This is a lightweight homage peice to Rudyard Kipling with a dose of H.P. Lovecraft's 'The Outsider' thrown into it. It has most of what you'd expect...moreThis is a lightweight homage peice to Rudyard Kipling with a dose of H.P. Lovecraft's 'The Outsider' thrown into it. It has most of what you'd expect from a Gaiman work, including the deep research and extraordinary attention to detail. I enjoyed it, but it owed just a little too much to it's literary forebearers to be one of my favorites and I found myself more wanting to go back and read Kipling again than eager to get to the end of book. Other than being derivative, I suspect that part of the problem is that however Goth you are or pose as, it is very hard to love a Graveyard as passionately and deeply as Kipling loved India.(less)
My wife and I have been reading these books from my wife's childhood to our daughters. They don't have a nostalgia factor for me, so I find them fairl...moreMy wife and I have been reading these books from my wife's childhood to our daughters. They don't have a nostalgia factor for me, so I find them fairly annoying. This is the best of the bunch I've read so far because it departs the most from the annoying pattern of the rest of the books.
The plot of almost all the Dorrie books I've read thus far is in brief, "Some obviously villainous character begins doing mischief in Witchville or to the Witchville witches right in front of Dorrie. Dorrie repeatedly tries to get the grownups to pay attention to her, but they are too busy with their own petty problems to pay attention to what is really important, so Dorrie is left to her own resources to save the day by herself - which she manages mainly because the villain is even more stupid than the average groupup." Really, 'The Big Witch' has to be one of the worst models of parenthood in children's literature. I realize that she's supposed to be a witch, but I don't think that description was meant quite as nastily as it comes off in the stories.
'Dorrie and the Witch Doctor' mercifully departs from this really well worn formula. It begins with Dorrie promising herself to be extra good today, but Dorrie's best intentions are soon put to the test by the arrival of a truly nasty family pest that makes 'The Big Witch' seem a true model of patience, gentleness, and sensitivity. Dorrie heroicly tries to keep to her promise, but the physical trial proves too much for her, and its left to a befuddled but wise old Witch Doctor - the single best character in any of the stories - to try to put things right for the whole family. The story has a touch of humor lacking in the rest of the stories, a character with an actual name, and more importantly characters we actually can care about, including, quite surprisingly, Dorrie herself.(less)
There are any number of books about manners aimed at young children. At one time, that was about all children were encouraged to read. Some of them ar...moreThere are any number of books about manners aimed at young children. At one time, that was about all children were encouraged to read. Some of them are pretty good - for example Richard Scarry's famous work. Many times though they are as wretched as only something didactic and condescending can be.
But how many teach you what to say when you've crashed your plane through the roof of the duchess’s house, or been bitten by a dinosaur, or bumped into a crocodile?
Just one - this marvelous little manual by Sesyle Joslin and illustrated by the incomparable Maurice Sendak. Charming and whimsical, this book of manners is sure to delight with its mixture of propriety with untamable imagination.
My girls, I'm proud to say were able to recite or correctly guess nearly everything you should say in such situations on the first try, except I'd forgotten to tell them the proper thing to say to an orchestra of bears when it tries to eat you. But, now that that's been covered, I think we are ready for anything.
I'm not usually sensitive to this sort of thing, but I'm dropping a star because for all its whimsy it ends up with games that are a little too conventional in their gender roles for me. Since I'm not generally sensitive to this sort of thing (and often sensitive to its opposite), I suspect people who are will be too much distracted by questions like, "Why doesn't the girl slay the dragon?" However, I can avow that my wife absolutely loved the book, perhaps more than I did, so don't let this slight misgiving keep you or your children away from this joyful little book. (less)
I read scores of 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books and similar 'text based adventure' series during the craze in elementary school and junior high.
Thi...moreI read scores of 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books and similar 'text based adventure' series during the craze in elementary school and junior high.
This one, which casts you as a resistance fighter conducting an alpine raid against the Nazis, was always one of my favorites.
IMO, A good 'Choose Your Own Adventure' book has the following qualities - lots of oppurtunities to make choices, a large number of possible endings, a few surprising twists that add readability, and some sort of internal logic that lets you correctly guess at least most of the time which path leads to the most satisfying rewards. 'Sabotage' succeeds on all counts.(less)
The illustrations in this book are just wonderful and it's worth it just for that.
The story itself is so very simple that it practically tells itself....moreThe illustrations in this book are just wonderful and it's worth it just for that.
The story itself is so very simple that it practically tells itself. It concerns an imaginative boy barely missing meetings with a disappointed young prince and his increasingly large entourage. In fact, the story is so simple and predictable, that I could probably recite it from memory even though its been more than a year since I read it. But there is a certain power in that, especially for children of a simple age who will love the repitition precisely for its predictablity.
As I said, the illustrations are incredible, and the incongruity of the gayly dressed royal entourage looking like a pack of living playing cards, ascending and descending the stairs of the dark, drab and confined tenement apartment I think will charm and amuse readers of all ages. Apparantly the New Times choose this as a notable children's book of the year at one point, but its sadly obscure now.(less)
I wasn't going to bother reviewing this book, but I discover that I'm about the only one that has read it, and so I think it would be a disservice to...moreI wasn't going to bother reviewing this book, but I discover that I'm about the only one that has read it, and so I think it would be a disservice to the author not to say something.
Our two girls have, in a bit over a year, have apparantly consumed most of the children's literature appropriate to their intellectual level - once again proving Sturgeon's Law. It's getting harder and harder to find something fresh at the library to read to them. Most of what is good, is also famous, and most of what is famous and good, we have read to the girls.
I found this book by recourse to an old fashioned linear search of the shelfs, examining each title a book cover at a time and looking for likely suspects. I picked the book up the day before the first good snow of the season, and we have read it to the girls a couple of times since then. I can't say that they were entralled, but it's a pretty good book with charming illustrations and it's probably is worth adding Phillis Gershator to the list of children's authors to explore.
The structure of the story is extremely simple and is based like so many children's books for toddlers on simple rhyme, refrain, and repetition. A large variaty of animals are questioned how they respond to a snow, and each responds in a way that forms a antiphony. It's a proven formula though as an adult you may find it tiring and some of the verses are a bit of a stretch in order to fit the pattern. (less)
Rosemary Wells is not among my favorite children's authors, and Yoko is for reasons outlined elsewhere my least favorite of her characters.
'Yoko's Pap...moreRosemary Wells is not among my favorite children's authors, and Yoko is for reasons outlined elsewhere my least favorite of her characters.
'Yoko's Paper Cranes' is not nearly offensive to me as 'Yoko' was, but it was however boring. My girls like it moderately well though, so we've read it a couple times. I don't think they'll like it well enough to call for it again once it goes back to the library, so there it will probably stay.
As a side note, the picture of the ship crossing the ocean done in a Japanese style reminded me strongly of Imperial Japanese naval propaganda, but given my particular historical interests that's probably just me.(less)
The book has several flaws, the chief of which is that it is difficult to read to someone since the author provides no non-visual queues for who is sa...moreThe book has several flaws, the chief of which is that it is difficult to read to someone since the author provides no non-visual queues for who is saying what. This forces me to ad lib so that the girls can follow along with the story. The other is that the story is paper thin and the dialogue almost nonexistant.
All of that though pales in comparison to this books chief virtue, which is that it makes my little undersized former premie with the physical development problems want to jump!(less)
I have twins: identical twins. The most noticable difference between the two is one is smaller than the other one. My smaller one is my brave one; the...moreI have twins: identical twins. The most noticable difference between the two is one is smaller than the other one. My smaller one is my brave one; the bigger one is prone to being a 'scaredy cat'. She's uncountably and randomly afraid of all sorts of things. Somethings are understandable: dogs and electric motors. Other things are less easy to explain: helium filled balloons, for example.
When we take the girls to the library, which is to be honest several times a week, we allow the girls to each pick out a book (or two, or three, they take after their parents). Often, particularly my little one, has very good taste. You can tell a book from its cover - especially if it is a picture book. The last time we went to the library my 'little bit' picked out 'Scaredy Mouse'.
I love 'Scaredy Mouse'. It's a very fun book to read. I get to do voices. I get to go, "IT'S THE CAT! IT'S THE CAT!"
When I go, "IT'S THE CAT! IT'S THE CAT!", my 'little bit' gggggggiiiiiiiiggles and grins. :D
And that makes her Daddy smile.
But when I go, "IT'S THE CAT! IT'S THE CAT!", her bigger, stronger, more atheletic, generally more assertive sister buries her head in my shoulder or hides under a pillow, and says, "That's too scary for me."
Prelimenary review really, because I'm still reading. I've been looking for a good bible story collection. This is the best so far, and I like the ill...morePrelimenary review really, because I'm still reading. I've been looking for a good bible story collection. This is the best so far, and I like the illustrations, but I don't like how the stories have been excerpted and tamed. It's not a particularly good paraphrasing, and I find the little sermonette's at the end of each story to be a little annoying. The girls like it alot, though all the stories I've told from it have had alot of ad libbing from me so I'm not sure that's a fair review of the book.
Well, this is the best so far of what appears to be an impoverished genera. But despite the positive elements of the book, I couldn't get past the fact that the stories were poor paraphrases and alot of stories where left out in favor of alot of sermonizing on the part of the author.(less)
For reasons I can't entirely put my finger on, I'm not a big fan of Rosemary Wells. The closest I can get to it is to say that I think she speaks down...moreFor reasons I can't entirely put my finger on, I'm not a big fan of Rosemary Wells. The closest I can get to it is to say that I think she speaks downward to the child reader a bit too much, but perhaps I would feel otherwise were I a three year old. Certainly my three year olds enjoy Wells more than I do, but on the other hand they just love to read and enjoy most anything with words and pictures.
But in the case of 'Yoko', there is more to my distaste than that.
'Yoko' is a simple story of a child who doesn't fit in. But particularly, 'Yoko' doesn't fit in because she eats sushi.
From that I suppose we are to presume that she is different thereby.
The problem is my kids eat sushi and bean burritos and chicken korma and lasagna and shrimp lo mein and spring rolls and chicken schwarma and frankfurters and jerk chicken and well you get the idea, and they have pretty much since they were weaned. Are we to assume that they are Japanese, or Mexican, or Hindi, or Italian, or Chinese, or Thai, or Turkish, or German, or Caribbean or anything else? Of course not. My girls don't know and hopefully can't comprehend that eating sushi makes you different. I don't want it to enter into their imaginations that eating sushi makes you different. They have no basis for imagining that someone could be excluded no the basis of dress or what food they eat or what skin color they have.
What really annoys me is that in order to create this multicultural fairy tale, the first thing that it becomes necessary to do is stuff everyone into a sterotype and imagine that they are different. That is, in order for the story to make any sense, we must imagine that there is some specially unique experience to being a 'sushi eating person' and that this experience and set of perferences is held in common to all naturally 'sushi eating persons'. What a load of hooey. We might as well imagine that there is some unique experience you gain from having a particular skin color, and that you share this perspective with everyone who shares the same skin color. This is not a perspective on life I really want my girls to have.
But even more than that, do we really imagine that in eating sushi, or lasagna, or chicken korma or anything really that we obtain any gift of empathy or cultural understanding for anyone? Whether we eat sushi or lasagna or wear a fez or a cowboy hat or paint Buddha or the Christ is ultimately a trivial cultural difference. If there was no cultural gap larger than whether we liked our fish raw or fried, then we'd live in a world of mutual understanding and empathy and no barrier of belief or mode of behavior could possibly divide us. It is certainly true that our art, architecture, music, food, and so forth mutually enrich us, but it is equally true that these are both the most shallow manifestations of a peoples culture and the most easily borrowed and assimilated. The real things that divide are sadly much deeper, much more profound, and often cannot be borrowed because they are incompatible. I can decide to eat sushi one day and spaghetti the next, and doing so creates no real change in who I am. It's ultimately meaningless. But I can't decide that people of a different skin color are people one day, and then decide that they are not the next because this is a real change. I can't decide that real authority derives from a mandate from the people one day, and then the next decide that all property is vested in the state and that the people only have the usury of it. I can eat burritos and chicken shwarma at the same meal, and I can even take sushi and put a fruit compote on it and it none of it really effects who I am in any deep fashion. What I taste with my tongue isn't who I am in any meaningful way.
But I can't mingle what I taste in my heart and say that I haven't changed in any meaningful way. The fairy tale told is profoundly wrong and I can't help but feel it gets my children off on the wrong foot and would be - if they internalized it in any way - a real barrier to actual understanding.(less)