I should have read this book 20 years ago. This story about a lonely boy, learning to live with his parents divorce, going to a new school where he has no friends, and making his first efforts as a writer, won the Newbery Medal in 1984–the year my parents split up. In lots of ways, its like reading the story of my life; but obviously it isnt about me, and the poignancy of the story isnt just in my head, or it wouldnt have earned the recognition it did.
I know a Christian man–I am not sure I would call him a good Christian man, but I wont deny that he is a sincere one–who raised his sons forbidding them to own or read books about magic, mythology, or science fiction. He was so strict about it that when one of his sons (who rather liked sci-fi and fantasy) went out of town for the summer, he raided the boys bedroom and threw out all his books. The same son later turned down a dying uncles offer to inherit a large library of imaginative fiction, because he knew his father wouldn’t let him keep it in the house. And it may be the same son again who, later in life, would only read non-fiction because he had developed an aversion to any book that wasn’t true.
Trey is very protective of his sensitive, mute little brother, Lou. They live with their grandparents on an outer island of the Bahamas, from which they often cross to an uninhabited isle to look at shells, birds, and fish. But now Long Pond Cay is threatened by powerful developers who want to build a hotel and casino on the spot and spoil all the beauty and life that is there.
This book is the winner of the 1954 Newbery medal which, along with Onion John, makes its author one of the few two-time winners of the American Library Associations highest honor for childrens literature. Like many of its fellow medalists, this story is set in a culture that is different from most American readers. This probably has less to do with the hispanic background of its characters and more to do with the culture of shepherds and people who make their living almost entirely from the soil.
It took me a long time to catch on to this series of cult favorites. The first time I was aware of it was when I knew a couple of weird guys in high school who treated these philosophical, sci-fi spoof novels as their religious scriptures. That kind of turned me off. Then I got hold of the books in college and had such a good time reading them, my roommate thought I was weird. I actually fell out of my chair laughing.
This second of the Thursday Next adventures that began with The Eyre Affair is exciting, funny and mentally engaging. A romp in an alternative-1985 England, where there are no airplanes and Germany did not lose in World War II; while on the other hand time travel, undead problems, and resequenced mammoths, dodos and Neanderthals are part of every-day life. Everyone is nuts about literature, a whole category of crimes has grown up around forged Shakespearean plays and, just to make the insanity complete, there are ways of actually getting into a book and (for characters in the books) of going from one book to another–or even into the real world.