Friday, October 29, 2010

The Strange History of Suzanne LaFleshe and Other Stories of Women and Fatness

Edited by: Susan Koppelman

First line: On April 13, 1973, at 9 A.M. at the Atkinson Hotel in Indianapolis, Indiana, I stood before a room filled with people, announced, "I am fat," and slowly peeled the wrapping off of a giant Baby Ruth candy bar and took a bite.

Why you should read this book: The twenty-five short stories in this anthology span one hundred years of portraits of and attitudes toward fat women, including women from many cultural and class backgrounds, and encompassing the full spectrum of emotions about fatness. From self-reliant side show fat ladies to high school students with low self-esteem, and touching on every form of eating disorder; physical, mental, and emotional abuse; the ups and downs of dieting and exercise; and the relationships between men and women, along with the relationship between women and women, the reader can discern a complete picture of size in modern American history. In addition to its proud, eye-opening feminist perspective, this is also a collection of great, readable, provocative short stories.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Typos galore. Seriously needs some proofreading.


Written by: Karen Lynn Williams

First line: Kondi opened an old shoe box and looked inside.

Why you should read this book: Determined and inventive, Kondi sets out in one morning to build his very own galimoto, a toy created by the children of Malawi, using spare bits of wire, and shaped like a motor vehicle. His quest is fraught with peril, as he braves the naysayers who tell him he is too young to collect enough wire or build such a complicated construct, or that his plan is a foolish one, or that he needs to stop trespassing as he goes about collecting enough wire to follow through. A wonderful story that opens a window onto another country and serves as a beacon for those self-reliant kids who know they can accomplish great things, if only other people would get out of their way.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You’re too busy chasing little kids out of your junkyard.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Baba Yaga and the Wise Doll

Retold by: Hiawyn Oram

First line: Once there was a witch called Baba Yaga.

Why you should read this book: The virtuous are rewarded and the wicked are punished in this Russian fairy tale about Too Nice Child and her terrible siblings, Horrid Child and Very Horrid Child. While the cruel brothers send their overly kind sister off to certain death at the hands of the witch, little Too Nice depends on the encouragement of the little doll her mother left her before she died and ends up impressing critical Baby Yaga. The surprising ending may horrify adults, but is sure to delight children.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You've let your brothers walk all over you for far too long, and now you're plotting your revenge.

The Girl Who Wore Too Much: A Folktale from Thailand

Retold by: Margaret Read MacDonald

First line: Aree's parents gave that girl everything she wanted.

Why you should read this book: In this cautionary fairy tale, Aree is spoiled with more jewelry and clothing than anyone could possibly wear in a lifetime, and this fact affects her ability to dress appropriately for the big dance. Unable to decide which of her dresses and jewelry to show off, she chooses to simply wear everything, all at once, rendering her incapable of walking all the way to the dance under the crippling weight of her material wealth. Rewritten for modern audiences, this story features a happy ending, in which Aree learns her lesson about excessive possessions, and includes Thai text at the bottom of each page, along with an interesting afterword for those who care about the collecting of folktales or their adaptation for new listeners.

Why you should read this book: You can never have enough pretty dresses.

The Octopus's Garden: The Secret World Under the Sea

Written by: Dr. Mark Norman

First line: Octopuses and squid are like the wizards of the sea.

Why you should read this book: Featuring simple descriptions and glorious photographs, this book introduces young readers to the wonderful world of cephalopods, without ever mentioning the word "cephalopod." Big, sharp, full-color photographs of octopuses, squid, cuttlefish, and nautilus are coupled with smaller inset photos and interesting facts written by an expert in the field. This thoroughly modern book also includes a DVD featuring lovely footage of said cephalopods in hypnotic action.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You fear tentacles.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

And Condors Danced

Written by: Zilpha Keatley Snyder

First line: It was midafternoon on an unusually warm June day when Carly Hartwich made the following entry in her secret journal:

Why you should read this book: Growing up in California in the early 1900s, Carly has never known a time when her mother wasn't sick, her older sister wasn't the boss, and her father wasn't aloof and critical. She longs, equally, to be treated like an important member of her own family, and to return to the loving atmosphere of her Aunt M.'s estate, where she spent her first five years, and where her aunt, and her aunt's Chinese servant, Woo Ling, dote on her. Half the time she feels invisible, and the other half she's getting yelled at for not being ladylike, but it's just impossible to be prim and proper while at the same time solving mysteries and maybe, just maybe, fixing the long-standing rift between her family and their old enemies, the Quiqleys.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You find the idea of driving a majestic creature to the brink of extinction sort of thrilling.

More of the Best: Stories for Girls

Edited by: N. Gretchen Greiner

First line: It takes all kinds of girls to make a book of stories for girls.

Why you should read this book: Take a whitewashed journey back to 1978, when girls could study genetics while dealing with timeless issues like boys, death, divorce, and popularity. In eleven stories, girls take their own journeys to awareness and self-understanding, learning to water ski, practicing voodoo, and helping their best friends elope. A somewhat dated but still entertaining collection.

Why you shouldn't read this book: The issues you're dealing with are a little more complicated than a bossy cousin telling you what to wear to her party.

Sister of the Quints

Written by: Stella Pevsner

First line: I don't know how Claudia does it.

Why you should read this book: Natalie Wentworth thought she was making the right decision when she chose to stay with her father and stepmom instead of moving across the country to live with her mother. What she didn't bargain on was the reality of being a big sister to quintuplets: five crawling babies who need constant attention, scare off nanny after nanny, and keep Natalie's dad from remembering her birthday or attending her soccer games. Should she run back to her mother's house, or stick around and become closer to the interesting new guy at school who, unlike everyone else, finds Natalie a lot more interesting than a bunch of babies?

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't even want to know what life is like with one baby.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Lobotomy

Written by: Howard Dully and Charles Fleming

First line: This much I know for sure: I was born in Peralta Hospital in Oakland, California, on November 30, 1948.

Why you should read this book: For whatever reason, Howard Dully's stepmother never much liked him, and even though most of the doctors she consulted thought the problem was hers, not his, she kept searching for a final solution, until Dr. Walter Freeman suggested there was simply nothing like a nice, definitive lobotomy to permanently calm down a twelve-year-old boy. While his stepmother never allowed him back into the house, what followed for Howard was decades of a foggy, confusing, and seemingly perpetual childhood, until the day he awakened to himself and decided it was time to become an adult. This surprising memoir chronicles his journal from juvenile delinquent to inspirational public speaker, as he struggles to make his way in the world and try to understand what happened to him that day in the hospital, and how anyone could have ever made such permanent decisions regarding a young child.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're looking for a good way to get your stepkids out of the house.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Warlord of Mars

Written by: Edgar Rice Burroughs

First line: In the shadows of the forest that flanks the crimson plain by the side of the Lost Sea of Korus in the Valley Dor, beneath the hurtling moons of Mars, speeding their meteoric way close above the bosom of the dying planet, I crept stealthily along the trail of a shadowy form that hugged the darker places with a persistency that proclaimed the sinister nature of its errand.

Why you should read this book: The incomparable Dejah Thoris has been locked in a tower with one faithful friend and one self-centered psychopath, and John Carter finds himself always one step behind in his attempts to rescue his beloved. Coveted by a holy Thern, a First Born, and pretty much every powerful man who sees her, the princess is dragged from the forbidden south pole of Mars, from which no man has ever returned, to the forbidden north pole of Mars, from which no man has ever returned, with John Carter always following close behind, leaving a trail of corpses in his wake. Already a wanted man for his work discrediting the evil religion of Mars, he stands for truth (when it suits him), justice (when there's time), and the bloody overthrow of tyrants (always), and lets his martial instinct guide him as he saves everyone on Barsoon from ignorance and the sad state of not submitting to the will of John Carter.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're a big advocate of democracy.

The Gods of Mars

Written by: Edgar Rice Burroughs

First line: As I stood upon the bluff before my cottage on that clear cold night in the early part of March, 1886, the noble Hudson flowing like the grey and silent spectre of a dead river below me, I felt again the strange, compelling influence of the mighty god of war, my beloved Mars, which for ten long and lonesome years I had implored with outstretched arms to carry me back to my lost love.

Why you should read this book: Returned after a ten-year absence to his beloved Barsoomian home, John Carter finds himself unfortunately deposited in the forbidden Valley Dor by the lost Sea of Korus, the promised paradise of the Martian religion, from which place it is forbidden to return. Rather than heaven on Mars, however, the Valley Dor is a flat-out horror-fest, where pilgrims are eaten by hideous plant men and white apes, or else forced into slavery under the immoral holy Therns, who themselves live under the brutal hand of the wicked firstborn. If you read the first book, you know that John Carter must battle his way through untold danger, accompanied by faithful companions new and old, to overthrow the tyrant, save the damsel in distress, and prove his own superiority as the universe's ultimate fighting champion.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You can't stand cliffhanger endings.

The Gift of the Willows

Written by: Helena Clare Pittman

First line: Yukiyo Takasama of Shinjo was a potter.

Why you should read this book: A potter nurtures a pair of willow saplings he finds on the banks of the river where he gathers his clay. Thanks to his kindness, the trees grow strong, even through weather that kills other trees. When the weather turns dangerous and the potter, his wife, and his infant child must flee their home, the tenacious trees aid them in their escape.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're clear cutting your land to make a few bucks on lumber.

The Dragon Nanny

Written by: C.L.G. Martin

First line: Nightfall brought a chilly dampness to the forest.

Why you should read this book: Poor Nanny Nell Hannah: the king has fired her from her position as nanny to the royal children for the crime of being old, she's cold and tired, and now an irate and territorial mother dragon is going to eat her alive. But Nanny Nell Hannah is one step ahead of everyone else, and manages to secure a new nanny positive, to a pair of large but wonderful baby dragons. The only problem is that Nanny Nell Hannah is a kind and loving woman, and as nanny to a pair of baby dragons, she's charged with teaching them anger, an emotion she never feels.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't believe senior citizens belong in the workplace.

On the Way Home: The Diary of a Trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, in 1894

Written by: Laura Ingalls Wilder with a setting by Rose Wilder Lane

First line: For seven years there had been too little rain.

Why you should read this book: If you loved Wilder's Little House books, return to the world of the intrepid pioneer with this short diary, chronicling Laura, Manly, and Rose's five-week drive from drought-stricken South Dakota to prosperous Missouri. Along the way, Wilder describes the country she crosses, the people she meets, and the little adventures to be had in a caravan, in the focused and intelligent prose for which she's known. The forward and afterward, written by her daughter, who was seven at the time of the trip, paints a complete picture of life with the Wilder family, and the reality of the situation they left, and they one they came into.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're obsessed with the young Melissa Gilbert.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Shelter in Our Car

Written by : Monica Gunning

First line: Police cars are coming closer!

Why you should read this book: Zettie’s family had high hopes for a better life when they came to America, but now Zettie’s mom can’t find a good job, and they have to sleep in their old car and wash up in the park bathroom, because that's still better than staying at the homeless shelter. Boys at school tease her, and she dreams of her old life in warm Jamaica where her mother made real hot chocolate, or at least a warm shower and a real bed. This illuminating, heartbreaking, and hopeful story details the reality of homelessness among women and children in America.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You’ve decided to tear down your starter mansion to build an even bigger mansion, and you call the police whenever you see a car that doesn't look nice enough for your neighborhood.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland

Written by: Jim DeFede

First line: Where are you going?

Why you should read this book: As America reeled through the devastating events of September, 11 2001, thousands of international passengers bound for the States were rerouted to the tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland, where the friendliest people you’ll ever meet pulled out all the stops to provide the waylaid travelers with food, shelter, companionship, and hope. Immigrants seeking US soil for the first time, Americans just trying to get home, and Europeans ready to turn around and haead back to the continent all found solace in the warm hospitality of the Newfies who cooked, cleaned, acted as tour guides, facilitated communication with loved ones, and opened their homes and hearts to the stranded group. A truly moving and heartwarming story about the small-town values that were in such high demand in those terrible and uncertain days.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You’re a terrorist.