Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Written by: Barbara Robinson

First line: The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world.

Why you should read this book: It's a timeless and modern story that promotes the true spirit of Christmas in a rather roundabout way. The Herdmans really are the worst kids in the history of the world, a no-account bunch of unsupervised, lying, dangerous, violent, felonious delinquents, but when they get the idea that there are great snacks at Sunday school, they find themselves immersed in a new reality. Taking over the Christmas pageant over from the narrator's mom, they cast themselves in the best parts, hear the Christmas story for the first time, and provide their own unique spin on the birth of Christ. While the town assumes that a group of smoking, fighting, thieving, cussing criminals can never understand the sacredness of the scene, the Herdmans surprise everyone by demonstrating their unique experience of the true meaning of the holiday.

Why you shouldn't read this book: In your Christmas pageant, Mary is always serene and pristine, and the three kings never arrive bearing gifts of ham.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 6: Cabin Fever

Written by: Jeff Kinney

First line: Most people look forward to the holidays, but the stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas just makes me a nervous wreck.

Why you should read this book: Whiny, self-entitled slacker Greg Heffley is back, and this time he's inadvertently showing his softer side: taking tender care of a virtual pet, mourning a lost doll, and trying to help old ladies (resulting in widespread reports of old ladies being kidnapped), plus trying to trick Santa into keeping him on the "nice" list. When a tremendous blizzard covers the town in snow, Greg, his mom, and his brothers (his father is comfortably holed up in a hotel) must brave the dangers of rationed food, a flooded basement, no electricity, and cabin fever. His selfishness even accidentally leads to accolades, when he shovels the church parking lot (looking for money he thinks a good Samaritan might have left him) and ends up saving Christmas for those who depended on the church's soup kitchen for their Christmas meal.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You (or your progeny) are already well on your way to becoming a juvenile delinquent.

The Summer of Mrs. MacGregor

Written by: Betty Ren Wright

First line: When Caroline's mother was frightened, her freckles popped out and she looked no older than her daughters.

Why you should read this book: Caroline's sister is really sick, and her mother has taken her to Boston to see a specialist, while Caroline is stuck home all summer, with only her stepfather to keep her company in the evenings, plus a part-time job looking after crotchety old Mr. Jameson to occupy her attention in the afternoons. Then she meets older, glamorous Lillina MacGregor, married to a rich older man at seventeen, passing her summer taking portraits, writing a novel, and bulking up her modeling portfolio...or is she? A down-to-earth girl and a troubled teen learn to balance each other's sense of normalcy and appropriateness.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You would call the police on your best friend's daughter.

Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat

Written by: Melissa Joulwan

Why you should read this book: You may have heard something about the Paleolithic or primal diet, which eschews such modern foodstuffs as grains, dairy, and legumes, among other common ingredients. This book proves that you can change your eating habits without giving up your love of food. Includes no-brainers like Baba Ghanoush and Grilled Shrimp and more surprising variations like Meat and Spinach Muffins, Jicama Home Fries, and Meatza Pie.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: If you could, you would marry a carb.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Cautionary Tales for Children

Written by: Hilaire Belloc

First line: There was a boy whose name was Jim; His friends were very good to him.

Why you should read this book: Written in irreverent verese and illustrated by the inimitable faux-Victorian pen of Edward Gorey, these bizarre cautionary tales lay out the horrible penalties deserved by those young children who insist upon engaging in naughtiness. Jim runs away from his nurse and is devoured by a lion; Matilda prank calls the fire department and dies in a fire. A little harmless fun for kids who will be naughty, or just enjoying thinking about naughtiness.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Horrible, violent deaths for children.

Some Things Are Scary

Written by: Florence Parry Heide

First line: Getting hugged by someone you don't like is scary.

Why you should read this book: It's a list of events that can be scary: some of them are seriously nail-biting, and others are of the variety of childhood fears that are really only mortifying to those who haven't reached adolescence yet. This is a book without a resolution--there is no "but" to the narrative, which ends with "Knowing you're going to grow up to be a grownup is scary"--but Jules Feiffer's cartoonish illustrations do their best to communicate the humor inherent in these fears. Pain, uncertainty, loss, and humiliation are only some of the fears mentioned in this book.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Highly suggestible kids may find themselves confronted with brand new fears they hadn't previously considered.

Max's Breakfast

Written by: Rosemary Wells

First line: Eat your egg, Max, said Max's sister, Ruby.

Why you should read this book: If you like the other books in this series, you can appreciate the gentle humor in this short baby board book. Max wants to eat his strawberries, but Ruby insists the egg be eaten before the strawberries. Max's unorthodox solutions to making the egg disappear eventually work out in his favor.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You tolerate no shenanigans at mealtimes.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Miss Manners’ Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding

Written by: Judith Marth and Jacobina Martin

First line: Weddings are now the biggest and only formal festive event (mercifully overlooking the high school prom) in most people’s lives.

Why you should read this book: Beginning with the assumption that betrothed couples and their guests wish to enjoy proper and drama-free weddings based on meaningful tradition and devoid of empty trappings, Miss Manners and her recently married daughter have compiled this guide to help the love struck pull off the happy occasion without offending anyone or looking like greedy narcissists. While Miss Manners’ guidelines are, in some cases, far out of step with the way American weddings are usually conducted, they are offered in the spirit of dignity and tradition, and always with detailed explanations as to why they are proper. Avoiding vulgarity, unnecessary expense, and gauche outrage are the tradeoffs for those willing to let go of what has become the self-indulgent showmanship of this special day.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You’ve already decided that your wedding will be a money-making venture.