Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Daily Dahl 6/23/13

The Daily Dahl -- Sunday Edition
23 June 2013

I really enjoy reading the New York Times online. Today I jumped into the book section and found this interesting article. I have a lot of respect for Children's Literature and completely agree with the specialization of this genre. Here's a review of an exhibition for children's literature at the New York Public Library. 

Article Title: Bedtime with Puritans and Wild Things: Public Library's 'ABC of It' Looks at Children's Books
Found directly from source
Originally written by Edward Rothstein
Published June 20, 2013

My Summary:
In this review of the New York Public Library's exhibition, Rothstein makes many valid considerations of children's literature and its progression throughout the ages. The exhibition covers the history of children's literature from The New England Primer to Where the Wild Things Are. One point Rothstein makes is that the exhibition's use of ipads to encourage learning and interaction in the exhibition, is the realization that "you are using a technology that may already be displacing these hallowed artifacts." And that by the end you wonder how children's books today "can even come close." 
There's a certain power to children's literature, and it is witnessed throughout the history of the genre. Rothstein acknowledges the Romantic shift in children's literature to the Progressive writings. Both have merit in acclaimed children's literature. From the "here and now" philosophy of Progressive writings to the high fantasy of Romantic writings, yet both reflect the "world of authority and the world of play." 

Check out this slideshow from the exhibition. These are just a few images from the exhibition. I'd love to go! It looks great. 

I really enjoyed this article and I encourage all to read it. Children's literature is incredibly important. It brings the child and adult together to discover what growing up is all about, but also to remember the power of fantasy and curiosity. 

I'm interested what power your favorite children's books have had on you. No matter your age, returning to those books can be more than just nostalgic. What is that makes you love them still? Would you say the favorite books from your childhood had a stronger grip on you than the ones in adulthood? 

Rothstein, Edward. "Bedtime with Puritans and Wild Things: Public Library's 'ABC of It' Looks    at Children's Books." New York Times     20 June 2013: C25. Web. 23 June 2013. <>.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Review: World War Z by Max Brooks

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
by Max Brooks
Published by Three Rivers Press, 2006
Source: Library

Goodreads Description: 

The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivoros from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.

My Review:
Max Brooks certainly has a chilling gift. It is clear that he is highly intelligent throughout this work, and that he has definitely done his homework on this one. The detail about religions and cultures made this book almost hauntingly real. It also made me appreciate Brooks as an author. If anything, one could read this book to witness Brooks's demonstration of quality authorship. 

Brooks really did a great job - this book is a work of art. However, as far as my investment in the actual plot, that's another story. I liked the book, I really did. However, the story is more like clips of a different events by different people. I often forgot the name of the person being interviewed and had to refer to the bold title before each new story. There was no one character to follow, to root for. That made it a difficult read at first, but I did end up getting into the plot and appreciating the action and emotion in each narrative.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the reading was the technical terms, especially those of weapons and war maneuvers. During long narratives discussing weaponry, I would find my eyelids drooping. It just wasn't my interest. For some, I'm sure, this would become a highlight of the novel, so that must be taken into consideration - that this review is based on my personal reading experience. 

The story of the war was covered from each vantage point - really. Brooks did not forget a single thing. From the ocean floor to outer space, the war had different effects and Brooks considered them all.  
This book was written with such focus it almost seemed real. Very, very rarely did I feel like I needed to suspend my disbelief - beyond the existence of zombies of course (which I realize is a hot topic of its own). The story was terrifying in this way, that Brooks made it seem so very real. 

This book is an insightful story on the nature of humanity and people's responses to trauma and crisis. This is what I loved about this story! Brooks discusses difficult realities and makes several sharp observations about past crises and the human condition. I don't want to make this sound like some political work - its not. World War Z is a great piece of fiction from a very intelligent author. Though it is a work of fiction, the horror comes from the reality of it. From phony miracle drugs to "quislings" experiencing what resembles Stockholm Syndrome, Brooks really drives the story home, right to your front door. When you close the book you'll be asking, "would I really want to live?" 

I highly recommend this story to fans of apocalyptic fiction and for those entertained by war details and mechanics. I'm going to give this book a three out of five foxes because as much as I enjoyed the story, I still always felt disconnected from characters. I know Brooks made a point to avoid the human element as stated in the introduction, but it did not really please my personal reading tastes. Also, I had some difficulty getting through the highly technical narratives and often skipped over weaponry details simply for my lack of understanding and desire to understand. 

