March roared in like a lion here in Houston, with cooler than normal temperatures and much drier than normal air. No complaints here, we’ll stretch out our “winter” as long as we can; hooray for jeans and sweatshirt weather! Happily, Goodreads says I’m still on track for reading 52 books this year. Here’s what I’ve read since the last update:
Navigating Early is the second novel by Newbery winner Clare Vanderpool. When 13-yr old Jack Baker’s mom dies, his well-meaning father sends Jack from Kansas to a boarding school in Maine. It is at the end of WWII and Jack’s father is in the Navy, stationed on the East Coast. The boys at the school are all nice enough and welcoming, but Jack is drawn to “the strangest of boys,” Early Auden. Adult readers will likely want to label Early with autism/aspergers, but kids might just be willing to enjoy his strangeness, much like Jack does. Early has a form of synesthesia which has him seeing a story in the digits of pi. Vanderpool is a superb storyteller, whether she is telling of Jack and Early’s adventures or the story of Pi. The book is filled with great characters, humor, wisdom, and, ultimately, is a story about coming to terms with who you are.
Although I’ve already posted about the Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald, I finally got around to rereading The Deep Blue Good-by. And in case you’ve been wondering, Travis McGee has held up nicely through the years. The lack of cell phones and the internet, and the relative price/value of things definitely date the books, but McGee lives on the fringes anyways, so what’s missing is not nearly as important as what’s there. Even when McGee is in philosophical mode, his observations of society and people are still valid today. These are not books to be savored, they are books to be devoured; word candy at it’s finest. (And book 2 is already in my reading stack!)
My one reading disappointment of the month was Stoker’s Manuscript by Royce Prouty. I read an advance copy as homework for the bookstore; the book isn’t out until this summer. The hero, Joseph Barkeley is a rare book dealer. He is hired to authenticate and then purchase an original manuscript of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Barkeley also happens to be a Romanian orphan and has a gypsy friend who is a vampire expert. I was hoping for more historical tie-ins to Stoker and how he wrote the novel, but mostly it was just a vampire story. And to top it off, I didn’t especially care for Prouty’s writing style. It wasn’t the worst book I ever finished, but I kept reading hoping it would get better and it never really did.
I ended the month with this year’s Newbery Award Winner, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Ivan is a gorilla who was captured in Africa as a baby and has spent the rest of his life in a small roadside circus. He has a few human friends, Stella the elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. Stella and Ivan have both pretty much accepted their lot in life, but when Ruby the baby elephant arrives, they both wish for a better life for her. Ivan has a special talent for art and he uses this to ensure a brighter future for Ruby. Applegate does a fabulous job giving voice to Ivan; it doesn’t feel so much like a fantasy as a true glimpse into what captive animals must be feeling. This review doesn’t really do it justice – it is a sweet story told with a unique writing style that was very deserving of the Newbery.
So with a strong recommendation for 3 of my 4 February books, all of which are available at Biblotheque Drott, I wish you happy reading!
Oh, one more quick bookish thing to mention. The 2013 Tournament of Books begins today. It is a bracketology approach to picking the best book of the previous year. No secret panels, short lists, and closed-door committee meetings that culminate in an announcement.The ToB is a direct, subjective, head-to-head smack down of 18 literary giants. If you enjoy books enough to have read this far in my post, be sure to check it out.