Oct 27, 2014

Old School

by Tobias Wolff

I think this book is semi-autobiographical. It is the story of a young man in his years at prep school, a school that focuses on literary achievement. Quite bookish. Every year the school invites several famed authors to visit, and encourages the students' writing efforts with a competition. They submit a piece of writing, and the visiting author chooses one. The prized reward is a one-on-one chat between famed author and student writer. The boys compete fiercely for this honor, and talk about it all year. During the course of the novel, Robert Frost and Ayn Rand both visit the school. The final author in the lineup is Ernest Hemmingway, but he doesn't show. Through it all, the narrator, our unnamed boy, is searching for himself. Searching for himself as a writer, searching for his identity as a person, as a friend. There are subtle duplicities going on- he doesn't quite admit to his friends who his family really is, wanting to obscure parts of his identity in order to fit in, and it bothers him the entire year. When finally a chance comes and he realizes how he can show the truth of who he is, it involves another kind of fakery, which gets him expelled. And who will he be now? What does it mean to be a writer, what does it mean to tell the truth? to live it?

This is one of those books I think I need to read again, to see it more clearly. I was glad that I have read a number of poems by Robert Frost, one or two books by Hemmingway (including For Whom the Bell Tolls) and Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, so at least I had an inkling of what was going on when those authors visited and spoke. But I know some of it still went over my head.

Rating: 3/5     195 pages, 2003

more opinions:
Shelf Love
Jenny's Books

Oct 26, 2014

People of the Book

by Geraldine Brooks

A woman working in the very specialized field of book conservation is brought into Sarajevo to study and write a report on a very rare, ancient Jewish book called a haggadah. She finds bits and fragments of things within the binding and pages- a piece of insect wing, a grain of salt, a single hair, a dark stain and so on. These fragments get taken in turn to other specialists who can reveal something about their nature, and from that historical fiction is spun about where the book came from, where it had traveled, who held on to it and how it changed hands. This book had high promise for me, but I got bored and then disgusted with it. The character of the conservator became annoying. And her constant affairs with colleagues. And her nasty relationship with her mother. After fifty pages I began skimming. At first I was reading the present-day portions (still interested in the details of preserving very old books) and more or less skipping the historical parts which quickly became dense with history too light on character development- I simply could not become interested in any of them. The first piece about a young woman who joins resistant forces hiding in the mountains during the Bosnian war, held me. The second one, about some depraved people (equally desperate) in Vienna, did not.  That's when I started just thumbing through. I did pick up again the final historical chapter about the actual illustrator, way back in ancient times, the description of the immense labor and time it took to create such beautiful pages was interesting, the constant drama and liaisons were not. Then I started reading the current narrative again and instantly lost focus when it turned into a mystery and crime scene at the end. I didn't want to be reading that kind of story. And I'm not, anymore. Moving on.

Abandoned       372 pages, 2008

Oct 23, 2014

I'm Not Scared

by Niccolo Ammaniti

The Italian countryside, a small village of just five homes. Stifling hot summer days. A group of kids go off exploring on their bicycles, and one of them, nine-year-old Michele, makes an unexpected discovery in an abandoned house. A monstrous secret he holds back from his friends, but realizing something needs to be done, he tries to tell his busy father but keeps getting brushed off. Then he tries to handle it himself. Making up scenarios in his head, trying to figure things out, not seeming to recognize the gravity of the situation. When he finally understands that things are closer to home than he'd realized, it's really too late to fix things, and his attempts to save the situation only make things worse.

