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Recommendations for Friday, November 23, 2012

Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by billba tagged chapter book

Unshelved strip for 11/23/2012

Lexapros and Cons by Aaron Karo

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged coming of age

Chuck Taylor (no, not that one) realizes just surviving his senior year is not enough. He wants more. But first he has to figure out how to deal with his obsessive compulsive disorder.

Why I picked it up: This book was nominated for my library system's mock Printz Award, and I am determined to read all the nominations this year.  And I read all the books about teens with OCD.

Why I finished it: At first I was worried this was just going to be yet another of those painful, teenage-guy-with-only-one-friend comedies that dips into meanness for laughs. But Chuck’s subtle transformations surprised me as he learned more about himself and his condition, and began to understand that his view of himself might be more negative than it should be. And I loved that he wore different Chuck Taylor’s depending on his mood.

I'd give it to: Flemtastic. I can't believe he didn't review this before me. He’d appreciate the guy humor like the ongoing tally Chuck keeps of his masturbation sessions for over a year. Plus Flemtastic is a big softie and would like the upbeat, romantic ending as much as I did.

Emerald Valley: Bed, Breakfast and Bondage by Riley Shane

Most women wouldn't mind waking up to find six feet of perfectly-defined male muscle cooking for them. Then again, Anaya Bancroft isn't most women. She's the innkeeper and co-owner of Emerald Valley Bed & Breakfast and it's only pure desperation -- and a complete lack of ability in the kitchen -- that have her turning to her ex for help with the B&B's biggest event of the year. Devlin Levi may be a famous chef, but he broke Naya's heart once and she's not about to let him do it again. Devlin is welcome in her kitchen, but that's it.

At least, that was the plan.

Devlin has a plan of his own, one that could change everything. He wants Naya to give him eight nights. Eight nights of unbridled passion, eight sexual fantasies explored and fulfilled, eight chances to prove they're made for each other. If, at the end of their time together, Naya still believes they can't make a relationship work, the two of them will part -- for good. It's a bargain Naya can't resist, even though she fears it will end in heartbreak.

Then again, a lot can happen in eight nights…

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Mr. and Mrs. Bunny -- Detectives Extraordinare! by Polly Horvath, Sophie Blackall

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged chapter book

Madeline needs a new pair of white shoes because Prince Charles is coming to her grade school to give graduation awards (she’s going to get several). But her hippy parents think it’s all a bunch of crap. They want their daughter to celebrate light and mother earth on their small island like everyone else.

Mr. Bunny buys a new hutch without consulting his wife. It’s a beautiful little cottage that’s fully furnished and includes clothes and a car. Mrs. Bunny is irritated that she wasn’t consulted. She thinks the area may have a fox problem, and that may be why the former owners disappeared and left all of their stuff.

Foxes kidnap Madeline’s parents. They want to open a canned rabbit and rabbit by-products factory. They have recipes, but they’re all written in code. Madeline’s Uncle Runyon is a code breaker for the Canadian government. The foxes want to know where he lives. But Madeline’s parents can’t remember.

Madeline goes to her uncle for help, but he falls into a coma (he's been trying to do this for a while). She meets Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, figures out that she speaks their language, and hires them to be detectives.

The Bunnies purchase fedoras in hopes of detecting, so they look the part. They really don’t have a clue how to find Madeline’s parents, but they want to find proof of the fox’s factory plans so that they can convince the rabbit anti-fox SWAT team to go into action.

Why I picked it up: Horvath’s The Canning Season made me laugh a lot, including twice for its unexpectedly salty language. I wondered if the Bunnies would make me laugh and if they’d swear.

Why I finished it: The Bunnies aren’t foul-mouthed, but they have many small arguments that made me giggle. And there’s The Marmot (his parents named him “The”) who tries to decode the clue Madeline finds after her parents are kidnapped. He tries to steal Mr. Bunny’s car, but is caught. “I wasn’t stealing nothing...I just should never have had that Irish coffee. It got me all confused.”

I'd give it to: My daughter’s silliest friend, Eleanor, who laughs every time someone says “armadillo.” She’s a goofball, and she’d love the way the bunnies try (and usually fail) to help Madeline get her parents back. They’re terrible detectives, but they’re really funny -- Mr. Bunny has to sit on six telephone books and wear twelve-inch purple platform shoes to drive his car. (They’re a relic of Mrs. Bunny’s disco dancing days.)

Who's on Worst? : The Lousiest Players, Biggest Cheaters, Saddest Goats and Other Antiheroes in Baseball History by Filip Bondy

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged nonfiction

Filip Bondy notes that each baseball game has twenty-seven outs. That’s twenty-seven instances of failure. Yet he argues, “Some players over the decades have elevated failure or folly, to fresh, artful levels.” Instead this book ranks and codifies the biggest cheats, losers, chokers, worst teammates, goats, overpaid Yankees, and hitters that could not break the Mendoza line (a .200 batting average).  With quick, breezy paragraphs chock full of stats and quotes, Bondy carefully makes a case for his ranking of the top ten in each category.

Why I picked it up: There are a lot of books out there that bolster barstool arguments about the greatest players of each generation. I never imagined there’d be a book that would explore the worst the sport had to offer, ever.

Why I finished it: Unfortunately, several Seattle Mariners were listed under the various Worst Of categories.  Gaylord Perry, a noted spitball pitcher who came to the Mariners late in his hall-of-fame career, was mentioned prominently. But at least he was below Phil Niekro in the rankings -- he was caught scraping balls with an emery board concealed in his pocket to get better movement on his pitches.

The details are simply hysterical to any baseball fan. Ty Cobb once went into the stands to beat a disabled spectator for a racist comment. After Albert Belle’s bat was taken to be tested for cork, a teammate crawled through the air ducts to the locked umpires’ room  to try to replace the corked bat. A former owner of the Anaheim Angels offered a bonus to players willing to grow mustaches although he was so cheap he put a limit on the number of bats a player could break.  The famous manager Casey Stengel is quoted at the beginning of the bad managers chapter, “The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided.”

I'd give it to: My best sports-watching buddies, Ryan B, Ryan H, Colin, Jim and Steve. This would be the starting point of a million conversations. Some of us witnessed the cited humiliating performances firsthand. I hope we wouldn’t come to fisticuffs when arguing over the rankings. This is an Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader for the sports crowd.

Cascade: A Novel by Maryanne O’Hara

Readers are devouring this transporting novel about the eternal tug between our duties and our desires, set during the Depression and New Deal–era New York City and New England.

It’s 1935 and Desdemona Spaulding has sacrificed her plans to work as a New York artist to care for her bankrupt, ailing father in Cascade, Massachusetts. When he dies, Dez finds herself caught in a marriage of convenience, bound to the promise she made to save her father’s renowned Shakespeare theater, even as her town may be flooded to create a reservoir for Boston. When she falls for artist Jacob Solomon, she sees a chance to escape and realize her New York ambitions, but is it morally possible to set herself free? A People magazine "People Pick" and Library Journal "Best Bet."

Cascade unfolds like a Shakespearean tragedy, with an ending you won’t see coming. Much like a drowned town, the novel becomes something that you can’t take your eyes from or stop thinking about in wonder.” —The Boston Globe

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Christmas Wombat by Jackie French, Bruce Whatley

Link to this review by sharonlevin tagged picture book

The wombat is back! The heart stealing, bumbly rumbly wombat is back and must defend her carrots from strange creatures who show up on Christmas Eve, pulling a sleigh. After defeating them, she takes a nap on the sleigh and travels with Santa, snacking on carrots all over the world.  

Why I picked it up: Diary of a Wombat has been a favorite in our house ever since it came out nine years ago. I couldn’t wait to see what the wombat was up to now.

Why I finished it: Bruce Whatley’s hilarious illustrations (particularly the expressions on the animals’ faces) made me giggle.

I'd give it to: Cari, because even though she's a grown up, watching the wombat innocently steal the carrots from Santa's reindeer will absolutely delight her.

Super-Dragon by Steve Kroll, Douglas Holgate

Link to this review by snow tagged picture book

Drago wants to enter the dragon contest, but his family tells him he's too little. He doesn't even know how to fly yet! But Drago's not going to let that stop him. With a little help from a friend, he might be ready to enter and surprise everyone.

Why I picked it up: It was sitting on the reshelve cart behind the circulation desk of my local library and the title caught my eye. There's no way I could resist something called Super-Dragon!

Why I finished it: I didn't realize until I opened it that Holgate used comics to tell the story. The adorably detailed art, bright colors, and word balloons were just icing on the cake for an already cute story. I especially liked Holgate's use of perspective. The scene where Drago is ready to jump off a high cliff to learn to fly was appropriately stomach-dropping. Later Holgate uses an upward perspective to give the flying dragons a little extra height.

I'd give it to: Mr. Gruber's preschool class. They're working on numbers and will enjoy picking out the mistakes during the figure eight flying contest. The students will love that the littlest dragon comes out on top and Mr. Gruber will like the reinforcement about hard work.

Who Cut the Cheese? : A Cultural History of the Fart by Jim Dawson

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged history

Farting is important, but it gets a bum rap. Good health (according to one study) requires passing gas at least fifteen times a day! References to breaking wind go back as far back as classic Greek and Roman literature and also appear in the Bible, 1001 Arabian Nights, and, perhaps most famously, Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Jim Dawson walks a thin line in this lively, humorous book that is also serious about showing the place of farting in cultures around the world.

One artist of note was Le Pétomane, a French performer who sold out the Moulin Rouge for years. He had the ability to suck in huge amounts of air through his anus and then reverse the flow, creating musical notes and sounds at will. Dawson notes, “During his act he remained straight-faced, and perhaps it was the incongruity of this deadly serious guy farting through a trapdoor in his pants that sent customers into spasms of laughter.” American censors did not allow farting on the silver screen until Mel Brooks’ famous Blazing Saddles campfire scene in 1974.  After that, the floodgates, as it were, were opened.  John Waters even created a film in Odorama -- scratch-n-sniff cards were passed out to audience members to be scratched when indicated on-screen. (Only the adventurous scratched #2, the fart smell.)

Why I picked it up: I saw this in the book section of my local thrift store. At the minimum, I expected some good jokes and stories –- at best, I thought I might get a comparison of attitudes about farting from around the world.

Why I finished it: I learned technical things about farting, like the chemical composition: 59% nitrogen, 21% hydrogen, 9% percent carbon dioxide, 7% percent methane, and 4% percent oxygen. The smell comes from the less than 1% that is ammonia and skatole.

I also found out that Hitler had such gas issues that he took miracle pills containing strychnine and arsenic to reduce his bowel pressure. This may have led to mental instability from poisoning himself.

There are even rumors of “fartifacts,” gas captured in a sealed bottle that used to “belong” to (in?) celebrities like Marilyn Monroe or Abraham Lincoln.

I'd give it to: I would give it to my father, only in the presence of competent medical care, lest things get out of hand again. Despite his distinguished career as a physician, he laughed so hard at the fart scene in Steve Martin’s The Pink Panther remake that he passed out in the movie theater. We had to call the EMT’s, stopping the movie for everyone! He’d love the colorful terms for passing gas, like the butler’s revenge, gurk, trouser cough, floating an air biscuit, burning bad powder, and more.

101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed U.S. History by Michele Bollinger, Dao X. Tran

Link to this review by craigseasholes tagged history

Succinct two-page biographical sketches of women and men from throughout American history with a focus on civil rights and social justice. Each profile is accompanied by a timeline and suggestions for both discussion and key writings by the subject themselves. The collection includes activists, authors, organizers, and public figures as well as everyday people who took a stand to make things better for others. The profiles are arranged chronologically by birthdate starting with Crispus Attucks (the first person killed at the Boston Massacre) and ending with Constance McMillen, who fought to bring her same-sex partner to their Mississippi high school prom in 2009.

Why I picked it up: There is a big push for finding and teaching non-fiction in the Common Core State Standards being rolled out across the U.S. Biography is a great hook for learning about periods in and perspectives on American history. When I saw the photo-mosaic of Mohammad Ali on the cover, I sensed a K.O.

Why I finished it: I loved the profiles of familiar names like Harvey Milk, August Wilson, Audre Lorde, Lucy Stone, Stokely Carmichael and Fred Korematsu. There were also plenty of unfamiliar names to satisfy my appetite for more than what is found in traditional biographies. The diverse voices and perspectives of these people really made history come alive for me. As with Stefoff and Zinn’s A Young People’s History of the United States, each essay put another face on an important story accessible to young readers.

I'd give it to: Shannon, who wants her students to look beyond the headlines and history textbooks into the lives of everyday heroes. She’ll enjoy spotting the two profiles written by Seattle high school history teachers Jesse Hagopian and Dan Troccol. This book truly demonstrates that history can be made (and written) by each of us. 

Suddenly Something Happened by Jimmy Beaulieu

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged biographygraphic novel

Autobiographical comics that focus on the time in Beaulieu’s life when he left Quebec City for Montreal. He didn’t have much luck with women romantically for a while, but then, suddenly, he did.

Why I picked it up: My friend Tina loves it, though she continues to deny stalking Beaulieu.

Why I finished it: Beaulieu is surrounded by beautiful women, and he loves to draw them. His sketchy art is not inked, and it really gives people and places a wonderful energy. He also does a great job of capturing Montreal, both in the background of other stories and in one of my favorite pieces in the book, “The Balconies of Montreal,” where he talks about how folks in the city come out of hibernation after temperatures rise and expose their private lives for everyone to see.

I'd give it to: Artist Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise, Echo, Rachel Rising). He has his own take on how to draw beautiful women, and I wonder what he’d think of Beaulieu’s art.

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