Monday, January 31, 2011

"A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning"

"A Series of Unfortunate Events" has got to be one of my favorite series. Does anyone else think that Lemony Snicket is a genius? For those of you who have never read a book by Lemony Snicket, let me give you a warning: These books are mysterious, confusing, fun, and very addictive.

"The Bad Beginning" is the first book of thirteen in the series. We are first introduced to the three Baudelaire children. There is Violet, the eldest. She is fourteen, and loves to invent new things as a hobby. There is Klaus, the middle child. At the age of twelve, he has read many of the books in the Baudelaire's mansion library. And then, there's the youngest, Sunny. She's a baby who, like many other babies, loves to bite. The three receive devastating news one day. There was a fire, burning their mansion.
 Thus, the series of unfortunate events begins. They must go live with a relative, Count Olaf. They ponder the reason they've never met him, but soon assume why. In our story, he's the villain, who tries to steal the Baudelaire fortune from the children. 

This book is fictional, and therefore never gets very deep or sad. In most instances, I find it humorous and exciting. You begin to warm up to the characters, until you feel like you know them. But the characters aren't even my favorite part. What I really, really love is Lemony Snicket's quirky writing.  He seems to read your thoughts at times, which really draws you into the stories. Here are a couple quotes:

"But even given the surroundings, the children had mixed feelings when, over a dull diner of boiled chicken, boiled potatoes and blanched-- the word "blanched" here means "boiled"--string beans, Mr Poe announced that they were to leave his household the next morning"...

"There are many, many types of books in the world, which makes good sense, because there are many, many types of people, and everybody wants to read something different. For instance, people who hate stories in which terrible things happen to small children should put this book down immediately. But one type of book that practically no one likes to read is a book about the law."...

"The car drove farther and farther way, until Justice Strauss was merely a speck in the darkness, and it seemed to the children that they were moving in an aberrant--the word 'aberrant' here means 'very, very wrong, and causing much grief'--direction." 

That last quote is actually the last sentence in the  book, so you can see that the books usually end in a cliff-hanger type way, while still summing it up. Now, before I go into more details, I would like to point out that this series is very peculiar, and so many people were disappointed by the thirteenth book. So, if you get started on the series, don't expect to have all your questions answered by the end. 

Now, personally, I loved this book, as well as the whole series. When you come down to it, books are mainly for entertainment purposes, and these books kept me entertained for many hours. "The Bad Beginning" is 162 pages, and so it is actually a pretty short story (of course, the series makes one long story), with 13 chapters. I give it 5 stars, and I think that anyone would enjoy it. 


Friday, January 28, 2011

"Caddie Woodlawn"

"Caddie Woodlawn" by Carol Ryrie Brink is the Newberry Medal winner about a young girl living in Wisconsin during the Civil War with her large family. Inspired by stories told to her by her grandmother, Carol Ryrie Brink narrates the book beautifully.

Caddie's father has raised her ever since she was born, which results in Caddie being a tomboy, choosing to play with her brothers, rather than her sisters. She has many adventures with them throughout the book, and each fast-paced chapter will keep you entertained.
One thing I love about this book (I've read it twice) is that it can be read anytime, anywhere, and it never gets old. Everyone will love this book, because it is sweet, and appropriate for all ages.
It's a quick read, which is nice if you just need a book to get you through the week.

The 24 chapters are on the shorter side, and it's 275 pages. With the end of each chapter, you're ready for another. I give it 5 stars!


Friday, January 21, 2011

"A Christmas Carol"

"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens is a book.... that I should have reviewed before Christmas. I know, I apologize. I'm still working on the whole "catching up" thing.  I didn't know how long it would take me, though! But you don't want to hear me make lame excuses, do you? No, I better just continue with the review. Take two!

"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens is the 1843 Christmas classic about Ebenezer Scrooge - a man who could use some Christmas cheer. Mean, rude, and selfish, he needs to learn a lesson. And what better way than to have three ghosts visit him? And that's how it all begins. I loved this book, and can definitely see why it's a classic. One problem I faced, which had nothing to do with the book, was that because of watching a couple movies about it, and knowing the general story, it felt predictable. I knew the general idea of the story, and the outline seemed, well: boring? But I really wanted to read it, despite this fear. And so, I read it. And while I partly knew the story, there were many details not included in the films and short stories. I give this book 4 1/2 stars (I'm really trying to reserve five stars for my absolute favorites), because it is well written, touching, and has a great storyline. Now, I'm sure most of you know the story, but shall we review? Here is a synopsis:

  • Scrooge is mean. I think we all know that.
  • The ghost of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, visits him on a winter night, warning him that three ghosts will visit him to teach him a lesson.
  • The Ghost of Christmas Past comes to visit Scrooge, showing him glimpses of his past.
  • The Ghost of Christmas Present comes, showing Scrooge what life his like for his employees. This is when we start to see a change in Scrooge...
  • The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come visits, showing him (obviously) the Christmas to come.

This book is definitely worth reading. I know that I will be returning to it many times. For the youngest readers, I would recommend the Puffin Classics version. In the back, they have "A Dickensian Glossary", as well as an Author File, and characters. It is 125 pages, and has 5 chapters.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

"The Great Brain"

Oh, where to start on describing this one-of-a-kind book!? Well, to start off:
"The Great Brain" by John D. Fitzgerald is the story of "The best con man in the Midwest...
And he's only ten years old". Yes, I admit, I stole that from the back cover - but, it is a brilliant way to sum up not only this book, but Tom Fitzgerald as well. "The Great Brain" is the first book in the series about Tom Fitzgerald, a boy living in Adenville, Utah in the.... yep, that's right. 1800s. But don't worry, it's 1890s, none of that Civil War stuff I post about so often. Anyway, the book is narrated by none other than Tom's younger brother, J.D., who tells the true stories about life with "The Great Brain". So, who is The Great Brain?
He's Tom Fitzgerald.
He's a swindler.
He's a money-maker.
He's a cheater.
He's a smarty-pants.
He's a ten year old.

All I can think of when I'm done reading this book is: Poor J.D.  and S.D. (Sweyn is the oldest of the three brothers, to answer your first question. And they call each other by their initials, to answer your second question.)  Tom comes up with many schemes to make money, but can always prove that he made a fair deal. These books are so funny, and never get old to me. It cracks me up each time I read about their father, the editor and publisher of their local newspaper, ordering every useless invention he can find - including the first water-closet in Adenville. It cracks me up every time Tom explains things to J.D.. It cracks me up every time  Tom makes bets, and charges kids money for things, like taking a look at their new water closet. This book does have one problem, though: it's not the most well written book in the world, and we even found a couple errors in the printing. Besides that, not everything is politically correct, so it's not a book you would read for school or anything. But when you're not in school? Pick up these hilarious books! Trust me, I have not been able to find words for this review - but if you read one of these books, you will not be disappointed. I give this book 4 stars, and say that it's good for all ages! It has 175 pages, and has a few illustrations by the talented Mercer Mayer.


"Old Yeller"

"Old Yeller" by Fred Gipson is a book about fourteen year old Travis. Or at least for some people. But the book is really about Old Yeller, a dog named for both his yelps and the color of his fur: a dingy yellow. He stumbles into the lives of Travis and Little Arliss  (Travis' younger brother) in the late 1860s, and doesn't give off the best first impression, stealing their food. But five year old Little Arliss loves him, and wants to keep him. He had never had a dog before, like Travis had Bell- their dog who died from a snake bite the previous summer - and wants him very badly. Travis is the man of the house now that his father has gone off to Kansas, and as the man of the house, he tries to convince his mother that they need to get rid of the ugly dog. But after Old Yeller saves Little Arliss, it seems right to keep him. And that is where the many adventures with Old Yeller begin.

I liked this book. I thought that it taught you a lot about life at that time, and the details make you want to cry at times, as you think of the pain and suffering both Old Yeller and Travis went through. The ending is predictable, and whether it was meant to be that way or not, I don't know for sure. You know from the beginning that something sad is going to happen. I give this 1956 Newberry Honor Book 4 stars. It was good, but simply not my favorite. I would recommend it though, and especially to boys. If you skip over the dark parts, it would be fine for anyone, but because there are many dark and sad parts to the book, you may not want to read it to very young children. And I probably wouldn't read it on my own until I was about eight.

The book is 181 pages (I have the soft cover HarperTrophy one), and has sixteen chapters.


Catching Up

Hello! I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I have five books that I've read since "Heidi", and I will do my best to catch up and review them. But I'm sorry if I can't review all of the books. Please be patient, as it may take me a week or two to get caught up on all of my reviews!

~ Natalia