One-Minute Book Reviews

September 5, 2008

Children’s Storybooks About Elections, Presidential and Otherwise

Filed under: Children's Books — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:13 pm
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I try never to miss Meghan Cox Gurdon’s fortnightly reviews of children’s books in the Weekend Edition of the Wall Street Journal, and not just because they show consistently good taste and news judgment: Gurdon is a morally fearless critic who has the number of publishers who try to pass off patronizing twaddle as art. Here is the beginning her review of six storybooks about presidential politics in the Aug. 23–24 Journal:

“Parents keen to make presidential politics ‘relevant’ to their young children will find abundant help in 2008’s extra-large batch of campaign-themed storybooks. But will the tykes care? Children like a bit of fun in their picture books, yet the adult temptation to moralize seems, in most cases, to overwhelm any possibility of an engaging tale.

“Consider, for instance, the story of how a virtuous underdog rises to leadership in Rosemary Wells’s Otto Runs for President (Scholastic). Interestingly, the book is dedicated to Elizabeth Edwards, wife of a onetime Democratic underdog whose virtue now seems … somewhat dog-eared.

“The setting here is a school, all the candidates for president are canines, and the didacticism is as thick as the paint in the illustrations ….”

I admire Rosemary Wells greatly, but Gurdon defines her terms so clearly and writes so persuasively that her review left me in no rush to read about Otto. Gurdon was also underwhelmed by Kelly DiPuccio’s Grace for President and Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s Max for President. (Lane Smith’s Madam President not quite as “morally earnest.” ) So which books about electoral politics might children enjoy more? Next Saturday I’ll review one of them, Kate Feiffer and Diane Goode’s President Pennybaker, also included in Gurdon’s roundup

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Poet Louise Glück Wins $100,000 Prize – Read a Review of Her Latest Collection Here

Filed under: News,Poetry — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:55 pm
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Louise Glück has won the 2008 Wallace Stevens Award, which carries a $100,000 prize. The Academy of American Poets gives the prize for “outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry.” Glück’s latest collection, Averno, recasts the Greek myth of Persephone, the personification of spring, and was reviewed in a January post on this site said in part:

“Glück writes about figures from Greek mythology as though they might show up tomorrow in a laundry room at Yale, where she teaches. Orpheus and Eurydice, Aeneas and Dido, Achilles and Patroclus – she knows them better than many of us know our relatives, well enough to claim the right to explain them to others”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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

Filed under: Gusher Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:08 am
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The Gusher Awards are back after a summer hiatus of a couple of weeks. This week’s award goes to …

“The Great American Novel is something like a unicorn – rare and wonderful, and maybe no more of a notion. Yet every few years or so, we trip across some semblance of one. Oof! What’s this? Why, it’s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (Ecco), a sprawling skein of a yarn about a farm nestled up against the forest primeval …”
June 2008, Elle

Unicorns are not “rare and wonderful” and “maybe no more of a notion” — they are mythical and there’s no “maybe” about whether they are “a notion.” Mixing the simile in the first sentence with that metaphor of “a sprawling skein of a yarn” makes it worse, and “Great American Novel” and “forest primeval” are clichés. There’s been a lot of talk this year about the decline of book reviewing in newspapers, and women’s magazines aren’t helping with prose like this.

Gusher Awards appear on Fridays on One-Minute Book Reviews unless no praise went far enough over the top that week to qualify. For a different view of David Wroblewski’s Hamlet-influenced first novel, see the review of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle written in iambic trimeter verse that appeared on this site on Aug. 28 A reading group guide to the novel was posted on Sept. 3

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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