The Rundown-February ’17

99d907a82a51c2a3a7d24634879c753cAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (reread)

I first read this book back when I was in elementary school, but I really just remembered more of the characters, than the story itself.

In the introduction to this edition of the book, it’s mentioned that Carroll actually told the original version of this story to a friend’s daughters one afternoon on a boat ride. He later wrote it down for them, and then expanded upon it before it was published.

Reading it as an adult, I could feel the stream-of-consciousness. Alice basically just wanders from character to character, having strange conversations. It got “curioser” and “curioser,” for sure. A caterpillar smoking a hookah? A Mad Hatter drinking “tea?” It has all that and more. I generally am a big fan of fantasy, but the plot is lacking, in my opinion.

VERDICT: Even though the characters are fun, I don’t think the story is engaging enough to be included on this list. I’d rather go watch the old Disney cartoon!

A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson (new read) images

I was really interested to read this, based on the title. I thought it would be nonfiction, or historical fiction. What I got instead was a collection of sonnets woven together into a picture book.

How did a picture book end up on a list of best young adult novels? Good question.

The book is ambitious. It includes an introduction about how the author chose to write in this style, sonnet notes, an artist’s note, and a one page summary of information about Emmett Till and his death. I appreciated the different take, but at the same time, wanted more. It felt like a book written almost specifically to be taught and analyzed, rather than one to pick up and read for enjoyment.

VERDICT: It’s hard for me to make a judgment on this one. The subject is important, so I’ll let you make up your own mind.

dannychampionoftheworldDanny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl (new read)

This was one of the few Dahl books I hadn’t read. It’s not the typical fantasy he is known for, but it still has some of the same stylistic features.

Danny and his father live in a small caravan behind the filling station and garage that they run. They have a close relationship, due to the fact that Danny’s mother passed away when he was a baby. His father tells him wonderfully fantastical stories every night, including the first appearance of “The BFG!” When Danny is nine years old, he discovers his father has a secret liking of poaching peasants. The action takes off from there.

As I said, it’s not what we normally expect from Dahl, but he has crafted a story that is equally humorous and heartwarming. The bond between Danny and his dad is uplifting, and there were lots of laugh out loud moments.

VERDICT: This book has a wide appeal, and is one of the few showcasing a single dad. I give it a thumbs up as a great addition to the list!

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The Rundown-January ’17

areyoutheregodAre You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (reread)

This is what I wrote about the book the first time I read it:

“So I finally read this book for the first time, as a 22 year old. I must say, it didn’t really knock me off of my socks the way I thought it might. I mean, this is probably one of the most talked about and controversial books for pre-teens… and I thought it was just alright. Maybe if I had read it as an adolescent, it would have resonated more with me, but as an adult, it’s just another book. Now, if you wanna read it just to say you have, then go for it. It’s quick and easy, and not a horrible read.”

My most recent take was not super far off from my original thoughts. However, I did have some new insights as someone now more than twice as old as the protagonist. For one thing, it had more of a nostalgic feel. It took me back to my teenage days, when things were much simpler!

I was also able to pay more attention to the religious aspects of the story this time. Margaret has not been raised in any particular religion and is searching for her beliefs. She talks to God frequently and seems lost without having had any guidance in this area. It definitely makes a good conversation starter.

Overall, this book is definitely going to skew towards the female demographic. I doubt there are many adolescent males who want to read about bras and periods. Just saying.

VERDICT: I think this book is going to be another toss up. Based on my previous memory of the book, I would have considered it a definitive “no.” However, upon the rereading, I found more merit and can see more of the appeal.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (new read) 51taoalah7l-_sx334_bo1204203200_

This was another of those books that I wasn’t sure what to expect from it. I was pleasantly surprised!

Gaiman tells the tale of Nobody “Bod” Owens, whose family is murdered when he is an infant. He is raised by several supernatural beings in a graveyard near his house, as the killer continues to search for him. We see glimpses of his life every couple of years, up through his time as a teenager.

There are lots of supernatural elements of this story, which at first was a little bit of a turn off. However, those elements became essential to the understanding of what was happening and, ultimately, the climax. It kept my attention, and the last “short story,” was a real page turner.

VERDICT: It’s hard to argue with most Newbery Medal winners, and this one is no different. It’s a unique and well executed idea, with a broad appeal. Even if supernatural tales aren’t your thing, I think you’ll find enough to keep you entertained.

lotf-front-coverLord of the Flies by William Golding (reread)

I had to read this book in high school and hated it. For some reason, this felt like a good time in the history of the world to read it again. Guess what? I still hate it.

I really did try to go into it with an open mind, but I just can’t get with it. I know there are plenty of people who like this book. I know there are important messages to be gained through this book. But it is sooooo hard for me to read.

I don’t feel like I need to go much into the plot of this book because it is well known. Just as a refresher though, a plane full of schoolboys crashes into an uninhabited island. They battle over who should be in charge and their natural inclinations take over. You can imagine the rest.

On the back of the current edition, the author of The Hunger Games said this is a big influence on her work. That makes sense, but for some reason, THG is much more palatable for me than this. It also happens to be one of my favorites, which is even weirder.

VERDICT: I guess it depends on what the criteria is for whether this is one of the best young adult novels of all time. I did not enjoy reading it at all, but I will give it a place on the list based on the theme and message it is trying to convey. If you do like this book, you should also give Conrad’s Heart of Darkness a try. It deals with the same theme.