4/20/10

a few reviews

I've found that often when I recommend a movie or book that I just LOVE (a word that I am trying to avoid using flippantly) it gets a ho-hum response from others. Kind of disappointing, as a part of me is like, "Love me, love my books." But when my husband yawned his way through the first page of Pride and Prejudice, I realized that I needed to let go of that idea.


Still, I think there is merit in sharing some literary treasures that you stumble upon. Some kids books are magical, some educational, and some are total duds that make me think, "Who published this?" Our recent trip to the library resulted in mostly duds- but one book that is a keeper (not literally as that would get expensive to rent it from the library. But I think I'll watch for it on amazon)


So I thought I would share a kids' book, a classic, and a song that I have recently discovered and enjoyed. Here goes.



The Night Pirates by Peter Harris



Down down down
the dark dark street they came
Quiet as mice, stealthy as shadows.

Up Up Up
the dark dark house they climbed
Stealthy as shadows, quiet as mice.

Only the moon was watching when they arrived.
Only the moon was watching when they left.
Only the moon...and one little boy.

Tom was a nice little boy.
Tom was a brave little boy.
Tom was a little boy about to have an adventure.

This charming kids' book is about a band of pirates who sneak through the night and steal the front of Tom's house in order to disguise their pirate ship. Tom is wakened and begs to come along. And the pirates (who are all little girls!) declare, "Welcome aboard!" The pirates sail off to an island where grown-up pirates are lazily sleeping, trick their leader Captain Patch with their floating house disguise, steal the grown-up treasure, and sail away.

My little men really like the flow of the story and the illustrations. A particular highlight and line from the book that has now become a daily (maybe hourly?) quote in our house is when Captain Patch utters his worst pirate curse "If you don't give me back my treasure, I'll tell my mommy!"

It is a funny little story with a cute twist at the end- though Isaac (almost 3) doesn't get it. But Drew and I chuckle and then usually read it again.




My Antonia by Willa Cather


My Antonia was our book club read for the month of March. I had read it a few summers ago and remembered that I enjoyed it, but the details were pretty sketchy.

Willa Cather is a Nebraskan author who is most famous for O Pioneers! Her writing is truly a tribute to the people who settled the West and brought our nation across the wild prairie. This book focuses in particular on the friendship between a young boy and an immigrant girl, Antonia. Told in first person from the boy's perspective, he gives a sweeping look at their friendship and her character as both grew from childhood into adulthood.

There is much I could say about what I like in this book. The historical fiction aspect is always interesting to me as it brings alive the harsh realities and boyish delights of pioneer life. The theme of immigration and prejudice is ever relevant in a country that wants to be a melting pot but struggles with what that means in the 21st century. Other themes of friendship, personal triumph, despair, poverty, and determination weave themselves through the story.

At the end of the book, the narrator is reflecting on his dear friend, Antonia, and the life she has poured out so richly. One quote in particular struck me and a few lines of it I posted on my fridge.

"Antonia had always been one to leave images in the mind that did not fade—that grew stronger with time. In my memory there was a succession of such pictures, fixed there like the old woodcuts of one's first primer: Antonia kicking her bare legs against the sides of my pony when we came home in triumph with our snake; Antonia in her black shawl and fur cap, as she stood by her father's grave in the snowstorm; Antonia coming in with her work-team along the evening sky-line. She lent herself to immemorial human attitudes which we recognize by instinct as universal and true. I had not been mistaken. She was a battered woman now, not a lovely girl; but she still had that something which fires the imagination, could still stop one's breath for a moment by a look or gesture that somehow revealed the meaning in common things. She had only to stand in the orchard, to put her hand on a little crab tree and look up at the apples, to make you feel the goodness of planting and tending and harvesting at last. All the strong things of her heart came out in her body, that had been so tireless in serving generous emotions.

It was no wonder that her sons stood tall and straight. She was a rich mine of life, like the founders of early races. "

I think there is something beautiful in the idea that our tireless and passionate lives will help the next generation stand tall. Antonia is not just a character you will enjoy but one you will respect. I encourage you to read the book.

(On a side note- I wouldn't recommend it as juvenile reading as it does have suicide, abuse, and other adult issues. I don't want it to come across like a "Little House on the Prairie" kind of book; it really is much more mature. )

Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson (you can listen to it here, for lyrics scroll down)

I'm not sure what it is about this song that makes it play quietly in my head long after I've turned off youtube. I first discovered this artist with her song "The Way I Am", which is a fun, quirky love song. But this newer song, "Keep Breathing", as a tone of life about it that is somehow both sad and hopeful...maybe.

I think part of what resonates is the idea that I want to change the world and move the kingdom forward and extend my heart and arms to the needy...but somehow all I can do is keep breathing. It's as if the "just living" part of life doesn't leave much left for the "changing the world" part. Does that make sense?

I'd be very interested in your feedback and ideas. What do you think she is saying? Does it resound in you or is it just a hopeless chorus?

Keep Breathing
Written by Ingrid Michaelson

The storm is coming but I don't mind

People are dying, I close my blinds
All that I know is I'm breathing now
I want to change the world
Instead I sleep
I want to believe in more than you and me
But all that I know is I'm breathing
All I can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing now
All that I know is I'm breathing
All I can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing now

So that's that- you read anything good lately?

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