Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

2 Cool 2 Be 4 Gotten: Part 1

There are certain books that a certain type of bookish woman is almost certain to have read and loved during her formative years - Harriet the Spy, The Westing Game, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. These books made a pretty big impression on me. Even now, when I have to do something unpleasant, I have to fight the urge to throw my hands up in the air and yell, "I'll be finked if I go to dancing school!" And if you don't occasionally want to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, well, your imagination is probably a dead, withered place.

I'm always surprised to see how many books I read 20 years ago are still in print. Heck, kids still read Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret, Teenage Softies references and all. But sadly, a lot of good ones have fallen by the wayside. For my latest experiment in themed reading, I'm going to dig up some of these titles.

Because I don't want to live in a world where future generations can't read Lois Lowry's Autumn Street and be emotionally scarred by it.

First up, The Owlstone Crown by X.J. Kennedy

Timothy and Verity Tibb are orphans who live on a farm with the evil Grimbles, who force them to farm parsnips in the dead of winter, and spend countless hours sticking labels onto bottles of a quack home remedy made of... parsnips. Life is bleak. Until one night they are visited by Lewis O. Ladybug, an insect private investigator, who tells the kids that their grandparents are alive, if not well, and living in a parallel universe. Of course, the kids disobey orders and follow Lew back through the portal, hoping to escape the Grimbles and reunite their family. On the other side, they find a world identical to their own, but somehow much, much worse. Other Earth has been taken over by an evil dictator who calls himself Raoul Owlstone and is holding half the population prisoner, including Timothy and Verity's grandparents. You can guess what the kids have to do next.

This book has great characters and a seriously inventive plot (I haven't even given away the best parts). Also, any book that manages to sneak in references to Hamlet AND Ross MacDonald is aces in my book.


dorotha said...

mary, i'm so glad you have this blog. now that i am riding the bus a lot, i have more time to read. i'm almost disappointed that they reccently changed the bus routes, cutting my commute down from 1 hour to 30 minutes. anyway, i plan to use this time to read, read, read. and i will follow your recommendations.

Sally said...

To this day, I can't visit a museum without imagining hiding out there. And The Westing Game! Oh man I adored that book.

Thanks for the new suggestions, too. Our daughter Veronica is starting Kindergarten next week (!) and once she becomes a reader I know I'm gonna need plenty of books to keep her happy.

sally said...

Sorry to double comment, but I just got an email from my friend Meagan (also a librarian) about a neato-cool-o used book exchange.

"BookMooch is a new social site for exchanging used books....the swaps work on a points system [and] you have to give away at least one book for every five you receive."

mary_m said...

Aw, shucks... thanks guys! Glad to be of service.

Sally, thanks for the link - looks like something I could get hopelessly addicted to. Also, gotta ask... which pair of Westing heirs was your favorite? Such a good, good, good book - I think I might re-read it tonight.

Gwen said...

I love this blog so much it's ridiculous. When I read book reviews in magazines or newspapers now, I just feel so let down in comparison. Honestly, I loved your food blog, but it's clear this is your calling.

Despite being a certain type of bookish woman, I have not read a single one of the books you mention--not Harriet the Spy, not Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret, not The Westing Game. This is b/c I grew up in a tiny farming community with very little access to books (the town library was only open from noon to 3, and since I was in school til 3:15, it was rather difficult to manage to check anything out, and the school library was just sad) and in a family that did not pay a whole lot of attention to books so didn't bother to buy me many.

This meant that while the rest of you were reading fantastic classic children's or young-adult books, I was scrounging around for whatever books I could get my hands on, meaning mostly things that were not intended for kids. So around age 10 I started reading Louis Lamour books, because my great-grandma had a lot of them. I tried to read the encyclopedia once. I read books on common cattle diseases, garden pests, and home remedies. I once got ahold of a book called "The Late, Great Planet Earth," which even at age 11 I could tell was horribly racist, and I actually snuck it out of the house and threw it away because I thought it was evil. And I read a lot of books about how to stay alive in the wilderness by eating dandelion roots and locusts.

I don't know if that provides any insight into my personality, but there you go.

sally said...

I can't remember the exact pairings (it's been about 30 years since I read it) but my 2 favorite characters were Turtle and Mr. Hoo.

Maybe I should start reading it aloud to Veronica...

mary_m said...

The whole Wexler family was great. I was a huge Turtle fan, but think my favorite pair was Mr. Hoo and Grace Windson Wexler.