What We Say, What We Do: A Review of The Thief

Tipping my head back, I licked the last drops of pink lemonade from my cup. I glanced around the table; my cousins and my siblings were still drinking their lemonade.

“Oof,” one cousin said, glancing at a brimming cup. “I don’t think I can drink this. I’m full.”

We made appropriate sounds of sympathy. Sighing, the cousin dumped the lemonade into the pitcher.

Another cousin squawked. “That’s gross! You’ve dumped in your backwash! I’m not drinking any more lemonade.”

“Aw, come on,” I said airily, “There’s nothing wrong with that lemonade. I’d drink it.” I picked up my glass and stared at it for a moment. Then I grimaced. I wanted more lemonade, but somehow, I couldn’t make myself drink from that pitcher.

Continue reading “What We Say, What We Do: A Review of The Thief

Robin Hood, Deromanticized: A Review of The Outlaws of Sherwood

IMG_2074

I looked at the target and frowned. I had always imagined myself shooting effortlessly, looking cool and controlled as I let loose perfectly aimed arrows in rapid succession. At least, I had certainly never envisioned this. I was straining to pull the bowstring, my face red with exertion. My arrows flew high above the target, into the woods beyond me. Stories always made shooting arrows sound so easy! How could anyone ever survive using a bow and arrow alone?

Continue reading “Robin Hood, Deromanticized: A Review of The Outlaws of Sherwood

Beautiful, Slow, and Alive: A Review of The Hidden Life of Trees

I have always loved trees. Whenever my siblings and I would go to the large park near our home, I would find a tree to sit in. I liked sitting in the large, sturdy pine next to the playground, but often I would clamber into one of the three small Judas trees at the other side of the park. The feeling of the rough bark underneath my fingers and the sight of the branches reaching up into the endless blue sky always entranced me. A year later, when I started a biology course, I realized that trees are not slow and sleepy, but awake and working. And when I read The Hidden Life of Trees—well, I was just blown away.

Continue reading “Beautiful, Slow, and Alive: A Review of The Hidden Life of Trees

Noise and Silence: A Review of The Chosen

The Chosen

I squeezed my eyes shut. The book I was reading sat in my sweaty hands, its sharp corners cutting into my palms. Why couldn’t the house be quiet? I felt like crying. There was too much noise—the vacuum’s irritating drone coming from the hallway, my sister singing some song of her own invention, the CD player playing classical music, someone making soup in the kitchen—and I couldn’t concentrate on the book in my hands. And yet with the noise came the certainty of life. Was this better than those afternoons when I was alone in the house, huddled on the couch? Was eternal noise better than eternal silence?

The Chosen is an award-winning novel written by Chaim Potok. It tells the story of Reuven Malter, a young Jewish boy living in 1940s Brooklyn. Reuven is playing baseball one day when a boy named Danny Saunders deliberately strikes Reuven in the face with the ball. When Danny visits Reuven at the hospital later that week, their friendship begins to bloom. But Danny’s father, a Hasidic Jew, is unlike any Jew that Reuven (a Zionist) has ever met. Will Reuven be able to weather this bitter clash of cultures?

Danny Saunders is a fascinating character. Danny is a genius; he knows how to speak several languages and is reading Freud (a German psychologist) by the age of fifteen. Although he is not allowed to, he reads American literature and papers written by revolutionary scientists. In fact, he is so bright that his father, a rabbi, despairs. Can one be too intelligent? To Reb Saunders, Danny’s father, yes. Danny’s hunger for knowledge is too great, Reb Saunders complains. How will Danny learn compassion?

One of the main themes of this book is silence. Danny is raised in silence; his father only speaks to him when they are studying the Talmud, the Jewish scripture, or to give orders. When Reuven hears of this, he is horrified. And when Danny tells Reuven that he can hear silence, Reuven is even more perplexed. He learns that Danny hears the pleas of the world where Reuven hears emptiness. Thus Danny learns compassion—and yet it is taught in the most uncompassionate of ways.

The Chosen is a deep, reflective novel about Judaism, friendship, and silence. With its nostalgic, contemplative voice, it persuaded me that perhaps, just perhaps, too much noise is better than too much silence.

