Welcome to my Inner World. I am a French self-taught artist, and these past twenty years I have made Norway my home. Moving to the Lofoten islands was the greatest present I ever made to myself and the Arctic landscapes are indeed a true treat for any artist’s eyes. I live with my British soulmate,… Continue Reading

Author Archives: Kundry

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

 

Amazon.com
“She was homeschooling gone amok.” “She was an alien.” “Her parents were circus acrobats.” These are only a few of the theories concocted to explain Stargirl Caraway, a new 10th grader at Arizona’s Mica Area High School who wears pioneer dresses and kimonos to school, strums a ukulele in the cafeteria, laughs when there are no jokes, and dances when there is no music. The whole school, not exactly a “hotbed of nonconformity,” is stunned by her, including our 16-year-old narrator Leo Borlock: “She was elusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl.”

In time, incredulity gives way to out-and-out adoration as the student body finds itself helpless to resist Stargirl’s wide-eyed charm, pure-spirited friendliness, and penchant for celebrating the achievements of others. In the ultimate high school symbol of acceptance, she is even recruited as a cheerleader. Popularity, of course, is a fragile and fleeting state, and bit by bit, Mica sours on their new idol. Why is Stargirl showing up at the funerals of strangers? Worse, why does she cheer for the opposing basketball teams? The growing hostility comes to a head when she is verbally flogged by resentful students on Leo’s televised Hot Seat show in an episode that is too terrible to air. While the playful, chin-held-high Stargirl seems impervious to the shunning that ensues, Leo, who is in the throes of first love (and therefore scornfully deemed “Starboy”), is not made of such strong stuff: “I became angry. I resented having to choose. I refused to choose. I imagined my life without her and without them, and I didn’t like it either way.”

Jerry Spinelli, author of Newbery Medalist Maniac Magee, Newbery Honor Book Wringer, and many other excellent books for teens, elegantly and accurately captures the collective, not-always-pretty emotions of a high school microcosm in which individuality is pitted against conformity. Spinelli’s Stargirl is a supernatural teen character–absolutely egoless, altruistic, in touch with life’s primitive rhythms, meditative, untouched by popular culture, and supremely self-confident. It is the sensitive Leo whom readers will relate to as he grapples with who she is, who he is, who they are together as Stargirl and Starboy, and indeed, what it means to be a human being on a planet that is rich with wonders. (Ages 10 to 14) –Karin Snelson

O Caledonia by Elspeth Barker

 

From Publishers Weekly
In this ebulliently imaginative cross beween bildungsroman and fable, Barker makes magic with both her language and her subject. Janet, the protagonist, is born in Edinburgh during WW II. Her inattentive, eccentric parents, after a course of alternately baiting and tolerating their daughter, finally leave her to her own devices–serious mischief, books and the isolation of a misunderstood intellectual adolescent–while they increase their fold by four more offspring. By then the family has moved to a sprawling old castle in the lonely north of Scotland called Auchnasaugh (“the field of sighing”). Darker intimations of mortality mix with childhood escapades as Barker’s quick, urbane narration and high-flown, wicked humor convey as well the passions and pain of her protagonist. The fate awaiting Janet in the final pages, though clearly foretold in the preface, comes with a shock, as this entrancing first novel, winner of Britain’s David Higham Prize, casts a spell that will make readers willingly forget what they know.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal
This touching coming-of-age story takes as its heroine Janet, one of five children growing up after World War II in a gloomy, underheated castle in northern Scotland. As a headstrong, bookish young girl, she goes to comical lengths to rid herself of her irksome younger sisters–who, fortunately, come to no harm. Preferring animals to humans, Janet manages to alienate her family and, through an ungainly adolescence, remains aloof and friendless. Her mother’s many schemes to cultivate Janet’s femininity and to bring her out socially all meet with failure as the girl continues to favor birds over beaux. Barker, the wife of English poet George Barker, has written a poignant first novel whose quirky but appealing heroine meets an untimely fate.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

