Review / Birdie’s Bargain

20211218ma_4059Book: Birdie’s Bargain (2021)
Author: Katherine Paterson
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Opening lines from the book …
It wasn’t until the volunteers from the Lions Club had left and they stood in the empty apartment looking at nothing that Birdie realized her bicycle was gone. The sofa, the kitchen table and chairs, all the beds—even the TV—had been carried to the truck. Daddy had finished stuffing the trunk of the Subaru and the tiny U-Haul trailer with all the boxes and baby furniture when she thought of it.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Birdie is such an introspective girl. I love how we get right into her worries for her daddy who is being shipped out overseas (he’s in the Army).

2) Birdie’s grandmother is just the right amount of grown-up for this story. She’s involved in Birdie’s life, but also encourages her to go out and make friends in her new home. There’s also Mr. Goldberg, the teacher. Like the grandmother, he’s there as a grown-up influence, yet he’s not a helicopter-type who ruins the kid’s agency in the story.

3) And then we come to Alicia Marie. Oh boy, what a character! She’s one of those characters that you can’t stand. She’s so bossy toward Birdie, and yet there’s something about her that makes you feel sorry for her.

4) Finally, there’s Daddy. We don’t really get to meet him too much as a character. But we do get to know him quite well through Birdie’s memories and thoughts.

5) I love when books reference other books. This one talks about Charlotte’s Web and Anne Frank’s Diary and Because of Winn Dixie. I love how it all affects Birdie’s experience.

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) If you’re looking for a book that wraps everything up neatly with a bow, Katherine Paterson isn’t your author. There were a few things, especially about Alicia Marie, that I wanted to know more about. It wasn’t anything horribly wrong with the book, but I would have liked a tiny bit of closure there.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I am so thankful for another book by Katherine Paterson! She is such a thought-provoking author. And I really enjoyed this one…

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / The Children’s Blizzard, 1888

20211218ma_4061Book: The Children’s Blizzard, 1888 (2018)
Author: Lauren Tarshis
Genre: MG, Historical Fiction
Series: I Survived


Opening lines from the book …
A deadly blizzard raged across the prairie, and eleven-year-old John Hale was trapped in a frozen nightmare. The wind screamed in his ears as he staggered through the blinding snow. His whole body was numb.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) That opening is pretty exciting! The first chapter (which feels like a prologue) drops us right in the middle of things. Of course, the second chapter will take us back a few months to let us get to know the characters before letting us know what happens next.

2) I liked the story about the boys hunting King Rattler. As the newcomer to the prairie, John feels outside the friendship circle. But then they invite him along. I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a good thing, but I’m glad it was the start of their friendship.

3) There’s some nice foreshadowing going on when John thinks he’s lost his sister Frannie in the long grass at the beginning of the story. I like how that comes into play during the blizzard later on.

4) I love the story trope of the strict teacher that the kids don’t quite understand but learn to trust. This teacher is sort of like that.  

5) This book reminded me so much of The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I later found out that this was a different blizzard (her book was set in 1880-1 rather than 1888).

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) At the end of the book, the author has a list of other books about blizzards, etc. And the one book that is missing is The Long Winter. While the blizzard years are different, they do both take place in Dakota Territory. And that book is arguably one of the BEST of the Little House books, and even was given a Newbery Honor book. In fact, I had to go to the internet to find this info out. It’s like talking about the best fantasy books and forgetting to mention The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings

FINAL THOUGHTS

This is the first book I’ve read from the I Survived series. They’re short and quick to read. It had a lot of exciting parts and I’m glad to see historical fiction that isn’t a time-travel book!

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review: The Snow Child

Snow-ChildBook: The Snow Child
Author: Eowyn Ivey
Genre: Adult, Historical/Fairy Tale
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: A childless couple moves to the wilds of Alaska in the 1920s to homestead. A mysterious child and her fox capture the hearts and imagination of Mabel and Jack. But this girl seems other-worldly. She disappears every year with the melting of the snow… only to return with the winter winds.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) The snow! (ha ha) 😉

2) This book is based on several versions of a fairy tale where a childless couple builds a little “snow child” only to have the child come alive. This is a beautiful re-imagining of those tales. I love the fairy tale elements of this story, the unexplainable.

3) The story is also firmly set in the real, historical world. While there are some fantastical elements, they are very soft. In fact, like Esther in the book, you can explain it all away. Or at least most of it. Which I also find appealing. (Note: This aspect of the story reminded me a lot of the book Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman.)

4) The relationship between Mabel and Esther is wonderful. The bond of two women in a world of men. Esther is no shrinking violet. And in many ways, this is an unlikely friendship. But it works. One of the most wonderful sections of the book is when (slight spoiler) Jack is injured and Esther comes with her son Garrett to help with the farm work. Why? Because she’s determined not to lose her neighbours.

5) The relationship between Jack and Mabel (the husband/wife duo of the story) is also wonderful. They don’t always agree, but their love for one another is beautiful. What a marriage should be.

6) I love the cover of this book. The child and the fox peeking out from behind the trees… Lovely!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) This isn’t a quick read. Now, that’s not necessarily bad, as long as you realize this. It’s not a page-turner. It’s more like a meandering walk through the woods. (Although, by Part 3, the pace does pick up a bit.)

