Archive for the ‘Humorous’ Category

Review of Going Into Town, by Roz Chast

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

Going into Town

A Love Letter to New York

by Roz Chast

Bloomsbury, 2017. 169 pages.

This book is an introduction to New York, which New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast created for her children, who did not grow up in New York City, like she did.

Here are some selected things she says about the book. You’ll have to imagine the entertaining cartoons that go with these words.

This is not a “definitive guide book” to Manhattan. In fact, it’s not really a guide book. There’s nothing in here about the Statue of Liberty, for example. Why? Because I’ve never been. I’d like to go. Someday. Just not today. Please don’t make me go today.

This is also definitely not one of those “insider’s guides” where I tell you about the hippest clubs, the swankiest restaurants, the edgiest neighborhoods, the coolest gyms, or the store where the best people buy the most exclusive shoes.

It’s not a history book. Do not imagine, even for a second, that I’m going to tell you a bunch of cool facts, like how Betsy Ross invented concrete, or that a thousand feet under Grand Central, somebody discovered an old Pilgrim restaurant, and look, here’s the menu: . . .

I feel about Manhattan the way I feel about a book, a TV series, a movie, a play, an artist, a song, a food, a whatever that I love. I want to tell you about it so that maybe you will love it too. I’m not worried about it being “ruined” by too many people “discovering” it. Manhattan’s been ruined since 1626, when Peter Minuit bought it from Native Americans for $24.00.

Now my kids are grown-ups. The city has changed since I was 23. Things have happened. Some good, some bad, some very bad. But I still love it more than anyplace else, and hope you will too.

She does communicate this affection in the pages that follow. And despite saying it’s not a guide book, the next time I go to New York City, I’m going to check out this book and carefully review her chapter on the basic layout of Manhattan – it makes it all very clear and logical and would be tremendously helpful.

And along the way, I’d get many ideas of things to do and places to visit. And on top of all that, the book has plenty of things that make you laugh. It’s fun to read even if you never have gone to New York City, but will certainly make you want to remedy that situation.

bloomsbury.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Calypso, by David Sedaris

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

Calypso

by David Sedaris
read by the author

Hachette Audio, 2018. 6.5 hours on 6 CDs.

Hearing David Sedaris read his books always makes me laugh. I will admit that his humor is often crude or rude – but, yes, it is very funny.

In this book he mostly talks about his family. This includes the death by suicide of one of his sisters, so you wouldn’t think there’s a lot of room for humor – but if you think that you probably haven’t ever listened to David Sedaris.

He also talks about buying a beach house on the Carolina coast to share with his family. And his father, who is politically conservative, getting older. And David himself getting older and dealing with physical challenges – and getting addicted to his Fit Bit.

A lot of what’s funny about this audiobook is also very strange – like feeding his own tumor to a snapping turtle. But what can I say? It’s also incredibly funny the way David Sedaris tells it. I guess it helps to know you’re doing something strange.

I always say that nothing is better for keeping me awake on a long drive than a good laugh. You can find that here. (Though let me give fair warning: I wouldn’t want to explain these jokes to kids. In fact, it might be embarrassing if anyone else were in earshot. Funny, though!)

davidsedarisbooks.com
hachetteaudio.com

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Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of 99 Stormtroopers Join the Empire, by Greg Stones

Friday, May 4th, 2018

99 Stormtroopers Join the Empire

by Greg Stones

Chronicle Books, 2017.

Okay, this book honestly made me laugh out loud. I’d never noticed how many different ways stormtroopers die in the Star Wars movies.

And that’s what this book is about. It begins innocently enough:

Ninety-nine stormtroopers join the Empire.

We see a relatively calm picture of Darth Vader reviewing his troops.

But one by one and group by group, bad things happen to the new recruits.

One stormtrooper becomes bantha fodder….

One stormtrooper fails to shoot first….

One stormtrooper asks for a promotion….

Two stormtroopers underestimate a princess….

One stormtrooper doesn’t let the Wookiee win….

Thirty-six stormtroopers are stationed on Alderaan….

You get the idea. The illustrations are hilarious, too – with the joke often in the illustrations. (Sometimes we see an illustration showing a notable crash from the movie – with a stormtrooper in the way.)

Instead of page numbers, we’ve got a running count of how many stormtroopers are left.

The last lucky stormtrooper lives happily ever after… on the Death Star.

I’m afraid this may be the book that gets me to count stormtrooper deaths the next time I watch a Star Wars movie.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Pets on the Loose! The Great Pet Escape, by Victoria Jamieson

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

Pets on the Loose!

The Great Pet Escape

by Victoria Jamieson

Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2016. 64 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a graphic novel just right for kids who are ready for chapter books. It’s by the brilliant Newbery-Honor-winning Victoria Jamieson.

This book is about the classroom pets of Daisy P. Flugelhorn Elementary School. GW, a mouse, explains his fate at the beginning:

Three months,
two weeks,
and one day.

That’s how long I’ve been stuck in this terrible prison, otherwise known as . . .
a second-grade classroom.

I was captured along with my friends Barry and Biter. I haven’t seen them in months. We’re being held in separate cells.

GW has devised a clever plan to escape, including an elaborate contraption to get the door open. When he escapes one night, he goes to rescue Barry, a rabbit, and Biter, a guinea pig, as well.

Barry’s the first grade classroom pet, but he seems to have gone soft in prison. Still, when GW breaks him out, he goes along.

Barry tries to warn GW about Biter:

She’s . . . she’s doing hard time in the worst cell block in this place. Her jailers torture her nearly all the time with stupid songs and crazy behavior . . . .

You don’t mean . . .

Yes, I’m afraid I do . . . .
Biter is in KINDERGARTEN.

Sure enough, Biter has even changed her name to “Sunflower.” She says, “Here in kindergarten, we talk a lot about feelings, and, well . . . I’ve come to realize I have some anger issues.”

Well, that’s the beginning. GW and Barry do convince Sunflower to come along, on the strength of their friendship. But then they meet the fourth grade class pet, Harriet, and her mouse minions. Harriet is planning to sabotage the school lunch.

What follows is a grand and dramatic food fight.

Classroom pets on the loose! Jokes about school! Mayhem in the school cafeteria in the night! All in graphic novel format! There’s not one kid you’ll have to coax to read this book.

And best of all, it shows all the signs of being the first book of a new series, Pets on the Loose!

victoriajamieson.com
mackids.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Dear Fahrenheit 451, by Annie Spence

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Dear Fahrenheit 451

Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks

A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life

by Annie Spence

Flatiron Books, 2017. 244 pages.
Starred Review

Dear Dear Fahrenheit 451,

You know I have to start my review emulating you, but of course you realize that I won’t do as good a job with it as you did. So basically, you’re giving me a sense of inferiority right from the start. I should probably hate you for that, but instead I feel all fangirly, impressed with your wit and cleverness and knowledge of books.

You asked me (“Dear Reader”) in your last letter a few questions, so the least I can do is continue the correspondence.

Did you make me want to reread a book I broke up with long ago? Well, is it fair to answer that you made me want to watch a movie again? One of my favorite parts in here was your letter to the library in Beauty and the Beast. I love when your author admits: “But the main reason she’s my favorite is you, Library. You’re so golden and glorious, towering over everyone with your endless rows of books. To be Belle for a day!” Oh yes!

But alas! I must admit that your author revealed, in many times and in many ways, that her taste is quite different from mine. Most notable was her letter to The Hobbit, where she explained “We just want different things.” Kind of mind-blowing to reject The Hobbit! But in a backhanded way, yes, that made me want to reread that wonderful book. (Oh! And The Time Traveler’s Wife! Yes, I want to reread that now.)

Did I keep notes of all the reading you suggested and now have a gabazillion books on your list? Well, I did put a couple of books on hold. And checked out Nikki Giovanni’s Love Poems (Wow!). But, see above, I discovered your literary taste is somewhat divergent from mine. Nothing personal. We just want different things. On top of that, I’m about to commence a year of reading children’s books for the Newbery Medal, so I’m trying to pare down my other-books-I-want-to-read list. I honestly don’t have time to let you distract me.

Do I want to know where I can get a copy of The One-Hour Orgasm? No, I do not. But your writing about the things you find on the public library shelves, and the books that need to move on, made me laugh out loud with recognition.

Ah, this perhaps explains why, despite my negative answers to your queries, I thoroughly enjoyed our time together. You reveal your author’s passion for books and let me enjoy her witty book references, clever book flirtations, and observations from a Library Insider.

And I have to say, I soooo agree with you about The Giving Tree! Your author gave it to a boy she loved in high school. I gave it to a boy I loved in college – and married him. As you say, “Do you want to guess how that went, Giving Tree? Want to guess who was the tired old stump at the end of that book?” Would you believe that I actually burned the copy I gave him? You are spot on correct about that one, Dear Fahrenheit 451.

I will make a confession: You were on hold for another reader – and I didn’t turn you back in right away! (I know, shocking behavior in a librarian!) Although I check out far more books than I can ever read, turning in books that someone else wants is something I faithfully do. But I was more than halfway through reading you, and you were just plain fun! So I selfishly kept your company for myself.

