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happy wednesday

I guest posted over at Sean’s blog “Sean’s Cyclebabble” today. The post is titled “bikes in books in brevity” where I briefly remark upon a few encounters with bikes in books. Referenced are Nancy Springer’s The Case of the Missing Marquess: An Enola Holmes Mystery, Crunch by Leslie Connor, and Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce novels.

Sean called just minutes ago and told me that the Library had just phoned him. Natalya won their “I Love the Library” essay contest! I’m not sure the age group exactly but we are thrilled. She gets a gift bag of swag of some sort Monday, her essay will be on-line and on display at a Barnes & Noble book fair (details forthcoming) and she (and family) are invited to join the Library in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade this Saturday! Very cool, huh?!   More as details unfold, gift bags are picked-up, and sore feet and waving arms are soothed.

Happy Wednesday!

"review" · fiction · juvenile lit · mystery · recommend · series · Uncategorized

saying good-bye

The Case of the Gypsy Good-bye: An Enola Holmes Mystery

by Nancy Springer

Philomel Books (Penguin) 2010.

166 pages (hardback)

As Enola searches for the missing Lady Blanchefleur del Campo, she discovers that her brother Sherlock is just as diligently searching for Enola herself—and this time he really needs to catch her! He is in possession of a most peculiar package, a message from their long-lost mother that only Enola can decipher. Sherlock, along with their brother Mycroft, must follow Enola into the reeking tunnels of London’s dark underbelly as they solve a triple mystery: What has happened to their mother? And to Lady Blanchefleur? And what does either have to do with Mycroft, who holds Enola’s future in his everso- proper hands? ~publisher’s comments

The sixth book in the Enola Holmes Mystery series, The Case of the Gypsy Good-bye, feels like Nancy Springer is saying good-bye. And according to this by the Publisher, she is:

“No one, not even Sherlock, is left unchanged or unsurprised in this brilliant conclusion to the Enola Holmes mystery series.”

Hopefully, Springer means only to say good-bye to the current overarching storyline: Where is Enola Holmes’ mother? And must Enola narrowly dodge her brothers forever? Must Enola always be alone?

The last sentence in The Gypsy Good-bye, spoken by Enola’s elder brother Sherlock, leaves open an eventual possible return of Enola Holmes, Perditorian. Maybe when she is older? I hope so. I have really enjoyed this series.

*****************

The Enola Holmes mysteries are best read in order, each possessing some thread to the previous, but to get a hold of any has always been my primary recommendation. I might have to amend and say that perhaps reading the first book The Case of the Missing Marquess and the second, The Case of the Left-Handed Lady, would better prepare the reader for The Case of the Gypsy Good-bye. While the references to previous adventures therein are satisfactory, I think it a better experience having at least read the first book.

As usual, the mystery is unusual. The unusual flavor of Springer’s plots have much to do with the foreignness of London England 1889 and its culture. The context is everything and Springer labors strenuously (though deftly) to situate the reader in 1889 London.  Descriptions involve clothing and etiquette and cabs; the poor and the wealthy, male and female. Springer doesn’t rely on cliché or Reader knowledge/assumptions. And while sometimes Enola’s disguises may slow the pace of the story, Springer is not in the least extraneous or irrelevant. The landscape, to include the persons (characters), are important to a very character-driven series of stories.  The Case of the Gypsy Good-bye being easily the most character-driven plot line of the six.

In The Case of the Gypsy Good-bye the series returns to the questions that have been building with increasing tension. Springer has wisely chosen to reply, which to my sadness creates an end. To the reader’s delight, this involves more Mycroft, and more Sherlock. And while this novel spends time reviewing Enola’s circumstances, her capabilities and reviews the places she’s been and the people she has met, Springer does not forgo another enjoyable mystery—one that has the usual implications, and the usual twist that makes it a case well suited for the female investigator Enola Holmes.

Told from female point-of-view, in Enola’s first person narrative addressing her “dear reader,” the novels provide a differing perspective on late 19th century London. The premise of Enola Holmes success is grounded in the fact that she is female and that she was raised by her Suffragist Free-Thinking Mother. Such information that she would have and Sherlock would not is intriguing. Enola has been taught femininity and has been taught the consequences of being female in England 1889. This weighs heavily in her favor as she and Sherlock are often in competition. However in this last novel Enola and Sherlock finally work together.

What happens to the missing Lady Blanchefleur (so aptly named) is the perfect mystery to bring the Enola Holmes mysteries full circle. It brings home why Enola was wise to avoid Mycroft’s misguided intentions for her care, and provides some excuse for Eudoria Holmes choices. Eudoria, especially in contrast to Lady Blanchefleur’s mother, is finally cast in a more positive light.

Enola has aged over the course of the series (a span of one year) and she notes the changes in The Case of the Gypsy Good-bye. She is ready to be older, more decisive and less reactionary, more confident and less fearful. She has been a wonderful character to follow. I am sad to see her go, and hopeful Springer will return at some point with another series featuring an older Enola. Or a series for the older crowd with an older Enola? I am going to pretend anyhow. I loathe saying good-bye.

 

my review of The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline (Philomel, 2009). Nancy Springer's Website.
fiction · juvenile lit · mystery · recommend · series · Uncategorized

copy/paste–past

Here is what I had written on my even-less-sensical blog “the coloring book.” The excerpt is from March 27, 2009 posting, “Frivolity.”

