On a cloudy Friday, there's really nothing anyone wants more than to curl up with a book and some coffee and visit another world for a few hours. Well, in my case, I suppose that feeling comes every day regardless of the weather. There's nothing quite like a well written book to transport your mind. Sometimes I prefer to visit places that I'm making up, but writing could never be a substitute for reading.
I wanted to share my thoughts on two of the best books I've read so far this year. I picked up both on whims at two different store closing "EVERYTHING MUST GO" sales. The first I took because I'm a big fan of the author's Spiderwick Chronicles and the tale seemed solidly in the genre I'm currently writing in. The other was more impulsive. It has a great cover, a decent opening page, and a Newbery Honor Medeal on the cover. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerilizzi
(Simon & Schuster, 2010)
I love the slow careful pace of this story that covers nearly every minute of Eva Nine's journey into a strange world as she searches for others like her.
Eva carries this story. She's the kind of stubborn, willful, yet caring child protagonist that shines in Middle Grade fiction. The immediate plot of the book isn't anything groundbreaking, but I love how there is a shadow of a bigger story that looms over everything.
I'm sure some readers will complain that much of this strange world remains less developed than it could be, but I think that's the point. The story is about a character finding her way in a confusing world, much like Dorothy or Alice. The landscape is defined just enough to present us with it's dangers and wonders.
I really had trouble putting this book down, but at the same time it was one of those books that I forced myself to read in smaller chunks as I neared the end simply to prolong the story that I didn't want to end. A terrific modern fantasy adventure and I can't wait for the second book.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
(Henry Holt, 2009)
As with most books I really enjoy, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a book that relies heavily on the strength of a main character with undeniable appeal. One of aspects that I loved about Callie is that she doesn't have any exaggerated traits. She's simply a realistic kid coming to terms with a world that isn't changing as fast as her growing perception of it. As a result, it is very easy to relate to her and her dreams.
The bigger story in this Newbery Honor Book however is the discussion on naturalist observation and impact of Darwin on rural Texas in 1899. At times I felt this theme inserted itself a little too forcefully into the story. Personally, I found the family relationships to be far more important and profound.
The relationship between Callie and her grandfather was brilliantly executed and very moving. She shined in her role as a sister to six brothers as well. I also enjoyed the understated strain in her relationship with her parents. However I didn't like that sometimes these scenes felt as though they were being used just to add to the natural observation element. Thankfully, a good part of the novel is the other way around. When the coming of age scenes are front and center, this novel is at its best.