Saturday, November 22, 2014

What's Your Poo Telling You? by Josh Richman and Anish Seth - For the Curious or Serious


Pros: Funny and surprisingly informative
Cons: Only if you don't like poo
The Bottom Line: Come on, you know you've always wanted to know about poo.
For some reason my soon to be brother-in-law has a strange fascination with poo. I surmise there’s a long story there, though I’m not even sure where that story starts. Anywho, while doing some book shelving one day, I stumbled upon a tiny hardcover book entitled What’s Your Poo Telling You?. How could I not look at it? Book stores have so many wacky books in them, you might never truly realize it until you spend a day in there, seriously perusing the stacks. Try it sometime.
After informing my sister and telling her I was thinking of getting it for her fiancee for Christmas (to which she replied with an emphatic “Yes!”), I realized there was absolutely no way I could have this book sitting in my room for several weeks without giving it a read through. It’s a very small book, only about 6 x 4.5 inches or so and only 96 pages. It’s a slim little book, one that can be totally innocuous if you weren’t looking too closely at the shelf.
So what is your poo telling you? Depends on what type of poo you happen to have at the time. This book is, in a word, awesome. Hahaha. Really, it goes through all sorts of different poo types, from the perfectly pinched log (or The Clean Sweep as they call it) to Pebble Poo to Performance-enhancing Poo (or as I always called it, Nervous Poo), to numerous others. If there’s a poo type, it’s in here, trust me, complete with some synonyms as well as what Dr. Stool has to say about that particular poo. For example, why some types of poo sink and others float. What causes some poo to come out all snake-like. Why you may have that sense of accomplishment, or Poo-phoria after going. It’s like the pocket encyclopedia to poo!
What’s more, you also get little nuggets of information, random trivia, and tidbits of history that all relate to poo in some way or another. Not to mention some rather amusing illustrations. Reading this review you might think, “Gross” or “Weird” or something along those lines, but this book isn’t necessarily all for laughs. It really does have valuable information and after all, since we all do it, there really isn’t anything wrong with wondering about poo and why oh why a few kernels of corn made it all the way through your digestive tract.
Honestly, this book gets my full support and I see no reason why someone should get offended by this book (unless that person just really, really does not like poo). I’m not saying you should go out and buy this for grandma (as she might give you a weird look that says, “Why on earth did you buy me this?”), but for yourself or someone you know would have a riot with this book, by all means. Even if you’re uptight about poo, try giving it a read. You may feel yourself loosen up a bit. ;)

Notes from the playlist: "Bananaphone" by Raffi

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Breathing In Breathing Out by Ralph Fletcher - My Notebook Breathes, Does Yours?

Pros: Very well-written and has plenty of good ideas.
Cons: Nothin'

The Bottom Line: Good ideas worthy of checking out, but see if your library has it first - especially if you already keep a notebook.

In 2010 I owned over 12 notebooks, practically all of them chock full of stuff. Some are random notebooks, other have specific purposes, and a few that were still empty. I don't know how many I have now. But at the time, to my utter delight, I got two free ones while buying my college books my last semester (still don’t know why, but I wasn't going to argue over glorious sheets of white, college-ruled paper). So I decided one of them should be my notebook for my Writing Seminar class.

Breathing In, Breathing Out by Ralph Fletcher was the book of choice for the class. It’s 94 pages (the last 5 pages just the bibliography and such). There are 16 short chapters discussing various topics of writing in a notebook. Some of these ideas include:
  • Making lists
  • Writing about the past
  • Your notebook is a place for pieces to sit and “compost” (they hang out until you find ways to use them later if you’re so inclined to)
  • It’s okay to write like crap in your notebook
  • Go ahead and reread stuff
  • Write down little facts, quotes from others, little things that act as triggers
Each of these ideas is unique, contains examples, and explained in a very clear-cut way that anyone can understand, but it’s done well so that it doesn’t sound at all like the author is talking down to the reader; his language use is very pleasant and you want to keep reading. I'm a fan of his metaphors.

Fletcher does a good job putting across exactly what he wants readers to get. He doesn’t push the writer to do anything; he just puts it out there for you to try in your own notebook. Anything to get you writing. If you don’t keep a notebook, or are thinking about getting one, I highly encourage you to do so, it’s really handy and fun, and I do recommend taking a peek at this book because it’s full of nifty tidbits you might never have thought of before.

That was my problem though. It says on the back, “This book is for new writers as well as those who may once have loved to write but have lost the spark along the way.” Um, well, I’m neither one of those. I’ve always had at least one notebook going. That and I do everything he suggests in the book. Ha! So in the end, though it was fun to read and think, “Cool, I already do that,” it wasn’t really of any help to me. But that’s a good thing for people who aren’t like me, haha. It really is a source of goodies for new and lost writers.

Ralph Fletcher also has a kid's version available (as this version is now out of print. Aww.)


Notes from the playlist: "Like a Prayer" by Madonna

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip and Erin Stead - I Wonder What It Was...

Pros: Cozy illustrations and a simple, sweet story.
Cons: None

The Bottom Line: Bear is about to go to sleep, but will anyone hear his story first?

I love being the Lead in the kids’ section of the bookstore.  As adults we don’t ever have a reason to wander in there and look at all the cool stuff kids get to look at and read these days.  Like this picture book.

This book is soft, simple, and perfect for putting little ones to bed.  If you have ever read A Sick Day for Amos McGee (a Caldecott winner, by the way), then this book is right up your alley.  That is because it's written and illustrated by the same team.

Bear is about to go to sleep for a long time during winter.  But first he has a story he wants to tell.  He goes to the different animals of the forest to see if they want to hear his story.  Sadly, most of them are too busy getting ready for winter themselves, so Bear does what he can to help and moves on.  Will Bear find someone to listen or will he have to wait until spring to tell his story?

Bear is very sweet and helps out each little animal when necessary, from making a hole for Frog to sleep in to helping Mouse find seeds.  When Bear wakes up readers will wonder what his story is and whether or not everyone will be awake and ready to listen. But I won't spoil that for you.

The illustrations were done by Erin Stead and they are soft and very adorable.  Duck and Mouse and all the other creatures are so little compared to Bear. I love how such simple children's illustrations can convey different things so well.  How gentle bear is when helping mouse.  The colors are perfect for fall and they evoke a sense of slow quietness – especially in the picture when the first snow begins to fall and Bear stands alone under the sky, sleepy and still looking to tell his story.  It takes up both pages and fills you with that unique feeling you get when it’s you standing outside in a wide open space just as snow begins to fall.  It actually made me a bit sad for Bear because no one was able to listen to him. Awwww!

Erin Stead’s illustrations are a skillful combination of watercolor and pencil, and as usual I’m infinitely impressed by anyone who knows how to wield watercolors.  They’re perfect for the overall tone of the story.

If you enjoyed A Sick Day for Amos McGee, have a little one who loves bears, or are in need of a sleepytime or seasonal book, then this is the ideal choice. The ending is an interesting little surprise, but some (like myself) will always wonder just what story it was that bear intended to tell...


Notes from the playlist: "Coventry Carol" by Lifescapes

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ranson Riggs - Freaky Photos Included

Pros: Unique use of bizarre pictures, interesting storyline, loved particular ideas
Cons: Awwww - cliffhanger ending!

The Bottom Line: It's an odd story with odd photos, but well worth your time. Even if you are in a loop.
I'd seen this book on the shelves at work.  I'd even thumbed through it a few times to take a look at some of the, well, peculiar photos in the book.  I knew that the photos were real and the story was built around them.  Nifty idea, I thought.  I didn't expect it to be November pick of the Calico Reaction's book club.  But it was, so I jumped on in.  Besides, it seems like teen books are more fun than adult books these days for some odd (peculiar?) reason.
Jacob loved his grandfather.  He loved his stories too.  Of course all those stories are nonsense.  But when his grandfather is brutally murdered and only Jacob saw the nightmarish creature responsible, he realizes he needs answers.  He has to go to the island where his grandfather grew up away from the monsters.  Where he enjoyed the company of children with peculiar talents.  When Jacob arrives, it looks like there's nothing that will shed any light on his questions.  But appearances can be deceiving...
The author, Ransom Riggs (a peculiar name, if I may say so), has created a very intriguing story surrounding all these bizarre photographs.  I'm such an idiot - I didn't even realize the girl on the front cover wasn't actually standing on the ground until it was mentioned in the story.  There are a small handful of photographs we would consider "normal," like a guy and girl together, or a figure who just happens to be in silhouette.  But there are plenty of "What the...?" pictures in there too.  I'm not sure if Riggs formulated the story around the pictures because they inspired them (most likely), or already had a story ready and spotted the pictures and really wanted to include them.
Whatever the case may be, you'll quickly learn to enjoy the characters.  Though it can seem as times as though the story is taking a bit too long to get anywhere, those moments are few and far between.  And even then they were only when Jacob was trying to find out about the house his grandfather lived in.  But once he meets a few special people, things roll along rather nicely.  I had a good time and I thought all the things Riggs came up with, from time looping to the word "ymbryne" (I love that word, I really do, and without reason), to using all those strange photographs.  There's such a rich history here of events and people that we only get the tip of, it will make you eager to know more.
And quite likely you will.  Why?  Because this book basically ends on a cliffhanger.  In fact, I read this back in 2011, but it wasn't until January 2014 that the sequel, Hollow City came out. So it may be good that you haven't read Miss Peregrine until now...then again, I'm sure Hollow City ends on a cliffhanger, too.

Notes from the playlist: "I Am Here" by System Syn

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Whoops! I completely forgot to mention this. Last month I reviewed Stephanie Garber's amazing book Caraval for the web blog I curre...