Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Pair of Blue Eyes

Finished A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy, published in 1873. It is the story of a young girl, Elfride, and the two men she falls in love with.

Her first love is Stephen Smith, a young architect of low lineage, who is earnest and works hard to gain money, position and the respect of Elfride's father. Her second love is Mr. Knight, an older man who is both scholar and critic and who was once Stephen's tutor. He is a relation of Elfride's stepmother and is visiting with them.

Elfride's love for Stephen pales during a momentous event. She knows that Stephen is returning from India and goes to the nearby cliffs to watch his steamer come into the harbor. Knight, unaware of the prior relationship, accompanies her. Through foolhardy actions of his own Mr. Knight slips and and finds himself clinging to the edge of the cliff. Elfride looks for help but finds none. She removes her dress and petticoats and tears them into strips which she binds into a rope and uses this to rescue Mr. Knight. Their relationship then changes from that of casual acquaintance to two people who have been through a harrowing experience, even more so than George Emerson and Lucy Honeychurch in A Room With a View. This novel was serialized, with an installment leaving Mr. Knight dangling from the cliff. According to Wikipedia, this is the origin of the term "cliffhanger."

While not as pastoral as other Hardy novels I have read, this book was enjoyable. At times I was reminded of Trollope's The Warden. This is probably because of the female characters falling for men their clergymen fathers disapprove of.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sing Mother Goose

Sing Mother Goose, music by Opal Wheeler, illustrations by Marjorie Torrey, won the Caldecott Honor Medal in 1946. I feel like we've been through so much Mother Goose already, but there are two more to go.

My Mother Is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World

Finished My Mother Is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World written by Becky Reyher and illustrated by Ruth Gannett. It is based on a Russian folktale. A little girl accompanies her parents into the fields when everyone is harvesting wheat. The day is warm and the little girl falls asleep. When she wakes up she cannot find her mother anywhere. Others who are working nearby try to help her. They ask the child to describe her. She says "My mother is the most beautiful woman in the world." The people scour the village for all the young beauties, but not one of them is the child's mother. In the end the mother appears. She is no conventional beauty, but to that little girl she is beautiful. A sweet book that demonstrates the picture love can paint.

Ruth Gannett won the Newbery Honor Medal in 1949 for My Father's Dragon, the first in a series of three books. They are lovely and make a nice gift as a set.

Honey in the Horn

Finished Honey in the Horn by Harold Lenoir Davis. It won the Pulitzer in 1936. Set in Oregon in the early 20th century, it's the story of a young man who comes of age quickly amidst harsh conditions and considerable danger. In a way the entire story is based on a series of misconceptions which are not cleared up until the very end. I would not classify it as a mystery, but the suspense gives it a similar feel. Like other Pulitizer winners of the time it documents tragic events, but in a different way. Books like Lamb in His Bosom and Now in November tell much the same type of story but with prose that is deeply poetic. Honey in the Horn is told with a wry voice and the tone of tall tales. It's not clear who the narrator is, but the voice is one of unrelenting candidness. No group is safe from its criticism. It's comments concerning local Native American groups are particularly acidic. Regardless of that, many of the descriptions had me chortling.

Aside from the Pulitzer, Honey in the Horn won The Harper Prize for Best First Novel of 1935. Davis wrote several other novels and was a poet as well.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Two Years

Been writing this blog for two years today. Hmm....

Monday, October 5, 2009

You Can Write Chinese

Finished You Can Write Chinese by Kurt Wiese. It won the Caldecott Honor Medal in 1946. An American boy whose family has moved to China attends school in Chungking. There are only boys in this school. The teacher explains that there is no alphabet in Chinese. Each character is an actual word. As he draws the words on the blackboard he shows his students how the characters visually resemble what they mean. Some of the examples are very clear. Others seem a bit forced conceptually. However, I think this approach for young children is entirely appropriate. The cover of the book shows the boy and his sister with the teacher, but his sister does not appear anywhere in the book. Perhaps she appears on the cover to make the "you" in the title more universal.

Kurt Wiese illustrated many books for children. He won the Caldecott Honor Medal again in 1948 for Fish in the Air. His work also won one Newbery Medal and several Honor Medals. His most recognizable illustrations are perhaps for The Story About Ping and The Five Chinese Brothers.

Little Lost Lamb

Finished Little Lost Lamb illustrated by Leonard Weisgard. It won the Caldecott Honor Medal in 1946. Weisgard won the Honor Medal again in 1947 for Rain Drop Splash, the same year the he also won the Caldecott Medal for The Little Island. The text was written by Golden MacDonald, a name which was a pseudonym for Margaret Wise Brown. Brown also won several times. She is remembered most for her book Goodnight Moon.