Monday, October 27, 2008

Secret Keeper

I may need to create a new tag in LibraryThing: "made me long for an excuse to wear one of my salwar kameezes."

Secret Keeper definitely qualifies.

Asha would be happy to step into my jeans. She's sixteen in 1974, and would like to be playing cricket or studying for university - she has every intention of becoming the first female Bengali psychologist. But faced with a shortage of engineering jobs in India, Asha's father leaves his family behind while he looks for opportunities in the United States.

Asha, her mother, and her sister move into paternal grandmother's house in Calcutta. There's no money for school fees, and the Gupta adults aren't about to allow Asha to play sports outside the garden, so she finds refuge in her diary - her Secret Keeper - on the roof.

There are no villains in this book. There's no shortage of conflict, but, for example, Grandmother isn't a tradition-bound dragon lady. Asha frequently finds her strict, but she takes her granddaughters' side when it's appropriate.

Secret Keeper is filled with funny lines that jump out of the text (really, would the Grimms care if someone Indianized their tales?) and very nearly tear-inducing at the end - which did not turn out the way I expected.

And I'll admit it, I came away just a little bit in love with Asha's cousin Raj. If he gets to come back in a future book, Mitali, I certainly won't complain.

Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins. Random House, January 2009.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hip Hop Speaks to Children

A lot of excellent bloggers have been more timely than me in reviewing this book. See what TheHappyNappyBookseller, HipWriterMama, Fuse #8, Kelly Fineman, Shelf Elf, and Franki have to say about it.

But I still have to have my say. Because it's just that good.

(Actually, this book had me from the introduction, where Nikki Giovanni suggested that "if we could get to Mars we'd probably find a group of young Martians, hats flipped back, pants on the baggy side, shirts down to the knees, busting some rhymes, challenging each other in free style.")

Nikki Giovanni's selections go beyond what we usually think of as hip hop: Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Lucille Clifton, and Langston Hughes make appearances. So does Martin Luther King, Jr.'s prose.

But it works. All the selections in the book have a beat, and they just beg to be read out loud.

The illustrations, done by five different artists, tie in nicely with the poems they represent. While the samples available on Sourcebooks' site are nice, they left out my favorites. When you get your hands on a copy, be sure to check out the illustrations for
  • Dream Boogie (Langston Hughes)
  • Oh, Words (Eloise Greenfield)
  • Principal's Office (Young MC)
  • Harlem Night Song (Langston Hughes)
  • Ego Tripping (Nikki Giovanni)
And there's a CD, too - some of the poets read their own works, some are performed by others. Definitely worth a look!

A good excuse for having elevenses today

Happy Birthday, Paddington!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Impressionable minds...

This is why Fine Lines has such a following.

(Thanks, Josh!)

One of those times when Jane Austen demonstrates the opposite of advice

[The surrogate father] wished [the wannabe lover] to be a model of constancy; and fancied the best means of effecting it would be by not trying him too long.
- Mansfield Park, Chapter 35

Yup. When you're concerned about the callow youth's tendency to be fickle in love, the best way to avoid a problem is to not give him time to change his mind.

Leila picked up the book around the same time I did, so check in at Bookshelves of Doom for her updates.

Khaled Hosseini

If you haven't already fallen in love with Mr. Hosseini through his words at BEA 2008 ("And if that writer were a woman, it would be so much sweeter for me... I'll accept this award as her proxy"), maybe this will do it.
As a secular Muslim, I too was offended. Obama's middle name differs from my last name by only two vowels. Does the McCain-Palin campaign view me as a pariah too? Do McCain and Palin think there's something wrong with my name?
I'd like to think that you don't have to be an Obama supporter to object to seeing his name turned into an epithet.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I am so there!

A Rockapella Holiday
December 18, 2008
Ridgefield Playhouse

Yes, I grew up on Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, I admit it.

If anyone else thinks this might be worth a trip to Ridgefield, let me know!