Thursday, January 31, 2008

Animal Husbandry by Laura Zigman

animal-husbandry.jpgAnimal Husbandry by Laura Zigman

Genre: Fiction

Published in 1999

Recommended Age Group: Adult

Summary: Animal Husbandry covers the love and loss of Jane Goodall. Jane books talent at a recently syndicated talk show. Ray comes in to help with the show and Jane instantly notices him. When Ray notices Jane he begins a whirlwind courtship. Within too weeks they are practically living together, Ray says “I love you” and asks Jane to move in with him. That’s when things started to go downhill. For some reason Ray just disappeared and Jane was left not only without a boyfriend but also without an apartment.

Jane moves in with Eddie, a womanizing co-worker who needs the extra money. While living with Eddie she feeds her bitterness about the breakup with alcohol until the New Cow theory is born. Jane uses Eddie and her other friends Joan and David as research to feed the obsessive need to find out why men dump women. She decides to make the Now Cow theory public by writing an article for the men’s magazine that Joan works for. In the end she learns that men are not Bulls but they are also completely unpredictable and that she will never understand why some things happen.

Personal Notes: This is the book that the movie “Someone Like You” with Ashley Judd and Hugh Jackman was based on. While it is not exactly like the movie it is still great. The plot is more stream of consciousness than the movie and that makes it fun to read. I loved the use of Cow and Bull instead of the people’s names, on some levels the theory makes sense. Jane tells the story as she feels it and little details come clear to the reader when they come clear to her. Zigman captures the pain of getting dumped but makes it fun, which is an amazing feat. It uses the F-word a little more than I would care for but it’s a great book for anyone to read to give them a lift if they are still dating or to remind us married gals why we stay with our husbands.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck

a-long-way-from-chicago.jpgA Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck

Genre: Preteen Fiction

Published in 1998

Recommended Age Group: 8 and Up

Summary: A Long Way from Chicago, is a novel in short stories. Joey, who is nine in the first one, tells these stories over the summers from 1929 to 1935 when he and his sister Mary Alice go to visit their Grandma Dowdel. They have a lot of interesting adventures over the course of the years. They see a dead body, catch some local boys causing trouble, help feed an old lady, enter a baking contest, fly in an airplane, help some trapped lovers escape, get a friends house back from the bank, and participate and win all the contests in the Centennial program. Through these adventures the children learn lessons about life, themselves, and their Grandma and they create memories to last a lifetime.

Personal Notes: I really struggled getting though this book. The stories were interesting and fun but they just didn’t grab me. It took me 9 days to read it and it’s only 142 pages written for ages 8 and up. Being a Newbery Honor book and a National Book Award Finalist I expected it to be great but was disappointed. It may be because I’m a 25 year-old female and this was probably written for boys. I’ve run into this problem before with some books by Beverly Cleary. It would be best with a young male audience.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

fever-1793.jpgFever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Juvenile Historical Fiction

Published in 2000

Recommended Age Group: 12 and Up

Summary: Fever 1793 is about the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia that happened in the late summer of 1793. We follow the epidemic through Matilda Cook and her small group of family and friends. In the beginning of the book Matilda, her Mother, and her Grandfather ran a Coffee Shop. Matilda’s Mother is planning to get her married but Matilda already has her eye on Nathaniel Benson, a painter’s apprentice. They employed a cook, Eliza and a serving girl Polly. Matilda’s Mother got upset when Polly was late and made Matilda do all her chores which she was upset about until she learned that Polly had died mysteriously the night before. Rumors and gossip start to spread about a sickness and since they run the Coffee Shop Matilda and her family get to hear all about it. At first they don’t worry until they hear of more and more fever cases and of people leaving town to escape the fever. After the Mayor was certain it was Yellow Fever rules were set down and panic began. Matilda’s Mother got sick and Matilda and her Grandfather tried to leave town but the neighboring cities would not let them through.

After being stranded without food or water Matilda caught yellow fever and her Grandfather took her to a hospital of sorts to be treated. When they were released they went back to the Coffee Shop but Matilda’s Mother and Eliza were gone. Fearing the worst they shut themselves inside the house. That night thieves broke in and killed Matilda’s Grandfather but were scared away. Matilda wandered through the city alone and found a little girl named Nell with the body of her mother, a fever victim. She took the girl and found Eliza and together they took care of other sick and survived the fever. Nathaniel also survived the fever and he helped Matilda pick up the pieces from the Coffee Shop. All this time Matilda’s Mother was still missing and everyone began to worry that she died. She returned home in a huge gathering that followed President Washington back into town. They figured that if it was safe for him it was safe for everyone. The fever changed everyone greatly, some were better, some worse, but they were all different.

