Tag Archives: humor

Board Book Roundup

9780714878829Can You Eat? by Joshua David Stein
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Second only to Orange Pear Apple Bear, this book is the best I’ve seen that plays with homonyms and rhymes in a very simple yet fun way. It will have you considering the words in your own life.

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Go to Sheep by Jennifer Sattler
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Go to Sheep is a very cute bedtime read that reminded me of Sheep in a Jeep (and not just because they both feature our ovine friends). Perfect humor for grownups and kids!

9789888341535Mirror Play by Monte Shin
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

My boss and I couldn’t stop playing with this book! We realized it was likely to get destroyed approximately 5 seconds after we put it out on the shelf, but that did not dissuade us. Perfect for the spatially-inclined – and you don’t need to know how to read to enjoy it on your own! Mirrors and rotating designs encourage readers to find the shape using the mirror flap. For slightly older kids, check out Which One Doesn’t Belong by Christopher Danielson.

The Sad Little Fact by Jonah Winter

9780525581796by Jonah Winter
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Oh man. I am conflicted about how many stars to give this book. If we are looking at it purely as a picture book story for kids, then I would rank it maybe a 3 out of 5 stars. But if we are seeing it as part of this moment in time and a reaction to the political climate, I would say 5 out of 5 stars! I read this aloud to my “adults who read kids’ books” book club last night and we were all in stitches. We agreed that it earns the award for “least subtle picture book” – it stole the crown from The Wall in the Middle of The Book!

The eponymous fact in this story gets ignored and then worse, the Authorities claim it is not a fact and that it must say it is a lie! But the fact cannot do that, and so they lock it up in a box and bury it underground. But there it finds the other facts that have been buried, and together they break out. When they emerge, they find that the authorities have been producing lies and calling them facts. Even more heavy-handed are the actual facts, ranging from the benign “two plus two equals four” to “humans are descended from apes” to the blatant “humans are causing the earth to get warmer.” This book is not for the politically sensitive!

Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall

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by Jeanne Birdsall
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Lydia, the youngest of the Penderwick siblings, is now ten and poised for her first visit to Arundel, the summer vacation setting of the first Penderwick book, for her sister’s wedding. There she meets Cagney’s daughter, Alice, who’s her age, and they become fast friends. There’s some drama with the older sisters, and with Mrs. Tifton (Jeffrey’s mother), but in general this one is more good, clean fun – and even lower drama than the other books in the series. I was still pulled in by the same kinds of funny scenarios as the rest of the series.

With words like “at last” in the title, I was expecting this book to feel like a final book in a series, but it didn’t, for a few reasons. One is that you don’t get to experience the wedding, which was a weird letdown. Another is that there’s no closure to the Batty/Jeffrey situation. Lydia’s parents are largely absent, which seemed odd. It all just makes me wonder if this really is the final installment. One thing I really loved was that at one point they’re talking about how Mrs. Tifton thinks one of the Penderwicks wants to marry Jeffrey, and 16-year-old Ben says “I didn’t think any of us wanted to marry Jeffrey”! LOVE.

Double Review: Graphic Novels

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Beyond the Western Deep, Volume 1
by Alex Kain and Rachel Bennett
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

A graphic novel seems an interesting medium for this fantasy story, which required a few pages of worldbuilding to catch the reader up on the history needed to understand the plot. There are four (or five?) peoples, in each of the four directions, and they live in an uneasy truce with each other. Our heroes, some sort of anthropomorphic animals, set off on a quest at the end of the book. Honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed with all the unfamiliar names (maybe I’m just out of practice with reading fantasy?) to really dig into the story. As with often happens when I read graphic novels, I had a lot of trouble telling the characters apart, but at least this one is in color, so that was mitigated a bit. It’s a Very Serious Story, and I just didn’t connect with it. But it would probably be ideal for 4th graders (or strong 3rd graders) who are into Redwall or the Warriors series.

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Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth (Volume 1)
by Judd Winick
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

After the utter seriousness of the first graphic novel, I thoroughly appreciated the humor of Hilo, who falls to Earth with amnesia and immediately meets D.J, who greets him with an “AAAAAH!” and takes him in. Hilo adopts the greeting and uses it to great comedic effect throughout the book, to my delight. I didn’t 100% follow the storyline of Hilo’s origin and the conflict on his home planet, but I was so entertained that I didn’t care. D.J.’s old friend Gina also moves back to town and very little about either of them has changed so they fall right back into their friendship. D.J.’s family is large and loud (he’s right between two older brothers and two younger sisters and feels like he doesn’t do anything especially well) and Hilo’s appearance livens up his and Gina’s otherwise humdrum lives in a sleepy small town. Hilo’s irrepressible nature is catching, as is his favorite adjective, “outstanding!”

Great for fans of: Big Nate, Calvin and Hobbes, and the Flying Beaver Brothers

Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

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by Bill Konigsberg
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Oh man, did I ever have high hopes for this one. If Openly Straight had all the feels, though, its sequel had maybe two. Two feels. I really enjoyed Ben as seen through Rafe’s eyes, and now that I’m seeing Ben as he sees himself, I like him less – but that is part of the story. Ben comes from hardworking, humble, quiet stock, particularly his dad, and as a result he doesn’t see himself as smart or deserving of praise.

After the tumult of exploring with Rafe in the fall, Ben is looking forward to a more focused spring semester: baseball season starting (he’s elected captain) and buckling down on his schoolwork to keep the prestigious scholarship he’s been chosen for. But the pressures of trying to be who everyone (his dad, teammates, headmaster) wants him to be eventually get to him. Even with his new girlfriend, he can’t stop thinking about Rafe.

SPOILER ALERT: Ben and Rafe get back together but the honeymoon is quickly over when Ben won’t be his boyfriend openly. Ben gives a big speech ostensibly to accept the scholarship but ends up being true to himself, which costs him the scholarship and also his relationship with his dad because he confesses to cheating on a test and comes out as being in love with Rafe. When he can’t stay at home for spring break and his one-week suspension, Ben goes with Rafe to Boulder, where he is instantly overwhelmed with other people insisting he’s now gay.

My favorite conversations were the ones where I could see both sides of the conflict equally clearly. I could understand Mrs. Goldberg’s insistence that if he’s in love with a boy, he is at least bisexual, if not gay, but also Ben’s assertion that he shouldn’t have to accept labels if they don’t feel accurate and it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s in denial. I could understand how hard it was for Ben, as a minor still essentially in his parents’ care and at risk of becoming homeless, to come out at all, but also how that could look like shame to Rafe, who wants to be loved openly. I could see Hannah not wanting to be abandoned for Rafe who had just been dumped, but also that Ben felt a loyalty to Rafe. I could see how hard it was for Ben’s mom and brother to fight their own battles within the family, and also how much Ben wanted them to stand up to his dad. I could understand Ben feeling close to both Hannah and Rafe.

Two other things I really loved were: 1. Toby’s journey of coming out as gender fluid, as it’s the first time I’d read about it in a character and I think it’s incredibly important for everyone to be able to see themselves in books; and 2. Ben and Mrs. Goldberg talk about bisexual erasure, which is definitely a thing and which is definitely not talked about in books (which happens to underscore how it’s a thing). Also – I tagged this as “humor” which might seem weird given how heavy the topics are, but it’s because some parts made me laugh out loud.

Overall: very important, but not nearly as angsty and feeling-driven as I’d hoped from the first book.

The Truth Game

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by Anna Stanizewski
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

It’s no secret I’m a fan of this series. This is the fourth one, and Rachel is back with all her clumsiness, silly expressions (like “oh my goldfish”), embarrassing situations, and teen drama. Her problems have continued from the third book and include a growing gap between herself and her best friend. What is unforeseen is that a rift crops up between her and her semi-boyfriend, Evan, and it’s all thanks to a game that Evan’s evil twin sister installed on Rachel’s phone (well, in addition to┬átheir awkward first kiss). Answers in the Truth Game are supposed to be anonymous, but then someone hacks the game and everyone’s answers are exposed for all to read. On top of that, Rachel is trying too hard at her new after-school bakery job and trying to get on the Pastry Wars’ teen edition show with her idol, Chip Ackerson. Also, her dad is back in town but her mom wants to move in with her boyfriend, who also used to be Rachel’s vice-principal.

I like that Rachel admits that she likes to see how she compares to others in the game and it even gets a little addictive, but then she realizes how harmful the game is. There are also some financials about kids who work and why. I really enjoyed how Rachel and Evan talked about their conflict, and Rachel and Marisol. Rachel also grows a lot, especially in overcoming her debilitating shyness, which is satisfying to watch and well-written. The ending is a bit contrived, but it is a middle grade novel so that’s not surprising. Overall, very satisfying. Who knows, maybe there will be a fifth book someday?

The Haters

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by Jesse Andrews
Overall: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I had been eagerly anticipating Andrews’ second novel ever since reading Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. The Haters is the story of best friends Wes and Corey who go off to jazz band camp one summer and end up ditching the camp to go “on tour” with a girl they just met (none of them are really that great). They have all sorts of adventures that seem grownup and exciting and it seems like the trouble they get into they just leave behind, but eventually reality hits and hits hard. Andrews is great at telling a story through a teenager’s eyes and then sharing the story again from another perspective, so a teenage reader would probably realize how skewed their version of events can get. And of course this book has the same sense of humor as Andrews’ first novel, so I was frequently shaking with laughter and getting strange looks from people around me.

I really want to recommend this book to my cousin who is a freshman in high school and who is also into jazz band (and to whom I also recommended Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), but I will tell his parents a couple of things: 1. Wes and co. smoke pot, and 2. Wes loses his virginity to a girl along the way, which is described in pretty good detail. Mostly I hope my cousin chooses to live vicariously through Wes and not go out and try any of this himself, but I also hope he can relate.