Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

I have finished reading my nineteenth novel for 2021, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare. Friend, fellow blogger, and poet Susan Baury Rouchard sent me this book, one of her all-time favourites. I had never heard of it or the author, so this was a terrific opportunity. Now that I have finished The Witch of Blackbird Pond, I can see why it came so highly recommended. Thanks, Susan.

Historical fiction is a rich, rewarding genre. The Witch of Blackbird Pond is a young adult novel set in the late 1600s in New England in a society of Puritans. There are so many ways it could have gone wrong, yet Speare never wavers, never falters for a minute. She weaves the depictions of Connecticut and the traditions, the daily chores of the people into the story fabric in a way that makes everything seem real. Fascinating stuff. I almost wondered if the author was born in that era. But no, she published the book in 1958. No wonder this book won the Newbery Medal (1959) and was a Vermont Golden Dome Book Award Nominee (1960).

The story starts, and we are on board the boat, The Dolphin. Kit is fleeing her past in Barbados. She meets two young men: Nathaniel “Nat” Eaton, son of the vessel’s captain, and John Holbrook, a clergyman headed to study with a reverend. Kit’s unexpected arrival in the fictional New England town of Wethersfield and the home of her Aunt Rachel truly upsets the applecart. Kit has only known the free-spirited way of living that she has always embraced in Barbados. She comes from wealth and all the associated privileges of having slaves and owning the finest wardrobe, part of which has traveled with her to virtual poverty in seven trunks. The clash of cultures and lifestyles which follows is powerful, yet never rushed.
Kit knows nothing of the customs that guide New England. She flaps painfully, a fish out of water. As the pampered granddaughter of the most wealthy man in Barbados, she has no idea how to work or do the basic, daily things. We feel sorry for her innocence and yet see her flaws: her sense of entitlement, her lack of stamina for working. We empathize with the pain Kit goes through.
Her grandfather raised Kit with a lot of freedom. He taught her how to read and write, how to swim. All of these things are enough to cast suspicion on the naive girl from Barbados from the start.
‘She feels like a tropical bird that has flown to the wrong part of the world, a bird that is now caged and lonely.’

Used to doing as she pleases each day, Kit soon learns her new family expects her to work every day, all day, and to attend Sabbath Meetings which last nearly an entire day. Kit despairs at the boring services but gains the attention of staid William Ashby, a wealthy young suitor, the most eligible bachelor in town. He is her only possible hope of leaving the house of her severe Uncle Matthew.
We follow poor Kit’s painful adjustment process to the constrictions, the rules of the puritan community, and her uncle’s hard-working household. We see that William Ashby is patently unsuited as a husband. We feel bad that all three girls in the house have their hearts set on the wrong men.
Kit, sore, suffering, lonely, one day discovers the meadow.
‘As they came out from the shelter of the trees and the Great Meadows stretched before them, Kit caught her breath. She had not expected anything like this. From the first moment, in a way she could never explain, the Meadows claimed her and made her their own.’
You feel the healing balm of the moment because Kit has suffered so believably up to this point. It is a piece of prose I read and reread a few times.

In the meadow, Kit meets and is comforted by Hannah Tupper. She learns that the woman is no witch. She is a Quaker, a widow, persecuted in Massachusetts for her religious beliefs. Kit and Hannah become friends with Kit finding ways to visit often, sometimes running into Nat Eaton, who also happens to be a friend to Hannah Tupper.
When a terrible sickness grips Weathersfield, the finger gets pointed at Kit. She gets accused of witchcraft. Who do you think swoops in to save her?
People might call this sort of storytelling “old school,” but I found myself magnetized from the first page, and I couldn’t wait to pick it up and keep reading every time I had to walk away. That’s all you need to know, right there. The ultimate litmus test.

The backdrop of the tension between the English colonists and the New England Men’s fight for independence makes for a dramatic setting. I admired Speare’s tight storytelling. The political drama mirrors and therefore deepens the struggle for Kit between her free rebellious spirit and conforming to what society expects of her. Similarly, the seasons each take their turn. Each season corresponds and mirrors the turbulent journey of Kit’s first year in Connecticut, ending with the dramatic climax when they accuse Kit of witchcraft in the deep, bitter heart of winter. But the book finishes with the return of spring, which I loved. It’s such a clever, complex tale about the conflict between freedom and responsibility, between individual and family/community. A book about the search for identity versus belonging, conforming, and then breaking social rules. Tough, soft, affecting, resonant.
All in all, a cracking read.

Elizabeth George Speare, 1908 – 1994, was born in Melrose, Massachusetts. As well as earning the Newbery Medal for The Witch of Blackbird Pond, she also received the 1962 Newbery Medal for The Bronze Bow. Speare received a Newbery Honor Award in 1983, and in 1989 she was presented with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for her substantial and enduring contribution to children’s literature.
My rating: Four and a half out of five stars.

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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“Though I had my first historical novel almost by accident it soon proved to be an absorbing hobby.” ~ Elizabeth George Speare


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I’ve finished reading my third novel for 2020, Child Power. I like a story set in ancient history and Book two of The Amazon Series by Kiwi writer, Raewyn Dawson, takes place in c.300 BC.  Raewyn set her debut novel, Slave Power, in the area around the Black Sea, introducing Melo, a fifteen-year-old rider of the Amazonian Wild Horse Tribe, pitched against slave traders who tyrannise The Plains.

A story of slaves triumphing over oppression is a rousing theme.

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Book two, Child Power, picks up with a sixteen-year-old Melo, who is now a leader in the combined tribes of the Wild Eagle Horse Tribe. There is friction for the newly formed tribes people. To assist her people with all the changes, Melo helps the unruly children of the tribe by letting them take on leadership roles. Melo’s friend, the young Atalanta is abducted and taken to work as a slave with many other mistreated child slaves at a pig farm. Atty becomes a leader among the slaves and teaches them the methods of inner resilience of those who follow “the Peace Way,” which translates as shedding as little blood as in resolving conflict. The children learn how to work together as a team and look out for one another, in the process gaining the strength they need to fight for freedom.

It’s a story of child empowerment which is a cool idea. Nice one, Raewyn. *High five.

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Christchurch based author, Raewyn Dawson, teaches Classics and plays piano. Born in Wellington, she lives with her three daughters and her husband. Of her novel, Child Power, Dawson said, ‘The second book was about how young people too can work together with real success despite hardship.’

As a poet, I think Dawson writes fiction with a poet’s touch, with rhythm and rich descriptions, and she definitely is a great storyteller. I look forward to the release of the third book. There’s a lot to like about Child Power. I like the fresh ideas. The novel and pleasing notion of “the Peace Way” is such a soothing balm in these fretful times. I also appreciated reading the female protagonists. It’s nice to hear from the girls.

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There were only two little niggles for me with this book. First, was the style used of inserting pieces of narration by a “voice of God” type character, His feeling was mistaken, which come across as a little old-fashioned. I sometimes found the narration intrusive. Personally, I’d rather not have a warning, preferring to read the action as it unfolds.

Also, one antagonist, Mithrida, who had been a total bad-ass character through both volumes, and had prepared for revenge (like Linda Hamilton’s character training in The Terminator sequel to be a warrior) throughout Child Power, gets a mosquito bite towards the end which slows her down just as she would have her revenge. While it’s not responsible for a resolution of the story, it puts a dent in bad guy’s stride, and for me, the device grazed the area of Deus Ex Machina. It seemed a little too convenient.

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The head hopping I’ve already mentioned in my review of book one, Slave Power. Yet, given that she head hops, Raewyn has done an exceptional job in Child Power and Slave Power, of juggling such a large cast of characters. With this second book I felt like I was getting to know all these different characters and they became more real for me. So that’s proof that the author had developed the cast well and there was growth and development whether good or bad for most of them.

It’s an able piece of storytelling. I liked Child Power and the chance to go back in time to a fascinating era. I thought it was lovely, Raewyn letting the youngest character, Atty, be the one who took the lead role in this book, gaining more prominence over Melo. So this series has an excellent setting and a new voice to offer to the Young Adult genre, and it’s done well. Good job, Raewyn Dawson.

My rating: three out of five stars.

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Cadence is the difference between a piece that simply ‘works’ and one that doesn’t. The professional and the novice. So treat your piece like its poetry. Read it out loud. Do you stumble? Does something seem off? Clunky? That’s the cadence right there. The rhythm of a piece, the beat. The play on syllables, the alliteration. ~ Shreya Vikram

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