(Raisin Reads) Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo

Raisin Reads is a column with thoughts on children’s literature straight from the mind of a kid!

About the author: Raisin is five years old. He likes to read, and he wants to be a construction worker when he grows up.

I like Mercy Watson to the Rescue because when the fire department comes, Mr. and Mrs. Watson think Mercy called the fire department! But she did not! Eugenia Lincoln called the fire department instead!

Mercy is a pig. In Eugenia’s opinion, pigs belong on a farm. Mercy does not live on a farm. She lives in a house. Eugenia does not like Mercy because of that. At the end, Eugenia still does not like Mercy. But Mr. and Mrs. Watson like Mercy. They think she is a porcine wonder because they think she called the fire department.

My favorite part is the very end of the book. I think other people would like the book too.

Mom’s thoughts: Raisin read this book by himself, then he listened to it and read it at the same time. I am a big fan of audiobooks, and for a beginning reader, listening and reading together helped him recognize words, learn correct pronunciation (he had not encountered phrases like “porcine wonder” before), and better grasp the big picture of the story. The Mercy Watson series is a perfect follow up to shorter early readers like Mr. Putter and Tabby and Henry and Mudge. Mercy Watson’s story is longer (it has twelve chapters) but the sentences are well geared toward a young child beginning to read. There are a few sentences on each page, and the type is large. As in the early chapter books I mentioned, most two-page spreads have a color illustration. In Mercy Watson, these are illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, and there are also a few full two-page illustrations in the book. This makes it very accessible for the early reader too. There is something about color illustrations and large text that say “Come read me, I’m not that hard!” Besides all that, the story is fun!

What other chapter books for early readers are like this? We’re looking for large text and color illustrations, and yet less than 100 pages and plenty of easily accessible amusing story!

Raisin narrated the above review to me. Do you have any comments for him? I’ll pass along any messages.

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama (abridged audio, read by the author)

There is no doubt about it: Barack Obama is an incredibly likeable man. His down-to-earth attitude, his (apparent) honesty, and his hope for the potential in all of us make me proud that he’s the face of America today. I loved to listen to The Audacity of Hope, which he wrote five years ago as junior Illinois Senator. I was delighted every time I remembered that he’s now the President, and able to see some of his hopes come to light.

I only wished, as I listened, that there was more of it. Only when I was nearly finished listening did I realize it was an abridgement of a longer book. (I hate it when that happens.) Still, there was something doubly wonderful about listening to President Obama narrating himself his hopes for the future of America. I’m not sure I would have loved it as much if I’d read it.Continue Reading

Two Neuroscience Books (Proust was a Neuroscientist by Lehrer and Sacks’ Musicophilia)

When I joined the 2009 Science Book Challenge, I didn’t intend to focus on neuroscience, but it turns out that that branch of science is absolutely fascinating to me. These two books I read really have convinced me that science and art are inextricably related each other, for art is perceived and appreciated by the brain.

I think I’d say the Lehrer was my preferred of these two, only because I hadn’t realized the Sacks was abridged. At any rate, I enjoyed both books and would love to revisit either other again in the future.Continue Reading

The John Cheever Audio Collection

I really like audiobooks sometimes because it gives a book a new edge. I absolutely loved listening to a selection of John Cheever’s stories via audiobook. The John Cheever Audio Collection was very well done.

As I listened to the stories, I kept recalling my time reading the short stories of Chekhov and Maupassant last year. Cheever’s stories reminded me of theirs, but it’s been so long since I read Chekhov and Maupassant that I couldn’t figure out exactly why. Maybe it’s because Cheever, like the others, focuses on normal people in regular, realistic situations.

Of course, Cheever stories take place in 1950s and 1960s suburban New York, among the upper-middle class society. His stories try to determine what would be the natural result of a given situation, and they often felt sad in the end.

After I put down some of these thoughts, I found that Wikipedia claims Cheever is “the Chekhov of the suburbs.” At least I’m right on that! His stories did remind me more of Maupassant’s stories, but still, the title fits him.Continue Reading