Category Archives: Young Readers

I see London, I see France…

I see animals in underpants! You can see animals in underpants too, if you pick up a copy of The Underpants Zoo!

Ok ok, enough of my silly rhyming. On to the reviewing.

At The Underpants Zoo by Brian Sendelbach all of the animals wear underpants! Reading the book we take a tour through this silly zoo, and get to see exactly what kind of underpants a zebra, crocodile, or elephant might wear. Written in rhyme, which we all know I love, this was a cute funny book that any child is sure to love. The illustrations were bright and fun and they really popped, perfect for this story and a great way to get young children exited about wearing big girl or big boy underpants. I daresay the children thought it was a lot funnier than most adults would, but it was met with gales of laughter and a lot of excitement. There’s not much more I can say about this title, it wasn’t one of my personal favorites but there again I’m not 5 anymore. The kids absolutely loved it though, so you should definitely listen more to what they thought. 😛

This next book wasn’t a storytime book, yet. The other book we did at storytime with The Underpants Zoo was Giraffes Can’t Dance which I reviewed here earlier. But to follow the theme of underpants related stories, I’ll review for you guys Dinosaurs Love Underpants by Claire Freedman. Another hilarious rhyming homage to the glory of underpants.

In Dinosaurs Love Underpants we learn the real reason why dinosaurs went extinct, they became far too obsessed with wearing underpants. T. Rex starts the trend when, instead of eating the cave men, he decides to take their underpants instead. Once again there isn’t a lot of plot to the story, possibly an underpants story theme, but what it lacks in plot it surely makes up for with fabulous illustrations and great humor. I particularly love the cover illustration, which just cracks me up and fills me with a sense of childhood adventure and fun.

*Bonus Review*

What is it about underpants that inspires so much childlike humor and infinite silliness? What is it about them that gives even grown-ups the giggle fits? It’s an age old question to which we may never have an answer. What I do know is that there is a whole series of chapter books devoted to underwear humor. Of course I am talking about The Captain Underpants Series by Dav Pilkey.

In The Adventures of Captain Underpants, Harold and George are two fourth grade pranksters who take it a little further than usual by hypnotizing their principal into believing he is an underpants wearing super-hero. Of course they think it’s hilarious until he escapes and starts chasing down bad guys wearing nothing but underwear and a cape. Which is actually more hilarious. The series follows the antics of these boys and Captain Underpants, their erstwhile principal. While it will definitely not be to everyone’s taste (mine for example) the books are indeed funny and very appealing to children of a certain age and taste. I wasn’t of an age or taste, probably ever, to appreciate them. In fact I really really disliked them. BUT I can see the appeal to kids.

If it gets them to read, I’m all for it. Unfortunately this is one of the books that often suffers censorship from parents because of the “dumb”, “stupid”, or “gross” humor and because it does nothing to broaden a child’s mind. That said, let me ask does Nora Roberts broaden yours? If your kid wants to read, no matter what it is, please encourage it. As Pilkey states on his site, this may be too silly for grown-ups and you should probably get a child’s permission before reading.

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In defense of the genre…

It’s fitting that the title of this post is also the name of the album I’m listening to as I write it.

I signed into Facebook earlier today, as per usual. Lalala I read through my newsfeed. K has little baby kittens, M went swimming last night, S ate a bug, and my mom is still playing that game. Then I come to a post from a friend and fellow writer. She had written a new blog, and since her blogs are clever and funny and relatable I try to read them. Today the blog she wrote concerned this article by The Washington Post. You might want to give it a gander just so you get a general idea about why I’m kinda pissed, and also genuinely confused.

After you have read that you can, if you like, read Zoe’s rebuttal here. Just for some background, I don’t know if I’ve said but I’m a writer. A Young Adult writer in particular, as is Zoe (check out some of her stuff, it’s great), and while I’m currently unpublished I have a vested interest in the genre both as a writer and an avid reader. So I feel like I badly need to address this article.

Now Zoe has already addressed a lot of what was wrong with that article. It is a blatant attack on YA as a genre and also on anyone who writes YA. Because apparently it’s bad for authors to write books for a target audience and write them about topics that said audience can relate to. Let’s see, violence, rape, eating disorders, cutting, drug abuse, etc.

