The Rundown- March ’15

Matilda by Roald Dahl (reread)

61K2r4blw5LI don’t remember the first or last time I read Matilda, but based on my movie tie-in cover, I bought it sometime in 1996. Roald Dahl was one of my favorite authors as a child (yes, this book definitely stretches that “young adult” label), so I know I read this several times.

Many of the details from this story were pretty fuzzy to me, so I was glad to get a chance to read it again. Matilda is a neglected child, whose parents are completely self-involved and downright mean to their daughter. She has to find ways to cope, so she spends time at the library reading tons of books. Once Matilda begins attending school, she is faced with an awful headmaster (Ms. Trunchbull) that is cruel to the students, especially the youngest ones. Without giving too much away, Matilda discovers a special ability that her teacher, Ms. Honey, helps her use to try and get revenge on Ms. Trunchbull.

The first thing that struck me as I started the book is that the parents were much more vile than I remembered. Rather than being comically evil, they are just mean and terrible people! Actually, almost all of the adults in this book are awful, except for Ms. Honey. Dahl uses their names to help the reader immediately know who is good or bad. The aforementioned Ms. Honey is exactly as her name suggests, and Matilda’s parents are the Wormwoods. I love those details!

This book will definitely appeal to kids, especially those who feel they have been wronged by the adults in their lives. I hope they don’t get any ideas though…

** I’ve seen the movie multiple times, and while it is a great movie, they add quite a few scenes that aren’t in the book, particularly near the end.

VERDICT: This is a toss-up for me. It’s a good book, but I don’t know if I think it’s one of the best of all time, especially when a superior Roald Dahl book also made the list. Read it and find out for yourself!

Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Patterson (new read)403px-jacobihavelovedbookcover

I have a confession to make—for my entire life, I thought that this was an old-timey romance novel, and that is why I never had an interest in reading it. Look at some of the covers out there and tell me you don’t think the same thing! Turns out, the title is actually a scriptural reference to the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau. (Romans 9:13 is the direct verse).

The book takes place in the 1940s on an island on the Chesapeake Bay. Caroline and Louise are twins, with Caroline drawing all the attention because she is prettier, more talented, etc. The story is essentially about Louise trying to step out from Caroline’s shadow and making an identity for herself. When the story begins, the girls are about 13 or 14, but by the end, about 10-12 years have passed.

I found this story difficult to get into at first. There were a lot of fishing/crabbing references, as that was the occupation of the father. Louise and her friend, Call, helped as well. Since I know nothing of that world, I struggled through those chapters, mind wandering and all. About a third of the way through the book, Patterson introduced a character, “The Captain,” that was returning home to Rass Island after a long stint away. That livened up the plot for a while. As his part in the story lessened though, so did my interest.

By the end of the book, I was pretty ready to just be done. For a “young adult” book, the amount of time that passed in the story was kind of odd. As I read about Louise in her 20s, as she became a mother and midwife, some of the passages and phrases just didn’t seem that appropriate for the age of the reader. This book also won a Newberry Medal, which I admit I am somewhat surprised by.

VERDICT: Maybe I just couldn’t relate to this book (being the oldest child), but I could definitely have gone through life just fine without reading it. As such, this is one I would have kept off the list.

What do y’all think? Have you read either of these books? Should they have made the list?