Monday, January 25, 2016

What I Read in May 2015 Part II

What I Read in May 2015 Part II ...

Wodehouse on Crime by P.G. Wodehouse -- Historical Fiction short stories
Wodehouse on Crime

A compilation of some of P.G. Wodehouse's best stories that involve crimes. There's on Blandings Castle story, a couple Jeeves and Wooster and mostly Mr. Mulliner stories. I love Blandings Castle the best but Jeeves is growing on me. I enjoyed the stories included in this volume. Fans of the TV series will recognize the origins of some of the plots used in the series. I don't care for the style of the Mr. Mulliner stories. They're stories within stories and I don't know who Mr. Mulliner is but he has a lot of stories about a lot of relatives. They really require suspension of disbelief or belief in love at first sight. I can't stand golf so the story I liked least was one that involved golfers. The real standouts though are Jeeves and Wooster. Wodehouse was a supreme comedic genius. If you're just getting into Wodehouse, pick up this volume. The stories are a good representative of his writing.

Black Dove, White RavenBlack Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein--Young Adult Historical Fiction

Black Dove and White Raven. Delia and Momma. The two best lady pilots in the USA - the two best pilots ANYWHERE, their children Emilia and Teo are convinced. They accept their nomadic existence as Momma and Delia barnstorm around the U.S. in the years between the World Wars. They send each other secret hand signals when they get scared but they know Momma will always be all right doing her tricks because she has Delia in the cockpit. Then a terrible accident upends their world and Emilia and Teo find themselves living on a horse farm in rural Pennsylvania with their Quaker grandparents. They hate it there. The kids are mean because Teo is black. Delia's dream was always to go to Ethiopia, an up and coming modern nation where her son can blend in and not worry about being lynched. When the dream is finally realized, Emilia must adjust to being the one who sticks out, as a girl and as a crazy white foreigner. The pair write stories about the adventures of their alter egos Black Dove and White Raven to deal with their fears and uncertainties. They become drawn to the land and the people as if they were born there. An uninvited guest comes with news of skirmishes between the Ethiopians and Italians on the border of Italian Somalialand and then Papa Menotti, Emilia's father, shows up with another official in the Italian Air Force asking for Momma's plane. Momma reads the writing on the wall and knows there is trouble coming. She has a tough decision to make to protect herself and her family. She must protect the children at all costs. Now almost 16, Black Dove and White Raven's adventures on paper become suddenly too real.

This is not a book I would have picked up on my own. I know little about African history and was vaguely aware of the Italian invasion of Eritrea through an acquaintance of my parents. I chose to read this book for a YA group read and I'm glad I did. It's moving and powerful and the gripping plot left me wondering what would happen next. I could hardly put it down. I even dreamed about it. Though it took me 2 nights and half a day to read, I was fully engrossed in the story. The author paints a beautiful picture of Ethiopia on the eve of World War II. She the history and culture in to the plot seamlessly without ever stepping out of the story. The story is told from dual points of view -Emilia's and Teo's but never gets repetitive. The children's voices are authentic and their concerns very real. Learning to fly takes the place of learning to drive but the feelings are the same. There's a lot of weighty issues in this novel and some war time atrocities. The author doesn't hold back just because the novel is aimed at teenagers. Adults can and should read this too. My only complaint is that it's unfinished! I need to know what happens to the characters after the end.

I can relate a lot to Emilia. Her retreat into dreamland when the going gets tough is very familiar, as are her fears about learning to fly. She's flamboyant and feisty and an empowering heroine for teen girls. Teo is quieter, preferring to blend in rather than stand out. I still really liked him. He's sweet and sensitive and very very loyal. He has dreams of his own and is smart enough to figure out when to fight his battles. Momma is a tough woman who flies in the face of adversity, literally. She's over protective of her children at times but it's not easy raising a son of a different race in any time, especially in the 1930s. Her daughter learns a lot from her by observing and I loved the fiery pair together.

This is a novel that needs to be read and discussed especially now. The problems the characters face are sadly very current and I think junior high and high schoolers should have this book on their reading lists.

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