Posted in Book Review

Hoot

In some ways, Hoot by Carl Hiassen is a coming-of-age story, which is probably why I like it. It tells the story of Roy Eberhardt who just moved from Montana to Florida. He is immediately targeted by the two school bullies and nicknamed “cowgirl”. Poor kid. Even while being tormented, he is intrigued by a boy running away from the bus stop without shoes. The story continues to reveal that an international pancake enterprise (the fictional enemy of IHOP) plans to move into town right where several families of burrowing owls live.

burrowingowl

This book, intended for young adults, hits on environmental issues and unsettled households with an array of serious and comical characters. I think it would be a fun book to read with middle school students in a classroom. The story could promote discussion about big businesses, environmental consciousness, and moral dilemmas, and there’s plenty to talk about on the literary side of the conversation.

Hiassen does a good job of creating memorable characters while also driving a plot forward. The book contains Mullet Fingers, a runaway teenager who abandons his name; Chuck E. Muckle, a big-headed CEO; Curly Branitt, the dim-witted foreman; Officer Delinko, an officer trying to get ahead; and most importantly Roy Eberhardt, a kid learning to adapt. Most characters remain static, but the author makes them appear dynamic by only revealing bits of their characters at a time and by driving the plot forward very quickly.

I’d recommend this book wholeheartedly to any middle school or early high school student, but I also wouldn’t stop an adult from reading (or re-reading) this book because of the strong environmental argument. We can all learn a lesson from Mullet Fingers and Roy about standing up for what you believe is right no matter who stands beside you.

Hoot

Now to see if the 2006 movie is any good.

Posted in Book Review

Blast to the Past: Christy Miller

There are some books that I just can’t critique too harshly because they hold such dear memories for me. The Christy Miller collection by Robin Jones Gunn is one of those series of books. I first read these books when I was a teenager, but I’m fairly certain I only read the first two collections (There are four collections of three books bound together.). This weekend, I finished the fourth collection.

christy miller collection

The series focuses on a teenage girl named Christy Miller, who starts the series by visiting her aunt and uncle in southern California and ends up moving there with her family. During the series, she comes to know Christ as her savior, makes new friends, and goes on a romantic roller coaster ride with a couple of guys. She learns about herself and her convictions while experiencing many of the emotions of a typical teenage girl.

As a teenager, I enjoyed reading about her romantic adventures and was encouraged by her journey to and through faith in God. In fact, I would say that this book helped me define what I want on the romantic front and provided a foundation for how to live out my faith that has stuck with me into adulthood. One meaningful lesson I learned and repeat to other is to not live in the land of what-if. That means when I start following that train of thought towards wondering what a situation would be like if, I remember that the land of what-if is not a real place. I remember to live with the current circumstance and let God take care of the future.

As an adult, I am glad I finished the series and almost wish I would have read the entire series earlier. I relate to many of Christy’s emotional turmoil even though our living situations were vastly different. I say “almost wish” because I value the learning I have done by living my own life. Maybe I would not have made mistakes in my relationships with humans or God if I had read the entire series as a teenager, but I also wouldn’t be the person I am today. These books helped me reflect on my past and look toward my future and present.

I’d recommend these books to any teenager. While they are geared toward girls, I recently read an article that discussed letting boys read “girl books” that resonated with me. Boys may find something to enjoy if they choose to read these books, and they will learn about feminine feelings and a relationship with God. Most definitely, though, I would recommend these books to teenage (or adult) girls. They were a quick read for me as an adult, and I imagine they would be for most teenagers as well. Parents should read the books alongside their teenagers so that important conversations about God and relationships can take place. These books should spark conversation because the characters are so real and present real emotional dilemmas.

 

 

Posted in Book Review

Go Set A Watchman

When I finished Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, all I could say was, “wow”. I think the world needed this book. It provides a look into racial tensions and breaks down the idyllic family set up in To Kill A Mockingbird. Definitely, Mockingbird needed to come first, but Watchman has its place in the world as well.