 

Amazon.com
Yann Martel’s imaginative and unforgettable Life of Pi is a magical reading experience, an endless blue expanse of storytelling about adventure, survival, and ultimately, faith. The precocious son of a zookeeper, 16-year-old Pi Patel is raised in Pondicherry, India, where he tries on various faiths for size, attracting “religions the way a dog attracts fleas.” Planning a move to Canada, his father packs up the family and their menagerie and they hitch a ride on an enormous freighter. After a harrowing shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean, trapped on a 26-foot lifeboat with a wounded zebra, a spotted hyena, a seasick orangutan, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker (“His head was the size and color of the lifebuoy, with teeth”). It sounds like a colorful setup, but these wild beasts don’t burst into song as if co-starring in an anthropomorphized Disney feature. After much gore and infighting, Pi and Richard Parker remain the boat’s sole passengers, drifting for 227 days through shark-infested waters while fighting hunger, the elements, and an overactive imagination. In rich, hallucinatory passages, Pi recounts the harrowing journey as the days blur together, elegantly cataloging the endless passage of time and his struggles to survive: “It is pointless to say that this or that night was the worst of my life. I have so many bad nights to choose from that I’ve made none the champion.”

An award winner in Canada (and winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize), Life of Pi, Yann Martel’s second novel, should prove to be a breakout book in the U.S. At one point in his journey, Pi recounts, “My greatest wish–other than salvation–was to have a book. A long book with a never-ending story. One that I could read again and again, with new eyes and fresh understanding each time.” It’s safe to say that the fabulous, fablelike Life of Pi is such a book. –Brad Thomas Parsons

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

 

Amazon.com
Bad things come in threes for Toru Okada. He loses his job, his cat disappears, and then his wife fails to return from work. His search for his wife (and his cat) introduces him to a bizarre collection of characters, including two psychic sisters, a possibly unbalanced teenager, an old soldier who witnessed the massacres on the Chinese mainland at the beginning of the Second World War, and a very shady politician.

Haruki Murakami is a master of subtly disturbing prose. Mundane events throb with menace, while the bizarre is accepted without comment. Meaning always seems to be just out of reach, for the reader as well as for the characters, yet one is drawn inexorably into a mystery that may have no solution. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is an extended meditation on themes that appear throughout Murakami’s earlier work. The tropes of popular culture, movies, music, detective stories, combine to create a work that explores both the surface and the hidden depths of Japanese society at the end of the 20th century.

If it were possible to isolate one theme in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, that theme would be responsibility. The atrocities committed by the Japanese army in China keep rising to the surface like a repressed memory, and Toru Okada himself is compelled by events to take responsibility for his actions and struggle with his essentially passive nature. If Toru is supposed to be a Japanese Everyman, steeped as he is in Western popular culture and ignorant of the secret history of his own nation, this novel paints a bleak picture. Like the winding up of the titular bird, Murakami slowly twists the gossamer threads of his story into something of considerable weight. –Simon Leake

The Atlantic Monthly, Phoebe-Lou Adams
Mr. Murakami’s long and devious novel opens in a resolutely mundane way, with the narrator cooking spaghetti. The significant items in the ensuing phantasmagoria soon appear, however–a dry well, a house abandoned because of a series of tragedies, a so-called alley blocked at both ends, the statue of a bird looking sadly unable to fly, and the unidentified wind-up bird that creaks invisibly in a nearby tree. “Wind-up” can mean either an end or a preparation for action. Whether his target is Japan or the world, Mr. Murakami’s work sums up a bad century and envisions an uncertain future. His protagonist is a harmless fellow who merely wants to recover his cat and his wife. The troubles, real and delusional, that he encounters can be seen as extravagant metaphors for every ill from personal isolation to mass murder. The novel is a deliberately confusing, illogical image of a confusing, illogical world. It is not easy reading, but it is never less than absorbing.