THE FIFTH SEASON by N.K. Jemison: A Review

This is the first book in the Broken Earth series, which was published in 2015.  I found it reviewed on Brainfluff, and it seemed like a really good story. As soon as the other two books came out, I also ordered them, and last summer My Better Half and I finally got around to reading the books. We decided to read it aloud to each other at night, and it has been an excellent experience.  We finished Fifth Season at the end of the summer and have moved on to Book Two, The Obelisk Gate. We hope to finish by the Holidays.

It is a strange, intricate and fascinating book, which includes a map of The Stillness, which is the known earth in The Fifth Season.  Seasons are eras, some a few hundred years, some thousands in the earth’s history, usually indicated by tectonic plate shifts, earthquakes and weather phenomena. The book begins,

“Let’s start with the end of the earth, why don’t we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things…”  “This is the way the earth ends, for the last time.”

There are difficulties in reading the book, a vocabulary of words: “roggas,” “sessapinae,” “orogenes,” etc. that we had no idea how to pronounce, but we overcame this problem with pronouncing them however we wanted. A glossary in the back explains many of the words, but if the reader is good at context clues he/she can usually figure out what is going on without stopping and turning to the book’s end. NPR described the series as “astounding.”

Another challenging aspect is that the characters and times shift back and forth, and the reader can get confused.  This, however, was one of our favorite parts of the book, for as we read, it was revealed that main characters in different chapters were actually the same characters we had read about earlier as adults in their childhood days, or that a certain character was a character we had read about previously, but he/she/it ws in a different form.  All of this confusion is worth it to enjoy the beautiful, often poetic writing which makes the reader feel the movement of the earth or see the beautiful power of the gigantic obelisks.

The narrative itself is a “grabber,” which carries the reader along with the action throughout the twists and turns of the plot. We often exclaimed, “Oh, that’s the…” or “Wow! That’s why (the character) said or did so and so…” We felt so intelligent (LOL) that we figured out the revelation just before it became obvious in the “tale.” The author’s way of writing is unique. She feeds the reader information on a need to know basis and lets him/her draw the conclusion on matters just as the character concludes the same thing. The style is masterful, the word choice and phrasing original and spot-on, and the author’s imagination unlimited.

This is a must read.

CHILDREN’S BOOK MARATHON Part II

In Jay’s (of the blog “This Is My Truth Now) Children’s Book Marathon, participants are asked to read children’s books and review them. Last week’s books were Picture Books, and I was a day late, but I reviewed all three books.  This time, the books are Award Winning Books, and since I waited until the last minute to order them from my local library, they did not come in until today, two days after the “deadline.” Thus, I have only had time to read one of the three, and I think I’ll pass on the other two. The first book in this category is Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne ;I am sure I have read this book at one time, and I’ve seen more than one cartoon version of a story from the series, but I think instead of re-reading the book, I’ll try to watch the part human actor/part-animated character-movie that has recently come out.  The man who plays Christopher Robin is an actor I’ve seen in other films, and he is quite good.)

The second book by Lois Lowry, whom I’ve read before in YA books, is Number the Stars. It is a simply written book which will allow children to read and understand it on their own, dealing with the WWII German occupation of Denmark and the heroic people who smuggled an amazing number of Jews out of occupied Denmark at the risk of their own lives and relocating them safely.  I began the book in the truck on the way home from the library, and frankly (perhaps  because of its simplicity), it didn’t keep my interest, and I could have told you the plot and the outcome from about the third page, so, I am passing on it too.

That leaves book three, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, a picture book as well as an award winner, to review. The book is a delight.  The pigeon of the title in this book (written and illustrated by mo willems) is a light blue crazy, zany pigeon with a bright yellow beak.  Children, who love crazy, zany things, will fall in love with him at once. At the beginning of the story (which is as crazy and zany as the illustrations), the bus driver excuses himself from the bus for a short while, telling the passengers and us, the readers that whatever happens, “Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus.” Of course the pigeon begs the readers to drive the bus, and for the next ten or so pages, sketches of him as he begs, cajoles, threatens, bribes, yells, makes promises, tries to trick us, and generally pleads with us to let him drive the bus. After a two page full large-lettered tantrum, he stands angry, disgusted, frustrated,  and with feathers strewn across the next two pages from the violence of his tantrum, he gives up just as the bus driver strolls back into the picture. As the bus driver whisks the bus away, the pigeon is so depressed he doesn’t notice the BIG truck rapidly approaching! We know he will be hit, but the last two pages show him dreaming (Eyes closed; Is he dead or alive; this is left up for “discussion”) and imagining in a  succession of frames, the big truck with the pigeon at the wheel, driving.

The book is so smart, so funny, so engaging that I must comment that willems obviously knows children: their humor, their attention spans, their imaginations. I am glad that since I decided to only review one of the three books, this was the one!