Watchman hits straight on the head what I imagine was the internal conflict within many white Southerners. They may not have hated blacks, but they sure didn’t want them mixing with their kind. Atticus was okay upholding the law and protecting the name of innocence, but he didn’t want to grant equality to blacks. They could work for him but not with him. In fact, later in the novel, Atticus argues that the blacks are not sophisticated enough to live in the world of white people.

This novel is also a coming of age story for Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. Mockingbird was a young coming of age story, but Watchman is an older coming of age story in which Scout has to find her own conscience and voice. She says about Atticus, “The one human being she had ever fully and wholeheartedly trusted had failed her; the only man she had ever known to whom she could point and say with expert knowledge, ‘He is a gentleman, in his heart he is a gentleman,’ had betrayed her, publicly, grossly, and shamelessly.” At first she tries to blame herself, but through the wisdom of her uncle, she comes to realize that maybe her father is not perfect which frees her to be her own person.

New characters are introduced that don’t fit into the plot of Mockingbird, but I think I can dismiss that by saying Mockingbird came from a child’s limited scope of view. To Kill A Mockingbird still remains on my list of novels that I hope to teach someday, and Go Set A Watchman only serves as a way to enhance the first published story. Thank you, Harper Lee, for adding more levels to these already dynamic characters. I give this a 5 out of 5 as a stand-alone book and a 4 out of 5 as a sequel to Mockingbird because of the inconsistencies.

“Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious.”

 

 

Posted in Book Challenge, Book Review

The Girl Who Owned A City

Book Challenge

Today asks for a book that I have read more than three times. There are a few of those, but I’m going to pull one out from way back. I first read The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson during my childhood, but I keep going back to it every once in a while.

The_girl_who_owned_a_city_ot_nelson

This book, published in 1975, tells the story of life after a deadly virus kills all of the humans over the age of twelve. It is centered in one particular town around a pair of siblings who organize the children into a city of sorts. Lisa, ten-years-old, is first motivated to find food simply so she and her younger brother, Todd, can survive. They discover that there are houses, stores, and even warehouses full of food. Complicated by the lack of electricity, gas, or adult knowledge, the children must learn to cook food, drive cars, and take care of each other. As Lisa begins teaching neighborhood kids of her discoveries about how to survive, less motivated children from other neighborhoods try to attack. Lisa leads her neighborhood to form an army and eventually they move themselves to an abandoned school. This book is full of struggle and triumphs.

The appeal of this book to younger me was that I wondered how I would survive in a world with no adults. It made me appreciate all of the adults around me, but I also imagined that I was Lisa, the girl who grew to be a leader of an entire city. At one point, I think I even drew out my plans for a city. I keep reading it as an adult because it poses an issue of necessity. Do we really need all of the things we think we need? Lisa, Todd, and the other children learn to survive on what is stored and use their innovation to make things they can’t find. At one point, Lisa has the children in her city working all day, but the children lose steam and start slacking. Other city leaders remind Lisa that they are children who need time to play and have fun as well. What seems to be a trivial want for toys is revealed as a real need for the children’s well-being.

This book is about dreaming. At first, Lisa only dreams of having food and safety, but throughout the book, Lisa begins dreaming of driving, restarting businesses, and even someday flying a plane. She doesn’t accomplish all of these dreams and many times she is set back by enemy attacks, but the book ends with her in her tower planning for more in the world.

This book is also about the power of storytelling. In the dark nights, Lisa tells Todd stories of days to come. These stories not only comfort Todd but inspire many of Lisa’s ideas for what task to complete the next day. Without these stories, Todd and Lisa might have been like many of the other children who cowered in their houses, hungry and scared. Stories inspire and give them strength to take life into their own hands.

This short book could be read by a middle school student or possibly an upper-elementary student, but any age might enjoy it. Even though it was written in 1975, the themes of struggle, triumph, and dreaming remain timeless. I give this book a 5 out of 5.

