Last week I told you about my new resolution to read one children’s book every weekend. Well, my resolution-keeping streak lasted exactly one weekend. Although I contemplated reading the shortest children’s book on my bookcase (The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman) this past weekend, I decided I had too much other stuff to do, like making a pot of pasta e fagioli soup. (So I did continue my Italian cooking streak.)
However, I did buy a children’s book on Saturday. At a local store with the perfectly explanatory name Estates and Consignments (where I also found a nice drop-leaf table that I’m thinking of buying if it’s still there next time I go), I found a copy of 1971 Newbery Winner Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. It looks like an early edition, and if it is indeed a 45-year-old paperback, it’s in really good shape. So that’s got to count for something.
And although I didn’t read an entire children’s book over the weekend, I did make progress on a children’s book I’ve been working on for a little over a week: Inkdeath, the final book in the Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke. I’ve been disappointed with these books because I really wanted to love them, especially after witnessing the enthusiasm of one of my students who claims them as her favorite books and who is doing a major project on them this semester. Although the story has kept me enough engaged that persevering through these three massive volumes hasn’t been a complete drag, I can’t say I’ll be sad to finish the series. I find the translation from German clunky, with isn’t Funke’s fault, but I don’t think the translation can be blamed for the unlikeable (in some cases) and forgettable (in most others) characters. There are a few minor characters with interesting psychologies, but I still don’t really care if they live or die. The quasi-medieval Inkworld is by turns beautiful and gritty (which is why I think the second and third books, which are set in it, have been better the first one, which is set in our own world), but I kind of wish I could get rid of all the existing characters (except maybe Dustfinger; he’s okay) and create my own story set in the Inkworld. Which I guess makes me no better than the villain of this third book, who’s basically trying to do just that. All right; I’ll just own it. I’m a bad guy.
I am also listening to a children’s book, the recent Newbery Honor book The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz. Here’s the premise of this bizarre (and, like Inkdeath, extremely long) story: In medieval France, three kids with superpowers (though nobody actually uses that word), accompanied by a greyhound who’s been resurrected from the dead, are trying to get to a far-away monastery and escape the corrupt knights who are hunting them. Actually, right now they’re just trying to get to an inn where one of the boys left his donkey, which he calls his ass, which led to some Chaucer-esque broad humor that I have to admit made me LOL. The structure of the novel is also Chaucer-esque: The “inquisitor” of the title is a writer (voiced in the audiobook by Gidwitz himself) who keeps asking questions while drinking in an inn, and the story gets pieced together by a colorful cast of adult characters who seem to be in awe of the plucky trio–and who are just as interesting as the kids themselves. I’m enjoying this book for several reasons: It’s funny but it also has a real sense of danger (a balance that many good children’s books strike); the characters are likeable, except the ones we aren’t supposed to like; and the most of the readers are good, which, as I’ve noticed since I started listening to audiobooks recently, can make a huge difference in my appreciation of a book (which, I suppose, isn’t entirely fair to the author).
Well, that’s about all the children’s lit I can handle in one week. Let me know if you’ve read any of these books or if you have any suggestions for ones I should read next!