Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bitsy View: Llamas, Bears, and Kisses

I know that I don't usually review books written for children, but I read a lot of them (both for Gabe and my job). So, I thought maybe once a week (or really whenever I get the chance) I'd write a few short mini-reviews--bitsy views!--of some children's and infants' books. If you guys especially like or hate this idea (or any other idea that I post on this blog), please let me know in the comments below, and I'll take it into consideration. Here we go!

I'm going to try and keep these organized with a short summary, a highlight, and one or two other comments on each book. I'm also going to rate each one with one to five suns (one being "I hated it" and five being "I loved it"). Hopefully this will keep the reviews brief and to-the-point to help you pick out books for the child in your life!

Llama Llama Zippity-Zoom by Anna Dewdney   
     --Llama llama and his goat friend are playing outside while fun, sing-song rhymes form the narrative.
     --Highlight: Llama llama red pajama is riding his bike and the rhyme builds up to "zoom zoom zoom"
     --The build-up on all of the rhymes is good, and this is just generally a fun, playful book.

Old Bear and His Cub by Olivier Dunrea     
     --Old Bear and Little Cub (a father and his son, presumably) go through a day (eating breakfast, playing in the snow, etc) taking care of each other and remembering that they love each other very much.
     --Highlight: Little Cub switches places with Old Bear about halfway through the book, becoming the caretaker after his father catches a cold. Little Cub tells Old Bear to put a scarf on, brings him tea, reads him a book, and cuddles with him to go to sleep.
     --I like how they convince each other to listen: "Old Bear stared hard at Little Cub."
     --The drawings in this book are very beautiful.

All Kinds of Kisses by Nancy Tafuri    
     --Different animals give each other different kids of kisses, depending on which animal they are. It ends with a goodnight kiss from a (human) mother to her child.
     --Highlight: "Little Dove loves Cooo kisses."
     --This book strikes me as a little strange. Sounds are used as types of kisses, and this doesn't really work for some animals. Cows giving "Mooo kisses," for example. It felt a little awkward to me while reading most of the book.
     --The colored pencil drawings of the animals and the scenery are very pretty.

That's it for now, guys! Hopefully you enjoyed it, and I'll have my next Bitsy View for you in a week or so!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Wrinkle in Time

I've been meaning to read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle for a long time. My brother and one of my sisters read it when we were young, and I remember them talking about how good it was. The three of us read a ton of Newbery Award Winners when we were in school, thanks to my awesome mom, so I think that's how they got started reading it.

The premise of the book is a quest to save the Earth and the father of the main characters. The Murry family is a bit different from other families. Mr. and Mrs. Murry are brilliant scientists, Meg is smart but somehow messes everything up that she tries to do, Dennys and Sandy are the "normal" twins, and Charles Wallace is special in a way that no one quite understands. Mr. Murry mysteriously disappears, and Meg and Charles Wallace watch as their mother begins to struggle without their father. Enter Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit, who take Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O'Keefe (their new best friend) on a trip to save both their father and the world as they know it.

L'Engle creates her world in such a way that it stretches what the reader already knows to be true without creating anything implausible. Suspension of disbelief is basically unnecessary, because everything the author writes makes complete sense within its modern context. At the same time, she displays her world for all to see and understand, including children (since that's the target audience). I love this book! It's such a beautiful story of individuality and self-reliance mixed with love and trust, and every chapter took me completely by surprise! I'm definitely going to remember this story for years to come.

Morning Conversations

Okay, so this post isn't about a book or a challenge. It's about Gabe. I try not to talk about my baby too much, because he'd take over the whole blog, but he turned 10-months-old yesterday. It struck me this morning that some of the most meaningful conversations I have are with my son. This may sound sad, like I'm some crazy lady talking to herself, but that's not the case. I studied non-verbal communication some in college (because I loved psychology classes), but I won't get into technical babble with you. I'll just say it's important, which I'm sure you knew before. Anyway, my conversations with Gabe are mostly non-verbal, since his babbling the same sounds over and over doesn't really tell me much. But I can tell by his expressions and the way he moves around that he's telling me all about the things that are important to him right now, and I, in turn, tell him things that are important to me and things that he will be learning soon. So this morning I was talking to him about numbers and letters while we played with some foam ones, and he was probably telling me about the colors and textures of the toys--very seriously, I might add.
None of this may matter to you, but it made me happy, and I wanted to share that experience. Gabe's favorite was the Y, probably because it was yellow and easy to chew on. And the highlight was probably the battle of A and V...maybe they're too similar? But it was awesome, and we had fun, as you can see.

Enjoy the little things!

Monday, January 14, 2013

What's in a Name 6 Challenge

After signing up for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, I found a ton of other challenges on book-related blogs across the internet! It was craziness, and I got really excited and basically wanted to sign-up for all of them. You have Tony, my husband, to thank for keeping me grounded and reminding me that I can't get all of that reading done with my other responsibilities and hobbies. I decided to pick one more and found the What's in a Name Challenge on the blog Beth Fish Reads. It sounds really unique and fun, so this is going to be my second challenge for 2013. Visit the post linked above, read the details, and here is my list:

1. up or down (or equivalent): The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells
2. something you'd find in your kitchen: Bread Alone by
3. party or celebration: Masquerade by Cecilia Sternberg
4. fire (or equivalent): Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
5. an emotion: Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
6. lost or found (or equivalent): A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

This is my plan so far, based mainly on books I've had for a while and/or those on my TBR list. I'm going to be pretty flexible with these, so the numbers probably aren't in the order in which I'll read the books, and I might even switch some of them at some point, since I don't know what I'll be reading for my book group or what genres I'll feel like reading later this year. I already had to change #1, because I couldn't conveniently find a copy of Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin. Anyway, jump in with me and read some interesting books you might have overlooked before--titles can come about in some interesting ways.

Friday, January 11, 2013

P&P Challenge: Austenland and BabyLit

Wow! I just breezed through Austenland by Shannon Hale! I read the whole thing in one day. Granted, it's not a long book, but that's still fast for me. I'm a pretty slow reader. Getting back to the point, however, I read this book so fast because it was awesome. What a great way to kick off The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013!

Austenland is about a woman, Jane Hayes, in her thirties who is caught up in the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice. She lives her life searching for "Mr. Darcy," although what she really wants is a modern gentleman who happens to be the essence of perfection. Her great-aunt dies and leaves her a fully-paid vacation to Austenland, which is a resort where women immerse themselves in an Austen-like world, complete with paid actors to play the roles of dutiful admirers. Jane decides to go in the hopes that "one last hurrah" will save her from her Darcy obsession.

I'll admit that I had to warm up to Jane, because I don't exactly relate to her. I'm not in my thirties; I'm not single; I've never had trouble establishing my independence from men; and Pride and Prejudice never encouraged in me a feeling of disappointment about my life. But I continued to read and soon found myself wrapped up in the world of the novel: 40% Austen, 30% Only You (1994 movie with Robert Downey, Jr. and Marisa Tomei--you should rent it), 20% realistic establishing of Jane's independence, and 10% Bridget Jones's Diary (2001 movie with Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, and Renee Zellweger--I'm not a big fan, but it has actors I like). I like books with fairly happy and open endings, which this novel has; they give the reader a chance to think forward and make decisions of what they think might happen in the future world of the story. Jane Hayes's character feels genuine, and although I don't relate to her personally, I understand her struggles to establish herself in one world while immersed in another. It's definitely worth reading at least once, and I'll be keeping it on my bookshelf in the living room. Also, if you're thinking of reading it for a book group, there's a reading group question guide in the book that might help out with that.

While we're on the topic of Pride and Prejudice, one of my friends gave my son (who is nine months old) Pride and Prejudice: A BabyLit Counting Primer by Jennifer Adams and Allison Oliver. I'm not counting it as one of my challenge items, obviously, but it's so adorable! Any fans of Jane Austen and/or P&P with babies at home should definitely find a copy of it. It's fun seeing how each number relates back to the story and puts little pieces of the Bennets' world into context for children. Anyway, Gabe (my son) loves it, so I have nothing but good things to say!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pride and Prejudice 2013 Challenge

I'm back! I'm not sure that many of you were faithfully reading my three posts before I stopped writing them before, but either way, I'm here and I'm more dedicated. The main reason I'm here is because I know now I will have something for you to read. After visiting the blog Austenprose for the first time this past weekend, I discovered a really cool challenge for 2013. The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013 is a celebration of 200 years passing since Jane Austen published her fantastic and most-beloved (by me) novel, Pride and Prejudice. I encourage you to follow the link...because I'm not going to give you all of the details here.

[Enter Elevator Music]

That was me waiting for you to read about the challenge. Now that you kind of understand it, I have committed myself to the Aficionada (9-12 selections) level, and I'll list what my plans are so far (you can click through to my reviews):

Austenland by Shannon Hale
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange
Recorded Books audio version of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and narrated by Flo Gibson
Two Guys Read Jane Austen by Steve Chandler and Terrence N. Hill
Darcy's Story by Janet Aylmer

1995 BBC miniseries with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle
2005 version with Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley
1980 BBC miniseries with David Rintoul and Sabina Franklyn
Lost in Austen (2008) with Elliot Cowan and Jemima Rooper

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

These choices will cover my initial requirements, and if I finish those with time to spare, I will possibly add more. I'm reading lots of other books right now for my book group and my own amusement, so I will try to write a post for each of those as I finish them as well. My Goodreads goal for this year is to read at least 25 books, so that shouldn't be too hard with my current plans.

I hope some of you decide to take the challenge with me so we can compare notes and see what new books/movies/etc come to light from this experience! Let me know if you do, because I'd love to hear about your experiences in the world of Austen this year. Meanwhile, I've hit the ground running already, so look for a post from me soon beginning my experience with The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013!