Oh , The Places You’ll Boldly Go!

Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!

oh-the-places-youll-boldly-goSo David Gerrold, who will have “Creator of Tribbles” on his gravestone, has a Kickstarter project for a Star Trek version of Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go!  That’s pretty much all I needed to hear. There’s not much in the description or the video, but the concept alone caught me, as two of the best things ever mashed together become something even greater. You know, like how peanut butter and chocolate make Reese’s Cups. As of this time, it is fully funded so it will be made, but there’s still 9 more days for people to get their orders in before the campaign is over. Ty Templeton has mocked up covers for two of Gerrold’s other books, The World of Star Trek and The Trouble with Tribbles, and to be honest I would probably buy all three if they really were all picture books. A Seussical picture book telling the story of The Trouble with Tribbles? Perfection! Unfortunately, I think they are just covers for existing books, but maybe a series? Huh guys? Seriously, there are alien species in Star Trek just begging to be Seussized. Seussised? Seussinated? Suessed? Not sure about the grammar here, but I’d be willing to work on it if it means more of these adorable books.

suess-kirk-and-gornsuess-bones-and-spock

 

 

suess-tribbles

Today I Read…Jem and the Holograms

Jem and the Holograms coverToday I read Jem and the Holograms: Showtime (issues 1-6), written by Kelly Thompson and art by Sophie Campbell.

Jerrica Benton and her sisters Kimber, Aja, and Shana are an amazing band, and they’re ready to share it with the world. Well, her sisters are–Jerrica suffers from crippling stage fright, and she’s the band’s lead singer. But a mysterious gift from their late father may just solve their problem–and lead them into a wild, rocking new future! Prepare for glamour and glitter, fashion and fame, with Jem and the Holograms!

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How do I begin to explain my love for Jem and the Holograms? It was my all-time favourite cartoon when I was little. Every time we went to the local Blockbuster I always wanted to rent the VHS cassette of the two episodes they had (yes, I’m aware of just how badly I dated myself there, it was an 80s cartoon okay? This was the prehistoric Time Before Netflix). I had still have my Jem/Jerrica doll. I bought the complete series on VHS off eBay before they released it on DVD, I hand-sewed a Jem dress for Hallowe’en one year in university (no I’m definitely not putting up a picture of that mistake), I have every song from the series on my laptop, I love Love LOVE Jem.

So I can’t even explain just how hard I squeed when the revival started. The DVD releases, the new dolls (which are gorgeous and out of my price range, sigh), the movie (which I had such high hopes for, bigger sigh), and the comic–it’s a good time to be a Jem fan. Ah, the comic. This comic is now officially my personal example of how to do a fabulous reboot. It retains all the charm of the original while updating it for modern tastes and plugging up some of the (many) plot holes. The writing is terrific and the art is gorgeous. The only thing that could have made it better would have been mixing glitter into the ink used to print it.

The original cartoon was a wonderful example of girl power, and Jerrica was the first girl to have it all. She was secretly a world-famous rock and roll star, and in her civilian life she was the head of a major record label and the manager of the Holograms and she was in charge of the Starlight House for orphaned girls and the Starlight Foundation. Her band was composed of her sisters, who each had their own talents and interests in addition to music: Kimber was a talented songwriter, Aja was sporty and fixed things, and Shana was a fashion designer who designed and made all their on stage costumes. They were adults, not teenagers, and they were in charge of their own stories. Jerrica’s boyfriend Rio worked for them as a road manager, they didn’t work for him. Rather than the still-popular ratio of a team of men with one token girl, they were a team of women with the occasional appearance of a boyfriend.

That said, Jerrica’s reasons for not telling Rio that she was Jem were pretty lame, and he was a bit of a jerk for dating Jem and Jerrica both, even though the show tried to portray it as romantic, that Rio was attracted to Jerrica no matter what holographic disguise she was wearing. And except for one brief mention in the pilot, they never discuss calling the police on the Misfits, their constant rivals. The list of crimes the Misfits and their manager Eric Raymond commit is so lengthy it’s absolutely ridiculous–theft, grand theft auto, embezzlement, kidnapping, kidnapping a minor, reckless endangerment, attempted involuntary manslaughter, industrial espionage, accessory to attempted regicide, accessory to terrorism, assault, slander, arson, destruction of property… Seriously, CALL. THE. POLICE! Rewatching things as an adult can really change your perspective sometimes.

The comic reimagines both bands–Kimber, the youngest, has just graduated from college. The sisters want to try to make their band a success before moving on to more mundane careers, and they volunteer at a community center and teach music there instead of running a foster home. The Misfits are a signed band trying to promote themselves via a Battle of the Bands contest, and while they are mean and selfish and don’t care if other people break the law for them, they don’t actually break any laws. Rio is a music journalist writing a profile on the Misfits when he meets Jerrica and is intrigued by her, not a long-standing boyfriend that she really should trust with her big secrets. Jem is Jerrica’s protection, a way for her to be someone else to avoid her stage fright–there is a reason to not tell anyone who she is, in addition to protecting Synergy, the wildly advanced AI and hologram projection system that the Holograms’ father built for them.

While the original Jem and the Holograms did a pretty good job representing racial diversity, with the (eventually) 5 members breaking down as 2 Caucasian, 1 African-American, 1 Asian, and 1 Latina, as well as the Starlight Girls being from multiple ethnicities, the comic goes even further by making them more diverse in sexual orientation and body types. Kimber from the Holograms and Stormer from the Misfits have always had a special connection that disturbed their respective rival bands, and this has metamorphed into a lesbian relationship. The only objection that anyone has is that they are in competition, not that they’re both girls.

The Jem cartoon was first developed in order to sell the dolls, since the toys came first, and they all had exactly the same body so that the clothes would fit all the dolls, which is great for marketing but less great for representation. Since that’s not a concern for the comic, these uniformly tall, slender, curvy characters

Original Jem

It’s truly, truly outrageous

Original Misfits

These are the Misfits. Their songs are better.

 

 

 

 

 

have become this fabulous range.

Holograms

The new Jem and the Holograms

Misfits

The new Misfits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Side note: if you were reading the issues as they came out, you may have noticed that the artist for the first issue was listed as Ross Campbell. After it was published, Campbell announced that she was transgender and issues 2 and after list her as Sophie Campbell, including the trade that I’m reviewing here. She writes in her afterword in the trade that she feels like she’s “finally cut loose and the floodgates were opened artistically and emotionally.” I’m not familiar with her art outside of Jem, but I do know I love what I see here, so if this is what she makes when she’s happy I hope her life is ecstatic. And kudos to IDW for supporting her and using her new name on the cover of the comics. /sidenote

In the end, Jem is just plain fun. It’s super-girly in the best way possible, and shows both the allure and the hard work involved in a career in music. It’s about supporting your family and chasing your dreams. It’s about clothes and music. It’s about glamour and glitter, fashion and fame, and it’s truly, truly outrageous!

Today I read…The Untold Tale

The Untold TaleToday I read The Untold Tale, the first book in the upcoming Accidental Turn trilogy by J.M. Frey.

Forsyth Turn knew exactly who he wasn’t. He wasn’t the hero. He wasn’t big or brave or strong. He wasn’t bluff and hearty and called friend by men from every land under the sun. He wasn’t handsome and smooth and accounted a skilled lover by women from sea to sea. He wasn’t the man the bards sang of. He wasn’t his brother Kintyre Turn.

Lucy Piper knew exactly who she was. She was a normal woman with a normal life. And just like many other people, she was a fan of the wildly popular The Tales of Kintyre Turn series by author Elgar Reed. In fact, she wrote her thesis on the books. But they were just books.

Two very different people from two very different worlds. And they are about to discover that they are both very, very wrong.

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First, I’m really sorry J.M. that this review is so late, but I’ve been working in a library (yay!) and have less time to write (boo!).

J.M. sent me an ebook ARC to review some time ago, and I did read it, but I haven’t been able to write my review until now. But now the paperback and the ebook are both available for all you lovely readers to go out and buy, so yay! The Toronto launch party was December 10th at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club, with hosting duties by author Adrienne Kress and entertainment provided by Chantal Barette.

Adrienne Kress (at mic) and J.M. Frey (sitting)

Adrienne Kress (at mic) and J.M. Frey (sitting)

Whenever I finish reading a new J.M. Frey book, I send her an initial thought before I sit down to write my full review. (Okay, that’s a lie, first I cry a little and wonder why I keep letting her play with my heart like bubble wrap, but after that I message her.) For Triptych I told her “I hate you a little for killing my favourite character. But thank you for not bringing him back.” For The Untold Tale I told her that it was “A horribly uncomfortable story that everyone needs to read. And yes, that’s a compliment.”

Forsyth is…familiar. He is the voice in your head, telling you that no matter what you do it will never be good enough. That you aren’t pretty enough, smart enough, charming enough, working hard enough, resourceful enough, considerate enough, talented enough. That those whom you care for regard you with pity, not love. That you are tolerated, not respected. That the Other–your sibling, parent, friend, peer–is so much greater than you are, and that all who know you both compare you and find you lacking. That whatever you try, you will fail. Forsyth is depression and fear and insecurity. And then he meets the mysterious Pip, who he loves without feeling worthy of her, and she says such strange, wrong things. That Forsyth is handsome, that he is clever, that he is responsible and loved by his people. That his brother Kintyre is not better than him. Things he would love to believe, but just can’t.

And Pip, who has loved the books for so long, and who is starting to realize that sometimes fantasy worlds are better as fantasies. That they can be incredibly problematic for people who don’t fit the dominant narrative–that people of colour, or who are queer, or who don’t fit nicely into little gender role boxes, or who are anyone other than the brawny hero and those in his direct orbit, don’t really get their stories told. That maybe the brawny hero is pretty darn tired of sleeping with random maidens and getting soaked in blood, and sometimes just wants to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea. That the love interest has a story, and the sidekick, and the villain, and the innkeeper, and the maidservant. That the story that the Author tells about the characters is not necessarily the story that the characters wish to tell about themselves.

There are other things I could talk about–the romance that does more than merely nod towards the concept of consent certainly comes to mind, and the way that Pip and Forsyth navigate their way through both rape and rape culture and how it affects them both, and not in a superficial way. They suffer, and they think, and they (eventually) talk to each other.

And as a fangirl, the thought of a fictional character attending a convention and seeing what fans think of their world is…both delicious and cringeworthy. There is a scene where Forsyth, dressed as Forsyth Turn from the Elgar Reed books, meets a female cosplayer in a genderbent Kintyre Turn costume who proceeds to hit on him, not caring that a) Kintyre and Forsyth are brothers and Forsyth is clearly not into incest,  and b) Forsyth says no. Cosplay is not consent people… Well, read it.

Frey has a knack for writing books that are incredibly hard to describe properly. It’s a fantasy, but a very real and aware one, which examines the tropes and both celebrates and criticizes them, and thus proves it’s love. You can’t really love something if you only love the good parts–you have to look and know the bad, and acknowledge it, and love it anyway without washing the bad away. I recently read A Game of Thrones for the first time (yes, I’m behind, my to-read list is in the triple digits at this point). I posted on social media when I finished that I thought it was compelling yet highly problematic for the female characters. I raced through reading it–it was one of those books that you just can’t put down. But in my opinion there wasn’t a single well-rounded female character.  Frey comes from an academic background, and she’s a fangirl through and through. She’s used to analyzing her beloved fandoms and figuring out why she loves them, but also where the problems are.

