Book Review: The Story of the Greeks by Hélèna A. Guerber (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Story of the Greeks by Hélène A. Guerber (Three Stars)

The beginning of Greek history is therefore like a fairy tale; and while much of it cannot, of course, be true, it is the only information we have about the early Greeks. It is these strange fireside stories, which used to amuse Greek children so many years ago, that you are first going to hear.

The key word in the title is story. Do not confuse this book with a history of the Greeks, rather a dumbing of Greek history for an assumed audience of young readers. Very young. Guerber commits several errors about the role of myths in culture. (Interested readers may consult J. R. R. Tolkien’s “On Fairy Stories” in The Tolkien Reader.)

The Greeks used to tell their children that Deu-ca´li-on, the leader of the Thes-sa´li-ans, was a descendant of the gods,

While a rehash myths and legends, the author engages young readers at the level they are most likely to be interested—even to the point of indicating the syllabication of daunting Greek names. Compared to Thucydides, Guerber tells more readable stories.

Northwest of Sparta, in the country called E´lis and in the city of O-lym´pi-a, rose a beautiful temple for the worship of Ju´pi-ter (or Zeus), the principal god of the Greeks.

First published 125 years ago, the book reflects Guerber’s Anglo-Christian point of view. One wonders why she refers to the Greek gods by the names of their Roman counterparts. (Nice, if inaccurate, cover art.)

Thus ends the history of ancient Greece, which, though so small, was yet the most famous country the world has ever known,-the country from which later nations learned their best lessons in art, philosophy, and literature.

Book Review: East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon by Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen (Three Stars)

Book Review: East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon with Other Norwegian Folk Tales, Retold by Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen (Three Stars)

A compendium of Norwegian folk tales: some familiar, some not, published by the Gutenberg Project. Most stories have a shaggy-dog-story format with repetitive iterations numbing the reader’s mind.

Excellent illustrations by Frederick Richardson.

(post on blog 7 April 21)

Book Review: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Three Stars)


Book Review: The War That Saved My Life (#1) by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

(Three Stars)

“There’s things worse than bombs.”

A deep, honest look at life on the cusp of a great war and the end of childhood. Told penetratingly deep from the perspective of a young girl whose life is turned upside down by the evacuation of children from wartime London.

“The house looked asleep.”

Writing that may not appeal to adult readers has a simplicity and directness that sounds authentic. Despite the many decades elapsed since I was ten, I can attest that it comes uncomfortably close to how I sometimes felt during that awful and wonderful time of life.

“You’re in luck, then because I’m not a nice person at all.”

Though the story is told from young Ada’s point of view, the most vivid character is thirty-something Susan, who can split the moral hair between liars and people who tell lies or do what she wants when she wants and how she wants and never expect consequences. I suppose folks like that existed in England in 1939 (judging by the examples of Mary Poppins and Nanny McPhee); she’s certainly recognizable in twenty-first century America.

“Saying something stupid doesn’t make you stupid. Luckily for all of us.”

Winner of numerous awards for young readers. Bought it for our granddaughter. (Don’t tell her.)

“I had so much. I felt so sad.”

Book Review: James Herriot’s Treasury for Children (Four Stars)


Book Review: James Herriot’s Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales by the Author of All Creatures Great and Small

(Four Stars)

Beautifully illustrated animal stories. Excellent introduction for children and adults to the Yorkshire veterinary tales of James Herriot (pen name of Alf Wright). These stories are extracted, like a single thread teased from a complex tapestry, for the greater corpus of Herriot’s work. The style and format are suitable for young readers.

The illustrations of Ruth Brown and Peter Barrett are worth the price in themselves. Beautiful and evocative of the Yorkshire Dales.  Almost as good as being there. (I’ve been there; they’re worth the trip.) In their way, superior to the 1978-1990 BBC series.

Good for young readers; good for art lovers; good for lovers of the Yorkshire Dales. Fun for all.

Book Review: Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla (Three Stars)


Book Review: Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla

(Three Stars)

“The Indian boy lay hidden in the tall grass.”

Sugar-coated version of contact between native Americans and English explorers and settlers. A young reader’s book published in 1954. Disregarding all the historical inaccuracies—not to mention politically incorrect vocabulary—it still serves its function to entertain as well as, perhaps, encourage further reading.

Little is actually known about the native American who, speaking English, welcomed the Pilgrims at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts. Intense journalists that the Pilgrims were, his role with them is well documented. Before that, not so much. Bulla’s version is supported Continue reading

Book Review: Amáne of Teravinea by D. Maria Trimble (Three Stars)


Book Review: Amáne of Teravinea: The Chosen One by D. Maria Trimble

(Three Stars)

“Ever since I can remember, I’d aspired to be brave and strong; to have a mission in life; to be worthy of a quest. But one problem plagued me—I was born a girl.”

A fun fantasy for young readers. Good story with a good heart. Lots of teen angst; little humor. Clunking, amateur writing.

“Gallen anticipated my reaction. He ducked just in time to avoid the spray of tea that spewed from my mouth. ‘Next time you have alarming news to tell her, you could at least refrain from telling her at meal times?’”

If Amáne’s mother and the Healer had any inkling she might be the Chosen One, you’d think they would have trained her and watched her. For who and what they were, they were Continue reading

Book Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (Three Stars)


Book Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

(Three Stars)

“I guess it is never what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different–unimagined, unprepared for, unknown.”

The Diary of A Young Girl for an apocalypse. Told from the first-person point of view of a southern California tween in the near future, The Age of Miracles pulls readers into Julia’s world and engages their emotions as the normal is stripped away with the rotational velocity of the earth. Well written.

“We were a different kind of Christian, the quiet kind, a breed embarrassed by the mention of miracles.”

The characters are realistic and varied–Christian, atheist, Mormon, Jew–except they’re all white. It’s understandable that Julia’s neighbors might look like her, but Continue reading

Book Review: Dragon and Slave by Timothy Zahn (Three Stars)


Book Review: Dragon and Slave (Dragonback #3) by Timothy Zahn

(Three Stars)

“They were slaves, and she was a slave, and the only place to hide from that reality was inside herself.”

I liked it; it’s a good read but the series is becoming formulaic. (See previous reviews here and here for the good news.)

“He wasn’t going off the deep end of the pool like some junior K’da warrior. All he was doing was paying back a debt. He probably would have felt better if he’d believed that.”

Book Review: Dragon and Soldier by Timothy Zahn (Three Stars)


Book Review: Dragon and Soldier (Dragonback #2) by Timothy Zahn

(Three Stars)

“You’re innocent until they absolutely prove otherwise. And for ten minutes after that, too.”

Good story, consistent with the high tone set in the series opener, Dragon and Thief. Jack makes bone-headed decisions typical of a fourteen year old. Zahn, having saved the reader the apparently-mandatory Hogwarts school experience in the first tale, lays it on us now.

“You know, Darycos, for being such a clever poet-warrior, you’re kind of slow on the uptake sometimes.”

(Sorry I don’t have more quotes: read the ebook version on a trip. Highlighted quotable sentences, but my cell phone has done the u-boat routine since.)

Book Review: Dragon and Thief by Timothy Zahn (Four Stars)


Book Review: Dragon and Thief (Dragonback #1) by Timothy Zahn

(Four Stars)

“Jack muttered a word that had once cost him a week of desserts.”

Entertaining science fiction for young readers that harks back to the early days of SF, before we got all cynical and crude. Not that our fourteen-year-old protagonist isn’t a cynic, but that’s part of the fun. Thinking smarter you know everything at that age is such a burden, and a delight to those around you.

“It is interesting, is it not, that people so often turn out to be different than we expect.” “Don’t fool yourself, kiddo.”

Lots of typos which appeared to be OCR scanning errors. Someone at Open Road flunked proofreading. Still, we appreciate their making these books available.

(Ship named Essenay? Pig Latin (Es-See-Nay) for Nessie, perhaps, as in Loch Ness’ Nessie?)