So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Aunt Jane's Nieces Abroad by L. Frank Baum (writing as Edith Van Dyne)

With the fabulous success of his Wizard of Oz books, L. Frank Baum finally found himself financially well off. He and his wife Maud used their new wealth to take a trip overseas. On 7 April 1906 they were witnesses to a major eruption of Vesuvius. This experience becomes the background for Aunt Jane's Nieces Abroad which takes the characters to this same event and makes the novel interesting reading.

Baum portrays the three young girls and their Uncle John as nationalistic Americans, extremely proud of their culture and values, who are always making comparisons with how much worse Europeans are in all they say and do. This adds humor to the story which is basically an adventure tale that centers around the mysterious men they meet in their travels. Filled with detail from Baum's own travels, the book ends up being a cautionary tale for Americans traveling abroad.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Wish Express by Ruth Plumly Thompson

Originally serialized for the Philadelphia Public Ledger in 1916, Ruth Plumly Thompson's first novel The Wish Express starts when a boy named Berens, discontented with his math homework, wishes he was someone else somewhere else. The next thing he knows, a giant Discontented Bug with 19 arms and 17 legs has grabbed him and his dog Rags and is flying him to the wish trolley ... and Rags can talk! The trolley is filled with other discontented wishers, both human and animal who must make what Thompson calls "the perilous journey on a wish through Talktown and the State of Discontentment to the misty city of Somewhere Else" to have their wishes granted.

The publisher, Hungry Tiger Press, calls it "a tale of self-discovery, talking animals, amazing little towns, great new friends, and a happy ending!" The book definitely shows the delightful play of words and interesting characterization that Thompson will later display writing 21 novels as L. Frank Baum's successor to the title of The Royal Historian of Oz.

Never before printed in its entirety, the Hungry Tiger Press paperback features a flip-book Wish Express Trolley created by Eric Shanower that moves along the top of the pages as you read. If you flip through the pages you can watch it move. Also included are the original illustrations by Public Ledger artist James Hammon. The Wish Express is a delightful illustration of the proverb "Be careful what you wish for because it might come true" that has lost none of its charm in the 95 years since its first publication.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Forest: A Personal Record of the Huk Guerrilla Struggle in the Philippines
by William J. Pomeroy

Bill Pomeroy came to the Philippines as an American soldier in World War II. During the war, Philippine Huk Guerrillas battled Japanese occupiers. One of the Huk was Celia Mariano. After the war the Huk continued fighting for the freedom of the people against the Philippine government and oppressive landlords. Celia and Bill married and Bill joined the Huk movement.

In 1950 Celia and Bill left Manila to join the Huk guerrillas in the Sierra Madre mountains as they struggled to free the islands from foreign influence and the power elite. The Forest tells the story of their two years living with the Huk and training them in revolutionary theory in various mountain camps. It has short chapters in chronological order with months marked out as if it was a journal. As a personal account by the only American in the Huk movement it is a valuable inside look that can help us understand what it was like in such a group at the time.