Thursday, August 9, 2012

On Our Shelves

One of the things I've always looked forward to doing with my future children was reading. I'm a book-lover and am so excited to instill a love of literature in my little ones. I figure if I can get my left-brained, math-only husband to read books (it usually happens a few times a year!), then I can truly get anyone to.

Our little guy has had books read to him since my third trimester (much like the U of M spirit, we've started early on this one with him!). It's given me a great excuse to order a whole mess of books. probably thinks my address is a public library by now. With the onset of reading children's books, I've had to put my reading queue on hold. I certainly have some (adult) books I'm looking forward to reading, but in the meantime, I've found some treasures in the children's genre. So here are the munchkin books that are worth a read (even if you don't have kids!) and the adult ones that are awaiting my attention.

*Little Reads*

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce
It's no secret that my husband gets a bit teary eyed at fictional stories (his claim to fame is crying while watching the cartoon movie Chicken Little -- which he defends by explaining that the chicken "had no friends at the beginning and now everyone likes him!"). So hearing that Lauren sprung a leak after reading this to Brayden might not mean too much. BUT... even I thought it was a great story. (Not great enough to cry over, perhaps... but still!) It's a unique story that doesn't rely on cartoon animals to tell the same love-yourself-for-who-you-are tale. It's a very different (and interesting) story about a man whose beloved books fly away. He then begins taking care of books in a library while he ages. No spoilers here about how the story ends, but it's a great message about how books can touch and change you. It also doesn't speak down to the audience, which I love. It's full of allusions and slightly-sophisticated-for-its-age vocabulary. The pictures are spectacular and from what I hear, there's now an interactive iPhone app to go along with the story.

Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham
This one had me chuckling aloud. The book starts off like most "A is for..." books do. A letter of the alphabet accompanied by something that brilliantly starts with that same letter. However, the moose is pretty antsy to make his way into the story. He starts creeping onto the pages, trying to steal the spotlight. Zebra, who is more or less the referee directing the tale, gets a bit irked with the malicious moose (see what I did there?). The alphabet continues and reaches a boiling point when "M" turns out to be for "mouse." Moose isn't so happy with that and commandeers the rest of the book. Again, a great ending. I love the traditional story turned upside down. Not your normal ABC book. This one has a lot of silly mixed in.

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
Another tale with a great message. A sweet little truck is friendly with all of the wild animals, unlike the bigger, meaner truck counterpart. But when the big truck gets stuck, no one wants to help him. Now obviously, a kids book wouldn't just leave the guy SOL. The truck gets rescued and has a great ephiphany reminiscent of those jazz-music-filled sitcom lessons where someone explains what they learned from the episode (think "Full House"). The book is written in an effective sing-songy rhythm that kids will love and includes a variety of animals and the noises they make.

Press Here by Herve Tullet
This is one of those "smart" books. It's not just a book; it's interactive. Written almost completely with commands to the readers, the author invites you to do things like press a button, to tip the book, to clap and blow on the pages. Each action that the reader does is reflected on the next page. So when your little one tips the book, the next page has all of the dots on one side of the page. When your tot blows on the black background, the next page shows the color started to fly away. I'm really excited for Brayden to be old enough to appreciate this so I can stop reading it to Lauren.

How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills
Evidently, I like books about books. This one is about an adorable dog named Rocket who learns to read from a sweet little yellow bird. This one incorporates spelling, so would be particularly good for kids just learning to read on their own. The story itself is adorable; the teacher/bird reads a story aloud everyday while Rocket eavesdrops. He thought he didn't care about reading, but gets immersed in the story and returns every day to see what happens. Eventually, he wants to read on his own and does so. When the bird has to migrate for the winter, he continues learning on his own (but is ecstatic when the bird comes back!). The author has another book out (where Rocket writes a story), so I wonder if this is the start of a series about the little pup.

