Thursday, March 27, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Today, I would like to talk about a book that I am currently listening to. It's a classic children's book. Adored by many. A famous and popular Disney musical.
It's Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers.
I am about 1/3 of the way through this book (based on the fact that there are three tapes, and I have completed one), and so far, I really don't like it.
Before we get too far, I have to admit that I have seen and that I love the movie. So, maybe my expectations were way off where they should be. But with that admission in mind, I hate Mary Poppins as portrayed in the book! She is mean! For example (the children have just asked how Mary Poppins spent her day off):
"Did you see Cinderella?" said Jane.
"Huh, Cinderella? Not me." said Mary Poppins contemptuously. "Cinderella, indeed!"
"Or Robinson Crusoe?" asked Michael.
"Robinson Crusoe - Pooh!" said Mary Poppins rudely.
"Then how could you have been there? It couldn't have been our fairlyand!"
Mary Poppins gave a superior sniff.
Look at the adjectives used to describe how she's talking: contemptuously, rudely, superior. And just about every time she speaks with the children, these same (or very similar) words pop up. I guess one could argue that the children were being nosey when they asked, but it appeared (or sounded) to me like they were young kids wondering what their nanny had been up to. Not brats that deserved to be talked down to.
The Mary Poppins of the book is also very vain. She's always stopping to look at herself in the mirror or in windows as they are out walking.
Perhaps the Julie Andrews, happy-go-lucky Mary Poppins appears in the second half of the book, and this grumpy version is her trying to straighten out the Banks children (who I think are better behaved than in the movie) and once they come around she will too.
Or, perhaps for only the second time that I can remember, I prefer the movie to the book. Perhaps the old adage "the book is always better" isn't true in this case. Or perhaps, it is more an issue of having such a high opinion of the way a character is portrayed in one version makes it difficult for me to accept the fact that she behaves in a very different way in the book version.
What do you think? Have you read Mary Poppins? Does it get better?
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
This story follows the unlikely friendship of a poor lacemaker (Isabelle) and Princess Therese, daughter of Queen Marie Antoinette. As the girls play and enjoy the luxuries of palace life, rumors of revolution start trickling in. Even Isabelle's older brother George believes that revolution may be what's best for the country. Will this friendship survive a revolution?
I am not really sure how to explain my feelings about this book. I think I liked the concept more than the execution. Therese and Isabelle's friendship never felt natural. It always felt very forced, mostly because of Therese's attitude towards anyone below her. I realize that she was raised royalty at a time that was guided by the Divine Rule of Kings, but it got kind of annoying. Plus, I always wondered if she actually cared for Isabelle or just enjoyed not being alone. I did believe that Isabelle cared for the princess overall, though she definitely had her moments of displeasure.
However, I did think that this book did an excellent job of softening both sides of the French Revolution. The King was portrayed as a very weak leader, but a loving man that cared for his children. I thought the scene where the King weeps after the death of his son was rather touching. I actually really liked the Marie Antoinette of this story. She seemed like a loving woman, who actually did care for the people of France. She came off as a rather cold mother, though some of that may have been more distraction due to having a very ill child than actual coldness. The Marie Antoinette of my 10th grade history class (the only time I learned about her) was much more evil character who didn't care for anyone but herself.
The story of the friendship itself is fiction. However, according to the author, the Queen was known to take compassion on children and that a peasant the Queen called Ernestine really did play with the princess. I don't know how many of the facts surrounding the revolution, etc were true, but with my very limited knowledge, they seemed believable. And, the book caught my interest enough that I am interested in doing some more research into the French Revolution, which I always think is a bonus.
Overall, I liked the story. It was a really quick read that fans of historical fiction will probably enjoy.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Friday, March 14, 2008
When a teacher from eleven year old Tom's school proposes to his mom, Tom runs away. Actually, he doesn't run away, but he leaves to try to get himself together an ends up sucked underground and into a series of caves under the mountain where his house sits. In said caves he finds a dead body, a dog, a live man, four graves, and the adventure of a lifetime.
You wouldn't guess by reading this blog, but I never read fantasy until I got married. I can literally count on my fingers the fantasy books I read before then (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter (1-5), and A Wrinkle in Time); it just wasn't my thing. However, it is my husband's thing and I have since read a ton of fantasy and have come to enjoy it overall. But lately I've been really looking for a good old fashioned adventure story - no fantasy elements needed. Leepike Ridge exactly fit that bill.
There's a young protagonist, some particularly vile bad guys, a tragic back story, and a lot of good clean (well, muddy) fun. I loved Tom. His temper tantrum in the beginning seemed realistic (who would want his mom to marry a teacher?), and the adventure on the styrofoam raft, while improbable, reminded me a lot of Huck Finn's adventure down the Mississippi, though a lot shorter. He handled himself so well in the caves, and that first night when he found something to do just to keep the light on seemed like something I would have thought up.
I liked the sub story of buried treasure and the evil men who were willing to do anything, including take advantage of an emotional mother, to get it. The men are vile and rather violent for a kid's book, but most of the violence is off screen.
I also really liked Reg. I figured out who he was pretty quickly, but he was just so good. He was a great leader for Tom and he had a lot of really sage advice like "...our bellies aren't big enough for revenge. It turns sour and eats you up." (p 137) A very true sentiment that most people need to remember nowadays. I loved that he took care of the bodies, all of the bodies, he found in the cave and the general respect he had for what he found down there. And, the hot pink he wore for the final adventure was a great detail. I giggle just trying to picture it.
The ending seemed to come together a little too nicely, but at the same time, it worked really well. So, I don't actually have a complaint about it. I just wish we learned where the entrance Ted found was! And why Tom's mom even put up with Jeffrey; she didn't seem to like him much.
Highly recommended to lovers of great adventure everywhere.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Heart of a Child Challenge
hosted by Becky of Becky's Book ReviewsThe basics:
How many? Read 3 to 6 books
When? Between February 1, 2008 and July 14, 2008
What? Books and authors that you discovered, loved, or adored as a child.
Here's my list (though it's not required):
The Amusement Park Mystery, by Gertrude Chandler Warner
This was the very first mystery I ever read, and it cemented forever my love for mysteries.
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
My dad read this to me when I was in 2nd grade (or thereabouts).
Best of Enemies, by Carolyn Keene
Oh, how I loved Nancy Drew. She was even better when she teamed up with the Hardy Boys!
Hatchet, by Gary Paulson
This was my favorite book in 5th grade. My dad even bought me a hatchet for Christmas that year.
The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams
I have fond memories of this book, though I remember being scared to death of getting so sick that all of my toys had to be burned afterwards.
Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd
This is still one of my favorite books.
It was kind of hard deciding which books to read. I made an initial list then spent the weekend thinking up more books that I could add. So, I will read these for the challenge, but I will probably end up re-reading more books from my early days.
This is the first reading challenge that I have signed up for, but I think it should be very doable. And, I am excited to re-read some of these books! I will post some sort of update regarding all of these books, though I am not sure I will do a formal review for them or at least all of them.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
By Anne Ursu
Greek myths are in right now. This is the second series that I have picked up where the Greek gods feature prominently (the other is Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan), and I have to admit that I've enjoyed both of them a lot.
The Shadow Thieves follows Charlotte and Zee (short for Zachary). Charlotte is a quick talking, mopey adolescent. She thinks well on her feet, but she has a difficult time dealing with the human race. Her mom calls her "prickly." Zee is Charlotte's cousin who was raised in London and insists on calling soccer balls footballs. After Zee's grandmother dies, all of his friends become very ill; they are unable to get out of bed or do anything, but no one can figure out what's wrong with them. Eventually, Zee decides that it must all be his fault, so he talks his folks into sending him to live with his cousin in America. Unfortunately, once he arrives, Charlotte's friends start falling ill. Charlotte and Zee must figure out a way to save their friends.
I have a love/hate relationship with books where the language is super informal. It really rubs me the wrong way, yet I almost always like the story, and because the language is informal, there are usually a lot of funny lines throughout. That was the kind of relationship I had with this book. The language is pretty informal, and at times the author talks to the reader ("You thought your name was bad" p 1) which drives me crazy. But, I really enjoyed the story and thought it was hilarious. Here are some favorite passages: (all pages refer to paperback ed)
Other than the informal language, I really enjoyed this book. I found Charlotte clever and funny, and she reminded me a lot of me when I was younger (though I never knew what to say). I struggled a bit more with Zee. He seemed like a nice enough kid, but he was so busy being stressed/feeling sorry for himself that he never seemed to grow as a character.
I am sure there will be comparisons to Percy Jackson, but this book stands well on its own. The stories aren't even similar other than the Greek myths being real thing. It's the first of a series (the second book The Siren Song, is available in hardback) but the ending should satisfy (I hate cliffhangers!). I look forward to the next installment.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
My description of it makes it sound lame, but it really isn't. Please don't judge an amazing book by my lame description.
"My piano teacher was supposed to be a sweet, rumpled old man. ...
'A prodigy,' he would say. He would discourage me from practicing too much and spoiling the spontaneity of my play. ...
Soon, Maestro would come to think of me as the granddaughter he never had. ... And then one night, just as I am about to walk on stage, he would hand me a velvet box and it would be a diamond tiara and I would put it on and he would weep for joy." (p 20)
Don't you just love him?
I love Zoe's sense of humor and her ability to look passed the flaws of people around her admirable. She is an only child, and her father stays at home working on courses from "Living Room University" with such intriguing classes as "Bake your way to the bank: turning cookies into cash" for which he got a diploma declaring him a Biscotti Hottie. Her mother is more or less a work-a-holic, who doesn't really have time for the things that Zoe finds important. Or at least, any time she does have will be dropped at the first sign of trouble at work. Her friendship with Wheeler is cute with the perfect level of "romance" for a book targeting this age group. It was kind of hinted at, but basically non-existent.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
So, who are some of your favorite characters? Is there anyone you would like to meet in real life if you could?
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Saturday, March 1, 2008
Tuesday, by David Wiesner *
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, by Mordicai Gerstein *
June 29, 1999, by David Wiesner
Kitten's First Full Moon, by Kevin Henkes *
Hurricane, by David Wiesner
Mei Li, by Thomas Handforth
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton
The Three Pigs, by David Wiesner *
Shadow, by Marcia Brown
Stone Soup, by Marcia Brown
A Story A Story, by Gail E. Haley
My Friend Rabbit, by Eric Rohman *
Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen
Jacob had a Little Overcoat, by Simms Taback *
Early ReadersDulcie's Taste of Magic, a Disney Fairy book
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick *
Frindel, by Andrew Clements (audio book) *
Young Adult Books
Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
M.C. Higgins the Great, by Virginia Hamilton
Castle in the Air, by Diana Wynne Jones
River Secrets, by Shannon Hale *
Magician: Apprentice, by Raymond Feist
Magician: Master, by Raymond Feist
Silverthorn, by Raymond Feist *
Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
* = a favorite.
Is it bad that so many of the books that I read were favorites? I do try to avoid books that I know I won't like, so maybe that's the reason? Either way, I would recommend any of the "favorites" listed above. Actually, I would recommend most of the books listed above anyway, though with some sort of intro like "it wasn't my favorite, but..." The only book that I probably would never recommend was M.C. Higgins the Great, which I only read in my attempt to read all the Newbery winners. I found it rather boring - but I don't think I understood the message the author was trying to portray (or something).