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More charming books by favorite authors

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On the way out the door this morning, I picked up Peter S. Beagle's 1999 novel Tamsin, which has been sitting unread on my bookshelf for years. I think I was afraid I wouldn't like it as much as I wanted to.

I needn't have worried. I read the first five chapters on the plane, and it's thoroughly charming. The narrator's voice, in particular, is immensely engaging--she's a modern 19-year-old, writing about events that happened when she was 13, and Beagle makes it work brilliantly. My only problem with it is that the narrator's intrusions into the narrative use some of the same tricks and ideas I'm using in the story I've been writing, so I need to think about whether to change some of mine.

Anyway, very much looking forward to reading the rest of the book.

Meanwhile, here at Mary Anne's I just happened across a thin volume called Fish Soup, by Ursula K. Le Guin, which I had never previously heard of. A kids' book, 30 pages long, with delightful illustrations by Patrick Wynne. It too is thoroughly charming. It's about the friendship between the Thinking Man of Moha and the Writing Woman of Maho, and it features flying mice, and soup, and a couple of children, and other such material. Recommended.

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I love this book passionately, and I looked it up on Amazon, surprised I hadn't heard of it before. The reviews were surprisingly negative, and I think I know why -- it's not really a children's book, even though it looks like one. It's a fable for adults, and it's about some fairly adult ideas that kids aren't likely to relate to. It just looks like a children's book, which I suspect confuses reviewers.


(In case it's not obvious, Mary Anne is talking about the LeĀ Guin, not the Beagle.)

Interesting point; I hesitated before saying it was a kids' book, but I was tired, and it has illustrations and very little text, so I went ahead without thinking much about it. But yeah, now that you say that, I don't have any idea whether kids would like this. And yeah, I suspect many grownups (of a certain sort) would like it a lot.

...Wow, yeah, the major reviews quoted at Amazon are imo weirdly offbase. Publisher's Weekly says the art's "prosaic, earthbound quality makes for a poor match with LeGuin's flight of fancy," whereas I think the art's magical-realist approach perfectly matches the story's. School Library Journal gets that part right ("realistic humans set in a folkloric environment") but calls the book "easy fiction on gender discrimination," which I think really misunderstands (and underestimates) the story. Maybe I'll write an Amazon review when I've had a little more time to think about it.


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