Monthly Archives: May 2017

There Might Be Lobsters, by Carolyn Crimi

There Might Be LobstersSukie was a timid, little dog with an exuberant girl named Eleanor and a small, stuffed monkey named Chunka Munka. Although Eleanor encouraged her and even carried her down to the edge of the ocean, Sukie just could not summon up the nerve to go into the water, because

 

 

“Sukie was just a small dog,

and those waves were big,

and they were whooshy,

and they were salty, and they were too wet…

and, besides, there might be lobsters.”

So, Eleanor ran out to play in the waves while Sukie and Chunka Munka sat on the too-sandy beach and watched. Suddenly, disaster struck, and Chunka Munka was washed out to sea, and even though she was a little dog, Sukie courageously rushed to save her, heedless of the danger, because Chunka Munka was even smaller than she was.

Laurel Molk’s watercolor illustrations capture this serious pup on a brilliant summer’s day, with all of the people and activities a child would encounter on the beach. Eleanor, brown-skinned with a fluffy, brown pony tail, is always encouraging, but never pushy. There are no grown-ups with them, but Eleanor has wonderful parenting skills of her own.

This sweet and funny picture book is a delightful summer read for any preschooler, and it might even convince your apprehensive little one to take the plunge. Highly recommended.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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Thick as Thieves, by Megan Whalen Turner

Thick As ThievesAlthough he was a slave, Kamet was more than satisfied with his life as secretary to the brother of the heir to the throne of the Mede empire. He is well-educated, well-dressed, and well fed. He is even amassing his own personal library, and when the new emperor ascends to the throne, who knows? He may be given to him as a gift. Aside from the occasional beating, Kamet was a man of authority.

When his beloved Laela pulls him aside in the hallway to whisper that their master had been poisoned, he panics. Slaves are always tortured when a murder has been committed, and many are killed when their masters die of any cause. Kamet decides to accept an Attolian’s offer to help him escape, leaving all of his possessions behind. This journey has none of the royal accoutrements to which Kamet is accustomed; there is hunger, danger, and endless fatigue. Furthermore, Kamet had only intended to escape his master’s guards. Now he has to figure out how to escape from the Attolian.

Thick as Thieves is the latest volume in the brilliant, award-winning “Queen’s Thief” series by Megan Whalen Turner. Although this book stands on its own, readers of the earlier episodes will recognize Kamet as a minor character whose life now moves to the center of the action. The identity of the man called “the Attolian” almost all the way through will slowly become clear. After Kamet endures experiences that change him into a much wiser man, the reader will delight to see many earlier characters gathered together to resolve the mystery of why an officious, little scholar would be so important to an enemy king.

“The Queen’s Thief” remains one of my favorite series in young adult literature. I have reviewed the entire series here. I am looking forward to meeting Megan Whalen Turner at Book Expo in New York next week, and I’ll be sure to ask her several nervous questions about the fate of a couple of my favorite characters. Some of her hints at the end of this book have me on pins and needles!

Very highly recommended.

Disclaimer: I read an advance reader copy of this book, although I hope to obtain a signed copy next week! Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead

Underground RailroadHer mother ran away when Cora was still a little girl, leaving her to fend for herself on the Randall plantation. After a few years had toughened her, Caesar asked her to escape with him on the Underground Railroad. At first, Cora said no, but when she shielded a little boy from a beating, and was beaten and whipped as a punishment, they waited for an opportunity to flee. It was not that simple, though. Even slaves who escaped their masters could not walk freely in the United States, and each destination brought new horrors and unimagined dangers.

Whitehead portrays the Underground Railroad as an actual railway with stations in cellars and caverns, and rails that run under our feet for thousands of miles. His narrative spans Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Indiana, and each state highlights a different facet of the huge, tentacled evil of slavery. The scene in Georgia is the one that most of us picture: a large plantation with slave cabins and cotton fields. However, as she travels, Cora sees medical experimentation, forced sterilization, lynchings, and relentless pursuit by slave catchers. White people who shelter runaways or even speak about abolition are in mortal danger, as well. As escaped slaves and free blacks move north, those towns grumble about the incoming wave of blacks, and begin to segregate their businesses and cooperate with the slave hunters. Cora finds herself in a never-ending struggle to break free.

The Underground Railroad has recently won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I have always considered the Pulitzer and the National Book Award to be the most dependable prizes for real readers. Except for Hilary Mantel’s novels, the Booker Prize seems to go to the “Most Esoteric” works of literature, and the Nobel Prize winners can be equally obscure. Others are narrow in focus, such as the Edgar and the Hugo. However, starting with Annie Dillard’s A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (General Nonfiction, 1975), I have read through many Pulitzer Prize winners with great appreciation, and Whitehead’s latest is no exception. It is by turns tragic, hopeful, breathless, horrifying, and beautiful, and reading it should disabuse anyone of the belief that legality and morality are synonymous. Any law that makes it legal for one human being to hold the power of life and death over another human being warps our society so that even those who do not participate, but only make the laws or vote for them, perhaps those who approve of the laws or help to enforce them, or even perhaps those who do or say nothing to fight for those who are weak and perishing are complicit in the same evil.

Very highly recommended.

Disclaimer: I own a copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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