Saturday, July 07, 2012

Unacknowledged legislators of the world

Because library books on reserve tend to arrive all at once in a great cosmic plot to make me have more overdue fines, I was able to read two more of Sharon Creech's charming (and short) stories.

Love That Dog and its sequel Hate That Cat were cute and inspiring. Each book takes about 20 minute to read, so it was perfect for a weekend camping trip with limited daylight hours.

The books, through poetry writing assignments, tell the story of Jack, a kid who at first hates writing poetry. But as his teacher Miss Stretchberry continually challenges him to re-think what he considers poetry, he gradually learns to love it.

In Dog, Jack slowly comes out of his shell and eventually shares a personal painful story of his. It's the classic story of a boy and his dog, told through poetry influenced by William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, Valerie Worth, and others. In Cat, the reader learns more about Jack's family, and through his evolving relationship with poetry and words he is able to understand how sights and sounds can be felt.

Like the Creech's other books I've read, I'm amazed by how aptly she has captured the fresh and innocent voice of a child struggling to understand life and death while still enjoying play time and simple daily comforts.

The books are also a wonderful tribute to teachers everywhere who encourage students to find their voices and share their stories. I couldn't stop smiling, watching Jack learn and grow throughout the books. Perfect quick summer reads!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Oft in ourselves do lie

From books to movies, I seem to be on a young adult audience kick. In this stressful election year, however, I think that's totally justifiable. What better escapism is there than to re-live the agony of adolescence, now that I'm safely and long past it?

I'm not the biggest fan of Wes Anderson's style of comedy (it's a little too deadpan for me), though I loved The Royal Tenenbaums. There were many moments in Moonrise Kingdom, however, where I genuinely laughed out loud or found a particular scene profoundly striking in its imagery.

Two New England tweens run away from their dismal lives and try to forge a new happy and free existence of their own making. Adults and a boy scout troop pursue them. So does a hurricane. Moonrise Kingdom was quirky and old-school epic, but cute nonetheless.

And then there was Brave. Honestly, the only thing I knew about it (enough to get me to a theatre) was that it had a feisty young heroine and took place in ancient Scotland.


I think I was expecting something along the lines of Mulan-meets-Braveheart. But what it turned out to be was a pretty sweet tale of mothers and daughters and courage and acceptance. There's the prerequisite Celtic witch, and a spell, and bears.


I really, really liked it (SCOTLAND! BEARS!) but wasn't over-the-top wowed by it. It was also the first movie I've ever seen in 3-D, although I don't know that it made any real difference for this film.

But while I was hiking in Central Washington this past weekend, I couldn't stop thinking in a Scottish accent.

Wha's like us? Damn few...

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Into the vale of years

Because I really liked Sharon Creech's Replay, I reserved a few of her other books at the library. One of the things I liked about Replay was Creech's ability to capture the voice, demeanor, and language of an adolescent so well.

The Unfinished Angel was similarly intriguing in its linguistic voice: the main character is an angel who guards a tiny village in Italy, and who struggles with speaking and understanding human ways of communication.  That was the most interesting part of the short book, however; I wasn't as captivated by the plot itself, about a little girl who can see the angel and convinces it to help change things for children nearby.

Walk Two Moons, however, was simply a masterpiece. It's no wonder that it won the Newbery Medal. The storytelling mechanism was brilliant: a girl on a road trip with her grandparents helps pass the time by telling them stories of her best friend's weird family. The stories are true, but the grandparents know they're just a metaphor for the girl's own growing pains and unique family heartache.

Even though, from an adult perspective, the ending isn't a surprise at all (it was pretty easy to read between the lines), I still found myself crying as I read the last few chapters. It was such a beautiful, sweet, tragic tale of love and hope and family ties.

As young adult authors go, I like Sharon Creech because her writing style also appeals to adults. The plots of her books (at least three I've read so far) take place at the very real intergenerational crossroads of family life.