Monthly Archives: December 2014

He Laughed With His Other Mouths Review

he-laughed-with-his-other-mouthsHe Laughed With His Other Mouths (A Pals in Perils Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus

Beach Lane Books, 2014. 978-1442451100

Synopsis: Jasper Dash has always lived a comfortable life with his mother, exploring space, creating inventions of the future, and journeying to strange lands with his friends. But there’s something missing in his life; a strong, male presence absent from his existence that has left Jasper to wonder who is father is. Despite his mother’s explanations and warnings, Jasper builds a teleportation device that will take him fifteen light years from Earth, across the galaxy to discover his parentage.

Why I picked it up: It was on a “New Books” display at my library and I don’t think I have enough ‘boy books’ in my repertoire.

Why I finished it: While the story had no shortage of excitement and ray guns, there was a story-within-a-story bit that made it hard to get through. And the other side story wasn’t particularly interesting to boot. What I like about these books is the pure energy and imagination of the characters, and while there was a lot of imagination, I found the energy lagging significantly and that was another factor that made the book easy to put down between chapters. The premise was intriguing, but the execution could have been better. Jasper Dash has always been a boy ahead of his time, but lately he’s been feeling like nothing he does matters, despite what his friends try to do to cheer him up. Plus, he’s always been the kind of boy that listens and obeys his mother. But when she tells him not to use his teleportation booth to find the being that shot a concentrated beam of energy from the Horsehead Nebula that resulted in his conception, Jasper decides that he’s had enough of being good and it’s time that he set out on his own. The reader can totally identify with Jasper’s troubles and the desire to disobey his parent, but there’s something about his character that tells us right from the start that he’s going to do the right thing and there’s something a little bit…boring about it. For all the book’s edge-of-your-seat action, there’s a certain predictability to the story and as a reader, that sort of turns me off. If I know where the story is going, I’m less likely to keep going. But keep going I did, and while the ending wasn’t what I initially expected, I still sorta saw it coming. Anderson is a gifted writer with an impressive body of work, and so much of this book felt lazy. Lazy writing makes for lackluster reading. Additionally, the asides that create the story-within-a-story interrupted the action and might have been better served as an appendix to Jasper’s tale. Much like Jasper’s science fair bust at the beginning of the story, this book fails to deliver the promised mystery and excitement, even if it does have far too many ray guns for its own good.

Other related materials: Whales on Stilts! (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; Jasper Dash and the Flame Pits of Delaware (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; Agent Q, or The Smell of Danger! (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; Zombie Mommy (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; The Norumbegan Quartet books by M.T. Anderson; Percy Jackson and the Olympians books by Rick Riordan; The Heroes of Olympus books by Rick Riordan; Spirit Animals books; Warriors: Dawn of the Clans books by Erin Hunter, illustrations by Wayne McLoughlin

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Merry Christmas 2014!

thMerry Christmas 2014!

Every year, after we are entirely too full of food to do anything but stare blankly at the wall, my family gathers around the television and watch “Miracle on 34th Street”. It seems a little contradictory to me now that we sit in front of a screen rather than continuing to talk about what is going on in our lives. But we are there, and we are together, and that’s part of what makes the holiday special.

I’ve compiled a list of my favorite holiday movies this year: some classics, some staples (the ones that are broadcast like clockwork every year), and some new favorites. And even if your holiday traditions don’t involve sitting in front of the television with people you may only see once a year, cherish the traditions and the time you have with the people you love.

Whatever you do and however you celebrate the season, be safe, be merry, and have a wonderful holiday!

