Mairelon the Magician

by Patricia C. Wrede

By this point in my life I’ve read 4 books by Patricia Wrede. For a while I was thinking to myself, Wow, I really like Patricia Wrede’s books, but then I realized that I’ve actually only liked 2 of them. Which is half. Which really isn’t a great record.

Even worse, Mairelon the Magician was by far the most disappointing. I thought the characters were poorly developed and I really couldn’t have cared less about Kit, the book’s protagonist. She was much too stereotypical and the title character had so little background that when his brother suddenly showed up at the end and they had a touching reunion scene I was flipping back trying to figure out why this should matter. Certain passages were wonderfully well-written, which I think makes it all the more disappointing that the story kind of sucked.



I Was a Rat

by Philip Pullman

I have a confession. I am terrible at figuring out what is going to happen in a book. Unless the foreshadowing is so obvious that an illiterate child (or SBVISP) could predict the ending, I’ll probably miss it. Sometimes this is bad. But most of the time I am pleasantly shocked at each and every plot twist. It may not be that I’m stupid; I like to think that I suspend my analytic side so that I can just enjoy the book. (Harry Potter is a notable exception to this.)

That being said, I absolutely loved reading Pullman’s I Was a Rat! I’m willing to bet that most third-graders could figure out the secret to the story. I actually had to look at an illustration to really understand what happened at the end. It was a fantastic twist. If you have a hard time detecting the obvious, you’ll love this book too. Even if you’re brilliant, it’s a really amusing book and I heartily recommend it to readers old and young.

Savages and Civilization

by Jack Weatherford

My “Race & Minority Relations” class doesn’t really use a textbook. Instead, we read books by Real People. This particular book was more like something I’d expect to see in a history class, although it did fit fairly well into the course structure. The problem was not so much that the book was dull or too complex but that the way my teacher approached it was   B     O     R     I    N     G.

Each chapter starts with an episode, or a specific event that forms the background for the chapter’s subject matter. In his chapter on how colonialism treated native peoples, Weatherford began by describing the British prison in Port Arthur, Tasmania. These episodes were all fairly interesting, but I feel like I would have gotten more out of them if I hadn’t had to listen to my teacher explaining and re-explaining them over and over again until I could repeat them in my sleep. We are College Students, not Semi-Blind Very Illiterate Small Persons. (There’s a good acronym to remember. SBVISP.)

If you find this subject enjoyable, by all means, pick up a copy. I was lucky enough to buy a used one from the BYU bookstore where a series of SBVISP had written down notes about everything the teacher said, so I knew most of the answers before he even started asking questions.