The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White
Wart lives in a small castle, where he knows that his name isn’t really Wart; it’s Art, and he’s not a true son of the man who lives there. Despite not being a true son and all, Wart does fairly well for himself. He does have tasks to complete, but everyone treats him kindly, for the most part. He even gets a tutor at one point, which he finds on his own. The tutor happens to be a strange man, who happens to also be a wizard, who happens to be named Merlin. It seems like Merlin moves in right away to start tutoring Wart and Kay, who is destined to be a knight.
Merlin’s tutoring isn’t of the normal kind of tutoring. He turns Wart into other creatures, like a fish, where he learns some of the ways of fish. Wart spends many hours in Merlin’s hut where there is a mustard pot that moves by itself and an owl named Archimedes who can talk. Merlin does appear and disappear from time to time, appearing in strange fashions that won’t come around for many more years.
At some point, the king dies and a rumor reaches the castle. There is a sword, in a stone, in London. Whosoever can pull it out will be the next king of England. Wart gets to go along with the whole castle so Kay can compete in competitions and try to pull the sword out of the stone, but what happens is something nobody expected.
What I liked
I have never read this book before, but I love it. I’ve seen the Disney movie, which is great in, and of, itself. I was so pleasantly surprised to find that the movie stuck really closely to the book, maybe not exactly, but you wouldn’t be terribly disappointed if you read the book first and then went to see the movie. I just wasn’t expecting the book to be this good.
Of course, this is a story based in Arthurian Legend, which I am not an expert in. This book is meant to be a funny poke at King Arthur’s childhood. There are some modern elements mixed in with a very old time period, which is fun. I’m pretty sure people weren’t singing God Save the King way back in the year 1000, or whenever Arthur was supposed to have lived. People didn’t even speak English, as we know it, then, so the words would have been a lot different, had the song existed then.
There is a lot of humor in this book. It is light-hearted, but there are also serious issues. We’re talking about a kid who may, or may not, have become a king at a very young age. The responsibility was bestowed upon him by some other-worldly realm. He didn’t get to make the decision himself. He never expected it though. We’re talking about a child who thought he might be a squire, at best, in his life, becoming the king of England, in essence we’re talking about someone who rose to greatness and was humble about it.
The illustration on the particular book cover I have chosen for this post looks like an Arthur Rackham, which is also a thing to like.
What I didn’t like
I really enjoyed this book so I don’t really want to pick at it.
This was a delight.
Did you enjoy the movie, The Sword in the Stone, growing up?
If you turned out to be something really important in society, would you believe it?
Wish You Well by David Baldacci
Lou and her brother Oz have to move to Virginia, to a farm, in fact, after they were in a terrible car accident. Their parents had been arguing about moving to California, when the accident occurred. Their father didn’t make it and their mother was left as a shell of herself. They were all put on a train to go live with their great-grandmother on her farm. Louisa is a tough woman, but is very caring and eager to give everyone the opportunities they deserve.
The two children soon make friends with a young man named Diamond, well, Jimmy, but everyone calls him Diamond. He has no family. Their great-grandmother looks after him. He’s free to roam the hills. Another man, named Eugene, but most people call him Hell No, lives with Louisa. People make a fuss about it because he’s black, but Louisa doesn’t care.
The local lawyer comes to read to their mother every day. All she does is sit there.
Besides their mother, there are other problems. Natural gas has been bound on their grandmother’s farm and a development company wants to buy it. They try to turn the entire town against her saying they won’t buy any property from anyone else in town, unless Louisa sells hers. There is a tragic accident in a mine, which causes everyone to mourn, but it also brings suspicion on the company trying to buy everyone out. More unfortunate things happen, but can the children avoid the most unfortunate thing of all?
What I liked
This is the first time I’ve read a David Baldacci book and I’m not disappointed. There are other writers who do the South better, but David does a pretty good job depicting Southern life. He’s depicting Southern mountain life, which is different from straight-up Southern life. There’s something different about mountain people from the South. I am technically a mountain person from the South, so you can probably take my word for it.
Grandmothers are pretty great. I liked that Lou and Oz got to know their grandmother for a while and learn from her. Sometimes, your grandmother can teach you the best lessons in life.
What I didn’t like
While I do feel that David did a great job with the whole Southern thing, I kind of feel some of the struggles that the people in this book face are cliché. You know, of course the small Southern town back in the 1940s-1950s is racist. Of course people don’t like that one person is friends with a black person. Of course some evil company does nefarious things trying to get someone’s land. Of course when you start talking about money, the rest of the town turns on you fast. Of course it’s the mom who went crazy.
