Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Checking In

Since last we spoke, I've finished Boneshaker, Real Unreal: The Best American Fantasy 3, and Sandman Slim and am working on reviews. I have been on an amazing reading run recently with a spate of truly excellent books. God bless inter-library loan, without which the pickings would be much, much slimmer.

I'm back to reading juvenile fiction at the moment as I wait for my next shipment of library books, and again I'm running into some really good books that I really should have read long before now.

Christopher Paul Curtis's Bud, Not Buddy is a marvel. This story of a depression-era orphan searching for the man he believes to be his father really sings, largely because of Curtis's gift with character.

Bud Calloway is only ten years old, but circumstances have forced him to grow up quickly. With the life he has led: no father, mother dying when he was six, life in the orphanage and in various foster homes, he could easily have turned sullen and bitter or even violent. Instead he's become tough and self-sufficient and remarkably resilient.

Curtis is equally adept with his other characters, from the kind librarian who remembers which books Bud used to like when he came in with his mother to Lefty Lewis, the Pullman porter who picks Bud up by the side of the road and takes him to meet the man he believes is his father. Even characters who are only present for a few pages are memorable and ring true.

The same could be said of Kate DiCamillo's bittersweet Because of Winn-Dixie. Like Bud Calloway, India Opal Buloni is 10 years old. She and her father, a preacher, have been abandoned by her mother, and her father has just moved them to a new town where Opal doesn't know anybody and is lonely. While on a shopping trip for dinner, Opal meets a huge, mangy, stinky, exciteable dog who smiles at her and wins her heart. Through her friendship with Winn-Dixie (named for the store he was running amok in when they met), Opal is able to reconnect with her father and make new friends, finding a kind of family.

DiCamillo's books (I've also read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Tale of Despereaux) are full of adventure and humor, but there's always a thread of melancholy which adds depth and richness to the story.


Lisa said...

Oh, you should read DiCamillo's new one, The Magician's Elephant. It's short and very, very sweet.

Peggy Hailey said...

I'll put it on my inter-library loan list right now.