My time as a Cybils judge is quickly running out, but I still have many, many picture books to share with you. I will probably keep reviewing Cybils picture books in January, because I do want to give some of these books a fair share on my blog! Today I’m focusing on some of the books about letters and numbers. (more…)
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and classically illustrated by Jules Feiffer (1961) is a book for the clever reader. The book is full of wonderful wordplay, cliché, word stereotypes, and logic puzzles for a young child (and the adult!) to chuckle over and enjoy.
In the story, the young Milo is bored of school and of everything else in his life. He doesn’t want to play with his toys. He does want to learn anything. What’s the point of it all? As he ponders the existential meaning of his life, a gigantic magic tollbooth appears in his home, and he enters (why not? he doesn’t have anything better to do) a magically different world where words and numbers are very important, but meaning is tragically lacking. Using his wits and his courage, Milo, along with the help of a clever watchdog named Tock, comes to the rescue in finding meaning. I loved the emphasis on learning, the cleverness of the wordplay, and the delight that comes from the many colorful characters in his trip through Dictionopolis and Digitopolis. Milo becomes the hero of the everyman because he does the “impossible,” and who can’t help but love Tock the watchdog! (more…)
I don’t often have the urge to seek out a young adult novel, but this month has been one of them. I’m pleased to say that I really enjoyed the two I chose. After deals with a teenage mother, and An Abundance of Katherines deals with a genius teenager dealing with yet another break up. Both novels felt original, and gave me, as an adult, a sense of satisfaction as I read them. After was by far the more emotional, and Katherines was most amusing. (more…)
Because of my positive experience reading Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book, I thought I’d try some more Japanese literature. Amanda wrote a positive review of The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa and I noticed that this was the selected book for the Japanese Literature Book Group run by tanabata at In Spring it is the Dawn. Then I noticed it was less than 200 pages, and I thought it was sign I should give it a try.
Obviously, comparing Ogawa’s modern novel to Shonagon’s 1000-year-old journalistic notes is like comparing apples to oranges. If you ask, I’ll say I much prefer the old classic. But I did enjoy the Japanese novel too. Now I feel I am about to embark on a new genre of interest: Japanese literature, classic and new.
The professor of the title was once a famous mathematician, but a car accident 25 years ago left him unable to remember more than 80 minutes at a time. Now he lives in the past and every 80 minutes he must learn again the events and people from the 25 years he’s forgotten. Nevertheless, the housekeeper is able to develop a friendship with him as she learns about the beauty of numbers. Mathematics, not memory, is a universal language of their friendship. Although the science of the memory aspect of the book seems suspect, the themes of friendship are universal. In the end, it was an enjoyable book, although not a favorite.
As a part of the book group, Tanabata at In Spring it is the Dawn asks a few questions and includes the publishers’ book group questions. Note that this post (and probably the comments) will include spoilers as a part of the discussion of the book. (more…)
For those that read this blog regularly, it is probably no surprise that I prefer art, literature, history, and social sciences to mathematics and science.
Before this month began, I hadn’t read any books in the Dewey Decimal 500s category or the 600s category (for the Dewey Decimal Reading Challenge) in all of 2009. I also hadn’t read a single book that could possibly count for the 2009 Science Book Challenge. While I don’t want challenges to always dictate what I read next, I did feel the urge to read something science related: I want to be a balanced reader.
I ended up reading a few books in the past few weeks (and I’m in the middle of another), and to my surprise, I enjoyed most of the books I picked up. Some I loved, others were a struggle to read, but I remain glad I did so. Science books, like the architecture and history and politics books I’ve read in the past months, can be fascinating.