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Reviews Written by
Plume45 "kitka12345" (Westchester, NY)

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The Fledgling
The Fledgling
by Jane Langton
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.99
49 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars TO FLY: FAIRY OR SAINT?, Jan. 31 2003
This review is from: The Fledgling (Paperback)
Chalk up yet another book in the Kid and Bird category! Eight-year-old Georgie is small and spindly for her age; she looks much younger and even insists that she can fly! Her attempts using the stairs to launch her slender frame into space cause her family (mother, step-father and half siblings) great concern--enough to lead the teenagers to privately form the Georgie Protection Society.
When a flock of migrating Canadian geese takes up temporary residence at Walden Pond, she feels an unexplained but special affinity with an old, single gander.
The proud loner spots her red hair and tries to make friendly contact with one of humankind's most receptive ambassadors. In her own childish mind she names him the Goose Prince.
But other eyes and spying and prying into their private dream world: the snooty new neighbor, Miss Madeline Prawan, who plants plastic roses in her garden! Her boss at the bank, Mr. Ralph Preek, is even worse; he wages an unreasonable but deadly vendetta against the old goose, who is not only harmless, but seems to want to bestow a special gift upon this unqiue child.

Can the GPS foil the cruel intentions of enemies of the Goose Prince? Will this little girl really be able to fly, or is it just a a hallucination: if she has lost touch with reality, how about the adults who savor the hunting season? Can profit be made if she turns out to be some kind of levitating saint? And just what is the unique present which the old goose finds, to later share with his flying companion? A curious fantasy for young readers, who will actually learn something about Henry David Thoreau, who immortalized Concord's Walden Pond.

The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera
by Gaston Leroux
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.92
70 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Everything that is undergrund belongs to him!, Jan. 31 2003
Wow--is this novel for real? It reads like a 20's silent movie, yet it hooks you, capturing your imagination right from the
start. You may think you know the story from the 90's musical and various movie versions, but you can't really Know it until you read the original. This is the French contribution to the Gothic Novels of the late 19th century: Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and R.L. Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Hr. Hyde--the British triumvirate of Horror.
PHANTOM represents the epitome of Theatre of the macabre; in fact this story is actually set inside a theater--the Paris Opera. But
this particular opera house is haunted by the self-proclaimed Opera Ghost, whose reign of terror exceeds mere parlor tricks. His talents incude abduction, dispassionate but brutal murder,
and extortion--both financial and entrepreneurial. The Directors
are his frustrated pawns, but no one is safe from his vile, utterly selfish schemes.
Since the story is so well known, I will not recapitulate the plot--just recreate the below-the-stage setting. We gradually glimpse a subterranean kingdom ruled by a vicious madman, who skulks in darkness because his face is so horribly disfigured that mankind shuns his presence. Those unfortunate individuals who happen to catch a glimpse of him refer to a Death's Head; indeed his favorite costume is from
Poe's "Mask of the Red Death." Of course we have the beautiful but typically helpless young heroine, Christine, the Swedish singer whose career he has taken into his gloved hand. The triangle is completed by the ardent but reckless Count de Chagny, who has loved her since childhood. Luckily for the couple they acquire a curious ally known only as the Persian, who relates the amoral history of the masked madman below-boards.
I found Leroux's literary style confusing, however, since he takes great and frequent liberties with time. He alernates writing in the 3rd person (as the omnisicent narrator) and the first person--with Two different characters telling their own stories. (We need a scorecord to distinguish between the two I's.) In addition the prologue and epiloque to the 26 chapters are written by Leroux's amateur detective, Rouletabille, who outwits both criminals and the Paris police by the use of brilliant, Holmesian deduction. Leroux neatly ties up most of the loose threads for us, but we do wonder how the Phantom accomplishes all those fascinating sleight-of-hand tricks which baffle the Directors. Only the Persian fully understands his evil past; only sweet Christine finds compassion for the phantom; only Raoul risks all to save his beloved. Beware if you venture into his realm beneath the opera house, for you enter a grim and dangerous dommain; to step into the phantom's territory is to challenge his will and endanger your life and poissibly your sanity. Timeless Horror which will ensnare you.

Cold River
Cold River
by William Judson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 7.50
32 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Learning to Share Her Father, Jan. 30 2003
This review is from: Cold River (Mass Market Paperback)
Judson's 1974 story deals with survival on two levels: a brutal winter in the frozen woods and the hot battle between step-siblings. Of course two kids have a better chance of making it on their own during the winter than just one, but not all the predators have four legs. This readable book rivals Paulsen's man-about-the-woods with its forest lore. It is supposed to be impossible to starve in Nature's bounty--even in winter.

In 1921 fourteen-year-old Lizzie and her step-brother, Tim, anticipate a two-week camp out with their father--a capable woodsman and professional guide in the Adirondack mountains. In fact this book is a treasury of survival information. One of Lizzy's talents is the ability to remember (if not actually understand) everything that she hears. But when their father dies after a whitewater disaster, the two youngsters must pool their knowledge and skills (plus come to terms with their conflicting emotions about the blended family) in order to make it through the long months of challenge and outright danger. Most of the tale is a flashback, from adult Lizzy's viewpoint. The pace picks up dramatically near the end, when the kids face adult violence. This changes the genre of the book from mere survival to thriller--with a touch of mystery. Enjoyable reading for all teens or to keep as a guide in a cabin in the woods.

Blue Heron
Blue Heron
by Avi
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.89
50 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars TO TOUCH THE MAGIC!, Jan. 29 2003
This review is from: Blue Heron (Paperback)
Although this book seems thick compared weth other YA novels, these 186 pages read easily, thanks to extensive dialogue. Soon-to-be 13 Maggie feels like a "summer hostage" while visiting her father--a court-ordered social ritual which produces recurring
mental anguish ever since her parents divorced when she was six. Clinging to her childhood memories of a game of Magic shared by her dad, Maggie dreads this visit to a rented cabin on a remote lake in Connecticut. There she will have to face a young step-mother and baby half-sister. Her stay will trigger explosive events which impact several lives and redefine already painful relationships.
Seeking escape from the emotional turmoil in the cabin, Maggie is gradually captivated by the grace and quiet dignity of a blue heron, who rules the neighboring marsh. Soon she is obsessed by the giant bird--considering him an Omen, but for Life or for Death? Determined to win his trust, she daily observes him at dawn, discovering that he too has reason for private agitation. Maggie's investigations on his behalf demonstrate her budding moral courage, yet she also feels overwhlemed that they all seem to be asking for her help: the heron, her step-mother and even her belligerent father. Is this too great a burden for a young teen?
There is no romance for Maggie on this vacation, but realization of her complex, extended-family roles. During most of the book she speaks to adults in unrevealing monosyllables; her vocabulary only comes alive when she interacts with kids. This book presents a gripping psycho-drama, as an ordinary girl suddenly comes of age. Perhaps Avi deliberately included a plea for wildlife conservation. BLUE HERON is probably of greater appeal to high school girls (who try to hide their true feelings from adults), despite the lack of love interest. Thoughtful insight into blended family dynamics.

Stuart Little
Stuart Little
by E. B. White
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.42
143 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Mouse on a Quest, Jan. 26 2003
This review is from: Stuart Little (Paperback)
This darling chidlren's classic--with exquisite b/w illistrations by Garth Williams--has been a family favoite since my childhood. Orignally begun as a series of unrelated tales about a mouse born into a human family who lives in a kinder, gentler New York City, this book gradually evolves into a novelette. After several expository chapters the plot finally emerges; in this animal fantasy world human-rodent relationships and dialogue are accepted as natural. This humorous but unlikely story will appeal to elementary children and all who keep mice as pets.
For our Stuart is a Mouse-about-Town (and Country), in his mini-car with invisible capabilities. He might even be the literary ancestor of Beverly Cleary's Mouse and the Motorcycle. His self-appointed quest is to seek out his dear friend, Margalo--a tamed wild bird who flew away in fear of the family cat.
Equally at home on land or on water, this intrepid mouse discovers that not all his "Midsummer Memories" are sweet, but his adventures capture our childlike imagination. This gentlmanly mouse is sociable (with occasional hints of the sulks). He is at home both in a canoe and in the schoolroom; he admire his fearlessness in setting out to succeed in a human world. He follows his dream with quiet independence and determination; we respect his steadfast devotion to Margalo, who once saved his life. This is a simple, pleasant read for the young at heart.

The Cat Who Went to Heaven
The Cat Who Went to Heaven
by Elizabeth Coatsworth
Edition: Paperback
35 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Buddhist Lore on Kittycat Paws, Jan. 25 2003
This is a darling, quick read--timeless in its appeal to cat lovers! The Western literary world was "discovering" the Orient in the 1930's, so this story is set in Japan, where Buddhism flourishes. A poor painter with an artistic soul invites a calico cat, whose coloring is considered lucky, to join his threadbare household. Can a cat really pray to a statue? And get results? However it happens, the artist receives a commission from the high priest to paint a horizontal silk mural for the temple, which would result in instant recognition and the end of his poverty.
After each short chapter the housekeeper gives a little poem summarizing the action. I just wish they were in Haiku format, to reenforce the Japanese flavor.
During the artist's exhaustive mental preparation, we learn many
details about the life of Buddha (but gently, not in a preachy style), as the artist ponders which animals he will include in his mural. Good Fortune is his silent partner in the creation process, but she seems sad that he refuses to include a cat. Does the artist dare risk professional failure by acknowledging his debt to this dainty feline? Will she reallly go to Heaven? I wish I had discovered this gem decades earlier! A delightful story for readers of all ages.

The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural
The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural
by Patricia McKissack
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 7.99
52 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Voodoo Gumbo--Zacherle would love this!, Jan. 24 2003
This book consists of ten eerie tales of the supernatural--begging to be read Alone on "a dark and stormy night," or retold around a friendly campfire. These tales present Black protagonists from the slave era, throughout American history, right up to the present. The title refers to the half hour of semi-darkness which precedes true nightful--when all tales seem spookier because of the shadows and rustling of nocturnal creatures.
The stories vary greatly in subject and style: slaves atempt to escape rather than be sold off, or they invoke ancient voodoo rituals to punish a cruel master. A callous bus driver gets a ghostly brand of justice; an old pullman porter tries to cheat death aboard the 11:59; a man uses ESP to try to
save his family. A distraught mother encounters a sasquatch; a little girl has an unreasonable terror of a monster in the chicken coop, and more.
My personal favorite presentsa Nigerian legend about the Dark Women who tried to cheat a goddess; they exist solely to trick unwary moderns into inviting them into their homes, where they wreak havoc upon the unsuspecting tenants who naively think they are safe in the 90's. Only the Gingi can protect these hapless souls from such vindictive spirits. Like Dracula lore, which insists that the victim must cross the threshhold of his own free will, the evil visitor must receive an invitation before entering. An entertaining and chilling anthology--for those with a premonition of disaster. There are no references to Halloween, yet this book makes for perfect October reading. Are you brave enough to finish it? BOO!

The Lone Ranger in Wild Horse Canyon
The Lone Ranger in Wild Horse Canyon
by Francis Hamilton Striker
Edition: Hardcover
6 used & new from CDN$ 57.56

3.0 out of 5 stars Bridging the Old West and the New, Jan. 5 2003
(I am not sure if this is the same book that I actually read; it seems to be a first edition simply entitled, The Lone Ranger, but part of it is set in Wild Horse Valley.)
Fran Striker's 1936 western--based on a character created by George W. Trendle--presents a fast-paced yarn which gallops along with action and sagey adventure. Set during the transition era between Native American sovereignty and How the West was Won, this book offers typical elements such as murder, intrigue, treachery, romance, foiled schemes, clever counterplots and the role of capricious fate.
This story takes place in 1869, as it chronicles some of the challenges faced by the crew from the East, struggling to complete their section of America's famed transcontinental
railroad. Here we meet one Ranger, about whom we never learn how he was separated from his Texas unit or if he wears the distinctive black mask. Aided by his occasional sidekick
and loyal friend, Tonto, this brave and noble cowboy comes across as a Marshall of the plains without a badge. We are with him as he finds and tames the mighty Arabian, Silver. His amazing skills, which include reading lips and speaking the Sioux
tongue fluently, awe both his friends (folks whom he helps) and enemies (those who seek to prey on the innocent). This super horseman unselfishly dedicates his time and talents to rescuing two young people who are victims of a vicious plot against the Union Pacific. Can one man foil the malicious plans of an Eastern tough--determined to wrest the railroad contract away from the likeable and diligent Waltons?
Inevitably the author betrays racist views toward Indians, referring to them as Savages of Brutes--even in front of patient Tonto, who is repeatedly described as a Half Breed. The Irish are subjected to gentle spoofing as well, for their accent and fiery temper.
If you enjoy oaters, then this book is for you, with its evil badguys, twists in the plot and rip-snorting action. But be warned: The Lone Ranger never sticks around to be thanked.
I also recommend this book to teachers; although it is clearly Classic Lite in the literature department, the Western genre is a particularly American one, which fascinates much of the world to this day. This book can also serve as a springboard for discussions of: literary racism, comparison with other American ficitonal heroes; the winning of the West, Westward migration in general, the glory of the railroad era, and Western topography.
Just because a book is not a recognized Classic is no reason to dismiss it from the classroom.

Penguin Classics Prisoner Of Zenda And Rupert Of Hentzau
Penguin Classics Prisoner Of Zenda And Rupert Of Hentzau
by Anthony Hope
Edition: Paperback
27 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Fate does not always make the right the man King, Dec 26 2002
Rudolf Rassendyll, cadet of a minor British aristocratic
family, unexpectedly finds himself embroiled in central European politics--thanks to his uncanny resemblance to the King of Ruritania--who is actually his distant, red-headed cousin. Obliged to play the part of the incommoded King for the coronation, Rudolf must perpetuate the royal imposture much longer than the loyal conspirators had planned, for the evil Duke of Strelsau has set in motion a diabolical scheme to seize the Crown and the beautiful Princess Flavia for himself. Aided by the The Six, who would march into Hell for him, black-haired Michael wages a secret but murderous war to remove this new threat to his unbridled ambitions.
How long can Col. Sapt and faithful Fritz von Tarlenheim protect the true identity of the play-actor king, while preserving the life of the real king, who languishes in a prison at the Duke's stronghold of Zenda? Must a man sacrifice his pasion to maintain loyalty to a newly-met cousin?
And what of a maiden's heart--is it noble to toy with the affections of a princess? What sacrifice must their red-haired cousin make in the name of national peace? As one character wisely remarks: "Pawns rarely are allowed to indulge in passions of their own." Rudolf experiences the ultimate trade-off: King for 3 months in a tiny kingdom, yet he rules forever in her heart! This swashbuckler is a great tale of intrigue
which reads swiftly and is sure to entertain all who crave action, romance and adventure.

The Wind in the Willows
The Wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Grahame
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.21
62 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful animal Idyll, Dec 13 2002
This childhood favorite is as fresh and charming as when it was first published--and when my father read it to us with obvious . delight when we were kids. The animal protagonists--Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad--remind us of folks we know, which endears them to us with their all-too-human dreams and foibles. For both People and Creatures struggle to survive in the forests and streams of life.
Exhausted from his strenuous spring cleaning, Mole sets out into the world Aboveground, where he discovers the joys and challenges of riverbank life with his new friend and host, the water rat. But beware the perils lurking in the adjacent Wild Wood!
Kenneth Grahame weaves a gentle tale with willow strands of friendship, dedication to ideals and personal sacrifice for others. Come ride the roads with Toady, and scull down the river with Ratty; savor the sentimental whisperings of Home with Mole. Then join the ranks of Badger's Avengers to honor ancestral memories. This beloved classic combines humor and pathos with lively adventure in an animal realm which closely parallels human endeavor. This book is a true gem, to be rediscovered by successive generations and treasured by children of all ages!

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