But I’ll leave that bit alone. I won’t even get into the fact that these are issues every young person is going to encounter at some point, and that some of those encounters will leave them scarred and broken. That reading about these things might make it easier to cope, might make these scarred teens feel a little less alone. Let’s instead just focus on the books, the reading, and the bookselling aspect.

The article opens up with a woman who goes into a BN to find a book for her 13 year old daughter. Looking through the teen section all she saw was “vampires and suicide and self-mutilation, this dark, dark stuff.” Here’s my first question, why didn’t she ask a bookseller for help? I’ve had concerned parents ask me for recommendations of books that didn’t deal with those very subjects. They usually purchased several of the books I recommended and left happily. Some of the books I recommended? Harry Potter, Eragon, Tamora Pierce, Jessica Day George, Nobody’s Princess, Sarah Dessen, Anne Brashares, 13 Blue Envelopes, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Melissa Marr, Prom Dates From Hell, the list goes on.

Of course there are “dark” books out there for teens. Teens are at a dark point in their lives. They are at a point where everything is changing, and everyone is changing. They are at an age where they are expected to act and think like adults but still be treated like children. You write what your audience wants to read. Or more aptly publishers publish what their audiences want to read, and booksellers sell what their customers want to read. It’s really simple economics here. They demand, we supply. Were there not a demand for these sorts of books we wouldn’t sell them.

What really cheeses me off about this article is the fact that all of the books in the entire genre are being judged based on the contents of a few. If you walk into my room you will find hundreds, maybe a thousand books. Most of them written for YA. Maybe one or two deal with any of those “dark” subject matters. If you are that worried about what your teens might be reading, do some research. Read some of it yourself. Ask a professional for their opinion.

Or ideally, let your teen be their own person and make their own choices. Let them read what they want to read, and if what they choose concerns you talk to them about it! Maybe there are things going on in their life that you don’t know about. Maybe they do need help, not because the books they are reading affected their psyche but because their psyches were affected by something else and brought them to choose those books. I know a young lady who reads a lot of realistic books about abuse, rape, suicide, etc. Why? Because she has been abused, raped, and has attempted suicide. And no one in her life understood or got her help. By finding these books she found that she was not alone, and this she told me, makes her want to go to college to be a counselor for young people. Because they shouldn’t feel alone.

To me what this all really boils down to here is an age superiority complex. Teens don’t feel, they don’t suffer, their thoughts and ideas don’t matter because we as adults have already been there and come out on the other side. We as adults have forgotten what it was to feel young, and alone, and afraid. We have forgotten what it was to imagine, to create, to live each day like it’s brand new bogged down as we are in our oh so important day to day. The world doesn’t begin and end at your mortgage payment and your white picket fences. Well, I haven’t forgotten and I hope I never do. If you take a nice close look at the album cover I posted above you will see that on the one side you have an army of the old and on the other an army of the young. The never-ending battle of youth versus age, that is all this is.

All I’m saying here is, leave my genre alone man. There are books in it for every age, for every taste. They are not all the same.

Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth-Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

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In which a book is reviewed, a new book is drawn, and a winner is announced.

As you all know (or maybe you don’t if you’re new here, in which case HI!) I’ve been reading
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper.

I’ll give you all a brief synopsis of the story, followed by my thoughts, and my rating of the book.

*BEWARE OF SPOILERS*

Synopsis : The Dark is Rising was first published by Susan Cooper in 1973. Her Dark is Rising series has become a modern classic, and has gathered a cult following of those who love the genre (Arthurian Myth, fantasy, or Young Adults. Take your pick.) and is arguably her most well-known work to date. I’ve already reviewed the first book in the series in my first post. Over Sea, Under Stone was to The Dark is Rising as The Hobbit is to Fellowship of the Ring. The story is that of an 11 year old boy named Will Stanton who lives with his large family in the English countryside. Strange things begin to happen the day before his birthday; animals behaving oddly, strange people following him, and a fateful gift given to him by an unlikely friend. Then on the day of his 11th birthday his entire world is turned upside and changed forever when he finds out that he is the reincarnation of some long ago being of the Light, the good guys, who call themselves the Old Ones. Will is suddenly plunged into the age old battle of Dark vs. Light, Good vs. Evil and is struggling to learn how to use his newfound abilities to stay alive, protect his family, and save all of humanity from the Dark. Because the Dark is rising.

Review: As with the prequel, I was kind of disappointed with The Dark is Rising. I find this really surprising because I really admire Susan Cooper as a writer, I’m a huge fan of her other work. My favorite book of her’s is King of Shadows in which a young boy, who is part of a troupe of actors that travel around putting on Shakespeare, is carried back in time where he meets the most prolific writer of all time, The Bard of Avon, and becomes an actor under the great man. That book I would fully recommend to you all, it’s such a great book with lots of interesting historical bits. I just wish I could say the same of The Dark is Rising. Let’s start with the things I liked about it though. I liked the fact that the young hero wasn’t alone, he had many allies, and also the fact that he wasn’t a reluctant hero. He just accepted his destiny and took up the mantle with no questions (which was a double edged sword for me). I really like Ms. Cooper’s writing style, she paints such a beautiful and lyrical picture of the world and of her story. I also liked the concept of the book. I liked the potential that I saw in the story.

That said, let’s talk about what I didn’t like. Like I said, Will not being a reluctant hero kind of posed problems for me, even as I found it a refreshing change. I would expect of any young boy, presented with this terrifying and dangerous destiny and unimaginable powers, to show some kind of EMOTION. But no. Other than mild surprise and a twinge of fear he just took it in stride and went on his merry adventures. There were a few brief segments where he got angry, and those parts were excellent, because he was showing some strong emotion. Those parts were too brief and too few for me though. Another thing was that while Ms. Cooper did such an amazing and lovely job of describing scenes, and the countryside, and the weather even, I have no idea what most of the characters were supposed to look like. This is something that drives me crazy in books. The characters seemed two dimensional, nothing real about them at all. I think the biggest thing that I didn’t like about the book was the way that time seemed to flow. Will, as one of the Old Ones, was able to time travel a bit. So in the book it would feel like several days should have passed in the course of only one day. The entire book is set over, at the most, a week. And yet so much happens in that week, that it is simply not believable.

The thing with me, and liking a book, is mostly all about my ability to believe that somewhere, somehow, this story could have actually happened and that these people could exist. So since I found this book, while well and beautifully written and imagined, to be so entirely unbelievable I can’t give it a high rating or recommendation. I will say though, that I think if I had read it while I was still a child I would have loved it. Check it out for yourself though, you may well love it. And definitely read some of her other books because they are really great!

Rating: 3 1/2 Bookies!

And now, for the newest book from the hat, which I am about to draw right this moment……How to Wash a Cat by Rebecca M. Hale! I’m sooo excited! This book is the first in a new mystery series, and I loooove mysteries. I hope it will be really good! You know what that means boys and girls, that means someone else just won a free copy of this book as well.

How to Wash a Cat!

And now I will draw one name from the hat! Who will it be? *Drumroll*…….

JOEL! You will be the proud new owner of your very own FREE copy of How to Wash a Cat! I will send you a message to the email you subscribed with! How fun! Thanks for entering friend. Everyone else (all two of you others), keep entering to win. I’ll let you know when the next drawing will be and where to enter soon.

In the meantime guys, keep reading and use your thinking hats well!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Giveaway, Literary Projects, Reading Projects, Uncategorized, Young Readers

Storytime Book: The Curious Garden, Plus Bonus Review!

The Curious Garden

Today at storytime we read the book The Curious Garden by Peter Brown. We were actually supposed to be reading The Crows of Pearblossom by Aldous Huxley but all of the copies had been returned to the publisher. I’ll get to that one later, right now THE CURIOUS GARDEN!

So, synopsis: The book is about a young boy named Liam, who one day goes wandering through his very industrial city. A city without trees, or flowers, or any sorts of growing things. As Liam is exploring he comes across some railroad tracks that have long been abandoned and notices a small patch of wild flowers growing there. The wild flowers are dying, and in obvious need of some TLC so Liam comes back the next day and tends to them. He comes back everyday after that and through his careful attention and ministrations his little garden begins to grow healthier and larger. Very soon his garden has gotten a mind of its own. Once again, no spoilers for the end! Read it and see what happens.

Review: One of the little girls that comes to story time every Wednesday has recently started growing some little potted plants. She was so into the book, she asked me “Could my garden do that?”. I’m going to go out on a limb and say she liked it. There was only one other child with us today, she was only about 1 1/2 so I wasn’t expecting too much, and she did spend most of the story running around. But whenever she stopped and I said “Hey look at this picture, isn’t that cool?” She grinned at the book and danced for a second. Did I mention my storytime kids are adorable? All in all I think both girls liked it. I also liked it, it might even make it onto my favorite picture books list.

Peter Brown wrote a fun, cute, and kind of believable story about the impact that one person, even a little boy, can make on the world. It says on his page that the book was actually inspired by a real abandoned railway in NYC. I really liked the story he told, I liked Liam as a character, and I also liked the moral to the story. One person can make a difference.

The illustrations (which I initially thought were done on a computer) were these really neat paintings, that were detailed and fun. I liked his cartoonish style a lot and I think it’s a style a lot of children would identify with. This was a perfect Earth Day type book. I actually liked his style so much that I’m planning on (at some point) ordering his other books. His most recent release, Children Make Terrible Pets<, looks really cute! All in all I think this is a great book for children, an enjoyable one for adults, and would make a perfect gift for any gardening or eco-enthusiasts you know!

5 bookies!

BONUS: The Crows of Pearblossom by Aldous Huxley *Spoiler Alert*

New release of The Crows of Pearblossom

Older version of The Crows of Pearblossom

Synopsis: Mr. and Mrs. Crow live in a tree in Pearblossom. Mrs. Crow lays egg after egg, but everyday they disappear. The crows discover that there is a nasty old rattlesnake sneaking into their nest and eating their eggs. Mr. Crow decides to ask his wise friend the owl what he should do and the owl comes up with a plan to trick the snake. So one day Mrs. Crow doesn’t lay any eggs, but instead she and Mr. Crow make some fake eggs out of clay and paint them to look like Mrs. Crow’s eggs. When the snake sneaks up and eats what he thinks are the Crow’s eggs, he gets a nasty surprise and dies a very painful death. After the snake dies Mr. and Mrs. Crow string him up and use him as a clothes line, and they have many baby Crows.

Review: I think this is a really good book for older children, and for adults, but I would definitely not recommend it for younger children, I hope you can see why ^. Although it was written for a 5 year old. Actually, I found it rather funny myself. The Crows are just like an old married couple, and spend a lot of their time squabbling. I’m sure any parents, or even just adults in general, reading this would be able to appreciate the humor. On the downside, I’m not sure many children would. Besides that, the ending of the story is a tad bit on the morbid side. Once again, that’s fine for myself, other adults, and older children, but I’m not so sure about younger ones. Also, I liked the lyrical style it was written in which I’m sure people of all ages would appreciate. Sadly it seems like that style of children’s picture book writing is becoming a thing of the past.

As for the illustrations, you will notice two different covers shown above. This book was first published in 1967 with the original illustrations done by Barbara Cooney who was a noted children’s author and illustrator. We’ll first talk about her illustrations. I LOVE Barbara Cooney as an illustrationist. *Um Miss Rumphius anyone?* She did such great pen and ink illustrations, like the ones used in The Crows of Pearblossom. I think, given the story, pen and ink was a perfect medium to use to represent this tale. It was a kind of darkly humorous tale, and her somewhat gothic renderings of the characters was kind of creepily enchanting. Those illustrations coupled with the story and writing style still give me the shivers a bit, just because they are eerie! BTW this version was more of a chapter book. I liked this version of the book best, but that’s not to say that the new one doesn’t have great illustrations.

Sophie Blackall’s illustrations for this story were quite good, although not in a style that is generally to my taste. Her usual style is very much to my taste, but she did something different with this book. Usually the story’s she writes and illustrates (or just illustrates) have a whimsical tale and therefor she provides lovely and whimsical illustrations. In The Crows of Pearblossom, however, her illustration style differs from that of her other works. I read that she said she was trying to brighten up what was a somewhat dark story, and make it more inviting for children. Reinventing it for a new generation as it were. The crows are very odd and kind of disturbing looking, lacking Cooney’s somewhat goth glam and going for a more modern, quirky look. As always with her work, the illustrations are excellent and she has a keen eye for detail that I truly admire. She did a great job of reinventing an old tale and making it exciting and accessible to new audiences with her brightly colored backgrounds and flamboyant style in this book.

All in all, it’s a great book. But like I said earlier, maybe not for the littlest ones in the family. Why do I prefer Cooney’s illustrations? Probably in part because I’ve loved her work since I was a little girl. It’s timeless and classic to me, and evokes wonderful nostalgia. That doesn’t, by any means, mean that I don’t like the new version, because I definitely do. I don’t think you can go wrong with picking up either for a hearty laugh and a good, fun, slightly creepy read!

4 1/2 bookies! (Because the little little ones won’t be enjoying it)

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Storytime Book Review: A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Yesterday at storytime (we read stories to children every Wednesday and Saturday) we read A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Phillip C. Stead

A Sick Day for Amos McGee

The book is a Caldecott award winner, and also an ALA Youth Media for 2011 award winner. The book tells the story of a zookeeper named Amos McGee who always does the same thing everyday, and he is always right on time. Amos has a lot of friends among the animals at the zoo, but one day he gets sick and doesn’t make it in. I won’t post spoilers for this one because I really think you should all buy a copy, if not for yourself then for a child you love.

This book was beautiful. The story, while not exactly a new or unpredictable one, was sweet and lovely and the illustrations were amazing. I’m not a big fan of the new types of illustrations that books have, those crude and not very talented pictures or the computer generated ones. This book had breathtaking pictures done in what looked like pencil and watercolor and they were beautiful and very well done. I found the coupling of the story and the illustrations very moving. Amos reminded me of my grandfather and when I was reading the book for myself before I read it to the children I cried a little bit because of this.

If you are looking for a good, wholesome book to read to your children or to give to a child you love, I think this is a good choice. The kids at my storytime loved it and so did I. I give it 5 bookies!

Sick Day...

Three cheers for Amos McGee!

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Books from The Hat Giveaway! Or Who doesn’t want a free book?

Yesterday I was surprised by a few people who came up to me and handed me scraps of paper for The Hat. Surprised and excited. I’m having so much fun with this new project and blog, and so I decided I wanted to do something fun, and from The Hat for my few readers.

The Hat wants to help build your library too! So, I’ll be doing a giveaway for you guys. When I do a drawing to decide which book I’m reading next, I will also be giving away a copy of that book to one of my lucky readers. How will I decide who wins each book? The Hat of course! To enter to win, all you have to do is leave me a comment suggesting a book for my hat and subscribe to CrookedPage. For readers in my area if you win we’ll set up a time and place for you to pick up your book (yes it will probably be my store) for readers that live in other areas I will ship it to you for free.

This week I’ll be giving away a copy of The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper

*Cover art may be different

If you’d like to win a copy of this book, and if you’d like to see me continue to do future giveaways, leave a comment below with a suggestion for The Hat and click the subscribe button. I’ll wait 3 days to do the drawing to see who wins, and contact the winner to hammer out delivery details.

In future drawings, I will wait to announce the Book Of The Hat until I announce a winner for that book drawing, that way it will be as much a surprise to you as to me!

I’ll be doing these as fast as I can read them, so they may happen bi-weekly or two or three times a week. Get your name in there people! Who doesn’t want a free book?

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Book of the Month, from The Hat of course!

If you all read the comments on my first post (yes I know, from mere hours ago) you will have seen a comment posted by the lovely Miss Emma urging me to start a Book of the Month club, drawn from the hat. Well, I think this is a splendid idea and I hope you will too and that some of you decide to join in.

So how will we pull this little club off with so many of you in far away places? Well, those of you who live nearby I’ll talk to you and we’ll set a tentative date and time to get together somewhere, either at The Store or somewhere else in town like The Mellow Mushroom or something. I think we should try to do this the second Saturday every month. BUT! For those of you that won’t be able to make those meetings, and still want to participate I will post the details of the meetings, the book we draw out, etc, here where you can join in the discussion.

Furthermore (pompous word much? I love it) I think we should all wear hats to these meetings, and I will bring The Hat to them so that at the end of the meeting we can draw out the next book we will read together. It’s always Open Hat (you guys can add anything you think I should read or you want to read with me to it) but that will give you a chance to add them yourself and to see the method of madness in action. I think it’s a great idea, I hope at least a few of you decide to join in. Let me know what you think and look below for our first Second Saturday Book From The Hat!

Ok guys, the first Book From The Hat Club book is Alex Award winning novel Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

I hope you will all join me in reading this, it’s not my usual cup of tea but then that’s the point my dears. And it looks interesting enough anyway. I hope so. Gulp.

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