Monday, December 22, 2008

When the Legends Die by Hal Borland

Thomas Black Bull and his parents return to the wilderness to live in the old way after Thomas' father kills a man. When his father dies in an accident and his mother follows as a result of illness and grief soon after, Thomas is left alone. He has no desire to return to the white man's world and lives peacefully on his own for several years, befriending an orphaned bear cub along the way and renaming himself Bear's Brother.

Eventually, he is discovered and forced to attend school in town, where he is miserable. The teachers and officials at the school, some well-meaning and some not, try to "help" and "civilize" him. In the process, they make him ever more angry and miserable as they take away his connection with the old ways.

I loved the first and last parts of this book, but the middle, where Thomas becomes a brutal bronco rider known as Killer Tom, lost me. Readers who enjoy action may well like this part, but I was appalled at Thomas' brutality and had a hard time feeling sympathetic towards him.

In the end, Thomas is redeemed and manages to recapture his connection to his past. While the "happy" ending may be perceived as a bit too neat, I like to believe that this is how life is--that we all have the ability, however deeply it hides inside of us, to be true to ourselves.

Overall, I highly recommend this book.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Redwall by Brian Jacques

Book one in the Redwall series.

I picked this up on a whim the other day and was immediately drawn into the beautifully detailed world of Redwall and its animal inhabitants.

Redwall, the home of an order of peaceful mice, is threatened by Cluny, an evil rat who sets his sights upon Redwall Abbey. Young Matthias, an awkward young novitiate, is sent on a quest to recover the lost sword of Martin the Warrior (also a mouse). This sword is Redwall's only hope for defeating Cluny and his horde of mercenaries.

Through his quest for the sword, Matthias finds allies in unlikely places and forms bonds of friendship with a wide variety of creatures, each with a distinct personality, who help him to defeat Cluny.

Marvelous, highly detailed, and packed with action. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for readers of all ages!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Maus I and II by Art Spiegelman

If you read nothing else this month, check out Art Spiegelman's marvelous graphic novel / memoir. In Maus, published in two parts, he recounts his father's experiences as a Jewish survivor of the Nazi concentration camps during WWII.

Intertwined with the horror of the Holocaust is the story of the troubled relationship between father and son. Set against the backdrop of contemporary modern life, the events of the Holocaust seem even more terrifying.

A MUST READ for all!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Maus I by Art Spiegelman

Part one of two.

Art Spiegelman interviewed his father, Vladek, a Holocaust survivor. Vladek's story is told in comic book format, with the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats.

The graphic novel approach brings a new perspective to this moving memoir. I especially liked the way that Vladek's Holocaust memories were interwoven with the present relationship between the father and son. Not only do we get a glimpse of the horrors of the Holocaust, but we also see the profound and long-lasting effects on the survivors and the generations that followed.

A MUST-READ (don't forget part two)!