I’ve read so many books where one, or more, of these issues is in the book. While it may be true that all of these issues could have been, and can be, very real problems, people do have other problems. Why is it never the dad who has the mental breakdown? It always seems like it’s the woman.
Hide your minerals! The big company is coming to take your land!
If some company offered you a lot of money for your land, would you sell it, knowing they were just going to destroy it?
Are stereotypical problems enjoyable to read about because they’re familiar, or do they get old?
Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris
Christian ran away from home and hid in the woods, that’s where Ed found him. Ed was a troll, who lived in a cave of crystals and wanted to get in on the tooth fairy business, but Mab wasn’t handing any of it over. Christian told Ed he would accuse him of kidnapping him if he ended up back at his parents’ house, so Christian stayed with Ed. Ed decided that Christian had to learn how to be a decent person, so he taught him all the manners he could find in his books.
Christian grew up and often watched the royal family across the river through a telescope. There were four daughters, three of them triplets. Christian watched as the older three got married and the youngest was still there. She liked to read on the terrace.
One day Christian send a message to her with a pigeon he had trained to deliver letters. A correspondence soon started between the two. Her name was Marigold. Christian decided to get a job at the castle. At first, Marigold didn’t know who he was. He learned of a curse upon Marigold, but it didn’t bother him any. As it turns out the queen, Marigold’s mother was up to some nefarious plottings. Christian and his inventions would be central in stopping those plottings, or at least delaying them.
What I liked
This story was definitely fanciful. It has many fairy tale elements we’re all used to, but a few more modern-day things thrown into the mix. Most of the characters were enjoyable. The story between Christian and Marigold is sweet.
What I didn’t like
This book ends exactly as you’d expect. It’s not a bad ending; it’s just predictable.
I find the use of “p-mail” silly. It’s clearly a play on “E-mail” which wouldn’t exist for quite some time after this era. It’s not a real era of history, but it closely parallels real eras of history that don’t have email. I know it’s pigeons, but in reality, they would have just said, “I’m going to send Bob a message by pigeon.” There wouldn’t be all this “p-mail” nonsense, but with this said,”p-mail” was intended to be a bit of a joke to lighten up the story, so pick your battles I suppose.
I also find it highly unrealistic that Christian would be accepted just like that without any verification of his identity, but maybe that’s a result of growing up through a post-9/11 world.
…Fun and cute story.
Would you use messenger pigeons if you had access to them?
Would you run away from home and stay there?
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Jacob’s grandfather had these crazy photos. He would tell Jacob, over and over again, about the children in the photos. There were fantastic stories to go along with each picture. This little girl could levitate. This brother and sister were very strong. It all captured Jacob’s imagination, until he grew up. At that point, Jacob’s grandfather was regarded as a stretcher of the truth.
Jacob was sixteen when he started working for one of his family’s stores, but then tragedy struck, Jacob’s grandfather was killed. Jacob saw a strange creature and reacted terribly to the death of his grandfather, whose last words did not make sense to Jacob. There was something about a loop and the old man’s grave and the bird. Jacob did not know what any of it meant. Jacob went to see a psychologist to help him with his recovery.
It was not until an old letter was found in a book that Jacob got a clue to his grandfather’s past. There was an address, a small Welsh island. Jacob decided that he needed to go and visit it. His father went along as well, to look at birds.
Things were not promising at first, but one day, Jacob followed a girl out into a bog and through an ancient grave, a cairn. When he came out the other side, he wasn’t in the same place he had left. There he found an array of children, many of which were too strange to believe. It was from Miss Peregrine, who ran the school, that Jacob learned that these people were called Peculiars and his grandfather had been one. The girl Jacob followed was named Emma and she had actually loved Jacob’s grandfather. Jacob’s grandfather had stayed at the very house that these strange children lived in, back in WWII, before he went to fight the war, and later, have an ordinary, or somewhat ordinary life.
During Jacob’s time on the island, he learned that his grandfather was much more than anyone had ever dreamed of. Jacob also finds that he has a gift of his own. There were terrible things afoot for anyone who was Peculiar and Jacob would do what he could to help.
What I Liked
This was quite an interesting story. It’s a bit of a different take on people who are “different.” Wouldn’t it be really neat if there were actually people who were different in some of the unique ways that stories say they can be different? What if there was something more than just being human? It’s a neat idea.
The idea of the loops is interesting as well, although, it does sound like an awfully big responsibility for the people who are able to create loops. I like that time travel is thrown into this story. Time travel is a special interest of mine, being a lover of Doctor Who and Back to the Future.
