TBR: A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman

16 Apr

A-Time-To-Dance
“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that bloggers are eagerly anticipating. This week I wanted to highlight the upcoming Padma Venkatraman release, A Time to Dance. I recently posted about Indian YA lit on my TBR and this one is officially being added to the list!

Padma Venkatraman’s inspiring story of a young girl’s struggle to regain her passion and find a new peace is told lyrically through verse that captures the beauty and mystery of India and the ancient bharatanatyam dance form. This is a stunning novel about spiritual awakening, the power of art, and above all, the courage and resilience of the human spirit.

Veda, a classical dance prodigy in India, lives and breathes dance—so when an accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, her dreams are shattered. For a girl who’s grown used to receiving applause for her dance prowess and flexibility, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling. But Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she starts all over again, taking beginner classes with the youngest dancers. Then Veda meets Govinda, a young man who approaches dance as a spiritual pursuit. As their relationship deepens, Veda reconnects with the world around her, and begins to discover who she is and what dance truly means to her.

I love South Asian literature and I love verse novels. I’m also drawn to the focus on disability in India, as this was my area of study during my semester abroad in India (way back when). Venkatraman is getting a lot of advanced praise for A Time to Dance, including starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and VOYA. A Time to Dance is scheduled for a May 1, 2014 release (Nancy Paulsen Books). Be sure to add it to your TBR list! You can read an excerpt here.

War Horse (Audio)

7 Apr

War Horse
I’ve never been that into horses. Don’t get me wrong, horses are great. I mean they’re basically superheroes – they can run shortly after birth, they can see nearly 360 degrees, and they can sleep standing up (ok, maybe that last one isn’t the greatest super power, but it’s still very impressive). I know horse personalities vary, but in my limited experience with them, I’ve never met a bad egg. They’re beautiful creatures. And whenever I watch a battle scene with soldiers on horseback at the movies, I’m more sad to see the horses fall in battle than the soldiers. But somehow, I’ve never been drawn to horse stories and if I’m honest, would probably even go so far as to respond to them with a “this one’s not for me”. So it comes as no surprise that I was late to the party when it comes to Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse. I still haven’t seen the stage performance or the Spielberg film adaptation, but I can now put a big check mark next to “read the book”.

War Horse follows Joey, a bay-red foal, from farm life to the war on the Western Front. As Joey is transferred from owner to owner, we see war from his point of view as well as from the perspectives of his various caregivers, on both sides of the war in England, Germany and France. The story is narrated using fairly simple language to match Joey’s limited awareness and the way he sees the war. Still, plenty of people talk to Joey, sharing their thoughts and concerns, asking things of him, and Joey communicates with people in his own way. While Joey has a job to perform at each stop along his way, it’s also clear that his value to his caretakers goes far beyond his contributions as a work animal. Joey also has some horse companions, Zoey and Topthorn – one a farm horse, the other a war horse. Unlike with many animal stories, the horses themselves do not have some special, secret horse communication, yet Joey still feels a strong connection with these two horses.

Morpurgo had several inspirations for War Horse, including conversations with World War I veterans and a haunting painting of horses charging into a barbed wire fence during battle. In a piece written for The Telegraph titled “War Horse: When Horses Were Heroes”, Morpurgo also shared a particularly touching inspiration for the story – an encounter he once witnessed between a boy with a debilitating stammer and a farm horse:

As I came into the stable yard behind the house I found Billy standing under the stable light, talking freely to one of the horses. He spoke confidently, knowing he was not being judged or mocked. And I had the very strong impression that the horse was listening, and understanding too. It was an unforgettable moment for all three of us, I think. It was that extraordinary moment that gave me the confidence I needed to begin writing War Horse.

That story alone moved me to tears. War Horse also moved me to tears several times. I’m sure if I ever get around to watching the movie, Spielberg will make sure to have the music swell just right at all the tearjerker moments. The story is moving, war is harsh, and the themes of family, friendship, courage, and communication across language barriers are explored in interesting ways. But it is the uniqueness of Joey as a narrator and protagonist that makes War Horse really stand out.

Through his performance on the audiobook recording, reader John Keating distinguishes between Joey and his various owners, giving each a distinct voice and accent. The audio recording is well paced and overall a short listen at just over four hours. I’m glad I finally gave this “horse story” a listen.

Em’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Author: Michael Morpurgo
Reader: John Keating
Publishers: Scholastic Audiobooks (2010)

Guest Review: Maddie on Libba Bray’s The Diviners

25 Mar

Maddie
Note from Em: Maddie and I used to co-host a radio show together where we talked about all the great (and sometimes not great) books that we read. Sadly, Maddie had to leave the radio show last year when she and her family moved several hours away. Luckily she still shares her love of reading and her book reviewing talents with the world! Her reviews are posted on the Bound By Books radio show blog and here’s one of her latest reviews, which I thought you all would enjoy!

I have very interesting friends, and it is because of them that I read this book. My one friend was reading this in the library at school, when my other (slightly crazy) friend came up behind her and started reading her page aloud with various interesting voices. The next thing I knew, my slightly crazy friend was reading the book too, and giving more commentary. (“Ooo! I think Tommy’s going to die! DON’T GO IN THERE, TOMMY!”) They both talked about how good the book was, and had several silent screaming fests when they discussed it afterwards. . . So, my curiosity got the better of me, and I absolutely had to read it.

The Diviners
This book, The Diviners, by Libba Bray, primarily focuses on the main protagonist, Evangeline (Evie) O’Neill. It starts out with her being exiled to New York City to cool off (the reasons being along the lines of her accusing the town golden boy of knocking up a chambermaid at a particularly boisterous party). It takes place in the 1920’s, so as the cover remarks, New York is stuffed to the brim with speakeasies, pickpockets, Ziegfeld girls and silent pictures. “The city ran on corruption as much as electricity.” Evie’s only reservation about leaving her small town was that she’d be stuck living with her Uncle Will, who owned a museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, otherwise know by New Yorkers as the museum of Creepy Crawlies- a place “arrears on its taxes”.

Anyway, Evie, known to her small town as “that awful O’Neill girl” a flapper through and through, also had a gift- or rather, a supernatural power. She could take an object that was important to the person whose item she was examining, and get. . . sort of. . . transported to a scene in the person’s life when they possessed that object.

Also going on in this book are POV’s (points of view) from different characters, the other main POV being a character named Memphis, who was a numbers-runner for Papa Charles, “the undisputed king of Harlem”. Memphis too, had a gift- a different gift, though he hadn’t used it in a long time, for when he needed it most, his ability had failed him. There are other characters in this story, too, ranging from the reserved assistant of Evie’s uncle, Jericho, who (guess what!?) hides a secret, to Theta, a Ziegfeld girl and friend of Evie’s. She, (Theta) lived in an apartment with her “brother”, fleeing from her past-and, yes, her gift.

There are many interesting characters, but the main plot point of the story is about a series of murders, done by a serial killer whom the reader knows from the beginning, called Naughty John. The victims were branded with a cryptic, mysterious symbol and a note. Evie’s uncle was called to the scene by the police, as the killings seemed to be religious or occultish in nature, and the rest of the book unfolds with Evie realizing that her gift could help catch the killer. Evie, Sam, (another character; a NYC pickpocket), her uncle, and Jericho discover in the process of solving the case that the killings were the start of something bigger.

Personally, I enjoyed this book (for the MOST part). I loved the complicated weaving of the storyline. I loved the third-person storytelling, and how it switched POV’s constantly from a random aristocrat to the wind. I loved the names- especially me, being a name fanatic, encountering names such as Memphis and Theta gives me an embarrassingly large dose of satisfaction. Perhaps, my favorite thing, though, was the historical fiction aspect. I swear, I’ve learned more about the twenties, the Harlem Renaissance, and Prohibition than I have from ever watching a PBS special. Because of this book, I can recite ten examples of flapper slang off the top of my head. Finally, I started reading it the same afternoon I got it, and finished it the next morning. So, yes, it was THAT good- the kind of good that you sit and stare at for a couple minutes afterward, and get bug-eyed when you realize that THERE IS A SEQUEL.

There were things about this book that I did not appreciate as much. . . the main thing being the ending. It had a very last-minute relationship plot twist that I just did not like. Besides that, the only other real flaw that stayed with me was that the characters sometimes aggravate the reader- (Dude! Don’t go in there! Are you STUPID!? There’s a creepo! OR THERE! DON’T WALK INTO A RANDOM ABANDONED WAREHOUSE!!! OR under a creepy bridge! ESPECIALLY when the psychic ten-year-old told you NOT to!) . Lastly, depending on your perspective, you might think that the book talks a little bit TOO much about Prohibition and other subjects along those lines.

I would not recommend this book to someone who doesn’t like really creepy books-there are scenes from the POV of some of the victims (at one point, it seems like someone dies every other chapter). Also, if you do not like more complex plots or the whole Armageddon bit.