I can't really say what it is without giving the story away, and the surprise of it made this a riveting read for me. This book also has horrible things going on, but very different from the last book I read. We see everything through the filter of Michele's eyes and for a long time he does not seem to recognize what is really going on. His days are full of negotiations with friends and sometimes-enemies, dealing with his little sister, trying to get his father's attention, avoid his mother's anger (she naturally gets upset when he wanders off all day). The secret in the empty house is at first just a peripheral curiosity, but becomes a looming worry as the story progresses, until it is too big a thing to solve. Ammaniti knows how to tell a story- the childrens' teasing and squabbles, jokes and games, concerns and so forth are so accurate to what kids are really like- plus quite funny at times. The sense of place, rolling countryside full of wheat fields, oppressive summer heat, flavor of Italian idioms and culture, even the odd viewpoint they have of Americans (I puzzled for a very long time over what the "little wash-bears" might be) were vivid. It has a terribly tragic ending, but was a good read nonetheless.

Rating: 3/5      200 pages, 2001

more opinions:
Savidge Reads
I'm Lost in Books
It's All About Me
Farm Lane Books Blog

Oct 22, 2014

Smartypants

Pete in School
by Maira Kalman

I don't quite know how to describe this picture book. It's nuts, funny, quirky and downright hilarious. I have a suspicion there's a few of them revolving around the dog, Pete, but this is the first I've encountered. This girl tells about the day her dog went to school, caused havoc in several classes, ate a set of encyclopedias and started talking. Then caused all sorts of new trouble because he suddenly knew everything and the kids wanted him in class to answer questions for them. Throughout the silly story of a dog in school there's all sorts of little hilarious asides and snide remarks on the school rules, the system, the quirks of various teachers, the girl's friends and classmates and so on. With these awkward but descriptive drawings and funky handwritten text (even the copyright info on the first page is handwritten into a picture on a classroom wall!) that really liven up the story. It's great. Way beyond the comprehension of my little one, but my ten-year-old ate this book up. I've got to find more by this author.

Rating: 4/5     44 pages, 2003

Oct 21, 2014

Bastard Out of Carolina

by Dorothy Allison

Nicknamed 'Bone,' Ruth Anne's family is a sprawling clan of very very poor folks in southern Carolina. The men are notorious for being violent drunks, shifty men who can never seem to work their way out of poverty, no matter how hard they try (many don't even seem to care). The women are tough, bitter and fiercely loyal, keeping to their own. Bone doesn't know who her father is. Her sister's dad died in an accident, and the loss devastated her. When her mom falls for a new man, everyone wants her to have another chance. Even though they all seem to mistrust and despise him, they turn a blind eye to what's going on for her mother's sake. And Bone is the one who suffers. Her new 'Daddy' is an abusive man of the worst sort, and in a terribly twisted way, he makes Bone feel guilty for the violence and attention he fixes on her. I knew before I had read very far that something awful was going to happen in the end, and it did. A compelling read, with characters that tug at your heart, even as you cringe at the things they decide to do. Bone has a very difficult coming-of-age, growing up way too fast, living through devastating experiences. I found the ending, the mother's choice, appalling. I don't really understand it.This is a powerful book, but also one that's difficult to read. I am not sure I will ever want to open this book again. The afterward merits close attention, and I read it with appreciation. The author discusses the overlapping distinctions of memoirs and novels-based-on-fact, hints at her own efforts to deal with a painful past, the reaction schools and parents have had to her book, her response to that, her conviction that we need to hear this story. Girls in particular.

Rating: 3/5       320 pages, 1992

more opinions:
Caribousmom
Estella's Revenge
A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Oct 19, 2014

Palazzo Inverso

by D.B. Johnson

This very imaginative picture book draws its inspiration from the work of M.C. Escher. In a whismical, dreamlike story it features a young boy Mauk who is apprentice to a master builder. Mauk is supposed to only sharpen the master's pencils, but it seems he has turned the drawing around when no one was looking. As he runs through the corridors, courtyard and staircase of the palazzo in construction, things turn one way and then another, the ceiling becomes a floor, the staircases run the wrong way, all is confusion. The workers try to catch him, the mistress leans out windows the wrong way, the Master calls out, but in the end they see that all is right, even turned every whichway. The Master (and Mauk) realize the building is more beautiful in its confusing ambiguity. You read the book left to right, then turn it over and read it back the other way, with the pictures telling both sides of the story (beginning and end). It's quite intriguing. My favorite spread is the one where the boy runs over the bridge- on one end of the story birds and fishes are in their place, at the other end the birds are in the water and fish swim in the sky. Delightful!

