Category Archives: Books

Book Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Per the book jacket:

Released from prison, Shadow finds his world turned upside down.  His wife has been killed; a mysterious stranger offers him a job.  But <r. Wednesday, who knows more about Shadow than is possible, warns that a storm is coming – a battle for the very soul of America… and they are in its direct path.

To say that is an overly simplistic and practically boring synopsis compared to what my experience of it would be an understatement.  This work takes myths and legends of gods from many cultures and gives them faces, expounds upon their personalities, and brings them to life in a manner that is not wholly unlike what Toni Morrison does with her magical realism, but without the ethnocentric and overly wrought depressive tones.  The reader is taken on journeys to different times to learn how gods were brought to America or simply how the gods came into being each story told with a different flavor and oft times different narrative voice.  My favorite passage of the entire 588 page tome came in the section called “Coming to America 1778” :

Without individuals we see only numbers: a thousand dead, a hundred thousand dead, “casualties may rise to a million.”  With individual stories, the statistics become people – but even that is a lie, for the people continue to suffer in numbers that themselves are numbing and meaningless.  Look, see the child’s swollen, swollen belly, and the flies that crawl at the corners of his eyes, his skeletal limbs: will it make it easier for you to know his name, his age, his dreams, his fears?  To see him from the inside?  And if it does, are we not doing a disservice to his sister, who lies in the searing dust beside him, a distorted, distended caricature of a human child?  And there, if we feel for them, are they now more important to us than a thousand other children touched by the same famine, a thousand other young lives who will soon be food for the flies’ own myriad squirming children?

We draw our lines around these moments of pain, and remain upon our islands, and they cannot hurt us.  They are covered with a smooth, safe nacreous layer to let them slip, pearllike, from our souls without real pain.

This passage resonated with me a great deal and speaks to the heart of some of my views.  That said, there are a few areas where I would have preferred Gaiman to be slightly restrained in his sharing.  Mostly in that I really don’t like it when authors even mention characters needing to relieve themselves regardless of the vernacular used.  I get the idea that this is a way of demonstrating human action, that we might feel more grounded in the realism of a fantastic story with such details, but for me it’s extraneous.  When a character is human I assume they have to go to the bathroom upon waking and several more times throughout their day.  There’s also the matter of a few inconsistent point of views offered although they’re at least pretty clearly rendered even if mildly annoying when one happens across them.

But that’s the worst thing I have to say about this book and even to my thinking and ears it sounds awfully fussy.  Very much a worthwhile book to dedicate time to.  Gaiman is a master craftsman with an excellent literary voice and one of the most clever minds involved in modern fiction.  Is it any wonder I already have Fragile Things  on my TBR shelf?

Seriously, if you haven’t read it and enjoy GOOD fantasy, this is a must read.  And, heck, HBO is going to make a series out of it!


Let the Writing Begin (and the Christmas Insanity End)!

As I’ve run pell mell into Christmas (just wait until Sunday – if you listen real carefully you’ll probably hear the splat of me against the window) without too much more than time for a hitching breath (ever try and make cookies without all-purpose flour?).  Writing and all that goes with it necessarily fell outside my grasp.  Few things say impossible for a concentration necessary activity quite like having to make the bread your kid can eat (even if it is a mix – feh), trying to entertain and educate said young child, while trying to feed/change/clothe an infant.  Did I mention that hubby owns and runs a retail store?  And that it’s almost Christmas?  I’m pretty sure I could be diagnosed with ADHD if someone took a peak in on my daily life right now.

My previous goal of getting up three posts a week while I also tend to my very neglected other blog is being downgraded to only a couple.  It’s not that I don’t like blogging, I actually love it, I just REALLY want to finish the wip I started more than a year ago.  Not to sound arrogant or anything, but the writing is quite good and I long to engage in that exercise again.  Pretty sure the need for adult conversation even if it is imagined (I don’t count the real ones I have with myself) might also be aiding and abetting this itchiness.  Although, truth be told, inspiration has also recently been found through both a writing group I attend on Monday nights (yeah for getting out of the house!) as well as the current book I’m reading:  The Handmaid’s Tale.  Well, that and the desire to form a complete thought that might span more than 30 seconds is becoming very vital.  For EVERYONE in my house.  They just don’t really know it.  Because I am only screaming on the inside.  Occasionally it gets kind of loud and can be heard outside the confines of my own cranium, but not too often.

I will be doing my absolute best to be getting around to everyone’s blogs again (and will suck it up and open up that email account where all my blog subscriptions, etc, are routed to) and only ask that you please forgive me if I am not particularly timely in my appearances.

