Oct 27, 2011

Day 23 – First “chapter book” you can remember reading as a child

It's definitely not the first one I read, but the first one that comes to mind is Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Babe Ruth Baseball.  For those of you unfamiliar with the amazingness that is the Cam Jansen series, Cam is a lovely girl with a photographic memory.  She is literally a human camera.  She looks at something, says "click," and her mind takes pictures of what's going on around her. Then she goes through these mental images to solve awesome crimes.  Yes, I used to walk around and try to do this.  I failed. 

Oct 24, 2011

Day 22 – Favorite book from your childhood

The Ultimate Visual Dictionary.  An instant classic.

You must be thinking, no, no, surely a Nancy Drew or Baby-Sitters Club book was your favorite, Nicole.  To that, I would scoff. *Scoffs*

I loved this book.  It was my favorite picture book.  I would open up to a random page and just stare.  Once I learned how to read, I would read the corresponding text and learn about starfish, engines, magma, etc.  It.was.the.coolest.

I'm pretty sure I cited this bad boy in every research project I had throughout elementary school.  You can't go wrong with the UVD, and for that, I thank it. 

Oct 23, 2011

#TheList, No. 886: The Neverending Story

I still haven't seen the movie, but now that I've read the book I understand this clip a little more:

The Neverending Story is a pretty intricate and intense fantasy tale that I think most pre-teens, particularly boys if I want to subscribe to gender bias and books, would enjoy.  Apparently the movie only covers the first half of the book.  The author, Michael Ende, filed a lawsuit because he wanted them to change the movie title as it wasn't an accurate representation of his work, but he lost.  Go figure.  Anyway, if you've only seen the movie and want to know what happens after...just read the book.  You should do that for all things anyway.  But I digress.  

The gist of the story is Bastian, a lonely and chubby schoolboy, steals a book called "The Neverending Story" from a cute little bookshop, and skips school to read it.  He literally gets caught up in the story, transferring himself to the world of Fantastica, where he's given the power to write/create "The Neverending Story."  What follows is his growth as a strong leader and inevitable demise as someone with too much power.  

The book has bits that could appeal to a plethora of readers: lonely child who just wants to be loved, sword fights, knights, magical gems, flying dragons, and a bunch of fun/dangerous/annoying creatures.  Good times!  The story is a little confusing, especially because it contains that story within a story nonsense and puts pressure on the reader to go constantly back and forth between two worlds and then put them together, so I would definitely recommend this to older children or advanced readers.

I'm not a huge fan of fantasy, nor do I really understand all of the rules that correspond with the genre.  I'm familiar with the Monomyth or "Hero's Journey," but more in terms of Harry Potter, Ender's Game, and Star Wars.  I definitely recognized elements of the HJ in The Neverending Story, particularly the use of the anti hero in the second half of the tale, which was interesting.  

But even though the story is definitely well written, thought-out, and incorporates the HJ in the story, my main problem is the reliance on the "and no one knows what happened" writing.  I just think it's just lazy.  It's the mechanism Ms. Meyer turned to all the time (Twilight).  The novel is so intricate...you couldn't think of anything else to put there?  Maybe once or even twice, but it happened to many times throughout the novel.  I was thinking that this could be a reflection of how the "creators" of "The Neverending Story" within the novel left gaps in their stories which makes more sense if you've read the book, and if that's the case, then that's pretty interesting writing.  But something felt off about it while I was reading. 

Regardless, it's a pretty interesting read and if you like fantasy, give it a go.

Oct 22, 2011

Day 21 - Book that disappointed you

Mary Shelley's, Frankenstein.  I'm not even a horror fan, but wow, talk about a letdown.  This may or may not be a result of Young Frankenstein being one of my top comedies.  I watched Everybody Loves Raymond because a part of me hoped Peter Boyle would go into a few bars of "Puttin' on the Ritz" every now and then. 

But back to the book. I think once I realized that my whole life up until high school freshmen English was a lie because I thought Frankenstein was the monster or creation or whatever you want to call it, I lost all faith in the "Gothic horror."  I do, however, feel that pretentious pride now whenever I hear someone else refer to the creation as Frankenstein as opposed to Frankenstein's creation. 

