Thursday, March 26, 2015

Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth (E.L. Konigsburg)

Lovely little story. I have to wonder if it would get a Newberry Award these days. The pursuit of witchcraft and secrets from parents might turn people off. Some might even wonder if there's a little bullying in the story. There certainly is a friendship that seems a little one-sided...but it all works out in the end. It was a realistic glimpse into children's friendships.

Goodreads summary:

Elizabeth is an only child, new in town, and the shortest kid in her class. She's also pretty lonely, until she meets Jennifer. Jennifer is...well, "different." She's read "Macbeth." She never wears jeans or shorts. She never says "please" or "thank you." And she says she is a witch. It's not always easy being friends with a witch, but it's never boring. At first an apprentice and then a journeyman witch, Elizabeth learns to eat raw eggs and how to cast small spells. And she and Jennifer collaborate on cooking up an ointment that will enable them to fly. That's when a marvelous toad, Hilary Ezra, enters their lives. And that's when trouble starts to brew.

Favorite quotes:

"Jennifer," I asked, "what do you ever do besides read?"
She looked up at the sky and sighed and said very seriously, "I think."

“...just because I don't have on a silly black costume and carry a silly broom and wear a silly black hat, doesn't mean that I'm not a witch. I'm a witch all the time and not just on Halloween.” 

Friday, March 20, 2015

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler (E.L. Konigsburg)

I read this book because the Gr 4 students at my school were reading it for Battle of the Books. It's one of those books that I always thought I should read, but just never did. I'm glad to say I've now finally read it.

Unfortunately, the book wasn't a big hit with the students in my Battle of the Books group. I can see why. There isn't a lot of gripping action. It's a simple story. The mystery is good though if you appreciate art!

This book is a Newberry winner. I sure would like to be in some of those meetings where they pick the Newberry winners. I'd love to hear their reasoning.

Goodreads summary:

When suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn’t just want to run from somewhere, she wants to run to somewhere — to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and, preferably, elegant. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing her younger brother Jamie has money and thus can help her with a serious cash-flow problem, she invites him along.

Once settled into the museum, Claudia and Jamie find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue that the museum purchased at auction for a bargain price of $225. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master, Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions. Is it? Or isn’t it?

Claudia is determined to find out. Her quest leads her to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the remarkable old woman who sold the statue, and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.

I thought the author did a great job of Claudia's reasons to run away. She feels unappreciated and thinks running away will teach her parents a good lesson. After all, how is it fair that she has to both unload the dishwasher AND set the table? Mothers everywhere would snicker. Children everywhere would nod their heads in agreement!

I also thought Claudia was really good at picking good resources. She chose the particular brother she did simply because he was good with money.  That's important when you're heading out on your own for the first time.

Favorite quotes:

Chapter 9: Claudia is talking to Mrs. Frankweiler about her running away. Mrs. Frankweiler wants her to tell her where they stayed, but Claudia doesn't want to tell her.

...If I tell, then I know for sure that my adventure is over. And I don't want it to be over until I'm sure I've had enough."
"The adventure is over. Everything gets over, and nothing is ever enough. Except the part you carry with you. It's the same as going on vacation. Some people spend all their time on a vacation taking pictures so that when they get home they can show their friends evidence that they had a good time. They don't pause to let the vacation enter inside of them and take that home."

then later:

I continued, "Returning with a secret is what she really wants. Angel had a secret and that made her exciting, important. Claudia doesn't want adventure. She likes baths and feeling comfortable too much for that kind of thing. Secrets are the kind of adventure she needs. Secrets are safe, and they do much to make you different. On the inside where it counts. I won't actually be getting a secret from you; I'll be getting details. I'm a collector of all kinds of things besides art," I said, pointing to my files.

And on learning (also from chapter 9):
Claudia is telling Mrs. Frankweiler that you should try to learn something every day:

"No," I answered, "I don't agree with that. I think that you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to well up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside you. If you never take time out to let that happen, that you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It's hollow."

Monday, March 9, 2015

No Such Things (Bill Peet)

This book might be just perfect for our gloopy stories. It has a bunch of creatures that are made up and just pure nonsense. Just what we're looking for!

I love Bill Peet!

