Mini Reviews: Gossamer, I Sing the Body Electric and The Watsons Go to Birmingham

Monday, January 6, 2014

by Lois Lowry

Lowry is famous for her Giver series, but some of her lesser known works are just as imaginative. Gossamer is sweet story exploring the idea of where your dreams come from. The descriptions of the dream givers are just lovely.

There’s a darker edge to the book that deals with child abuse. I’m not sure it would be appropriate for young kids because of that, but it might be a good way to introduce the subject to preteens and encourage discussion.

BOTTOM LINE: A slim novel with a very good story. I would have loved this even more if I’d read it when I was younger.

I Sing the Body Electric!
by Ray Bradbury

This collection is a mixed bag of short stories. Some are wonderful, particularly the title story which deals with grief and robots with personalities, others fall flat or are forgettable. 

In one story a family is shocked when their first child is born into the fourth dimension instead of the third. Another is a haunting tale about a man who is left behind after his rocket leaves him on Mars alone. After decades alone he begins to get calls from himself on the phone. He finally remembers that he recorded those calls to keep himself company when he’s older. Still another is about a world in which perfect marionette recreations are made of people so that other can enact their vicious desires upon them. For example, if your wife cheats on you, you could murder a lifelike marionette of her and then face no consequences. 

BOTTOM LINE: I’m continually amazed to see how Bradbury’s brilliant mind worked. Even in his weaker stories they usually start with an interesting idea. The man had no limit to where his brain would take him and he had the ability to craft gorgeous prose to go hand-in-hand with his wild imagination. It's not my favorite collection, but there are still a few gems. 

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963
by Christopher Paul Curtis

It’s the 1960s the Watsons live in Michigan. This nonfiction collection of childhood memories reminded me a bit of The Christmas Story; a small town family, funny stories of their interactions at home and at school, etc.

The book deals heavily with sibling rivalry and bullying. The climax is a family trip to Birmingham to visit their Grandmother. Their fun trip ends in heartbreak when it coincides with racial tensions in the town.

BOTTOM LINE: What a wonderful book to spark a discussion of the battle for civil rights in the 1960s with a new generation. Seen from the eyes of a young boy, there’s so much room for confusion and misunderstanding. It opens the door for kids to ask questions about what happened during that important period in our history.


Kailana said...

I am glad I read Gossamer. I wish it was when I was a child, but better late than never.

Sandy Nawrot said...

The kids and I listened to Gossamer a few years ago on audio, and we loved it. She writes such gorgeous books.

Riv said...

I really want to read that Bradbury's story collection now. I absolutely love his short stories (not that novels are bad either) and he sure was productive in his lifetime so sometimes it can be hard to decide what to pick next :)

Brooke said...

I had haven't read any of these! I need to read something of Lowry's beyond The Giver.

Belle Wong said...

I enjoy Lowry's writing, although I haven't read Gossamer yet. And I want to read all of Bradbury's short stories - he was such a brilliant writer.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Kailana - I wish I'd read it when I was little too, but like you said, better late than never!

Sandy - She does! I would love to listen to that one with kids. Describing dream delivery would seem so magical to kids.

Riv - The October Country is another great collection of his!

Brooke - She's written some great books! Number the Stars was a favorite of mine when I was a kid.

Belle Wong - He is so fantastic. I loved learning more about his when I visited the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies in October.

Anonymous said...

My favorite Lois Lowry book when I was a kid was A Summer to Die. I went through a stage where I LOVED books that made me cry and that one is a real tearjerker.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

abibliophilesstyle - I have never read that one, but I remember reading that she wrote it about her own sister's death. Talk about heart wrenching!