Friday, October 31, 2008

Poetry Friday

Today I bring you snippets from a poem written by Shakespeare Shapiro, the hilarious main character of

Spanking Shakespeare Jake Wizner

Milton himself was a mischievous louse
Whose favorite hobby was to egg Shakespeare's house.
And with whom did Milton engage in this fun?
Sometimes Ben Johnson, sometimes John Donne.


I don't know much philosophy, but I know that Descartes
Was renowned in his day for the way he could far.
But even Descartes was not nearly as smelly
As that malodorous scoundrel Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Maybe NOT the best way to woo your literary dream girl.

It's Senior Year. Shakespeare Shapiro has never had a girlfriend, has a best friend obsessed with bowel movements, and has to write a memoir for English class. Following him through the standard trials of trying to get the girl and the college, this is hilarious. Shakespeare's voice, both in his narration and in the bits of his memoir we see, never sees his own faults but will still make you laugh out loud.

This is one of those books where it's hard to write about how good it is, but seriously. Funny. Good funny. Read it now funny.

Poetry for Children has the roundup.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Humpty Dumpty, Jr.: Hardboiled Detective

Holy Cow! Did you see this post about Holly Black's hidden library? Don't you want one?!

Also, did you see Sherman Alexie on Colbert last night? (Interview starts at the 2nd black mark in the time bar, around 15:50). Hilarious!

Also, I am like, a month behind on blog reading. I keep trying to catch up and then y'all keep posting and I fall further behind. I feel out of the loop.

Um, and you should know my dog is the bestest dog ever. (Sorry, she's sitting next to me on the couch, looking unbelievably adorable. I needed to share because she's making puppy dog eyes at me, the ones that say "Mommy, stop blogging. Scratch my ears!")

But, blog on I shall.

The Case of the Fiendish Flapjack Flop Nate Evans, Paul Hindman, and Vince Evans

In the first of the Humpty Dumpty Jr. series, our egg is on the case when Patty of Patty Cake bakery goes missing, with quite a struggle. He has unwanted help in the form of a street urchin named Rat. Plus, the notorious villain Johnny Cakes has escaped from jail. He may not get along with the boys in blue downtown, but Humpty is on the Case.

Excellent illustrations that add much to the book (including a random Harry Potter reference.) Overall, this is a book for kids, not for kids and adults. Full of bad puns, references to noir cliches, and nursery rhyme and book characters, this is a fun series that the kids, especially the boys, will enjoy.

The Mystery of Merlin and the Gruesome Ghost Nate Evans, Paul Hindman, and Vince Evans

Rat has to go to school, which isn't something he's ok with. But, when he finds out there's a wizard school that's being haunted, he might be ok with that. Humpty is posing as the janitor while Merlin keeps denying the ghosts exsistence. Lots of references with King Arthur.

If you liked the first, you'll like this. I won't say they're high literature or going to win any awards but they're super fun. I probably wouldn't recommend it to adult fans of kidlit BUT if you have a 3rd-4th grade boy looking for some fun books, here's your series. I know several kids at the library who will like this. (I'm thinking the same kids who like Wiley and Grampa's Creature Features will eat this up.)

Full Disclosure: both titles provided by publisher

Monday, October 27, 2008


Argh. My car has been totaled. Now it's just a headache of paperwork as we get the insurance sorted and have to buy a new car.

BUT! The election is only 8 days away! YAY! And, in getting ready, make sure you participate in Chasing Ray's Blog the Vote! My entry will feature a distinguished gentleman standing on a table, room service, death-defying election parties, an ex-boyfriend with an adorable accent, and my odd Chinese vocabulary. Look forward to it.

So, is Rumpelstiltskin the new, hot fairy tale? Often overlooked, this summer saw TWO brand-new young adult retellings. Despite using the same source material, these books are very different from one another. To the point where I feel it's weird to compare the two, even though one would think that would be a no-brainer!

A Curse Dark as Gold Elizabeth C. Bunce

After their father dies, Charlotte Miller and her sister Rosie are alone in the world, and the last of the Miller line. Stirwaters Mill has always been owned by a Miller, and always been slightly cursed. Not that Charlotte believes in such things, but if she's going to keep the mill going and the townspeople who depend on it together, she better start believing, because there are some things logic doesn't explain away.

Charlotte can fight the external forces trying to end her mill all see wants, but there is still a run of bad luck that can't be helped. Then there is the odd little man who comes and can spin straw into golden thread and can fix ruined cloth, but his prices are getting too high to pay.

