Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Happy Prince

I just read The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde, retold by Elissa Grodin. It's a sad story, but happy too. It's about a bird and a statue. The bird is a swallow, who happens to see a small park where a statue of the city's former prince is placed. The swallow decides to sleep by the statue's foot, but he soon discovers that the statue is more than just a statue. The prince's heart still beats within the statue, and he's far more compassionate as a statue than he was as a prince, living the good life in his palace and ignoring the problems of his people.
I liked this book. It almost made me cry, though, even though it's a happy ending. Sort of. I'd call it bittersweet.
Anybody else read this book? What did you think of it?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

E. Nesbit

One of my favorite writers is a British woman who died almost 100 years ago. Edith Nesbit Bland used the pen name E. Nesbit. She was born in 1858 and died in 1924. But during her lifetime she wrote some of the most delightful children's books imaginable.
E. Nesbit loved dragons and children (she had five of her own), so many of her books are about dragons and children.
The Deliverers of Their Country is a tale about Effie and Harry, a pair of siblings who live in a time when Britain has been overrun with dragons. With characteristic British pluck and determination, they investigate all sorts of possibilities in order to deliver their country from this plague.
Five Children and It concerns five siblings who accidentally discover a wish-granting sand fairy while on vacation in the country one summer. That may sound like incredible luck, but somehow the children's wishes tend to have unforeseen and not always happy consequences.
The Complete Book of Dragons is a collection of E. Nesbit's short stories about, you guessed it, children and dragons. They're perfect bedtime stories.
Lionel and the Book of Beasts concerns a boy who unexpectedly becomes king of his country at a very young age. Since the previous king, his great-great-great-great-great grandfather, loved books far more than regalia, Lionel investigates the library. He discovers a wonderful book called the Book of Beasts. When he opens the book, he finds that whatever creature is depicted on the page will pop out of the book and come to life! Which is lovely, until he lets the dragon loose.
E. Nesbit wrote many other books, all of which are superb. My all-time favorite is called Melisande -- and it doesn't even have any dragons in it.
Melisande is a princess who shortly after birth is cursed by an evil fairy that she will be bald! Her father the king eventually remembers that he had a wish given to him years ago. He obtains permission to transfer that wish to his daughter. She wishes, understandably, for golden hair a yard long that grows and inch every day and twice as fast when it is cut.
That creates enormous problems. It isn't long before Melisande's hair has become the chief export of her country in the form of stuffing for pillows, hair brooches and girdles. But the consequences of the foolish wish aren't overcome until a determined prince and a fairy get involved.
If you like imaginative and intelligent stories, read those of E. Nesbit, which can be found in the Juvenile Fiction section of the Children's Department at the library.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Dinah Ormsby and her brother Zeke live in a remote part of the world. They are homeschooled by their parents, so they don’t have much contact with other people.
Then comes the visit of their cousin Gage, followed by the storm.
It’s a terrifyingly violent and lengthy storm. It knocks out the power, so everything is cold and dark. And their parents are missing. So Gage decides to distract the Ormsby children by telling them a story.
So begins What-the-Dickens: the Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy by Gregory Maguire.
What-the-Dickens (yes, that’s a name) is a skibberee, aka a tooth fairy. He’s a very tiny fellow clothed only in the webbing that grows on his body, and he’s in love with a cat named McCavity. So in the course of his amazing adventures, he tries to find a gift for McCavity that will win her heart.
A tooth.
Can you imagine the rest? I doubt it! You’ll need to read this book!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Strawberry Girl

Anybody ever read old books?
I mean, everybody who reads, seems to read the new books like Harry Potter, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series and the Spiderwick Chronicles.
But there are lots of old books that are just as good.
I’m an old person, and there are still some books at the library that were there 45 years ago when I was a kid. So I decided to see if Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski was still a book that I would enjoy as much as I did when I first read it many years ago.
The book is about Birdie Boyer, whose family raises strawberries for a living in Florida in the early 1900s. Birdie works hard on the strawberry farm, but she dreams of learning to play the organ. Even going to school is a challenge in a place where the students can beat up the teacher. And the farm is a struggle too, with droughts, animal invaders, grasshoppers and ants, mean neighbors and other challenges. But they have fun too, with candy-pulling and other social events.
At first the book is kind of strange. The people talk in a dialect that some might find hard to understand. But if you keep going, you get used to it. The people are strange too, but they feel like real people because they have the same feelings people have today … feelings like pride, hurt, anger, love and ambition.
Did I like the book? Yes. Would I recommend it? Yes, to anybody who likes to learn about how people lived in the past. Strawberry Girl is an American story, about a way of life that disappeared many years ago. And it has great pictures, by the author.Does Birdie get her wish and learn to play the organ? You’ll have to read the book. If you do, please blog here about what you thought of it.