Archive for October, 2017

Review of While Beauty Slept, by Elizabeth Blackwell

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

While Beauty Slept

by Elizabeth Blackwell

Berkley Books, 2014. 456 pages.
Starred Review

I’ve meant to read this book for a very long time, especially once I had a signed copy. But I have a horrible problem with not getting around to reading books I own because they don’t have a due date. Anyway, I finally got this book read on a flight home from Portland – and I’m so glad I did.

I’ve always loved fairy tale retellings. This is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. But usually such retellings are Fantasy. This one takes out the overt magic. There is a possibility of a curse; there is a possibility that the baby’s great-aunt does dark magic. But the story is told as historical fiction, set in medieval times, as something that could have actually happened. (Except that the kingdoms mentioned are still not actual kingdoms from our world, so technically, I’ll have to classify it as Fantasy. But the flavor is Historical.)

Our narrator is an old servant of Queen Lenore, the mother of Rose who became the Sleeping Beauty of the fairy tale. She saw all the events of the tale from start to finish. She’s looking back on her life and telling the story to her great-grandchild.

In the prologue, she’s hears children telling the fairy tale based on the experiences she lived.

Ha! It would be a fine trick indeed to fell a royal daughter with a needle, then see her revived by a single kiss. If such magic exists, I have yet to witness it. The horror of what really happened has been lost, and no wonder. The truth is hardly a story for children.

I was afraid with that line that the book would be too dark for my taste – but the story is beautiful. Yes, there are dark and tragic parts, but it’s woven through with love and with actual human passions and mistakes and foibles.

In the fifty years since those terrible days in the tower, I have never spoken of what happened there. But with my body failing and death in my sights, I have been plagued by memories, rushing in unbidden, provoking waves of longing for what once was. Perhaps that is why I remain on this earth, the only person who knew Rose when she was young and untouched by tragedy. The only one who watched it all unfold, from the curse to the final kiss.

During the course of the tale our narrator, Elise, grows from a child in poverty into a mature adult, living in the castle. She gains perspective and makes hard choices and becomes a guide for young Rose through difficult times. I think that’s why this isn’t a young adult novel. This isn’t a coming-of-age story, but a story of a life lived beside large events, events that affected a kingdom. It’s about love and about choices and about making your way in the world.

And I especially liked the ending.

This is a beautiful book, which I know I’m going to want to read again sometime in the future.

elizabethblackwellbooks.com
penguin.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/while_beauty_slept.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy, which I got at an ALA conference and had signed by the author.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Princess Cora and the Crocodile, by Laura Amy Schlitz

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

Princess Cora and the Crocodile

by Laura Amy Schlitz

illustrated by Brian Floca

Candlewick Press, 2017. 74 pages.
Starred Review

I am quite sure Princess Cora and the Crocodile is going to be one of my favorite books of the year. It’s a nice twist on your typical fairy tale scenario. This is a simply told beginning chapter book with abundant illustrations on each page – but the story is worth reading not only for beginners, but also for people who have been reading for years, and also for people who aren’t able to read yet.

I like Princess Cora – she’s just trying to do what’s right and follow the rules. Brian Floca portrays her as a good girl. But oh, the spark of mischief in the crocodile’s eyes when things start happening!

Here’s the scenario: The King and Queen love Princess Cora from the day she’s born. But then they realize that she will be Queen some day. They must teach her! They must train her!

By the time Cora is seven years old, she’s being trained every minute. Her nanny makes sure she’s always tidy and makes Cora take a bath – and wash herself thoroughly – three times a day.

The Queen teaches Cora that a princess must be wise. Every day she takes Cora to the tower room to read books about how to run the kingdom.

The books were so dull that Princess Cora yawned until her eyes were full of tears. Sometimes she asked silly questions, just to liven things up. Then the Queen frowned an awful frown and said, “Now, Cora, that is inappropriate!”

The King is in charge of her physical training. He’s turned the old castle prison into a gym and has Cora run in circles and skip rope up to five hundred. A future queen must be strong!

Princess Cora wanted her parents to be happy. She worked hard at being clean and strong and wise. But deep inside, she was angry. Sometimes at night, when she was alone in bed, she whispered, “Skipping rope is stupid! And I’m sick, sick, sick of those boring books! When I grow up, I’m never going to take any baths. I’m going to be dirty!”

These thoughts scared her, but she couldn’t stop thinking them.

One night a new idea crept into her head. It was different from the others, because it was a happy thought. She whispered, “What if I had a dog?”

When she presents this idea to the nanny, the Queen, and the King, they are not in favor. So that night she writes a letter to her fairy godmother, saying how much she wants a pet.

Savvy readers will realize she should have been more specific.

The next morning, there’s a box at the foot of her bed, with a crocodile inside! And he’s a crocodile with an attitude.

As they talk over how the crocodile can help, they decide that he will take her place and give Princess Cora a day off. He puts on one of her dresses and yarn from the mop as a wig.

“You’re perfect!” said Princess Cora. “Do you know, I think this might work? At least, it might work with Nanny. She never wears her glasses. And Mama’s always reading. And Papa’s always looking at his watch.”

