More Wine!

I’m a wine novice. Or whatever comes below novice on the scale. I have no concept of what constitutes a good wine or a bad wine, as I rarely drink it myself. But with the holiday season zooming in, a bottle of wine is often a go-to for party contributions and gift-giving.  Very challenging for a wine neophyte.

While I’ll never be an oenophile (vocabulary points!), I’ve decided that maybe it’s time to learn a little about the nectar of the gods, the venerable vintage, the glorious grape. With a literal library of information at my fingertips, heading over to 641.22 seemed like the smart way to begin. How pleasantly surprised I was to find that there were plenty of books (eBooks & audiobooks, too) for newbies like myself!  Maybe the next time I’m in the wine aisle of my local liquor store, I’ll be able to do more than stare vaguely at the bottles and count off “eenie-meenie-minie-moe”.

Wine : an introduction by Joanna Simon 

The Everything Wine Book by Barbara Nowak

Wine Isn’t Rocket Science : a quick & easy guide to understanding, buying, tasting, & pairing every type of wine by Ophélie Neiman

Winewise : your complete guide to understanding, selecting, and enjoying wine by Steven Kolpan, Brian Smith, and Michael Weiss, the Culinary Institute of America

Wine All the Time : the casual guide to confident drinking by Marissa A. Ross

10 Books for Kids Obsessed with “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”

They’re the books that got many reluctant readers turning pages, but what to do once they’ve finished them all? It’s a question I hear often when I work in the Children’s Room. Parents want to keep the interest going, and are keen to know which other books  will appeal to their DOAWK fans.

A couple of the attractions of this series for reluctant readers is that there are pictures, which provides a text break and makes reading feel more manageable, and humor, which makes them fun rather than work. Here are 10 suggestions for books that hit those sweet spots with middle grade readers.

 

Timmy Failure series by Stephan Pastis. Meet Timmy Failure, the founder, president, and CEO of the best detective agency in town, probably the nation. And his lazy sidekick, Total, a 1,500-pound polar bear.

Alvin Ho series by Lenore Look. Frightened by everything out in the world and completely quiet at school, Asian-American second-grader Alvin Ho becomes a force to be reckoned with at home when he transforms himself into the loud, talented, and fearless Firecracker Man!

How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell. Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, the quiet and thoughtful son of the Chief of the Hairy Hooligans, tries to pass the important initiation test of his Viking clan by catching and training a dragon.

Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger. Tommy and his friends interact with a paper finger puppet of Yoda, worn by their weird classmate Dwight, to try and figure out whether or not the puppet can really predict the future.

Tom Gates series by Liz Pinchon. Irritating his teachers with his lack of focus and creative excuses, Tom Gates spends his time drawing pictures and writing down observations about everything from his grumpy sister and annoying classmate to an unsatisfying camping trip.

 

The Odd Squad series by Michael Fry. When his school counselor insists that he needs better socialization skills after being stuffed into a locker by a bully, middle-schooler Nick finds himself, along with two other misfits, joining the school’s lamest club: Safety Patrol.

Clueless McGee series by Jeff Mack. Clueless McGee is just your average fifth-grader: snarky, awkward, and a magnet for trouble. The only difference: he’s also an amateur detective. Determined to make his absent father proud, he uses the skills he’s learned playing video games to solve mysteries.

The Terrible Two books by Mac Barnett and Jory John. Disgusted when he has to move from the oceanside community where he was infamous for his tricks to a sleepy, cow-filled town that already has a notable prankster, Miles plots mischief that culminates in a daring partnership.

Dear Dumb Diary series by Jim Benton. Take a peek inside the diaries of middle schoolerJamie Kelly – she’s cool (sometimes), nice (mostly), and funny (always). She’s the nerd, the cute girl, the jealous girl, and the brainiac all wrapped up in one.

The Dork Diaries series by Rachel Renée Russell. Through journal entries, sketches, and drawings, the complicated life of eighth grader Nikki Maxwell is presented –  her relationship with her mother, secret crushes, dealings with her biggest rival at school, passion in pursuing art as a career, and overall views on the world in which she lives.