On that note (as the dairy sensitive infant heralds my attention thanks to that one piece of cheese I consumed last night in the vain attempt at thinking she was past it) I must be off.  Have a very happy and merry holiday!


A Bit about that YA Mishigas

First, I plan on spending very little time on that unfortunate WSJ article about the state of YA.  Mostly because it seems to have really caused things to, errr, hit the fan and every other blog post I’m seeing these days is talking about it (this one was what tipped me off to the original article– love her book “Speak”).  As a result of this I thought I would offer up what is merely my two cents about a far more interesting issue.  Subtlety.  There’s no doubt a lot of previously taboo topics that are no longer taboo being discussed across the board in literature (although, if you want to talk about taboo subjects being dealt with DECADES AGO I would highly recommend Heinlein) these days, but the overwhelming issue seems to be subtlety.  This is true of just about all genres.  There are some works/authors who strive to tell and not show, points illustrated through story and metaphor instead of wielding the sledgehammer of prose to get a point across.  Subtlety and art in literature are very rare things indeed and sensationalism is what is encouraged and marketed the heck out of.

I think it is unfair to mix up issues of unnecessarily graphic exposition with dark topics.  Genres have emerged as this new bastion of marketing and so we can not use something so new as a measure of what used to be.  Watership Down, The Hobbit, Lord of the Flies are all books that are typically looked upon as age appropriate to the YA market – but now they’re considered “classics”.  All of these dealt with important themes and, hell, certainly dealt with their fair share of controversial material (well, at least Flies did).  Were they graphic?  Not in the same way much of literature is now.  Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes even dealt with some serious subject matter with detail that haunted and yet it was not sensationalistic in the least.  Graceling, on the other hand, was one that had an out of place and over the top deflowering scene (sorry, I had to – that phrase always makes me snicker).  Unnecessary.  While I acknowledge my pretentious notions of literature not being things everyone cares for, the truth is I like what Orwell had to say on the subject matter:

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

What are your thoughts on the issue of subtlety?  Are the fantastically dark issues addressed in YA too dark?  Is it the sensationalistic and graphic detail that makes them appear this way?  Any older works that fit into the category that blow these notions out of the water?


Lots of Contemplations

The last couple of months (yikes!) have found me in a very contemplative and negative space.  It hasn’t been enough to read about the unhindered and justified hatred running rampant or the devastation wrecked by Mother Nature, but on top of all that I wandered into an emotional space the likes of which I hadn’t experienced in years.  Now, quite obviously, hormones are very possibly contributing to some of these feelings, but it would be disingenuous for me to blow them off simply as pregnancy related mishigas.  [There’s also been the issue of a little one who has been catching everything under the sun thanks to being anemic.]

Because I am hormonal I decided to take some time and simply allow myself to truly think about all these goings on before heading to the internet to write some kind of massively vitriolic or weepy post.  [Luckily, hormonal for me does not mean oblivious.  Usually.]  This led me to the quandary about what to do with the things I like writing about.  Surely politics and philosophy come into play here and, I’m sad to say, these tie in with pursuing home birth as well, but so does writing in general and the things I’ve been reading.  Separate blogs have been contemplated, but I’m unsure as to how on Earth I would manage THAT when I’ve obviously been falling behind on only having the one!  So, what I’ve decided is to work with this blog for all of it and see if I might be able to work out a schedule and a layout that would allow for easy perusing.  I do not have a schedule ready yet, so please don’t ask me.  I’ll dedicate myself to figuring that out this week, though.

In the mean time I am going to do my best to get back to blogging regularly (I know I’ve said that before) and in that includes zipping around to all the blog buddies who I’ve been missing. It’s very scary, but I haven’t checked the email attached to my blog in MONTHS and this will be one of the first *gulp* things I tackle.  Over time.  Probably.  Forgive me.  Puhleeeeaaaasssse…


Review: Animal Farm

The third book from that challenge I set for myself and, let me tell you, I’m glad it was a short read.

Orwell’s tale about animals taking over a farm, running the humans off the property and running it themselves, is a well known piece of anti-Socialist literature.  Animals, mistreated by their forgetful and oft-inebriated master, decided they needed and deserved a better life than the the one they currently were living.  Ideals were put forth, tales of revolution were whispered and encouraged amongst themselves, until a day finally arrived in which the glory of their notions were fully realized.  All were to be treated equally, a retirement age set for each so they might enjoy the last years of their lives in a fine pasture, and the work load was dispersed according to each animal’s capability.  Rations were of course imposed in order to have fair consumptions of their food production to ensure there were no usurpers.  Equality. It was the dream that kept them all going.

