The Hallo-Wiener

img_8015I love the creepy of Halloween, but the season would not be complete without a little bit of the goofy of Halloween. Who better to bring that element than Dav Pilkey?

Poor Oscar doesn’t quite fit in with the other dogs, being that he is a dog and a half long, but only half a dog tall. The other dogs tease him, and while his mother means well, the Halloween costume she made for him is certainly not helpful. But when the other dogs are attacked by a “monster,” Oscar isn’t going to just run away!

This is a fun book for the season, and can be a good teaching tool for kids too– the other dogs tease Oscar, but they learn that sometimes being different as its advantages when Oscar comes through to save the day. Good for a read aloud in October, and also a relatively easy read that incorporates some bigger vocabulary (such as the ornery cats!). Like in some of the other Dav Pilkey books, I like the little “extras” added into the illustrations– we can see that Oscar’s last name is Myers on his mailbox, and the title page has the book title lettered in hot dogs!

Boris’s thoughts: “Seriously? Cats as the bad guys? Boo. Hiss. 1 paw.”

The Boy of a Thousand Faces

img_8077At 48 pages, this is not quite a children’s picture book, but not quite a novel either. Something in between: perhaps a children’s novella? I am a big fan of Brian Selznik. I love the style of his novels and the way he combines words with illustrations to tell a story. This is a little different than his longer works, in that he uses the pictures to supplement this story rather than to continue driving the plot. However, the pictures are no less essential here than in his novels.

Being born on Halloween, it is no surprise that Alonzo has a fascination with monsters. His love is fueled by the late-night horror film show hosted by Mr. Shadow, where he discovers the greatness of Lon Cheney. Alonzo is inspired by the films, which turns into a dream to become the “boy of a thousand faces.” I love that his character has a dream that is outside of what might be considered normal. Alonzo goes beyond “I want to be a movie star” to actually working on and creating something new. His goal is not to be famous, but in the creation of something to be enjoyed by others.

The reciprocal relationship between Alonzo and Mr. Shadow is interesting as well. Alonzo is inspired by Mr. Shadow and his show, reaching out to him when he is beginning to feel disillusioned with his dream. At the same time, Mr. Shadow believed that nobody was interested when his show ended, but was inspired by Alonzo to “bring back” something that he loved in a new way.

I love this as a tribute to traditional horror films, special effects, and Lon Cheney. I think it is also a great introduction to the horror genre. It is a bit creepy, but not something that would truly scare most children. It’s perfect for kids who might have an interest in things that are a bit dark seeming, that might seem a little weird to others.

Boris’s thoughts: “Hmmm… dark and weird… I approve. 3 paws.”

The Year of Goodbyes

img_7713Date Read: July 7, 2018

Rating: 4 (of 5) stars

Following the World War II theme from last week, I have a book with a very different feel. Debbie Levy presents this book based off of her mother’s posiealbum from 1938. It is an autograph book, filled with poems written by her friends. These poems provide the framework for a series of journal entries and reflections that string together the events of the year, from the perspective of the 12 year old author.

It was an interesting read, although a bit unsettling. The book shows the gradual change from normal life to the fear and uncertainty that lead Jutta’s family to flee Germany. Goodbyes from friends leaving, or in some cases disappearing without explanation. I suppose the gradualness of the change, people slowly losing their friends, family, and rights, is what is most unsettling, knowing what comes next. While there is definitely an emotional element in the book, it seems stronger in retrospect, realizing the history of what happened just after the year of the posiealbum.

I can see this being a good book as an introduction to the history of World War II for kids in upper elementary, middle school, and perhaps high school. Much of the content is taken from the perspective of someone in that age range, and there are certainly many possible discussion topics. The poetry is an interesting element, although admittedly not really my personal cup of tea.

Boris’s thoughts: “Short and sweet and lighter than your hardcovers. 4 paws.”

Norse Mythology

Date Read: February 14, 2018 to February 28, 2018img_5787

Rating: 4 (of 5) stars

This book came out with near perfect timing for me. In late 2017, a couple of friends asked me if I was interested in going on a trip with them in the summer… to Iceland. That was a quick yes for me. Not long after committing to the trip, I decided that I would need to brush up on some Norse Mythology– this mythology is still a big part of the culture of Iceland today, and I felt it only appropriate that I should have at least a basic knowledge of the subject. Fast forward just a bit to holiday shopping at various local bookstores, and I came across this take on the mythology written by Neil Gaiman. Perfect! While I am not super well versed in Gaiman’s work, I have read several of his books and have quite enjoyed them.

