Gary Paulsen (Young Adult Fiction)
During the winter, Russel Susskit and his father live in a sixteen by twenty government house in a small Eskimo village. Come summer, both will move to the fish camps. For now, Russel wakes up every morning to his father’s smoking-induced cough; the absence of his mother, who left with a white trapper; and the growing unhappiness he feels when he thinks of his current life and, more importantly, his future. Russel wants to be more, but when he looks ahead, he only sees less. Russel’s father sends him to the local shaman, Oogruk, who owns the last team of dogs in the village. Oogruk tells Russel that he needs to discover his own song and returning to the old ways of his people may help. Driven by a recurring dream and a team of five great red dogs, Russel heads north searching for answers and a song.
Dogsong is divided into two parts: Russel’s training with Oogruk and his solitary journey north. It is the second part of this book that is disappointing and not particularly compelling. We find ourselves caught in a seemingly tedious storyline loop: run, eat, dream, repeat. The story drags like a sled maneuvering through slush and Paulsen fails to provide enough action to hold either the reader’s interest or attention. A sudden story twist near the end arrives far too late to save what could have been an interesting boy-versus-nature adventure story.
One notable bright spot was Oogruk’s advice to Russel about life and living. “It isn’t the destination that counts,” Oogruk said. “It is the journey. That is what life is. A journey. Make it the right way and you will fill it correctly with days. Pay attention to the journey.” All too often we find ourselves consumed or distracted by the things that have little to no effect on our life or circumstances. In hindsight, we often come to realize that it is the small things that have the biggest impact. If we take an old shaman’s advice and simply look up, look around, and pay attention, perhaps we too can find the words to our own song.
* Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Kate DiCamillo (Juvenile Fiction)
“Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a rabbit who was made almost entirely out of china.”
Edward Tulane is almost three feet tall (from the tip of his ears to the tip of his feet) and is the beloved companion of ten-year old Abilene Tulane. A birthday present to Abilene from her grandmother Pellegrina, Edward thinks of himself as a rather fine specimen. He adores his fancy outfits and very much prefers not to think of unpleasant thoughts. But one day, something rather unpleasant does occur and that, I’m afraid to say, leads to only more unpleasantness. You see, Edward is a rabbit who only truly cares about himself, but all that is about to change very, very soon.
DiCamillo is one of the most talented and gifted children’s authors of this generation. Her characters reach deep into your soul and her stories leave an indelible mark on your heart. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is perhaps my favorite DiCamillo book. It’s a story about learning to love and being loved. It’s about belonging to a family and finding your way home. Edward never knew about love, but then he opened his ears and began to listen. When he listened, he opened his mind and began to care. When he cared, he opened his heart and began to love…and that changed everything.
Abilene’s grandmother once asked her, “How can a story end happily if there is no love?” DiCamillo gives us an enchanting and heartwarming story that brims with love which, in turn, promises readers a very happy ending. Open this book, open your heart, and prepare yourself for an amazing and unforgettable journey with a china rabbit named Edward.
* Book cover image attributed to http://www.amazon.com
The Wind in the Willows
Kenneth Grahame (Young Adult Fiction)
Mole was working hard to clean his little home when something enticing and intriguing and beguiling begins to beckon. It is spring, and spring waits for no man…or mole. So when she calls, it’s best to answer, which is exactly what Mole does on this particular day. He pops out of his burrow and—with the sun warming his dark and rather dusty fur—heads out to see what he can see and what he sees…is a river! Unbeknownst to Mole, this very river would be the beginning of many wonderful adventures to come.
When The Wind in the Willows was written in 1907, Kenneth Grahame delighted the world with four unforgettable characters: impetuous and curious Mole, kind and generous Rat, indulgent and self-important Toad, and reclusive and wise Badger. But those who think this is merely just another children’s book should think again! Between the pages of this dusty jacket is a story that features a brazened auto theft, a bold prison escape, breaking and entering by a gang of ruffians and hooligans, and a good old-fashioned brawl thrown in at the end for good measure.
The Wind in the Willows is a beautifully-told tale of courage, mischief, greed, and friendship and Grahame continues to delight readers with an adventure book for the ages.