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Student Book Review – No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

Review by Ben K

Set near the American/Mexican border No County for Old Men concerns a Vietnam war veteran, Llewelyn Moss, who stumbles across a drug-deal-gone-wrong, taking a case containing a million (or thereabouts) dollars from the scene.  As you can imagine, the drug-trafficking tycoons aren’t too happy, and both sides have contract killers hunt Moss and money down, one of which goes by the name of Anton Chigurgh.  Merciless, enigmatic, elusive and psychopathic, Chigurgh believes that he is a disciple of fate and that those that he kills are destined to suffer at his hands.  in momoents of doubt, he flips a coin.

Meanwhile, the last player in this game of cat and mouse, and trying to track everyone down is Sherrif Ed Tom Bell, an old law-enforcer who undergoes a quiet crisis of the sould.  He’s always looked up to “the old-timers”, but has never really found his feet in the modern world.  He’s stuck in the past; a time when crime was smuggling cattle.  Rodeos, bar brawls, showdowns, shootouts on horseback.  A time when there was such a thing a  acode of honour.  He can’t understand a new world of suicides, drugs, money, ruthless murders and psychotic killings.  He’s not cut out to deal with such matters, not ‘willing to put his soul at hazard’, and this case pushes him over the edge.  In amongst this ‘new kind’, he seems like a child.  Though people say that he is just getting old, sheriff Bell knows that it is the world that is following a downhill path.

Chigurgh is a fascinating character, as his views contrast greatly with Bell’s.  Though his ideas about fate and destiny initially seem bizarre, they slowly start to make sense the deeper in to the novel you read.  He is also an honest man, and invariably keeps to hisword.  He sees the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, and though he is hired by one crimelord, he realises that this man is the guilty party, shoots him and instead delivers the money to the other side.  He may not abide by the law, but he follows his own rules, and this code of conduct does hold moral ground.  One character says that one ‘could almost say he has principles’.  I recently read Virginia Woolf’s novel, Mrs Dalloway.  In this, the character of Clarissa was meant to represent the sane truth, and the character of Septimus the insane truth; this is equally true of the sheriff and Chigurgh.

Cormac McCarthy’s writing is very special.  He is extremely sparing with his words – you won’t find many lavish descriptions, nor elaborate, ornate language, and his concision often results in a rapid pace.  This is certainly true for no Country, which hurtles along like a rocket.  However, though he is very economical with language, often just describing physical actions and occasionally lending a sentence or two here and there to characters’ internal thourghts, he still creates pasages of great beauty, and in the case of one of his most recent works, The Road, poetry and horror.

And it’s not just the prose that’s great.  Dialogue is razor-sharp, and he has a great ear for the regional vernacular.  In No Country, you can just hear that southern twang as you read it.  The colour with which McCarthy’s characters speak really helps to paint their personalities, and indeed, in his books, a characer can be definied in a couple of lines of dialogue.  A scene can be perfectly illustrated within a sentence.  He really understands languages and its effect on the reader’s perception of the story.

I urge you to try No Country for Old Men, which can be read as a gripping thriller, or as a pensive meditation on morality and fate.  Try anything by Cormac McCarthy, whose perceptive, evocative writing has cemented my admiration for him.

 

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Book review – How to Train your Parents by Pete Johnson

 

Review by Ms Pia

 

  •     Genre – Fiction
  •     Audience – Year 3 – Year 6, Teachers and Parents.
  •     Rating – 9/10

Moving to a new neighborhood and a new school, Louis’s parents become ultra-competitive, wanting him and his brother to get straight As at school and join all sorts of after-school clubs and activities like the other kids in the neighborhood but Louis  wants to be a comedian so he does not really  care about school work.  Then he meets Maddy, who claims to have trained her parents to ignore her. Find out if Louise becomes a comedian and if Maddy’s parent training program works out for Louis.

This book is written as Louis’s diary filled with jokes and a little adventure. It’s a page- turner comedy blended with family issues of perfectionism and schoolwork pressure.  Best for ages 8-12 particularly anyone feeling annoyed with their parents and parents themselves will learn something from this book too.

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Books about Cooperation – Junior Value of the Month

Cooperation is the value of the month in Junior school, so here are some books about cooperation that are great for sharing.  You can check to see if they’re available by searching the library catalogue here .  Alternatively, you can email library staff to get one of these books put aside for you to collect.

Sharing a shell by Julia Donaldson

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This is a great story about a hermit crab, an anemone and a bristleworm who all want to live in the same home!  They have to learn to share it order to live together happily. 

Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper

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A cat, a squirrel and a duck all enjoy making soup together.  But one day Duck decides that he wants to do a different part of the soup-making, and chaos ensues…

The brave little Grork by Kathryn Cave

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The greep and the grork are good friends, and do lots of things together.   The grork is shy and easily frightened, but the greep is brave and never afraid.  This is a tale about how they manage when they go out together, telling a lot about the value of friendship.

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