Oct. 31st, 2013

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I've spent quite a lot of the last few weeks pre-reading books to check if they are appropriate for my favorite 8-year-old. Her parents thought the Prydain Chronicles and The Dark Is Rising would be too scary for this year, but that she'd love some of Lloyd Alexander's books for younger kids. So I've been going through as much of Alexander's work as I could carry home from the library.

Discovery 1: There don't seem to be many adventure stories as exciting as the Keladry books and Wrinkle In Time (which she loved even before she was such a big girl) that aren't scary.

Discovery 2: I don't like Lloyd Alexander's books nearly as much as I used to. The sexism fairy hit them awfully hard.

Read more... )

I also read A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan. I LOVED it. It is wildly, completely, inappropriate for the 8 year old. (Not that I ever expected otherwise.) Sweetest proposal scene I've read in ages. And I love how the unreliable narrator gradually becomes less clueless about both dragons and foreigners. She starts off being painfully, realistically, appropriately (for her class and culture) insensitive to "those people," but it's pretty clearly the character being a jerk, not the author. (Unlike other books where a character suddenly become more enlightened between a book and its sequel, and the most likely reason seems to be the author's friends saying "yo. this is a problem.") Anyhow, Isabella learns a little better and it's perfectly plausible and I love her to bits. I returned the book to the library's "Awesome Box," and may get 2 copies. One for me to keep and hug, and one to hang onto and give the child when she's a teenager...

And furthermore, Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper is really problematic. The first part of the book is the story of a Native American boy growing up in what is now Massachusetts. The strange customs of his people are described in ways that reminded me of Julie of the Wolves. First person description, yet somehow the strangeness of the customs felt exaggerated (unlike historical fiction that makes strange customs feel ordinary, as they do to the people who live with them.) Hawk dies as a young man, killed by Puritan settlers. The narrative then switches to a sympathetic Puritan boy, to whom Hawk's ghost eventually speaks. I can tell Cooper is trying so very hard to be sensitive and not racist, and it just doesn't work.

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