Like This Picture Book? We Recommend Books for Older Readers!

If You Like The Dot by Peter H. Rey

Try My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

My Name Is Asher LevAsher Lev possesses a gift for painting, a gift that his father, an Orthodox Jew, believes demonic. But even though his art hurts the ones he loves the most, Asher cannot give it up.  My Name Is Asher Lev follows his struggle to find his place within the Jewish community while remaining true to his artistic vision.

If You Like The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Try Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Bleak HouseWhen Mr. Jarndyce invites two of his relatives, Ada and Richard, to live with him as his wards, he hopes to protect them from the family court case that has sapped the life and the strength from so many before them.  Esther Summerson, orphaned at birth, also comes to live with them, provided for by Mr. Jarndyce’s great charity.  But when the secret of her past begins to come to light, one woman’s mistake will have unforeseen consequences for many different lives.

If You Like Corduroy by Don Freeman

Try A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Little PrincessSeven-year-old Sara Crewe arrives at Miss Minchin’s London boarding school for girls as if she is a little princess.  Her doting father denies her nothing and she enjoys a lavish wardrobe, an expensive doll, and a room all to herself.  Then disaster strikes and Sara finds herself alone and penniless.  Does she have the moral fortitude to act like a true princess?

If You Like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

Try A Tangled Web by L. M. Montgomery

tangled-webWhen Aunt Becky announces she is dying and she will leave the heirloom Dark family jug to the person who exhibits worthiness over the course of the following year, the members of the clan begin to radically change their lives.  The stories of several characters intersect, influencing each other in unexpected ways as each person strives to deserve the jug.

If You Like Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke

Try Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon

Castle HangnailThe minions of Castle Hangnail need a new Master in residence or the Board will decommission them and the minions will have to find a new home.  But when Molly shows up on the doorstep, the minions are not so sure things will work out.  Molly, after all, is only twelve-years-old and hardly seems like a Wicked Witch.  In fact, she seems like rather a polite witch.  But the minions need someone to be Master and so they are willing to give Molly a chance.  But she has secrets that might ruin them all.

If You Like Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Try The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

Rithmatist Brandon Sanderson reviewIn Joel’s world, students train as Rithmatists–people who can make chalk drawings come alive to fight the wild chalklings that threaten their society.  But because he was not chosen to be a Rithmatist, Joel spends his days studying Rithmatic theory and old Rithmatist duels.  Then Rithmatist students begin disappearing and Joel finds himself assisting the professor determined to find the perpetrator.  But with no Rithmatic powers himself, how can Joel hope to win a fight drawn in 2D?

Krysta 64

Classic Remarks: Is “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” Feminist?

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. Feel free to comment even if you are not officially participating!


Do you think “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” by Geoffrey Chaucer is feminist?

Canterbury Tales

Anyone who has ever taught a class about the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale will know that students love the Wife of Bath, and the number one thing they love about her is how feminist she seems.  She speaks her mind! She’s been married multiple times! She shows her husbands she has a say in the relationship, too! And her tale is about punishing a knight who raped a maiden!  However, all the essays in the world encounter a major problem: Can you call someone feminist who existed before feminism was even a concept?

It’s a tough question, one which people sometimes try to skirt by calling the Wife of Bath “proto-feminist” and moving on.  I think it’s more complicated than that, but for the sake of this post I’ll say that the Wife of Bath (particularly her Tale) does seem interested in increased equality between men and women, though she doesn’t have a 100% percent modern view of what that looks like and seems primarily interested in women being able to gain power in their marriages (basically the only place women had any power or social standing in the Middle Ages).  That is to say, the Wife of Bath doesn’t seem particularly interested in single women being respected or women being able to support themselves or anything like that.  Those would have been incredibly foreign ideas in medieval England, so much so that they simply don’t  occur to her–or really anyone.

However, yes, the Wife of Bath wants women to have sovereignty within their marriages, which is  the entire theme of her tale.  The story opens with a knight raping a maiden, and everyone is outraged and demands King Arthur dispense justice (already pro-woman).  Normally, “justice” is death, but Queen Guinevere proposes an alternative: If the knight can come back to court in a year and a day and tell her what women most desire, his life will be spared.  This is a very tidy plot, with related crime and punishment. The knight harmed a woman, and now he must learn to understand women to atone for his crime.  (Again, pretty pro-woman.)

