August 23, 2019

Yes, this is ridiculous

Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder by Jo Nesbo (you might have seen his books for adults) is the tale of a little girl and her new neighbor (a tiny boy with a big personality). They befriend a failed scientist (suitably eccentric) with many (unsuccessful and useless) inventions to his name (all more ridiculous than the last). However, his latest invention seems to be a real winner: a powder that when ingested causes the person to fart most spectacularly and explosively. In fact, the powder is so successful that it launches the person into the sky! Can you think of anything better for a group of children? An utterly ridiculous little book this would appeal to a middle grade reader who enjoyed the Captain Underpants or Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. [A/N: This book was originally written in Swedish before being translated into English.] 5/10
Trigger warning: pretty intense bullying and a corrupt, abusive father. 


Source: Amazon.com
What's Up Next: The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant with pictures by Melissa Sweet
What I'm Currently Reading: So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

August 20, 2019

Reverso poetry and the transatlantic experience

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reverso Poems by Marilyn Singer with pictures by Josee Masse contains reverso poetry based on fairy tales which when read in one direction tells one story (and from one POV) but when read in reverse is a wholly different story. An example would be Cinderella’s story on one page and the stepsister's tale on the other page. The illustrations were truly excellent and the concept unique (and well executed) but as I had hoped to use this as a readaloud it didn't quite hit the mark for me. This is more of a singular reading experience or one-to-one with just one child. 6/10


Source: Amazon.com
First of all, Locomotive by Brian Floca has absolutely beautiful illustrations. [A/N: It was a Caldecott Medal Winner and a Sibert Honor Book so you know I'm not just whistling Dixie.] This could be a potentially dry subject (a 19th century family's cross country journey to a new home) but the illustrations really take it to a whole other lever. This is best categorized as classic picture book meets historical fiction. It reads as if it could be a nonfiction story of a family journeying by the newest technical innovation, the transcontinental railroad, across the country. This would work best either with a child who loves trains or to a slightly older group of kids (maybe in a classroom) who want to know more about this period of American history. 8/10


Source: Amazon


What's Up Next: Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder by Jo Nesbo with pictures by Mike Lowery (translated from the Swedish by Tara F. Chace)

What I'm Currently Reading: The Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

August 16, 2019

Which toy shall rule them all?

Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins is a middle grade novel that follows 3 toy friends that come to life when their little girl goes to sleep. Lumphy (stuffed buffalo), Sting Ray (dry clean only), and Plastic (a bouncy ball) are the main characters with distinct (albeit simple) personalities. The primary story revolves around the desire to be the toy that gets to sleep in the little girl’s bed at night (sound familiar?). Some of the adventures include a trip in the washing machine and being grabbed by a garbage shark (maybe the best descriptor of a dog ever) at the beach. I’m not sure why I thought reading another book about toys coming to life was going to be a vastly different reading experience from The Doll People. [Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.] However, if you're looking for a fairly straightforward reading experience for your 10-12 year old then this will fit the bill nicely. 5/10 because I love a good sarcastic toy.

Topics discussed: insecurities, search for identity, and finding your place. 
Source: Amazon.com

What's Up Next: Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reverso Poems by Marilyn Singer with pictures by Josee Masse AND Locomotive by Brian Floca

What I'm Currently Reading: Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War that Changed American History by Brian Kilmeade & Don Yaeger

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

August 9, 2019

The somewhat murky portrait of a man

I have been a casual fan of Edward Gorey for quite some time and hoped to learn more about him by reading Born to be Posthumous The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey by Mark Dery. While much is known about his work there is still a lot of mystery surrounding the man himself. He didn’t keep a diary and there’s not much in the way of correspondence. Was he a confirmed bachelor because of choice as an asexual man or was he a closeted man who never found time for love? Were his affectations symptomatic of a fake persona or was it the real him? Gorey was tested and judged to have a high IQ but his turbulent home life saw him uprooted often and he ended up delaying entry to Harvard to join the Army. Sporting long fur coats, white sneakers, lots of rings on both hands, and a big bushy beard insured that he stood out wherever he went. He compartmentalized his friendships, had no known romantic relationships, and spent inordinate amounts of time going to the ballet, watching silent movies, and reading copious amounts of books (specifically mysteries). [A/N: He once stated that he read 21,000 books and watched 1,000 movies a year.] At the end of his life he had moved into a dilapidated house on Cape Cod where he lived among lots of cats and a variety of knickknacks and curios. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer and diabetes before finally suffering a heart attack. Not quite the ignominious fate that his characters tended to suffer; it was nevertheless the end of an iconic literary figure.

