Vines and Threads: A Review of Leviathan

We sped past the pine trees, leaving only exhaust in our wake. The wooded area by the highway was lush and green, but I recognized a plant that should not have been there. The kudzu vine is invasive in my area; you see it everywhere. How could we contain it? I frowned, gazing at a tree completely enveloped in the plant. If only the kudzu vine had never been introduced. How would the landscape look like today? The car switched lanes, bringing me away from my object of study. Would we even know the kudzu vine was a problem? Worse, would another invasive plant just have taken its place?

Continue reading “Vines and Threads: A Review of Leviathan

Just A Few Years: A Review of The Last Unicorn

thelastunicorn

I remember my little sister crying by a window. She was crying because I didn’t completely believe something she’d told me. It was a few years ago, (I, of course, completely trust her now) but that scene has stuck with me: her red, wet face; my mother’s voice talking to her patiently; my older sister’s impassive expression. Trust is something which you cannot hold and cannot measure, and yet it is so important that people trust you—how can you earn it?

Continue reading “Just A Few Years: A Review of The Last Unicorn

Sometimes It Matters: A Review of A Wizard of Earthsea

awizardofsearthsea

It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white. Michael Jackson’s hit song rang in my head, slightly annoying, slightly pleasant. It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white. I definitely hope so, but racism still oppresses many people today, despite valiant efforts to eliminate it. It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white. Why are people today still against those who don’t look like them? Why wouldn’t you put an image of a black person on a book cover?

A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin, is the first book of the Earthsea series. It tells the story of Sparrowhawk, a young goatherd from Gont. At an early age Sparrowhawk began to learn magic with his aunt, and he eventually travels to the Isle of the Wise, where he fulfills his training to become a mage. But one cool night on a deserted slope, he unleashes something which will eat away at his soul if he does not catch it soon enough.

Since the beginning of time, we have asked ourselves, “Who and what are we?” Some people look to science for answers, others to religion. In Earthsea, people look to their names. Your true name is your true being, and once it is given to you, you know who and what you are. A pebble might be called a rock, a shingle, or a stone, but its true name is tolk. No matter what spell you cast upon it, it will always remain tolk, its true form.

In 1967, when this book was first published, most protagonists were white. Ursula K. Le Guin made most of her characters black, including Sparrowhawk. “I was bucking the tradition, ‘making a statement,’” she wrote in the epilogue of A Wizard of Earthsea (p. 222). Although this makes A Wizard of Earthsea pleasantly unusual, it was met with opposition. Publishers refused to put a black Sparrowhawk on the cover for an entire year. Does it really matter if you’re black or white?

A Wizard of Earthsea is a splendid book, providing ample food for thought. It proved to me that sadly, sometimes it does matter if you’re black or white—but if we work hard enough, Michael Jackson’s song may prove true.

Middle-grade fantasy, ages 10-14.

You can buy this book here.

Works Cited

Le Guin, Ursula K. Afterword. A Wizard of Earthsea, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.

Michael Jackson. “Black or White.” Black or White, 25 June 1990

Story Garden: A Review of The Hawk and the Dove

the-hawk-and-the-dove

Lately, I have had considerable trouble concentrating in math class. I think and think and think, but most often I think about books and the characters in them. During the days I was reading The Hawk and the Dove, this problem became exceptionally sharp: in my mind, I always saw scenes from the book, such as Father Peregrine kneeling in front of poor Brother Thomas. It certainly gave me a lot of trouble!

The Hawk and the Dove, by Penelope Wilcock, tells the tale of a mother who recounts beautiful tales of monks every night to her daughter Melissa. The tales she weaves are of a certain Father Columba (said Father Peregrine) and the little but humbling scrapes his monk brothers find themselves in.

This book was amazingly vivid. The descriptions, although short, were stunning. Reading the description of Cecily, Melissa’s younger sister, roaring away because she was not taken seriously, filled my mind with the sound of hysterical crying, and I saw Cecily’s pretty little face all red with tears and anger. Indeed, reading these descriptions was better than watching the tales happen. Some images remain imprinted in my mind, such as Father Peregrine’s wry smile at the end of Chapter Eight or the three steaming pies presented to the novice monks at the end of Chapter Three. The image of three horrified monks, standing alone in the dark, deserted chapel will not leave me for a long time, I know it. The descriptions are too vivid to allow it.

This book was able to manipulate my emotions like never before. The compassionate, humbling stories made me close my eyes in horror or grin in mischievous delight. The Brothers’ and Fathers’ powerful characteristics shared in the emotional dance that I experienced: Brother Andrew, the hot-tempered, lovable old Scot jumping at me from all places, and Father Chad’s shy, timid ways provoking sympathetic smiles.

The Hawk and the Dove was full of small but colorful word paintings. With its scenes and characters imprinted in your mind, it’s hard not to think of Father Peregrine during math. But Melissa, the narrator of the tales, confronted the same problem. Her mother explains that she only needs to shut the imaginary green door that leads to the imaginary garden where Father Peregrine’s stories thrive.

Age: 10+

You can buy this book here.

the-hawk-and-the-dove2

The Enchanter: A Review of The Hobbit

the-hobbit

Picture an eleven-year-old girl hunched on the floor, reading a book that had been left lying on the ground from yesternight’s reading. A few forgotten math textbooks lie forlornly on a desk next to a blue clock reading “9:00 am.” If you lived with me, you would often see me in this position. And when I was writing this review, I probably read one third of The Hobbit again before shaking my head and picking up my pen. The Hobbit is just that kind of book that makes time fly (as well as make you forget a half-finished review).

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, tells of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo is an ordinary, respectable hobbit, which means that he likes hot tea, loves hearty meals, and hates dangerous adventures. But when the wizard Gandalf and a troop of dwarves camp in his home, Bilbo is swept up in a very dangerous adventure. The dwarves are reclaiming their Mountain from the dragon Smaug!

While the majority of books only have one race (humans), The Hobbit was teeming with different races. Hobbits, dwarves, elves—they all inhabited this book. Cheerful and simple, hobbits are impossible not to love. I always smile when Bilbo wishes to hear the sound of the kettle boiling. Dwarves, however, are the opposite of hobbits. Much of their character can be detected from their songs, which are fierce, determined, hardy, and proud. And then there are the elves—noble, isolated, yet skilled in many arts. These races are all marvelous, but for me, elves are the most magical.

The Hobbit contains some of the most whimsical rhymes I have ever read. Tolkien demonstrates his wit in the great riddle competition Bilbo has with the nauseating creature Gollum. The riddle about fish is permanently fixed in my mind; I repeat it a day in and day out. I relish the words on my tongue. Likewise, the tone of the dwarves’ song will never leave me, as well as the wood-elves’ merry lullaby. There is no doubt about it: Tolkien is master of rhymes.

The Hobbit is a masterpiece, a chef-d’oeuvre, a book that for me has become legendary. I cannot explain the exhilaration I felt while hunched over reading this book: The Hobbit is an enchanting world in which, once you get lost in it, you never want to find yourself again.

Ages: 10+

You can buy this book here.

the-hobbit2