Showing posts with label print book. Show all posts
Showing posts with label print book. Show all posts

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Malinche, Pocahontas, and Sacagawea by Rebecca K Jager


Rating: WARTY!

Subtitled "Indian Women as Cultural Intermediaries and National Symbols," this book turned out to be completely wrong for my purposes and from the little I read of it, it felt to me to be completely wrong when it came to the purpose the author evidently intended it to serve. It seemed abusive to me in a way, in ascribing two, three, or four hundred years on, motives to women whose motives were never considered important at the time, so we have no idea what moved them to do the things they did, and we most certainly no grounds to ascribe high-flying reasons for their behavior.

The book does talk about the mythology that has built-up around these woman and discusses the roots and aims of that in some detail, but that aspect of their story as viewed today seems to me to be so painfully obvious as to be a fruitless exercise in pursuing it more. People have used these women for their own ends whether those ends were supposedly noble or malign. Of that there is no doubt, but the book seems like it wants to go beyond all that to view them in hindsight as cross-cultural ambassadors and I don't agree that's what they were. They were certainly not at the time, and ascribing such a role to them in hindsight seems pointless to me. It seems like it's just as abusive to them as people were in their own lifetime by disrespecting and using them in much the same way that people have done ever since.

The simplest solution to me is that these women acted in their own best interest, and in the interest of the foreigners for whom they may have developed feelings of affection, respect, or love. It's a perfectly human motive, and it's not superhuman. Malinche, who aided Hernán Cortés during the Spanish take-over of central America in the sixteenth century had been treated shabbily by her own people and was respected by the Spanish, so it's entirely unsurprising that she had switched loyalty and wanted to help those who had treated her better than her own people had. There is no overriding nationalist motive here, anti or otherwise. These women had no great plan. They had none of the hindsight we have today, to see where this was going. They were merely doing what they saw as best in their circumstances at the time.

The same 'motive' applies to Matoaka (aka Pocahontas) and Sakakawia (aka Sacagawea). Matoaka was a child and came to the Jamestown village because it was exciting and new, and there were new playmates to interest her. She was not a princess. She did not represent her father. She had no great diplomatic aspirations. Yes, she came often with gifts of food, but there's nothing recorded to show that this was her idea as opposed, say, to her father's idea. Maybe she talked her father into it, maybe not. We don't know! Maybe she was no more than a spy for her father, infiltrating the English camp and reporting all she saw back to dad. We don't know!

The great life-saving story that John Smith belatedly related was in my opinion pure fiction, and there's an end to it. He'd used the same story before in a different context. And Disney ought to be ashamed of themselves for dishonestly portraying it as a love story, but since when have they cared about historical accuracy, or about integrity in retelling ancient fairytales?

Sakakawia started out in very much the same as Malinche, being kidnapped at a young age and sold or traded off. Her life followed a somewhat less abusive trail than did Malinche's but they were both torn from their roots and were sharp enough women to make it work for them. My own personal feeling about Sakakawia isn't that she saw herself as a great diplomat either, but that she enjoyed new adventures and may well have talked her way into being the one wife of Charbonneau who went on this excursion merely because she relaly wanted to go. She had no great ambition to be a bridge between peoples and to pretend now that she was is farcical!

So I can't take a so-called 'scholarly work' like this seriously, I really can't, and I certainly cannot commend it as a worthy read.


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Sacagawea: crossing the continent with Lewis & Clark by Emma Carlson Berne


Rating: WORTHY!

I'm reviewing three different books this month about the life of "Sacagawea" who is actually more accurately referred to as "Sakakawia" - which was, it's important to remember, her Hidatsa name, not her Shoshone name. No one at the time bothered to ask her about her previous name or her life before the Hidatsa era. All we know of her earlier life came out because of fortuitous coincidence during the expedition.

William Clark spent a lot of time with Sakakawia, but he never wrote anything down of their interactions - which admittedly were limited in regard to conversation since she spoke no English and he none of Shoshone, Hidatasa, or French, all of which she had at least a smattering of. Since American Indian names tended to be quite fluid throughout life, perhaps Sakakawia didn't care that much how she was referred to or would have been concerned if two centuries on, we had a clue what it really was or what her short life had been.