2) I don’t get WHY they never name the dog. Why not?! (Poor dog.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I love this historical fairy tale. It blends elements of a Little-House-on-the-Prairie-type book (set in Alaska) with a Russian folk tale. Beautifully written. (Note: Even though it is a fairy tale, it is meant for adults, rather than children.)

5 Reasons I Loved Caroline

CarolineSo, this book is the best book I’ve picked up this year. Yay!

It almost gets a 5-star rating. (But I NEVER give out 5 stars. Well, hardly ever.) And what’s weird is that I was hesitant to even read this book in the first place. But, once I started, well…

So what would I rate this book? 4 1/2 stars. Which is an amazing star-rating from me. Folks, it’s practically 5 stars!

Well, instead of 5 stars, I’ll give 5 reasons why I loved this book…

Caroline // by Sarah Miller

#1 – It’s Faithful to the Old

What makes this such a wonderful book is that it stays true to the original. Sarah Miller’s Caroline is a parallel novel to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie. Miller calls her book a “marriage of fact and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s fiction.” Let’s stick to LIW’s fiction for the time-being. If you are familiar with Wilder’s work, you may know that she fictionalized some of the events from her life… For the sake of story. (Probably with the help of writer/daughter Rose Wilder Lane who helped her edit the books.)

And I agree with her that story trumps history when it comes to novels. And that’s what LIW’s books are: novels. Well-crafted works of fiction. With a wonderful foundation of history.

But Caroline, like the Little House books, also stays true to history. In spite of the fiction, the history of the pioneers shines through.

#2 – …And the New

Which brings me to the “new stuff”. Or the stuff that didn’t make Little House on the Prairie.

The main event in Caroline that stands in contradiction to the original Little House books is the timing of the birth of Baby Carrie. Miller follows the historical record for this one; Carrie Ingalls was indeed born on the Kansas prairie. Which means… Some of the things that happen in the story are all that more amazing when you realize that Caroline was pregnant during this time! Like the building of the house? The event with the well? Talk about strong, pioneer women… Go, Ma!

To tell the truth, one of the most memorable moments in the original book is where Laura demands that her Pa get her the little, black-eyed “Indian” baby to have as her own. Reading this scene in Caroline takes on a whole new meaning. Here’s Laura, about 4-years-old. She knows that her ma just got a baby (out of nowhere). Suddenly, Laura’s desire for a baby of her own makes just that much more sense. And since she has no idea where Baby Carrie came from… well, why not want a baby that is right before you?

#3 – The Difference in POV

It was amazing to read this story, which I know so well, from a different point of view. Instead of experiencing this adventure through the eyes of a little girl, we get to see it all from a mother’s perspective.

And not just any mother, but a pregnant mother, heading away from family and friends. A mother who wants her children to grow up to have a proper education. And they’re moving to a place where there will be no schools! A mother who has her own fears, hopes, and desires.

One of the wonderful examples of the differing POV is the story of Mr. Edwards on Christmas Eve. Again, retold from a mother’s perspective of not having anything to make her children’s Christmas… Powerful.

#4 – It’s a Pioneer How-To

One thing I loved about the original Little House books is all the “how-to” information. Like digging a well, and building a house, and… well, everything. When I first read these books, I ate this stuff up. It made me feel like I could be a pioneer if it came down to it. I could dig my own well, and I wouldn’t make the same mistake as Mr. Scott. No siree!

And the “how-to” of Sarah Miller’s Caroline is also there, albeit in a different way. We don’t just get a rehash of Wilder’s descriptions. While Laura and Mary had plenty of time to shadow their Pa, watching his every move, Caroline doesn’t. She has plenty of her own work to do. And so, the book focuses on her view point. On the bits of how-to that effected her.

Which made by adult heart so happy. And yes, it makes me feel like I could be a pioneer if it ever came down to that.

#5 – No Politically-Correct Revisionism…

Just for the sake of being Politically Correct. And finally, I loved the fact that this book did not fall into some politically-correct retelling. It documents the prejudices of the settlers, warts and all. Now, I love that the book doesn’t condone it (which is a good thing!), but it documents it… like a good historian. Miller does have Caroline struggling and questioning her own fears and reactions. But, ultimately this book remains true to how the Ingalls family (and others like them) saw the world around them. The historian in me was pleased and satisfied with her treatment of the material.

(Mini Rant. I HATE books/movies/etc that attempt to make the people in history as “tolerant” as we are. First off, I have a feeling that we have our own little prejudices for which future generations will mock us. I feel that history should be told as it is. Not that we condone the prejudice. No, I don’t mean that. But when we acknowledge that the past, just as the present, and the future for that matter, isn’t and never will be perfect.)

Bonus:

I love the cover of the book! Although, I will say it reminds me of Caroline as played by Karen Grassle from the television show. The real Caroline would probably have been wearing a sunbonnet!

And finally, a Warning. Yes, this book is a reworking of a famous children’s book, but that doesn’t mean it’s meant for children. It’s meant for adults, folks. There are a couple sex scenes. Of course, we’re talking married sex. If you can get that into your head. (I know. Weird, right? It’s a little hard to go there with characters that are kind of like your own parents.)