“I was alarmed, in searching my blog, that I hadn’t mentioned the first book to which the second book that I read belonged. I hadn’t told you about R.L. LaFever’s Theodosia books. Well, I suppose she isn’t for everybody, but when has that stopped me.

“The first book is called Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos, and the second is Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris. As you know by now, I like stories with good female protagonists (if the protagonist is female, and good as I define it from my somewhat feminist viewpoint). Theodosia is wonderful. She is extremely intelligent, resourceful, and determined. She is also a little girl who wants her parents attention, love, and affection. LaFevers does well to create a uniquely interesting 10-11 year-old-girl; of course the setting helps.

“The books are early 1900s London, England. Theodosia’s father is head curator (runs) the Museum of Legends and Antiquities, and her mother is an American Archaeologist whose primary interests are Egyptology. The books are steeped in Egyptian legend and lore. Theodosia not only knows a great deal on the subject, but she has special abilities: most particularly her sensitivity to the presence of dark magic (evil spirits, curses, etc) that surround the objects entering the museum.

“Trouble follows Theodosia, and complications arise; such is adventure. The protagonist makes for a great narrator and is the source of the humor in the book. I like her dry wit, which finds its premise in the fact that she is just a child, and that this is set in a prim and proper society.

“I mention Theodosia, but there are plenty of other well-rounded characters as well. (I like the street urchin Will, Theodosia’s cat Isis, and Grandmother Throckmorton in particular.) All are well-imagined and designed to create drama and adventure.

“The book is sold as independent-reader, 8-12. Despite the fact that I am 30 and found it amusing (alright, I love them), I am guessing the earlier end of that age range would appreciate it best. 3rd and 4th grade? if your young reader is already reading a little ahead. But I should bring up the fact that peril is very present in these books. Theodosia develops some serious enemies by the end of the first book, who will reappear as terrifying figures in the second. Also, Egyptian mythology and history is not rosy–there are mummies and jackals and snakes, etc.

“I like the books (I am assuming there will be more): I like the time period, the subject matter, the humor, and its well-paced, well-crafted adventure. I agree with the School Library Journal when they say that Theodosia is “A combination of Nancy Drew and Indiana Jones.” They sum it up well.”

***

What I found for Esperanza Rising? September 25, 2009 “End of Summer Reading” post off ‘the coloring book’, where I highlighted (in brevity) some of the books I had read. So, to follow is the brief commentary on Esperanza Rising among a few others I decided to go ahead and copy/paste.

Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan. I picked this up from an end-cap and thought it sounded charming. A girl who makes lists, how could I resist? And it was charming, and heart-wrenching. I cried, but she doesn’t leave you to linger over the sad parts, but the triumphant moments of a brave little girl and her incredible brother and grandmother. It gives true glimpses into the real world, the cruel difficulty of it, and is determined to find beauty. A fairly quick read, but recommended for perusal by parent unless your child is already 10.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan. This was written and awarded before Becoming but I read it second because of my affinity for the first. Life is not easy in this book either, and it truly is a fairytale in that sense. The fact that the author draws from a reality her own Abuelita faced makes it richer, but is not necessary to know. The story is complete in itself…and is very informative. A good follow-up to this book would be to pursue the times and temperament in which the story is set.

“The Enola Holmes Mysteries by Nancy Springer. another end-cap find. Wonderful main character set in an interesting time for such a strong female lead…and the fact that she is so young. I like the authors premise, the young sister of Sherlock Holmes. It is fun, and interesting, and makes for great conversation on patriarchal societies and cultural ideologies. Really, I think it frames important historical facts to the benefit of an intelligent and resourceful heroine. Oh, and the mysteries are good too. There are 4 so far, and are best read in order.”

"review" · fiction · juvenile lit · mystery · recommend · series · wondermous

holmes

enolacrinolineThe Case of the Cryptic Crinoline by Nancy Springer

Philomel Books (Penguin Young Readers Group), 2009.

Children’s 9-12

(160 pages)

If you have not yet read any of Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes mysteries, that is a correction that should soon be made. The Cryptic Crinoline is the fifth in the series and Springer and Enola have undoubtedly hit their stride. Our protagonist is still on the run from her brothers Mycroft and (the famous) Sherlock Holmes. She is also still missing her mother. It is to our storyteller’s credit the way she develops Enola’s wit and cleverness, as well as the angst and insecurities of being a 14 year-old-girl, abandoned by her mother, and alone in the excessively male-dominated London with brothers who would send her off to boarding school (and a life of corsets). Alongside, we get glimpses of Sherlock’s progression as well. The relationship between the siblings is one of the most charming aspects of the series. This installment does not disappoint.

The mysteries are wonderfully suited for our heroine, as is becoming usual: it is her female perspective and knowledge that help solve the mysteries and lend a compassionate voice to plight of many of the characters in the stories (the ones who are likewise oppressed in some way).  As a heroine, she does not come across as invulnerable as Nancy Drew, or as mystical as say, Theodosia.  She is a strong central character, worth everyone’s while to read—of great interest to female readers to be sure, but for males?—I need a few test subjects, but I would recommend the read.

I am biased toward the timeframe.  Late 1800s, early 1900s London is a great setting for a story. Springer does not ignore issues that could find certain parallel to now; history is beneficial that way. Primarily, of course, it is book with a mystery to solve, and a heroine with which to become better acquainted.

~leslie d.

(written June 2009)