BUT, if you DO enjoy any of the above. . . or, well, even if you don’t, you should pick up Diviners by Libba Bray, because you can bet on your life-ski that you’ll enjoy it.

Maddie’s Rating: 5 out of 5
Title: The Diviners
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2012)

What I Should Have Read on my Indian Vacation

16 Mar

Sorry for being MIA for a while there. My husband and I went to India for the last few weeks of February and I spent all my free time leading up to the trip getting prepared to miss three weeks of work and graduate school, leaving no time to prepare blog posts for my time away. And of course the last couple weeks have been spent catching up with work and school and recovering from jet lag (fun!), but now we’re back and what an exciting trip we had!

This was my third time in India, though the first time in 14 years, and I was beyond happy to see my Indian host family and friends, and to travel throughout India with my husband for the first time. We also visited one of his good friends from college, explored the beautiful backwaters of Kerala (a state with 94% literacy rate – not too shabby!), found snow in the foothills of the Himalayas, visited several libraries, and attended the wedding of two good friends in Jaipur, where peacocks served as our beautiful yet unpredictable alarm clocks.

Indiaimages

We traveled by train quite a bit and while generally I love reading on trains, this time around I felt like I would miss too much if I took my eyes off the landscape. In the end, aside from a few Bollywood magazines, the only thing I read during our vacation was She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick – that’s right, just one book. This is unusual for me as I love to read while traveling, but I think this trip was just too fast paced and packed with activity to warrant some relaxing reading time. I do, however, believe I would have read more if I had brought books that were either set in India or that featured Indian characters. And so I’ve compiled a list of books that, if I were to do it all over again, I would bring with me to India.

Born Confused
Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier
Why I should have read this book on my Indian vacation:
Because even though it doesn’t take place in India, it is a well-respected, “classic” South Asian coming-of-age story that has been on my TBR for far too long.

Dimple Lala doesn’t know what to think. Her parents are from India, and she’s spent her whole life resisting their traditions. Then suddenly she gets to high school and everything Indian is trendy. To make matters worse, her parents arrange for her to meet a “suitable boy.” Of course it doesn’t go well — until Dimple goes to a club and finds him spinning a magical web. Suddenly the suitable boy is suitable because of his sheer unsuitability. Complications ensue. This is a funny, thoughtful story about finding your heart, finding your culture, and finding your place in America.

BabyjiBabyji by Abha Dawesar
Why I should have read this book on my Indian vacation:
Because the description starts off with some great S words.

Sexy, surprising, and subversively wise, Babyji is the story of Anamika Sharma, a spirited student growing up in Delhi. At school she is an ace at quantum physics. At home she sneaks off to her parents’ scooter garage to read the Kamasutra. Before long she has seduced an elegant older divorcée and the family servant, and has caught the eye of a classmate coveted by all the boys.

With the world of adulthood dancing before her, Anamika confronts questions that would test someone twice her age. Ebullient, unfettered, and introducing one of the most charming heroines in contemporary fiction, Babyji is irresistible.

Abby Spencer
Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj
Why I should have read this book on my Indian vacation:
Because I secretly wish to be an extra in a Bollywood film (or at the very least for those around me to randomly break into song and dance).

What thirteen-year-old Abby wants most is to meet her father. She just never imagined he would be a huge film star–in Bollywood! Now she’s traveling to Mumbai to get to know her famous father. Abby is overwhelmed by the culture clash, the pressures of being the daughter of India’s most famous celebrity, and the burden of keeping her identity a secret. But as she learns to navigate her new surroundings, she just might discover where she really belongs.

KarmaKarma by Cathy Ostlere
Why I should have read this book on my Indian vacation:
Because I love books in verse and one of the few biographies I ever enjoyed enough to finish was on Indira Gandhi.

On October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi is gunned down by two Sikh bodyguards. The murder sparks riots in Delhi and for three days Sikh families are targeted and killed in retribution for the Prime Minister’s death. It is into this chaos that sixteen-year-old Maya and her Sikh father, Amar, arrive from their home in Canada. India’s political instability is the backdrop and catalyst for Maya’s awakening to the world.

Do you have a favorite book featuring Indian characters or set in India? What books should I add to my list?