Rating: 3/5     32 pages, 2010

Oct 18, 2014

April's Kittens

by Clare Turlay Newberry

April lives in a small apartment with her parents and their beloved cat, Sheba. When Sheba has kittens, the little girl is delighted, but her father is concerned- their place is too small for four cats, so the kittens must go. Of course April falls in love with them, and has a special favorite. When new prospective owners come visiting, she watches anxiously as they each pick out a kitten. Finally only one is left- and it's her favorite. Her father decides that they will give the mother cat to her her aunt, and keep the kitten "you'd rather have a kitten to play with, wouldn't you?" but soon April realizes this will mean giving up the cat she has known for so long- and what if Sheba isn't happy in her new home? a young kitten would adjust easier. She agonizes and sheds tears, then finally decides to send the kitten to her aunt's house, and keep Sheba instead. But when she announces this idea to her father, he has a new plan that might allow them to keep both cats.

I have to say, not everyone would find the final solution practical, but it's a neat and tidy ending that leaves everyone happy. What makes this story shine are the very realistic conversations everyone has over the fate of the kittens- April wondering, tearful, hopeful at turns, her mother gentle and consoling, her father very matter-of-fact, other children questioning and thrilled with the kittens too. The illustrations are simply delightful. They are so beautifully drawn and depict precisely feline gestures and moods.

I snatched this up when came across it on a library shelf (I'm familiar with a few other books by this author/illustrator). The book is a little advanced for my three-year-old; I have to edit out about half the sentences on a page or she looses interest but the illustrations are so endearing, she still wants to read it with me (my older daughter read a few of the picture books I brought home last week too, and this one was her favorite).

Rating: 4/5       32 pages, 1940

Oct 17, 2014

The Book of Negroes

by Lawrence Hill

Moving story of woman who was abducted and sold into slavery at the age of eleven. She was forced to march for months from her village to the coast, then suffered the horrors of passage on a slave ship. She was sold to the owner of an indigo plantation (I had never read of how indigo dye was made from raw plant material; the brief description in the book prompted me to look more info up online). Later she was sold again to a well-to-do Jewish man and worked in his household in the city. She carried with her skills as a midwife first taught by her mother in Africa, and was eventually able to earn some of her own income as a slave "hired out". Also never forgot where she came from, never lost her burning desire to know more, to learn, and to return home. She learned to read and write, always taught and helped those around her when she could. Her life is a long tale of one degree of suffering and indignity after another. She is torn from her loved ones time and again. I was amazed at the fortitude that kept her going, at the passion that remained between her and her husband, even though they did not see each other for years and decades at a time. She became known as an educated woman among her community, which caught the attention of white people- not always to her benefit. During the Revolutionary War, she was employed to write up a ledger keeping records of blacks who wanted to leave the States- they were promised freedom as Black Loyalists if they had served the British cause. She ended up in Novia Scotia, where after years of struggling to survive, realized that this new life was not living up to its promise. Then she travelled to Africa in a longed-for effort to find her home village, and then eventually ended up in London where she proclaimed her story to help the emancipation effort.

It's a long story. I started to loose interest about the point where she moved off the plantation, but the end of the book picked up again, because this was a part of history I knew little about. It was a lot like Roots, but did not feel quite as emotional or powerful to me. This book has been published with another title: Someone Knows My Name.

Rating: 3/5      486 pages, 2007

more opinions:
Farm Lane Books Blog
Buried in Print
Daisy's Book Journal
Books and Quilts
So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

Oct 15, 2014

The Adventures of Jerry Muskrat at Home

by Thornton W. Burgess

I haven't read one of these little books in a while, so this was a fun diversion. Like all the other Burgess books, this one uses a story featuring talking animals who act pretty much like real wild animals, teaching about the natural behavior. This one features a muskrat who is busy building his home near the edge of the pond. The rabbit admires his work and scoffs at the effort, he would never go to all that trouble. The muskrat and other animals point out how wise it is to be prepared for winter. Soon the fox happens along, and he schemes how to get the muskrat to leave the water so he can catch and eat him. He pretends to admire the muskrat's house, flattering him and claiming he wants help to build his own house. When this ploy doesn't work, the fox tells the muskrat where he can find carrots at the edge of the farmer's garden. Both animals think they are out-smarting the other- the muskrat goes to the carrot patch alone, and figures out a way to reach the carrots without exposing himself to view. Then the fox finds he's gone without guidance, and tries to catch him there. In the end the muskrat realizes how serious the fox's deception was, and feels he can no longer trust anyone- who else might seem to be his friend, and only pretending to get an advantage? He nearly falls victim to a trap, which shakes his composure even more. In the end the farmer's boy finds and disposes of all the traps set to catch the muskrat, and he is once more safe from predators- both natural and man-made.

Rating: 3/5      206 pages, 1926

Oct 14, 2014

The Known World

by Edward P. Jones

This book at first intrigued me with its topic: a free black man who himself owned black slaves, in the years before the Civil War. It's a Pulitzer Prize winner and some of my family members have recommended it to me. So once again I'm disappointed in not liking, or being able to even read, the book. It introduces far too many characters right from the beginning, an intricate web of relationships throughout this imagined county in Virginia, which I'm sure is satisfying when you see how it all fits together but was difficult to get into. It jumps back and forth in time, doesn't settle on any one character to focus on, and is packed with facts that distract from the storyline. Sometimes each sentence is so crammed with detail it's difficult to figure out what the author meant to say. I got the impression he just wanted to show off his research. It does not make for easy reading. I couldn't get very far, no matter how high the accolades. And this was the third time I tried the book. It's not getting another chance, sorry. I have too many other things to read.

Abandoned        388 pages, 2003

more opinions:
Things Mean a Lot
Reading Reflections
Chamber Four
Vulpes Libris

Oct 13, 2014

Stuff Dutch People Like

a celebration of the Lowlands and its peculiar inhabitants
by Colleen Geske       

My boyfriend brought this book home from travels, and I read it in one sitting. He got me intrigued by thumbing through it pointing out highlights and laughing at how true all the points in the book are. It's based on a blog apparently, all about idiosyncracies of the Dutch and their culture. I have to say, most of it rang true to my limited experience. I've either been exposed to many of the things mentioned here, or told about them by my boyfriend and his family. The love of good cheese, the thrifty no-nonsense attitude towards things, the traditions of Sinterklaas (including hot debates about Zwarte Piet- which personally I find offensive, and my boyfriend has no problem with). Chocolate sprinkles on toast, stroopwafles, passion for the color orange (on certain holidays), the prevalence of bicycles, tulip fields and windmills in the home country, the pride in beating back the water. There were a few things in here new to me, especially some Dutch phrases (I haven't learned the language much). I'd never heard of the term gezellig before, which has no direct translation. The Dutch will hurl curses at you with ancient, dreadful diseases. And I burst out laughing at one phrase Ik plak je achter het behang en ga verhuizen which means I'll paste you behind the wallpaper and then move away! My boyfriend says yes, his dad used to say that to them when they were annoying (as kids). Cracks me up. 

To add a little more insight, each explanation of a bit of culture, diet or language use includes some comments from the original blog. People pointing out how yes, they've run into this or that on travels, Dutch people saying how it is, some disagreeing, most affirmative. Fun and enlightening read.

