Thursday, September 24, 2009
In a Nutshell:
This is a classic children's book about a group of woodland animals who are friends. These animals all have different personalities and all have to deal with their "project friend", Toad, who is wealthy and always getting himself into trouble (particularly with motorcars). Each animal has their cozy home and has their own adult foibles and strengths that make them very humorous and interesting. It is hard to believe that this was written for children because of how advanced the writing is. Graham uses eloquent words and wonderful, descriptive sentences that I would assume most young children nowadays would have trouble with. Maybe kids were smarter back in the day? I wouldn't doubt it!
You may ask yourself why would you want to read a children's book? This is a classic that is often referenced here and there in literature and popular culture. I often wondered about this book and I finally checked it out of the library. It was a refreshing read, no doubt. But as I said above, the writing was pretty advanced for children. That being said, the adventures these animals have are fun and enjoyable, at times even downright funny. I read this in late September and that ended up being a perfect month to read this. Graham's beautiful descriptions of the forest and the season's changing around the animals were a perfect backdrop for watching the end of summer moving into the fall, awaiting the first snow and starting to "hibernate" myself! Toad is a really funny, outlandish character, and as the other animals struggle staying friends with him, you can completely relate to having a friend like Toad. You know-a friend that drives you crazy and drags you into his outlandish schemes, and yet you can't help but love him and try to help. That's the much loved Toad. And I think you will love this book. Once finished, you'll understand why it's a classic.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
In a Nutshell:
This book was about the nutmeg trade in the Indonesian Islands during the Dutch colonization. Needless to say, that is a very interesting combination of subjects blended together, and creates a fertile ground for storytelling. First, you have the people of Banda, tropical and exotic, and the characters and culture that this island gives birth to. Then you have the Dutch aristocracy intermingling with this exotic culture. The main characters in this plot are a Dutch nutmeg plantation owner (Evert Haan), his half brother who is a trading ship captain, and the plantation owner's wife, Annabet, who marries him through a "glove" marriage (arranged and unseen until showing up at the dock). Annabet shows up close to death and very ugly through battling illness and fever. Evert is repulsed and orders her killed, but through island cures and fresh air, recovers her health and beauty in time for Evert to return from a trip and fall in love with her. Woven throughout the story is a mysterious, exotic and dark character, native to the island, who "helps" various wealthy townspeople with dark errands and black market dealings. But at the end, you soon find out that this character had his own dark agenda all along.
I found this book at a yard sale that our neighbor was having. She is a retired librarian, so I am always intrigued by her book collection. She had this hardcover book out for 75¢ with a note that said "A Good Story", which pretty much sold me! So if you do wish to read this, I would check it out of the library or buy it second hand, because it is out of print. But I will tell you, I enjoyed the read. It took a handful of pages to get into at first, but if you stick with it, it is a very interesting story. There is not much written about the nutmeg trade and the people of Banda-or the Dutch colonists for that matter. It was very engaging to learn about these cultures and time periods. The love story between Annabet and a strange Englishman who's life she saves was the one relationship I did not find believable. She spends a few days nursing him back to health from a knife wound, and she falls in love with him. They don't even talk much during this encounter, really. It was a little childish. But the repercussions of those few days together are felt throughout the book as it relates to Annabet's relationship with her husband and with the townspeople as they prepare for war. It has a little "Casablanca" feel to it. I read it in the late summer and it was a great addition to warm beach days.