Saturday, February 27, 2010

Way Down Deep by Ruth White *****

This is another of the Mark Twain Award nominees, & so far it's my favorite. It's the story of the town of Way Down Deep, West Virginia, & also about a 3-year-old named Ruby June mysteriously found in front of the town courthouse just before the end of WWII. Ruby June becomes the heart & soul of Way Down Deep, but the peace & tranquility of town is disturbed when the mystery of her origins starts to surface.
Way Down Deep is the story of the preciousness of childhood, our greatest treasure. It's a quick read (2 days for me) & it will leave you feeling good about your own childhood & the kids around you. Give it a try, I highly recommend it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling ****

I've never read The Jungle Book before--it was pretty good! I was bracing myself to read some of Kipling's notorious racist comments, but I didn't really encounter anything overtly bad. In the context of when it was written, it seemed fairly tame to me. I'm sure Kipling made his infamous opinions known in other works of his, but this one seems to be just typical of it's time.
The best part of this book was reading Riki-Tiki-Tavi. Puppy has watched the cartoon of this many many times, so I knew the story well. I was amazed by how true to the story Chuck Jones stayed when he made the cartoon--it's almost verbatim!
At this point in the book Puppy came up to me & asked what I was reading. I told him, & he insisted I read it to him. So I did. And then I had to read it to him again. And then one more time. He loved to hear it read, I think because he already had the pictures for it in his mind. It was neat to see how happy he was to totally understand every word he heard. I wonder if I can't find some other books that have been made into cartoons that I could read to him after he's seen them. It really seems to help with his comprehension.
Overall, a good book written mostly from different animals' points of view. Kipling had a wonderful way of portraying animals so people could understand them. I recommend it to anyone who hasn't read it before.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Emma on Masterpiece Theatre *****

Well, I'm diverging. I'm going to review a TV show for a change, simply because it was so good. It's based on a classic piece of literature, though, so I figure I'm not going too far off my beaten path.
For the past few weeks, a new version of Emma has been on Masterpiece Theatre. Now I love Masterpiece--I've watched it since I was about 14 years old. And last year at this time they had a Jane Austen festival, if you will, where they showed all of her books made into movies. But this is a new production, & the very best version of it I've ever seen.
I think what makes this one so good is the rapport between Emma & Mr. Knightley. They banter back & forth & give each other trouble throughout almost the whole production without Emma ever realizing that they are actually in love. The actor playing Mr. Knightley does a wonderful job of making him a much more human character than I've seen in other productions. And though I know they've taken a few liberties with the book, this interpretation really speaks to modern viewers without totally forgetting the context in which it was written. The screenwriter also goes to the trouble of trying to help us understand why Mr. Churchill does the things he does, & leaves him in a little more sympathetic light.

Rent it, buy it, whatever. If you like Jane Austen, or any good romantic comedy, please see this!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mansfield Park by Jane Austin ***

I've been putting off reviewing this one. I'll tell you why: it just wasn't as good as I expected it to be. I'd seen the BBC production of it last year on Masterpiece Theatre on PBS, & knew it wasn't Jane Austen's best story. But I thought, as most people do, that the book would be better. It wasn't, in my humble opinion. The movie actually made the story better & more believable, I think because it made it just a little more modern.
The biggest annoyance I had was the main character, Fanny Price. I just couldn't ever get to where I sympathized with her very much. She was so timid & frail that she just got on my nerves after awhile. And she tried so much to be good always that she just came across as a prude to me. Every time I got close to identifying with her, she would turn me off again. I especially didn't like her dislike of her own, very un-polished, family, who she visits towards the end of the book. Fanny was much more a bore to me than her family was to her.
The only redeeming character I came across was right at the end--Susan, Fanny's younger sister. It's like Jane Austen realized at the end of the book that she could have made Fanny more interesting--she could have been like Susan. Susan ends up in the same role Fanny had with the Bertram's, only with the promise of being a much more interesting person.
Sorry to slam it, but I just felt very frustrated by the end of the book. So sorry, Austenites!