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Saturday, March 28, 2015

If You Give a Kid a Cookie Will He Shut the F*ck Up? - Indeed


Pros: Hilarious, excellent illustrations
Cons: Only if this type of humor isn't your bag.
The Bottom Line: The answer to the title is yes – but only if you're ready for a string of additional consequences to follow.

In the back room one day I was sorting through piles of books left behind by the receiving manager.  When I hit the kids pile I discovered this book.  I also discovered that this was not a children's book.  The second I saw the cover with the bite in the cookie acting as a "u" for the word "fuck" I knew this was something else.

In the tradition (that seems to be picking up speed) of Go the F*ck to Sleep, this book is a parody of the classic, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.  But this book needs to stay on the top shelf away from little hands, otherwise they'll be asking about the roosters and the police - not to mention some of the language - in this book.

Yes friends, it starts out simply enough.  If you give a kid a cookie, will he shut the f*ck up?  Perhaps for a little while, but you need to take into account sugar rushes, drunken uncles that don't answer the phone, cock fights, police arrests, and potential divorces.  It's a short book, the length of the average children's picture book, but author Marcy Roznick covers all the necessary bases here in order to go full circle with maximum hilarity.

I actually stopped work to read it, I admit.  I laughed almost the entire way through the book.  When one of my managers popped in, I promptly showed it to her.  She got a kick out of it as well.  Not long after that, our community relations manager came striding in and said, "Okay, where's the book?" and read it as well.  Everyone's favorite part was the cock fight, or as Roznick so eloquently puts it, "stop to watch the birdies."

But this book wouldn't be anywhere if it weren't for Miranda Lemming's illustrations.  They are, in fact, rather adorable.  The kids are actually cute, the pictures were bright and perky and the combination of the story and the perfectly executed children's book style drawings went together like peanut butter and jelly.  I thought the roosters were really cute, and when everyone is in jail, take a closer look at the little daughter in the background.  Yes.  Another type of birdie appears.

It's unexpected, but very funny.  I love the illustrations and the way the events connected were great.  And hey, everything even works out! (sort of)  And honestly, what parent hasn't thought this very thing from time to time?  I'm don't have kids, but I'm not stupid either.  (Hey, I work in retail, so I hear plenty of kids screaming their lungs out. Don't tell me the parents are wondering on how to get them to shut the f*ck up.)

This book is perfect if you're a parent in need of a laugh, want a great gag gift for expecting parents, or for whatever reason you can think of.  Point is, you should at least head over to the bookstore and read it.  I guarantee the employees will hear you giggling on the other side of the bookshelves.

NT

Originally posted on Epinions.com

Saturday, March 21, 2015

James and the Giant Peach - Yummy


Pros: Giant peaches, flying seagulls, peculiar things, and Cloud Men
Cons: Only if you object to the phrase "silly ass"

The Bottom Line: When a giant peach is involved, well, what more could you ask for?

Poor James Henry Trotter. He had such a nice life until his parents were gobbled up by angry rhinoceroses. Then he was sent to live with is ghastly Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. But one day a strange man arrives and offers him something in a bag, something that will change his life forever. It seems James will be freed – except he loses the contents of the bag to the ground when he trips and falls. But that doesn’t mean other rather peculiar things won’t start happening, like an old peach tree growing a giant peach. Or some other very peculiar things inside. It looks like James will have his life changed after all…

I remember reading this when I was younger. I remember thinking it was creepy, the idea of swallowing all those weird little green things in the bag. How cool it would be to sail around on a giant peach tied up with seagulls. How awesome it would be to watch Cloud Men at work making things like hail and rainbows.

This is the kind of book that can have a youngster gaping away as you read, or as he/she reads. Some things Roald Dahl doesn’t explain at all – such as how the large insects James meets can talk (magic of course!), but the things he does randomly explain, like how James and the others are able to see Cloud Men and why people on airplanes never do is simply delightful. James is such a cute boy and turns out to be very daring and inventive. The reader gets to travel from England all the way to New York City and have all sorts of adventures along the way.

