Saturday, March 20, 2010

Keep Reading!

This is a personal note to say that I have not abandoned my blog. Nor have I abandoned reading. In fact I read three wonderful children's books yesterday to a very attentive two-and-a-half-year-old. However, life gets chaotic at times and our lovable hobbies--like reading--fall by the wayside. I am dedicated to returning to my reading routine this week though, so you'll be hearing from me again very soon!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Paper Bag Princess: Robert Munsch

I didn’t discover The Paper Bag Princess until I was a teenager, which is unfortunate because this is a book that I think every little girl ought to own! Princess Elizabeth is very pretty and wears very pretty clothes, and she is engaged to Prince Ronald. She is basically what every princess should be. And then one day, a dragon comes along and burns up her castle and her clothes, and steals her prince. That’s right, we’re in a role reversal; it is the prince who is kidnapped by the dragon! What is a girl to do? Princess Elizabeth makes a dress out of a paper bag and stomps off to face the dragon to get her prince back. What ensues is a fantastic battle between girl and dragon, in which a very smart girl manages to outsmart a dragon and is in a position to rescue her prince. But the story isn’t over yet! There is a delightfully empowering ending that reminds women we don’t need a man to rescue us.

I love this book. The sentence structure is blunt, so don’t expect any prose here. It’s just straight forward fun. This book allows girls to have confidence in themselves and encourages them to use their brains to overcome obstacles. Storyteller Robert Munsch is a prolific children’s author, but this is by far my favorite of his many stories.


Lamb: Christopher Moore

Anyone remotely familiar with the bible will recall the familiar names of the gospels: Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. What those gospels don’t cover is Jesus’ childhood, and there’s only man who can write that story—Biff. It has been two thousand years since the death of Jesus (known as Joshua) Christ. The angel Raziel has reanimated the corpse of Levi (known as Biff), to tell the story of Joshua’s youth. Thus begins Moore’s novel about how Joshua became the Christ.

First of all, I have to say that if you are a devout believer in Christ, you will almost surely be offended by Lamb. The language is crude, the events are blasphemous, and the characters are typically flawed teenage boys. This is not an uplifting story of how wonderful Jesus was as a young man. Instead, it is the story of Joshua’s best friend, Biff, who had the sometimes unfortunate position of best friend to the Messiah. There is nothing special about Biff. He doesn’t have any special talents or trades, and he’s not particularly smart. He is, however, very lovable as an average, mischievous, lusty boy. Considering that Biff is the narrator, you can imagine the many reasons why his gospel was never incorporated into the bible.

So here’s the gist of the story; Joshua, the son of God, receives a message that he must go and find his destiny. As any loyal best friend would do, Biff goes with him. Joshua sets out on the road to find the three magi who came to witness his birth—Balthazar, Gaspar, and Melchior. Each magus is living a fairly austere life and has a lesson to teach the young Messiah. Biff learns beside Joshua, but he’s far more interested in getting laid than learning how to find the Holy Spirit in himself. So Joshua learns about enlightenment from the Buddhists, and Biff learns the physical art of Judo. Joshua learns how to overcome his physical form, and Biff learns the Kama Sutra from a prostitute. When it comes time for Joshua to become the Messiah and bring the Kingdom to the people, Biff is by his side, constantly trying to protect his friend’s life. And the rest, as they say, is history.

This book is thoroughly entertaining. Not being a student of the bible, I was inspired to research a lot of things to test their truth, which made for an enriching read. Mary of Magdala and Joshua bar Jehovah are both written extremely well, so as to make them dimensional characters in a novel, opposed to unknown figures in a holy text. I was enthusiastically impressed by the way Jesus is presented as a very Human person who had a good laugh from time to time, who enjoyed irony, who had occasional lusts, and who wasn’t magically gifted with enlightenment, but instead had to learn it, just like his followers.

I didn’t feel like I had to have any specific previous understanding of the bible to read this book. I loved all of the elements that come together so well here—romance, adventure, action, terror, and of course death. I would only recommend this to folks with open minds and a good sense of humor.


Whoever You Are: Mem Fox

It has occurred to me that I have read a great number more books than I post on this blog. Why haven't I posted them? Because they are children's books. And what's wrong with children's books? Nothing! They are often delightful reads that I have the pleasure of sharing with my little friends (I have one niece and two nephews, though none of them are biologically related to me). So I will begin posting reviews of the children's books I read, as so many of them are magical reads that some brilliant author and illustrator have invested talent and time into creating.

Whoever You Are is written like a letter, addressing "Little One, whoever you are." Using beautiful illustrations by Leslie Straub, this book assures every child that they are part of a worldwide collective of other Little Ones who all feel the same pains and joys, share the same tears and laughs.

Fox tells her young readers that there are children all over the world who have different skin, different families, different clothes, different homes, but there are things that they all have in common. It’s an important lesson that I’m not sure all adults have learned yet—namely that all love and pain are felt the same in every heart in the world.

Whoever You Are is a wonderful picture book that will inspire adults and children alike to view one another as equals.