Goodreads is about to get slammed with reviews of this book, as Novak just presented at the closing session of the American Library Association ConferGoodreads is about to get slammed with reviews of this book, as Novak just presented at the closing session of the American Library Association Conference. 1000 exclusive ALA ARC's were distributed, but only after hearing Novak speak. And you know what? Novak is a very smart man. Being funny is such an unfair business; it seems a lot of people enjoy throwing a wet blanket on actors and writers who are funny. If it's not your brand of funny, then there must be something wrong with the writer, never the reader, and every point you make, even legitimate, insightful things that use humor as a vehicle, get slammed as peripheral, insignificant, or amateur, especially if that writer is successful in pop culture. A lot of folks I observed weren't willing to give Novak the credit that is his due, simply because they see "celebrity" and stop listening. It's their loss. This book is not only a delightful tool for engaging young children in literacy that feels like play, but it is also making a very strong argument for the power of language that I would hope most librarians could appreciate. A comic writer and stand-up comedian, if he wishes to appeal to an educated audience, makes it his business to understand language and how we manipulate it. He is exactly the right kind of person to be writing a children's book, because he is successful, not in spite of it. I put this children's book right up there with Battle Bunny, another excellent story and argument for the creative linguistic powers of children learning to use stories in ways that matter to them, not the author, not the publisher, not the teacher. Both Scieszka and Novak give kids the driver's seat on the trip through story, and we should celebrate this early experience in agency with literacy.
My nearly-12-year-old read this on my recommendation, and this is what he said: "I never read a book about Native Americans before, or living on a reseMy nearly-12-year-old read this on my recommendation, and this is what he said: "I never read a book about Native Americans before, or living on a reservation. I didn't know that alcoholism killed so many people. And I never read about masturbation before."
I am so pleased to hear my son say the word "masturbation" to me without flinching, and that his first exposure was through Sherman Alexie. I am so pleased to hear him acknowledge that books expose him to new perspectives. That five-minute conversation made me feel like I did something right, and I have Sherman Alexie to thank.
Both a fun story that most young children will enjoy for its irreverence, and also a sly critique on contemporary literacy. Like a picture book versioBoth a fun story that most young children will enjoy for its irreverence, and also a sly critique on contemporary literacy. Like a picture book version of JJ Abrams's S. Dual narrative, each informing the other, creating a third story-space that belongs to the reader. So much food-for-thought here......more
Octavia Spencer, Academy Award-winner of The Help, started writing this book 13 years ago. Her Hollywood mentor, Sandra Bullock, gave it a read and enOctavia Spencer, Academy Award-winner of The Help, started writing this book 13 years ago. Her Hollywood mentor, Sandra Bullock, gave it a read and encouraged her to seek a publisher. With her new stardom, she found a contract with Simon & Schuster, and the second in the series will follow shortly. Scooby Do enthusiasts will recognize the formulaic plot -- those meddlesome kids, bad guys in suits, the secret treasure and the wholesome reward at the end. The chapters are peppered with inconsistent appendices -- activities that extend the action, Try this at home! -- an interesting idea that falls a bit flat in my view. The best thing about this book is Spencer's attention to her heroine's emotional life, a recently deceased mother, a distant and preoccupied father, a move from urban New York to rural Tennessee. She also finds an unlikely (for rural Tennessee) multicultural mix of friends, a Latino, an African-American, and a Chinese nanny/daddy's girlfriend (?). Although the setting makes this a bit far-fetched, it's nice to have multiracial representation, and having a number of strong women, including a female Sheriff, is refreshing. The story itself is trite and nothing new, but the character development and relationships are worth a quick read. Recommended for 3rd-5th graders. Thanks to Ms. Spencer and S&S for the signed ARC....more
I don't know how I missed this novel upon its release -- it hasn't received the attention it deserves -- but luckily I have raised a reader who can spI don't know how I missed this novel upon its release -- it hasn't received the attention it deserves -- but luckily I have raised a reader who can spot them when I miss them; my 14-year-old recommended this to me. It's the story of an Afghan refugee, surviving racial prejudice, violence, injustice, homelessness and multiple repatriations, all from the age of 10 through 15. The story is told in Enaiat's voice through a sympathetic narrator who (wisely) calls this book a fiction, though it is based on Enaiat's sometimes incomplete memories of his true experience. The tone is unsentimental and our hero is completely and utterly likeable (Enaiat, I wish our paths had crossed!). The best feature of this novel is that it is readable at any age -- young readers will identify with Enaiat's sense of humor and bewilderment with adult behavior, and older readers will welcome the opportunity to put a human face on current events. This book is a perfect example of the difference between childhood innocence and naivete; Enaiat remains an innocent, despite his experiences and his hard-earned wisdom. ...more
