Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath

When Jane realizes, finally, at age twelve, that she can pray, she decides to get busy. She prays for a hundred adventures, and wonders if unceasing prayer will bring about the desired response. That’s what Nellie Phipps, fat old lady preacher, says every Sunday from the pulpit, anyway.

Almost immediately, adventure number one commences, when Jane meets a gentleman who looks like a clothes hanger, too skinny for his suit, a man who his mother calmly calls her father.

I’m trying and trying to remember what to write, and I finished the book only a week ago. Let’s see, there was a younger brother who always yelled, “Whale!” when looking at the ocean. I remember Nellie Phipps thinking it was a good idea to deliver Bibles to unsuspecting recipients from a hot air balloon and getting Jane to help. There was a trip across the country that ended abruptly with all the travelers returning home. Someone had a thrombosis. Jane prayed for one lady but not another one, then the non-prayed for one got sick, and then one of them died from candy purchased by one of Jane’s potential fathers or something like that.

There’s other stuff in there too, but try as I might, I don’t remember what happened. There’s offbeat humor, for sure. Delivering Bibles by hot air balloon? A preacher searching for a portal to the future? But other than odd bits of humor and absurdity, which I enjoy thoroughly, nothing sticks out to make me think it would be passed between students. I’m reminded of an eighth grader who once commented to me about another book, “It was fine, I guess. It’s just that nothing happens.”

My One Hundred Adventures ends after fourteen adventures in fourteen chapters with Jane, her family, and a new (new? old? original?) father headed to Saskatchewan to start a new life and find, apparently, the missing eighty-six adventures.

It did have a great quote about reading, though: "The library in summer is the most wonderful thing because there you get books on any subject and read them each for only as long as they hold your interest, abandoning any that don't, halfway or a quarter of the way through if you like, and store up all that knowledge in the happy corners of your mind for your own self and not to show off how much you know or spit it back at your teacher on a test paper."

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