Category: Children’s Fiction

Feb 06

Penguin Books for Every Occasion: Kid Lit with my Kidlet

Bookish Baby, Children's Books, Children's Fiction, Kidlit with my Kidlet 2

Hiya Bookworms!

Y’all know by now that I’m an avid penguin enthusiast, and that I shamelessly roped my child into the obsession (check out his first Halloween and nursery if you require proof.) Sammy has a MASSIVE book collection, and a large swath of that is dedicated to our flightless feathered friends. I know what you’re thinking. “How many penguin books can there possibly be? And on how many subjects? There are only so many cutesy rhymes one can make with ‘waddle’!” But you, my bookish friend, would be incorrect. Lo, there is a penguin book for EVERY occasion and learning opportunity. Lest you doubt me, I’ve complied a list (which is by no means exhaustive) of some very excellent children’s books featuring penguins. Prepare yourselves: it’s unbearably cute.

Penguins Teach Science: I wish I could find my copy of If You Were a Penguin by Wendell and Florence Minor (review)! I misplaced it long before Sammers was born, sigh. It’s such an adorable book full of rhymes and penguin facts. I’m sure it’s packed away in a box somewhere that will turn up eventually, but for now, I am bereft. Luckily, we have another great option for fun penguin facts and science tidbits on hand: Penguins, Penguins, Everywhere! by Bob Barner. The illustrations are bright and fun, though I confess I prefer the illustrations in If You Were a PenguinCurse my absent-mindedness!

Penguins Whose Parents Take Business Trips: Love, Mama by Jeanette Bradley is a sweet little story featuring a young penguin whose mother goes away on a business trip. I love that the mama penguin appears to be a scientist- the illustrations suggest she’s on some sort of research expedition. I also love that this book portrays the mama penguin as the one on a work trip while the daddy penguin holds down the fort. And, while the baby penguin and mama penguin miss each other, they’re reunited at the end. This would be a great addition to the library of any toddler with parents who travel for work! (I do not have to travel for work, but Jim occasionally does. Sam and I like to read this one when he’s out of town. I think it would be helpful for kids who are anxious about being away from their parent/caregiver for any length of time.)

Penguins Teach Basic Skills: Sarah Aspinall has a charming series of books tackling basic toddler skills including Penguins Love ColorsPenguins Love Their ABC’s, and Penguins Love Counting: Let’s Make Snowmen (I can’t find a shopping link for this anywhere, sorry! I bought it at a Scholastic book fair- what a rush!) There are six penguins (one named Broccoli!) who get up to all sorts of shenanigans while learning. Sam’s particularly fond of Penguins Love Colors, and really digs that the book sort of breaks the fourth wall (is that a thing in books the way it is in TV?). It encourages audience participation- these would make AWESOME choices for library/daycare story times.

Penguins Have All the Feels: Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer follows a penguin who has had a particularly rough day. We don’t know why the penguin is so upset, but neither does the penguin. This is a great book to help teach toddlers about moods and feelings. It also encourages them to take baths to wash away the grumpiness, and that’s never a bad thing. A nice bubble bath has been known to lift my spirits too!

Penguins Offer Companionship: Your Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton is adorable. I highly recommend looking up the song before reading it- if you’re anything like me, you’ll end up sing-reading. The premise of the story is that a penguin desperately wants to become BFF with a hippo. Because why not? The penguin spends the book trying to convince the hippo that they should be platonic life partners. As an added bonus, the song was performed by none other than everybody’s favorite Monkee Davy Jones (RIP) so it’s bouncy and cute.

Penguins Teach Manners: Penguin Says “Please” by Michael Dahl, Illustrated by Oriol Vidal teaches the little ones how to ask for things, rather than demanding. The Mama penguin in this book is very patient, but she’s not going to be ordered around. This little penguin needs to say “please!” And so does my toddler. He’ll say “please,” but it’s often in a heart wrenching and plaintive wail. Like “pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease don’t make me go to bed, you absolute monster of a mother.” Or, um, something like that.

Penguin Moms Who Just Need a Minute: Baby Penguins Everywhere!and Baby Penguins Love their Mama by Melissa Guion are super cute books and both of them feature an overwhelmed Mama penguin taking a time for herself. In one, she even takes a NAP! It’s wonderful! I think it’s great for kids to see that their caretakers are human too and might need a little rest from time to time.

Penguins Teach About Adoption and/or Same-Sex Parent Families: I couldn’t make a list of penguin books for all occasions without bringing up the one about the same-sex penguin couple who want to have a family (oh, my soft, squishy heart!) The two male penguins fall in penguin love and try to hatch a rock. When the zookeepers see this, they give the couple an egg that’s been rejected by its parents to raise and, voila! And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell (review) is often banned and challenged which irks me for a number of reasons. I mean: It’s a true story, LOVE IS LOVE, and while parents can (and should) monitor and approve what their own children read, they have no business denying access to other people’s children. But I digress. I haven’t read this one with Sammy yet simply because it’s a lot more text-heavy than most of the others on this list. He’s got a pretty good attention span for 2 and a half, but this one’s geared toward more of a kindergarten crowd, I think. Still, it’s a wonderful and penguiny way for kids to learn about adoption and same-sex parent families.

Would it surprise you to know that this is not an exhaustive list of our penguin literature? I could write so many penguin kid book posts. And I reserve the right to do so. There is a zero percent chance of me parting with any of these books once Sammers outgrows them. I shall be the curator of my own private penguiny library and it will only be, like, medium weird.

One day, he may not want to wear penguin PJs, but today is not that day.

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Links within the above text direct to Amazon, but if you prefer to shop through local, independent book stores, please see the links below*

If You Were a Penguin
Penguins, Penguins, Everywhere!
Love, Mama
Penguins Love Colors
Penguins Love Their ABCs
Grumpy Pants
Your Personal Penguin
Baby Penguins Love Their Mama!
Baby Penguins Everywhere!
And Tango Makes Three

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Apr 24

Kidlit with my Kidlet

Children's Fiction, Family, Kidlit with my Kidlet 22

Howdy Bookworms!

I’ve been reading and listening to oodles of books lately, but oddly, all I want to write about are my favorite books to read with Sam. Since I rarely write anything these days, I thought I’d just run with it. Sammers is 8 months old (already?! HOW DID THAT HAPPEN???) but since he’s still, you know, a baby who can’t actually say intelligible words, I get to choose our bedtime stories every night. Thanks to our extremely generous friends and family (and occasionally Mom’s impulse shopping) Sammers has a very impressive book collection. Still, there are a few that I choose to read over and over again simply because I happen to love them. (Don’t worry, I’ll do another post specifically featuring our large collection penguin books one of these days, but today we’re penguin free.)

Soon we’re going to have to move the toys off the top shelf to give the books more space.

The The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, pictures by Dan Hanna: This is the MOST fun to read out loud. Remember when Ludacris rapped Llama Llama Red Pajama? (If not, check it out HERE) That’s an amazing book and a super fun rap, but I’d love to see what a rapper would do with The Pout-Pout Fish (specifically, I’d like to hear what Lin-Manuel Miranda would do with The Pout-Pout Fish) – it’s got creative vocabulary and great rhythm. “Kaleidoscope of mope” is practically a Shakespearean insult. I’ve seen all kinds of statistics that say kids should be exposed to a certain number of words by a certain age, and I can’t help but think The Pout-Pout Fishshould be on every kid’s book shelf simply because the vocab is such a treat.

I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt, Illustrated by Cyd Moore: If you’re familiar with the old standards, this book’s structure is very similar to the classic The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown (of Goodnight Moon fame, natch). A little kid being tucked into bed asks his mother if she’d still love him under a number of rather outlandish circumstances, namely if he were a skunk so stinky that his name was “Stinky Face.” I’m rather prone to using such nicknames as terms of endearment (my poor son is often called “Stinky Pete” or “Grumpy Gus” depending on his mood or the state of his diaper) so I found the book’s title especially appealing. Plus, it gives me the opportunity to do different voices for the mother and son. It’s just plain fun to read.

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin: This book will hit you right in the parenting/aunting/caregiving feels, a la Oh, the Places You’ll Go! The illustrations are beautiful and the message is so, so sweet. “When you were too small/ To tell me hello,/ I knew you were someone/ I wanted to know.” Just pass me the box of tissues, okay? This book is an awesome choice for a baby shower gift or a graduation present. Our copy came from one of our showers, and I’m going to have to go back and check the inscription to see who sent it so I can send another thank you note.  Because reasons.

This is just a tiny sample of the many excellent books on our shelves, but they’ve been in heavy rotation for bedtime stories of late. What are some of your favorite children’s books, Bookworms? This dude is always interested in new recommendations!

