Saturday, May 29, 2010

Jack and Rebel, the Police Dog, by Patricia Finney

The sequel can never be as great as the original, right? As good as this book was, it was a let-down from the giddy heights of the first. Some of it might have to do with the loss of novelty; when my kids first heard Jack's voice, they were ecstatic, but by the end of two books, it was commonplace to them. Some of it might have been the way Jack's kid and puppy-momma were barely featured, replaced in Jack's life by a dog he's supposedly been friends with for years. But if you're looking for a good kid-appropriate book that keeps the environmentalism undertones to a minimum and even teaches kids to question vegetarianism, this is the book for you.

Rating: five out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dominic, by William Steig

Alas, poor Dominic. My kids never really got into this book, even though by the end it seemed like they would like it if they hadn't already made up their minds to not like it. I picked it out at the library and then our hold on the next I, Jack book was fulfilled, so my kids hated Dominic for being in the way of the book they'd rather be reading. I would say, "Now it's time to read the greatest book ever written," and my daughter would yell, "Dominic stinks!" And because I am less mature than my seven-year-old, I'd make sure we had this same exchange every night.

In truth, it wasn't a bad book. It was the story of a dog on a quest, righting wrongs along his way. I found it strange that nearly every animal had a last name that was the name of a different animal, like a pig named Mr. Badger and a duck named Mrs. Fox. I can only assume it was intentional, but I don't really understand why. And the way the final scene was written it made me think the entire book had been an allegory for life and death, but then it very abruptly seemed like no, it wasn't that at all. Not many kids books would reward a second reading for missed symbolism, but this one would. If only there were a Dominic Cliffs Notes.

Rating: five and a half out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Getting What You Came For, by Robert L. Peters

I just finished the first year of a doctoral program. The advice in this book actually begins with the decision of whether or not to even apply to graduate school, in your junior year as an undergraduate. Because of that, a lot of the first 100 pages was stuff that didn't really apply to me anymore, but it was all stuff that made me think, "I wish I'd thought of that back then." But it also might have completely turned me off to the idea. But then that might have been the better decision. But it comes with a free frogurt. The frogurt is also cursed.

There was incredibly helpful advice here about how to structure a dissertation committee and how to manage the work. One startling aspect of the book was just how out-of-date it was, even though it was published in the mid-1990s. All the advice about how to send away for information through the mail and how to choose a personal computer was shockingly backward. If you get off on crap like that, I pontificated more fully on the subject here.

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Drawing on the Powers of Heaven, by Grant Von Harrison

I really like this book. When I first read it and came across the parts where he mentions "each time you re-read this book," I thought he was being a bit presumptuous. However, this is the fourth time I've read it, and I find it helpful to re-read it about once a year. I'd like to think I'm doing a better job having faith than I did before, but I still am just beginning to figure it all out.

Rating: seven out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Doctrine and Covenants, by Joseph Smith, Jr., et Al.

How am I supposed to write a "hardcore" review of scripture? That sounds like a no-win situation.

Rating: Not going to risk the wrath of God.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I, Jack, by Patricia Finney

I was at the library with my daughter, picking out books for her. While she gets books she knows she'd like (because they are from a tried-and-true series or because they have 18 fairies mentioned in the title), I like to get books that she might never otherwise consider. I was thinking about getting I, Freddy for her, when I noticed just a few books away I, Houdini. Both are about hamsters, my daughters favorite animal EVER (for the past several weeks). I wondered how similar the books were, and since we homeschool, I decided to give my daughter the school assignment of reading both and creating a report comparing and contrasting them.

This got our family on an I, Animal Name book kick, so when I next went to the library and saw I, Jack, I had to get it.

My children thought this was the most hilarious book EVER. Not just of all the books they've ever read, but of all possible books, all potential combinations of letters in the English language. Every page involved extensive breaks for uncontrollable laughter to abate. The book had to get moved to after-dinner instead of before-bed so that it didn't get the kids too worked up. They loved it with a love that was more than love. Upon finishing it, we immediately had to check the library website to see if there were any more books about Jack (there was--see below), and request it, even though it was available on the shelf. The risk of someone else checking it out before we could get to the library was just too great for my children to bear.

Rating.: seven out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Attack of the Valley Girls, by Greg Trine

My daughter liked this book best out of all the Melvin Beederman books we've read so far. I think I liked it least. After a chapter of introduction to the Valley girls that is heavy on speech mannerisms, they all go away for a heavy portion of the book. What's the point of having Valley girls if they aren't actually Valley girls? And it seemed sort of lame that the villains aren't actually bad people, they just ate an evil cookie. How are you supposed to root against someone that isn't actually bad? They're like Raymond in The Manchurian Candidate.

Rating: two and a half out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Monday, May 3, 2010

As A Man Thinketh, by James Allen

A very easy to read great little book about importance of directing your thoughts. The problem with most books about thought these days (ahem, The Secret, ahem) is that they seem sort of hokey with mysticism. Just think and stuff will happen, like your brain can control the elements around you without you knowing it. This book is old enough that it doesn't shy away from the explanation: you think, and God controls the elements around you. This then becomes a book about faith, not a book about magicking your way to fortune.

Rating: six and a half out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.