Monday, April 28, 2008


Spring is finally here and I came across this lovely poem about it. Had to share and tell you it reminds me of my baby girl.

Our Newest Favorite Author

Wow, it's been two weeks since I posted any book-related happiness. And I haven't really read anything either. That is so sad. I'm sad for myself for not getting more reading done in the last two weeks! We had family come to town and I went out of town so there's a good reason, but no reading is still something worthy to mourn.

Despite my lack of reading (falling asleep in the middle of a great read last night doesn't count), I have found an awesome new children's book author for my kids. I've discovered a handful of websites/blogs that feature children's authors and illustrators and from that I find new books to seek out at the library for my kids. Melanie Watt writes and illustrates a few books that we discovered that I cannot help but exude excitement when I think of them. The first book we happened upon is called "Chester" and is about a cat who takes over the story as it's being written. It's supposed to be about a cute little mouse, but Chester wants it to be about him. He even ridicules Melanie Watt for trying to write about anything but him. My girls loved it. The mouse gets exasperated, the cat walks all over him, but in the end, Melanie gets her revenge. Absolute fun.

The other two books by Ms. Watt feature a squirrel named Scaredy. "Scaredy Squirrel" and "Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend" are about the slightly obsessive compulsive germ phobic habits of a garden variety squirrel. I don't know about you, but it makes sense to me to make squirrels so neurotic. We used to have a yard full of them and they are twitchy and paranoid. Scaredy would love to go out into the world a bit more than he does, but there's the danger of germs and being bitten by bunnies or Godzilla. Scaredy is hilarious and the way the books are written and illustrated are absolutely a hoot. We will be anxiously looking for more Melanie Watt books in the future. She's just getting a start, but she has illustrated other books in the past. We just want the ones where she does both.

I might just sneak in a few minutes reading now that my kids are outside and my laundry is drying. The book I'm on now is awesome, so I'll be writing about that soon. If you don't have kids, borrow some and read them "Scaredy Squirrel". It'll make your neuroses seem tame in comparison.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Appeal

John Grisham on occasion writes books with A Point. Not just the exciting, corruption-filled thrill-rides for which he is famous. Now that he has enough money in his pocket, he can address Issues that concern him. I've divided his books between Issues and Merely Fun.

The Appeal
The King of Torts
The Innocent Man
The Testament
The Street Lawyer
The Chamber
A Time to Kill

Merely Fun
Playing for Pizza
The Bleachers
The Broker
The Brethren
The Pelican Brief
A Painted House
The Last Juror
The Summons
Skipping Christmas
The Partner
The Runaway Jury
The Rainmaker
The Firm
The Client

The Merely Fun books typically have gorgeous protagonists, suspenseful action and you don't feel compelled to go out into your local community or government and change things. The Issues books are the opposite. What the characters look like doesn't seem to matter as much and there's always something Grisham is trying to hammer home. I'm not opposed to that. I need things hammered into my brain on occasion. It's just that the Merely Fun books are, well, fun to read and the Issues books are disturbing. Disturbing in the sense of how things can go terribly wrong or how corrupt people or governments can be. But how else would someone like me know about it unless someone like John Grisham wrote about it?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not taking Mr. Grisham's word as gospel truth. That would be as crazy as reading Michael Crichton or Dan Brown to get pure scientific facts, but he brings up issues I wouldn't have even thought about without reading his books. I finished reading "The Appeal" and wanted to know if the state supreme court justices where I live are appointed or elected. The book takes place in Mississippi where I lived for six years and I know that's where Grisham is from originally. I remember in the town where I lived held elections for everything, but I was still so new to the world of voting and functioning as an adult, it didn't occur to me that it might be unusual. Grisham's issue in "The Appeal" is that when you have justices campaigning and taking money from voters, they are unable to be impartial and just in their rulings. This book doesn't feel like most of his action-oriented books. There is suspense, but only because you desperately want the wrong to be righted. There isn't a tidy ending. There isn't a protagonist that dashes from place to place. What Grisham succeeds at is making the reader think. I appreciate having my brain flexed every once in a while, so I think this book is worth reading.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Reading Marathon

I love finding fellow bibliophiles, people who consider reading as necessary as food, water, shelter, clothing, high-speed internet, showering daily, and "Lost." You know, the basics. I haven't done too much looking around for fellow book-bloggers simply because it didn't occur to me. A friend directed me towards a really great children's literature blog, which in turn led me to another, and then another. I like to refer to it as internet leap-frogging. One of these sites was asking for people to sign up to do The Third Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge, which peaked my interest. You can check the website for the official guidelines, but basically you read and review as many books as possible in a 48 hour period one weekend in June. There are prizes for the most books read, but I suspect I may not be able to compete against people with older children and no demands on them that weekend. But I'm still gonna do it! It's an excuse to read and write and nothing else for 48 hours! Okay, so not really nothing else, but close. I'm reserving that weekend. And you, my dear reader, will get to read my semi-coherent ramblings about the books I consume during that period. It's a win-win situation, really.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Roald Dahl Musings

There's not much I enjoy more than reading out loud to my kids. Well, reading to myself is higher, but don't tell them that. Over the many years of reading to them, I've discovered what books I hate and which ones I love. Will it alter my children's literature choices over the years, forcing them into genres they may not have picked themselves had them been born to parents who didn't care what junk they picked out for themselves, ultimately leading up to a moment of clarity in a therapist's office? I certainly hope so.

I love Roald Dahl. He's darkly humorous, clever, warped, infinitely creative and most likely psychologically damaged. If you've ever read any kind of biography on him, you'd know of his family tragedies and horrific school experiences. Those Brits, with their obsession of boarding schools. How could that possibly go well? His inspiration for Miss Trunchbull from "Matilda" was based on a real person. Yikes. Despite his personal litany of tragedy, he did much good in the world and found joy in it. Read all about it on the official website.

Something Mr. Dahl is quite excellent at is his villains. They are pure malice. I love a good villain, so it's very satisfying to get to read about his repulsive bad guys. The witches from "The Witches" are delightfully disgusting. I started to read that to my oldest daughter when she was four, but realized it was way, way too scary for her at the time. She might enjoy it now, three years later and huge fan of the Dahl books. Miss Trunchbull makes me angry, she's so mean. The nasty giants from "The BFG", Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker from "James and the Giant Peach", all the other kids from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", and more. He makes a villain so completely unlikeable that their nastiness is hilarious.

Then there's the good guys. Charlie Bucket, James Henry Trotter, Matilda and Miss Honey, Sophie and the BFG, and on and on. They are kind-hearted children, defenseless against powerful and terrible adults. The odds seem insurmountable, but yet, they conquer. One of my favorite scenes is when the Giant Peach rolls over James' nasty aunts, squishing flat like paper dolls. But the best part is when the Centipede sings about it later.

Aunt Spiker was as thin as a wire,
And as dry as a bone, only drier.
She was so long and thin
If you carried her in
You could use her for poking the fire!

"I must do something quickly," she frowned.
"I want FAT. I want pound upon pound.
I must eat lots and lots
Of marshmallows and chocs
Till I start bulging out all around."

"Ah, yes," she announced, "I have sworn
That I'll alter my figure by dawn!"
Cried the peach with a snigger,
"I'LL alter your figure--"
And ironed her out on the lawn!

That cracks me up every time.

I'm not entirely sure why I wanted to write a whole blog just saying how much I like Roald Dahl, but hey, it gave you something to read today, didn't it?