*Big Reads*

When I was at Oxford, some of the students were going through the BBC "Big Read" list - a list of the top 100 books ever written. I made it a goal of mine to read all of the books on the list. Most of them are what you might deem "classics" and take some time to get through, so I tend to alternate those with other genres. I love reading Young Adult Literature, contemporary fiction and non-fiction (so, pretty much anything). The next book I tagged on the BBC list to read is Love in a Time of Cholera. I've never read it but haven't been able to start it because it seems like a "heavy" book. (Anyone who has read it before, please chime in and tell me what I'm missing so I'll pick it up soon!) The fiction books in my queue before that one include:

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
This book had some intense success. Enough that it is being turned into an HBO television series. The blurb says it's about an aging rock music executive and his assistant. The self-destructive cast is followed as they grow older and life sends them in directions they didn't intend on going. On the surface, it might seem just "fine," but I've had this book recommended to me by more than one person.

Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Speaking of recommendations, this book has been tossed my way by probably six or seven people. No one will tell me exactly what it's about - and neither will blurbs. Most blurbs start out the same way: "We don't want to tell you much about this book." The mystery (and volume of recommendations) has me intrigued. All I've been able to discern about it is that it's about a Nigerian orphan and a wealthy British couple trying to reconnect within their marriage.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Having been around for ages - and having one a Pulitzer Prize - this one has been on my list for a while and is finally near the top. The description of it is as follows:

A “towering, swash-buckling thrill of a book” (Newsweek), hailed as Chabon’s “magnum opus” (The New York Review of Books), The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a triumph of originality, imagination, and storytelling, an exuberant, irresistible novel that begins in New York City in 1939. A young escape artist and budding magician named Joe Kavalier arrives on the doorstep of his cousin, Sammy Clay. While the long shadow of Hitler falls across Europe, America is happily in thrall to the Golden Age of comic books, and in a distant corner of Brooklyn, Sammy is looking for a way to cash in on the craze. He finds the ideal partner in the aloof, artistically gifted Joe, and together they embark on an adventure that takes them deep into the heart of Manhattan, and the heart of old-fashioned American ambition. From the shared fears, dreams, and desires of two teenage boys, they spin comic book tales of the heroic, fascist-fighting Escapist and the beautiful, mysterious Luna Moth, otherworldly mistress of the night. Climbing from the streets of Brooklyn to the top of the Empire State Building, Joe and Sammy carve out lives, and careers, as vivid as cyan and magenta ink. Spanning continents and eras, this superb book by one of America’s finest writers remains one of the defining novels of our modern American age. 

Has anyone read any of the "Big Reads" above? Any opinions on them are welcome! I'm not sure which of the three I'll pick up next.


  1. Yes, I read "A Visit from the Goon Squad" with my Phi Beta Kappa book club. I didn't have alot of respect for it until about 1/2-2/3 through. Everything makes sense at the end and I ended up loving it. I got it from the library, so I can't lend it to you. :-(

  2. You forgot to include "Go the F**k to Sleep" in your little reads. Granted it contains some coarse language, but luckily for me I don't need to read it to my son because he likes to act it out every night instead.

    Also, I know this wouldn't be on your "Big Read" level, but someone who is a fan of literature such as yourself would most likely enjoy the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. They are easier reads, but highly creative and unique.

    Watership Down is pretty awesome as well.

  3. I've never heard of the Thursday Next series! I will definitely look into it. Thanks for the recommendation! :)

  4. I've read "Love in a TIme of Cholera." It's a somewhat slow read (and the writing is a bit choppy and disjointed in my opinion) but the story is really great. There's a lot of depth to it.

    I don't blame you for being hesitant to pick it up though. It's a book you have to be in the mood to read.

  5. Before becoming a SAHM I taught lessons to children per-k to fourth at the local children's museum. One of my favorites involved "How Rocket learned to read" it's such a fantastic book!!!

    1. I love it! The author also has a book out called "Rocket Wries a Story," which is pretty good too. :)