Dancing Giraffes, Hugging Bears, and a Clever Mouse!

Wednesday we not only had our regular storytime but also played host to a field trip from a local elementary school. About 50 children came on the fieldtrip and we read 3 stories. Can I just say what a great bunch they were? They were mostly kindergartners with a few older children, but they were so sweet and quiet and attentive! They laughed at all of the funny parts, and guessed what was going to happen next in the story. They were awesome, I’d love to have that group back!

Now to review the stories we read…

First up was Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae which is a sweet, fun story about a giraffe named Gerald who wants to dance with all of the other animals, but every time he tries he fails. All of the other animals laugh at him and Gerald is very sad and disheartened. That is until one tiny creature believes in him and tells Gerald that he just hasn’t been dancing to the right song, everything has a song and Gerald can dance if it’s to the right music! The book was a bit predictable, but it was very cute and it taught the lesson that everyone is different and does things differently and that that is ok! Also the illustrations were great, very funny and colorful. The children particularly liked a page that showed all of the different animals of the jungle dancing, each couple doing a different sort of dance.

I give this story 5 bookies, for great illustrations, originality, humor, and a soft moral.

Next we read Hugless Douglas by David Melling. Hugless Douglas is the story of a young bear named Douglas who wakes up one morning and decides he wants a hug, and so he goes all over searching for the perfect hug. But no matter how hard he looks he can’t find just the right hug, they are all too big or too tall or too afraid of him. With some help from his friends Douglas finally finds the perfect hug! I love this book, the kids love this book. Basically this is one of those books that you can’t help but love. It’s too funny, I had a hard time stopping myself from laughing long enough to read the next page. We particularly enjoyed a page at the end that had tons of sheep demonstrating all of the different kinds of hugs you can give. The illustrations were very fun, and funny!

5 bookies, excellent story, super humorous, sweet ending, lovable character. It made you want to hug someone!

Last but not least we read The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood. Let me preface by saying that the reason I chose this book was because of it’s staying power. I had a teenage customer come in the store some weeks back asking for this book because he remembered having it read to him as a child and wanted to get a copy of it. If that doesn’t qualify a good book I don’t know what does. Ok, so the story is told as if the reader is inside the tale which gets lots of cool points. The little ones got really into it because it’s kind of a suspenseful tale. The little mouse finds a delicious looking red, ripe strawberry and decides to pick it. But everyone knows that if you pick a red, ripe strawberry the big, hungry bear will come find it, no matter where it is, and take it from you and eat it. So the little mouse tries to hide it, but no the bear can sniff it out. The little mouse tries to guard it, but the bear can get through anything. Then the little mouse tries to disguise it but the bear can see through even the best disguises. Oh no! Whatever is the little mouse to do? This book had wonderful, colorful and fun illustrations. And it kept you wondering what the little mouse was going to do up until the very end.

This one also gets the coveted 5 bookies review! It was original, told from an interesting perspective, was cute and funny, and had a charming ending.

Next post, the books from Wednesday’s actual storytime! Stay tuned.

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Gulliver! Holmes! Bovary! Oh My!

Once again, sorry for the lack of post in recent weeks. I took a much needed sabbatical, even from reading. A very good friend of mine was visiting all the way from Hawaii so I spent most of my time running around, getting up to no good, with her. Now that she’s gone back home and I’ve gone back to work life is getting back to normal. Which means, the project must go on!

So to update you guys I’ve been reading Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. I have yet to finish any of them, but I feel like sharing my thoughts on each of them so far.

Here goes! I’ve read part 1 of Gulliver’s Travels in which Gulliver gets shipwrecked on the shores of Lilliput. I think, satirical allegory that it is, Gulliver’s time in Lilliput was very interesting. And I actually quite liked the story, although much of it is Gulliver describing his time there and there was not much dialogue. So on that front, so far so good. I’ll go into more detail when I review the work in it’s entirety.

Sherlock Holmes is AWESOME! Can I just say that again? He is awesome! I love Holmes and Watson so much, and I can see why there is such a legacy that continues to inspire people in every generation. I haven’t finished all of the Sherlock stories yet, there are just so many and I kind of enjoy savoring them rather than tearing through them voraciously. When I do finish them there will be a great big mushy gushy post, probably mostly lamenting the fact that they are over and lavishing praises on every little bit.

On to Madame Bovary. On the MB front I am about a third of the way through the book. I can’t really say yet whether I like it or not, at this point I have rather ambiguous feelings on the book. Let’s start by saying, for those of you who don’t know, apparently Flaubert was a misogynistic recluse as is so graciously (or not) pointed out by the woman who wrote the forward in the edition that I’m reading, Robin Morgan. Ms. Morgan is a self-identified feminist and while there is nothing wrong with that at all, I can’t really understand why anyone would ask her to write the forward for the book. At least not if they want anyone to buy it and read it. Most of the forward was spent telling the reader why Flaubert was a terrible person, why his work was irrelevant, and why an injustice was committed in the writing of it to Emma Bovary (the main character). Morgan states (paraphrasing here) that Emma is an inaccurate portrait of a woman and her life. Granted I haven’t finished the book yet, but so far I beg to differ in a big way. Many of the things Flaubert describes Emma feeling are things I’ve felt myself. If I can say anything about the story so far it’s that there is something uncanny about the way Flaubert captures universal emotions in prose, and to what an extent! As with the the others a full review will be following soon.

I welcome feedback from you guys as always, and suggestions for The Hat. Stay tuned for Storytime book reviews to come later today, and keep reading people!

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Apologies!*

I haven’t been online much for the past week or so. Sorry guys, I was on vacation which means I was outside or dashing from place to place, or something. I haven’t even been reading! Eekgads! I’ll be getting back to it soon though, no worries. Just wanted to let you all know where I’ve been.

BTW expect to see a whole lot more children’s picture book reviews in the future, I just received a promotion and now I’m in charge of the children’s department at the bookstore! Yay! Soooo much fun to be had!

Do any of you have particular picture books that are favorites? I’m looking for ideas for storytime, bonus points if you know of fun activities to go with the books!

*I apologize for the previous misspelling! Thanks GC!

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The Four Agreements for my mother

So, I’ve decided I’m going to buy a copy of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz for my mother for Mother’s Day.

I love my mom, but lately she’s been under a lot of stress and she’s feeling trapped. By bills, a mortgage, a career, a marriage, and children. She’s almost always unhappy, any little thing will make her angry, or worse, make her cry. She seems to be completely unaware of her own worth and constantly seeking the validation of others. Something really needs to change for her, but it’s not a change that can happen externally. It’s something she will have to change within herself. Once she was free-spirited, creative, kick-ass, and strong. And now she just seems like a bad caricature of the wonderful, inspiring, and amazing person she once was.

The four agreements that Ruiz speaks of in his book are this:
Be impeccable with your word
Don’t take anything personally
Don’t make assumptions
And always do your best

By embracing these four agreements one can experience profound personal freedom, an increase in self-esteem and self-worth, and general spiritual growth. I myself am a big fan of Ruiz’s work, although I find it hard to practice each of these agreements all the time. I really think I can recommend these books for anyone, no matter who you are, if you read them they will change your life for the better, because they will change the way you see yourself and the world around you.

So this Mother’s Day instead of buying her jewelry or trinkets, I’m going to try giving her the gift of her freedom back. I know what a wonderful person she is, I just wish she knew this too. I hope that she actually reads this and doesn’t just sit it aside.

What are you doing for Mother’s Day?

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Maybe this is why I’m waking early

Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety –

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light –
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

Morning Poem by Mary Oliver

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches —
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead —
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging —

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted —

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

****

I’ve been having this recurring dream for months now. Once again last night I visited the golden and misty apple orchard of my subconscious. Once again the picnic was laid, and I could see children playing and hear them laughing in the farthest reaches of my imaginings. And once again I was not alone, but I couldn’t tell you who was there.

*Le sigh*

These dreams always make me all nostalgic and melancholy. I wake up pining for something, but I couldn’t say what. And so I decided Mary Oliver, she’s the cure (as poetry so often is). I thought I would share these with you all, since they are so very relevant.

I wonder where life’s road will take me today?

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“You’re trying to ruin a woman’s career. Why? Because you’re bored? Because you’re afraid of someone who’s different from you?”

“You’re trying to ruin a woman’s career. Why? Because you’re bored? Because you’re afraid of someone who’s different from you?”.

This is a reblog. Here’s the story. Basically a high school teacher writes erotica in her free time, at home, away from students, under a pseudonym, and now some uptight, prude, bored, middle class housewives have discovered her dirty secret and are on a witch hunt. Click the link above to read more and watch a video from one of her former students (he’s on her side) .

Read on people!

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How to Wash a Cat Review and my next book…

How to Wash a Cat!

As you all know, over the last week I’ve been reading Rebecca M. Hale’s How to Wash a Cat. I love reading mysteries, and so I was surprised and delighted to have drawn a new one out of The Hat last week. How to Wash a Cat is Ms. Hale’s debut novel, and the first book in her Cat’s and Curios series. Not only was I happy to have a new mystery to read, I was intrigued by the fact that it was centered around an antique store (I love antiques) and that the main character had two cats who were also central to the story (I have four cats).

Synopsis: The main character’s Uncle Oscar has just passed away under mysterious circumstances and upon his death she inherits his antique shop, The Green Vase, which is filled with the relics of San Francisco’s Gold Rush Era. Odd acquaintances and neighbors of Oscar’s come crawling out of the wood-work all offering bits of help and advice, but the main character can’t help but wonder if there is something behind these seemingly good-willed offers. She also starts receiving strange items that Oscar has left for her relating to the strange life and death of a San Franciscan tycoon over a hundred years before. What is Oscar trying to tell her from beyond the grave, and can she unravel the mystery before someone else beats her to it?

Review: First, the good stuff. Hale is a great writer, to an extent. Her descriptions are vivid and very real. Her supporting characters are well-developed and likeable, or suspicious, or intriguing depending. I loved the setting, and the obvious mystery you would expect to find in any old city with such a turbulent history. The obvious mystery you expect to find waiting for you in the dusty corners of an antique shop. Reading this book was a lot like walking along the aisles of a nice, junky little antique store and breathing in the air that is musty and heavy with a sense of history. Like picking up an object and wondering what stories it could tell you of those who had owned it before. This book had such a good feeling like that, and an atmosphere that sucked you in and made you long to run off to your nearest junk shop.

The supporting characters were really something, I particularly liked the main character’s peculiar and pompous neighbor Monty. He was a great side-kick, and the comic relief for the story. An attorney named Miranda is kind of fierce and vicious, while her mother is eccentric and wonderful! Frank, one of the main character’s neighbors, is suitably suspicious and kind of shady, as are several of the other characters.

Now for what I didn’t like. In most mystery novels the author presents you with the quandary early, and the rest of the book is spent bringing you to the inevitable conclusion of said mystery. Not the case in this book. Even after finishing it, I wasn’t sure exactly what the whole mystery was supposed to be. Was it her uncle’s death? Was it some aspect of the hundred years gone tycoon’s life? What was her motivation? WHAT were they trying to find throughout the whole thing? Even when things wrap-up at the end I wasn’t really sure, it was such a let down. Second, the main character, who also narrates the book, doesn’t have a name. Or any physical description. Or any kind of character traits whatsoever. I found this irksome throughout the whole book. It might as well have been written about Monty and not the main character at all. The last thing, there was a mullet. One of the characters, Ivan, is supposed to be oh-so-yummy-super-hot, and he has a mullet. I can’t help it, I just hate them.

Rating: 3 1/2 bookies!

So now let’s see what The Hat has in store for us next shall we? I’m reaching in deep this time….. And it’s…..

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift! Sweetness! I’ve wanted to read this for a while, just never gotten around to it. And this gives me just the most perfect excuse to see the new film adaptation starring Jack Black. If you’d like to read along you can buy a new copy of Gulliver’s Travels Here or a used copy Here.

Until next time, keep reading! And remember, I’m always looking for new recommendations for The Hat!

Gulliver and the Lilliputians

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