This book was fine, but of the three I've read, it was the least interesting even though it wasn't the last I read. I say that because the facts are very limited in discussing her life, and the only thing a new author can add is their own spin, which may or may not count for much. So one book about her tends to be very much like another. That's why I don't intend to write yet another boring book about her life on the expedition; I have something very different in mind which to my knowledge hasn't been done before, and this is why I've been reading all of these books, and why I intend to read the Lewis and Clark diaries too. This is all for background, but my story won't be the expedition, which I feel has been done to death and beyond.

This book tells a workmanlike version of the story if given to flights of fancy at times. That said it isn't ridiculously exaggerated and it does not make up stories any more than any bother such book has done. The problem is that these books tend to ascribe things that were never there in real life. All native Americans, for example, were tough people back then, men and women alike, so personally I don't feel there was anything particularly special about Sakakawia's toughness and abilities. Any "Indian Squaw" could have done what this woman did because it's what they did day in and day out!

I do feel, and this is just a guess, that she had an interest in adventure, and so was game to go on this expedition. It could have been Charbonneau's other wife (latterly referred to as 'Otter Woman' although no one actually recorded her name at the time) who went instead, but to me it feels like Sakakawia was intent on going and did not see her post-partum status as an obstacle, whereas Charbonneau's 'Other Woman' wasn't at all interested, and perhaps this 'Older Woman' saw his prolonged absence as a chance to get away from him and find a better life for herself? The truth is that we don't know how or why the cut was made the way it was, we just know it was.

The backcover blurb for this book - which is not typically in the hands of the author admittedly - claims that without Sakakawia, "Lewis and Clark certainly could never have succeeded," but I think that's patent buffaloshit. I think they would have succeeded with or without Sakakawia, with or without "Otter Woman" and with or without Charbonneau, but that doesn't take anything away from the real and solid contributions that Sakakawia made and the fortitude and can-do qualities she exhibited. She deserved a hell of a lot better than she got, and she deserves to be remembered, honored, and commemorated. If this book helps with that, then it's a worthy read.


Sacagawea : westward with Lewis and Clark by Alana J White


Rating: WORTHY!

With any book on Sacagawea the problem is not only getting her name wrong, but also fictionalizing her life and adding fanciful and wishful things which are not in the historical record. This is nothing new. Historical revision began over a century ago when the suffragette movement in the USA was looking for a strong female figurehead and poor Sakakawea was resurrected to fit the bill. That's when the myth-making began. No one stopped to think whether she would have wanted or supported something like that.

The fundamental truth about her is that the record is light. She's barely mentioned in the diaries that the two expedition leaders kept, and when she is, the variations in spelling are numerous making it difficult to do a search to find all the references to her. She's referred to as "the Indian woman", as "Charbonneau's squaw" (various spellings), and by the name the Hidatsa kidnappers gave to her (again with variations). That's how little regard she was given at the time.

No one bothered to record her original name or her thoughts and feelings about the journey. In that, she was treated like every other member of the expedition despite being the youngest who also happened to be carrying and expertly caring for a young baby for the entire journey. In this, she was treated as an equal to the men, so in that regard she might be considered the first recorded exemplar of equal rights in North America.

The closest we can come to her Hidatsa name is Sakakawia which means Bird (sakaka) Woman (wea). No one recorded why she had this particular name or what happened to her original Shoshone name. Native American names were very fluid, changing sometimes many times between birth and death. They were more like a current status - like something in social media - than an actual name as we in the west in modern times view names, so perhaps even Sakakawia didn't care that much what her name was.

This book along with most others, refers to her as Sacagawea which is closest to the name used phonetically in more than one spelling, in the diaries. As to her Shoshone name, no one knows what it was. A popular one doing the rounds is 'Boinaiv', but that sounds far too much like Bowie Knife to be taken seriously. Besides, as far as I know, Grass Woman in Shoshone is Ambosoni, not Bonaiv!