One of Sam’s daycare teachers took this picture and I can’t get over it. HOW DID I PRODUCE THIS PERFECT CREATURE?!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jun 09

Audio Book Mini Reviews

Audio Books, Children's Fiction, Supernatural, Vampires, Young Adult Fiction 17

Howdy Bookworms!

I am the worst lately. I just can’t seem to motivate myself to write thoughtful, interesting reviews. BWAHAHAHAHA. Sorry, sorry. Thoughtful and interesting aren’t really my bag, are they? Ah well. Even when I’m not posting, I’m still devouring books in any number of formats. I’ve got some bite sized tidbits for y’all today on my recent audio book listening.

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1. The Magician King by Lev Grossman: This is the second installment in The Magicians trilogy (review). It was enjoyable enough, as broody fantasy goes, but I’m legitimately puzzled by one thing. WTF is with Lev Grossman and foxes?! People transformed into foxes, fox deities… Bizzaro sexualization. I’m kind of worried about this guy.

2. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan: I think I’m too old for this. I have absolutely no doubt that if this book had been released when I was a teenager, I would have ADORED it and declared it my soul mate made of words. There were still elements I really dug, but there were times I wanted to tell both these kids to quit taking themselves so seriously. GET OFF MY LAWN.

3. You Suck: A Love Story by Christopher Moore: I had no idea this was a trilogy until I was almost finished with the book, but it was an entertaining and campy twist on the vampire genre. I couldn’t decide if I was amused or incredibly annoyed by the voice used for Abby Normal. It was soooo over the top crazy. Laugh or cringe? I simply do not know!

4. Matilda by Roald Dahl: I know, I can’t believe I hadn’t read this before now either. While I found Matilda utterly charming as a character, I can’t help but wonder… WHAT HAPPENED IN YOUR CHILDHOOD, ROALD DAHL?! The grown ups are SO MEAN.

What have y’all been reading and listening to? I feel so out of the loop! 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jan 20

It’s a Jolly Holiday with Mary: Mary Poppins by PL Travers

Children's Fiction 34

Cheerio Bookworms,

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but you should know before we start that Mary Poppins is my favorite movie of all time. Of course, I used to turn it off right after the crew finishes yucking it up on the ceiling because the whole chimney sweep bit used to frighten me as a kid, but I digress. I think I always knew somewhere in the back of my head that Mary Poppins started as a book, but I was never especially interested in reading it until Saving Mr. Banks was released. Sadly for Disney, it didn’t inspire me to go see the movie, just to pick up the book. It’s alright. Disney has gotten more than enough of my money.

I had heard that PL Travers’ Mary Poppins was quite a bit different than the Mary of the movie I so adored, so I was nervous going into it. Really, I was mostly nervous that the dancing penguins were a complete Disney fabrication. I am pleased to report that my nerves were wholly unfounded. Yes, PL Travers’ original Mary Poppins
was rather different than the movie. Many of the adventures played out a bit differently, but I found the spirit of the stories remained the same.

Mary Poppins descends on 17 Cherry Tree Lane one blustery afternoon. The FOUR Banks children (that’s right, Jane, Michael, and a set of infant twins named John and Barbara) are immediately in her thrall. Though she’s somewhat vain and not particularly snuggly, Mary manages to put a bit of magic into the mundane.

marypoppinsbook

Mary spends an afternoon with Bert (who is not a chimney sweep) jumping into a chalk painting, and though no penguin waiters present themselves, they have a lovely tea regardless. Jane and Michael are treated to flavor changing medicine, laugh themselves up to the ceiling with Uncle Albert, and we learn that Mary can converse with animals. Mary’s Doolitle-y talents lead to a particularly entertaining birthday celebration at the zoo featuring the loveliest PENGUIN poet you can possibly imagine (I breathed an audible sigh of relief when he showed up!) Oh yes. And do you recall little Andrew, the tiny dog in the sweater? He lives a more fascinating life than I ever imagined!

Though it’s rare for me, it sometimes happens that I can enjoy a book and its movie adaptation equally, but for different reasons. Mary Poppins is destined to be utterly charming in any form. I highly recommend you read this, and if you have little ones, get it in the bedtime story rotation.

Alright, Bookworms. What was your favorite movie as a kid? Was it based on a book? Have you read that book? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I intend to use it to purchase a new umbrella in hopes that someday one will allow me to fly.*

 

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Nov 19

Top Ten Tuesday: Books for my Baby Cousin

Children's Fiction, Classics, Top Ten Tuesday, Young Adult Fiction 40

Hey Bookworms!

It’s been a couple of weeks since I participated in the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly extravaganza that is Top Ten Tuesday. Today we’ve been challenged to create a list of recommendations with a specific person in mind. I’ve got me a baby cousin. Well, okay, she’s not really a baby anymore, she’s 12… I’m not really sure when that happened. However, I was wracking my brains and I kept coming back to books I think Dana ought to read, so she wins today’s list. (Remember my post about snarky eyebrows? That was an ode to Dana’s older brother Adam. These kids, man. These kids…)

toptentuesday

 

 

1. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry- This might be a little below your reading level, but if you haven’t read it, you simply must. It’s about WWII and it’s full of everyday people being brave and doing the right things. Sometimes you need to hear about that stuff when you’re 12.

2. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that Alice in Wonderland is for little kids. Forget what you saw in the Disney movie. I mean, I guess you can remember it, because that was pretty screwy, but still. These books are clever and full of word play. I also happen to know you and the fam are into Dr. Who and the cosplay scene- Alice should be a pre-requisite for all fantasy endeavors.

3. The Giver by Lois Lowry (my review). I was about your age the first time I read this and it kind of blew my mind. The sequels are not as good, but certainly worth a read if you enjoy this one. It’s set in a scary strange future where people can’t see in color and everyone’s life is weirdly regimented. You’ll be super stoked to not be living in their community, I promise.

200px-The_Giver_Cover

4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I know, I know. You’ve probably been there, done that. Wasn’t it awesome though?! Katniss was such a butt-kicking character! You’re a girl who shall never be a damsel in distress, so you and Katniss would probably be great friends. (If you could look past her obvious psychological damage stemming from the fact that she was forced to fight other children to the death in an arena setting…)

5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (my review). You’re a pretty mature 12, so I wouldn’t worry about giving you something with some heavier themes. This is another WWII book, but it rocks. If you enjoyed Number the Stars and you’re feeling up to it, give this a shot. Did you know Grandpa fought in WWII? He did. When he went to enlist, he changed his name from “Karl” to “Charles” because it sounded “less German.” It’s a true story, Grandma told me. After you read this, you’ll understand why he didn’t want to be associated with Germany at that point in history, despite the fact that our family is largely of German ancestry. It’s a haunting and beautiful book, but have some tissues on hand.

6. Cinder by Marissa Meyer (my review). Dude. Cinderella is a CYBORG. I’m pretty sure you’re going to love this one. Fractured fairy tales totally seem like your vibe.

cinder

7. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Don’t laugh! Your parents gave me a copy of this for Christmas when I was about your age and it’s awesome. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy will get all up inside your heart and make you want to buy petticoats and bloomers… And find out what a pickled lime tastes like (I still don’t know… Not sure that’s a bad thing though. The sound kind of gross, and we have pizza now, you know?)

8. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I know, I know, it’s another old fashioned book. It’s so much fun, though! Anne gets into all sorts of shenanigans. Just trust me on this one, alright? There’s hair dye and an episode of accidental underage drinking (The accidental part is key there. Drinking at your age is the WORST IDEA EVER. Promise me you won’t drink until you’re in college? I’m old and I worry.)

9. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. This book will make science and math seem cool, I swear. It’s really cool and full of time warps and alternate dimensions and mystery. Very Whovian, my dear.

wrinkle in time

10. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (my review). Dana, my dearest. If you are anything like I was at your age, the fact that I’m bringing up this book at all is probably making you blush furiously and feel ill. It’s okay, pumpkin. The internet doesn’t know who you are (seriously, we don’t even have the same last name anymore.) This is a REALLY good book though, about feeling awkward and all the embarrassing girl stuff that goes on (or doesn’t) at your age. If it makes you feel better, check out a copy from the library and hide it under your pillow while you read it. That’s what I did. A girl deserves her privacy, you know?

There we have it, folks. My reading list dedicated to my not-so-baby-anymore cousin Dana. Any of you bookworms have a title to add? She’s quite the reader (I’m so proud) so I’m sure she’d appreciate the suggestions. 

Have you sent your address to wordsforworms@gmail.com yet? You know you want a bookmark! You also know that I’m an affiliate for Book Depository and that if you choose to make a purchase from any of the links in this post I’ll get a tiny kickback, right? It’s all on the up and up, swearsies. 

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Oct 24

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Children's Fiction, Frightening 38

Salutations Bookworms,

Coraline I love October. The air is getting crisp and apples are in season. It makes me want to snuggle up and read even more than usual! In continuation of my dark and spooky October reading fest, I decided to pick up Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

Coraline is a little girl who is bored out of her mind during a school vacation. Her parents both work from home, but they are both too busy to amuse her one afternoon. She sulks around for a bit and eventually runs across the key to a mysterious door in their flat. Instead of containing the brick wall that normally lives behind the door, our little heroine discovers a dark passageway. Her curiosity simply won’t allow her NOT to find out what’s going on…

She discovers her “Other Mother”… “Other Mother” makes roast chicken and allows Coraline to play with all sorts of toys. She offers Coraline the opportunity to stay forever- if only she’ll sew black buttons in place of her eyes. Coraline is understandably creeped out, so she decides to go home. Only, once she’s home? Her parents have disappeared. Because “Other Mother” is evil and stuff.

It’s Neil Gaiman, y’all. The button eyeballs and evil surrogate parents are to be expected. To quote the perennially brilliant Joni Mitchell, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Our little heroine has to use her wits to save her parents, and some other lost souls along the way.

I thought this book was a lot of fun, but I wasn’t quite as blown away as I’d expected to be. It was a cute, fun, and appropriately creepy for the season. Just don’t go in expecting your socks to be blown to Neptune. My socks stayed somewhere between Mars and Jupiter.

What about you, bookworms? Anybody else read Coraline? See the movie? Tell me about it!

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Oct 21

Contributing to the Literacy of a Minor

Children's Fiction, Family, Personal 48

G’day Bookworms!

It’s Monday, which is not fun. However, I had a fabulous weekend, and that helps make up for it. I went back to the homestead in the Chicago burbs. There I spent some QT with the fam, met up with some pals from high school who also happen to read my blog (Jackie and Ashley kind of rule), AND I had a fabulous brunch with the one and only Quirky Chrissy.

I’m going to pull the proud Auntie card an monopolize this post, because I love the crap out of my nephew. He has a real, honest-to-goodness name, but I refuse to use it. Instead I refer to him as “Squishy.” “The Squish,” “Squisherson,” or some other ridiculous variation. Why? Because THIS:

I basically nicknamed my nephew in honor of a jelly fish. But he’s so CUTE and he has the best CHEEKS and I LOVE him. So there. Anyway, this weekend Squishy and I did some reading. He was REALLY into One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue FishHe was flailing and pointing excitedly as only a 5 month old can do. What’s that you say? Of COURSE I documented our reading session!

IMG_2970

I’m a very animated reader when it comes to Seuss, and Squish is clearly a fan.

Squishy's talents include smiling, being cute, and diaper blowouts.
This book had a mirror in it, so it was a hit with Squishy. It also had a penguin in it, so I was a big fan, too! Now, being 5 months old, he was a pretty captive audience. It’s not like he’s capable of physically escaping my grasp or anything, but there were some happy coos going on, so I’m confident he enjoyed himself. At least, I’m confident he enjoyed himself with the reading. I take no responsibility for subjecting the innocent child to the abject humiliation that followed. THAT was Grandma’s doing. (I take no responsibility, but I did take JOY. So much joy. Have you ever seen a cuter sock monkey?!)

Sock monkeys haven never been so adorable.

This poor kid. He’ll probably hate us for this when he gets older, but how could we be expected to resist? That was my stellar weekend. How was yours, Bookworms? Anybody do anything awesome? Hang out with a monkey? C’mon, share with the class!

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Oct 08

Top Ten Tuesday: Best and Worst Series Enders

Children's Fiction, Coming of Age, Dystopian, Fantasy, Top Ten Tuesday, Young Adult Fiction 51

Happy Tuesday Bookworms!

Anybody else noticed that series are ALL THE RAGE these days? It seems like nobody feels like writing a stand alone book anymore… Or something. I’m a pretty big fan of series on the whole. Sometimes though, the last book in the series is truly a make or break moment. Today, the ladies of The Broke and the Bookish have asked us to list out our favorite and not so favorite series enders. Are you ready?!

toptentuesday

My Favorites:

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling. I don’t know if I can properly describe the level of satisfaction I felt during that epilogue. It ended beautifully, and as desperately as I want more and more and more Harry Potter, I am pleased with the way things wrapped up.

2. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood. I loved everything about this series. I loved the weird names for gene spliced animals, the screwy scary fast food joints, the trippy cults- everything. I waited a good 4 years for the final book and I was NOT disappointed. That Atwood. She knows what she’s doing.

margaret-atwood-dystopic-trilogy

3. The Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. This ending wasn’t perfect because I wasn’t crazy about some of Katniss’s decisions. However, I liked that Collins emphasized the psychological implications of the horrors the characters endured. Plus, I’m a sucker for a “happy as circumstances will allow” ending.

4Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris. This was the final book in the Sookie Stackhouse series. The series ran out of steam and started getting pretty random somewhere around book 7, so my expectations for the series wrap up weren’t too high. However, I was quite pleased because I’d been rooting for one particular romance since book one and it totally happened. Yay for that!

Not So Favorites:

5. Son by Lois Lowry. Okay, so The Giver is one of the most amazing books since ever. It’s complete awesomeness. The rest of the series, however? It’s a little odd and a tiny bit preachy. The final installment, Son, spent an inordinate amount of time discussing climbing a cliff and a really bizarre supernatural twist. It was okay, but I think The Giver would have been better off with an epilogue than an additional 3 books.

son

6. The Death Cure by James Dashner. I started out loving The Maze Runner books and they progressively got less awesome. I mean, the ending was okay, but it felt like a cop out. Like Dashner couldn’t come up with a really supremely awesome ending and just sort of threw one in? Eh. Just not fantastic.

7. Reached by Ally Condie. I should start this out by saying that this book was by far my favorite in the Matched trilogy. I was actually very pleased with the direction the series went in the end, but GAH. The series as a whole was just such a disappointment for me. Love triangle. Bits and pieces of other dysopias all over the place. Just… No.

Jury is Out

(These series are not yet finished, but I’m invested, so….)

8. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. It’s highly unlikely that I WON’T love the final installment of the Outlander series, aside from the fact that I’ll be a big ridiculous crybaby because it’s over…

9. Divergent by Veronica Roth. I’m pretty stoked for the upcoming release of Allegiant. It will totally make or break the series for me. It’s due out Oct 22. Very excited!

Divergent hc c(2)

10. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I can’t say that I think these are the greatest books ever, but I have enjoyed the novelty of Cinder and Scarlet so far. I love fractured fairy tales- it’s okay that they’re predictable, they’re FAIRY TALES. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes, in spite of the occasional cheesiness.

What about you, Bookworms? Got a series ender that you loved and/or hated?! Tell us about it!

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Sep 26

Banned Books Week 2013: And Tango Makes Three

Banned Books, Children's Fiction 40

Greetings Bookworms!

PENGUINS! You all already know that I am a card carrying penguin enthusiast. Actually, I don’t carry a card (though now I really want to MAKE CARDS) but I’m a huge ginormous penguin fan. In honor of Banned Books Week, I thought I could combine two of my obsessions in a review of And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. This book was released in 2005 and made quite a splash (pun intended.) It’s consistently topped the list of banned and challenged books since its release. How on earth could a kid’s picture book about penguins ruffle so many feathers, you ask?

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Hello, adorable illustrations!

Well… The two grown penguins snuggling on the cover? They’re both dudes. And Tango Makes Three is based on a true story of a pair of chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo in NYC. Roy and Silo fell in penguin love. They did all the bowing and nuzzling and nest building of a penguin couple, but because they were both boys, they couldn’t make an egg. After the zookeeper watched the pair attempting to hatch a rock (seriously how adorably heartbreaking is that?!) he decided to give them a shot at parenthood. Another penguin couple had two eggs that season and they were historically unable to care for more than one egg at a time. The zookeeper gave the orphaned egg to Roy and Silo and voila! The lovely little Tango was hatched!

Full disclosure here. I’m ALL ABOUT the rainbow. In my book, love is love is love. Now. This book is undoubtedly aimed at children. The interest level is listed as Kindergarten-2nd grade, though the reading level is around a 4th grade level. The challenges this book typically gets are that it’s age inappropriate… And that it talks about homosexuality.

pengwaddle

I’m in a sticky situation here because while I support the gay community with all my heart and soul, I’m also a big fan of freedom of religion. It’s tough for me to rectify the two, because a lot of religions are less than enthused about homosexuality. That said, regardless of your religious views, at some point, kids are going to come in contact with gay people. There’s a very good chance a kid on their soccer team will have two dads or two moms. This book would be a FANTASTIC opening for that discussion. Heck, it’s even a great way to introduce the concept of adoption to a kiddo. Because really, what is more adorable and wonderful than an unconventional penguin family?!

Anybody out there have kids who have been introduced to And Tango Makes Three? Did they enjoy it? Because… PENGUINS!

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Aug 09

Peter Pan Brings Out My Inner Cynical Grown Up

Children's Fiction, Classics, Coming of Age, Fairy Tales, Fantasy 46

Happy Friday, Bookworms!

Have you ever noticed that stories you knew as a child take on a very different meaning as you grow up? I was struck with just such a conundrum this week as I read (for the first time) Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie. That’s not to say I wasn’t familiar with the adventures of the one and only Peter Pan. Far from it.

We didn’t own the Disney version of Peter Pan– this is probably due to the fact that Disney randomly pulls movies off the shelves for periods of time and it wasn’t available when I was in my prime Pan years. We did, however, own a VHS recording of the glorious 1960 production of Peter Pan the musical starring Mary Martin. I watched it often, which is kind of weird, because it always creeped me out a bit. I was particularly bothered by the cake Captain Hook tried to lure the Lost Boys into eating, because despite the sinister green frosting, I was certain “so damp and rich a cake” would be delicious. (Even if it was poisoned.) I hoped that in reading the book, my brain could conjure up the magic of Neverland better than a full grown woman playing a 10 year old boy…

This is the Peter Pan I grew up with. Realistic, no? (Source)

This is the Peter Pan I grew up with. Realistic, no? (Source)

Magic my brain could not conjure, but creepiness? Creepiness came through in spades. First. Barrie kept emphasizing that Peter Pan still had all his baby teeth, though he was about 10 years old. That would look really weird, you know? Kids start losing teeth between the ages of 4 and 7… A normal 10 year old would have regular teeth. The idea of Peter wandering around Neverland with teeny tiny chicklets all up in his mug seriously bothered me.

I realize the play was originally written in 1904, so expecting cultural sensitivity is a little unfair of me. However, I’m pretty sure Native Americans don’t relish being referred to as “redskins” or “savages” even in whimsical children’s literature. The book didn’t give a particularly flattering portrayal of females either. Tinkerbell was a serious biz-nitch, and the mermaids were nasty wasty skunks. All Wendy ever wanted to do- even in NEVERLAND- was play mother to a troop of boys. Why couldn’t WENDY go out and have the adventures? Why was she always doing laundry?!

And that Peter Pan? I’ve heard of Peter Pan syndrome- it’s applied to men who refuse to grow up and won’t commit to a relationship. Basically they’re pretty big douchebags. However. The name of this syndrome is even  more appropriate than I realized, because Peter was kind of an ass. Seriously. Peter Pan is a rather cultish figure, if you think about it. He entices children to run away with him. He’s so completely invested in the illusion that he literally cannot tell if he and the Lost Boys are consuming real food or just pretending. (Which means he starves them half the time. Bad form, Peter!) He gets the boys into deadly confrontations with the “redskins” and pirates. Deadly, yo. These little boys are slaughtering people. What the what? Adventures, indeed! Hmph.

Peter Pan, JM Barrie 2

 

Now that I’ve eviscerated a timeless children’s classic, do I have anything nice to say? Sure. Nana was awesome. Any dog that can play nursemaid is a-okay in my book. I also rather enjoyed that Mr. Darling chose to punish himself after the children ran off by living in Nana’s kennel. That was amusing. And Smee. There’s something utterly charming about a pirate that has no idea how darn cute he is. I don’t know why, but Peter and Wendy just didn’t engage my childish wonder the way I’d hoped it would. (Although Hook, the 90s remake of Peter Pan starring Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman? THAT is a good time right there. I hate myself for liking a movie better than a book, but there it is. Please don’t shun me.)

What’s the moral of the tale of Katie and Peter Pan? Always go into classic children’s literature expecting it to be darker and creepier than you remember. I’m always able to remember this when heading into traditional fairy tales, but I suppose I should amend my theory to include any books with fairies as characters as well. Second star to the right and straight on till morning, Bookworms.

Have any of you ever revisited a childhood story and found it stranger than you recall? Tell me I’m not alone here!

 

 

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