Wild and Wacky (Picture Book Roundup)

I’ve been home sick this weekend with a sore throat and a bad cold. I’ve been getting raging headaches and have been sneezing incessantly so I haven’t been able to read anything full-length, but picture books have always made good bedside reading for me, hence this picture book roundup.

In today’s lineup are: A Day With Wilbur Robinson, Guild Geniuses, Pignapped, The Hair Scare, Klutz, The Lady with the Ship on her Head, Flotsam, and Swine Lake — books #155-162 for 2010

I hope this flu passes soon, I’ve got a lot to read for November!

Continue reading “Wild and Wacky (Picture Book Roundup)”

The first of the flash reviews

671338_14461703I’ve been meaning to catch up on some reviewing backlog, because the to-be-reviewed pile doesn’t seem to be  going down. I was saving some books for thematic reviews but the stacks have been driving me crazy, and  I’m way off my target for this year, hence I’ve decided to write some flash reviews for the quick reads.

Here’s how it works: I give a summary of the book, my take on it, plus a rating.

Deep breath. Here goes:

Continue reading “The first of the flash reviews”


Was finally able to watch the Persepolis movie yesterday, and it comes as a relief that it’s not one of those annoying movie adaptations that fail to live up to the reader’s expectations.

If you’re not already familiar with the 2-part graphic novel (although there is already a complete edition with both parts in one book), Persepolis by Marjane (mar-zhan) Satrapi is a coming-of-age memoir in comic strips, narrating her life growing up in Iran during the Islamic revolution, studying in Austria, and then returning to her home country.
The comics, done in pen and ink, swing between irreverent and hilarious to poignant and insightful. I liked the first book, which is focused on Satrapi’s childhood, better than the second, which deals with her schooling abroad onwards. The perspective changes in the second book, naturally — the humor gets drier as she grows older and deals with more issues, but it is still worth reading to get the whole story.To parents who are wondering if the comics are suitable for young readers, the first book is okay for younger teens (6th grade to junior high, but be prepared to answer questions and explain certain concepts), but reserve the second book for later, as it deals with more mature issues.

The Persepolis movie, which debuted at the 2007 Cannes, is as highly acclaimed as the book. The animation is a bit more polished than the comics, but resembles it closely enough that you wouldn’t really notice. Some episodes from the first book are not in the film, especially those that don’t really propel the story forward, but the film is in essence faithful to the book.

The film also manages to make some episodes even funnier and some even more poignant, even though I’d read them already, and an adaptation that can do that is worth lauding. I cried a bit when uncle Anoush gave Marji the bread swans, and when the”Eye of the Tiger” sequence was rolling, I was doubled over laughing!

Film adaptations, when executed properly, add another dimension of enjoyment to the experience of reading a book, and the Persepolis movie does just that. It’s one of the very few movie adaptations that I’ve enjoyed recently, so bravo to that!

My copies: Persepolis 1, trade paperback, from NBS Book-sak Presyo Sale (a steal at P75); Persepolis 2, trade paperback, mooched from abroad

My rating: Persepolis I, 5/5 stars; Persepolis II, 4/5 stars
Persepolis movie, 5/5 stars

The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi

I wanted to read The Spiderwick Chronicles after I saw the movie adaptation on HBO. I found the movie a bit twee for my taste, and I wanted to find out if it did the books justice. Luckily I was able to mooch the complete hardcover boxed set from a member in the Netherlands, who very kindly walked to my aunt and uncle’s apartment to bring them over, along with some other books I mooched.

I was actually surprised to find that the movie covered all five books already, which was a bit of a letdown, as I was expecting a longer storyline and more adventures.

The five books were a quick read: short chapters, large fonts, no big words, and a lot of illustrations. I was able to finish the whole series in one day (with a lot of activities in between), and I think that if I was younger, I’d have enjoyed them more.

Don’t get me wrong – the story is imaginative, and I enjoyed DiTerlizzi’s detailed illustrations, but on the whole, it was much too juvenile for me.

I remember feeling the same way reading the first book of A Series of Unfortunate Events (I liked the movie, though). I find it harder to appreciate books that talk down down to the reader, even if the book is meant for younger readers. There’s a certain snootiness to the tone that annoys me, like the author / narrator is speaking slowly to make sure the reader understands all the words.

It’s still a success though, at least for its intended age group, and the authors have expanded into a second series: Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles. I was able to read the first book, Nixie’s Song, for a review I was writing last year, and it has new characters (although Jared, Simon and Mallory appear in it too, and even cameos of Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi) and more faeries, so kids are bound to enjoy that too. But I like the characters in Nixie’s song better, Nick and Laurie are much more interesting than the Graces and have better dynamics.

I’d recommend the series for kids who are making the transition into chapter books, but for the same genre and roughly the same age group, I think Elizabeth Kay’s Divide series (The Divide, Back to the Divide, and Jinx on the Divide), while virtually unheard of, trumps Spiderwick big-time.

My copy: hardcover boxed set of The Spiderwick Chronicles; hardcover Nixie’s Song

My rating: Spiderwick, books and series: 3/5 stars; Nixie’s song: 3.5/5 stars