The Sleeper and the Spindle

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman is a unique twist on the Sleeping Beauty story.  Sleeping Beauty and the people in her castle have been asleep for years. However, this sleeping sickness seems to be spreading. First, the nearby villages fall asleep, then the villages near them, and so on. Soon, the entire kingdom is asleep, and it’s up to three dwarfs and the queen of the neighboring kingdom to figure out how to put an end to the curse.

This story has an ingenious blend of fairy tales. For instance, the queen is a character from another story. I’ll just say that she is someone who has also been asleep for a long time and let you figure out who she is. There are also additional elements to the story that help flesh it out. Those who are asleep do more than sleep, an old woman who is trapped inside the castle and immune to the curse, and the more one delves into the story, the more it becomes apparent that the details of the Sleeping Beauty that appear in each retelling are not what they seem. Not to mention that the ending will leave you thinking, “Wait, what? What just happened?” Overall, this is a quick read that goes more in-depth than one would think the amount of pages would allow.

Genre: Fantasy

Setting: A fairy tale land in an unspecified historical era.

Number of pages: 66

Objectionable content? A small amount of violence, one death, an occasional corpse, and unsettling factors (i.e. the sleepers)

Can children read this? Yes, as long as they are not easily upset by unsettling elements in stories. However, this book is best for teenagers and adults.

Who would enjoy this? Anyone who enjoys Neil Gaiman’s other works, and anyone who enjoys fairy tale remakes.

Themes: Beauty, power, loss, choices, strong women, and the need to control other’s emotions vs. the strength of only feeling your emotions.

Rating: Five stars

Turtles All the Way Down

It’s been almost six years since YA uber-author John Green has published a new book (something we wrote about a while back). That’s almost  generation’s worth of his target audience – many teen readers will have been too young for his last book, The Fault in Our Stars, when it was published in 2012. The rocket-like success of that book (and subsequent movie) was both a blessing and a curse for Green: his books were being read by millions more people, but that success resulted in a period of crippling anxiety for the author. The expectations for his next book felt so overwhelming, that for a while he could not write at all.

Green has not made a secret of the fact that he’s wrestled with Anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder most of his life, and what it’s like to live with mental illness is the overriding theme of Turtles All the Way Down. Aza Holmes, the narrator of the book, struggles mightily to control the obsessive thoughts that often consume her, which she calls “thought spirals” that grow more and more tightly coiled until she is driven to a compulsive behavior to quiet them.

The ostensible plot of the book is a mystery: the famous father of a childhood acquaintance has has skipped town to avoid legal troubles, and Aza’s BFF Daisy is convinced the two of them can figure out where he is and collect the $100,000 reward.  TATWD has all the John Green-isms we’ve come to expect: the quirky best friend, the seemingly impossible task, the sweet love story, and everyone’s got a poem or literature quote ready to go at a moment’s notice, (John Green characters are a bit more well-read and well-spoken than the general teen-aged public). But the real journey the reader is taken on is what it’s like to live in a hijacked mind.

Aza has a dread of germs. One of the first compulsions we witness is Aza forcing open a wound on her fingertip, so that she can clean and sanitize it before covering it up with one of her constant supply of band-aids, a ritual she performs so often that the wound never completely heals. Hand sanitizer is used combatively –  at one point she even starts drinking it.  Aza’s helplessness in the face of these thoughts and compulsions can be painful to read, and there’s no “all better now” resolution at the end – the prevailing takeaway is it’s ok not to be ok sometimes. Green has managed to paint a picture of mental illness that is more matter-of-fact than sensational, and the writing is evocative and mature. It’s a thoughtful novel that will appeal to adults as well as teens, and well worth the six-year wait.

Five stars.

Books-to-Movies : Fall 2017

I always anticipate movie adaptations of books I’ve read with equal measures of excitement and dread. Will the movie capture the spirit of the book, or bear little resemblance to the source material? Stephen King fans felt both ways this year with the well-received remake of the King classic It and the widely panned adaptation of  The Gunslinger from the Dark Tower series.

I usually like to read a book before I see the movie it’s based on, and there’s some kind of book-to-movie adaptation hitting theaters almost every week this fall. Here are the release dates for 10 of them – my reading list just got longer!

October 6

October 13

  • The Chinaman (movie title, The Foreigner) by Stephen Leather

October 20

October 27

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November 10

November 17

November 24