Archive for the ‘Clare Vanderpool’ Category

Are you in the mood for just the right amount of magic and puppetry and suspense and thievery? SplendorsAndGloomsIf that’s the case, then you’re in the mood for Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz, whose previous book, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village was a Newbery Award winner. Splendors and Gloooms is no slouch either, being a 2013 Newbery Honor Book.

Since I’m having trouble these days describing books, I’ll take the description off of the Association for Library Services to Children website: “Lizzie Rose, Parsefall and Clara are caught in the clutches of a wicked puppeteer and a powerful witch in this deliciously dark and complex tale set in Dickensian England, where adventure and suspense are interwoven into nuanced explorations of good versus evil.” It is deliciously dark and scary. You can feel the London fog wherever Lizzie Rose and Parsefall travel.

Parsefall is the perfect Dickensian ragamuffin and Lizzie Rose is his prim and proper, although poor, partner in crime, both dominated by greasy, master puppeteer Grisini–a perfect name for him. When these three perform at Clara’s twelfth birthday party and she  disappears soon thereafter, the plot thickens. How the bigger than life Cassandra, the powerful witch in her remote castle, enters into the story is for readers to find out. Even Ruby the spaniel is adorable.

Readers will feel like they are living through an 1860s London winter.They’ll certainly feel like they are part of the story, not merely reading it. They might find themselves shouting out loud, “No Parsefall, don’t do that!” or “Watch out. Grisini’s hiding there!” Even I was afraid of Grisini.

My daughter recommended this book to me, before it was voted an honor book, indicating her good taste in books. For some reason, Splendors and Glooms, to me, was a middle school version of Night Circus because they had that same foggy aura (although their subjects are somewhat different).

So, my 2013 has started off with a bang. I’ve finished Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool and now Splendors and Glooms. Next up is Courage Has No Color, The True Story of the Triple Nickles: America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone which is getting great reviews and The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver which has gotten great reviews. And then coming down the pike soon is Beth Kephart’s Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent, a prequel to Dangerous Neighbors. I know, also, that Susan Campbel Bartoletti’s new book, Down the Rabbit Hole: The Diary of Pringle Rose, is due out in March.  If my reading keeps up at this pace, 2013 is going to be a banner year.

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NavigatingEarlyWe are all on a quest. It is 1945, Early Auden is searching for his brother, thought to have been killed in France in World War II. John (Jackie) Baker III, uprooted from his land-locked Kansas home and relocated to coastal Maine soon after his mother died of cancer, is searching for redemption because he wasn’t at home when she died and he was supposed to take care of her in his father’s absence.

Early and Jackie meet at the Morton Hill Academy boarding school. Jackie’s first sight of Early is on the beach as Early is filling sandbags and piling them up. Early being a loner and Jackie being new to the school, it is an interesting fit.

When Jackie’s Naval father can’t make it to school to pick him up for Fall break, Jackie decides to accompany Early on a real quest, rather than be alone at school for a week. Interspersed with the journey is Early’s fascination with Pi and the thought that numbers in this equation might disappear, thus introducing the possibility that it is a finite vs. infinite number. Early sees Pi as more than merely numbers. It has color and shape and texture and he has created a story based on his vision, much of which plays out on their journey.

Although I’m not a fan of the phrase ‘coming of age’, Clare Vanderpool has written a fascinating story about two boys and many other characters that learn the truth about themselves and their worlds. There’s the ancient Mrs. Johannsen, waiting 50 years for her son to come home from the woods and the pirate MacScott carrying around his own burden. There is Gunnar, the woodsman, who has lost his way and his love because of one act. There is Jackie’s father who has divorced himself from memories of his wife. And there is Early and Jackie, two of the most likeable characters you’re likely to meet in a very long time.

Ms. Vanderpool’s Ackowledgement explains the ‘story behind the story’ and is worth reading.

The words. The story. The characters. I wouldn’t change a word of Clare Vanderpool’s Navigating Early. It is certainly in contention for one of the 10 Best Books of 2013..and it’s ‘early’ in the year…pun intended.

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