One-Minute Book Reviews

November 23, 2008

Watch a Slide Show of the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2008

Filed under: Children's Books — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:29 am
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Every year since 1952, the editors of the New York Times Book Review have asked a group of judges to pick the best illustrated children’s books of the year. The 2008 list appeared in the NYTBR on Nov. 9, and if you missed it, you can watch a slide show that includes a picture from each of the 10 honorees here
www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2008/11/06/books/20081109ILLUSTRATEDBOOKS_index.html.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 16, 2008

J. K. Rowling Will Lose, and Here’s Why

Filed under: Children's Books,News,Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:26 pm
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First, these words are being written by someone who thought Hillary Clinton couldn’t win New Hampshire after she got emotional a few days before the primary.

Second, I have no right to be writing about J. K. Rowling’s legal affairs, given that a) I have never finished a Harry Potter novel; b) I don’t usually cover publishing news; and c) my first-hand knowledge of Rowling consists almost entirely of having twice seen her on the street in front of a Tesco supermarket when I was living near her neighborhood in Edinburgh.

Even so, I must say it: Rowling and Warner Bros. Entertainment will lose their lawsuit against RDR Books, the would-be publisher of a book based on the Harry Potter Lexicon Web site www.hp-lexicon.org, which went to trial this week in a federal court in Manhattan. Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University and copyright expert, made the best case I’ve read against her claims in an article in Slate in January
www.slate.com/id/2181776/pagenum/all/#page_start. The gist of it is that while Rowling has many rights as an author:

“ … Rowling is overstepping her bounds. She has confused the adaptations of a work, which she does own, with discussion of her work, which she doesn’t. Rowling owns both the original works themselves and any effort to adapt her book or characters to other media—films, computer games, and so on. Textually, the law gives her sway over any form in which her work may be ‘recast, transformed, or adapted.’ But she does not own discussion of her work—book reviews, literary criticism, or the fan guides that she’s suing. The law has never allowed authors to exercise that much control over public discussion of their creations.”

Wu didn’t predict that Rowling would lose, only expressed the view that she should, but that doesn’t need to stop the rest of us, does it?

That’s all I have to say, except that a) the Tesco in EH 8 has excellent white Stilton with apricots and b) I did predict the winner of this year’s Pulitzer for fiction.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

April 4, 2008

Today’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole Goes to …

Filed under: Gusher Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:09 am
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“I literally couldn’t stop reading. I didn’t get up to eat breakfast. I didn’t take the dogs out. I just sat, curled up in my study chair, a glorious blue and gold Saturday morning blazing outside the window, and I read. I stopped a few times, forcing myself to go more slowly, wanting to savor the plot, but before long I was galloping along once more, flipping the pages in a blur …”

From a review of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows in Entertainment Weekly ew.com/ew/article/0,,20044270_20044274_20047649,00.html.

Comment:

So the critic “literally” didn’t stop, but actually did?

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

March 14, 2008

And a 2008 Delete Key Awards Honorable Mention to Steve Martin and Roz Chast’s ‘The Alphabet From A to Y: With Bonus Letter Z!”

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:12 pm
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And a 2008 Delete Key Awards honorable mention to …

To Steve Martin for:
“Henrietta the hare wore a habit in heaven, / Her hairdo hid hunchbacks: one hundred and seven.”

And to Roz Chast for a drawing that may leave thousands of children with the idea that the plural of “Inca” is “Incans”

From The Alphabet From At to Y: With Bonus Letter Z! by Steve Martin and Roz Chast (Doubleday)

At their best Steve Martin and Roz Chast are two of the funnier people in America. But the actor and cartoonist bring out the worst in each other in an alphabet book – a category typically aimed at 2-to-4-year-olds — that makes fun of, among others, people with disabilities.

Martin and Chast didn’t win the top prize partly because the Delete Key Awards recognize the year’s worst writing in books. And the couplet quoted here, if tasteless, is better written than the grand prize winner and runners-up. Martin’s jaunty anapestic lines are clear, metrically sound and (unlike Chast’s reference to those “Incans”) grammatically correct. This book would raise fewer objections if billed as a book for teenagers or adults (which it is) instead of for 2-year-olds (which it isn’t).

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda

March 9, 2008

The Delete Key Award Winners — Friday On One-Minute Book Reviews

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Vote now on the question: Which authors aren’t using their delete keys enough?

One-Minute Book Reviews will announce the winners of the 2008 Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books on Friday, March 14, beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. This is a date change. The winners are traditionally named on the Ides of March, the date of Julius Caesar’s assassination, because the winners assassinate the English language with their bad prose. But March 15 falls on a Saturday this year, and you might be out at Circuit City buying a new wireless router then.

The finalists were named on Feb. 29 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/02/29/. If you click on the link to that date, you’ll see a post that lists the titles of all the books on the shortlist. Below it, you’ll find 10 separate posts with samples from their writing.

Jan Harayda is the sole judge of the Delete Key Awards. But she realizes that many visitors to her blog are smarter than she is, which has become clear repeatedly in their brilliant comments on aspects of books she hadn’t noticed.

So in making her decision she will consider incisive and well-reasoned arguments on such questions as: Which is more deserving of an award — Rhonda Byrne’s advice in The Secret that if you want to lose weight, you should avoid looking at fat people, or Eckhart Tolle’s comment in A New Earth that consciousness may be “awakening from the dream of form” in “many parts of our galaxy and beyond”?

You can vote by leaving a comment on any post about the Delete Key Awards, including this one. The deadline for comments is 9 p.m. Eastern Time on March 12.

Please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed to avoid missing these posts. Thanks for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

February 29, 2008

Delete Key Awards Finalist #1 – Steve Martin and Roz Chast’s ‘The Alphabet from A to Y: With Bonus Letter Z!’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 4:55 pm
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Delete Key Awards Finalist #1 – From The Alphabet From At to Y: With Bonus Letter Z!’ by Steve Martin and Roz Chast:

“Henrietta the hare wore a habit in heaven, / Her hairdo hid hunchbacks: one hundred and seven.”

And special mention to Chast for a drawing that may leave thousands of children with the idea that the plural of “Inca” is “Incans”

Hey, kids! You’re never too young to make fun of people who are different from you! That’s an implicit message of the shortlisted lines from this demented bestseller by the actor and cartoonist. Yes, American publishers have brought out far too many dreary children’s books that are longer on ideological correctness than good writing. But do we really need books that encourage 2-to-4-year-olds – the usual audience for alphabet books – to laugh at people with disabilities? In this book the joke isn’t on fictional hunchbacks like Quasimodo but on those who look like your Uncle Ed. It doesn’t help that one of Chast’s drawings gives the plural of “Inca” as “Incans” instead of “Incas” or “Inca.”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda

February 1, 2008

Why Do Children Like Folktales? Quote of the Day (Laura Amy Schlitz)

Tomorrow One-Minute Book Reviews will have a review of a retelling of the Brothers Grimm story The Bearskinner (Candlewick, $16.99) www.candlewick.com, which has words by the 2008 Newbery Medal–winner Laura Amy Schlitz and pictures by Max Grafe. Schlitz is the librarian at the Park School in Baltimore and says that her children’s books reflect the influence of her years of telling folktales to its students:

“Folklore has a moral center to it. Folklore is always, always, always on the side of the underdog, and children have a natural instinct towards justice. They feel indignation at needless cruelty and wistfulness about acts of mercy and kindness.”

Laura Amy Schlitz as quoted by Meghan Cox Gurdon in “A Late-Blooming Talent in Full Flower” in the Wall Street Journal, Jan. 19–20, 2008.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

Coming Tomorrow — A Review of ‘The Bearskinner’ by Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz

Laura Amy Schlitz won the 2008 Newbery Medal for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, a book of one- and two-person plays for ages 10 and up. Can Schlitz write for younger children? A review of her recent picture book The Bearskinner, illustrated by Max Grafe, will appear tomorrow on One-Minute Book Reviews.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

January 16, 2008

Two Children’s Classics That Didn’t Win the Newbery — What Are the Others?

This week I was going to compile a list of 10 great children’s novels that didn’t win a Newbery Medal from the American Library Association www.ala.org, similar to my list of 10 classics that didn’t get Pulitzer (“Famous Pulitzer Losers,” www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/04/16/). But I ran out of time, so I’ll just mention two:

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White. A 1953 Newbery Honor Book that lost the top prize to Ann Nolan Clark’s Secret of the Andes.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. Shut out of all prizes in 1976. Lost to the Newbery medalist, Susan Cooper’s The Grey King, and Honor Books The Hundred Penny Box, by Sharon Bell Mathis, and Dragonwings, by Laurence Yep.

What are the other classics – books children have enjoyed for decades — that didn’t win the Newbery?

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Books Give You ‘a Metaphorical Boner,’ Says Sherman Alexie’s ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian’

[Warning: This review quotes lines from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian that may offend some people. I am quoting them partly because many librarians and others expected Alexie to win one of the awards that the American Library Association handed out on Monday, and these words may help to explain why he didn’t. Stop reading here to avoid the potentially offensive language.]

Alexie’s first young-adult novel won a National Book Award, but a character uses a racial slur that caused some high school students to walk out when he spoke about it at an Illinois high school

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: A Novel. By Sherman Alexie. Illustrations by Ellen Forney. Little, Brown, 230 pp., $16.99. Ages 12 and up.

By Janice Harayda

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is as a subtle as an old television Western – say, the episode of Bonanza where Hoss has to explain to a fugitive from an Indian reservation why he can’t live on Cartwright land. Sherman Alexie has mostly avoided criticism for this and has, on the contrary, been rewarded for it with the 2007 National Book Award for young people’s literature.

It isn’t hard to imagine why: Alexie tries to fight some of the stereotypes fostered by the Westerns in this story told by an intelligent and self-mocking 14-year-old boy who transfers to a good high school in town instead of sticking with the wretched educational system on his reservation. Arnold “Junior” Spirit tells us that “in the old days, Indians used to be forgiving of any kind of eccentricity.” That includes homosexuality: “Gay people could do anything. They were like Swiss Army knives!” Alas, the goodwill didn’t last: “Of course, ever since white people showed up and brought their Christianity and their fears of eccentricity, Indians have gradually lost all of their tolerance,” although a few clung to “that old-time Indian spirit.” Arnold believes his grandmother was good in part because she “had no use for all the gay bashing and homophobia in the world, especially among other Indians.”

Alexie is giving you the perspective of a teenager here, not that of a historian. But it’s fair to ask: Isn’t he replacing one stereotype with others by saying that Indians used accept eccentricity and admire gay people but lost “all their tolerance” when white people crashed the party? Don’t such passages romanticize Indians even as other parts of the book show the bleakness of life on a reservation where Arnold had attended 42 funerals by the age of 14?

Critics have praised Alexie for creating a character with a distinctive voice. But it would be more accurate to say that he describes experiences unfamiliar to many teenagers in the sort of voice that has become all too familiar through characters who range from Homer Simpson to Junie B. Jones, the in-your-face heroine of a series of early readers.

Arnold and his friends call others “dickwad,” “faggot,” “pussy,” “retarded fag” and “major-league assholes.” A character tells a gratuitous racial joke that includes the “n” word and “f” word and that caused some students to walk out of a speech that Alexie gave in at an Illinois high school. Alexie has stood by his use of the joke with a variation on the but-it-really-happened-that-way defense, although whether it “really happened” is irrelevant in fiction: what matters is whether it works in context. And the literary impact of this book is as muddled as its politics.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian reads less like a novel than a sitcom or screenplay called “The Rez.” Alexie describes life-shattering tragedies in the same breezy tone as a date for the Winter Formal, so that the events have the same emotional weight. He leaves subplots dangling.

Many teenagers love this bestseller, anyway. Some may be responding to Ellen Forney’s amusing illustrations, and others may be titillated by its sexual references, such as the 12 uses of the word “boner.” At his new school Arnold befriends a boy who tells him that he should read and draw “because really good books and cartoons give you a boner.” Arnold plays dumb, so Gordy goes on: “Well, I don’t mean boner in the sexual sense. I don’t think you should run through life with a real erect penis. But you should approach each book – you should approach life – with the real possibility that you might get a metaphorical boner at any point.” Arnold doesn’t ask an obvious follow-up question: What if a book pulls a boner instead of giving you one?

Best line: “If the government wants to hide somebody, there’s probably no place more isolated than my reservation, which is located approximately one million miles north of Important and two billion miles west of Happy.”

Worst line: The gratuitous racial and sexual joke that includes the “n” word (which appears the bottom of page 64 in the novel). Apart from that: The last line quoted in the review above. Would any 14-year-old boy say “erect penis” instead of “hard on” when talking with a male friend? Or even have to explain what a boner is?

Published: September 2007.

Reading group guide: A Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guide to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was posted on One-Minute Book Reviews on Jan. 16, 2008 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/01/16/.

Links: You can hear Sherman Alexie read from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian at www.lb-teens.com, which also has reviews of the book and a list of the honors it has received. You may also want to visit the Alexie site www.fallsapart.com.

Furthermore: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian won the 2007 National Book Award for young people’s literature www.nationalbook.org. Alexie lives in Seattle and grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

Janice Harayda is an award-winning critic who has been the book columnist for Glamour, book editor of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland and vice-president for awards of the National Book Critics Circle www.bookcritics.org.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janicehaarayda.com

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