Monday, June 24, 2013
Appetizer: In the companion to A Tale Dark & Grimm, Gidwitz weaves more fairytales together as cousins Jack and Jill (and a talking frog!) weave their way through and among elements from classic folktales like the Emperor's (or in this case, the princess's--new clothes, Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack the Giant Killer, and other tales.
As I read, I found myself thinking back more fondly upon A Tale Dark & Grimm, which seemed a little more intricate with slightly higher quality writing.
Don't get me wrong, the writing quality of In a glass Grimmly is still very good...it just felt, I don't know, rushed or a little less revised. The voice of the narrator also felt as though it wasn't adding as much to the text as it did in A Tale Dark & Grimm. On the plus side, this novel included more references to familiar folktales and rhymes, making it easier for the reader to make connections to the classic tales. There was also a lot of humor and clever trickery.
As the narrator threatens, there are some uncomfortable moments in the book. In the adaptation of the princess who wears such fine silk that it can't be seen (AKA she's naked!), I found the fact that the man designing her invisible dress, who looked at her with "heat and danger," to be more than a little unnerving.
Overall, a fun and enjoyable read.
"Once upon a time, there was a kingdom called Marchen, which sat just next to the modern countries of England, Denmark, and Germany." (p. 5)
"At this point, I ought to make something clear. There are three versions of this story:
There is the kiddie version, where they kiss. Obviously false.
There is the Grimm version, where she throws him against the wall, and then they get married. Which is, if you ask me, even more ridiculous than the kiddie version.
And then there is the true version. What actually happened." (p. 20)
"But you're right. As far as fairy tales go, it wasn't very horrible.
Things get worse." (p. 23
"Once upon a time there was a little girl who had the most wonderful mother you could possibly imagine.
Go ahead. Try to imagine the most wonderful mother you can.
All right. Not good enough. Not even close." (p. 27)
"Now, at this point, perhaps you think you know this story. And I'm sure you've heard some version of it, mangled and strangled and made almost sweet by years and years of telling it to little children.
But the way you know it is not the way it happened.
The real way is...different." (p. 37)
"Yet another time, the boy invented a song. It went, "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick." Because the boy's name was Jack. Then he actually tried to jump over a candlestick. He knocked it over. The house burned down. Completely.
As the years went by, Jack remained a dreamer. But he became something else, too. He became a follower." (p. 57)
"Once upon a time, there was a beanstalk.
It started as a tiny shoot, peering up from the black soil where the bean had been planted, tender and green in the bright moonlight. Next it was a plant, small but sturdy. Then it was the size of a young tree.
All in a matter of seconds.
Soon, the beanstalk was as thick and as tall as an oak. And still it grew and grew and grew. Thick branches began to shoot out from its trunk, over every few feet, twisting upward around the great green stalk.
A little boy named Jack looked at a little girl named Jill.
"Don't do it,: warned a three-legged from named Frog. 'Don't even think about it.'" (p. 79)
Tasty Rating: !!!
On a personal note, I'll be leaving the country for several weeks. I don't know to what extent I'll be able to read for fun or update. So, chances are good, if I'm in a position to update, it'll be a personal post.
Have a wonderful summer!
Thursday, June 6, 2013
Appetizer: After the traumas she experienced at the end of The Name of the Star, Louisiana native, Rory, is recovering in Bristol and seeing a shrink several times each week. She wants nothing more than to return to Wexford, her school in London, return to her kinda-sorta boyfriend, Jerome, and return to the secret government organization that hunts troublesome ghosts and that demanded her silence before disappearing. But, Rory has to get into contact with that organization after confirming her dangerous new ability--the ability to destroy any ghost with a single touch. Even after she gets her wish and returns to Wexford, adapting to her old routine will be far from easy, especially with new ghostly murders occurring and final exams for the winter semester approaching.
With many touches of humor and insights into London, The Madness Underneath is certainly an enjoyable read. I got into just as easily as I did the first book and had a "welcome back" feeling. I had flashbacks to my own time in London and was left wishing I could be there now. Yayz! I love a book that can do that.
There were aspects of The Madness Underneath that I did find disappointing though. Mainly, I had an issue with this book's villain. From the very first descriptions of the character, I knew this person was up to no good (and I believe, ideally, the reader wasn't supposed to be completely clued in to that fact). Being a book and movie nerd, I often do suspect evil-doing characters long before they're revealed, but this villain was still a little too obvious, even for those usual suspicions. So, with each conversation with this character and especially when Rory eventually makes choices that involve taking this villain's advice, the "No! Don't open that door!" or the "He's right behind you holding the knife. Turn around, you idiot!" feeling wasn't satisfying or empathetic. It was more of a "You're an idiot. You will regret this. Such an idiot. I told you so, idiot." moment. Not quite on the level of throwing the book through a closed window a la Silver Linings Playbook, but close.
I missed some of the themes and issues that were in the first book, like the emphasis on seeing and being seen. Although, the discussions of recovering from trauma and seeking empowerment were a nice touch. I think Johnson did a wonderful job of presenting how Rory was dealing with this. I also liked the attitude Rory eventually had towards her relationship with Jerome. I was still left expecting and wanting a little bit more.
