Thursday, February 02, 2012

A McGraw Quintet

Something that made me like Eloise McGraw: she didn't tell stories about people, she told their stories. Instead of saying, "such and such a character decided to do something" she would get in their heads and explain how they thought. Even in simple stories, this makes the work so much better. The characters are three dimensional and the reader can relate to them.

This is likely one reason why Oz fans enjoyed her Oz books. But I'm not talking about her Oz books right now. In my last blog, I said I had some of her non-Oz books and wanted to write about them.

I have five I've read and not written about. I blogged about The Moorchild, and while I started Moccasin Trail, I've yet to finish it. (For some reason, it was slow going and then I lost my copy. I got another but have yet to finish.) I'm finishing The Seventeenth Swap and am getting Mara, Daughter of the Nile.

Now, enough of that, let's look at some books by the sixth Royal Historian of Oz!

The Golden Goblet was published in 1961 and received a Newberry Honor.

The story is set in ancient Egypt. Ranofer is an orphan boy who works in a gold worker's shop. He lives with his brother Gebu, but as the story opens, he discovers that Gebu is part of a band of thieves who steal gold! Ranofer wants no part of it, but where can he go? Gebu will not let him leave.

Ranofer manages to tip the goldsmith off about Gebu's band's activities, but this only makes them change tactic.

One night, Ranofer finds a golden goblet that must have been stolen from a tomb. It is too beautiful and finely crafted for Ranofer to let Gebu melt down, so he sets out to set things right and expose his brother without getting himself in trouble.

The Golden Goblet immerses itself believably in ancient Egypt and delivers an exciting and satisfying finish.

Joel and the Great Merlini is a short book. Joel wants to do a magic show, but his tricks fail to impress, even when he can make them work. Enter Merlini the magician who makes it look like Joel does amazing feats. However, Joel soon realizes that he is dissatisfied with this arrangement.

Mixing fantasy with reality, Joel and the Great Merlini is an excellent story about the gratification of doing your own work.

The Money Room follows brother and sister Scott and Melinda (or "Lindy") as they've moved to a sleepy little country town in Oregon. While they search for their great-grandpa's legendary "Money Room," they slowly learn about their family history, their new town, and they even create their code for writing to each other.

However, someone else is looking for the "Money Room," too. Can Scott and Lindy find it first? And their mother isn't having a lot of luck with her job. The clock is ticking. What is the Money Room? Where is it? Is it even real?

The Money Room perfectly captures the uneasy feelings of moving to a new home and the simple joys children can find in life.

Hideaway finds a boy named Jerry running away from home. His parents have divorced and he's sick of being ignored. So he runs away to his grandparents' old home by the ocean. At least, he thought it was their home.

Hanna is house-sitting for a couple on vacation. Having bounced from different foster care homes all her life, she's almost too used to new faces. But when she meets Jerry, who broke into the house she's taking care of, she begins to think about what she wants in life.

It is a strange summer as these two decide what they should do with their lives from now on, and Eloise McGraw tells it wonderfully.

The Trouble With Jacob really got me going. Here is a story with an honest-to-goodness ghost!

Andy Peterson and his twin sister Kat are vacationing in the Hidden Creek countryside. While walking through the woods one day, Andy sees a little boy who tells him that somebody's got his bed. No one else seems to see the boy, but Andy sees him every time he walks by this large rock.

It takes some time for Andy to begin piecing things together, much less to convince anyone about the boy, who eventually says his name is Jacob. What Andy and Kat discover leads to the solution of a crime over a hundred years old, but with only conjecture on their part, can they convince anyone that justice must be delivered at last?

With a gentle supernatural spin, The Trouble With Jacob makes for an excellent read.

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