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I’ve mysteriously created a huge pyramid of books to take back to the library.  (Yes, a pyramid, because I’m obsessive and stack according to size.)  You’d think, being swamped with schoolwork as I am, that I wouldn’t be reading much, but the opposite seems to be true.

Books from the return pile that I haven’t mentioned yet:

Penina Levine is a Hard-Boiled Egg.  (Rebecca O’Connell) Wait, why did I read this?  Because BabelBabe didn’t like it and wanted a second opinion?   Oops, no, that’s not it.  She was bothered by the characterization of the parents and wanted a second opinion.  I agree.  I kept waiting (as the oldest child, ahem – and by the way, happy 22nd to my little sister) for Mimsy to get her comeuppance.  Because she may have been right, but she was a tattletale about petty stuff.  I think I’m more used to seeing flawed parents in children’s books – but not this brand of flawed parent.  At any rate, while part of me sympathized with Penina for being the religious outsider (rebelling against attending mass in honor of the Immaculate Conception, anyone?) I also found her profoundly irritating on some level.  I got an odd sense of struggle between doing something new and interesting with the story, and tying things up too nicely.  In the end I would call it unmemorable, but look at how much I found to say about it?  Parents in children’s lit is a great topic…

The Case of the Missing Marquess: An Enola Holmes Mystery.  (Nancy Springer) Sweet!  Another fab mystery to recommend to my clientele.  And speaking of parents…this fits the classic mold of ‘get the parents out of the picture so that action can start.’  Literally, what sets the whole thing off is the disappearance of Enola’s mother (that would be Sherlock’s mother, too) which her older brothers dismiss but Enola sets out to explain.  The format was a good way to juxtapose the 1880s idea of a proper young lady with a character that a modern girl would understand.  Being of Enola’s unusual upbringing, she’s more of a suffragette in the making than a true 1880s girl, and so the way she carries on doesn’t feel as anachronistic and it would with a more typically raised girl.  I’m looking forward to the next one.

ARE there any good children’s books with present and decent parents?

Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading.  (Maureen Corrigan)  Not as cozy a look at a reader as, say, Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris, more meaty-essay in format, but reading the chapter on “Women’s Extreme-Adventure Stories” was a good distraction for my own morning of a women’s extreme-adventure story (although mine, though thoroughly feminine in nature, sadly bore too much of the physical endurance qualities of a more traditional extreme-adventure).  Trust me, you either don’t want details or you can imagine them well enough on your own.

I think it might be time to move straight from breakfast (the part I managed to keep down) to rhubarb-boysenberry-raspberry crisp, don’t you?  I’m not getting anything done today.

Speaking of not getting anything done, the new-ish McMenamins on Killingsworth (Chapel Pub) is having a benefit night for my cousins’ school, 5-close.  I’ll be there after work.  What’s better than having a beer in a former chapel to give money to schools?  Not a whole lot.  Looks like there are benefits at quite a few different locations tonight.

A while back, Anne compared me to a combination of Martha Abbott and Ivy Carson, which of course made me go grab a copy of The Changeling off the library shelf (autographed: “Greetings from Zilpha Snyder”). I had a huge Snyder kick, probably in middle school – something about her books appealed hugely to my kind of imagination. And yes, I am a combination of Martha and Ivy. I’ve got Martha’s holding back, and being the one who latches onto a more spontaneous friend. I’ve got a bit of Ivy’s dancing and imagination.

One of the things that struck me most about the whole book (and as far as I remember this is true of all of ZKS’s books) was how well she captures the way children imagine and play and interact with each other. The way certain spots are magic – the grove of trees, the stone – and the way others are frightening but magnetic, like the burnt-out house. An original mythology. The way a game changes and evolves from a near-religious belief to a performance, an acting out. The sense of going through phases, and changing without being aware of it at the time, and the way you realize you are different in front of different people.

I also love that Martha becomes herself in high school. She gets most of the pain and angst out of the way in middle school (how true, how true) and settles down to true Martha-ness. I don’t think I was quite so much myself in high school (not to the degree that I am now, but I suppose that’s only natural) but 9th grade certainly was a big sigh of relief after middle school.

And speaking of changelings…let me plug The New Policeman again. GO READ IT. It’s really like a slightly simpler, Irish version of Summerland, which, go read that, too, while you’re at it. YA books that work equally well or perhaps even better for adults. A bit of magic and folktales and legends, a quest, a flawed hero. It really needs an accompanying CD, though, so those of us who don’t read music can hear the traditional songs that end (and title) each chapter. Don’t know what it has to do with changelings? Check it out. I still hold that it’s the perfect book for anyone who feels there isn’t enough time in the day…

May 2007

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