26 August 2011

Sit in a room and read—and read and read. And read the right books by the right people. Your mind is brought onto that level, and you have a nice, mild, slow-burning rapture all the time.”—Joseph Campbell

(Thank you to Debra Eisert for this quote).

19 August 2011

Lightning Thief

Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson & the Olympians Book 1
Rick Riordan
Children's Fiction, ages 9-13

I was not familiar with the Percy Jackson books when I went to see this movie in the theatre. I enjoyed the film then decided to read this book. I had seen it on a list of "If you have read Harry Potter books, then read..." books.
Twelve year old Percy Jackson knows that something is different about him. Sometimes things happen that don't make sense. Like Harrhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gify Potter, an event causes him to leave home and find a new residence with others of his kind. In this case, Percy is not a wizard but a demigod. He is the son of Poseidon. There are other "half bloods" like him at the demigod training camp.

From there he and his demigod friends have adventures. In this first book Percy and his friends must find out who stole Zeus' lightning bolt and make amends to stop the Greek gods from waging a war. A good blend of ancient Greek mythology and modern storytelling make this book highly readable for children, teens, and adults.

I look forward to the next book in the series - the Sea of Monsters.


Midnight Palace

Midnight Palace
Palacio de la Medianoche
Carlos Ruiz Zafon, translated by Lucia Graves
Young Adult Horror fiction

This author has had books on the New York Times bestseller list and has one a number of awards, but I found this book to be somewhat disjointed and at least a little confusing. Maybe this is because of the translation, but my guess is that this is not the author's finest work, either.
In 1916 Calcutta, a pair of twins are separated at birth to keep them safe from their father's foe who seeks to murder them. The boy is raised in an orphanage. The girl is raised by their grandmother on the run throughout India. Fast forward to 1932 when circumstances reunite the twins.
The menace still exists and starts to stalk the 16 year olds and the grandmother. As the tale progresses we find out about their father and his brilliant scientific mind and a tragedy that lead to the death of 365 orphans back in 1916. Through a curse, the ghost of their father's foe continues to incinerate parts of Calcutta as he exacts revenge on the family. The author points out that Calcutta is named for Kali, the black one, the goddess of destruction.
Some parts of this book were quite interesting, but it lacked in overall appeal.

Just a Guy

Just a Guy, Notes from a Blue Collar Life
Bill Engvall and Alan Eisenstock
narrated by Bill Engvall
adult audiobook

I was browsing the audiobook shelves when I came across this disc set. I had heard of the Blue Collar comedy tour, but only recognized Larry the Cable Guy as one of them. It turns out that this comic has been performing for more than 20 years and I have even seen a movie with him in it - Delta Farce.
This 5 disc set tells about Engvall's youth and early years of performing as a disc jockey, comedy host, then as a stand up comic. I did not find him to be uproariously funny, but I did find him to be a really good storyteller. I enjoyed hearing about his childhood antics, his wild college years, etc. I especially liked the parts about baseball. His love of the game comes through in the narration.
As he points out, he had a fairly normal childhood, so he paints a portrait of life of an American boy in the 1960's and a young man in the 1970's.
Some of the stories take a serious turn. He tells about how his wife almost died with a miscarriage. He plays this scene with the seriousness it deserves.
I would compare him to Garrison Keillor. He has some great all American stories to tell and relates them in such a way that the audience hangs on his words. I will listen to some more of his audiobooks when I get a chance.

Lump of Coal

Lump of Coal
Lemony Snicket and Brett Helquist
children's fiction, ages 8-11
or a short story for adult reading

This silly, very short Christmas book would be good to read out loud at a secular Christmas party - especially if everyone was at least a little tipsy. In typically sarcastic fashion Lemony Snicket spins a yarn.
The main character is a lump of coal who (like Thomas the Tank Engine) wants to be useful. He imagines being part of a barbecue or being used to make charcoal artwork. Can Santa Claus grant his wish? The plot takes some tangents and in the end, the coal and everyone else has a Merry Christmas.

10 August 2011

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Maya Angelou
adult autobiography

I had seen this book on a number of "must read" lists for years, but did not get around to reading it until just now. Marguerite Johnson and her brother are shuffled from their mother's house to their father's house to grandma's house and back a number of times while Marguerite and Bailey are growing up in the 1930's. Overall their childhood is poor and the Black folks keep away from White people. This book is an important look at how things were in America and how they are different today.

There are some not-so-nice scenes in this book which have landed it on the Banned Book list ever since it was published 40 years ago. Since it is an autobiography, these plot points are essential to the book.


I would like to know what conversation prompted this disclaimer in the front of a book in our library:

"This Book is manufactured in compliance with no known regulations, from materials which happened to be at hand; printed - in some cases not too well - from hand and machine-set types by letter-press and offset".

From the book "Stout and Allied Families" 2nd ed. by Herald F. Stout.

08 August 2011

Caillou: A Special Guest

Caillou: A Special Guest
Joceline Sanschagrin and Pierre Brignaud
board book
ages 3-5

Caillou is the 4 year old star of a PBS cartoon. In this adaptation, Uncle Felix comes to visit Caillou and his family. At first Caillou is scared of this new man, then he is jealous of the attention his Uncle receives, lastly, Caillou has come to like Uncle Felix as he spends time with him.

This gentle show and book series might help to prepare children for similar experiences in their young lives.

Other board books in this series are:
Bath Time
The Doctor
Where Is Teddy?
It's Mine! and
A Day at the Farm


Biblioburro: a True Story from Columbia
Jeanette Winter
children's nonfiction
ages 3-7

Luis Soriano is a teacher in Columbia with a love of books and reading. He is inspired one day to use his burros to start a book delivery service. It is not easy for Mr. Soriano or his students or patrons. Many years of war have left behind burned bridges, dangerous paths, and illiteracy, but he will not be deterred from his mission.

Best wishes, Mr. Soriano!

Before I read this book I saw the documentary on Public Television's "POV". This man is inspiring, but also a little nuts to take the risks he does to deliver books. God Bless you and keep you safe, Senor Soriano!

All the Way to America

All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel
Dan Yaccarino
children's nonfiction, ages 5-7

The author lovingly tells and illustrates the story of how his ancestors immigrated from Sorrento, Italy to New York City and how, through hard work and determination, his family achieved the American Dream.
I am adding this book to my bibliography of read-aloud stories about genealogy and oral history.

04 August 2011

“To love to read is to exchange hours of ennui for hours of delight.”—Charles de Montesquieu