Sunday, September 24, 2006

recently read books

Having read through a few more books since the last time I posted about books, I keep meaning to sit and discuss some of those books. I've covered a variety of genres in my recent reading, fantasy, historical(ish) fiction as well as nonfiction.

The first book I'll talk about is the historical fiction book, The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. It's the story of the Watson family, living in Flint Michigan. The father is from Flint while the mother is from Birmingham. The book is almost entirely about the Watson's life in Flint, the trouble that the oldest son gets into eventually leading the family to Birmingham where the trouble son is going to spend the summer with his grandmother.

The Watsons end with the near loss of the youngest child, the daughter, in a church bombing. The girl doesn't die, as does the middle child not die earlier in the book in a swimming accident. These two incidents basically ruin the book. The fact that the book doesn't address the racism inherent in the church bombing certainly doesn't help. Instead of covering an important part of history, the book turns these two situations into some sort of spiritual moment with a bit of cheating death mixed in.

It was a mostly enjoyable book, but I didn't feel that the author really used the story that ended the book to his advantage. The church bombing almost seemed tagged on at the end to give the book a little more edge. So while I won't dissuade Big Brother from reading it, it won't serve the purpose I had hoped for upon taking it from the library.

Book two is The Tiger's Apprentice by Laurence Yep. It's a fairly basic fantasy story using a lot of random Chinese mythology. I'm not sure what to think of the Chinese mythology as I have no knowledge of that subject, but it did seem like it may be a decent introduction to the mythology should one care to delve further. I did however enjoy the book. It was fairly simple, very quickly read, and it's also book one, so the story will continue assuming I can remember and can find number two at the library.

The final book of the day is A Little House Traveler. It's a compilation of writing done by Laura Ingalls Wilder over a number of years. The first part of the book is her journal kept when she and husband Almanzo and daughter Rose left De Smet, Dakota Territory to move to the Ozarks. The next section of the book is letters, mostly from Laura to Almanzo and a few from Rose, written in 1915 when Laura went to San Francisco to visit Rose and her husband. Following that is the journal Laura kept in 1931 as she and Almanzo went back to visit family in De Smet.

I grew up reading Little House in the Big Wood, and as Big Brother's bedtime reading became mostly chapter books, we picked up the entire Little House series for ourselves. This book, based on the topic, was in my library stack as soon as I saw it. One of the main qualities of this book, in my opinion, is the view one gets of history as common life changes so much. Laura, Almanzo and Rose travel from De Smet in a covered wagon. This is nothing new to readers of the series as Laura has moved lots of places in a covered wagon. Her journey to San Francisco is on a train. The final journey in A Little House Traveler is by car.

I love to see the differences that Laura experienced throughout her life. I can't help when reading about Laura and Almanzo thinking back to their courtship with Manly in his sleigh taking Laura for rides during the winter, Manly building the wagon that took them to the Ozarks. Then in 1931, the couple is driving in a 1923 Buick. This book may not be as interesting to younger readers, and I don't really expect Big Brother to read it just yet. He might, and he may if he chooses to.

Any of these books would be fine for kids to read. They were all well written and interesting. The Laurence Yep book was just a fun read. The Watsons as a family seem like nice enough people, but their story, while mostly interesting, just fell apart at the end. I'm always a sucker for Laura and her family, so I'll generally always like their stories.

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