The real puzzle comes at the end of the tale, however. If you’re reading this post, you probably know the plot of the tale: the knight finds a woman who gives him an answer to the riddle (Women most desire sovereignty) in exchange for his agreeing to marry her. He agrees because he wants to live, but the problem is that she’s an ugly old hag, and he’s not really into that. But, plot twist: On the night of the wedding, the hag (his wife) offers the knight another deal.   He can choose for her to be ugly and faithful to him or for her to be beautiful and potentially unfaithful.  The knight really wants her to not be ugly, but he also doesn’t want her sleeping with other men, so this is a dilemma. Unsure what to pick, he tells her to choose what she wants.  (He gives her sovereignty.)  Giving her sovereignty is the correct answer, so his wife tells him he can have everything, that she will be both beautiful and faithful:

‘Kiss me, and we won’t quarrel any more,
For I’ll be both to you, upon my honour!
That’s to say, beautiful as well as good.
May death and madness be my lot,’ she said,
‘If I am not a wife as good and true
As ever wife was since the world was new,
And if I’m not as pretty as a queen,
As ay empress that was ever seen
From east to west, before tomorrow’s dawn,
Then you can deal just as you like with me.
And now, lift up the curtain and see.’ (250)

Is this feminist? I’d say yes, since the wife seems to be making the decision to be both beautiful and faithful of her own free will.  A couple lines later, the narrator notes that “she obeyed him in all things,” but that also seems to be her decision.  There’s no implication that the knight is forcing her to do anything.  Everything–from getting married in the first place, to offering him the decision of how she will look and act, to choosing to obey him always–appears to have been her idea.  It sounds limiting from a modern perspective, yet she appears happy, and I suppose that’s what feminism aims for.

At any rate, the Wife of Bath has her own commentary on the story she just told:

And may Christ send up husbands who
Are meek and young, and spirited in bed;
And send us grace to outlive those we wed;
And I pray Jesus to cut short the lives
Of those who won’t be governed by their wives;
And as for all old and ill-tempered skinflints,
May heaven rain upon them pestilence! (250)

These final lines actually seem contradictory to her tale in some ways.  Is the knight really meek?  Or governed by his wife? We may not have enough details about their married life to know definitively.  We do know that the Wife of Bath wants women to have power in the marriages, but “sovereignty” doesn’t always have to be flashy or forceful.  The Wife might boss her own husband[s] around, but if the lady in her story finds happiness in doing what most pleases her husband, that seems fine too.

*Translation by David Wright (The Canterbury Tales, Oxford University Press)

If you are participating this week, please leave us your link in the comments!

Briana

The Weight of Glory by C. S. Lewis

weight-of-gloryINFORMATION

Goodreads: The Screwtape Letters
Series: None
Source: Gift
Published: 1949

Summary

This collection brings together a series of essays and lectures, addressing topics from the morality of pacifism to learning in wartime to forgiveness.

Review

Despite the tendency of modern readers to declare the independence of the individual from outdated notions of sin, C. S. Lewis continues to speak to contemporary audiences.  Something about him seems to bring clarity to the subject, reminding his readers of the deep importance of grappling with questions of morality.  He makes big theological concerns seem close, dealing not with abstract notions of sin or illustrating his points with examples of sins his readers would ascribe to someone else, but instead reminding his readers that, yes, this book is about you.  This book is about all of us.

Part of his magic lies, I suspect, in his ability to illuminate how everyday actions shape individuals.  He does not cry out the usual exhortations to  obey the commandments.  Don’t murder people.  Don’t steal.  Don’t, don’t, don’t–all things that seem to be the sins of that guy down the street or that woman in the newspaper.  Instead he says, look.  Look at what you are doing everyday, and see how you are failing (but also how you might do better).

One of the essays in this collection, for example, focuses on the desire of individuals to belong.  Titled “The Inner Ring,” it reveals how that very ordinary wish to be “in,” to be recognized, to be not the person who is on the outside being made fun of, can lead individuals to make moral compromises.  You start out by doing something small because everyone else is and because you don’t want to be the uncouth individual who still believes no one takes bribes or no one sweeps things under the rug or no one refuses to speak ill of others.  And soon you are corrupted.  You have become part of the inner ring.  But at what cost?

Another essay, “On Forgiveness,” addresses the modern tendency to excuse sin.  Yes, I did wrong, but… He points out both the need to take responsibility for our own actions and to realize that when we forgive others, we do not have to excuse their actions.  Indeed, if the action were excusable, it would not need to be forgiven!  Again, his essays hits home.  Finding a way to forgive an injury is something everyone has had to grapple with.  The essays are not about all those other sinners you can think of, but about you, the reader.

Lewis’s ability to make theological questions seem continually relevant and timely, and of the utmost personal importance, is combined with a clear prose style that makes philosophy seem easy.  He writes clearly and provides plenty of analogy and illustrations, always writing for the lay person and not for the scholar, always writing with the assumption that his reader is not necessarily already Christian and possessed of all the theological background knowledge.  For accessibility and relevance, Lewis really can’t be topped.

