Tag Archives: kids books

Rescue the Entire World

Published / by SarahE / Leave a Comment

disclaimer: I read this during and after election night, and I think this review could’ve been better, but my level of concentration while reading  was negligible. I regret it, because this was a really good book! I left the review, because it was an adequate recall of what the book’s about.

“Whoever destroys a single life is as guilty as though he had destroyed the entire world and whoever rescues a single life earns as much merit as though he had rescued the entire world.”

-Talmud

As I started to read this book I told a few third grade students at school that they might enjoy it. I told them about the Holy Dog, and the three kids who could do magic… But as I continued reading I started to wonder if my recommendation was premature. I don’t mean that this was a bad book; it was the subject matter that had me worried. I wasn’t sure if third graders could handle it, but then I reasoned they read Harry Potter, so what’s the difference between that and this? And then the election happened… Talk about throwing a big old existential crisis in my face…

Yes, this book deals with some hard truths (it was the inquisition): burning people alive, torture, religious persecution, parents dying, animals dying, and martyrdom. Hard truths from the Middle Ages, but could they be relevant today? The answer to that is a resounding: YES! Not so much the tactics, but religious intolerance, hate, murder… We can’t protect our kids from hard truths anymore (see: Sandy Hook). They need to understand this world. They cannot be brought up to believe that a man who haphazardly grabs women’s genital regions, mocks people with disabilities, and calls a group of people rapists is acting decently. Our country just sacrificed decency and morals to a pussy-grabbing demagogue, so this young and vulnerable generation is going to have to learn the hard truths now. No pussy (pun intended)- footing around. They need to know! They need to develop strong morals and empathy for the downtrodden. We need to foster in them a love for all things on this planet, and maybe then, if our generation doesn’t really fuck it up, we might have a glimmer of hope.

So yeah, I recommend this book to young children. They will like it, but make sure you read it with them and answer their questions.

Now what’s this book all about?

It’s about three different kids, their dog, and their journey.

It takes place in the Middle Ages (not to be called the Dark Ages!). The inquisition is happening. So it’s not a great time….

Jeanne is a peasant girl who has seizure- like fits that reveal the future to her.

It’s a miracle.

The Holy Dog is Jeanne’s. Gwenforte is a grey hound that Jeanne’s parents owned when she was a baby. The dog saved little Jeanne from an asp, but was killed by her parents due to a misunderstanding. Later, the parents find out that Gwenforte was actually a hero, and they make her grave a shrine.

Needless to say, many years later, Gwenforte rises from the dead (like Lazarus), and joins the children on their adventure. It’s a miracle.

William is next. He is a monk. He is a giant. He is the son of a French father and a Saracen(medieval term for Muslim) mother. In the monastery William is some-what protected from prejudice, but William is strong- willed, and speaks out against an older monk, which gets him expelled from the monastery.

William is as strong as an ox. It’s a miracle.

Jacob is young, small, and a Jew. Jewish people (imagine this…) are not treated very well in the Middle Ages. One night, young boys burn his village, and his mom and dad sacrifice themselves so Jacob can escape.

Jacob can heal anything with plants and herbs. It’s a miracle.

But miracles mean saints, and to be a saint you must be martyred, and martyrdom sucks! Especially when you’re ten.

There are consequences for performing miracles, and people fear the unknown. (see our current state of affairs)

Like the Bible, The Inquisitor’s Tale is told through witnesses (people the child- saints meet along their journey), and completed by a nun who happens to know things she shouldn’t.

There’s a farting dragon, book burning, daring deeds, a forest of human-like-monster “things”, a devilish monk, quicksand, an evil queen, and a ton of other preposterous stuff that makes this book a really great read.

My one caveat: the author, Adam Gidwitz, wrote a very quick story; he didn’t spare a word. We zip right along, and I will never complain about this kind of writing, but it was so “neat” that I felt like everything wrapped up way too nicely. Bad, bad things happened, and the ending was so sudden that I was left with a BUT on the tip of my tongue.

Also, for anyone who’s ever read Christopher Moore’s Lamb, you might find yourself seeing a few parallels!

Other reasons this book is worth it:

 

“Jeanne is thinking about something. AT last, she shares it. “William, you said that it takes a lifetime to make a book.”

“That’s right.”

“One book? A whole lifetime?”

“William nods. “A scribe might copy out a single book for years. An illuminator would then take it and work on it for longer still. Not to mention the tanner who made the parchment, and the bookbinder who stitched the book together, and the librarian who worked to get the book for the library and keep it safe from mold and thieves and clumsy monks with ink pots and dirty hands. And some books have authors, too, like Saint Augustine or Rabbi Yehuda. When you think about it, each book is a lot of lives. Dozens of dozens of them.”

“Dozens and dozens of lives,” Jeanne says. “And each life a whole world.”

“We saved five books,” says Jacob. “How many worlds is that?”

William smiles. “I don’t know. A lot. A whole lot.”

 

“Life is a song, composed and sung by God. We are but characters in His song.”

 

“Distinguishing the voice of God and the voices of those around us is no easy task. What makes you special, children, beyond your miracles, is that you hear God’s voice clearly, and when you hear it, you act upon it.”

 

I Will Name a Daughter Veruca (or not, because that’s a plantar’s wart)

Published / by SarahE / Leave a Comment

*Okay, quick update on naming a daughter Veruca… although here in the United States that seems like a really cool name, Veruca is another name for a plantar’s wart. Silly, silly Dahl. You might even get away with naming a daughter Veruca here in America, because seriously, who’s gonna know?

It’s been over a month since my niece and I finished Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’ve put it off, because how in the world do you review a beloved classic. What can I say? It was good. It was fabulous. Definitely a classic…

When we were reading Charlie, N had to have some kind of sweet, and at the time we had Girl Scout cookies, so forever this book will remind me of Thin Mint cookies.

Yeah, I’m not going to waste time with a synopsis. I’m not going to tell you how great this book was, because yuh probably already know! So I’m going to write another limerick in honor of Charlie, Willy Wonka, the Oompa Loompas, and my favorite… Veruca Salt (just say that… Veruca… it’s wonderful! If I ever have a daughter that’s totally going to be her name!). Here goes…

                                     1
Charlie, you got the Golden Ticket!

Wow kid, you know how to pick it!

You get to meet Willy-

Now don’t be too silly

Mr. Wonka is hard to outwit.

Ehhh, how about another-

                                     2

Veruca Salt, your name is the best,

But you didn’t pass Willy Wonka’s test,

Those squirrels got you,

But you lived! Phew!

Next time, try to be a better guest!

Okay, okay, one more…

                                    3
Oompa Loompas are midgets? No they’re not!

Movies you lie, and ruin the plot.

They’re just very small-

More the size of a Barbie Doll,

Mr. Dahl was right! Your movie was rot!

Bunnywunny

Published / by SarahE / Leave a Comment

I want to take a quick moment here to share something awesome that I just discovered (this is a 2 parter):

So, this is one of my favorite picture books:

and I just discovered, via a random tweet, these:

and this was my reaction,

because these books, I’ll admit, I looooove to read out loud, because I can use a British accent, and they’re so darn cute!

Okay, part two of my happy surprise today- The author of the Emily Brown books is also the writer of these:

Nuff said? Thanks internet.

 

March Reading Madness

Published / by SarahE / Leave a Comment

Okay I’ve been on a reading spree, and have neglected writing about a single thing I’ve read, so here’s my massive end of holiday reading recap:

First,

Blacksad & The Isle of 100,000 Graves

Isles of 100,000 Graves is beyond anything that I have ever read. It is soooo strange, but in a good way. I liked it. A girl goes looking for her missing father and stumbles upon a school for hangmen, hence the 100,000 graves. The hangmen candidates put treasure maps that lead to the island in bottles and throw them in the ocean, which lures all kinds of ships to the island, so the hangmen students can practice their torturing and killing techniques. That’s where our heroine tracks down her father. Simple drawings, good story.

Blacksad has wonderful drawings. Blacksad is a cat P.I., but he’s not really a cat, he’s a human, but looks like a cat. Everyone else is also a type of animal. Like, the police are dogs, and there’s a bad guy frog, but they’re not frogs and dogs; they’re humans, essentially. It’s a great read, very reminiscent of the old hardboiled noir type mystery novels, i.e. Raymond Chandler. Just imagine Philip Marlowe as a cat…

Now,

Baba Yaga’s Assistant

By: Marika McCoola

Illustrated By: Emily Carroll

Baba Yaga is a witch from Russian fairytales. No one is really sure if she’s a good witch, or bad.. well, maybe people know, but I don’t know! Her role in fairytales is rather ambiguous, but in this graphic novel ‘ole Baba Yaga came off rather well. For a lot of people, Baba Yaga may be unknown. So here’s a picture:

and here’s a description: old, ugly, really long nose, rides around in a mortar with pestle, her house has chicken legs, and she eats children. In this story Masha’s mother and grandmother have died. Now she is left with only her father and new stepmother and stepsister. She feels misunderstood by her father, and her stepsister is awful and angry, so Masha runs away to find Baba Yaga and become her assistant. Baba Yaga is not an easy witch though, and makes Masha perform a series of tasks to prove she’s worthy. It’s a really solid YA graphic novel.

Sisters and Drama

By: Raina Telgemeier

I’m late to the game on this author. I’ve had her books on my to- read shelf for a while, but I’m not big on the whole YA genre, so I wasn’t in a big hurry to read them. Thank God there was little to no romance. Why, oh why, do people, and when I say people I really mean adults, enjoy YA romance? Anyway, Drama was all about theater design, art and identity, and Sisters was a refreshingly simple memoir about growing up with a sibling you don’t really get along with. I loved both novels, and read them in one sitting.

Beetle Boy

by: M.G. Leonard

I challenge you to read this novel and not want one of these when you’re done:

I loved this book! It’s a middle grade reader, so the kids are 10 or 11-ish, which I love because they’re not old enough for the much loathed YA romance. The story moves fast, and you’ll learn a whole bunch of crazy things about beetles and how totally cool they are! Plus, this is the first book in a trilogy, which is really exciting! Oh yeah, and it’s a mystery with a  Cruella Deville type villain (only, she wants beetles, not Dalmatians), can it get much more awesome than that?

Here’s some more beetles to get you in the mood:

That’s it for now, ciao.

Hurricane Katrina for all ages

Published / by SarahE / Leave a Comment

Hurricane Katrina,

Drowned City

By: Don Brown

 

I was ashamed while reading Drowned City.

It’s a graphic novel for kids about Hurricane Katrina. In my humble opinion, it was very powerful, because I didn’t know…

I didn’t know about the convention center (isn’t that awful). I didn’t know about the toxic water. I didn’t know about people drowning in their attics. I didn’t know about the 5,000 children that went missing (later reunited with parents). I didn’t know about the animals that were separated from their desperate owners. I didn’t know about the hospitals losing generators, and people who shouldn’t have had to die, dying because there was no life support. I didn’t know, and I have never tried to know. Most of the people that died were elderly; people that didn’t want to leave their homes.

A lot of people died in their attics… can you imagine: water gushing into your home, you try to get as high as you can, but even up at the top of your house you find that you’ve just cornered yourself into a watery grave, and you slowly drown. One couple cut out a hole in their roof to escape. The elderly had no choice.

I did know about our shoddy government. I knew about FEMA. I knew about the gangs. I knew about President Bush flying over the city. I knew about the Mayor. I knew about the Super Dome. I knew about the looting.

What was more important though? After a tragedy the magnitude of Katrina, everyone starts yelling at one another. It’s you fault! No, it’s yours! Well, at this point who cares, just get your butts in there and help these people!

This was a really great graphic novel, and it’s published for kids! Kids should read it. It’s tough, but it’s important for the next generation to learn about these mistakes. To see the humanity in these disasters, and work to create a future where we do not have to worry about another Katrina.

I don’t know if this was supposed to be as powerful as I felt it was, but I had goose bumps reading this book. Maybe that was due to my ignorance of the whole situation in New Orleans, but I loved this book. Read it as soon as possible.

You knew more than me and crave more in depth “adult” books about Hurricane Katrina? Try these (they’re all fiction I’m afraid, but the nonfiction titles were unfamiliar so I was hesitant to include them):

Zeitoun– Dave Eggers

Salvage the Bones– Jesmyn Ward

The Tin Roof Blowdown– James Lee Burke