One thing about the 100 Best list is that a lot of the books at the bottom made it onto the list by the smallest of margins over books that didn’t. Submissions were done as 1-10 lists and then were weighted by those placement numbers. So, at #97, The Diamond in the Window (1962) by Jane Langton is a book that could have easily been left off the list with another one taking its place. It’s hard to tell sometimes if this means the book is simply less-widely read or if it’s one that only appeals to a specific audience. Looking at a few mentions, some readers seem mesmerized by this story, others call it their favorite book of childhood but I thought it was just okay.
Eddy and Eleanor Hall live with their Aunt Lily and Uncle Fred (brother and sister) in Concord, Massachusetts in a home that is nothing like the staid, white blocks of their neighbors. Though somewhat down-at-the-heel, their home has turrets and stained glass and, unfortunately, hundreds of dollars in unpaid back taxes. If Aunt Lily can’t come up with the money soon, they will all be out in the cold. But there’s a chance that there could be a treasure hidden in the house and Eddy and Eleanor are going to have to solve decades old riddles to find it.
I had mixed feelings while reading this book. I don’t know if it was the heavy focus on the Transcendentalists of Concord (I am *not* a fan of Thoreau) and their philosophies but the story felt somewhat lecture-y in parts. I also didn’t really understand where the magic was supposed to come from. It was implied that people in India can do magic but I don’t know why that was. Still, this book was redeemed by having really great characters who were smart, resourceful and emotionally complex. They were ordinary and extraordinary at the same time, if that makes any sense. Anyway, I don’t see this book appealing universally to kids today but I’m sure it could still find a few fans.
Verdict: Borrow (it’s out of print anyway so you’re going to have to find it at a library!)
I’m not sure if I will continue with this series. I wasn’t totally in love with the writing or the plot but, then again, the characters were fantastic. Have any of you read the rest of this series? Are the other books worth reading?
Next up is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Z and I have been reading it together at bedtime for about the last month. I know a few of you are doing the big HP read-along and have recently finished this one so head on over and chat about it on March 15th!
Schedule – March through June
note: dates are not necessarily set in stone – posts may go up a day or two before or after
March 15 – #12 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (1999) — 3rd in a series
March 31 – #83 Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1907) — 3rd in a series
April 15 – #33 Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien (1971)
April 30 – #9 The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (1978)
May 15 – #17 Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (1964)
May 31 – #38 Frindle by Andrew Clements (1996)
June 15 – #58 Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome (1930) — 1st in a series
June 30 – #100 Love that Dog by Sharon Creech (2001)