Friday, May 27, 2011

Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt

 Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt

"What if your first love was literally sitting right in front of you?
According to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object-an item to concentrate her emotions on. It's supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold's head. They've been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas-it's an alphabetical order thing), but she's never really known him.
The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father's newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it's working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking-er, focusing on-Sean Griswold . . . all of him! He's cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own." (summary from publisher website) 


At first I was a little worried to read Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt. I had read the first book in her princess series and really enjoyed it, but it was more along the lines of fantastical fiction. Sean Griswold’s Head sound serious and heavy. A father gets diagnosed with MS. Then the summary gave me some strange vibes. Focus object? Therapy? I felt hesitation.

Then I read a positive review of it by Janssen at Everyday Reading and decided to take the plunge. I am very glad that I gave the book a chance. I ended up enjoying it. I really liked Payton’s voice. She has a very funny way of describing her feelings mostly with odd and self-conscious metaphors that are charming. The author does an excellent job of showing how Payton’s life was impacted by her father’s MS. The author manages to convey the depth of Payton’s distress without the book feeling like a pity party. In fact I really sympathized with Payton and was willing to watch her as she tried to figure out how to cope with her distress.

In the middle of all her stress and grief Payton’s focus object—Sean Griswold—brings a bit of light heartedness to the book. Payton does a bit of gentle mocking of Sean’s big head, but finds herself inspired to get to know him better as a result. What results is a genuine and honest teenage romance story. I also loved the fact that the author had a light touch with the romance plot line. Not too sappy and just the right amount of sweet.

So, next time I see a contemporary novel by this author I will not hesitate, but leap to give it a chance.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Picture Books: Eric Carle

Picture Books: Eric Carle

I’ve been reading a lot of picture books to the baby girl recently, and not as many novels as I would like. So, I realized that I’m not really that qualified to review pictures books, but I wanted to keep a record of what I read to the little one so that if/when I decide to build a library of children’s books I’ll remember which ones that I thought were worth reading .

The Very Quiet Cricket

This is the story of a newly hatch cricket. He has a little bit of trouble making noise at first. Each time another bug greets him he tries to chirp back, but he can’t make any sound. At the end he meets a pretty little cricket and when he rubs his wings together to greet her he finally makes a sound.

I find this little story to be satisfying and cute. The last page has an electronic chirping sound to simulate the sound of our brave hero’s first chirp. This is one I could read to the girler often.

Will You be My Friend?

This is a unique book about a mouse looking for a friend. The book has no text, and the reader is supposed to make up the story as they go along. The book is intended for children just learning to read and learning how books work. As in they have to physically turn pages in order to find out what will happen next. Eric Carle uses the art work as cues to aid the child by putting the tail of the next animal in the story on the page before it appears. This also leads the child to predict what animal will appear next, which is reportedly an important reading skill.
The girler wasn’t developmentally ready enough for this one. At, you know, two months old. Though, part of the reason I record what I am reading is that perhaps a book like this can serve her better later. At least I know books like this exist.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

This was a book given to me at my shower and I really love it. It tells the story of a newly hatched caterpillar, who is very hungry. Each day he eats more and more food until he is huge and goes into a cocoon and becomes a butterfly.

I have read this one over and over to the girler. She seems to like it a lot. I don’t know if it is because of the brightly colored pictures, and unique page sizes that makes it more interesting, or if she enjoys listening to me read the text. It is short and sweet so it is very easy to finish quickly, which is important in the short attention span of a newborn.

She doesn’t seem to like Goodnight Moon as well, though it is similar, and I wonder if it is because it has too little text. She doesn’t get to listen to the cadence of my voice as much and turning the pages in between short lines makes the sound choppy.
The Grouchy Ladybug
This book tells the story of a Grouchy Ladybug that refuses to share aphids with another ladybug. He challenges the Ladybug to fight, who accepts the challenge. In a fit of bravado he claims that he needs to fight a bigger opponent and runs off.
So, the book continues as the Ladybug goes off to find bigger and bigger opponents to fight. Very similar to the Hungry Caterpillar, but the pages are set up with the times of the clock instead of the days of the week. A lot longer than the Hungry Catapillar, and a bit more complex.

I didn’t like this one as much as the hungry caterpillar. The book ran a bit too long for me. I got bored of the same thing about half way through. Girler didn’t show a negative or positive preference for it either way.

Papa, Please get the moon for me

This was a cute little story, but was kind of annoying to read. The daughter requests her father to go and get the moon in the sky. Her father follows her request and gets a huge ladder, and climbs all the way up to the moon.
This book is unique in that is has a lot of pages that fold out to show huge pictures of papa’s ladder, his climb to the moon, and the moon. I found the fold out pages to be a little bit annoying to deal with, and I kept thinking about how easily they would tear if girler wasn’t a newborn and instead a toddler who handled books roughly.
What age are these types of books appropriate for? Mature enough not to tear a book to pieces, but immature enough to still enjoy a picture book. Does anyone out there have an answer?