As is naturally the state of things, those with the higher intellects and the greater oration skills rose to the top and began delegating; faith in those delegating had already been secured.  Subterfuge came into existence as a way of securing power and getting rid of competition, the ideal of the farm now perverted to the ones who wanted to reign and reap instead of cooperate and share.  Where it once was considered wrong for animals to live like humans, those who were at the top of the political heap now slept in beds – the commandment on the wall changed to read “No animal shall sleep in beds with sheets“, drank whiskey – the commandment stating  “No animals shall drink alcohol to excess“, and walked on two legs – “Four legs good, Two legs better” (formerly: “Four legs good, Two legs bad”).

This book should be a warning to us all about power, that the old adage of “absolute power corrupts absolutely” being not only something we can understand in theory, but that has played out many times through history.  It is so very easy to link this to current day understandings as well as the philosophy under which the United States was founded and, indeed, formed through theoretically binding laws/limitations of the Constitution, but for right now I think it is prudent to take look at the literature itself.

Metaphorically this book is not innovative.  Truth is, Orwell was blatant in what he wanted to communicate and, I think, in the way he ended it showed us that the danger did not actually lay in pigs or dogs, but in the men who wanted power and the faith from the people so they might continue to have it.  As long as that faith remained in place, that self-doubt and incomprehension remained strong in each person, those with power could utilize all at their disposal to achieve whatever means they wanted.  As was certainly the case with Socialist Russia, China (yes, it’s not Communist), and Nazi Germany similar promises were made to an oppressed people.  The marketing was about identical to what the animals spoke of, the securing of power was first built on faith then fear, and all the while the elite garnered comfort for themselves.  It’s a sad tale, really.  Notions of looking out for one another, those who do not have as much as ourselves in either constitution or intellectual capabilities, is a wonderful thought but through a political structure like this it is exploited.  Truth be told, the most beautiful part about this work is its transparency.

While this is, in my opinion, far from the notion of high art in literature it is strong and a very necessary read.  If nothing else this serves as a great reminder to us all that the only thing standing between us and freedom is our belief that someone else who has power can do that which we as mere individuals can not and that the person/system will not abuse this power; that they know better for ALL of us, than we do.

Interesting tidbit:  There was a Hallmark movie made of this book?!


Review: Practical Magic

There comes a time when we all must come clean, and so I will do so now – with you.  I saw Practical Magic in the theater before I knew it was based upon a book.  Even worse?  I didn’t read the book until more than a decade after having seen the movie.  Not that I stopped watching the movie in the mean time since I LOVE it.  Easily one of the few movies I watch whenever I need a bit of hope and a pick me up while still getting a bit of a cry out in some of the more powerful scenes.  Even with “Based upon the novel by Alice Hoffman” coming up on the screen I still managed to always forget about picking it up at the bookstore.  Well, thanks to a gift card from a friend, and a review by a lovely blogging buddy, I finally picked it up and devoured it.

The story chronicles the lives of two sisters, Sally and Gillian Owens, as they grow up with their aunts who seem to possess a gift of meddling in people’s love lives.  For a fee, of course.  Sally, on the other hand, is fastidiously proper and has taken over the role of mother hen to all in the house – a reaction seemingly born of her newly orphaned status, while her sister Gillian continuously runs from commitment and love to avoid being left.

It is a tale that takes place over decades.  Each young girl grows, makes choices, and moves into adulthood, but it is Sally we mainly follow.  Her transitions through girlhood, to wife and mother, then to widow and the escape from her aunts’ home and the childhood taunting she had endured to a home of her own where she raises her daughters alone.   A woman gone rigid, who did what was “right” for her children, and who stayed alone is the portrait of Sally we see.  There is little of compassion to be had for this character at a certain point.  Her world is her children, unhealthily so, and upon them she places her expectations and demands, to carry out what they’re supposed to be doing.  And then, like a foreboding breeze, Gillian pulls into the driveway with her dead boyfriend in the car.

Wonderfully, the story evolves into one of relationships, the complexities and difficulties, the battles we have with ourselves in order to protect ourselves or perhaps the opportunity for sane risks to take in pursuit of love.  Gillian, Sally, and Sally’s daughters Antionia and Kylie are all three dimensional characters with wants, drives, and evolution while the supporting cast of male characters suffers not at all in the short times we get to know them.  It’s a remarkable and wonderful read with bits of magic, ecstasy, trauma, and joy.

The only complaint that I feel necessary to give voice to is the apparent need of Hoffman to use the f-bomb throughout the first 2/3 of the book instead of any other term for sex.  As a reader I felt it diminished the act in ways that were wholly inappropriate to character voice in those sections, that it might have been the author herself sneering at the idea of reverent sex.  While I do not need, nor do I believe in, each act of sex as qualifying for the term “making love” I do think that the word (brace yourselves) fuck should only be used where applicable, either as a curse or in description of a very particular mode of a physical act.    Still, the book was wonderful and very much worth checking out.

Have you read it?  Seen the movie?  What are your thoughts on the “f” word?


Review: Into Thin Air

This is my first non-fiction review EVER and, I’m sorry to say, it might show.  It is hard to assess the work that so necessarily deals with a troubling and disastrous event without addressing the author’s views as well.  As is much the case with fictional works it seems as though one of the necessary questions a reader should ask themselves is, “What is the purpose of this book?”  That this is a recitation of the author’s first hand account of the 1996 Mt. Everest disaster does not make the question null and void, instead it seems more pointed and vital.

For those of you who don’t know, this work by Jon Krakauer recounts the guided expedition he took up Everest during the spring of 1996.  It was with a group called Adventure Consultants that Outside (a magazine) booked Krakauer for the summit climb in order to write an article about the experience.  The disaster, totally unknown to me at the time, refers to that summit climb on May 10 in which eight people died during descent.  Krakauer’s team alone lost four people; two out of the three guides perished as well as two clients.

This work was not simply about the deaths, but about the whole journey as well as the history of climbing on the mountain itself.  Krakauer takes an obviously journalistic approach to recounting the stop in a nearby village, seeing the resident lama, and then the onward journey to Sagarmatha (the Napalese name for Everest) and the boastful highest peak of hers measuring in at 29035 ft (8848 meters).  There are many flavors of the area introduced to us, how seemingly auspicious it was to be called directly to a meeting with the lama prior to the climb, as well as the friendliness of the people and the determination and competition involved in being a sherpa.

Unfortunately, where this could have been expounded upon well Krakauer can’t seem to get passed himself.  Overwhelmingly there’s a sense of piousness and “poor me” attitude prevalent through out:

Trust in one’s partners is a luxury denied those who sign on as clients on a guided ascent; one must put one’s faith in the guide instead.

(This is absurd to me on many levels, the first of which is that it doesn’t address the luxury of having someone take care of so much for you including that guide who usually charges $65k a person.)

It can’t be stressed strongly enough, moreover, that Hall, Fischer, and the rest of us were forced to make such critical decisions while severely impaired with hypoxia (high altitude sickness).

[When making a climb of this nature it is not a matter of force to make decisions under such conditions, but rather something that should be expected.  A given, as it were.]

Then there’s the matter of his absurd attempts at mathematical justification of how the summer wasn’t that bad:

Although a record number of people died in the spring climbing season on Everest, the 12 fatalities amounted to only 3 percent of the 398 climbers who ascended higher than Base Camp – which is actually slightly below the historical fatality rate of 3.3 percent.  Or here’s another way to look at it: between 1921 and May 1996, 144 people died and the peak was climbed some 630 times-a ratio of one in four.  Last spring, 12 climbers died and 84 reached the summit-a radio of one in seven.  Compared to these historical standards, 1996 was actually a safer-than-average year. [p. 274]  ** my notes:  Comparing decades, boiling them down to a ratio then comparing them to one year doesn’t work.  Measures have to be uniform for just comparison to be made.]

Still, my larger frustration with the work is the piousness with which Krakauer analyzes team mates and certain guides.  Anatoli Bookreev (a guide with Fischer’s group – another attempting to summit the same time Hall’s team was) climbed without oxygen and did not pander to the clients – this was a source of contention with Krakauer, just as another client getting (perhaps demanding) help from a Sherpa to reach the summit that was beyond prudence was.  That same guide later saved lives because he got up to the summit, then back down expeditiously before the blizzard hit, rested, then went out when the storm was in full effect.  Krakauer, however, admits that he should have spoke to Andy Harris, explained that he was reading the Oxygen canisters wrong, instead of merely grabbing one then going on his way.  Harris would later be with Robert Hall, both of whom would die on the mountain.

