Napoli, Reeve, Eddy, and Cohen

Jacalyn Eddy, Bookwomen
Since I'll be referring to this book for years to come, I'll just note a few most useful and surprising highlights.
--"To accept the traditional narrative that women were merely forced into unwanted careers, however, simplifies a complex phenomenon." (p. 6)
--Gives good overview of first publishing houses to have children's imprints, starting with MacMillan and Doubleday (p. 131)
--Eddy's arguments about the child guidance movement echo Ehrenreich's arguments about "experts" and the masculinization of women's traditional realms of knowledge. (p. 110-111)

Donna Jo Napoli, The Prince of the Pond
Napoli retells the frog prince from the view of a young female frog with whom the frog prince has a family before his eventual transformation back into a human. Napoli is always good at getting to the bones of the tales she retells. The opening has remarkable resemblances to some of the dialogue between Robin and Kermit in Henson's version of the frog prince, but this could be mere coincidence. After all, Henson stayed with the traditional plot for his television short story, while Napoli completely rewrites the tale from a fresh perspective. Verb tense changes from past to present for the first time on p. 270, exemplifying the skillful and purposive use of this technically wrong but here extremely effective switch. Note the changes back and forth from this point to the end, used to draw the reader more completely in to the action.

Philip Reeve, Mortal Engines
Tom only meets Katherine Valentine and her famous father briefly, but that encounter shapes the rest of this tale of survival among a world of cities that are engaged in a Municipal Darwinism struggle to eat or be eaten. Reeve's tale is brilliant in places in that he takes conventions and twists them slightly. This alternative vision of a future in which today's distant past is more distant still is tantalizing, offering great opportunities to speculate about what lasts, what matters.

Amy Cohen, The Late Bloomer's Revolution
This is a funny and somewhat quiet memoir of a woman whose life is not going according to plan. She remains her own wry and self-conscious self throughout, but near the end of the book she shows perspective on her own situation that suggests she's seeing past the stereotypical benchmarks of success as the only way to measure the worth of her life. Probably the most fun part (and also painful) is when she learns to ride a bike for the first time in her life in her mid-30s, to much falling and disheveling of her helmet. Thank goodness she wore one. Although this doesn't plumb the depths of some memoirs (I'm thinking of Wells' Glass Castle), it's a good read about breaking out of neurosis and fears and stepping toward self acceptance.

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