Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Swine Lake

Written by: James Marshall

First line: One wintry afternoon a lean and mangy wolf found himself in an unfamiliar part of town.

Why you should read this book: A tongue-in-cheek children's story that takes the archetype of the big, bad wolf, huff and puff, and blows the whole thing down, this will entertain younger children and delight those with an ear for the absurd. As illustrated by the unmistakeable talent of Maurice Sendak, the down-on-his-luck wolf chances upon free box seats to an all-pig ballet and intends to devour the entire cast, but instead becomes caught up in the story and so enraptured that he sees it through to the end and floats home in a trance. The next day, he returns to the theater and leaps onto stage, as was his original intention, but rather than eating pigs, joins the ballet, dances the part of the monster, and then, the next day, finds a review of his stage debut in the paper and  keeps it in his pocket.

Why you shouldn't read this book: A traditionalist, you despise revisionist histories.


Saturday, November 17, 2012


Written by: Warren Ellis

First line: My first memory is of being held up in front of a tiny black-and-white TV set by my mother and being told, "Remember this."

Why you should read this book: In a seemingly catastrophic but eventually beautiful vision, Colleen Doran illustrates Ellis's tale of a future in which the manned space program has been scrapped in the wake of the incredible disappearance of an entire space shuttle, which reappears under equally mysterious circumstances a decade later, covered in a biological matrix and piloted by an insane astronaut. To determine where the Venture been, how it got there, how it got back, and what happened to the ship and its crew in the interim, the government assembles a team of passionate individuals, all of whom have had their dreams ripped away from them with the dismantling of the space program. If they can crack the ship's secrets and break through the mental blocks of the apparently catatonic pilot, they may be poised to usher the human race into the new age of space exploration.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You prefer not to look up at the night sky.

The Pig-Out Blues

Written by: Jan Greenberg

First line: "Jodie Firestone, your arms are thick as tree trunks," my mother said on her way to the icebox.

Why you should read this book: It's a sort of problematic YA novel in which a five-foot, one hundred twenty pound teenager labeled as fat, verbally abused and emotionally neglected by her mother, and seeks solace in her love of theater and her best friend's family. In a bid to please her mother, satisfy her peers, and win the role of Juliet in the school play, Jodie goes on a starvation diet, losing twenty pounds in one month, only to pass out from exhaustion at her audition. When she honestly examines her mother's psychology and her relationship with her mother, her desire to binge disappears and she becomes incredibly insightful.

Why you shouldn't read this book: The writing is strained, the story is dated, and there's something sort of artificial about the narrative's arc.

Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear

Written by: Lensey Namioka

First line: Yang the Eldest drew his bow across his violin strings, and a shower of sparkling notes fell over the room.

Why you should read this book: Yang the Eldest, like his parents before him, is a talented musician, a violin virtuoso; Yang the Second Eldest plays the viola; Yang the Third Eldest, the cello; and so it falls to Yang the Youngest to complete their string quartet by playing second violin, which he would do happily, were he not completely tone deaf and literally unable to differentiate one note from the next. Recently immigrated from China, Yang the Youngest's family loves him, but cannot accept his utter musical ineptitude, until the boy makes his first American friend, Matthew, whose own parents disdain his love of violin and don't understand why he doesn't spend more time improving his baseball skills. As it turns out, Yang the Youngest has a great talent for the Great American past time, and maybe, just maybe, he and Matthew can teach their parents a thing or two about direction a child's talents.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're supposed to be practicing.