The story about a chubby 5th grade boy who is grappling with being the unathletic one in the class is told with a very light and gentle touch: he’s never so troubled by it to be sad, his best friends (who are all fast runners) are all supportive, his teachers do not put him down, even when they try to help him build up his stamina. And his relationship with his parents is loving, albeit full of little conflicts due to his very active mind that is constantly wondering about the world around him and coming up with out-of-the-box ideas.
This is the first of the Rainbow Crow set of high quality contemporary children’s books from China (by the 21st Century publishing company) that I have read and I am definitely impressed: by the author’s understanding of young people’s mindset, by the excellence of the production/design value, and by the publisher’s insistence of offering current stories by Chinese authors to young readers.
Colorful Ravens* “Original Stories in Chinese”* series of 20 titles were published in 2012. I obtained four copies and will report on all of them as soon as I finish each. To read the bilingual plot summary that I made for this book please head over to the Goodreads page.
*My translations for the series names were different from the publisher’s. Corrected on 8/18/2015.
Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman,
illustrated by Scottie Young
A fun and funny romp into the land of wild imagination with a warm, Where the Wild Things Are ending. The father-children relationship is full of heart, too. I can see it being read aloud in many classrooms as a way to insert entertaining moments during a stressful day.
One of the most delightful books I’ve encountered!
So much of it is sparkling, like gems — the humor, the humanity, the friendship, and even the heartaches. And there’s a special twinkle of absurdity: the squirrel poet, the hysterical blindness, the kind but weird neighbor with the “living” painting, etc.
Read this two years ago but never got to put the book note up and so much of the book is still vivid in my mind. Indeed a great Newbery choice!
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
I never watched the entire Fight Club movie — only bits and pieces. Now I have to find time to watch the movie in its entirety to see how they managed to adapt this superb novel into its very successful screen counterpart. Granted, I probably do not wish to see all the gruesome and gross scenes literally translated for film, although those are the scenes that definitely appealed to my reading self. Whether it’s intended by the author or conjured up by my own protective mechanism, the over-the-top crazy schemes and bloody messes always seem to take on a humorous tone — sometimes light and oftentimes really dark, but always laugh-out-loud hilarious. I can see re-reading it in a few years just to trace the narrator’s slow unraveling and downfall and see all the telltale signs of the final reveal along the path. Can’t help but giving it a five star, highly recommended rating!
by Andrew Smith
Genre(s): Sci-Fi, Horror
Basic Content Information: 17-year-old Austin from Iowa, our time, records the “history” of The End of the World when he and his best buddy Robbie Bree set off a chain of events that lead to the invasion of 6-foot-tall, hungry and horny, indestructible genetically engineered praying mantises that ravage and take over the human world. The narrative is full of crude words and thoughts. Austin is continuously horny, many of the characters are presented through the lens of their sexual behaviors, the descriptions of events are blunt and without the sense of bashfulness. Austin is also in love with both his girlfriend Shannon and his best friend Robbie, who is openly gay. There is much tenderness between Robbie and Austin. There is much confusion and resentment but also acceptance and understanding amongst the main teen characters. There is a lot of outlandish sci-fi elements that harken to the 50s horror B-Movies and the tone and Smith’s stylistic choices might remind readers of Kurt Vonnegut’s writing. Most used words in the book: horny, semen, blood, fuck, eat, hungry, penis, and history — much discussion about how history gets to the truth and how it does not.
Edition: Paper Galley
Pub Date: February, 2014
(I’m only recording the bare bone facts about the Young Adult Fiction titles I read in 2014 — Serving on the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee means that I need to be quite cautious in expressing opinions on social media. The safest way is to not express specific reactions publicly. But I’d like to keep reporting the titles I encounter throughout the year. You can always follow the link to Goodreads to see other readers’ reviews.)
Click here for: Goodreads summary and other people’s reviews.
by David Sedaris, read by the author
Finished listening to Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk… here are my thoughts: I was really smitten with this audio production and the stories at the beginning — Sedaris is definitely hugely talented and oh so so very clever. And the excellent reader/actors (David Sedaris, Dylan Baker, Elaine Stritch and Sian Phillips!) definitely enhance the listening experience. However, half way through, I realized that Sedaris’ life view is just too bleak and his humor too mean-spirited for me at this time of my life. I almost cringed at the thought of listening to the next grotesque and undoubtedly bleak tale… … but I went on and finished the book — and enjoyed The Grieving Owl (toward the very end of the book). Looking back, that might have been the only story that I could say that I truly enjoyed (about 95% of the tale… the ending wasn’t pretty and I didn’t much love it). I almost wish that I had not encountered some of the denizens in this story collection or witnessed that much ignorance, vanity, pride, and all kinds of unattractive human traits, even when the author’s intention is to belittle and make fun of these traits. Now, I cannot unread or un-know these stories. Shucks!
by Adam Gidwitz
I waited for a while to read this one. Was somewhat apprehensive. When one becomes friendly and very fond of an author, one sometimes also becomes worried. What if… What if the book isn’t as good as you’d hoped? As good as you believe that particular author could have made it? What it…
So, I didn’t read the galley. I did attend an overwhelmingly successful event at Book Court in Brooklyn with Adam entertaining a host of young readers and their parents. And then, finally, after I started seeing my students toting around this third volume and hearing that they really really enjoyed it (one of them read it more than twice in the week of its publication) I braced myself and delved into it!
What a treat! I couldn’t put the book down. Adam not only featured some of MY favorite Grimm tales, he even used one of my favorite STORY TIME staple (Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock!) And not only Adam continues with the intrusive and flippant (but often kind and comforting) storyteller/narrator, he brings this narrator INTO the story (or, rather, brings the protagonists OUT of the story and into current day Brooklyn.) I was worried when I knew that there is a metafiction element of the tale that it would have seemed trite or forced — but Adam did it in a natural and fluid way that really works. The story as a whole seems a bit darker than the first two, but it is to my liking. And as in so many stories for children (and adults) the power of storytelling is celebrated at the end!
Same as in the first two books, there are definitely some very sticky moral dilemmas that the two kids have to face and conquer. I am happy to report that the messages do not get in the way of the enjoyment of the tales. And I suspect that these important “lessons” are being absorbed and are strengthening child readers everywhere as I type!
Finally, the new “Kingdom of Children” that the narrator refers to in the end of this book is an apt metaphor for the realm of imagination, for stories and books, and especially for the Grimm trilogy, where children venture in to “run, to play… to tell their tales and face their fears and let whatever is inside out.”