Classics

Miracle on 34th Street starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, and Natalie Wood (1947)

It’s A Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed (1947)

A Christmas Carol starring George C. Scott, Frank Finlay, and Anthony Walters (1984)

Holiday Inn starring Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and Marjorie Reynolds (1942)

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen (1954)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer starring Billie Mae Richards, Burl Ives, Paul Soles, Larry D. Mann, and Stan Francis (released in 2007)

Staples

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas starring Boris Karloff (rereleased in 2009)

A Charlie Brown Christmas starring Ann Altieri, Chris Doran, Sally Dryer, and Bill Melendez (2008)

Frosty the Snowman starring Jimmy Durante, Billy De Wolfe, Jackie Vernon, Paul Frees, and June Foray (1965)

Santa Clause is Comin’ to Town! starring Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Keenan Wynn, Paul Frees, and Gary White (1970)

The Santa Clause starring Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson, David Krumholtz, and Eric Lloyd (1994)

Jingle All The Way starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Phil Hartman, Rita Wilson, and Jake Lloyd (1996)

Favorites

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas starring Jim Carrey, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, and Taylor Momsen (2000)

The Muppet Christmas Carol starring Michael Caine, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmore, and Frank Oz (1992)

Home Alone starring Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, and Catherine O’Hara (1990)

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York starring Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, and Catherine O’Hara (1992)

Miracle on 34th Street starring Mara Wilson, Richard Attenborough, Elizabeth Perkins, and Dylan McDermott (1994)

Prancer starring Sam Elliot, Cloris Leachman, Michael Constantine, and Johnny Galecki (1989)

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That Day in September and other Rhymes for the Times Review

that_day_in_septemberThat Day in September and other Rhymes for the Times by Liz Lime

Words in the Works LLC, 2014. 978-0991036479

Synopsis: From the playful teasing of shoe fashionistas, to more somber and thought-provoking themes, the messages in the rhymes from this first-time author are cleverly written and craftily disguised in the age-old style and beat of the English classics. While the layered messages behind these simply written, but light-hearted rhymes, may not be immediately recognizable, the references made to the more serious societal concerns of our country are evident in the beautifully illustrated pages. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I was asked if I wanted to do a review as part of a blog tour and I jumped at the chance. I find that poetry transcends age.

Why I finished it: This is a short picture book that packs a rather surprising punch for the reader. On the surface, the book would appear juvenile, but the messages one can glean from Lime’s poetry are numerous. It takes jabs at the financial crisis, illegal immigration, and even foreign policy, the context of which might go over some readers heads. But I like to think that the reader is capable of doing their own research and forming their own opinions about current events here and around the world. The rhyme scheme and the structure are really quite clever, drawing from a number of classic poems or rhymes in terms of meter that, even if you don’t recognize them, can be appreciated. Each of the sixteen illustrators that contributed to this collection have done a fantastic job of creating simplistic images to accompany each of the surprisingly complex poems. The range of styles and artistic interpretations add additional meaning to Lime’s words, asking the reader to create a more realistic and perhaps contrary image to what is seen on the page. It makes the meaning of the poems more easily digestible to the reader and showcases a wide spectrum of talent that I hope to see in other works. It’s a thought-provoking little volume that can be enjoyed by all ages and used as a starting point for more serious conversations about what we do and what direction in which we are going.

Other related materials: Read Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young selected by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Marc Brown; A Children’s Treasury of Nursery Rhymes with illustrations by Linda Bleck; Classic Poems for Children edited by Nicola Baxter; A Child’s Anthology of Poetry edited by Elizabeth Hague Sword and Victoria Flournoy McCarthy, illustrated by Tom Pohrt; A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa; Poems to Learn by Heart selected by Caroline Kennedy, illustrations by Jon J. Muth; Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings by Shel Silverstein; A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein; The 20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury selected by Jack Prelutsky, illustrations by Meilo So; The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children’s Poems edited by Donald Hall

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The Quikpick Papers: Poop Fountain! Review

poop_fountainThe Quikpick Papers: Poop Fountain! by Tom Angleberger, illustrations by Jen Wang

Harry N. Abrams, 2014. 978-1419704253

Synopsis: This is the true record of the first adventure of the Quikpick Adventure Society. Society might be stretching it, since there are only three of us, but adventure is definitely stretching it. All we wanted to do was investigate the poop fountain at the local sanitation plant based on this article I found for a school assignment. The other option was opening the mysterious barrel of Banana Puree behind the empty old Kroger store. And what we found, well, you’ll have to read the report to find out.