There wasn't enough action for me.  Sure the monster killed a bunch of people, but man when he told his side of the story...he's such a wuss!  A man made man killing wuss who just wants to be loved.  Yeah, I get that that humanizes him and we're supposed to be all "aww the poor monster," but geez!  I thought this book was supposed to be scary.  Michelle Bachman's beliefs are scarier than this book.  You know what else annoyed me? Everyone would always talk about how this book was so vital because it utilized varying perspectives.  And sure, the monster does tell his side of the story, but there are quotation marks around the entire thing because he's just talking to Frankenstein.  So technically it's the same point of view...it's just a onesided convo.  In class discussions, when my classmates would talk about the point of view shift, I would passively seethe with anger in my seat without saying anything because class participation was/is not my strong suit. 

The only other part of this book I remember was the word "ignominious."  We had to create a long, 50 word contextual clue vocabulary list while reading this book and that was one I picked.  I later used it in my opening statement when I defended the monster for his wimpy killings in the class debate.  We (rightfully) lost, but I got a sticker on my assignment anyway for good vocab use.  I miss the stickers.  There's a lack of stickers in the adult world.  And that's a disappointment too.

Oct 18, 2011

Day 20 – Book that you can quote/recite

Every time I feel sick, wake up and just want (or need) to go back to sleep, or pretty much have to do something I don't want to do, I start saying to myself: 
"'I cannot go to school today'/Said little Peggy Ann McKay"
"Sick," from Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends is my favorite poem of all time.  Because I constantly quote it is one reason, the others are because it rhymes (poems should rhyme, it's a fact), it's funny and it's relatable for kids AND adults.  I also hate most poetry (not all!) which really helps to narrow it down.  

So even though it's just the one poem that stands out for me, though I do enjoy the others, Where the Sidewalk Ends, is one of my favorite quotable books and most certainly my favorite quotable poetry collection. 

Fun facts: Did you know that Shel used to write and draw cartoons for Playboy?  He also had zero intention of ever writing for kids.  Johnny Cash's song "A Boy Named Sue"?  Shel wrote that.  The more you know.

And semi-related:

Oct 17, 2011

Day 19 - Favorite book turned into movie

It seems like a copout because I used this book for the favorite quote entry, but The Princess Bride is my favorite book and movie, so that's that.  The title just sucks.  During my BC orientation when my group was doing the whole awkward let's pretend to get to know each other by asking about all of your favorite forms of entertainment (this was before we all had Facebook profiles to stalk so we actually had to ask), a girl thought I was talking about The Princess Diaries.  I love Anne Hathaway as much as the next person, but no.  No, no, no, no, no. 

Oct 16, 2011

Day 18 - A book from a series that disappointed you

It's a little painful to admit, but the Hunger Games conclusion, Mockingjay, was less than satisfactory for me.  I was excited to read it because 1) it was the conclusion so I was expecting some of the awesome action that makes up the first two books; and 2) I would always sing the title to myself to the tune of Carly Simon's Mockingbird (Mock-yeah, ing-yeah, jay-yeah, yeah, yeah, Mockingjay...)

I don't even remember what happened really.  It just felt completely nonexistent in comparison to the remainder of the series.  It reduced Katniss to such a weak, stereotypically girly role.  While reading it, all I could think was that Collins was probably pressured to finish this super fast to capitalize on the series' popularity.  It also felt like she wrote the plot in such a way that Team Peeta and Team Gale shirts could be sold as movie merchandise.  I loved the marketing of Harry Potter: a book pretty much every other year and complete faith that the fanbase would not only stay loyal, but would grow.  I wish they had more faith in the readers to do this with the emerging series of today.  Oh well.

Oct 13, 2011

Day 17 – Favorite quote from a book

"There have been five great kisses since 1642 B.C., when Saul and Delilah Korn's inadvertent discovery swept across Western Civilization.  (Before then couples hooked thumbs.)"   -The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
Out of all the books that are great for boys, this one is the best with the worst title.  As Fred Savage says in the movie (one of the few film adaptations of books that actually work), "Is this a kissing book?" 