Hilda and the Midnight Giant

3 Feb

hilda
Hilda can make friends with just about any creature, which is a good thing seeing as the valley where she and her mother lives offers frequent sightings of unusual beings. But not all creatures love Hilda back and one night she and her mother receive an eviction notice from an army of elves who don’t want them living in the valley anymore. Her mother thinks they should just move to the city, but Hilda wants to remain in the one place she has ever called home. So she sets off to try to work things out with the leaders of the elf community and at night she also catches glimpses of a mountain-sized giant.

While the first Hilda tale, Hildafolk, is quite small, with Hilda and the Midnight Giant Nobrow Press went large-scale (approx. 8.5 x 12 inches), which allows Pearson to utilize several different panel layouts from single panel pages to 17 panel pages. He even lets elements escape the panels altogether or lets panels overlap one another. Its both playful and purposeful and complements the story well.

image from Nobrow Press site.

image from Nobrow Press site.


 
Hilda is a spunky, brave, and resourceful girl.  The look Pearson has designed for her is eye-catching with her blue hair, pointy nose, large eyes, big red boots, and stick figure legs, and the creatures she encounters are diverse and imaginative. With the story, I especially appreciate the way Hilda’s issue with the elves and the mystery of the giant tie together. The conclusion is sweet, unites with the theme of home and homeland, and mixes emotion and humor quite well. While the Hilda stories would be accessible and enjoyable for younger readers, Pearson’s thoughtful layout, engaging visuals, and imaginative characters will be attractive to just about anyone with an open mind. I can’t wait to read Hilda and the Bird Parade, the next in series, which I’ve heard is even better!

Em’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Author/Illustrator: Luke Pearson
Publisher: Nobrow Press, 2012

Battling Boy

24 Jan

Battling-Boy-cover
The monster-infested city of Arcopolis finds itself without a hero when the vigilante monster fighter, Haggard West, is killed in battle. Luckily for them, there’s a 12-year-old demi-god, known as Battling Boy, in need of a little hero initiation (his “rambling”), and his parents have picked Arcopolis as his training ground. Armed with magical, totemic t-shirts, Battling Boy answers the call to adventure and begins battling the city’s monsters. Meanwhile, Aurora West, daughter of the late Haggard West, trains to take over her father’s mission, and the city’s monsters respond to the news of the city’s new hero.

Battling Boy is the first installment in a new series from Paul Pope; the only downside to this is that I don’t have the second book in my hands at this very moment. Paul Pope’s artwork is brilliant, eye-catching, and like nothing I’ve seen before; while this is not the first Paul Pope comic, it was my personal introduction to his work. The artwork alone is reason enough to enjoy this graphic novel, but in addition, the story is engaging, the characters are memorable, and the themes of fear of failure and the pressure of living up to parents’ expectations are ones that many young readers will relate to.

Pope_Humbaba

While Battling Boy is clearly our main hero, he’s still learning the ropes, making mistakes, and calling in for help when needed – he’s in training after all. Aurora West doesn’t get nearly as much attention, but we see enough to feel invested in her character and to hope for a partnership between these two young heroes as they continue to fight, learn, and grow in future volumes. Both Battling Boy and Aurora West are genuinely unique and likable, so there was no wishing the story would focus more attention on one or the other, as I’ve found at times with other dual hero stories. And let’s not forget the monsters! The main villains/henchmen throughout are Sadisto and his gang of schemers, kidnappers, and murderers, and they are plenty entertaining and evil, but the giant car-chomping Humbaba is just about my favorite comic book monster that I’ve ever seen!

I can’t wait to dive into this world again, and thankfully won’t have to wait too long as Fall 2014 brings us a prequel, The Rise of Aurora West! More more more more more. Please.

Em’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author/Illustrator: Paul Pope
Publisher: First Second (Oct. 2013)

Doll Bones

20 Jan

Doll Bones
Zach may be too old to play with dolls, but he doesn’t let that stop him. He and his friends Alice and Poppy have been acting out an adventurous storyline with dolls and action figures for almost as long as they have been friends. When Zach’s dad throws all his toys away, it looks like their storytelling days are over. Only, there’s still one great adventure to tell, and it stars the friends themselves. Poppy claims to be haunted by a dead girl, a ghost who claims that The Queen (a bone china doll that’s off limits from game play) is made from her ashes. The ghost demands that the children bring the doll to the cemetery in the town where she lived and give her the burial she deserves. Otherwise, the dead girl will haunt the friends forever.

