Against the Tide, by Tui T. Sutherland


Summary: Against the Tide is the fifth book in Spirit Animals, a middle-grade fantasy series imagined by Brandon Mull. The first one is called Wild Born, by Brandon Mull. The story picks up where book four left off. The team is looking for the amulets from other Great Beasts while trying to figure out if they have a mole in their midst.

My Thoughts: Spirit Animals is such an adorable series appropriate for middle-school-age kids. I plan on giving the first in the series to my 8-year-old step-daughter. It may be slightly above her reading level, but it’s the right level to challenge a second or third grader.

I love that Spirit Animals is written by different authors for each book – it introduces new authors to me. Against the Tide did not disappoint. I had some good laughs and was engaged the entire time. The story-line is not predictable, despite being appropriate for younger children. I am excited to get the next in the series, and will certainly look at what other books Sutherland has written.

Don Quixote Prologue – Chapter 7


This is not a review, it is notes and an analysis of Don Quixote. Therefore, it will contain spoilers.

So far, there are two issues that make me cringe about Don Quixote. They are: the book burning *shudder, and the way the characters treat a mentally ill man. We’ll start with a discussion of the book burning.

The prologue makes fun of writers of the day – how they are pedantic and (Cervantes claims) list off references in their works of fiction in alphabetical order from Aristotle to Xenophon. It would also appear from the prologue that the purpose of Don Quixote was to make the readers laugh by satirizing chivalric works of the time.

After Don Quixote’s first sally forth, his friends (who in the past encouraged the old man’s interest in works of chivalry) decided to burn his books and wall off the library, so that even the room where his madness overtook him could no longer be accessed by the erstwhile knight errant. I was a little confused by this book burning at first. Surely Cervantes felt the pain of destroying something so valuable as that library? So what was his point? Then I realized that he was making fun of the completely arbitrary way Don Quixote’s friends chose which books would be burned and which saved. They would look at a book, rattle off some preposterous monologue about whether the story were worth saving, and then decide whether to burn it. Then, they got really lazy, and just burned the rest. This is not the act of a caring friend, but someone who wants to solve a problem quickly, despite what damage he may incur.

Then, they walled off the library, and told the madman that an evil wizard had whisked it away to spite Don Quixote. Really? They’re encouraging the madness? These are his friends. At this point it seems like they care more about appearances (keeping Don Quixote from indulging in his madness) than about the actual health of their friend/uncle. But this is not the only terrible way he had been treated in the story. It seems that everyone he runs into, except for Sancho, is cruel. They mock him and encourage the madness. At the moment, I wonder whether Cervantes was also making a social statement about having compassion for the mentally ill, but that may be a bit forward thinking in the early 1600s. I will make a more educated guess as I proceed with the book.


The Well-Educated Mind: reading through the novel

9780393080964_p0_v1_s550x406I have started a new project: I will be reading through the novels (and histories) as suggested by Susan Wise Bauer in her popular book The Well Educated Mind. (I intend on reading through the other categories, too, but later.) I have completed an outline for questions I’m going to ask myself while reading the first book on the novel list – Don Quixote:

Bauer suggests three levels of study:

Inquiry Level 1: Grammar

This is the first read-through, during which I will take important notes from biographies and blurb, and list the characters and relationships to each-other. She suggests dog-earing and underlining the book. Instead, I will take notes in Evernote, and share them here on Saturdays.

Inquiry Level 2: Logic

After reading through the book, she wants me to come up with my own title and subtitle for the book, describing the major event or point. I should also take note of:

πŸ‘½What is the most central life-changing event?

πŸ‘½Am I transported? Do I see, feel, and hear this other world?

πŸ‘½Can I sympathize with the people who live there? Do I understand their wants and desires and problems? Or am I left unmoved?

πŸ‘½Is this a fable or a chronicle?

If the novel is a chronicle, how are we shown reality: Physical? Mental?

If the novel is a fable, what was the intent? Is it an allegory? If not, is it speculation?

Is the novel realistic with a few fantastic elements? If yes, it’s not simply a fable. What is the phenomenon being described that can not be described in real terms?

πŸ‘½What does the central character want? What is standing in his or her way? What strategy is pursued to overcome this block?

πŸ‘½Who is telling you this story? Is this person reliable?

Is it first person? Second person? Third person limited? Third person objective? Omniscient?

πŸ‘½Where is the story set?

Is it natural or human constructed? If natural, does nature reflect the emotions and problems of characters? Or is the universe indifferent? If human constructed, do those constructions set a mood?

πŸ‘½What style does the writer employ?

πŸ‘½Images and metaphors

Are there any repeated images? If so, is this a metaphor, and if so, what does it represent?

πŸ‘½Β Beginnings and endings

Does the beginning sentence/scene come with meaningful imagery that represents where the story is going?

Does the end have a resolution or a logical exhaustion?

Inquiry Level 3: RhetoricΒ 

πŸ‘½Do you sympathize with the characters? Which ones, and why?

Did the author choose characteristics to make a statement about the human condition?

πŸ‘½Does the author’s technique give you a clue as to her argument: her take on the human condition?Β 

πŸ‘½Is the novel self-reflective?

πŸ‘½Did the writer’s times affect him?

πŸ‘½Is there an argument in this book? If so, do you agree?