Monday, April 27, 2020

55. The Search for Delicious

The Search for Delicious. Natalie Babbitt. 1969/1998. 167 pages. [Source: Library] [J Fantasy; J Fiction; Children's Classic]

First sentence: There was a time once when the earth was still very young, a time some call the oldest days.

Premise/plot: Can something so simple and insignificant as choosing which food should represent the word DELICIOUS in a dictionary tear a kingdom apart?! Perhaps. Gaylan, the Prime Minister's adopted son, is given the task of traveling the kingdom and polling people. This is AFTER asking the question among the royal court proved so problematic! Does it really matter at the end of the day if it is an APPLE or CHRISTMAS PUDDING or APPLE TART or FRUIT CAKE or a hundred different other options?! Does this kingdom stand a chance?

My thoughts: I thought this was a treat of a children's book! I think it would make a great classroom read aloud. It almost begs readers to conduct a poll of their own. I enjoyed the cozy feel of this one as well. I would definitely recommend this one

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

54. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Roald Dahl. 1972. 166 pages. [Source: Library] [sequels not worth reading]

First sentence: The last time we saw Charlie, he was riding high above his home town in the Great Glass Elevator.

Premise/plot: This one begins seconds after Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ends. And the whole book covers essentially just one day--possibly two. Mr. Willy Wonka is more eccentric than before--you might not have thought that possible. He's gathered all the family--Charlie, Grandpa Joe, Grandma Josephine, Grandpa George, Grandma Georgina, Mr. and Mrs. Bucket--in the Great Glass Elevator and instead of, you know, just walking back to the factory--which I believe is within sight of the Bucket's home--he wants to go up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up and come crashing down from space into the chocolate candy making factory. But things don't go according to his plan. For they enter earth's orbit....witness some crazy stuff at a space hotel...including a close encounter with a hostile alien species...before returning to the factory for more crazy close-calls. (Wonka-Vite and Vita-Wonk?!)

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I never loved the sequel Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. It is quirky and odd, but it failed to delight in the same way. The plot just didn't work for me. Half the book takes place in space or on/near a space hotel--all within the glass elevator. And the other half of the novel takes place back in the factory and involves one of Wonka's inventions. The humor of the space section just did not work for me. It felt dated and off, a bit inappropriate.

The president threw the phone across the room at the Postmaster General. It hit him in the stomach. "What's the matter with this thing?" shouted the President. "It is very difficult to phone people in China, Mr. President," said the Postmaster General. "The country's so full of Wings and Wongs, every time you wing you get the wong number." "You're not kidding," said the President... The President again picked up the receiver. "Gleetings, honorable Mr. Plesident," said a soft faraway voice. "Here is Assistant Plemier Chu-On-Dat speaking. How can I do for you?" "Knock-knock," said the President. "Who der?" "Ginger." "Ginger who?" "Ginger yourself much when you fell off the Great Wall of China?" said the President. "Okay, Chu-on-Dat. Let me speak to Premier How-Yu-Bin." "Much regret Premier How-Yu-Bin not here just this second, Mr. Plesident." "Where is he?" He outside mending a flat tire on his bicycle." "Oh no, he isn't," said the President. "You can't fool me, you crafty old mandarin! At this very minute he's boarding our magnificent Space Hotel with seven other rascals to blow it up!" "Excuse pleese, Mr. Plesident. You make big mistake." "No mistake!" barked the President. "And if you don't call them off right away I'm going to tell my Chief of the Army to blow them all sky high! So chew on that, Chu-on-Dat!" "Hooray!" said the Chief of the Army. "Let's blow everyone up! Bang-bang! Bang-bang!" (30-1)
 It's not that I hated every page of this one. I just didn't find enough positives to overcome the negatives.

Have you read this one? What did you think?

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

53. Time School: We Will Remember Them

Time School: We Will Remember Them. Nikki Young. 2020. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy] [j fiction; speculative fiction; time travel; history; World War I]

First sentence: “Has anyone ever asked where you come from? Do you know? Mr Mundair?” “Yes, Miss. I came from Kirkshaw this morning.” Ash Mundair. Already firmly established as the class joker within the first few weeks of the Year Sevens beginning their secondary school careers.