The Untold Tale is the first in a new trilogy. The story feels complete as it is, and at first you wonder how there can be more. But then you start thinking about what happens after ‘and they lived happily ever after.’  That too is another untold tale. The second book will be The Forgotten Tale, and the last will be The Silenced Tale, and I’m sure that both of them will make me think about the title and what it really means just as much as The Untold Tale has.

Oh, and J.M.? You’re going to break my heart again, right? Please?

Chantal Barrette

Chantal Barrette performing at the Untold Launch

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When Bevel has imbibed enough liquid courage—I don’t know what his gauge is, but he seems to have met it—he stands and sways over to Pip’s side.

“Sorry he hurt you,” Bevel slurs gently. He’s not quite too drunk to be clear, but his lips are  tumbling over the consonants.

Dismissively, Pip answers, “Kintyre should be apologizing, not you. You’re not his keeper.”

Bevel laughs. “Oh, but I am.”

“And aren’t you sick of it?” Pip challenges.

Bevel shrugs. “That’s just Kintyre. You get used to it. It doesn’t bother me.”

“Well it bothers me,” Pip returns. “Actually, no, you know what bothers me? It’s not that he doesn’t know the social cues and common practices of politeness. What bothers me is that he observes them around him every day and has decided, however unconsciously, that they aren’t anything he needed to bother himself with. That learning to communicate and interact with other human beings was beneath him. That everyone would just recognize his superiority and marvel, and obey. That is what bothers me.”

I am so stunned by the boldness of her words that my tongue seems to be blocking up my throat. My heart is there, beating alongside it, hard and loud and painful. I have never, ever heard anyone challenge Kintyre this way.

Bevel isn’t certain how to respond. “Listen,” he says. “I think we got off on the wrong foot. You’re a pretty little girl–” he doesn’t seem to catch Pip’s incredulous look at the insulting diminutive “– so why don’t we just jump ahead to the end of the evening, hm? We promise we’ll be very gentle with you, won’t hurt your back at all.”

“And what happens at the end of the evening?” Pip asks, wary.

I cover my face with my hands. I cannot watch this. Either Bevel will insult and embarrass himself, or Pip will say yes, which will be worse. Either way, I do not want to see her face when it happens. I couldn’t bear it.

Bevel leans in close and whispers filth into her ear.

“What? Both of you?” Pip yelps, and her face twists in disgust. Bevel leans close and says something else, and Pip physically shoves him back. “No! No, I’m as happy to have a threesome with two hotties as any red-blooded girl, but you guys are complete sleazes. Get off me.”

She shoves him hard enough that Bevel knocks my chair and I have to look. He is stunned. I don’t know if he’s ever been turned down before. And Pip looks like fury incarnate.

On the other side of me, Kintyre raises himself from his indolent slouch and scoffs. “So I suppose it will be to Forsyth’s bed you go tonight, then?”

Pip goggles at him, eyes wide and mouth a scandalized ‘o’. “Hey, how about I go to nobody’s bed because, one, I am in pain because of you, you stupid behemoth, and two, because I’m not a prize that’s meted out at the end of dessert. Here’s a startling and revolutionary idea: maybe I just don’t want a fuck!”

Ah, so that’s what that expletive means.

“Maybe you’re just a frigid bitch,” Kintyre snaps.

Pip rocks back in her seat, stunned. “Oh my god! I cannot even believe I used to look up to you! You’re incredible! You’re nothing like Forsyth!”

“So that’s what this is about,” Kintyre snarls, his bright blue eyes snapping over to me. “Forssy’s already got his scrabbly little fingers and flaccid little prick into you.”

Pip pushes up to her feet and leans over me, her face puce with fury, to get up into Kintyre’s. “Don’t talk about your brother like that! He’s a good man! Better than you’ll ever be!”

“Oh, and now you let your woman talk for you, too, brother?” Kintyre sneers, rising to his own feet. “Perhaps she’s the man between you? Does she stick it to you? Do you think you’re in love, just because she hasn’t run away from you yet?”

I shrink down in my seat, too mortified to even get my tongue to stop fluttering against the roof of my mouth. I could never even make words like this.