"Back at Wexford, where I went to school before all of this happened to me, they made me play hockey every day. I had no idea how to play hockey,, so they covered me in padding and made me stand in the goal. From the goal, I could watch my fellow players run around with sticks. Occasionally they'd whack a small, very hard ball in my direction. I would dive out of the way, every time. Apparently, avoiding the ball isn't the point of hockey, and Claudia would scream, "No, Aurora, no!" from the sidelines, but I didn't care. I take my best lessons from nature and nature says, "When something flies at your head--move."
I didn't think hockey had trained me for anything in life until I went to therapy." (p.9)
"I'd tried to make a new friend, and I had blown him up.
I'd been told to keep quiet, and I had. But it wasn't going to work anymore. I needed, Stephen, Callum, and Boo again. I needed them to know what was going on with me. I had bade a few efforts to find them in the last week. Nothing serious--I'd just tried to find profiles on social networking sites. No matches. This much I expected.
Today I was going to try a bit harder." (p. 28)
"'In my opinion, I feel...very strongly...that Rory should be returned to Wexford.'
I seriously almost fell off the sofa.
"I'm sorry?" my mother said. "You think she should go back?"
"I realize what I'm saying may run counter to all your instincts," Julia said, "But let me explain. When someone survives a violent assault, a measure of control is taken away. In therapy, we aim to give victims back their sense of control over their own lives. Rory's been removed from her school, taken away from her friends, taken out of her routine, out of her academic life. I believe she needs to return. Her life belongs to her, and we can't let her attacker take that away." (p. 34)
"So you are the only terminus. Then I saw what happened to you...I needed to show Thorpe that there was one terminus left. I also needed a good reason to bring you back. I was never comfortable with you being sent away like that, on your own, with no support. This solved both problems. We'll be allowed to keep going for a while now that he's seen." (p. 65)
"The room and I had been broken, and we had a similarly shaped reminder of what had happened to us. And if the Ripper came back, which he wouldn't, I would blast him into a giant ball of white light and smoke. One brush of my hand, and that was all it would take. I was empowered, literally. That's what I had to remember. I was bigger and badder than any ghost that crossed my path. That hadn't occurred to me before. They needed to fear me. I'd never been fearsome before." (p. 87)
"I just wanted to go back to bed and wake up when I was twenty-five." (p. 197)
Tasty Rating: !!!
Monday, June 3, 2013
Appetizer: Lulu is back after her adventures with a dinosaur. This time she wants money for something that not even her eager-to-please parents can provide. So, she'll have to earn and save the money herself.
As the title reveals--a point the narrator also points out--she decides on dog walking; walking three dogs to be precise. Things do not exactly run smoothly for strong-willed Lulu, and whether she wants his help or not, the perfect Fleischman is going to insist on helping her.
Lulu Walks the Dogs is an amusing early chapter book with a lot of humorous moments and illustrations (I'm seriously thinking about making a collage of some of Lane Smith's pictures from this series). There is good use of repetition, varying font sizes, narrator interruptions, and emotions that young readers will relate to. Having typed that though, I didn't find that this book tickled me as much as Lulu and the Brontosaurus did. Perhaps it was because the first book was a little more fantastic or because I approached this one knowing what to expect.
There are still a lot of great take-aways from Lulu Walks the Dogs though. I like how Lulu's goal (the one she's saving all her money for) is so lofty and that she struggles to save her money (a brief mini-lesson on the importance of saving money from a young age, anyone?). I won't reveal what it is, since this is a secret throughout most of the book.
I also like the way Lulu gradually learns to care for the dogs. After seeing how Fleischman handles the three "savage" beasts, Lulu's approach to do the same is to buy the cheapest toys/treats possible. This struck me as being something very true to what an actual new dog walker with Lulu's disposition would do.
The heart of this story is the developing friendship between Lulu and Fleischman. From what I remember of second and third (and fourth, and fifth, and sixth...) grades, dealing with the frustrations and quirks of a potential friend was a central part of my daily drama. Reading about Fleischman and Lulu's disagreements and steps to slowly become friends was giving me flashbacks. Eventually, while both characters try to make compromises and help each other, I like that neither one attempts to change who they are. After all, Lulu would never want to be boring.
"Lulu--remember Lulu?--used to always be a big pain, till she met Mr. B, a lovely brontosaurus. Now she is just a sometimes pain, and not nearly as rude as before. But unless what she wants is utterly, totally, absolutely, and no-way-Jose impossible, she's still a girl who wants what she wants when she wants it.
So, what is it, exactly, that our Lulu wants? Right now I'm just saying it costs a lot of money. Furthermore, he mom and her dad, who give her almost everything she asks for, said to her--with many sighs and sorries--that they couldn't afford to buy it for her and that she would HAVE TO EARN THE MONEY TO GET IT." (p. 3)
"Lulu went home and thought and thought, and then she thought some more, trying to figure out what her jobs should be. But since the name of this story I'm telling is Lulu Walks the Dogs, you already know, of course, what she decided." (p. 15)
"On Sunday, Lulu met three different dogs at three different houses, all in Lulu's neighborhood. Her mom went with her to every house, waiting outside on the sidewalk00just as she always did on Halloween--in case the people inside were witches or ogres. None of them were." (p. 23)
"Jimmy, Johnny, Joseph, Jake. How much money will I make? Laurie, Lucy, Lynne, LaVerne. How much money will I earn? Money! Money! Money! Money! Money!" (pp. 32-33)
Tasty Rating: !!!