Reading the World Challenge – Update #2

Well, we’ve finally started this year’s Reading the World Challenge in our household!

As our together-read, we’re “doing” Europe at the moment. We’re about half way through Dickens’ Oliver Twist, which I’m really enjoying, since it’s a good few years since I read it, and the boys are revelling in. I suggested it because I was getting a bit fed up with continued allusions to Oliver via the musical Oliver! and felt (poor kids, purist that I am!) that they needed to get back to grass roots here… Oliver Twist by Charles DickensI did wonder if we were biting off a bit more than we could chew but in fact they are completely caught up by the narrative and Dickens would be happy with his effect on their social consiousness/consciences! It’s definitely proving to be one of those books that they wouldn’t read on their own but that, with frequent, unobtrusive asides to gloss the meanings of words, they are more than able to enjoy having read to them. It’s just very long and now that term-time is back in full swing, it’s hard getting the sustained reading time all together that we would like.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John BoyneWe have also read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne (David Fickling Books, 2006). This is an extraordinarily powerful book about a nine-year-old German boy, Bruno, who becomes an unwitting witness of the Holocaust when his father becomes the Commandant of “Outwith” concentration camp (as Bruno mistakenly calls it), and who makes friends with a Jewish boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the perimeter fence. If you have read this breath-taking, punch-in-the-stomach book, do take a look at the discussion that Janet got underway here on PaperTigers on the Tigers Bookshelf. Although it says on the back cover that despite being a book about nine-year-olds, “this is not a book for nine-year-olds”, and I therefore, again, had some reservations of reading it with the boys, I was glad we did. Because we were reading it together (and not at bedtime – this is definitely not a book to read just before you go to sleep), we couldn’t read it in one sitting as has been recommended – but we all mulled over it deeply and all brought our own ages to it. I know that Little Brother’s nine-year-old perspective was very different to mine (as, indeed was Older Brother’s), but it was still valid; and I hope they will both read it again independently when they are older.

Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei by Peter SísLittle Brother’s own read was also focused on Europe with Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei by Peter Sís – this is what he says about it:

I liked The Starry Messenger because you could always recognise Galileo in the pictures because there were always stars near him. Sometimes he was wearing them and sometimes he was drawing them in the sand. It was hard to read because of the font with the swirly writing on some of the page so Mummy helped me. It was always poetic. I liked the poem by Mozart.

I would recommend this book because it tells you all about scores of things that were discovered by Galileo that have changed the world – the phases of the moon, the phases of Venus, and the pendulum, and he got into trouble for saying that Earth revolved around the sun – and he discovered that two objects of unequal weights dropped from the same height would fall at equal speeds by dropping two balls from the Tower of Pisa.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (First Second Books, 2006)Older Brother read American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang:

I loved it! I understood a lot of the first story because I know the Legend of the Monkey King, who is one of the main characters. A lot of it was very funny (definitely for boys!). I liked the way the book was actually one story all mixed up but you don’t realise that until the end. There’s a lot of transforming into something else – like one of the main characters, Jin, transforms into another body but eventually he returns to his own body and realises that he’s happy with who he is. And that’s the message of the book really – be happy with who you are. Oh, and the graphics are really cool.

Meanwhile, since Update #1 of the PaperTigers Reading the World Challenge, there’s been some voracious reading going on across the globe!

Corinne has read Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis, which won the Newbery Award in 1933 – she says,

I was lucky enough to travel to China in 1987 and since then have always had an interest in Chinese history. One of my all-time favorite adult books is Shanghai by Christopher New. I especially love any book that takes me back in time to another country and quite enjoyed Young-Fu.

Corinne has also read Swimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai (set in Sri Lanka), A Girl Made of Dust by Nathalie Abi-Ezzi (set in Lebanon), Chandra’s Secret by Allan Stratton (set in Africa).I, Coriander written by Sally Gardner (set in England). However, she didn’t get on well with Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (set in Australia).

So, as she says, just North and South America to go! And we’re looking forward to hearing how the rest of the family enjoys their reading too.

Olduvai at Olduvai Reads has made her pick from her inspirational list of possibilities and has now read Read: Terra Incognita by Sara Wheeler (Antarctica), Death With Interruptions by Jose Saramgo (Portugal), Island by Alistair MacLeod (Cape Breton, North America) and Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi (Morocco).

Eva at A Striped Armchair didn’t enjoy either her fiction or non-fiction choices for Africa, set in Ethiopia: The God who Begat a Jackal by Nega Mezlekia (although she had loved his first book, Notes From a Hyena’s Belly), and In Search of King Solomon’s Mines by Tahir Shah. Let’s hope she has more success with the rest of her armchair travelling – and for an inkling where those will take her, have a look at the list she put together too.

Tiina from A Book Blog of One’s Own has read The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville (Australia) and Happenstance by Carol Shields (North America) – and she enjoyed both of them (phew!).

There’s still plenty of time to take up this year’s Reading the World Challenge (find out all about it here) – do give it a go yourself and/or encourage the young people in your life to take it up too – and then don’t forget to let us know what you’ve read.

5 Responses to “Reading the World Challenge – Update #2”

  1. Corinne Robson Says:

    For any of our readers in the Toronto, ON, Canada area – John Boyne will be reading from his book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas on May 12 at Harbourfront Centre. Tickets are $13 and can be purchased by calling 416-973-4760.
    For more info. click here

  2. Corinne Robson Says:

    Marj -

    I always love hearing what Older and Younger Brother are reading as well as their comments! Emma is currently reading Three Cups of Tea (young adult version) and is really enjoying it. She also read many of the picture books I brought home from Bologna but I think most of them fall into the dog category not multicultural so I don’t know if we can really count them in this challenge :)

    As for me, I just finished reading Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. It won Honorable Mention for Adult Fiction in the 2010 Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature. I loved Lisa’s previous book Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and this book did not disappoint either. Highly recommend it especially for all those “historical novel” lovers like me. I’m logging this into the Challenge under North America.

    Last night I started reading Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. This book has been on my radar for almost a year now but didn’t arrive in my local library until last week.

    After I finish reading Marcelo in the Real World I have to travel south so that I can tick South America off my list before the Challenge ends! One of the many great things about this Challenge is that it has forced me to keep track of what I have read. As I said before, every New Year Day my resolution would be to keep a list of all the books I have read and this is the first year that I am actually sticking with it.

  3. Marjorie Says:

    Thanks for the info about John Boyne, Corinne, and for bringing us up to date on your Reading the World – hopefully now you’ve started noting the books you’ve read, the habit will stick even after you’ve completed the Challenge. I always intend to note my reading too but have neer got myself sorted…