Review: A Man Called Ove

Review: A Man Called Ove

            A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman is a sad, humorous, drama of grief, life and death. Ove is a stubborn, difficult, and rather taciturn man, who is grieving the loss of the love of his life. Since his wife died, Ove, (who was never very outgoing to begin with), has withdrawn from the world, barely talking to others. His grief is very real and poignant, and it isolates him. 

            Ove's grief comes to a crisis point when he is suddenly retired from the job he held for three decades. Ove struggles with the new lack of defined purpose. His sees retirement as becoming superfluous. In his view, retiring means “wandering about, a burden on society, what sort of man would want that?” Ove can choose to die, or process his grief, and learn to interact with life instead of withdrawing from it. Now, just when Ove has decided to join his wife, his new neighbors back their trailer into his mailbox. His new neighbor is Parvannah, a kind pregnant woman who sees through Ove's gruffness, and befriends him.

            The contrast between how Ove views the world and how everyone else does is humorous. Ove has not adapted to modern life. His phone has a line, his car has a manual transmission, and he only has a bank card because his wife left one without spending all the money on it. He doesn't know how to deal with his new neighbors, especially when Parvannah takes charge.

            Ove’s character is developed in a series of flashbacks detailing defining moments in Ove’s life. His character maintains remarkable consistency, while still showing growth over time. His memories show why Ove became this way, and how early experiences and grief create lasting impressions over multiple generations. His struggles are real and relatable. The way the characters interact is genuine. Ove’s obstinance to lives by his own set of rules is consistent throughout. He will argue with salesclerks and boycott shops over pocket change, and at the same time making serious efforts to help the “incompetent” people around him. As grumpy, argumentative, and difficult as he is to talk to, he shows up when people need him. He can be kind, thoughtful, and useful. He can be vulnerable and sweet. Ove is a redeemable character, which evokes reader sympathy. We want Ove to thrive, even when he has decided otherwise.

Four of five stars.

Review: Kenny and the Dragon

Review: Kenny & the Dragon

           This is an imaginative retelling of Kenneth Grahame’s short story, The Reluctant Dragon. Tony DiTerlizzi has greatly improved the story. This adaptation has well-developed, realistic, positive relationships between the characters. The people are small anthropomorphic woodland animals, which DiTerlizzi has illustrated in charming sketches throughout the book. Kenny, the main character of the story, is a smart, young, bookworm rabbit. His shepherd parents clearly love him and are very supportive of his reading. (Yes, the rabbits are tending a herd of sheep. There are pictures. It is adorable). 

          Kenny isn’t always understood by his classmates, but he several close friends. There is an elder friend/mentor lending him books from his bookstore, and now a dragon who loves to read. The new relationship between Kenny and the dragon is very well developed, from initial fear and curiosity, to trust and enjoyment of common interests. 

          What I like most about this book is how Kenny’s parents are always doing things to stay involved in Kenny’s life and show they care about him. Despite their initial fears of the dragon, they trust Kenny, and even invite his new friend to dinner. Complications arise when the dragon is sited by the townsfolk. Unfortunately, dragons have a poor reputation of starting fires and eating . Kenny worries that he may lose his new friend when a knight is pulled out of retirement. He reacts with realistic emotions, as do his parents and friends. The plot maintains a good pace throughout with interesting things happening in every chapter. It’s a fairly quick read, just fifteen chapters written at a manageable level for preteens. This is a story I have enjoyed reading several times, and plan to read again in the future. 

Five out of five stars.

Review: The Tale of Benjamin Bunny.

Benjamin bunny

Review: The Tale of Benjamin Bunny

           The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, the immediate sequel to The Tale of Peter Rabbit, is also a wonderful work of art. Peter and his cousin Benjamin go to the garden to retrieve some things Peter left in the first book.  Benjamin Bunny has a more relaxed pace in comparison to the exciting chase in Peter Rabbit. This time Mr. and Mrs. McGregor have gone out. Their adversary is a cat, which is depicted in several lovely renderings. The interactions between the cat and the rabbits are very true to life, and the watercolors throughout both books are remarkably beautiful. Reading Benjamin Bunny is like taking a quiet stroll through a garden, which is why it is my favorite Beatrix Potter books.

Five stars!

Review: The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Peter Rabbit

  Review: The Tale of Peter Rabbit

          The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Five out of five stars. A delightfully drawn story of a family of rabbits with a theme of obedience. Beatrix Potter draws and describes rabbits with remarkably accurate details. The little rabbits are so lifelike they could hop off the page. The ink and watercolor sketches depict a wide range of natural movement, and as well as reasonable allowances for cute little jackets and shoes. The story follows Peter to Mr. McGregor’s garden, a delicious smorgasbord of vegetables Peter’s mother forbade him from visiting. Unfortunately for Peter, Mr. McGregor is working in his garden today, and wants to catch the rabbit eating his produce. Peter reacts like a rabbit, down to his nervous tremor and the inquisitive perking of his adorable ears. The whole book is charming, and it is easy to see why it is a must-read classic.