Middle-grade historical fiction, ages 12+

You can buy this book here.

No Queens Here: A Review of The Goblin Emperor

thegoblinemperor

If I woke up one morning to find a messenger bowing down to me and proclaiming I was queen, I would be completely bewildered. My first reaction would be to think it was some sort of elaborate joke. If it proved to be a joke, I don’t know what I would feel. Irritation? Amusement? Regret? I would probably be relieved. All that envy and discontent at court would be uncomfortable to deal with. Somehow, royal life doesn’t seem quite so dandy anymore.

Continue reading “No Queens Here: A Review of The Goblin Emperor

Change: A Review of Meet the Austins

FullSizeRender

There are two fundamental responses to change. The first, and perhaps the easiest, is to be annoyed. After all, changes (big or small) disrupt our daily routine. And when our circumstances change, we have to change as well. The second option is to accept change with grace. When I think about the greatest changes in my life, I cannot imagine myself without them. Where would I be if I had never moved to different countries several times?

Continue reading “Change: A Review of Meet the Austins

Intelligent People: A Review of Dodger

dodger

Intelligence is a strange thing. No one can measure it, no one can make it, no one can see it—yet we all prize it. But intelligence is difficult to define. After all, how do you tell if you are intelligent? Does intelligence mean that you are academically skilled, or does it mean that you know how to navigate the ways of the world? Or perhaps there are different types of intelligence—academic knowledge, and something else entirely: a sort of cunning that few have. A certain Mister Dodger, even though he is a fictional character, is a perfect example of that elusive, cunning kind of intelligence.

The novel Dodger is by Sir Terry Pratchett (an author who received knighthood because of his services to literature), the acclaimed writer of the Discworld series. The main character, Dodger, is a seventeen-year-old street urchin who lives in early Victorian London. When a mysterious young woman tumbles out of a street carriage one night, Dodger rushes to defend her from her pursuers. Of course, he doesn’t know who she is, but she looks important—he might be able to get some money out of returning her. But what seemed like easy money becomes a complex adventure, which might just change Dodger forever.

Dodger is an urchin, more specifically a tosher: someone who looks for valuables in the sewers. As you can imagine, this means that Dodger is generally smelly and wet. He doesn’t mind. Dodger is actually quite content with his life. He is not a thief (or so he says) but he does not work, not really. On good days he will make more than a chimney sweep would in one day! But after his run-in with the golden-haired young woman, Dodger begins to think of life quite differently.

In his adventures with the young woman, Dodger meets Mister Charlie Dickens. Mister Charlie has a rather annoying habit of scribbling everything down, but Dodger knows that he is a unique man—one of those people you can’t trick or steal from. Charlie is intelligent, in both the academic and the street sense, and that makes him exceptional. Mister Charlie would be a dangerous enemy but becomes a valuable ally because he knows how people in certain situations think.

Dodger is a funny, surprising book with lovable (if smelly) characters. But underneath the action and puns is a deep reflection of the world itself, and all the intelligent people who inhabit it.

Middle-grade historical fiction, ages 12–14.

You can buy this book here.

Imperfect Flowers: A Review of Gulliver’s Travels

gullivers travels

As my sister walked up to the piano, I drew out my sketchbook and began to draw. For their concert, both of my sisters had asked me to sketch them as they played.

“Very nice,” said a voice over my shoulder. I looked up, surprised.

“Thank you,” I replied. An old woman with silver hair was smiling at me.

“I sketch too,” she said. “But I only do flowers. That way when I make mistakes no one notices.” I felt a pang of sympathy as she finished her sentence. There are no mistakes in art! It only depends on your perception.

Continue reading “Imperfect Flowers: A Review of Gulliver’s Travels

Behind the Scenes: A Review of The Fellowship of the Ring

the fellowship of the ring yayayay

When I was working on a short story a few months ago, I also wrote a backstory. I drew pictures of my characters. I jotted down their motivations. I described where the characters lived. But when J. R. R. Tolkien wrote his books, he did far more. He invented languages. He wrote books about the ancestors of his characters. He drew detailed maps. And perhaps all of this preparation is what drew me so strongly to his books.

Continue reading “Behind the Scenes: A Review of The Fellowship of the Ring