Why I picked it up: I love, love, love the Origami Yoda books and the title reminded me of Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers.

Why I finished it: This book has just the right balance of adventure, mystery, and the completely disgusting. Since Lyle and his friends Marilla and Dave don’t have anything to do on Christmas Day, they decide to sneak into the local sanitation plant to see the mythical poop fountain. Because they can’t just sit around at the local Quikpick all day while Lyle’s parents work. That would be way too boring. Plus, it’s Christmas, so the plant is closed anyway, and it’s not like there’s anyone around to bust them for sneaking onto private property. It makes me nostalgic for the days when my parents were too busy to wonder what I was up to…which was never, but readers can dream, can’t they? The report, as discovered by Angleberger, is a story about kids like us that are in search of a cure from the everyday. They want to be able to go out and do something fun in a town that’s, well, boring. Especially when you’ve pretty much done everything that is worth doing. I like Lyle as a narrator because we can relate to him: we remember how hard it is to make friends, we remember how it is to compete with someone over a crush, we remember wanting to discover something awesome about which we could never ever tell our parents. Complete with Polaroid pictures and unofficial personal notes from Lyle, the first volume of the Quikpick Papers is guaranteed to delight fans of Angleberger’s other works and bring other fans into the fold. Plus, it’s a quick read that inspires us to discover something unexpected about the places in which we live.

Other related materials: Origami Yoda books by Tom Angleberger; Star Wars: Jedi Academy books by Jeffrey Brown; How to Eat Fried Worms by Judy Blume; Freckle Juice by Judy Blume; Diary of a Sixth-Grade Ninja books by Marcus Emerson; The Ninja Librarians books by Jen Swann Downey; The Creature from My Closet books by Obert Skye; Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney; Guys Read books edited by Jon Scieszka; The Lemonade War series by Jacqueline Davies

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Two Boys Kissing Review

twoboyskissingTwo Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013. 978-0307931900

Synopsis: Based on true events—and narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS—Two Boys Kissing follows Harry and Craig, two seventeen-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record. While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teens dealing with universal questions of love, identity, and belonging. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I will read anything David Levithan writes forever.

Why I finished it: This book definitely deserves the glowing reviews its received: it’s poignant, heartbreaking, and full of hope. Each of the couples in this book represents a stage every relationship – gay or straight – goes through: the nervous getting-to-know-you, the continual desire to know every little thing about the other person, the still trying to be friends even after things are over, and everything in between. It’s a story about the struggles we encounter on the way to becoming ourselves, the way we want others to see us, the way that we have to let ourselves open up to someone we want to be close to, the way we support our friends. The chorus of those who came before gives the reader insight as to what our characters face, what generations of men and women after them will face: the adversity, the challenges, the hurdles people will overcome in order to be together. The real story behind the kiss is just as exciting as Levithan’s fictional re-telling, and while records can be broken, the message sent sticks in our minds. It’s a message that says to me that we’re all people, we all deserve to be treated with the same respect, we all deserve to have our voices heard. It’s a message that stays with the reader long after the book has been put down, and will continue to resonate with readers after us.

Other related materials: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan; Every Day by David Levithan; Every You, Every Me by David Levithan; The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan; How They Met and Other Stories by David Levithan; The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan; Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green; Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Álire Saenz; Just Between Us by J.H. Trimble; Where You Are by J.H. Trimble; Don’t Let Me Go by J.H. Trimble; Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez; Rainbow High by Alex Sanchez; Rainbow Road by Alex Sanchez; Boyfriends with Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez; The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. daforth; Something Like Summer by Jay Bell; Something Like Winter by Jay Bell; Something Like Autumn by Jay Bell; Something Like Spring by Jay Bell; Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg; Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington

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