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Saturday, March 26, 2011
Sunday, March 20, 2011
David’s most recent illustrated work is The Underneath, Kathi Appelt’s impressive debut novel (published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers in May and reviewed here at 7-Imp). The novel—which tells the story of an old hound, a calico cat, two kittens, the muddy Bayou Tartine of East Texas, a man named Gar-Face, an Alligator King, and an ancient, mystical creature trapped inside a large jar at the base of a tree, buried centuries ago—is a wonder, at turns magical and mysterious, and Appelt’s prose mesmerizing.
We asked David what it was like to read the novel for the first time and if he could talk a bit about creating the illustrations for it.
“I was amazed by the twists and turns of the story,” he said, “by the range of characters, both animal and human, and by the tone of mournful, nostalgic poetry in the prose. My biggest problem illustrating it was in keeping those kittens from looking too adorable. (This was not the Disney version.) Also, what to do with Gar Face’s horrible face? I decided the best thing to do was not to show it, which led me to use some camera angles I might not have considered otherwise.”
The illustrations are amazing and you can read the entire interview here.
At first, I didn't love this book. The sentences are quite choppy and the story jumps from character to charcter and between different time periods. But there is a poetry to the narrative that is quite magical and you soon get drawn in. It's very sad, suspenseful and has a beautiful ending. I recommend it. Rating: 4.25
We first meet Dinah Kirkham at the age of ten in Manchester, England in 1829. What a horrible time and place to be poor. More than a third of the book follows the Kirkham family as they struggle to survive and better themselves. Card portrays this stark existence so well along with the conflict between Dinah's two brothers, Robert and Charlie. Then the mother, Dinah, and Charlie meet a Mormon missionary and are converted overnight. I'm not sure I buy the overnight conversion; but in the interest of the story about a family and early Mormonism, I'm glad the author didn't spend a lot of time following a more believable conversion process. Like all the other English converts, the Kirkhams are called to emigrate to Nauvoo, Illinois. The harrowing ocean crossing was heart breaking as well as the description of early Nauvoo. It's Dinah's immediate attraction to Prophet Joseph Smith and his to her that left me cold. Let's face it, most of us Mormons like to remember the truly great things that Joseph accomplished in his short life. And we're not comfortable with the plural maariage issue. I do think Card's depiction of polygamy helped me understand it more. Even if the Lord commanded the practice, it makes sense that a man would want to marry women that he loved if at all possible. I know the Church doesn't really talk a lot about Joseph Smith being a polygamist, maybe because his wife, Emma, was so adamant against it. And the book is pretty hard on Emma. She is not very likeable at all although Card never suggests that Joseph felt anything less than total love and respect for her. In fact, Joseph is shown to be very human, sometimes vain, sometimes too trusting, (how does a Prophet of God let a man like John Bennet into his inner circle?), obviously untruthful to his wife, but always determined to follow the commandments he receives from the Lord and always compassionate to his followers. Brigham Young is shown in quite an unfavorable light and yet Dinah marries him after the exodus to Utah. The story touches on much of the persecution which the early Saints suffered but never digresses from the actual story of Dinah and her family. Card makes Dinah sound like a true historical figure but she is obviously based loosely on Eliza R Snow, a much venerated early pioneer woman. From the pictures I've seen of her later in life, she seems to have been quite formidable. As always, Card tells a compelling story with fascinating characters. I'm glad I read it, but I know I won't want to read it again. Rating: 3.5
P.S. What's with the Harlequin Romance cover? It made it hard for me to want to read this at all.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Once again, we visit the beautiful Land Between the Lakes and follow Beatrix Potter as she becomes embroiled in the life of Near Sawrey. Potter is making one of her rare visits to her beloved farm right when controversy strikes in the form of a public pathway being boarded up. The villagers are up in arms, shots are fired, a haystack is burned down and a ghost is seen walking through the orchard. Of course, there are several side stories involving the romances of some of the villagers and Potter herself. Along with the human drama, the book also includes that goings on of several of the local animal life especially Max the Manx and Bosworth Badger. So I initially found the parts with the animals to be cloying and a bit silly, but the author managed to charm me into accepting it with her early 1900 language and asides to the reader. Mostly the books just make me want to visit this part of England and experience it for myself. Rating: 4
I like Beaton's Hamish Macbeth series much better than the one with Agatha Raisin. he is a more sympathitic character, handsome if a bit lazy and a good policeman who is content to stay in the small hamlet of Lockdubh. Dreamer has the usual murder, this time an unpleasant woman who recently moved to Lockdubh and has alienated most of the population. It's fun to read how Hamish solves the mystery while contending with the attention of three attraactive women. Just a fun, light-hearted read when you don't want to think to hard. Rating: 3.75
Sunday, March 06, 2011
I can always count on Dame Christie's books to captivate me with a good mystery and some great characters. In this story, we find Elinor Carlisle in the docks, accused of murder. The case against is her is almost too good to be true; and Hercule Poirot always finds that a bit suspect. He is hired to find evidence that Elinor did not commit the crime so we are taken back to the beginning of the story when Elinor and her fiance travel to visit an invalid aunt and the young woman who is helping to care for her. The fiance falls for the young woman, the doctor falls for Elinor, the aunt dies, the young woman is poisoned and Elinor is the only likely candidate. As always, Agatha Christie writes a gripping mystery that kept me guessing right to the end. Just what I needed. Rating: 4