Friday, August 31, 2007

The Thrill of Falling-In-Love With An Author


If you're a regular reader here you have probably noticed that I've been reading alot of H.G. Wells lately. I have. And it's been wonderful. Guilty, but wonderful. You see, this is a site for reviewing young adult books, children's books, picture books. A site that says "may occasionally" review older books, but focuses on literature 2004-present. But silly old me has gone and fallen in love with H.G. Wells. The books were written for the adult crowd--though I'd imagine young adults could enjoy them as much as anyone--and they're certainly not new. Nineteenth century science fiction is not "new" or "contemporary." But they're just so good, I can't stop myself. So I've been indulging. Each day I open up my Seven Science Fiction Novels of H.G. Wells, prop up my feet, fluff a few pillows and relax with a very exciting, wonderfully written book. But a part of me can't help but feel guilty. I have stacks and stacks of books calling out at me. They're saying, "We're new. You're supposed to be reading us. What happened??? Why don't you love us??? Did you forget we're here????" Anyway, I've been ignoring them. My Wells' book is due at the library, September 5th, and I'm hoping that I'll get them all done and won't have to renew.

The latest Wells' novel that I've devoured is War of the Worlds. Each time I finish a novel, I think to myself, "It just can't get better than this. This has to be my favorite. That has to be his best." I felt that way after War of the Worlds. It was exciting. It was thrilling. It was without a doubt one of his faster-paced novel. I was hooked practically from the first page on. It was just a very compelling read. I didn't want to put it down. It chronicles through the eyes of one man, the arrival of Martians on Earth and the destructive peril that follows the landings of a handful of cylinders. (I believe there were around ten cylinders, maybe seven or eight. But no more than ten.) It is a terrifying thing for our narrator to witness. There is death. There is violence. There is fear. There is panic. There is chaos. It is the unraveling of society. The unraveling of life and society as we know it. The book shows how men--and women--but particularly this one man--handles the breakdown of society and civilization. How one man tries to survive against all odds. How one man comes to deal with such horror and terror and the unknown. How to even keep one's wits about them long enough to plan, to act, to move, to cope. It's very exciting, very suspenseful. And by far, one of my new *favorites* by Wells. I won't say it replaces The Time Machine as my favorite. It would probably be a toss up still, but it was very, very good. And definitely more exciting than the Time Machine.


online text of War of the Worlds

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Carnival Time in August

August Carnival Time:

The August edition of the Children's Literature Carnival is up.

2nd edition of Picture Book Carnival

The August edition of the Picture Book Carnival is up.

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Poetry Friday: First Day of School

Viorst, Judith. 1995. Sad underwear and other complications. Illustrated by Richard Hull. New York: Atheneum Books For Young Readers. ISBN: 0-689-31929-0.

The First Day of School


Will they let me go when I need to go to the bathroom?
And what if I get lost lost on my way back to class?
And what if all of the other kids are a hundred, a thousand, a million times smarter than I am?
And what if we have a spelling test, or a reading test, or an…anything test, and I'm the only person who doesn't pass?
And what if my teacher decides that she doesn't like me?
And what if all of a sudden a tooth gets loose?
And what if I can't find my lunch, or I step on my lunch, or I (oops) drop my lunch down someplace like the toilet?
Will they just let me starve or will somebody lend me a sandwich? A cookie? A cracker? An apple?, Some juice?
And what if they say, "Do this," and I don't understand them?
And what if there's teams, and nobody picks me to play?
And what if I took off my sneakers, and also my socks, and also my jeans, and my sweatshirt and T-shirt,
And started the first day of school on the second day?

Extension

This poem lends itself well to extension activities. One book that comes to mind is Kevin Henkes' Wemberley Worried (2000). Wemberley is a very worried mouse. She like the child in the poem is very nervous about the first day of school. Another activity would be to have children write their own "what if" poem. (See also Shel Silverstein's "What If" (p. 90) in A Light In The Attic.)

Henkes, Kevin. 2000. Wemberley worried New York: Greenwillow. ISBN: 0688170277.
Silverstein, Shel. 1981. A light in the attic. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN: 006025673-7.

Poetry Friday roundup is at Mentor Texts

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

How I Came To Love A Monster


How I Came to Love A Monster:

A Rambling Review of Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein

Frankenstein has haunted and followed me around wherever I go. I remember first reading the book in high school. It must have been tenth or twelfth grade because Mrs. Lippe--the dreaded and much afeared Mrs. Lippe was the one who assigned it. I don’t really remember much about this brief introduction to Mary Shelley’s creative masterpiece. I could have hated it. I could have loathed it. I could have been bored to tears with it. I often was with classics at that time in my life. That might have been the end of our acquaintance, if it had not been for a fateful decision in the fall of 1997. I decided that fall, in the month of November, to become an English major. At the time, I was under the instruction of another dreaded and much afeared professor: Dr. Casper. I had not taken the class willingly. It had been thrust upon when a schedule conflict came up regarding another class. But the class did change my life. In a good way, I might add. Up until that point, I had been an education major. I wasn’t a firmly committed student, I wasn’t dying to be a teacher or anything. But I needed to have a major listed. But taking a literature course was new...it was exciting...it was almost thrilling. And the ‘scary’ teacher became my academic advisor. And she really wasn’t that scary if you did your work and behaved. I’m happy to say I got an A despite her first day of class warnings of how she never ever gave A’s to her students. [Now that I think about it, there were horror stories passed around about both of those teachers--my high school teacher, and that college professor. Students would speak in hushed tones and give strangers the warning: beware this teacher...]

Frankenstein came back into my life several semesters later. The person who re-introduced us was Dr. Palmer. Palmer is many things but scary is not one of them. She’s a gentle soul whose love of books is evident from the start. She speaks in almost a whisper, but she speaks with great enthusiasm about the friends she’s met in books. Some of her “friends” became my friends. But even I didn’t click with the books we were reading, I always respected and appreciated her style. The second time I read Frankenstein was for Dr. Palmer’s British novels class. I was an undergraduate. I was older. I was wiser. (And I had a very good friend in that class.) And somehow or other, I was more aware of my surroundings this time through. I remember finishing it and saying, “Hmm, that wasn’t so bad. I think I almost even enjoyed it.” And the discussions and essays instead of being a chore, weren’t too bad with this one. Again, this might have been the end of the story...we’ve met again. It wasn’t distasteful. But at this point I wasn’t using the word “love” in regards to Shelley’s book or the monster.


The third and fourth times through really, really made a believer out of me. This time, I was in graduate school. Once again majoring in English. (Don’t even begin to ask me what is practical about having a Masters of Arts degree in literature. I still don’t know. But those were fun years out of my life just the same.) One spring--probably the spring of 2001--I read Frankenstein for Dr. Palmer’s Romanticism class. It was a course that followed the lives of both Shelleys (Mary and Percy), Lord Byron, and John Keats. It was a great class. A happy class. Well, as happy as you can get reading some of their poetry--some of it can be a wee bit depressing--and they weren’t always happy guys to be around. But enough about that, the fourth time was that fall. Fall 2001. The horrible, dreadful fall of 2001 that was so overwhelmingly depressing. Yes, I was upset by 9/11. But more upsetting for me was the fact that my grandfather was dying of cancer and in hospice. I was having to go to school and work every day knowing that that day could be the day...that I could get a phone call at any minute telling me that he was gone. The hardest thing for me was to go through the motions of every day life. How could I go on like nothing had changed...when everything had changed. How could I act cheerful and ready to greet the world when I wanted to crawl into a hole and hide? How could I answer the phones with a perky “Good Morning” when all I wanted to do was stay in bed and cry. Maybe it was because of the misery though that I finally and truly fell in love with Frankenstein.

Frankenstein is all about misery. But it is also about what it means to be human. It covers it all. It addresses the “meaning-of-life” type issues in a way that I find most effective. By making a monster appear human and a human appear to be a monster, it challenges and changes everything that you thought you knew about the world. For one thing, it shows that you can’t judge someone based on appearances. You can’t see inside someone’s heart and mind. You can’t read their soul. Something hideous or something beautiful could be beneath the surface, but you don’t always know which is which until it’s too late.

Of course the novel addresses the issue of man playing God. Of man trying to rule the universe. Trying to tamper with things that he shouldn’t be tampering with. Trying to do the divine, be the divine. Not happy to be content with himself, always struggling to be more, have more, do more. Wanting more knowledge, more power, more wealth, more prestige, more honor, more whatever. Ambition can be dangerous. Deadly even, as Victor proves.

But what strikes me most about the novel, and I have reread it--I read it again the last week of July--is the fact that the monster wants what so many of us want. He wants to be loved. He wants to be accepted. He wants to be a part of something. He wants approval. He wants someone to see past the exterior and know him for who he is. And isn’t that what we all want? Someone to love us for who we are. Someone to love us unconditionally. Someone to be our friend. Someone to talk to. To share with. To love. Man was not designed to be alone, to live alone. Man has always needed companionship and love and fellowship. Man has always been a social creature. So when you take away a person’s basic needs--deny him of everything that is good and right and natural--what can you expect but to find a monster? The story of Frankenstein is how one man slowly and surely became a monster. But the ‘monster’ the man creates wasn’t born a monster. He wasn’t born evil. He wasn’t born anything. His only thoughts and feelings were those of an animal. He sought food, drink, and shelter. But he knew nothing of loss, love, pain, or joy. He had no words to speak. No way to communicate. No love. No hate. But he became a man. Surely and slowly he observed, he learned, he grew a soul of sorts. He grew in both head and heart knowledge. He knew what greatness looked like. But he was denied everything based purely on his appearance. He became a monster because that is how people treated him. They were the ones that chased him. They were the ones that tried to kill him. He observed humans behaving as monsters. While, this monster didn’t stay ‘pure’ and ‘good’ and began to act very wickedly, it is easy to understand why. Death became the only way he could communicate. The only way anyone would listen.

Imagine. Victor Frankenstein plays both a Creator role (God if you will) and a father role. He is the one who worked and slaved and labored obsessively to create this being. It was his ‘brilliant’ idea from start to finish. Yet the moment his brilliant work is finished. The moment it is a notable “success” what does he do? He fears, he rejects, he runs, he panics, he does everything a parent shouldn’t do. Imagine being “born” into the world and being rejected from the start. Not a welcome, not a hello, not instructions, not encouragement, not love, not acceptance, not a kind word.

Here is the thing that has always always puzzled me about Victor. How could you work on a creature for however many months or years and not know what it was going to look like? If the creature looked scary or spooky alive, wouldn’t you think that it would look spooky before? How could he have pieced him together and sewn him and whatnot and given him form from dead mangled bodies and not known he was hideous and ugly? Why did it take the breath of life to make “ugly” terrifying? Did he not see with open eyes day after day what the creature was? Was he so blinded that he didn’t see? Or did he think his chances of success so low that he never considered that it might just work after all? Is that why he was so shocked? So afraid? Did he expect to fail and so never considered the consequences and ramifications of his creation working? What did he expect? What did he hope to gain? What was his purpose? There certainly wasn’t a demand for ugly ill-formed freakish monsters to fill Europe and the other continents.

Here is my other pondering about Frankenstein...why did he have to piece together a human? If he had the so-called secret of regeneration that would cause dead bodies to come back to life, why didn’t he just use that knowledge, that secret, to raise a whole person, a human being. A ‘creation’ that wouldn’t be a monster in appearance? I suppose the answer could be that Shelley thought the other was more frightening... But I guess this goes back to man’s search for immortality. Man searching for ways to prolong and lengthen his life. Perhaps man searching for ways to save his loved ones. To keep his loved ones with him forever. Surely the reason he started this experimentation was to bring back lost loved ones from the dead...but I guess his ultimate lesson is that death comes to everyone great and small. And you can’t cheat death in the end. It’s the one sure thing we know about the world. There is a 100% mortality rate.

The thing about reading Frankenstein is that I learn something new each time. I grow in awareness. I notice new details. Make different connections. Have a different reaction or response. That doesn’t happen often with fiction. Usually, there aren’t that many “layers” or “levels” of depth. But with Shelley, I think it’s a masterpiece you could explore for a lifetime.

This time round, my realization was relatively simple. I had always noted the similarities between Robert Walton and Victor Frankenstein. But this was the first time I noticed that he also had a bit in common with the monster as well. He was a blend of the two. So he could ‘see’ himself and ‘know’ himself as both. Anyway, I have always liked the framework of this story. How Victor’s shambled life became a parable of sorts for this man-in-need of a wake up call.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Travel the World: South Korea: While We Were Out


Today's edition of Travel the World takes us back to South Korea. While We Were Out is written and illustrated by Ho Baek Lee. This is his third picture book. The first American edition of this book was published in 2003 by Kane/Miller. Have you ever come back home to discover a big mess in your house? Have you ever wondered how it got quite so messy? Do you ever wonder what it is your pets do while your away? While We Were Out does just that. Based on a 'true' story of a pet rabbit let loose in the house, it follows the adventures of a bunny who gets into quite a lot of stuff--and makes quite a mess of things--while everyone is away visiting Grandma. The illustrations are just so fun. As the rabbit leaves some "surprises" for his family to discover when they return. Picking out these 'surprising' clues can be quite fun, I imagine, for young and old alike. I also imagine that teachers (and parents even) could use this book as a jumping off point to have kids write their own tales. I would imagine that every child with a pet has a few stories they'd love to share--both in words and pictures. And soon they'd be a whole classroom library of "While We Were Out" adventures for everyone to share and enjoy.

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Turning One is Fun, Fun, Fun

Becky's Book Reviews is officially one year old today! I remember starting the blog with such passion and hope. And it has really exceeded all my expectations. I still can't believe that that I have over five hundred posts--although I've always known I loved to talk. (Amend that to like to write. I have to know you to talk that much in person.) But I do feel like I have gotten to know a lot of people through the year. And I am so happy, and so thankful for everyone that has made this year such an enjoyable one. I've loved participating in carnivals. I've loved doing challenges. I've loved all the memes. And I do appreciate each and every comment that has come my way. But most of all I've loved the opportunity to share all these wonderful books with you. Reading is my passion, and now blogging is too.

I am happy to begin this next year of blogging with the announcement of the Cardathon Challenge. I hope this next year is twice as much fun.

I would like to thank these authors for sending me their books to review. I haven't quite gotten to all of them yet. (As you can see, there are a LOT so please continue to be patient with me.)

Rose Kent, Kimchi & Calamari
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, The Lacemaker and the Princess
Judy Gregerson, Bad Girls Club
Sarah Beth Durst, Into the Wild
Chris Grey, Leonardo’s Shadow
Aimee Ferris, Girl Overboard
Elizabeth Scott, Bloom
Ruth McNally Barshaw, Ellie McDoodle
Lynn Jonell, Emmy & The Incredible Shrinking Rat
Linda Collison, Star-Crossed
Kyra Hicks, Martha Ann’s Quilt for Queen Victoria
Loretta Ellsworth, In Search of Mockingbird
Crissa-Jean Chappell, Total Constant Order
L. Diane Wolf, Mike
Paula Miller, One-eyed Jack
Karen Day, Tall Tales
Rebecca Stead, First Light
Shelia Ruth, The Dark Dreamweaver
Stephanie Hale, Revenge of the Homecoming Queen
Chris Grey, Leonardo’s Shadow
Nancy Toomey, From the Abuelas’ Window
Judith Mammay, Knowing Joseph and It’s Time
Ruth Salway, Through Rose Coloured Glasses
Adele Griffin, Vampire Island

And I would like to thank these publishers for sending me ARCs and Review Copies:

Bloomsbury USA
Boyds Mill Press
Candlewick Press
Charlesbridge
Clarion Books
Farrar, Straus, Giroux
Harcourt
Harry N. Abrams
Kane/Miller
Meadowbrook Press
Penguin
Razorbill
Scholastic
Simon & Schuster (Katherine Smyth)
Tundra Books

And there are many people I would like to thank as well:

Dr. Phyllis Bridges for inspiring me during my undergraduate and graduate years. For giving me the confidence to believe in myself and follow my dreams. I couldn't ask for a better mentor.

Dr. Sylvia Vardell for inspiring me in more ways than one. Your book reviewing class did change my life!!! And participating in Librarians Choices is really such a big part of my life now.

Julie Brinker, for being the absolute best friend a girl could even have. For always recommending such great books like A Tree Grows In Brooklyn and Alas, Babylon. My life is so much richer for knowing you.

For Kimberley Lyons, who left me my first comment. But for so much more than that through the years. You are my favorite person to laugh with and shop with. And I love your darling little baby reviewer, Little Miss.

And of course, I appreciate my family--mom, dad, sister, and brother-in-law. And for my Grandma Vaughn who inspired, taught, and showed my mom everything she knows about reading books your whole life through. Mom, goodness knows, there wouldn't be a blog without her. She had me hooked to reading before I could walk or crawl. How can you adequately thank a person for giving such an incredible gift? The least I can do is blog about her now and then.

And there are many many more. Many bloggers who leave comments regularly and show their support and loyalty. I really do appreciate it :)

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The Invisible Man


The Invisible Man. H.G. Wells. 1897.

Slow beginning. But by the end, man, I was hooked. I didn't know quite what to expect from H.G. Wells. This is my third Wells' novel. And while I had enjoyed the first two--the Time Machine and the Island of Dr. Moreau--you never can predict if you're going to love EVERYTHING an author writes or not. But I am now practically convinced that Wells can do no wrong. Let's see how the rest of this book goes, SEVEN SCIENCE FICTION NOVELS OF H.G. WELLS. I may just be going back to my library shelves desperate for even more. I can't say the same about good old Jules Verne though. While I enjoyed Journey to the Center of the Earth, it wasn't nearly as *captivating* as any of the three Wells' novels I've read. (Maybe because rocks and geology are naturally boring???)

But back to the Invisible Man, I really read it through the eyes of a person who is obsessed with Frankenstein. Is this how all my reading is going to go, I wonder? Having fallen in love with a monster, am I going to spend the rest of my life comparing every mad scientist to Shelley's classic? Who knows. But I thought the similarities were there for this one especially. Griffin--a.k.a. the Invisible Man--is a man, an obsessed man on a mission. For who knows what reason--perhaps insanity--he has decided to turn himself invisible and go on a crime spree and bring on a Reign of Terror. I suppose he had a glorious idea of what it would be like to be invisible--something that a lot of us might admit to if we're honest--we've all wanted to disappear at one time or another. But Griffin learns that being invisible comes with a very heavy price. This character is both Victor Frankenstein and monster. He is both scientist and creation/experiment. Both criminal and victim. He is insane. He is selfish. He is out to destroy. Yet he plays the victim role perfectly. There's nothing to love, but yet...you can't help but wonder what led to this insane notion in the first place. Ambition. Greed. Selfishness. Vices that seem to be all too tempting to humans.

The Invisible Man is exciting and intense. It does have a bit of a slow beginning though. But after the first robbery, it improves greatly.

I do have a question though. For those more *wise* and *well-read* what other science fiction masters are there out there waiting to be explored by this novice???? I still can't believe I've gone 28 years of my life without knowing just how wonderful Wells is. I'm always open to suggestions.

Online Text of Invisible Man

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Vampirates: Tide of Terror


Somper, Justin. 2007. Vampirates: Tide of Terror.

Last Halloween, I reviewed Justin Somper's Vampirates: Demons of the Oceans, now for Carl's R.I.P. II Challenge, I bring you the sequel: Vampirates: Tide of Terror. (Although truth be known, I would have read the book challenge or no challenge. But still it's nice to find a book that so easily fits a challenge.) When we left our brother-sister duo of Connor and Grace they were 'safely' aboard the pirate ship Diablo. But much as they enjoy being reunited, Grace cannot forget the Vampirates. She expecially can't forget one Vampirate, Lorcan. Thoughts of him and the captain the crew fill her dreams day in and day out. And while her brother has a wonderful, wonderful time learning how to be a pirate and practicing about with his sword, Grace can't help but wonder what it would be like to be far, far away. In all honesty, she'd rather be with Lorcan than watching her brother become a pirate prodigy. And after the death of one of her brother's friends, Jez, her feeling that this ship isn't a "safe" haven becomes any stronger. If only there was a way to get her brother to give up this pirate nonsense. Enter pirate school. Or should I say pirate academy? When an opportunity to visit and attend classes at the pirate academy is made, Grace convinces her brother that they both should go and see for themselves what it is like. It appears Connor will have a choice to make: to continue learning how to be a pirate aboard a ship, or perhaps have a scholarship to the pirate academy and learn it all in the classroom by the textbook. The Academy awes him. He is quite taken with it all: the students, the books, the teachers, the environment. It is unlike any place he's ever known. But Grace, Grace will have her own choice to make in the days and weeks ahead. This novel is all about choices.

Vampires. Pirates. Vampirates. This book is full of thrills, scares, and chases. Lots of blood drinking as well. It is an exciting ride. Although, if I'm being completely honest I enjoyed the first one just a bit more than this installment. The third novel in the series, Vampirates: Blood Captain, is set to be released in June 2008. (September '07 in the UK. November '07 in Australia.)

http://www.vampirates.co.uk/

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hooway for Wodney Wat

Just wanted to let everyone know that my review of Helen Lester's Hooway For Wodney Wat is up at Young Readers. It would make a great read aloud for teachers to read to their students in the first weeks of school! This picture book has a very special place in my heart.

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One Day Early, But...I just couldn't wait!


I am hosting a challenge. Yes, it's true. This challenge-addict has decided to give challenge-hosting a try! I've been thinking and thinking about this for quite a while. But inspiration finally did strike. My challenge is the Cardathon Challenge. (Though you can call it the Orson Scott Card challenge or the OSC challenge. But if you mention it on your blog, please mention that it is hosted by Becky of Becky's Book Reviews and give me a link!) It will be a challenge with its own group blog. I already set it up and have a few participants.

http://cardathon.blogspot.com/

What books are eligible? To qualify for the Cardathon Challenge a book needs to meet one of the following criteria:

1) a book written by Orson Scott Card
2) a book edited/compiled by Orson Scott Card
3) a book with an introduction by Orson Scott Card
4) a book reviewed by Orson Scott Card on his official website.

