Thursday, October 05, 2006

At Long Last

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. This book was in excess of 750 pages, which is not normally a problem. The reason this particular book took me so long was that, as brutal as it sounds, it was quite boring. Most times with a book that doesn’t grab me within the first couple chapters, I’ll just lay it down and move on. There are too many excellent books out there to waste time reading one that isn’t exciting. This book, however, I felt bad about abandoning. Although the story was boring, the author did an excellent job of mimicking the writing style of the period she was describing, even down to spelling differences. I have read so many authors who do such a poor job of this, that it was refreshing to read this author, regardless of the plot. The thing that is frustrating about Jonathan Strange is that the plot actually had a great deal of potential. The character of Jonathan Strange is what made the book bearable and even likable in certain places. But those first few hundred pages until he makes his appearance are full of boring, unlikable characters, and set a bad tone for the rest of the book. The Starry Night, by Neil Walkman. This is a picture book (see, trying to pull randomly throughout the library), but it was still fun. It is about Vincent Van Gogh and a young boy. Van Gogh magically winds up in New York, though no explanation of his presence (or supposed death) is given. It shows some of his more famous paintings as well as many scenes from New York as he might have painted them. Sketches and backgrounds for the paintings are done in shades of brown. I’m a big fan of Van Gogh, and I thought this was a great way to introduce kids to art while the scary overpowering-ness of kid-unfriendly museums or galleries. There wasn’t much of a plot, but it does invite kids to try their hands at different styles of art. My favorite picture book is a wordless book called The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher, by Molly Bang. I've read it alone and with others, both children and adults, mostly ESL students, and get a new reading every time.

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