Sunday, November 27, 2011

100 Notable Books from 2011

The New York Times just released their list of Notable Books of 2011.  Check it out to see if you've missed any of this year's "must reads."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

    Every year around the start of the holiday season I read at least one book from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House  series.  Something about the quiet domestic scenes and the description of the isolated landscape is calming for me.  Also, the holidays are all about memories and nostalgia...and there's nothing more nostalgic than reading a Laura Ingalls Wilder book.  However, if I were reading this book to a child, I would edit out some of the less than flattering portrayals of Native Americans and African Americans.  They are few and brief, but still...

   Usually I read The Long Winter, which is perfect for this time of year since the nights are getting colder and longer.  It just makes me want to snuggle up under the blankets with nothing but a hot brick and dwindling fire to keep me warm!  This year, I started with Little Town on the Prairie, which is the 7th book in the original Little House series (of which there are 9 books total).  According to wikipedia, Little Town on the Prairie takes place between 1881 and 1882, but was not published until 1941.  At this point in the series, Laura is 15-16 years old and living in the town of De Smet, South Dakota.  She has a job as a seamstress and is saving money to send her sister, Mary, to a school for the blind.  Laura also desperately wants to be a schoolteacher, so she studies very hard as well.  It is in this book that Laura begins her courtship with Almonzo Wilder, the man who would become her husband in 1885.

   Something about these books makes me long for simpler times, but honestly, I don't think I'd last a week of winter in South Dakota without electricity!  While much of these books are autobiographical for the Ingalls family, Laura did sweeten things a bit for her readers.  But overall, they are pretty accurate portrayals of the lives of early American pioneers.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

   Anya is kind of a loner.  She doesn't have many friends at school and she longs for a change.  One day while walking in the woods, Anya accidentally falls down an abandoned well shaft.  It's the last place she expected to find a friend, but down at the bottom of the well, Anya meets a ghost named Emily.  When Anya is rescued from the well she brings Emily's ghost with her, and together they go to school, talk about boys, share secrets, and Emily becomes Anya's new "roommate."  But Anya soon realizes that Emily's story is more sinister than she could have imagined, and that her new "friend" isn't much of a friend at all.

   This story is written in graphic novel format, so it was a very quick read.  Vera Brosgol is the writer and illustrator for Anya's Ghost and she did an amazing job.  Neil Gaiman even gave it his stamp of approval.  This book provides a unique take on the lonely/outcast teen story as Anya learns important life lessons through her experience with death, and it's a great read for just about any age.