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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sandman: The Dream Hunters

Author: Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano
Reading Level: 7th and up

Pages: 128
Publisher: Vertigo
Edition: Paperback, 2000 (1999)

Beautifually haunting, both in text and illustration. Typically Gaiman. And I am a sucker for his style. The tenderness of a tragic love is revealed with poetic, dream-like prose. Gaiman is masterful in conjuring up not only paradoxical phrases, but paradoxical imagery and emotions: we find beauty in the macabre, humor in the tragic, hope in the despairing...

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Lily Reads: September 2006

Lily read these herself (with one chapter here and there read to her by us, sometime.)

Author: Roald Dahl
Title: The Witches

Author: Roald Dahl
Title: Matilda

Author: Cyhthina Ryland
Title: The Cobble Street Cousins

Author: Beverly Clearly
Title: Henry Huggins and Ribsy

Lily was read to at betime:

Author: Vandana Singh
Title: Younguncle Comes to Town

Author: Terence Blacker
Title: The Secret Life of Ms Wiz


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Wish List

Author: Eoin Colfer
Reading Level: 5th - 6th

Pages: 252
Publisher: Miramax/Hyperion
Edition: Hardcover, 2003 (2000)

Eoin Colfer has not quite redeemed himself in my view, via this book, either. I have to go back and re-enter the world of Artemis Fowl series to see if he is a brilliant writer, as so many of my young readers seem to believe. This book has a great premise, an explosive and grabbing beginning, some very witty commentary on the human nature, and many moments of cool actions. However, plenty of stylish flaws can be spotted. When the narrative is taken over by Meg Finn, the teenager who died and couldn't enter Hell or Heaven, she does not sound anything like herself as a character -- she sounds just like the 3rd person narrator that we presume as Eoin Colfer, the author. Page 200: "A semi-inebraited mind sinks all th emore readily into the mire of satellite stations"; "Franco saw himself in the tragic hero mold."

I know Colfer probably didn't set out to write a profound book, and he did not produce one, for sure. But it seems a bit of a waste when I sense so much potential based on what he has already achieved. This could have been both an action-packed, imaginative, humorous story AND a book that leaves the readers ponder about life, after-life, and the actions we take when we are living our lives. Instead, it's just an amusing read.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This entry is not about a book, but it is book-related. Tonight Lily wanted to finish a chapter in Matilda but if she read it all by herself, it would have taken too long and past her bedtime. So, I finished the chapter by reading aloud to her. Afterwards, she sighed contentedly and said, that she and I made a good "chocolate chip cookie." I was a bit baffled at first. She explained, "I'm like the cookie dough part, because I read most of the book. And you're like the chocolate chip part, yummy, when you read bits and pieces of it to me." I thought this a very cute and apt description.


Rabbi's Cat

Author: Joann Sfar
Reading Level: 8th and up

Pages: 152
Publisher: Pantheon
Edition: Hardcover, 2005

This amusing and thoughtful graphic novel seems to not know whether it exists to answer some really big questions (about life, love, religion, humanity, prejudice, etc.) or to further confuse the readers on all fronts! I love the Cat, and adore the Rabbi. Both are very well-drawn (in text and in pictures) characters. However, I do not take to the way how most of the panels are presented: the illustrations serve as accompaniment to the descriptive paragraphs: very few of them include dialogs between the characters.

It gets to be tedious after a while and the author/illustrator's voice/hand become too apparent for my taste. Once again, the last part of the "story" seems disjointed from the rest of the book and the sense of lacking a resolution makes me unhappy...

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American Born Chinese

Author: Gene Luen Yang
Reading Level: 7th and up

Pages: 240
Publisher: First Second, Roaring Brooks
Edition: Paperback original, 2006

I cannot pin down my own reaction to this graphic novel. It is beautifully produced: glossy paper, clean layout, the comic illustrations are quite skillfully done, and the storytelling is at moments quite intelligent. But, that what I felt most reading the book was how all parts of it are "adequate" and how I was aware of all these components at the same time finding myself not terribly moved in any way. I was not offended, either -- even by the buck-teethed, slant-eyed, Engrish-speaking caricature of a Chinese cousin (I knew that he served some form of purpose other than ridiculing the Chinese as a whole.) I felt little revelation -- even when the three story lines finally get twisted together, the surprise factor only lasted a short moment and then the bigger lingering question remains: "Are these three stories organically entwined due to an unyielding internal creative force or are they forced together because it seems like a cool idea to connect a current day ABC's destiny to an old Chinese Legend?" For me, the resolution definitely lacks the power to convince me that this tale cannot be told better.

The best part of the book actually is the very short, very straightforward, very truthful retelling of the Monkey King story -- I wanted more of that!

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Utterly Me, Clarice Bean

Author: Lauren Child
Reading Level: 2nd - 4th

Pages: 160
Publisher: Orchard Books
Edition: Hardcover, 2002

Lauren Child's child-like voice manages to be both super innocent and highly savvy. Clarice Bean is utterly a little gem and utterly charming, in an I-might-find-her-a-bit-annoying-in-real-life-for-a-friend-or-a-student-but-it-sure-is-fun-to-read-her-thoughts kind of way. I love the illustrations and the creative typesetting.

The only slight gripe I have is the "fake" story that Clarice Bean loves to read so much (Ruby Redford mysteries) within the book does not grab me, but distract me from Clarice's story. However, Lily is reading it now and she actually likes the Ruby Redford mysteries better than the main plot. Shows how tastes dictate!

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah

Author: Fiona Rosenbloom
Reading Level: 6th - 8th

Pages: 190
Publisher: Hyperion
Edition: Hardcover, 2005

It's a fun and quick read. Stacy Friedman's voice is lively and funny. The story, although utterly unbelievable, is actually charming at moments. However, it is highly predictable and sugar-sweet: everything works out in the end so do not worry about having to feel sorry for anyone.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Chocolate Touch

Author: Patrick Caitling
Reading Level: 1st - 3rd


Lily and I took turns reading aloud to each other and had a blast. This is definitely a "messegey" book: don't eat too much junk food! but it works well as a highly entertaining and imaginative story. I read it a long time ago and this time around, I still enjoyed it.

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Be A Perfect Person in Just Three Days

Author: Stephen Manes
Reading Level: 1st - 3rd

Pages: 76
Publisher: Yearling
Edition: Paperback, 1996 (1982)

Lily read it and found it mildly amusing. (I had to nudge her to finish it, though.)

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The Sea of Monsters

Author: Rick Riordan
Reading Level: 4th - 6th

Pages: 279
Publisher: Miramax / Hyperion
Edition: Hardcover, 2006

Much like the first book of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians/The Lightning Thief, it is mildly amusing, light, full of cameo appearances from the Greek mythology: some work very well and others are a bit forced. The "guest stars" scenes work a little better in this one: they contribute to, rather than detract from, the momentum of the plot. The stake gets higher here and I presume, like many fantasy series, this one probably will progress from light to dark as the series progress. (Think Harry Potter.)

Riordan's decision on using Percy's first person narrative voice that is light, self-deprecating, and ironic has been effective but might make it more difficult to darken the mood. Of course, he (Percy, not Riodan) can grow up and mature a bit and hopefully we'll see that his "voice" grows along with him. I was reminded of the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander, with Percy gaining companions of various talents along his quests. But the similarity stops there - Alexander's style differs drastically from Riordan's.

The explanations of some modern day phenomena are actually funny: Chain stores sprouting due to the new birth of each monster; Internet being invented by Hermes, the Messenger God, etc.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Ramona Books

Author: Beverly Clearly
Reading Level: K-3rd

Publisher: William Morrow / Yearling / Dell
Edition: Mixed, 1955 onward

This has been a favorite bedtime story series for the last 3 months. I read it to Lily when we were in Taiwan and David has been reading it to her every night for the last 2 months. The titles in the series are

Beezus and Ramona (1955)
Ramona the Pest (1968)
Ramona the Brave (1975)
Ramona and Her Mother (1977)
Ramona and Her Father (1979)
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (1981)
Ramona Forver (1984)
Ramona's World (1999)

We have finished all but the last two. I'm constantly amazed and reminded of Cleary's uncanny talent at capturing the inner workings of a small child as I listen to David's affective reading and watch Lily's complete emotional involvement with the story.

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Cam Jansen Series

Author: David Adler
Reading Level: K-2nd

Pages: around 60
Publisher: Viking / Puffin
Edition: Mixed

This is really Lily's first series. She's finished 24 of them and is now tackling the 25th Cam Jansen and the Valentine Babies Mystery.

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