Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Friday, December 15, 2017

Book 581: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dalh, illustrated by Quentin Blake, Penguin, 1964.

Of course this book is brilliant.  Of course this book is funny.  Of course it is sharp and quick-paced.  But it is also creepy and unsettling -- and I mean that in the best possible way.

The movies based on this book are good, even great, but do not come close to reaching the level of this book.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Book 580: Rest in Pieces

Rest in Pieces, by Rita Brown, Bantam Book, 1992.

This book was both quite good and quite bad. 

First the good:  The characters were quirky enough to be interesting, but not so quirky that they turned into cartoon.  The writing was solid, the pacing was good, and the mystery was intriguing.  As a stand-alone book, this book would have been fine.

Then the bad:  This book follows almost exactly the plot of Book 1, from the creepy, anonymous postcards, to Little Marilyn's bad choice for a life-mate.  The plot was so close, I forgot which book I was reading at times. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Book 579: Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here, by Rita Mae Brown, Bantam Books 1990.

I've heard about these books for years, especially since I love both mysteries and cats.  I was a little wary of books with talking animals; I was afraid that would be more a distraction than anything.  And, to be honest, the talking animals were a bit of a distraction, which is why I only skimmed those parts.  The story, however, was still good.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Book 578: Rocks and Minerals (A Gem of a Read)

Book 578:  Rocks and Minerals (A Gem of a Read), Simon Basher, written by Dan Green, Kingfisher 2009.

My third-grade son LOVES the Basher series.  Right now, he is so interested in rocks that he wanted a rock collection for his birthday, so this book was perfect reading material for him.  The only reason it is not five stars is because he thinks the illustrations are a little 'weird'.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Book 577: The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath, Penguin Classic, 1962.

I escaped reading this book in both high school and college, maybe because I focused more on British writers than American ones. I avoided reading this book in my 20s when I was followed by my own black dog. Now, from the lofty age of fifty, I've read the book. 

I understand the importance of this book. I also understand the accuracy of this book. I didn't like this book, but it deservedly is a modern classic and should be read with great care.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Book 576: The Mission Song

The Mission Song, by John le Carre, Little, Brown and Company, 2006.

I'm guessing this book wasn't the best of le Carre.  That, of course, doesn't mean this book was in any way bad; it wasn't.  It just didn't feel as sharp and complete as other of his books I've read.

The protagonist was brilliant, a multi-linguist interpreter trapped between two worlds in every realm:  Black and White, good and bad, canny and naive, married and not married, etc.   Even his age of 28 seems to be a doorway between a young man and a season adult.

The rest of the book was similarly murky and uncertain, which may have been the point, but it somehow took away from the poignancy of the protagonist.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Book 575: Solar Eclipse 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017, Science Across America, 2017.

I'm only about three months late in reviewing this book.  That's not bad, right?

I did buy this book prior to the total eclipse that was supposed to be visible in our city in South Carolina.  My son read all about the eclipse, had his special glasses, and was otherwise ready for the eclipse.  Alas, the weather did not cooperation.  It did get as dark as dusk (not quite midnight), which was quite dramatic, but he did not get to see the stages of the sun's cover.

The book, however, saved much of the day, as he had fun activities to work on after the eclipse.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Book 574: A Walk in the Tundra

A Walk in the Tundra, written by Rebecca L Johnson, illustrated by Phyllis V. Saroff, Carolhoda Books, 2001.

We have this book for my son's third-grade Science class.  He is learning about ecosystems, and the Tundra was on of them.

The text for this book is good, and the illustration are detailed and helpful, but this book is set up more for literature than a science class.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Book 573: Pigs Rock!

Pigs Rock!, written by Melanie Davis Jones, illustrated by Bob Staake, Viking 2003.

I don't know the author's other work, but nothing about the text or 'story' struck me as being anything special or unique.  Usually I love the illustrator's work, but this time, the work felt flat, without any sense of whimsy or fun.  To me, both the author and illustrator were sleepwalking through this book.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Book 572: The Divorce Papers

The Divorce Papers, by Susan Rieger, Crown Publishing, 2014.

I found this book for a dollar, it looked interesting, so I bought it.

Full disclosure:  I spent seven years working in Criminal Law, and five years working in Family Law (before becoming a Children's Librarian).  I have drafted many, many divorce pleadings, answers, orders, agreements, and letters.  I found this book, if not exactly hilarious, at least amusing.  I think, however, the coming from a law background is a prerequisite for enjoying this book at all.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Book 571: Cruising Paradise

Cruising Paradise, by Sam Shepard, 1997.

