The Gift of the Magi and Other Short Stories by O. Henry

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Title: The Gift of the Magi and Other Short Stories by O. Henry

Premise:

This is a collection of short stories by O. Henry.  It includes “The Gift of the Magi,” “The Cop and the Anthem,” “Springtime à la Carte,” “The Green Door,” “After Twenty Years,” “The Furnished Room,” “The Pimienta Pancakes,” “The Last Leaf,” “The Voice of the City,” “While the Auto Waits,” “A Retrieved Reformation,” “A Municipal Report,” “A Newspaper Story,” “The Ransom of Red Chief,” “A Ghost of a Chance,” and “Makes the Whole World Kin.”

My thoughts:

I read this book specifically for “The Gift of the Magi,” a Christmas story.  The book is so short, though, that I decided to just go ahead and read the entire thing.  A couple of the stories were familiar to me (“The Last Leaf” in particular), though I can’t think of where I would have heard/read it before.  Overall, I really enjoyed the book.  Most of the stories were well-written, clever, heartfelt, and several had twist endings.  Henry’s writing is challenging to read, so you’ll want to keep a dictionary at hand.  You will certainly expand your vocabulary!

You should know that there are three instances of the n-word in this book.  I believe they are contained in only two stories, but in any instance where an African American is included in a story, they are talked of in a condescending way.  For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend the book to anyone younger than an adult.

I recommend The Gift of the Magi to adults who enjoy short stories.  Most of the stories in this volume are satisfying reads.

Possible Objections:

  • There is a general air of condescension towards African Americans
  • Outdated/offensive racial language (3 uses of the n-word)

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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The Blind Colt by Glen Rounds

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Title: The Blind Colt by Glen Rounds

Premise:

A blind colt is born to a mare who is part of a herd of Mustangs in the American West.  Whitey, a young boy, and his uncle Torwal own a nearby ranch, and watch over the animals within their domain.  Uncle Torwal is in favor of shooting the colt, but Whitey pleads for his life.  He would love to own a horse like that someday.  Against all odds, the little colt survives the winter but gets lost and separated from his band.  He finds his way to the ranch’s other horses, and Whitey finally gets his chance to prove that his faith in the blind colt’s abilities has not been misplaced.

My thoughts:

I’ve had this book since I was a kid and I remember being enamored of it back then.  Though I never had a horse, I dreamt of getting one and even wrote a story in first grade about a horse that was mine (in reality it belonged to my cousins).  So yeah, horses have always fascinated me.  Interestingly, this book is based on a true story!

It’s a bit short for a chapter book, so a child could read it in a day or two.  There really isn’t much to the story.  A blind colt is born and survives in the American West with his mother and the rest of the Mustangs.  However, one day he slips down a ravine and can’t get back to the other horses.  In his wanderings, he finds his way to the ranch’s work horses and sticks with them until he is discovered by Whitey, the boy who kept him from being shot in the first place.  Whitey then gentles the colt and Uncle Torwal says he can keep him.  That’s it!

The writing itself is quality and I think that’s what makes the story enjoyable.  There is a lot of description about the wilderness and the discoveries that the colt makes while he tries to get by in the big, mysterious world.  He faces some perils along the way, such as a rattlesnake, mudhole, blizzard, etc., but with his heightened senses of hearing and smell, and the help of his mother, this tough little guy makes it through.

I recommend The Blind Colt to kids who are just beginning to read chapter books or as a cute family read-aloud.  It would particularly appeal to horse lovers!

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Nathan Hale: Revolutionary Spy by Nathan Olson

nathan-hale-revolutionary-spy

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Here’s another book from my quest to find interesting graphic novels.  Nathan Hale: Revolutionary Spy is a book that can be digested in one sitting.

Premise:

Nathan Hale was a young man who lived in Connecticut immediately prior to the Revolutionary War.  He was a student at Yale and later taught others (even getting up to teach girls for free).  Having grown up amid the colonists’ unrest due to British taxes, he volunteered to join the army.  Nathan’s willingness to serve as a spy and his refusal to betray his country are commendable.  Unfortunately, his life was cut short when he was only 21 years old.

My thoughts:

I think this book is a great beginner biography for elementary-age children.  They get a quick overview of Nathan’s life–just enough to pique their interest.  Once they’re at a higher reading level they can come back to Nathan’s story and read a book that is more in depth.

I enjoyed reading about Nathan and the defining moments in his life.  He sounds like a remarkable young man, and it’s a tragedy that his life was cut short.  I’m sure he would have gone on to do many more commendable deeds had he lived longer.  Particularly gratifying was his view on the importance of educating women.  He was truly ahead of his times!

The book is divided into four very short chapters: Student and Teacher, Soldier and Leader, Daring Spy, and War Hero.  At the end, you’ll find a section with more information about Nathan Hale.

I recommend this book to kids who enjoy graphic novels and would prefer to learn about history through that medium.  This particular book is best suited to elementary-age children.

Possible Objections:

  • Nathan is hanged (while we only see his silhouette, kids may still find it disturbing)

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori