Sunday, February 24, 2008

Top 50 Children's Books

I found this list at Lizzy's Literary Life and I was curious to see how many I'd read. So I've changed the text color to red if I've read it. I'm counting reading it as an adult or as a child. I'm curious to see how many I've read.

Top 50 Best Children's Books

1. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle
3. Famous Five, Enid Blyton
4. Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne
5. The BFG, Roald Dahl
6. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling
7. The Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
8. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
9. Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
10. The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson
11. The Tales of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter
12. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
13. Matilda, Roald Dahl
14. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
15. The Cat in the Hat, Dr Seuss
16. The Twits, Roald Dahl
17. Mr Men, Roger Hargreaves
18. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
19. The Malory Towers series, Enid Blyton
20. Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie
21. The Railway Children, E. Nesbit
22. Hans Christian Fairy Tales, H.C. Andersen
23, The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
24. The Witches, Roald Dahl
25. Stig of the Dump, Clive King
26. The Wishing Chair, Enid Blyton
27. Dear Zoo, Rod Campbell
28. The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Judith Kerr
29. Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Jan Brett
30. James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl
31. A Bear Called Paddington, Michael Bond
32. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
33. Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
34. Aesop's Fables, Jerry Pinkney
35. The Borrowers, Mary Norton
36. Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling
37. Meg and Mog, Jan Pienkowski
38. Mrs Pepperpot, Alf Proysen
39. We're Going on a Bear Hunt, Michael Rosen
40. The Gruffalo's Child, Julia Donaldson
41. Room on a Broom, Julia Donaldson
42. The Worst Witch, Jill Murphy
43. Miffy, Dick Bruna
44. The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
45. Flat Stanley, Jeff Brown
46. The Snail and the Whale, Julia Donaldson
47. Ten Little Ladybirds, Melanie Gerth
48. Six Dinners Sid, Inga Moore
49. The St. Clare's series, Enid Blyton
50. Captain Underpants, Dav Pilkey

I'm fairly surprised. I've only read 28 out of the 50 and I've never read anything by Enid Blyton. This list is from a British newspaper. I wonder if an American list would be significantly different. If anyone knows of such a list, let me know. Now I'm curious.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

I read this book as part of the Banned Book Challenge and the A to Z Challenge. I found it on a banned book list with no explanation about why it was banned or where the incident occurred. I tried researching it on the web and could only find the title on a number of lists. I suspect that it was challenged in either a public or school library by parents afraid of the sexuality in the book. This is a book marketed for teens and young adults.

It is the story of four life long friends: Lena, Tibby, Bridget, and Carmen. They are teenagers who are spending a summer apart. They find a pair of old jeans in a thrift store. Magically, the jeans fit each girl perfectly, even though they are very different body types. These become the Traveling Pants for their magical qualities. Throughout the summer, each girl wears the pants for two weeks and then sends them on to another girl. The novel goes back and forth among the four girls documenting their summer and their time with the pants. It is the first of a series that I have seen many teen girls reading. It was also made into a movie.

STRENGTHS OF THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS: It is a very positive story of friendship among these girls. They are supportive of each other and do not put each other down. Each girl has a crisis while wearing the pants, but the others are supportive. Tibby's crisis is especially heart-rending as she meets, and spends time with, a younger girl who is dying of leukemia. I think that the sexuality in Bridget's story is probably the reason for the banning of this book. However, I found it to be a strength of the book because it was not graphic, and the author dealt extremely well with Bridget's emotions and her feelings of loss and regret. I thought it would really open the door to an honest discussion with a teenage girl about sexuality. I also liked how the author moved between stories so you were kept in touch with all four girls over the summer.

WEAKNESSES OF THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS: I was not really fond of Lena's summer story. She spent the summer in Greece with her grandparents and feel in love with a local boy. Through a misunderstanding, her grandparents thought the boy had assaulted her. I felt this part was a bit contrived and didn't match with the strength these girls displayed throughout the book.

Overall, I'd give this book four stars. I would absolutely allow my daughter to read it when she's a teen. I think there's a lot of positive messages in this about the value of girls' friendships. It could also lead to some excellent discussions of values and choices. If anyone has more details on the banned issue, I'd love to know. I'd also be interested in knowing how teenagers have reacted to this one. So if you are, or have, a teenager, let me know.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Format

This week's BTT question is a short, but sweet one. This is a hard one for me because I don't tend to keep a large library of books, as many of you already know. Anyway, here's the question:

All other things (like price and storage space) being equal, given a choice in a perfect world, would you rather have paperbacks in your library? Or hardcovers? And why?

