Book Review – Lost In Translation

TITLE: Lost in Translation: An illustrated compendium of untranslatable words from around the world
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Ella Frances Sanders
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 2014

 

Lost in Translation is an illustrated book featuring words from other languages that don’t translate into English.   It tells you what language the word is from and what the word means and there’s some graphic design to make it all “Pretty.”

Except the design is hideous.  Like thin white hollow letters on pastels.  I could barely read some of the pages.  There is no arrangement for the order of words.  It’s like they’re thrown into a hat and whatever order they were drawn in is the order they appear.

Nothing tells you how to say some of these words.  And “untranslatable” is a misnomer at best.  True, we simply call your third cup of coffee the third cup of coffee, but it doesn’t mean we don’t have a way to translate it (and really, in the case of a word like “third cup of coffee” do we really NEED a way?). I was hoping for words that had such an essence to them that there was no easy, direct way to explain them.  Also, according to other reviews of this book, some of these aren’t even accurate.  So there’s that.

In short, I hate this book.  There’s nothing good about this book.  There’s little content, the illegibility is more trouble than it’s worth, and I spent more time lamenting the information that we DON’T get than enjoying what is there.  What good is a book of words if you don’t know how to say them?

I give this book 1/5.  Even as a novelty, there’s nothing novel about it.

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Book Review: Introducing Teddy

TITLE: Introducing Teddy: A gentle story about gender and friendship
AUTHOR: Jessica Walton
ILLUSTRATOR: Dougal MacPherson
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 2016

 

This book just appeared at work one day, and I was intrigued, so I read it.

Basically, Teddy is trans and this is the coming out story.
In the beginning of the story, Teddy is very sad.  Erroll, Teddy’s owner, asks what’s wrong and is told “Please don’t make fun of me.  I don’t want to be Thomas any more, I want to be Tilly!”  And Errol says “OKAY!” and thus the teddy switches his bow tie into her hairbow and they go off to play with other friends.  “Thomas would like you to call her Tilly now.”  “Okay”  And that’s it.

I get that this book is designed for little little kids.  But remember that I spend my days with a four-year-old.  So I just kinda stared at it for a while and blinked.  I don’t know what I think about this book.  I know that the author* wanted a simple book for little kids, but a lot of people use books to open up conversation and I’m worried that this is too over simplistic.  In the same tone that a kid will tell you to call them Mallory when their name is really Valerie or “When I grow up, I want to be a [something ridiculous]!…” and then change their mind after lunch, we’re told “hey, look, this is me now,” and it doesn’t have as much weight as it should as a serious issue.

So, really, this is more about acceptance than about actual trans* issues.  Your friend is telling you this is how things are, and you’re okay with it because you’re their friend.  As adults, we know that this isn’t as simple as it is, but we as adults also understand that the world is not so black and white as a child understands it to be.

 

I am torn on this rating.  I absolutely love that the point of this story was “just please love me for me, I’m very fragile” because I believe that all of us are that to some extent.  It was very sweet and simple, and I believe that that message will get through.
That said though, as far as transgender is concerned, this is only a book about accepting somebody that has transitioned.  It doesn’t explain anything about it whatsoever, so I’m not really sure how useful a tool this is, but it was okay.  Also, the illustrations were adorable.  When “Thomas” was sitting there looking sad because “I’m afraid you won’t like me if I tell you…”  I really felt for the bear.    Anyway, Illustrations are a solid 4.  The book is more of a 3 for my liking.

 

 

*The author is a m to f trans* herself.  Also an amputee.  Read her bio on the book jacket.  She’s got an interesting life.

Book Review – My Mama Had a Dancing Heart

TITLE: My Mama Had A Dancing Heart
AUTHOR: Libba Moore Gray
ILLUSTRATOR: Raul Colon
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 1999

My Mama had a Dancing Heart is a beautiful story, almost poetry but not quiet about the girl and her mother and how they danced through life.
It’s sweet how it goes through the seasons and beautifully written – the words do have a nice sway to them. But a lot of the words are two words hyphenated together. Nothing stands alone, everything dances in partners. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does make reading it out loud a little tongue-trippy some times.
I read this one to the toddler who was… Kinda indifferent to it. He sat and listened, but he didn’t ask questions and didn’t try to read it to me afterwards, which is not a toddler seal of approval by any stretch of the imagination.

The illustrations are okay, but they’re soft and slightly unfocused and they, too, have that sway to them… but there’s nothing to grab hard onto. You get to the end and you’re like “well, that’s a good memory, but whatever let’s move on now…” and then that’s it.

