Jun 27, 2011

#TheList, No. 158: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!This is, without a doubt, my favorite picture book currently in existence.  Practically every person who steps into my apartment is subjected to reading it regardless of age, sex, or sobriety.  Some lucky, or unlucky, souls have actually been subjected to me reading it aloud. 

Even my Mom's kindergarten class knows that it's my favorite picture book.  They sent me a letter on that oversized lined paper you always find in dusty school closets, asking me if it's the illustrations that make it my favorite.  Well kids, that's definitely part of it. 

Not only are the illustrations simple, adorable chalk drawings, but the characterization of the pigeon as a tantrum throwing, conniving toddler is perfect. 

The set-up is simple.  There's a bus driver.  He needs to step away from the bus for a moment.  He asks the reader to make sure the pigeon doesn't drive the bus.  Why?  Because he's a pigeon.  A pigeon with the most adorable, expressive eyes ever.  The child reading the book (or the adult) is then placed in the position of having to tell the pigeon "no" while he begs unrelentlessly to drive the bus in the driver's absence. 

So the book is adorable and teaches children some pretty important lessons: responsibility, tantrums don't always work, and pigeons should not drive.  Kids love it, parents love it, librarians love it. You should love it.  You should also check out the other Pigeon books that have since been published, especially "The Pigeon Wants a Puppy" because c'mon.  A pigeon...and a puppy.  ADORBS. 

Jun 17, 2011


The wondrous J.K. Rowling has posted a link to Pottermore.com, which features a countdown to an announcement just over 5 days from now, and people are already going crazy trying to figure out what it could be that merits such hype.  This is where I laugh at the people who say the Harry Potter craze is over.  HA! 

My first thought, or hope rather, was that it would be the announcement of a release date for the much anticipated encyclopedia.  I'm sure I'm wrong though. 

Most people seem to think that it could be a huge Harry Potter based online role-playing game, which would mean that my nerdiness is going to skyrocket, something most people wouldn't deem possible.  It could also very well be a regular website, an announcement of a new textbook along the lines of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, something charitable because we all know Rowling loves her charity work, or even a personal statement declaring me as her number one fan.  Probably not the last one. 

Let the 5 day waiting commence!

Go the F*ck to Sleep

Here's Samuel L. Jackson doing a reading of Adam Mansbach's children's book, Go the F*ck to Sleep.  The book itself is already hilarious, but add in Samuel L. Jackson and it reaches new levels.  If I ever have kids, I may or may not play this for them when they go to bed.  I'll probably alternate this with "The Book of Mormon."  Maybe I shouldn't have kids.

Jun 13, 2011

Real Books in F.R.I.E.N.D.S!

I don't really like when books are put into television episodes or movies just for the sake of being there, because that makes no sense.  Like when a character randomly states that they like a book.  Who cares?  When a book is actually incorporated into the plot is when it counts.  It happens a lot in some of my favorite shows.  Coincidence? I think not.  So here's a list of my favorite inclusions of real books in episodes of probably my favorite TV show of all time: "F.R.I.E.N.D.S." 

F.R.I.E.N.D.S: Real Books

1+2. Little Women and The Shining
This is my personal favorite.  Joey and Rachel make a deal to trade their favorite books: The Shining and Little Women respectively.  Before she begins The Shining, Joey cautions Rachel that it's a scary book she might not be able to handle.  His secret to overcoming the fear: putting the book in the freezer.  It turns out that Joey can't handle the terrors of Little Women either.  He finds Beth's imminent death too tough to take, landing Rachel's copy of the Louisa May Alcott classic in the freezer.  Sidenote, when attempting to describe The Shining without using spoilers, Joey quotes: "All blank and no blank makes blank a blank blank."  That "quote" doesn't actually appear in the book.  It's only in the movie version...

