Newbery Update: Wrapping Up the 1920s

Before my first child was born, I set a goal to read through the Newbery list. I finished the reading, but got way behind on publishing my reviews. In order to finally bring that series up to date, I’m changing my approach. Instead of a separate review post for each book, I’ll summarize by decade, starting with a wrap-up of the 1920s. Continue reading


Plodding Through the Pages: Review of Smoky the Cowhorse

When writing a review, even if I don’t particularly care for the book, I try to find something nice to say. So when the only thing that comes to mind (as someone who appreciates the fragrance of a book) is that it smelled good, well … yeah. It was that bad. Continue reading

Lackluster Lore: Review of Tales From Silver Lands and Shen of the Sea

During my preschool days I went through a phase where I would pretend to be a princess. In my best English accent I made morning announcements like, “Father, I am ready to get out of bed.” My dad, being pretty awesome, played along by carrying me out of my room because it was too strenuous for a princess to walk herself to breakfast.

Which is a long way of saying I was really into fairy tales. Continue reading


Newbery Update

I am a little disappointed not to have read through all the Newbery books in a year. (Technically, the year isn’t up yet since I didn’t get started until mid-February, but I don’t think I’ll be finished by then either.) While I’m not expecting less distractions in 2015, I plan to continue reading and catch up on reviewing. Although it may take me two years instead of the intended one, or even if it ends up taking three, I won’t be giving up.

A Pirate’s Life Not for Everyone: Review of The Dark Frigate

1924_frigateArrr! Who doesn’t love a good swashbuckling pirate tale? While piracy plays a large part in 1924 Newbery winner The Dark Frigate, absent is the humor (and possibly eyeliner) familiar in popular, modern pirate portrayals. There is, however, no shortage of adventure in this story of orphan Philip Marsham by Charles Boardman Hawes.

Finding himself in trouble and in need of escape, Philip follows in the footsteps of his sea-loving father by signing on with the “Rose of Devon.” More misfortune strikes when the ship is overtaken by pirates who give the sailors the choice of piracy or death. Forget walking the plank, the sailors who refuse a pirate’s life are brutally and bloodily executed by the sword. It’s no surprise the path Philip chooses; after all, what sense would there be to kill off the hero in the middle of the book? He makes it clear he is an unwilling participant though, and devotes his time to solving the problems of how to escape the pirates and avoid the penalty of piracy — hanging. Continue reading

Animals, Adventure, and Controversy: Review of The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

dolittleIn Hugh Lofting’s The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, narrator Tommy Stubbins recollects when he was 9 and a half and met the Doctor, became his assistant, and joined in his adventures. I found the book to be a fun, quick read, imaginative, and an overall improvement from my reading experience with the previous Newbery winner.

Still, I found it ironic that Doctor Dolittle, who converses with animals and hates zoos, eats meat. Pages after referencing a pig that lives on his property, he’s digging sausages out of his bag and frying them up for him and Tommy. I’m no vegetarian, but I wonder how the Doctor justifies this choice. Is it OK as long as the animals on his dinner table weren’t any former patients or friends? How can he be so sure? Continue reading

Book Review Rating Process

Before I get back to posting Newbery book reviews, I thought I would explain my rating process. Since I’m tracking my reading progress on Goodreads, I adopted a one to five rating scale. Instead of stars (because I find it amusing), I assign an item or theme from the book being reviewed. For The Story of Mankind, that item was missing maps. Continue reading

Navigating History Without a Map: Review of The Story of Mankind

“Why should we ever read fairy stories, when the truth of history is so much more interesting and entertaining?”
Hendrik Willem Van Loon, The Story of Mankind

The pristine condition of this book should have tipped me off that the patrons of my local library prefer the fairy stories. Continue reading

Reading Through the Newbery List

The library and bookstore ranked high among the favorite places of my childhood. Here, my parents displayed endless patience as they waited for me to pick out my selections. Cautionary words about not judging books by their covers were only partially heeded, as a book’s physical appearance was often what caught my eye and prompted further investigation (i.e., reading the dust jacket or back cover to find out what this beautiful book was about).

Like anyone else with a love of reading, I developed favorite authors whose works often made it to my check-out pile or shopping bag. Criteria for the unfamiliar typically depended on two characteristics. One was thickness of the volume (the thicker the better so the delight of reading it would last longer). The other was the presence of a medal or seal related to the Newbery Award on the front cover. Continue reading