Oct 12, 2011

Day 16 - Favorite female character

Duh Bella Swan, because I love characters who have names that are questions. Isabella Swan? No. No, it is not.

Kidding, clearly.  I'm just procrastinating before I have to declare either Hermione Granger or Luna Lovegood as my favorite.  I don't think it can be done.  So I'm going to completely copout and say "Hermuna" is my favorite.  I don't know about "Hermuna" being the right name choice.  "Grangegood."  "Lunione."  Heh "Lover" might be the best combo for their last names, but that's just silly...
Sooooo Lover is my personal favorite female character.  She's super smart, believes in zany things that may or may not be true, gets her friends out of trouble even when unconscious, doesn't care what people think of her, has wonderfully frizzy hair, loves her friends unconditionally, punches Malfoy, and gives the best broadcast of a Quidditch game, or any game, ever.  I love Lover.  

But if I have to pick (and I technically don't have to because it's my blog and I can do what I want), I would pick Hermione.  <3

Also, a Google image search for Hermione and Luna leads to slash fanfiction.  Duly noted.

Oct 11, 2011

Day 15 – Favorite male character

Edward Cullen.  Hahahaha yeah right. 

My favorite male character is a sissy though, just a less sparkly sissy.  Major Major Major Major from Joseph Heller's Catch-22.  Major is his rank and all of his names, he bears a striking resemblance to Henry Fonda, avoids doing work by signing every document he receives as either Washington Irving or Irving Washington, and keeps from talking to people by jumping out of his window whenever they approach.  Hilarity.

Oct 10, 2011

Day 14 – Favorite book you read in school

I wholeheartedly declare that 5th grade was the best in-school reading I've ever encountered.  If I wasn't introduced to Harry Potter by my 6th grade teacher, I would declare Mr. Brewster the best book selecter ever.  My favorite book I read in this class was The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin.  

This book is wisely on "The List" because it is agreeably the best mystery out there for children.  This is scientific fact because it was unanimously agreed upon in my Children's Literature and Media class.  I won't talk about the details too much because I'll rave about it some day in the future, but I will share how I had daily panic attacks in the 5th grade over this book.

We had to form small groups in class and keep clue journals in order to figure out "whodunnit."  We were told that we weren't allowed to read ahead, so naturally after completing the first reading assignment, I read the entire book over the weekend.  The following Monday, we were told that we would get pop quizzes from time to time that would include questions we shouldn't know the answers to in order to make sure we kept to the reading schedule.  I would  frantically scan the room during these quizzes to make sure that no one was struggling on the questions I was answering.  Such a bad student I am.  I was also paired with the girl I hated the most in the class who only gave me more reason to hate her because she called me stupid when I was in fact suggesting the correct answer during one of our clue journal sessions.  Ugh.

Search Terms Pt. 3

My favorite part of egotistically glancing at my blog's status overview is reviewing the search terms that people use to mysteriously end up at a specific blog entry.  Some of them make sense: "librarian in the cupboard," anything Harry Potter, "books for kids," etc.  Actually, they all make sense and that's a little bit frightening. Or maybe it's not frightening - it just demonstrates that search engines aren't always the perfect choice for finding information.

"candy chocolate the big bang theory"
I think what this person was searching for was the episode where Sheldon performs operant conditioning on Penny by giving her chocolate for good behavior.  What they were instead led to was a crazed description of how I'm happy when I eat a lot of food and how I met the actor who plays Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory

"telling kids they are ugly"
Yeaaaaa, I don't actually give advice for this one.  My apologies.

"ugly duckling - backstreet boys fan fic"
So, so, so utterly terrifying that I understand why this user ended up at my blog.  (I mention the Backstreet Boys in my rant about The Ugly Duckling - you need to read it to understand why).

"is there symbolism in al capone does my shirts?"

"picture books that compare to i am the messenger."
I don't have this, but now I'm intrigued.

