Tuesday, July 20, 2010

1997 - (Honor) Moorchild

Melinda's perspective:

One can’t help comparing successively read novels to the one prior, which is unfortunate for McGraw’s “The Moorchild”. Unfortunate because while I’m sure that “The Moorchild” is a perfectly pleasant book, it happens to share the same underlying theme as “Princess Academy” and I thought “Princess Academy” did it better.

On the other hand, maybe all juvenile fiction follows the same theme? That of being different or the “odd one out”?

Still, the contrast between the two books was a bit jarring. While Hale paints a subtle picture of a girl striving to fit into her society, McGraw’s heavy handed changeling child felt like I was being hit over the head with a hammer - “some people are different and it’s hard for them!”

So heavy handed was the message, at some point I actually started to read political “stuff” into the book – which I never do. How McGraw portrays the treatment of the villagers towards the changeling is SO characteristic of how conflicts between homosexuals in conservative small towns is portrayed in the media, it was distracting. (and as someone that really isn’t into the whole current events thing with the gay and lesbian groups, for me to the draw that conclusion was quite a feat).

Now, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not qualified to pass judgments on an acclaimed novel who has been awarded the prestigious Newbery Honor. Good thing this isn’t a review because then I would have to actually know what I’m doing. Take the rest of my comments (and for that matter, ALL my comments) as personal opinions only. If you LOVED the book – feel free to write a rebuttal! I might even publish it here!

Unlike “Princess Academy”, “The Moorchild” starts off with a bang and had me hooked in the first couple of pages. However, soon I found most of the characters quite two dimensional, and long stretches of nothing but the moorchild playing the pipes and talking to some other understanding bloke in an annoying dialect that did nothing except raise the reading level a grade. Once we FINALLY get to the action part of the book, I’ll admit I was so bored that I skimmed through lots of it.

Hint to future novelists
: If you are going to plan a grand rescue of a someone that got stolen in the first couple of pages, it’s best to mention them again BEFORE you ACTUALLY rescue them a few pages from the end.

The ending was unsatisfying and because I’ve been paying attention to endings, I have decided why it doesn’t work for me. Although the ending has a beginning, but doesn’t actually get to the end of the main story enough to “call it good”. (See my “Princess Academy” post for more on what I learned from endings.)

On to the next one!

Carolyn's Perspective:

Actually, I did enjoy “The Moorchild.” While I acknowledge some of the flaws Melinda pointed out, and I will mention a few others, I felt that the book does merit its “Honor”place—though not an “Award” designation.

Yes, much juvenile fiction handles the subject of the child who is different. In real life, most children share common odd-man-out feelings, the sense of being misunderstood, being unique and irregular. They are unable to see that their peers, who may appear to have it all together are probably plagued with the same feelings of not fitting in. Books are able to bring that situation to an entertaining reality, where the kid REALLY doesn’t fit in, because, say, she is another species entirely, like the moorchild. Young readers can follow the sympathetic character, identify with her, feel crushed when she is hurt (“Yes! I feel like that when kids say mean things to me!), and then feel lifted up and inspired when she triumphs. What makes the book meaningful is how realistic the conflicts and resolutions are.

So The Moorchild is more entertaining than realistic. The story is well-told fantasy, fun, and I did care about what happened to the child, though most of the sympathy is derived from her victim status.

But—the things she has to suffer did bug me a little. It disturbed me that her parents, especially her dad, were suspicious of her and didn’t seem to love her. Yes, she was unlovable at first, but kids should be reassured that, even in spite of it all, they have their parent’s love, even if they can’t recognize it. Their defense of her against the villagers (shades of the Salem Witch Trials) was inadequate. The whole atmosphere against her was too toxic to hold with.

As a reflection on contemporary prejudices of the ‘70’s, I think a mixed-race child might identify with some of the situations. The child never quite fit in as an elf, and she doesn’tfit in as a human either.

The last part of the book was exciting, but the very end was sort of a let-down. It’s always easier to write an ending that “shakes the dust off the feet” rather than fix problems. I would have liked to see some changing attitudes and acceptance in the conclusion.

If you like the fairy-changeling plot, I have a recommendation, though admittedly for an older teen audience. The book is called Poison, written by Chris Wooding. (see on Amazon)


Loreleigh said...

I really liked this book, though I read it as a fairy tale more than a novel. Fairy tales are a different sort of beast they are a little flat, a little hurried, a little unfair. I liked this book because it kept with the traditions while expanding the story enough to make it novel length. Maybe not Awesome as it might have been if it had transcended its fairy tale roots but not THAT bad.

Carolyn said...

Yes, as a fairy tale I thought it very entertaining with unique details, which are hard to come by in Fairy Tales!