I have always been interested in mythology, folktales, fairy tales, and legends. That being said, I sometimes have a hard time reading them. While I enjoy them, they do not always turn out to be the quick reads that I want them to be. This book worked out very well for me. While I realize this is nowhere near a comprehensive collection of Norse tales, I liked how Gaiman selected stories that could be fit together into a narrative arc. I did not need to cross reference stories and jump back and forth as I read, because the chronology was there. From what I can tell, he has stayed true to the narrative of each tale, with minimal additions. I suppose this is both a positive and negative. I can see why those more familiar with these tales would be disappointed in this book, but for me and my purpose in reading, it worked. I finished with a feeling that I have a basic knowledge of Norse Mythology, and did not spend months agonizing over a lengthy textbook-ish rendition to do so. From what I know about the geography of Iceland, so much of the creation and destruction myths seem to fit so well. I am looking forward to seeing this in person, and feel like reading this ahead of time has given me an opportunity for a greater appreciation of my destination.

As a final thought, I would like to share my reasoning in the timing of this post. While I read this book back in February, and wrote the majority of this review shortly after, I felt it fitting to wait until closer to my trip to post. I leave tonight! I am super excited for this trip, and my first major international travel in more than 10 years! As I will be gone for close to 2 weeks, I will not be posting another book review until I am back. I have a long flight ahead of me though, so I will have plenty of reading material to get me through.

Boris’s thoughts: “Book is a little heavy, but human seemed pleased while reading. 3 pa– Wait? You’re leaving? Stop! No! 1 paw! 1 paw!!”

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

img_6152Oh, the Pigeon. I totally understand why people do not like the Pigeon. He is loud. He is obnoxious. He is persistent. He is whiny. He is annoying. But oh, I must admit, I kind of love the Pigeon. This one is not actually my favorite of the Pigeon books, but I thought it would be the most appropriate for a review, as it is the original. As usual though, most of what I have to say about this can be applied to the other books in the series as well. (I think my favorite is probably The Pigeon Needs a Bath, or perhaps, Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late.)

I love the set up of this book. It’s somewhere between a picture book and a comic book. The story is shown through pictures and dialogue. What I find most interesting is that the dialogue is one sided– the Pigeon is talking directly to the reader. Imploring, begging, the reader to just, please, LET ME DRIVE THE BUS! I think this gives the (adult) reader options. This could be read as a monologue, or an interactive read aloud with children. Sure, there is not much variation in the children’s response to the Pigeon, but I think this makes it great for younger kids. (And certainly allows for the possibility of some fun!) This could also be a great choice for early readers, or for older children to read with younger. The illustrations are very simple, but are still able to portray the action of the pigeon in his plight to drive the bus.

You may notice that Boris is not alone in his picture with this book. A friend of mine told me that the Pigeon reminds me of her. At first I wondered if I should be offended, but she assured me, that it’s not that I am actually like him, but that he seems like “my kind of character.” Well, I suppose I do have to agree with that. For my birthday a few years ago, she gifted me a Pigeon. But not just a Pigeon, a TALKING Pigeon.

In the true spirit of the whiny, obnoxious, persistent Pigeon, he is only able to say one thing: LET ME DRIVE THE BUS. He generally hangs out in my office at work, where he is a big hit. A warning to parents though: he’s awfully cute, but you definitely don’t want your child walking around with a noise making toy that can only say one thing. Boris was not a huge fan. Our little photo shoot was a bit of a struggle, and I’m still not sure if he was annoyed or afraid of the Pigeon.

Boris’s thoughts: “If you put that thing near me again, I will destroy it……..which might be fun. 3 paws.”

Politically Correct Ultimate Storybook

Date Read: January 17 to 18, 2016img_6291

Rating: 2 (of 5) stars

This book was a gift. Admittedly, one that I likely would not have picked out myself. Nonetheless, I had some high hopes for it. I like fairy tales and those sorts of stories, and thought that the “politically correct” twist on it had the potential for hilarity. I was sadly disappointed.

By no means do I want to imply that there were not some good moments. There were some stories that made me laugh. I especially loved Sleeping Beauty (or, of course, The Sleeping Person of Better Than Average Attractiveness) being cursed to have unrealistic expectations of her future relationships. Honestly though, I thought that some of the story titles were funnier than the stories themselves. I feel like there was some good potential here, it just fell short for me.

I realize that part of the point of this book was to “go overboard” on political correctness. Or, at least, I think that was the point. I just felt that much of it just ended up being dumb, not funny. I also think that much of it really had nothing to do with political correctness. The best examples for this come from the selection of Holiday stories. Santa portrayed in a villainous way for being overweight? What’s politically correct about that? If politically correct was the goal, than I would think coming up with neutral seeming language would have been more appropriate. Then, there is the faux pas of the party host, who raises a holiday toast with his guests– forgetting that he has served eggnog, and one of his guests is vegan. The error is, of course, corrected. Again, where is the political correctness here? Having an alternative for a vegan friend is not “being PC,” its just being considerate.

Boris’s thoughts: “You didn’t like this one? You like everything. 1 paw.”