3 + 4. Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre
"Feminism, yes, but also the robots!"
Phoebe, having never gone to high school, feels like she missed out on one of the major life experiences.  She also had a blast with her Lamaze class and wants to try something "with a less painful final exam."  Understandable, seeing as she pushed out three kids, they weren't even hers, and her doctor was obsessed with The Fonz.  So she signs up for a literature class with Rachel.  Phoebe gets really into the first book they read, Wuthering Heights, figuring out that the moors are a symbol that reflect the wildness of Heathcliff's character.  Rachel didn't read the book and steals Phoebe's ideas in class, leaving Phoebe to look like a fool.  When Rachel reads a new Vogue issue instead of Jane Eyre, Phoebe gets her revenge by telling Rachel that Jane Eyre is a cyborg and that the book was "lightyears ahead of its time."  I wish they included the scene where Rachel apparently likens Jane Eyre to Robocop.

5. The "V" Encyclopedia Volume
Most sitcoms have to have their one stock dumb, but loveable character.  Joey fills that role on Friends, though he wasn't that daft in the earlier seasons.  Regardless, he's sick of feeling left out of the loop when his friends discuss world events and he wants to join in on the conversation.  So when Penn of Penn and Teller drops by to sell encyclopedias, Joey is fascinated with the V volume and is luckily wearing Chandler's pants, in which he finds $50.  He buys the volume and prepares to wow his friends with his new knowledge of volcanoes, vivisection, vas deferens, and the Vietnam War, but is left out once again when the conversation steers toward the Korean war. 

6. A Tale of Two Cities
Ahh Joey being clueless again.  Joey gets a callback for a musical rendition of A Tale of Two Cities, not realizing that it's a Dickens classic.  In choosing his two cities, he decides he's going to sing "New York, New York" and "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."  Ross has to tell him that he doesn't get to choose.  And then we for some reason get treated to a song from the musical "Oliver!" and this amazing dance:

7. Chicken Soup for the Soul
Chandler can't cry. Nothing can bring him to tears, not "E.T.", "Bambi", a three legged puppy, a three legged puppy who can talk, or pictures from his childhood.  Even the thought of his wife dying and leaving him a note from beyond the grave that tells him how much she loves him doesn't make him teary.  In an effort to prove that he's not a robot or dead inside, he tries to secretly read Chicken Soup for the Soul to induce the tears.  But the sappy series doesn't do him any good; it's only when Ross and Rachel have one of their "Ross and Rachel" moments that finally bring on the waterworks.  

8. I Love You Forever
Ugh. This book.  Joey didn't get a present for Emma's first birthday and needs something fast.  Phoebe wrote her a song (barely), so Joey decides to put his "talent" to good use (not hitting on her, as Phoebe first suspects) and do a dramatic reading of Emma's favorite book.  His success, if bringing everyone to tears can be counted as a success, makes Phoebe's song look more horrific than it actually is and eventually causes her to follow in his steps and do her own dramatic reading.  Only problem is, she reaches for Sex and the Single Mother

Did I miss any?

Jun 11, 2011

Search Terms

More humorous search phrases people are using that somehow lead them to my blog:

"who is the mastermind in i am the messenger"
Did you have a book report to finish?  Couldn't bother reading the rest of the book?  Actually, I can't blame you for asking this question.  The ending of that book is pretty lame.  The answer is the author.  Deep, eh?

"why shouldn't adults judge children"
Because they're tricky lil buggers, that's why.   Did you never read Matilda or see "Home Alone"?  Piss them off and they will get you.  But all joking aside, though I technically wasn't joking, children are a lot smarter than they're given credit for.  So unless you're complaining about how the TV shows they're watching are nothing compared to the shows Nickelodeon used to play, which is an incredibly valid argument, then try to hold back a little judgment. 

"why doesn't mrs. basil frankweil not like the museum"
Uh, she doesn't have a problem with the museum, but then again, your use of double negatives is asking why she does like it.  Also, you spelled her name wrong. 

"librarian risque images"
I have no idea what entry this led to.  I feel like I should be concerned.

Again, it's pretty clear that search engines zero in on the keywords and match searches to sites in such a fashion.  They don't look for context, they look for word matches.  None of these searches would have led to anything remotely useful in my blog. 

Jun 8, 2011

Leave YA Alone!

