Showing posts from November, 2009

Watership Down

Watership Down Richard Adams, 1972 I first read Watership Down in tenth grade, I think.  We had to read one extra book per term that had some scholarly merit, and everyone seemed surprised that I was jumping at the chance to lug around the giant hard cover edition of this book.  At the time, it was one of the longer books I'd read (hadn't started in on Tad Williams at the time). It has some of the most wonderful world-building I've ever read.  As a society of non-humans, it is clear and complete.  The adventures of Hazel and the others seem plausible, their behavior not too out of line for real rabbits.  Both the greatness, and the weaknesses, come from how rooted in reality the story feels. The trouble I had on this read-through was with occasional bits of the narrative voice.  Adams presents his book as if it were translated from the rabbit language, and so, especially at the beginning, there are needless asides explaining this and that from a human perspectiv

Mouse Guard

Mouse Guard Fall 1152 Mouse Guard Winter 1152 David Petersen, 2005-2009 (Spoilers for events of the first issue.) If you were ever a fan of Redwall, you owe it to yourself to check out Mouse Guard .  Petersen's comic tale of mice with swords doesn't always have inspired text, (the poetry in particular is weak), but so what?  The illustrations are what you're here for.  You have to pay attention to keep up, because with only 6 issues of 20-24pgs to tell a story arc, there is very little wasted space. Now, these are swordsmice.  Trained, disciplined, ruthless in the defense of their fellows.  The Guardsmice are an organization charged to uphold peace and the common good, but during the time we follow them the tiny swords are often bloodied.   The first arc describes a betrayal of the organization, the second, the aftermath.  There is a lot of mouse vs. mouse internal strife, but the really striking images are the tiny mice going up against foes many times their s


Redwall Brian Jacques, 1986 I loved the Redwall books when I read them, mostly in middle school and early high school as I recall.  This one doesn't hold up quite as well as I may have hoped.  There are definitely things to enjoy here; the story clips along at a good pace, the characters are amusing and often adorable. The thing I expected to criticize, the stereotyping of species, didn't bother me as much as I anticipated.  In this world, rats, stoats, ferrets, etc. are bad, untrustworthy creatures.  Mice, badgers, squirrels, rabbits, etc. are good, kind, etc.  It's a little odd, especially given how anthropomorphic they are.  They are fully sentient, society based creatures, and it's not just predator animals vs. prey animals, although that seems to underlie much of it.  (I know that Jacques changes it up a bit in some of the later books, but I'm only looking at the first today.)  Add to that that many of the species are typed by broad regional English a

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH Robert C. O'Brien, 1971 A few months back I re-watched the animated movie adapted from this book, and it lead to a strong desire to reread the book.  The movie, Secret of NIMH , is fine for what it is, but the book is far more subtle. And there's no magic. And the plot is much less melodramatic. The things I found most striking re-reading this book was how even-handed it was.  The scientists who turn the rats into super-rats are perhaps unthinking, but well-meaning, and they care for their lab animals.  The farmers only want to drive out the rats because they steal.  The owl makes Mrs. Frisby understandably nervous, but is generally courteous to her.  The only openly cruel character is Dragon the cat. Mrs. Frisby is a widowed mouse caring alone for her kids.  She is naturally timid, as a mouse is, but when needed becomes brave and strong, running risks that go against her instincts, for the sake of her family.  (The rats only help h

The Rescuers

The Rescuers Margery Sharp, 1959 I reread the first four books in this series, though I'll mainly talk about the first one ( The Rescuers itself) here. They are adorable.  Garth Williams' illustrations in my edition only make them even more adorable. I love Margery Sharp's writing.  She has a way with gently ironic turns of phrase, or bits of description which completely capture the whimsy of her world of mice.  pg 6- “There is nothing like breeding to give one confidence: [Madam Chairwoman] was descended in direct line from the senior of the Three Blind Mice.” It's interesting to me that it was clearly not intended to be a series when the first one was written.   The Rescuers sums up each character's probable future at the end.  There is no explanation at the top of book two as to why they're all back together.  Also between books one and two the relationship between Bernard and Bianca changes from open flirtation with the strong possi