Google+ The Introverted Reader

Banned Books Week Review: The Witches by Roald Dahl

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cover of The Witches by Roald Dahl
4 Stars

Our young British protagonist and his Norwegian grandmother know something that we don't: Witches are real and they live among us. They look like sweet neighbor ladies but they're keeping a lot of secrets. Chief among them? They want to wipe out the children of the world.

When Grandmamma and Grandson (do we ever learn his name?) go on vacation to the coast of England, they stumble on the annual witches' meeting, led by The Grand High Witch herself. The witches have a plan to eliminate all the children of England at once! That won't happen if Grandmamma and Grandson have anything to say about it.

Confession: I remember starting to watch this movie when I was little and spending the night at my grandmother's house but it scared me to death. We had to turn it off. I told my husband this and he asked, "How old were you?" I looked up the release date of The Witches. It came out when I was 12. 12! And I was probably 13 by the time it came out on video or on tv or however I happened to catch it! What can I say? I was sheltered. And Anjelica Huston intimidates me to this day. I can just imagine facing her as a tween, on a screen or not. *shudder*

Now that I'm firmly in my 30s, I'm brave enough to read the source. It was so much fun! It was (obviously) scary and suspenseful enough to satisfy most children but it had an element of silliness and impossibility that captures the imagination. There's really no such thing as a bald witch with claws, no toes, blue spit, and a removable face. But what if there were? *shiver*

I enjoyed Grandson's bravery and Grandmamma's willingness to let him take risks for his own well-being and that of others. How often do adults trust children with things like that? Probably not often enough if you're looking through the eyes of a child. I also liked that Grandson turns what could be a disability into a strength. He never lets anything hold him back. In fact, he embraces the changes that come his way.

I absolutely loved the introduction, "A Note About Witches." "In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES." And in a suitably alarming tone, the facts about witches are laid out.

I loved the illustrations by Quentin Blake as well. They were silly but scary enough to match the story.

There's a group of sheltered kids, like me, who this won't be appropriate for. But if you and/or your child like a fun little fright, give this one a try. I'm glad I finally gave the book a chance. Now maybe I'll be brave enough to try the movie again for Halloween...

Banned

I wish I could find a source I really trusted for this, but many, many sites seem to agree that the reason The Witches has been banned/challenged is because it's misogynistic. Too bad they all seem to refer back to the same article. We'll go with that though. As a woman who shies away from the "feminist" label and the negative connotations its acquired, I do nevertheless consider myself to be a feminist in its most basic terms, i.e. equality. It never even crossed my mind that I should be offended by this book. It's about witches. Witches are females. Always have been, probably always will be. Maybe a female author will write a children's book entitled The Wizards or The Warlocks and even things up. As a child, how many authority figures that you interact with regularly are female? Moms, teachers, librarians, school bus drivers--mostly women, at least in my experience. I felt the book was supposed to be a little subversive and challenging to authority. That would be mostly women in a child's world. I think that's slowly changing but it's still a reality today. And besides, all this just feels like someone is over thinking things. Grandmamma is obviously a woman and she's a hero! Some people just have no sense of humor.

Read an excerpt.

Buy The Witches at


Photobucket
photo credit: Old Books by Petr Kratochvil










I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Banned Books Week Review: In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cover of In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
4 Stars

Young Mickey hears a noise deep in the night and finds himself falling into the Night Kitchen, where he has to help the cooks get the milk into the batter.

What a fun little book! I never read much Sendak when I was little for some reason, so this was completely new to me. The illustrations were tons of fun, of course. The kitchen is set against a "skyline" of boxes of cake mix, tall salt shakers, and an elevated bread train. They're perfectly whimsical for this book. I imagine children would love the story of little Mickey saving the day. I know I did! How much fun is it to imagine that only you can accomplish something important while the world, including your parents, is sleeping? It should also be a great book to read aloud. It's short and to the point and rhymes just enough to roll off the tongue.

I highly recommend this one to parents with young children as a fun little bedtime story.

Banned

Apparently some parents and even librarians are/were upset that a few pictures depict Mickey nude. I was a little taken aback myself when I saw it and knew that had to be the reason the book shows up on banned/challenged lists. After thinking about it, I decided that most kids are probably going to giggle, think the book is even more fun, and move on. It's perfectly innocent. Heck, if I want to get all analytical, we can talk about Mickey shedding his normal life of pj's and bedtime for the more illicit, and therefore more enjoyable, world of being up in the night and saving the day, all things kids probably aren't supposed to do. It represents freedom to them, even if they can't articulate that.

View an excerpt.

Buy In the Night Kitchen at


Photobucket
photo credit: Old Books by Petr Kratochvil










I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted at Book Journey

It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Posted:
Review: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka, read by Samantha Quan and Carrington MacDuffie--3 Stars

Review: The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan, read by Joshua Swanson--4 Stars

Review: Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik--4 Stars

Welcom to Banned Books Week 2014

Read:
Cover of Blubber by Judy Blume
Blubber by Judy Blume


Cover of Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Currently Reading:
The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Innocent by David Baldacci, read by Ron McLarty with Orlagh Cassidy

Walden; or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau

Up Next:
Hopefully I'll finish The Awakening in time to post a review for Banned Books Week this week. If I do, I'll pick up Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees again. It got put on hold so I could read enough banned books to get me through this week.

What are you reading?

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Welcome to Banned Books Week 2014

Banned Books Week 2014

The last week in September is always dedicated to bringing awareness to banned or challenged books. The American Library Association explains the difference more succinctly than I can:

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.

So, is it okay for you to decide that you don't want to read a book that you find objectionable? Absolutely. Is it okay for you to decide that you don't want your child to read a book that you find objectionable? You betcha. (Although the allure of the forbidden may cause that route to  backfire on you.) Is it okay for you to claim that a book is unfit for anyone to read and that it should be made unavailable to the public? No. Never. If I want to read something, that is my right. If you don't want to read something, that's your right. You don't tread on my space, I don't tread on yours. Easy enough, right? One would think.

Books are challenged all the time. And not just classics like The Catcher in the Rye. Current books top the lists now. Here are the top five banned/challenged books of 2013, according to the ALA website:

1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group

Any surprises? There's one part of me that isn't generally surprised about the books that show up on these lists. If all you know about The Hunger Games is that it's something about kids killing other kids, it does sound pretty brutal. (Just to emphasize, again, that still doesn't give you the right to decide if anyone else gets to read it or not.) Anyone who has actually read it and not just had a knee-jerk reaction to what they think they know about it understands that it's about much more than that. But somehow it seems that people who are frothing at the mouth to get a book removed from the shelves have rarely actually read the book that's gotten them so worked up in the first place. Educated opinion, anyone? No thanks, they say, I'm happy jumping to all sorts of erroneous conclusions without any facts to back them up.

The reasons books are challenged frequently shock me. "Offensive language, unsuited for age group, and violence" for Captain Underpants? Are these people who've never watched Looney Tunes or told a fart joke in their lives? I read The Adventures of Captain Underpants a few years ago for Banned Books Week and laughed myself silly! It's perfect for children in that 8-10 age range! The violence is cartoonish and the language is what you would expect for a book entitled Captain Underpants.

You get the idea. Not every book is for every person. I respect that. I do not respect anyone who claims to know what is best for everyone else and tries to have a book removed from a school system/library/etc.

Join me this week as I review a few banned books and try to bring attention to this ongoing problem. If we allow banning to pass unnoticed, we will lose access to some of our greatest literature, or even just some all-around fun books. Speak up and be heard.

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Friday Flashback Review: Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik

Friday, September 19, 2014

Cover of Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik
4 Stars

Captain Will Laurence and his dragon, Temeraire--or is it the other way around?--are in something of a bind. Temeraire was meant to be a gift from the Chinese emperor to Emperor Napoleon. The Chinese people are not happy when they find out that Temeraire is a mere captain's pet and he's being used to wage war on France. To resolve the issue, Laurence, Temeraire, their flight crew and a diplomatic delegation are sent on a journey to China.

This did feel a little like filler. But it was such fun filler that I didn't really mind.

The pacing was just a little off. The whole point is supposed to be resolving this conflict, but most of the book is taken up with the journey. All of that was mostly pretty interesting, but the best part was the part that takes place in China--only the last third of the book. I would have preferred more of that.

It was really cool to read about how the dragons and people interact in China. It's not like Britain, that's for sure. Novik came up with this whole different dragon culture that fit in with my vague ideas of Chinese culture. All those parts were really fun to read.

Temeraire's special fighting ability continues to crack me up. It's not supposed to be funny, but I find the whole idea so ludicrous that it's funny to me. Don't ask me why I'm willing to believe that a dragon can fly around with a crew of something like 15-20 men running around on his back, but I draw the line at this. I just do. But I mostly accepted it and just read this for a good yarn.

Laurence has finally learned to loosen up. He was such an uptight stick in the mud that he wasn't much fun in the first book. Now the airmen's slack ways are finally working on him and he's learning to have fun. And are there hints in this one that he might find a way to fit a woman into his life in the future? I hope so. He could turn into a book crush if a woman gets him completely out of his uptight Royal Navy ways.

I still adore Temeraire. I love the way he thinks outside the box and constantly questions things that others just accept as the status quo. He's curious as a cat but loyal to a fault. He's by far the best character of the book. Although I do have to say that Captain Roland and her daughter intrigue me. I wouldn't mind a spinoff series about them.

There is one very cool battle scene that I would have liked to read more about. But there's another one that just dragged on and on and on. I guess we're back to that pacing thing. But I really did like the one battle.

So, this might not have been the strongest second-in-the-series book I've ever read, but it was still pretty good. I'll definitely keep reading the series. If you liked the first one, I think you'll be pretty pleased with this one too.

Reviewed April 6, 2009

Read an excerpt.

My review of the first in the series, His Majesty's Dragon

Find author Naomi Novik on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Buy Throne of Jade at

Friday Flashback Reviews, a feature at The Introverted Reader
Friday Flashback Reviews are a weekly feature here on The Introverted Reader. These are old reviews I wrote on GoodReads. Thanks to Angieville and her Retro Friday Reviews for the inspiration and encouragement!
I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cover of The Mark of Athena
4 Stars

Now that the immediate danger to Camp Jupiter has been averted, Percy, Jason, and friends must set out to fulfill the Prophecy of Seven. Unfortunately, there was a...misunderstanding... in the camp and the friends must also dodge the Roman soldiers who are hunting for them. Gaea is coming more fully awake and her sons are posing an even bigger threat. The gods are losing their minds as they morph between their Greek and Roman counterparts. Athena charges Annabeth with following the Mark of Athena and returning something the original Romans stole thousands of years ago. In other words, this is just another adventure for a group of demigods.

I just love this series. It's got a lot of humor, a lot of heart, great characters, a little romance now that they're all older, and nonstop action--anything a reader could ask for. I listen with a huge grin on my face. Joshua Swanson's narration is absolutely perfect. I can't imagine anyone else reading these now. (Although I seem to remember that someone else did narrate The House of Hades.)

My one complaint is that seven demigods is almost too many to follow in one book. Don't get me wrong--I love them all and want to know what's going on with everyone. But as far as quality time? There wasn't much of it with anyone, especially the Romans. This one is told pretty much exclusively from the Greeks' point of view. Maybe it will even out with the Romans in the next one?

I can't wait to see what the next installment brings, especially since this one ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. If you enjoy Rick Riordan's books, you won't be disappointed with this one.

Listen to an excerpt.

Find author Rick Riordan on his website, his blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

Buy The Mark of Athena at


I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cover of The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
3 Stars

Chronicling the lives of Japanese brides coming to America, Buddha in the Attic is deceptively slim. Almost every sentence begins a new story that is only hinted at, yet I saw at least the broad strokes of an entire life in just those few words. There is no main character and the book is told collectively. (NOT a direct quote) "We came from Japan. We left our remote farms. We left our lives in Tokyo. We left our fishing villages. We cried as we left our families. We left happily, vowing to never look back." Listening to this on audio, the style bothered me a bit at first. It's so freaking repetitive! I do not do well with anything repetitive. Once I did settle into the narrative, I saw the beauty of it. In about four hours, I was a part of the lives of what felt like hundreds of Japanese women, each with her own story.

The book starts with the young women on the boat, uncertain of their futures and their husbands. They've never even met the men they're traveling halfway around the world to marry. Then there's early married life, children, life as an immigrant, and, in the early years of WWII, life as a "traitor." It was sometimes heart-breaking but always thought-provoking.

Samantha Quan narrates beautifully. I've not been a big fan of Carrington MacDuffie's straightforward narration in the past but it worked very well for her small part in this book.

I might have rated this higher in print, despite the excellent narration, simply because I could have skimmed over the seemingly endless, "We came from"s and "We gave birth in"s. In whatever format you choose, this is an excellent little book and I do recommend it.

Read or listen to an excerpt.

Find author Julie Otsuka on her website and Facebook.

Buy The Buddha in the Attic at












I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails