Book of the Week: A Girl and Her Gator

A Girl and Her Gator by Sean Bryan Illustrated by Tom Murphy

Published: 2006 by Arcade Books

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

I love how there no real explanation of how or why this gator suddenly appeared atop main character Clair’s head. But he does explain why he likes it there and wants to stay there, because of the amazing views and for the love of fresh air.

I love gators, and I love the depiction of the gator himself. He isn’t mean, nor is he looking to eat Claire, rather he’s just there for the ride and the friendship. This may sound strange, but I found this depiction to be (very loosely) realistic in the fact that alligators do not attack nor do they eat humans. The only time they will attack is when they feel threatened. In fact, alligators as opposed to crocodiles prefer small creatures to us large humans. However, this doesn’t mean that I’m saying the next time you’re at your local zoo to go and pet the “friendly” gator (or try to put him/her on your head – he will not like that, and may feel threatened at that point) , remember an animal is an animal.

The gator’s name is Pierre and he’s French (he even speaks it).

I like how the book ultimately show the importance of self – acceptance, and that if you accept what/who you are other around you will (ideally) accept you too.

Main character Claire isn’t only confident, she’s incredibly nice and giving (she does share her head after all) and she’s so sweet.

Pierre’s list of things Claire could do with a gator on her head is quite amusing, and if you did have a gator on your head these are all do-able things: go to a fair, scare your brother, or even become a zillionaire to name a few.

Overall, it’s a really fun story. I like the aspect that not every children’s book has to teach a point/moral/lesson, but instead shows that a story could simply be for pleasures sake.

The color scheme works for the books. Everything is done is shades of pink, green, and white – all the colors that represent Claire and Pierre (a girl and her gator!)

The text rhymes! Oh, happy day!

No one questions her (or Pierre for that matter) why there’s a talking gator on top of her head, instead they carry on as if this is perfectly normal. I love that because in today’s society if someone wears, let’s say, a strange hat everyone is stopping and staring.

The illustrations are simple and direct, yet they are the perfect complement to the story.

It may be a fun, silly book but it’s a well written one.

Did I mention, I love gators?!

Everything Is Fine

Everything Is Fine by Ann Dee Ellis

Everything is fine … everything is fine … everything is …

Maybe if Mazzy keeps saying it, it will eventually come true. Then everything in her life really would be fine. But Mazzy’s life is not fine, and it hasn’t been since the accident. The accident that no one talks about, the accident that everyone blames themselves for, the accident that left a trail of devastation in its wake.

Since the accident Mazzy’s sports anchor father left. He said he had to leave for a business trip and would be back in a week. One week turned into two weeks, two weeks turned into three, and before Mazzy realized it months have passed. That’s okay though, Mazzy really doesn’t need her father, it’s her mother that she needs the most.Mazzy seems to be the only functioning person this family has left, but she’s just barely functioning. In many ways Mazzy is just as (mentally) ill as her mother is, it’s just that she handles it in a very different way.

Mazzy’s mother never really recovered from the accident. Instead, this once vibrant artist mother, has sunk deeper and deeper into a downward spiraling depression and is now in a catatonic state, where she lets no one in and not a word out. Keeping everything in and everyone who worries out allows Mazzy to live in the dream world she has created since the accident. It’s a world where her mother will get up, eventually when she’s ready. But she’s just so tired. It’s a world where she doesn’t need her father, in fact she thinks her and her mother are better off without him. It’s a world where she’s making Peking duck when in reality she is microwaving some marshmallows.

But when Mrs. Peet a government worker with really big boobs shows up knocking on the door Mazzy knows the bubble she and her mother live in is about to be popped. But maybe, just maybe, if she let’s her in everything really will be fine.

Ann Dee Ellis* has written a thought-provoking novel that allows readers to see what mental illness really is and its effects on reality. As harsh as this novel could have been Ellis does a great job at handling the subject matter with dignity and with sensitivity. Authentic and believable, Everything Is Fine, will leave readers sympathizing with Mazzy and the situation she has been placed into.

Told from Mazzy’s perspective, Everything Is Fine is written in short, conversational prose that allows readers to witness firsthand the way Mazzy thinks, sees, and feels. Full with vivid descriptions readers will have the chance to experience the same things Mazzy experiences on a daily basis: picking weeds with her fat neighbor Norma, feeling her heart race as Colby’s thigh presses against hers, the sense of fear that immediately sets in when Mrs. Peet knocks on the door, etc.

