GENIUS… MILLIONAIRE… CRIMINAL MASTERMIND…

His name is Fowl. Artemis Fowl.

All that and he’s twelve years old.

Fowl is the evil hero of Eoin Colfer’s series of children’s novels.

I have written before about my overall dislike of the unlikeable protagonist and anti-hero, however I confess I make an exception for Fowl. He is the classic brainy villain that is dangerously simple to romanticize. Sort of a Dr. Evil for the middle school set.

In truth then, I dislike reading about characters who wallow pathetically in their unhappy, unsatisfying lives or crushing ignorance. Both of these problems are best exemplified in my utter loathing of William Faulkner’s writing.

I can enjoy, even relate too, a reprehensible person like Artemis. While he is “differently moralled” to say the least, he is not intentionally cruel. What he does is not always legal or moral, but I can understand someone who goes after what they want with all their resources. Think of the story if Richie Rich or Johnny Quest had sociopathic tendencies.

While I am fond of young Fowl, I see myself in Captain Holly Short. She’s a fairy, one of the “People” who are basically all the mythical creatures that humans don’t realize are real and living underground. Short is a member of the elite law enforcement group LEPrecon. As the first female LEPrecon officer, she has much to prove.

Fowl manages to kidnap Holly and plans to ransom her for gold.

I love how clever this book is with all the mythology and campy humor. Get this: the LEPrecon techie guy is a centaur named Foaly. Punny, very Punny.

There are five novels in this fun series, plus a companion book with two short stories and extras, and a graphic novel adaption. Much thanks to Kate for recommending the book. Now I’m hooked on them.

Originally published October 3, 2007 on my old blog.

A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN

This post was originally published August 27, 2007 on my old blog. I’ve made some small changes and additions before presenting it here.

 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, first published in 1943, takes place in the years before the first world war. It is the story of Francie Nolan’s childhood as a poor child in a poor neighborhood. Her mother, Katie Nolen, is a true hard worker struggling to keep food on the table. Her father, Johnny Nolan, is a charming alcoholic singing waiter who everyone loves, but cannot be counted on by the family. Francie has a younger brother, Neeley, who is not as sensitive or smart as she is, but their relationship is mostly good.

I read my mother’s copy for the first time around fifth or sixth grade. While the novel follow Francie well into her adult life, I credit the book with beginning my passion for coming of age stories.

I related to Francie, because books are her best friends, and she doesn’t have an easy time making friends in school. She loves writing, is thoughtful and melancholy. My life might never have been tough life Francie’s, but I still felt like she did inside some of the time.

The other thing that brought me back many times over is the imagery of Betty Smith’s story telling. Everything is so vivid: the people, the places, the ideas. It’s the details that have stuck with me. Little things like Francie’s mom teaching her to order a piece of meat at the butcher shop then ask the butcher to grind it fresh, rather than letting him sell her the inferior pre-ground meat. Yet Katie Nolan also believes in a little bit of waste being good for the soul, so she makes coffee each day for each family member to have a cup. If the children just enjoy the warmth of the cup and the aroma, then so be it. It is their cup to enjoy and pour the rest down the drain if it comes to that.

I do believe that much of my understanding of compassion and human nature came from the books I read. Francie’s family is loving, but imperfect. Hardworking mom Katie can often be just plan hard toward Francie, partly because although she has always loved her husband, she wants Francie to have an easier time in life. She drives her away from boys and frivolity towards education and employment. My favorite of the extended family is Aunt Sissy who has lots of boyfriends and husbands. She’s buxom, passionate and plays with the kids with gusto. She is much frowned on in the neighborhood, and is in no way considered a good lady in that time period. I love her exuberance while knowing I am not a Sissy type of person. I worry about the consequences of my actions and endeavor not to make the same mistakes twice more like Katie. Of course, as a kid, I could only see myself in Francie, but that is the beauty of reading the same book throughout a lifetime.

Does anyone else have a favorite coming of age novel they’ve loved forever?