I'm proud to announce that as of last night I've already achieved my goal of two books read this month, thanks in large part to blackholly
, who wrote the diminutive books which make up The Spiderwick Chronicles
, of which I read the first one in two (yeah, I'm that slow) nights. It's delightful to finally come across a kid's book that is illustrated. Maybe I'm just reading the wrong age group of kids' books, but I expect that the reason I'm not seeing more illustrated literature these days is economic -- artists (in this case, Tony DiTerlizzi) have to be paid, and authors have to be paid, and no one really wants to pay significantly more for a book just because it has illustrations. So, you either get picture books or you get text, but it seems rare anymore to get a book like, say, "The Headless Cupid," or "The Westing Game," which surprises the reader with a lovely illustration every ten or twenty pages. Which may be why The Spiderwick Chronicles are broken into five books, each about 100 pages long, but containing lots of great illustrations. In this first installment, the Grace children -- Jared, Simon, and Mallory -- move with their mother into a weird old family house after their parents' divorce. At first the house just looks weird, but of course that's not enough to make a fun story, so soon the house sounds weird, and then weird things start happening, and soon you've got a rollicking fun book for and about kids.
The other book I finished this month, which I started last month or maybe in May, is The Hearts of Horses
, by Molly Gloss. It's hard to compare Molly's writing to anyone else's. When I first read a book by her, it was The Jump-Off Creek
, and what soon struck me about it was the slow, patient pace at which it progressed, which matched the situation and disposition of the main character perfectly. The Hearts of Horses, which takes place in the winter of 1917-1918, also progresses patiently, which again suits the main character, Martha Lessen, a young woman with a romantic notion of cowboys who plans to make her way through the West breaking horses and cowboying. (Sorry about the comma splicing there. Yikes.) Martha spends a winter breaking a "circle" of horses in fictional Elwha County, Oregon, helped in her endeavor by the fact that most able-bodied men have gone "over there" to fight in Europe, leaving farmers and ranchers in need of help wherever they can find it. Martha isn't a fan of the "ride 'em crazy 'til they break" method of gentling a horse. Here's the first paragraph of the book:
In those days, even before the war had swept all the young men from the ranches, there were girls who came through the country breaking horses. They traveled from ranch to ranch with two or three horses they had picked up in trade for work they'd done. Of course most outfits had fifty or sixty horses back then, so there was plenty of work, and when the war came on, no men to get it done. Those girls could break horses as well as any man but they had their own ways of doing it, not such a bucking Wild West show. They went about it so quiet and deliberate, children would get tired of watching and go off to do something else. They were usually all alone, those girls, but it wasn't like in the moving pictures or the gunslinger novels, the female always in peril. If they were in peril it wasn't from outlaws or crooked sheriffs, it was from the usual things that can happen with ranch work -- breaking bones, freezing your fingers off -- the kinds of things that can happen if you're a man or a woman.
And this is exactly what a reader of The Hearts of Horses gets -- plenty of the kind of peril that an average rancher could expect early in the last century, and plenty of quiet and deliberate. I fully enjoyed The Hearts of Horses, and in honor of Buy a Friend a Book Week
, I would be delighted to send a copy to one reader in the U.S. or Canada who comments here by noon Pacific Time tomorrow, Wed., July 9, 2008. I'll randomly select a winner in the afternoon and post the winner's ljname, or name, for non-ljers.
And now for my 15-minute a day writing challenge honesty check-in: (ugh)
- July 3 -- none
- July 4 -- none
- July 5 -- none
- July 6 -- none
(I obviously need to find a way to squeeze in the writing while my family is home.)
- July 7 -- I wrote for over an hour, hand written, about 12 pages, I have no idea how many words, probably about 1500.)
- July 8 -- I'll count this entry, although I do plan to do some more writing later in the day. Looks like 917 words, so far. And it took a lot longer than 15 minutes. ;-)
(Edit: I cut my sucky first three paragraphs from this post, so it's way less than 917 words now. I know you'll get over it.)