It’s sweet, but it had no staying power. As soon as it was done, we were done with it, so I’m glad I got it from the library and can send it back.

In the end, I’m giving it solid marks – 3/3 on both the art and the story.

Book Review – They All Saw a Cat

TITLE: They All Saw A Cat
AUTHOR: Brendan Wenzel
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHED: 2016

They All Saw A Cat is a children’s picture book that goes from the perspective of the black and white cat who walks through the book.

It starts with the cat seeing a boy – from about the knees down – and then the boy seeing the cat. The cat then goes through several animal friends in the same manner.

The best thing about the illustrations is seeing how other animals see.  For instance the bumblebee sees in colored dots.

SO I read this to my toddler, who is four.  I  thought the book might be cute, but I had no idea how much he’d like it. We had to read through it like six times… The cool part is that the words are pretty much what the toddler made up, so it did seem like he was reading to me.

Perhaps my favorite part, though, is the very end when the cat looks in a puddle and sees  himself.

I can see why this book is popular and its a great way to show perception.  It was all a cat, and it was all the same cat, but it was so very different to each creature that it met.

I give the illustrations definitely a 5/5.

The book was very simple, and it had to be, but had I read it before I showed it to the toddler, I would have never checked it out from the library.  Still, his enthusiasm counts at least as much as my lack of enthusiasm, so 4/5 for the story itself from me.

Book Review – Classified as Murder

TITLE: Classified as Murder
AUTHOR: Miranda James
FORMAT: Paperback
PUBLISHED: 2011

 

Classified as Murder is the 2nd volume in a cost mystery series starring Charlie Harris, a retired librarian, and his Maine Coon, Diesel, (Okay, mostly his Maine coon, Diesel), and set in Athena, MS.

So, Charlie is a part time librarian who spends his time between the college library where he gets paid and the city library where he doesn’t.  It’s on a volunteer shift in the city library that Mr. Delacourte, wealthy and eccentric, asks him for a private meeting.  Charlie agrees, and the three (because cat) meet the next day, where Mr. Delacourte lays everything out there.  He thinks he’s being stolen from, and the prime suspects are his very own family who all unfortunately live under his roof with him.

Charlie agrees to a ridiculous $300 an hour amount to verify the collection is all in place, and agrees to start as soon as possible, staring with afternoon tea with the family over the weekend.  True to Delacourte’s warning, the family are all batshit crazy in their own ways – some more obviously than others, one family member shows up for tea dressed like Scarlett O’Hara, for instance – and he’s right to be suspicious.  Charlie leaves for lunch his first day there and comes back to the body of Mr. Delacourte himself.  But who did it?  Crazy relations seem likely; they certainly had the proximity to the crime scene.

While all that’s happening, Charlie’s son shows up unannounced from Houston, and asks to stay for a while.  Another mystery, because Charlie just has to know why his son – who will barely speak to him – has now come to stay until he says otherwise.

… Okay then.

So, I got this book (and the first in the series) when my bf showed up from work with them one day and “you like mysteries and cats, so…”  I read the first one a while ago and it took me a while to get to the point that I cared enough to read this one.

The author has some issues.  We get too much introversion from the main character.  For instance, somebody says something and we immediately get the MC’s thoughts on the matter.  Son says something, MC thinks “well, I thought…”  Sometimes it’s nice for clarity sake, but when you get that sort of thing a dozen times in a couple pages of conversation, it’s a little old by the end.  I don’t actually need to know every thought a character has, especially when it’s not important to the other characters and things going on, and really, in a lot of these cases, it wasn’t.  Because gosh golly, it just changes every effing time anyway.

Also, the cat.  I love the cat.  I actually had a brown tabby named Diesel left at my house once, and this book reminds me of him.  But the cat has a remarkable lot going on for a character that doesn’t usually contribute to anything important.  I sat down for lunch while Diesel went into the other room. 

Because the comings and goings of a cat to the litter box are just soooooooo fascinating to read, right?  Hint:  Notsomuch.

I also take issue with a few of the characters.  The MC’s son is 27, the MC is not much older than 50 (about my boyfriend’s age) and just lucked into early retirement when his aunt died and left him the house that he rents rooms to boarders from.  But Charlie acts like he’s 55 going on 92.  he can use a computer but he just seems so out of touch with a lot of stuff.  His housekeeper, who is roughly the same age, speaks with a dialect that makes her sound like the colored help from a 1900s period book – which would just be odd if she weren’t colored, but is kinda obnoxious since she is – and really, when nobody else has an accent – In MISSISSIPPI! – why does she have one that makes her sound like she’s old and uneducated?  I don’t recall seeing her actual age, but based on a few other things, I’d put her not much older than Charlie – maybe in her early 60s – and it’s weird that she sounds like some uneducated 100 year old woman when she should have had the benefit of public schools.