“Of course it will work,” said the crocodile. “Now, I’ll stay here and be Princess Cora, and you run along and have fun.”

No one had ever told Princess Cora to run along and have fun, and she almost didn’t know how. But she dressed herself in the flash of an eye and ran down the castle steps and out the back door.

And thus the real fun begins. We see each adult get an appropriate comeuppance from the crocodile. Or inappropriate as the case may be. My favorite part is when the crocodile sings this song to the Queen:

“I am Princess Cora’s pet –
Am I her favorite croc? You bet!
Inky-stinky, dry or wet.
And I am inappropriate!”

Meanwhile, Princess Cora is having a lovely time in the woods. I love the way Brian Floca draws her, getting gradually dirtier, with a scrape on her elbow, but clearly having a wonderful time.

And yes, everything comes right in the end, and the process of this happening is beautiful.

And it’s all done in simple language for kids ready for chapter books, in seven chapters, with marvelous illustrations on each page.

candlewick.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/princess_cora_and_the_crocodile.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Day the Revolution Began, by N. T. Wright

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

The Day the Revolution Began

Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion

by N. T. Wright

HarperOne (HarperCollins), 2016. 440 pages.
Starred Review

I’ve read some popular books on the crucifixion lately – most notably Did God Kill Jesus?, by Tony Jones, and A More Christlike God, by Bradley Jersak. The George MacDonald books I’ve been reading for years were what first made me discontent with the explanation I’d been taught. I have become convinced that teaching that Jesus saved us from God does great wrong to God’s love. But how should we look at the cross instead?

Those previous books were popular reading; this one is a book for theologians. It was extremely dense and very long. The author goes deeply into Scripture and explains how his interpretation fits beautifully with what was written there. But – it’s difficult reading and even hard for me to sum up.

However, it’s also lovely. I found myself copying several sections to Sonderquotes. (Take a look there to understand better what’s being said.) N. T. Wright’s view of the cross is not about some kind of pagan sacrifice to satisfy an angry God. It’s about fulfilling God’s covenant with Israel through the forgiveness of sins.

The author places much emphasis on the fact that the early Christians summarized their “good news” by saying that “the Messiah died for our sins in accordance with the Bible.” So he looks at the question of how Jesus’ death was “in accordance with the Bible.” And he takes a fresh look at the gospels and the writings of Paul along the way.

He does blast the “works contract” or the “payment model” of the atonement as a paganized view of the cross. He points out that in Israel’s sacrificial system, the animals sacrificed were not punished for sin. They didn’t bear sin – except the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement, and that one wasn’t killed. Instead of emphasizing death, the sacrifices emphasize the blood – and it is offered as cleansing. The emphasis is on cleansing instead of punishment.

If I start quoting, I’m going to get bogged down. (Do check Sonderquotes, though it will take me awhile to get all the quotations posted.) I don’t quite know how to summarize this book concisely, but I do know it fed my soul. If this is interesting to you, and you can handle some deep waters of theology, I do strongly recommend this book. If not, let me leave you with the last paragraph:

The message for us, then, is plain. Forget the “works contract,” with its angry, legalistic divinity. Forget the false either/or that plays different “theories of atonement” against one another. Embrace the “covenant of vocation” or, rather, be embraced by it as the Creator calls you to a genuine humanness at last, calls and equips you to bear and reflect his image. Celebrate the revolution that happened once for all when the power of love overcame the love of power. And, in the power of that same love, join in the revolution here and now.

harperone.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/day_the_revolution_began.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Henny, Penny, Lenny, Denny, and Mike, by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Mike Austin

Friday, October 13th, 2017

Henny, Penny, Lenny, Denny, and Mike

by Cynthia Rylant
illustrated by Mike Austin

Beach Lane Books (Simon and Schuster), 2017. 36 pages.
Starred Review

This book is SO FAB! Why, oh why, has no one ever before written a book about how beautiful life is if you are goldfish in a child’s aquarium? This is a needed niche – any child with a fish will love it – and on top of that, the story is tremendous fun to read aloud, with bright, colorful pictures. It’s got enthusiastic language and plenty of onomatopoeia.

Here’s how the book begins:

Henny, Penny, Lenny, Denny, and Mike are five fish who met at the fish store.
They are fab friends.

A little girl brought them home and plopped them into the tank:
PLOP PLOP PLOP PLOP PLOP

FAB!

The fish tank is like HEAVEN.
Henny loves the orange gravel.
Penny loves the diver.
Lenny loves the rock.
Denny loves the pirate ship.
And Mike loves the bubbles.
Nobody loves the snail, but that’s okay.

There are a surprising number of adventures that happen in the lives of Henny, Penny, Lenny, Denny, and Mike. They hate Clean the Fish Tank Day – but are so excited and happy when the girl makes everything just sparkle.

And then new fish enter the tank! And a new fairy castle! There’s one little problem at the end, and we’re all surprised by who saves the day.

I just can’t express enough how much fun this book is to read. I bet you can’t read it and not smile. After all, fish tank life and this book are both SO FAB!

CynthiaRylant.com
JingandMike.com
simonandschuster.com/kids

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/henny_penny_lenny_denny_and_mike.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?