Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book 428: The Double Tongue

The Double Tongue, by William Golding, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995.

This book did feel a bit incomplete and unfinished.  Because it was incomplete and unfinished.  Because the author died before he had a final manuscript.  In spite of that, this book is brilliant.

First he gives an incredibly sympathetic portrait of a young girl.  Then he perfectly portrays that young girl becoming the Pythia.  And finally, through the narrative, of a believing woman who was used by the gods.

I have read this book at least four, probably five times, and every time I read it, I pick up on something new.  The manuscript may just be a sketch, but it is a sketch by a master.  And every time I read this book, I want to go back and re-read C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book 427: Pooh's Grand Adventure

Pooh's Grand Adventure, Little Golden Books, 1997.

This is a book based on a not-very-good movie.  Even so, the book is better.  Maybe because my internal narrator sounds like John Cleese.

I do find it funny that "school" is spelled "skull", and the illustrations are delightful.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Book 426: poemcrazy

poemcrazy, by Susan Goldsmith Wooldrigdge, Three Rivers Press, 1996.

I first read this book about twelve years ago when I was housesitting for the senior partner at the law firm where I was working.  He had a house full of cats and one very needy little dog.  I was surprised to find this little book on his bookshelf, so I read it.  I was intrigued by her relationship with words, and inspired enough to consider the weight of my own words.  I liked it enough to buy my own copy.

Now, twelve years and four books and one kid later, I re-read this book.  The second reading did not impact me as much as the first, but the fault is not with the book or the author.  The fact is, my six-year-old son is a natural word-collecter.  Whenever he hears a new word, he tests it and weighs it and considers it and then uses it.  He makes up word to work with his new words.  There is a natural poetry -- the kind promoted in this book -- in his speech and writing.  And I think that is the key; this book is not so much about writing poetry as it is about loving words and how they fit together. We should all be word-collectors.  We should all know the value of the words we use.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Book 425: Hooray for Fly Guy!

Hooray for Fly Guy!, by Tedd Arnold, Cartwheel Books, 2008.

Two things about this book:

1.  This is a chapter book that my Kindergarten son can read all on his own, and

2.  This is a chapter book that my Kindergarten son wants to read all on his own, so

Hooray for Fly Guy!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Book 424: Go, Dog, Go!

Go, Dog, Go! by P.D. Eastman, Random Books, 1961.

My Kindergarten kid can read ALL of this book ALL by himself.  So he does.  Out loud.  Everyday.  It is a good thing that this book is a favorite of my husband.

It is a special book that can hold a beginning reader's interest for around 60 pages.  And this is a very special book .

Monday, March 16, 2015

Book 423: The Adventures of Beekle, The Unimaginary Friend

The Adventures of Beekle, by Dan Santat, Little Brown and Company, 2014.

After I finished reading this Caldecott-winning book, I desperately wanted a Beekle.  Someone needs to make that happen.  Until then, the best I could do was order my own copy of this book, so that I can read it over and over and over again (oh, yeah, and so my son can, too).

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Book 422: Vile Bodies

Vile Bodies, by Evelyn Waugh, 1930.

I have read this book probably at least five times since I had first discovered it.  The first time, I remember being quite open-mouthed with shock at the casual references to death and debauchery.  The second time, I was struck by the humor.  Every time since then, I've read something new into this novel.  This last time I've read it, as someone who is closer to the older generation portrayed in this book than the Bright Young Things, I wondered whether Waugh was a Bright Young Thing or of the older generation.  Certainly he is liberal with his skewering, but there does seem to be an underlying fondness of the author for his characters.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Book 421: Starry Messenger

Starry Messenger, by Peter Sis, Frances Foster Books, 1996.

First of all, this book is gorgeous.  Amazingly and staggeringly and phenomenally gorgeous.

The story itself is a great introduction to the history of astronomy for early grade school children.  There is not a happy ending, because Galileo's story did not have a happy ending, but I like honesty in children's literature.

Overall, I thought this book was VERY well done.  I was not surprised to see Frances Foster's name associated with it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Book 420: Dear Mili

Dear Mili, by Wilhelm Grimm, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, 1957.

This is an absolutely gorgeous rendering of a little-known fairy tale.  The beautifully lush illustrations pay homage to William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement, and yet are unmistakably Maurice Sendak.

The story itself is wonderfully told.  Does it end happily?  Um, no.  It's Grimm.  ;)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Book 419: The Thin Man

The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett, 1934.

The Thin Man is NOT Nick Charles (or William Powell).  The Thin Man in the book is the missing professor, who apparently was terribly thin.  The movies, however, were perfectly cast with William Powell and the incomparable Myrna Loy.

This was Hammett's last completed novel, and the first that he infuses with snappy, bantering humor.  Nora Charles was supposed to have been based on Lillian Hellman, who, while not my favorite writer, must have been quite witty.  This book is also an ode to alcohol -- whatever the question, alcohol is the answer.

It IS a pretty good mystery novel, but the mystery part does take a back seat.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Book 418: The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo, Candlewick Press, 2003.

I bought this book because I found it in a thrift store, and I knew it was a Newbery winner.

I did not love this book. I wanted to, and I thought I would love it, but I didn't. Despite the wonderful illustrations, I didn't even really like this book. 

I do not like the smug asides of 'Dear Reader'. I never have. I was willing to overlook them for the sake of the story, though. 

I do not like unmitigated brutality. Especially to children. Again, I could have overlooked that for the sake of the story.

But what if I don't especially like the story? I get the play on light and dark (chiaroscuro), I mean, it IS the name of one of the main characters. But here the book and the movie differ. And here the movie got what the book missed. Yes, you need darkness to appreciate the light, but darkness, especially in a children's book, should never consume the light. And forgiveness works both ways -- a princess may forgive a rat, but the rat may also forgive the princess. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Book 417: The Dain Curse

The Dain Curse, by Dashiell Hammett, originally published in 1929.

It was a simple case of missing diamonds.  The diamonds were not worth enough to attract the number of murders that followed.  Of course there was something else going on, with someone else involved.

Hammett is brilliant with his writing.  It doesn't take too many of his books to know we've met the perpetrator fairly early on.  It is the "why" that is always worth the read.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Book 416: Lord Peter

Lord Peter, by Dorothy Sayers (short story collection).

I'm not even sure how often I've read this collection of stories -- four, maybe five, times, maybe even more -- and I was a pretty late arrival to the Lord Peter party.  I didn't discovery Dorothy Sayers until I was well into my 20s.

The mysteries are well thought out, often complicated, and usually intriguing.  And that is not even the best part of the stories.  Lord Peter is.  Or rather, the brilliant writing bringing Lord Peter to life is.