Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Green Child

Written by: Herbert Read

First line: The assassination of President Olivero, which took place in the autumn of 1861, was for the world at large one of those innumerable incidents of a violent nature which characterise the politics of the South American continent.

Why you should read this book: I thought it was going to be an anarchist fairy tale, but it's really more of a Marxist parable. Oliver, or Don Olivero, depending on which continent he's on, leaves home, magically becomes the leader of a worker's utopia for twenty-five years, then returns home to learn the fate of the green children, a pair of strange creatures who appeared around the time he embarked on his adventures. Then he helps the surviving thirty-year-old "child" return to her magical crystalline origins under the ground, where he finds true happiness in a strange austerity.

Why you shouldn't read this book: More political posturing than magic.

Show Way

 Written: Jacqueline Woodson

First line: When Soonie’s great-grandma was seven, she was sold from the Virginia land to a plantation in South Carolina without her ma or pa but with some muslin her ma had given her.

Why you should read this book: This reconstructed narrative takes the knowledge the author has of her own ancestral history and combines it with a poetic voice and a story about freedom, equality, risk, and quilt making. From the unnamed ancestor who learned how to sew “Show Way,” beautiful quilts that secretly hid in them maps that slaves could use to escape to the north and freedom, the story spills down through the ages, marking the birth of girl child after girl child, learning how to sew, dreaming of a better day. Eventually freedom comes, along with the knowledge of reading and writing, but, in the author’s family, the habit of sewing stars from fabric to create knowledge and history and meaning, is ingrained.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You don’t have anything to pass on to your kids.

Coming on Home Soon

Written by: Jaqueline Woodson

First line: Mama’s hands are warm and soft.

Why you should read this book: To Ada Ruth’s mama, the hiring of colored women in Chicago, to clean trains, no less, is an amazing opportunity, not just to work with dignity while the men are away at war, but also to make some money she can send on home to her family; to Ada Ruth, it’s a reason for tears; her mother is leaving, and she doesn’t know when she’s coming back. Ada Ruth’s mother stays away a long time, without sending money or even a letter, but Ada Ruth hugs her grandma, keeps writing to her mama, and takes up with a scrofulous black and white kitten her grandmother says they can’t keep, even though they do. Finally, a letter arrives in Mama’s beautiful cursive, with money falling out of it and the sweetest thing of all—the knowledge that she’s coming home soon.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You’re going away soon.