Review: Maggot Moon

Maggot Moon
Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I haven’t even figured out what this book is really about yet but I already know I will love it. Standish Treadwell, bullied 15 year old whose parents, and then his friend, have mysteriously disappeared, “con’t read, can’t write, Standish Treadwell isn’t bright.” He was once lucky enough to have a teacher who recognized the original in him, calling him “a breeze in the park of imagination.” Even better, as a kid who cannot make peace with the written word, he has cultivated a love for the sounds and meanings of words. And Gardner writes him with gorgeous language.

“I reckon that was the genius of the seat because you ended up sitting there looking small and less of anything, with your feet dangling and your knobbly knees blushing red.” (p. 21)

“There was no barbed wire or anything like that to fence it off. That notice alone had the power of a thousand scarecrows.” (p.23)

“I sat down, my heart an egg bumping against the side of a pan of boiling water.” (p.24)

“A word to describe that wall would be impenetrable. See. I might not be able to spell but I have a huge vocabulary. I collect words – they are sweets in the mouth of sound.” (p.24)

This story is like nothing I have read recently. Wholly original, moving, and bleak. I am very interested to read more from Sally Gardner.

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Review: The Ladies’ Paradise

The Ladies' Paradise
The Ladies’ Paradise by Émile Zola
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s fascinating to read this pretty damning story of greed, expansion, materialism, lust and cutthroat capitalism after seeing it portrayed on Masterpiece as a well-intentioned love story! I wonder if Zola is spinning in his grave!

On tv, Mouret is a charming visionary — In this book, he is two-faced and single-minded, happily destroying his commercial neighbors simply because he can. Rather than just paternalistically encouraging his female customers to buy, the printed Mouret seeks to enflame them into utterly bankrupting their husbands.

This is not to say that the shopkeepers and craftsmen of the old ways are nice, either – They refuse to change, curse and shake their fists at the behemoth across the street. They do not clean or light their stores. They do little to tempt customers to stay with them. And, they, too, are largely unkind to everyone around them (especially Denise’s uncle).

It’s an uneven read — Zola gives endless detail regarding the material goods and architecture, but wraps up the main narrative in two short paragraphs. It was odd and jarring.

Also odd, and making me laugh out loud in this otherwise not funny read, is the section in which Denise finds her maturing voice and her growing intellect and applies them to commerce. What’s funny is not that she grows up but that Zola, again in just one longish paragraph, credits her (singlehandedly) with the invention of worker protection and trade unions.

Still, reading this is loads of fun! If you pick it up, don’t let the beginning turn you away; though Zola spends too much time listing all the things for sale at the Paradise, that part does subside, and you’re given quite an interesting look at Paris in the late 1800s.

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Review: Infinity and Me

Infinity and Me
Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved everything about this story except the focus on the new shoes and the worry. A great way to share the concept of infinity with younger kids. I especially liked the bit abut recess going on forever, and how that changes its meaning — If it’s not a break from work or school or anything, is it really recess? Would it be any fun? If you got to be a kid forever, would your best friend continue to find you interesting? I liked the idea of kids coming up with their own examples for infinity.

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Review: You Are Stardust

You Are Stardust
You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this cool little picture book. In it, Kelsey explains, in kid-friendly (but never cutesy) language, the origins of the universe, the water cycle, mammalian evolution, seed dispersal, and the inter-connectedness of all Earth’s beings. The mixed 2-D and 3-D illustrations were interesting and they mostly work — I was distracted by the repeated Morton-salt-girl shrinky dink, but I doubt the target audience will have that frame of reference. This would be a pretty good book to read at the start of a more detailed science exploration.

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