Newbery Book Review

I, Juan de Pareja

Whew — what a weekend.  On Friday afternoon I took Forrest to the airport.  He was Colorado bound for a wedding as well as a surprise party for his dad.  After dropping him off I drove home to finish all the readings for my class that night.  Then proceeded a very long Friday night and even longer Saturday day of class.  Initial thoughts about class:

  • I love my teacher.  She is smart and funny and her name is Donna Reed.  While she doesn’t bear much resemblance to the ‘real’ Donna Reed, I still like that they share the same name.

  • I enjoyed the class, but by 4:00 on Saturday I was pretty brain-dead and sort of hated the word “library” or “librarian.”
  • We were assigned groups for presentations that will happen during the next class and I’m pretty sure everyone in my group (including myself) are the quietest people in the class.  Awesome.
  • Something that Multnomah gave to me during my four years of study was a deep and profound emotion toward research that I like to call hatred.  I am hoping that this isn’t a bad sign considering I’m entering into a profession where research is kind of a big deal.
  • All in all, I’m still wanting to do this, although I do want to say a BIG thank you to those who listened to my freak out, yet again, and reminded me of the value of this education and then gave me perspective when all I could see was the end of my nose.  You know who you are.

In any case, I’m learning how to do homework again and I’m definitely ready for a certain Mr. Johnson to be back in town.  He comes home tomorrow and in honor of his return I made homemade bread (not in the machine!) and homemade chocolate chip cookies.

In other news —

— Libs is tired and has also finished I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino.  I’m not sure how often this is going to happen (finishing and reviewing a Newbery) but I’m going to relish the times it does.

I really liked this one, but like I told my friend Molly yesterday over knitting and Stumptown latte’s, I’m not sure that kids would.  It is entirely from the perspective of Juan, a slave who has been given to the famous painter, Diego Velasquez.  The relationship between master and slave is actually a precious one, ending in Velasquez giving Juan his freedom.  While the story is almost entirely from the imagination of de Trevino it does have some roots in history.  The characters are real and some of the situations in the book are based off of historical events as well.  de Trevino did a beautiful job of imagining and telling a story of a slave’s journey from dedication and love for his master to receiving his freedom and taking up the work of his master.  I found it extremely endearing.

The following is taken from about a third of the way into the story when Juan has first come to live at the Velasquez household.  He is learning how to be an assistant to a painter and is having difficulties with stretching the canvas to fit the wooden frame:

“One day when I had failed for the third time at trying to fit a frame on which he wanted to stretch  a good linen canvas, Master put down his palette, left his model fretting on the model stand, and showed me just how…He cut and fitted the pieces precisely, so easily, so quickly, that I lost heart.  I had spoiled so many.  I put my head in my hands and sobbed.  He lifted my head at once, smiled briefly…and hurried back to his easel.  I took the wood and the tool, held them just as he had and tried again, and this time it came right.  I never failed again, and from then on I stretched all his canvases” (page 44).

This encourages my heart because I know that as I attempt to succeed at library school I am bound to make mistakes and ruin several ‘canvases.’  Thankfully, that doesn’t mean I am a failure and incapable of succeeding.  Try, try, try again.

Switching gears again —

This is the Kenton library.

It is one of the newer libraries in Portland and has quickly become a favorite for Forrest and me.  Even though it isn’t much to look at on the outside the inside is just so brand new.  When you look at the shelves there are multiple copies of the same book and it looks so ordered and beautiful that I find myself looking at the shelves, not for a particular book, but just to admire.

The main reason Kenton library has wormed its way into our heart’s is because of the lucky day shelves.  In Multnomah county, and probably libraries everywhere, when a person wants to check out a new title it usually takes months of waiting because the hold’s list is so long.  For example, I’m pretty excited for Mockingjay to come out (the final installment in the Hunger Games Series) so I put it on hold at the library.  I’m hold number 168 of 522.  Yikes.  I feel bad for #522.  Anyway, at Kenton they have taken several of the new titles and put them on a shelf called “It’s Your Lucky Day!”  Yes, yes it is.  Basically they have multiple copies of those titles and you can check out two at a time for three weeks.  I think I’m in love.

Till next time…


2 thoughts on “I, Juan de Pareja

  1. can I just say….you make me smile. From the very depths you make me smile. Thank you for that. I think I’d like a bread and cookie sandwich since I want to try them both. Yum!! I also want to visit the library that you mentioned. Homemade bread. Cookies. Library….books…..heaven!

  2. Oh Elizabeth, I completely understand about the freaking out in your new venture!! But let me say again how proud I am that you’re stepping out in this way. A part of me wishes I could be doing this with you…

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