The next thing the books tend to do is to inflate Sakakawia's importance and contributions to the expedition by claiming, for example, that it could not have succeeded without her. I don't buy that, and neither Lewis nor Clark ever made such a claim, but this takes nothing away from the important contributions she did make, which were acknowledged by the expedition leaders.

Stoicism was an important part of Indian life. These people were tough and resilient, and Sakakawia was stoic without a doubt. She never complained, even when she was sick. She accepted what life laid before her if perhaps hoping always for something better. She obviously never wanted to be kidnapped by the Hidatsa, but she made a life with them. She more than likely didn't want to be married to Charbonneau, but she made a life with him, too.

When he signed on for the expedition, in part being allowed in because he could boast two "squaws" who spoke Shoshone, it raises the question as to why she went along when she had a newborn in tow, rather than his other wife who was referred to in later mythology as midapokawia (Otter Woman), although she remained nameless during the time of the expedition and disappeared from recorded history at that time.

But she was older with no new child, so why take the younger post-partum woman? Personally my feeling is that Sakakawia actually wanted to go on the expedition and didn't see her newborn as an obstacle. I really think she wanted the adventure and a chance of seeing her own people again, whereas 'Otter Woman' (Other Woman?!) wasn't that interested and perhaps saw this as a chance to get away from Charbonneau in his absence?

There seems to be some conflation of Otter Woman with the friend of Sakakawia's who was kidnapped at the same time as she was. That girl is referred to as Leaping Fish. I have no idea what the Shoshone for that name is, but fish is Akai. She was not Otter Woman, because Leaping (or Jumping) Fish managed to escape the Hidatsa and return to her own people. Why Sakakawia didn't go with her was never recorded. Perhaps she could not escape, didn't know about Leaping Fish's escape plan, or was recaptured. Or maybe she didn't want to escape because staying with the Hidatsa was an adventure for her - a chance to see different things. Perhaps that's why she married Charbonneau too. Perhaps she didn't escape because Charbonneau offered another distraction. We simply don't know.

So those are the facts, and this book does not embellish them inordinately. It tells a wider story, too, offering insights into life back then, into the different tribes we learn of, and so on, so it fills out the story and makes for a much more rounded reading experience. But in the end, one book about 'Sacagawea' is pretty much, of necessity, like another, because the facts don't change - only the spin an author chooses to put on them. So while I think I am done reading such books after this present flurry, I can commend this one as a worthy read.


Sacagawea by Judith St George


Rating: WORTHY!

You might guess that when I start in on reading a slew of books about a certain topic, I'm thinking about writing a story, so here we go again!

This book was entertaining, but very much buying into the popular mythology of Sacagawea. Let's get her name straight first. It never was Sacagawea, and certainly not Sacajawea. Lewis and Clark recorded it as minor variations on "Sah-kah-gar we a" in their diaries, but the closest we can come today is probably Sakakawia.

The real problem though, is that this was a Hidatsa name, not her Shoshone one! She was kidnapped at the age of eleven or twelve and absorbed into a Hidatsa tribe before being given to a fur-trapper named Charbonneau, who already had a previous (and slightly older) Shoshone wife. I guess he was really into Shoshone women. The name never was her original Shoshone name, but that said, American Indian names were rather fluid and one person might go through several names during their lifetime. To them, a name was really more like Facebook status in a way! As far as I can tell, Sakakawia is closest to the name she became most commonly known by in her own time, so it's the one I'll use here. No one uses it in books and novels because people generally don't recognize that name as applying to her.

Additionally, no one knows what Sakakawia actually looked like. She's never described based on the farcical "all Indians look like" fallacy that was prevalent then and unfortunately still is among certain categories of people even now. Even as Lewis and Clark described in some detail the things they saw during their trip.

Despite ostensibly being on a journey of observation and recording, never once did either of this pair think of describing Sakakawia in any way - physically, mentally, personality-wise, clothing-wise or whatever. She was "just a squaw" to them and therefore not that important. So, while the model for the image on the US dollar coin minted in 2000 was a Shoshone woman (Randy'L He-dow Teton), even she was not Lemhi Shoshone. She was a thoroughly modern woman who graduated from University of New Mexico at the same age as Tsakakawia apparently was when she died.

