100 Picture Books: 90-86

A version of this article originally appeared on Zwolanerd.com.

This batch was a minor mom fail. I requested them from the mobile version of my library’s website, and somehow got odd versions of them. Two of them were Spanish, and 1 was a “book club” edition, that included 9 identical paperbacks. Whoops! I have started reading the metadata more carefully.

arnie90. Arnie the Doughnut by Laurie Keller

This book was a definite favorite. It tells the story of a doughnut named Arnie (duh), from when he is first made at 5:15am to when he is attempted to be eaten by a Mr. Bing. Arnie and Mr. Bing have to decide what to do since Arnie does NOT want to be eaten, and Mr. Bing isn’t so sure he can eat a talking doughnut. It’s pretty humorous and the book is dotted with little asides and commentary from minor characters, such as a bird or another doughnut or a customer in the bakery. Kids that are reading could probably spend a lot of time poring over all the little “Easter eggs” everywhere. Peanut did request that I change Mr. Bing to a girl, which was a pretty easy pronoun swap, and it did highlight the fact that there are no women in this book referred to by name or pronoun. Even the baker is a man. Some of the doughnuts are drawn as women, and there are a few in background scenes, but the main action is between Mr. Bing and Arnie.

I learned that the author used to design cards for Hallmark, which is pretty interesting. There may also be a stage production of this book, but I only see a mention of it with nothing to verify it.

tikki-tikki-tembo89. Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel

I remembered really liking this book as a kid, but Peanut wasn’t super into it. I think it was partly because the book was sort of confusing to her and partly because I accidentally got it in Spanish the first time, so Mike had to read and then translate immediately. By the time I got the English version, she was no longer interested. The story is about two brothers, the oldest having a long and important name, and the second only having one syllable. When the oldest brother falls into a well, the youngest tries to help but gets tongue tied trying to say his brother’s full name. They eventually get him out but he takes a long time to recover.

This book has an interesting back story. Apparently, the authors didn’t do much fact-checking, because the original folk tale may be Japanese rather than Chinese, and also the “names” are nonsense syllables and don’t mean what the book says that they mean. Knowing this now makes me think of the book a lot less fondly.

No-David-404x50088. No David! by David Shannon

The same language mix-up happened with this book as Tikki Tikki Tembo. The book is very short and is basically illustrations of a toddler behaving badly and his mother saying No! a lot. Peanut definitely understood it from the pictures even in the Spanish version, and thought it was pretty funny. I thought it was kind of short and lame, and feel bad for anyone who spent the full cost of the hardcover for it.

The inner flap recounts that the book was the first the author “wrote,” as a child, about his experiences being a mischievous kid. It was apparently recovered from his childhood scribbling by his mother. This is the same author that wrote Duck on a Bike (#98). It also spawned half a dozen other David books.

My-Lucky-Day-978014240456087. My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza

This book centers on a misdirection, which is easily missed by a young listener. A pig knocks at Fox’s door looking for Rabbit. Suddenly, Pig finds himself being dinner. He is resigned to this, but insists that Fox clean him, fatten him up, and massage him (to tenderize the meat, natch). During the massage, Fox passes out from exhaustion and Pig escapes. However, we discover that Pig has been hitting up all the pork-loving big bads in the forest, to get himself some quality pampering. The book doesn’t spell this out but rather shows it through the illustration. So I had to explain it, but I’m not sure that Peanut quite grasped the trick. She liked it okay, but it wasn’t as popular.

The author hails from Japan and had written several Japanese picture books before turning to English. This book is by far her most successful, although she did have some other awards for her other titles.

PBPsoftcover.qxd86. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

This was the biggest hit from this batch, for sure. I assume because there was a princess. It begins by setting the scene of Elizabeth’s princess life, which is interrupted by having her castle eaten by a dragon. The dragon drags off her betrothed, Prince Ronald, and she decides to don a paper bag (since all her clothes are fried), and rescue him. By the time she had tricked the dragon into passing out from exhaustion (a common storybook tactic, apparently), Ronald tells her she is a mess and he doesn’t want to be saved by a smelly princess. She declares Ronald to be a bum, and skips away into the sunset.

The subtle gender issues here are completely lost on a 3 year old. To her, the dragon is still the “bad guy.” It’s definitely a welcome deviation but unfortunately not appreciated at her age range.

This book is by far the most popular of all we have read so far, spawning a sea of books, media, toys, and other ephemera. It has apparently sold more than 3 million copies. You can even find a “story behind the story” book, including bios, letters, and new drawings. My favorite tidbit about this book is that apparently Munsch came across a little girl named Elizabeth who acted like a prima donna, and she became the princess in the story. Also, some versions have Elizabeth calling Ronald a toad rather than a bum.


Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Well, we’ll at least see bears in the next batch. Stay tuned for 85-81!

Review: Irish Girls About Town

9780743483018

I wasn’t expecting the book to be fantastic, but I read the American Girls About Town collection several years ago and some of the stories have still stuck with me as being really profound and interesting. So I was hoping there would be at least a couple of the stories in here that would be awesome. But not only were most of them clunkers, I honestly had a hard time following some of them. I would get to the end of the story and think, “wait, what?” Part of it is because of the usage of Irish slang that I just didn’t understand. Usually, I would be able to pick up some clues in the context of the story as to what the strange word meant, but a lot of the time, I still had no idea. And sometimes the stories just didn’t make any sense.

The Your Place or Mine? story was a slog and practically incomprehensible. The Cup Runneth Over was interesting until the ending where I seriously have no idea what happened at the end. I liked some of them okay, but most of them were just terrible. I’ve read some of the authors’ other works and didn’t hate them as much as I hated the stories in here.

It was pretty disappointing, and I only finished it because I assumed there would be at least of a couple of good ones (eh), and I didn’t want to have to start another short story collection. Also, this was on the bottom of my reading pile since I’ve had it for ages, so yay two boxes for one awful book. I really did like the American version, so if you like rom-com type love stories, check that one out.

2 stars.

This book fulfills the book of short stories and the book at the bottom of to-read list requirements for the challenge.

Review: Eleanor & Park

9781250012579

I was expecting to really like this book, and it is a fairly decent one. But it didn’t live up to the hype that proceeded it. It was definitely ruined for me by a random comment by someone who said they cried – no sobbed – at the end. I kept waiting for something big and crazy and heartbreaking to happen. I kind of felt like this book had Chekhov’s gun in it. A gun literally did go off midway through the book, but it had no consequence. But nothing really happens. Two kids meet, somehow become obsessed with each other by the process of just being repeatedly exposed to each other, and then her home life is abusive and crazy and dangerous so she runs. And … then they sort of move on but not really.

The focus here is on the love story between Eleanor and Park (I kept wondering if Park was his full name or if it was implied that it was a shortened version of something, since his brother is only referred to as Josh the entire time). All the other stories happening around them (which were, frankly, more interesting), are never explored. There was stuff with Park’s Korean mom, what happened between Eleanor’s mom and just about everyone, how Park’s parents met, who was behind all the sabotage in Eleanor’s gym class… And in the final few chapters, we don’t even get to know what happens to all of Eleanor’s brothers and sister. Why did her mom even end up with Richie? So many unanswered questions.

The book was fairly well-written. It was pretty repetitive, but that seemed to be a deliberate narrative choice. It was sort of like journal entries, mostly in a recent present, linear fashion, but sometimes going backwards to fill in holes in the plot. I normally don’t like blatant exposition, but I just felt like a lot of the interesting parts of the story were just left out to focus on the romance.

I think the most disappointing part for me was that things were really ramping up in the last third of the book and then it all just fizzled pretty pathetically. I was so on the edge of my seat (mostly because I was expecting someone to get killed), and then it turned out to be no big deal. Expectations definitely played a role here, so I can’t blame it all on the book. I was definitely intrigued by it, and the ending is also not super disappointing compared to other books I’ve read. There’s a flicker of hope at the end, which I think would play really well on a movie screen. Apparently, one is in the works, so I would be interested to see that. I hope they address what happens to those kids.

4 stars.

This book fulfills no requirements for the challenge.

Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

cover_custom-7c9a559118dddc6e32a543ad62448310b78686e1-s6-c30

I vividly remember sitting at the kitchen table in 9th or 10th grade, reading this book. I was eating cereal or something. But despite that, I remembered very little of what happened in the book. The details that I thought I did remember were completely off. For example, I swear that I thought it was a mockingbird that was putting the gifts inside the tree because those birds collected shiny things. (A quick internet search tells me that might be magpies.) I had also remembered something going down near a jail or a street, which could be two different events that I smooshed together as one in my memory.

Despite how much I was apparently not paying attention the first time I read this book, I felt like it was really beautifully written and had a lot of interesting characterization. The viewpoint of Scout is well-articulated as coming from the memory of a child. The book also brings up a lot of topics, which made book club very interesting. Besides the obvious topic of racism in America, this also brought up classism, gender stereotyping, and empathy towards people that are different from you. I think what makes this book so great is that it is a fully contained story, but you can pick off little bits of it to chew on, or use it as a springboard for a discussion on a variety of themes. No wonder it keeps being used as required reading in schools. There is a lot here!

There are two downsides to this book, and it may be coming from my viewpoint in 2015. First, I felt like while it did sort of touch on how you can be “a girl” and prefer overalls to dresses, some of the points about women (particularly the “place” of women in the private sphere) seemed to be in agreement with the division. Also, while the book takes a very liberal view of black people in America compared to the time, they are still treated as “other”. It’s not even really specific or pointed out, but it’s simply a given that white and black people don’t mix socially and that is never condemned. Maybe that is how Harper Lee thought, maybe she agreed with “separate but equal”. It’s hard to say.

Often most people point to Boo Radley as the most prominent figure in this book, but really it fairly ancillary to the plot. The curiousity of the children towards him is a running theme throughout the beginning mostly, but he is introduced mainly to be their savior toward the end when Mr. Ewell comes after the siblings. I would like to read more about him, actually. He sounds like a pretty interesting guy.

I’m torn on whether or not I will read Go Set A Watchman. There’s some controversy as to whether Harper Lee actually wanted the book to be published or if she was manipulated in her feebler state of mind. I definitely think it is okay to change your mind after many years, but it does seem a little sketchy. Either way, her first (and for 50+ years, only!) novel still holds up as a fantastic piece of literature.

5 stars.

This book fulfills the Pulitzer Prize-winning book requirement for the challenge.

Reading Challenge June Wrap Up

File Jul 03, 10 10 16 AM

This month really zoomed by. I didn’t get much reading done at all, and it’s mostly because Ruby’s nap times have been on the go a lot, and her bedtime has been pushed way back by circumstance. Both of these things have left me with much less time to read.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up may be the most influential book that I will read all year. I’m still working (so, so slowly) on implementing the ideas from the book into our living space, and really into my life in general. For example, I enjoy a lot of podcasts, but not all the episodes of a particular podcast are really worth my time. So, the ones that I’m meh on, I skip them. This, then, frees up more of my time for things I genuinely am interested in. I hope that by the end of the year, my house will be in much better shape, but I’m trying to not be too hard on myself for being unrealistic in what I can accomplish.

Then, both at the same time, Insurgent and Allegiant from the Divergent series came available from the library, and so I downloaded both of them. In order to keep them from disappearing from my Kindle after my 2 week lending period ended, I’ve turned the wifi off on it. They won’t disappear until I’ve synced it, but that means nothing new can be added until I’ve finished them. I finally got through Insurgent midway through the month, and I’m getting close to finished with Allegiant. Of course, the conundrum that I’m having is that – does it really count as a trilogy because the author keeps adding stories from the same universe and using the same characters and publishing them. GAH. I’ve decided since the series is technically stand alone, and the rest are “short stories” or addendums, that it counts. But come on, stop adding onto trilogies, people.

As far as upcoming books go, I’ve got To Kill A Mockingbird coming up next for my book club read, and then I checked out Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell from the library.

I read two books this month, and only checked off one measly box. So, 19 books read and 29 boxes checked. I’m still on track if I keep up with my average pace. The image is technically wrong because I finished Allegiant on July 1st, so it doesn’t count for my June totals.

Review: Allegiant

allegiantcover

I had heard rumblings about the ending of the third book being unsatisfying long before I decided to read the trilogy. And so, I gotta say, I am conflicted on how I feel about the ending of it. So, spoilers abound after this paragraph – be warned if you ever plan to read the books. (Although if you just plan to watch the movies, I have a feeling that the third movie will stray pretty far from this, so you will probably still be safe.)

The most noticeable thing about the third book that separates it from the previous two is that the book alternates between the viewpoints of Tris and Tobias/Four, when the first two were solely from Tris’ viewpoint. I feel like this was only necessary because Tris dies near the end when saving the world, and so in order to continue the narrative, there needs to be someone to take over and explain what happens after her death. Otherwise, it’s not that great of a literary device. I don’t learn much about Tobias from reading his first person viewpoint. The chapters are actually indistinguishable, and I frequently had to check back to see which person I was reading about. The whole issue would have been better handled using a third person omniscient narrative throughout the whole trilogy.

However, I am torn on how I feel about the death of Tris in general. First, it seems unfair to the reader to take this journey with a character, to have them die, especially when we have been with her first person viewpoint for most of the trilogy, and then just switch to the other viewpoint that was inserted in a kind of sloppy way. I love having a tough protagonist that happens to be female, but I just don’t know how I feel about her sacrificing herself at the end. I think it would have been more effecting for Caleb to jump in at the last minute and sacrifice himself. But then, it also shows that Tris is a strong person, capable of loving someone that betrayed her, of overcoming so many obstacles, and yet choosing the scary path. But then, her death is sort of an “oops”, as she is shot on her way to wipe the memories of everyone, including her attacker. Wouldn’t just a shot that caused her to black out and then awaken later be just as dramatic? Especially if Caleb had come in and stopped her from being killed.

Needless to say, I have mixed feelings on the whole thing.

There are a lot of ideas and world building going on in this installment, but it is just a lot of info dumping. We are told about so many things but very little of it is actually explored in any meaningful way. Both Tobias and Tris each take a separate trip to The Fringe (which is definitely never explained and reminded me of some Afghanistan desert by the descriptions), but I’m not sure what the purpose behind it was, other than to show that this new America is very fractured. Speaking of America, why does no one care about the rest of the world? They talk about how tiny Chicago is on the map compared to the entire Earth, but never mention what is going on in parts other than the United States. We don’t even know what kind of government oversees the Bureau. And if the Bureau oversees several experiments, why is the headquarters right outside Chicago? So many questions.

In the end, the story had a lot of good potential, but the ending was not satisfying.

This book fulfills the trilogy requirement for the challenge.

Review: Insurgent

insurgent-book-cover

As with Divergent, I read this book after I had already seen the movie. It just kind of worked out that way, since I was on the wait list for this and the third book for awhile. But unlike the first movie adaptation, the movie strays pretty far from the book in a lot of significant ways. Of course, the book came first and so the original plot is from that, but my experience in seeing them the other way definitely colors how I feel about it.

Tris’s motivations are much better explained in the book, which is probably a no brainer since it all takes place in her first person viewpoint. She can talk about her emotions and thoughts behind her actions, where in a movie that would have to be in the form of super lame voice-overs. The movie version condensed a lot of the plot by removing several minor characters and changing the entire goal of the villain, Jeanine Matthews. In a way, the movie plot makes more sense. The goals are clear and understandable, while in the book, Jeanine captures Tris and experiments on her for “reasons”.

A lot of the same events happen to the characters in both the book and the movie, however, more things happen to fewer characters in the movie, which does help in keeping track of things. It does, however, make things more complicated in terms of relationships. For example, Christina has all kinds of horrible things happen to her but is somehow still on Tris’ side by the end of the movie. In the book, less happens and it seems more understandable why she is loyal. One relationship that was very confusing was the love story between Tris and Four. It is much more believable in the movie, but that could be because of the chemistry between the actors. Reading the book, I sometimes wonder what exactly it is that they see in each other. (Also, the sex scene is so vaguely implied that I could believe it didn’t even happen.)

The best part about this book versus the movie was how much it foreshadowed and explained about why everyone is in this society and how it came to be. Obviously, most of it isn’t explained because that is for the final book in the trilogy, but it does allude to it and outright say some things. It ends on a much different note than the movie, as that one seems much more hopeful and the book has Tris imprisoned, with the factionless staging an uprising against those that have been helping them.

4 stars.

This book fulfills no requirements for the challenge.

Things I Loved This Week 6/13/15

I’m starting a new recurring thing here where I pick three things each week that I loved and wanted to share. Retweets and Facebook shares don’t really highlight the difference between things that were more “hrm” or things that really excited or amused me, or even were emotionally earth-shattering.

1. Episode Two of The Mystery Show Podcast – “Britney”

msI just started listening to this since I saw a few mentions on Twitter although I didn’t really know what it was all about when I started with it, but when I realized what the premise was, I was hooked. The first episode was pretty good, but the second is seriously amazing. Starlee Kine takes a mystery that can’t be solved with a Google search, and is determined to find the answer, even if it costs $2500 to meet Britney Spears face-to-face. But the resolution of the mystery isn’t even the best part. Along the way, she encounters lots of people, and brings sunshine wherever she goes. This is the Kimmy Schmidt of podcasters, everyone. She gets all these random people, like a customer service rep at Ticketmaster, to open up about some deeply personal things. But it never feels exploitative, it always feels 100% genuine. [Listen to it yourself.]

2. My clothing drawers post-KonMari

I recently reviewed the book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo, and between that and the first 2 chapters of “Year to an Organized Life” I’m slowly trying to transform my house into a place I love again, 11112702_873693675038_788023528679652627_ninstead of a hoarders prison. (Yes, I feel that strongly about how much I hate what it has become.) So far, all I’ve had time to do is work on my clothes and books (the first two items in order for KonMari-style tidying), and I already love the changes. I’ve taken two boxes of items to Goodwill and sold some other things. Whenever I hesitate on an item, I stop and “thank it” for the pleasure I used to have in owning it, and then send it on to it’s next use. It’s hokey, but it really works to remember that I have derived pleasure from it but it no longer has a purpose for me.

3. Book Reviewing Moleskine notebook

I had totally forgotten that I owned this, but while cleaning I rediscovered it. It is perfect for jotting down notes in my book club selection and then bringing it to the meetings. It has a alpha arrangement so you can skip to the book you are looking for, and lots of pages in the back for miscellany. And of course, it looks great, like all Moleskine notebooks. [Get one for yourself!]

 

What things did you love this week? Please share!

Review: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The-Life-Changing-Magic-of-Tidying-Up-718x1024

A short article I came across about this book piqued my interest in it. I’d already seen a couple of mentions about it, and was ready to disregard it, until I read the basic premise. Marie Kondo’s tidying philosophy is so simple – only keep things that “spark joy”.

I think this book really resonated with me because I’ve been so unhappy with our living space lately. It has become overrun with clutter. I have boxes upon boxes of stuff that I just don’t know what to do with. I had a closet full of clothing that I didn’t love. Books I have had on my shelf for ages that I don’t care about reading anymore. I’m just done with all of it, and I’m tired of storing this stuff that I don’t care about. I was already in the middle of a great amount of discarding, but this really pushed me forward. Now, the idea of having a closet full of things that I am excited about wearing, books I am excited about reading, and other things that “spark joy”, is really attractive.

I kind of lost steam of my “One Year to An Organized Life” book blogging series that I was doing, mostly because it was moving too fast. The monthly sections were just too much to undertake in one month, and I was ending up with a pile of stuff at the end that was in a bit of a holding area, since I didn’t know where to store it and the rooms I wanted to store them in were so messy and cluttered that I didn’t know what to do with them in the meantime.

Getting rid of other people’s things without permission demonstrates a sad lack of common sense. … To quietly work away at disposing of your own excess is actually the best way of dealing with  family that doesn’t tidy. (Kondo, 51-52)

The one thing that I feel is lacking here – although she does address it – is the fact that I have no control over other people’s things and that is part of the problem. Being overrun with toys and other things that don’t give ME joy, but may give joy to my family members – or that they are not psychologically ready to part with for whatever reason – is a huge part of my clutter issues. Her contribution to this problem is to simply take care of your own things, and the zen-like aura emanating from you will be contagious, but I really will have to see it to believe it.

A booby trap lies within the term ‘storage’. (22)

This was one of those ah-ha! moment quotes from the book. It made me think about how I’m storing things, and that I can organize things to be perfectly neat and tidy and it all falls apart within days. Also, unless it’s something that I use at particular times (like holiday items), why am I storing things in a way that makes it hard for me to get to it? It just makes me less likely to use it. If I’m not using it regularly because it’s a pain to get to and that doesn’t effect me in my day-to-day life, then I should just discard it.

In fact, that particular article of clothing has already completed its role in your life and you are free to say, “Thank you for giving me joy when I bought you,” or “Thank you for teaching me what doesn’t suit me,” and let it go. (60)

There’s no need to finish reading books that you only got halfway through. Their purpose was to be read halfway. (91)

You will never use spare buttons. (111)

The above quotes were some of the biggest take-aways for me from this book. I do hang on to several item “just in case” and half-read books, some clothing, and buttons are big ones. I’m 31 and I have never used a spare button. I’ve forced myself to finish books that I hated. I have a ton of clothes that I save for a someday occasion or size that by the time I even get close to wearing it, I don’t even like it anymore.

The things we own are real. They exist here and now as a result of choices made in the past by no one other than ourselves. (183)

I’m not really into all of the spiritual things that she brings up in the book. I’m not going to start asking my house where it wants me to store things. But hanging onto things out of a sense of obligation to either ourselves or others when the utility or joy of the thing has passed is pretty silly. It just creates more mess to contend with. And I, for one, am tired of dealing with it.

This book fulfills the originally written in a different language requirement for the challenge.

Reading Challenge May Wrap Up


This month was really slow. I knocked off another couple of boxes, but took a break while I was waiting on some library books to come available before I started something new. Of course, I do still have Jane Austen’s Emma on the go, but I really don’t want to read it.

So first up, I finished Imaginary Jesus, which is completely perplexing and strange, but at least it was short. This definitely leads me to believe that I have a lot of books downloaded to my Kindle that I am never going to read. I sometimes feel a little panicked that there are so many books in the world to read, but not enough time to read them all. But, being realistic, most of those books are probably not worth my time.

I also read Still Alice, which is was a little nervous about but ended up really enjoying. I have the movie waiting for me to watch still, and I’m interested in how they portray the relationships in it. I think I’m going to remember this book for a long time, because it kind of sticks with you in an emotional kind of way.

The other book I completed this month is Yes Please by Amy Poehler, which was so disappointing to me. I read this book for my book club, and I really thought I was going to love it, based on the buzz I had seen about it. It seems to me that Amy has enough good will generated from her various things going on to paint the book in a better light than it would have been just on its own. I’ll be honest, after following her Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls facebook page, I was really hoping for a feminist diatribe/memoir. This wasn’t it, for sure.

Next on my reading pile is the final two books in the Divergent series. They are downloaded to my Kindle and ready to go. I’m also considering tossing Emma to the side, and reading Lady Chatterly’s Lover for my old book instead. It’s also been banned, so that would check off yet another box.

The whole question of books that have been banned is kind of a tricky one, to be honest. I feel confident choosing Lady Chatterly’s Lover as an example of a banned book because it’s kind of the poster child for book censorship. But so, so many books have merely been challenged, and not actually banned. Also, a book that is banned in one city may not raise an eyebrow in another.

So should I stick with Emma, or toss it? That is kind of the big question. I would almost rather just watch Clueless again.

I checked off 5 boxes this month, so that brings my total up to 28 boxes total, and 17 books read.

 

Proudly powered by WordPress
Theme: Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.