Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Bevy of Books

bevy (noun): 1. a group of birds, as larks or quail, or animals, as roebuck, in close association.  2.  a large group or collection.

I didn't know definition number 1 -- and now I have to look up roebuck.  But I love the word "bevy" and although the books I'm talking about today probably don't quite constitute a bevy, I wanted to do them all in one post rather than break them up.  For no good reason.

So I've read two books about thieves and they were both good, but also a little odd.
Cornelia Funke is also the author of the trilogy Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath which are good in and of themselves.  Apparently she is very popular in Europe, particularly in Germany.  For The Thief Lord her setting is Venice, Italy.  And although it could probably fit in the realm of fantasy -- there is very little fantasy about it.

The main story centers around a pair of young boys who have run away from their aunt and teamed up with several other youngsters (wow I sound old -- I couldn't get a better word there though) to survive on the streets.  Although for street survival, they are a good and honest bunch.  Throw in a detective, an eccentric photographer, and a merry-go-round, and you have an easy to read, slightly strange, young adult novel with a message at the end (ok maybe not -- the English teacher in me reads a message!).  It was quick, it was interesting, it WASN'T my favorite of hers, but it was good.  Don't I sound cryptic?  It gets worse.

So this second book:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak has won several book awards.  That's why I initially picked it up -- I didn't know anyone who had already read it.  It is a World War II story that revolves around a young German girl and the Jewish man her family hides in the basement.  But it is about so much more than that.  The story is told by Death himself and the style was very different to me.  He jumps ahead and then goes back to clarify, he interrupts his own story to summarize rather than show.  I didn't have a hard time following the storyline at all, it just was different to read.

Honestly, it started slow for me and I had to keep reading through almost the first 1/2 of the book.  But then I got really hooked and attached to the characters and when the book ended, I wanted to know more about what they had done with their lives.  I wanted a Christmas letter.

But I didn't get it.  I cried a few times and I kind've laughed  But this really was the type of book that afterwards I wanted to sit down and discuss it with a group.  Or even a class.  Because even a class of high-schools would find plenty to discuss -- some difficult and abstract -- some pretty obvious.  It's a great book for schools.  Too bad most schools will never see it.  Oh yeah, the language is atrocious by the way.  And that's probably one of the reasons schools will never see it.  Which is a shame -- I think kids would really drink it in.

Last but not least -- last week for our playgroup was the letter "Q" so of course we had to go royal and talk about queens.  The Queen of France by Tim Wadham
is ridiculously cute.  Rose has an imagination about the size of France and feels "royal" for the day.  I loved that because it reminds me of my own little princess running around.  I also loved how her parents reacted to her and I loved the illustrations.  They are so oddly normal.

Another "children's book" that I actually learned something from is When Royals Wore Ruffles.
This is a very delightful alphabet book about fashion.  I learned the names of those pointy princess hats (which I can't remember and the book is in my 3-year old's room where she is sleeping and I don't dare go in there!), great stuff about corsets, bustles, high hair, even modern-day fashions.  Really fun.  My only beef?  I hate the illustrations!!  I think you could have really gone to town with this and done elaborate, awesome illustrations interspersed with actual pictures.  But no, they are what you see there above -- kind've crayon-y if you ask me.  Disappointing.  But awesome for the info.

And that's my bevy for today.