“And is there something wrong with taking it up the arse?” Pip challenges. “Does it make you less of a man? Because Bevel seems to like it!”

Bevel and Kintyre both go pale and stagger. Bevel clutches at his chair. “How did you know?” he hisses.

“Silence!” Kintyre booms.

“Oh my god!” Pip says, exasperation written into every feature. “What does it matter what you two do together? Bevel’s disgustingly in love with you, you ridiculous moron! He always has been! It’s barely even subtext! He sets up threesomes for you just so he can touch you! Is that what all this macho manly shit is about? Cause there’s nothing wrong with loving who you love!”

“Nobody loves Forsyth Turn,” Kintyre snarls.

“Qu-qu-quiet!” I snap, standing and pushing Pip and Kintyre away from one another. “E-e-enough!”

“Not here,” Pointe snaps, his voice just loud enough for us to hear, but quiet enough that music keeps his words from reaching my guests. He crosses behind my chair to lay hands on Kintyre’s shoulders. “You’re not doing this here, Sir Kintyre. You’re drunk and shaming yourself. Master Bevel, get him into Forsyth’s study.”

But Kintyre is incensed. He is insulted. He pushes the Sword of Turnshire away and holds a hand out to stay Bevel. “I am shaming myself? Me? You’re the one shaming the Turn name, brother! You are pathetic,” Kintyre sneers. “Deciding that the first woman to show a grain of interest in you is actually infatuated with you? Look at you. What in the world could she find attractive about you? You saved her, that’s all. She’s being nice to you because you saved her, not because she likes you. And everyone here knows it.”

Faces frozen with shock all around us narrow and shut down. Nobody, not one guest, makes a sound in my support. Of course. They are laughing at me, silently, inside. Laughing at foolish Forsyth Turn, who thought he could make this woman fall in love with him.

“Now,” Kintyre says. “You are going to apologize and sit down and act like a proper lady, or I will leave you here to rot and never take you home!”

“I will not!”

“Kintyre…” Bevel starts, plucking at his sleeve, but Kintyre is embarrassed and feeling cruel and pushes him away hard enough that he slams into the table. Bevel turns hurt, dark eyes up at my brother and goes silent, biting so hard on his lower lip that the flesh turns white.

All the breath rushes from my body. Oh, incredible, Pip was right. Bevel Dom is in love with my brother and I never noticed. Poor Bevel. I hate the hedgehoggy little lackey, but to be in love with my brother and Kintyre so in love with women’s bodies… how cruel this Elgar Reed is. Poor, poor Bevel.

“Sit!” Kintyre repeats, pointing to the chair magnanimously, and Pip throws her own finger into the air, the middle one. It is clearly a rude gesture, but its exact meaning is unclear.

“I am not some docile dog you can order around,” Pip screams. “You are an asshole and a bully, Kintyre Turn, and I don’t want your help!”

The whole room falls into a screeching hush.

Kintyre goes very, very still. I can’t help the involuntary step back as his fingers twitch into a fist. It seems the survival instincts of childhood are still deeply ingrained.

“Good,” he grunts, fury in every line of his face. “As you will not be receiving it.”

“Kin!” Bevel squalls. “You can’t just turn down a maiden in distress.”

“I can and I have.”

“I’m not a maiden in distress,” Pip snarls, rounding on Bevel, who is utterly unprepared for his own tongue lashing and stumbles back into my brother’s arm. “I’m a woman and I am damn well capable of rescuing my own damn self, thank you very much.”

“Let us hope so,” Kintyre rumbles. “For your sake.”

And then he pushes past Pointe and storms out of the hall, Bevel quick on his heels.

Me and Untold Tale

Mine, all mine!

My best reference questions

I was thinking about some of my favourite reference questions that I was asked this past year working in an elementary school, and how I answered them.

  • “Do you have any books on soccadores?”

I had never heard of soccadores, so I had to ask the student to explain what they were to me. He said that he had just made it up. And yes, he really did think I might have a real book in the library about something he had just invented that moment.

