Voyage of the Dawn Treader: My Favorite Narnia Book

Classic Remarks

WHAT IS CLASSIC REMARKS?

Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.

HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE?

Leave your link to your post on your own blog in the comments below. And feel free to comment with your thoughts even if you are not officially participating with a full post!

You can find more information and the list of weekly prompts here.

(Readers who like past prompts but missed them have also answered them on their blog later and linked back to us at Pages Unbound, so feel free to do that, too!)

THIS WEEK’S PROMPT:

Which Narnia book is your favorite and why?

Voyage of the Dawn Treader: My Favorite Narnia Book

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has always been my favorite Narnia book. Part of that is undoubtedly because it focuses on Lucy, my favorite protagonist throughout the series. However, more importantly, I have always loved the sense of adventure the book imparts. Going beyond the known boundaries of Narnia is incredibly exciting! Readers never know what the voyagers will encounter next–scholars, dragons, maybe even a star! The joy of discovery is on every page.

However, Dawn Treader also possesses its more somber moments, which give the book the weight I think it needs to be something I truly want to return to again and again. Though Caspian and his crew are thrilled to be sailing where few have sailed before, not all their discoveries are wonderful. Lucy falls to temptation and experiences heartbreak. Eustace succumbs to greed and faces the possibility of never being able to return again. Reepicheep must decide if the quest is worth his life. The questions they each face, about what is most important to them and why, are the questions readers must confront in their own lives. And that makes the book resonate with me each time I pick it up.

The entire Narnia series is one that I love returning to year after year. But Dawn Treader has always held a special place in my heart. It seems to encompass so much! And in such a small volume. The best books are the ones that reveal something new to me each time I return. And Dawn Treader continues to do that.

Hollowpox by Jessica Townsend

Hollowpox photo

Information

Goodreads: Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow
Series: Nevermoor #3
Source: Purchased
Published: October 15, 2020 (USA)

Official Summary

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Review

Nevermoor is such a sweepingly imaginative story that I’ve been nervous ever since that the rest of the series won’t hold up, but Townsend hasn’t disappointed me yet. The second book, Wundersmith, is also amazing, and I called it “close to sheer perfection” in my review. Maybe I wouldn’t go quite that far for Hollowpox, but this installment does have all the wonder and originality I’ve come to expect from Townsend, and I was turning the pages late into the night to see what Morrigan and her friends would do next.

One of the most impressive things about the Nevermoor series may be that the world-building gets cooler with each book. Townsend doesn’t exhaust her imagination, and she doesn’t go too over-the-top trying to introduce new things. Instead, readers learn more and more about Nevermoor, but it’s also interesting and unique and seems just right; I loved learning about the concept of “ghostly hours” in Hollowpox. (And that’s all I will say. No spoilers!)

Townsend also continues to nuance her character here, both of Morrigan and of Wunsoc as a whole. Morrigan, though happy with her life, still has anxieties related to being rejected by her family and related to being a Wundersmith, and Townsend explores that with care. She also addresses some of the questions I had about Wunsoc in book two, about their place in Nevermoor society and why they see themselves as better than others and how other citizens react to that.

We also get more of villain Ezra Squall in this book, which is fascinating, AND Townsend gives hints that there are more layers to be discovered. I can’t wait to find out more about his past, his motivations, his powers, etc. as the series continues because I’m just waiting for some sort of big reveal.

Finally, the plot is as engaging as always. It was definitely an experience to be reading a book about a new and highly contagious virus during 2020 (fitting, and yet something I’ve been avoiding so far. I’m not one of the people who picked up Contagion this year.) Watching the characters try to figure out the virus and how to deal with it, both curing and preventing the spread, probably felt different than it would have at another time. At any rate, it was interesting.

If you haven’t picked up the Nevermoor series yet, I highly recommend you do. If you’re reading the series but haven’t gotten to Hollowpox yet, I guarantee you will enjoy it!

Briana
5 stars

Marvel Avengers Assembly: Orientation by Preeti Chhibber, Ill. by James Lancett

Marvel Avengers Assembly Orientation

Information

Goodreads: Orientation
Series: None
Source: Marvel: Avengers Assembly #1
Published: 2020

Summary

After she ruins a few buildings during some superhero fights in Jersey City, middle schooler Ms. Marvel is invited by her idol, Carol Danvers, to train at the Avengers Institute. There she teams up with new best friends Spider-Man (Miles Morales) and Squirrel Girl. But can they learn to work together to pass the decathlon at the end of the semester?

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Review

Avengers Assembly: Orientation imagines popular new heroes like Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, America Chavez, and Miles Morales as middle school students who need to train at a special institute to develop their superhero skills. It is told in a multimedia format, with chapters switching among blog posts, diary entries, fan fiction, text messages, and comic strips. The concept will likely appeal to comic book lovers and reluctant readers. However, the multimedia format is not used to great advantage and the story line ultimately falls flat. I wanted to love Orientation because it features so many of my favorite heroes, but the book is simply not well executed.

One of my main critiques with the book may admittedly not be shared by young readers: the book makes very little sense. The multimedia format means that Kamala Khan and her friends are constantly sharing top-secret information about their identities and their superheroing over unsecure sites. They text openly about their secret identities, keep details of fights online (on “private” blogs that could easily be hacked), and publicly share videos of mistakes they have made like recognizing their best (non-superhero) friends in the middle of a battle. Apparently Kamala and her friends are extremely naive about online privacy. Maybe their new institute should address that?

Even if readers are also unconcerned about online privacy, however, the story line is rather lackluster. Most of the book is really just Kamala attending a new school and making friends. [Spoilers] But there is sort of side plot involving a truly ill-conceived plan to harm another student so a villain can time travel. The plot is purposely ridiculous and even the other villains do not understand it. The plan is so poorly designed that it never takes place. The villains are basically foiled within two pages by their own incompetence. Exciting? Not really. The whole thing feels like a slapdash attempt to add something more to a book that would otherwise just be Ms. Marvel attending school, but the concept is never properly integrated into the story.

Avengers Assembly: Orientation stars with an exciting concept of having beloved heroes all attend school together. But the plot is not well executed and the story ultimately fails to deliver. I had looked forward to this new release, but I, unfortunately, am not impressed.

3 Stars

Don’t Let School Shape Your Understanding of the Classics

Don't Let School Shape Your Understanding of the Classics

The classics cannot seem to catch a break these days. Some people argue that the classics are simply too old and boring for anyone to want to read, let alone a student. In fact, I once heard a librarian say that suggesting a child read a classic book would be to “traumatize” them because of the difficulty of the text! Others argue that having a list of “classic” books is naturally oppressive because the list has long included mostly “old, dead white men” and the books do not present an inclusive understanding of the world and humanity.

Such criticisms are valid. Many students in the U.S. are not reading on grade level, so suggesting they read a book with complex text might indeed be overwhelming for them–though I would argue that the problem here lies more with the educational system than with any particular book. And, for many years, society’s understanding of classics has indeed included predominantly old white men.

However, in the past decades, many scholars and other individuals have worked hard to expand our understanding of what a “classic” is. In many cases, this simply means an older work that has been determined to have some sort of literary value that means audiences still are interested in reading it and publishers want to keep it in print. This is a vague concept that could include any number of titles for any number of reasons such as: the book speaks to a specific historical moment, the book exemplifies a particular writing philosophy or movement, the book has beautiful prose, or the book raises interesting questions about the nature of humanity, society, love, or anything else. With such a broad definition, classic books can include titles written for children, genre fiction, prose, poetry, plays, and, yes, diversity!

So why do so many readers continue to associate classics with stuffy old white men with difficult prose (Dickens, Hawthorne, or Shakespeare, for example)? The problem is that many people tend to read classics in school, when they are assigned these books for homework, and never again. Their one encounter with the classics is defined by a handful of teachers who present to them a very small sample of books. And, in many cases, teachers are simply teaching what they themselves were taught. They have not caught up with the times, or realized themselves that the term “classic” is more expansive than the Western canon.

This does a disservice both to readers and to the classics. There are many worthy–and interesting–books out there that might appeal to student who have no idea they could like the classics, if they found the right one. So let’s explore some examples.

Classics include all age ranges.

When people think of “classics,” they often seem to conjure up an image of the Victorian novel or perhaps of the dreaded Shakespeare. However, teachers might be interested in assigning children’s books to students rather than works written for an adult audience. There are plenty of children’s classics that readers continue to enjoy today:

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  • Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  • Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
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Classics encompass all genres.

People tend to associate classics with literary fiction. However, there are plenty of genre classics that readers continue to enjoy today! Here are some examples, including some authors and titles we might now recognize as “modern classics”:

Fantasy Classics

  • The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin
  • Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

Mystery Classics

  • Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton
  • Miss Marple series by Agatha Christie
  • Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene

Sci-Fi Classics

  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Patternist series by Octavia E. Butler
  • The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
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Classics cover a wide range of time periods, writing styles, and forms.

Not all classics are Victorian novels like Middlemarch or Bleak House (though both are well worth a read). Readers who do not wish to read a novel might wish to pick up a short story, a novella, a play or even a graphic novel. Likewise, readers who do not enjoy lengthy prose sentences such as Dickens’ may desire to pick up a writer like Ernest Hemingway, who writes in simple, direct sentences. No matter one’s reading preference, someone, somewhere in history probably wrote something that will be appealing. Some examples:

  • “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin (short story)
  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin (novella)
  • Corduroy by Don Freeman (picture book)
  • “Recitatif” by Toni Morrison (short story)
  • Maus by Art Spiegelman (graphic novel)
  • Night by Elie Wiesel (memoir)
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Classics can be diverse!

Despite what school curricula might imply, there are plenty of amazing literary works out there that have been written by all kinds of people and that represent a myriad of experiences, expanding our understanding of “what it means to be human.” Here are some titles for your consideration, including some modern classics.

  • The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
  • Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  • Kindred by Octavia Butler
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
  • Brown Girl, Brownstones by Paule Marshall
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • The Chosen by Chaim Potok
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker

What titles would you add to the list?

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Conclusion

Classics are so much more than Victorian novels, Shakespeare plays, and books by “old white men,” but, for many of us, high school, the one place where we will be asked to read a classic book, fails to demonstrate this. This does a disservice to readers, who graduate believing that the past has nothing to offer and that any book written more than five years ago must be old, boring, and outdated. So don’t rely only what you learned in a handful of English classes to judge all the classics. Why not pick up a few more and see for yourself?

10 of My Favorite Classics

My Top Ten Favorite Classic Books

I’ve read a lot of classics, and for the most part I can find something interesting in just about any of them! Here, however, is a list of some of my favorites. With the exception of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Middlemarch, these are all stories I’ve read multiple times–and I hope to reread them all again in the future! For the sake of variety, I also listed only one book by each author.

What are some of your favorite classics?

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1

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables

“It was November–the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines. Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.”

I must have read Anne of Green Gables at least 20 times, and it has lived up to my expectations with every single reading. L. M. Montgomery is such a skillful writer and such a keen observer of both human nature and the natural world that her stories are poignant and immersive. Her books also always make me think the world is an immensely beautiful place.

Take our quiz to find out which of Anne Shirley’s friends YOU are!

2

Beowulf by Anonymous

Boys of Blue and Beowulf

“And a young prince must be prudent like that,
giving freely while his father lives
so that afterwards, in age when fighting starts
steadfast companions will stand by him
and hold the line.”

― Seamus Heaney, translator

Beowulf is a powerful and sweeping story about a man who vanquishes monsters that no one else can. But it is also a story of loss and changing times. The writing, even in translation, is beautiful, and I find myself with new questions to ponder and new dreams to imagine every time I read the story.

Read my full reflection “Beowulf: Epic Adventure or Tale of Loss?”

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo cover

“How did I escape? With difficulty. How did I plan this moment? With pleasure.”

I first read The Count of Monte Cristo in eighth grade, and I devoured the book, unabridged. I was swept into the life of Edmund Dantes who so justly deserved revenge and so cleverly executed it– even when I didn’t agree with every action he took. If you want a book with twists and intrigue, look no farther!

Read about how The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the books that made me fall in love with reading!

four

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”

If you read this blog at all, you know The Lord of the Rings is my very favorite book– and it’s often difficult to explain exactly what is so wonderful about it. It is not, in my opinion, the action or adventure or even fantasy aspect; it’s that it’s thoughtful and beautiful and makes me wish our world were as deep and wise and wonderful as Middle-earth and its inhabitants seem to be.

Read why I think the “slow” opening of The Lord of the Rings is so valuable!

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Middlemarch cover

“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”

Middlemarch is an intricate and complex novel that weaves together the lives of multiple characters while keeping readers invested in Dorothea, the protagonist. It is remarkable for both its scope and its focus on the details that make us human.

Read our discussion post on whether Dorothea lives up to feminist ideals.

My Name Is Asher Lev

My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

“I do not know what evil is when it comes to art. I only know what is good art and what is bad art.”

My Name Is Asher Lev offers a thoughtful and moving look at art, sacrifice, and being true to yourself vs. staying connected with your roots and your community. It’s a book I return to frequently to reread.

7

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

A Separate Peace cover

“As I said, this was my sarcastic summer. It was only long after that I recognized sarcasm as the protest of people who are weak.”

A Separate Peace is both heartbreaking and a bit horrifying, as it forces readers to look inside Gene’s soul– and then possibly their own. I’m not sure every sentence is as wise as I thought it was when I was younger, but the book always makes me think.

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Anonymous

The Green Knight on the ground now gets himself ready,
leaning a little with the head he lays bare the flesh,
and his locks long and lovely his lifts over his crown,
letting the naked neck as was needed appear.

― JRR Tolkien, translator

This is one of the stories that helped me fall in love with medieval literature. It’s magical but also firmly grounded in reality, addressing questions of honor, temptation, bravery, and more. I’ve read it multiple times, in multiple translations, and always come away with something to think about.

Read my reflections on rereading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

nine

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Tenant of Wildfell Hall

“You may think it all very fine, Mr. Huntingdon, to amuse yourself with rousing my jealousy; but take care you don’t rouse my hate instead. And when you have once extinguished my love, you will find it no easy matter to kindle it again.”

The remarkable insight that Anne Brontë offers into protagonist Helen Graham’s psyche, however, as well as the unflinching portrayals of men giving into different temptations and debaucheries to the suffering of the women around them make The Tenant of Wildfell Hall a masterpiece I am sorry I did not read sooner.

Read why The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is Krysta’s favorite work by one of the Brontë sisters.

The Wanderer by Anonymous

“Often alone, every daybreak, I must
bewail my cares. There is now no one living
to whom I dare articulate my mind’s grasp.
I know as truth that it is a noble custom
for a man to enchain his spirit’s close,
to hold his hoarded coffer, think what he will.”

Translation

An alliterative poem in Old English that recounts the past happy days of one who once served his lord but now lives in exile. Like Beowulf, this poem is powerfully moving, and it demonstrates that emotions can speak across centuries.

Becoming Brianna by Terri Libenson

Becoming Brianna

Information

Goodreads: Becoming Brianna
Series: Emmie & Friends #4
Source: Library
Published: 2020

Summary

Brianna has agreed to have a bat mitzvah, not because she wants to, but because her mom seemed so excited. Now she’s freaking out. She isn’t even sure she has a spiritual side. And having to lead a service in front of all her family and friends in Hebrew? Terrifying. As the big day arrives, Brianna will learn who her real friends are–the ones who support her through everything.

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Review

Becoming Brianna continues the Emmie & Friends series by Terri Libenson, a group of books set at the same school, but featuring different characters. Though some of the same characters appear in each book, the books can be read as standalones. In this one, readers once again meet Brianna, whose stage fright was first introduced in Positively Izzy. Now she has to overcome the challenge of having a bat mitvah to please her mom–an experience that means she has to lead a service in Hebrew! Readers who enjoy the plethora of graphic novels focused on changing friendships in middle school, as well as the anxiety of trying to fit in, will love Becoming Brianna.

I love seeing religious diversity in books, so I was pleased to discover that Becoming Brianna focuses on the bat mitzvah, a coming-of-age ceremony in Judaism. Initially, Brianna is conflicted about the event. She agrees to it primarily because her mother wants it, but she does not feel particularly spiritual and she is struggling with some of the readings. Does she have to obey blindly or is it okay to question things, as she has always done? Does the ceremony hold any meaning for her and, if it does not, should she go through with it? Brianna has to grapple with some important questions of faith over the eight months leading up to the service and the book suggests that that is okay. Questioning is not wrong, but rather an essential part of self-reflection. And, in the end, the book reveals that it is okay not to have all the answers.

Intertwined with the plot surrounding Brianna’s anxiety over public speaking and her questions about her faith is another one about friendship. Word has gotten around school that her bat mitzvah party is going to be the social event of the season. Suddenly, the popular kids want to be Brianna’s friends. Brianna’s BFF Emmie is suspicious, but Brianna kind of enjoys being popular and, really, is it so far-fetched other people would realize she’s fun to hang out with? It’s a classic middle school friendship drama that fans of Raina Telgemeier, Shannon Hale, and Victoria Jamieson will recognize and likely enjoy.

Becoming Brianna is an excellent addition to the many graphic novels focused on the middle school experience and the ups and downs of friendship. It stands out, however, with its depiction of an upcoming bat mitzvah. Readers looking for something similar to Smile, Guts, and Real Friends will find a new heroine to love in Brianna. But readers of graphic novels in general will be delighted by this sensitively-drawn depiction of growing up and trying to find one’s place in the community.

4 stars

Maker Comics: Grow a Garden! by Alexis Frederick-Frost

Maker Comics: Grow a Garden

Information

Goodreads: Maker Comics: Grow a Garden!
Series: Maker Comics
Source: Library
Published: 2020

Summary

Learn how to grow a garden through a comicbook story! Projects include making a compost bin, creating seed pots, making your own potting mix, building a growlight shelf and a cold frame, and starting a container garden.

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Review

The Maker Comics series seeks to provide information about various topics such as baking, drawing a comic, or fixing a car through fun stories and cartoony illustrations. In Grow a Comic! readers meet a group of garden gnomes who are attending classes on gardening. While at school, they find secret tunnels, uncover a villainous plot, and fight some terrifying plants. At the same time, however, they learn how to create compost, how to make seed pots from newspaper, how to make their own growlight shelf and cold frame, how to set up a container garden–and more. The book has a surprising amount of useful information for its size.

I have attempted to grow various plants over the years with varying degrees of success. I have looked up information online, consulted my seed packets, and frantically tried to search for the reasons why my plants suddenly seemed to be drooping. Too much water? Not enough? Too much sunlight? Not enough? More fertilizer needed? Often the information feels contradictory or just not useful. But, somehow, reading Grow a Comic! made me feel more informed and empowered than all my lengthy internet searches. I feel like I could actually grow a garden.

I think the feeling of empowerment comes from the fact that the book will often explain the reasoning behind its methods. So it does not simply provide directions, but gives readers enough knowledge that they can feel like the understand what is happening and why. And it does this all very concisely. For instance, I’ve read a bit on composting, but Grow a Comic! manages to hit all the key points in a short page span while making it feel easy and accessible. Seriously, I wish I had just read this book instead.

Along with all the information is also a fun story about a group of garden gnomes who keep discovering secrets about their school. Why are there hidden passages? Are there really superhero gnomes? Is something evil afoot at the school? The story isn’t really the main point of the book, but it’s entertaining and will keep readers engaged.

Grow a Comic! is an incredibly informative and entertaining read. It makes me want to start a garden right now! I also want to check out the rest of the series. Who knows what else I could learn!

5 stars

Why I Read Classics

Classic Remarks

WHAT IS CLASSIC REMARKS?

Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.

HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE?

Leave your link to your post on your own blog in the comments below. And feel free to comment with your thoughts even if you are not officially participating with a full post!

You can find more information and the list of weekly prompts here.

(Readers who like past prompts but missed them have also answered them on their blog later and linked back to us at Pages Unbound, so feel free to do that, too!)

THIS WEEK’S PROMPT:

Why do you read classics? (Or why don’t you?)

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I’ve loved reading classics for as long as I can remember, even when I was a child and had no real sense of the fact that some books are classics at all or that they had been written years and year ago, while other books are newer. When I think back to some of the earliest books I read and loved, they were classics: The Secret Garden, Charlotte’s Web, Anne of Green Gables, The Chronicles of Narnia. In that sense, once I did become aware that there are “classics” and “non-classics,” I knew I was someone who “liked classics.” I sought out more and more to read, trusting I would enjoy them, and generally I did.

But why do I enjoy classics? Why do I keep reading them? To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve thought deeply about this question before. I do think there’s something to the argument that these are books that have stood the test of time; they’re interesting (even when I dislike a classic, I can often see why it’s interesting or how there are themes that can be discussed in it), and they’re often complex. I like a fast-paced, exciting novel with a gripping plot as well as anyone, but the books that I remember long after I read them aren’t books that have fun plots; they’re books that raise interesting questions or make me think about life or people or philosophy in a new way. I find these questions often in classics.

I also like that “classics” is a wide and varied category. I can decide I want to read “a classic” and end up reading anything from a medieval romance to a Shakespeare play to a Victorian novel or an H. G. Wells story. I love reading things from different time periods and seeing how much things in the world or human nature have changed, as well as how much things have stayed quite the same. I also love different writing styles. When today’s novels start sounding all a bit the same to me, I can pick up a book from 50 or 500 years ago and find something just a bit different.

The short answer, then, might be that I do generally find classics to be of good quality: they explore interesting questions, they tackle tough topics, they span a variety of genres, and they often have excellent prose. Not every classics is a winner, of course, but as a whole I do find them worth reading.

Briana

Lightfall: The Girl & the Galdurian by Tim Probert

Lightfall: The Girl and the Galdurian

Information

Goodreads: Lightfall: The Girl and the Galdurian
Series: Lightfall #1
Source: Library
Published: 2020

Summary

Bea leads a peaceful existence with her grandfather the Pig Wizard, until the day she meets Cad, last of the Galdurians. The two discover that the Pig Wizard has left home on a mysterious quest. Determined to find him, Bea and Cad set off. But they are pursued by a terrifying enemy, who wants the magical flame they carry.

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Review

The Girl and the Galdurian is a delightful middle grade graphic novel that will enchant readers young and old. Set in a world called Irpa where the sun has died and only manufactured lights brighten the sky, a land where pigs are wizards and rodents are thieves, the book immediately gives a readers a sense of wonder. Sometimes plot developments raise more questions than they answer, but the worldbuilding is so intricately detailed that readers feel that the answers must be out there, waiting. And they will certainly want to travel with the heroes, Bea and Cad, to find them.

The Girl and the Galdurian is one of those rare books that feels quite magical, from its plucky protagonists to the beauty of its richly drawn world. This is a world that readers will wish they could visit, a world where they can go on heroic adventures, explore the unknown, and feel captivated by the whimsy all around them. It draws readers in from the very first page, and never lets them go, always beckoning them forward with the next unexpected adventure.

The characters, too, are delightful, making readers feel at once that they must be friends. Bea is a kindhearted human girl, trying to be brave enough to find her grandfather. Cad is a Galdurian, the last of his kind, but certain his people are still out there. Though his journeying could have made him bitter, it has only made him gentle and true. At first glance, they are a bit of an unlikely team. But their determination to help those they love will ultimately become their strength.

This is only the first book in a series–and that is fortunate! Once readers visit Irpa, they won’t want to leave. Perfect for fans of middle grade fantasy and graphic novels.

5 stars

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming

Information

Goodreads: Brown Girl Dreaming
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2014

Summary

Jacqueline Woodson describes growing up in South Carolina and New York as an African American in the 1960s. Told in verse.

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Review

Brown Girl Dreaming is an evocative work of art that captures the exhilaration and the turbulence of Jacqueline Woodson’s childhood. Beginning at her birth, it chronicles the love she feels for both her childhood homes–South Carolina and Brooklyn–even as she comes to feel split between them. She also chronicles the experience of growing up as an African American during the 1960s, watching the protests for equal rights, and observing the various ways members of her family responded, from cautious optimism mixed with a little fear, to proud participation. Brown Girl Dreaming is a gorgeously written work sure to enthrall and inspire its readers.

Woodson’s narrative effortlessly captures her childhood, inviting readers to understand what it was like to be her–surrounded by loving family, discovering the power of words, learning to live in two worlds: North and South. Readers will connect with Woodson as she describes such things as the frustration of constantly being compared to a brilliant older sister, the love she feels for her grandfather, the trepidation she feels at moving t a new home. Her verse makes every moment come alive, so that even the simple, everyday ones feel weighted with meaning.

Brown Girl Dreaming is a beautiful, magical book. It is a book that acknowledges the bad parts about growing up in the 1960s–having to sit in the back of the bus while in the South, watching her grandmother avoid certain stores where she is not treated with dignity. But it is also a book that feels ultimately hopeful. Woodson grows up surrounded by love and she eventually becomes a published author, after learning the power of words early on. The book seems to whisper, keep on trying. You never know what might happen.

Brown Girl Dreaming has been decorated with awards–and it is no wonder. Woodson’s verse is a delight in and of itself. But, combined with her memories of growing up, it creates a singularly powerful work, one readers won’t want to miss.

5 stars