Tag Archives: Levine (author)

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It Review

forgivemeimeanttodoitForgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems by Gail Carson Levine, illustrated by Matthew Cordell

HarperCollins, 2012. 0061787256.

Synopsis: Inspired by William Carlos Williams’s “This Is Just to Say”, Gail Carson Levine delivers her own take on the false apology poem that gives the reader insight about the motivations for the mischievous and devious things we do, and the fact that we’re not really sorry we did them.

Why I picked it up: We’ve all been “sorry” we did something impish.

Why I finished it: This collection celebrates silliness, wit, and that satisfaction of having pulled off some sort of practical joke or another. While the false apology poem is perhaps not recognized as one of the poetic forms we study in school, Levine has taken the work of another poet and transformed it into a genre all its own. In the introduction (which falls somewhere near the middle of the book), Levine gives the reader a sort of outline for the false apology poem and the lack of niceties and sarcasm that goes into writing a poem that shows one’s true feelings about having eaten the last cookie or put bugs in a classmate’s backpack or stolen a scarf to use as a flag. The poems even explore some of the feelings of well-known fairy tale characters, like the cow from Jack and the Beanstalk. Cordell’s drawings are just as mischievous as the poems and in a way mirrors the sarcasm of the poems themselves. It’s reminiscent of Quentin Blake’s work in Roald Dahl’s books (Matilda, Boy, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG) that, for those of us that have read Dahl’s works, gives a sort of nostalgic feel to the collection as if we are looking back at tricks played and remembering them with glee – like Schadenfreude. Fun to read aloud or while giggling quietly to oneself, Levine revolutionizes the notion of a ‘sincere’ apology.

Other related materials: This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski; A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet; What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski; Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems edited by Georgia Heard; Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Nancy Doniger; The Arrow Finds Its Mark: A Book of Found Poems edited by Georgia Heard, illustrated by Antoine Guillope; Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josee Masse; Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems edited by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet; Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Michael Slack


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Island Eyes, Island Skies Review

Island Eyes, Island Skies by Richard Levine

Feathered Tale Publishers, 2011. 978-0-9829269-0-1

Synopsis: Tall, smart-alecky D.C. meets introspective Rob at her cousin’s birthday party and the two become fast friends, promising to keep in touch over the summer but family tragedies prevent the two from talking. They are reunited at school in the fall and their friendship grows over the school year. When tragedy strikes again, the two lean on each other for support and understanding while everything else seems to be shattering around them.

Why I picked it up: The author emailed me and asked if I would review it for the blog. The subject matter struck me as interesting and I am a sucker for new reading materials.

Why I finished it: I don’t remember a lot about junior high (and for good reason, I suppose), but I do remember the shift in emotions and the shifts in social circles. It’s more common to see girls have boys as friends without being a tomboy, but even that is not even as easy as it seems. Levine approaches this dichotomy from the beginning where D.C. and Rob meet at the birthday party – the two of them are talking and getting to know each other, but most of the rest of the room believes that love is in the air (and maybe it is….). The story jumps between Rob and D.C., whose unique voices bring them and the story to life. Levine has accurately portrayed the feelings and emotions associated with love, loss, and friendship that drive the story and keep the reader enticed and wanting to know what happens next. It reminded me of a much mellower version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – the first person voice has a conversational tone that doesn’t alienate the reader and gives the sense that the characters know and understand what we are going through, even though we experience things in different ways. It is heart-breaking, humorous, and speaks to and touches the reader in unexpected ways.

Other related materials: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume; Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume; Then Again, Maybe I Won’t by Judy Blume; Forever… by Judy Blume; Just As Long As We’re Together by Judy Blume; It’s Not The End of the World by  Judy Blume; Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen; This Place Has No Atmosphere by Paula Danzinger; The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danzinger; Everyone Else’s Parents Said Yes by Paula Danzinger; Not For A Billion Gazillion Dollars by Paula Danzinger; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

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Ella Enchanted review

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Harper Trophy, 1997. 978-0-06-027510-5

Synopsis: At birth, Ella is given the gift of obedience by the fairy Lucinda, meaning that if commanded or asked to do something, she must do it. She lives a comfortable life with her mother, her father (who is a merchant who travels frequently), and cook Mandy, who is Ella’s fairy godmother. Ella meets Prince Char at her mother’s funeral and the two make an instant connection because she can make him laugh. After her mother’s death, Ella is sent to finishing school with the daughters of one of her father’s acquaintances, Dame Olga. The daughters, Hattie and Olive, inadvertently discover that Ella must do whatever she is asked without question. Determined to lift the curse, Ella runs away from finishing school to try and find the fairy Lucinda.

Why I picked it up: Cursed princesses appeal to me.

Why I finished it: Being familiar with the original fairy tale, it is interesting to note the differences between the two. Possibly the most notable difference between Ella Enchanted and Cinderella is that one Cinderella is cursed and the other is not. The Cinderella in the original is far kinder to her stepfamily than Ella, who shows an open dislike for them while being a slave to their demands. Ella is open and honest about her stepfamily’s abuse, though her father chooses not to deal with the problem. Both Ella and Cinderella’s carriages are made from pumpkins, the horses transformed mice, the driver a transformed rat, and the footmen transformed lizards, the difference is who was doing the creating. Ella’s fairy godmother does not do anything over-the-top to help her, instead offering her advice about how to best handle her curse. Cinderella’s fairy godmother instantly appears when Cinderella needs her and does not function as a mentor but as a provider for the solution of not being able to go to the balls. Both stories have noxious stepfamilies, though one is described in more detail than the other. The advantage of Levine’s spin on a classic is that it is slightly more approachable than the original fairy tale, which, though it was written before the feature cartoon film, has the same flavor as the Disney movie we so fondly remember from our childhoods. What I liked about Ella is that she is her own hero – she’s not going to wait around for someone to rescue her, by golly, she’s going to rescue herself! It’s about accepting who you are and being willing to wave your own flag, regardless of what others might think or say.

Other related materials: Ella Enchanted (movie); Fairest by Gail Carson Levine; Ever by Gail Carson Levine; The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine; The Fairy’s Return and Other Princess Tales by Gail Carson Levine; The Princess Tales books by Gail Carson Levine; The Wish by Gail Carson Levine; Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan; Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles; The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop; The White Mountains by John Christopher; Princess Academy by Shannon Hale; The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo; Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George; The Enchanted Forest Chronicles books by Patricia C. Wrede

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