And I would very much like to quote you from so many different places. The clever letters of love and of good-by. And the handy-dandy reading lists at the end. So very much fun to read, whether I take the recommendations or not, honestly.

But, as I said, I didn’t turn you in immediately when I should have, and I’m feeling guilty about that. I need to finish this review and send you on to the next reader. But first I will say that anyone who loves books or reading or libraries will find something to love about you.

With Much Affection,

Sondy

flatironbooks.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Alphonse, That Is Not OK To Do! by Daisy Hirst

Saturday, March 4th, 2017

Alphonse, That Is Not OK To Do!

by Daisy Hirst

Candlewick Press, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #12 Picture Books

This book about being a big sister of an annoying little brother charmed me with its specific details.

The drawings are simple, such as a child would do. Natalie and her little brother Alphonse are some sort of monster. Natalie is red and Alphonse is blue.

The story is also simple.

They both liked naming the pigeons, [Banana! Lorraine!]

bouncing things off the bunk beds,
and stories in the chair.

And they both loved making things.

Except that Alphonse did sometimes draw on the things that Natalie made,
or eat them, and Natalie hated that.

I like that the author doesn’t need to tell us that Alphonse is being aggravating.

One day when lunch was peas
and TV was awful
and Mom did not understand, [What a lovely dog! It is a HORSE.]
Natalie found Alphonse under the bunk beds . . .

eating her favorite book.

“ALPHONSE, THAT IS NOT OK TO DO!” said Natalie.

What follows is Alphonse trying to reconcile with Natalie, and Natalie needing some time first. She draws a picture of awful things happening to Alphonse. I especially like the touch of the “swarm of peas.” Then she shuts herself in the bathroom and takes a bath.

But while she’s in the bath, she thinks she hears things happening to Alphonse like what she drew.

When she comes out and learns that Alphonse just created disasters while trying to get the tape to fix Natalie’s book, she’s just glad that Alphonse is okay.

It’s a simple story, but it warms my heart. Sometimes little siblings are incredibly annoying – but sometimes they’re creative partners.

candlewick.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Complete Peanuts, 1999-2000, by Charles M. Schulz

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

complete_peanuts_9900_largeThe Complete Peanuts

The Definitive Collection of Charles M. Schulz’s Comic Strip Masterpiece

Dailies and Sundays plus Li’l Folks

1999 to 2000

by Charles M. Schulz

introduction by President Barack Obama

Fantagraphics Books, 2016. 315 pages.
Starred Review

This series is wonderful. Every single Peanuts strip is reproduced, in order. My family has been following it since the series began in 2004 with the 1950 to 1952 volume.

I reviewed the first several volumes, but then decided there wasn’t a lot more to say. They are brilliant, and it is wonderful that Fantagraphics is assembling this collection.

My son and I wondered what they would do with the final volume, since Charles Schulz died in February 2000, so the book would only be half as long.

The solution Fantagraphics came up with delighted us — they reprinted Li’l Folks, a cartoon panel series that Charles Schulz drew from 1947 to 1950 for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. You can see some things that showed up in the early Peanuts strips directly quoted.

It has been a tremendous treat to read all of the Peanuts cartoons over these past twelve years. And now one more volume is promised, with “bonus material and rarities.” I can’t wait!

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of I Really Like Slop! by Mo Willems

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

i_really_like_slop_largeI Really Like Slop!

by Mo Willems

Hyperion Books for Children, New York, 2015. 57 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s Mo Willems’ answer to Green Eggs and Ham!

Gerald, an elephant, and Piggie are best friends. But Piggie likes food that appeals to pigs.

In this book, Piggie dons a chef’s hat and has created a bowl of green Slop with flies buzzing around it. She really likes slop, and asks her best friend to try some. “The flies are how you know it is ripe!”

Even with the simple cartoons that characterize Mo Willems’ drawings, there’s all kinds of physical humor here. Facial expressions show a wide range of interest and disgust. And once Gerald tries slop? His body turns various different colors and patterns.

But this is not Green Eggs and Ham. The reader is pretty sure from Gerald’s reactions that slop tastes terrible.

When Piggie asks him if he really likes slop, Gerald answers:

No.
I do not really like slop.
But, I am glad I tried it.

Because I really like you.

There’s a punchline follow up to that when Piggie has a suggestion for dessert.

I can’t think of another combination of Friendship Story and Trying-New-Foods Story (though there may well be one. If you can think of one, tell me in the comments). After all, Sam-I-Am isn’t really much of a friend!

Kids will love the humor in this story. Parents will have another chance to give the “It’s good to try new foods” message, along with an acknowledgment that sometimes the new food tastes like slop.

pigeonpresents.com
hyperionbooksforchildren.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, by P. G. Wodehouse

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

jeeves_and_the_feudal_spirit_largeJeeves and the Feudal Spirit

by P. G. Wodehouse

The Overlook Press, Woodstock & New York, 2001. (First published in 1954.) 231 pages.

Honestly? The reason I continue to review Jeeves and Wooster books is so I can remember which ones I’ve read. I will list them in order on the side for the benefit of my readers, and the more I include, the more helpful that is. (Not that order makes a huge difference with these books.) The library has The Collector’s Wodehouse, which I must admit, I would love to own myself. But thanks to space constraints, I am very happy the library owns them, so I don’t need to.

Yes, the books featuring the young and feckless Bertie Wooster and his brilliant gentleman’s personal gentleman Jeeves are all very similar. But they are also all clever, quirky, and laugh-out-loud hilarious.

There is generally a young lady whom Bertie is in danger of marrying. He needs to keep her romance flourishing with one of his buddies. In this book, the lady in question is Florence Craye.

You see, the trouble with Florence was that though, as I have stated, indubitably comely and well equipped to take office as a pin-up girl, she was, as I have also stressed, intellectual to the core, and the ordinary sort of bloke like myself does well to give this type of female as wide a miss as he can manage.

You know how it is with these earnest, brainy beazels of what is called strong character. They can’t let the male soul alone. They want to get behind it and start shoving. Scarcely have they shaken the rice from their hair in the car driving off for the honeymoon than they pull up their socks and begin moulding the partner of joys and sorrows, and if there is one thing that gives me the pip, it is being moulded. Despite adverse criticism from many quarters – the name of my Aunt Agatha is one that springs to the lips – I like B. Wooster the way he is. Lay off him, I say. Don’t try to change him, or you may lose the flavour.

Even when we were merely affianced, I recalled, this woman had dashed the mystery thriller from my hand, instructing me to read instead a perfectly frightful thing by a bird called Tolstoy. At the thought of what horrors might ensue after the clergyman had done his stuff and she had a legal right to bring my grey hairs in sorrow to the grave, the imagination boggled.

Additional customary motifs are also present. His amiable Aunt Dahlia is in a scrape of her own and risks losing the services of her chef Anatole (a disaster of epic proportions). Bertie is expected to help in a scheme fraught with danger. Bertie has dared to go against Jeeves’ fashion sense (always a bad idea) by growing a moustache. And as usual, Jeeves is the one who can tie up all the threads neatly and save the day.

Some of the Bertie and Jeeves books are short stories and separate adventures. This one is a unified whole, with all the more threads to tie up neatly at the end.

I’ve gotten where I like to keep a P. G. Wodehouse novel handy to dip into now and then. I don’t really lose the train of thought – I know where they’re going by now! – and it’s sure to get me laughing and simply appreciating the clever word play. If I want to lighten up and give myself a few smiles, I pull out my current Wodehouse. I’ll be sad when I finish all the Jeeves books, but I won’t nearly be done when that happens.

If you haven’t tried Wodehouse yet, do so some time when you want to lighten up. It won’t fail you.

And a big thank-you to my sister Becky for introducing me to him years ago!

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Exploring Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

exploring_calvin_and_hobbes_largeExploring Calvin and Hobbes

An Exhibition Catalogue

by Bill Watterson

Andrews McMeel Publishing, Kansas City, 2014. 151 pages.

Can we all agree that Calvin and Hobbes is one of the best comic strips of all time? (I say “one of” because: Peanuts. I don’t even want to decide between them, but the fact that it’s very close says worlds about Calvin and Hobbes.)

This book is a retrospective. It accompanies an exhibition at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. Besides a representative (and wonderful) sample of the strips, it’s got an extended interview with Bill Watterson at the front of the book, and includes some strips that influenced him as well as some examples of his early work before Calvin and Hobbes.

In some ways, reading this book is less satisfying than sitting down with one of the old collections. It did make me want to sit down with one of the old collections. It gives you tastes and reminders of this wonderful strip. It brought me back to the 80s when I was a newlywed and the early 90s when I was a young mother. Both my kids read these collections over and over when growing up.

My sister used to tell me when I had kids, they’d end up just like Calvin. And I have to say, if they gained some of Calvin’s curiosity and creativity and divergent thinking, who am I to say that Bill Watterson didn’t have something to do with that?

It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy . . .

Let’s go exploring!

andrewsmcneel.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?