Sunday, October 25, 2015

Werewolves and Broccoli - Are They Really So Different?

Two recently-published books came home in a bag last week.  Here's what I noticed right away:  Smiling mushrooms and a wolf on one cover, and a penguin and pajamas on the other.  The penguin wasn't wearing the pajamas, and the wolf wasn't laughing along with the mushrooms, but the juxtaposition of those images sure caught my attention.

So what did I do?  I grabbed a biscuit (or two), and lay on the couch I'm not supposed to by lying on, and started reading.  I was so engrossed I hardly had time to get off the couch and jump crazily at the door when my family got home.

Later that night, as I lay at the foot of the bed worshiping my Dad I started to think about those two books and what they had in common.  If I could have drawn a Venn diagram I would have.  Without opposable thumbs it's almost impossible! 

The Astounding Broccoli Boy (Frank Cottrell Boyce) and Return to Augie Hobble (Lane Smith) both tell the stories of two underdogs, if I may use that expression.  They get thrown into unusual circumstances, one because he inexplicably turns bright green and the other because he has a close encounter with a werewolf. 

Rory, the broccoli-colored one, has to join forces with his enemy, who also turned green!  They decide they must be green for a reason, so they set out to do astounding things.  Astounding things do happen, but not quite in the way they expected.  However, they both grow and change - their lives will never be the same.  Would yours be, if you had turned bright green?

Now let's discuss werewolves.  Furry, drooly, badly behaved...  I've never liked them.  Augie Hobble is spending the summer working at Fairy Tale Place, the run down amusement park his dad manages.  He also has to go to summer school, since he failed his Creative Arts final project.  He's being bullied and his best friend is going

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

There Will Be Bears, and There Was a Sandwich

I'm going to review two books tonight, even though it is after my bedtime.  They both have bears in them, although I'm not sure about one of them.  It seems there might not have been a bear after all!


Let me explain.  The first book is called "The Bear Ate Your Sandwich" and it is written and drawn by someone called Julia Sarcone-Roach.  The pictures are delicious!  It is an easy book to read, and small people and their dogs can really enjoy it together.  There are sandwiches, enough said.  The plot is this:  Bear wakes up, smells berries, climbs in truck, travels and explores, finds delicious sandwich and eats it, travels home.  But there's a surprise ending, and it involves ears.  They are good ears, and this is a great book.  Can we believe that the bear really ate the sandwich?

The second book is for bigger people and definitely has a bear, a pretty big and scary one.  This book, called "There Will  Be Bears", doesn't have pictures, but as you read it your brain will be supplying some pretty vivid ones to go along with the story.  There is a family of people but the two most important ones are the boy, Tyson, and the Grandpa, Gene or "Gramps".  They have a special bond that gets tested in some interesting ways.  You wonder for a little bit if they'll be able to keep their love strong, and then you wonder if they'll be eaten by a bear!  I really thought this book was going to have an unhappy, and very messy, ending.  Before the bear there were some other bad things for Tyson to deal with, and the author does a good job of putting in some funny stuff to go along with the hard stuff.

You really want things to work out for Tyson, he is a good guy and his story is a good story.  Once you start you want to keep reading, and there's a lot of action to keep Tyson's story exciting.  You might never have a chance to go tracking elk, and you may never have a huge bear charging down a hill at you, but you probably have had trouble with a friend, and you might have had some girl (or boy) trouble.  Maybe your grandparents are growing old, too, and you might have felt sad and angry at things happening in your family.  You'll be rooting for Tyson and hoping that bear doesn't get him! Thank you Ryan Gebhart for creating an adventure that made the four walls of my suburban home melt away for an afternoon.  Now I'm going to lick my tail end and go to sleep.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

It's Raining Reigning In My Heart

"Ann M. Martin" it says on the cover.  There's a girl and a dog running through the rain - how could I not pick it up with my canine teeth and give it a try?  Well, Ann M. Martin, whoever she is, wrote a great book with two great characters, the girl Rose and the dog Rain.

Being a dog named Princess, I liked the Rain Reign title.  I try to reign in my house, but those cats are like insubordinate peasants.  Don't they get that I'm bigger and more regal?  They are sneaky, too.  Anyway, I digress.  Rose is an unusual girl who has trouble making friends and behaving like everyone else.  Ann M. Martin calls it Asperger's Syndrome, but I can't even pronounce that.  Rain just has love.  Rain loves Rose and Rose loves Rain.

There are two other important characters, Dad Wesley and Uncle Weston.  I'd rather live with Uncle Weston, he is kind and gentle.  Dad Wesley is like a porcupine.

