November 18, 2011

Whales on stilts; turtles in paradise and more

After the wonderfulness of Every Soul a Star, I decided to go lighter and went with M. T. Anderson’s Whales on Stilts.  It was just as much fun as I expected it to be.  He and William Joyce need to get together and create a paean to B-movies with Pixar or somebody.  They both love to take those tropes and shove them into modern-day contexts.  In this one, Lily feels overshadowed by her friends the famous Katie Mulligan (who fights off zombies and were-goats) and Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaught.  But she uncovers the plot of an evil genius who wants to take over the world with an army of stilt and laser-equipped whales.  But of course! The interesting thing is not just that it’s fast-paced and hilarious, but that Anderson manages to inject some moments of serious reflection and levity among the wonderfully absurd nuttiness.  

Next up was Jennifer L. Holm’s Turtle in Paradise.  I enjoyed this one but wish I could talk to the editor who chose the cover.  The book is about a young girl (twelve, I think) during the Great Depression who is forced to move in with relatives on a remote island off of Florida called Key West who people say will one day have a bridge to the mainland and become a tourist paradise.

She doesn’t know about that but she does meet some interesting characters including Slow Poke, Buddy, Kermit, Pork Chop, Beans and even some old writer dude named Papa.  It’s pretty episodic and reminded me of a slightly (but only slightly) more serious Little Rascals.  So instead of a postcard-looking cover of a girls hand holding a starfish on the beach we could have used something that showed the interesting mix of kids (girls and boys) that might have led to a wider readership.  It’s okay, though.  I’ve already talked it up to some teachers who are planning on reading it aloud.  Grab a copy, read the first paragraph and tell me if it isn’t a great opening.

Speaking of reading aloud, I paired up Rylant’s In November with the sillier Fall Is Not Easy this week while everyone else beat the Thanksgiving books to death.  The first title quiets them down and the second makes them laugh out loud. Now to gather holiday books for next month...

My daughter continues to surprise and delight my nerdy self with her interests.  After her flu shot a few weeks back, I asked her if she wanted to get a treat.  Normally that would mean an ice cream or small toy.  Nope.  She wanted to hit the comic book shop across the street!  She bought a big, fat, Justice League of America compendium.  And the nerdistry doesn’t end there.  She asked me for some information on Houdini and loved the graphic-novel-style bio I brought her from my library.  We’ve been on youtube to watch clips of the man himself.

Reading aloud at home has gone straight from Sisters Grimm #2 to Sisters Grimm #3 because of Michael Buckley’s mean trick of “ be continued.”  Like we could stop there! But they are a little scary.

In my personal reading I have been alternating through three books.  I do that.  Salinger’s Nine Stories for the book club (it was funnier than I remembered).  Richard Dawkin’s The Magic of Reality which is just amazing and gorgeously illustrated by Dave McKean.  Too bad I don’t work in a middle or high school, because I’d get a pile of them for my library if I did.  It’s wonderful.  And it’s a brilliant app for the iPad as well.  The third book I’ve been reading in between everything else is Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad.  I’m only up through chapter 18 and there’s something like 60 chapters.  It is damn funny and biting.  He seems to be getting more cutting as he goes.  It started off with light, jovial humor, but as the journey goes further, the satire gets sharper.  I loved his definitely skeptical take on the Heloise and Abelard mythology.  He’s in Italy now, enjoying some Cathedrals.  Can’t wait to see what happens when he gets to the Holy Land.

Next up for the book club is Dead Souls.  I’m not really excited about it but since it’s free on the Kindle, I’ll give it a shot.

The family is coming for Thanksgiving.  Will that mean more reading time or less?  I’m guessing less...