Monday, January 24, 2005

I know, I usually don't update so quick, but I had to blog this one. Seriously. Just had to. I'm ignoring my other homework to do so. This means you have to go read it!

Book: Whale Rider
Author: Witi Ihimaera
Published: 2003 (in the U.S.)

You may have heard of the movie, which won all sorts of awards and stuff a few years ago. That's why I initially picked this up. I can't compare them, because I haven't seen the movie yet. But now I damn well want to.

Koro Apirana, a Maori chief in New Zealand, is horrified and disgusted when his first great-grandchild is born a girl. He needs a boy to carry on the chieftainship and preserve the swiftly-dying Maori traditions. Ignoring the multitude of signs that baby Kahu is exactly the one to carry on, he starts searching for a boy among the other families of the tribe, with little success, and rejects the love Kahu offers him every day. Lucky for little Kahu, she's got her Nanny Flowers and her uncle Rawiri to back her up. Still, all she wants is her great-grandfather's love and approval. Interwoven throughout is the story of an old bull whale, coming to the end of his life and still longing for the golden human master he knew in his youth. When Kahu and the old bull whale meet . . . well, you'll have to read it and find out.

This book reads more like a legend than your usual novel, with unexpected snippets of novelesque narration. Ihimaera doesn't pull any punches--he shows a brutal roadside accident and the death of hundreds of beached whales with the same matter-of-factness as he shows a school play that the great-grandfather (predictably) didn't show up for. The novel is mostly narrated by Kahu's uncle Rawiri, which allows us to see her birth and early years. Some parts switch to an italicised narration of the whales' experiences in the sea.

It's a little confusing at times, but the legendary feel and your immersion in Maori culture make this an addictive read. I closed the book with the feeling that Ihimaera no doubt wanted to evoke: that Kahu was destined for great things. I'm also extremely interested in finding out more about the Maori culture. Well, what are you waiting for? Go pick it up!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Quick note to say that this blog is probably going to be very heavy on the children's books from now on. I'm taking a children's lit course in my master's program right now, and we have to read 115 (!) books. Gee, that's going to be a hardship for me, right?

Book: Away Laughing on a Fast Camel
Author: Louise Rennison
Release Year: 2004

A hoot. A hysteria-inducing lunatic farce of teenage girlhood. Bridget Jones without the cigarettes or the booze, not from lack of trying on Georgia's part.

Fourteen-year-old Georgia Nicolson is heartbroken. Her boyfriend, Robbie the Sex God, has gone away to Kiwi-a-gogoland (New Zealand), leaving her in crap old England with her parents, who don't even have the decency to be boring. Her dad has just bought a weird three-wheeled car, and insists on driving it. (!!) Her mum has the hots for a doctor and insists on using Georgia as an excuse to see him. Her baby sister Libby has just acquired a cat, Gordy the cross-eyed mad offspring of Georgia's own mad Angus. Euwwwwwwwwwww.

Luckily, even love and family can't get Georgia down for long. She, and all her fab mates, are up to all their usual lunacy in no time at all, like disco-dancing to break up the boredom in English class, rating their dates on the snogging scale, sticking their eyelids together with too much false-eyelash glue, and learning to fathom the minds of boys. (The secret, apparently, is that they're all quite mad. No argument here.)

Georgia is half a parody and half completely true to life. She's boy-crazy, self-absorbed, ditzy, and mouthy. She's also sweet to her baby sister, very very funny, and genuinely trying to figure this all out. I love Georgia because she reminds me of just why the teenage years sucked.

It's not especially deep or meaningful. It's just good clean fun. In fact, read the whole series, not necessarily for clarity (although it would help) but also because they're all this lunatic and delicious. Although I should insert a caveat--don't read them all in a row, or you'll stop laughing and start getting annoyed. Just have one on hand for those gloomy days when you really need to snort milk out your nose. Also, do not do NOT skip reading the glossary in the back of each book. It translates a lot of the slang and the references--not only for the American audience, but also for the audience that isn't, strictly speaking, Georgia Nicolson. Some unnecessarily, but most of it comes in handy.

Collectively, they're known as the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series. It goes:
Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging
On the Bright Side, I'm Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God
Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas
Dancing in My Nuddy-Pants
Away Laughing on a Fast Camel

Check out Louise Rennison's web site for excerpts, etc. The next one, Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers, is coming out in June of 2005. Fabulosity!!