Friday, November 20, 2015

What did I do all quarter?

As usual, despite my optimistic plans to keep posting here once classes started, I instead disappeared for about ten weeks. Between class and work I didn't have much free time and when I did I was either trying (and usually failing) to keep my house somewhat in order or focusing on being as unproductive as possible. I didn't do a whole lot of pleasure reading during the quarter, but I did read about 75 children's books as an assignment for one of my library courses. Instead of reviewing all of these books, I've decided to share the highlights of my reading. So here are the best and worst, in my opinion, of what I read for my children's literature class.

Books I loved!

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! - by Mo Willems
I never got caught up in the popularity of these books when they were new, so I thought this class would be a great chance to meet the pigeon. I'm actually not a huge fan of picture books, since I don't currently read to kids and they don't make great reading for adults. The illustrations in this book are what really won me over - they're simple, but also adorable!

Stella by Starlight - by Sharon M. Draper
This book is a historical fiction novel about what it's like to be a young, black girl in the southern US during the 1930's. I actually read several books about similar topics, and this was definitely my favorite. The narration is very colloquial and we also see Stella working to overcoming her struggle with writing and spelling in the way the book is written. I like that this book is not overly optimistic about the reality of issues like the Ku Klux Klan, but doesn't feel dark and hopeless either.

Miss Hazeltine's Home for Shy and Fearful Cats - by Alicia Potter, illustrated by Birgitta Sif
This is another picture book that managed to intrigue me. While the illustrations are, again, adorable, the story line of this book really spoke to me. The plot is inspired by the author's own experience fostering feral cats and I love the message that love and patience can help these cats grow into confident individuals. If you're an animal lover or have fostered pets of your own, I would highly recommend this book.

Harry Potter - by J.K. Rowling
I hardly need to review these books again, but rereading the entire series over the course of my class reminded me of how much I love them. 

Human Body Theater - by Maris Wicks
I found this book when it came in as a new order at the library where I work. It's a graphic novel that goes over each system of the human body. The information is great, but the presentation is even better. Maris Wicks has managed to illustrate the insides of the human body in a way that makes just about everything seem cute. Each body system has its own "act" at the theater, all of which are introduced by our joke-making, skeleton host.

Books I hated!

Dark Day in the Deep Sea - by Mary Pope Osborne
This is one of the more recent books in the Magic Tree House series and I picked it up because I loved the series as a child. I was totally prepared to reminisce, when my dreams of nostalgia were ruined by the addition of a magic wand. While it may not seem like much, I loved reading about Jack and Annie because they are (or were...) two normal kids who had to rely on their own smarts, with some great books, to get out of trouble. Now they're battling sea monsters, who they realize aren't monstrous because of some weird telepathic communication, and fixing all of their problems with, literally, the wave of a wand.

Rain, Reign - by Ann M. Martin
After reading several other books that have autistic children as the protagonist (e.g., The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), our protagonist here, a young girl named Rose, reads like a stereotype. Martin drills into the reader's head that Rose is obsessed with homonyms. The rules of homonyms are the most important thing in the world! Except, the author can't follow the rules she lays down for her character. Supposedly Rose would likes to write out all the homonyms she thinks of in a sentence, so the author did this too... sort of. Martin sort of randomly drops some homonyms in parentheses throughout the book, which doesn't follow Rose's rules and is also quite annoying. I can only imagine listening to the audiobook narration. My biggest problem though, is the title itself. In the book you learn that Rose named her dog Rain - a name that is extra special because it has not only one, but two homonyms! This is extremely important, so I have to wonder why the title isn't Rain, Reign, Rein. 

39 Clues: The Maze of Bones - by Rick Riordan
Don't tell my professor, but I actually couldn't bring myself to finish this book and I still included it in my reading log. Another confession, I generally can't stand action movies. This is relevant because this book feels like a stereotypical action and they both drive me crazy for the following reasons.
1. The 'plot' is barely existent and so predictable you might as well have written the thing yourself.
2. Both are full of 'exciting', 'action-packed' events, which are really just catastrophes likes explosions or crumbling buildings. These events conveniently remove or slow down the bad guys, leave the good guys totally unscathed, and the question of collateral damage never comes up because this is no place for deep thoughts!
3. The characters are literally walking stereotypes, with no attempt to disguise this fact. The generally have no unique characteristics or personality traits and can only speak in action-y sounding clich├ęs.
4. They are both ridiculously popular! Really people, do you not see that you're just consuming recycled stereotypes while the producers, authors, etc. get rich even though they're too lazy to come  up with an actual story?

On that note, I will officially end my rant about the books I hated. Overall though, I think I made it out pretty well as far the assignment goes. There were plenty of books I enjoyed very much, and I really had to think hard about which ones I should include in the list of books I loved. On the other hand, the three books on my hate list are the only three I could come up with that I truly despised.

Also, now that it's just about winter break, I will hopefully be updating this blog more frequently for at least the next month or so. I've already set a goal to stay on top of posts during the coming quarter as well so fingers crossed that I actually stick with it for once!

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