4 starsKrysta 64

Movie Review: Castle in the Sky (1986)

castle-in-the-skySummary

When Pazu rescues Sheeta, a girl who falls from the sky, he suddenly finds himself on the run from government agents and pirates.  All of them want the jewel that hangs around Sheeta’s neck, but what mysterious power does it hold?

Review

Castle in the Sky stuns with its gorgeous visuals, its imaginative landscapes, and its fantastical worlds.  The story of a young boy from a mining town and a  mysterious floating girl, it combines a sympathetic look at the working classes and those connected to the land, along with an understanding of the need for humans to fly.  But even as the film revels in the possibilities of exploration and the wonders of technology, it remains grounded in its characters.  Pazu and Sheeta’s bravery and devotion stand at the heart of this story, ensuring that it is not merely visually beautiful but also a thoughtful look at the costs of doing the right thing.

The film begins with mystery and excitement as viewers find themselves witnesses to a pirate raid of an air ship.  A man in a suit seems to guard a girl, but the girl fears him and tries to escape.  Who she is, why she is under protection, and why a group of pirates has attacked will remain unclear for some time.  The film moves to Pazu, a cheerful and hardworking orphan boy who cannot be fazed even by girls falling from the sky.

This mixture of the serious with the everyday gives the film its special charm.  Destruction occurs, lives are lost, and injuries sustained, but the characters travel on.  When life hands you the opportunity to stop a group of villains, you stop them.  No questions asked.  And you’ll want to be sure to bring your workday lunch with you as you go on the run.  No use evading the military on an empty stomach.

This attitude of “everything is normal” helps make the film far less frightening than it might otherwise be.  It also helps that the pirates are fierce but ultimately comedic.  In Miyazaki’s world, there is often hardship, but the majority of people are kind and want to give you a hand, even if you’re a complete stranger.  It’s a beautiful vision, one that enchants me every time I watch a Studio Ghibli film.  Who doesn’t want to live in such a wonderful world?

Castle in the Sky is somewhat longer than other Studio Ghibli films, but it’s well worth the watch.  Beautiful, heartfelt, and just a little humorous, it’s a film that makes you feel better after you’ve watched it.

5 starsKrysta 64

Board Game Review: Oregon Trail Card Game

oregon-trail

Game Play

Begin in Independence and try to reach the Willamette Valley by laying down Trail cards.  Along the way you’ll have to ford rivers and pick up Calamity cards that require you to use Supplies to fight off bad water, cold weather, illness, and more.  It’s a collaborative game so only one person in your party has to reach the end for all of you to win. 2-6 players.

Review

The Oregon Trail Card Game attempts to capitalize on nostalgia for the old PC game, featuring the familiar “You have died of dysentary” on the box, including cards with images of pixely oxen, and requiring players to ford streams, trade at forts, and survive measles, typhus, and cholera.  Unfortunately, the instructions indicate that winning is extremely difficult–by which they mean impossible.  I have come to realize that there is certainly no way to win this game without modifications, especially if you have a small party.  Perhaps six players could win, but two cannot.

The real problem seems to be that the game simply does not allow players enough supplies to make it to the end.  Consider, firstly, that if you have four players your group has twenty supplies, but if you have two players, you only get ten.  Then, it’s very possible you can lose most of, if not all of, your supplies by trying to cross a river (and there are tons of river cards) because you lose a supply each time you roll an odd number.  However, if you lose your supplies, there isn’t really any way to replenish them.  There are a few town and fort cards (I think two of each) but you can only pick up one or two supplies.  So you can theoretically lose twenty supplies and only be able to gain back six during the course of the game. You’ve lost the game as soon as you failed to ford a river.

There are also the instant death cards.  There are four of them and if you draw one from the Calamity deck, you die.  You can’t be saved by medicine or any other means.  Imagine you have four players.  Since you will go through most of the Calamity deck during the course of the game, you are all likely going to die just from drawing one of these cards.

Once you die, you’re stuck watching the other players continue on, which can also be a bit dull.  Imagine you draw an Instant Death card on your first and second turn.  Now you get to watch everyone else play.  The first person to die is supposed to be the “Shopkeeper” but this just means you put the Supply Cards back in the deck when someone plays them.  It’s not exactly thrilling and it’s not something the remaining players (or player) can’t handle by themselves.  The only good thing about this is that your fellow teammates are probably going to die very shortly anyway.

So is it fun?  Actually, yes.  There’s a limited amount of strategy involved (which cards to play, which players to save or sacrifice) and the difficulty of winning the game can make it sort of addicting as you try to beat the odds.  However, eventually you realize that the odds of winning are essentially zero unless make your own rules.  Below are some of the modifications I have tried–and, indeed, if you want to win, you’ll want to use more than one of them at a time.  (As of this writing, I haven’t won yet.)

