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.  


JacobIHaveLovedBookCover.jpg
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!
King of the Wind.jpg
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.  

21 May 2014

When You Reach Me: 2010 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!

Front cover featuring a shoe, bread bag, winter jacket, library book, Miranda's school, a key, Miranda's apartment, two-dollar bills and a mailbox; all important plot elements in the novel.
Cover of the book - used for identification purposes under the fair use clause

Miranda : Seeking Answers

"I am coming to save your friend's life, and mine."

It is the school year of 1978 - 1979 and Miranda is twelve years old.  Her best friend since infancy, Sal, has suddenly stopped talking to her and she feels lonely as a latchkey kid.  She relates to the character of Meg from her favorite book, A Wrinkle in Time because she suddenly has no one to talk to and she feels like she doesn't fit in. There is also a mysterious person who is leaving her notes in the New York City apartment she shares with her mother, notes that suggest things about Miranda that no one else knows, things that haven't happened yet.  Who is the mysterious person and what happened to the spare key her mother hid?  Why is there a guy running naked through the neighborhood?  Why does the homeless man on the corner laugh so much and act so weird?  And how is Miranda going to find new friends to replace Sal?

This was a book I had to read twice in a row.  The first time I read  When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, the pieces hadn't fallen into place until the very end of the book.  I had to reread the story to see how they had fit and to see the events I had missed before in a new light.  This story was very well written and extremely engaging.  

The biggest idea in this novel is the same idea that is in Madeleine L'Engle's novel, A Wrinkle in Time, and that idea it time travel.  Miranda herself wonders about it, as do other characters in the story, and each asks if it could be possible, and how it could work.  Could the homeless laughing man actually be a time traveler or is it just a figment of Miranda's imagination?  

Friendships play a big role in the story.  Sal just inexplicably decides to stop being friends with Miranda on day, which bothers her.  She has to make new friends, which is a difficult thing to do for some.  There is also fellow sixth-graders Annemarie and Julia, who decide one day to just stop being friends in the way that preteen girls do.  Eventually, Miranda comes to realize that in order to make new friends and strengthen old ones, she must grow and learn to emphasize with each of her fellow classmates.

This is a great read, but the concepts are a bit more intellectual and mature than some children can fathom at the suggested fourth grade reading level.

19 May 2014

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH : 1972 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!
Mrs frisby and the rats of nimh.jpg
Cover of the book - used for identification purposes only under the fair use clause.
Mrs. Jonathan Frisby: A Mouse on a Mission

With her son, Timothy, desperately ill with pneumonia and to frail to be moved, Mrs. Jonathan Frisby, a young widow of a mouse, is frantic.  Spring is creeping in and the farmer will be plowing his garden soon, the garden that was her family's winter home.  Mrs. Frisby must seek the help of the rats who live nearby.  They escaped from a laboratory at NIMH, but can they help save her son?

This was the first of the Newbery Award books that I had ever come in contact with, but it wasn't through a book.  I saw the Don Bluth movie, The Secret of NIMH as a very young child.  I remember it scared me. Let me say this.  If you have ever seen the movie, the book is different.  The book is titled Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and was written by Robert C. O'Brien.  I like the book much better than the film adaptation, which leaves out a good number of plot development and changes the characters of Nicodemus, Jenner, and Jeremy.

That being said, the book is a good read.  The idea that rats have the intelligence of humans through laboratory testing is plausible, and the story, while whimsical and pastoral, does say much about the idea of animal testing.  

Family and loyalty are big themes of this story as well.  Mrs. Frisby is a widow with four small children, her husband having died the previous year.  She loves her children, who have inherited their intellect from their father, and will do anything to protect them.  The rats also love their families and will protect them, but also honor the loyalty that Jonathan and the mouse Mr. Ages have given to them throughout the years.  They also mourn the loss of part of their colony through schism.  

If you have a chance to read the book, I would highly recommend doing so.  

18 May 2014

Sarah, Plain and Tall: 1986 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!

Drawing of a girl watching a woman cut a boy's hair
Cover of the book - used for identification purposes only under the fair use clause


Sarah Elizabeth Wheaton: Plain and tall

Anna and Caleb Witting live a lonely life on the prairie, and have ever since their mother died the day after Caleb was born.  Their father, Jacob, us to be happy, but now he's just as lonely as they are.  So when he places an ad for a bride and a mother in the newspapers back East, they want to know who will answer.  Sarah Wheaton, a plain and tall woman from Maine, answers them.  She soon comes for a month-long visit with her cat, Seal, and the family learns just what a wonderful woman she is.  But will she stay?

This short novella, Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan, was perhaps the very first Newbery Award book I ever read.  I loved it then and even recall seeing the movie one day in class.  I loved it again as I read it under the maple tree in the front yard of my apartment building.  It is a touching story about loss.  Anna and Caleb have lost their mother, and fear losing Sarah if she doesn't like living on the prairie.  Sarah misses her brother and the sea, as she lived on the coast of Maine.  But their is also love, and warmth and growth. The story is very short, but the story is sweet and very touching.  

Like Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books, this story touches on the lives of those living on the prairie in the 19th century.  It doesn't sugarcoat the hardships, as there is a death mentioned in the first few pages of the story and a severe storm that comes through the farm.  But there is also strength in its pages, as Sarah and the children learn and grow together.  The story is a great piece of historical fiction and a fast read.