Find More than You Think in Fink

A one-eyed, brown cat. and rhyme so tight a reader is roped into fanciful beliefs, or memories of a past when life and fear seemed huge, simple and quick. I  am sorry regret it took me so long to discover Rick Felty’s writing. The three-book, early reader series about TabCat_Ninjaitha Fink yielded a book each year since 2015. I am overjoyed, now to be caught up. The stories filled me with admiration as a children’s author, and as a reader let me see the world again like a wide-eyed kid. The most recent work, Tabitha Fink: Ninja at Night, proves that a story told well in rhyme can bring a smile and even anticipation to adults. Readers will see the author’s progress through the narratives.

His first book, Tabitha Fink The Cat With One Eye, is less clever in its prose and scenario. In the dedication of his third book, Felty talks about his stories as a “journey of discovery.” That is the most apt description of the way the word play appears in the 45-page work.  

“I am Tabitha Fink, somewhat hard to ignore,” he writes. “with only one eye where some others have more. I’ve still got one tail and four paws on the floor. I am still Tabitha Fink as I have mentioned before.”

The 39-page second book, Tabitha Fink on a Mission to Mars, spins a taleCat_Mars that is more playful. “I am Tabitha Fink on a mission to Mars,” the book says, “where they don’t fly blue planes, and they don’t drive red cars. But I know they do something to travel about so I’m going to Mars , to figure it out.” The adventurous makes the trip in a “cat rocket ship.” She discovers a Martian family and says, “And it turns out they do things like all of us do, with a few minor changes. I
will show them to you.”

I imagined youngsters’ fascinations with those simple unadorned sentences. The words have a blunt feel that hit the mind with a clarity that offers a moment-to-moment I get it! There is a completeness in the main character’s description that ushers listeners and readers into familiarity with the feelings and a desire to almost reach out and pet the furry hero.

Felty, who is an Emmy-winning television producer, writes prose so lyrical that the smooth word play pulls a reader into the tale. At some points wildly alliterative in the Cat_Eyeways of a Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein, Tabitha Fink The Ninja at Night has a conflict that appears so trivial. Tabitha’s mouse playmate Bartholomew Blink is stalked by a slew of night terrors – a big furry monster, an evil witch, a dragon, some blue bears, and a smelly troll.  Yes, the problem is simple, but Tabitha’s struggle tugs at the memory. The unique character modeled after his family pet is pushed into the eerie situations that seemed a big deal when I was a kid. I began to recall what it felt like to face fear of the dark. – in the lack of light, and Felty’s cyclops hero confronts her friend’s fright as a ninja with a flashlight.

Tabitha Fink books are the kind of imaginative and fanciful explorations that children scream for at bedtime or story time in school. Felty’s clever use of language and plot sets a pleasant diversion for adults, too. Before I was aware, page after page flipped as I rushed to see the ninja’s deeds. At the last of 68 pages, like Bartholomew the mouse, I was satisfied by the charming conclusion of the darkness dilemma. As many readers, I was only disappointed that I might have to wait another year for more.

 

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Hamilton in Love for Young Hearts

New York Times best-seller Melissa de la Cruz, noted for the critically acclaimed Blue Bloods series dives into the 18th Century romance of Alexander Hamilton and Eliza hamiltonSchuyler. Out flows a historical saga that teens and young adults are sure to find filled with intrigue and delight. Read an excerpt of Alex and Eliza: A Love Story, due for release by Penguin Random House on April 11.

“Hamilton,” the Broadway play is likely to be on the must-see list for years to come. The popularity of that representation of George Washington’s brash young aide and statesman bodes an even greater reception among youth. Hamilton is now back on many Americans’ radar.

De la Cruz targets Eliza, a rebel as the youngest of three daughters one of the fledgling nation’s leading families, and shows how that nature drew her to the rakish Col. Alexander Hamilton. She is part of one of New York’s most elite families. Hamilton, born on the West Indies island of Nevis, is exuberant that his appointment as chief aide to the leader of the Colonial Army in 1777 affords him a chance to marry into a high society.

Orphaned by an unwed mother, Hamilton, whom John Adams once described as, “the bastard brat of a Scottish peddler,” is from the wrong side of the blanket, yet bright and ambitious. Eliza Schuyler is a child of privilege to the manor born. What happens when they met according to historians became an epic love story.

Cruz is more than able to excite young hearts. Her Blue Blood series sold more than three million copies. Also, her Witches of East End series became an hour-long television drama on the Lifetime network.

 

Not Every Sadness Yields Defeat

The discovery of a new writer is always a thrill. It is like a walk into a meadow in the midst of a thick forest. The experience brings light in unanticipated ways. You know there are more trees on the other side, and it leaves you anxious with thoughts about what comes next. That is it is like to explore Tim I. Gurung’s eighth novel, Old Men Don’t Cry!

The subtitle is A Hong Kong Tale of Sorrowyet don’t be fooled. The words are accurate. There is a great deal of sadness and disappointment in the story of Chan Hong, a Chinese kid with absentee parents who seeks to become a police officer and find fulfillment. At the same time, so many more things come from the novel, that saga is also a tale of triumph. The journey to his goals holds a number of sad twists and turns, yet what Hong traverses teaches readers a lot about what it means to be a man, to love and be hungry for achievement. That spirit is captured best in the title phrase near the novel’s end:

I had promised myself I would not cry anymore. I was too old to cry, and we all know that old men don’t cry. It was not that old men don’t feel pain, yet it is not easy for an old man to cry openly and express his feelings in public….One thing was clear: if there were a next life and I was given a choice, I wanted to repeat the same life again without any changes.

The reader might see such a sentiment and realize that what most adds fulfillment to a man’s life is to be in the sweep of change. That is the other great dimension of the novel. 
Gurung like the late U.S. Novelist James A. Michener. As Michener’s Tales of the South PacificHawaii and Alaska , Gurung’s Old Men Don’t Cry!  sketches out characters against the sweep of a history and evolution of a great society. His prose has the meticulousness of a Robert Ludlum, whose Bourne Trilogy has been the basis for a number of popular films.

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people,” Michener once said, “you might better stay home.” Like the American author, Gurung pulls readers into the  heart  of everyday life so that they experience  each moment in Hong’s life as a period of their own. He grounds the chapters with background on the political and social changes of the nation, and then they play out in the character’s  life. The emergence of China from 1980 to present is revealed in such detail at some points Hong appears to mirror his motherland’s struggles.

Gurung, who was born in Nepal, but raised in Hong Kong, walks readers through the culture and sociology of the land. The author returned to the land of his birth for a few months after he retired from the Gurkhas in 1993, yet returned to the island nation to set up a business. After age 50, he began to write as he had in his youth. He uses those funds to support an educational foundation for youth in Nepal. 

At the same time, his main character, Chan Hong, is thoroughly steeped in a discovery of Chinese culture on and off the mainland.Readers learn about the important holidays such as the celebration of the Lunar New Year, the Ghost Festival and Ching Ming from an angle not open to most Westerners.   At the same time, the author shares the political and social changes that redirects the lives of everyday people in the country.

The author unveils a sensory tour of the land in minute detail, because in some ways he was one of those everyday people. Gurung, as his real-life fathers and uncles, became a Gurkha soldier at age 17. As the novel shows, life in the British military unit was tough. The Nepalese were set into a country within a country in many respects, yet the author shows that for children such as Hong, circumstances were almost no different. His service gave the author a special opportunity to see Hong Kong   ways many of the people who lived there never could. The novel benefits from that exposure as the narrative builds a character who seeks righteousness, yet discovers that the world in which he lives offers many people little hope. He places many of those insights into the mind of the protagonist.

On his move from the small village of Kam Tin, Chan Hong goes to Tokwawan, a larger place, in pursuit of his dream to be a police officer. He meets his goal, yet is not a great success. The main character remains a street cop, because his attitude is not compatible with those who move into the higher ranks. In fact, his constant bids to try to discover, understand and help those he encounters at points diminishes his life. 

His lifelong friends, Eddie Ko and Tsang Adele have broader lives because they get to study in the United States, yet they all end up back in the circumstances they fled. Each of the players in the drama is guided by a trait, and Hong’s is self-sacrifice, which makes him vulnerable in every aspect of his life.
Advertisements on the novel say what Hong sacrifices, “will pain your soul,’ and his sorrows will, “just make you cry.” That is true. At the same time, many of those who read this book will want to cheer for the main character at the end. The novel is a classic tearjerker, but more than that it is a story of emergence for a man and his country. Readers can come away with three thoughts. First – a selfish life is a sad waste. Second, choice more than fate controls what you can do. Lastly, not every sadness yields defeat.