Posts Tagged ‘wwI’

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Tom Slade with the Flying Corps/Captain Blood Day 2017

September 19, 2017

Look, I know it’s Captain Blood Day, and really I should be posting about a Sabatini book, but…I think Sabatini would mostly approve of Tom Slade, seeing as many of his heroes are also a) cripplingly honorable and b) super awkward. Anyway, Happy Captain Blood Day! May we all be as ready with a good comeback as Peter Blood.

Tom Slade with the Flying Corps is, honestly, kind of amazing. It’s not perfect, but it’s clever and unexpected: a mostly-successful experiment. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Tom Slade, Motorcycle Dispatch Bearer

September 15, 2017

So, Tom Slade, Motorcycle Dispatch Bearer, is kind of great. It picks up some time after Tom Slade with the Boys Over There ends, and since we last saw him, Tom has become a motorcycle messenger.

There are no significant plot developments in this book–Tom is a very good dispatch bearer at the beginning and a very good dispatch bearer at the end–but it doesn’t need them. Instead we get some episodic adventures as Tom joins some of the fighting at the front lines, gets captured — sort of — along with a sniper, and races a ship to port on his motorcycle. He meets two old friends and impresses them both thoroughly, and one of his adventures is so genuinely tense that it was uncomfortable to read.

I feel like Percy Keese Fitzhugh was experimenting over the course of the WWI Tom Slade books, of which this is the last one. The first, Tom Slade with the Colors, is structured very much like the prewar books, and so is the second. But that one (Tom Slade on a Transport) end with a clear setup for the next book. And Tom Slade with the Boys Over There is self contained in a way none of the previous books have been. And then this one is, in a way, the most normal of them all — but that’s not normal for Fitzhugh, and I felt like there was an experimental quality to it.

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Tom Slade with the Boys Over There

September 14, 2017

Tom Slade with the Boys Over There has a highly inaccurate title. He is “Over There,” but there’s only one other boy: Archibald Archer, who he met in Tom Slade with the Colors.

I’ve been kind of hesitant to spoil the plots of these, but I guess it doesn’t matter, so: this book starts just after Tom and Archer escape a German POW camp, and follows them on their journey through German territory.  Unsurprisingly, his boy scout skills come in handy traveling through the Black Forest.

It’s hard to know what to write about these books if I don’t want to recount the plots in detail, and I don’t. This book is a lot more coherent than any of the others I’ve read, because it’s really just recounting one adventure, and that’s nice. But it also gives a lot of page time to Archer, who isn’t all that interesting, and doesn’t appreciate Tom in a way that satisfies me. Or maybe it’s just that Tom is less single-handedly brilliant here. Which probably makes for a better, more balanced book, but doesn’t satisfy my heart’s apparently endless need for Tom Slade a) being amazing and b) not realizing how amazing he is, c) being initially underrated by others, and d) finally being appreciated as he deserves.

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Tom Slade on a Transport

September 14, 2017

Tom Slade on a Transport feels like a do-over. Like, Tom Slade with the Colors was about Tom getting a job on a ship, and it was going to take him to Europe where he was presumably going to get more involved in the war. But then I guess Fitzhugh felt like he needed to get Tom back to Bridgeboro, for whatever reason.

In this book, Fitzhugh wastes no time in getting Tom on another ship, and one with a better mystery. One of the things I appreciate about Percy Keese Fitzhugh is that he does a really good job of adding emotional stakes to his mysteries. Here, it has the effect of changing Tom’s desire to fight from a patriotic one to an intensely personal one.

Anyway, this time Tom actually gets to Europe–and lands in grimmer circumstances than you really expect from a children’s book.

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Tom Slade with the Colors

September 13, 2017

It wasn’t clear exactly how old Tom was in the first three books, but Tom Slade with the Colors brings us into World War I, and it’s suddenly relevant. So: he’s seventeen, and anxious to enlist in the army, but Mr. Ellsworth, the Bridgeboro troop’s scoutmaster, has made him promise not to lie about his age.

In typical Tom Slade fashion, he does something fairly heroic, acts like it’s no big deal and finds that everyone’s misunderstood his actions. So he comes up with another way to serve the war effort: working on a ship carrying…weapons, I think? Anyway he does some nifty detective work, makes friends with a Secret Service type, selflessly declines to get on a lifeboat, and, eventually, gets to have nice chat with the girl in his office who he doesn’t understand that he has a crush on.

I love one (1) boy scout.

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Aunt Jane’s Nieces

June 6, 2017

So hey, I’ve spent much of the last month on the Aunt Jane’s Nieces series, written by L. Frank Baum under his Edith Van Dyne pseudonym. It’s always interesting to me to see how far momentum will carry me into a series, because it doesn’t usually get me all the way to the end. I got bogged down about halfway in, but I pushed through, mostly because I never really want to come back to these books.

I have to wonder if Baum purposely lifted the plot of Aunt Jane’s Nieces from Laura E. Richards’ Three Margarets, which also involves three teenage girls being summoned to meet an unknown relative. When both also involve an Uncle John who initially misrepresents himself, they start to look suspiciously similar. Richards’ book is substantially better, and in fact reading Aunt Jane’s Nieces mostly just makes me want to reread all of the Hildegarde-Margaret books.

Anyway. Let’s talk about the work of someone I like much, much less that Laura E. Richards. Our three nieces are, in age order: Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Setons

March 28, 2017

I’ve made myself start reading things that aren’t by Anna Buchan again, but here’s one more from her: her second novel, The Setons. I’m getting to the point where I’ll read something and think, “oh, that’s very Anna Buchan.” The Setons is very Anna Buchan. It also seems to be very autobographical, which is almost, but not quite, the same thing. Anyway, Anna Buchan was a minister’s daughter with brothers who spent at least part of her youth in Glasgow, and so is Elizabeth Seton.

I really enjoyed The Setons, but I haven’t got much to say about it. It’s without much of a plot, in a very natural-feeling way. Elizabeth’s father is sweet and not terribly practical, and Elizabeth has a full time job helping with parish duties and managing her father and the household and her youngest brother, Buff. The mother and eldest brother are dead, and two additional brothers are in India. There’s a visit from a very nice young man, and Mr. Seton has health issues, but these are normal kinds of interruptions.

Then World War I starts, and is a much more significant interruption. One feature of a book that’s very Anna Buchan is that lots of people are going to die in WWI, whether the action of the book takes place during or after it. I don’t know if anything’s ever really made me feel the impact of WWI on the UK the way Anna Buchan’s grieving families have. She makes it feel like sending your sons off to the army and never getting them back is the default, and anything else is a gift. I know that sounds miserable, and it is, a bit. But Buchan has a belief that everything is good and worthwhile in the end, and she makes you feel it too.