Happy Halloween: Bone Dog by Eric Rohmann

Initially, Bone Dog by Eric Rohmann (Roaring Brook, July 2011) left me both incredibly impressed by the gorgeous illustrations and a bit wary of the ghoulish setting for the story. I’ve mentioned before that I am not a fan of Halloween; Bone Dog is a Halloween picture book, complete with a visit to a graveyard and a haunting by skeletons. I’m not sure preschool aged kids need that spookiness. Yet, as a whole, this Halloween book gives a sweet message of friendship beyond the grave for a child dealing with the death of a dog, and the humorous bits lighten the creepiness factor for kids.Continue Reading

The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carman Agra Deedy and Randall Wright

I don’t often read middle grade fiction, but when I heard about The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright (published by Peachtree Publishers, October 2011) at BEA in May, I was excited to read it. After all, the subtitle is “A Dickens of the Tale” and I knew that Charles Dickens and his friends were characters in the tale about animals, friendship, and finding a place. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I love Victorian literature. What could be better?

Further, since BEA, I’ve seen dozens of reviews in the blogosphere and at Goodreads, etc. talking about how fun it was to join Charles Dickens in a small inn in Victorian England. I was excited to read it, although it did take me a while to get to it.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed. It was mediocre writing, the historical aspects did not feel grandly Dickensian or Victorian (the story simply had Dickens as a character), and overall, it was just a okay story. While the tie between Dickens’s novel and Pip and Skilley’s story was creative at the end and it may give kids a positive perspective on Victorian literature (simply because Dickens is a friend), there was nothing spectacular that made me excited about the book throughout my reading of it.Continue Reading

Inferno by Dante (translated by Hollander and Hollander)

I feel like this week is a week for books I’ve read that I recognize I need to reread: first Blake, and now Dante. But isn’t that point of reading the classic masterpieces by magnificent writers like Blake and Dante, that you know you miss something magnificent and will enjoy it all the more on reread?

I had attempted reading Dante in the summer of 2010 and quickly stalled. There were so many footnotes full of unfamiliar details: it was overwhelming. Besides, it hot and sunny outside and medieval poetry was just not sinking in.

Reading Dante’s Inferno (as translated by Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander) this fall went much better. The poetry is amazingly readable, and I found myself reading the footnotes after each canto with interest: rather than trying to grasp the meaning and symbolism behind each person, action, and setting, I just let it wash over me. In one ear and out the other. As such, I missed a lot, but I enjoyed my first full experience with Dante, and now I want to revisit it with more careful reading and understanding at another point, maybe in conjunction with some criticism and explanations.Continue Reading

My Business Is To Create: Blake’s Infinite Writing by Eric G. Wilson

William Blake has always fascinated me as a poet and also as a man. He was quite strange, but his writing is incredible: it’s powerful, it has a message, and yet it sounds so good. That said, I haven’t read much Blake poetry since my years in college and I’m certainly out of practice in literary and poetic criticism in general.

My Business Is To Create: Blake’s Infinite Writing by Eric G. Wilson (published May 2001 by University of Iowa Press) is partly an homage to the life of William Blake, partly an exercise in literary criticism of Blake’s writing and messages, and partly a manual in how to apply Blake’s literary approach in successfully creating our own beautiful writing. I don’t consider myself either an expert on Blake or a creative writer but I enjoyed the insights into the creative process. Mr Wilson’s short essays on various aspects of the writing process, as related to William Blake’s own processes, were wonderfully written and poetic as themselves even apart from the information they share.Continue Reading