This was a very quick and enjoyable read. I read the ARC (as the book is due out this fall) and will be curious to see how it looks in its final form.This was a very quick and enjoyable read. I read the ARC (as the book is due out this fall) and will be curious to see how it looks in its final form. It consists of a series of short amusing stories about the author's childhood. Very boyish, lighthearted, and a lot of fun to read. There are stories that made me think of other books (e.g. several...er...pissing...episodes), but there didn't seem to be as many injured animals in this one (especially if you don't count Jon's youngest brother). One thing about those pissing stories --- I remember being around five and having quite the argument with a neighbor boy about girls not being able to piss as easily as boys and trying to prove him wrong. But, hell, while I may have been able to pull down my pants and do what I needed to do in the backyard bushes, I did not have the necessary equipment to have fought the Scieszka bros pissing wars.
The book is direct, the author doesn't shy away from not-so-nice behaviors (such as charging his brother to allow him to stay up late when babysitting), and it just gives a sense of a rather happy childhood in the vein of Christopher Paul Curtis's Watson's Go to Birmingham (which takes place in Flint during the same time period although, of course, is much weightier themewise) in terms of humor and a close-knit family.
I'm guessing (not having been a boy myself) that many of these stories are going to really grab boys in particular. The intent, no doubt. Do look out for it!...more
Okay, admittedly I read this under personally not-great conditions, but it didn't blow me away. I really liked the first two books, but now I feel itOkay, admittedly I read this under personally not-great conditions, but it didn't blow me away. I really liked the first two books, but now I feel it is just ...a story. I mean, it is a good story and I'm enjoying it, but the many monsters and such just don't seem as fresh as they did for the first two book. There are many witty lines in this though and I can say it is indeed great fun to read. I'm with those who feel it is really hard to separate the books as it seems more that each is part of the bigger story. ...more
Third in Balliett's series involving three smart kids, an artist, and a mystery. This one features the artist Alexander Calder and takes place largelyThird in Balliett's series involving three smart kids, an artist, and a mystery. This one features the artist Alexander Calder and takes place largely in Oxford, England.
Calder is an artist made for kids to appreciate and Balliett does a super job intriguing her intended audience. As with her previous books she engagingly provides puzzles and such to entice them to go off and find out even more about this marvelous artist. Her love of art and artists is clear yet, as in her earlier books, she communicates information about Calder without being heavy-handed. Impressively she provides energy and action as the kids visit a museum exhibit and otherwise learn more about this artist.
I also think Balliett, a former teacher, does a nice job further developing the relationships between her three child characters: Calder, Petra, and Tommy. Children will easily connect to the forced intimacy Petra and Tommy experience as they search for their missing friend.
However, I was disappointed with the mystery aspects of the story. A good mystery, to my mind, is full of red herrings, clues, and intriguing leads to the final solution. With a good mystery, once I learn who did it I am either pleased because my suppositions were accurate or pleasantly surprised because the author has done such a great job playing with me, the reader. Neither happened when I got to the end of this book; frustratingly, it is a weak and unsatisfying solution (as in the previous books there is a deux ex machina situation and coincidences --- won't say more for fear of spoilage). Mind you, it IS satisfying in terms of the kids' relationships and Calder's with his dad, just not in terms of the mystery itself.
So come to this book to engage with Alexander Calder,spend some time in England, to see how a couple of kids who don't particularly like each other learn to at least respect each other,to watch a father and son reconnect, and to experience some exciting moments and drama if not a particularly developed mystery. ...more
I don't see the point of this book at all. Doesn't work as an allegory, a fable, or anything else. The boy (both boys, for that matter) are naive beyoI don't see the point of this book at all. Doesn't work as an allegory, a fable, or anything else. The boy (both boys, for that matter) are naive beyond belief. The German boy's misuse of language is completely not credible. Want to give a kid a book on this topic? Anne Frank. ...more
This is my all-time favorite book. After my father read it aloud to me (probably when I was eight or so), I read it (and Looking-glass) over and overThis is my all-time favorite book. After my father read it aloud to me (probably when I was eight or so), I read it (and Looking-glass) over and over and over. I remember thinking sometimes, "Hm...about time I read Alice again." I just thought Wonderland and Looking-Glass Land were fantastic places and would have loved to go to both.
Since 1990 (when I studied the book at Princeton) I've been doing a unit on it with my fourth graders. I read aloud from this annotated edition so that I can slip in bits of context when necessary.
People tend to have a totally misinformed idea of this book, mostly because they know it only from the Disney movie. The thing is, what makes this book so wonderful is the humor and word play. If you read it for plot you will be royally frustrated because there is hardly any. It is really a bunch of strung together episodes as Alice meanders about. Each chapter is wonderful all alone. Reading them in the annotated versions makes it possible to better appreciate so much of Carroll's wit. The songs/poems are wonderful parodies of popular songs/poems of the time. He makes great fun of education and the life of a girl of Alice's stature. I've probably read the book aloud 25 times to kids so know it very, very, very well! I know what kids need explain, what they will enjoy most, and so forth.
Another aspect of reading the book is that it is probably one of the most illustrated children's book of all time. There are so many cool illustrators of it. Tenniel is the ur-illustrator and wonderful, but others are pretty cool too.
By the way, Jasper Fford and Neil Gaiman both get Carroll. ...more