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Thank you to everyone who voted this month! The book we will read through March and discuss in April is The Witch Of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare.
When I first read this book when I was a sophomore in High School, it was because I was wandering through Barnes and Noble book store, as I often did when life was simpler, and I came across this book. The cover caught my eye, and I know that they say "Don't judge a book by it's cover", but I was, and am, always mouthwateringly obsessed with all things Fairy (or Folk as they are called in this book) I found myself opening this book to the inside cover where i read the words "This book is dedicated to all children who have ever felt DIFFERENT." And I was sold. Because I was always different.
By the time I was in second grade, I spent my recesses perched atop the jungle gym spiderweb with a book. If everyone was playing tag, I was off somewhere on my own pretending i was Kira from "The Dark Crystal". I had lots of friends. But I guess I danced to the tune of my own penny whistle. I was always a little different. My opinions were often overlooked, and i was usually alone. Even when i wasn't.
This book was for me.
Moql'nkkn, as she is known by the Folk, and Saaski as she is known by her human mumma and da, and her Gran'mum, Old Bess, is half human half Folk. She is found out as a youngling when she is unable to wink out of sight, and so is changed. Old Bess knows at once, as the baby, who was once docile and easy to care for, not only screams relentlessly day in and day out, but also looks different. She has dark skin, like a Gypsy's and she has curly tufts of matted white hair, and eyes that change color from lavender to green to gray, but never blue like her mum and da's. The baby has other tell tale signs, as she is afraid of St. Johns wort and Yanno, her da, is the iron smith. She is terrified of him, and everyone knows that Folk are afraid of iron.
Of course, Old Bess tells Anwara and Yanno about her suspicion, and the ways to get rid of the changeling which includes beating her or throwing her in a fire or drowning her. Of course, neither of them believe her, and Yanno cannot fathom beating his own child. But Saaski, who is listening, learns that she must try to forget about her past on the Moor or she will find herself in an ill fate.
Anwara is always fiercely defensive of Saaski who learns very quickly as she grows to stay away from the other village children who taunt her, and trick her, and generally are really mean.
I think this was the part of the book that astounded me the most. I did not remember the violence and meanness being quite so prominent, and I was pretty shocked. Something so different. I can say, as a mother, that I would have made my children play with her, and be her friend. Instead, the other children are encouraged by their parents, who also talk about her and tell their children to cross themselves when she comes near. The constant ridicule broke my heart for her.
Fortunately, Saaski has Tam.
Saaski, from the time she was very small, has run away to the Moor, over and over and over again, where she feels at ease, away from the teasing, away from chores that she can never get quite right, away from everything except for Tam.
Though Saaski develops a touching relationship with Old Bess, and even learns to love Anwara (we'll get to that later) it is Tam that shows her unconditional love. He is where she belongs, with his three goats, and the old dog, Warrior.
Once, while she is essentially under house arrest because her human parents fear the moor, Saaski finds a set of old bagpipes that belonged to her Da's father. From the first shrill sound, she is able to play it like a pro. This further leads the townsfolk and her parents to wonder if the ability is fiendish. Yanno wants her to put them away and leave them alone, but it is Anwara that talks him into letting her keep the pipes.
Because of her Folk half, which doesn't experience the same range of emotions as humans do, does not understand either the meanness of the children in the village, or the swelling of need to repay Anwara for the favor she gave Saaski by letting her keep the bagpipes. Saaski does not understand why the children are mean, and she doesn't like it, yet she does not wish them harm for it. Tam, on the other hand, gets very perturbed when Saaski shows up on the moor with a new bruise or scrape. Saaski asks him to explain what Hate is, and he says it's the opposite of Love. She decides that her desire to give Anwara a wonderful gift must be what Love is. But she cannot figure out what to give her, as all the things she brings to her tend to disappoint, though Anwara does her best to act like it doesn't.
It is only on Midsummer's eve, when the town is preparing a bonfire of Rowan wood and putting yellow St. Johns Wort flowers on all the doors, and salt on all the windowsills- three things that Saaski cannot stand, being half Folk, that things boil down, and Saaski gets her idea.
The villagers want to throw her into the fire that Midsummer's eve. So Anwara and Yanno agree to let her run away to the moor, away from the villagers. They do love her. And they are scared for her. Saaski decides that the only thing Anwara wants in the whole world is her own baby back.
Saaski and Tam know that Midsummer's eve is their only chance. Saaski trades her pipes to another Folk man, Tinkwa, for safe passage for herself, the child, and Tam. Tam is warned not to eat or drink inside or else when he comes out, he will be many years older than he is. His eyes are bedazzled, and Saaski gives him an ointment for one of his eyes, and he is able to see that the Folk world is only dirt and berries instead of Crystals and roasted swans and peacocks.
Inside the mound, they find the little girl that was stolen from Anwara and Yanno. The name they call her by is Lekka, which means only "Stolen", Saaski is severely disturbed by this name, i think, because she understands how important this child is, and they don't. Because they don't know better. Her human side is showing compassion.
Upon carrying the child out of the mound, she becomes a baby again, only near to being able to toddle. "Time runs differently in the mound", as they say.
Saaski returns the baby to Old Bess, and runs away to the Moor to live with Tam and play their little whistles while the goats munch on thistles.
Anwara and Yanno, of course dote on their delicate, beautiful daughter, who is exceptional in all ways as she grows, but occasionally, they do think about Saaski, and their hearts ache for the memories of that past time.
I absolutely give this book 6 out of 5 stars!!!!! As I mentioned before, I'm appalled by the way the children treat this child, and I would have none of it. I wasn't a mother when I read this book the last time, and I see it from a different perspective. I want to always make sure that my children know that they should treat everyone well, and stand up for those who can't do it for themselves, and even the ones who can.
PLEASE VOTE ON APRIL'S BOOK!!!
(all book photos courtesy of Google Images, and all synopses courtesy of wikipedia.org, unless otherwise specified.)
The Screwtape Letters by C.S.Lewis
The Screwtape Letters is a Christian apologetics novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, a junior tempter named Wormwood, so as to advise him on methods of securing the damnation of a British man, known only as "the Patient".
Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson
An excellent re-telling of the Robin Hood myth, with more emphasis on his motivations behind becoming an outlaw rather than the actual acts of stealing. Despite what the new cover looks like, this is not a mere romance novel. It's a very detailed historical fiction that Jennifer Roberson did a lot of research to make it feel real, and it shows. Of course, it's not going to be the exact same Robin Hood myth that people are familiar with, considering there's so many versions of the story floating around that contradict each other, but she does an excellent job of making a believable version of what really could have happened.
(synopsis of Lady of the Forest taken from
The Giver is a 1993 soft science fiction novel. It is set in a future society which is at first presented as a Utopian society and gradually appears more and more dystopian; therefore, it could be considered anti-Utopian. The novel follows a boy named Jonas through the twelfth year of his life. The society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to "Sameness", a plan which has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. Jonas is selected to inherit the position of "Receiver of Memory," the person who stores all the memories of the time before Sameness, in case they are ever needed to aid in decisions that others lack the experience to make. When Jonas meets the Giver, he is confused in many ways. The giver is also able to break some rules, such as turning off the speaker and locking his door. As Jonas receives the memories from the previous receiver—the "Giver"—he discovers how shallow his community's life has become
It's Not You, It's Biology by Joe Quirk
(Synopsis courtesy of BarnesandNoble.com)
At last, here's what you should've learned in high school biology! This paperback edition is an Everyman's humorous look at the real differences-biological, historical, psychological-between men and women...with fun and provocative insight into what really drives behavior and interactions between men and women. Men talk about women to men. Women talk about men to women. Men and women talk to each other (or try to) about relationships. It's Not You, It's Biology provides insight, ammunition, snappy comebacks, and interesting cocktail party banter for everyone who ever wondered why we do what we do vis-a-vis the opposite sex. It's Freakonomics for the Relationship-Challenged.
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