Review: Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary

Ramona the Pest
by Beverly Cleary
Rating *****
Read 7/31/2013

Stockard Channing does a great job narrating this classic. Ramona is going to kindergarten, and that’s such a gigantic event it overshadows everything. Until she decides she’s never, ever going back. Ramona’s so real, so exactly herself that even when she’s at her most annoying she’s entirely believable. Some of the classic Ramona moments are in this book, including the dawnzer confusion (with which I identify entirely) and the drama of the lost tooth. Lovely rendition.

Review: Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

Beezus and Ramona
by Beverly Cleary
Rating *****
Read 7/31/2013

I love the book, so naturally I wanted to try the audio. Stockard Channing makes Ramona very annoying indeed, which is just right. Ramona is perfectly herself while at the same time she is everyone who was ever four years old. Her parents in this book are just right, alternating between fond annoyance and overt annoyance. Beezus suffers long but gives as good as she gets. Highly recommended.

Review: Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary

Emily’s Runaway Imagination
by Beverly Cleary
Rating: *****
Read 6/08/2013

I loved this book so much, I have no idea why I was so resistant to reading it. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to Ramona as well, i suspect because the first Cleary I ever read was one of those dreadful teenage romance things, and I read it at my most cynical, disaffected and obnoxious. So my default response to Cleary is “Oh, I hate her” but in reality, I mostly love all the books she wrote. Except the teenage romances. I think.

Anyway, Emily! Oh, how I loved Emily. She’s hilarious and delightful and awkward and so very real. Everyone should read this book. Even people who think they hate Beverly Cleary. Especially people who think they hate Beverly Cleary.

 

Review: A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck

 

A Day No Pigs Would Die
by Robert Newton Peck

Rating: *****
Read 5/7/2013

This spare and harrowing novel/memoir is every bit as brilliant as I remembered. Listening to it was harsh and clean and beautiful. This particular book makes most coming of age stories seem watered-down. Rob grows from boy to man in a big hurry, but he never questions the rightness of becoming a man like his papa. Haven Peck was a hard man, because he had to be. He was a loving father who never had to say words about that love.

For me, this book epitomizes stellar writing for young people. There’s nothing soft, there’s nothing pandering, there’s only what is and what must be, with a rock-solid base of love.

The audio was very well-done, and the narrator’s tone and accent were perfect. Highly recommended, indeed.

Review: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

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The Outsiders

by S.E. Hinton
Rating: *****
Read: 5/7/2013

I was thrilled to see this on my library’s list of new audiobooks, and I borrowed it immediately. I waited almost a whole day before I listened to it, wondering if I still knew most of it by heart. Yup.

The narrator is a little twangy, but that’s perfectly accurate to the locale of the book. Which I always conveniently ignored, mentally moving the setting to my own town, my own flat Midwestern singsong accent.

The thing that I am finding entirely fascinating about this book is how I move through time with it, how it changes for me. When I first read it, everyone was so much older than I was, so grown up. Then the characters were my age, more or less, and I knew them. They were just like my friends. Hell, they WERE my friends. That feeling stayed pretty consistent for many years. The last time I read it, my own son was roughly Ponyboy’s age, and there were parts that I felt uncomfortable with. I had some judgmental feelings about the kids smoking, for instance. And though I recognized how ridiculous those feelings actually were, I had them just the same. This time, my son’s as old as Darry, and I’m older by far than Two-Bit’s mother. This time, everyone in the book was so young, and I was maybe even more intimately involved with them than I’ve ever been.

This is among my favorites. Johnny Cade’s scared eyes have haunted me for 30-plus years, and I’m pretty sure this is where I learned the use of appending cakes to a name as a term of endearment, a shortcut I still use today. We won’t even mention Dally. Or the streetlight. Or how much I love him.

This time, I felt Darry’s part so keenly, and I watched the book unfold from his point of view. I spent some mental time with the parents in the courthouse.

I don’t love the book any less. In fact, I don’t think I could love it more. Though that’s just what I said last time, and I reproduce my 2007 review below.

Read: 10/01/2007
I read this book so many times that I wore out multiple copies. I did book reports on it in 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. I like to think I didn’t use the same one over and over again (but I probably did). I recently revisited this one, and found it complicated by the fact that I have an adolescent son. I kept switching viewpoints in my head and finding myself unwilling to believe that my son could be in the same places as Ponyboy.

It’s sorting itself out for me, in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I find that re-reading it has ultimately helped me to grasp the fact that Owen is a person in his own right, who has lots of decisions to make all by himself. With no input from me, thanks. And it’s easier to think of him that way now.

Which is to say that 30 years later, this book is not finished with me. Oh, and I no longer want to date Dallas Winston. Much.

 

Review: The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson

 

The Long Ships

by Frans G. Bengtsson

Rating ****

Read 4/12/2013

Delightful story of Red Orm and his life in the tenth century. The period detail seemed authentic, but since you could tattoo everything I know about the tenth century on my eyeball without causing me the slightest discomfort, I’m not the person to judge. It felt authentic, and that’s what’s important to me in a story. It’s got these flashes of hilarity that are delicious and can be read aloud to great effect. A very absorbing, engrossing romp. Plus swords. And hounds.

 

Review: Whirligig House by Anna Rose Wright

 

 

Whirligig House

by Anna Rose Wright

Rating: ****

 

Read: 4/6/2013

 

There are no more Melendy books to discover, and no more jolly Eager siblings yet to meet. I feel lucky that I found the Yates clan at this late date. Thank goodness for pictorial covers and old comfortable library bindings. I saw this one across the room, and though it was totally unfamiliar to me, it promised to be one of those comfortable, chatty books. The cover told truth. There’s the barest of bare-bones plots, and a wealth of splendid anecdotes. There are delightful illustrations throughout, and all the Usual Suspects for these kinds of books: absent but well-loved parents, irascible and unrelated hired hand whose heart of marshmallow is apparent from the first, cranky old Pecksniffian relative, reclusive neighbor, harum-scarum friends, secret clubs, newsletters, boats and of course a baby alligator. ┬áThis was an unmitigated delight.