I think in a perfect world I'd want two copies of all my books. One in hardcover (autographed, of course) for the shelves of my cozy reading room. I'd want the paperbacks for bathtub and travel reading. I also prefer to read paperbacks in bed because some hardcovers are just so heavy.

If this is truly a perfect world, I'd be able to leave my paperbacks behind in my travels for others to read. I'd also get to pick up other people's paperbacks, and have the corresponding hardcovers waiting for me in the home library.

I guess I'd need either magic or a personal book assistant for that one. Actually, that sounds like a great job. Personal book buyer for a voracious reader who loves to share. Anyway, that got a bit off track, and I'm not sure I really answered the question.

I'd love to know what other people thought so leave me a comment.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Six Unimportant Things About Me

I got tagged for this one by Brie at Cupid's Chokehold.

I guess I've already done numbers 1 and 2 so on to number 3!


1. Link back to the person who tagged you.

2. Post the rules on your blog

3. Share six unimportant things about you

4. Tag six random people at the end of your blog entry

5. Let the tagged people know by leaving a comment on their blog.

1. I am a coffee addict. I always have coffee with me in the morning. I carry a cup to work, my students give me Starbucks gift cards, and my husband has bought me numerous travel mugs because I leave them everywhere.

2. I hate white walls. I think every wall in my house is some color. I can think of blue, purple, green, clay, tan, and a variety of stenciled and sponge painted treatments.

3. I can reupholster simple projects like dining room chairs. I'm a whiz with a staple gun.

4. I love Disneyland. My personal best is 35 rides in one day (leaving at 7:00 not closing) and never waiting in a line more than 30 minutes.

5. I have heard my name called across Las Vegas casinos, Disneyland, California Adventure, and a variety of airports by numerous students both past and present.

6. I have been in the first ten rows of a Bruce Springsteen concert, dancing on the chair the whole time, and have been to an acoustic Bruce concert - just the man and his guitar.

OK .... now I'm supposed to tag people, but I don't like that part so ... if you're reading this and want to play along ... consider yourself tagged.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich

This is another one for the A to Z Challenge. It is one of the Stephanie Plum novels that are "between the numbers." This one reads more like an extended short story.

In this one, Stephanie is asked by her mother to find her grandmother who has gone missing. It turns out that Grandma Mazur has come into possession of stolen mob money, purchased an RV, and taken the cash to Atlantic City. Along for the ride are all the usual Plum characters: Lula, Connie, Ranger, Morelli, and Diesel.

I'm not going to use my normal format on this one. It's a fun light read. I think it took me about one hour to read. I enjoy the Plum novels. They are laugh out loud funny and a nice break in my reading. This one reads like an extended short story. It's funny but don't expect a lot of character development and Ranger and Morelli make very minor appearance.

Unfortunately, I have to give it three stars. It was fun, but I wish I had borrowed it from the library. I'm not sure it was worth the price of a hard cover book. If you've read it, I'd love to know what you thought.

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult

This is another book for the A to Z Challenge. It is the first one I've ever read by Picoult. I've read so much about her on other people's blogs that I had to try her out.

This one is the story of Jack St. Bride who comes to the small town of Salem Falls after spending time in prison for a sexual assault that he did not commit. He falls for Addie, the owner of the local diner, who is still mourning the death of her daughter. Jack is accused of another sexual assault by the teenage daughter of the most influential man in the small town. As the story unfolds, it is unclear whose story to believe.

STRENGTHS OF SALEM FALLS: Picoult is a great story teller. She doles out just enough information to keep the plot moving without giving everything away. In this book, she did a nice job of using flashbacks to tell Jack's back story. However, she did not make him a blameless victim. There are incidents in his past which lead us as readers to doubt him. The same can be said of Addie, whose back story is also slowly revealed. I did like the relationship between these two damaged and imperfect people. Picoult also held my attention through the trial sequence and really created doubt in my mind as the trial came to its ending.

WEAKNESSES OF SALEM FALLS: There is a whole subplot where Jack's teenage accuser is a practicing Wiccan (or witch.) I thought that part was a bit silly and demeaning to some people's beliefs. I totally understood the connection Picoult was making to the Salem Witch Trials of history, but it felt forced and unnecesary. I truly think she could have left that part out and the story would have still hung together and been riveting. This is especially true when she hints at the ultimate twist right at the end of the novel. That would have been a more interesting way to develop Gilly's character.