As usual for Dahl’s style, he doesn’t sugar-coat things. Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge get exactly what they deserve and trust me, no one is going to be sorry about it. The Centipede does tend to call people asses, so that can be up to you whether or not you want your child to see it. Personally, I doubt your child is going to go running around repeating it (I didn’t). You might learn a thing or two about grasshoppers and ladybugs, and this might also make your child curious about insects in general. For example, spiders are not evil bugs, and instead are quite useful. (as of this moment I have one living above my window…)

But as we all know, the main purpose of this book is to entertain and get a child’s imagination working. Or an adult’s. The book I bought has Quentin Blake’s illustrations; the semi-scribble yet still-better-than-anything-I-can-draw style. My favorite picture is when the peach goes sailing over the cliff to soon drop into the ocean. I mean, come on, how often do you get to see a picture of a giant peach flying through the air (minus seagulls of course). In fact, sometimes they remind me of Shel Silverstein’s drawings.

Anyway, enjoy it. If you missed it during your childhood, go read it. If you haven’t read it to your child yet, read it. If your child hasn’t read it him/herself yet, offer it up. It’s a great book that can keep kids on the edge of their seats. And it’s quite funny; the moment I started to read about the Cloud Men, it began to rain...

NT

Originally published on Epinions.com as a part of the Fight Illiteracy Write-Off. This book was also donated as part of that event.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Hannibal - Welcome Him to the Palace of Your Mind


Pros: Creepy (not the brain thing, I expected that), insights into Hannibal's mind
Cons: Found myself a little disappointed with the ending, surprisingly

The Bottom Line: Overall, enjoyable. Ever since I saw the movie Hannibal, I’ve wanted to read the book. I totally dig on Anthony Hopkins. Took long enough to get this thing though…

Hannibal is the next book in line after Silence of the Lambs. I’m not sure if it really is labeled as a sequel or not, because it can kind of stand alone, but I figure as long as you have the basic information about Dr. Lecter, Clarice Starling, and their previous, ah, relationship (if you will), then you’re good as gold.

Dr. Hannibal Lecter, aka Hannibal the Cannibal, escaped his confinement in Silence of the Lambs and is breathing fresh air. He’s traveled to Italy and is enjoying all the scents and sights and good things the city has to offer. He’s even taken on the spot as curator of Palazzo Capponi. No one recognizes him and life is good.

Not so for Clarice Starling. Her position in the FBI is slowly being poisoned by the inner politics of jealous members, and an incident has left her disheartened and doubtful. Dr. Lecter has not forgotten about her. A single letter to her stirs up everyone – including the one victim of Lecter’s that lived. Mason Verger, left in a horrific state, wants his revenge on Lecter and knows that Clarice will be the tastiest bait he can provide. And when an Inspector Pazzi suddenly realizes that one Dr. Fell is actually Dr. Lecter, the wheels begin turning in the scramble for Lecter’s life, and maybe even Clarice’s as well.

Reading this book actually makes me want to see the movie again. Though I can’t picture Anthony Hopkins as Thomas Harris’s Dr. Lecter, he is very enticing nonetheless. But on the subject of this book, it’s a very engaging read. True, it can get boring a few times when you certain parts, but in the end it turns out that those parts were necessary and you don’t regret reading them anymore. For example, Harris gives us an entire chapter devoted to just Inspector Pazzi’s past and a major criminal abduction that eventually was turned over and sort of ruined him. While reading this I thought, “Why do I care?” Later, while it is possible that we could have done without all that information and maybe just the basics, you do get a sense of, “Ok, that’s more understandable now.”

I like that we are allowed into Lecter’s mind in this book, mostly getting that recurring memory of his sister Mischa, which was particularly horrific. Other things in this book seemed kind of strange, such as Mason’s sister and her motives. Interesting, but still weird.