Premise/plot: Four friends: Jess, Nadia, Tomma, and Ash find themselves running late for school one day--they catch the morning train--just barely. But they sit in the last car, something they've never done before. They soon notice that all is not as it should be! Their train is now a STEAM TRAIN. The destination remains the same--the village where their school is located. But they've gone BACK IN TIME.

What was Hickley School like in 1918?!?!

 My thoughts: I love, love, love, love, love time travel stories. I do. I would recommend this one to anyone who loves time travel stories OR to those with an interest in world war I.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, April 20, 2020

52. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Roald Dahl. 1964. 155 pages. [Source: Library] [J fiction; j fantasy; children's classic]

First sentence: These two very old people are the father and mother of Mr. Bucket. Their names are Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine. And these two very old people are the father and mother of Mrs. Bucket. Their names are Grandpa George and Grandma Georgina. This is Mr. Bucket. This is Mrs. Bucket. Mr. and Mrs. Bucket have a small boy whose name is Charlie Bucket. This is Charlie. How d'you do? And how d'you do? And how d'you do again? He is pleased to meet you.

 Premise/plot: Mr. Willy Wonka, an eccentric candy-maker, opens up his candy factory for one day only to five lucky golden-ticket-holders in Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Buckets are poor--an understatement. The Buckets are starving. Will Charlie's luck turn around after finding a ticket?

The book is quirky, delightful, and full of messages or morals. These messages aren't exactly hidden, they are obvious, especially in the lyrics of the songs. For example, Mike Teavee's song. No reader could miss that message! Is it a message for children or parents?!

"The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set–
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all the shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink–
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY...USED...TO...READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic takes
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy–Winkle and–
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How The Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole–
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks–
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something good to read.
And once they start–oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hears. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.
P.S. Regarding Mike Teavee,
We very much regret that we
Shall simply have to wait and see
If we can get him back his height.
But if we can't–it serves him right."
My thoughts: What do I love about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl? Everything. This is one of my childhood favorites. (I don't know how many times--more than two less than six--I probably read this one growing up.) But I recently, last week, read it for the Book to Movie Challenge. I loved the story. I loved the characters. (Especially Charlie and Grandpa Joe.) I loved the humor. Those oompa-loompa songs are just too much fun! I loved the illustrations. (For the record, the illustrations were by Joseph Schindelman). So when I said everything, I meant everything.

For the few that may not be familiar with the story, Charlie Bucket is a young boy, a poor boy, who wins a Golden Ticket--one of five--and is allowed into the ever-so-mysterious chocolate factory owned by Willy Wonka. Why is it so mysterious? The factory closed down years ago--spies in the company selling secrets--and it reopened years later. But no one ever goes in or out of the factory. The gates remain closed. Who are these "mystery" workers? Is Wonka as 'out there' as he seems?

I love the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie as well. The new one. Not that dreadful, dreadful one. Why? It follows the book better. It capture the *essence* of the book. It has the heart and soul of the original even if they change a few details now and then. What do I love most about the movie? A lot of the dialogue comes straight from the book. Not all of it. But enough that when you reread the book you see examples on practically every page. The songs especially are authentic to the book. When you read the book, you hear the songs from this movie. They have brought it to life. What they added to the movie that wasn't in the book was the fact that Willy Wonka's father was a dentist and that they had a strained relationship was an odd twist. In the movie, he had a reluctance to embrace families. He was a loner. In the book, he didn't have this 'odd' quirk and was more than willing to embrace the whole Bucket family from the start. Even though the movie didn't get it quite right at the end, they redeemed it enough where I could accept it.

Do I love Charlie and the Glass Elevator? No. Not really. Not at all. But the first one is classic. It's an unforgettable rags-to-riches story of a deserving boy who finally gets a break.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

51. Pollyanna

Pollyanna. Eleanor H. Porter. 1913. 304 pages. [Source: Bought] [children's fiction; orphans; classic]

First sentence: Miss Polly Harrington entered her kitchen a little hurriedly this June morning.

Premise/plot: Pollyanna, our heroine, is an orphan who has come to stay with her aunt, Miss Polly Harrington. Miss Harrington is not exactly great with children; then again she's not exactly a people person either. Her wealth and privilege allow for a certain amount of rudeness, perhaps. But Pollyanna makes friends with everyone. Everyone?! Yes, just about everyone. Will Pollyanna's joyful spirit and grateful attitude melt Aunt Polly's cold, cold heart?!

My thoughts: This was my second time to read Pollyanna. The Glad Game should be required during this Covid 19 pandemic. Pollyanna wouldn't be a bad sort to be stuck in quarantine with, in my opinion.

Did I read it solely because my spirits needed lifting?! Perhaps not. I love, love, love this one and have been meaning to reread it for a couple of years now.

Readers get various examples of the glad game, my particular favorite being the occasion where Nancy learns to appreciate her name and to be glad that it isn't Hephzibah!

"Well, anyhow," she chuckled, "you can be glad it isn't 'Hephzibah.'"
"Yes. Mrs. White's name is that. Her husband calls her 'Hep,' and she doesn't like it. She says when he calls out 'Hep—Hep!' she feels just as if the next minute he was going to yell 'Hurrah!' And she doesn't like to be hurrahed at."
Nancy's gloomy face relaxed into a broad smile.
"Well, if you don't beat the Dutch! Say, do you know?—I sha'n't never hear 'Nancy' now that I don't think o' that 'Hep—Hep!' and giggle. My, I guess I AM glad—" She stopped short and turned amazed eyes on the little girl. "Say, Miss Pollyanna, do you mean—was you playin' that 'ere game THEN—about my bein' glad I wa'n't named Hephzibah'?"
Pollyanna frowned; then she laughed.
"Why, Nancy, that's so! I WAS playing the game—but that's one of the times I just did it without thinking, I reckon. You see, you DO, lots of times; you get so used to it—looking for something to be glad about, you know. And most generally there is something about everything that you can be glad about, if you keep hunting long enough to find it."
"Well, m-maybe," granted Nancy, with open doubt.
 I did enjoy the character of Pollyanna. I enjoyed her point of view. I loved some of her insights, especially her insights on living...
"Oh, but Aunt Polly, Aunt Polly, you haven't left me any time at all just to—to live."
"To live, child! What do you mean? As if you weren't living all the time!"
"Oh, of course I'd be BREATHING all the time I was doing those things, Aunt Polly, but I wouldn't be living. You breathe all the time you're asleep, but you aren't living. I mean living—doing the things you want to do: playing outdoors, reading (to myself, of course), climbing hills, talking to Mr. Tom in the garden, and Nancy, and finding out all about the houses and the people and everything everywhere all through the perfectly lovely streets I came through yesterday. That's what I call living, Aunt Polly. Just breathing isn't living!"
"Well, as near as I can judge, there are a good many things you 'love' to do—eh?" he added, as they drove briskly away.
Pollyanna laughed.
"Why, I don't know. I reckon perhaps there are," she admitted. "I like to do 'most everything that's LIVING. Of course I don't like the other things very well—sewing, and reading out loud, and all that. But THEY aren't LIVING."
"No? What are they, then?"
"Aunt Polly says they're 'learning to live,'" sighed Pollyanna, with a rueful smile.
The doctor smiled now—a little queerly.
"Does she? Well, I should think she might say—just that."
"Yes," responded Pollyanna. "But I don't see it that way at all. I don't think you have to LEARN how to live. I didn't, anyhow."
The doctor drew a long sigh.
"After all, I'm afraid some of us—do have to, little girl," he said.
School, in some ways, was a surprise to Pollyanna; and Pollyanna, certainly, in many ways, was very much of a surprise to school. They were soon on the best of terms, however, and to her aunt Pollyanna confessed that going to school WAS living, after all—though she had had her doubts before.  
And I did enjoy the moral message of this one:
 “Oh, yes," nodded Pollyanna, emphatically. He [her father] said he felt better right away, that first day he thought to count 'em. He said if God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times [in the Bible] to be glad and rejoice, He must want us to do it - SOME.”

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, April 9, 2020

50. Don't Forget the Bacon

Don't Forget the Bacon. Pat Hutchins. 1976/1994. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Six farm eggs, a cake for tea, a pound of pears, and don’t forget the bacon.

Premise/plot: Originally published in 1976, Don’t Forget The Bacon chronicles a young boy’s trip to and from the store. Will he remember everything on his mom’s list?

