Hooo boy. Anything that could have gone wrong on the Heffley's family road trip certainly did. The amount of misery Mrs. Heffley put the family througHooo boy. Anything that could have gone wrong on the Heffley's family road trip certainly did. The amount of misery Mrs. Heffley put the family through in this Wimpy Kid installment was almost too much, truth be told. Not that it wasn't funny. Jeff Kinney is always funny. This one was just... really easy to commiserate with, maybe. I've never felt BAD for Greg until now. Moms though, ammiright?
I wouldn't have minded losing the pig and gaining a Rowley appearance, but the scene with the cheese curds and child leash made up for that. ...more
Cute, and a series I would have been eagerly anticipated new releases from in elementary school. As an adult reader, I found several of the plot devicCute, and a series I would have been eagerly anticipated new releases from in elementary school. As an adult reader, I found several of the plot devices flimsy (why not make Mr. Beeston have a longer lasting memory eraser, for example, instead of claiming that in 12 long years he never once missed an afternoon tea with Mary Penelope, which is so hard to believe, especially when he's so curmudgeony?), and, admittedly, I couldn't help wondering how Emily's fish father could have ever mated with her mother (does he keep his manhood in a tail pocket too?), but that's true of any mer-human love story. What's perhaps more important is that I appreciated and related to Emily's desire for a best friend, and her happy ending, complete with mom, dad, Shona, a secret island, saying sayonara to junior high and the mean girls therein, AND getting to shock her enemies (though again with Mr. Beeston. Who SEES A MERMAID but is then like "oh what? You brought doughnuts..." and wanders off for a snack?) made for a sweetly satisfying conclusion.
Elementary school-me would definitely have continued with the series, and adult-me is curious to see if the story strengthens as it continues. I'm pretty generous with television pilots episodes; willing to accept that they're just getting their bearings, establishing the world and its characters. I can see Emily Windsnap and the Monster from the Deep being all the better because we won't need to wonder at how she became a mermaid, and we can just jump into the adventure. Only one way to find out though...
It's a real bonus that artist Sarah Gibb's cover art and chapter illustrations are so beautiful. I wish there were more artwork, or at least a few full page illustrations.
A very somber chapter in the lives of the Moomins. The reading is a bit murky, at times a bit of a drudgery even, as you struggle along with the familA very somber chapter in the lives of the Moomins. The reading is a bit murky, at times a bit of a drudgery even, as you struggle along with the family as they forge a new life for themselves on an (almost) deserted island where nothing seems to work and nature itself is against them. But that's life, isn't it? Whether you're human of hippo-like-something-or-other, you've got to keep pressing on even when the world fights you and fills you with self-doubt. In the end, if you have your family about you.. annoying though you often find them (again, whether his an or hippo), you have home. At least I think that's what Jansson is getting at in a much more nuanced and unsentimental way.
Moominpappa At Sea is quiet in the leisure way of all Moomins books, and still enchanting, though in a more chilling manner this time around thanks to the foreboding presence of the Groke, and the very swift and strange upheaval of the trees. Some books are like a warm crackling fire, but reading this on snowy nights made me colder still, like waves of cold sea water rushing at you. But I swear I could smell pine needles and smell snow reading this too, and that's another kind of enchantment altogether....more
I’m making up for lost time this summer by catching up on some of the classic kid-lit the universe (i.e. my parents and teachers) failed to put in myI’m making up for lost time this summer by catching up on some of the classic kid-lit the universe (i.e. my parents and teachers) failed to put in my hands back in elementary school (see my reviews of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and The Phantom Tollbooth). Recently up: From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
That nobody handed me a copy of this book at the ages of 8, 9, or 10 is a crime. I enjoyed it at 29, but I can only imagine how ragged and loved my own personal copy would have been if I’d known the story of runaways Claudia and Jamie Kincaid in 1995. My own borrowed library copy is battered and splitting down the middle from so much reading.
The plot: After careful planning, suburbanite Claudia Kincaid, age 12, and her brother (James Kindcaid, 9) stealthily slip away to New York City.
Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away. that is, running away in the heat of anger with a knapsack on her back. She didn’t like discomfort . . . Therefore, she decided that her leaving him would not be just running from somewhere but would be running to somewhere. To a large place, a comfortable place, an indoor place, and preferably a beautiful place. And that’s why she decided upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
There’s no hitchhiking or handkerchiefs of sticks. Their running away is more of a vacation, really, spiked with vengenance. Jamie may just be a long for the ride (he, amusing, professing to “loving complications”)… and to help fun it, but Claude’s not looking to make a new life, she’s hoping to teach her family a lesson: stop taking me for granted. Then she’ll go home.
The adventure of fending for themselves and hiding in the museum bonds Claudia and Jamie together in a way they can’t explain, especially when they find themselves on a self-directed quest to figure out whether the a recent acquisition –Angel, a statue sold at the remarkably low price of $225 by one Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler– is the work of the great Michelangelo.
Claudia is captivated by Angel and determined she’ll be the one to figure out the mystery of her making. Her obsession isn’t just over-the-top art appreciation; she wants to make a discovery, to do something important. To change. She’s not ready to go home the same old Claudia Kincaid she left as.
Nearly defeated, Claudia and Jamie spend their last dime on their last hope: a visit to Mrs. Frankweiler for answers.
If running away to an enormous museum in a bustling city and solving a mystery doesn’t sound like kid-lit gold to you, then you don’t know kids and you don’t know fun. It makes me think of the basic plot of Louis Sachar’s Holes: puzzles, humor, and digging. How could any kid resist? I remember playing house in furniture and home improvement stores as a child, and to imagine actually living in a museum is like multiplying that fun by 100.
Stellar plots are only home runs in good hands, though, and Konisburg’s writing bursts with personality. Claudia and Jamie are as memorable as their adventure and wonderfully real. Sure, Claudia’s tendency to correct Jamie’s grammar is annoying (her disdain for ending sentences with prepositions is what dates the book more than the value of currency in 1967. If Claude could see what the digital age has done to the English language, she’d weep.), but it’s their particularities, like Jamie’s tight-wad tendencies and “helplessness about cheating at cards”, Claudia’s prissiness and the funny arguments between her and Jamie over whether to spend money on a cab or walk, that give the story so much of its charm.
What’s often left out of the plot is the voice of our narrator: Mrs. Frankweiler herself. The book opens with a letter from Mrs. F, and it’s her vague asides that lend From the Mixed Up Files it’s tone of mystery.
I’ve spent a lot of time on this file. I listened. I investigated, and i fitted all the pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle. It leaves no doubts. Well, Saxonberg, read and discovered. – Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler
I found Frankweiler’s narration oddly ominous and strangely serious. Rather than prickling my ears with you-won’t-believe-what-happens-next whodunnit foreshadowing, she sounded more… you-won’t-believe-I-don’t-bake-these-children-into-pies-at-the-end-of-the-book to me. I understand her to be an eccentric millionaire art collector but if she’s supposed to be a bit whimsical, she just never reads that way to me, and her letters to Saxonberg (her lawyer and the children’s grandfather –– a connection that is supposed to wow the reader in some way, but didn’t warrant more than an unimpressed “Huh. Small world”, IMO) make her sound like a nasty, uppity personality. She’s an essential character and I understand why she’s employed to tell the tale, as the owner and bequeather of Angel, but her voice was the only thing about the book that wasn’t an outright success for me.
From the Mixed Up Files is a memorable adventure that stands the test of time with enough discussion points (about art, secrets, responsibility, family, friendship…) to make it obvious in-class reading. I understand why it wears that shiny gold medal on its cover. ...more
I try to read books with as little expectation as possible. When I can, I even try to avoid the blurbs on cover flaps as it makes it easier to judge aI try to read books with as little expectation as possible. When I can, I even try to avoid the blurbs on cover flaps as it makes it easier to judge a book by what actual lies between its covers, not what I thought was going to be there. But reading The Phantom Tollbooth for the first time at the age of 29, after having worked for years as a children's bookseller, I knew a lot about the book before I'd even cracked the spine. I knew the basic plot, and even some of the wordplay to expect, I was already a fan of Jules Feiffer. I felt like I had it read even before I actually had. Like how a lot of people probably feel about Harry Potter or The Hunger Games.