Last week, an article called "Darkness Too Visible" was posted on the WSJ website that criticized the state of current young adult literature.  In essence, the author was saying that the current selection is harmful for teen readers and they need to read things of more substance and less controversy.  Okay, I won’t deny that some of the current YA books aren’t great literature (said in hoity-toity accent like a professor of mine used to), but neither are the large amounts of romance and mystery novels that are available.  For the most part, YA literature is amazing and helpful to a lot of teens. 

In response to the article, YA authors like Laurie Halse Anderson started a twitter hashtag, #yasaves, to get people to tweet about how the YA books the article criticizes made an impact on their lives.  This makes me happy because the amount of responses were amazing.  Go look, it's fun! 

My response to the article is of course to rant about it, which I’ve already verbally done to a lot of friends (sorry guys).  So here goes:

-The article begins with a woman “disheartened” by the YA selection in a store who had to leave without buying anything.  Okay, I’m sure she did and that's sad.  Just because there were some book covers and, if she actually read the summaries, books that weren’t appealing, it doesn’t mean that there weren’t others to select from.  No one will like every book and that's fine.  But just because some YA books aren't up to your standards doesn't give you the right to generalize every other book in that section.  You're in a book store for crying out loud, there are other things available.  All of the books that are praised in the article are also kept in the YA section, so there’s no need to feel disheartened.  Just look through the books to find one.  It’s not that hard. 

-The author mentions Go Ask Alice as one of the first YA books to mention dark topics.  I have a slight suspicion that she doesn't know this isn't a real diary, but was actually written by a psychologist as a tool to keep kids off of drugs...but maybe it's just me.

-She seems very anti-Cormier.  Yeah, his stuff doesn’t include happy endings.  NEITHER DOES LIFE.  The ending to Charlotte’s Web isn’t happy either.  Charlotte freaking dies.  The message of the story could very well be “have babies and die.”  Should we take that out so the youngins aren’t exposed to death? 

-She's afraid that talking about the horrible problems teens and other people experience will help to normalize them.  Well not only is not talking about them censorship, but it's also ignoring the fact that the problems do exist.  The books aren't telling kids to go out and cut themselves.  They're giving teens an opportunity to see their frustrations voiced. 

-She says the Hunger Games are"hyper-violent." Umm, no?  Yeah it involves kids fighting to the death, but there are no drawn out death scenes and nothing is too graphic.  The book is all political commentary.  It’s amazing.  It has a strong FEMALE main character who kicks ass.  Does she not want girls to be strong? 

-She's rather fond of the non-"grotesque" Judy Blume whose works apparently pale in comparison to what's available today (although her stuff is still heavily challenged).  Yes, YA Literature has changed.  But so has everything else.  Women can vote now (gasp!), we can all drink from the same bubblers (water fountains for you non-Boston freaks), and we have a black president.  The world back then didn’t have the same problems teens have now.  The internet didn’t exist, cyber-bullying was unheard of, and most approved teenage issues were whether or not saddle shoes were an appropriate footwear choice for the big school dance.  Teens face a lot more problems now and the literature reflects it.  It gives them a way to see that they aren’t the only ones experiencing these problems and offers solutions to help them.  So instead of fighting their ability to read these works, why not put that energy into encouraging them to read and work out their problems?

-There’s a sidebar included with a list of appropriate reading selections.  Possibly the best part of the article, one of the suggested books is Fahrenheit 451.  An article that is basically calling for the censorship of YA material in order to shield the eyes of today's youth, recommends a book with the main message of anti-censorship. 

What was with people last weekend?  This article AND the whole Paul Revere warning the British business?  This world scares me.

