Monday, December 29, 2008

The Good-Luck Horse

Finished The Good-Luck Horse by Chi-Yi Chan, illustrated by her twelve year old son Plato Chan. This book won the Caldecott Honor Medal in 1944. It is based on a Chinese folk tale and tells the story of a lonely boy, Wah-Toong, who longs for a friend. He cuts a horse out of paper and the magician who lives next door turns the paper horse into a real one. The illustrations are very consistent and the expression on Wah-Toong's father's face, after the magic horse has wrecked his garden, is excellent.

This was an interlibrary loan from the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library in Midland, Michigan.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Crampton Hodnet

Finished Crampton Hodnet by Barbara Pym. This is Pym's first completed novel, written in 1939, but not published until 1985, after her death. Set amid the academics and clergy of Oxford, it is a cozy, gossipy, humorous novel that reminded me much of the Father Tim series by Jan Karon. This is a comfortable read with moments of poignant prose,

"Miss Morrow nodded. A great unrequited passion was hardly in Mr. Latimer's line, she realized, the sort of love that lingers on through many years, dying sometimes and then coming back like a twinge of rheumatism in the winter, so that you feel it in your knee when you are nearing the top of a long flight of stairs."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lucky Jim

Finished Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. It was his first novel, published in 1954. The protagonist, Jim Dixon, is a hapless first year lecturer in Medieval History at a provincial British university. He is constantly in the soup in terms of college and boarding house politics. This was a group read choice of the Anglophiles Anonymous group I belong to on Shelfari. The point was to read something humorous. This book is very funny in parts. In particular, Jim has an entire repertoire of faces that he makes in reaction to various situations. Of these my favorites were his "Evelyn Waugh face" and his "Sex in the Roman Empire face." While the book was funny, I'm afraid I found the story rather painful. I cringed at the situations he found himself in and sometimes dreaded returning to the book. I also had a 1957 library bound copy from the U-M library which had almost no margins or white space on the page. This added to my dread. The one poignant moment towards the end of the book was when Jim finally has something positive happen and realizes that he has no face to express his joy over it. All his faces express either dread or rage. His realization of this seemed to be the turning point for a better future.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Child's Good Night Book

Finished A Child's Good Night Book by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Jean Charlot. It won the Caldecott Honor Medal in 1944. This is a sweet little bedtime book that I wish I'd known about when my daughter was small. It describes different animals getting ready to sleep at night, and then calls them sleepy, "sleepy birds, sleepy bunnies" etc. It made me sleepy, but perhaps that was the turkey soup I had for dinner. Brown is best known for her books Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny. She won the Caldecott Honor Medal for Little Lost Lamb (1946) under the pseuedonym of Golden Brown, and Wheel on the Chimney (1955). She won the Caldecott Medal in 1946 for The Little Island, also under the pseudonym.

Christmas Pudding

Finished Christmas Pudding, Nancy Mitford's second novel, published in 1932. It's a comedy of errors set in the English countryside at Christmas. It's a bit like a Jeeves novel minus the most important character to solve all the scrapes that everyone gets into. There are shades of The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate with people hanging about in linen closets and playing canfield saying "if this comes out, I shall marry him." Being an early novel it lacks the sophistication and biting wit and irony of her later books. It's good fun and very humorous in parts. An easy, cozy holiday read.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Miracle on 34th Street

Finished Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies. Published in 1947, this novella was released at the same time as the original motion picture starring Edmund Gwynn, Maureen O'Hara, John Payne and Natalie Wood. The book is slightly different from the film, but most of the dialogue is identical. It was a quick holiday read with an excellent take away line,

"Faith means believing in things when commons sense tells you not to."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Many Moons

Finished Many Moons written by James Thurber and illustrated by Louis Slobodkin. It won the Caldecott Medal in 1944. This is a story about personal interpretation. Princess Lenore is ill. Her father asks her what can he do to make her feel better. She asks him for the moon. He then demands the moon from his various advisors, the Lord Chamberlain, the Royal Mathematician, the Royal Wizard. Each of these advisors tells him that the moon is larger and farther away than the last advisor indicated and so the task seems impossible. It is the Court Jester, the Fool, who sees that the Princess's concept of the moon is that of a small, golden orb she can see from her bedroom window. He has the Royal Goldsmith create a small moon for the Princess to wear on a chain around her neck. This was all that she wanted after all.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Finished Marshmallow by Clare Turlay Newberry. It won the Newbery Honor Medal in 1943. This book is adorable.

Marshmallow is a very young rabbit brought home by Miss Tilly to live in her apartment with her and Oliver the cat. Now most people (including myself) would think that this was a recipe for immediate disaster. Oliver is an indoor cat and has never seen another animal before. He's a bit frightened by Marshmallow at first. Later his instinct kicks in and Miss Tilly sees that she must separate them. One day she is late coming home. Oliver fools with the doorknob to the room he's kept in enough to make it click. He watches Marshmallow move around the apartment and isn't sure what he should do. Once Marshmallow notices him he comes right up to Oliver thinking perhaps this is his mother in a new coat. The two become friends and Oliver treats Marshmallow like a kitten, bathing him and napping with him. Clare Turlay Newberry insists that this is a true story. Whether it is or not, it's very charming, and as with her other books the texture of the illustrations is so soft you can almost feel the animals' fur with your fingers.

Dash & Dart

Finished Dash & Dart by husband and wife Mary and Conrad Buff. Both contributed to the text and the illustrations for this book. It is the story of twin fawns, Dash and Dart, of how they grow up and learn about the world around them. The story focuses more on Dash, the male fawn and this thoughts of growing up, growing antlers and being King of the Forest like Old Horney. The illustration are very soft and well detailed. It is a quiet, easy book. Children who like animal stories will enjoy it.

The Buffs also won several Newbery Honor Medals for Big Tree (1947), The Apple and the Arrow (1952), and Magic Maize (1954).

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Store

Finished The Store by T. S. Stribling. It won the Pulitzer in 1933. This is the second book in a trilogy which began with The Forge and ended with The Unfinished Cathedral. Set in the Post-Reconstruction South, The Store is the story of Miltiades Vaiden and the life he leads among the whites and the now freed slaves that he grew up amidst in small town Alabama. While Miltiades does a number of dishonest things in this book, he does have a reputation for being fair and honest with the black patrons at the store where he clerks. This book has a slow and easy pace. The characters are interesting, as is the historical setting. The end however is predictably tragic and unsettling. I enjoyed this book. The motivations of most of the characters are very easy to grasp. I wish now that I had read The Forge first.