Friday, June 29, 2012

Hop on Pop

Written by: Dr. Seuss

First line: UP PUP Pup is up.

Why you should read this book: You should read this book if you are are just starting to learn how to read. Each page begins with rhyming pairs or triplets, which are then made into simple sentences illustrating some of Seuss's trademark nonsense. Fun for young people who are ready to delight themselves with the contents of books.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Little plot to speak of. Conflict is easily resolved.

The Magic Pillow

Written by: Demi

First line: Once upon a time in China there was a boy named Ping.

Why you should read this book: Power, fame, and wealth are passing illusions, Ping learns in this kind hearted parable for young people based on an ancient Chinese story, and illustrated with gorgeous gold and textured accents. When Ping starts to yearn for more than he has, a magician's magic pillow shows him what life would be like were his dreams to come true. Ping is granted a vision of success that proves to him the impermanence of material success and teaches him to be content with what he has.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're already content.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Game of Thrones

Written by: George RR Martin

First line: "We should start back," Gared urged as the woods began to grown dark around them.

Why you should read this book: The land of Westeros is troubled: winter is coming, a long winter that could last many, many years, and bring on the threat of forgotten monsters from the north, but, aside from the men of the Night's Watch who guard the Wall, few worry about the wildlings and the white walkers. Instead, great families toy with life, death, and love, jockeying for position with riches and royalty, killing and dying over secrets and powers. Only one person can rule from the Iron Throne, and only with the support of many loyal bannermen, so the king, and those who do the king's bidding, are always in the most precarious position.

Why you shouldn't read this book: One of the rare cases where the TV show is probably better, although the book provides a lot of back story and detail the show must omit.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

Written by: Dr. Seuss

First line: One fish two fish red fish blue fish.

Why you should read this book: "Funny things are everywhere," and in this classic beginning beginner book, Dr. Seuss attempts to catalog a vast number of them, including made-up animals, real animals engaging in unusual behaviors, and Seussian characters with Seussian problems. Good introduction to discovering rhyming words, finding contextual meaning in pictures, and cloaking learning with humor and a sense of the ridiculous. Can be read aloud all at once or broken down, page by page, for an examination of related series of words.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Find no humor in learning to read.

Green Eggs and Ham

Written by: Dr. Seuss

First line: I am Sam.

Why you should read this book: Another children's classic that lends itself equally to being read out loud by adults to children or by children to themselves (or adults, or other children, or dogs, or anyone who is willing to listen). The rhyming and repetition make it a good book for beginning reader, with the rhythm and structure switching up just often enough to ensure listeners that the young child is actually reading, rather than reciting the text through memorization. At the end, there is a moral that encourages readers to try new foods, with delightful reward.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Dietary restrictions prevent you from accepting ham or eggs as food, regardless of their color. Also: suspicion of green animal-based proteins.

Go, Dog. Go!

Written by: PD Eastman

First line: Dog.

Why you should read this book: Although this is a beginning-beginner book, and often one of the first books that children find they can read all by themselves, there is an interesting structure and sense of dynamic tension and irony in the narrative, in which a series of activities, all perpetrated by anthropomorphic dogs, culminates in one of the most memorable party scenes of western literature, arguably surpassing anything Gatsby was able to throw together with limited resources that did not, sadly, include acrobatic dogs. With repetition and an emphasis on prepositions, color words, and easily understandable concepts, this book begs to be read over and over again.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Do not believe in judging others by their hats.

Don't Bet on the Prince: Contemporary Feminist Fairy Tales in North America and New England.

Edited by: Jack Zipes

First line: A long time ago in a kingdom by the sea there lived a Princess tall and bright as a sunflower.

Why you should read this book: There is extensive scholarly material included in the introduction and in part three, but most readers can glean the full force of the message by reading the tales, in which the girls and women take center stage, doing the questing, fighting, adventuring and thinking, wherever they need to be done. These princesses find that they can rescue their own princes, or that sometimes the princes aren't worth the bother and they should go off with some other man who appreciates them more, or that men in general aren't what they need at the moment, and they can find perfect happiness on their own. Some of the tales are better for younger readers, and others are more appropriate for a more mature audience, but they all envision a world where women take action, rather than waiting passively to become a prize for someone else.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Still waiting for your prince to come.

Number the Stars

Written by: Lois Lowry

First line: "I'll race you to the corner, Ellen!"

Why you should read this book: Really timeless, elegant, and unpretentious story that brings to life the experience of the Danes under Nazi rule in World War II. With faith in their king and their way of life, the people of Denmark are prepared to suffer through the German invasion, but when the Nazis make known their intention of rounding up all Jewish citizens, ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen begins to realize the true meaning of friendship and citizenship, and what her people are willing to go through for their country. A rewarding and engaging read for all ages: very smart, very sweet, with alternating moments of dynamic suspect and rewarding resolution.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You'd have to be a Nazi to not like this story.

Oh, the THINKS You Can Think!

Written by: Dr. Seuss

First line: You can think up some birds.

Why you should read this book: Nice book for early readers working on phonics, as this book contains quite a number of made-up words that can be decoded with humorous results. Reads like a catalog of ideas that Seuss couldn't flesh out into a full-length store. Also nice for reading aloud to kids with a sense of the bizarre.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Demand a sense of unrepentant reality in children's literature.

The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice

Written by: TKV Desikachar

First line: To begin, I should like to share some thoughts that might help us understand the many different meanings of the word yoga.

Why you should read this book: The asanas, or mat practice, commonly understood in western culture to be "yoga" are only one of eight branches of yoga, which is a system that unites the body, mind, and spirit and affect all aspects of human life. The author, inspired by the life of his father, Krishnamacharya, explains many of the physical and sublime details of a full yogic practice, the result of which can be a lightening of the heart and a process that sets the individual free from the world. This book includes several appendices, along with Krishnamacharya's Yoganjalisaram and Patanjali's Yoga Sutra.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Just want to fold yourself into a pretzel. Or, threatened by spiritual systems beyond those into which you were indoctrinated as a small child.

The Tale of Despereaux

Written by: Kate DiCamillo

First line: This story begins within the walls of a castle, with the birth of a mouse.

Why you should read this book: A fairy tale with an implicit discussion of dark versus light and dogma versus inspiration, not to mention examinations of bravery, cowardice, class structure, dreams rational and irrational, and effective ways to handle grief. An unusual mouse, an unusual rat, an unusual scullery maid, and an almost run-of-the-mill princess find their lives converge as each seeks to realize dreams that the world tells them they should not have. Clever without being overly complex, this book creates a believable world with sympathetic characters whose flaws and strengths are lovingly illustrated to turn stereotypical portraits of good and evil on their head and instead inject a dose of reality in characterization into what is otherwise a world of pure fantasy.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't talk to bugs. Or mice. Or your enemy's distant cousin, even if the cousins are enemies of each other.