Another librarian-in-training, Tahleen, gives a much better, concise response to the article here

Jun 2, 2011

#TheList, No. 171: The Ugly Duckling

This weekend is the concert pairing of my lifetime: NKOTBSB, which I realize loosely translates to New Kids on the Backstreet Boys.  I've been obsessed with the New Kids since I was 2 and, after a brief fling with Hanson, proclaimed the BSB to be my second favorite boyband at age 10.  I've kept these loves strong.  Only Harry Potter and B.Spears give them any competition. 
So in honor of this blast from the past (although technically the New Kids have been back now since 2008 and contrary to popular belief, the BSB have never left), I thought I'd write about my favorite book from childhood.  Unfortunately, I knew that the Ultimate Visual Dictionary would not be on The List.  No lie, that was my favorite.  Ask my Mom if you don't believe me. 

Seriously, one of my favorite
 books ever.
So then I scanned The List for some other favorites and found NOTHING.  Cam Jansen? Not there.  Nancy Drew? Nope, but the Hardy Boys are included which I find sexist and I'll complain about that by the time I get to that entry.  Chika Chika Boom Boom?  Nowhere near The List, which is super upsetting because man is that one catchy.  Becoming increasingly frustrated, I decided to put the frustration to good use and rant about one I hate, which will provide me just as much delight as talking about one I love. 

The Ugly Duckling is HORRIFYING.  It's another one of those stories where people know the basic premise and the "lesson," but don't actually know the inbetween.  So yeah, there's a duck, it's ugly, but it grows up to be a beautiful swan.  No.  No, no, no, no, and no.

First of all, there's the obvious problem of perpetuating the idea that you have to be beautiful to be happy.  Wrong.  I was fairly hideous in high school, but for the most part I still had a blast.  So already the "lesson" that you can suffer and be ugly, but it'll be worth it because one day you'll be pretty, is horrific.  Sorry kids, some people stay ugly.  Plus, who is this "lesson" actually for?  Like Aunt Becky says in that episode of "Full House" where DJ's afraid to be ugly in school (which could be the plot for multiple episodes of that show, all of which are clearly perfect), you're only supposed to use this story if you're talking about another kid.  No kid wants to hear that they're ugly right now.  That's not going to help. 

He's still ugly, so he's sad.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for telling kids about the cruelties of life, kind of like how in "The Golden Girls" Dorothy and Sophia admit they like to pop kids' balloons to teach them such things, but this book is just gross.  It negates all the bad things that happen to the duck by basically saying it's okay that they happened, because now he's pretty!  If the message was more along the lines of bad things happen to the duck because the world can sometimes be a horrible place, then I could maybe get on board.  But bad things only happen to him because he's ugly, and that's just not cool.  So there's really nothing inside this book, aside from the general message people for some reason remember fondly (suffer silently and you'll be smokin' one day), that merits this as one of the greatest books kids should read...unless they're being asked to explain why the message sucks.  

So here's what else grosses me out in the book:

-The mother introduces her ducklings to others by basically saying "aren't they pretty" because there's nothing else about them that's worth mentioning.  Probably because they're little jerkoffs.  See next complaint.
-His brothers and sisters chase him around and openly hope that the cat eats him.  So steer clear of this story if you're planning on giving your only child a new baby brother or sister; you'll give the kid the wrong idea... unless you're a fan of survival of the fittest.  Then by all means, read this story to your kid all the time. 

-The girl who feeds the animals kicks the ugly duckling.  Now that's just mean.

-The book has a kind of odd quest for the perfect race vibe to it.  Once he runs away from his abusive family, our ugly friend meets some wild ducks who allow him to hang out with them despite his hideousness, "so long as you don't want to marry into our family."  How thoughtful. 

-The poor duck finally makes some geese friends and then they're shot right in front of him because really,  he hasn't suffered quite enough yet.  Post traumatic stress disorder anyone?

-"This story would be too sad if I told you all the duckling had to suffer"  Really?  Because unless it lived out an episode of "Law & Order SVU," I don't think that it's possible to make the story any sadder. 

One of the few things, actually, the only thing I like about this book is in the beginning when the mother complains that their father is a "'scoundrel...who never comes to see [her].'"  Yay progressive single mother-ness! 
And to make me feel more cheerful:

Andersen, H.C.  The Ugly Duckling.  (1989).  Bell, A. (Trans.), Marks, A. (Illus.).  MA: Picture Book Studio.