Personal Notes: Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres because I can learn while being entertained. One of the great things about this book is that in the back Anderson made a list of what was factual in the book and told more about each thing so the reader can separate the truth from the story. The story was very engaging and true to life. I enjoyed Matilda’s triumphs and growth through the book. I read the summary on Amazon before I bought the book and it didn’t do it justice. It’s a great read and a lot more fun than it sounds.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Poetics by Aristotle

poetics.jpgPoetics by Aristotle

Genre: Non-Fiction

Written 330 BC

Recommended Age Group: Adult

Summary: Poetics is one of the most fundamental works of poetry. Aristotle wrote it to give the requirements for good and bad poetry. It includes ideas on rhyme and meter as well as plot, character, and language. Here are some of the highlights:

- Plot is more important than character in plays because we only can know the character by what they are doing.

- People are portrayed as better or worse than in real life and rarely as they really are.

- Have to get the right length, too short there isn’t enough meat to the story, too long the memory can’t hold it all in and the meaning and full beauty are lost.

- Speaking of Homer, “In composing the Odyssey he did not include all the adventure of Odysseus” because they don’t matter to the plot.

- “Poetry tends to express the universal, history the particular.” Universal is “how a person of a certain type will on occasion speak or act.”

Personal Notes: There are so many different ideas that I could write an entire book about. Aristotle makes a lot of good points that are not only applicable to poetry but also to life. I especially think the idea about not making it too long is applicable in real life to almost anything. When telling a story to other people about something that happened to you the people lose interest if you include needless details.

Admittedly there were parts that were extremely dull. There were sections near the end that talked about metaphors and used a lot of Greek (well, I assume it was, I don’t speak or read it) and it was tough to get through. Now I understand why my College professors only had me read highlights.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

599.jpgBud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Genre: Preteen Fiction

Published in 1999

Recommended Age Group: 10 and Up

Summary: Bud, Not Buddy, is a Newbery Medal book about ten-year-old Bud whose been living in an orphanage for the past four years since his Mom died. This is during the years of the depression and Bud’s been in and out of many foster homes and after his stay with the Amos family he decided to run away and find his father. Bud’s Mom kept some flyers with a band on them and the only constant was the name Herman E. Calloway so Bud thought that was his father. His Mom also kept some rocks with names and dates on them. Bud knew Herman was living in Cedar Rapids so Bud decided to walk the 120 miles from Flint, Michigan to Cedar Rapids. On the way he meets Lefty Lewis who gave him somewhere to sleep and a ride the rest of the way to Cedar Rapids.

Once Bud arrived he went straight to Herman and tells him that Herman is his father. This gets a laugh for almost everyone and a scowl from Herman. The rest of the band accepted Bud readily but Herman continued to shun him and leave whenever Bud was around until one day Bud rides home from a gig with Herman and they discover something they have in common. The rocks with the name and date on them are from Herman and were a gift to Bud’s mother. They are the cities and dates of places Herman and his band played. This leads to a discovery that is quite shocking for Herman but good for everyone. In the end Bud finds himself happy and where he was supposed to be. Like his mother said when one door closes another opens.

Personal Notes: I really enjoyed the humor in this book. Curtis wrote from the perspective of Bud and the things he says and the way he observes things are so funny. For example, “There was a real old smell that came out of it too, like dried-up slobber and something dead. It smelled great!” I read that and I just can’t help thinking ten-year-old boy. Curtis really captured the boy and by doing that captures his audience.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Flush by Carl Hiaasen

flush.jpgFlush by Carl Hiaasen

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Published in 2005

Recommended Age Group: 12 and Up

Summary: Flush begins with Noah Underwood going to see his father Paine on Father’s Day. His Dad is in jail for sinking the Coral Queen a gambling boat that has been dumping it’s waste into the water. This is a big problem because it would wash up on a popular beach and people and animals get sick from swimming in it. Paine said he’d tried to notify the Coast Guard and other people to tell them what was going on but Dusty Muleman, the owner, always seemed to know when they were coming and would dump the waste just like he was supposed to. Paine asks Noah to help him which he son readily agrees to in spite of some misgivings he had about the whole thing. Noah believes his Dad is a good person but his brain just shuts off when he’s upset about someone hurting the environment. Noah decides to find a legal way to catch Dusty in the act and stop him from dumping the Coral Queen’s waste into the ocean. With the help of his little sister Abbey and Shelly, Dusty former fiancĂ©e and a bartender on the boat, they fill the holding tanks with fuchsia food coloring so when Dusty dumps later a long stripe of evidence leads straight back to the Coral Queen. After a couple more surprises and a few unexpected along the way Dusty gets what he deserves and the water is safe for swimming.

Personal Notes: The first thing that drew my attention to this book was the fish and the toilet seat on the cover. It was just as interesting as the cover. I especially liked how Noah found legal ways of solving his problems and didn’t resort to vandalism like his father. I think it teaches people to use their brains to reach their goals and to stop things they don’t like. Hiaasen didn’t ever really tell us how old Noah was and that bothered me for some reason. It was my goal through the book to find this kids age. At one point we find out that his Grandpa left when he was two or three and returned ten years later and that he is three years older than his sister who passed fourth grade so I guess that’s close enough for me. Overall it was a fun read and a great adventure.