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2023-02-16 12:40:49 (UTC)

Two "Young Reader" Books

Personal entry follows.

Back in December '22, I ended up picking up a few books from those "Little Free Libraries" scattered around town, near where I live. I was dropping off a few things in them as I drove around, and then decided on a whim to pick up a few since I was there anyway. Since then, I've finished two of them (after committing to reading a chapter or at least 10 pages a night before I go to sleep), and wanted to briefly record my thoughts about each.

As it happens, the two books were very different, and are likely a reflection of the changing tastes of young readers over time. In any case, I found them both worth reading. Not a literary critic, otherwise I'm sure I'd have more of an opinion on this sort of thing. One thing I know for certain now: I can make it through any book if I resolve to read at least 10 pages of it each day. Neither one of these books is a significant literary challenge anyway, but for those who find "long books" a bore, take heed: these are short enough to be done with, but long enough to have interesting details and nuance included.

HOLES, 1998
Louis Sachar

I first heard of this book years ago, as it was recommended to me by my girlfriend at the time. I saw it on the shelf, was reminded of her, and decided to pick it up and have another go at it.

The big picture of the story is that a young man matures and starts making choices for himself. At the beginning, he's a victim of circumstance and feels lost regarding how he ended up at this detention camp for pre-teens (I thought of the kid as being maybe 12 years old, just before high school age). By the time the book is over, he's making choices, setting his mind to a given task, and eventually fighting for the survival of himself and one of his fellow prisoners. The story is all neatly-tied-up at the end, with a suitably happy ending. As opposed to the other book I'll mention here, this is definitely something for the more modern audience.

There were a number of quirky details that were peppered throughout the first two acts, and it all comes together at the end, and everything - regardless of how odd it seemed - made sense at the end. You could put the book down (no, it's not the kind of story that makes you "throw the book across the room" or whatever), and be content with the notion that the kid's life turned out all right.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

I wanted to finally read this book mainly due to the fact I'm learning about and living as a homesteader. I'm pleased I finally finished this one. The book is, at first glance, a chronology of the author's family's move to "Indian Territory" out west. The book covers about a year of the author's life. They ford the Mississippi, build a cabin in the middle of... the prairie, build a stable, dig a well, meet the neighboring settlers, suffer from malaria, and experience the tensions of living near the Native American Indian tribes.

The book is more or less mundane and matter-of-fact until the last three chapters of the tale. It's worth reading so I'll not spoil it for anyone curious. But there's a metaphorical moment where Laura's family bears witness to the effect of the white man's Westward expansion across North America at the end. The thing I liked the most about this moment is that the author doesn't shirk at sharing her naive child's perspective at the moment (should we assume she's telling the truth and not embellishing it). It's a snapshot of racial, historical critique without going too far into mature analysis, by maintaining the child's perspective throughout.

To extend its effect a bit further: it's like watching classic episodes of "The Muppet Show." The obvious audience was children, however the scripts frequently included insightful jokes that only adults would catch.


Personally, I liked -Little House...- more than I did -Holes-, as there's just more meat on the bone in the former. Regardless, they're both worthwhile, brief tales.

My next story will be -Heidi-, by Johanna Spyri.