Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book Review - The Stinky Cheese Man

The Stinky Cheese Man by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith is the funniest book I have ever read, hands down. As soon as you open the book to the title page, you know right from the start that this is going to be a funny! Book. Even the front jacket gets into the mix, saying “56 action-packed pages. 75% more than those old 32-page “Brand-X” books.” I can’t believe this story wasn’t listed for the weeks we are covering humor in children’s books. Talk about author or narrator intrusion – this is the book to do it in.
I can’t wait to take it to the kids on Friday and read it, but I’m afraid most of them won’t get the humor, which brings me to the point of intended audience. At first glance, this is a picture book. It is for kids. Except, I doubt that most kids under the age of 15 would get this book. There are references to many different stories they hear when growing up, but the younger ones I think might just be confused about this book of nonsensical nonsense. However, this won a Caldecott Honor, and as an adult reading it, I found such an incredible joy that most books just don’t instill in me anymore. From cover to cover, this was enthralling. 
It spoofs some of the best-known fairytales and stories we have in this culture: Chicken Little, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, The Princess and the Pea, and several others. And it turns them all what I like to call upsidedoodle! 
I think some of the humor in this book will be lost on younger readers (under 10 or so) who are unfamiliar with all of these stories or unable to yet understand sarcasm. But regardless of whether you have kids or you teach or are 80 years old, you must go and find this book right now and read it! I think I'm going to go buy a copy to take to France and read to the kids there - that's how amazing I thought this book was! 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Book Review - Alice in Wonderland

So as an avid reader, I've decided I'd like to start writing some book reviews amidst the creative non-fiction and other general life posts. Here's my first one on Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland is one of those well-loved classics in the cannon, and I've never read it. I don't like to read the Classics simply because they're the classics. But I've always loved the movie versions of it and I've seen a ton of them. The older Disney version, a TV version where Whoopi Goldberg plays the Cheshire Cat, the new Disney version, and the Sci Fi version called Alice, but I never picked up the book. Until now. And suddenly I can see why the story has spawned so many different versions and inspired countless readers. 
I've found it simply enchanting as well as literary. It's so simply nonsensical that it makes perfect sense. Alice is trying to find herself by getting completely turned upside down and inside out. She changes sizes and meets new people and runs away from her problems and runs headlong into problems without thinking first. The language used is very silly and appropriate for the world that Lewis Caroll created. The characters are endearing and Alice is a great heroine for young readers and adults alike. Overall, I think this was a very easy and enjoyable read, and even after having seen so many versions of it, I could see the inherent value in the book. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My cat has pica

Oh, how I wish I were kidding. I should have noticed before now, really I know I should have. But I'm a very busy cat Mommy and I do have the cat from Hell. She likes to climb curtains, get on the counter, the stove, the dining room table, into the ceiling, and pretty much anywhere else she's not supposed to be!
A few months after I got her last May, we realized she was eating insulation! But I figured it was low to the ground, something to play with and she was bored. So we covered it up and we've gotten so many interractive toys around it's NUTS. We're constantly tripping over them.
She ate through the cord to the Wii sensor, and we should have known something was wrong then. We've even taken a few half-eaten hair ties from her. Tonight, she got sick and there were elastic bands of some sort in there. We found an expandable file folder with the elastic band chewed completely off, and another one with a half-eaten band!
I am now thoroughly convinced that my cat has pica! Now we have to determine if it's behavioral or physical. It's most likely behavioral... did I mention she was the cat from hell? And I'm leaving her here when I move to France for most of the year. GOODNESS!
Which means, it's only going to get worse.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Peep Jousting!

Another piece of creative non-fiction. Along with a video. The first part of the video is just a still picture. Then the Jousting begins. 
I’m trying to remember the first time I was introduced to peep jousting. Well, I think I was at Megan’s party, a Hawaiian-themed affair. There were grass skirts and leis, coconut bras and limbo sticks. It must have been around Easter-time as there were peeps afoot. Peeps are those disgustingly sugary-covered cavity-making marshmallow things that the Easter Bunny has brought me every year (fricken’ Bunny, I hate those damn things and until this late night in mid-April, I had absolutely no use for the little buggers).
And so we were bored high-schoolers, kinda nerdy, a bit too straight-laced and with parents in the house – so we had neither the opportunity nor the inclination for sex, drugs or rock’n’roll just to pass the time. And so, we turned to peeps. I’m sure that this was something Meg or Ellen found on youtube somewhere. They were always finding the most interesting things on the internet, those two – like the time they showed me the Charlie the Unicorn video.  But anyways, back to the peeps. So they told us we were going to hold a peep joust and that we would take bets on who would win – pink or yellow, purple or green. We began with a two-peep joust. It was pink vs. yellow. (Now, when you joust peeps, it’s important to remember that you must use two chick-shaped peeps, for this will not work with those silly bunny creations.) So the two peeps were placed on a plate, approximately one inch apart from each other. Then, both were skewered with a toothpick and carefully aimed at one another. (I wish I could draw you a diagram, for it is an interesting site, watching the peeps being prepared for battle for the first time.) And so we all stood around watching these peeps as Megan and Ellen made their preparations.
Okay, now what? I thought. As if in response to my question, Megan popped open the door to the microwave. See marshmallows do some funny stuff when they’re placed into the electromagnetic waves emitted by the microwave. (If you’re not sure what I mean by that, hold on, you’ll catch on soon.) We watched as Megan placed the plate into the microwave. Mesmerized by her audacity, we all stood by, slightly horrified as she pushed the Start button. The microwave turned on, and round and round the peeps spun. Now, as you’re aware by now, I’m no fan of peeps, but this was kind of horrifying to watch. They exploded! Not that kind of brain matter splattered all over the place exploded, but that slow motion lava eruption, like a blooming flower, only darker, more sinister. These poor little yellow and pink chicks had morphed, in seconds, into giant monstrosities, almost entirely unrecognizable. What’s the point? I thought, and then Ellen chimed in, “The first one to stab the other with a toothpick wins!”
Oh, right, I remembered, we’re watching peep jousting. Those terribly deformed creatures in there used to be peeps and they’re supposed to be stabbing each other. God I feel like Michael Vick. But I – I can’t look away so I watch, transfixed until yellow stabs pink mercilessly and Megan calls an end to their joust with the push of a button.
“You have to stop them before they really explode,” she announced.
So now every year I take revenge upon the Easter Bunny and those disgusting marshmallowy treats and subject them to the horrors of peep jousting for my own sick amusement. Go ahead, try it.

You know you want to.