Now Reading: An Abundance of Katherines
This summer, I reread some of the books I remember most fondly from my elementary school days. Luckily, most of them lived up to memories of their greatness.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle The classic adventure of what happens when three witches appear and tell Meg that they can help her find her missing father. Her younger brother Charles Wallace, and new friend Calvin come along as they travel through time on wrinkles in the space-time continuum. Still weird. Still brilliant. And still giving me hope that even unpopular, dorky girls like Meg can end up with someone like Calvin. When a literary crush lasts this long, you know it's forever.
Half Magic by Edward Eager In which we have four children during a boring summer who discover a magic coin that grants them wishes. Kinda. The coin's a little faulty, so it only grants half of your wish. The siblings each get to make a wish a day and go off on many adventures. It's a little dated in a way I didn't notice when I was young-- it seems very quaint. I now also know that it's heavily based on E. Nesbit's Five Children and It (to be fair, Eager gives Nesbit full credit and even makes her the favorite author of the children). That ruined it for me a little, but I still highly recommend to anyone who hasn't read it, especially if they're under 12.
The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen I have yet to see the Kirsten Dunst film version of this because I love this book so much that I would hate to see it differently than it is in my mind's eye. Hannah can't understand why her older relatives are so upset about a war that happened long ago. She's not keen on spending Passover with them. But, when she opens to the door to look for Elijah during Seder, she's transported back in time to a Polish shetl that's about to be deported to Hitler's death camps. Even though she knows what's coming, she can't make it stop and she can't make anyone listen to her. Even when I knew the ending and the surprise twist, even when I have since read and learned a lot more about the Holocaust, I found this book to be just as gripping and heart-breaking as it was in seventh grade.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweilerby E. L. Konigsburg I love art-based mystery thriller novels such as The Da Vinci Code The Girl With Boticelli Eyes. (Seriously-- this is a bit of a super-niched genre, but if you have any other titles, let me know.) I fully blame this book for starting it in me. Anyway, in this lovely little book, Claudia decides that she's not really loved and her family would not miss her if she ran away. She takes her little brother with her (because he's good at saving his allowance, and she needs someone to bankroll this operation) and they head off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (because Claudia wants to live somewhere nice. While at the Met, they get caught up in a mystery taking the art world by storm when the Met acquires a new statue that may or may not have been a Michelangelo.
My only complaints are that the story no longer seems plausible (shut up-- when I was in 5th grade, I totally believed this could happen). But in such an age of high tech security, can one really spend the night in an antique bed without setting off some laser alarm? *sigh* I wish. Also, Chasing Vermeer, which owes A LOT to Mrs. Basil, is more gripping and a smarter read all around for today. Still, a classic, but one I probably will not pick up again until I can read it to my own children (who, at this point, are totally hypothetical-- don't get your hopes up Mom).