Rating: 3/5        196 pages, 2013

Oct 12, 2014

Cold Mountain

by Charles Frazier

Set in the closing of the Civil War, this is the story of two people, both trying to survive dismal times and remake their lives. Inman is a seriously injured soldier who decides to simply walk out of the hospital, head home and find his pre-war sweetheart. Disgusted with all the waste and killing he has seen and participated in. He walks miles and miles through ruined land, giving help when he can to those who need it, eluding scouts combing the countryside for deserting soldiers, running into all sorts of people, sometimes hearing and relating their stories alongside his own. The alternate storyline is that of his girl Ada, who struggles to pull her father's farm back into working order after his death. She was never taught any practical skills (loved books and art, but that would not feed her) and is floundering when another young woman Ruby shows up on her doorstep offering to assist and teach in return for a partnership- not as a hired hand or slave, but eventually a friend. Piece by piece you learn the way of these characters' lives, where they have been and where they hope to go, how they scratch a living from every day and plan for a brighter future amid violence and decay. There are some really disgusting people in here, and others who shine when they have no reason to. Ruby teaches Ada some woodslore and how to work with the land. I don't know how accurate the depiction is of what times were like during the Civil War, but it seemed a vivid and realistic picture to me. I never gave this book much thought before, seeing its blue spine on my shelf so long, but now I would like to read another by this author. Perhaps Thirteen Moons...

Rating: 3/5      356 pages, 1997

more opinions:
Jules' Book Reviews
The Blue Bookcase

Oct 11, 2014

E-I-E-I-O How Old MacDonald Got His Farm

by Judy Sierra

A man named MacDonald bemoans the effort it takes to mow his lawn. He decides to get a goat to eat the grass, then buys a chicken (online!) The chicken it turns out, is knowledgeable and can talk. She teaches MacDonald how to smother his lawn with layers of newspapers, feed the soil with kitchen scraps and make a worm compost bin. Then they plant seeds and soon MacDonald has so much produce he starts selling it from a mobile cart (built atop his old lawnmower!) Some of his neighbors complain about the smell and changes, but most seem pleased to enjoy the fresh produce plus cheese from his goat, eggs from his hen, even honey from some bees. I don't know if I'd ever just throw vegetable waste and horse manure all over the ground like this book portrays, and the guy sure looks tired and confused through the whole process of converting lawn into garden, but the end result is so nice. My favorite picture is the one that shows bright vegetables growing, the root shapes with happy-looking worms around them underground. My three-year-old likes the last two pages, where she tries to point out and name all the plants, vegetables and things shown growing in the garden and spread out for sale around MacDonald's produce cart. The illustrations by Matthew Myers are vivid, funky and fun. Nice bold brushstrokes.

Rating: 4/5      32 pages, 2014

Oct 8, 2014

blogiversary

Once again. My blog turned seven years old two months ago, and I didn't even notice! Blogwise, things are in about the same place as last year.... but I'm glad to still be reading!

Oct 6, 2014

more TBR

because I keep looking for new stuff to read, even when I don't have time to read the books I already have, ha ha
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge- It's All About Books
Spillover by David Quammen- Bookfoolery
The Silent Boy by Lois Lowry- Across the Page
Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian- the Lost Entwife
Sisters by Raina Telgemeier- Bermudaonions' Weblog
H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald from Farm Lane Books Blog
Walk, Don't Run by Adele Levine- Bookfoolery
Paramedico by Benjamin Gilmour- Bookfoolery
In a Pig's Eye by Karl Schwenke
The Silent Ark by Juliet Gellatley
The Fairest Fowl by Tamara Staples
Prisoned Chickens Poisoned Eggs by Karen Davis
Illumination in the Flatwoods by Joe Hutto
The Lily Pond by Hope Ryden
Beyond Beef by Jeremy Rifkin
Mad Cowboy by Howard Lyman
Animal Factories by Peter Singer
Animal Machines by Ruth Harrison
All Heaven in a Rage by E.S. Turner

Oct 5, 2014

Chi's Sweet Home

vol. 11
by Konami Kanata

Once again my daughter and I waited and waited for another Chi installment. It's just as cute as ever. In this issue, the little kitten worries when part of her human family leaves to visit relatives. She searches for them, starts to fear they will never return. She romps with Cocchi and the other tabby kittens. Some of the adult cats make remarks about Chi's former family, recognizing her from before. The other two tabby kittens tell how their momma is always looking for someone, and so Chi and Cocchi finally begin to put two and two together. Chi doesn't want to think that she might belong to a different family than the one she knows. Cocchi pushes the issue. Meanwhile, the little boy finds a lost poster featuring Chi, and we also see things from the mother cat's viewpoint, constantly missing her third kitten. There's also some family upheaval going on in Chi's home- the father has a job offer that would require them to move far away. What's going to happen to everyone? where will Chi end up?

