Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Recent Reads Roundup

Well, I've hit it again. The reading slump. After reading several awesome books in a row, I'm not finding anything particularly inspiring. This tends to happen to me after reading books that really blow me away. No matter. I've requested some "older" 2011 books that I've been meaning to read, and meandering through the folktale and poetry aisles (which helps, but haven't found anything that I really want to blog about). This is what I've been occupied with:

A Garland For Girls

I'm getting back into audiobooks. This was the first on the shelf, so I grabbed it. Now, I've never been much of a Louisa May Alcott fan. Little Women was not a pivotal reading experience in my childhood; I read it, but never loooooooved it like some young girls and women do. I've tried to get into her other books, but no dice. Unfortunately, A Garland For Girls is reminding me why I don't like Alcott. The entire first CD consisted of girls working on needlework and talking about their charitable excursions among the less unfortunate of Boston (they seem particularly concerned with the well-being of shop girls). I am not kidding. The narrator is the recording's saving grace. She manages to bring to life these ridiculous girls. I am listening more out of curiosity than actual interest (it's rather amusing to listen to these silly girls' prattle); only the most ardent Alcott fan would enjoy this.

Smoky the Cow Horse

A reading slump is a good time to go back to my Newbery reading challenge. I've been avoiding the Newbery books from the 1920s because none of them appeal to me at all. Smoky the Cow Horse won the medal in 1927. Smoky is trained and beloved by his cowboy friend, stolen by horse thieves (he kills one of them), and becomes an attraction in a Wild West show. Other adventures and scenarios follow until he is reunited with his cowboy. Unfortunately, it does reflect the racism of its time (all the bad guys have dark complexions). The deliberate poor grammar and spelling was very distracting, and I'm usually tolerant of that when it's not overdone. But, yay! One more Newbery to cross off my list!

King of the Wind

Marguerite Henry is perhaps most famous for Misty of Chincoteague (1948 Newbery Honor), but King of the Wind is the book for which she won the 1949 Newbery Medal (Justin Morgan Had a Horse was a 1945 Newbery Honor recipient). King of the Wind tells the tale of an Arabian horse and the mute stable boy who cares for him. I was intrigued the moment I began it, for the story began at the end of Ramadan in Morocco. Quite an unusual setting for a book published in 1948. Henry's research on Ramadan, Islam, and Morocco is evident in her respectful descriptions of Islam and the Moroccan characters (she does refer to Muslims as "Mohammadans," but that's reflective of the times). A delightful surprise.

Letters From Rifka

Letters From Rifka chronicles the journey of a Russian Jewish girl to the US in a series of letters written to her cousin. Rifka's family flees Russia in order to escape persecution. While in Poland, they contract typhus; thankfully, they survive, but Rifka catches ringworm, for which she must stay behind in Belgium while her family travels on to America. While under the care of a kindly nun, she tastes chocolate and ice cream for the first time. Once she recovers, she continues to America, where she is detained at Ellis Island before finally being reunited with her family.

Based on Hesse's great-aunt's immigration to America, Letters From Rifka is an eye-opening and engrossing tale of survival, persistence, and hope. This is on this year's Battle of the Books list (elementary school); I'm delighted that Rifka's story will reach so many local students.

Up next: Lexie by Audrey Couloumbis. From the catalog description:

"When ten-year-old Lexie goes with her father to the beach for a week, she is surprised to find that he has invited his girlfriend and her two sons to join them for the entire week."

I'm a fan of Couloumbis, so I'm looking forward to reading this. Yay! Hoping that it will get me back on the reading track. (Wondering if Ms. Yingling has read this, considering that she just did a nice rant about leisurely summer books for kids.)


Ms. Yingling said...

I hadn't thought to bore myself out of a slump! I was a huge Alcott fan, but if the plight of the shop girls isn't doing it for you, there is really nothing better. My favorite was Eight Cousins, but its more of the same. Have you read much Sonnenblick? Try Zen and the Art of Faking it. might just do the trick.

Jennifer Schultz said...

Ms. Yingling, I don't understand why I don't like Alcott. I loved Anne of Green Gables and other old-fashioned romantic reads.

(I didn't set out to bore myself out of the slump, but it works remarkably well! I even got motivated to finish up the remaining 1920s Newberys, but Gay Neck: The Story of a Pigeon is missing. I am most distressed.)

Jennifer Schultz said...

I am a fan of Sonnenblick's novels-I thought After Ever After was an exceptional and truthful at remission.