Friday, May 21, 2010

"The Cinder-Eyed Cats" by Eric Rohmann

I picked this book off the library shelf because of its intriguing, poetic title. I opened it because of its alluring front cover. I checked it out for Dano because its simple, dreamlike story was so unlike the realistic books about trucks and trains he favors, and I wanted to see if he'd like this too. Stretching his imagination is always a good thing.

Turns out, he does like it! Which means I've gotten to read it over and over this week :-) I love the simple story of a boy sailing off to a dreamy island and cavorting the night away with the five cinder-eyed cats and a host of ocean creatures. The text is as poetic as the title, beginning with free verse, then rhyming later on. My favorite line is: "Cats like velvet shadows move." I love the alliteration and assonance of the Vs and As, and anyone who's ever been friendly with cats knows that's just how they do move.

The Cinder-Eyed Cats combines simple, poetic text with soft paintings and a story that will delight children and parents alike. Or at least, it delights my children and me :-)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

If you haven't visited yet, I advise you to check it out posthaste. It's a neat place for crafters to advertise as well as a great place to discover new things you want to buy :-) I'm working on advertising some of my products there -- it's really easy, and right now it's free! They featured my yellow sun hat on their blog a couple days ago, which is how I learned about them. Anyway, thought you might want to see what they're all about yourself.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

"The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas is my second-favorite book. Ever. Since we got Mercy's name from it, I decided it was high time I reread it, in honor of our new daughter and because I haven't read it in years.

I first read this book at age eleven, and even though I didn't understand parts of it (the hashish references, for instance), the tale of betrayal and revenge captured my imagination enough to keep me reading. I had read a radio drama version of part of the story in a literature textbook, and I liked it so well, I convinced Mom to help me find the book in the adult section of our local library. I remember that copy well: a worn, red hardcover, the edges frayed; faded brown pages that crackled as I turned them; an antique print that sometimes wavered a bit, one letter rising above its fellows now and then; a dusty, comforting smell of age and wisdom and knowledge greeting me whenever I opened it. I remember being so proud to be reading a grown-up book -- I even took it with me to the orthodontist's office and read it, not just in the waiting room, but in the exam chair until Dr. Pokley arrived. (He was a wonderful orthodontist, despite his unfortunate last name.)

I've read it twice since then, once in high school and once during summer break from college. It's amazing how little I remembered. Oh, I recalled the basic plot: Edmond Dantes, young and promising sailor, is arrested during the feast before his marriage. The charges are false, trumped up by his enemies, but he is imprisoned in the dreaded Chateau d'If anyway. Years pass, Dantes escapes, uses a buried treasure to transform himself into the Count of Monte Cristo, and sets out to revenge himself on the men responsible for his unjust imprisonment.

I didn't remember all the scenes set in Rome and Paris that constitute the middle of the book. And one scene I thought belonged in this book must be from Dumas' The Three Musketeers instead. In fact, I only clearly recalled the first quarter of the book and a later subplot about two characters named Valentine and Maximilian. So reading this a fourth time was not only a joyous reunion with beloved characters, but an adventure of discovery as well.

This is a story about revenge, but revenge is not something Christians are encouraged to seek. Maybe that's why this book is something of a guilty pleasure for me. It's a bit like the story of Joseph (Genesis 37 and 39-46), only without the forgiving end. That's my favorite Bible story, so I guess the themes of unjust imprisonment, eventual triumph, vengeance, and mercy resonate with me.

I've seen several movie versions of The Count of Monte Cristo, and the best by far is the 1975 version starring Richard Chamberlain as Dantes, with Louis Jourdan, Tony Curtis, and Donald Pleasence as his enemies. That version is how my husband first encountered the story, and the only one I like well enough to own a copy of.

If you love stories of revenge with a bit of a swashbuckling swagger to them, read this book or watch that version! You won't be disappointed.