What I didn’t like
This book follows the traditional, “I didn’t know I was special, but I found out I’m special, I thought I was ordinary, and I have a family legacy of being special” pattern. How many times has this very pattern been written out? A lot. I get it, you thought you were ordinary, you found out you’re extraordinary, and people in your family weren’t so ordinary either, and now you feel like you’ve found yourself. I like stories like this, but there’s nothing exciting over the basic plot line of this story.
I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.
Do you wish that you were more than human?
If you could travel in time, would you?
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Willowdean, sometimes called Will by her friends, is a high school student in a small Texas town that is famed for its beauty pageant. Will’s mother once won the pageant and now plays a huge part in putting on the pageant every single year. A person might think that Will entered the pageant as soon as she was able, but Will hasn’t because she is overweight. Will has friends, but she doesn’t have the life that they have, because thinner people just get more.
It’s not until the summer that Will just gets tired of all the things she’s not supposed to do because she’s fat. She starts flirting with a co-worker. She admires her aunt, who died tragically at a rather young age, and when school gets back in session, she enters the beauty pageant, along with several other girls pushed to the margins of high school society because of their physical appearance.
The pageant causes rifts in Will’s friendship with her best friend Ellen, but also with potential suitors. Will is surprised to find that a couple of guys do like her and they both vie for her attention. Meanwhile, the other girls see Will as a rolemodel. Will follow through with her pageant plan while remembering her aunt, listening to Dolly Parton, and getting the help of some Texas Dolly Parton lookalike, drag-queens.
What I liked
I think this story is sweet and I do think it is encouraging. We’re too often told by society, that if we don’t look a certain way then certain things are not in our futures. I think stories like this are helpful to show people who may not fit into society’s ideal beauty standard that you shouldn’t miss out on life just because you’re not Cindy Crawford, or whoever it is that people are idolizing these days. Nicki Minaj?
Willowdean is a likeable character in many ways.
What I didn’t like
While there are things to like about this book, there’s a lot to not like.
First of all, pageants are stupid. It’s a thing where young thin girls and their mothers spend a lot of money on makeup and clothes to see who can out-dress and out-makeup one another. It’s not all flash. I do actually know a Miss United States and she’s a very nice person and not unintelligent, in fact, she has a doctorate. She’s most definitely tall and thin though. Besides this very nice person that I know, I don’t think that pageants hold a lot of merit and I think it takes a certain amount of thinness and money to seriously compete in them, which is not something that is open to everybody. So pageants are a very exclusive thing and I generally tend to be an inclusive person.
Second of all, look here–as much as books try to make inroads for people to quit being dicks about people’s weight, it’s not happening. People still think they’re entitled to discriminate against a person because of their weight, all the while, choosing to ignore the fact that discrimination based on weight is no different from discriminating against someone for their skin color, height, disability, speech impediment, religion, race, and every other defining characteristic that you can think of. It’s not nice, hence my usage of the word dick instead of jerk. Being a dick is worse than being a jerk, so I just wanted to drive home the point how unhumanbeinglike discriminating against a person because of their weight is. People are incredibly mean about this for no good reason and I mean vicious. People get really angry about it as if someone who is sixty pounds overweight has personally offended them and their ancestors by existing.
Will’s story is nice; it’s sweet; it makes us want to champion the underdog, but seriously, when do you see society lightening up and saying, “You know what, I think I will vote for the overweight girl to be homecoming queen”?
I don’t think Will’s scenario is likely to happen. We’re making progress as a society. We have some beautiful women who are not stick thin modeling for all sorts of places, but that honestly hasn’t changed how people act. They’re still dicks. I wish with all my heart that a bunch of overweight girls would get voted prom queen and win beauty pageants, but I think we’re still a long a way off.
This story has a love triangle, which is basically true of any novel geared towards young adult girls, apparently. Look, girls, you’re not going to get into high school and find that you have two men fighting over you. It might happen, but probably not. You’re also not going to grow up and have two men vying for your attention. Usually, it’s just the one man, and sometimes not even the one man.
The hard truth of the matter is that men will overlook you, many times, if you don’t look a certain way. The good thing about that is that usually if you do find a man who genuinely seems to care for you, he actually does care for you and it’s not some superficial bullcrap that would fade away if you gained fifty pounds all of a sudden.
I want to empower young women as much as anyone else, but it still seems that society doesn’t want young women to be empowered, so in reality, you have to empower your young women, but also teach them to fight, because they’re going to have to fight for the right to be empowered in the first place. This story does this to a degree, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s definitely not a be-all end-all book for the empowerment of young women, but it is a step in the right direction.
Girl, don’t worry about being in a pageant, get yourself a degree in rocket science.
If you’re trying to empower a young woman, do you think this book would help?
Do young women need stories like this?