Sunday, March 17, 2013

Crystal Ball, Crystal Ball

To predict tomorrow's Battle of the Kids' Books winner I need only my "incredible powers of book discernment".  But first I must cogitate.

   Both titles reference the stars:  Jepp, who Defied the Stars vs Starry River of the Sky.
   Neither book's action is from around these here parts - geographically or chronologically.
   Both books champion hope.
   Hmmmm, yep, I think that's about it.

   Jepp is historical fiction and describes the indignities suffered by people who appear different from the norm.  The writing avoids being ponderous even when considering the time period and the weight of Jepp's indignities and difficulties.   There is a touch of wishful thinking in Jepp's story that may toss the book overboard in this round.  For instance, I found the ending to be anachronistic - far too modern for the time period, even though the main historical character, Tycho Brahe, was famous for his wildly unorthodox behavior and teachings.

   Starry River of the Sky is fantasy through and through.  The author alternates the main character's story with folk tales that seem to move that character's story along.  The audience for this book seems to be younger than the audience for Jepp, Who Defied the Stars.  Because of that the plot is simpler and the problems the characters meet are more immediate - the heat, the darkness, grouchy neighbors.  The writing is more lyrical.  The pacing has more drama.  Less happens but more emotional ground seems to get covered.

Oh dear, what have I done?  When I started this post, I thought my choice was clear.   I must pause here and think carefully.  If I was the esteemed judge, truly, which would I choose?  (Note to BOB organizers:  I NEVER want to be an esteemed judge.)

(Deeeeep breath).  I stand by my initial inclination.  I choose Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh.  The books have different purposes and both purposes are worthwhile.

Jepp teaches us about a swatch of scientific history and gives us insight into the constant battle of all human beings to be treated with respect.   Jepp also encourages the reader to look inside for his or her own talents and pursue a path that is meaningful and satisfying. 

Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin is about anger, betrayal but most of all, this book is about forgiveness.  How Lin gets there is a journey worth taking.  The stories are like pearls disbursed on a strand with earthen beads.  Did I love this book?  Oh, yes, yes, I did.

And still, I choose small and sturdy, young and indomitable, clever, sometimes clueless, but eventually courageous Jepp as the winner of this battle.

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