My thoughts: I definitely enjoyed this one. It is both predictable and delightful. I didn’t love, love, love the illustrations. Probably they date the book more than anything else. But the text is timeless and classic.

Text: 5/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Total: 8/10

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

49. Bittle

Bittle. Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan. Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. 2004. 40 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book; animals; new babies]

First sentence: In a big yellow house lived a cat and a dog.

Premise/plot: Nigel (The cat) and Julia (The Dog) don’t quite know what to think about the new baby their humans bring home. The duo name the baby Bittle...and life will never be the same again.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved this one. It is equal parts silly and sweet. The cat and dog are the parents doing all the hard work. Their hard work and love pay off when it comes to the baby’s first words.

I would definitely recommend this one. It would be great as a board book. It would be fun to have an adaptation of this as a cartoon.

It’s so good I can almost imagine Levar Burton narrating it.

Text: 5/5
Illustrations: 4/5

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, April 3, 2020

48. The Chestnut King

The Chestnut King. (100 Cupboards #3) N.D. Wilson. 2010. 482 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Every year, Kansas watches the world die.

Premise/plot: Henry York Maccabee faces all his fears and does battle with evil incarnate in the final book of the series.

My thoughts: Why so short? Am I lazy? Perhaps. But it’s also the final book in series. It will only appeal to those that have read the other two books. The books should not be read out of order. The books don’t stand alone. By now you’re either attached to the characters, love the action, love the writing...and will read the book yourself no matter how short or long my review. Or not.

I loved the first two books more. I am trying to decide why. Is my lack of love a timing issue? If I wasn’t housebound due to Covid 19...if I was sleeping better...would the scary thrills have appealed to me?!?! Maybe. But for whatever reason nightmares followed every night I read this one.

I did care about the characters which is why I didn’t abandon this one. I think it’s probably just me or the timing. Though sometimes I do end up liking the middle book best.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, April 2, 2020

47. Dandelion Fire

Dandelion Fire. (100 Cupboards #2) N.D. Wilson. 2008. 480 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Kansas is not easily impressed.

Premise/plot: Henry York stars in the second book of the 100 Cupboards trilogy, Dandelion Fire. The novel opens with Henry fearing that his days in Kansas are numbered. His parents have returned to the states after their adventure, it’s only a matter of days or weeks. There isn’t a strong connection or bond between parent and child. Henry loves his uncle and aunt, his three cousins, his new life in Kansas. He worries that it will be years before he can try to find out more about his birth parents, his home country, the whys of how he came to be in this world...if he has to go back to Boston.

Henry and Henrietta seek to explore the cupboards more during these last weeks...but there are a few obstacles...

My thoughts: I found this a compelling fantasy. I greatly enjoyed revisiting the main characters, especially Uncle Frank, Henrietta and, of course, Henry. I may have loved this one even more than the first book. The writing style is delightful.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

46. Prairie Lotus

Prairie Lotus. Linda Sue Park. 2020. 272 pages. [Source: Library] [historical fiction; j fiction]

First sentence: “Should be our last day,” Papa said when they stopped to make camp.

Premise/plot: Hanna and her father are newly moved to Dakota territory; the year is 1880. Her dad will be opening up a dress goods shop once the building is completed. Hanna, meanwhile, hopes to graduate with her diploma and fulfill her mom’s dream. But it won’t be easy because Hanna is half-Chinese. There is some question whether she’ll be allowed to attend school. She doesn’t need the diploma, but she wants it. Her dream is to be a dress maker, a seamstress.

My thoughts: I loved this one so much. As I was reading this one I kept asking myself, are these characters inspired by Little House?! In particular the social scenes with the other kids. I was so pleased to read the author’s note and learn that yes she was inspired to write her own twist to Wilder’s books. Growing up, Park wanted to be Laura’s best friend. As she continued to grow and mature she realized that Laura probably would not have been allowed to be her friend. That Ma would have probably looked down upon her, that her prairie experience would have been completely different—even more challenging. What would it be like to be an Asian pioneer?! Plenty has been written about Chinese settlers in California, but this may be the first—probably is the first for young children—about settling further East.

I found the book to be well written, and the characters well drawn. I loved that Hanna was able to make friends with Bess! 

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers