My Beautiful Hippie by Janet Nichols Lynch

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The Plot in Five Sentences or Less:  During the Summer of Love in 1967 in the Haight District of San Francisco, Joanne falls in love with a hippie named Martin.  Their relationship develops as Joanne watches her family and world change around her.  Her sister Denise enters a loveless marriage and is sexually harassed at work while her brother Dan is interested in joining up and going to Vietnam.  As Joanne’s relationship with Martin develops, she experiments with drugs and protesting against the war while also carving out time to excel at her piano practice.

My Take:  Against my own predictions, I enjoyed this book and believe that young adult females interested in the 1960’s will get a kick out of it.   When I began this book, my fear was that it was going to simply be about a silly, moon-eyed girl pining over a boy.  Janet smartly puts in the side plot of Joanne’s burning interest in the piano and, because of this, I felt much more interested in this character.  My one quibble was the placement of the characters at the assassination of Bobby Kennedy.  The scene was too short and inserted rather desultorily into the narrative.  Other than that, I was pleasantly surprised by this story of young love in the 1960’s.   Ages 13+ due to drug use and profanity.

One Interesting Note About the Author:  Music plays a big part in Janet’s life.  She has been taking piano lessons since the age of 7.  She plays guitar as well, but feels most inclined to play classical piano.  Find out more about at her website.

Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson

 

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The Plot in 5 Sentences or Less:  After she failed at running her Uncle Chester’s farm, Hattie Brooks is now working in a boardinghouse in Great Falls, Montana in 1919.  Seeking to become a big city reporter, she makes her way to San Francisco with an acting troupe.  She also wants to meet one Ruby Danvers, who apparently was very close to her uncle, and find out the background of their relationship.  Through her pluck and determination, Hattie makes great progress in her career as a reporter, taking a ride in a new Boeing airplane and even meeting Woodrow Wilson.  But Hattie must eventually make a choice between staying in San Francisco or following her true love Charlie.  

My Take:  Having not read Hattie Big Sky, I still felt that this was a fine, well written book about a girl trying to make it in the big city in the early 20th century.  I can’t say that it was the most exciting book that I’ve read, the narrative is driven more by the relationships that Hattie makes rather than any action, but girls will find a lot to like in the character of Hattie.  Ages 9+

One Interesting Note About the Author:  According to her website, Kirby Larson originally wrote Hattie Big Sky inspired by her great-grandmother’s homesteading experience in eastern Montana.

 

 

 

The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum

I continue my Oz reading with this second installment of Baum’s fantastical world.  I know that I’ll read at least one more if not two in the series.

Plot:  Let’s get one thing out of the way: Dorothy is not in this one.  Our story opens in the Country of the Gillikins, the northern land of Oz, and follows a boy name Tip as he escapes from his cruel master, the witch Mombi.  Before leaving, Tip steals some magic powder which he uses to animate a pumpkinhead man that he has made.   Their plan is to travel to the Emerald City to meet the Scarecrow, who is now the ruler of that place.  Along the way, they animate a saw horse and ride him to the City.

They meet the scarecrow who unfortunately is not much help as his city is quickly overthrown by an army of girls with knitting needles.  They all escape to the land of the Winkies where they meet the Tin Woodsman who rules there.  They return to the Emerald City but are quickly surrounded by the girl army, escaping by creating a flying machine out of various items including the head of a gump.  Eventually they make it to the south country where they meet with Glinda the Good who accompanies them take back the Emerald City from both the girl army and Mombi.  There is an excellent plot twist at the end that I will not spoil for you.

Personal Reaction:  I felt that this book was different from the first in that L. Frank Baum seemed more sure of the tone that he wanted to strike.  In the Wizard of Oz, the story often overwhelmed a great deal of character development (“and then this happened…and then this happened…”).  But Baum allows The Marvelous Land to breathe a bit more and lets the characters have extended conversations that illuminate their personalities.  One dialogue that I found enjoyable was early on in the book when the Scarecrow and Jack Pumpkinhead are first meeting.  They talk themselves into the idea that, because they are from different lands of Oz, then they must need an interpreter to understand each other.  Of course, they are speaking the same language the entire time.

I also appreciated how each character was proud in their own way of their uniqueness, but also inclined towards sensitivity on this matter.  The Tin Woodsman, for example, has himself nickel plated and is careful to avoid scratches to preserve his lustre.  Jack Pumpkinhead is careful not to damage his head and is constantly worried about spoiling.  The Sawhorse is embarrassed when one of his legs is damaged and must be switched out with another piece of wood.  Baum’s characters wear their weirdness on the outside, but just like people, are inclined to be self conscious about it.

Taken all together, I believe that this book holds up (a bit of sexism concerning the girl army notwithstanding) over a hundred years later.  I can cheerfully recommend The Marvelous Land of Oz to 7 year olds and up.

Themes:  uniqueness, diversity, character identity, female empowerment, gender identity, the trials of teamwork,