Focusing on Zach’s experience of events and performed by Nick Podehl, this story is more about growing up, friendship, and creativity than it is a ghost story. There is plenty of adventure and some creepy moments with the doll, but the story always comes back to the three friends navigating the transition between childhood and adolescence. Nick Podehl skillfully captures the story’s pace and the changes that the characters, both male and female, go through during their adventures. Doll Bones is a great choice for young readers who want to read something scary, but can’t quite handle a real horror story yet. But other readers will also find much to love here, from the solid character development to the friends’ quest to find their way to the doll’s burial ground.

Em’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Author: Holly Black
Reader: Nick Podehl
Publishers:Listening Library and Margaret K. McElderry Books (2013)

Dear Girls: You are unique and powerful so please go away. Love, Disney

18 Jan

Disney's Frozen

Thanks to many positive early reviews, I got it in my head that Frozen was a film to be excited about – a Disney film that for the first time usurped the traditional princess fairy tale of being rescued by a knight in shining armor for a more feminist telling celebrating the bonds of sisterhood.

Not so fast, Disney. I’m calling bulls**t.

Though Frozen boasts two female lead characters, passes the Bechdel Test (barely) and defines “true love” as an act of sisterhood, the most straightforward message in this purportedly feminist film – a film whose target audience is young girls – is that that which is unique, special, and powerful about you is also dangerous, shameful and must be hidden. A subtler message: girls are emotional time-bombs who can’t be trusted to control their bodies or their minds.

Princess sisters - Anna and Elsa

Princess #1, Elsa, has a unique and powerful ability – she can “freeze things.” Princess #2, Anna, is an innocent (i.e.: normal) girl. Together, in the privacy of their castle, the sisters play in a winter wonderland of Elsa’s creation until a misdirected freeze ray accidentally hits Anna in the head. So, the King and Queen, decide to close the castle gates and keep Elsa quarantined from EVERYONE, including Anna. Not only does this alienate Elsa from the entire world but also it robs Anna of her playmate and sister with no explanation whatsoever. Did you know that the first step in the cycle of abuse and colonization is isolation? I’m just saying.

Then the parents die and the two girls are truly alone – Anna left to wonder why her sister won’t speak, play or even talk to her and Elsa confined to her bedroom by fear of her uncontrollable “gift.” When the sisters finally emerge from the castle, years later for “Coronation Day”/Elsa’s 18th birthday, Anna’s desire for connection leads her to immediately become engaged to a visiting prince and Elsa’s inability to control her power leads her to banish herself to the top of a mountain.

And that’s only the first 30 minutes of the film! WHAT THE WHAT, DISNEY?!?

Overall, the majority of the critiques of Frozen can be attributed to poor storytelling but to use that, as an excuse would be to ignore that the holes in the story are a direct consequence of Disney’s commitment to reinforcing traditional gender roles that scare girls into submission. Here’s how in three easy steps:

Elsa

1. Being a girl is bad: Elsa has been raised to believe her power, her gift, that which makes her unique (SUBTEXT: HER GIRL-NESS) is what is wrong with her. She is the villain and for no reason at all except she was born different from everyone else. She doesn’t even get a fairy godmother or some dancing snowflake to share comical words of wisdom. I mean, DANG. Even Cinderella had birds helping her dress. Elsa has to be scared of her abilities because what would it mean to acknowledge a girl’s power and teach her how to use it? Seriously, Disney? Hollywood? America? Why aren’t we telling that story?

2. Feelings are bad: “Don’t feel. Conceal” becomes Elsa’s mantra in order for her to cope with her uniqueness. Disney is point blank telling girls that their thoughts – their emotions – are things to be ashamed of. The fact that this catchy little rhyme is actually repeated multiple times throughout the film guarantees that it will imprint on it’s audience – it’s audience full of young, impressionable girls. In an era where one of TV’s most revered female characters successes relies on listening to her “gut,” Disney is brainwashing little girls to ignore, distrust and devalue that voice. Instead they are telling them to “Let it Go.” Yep, the solo power ballad meant to celebrate Elsa’s claiming of her power is sung to an audience of none and comes complete with a “costume change” of the typical Disney transformation including loose hair and new dress with a sexy slit straight up her just turned 18-year-old thigh.

3. Power is bad: Elsa is never given any agency when it comes to her ability. It is a “gift” that alienates her to a life of solitude and serves no purpose for the greater good or even Elsa herself. The origin of her power is unclear (we assume she was born with it) but what is made icily clear is how her ability is triggered (by her emotions) or controlled (it isn’t). Sure, Clark Kent and Peter Parker were awkward social loners caught within the tension of their “normal” lives and their super powers. BUT, like most male characters with super-human powers, they actively participated in society because they were given the capability to control their powers. They had jobs, they had friends – even romantic relationships, and when they were called upon to use their unique power it was in protection of their communities. Don’t get it twisted, my pretty. Frozen isn’t a super hero story; it’s a princess story.

images-2

Final proof that this film is about as feminist as Robin Thicke, the majority of the plot and subsequent screen time is dedicated to Anna’s journey to find Elsa which she does with the help of…you guessed it, A MAN! Thanks to a descriptive opening song and ample dialogue we know more about the character Sven than both girls combined.

UGH and SIGH.

Frozen is just another Hollywood vehicle reminding girls and women that if you are talented, especially innately (God-given), beyond explanation (witchcraft) or in a way that threatens the status quo (if Elsa can just make ice appear out of thin air what will the big, strong men do for work?) then you are doomed to a life of solitude and loneliness. You might still get to be Queen but your talent will be used only for entertainment or self-preservation rather than to solve problems or help you better lead your kingdom.

Just ask Hilary.

This post was originally posted on our sister site pop!goesalicia.

Sumo

5 Jan

Sumo
Scott’s dream of making it to the NFL didn’t come to fruition, and then his girlfriend of four years dumped him. When we first meet Scott, however, he’s in a much different place: he’s sporting a new look and training in a sumo heya in Japan. The story then jumps back and forth between his time training for and participating in an important bout, his departure from the States, and his arrival at the sumo training quarters and meeting Asami, the daughter of Scott’s trainer. The different time periods are marked by color – blue for his last moments in the States, green for his initial time at the sumo heya, and orange for his training and the important match that will determine whether he stays or returns home. His trainer tells him that the three most important things in sumo are the body, mind, and spirit. He clearly has the body advantage, but will he be able to find the center that he’s been missing for so long? Does he have what it takes?

Thien Pham’s minimalist artwork and the calm pacing of the story make for a rather poetic read. The quiet, slow, gracefulness of sumo wrestling comes across through the visual storytelling. While there is a calmness to the storytelling there is also a bit of action during the training scenes. On first reading, I was drawn to the subtle and efficient style and the overall mood of the book. However, I found Sumo even more enjoyable and interesting upon reread and after learning a bit about sumo wrestling.

Em’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Author/Illustrator: Thien Pham
Publisher: First Second (Dec. 2012)

Between readings of Sumo my super fabulous cousin Liz became an amateur sumo champ! She competed in her first tournament over the summer representing the USA in the World Games, where she became the first female American to ever win a match! Later in the year she won both the Middleweight Gold and Openweight Gold at the US Open. You can watch her kicking butt in the video below (starting around the 1:40 mark).

Kid Lit Review: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

20 Oct

miraculous journey of edward tulane cover

Edward Tulane is not your average rabbit, nor is he your average child’s toy. Edward Tulane is a china rabbit with real rabbit fur ears and tail. He wears a fancy suit and a pocket watch and he is loved by 10-year-old Abilene. He is very pleased with himself. Abilene’s grandmother is less pleased, as she feels that he should love Abilene as much as she loves him. When Edward is taken on a sea voyage, Abilene becomes involved in a tussle over the rabbit with some boys, which results in Edward Tulane being flung overboard and sinking to the bottom of the sea. Thus begins his journey through life in various settings and with various owners. Throughout his journeys, Edward has no choice but to wait in the hopes that Abilene or some other kind soul will come for him and treat him with care and kindness. In the process, he learns to open his heart and feel genuine love for his caregivers.

Like many stories that have come before, this story centers on the private life of a child’s plaything. Unlike some of these stories, Edward Tulane does not come to life when the children are away. Rather he is always feeling, thinking, seeing, and hearing, though without being able to speak or move on his own. This affects the timeline of his journey, as he waits for days, months, or seasons at a time for someone to discover him and take him with them. The story is punctuated throughout by Edward’s growth as a character as he learns to open his heart to others, and by his deep feeling of loss as he is separated from his various owners without getting to say goodbye. Prepare to be moved, perhaps even to tears.

DiCamillo’s beautiful writing may at times be challenging for young readers, but in a way that is inviting rather than intimidating. The short chapters are accompanied by beautiful, full-color plates and sepia-toned illustrations by artist Bagram Ibatoulline. This along with the many cliffhanger chapter endings and near constant movement from setting to setting will help draw readers in and keep them deeply engaged.

Em’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: Bagram Ibatoulline
Publisher: Candlewick (February 2006) (ages 7 and up)