I reviewed this book on Goodreads last Monday (July 24th).  Then I went on a short vacation with my family, and today (July 31st), I just read that the remarkable Sam Shepard has died.

This is the book that made me want to become a writer. It is also the book that made me adore Sam Shepard, but that is a completely different story. 

These stories are breathtakingly perfect. I don't mean they are the polished gems of a technically brilliant wordsmith. I mean they are perfect in their pure, raw, gut-wrenching beauty. The characters in the story may be the most hideous creatures you have ever encountered, and yet you can be moved to tears when you travel with them through their hardships. 

Sam Shepard is an underrated genius. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Book 570: Listen My Children

Listen My Children, Core Knowledge Book, 2001.

My son read this book for his Second Grade Literature class.  This book is an excellently-curated collection of poems for second-graders.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Book 569: The Legend of the Bluebonnet

The Legend of the Bluebonnet, by Tomie DePaola, Penguin Books, 1983.

This is a lovely, lovely book.  My son read it for a First Grade class last year, and it might have been a little advanced for him then.  But now, it is perfect for him.  In fact, it is just perfect.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Book 568: Weather, Poems for All Seasons

Weather:  Poems for All Seasons, by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Melanie Hall, HarperCollins, 1995.

My son read this book last year for first grade.  It was his first introduction to a study of poetry, and he really enjoyed it.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Book 567: Buddy, the First Seeing Eye Dog

Buddy:  The First Seeing Eye Dog, by Eva Moore, illustrated by Don Bolognese, Scholastic Book 1996.

This is a delightful true-life story for a second-grader.  My second-grader was impressed with the friendships in this book:  The friendship between Kiss and Gala, and the friendship between Kiss (now Buddy) and Morris.

The illustrations are tender and action-packed, and add so much to the text.

The only thing that didn't quite make sense was the title.  Buddy was the first seeing eye dog in the US, but she wasn't the first seeing eye dog.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Book 566: Humphrey's School Fair Surprise

I recently won an auction that benefited a public library.  What I won was a copy of this book, signed by the illustrator, and a print of the artwork from this book, also signed by the illustrator.  The reason I entered the contest in the first place, besides wanting to benefit the library, was because my second grade son loves books and has a hamster.

My second grade son has found a new favorite series.

Humphrey the hamster has such a charming voice, and is every bit as clever as our 'Houdini Hamster'.  In fact, he is more clever, because our hamster isn't much of a reader, and has yet to make sign.  Still, my little boy sees a lot of his Benjamin the Houdini Hamster in Humphrey, and can't wait to read more of the series.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Book 565: Here Comes the Easter Cat

Here Comes the Easter Cat, written by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda, Dial Books, 2014.

This book is an excellent example of the ideal relationship between the text and the illustrations.  The text on its own would not make sense, and the illustrations on their own would not make sense, but put them together and you have one adorably hilarious Easter book.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Book 564: Hallowe'en Party

Hallowe'en Party, by Agatha Christie, Berkley Books, 1969.

I love Hercule Poirot -- of course -- and Ariadne Oliver, and the mystery itself was quite good, but there were still some rather large flaws in this book. 

All the charm was sucked out of Agatha Christie's writing by her rants (through several characters) about the 'youth of today', the mental health system, and the criminal justice system. I might have been fine if only one or two characters spouted negativity of their choice, but they all did, repeatedly, and that grew tiresome. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Book 563: Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective

Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective, by Agatha Christie, Berkley Books, 1934.

Mr. Parker Pyne seems like a cross between Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey, and a plain ordinary accountant.  He is quite charming.  The stories, however, do not quite measure up to Christie at her best.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Book 562: Dumb Witness

Dumb Witness, by Agatha Christie, Berkley Books, 1937.

I found this Agatha Christie mystery especially engaging. Possibly because I am partial to small dogs named Bob. And partially because I did not guess the ending. But mostly because it was a well-crafted, engaging story.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Book 561: How to Read a Story

How To Read a Story, written by Kate Messner, illustrated by Mark Siegel, 2015.

This delightfully illustrated book is absolutely charming.  My eight-year-old son's favorite chapter was the chapter about using different voices for different characters.  He took that advice straight to heart.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Book 560: The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled, by M. Scott Peck, M.D., Touchstone Books, 1978.

I found this book in a thrift store, so I paid my 65 cents and took it home.

This book starts out well enough.  In fact, if the author had stopped after the first half of this book, I would recommend it to just about anyone.  The first half does not really contain any profound truths, but summing up listening as love is not a bad place to start.

But the second half is problematic to the point of being dangerous.  It is contradictory and murky, and unsettlingly theocratic.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Book 559: Let's Go Rock Collecting

Let's Go Rock Collecting, by Roma Gana, illustrated by Holly Keller, HarperCollins, 1997.

My son used this book for his Second Grade Science class.  The text contains some solid information, and it is accessible to a second-grader; however, this book did not prove to be nearly as helpful as I hoped.  I think the problem is with the illustrations.  The illustrations, even of the rocks, are a bit cartoonish, which made it difficult for my son to match up his rock sample to the correct rock.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Book 558: Cam Jansen, The Mystery of the Stolen Diamonds

Cam Jansen, The Mystery of the Stolen Diamond, by David Adler, Puffin Books, 1980.

My second grade son read this book for his Literature class, and learn to make inferences and deductions using this book.

This book was my son's first introduction to a mystery story.  It wasn't difficult for him to figure out, and he enjoyed it.  But I can't be the only mom who nearly had a heart attack when the baby was brought into the 'den of thieves'.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Book 557: Bad Kitty, Drawn to Trouble

Bad Kitty, Drawn to Trouble, by Nick Bruel, Roaring Brook Press, 2014.

From the very beginning, my eight-year-old son has been a big Bad Kitty fan -- possibly because he calls our Molly Kitten 'Bad Kitty'.

He received this book for Christmas, and he started reading it in January, which was, coincidently, when he was learning the difference between the plot and the theme of a story.  I could NOT have explained the difference better than Uncle Murray.

And, my son has tried his hand at drawing Bad Kitty, and not just like the example.  If Nick Bruel is ever looking for an assistant... ;)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Book 556: The Josefina Story Quilt

The Josefina Story Quilt, by Eleanor Coerr, illustrated by Bruce Degen, HarperCollins, 1957.

My son read this book for his Literature class in Second Grade.  He was learning about the way of life for pioneers, with an emphasis on story quilts.  This little book fit right in.

The language was simple enough he could read this book on his own and understand it.  The story was rather charming.  Although the book was about pioneers traveling to California, the more timeless theme was about the bond between a child and his or her pet.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Book 554: 1066 and All That

1066 and All That, by W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman, illustrated by John Reynolds, E.P. Dutton, 1931.

In England, I was dreadful at History.  English History started with the Early Stone Age, and went on from there, so the American Revolution (or Rebellion) was a mere tiff, a trifle.  As an American, it was hard to recast my mind.

Also, this from the book, helps explain my confusion:  "The Scots (originally Irish, but by now the Scotch) were at this time inhabiting Ireland, having driven the Irish (Picts) out of Scotland; with the Picts (originally Scots) were now Irish..."  While this is humorously written, it is also true.

I can't say this book helps me keep my British History straight, but it does make me feel better about being so dreadful at it.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Book 553: Galileo's Daughter

Galileo's Daughter, by Dava Sobel, HarperCollins, 1999.

This book is NOT about Galileo's daughter.  This book is about Galileo, his writings, his beliefs, his trial, and it includes letters written by his daughter to him.  I usually finish a book in a day or two, and this one took me WEEKS to wade through.  In fact, I even set it aside during the holidays because it was a bit heavy for that time of the year.  I am glad I read it; I feel now I can separate more of the myth from the man when hearing or reading about Galileo, but it definitely is not light reading by any definition.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Book 552: Goodbye Mog

Goodbye Mog, by Judith Kerr, HarperCollins, 2003.

Every time my son saw Santa this year, he asked for a Mog Cat.  I may not be the quickest person in the world, but I knew what he was getting for Christmas.  Since he was getting the cat, I wanted him to have some of the books, too.

Our little hamster, Fred, started showing signs of slowing down shortly after Thanksgiving.  By this time he was around three years old, which is remarkably old for a hamster.  I wanted to prepare my son for the inevitable, so I made sure that Goodbye Mog was among the Mog books.

The inevitable happen late on New Year's Eve.  By this time, my son had already read Goodbye Mog a few times.  As we were digging the hole to bury Fred, my son told me Fred was tired and he wanted to go to sleep forever.  So he did.  And that Fred's body was dead on Earth but his spirit alive in heaven.  There were a few tears -- OK, mostly from me -- but my son accepted that Fred had had a good long life and now he was at peace.  So, thank you, Goodbye Mog, for bringing my little boy some comfort.