So the bottom line.  Cozy mysteries are supposed to be about liking the characters and all that good stuff.  I do like most of them, although I think the author needs to relax what s/he is doing and get on with letting them be characters.  The writing is good enough that I forgive a lot of the things that should annoy me because I care enough about the characters and the mystery is developed well enough.  There are some good moments and properly funny bits, so that’s good.

In the end, I think this one was a lot better than the first one.  I’ll give it a pretty solid 3/5 pages.  It wouldn’t take that much to make this series better, and I’m hoping that future books improve.

 

Book Review – As an Oak Tree Grows

TITLE: As An Oak Tree Grows
AUTHOR: G. Brian Karas
FORMAT: Paperback (Imagination Library)
PUBLISHED: 2014

 

As An Oak Tree Grows is the latest book for the toddler’s Imagination Library subscription*.  We’ve had some weird ones, so I always look through it before I show it to him.

This one, though.  AMAZING.

As an Oak Tree Grows starts with a tree being planted in the late 1700s.  As the tree grows from a little acorn, the world changes around it.  It gets to see a basic settlement grow into a town and roads get paved and electricity and cars and all sorts of things we take for granted today be a thing.

And the illustrations are cute.  You see the tree growing and filling out as the book progresses until it’s taking over the page.

(And if you, for some reason, like your children’s books spoiler free, stop reading now…)

And then there was the horrible storm and the terrible lightning strike and then the tree was split in half and it wasn’t save able.

My favorite illustration in the book is at the end.  The huge tree stump and…  The Itty bitty sapling that was growing out from an acorn that had been dropped from the tree.  The circle of life continues.

The illustrations are simple, but they’re detailed enough that I loved them  Anything more would have distracted from the Oak that was in the center of every single spread.  I’m glad they did that, too.  If the tree would have moved all over the page, the illustrations wouldn’t have had the same impact that the story wanted.  Because this isn’t the story of anything but that tree, even though *everything* happens around that tree

In case you weren’t sure, I give this a 5/5.

 

 


* For those of you who aren’t familiar, look up Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.  They provide books free of charge monthly from Birth to a child’s fifth birthday.  If you live in the US, look it up and see if distribution is available in your area.  It’s definitely a worthwhile program.  Dolly wanted every child to have the gift of literacy.  Sixty books is a pretty fabulous way to go!

Books Review – The Bride’s Little Book of…

Title: The Bride’s Little Book of Cakes and Toasts
Title: The Bride’s Little Book of Customs and Keepsakes
Presented By: Brides Magazine
Format: Hardback
Published: 1993-1994

This review is a two-fer.  I was looking for better wedding books at the library and came across The Bride’s Little Book of… series in the online directory, so I placed holds on both of them.  When they got to me, I realized they were much more little than I expected, but I checked them out anyway, hoping they’d be even a little bit useful for a minute.

oh lordt.

So, for starters, I’m going to recognize the fact that the books are almost 25 years old, which is an eternity in something like weddings, which change stylistically all the time.  But the type of information I wanted from these were things I thought could transcend that, so I opened the book.

They’re both short-short.  Like 40-ish pages each.  And they’re both small.  Like four or five inches, and barely thick at all.  And since they brag about having “Over 30 images of…”, there’s an understandably small amount of space left to hold any actual information.    Y’all, it’s all so dated-traditional that I don’t think this stuff was useful at the time.  Seriously, I don’t think anything in this book was cutting age when the thing rolled off the press.

I had expected information like who should do toasts, what to expect from them, etc…  What I got was one page of quotations that were so overused that they were beyond clichee.  (May the road rise up to meet you…)  Come on.  We can do better than that.

These books *did* have a bit of cool historical information.  Like the origins of ___.  Which was neat, but not what I was going to these books for.

Which brings me to the saddest ratings ever.  These could have been those tiny gift books we find today boxed with weird trinkets.  (Customs and Keepsakes, complete with blue ribbon and old penny!)  But they weren’t.  They were just sad.

If you come across them at a yard sale, give somebody a nickel for them and then throw them in the trash to better weddings everywhere.  I hope these were better when they were originally published, but they absolutely fail the test of time.  I’ll give them a very overly optimistic 2/5 for the historical tidbits and nothing else.

 

 

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