Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Persy -- Wednesday Scrolls

So instead of giving y'all 'new' news, I thought we'd take a blast from the past. Today I'll draw your attention to three books that were written back before 2000, none of which are particularly well-known, but all of which are spectacular. I think sometimes when people think of 'older books' they think waay back to Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, and skip right over the late 1900s. Allow me to bring a few novels to your attention.

The first is historical fiction set in Ancient Egypt, entitled Mara, Daughter of the Nile, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Mara is just a slave when she gets pulled into the dangerous profession of a double agent. As she finds herself working for two different supporters of different contenders for the Egyptian throne, she finds herself falling in love with one of her masters.

This book has always been one of my favorites, and is one I will read over and over again. In my opinion, it should be required reading for everyone, for either history, literature, or both.

It was published in 1953 and was one of McGraw's earlier works, and the only one I've read. McGraw herself was born in 1915, and died at the age of 84 in 2000, leaving behind numerous novels and contributions to the Oz series. She won three Newberry Honor Awards, along with the L. Frank Baum Memorial Award and the Edgar Award from Mystery Writers of America. As far as I can tell, Mara didn't actually win any of these awards, though I can't see how anything else by McGraw could be better.

The next book is Chicken Trek by Stephen Manes, possibly one of the least-known books of the last three decades. It was published in 1983, and I'm pretty sure it is no longer in print.

Instead of going on an exciting, adventurous vacation like his best friend, Oscar Noodleman is going to be spending his summer working for his strange uncle. He expects to be mowing grass and cleaning toilets, but his uncle has something different in mind... A chicken-eating competition. That's right, the competitors will be traveling across the country, trying to be the first to eat a certain amount of meals of chicken at specific restaurants.

Oh, and if they don't win, Oscar's Uncle's neighbor (who is a witch) will give them a lot more to worry about than a throbbing in their big toes.

So that explanation probably doesn't make much sense, but that's just too bad. Chicken Trek is a work of art, featuring evil witches, teleporting pickles, and tons of tasty chicken meals! It's a pretty small book, so as long as you can find it, it won't take you long to read.

And last, but certainly not least, I bring you Dragon's Bait by Vivian Vande Velde.

If you know me at all, you know that I am a huge fan of Vivian Vande Velde. In my opinion, she is one of the greatest fantasy writers of all-time, whether she's writing simple wizards, vampires, ghosts, or dragons.

Fifteen-year-old Alys has been accused of being a witch, and is tied to a stake as a sacrifice for hungry dragons. But the dragon that finds her does not eat her, but in fact helps her. She discovers that he can change his shape to that of a young man, and she learns a lot about dragons she hadn't even considered as the dragon helps her get her revenge on the townspeople who tried to kill her.

This was published in 1992 and was one of Vivian Vande Velde's earlier novels. She's written about a million of them, and is still writing today. Her next novel, a retelling/interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood (Cloaked In Red) will be coming out this October.

So maybe instead of rushing for the new releases shelf this week, go in search of the good old stuff. I certainly won't deny that there are some fabulous books still being written, but they just don't write books like they used to.


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