Much like Andrew Kolb, who illustrated the lyrics to David Bowie's Space Oddity (a work of genius, I need to review that one!), Svein Nyhus illustrated Ylvis' What Does the Fox Say? which, I must admit, makes for a very good read for children.
I absolutely LOVE Nyhus' illustrations - I'm not a fan of the song, but the illustrations are so good I don't even mind the words. Look at Nyhus' fox, for instance:
It really is a delightful children's book. Of course, as in the song, it fails to answer the question: What does the fox say?
This was seriously funny, I laughed out loud through the whole thing! The things a human father will do for his breakfastless children...
With mum away attending a conference and dad in charge, things start going amiss as soon as breakfast starts... ...or doesn't start, for there is no milk.
Solicitously, dad offers to go down to the corner shop and buy some milk (not the fat free kind!) - but he's taking ever so long! Surely he found a friend, they started talking, and lost track of time.
Wrong! For dad has had the most perilous adventure, bravely defying aliens who dare try and redecorate our planet, a pirate queen, piranhas (not in this exact sequence), a friendly Stegosaurus professor, the dreaded and dreadful wumpires (who are most certainly not nice, handsome, nor misunderstood), wondrous ponies, a volcano with a lot of time to think about transtemporal meta-science and the intergalactic police!
All so his children wouldn't go breakfastless. (less)
Okay, confession time, when I was a little girl (therefore around the time of G1 My Little Pony) I was absolutely convinced I would grow up and beco...more
Okay, confession time, when I was a little girl (therefore around the time of G1 My Little Pony) I was absolutely convinced I would grow up and become Twilight. Not the Stephenie Meyer franchise, the magical pony who could go, "I wish.. I wish.... I wish..." and just vanish from wherever she was. So much so that when adults asked me, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I'd answer, "A magical pony". I'm not the biggest fan of Friendship is Magic, in my time (omg, I'm so old) ponies had scary villains and less sparkle - Rescue at Midnight Castle, anyone? But the comics are cute! And I loved revisiting old "friends" like Applejack and... okay, I like the sparkle!
There was still something missing, though, I mean, I know these are for kids, but so is Adventure Time and their comics are still funnier than these. And it's not like with all the bronies, this fandom doesn't have an adult following as well... So, it was okay, but next time let us hope it's funnier.(less)
I had very, very!, high expectations for this book and Claire Legrand (curse her!) met them all, surpassed them, and left me crying brokenly in the...more
I had very, very!, high expectations for this book and Claire Legrand (curse her!) met them all, surpassed them, and left me crying brokenly in the dust.
Because I am somewhat less than bright, there was a moment when I started reading and completely ignored the characters' names and was struck by the horrifying fear that Olivia was Victoria and Lawrence's child (from The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls) - so I'm going to take a moment here to be thankful that this wasn't something that occurred to Legrand (if she ever reads this review she'll probably go, "Oh no, a missed opportunity to crush my readers' souls!"), though she managed to break my heart every other page, blithely indifferent to my naïve expectations when I picked up what was supposedly a children's book.
I tried my best to be granted an ARC of this book, alas I had to wait what felt like eleven years for the Book Depository to deliver my hardback copy, all the while considering scenarios in which I managed to get the ARC after all, like disguising myself as Harold Bloom and marching into Simon & Schuster requesting a copy of the book (a difficult feat considering I'm neither male, nor white, nor old enough - and most importantly - not Harold Bloom). It may be of interest to some to learn that candles, contacting the spirit world and sacrificing a drawing of a black rooster (I couldn't kill the real thing) didn't work either.
But moving on - unlike The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, The Year of Shadows is told in first person. This was a bit jarring at first, but it was a stroke of brilliance: proper Victoria would insist upon having her tale told in third person narrative mode, and Olivia's tale wouldn't have hit the reader quite as hard if it hadn't been told in first person.
How hard, you ask?
above: an accurate representation of how I felt
When the story starts, Olivia, her frail grandmother, and her broken father are homeless and moving into Emerson Hall, the symphony hall into which her maestro father keeps sinking the family's meagre economies. Olivia's mother, Cara, left the family without a word nine months before. So Olivia is, as you can imagine, a very distrusting and hurt little girl. There's the shame of her mother leaving, now compounded by the shame of having people find out she's living backstage - and by people, I mean mostly Henry - perfect, straight As, popular Henry, who hushers at the Hall and constantly grates on Olivia's nerves. But there are odd things happening at the Hall, sudden drafts of cold air which freeze Olivia right to her bones, slithering shades with pointy nails and teeth burning spots of glittering dark coldness into Olivia and Henry - and it's up to them to find out what is happening!
More than the ghost story, the real strength of this book is, as it was in The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, the relationship between the two main protagonists. I wish some YA, UF, HR, and PNR authors would take a look at how Claire Legrand writes relationships and realise how you can write a completely believable and compelling relationship and still keep it healthy. Yes, they're still kids, but there is no creepy imbalance in their relationship, and go ahead call me crazy, but Claire Legrand writes perfect little one-day-maybe OTPs. But more than the romantic aspect of it, the friendship at its core is brilliantly written - not just with Henry, Joan a very socially minded young lady who is precocious (and obnoxious, according to their teachers), and stands by Olivia's side even when Olivia would rather she's go and stand somewhere else, is also amazing in every way. And best of all? Igor, the cat!! He's not exactly a talking cat, but he still makes his thoughts known (as cats are wont to do).
The ghosts' stories were... how can I explain this properly? One time I tried to pick up my 66 lbs dog, he panicked and kicked me right in the chest - left me lying on the ground, crying and trying to catch my breath, choking on my sobs. Cracked 3 of my ribs. Reading the ghosts' stories, particularly Tillie and Jax's, and Mr. Worthington's, felt kind of like that, except more painful.
Also worth mentioning are Karl Kwasny's lovely illustrations, just look:
I realise I'm not making this out to be something most people would want to read, "Hey, this ruined my life, go read it!" but it was so, so good! I can blab endlessly about books I hate, but I always have trouble convincing people to go read books I love - so, go, read this book! It's amazing, and you'll probably cry, and you'll most definitely laugh, and it'll hurt so much, and you'll love it all the more because of it!
Undine Okay, I feel like one of those people who go, "omg, the Glee cover was WAY better than the original", but...
I read Jean Giraudoux's Ondine when...moreUndine Okay, I feel like one of those people who go, "omg, the Glee cover was WAY better than the original", but...
I read Jean Giraudoux's Ondine when I was a child, and re-read it a thousand times since, plus I watched the wonderful comédie-française production, starring a young Isabelle Adjani, so it's fair to say I'm a little bit obsessed with Giraudoux's take on the story.
I guess since that story is practically set in stone in my mind, when I got to the original by Motte Fouqué, every page of it my brain would go, "No! That's not how it goes!" ...which is absurd because Giraudoux's work is an adaptation of this!
That being said, it's still a delightful fairytale, well worth reading (you can find it for free at Project Gutenberg!) And Arthur Rackham's illustrations are AMAZING! Look!
You can see all of his illustrations for this book at the site Rackham Fairy and Fairy Tale Art.(less)
I spent ages looking for this book and I finally got it for my birthday, I was so happy! Well...
This is a very difficult book to rate. First of all,...more
I spent ages looking for this book and I finally got it for my birthday, I was so happy! Well...
This is a very difficult book to rate. First of all, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the writing itself - it's beautiful and it manages to be both whimsical and serious, which is a feat unto itself. Those 2 stars? That's all the writing.
The thing is, the pretty writing was all that kept me reading. I couldn't connect with the characters at all, there was little to differentiate the way the sisters were written - oh, there were details, one looked like this, the other like that, one was ambitious and more bird-like, the other more human and worried about the family, but their voices? There wasn't much to tell one from the other. And what characterization there was ended up too odd, too alien to allow me to connect with them - granted, it serves the plot, but it does not serve the reader.
The plot had so much potential! An evil puppeteer who wastes herself away to become more bird-like and feasts on birds for the same purpose. An exiled bird queen. Two little girls with a mysterious heritage. But it was SO slow!! The pacing was terrible, it seemed like it was just writing for the sake of writing - very pretty writing, but the story went nowhere for ages. It took me 3 months to read this book. 3 months!!!
I hate the ending. I'm not one of those who has to have a HEA, though there's that expectation, especially in a children's book, but it was just unsatisfying and empty.
I don't know, maybe it was just me, maybe I personally couldn't connect with this book. So go ahead, give it a chance, the writing is worth it, I didn't care for the rest, but maybe others will.(less)
One of the annoying things about English not being my first language is that I missed out on a lot of popular children's books. And the thing is, wh...more
One of the annoying things about English not being my first language is that I missed out on a lot of popular children's books. And the thing is, when you do get to read them as an adult, you are fully aware you're not experiencing them as you were meant to - there are a great many books beloved by English speaking people which I read and go, "Oh, okay, was that it?"
Not the Grinch, though! I got this book for Christmas, last year, a gift from a friend of mine from the USA. And I loved it!!
It must be said that the Grinch, himself, is probably responsible for my love for this book. This... creature, lives in a cave and spends his time hating a whole village. You may think this is sad, but think about it. Can you imagine the dedication it takes to hate a single person? The Grinch hated a whole village! Yeah, yeah, hate is bad and blah blah... but the commitment! I can barely bring myself to dislike someone! Too much effort! The Grinch spends 53 years doing nothing but hate.
And through the eyes of a child, admittedly, the Whos don't seem to do anything to earn the dislike the Grinch harbours for them - but hear me (well, read me) out! Would you like your neighbours to "wake bright and early" and then produce "NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!"? Would you like your neighbours to stand hand in hand and "SING! SING! SING! SING!"? Now imagine this for 53 straight years - the hate building and building, choking you. The Grinch decided to put an end to Christmas. I wouldn't have been so kind.
Another thing to admire: I don't know the life expectancy of a creature such as the Grinch, but he's been living on his own for 53 years. Let's assume he spent at least 20 years with his Grinch parents. That would make him about 73 years old. Does he shy away from taking on such an exhausting enterprise as putting a stop to Christmas? He does not! I wouldn't have been able to summon the energy to do so at 23, let alone in my 70's!
Furthermore, obstacles which would dispirit a weaker soul face the Grinch: such as a lack of reindeer - which, with an astounding presence of mind, he quickly substituted for his dog Max - I can't teach my dog to roll over, but the Grinch taught his to pull a sleigh!
How quickly can you break into a stranger's house and steal their stuff? Personally, I've never attempted this, but if I had to hazard a guess I'd have to say, "somewhere around 5 hours to never, assuming the door wasn't locked." But the Grinch, in his 70's, steals from an entire village! This fine example of perseverance in the shape of a Grinch even stole the Christmas trees!
He's even caught by one Who and, in the words of the author himself: "(...) that old Grinch was so smart and so slick / He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick!" I couldn't lie to save my life. If someone caught me in their house at night, stealing their stuff, and I had to lie my way out of it, I'd start drafting my version of Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison. I can't do it! My mind isn't that swift! The Grinch, however, kept his cool - not only did he lie, he convinced the Who to serve him a beverage, as if he were an honoured guest. Then he left through the chimney, and get this!, he even stole the log from the fire! How badass is that?!
So, why only 4 stars, you ask.
Because I was deeply saddened by how the Grinch ended up succumbing to peer pressure. Such a pernicious message to send to impressionable young minds... (less)
Okay, I admit it, Marceline and Princess Bubblegum are my Adventure Time OTP - I just love them so much! In this series we follow Marceline and her b...more
Okay, I admit it, Marceline and Princess Bubblegum are my Adventure Time OTP - I just love them so much! In this series we follow Marceline and her band, The Scream Queens, on tour - with Princess Bonnibel Bubblegum as their manager, trying to reign in the crazy and deal with Marceline's insecurities and (some times) diva behaviour. As if that weren't enough, there is some mysterious hater who keeps plaguing Marceline with terribly unfounded reviews - who could it be?
This series was so much fun! I know this is for kids but, in true Adventure Time tradition, it's funny for adults as well. In fact, there are some awesome things about it more likely to be enjoyed by adults, like the awesome cover art for each issue and respective inspiration(s):
There were some genuinely funny moments - I always love how Adventure Time picks up gender tropes and what's happening in pop culture and criticises it. Enter Guy, that mysterious musician whom every girl should love, especially since he is afflicted with a "very sexy curse".
He's such a ~tormented soul~ and he keeps lying and lying, clinging to his air of mystery and danger, which makes him oh so ~irresistible~. Thankfully Princess Bubblegum is a very mature lady who knows how to deal with these dudebros:
But, as I mentioned, besides this social critique, and the awesome plot and subplots, this series was immensely funny:
And it offered some treats for us shippers, as well :)
So, if you like Adventure Time, and let's be real - who doesn't? - GO READ IT! (less)
This was a delightful birthday present from Susana (thank you!!!). I had my eye on this book for ages - I'm quite shallow, I'll be the first to admi...more
This was a delightful birthday present from Susana (thank you!!!). I had my eye on this book for ages - I'm quite shallow, I'll be the first to admit it, and pretty book covers are my siren's call. Mostly, what ends up happening is that the saying "Don't judge a book by its cover" proves itself right more often than not.
But not with The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls! Legrand has a gift for spooky descriptions:
"For a flash of a second, Mr. and Mrs. Prewitt’s pretty smiles changed into enormous, wolfish grins. Mrs. Prewitt’s fingers clutched her bowl so hard that it smashed into pieces. Hundreds of fat black berries rolled across the floor like bugs. Victoria stared and wondered if they really were bugs, because some of them seemed a bit . . . leggy."
Speaking of bugs, the book has an amazing presentation: scattered throughout its pages you are bound to find creepy bugs that will catch you unaware and freak you out.
But it's not just the spooky descriptions that are wonderful: the characters are incredible. Victoria, in particular, is amazing. She's the model child: perfect grades, perfect looks, perfect manners. So she decides to make sloppy, weird, head-in-the clouds Lawrence her very special project.
Not that he's interested in being her project...
"So, at lunch one day, Victoria marched from her lonely table to Lawrence’s lonely table and said, “Hello, Lawrence. I’m Victoria. We’re going to be friends now.” Victoria almost shook Lawrence’s hand but then thought better of it because she feared he might very well be infested with lice or something. Instead, she sat down and opened her milk carton, and when Lawrence looked at her through his skunkish hair and said, “I don’t really want to be your friend,” Victoria said, “Well, that’s too bad for you.”"
In a spooky, gloomy prose, Legrand explores themes such as friendship and the importance (or unimportance) of conforming to societal expectations. Pretty heavy stuff for a kids' book, but it doesn't feel like that at all, the writing is that masterful!
Also worth mentioning are Sarah Watts' illustrations, that match the eerie atmosphere of the book and are just lovely.
The best thing about this book is Azizi's final interpretation.
I know this is a children's book and the language and story have to be simple enough t...moreThe best thing about this book is Azizi's final interpretation.
I know this is a children's book and the language and story have to be simple enough to be easily understood. But there are such beautiful and rich words, such nearly magical descriptions we all remember from the stories that populated our childhood, that children still manage to grasp! I feel like an opportunity was lost. It's such a beautiful tale, with such lovely and complex symbolism, the story felt almost clinical in the factual tone it was told.
Even Sadeghian's illustrations, though beautiful, couldn't really bring the story to life. (less)