Adventures on the Alimentary Canal
by Mary Roach
I’m a fan of Roach’s writing. She manages to take any subject and make fascinating and hilarious. The alimentary canal is no exception. Roach begins with the mouth and follows the path of food all the way through the process. The results is a book that is both absorbing and disgusting. I definitely enjoyed the first half more than the second. It turns out my threshold for reading about poop is lower than I might have guessed.
BOTTOM LINE: Interesting, gross, funny; I learned a lot. Definitely don’t listen to it at work or around your grandparents!
The Egypt Game
by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
A young girl, April, moves into a new neighborhood after her actress mother decides to leave her with her grandmother. April finds a kindred spirit in her neighbor Melanie when they realize they are both fascinated by Egyptian culture. They create a game based on their interest and soon other kids join in the fun. All the while a local tragedy has everyone on edge.
I think I probably would have loved this one as a kid. Unfortunately I just read it for the first time. I still enjoyed it, but the fantastical elements of creating a world from your imagination wasn’t quite as powerful as an adult.
I loved that this story encourages kids to use their imaginations instead of relying only on TV and set games for entertainment. Embracing a different culture and learning about their traditions is a great lesson as well.
BOTTOM LINE: A good kids' chapter book with a few scary parts. A great focus on using your imagination.
by E.L. Doctorow
This is a fictional account of General Sherman’s march through the South during the Civil War. It covers the issues of freed slaves, captured Confederate soldiers and abandoned plantations.
The main problem I had with the book is that there’s no grounding center to the story. We get a glimpse at the lives of many people in the south, but we don’t really get to know any of them. We spend the most time with Pearl, a young African American girl named Pearl whose skin was so light that she passed for a white drummer boy. She’s an interesting character, but I never felt like we got to know her or any of the other characters very well.
BOTTOM LINE: I wanted more, more depth in the characters, more historical details, etc. The book felt like it barely skimmed the surface and I was never invested.
“The wretched war had destroyed not only their country but all the presumptions of human self-regard. What a scant foolish pretense was a family, a culture, a place of history, when it was all so easily defamed.”