I had to say no, of course, so then he asked me about pompadours. I was able to tell him that they were real, but I didn’t have any hairstyle books in an elementary school library. I then offered to look for books on Madame de Pompadour, the French historical figure, since we did have history books. (Thank you Doctor Who. Who says it’s not educational?)

  • “Do you have the toilet books?”

Apparently she actually said Twilight, but I think I was right the first time. But no, the library didn’t own them, so I showed her the YA fiction section.

  • “BUZZZ! I’m a bee, can I sting you?”

No, you may not. You may also not arrest me when you’re a police officer, slide around when you’re a penguin, stand in the corner between two bookcases yelling loudly that it’s an elevator taking you up and down, or fly like a bird by jumping off the tables. (He was adorable and imaginative but exhausting.)

  • “Is that your real hair colour?”

This grade 5 girl had read something that said that all blondes were secretly aliens. She wanted to make sure that my hair wasn’t really blonde under the red. I told her no, but my mother is blonde, so maybe I’m a half-alien. No, I have no idea what she was reading that told her blondes are aliens, but she seemed quite concerned, and she wasn’t totally convinced that I was kidding about being half-alien.

  • “Do you have any books on King Richard?”

Some of the boys had heard somewhere about the discovery of King Richard III’s body being found, but they thought it was a fictional story. They were amazed when I told them that he was a real person and that his body really had been found under a parking lot in England. A group of them gathered around the only book I had that mentioned him the way they usually gathered around car and Guinness record books to share. I tried offering the Shakespeare play as the only other thing I had, but alas poor Yorrick, it wasn’t as well received. Still, it was pretty cool seeing how excited they got over Middle Ages history.

  • The classic “Why are boys so annoying?”

A grade 4 girl asked me this one as she was returning her books. Since I hadn’t seen who annoyed her or why, I had to tell her that it was one of the mysteries of the universe. If anyone has a better answer, could you please let me know? I’ve never figured it out, myself.

Today I Read…Ms. Marvel

MM No NormalToday I read Ms. Marvel: No Normal, Generation Why, and Crushed (issues 1-15).

Kamala Khan is totally normal. You know, for a Muslim American teenage girl, who isn’t allowed to date. Or go to parties with boys. Or eat bacon cheeseburgers. Or wear revealing clothing. Or ride in cars with boys she’s not related to. Okay, so she’s not so normal, and it’s not bad, she loves her family and her culture but sometimes it’s really hard being different from everybody else in Jersey City. But Kamala is about to become even more different from everybody else, when she suddenly gets superpowers! And if you have superpowers, and you’re obsessed with superheroes and the Avengers and especially Captain Marvel, aren’t you obligated to help other people? (But she’s not wearing the bathing suit, who cares that it’s a classic, it’s cold and drafty and it’s giving her a wedgie.)

MM Generation WhySo, superpowers, secret identity, costume that doesn’t give her wedgies, sidekick, secret hideout (the Circle Q counts, right?), definitely NOT telling her overprotective parents that she’s sneaking out to fight bad guys (is being mad at her their superpower? Must investigate), a giant teleporting dog for a pet…does she need anything else? How about a supervillain brainwashing kids into doing his bad-guy-bidding-stuff? Not in Kamala’s city! Now if only she knew how to fight…

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MM CrushedThis series has been getting great reviews, so I was curious to read it. And it’s sooooo good! Kamala is a great fangirl, who dreams of how cool it would be to be an Avenger, until she actually gets superpowers and there are more problems than she had anticipated. Like the fact that she doesn’t actually know how to fight, or how to use her powers, or just how hard it is to come up with a costume that works with her powers that doesn’t constantly get destroyed or is too uncomfortable to wear. Flowing hair looks cool, but it gets in your face, and wedge heels are impressive until you trip in them, and bathing suits get really cold when you’re fighting. And lying to your parents about where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing? Not that easy, especially when you know they really do just want you to be safe and happy, even if their rules make you different from all of your friends. And keeping a secret identity is hard, and sometime fighting means you have to hurt people.