Posted in Book Review

The King Who Rained/Reigned

It’s been a bit since I posted because I am currently reading a very long book entitled In a Different Key which is about the story of autism. Naturally you can expect a blog post about it soon-ish, but in the meantime, I wanted to talk about a children’s book that I highly recommend.

It’s rather old, but The King Who Rained is about a little girl who displays some confusion about phrases her Daddy uses. For example, her daddy says there is a fork in the road. She imagines a literal fork.

 

forks in road
This photo comes from the book.

Other phrases such as “mole on his nose” and “fairy tales” you’ll have to find in the book to see the creative pictures of what a child might imagine.

 

The drawings in the book are appropriate because they remind me of the way a child might actually color them. In the picture above, the grass is an excellent example of this in that there are scribble marks which resemble crayons.

While it is categorized as a children’s book, I actually wonder if children would understand why it is humorous. The benefits I could see would be its educational value in introducing idioms and homophones. For the adults reading it though, it will definitely produce a few giggles.

Next time you’re in the library, see if you can find a copy of this humorous book. Give a read and brighten your day. I give it a 5 out of 5.

Posted in Book Review, Movies

Owen Meany and Simon Birch

Possibly I was a bit hasty in my post about A Prayer for Owen Meany. I watched the movie version, which is entitled Simon Burch, during the snow storm this week and developed a new appreciation for the novel. I also realized I had missed the most obvious part of the book; Owen is the Jesus figure. The movie makes it visually clear, but there are numerous blatant clues in the book.

  1. Owen prophesies his own death.
  2. He dies while saving others.
  3. He continues to speak to John after his death (a form of resurrection).
  4. His parents claim he was born of a virgin.
  5. He had complete faith in God.

It does fall apart a bit when you consider how many transgressions he had while alive, but no one can actually BE Jesus.

simonbirch1

Now that I’ve made that discovery, it’s time to talk about the movie separate from the book. Simon Birch, as a stand alone movie, is a feel-good film about a young boy and his best friend. It might bring tears to your eyes and it will definitely make you laugh. There are a few sexual references, but nothing too harmful considering the characters are young boys. It’s the kind of movie I would think could spark beneficial conversation about how we should treat people who are different than ourselves. The film also points toward the idea that God has a specific purpose for each of us. That’s very true.

From a technical point of view, the casting supports the characters created by the film, and the filming sets the scenes very well. I was amazed that the film was even able to incorporate visually what I believe is a key symbol in the book–the dollmaker’s dummy, sans iconic red dress–even though the film script does not. All in all, the film does an adequate job of reimagining the story while maintaining some key points of the novel. One point where I was definitely disappointed was in the casting of Owen character, renamed Simon. The movie makes him out to have a physical disability, due to the casting, but in the book, Owen is fully capable; he is simply short and has an odd voice. They do discover in the book the probable medical reason for Owen’s voice, but I don’t think the movie even does the voice justice. The only point when the voice even begins to resemble the voice I hear represented by the novel is when Simon is standing on the bridge saying “I’m sorry.” It’s a small flaw in the film script, but it’s the one that bothered me the most.

owen meany

The film does not disappoint me as an image of a novel because the credits are very clear that this film is only “suggested by” the novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany. From what I can dig up online, John Irving either did not feel that the book could be made into a film properly or that the film was not made properly. Either way, the film slightly changes all of the names, shortens the storyline, creates new scenes, and alters the ending. It doesn’t bother me though because I’m with Irving: the book cannot be made into a movie without being a disappointment. The book is intricate and fascinating, and the more research I do online, the more I want to re-read the book. So much detail is woven into the 600 pages. For example, I was reading online about one possible theme being that sports are idealized too much in America. The argument makes sense from what I remember of the novel, but I definitely did not catch that when I was reading. So, long story short, you may be hearing more about Owen Meany. For now, I’ll tease you with the opening line, which Irving thinks may be his best. The entire story really is there.

I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.