I liked, as always, the look at things from a cat's perspective. Being playful, sneaky, affectionate, impulsive. Interacting with Yohei and Cocchi, learning more about being a cat. But I felt that this storyline didn't really get anywhere. Chi and Cocchi spend a lot of time puzzling over their memories to piece together what might have happened in the kittens' past; in my opinion there could have been less introspection and more feline adventures! I also expected her to finally meet her mother, but it just didn't happen. However, the teasers for volume twelve make it clear that she will. Why can't it be now.

Rating: 3/5        146 pages, 2014

Oct 4, 2014

Hush

by Jacqueline Woods

Evie Thomas and her family have had to start a new life. Changed their names, moved to a new state, left their relatives and friends behind. Her father is a policeman and had to go into witness protection after testifying against another cop who shot an unarmed boy. Matters are full of tension because of racial issues: Evie's family and the deceased boy are both African American, the other cops on the force- who have felt like family to her- are all white. She feels betrayed and confused. Not only feeling lost because of having to take on a new identity, but also because she's no longer sure if the people she knew are who she thought they were. Her family struggles to adjust their new situation- making do with less, not knowing anyone, concocting a story about their past. The book mostly focuses on the emotional upheaval of the two sisters. Evie discovers new direction when she takes up running with the school track team, her sister studies hard for early college admission. Her mother turns to religion, and her father sinks into depression. Near the end of the story things suddenly take a serious turn that I didn't quite anticipate, but overall it's a rather quiet book in spite of the subject matter. Not a lot actually happens. It also lacks some depth and description, at least for me. Perhaps that's why it didn't make a big impression upon me.

I think I picked this book up at a library sale.

Rating: 3/5   181 pages, 2002

more opinions:
Maw Books Blog
That's What She Read
A Striped Armchair

Oct 2, 2014

A Midwife's Tale

The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 
by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

I thought this book would be a collection of case studies, or at least an account of the woman's life told in narrative fashion. It's not. The diary it is based on were the records kept by a midwife in an early Maine settlement. Her diary was very sparse- noting down who she tended to, who she visited, who came to her house, where she went, sometimes what herbs or cures she used, how people recovered (or didn't) and what she was paid in return for her services (sometimes a year or more later!) There's very little description. The work of the author is incredible in contrast- she meticulously combs through the diary to see how all the parts fit together, the untold story behind the succinct phrases. She compares Martha Ballard's account to other diaries from the same era, and uses historical records from the town to piece together what might have been going on. Unraveling a complex web of commerce and relationships, laying bare the hard work that women did behind the scenes as it were. I was impressed in particular with the effort it took to make clothing- Martha grew her own flax, but the preparation of it after harvesting took over a years' time, and various people worked through the final process to turn it into cloth, then clothing. More than just household industry and how this complemented or complicated Martha's job as a midwife, the author examines what the role of midwife was compared to town physicians, how she interacted with them, how other women also used healing arts. She looks at marital relationships, disease epidemics, accusations of rape, murders and other trials.

But the way it is all patched together- little bits of terse quotes from the diary, excerpts from other records, a brief musing sentence here and there- rather gave me a headache. It's not smooth reading. For the right reader, this would be fascinating, even a book to be treasured. For the casual interest, it's rather dry and difficult to wade through. I did not make it so far. Too bad. This book won a Pulitzer prize! If you're interested in cultural history or women's studies, I'd definitely give this book a try. It's just not for me. At least, not right now.

Abandoned      445 pages, 1990

Oct 1, 2014

ugh again

One glimpse of a pest will put me into a frenzy of cleaning. I saw this again- just one, scurrying away from the door, but twice as big as the few I saw last year (and never again since, until now). Prompted me to spend hours today super-cleaning the front part of my apartment- doing things I usually neglect- like moving furniture and using the nozzle attachment to get into all the little crevices where walls meet the floor, emptying my front hall closet to thoroughly sweep the floor (discovering that my kids have too many shoes. My three year old has more shoes than I do!) And, of course, I went through all the bookshelves. Removing books, dusting, fanning the pages, flipping the shelves, replacing. Again and again. Looking for signs of silverfish- sprinkles of their droppings, white dust of shed skins and most of all, chewed-on pages. Examined very closely my older, used books some already yellowed pages and tattered edges. Thankfully no signs of insect damage. So wherever those things come from, at least they haven't found my little library yet. But of course going through all the books makes me treasure them again. And this time I had an eye to what my daughter might like to read.

She's about to turn ten, and reads at a sixth or seventh-grade level. I used to have a lower shelf with some books sorted on it just for her selection, but she seems bored with that. I've found that she doesn't much like the animal stories that enthralled me as a kid, so I will probably never get her interested in Black Beauty or The Yearling. She likes stories with magic or mystery in them, and also historical fiction- she read a ton of the Magic Treehouse series and the older Nancy Drew books a while back. She loves Harry Potter, has seen all the movies many times, but so far only read one book of that series! So I've tagged a bunch of books off my shelves, to suggest and hope she'll read them. I'd love for her to love the books I've loved!

Half Magic by Edward Eager
Socks by Beverly Cleary
Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassidy
The Secret Garden by Frances H. Burnett
A Little Princess by Frances H. Burnett
the Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper
Fox Farm by Eileen Dunlop
Summer Pony by Jean Slaughter Doty
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
the Kitchen Madonna by Rumer Godden
Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
A Wizard of Earthsea (and its sequels) by Ursula K. LeGuin
A Wrinkle in Time (plus sequels) by Madeline L'Engle
A Book Dragon by Don Kushner
The Moorchild by Eloise McGraw
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
all the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
the Iceberg Hermit by Arthur Roth
Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
the Changeling by Zilpha Keatly Snyder
the Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatly Snyder
Peter Pan by James M. Barrie
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
the Neverending Story by Michael Ende
the Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
Dragonsong (and its sequels) by Anne McCaffrey
Amy's Eyes by Richard Kennedy
the War Between the Pitiful Teachers and the Splendid Kids by Stanley Kiesel

Yeah, lots of those are classics or animal stories- but one can always hope!
I've got another selection for a little further on, when she's a bit older (some are more complex and I'd think she'd get bored- others the content is a just more mature).

the Lastborn of Elvinwood by Linda Haldeman
Thursday's Children by Rumer Godden
Beauty by Robin McKinley
Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
the Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
the Fur Person by May Sarton
Ratha's Creature (and all sequels) by Clare Bell
Bright Candles by Nathaniel Benchley
Light a Single Candle by Beverly Butler
Kissing Doorknobs by Terry Spencer Hesser
Sabriel (and sequels) by Garth Nix
the Mimosa Tree by Vera and Bill Cleaver
the Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Tailchaser's Song by Tad Williams
Saturday the Twelfth of October by Norma Fox Mazer
Izzy Willy Nilly by Cynthia Voigt
A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt
Nightpool by Shirley Rousseau Murphy
the Ivory Lyre by Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Wringer by Jerry Spinelli
House of Stairs by William Sleator
Interstellar Pig by William Sleator

(what do you think of my picks?)

I've made a little system, quite simple. I put a paper strip in the selected books, sticking out, with the title written on it. When my kid wants to read a book, she can just give me the slip of paper and then I know which one she's borrowed. I think she likes the idea that she gets to "check out" books from mom's library, ones earmarked especially for her.

The little one is growing into a reader too: