Fridays are more fun with puns…

matilda

From “Matilda” by Roald* Dahl.

So minor thought here: did the author’s mum and dad mean to leave the “n” in the middle of his name? Or is this a name that is specific to an geographic area? Personally, I would blame it on poor handwriting for the birth certificate….. 🙂

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Whittington – Alan Armstrong (2005)

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This Newberry Honor winning YA novel was one of the best reads this year – honestly, and as an adult reader, I loved it. As a younger reader, I think I’d love it even more.

It’s narrated (on and off) by a stray cat called Whittington who wanders into the barn of a small farm in New England. (Whittington is also perfectly imperfect as he has a bent and broken ear…) After a few days, Whittington becomes accepted and close friends with the Lady, the hen who’s in charge, and when he meets the two young human siblings who visit the farm, he flourishes. It is through Whittington’s narration that the reader learns about the long-ago English folk tale of Dick Whittington and his cat…

This is an extremely well written book which frequently (but not overwhelmingly) introduces large vocabulary which would challenge most young readers (“Obsidian” any one?) However, the writing is done in such a way that these more complicated words are just part of the story narrative. It’s very naturally written so that it shows respect for the reader, young or old, without being intimidating to the less confident folk. There is also a strong female lead and an ongoing message about the importance of reading.

Not only does this book have all those positive points, there are also talking birds and animals who have friendships and who have issues just as humans do: how do the hens teach the rats to not hog all the food and not see the birds as food at the same time? What about an unexpected love that happens and then what happens when that love leaves unexpectedly? How do we all stay safe from the ravens? And, as a good extra detail, one of the characters struggles to learn how to read with a learning disorder…

At the same time as introducing these more complex issues, Whittington tells his life story as a reward to the young brother for completing his reading homework during vacation, and in this way, readers are introduced to life in England in the sixteenth century and the history of seafaring exploration. It’s a very smooth way to teach “accidentally” through storytelling.

This was a super read, and I would love any kid to pick this up. It underscores Big Life Lessons such as the importance of being a good friend and doing the right thing, and at the same time, the writing is so well done that readers will learn about topics along the way pretty painlessly. I just really liked how the author seems to respect young readers without talking down to them or over-simplifying things. This was an excellent read about how reading can change your life, and I highly recommend it.

Reading Update – Hungering for More…

So – been a bit quiet on the blogging front lately.

Work (which I love) is at a busy time in the year, and so have been engaged in those big projects that have a Spring deadline. Plus, I was semi-trapped in the old book (1933) “Brazilian Adventure” by Peter Fleming which was pretty good, but I couldn’t read it and make its due date at the library. (There was no extension due to being an ILL.) So, mulish as I can be, I put the book down as opposed to rush through it in every waking moment. I probably had about 250 pages read so it obviously wasn’t a bad read at all. Just hate to be rushed especially for something that is supposed to be fun (i.e. reading!).

Additionally, I recognized that I had had “eyes bigger than my stomach” at the library, and so took quite a few of those books back. This was also done due to me reading another book called “The Joy of Less: a Minimalist Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify your Life” by Francine Jay (who writes the blog Miss Minimalist ). I will go into this book more at a later date, but suffice it to say that when Jay wrote that one doesn’t need to create a library at home if you have access to a good public one, I recognized that I didn’t actually need to have a large pile of library books sitting at home and on my conscience when the books are readily available for free at any time. So – back they went, not because they were bad books but just bc I was sort of clearing the decks.

So, at the request of the D, I picked up the first segment of “The Hunger Games”, the huge YA juggernaut trilogy that was ruling at the box office and at the book stores. D (not a huge reader) had given this a big thumbs-up, and seeing as he is not the biggest reader in the world preferring to do other things, I knew that this was a new kind of read for him to pick it up and finish it with enthusiasm.

And so I entered the world of Katniss and Gale and Rue and Peeta et al, and to be honest, was completely engaged in the story of the Hunger Games. Collins knows how to write an exciting and believable story with characters who the reader cares about. She also gives them ethical dilemmas as would come up in that situation, and these add an authenticity to the plot, I thought.

So, although I went into the initial reading of this with some reluctance, I actually enjoyed the whole thing, especially when you compare it to the twaddle that is the Twilight series. HG was well written (grammar-wise etc.), has a great female lead character who is tough without being weird (looking at you, Girl in Dragon Tattoo), who makes mistakes and learns from them, who gets emotionally confused about things, who is not too perfect, and who plays well with others.

I can’t say too much about this, as anyone who has been breathing in the last few months has probably already read this and has his/her own opinions. But I will add that this has really raised the bar for YA literature in my mind, and although I may (or may not) pick up the rest of the trilogy, I did enjoy this read.

Katniss rocks!