The bad thing that happens is Rain gets let out during a hurricane and disappears.  I was scared that Rose would never find Rain again, but she did.  That made me happy, but then something else bad happened.  I don't want to spoil the story so I won't tell you what, but I saw my Mom crying when she read those chapters.  Rose turns out to be a pretty amazing girl.

Why is the title Rain Reign?  Because Rose loves homonyms.  You might like homonyms after you read this book, too.  I still don't quite get them, because I'm not very bright, but I sure got the love of a girl and a dog.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Simple Is Best - Lizi Boyd's Particular Genius

I know all about how simple is best.  I often hear the word "simple" when people are talking about me, and I am the best there is!  I hear that, too.  Now I have found the best book, it is so wonderful in its simplicity.

I read and wrote about Lizi Boyd once before, because she had a lovely and brilliant book about a boy and a window.  The story had no words, but told so many things!  Now she has a book that is even better, because it has mostly my colors - the deepest black, the whitest white, the loveliest grey.  And she also has included many of my favorite things.  There are small furry rodents and plants to roll in and little holes to peek in.  So many surprises!

The magic begins with a flashlight.  In fact, that is the name of the book.  Everyone loves flashlights, and everyone loves being outside in the mysterious dark.  If you put the two together you can make all sorts of discoveries!  The boy has a flashlight and when he shines it out into the dark amazing things appear.  Some of them are furry and delicious!  Then he gets sleepy and while he takes a short nap something else gets a hold of the flashlight.  Soon it's a flashlight free-for-all until it's time to read a story in the tent, the perfect way to end the night.  I know you will love this book.

Night Lights by Susan Gal is a great book to read with Flashlight.  A girl and her mom have a fun night with their dog and all the different kinds of light you can think of.  My favorite is "candlelight", for a birthday cake with dog biscuits all over it.  I'm going to leave that page open for Mom, hint hint.

Both of these beautiful books make you want to have nighttime adventures of your own, and don't forget to bring a long your best friend, the furry one with the waggy tail.
Hey, where's the tail?  Is this even a real dog?  It looks like a pom-pom!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Make Way for These Lucky Ducklings!

I am sure you all know about Mack, Jack, Kack and all their siblings (what is up with Ouack????) in that famous story written by Robert McCloskey.  If you don't know about them you'd better get quacking, especially if you live in the Boston area.  Even I know about them, and I'm a dog!  If you're human you can go visit the statues in the Public Garden, and if you are really little you can sit on them.  That sounds fun.  I don't go in to the city of Boston, so I can't enjoy seeing them or peeing on them, so you will have to do it for me.

Even though the pictures are only in brown and white they are fabulous.  I heard that Mr. McCloskey actually had live ducks living in his home while he was writing and illustrating the book, so that he could really get every detail right.  I tried to convince my family that I needed live ducks, but they didn't believe that I just wanted to draw them.  They're on to me.

So I was just loafing around the other day when a new pile of books came home from the Library.  One of them had a mother Mallard and her babies on the front.  It said "A True Rescue Story" at the top of the cover, and the title was Lucky Ducklings.  Eva Moore wrote the words and Nancy Carpenter made the pictures.  

I noticed right away that something fishy was going on.  These ducklings were named Pippin, Bippin, Tippin, Dippin, and last of all, Little Joe.  That sure sounds like Mack and family, doesn't it?  Then they go on an adventure, stopping at a little building - just like the little police station in the classic!!!! except there's a lady inside who is collecting tolls, but not from the ducks.  I was thinking, "This is just like that other book, Make Way for Ducklings!  I was a little upset because even I know you can't copy books that are already written.

Then I turned the page and everything changed.  The ducklings fell, one by one, down a storm drain.  That sure didn't happen in the other book.  I couldn't believe it!  It was so sad, except that their little feet were sticking up in a very comical way so I couldn't help laughing a little, too.  The story just kept getting more and more exciting, with firemen, and dark sewers, and trucks.  

I'm not sure, but I think Eva Moore and Nancy Carpenter meant to make connections between this book and Make Way for Ducklings.  The familiar story parts and images are like a celebration of the first book, but these ducklings have their own story to tell.  At day's end both families swim off into a gentle evening, "And that is the end of the story".

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Grace Lin, Rabbit-Toads, and True Magic: Starry River of the Sky

I am magical!
So is this!!
There are lots of different magics, many of which I don't really get since I am a dog, and supposedly not a very super-intelligent one.  There's tricks done by experts, which I sometimes see on TV, and tricks done by my little person, which involve a lot of hands-behind-back action.  Then there's the magic of new dog food. Garbage left unattended can have a magic of its own, as can cats caught in a corner.

This weekend I discovered the true magic of story.  It started with a thick book with some gold on the cover, which caught my eye.  Then I saw a rabbit, and a tiger (really just a large cat, right?), and a boy carrying a sack that might contain some kind of food.  When I used my tongue to flip over the pages I saw colorful illustrations and words that were not too hard for me.  Being between meals, I flopped right over with the book resting on my furry belly.
Link to book in SAILS Network

Hours later I was brought back to reality by my family coming through the back door.  I had spent the afternoon in the wonderful world of the Village of Clear Sky.   The name makes the village sound beautiful, but it is not.  It is dry, and poor, and on one edge is "the stone pancake", a long stretch of barren stone, not a real delicious pancake.  Rendi is a boy who has run away from his rich home, hurt and angry, and has become a chore boy at the village Inn.  Every day he does his chores in a fog of anger, every night he is haunted by wails of misery that only he can hear.

I had become immersed in the world of Rendi, and the little girl Peiyi and her father the inn keeper, and the beautiful Madame Chang and old Mr. Shan with his long beard and lost eyes.  There are mysteries in the story:  Where is the moon, which has left the sky?  Why does Rendi hear sounds of pain and suffering each night?  Who is the mysterious Madame Chang who tells the amazing stories?  Why does Mr. Shan love the toad he calls "Rabbit"?  I mean really, can anyone really love a toad? They taste terrible!

I had to share this book with Mom, because she was the one who brought it home from the Library.  So I had to wait until Sunday to finish this book.  In the meantime I watched her read, and smile, and look sad, and cry, and get cranky when others bothered her while she was reading.  When she finished I could tell she was still in the Village of Clear Sky in her mind, and for quite a long time.  I had to sneak the book off the table and go back down to the basement to read it.  I think they all thought I was eating the kitty litter again!

What a story!  It is a story with other stories woven in, and you can't put it down!  Mom kept going on about "universal truths", whatever that means.  All I know is it fills your heart and soul with beauty.  It is a mystery and a fairy tale, and you want to lean up against the characters and get your ears scratched and give them doggy comfort in return.  Even I cried in parts, but I guess it sounded as though I were just whining, because Daddy took me out to pee.

This is a book of magic for everyone, but is special if you are from China or have Chinese family.  Grace Lin has created beauty in a work filled with pain and hope, and toads and snails, and rabbits and tigers, and love and regret- but most importantly with peace and forgiveness and a Moon and a Mountain!
Trying to read together - not so easy

Friday, January 31, 2014

Pinterest Stole My Brain!!

I have been a bad dog!  I became so excited about discovering Pinterest that I neglected my reading.  Who knew you could just paw in "squirrels" and hundreds of pictures would come up that you could then add to a board for your drooling pleasure at any time?  There were also lots of DIY ideas for dog toys, and sweaters, and homemade biscuits...  You get the idea. 

Finally I had to stop and pull myself away.  I picked up a few small books to ease my way back into the dog-that-reads mode.  It turned out they were quite good!  First, lets examine Alexander McCall Smith's series about his heroine named Precious.  I felt an immediate kinship with her, as my name is equally ridiculous.  Don't tell the author I said that!  I started with The Great Cake Mystery, which appealed to my love of all things edible.  Then I went on to The Mystery of Meerkat Hill, which also appealed to my love of all things edible.  What I soon noticed about this series is that it is beautifully written.  The tone is gentle and melodic, with a hint of Rudyard Kipling.  The characters are likable, and the setting is exotic buy homey.  Precious uses her very good brain to think carefully about the mystery that presents itself and she saves the day in very satisfying ways.      

Link to book in SAILS Network
Link to book in Amazon

I also have discovered that I have a good brain for mysteries.  I kept wondering, what is it that smells so good in that big white bin?  One day I used my snout to flip the top and there were delicious things!  I spread them all over the family room so that I could better separate the smells and taste the delicacies!  My next mystery to solve is why my mystery-solving caused my family to make tooth-gnashing noises.  I was quite delighted by their reaction, but I didn't fully understand it.
Not me, but I wish it were!!!!!!!
The other little book I read was Lulu and the Cat in the Bag by Hilary McKay.  I love a cat in a bag as much as the next person.  This was an especially big cat, too.  The cat caused mixed reactions during the book.  The grandma was unhappy, then happy.  Lulu and her friend kept worrying about the cat and doing crazy things, like taking a wheelbarrow to lunch.  There seemed to be a lot of animals roaming around.  Hilary McKay is a really fun author, there is always chaos and excitement, and then a happy ending.  I know you'll enjoy this book.

Oh, I forgot to tell you what the Alexander McCall Smith books were about!  The first one was about a cake and the second one was about a meerkat.