Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Incredible Journey, by Sheila Burnford

“The Incredible Journey” is another book where animals actually serve as the main characters, and the story is about how these housepets make a trip of several hundred miles through the wilderness to re-unite with their owners.  I’m always amazed by these type of animal stories, and how the authors succeed in letting the reader have a peek in on the animals’ thoughts and feelings.

Unlike “The Call of the Wild”, the two dogs and a cat in this book don’t feel very much in touch with wild animals, no matter how much time they spend on their own and despite the life-or-death challenges that they face.  They do adapt to their environment in order to survive, but this behavior is all done with the goal of getting back to their family.

I really enjoyed reading about how the young Labrador simply knew which direction to head.  It was almost as if he didn’t have any choice but to lead the others on this journey, like he was being pulled back to the home where he knew that they belonged.  His sense of purpose was impressive, even when the animals were presented with several easy opportunities where they could have quit their journey.

What do you think about the determination showed by these animals?  Have you ever done something where you felt like quitting wasn’t an option, even though nobody would really blame you if you did?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, by Gary D. Schmidt

I picked up this book before I knew that it was based on actual events.  I’m really glad for that, because I like to think of this book as a good story first and foremost, rather than a true story.  This one is about Turner Buckminster, a preacher’s son, and how he adapts to being the new kid in town in a very small Maine community.

It actually took me a few chapters before I realized that the book was set in the 1800s, and I guess that’s because I felt like I could identify with Turner.  We’ve all been the new guy at some point, and it’s easy to feel empathy for someone who’s picked on and left out.  Eventually, Turner makes friends with one particular little girl in town, whose name is Lizzie Bright.

Here’s where the problem lies:  Lizzie is black, and at this point in history, blacks are still treated like second-class citizens.  By befriending Lizzie, Turner quickly becomes an outcast himself.  During the course of the book, Turner gets caught up in the middle of the town’s plan to relocate the black families out of the area for a real estate development project.

I won’t spoil the ending here, but this one is definitely worth reading.  I like these “Man vs. Society” types of conflict, where it seems like the entire world is against one person.  Is there any way at all for the lone person to win this type of conflict?  How do you think that you would you behave if you found yourself in a situation where it seemed like everyone was against you?