Unfortunately, it took Sendak's death for me to remember all his wonderful books. Where the Wild Things Are is a given. I also loved Chicken Soup with...moreUnfortunately, it took Sendak's death for me to remember all his wonderful books. Where the Wild Things Are is a given. I also loved Chicken Soup with Rice, One was Johnny, Pierre, and Alligators All Around which I had in miniature editions (called the Nutshell Library). I was very short as a child (still am!) and it seemed like these editions were made just for me! I also, of course, read these over and over to my kids.(less)
I gave myself a day before I wrote a review of The Fault in Our Stars (from a beautiful Shakespearean quote, by the way) so I could digest all that I'...moreI gave myself a day before I wrote a review of The Fault in Our Stars (from a beautiful Shakespearean quote, by the way) so I could digest all that I'd read...and stop crying! I knew this was going to be a special book after reading just the first chapter. I fell in love with the characters immediately. Hazel is dying of cancer. Her Miracle drug, Phalanxifor, has extended her life for a while, but inevitably, the cancer will destroy her lungs. She lives a lonely existence because she hasn't been in school in years and it's difficult for her to do much of anything while lugging an oxygen tank around. Then she meets Augustus Waters, osteosarcoma survivor. Augustus recognizes in Hazel a kindred spirit before he even has much of a discussion with her (How he knows this so quickly is one of the few questionable parts of the book.) The two of them are witty and cynical and will have you laughing out loud (second questionable part of the book: their dialogue may be just a tad too witty and cynical for teenagers, but I just went with it). Hazel: "...the diagnosis came three months after I got my first period. Like: Congratulations! You're a woman. Now die." Augustus: "Hazel Grace! You did not use your one dying Wish (from the Genie Foundation which grants sick kids one wish) to go to Disney World with your parents. I can't believe I have a crush on a girl with such cliche wishes." Clearly, these two are soul mates and fall in love while sharing the cancer experience in their own unique way (sarcastically laughing about Cancer Perks: little things cancer kids get that regular kids don't, and how, as cancer patients, they are an Inspiration to Us All). My sister died a year ago and up until three days before her death, she was still telling funny stories about her cancer experience. I was amazed by that. John Green could so easily have taken the easy route and turned this into a sentimental, treacly tale (Hazel and Gus would have hated that!). Instead he tells a thought-provoking story of humor and heartbreak. I had to steel myself for what was coming at the end. This is an amazing story about amazing kids (who truly are an Inspiration to Us All--sorry Hazel and Gus!) and I can't say enough good things about it. The characters and their story will stay with you long after you've finished reading it. (less)
**spoiler alert** I'm still crying as I write this review. And I'm hiding from my all-male family because I don't want them to see me crying. Guys jus...more**spoiler alert** I'm still crying as I write this review. And I'm hiding from my all-male family because I don't want them to see me crying. Guys just don't get the crying-over-a-book thing. I feel in a daze...as if this story personally happened to me. In a way it has. I recently lost my sister to cancer. She, unfortunately, didn't have the choice to stay or go. She wanted to stay...she fought to the bitter end to stay...but the cancer was too powerful. I believe that when you tell a dying person it's OK to go, they hear it, feel comforted by it, and let go. In fact, I think they're waiting for it. I watched this happen. But I also believe some people may be on the brink of life or death and can choose which way to go. This book has really made me think about that--what would I do if faced with Mia's choice? As a teenage girl, I may have made the same decision she did. There's so much life left to live. But today, at 50, I think I would choose to go. I still believe there's a lot of life left to live but I don't think I could withstand the loss of my entire family. I love that this book could make me face a difficult decision like that.
If I Stay made me cry because I fell in love with Mia's family. How could such wonderful parents be taken away in such a horrible fashion? You can ask why, why, why, but there is no answer. And I cried because I hated the pain Mia was going through, both physical and emotional, and I hated thinking about the pain she was going to have to face in the future. The movie It's a Wonderful Life was mentioned and I think the author must have been inspired by it while writing If I Stay. Even if she has lost her entire immediate family, she is able to see all the others whose lives she has touched and who would be devastated by the loss of her, too. A family can be about more than just blood. And that helps her arrive at her decision.
Here are the reasons I did not give this book five stars. Yes, I loved Mia's family, but they were just too perfect. And her boyfriend, Adam, was too perfect. I think it's currently called the "Mitt Romney effect." If you look too perfect and act too perfect, people won't relate to you and they won't believe in you. When I thought that Mia was going to make her decision to go to college based on her high school boyfriend, I was ready to hop up on my soap box. Teenage girls often romanticize relationships. They believe that this relationship "will last forever." And I know plenty of real-life cases where the girl decides not to go to college or where to go to college based on what her boyfriend does. You know what I'm going to say--how often does that relationship work out? I know it's not impossible but it's improbable. As I said before, at that age there's so much life still to live and if you base all your decisions on what your boyfriend is doing, exactly whose life are you living? So I was relieved when it was clear that Mia would go to Juilliard if she was accepted. Now you don't have to listen to my tirade if it had gone the other way! I also thought the author tried too hard to make her parents and Adam cool and hip. I know she was trying to emphasize the difference between classical Mia and her punk-rocker parents and boyfriend but it came out too forced. Nonetheless, those issues did not stop me from loving this book. I immediately got on-line and ordered the sequel, Where She Went, from the library. Damn this book, even the title brings tears to my eyes! (less)
I want to give Where She Went and If I Stay 5 stars but they're just not quite there. But I LOVED these books. I simply could not put them down. They...moreI want to give Where She Went and If I Stay 5 stars but they're just not quite there. But I LOVED these books. I simply could not put them down. They had me thinking a long time after I read them. Usually a book is quickly out of my head and I'm on to the next one. But these two lingered there. What really stood out for me were the characters of Mia and Adam. I felt their pain, I rooted for them, and yes, I cried for them. Author Forman was so smart to tell Where She Went from Adam's point of view. I complained in my review of If I Stay that Adam was too perfect. Now I know he is not. And for once, it was so good to see a guy heartbroken over the loss of a girl instead of the other way around. What a revelation...boys have feelings too! I hurt for Adam and what he had gone through and was still going through since Mia walked out of his life. I was even mad at Mia for her coldness towards him until she revealed later why she walked away. Then I hurt for both of them. I admit it, I was proved wrong by Where She Went. In my review of If I Stay I complained that I don't like it when a girl gives up everything for a guy. Well, in this book, neither of them gave up their dreams. For better or worse, each got to pursue their passion without the interference of the other (although it sure was convenient that, in the end, Adam could do whatever he wanted to because he was so rich). They were in the small minority of couples whose relationship lasts through college and on to adulthood. My complaints? You had to suspend your disbelief several times. Mia's friend, Kim, became a National Geographic photographer right out of college? Mia could afford to buy rock star Adam's guitar? And I scoffed a little at the ending until I realized that hey, this book wasn't written for a 50-year-old woman. It was written for a teenage/young adult girl, and I imagine that is a fantasy for many of them. Both books are unapologetically romantic. And lastly, I believe these books should have a long shelf life. But will they when there is so much name-dropping--Lady Gaga, Madonna, Brad Pitt? Will kids even know who they are, 30, 50 years from now? Or will they just think they're cute and old-fashioned? If so, that would be a shame. These books stand head and shoulders above most of the young adult fiction out there. So I compromised and gave them 4 stars, but deemed them the "Absolute Best Kids Books I Have Ever Read." (less)
The last book I read was Fifty Shades of Grey and I deemed it the worst book I've ever read. My latest read, Chime, was one of the best books I've eve...moreThe last book I read was Fifty Shades of Grey and I deemed it the worst book I've ever read. My latest read, Chime, was one of the best books I've ever read. My faith that quality literature is still being published is restored! I'm green with envy at the amazing writing style of Franny Billingsley. I've never read anything like it--it's truly unique. That being said, it's certainly not for everyone. You are not going to breeze through this book. The writing and the dialogue can be cryptic and you'll have to think about what you're reading. It can be a puzzle at times. Throw in a narrator who is unreliable and swamp creatures such as the Old Ones, the Chime Child, and the Wykes (are they real? are they figments of Briony's imagination?) and you have quite an enigma. Billingsley has said she was influenced by folk tales and fairy tales. That's probably what will come to mind when you read Chime. The narrator, Briony, is full of self-hatred. She believes she is a witch who can call up forces to destroy the people she loves. She thinks she is responsible for all the bad things that happen to her family and friends and thus, isolates herself from everyone. Then along comes Eldric. He seems to understand Briony more than anyone else, except her twin sister, Rose, and he refuses to believe the bad things that Briony believes about herself. And everyone loves him. AND, he teaches Briony to box! He sounds awesome, doesn't he? Well, nobody is perfect and Eldric has some secrets of his own. One minute, he seems to love Briony and the next minute, he's got the hots for Leanne. While there's never a doubt that these two belong together, you're not sure they'll end up together. Never was I positive this was going to end happily-ever-after. All you can do is hope. Their relationship is one of the most enchanting I've ever encountered and proves that a book can be romantic without graphic sex that leaves nothing to the imagination (I'm talking to you, E.L. James!). Briony's relationship with her sister, Rose (who, although they don't call her that, is probably autistic) is so believable and touching. Briony loves her to death and is so protective of her (she beats up the local bully who makes fun of Rose--it's a great scene)but there are times when she resents, even hates, her. About halfway through the book, I thought I had guessed the source of Briony's self-hatred. It turns out I was correct but throughout the book I thought I might not have been correct after all. That's what's so great about this book--you think you know what's going on but there's this nagging feeling in the back of your mind that maybe you don't. The cover of Chime is misleading. It features a beautiful girl in a witchy outfit surrounded by what appears to be paranormal activity. I groaned, Not another "Twilight" knockoff! But I'm glad of that cover. It may entice girls, who wouldn't normally read this kind of book, to discover this beautifully written and inventive story. I purchased this for my home library, as well as Billingsley's other books. I can't wait to read them. (less)
A sweet, old-fashioned story--just what I was in the mood for at this awful time of my life. Miri lives in a tiny village on rocky Mount Eskel where q...moreA sweet, old-fashioned story--just what I was in the mood for at this awful time of my life. Miri lives in a tiny village on rocky Mount Eskel where quarrying linder is a way of life. I don't think Mount Eskel or the rock called linder that they mine from the quarry even exist. But author Hale does a convincing job of making readers believe it really does exist. It reminded me of a little, insulated mountain village in the Alps. When the priests of the creator god divine that the home of the prince's future bride is Mount Eskel, all girls under 18 are removed from their village and taken to the Princess Academy, a "finishing school" for the rough mountain girls. Our heroine is tiny Miri, named after a mountain flower. She may be tiny, but she has a feisty personality to make up for it. The girls settle into their miserable life at the Academy, and the bickering, back-stabbing, and competition for the prince begins. I noticed many parallels to contemporary teenage girls! Some things never change, even in a fictional world. Although there are many girls at the Academy, author Hale chooses just a few for us to get to know. I enjoyed watching each girl develop--from their worst behavior competing for the prince to their unique strengths in times of adversity. I don't want to give too much away but I'll just say 3 words--Girl Power Rules! Hale also does a great job describing movement. From the brush of a braid over a hand to the violent cliffhanger, you can truly feel this story. The romance blossoming between Miri and her childhood pal, Peder, is sweet, but not too sweet. Deep down Miri knows he is her soul mate but even she gets caught up in the battle for the prince's attention. But Miri can only be Miri, despite her greatest efforts to restrain herself. Her true feelings will not stay caged. My only complaint, and it's a mild one, is that the story is somewhat predictable. But, as someone once told me, there are only about 100 stories in the world (give or take a few) and the rest are simply the author's unique version of them. So, I didn't care. This was a Newbery Honor book in 2005; I can't imagine what was better. I dove into the world of Mount Eskel and didn't want to come up for air. Please, please, Shannon Hale--write a sequel! Note: Sequel arriving in 2012!(less)
I have to tell a little story about this book. One day I was in a bookstore and I was laughing hysterically at the poems in this book. When it was tim...moreI have to tell a little story about this book. One day I was in a bookstore and I was laughing hysterically at the poems in this book. When it was time to go, I rounded the corner to return the book to its shelf and almost tripped over a kid laying on the cold tile floor laughing hysterically at the book he was reading. I glanced at it, and wouldn't you know--it was Where the Sidewalk Ends. Moral of the story--kids and adults will both laugh hysterically at the wonderful poems in this book!(less)
When I was in 4th grade, living in Chicago, I discovered the Betsy-Tacy books. I adored them. Summer came along, right in the middle of one of the boo...moreWhen I was in 4th grade, living in Chicago, I discovered the Betsy-Tacy books. I adored them. Summer came along, right in the middle of one of the books, and I had to return it to the school library. I carefully marked the spot where I had stopped, either by turning down a corner (gasp!) or tucking in a bookmark. But then we moved to Philadelphia during the summer! And I lost track of my precious Betsy-Tacy books! Fast forward to 1995 and an article in the Los Angeles Times (by now I'm a 33-year-old adult with 3 little boys). The Betsy-Tacy books are being reissued. I can actually own them now...and read them again, and again! And so, as Maud Hart Lovelace repeats in her books, "And so they (I) did (do)." I adore Betsy. I love her curious spirit and her mischievous streak. She reminds me so much of myself as a child and young adult. The Betsy-Tacy books are not treacly. Betsy is frequently naughty and frequently punished for that naughtiness. Bad things happen. Tacy's baby sister, Bee, dies and in a touching scene, they leave a colored Easter egg in a bird's nest so the robin can take it up to Bee in heaven. Betsy feels jealousy, anger, and spite. But she has an adventurousness that you can't help but admire. And Betsy and Tacy have an awesome friendship. They seem to have a sixth sense when one needs the other. They understand what each other is really saying, even if that's not what they're saying out loud. Betsy and Tacy may be BFFs but they're also MY BFFs! (less)
Read this ages and ages ago. Let's see what this is like from an adult's perspective. Well, it's just as wonderful now as it was when I read it as a ki...moreRead this ages and ages ago. Let's see what this is like from an adult's perspective. Well, it's just as wonderful now as it was when I read it as a kid! The word play is so much fun. What a clever mind Norton Juster has. And who would think that hidden amongst that word play are some very valuable lessons for both children and adults. Lest you shudder at the term "valuable lessons," let me assure you that this book isn't at all preachy. It's fun and funny with an added bit of challenge as you figure out the word play. Here is Milo at the beginning of the story--"When he was in school he longed to be out, and when he was out he longed to be in. On the way he thought about coming home, and coming home he thought about going. Wherever he was he wished he were somewhere else, and when he got there he wondered why he bothered. Nothing really interested him--least of all the things that should have." How many of us have felt that way? How many of us could use a tollbooth to take us away from that state? It's a sad commentary on our times but I believe many feel as Milo does. Wouldn't we all like to run away from our boredom and problems? But Milo, despite his state of mind, keeps soldiering on, overcoming many obstacles. And he accomplishes his goal. And he learns there is lots in the life to accomplish, as well as amuse and challenge us. There's no need for boredom. I love Jules Feiffer's drawings (in the forward, Maurice Sendak refers to them as "scratchy-itchy"--I love that). They suit the book. Although many people compare "Tollbooth" to "Alice in Wonderland," I see a lot of similarities to "The Wizard of Oz." In the end they both say "There's no place like home."(less)
Throw away your history textbooks! Well, don't really, but this book is an awesome way to supplement your learning of this period of time--1290, Engla...moreThrow away your history textbooks! Well, don't really, but this book is an awesome way to supplement your learning of this period of time--1290, England. It's got one of the spunkiest heroines I've ever encountered in a book. It's funny, it's suspenseful, it's gross (in an informative kind of way!). Catherine, or Birdy, as her family calls her, is a feisty 14-year-old. She doesn't want to do anything a girl her age is supposed to do--spinning, embroidering, and learning to act like a lady. Her mother strikes a deal with her. Birdy can forgo spinning as long as she writes an account of family life for her brother, Edward. Lucky us--we get to read it too. Birdy's entries are funny, sly, and observant. When she sees the young people of the village returning from gathering willow branches for Palm Sunday with more greenery stuck in their hair and clothes than in their baskets, she predicts a large crop of babies next Christmas! She writes of her disgust at a public hanging, about her meals and village festivals, her friends and enemies, and her constant battle against fleas and her father's attempts to marry her off to the highest bidder. Despite the humor, Cushman doesn't shy away from the unsavory aspects of 1290. The perpetrators being hanged are only 12 years old. Birdy's brother, Robert, impregnates a 12-year-old, who then dies in childbirth. I must mention how compelling the plot was. I anxiously awaited finding out if Birdy would be forced to marry the distasteful Shaggy Beard. And I thought I had guessed what the ending would be, but I was wrong. Cushman cleverly gives the story a twist at the end which is not "and-they-lived-happily-ever-after" but is certainly hopeful. Highly recommended for young adults and adults!(less)
I have not read such a sweet, touching, funny kid's book like this in a long time. Let me clarify that--this is a book for everyone. It's Southern lit...moreI have not read such a sweet, touching, funny kid's book like this in a long time. Let me clarify that--this is a book for everyone. It's Southern lit for kids--full of people with interesting names, sweet iced tea (there's even a recipe for it!), chicken-and-potato-chip casseroles, and small-town charm. The author, Deborah Wiles, truly has a gift for capturing the essence of a ten-year-old girl. She succeeds brilliantly in the character of Comfort Snowberger, capturing all the conflicts of that age: the battles with friends, the embarrassing family members, craving the affection of your family and also longing for independence, acting like a tomboy but feeling pressure to act more like a young lady. Comfort is such a wonderful character who will stay with me for a long time. When she has a fight with her best friend, Declaration, the nasty notes she sends to her brought back memories of my own childhood and made me laugh out loud. I loved the way the author approaches death as a very natural part of life. Sad, yes, but not scary. People are mourned but also celebrated. Children usually become very afraid of death at some point and what a wonderful book to help them work through that fear. Each little bird also shows the unconditional love that a family can have for each and every one of its members. A confession: I cried during this book; truly, the tears were rolling down my cheeks!(less)
One of my favorite books of all time! It took my imagination to new heights the first time I read it. And I love rereading it every so often. Roald Da...moreOne of my favorite books of all time! It took my imagination to new heights the first time I read it. And I love rereading it every so often. Roald Dahl has got to be a kid's dream author. His characters swear. The adults can be dingbats. Evil characters get their comeuppance in very nasty ways. And the hero always triumphs. What more could you want? James and the Giant Peach lives up to that reputation. Sweet James lives with his two ghastly aunts, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. They are truly horrid to him. Nancy Ekholm Burkert's illustrations perfectly capture the ghastliness of these two hags! When the giant peach breaks off the tree and rolls down the hill, bringing Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker to their nasty end, James and his companions are off on a wild adventure where anything goes. Roald Dahl has such a zany imagination. How does our crew get the peach up out of the ocean, away from hungry sharks? By lassoing some seagulls of course! Who is responsible for our weather--hail, tornadoes, thunderstorms? Why, none other than Cloud Men! And where is there a suitable landing place for a giant peach in New York City? Speared on the top of the Empire State Building. I loved the characters, their adventures, and even the little songs they break into. Roald Dahl got it all right with this book.(less)
I'm rereading the Betsy-Tacy books...again. Anna Quindlen says, "There are three authors whose body of work I have reread more than once over my adult...moreI'm rereading the Betsy-Tacy books...again. Anna Quindlen says, "There are three authors whose body of work I have reread more than once over my adult life: Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Maud Hart Lovelace." Meg Cabot, Laura Lippman, Bette Midler, Judy Blume, Nora Ephron, Ann Martin, and Johanna Hurwitz feel the same way. THAT'S saying something about these books.(less)