Dear Little Blue,

Definitely time to replace your batteries. Your sad little circle of light  bounced and quivered in and out of illumination all through this story of Little Bee, a teen from Nigeria. I’ll pick you up some new ones soon, I promise.

Little Bee seems to be on a journey, not just from Nigeria to London and back, but on a journey through what she calls the story of her life. She occasionally takes an aside to mention how difficult certain parts of her new existence would be to explain to “the girls back home” and in London she takes a moment to consider if she has enough courage to walk out of her own story by taking a new name. And while what she has endured in Nigeria and in the detention center certainly means that she is not innocent, she is still AN innocent. She sustains a certain wide-eyed-wonder and innocence that even her tragedy cannot touch. She struggles to find a way to move forward in her life and to reconcile who she was with her sister in Nigeria with who she is with Sarah and Charlie (and even with Lawrence). She almost sees her world and her life as a person standing over herself (like a more subtle Susie Salmon). She has a very third-person-type voice. I found her voice and her character very engaging. I enjoyed how Cleave touched on issues of identity by letting Bee choose if she wanted to talk good or look good. Little Bee also asks a few different characters what it takes to be “from here” and struggles to discover where she belongs and what it means for her if where she “belongs” is, in fact, a horrible and dangerous place.

And blue, since you weren’t with me in the car, I want to tell you about the audio book version of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery that I picked up from the library. As you know, we read it in French in high school and really loved it. I wanted to share it with the girls so I got this audiobook. Just got the audiobook of this book to share with the girls in the car around town. The audiobook was very short-maybe only an hour-and WONDERFUL. It was such a great story about love and heartbreak and home. I absolutely loved it! I ended up sitting in the parking lot of Giant Eagle crying at the end. I know, Little Blue, how you sigh in exasperation at my emotional tendencies, but you would have been moved too!

There were certain parts that I felt a little nervous about the girls listening to though. The part where the snake offers to bite him and send him back to where he came from was really terrifying and sad for me. The girls asked if the snake was taking him home to his asteroid or killing him and I wasn’t sure what to say. It is a complicated question in this book. The part after the snake bites him was so sad for me too, but I wasn’t sure how much of it the girls understood. I explained that the Little Prince’s body died, but that the snake send his heart back to his planet to be with his flower. They wanted to know if it was his real heart that lived in his chest and I had to say no. Complicated stuff for a six year old…and for me, but absolutely worthwhile.

I know we were reading The Forgotten Garden, but I honestly can’t find it lately. I’ve looked everywhere! So we’ll get back to that one when it turns up again. In the meantime, we’re going to start tonight with The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. I’m also on the library list for the 39 Clues series, so we have that to look forward to this spring too!

Now I’m off to find you some batteries!

Amy

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Forgotten Books

March 24, 2010

Dear Blue,

I haven’t had as much chance to use you lately. I’ve been reading by the televised glow of NCAA March Madness at night instead (Go Buckeyes!). Perhaps you’ve enjoyed the break, curled up into your little coil on the nightstand next to my box of brightly colored fingernail polishes and the crumbs of my preztels. No? Well, let me update you on what you’ve missed. I’ve begun reading a new book-The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. I’m not sure what to make of it yet. It is the story of two main characters: Nell and Cassandra. Nell is Cassandra’s grandmother, but the story shifts and twists to reveal both characters at different ages. When we first meet Nell, she is 4 and alone on a boat to Australia. The family at the dock adopts her and her father reveals that secret to her on her 18th birthday. Nell’s sense of identify and self unravels in the face of that revelation. Nell travels back to the place of her origin to find her roots and, I’m guessing here, to restore her identity. Cassandra’s mother abandoned her with Nell when Cassandra was 8. Cassandra’s story is of finding out about her grandmother’s search for identity after her death.

That’s all I know so far. I am enjoying the issues about family and identity that this story is posing, but I’m just not absolutely hooked yet. Morton’s writing is really beautiful though-last night I read a section about 8-year-old Cassandra exploring her grandmother’s basement on a sweltering summer day and it was rivieting in how true it rang to my own memory of being a sweaty, bored 8-year-old girl. I was impressed enough by those few pages to keep reading further.

Also outside of your sphere of light, I recently picked up an audiobook of Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary, as read by Stockard Channing. My aunt recommended it for the girls and I picked it up so that Eve could listen to it at night before bed. Trouble is, I’m hesitant to relinquish it. I’ve been listening to it in the car and really enjoying the memories that Ramona evokes. I loved all the Ramona books and reliving them has been so enjoyable. I’ll be on to disc 2 in a day or so and then I can pass disc 1 along to Eve. I’m hoping she likes them too. I always loved that Ramona named her doll Chevrolet. That always stuck with me. She was the original Fancy Nancy in some ways…

I’ve got two terribly interesting looking books waiting for my time on your nightstand, Blue. Little Bee by Chris Cleaves and Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. The GoodReads synopsis of Little Bee says virtually nothing, so as to avoid spoiling it. How mysterious…I’ve waited a while for them and they are on the reserve list at the library so I won’t be able to renew them. I’ve got to get cracking on them soon. So I’m hoping to make some head way with Morton’s Garden this upcoming weekend. Don’t be jealous. Soon, Little Blue, you’ll be following along again…

Until then,

Amy

Dear Blue,

I’m sure you’ve noticed me sneaking upstairs occasionally in the daytime to read a bit more of this book and have perhaps felt a twing of jealousy that I get to read a bit in the daylight without you. But that should tell you that my frustration with The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by is ebbing some. The plot has thickened and Joe Smallwood has finally piqued my interest. He has become less of a caricature of a person with an absolute moral compass and more of a figure of shifting panels of nebulous morality that try to stay aligned with his original dreams. Perhaps it is because he isn’t young anymore and that complexity is part of the process of growing up. Physically, he reminds me a boy I once knew and so it is easy for me to imagine him while I read.

Fielding is a very satisfying contrast to Smallwood. She begins our story with somewhat shifty and nebulous morals and is now trying to clean up her life and figure out who she is and what she truly believes. She is fascinating and I find myself yearnng for the chapters about her. The dance of the two of them, Fielding and Smallwood, around each other, and around the increasingly powerful character of Newfoundland itself, is growing more interesting and believable. I have been putting in more time with this tome and hope to have it completed by next week’s blog. Stay tuned…

And Blue, you’ve also accompanied me to the girls’ bedroom at night so I can read Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder to them before bed. I read it so long ago and it surprised me how much of the story I have to explain to them: what a covered wagon is, why the Jack the bulldog walks under the wagon the whole way, why they had to take a raft across the Missouri, why Pa needs a gun. We stop often to talk about the story, but I think they are enjoying it so far.

We tried to read the 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers last month, but it was just over their heads and too weird so we stopped. They enjoyed Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (Ill. by the delightful Lauren Child) before Christmas. I’m hoping Little House will be a better fit. I really loved those books when I was young and am enjoying the reread with the girls now.