12 September 2014

Dicey's Song : 1983 Newbery Award

The beginning of March 2014 I started a new undertaking: reading every single Newbery Medal Winner book. A number of them I have read in the past, but I am reading them with fresh eyes,and reviewing them for others. I am not reading them in order, as some will require some effort on my part to find them all. Want to keep track of which books I read? Check them out at Confessions of a Wannabe Reader!



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Cover of the book - used for identification purposes only under the fair use clause
Dicey Tillerman : Keeping at Arm's Length

"You've been responsible a long time and done a good job.  Take a little rest now."

Dicey Tillerman is thirteen and lives with her three siblings James, Maybeth, and Sammy at her grandmother's house in the Chesapeake Bay area of Maryland, a place they had only recently moved to.  For so long, she has had to take care of siblings, having been abandoned by their mother in a parking lot in Massachusetts.  She feels lost having someone else do it, but Gram is determined to be the parent, as well as keep her own past hidden from her granddaughter.  Dicey's mother, living in Boston in a psychiatric hospital, is no better than catatonic, and the news worries Dicey and  James.  The family has to stay together, and that to Dicey means keeping others out.  But people like Maybeth's music teacher Mr. Lingerle, the slow shop keeper Millie, and fellow students Jeff and Mina, find their way into Dicey's heart and into the family fold. Dicey soon begins to learn that maybe taking care of others means letting others take care of her as well.

Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt is the second in a series of books written by the author.  Like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, this book's resolution isn't really a resolution, but rather a interlude in the lives of the Tillerman children.  The book leaves you wondering what will happen next.

Dicey, the eldest of four, is consumed with worry.  She worries that her grandmother won't be able to care for them.  She worries that her little sister Maybeth won't be able to live a normal life, and that James and Sammy won't be able to fit in.  She worries that her mother will never be coming home or that she will take them off somewhere else to fend for themselves again.  She toughens herself up so that people can't get in, since so many people have left her, that she resists and fights when Mina, Jeff, Mr. Lingerle and even Millie find their way into the family.  

Dicey also has to learn to let go but still hold on.  For most of her siblings' lives, she has been their mother, and now that they live with their grandmother, Dicey must learn to stop being the mother in the other children's life.  Grandmother warns her that she must learn to continue to hold on though, something that confuses Dicey.  It isn't until she starts letting others into her hear besides her siblings that she learns what Grandmother means, and also learns that her grandmother is speaking from experience.  

This was the first book I could recall reading from this author, and I did enjoy it.  I am not sure thought if I want to continue on in the series.

11 September 2014

The Witch of Blackbird Pond: 1959 Newbery Award Winner

The beginning of March 2014 I started a new undertaking: reading every single Newbery Medal Winner book. A number of them I have read in the past, but I am reading them with fresh eyes,and reviewing them for others. I am not reading them in order, as some will require some effort on my part to find them all. Want to keep track of which books I read? Check them out at Confessions of a Wannabe Reader!

Cover of the book - Used for Identification Purposes only Under the Fair Use Clause

Kit Tyler: Longing to Escape

"There is no escape if love is not there."

Katherine Tyler, known as Kit, is an orphaned English teenager without a home.  Her grandfather, a Royalist and a rich man, has recently died, and his Caribbean home has been sold off to pay debts.  The only place for Kit to go is to Puritan Connecticut, to the home of an aunt she has never met.  Aunt Rachel and Uncle Matthew Wood take her in, much to the delight of Kit's cousin Mercy and to the chagrin of their other daughter Judith.  However, Kit feels lonely, as she doesn't fit in to the stern Puritan society of the hamlet Wethersfield, and longs to escape the confines of her new life.  Her only place of refuge is the meadow surrounding Blackbird Pond, and it is here that she meets the Widow Hannah Tupper.  Hannah also doesn't fit in to the society around them, as she is a Quaker and called a witch by some in the community.  Kit, along with the young sailor Nat Easton and the dim-witted child Prudence Cruff, both of who also don't fit in ti visit the widow in secret.  When Kit's visits are discovered, she finds herself under suspicion of witchcraft and must stand trial herself.  Will her love prevail?

The Witch of Blackbird Pond was the second book of Elizabeth George Speare's to win a Newbery award, and it was the second of her books that I ever read as a child.  In fifth grade, I was introduced to this author when my teacher read The Sign of the Beaver to the class.  Naturally, I sought out another book by her, and the school librarian recommended The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I devoured the book.  Speare's writing style to this day enthralls me, and she makes the time periods come alive in my mind.

Kit is an outsider to the way of life in the community.  She tried hard to be dull and drab, as she feels she must in the strict and stern ways of the Puritans, but there's a part of her that feels like a colorful bird locked in a cage.  This feeling is one that people can relate to.  How often does one smother their own personality to be something for someone else?  While Kit does it out of necessity, she find she can't completely hide who she is, and it is only at Hannah's house that she can ultimately find the freedom to express herself and be who she wishes to be.  She finds love and acceptance with Hannah, but also finds that maybe society at large is not really as discouraging as she thought it to be.  She comes to view her uncle in a new light as the story progresses, and she sees that where she only saw sternness lives also a quiet strength that she never knew was there and a glimmer of the man her aunt has come to love.

This story is set in late 17th century Connecticut, when Puritans ruled New England.  Yet, the way of life as the Puritans knew it was changing, as the King of England started to take more and more of an interest in the shipping and industry of the area and moved to take stronger control of it.  This is mirrored in the novel as the Puritans begin to chafe under the new Royal Governor, with the town divided on whether of not they will acknowledge his rule.  It is well written and ends on a happier note, hiding the turmoil that the area will come to endure and will ultimately assist in leading up to the American Revolution. 


04 September 2014

It's Like This, Cat: 1964 Newbery Award Winner

The beginning of March 2014 I started a new undertaking: reading every single Newbery Medal Winner book. A number of them I have read in the past, but I am reading them with fresh eyes,and reviewing them for others. I am not reading them in order, as some will require some effort on my part to find them all.  Want to keep track of which books I read?  Check them out at Confessions of a Wannabe Reader!
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Cover of the book - Used for Identification purposes only under the fair use clause


Dave Mitchell: Seeing Through New Eyes

" My father is always talking about how a dog can be very educational for a boy.  This is one reason I got a cat."

Dave Mitchell is a normal teen growing up in New York City.  He is fourteen and doesn't see eye to eye with his father, which cases many shouting matches.  When they yell at each other, Dave's mom has another asthma attack.  It is after one such fight that Dave storms out, headed to the crazy cat lady Kate's home.  He meets a striped stray tomcat and decides to bring the cat home.  Naming the cat Cat, Dave starts to notice that Cat brings about a strange series of events.  First, Dave meets the strange young man Tom Ransom while trying to rescue Cat from a locked cage.  Then, while on the beach at Coney Island with Cat, he meets a sweet teenager named Mary and begins to date her.  Lastly, he begins to realize that maybe life with his dad isn't as hard as he thought, and starts to see that his family isn't as overbearing as he imagined, all because of an old tom named Cat.

Written by Emily Newville, It's Like This, Cat is a coming of age story.  Set in the late 1950s or early part of the 1960s, the has a whimsical feel of the era that happened right before the turbulence of the hippie generation.  The book is a story about a boy, his love for a cat, and the relationship he has with his father.

It is a story about learning how to perceive people, and how perceptions can change over time.  Dave sees his dad as overbearing and always yelling, but doesn't see that he is much like his dad.  He sees his mother as quiet and shy and sickly, not understanding that he and his father both have been stressing her out.  His friendships change as he grows older, and while he doesn't understand it, he vents to his cat.  Cat takes everything in and becomes Dave's confidant.  Cat also helps him to make new friends like Tom Ransom and Mary whom allow him to grow, and those friends grow with him as a result.  Dave is starting to shed his childlike perceptions and see the world through adult eyes.

This wasn't the first time I have read this book, but it was the first time I read it with the intent to study it.  It is a good read.


29 August 2014

Jacob Have I Loved: 1981 Newbery Award Winner

In March of 2014, I started a new undertaking: reading every single Newbery Medal Winner book. A number of them I have read in the past, but I am reading them with fresh eyes,and reviewing them for others. I am not reading them in order, as some will require some effort on my part to find them all. Want to keep track of which books I read? Check them out at Confessions of a Wannabe Reader!

I apologize for my long absence from blogging.  Summers are usually filled with other endeavors for me, and this summer was no different.  I barely read during summer since I lost my library card and my Kindle bit the dust, and I regret doing so, but now that the school year is upon us, I am trying to make up for lost time.  I have found my library card, but must wait to replace my Kindle.  Therefore, I will be reading only print books.  


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Cover of the book - used for identification purposes only under the fair use clause
Sara Louise Bradshaw: Behind Her Sister's Shadow

"I kept wondering ever since you came.  Why would a woman like you, who could have anything she wanted, come to a place like this?  Now I understand."

Elder by just a few minutes, Sara Louise Bradshaw, nicknamed Wheeze, lives in the shadow of her more delicate sister Caroline.  Growing up with her family on small fictional Rass Island in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay during the turbulence of the Great Depression and World War Two, Louise feels robbed by her younger twin, who is gifted in music and is considered more feminine and beautiful.  Caroline steals Louise's name, her friends, her belongings, her family's affection, even her very hopes.  Louise longs to be a waterman like her father and prays to become a boy so she can escape her sister's personality.  What surprises her, however, is that her dreams and prayers do not sustain the woman she is becoming and that leaving the island of her birth may be the only way to finding herself.

I first read Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson as a seventh grader in my English class.  It was one of the books that shaped my childhood.  I could identify with Louise's struggle to find herself, as well as with the feeling over being overshadowed by others.  As the eldest child in my family, the idea that a younger sibling's personality could overshadow an elder one's was something I could relate to, as I often felt the same way with my younger siblings growing up.  Sibling rivalry was a big deal to me, as it was to Louise, and I could feel her frustrations.

As I read this book as an adult, I find that it still resonates with me.  Since this was written from an adult looking back on her childhood, it reads well enough for adults to enjoy it.  Like Louise, I have been able to look back at the journey to adulthood so far as one that was filled with trials, but also with tribulations.  She is confident as she looks back over the story that had she not have had her twin sister and her overshadowing personality, she may not have come into her own as an adult.

There is a religious aspect to this book.  The story gets its title from a verse in the Bible where God says "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."  Like the elder twin of Isaac, Louise feels unloved and unwanted as she compares herself to the favored, younger twin.  The story weaves itself around this tale of old, as Louise and Caroline's devout grandmother taunts the older girl with the verse.  It takes Louise years to feel wanted and loved again, and it is only when she releases herself that she feels this.

This book is a very well written story, and anyone who can remember what it felt like to be an outsider even in one's own home will probably enjoy this book.

26 May 2014

Happy Memorial Day

Since today is Memorial Day, and is a time when we honor those who have fallen while in service to their country, I thought I should do a blog post on those who are connected to my family who have fallen while in the line of duty.  I will not include any other serviceman in my family who died after their active duty service to the country because the day to remember those veterans is 11 November.

CIVIL WAR:

Charles Wesley Chapman, captain of company K of the 63rd Pennsylvania Volunteers.  Killed while on picket 3 March 1862.
While Captain Charles Wesley Chapman was NOT technically a member of my family, he was the namesake of my paternal great-grandfather, as he was good friends with my great-great-grandfather, John Devender Wood.  As a result, I choose long ago to include him in my research and thus he has become an honorary member of my family.  If any of his family is out there and wanting information, I have some!

Flag of the 40th Pennsylvania Volunteers, the regiment in which John W. Strickler fought.  He died in Andersonville Prison as a prisoner of war on 27 August 1864.
Private John W. Strickler was the first cousin of my great-great-grandfather, John Devender Wood.  He was only fourteen when he enlisted in the Civil War, but had lied about his age.  He died at aged 17 in the infamous Andersonville Prison in Sumter County, Georgia.

Private Paul W. Tatem was the brother-in-law of my great-great aunt, Reumah Anne Wood Tatem.  He was part of the 19th Pennsylvania Volunteers and was killed in action on 2 April 1863.  I have no photo of him.

World War One

Preston Ray Roach was a third cousin of my paternal grandfather, Charles William Wood.  He was part of the 319th Infantry of the American Expedition Forces and died in 1918.  I don't have specific information on his death, but I assume he was killed in battle. I do not have a picture of him and am looking for more information on the circumstances of his death.

World War Two

Howard William Young, SSG, gunner and engineer, 442nd Bomb Squadron

Staff Sergeant Howard William Young was the second cousin of my maternal grandfather, Ernest Waldspurger. His plane was shot down over the Mediterranean sea near Ladispoli, Italy on 29 January 1944 and all seven men on board were never recovered.

George D. Shields was a fourth cousin of my father. He was a flight officer with the 85th Squad, 79th Fighter Group in the Army Air Corps. He was killed in action in 1944. I do not have a picture of him and am looking for more information on the circumstances of his death.

Richard Bragg was another fourth cousin of my father.  He was killed in the Battle of Normandy, France on 18 July 1944. I do not have a picture of him and am looking for more information on the circumstances of his death.

Killed While Serving

David Waldspurger, Airman First Class

David Allen Waldspurger was my mother's first cousin.  He was not killed in action for his country, but died in a car accident near his base in Florida on 29 October 1972 at the age of twenty.  I have chosen to include him in this list because he was active duty at the time of his death.


23 May 2014

King of the Wind: 1949 Newbery Award

In March of 2014, I started a new undertaking: reading every single Newbery Medal Winner book. A number of them I have read in the past, but I am reading them with fresh eyes,and reviewing them for others. I am not reading them in order, as some will require some effort on my part to find them all. Want to keep track of which books I read? Check them out at Confessions of a Wannabe Reader!
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Cover of the book - used for identification purposes only under the fair use clause
Sham and Agba: Finding Their Way

"When Allah created the horse, he said to the wind, 'I will that a creature proceed from thee."

Agba is a mute orphan and slave horseboy to the chief groom of the Sultan of Morocco.  His favorite mare has died, so he raises her little colt, a horse the color of gold he names Sham.  Sham soon become the fastest horse in the Sultan's stables and is chosen as one of six Arabians to be given as a gift to the King of France.  But because the horses are small, the King of France sends them away.  Thus begins Sham and Agba's long journey to find greatness in Europe.  They journey to England, where the Earl of Goldolphin lives and become part of his estate.  But can Sham, with the help of the mute Agba, show his potential?

King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry, is based on the real story of the Goldolphin Arabian, who was used in the mid-18th century to help found the modern thoroughbred race horse.   The tale is a fictionalized account of his biography.

The tale reminded me of a cross between Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist and Anna Sewell's story Black Beauty.  The tale is the classic story of a bond between a boy and his animal, for better or for worse.  In this case, it is between the beautiful bay horse Sham and the boy who follows him everywhere, Agba.  Agba cannot speak, but he can communicate with Sham in a way in which no one else can understand.  He also learns to understand both English and French in the story, though it is unclear how.  They become impoverished and beaten down, and at one point are left to fend for themselves in the wild, only to have some good fortune smile down on them once more.

I had read a number of Marguerite Henry's books as a fourth grader when I went through a phase where I was horse crazy, but this was the first time reading this particular tale.  While is was a sweet story, it felt a bit contrived for me. The character of Agba seemed to be written into the story to give someone other than the horse the point of view for the story, and it bothered me a bit.  If you love horse and horse tales, this is a good read, otherwise it would bore you a bit.

22 May 2014

The Grey King: 1976 Newbery Award Winner

In March of 2014, I started a new undertaking: reading every single Newbery Medal Winner book. A number of them I have read in the past, but I am reading them with fresh eyes,and reviewing them for others. I am not reading them in order, as some will require some effort on my part to find them all. Want to keep track of which books I read? Check them out at Confessions of a Wannabe Reader!


Cover of the book - used for identification purposes only under the fair use clause

Will Stanton: The Youngest of the Old

"Yet singing the golden harp shall guide / To break their sleep and bid them ride."

Recovering from a hepatitis attack, young Englishman Will Staton is sent to the Welsh coast to recover at his mother's cousin's home.  He cannot recall at first that he the youngest immortal Old One, servants of the Light that protect the world from the Dark.  When he meets the albino boy, Bran Davies, and his white dog with silver eyes, Cafall, the quest comes back to memory.  Will must find the golden harp that will waken the six sleepers who will partake in the last battle against the Dark, but the Grey King, an agent of the Dark, is working hard to stop him, and the madman Caradog Pritchard, is making things difficult with his stories of sheep-killing dogs.  Can Will find the harp, and why can Bran see and understand the quest Will was given?

Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising Sequence is my brother's absolute favorite series of fantasy novels.  But before I read this book for this project, I had not ever read any of the series, of which The Grey King is the fourth book.  While I devoured J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia and Space Trilogy, I never had a desire to read any of this series because it was something that belonged to my brother.

Like Tolkien and Lewis, Susan Cooper is a wonderful British author of fantasy, and this book is a wonderful example.  While I was a bit lost because I was reading the fourth book in her series, the tales soon captivated me and I was sucked into the land of Wales and an English newcomer to the land.  The story is a good rendition of the battle between the forces of Light and the forces of Darkness.

Anyone who loves Arthurian legends of Briton will enjoy this book, and possibly this series, which I will have to read now.  The Grey King in particular draws from the legends of King Arthur and Guinevere, though I will not give away how that is possible in a book that takes place in 1970s Wales.