Monday, November 19, 2012

Winter Read Alouds

Read - alouds can be a great way to spend time with others. Steve and I usually have a read-aloud on the go. We eagerly anticipated .....

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Silver by Andrew Motion. I was so disappointed. Motion was the poet laureate of England a few years back, this tale is supposed to be about the adventures of the son of Jim Hawkins from the Hispanola and the daughter, Natty, of Long John Silver. The two kids come together at the manipulations of Long John Silver to return to Treasure Island and get the rest of the treasure.

 She rowed to get him. He dithered.

He rowed to get her. She bollocked around.

They took forever to steal the original map. Why didn't he do that before he went to get her?

They rowed back to London. He was a simp.

It took nearly 100 pages for the two of them to get out of the Thames River. Son of Jim just whines and imagines his way to the island, Natty isn't so much a character as a figment of Son of Jim's imagination. In the few adventures the two do encounter, Son of Jim is far from the center of activity and supposes his way through recollecting what other characters might have done. What a bust. I took up knitting while listening to the book, so I could feel the time wasn't fully wasted. Why we persisted to the end, I don't really know. I was glad to arrive at the end of it. And curse it all, we bought it in hard cover, we had such hopes.(It's on sale now at Amazon)

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Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters. This is the first in a long series with heroine Amelia Peabody. It takes place in the 1800's in Egypt at the time when archeology is at the stage where it is trying to define itself and its methods. With a bit of slap stick comedy and some snappy dialogues, Amelia, her trusty umbrella and her 'tarnished' friend find themselves camping at a dig near some cliff caves in the desert. Abandoned by the workers, threatened by a mummy and romanced by a pair of eccentric brothers, the two women have an exciting few weeks along the Nile.

Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer. This is our current read aloud and it's a rip snorter. Bloody Jack is twelve or thirteen, she isn't really sure. Orphaned at eight, she is a gutter kid who managed to charm her way onto a man-o-war in the guise of a boy because she can read. She has to keep her true identity hidden, try to keep her naturally ebullient nature suppressed, and learn how to survive as a ship's boy on a fighting vessel. Up to now she has been in a battle against pirates, sailed to Caribbean to find more pirates, lost a friend in a battle and buried him at sea, had a tattoo put on her hip bone, and discovered first love. For another ship's boy, who doesn't know she is a girl. Ooops. How's that gonna work out?

It is  nice to read these books in front of the fire in the winter and then hurry upstairs to get into the cold bed.  In the summer we read by lantern when we are at the camp or on the back porch at home before the bugs come out. It is a nice way to bring the evening to a close and a terrific alternative to television. We take turns reading out loud, sometimes both of us on a night, sometimes only one of us reading. The search for the next book is part of the fun.

We have our Saint Nicholaas book identified and ordered, a paperback version of....

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We have read the first three over the years and find Flavia to be a delightful character. Book One has been the best, Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Book Two, 'The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag' stood up well, but book three, 'A Red Herring Without Mustard' wasn't that strong in plot or characters. Even Flavia seemed a little dull. The fourth one promises to be a typical British mystery with a Christmas theme thrown in. Since we are buying it to read over Christmas, it should be fine.

In an interview on BBC's Radio 4 program, Open Book, some famous writer told some famous radio personality that any book makes a good read aloud if it is a good book to begin with. I used to try and find a book that specifically met my idea of what a read aloud should sound like but now we have found that the advice is true. If it is a good book to begin with, and the plot interests you, it will probably read well. That advice doesn't work for non-fiction though. We've tried one on the nature of salt marshes, one on birds and one on the genetic history of mankind. Nope, not enough plot to work as a read aloud. All of them still good for a quiet read to oneself though. I wonder how a biography would work? Is there anyone interesting enough to spend 300 pages aloud with? I mean, more interesting than a 12 year old on board a man-o-war who will save the day? I doubt it.

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