Sunday, June 13, 2010


Moxy Maxwell, Procrastinator Extraordinaire

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little
Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank You Notes
Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano

by Peggy Gifford

A coworker recently introduced me to Moxy Maxwell, who falls into that class of precocious young girl for roughly grade 2-3 readers that have been so popular, spawning Junie B., Clementine, and Judy Moody, and following in the august footsteps of Ramona Quimby. Thankfully, she reminds me more of Clementine, with her big ideas, than of Junie B., who can be a little obnoxious for my tastes.

The hook in each of these novels is that Moxy has a deadline for some task she really does not want to complete - laid out in the very descriptive titles. Instead of getting to it, Moxy procrastinates. She thinks up "easier, faster" ways of doing it, involving many other things that backfire. Or she has some other brilliant plan that is way to fantastic to put off in favour of what she ought to be doing.

It is perhaps not truly helping her that she has a small friend who is willing to do her bidding, no matter how ludicrous, as well as a younger sister who has been known to get involved. Her older brother is wise enough to stay out of the action, though he doesn't seem able to resist hanging around to see what will happen - and records everything in photographs sprinkled throughout the books.

Moxy's long-suffering mother really makes these books for me, with her dry, seeming-calm inquiries about what exactly has happened to create the mayhem that she has just discovered. For example:

"Was there a fire in your room?" her mother asked.
"A fire in my room?"
Was a fire in her room a good thing? Was a fire better than not reading Stuart Little?
"Not that I know of," said Moxy.
"Are you aware that you are swinging in a hammock and eating peaches and petting Rosie?" her mother said.

Because yes, Moxy was doing all those things after having destroyed her mother's garden and having not read Stuart Little, in fact.

This is the way things seem to happen around Moxy. for some reason, her big ideas go awry in a pretty spectacular fashion. And yes, it's a wild ride, but awfully funny.

A couple of things that makes these books a little difference is the narrator, who is outside of the action, and the photographs of the action, which add a fun comic twist. (I can't help but think how much fun they must have had staging those!)

This trio shows signs of expanding, and I will be picking up the next one, because these are a good laugh. In fact, I think I'm going to start reading one to my own little girl soon.

Labels: , , , ,


The Bride's Farewell

by Meg Rosoff

Pell is intended to marry a boy with whom she has a great friendshp, but no love. In fact, though she is of age and from a terribly poor family, and despite the fact that marrying him would represent an improvement in her life, she has no wish to marry at all, and decides to run away and see if she can't find a way to ply the farrier's trade that she has learned growing up or make money from her gift for working with horses. As she leaves, her brother, a mute half-brother, presents himself and asks in his way to go with her.

The two set out on the road, with little to no resources outside of a horse, a woollen shawl, and a few pennies. They live in rough times in a rural area, so while they receive a few small kindnesses, most people view them as suspicious or as potential victims, so they must be careful.

She does meet someone promising at one point, hangs her hopes on him, only to be disappointed when he leaves the city without paying her his due. Meanwhile, her brother follows him, so by the time she returns from a small errand, she has lost brother, horse, and hopes of money.

How she fares on her own, searching for both the man who has wronged her and her lost brother, makes for a tale with many twists and turns, heart-catching moments, disappointments, and small victories. Perhaps Pell's most amazing gift is her tenacity, and she proves herself made of the very iron she knows how to mold as she faces one trial and another.

The book is, of course, lovely, as Rosoff is a terrific writer, and the end is, not to give much away, one that left me satisfied without being so miraculously happy as to ring false.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


The Owl Keeper

by Christine Brodien-Jones

As this novel starts, it is not clear how much the world is like ours and how much is set in another, very different reality. I'm not much a reader of fantasies or dystopian literature, and liked how this left some of that misty at first, and slowly revealed how much the world had changed in this story. There is an interesting blend of old stories, of folklore nearly lost, and a darkness to the main character's world that add to the moodiness.

You see, he is told that he is allergic to sunlight, and kept hidden away indoors, so that he only roams at all in the dark of night. he receives injections regularly from a doctor, and has a guardian who looks after him, for his parents are working nearly always, and he seldom sees them at all.

As we start to learn about silver owls that had once been revered but were now considered enemies to be destroyed, he also meets a strange girl who appears to live just as far outside of the bounds of normalcy as he does, and they form an instant bond. He is attracted to her fearless fierceness, and they start to explore and question, making some horrifying discoveries about the world and the plans that are soon to be completed. They decide that they are the only ones who understand what is coming, and that they must act, even if their mission is nearly hopeless, and based on half-remembered mythology. They set out on a quest, as it were, fending off dangers human and not on the way, and find surprising resolution and renewal.

This book is very much in the tradition of quest tales, but is told beautifully, with a dreamy quality that mutes the more horrifying parts just enough, and keeps the sense of mystery nicely. There is some lovely bits of poetry tucked in, and a warming feeling of love for this boy, even among terrible, dark times, that makes this especially lovely.

Even though I am not generally a fan of this genre, I really loved this book.

Labels: , , , , ,