Book of the Week: A Girl and Her Gator

Book of the Week, Children's

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

Reviews

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

Book of the Week, Children's

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

Way Back Wednesday

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

Reviews
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.

 

Book of the Week: The Dangerous Alphabet

Children's

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.”

Dreaming of Books Hop Giveaway

Contests

 

Since the Midwinter’s Eve Hop turned out to be such a huge success, I decided that I am going to participate in as many hops as I possibly could. And this, fellow readers, is the first in a series (more to come on them in the near future, I promise!). From January 14th, 2011 (12:01 a.m.) through January 17th, 2011 (11:59 p.m.) The BookBandit will be participating in the Dreaming of Books Hop Giveaway.

First, I just want to sent out at big THANK YOU to Kathy over at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and  Martha over at Reviews at Martha’s Bookshelf for hosting this hop giveaway!

Two lucky winners will have to win one of these two books:

Cindy Ella by Robin Palmer (from the back cover): “Prom. The best dress. The best shoes. The best date. Cindy Ella Gold is sick of it all. Prom fever has infected L.A. – especially Cindy’s two annoying stepsisters and her overly Botoxed stepmother. Cindy seems to be the only one immune to it all. But her anti-prom letter in the school newspaper does more to turn Cindy into Queen of the Freaks than to close the gap between the popular kids and the rest of the students. Everyone thinks she’s committed social suicide, except her two best friends – the yoga goddess India and John Hughes – worshipping Malcolm – and shockingly, the most popular senior at Castle Heights High and Cindy’s crush, Adam Silver. But with a little bit of help from an unexpected source – and the perfect pair of shoes – Cindy realizes that she still has a chance at a happily ever after.”

This a used book. Be warned  there is slight damage done to the front right side corner of the book (the cover is slightly torn, and the first eighty pages or so are slightly rippled and/or bent). However, the book is 100 % readable, these damages do not hinder its readability in any way.

– OR –

A Crack in the Sky by Mark Peter Hughes (from the back cover): “Thirteen-year-old Eli Papadopoulos is worried. Even though his grandfather founded InfiniCorp, the massive corporation that runs everything in the bustling dome-cities. Even though InfiniCorp ads and billboards are plastered everywhere proclaiming: DON’T WORRY! INFINICORP IS TAKING CARE OF EVERYTHING! Recently, Eli noticed that there’s something wrong with the artificial sky. And though the Department of Cool and Comfortable Air is working overtime, the dome-city is hotter than it’s ever been. When Eli begins asking questions, operatives from a dangerous band of terrorists contact him. The Friends of Gustavo – also known as Foggers – want to tear down everything InfiniCorp has created. They promise Eli they have the truth he seeks – if he’s brave enough to handle it. Eli does want to know the truth. But he’s about to find out that in the dome-cities, being a Papadolpoulos isn’t enough to save a rule-breaker like him from being sent far away to learn right-thinking. In his new home, the Tower, Eli meets Tabitha, once at the top of her Internship class, now a forgotten slave. Together, and with help from Eli’s beloved pet mongoose, Marilyn, they just might be able to escape … and try to make a life for themselves outside of the domes.”

This is an ARC. It hasn’t been read, and is still in the same condition in which it was received.

To Enter:  Leave a comment stating one book you are really looking forward to reading in 2011. It does NOT have to be either of the books that are up for grabs, it’s ANY book of your choosing. It isn’t required, but it is greatly appreciated if you follow and/or subscribe to this blog as well. No worries, if you don’t this will NOT hurt your chances at winning – it has no bearing what so ever on the contest.

Contest is open to U.S. residents only and will run from January 9th, 2011 (12:01 a.m.) to January 17th, 2011 (11:59 p.m.). Winner will be selected at random (through Random.org), will be contacted and announce (sometime) January 18th, 2011. Please note to the winners: once contacted (via e-mail) if I do not receive a response by January 21st, 2011 (at midnight) I will then select another winner.

Since this is a blog hop giveaway – be sure to hop along to all the other awesome blogs and enter their giveaways as well! Click here to see what other blogs are participating. Good Luck! I look forward to reading all of your comments!

Book Bucket List

Challenges, Food For Thought, Random

There are many books that I feel, not only do I want to read, but I should read. For instance, the classics. I don’t particularly care for them mainly because I feel that they’re too drawn out, and overly descriptive. And never mind the language.  I also don’t particularly care for them because when I hear “classic novels” I automatically think “forced reading”. You see, the few classic novels I did read were for high school English classes, and I had to read them. I didn’t have a say in it, I simply had to read it and if I didn’t take the poor grade. Forced reading isn’t fun,  therefore the books that are forced aren’t going to be enjoyable.

But as a writer, reader, librarian, and blogger I feel that I  should read some of the classics. I’ve wanted to give them a second go, but find myself putting them off. That is, until now. YA Reads is hosting a Book Bucket List Challenge and I decided that this is the perfect way for me to read some of those book (which are not all “classics”) I’ve been meaning to read.

From YA Reads post:

Level 1: 4 books in 2011
Level 2: 8 books in 2011
Level 3: 12 books in 2011

Rules:

  • Books can be either YA or adult
  • Books don’t have to be 2011 releases.
  • Anyone can join. Please link to a public (web) place I can find you.
  • You can join at anytime. The challenge runs from now till to December, 2011
  • You are required to review the books if you want to enter the giveaway. The review can either be a proper review, or simply use the short template (see below)
  • You do not have to run a blog to participate, although there must be a public website where I can find you (Goodreads, LibraryThing, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Tumblr, etc)
    **Tip – if you link to Facebook, a good way to do it is to write a note or use the Visual Bookshelf application
  • Your blog does not have to be a book blog
  • If you enter with your blog link, you must post about the challenge so I may link.
  • Reviewers, the book can not be part of your review books that you would’ve read anyway, it defeats the whole purpose of the challenge.

Your review doesn’t have to be a full review if you do not wish to do so, instead, just use this template:

Book:

Rating: /5

Why did you include it to your Book Bucket List?:

Was it worth it?: Yes/No

Brief Thoughts?:
Would you recommend it?: Yes/No”

I am aiming to read eight books. I know that number doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of all the classics out there. My list isn’t only made up of classics, but books that I feel should be read (whether for reasons of my career, the book’s popularity, simple curiosity, etc), and even some that I really want to read. In no particular order my eight book bucket list is:

8. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

7. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

6. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

3. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

2.  Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

1. The Shining by Stephen King

There it is…it’s definitely going to be a challenge, but a worthwhile one! If you too would like to participate head over the YA Reads and sign up! Good luck to all those participating in the challenge, and a big THANK YOU to YA Reads!

With that, I ask you readers, what are some books on your book bucket list.

Book of the Week: 13 Words

Book of the Week, Children's

13 Words by Lemony Snicket

Published: Harper Collins 2010

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

I loved the thirteen words used – they varied from simple words like cake to more difficult words like haberdashery.            

At the core of the book, it’s a story about friendship and the things a friend does to bring a smile to their friend’s face.   

 The illustrations aren’t only bold, bright, and draw readers into the story – but they are just as funny as the overall story. For example, at one point the dog in the story is illustrated wearing various hats – a fedora, a fez, a detectives cap, and even a beret. Or still, how the bird is wearing a bib labeled “bird” and the dog is wearing a bib labeled “delish”.                                                               

The bird featured in the book is despondent, which I find to be hysterically funny. As funny as I find it though, I like that it was illustrating how even animals can share the same feelings that we sometimes feel.                            

 In the book there’s a goat who not only drives a convertible but wears a sweater vest and a “spiffy” jacket. He’s a pretty snappy dresser if I say so myself.                                                                                                                                                         

The dog in the story is thoughtful, caring, sensitive to his friends feelings, and is very giving.                        

 I love how it’s thought that all your problems and sadness will go away once you’ve eaten a piece of cake. Therefor, everyone should eat cake!                                                         

 It’s the kind of book you will find yourself laughing out loud at.                                         

 All the pages have a lot going on, but it’s not distracting nor does all the excess illustrations detract from the overall story.