Monday, November 10, 2014

The Gentleman and the Kitchen Maid

Written by: Diane Stanley

First line: In the city there was a great art museum.

Why you should read this book: Class and space issues separate two lovely Dutch paintings, one of smiling kitchen maid and one of a stately young gentleman. They are doomed to look from afar, censure by the disapproving voices of other, more conservative paintings. At last, a perceptive art student, sensing their distress, unites them in her own interpretation of their paintings.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Love: it's not for you, and you don't think anyone else should enjoy it either.

The Hobbit

Written by: JRR Tolkien

First line: In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

Why you should read this book: The Hobbit never gets old, and you are never old when you are reading it. This was one of the first real chapter books I read by myself, when I was about 7 years old; I just finished reading it aloud to my stepdaughter, and, if anything, it is more magical than it was 30-mumble years ago. Bilbo Baggins, a respectable hobbit of means and comfort, contracts with a group of dwarves to help them recover their ancestral home and the fabulous treasure that lies within, and the ferocious dragon that awaits them at the end of the journey is the least of their troubles.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You are dead.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest

Written by: Gerald McDermott

First line: Raven came.

Why you should read this book: One of McDermott's faithful recreations of old trickster tales, this bold picture book relates a creation myth from the North American Pacific Northwest. Raven is a heroic light bringer, cleverly stealing the sun from Sky Chief and setting it in the sky to benefit all creatures. A truly beloved story with a strong sense of history and place.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You question how a maiden can be impregnated by a pine needle.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

On a Clear Day

Written by: Walter Dean Myers

First line: "She just stopped singing."

Why you should read this book: Extrapolating from the world of today, Myers imagines a future in which corporations control every aspect of existence, smilingly introducing new products and services while the stratification between the haves and have-nots increases. Dahlia, an orphan math prodigy, is recruited by a group of young people who still feel like they can make a difference, and somehow, they are able to throw a monkey wrench into one high-stakes machination. Sort of grim, and following the new YA aesthetic of books about terrible futures in which an even more terrible future is inevitable, despite everything that the characters do to change the outcome.

Why you shouldn't read this book: To be honest, I didn't really understand big swaths of it, why people were doing what they were doing and how they came to their information and connections, even though the books explained it; the explanations just didn't make sense to me, and having one character state that she will turn facts into data and enter them into computer projections to predict outcomes didn't really mean much to me either. Too many characters, too much plot.