At times this was an interesting read, but for me it was difficult to come away from this and not harbor some hostilities against Krakauer.  He’s constantly judging others, pointing a finger and stating what they’re doing wrong (his notions of wrong are notably not fixed), and when it comes to his own culpability he blows it off, diminishes them.  I will say, however, it raises some very good points.

First, I now really want to read The Climb by Anatoli Boukreev about the same event; second, when taking on an endeavor that risks your life it is, perhaps, in your best interest to minimize how much faith must be put in other people to secure something so precious.

Anyone else read this book?

 


A Bookish Meme

Sorry for the delay on this post, folks.  Apparently my ISP decided to say “Happy New Year” by letting service flake out just as I was about to hit “schedule post” last night.  Some days I’m not at all excited about paying my cable company.  Before this turns into a full blown rant, however, here is the post I managed to save in a text document before the internets could steal it from me. *I* was the victor!  Muhahahahaha!!!!  [If ever a victor could be described as someone who just managed to save her work while still not being able to do what she had set out to do.]

This little meme is courtesy of Mae (go check out her very wonderful blog) and, obviously, it’s so awesome I thought I’d steal it (I also had no will to create something of my own as I’m still unwinding from holiday insanity and other neuroses).

How many books read in 2010? 40 (this is a somewhat educated guess, I reviewed more than thirty, some to “air” this month, while others didn’t get reviewed)

Fiction/Non-Fiction ratio? 37/3

Male/Female authors? 13/27

Favorite book read? Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein (you can check out my review to find out why)

Least favorite? There were a few books I didn’t finish reading, which you can check out here and here, but out of ones I finished reading I’d have to go with Brooklyn.

How many rereads? I honestly don’t know.  There were a few as I discovered a wonderful used book store in my state that seemed to only encourage me purchasing old romance novels I remember reading in my youth.

Most books read by one author this year? I’m going to go with the qualifier “new to me” for author and say Meredith Duran.  She only has four books out so far and I’m clinging to one of them unread so I have a treat just prior to her new book comes out in the spring.  Three, however, were read in rapid succession.

Any in translation? A couple.  I think.  The Housekeeper and the Professor was certainly one.

And how many of this year’s books were from the library? 16

Favorite New-to-Me Author: Meredith Duran

Favorite Classic: Brave New World

Most On-the-Nose Title: I’m going to cheat and use a book I read in 2009 for this one – The Road by Cormac McCarthy.  It was brilliant work and the title was absolutely perfect.

Most Disturbing: The Chocolate War

Most Accessible Author Who Intimidated Me for No Good Reason: Toni Morrison.  She’s an excellent author but, in my opinion, not at all someone to be intimidated by.

Most Discouraging Realization: Two parts for this one.  First, is that books that show “the mob” in a poor/undesirable light seem to take the banned list by force.  Second, that certain big-to-do literary review newspapers pander shamelessly to the person anointed “genius”, or so it seems to me, by some random and anonymous someones.  Although, that isn’t so much a discouragement, more a very large irritation.

Most Reassuring Realization: Those controversial books were still published and now people like me, who obviously hold censorship with great disdain, now have a great checklist from which to build our TBR lists.

2011 Reading Goals: War and Peace, The Satanic Verses, and many others!

 


Don’t Let the Door Hit You…

So, as you can surmise from recent posts I haven’t been overly fond of 2010.  As much as I feel compelled to rant about the frustrations and upsets over this past year I figured I would end with some optimistic endeavors for 2011 as well as some of the quietly wonderful things about 2010.

2010

I figured out that I need to be writing non-genre fiction.  Okay, I love me a good romance and that is what I started off writing, but the wip is immensely satisfying and fills me with such purpose it keeps me going.  Stories matter to me.  It’s time I focused my attentions on communicating other things that matter utilizing a format I revere.

Blogging is something that I find to be a lot of work and yet when I slack for a couple weeks I find myself suffering mentally.  If I had not been engaging with all you wonderful folks out there during this past year I never would have known just how wonderful a digital community could be.  So many wonderful witty folks out there and I’m grateful for you all.  [If nothing else there is the occasional post that makes me thing, “I’m NOT the craziest one in the blog-o-sphere!”]

My kid is talking.  A lot.  Sure, sometimes he says things like “Mommy’s stupid” or “Mommy’s very frustrated”, but those words are awesome and music to my ears.  I sure wish he would let me sing more, though…  “Momma’s all done singing!” is not my favorite phrase.

There have been many awesome books I’ve read this year (I’ll do a meme in the beginning of the year on those) as well as some over rated ones.  The over rated ones I didn’t finish and I’m okay with that.  Truly, it’s wonderful to allow one’s self a bit of freedom now and again.

