Tag Archives: literary projects

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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Sweet tooth stories…

I know I’m late on last week’s storytime reviews, I beg forgiveness dear readers!

Ok first up is The Ice Cream King by Steve Metzger.

Teddy and his mother visit an ice cream shop where Teddy is told he can have any kind of ice cream he wants, and gets a paper crown put on his head. As the Ice Cream King he rules a land filled with every kind of ice cream, and topping, imaginable. There’s an ice cream ocean, vanilla fudge volcano, whipped cream lanes, and an ice cream moon!

This is a really cute rhyming story about a boy’s vast imagination, with a gentle moral about sharing. The illustrations were simply scrumptious and had myself, the children, and the parents ready for a nice big helping of something cold and creamy! It’s a great story for summertime and we all enjoyed it.

 

 

The next story we read that day was Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael Kaplan.

Firstly, I thought this book was hysterical. Betty Bunny doesn’t like to try new things. When her mother asks her one night if she would like a slice of chocolate cake for desert Betty Bunny promptly answers no, she hates chocolate cake. “What’s chocolate cake?” she asks. When she finally tries it she declares that she loves chocolate cake, she may even marry it one day. She can’t get it out of her mind, she thinks of nothing else. But she will have to learn a hard lesson about being patient and waiting for the things she wants.

Honestly, the book was really funny, especially for anyone that spends a lot of time with children. The author very obviously got this from something he’s seen and experienced with real kids. Betty’s whole attitude was just so realistic and amusing, any parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, friend, etc would agree after reading this book. Oh, and the kids liked it too. They thought Betty and her antics were very funny. I hope we see more books about this character, and definitely more books by this author. The illustrations were fun and beautiful, a good balance of minimalistic and cool crazy clutter. The story was also well-balanced with humor and a light moral.

 

 

 

As our craft that day I drew a template of an ice cream cone and ran off copies. I then let the kids color their cones, gave them glue and a rainbow assortment of tissue paper to make “ice cream” and glue above their cone. It was a great activity and the kids had fun, we topped it off with fuzzy red pom pom balls, the “cherry” on top of a great storytime. 🙂

*Bonus Review*

Since the theme of this post is sweet stories I’m throwing in a review of The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen. Set in a small North Carolina town this novel initially piqued my interest because of the lovely cover art. Allen tells the story of Josey Cirrini, a young woman very much unhappy with her life but not willing to rock the boat enough to change it. Josey is plump, quiet, and can never live up to her high society mother’s expectations. She has two things hidden in her closet that make life bearable, sweets and trashy romance novels. And then one day there is a third something in her closet, something that is definitely not supposed to be there. Della Lee Baker, local waitress and fairy-godmother. Of course she does what every good fairy god-mother should, she shakes Josey’s world. Della pushes Josey out of her unhappy, but comfortable existence and out into the world where Josey finds that there are friends to be made, and maybe even a little love to fall in.

This book has a very fairytale feel to it, with just enough real world and just enough unexplainable magic to make it a divine treat for the senses. The power of family, food, friends, secrets, passions, love, and the color red are just a few of the things explored in this story. Allen has written a charming, warm, and enchanting novel brimming with whimsy and tantalizing possibilities. As the first book I’ve read from this author it totally cemented my love for her work. If you need something warm and comfortable to relax with after work, on a cold winter day, or late at night in your secret haven look no further. Your waistline might not thank you, but your heart will.

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Terrible Pet Stories!

On Wednesday at Storytime we read two stories about very different kinds of terrible pets.

First we read Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown

You all might remember an earlier post I wrote about another Peter Brown book in which I expressed my affection for him. After reading this most recent Brown book at Storytime, affection has turned into undying love. Children Make Terrible Pets is simply adorable. Lucy, a cute little bear in a pink tutu, finds a little boy in the woods one day. She takes him home and names him Squeaker after the only noise he makes and then begs her mother to let her keep him. Which her mother eventually does (even though everyone knows that children make terrible pets), on one condition. Squeaker is Lucy’s responsibility. She has to take care of him and make sure he has everything he needs. This works out for a while and the bear and the boy have a lot of fun together, until Squeaker starts making messes and ripping up the furniture!

Brown says he got the inspiration for the story from something his mother used to say to him when he was young and would drag in wild animals asking to keep them as pets. She would ask him how he would like it if a wild animal took him home and kept him as a pet. This book has a great message for kids about the responsibilities involved in having any pet, and also about keeping the wild in wildlife.

My Storytime kids were highly amused, as were their parents and myself. The book totally reminded me of my own childhood antics. I kidnapped countless critters and brought them home to be my pets for an afternoon. The parents seemed to relate to the story as well, although from the other end of the spectrum. Everyone enjoyed it!

Also, did I mention the illustrations? Once again Brown did his own illustrations, and once again they have a quirky charm that is 100% his own and oh so adorable. See for yourself:

5 Bookies!

Then, continuing in the Terrible Pets vein, we read Tumford The Terrible by Nancy Tillman.

Written in rhyme (always popular with children, and, well, me) Tumford The Terrible is the story of a cat named Tumford and the trouble he causes around his house. He doesn’t do it on purpose, but when he makes a mess or breaks something instead of taking responsibility and apologizing he hides. Then one day his owners are going to a fair, and Tumford really wants to go with them. So they agree to take him, but only if he promises not to cause any trouble and to apologize if he does. He promises and off they go. Tumford is on his best behavior, and tries his hardest to stay out of trouble, but trouble just seems to find him wherever he goes. Can he take responsibility and apologize for the trouble he causes? Or will he just hide like he always does?

This is one of my new favorite picture books. It’s a great book for anyone that has a hard time saying they are sorry, and it conveys the message to young ones that no matter what they are always loved. Nancy Tillman has been a favorite of mine for a very long time, with her sweet, whimsical stories and freaking incredible illustrations. And Tumford doesn’t fail to bring whimsy, humor, and fantastic illustrations. One of the reasons I like Tillman as an illustrator so much is because of how real her pictures feel, they kind of suck you in and give you this warm and fuzzy feeling of joy. I wish I had been able to find my favorite picture of Tumford online so that I could share it with you guys but you’ll just have to click on the Nancy Tillman link and watch the Tumford slide show to see it. Or better yet, buy the book! My very favorite scene was so funny. I literally laughed for 10 minutes and all of my co-workers that I shared the picture with found it equally amusing, was of Tumford walking to the fair in his yellow wellies. He is walking on his hind legs and has his front legs out in the air in front of him doing a zombie-walk. I found it so amusing because he looks like a kitty doing the dance to Thriller. And I’m not gonna lie, that picture was the soul reason the book made Storytime. 😀

5 Bookies for Tumford The Terrible!

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Ugly Duckling, Reimagined, and a Chinese Tale of Virtue

On Wednesday we had our regular storytime after our fieldtrippers left. Usually I have the same kids and parents come to Wednesday storytimes, my little regulars, without many new faces being present. Not so this past Wednesday! We had 5 new little ones, accompanied by their big ones, which was pretty exciting I must say! I should also tell you, since I don’t believe I have, my Wednesday bunch are on the young side usually. It’s pertinent later, I promise.

So first we read The Ugly Duckling Dinosaur by Doug Kennedy. Set in prehistoric times this book is about a T Rex that hatches in the wrong nest, a nest of duckling, and follows the basic Ugly Duckling storyline. The story has pretty great watercolor illustrations (chosen because that’s what scientists use when illustrating creatures) that were fun and expressive. The kids enjoyed the illustrations, but the story itself went way over their heads. Also I would not recommend reading this story to children unless you have brushed up on your scientific dinosaur name pronunciation skills. Scattered throughout the tale are other dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures, and the occasional scientific name dropped in to keep the unwary storyteller (ahem, me) on their toes. I think it would be a good story for children in the 3rd-4th grade age range, something good to read in the classroom. It’s a fairly refreshing way to tell the Ugly Duckling story, with pretty accurate scientific depictions of the creatures and their habits. There was also an area in the back that had non-fiction information on a lot of different dinosaurs.

So I’ll give this one 4 bookies, it lost a point because I couldn’t actually read/pronounce several of the dinosaur names and come on, it’s supposed to be a children’s book.

Next up we read The Empty Pot by Demi. I love Demi’s work! Her illustrations are soft and beautiful and they take you back in time and make the story seem so real. To me anyway. This story the kids took to a lot better. The Empty Pot is the tale of a little Chinese boy named Ping, who is the best gardener in all of China. The emperor of China prizes his gardens and plants above all else, but one day he realizes that he has no heir. So the emperor devises a contest to see who the next emperor of China will be after he passes away. He gives each of the contestants a seed and sets them the task of growing it. Ping lovingly tends his seed, but day after day there is nothing but an empty pot. When the time comes for the emperor to judge everyone’s efforts and to announce the winner, and thus the new emperor of China, Ping is filled with shame. From all across the land people are flooding in with pots filled with the most lush, most beautiful plants and all Ping has to show is his empty pot. But he goes to the emperor in shame that he has failed, not knowing that he has in fact won because the emperor tricked them all. He had given each of them seeds that had been boiled and therefor could not grow. For his honesty Ping became the next emperor of China. It’s a moral tale that teaches children the value of honesty, but also of doing your very best and not being afraid to fail. Whimsical and charming, we really liked this book!

I give The Empty Pot the full 5 bookies, because it’s beautiful, and has a great moral.

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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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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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