Rooted in English lore and set at the start of the Industrial Revolution, Charlotte's fight to hold her world together all by herself sucks the reader in and doesn't let go. You know the mill and the cottage system that maintains the village is eventually doomed, but you can't help not root for her as she tries to keep it alive just a little longer.

The Crimson Thread Suzanne Weyn

New York, 1880, and Bridget's family is fresh off the boat from Ireland. Eventually, her father lands a job as a carriage man in a rich man's household. He then boasts that his daughter is the best seamstress this side of the Atlantic and gets her a job. Bertie's skills aren't that great, but she learns quickly, and when push comes to shove the mysterious scoundrel Ray Stalls is there to help her out, until it all falls apart.

With the exception of the fact that Bridget is supposedly descended from Irish faerie queens, this is a fairy tale without magic, which I really liked and I wonder why Weyn included the faerie queen bit. Well, I guess I liked the concept, but the Irish thing felt stereotypical (although her father didn't drink) and the ending felt rushed. However, I did like this title, although it's not my favorite in the Once Upon a Time series or my favorite of Weyn's.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Return of Judy Blume and The Pain and the Great One

The Pain and the Great One are back, this time in lower middle grade novels. Alternating chapters illustrate the love/hate/annoy the heck out of each other of an older sister/younger brother relationship. Just like the original picture book, these new installments are funny and real all at once. But, in these, the cat always gets the last word.

Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One Judy Blume

This first chapter book features stories about hair cuts, soccer, birthday parties, dog-sitting, and others.

Cool Zone with the Pain and the Great One Judy Blume

The next one features such things as bullies, crushes, pets, and names. This is my favorite of the three.

Going, Going, Gone! with the Pain and the Great One Judy Blume

Here we visit the grandparents, have fun in the ocean, see an alligator, go to the fair, shove a pussy willow up our nose, and get lost in the mall. Another great one!

It's great to have Blume writing children's books again. Fans of her younger work will want to check these out. Look out for Friend or Fiend? with the Pain and the Great One in May!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hanging out in your blindspot

You know, today started off great. I finished the book I'm about to review. I went to the grocery store and the bank. I got ready for work and I was looking alright and my hair, for once, wasn't being weird...

And then, on the way to work, a dump truck merged into me on the highway. I am ok, but my car is pretty messed up. Messed up to the point where we have a rental car. A rental car with NO CD PLAYER. So I'm stuck with no CD player during NPR pledge week. Really, facing down a week of Diane Reihm telling me about how awesome the WAMU travel mug is, that's the worst part of this whole thing.

ANYWAY! The book I finished reading and want to tell you about!

Are y'all gearing up for National Novel Writing Month? (aka NaNoWriMo, or just NaNo) Have you even heard of NaNo?

Basic premise is that the biggest barrier to writing your novel is spitting out that first draft, and given that all first drafts are shit anyway, it's just about getting it out. So, in November, tens of thousands of people try to write a 50,000 word book. In one month.

It's pretty intense and pretty fun. I have yet to "win" (I usually peter out around 20-25,000) but it is lots and lots of fun.

And, if you're reading to belly up to the challenge this year, you first must read

No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days Chris Baty

Baty is the founder and head of NaNo and this book is less a "how to write a really good book" type book and more of a "how to write 50,000 words in one month book."

You don't *have* to read this if you want to NaNo, but I think you should. (It's chock full of stuff I wish I had known the other years I participated.)

The first half of the book explains the premise and ways to succeed. The second half has a chapter for every week with pep talks, ideas, and common stumbling blocks for that week. It's silly and irreverent, much like the NaNo experience itself.

NaNo is a lot of fun, and I know a lot of teachers actually have their entire class participate. I highly recommend it, and if you're thinking about it, be sure to check out this book to pump you up and help you out.

Is it November yet? I'm ready to go!!!

Nonfiction Monday Round up at Picture Book of the Day.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Big Bowl of Ketchup

Oiy, life. Anyway, I'm crossing things off the To-Do list--the one in my day planner and the one in my head.

So, I did the Banned Books give-away drawing tonight and emailed the winners--there were 5! So, if you entered, check your inbox.

Also, some books I reviewed finally came out, so you can now go grab your very own copy of Hip Hop Speaks to Children (review here) Vibes (review here), and Paper Towns (review here). Go check 'em out.

AND! Last spring, I tried to read all of the Fusion Stories, but not all of them were out yet, so here are the reviews of the two I missed!

Minn and Jake's Almost Terrible Summer Janet S. Wong

In this verse-novel sequel to Minn and Jake, Jake has gone back to LA for the summer. Jake thought it would be fun to go back to LA, but his grandmother keeps stuffing him full of food (but not the kind he likes) and Soup keeps waking him up at 6am. Not only that, but his friends have all moved on and and don't have time to hang out with him.

Then Minn comes down to LA, despite the fact Jake hasn't written back once all summer. Sadly, things don't go well. Minn's upset that Jake never told her his grandmother is Korean. Jake's upset that he cares. Then, when Minn and Jake run into cute Haylee at Disneyland and Jake totally ignores Minn, things get really bad.

An excellent look at friendship, going home again, and trying to navigate the whole boy/girl dynamic. I liked it even better than the first one.

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before David Yoo

Albert Kim is an intentional loser--in a life where was always on the fringe and never really fit in, he decided it was just easier to stop trying. No one can reject you if you don't make advances towards friendship in the first place. But then, he ends up spending the summer working with Mia, 1/2 of the school's power couple. Only, Mia and Ryan have broken up and by the end of the summer, Albert and Mia are... something. Albert's days as an intentional loser are over, not that it's that easy, of course. To make matters worse, Ryan gets cancer and needs Mia by his side constantly. Can Albert hang on to her without making everyone in town kill him?

Part of the book are funny and Yoo writes an unbelievably authentic voice in Albert. Sadly, it was also one that really annoyed me. I knew Albert in high school--not my favorite person and I was never sure why Mia went for him. Part of me felt really sorry for him when things went wrong, but part of me just wanted him to shut up. I think teen boys, especially the lovable losers, will identify and like it.

Full disclosure: ARC provided by publisher, via Picnic Basket.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mmmm... fooooooooooood

I do love to eat. And cook. Mainly eat. This is a book about eating. And cooking. Mainly eating.

Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China Fuchsia Dunlop

In 1992, Dunlop went to study in Chengdu. There, she fell in looooooove with the food, especially Sichuan Pepper--that's the pink kind that kinda numbs your lips. After she finished her study, she decided to abandon the path that had been laid for her and follow her dreams. She enrolled in cooking school. In China.

Starting with her experiences as a foreigner in 1992, when there weren't that many foreign people in China, especially in the interior, and going up through today, this is a fascinating look at a changing culture.

More than that, this is a love letter to food. A justification and explanation of some of the odder Chinese eating habits--although not mentioned, Ducks Blood Soup, a Nanjing specialty comes to mind. Chairman Mao's favorite dish is discussed, and a recipe provided. It was braised pork fat. The sauce is really yummy, but it takes a different mindset to eat chunks of fat.

Still, man, I was HUNGRY when reading this. Luckily, she includes recipes at the end of every chapter (now, if I only knew of a good Chinese grocery by my house. Hmmmm.)

I love her descriptions of mouth-feel, different flavors, and the art of cutting (ooooo the art of cutting. I wish I had such knife skills). Also, the art of the wok. Seriously cool stuff.

My one complaint is the end. Dunlop gets burned out on China, which I certainly can understand. When it comes to food, she has some very valid complaints about how nasty the water is and the amount of hormones pumped into the meat and the pollution. (And this was published before we found out that there was melamine in the baby formula!) Also, the amount of endangered species that's get eaten. Her guilt over all of it is a little tiresome, especially when compared to the eager vibrancy of the earlier chapters. But... when she gets to the changing face of China, she seems to be longing for the quaint poverty of 15-20 years ago. We all mourn cities and communities we used to know and love. But, these things change. All over the world, they change. They change or they stagnate and die, it's how things work. The problem is that China's doing it on fast-forward. Dunlop doesn't seem to grasp this, or at least it doesn't come across in her writing.

There are a lot of concerns that I have with how fast China is modernizing, least of which is environmental, and also those getting left behind and pushed further down but, I have very little patience with people who want things to stay the same, especially when that thing is poverty. It's very imperialistic--they went to China looking for an exotic backwater and are pissed off when it stops being one sort of thing. Not that I'm saying Dunlop goes as far as all that. Now I'm just ranting.

Anyway, overall, I really liked this book. The second to last chapter just left a very bad taste in my mouth. One that is even worse than stinky tofu. But the rest of the book? Like a perfect bao zi steaming fresh and full of surprises. Or snake. Mmmmm... snake. Sweet and tender.

I got this one from the library, but I'm considering purchasing it because I do want those recipes...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Just Another Nonfiction Monday, ooo-wa-ooo

Ok, first off, why did I not know that the new Last Apprentice book, Wrath of the Bloodeye came out in AUGUST?

YOU HAVE TO TELL ME THESE THINGS PEOPLE!!! I found out because my boss and I were talking about new books (I'm in charge of displaying them and some other things with new non-picture books) and he's all "by the way, the new Last Apprentice finally came in, but I checked it out." Had I not been standing in a library, I might have screamed. And had I not been wearing a skirt, I might have writhed around in agony on the floor. Ok, not really, but... how did I not know? Ok, it was probably good that I didn't-- it saved me lots of agonizing over whether to wait until it came in or to just go buy the darn thing.

I'm getting a copy from another branch.

Also, banned books people, hold onto your hats. Internets have been super-spotty lately. Winners will be announced as soon as the cable guy comes and fixes the cable! And internets!

Anyway, it's nonfiction Monday, so here are some books for your reading pleasure!

Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume ed. Jennifer O'Connell

Basically, this is a series of essays by current chick-lit type authors, telling of the effect that Judy Blume's books had on them, both growing up and as an adult.

It was so fun to dip into these stories about how much girls took from such favorites of mine as Deenie, Blubber, Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself, and of course Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and Forever . . ..

The essays are thoughtful. Some are sad and some are funny, and many wish for books staring their beloved characters as grown-ups, so Margaret and Sally and Katherine, et al could continue to show us how to live, or at least reassure us that we're normal. (And there's a sentiment I echo--did these girls, who we saw so much of ourselves in, turn out the same way we did? What choices and experiences did they make and have to make them different?)

A great book for Judy fans, especially for those of us whom she had a huge impact on.

Also, I had totally forgotten about the Judy Blume diary, but a totally had one. It was a great diary.

Round up is at Picture Book of the Day!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Poetry Friday

The past two weeks have featured the following events:
High Holy Days
My 10th high school reunion (which was a totally worth it!)
One paper due last week, another one due next week
Being sick and possibly coming down with another sickness

Anyway, so I'm a little behind in my blogging. And email. And Google reader. But, I thought I'd get today's poem done first, and hopefully some reviews will come later in the day.

Fall, leaves, fall;
die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the autumn tree.

–Emily Brontë

Round up is at Picture Book of the Day!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Poetry Friday

This week's poem comes from the oft-banned A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein and this poem is one of the ones cited as giving children bad ideas:

How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes

If you have to dry the dishes
(Such an awful, boring chore)
If you have to dry the dishes
('Stead of going to the store)
If you have to dry the dishes
And you drop one on the floor--
Maybe they won't let you
Dry the dishes anymore.


Two Writing Teachers has the roundup!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Georgia On My Mind

Have you nominated your Cybils titles yet?

There's still time to enter my banned books give away! See the bottom for details!

Today's book hasn't been banned, but other books in the series have been sometimes because the title are too suggestive (On the Bright Side, I'm Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God) or for the baffling accusation of pornographic content (really Menasha WI? Really? Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging is porn? Really?)

Also, I got mock-yelled at today by a former co-worker of mine because he reads this blog (HI DAVID!) and even though he's a grown man, I got him hooked on this series, which I find both awesome and hysterical.

Stop in the Name of Pants! Louise Rennison

Georgia is once again on the rack of love. Masimo wants an answer, Robbie's back in town, and then there's always the Dave the Laugh factor.

I liked this book. Georgia has to deal with some real drama this time--drama she didn't create, and drama she can't control. This book actually made me cry, and not just because I was laughing too hard. Also, Wet Lindsay is back! Hurrah!

Many moons ago, for Weekly Geeks #12, Becky asked me the following questions:

Does it have Dave the Laugh?

Holy Cow, YES!!!!

And how much is he in it?!

A lot. Dave the Laugh fans will rejoice at his starring role in this one!

And how about this Georgia any closer to growing as a character? Or is it the same old, same old?

She does grow, but not a lot. So, she's still loveable shallow crazy Georgia, but in her reactions to these other outside-her-control things in her life, you see she's not the same girl we started reading about.

When it comes to the last page are we back where we started on page one? Georgia confused about boys once again!?

Yes and no. I mean, she's still confused, but things have changed.

I have some spoiler-y thoughts here.


To celebrate our right to read, I'm giving away banned books. All you have to do is check out the banned book lists on my sidebar and email me (kidsilkhaze at yahoo dot com) with your choice of book (if it's a series, you can choose any volume in the series). If you blog about the contest and email me the link, I'll give you an extra entry. Multiple winners will be selected. The contest ends on midnight on Sunday and is open world wide. GO READ!