But despite the problems, Kamala always keeps her belief in superheroes and the good they can do, She has a collection of superhero-themed shirts that she wears in her civilian life, for Captain Marvel and Captain America, she writes fanfic and gets excited when people upvote it, she tells Wolverine that he was her first pick in her fantasy hero team-up bracket.

She also has to deal with the usual issues facing young people, like what happens when a really cool, smart, good-looking guy turns out to be a total jerk (who wants to take over the world). And figuring out how to make a difference in the world when older people keep telling you that young people are selfish and superficial and only interested in their cell phones.

Marvel has really been working on improving the diversity of their better-known heroes lately, making Thor a woman, and a black Captain America, and a Muslim Ms. Marvel. It’s nice to see, and it gives some interesting story opportunities to show how hard it can be to combine multiple worldviews–Kamala has been raised by fairly strict religious immigrant parents who want her to be a part of their culture, but she is also American and wants to be a part of American teenage culture, and now she has to include the Inhumans and superheroes into her life and worldview. Finding out you’re part alien and can change your shape may not happen too often in real life, but feeling like you’re torn between two worlds, between what your parents and your friends tell you to be? Yeah, that happens.

I really like the series, and I’m looking forward to my local library getting in the next trade.

Today I Read…If You’re a Monster and You Know It

If You're a Monster and You Know ItToday I read If You’re a Monster and You Know It by Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley.

If you’re a monster and you know it, show it! Snort and growl, smack your claws, stomp your paws, twitch your tail, give a ROAR! Show everyone what a great monster you are! And then do it all again!

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I found this book in the public library while I was looking for a story to read for a job interview. It didn’t end up being the one I used, but it was a strong contender. It’s a monster version of If You’re Happy and You Know It, using Ed Emberley’s distinctive, creative, and brightly coloured illustrations. I wish I’d had this one at the school I was working at last year– I had some trouble finding a Hallowe’en story for the kindergarteners that was short and holiday-themed and not at all scary (some of the parents didn’t approve of witches or monsters or ghosts, which makes it really hard to pick a good Hallowe’en story). The monsters in this book are bizarre but more funny than scary, and younger children would have fun dancing along to the actions in the song. You could also use this as part of a library program and include a craft, by getting kids to draw their own monsters or to cut out different monster body parts from construction paper and get kids to glue them together however they want, to make a real monster mash. Tentacles and claws and extra eyes, oh my!

This book is a real family project–Ed Emberley did the illustrations, his daughter Rebecca Emberley wrote the words, and her daughter Adrian Emberley recorded a sung version which can be downloaded for free from Scholastic here.

 

Today I Read…Dinosaur vs

DInosaur vs SchoolToday I read three of Bob Shea’s Dinosaur vs books, Dinosaur vs School, Dinosaur vs the Library, and Dinosaur vs Bedtime.

Dinosaur likes to ROAR! Dinosaur is the best at ROARING! But what about when Dinosaur has to do things and NOT ROAR? Can he do it?

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This is a great series for the kindergarten and under set. The words are simple and repetitive, mostly variations of “Dinosaur vs *something*”and “Dinosaur wins!” Dinosaur stories are always a safe bet for little ones–they’re pretty much universally adored by small children, boys and girls, and Bob Shea’s colourful illustrations are great. And these books are terrific for story time because you get to ROAR along with Dinosaur! Currently there are 6 in the series, Dinosaur vs Bedtime, Dinosaur vs the Potty, Dinosaur vs the Library, Dinosaur vs Santa, Dinosaur vs School, and Dinosaur vs Mommy. They’re good books for teaching behaviour. For example, in Dinosaur vs the Library, Dinosaur has fun roaring at lots of things, but he has to use his “inside roar” (great phrase!)  when he’s in the library, and then he can’t roar at all during story time. But if he doesn’t roar during the story, then everyone can hear it so they all win!