Recommended Modifications

  • Remove the instant death cards from the deck.  There are four of them.  Because you will go through most of the Calamity cards during the course of the game, this almost guarantees that four people in your party will die just from these cards–and there is no way to save them.  If you started with four or fewer people, you’re basically guaranteed to lose.
  • Allow players to begin with extra supplies.  Two to four players begin with five supplies each, meaning that if you have four players you have double the supplies.  If you have two players, consider allowing them to begin with ten supplies each.
  • When fording rivers, lose one supply each for one round only.  Then continue play as normal.  This ensures that you don’t lose all your supplies on one river.
  • Allow players to gain more than one or two supplies at a fort or town.  You can choose a number or you can roll the die to see how many supplies you can pick up.
  • Allow players to communicate with each other about what supplies they have (especially if you only have two players.)

4 starsKrysta 64

 

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

rebel-of-the-sandsInformation

Goodreads: Rebel of the Sands
Series: Rebel of the Sands #1
Source: Library
Published: March 8, 2016

Official Summary

She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him… or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

Review

Rebel of the Sands blew me away from the first page.  With a unique, gritty voice and a strong heroine, the book will compel readers to love the desert as much as Amani does.  Amani’s quest to find freedom and write her own destiny takes her through danger to many cities, but it is the sand that will always be her home.

Fantasy is my favorite genre, and Rebel of the Sands deliver the epic scope and wild adventures I love, all touched with a strong dose of magic.  Though the story is grounded in Amani’s personal quest to be treated as an equal to men, respected for her courage and her skill with a gun, it eventually grows to encompass the fate of a kingdom.  More on that in the next book, I assume, and I am definitely on board to find out what happens next.

Amani herself is fierce, but flawed enough I believe she’s human.  She’s had a tough life in Dustwalk, and her number one priority is often herself.  Sometimes that’s a merit; sometimes it’s not.  I admit I was a bit disappointed by a cliche turn of events in her personal development later in the novel, but I do still really admire her and think she’s overall a heroine to root for.

The love interest is equally impressive, in his own right, but I honestly didn’t see the romance as a large part of the novel.  Amani very noticeably pines over this guy, but often the romance seemed “told” to me rather than “shown.”  I wasn’t invested in the relationship because much of it seemed to occur in Amani’s head rather than on the page.  I do wonder if things might get more interesting in the next novel, but right now I think the adventure part of the story really overshadows the romance.

Overall, however, Rebel of the Sands is s stirring, compelling fantasy about widening your worldview, fighting for what you want, and caring for your friends.  Highly recommended.

4 stars Briana

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

sistersINFORMATION

Goodreads: Sisters
Series:  Smile #2
Source: Library
Published: 2014

SUMMARY

Raina always wanted a little sister, but when Amara came, she wasn’t what Raina expected.  She typically wants to play alone and she and Raina are always having fights.  But then they take a road trip with their mother.  Can they find a way to get along and survive the trip?  A companion novel to Smile.

REVIEW

I admit I found this book even less engaging than Smile, even though I recognize that Telgemeier has an excellent sense of humor and that she depicts the relationship between the sisters excellently.  For reasons I find difficult to articulate to myself, I just did not find myself invested in the story.  It doesn’t help that the official summary promises more drama than the book actually contains.  I kept waiting for something major to happen, but it never did.

Sisters is a companion novel to Smile, taking place the summer before Raina enters high school.  The story of  the Telgemeiers’ road trip is interspersed with flashbacks of Raina and Amara’s relationship.  We get to see how Raina longed for a sister, only to have the grumpy and isolated Amara come along.  Worse, Amara ends up being an artist just like Raina.  And Raina feels like her sister is stealing what makes her special.

Sisterhood can be complicated and Telgemeier expertly captures the nuances of such a relationship as the girls argue, tease, storm, and support each other.  But the ending feels all too easy and takes something away from the previous story.  Perhaps it’s because Amara has seemed to be reaching out in various ways all along and it’s not clear why Raina suddenly notices.  Perhaps because it suggests that sisterhood from here on out is smooth sailing, even though readers know it is not.  Perhaps it’s because the cover blurb suggests for reasons unknown that they are banding together to save their parents’ marriage, imparting the final pages with far more significance than the pages themselves seem to suggest.  For some reason, it does not work for me.

Still, I recognize that many readers find this book special and that the depiction of sisterhood is sure to appeal to many.  Fans of Smile will certainly enjoy it.

3 starsKrysta 64