This is a well-constructed book made up of poetic journal entries by a boy writing for his teacher. At first Jack doesn't understand what makes a poem...moreThis is a well-constructed book made up of poetic journal entries by a boy writing for his teacher. At first Jack doesn't understand what makes a poem (who does?) and grudgingly writes things down, but as the entries go on he catches the poetry bug and it prompts him to express himself. Eventually he even gets to meet an author who inspires him.
I enjoyed the book's clever structure with the poem about what happened to Jack's dog about 2/3 of the way through. The earlier poems hint at it, and by the time it comes we realize Jack has been struggling with it all along. I could identify with his fear that his writing would make people sad--how many of us hold back on writing out of fear?
The author refers to famous poems during the story and includes the poems themselves in the back of the book so that everybody can get in on the fun. I found myself wanting to know more about Jack's daily life, though--it was a nice classroom tale, but the story about his dog packed such a punch that it almost made the rest of it seem bland by comparison, even if it was connected.(less)
Mrs. Frisby seeks the help of the rats of NIMH, a group of escaped genetically modified lab rats, to move h...more**spoiler alert** 1972 Newbery Medal Winner
Mrs. Frisby seeks the help of the rats of NIMH, a group of escaped genetically modified lab rats, to move her cinder block home out of the path of Farmer Fitzgibbon's plow.
Another reviewer mentioned that this is unusual as a children's book since it features a mother as a protagonist rather than a child. Something else that stood out to me about it was that the author didn't shy away from death, making the danger that the characters were in seem real. As a consequence, the book was hard to put down since I wanted to find out who would make it through.
Through the existence of the rats, the book also tackled some adult philosophical issues which are still modern and relevant, such as the ethics of animal experimentation, living off of other people's work, and technological barriers to self-fulfillment/living closer to the earth. The narrative of mice and rats is a deceptively simple surface on this deep and complex work.
That a large chunk of the middle of the book is a flashback to the story of the rats of NIMH is also a nod to the intelligence of children in being able to follow a non-linear plot.
Overall, this is an excellent book, but it frustrated me that there was no closure on what happened to Jenner or Justin. I also was left with a sense of sadness at the deaths in the book rather than happiness that Mrs. Frisby and her children survived and that the rats got away, so there's a tone of joy and hope that's missing there for me. Still, it's great and I'm glad that I read it after having watched the film The Secret of NIMH over and over as a child. I definitely like the book better.(less)
Despereaux Tilling, born with a tiny body, large ears, and his eyes open, commits the unpardonable sin of associating with hu...more2004 Newbery Medal Winner
Despereaux Tilling, born with a tiny body, large ears, and his eyes open, commits the unpardonable sin of associating with humans (let alone falling in love with the Princess Pea), and by mouse law must be sent to the dungeons of the castle to be eaten by the rats. Chiaroscuro, or just Roscuro, a rat raised in the dungeons, has always longed to be allowed up into the light. And Miggery Sow, a cauliflower-eared serving girl, harbors a dream of becoming a princess. What will happen when they all meet is the subject of DiCamillo's contemplative tale.
The characters, of course, really drove this story. I was fascinated at how DiCamillo showed that none of the main characters really fit in to their respective societies, but for different reasons... Despereaux was a misunderstood, brave dreamer who didn't care about society's rules. Roscuro was among rats who sought to convince him that darkness and suffering were positive things, or at least things that he should get used to, but having caught a glimpse of light, he understood that there was a better way to live. Miggery Sow, an outcast because of her poverty and the abuse of her previous master, wanted someone to care about her.
The writing style also fit the story well, although I got a little tired of the method of directly addressing the reader. It worked, though, because it let the author explain the order of the story to a young reader who might not be familiar with a non-linear structure.(less)
Fantastic, smooth writing, lovely book! My only complaint is that the tone of the stories got a bit monotonous. I laughed at the crazy characters, and...moreFantastic, smooth writing, lovely book! My only complaint is that the tone of the stories got a bit monotonous. I laughed at the crazy characters, and I cried when James had to put a dog down--it reminded me too much of having to put a cat down for the first time.(less)
In Stein's popular book, dog Enzo hopes to be reincarnated as a human as he reminisces about his life with Denny Swift, a race car driver.
The title re...moreIn Stein's popular book, dog Enzo hopes to be reincarnated as a human as he reminisces about his life with Denny Swift, a race car driver.
The title refers to car racing and the fact that when driving on wet ground, you have to be more careful than usual. It's necessary to be in the moment and train yourself to react quickly without over-correcting. This theme plays out in Denny's life as he faces the illness of his wife Eve and a complicated situation surrounding his daughter Zoë.
I was confused about why the publisher chose to feature a golden lab on the cover when it was stated that Enzo is brown-black with a wiry coat. Do golden labs sell more books?
Since I'm skeptical about reincarnation, that one also bugged me a bit at first. I felt sad for the dog wanting to die and be reborn as a human when I don't really believe that happens. By the end of the book, though, the author was able to make it clear that reincarnation is indeed part of the way his fictional universe functions, so I was able to better accept it as part of the story.
Overall, I found the plot predictable, but the characters had a lot of depth, especially Enzo. Stein was able to write convincingly from the perspective of a dog and there were more than a few tear-jerking passages, especially since Hubby and I have recently lost our cat. There were also funny moments as Enzo thought and did things that dogs normally do, though with a human understanding of what was going on around him. An intriguing metaphor for the darkness within us topped it off--I'll hope from now on that I'm keeping my internal zebra in check.(less)
This had been on my reading list for some time, and I was offered the chance to borrow it from a co-worker, so I took it. The story was a little bit a...moreThis had been on my reading list for some time, and I was offered the chance to borrow it from a co-worker, so I took it. The story was a little bit awkwardly told and half of it was about the library director who pulled poor Dewey out of a freezing bookdrop when he was a kitten (she had an impressively tough life compared to mine). At the same time, I felt deeply touched by this kitty's charm. I cried at the beginning and I cried at the end. There was snot.
I was just telling my husband that it reminded me of when we had to put Squirrel down, the first and only time in my adult life I've had to do that to a pet . . . except that Dewey was a compliant, loving, funny and unique tom whereas Squirrel was a demanding, cantankerous, spiteful, obnoxious wench. Every cat lover loves their kitty, though. Rest in peace, Dewey.(less)
I liked this one better than Love That Dog... it seemed to have a more cohesive structure and focus more on Jack with poetry as the vehicle rather tha...moreI liked this one better than Love That Dog... it seemed to have a more cohesive structure and focus more on Jack with poetry as the vehicle rather than as the overarching subject. Plus I'm a cat lover, so it was touching to see him getting over his cat hatred.(less)
The orphan girl Tohru's new friends in the Sohma clan are cursed to transform into the animals of the Chinese zodiac. She hasn't met them all yet, but...moreThe orphan girl Tohru's new friends in the Sohma clan are cursed to transform into the animals of the Chinese zodiac. She hasn't met them all yet, but she will... the question is, will she save them from their curse with the pure power of her love? Hahaha, I stand by my comment on the first volume that Tohru is Jesus. Either that, or it's kind of a Beauty and the Beast story, which is one of my favorite fairy tales. Any story about the transformative power of love will usually attract a wide following.
On the other hand, I've heard people question B&B for basically being about a woman who puts up with a bunch of abuse in the belief that she will change the man with her love--and it works. Some people think that is a dangerous message for girls to be bombarded with, since it doesn't always work in real life. Those people are no fun. On the other hand, Kyo is kind of a jerk to Tohru at first (not that she ends up with him--I don't actually remember). I probably wouldn't put up with it.(less)
I realized another thing that is cool about this series--along with the Tohru-as-savior-figure concept, both Tohru and the Sohma family delve into som...moreI realized another thing that is cool about this series--along with the Tohru-as-savior-figure concept, both Tohru and the Sohma family delve into some of our greatest insecurities. These are things that anybody can identify with, like envying someone and not realizing that you have good qualities too, or taking bad things that other people say about you to heart when they may not have meant to hurt you. Takaya touches on some universal truths of being human and makes us think. It seems like that is part of what makes so many people love the series--it may have some typical manga concepts, but there is a lot of truth here.
I also like it for the truly weird characters like Hanajima and the Okami-san in this volume. I tend to find really out-there stuff funny, and I'm glad that somebody else does too!(less)
Not quite as good as the other volumes thus far, but still very fun. Momiji and Tohru's thoughts on memories were poignant--that they would rather rem...moreNot quite as good as the other volumes thus far, but still very fun. Momiji and Tohru's thoughts on memories were poignant--that they would rather remember everything, even sad things, because eventually they would triumph over them.(less)
Another cute installment in which we meet Kisa of the zodiac spirit of the Tiger. I could really identify with Kisa's and Yuki's experiences of being...moreAnother cute installment in which we meet Kisa of the zodiac spirit of the Tiger. I could really identify with Kisa's and Yuki's experiences of being teased and not wanting to talk with parents about it--except I wasn't so much afraid of my parents thinking I was lame as of them doing something about it and making it worse.
I also thought it was a great truism of Yuki's that some adults don't understand what it takes to "just like yourself so that other people will then like you." It's not really possible to like yourself until you have seen that other people see something to like in you. Which again makes me think of Tohru as a Christ-figure. Basically the entire concept of Christianity is that God loves you, so hopefully you will be able to feel loved by accepting that and love other people in turn. But usually it takes another person to show that love to you first. Hence, Tohru!(less)