A Mass of Mini-Reviews 3

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

J.K. Rowling‘s compilation of the tales featured in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) are not for children. Beedle the Bard’s stories are violent and quite scary.
The book’s premise is that an original copy of the tales were recently translated by Hermione Granger and commented on by Albus Dumbledore. In this they are rather like original fairy tales by Grimm. In university, I read a collection of first printings of Fairy Tales. Those tales were violent, scary and rather disturbing. Rowling, using the voice of Dumbledore, makes a number of interesting commentaries on the standard practise of dumbing down and whitewashing these types of stories.

Overall while The Tales of Beedle the Bard are interesting and informative about the world of Harry Potter, they are certainly not a must-read by any stretch of the imagination. On the other hand, it might be fun to read in tandem with Deathly Hallows

Alexandria of Africa

I first began reading Alexandria of Africa by Eric Walters while substitute teaching at an elementary school last spring. I couldn’t put it down, but I couldn’t steal it to finish it either. So when I saw it in my local library this morning, I gleefully grabbed it. It is so striking, compelling and interesting a book that I was able to find where I had left off 6 months ago in less than a minute. A fast but intense read, I finished it in only a few hours (except for the above-mentioned 6-month hiatus) even though I was also teaching an eighth-grade class, cooking/eating lunch, and caring for my toddler concurrently.

Told in the first person, Alexandria Hyatt undergoes an amazing transformation from selfish, over-indulged California princess to caring, giving, friend to the Maasai. Having been caught shop-lifting, Alexandria is given a choice between volunteering in Africa with an organization called Child Save or juvenile detention. Her parents choose Africa. While there, she meets Ruth, a Maasia girl, and experiences a little bit of what life is like on 78-cents a day.

I would happily recommend this to girls thirteen and over, but would hesitate to recommend it boys under sixteen. There is considerable dialogue, description and self-reflection but only two action scenes.

The Labours Of Hercules: 12 Hercule Poirot Mysteries

In this audio book by Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot has decided he going to retire when he hears about the twelve labours of Hercules for the first time. He decides that he will take on 12 more cases, each pertaining to Hercules’ labours. This is a very interesting premise but it is rather contrived. Firstly, are we to honestly believe that a brilliant man like Poirot will have never even heard of the 12 labours of Hercules?! Really! Secondly, M. Poirot coincidentally encounters 12 cases that reflect Herc’s labours, in the correct order. Even with the stretching of some of the connections between Poirot’s adventures and classical literature, it seems incredibly unlikely that this could happen. On top of it, the mysteries weren’t even that great. One or two were good, a couple ridiculous and almost laughable, but most were only decent.

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