Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dust Girl and Presidential Politics

I wasn't sure if I would like Dust Girl.  The premise seemed a bit strange--a fairy story set during the Dust Bowl era.  The reviews were very promising, and since I was looking for a new-ish YA read, I figured I should give it a try.

Callie always knew that she was different, although her biracial heritage was a secret to people in her small Kansas town.  The dust storms wrecked her hometown and left her mother's grand hotel vacant due to the lack of travelers coming through town. Callie discovers that her father is not only black but also fairy royalty; when her mother is kidnapped by a fairy gang, she must enter a complicated fairy world in order to rescue her.

I started this YA novel with a great deal of skepticism, but I was hooked immediately with Callie's tale.  Not only does Sarah Zettel create a fascinating fairy world of adventure, crime, and politics, but she also invokes fascinating aspects of the 1930s era.  The crippling aspects of the dust storms--environmental, economic, and health related (Callie suffers from "dust pneumonia")--are brilliantly brought to life.  The cultural life of the era, including jazz music and dance marathons, also add depth and intrigue to the story.  A secondary character illustrates the "hobo life" common to that time period.  Sarah Zettel includes a playlist, which includes several Woody Guthrie songs that were written about the Dust Bowl (fitting since this is the 100th anniversary of his birth).  Characters of color are extremely rare in fantasy/science fiction, so this is a welcome addition to the genre.

I'm impatiently awaiting the sequel to Dust Girl (this is the first in a trilogy).  Until then, I'm enjoying Tiger Lily (another fairy story--Tiger Lily's story told through Tinkerbell's perspective).

In other news--I finished A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America's First Presidential Campaign, which turned out to be a more challenging read than I expected.  I was hoping for more information on John Adams and Thomas Jefferson's roles during the campaign, but a large majority of the book was about the election of electors and issues involving the various electors in the electoral college.  All very important information, but it got a bit confusing at times, as the electoral college can be.  The roles of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were absolutely fascinating, though.  American politics was just as nasty and divided then as they ever have been. 

Can you believe it's almost November? I have a ton of children's/YA titles I want to read before the end of the year, so this presidential biography reading project will be put on hold.  We should see the "Best Of 2012" lists very shortly.

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