A very satisfying comfort read. It's a superior riff on themes explored in The School of Essential Ingredients (which is my way of saying: If you enjoyed Essential Ingredients you'll probably love this book as much or more.)
I enjoyed that the wish fulfillment aspects of this book were tempered with little doses of reality. I.e. Holly may have inherited her earth grandmother's Italian restaurant of awesome but that doesn't mean she can cook worth a damn.
When I was a kid I was fascinated by photographer Peter Menzel’s book Material World: A Global Family Portrait. Menzel arranged for a team of photographers to visit 30 different countries, live with a “statistically average” family for one week, and then, at the end of the week, take a photograph of the family standing outside their home, with all their possessions surrounding them. As you’d expect, the images vary quite a bit. Somewhere along the way my parents acquired an interactive CD-ROM atlas that exhibited all of the project’s images. (I have a hunch it was part of our Encarta suite but I’m not sure.) I loved that CD-ROM. I spent dozens upon dozens of hours, flipping through it, fascinated, trying to imagine what my life would be like if I’d been born in Iceland or Mali or Texas.
I mention this because collage artist and author Jeannie Baker’s Mirror puts me very much in mind of Menzel’s work. The book actually is two picture books in one. On the left side, we witness a day in the life of a young family in Sydney, Australia. To the right, the same day in the life of a Moroccan family is shown. The book is bound so that both sides can be viewed either together or independently. As the two families go about their lives, their experiences are paralleled. Both families eat breakfast, go shopping, and gather together in the evening when the day is done. Except for a brief introduction, the book is wordless and the story is told through Baker’s stunning paper collages, full of texture and life.
It's a stunning effort. Flipping through, I felt like I was simultaneously present in a Sydney family room, under the hot North African sun on market day, and in my parents' family room, using that old CD-ROM and discovering the world for the first time.
Highly recommended. This book is not only a work of art, it’s a great discussion starter.
I didn't sob uncontrollably (like everyone else). Does that make me dead inside? Not that I'm saying I want to sob uncontrollably...
It's early yet, but this is a strong 2013 Newbery contender.
Strong parallels to Charlotte's Web (Is Ivan a loving tribute?): pesky but lovable scavenger character, complacent protagonist who gradually becomes aware of the injustice of his situation, highlights cruelty of humans, precocious young girl forms a bond with and protects animal characters.
I admit, at first I was wary of this book having a "gimic." (Every story in this collection centers around a woman's relationships with men and cats.) I wasn't sure how diverse the stories could possibly be. I was wrong. This is an excellent collection, one I might even recommend to people who don't like short stories. That said, the first few stories are good but nothing special. The last few stories, however, are exceptional. My favorites were: "Human Contact," "In His Shoes" (the central action of which disturbed a horror film buff I know), "The Politeness of Kings," and "By His Wild Lone."
In general, I'm skeptical about "must read" lists. They're often derivative or biased toward a certain cultural perspective. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that 1001 Children's Books offered many new (to me) titles. The suggestions are international and cover titles from Finland, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, Britain, and the United States, among others. One snag is that many books appear to be either out of print or are not available in an English translation. I estimate that the majority of suggestions were published between 1960 - 1980 but quite a few titles are in the public domain as well.