Confession: My husband is a little bit to blame for this week’s Tuesday Tunes. When I told him about the atmosphere and plot of Terry Pratchett’s Dodger, and asked him what music came to mind, he suggested The Darkness. I know so little about this band, it’s embarrassing. But I read the lyrics of the song, and felt like the feel of the music (not the video necessarily) and the lyrics seemed appropriate for Dodger. So, this week’s Tuesday Tunes, in honor of Dodger, is a little bit British Glam Rock for you.
I fell in love with Terry Pratchett’s humor and storytelling prowess when I read his Tiffany Aching series (book 1 is The Wee Free Men). He’s the type of author that has you laughing out loud and scratching your head throughout his books. (Side note: I have to admit I don’t love the Discworld books, however. I scratch my head more often than anything else with those. I guess I have a quirkiness tolerance level that just doesn’t reach that high.)
Dodger is Pratchett’s newest, and is a charming (and educational) addition to his body of work. The story is full of characters that will be familiar to you, both from history and literature (or, for some, from a Tim Burton film), and is told from the perspective of Dodger, a cunning and street-smart lad who works as a tosher in Victoria’s London. Dodger acts on a heroic impulse one night when he jumps to the aide of a woman who is being mercilessly beaten by a pair of roustabouts. The infuriated Dodger manages to land a few well-placed blows before the fellows disappear into the stormy darkness. When two gentlemen arrive mere moments later and offer to see the girl treated and protected, Dodger’s life is changed forever. He’s now on a mission to not only protect this poor girl, but also to avenge her. With the help of the gentlemen–most especially the sir named Charlie Dickens–Dodger sets out to solve the mystery of the girl’s identity and help her in any way he can.
The atmosphere of this book is so thick you feel like you can smell the sewage running down the London streets, and taste the filthy air in the back of your throat. The prose reads like watching a movie. You can see the smog, hear the delicate voices of the Lavender Girls, and feel the social tremors of change as Dodger appears in a new shonky shop suit, and chats with peelers. And by utilizing real-life characters and historical figures, Pratchett makes you feel like, just maybe, Dodger’s story is true. (He also inspires the urge to reread some of the works of Dickens, as you feel you know the fellow better after watching his adventures with your new favorite young tosher.)
I loved this book, and highly recommend it. It wasn’t (at least for me) one of those YA books you can blow through pretty quickly, as it’s full of rich language and detailed prose. It’s a refreshing jaunt into Dickensian England, which is, let’s face it, not an era often explored in YA. I give it a delightful four Yak Smacks.
Also, I’m including the book trailer here, just because it makes me giggle. It’s horribly cheesy–be warned–but is loveable nonetheless.
Tonight, we are headed to an advance screening of Beautiful Creatures!
Things I am most excited about:
1) The soundtrack. The fact that the used Florence + The Machine for one of the previews gives me high hopes for the actual film.
2) The setting. It was one of my favorite things about the book; everything is so southern and sexy and gothic. I really hope this translates to film
3) The cast. Emma Thompson, Viola Davis, and Jeremy FREAKING Irons are incredibly heavy-hitters and bring such depth to this cast. I can’t wait!
4) I’m going to tweet during the film. I have never actually done this. Mostly because I’m terrified of breaking rules or angering people around me. But I’m feeling brave today, so it’s going to happen.
The moon is missing from the remote Village of Clear Sky, but only a young boy named Rendi seems to notice! Rendi has run away from home and is now working as a chore boy at the village inn. He can’t help but notice the village’s peculiar inhabitants and their problems-where has the innkeeper’s son gone? Why are Master Chao and Widow Yan always arguing? What is the crying sound Rendi keeps hearing? And how can crazy, old Mr. Shan not know if his pet is a toad or a rabbit?
But one day, a mysterious lady arrives at the Inn with the gift of storytelling, and slowly transforms the villagers and Rendi himself. As she tells more stories and the days pass in the Village of Clear Sky, Rendi begins to realize that perhaps it is his own story that holds the answers to all those questions.
Newbery Honor author Grace Lin brings readers another enthralling fantasy featuring her marvelous full-color illustrations. Starry River of the Sky is filled with Chinese folklore, fascinating characters, and exciting new adventures.
Past, Present and Storytelling
This is another one of those books I’d read several great reviews of in the trades at work. (Yes, I read reviews for books other than YA…why do you ask?) I read Cindy Pon’s Silver Phoenix books a couple of years ago, and was blown away by the beauty and majesty of the Chinese culture in her work; so I was excited to find another book deeply rooted in Chinese history and storytelling.
Grace Lin really captures something magical in this book. It is the story of Rendi, a young man who is angry and seeking something new. But it is also a story that spans centuries and generations, integrating Rendi’s present with the vast history of the Village of Clear Sky, and even the history of the sun and moon. I love this sweeping, yet intimate, story. I love how past and present are interwoven so magically here. The importance of the past is honored in storytelling; and storytelling is honored as an important part of the past and present.
When I was a little girl, my grandmother worked as a medical missionary in China and India. She used to come home with strange souvenirs and even stranger stories. I was captivated by her stories about working with the poorest of the poor, but I was also jealous of the people thousands of miles away who got to spend more time with my tiny, spitfire grandmother than I did. As an adult, I look back on the gift my grandmother gave me, and feel a sense of honor in preserving her past–her heart for service, her dedication to love and compassion, and her courage–as a part of my present. Somehow, reading Starry River of the Sky reminded me of that, of my grandmother, and my own distant, yet intimate, connection with China.
I know that really has nothing to do with with the book, but I felt like sharing it. I guess reading a book about the indivisible nature of past and present, and the importance of storytelling, inspired me to share a story about my past with you.
Another thing I loved about Starry River of the Sky was, quite simply, how unusual it was. Perhaps if I’d grown up reading Chinese folklore and mythology, it wouldn’t be too unusual to me. I don’t know. I do know, though, that the story took such unique twists and turns, and made me feel like I was living in an entirely different world. I loved it.