Hubby bought the store he’s been running for the last few years because he impressed a man who offered a 50/50 partnership.  The store is doing great and now that the holidays are winding down I’m optimistic that I’ll get to see my hubby a bit more again.

2011

I’m going to be taking part in a reading challenge that requires me to take on War and Peace over the course of the entire year.  I have yet to make it through a Tolstoy work and so am looking forward to this.

Of course I’m still pushing ahead and reading books from the banned list, but I’ve decided to make a little time for some fun reading.  As a carry over lesson from 2010:  Books on the banned list generally are not ones to read if you need a pick me up and you should always have tissues ready.  Just in case.

Exercise is something I started getting into when I broke my foot during the summer (yeah, certainly not a high point of the year) then, obviously, had to stop.  Although, to my credit exercise happens when you live in a two story home, are with a toddler all day, AND you can’t put any weight on one foot for several weeks.  Injuring my back when I got back into exercising a bit too hastily after said foot mishap also gave me that other valuable lesson that stated I need to get new running shoes before I start.  I will do this.  I ate more of the cookies I ate this year than I have in years past so it’s kind of imperative.

Sanity doesn’t happen for me, it’s something I have to encourage on a daily basis and tackle like I do my housework.  That said, the drill sergeant will be redirected to have a softer voice, offer hugs, and gently command me to chill the heck out.

This year I hope to complete the rough draft for the current wip.  If things go really well I might get through all the edits as well and begin submitting.  I can’t lie.  The work is very important to me and the sparseness of the language combined with the intricacy of the ideals presented are requiring a very exacting approach.  Stream of consciousness does not work for this.  It’s worth it even if I only get through the rough draft this coming year.

I will make more time for play and, so help me, if I have to drag my husband by his hair we will have a vacation this year.

What are your plans for 2011?  Any fun things you’re doing on New Year’s Eve?

 

Please, whatever you’re doing, be safe.  May joy find us all and wrap us in its most comforting arms at the moment of new beginnings the calendar so kindly gives us every year.  [Some people have this approach every day, I do not.  Neurotic, remember?  😉 ]

 


Review: James and the Giant Peach

Dahl brings us one James Henry Trotter; a boy who had lived the wondrousness that is being a part of a loved family before his parents unfortunate demise.  I’m reasonably certain that if this tale were told today James would have been involved in a rather large lawsuit against the zoo that should have housed the rhinoceros that ate his parents far better.  One can hardly imagine the sensation of such a tragedy in one’s life as parents safely shopping in London only to wind up eaten.  Unfortunately for James his life only gets worse when he winds up stuck living with his two aunts:  Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker.  They abuse him verbally, physically, then treat him as slave labor to boot.

Is it any wonder this poor woebegone boy would willingly take crocodile tongues from a stranger with the intent of drinking them?  He needed a pick me up and, rest assured, I would not have even supposed to have intervened in the exchange at this point.  It is with great sadness that I must then inform you he dropped those magic crystals and subsequently did not get his happy ending as promised him by his friendly crocodile tongue pusher.  However, something brilliant does happen!  Those tongues affected the nearby tree and formed a giant peach.  Not only does this peach become his own car, then boat, then plane, but it comes furnished with some of the most important amenities one needs in life:  friends.

Reading this work as an adult and not having my childhood reaction to fall back upon (never read this before) was somewhat difficult.  I have a great fondness for Dahl because of Witches and Matilda and so expected to feel similarly about this work.  I don’t, but this in no way the fault of the author.  While I have read some YA recently (at least some that would be construed as such) this is not that; it’s solidly a book for children.  This makes a tremendous difference on the expectation and the delivery.

Magic occurs to empower our young hero, his villains are vanquished, and a journey that proves the intelligence of the child over and over again winds up being a success on many levels.  While apparently people thought this book should be banned due to encouraging disobedience and drugs it seems as though they missed the mark.  This is a story that has been told and retold many times over the span of time; the movement from tragic figure to a hero.  We all need stories that demonstrate this possibility even if it is through supernatural means.  Optimism, at its root, is the belief that things can be better for ourselves, our world, and nowhere is this more important to coach than in children.  It is hope that drives us, moves us forward in a way that enables goodness in life.

While this will never have the same fondness for me the other Dahl works I mentioned do, this is certainly one to read, not only to your children, but for yourself.  [I’m thinking this is akin to Harry Potter.  Aunt Spiker even looks like Voldemort!  Well, without all the snaky stuff.]