Friday, October 02, 2009

no overlap here.

Strawberry Hill, by Mary Ann Hoberman; illustrations by Wendy Anderson Halperin. ARC-- Denver. This was a cute little book, but it lacked a few things. The main character was fairly well developed, and the story was about friendship, how to know who is your friend, and how to be a friend. For its simple, universal message, this is a good book. There are a few things that detract, however: the book had no sense of time or place. The book is set during the Great Depression, but there is almost nothing that colors the story and characters. There is hobo in one scene, although he has no lines, and characters get sick with the measles and scarlet fever, but other than saying a few times "because of the Depression," there wasn't much to make the 10-year-old in this book different from any other modern 10-year-old whose parents don't indulge every electronic urge. The same thing applies to the place: this book could have been set in any suburb or small-ish town in the country and not a single thing would have changed.

Also, I'm not clear on who the reading audience for this book is supposed to be. The main character and her friends are 10, in 4th grade, but the book, its set up (print size, margin size, and great length) made me think it would take a fairly advanced 9 or 10 year old to not be intimidated by this book, and kids in this age group really aren't interested in reading about characters much younger than themselves. I can't comment on the art, because it wasn't included in my ARC. It didn't seem like there was going to be a whole lot of it-- one page between some of the chapters, but not even all of them. Also, this is not what my cover looks like, and I think this cover looks pretty lame. The cover on the ARC was a carnation pink, with white text and white flowers. Much prettier and more likely to appeal to the target audience, in my opinion.

Eunuchs and Castrati: A Cultural History, by Piotr O. Scholz. I read 33 pages of this and I quit. It seems like an interesting topic, but, by a chapter and a half, I expect to be getting some facts and to be able to discern the book's layout and organization. Instead, this book kind of wanders, jumping around at odd times when it would have been better/more interesting/more cohesive to continue with the first train of thought. My major annoyance is that the author implies that there is a great difference between eunuchs and castrati, but he never bothers to say what that difference is, just that they are not the same. A good instructive works starts off by giving the terms and tools needed to understand the material.

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