The timeframe? Ongoing. Read as many or as few books as you'd like. Participate for three months, six months, a year, or indefinitely!

What I'd love to stress is that you do NOT have to be an Orson Scott Card fan to join. No prior experience with Card or science fiction is required. It is a challenge for everyone. And with the fourth criteria being 'a book reviewed by Card' that leaves room for A LOT of books to fit in the challenge. Adult titles. Young adult titles. Children titles. All types of books--nonfiction, fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, thriller, realistic, historical, classics, etc. There really is something for everyone here. So you really shouldn't *worry* that there won't be anything here for your particular tastes. [He even has adapted three of Shakespeare's plays, so the theatre types can join in too!]

I invite you to read all the rules--or guidelines--at the Cardathon site. And leave a comment, here or there, if you want to join in the fun.

Since this blog has an emphasis on young adult literature, I thought I'd highlight some of the possibilities that would work for this challenge:

All the Harry Potter books
Holes by Louis Sachar
Everlost by Neal Shusterman
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Mira, Mirror by Mette Ivie Harrison
Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison
The Thief; Queen of Attolia; King of Attolia by Megan Whelan Turner
Here There Be Dragons by James A. Owen
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Fairest by Gail Carson Levine
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
All of David Lubar's books
Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
The dangerous book for boys, Iggulden

and many, many more. If memory serves me...Shannon Hale's books would be eligible too.

My challenge would also work well in combination with these challenges:

2008 Themed REading Challenge

Crazy Cozy Murder's Series Challenge

The Reading the Author challenge hosted by Incurable Logophilia.

Joy's First In A Series Challenge

Some of these challenges begin in the fall. Others begin in January or so.

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A Journey To The Center of the Earth


This was actually my first experience reading Jules Verne.

I was actually inspired to read this novel after watching--or should I say enduring--the Hallmark 1999 production of Journey to The Center of the Earth. The movie--originally a miniseries--was broadcast on Ion--an essentially useless station that rarely has anything entertaining on. (It's not always the case, but it's often the case). However, they pride themselves on having four hour long movies on every weekend. This movie starring Jeremy London, Treat Williams, Hugh Keays-Byrne, and Tushka Bergen barely resembles the classic 1959 movie production. It was set in New Zealand for one thing--not Iceland. And the whole point of this expedition was NOT to get to the center of the earth in the name of science and mankind, but to venture down into the unknown ONLY for the sake of trying to find this woman's husband. Alice Hastings is a woman whose philandering husband has undertaken a mysterious journey to the underworld. She 'hires' Theodore and Jonas Lytton to help her find him. They, of course, need a guide but it won't be one named Hans. This one's McNiff. Now Alice's husband, Casper, wasn't seeking this expedition in the name of science and mankind either. He was looking for a way to get rich quick. Different setting. Different emphasis. Different plot twists. And let's just say that they took liberties adding an underground party-driven, sex-crazy tribe. Of course, Jonas Lytton (Jeremy London) has to get busy with one of the natives and cheat on his fiancee. There are just so so so so so many things that are wrong with this movie.

Read some User-Comments from IMDB

Here is one of my favorites:

Marcus Eden-Ellis writes, "Oh my, such a great tale so artlessly told...I guess if you really want to know about this film, watch it and see for yourself but I warn you now, it's about fifteen hours long. At least that is what it felt like! But I guess the best flavour of the piece comes from the fact that the women of an underground undiscovered tribe of natives wear make-up, speak English in a late 20th century idiom and shave their armpits with some kind of incredibly close shaver. And they dance disco style! All this in the nineteenth century...Go on, try it. It's one of those "so bad, it's good" type movies..."

But oddly enough some people actually like it. They even praise it. They even claim it follows the book. Methinks they have never read the book. I'm not a genius but when I kept seeing sex scene after sex scene, I was thinking...this doesn't look very Jules Verney to me.

For a very nice and not too openly saracastic summary (but sarcastic enough to be liked by me), read here.

Here is what I have to say about this movie. One good thing came from having watched it: I went to my local library and checked the book out. True, I did it only to *prove* that the movie was so, so wrong in its spin on the classic. But it did motivate me.

The 1999 movie was set in 1875; I believe, that the 1959 movie is set in 1885. The book was published in 1864. Therefore, I would imagine that it is set in the early 1860s.

The 1999 movie had Theodore Lytton, Jonas Lytton (nephew), McNiff, Alice Hastings.
The 1959 movie had Sir Oliver S. Lindenbrook, Alexander (Alec) McKuen (student), Carla Goteborg, Hans Belker, and Gertrude. (The beloved duck)

The 1959 movie is set in Scotland with largely Scottish and Icelandic characters. The 1999 movie has the Lyttons being American, I believe, although I can't be 100% sure since I'm trying my hardest to forget as much as I can from that experience. The book has the professor/uncle character being German. His name: Professor Von Hardwigg. The nephew is called Harry or at times Henry. (The last name is Lawson. He is English.) The book has a guide named Hans which they pick up in Iceland. I'm not going to search to find out what his last name was. The point being that there is no woman along for the expedition. And sadly, there is no duck.

Another big difference, there are no villains in the book. No race to be the first. No Count Saknussem character that haunts, chases, or threatens them. No murder plots that add the element of danger from another human being. No weeping widow to bargain with.

The book is narrated from Harry's point of view. In the book, he is a reluctant traveler. He wasn't eager to join the expedition. In fact, he does everything in his power to persuade his uncle that it is madness. But his girlfriend, his uncle's goddaughter, Gretchen, is the one coaxing him to go. Pleading with him to go out and be an explorer, an adventurer. His narration is what I enjoyed most about the novel, actually, his skepticism, his sarcasm, his doubts and fears. His observations of this whole 'crazy' scheme from beginning to end.

I do enjoy the 1959 movie. I had seen it at least twice as a child. And I rewatched it this weekend so I could write my review. It has its enjoyable qualities. I especially liked the addition of Gertrude as a character. And I must say that Peter Ronson and Pat Boone weren't hard on the eyes. I had not realized that before. I apparently didn't notice things like that back then. (Or maybe they just didn't rate compared to Michael J. Fox or Kirk Cameron?) It has its laughable moments as well. It's hard not to notice how ridiculous some things are. But overall, I enjoyed revisiting this movie.

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The Island of Dr. Moreau


I read this one about a day or two before finding the R.I.P. II Challenge. (I was aware it was coming. I just wasn't counting on it starting early. Which worked in my favor, since I had a handful of books checked out already that worked for it.) The Island of Dr. Moreau is a novel by H.G. Wells. This is my second Wells' novel, I loved The Time Machine last spring/early summer, and I couldn't wait to read more. I didn't quite know what to expect from this one, but it didn't disappoint. I can't say I loved it *as much* as The Time Machine. But it was a good book. What struck me when I was reading it is how similar the themes are between books. Frankenstein was all about an obsessed man creating life out of pieced together dead bodies. Putting that spark of life back into dead flesh. It was all about playing God. The Island of Dr. Moreau was similar. It was about a man (or a pair of men) playing God. This time they weren't animating dead flesh. They were mutilating, torturing animals. The idea was the same--to create something in their own image. The scary part about Dr. Moreau is he thought that by making animals 'more human' he was making them better. He thought that he could do a better job than God. He wanted to be their god. And indeed he was. He was feared and esteemed by his creation. Frankenstein was all about human nature. The Island of Dr. Moreau was about human nature as well. It just added in animal nature as well. But both books show that man is capable of having monstrous ideas and carrying out horrific things. Both books show that too much ambition can be a very, very bad thing. Both books show that all actions have consequences as well!

What I didn't know until Wikipedia was that there were actually scientists at the time Wells was writing that were vivisecting animals. Two years after the novel was published, the British formed The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection.

To read it online.

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Feathers


Woodson, Jacqueline. 2007. Feathers.

Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul,
and sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all
--Emily Dickinson

I neither liked nor disliked Feathers. It's in some ways an odd book. I think it is trying too hard to be surreal. That is to say, it's not to my taste. Other people could love it. And they think the amount of surrealness to be perfect. But I'm not other people. Frannie is a young girl, and Feathers is the story of a mixed-up winter. When a new boy comes to her school--to her class--it seems he brought a strange mood or effect with him. He looks different--he looks white though he claims he isn't--he acts different too. With his long hair and near-white skin, he has folks calling him "Jesus Boy" some kids think its funny. But one kid, Samantha, Frannie's best friend, takes him more seriously. She ponders what it really would be like if Jesus came back and was a kid--a kid like them. Samantha always has been "holy"--that's the word Frannie uses. Frannie really can't see the point of faith, going to church, reading the Bible, believing in the unseen. But Samantha--she has something, sees something--that makes Frannie question a bit who she is and what she believes. She asks herself--at least for a short time--questions about herself and ponders her own belief system. But this *strangeness* doesn't last, and soon this "Jesus-boy" is just another boy in her class. Soon Frannie is the only one left wondering, questioning what it was that had happened to everyone. It's a book about hope. It's a book about race and prejudice. It's a book about differences. It's a book about building bridges.

This 'odd' book is short. Just 118 pages in length. And it wasn't a difficult read. You could easily tackle it in one sitting. But the writing style just didn't click with me for whatever reason. Maybe you'll have better luck appreciating this one.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Looking Ahead

This week is a very exciting week for me. This Wednesday, Becky's Book Reviews, is celebrating its one year anniversary! I am so happy. (With over five hundred posts and twenty-thousand hits, I just never imagined this was all possible.) I'm also going to be posting reviews of a lot of children's books--picture books--that were childhood favorites. And I'll be paying special attention to back-to-school titles. So expect a LOT of posts this week. And one very big announcement :)

I'm also declaring a state of emergency. I just have WAY too many books I need to get read, so I will be trying to spend even more time reading. If I could read that many hours a day for the 48 Hour Reading challenge, why am I unable to do so every weekend? Anyway, I'm hoping to channel some time and energy so I can get more accomplished. I'd love to read ten or so books this week.

Why this sudden motivation???? I want to prepare for MotherReader's invitation to post about Best Books of 2007 (so far). I'm very excited to start thinking about my list. But in doing so, I realized that so many of the books that others are talking about as being 'the best' are still sitting in my to-read pile. So I'd love to tackle as many as possible in the next week or so.

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The Gorilla Did It















Today I am highlighting another childhood favorite. The Gorilla Did It by Barbara Shook Hazen. It is illustrated by Ray Cruz. And it was published in 1974. On a personal note, this one was a gift from my great-grandmother. [It is always interesting to me to see which books are inscribed to which sister. My sister and I had one big bookshelf, of course, and shared everything. But it led to some interesting discussions--debates--when it came time to divide out everything. If there are still books with "To Elizabeth" in them, I'm not telling her now.] Books always make the best presents in my opinion. Nothing says love like a book.

The book opens with a young boy asleep in bed. He appears to be sucking his thumb--or at the very least cradling it up close to his mouth. His arms are also wrapped around a teddy bear. Turn the page, and the action begins. What do we see? We see a gorilla gently poking (or touching) the boy's head. Now the boy is WIDE awake. The boy tells the gorilla, "Shhh! Go away. I can't play. I'm sleeping." [Though I've never thought much into this before, the boy doesn't seem shocked to find a gorilla waking him up. He doesn't seem surprised at what he is seeing. So perhaps, just perhaps, this gorilla is a regular visitor.] The gorilla, of course, doesn't say a word. He just begins to play with a yo-yo. So the boy relents, and says, "Okay. But you've got to be quiet, or Mommy'll be mad." But as the two begin to play together in his room, the room gets messier and messier. One picture even shows them riding a tricycle together. But the fun can't last forever. When his mom comes to check on him--to make sure he's sleeping soundly and perhaps because he's been known to make mischief before--she discovers that he has been making quite a mess--a very big mess for just one person to make. So she of course asks the obvious question, "Who made this mess?" His response--which has become a classic at least round these parts--"The gorilla did it." Of course, the mother doesn't see the gorilla. And knows that her son is the one who made the mess. So, of course, there's a scolding. And his anger makes him scold the naughty gorilla who got him to make the mess. But soon the gorilla becomes a repentant gorilla and is ready to make amends by cleaning up the mess he's made. Soon the pair is ready to apologize and ask for cookies. The mother, of course, forgives once she hears the magic words of "I'm sorry."

The book's illustrations are black and white with some occasional color thrown in. For example, the gorilla--the star of the book--is a bluey-black color. Everyone else--everything else--is black and white. [Perhaps, the unnatural blueness of the gorilla is an indication of the fact that he's imaginary.]

As a child, I always thought this book was very funny. For one thing, who doesn't think it's funny to blame someone else for the mess in their room? As a child, I didn't even question the fact that this gorilla was *real.* I just assumed that he, of course, was real. It was funny that the grown-ups just didn't get it. But as a grown-up, I see now that this is imagination at play. It is the story of a boy who let his imagination run away with him--and that wasn't necessarily a bad thing--imagination is good but so is responsibility. This boy learns both. But I think the message is that there is a little gorilla in all of us. A gorilla tempting us to play and be silly when we should be doing something else. A gorilla tempting us to have fun, to enjoy ourselves, to do WHATEVER we want. A gorilla that doesn't necessarily mean to be bad. But a gorilla that sometimes has a hard time listening to the rules and following them.

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Does My Head Look Big In This?


Abdel-Fattah, Randa. 2007. Does My Head Look Big In This?

I have mixed feelings about Does My Head Look Big In This? My enthusiasm for the novel was not particularly consistent. (I liked the first third, I really liked the middle third, and I loved the last third.)

Amal Mohamed Nasrullah Abdel-Hakim is both your typical and untypical teen. As a Australian-Muslim-Palestinian, she feels she got "whacked with some seriously confusing identity hyphens" (5). To question one's identity is fairly typical--very standard--in YA literature. To deal with questions of race, prejudice, and faith is again fairly typical. But in most cases the race and faith in question is not Muslim (and Middle-Eastern). Hence why she is both typical and untypical. This makes the book good, but at times difficult to evaluate. Amal is a character that at the same time wants to be like everybody else, but she wants to be seen as special, unique, and one-of-a-kind. She wants to not stick-out in a crowd as being 'the Muslim' yet she is very proud of her culture, her religion, her faith. She wants to have it all. She doesn't want people to point, stare, and laugh. But she wants to be noticed. She wants to stand out. Again, I think that all teens--all people--go through a stage where they feel that the whole world is looking at them, staring at them, evaluating them, critiquing them, judging them, laughing at them, etc. I think every teen has the feeling that everyone is noticing them--watching for all the little flaws, waiting for them to make a mistake, etc. This sense of heightened awareness and the feeling that everything they do is more important that what it actually is. It is like going through life--your whole day, your whole week--like every moment could potentially be your most embarrassing moment ever. [Does that make any sense at all? What I'm trying to say is that they might be *imagining* the world is laughing at and judging them when really...no one is really paying that much attention.]

Amal is ready to wear the hijab. Inspired by an episode of Friends, where Rachel braves the crowd to perform Copa Cabana after an embarrassing walk down the aisle, Amal has made her decision. Her first day of school--in what is essentially her junior year in high school--will be the first day she'll wear the hijab (and be covered) in front of her classmates at McCleans Preparatory School. What the book does not mention until halfway through--and what really makes a difference in appreciating the novel--is that this school year is 2002. It has only been a year since the 9/11 attacks in America. (That anniversary is covered in the novel.) So this is when tension--global tension--is at an all-time high. This attack is still fresh, the wounds still on the surface. There has been no healing. So prejudice is in many ways more out in the open than one would naturally expect.

Amal doesn't know quite what to expect from her classmates--boys and girls--she doesn't know if she'll be teased, laughed at, ridiculed, called-names, etc. For the most part, her close circle of friends accept her. They're proud of her. Embrace her with open arms. It takes the rest of the class a few more days--to get used to this new image--before they're minds are made up one way or the other. But let's just say her circle of friends expands through the year, it is not that they're not kids who give her a hard time--there is the typical bully who likes to slander and ridicule and mock all the lowly students she deems unworthy--but she finds a great support system.

But this book is about more than being a Muslim. It is about being a teen. It is about being not quite grown-up and having growing pains. Of wanting more freedom than parents are willing to allow. It is about friendships. Amal hangs out with her friends. All the time. Friends are what her world revolves around at times. And the book does a great job in fleshing out these characters and their families.

So the issues faced are in many, many ways that of a typical teen. She is a teen with problems and issues that most kids can relate to and understand. But she is unique too. It's all a balancing act between being 'just like everyone else--especially your friends' and 'being yourself.' Which again I think is fairly normal stuff. At times Amal seems mature, and at other times immature. Sometimes she seems wise, sometimes she seems foolish.

Anyway, what annoyed me at times was Amal's behavior. At times she was disrespectful to her parents and to authority figures in general. And the same things that annoy me about other teen heroines--such as Georgia Nicolson--annoy me about Amal. She can be at times a bit whiny in spots. She can be disrespectful and sarcastic in her narration. But overall I do like her. And I did enjoy this book.

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The Boy Who Would NOT Go To School

Leaf, Munro. 1935. (reprinted 1963) The Boy Who Would Not Go To School: Robert Francis Weatherbee.

Today I am highlighting one of my childhood favorites. (I'm assuming it is the 1963 edition since that was the latest copyright year given. Although it could be early 70s.) The Boy Who Would Not Go To School is Munro Leaf's third picture book. It was published a year before his most-famous book The Story of Ferdinand. Written and illustrated by Leaf, it is a simple story of a boy named Robert Francis Weatherbee who absolutely refused to go to school no matter what his parents said. Here is how Leaf introduces us to our 'hero': This is Robert Francis Weatherbee, who was just like you and me when he was little--only his ears were bigger. His parents liked to imagine him growing up to be a fireman, a policeman, a sailor, or even the president of the United States. But young Robert didn't say a word. When the time came for him to go to school, his father gave him a book, his mother gave him a pencil, and the girl next door gave him an apple. They showed him where to go--the school was right up the road--but Robert Francis Weatherbee would not---WOULD NOT---go to school. And so the reader comes to the first parable:

One day Robert Francis Weatherbee went for a long walk all by himself way down a road that went through the woods. In and out, in and out he walked between the trees, until he was so tired and hungry he was ready to go home. But he learns that if you can't read the road signs, you can't know which way home is. (I liked how the sign posts read: "The Wrong Way" and "Home This Way"). Robert had to wait for his father to come find him. And he missed out on a tasty supper.

So the years pass, Robert grows bigger. (Although his ears are still rather large.) And one day Robert is sitting at home daydreaming about all the things he wants. Most of all he wants a pony with black and white spots. He feels that his uncle, who lives in the west, would send him a pony if he asked for it. But as he goes to get a pen and paper he realizes that it's hopeless. He can't write. He doesn't know how to ask his uncle for that pony after all.

The years really pass now. Robert is all grown up. And I mean ALL grown up. One day, Robert Francis Weatherbee was very hungry, and he asked his mother for a piece of pie. His mother told him to go out and get her ten apples, and she would make a whole pie all for him. So he went out to the orchard, where apples grow on the trees, to pick ten nice big red apples. But when he got there, he didn't get any because he didn't know how many apples are ten--because.....[drumroll please] Robert Francis Weatherbee could not count because he would NOT go to school. So he did not get even a little piece of pie this big.

But this time Robert has learned his lesson. He KNOWS that he made a big mistake all those years ago refusing to go to school. And he's finally ready to enter those classroom doors! So...Robert Francis Weatherbee WENT TO SCHOOL and he learned to read and to write and to count, and he had a good time. The last illustrations show a grown man sitting in a very tiny desk next to two children.

I think there were many things I liked about this book growing up. I liked the drawings. This stick-figure boy and his family. His big ears. The simple parables that were ever-so-obvious yet could cause giggles because we were smarter than Robert. And I liked the charming message that it's never too late to start. That learning is for a lifetime. That learning is for everyone. And I really liked how it was being hungry for an apple pie that made all the difference in the world. I think that is the part that stuck with me through the years.

Many books have been written since The Boy Who Would Not Go To School was published that are very similar. That highlight the benefits and joys of school days. But this one remains a favorite.

http://www.munroleaf.com/

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The Teacher's Funeral


Peck, Richard. 2004. THE TEACHER'S FUNERAL: A COMEDY IN THREE PARTS. New York: Dial. ISBN 0803727364

With a winning opening line--"If you're teacher has to die, August isn't a bad time of year for it" --THE TEACHER'S FUNERAL is off to great start. Set in 1904, Russell Culver, fifteen, narrates this hilarious novel about his family, his community--and above all else--his experiences at Hominy Ridge, the local one room schoolhouse. Miss Myrt Arbuckle, the former teacher, died weeks before school was supposed to begin. And no one could have been happier than the Culver boys Russell and Lloyd. . . that is until they realized that their older sister Tansy would be taking her place as teacher! With Tansy in charge, Russell soon learned that he couldn't get away with anything. THE TEACHER'S FUNERAL has everything you need for a successful novel: great writing (particularly his descriptions and dialogue), great characterization (including both primary and secondary characters), and great pacing. Peck sure knows how to tell a story. THE TEACHER'S FUNERAL is one of the best books of the year. It is a book that begs to be read aloud over and over again. (There is an audio book available as well.)

http://www.richardpeck.smartwriters.com/

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Woman's Place

A Woman's Place by Lynn Austin, 2006.

There really aren't enough words to say how much I loved this novel. Set in World War II, it is told alternatively by four women--four very different, very unique women. Ginny, or "Virginia" as her husband insists on calling her, is a housewife in her thirties who feels underappreciated and unloved. Helen is a woman in her fifties who is wealthy and bitter and angry. Rosa is a young newlywed from Brooklyn. She met a young man in the Navy and suddenly finds herself living with her inlaws while the war is on. And Jean is fresh out of high school--fresh from the farm, one of eighteen children. She has six brothers enlisted in various branches of the service. Each woman finds herself employed at Stockton Shipyards. Each has felt called to serve her nation. Each one is there for their own personal reasons as well. Ginny is lacking self confidence, but seems to bloom under the circumstances of hard work and friendship. Rosa is a bit unwieldy at times but in need of love and guidance and wisdom from older women. Helen is there trying to escape the bitter aloneness she feels in her large home--one she inherited from a father that she hated. And Jean, well, Jean is trying to figure out what she wants for herself. Her boyfriend back home doesn't see any reason for her to go to college, to get an education. He doesn't see much point in her working so far away from home either--all the way from Indiana to Michigan. But Jean, Jean is finding herself, finding her independence.

Each character was well-developed. Each character was complex. Each circumstance was complex. Very different women, very different backgrounds. But one common goal. I loved how this novel came together--pieced together. How four women's lives were able to touch and connect and encourage and build up one another. Each woman's life was changed because of the others. Each one learned how important, how significant, how loved they really and truly were.

I can't recommend this one highly enough. It would be perfect for book clubs as well!!!!

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Book Binge Contest

Book Binge is having a back-to-school contest you should read all about.

The Assignment:

Tell us what your favorite read in school was. What book was required reading that you just loved? Something you completely devoured. Or, if you can't think of one, what was the WORST read you had in school?

The Prize:


Leave your answer in the comments or on your own blog with a link and in honor of this being a Back To School contest, we're giving one lucky winner:

The entire Susan Elizabeth Phillips Stars/Bonner Brothers Football Series (Who didn't love a jock in HS? Even if he was an ass, he was still good to look at, right?)

or

Perfect and Paradise by Judith McNaught (A teacher, in keeping with our theme, and an old High School Flame)

Or

if you're not interested in any of those...2 books of your choice.


The Homework:

We're asking that you do a guest review for Book Binge for at least one of the books (or all of them, if you prefer).

Deadline:

The contest ends Friday, August 31st and the winner will be announced Saturday, September 1st.

Due Date:

Homework review is due no later than two weeks after you receive your package of books (We'll be flexible about this, however, because we know real life intrudes on reading time now and again).

My answer:

Tell us what your favorite read in school was. What book was required reading that you just loved? Something you completely devoured. Or, if you can't think of one, what was the WORST read you had in school?

Most of my 'favorite' reads were ones I chose to read myself. Some of these *were* classics, they just weren't assigned classics like The Great Gatsby and The Old Man and The Sea and Death Be Not Proud and A Separate Peace. (For example, I loved, loved, loved Gone With The Wind.) I liked the kinds of assignments that were open-ended. Choose a book and write a report. That's how I got away with writing up things on Miss Scarlett and Miss Melanie. But oddly enough, one of my all-time favorite books which I didn't come to appreciate until much much later was Frankenstein. Frankenstein was an assigned reading in high school. But I didn't fall in love with it until college--graduate school to be precise. I have often found that rereading these *awful* books is quite a different experience as an adult. One though that didn't particularly change was Great Expectations. The first time through--in high school--I managed to block it out of my mind afterwards. Reading it in college once again, I found that I didn't remember anything about it. It was foreign to me. It is just an in-and-out kind of read. A yucky read at that.

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Just4theHelluvit Challenge


Think Pink is hosting a challenge--an ongoing challenge. The good news: no lists, no deadlines, no pressure. :) This challenge is all about living in the moment, being spontaneous with your reading :) Who could resist spontaneous fun??? Certainly not this challenge-obsessed reader. Read more about this challenge here. But be warned, the comments are sorted with the most recent on top! So you might be wondering 'why didn't my comment show up??? Why???' And end up posting twice like I did.

Therefore, this challenge has just one rule: nothing you read for it can cross over to ANY other challenge. You are reading these books JUST4THEHELLUVIT! I don't care if you read one book or forty-three. I don't care if they won awards or not, if they have literary merit or not, if your Aunt Mathilda's poodle wrote it in a worm medicine induced stupor or not. I just don't care. Go on and read one for fun! Do it for me! But please, PLEASE for the love of all that is holy, do not make a list. One afternoon when a book sounds good, just tickles your fancy for no good reason, go ahead and READ IT WITHOUT GUILT! And consider yourself officially a reading rebel!

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Among the Brave


Haddix, Margaret Peterson. 2004. Among the Brave.

Trey is our narrator--a character first introduced in Among the Impostors--for our fifth installment in the Shadow Children series. As one of Luke’s closest friends, it is Trey’s responsibility to rescue his friends when they’re captured by the Population Police. But how can a boy who is afraid of practically everything--having been conditioned that way--save anyone? Can he find the courage and strength to help his friends as he knows they would help him if he were the one captured? Trey and Mark, Luke’s real brother, must team up to find him before it’s too late.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Among the Barons


Haddix, Margaret Peterson. 2003. Among the Barons.

The fourth in the Shadow Children series, Luke (aka Lee Grant) returns as our narrator. Still at Hendricks School for Troubled Boys, Lee (also called ‘L’) is making great progress with the shadow children. He is trying to teach them how to cope in the world. He’s even coaxed some of them to take their first steps outside. But life still isn’t easy. Especially when Luke learns that Lee Grant’s real brother--Smits--is coming to the school. How will his ‘brother’ treat him? Is he there to threaten him? torture him? tease him? Luke doesn’t know what to expect...but he certainly doesn’t expect to be plunged into a dangerous new world where he’s forced to interact with barons and pass himself off as Lee to the elite society of the Grants. Danger is a constant threat when you’re a third...and change seems to be constant.

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Poetry Friday: Mike Teavee


With several blogs, including my own, reporting on the latest poll about reading habits in the U.S. I thought it would be fun to highlight one of my favorite Oompa Loompa songs from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. The poem comes via Official Oompa Loompa Songbook.

"Mike Teavee..."

(from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

"The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set–
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all the shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink–
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSES IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK–HE ONLY SEES!
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY...USED...TO...READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic takes
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy–Winkle and–
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How The Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole–
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks–
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something good to read.
And once they start–oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hears. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.
P.S. Regarding Mike Teavee,
We very much regret that we
Shall simply have to wait and see
If we can get him back his height.
But if we can't–it serves him right."

Poetry Friday roundup is at The Book Mine Set

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Among the Betrayed


Haddix, Margaret Peterson. 2002. Among the Betrayed.

Among the Betrayed is the third in a seven book science fiction series entitled the Shadow Children. Our narrator this time is Nina, a character first introduced in Among the Impostors. Imprisoned by the population police, Nina fears the worst. As a third child her very existence is reason enough for execution upon her discovery. At first she doesn’t know why they’re still questioning her? Why not kill her and just get it over with? But Nina is given an opportunity to prove herself. Betray three young children by discovering their true identities or face execution along with those children she chooses to protect. Locked in a cave, barely provided with food and devoid of all water except for that that trickles down the cave’s wall...the children seem to be waiting for death. Nina is unsure of herself. As she grows closer to the children--they still won’t open up to her--she doesn’t know what she’ll do. Why are they giving her this test? And is there a way to pass it without anyone dying? Matthias, Percy, and Alia join the cast of shadow children introduced by Haddix in this unforgettably dangerous world.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Travel the World: South Korea: My Cat Copies Me

In today's edition of Travel The World I am reviewing a wonderful, wonderful book called My Cat Copies Me. The author and illustrator isYoon-duck Kwon . The book was originally published in Korea as My Cat Copies Only Me in 2005. The first American edition of My Cat Copies Me was published in 2007 by Kane/Miller. Read more here.

My Cat Copies Me is the story of a girl and a cat. (Obviously.) The two are best of friends. And the text and illustrations show them doing everything together. The book opens with this little poem of sorts:



My cat is very independent.

She doesn't come when I call her,
and she runs away if I try to hug her.
She never looks me in the eye.

But if I pretend I don't see her,
or if I walk away,
then she'll follow me and try to play.
And then, my cat copies me.

The book then shows how the cat copies the young girl. But the second half of the book--the biggest surprise of all--is how the girl comes to copy the cat. In her *imitations* of the cat she becomes braver, bolder, and more confident of herself. In other words, the cat helps her become less timid and shy. And helps her fit in and befriend other children. In some ways it is a book of friendship and love and play, but in other ways it's a book about changing and growing and becoming more confident, more sure, more aware.

I absolutely loved this book. Loved it. It was so incredible. I loved, loved, loved the illustrations. They're just so perfect. So right. I love how the cat and girl are drawn to resemble each other. Everything about this book is just so right, so perfect, so beautifully wonderful. I can't sing its praises enough!

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

New Challenges To Announce

I have not *committed* to any of the following yet. Yet being the all important word of the day. How many people think that I have the will power to resist a new challenge? How many people are laughing right now?! The good news is that the three challenges I'm publicizing on my site today all begin in January. Correction: Two of the three challenges begin in January. The third doesn't have a start/stop date yet announced.

New Challenge #1

Themed Reading Challenge 2008 hosted by CaribousMom



January 1, 2008 - June 30, 2008

**UPDATE August 17, 2007: When signing up below, please link to your post about this challenge on your blog (not just to your main page). If you have already signed up and have not created a list yet, that is okay. Just come back when you post your list and re-sign up on Mr. Linky, making the link directly to your challenge list (I will delete your link to the main blog at that time). Thanks for all the enthusiasm about this challenge! It is really fun to host a challenge that gets people excited!

*****

If you're like me, you have a stack of TBR books a mile high and you are just looking for an excuse to read them! I'm hosting a Themed Reading Challenge beginning January 1st and running 6 months. Here are the rules:


1. Choose at least 4 books that share a theme - such as historical romances or books with animals as the central character or books set in a particular part of the country or books about family secrets. It doesn't matter what the theme is - your choice!

2. Sign up here using Mr. Linky to link to your post of book selections by DECEMBER 31, 2007.

3. Write a review about each book you complete and a final wrap up at the end of the challenge.

4. Feel free to use the banner above on your blog.

5. Come back in January when I will have a Mr. Linky set up for you to link to your reviews of the books you have read.

New Challenge #2

Vasilly at 1330v is hosting the In Their Shoes challenge. The reading lists will need to have biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, etc. It is only for nonfiction. She has also started a blog just for this challenge. I would imagine it works somewhat like the Something About Me Challenge blog. http://shoesreading.blogspot.com/

How many people think that I just signed up for this challenge? You'd win that bet! I couldn't help myself. But at least I'm refraining myself from Mr. Linky because with those you have to post directly to your list of books. So I'm safe there.

New Challenge #3

This one is called Reading the Author. The idea is to choose ONE author and read a selection of his or her books over the three or four months of the challenge. This one is still in the development stage. But I am excited about this one! It is hosted by http://incurablelogophilia.wordpress.com/

If you've stumbled across another challenge that's *new* please let me know!!!



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From Dawn To Dreams


My review of From Dawn to Dreams: Poems for Busy Babies by Peggy Archer and illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama is now up at my Young Readers site. I really enjoyed this one. It is a picture book of poems chronicling a typical day in a baby's life. So it captures great images of baby's world--baby's surroundings. From interaction with pets to grandparents...and of course lots with parents...the book is just too much fun!

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The Parting


The Courtship of Nellie Fisher: The Parting by Beverly Lewis. October 2007.

Set deep within the Amish community in 1966, our heroine Nellie Fisher is not your typical seventeen year old. Grieving the loss of her younger sister, Suzy, in a boating accident, she throws herself even harder into the work at her bakery. Six days a week, Nellie rises early and begins the long day of baking sweet and tempting sweets and breads to sell in her shop. Their customers, mostly Englischers who enjoy the quaintness and authenticity of the bakers almost as much as they love the treats themselves, keep her busy, busy, busy. But not too busy that she doesn’t notice that Caleb Yoder is beginning to pay attention to her. That he has even smiled at her once or twice. While it’s true, he hasn’t asked to drive her home from the weekly Singings yet. She holds out hope. After all, she knows that he knows that her grief and pain are still new, still fresh, still raw. And what hurts even worse than the pain of losing her sister is the fact that people are beginning to spread rumors about her sister. Scandalous rumors. It’s bad enough that her sister died unbaptized--in the midst of her rumschpringe--and hadn’t joined the church. But surely the rumors couldn’t be true. If they are, then...then her sister is surely lost to her forever.

Revivals. Hidden Diaries. Secret Courtships. The Parting is a very exciting read, and the first in new series by Beverly Lewis.

Read the full review here

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Dear Author


Kaywell, Joan F., ed. 2007. Dear Authors: Letters of Hope: Top Young Adult Authors Respond to Kids' Toughest Issues.

To millions of kids, the books they read are more than entertainment--they are mirrors to hold up to their own lives. And the creators of those books are more than just writers--they are mentors, confidants, friends, sometimes the only ones who understand. There is often an unspoken, unseen bond between an author and his or her readers. Dear Author: Letters Of Hope brings this bond to light for the whole world to see and celebrate. What better way to honor the relationshp between writer and reader, fact and fiction, character and real kid than this compilation of letters, based on real fan mail to today's top YA authors, and the authors' reactions to that mail.

The authors: Laurie Halse Anderson, Sandy Asher, T.A. Barron, Marion Dane Bauer, Joan Bauer, Cherie Bennett, Edward Bloor, Sue Ellen Bridgers, Chris Crutcher, Christopher Paul Curtis, Lois Duncan, Alex Flinn, Adrian Fogelin, Nancy Garden, Patricia Hermes, Sara Holbrook, Catherine Ryan Hyde, Anne C. Lemieux, Chris Lynch, Janet McDonald, Rodman Philbrick, Marilyn Reynolds, John H. Ritter, Neal Shusterman, Shelley Stoehr, Jerry Spinelli, Ann Turner, Ellen Wittlinger.

The topics or issues are serious, real, authentic. And the responses are genuine and sincere. This book is a nice read. I enjoyed reading about how the books made an impact on each reader's life. It's a very thoughtful book.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

The Baby Shower


Bunting, Eve. 2007. The Baby Shower. Illustrated by Judy Love.

The Baby Shower is a cute, adorable book about Ms. Brindle Cow and her animal friends. Ms. Brindle is expecting a baby. The book opens with the cow--very pregnant cow--reclining against a tree reading a book called 1001 Baby Names. (Written by Daisy, Flossie, and Bossy). By her side is a basket of milk, pickles, and what appears to be a sleeve of crackers or cookies. (Hard to judge!) And in the shady tree there is a nest full of birds. One of the birds passes along the news to his friend, the Chipmunk. And, of course, the Chipmunk has to spread the word as well. Before you know it, there is a large group of animals--a chipmunk, a turtle, many rabbits (mother and offspring), four pigs (mama and three piglets), and a duck--a preacher duck--on their way to celebrate the arrival of Ms. Brindle's calf. They're preparing a special song to sing at the celebrations and showing off their gifts for the new one. Very cute gifts I might add. But a big surprise awaits them all...something which means an even bigger celebration is in order!


I loved the story. I loved the pictures. It was just so very cute and adorable. I know not every reader likes *cute* stories with animals--some of which are dressed as humans--but there are many people who do. So judge this one for yourself. But as for me and my family, we loved The Baby Shower.

Read more...

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