Sunday, November 05, 2006

My Current Pick for the Newbery

by Katherine Sturtevant

I shouldn't be reviewing this book without having my copy right here in front of me. The reason I don't have it? As soon as I was finished, I handed it to an Amazing 5th Grade Girl Reader (AGR for short) who had snatched up and gobbled up AT THE SIGN OF THE STAR, which was in my New Books tub when school started. I gave A TRUE AND FAITHFUL NARRATIVE to her and told her that she had to read it, and she had to convince her very busy Amazing 9th Grade Girl Reader of a sister (who had been in my 4-5 loop) to make time to read it, too. AGR is done with the book, and I suspect that after this weekend, her sister will be, too.

AGR loved the book. When I glanced over her shoulder during writing workshop and saw her plotting out a story in which an apprentice plays a big part, I knew it had soaked in deep. You see, AGR is a writer, as well as a reader. She loved the themes of the power of reading and of writing that are in INKHEART and INKSPELL, themes which are recurrent in both of Sturtevant's books.

Meg Moore, the main character, lives in England in 1681. Her father is a bookseller, which at that time also meant that he was a publisher. Meg's mother died when she was young, so she has an unusual childhood for the time -- she grows up in her father's bookstore, reading, listening in on literary conversations, meeting famous authors, and even learning to write. In A TRUE AND FAITHFUL NARRATIVE, Meg's passion for her literary life becomes the fulcrum upon which she must balance her affections for her father's apprentice, and for her friend Anne's brother Edward. The reader experiences Meg's passion for writing by looking over her shoulder while she struggles to write about Edward's experiences as a slave in a way that will capture the attention of her readers, and yet remain true to Edward's desire to describe the positive aspects of the Muslim culture -- a truth that apparently was as hard a sell then as it is now.

And that's another reason I like this book. It is historical, and it is simultaneously current. Meg is very much a girl of her times, and yet she is a girl for all times. Sturtevant is as masterful as Karen Cushman in the way she teaches the reader history by inviting us to live in the past in our imaginations while we read. (I was delighted to see a positive quote by Cushman on the home page of Sturtevant's website!)

Monica Edinger loves this book, and so does Nina, and Fuse8...but you'll have to dig for her review!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:12 AM

    I'd been semi-avoiding Sign of the Star because of the genre, but you've convinced me -- hopefully I'll have time to read it this weekend.


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