Why the image from a photograph taken much closer to the time of Tsakakawia's life wasn't used instead, I have no idea, but what we must do when seeing all these modern images and thinking of her life, is to keep in mind that Sakakawia was actually much younger when she became the only woman on that expedition. She had just had a baby less than two months before the expedition began, and she was barely more than a child herself.

This begs the question, why her instead of the less-well-known 'other wife' - an older Shoshone girl given the much less exotic name of Otter Woman - which wasn't actually her name either! This suggests to me that Sakakawia actually wanted to go on this trip whereas Charbonneau's other wife probably did not, and so she left history whereas Sakakawia entered it quite forcefully

All that said, the book is entertaining, but the constant championing of this young woman becomes a bit tedious and feels a little fake. She's mentioned often in the diaries, but under variations of her name, and also as a 'squaw' (various spellings) and as 'the Indian woman'.

The telling thing about these mentions is that it is of her utility to the expedition - saving light objects that were in danger of being washed out of a flooded pirogue at one point, finding roots and herbs to feed the hungry crew at another, easing Indian tribes fears of the intentions of the travelers at another, of giving up her prized blue-bead belt in trade for an otter skin cape that was given to Thomas Jefferson and for which Sakakawia received no credit other than the brief mention in the diaries, and of her joy at meeting her brother, now a chief, whom she had not seen in a decade, when they finally arrived in Shoshone territory.

Although her value did not really give cause for much comment in the body of the diaries, in a letter written after the expedition was completed, when he was in process of what became an adoption of her children, Clark apparently had misgivings and pretty much apologized that their appreciation of her contributions had not been better represented. That says it all right there. I commend this book as a worthy read for younger children, but keep in mind that there's much more going on in her story than a short and somewhat biased book like this can convey.


Home Sweet Homicide by Craig Rice


Rating: WORTHY!

Craig Rice is an interesting and underrated author. She was the first female author ever to appear on the cover of Time magazine. Born Georgiana Ann Randolph Craig in 1908, she changed her professional name for her adoptive parents family name, putting her original family name first when she moved from journalism and radio writing, to detective fiction.

Most of her output was a series featuring three oddball investigators, none of whom was actually a police officer. She wrote other stories too, and this was one of them. Here, the three investigators were the children of a detective fiction writer. Maybe Georgiana was rewriting her own less-than-satisfactory childhood - and adulthood for that matter. She died before the age of fifty probably largely due to her heavy drinking, but she had issues with deafness, blindness, and she attempted suicide more than once.

This cheery story reflects none of that. It's bright, screwball, upbeat, well-written, and fun all the way through, I loved it. The title is emblematic of her screwball titles, too. Other titles were of a similar nature: The Big Midget Murders, The Corpse Steps Out, Crime on My Hands, The Lucky Stiff, The Pickled Poodles, and my personal favorite My Kingdom for a Hearse although I confess, it was a close-run thing between that latter one and the title of the novel reviewed here.

The three Carstairs kids, Dinah, April, and Archie, are left almost totally unsupervised while their windowed mom, Marion, is in one of her writing frenzies. They happened to be sitting outside on the porch when they heard two gunshots from their next-door neighbor's house, home to a woman who was widely despised and who was, it seems, blackmailing certain of her neighbors. The kids try to involve their mom, who isn't interested and so, despising the local cops for stupidity (the kids learned a lot from reading their mom's stories, including pseudo-gangster dialog, but unfortunately expended no effort in differentiating between fact and fiction!), they decide to undertake their own investigation, misleading the cops about the time of the shooting because they don't believe the husband did it.

They also believe if they solve it and give the credit to their mom, it will work miracles for her sales. Additionally, there is one cop they think might make the perfect partner for their lonely mom so they have to tread carefully, deny the police information they discover while luring the detective in to bring him and their mom into frequent contact. Published in 1944, this novel was made into a movie in 1946, but as usual, the movie doesn't follow the book too closely.

I completely loved this novel and I commend it highly.


The Replacement by Brenna Yanoff


Rating: WARTY!

This was my first and last Brenna Yanoff. The story started out sounding like it was heading somewhere, but it never did! At least it had not by halfway through which is where I abandoned it out of boredom. Main character Mackie Doyle is some sort of elf or fairy who was left in the crib of the real Mackie years before. Mackie knows he isn't human. He suffers daily and reacts badly to iron, so the entire first half of the novel is him whining about how bad his life is.

I kept thinking that something was going to happen - something had to happen - to change or bring change, but it never did. The closest it came is when someone in the know told him that he was dying, but even that didn't seem to be the kick in the pants this story needed badly, and that was where I quit it. At that point I would have been happy had he died, since I have better things to do with my time than listen to a main character whine almost non-stop about his life. Maybe if he had died, a more interesting person would have stepped up and told their story, but I didn't care by then. This book sucked. Period.


Prism by Austin Bay


Rating: WARTY!

I could not get into this at all and I DNF'd it quite quickly. The problem for me is that this story was all over the place and it never seemed to be going anywhere. I could not get interested in any of the characters or the plot, and despite pressing on past my point of disappointment, I couldn't find anything to draw me in. I began skimming and reading at various points to see if things improved or if I could find something to hook me, but it didn't happen, so I gave up on it.

Purportedly set in the near future, the world has progressed to "mental warfare." To me this ought to have signaled major changes in the world, but judged from the first few chapters, the world seemed to be going on much as it is today, and the shtick of calling in a retired expert to solve a problem is very old and very tired. If you're going that route you really need to bring something new to the pot and this did not. Even the names of the characters seemed worn-out, and not the least bit inventive. The villain is Coleman Oswald Mosley? Really? The main character is Wes Hardin? Honestly? Not for me and I can't commend it based on what I saw of it.


Killashandra by Anne McCaffrey


Rating: WARTY!

This is the second volume in a trilogy and exemplifies why I have such a poor track record with series and why I flatly refuse to even think of writing a series myself. The problem is that, with some rare and treasured exceptions, the second volume must of necessity be a repeat of the first, because it's all you have. Yes, you can bring in new characters, but you're still stuck with the same original character you're writing about, who is going to do largely the same things. It's boring, lazy, and uninventive, and I don't feel that ought to be rewarded.

I really enjoyed Crystal Singer, the first volume, which is why I moved on to the second one, but here's where it predictably fell apart. I should have quit after volume 1! Killashandra is a crystal singer - or cutter. She 'mines' crystal by cutting it with a sonic knife on a cliff face, and in the first novel she found herself a nice claim which had a vein of black crystal. So valuable was it that she got to visit another planet and install the crystal in a communications system. Now in order to try and change-up this story for volume two, the author had her do almost exactly the same thing. Instead of black crystal, which had somehow been tragically lost in a planetary storm, she was mining white crystal - and sure enough he had to go off planet to install it in a system. Same old, same old....

This losing of her invaluable black crystal open-face 'mine' made zero sense. Yes, even give that a violent wind storm could wreck her mine face - which is a stretch - this crystal was so valuable and useful that it was unthinkable there would not have been a major effort to uncover that vein again, so premise was fouled right there. But having her repeat the first story - mine the crystal, escort it to another planet and install it? Boring.

The author tried to change this up by having a ridiculously conformist society whereas Killashandra is a bit of a rebel of course, and have an assassination plot. Yes, Killashandra was hit by what had evidently been an intended three-pronged bolt of death come at her, which she escaped with only minor injury.

Later when she snuck off without her escort, she was kidnapped and abandoned on a remote island. Why did this assailant try to kill her and then when he had her in his clutches, simply abandon her on an island instead of killing her as he had originally intended? It made no sense. But it got worse. She managed to escape from this and get back to society, but coincidence of coincidences, she ran right into the very same man who had tried to kill her and then had abducted her. He didn't recognize her - the most famous woman on his planet - because she now had a suntan. What? But it got worse. She got the hots for him - for her attempted killer and kidnapper. I'm sorry but no! Fuck no! This story sucked and I'm done with this author.


Crystal Singer by Anne McCaffrey


Rating: WORTHY!

