Monday, March 27, 2017

Dr. Seuss: The Great Doodler

Dr. Seuss: The Great Doodler. Kate Klimo. Illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. 2016. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It is a beautiful day in La Jolla, California. A writer and artist is at work in his studio. A telephone rings. A reporter is calling with big news. The writer has won a big award for his books. It is the Pulitzer Prize. The writer is Ted Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss.

Premise/plot: This step into reading (level 3) title is a biography of Dr. Seuss. It is beautifully illustrated. There is a lot of text per page, but it is written in an engaging style for the most part.

My thoughts: I thought this shared plenty of details with young readers. For example, did you know his inspiration for And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street was the droning rhythm of a ship's engine? Did you know that 27 publishers rejected the manuscript?

Other aspects of his life were presented simply. For example his drawings during World War II. In the book, they are presented without question and simply. We were at war or nearly so. He created cartoon drawings and films along with others in Hollywood to "poke fun" of the Germans and Japanese. Some might call it patriotic work, others might call it propaganda.

Today especially out of context, one could say that his work during the war years was racist, offensive, inappropriate. One could conclude that Seuss was a terrible person because at one point in his life he drew these cartoons. How could a man who proclaimed a person is a person no matter how small depict the Japanese the way he did? This book doesn't go there.

The book covers some books, but not all books. Yes to the Lorax and The Butter Battle. You might be surprised that Green Eggs and Ham is not mentioned.

But a couple of things really surprised me. 1) The author makes a BIG mistake. She says he only wrote 44 books. Seriously?! He wrote around sixty books! I should know because I made a yearlong project of reading him chronologically a few years ago. There were plenty of weeks I covered two or three books! 2) She doesn't mention that he wrote under three different names. Why?! How could you write about Dr. Seuss and not mention Theo LeSieg?! I can understand not knowing about Rosetta Stone--the other pseudonym--but the other? Why not include this? It should be common enough knowledge! And if it isn't, it should be! How could you pull together enough research to write the book and not know these two basics?! Did she think it wasn't interesting?

Two of the titles written by LeSieg include Ten Apples Up on Top and I Wish That I Had Duck Feet. The Rosetta Stone title is Because A Little Bug Went Ka-Choo.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Finn Throws A Fit

Finn Throws A Fit. David Elliott. Illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering. 2009. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Finn likes peaches. Usually. But today, Finn doesn't like peaches. Today, Finn doesn't like anything. Today, Finn is cranky. Anything could happen.

Premise/plot: Finn is having a bad day. Perhaps even a terrible, horrible one. No one knows why. Least of all his parents. Elliott writes to parents, and for parents in this one. The narrative is descriptive and practically perfect in every way.
Thunder in the nursery! Lightning in the kitchen!
He cries. The house floods.
He kicks. An earthquake shakes the world.
But I think my absolute favorite part is:
The FIT goes on and on. It lasts until it doesn't.
My thoughts: I love, love, love, LOVE this one. Who hasn't met a Finn? Who hasn't seen a Finn in action? (I know I've seen Finn in a couple of restaurants.) I love the narrative. I love the descriptions. I love how true-to-life it is. I love how it captures the wild, fierceness of emotions. Some times emotions do RAGE out of control. I love how quotable it is. So much can be communicated by these two simple sentences: "Finn likes peaches. Usually;" and "It lasts until it doesn't."

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Advanced French for Exceptional Cats

Advanced French for Exceptional Cats. Henry N. Beard. 1992. 96 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

First sentence: The Exceptional Cat Le Chat Exceptionnel

Premise/plot: If you and your cat loved the first book, it's time to expand your knowledge. The phrases taught in this one go above and beyond your basic, practical needs with a few exceptions.
I don't mind Bach and Mozart as long as there is no singing.
Je veux bien ecouter Bach et Mozart pourvu que personne ne chante.
I nap, therefore I am.
Je fais un somme, donc je suis.
In this one the cat travels to France--to Paris--for part of this one. Most of the phrases are complex. There are sections on dining out, philosophy, music, etc.

My thoughts: I liked it. I like both books in the series.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Bobbs-Merrill Third Reader

Bobbs Merril Third Reader. Edited by Clara Belle Baker and Edna Dean Baker. 1924/30/39. 293 pages. [Source: Bought]

Premise/plot:This one is a reading/literature textbook from the 1930s. It contains stories and poems mainly. The book is divided into four sections: "Merry Animal Tales," "Folk Fairy Tales and Poems," "Stories of Many Lands," and "Playtime Stories."

My thoughts: My favorite selection from "Merry Animal Tales" was "The Frogs' Travels a Japanese folk tale. There are two frogs: one from a pond near Osaka, the other from a stream in Kioto. Both frogs decide to go traveling. They each reach the top of a mountain. They decide to help each other decide if it's worth continuing the journey on.
"Oh," said the Kioto frog, "we can stand on our hind legs and hold on to each other. Then each can look at the town where he is going."
The foolish frogs forgot that their eyes were in the back of their heads. Though their noses pointed to the places toward which they wanted to go, their eyes beheld the places from which they had come.
My favorite section of the book was "Folk Fairy Tales and Poems." I really loved quite a few of these including: "The Good Husband," "The Glass Hill," "Nail Soup," and "The Twelve Months." This section also includes a version of Hansel and Gretel adapted from the opera.

