Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Friday, October 31, 2014

Book 370: Struwwelpeter

Struwwelpeter, tales by Heinrich Hoffman, adapted and illustrated by Bob Staake, Fantagraphic Books, 2006.

It's Hallowe'en, so the perfect time to review one of the most disturbing books in my collection -- this one.

This book has been in my to-be-reviewed stack for a few months, and, even though I have a miniature dragon guarding it all that time, my almost six-year-old son keeps managing to find it and pull it out of the pile.  I've been having to to bribe him to put it back.  The truth is, I am less concerned about this book giving him nightmares than I am that he will like it -- he seems to have inherited a rather dark sense of humor.

I remember having a copy of an earlier translation of this book when I was almost six.  I didn't scare me at all; I was fascinated.  The stories are just as ridiculously macabre as they were when I first encountered them.  The illustrations, however, are delightfully and brilliantly playful, which makes them less terrifying, but somehow more disturbing.  In other words, absolutely perfect for anyone who possesses a rather dark sense of humor.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book 369: The Pepper in the Gumbo

The Pepper in the Gumbo, by Mary Jane Hathaway, 2014.

Full disclosure:  I did not buy this book.  It was sent to me electronically in exchange for a fair and honest review.  Further disclosure:  I hate reading books electronically.  More further disclosure:  I would buy this book in a heartbeat -- at least two copies, one for me and one for my mother.

As a rule, I don't like romantic fiction, so for me to not only like a romantic fiction book, but to love a romantic fiction book, that book has to be pretty amazing.   This book was pretty amazing.

I don't like romantic fiction, but I do like the movie "You've Got Mail" -- it's a Tom Hanks thing mostly.  This book is a smarter, sharper, sweeter twist on the classic tale that was used for the movie.  I also like really good writing and well-developed characters -- all that is present, and more, in this book.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book 368: The Count's Poem

The Count's Poem, written by Ray Sipherd, illustrated by Tom Cooke, Little Golden Books, 1978.

I found this very-appropriate-for-Hallowe'en Little Golden Book in a thrift store, so I rescued it.

There was an era of not-so-great Little Golden Books, and this book, unfortunately, was released during that era.  The present editor of LGB has done much to raise the standard by bringing in some highly talented writers and illustrators, so that era has now passed.  Still, even a subpar Little Golden Book tends to be better than a good many other picture books.  And there is that golden spine.

This book is, of course, a counting book, with a halfway decent rhyme and some rather good (in a 1970s way) illustrations.  And it is very good book to read with a Kindergarten student around Hallowe'en.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Book 367: The Little Prince

The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, originally published in 1943.

I was sixteen when I first read this book.  I was rather a cynical sixteen and exactly the wrong age to read this book.  It didn't help that I was reading this book in my French IV class, when in French III, I had read Les Miserables and La Chanson de Roland.  I didn't take anything seriously in my French IV class, including this book.

I read this book again in my twenties, and liked it, and then again in my thirties and really liked it, and again in my forties and absolutely loved it.  At sixteen, I was neither the prince nor the pilot.  In my twenties and thirties I was the pilot, and now, in my forties, I am either or both.

There is something so simple about this book that makes me want to read it to my five-year-old son.  And there is something so profound about this book, that I want to read it over and over again (but just not at sixteen).

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book 366: The Queen's Lover

The Queen's Lover, by Francine Du Plessix Gray, Penguin, 2012.

I bought this book because I found a brand new copy for a dollar.  It was marked "bestseller", and it looked intriguing.

Did this book amuse me?  Um, yeah, sort of.  Until the TMI line was crossed.  Ew.  And most the time I wanted to slap Axel's dandified face.

Did I learn anything from this book?  Um, no.  To me, the French Revolution is one of the most confusing chapters in history.  I have read many books on the topic -- both fiction and non-fiction -- to try to understand what was going on at that time in history.  This book only muddied the issue.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Book 365: The Emperor's New Clothes

The Emperor's New Clothes, adapted by Rebecca Bondor, and illustrated by Richard Walz, Little Golden Books, 1993.

There were some dark years for The Little Golden Books when the text was too convoluted for the LGB format and the illustrations lacked the whimsical charm that usually is standard in a Little Golden Book.

This book came out of that era.

I bought this book because I've loved Andersen's fairy tales for as long as I've been reading, and I've loved reading Little Golden Books when I first started reading.  This book falls a bit short on both counts.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book 364: The Hundred and One Dalmatians

The Hundred and One Dalmatians, written by Dodie Smith, Viking, 1957.

Before there was an animated movie, and Disney books based on the animated movie, and a live-action movie based on the animated movie, and sequel live-action movie that really had nothing to do with anything, there was the original The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith.

The original book doesn't read very much like the copy.  Or the copy of the copy.  Or the copy of the copy of the copy.  And that is a very good thing.  What feels silly and trite in the movie, feels fresh and original in the book -- Starlight barking.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Book 363: Little Golden Book Rumpelstiltskin

Rumpelstiltskin, from Grimm's Fairy Tales, illustrated by William Dugan, Little Golden Book, 1958.

Rumpelstiltskin has never been my favorite Fairy Tale.  The miller was a braggart, the daughter was kind of whiney, and the king was horrible.  The only person who seemed halfway decent was Rumpel.  And he didn't fare very well.  Although in the daughter's defense, I would have schemed to keep my firstborn, too.

This telling of the fairy tale is quite good.  I was very amused by the William Morris reference. The illustrations for this version of Rumpelstiltskin are quite lovely and make the story worth the re-read.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Book 362: Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts, by Louise Nottingham, 2014.

I have odd chunks of time throughout the day -- five minutes when I am waiting for the bus to circle the neighborhood after picking up my son; fifteen minutes when I am waiting for the bus to drop off my son; five minutes here and there when I'm baking or waiting for a load of laundry to finish.  There is not really enough time to get immersed in a book with a story.  But these poems are a perfect length for that time.

I grab my coffee if it's still morning, or water if it's afternoon, and I sit down with this book.  It's like sitting down with an old friend.  It's like those short snippets of conversation you have when you only have a few minutes, but it feels like enough because you are talking with a friend.

That is exactly what these poems are like.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Book 361: Thomas and Gordon

Thomas and Gordon, by The Rev. W. Awdry, Scholastic, 2001.

This story was one of the first Thomas stories we read to our son when he was very young -- around one or so.  Now his is five and reading a bit on his own, and this story is still charming.  And funny.