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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September ’15 Update – Ashley

So… the title of my post may be a bit confusing.  September Update?  Isn’t it currently November?  Yes, yes it is.  Fear not, I know what month it is and, no, I don’t plan on skipping October either.  Truth be told, these books were both read all the way back in September… I just haven’t had the time to do the blog post until now!  On a related note, look for an October post coming in the very near future…

* Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (reread) – I couldn’t even tell you, with any accuracy, how many times I have read this book in my lifetime.  Let’s just say that my copy is “well-loved.”  I absolutely adore Roald Dahl and every book/story he’s ever written.  This was definitely a reread that I was looking forward to and enjoyed thoroughly!

0140328696Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the story of young Charlie Bucket, who along with four other youngsters, wins the prize of a lifetime – the opportunity to tour the famous (and mysterious) chocolate factory in town!  The owner of the factory, Willy Wonka, is equally as famous and mysterious and has plenty of surprises in store as he opens his doors, which have been sealed shut for so long.  The characters in this story are rich with details and really come to life on the page.  Charlie is a boy that most of us can relate to, and one with whom we can all empathize. He is poor in a way that most people can’t even begin to imagine, but with a family system that is far richer than many will ever know.  Hard-working parents who will sacrifice anything to care and provide for their loved ones, aging grandparents who are living life vicariously through their precious grandchild, and a young boy who, at such a young age, already has such a deep understanding of what’s really important in life – these are characters that we, as a reader, can really “get behind” and understand.  So, to read a story where the good guy (the really, really good guy) gets what he deserves is a beautiful thing.  Plus, who doesn’t fantasize about exploring a huge chocolate factory, not to mention one as magical as Willy Wonka’s???

My Take:  Without a doubt, this book is worthy of inclusion on this, and any other, list!  I think Roald Dahl’s style of writing is absolutely delicious (pun only slightly intended) and that this is a book that can be appreciated at any age.  The quality of the character depictions in and of itself is worthy of a book study at a higher level.  A must-read for children and young adults everywhere!

** Look here for Tiffany’s review of the same book. **

* The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander (new read) – Well, this is one of the first books that I purchased after Tiffany and I started this journey.  It seemed like exactly the kind of book that I would get into and I was really pumped that it was a series.  That was why I waited so long to start reading it – I wanted to make sure to have the time – ha! – to read more from the series if I liked the book as much as I thought I would…  I should not have worried so much.   : / 9780805080483

The Book of Three is the first book in the Chronicles of Prydain series.  It tells the story of Taran, who carries to not-so-prestigious title of Assistant Pig-Keeper.  When Hen Wen (the future-telling oracular pig he’s in charge of) runs away, Taran seeks to find him which sends him on a dangerous journey involving the ominous (and creepy!) “Horned King.”  Along the way, a motley crew of characters joins Taran on his quest, which seems to keep changing throughout the story.  The story concludes with a battle between good and evil, but (spoiler alert) the main character isn’t even awake for it!

My Take:  Ugh.  This was difficult for me to get through.  The character names alone were burdensome enough to make me want to put the book down.  I didn’t really care about any of the characters either, which is always a serious struggle when it comes to reading a book (or watching a TV series… ask Tiffany about Breaking Bad!)  I am so torn here.  I wanted so badly to like this book.  Even afterwards, I did additional research and found out that one of the subsequent books in this series was named a Newbery Honor book and the final book won the Newbery…  It appears that I am missing some appeal here, but no, in my opinion, I would not put this book on the all-time-best list.  😦