This book is a bit meaningless as a stand-alone for a reader unfamiliar with World War II, but used as an accessory to a World War II lesson plan or nThis book is a bit meaningless as a stand-alone for a reader unfamiliar with World War II, but used as an accessory to a World War II lesson plan or non-fiction leisure reading collection, I imagine this book and others of its kind will be widely thumbed by readers. This is a recent addition to a new-ish series of You Choose non-fiction titles, aimed for ages 7-13. In this one, readers are given the option to choose being an American OSS agent, German Abwehr agent, or a Danish resistor. Adventures are short, so most readers will experiment with more than one option. Although the text is reinforced with pertinent photos and capped with a short summary chapter, there's just not enough time to get deep information. This book is better used as an accessory and seducer for reluctant readers. The series offers a range of You Choose titles across history -- touching on topics in every grade school curriculum. Author Michael Burganhas written over 200 distinct non-fiction titles for kids, including a "flip" book series, telling two perspectives in one volume. For instance, the Revolutionary War is told from an American perspective moving forward through the book, and the British perspective moving backwards. Clever -- sometimes you need some tricks up your sleeve to attract a resistant readership. ...more
After giving this book just a few hours of my time, I have, every day since then, given more though to how I buy, prepare, and eat food. Sometimes I fAfter giving this book just a few hours of my time, I have, every day since then, given more though to how I buy, prepare, and eat food. Sometimes I forget the risks in eating easy, but as I get older I realize I cannot afford to forget. Every American aged 10 and up should be familiar with the contents of this book. It should be a regular topic of discussion, in school, at home, and not just a guilty smirk we toss around as we pass the fries. If your school does not include this book or related content in its curriculum, watch out, there may be a financial conflict of interest, and consequently an even more urgent need to begin the discussion. Seriously, 20 years ago we knew fast food wasn't healthy, and we feared for the future. Well, it's here now, a generation or two of overweight, diabetic, lazy, chemical-ingesting kids and multinational conglomerate corporations that own them. McDonald's is McDonald's is McDonald's...except more so....more
I have a 13-year-old who thinks he wants to go to culinary school, but has still only mastered the arts of ramen noodles and jello. He's a fan of foo I have a 13-year-old who thinks he wants to go to culinary school, but has still only mastered the arts of ramen noodles and jello. He's a fan of foodie rock stars like Anthony Bourdain, Gordon Ramsey, and, of course, Alton Brown. So, this summer we're making cooking homeschool -- I've got it all planned out, and this book is our text. We'll focus on one cooking method a week, and come September, I'll have another hand in the house that has no excuse for not coming up with dinner once in a while. He already made us beef stew and an oreo ice cream pie, and despite the anxiety, it all came out well. Here we go...
Week 1 Completed! We have mastered the method of Searing--
Meal 1: Beef stew, delicious the first night, even better the next day. Meal 2: Jerk tuna steak, the boys found the spices too...spicy, but I thought it was great. They scraped the spices off and enjoyed the tuna, and Eb added a coleslaw vinaigrette, which was the perfect side to mellow the spices. Meal 3: hashbrowns. Eb refused to include the red beet the recipe called for, so he just made regular hashbrowns with ham steak and eggs. Nothing extravagant, but a challenge to have everything ready at the same time. We'll be taking a 2 week hiatus while they're out of town, but next we tackle the barbeque. Let's hope we don't burn the house down......more
Ach, I didn't realize this book was in the database already. My god, you guys are in for a treat! Better review to come, but seriously, watch the bookAch, I didn't realize this book was in the database already. My god, you guys are in for a treat! Better review to come, but seriously, watch the bookstores for this one -- you won't be disappointed....more
My son liked this book, mostly because he liked reading it as movie script. It is a visual story and works well in this format. I liked it because itMy son liked this book, mostly because he liked reading it as movie script. It is a visual story and works well in this format. I liked it because it is a young readers' title with an unreliable narrator. Most youth books don't take this risk, and it gives the reader a little more trust and responsibility in figuring what is really going on. Still, the story seemed simplified, both to fit the movie script format and also possibly not to overwhelm the reader. This would be a good title for a young reluctant urban reader. There are some issues that could lead to some very good group discussion, mostly dealing with truth vs survival, and anticipating our narrator's future.
LOOK, LOOK EVERYONE!! ANNOTATED! BY JUSTER! HE IS STILL ALIVE! AND WRITING STUFF! IF YOU'VE NEVER READ THIS, READ IT NOW. IF YOU HAVE READ IT, GET ANNLOOK, LOOK EVERYONE!! ANNOTATED! BY JUSTER! HE IS STILL ALIVE! AND WRITING STUFF! IF YOU'VE NEVER READ THIS, READ IT NOW. IF YOU HAVE READ IT, GET ANNOTATED! YAY, ANNOTATED!...more
Beautiful, pitch-perfect writing. Sometimes I felt a bit overfed with deliberate metaphor, but, all in all, pieces of exquisite writing blended into aBeautiful, pitch-perfect writing. Sometimes I felt a bit overfed with deliberate metaphor, but, all in all, pieces of exquisite writing blended into a fine, moving story. The children's literature references are frequent and appropriate. Lovely....more
What a thrill ride! I get a little giddy whenever a book takes me to Iowa (my adopted state), and this happens more than you'd think, given the amazinWhat a thrill ride! I get a little giddy whenever a book takes me to Iowa (my adopted state), and this happens more than you'd think, given the amazing amount of writerly talent that streams through the Iowa Writers Workshop and this Most Literate Town in America -- Hey, authors, write what you know! It's even better when it helps me see Iowa through a different lens. Well, this was a very different, ash-distorted lens, and it would have been just as compelling to me set anywhere in the country. Mullen is extremely skilled at creating and maintaining momentum from page to page, and his characters are honest, complex, and endearing. Not only was I fascinated by the natural disaster story, I was also drawn into the characters, whose emotional developments were as integral to the plot as their fight for survival. My only criticism is our narrator, Alex, has an unbelievably broad vocabulary for a 15-year-old, especially in architectural terms. It bothered me at first, and I think it was Mullen's way of being precise in his descriptions, but after I became acquainted with Alex's character, it became less of a problem. Maybe I just forgave him that, since he was developing in so many other ways that were quite authentic. All-in-all, a great read that will motivate the most reluctant readers and spur the imaginations of the best. I love that Mullen took great pains in being as scientifically accurate as possible, creating a plausible disaster and it's aftermath. He makes some insightful indirect comments on the human character -- our inability to prepare for an overwhelming crisis, the desire to survive vs. the desire to help -- and Mullen never PG's his writing for his younger audience; dead people are discovered from time to time, anarchic characters perform reprehensible acts against our own. The world, even pre-Ashfall, is not a pretty place, but Mullen's characters help us understand it's worth the work to survive, despite the pain and ugliness. He even, with very little fanfair, includes some unconventional family groups, such as his gay neighbors who help Alex survive the first few nights of the disaster. They didn't have to be gay, but they are, and Mullen fits it in seamlessly. How refreshing to read about gay characters that aren't in books about being gay! Well done, Mike. It's my 12-year-old's turn with this book now, and then I'll be passing it to my local library's teen librarian. There's going to be a lot of buzz about this book come October around here, and I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment. A trilogy, you say?! Bring it.
(An ARC of Ashfall was generously provided to me by the author.)...more
My 11-year-old brought this home from the library, drawn to it as it is written by his current FAVORITE AUTHOR EVER, Adam Rex. The plan was that he woMy 11-year-old brought this home from the library, drawn to it as it is written by his current FAVORITE AUTHOR EVER, Adam Rex. The plan was that he would read it aloud to me and his 8-year-old brother. The result was not expected: 11-year-old loved the humor, got most of the jokes, appreciated the satire, but frequently bound himself up in grammatical misreadings and inattention to requisite punctuation. We learned that reading poetry aloud, even guffaw-causing casual rhyme, is not the same thing as reading prose aloud. I found myself frequently reading over his shoulder to clarify missed meanings caused by run-on sentences and overlooked wordplay. Meanwhile, my 8-year-old was zoned out and bored, the humor so out of bounds from his own experience, and locked out by rather sophisticated grammar gymnastics. Spoofs of Edgar Allen Poe are a hard pass for 8-year-olds reading Silverstein. Really, I think I enjoyed this one more than they -- I felt almost guilty snickering at such things as the Melting Witch Diet -- what, what's so funny? Once I explained the advertising writing style, the mail-order con, the literary allusion to witches and Oz, well, admittedly, it just wasn't funny anymore. E-mails from Martians extolling performance-enhancing drugs? Not part of a kid's world. So beware, this is sophisticated humor for experienced readers, camouflaged in a goofy picture book format. ...more
The boys like the action, I like the character development. The author uses nice big juicy words that are fun to read aloud and stretch the boys' vocaThe boys like the action, I like the character development. The author uses nice big juicy words that are fun to read aloud and stretch the boys' vocabulary without noticeable pain. The plot is a bit thin at points, but the characters are too charming to lose us. We're primed and ready for the next in the series......more
This is a hard book to review for a number of reasons. The first is, my mostly reluctant-reader 8-year-old son, who asked for this book for Christmas,This is a hard book to review for a number of reasons. The first is, my mostly reluctant-reader 8-year-old son, who asked for this book for Christmas, LOVED this book, loves to talk about it, required me to read it right way, wants to show me and every one he knows his favorite chapters, and wants to read more Dan Gutman. How can I not give it 5 stars for those reasons alone?! But...
Am I being unreasonable for having issues? I mean, this book caused my son no physical harm, in fact, it did exactly what a young reader novel should do -- excite, inspire, etc. And Dan Gutman has a strong track record -- he's written literally dozens of young readers and has tons of loyal fans, especially boys like my son -- not exceptional readers, not academically inclined, but interested in sports and fart jokes. This book does an admirable job of sneaking some book smarts into a fun, light story, as our main character mysteriously falls into various literary genres, one per chapter. I'm a bit at issue, though, because Gutman's tone, and the tone of his narrator, pace very inconsistently through the run of the book. The first few chapters are a bit jarring, as readers aren't quite familiar with the structure, and the choice to "fall" into horror as the first chapter is a bit of a risk, as this narrative is one of the weakest. The first half of the chapters introduce you to the genre in the chapter title, and proceed with a rather stereotyped scenario, basing the genre through character and setting, but not through writing style or convention, with the narrator spending most of his time wondering how he got there. Then, in the last few chapters, especially that of fantasy, Gutman's tone turns cranky and facetious, and our narrator turns into a spoiled twerp. Gutman certainly has strong feelings about hobbits. Now, rather than relying on character and setting to set the genre, Gutman pokes jokes at genre conventions, a lot of which could only be appreciated by someone already familiar with the genre. It's an inside joke his readers aren't going to get. Ending the book in this way left a sour taste in my mouth, regardless of my son's enthusiasm. Incidentally, my son's favorite chapter was the animal story, told from the pov of a cat. He can identify with it while thinking about his own two furballs. Of course, he hated the "girl" story (is that a genre?) simply because it's about girls, eeew, regardless of what the story was actually about. This one was also facetious and spoofy, and if my son had had more experience with girl story conventions (eg:a girl's group of friends are always perfectly multicultural) he might have found it much more amusing.
So, in the end, the book is a fine introduction to the concept of genre, but is not a great or consistent model of "writing" in a particular genre. But if your son loves it, and reads more after it, than I guess you can't complain. Out loud....more
Where this book is lacking in sophisticated plot, it overflows with amusing tone, likeable characters, and unusual breakdown of the fourth wall. It'sWhere this book is lacking in sophisticated plot, it overflows with amusing tone, likeable characters, and unusual breakdown of the fourth wall. It's a great book to read aloud, as the narrator's enthusiasm for telling the tale translates so well to the reader's voice. Also, great opportunity to read with an Italian accent without your kids groaning at you. Had to go buy the sequel today, as the boys insisted....more
Fun and tasty! Like eating popcorn, and now and then crunching on something hard, not cracking-teeth hard, but stop-and-make-you-think-hard. This is mFun and tasty! Like eating popcorn, and now and then crunching on something hard, not cracking-teeth hard, but stop-and-make-you-think-hard. This is my favorite road-trip-with-aliens adventure (and I've read a few). If you were about to pick up Going Bovine, put that honker down (gently, it's heavy) and read this instead. This also gets an A+ for consistent and amusing fictional dialect, a winner for language buffs and fans of The Phantom Tollbooth. And congrats to you for the Iowa Children's Choice Awards nomination! (I can actually direct that to Rex because he is a goodreads author and we will be friends now.) A young Iowa girl asked me for Iowa Children's Choice recommendations yesterday, and even though I was only halfway through, I urged this thing upon her, and she bought it. I finished it today, and I can rest assured that my recommendation still holds firm. If she doesn't like it, she has not yet met J.Lo. The alien. Not the pretty lady. She is not as good at singing....more
I recommend this as a great read-aloud title for ages 7-11. Each story is easily digestible, and presents easy introductions to concepts of fate, coinI recommend this as a great read-aloud title for ages 7-11. Each story is easily digestible, and presents easy introductions to concepts of fate, coincidence, serendipity, and just plain luck. While veering dangerously close to Readers' Digest material, the stories still maintain a believable child's point of view that kept my children's interest and sparked eager discussion. Our favorites include "The Money Bag" (posing an interesting moral dilemma), "The Flight to Serendipity", and " Too True Stories". ...more
Simply, this is a perfect book. It does all that it sets out to do, and that is quite a lot, and it does it with such sophistication and respect towarSimply, this is a perfect book. It does all that it sets out to do, and that is quite a lot, and it does it with such sophistication and respect towards its characters, its story, and, most importantly, to its readers. The illustrations are integral to the story -- not adding to it, they are it, and also open up a perspective as close to film as the printed page can be. I guess I should call it a storyboard, but this read is so much more complete than that word implies. It seems to tell its story through several media forms, but its really just a trick of Selznick's amazing storytelling. It's remarkable how some books find us at just the right time. My son brought this home on a friend's suggestion, just as we've been plowing through our two volume set of Chaplin classics and catching a few Buster Keatons on netflix. We both got to approach this book having a little foreknowledge of silent films, and this reading has expanded our to-view list. We watched A Trip to the Moon, an early silent from 1902(?), directed by Georges Melies, a significant character in this book, on youtube. We also watched a clip of Selznick at the museum in Philadelphia that rebuilt and presented the 200-year-old automaton that inspired this story. It is an amazing sight to view this clockwork machine that can reproduce four intricate drawings and three poems with a simple crank. The website is listed in the last few pages of this book, and I highly recommend it. I really don't care how old you are, this is a great book for anyone who cares for great film, great science, or great storytelling. ...more
I don't know if this book alone deserves 5 stars -- what I'm rating is the first two titles in the trilogy, mostly because Collins has achieved such gI don't know if this book alone deserves 5 stars -- what I'm rating is the first two titles in the trilogy, mostly because Collins has achieved such great things in so few pages. I have trouble sticking with series, usually because most of the books packed in the middle feel like filler to get us through the series, but this one doesn't feel like that at all. She's taken the premise she so deftly defined for us in Hunger Games and stretched it in new and interesting ways. Characters develop and are faced with previously inconceivable new challenges, and her inquiry of politics, psychology, and logic open whole new avenues of interpretation. As fascinating for me as for my 11-year-old, for different but just as relevant reasons. Mockingjay sits gloriously on our kitchen table; I'm trying to restrain myself, since I did buy it for my son, and promised he could dip in first. But he's currently halfway through Treasure Island and seems not to be quite as antsy as me......more
Best timely kids book EVER. And folks, a jackass is an animal. It's in the dictionary. If you're afraid to read that word to your kids, you're going tBest timely kids book EVER. And folks, a jackass is an animal. It's in the dictionary. If you're afraid to read that word to your kids, you're going to have a hell of a time in a few years. Of course it's intentional, and best to have that conversation sooner than later....more