Notable 2007 Discoveries

This isn't a Best of 2007 list, but a mixture of old and new that I stumbled across for the first time this year. Any suggestions for me to investigate in 2008?

A Countess Below Stairs
by Eva Ibbotson

This is a curl-up story about a Russian girl whose family must flee their homeland during the Revolution of 1917. In England, Anna hires herself out as a maid to the household of Lord Rupert, a young man just released from an army hospital. The characters who inhabit their neighborhood are a delight. Yes, plot lines are somewhat fudgy, but A Countess Below Stairs made a lovely impression on my year.

I Capture the Castle
by Dodie Smith

Recommended by someone I hadn't seen in years, it was eerie how well this book fit my tastes. Cassandra Mortmain begins her journal with the words, "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink," and her voice throughout is just as entertaining as that promises. She lives in a crumbling, isolated old castle where nothing ever happens, with her father, a writer suffering from writer's block, her sister, Rose, a beauty without suitors, her step-mother, Topaz, a former model, her younger brother, and their "hired" hand, Stephan (they can't afford to pay him). But then, one day (of course) two young men move into the neighborhood. The book may not have a brick-wall ending, but it leaves you thinking about the story for many days.
The Star of Kazan
by Eva Ibbotson

This book blew me away! The Star of Kazan is a dusty book at my library, an ugly 2004 paperback charged by two or three patrons all year, including myself. More’s the pity. Ibbotson, a children’s author known for ghosts-and-witches tales, produced a glowing sport when she wrote The Star of Kazan, a novel worthy of comparison to The Secret Garden. Beautifully-written and delightfully-plotted, The Star of Kazan is replete with long-lost mothers, Russian jewels, gypsies, castles, despicable villains, Lipizzaner stallions, and unforgettable characters. Its virtual obscurity is a disgrace. Circulate this story among all the girls you know—but read it yourself, first!
Roller Skates
by Ruth Sawyer

Why didn't anyone ever tell me about this book? Ruth Sawyer knew what she was doing when she wrote Roller Skates. Her Way of the Storyteller sets forth a wonderful ideal for people who deal in words, and this novel puts theories to action. Lucinda is a girl free for the first--and perhaps only--time in her life. While her parents are abroad, she stays with two maiden teachers who believe children should be given space to breathe. Breathe Lucinda does, befriending a cabbie, a fruit-seller's family, an Oriental princess, a penniless toddler. She skates into many adventures along the way, some provoking laughs, others tears. The book is old-fashioned, but in the very best sense, and deserves every bit of that Newbery sticker.

Leepike Ridge
by N.D. Wilson

Hundreds of boy-books are written each year, but only handful deserve to be read. Leepike Ridge tops that list. According to the author, most people believe "once upon a time" happened somewhere far, far away. But, he continues, that depends where you are. This adventure tells of a town-next-door where extraordinary things happen--because we live in an extraordinary world. With dead bodies, wet dogs, unexpected treasures, missing persons, and a satisfying conclusion, Leepike Ridge deserves the 2008 Newbery in my book. Read it!


Janet Rubin said...

Noel, I just wanted to say that I'm so glad you've started a blog. You know how everyone has books to recommend, but there are only a handful of people you consider "sources," whose literary advice you gladly, even greedily take...whose praise of a book sends you high-tailing it to Amazon or the public library? (while others you nod and smile at, secretly knowing you'd never read such twaddle as they suggest?) For me, Gina is one. Jess is another. And you, dear girl, are now on that list! Thanks for being sweet and fascinating you:)

Noel De Vries said...

Wow, I'm an A-list girl!


Thanks Janet. I'm excited to be able to spread the word about great stories to people who appreciate great stories.

And yes, high-tail it to the library and snuggle up with your girls!

Janet Rubin said...

The girls and I are reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh right now:) Next is Prince Caspian before the movie comes out...

Erin said...

Wow, I'd never even heard of Roller Skates! I'll have to check that out. (And I want to read A Countess Below Stairs!)

I love what you said about Leepike...