Ellis even manages to work in a bit of suspense into Everything Is Fine. From the get-go readers will be aware that some terrible accident has taken place, but she doesn’t given in until just the right moment. This element is what really makes the book so attention grabbing. Readers will truly appreciate how quickly the story seems to unfold.

*Head over the Ann Dee Ellis’s website to take a peek inside Mazzy’s sketchbook.

Book of the Week: Three Pandas

Three Pandas by Jan Wahl Illustrated by Naava

Published: Boyds Mill Press 2000

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

Pandas are the three main characters, and I’ve loved/been obsessed with pandas since I was a little girl.

That being said, I really just want to squeeze the pandas. They look so FLUFFY!!!

I really liked how it did give some factual information about pandas, information like how they live in a forest and eat bamboo.

The pandas names are awesome: Yip, Yep, and Yap. And by the way, Yap is the only girl!

The book shows the importance of family and standing by those you love.

I think it’s extremely funny to see pictures of three grown pandas riding a train, sleeping in bunk beds, earning money on their own, and playing musical instruments.

Speaking of music – they’re not just pandas, they’re performing pandas. All the better!

Yip, Yep, and Yap are adventurers. They are go get em” kind of pandas…even though they really like to sleep.

In a round about way the book shows how trying something new isn’t always a bad thing, and it’s still not a bad thing if after trying you still don’t like it.

I love the story behind how pandas got their colorings. It’s a story within a story.

I love books that stress the importance of home, and that there really isn’t any place like it. I also loved how it shown how homes are different for every living creature.

The illustrations are very realistic – even if they did portray pandas riding on a train.

The illustrations do a great job at depicting the story. In fact, they practically tell the story not needed any help from the text.

It seemed like all the illustrations featured the color green in some way, which I found to be symbolic of their home in the forest. It does help that green is one of my favorite colors.

I really liked how the pandas, while living in the city, dealt with some of the hardships that humans do. And how they were emotional even though they were animals.

The pandas cared a lot about one another. Caring in today’s world is often overlooked (sometimes I think) and this book shows it’s important to care.

Overall, it was a really fun book.

New Feature: Way Back Wednesdays

While at the library yesterday I was aimlessly floating around the children’s room a random book caught my eye. It was a book I instantly recognized, or should say, a character I instantly recognized. Just picking up the book sent a surge of emotion through me – i instantly remembered how much I loved the character, the plot, everything really. And than out of nowhere it happened…the usually dim lightbulb hovering above my head sparked and lit up. Idea!

Way Back Wednesdays is going to be a new feature here on the blog! Twice a month on the first and last Wednesday of the month (meaning first two Way Back Wednesday post will be on February 2nd and February 23rd) a review of sorts will be posted about a book that I loved as a child, or a classic children’s book. Please understand, this will not be a long review, but it will not be like the Book of the Week reviews either. Way Back Wednesday reviews will only feature the title/author/published/publisher, my rating on a one to five scale, a one to two sentence summary of the plot, would I recommend it (either a yes or no), and a brief thought of why I loved/wanted to read it in the first place.

Example (this may or may not be a book featured):

Title: The Baby-Sitters Club: Kristy’s Great Idea

Author: Ann M. Martin

Published/Publisher: 1986 Scholastic

Rating: 4/5

Summary: After seeing her mother struggle to find a baby-sitter for her little brother Kristy decides to start a baby-sitting club with her fellow friends.

Recommendation: Yes

Brief Memory:  I remember trying to read The Baby-Sitters Club books when I was very little (like just starting to read age) because my older cousin would read them, and I thought it was cool to read “grown up” books like they were, or at least appeared to me from my child viewpoint.

I will also link to outside source where you could find further information about the book since I’m not going into as much detail as I could.

And since I’m on the topic of new features, I want to ask my readers out there (I know there has to be a few of you … somewhere. Hello? Are you there? Are you reading?) what other features you would like to see incorporated? I have a few other ideas up my sleeve, but will not reveal any of those sleeved ideas until it’s something I can officially pull off.  I fully intend to *try* to feature more author interviews,  more Book of the Week variations and reviews, more contests/giveaways, etc. But, if there’s a feature that you would love to see on The BookBandit blog please comment and let me know whatever ideas you have!

Cathy’s Book If Found Call (650)266-8233

Cathy’s Book: If Found Call (650)266-8233 by Sean Stewart
When hotheaded artist Cathy wakes to find a mysterious mark on the inside of her arm she doesn’t worry all that much. She just, as anyone would, assumes its (at worse) a spider bite. But when she starts feeling as if time literally stands still around her and life is moving at a slow motion pace, she knows this isn’t a spider bite. As much as she tries to deny it, Cathy faces reality that her now ex-boyfriend, Victor, may have something to do with it. Did he drug her so he could take advantage of her? Did he inject her with a strange, wildly infectious disease? What is Victor up to, and why did he involve her?
In a desperate attempt to, not only find the answer to all of her burning questions, but to also weasel herself back into his arms and life, Cathy morphs from art girl to undercover girl as she, without realizing it, becomes stereotypical crazed ex-girl. With her new hats in place Cathy launches a full-fledged investigation in spite of best friend Emma’s warning. Stopping short at nothing Cathy not only finds herself trailing Victor even though he told her she’d end up dead like Carla, she’s broken into his house and stole valuable papers and pictures even though she figured out someone more dangerous that she is after Victor as well, and she’s even been in talks with a shifty stranger who claims he’s Victor’s long-lost uncle.
Cathy soon finds herself in hot water: she’s been kidnapped and taken to an undisclosed house where all of Victor’s secrets are finally exposed and she’s battle to save a life – but whose?

Cathy’s Book If Found Call (650)266-8233 by Sean Stewart is a quick read that will keep readers entertained. Fast – and edge gripping, readers will be patiently waiting for some catastrophically big event to happen. But when it doesn’t pan out, what they’re left with is a glimpse into who Cathy is, her life, and her past relationship with Victor.*
Reading like one giant puzzle. Cathy’s Book is written in a journalistic style with doodles, scribbles, and artistic renderings that allow reader to easily relate to the characters and to the situations they are placed in. But only when those doodles don’t interfere with the text.
More often than not the doodling covered bits and pieces of valuable text making it difficult to understand and easier to skip over. **The only set back to this is the artwork more often than not, Cathy’s doodling covered valuable pieces of the text, making it difficult to read and easy to skip over. Even though the doodles may distract some readers, Stewart’s writing is what really fuels this book. It’s simple, precise, and best of all infused with a generous amount of emotion – perfect for a journal styled book.

Ultimately, Cathy’s Book If Found Call (650)266-8233 isn’t a book for everyone, but there are likable qualities that will definitely draw in readers.

* (I feel) there were several plot holes within the book, but assumed all would be filled in at the end. With so much being built up and so little panning out, not only did I feel let down, but I feel those plot holes weren’t filled in – ultimately detracting from the book.

** I found these doodling to be a big distraction that didn’t add to the overall book, plot line, or who Cathy was as an artist and as a character.


And the Winners Are…

Congratulations to Leanna who has won the copy of Cindy Ella by Robin Palmer and to Megan who has won the copy of A Crack in the Sky by Mark Peter Hughes.

Thank You to everyone for participating and for checking out the blog! Stay tuned – there’s more giveaways in the future!

Book of the Week: The Dangerous Alphabet

The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman Illustrated by Gris Grimly

Published: HarperCollins 2008

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

Neil Gaiman wrote it … I’m unabashedly biased when it comes to all things Gaiman.

I’m completely drawn to (not to mention a complete sucker for) anything horrific, haunting, creepy, and/or scary. Especially when these elements are featured in a (children’s) picture book.

It’s not the typical alphabet book. There’s no “a is for apple, b is for bunny” mumbo jumbo here. But there is something most alphabet books don’t have: an actual storyline!

The two main characters – a boy and a girl – are left unnamed. I really appreciate this aspect because it makes it seem that boy and girl could be anyone. It could be you, or me, or even your neighbor down the street. I feel that also makes the story a bit more relatable and personal.

This boy and girl have a pet – a pet gazelle! This in and of itself is enough reason to love this book. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t want a gazelle as a pet?! Especially one that is as cute as their gazelle.

Speaking of the gazelle, it’s eyes are HUGE and take up the majority of it’s head. Again, totally cute!

At the core of The Dangerous Alphabet lies an adventure story full of pirates and treasure. There’s also an occasional monster.

The illustrations fit the text perfectly. They’re also hauntingly beautiful!

The illustrations are done in a sepia tone which adds to the overall creepy tone of the book.

The main characters (including the gazelle) face their fears and are courageous. This is important because I think it can teach young readers how to stand up to their fears and be courageous when times are rough and scary.

The monster’s featured within the book are actually quite funny, and quite funny looking. For example, one such monster has the body of a fish, but the face and feet of a bird. Still, a rodent like monster is decked out in a suit and gold hoop earring. As if that isn’t funny enough, it has a peg leg!

Everything rhymes!

I especially love how Gaiman worked in himself saying “I am the author who scratches these rhymes,” and the readers saying “U are the reader who shivers with dread.”