Overall, I'd give this one four stars. It was entertaining, and I'll definitely be reading more books by Picoult. I'd welcome ideas about which other books I might like.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Fill-In

1. Snowdrops are annoying - can you tell I'm a sun and surf gal.
2. I'm going to write a book one day.
3. Let It Be and If God Was One of Us (are) is a song(s) whose lyrics have meaning to me.
4. Just one sip and my headache will feel better as long as it's Starbucks!
5. Any beach - local or Hawaiian is where I'm happiest.
6. I believe that laughter is a necessary part of life.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to SurferGirl's final practice before an ice skating competition, tomorrow my plans include the two performance ice skating competition and Sunday, I want to relax at the beach knowing there are still two more days in my weekend!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Valentines

Here's today's BTT question. It wasn't the one I was expecting, but it was quite easy for me.

Here’s something for Valentine’s Day.

Have you ever fallen out of love with a favorite author? Was the last book you read by the author so bad, you broke up with them and haven’t read their work since? Could they ever lure you back?

I recently fell way out of love with Patricia Cornwell. Her last book, Book of the Dead, was simply awful. I am still ranting about it. I really don't think anything could lure me back to this author. I know I won't read anything else she's written.

I also went through a period where I was hooked on Dan Brown. He's the author if The Da Vinci Code. I got to the point where all the books and characters started to run together. I don't think I could be lured back, because I don't think he can change. If he were to publish something that was remarkably different, then I might, notice might, be tempted to read it.

There are a number of authors where I've never been able to read a second book. E. Annie Proulx is a great example. I loved The Shipping News, but haven't liked anything else. I haven't even gotten to page 30 of anything else. But I don't think that really qualifies as an author I'm in love with. I took it to be an author I'd read a lot of and then became disenchanted.

I'm curious to know what other people picked!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Reading 123 Meme

I've been tagged not once but twice for this one. Thanks to Presbyterian Gal and Gautami Tripathy for getting me to play along.

The rules of this particular meme are:

1). Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages)
2). Open the book to page 123
3). Find the fifth sentence
4). Post the next three sentences
5). Tag five people

The nearest book was The Hours by Michael Cunningham. My Bookmooch pile is next to my computer. So here it goes:

"It is her tribute, her gift. What more can she offer him?

She is on her way back to the kitchen when the intercom buzzes."

Taken out of context that could mean many things. Just so you know, it's a segment of the book where Clarissa is thinking about the dinner party she's giving for Richard. There are many ways you could take those lines if you didn't have the context.

I hate tagging people because I think everyone's already done this one. So instead of a traditional tag, how about a contest? Post a comment linking me to your version of this meme. I'll draw a name at random from the comments, and they'll win my slightly used copy of The Hours. The nice part is if you've already played, all you need to do is leave a comment!

I'll draw the winning name on Friday the 15th. Start sending me those links!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

I read this one for the A to Z Challenge on the advice of numerous bloggers. It is the story of Henry and his wife, Claire. The book chronicles their life together from the time Henry met Claire when he was an adult, and she was a child. It turns out that Henry has a genetic mutation which allows him to travel through time. So he is able to meet Claire when she's a child, but he's already an adult. As their life together progresses, the reader follows Henry's erratic moves through his life. In some instances, Henry even meets various versions of himself.

STRENGTHS OF THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE: I loved everything about this book. Henry and Claire's love story is quite touching and believable, despite Henry's travels though time. The book starts as Claire declares that her job is to wait. She does spend much of the book waiting for Henry to return from a different time or waiting for him to show up at an appointed time. However, I didn't find myself feeling sorry for her because she lived a full life with friends and her art, making paper and paper sculptures. I found the ending to be both sad and glorious. Instead of being sappy, I felt like these two people were truly destined to be together.

Niffenegger's humor was apparent as Henry always appeared in his travels naked and had to beg, borrow, or steal clothes and money to get by in his new time. Henry was a wonderful character. Even though it's obvious that he has a problem with alcohol, and possibly drugs, he maintains high moral standards. He doesn't reveal what he knows of the future to friends, except for the occassional stock tip, and will not consummate his relationship with Claire until she is 18.

The author also created a wonderful world of supporting characters. I especially enjoyed some of the trampy women in Henry's life during a time period before he was married to Claire. His best friend, Gomez, and his wife were nice touch points in the story. It was a bit hard to believe that they knew about the time travel and accepted it, but it was nice to see the true friendship between the characters.

WEAKNESSES OF THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE: I really liked the book, but it was not told in a linear fashion since we followed Henry's shifts through time. This might bother some people, but it was essential to the story.

Overall, this is also a five star book for me. I could read this one over and over and probably see things I'd missed the first time through. I highly recommend it and look forward to hearing what other people thought of it.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Friday Fill-In

1. I'm looking forward to a five day weekend next weekend.
2. Australia is a place I always wanted to visit and haven't made it there yet.
3. I've fallen in love with lots of things including Maui, my husband, and chocolate - but probably not in that order.
4. Six of one, half dozen another is a phrase but I wouldn't mind six hours off for each hour worked.
5. Addiction to books can be a dangerous thing (and costly too:)
6. The American Idol auditions crack me up!
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to family movie night even though it's How To Eat Fried Worms, tomorrow my plans include hopefully some time for myself to do a whole lot of nothing and Sunday, I want to have date night at a Chorale concert!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Spare Time

Today's BTT is only partly reading related. It's true .... my life is not all about books. So here goes:

Okay, even I can’t read ALL the time, so I’m guessing that you folks might voluntarily shut the covers from time to time as well…
What else do you do with your leisure to pass the time? Walk the dog? Knit? Run marathons? Construct grandfather clocks? Collect eggshells?

Leisure time is not always something I have a lot of but here are some of the things that do fill my days. My daughter takes figure skating lessons so I spend time at our local ice rink, or running the kid taxi to the rink! I'm also a Scout leader so I do spend time with a great group of girls having a lot of fun. I also volunteer at my church on the sound board for Sunday services and the occasional wedding.

My husband and I have regular date nights at either the symphony or our local Master Chorale concerts. It sounds so much more expensive than it is because I have great in-laws that watch our daughter, and we buy inexpensive season tickets. When it's hockey season, you'll find us watching (when we can.)

I enjoy cake decorating. I'm not a pro but I have a good friend who helps me, and we have a blast when we do one. I also like to write - we'll see what happens in that area of my life.

After reading someone else's answer, I realized I had to add my two TV addictions. I love Project Runway on Bravo and Lost (which is finally back!)

I didn't even include work stuff. That fills up time in my life, too. I'm looking forward to reading about other people's interests.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Swann by Carol Shields

This is the third novel by Carol Shields that I've read for the Canadian Book Challenge. I really liked the other two: The Stone Diaries and Unless. This one is the story of four people who are united by a relationship with Mary Swann, an obscure, dead Canadian poet.

They are: Rose, the librarian in the small town where Swann lived and died; Sarah, the academic scholar who "discovers" Swann's book; Morton, Swann's biographer; and Frederic, the retired journalist and publisher who publishes Swann's only book. The book is divided among these four people and tells their stories as they prepare to attend the Swann Symposium. Shields also tries to weave a minor mystery plot throughout the four stories as items related to Swann keep showing up missing, or stolen, from each of the main characters.

STRENGTHS OF SWANN: Shields develops wonderful interesting characters. I especially liked Rose because Shields seemed to capture the essence of a small town woman with her variety of roles, yet showed her loneliness as well. Shields also did an excellent job of creating Mary Swann - a character we never meet because she has been killed by her husband before the story even takes place. There is a true sense of despair about her, even though we only meet her in reflections by Rose and Frederic. It is interesting to ponder how real these reflections are because Frederic also reveals some half-truths about the contents of Swann's book. Shields does play with the theme of what is art and who makes it throughout the novel.

WEAKNESSES OF SWANN: I did not like the last quarter of the book at all. Once the main characters are gathered at the Symposium, Shields tells the story via a movie script, complete with stage directions. I lost the flow of the characters and found the stage directions quite tiresome. It is also in this section that the mystery element moves forward. I found that I didn't care who was taking the Swann material. I also found all the sneaking around with flashlights and secret meetings tedious and not in keeping with the characters as they were presented.

Overall, I'd give this three stars. It was not my favorite Shields book by any means. If you haven't read her, don't start with this one. I'm not sorry I read it because the characters were engaging, but I did find myself skimming the last part of the book to get it finished. If you've read this one, I'd love to know if I missed something.