I thought maybe I'd read a McCaffrey before this one, but I guess not. I don't specifically remember one and my blog didn't have her name in it thus far. Plus, I'm not a fan of dragon stories, which comprise the bulk of her oeuvre, but here there be no dragons. Crystal Singer is exactly what it says: a woman, Killanshandra Ree, who was let go from her opera academy because of a 'burr' in her voice, and at a loss as to what to do next, discovers that she has an affinity with crystals, which are mined on this oddball planet known as Ballybran (what can I say - the author's Irish!). She happens upon a crystal singer in the spaceport departure lounge, and he tries to talk her out of it. The life is exacting at best, but the more she hears, the more interested she becomes, and she seems destined for the career since she flies through the induction and training.

If there's one thing Ballybran is known for aside from its crystals, it's its storms, which can be horrendous, and when a crystal cutter (aka singer) comes in late, his mining sled badly damaged by a storm which has also fatally battered his body, Killashandra has the smarts to track down the rough geographic area he was mining. Claims are guarded jealously and penalties for claim jumping are severe, but once a cutter dies, their claim is up for grabs, and Killashandra grabs his, which turns out to be a rich one because it has a nice vein of the most sought-after crystal there is: the black crystal, which is worth a small fortune.

With a nice haul in hand, Killashandra is set to sit out the highly dangerous annual storm season, but she's lucky enough to get off planet during it, because she's assigned to set-up and tune the crystals in the planetary system which has bought them to improve its communications. Now that might seem like a lot of spoilers, but it's really not. Plus the novel is almost four decades old, so hardly a new story.

Besides, there's a heck of a lot I haven't told you about this interesting, strong, and self-motivated female character and less about what happens to her during the course of the story. She proved to be completely engaging, and the story moved quickly, and it kept me fully on board, which is not something I can often say about a novel. It's also part of a trilogy, and I'm not a fan of those, but in this case, the first volume was so enjoyable and complete that I was definitely interested in moving onto the next one ASAP, which I could do since the trilogy is so old that all the volumes are out there already! I had problems with volume tow and this is why I am not much into series! More on that in my next review.

There were some minor issues here with plotting which are not explained, such as why there has been no effort to make synthetic crystals, the absence of which necessitates a somewhat dangerous and demanding (in ways I haven't revealed!) profession. Neither does the author explain why the bad weather has not been bypassed by mining for the crystals instead of working them in open-face pits. These I was willing to let go for the sake of a good story but they are examples of poor writing.

Anne McCaffrey has been writing literally for decades and so has a lot of experience, but there was a writing mistake in one section of the book where I read, "Lanzekci is generous, and I shall be installing the five interlocking segments I cut in the Trundimoux system." Nope! She didn't cut them in the Trundimoux system, which is what this sentence suggests. She's installing them there. McCaffrey ought to have written, "... I shall be installing in the Trundimoux system the five interlocking segments I cut ." That should make us all feel better that someone of McCaffrey's sterling reputation and long experience can get something wrong! Or maybe most people wouldn't notice - or care. Maybe it's just me.

But that's a paltry issue. I loved this novel and I commend it as a worthy read. I'm looking forward to the next volume, named after its main character.



Strangers in Paradise vol 1 by Terry Moore


Rating: WARTY!

I came to this by way of reading another graphic novel, Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, which I had enjoyed. They liked this series a lot, but we'll have to disagree on it, because I found it unappealing and unoriginal. This black and white line-drawing affair (illustrated decently by the author) is about the tangled relationship between Francine and Katchoo, who are roommates, David, who is interested in Katchoo (who appears only interested in Francine), and Casey, who married and then divorced Francine's ex, and later became interested in both David and Katchoo.

It felt like the TV show Friends, only rather desperately fortified with sex, and I never was a fan of Friends, which bored the pants off me, and not even literally. I felt that was one of the most stupid and fake TV shows I've ever had the misfortune to accidentally see a part of. I read most of the first volume of this graphic series, and found it completely uninteresting, with nothing new, funny, entertaining, or engaging to offer. That's all I have to say about this particular graphic novel.


Friday, March 8, 2019

Doc's Mobile Clinic by Marcy Kelman


Rating: WORTHY!

Based on a TV show created by Chris Nee, and illustrated by the so-called 'Character Building Studio' which appears to make heavy use of computer-generated imagery, this book actually wasn't half bad as it happens. It's also from Disney (although the show was produced by Brown Bag Films, it was shown on the Disney Channel and Disney Junior). The book was even mildly amusing.

Doc McStuffins likes to take care of injured toys and now she has a mobile clinic which hooks on the back of her bike, she can travel to where the injured toys are and fix them up, which is exactly what she does. This book depicts a kid of kolor who is actively pursuing her own goals and not afraid to wield the tools she needs to do it (and that's not a metaphor!). She's a self-starter and definitely not a princess, and she deserves some recognition as a much better and more realistic character than some of the whitewashed and flimsy female abuse that Disney has served up over the years and doesn't seem like it's going to give up on any time soon!

Perhaps this character only grew to be what she is because she didn't originate in Disney studios? Anyway, I commend it as a fun and worthy read and I hope Disney learns something from it.


Me by Tony Bradman, Bill Brandon


Rating: WORTHY!

In the Care Bears Big Wish Movie, there;s a scene where Me Bear accidentally catches sight of herself in a mirror and exclaims in surprise, "Oh! Me!" which fro me, watching this with my kids years ago, was the funniest thing in the whole movie and made having to sit through the rest of it worthwhile! Maybe that's why this book title caught my eye (don't worry, there was no injury - I still have my sight!).

There's an interesting juxtaposition of last names between the author (Bradman) and the illustrator (Brandon) here! The book itself was very short and simple, and aimed at lending some identity to young children who may have been befuddled one time too many by peoples' tendency to tell them they have their mother's eyes, and their father's ears and this that and the other thing.

If all her parts 'belong' to someone else, then who exactly is she? It's a good question, and this book has her decide that she's not anyone, but herself, which is the only valid and rational conclusion! I think this might be a good read for kids who have been told one too many times that they're made up of bits of other people! I commend it.


Eloise and the Very Secret Room by Ellen Weiss, Tammie Lyon


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a fun book based on Kay Thompson's 'Eloise' stories. I've never read any of those, but I have an audiobook on reserve from the library. There were only five original books, one of which was published posthumously. They were originally illustrated by Hilary Knight. I did see a movie based loosely on them some time ago which was entertaining. I think it was titled Eloise at the Plaza. Thomson, who was born Catherine Louise Fink in 1909 died two decades ago, but her legacy evidently lives on.

The very secret room turns out to be the hotel's lost and found closet, and there is so much stuff in there that Eloise can spend all day hidden there playing games and dress-up using the various items she discovers in the closet. She's inventive and playful and has a good time, and so will any kid who reads this - or who has it read to them. I commend it as a fun book, with nicely rambling illustrations by Lyon.


Mike & Spike by Diane Namm, June Goldsborough


Rating: WORTHY!

Mike and Spike are magpies and this story is about a race to migrate south for the winter. The problem is that magpies really don't migrate, so I'm not sure where the authors got that idea from. That aside, the story was fun and nicely-illustrated by Goldsborough. It's a bit like the tortoise and the hare, but there's a fun twist at the end.

One of the birds is a dedicated flyer, taking off with his little backpack and heading south, whereas the other is a bit lazy and wants to find the easy way, so we get to see a variety of vehicles (cars, trains, a fire truck), as he tries to cheat his way there by hitching a ride, but of course none of these vehicles are going the distance. He also naps and lollygags, and gets there last, but he doesn't know his friend also cheated - and was smarter about it!


Safari Babies by Lisa McClatchy, Cindy Kiernicki


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a sweet book for young kids talking about African animals (mostly mammals as usual - you won't find a crocodile here, but you will find an ostrich) and their young. It's brief, colorful, and informative, and covers a variety of critters starting with Lions and zebras, and going on through elephants, gazelles, hippos, meerkats, warthogs, and so on - the usual suspects. A bit more variety would have been nice. Some emphasis on threatened species would have been good (some of the species here are vulnerable or threatened, but there was nothing said on that topic). Overall, this isn't bad for kids to learn a bit about the world, so I commend it as a worthy ready for young kids.


The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins


Rating: WORTHY!

This was an amusing and nicely illustrated story that's really about math. Or is it really about sharing a plate of cookies? Anyway, it's really about generosity of spirit.

One or two kids are sitting down to enjoy a large plate of cookies, but that doorbell rings. More kids come in, and each time they divide up the cookies, the doorbell rings again. Finally they're down to one cookie each when that pesky doorbell rings again! Are they going to have to divide the individual cookies into pieces? Or maybe some good Samaritan will help them out?

This was a fun story about interruptions, good nature, and sharing, and I commend it as a worthy and educational read for kids.


Jamaica's Find by Juanita Havill, Anne Sibley O'Brien


Rating: WORTHY!

Jamaica (who may actually be from Jamaica for all I know!) is a young girl who likes to ride her bike and ride the swing in the park when there are few other kids around and no one is crowding to use the swings. This one afternoon on her way home she does just this, and discovers a couple of things that got left at the park. She returns one of them to the lost and found, but the little plush dog, which has seen better years, she takes home.

Then she feels guilty about it, and the next morning she hands it in to lost and found as well. Returning to the park she meets another little girl and on befriending her, learns that this girl lost something at the park the day before! I wonder what it could be? It's a perfect friendship. I enjoyed this story about honesty, integrity, and friendship, and I think it's perfect for young kids.


Deputy Dan and the Bank Robbers by Joseph Rosenbloom, Tim Raglan


Rating: WORTHY!

I can feel a bunch of children's book reviews coming on, and there aren't many more amusing ones to start it off with than this one. I rather suspect that the author had more fun writing this one than any kid will reading it, but it amused me at any rate. Some would argue that's easily done....

Deputy Dan is new to the job and unfortunately, he's rather a literal kind of guy. You tell him to answer the door and he'll go say "Hello" to it. You tell him to cover the door, and he'll fetch a blanket and hang it over the door. But when it comes down to finding criminals like the scrambled egg gang, he's willing to go to no lengths to catch them, and he doesn't! You tell him they're dirty crooks and he'll make 'em take a bath!

This was amusingly illustrated by Tim Raglan and even more amusingly written by Joseph Rosenbloom. My kids are too old for this now (or maybe not!), but they would have loved it when they were younger. I commend it as a fun read.


Thursday, March 7, 2019

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, EG Keller


Rating: WORTHY!

Written amusingly by Jill Twiss, and illustrated beautifully by EG Keller, this fictional account of a gay bunny is 'presented by Last Week Tonight by John Oliver'. How he got involved I do not know. I'm not a fan of his show; it's a little pedantic, tedious, obvious, and over the top for my taste, but that's really not relevant to the content of the book.

Marlon Bundo is a rabbit owned by the evidently homophobic vice president's family, and one day he's out and about, as rabbits will be, when he encounters another male bunny with whom he forms an instant friendship. The two hop and skip, and run around and decide they enjoy each other so much that they want to get married, but the stinkbug is thoroughly against it. Fortuantely he's an elected official and the one thing you can do with them (other than ridicule them) is vote them out of office, so all ends well.

In an era where hatred, biogtry, and all manner of genderist phobias are all-but given the official stamp of approval by the two highest elected officials in the country, we desperately need books like this. I commend it thoroughly.


Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner


Rating: WARTY!

I didn't like this at all. I got interested in it because it sounds like the kind of thing I might write, but the story changes were such obvious ones that it didn't feel inventive or ambitious at all, and so after reading a couple of pages of the first one, I started skimming others and after two or three of those, and seeing that they were much the same, I was done with this book. Maybe it will amuse you more than it did me. The three little pigs was mildly amusing, but I couldn't rouse much interest in it, and none at all in any of the other stories. I can't commend it based on what I saw of it.

The stories the author covers are as follows FYI. The book is only a very short book so each story is really short:

  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • The Emperor's New Clothes
  • The Three Little Pigs
  • Rumpelstiltskin
  • The Three Codependent Goats Gruff
  • Rapunzel
  • Cinderella
  • Goldilocks
  • Snow White
  • Chicken Little
  • The Frog Prince
  • Jack and the Beanstalk
  • The Pied Piper of Hamelin