Monday, 20 October 2008

Mini reviews to catch up + Cybils long lists

I really can't wait to catch up on my reviews so that I can start writing about books as soon as I finish them. I don't like doing this, but I've neglected them for too long and now I need to cheat a little.
The first mini review is for The curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon
This was a good and fast read. It was an interesting and rare trip into the mind of an autistic teenager, with Asperger's syndrome. I personally didn't know anything about the syndrome and didn't do any research beforehand. I knew I was going to learn about it through the book which is my favourite way of learning new things. But for some reason this book didn't stay with me for long. It didn't touch me the way it should. I read it quickly and with interest, and I liked it, but not immensely. Maybe I should blame the hype, its being a bestseller that people rave about. Would I have discovered it before anyone else, I might be raving about it right now. Instead I find myself thinking coldly about it. Could have been the maths that put me off? Did the constant scientific, rational, logic way of thinking of Christopher Boone, the protagonist and autistic teen, leave me at a distance? It definitely had a role. Sometimes I even skipped a couple of pages, those with calculations and formulas. But it also added to the sense of authenticity that I felt reading it. Obviously I don't know how an autistic person might think, but it felt real. Probably too real. Sometimes I find myself in the middle of a crowd and think "how would Christopher react now?". Walking in the streets alone, finding the train station, buying a ticket, taking a train to London. That's Christopher's hardest task in the story, almost unreachable. I felt sorry for him, and then worried and then proud. Only I never felt close to him, and that's probably why I didn't enjoy it completely.

Next mini review is for Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

"You know when you tell people Mum is dead and they give you stuff?"
Anthony nodded.
"Well, I told God."
I pulled back the box and Anthony saw it - a big bag stuffed with money. His face glowed. He says now that it's the most beautiful thing he's ever seen. He was so happy just then.
"And it's from God, you reckon?"
I nodded.
"Well, he really wanted to cheer us up.
This is a Carnegie Medal winner,which are usually wonderful reads and they always work for me. This one was no exception. Its basic idea is simple: "what would happen if two kids found a bag full of money? how would they spend it? how would the money change their life?". Its simplicity is complicated by the made up fact that Britain is about to abandon sterlings and adopt the Euro. So now the kids need to spend the money before Euroday, when all pounds will loose their value. They will find out that is not that easy to do it. They can't invest it in real estates like the older brother Anthony would like to do, they can't change it into euros without an adult, they can't give it away to charity without raising suspicions, as Damien finds out.
Damien is the storyteller, and that's what make this book so charming. He is a kind heart, naive like only 7 year-olds can be. His main aspiration in life is to become a saint and tries everything he knows to be one, including sleeping on the floor and have a hermitage by the train track, made out of cardboard boxes. He is so obsessed with saints that he actually sees them. And they talk to him, give him advices, even help him. We never know if these are visions or not, I just accepted them as a touch of magic in this surreal tale about something very tangible as money.
Very often I find myself reflecting on whether money has an actual value or whether people never stop to think that it really doesn't. Especially when you have more than you need. You think it'd give you whatever you want and you'd be happy. But as Coraline, another wise literary child, said, "what then?". I personally prefer the longing than the having. If I had all the books that I ever wanted, for example, there wouldn't be anything left to wish for. And that'd be boring. But I'm letting myself being rhetoric (money doesn't bring happiness blah blah blah) while I'm supposed to review the book. Which is anything but rhetoric. It talks about the value of money exploring all the possibilities and then it lets the character draw their own conclusions:
We thought the money was going to take care of everything, but we ended up taking care of the money.
A funny, original, moving story that will also make you think.

The last mini-review for this round is James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

First of all, I have to say I can't believe this book was even challenged to be banned in some schools! It's completely ridiculous. From The forbidden library:

Challenged at the Deep Creek Elementary School in Charlotte Harbor, Fla. (1991) because it is "not appropriate reading material for young children." Challenged at the Pederson Elementary School in Altoona, Wis. (1991) and at the Morton Elementary School library in Brooksville, Fla. (1992) because the book contains the word "ass" and "promotes" the use of drugs (tobacco, snuff) and whiskey. Removed from classrooms in Stafford County, Va. Schools (1995) and placed in restricted access in the library because the story contains crude language and encourages children to disobey their parents and other adults.

Some people are just ludicrous. Anyway, this was a fantastic read! Totally crazy, highly imaginative, wickedly funny. A real treat. It was Roald Dahl's first book for children, and although I can't say it's my favourite, it's definitely worth my time. The insects that James meets inside the peach are a bunch of nut-crackers, and thus adorable! The story makes no sense whatsoever, but I don't think it needs too. It's entertaining, it's happy and phantasmagoric. And completely suitable for all children!


And now a quick mention of Cybils: The nominations are closed now, and the long lists of all the books that we nominated are up!
The judges are now reading all those books. I can't think of a better job, although quite exhausting too. There's so many of them. I'm really curious to know which ones will make the short lists!


Nymeth said...

Millions sounds wonderful, and I'm so glad you enjoyed James and the Giant Peach so much! I'm totally with you about not understanding why it ever got banned. If you ever have the change to watch the movie version, do! I think this is one of those rare cases where it completely lives up to the book.

Shade said...

omfg i luv curious incident - one of the best books ever

raych said...

I read Curious Incident before the hype, which is not to be all, I read it before it was cool to read it, but I think the lack of hype helped me like it.

Also, I saw the movie Millions and loved the living hell out of it. Perhaps I will also read the book.

Trish said...

I think hype can make a big difference in a book. I read Curious Incident before the hype and really enjoyed it. I read Secret Life of Bees after the hype and was really disappointed. I have Haddon's second book on my shelf but haven't felt to compelled to pick it up yet. I would like to re-read Curious Incident one day, though.

valentina said...

Nymeth, I will look for the film, I didn't know it was that good!
and if you ever get the chance to read Millions do it:P

shade, I know lots of people love it, I liked it but I wasn't crazy about it.

raych, I wish I had read it before the hype. I have to watch Millions!!! apparently it started as a screenplay and then the author decided to expand it to a book...

I think I would like to try the second book by Haddon. I might be surprised. But not soon only if it happens one day;)

Darla D said...

Ooh, that makes me mad about James and the Giant Peach! I don't know why I'm perpetually surprised about these things, but somehow I always am. To think that it is preferable for children to obey adults who are abusing them than to do what they can to protect themselves makes my blood boil. Who are these people, anyway? I wish more of them would actually read the books they are challenging, instead of just an "objectionable" snippet. Grrrr.