Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Journey That Saved Curious George

Charming, charming, charming!

Still on my quest for summer reading list material, I placed a hold on this title by Louise Borden (ill Allan Drummond).

This book looks a bit like a travel journal / passport itself, and is extremely accessible. It is almost free verse in style, and kids will be eager to learn more about Margaret and H.A. Rey.

Interesting nuggets of information are waiting to be the fact that Curious George's name was originally Fifi, and that the Rey's were Brasilian citizens, and that they had pet turtles.

Original photographs and documents pepper the pages alongside Drummond's Rey-esque illustrations. WWII is presented in a factual yet less distressing way than it could be.

I love this book and will be purchasing it for my daughters to read when they are older. A must have for collections!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Comic Con NYC

Ahhhhh the comic convention! The combo geek fest and book fest that turned out to be cool. Aside from the creepy adult twins who actually dressed alike and were freaking me and Jen out, it was pretty fun!

And I got Tricked, by Alex Robinson of Box Office Poison fame. He even signed it and illustrated it for me! Yay!

I couldn't put Tricked down and now I wish it wasn't over. This is the story of intersecting lives with a rockstar bent. There is Ray, formerly of the Tricks, who is suffering from severe writer's block along with an inflated sense of self. Caprice is a waitress with a bad track record concerning men. Steve has stopped taking his meds and is turning into a paranoid and obsessive fan. And Nick just lies, lies, lies, lies.

All of these characters have characters around them who weave in and out of the plot. I am not sure if this book appeals to me so intensely because of the fact that I live in NYC. I often take time to sit and wonder about all of the people around me. How did they end up here? Where are they going? What are their secrets?

This is the graphic novel that I will be recommending to my "hipster" friends. And I know that I will be rereading it often!

Thursday, February 23, 2006


I really run hot and cold with short story collections. I recently tried to get through the acclaimed Black Juice, but it really wasn't for me. I recognized the quality of the writing, of course, but I just didn't care about the stories. Even the first that should have been tugging on my heartstrings, left me cold.

At the public library the other day, I picked up Thundershine, by David Skinner. I will admit it...I picked it up because it was a "skinny book". Ahhhh, that phrase I used to try to abolish when I worked in the public libraries! But I am furiously reading to change my summer reading lists, and I thought this was a possibility.

Turns out, it's too much for my age group, but for those of you looking for something for the 10-14 year old set, this is it!

Four magical stories about kids who don't quite fit in. The stories definately have a more scifi bent than fantasy, but I truly believe there is something for everyone in here.

My favourite story is the first one. Jenny "with a J" has been drawing maps every since she was a child. Maps of rooms, neighbourhoods, houses. But they have always been true maps. Suddenly she decides to start "dismapping" things. She starts with her home, and before you know it, Egypt is in Canada. The interesting thing is that nobody notices. People just keep living like there were always two suns and one is blue. But Jenny's best friend notices. Aside from Jenny, she is the only one. And unlike Jenny, she never sees it coming.

There is the story of the "meta humans". Nina suddenly has powers. Or power. She can only have one at a time, but she can also bestow power upon others. She decides that little brother Henry, his best friend and his best friend's girlfriend are all worthy. But Nina runs dark.

"Walk this Way" is a love story in disguise involving a type of teleportation called bopping.

"Poof Poof Ya Does Me a Favor" is the strangest and the most interesting to me. Dexter is a graffiti artist who paints with his mind. Meredith can hear his painting, and can also communicate with the planet Pluto.

They sound like far out stories, and they are. But they are compelling, just long enough and filled with lovely turns of phrase. On page 61 for example "For some reason, I liked my name in her voice."

Read this book!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Big House

I picked this up out of the children's section of our library in the hopes of finding something to add to my 4th grade summer reading list this year. I am still undecided if this will make the cut, but it was a fun and quick read.

Ivy and Ray's parents have never really been above board, but this time they are both being sent "up the river" for embezzlement from a charity. Ivy and Ray are left in the care of Marietta Noland and her husband Lionel...the very people who had their folks sent away.

Soon Ray and Ivy are living in the Noland mansion, and are left to their own devices in their own wing. They explore, find a great hiding spot in a rhododendron bush, and start taking a bunch of "evidence" (re Marietta's stuff) to help find their parents innocent.

A series of mishaps and mysteries ensue.

It seems that Carolyn Coman was writing a story in the vein of Ibbotson and Dahl but without the level of success.

It is a nice story, don't get me wrong. It's just not as richly told. It is good for a quick read.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Top Tens

So I've been thinking about lists a lot lately. Everyone has their top 10 books of this and that, so I thought I would put some together. Today's theme is:

The Top 10 Books that I Recommend to my Women Friends

The Girl in Hyacinth Blue, by Susan Vreeland
The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
A Jest of God, by Margaret Laurence
The Myth of You and Me, by Leah Stewart
Esperanze Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan
Snowflower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See
Crowgirl, by Bodil Bresdorff
The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
The Holding, by Merilyn Simonds

There is a mix of children's, YA, and mostly adult in there. But all of these books really touched me in some way or another. If you haven't read them, please do. I'd love to know what you think of these titles!

Snowflower and the Secret Fan

Again. I am so happy my friends have great taste in books. Fabulous recommendation.

A heartbreaking and eye opening read about China, footbinding, nu shu, and the laotong relationship.

This is an example of a book where fact meets fiction so seemlessly that the characters seem real, and China is painted so vividly infront of the reader, that I almost experienced sensory overload.

Lily knows that as a girl in her family she is a "useless branch" destined to marry out. Her family is not so poor that the women have to work in the fields, so she is to have her feet bound along with her cousin Beautiful Moon. Her mother seeks the diviner to come and examine Lily to find the most auspicious day to begin the binding, but to everyone's surprise, the diviner wants to bring in some extra help. Madame Wang is a matchmaker from a different town, and announces that Lily should have a laotong relationship with another girl named Snowflower. Lily's mother is upset that this means that more resources will be taken out of her home, but is scheming enough to realize that this means that Lily could marry up when she marries out, ultimately bringing more money to her natal family.

The women in the household are relegated to the upstairs chamber once their footbinding begins. Terrible pain, the breaking of bones and deathly infection are all in the future. But so is the learning of nu shu, the secret writing of women. Lily's aunt lovingly teaches the girls the characters and didactic stories that go along with them.

The plot spans Lily's lifetime and is rich and somewhat of a rollercoaster ride. It is achingly beautiful and terrible at the same time.

My uncle is a professor of Chinese History, and this book has definately made me want to get in touch with him and learn some more. I will be recommending this specifically to my women friends. I also will be reading more of Lisa See's work.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Children's Book Meme

I do love to answer surveys. Not over the phone, but the kind you can write down. I love polls. I guess I like to put in my own 2 cents.

I found this linked over from Orange Splot and Big A Little A.

1) What were your favourite 3 children's series?
Little House on the Prairie, Pippi Longstocking and The Bobsey Twins.

2)What were your favourite 3 non-series children's books?
Garbage Delight, by Dennis Lee , Where the Sidewalk Ends, and The Great Gilly Hopkins

3) Who were your 3 favourite children's book characters?
Laura Ingalls, Ramona, Charlie Bucket

1) Who wrote your least favourite children's books?
Jan and Stan Berenstain

2)What was the saddest moment in childhood reading?
Bridge to Terabithia

3) Which adult book scared the bejeezus out of you?
Amityville Horror. It STILL freaks me out to think of it!!!!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Jesus Land : A Memoir

OMG. Seriously.

"Sinners go to: HELL
Rightchuss go to: HEAVEN
The end is neer: REPENT
This here is: JESUS LAND"

Imagine living someplace where a farmer would post this by the road on his land. Now imagine living there in the 1970s and 80s with your adopted African American brothers and bible thumping missionary styled parents.

This book hit me on so many levels. First Julia's parents. Supposedly missionary in philosophy, surgeon dad drives a Porsche and mom's in an Audi. Religion is used as an excuse to violence in this household from an absent dad and a mom who really should not have had children.

Julia. Drinking Comfort (Southern, that is) before school, distancing herself from brother David at school, and finding her blank spot when brother Jerome comes into her room at night.

David. Just wishing for a family. Trying to fit in. A victim of beatings over the smallest infractions.

Through a series of events, both Julia and David end up in the Dominican Republic at a "Christian" school for Juveniles, that seems to still be in operation today...which horrifies me. They find a way to keep each other sane through the ordeal.

The ending will take your breath away.

I think I am fascinated by this memoir for a number of reasons. It makes me so sad to hear of yet another girl sexually abused who then puts herself out there as a sexual being as a control measure. It makes me worry for my daughters.

The Bible Belt is astounding to me. I grew up going to church...but a middle of the road Protestant church where there was little if any mention of Hell. Daily Fire and Brimstone must take its toll. And the homogeneous nature of the population seems so strange as well. I grew up pretty white bread, but there was a bit of variety that one didn't blink at. I have a friend who grew up the Bible Belt way and I never really knew what to make of her stories...but this memoir certainly solidified her experience to me.

And I constantly wonder why people who don't want and don't like children, have them.

An intense and poignant read, that I kept having to put down, eventhough I didn't want to put it down.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Funny Little Monkey

So this has been on my "to read" pile for about a year now.

What do I think?

I don't know.

This is a very odd feeling. I have no idea who was lying, or what really happend in this book. Arty is an extremely unreliable narrator and I still feel like I could use half the story.

Arty and Kurt are fraternal twins. Extremely fraternal. Arty is stuck at 4'2'' and Kurt is a hulking 6'3''. They live with their mom in their grampa's old house over by the quarry. They are in a new school and all Kurt said to Arty is, "You don't know me".

Arty doesn't bother to learn anyone's names. He gives nicknames by Bubble Butt or Albino Girl, or Kerouac (the kid has On the Road perpetually in his back pocket). He does notice, though, that a bunch of the "loser" kids sport pins of a red letter "A", and that Kerouac seems to be their leader.

Maybe Kerouac can help Arty get his big brother off his back. Being small has its disadvantages when others can be phyiscal with you.

Enter Leslie. The gorgeous girl who suddenly notices Arty. Not in the gropy way, but in the "let's hang out" way.

I couldn't put the book down because I wanted to see what happened, but I also feel like there is some kind of philosophical message that I am just not getting.

Author Anderw Auseon has confused me.

I guess that's a good thing!