Monday, April 14, 2008

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

I believe The True Confessions won the Newberry Medal in 1991. I have never felt a book more deserving of that honor. The story examines many themes. Honor, truth, justice, sacrifice, honesty, and the idea that sometimes events change us forever in ways which make it impossible to return to our former lives are a few of these. I LOVED this book. It was exciting, well-written and I couldn't put it down. I read the entire thing in half a day.

The story follows Charlotte, a thirteen year-old girl in the early 19th century, as she makes her way across the Atlantic alone to join her family in America. On the way she encounters dangers, intrigues and adventures which change her outlook on society- and herself- forever. This book is definitely Something More Substantial. READ IT!

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Cry, the Beloved Country is set in post-WWII South Africa during the prelude to Apartheid. The story is about (Stephen) Kumalo, a pastor who witnesses the destruction of the family, the tribe, and the land around him. As Kumalo works to put the pieces of all these things back together, he learns some of the greatest truths in the world: the more civilized we are the less civilized we become, that defending the family is essential to our success as a people, and that forgiveness- the greatest of all gifts- can bring about miracles in the unlikeliest of places.

The story is very sad for the first two-thirds of the book and you should probably skip this one if you are depressed or have a prodigal in your family. If you are fortunate enough not to be in these circumstances however, I definitely think this book is Something More Substantial. The at-times lyrical writing conveys a beautiful overall message and the ideas about family and community are worth pondering for anyone.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

This novel is a captivating depiction of life as an autisic teenage boy. The story is told through the eyes of the boy as if he is the author of the story. When Christopher John Francis Boone decides to investigate the death of a neighborhood dog, he discovers much more than he sets out to. He sets in motion a series of events that will lead him, not only on an emotional journey, but a journey of great distance as well.

I found this book a fascinating peek into autism and the thought processes of those who have it. It is poignant, thought-provoking, and an easy read. The story doesn't resolve at the end of the book and the book is very sad in some places. Overall, I enjoyed it very much. The book has some profanity in it but most of the characters are, on the whole, good people who you empathize with. I thought this book was Something More Substantial.