Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Quarterly Update - 2nd Quarter 2010

Now that I'm done with school for a while, I can get caught up on some book reviews. A good writer would have a longer introduction than this.

Terror in Tights, by Greg Trine

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

A Separate Peace, by John Knowles

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

Paper Towns, by John Green

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Autobiography, by Benjamin Franklin

Rating: five out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green

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

The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath

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

Nicholas on Vacation, by Nicholas on Vacation, by René Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempé

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Stone Fox, by John Reynolds Gardiner

Rating: four out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

How to Receive Discernible Answers to Your Prayers, by Jeffrey R. Young

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

Love Among the Chickens, by P.G. Wodehouse

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Coriolanus, by William Shakespeare

Rating: seven out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

As A Man Thinketh, by James Allen

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

Attack of the Valley Girls, by Greg Trine

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

I, Jack, by Patricia Finney

Rating.: seven out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

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

Rating: Not going to risk the wrath of God.

Drawing on the Powers of Heaven, by Grant Von Harrison

Rating: seven out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Getting What You Came For, by Robert L. Peters

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Dominic, by William Steig

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

Jack and Rebel, the Police Dog, by Patricia Finney

Rating: five out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

The Kitnapped Creature, by Darrel and Sally Odgers

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Utterly Me, Clarice Bean, by Lauren Child

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

The Fake Cape Caper, by Greg Trine

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

Fathers As Patriarchs, by Grant Von Harrison

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Clarice Bean Spells Trouble, by Lauren Child

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

Bunnicula, by Deborah and James Howe

Rating: five out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Bunnicula, by Deborah and James Howe

I remember listening to my father read this book to us when I was very little. I also remember being scared witless by it (it was age-appropriate for my older siblings, not for me). So I was ambivalent about reading it to my kids. After all, these are the kids who get frightened by Anne Shirley accidentally dying her hair green.

My kids started out scared of it, mainly because it was about a vampire rabbit. My daughter asked that we read it closer to dinner and not last thing before bed. But when they quickly figured out that the book is not as scary as they (or young me) thought it was, they warmed up to it. While my daughter never stopped declaring, "Dominic stinks!" the whole time we were reading that book, she only said it about Bunnicula for a few chapters before stopping.

If only something could be done about the characters. Bunnicula doesn't talk, and the other two are named Harold and Chester. Is this a retirement home or a kids' book? The human children were pretty dopey, too, but at least the dog and the cat are lively enough to make up for them. My kids laughed at the appropriate places and complained at the end of each reading, so that must count for something.

Rating: five out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Clarice Bean Spells Trouble, by Lauren Child

I didn't enjoy this one as much as the first. The Ruby Redfort plot device switched out books for movies, and they don't seem to be doing anything but entertaining Clarice. At least in the first book they were showing the contrast between fantasy and reality. Also, this book felt a bit after-school-special-ish to me, as Karl Renbury deals with his abandonment by his father. And although Clarice does an admirable thing in taking the blame for something Karl has done, the truth is never discovered and talked about; it's just assumed by all adults involved that Clarice's lie is true and Clarice moves on with her life. Maybe there could have at least been a discussion of the ambiguous nature of truth. That might be too much to ask from a kids' book, but I don't think so. If you're going to introduce the topic, at least hit all the high points a kid should hear about.

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

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fathers As Patriarchs, by Grant Von Harrison

I went to see the president speak and security took away my vial of consecrated oil. When I went to the bookstore to buy another, I browsed for a while and found this book at a substantial discount. [Question: should I not mention when I buy books on sale, buy them at used book stores, or check them out of the library? Is that insulting to the authors?] I decided to get it because I needed to make my purchase amount larger to justify the store's expense of the debit transaction. Then it turned out the vials weren't as cheap as I thought they'd be, so I didn't need to inflate the total amount at all, but the book had already been in my hands, and Richard Thaler tells us there was no turning back.

It was a good purchase. I enjoyed reading this book, and it was a pretty timely find, since I had recently been thinking about how to make sure I'm not exercising unrighteous dominion over my kids while still making them do exactly as I say. (Harrison didn't really solve that mystery for me.) This book also made me more fully appreciate the job my father did in raising me. Plenty of Harrison's good ideas were things I remembered happening in my home. I'm not sure this book is going to be a regular re-read like Drawing on the Powers of Heaven, but it will definitely be one I refer back to regularly as a reference.

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Fake Cape Caper, by Greg Trine

A much more enjoyable read than Attack of the Valley Girls. The bad guys are naturally bad, so you can root against them. Candace is featured more prominently, which is a plus in my kids' eyes. There's not as much winking self-reference. If I had to pick my favorite Melvin Beederman book, I'd say it was either this one or the very first one.

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

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Utterly Me, Clarice Bean, by Lauren Child

My daughter loves these books. Even though she's already read them all, she asked me to make this "her" book. (Somewhere along the way I screwed up and allowed them to each have a night-time book, doubling my reading load. What if we keep having kids? I'm done for.) Maybe it's because there are some words she still sort of guesses at. When it comes to reading she is emphatically punching above her weight, with the delightful results that we get to hear her use the word "chaos" in conversation with the pronunciation "chay-ose." So I guess she just wanted to make sure she was understanding everything when she read them on her own.

I liked this book. I liked the way Lauren Child contrasted the fantasy life of Ruby Redfort with the real life of Clarice Bean. My daughter is excited because, evidently, Lauren Child is now writing Ruby Redfort books, too.

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Kitnapped Creature, by Darrel and Sally Odgers

We read these books because my son loves them. They keep making him happy, so we keep reading them. They're hard to find around here (our library in Kansas had the entire series, while both our current library and its neighboring library don't have any of them), but we have come across a few at the used book store in town.

Jack has a son named Preacher now, which thrilled my son even more. If he loves dogs, he wants to put a copy of The Catcher in the Rye in his back pocket and shoot puppies. I especially liked how Preacher's nose-maps were child-like versions of Jack's maps. The story maybe lost something for us because we've read them out of order, so we had never before met the cat that made a reappearance in this book.

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.