My favorite selection from "Stories of Many Lands," was "The Goose Boy." This one stars a king--the king of Bavaria--and a goose boy. So one day, a king loses a book beneath a tree. Not wanting to exert himself, he tries to hire a goose boy to go and fetch it for him. The goose boy is skeptical that he can earn a gold piece merely by running a mile to fetch a book! And if he did go, who would watch his geese?! The king says he'd be happy to watch the geese while the boy does his errand. But is the king up to such a task?!?! The boy returns with the book to find his geese gone and the king apologetic. The king helps the boy round up the geese again, and, he reveals that he is in fact the king. The boy, still skeptical, says he doesn't know if that is true enough...but he should definitely not be a gooseherd!

My favorite selection from "Playtime Stories," is Moufflou. This one is about a peasant family with a very well-trained dog that may or may not be the making of their fortune. It's a very charming story set in Italy. 

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Victorian Quarterly Check-In

  • What books for this challenge have you read (or reviewed) recently?
  • What are you currently reading?
  • Are there any quotes you'd like to share?
  • Who would you recommend? Anyone you would NOT recommend?
  • Favorite book you've read so far...
My answers:

✔ 1. A book under 200 pages
The Europeans. Henry James. 1878. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 2. A book over 400 pages
The Adolescent. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
✔ 4. A book you REALLY want to reread
Barchester Towers. Anthony Trollope. 1857. 418 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 5. A new-to-you book by a FAVORITE author
La Vendee. Anthony Trollope. 1850. 512 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 7. A book that was originally published serially
The American. Henry James. 1877. 400 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 8. A book published between 1837-1849
The Macdermots of Ballycloran. Anthony Trollope. 1847. 636 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 11. A book published between 1871-1880
Confidence. Henry James. 1879. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 14. A book published between 1902-1999 with a Victorian setting
The Quincunx by Charles Palliser. 1990. 787 pages. [Source: Library]
✔ 21. A book by a new-to-you male author
Watch and Ward. Henry James. 1871. 128 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 23. A book translated into English
The Karamazov Brothers. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Translated by Ignat Avsey. 1880/2008. 1054 pages. [Source: Library]
✔ 24. A fiction or nonfiction book about Queen Victoria
Victoria. Daisy Goodwin. 2016. 404 pages. [Source: Library] 
✔ 25. A book that has been filmed as movie, miniseries, or television show
The Warden. Anthony Trollope. 1855. Oxford World's Classics. 294 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 26. A play OR a collection of short stories OR a collection of poems
The Best Short Stories. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Translated by David Magarshack. 2001. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
✔ 28. Genre or Subgenre of your choice (mystery, suspense, romance, gothic, adventure, western, science fiction, fantasy)
The Time Machine. H.G. Wells. 1895. Penguin. 128 pages. [Source: Bought] 
✔ 29. Book with a name as the title
Roderick Hudson. Henry James. 1875. 398 pages. [Source: Bought]
✔ 30. Book You've Started but Never Finished
The Kellys and the O'Kellys. Anthony Trollope. 1848. 537 pages. [Source: Bought]

 Currently reading:

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Three Clerks by Anthony Trollope

Quotes to Share:
  • “If pride is a source of information, you must be a prodigy of knowledge!”  Henry James
  • What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee? Anthony Trollope
  • "There is no way of writing well and also of writing easily." Anthony Trollope
  • "There is no happiness in love, except at the end of an English novel." Anthony Trollope
  • "Let us suppose, gentlemen, that man is not stupid. But if he is not stupid, he is monstrously ungrateful." Fyodor Dostoyevesky
  • "A great thought is most often a feeling that sometimes goes without a definition for too long." Fyodor Dostoyevesky
  • "There are a thousand different ways of being good company." Henry James
  • "She got tired of thinking aright; but there was no serious harm in it, as she got equally tired of thinking wrong." Henry James
  • "You will experience much grief, and in grief you will find happiness. Here is my commandment to you: seek happiness in grief." Fyodor Dostoyevesky
  • "I think that everyone should, above all else on this earth, love life." Fyodor Dostoyevesky
  • "The curious thing is that the more the mind takes in, the more it has space for, and that all one’s ideas are like the Irish people at home who live in the different corners of a room, and take boarders." Henry James
  • “But the great trial in this world is to behave well and becomingly in spite of oppressive thoughts: and it always takes a struggle to do that, and that struggle you’ve made. I hope it may lead you to feel that you may be contented and in comfort without having everything which you think necessary to your happiness. I’m sure I looked forward to this week as one of unmixed trouble and torment; but I was very wrong to do so. It has given me a great deal of unmixed satisfaction.” Anthony Trollope
  • "Face this world. Learn its ways, watch it, be careful of too hasty guesses at its meaning. In the end you will find clues to it all. " H.G. Wells
  • "When I read a novel my imagination starts off at a gallop and leaves the narrator hidden in a cloud of dust; I have to come jogging twenty miles back to the denouement." Henry James
  • "When once the gate is opened to self-torture, the whole army of fiends files in." Henry James
  • “Nonsense, man; — how can you say you are not going to lie, when you know you’ve a lie in your mouth at the moment.”  Anthony Trollope
  •  “Nobody and everybody are always very kind, but unfortunately are generally very wrong.” Anthony Trollope
  • The public is defrauded when it is purposely misled. Poor public! how often is it misled! against what a world of fraud has it to contend! Anthony Trollope

I am really enjoying alternating Anthony Trollope and Henry James. Anthony Trollope has long been a favorite. Henry James is a new-to-me this year author. I haven't loved all of James' novels equally.
But I generally only read British classics. So it's been very interesting to read an American author too.

Another new-to-me author is Fyodor Dostoevsky. I've read three books so far!!!

 Favorite book I've read so far...

New to me:
The Karamazov Brothers. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Translated by Ignat Avsey. 1880/2008. 1054 pages. [Source: Library]

Favorite reread:
Barchester Towers. Anthony Trollope. 1857. 418 pages. [Source: Bought]

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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