If you've ever been to a school Nativity pageant, you know the kids can be right unpredictable, often with hilarious consequences. Gervase Phinn was t...moreIf you've ever been to a school Nativity pageant, you know the kids can be right unpredictable, often with hilarious consequences. Gervase Phinn was the Inspector of English in the Yorkshire Dales, and saw more than his share of Nativity pageants. This little book is the retelling of the best and funniest of those moments.
This was a gift from my English mother-in-law a few years back, and it makes me chuckle even on re-reads. He frequently captures the Yorkshire dialect, such as one of the shepherds saying upon seeing Jesus in the manger, "By the heck, 'e's an 'andsome little feller!"
And how about the little girl who hearing that there was no room for Joseph and Mary at the Inn rightfully pointed out "Well, they should 'ave booked in advance. It allus gets busy at Christmas."(less)
First, I have to say I read most of this book while on jury duty (which mostly involves waiting around, then waiting some more), which seemed way too...moreFirst, I have to say I read most of this book while on jury duty (which mostly involves waiting around, then waiting some more), which seemed way too appropriate.
This is quite an unusual dystopic story - society's transformation from what we currently know to West's vision of a radically altered near-future happens in the book. How we get from A to B is completely spelled out. Typically dystopias in literature drop the reader in, and let the reader flail around a bit trying to figure out how society became so dramatically altered. Instead, West uses the first-person narration of our chatty felon, Michael, to help the reader understand his confounding situation.
Michael is a long-time crook from a dysfunctional home who finally gets caught burgling a VIP's home. On his way to prison, he's involved in an accident and ends up in a coma for years. When he awakes, the criminal justice system is nothing like he knew it, due to a ruling from the Supreme Court. The court found that prisons were cruel & unusual punishment, and released all prisoners on to the street. (??! okay.) Michael is now thrown into a home-education reformer system, and finds that things aren't as easy as they appear.
The story is pretty entertaining, but I couldn't help thinking that this book should probably be labeled young-adult. We are in Michael's head through the whole story, and he's little more than a petulant child in an adult body. The issues Michael grapples with are ones most teenagers dream about: Could I get away with a life of crime? Surely criminals don't need a stupid education! Families?! Huh, what are they good for?
So, as long as you are okay with everything being spelled out, and are a YA fan, you'll probably really enjoy this book. I was entertained. :)(less)
Aye, the pirates be defeatin' their dastardly foes in this book. Gar, matey!
A fabulous Spanish friend here at GoodReads mentioned that Sandokan was on...moreAye, the pirates be defeatin' their dastardly foes in this book. Gar, matey!
A fabulous Spanish friend here at GoodReads mentioned that Sandokan was one of her favorite series of books when she was a kid. I said that I had never heard of Sandokan, which was a surprise to her as well. So I did some research, and discovered that there are 11 Sandokan novels, and many more published by other authors after Salgari's death. I was really confused why I had never heard of these books, especially when one of them (the title I'm reviewing here) is on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list.
I had quite a time hunting down a copy of this book! I figured since this book was originally published in 1900, and is a beloved children's book that it would have an English translation well out of copyright. I found a .pdf online, and didn't look at the file carefully. It's provided by the publisher and is only the first 3 chapters. As of this review, an eBook in English is not available, and only 3 libraries in North America carry a copy, according to WorldCat. I was perplexed until I read this review at SFSite.
It turns out that the very popular and famous Sandokan novels were never translated into English. The first translation was published in 2003, but was self-published. Eventually the book was picked up by a small publisher, and re-released in 2007. It's very easy to purchase, but like I said, almost no libraries carry the book and there's no ebook. But here's the funny thing: Sandokan has been made into numerous movies and TV shows both in Britain and the US.
Before I get to the review of the book, check out the gorgeous cover of the original 1900 Italian edition:
That mustache! The turban!!
Now, to our swashbuckling adventure! Sandokan is the notorious and dreaded Tiger of Malaysia. At the start of the book he and his band of pirates, who make their home on the island of Mompracem, off the coast of Borneo, have been looting and plundering for 12 years. You see, Sandokan is a prince, whose kingdom has been taken over and family killed by a rival prince with the aid of the evil British and Dutch colonists. Our hero, Sandokan, hears of a beautiful maiden on the island of Labuan nicknamed the Pearl of Labuan.
It turns out, Pirates get into all sorts of trouble when they are bewitched by a beautiful maiden. The pirate heart softens, and becomes insanely melodramatic. The dialog was so damn entertaining - it reminded me of silent movies. Sandokan leads his band of men, with his Portuguese sidekick, Yanez, on raids and adventures to rescue the blonde Pearl of Labuan.
Like any good pirate story there are: murders, hide-outs, treasure, plundering, deception, cliff-hangers, descriptions of weapons, bad-ass knives like the Kris (all the Tigers seem to carry one of these daggers.), gin and battles galore! I was highly entertained by the descriptions of the plants and animals of Borneo. I had to look up all sorts of words, such as perahu, carbine, babirusa, and calamus. I'm glad I did, because they really set the scene.
The book really flies from adventure to adventure, and there's no traditional story arc. I've been told that these books have been chopped up and re-packaged over the years, so I'm not sure how the English version fits with the original Italian edition. Most of the short chapters end on an insane cliff-hanger. I would imagine if you were reading this as a chapter book with a kid, the story layout would be fun.
Anyhow, the book is a blast. I can see why it's an old, beloved children's book.
There was a farmer who wasn't happy with the money he was making from his crops. He heard there were fortunes to be made hunting...moreThe Farmer and The Pig
There was a farmer who wasn't happy with the money he was making from his crops. He heard there were fortunes to be made hunting fungi in the forests. He sold his oxen for one very expensive pig that he was told would hunt out the fungi. Once they were in the forest, he said, "Pig, time to earn your keep!" To which the pig replied, "I'm afraid you have been fooled. I eat slop and lie around all day in my own filth. I'm not worth the price you paid."
I'm afraid to admit that I'm abandoning this anthology. I seem to be in the wrong demographic. All the stories appear to be fantasy, and very squarely...moreI'm afraid to admit that I'm abandoning this anthology. I seem to be in the wrong demographic. All the stories appear to be fantasy, and very squarely in YA territory. A couple were sort-of interesting, but most just fizzled. The recall notice from the library sealed its fate. Too bad.(less)
Only after finishing James and the Giant Peach did I discover that it is one of the most frequently challenged books in US libraries. I was straining...moreOnly after finishing James and the Giant Peach did I discover that it is one of the most frequently challenged books in US libraries. I was straining my brain and twisting my creativity to even imagine why. So I found some explanation on deletecensorship.org. Apparently the objections are that it contains the word “ass” and “promotes” the use of drugs and whiskey, and “encourages children to disobey their parents and other adults.”
Sounds like the makings of a great book! Heaven forbid a book encourages the children to think and live independently. Oh and books can't mention whiskey, because children should only see that from Uncle Jim. And only mom is allowed to say the word ass.
Seriously, this was banned from a US school in 1995. Geesh. All the more reason to read this book!(less)
I love all the anatomical drawings and scientific explanations. Lots of humor, too!
I also want to add that Goodreads has just let me know that people...moreI love all the anatomical drawings and scientific explanations. Lots of humor, too!
I also want to add that Goodreads has just let me know that people who've read The Gas We Pass have also read: Einstein: His Life and Universe and Middlesex. Clearly this book is most popular among kids of smart people! Therefore, flatulence implies intelligence.(less)
I read this at a certain five-year-old friend's birthday party this weekend. Okay, so I had more than a few margaritas, but a few of the lines were ge...moreI read this at a certain five-year-old friend's birthday party this weekend. Okay, so I had more than a few margaritas, but a few of the lines were genuinely funny. The illustrations were lovingly cringe-worthy but amusing. I'm thinking a lot of kids without dogs might start calling their dad "Walter!" (less)
Part of my May/June British Invasion. _____________
Five stars to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, four stars to Through the Looking Glass, because I j...morePart of my May/June British Invasion. _____________
Five stars to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, four stars to Through the Looking Glass, because I just can't abide shaking poor kitties.
I had no idea Tweedledee and Tweedledum and the unbirthdays were from Through the Looking Glass. And I was very sad that nowhere did anyone say "Feed your head." Now if I could just stop falling off my horse, I could recite to you a little conversation that sums up the books nicely.
"I can't believe that!" said Alice. "Can't you?" The Queen said in a pitying tone. "Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes." Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said: "one can't believe impossible things." "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
A fun, fantastical YA story about standing your ground especially when you are at a crossroads, and a strong analytical girl who needs to be brave eno...moreA fun, fantastical YA story about standing your ground especially when you are at a crossroads, and a strong analytical girl who needs to be brave enough to help the people she loves. _________________
Thirteen year old Natalie Minks loves bicycles, clockwork gadgets, solving puzzles and listening to her mother's endless stories about their town. Growing up in rural Missouri in 1913, she lives near a major crossroads with the ruins of the former town left perplexingly in-tact down the road. One day a travelling medicine show arrives and Natalie is both fascinated and perplexed. She senses that something just isn't right at the Doctor Limberleg's Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show. Can she work it out in time to save the town and her family?
One of the best things about The Boneshaker is Milford's detailed descriptions of the settings:
A Nostrum Fair, it turned out, was very similar to a Technological Medicine Show: frying foods, syrupy sugar smells, penny amusements. Bursts of odd, discordant music from the One-Man Band. Sudden appearances and disappearances of the harlequin in its costume of velvet triangles and bells, capering and somersaulting and then vanishing in a flash of tarnish and motley.
A quick note about the genre: Most of The Boneshaker is historical fiction with supernatural elements with a big helping of mystery and tiny dash of scary ghost story. What's even more fun is that Milford has included lots of steampunk details in the various clockwork machines that pepper the story. It's really fun to imagine the old-fashioned gadgetry.
There are several mysteries happening simultaneously in the story, which makes this an unexpectedly fun, complex read for a young-adult book. (The official recommendation is ages 10 and up, but a book-nerd might do okay with this at 8 or 9 as long as they don't mind slightly scary stories.) The mystery doesn't end with the perplexing charlaitans at the Nostrum Fair. There are also strange happenings in her town, unusual old residents and travelers, Natalie's weird visions, and difficulties in her own family. What's very clever is that Milford gives you just enough clues to solve a few mysteries on your own before they are revealed while others are left as little twists. As a reader, you feel clever while being entertained with surprises.
Each character has unusual quirks. Natalie's mother is absentminded and burning food in the kitchen while her dad is clumsy but mechanically gifted. Doctor Limberleg has fascinating red-peppered-with-gray hair that sticks up and appears to move about on it's own. Natalie herself is simultaneously afraid and brave while she works out how best to confront difficult situations.
My only little nit-pick is that a few characters that were important at the beginning of the story disappear by the end. A couple of those are ancillary characters, but without spoiling anything, one is a fairly major character.
Finally, the line-drawing art in the book is lovely. Make sure you look at a large version of the cover. I could imagine my child-like self examining and re-examining all the details looking for clues. Oh wait, my adult-like self already did that! The handful of full-page images that pepper the book are as rich and detailed as Milford's prose. It's a lovely accompaniment.(less)
Two stars because lots of SF/F writers have been inspired by The Little Prince. Inspiration should be respected, even if I'm not inspired by the same...moreTwo stars because lots of SF/F writers have been inspired by The Little Prince. Inspiration should be respected, even if I'm not inspired by the same sources.
Otherwise, it's such a disjointed, piecemeal, overly-symbolic, pseudo-deep story that Saint-Exupéry must have been drinking some tainted Absinthe while writing & drawing this book. Honestly, would modern-ish kids like this book?
The best part of the story, though, was the little ditty about the Turkish astronomer. It made me laugh out loud, only because I have been to many, many large astronomy conferences. I can say without a doubt that if a turkish astronomer gave a talk at a large AAS or RAS meeting in a Fez and billow-y I Dream of Jeanie-esque clothes, his talk would be the most popular session of the week!(less)
My 8 y.o. niece could NOT stop laughing at the poems in this book. Her favorite part (so far) is the end pages that have the drawings and list of Runn...moreMy 8 y.o. niece could NOT stop laughing at the poems in this book. Her favorite part (so far) is the end pages that have the drawings and list of Runny Babbit's friends, like Toe Jurtle, Goctor Doose, and Polly Dorkupine. Over the next few days, she was re-reading the poems then trying to speak Runny Babbit talk. I loved seeing her think about and play with language!(less)
Such a funny little book. I bought the book partly because of the cover. I was expecting something more grim. Also, I'm labeling this one as YA, even...moreSuch a funny little book. I bought the book partly because of the cover. I was expecting something more grim. Also, I'm labeling this one as YA, even though the publisher hasn't designated it that way. It would be excellent for someone learning English, or who struggles with reading. The story is told from the point-of-view of a pre-teen human "mount."
And no, not "mount" in a pervvy way! Imagine humans as a cross between a horse and a slave, and little alien creatures are perfectly physiologically suited to riding on our shoulders and being our masters. Emshwiller has created a curious dystopia, where humans have become universally subjugated, but not always unhappy.
The way she slowly unveils the aliens - how they look, how they act, how they organize themselves is brilliant. I had to keep remolding and reshaping my image of them. Without giving anything else away, this is ultimately what the story is about: an evolving point of view.