Saturday, September 29, 2012

Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business*

Written by: Barbara Park

First line: My name is Junie B. Jones.

Why you should read this book: Junie B. does not understand figures of speech, and when her grandmother tells her that her new baby brother is a real little monkey, Junie B. takes it literally, resulting in her particular brand of mayhem. Before the day is out, she will shake down her two best friends and end up in the principal's office. Could anything be better than a real monkey brother?

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're afraid your rambunctious five-year-old might have problems being dethroned.

*I'm not going to review this whole series. I'm just not. I'll probably read the whole thing to my stepdaughter, but I can't write 36 reviews of this ridiculousness. These are great books for early readers and they are humorous enough to not make adult want to vomit, but seriously: this kid is a menace.

Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus

Written by: Barbara Park

First line: My name is Junie B. Jones.

Why you should read this book: An exuberant and unrestrained kindergarten kid with absolutely no filter navigates the first day of school, taking an instant dislike to the experience of riding the school bus. At the end of the day, she determines to use all of her five-year-old's skills to avoid the return trip home, enjoying herself immensely while driving all the adults involved to distraction. This is a perfect book for reluctant readers, who will identify with Junie B.s' constant sense of entitlement and betrayal.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't find shenanigans funny.

The Heart of Cool

Written by: Jamie McEwan

First line: When Bobby North came to his new school, he found that he was the smallest guy in his class.

Why you should read this book: For a leveled easy reader, this is one of the deepest, and yes, coolest stories I've ever seen. A polar bear named Bobby seeks to emulate a moose named Harry, the coolest kid in school, and manages to actually master the art of being cool so well that he no longer needs to try, until his utter coolness leads him to make an uncool mistake. The distinctively humorous illustrations of Sandra Boynton add a little tongue-in-cheek flair to a thoughtful story.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're too cool to care.

The Taking Tree

Written by: Shrill Travesty

First line: Once there was a kid who spent every day under a tree.

Why you should read this book: This is a "selfish parody" of the beloved children's classic by Shel Silverstein, but in this version, the kid is a horrible brat who lives to make life painful for everyone around him, including the long-suffering tree. He's sent to jail a few times, but keeps getting out; he becomes a successful businessman, because that's something that "often happens when little jerks grow up." This is a story with no moral, except that some people are awful for no reason and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Why you shouldn't read this book: The ending is pretty ambivalent.

The Fold

Written by: An Na

First line: Joyce stared at herself in the mirror, twisting her head from side to side, finger combing more or her long black hair over the unsightly bulge that used to be her temple.

Why you should read this book: Joyce, a fully assimilated Korean-American girl, pines for the cutest guy in school and feels constantly inferior to her prettier, smarter older sister. When her aunt wins some money in the lottery, she decides to spend it all on improvements for Joyce's family, and informs Joyce that she will be receiving some plastic surgery, which Joyce is not at all sure she needs or wants. Joyce must determine how much she wants to change externally, and how much she is willing to fight to be herself.

Why you shouldn't read this book: The ending is predictable, the characters seem sort of flat, and the writing never hits that high, poetic notes that makes the author's first novel glow.

The Rabbi's Cat 2

Written by: Joann Sfar

First line: I'm the rabbi's cat.

Why you should read this book: The rabbit and his cat spend more time with Malka and his lion, confronting the age of both along with loud anti-Semitism and the possibility of armed resistance. The rabbi's daughter suffers through marital discord, while the cat finds he can speak with a Russian Jew who has snuck himself into the country in a box of religious texts, and a mixed group travels to Africa to find a city of black Jews. Identity, and religion, are revealed to be subjective.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Never hits the same level of introspection and cohesion as the first volume.


Written by: M. T. Anderson

First line: We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.

Why you should read this book: In a brutally frightening future, most well-off people receive an unstoppable virtual feed directly to their brain, with helpful advice about fashion, clothes, recreation, and anything else people want to know. In this world, education is corporately sponsored, the sky is just a projection on a dome overhead, animals are almost non-existant, and humanity is afflicted with incurable lesions. A group of kids have their feeds hijacked over spring break, and one of them finds his worldview disrupted when he falls for a girl who's decided to rebel against the tyranny of the feed.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Probably the most depressing dystopian novel I've ever read. Brilliant but nightmare-inducing.

Daughters of Copper Woman

Written by: Anne Cameron

First line: In the 85 years between Captain Cook's visit in 1778 and the Royal Fellowship census in 1863, the Nootka nation was decimated.

Why you should read this book: A true modern classic, this flawless melange of oral history, ancient folklore, and current perspective brings to the fore the experience of indigenous women, written in such a way as to raise the power and consciousness of all women. The author was given permission by the Native women of Vancouver Island to share their stories, many of which have been considered closely guarded secrets for many generations, some of which run counter to the official histories written after the fact by the white invaders. This book is a sort of living document, one which transmits its light to the world and suggests action toward positive change is within the reach of everyone who loves peace and fairness.

Why you should read this book: Trigger warning for child sexual abuse and rampant destruction of culture by colonialist invasion.