Dery spent a large chunk of the book talking about the 'hidden meaning' in Gorey's work but honestly I don't see it. I think on the fact of it they were fun little illustrated stories that captured (and continue to ensnare) the imagination of anyone who reads them. You can look forward to a masterpost of some of that work coming up in the (hopefully) not too distant future. Overall, this wasn't quite the eyeopening biography that I had hoped it would be and the reach that the author tried to make kind of put me off so that it took me way longer to finish than it should have done. 5/10



Source: Amazon.com

What's Up Next: Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins with pictures by Paul O. Zelinsky

What I'm Currently Reading: Stranger in the House: Women's Stories of Men Returning from the Second World War by Julie Summers

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

August 2, 2019

That subtitle seems familiar

Redwall by Brian Jacques has been touted as a classic but I'm not sure this is one I would recommend. I found it predictable, needlessly long, and frankly pretty boring. This is a difficult book to categorize as either a middle grade or young adult novel as it handles mature themes with a lot of gratuitous violence besides being a brick of a book (somehow this didn't bother me with the Harry Potter series but it did with this one). The story is a coming of age quest/adventure story set in the Middle Ages with rodents and various other wild animals as the main protagonists. Matthias, our hero, is a young mouse who is studying to be a monk at Redwall Abbey when a giant rat named Cluny the Scourge shows up on the scene. Matthias must then embark on a personal journey to seek the sword of a famous mouse warrior in the hopes it will turn the tide in the battle against the forces of evil. This is the first in a rather long series but I must be honest and say that I have no desire to continue with these characters. I really can't figure out what all the fuss is about so it's a 3/10 from me.
PS While I was double-checking my spelling of the character names I discovered that there is an actual cartoon of this book series. To say that I am shocked would be putting it mildly. That one is not going on my watch list.

Source: Amazon.com

What's Up Next: Born to be Posthumous The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey by Mark Dery

What I'm Currently Reading: When the Children Came Home: Stories From Wartime by Julie Summers

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

August 1, 2019

At night the dolls come alive

This post has taken me far longer to write than I'd like to admit and I think that's largely because I found this book pretty lukewarm. The Doll People by Ann M. Martin (with pictures by Brian Selznick) was another one of those books recommended as a great book for the kids in your life who are trying to stretch their legs as early and eager readers. I didn't realize at the outset of reading it that it was actually the first in a series which follow the lives of the members of the Doll family. This is like Toy Story but dialed up to 11, ya'll. We follow the adventures of Annabelle Doll who is preoccupied with the mystery of her aunt's disappearance 45 years ago. Like Toy Story, there are certain rules about letting the humans see them moving but they actually have an oath with consequences attached. (We learn about Doll State or Permanent Doll State where they are frozen either temporarily or permanently.) The storyline is slow and rather predictable but suitable for beginner readers who are gaining confidence with chapter books. I guess the most 'interesting' part (if you can call it that) was when a new set of dolls entered the house and the reader can see the difference between the older porcelain toys and the newer plastic ones. 4/10


Source: Amazon.com


What's Up Next: Redwall by Brian Jacques

What I'm Currently Reading: When the Children Came Home: Stories From Wartime by Julie Summers

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

July 13, 2019

A bit of reality

I am all for works of fantasy and sci-fi to tell stories that pull the reader into different worlds and experiences. However, there's something to be said about introducing a piece of realistic fiction to an emerging reader so that they can feel that 'so someone has felt the same things that I have' feeling. When you're growing up, it's so easy to feel isolated and alien. You feel like your problems are huge and that no one could possibly understand your pains, frustrations, or anguish. And then a little book like this one comes along. Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie by Julie Sternberg follows a little girl called Eleanor who experiences suffers abandonment and all the attendant stages of grief that come along after when the babysitter she's had her entire life moves away. With Eleanor's adjustment to a new babysitter who is wholly different from Bibi, she learns that sometimes change is good and relationships can survive distance. This is a good lesson for us all I think. This book is perfect for the emerging reader (probably why it was recommended in Excellent Books for Early and Eager Readers). It's written in short, simple sentences (somewhat oddly structured on each page) with illustrations by Matthew Cordell liberally spread throughout.  7/10

Source: Amazon

What's Up Next: The Doll People by Ann M. Martin with pictures by Brian Selznick

What I'm Currently Reading: The Gods Themselves by Isaac Isamov

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **