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Jansson, Tove: Moominland Midwinter

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Moominland Midwinter (1957)
Author: Tove Jansson (this is her official site, which is in Finnish, just so y'all know)
Genre: Children's Literature, Classics
Pages: 160 (trade paperback)
Series: Moomins #5

Summary (from )

Read For: School (*sigh*)

So, as you can see above, I read this little novel for school (for my Theory and Criticism class, for anyone's who's interested). I've never heard of Tove Jansson before, but I've discovered since reading this, that Moomins are actually HUGE in Finland and pretty much all of Europe, and even Japan, where an animated series aired for many years. Across the pond, this is a quintessential children's series, and this novel in particular (which is the fifth in the series) was a turning point apparently, though I couldn't tell you how, seeing as how I've never read the other books.

I bring all this up just to give you a sense of how foreign this book felt for me; it was quite different than most other children's novels I've ever read (and I've read quite a few), while being familiar at the same time. I don't know, it was an odd experience.

REVIEW: no spoilersCollapse )

Final Verdict: This is a book I wish I had read as a youngin', because I think I could've appreciated it a lot more than then I can now as an adult. I don't have any of that nostalgia attached to this book or series. It is a good book in its own right, but there was something that was just... *strange* about the whole reading experience that I can't shake off, but I can't quite identify it either. I would still say it's worth checking out if you're interested in children's literature though, especially by foreign authors; it definitely have a foreign flare to it.

Cover Commentary: I'm not crazy about the cover of the edition I own. The illustrations of Moomintroll and Little My were originally drawn by Jansson, but they look like they've been attacked with photoshop. I much prefer this edition, which is an untampered Jansson illustration.

Mini-Reviews: School Edition #1

books x 4
So, as I mentioned in my last post, I've done A LOT of reading in March for school. Of the 11 books I read last month, eight were read for school purposes. Now, not ALL of the books I've read for school are going to be in this post. There are some of the books that I'd like to do a full review of because I have a lot to say about them. I also still have two books from February to review that were for school, so they'll be in this post as well. I also decided to split this in half, so there'll be two posts of mini-reviews, with four review each. :)  They won't be spoilery, and they'll be very, very short, so no cuts.

Title: Charlotte's Web (1952)
Author: E.B. White
Genre: Children's Literature
Pages: 192 (trade paperback)
Series: Stand Alone

Summary (from )

This book is a classic. How much is there to really say about it? I can say that this was my first experience with the book. I never read it as a child for some reason. I don't know if I would've *loved* this book as a child though (but that's hard to say; I loved the movie Babe, which is all about a pig surviving in the world) but it is very sweet, and the ending is very sad. It's didactic literature, but not in the usual way. It's very concerned with issues such as death, which is something you didn't see in children's novels back in the fifties too much. 

It was enjoyable, but it doesn't rank among some of my favorite children's classics (like, say, Bridge to Teribithia). 

Title: Little Bee (2009)
Author: Chris Cleave
Genre: Non-Genre Fiction, Literary Fiction
Pages: 288 (trade paperback)
Series: Stand-Alone

Unnecessarily Long Summary (from Collapse )
I'm having a hard time articulating what I want to say about this book. I find it difficult to review books that deal with such a heavy subject, because while I applaud the author for bringing such subjects to light, I sometimes find that these topics are the only strong point of the novel. I wouldn't say this was entirely the case for Little Bee, but it did have its flaws. It was oddly paced for one. It takes forever to find anything out, and when all the cards are laid out on the table, everything starts moving really, really fast. Unnervingly so. Also, the "big event" in the novel, the moment when (pardon my language) "shit hits the fan", felt really forced and contrived, and like it could've been very easily avoided. I can't say I really liked any of the characters either, with the exception of Little Bee herself maybe. 

Eh, all in all, it was all right. I didn't dislike it, but didn't I didn't LIKE it either. 

Title: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950)
Author: C.S. Lewis
Genre: Fantasy, Children's Literature
Series: book one of seven

Summary (from )

Another classic! I've actually already read this before (two years ago) and I liked it then, but I liked it a whole lot more now. I don't know what I missed the first time around, but this second reading of the book was much more enjoyable. I'm not religious by any means either, but there was something very... I don't know... epic, I guess, about these books. I mean, Aslan is kind of awesome, and the children are adorable (even Edmund, when he comes around.) 

A definite recommend. 

Title: A Wrinkle in Time (1962)
Author: Madeleine L'Engle
Genre: Science Fantasy, Childre
Pages: 224 (trade paperback)
Series: book one of four

Summary (from )

This was another re-read for me, and like Lewis' book, I enjoyed this one quite a bit more the second time around. It's a really fun read that blends heavy science fiction (and when I say heavy, I mean HEAVY; there are some very difficult concepts in this book) and fantastical elements seamlessly. L'Engle doesn't talk down to her child audience either. The scientific concepts brought up in this book are not easy to grasp, but she still manages to make it something fun. The children protagonists are flawed (despite Charles Wallace being a genius) and realistic, and watching them grow and learn is a delight. I've since read the second book in the series, and L'Engle has become an author I want to read more of. Very imaginative, unique and refreshing.
books x 4
Title: Alice in Wonderland and, Through the Looking Glass (1865)
Author: Lewis Carroll
Genre: Children's Literature, Classics
Pages: 416 (Norton Critical 2nd Edition, Paperback)

Summary: (from )

I have a love for children and teen literature, so you can imagine my surprise and glee when I discovered my school was offering a Children's Literature course this semester. The first novels we're studying this semester is, obviously, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I had already read these two stories in high school, but I unfortunately owned a version that didn't explain any of the many in-jokes that happen throughout the story. My prof made it mandatory that we read the Norton Critical edition, which was infinitely better. I'm not going to bother with my review behind an LJ cut; everyone knows this story, so I really don't think spoilers is an issue here. :P 

When I initially read this book in high school, I wasn't that impressed by it. My preconceptions of this movie were completely tinted with what the movie adaptations have shown me over the years: I expected nonsense yes, and there's definitely a lot of it in <i>Alice</i> but the original tale is a lot more concerned with poking fun at the views of childhood and children's education that were the norm of its time. I didn't know that when I first read <i>Alice</i> which really stunted my first reading. The second time around though, it was much more enjoyable with Norton's footnotes. Both tales are also really concerned with word play and the arbitrariness of words and names. Again, this was all over my head during my first reading. Thanks to this wonderful edition though, I got a lot more of these jokes.

I don't have much to say about the stories, because really, everyone knows them, or at least aspects of them. I do want to talk about this Norton Critical edition though, because it's really good. Like I mentioned, it has all kinds of footnotes throughout the story, to clarify a lot of the jokes and remarks that Carroll was making. The context adds a level of enjoyment to the tales. This edition also features all kinds of essays and background information on Lewis Carroll himself, which delves into how he was inspired to write the tale, and many aspects of his life. I don't usually like reading that kind of stuff, but this Norton edition made a lot of those facts concise, and stuck to the important stuff. The added background information also added context to the texts as a whole. I didn't get a chance to get to the essays yet, but I definitely want to at some point. 

Overall, these two stories are really quite wonderful, once you add some context and know where Carroll was coming from. I'm glad I got a chance to re-read them with this new insight. It elevated my enjoyment of the stories quite a bit. :) s


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