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review 2017-01-28 09:52
I enjoyed the story, the characters, the historical detail, the beautiful language and yes, the trees too
At the Edge of the Orchard - Tracy Chevalier

Thanks to NetGalley and to HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction, The Borough Press for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily choose to review.

Tracy Chevalier was one of the authors that I had wanted to read for a long while but somehow never got around to it. When I saw this title on offer I decided it was now or never. For me, it was well-worth the wait, but more about that later.

The book follows the story of a family who moves from Connecticut to Ohio in the XIX century and later of their youngest son, Robert and his adventures. It is divided into several parts, and it is symmetrical and beautifully composed. We first get to know the parents, James and Sarah (Sadie), whose first-person narrations alternate, and whose points of view and personalities couldn’t be more different. Then there are the letters that Robert, their youngest son, writes back home, which give us a brief insight into his adventures, without narrating every little detail. Then there is the narration of Robert’s adventures, this time in the third person, and how he goes full circle and after trying many things ends up working with trees, his father’s life mission. There follow the letters for his youngest sister, Martha, who tries to find him and also tell a story that would have been much more difficult to read if it had been told in detail. (I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but let’s say her way of talking about her experiences make them more poignant for me. Robert was right when he told her she was stronger than she thought she was.) Then we go back to James and Sadie’s story, picking it up at the time where it had been disrupted, and by the end of the novel, we’re back to Robert’s story. Although the story goes backwards and forwards in time, I did not find it difficult as the times and the narrative voices are well and clearly delineated.

Life in the swamp is vividly described as harsh and demanding. It kills animals, people, and crops. It also can destroy the spirits of some individuals. The only bright spot are the apples (be the sweetness and the joy of growing them, for James, or the cider and Applejack for Sadie). Here I found myself fascinated by the description of the trees, the process of looking after them, what they came to represent, the fights over the different types of apple trees, and later about the love of people for the sequoias and the business involved in exporting trees. It has happened to me more than once that when I read about a subject I’d never thought much about; I become entranced by it, not because of the subject itself, but of the passion and beauty with which it was written about. I remember, as an example of this, American Pastoral by Philip Roth. I’d never given a second thought to glove making before reading that book, but I the way the craft was described, so lovingly. In this case, to Chevalier’s advantage, I like apples and trees, although I’ve never studied them in depth, but I loved the factual knowledge, the beauty of the language, and the use of true historical figures, as the author explains in her notes. As a note of warning, having read some of the reviews, not everybody found that part interesting. I guess I’m more of a James (or a Robert) than a Sadie in that respect.

The characters are not immediately relatable to or even likeable, but they do ring true. Both parents seem to be trapped in relationships and roles not of their liking but unable to do anything else, at a time when survival was the main object and most people had to put up with their lot in life, like it or not. Robert is a quiet man, who prefers nature to the company of others, but he is also loyal and more attached to people than he likes to acknowledge, even to himself. The book is built around a secret he keeps, although for me that was incidental and not the hook that kept me reading. He ends up becoming fonder of people and, like the trees of the story gets to move around and see the world. Martha, his sister, is a great character (she would have made an interesting protagonist too, but perhaps her story would have been too bleak) but does not get a lot of space in the book. Some of the secondary characters, based on historical ones, like John Chapman and William Lobb, deserve whole volumes dedicated to their endeavours, and some fictional characters, like the housekeeper and Molly, are larger than life.

I can’t compare it to any other of Chevalier’s books, but I enjoyed the story, the characters, the historical detail, the beautiful language and yes, the trees too. I recommend it to lovers of historical fiction who are happy to delve into the texture and the feel of an era or an occupation. And now I have to try and catch up with the rest of her books.

 

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review 2016-11-11 02:28
Amelia Bedelia's First Apple Pie
Amelia Bedelia's First Apple Pie - Herman Parish,Lynne Avril

Written by Herman Parish

Illustrated by Lynne Avril

 

Amelia Bedelia is visiting her grandparents. Her grandma asked if Amelia Bedelia and her grandpa would go buy apples, because she had made a pie dough. Amelia Bedelia and her grandpa go to the farmer's market to get Granny Smith apples. When they return, Amelia Bedelia helps her grandma make the pie. She also makes a mini pie with the leftover dough. When the pie is done, her grandma sets it outside to cool and birds eat the whole thing. Amelia Bedelia's parents come over and everyone laments about the ruined pie, until Amelia Bedelia remembers her tiny pie in the oven. Everyone is thankful for the tiny pie.

 

i would use this with kindergarten through second grade. It could be used for how-to/sequencing, feeling thankful (Thanksgiving), or apples in general.

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review 2016-11-09 04:16
Ten Apples Up on Top
Ten Apples Up On Top! - Theo LeSieg,Roy McKie

Ten Apples Up on Top is such a cute story written in a similar style to Dr. Suess books. It is about a group of animals competing to see who can stack the most apples on their head. This book is a great way for younger students to practice counting from one to ten. As the animals add more apples to their stacks the other animals in town become upset and try to knock down their apples. The next pages that follow have a lot of exclamatory dialogue and opportunities to read with intonation, so this would be a great practice for that. 

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review 2016-11-04 17:35
Have my Babies, Neil Gaiman
Snow, Glass, Apples - Julie Dillon,Neil Gaiman

I think of her hair as black as coal, her lips as red as blood, her skin, snow-white. As do I. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is a fairy tale, nay, a beloved fairy tale about a young, beautiful girl with hair as black as ebony, lips as red as blood, and skin as white as snow. It is the story of the triumph of good over evil; of the victory of an innocent, loving and beautiful child over her clever, evil, equally beautiful step mother. But Neil Gaiman doesn't think so. Why? Because he's Neil fucking Gaiman and he can ruin any fairytale he wants.

You see, it's all about perspective. The kind and gentle (for the intents and purposes of this story only) stepmother says, "They call me wise, but I am far from wise, for all that I foresaw fragments of it, frozen moments caught in pools of water or in the cold glass of my mirror. If I were wise I would not have tried to change what I saw. If I were wise I would have killed myself before ever I encountered her, before ever I caught him."

"Wise, and a witch, or so they said, and I’d seen his face in my dreams and in reflections for all my life: sixteen years of dreaming of him before he reined his horse by the bridge that morning, and asked my name." At the ripe age of sixteen, she finds herself in love with the beautiful king of the land. Sixteen and but a child herself, she finds herself married to him, and caring (I use the word loosely here) for his five year-old daughter. Her eyes were black as coal, black as her hair; her lips were redder than blood. ... Her teeth seemed sharp, even then, in the lamplight. But of course, everything about the daughter is not as it seems, and tragedy befalls our heroine.

A landscape, unrecognisable after a snowfall; that is what she has made of my life.

Saying anything beyond this would, of course compromise the build of the story. I will say this, though; this book is not for the faint-hearted, as beautiful as it is. Neil Gaiman, you perverse weirdo. I didn't think I could ever love you more, but see, now, I do.

I'll leave you with this...metaphor. Autumn is the time of drying, of preserving, a time of picking apples, of rendering the goose fat. Winter is the time of hunger, of snow, and of death...

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review 2016-10-28 15:52
Fans of Once Upon a Time show
Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty - Christine Heppermann

Once upon a time....

Those four words have sustained little girls all their live into believing that all they have to do is sing in the woods, be beautiful, courageous, have patience and be kind to others, you will have a wonderful happy ending and a most wonderful man in your life.

Then the little girls grow up to be hard working women in the hard world and found out that all those fairy tale stories were.....

WRONG!!!!!!!!!

You don't always get Prince Charming. You sometimes get his evil twin; his delusional cousin, and lazy nephew but some hardly ever see Prince Charming. Also it's kind of hard to be kind to others when they are not kind to you...patience have left the building and will never return....some don't live in the woods and you really don't want that woman to sing....courageous is frowned upon in this world and what really is beautiful anymore?

Christine Heppermann sees what real young girls have to go through everyday and it's not all fairy-lovey-dovey stuff. So instead of showing fairy tales, Christine shows them what really happens in the world to young adults. What really is out there and what we woman can do about it. Sometimes we have to be shown the truth...no matter how much it might hurt us, it will make us stronger.

If you loved fairy tales as much as I, then you definitely need to read this book.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1370175959
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