"list of graphic novels in big bang theory"
Also something I don't have, but intend to work on now

Oct 9, 2011

Day 13 – Your favorite writer

If anyone thought otherwise, they must be crazy.

Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore

I loved this book.  I don't know why.  Well I know why, I was am obsessed with Full House.  Stephanie has to help out Uncle Jesse and cook dinner, realizes she's an amazing cook, and decides to open her own catering business.  Yeah, she's 13 or something, and people totally hire teenage caterers all the time.  It all ends up falling apart because again, she's like an infant (although I bet the Olsen twins could have done it).  

I reread this book all the time as a child, but the lack of it in my life now has not hindered me in any way shape or form...that I know of.  I do want to read Jodie Sweetin's memoir about being a meth addict though. 

Oct 7, 2011

Day 11 – A book you hated

I don't think I even need to write words to explain.  Twilight is unfortunately on "The List" and I'm planning on ranting about the entire series when it comes down to that entry.  But I will say this about New Moon, the biggest offender of the bunch: If he wants to be a shiny vampire in another country? Dealbreaker.  It is never okay to attempt to or pretend to kill yourself because someone dumps you, with the assumption that he'll see how much you love him and will take you back.  Never okay. NEVERDO NOT DO THIS.

Oct 6, 2011

#TheList, No. 10: Miffy

I realized my coverage of picture books is practically nonexistent, so I needed to do something about that.  I picked one at random and moseyed on down to the library to pick it up, purposely stationing myself at the self-checkout machine in front of my favorite security guard.  I could see it in her eyes that she wanted nothing more than to rummage through my bags and judge me for my literary selections, but miracle of miracles the alarm didn't go off when I left!

So Miffy is a cute little picture book by Dick Bruna.  Apparently this is the first of about 30 Miffy books.  The series was made into a television show for Nick Jr. so all the tots could watch this cute little bunny.  The simple, bright pictures, the limited amount of text, and the rhyming sentences clearly make this a book that should be read aloud to children.  The pictures mirror the words, allowing the young child to visualize what's going on.  This is also beneficial for those leaning how to read, as they can consult the images to make sure that they're on the right track.  The book is so simple though that I personally think it's best for read-alouds, preferably at bedtime. 

The story is of Mr. and Mrs. Bunny and their wish for a baby.  An angel comes and brings them Miffy.  All the animals around, except the cow, want to play with her because she's so cute (the cow doesn't think she's that great).  Miffy also can't go out to play because she's sleepy.  It's a little anticlimactic with her just sleeping while everyone wants to play, but that's what makes this one an effective bedtime story.  The angel bit is a little out of nowhere, but I think it just adds to the cuteness factor the book is going for.

Day 10 – Favorite classic book

Now I hate most classics.  I just don't care about them.  I respect them, but that doesn't mean I need to pretend they're my favorite things in the world.  I love the people who only read (i.e. Sparknote) classics so they can reference them in conversation and sound impressive.  Me? I don't care about Jane Austen or her Pride and Prejudice or even the Zombies that followed.  But, I digress.

My favorite "classic" is hands down The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. Yes, I love that emo Holden Caulfield and his hatred of all things phony. I ate that angst stuff up freshman year of high school and wrote the best essay ever on symbolism because of it. 

I loved the Catcher in the Rye.  It's one of the few classics I read in school that I quite willingly read once I started.  I didn't know what to expect, because the title pretty much means nothing until the end of the novel.  Like Uncle Jesse in that episode of "Full House" when he has to do a book report on Catcher ("You guys could try the Gibbler method. Rent the movie" "Kimmy, that's a teribble idea. And I checked, it's not on video"), I didn't want to read it at first.  I just assumed it would be boring.   But the guy runs away to NY, meets a prostitute, gets beat up by her pimp, and complains a lot.  What's not to love?  And oh, the symbolism! 

