Reading the World Challenge 2011 – Update 2

During the couple of months since my last update, we’ve included several books for the PaperTigers Reading the World Challenge in our reading.

As well as Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, which I blogged about last week, we have read Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord together, an exciting read from beginning to end. It’s the story of two German boys Prosper and Bo, who, after the death of their mother, run away from the aunt who wants to give a home only to the younger Bo. They go to Venice, because their mother filled them with stories of the city’s magic, and there they end up living in an abandoned cinema with some other stray children, under the protection of Scipio aka the Thief Lord, who is not much older than them. They find plenty of adventure and magic of their own, not to mention a certain amount of disaster and worry, before the story reaches its ultimately satisfying conclusion.

Bedtimes stretched out as we found it harder and harder to put the book down, and it was just as well we reached the school holidays about 80 pages before the end, because we were then able to swallow the last eleven chapters whole in one wonderful morning!

Little Brother (10) has read his non-fiction selection: three of the books in Fifth House Publishers/Fitzhenry and Whiteside’s wonderful The Land is Our Storybook series. Here’s what he says about them:

We Feel Good Out Here by Julie-Ann André and Mindy Willett, Photographs by Tessa Macintosh (2008):

I liked the story about how Atachuunkaii, the man in the canoe tricked a giant called Ch’ii Choo.

The Delta is My Home by Tom McLeod and Mindy Willett, photographs by Tessa Macintosh (2008):

I enjoyed the bit about the muskrat push ups – it was really interesting and I liked the pictures because they were funny – and impressive because Tom McLeod drew them himself.

Come and Learn With Me by Sheyenne Jumbo and Mandy Willett, photographs by Tessa MacIntosh (2010):

I liked the “Clean Socks” story about Ashley and Selena, who was her mum. Sheyenne wrote it – I haven’t read Robert Munsch’s book called Smelly Socks, which is actually what inspired her – but her story is about new socks – also because she can’t get socks where she lives.

All in all:

These are amazing books. They help me to see what is going on in other children’s lives in the far north of Canada, beyond the Arctic Circle and I think it’s amazing that nearly all the books are written by children. I enjoyed finding out some of the stories they have, like the trickster ravens. I’d like to make bannocks and go kayaking but I wouldn’t like to have to prepare muskrat skins or have to get on a plane to go to town. I’m glad there are no Residential Schools anymore.

Meanwhile Older Brother (12) has been doing some catching up and has read Thunder Over Kandahar by Sharon E. McKay (Annick Press, 2010), which is about two girls caught up in the “terror and chaos of present-day Afghanistan”:

In Thunder Over Kandahar there is reality and evil. There were some parts that really, really moved me. It’s about Yasmine, who’s from England but her parents came from Afghanistan and they’ve all moved back there, and her friend Tamanna. The Taliban are after them. At one point there’s a suicide bomber. The book really brings to life the utter horror of war and also how love and friendship are greater than that.

I can vouch for how gripped he was by the book, since from the moment he started reading it, we hardly saw him until he emerged from his room at the end of it. I think first off he was attracted by the three choppers on the cover and wasn’t really expecting the realistic depiction of life for two girls under the Taliban that accompanied what was obviously a very exciting read. The book has made a deep impression and he has persuaded me that I must read it. I will certainly do so; in the meantime, I just think it’s great that he has been so affected by a story about girls – all kudos to Sharon E. McKay.

He has also read Linda Sue Park’s The Kite Fighters (Clarion Books, 2000/Yearling, 2002):

I loved this book! Set in Korea in 1473, it’s about a younger brother, Young-sup, who wasn’t allowed to speak his own mind. He meets the king and shows him his kite-flying skills. The king asks Kee-sup, the older brother, to make a kite for him. I loved this story because it’s about brothers who stand together and help each other. It’s a very happy story.

And what about news about the Challenge from around the world?

Sandhya over at My Handful of the Sky has posted about her own read, or rather reads – Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and two follow-up novels, Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley and Rhett Butler’s People by Donald McCaig; and also the book she has shared with her daughter – Ramayana: Divine Loophole by Sanjay Patel (Chronicle Books, 2010). Sandhya makes some astute observations about the particular value of the book as an introduction to the Ramayana for children not brought up with Indian folklore – do read her review.

Those amazing bloggers over at Gathering Books have completed the Challenge. Myra’s posts are an absolute treat – if you missed either of them when they first went live, take the time to explore them now: Suzy Lee’s wordless picture books, and “Dual Tastes of Morocco and Sydney: Mirror by Jeannie Baker”. And for their non-fiction and local book, Mary introduces us to Filipino historian Ambeth Ocampo, and most specifically his book Dirty Dancing: Looking Back 2. Mary’s post has made me realise what a bonus it is for everyone else that one of this year’s Challenge books has to be a local book – a little bit of insider knowledge certainly opens up possibilities for the rest of us!

For my own books in the Challenge, I’ve read Torn Apart by Derek Flory (Mainstream, 2008), a moving, true story with its roots in Burma at the outbreak of the Second World War, about two sisters reunited after 65 years of separation; and A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy by Thomas Buergenthal (Profile Books, 2009), a stunning, humbling, inspirational book that wrung me inside out.

It’s certainly not too late to take up our PaperTigers Reading the World Challenge 2011 – in fact, with long summer vacations around the corner for many children, and even short, winter holidays for others, now could be the ideal time to start! And don’t forget to let us know about the books you’ve read.

One Response to “Reading the World Challenge 2011 – Update 2”

  1. Uma Krishnaswami Says:

    My Reading the World books are listed in a single post at