Sunday, May 31, 2009
Jessie and Ruth are a great team. They are both senior citizens who love long walks, children and singing. They didn't get together for awhile due to some difficult circumstances in Jessie's life, but they are devoted to one another now and have big plans for the future.
Jessie was a rescued black lab who was adopted by Ruth, and Bark Up the Right Tree is her story--told in her voice.
Because of the dog narrator, the story could have easily ventured into the sappy or ridiculous, but Jessie and Ruth stay right on track with succinct chapters, amusing and poignant stories and, in general, great writing. They also highlight some important causes without ever sounding preachy.
This would be a great read for families or in a classroom setting. Anyone would enjoy it, but I think children would appreciate Jessie's antics, and adults could help children discuss some of the lessons at the end of each chapter ("paws" for lessons learned). It would also be helpful to read if you're considering adopting a dog. Almost as a sidebar to the stories, Jessie and Ruth remind potential dog owners that there are many details to consider and a few difficulties to endure, but the relationship you'll establish is ultimately worth it.
Again, Jessie and Ruth have big plans for the future, and you will be cheering them on by the end. I look forward to keeping up with their story at Kids 'n' Kritters Project.
Meanwhile, thanks for reading my review-a-day this last week of May! I'll be back to posting as normal, and my first Southern Reading Challenge review is due June 15! Yippee!
Saturday, May 30, 2009
If you've been reading Considering All Things Literary for very long, you know that I hate to give bad reviews, and they are rare on this blog. However, I feel compelled to be honest, and when I've tried and failed to like a book (or a collection of poems in this case), I don't want to give other readers a false impression.
Dr. Johnson's poems are all rhymed, most in either AABB or ABAB format. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it sometimes seems forced to try and find a word that rhymes but doesn't accurately fit the poem. When you have approximately 60 poems in a collection, the odds are good that there will be several forced words. A mix of rhymed and blank verse would have been nice.
Meanwhile, the topics are various, ranging from dating to parents to inner thoughts, all of which are fine for poems in general and, specifically, for young adult poetry. However, Dr. Johnson could use a lighter, less lecturing tone on many of these, and on others he could use a bit more sincerity--sharing perhaps his thoughts or memories of his time as a young adult.
Again, I don't enjoy disliking poetry, and I'm not trying to be overly critical of Dr. Johnson. I know poetry is deeply personal and open to various interpretations. However, I don't think this collection fits his target audience, and I think it would have been better off remaining in his own journal.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Jack is an overweight boy who is mercilessly teased by his peers and even the adults in his life. When his parents die, he is driven out of town to live as a hermit. But when tragedy hits his fellow citizens, he must decide whether to forgive them and offer assistance or continue life on his own.
The Bouncing Boy is a new fairy tale, but its principles are traditional. Ilia stresses the importance of respect for elders in the community, forgiveness, kindness and adaptability.
Her illustrations are simple but nice--black and white images drawn in large, bold strokes, which would tempt children to color them (a good thing, I say). I would actually have enjoyed one on every page.
The vocabulary, meanwhile, is challenging, and the book is longer than many younger children's books. So I would recommend this to a somewhat older audience--perhaps 10-13. However, I would question whether the story itself would appeal to this age group. The style seems somewhat geared toward younger readers. However, as with most fairy tales, I would imagine children of many ages would be able to find applicable principles here.
For information about Ilia's other work, check out Winsome Tales.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
O New York, your theaters and concert halls
your grand ballet and bookophile's bookstores
your cabbies who can answer any question
and leave no subject untouched by an opinion
your deal makers, deal takers and your consultants
your fancy writers of advertising copy
your chewers on very large cigars
your towers towering above streaking airplanes
with express and local elevators
their banks, some restaurants in upper reaches.
Once science fiction, now living fact.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
- Let me just say that I'm all about reading points-of-view that are different from my own. I don't eliminate a book just because I think I'll disagree with its premise--especially when it comes to non-fiction. I like understanding different perspectives and the reasoning behind those.
- This is not always true when it comes to fiction that passes itself off as factual ("faction" as I've heard it called recently). This is part of the reason that I won't read the Left Behind series. It really bugs me when authors blur the lines between what they invent and what is true.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Our house is clean...for the most part. OK, it's really clean every Saturday and gets progressively worse by the following Friday. But, on the decorating end of things, it's more efficient than full of flair. I have my moments of brilliance (ha), so I will really like a random wall or the way one corner is arranged, for instance. But the overall place is not exactly House Beautiful.
One room I almost always adore, though, is our bedroom. I use a lot of whites, so it makes it feel cool. No TV, so it's peaceful. All my shoes live there. And up until recently, it was also relatively clutter-free.
But, as we've rearranged some in the living room, a few boxes, papers and such found their way into my beloved bedroom. Also, I've amassed quite a collection of to-be-read books--both personal and professional (I do book reviews on my other blog, so I get a lot of review books in the mail).
Anyway, I lay in bed one night and realized that I felt uncomfortable...for no readily apparent reason. But I looked to my right and saw...
My nightstand was overflowing. Boxes in my line of sight. Tissues everywhere, and would you look at the books?! It just didn't feel peaceful anymore...
So, I tackled my nightstand, the boxes and books almost immediately. And life is a little nicer in my corner now...
But, as I was tackling, I realized that Jason's nightstand looks a lot better than mine (excuse the mess...it's Tuesday, not Saturday)...
Jason's looks normal and grown-up. Mine looks like something I would have had in college. Except not as nice because my roommate always made our room look awesome. Maybe she got my mom's missing decorator gene.
Now, I will say that my nightstand is just as functional as Jason's, and his actually works better for him than it would for me for a variety of reasons. So I don't want to just swap ours out. I actually want the bedroom to look nicer, so I thought I'd just buy the same nightstand to go on my side of the bed.
Problem. I bought this nightstand (or is it end table? whatever) about seven years ago at Wal-Mart. Inspected it and can find no brand name, serial number or any indication of which company created it. I posted my issue on Facebook, and most agreed that I should just get a nightstand that complements the other...
So, if you're still with me--thanks! I have a question! How do you know what compliments a run-of-the-mill nightstand like this one? Suggestions? Other decorating input any of you brilliant, full-of-flair types would like to pass along?
Monday, May 18, 2009
This debate has grown along with the explosion of the Internet. Don't get me wrong, I *heart* the Net--Google and Wikipedia are fabulous. But they're not all-inclusive, and, I know I'm prejudiced, but they don't replace libraries or librarians. Not yet anyway.Someone asked my staff member Stephen that question always dreaded by today’s librarians, “Since so much information is on the Internet now, why do we need libraries?”This person was a doctor, so Stephen answered, “Well, I have a question for you – since there is so much medical and health information available on the Web these days – I suppose we really don’t need doctors any more do we?”The doctor sputtered and turned red in the face as he tried to explain how people couldn’t interpret all the raw data available out there & that so much of the information out there was not accurate & that doctors did much more that just compile information, etc. Stephen replied, “Exactly.”
Friday, May 15, 2009
You see, when a geisha wakes up in the morning she is just like any other woman. Her face may be greasy from sleep, and her breath unpleasant. It may be true that she wears a startling hairstyle even as she struggles to open her eyes; but in every other respect she's a woman like any other, and not a geisha at all. Only when she sits before her mirror to apply her makeup with care does she become a geisha. And I don't mean that this is when she begins to look like one. This is when she begins to think like one too.The story of the geisha Nitta Sayuri is a colorful one--from her dreary childhood in a gray fishing village to the black years when she is sold into virtual slavery and tortured by an unscrupulous geisha to her pink blossoming under a kind mentor and finally to the vibrant reds and golds of her own career.
Indeed, Golden makes constructive use of color through almost vertigo-inducing descriptions of everything from kimonos to makeup to the landscape to tell Sayuri's story of friendship, revenge and, most importantly, destiny.
Destiny isn't always like a party at the end of the evening. Sometimes it's nothing more than struggling through life from day to day.
And Sayuri definitely has to struggle to determine her destiny. When she is not yet 10 years old, her grieving, hopeless father sells her and her sister into a life of indentured servitude. She mourns her stolen childhood but comes to the realization that she has to embrace her new life in order to survive in this twisted sorority.
I thought Sayuri was a lovely name, but it felt strange not to be known as Chiyo any longer...It was as if the little girl named Chiyo, running barefoot from the pond to her tipsy house, no longer existed. I felt that this new girl, Sayuri, with her gleaming white face and her red lips, had destroyed her.
For a flicker of a moment I imagined a world completely different from the one I'd always known, a world in which I was treated with fairness, even kindness--a world in which fathers didn't sell their daughters.
She not only survives, but she also learns to succeed as a geisha--even throughout a national depression and World War II. These events could easily steal the scene, but the novel remains Sayuri's story and is stronger for it.
Adversity is like a strong wind. I don't mean just that it holds us back from places we might otherwise go. It also tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that afterward we see ourselves as we really are, and not merely as we might like to be.
Sayuri continues through this adversity and through success to seek her destiny, even though she is never sure if she will obtain it. It was fascinating to read her thoughts and agonize with her over decisions.
The novel was told from Sayuri's point of view and even given an introduction by a fictional translator. This, compared with the richness of her emotions and the historical detail, made it difficult to believe it wasn't completely true.
You'll lose yourself in Sayuri's story. But it's worth the loss.
I think all she wanted was a yes or no answer. Probably it didn't matter to her what our destination was--so long as someone knew what was happening. But, of course, I didn't.
It says a great deal about how civilized we human beings are, that a young girl can willingly sit and allow a grown man to comb wax through her hair without doing anything more than whimpering quietly to herself. If you tried such a thing with a dog, it would bite you so much you'd be able to see through your hands.
The air wafting from the dank little tunnel of the steps felt as cool as water, so that it seemed to me I was entering a different world altogether. I heard a swishing sound that reminded me of the tide washing the beach, but it turned out to be a man with his back to us, sweeping water from the top step with a broom whose bristles were the color of chocolate.
It goes without saying that men can be as distinct from each other as shrubs that bloom in different times of the year.
Grief is a most peculiar thing; we're so helpless in the face of it. It's like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it.
Hopes are like hair ornaments. Girls want to wear too many of them. When they become old women they look silly wearing even one.
He was a small man; but keep in mind that a stick of dynamite is small too.
Now I know that our world is no more permanent than a wave rising on the ocean. Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
The Mansion by William Faulkner
The Prince of Frogtown by Rick Bragg
In the Land of Cotton by Martha Taylor
If you've never done this before, I highly recommend it.
Top Three Reasons?
- It's not too demanding (only three books over three months) if you're short on time.
- It's a good way to escape, yet embrace, the Summer heat.
- You get to read great reviews of other Southern books.
Read from the beginning...
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- Bark Up the Right Tree
- Of Dreams and Realities
- The Bouncing Boy
- Legs Talk
- City Above the Sea
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- Straight From the Horse's Heart
- You Just Can't Read It All
- Decorating Drama
- Old Vs. New
- What a Long, Strange Week It's Been
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Southern Reading Challenge...09ers
- Happy Birthday, Texas Hail and One More Year
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