“…inside that peach stone is a tree, folded a million times. So go and plant it.”

Page 2

The Lake Geneva Public Library.

Image from the Lake Geneva Public Library website
Image from the Lake Geneva Public Library website

LG back

I tend to like Frank Lloyd Wright-style buildings, and this one was designed by his student, James R. Dresser. [3]  The best feature, IMO, is the giant windows looking out at Geneva Lake.  It’s the kind of library I don’t just visit for the books, but for the ambiance (oh, look at me, all pretentious ^_^; )

In summer weather, I like to find a spot in Library Park to read/people-watch/stare out at the lake.
In summer weather, I like to find a spot in Library Park to read/people-watch/stare out at the lake.

When I was twelve/thirteen, I mostly came here to use the internet stations — this was back in the days of dial-up and sharing one computer with the family, and not wanting to take up the phone bill and such.  And as this discovery of free public internet stations coincided with my Purple Moon obsession (anyone else used to play those CD-ROM games?  Rockett’s New School?  Secret Paths in the Forest?), I almost exclusively spent my allotted hour on the Purple Moon website.

It’s not actually an active site anymore; this is a screenshot from the Wayback Machine’s archive.

That little nostalgic tangent aside, I did, of course, spend lots of time in the YA section, too.  It’s smaller than its equivalent at the Burlington Library, but I could always find something to feed my inner fantasy geek.

Such as:

My Sister Sif, by Ruth Park.

We Magnus children were born on an outer island of the Epiphany Group in the Pacific Ocean.  This island is called Rongo, and it is so small no one in the world cares about it except the people who live there.  It is just above the Tropic of Capricorn, lying halfway between the Friendlies and the Cook Islands, south-west of Tahiti and the Marquesas. [4] *

MySisterSif1This is another story that blends the beautiful and poetic with the sad and cynical.  It is Park’s view, from the 1980s (the book was first published in 1986), of environmental conditions in the early 2000s – and that view is harsh.  But it’s not all doom-and-gloom; it wouldn’t be one of my favorite books if that were the case.  I love it both for the parts that make me want to cry, and the parts that let me hope things can get better.

These are the things I appreciated even more on second-read:

  • Setting.  You get a very strong sense of place from Riko’s narration – you can feel how much Rongo means to her, and to the other characters.  The land itself is practically a living character, or at least part of one – “the hide of a marvelous live monster which every now and then twitched that hide, or trembled in a dream.” [5]
  • Voice/characterization. Riko is fourteen when the story takes place, and the way she understands the world, the way she reacts to the idea of her closest sister growing up and living her own life, is absolutely relatable.  She tries desperately to keep control of her world, really believing she knows best, until someone pushes back.
  • Commander! The Ocean Girl Radar™ is picking up strong signals from this book…it seems the lagoon of Rongo is home to a tribe of people who’ve adapted to swim and breathe like whales, and who can speak telepathically with said whales (as well as other sea creatures), and who live in an underwater city!
  • Riko’s discussions on South Pacific folklore/mythology — the menehune (a dwarf-like people who build amazingly strong structures with earth and stone), for instance, and the forest guardian Tane.  These beings are so much a part of Rongo’s society that even the local missionary respects them – “Mr Spry … said sensibly that the gods had been around the Pacific for thousands of years and it was nothing more than good manners to treat elderly persons nicely.” [6]

. . . . .

*  I should probably mention that Rongo and the Epiphanies are fictional places.  Yes, I  did Google them ^_^;;

. . . . .

Some info on Ruth Park:

  • An Author in Search of a Character“ – in which Park describes her methods of character development.  Her tone is good-naturedly defiant (“Not for me the building of a character brick by blasted brick. To get my imaginary people I go straight out to the wholesaler’s. And what a job he’s made of them!”), and her points at the beginning remind me a bit of Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own.”


The post title is a quote from My Sister Sif, pg. 1.

[1] Soinbhe Lally. A Hive for the Honeybee. New York: Arthur A. Levine, 1999.      pg. 16

[2] Pg. 11

[3] The Lake Geneva Public Library website

[4] Ruth Park. My Sister Sif. Victoria, Australia: Puffin Books, 1996. pg. 2

[5] Pg. 23

[6] Pg. 62


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