Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua is a personal memoir of one woman’s raising her children in the “Chinese way.” My initial takeaway of the “Chinese Way” is that it is to insult and torment your children, to be self-centered and project yourself on your children, and to be more than overbearing in forcing them to succeed. However, after sitting and chatting with my book group, I have realized I missed something: It is satire! She’s making fun of herself!

While I don’t think anyone would (or really should) imitate her specific parenting strategies any more than they’d imitate those of Jeanette Walls’ parents, there is something to be learned from her dedication to raising the bar.Continue Reading

(Kids Corner) Some Cybils 2011 Books about … Family

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith (Roaring Brook, August 2011) is the story of a past generation through the eyes of a great-grandson. The young great-grandson knows Grandpa’s story because Grandpa, a gardener, has created topiary garden with statues that remind him of the past. Raisin and I loved the story of Grandpa’s life, and I think an older child would appreciate it even more. Although the story of remembering Grandpa’s life is notable and memorable in and of itself, Grandpa Green is also fantastic because of its wonderful illustrations. The front matter indicates that they are partly water color and oil paint and digital paint (the green foliage) and partly brush and waterproof drawing ink (the sketches of the people). I loved the blend of two types of illustrations. As the young boy walks through the garden illustrating Grandpa’s life, he finds gardening tools Grandpa has left behind, thus hinting to the fact that we’ll discover at the end: that Grandpa is now forgetful. From now on, the grandson will remember for him. Fantastic book in all ways. (Nominated by Isaac Z)

Raisin and I really enjoy the rhymes and the stories in Anna Dewney’s Llama Llama books. Llama Llama Home with Mama (Viking, August 2011) is no exception, and I particularly related to it since I was sick for much of the summer due to my early pregnancy. In this story, Llama Llama wakes up feeling sick and cannot go to school. Mama carefully nurses Llama Llama, only to begin sneezing herself! Using Mama’s example, Llama Llama takes care of Mama, bringing her tissues and books to read. Raisin did this for me all summer when I was feeling unwell, and I found it so sweet. Dewdney’s book will remind kids to think of others, plus it’s a good book for those miserable days when our children are disappointed at missing that field trip or other fun event due to being sick. The bonus is that you can stay home with Mama (or Daddy…)!. (Nominated by Liza Wiemer) Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from the publisher at BEA 2011.

Leap Back Home to Me by Lauren Thompson and illustrated by Matthew Cordell (Margaret K. McElderry Books, April 2011) reminded me of Margaret Wise Brown’s Runaway Bunny: a young one goes out on his own, but always must come back home to his mama. The difference is that in Leap Back Home to Me, the mother frog encourages the child to set off on his own: “Leap frog over the sun. Leap frog as high as you please. Leap frog out to the farthest stars. When you leap home, here I’ll be.” Watercolor (I think) illustrations give the book a soft and calm feel, to match the comforting story. (Nominated by Tobin Harper)

When all the lights in Brooklyn go out one summer night in Blackout by John Rocco (Hyperion, May 2011), families are suddenly not busy, much to the delight of the young child. Without power, the family cannot work on computers, or otherwise engage in their many tasks. When their powerless home gets too hot, they go to the roof and to the street, where the entire community is gathered as one. I loved the illustrations, and the wonderful “not normal” end reminds families that slowing down and turning off the distractions is for the best, especially for a little kid who treasures those family times. (Nominated by Jennifer Donnovan)

Mitchell’s License by Hallie Durrand and illustrated by Tony Fucille (Candlewick, April 2011) is a fun father-son bedtime book. Mitchell does not want to go to bed, so Dad lets him have a driver’s license, Dad being the “car” as Mitchell perches on his shoulders. This is a true-to-form picture book, meaning the pictures are essential to the text. Never in the text does it say “Dad is Mitchell’s car.” Rather, Mitchell gets his car ready every night via text and in the illustrations we see the humor of Dad being the car. Raisin loved this book because it was so silly to see how Mitchell drove around the house. Raisin can’t wait to have his own license! (Nominated by Hollie Thompson)