Dinosaur vs the Library

The layout of the books is well set up for increasing excitement when reading aloud. There are usually 4 pages devoted to each thing that Dinosaur roaring against. A right-hand set up page saying “Dinosaur versus…”, and then you have to turn the page to see what he is up against, such as meeting new friends, talking grown-ups, or a shy turtle. The accompanying right-hand page shows the reaction of whatever he is roaring about, and then you turn the page again to the next left-page to see that “Dinosaur wins!” It means that when you read it’s easy to build up mini-climaxes and increase the tension before you turn the page.

Just remember, not even Dinosaur can defeat Bedtime!

Roar, roar, snore…
DInosaur vs Bedtime

Today I Read…I’m Bored

I'm BoredToday I read I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black, and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

“Everything is boring. Boring. Booorrrrrr-iiinnnnngggggg…Hey, a potato! But why are you calling me boring, potato? Kids are fun! And I’ll prove it!”

Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi bring to life this charming tale of a girl and a potato and a challenge to prove that kids are not boring, even if they aren’t flamingos.

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This is another great read aloud I found in my school’s library last year. A little girl is completely bored with everything, until a potato calls her boring and she has to prove to it that kids are really interesting. Along the way, she reminds herself that she is creative and imaginative and smart and active and way more interesting than a mean old potato. It’s fun to read out loud to kids for story time, especially the monotonous “bored, bored bored” part and when the girl loses her temper with the potato and tells it off that being a kid is great. Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s simple illustrations do a great job of showing off the expanse of the little girl’s imagination, and the cranky potato and how it is included in each imaginative scene is very funny. I especially like that the little girl covers a wide range of occupations, from fairy princess to pirate to mad scientist to lion tamer to rock star to monster, and not just girly dreams. I’m Bored reminds readers that imagination lets you be anything and not to listen to people or potatoes who try to put you down. And it’s a pretty good answer to the next time your little one tells you “I’m bored!”

 

GirlWritingWithPotato

Today I Read…The Book With No Pictures

The Book With No PicturesToday I read The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak.

You might think that The Book With No Pictures is a terrible name for a picture book. Well, it is, because this book has no pictures, and how can it be a picture book if it has no pictures? So The Book With No Pictures is a bad picture book.

This book is a trick. A trick by clever children to make grown-ups say silly things. But I’m smarter than that! You can’t trick ME into saying “Boo-Boo Butt!”…what do you mean I just said “Boo-Boo-Butt?” I never said “Boo-Boo Butt.”…why are you laughing?

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I first heard about this book at the OLA Super Conference this year, when a couple of the panels I was attending recommended it. I found it in the OLA Store, and it was so funny I knew I had to buy it for my library. There are some books that you just know as soon as you read them they’ll be hilarious to read out loud at story time.

The Book With No Pictures is just that–it has no pictures, only words, and yet I’m still going to file it under Picture Books in my categories. The idea is that it is filled with nonsense that the clever kid has tricked the adult into reading, and the adult is reluctant to sound so silly. Simple, yet entertaining when read right. Kids always love pulling one over the adult’s head, and the “Boo-Boo Butt” line is always a huge hit with the kindergartener crowd. Seriously, say it to a five-year-old and dare them not to laugh, they just can’t do it. And they laugh harder if you repeat it incredulously. This book ended up being extremely popular after I read it to my story time classes, and afterwards was out just about every week. I started thinking about buying a second copy, and I might have if I wasn’t pinching my budget so hard.

It’s also a good example to use when you’re teaching older kids about narrative voices. There is the story itself, and then there are the interjecting complaints from the narrator about being forced to read silly things.

This book is clever and funny and fun to read. I think it was one of my favourites from story time last year.

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WARNING!

This book looks completely serious, but it is actually COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS!

If a kid is trying to make you read this book, the kid is playing a trick on you. You will end up saying SILLY THINGS and making everybody LAUGH AND LAUGH!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

(from the back cover)