This book is actually on "The List" (YES) so I'm goin to stop now and get back to it some other time.  Maybe recopy that amazing essay on symbolism.  I recall talking about the ducks a lot.  A lot

Oct 4, 2011

Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

I reread this book for the umpteenth time because 1) last week was Banned Books Week and it's one of the most challenged young adult books of the past decade; and 2) I thought it was on "The List."  It wasn't.  But that doesn't matter, because this book is amazing. 
Spoiler (sorry): This follows ninth grader Melinda and how she deals with the aftermath of being raped at a party.  We find out what happened at the party about halfway through the novel, up until then we just know that she underwent something tragic, tragic enough for almost the entire freshman class to hate her and for her to choose selective mutism as a way to repress her pain.  Art class becomes the one place where she unknowingly learns how to express herself and gain the strength to speak the truth about what happened.  It's an incredibly powerful book because it gives a voice to those who suffer silently.  It's also twistedly funny.

I read this book for the first time in 2000 and every time I've reread the book since then, I've folded down a page corner of a quote I liked.  Almost every page has a crease now. I love this one because of my anti-cheerleader attitude (Sorry Mom!).  After the school votes on a new mascot: 
"Cheerleader on the way to my bus. They wrinkle their brows as they struggle to rhyme 'wombat.'  Democracy is a wonderful institution."
This next one kills me, not in an Uncle Joey "cut it out" way, but in a 'that's so depressing' way.  Melinda skips school and hides out in hospital waiting rooms:
 "I put the gown back.  There is nothing wrong with me.  These are really sick people, sick that you can see."
Melinda learns by the novel's conclusion that the invisibility of her illness doesn't detract from its reality.  What kills me is that there are so many people out there who don't realize this. 

Melinda's art teacher, Mr. Freeman, understands that emotion is the core, or should be the core, to everything:
"When people don't express themselves, they die one piece at a time.  You'd be shocked at how many adults are really dead inside-walking through their days with no idea who they are, just waiting for a heart attack or cancer or a Mack truck to come along and finish the job.  It's the saddest thing I know."
I love this partly because this quote reminds me of "Over the Moon" from Rent, but mostly because it's true.  Not just that adults lose sight of what matters, but that they just become so accepting of it.  For me, this ties into how victims start to accept what happened to them, but in the wrong way.  Acceptance is healthy, but when victims put the blame on themselves, they're only hurting more.  That's how I feel, at least.
I don't think anything I say could possibly do justice to how much this book has helped readers, and not just those who have been raped, but any of those who need help finding their voice.  The book doesn't shield readers from the horrors of the world.  I've never understood how people could be so against a book that teaches people to speak up for themselves, to say no, and to be true to themselves.  These problems don't go away just because you don't read about them.  Speak is an amazing piece of realistic fiction.  Read it. 

Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving

I tend to hate girly things.  Well, maybe hate is a strong word, but when given the option I tend to favor the non-girly choice.  On Thanksgiving, I do everything in my power to stay out of the kitchen and be near the designated football watching area.  And yet, I love to bake. I also love sparkly things and boybands so maybe I do like girly things.  I don't know.  Either way, romantic sappy chick lit is not my cup of tea. 

I picked up The Friday Night Knitting Club because I have a problem leaving a used bookstore without buying something (alright, I am a girl) and because my reference professor told us it was a smart move to acclimate ourselves to other genres.  I assumed I would have to struggle through it and that it would be all sappy and tear-inducing forced drama tied together with a weak attempt of using the knitting club as a mechanism for knitting the women's lives together.  I was right.

But I loved it and I have no idea why.  The whole time I was reading the book I was thinking YAY KNITTING!  It's like how watching "American Ninja Warrior" makes me want to be all athletic.  The book tries to overly force the idea of knitting being a pro-feminism hobby and throws in just about every cliched horrible thing that can happen to women in there, but it works somehow. 

Oct 3, 2011

Day 08 – Most overrated book

I know I'm part of the minority here, it being an international bestseller and all, but I think The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is just godawful.  In my reference class, we were told that reading recent and popular books across all genres will help us when we're put on the spot to help someone.  Naturally I figured it was a good idea to try this book out before America attempted its own film version.  I read it just in time.

Now I knew going in that the author had passed away before finishing what was supposed to be a ten part series and that the books lacked any significant editing, but uggghfhguhguhgug.  The first 200 pages felt like I was suffering through a business class without the reward of a high paying job after graduation.  The rest of the book felt like I was reading an episode of Law and Order SVU.  The marathons on USA already scare me enough that I want to develop agoraphobia and never go outside where the crazies are waiting, I don't need to read about them too.  

I can semi-see the appeal of these books, though I only read the first, and yeah, there's got to be some stuff lost in translation, but yeeeeeesh, when I think about this book I can just hear the call of BC Superfans chanting "Ov-er-ra-ted" to a team that will proceed to kick their butts. 

Oct 2, 2011

Day 07 – Most underrated book

Alright, ask any Harry Potter fan what their least favorite of the seven is and most likely s/he’ll respond with The Chamber of Secrets.  It’s my least favorite too, but I don’t...hate it.  When I read it I don’t feel any sort of negativity towards the book, but when I think about HP as a whole, this book just doesn't stand out.  

It’s crazy though because it's actually a fairly important book in the HP world.  It might not be the stand out book of the Harry Potters, but it doesn't deserve the hatred that it seems to get from most readers.  It doesn't make "The List," which is fairly rude because  even Twilight made it.   

The Chamber of Secrets really shouldn’t get the shaft (p.s. whole bunch of spoilers coming ahead, I guess).  The first horcrux is destroyed here, guys.  That's kind of a big deal.  Not only does 1/7 of Voldy’s soul go to pieces, but Harry’s destroying Riddle’s diary with the basilisk fang clues in the trio on how they can destroy the remaining six (or at least five of the remaining six).  

Peeves breaks the Vanishing Cabinet that ends up being an intricate plot point in The Half-Blood Prince, bringing the Death Eaters into Hogwarts from Borgin & Burke.   

The Chamber of Secrets also serves as an introduction to the dark world that exists within HP.  The first book really only contains a small introduction to Voldemort and the knowledge that he had/has followers, but in The Chamber of Secrets, Harry's accidental landing in Knockturn Alley really cements the fact that this dark world still exists.  Plus, while he's there he sees the Hand of Glory Malfoy uses while carrying out his plans and the necklace that almost kills Katie Bell in The Half-Blood Prince.  Aaaah foreshadowing.  

So yeah, this book serves to set up a lot that happens towards the end of the HP series.  And yet, it gets no love.   Maybe because it's followed by the book most fans consider their favorite (yay Sirius), I don't know, but it's an important book and shouldn't be discussed with such disdain. 

Oct 1, 2011

Day 06 – A book that makes you sad

Art Spiegelman's Maus was my first encounter with a graphic novel.  I had to read it for a Narrative Interpretation class and I remember thinking it would be a breeze to get through because c'mon, it was just a bunch of pictures.  It ended up taking me hours just to read the first half, and made me bawl like a baby.  I'm pretty sure Deathly Hallows is the only book I've read that made me cry more.  (That one was fun - my parents sent my brother and sister in to check on me to make sure I wasn't suicidal over the end of the Harry Potter books). 

Maus is Spiegelman's father's account of the Holocaust.  I probably don't need to go into detail as to why this book is so sad, unless you're one of those people who believe that the Holocaust never happened and if that's the case then please just go away.  You shouldn't be reading this anyway, my love for Harry Potter and banned books and gay rights could burn your eyes right out.  But anyway, there are instances where it really hits the reader how real and horrible these events were.  The characters in the novel are depicted as animals throughout, but there are two moments where Spiegelman inserts actual pictures of his father into the story.  The photos take you completely by surprise, jolting you out of the story and into the realization that this is the real person who experienced what you're reading.  It's crazy powerful.  I've read Maus twice so far for various classes and once on my own and each time I was shocked by these pictures, even when I knew they were coming. 

Read this book if you don't mind being sad, enjoy symbolism (graphic novels are a symbolism goldmine), love Yiddish phrases, liked The Book Thief, like graphic novels, want to get into graphic novels, have nothing to do on a rainy Saturday such as this one, want to be cultured, or because I say it's an amazing novel.