But then I read it and it was better than the hype, more clever and charming than even my very high expectations were prepared for.
The wordplay is clever and funny and just when you think Juster has exhausted every homonym in existence, he pulls another five or ten out of his back pocket.
The characters are seemingly cartoonish, some are all good (but mostly all bad), obsessed with their own way of doing things, but they're attitudes are varied and nuanced and utterly memorable. In this respect, PT reminds me very much of Winnie the Pooh or Tove Jansson's Moomins. The characters, and maybe it's in large part due to the illustrations in all three, are deceptively real in their temperaments, from moody or somber (Eeyore, Hemulen, Humbug) to wise and pacifist. Many are gimmicks; they represent the literal meaning of various English phrases (like Canby, Alec Bings, and the shortest tall man/tallest short man in the world), but those are... well, how many times can I deem this book clever and charming in a single review? I would say that the characters are the book's great strength except that...
...the settings are so fantastic and imaginative. The Colorful Symphony is an image I will probably never shake. It's such a lovely idea, the image of an orchestra playing silently, the effect of their instruments coloring the sky and creating the weather, rather than making any noise; and it's such delightful premise to imagine the world would turn to black and white, like the outlines of a coloring book, if that orchestra ever stops playing. It's probably my favorite story in the book, but the Island of Conclusions (where you end up when you jump to you-know-whats) was another stand out.
And then when you think "well, I just don't care how this ends, I've had so much fun", Juster forces the tiniest tear out the corner of your eye with a little nod to the transportive power of imagination (and good books).
A masterpiece of children's literature. Now that's some hype....more
Thanks to a church book sale, at the ripe age of 29, I can finally say I've read "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" (and now own an awesomely retrThanks to a church book sale, at the ripe age of 29, I can finally say I've read "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" (and now own an awesomely retro 70's cover). I was a huge Judy Blume fan (The Pain and the Great one is still one of my all-time favorite picture books and the Fudge series is one I read multiple times as a kid), so it's strange that Margaret managed to evade me for so long. I think all of the buzz surrounding the book was a turn off for me, or maybe I was just too obsessed with Harriet the spy to share my attention with Margaret. *shrug*.
At 29, I found Are You There God? a frequently snicker-inducing, sometimes mortifyingly nostalgic, mostly satisfying slice of tween life. Blume puts you inside a real 6th grade girl's head and reminds you how odd and easy making new friends once was (someone just had to have a sprinkler), how embarrassing your changing body can be, how squirmy phrases like "your changing body" can make a person feel, and how stressful family drama and big questions like right and wrong and God are, even (or especially) as a kid.
Blume takes on issues of sexuality and religion without judgement or even any big agenda outside of laying bare the fact that kids have internal battles of faith and deal with all kinds of stressors that adults don't always remember facing. Margaret, despite her confusion and frustration with God, actually has a more mature handle on religion than most. Rather than blindly following, her parents have given her the freedom to explore and choose for herself, and it allows Margaret to find a more meaningful and healthy spiritual connection on her own terms. Adult Me was disappointed when, at the end of the novel, a grand revelation about organized religion seemed ready to explode on the page after the dramatic arrival of her preachy grandparents, but was overshadowed by the celebration of Margaret's first period; family and political issues were pushed aside for a box of Teenage Sofites, but this is a book about being 12 and getting your period, and the anxiety of growing up, so I get it. The physical beats out the philosophical sometimes, and maybe that's the way it should be. Praying to end starvation doesn't buy a homeless man a sandwich, after all. At least not the way I see it. Blood is real but the philosophical arguments that tear families apart don't have to be.
Damn, Blume. You made me go deep!
At 11, I know I would have been obsessed with this book. I would have read it multiple times, guaranteed. I know this because I read the novellas on similar subject matters my elementary school handed out to all the girls in my 5th grade class during The Talk. Sure, I enjoyed the cheesy drama of the summer camp where the stories took place, but I was really interested in seeing how the characters adapted to getting their periods, bras, and body hair. I won't lie. I wasn't excited, but I was curious, and the novellas, however much I would have denied even so much as glancing at to my friends at the time, were something I both enjoyed and felt comforted by. Are You There God? is the same thing, but better. It's written by Judy Blume, after all.
At any age a bit of guffawing is bound to occur. Lines like "would you get us a sanitary napkin please? From the dispenser on the wall, dear. Nancy's menstruating" (Page 107. I LOL'd.) are bound to make you laugh or roll your eyes at any age. But I think maybe that's just the nature of the discussion, whether it's a children's novel or a Tampax commercial that makes menstruating out to be some kind of life-ending inconvenience (even though it is inconvenient).
I didn't have a copy when I was 11, but I should have.
A story of childhood cruelty, alienation, insecurity and friendship that elementary school girls and grown women alike will relate to, especially anyoA story of childhood cruelty, alienation, insecurity and friendship that elementary school girls and grown women alike will relate to, especially anyone who has read and loved Jane Eyre. Some of the most gorgeous illustration I've ever seen. Worth a read for the work of artist Isabelle Arsenault alone....more
I just couldn't finish this. While I can't help but recognize all the sophistication and mood this book drips with, I wasn't enjoying it at all. Was iI just couldn't finish this. While I can't help but recognize all the sophistication and mood this book drips with, I wasn't enjoying it at all. Was it the audiobook reading that I found so irritating -- Gabra Zackman's performance grated me, like listening to a pretentious art school student perform slam poetry -- or would I have disliked the tone in reading as well? I'm not sure. David Small's beautiful illustrations could have only helped. That much I know for certain.
Animal stories generally aren't my thing, but dark children's books, swampy settings, and magical realism are very much my thing. Yet I kept dragging my feet when it came to listening to this story, and when it was due back at the library and they wouldn't allow me to renew it a *third* time, I figured that, rather than spend 10¢ a day to keep it for god only knows how long, that was my cue to eject disc #4 for good.
I'm not the right audience for this one, but I can't deny its obvious strengths. I absolutely loved Keeper, also by Kathi Appelt, so I look forward to seeing what she publishes next....more
No spark. I admire what Larson attempted here, but I wonder if she maybe knew the original too well to adapt it. Like, I bet she knows the character oNo spark. I admire what Larson attempted here, but I wonder if she maybe knew the original too well to adapt it. Like, I bet she knows the character of Calvin like the back of her hand, and maybe that's why she forgot to properly introduce him to us. And maybe L'Engle's novel is perched on a pedestal and maybe Larson couldn't bare to strike any of the dialogue because she loved it too much. Maybe that's why there are boring panels overflowing with speech bubbles; panels with nothing more than a potted plant on a desk covered by overlapping speech bubbles, just to ensure all the dialogue gets on the page. Isn't the point of a graphic novel to do more showing, less telling? The most important part, to my mind, of creating a faithful adaptation is in capturing the right mood, not copying text. If A Wrinkle in Time, be it a novel, comic, or Disney Channel Original Movie, doesn't start with a crash of thunder, if I doesn't feel like a truly "dark and stormy night", you've already missed the mark. This one just wasn't dark or stormy enough for me.
It's a big task, adapting a classic and opinions will vary. For example, if you ask me, most all of the Harry Potter films were only so-so efforts. The real stand out film was Prisoner of Azkaban, directed by Alfonso Cuarón. One of my friends argues that this is in fact the worst of the movies because Cuarón left out the most detail. I would argue that his superior editing allowed him to capture the feeling of HP better, making his the most beautiful and captivating of all the HP films. But some people want a cut and paste word-for-word, detail-for-detail re-telling. They think it's more faithful to the text. For fans more interested in technical accuracy than emotional, maybe A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel will be more of a success than it was for me. *shrug*. No one's going to argue that you should read this over the original, but for young readers first encountering the story, or die-hard fans that want a bit of nostalgia, this may be just fine....more