May 2002 – Recent Reading

Book of the month

(Um, technically ‘book of the past three months’-but it’s so good that I am recklessly predicting that it will end up being my book of the year!): The Mouse and His Child, by Russell Hoban. A wind-up toy-a mouse who lifts his child into the air-is discarded; father and son must make their own way in the world. Remarkable characterization of the pair as they travel through harrowing adventures in search of a home. First published in 1967 and recently reissued. You may have noticed that I give no genre or age indication. For one thing, it is a fantasy unlike any other. Also, many believe this is not a story for children; certainly there are parts of the story that young children might find disturbing. But any thoughtful reader over the age of about ten will find true wonder in this book: It instantly became one of my all-time favorites.

  • The School Story, by Andrew Clements. Contemporary MG. An elementary-school student writes a novel, and her best friend acts as a literary agent to get it published. Unbelievable maybe, but whether you’re a kid or an adult, if you’re hoping to have a book published someday, you’ll find this story a down-to-earth look at how a book gets made-as useful in its way as the market guides!
  • Breathing Underwater, by Alex Flinn. Contemporary YA. Many well-deserved plaudits for this first novel about an abusive teen relationship. Nick narrates his story in first person, alternating flashbacks with current journal entries. A strong voice and a well-sketched setting contribute to the tough, realistic feel.
  • Everything on a Waffle, by Polly Horvath. Contemporary midgrade. 2002 Newbery Honor title. How can you not love a book whose main character’s name is Primrose Squarp? A small town on the west coast of Canada raises Primrose when her parents are lost at sea. The local cafe’s gimmick: everything is served on-you guess it-a waffle; even waffles come on a waffle! An odd and endearing humor suffuses the pages of Primrose’s story-with bonus recipes at the end of each chapter.
  • Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison. Contemporary YA. Wildly successful British import with-hurrah!-no changes to the dialect. Instead, there’s a glossary of Britishisms at the back of the book. 14-year-old Georgia Nicolson’s diary documents her school year with a navel-gazing intensity I found hilarious and irritating by turns-which is probably an indication of how closely the book hews to its adolescent viewpoint! Sequel (On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of A Sex God) published here last year, with book # 3 due out any minute now.

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