This is definitely a fun read. It was gritty and painted a rather realistic portrait of lives turned--or slowly turning--sour, off from what everyone really wishes them to be. Tusa gives a protagonist we can truly like, despite her many, many failings (I won't spoil it for you!).
I do have a few complaints, though, and this is why I gave three stars rather than four or five. I think the novel would have benefited from a more thorough edit, specifically for content. As an example, there is a reference somewhere in the text to a missing Cabbage Patch doll eye. Cabbage Patch dolls cannot lose eyes. They are painted on. Perhaps the eye could have been scratched off somehow or painted over? Also, I did not find the descent of the protagonist into mental instability that convincing. The allusion to cockroaches is reminiscent of Rawi Hage's novel, Cockroach, that gives a more convincing portrayal of insanity. That aside, I did enjoy Dirty Little Angels much more than Cockroach.
I love the title and the dual meaning (learned at the end...must read it to understand!) I'd add another half-star to the rating just for this, if I could.
I found this collection of stories somewhat disappointing. Almost every story held a lot of promise, but each one left off at the point when something could have been made of it. It could be just that the style (flash fiction) does not suit my tastes.
It is not that I wanted a resolution to each story--in the horror genre that is not only not always possible, but not always desirable. But each story feels like it was stopped too soon. They are story ideas, almost, not full stories unto themselves, flash-fiction or no.
Ox Cart Angel was really a very beautifully written historical fiction novel for younger teens or pre-teens. It was at times funny (the author capitilizes on a much beloved humour device for young people--flatulence!--though this is no way degrades the book for more mature readers) and at times very moving. It becomes so emotional near the end that I would perhaps caution parents of very sensitive children to read it first to make sure that their children can handle the more traumatic elements of the story (I won't spoil it!).
I would add that the book is more or a study in character than one that follows a convoluted plot-line. That is not to say that the book isn't engaging. On the contrary, it is one of the more enjoyable books I've read recently, for children or adults. It was very thoughtfully written and I will most definitely be on the look out for the sequel.
This book is a real winner! I don't often give five stars, but this one truly merits it. It is lovingly illustrated, tells a great message (controlling others through ownership is wrong), but best of all it is written with a graceful and skilled style.
It follows a traditional story-telling method, which is repetitive (but not monotonous!) and circular: upon forced to wake early, the girl in the story asks her mother "Who tells the sun to wake?" Her mother explains that the sun wakes when it has slept until no longer sleepy--something the girl cannot fathom. This repeats: "Who tells the cat to eat;" "who tells the beaver to wash;" etc. Finally, the title question, "Who tells the moon to sleep?" The girl wonders how it is that they (the sun, the cat, the moon) are allowed to make such decisions. After her mother explains that it is because they are free, the girl cleverly reasons that, as she is unable to make such decisions she must not be free. It is her first realization that she is, in fact, another human's slave.
At first demoralized, she quickly finds strength in the knowledge that, though her actions can be controlled by another, no one can control her mind, heart, and soul. And with such strength, she vows that one day she will be truly free, with no one to control her.
The girl in the story is very well portrayed. Her inquisitiveness, her desire to play, her distress at the thought of eventual separation from her mother, even her discomfort when hungry, makes her a character that modern children can easily identify with and sympathize with. Slavery was real--it happened to real people--real children. What would that have been like? This story brings that question to our minds.
This book was an excellent read aloud, though at times the subject matter made it hard (emotionally) to continue. The topic of slavery has not been discussed in depth in our household. It is a topic that must be introduced at some point. This book makes that perfect introduction.