** This book was read for a book club with the intent to watch the film soon after. I will include a follow up review of the film and briefly discuss how it relates to the book. Check back soon to read the film review **

Friday, June 21, 2013

Picturebook Review: Creepy Carrots!

Creepy Carrots!
Words by Aaron Reynolds
Pictures by Peter Brown
Published by Simon & Schuster, 2012
Illustrations are in pencil and paper, then digitally composited and colored

Goodreads Description:
The Twilight Zone comes to the carrot patch in this clever picture book parable about a rabbit who fears his favorite treats are out to get him. Jasper Rabbit loves carrots - especially Crackenhopper Field carrots. 

He eats them on the way to school. 
He eats them going to Little League.
He eats them walking home.

Until the day the carrots start following him...or are they?

Celebrated artist Peter Brown's stylish illustrations pair perfectly with Aaron Reynold's text in this hilarious eBook with audio that shows it's all fun and games... until you get too greedy. 

My Review:
Perusing the aisles at the Scholastic Book Fair, my eyes landed on this book and I knew I had to have it. 
The story is about a child rabbit who stops by the same carrot patch too often in order to eat the best carrots. But how do you think the carrots feel about that? Little Jasper didn't take any time to consider the effects of his over-consumption until one day, the carrots give him a scare of a lifetime... or so it seems. 

From beginning to end, these silky pages are sketched in all black and white, except for very bold orange highlights. Orange and black remind me of Halloween, but this book isn't geared for any holiday. It's just a fun book about a carrots revenge. 

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was suspenseful, yet the images didn't make it too scary. Also, with a touch of humor, the book came together nicely. I especially love the spread that features Jasper in a trance of fear, bright carrots forming around him and shadows all across is body. On the following page, when Jasper gets an idea (complete with lightbulb above the head), the scene becomes perfectly normal, Romantic even. Beautiful!

The whole story plays out in what seems like framed vignettes, or like scenes from an old film. It was a lot of fun to read and I think that black and white illustration was a bold, yet wise choice by the author. Especially considering the readers of this book; children could easily be offset by a bland image, but the images in this book are broken down to individual frames, many with the hint of orange in them if not major highlights of orange to offset the scene. 

While this was a fun read, suspense and humor in one, it wasn't quite as awed by it as I'd thought I'd be. The plot and illustrations were unique as well as entertaining, but I wasn't left with any great, compelling feelings after finishing it. A paranoid rabbit and some carrots that don't like to be eaten makes a fun story, but in the end, what was the point? I'm not saying some books can't just be written for fun, but something about this book is seriously twisted. Should Jasper not eat carrots then? what should he eat instead? Many validate the story's happy ending, but truly I'm not certain it has one. Not that its a bad ending, just that one should be wary how they interpret it. 

I give this a three out of five foxes. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Library Love!

Here's a story too good not to share -

I have the coolest librarian. Three weeks ago I was desperately hunting for a rentable copy of World War Z by Max Brooks. To my dismay, waiting lists were growing and the library exchange throughout the state seemed to be completely depleted as well. I mentioned this to my librarian while checking out some books for my younger siblings. He helped me search but could not find a readily available copy in the system. I was faced with the option of scrounging up couch coins to buy myself a copy or joining the lengthy waiting lists. I was resigned to my fate when my librarian pulled out a copy of the book. It was his personal copy which he had just bought at a book fair. In complete trust he lent me his copy. I had it read just in time for my book club meeting and just in time to see the movie coming out this weekend. If it weren't for him I might still be on a waiting list! Not only did he give me a personal copy of his book, but spoke with me for nearly thirty minutes about zombie novels. It felt great to have a real book conversation that didn't happen in cyberspace. This librarian should wear a cape!

I'd love to hear some other great library stories - comment or email me if you have one to share.
When I returned the book, I included a note of thanks along with a free movie pass for his great service (perhaps he'll see the book's film). It was my pleasure to share this story with my coworkers as well. I've been working in customer service for almost ten years now, so I know how difficult it can be to always go above and beyond. The company I currently work for has begun a 'tagging' project where employees are able to pass out a free film pass for celebrated service. I am proud that mine was given to a librarian. You know, we bookish people need to stick together.

Also, I will be posting my review of World War Z this Saturday, so check back to read my thoughts on the novel! 

In the meantime, spread some library love.
Zooey xx

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Daily Dahl 6/16/13

The Daily Dahl -- Sunday Edition
16 June 2013

This popped up on my Facebook feed yesterday. It's from Publisher's Weekly again - top book choices for this week! These all look like great reads and I intend to add them to my ever-growing "to-read" list. 

Found via: Facebook
Originally Written by Gabe Habash 
Published June 14, 2013

My Summary:
Since I can't really summarize a list, I've added the list here along with a link to its Goodreads page (click the number to follow the link). I like to visit Goodreads to see what other readers like myself think. You can read more about the books by following the links on the original article as well. Read the reviews and chip in if you've read any of these. Looks like some quality books on this list. I'd love to hear your opinion if you've read any of them!

Here's the list:
1. In The House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell (Soho Press) 
2. Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941-1985 by Italo Calvino (translated) (Princeton Univ.)
3. Cemetery Lake by Paul Cleave (Atria)
4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow)
5. Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee (Algonquin) 
[an extra link included with this original entry - don't miss it!]
6. Proxy by Alex London (Philomel)
7. Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson and Ben Greenman (Grand Central)

I think The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Bobcat and Other Stories, and Proxy look like exciting reads to pick up. What's your top choice? Anything different you've read lately that you'd add to this list?

Habash, Gabe. "PW Picks: The Best New Books for the Week of June 17, 2013." Publishers Weekly. Ed. Michael Coffey and Jim Milliot. PWxyz, 14 June 2013. Web. 15 June 2013.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Picturebook Review: Art & Max by David Wiesner

Art & Max
by David Wiesner
Clarion Books, 2010
Illustrations in acrylic pastel, watercolor, and India ink.

Goodreads Description:

Max and Arthur are friends who share an interest in painting. Arthur is an accomplished painter; Maxi is a beginner. Max's first attempt at using a paintbrush sends the two friends on a whirlwind trip through various artistic media, which turn out to have unexpected pitfalls. Although Max in inexperienced  he's courageous - and a quick learner. His energy and enthusiasm bring the adventure to its triumphant conclusion. Beginners everywhere will take heart. 

My Review:
Wiesner never disappoints me. He's wonderful at exploring new forms and challenging boundaries. And this book is no different. 
The story is a cute one. Art and Max remind me of siblings, the initially unwilling leader (Art) is overwhelmed by the young energy of his new follower (Max). Max is convinced that he can paint too, which Art only sourly agrees to let him try. Max's energy leads to many unconventional paint forms - mostly at Art's expense. And while he seems to be a little ball of chaos, it turns out that Max has one talent that Art may not, which he proves to very worried Art (read the book, and you'll understand his worry!) The story is cute and remains very simple. The text is very brief and entirely dialogue between Art and Max. Much of the deeper interpretation is left to the reader. Don't worry though, the message is clear. 

The book explores many different art forms that could be discussed with readers, but the book does not simply explore different art forms - it explores boundaries and tests conventions. The relationship between Art and Max, though undefined at the start of the novel, suggests that the two have bonded through their artistic adventure. In fact, at the conclusion, the two seem to have earned many insights about the other; though this, of course, is only implied. This book makes art look fun (but when do kids not think art is fun). It's more than that too. It's about discovery - and not just discovering new ways to draw and color.

The illustrations are amazing. From the book cover to the last page, I loved all of the artwork. Very soft backgrounds brought a lot of the focus to the foreground, filled with vibrant, moving colors. The detail is great as well! I could probably go on for a while about the illustrations, but I want to bring attention to the jacket cover and the actual book cover. You'll have to buy the book to see it, but the jacket cover (pictured above) is a delightful work that captures much of the plot expectations and emotions. However, beneath the sleeve is the hard cover is a splatter-work of paint drops and large swoops, all in colors of bright red, orange, yellow, and grey. It's fun, inviting, and it proves that the book itself is a work of art. It's a very clever paratext in my opinion; hidden beneath the initial image is the beautiful chaos that Max truly represents. 

I'm going to give this book a four out of five foxes. It's a fun book and begs to be read aloud!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Zahn Reads Harry Potter... Again

HI All!!

So, I don't have a traditional book review for this week because I haven't read anything new this week. I spent this week rereading the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling.

I have just recently reread the Harry Potter series. They are truly fantastic, and I had an urge to reread them again. The series, as most people know, is about a boy named Harry Potter, whose parents were killed by the Dark Lord Voldemort when he was a baby. Now he is living with his relatives, and learns he is a wizard. 

I like these books because they are a perfect mix of mystery and adventure. I like Harry because he seems to always know what to do. I think everyone should read these books because they have a little bit of everything a good reader loves. You'd be crazy not to like them! 

I think the books are beter than the movies, mostly because there's more detail. It shows what modern people love, these books. I like wizards and whatnot, like most people, and this gives readers a new look at them. They also show how the good guys have the more powerful weapons, even if the bad side does have giants. 

In conclusion, this is one series I intend to read multiple times. On to round three!


Monday, June 10, 2013

Review: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

Me Talk Pretty One Day
By David Sedaris
Published by Back Bay Books, 2009
Source: purchased ebook at Barnes and Noble

Goodreads Description: 
A new collection from David Sedaris is cause for jubilation. His recent move to Paris has inspired hilarious pieces, including Me Talk Pretty One Day, about his attempts to learn French. His family is another inspiration. You Can't Kill the Rooster is a portrait of his brother who talks incessant hip-hop slang to his bewildered father. And no one hones a finer fury in response to such modern annoyances as resturant meals presented in ludicrous towers and cashiers with 6-inch fingernails. Compared by The New Yorker to Twain and Hawthorne, Sedaris has become one of our best-loved authors.

My Review:
I actually read this book on my Nook many months ago. I've finally take the time to mark it as 'read' on Goodreads and write this review. I don't like waiting too long to write a review, so I'm going to keep this very brief. 

I really enjoyed reading this book. Sedaris's series of short personal essays were often very wry and always witty. I cracked a smile or bellowed a good laugh at least once per essay. I really enjoyed reading this book in short segments. It's a good book to read when commuting or as a quick pick-me-up. I often looked forward to reading Sedaris's hilarious essays after a particularly difficult day. It was actually more entertaining to read in segments because often the essays had little transition from one to the next. The essays were not ordered chronologically, and topics varied from Sedaris's childhood speech therapy to his time in France. 

Overall, the book was a very light, funny read. Sedaris is witty and his snarky essays make it hard to suppress laughter. I will admit that I did get bored with some of the essays, that perhaps his essays lose focus and seem to become attempts at self-actualization, not really literature. It's been a few months since I've read this book, but I'm still not entirely ready to dive into more Sedaris novels. That said, I definitely am interested in reading more of his works at some point. 

I'm going to give this book four out of five foxes. It was a funny read and I've definitely recalled some very funny scenes from the personal essays since my reading them. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Daily Dahl 6/9/13

The Daily Dahl - Sunday Edition
6 June 2013

I found today's article via Flipboard. Found at, this story led me to discover Flying Eye Books. After reading this article I was compelled to get a few of their books. See what you think!

Article Title: Interview: Sam Arthur of Nobrow and Flying Eye Books
Found via Flipboard
Originally written by Gavin Lucas 
Published June 7, 2013

My Summary:
Flying Eye Books of Nobrow has gained recognition in deeply artistic books for youth and children. 
In this interview, Sam Arthur discusses the exciting new projects at Flying Eye Books. They have books for children aged 3-11. Books that have already been published include books about monsters, robots, and Topsy Turvy - a book about everything being backwards. Flying Eye Books is working on new titles as well as translating other children's books from other languages.
It all sounds like the new imprint of Nobrow publishing has some great things up and coming. I'm super excited to explore more from this company. Perhaps I'll even feature one of these books in my picturebook reviews!The images seen in the article are gorgeous. They are very artistic and bold.
Check out their fun website too. Watch the animated clip to enter the website - it's so fun!On the website you can purchase books and preview some more great book artwork. 
Check out this company dedicated to printing beautiful and entertaining books here

Lucas, Gavin. "Interview: Sam Arthur of Nobrow and Flying Eye Books." Cool Hunting. Ed. Josh Rubin. Captain Lucas Inc., 7 June 2013. Web. 9 June 2013.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Picturebook Review: Perfect Square by Michael Hall

Perfect Square
by Michael Hall
Published by Greenwillow Books
Illustration is acrylic monotype ink prints

Goodreads Description:
A perfect square is transformed in this adventure story that will transport you far beyond the four equal sides of this square book. 

My Review:
Perfect Square is one of my favorite picture books! I'm really excited to share this one today. 

I was first attracted to this book by the crooked smile on the book cover. It is very welcoming and carefree, which is a perfect introduction to this book. 
The endpages are bright orange and flipping through the pages creates the most colorful array of pages. This book is meant to be fun, playful, and even played with. 

It is the story of a perfectly happy square who becomes increasingly less square. Yet the square, though clipped, crumpled, and torn, makes the best of each change. It even creates beautiful images. Every new transformation is something creative and playful. This book could be used for so many different purposes. Besides being a very entertaining read, it displays shapes, art, days of the week, and adaptation. 

The illustrations are beautiful as well. The pages are very bright and the repurposed square even changes textures. The artwork is simple yet powerful; it is perfect for the intended audience. The pages are all very bold and filled with positive space. The font is large, bold, and contrasts the colorful images. I really can't find anything I don't like in the illustrations.

At the end of this story, readers may find that a perfect square is much more confining than they once thought, and a few small changes can have endless possibilities. 

I give this five out of five foxes for being a fantastic read and experience. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth
487 pages
Published by Katherine Tegen Books, 2011
Source: Scholastic Book fair

Goodreads Description:

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue -- Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is -- she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. 

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are -- and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her. 

My Review:
I know I'm way late on reading and reviewing this, but this was one of those books that was so talked about I was conflicted with varying reviews and decided it give it time before I read it. I've been recommended this book over and over, so I finally had to know what all the fuss was about. 

I really don't know where to begin with this review. 
There are so many things I liked and didn't like about this book. I'll start with what I didn't like, so I can end this on a positive note. 
What I didn't like was the amount of plot that just sorta happened with little reason why or any decent explanation. The worst bit is the actual christening 'Divergent'. The story really doesn't delve into this idea or why it is so dangerous; there were too many gaps for my liking. 
Another element I didn't like about this story was the whole idea of the factions. Honestly, I thought their set-up was based on stupidity. I really couldn't believe the factions could have lasted in peace for as long as they did - they segregated themselves based on beliefs, yet expected to all get along? Sure, its very dystopian, but I couldn't suspend disbelief for this one, not really. They set themselves up for war and I had no sympathy. 
And lastly, how does getting pummeled and tortured with one's own fears make one brave? I don't see how Tris learned anything in those caves. Or any of the initiates for that matter. Anyway, I won't carry on this negativity. this is just a brief overview of some of the book's shortcomings that I personally felt could have been crafted much better. 
What I liked about the book is that despite my scoffing at some of the dystopian set-up, I really couldn't put the book down. I stayed up through the morning hours to finish it, and there was certainly some satisfaction I felt when I finished it. I enjoyed reading the struggles Tris had with friendship. Even under her and the other initiates extreme circumstances, they still sought friendship with each other (well, some of them did anyway). Tris and the others really struggled with who to trust, and I think this was the best, most gripping, heartbreaking element of the story - not overcoming one's fear, that did nothing for me. 
I also loved Tris' mother. She was by far the bravest character. She had the depth and strength that I wish to see in more dystopian novels - a good parent figure. 
The plot was fast-paced and the 487 pages were a breeze to get through. The story was gripping, mostly because I was insatiably curious what would happen to Tris next. I couldn't put the book down, so I really do encourage other dystopian readers to read this. Of course, most probably already have. 

Okay, so I really had the hardest time rating this book. It may be the hardest decision I made all day (which isn't so bad actually). As you other book reviewers know, book rating can be unfair. I try not to let my other book ratings influence my current one, but I couldn't help thinking of giving This Dark Endeavor three foxes AND Divergent. Their just not the same, yet I've given them the same rating. And I don't give half foxes because I don't like to... and foxes can't survive when cut in half anyway, so what's the point? 
Okay, so given my little rambling, I've decided to rate this book 3 out of 5 foxes. I had difficulty indulging in the fantasy world of Divergent, yet the story was very fast-paced and gripping. If I could have, I'm sure I would have read it in one sitting. 

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