Loudest Beagle On The Block

Loudest Beagle On The Block - Tui T. Sutherland I came across this book in an unusual way. I'm sure I wouldn't have picked it up otherwise. I'm a huge fan of the singer Sarah Brightman, and did a search for her in the book category of Amazon. There were few results, but I was surprised to find a children's book (this one) that mentioned her several times. This is a very cute little story about a girl named Ella who inherits a music-loving beagle named Trumpet from her aunt, who was an opera star. Ella is rehearsing for a talent show and becomes frustrated because every time she tries to sing Trumpet keeps joining in and howling. It so happens that Sarah Brightman is one of Ella's most favorite singers. I liked the message in the book that while people might consider her weird for not liking popular singers like Rihanna and Miley Cyrus, there is nothing wrong with loving music that isn't "mainstream" and you shouldn't change what you enjoy to please others. Not only is this a funny story that teaches good lessons, it also might lead the target audience, most of whom probably haven't heard of Sarah Brightman (or Charlotte Church, who is also mentioned), to discover some beautiful music.

The Body-Snatcher

The Body-Snatcher - Vincent Goodwin This is a decent graphic novel adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's short story "The Body Snatcher", aimed at a juvenile audience. I was surprised at first that the introductory scene - where Fettes and Macfarlane have a hostile confrontation in their later years - was omitted but I understand that considering the medium and the intended reader it is probably wiser to jump right in to the action. Still, the aforementioned scene is meant to stir curiosity about why Fettes despises Macfarlane so much, building up to the flashback where all is explained. Also, with its being cut, it now makes no sense for the narrative to refer to the main story happening in the characters' "young days" (which it still does).

Another minor nitpick I have is that there is talk of bodies having been donated to science. The doctor tells Fettes this to reassure him about their origins. However, in the time period "The Body Snatcher" is to have taken place, the public feared dissection and no one would donate their bodies willingly. Anyone in the medical profession would have certainly known that, for the shortage of cadavers was a big deal, hence the body snatching. All of them had to have been executed criminals, stolen from graves - or were, as here, the results of murder. Fettes would be incredibly naive indeed to think an explanation like that was plausible (in fact, in the original, he is said to have 'visit[ed] and desecrate[d] some lonely graveyard[s]' to procure corpses himself prior to the events of the tale). Note that this dialogue about body donors was added for the graphic novel and is not from Stevenson's story.

I still found it to be an enjoyable adaptation that conveyed the thrilling horror of the classic original in a way that would appeal to kids and teens. It just might pique their interest enough for them to read Stevenson's story and give them a desire to learn more about the time period and historical figures that inspired it. The artwork is very well done; I like the designs for the characters and their expressiveness. The backgrounds and the color palettes used effectively bring to life the gothic setting of Georgian Edinburgh.

Trash Mountain

Trash Mountain - Jane Yolen I bought this book because animal fantasy is one of my favorite genres (especially when it involves rodents, and then especially when those rodents are squirrels). However, it turned out to be a complete disappointment. It is outrageous how much Britain's gray squirrels are vilified in the media, and this book is no exception. From what I've heard, it all mainly comes from propaganda spread by people who have monetary interest in killing these innocent animals. The real reason for the red squirrels' decline is habitat loss from human activity (in-depth information can be found at these websites: and I was surprised that such a book could come from as good an author as Jane Yolen, and it is alarming that a story aimed at impressionable children could be so consistently negative toward a species of animal. The supposed facts - actually falsehoods - throughout will do nothing but mislead them and cause gray squirrels to be the objects of undeserved hatred. It would have been much better if Nutley had learned that they are not so bad after all. A possible friendship between he and the gray squirrel Groundling is promising at first but is never allowed to develop. Nutley's view of the grays does not change; the reader is left with the conclusion that all of them are irredeemably evil. Ultimately, no matter their part in driving the red squirrel from Britain, they are certainly not doing anything out of malice; in reality, they aren't directly attacking the reds and in some cases have lived peacefully alongside them for years. Grays and reds have at times actually shared dreys! I know this book is fictionalized, but even with anthropomorphized animals, there should be some basis in truth and a positive message for children. You won't find that here. Instead, I recommend you pick up [b:Cyril's Woodland Quest|1795885|Cyril's Woodland Quest|Eugene McCabe||1794934], a story about red and grey squirrels that addresses the folly of prejudices.

The Oaken Throne

The Oaken Throne  - Robin Jarvis This is one of my most favorite books of all time. Those looking for a strong female character will find one in Ysabelle, the main protagonist who goes on a perilous journey to take her place as queen regnant of the squirrels. Along the way she learns powerful lessons about love, loyalty, and duty. It's unfortunate that this book is not well known. I think many people would enjoy it and benefit from reading it. It might be about anthropomorphic rodents, but don't be put off by that and think it's just for kids. There are some very intense, dramatic, and sometimes violent scenes.

Currently reading

Agnes Grey (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) by Fred Schwarzbach, Anne Brontë
The Anne Boleyn Collection: The Real Truth about the Tudors by Claire Ridgway
The Knife Man: Blood, Body Snatching, and the Birth of Modern Surgery by Wendy Moore
Confess And Be Hanged: Scottish Crime And Punishment Through The Ages by Sheila Livingstone
Dark Heart: Tales from Edinburgh's Town Jail by Douglas Skelton
Scottish Bodysnatchers: A Gazetteer by Geoff Holder
In the Arms of Morpheus: The Tragic History of Morphine, Laudanum and Patent Medicines by Barbara Hodgson
The History of Burke and Hare and of the Resurrectionist Times by George MacGregor Waller
Burke and Hare (annotated) by William Roughead
The Spear in the Sand by Raoul C. Faure