesman and spirited off a few slaves in the night, transporting many of them all the way to Canada, and with a debilitating illness too! This really impressed me and showed me Harriet Tubman really wanted freedom for all people. She owned a gun, not to use, but to frighten her passengers into staying with her and not running back to their plantations, which was obviously a big issue.
However, Harriet Tubman was not the only "conductor" on the Underground Railroad. Another notable one was Frederick Douglass, (both Douglass and Tubman were former slaves, whose names were generally given by their masters) who, when he found freedom, learned how to write and wrote a book about his life. He then began multiple trips back to the South to escort other slaves to the North or even Canada. Quite possibly, these notable abolitionists were inspired by their own experience of the hardships and just plain wrongness of slavery, and of how to escape it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Absolutely Normal Chaos March 7

I have just finished an excellent book by Sharon Creech, by the name of Absolutely Normal Chaos. I had high expectations because of Sharon Creech's previous novel the superb Walk Two Moons that were pleasantly fulfilled. It was a very deep book. There isn't much I can connect to however, except for when Mr. Furtz died and Mary Lou (the main character) was so worried about her parents because Mr. Furtz, who lived across the street, died so suddenly. I would worry about my parents too if something happened to a neighbor like that. I'm glad I'm lucky enough that stuff like that hasn't happened. That's how I could understand her feelings. It's a just-right book because I could see that it in fact was quite deep in some parts and I could understand it.
When Carl Ray came to stay over the summer to find a job, Mary Lou was not happy. Carl Ray ate like a horse, never spoke, and didn't make his bed (she had to do it!). However, her feelings toward her cousin changed. It probably first started when their neighbor Mr. Furtz died suddenly, in the hospital during a routine checkup. Carl Ray started being a little more involved, as well as being surprising. Who would have thought Carl Ray had read The Odyssey, just like Mary Lou was right now. Eventually, after a pretty long while (involving Mary Lou starting to go out with a boy named Alex Cheevey and being forbidden by her mother to say "God!", "stupid" and "stuff". She finds all these harebrained (ha ha ha) synonyms that never really fit) Carl Ray even invited Mary Lou to stay for a week at his house in West Virginia! Mary Lou accepted (with help from Carl Ray's mother) and went two days later. Carl Ray hadn't moved out of his parents farmhouse, so when they got there his mom, brothers and sisters (not his dad because for some reason they had a pretty awkward relationship) all crowded around. There were a lot of stereotypical questions about 'The City' and after only a few days, Mary Lou had been embarrassed, frightened and grossed out and altogether wishing she could leave already. She convinced Carl Ray let her leave early, but he wanted to tell his mom and dad something about the strange, anonymous gift of lots of money and a ring with the initials C. F. The next day he drove her home and told her that his real father was Mr. Furtz, and he gave him the money and the ring. A couple of days later Carl Ray drove into a ditch and broke his arm and both his legs. Mary Lou was very frightened and hoped he would be OK. When he finally did wake up, she was very happy and they seemed to be the best of friends. That's how she changed about Carl Ray.
The problem of the story was resolved around when Carl Ray woke up and Alex Cheevey returned home. It was a very satisfying ending, in my opinion, not climactic, but a nice and quiet ending. If I could change a part of the book I would change how annoying Beth Ann is because I think Mary Lou has enough to deal with already. I think the author's message is to never give up.