Again, Harris writes this with a few strange quirks of his own. As in Silence of the Lambs, many chapters began in a present tense style before going back into the more commonplace past tense. I was ready for that and it didn’t bother me as much, but what did throw me off was the sudden appearance of “we” and “you” in this book. Like all of a sudden Harris has decided to involve the reader more than just reading. It does work in a very odd way, so I can’t really fault him for it, but I could see the possibility that others will not accept it as easily. It is pretty abrupt when it does show up. There was one extended incident where even I started to wonder, “Ok, how long is this going to go on?”

If you haven’t seen the movie, expect to be reading some interesting and, ah, slightly messy stuff. After you read this, just know that the movie is pretty darn close to the book with a few necessary and understandable cuts (not in the gore department either, heh), so beware. There are a few times when I wish Harris would detail the action a little more as it tends to happen so quickly I have to reread parts to make sure I hadn’t missed anything or that I was entirely sure of what happened.

It takes a while for Hannibal and Clarice to meet up, so if you were hoping for a reunion around the middle of the book, you’re going to be disappointed. It isn’t until around page 400 of the 486 page book. From then it was interesting, and went as I expected (not sure what you expect, heh heh), but as for the final end, I’m not quite satisfied. I can say it was not what I was expecting, and while I find it interesting, it doesn’t quite work for me. I was hoping for something in between the movie end and what I got here (both are complete opposites). This ending was almost too fairy-tale like for me. Too easy, too happy. I couldn’t entirely believe it. Not with Starling’s character.

Oh well, you can’t please everyone. That’s fine. It was still a good read. :)

NT

Originally published on Epinions.com.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Clifford Keeps Cool - Hot Dog!


Pros: Clifford is cool - even when he's hot.
Cons: Nope.

The Bottom Line: Everyone can relate to Clifford's predicament - even if it is in a much smaller way...

Let me first say that I’ve never reviewed a book for children who fall into the age group for Clifford books. Let me also say that I’ve never read a Clifford book in my life (I know, how sad is that?), and I don’t have kids. Well then, let’s see if I can pull this review off for all the parents out there.

Clifford, of course, is a big red dog. Just like all dogs during summer, he gets hot. But while most dogs can hop into a kiddie pool with their owners or go inside a house and laze in air conditioning, Clifford has it rough. Clifford’s owner remembers what things were like last summer; poor Clifford just couldn’t get cool in the really hot weather. He tried a lot of things, but none of them worked. Luckily, the little girl that owns him had a great idea.

Cute story. Poor Clifford. It’s hard for a big red dog to cool off and the author, Normal Bridwell, comes up with a lot of good ways that might actually work. Too bad Clifford can’t get away with them. This is primarily a picture book when you think about it; each page has maybe a sentence or two on it, the rest of the page is filled up with illustrations of Clifford splooshing into a pool or lounging on an ice skating rink. I thought it was kind of funny when I got near the end when Clifford hangs out under a waterfall and I saw a boat with people in it floating in the river above him. I thought, “Heh, boy those people are a bit close to the edge,” only to find out they’d been put there on purpose. Clifford saves the day! Hooray!

I don’t see any reason for children not to enjoy this book. The illustrations are cute (I like Clifford’s “Oh gosh, I’m so silly” look on one page) and it makes me curious as to how other Clifford books go. The text is simple so many children will be able to read this on their own or with help from an adult. Kids these days as breeze through Harry Potter books at surprisingly young ages, so I’ll bet a lot of them wouldn’t have a problem with Clifford…at all.

I don’t think you necessarily need to read Clifford books in any order (I don’t think they really have any order), though you might consider getting the first book in order to find out the little girl’s name (as it’s never mentioned here but I believe it is in other books) and maybe even how she got Clifford. Hey, I figure if I’m curious, your child might be too.

Overall – enjoy!

NT

This book went to a child in need: this review was a part of the Fight Illiteracy Write-Off hosted by hadassahchana on Epinions.com. Though National Literacy Month is in September, let’s try to fight illiteracy all year round!

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