And for a wonderful non-Cybils nominated book

Shhh! by Valeri Gorbachev (Philomel, September 2011) is perfect for a soon-to-be big brother. A big brother informs us that when his baby brother is asleep, he is quiet. Beyond walking on his tip-toes, he tells the clown to stop laughing, the tigers to not growl so loud, the train to stop making loud noises, and the pirates to stop their cannons. But that’s not all, for when baby brother wakes up, the boy is able to play noisily again: laughing with the clown, making the train noises, and otherwise jumping around the room. I love how Valeri Gorbachev in the first pages shows the boy talking to a real clown, tiger, pirates, and so forth. Once the baby brother is awake, the boy is shown with his toys, and the younger child is laughing on his blanket. Over everything, I loved how the boy told his story with no bitterness or jealousy: he’s telling us how things are in his house, and that helps Raisin get ready for how things will be around our house too!

Unless otherwise noted, books were read via library copies; I was not compensated for review.

Just My Type by Simon Garfield

I was probably ten when I first began experimenting with WordPerfect’s fonts on our family’s personal computer. I typed the name of each font, highlighted it and selected the font from the list (because, of course, this was before you could see the font on the menu) and then I’d print out the list of all the fonts. I loved comparing them. I still do. When I was in college, I enjoyed printing each English paper and draft in a different font. I thought it made it more fun. I also loved watching the documentary on Helvetica last year, although I must admit I still struggle to determine the difference between Helvetica and Arial.

So, I fully admit that while I’m not a discerning or well-educated user of fonts, I simply adore them. I’ve been hearing about Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield for a few months around the blogosphere. I had to find a copy of it. I borrowed an ARC from nearby friend and fellow blogger Suzanne.

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RIP Short Story Monday: M.R. James, Saki, and Katherine Mansfield

Time for three more RIP Stories! I am loving the Ghost Stories collection I have from Everyman’s simply because they are addressing so many different kinds of ghost stories. I’ve really enjoyed the majority of them so far.

Saki’s “The Open Window” was my favorite ghost story from my collection so far. It’s was quite short but Saki managed to create characters we liked, with distinct attitudes from one another. The dialog was realistic. This story was not a spooky story at all: it had ghosts, but with a delightful touch of humor. Because it was only a few pages long, I’ll refer you to the etext.

Because I had never come across M.R. James before, I felt the need to read a little about him after reading his short story “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad.” Wikipedia tells me that he redefined the ghost story, by using realistic contemporary settings, rather than Gothic settings, as previous ghost stories had done. I really appreciated the setting in the Whistle story. Parkins, a professor of Ontography (a study of the nature of things), travels to a sea-side hotel for a week of golfing, agreeing in the preface to also visit a nearby former graveyard site for an antiquarian friend. I was quite interested in the story from the very beginning. It begins in the middle of a conversation, and M.R. James refers to one of those participating in the conversation as “a person not in the story.” This made me wonder at M.R. James’ purposes, and I loved how the entire subject of “nature of things” was questioned as the ghost story unfolded. This was a delightful spooky-ish story on a misty beach front. Read it online here.

Katherine Mansfield’s “The Daughters of the Late Colonel” was simply wonderful. I definitely need to read more of Mansfield’s writing. Two elderly spinster sisters are dealing with the death of their father. After probably more than 50 years of submitting to their father’s wishes, they struggle to find their own opinions. Although this story is once again of a different type of ghost story from the gothic or horror tradition, I really loved reading it: the characters, setting, flashbacks, and haunting scenes were perfectly rendered and the story as a whole is nearly a masterpiece. I wanted it to keep going. Read it online.

Question: I’m finding it’s quite challenging to discuss the great stories I read in a short post. Would you, as a reader of this blog, be more interested in a single review of the rest of the book? Or, should I keep talking about the stories a few at a time? Do you like these brief short stories roundups? I may just do what I want anyway, but I’m curious to know your thoughts.

Next up in the Ghost Stories collection: P.G. Wodehouse, L.P. Hartley, and Edith Wharton.