Goodread summary:

Describes in rhyme a variety of fantastical creatures such as the blue-snouted Twumps, the pie-faced Pazeeks, and the fancy Fandangos

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Terrible Two (Mac Barnett and Jory John)

I loved this book. It is seriously hilarious. How does Mac Barnett hit the nail exactly in the head every time?! This guy gets kid humor. Not many books make me laugh out loud. I usually chuckle. This one made me gafaw out loud. Loved it!

I thought if so many kids I knew when I was reading this book. It reminded me of my prankstering cousin and I. She was the nerdy one with the school helper sash. Not because she was a nerd.....but she was the queen of pranks. I just wanted to be :)

I also related to the lack of respect for cows. I remember when our dumb cows used to get out...always seemed to happen when our parents weren't home. Cows are dumb. The cow commentaries in this book are hilarious.

Goodreads summary:

Miles Murphy is not happy to be moving to Yawnee Valley, a sleepy town that’s famous for one thing and one thing only: cows. In his old school, everyone knew him as the town’s best prankster, but Miles quickly discovers that Yawnee Valley already has a prankster, and a great one. If Miles is going to take the title from this mystery kid, he is going to have to raise his game.
It’s prankster against prankster in an epic war of trickery, until the two finally decide to join forces and pull off the biggest prank ever seen: a prank so huge that it would make the members of the International Order of Disorder proud.
In The Terrible Two, bestselling authors and friends Mac Barnett and Jory John have created a series that has its roots in classic middle-grade literature yet feels fresh and new at the same time.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sisters (Raina Telgemeier)

I've seen books by this author in a lot of places. They're blogged about a lot. They are in all the bookstores. They have been begging me to read them. I finally got to it!

This one is a graphic novel (I get the feeling most of Raina Telgemeier's books are graphic novels). They're a quick read. I have to force myself to slow down and look at the pictures as well as read the words.

This book is easy to follow. The main character has flash backs to when she wishes she had a sister, to when her sister was born, etc. The flashback pages are yellow. In my dimly lit bedroom it took me a little bit of time to clue into that! It makes it easy though.

I had to really chuckle at the snake issues in the book. The younger sister wants a snake - but the older sister is afraid of snakes. The younger sister gets one anyway. (I hate snakes....I couldn't live in a house with a snake or travel in a van with a snake....she totally won my respect there. I wouldn't have done it!) They call it "the incident".

The vignettes are real and relatable. I had to laugh at the section where they want a pet. They try fish. Fish die. They get another one. Finally, after a few tries at keeping fish, they decide to try something else. This is juxtaposed by the announcement that they're going to have a little brother. I thought that was pretty funny next to the pet conversations.

All in all, it's a fun book. It is a great read for girls who have a sister, or wish they had a sister, or wish they didn't have a sister.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion)

I came by this book quite by chance. One of my co-workers came and brought it to me and said I should read it. It was my turn to pick the book for our book club and it seemed like a good choice. I wanted to pick a romance of sorts. I chose this one because it isn't a mushy Nicholas Sparks book, but rather, a funny odd story of finding love.

In the end it made for a really great book club discussion. One of the ladies in our book club also bought the second book and had started it, but she didn't have very good reviews. She tried to pawn it off on anyone that would take it. In the end, she went home with it.

I looked up the author. He has quite an online presence: twitter, Ted talks, website, even the main character, Don Tillman, has a twitter account. He seems a lot like Don Tillman - an (pompous?) intellectual who seems a little abrasive and dull in interviews. It's his first fiction book. He claims to have written it in a short time. It has been translated into 30 languages and is to be made into a movie.

Perhaps it's his huge success that brings out my negativity. I'm jealous!

I quite enjoyed the main character. It never says in the book that he has aspergers or autism - but it sure sounds like he does. He is quirky and funny and reminds me of quite a few people I know! I have a feeling there's a few "spectrum types" in my family....or maybe there's just a bit of Don Tillman in me. I don't know. All I know is I found his matter of fact logic quite hilarious:

p. 291 It was a very reasonable explanation. I wished Rosie had provided this background information prior to me holding her stepfather's head on the floor with blood pouring out from his nose.

Goodreads summary:

An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

          The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously
         gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.