Papery Bouquet of Roses: A Review of Eight Cousins

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It’s a fact that I love Louisa May Alcott’s stories. They’re always sweet tales about brave, compassionate people who are true to reality. I especially like how these people are not perfect, they get into scrapes all the time. I simply don’t know how I would bear these stories if the characters were all epitomes of perfect angels. But thank goodness, Alcott’s stories don’t have these horrible characteristics. So I am back again to present another book you might find at the back of your bookshelf: Eight Cousins, by Louisa May Alcott.

Eight Cousins is a book about a thirteen-year-old girl called Rose who has just become an orphan. She goes to live with her merry aunts (well, most of them are), but she looks pathetically miserable. Her Uncle Alec decides to conduct an “experiment,” and he exposes her to her seven busy, messy, reckless but charming cousins. She becomes a nurse, makes several sacrifices, undergoes embarrassments, runs around wildly, and in short, becomes a more vivid, happy child. So pick that dusty, worn book up, because I might just convince you to read it!

Rose is one of the typical Louisa May Alcott girls, those that you never tire of. She’s brave, charming, and loving. However, Rose feels confused at the beginning of the book, and she had reason to!

Rose lives in what is nick-named “the Aunt-hill.” It is swarming with all her Aunts, and all of them have very different points of view. Unfortunately, they all want her to do different things. Aunt Myra is convinced that Rose has no constitution, and is dosing her with liters of medicine. Aunt Clara is convinced that she should buy more fashionable clothing, because she was a beauty in her day and believes that that is the key to life. Poor Rose bears this as heroically as she can, though she ends up moaning it to Uncle Alec. However I found this enormously funny!

This book was a beautiful accomplishment. Oh, how I wish Louisa May Alcott was still alive! Oh, and this book isn’t very hard to read, more like medium-easy. So any ten-year-old could speed through this like lightning. A nine-year-old would go a little slower, and a three-year-old at a snail’s pace. No, don’t laugh, I’m dead serious. So good luck with this paper-y bouquet of roses!

You can buy the book here.

Ages: 9+

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Enchanted: Magic Math – A Review of The Man Who Counted

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I hope you agree with me that falling asleep in class is, well, not a good idea. I also hope you agree with me that it is an important skill to be able to learn from reading. Unfortunately, I had never seriously put that thought into action—until, heh, until I read The Man Who Counted, by Malba Tahan (in real life, Júlio César de Mello e Sousa). This book is, on the level-of-reading scale, “medium.” It is about a man, called Hanak Tade Maia, who meets a mathematical genius, Beremiz Samir, on the road to Baghdad, Iraq. On the way to Baghdad, Beremiz and Hanak confront many riddles and seemingly impossible every-day problems. This book enlightened me on a subject, math, which I had always thought was a bit boring. The Man Who Counted is totally one of those books you’d call a “good read.”

I’m not surprised (only disappointed) if you are saying to yourself right now, “Why would I even bother reading this dumb book? It’s probably a boring bunch of math facts with weird people shoved in, to make it more like a story. Gah. Like I’d read that.” But the truth is, it’s not! This story is slam-packed full of little mathematical coincidences that really awe you. Nope, this is not a lie. For example, did you know that the divisors of 284 (1, 2, 4, 71 and 142) add up to 220, and that the divisors of 220 (1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 22, 44, 55, and 110) add up to 284? I found that really interesting because it was something I had never thought of, kind of like a friendship between numbers. Wow. Anyways, the main thing I wanted to say in this paragraph is that this is not just a bunch of facts, if I hadn’t made myself clear.

The story in itself is extremely realistic. No, I don’t mean that it’s normal to meet a mathematical genius every day, but this book transports you to 13th century Baghdad. You can see in your mind’s eye bustling streets with merchants calling out for customers, inns alive with chatter, and grand palaces. Of course, Islamic traditions are NOT omitted, and I think that without them, The Man Who Counted would not seem so realistic.

This book enchanted me with its mathematical adventures, even though math is not my forte.

You can buy the book here.

Ages: 10+

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Awesome & Authentic: A Review of The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

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I discovered this book in a library in Milan, Italy. After reading the prologue, I fell in love with it, and I received it later for Christmas. The story of the young outlaw was totally captivating. The Adventures of Robin Hood (by Howard Pyle) was humorous, full of dares, and, well, a great read.

You would think that Robin Hood would be constantly hiding from the Sheriff, but no  instead, Robin Hood was always very “polite.” In fact, he oftentimes invited the Sheriff to dine, which usually turned out in “handing over the cash.” In itself, that gave me an extremely satisfactory feeling, since the notorious Sheriff was always trying to hunt Robin Hood down. (The prologue explains that Robin was challenged to a duel and forced to shoot one of the King’s deer. The Sheriff was infuriated and almost driven berserk to think such a dangerous outlaw was on the loose, and that he was just out of his reach).

As I said, The Adventures of Robin Hood was slam-packed full of dares (the I’m-gonna-fight-you kind of dares, not the I-dare-you-to-eat-a-live-cockroach kind of dare). The meetings between Robin Hood and several other people were not so friendly, though sometimes extremely funny. Instead, he (excuse me-meaning Robin Hood) would often look at the new person and think, “Hmm…this feisty fellow needs some discipline,” and then fight him. However, ahem, however, these fights are not gruesome! No, they are not. This book is totally fine for queasy readers. Anyways. The fights usually consist of either 1) fighting with staffs, or 2) fighting with staffs. Not to say Robin Hood was better at fighting with staffs than at archery, but for dueling, he fought with staffs, because it’s much easier than trying to shoot an arrow at someone less than 1 meter away, don’t you think?

There’s just one tiny flaw in The Adventures of Robin Hood  `that is, for readers who are not particularly at ease with more heavy reading. For example, instead of saying, “‘ Now,’ said Little John, ‘Can someone give me a staff…’”, the book reads, “‘ Now,’ quoth Little John, ‘Is there never a man here that will lend me a good stout staff…’” Basically, the whole book is in old English, so you may want your dictionary handy. However, the fact that the book is in old English makes the book feel really authentic, which it is, unless you have an abridged version, which is totally different. If you can’t read the real book immediately, don’t spoil the story by reading the abridged version! Just wait. That way, when you read the real version you won’t say, “Oh, come on! I already know the plot of this thing! I want to read something else. Hmph.” After which you’ll never touch the book again. Boohoohoo!

After all of that, all I really want you to understand is this:

You should read this book. It is awesome…and authentic.

You can buy the book here.

Ages: 12+

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