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April 30, 2008 > Footnotes


"An Egg Is Quiet" by Dianna Aston, illustrated by Sylvia
Long, Chronicle hardback, $16.95. (2006)

Eggs come in all shapes and sizes, some colored, some spotted, and some not looking anything like an egg at all. This book very much reminded me of "Chickens Aren't the Only Ones" by Ruth Heller, with wonderful illustrations and simple text. After you read the book with your preschooler, you both can play seek and find with the front illustrations of eggs and the back illustrations of birds, lizards and other animals. This book is a lovely way to show children that animals come in all sorts of wonderful packages.

Recommended for preschool. Reviewed by dh.

"Heroes Arise" by Laurel Anne Hill, Komenar hardback, $24.95. (2007)

This isn't an 'easy' fantasy. The author doesn't try to couch it in a familiar culture or in everyday trappings that allow the reader to slide gently into the knowledge that the setting isn't our own. You have to be willing to jump with both feet into the world Hill has set up.

That being said, the story is very unique. Gundack is a desert kren, a large, scaled, six-armed traveler. He is on a quest to avenge the killing of his first wife by the mountain kren leader Tarr. Only when his vengeance is complete can Gundack ask the spirits for forgiveness and move on to a future with a new wife.

As the story begins, Gundack meets the human Rheemar, who also is on a quest against Tarr, who has stolen the man's sister. Rheemar wants to form an alliance with Gundack, but the desert kren is wary; he senses that the man is hiding something. That night after their initial meeting, Rheemar comes to Gundack's camp to argue again for an alliance. As they argue, Gundack suddenly sees smoke. The humans' camp is under attack! When that camp is thoroughly destroyed, the attackers turn their attention to Gundack and his companions.

Gundack must fight for his very survival and the survival of those closest to him. Rheemar offers to help, but how can Gundack trust the man when he suspects the human may have set the whole thing up as a ruse to force Gundack's hand?

This is a story of trust, of faith and of a quest to regain and retain honor. Don't be surprised to find yourself thoroughly engaged, and checking to see whether you have six arms of your own!

Recommended for adults. Reviewed by dh.

"The Glass Castle" A Memoir by Jeannette Walls, Scribner paperback, $15.00. (2006)

Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were their important legacy. Unfortunately, Rex and Rose Mary Walls were unwilling or unable to responsibly parent their four children. When the children were young, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination while home schooling them in physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in 15 minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls' final stop was a depressed West Virginia mining town. Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape only to return to his ignorant, unloving mother. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals.

Walls doesn't try to win over the reader with her sad tale, she is just using her journalistic skills to give her personal take on this story. She describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity despite all their failings. There is no one else to blame - the parents had an active hand in putting themselves in poverty. Jeannette and her siblings will choose a different path. The children are the responsible adults here, banding together to plot their way to New York City, away from this crazy pair. Glass Castle is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that, despite its profound flaws, gave Jeannette Walls the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

Recommended to high school and above. Reviewed by jp.

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