Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Looking Glass Wars

The Looking Glass Wars
by Frank Beddor

A retelling of the Alice in Wonderland stories (does L. Carroll get any royalty checks?) in a more fantasy-battle tone... Alice in the Matrix, with Keanu Reeves as the Mad Hatter. Despite the lead character being a princess, boys will enjoy this book -- plenty of action and weapons to recreate on the playground.

Quick read, a good page-turner, and leads into re-reading the original Alice books next (which I haven't done in a looooong time); one thing I'm going to try with my boys and our library visits this year is to "connect the dots" with their reading choices. This book leads to Alice in Wonderland, a Lewis Carroll bio, or another book with Queens and Kings, or maybe "How to shuffle cards like a Vegas dealer" -- well, I might not allow that last one in case I get busted for teaching gambling, but I want them to keep track of what they read and see how the books/authors are connected in a "six degrees of..." way.

We'll see if it works...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil...

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler

by E.L. Konigsburg

Newbery Medal 1968*

Good story, gets my recommendation as one to read... a lot in here to discuss with a class/reader: kids running away from home (where would you eat, sleep, bathe?), museum treasures, art history, parents and family, generational relationships...

" should want to learn one new thing every day."

"No...some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside you until it touches everything."

*beat out Scott O'Dell's The Black Pearl and Nobel prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Westing Game

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (1978)

Newbery Medal 1979

It must have been a down year for children's literature, 'cause if this was the top book I would hate to read anything else... too many characters, some very similar, some nonsensical, some stereotyped; abrupt changes in setting and dialogue, so the reader doesn't know who is it what room talking to whoever (whom and whomever?); and no character(s) to really invest in and care about, they were either cardboard fill-ins or spoiled and rude.

This book did spark a little curiosity, a couple of questions after "I still have how many pages til the end?" -- what else was published that year? when was the game Clue invented?

5 minutes later update: Apparently, some people really liked this book enough to create a website, or some people were so baffled by this book they had to create a website to sort it all out...

Johnny and the Dead by Terry Pratchett

As a huge fan of Pratchett's Discworld books, I wanted to introduce him to the Boys; he has several YA titles, including The Wee Free Men and some about magic rats. This one is good, funny and clever, and part of a series (The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy), so don't expect everything ironed out in the end. It's also a caution to authors that use current event/pop culture references in their work: Michael Jackson?!?!?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Mary Poppins

...had a big time crush on the mysterious and magical Nanny, comes from Son #1 watching the movie DAILY when he was wee... thanks to my affection for the young Miss Andrews and for the clown girl from Big Comfy Couch, he and I probably watched waaaay too much tv... but it's all part of the father/son bonding process, right?

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

Ah, but this Mary, this Original Nannsta, is old school and quite different from Disney's version: she's sassy and rude, looks down her not-so-adorable nose, and is very fond of admiring herself and how cool she is... this Poppins doesn't take any crap, and no silly, syrupy songs either...

A curious point -- I have a 1981 copyright "revised edition" and there actually is a chapter titled Bad Tuesday (revised version). What's that all about? The chapter is mainly Michael's bad day where he goes around kicking and abusing the house staff... maybe he felt up the cook or smoked a doobie (or whatever they were called in the 1930's) behind the tool shed... anyone know why it was edited/altered/rewritten?

Drums, Girls...

Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie

by Jordan Sonnenblick

Both #1 and #2 Boys loved this book, probably because they both have a little brother, there are drum sticks constantly being drummed (struck? drum struck?), and because the hero is a dork, just like my pride and joys...

Told from the view and voice of the eighth grade protagonist, the story is easy to follow and the characters easy to believe in and root for... plenty of humor, admiration and confusion regarding the opposite sex, clueless parents ("rents"). Good book for empathy, seeing both sides of situations (even the parent's), and discussing health issues such as cancer.

A lot of music in the story, so I made a playlist of artists and styles mentioned such as Brubeck, Gilespie, and be-bop for the Boys, which could also be played in the classroom... which led me to wonder what other books have a "soundtrack" that could be created?

Any ideas?

coupla days later...

I read back through the book and found Duke Ellington (Satin Doll), Dizzy Gilespie (Manteca, Cubana Be-Cubana Bop), Dave Brubeck (Take Five) and the Barney Miller tv show theme, then added some Louis Prima and Buddy Rich... gotta teach these boys, life ain't all Bon Jovi or Nirvana...