sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

April 10, 2010

into the stacks: the invention of hugo cabret
posted by soe 10:43 pm

readathonI admit it: I totally fell off the wagon for five or six hours this afternoon when I had a mini hissy fit, took a clearly much needed nap, and then went on a walk with Rudi. We stopped for a hot chocolate before taking a new way to our neighborhood park, which showed us a little crevice with chairs and tables next to a waterfall clearly meant for weekday lunches but which didn’t seem to be cordoned off from others who might want to sit there. Exciting, no?

I’ve put down my gardening book, haven’t started the book I took on my walk, and instead have picked up a book I’d bought years ago from my favorite local bookstore chain which has since gone out of business.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick

From the jacket: “Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks — like the gears of the clocks he keeps — with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the train station, Hugo’s undercover life and his most precious secret are put in jeopardy A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.”

My take: You know how when you’re a kid they tell you that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover? It’s true, but also a total lie. You shouldn’t, but people do it all the time. And I did it with this book. This book may have my favorite cover of all time (ooh! I should have thought of it this morning when that question came up!) and I totally judged the type of book it would be (fantasy) based on what I saw. I even bought it based on that.

But it’s absolutely not. It’s historical fiction. And it’s innovative at that, combining an engrossing fictional main character with a real life Frenchman from early in the 20th century with 284 drawings plus photos to create something that blurs the line between historical fiction, graphic novel, and cinema.

Hugo is twelve and living alone in the walls of Gare Montparnasse, a Parisian train station, after his father is killed in a freak accident and his drunk uncle disappears. Fearing what will become of him should anyone guess his secret, he keeps up his uncle’s job of winding the station’s 27 clocks, hoping to remain under the radar of the Station Inspector.

Yet Hugo has a second, more precious secret. He has the project his father, a clockmaker and tinkerer, had been working on at his death hidden in the station, too, and is desperately trying to finish his father’s work, hoping for a message from beyond the grave. [By the way, can someone help me recall the word I’m looking for? I wanted “from beyond the grave” to correspond to “preternatural,” but according to the dictionary that’s wishful thinking on my part. Does the word I actually want spring to anyone’s fingertips?]

Yet to do that, Hugo’s forced to steal parts from the local toyshop, where he’s eventually caught by the owner. His father’s notebook is taken and later, the old man claims, burned. But the man’s young charge, his god-daughter Isabelle, says otherwise. To find out the truth — and to finish his father’s work — he must stay close and work to get back the only thing that truly belongs to him. Or does it?

Anyone who loves an afternoon at the movies should read this book. Know that the high page count is related to the massive number of drawings and it’s cinematic approach and that the reading time will fly past. It may take younger readers several days to finish, but more advanced readers can easily finish it in several hours, even with time to savor the work as a whole.

Pages: 534

Category: books. There is/are 2 Comments.

readathon challenge 9
posted by soe 3:20 pm


Alita. Reads. invites us to this hour’s challenge:

  • Pick up a book that you’ve read today, or are currently reading.
  • Choose a song that goes with the book -– could be that it fits the overall feel of it or even a certain scene.
  • Create a blog post.

As I’m currently reading All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholemew, we need a gardening song. And this one, “The Garden Song,” as performed by John Denver, is my favorite:

But since the whole point of the book is that we should not be planting “row by row,” but instead in squares, I figured I’d better add a second song to help alleviate any confusion:

That would, of course, be the ’80s classic, “Hip to be Square” performed by Huey Lewis & the News.

Category: books,garden. There is/are 9 Comments.

into the stacks: savvy
posted by soe 12:11 pm

readathonSavvy, by Ingrid Law

From the jacket: Mibs Beaumont is about to become a teenager. As if that prospect weren’t scary enough, thirteen is when a Beaumont’s savvy strikes — and with one brother who causes hurricanes and another who creates electricity, it promises to be outrageous … and positively thrilling. But just before her big day, Poppa is in a terrible accident. Suddenly, Mibs’s dreams of X-ray vision disappear like a flash of her brother’s lightning: All she wants now is a savvy that will save Poppa.”

My take: The Beaumonts are a perfectly ordinary family, just like other people. “We get born, and sometime later we die. And in between, we’re happy and sad, we feel love and we feel fear, we eat and we sleep and we hurt like everyone else.” That’s what they tell people, anyway. But when they turn 13, their power appears. Mibs’ older brothers have the ability to direct wind, rain, and electricity. Her grandfather moves land. Her mom is not, as Mibs believes, perfect, but has a knack for getting things right — even when it turns out she is exactly right at getting things wrong. A great-aunt can open locks, but uses her savvy to help herself to others’ belongings. And her late grandmother could pluck music and voices right off the radio and bottle them up for repeated listenings.

So it’s understandable that Mibs and her whole family are excited — and a little nervous — about her impending birthday. When one brother’s savvy caused a hurricane on his 13th birthday a few years earlier, they’d had to move far away from their beloved home on the shore and move to the middle of the country, far away from any body of water where he could cause disasters. What would Mibs’ gift be? Would it, too, cause problems?

But, then, a phone call brings her whole world falling in around her.

Her father has been in a life-threatening accident and her mother and eldest brother must go to Salina to the hospital, leaving the four younger kids in the care of their elderly grandfather. Mibs returns from her final day of public school (you can’t be expected to sit in a classroom when you might, at any moment, cause a storm to rip the roof off if someone upsets you, after all), to find their preacher’s wife setting up shop in their kitchen, intent on taking care of their own in a time of crisis. She even goes so far as to insist on inviting the Kansaska-Nebransas community to a birthday party for Mibs.

But when Mibs gets up on her birthday, she realizes that her savvy has already arrived. She has, she believes, the ability to awaken those who are sleeping, or who seem to be sleeping. And this savvy has appeared just at the right time for her to get to the Salina hospital where her father lies unconscious.

But how to get there with no adult in whom to confide her newly awakened gift?

As luck would have it, her birthday party overlaps with the delivery of some hot pink bibles to the church and the deliveryman’s bus suggests he’ll be heading back to his Salina headquarters soon. So, Mibs, followed by the preacher’s kids (Bobbie and Will, Jr.), and her two brothers, Fish and Samson, stow away in the back of the bus, hoping to hitch a lift to heal her father.

But what Mibs hasn’t yet shared with anyone is that the stress of her father’s accident has left her hearing voices in her head. And they seem to be coming from the oddest places…

Will her new friends and her brothers think she’s crazy? Can the Beaumonts keep their family’s secret from Bobbie and Will, who, it turns out, may just have a few secrets of their own. What happens when the driver of the hot pink bus finds them hidden amidst his wares? And will they make it to Salina in time?

I loved this book. Mibs’ voice is so real (as are the voices of those around her), and her desire to be useful and to get to her father are palpable and urgent. Law has done a good job of creating an ordinary girl from an extraordinary family and allowing her to grow up on the page before our eyes. I’d recommend it to any reader without hesitation.

Favorite passage: Momma is talking to Fish and Rocket about how to find their personal balances, using painting as a metaphor: “‘If you don’t use enough paint,’ Momma continued, ‘Your savvy will come through too strong, causing some pretty big problems for both you and the rest of the world…. If you use too much paint, you’ll not only obscure your savvy completely, but most everything else in life will become dull and uninteresting for you too. You can’t get rid of part of what makes you you and be happy.'” (page 185)

Pages: 342

Category: books. There is/are 1 Comment.

readathon challenges 2 and 3
posted by soe 10:02 am

readathonI’ve just surfaced from Savvy for a few minutes to brew a new cup of tea and figured it might be time to write another post.

The second challenge of the readathon is hosted by Miss Remmer, who asks:

…Write a post on your blogs about your kick off strategy. What have you surrounded yourself with for these early hours of the challenge besides your books? Is there a coffee thermos, lucky book mark, snacks, pillow…. We want to know how you have prepared so you do not have to leave your cozy reading space (by the way – we’d like to know what is too…. (are you still in bed, a chair, the couch…..)

Although I began the day reading in my rocking chair in front of my happy light, once my English muffin was done, I retreated to our red couch, where I can read lying down. I have all five bulbs in the lamp lit next to me and am curled up under a purple plaid wool blanket. Of course, the laundry hasn’t been put away, so I’m wedged between clean clothes and the giant fairy pillow Karen gave me so many years ago. But it is definitely a cozy reading spot.

For a while Posey joined me, curled up in my lap, but after a while she wasn’t there any more, so she must have realized she no longer had my attention and left. My tankard of tea grew cold and I pulled myself out of Kansaska-Nebransas long enough to finish the last couple mouthfuls of cold brew before hopping back on a pink bus.

My iTunes is up and playing on shuffle, but for the most part I don’t hear the music. If it were to stop, though, I’d hear the absence of music and it would yank me from my story. Luckily, though, I have so much music on my computer that it would outlast a weeklong readathon and still have a few tunes to play. And that’s just what’s ripped to the computer. Rudi and I must have at least as many cds as books jammed into our tiny apartment.

Challenge 3 is from Bobbie, who asks us for nominees:

Favorite Female Character in a book: Jo in Little Women
Favorite Male Character in a book: Harry Potter from the eponymous series probably
Favorite Side Kick in a book: Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter series
Favorite Couple in a Book: Anne and Gilbert in the Anne of Green Gables books
Favorite Book Series: Harry Potter (but only because some of the Anne books get a bit treacly)
Favorite Author: Barbara Kingsolver (although there are several others I love, sot that answer would vary depending on the moment)
Favorite Book Cover: Hmmm, while I like my books to have judgeworthy covers, I’m not sure I pay sufficient attention to them…. The Eyre Affair maybe
Favorite Book of 2009: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Is it bad that we’re just coming up on the end of Hour 3 and I’m already starting to ramble?

No? Well, good. I’m going to head back to the couch with my cup of tea and see if Mibs and her friends and brothers get to Salina or not…

Category: books. There is/are Comments Off on readathon challenges 2 and 3.

readathon: hour 1
posted by soe 7:43 am

readathonAs I wrote last night, I’ve decided at the last minute to embark upon Dewey’s Readathon today. There will be lots of reading, some mini challenges, and an audio book or two.

Before I start reading, here’s the first mini challenge of the day:

Where are you reading from today?

I’m located in Washington, D.C., in the outskirts of the ultra-hip and increasingly overly commercial Dupont Circle neighborhood. I’ll be spending a portion of time reading in my apartment, affectionately known as the Burrow; outside at local coffeehouses; and from diverse other locations, such as my community garden plot.

3 facts about me …

  1. I’m a procrastinator, which is why I didn’t commit to doing the readathon until the nth hour.
  2. I am not a morning person.
  3. I have three cats, who have no problem with my reading, just so long as I remember to feed them and let them sit on my lap.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?

I don’t have a set number of books in my To Be Read (TBR) pile, but our apartment periodically seems to be an ever-growing TBR pile, so I don’t think it’s going to be a problem.

But I am starting my day with Ingrid Law’s Savvy, which I’ve been looking forward to reading for quite a while.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?

No goals. Goals tend to have the opposite effect on me as with most people and usually mean I abandon them (and their cause) early on.

Rather, I guess, my goal is just to have fun and read some good books.

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time?

I did the readathon a few years ago (the last one before Dewey died), but wouldn’t really call myself a veteran. Plus, what works for me wouldn’t necessarily work for anyone else.

Oh, and I’m going to use this image for my challenge responses because Rudi was particularly taken with it last night. I believe he may be hoping it’s part of the readathon rules that I have to read in a bikini or in just my underwear. Alas (for him), I’m more of a pj pant and hoodie kind of girl…

Category: books. There is/are 4 Comments.