Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Thousand Words for Stranger

I've been trying to think how to give an overview of A Thousand Words for Stranger. It isn't easy. In fact, it's a very difficult book to give a book-talk on. {Smile}

The book begins in the rain on a street on a backwater planet named Auord. The avian alien 'Whix and his human partner are on a stakeout, watching a couple of members of the humanoid Clan, an alien race that doesn't belong to the Trade Pact like the humans, 'Whix's people, and most others they know of. While they are watching, the two Clan members - a man and a gal - are attacked by native Auordians. The attackers are killed, the man taken in for questioning... and the gal disappears in the confusion.

That's the prelude. Chapter 1 begins in a dirty back alley, where a single protagonist cannot remember a thing: not name, nor sex, nor whether the world existed five minutes before. Tho they do know they're on the planet Auord, because that pops up in odd compulsions telling this person to get off Auord and stay safe.

{pause} Describing what this character discovers later would ruin the sense of bewildered mystery at this point. I don't really want to do that, so this is as much as I can say about the story. {smile}

I can say one thing that won't spoil that feeling. I was particularly impressed with the way the aliens who turn up really feel alien. They don't feel like talking lions or Scots with funny hair; they feel like unique aliens. Yet there's more than one kind of alien like this; usually when I see aliens, they either correspond closely to not-so-alien people or creatures, or else there's only one other race. In this book we meet a few races well-enough developed, we realize they aren't something familiar pretending to be aliens. The closest to that would be 'Whix, who seems to be bird-like; yet he's not a raptor, nor a song bird, nor a chicken or a duck... he's a type of bird I've never heard of, and not just because he's as intelligent as a human. {Smile}

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sarah, Plain and Tall

Sarah, Plain and Tall is a slim book I found in the children's section years ago. However, it's really a book for adults told in simple language that people still learning how to read English can handle. There's nothing to make you blanch if a kid does find it, but most kids will be bored by this simple, somewhat delicate tale. {Smile}

I recently reread it after recommending it to a friend of the family who's teaching "advanced beginners" English as a second language. She loves it, and so do her students. {Smile}

It is told from the view point of Anna, a girl who lives with her little brother, Caleb, and their Papa on a farm on rolling plains in inland America. (Their mother died just after Caleb was born.) However, it is really the story of Sarah, who answers a personal ad Papa put out when he decided he needed a wife. They each write to her, and she answers back. Then she comes to see what they and their home are like. She's from the coast of Maine. She finds that people talk funny, saying "yes" when they mean "ayup." Plus, there's no dunes, no sand, no shore, and no sea. Instead, there's lots of grass, and farm animals, and Anna and Caleb and their Papa. {pause} Sarah particularly misses the sea. Since the children really like her, they are afraid she will go back to Maine.

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin