One-Minute Book Reviews

February 13, 2012

Emma Darwin to Charles – Valentine’s Day Quote of the Day

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:55 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

“I should be most unhappy if I thought we did not belong to each other forever.”
Emma Darwin to her husband, Charles, c. February 1839, as quoted in Deborah Heiligman’s Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (Holt, 2009), a National Book Award finalist

May 14, 2011

The Katie Woo Series: Early Readers About 6-Year-Old Chinese-American Girl

Filed under: Children's Books — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 5:59 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Best Season Ever (Katie Woo Series). Red, White, and Blue and Katie Woo! (Katie Woo Series). Boo, Katie Woo! (Katie Woo Series). By Fran Manushkin. Illustrated by Tammie Lyon. Picture Window/Capstone, 32 pp., $19.99 each. Ages 5-8.

By Janice Harayda

Early readers — short chapter books with a limited vocabulary — are hard to write, and Fran Manushkin just clears the bar in this series about Katie Woo, a 6-year-old Chinese-American first-grader and her friends Pedro and JoJo. Tammie Lyon’s upbeat watercolors lack subtlety, and they get little help from the mundane plots and serviceable prose of these three books, which find the trio debating which season is best, celebrating the Fourth of July, and trying to scare people on Halloween. Each book has a glossary and other material at the end, and in Boo, Katie Woo! the back matter includes a recipe for a Halloween punch made from grape and orange juice, which apparently turn black when mixed. “Witch’s Brew might look pretty gross,” Manushkin writes, “but it will taste terrific.”

Best line: A party idea in the supplemental material for Boo, Katie Woo!: Make an “Icy Hand” for a Halloween punch by filling a non-powdered latex glove with water, freezing it, and removing the glove before floating it in the bowl.

Worst line: No. 1: A picture of Pedro heading a soccer ball and the words, “He backed up to hit the ball with his head” in Red, White, and Blue and Katie Woo!. Katie is 6 years old, and her friends are about the same age. American Youth Soccer discourages children under the age of 10 from heading, and U.S. leagues generally don’t teach it before then. No. 2: A picture of Katie standing outdoors in a sleeveless dress in a snowstorm on the cover of Best Season Ever. This seems to be  a fantasy when the other  pictures are realistic, and it sends a confusing sign about what the book contains. No. 3: These books don’t explain why they phoneticize the Chinese surname “Wu” to “Woo.” Would a two-letter word have been harder for children to grasp than a 3-letter one?

Consider reading instead or or in addition these books: The “Henry and Mudge” early-reader series by Cynthia Ryant and Suçie Stevenson, which includes Henry and Mudge in the Sparkle Days.

Published: 2011

You can also follow Jan (@janiceharayda) on Twitter at www.twitter.com/janiceharayda.

© 2011 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 6, 2010

Hare-Brained Books About Bunnies — Beware of Rip-Offs of ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’ and Other Classics

Filed under: Children's Books — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:18 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Bad bunny books and some recommended substitutions for the Easter basket

If you’re looking good books about bunnies, beware of the words “based on.” That phrase on a cover is usually a tip-off that you aren’t getting the original text, pictures or both. And some books omit even that red flag. Two examples are Peter Rabbit (Ideals, $3.95) and The Velveteen Rabbit (Ideals, $3.95), which have the words of Beatrix Potter and Margery Williams but pictures far inferior to those in the best-known editions of their books. Publishers can do this because The Tale of Peter Rabbit and The Velveteen Rabbit are out of copyright in the U.S. (though not necessarily in all other countries). Some knock-offs of these classics cost as much as books with the original text and art.

So why not go for the real thing? Or consider any of the many other good books about rabbits. They include Pat the Bunny (Golden Books, $9.99, ages 1–3), by Dorothy Kunhardt; The Runaway Bunny (HarperCollins, $16.99, ages 2–5), by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd; and Bunny Cakes and Bunny Money (Picture Puffins, $5.99 each, ages 3–5), by Rosemary Wells or other titles in Wells’s hilarious “Max and Ruby” series about a brother and sister rabbit.

For ages 6 and up, consider the chapter-books about Bunnicula the “vampire rabbit” (well, it does drain juice from vegetables), by James Howe and Deborah Howe, illustrated Alan Daniel. The titles in this comic mystery series may tell you all you need to know: Bunnicula, Bunnicula Strikes Again!, Howliday Inn, Return to Howliday Inn and The Celery Stalks at Midnight (Aladdin, $4.99–$5.99 each).

This post first appeared in slightly different form in 2007. You can also follow Janice Harayda (@janiceharayda) on Twitter.

© 2010 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

December 19, 2009

‘The Story of the Other Wise Man’ — Henry Van Dyke’s Christmas Classic

A parable about the meaning of faith that first appeared in 1896

The Story of the Other Wise Man. By Henry Van Dyke. Enthea, 128 pp., $10.99, paperback. Available in other editions, including abridged picture-book versions for children.

By Janice Harayda

What is the meaning of faith? Does it involve saying prayers? Attending religious services? Making pilgrimages to shrines or holy places?

Henry Van Dyke (1852–1933) never raises these questions directly in The Story of the Other Wise Man. But they lie at the heart of this classic parable about the meaning of faith in a secular age.

Van Dyke invents a fourth wise man, Artaban, who trades his belongings for gifts for “the promised one” foretold by prophets: a sapphire, a ruby and a pearl. Artaban plans to give the jewels to the infant after meeting up with his companions Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, who have gold, frankincense and myrrh. But he misses the connection after he stops to nurse a dying man, and later on, he parts with his jewels. He uses the ruby to ransom a child whom King Herod had ordered slain and the pearl to free a girl about to be sold into slavery.

Artaban believes he has missed all opportunities to meet the promised one until, near the end of his 33 years, he reaches Jerusalem just before the Crucifixion. There he realizes that his search has ended when he hears a faint voice saying: “Verily I say unto thee, Inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me.”

On his journey Artaban wrestles with what The Story of the Other Wise Man calls “the conflict between the expectation of faith and the impulse of love.” But Van Dyke resisted appeals to explain what his book “meant.”

“How can I tell?” he asks in his foreword. “What does life mean? If the meaning could be put into a sentence there would be no need of telling a story.”

Furthermore: Van Dyke was the minister at Manhattan’s Brick Presbyterian Church, where he first told Artaban’s story. He later became a professor English at Princeton University and Ambassador to the Netherlands. Van Dyke may be best known today as the author of the text for the hymn “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” set to the tune of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from the Ninth Symphony. Click here to read Van Dyke’s words and listen to the music. You will also see a picture of Van Dyke if you click.

An online version of The Other Wise Man appears on Classic Reader.

The post first appeared on Dec. 23, 2007.

You can also follow Jan Harayda (@janiceharayda) on Twitter at www.twitter.com/janiceharayda.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

December 17, 2009

A Sherlock Holmes Christmas Story — ‘The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle’

Filed under: Classics,Mysteries and Thrillers,Short Stories — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:36 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The world’s most famous detective must figure out how a priceless gem ended up in a white goose

By Janice Harayda

Great holiday crime stories are rare. Set a murder mystery against the backdrop of a celebration of the birth of Christ and you risk accusations of trivializing the season or playing it for heavy irony. And who wants to be reminded that the wreath-draped mall teems with pickpockets or that burglars may strike after we leave for the airport?

Part of the genius of “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” is that it implicitly acknowledges such realities. Arthur Conan Doyle begins this Sherlock Holmes tale on the second morning after Christmas. It’s a holiday story without the freight it would carry if it took place two days earlier. And it has a plot perfectly attuned to the season. Holmes has the benign Watson by his side as usual. But he doesn’t face his arch-foe, Moriarty, or a killer armed with a gun or a trained swamp adder as in “The Dancing Men” or “The Speckled Band.” He needs only to find out why a priceless gem – the blue carbuncle – turned up in the gullet of a Christmas goose abandoned on a London street.

Of course, it isn’t that simple. But Holmes resolves the case, in fewer than a dozen pages, with panache and in a spirit of holiday generosity. You could probably read “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” aloud in 20 minutes or so as a yule log burns. And it appeals to nearly all ages – not just to adults but to children who need more dramatic fare than The Polar Express.

Part of the allure all the Sherlock Holmes tales is that, while their stories are exciting, Holmes is imperturbable. “My name is Sherlock Holmes,” he tells a suspect in “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.” “It is my business to know what other people don’t know.” How nice that, in this case, he knows how to set the right tone – in a secular if not religious sense – for the season.

Furthermore: You can download “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” for free at the online Classic Literature Library, which makes available at no cost books in the public domain. At top left is the Audio CD “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes — The Blue Carbuncle” (Mitso Media, 2006), read by James Alexander.

This review first appeared on this site on Dec. 19, 2007.

One-Minute Book Reviews is for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

http://www.janiceharayda.com

December 3, 2009

My Holiday Gift-Book Guide on Twitter

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:42 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Looking for holiday gift-book ideas? I’ll post mine  on One-Minute Book Reviews closer to Christmas. In the meantime I’m putting up one or two gift-book suggestions a day for adults and children on Twitter (@janiceharayda) at www.twitter.com/janiceharayda, based on reviews posted on this site. Today’s reminder: Fans of Jan Karon’s “Mitford” series might like Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind (Harper, 2000), the first of Ann B. Ross’s “Miss Julia” books about a rich Presbyterian widow in a North Carolina hamlet who adopts a child. I reviewed it earlier this year on One-Minute Book Reviews.

November 11, 2009

What Are You Doing at 11 a.m. on 11/11? Veterans Day Quote of the Day

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:36 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Did you know …?

“At 11:00 AM on Veterans Day, Americans stop what they are doing for two minutes. They pay their respects to wartime and peacetime heroes. This is a Veterans Day tradition.”

– From Arlene Worsley’s children’s book Veterans Day: American Holidays (Weigl, 2007)

October 23, 2009

Halloween Poems and Picture-Book Fun for Children

Filed under: Children's Books — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 7:57 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Looking for Halloween reading for children under the age of 9 or so? You might want to read these posts:

“Good Halloween Poems for Children”: Where to find short Halloween poems that rhyme, including Robert Graves’s “The Pumpkin,” which begins: “You may not believe it, for hardly could I: / I was cutting a pumpkin to put in a pie …”

“John Ciardi’s Halloween Limerick for Children”: Two books that have the poet’s witty limerick about a haunted house, “The Halloween House.” The first lines are: “I’m told there’s a Green Thing in there. / And the sign on the gate says BEWARE!”

“A Classic Halloween Poem and Jump-Rope Rhyme”: Jump-ropers, remember the one that goes, “Down in the desert / Where the purple grass dies / There sat a witch …”?

“James Stevenson’s ‘That Terrible Halloween Night,’ a Picture Book for Ages 3–8”: A grandfather tells a tale to children who try to scare him on Halloween.

No costume yet? You might enjoy “Literary Halloween Costumes for Children.”

December 22, 2008

Wrap Holiday Gifts for Free With Items You Have at Home — Ideas From Elaine St. James’s ‘Simplify Your Christmas’

Filed under: How to,Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:38 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Have you noticed how some of those cute little holiday gift-wrap bags can cost more than the presents you put inside them? In Simplify Your Christmas: 100 Ways to Reduce the Stress and Recapture the Joy of the Holidays (Barnes and Noble, 2003), Elaine St. James suggests that you instead use leftover wallpaper, the Sunday comics, art or photos from last year’s calendar, outdated maps or oceanographic charts, or a basket you want to recycle.

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


December 20, 2008

Gift Coupons for Kids — Wrap Up Permission to Skip the Vegetables, Have a Later Bedtime or Curfew, or Control the TV Remote for a Night

Filed under: Children's Books — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:49 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Low- or no-cost gifts for children and teenagers that you can make with a pen and paper or a laserjet printer

The Awesome Kid Coupon Book: 52 Ways to Say You’re Special and You’re Loved!’ Hallmark Gift Books, unpaged, $5.95, paperback.

By Janice Harayda

O come all ye slackers who have fallen behind in your shopping for a child! Why not wrap up coupons good for the kinds of gifts described in this book — a waiver of a chore, a one-hour bedtime or curfew extension, or the right to “play the music you want for as loud as you want for one hour”?

The Awesome Kid Coupon Book has firm roots in a core principle of child psychology: Kids want to get out of doing some things as much as they want to have permission to do others. So this book has a coupon that lets a child to skip the vegetables at one meal as well one that confers control of the TV remote for an evening.

Most coupons involve free or low-cost gifts, and you can remove easily any that involve a cash outlay too steep for this bare-knuckles economy. (“SUPERSIZE YOUR ALLOWANCE – This coupon entitles you to double your normal allowance for one week.”) Some children may especially appreciate the “TOTAL SLOB COUPON!” that says: “Lounge in your grungiest clothes and do nothing all day! And don’t forget to wad up this coupon and throw it on the floor!” Just make sure your child reads the fine print on that one: “Weekends only.”

Best line: “BAN IT! This coupon entitles you to specify one food you do not want to find on your plate for an entire week.” Also: “A WHOLE NEW YOU — For one whole weekend day, you can be called any name you like, including anything that starts with ‘Super.’” And “BOOKWORM — Buy any book you want with a price up to $____________.”

Worst line: “BE A WINNER — Present this coupon and three scratch-off lottery tickets will be purchased for you. If you win, the money’s all yours!” This coupon seems to encourage adults to skirt the legal ages for buying lottery tickets (18 years old in most states, 21 in a few) by buying them for children. Would Hallmark have said, “Present this coupon and three six-packs will be purchased for you”?

Published: 2007

Warning: I found this book at a large CVS in September 2008 but haven’t been able to find it anywhere, including on the Web, since then. This is unusual: Books rarely go out of print so fast, and this one may have been recalled because of the lottery issue I mentioned above. I decided to post this review, anyway, because a) you might have better luck than I did at finding the book and b) some of its ideas may provide inspiration for homemade coupons.

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

Next Page »

The Rubric Theme Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 352 other followers

%d bloggers like this: