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Kim Reads Books About Things

I like most books, particularly children's and YA. The fact that I am 21 does not and will never hinder this, and it shouldn't. A good book is a good book is a good book. Anyway. I'll read anything I can get my hands on if the mood suits me.

Alex as Well

Alex as Well - Alyssa Brugman 'Twas OK. Two things would've made it better: Ditching the blog posts from the mother, and ditching the whole "Boy Alex" thing. Still, an OK read. Full review pending.

Every Day

Every Day - David Levithan I liked this a lot more than I thought I would. Sure, there are flaws, but it's beautifully written and I was never, ever bored. Full review pending.


Read Between the Lines

Read Between the Lines - Jo Knowles The first and last stories were weak, but overall I really enjoyed this one, and typically I don't like novels made up of interconnected stories. Full review pending.

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend - Dan Santat Adorable.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson - 'John Green',  'David Levithan' It took a while for me to really get into this one and I didn't care for Uppercase Will at all until near the end, but it had a strong, sweet finish and it was generally good fun. My least favorite of the Greens I've read, partially because I'm fatigued as far as his books go, but still worth a read if you like these authors.

On Writing

On Writing - Stephen King Review to come.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - Jesse Andrews Good stuff, though there were some things I thought could've been handled better. I would have liked a few more scenes with Rachel, though I guess that would've missed the point the story tried to make. Anyway, this was really fun and funny, and all of the movie references were great. I think, though, that this story would make a better movie than book, and considering how the movie adaptation is getting rave reviews at Sundance whereas the book was well-liked by critics but not adored, I may be right.

Still, a surprisingly affecting story that also manages to be hilarious most of the time.

Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists

Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists - Hillary L. Chute Simply a must for anyone interested in graphic novels.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces - Isabel Quintero Flores 4.5 stars.

Sure, some stuff is a little hard to believe toward the end, but when the rest of the book is SO perfectly smart and real, that doesn't hurt it much at all. I can't wait to read what this author does next. Gabi is my favorite character of the year; I'd love to be her friend and I'm glad I got to know her.

The Story Of Appleby Capple

The Story Of Appleby Capple - Anne Parrish Ladies and gentlemen, there are a great number of old Newbery Honor books that have faded into obscurity. Some of them are actually pretty good, too! The Winged Girl of Knossos has a pretty big following among the five people who've read it, for one, and I rather enjoyed The Secret River (despite it being so cutesy at times that writers of Barbie movie novelizations would find it a touch too saccharine). So, generally, I don't have a lot of trepidation when approaching an old book with a shiny silver sticker on it.

After reading 21% of The Story of Appleby Capple, though, I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to rethink that, because this may have been the worst thing I've ever read that didn't start as fanfiction of something. Just HOW bad was the children's publishing year of 1950 if this thing was considered one of the top five books?

So, the plot: Appleby is boy with a dumb name (though as the weirdly intrusive narrator says on the first page, not a name as dumb as Choke-Cherry or something, because THAT'S important and plot-relevant). He's going to go find his extremely old cousin a Zebra butterfly for his 99th birthday. It doesn't go all that well. People freak out. Animals are everywhere, as are extraordinarily offensive stereotypes of Native Americans. Hilarity, apparently, is to ensue.

There are exactly two reasons why you should ever consider reading this:

1. You have a serious fetish for alliteration, in that all alliteration always seems appropriately awesome and accessible. (No matter how shoehorned in it is, because seriously, this book does more shoehorning than a freaking Payless model!)


2. You REALLY want to read every Newbery Medalist or Honor book, even the really terrible ones that will make you question your life choices.

The illustrations are lovely, sure, but they do NOT require reading the text, so if you ever get a hold of this book, just look at the illustrations and pretend the text never happened.

Perhaps, you may think, Kim is being too hard on this little book, this old book that only serious kidlit aficionados have any awareness of. This book that she didn't even finish! Please note that I have only ever marked one book as DNF before this one. I stick out terrible things far more often than I'd like to admit, but this book was painful and showed no signs of getting any better.

Reason 1: The voice. All forced whimsy and quirk, significant of nothing. I am entirely certain I have never read a book told in a more painful style than this. It flips from past-tense to present-tense with all of the coherence of a rambling drunk. The narrator breaks the fourth wall because... she can? And, again, alliteration. Painfully pointless alliteration. It's impossible to figure out which part of the 6-12 age group it's aimed at, considering it talks to the audience as if they are profoundly unintelligent four-year-olds. I swear it was sentient and personally thought I was stupid, that's how bad it was. I have no idea where the story was going, because it kept going off to explore the psyches and backstories of all these ridiculously precious adult characters who are SO CONCERNED about where this profoundly uninteresting protagonist ran off to. (If you're so concerned, go FIND HIM!)

Admittedly, exploring the mental state of the caterpillar was kind of cute. I have a major weakness for caterpillars, though, so that's not really a plus in the book's camp.

Reason 2: Holy unbelievable racism, Batman! Those of us well-versed in children's literature are aware that many, many, many, many old children's books have no great shortage of offensive stereotypes. Even so, there comes a point where your alarm sounds so loudly that you have to take a look at what you're reading and say, "What the hell?" There is a depiction of a Native American character that is so offensively brutish and animalistic that it honestly pained me to read his sections of the "plot," and there's a completely bizarre tangent about a Chinese decoration that is both completely pointless and horrifically stereotypical. I've seen episodes of Family Guy with more racial sensitivity than this book. I'm not going to chalk it up to being a product of its time. That robs the author of the book of her responsibility in creating something like this. A huge part of why I stopped reading was because I really, really didn't want to see just how much more offensive it could get. I could tell that it was going to get worse.

Reason 3: Being called "distinguished" in the history books will only get you so far. There's no way in telling what will age well and what will not, and I don't believe it's the responsibility of the yearly Newbery committees to figure that out, personally. Still, when we look back on the shiny sticker parade, there are going to be things we can reasonably refer to as "mistakes." And, oh boy, is this one of 'em. In my estimation, there is nothing distinguished here text-wise, in any positive sense. The characters barely register as existent, save for the animals. The writing, as said above, is atrocious and insulting. The plot rambles. The theme, which is the alphabet, is pulled off well only in that there definitely are lots of letters in this book. In short, it's very hard to see what makes this book special, and not at all hard to see why it's obscure and out of print.

I never complain about whether or not a kid would willingly pick up a book if it's won an award, but this is a book that I think maybe two currently existing children would ever willingly gravitate to, and I'm fairly certain it would fail to captivate them as well.

Perhaps the remaining 79% of the book that I avoided like the plague is a riveting masterpiece of suspense and beautiful writing, but judging by what preceded it, I sincerely doubt that. An apple a day keeps the doctor away; what do I have to do to keep Appleby Capple away?

The Secret River

The Secret River - Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Leonard Weisgard 3.5 stars.

Read the original edition from the 1950s. I'd love to see the new art in the one by the Dillons.

I could probably only really describe this book's story as "quaint" and "cute," but boy is the writing top-notch. It really elevated the story from "twee fairytale defying all logic" to "enjoyable story of minor adventure and childhood wonder." I fully believed in Calpurnia as a character, though no reveal of her age made it hard to decide whether I bought her precocity. All in all I think it's a nice little Newbery Honor book unjustly overlooked.

(Time to go read The Yearling and be sad Rawlings never wrote anything for kids besides The Secret River, I guess.)

Annie and the Old One

Annie and the Old One - Patricia Miles Martin, Patricia Miles Martin, Peter Parnall Lovely little Newbery Honor-winning picture book that had way more of an emotional impact on me than I expected. The dialogue felt a little stilted, but everything else was really, really good.


Sounder - William H. Armstrong 4.5 stars (upon further rumination; originally rated 4).

In short, if the ending didn't feel like a bunch of giant events crammed into five pages, this would have been a five-star book for me. I love a good strong punch to the gut and this one delivers them even before the inevitable. I also really liked the writing, though this is mainly because I like books that cut to the chase and don't try to dazzle me with how well the author can string descriptions together. (Well, as a rule. If the descriptions ARE particularly lovely, this rule doesn't quite apply.)

I am still wondering why this is considered a "dog book," though. Sounder doesn't really do a whole lot. This is the boy's story through and through.

Love Is the Drug

Love Is the Drug - Alaya Dawn Johnson Won this in the Goodreads giveaway. Looking forward to reading it very soon! Thank you kindly, Scholastic!

Officer Buckle & Gloria (Caldecott Medal Book)

Officer Buckle & Gloria (Caldecott Medal Book) - Peggy Rathmann Part of a homework assignment for my Writing Children's Stories class. In a word: adorable.

The Crossover

The Crossover - Kwame Alexander Last year one of the highlights of my Fall reading was Matthew Quick's lovely Boy21, which only failed perfect marks from me for two reasons: the title character's changing felt the faintest bit unrealistic, and the basketball failed to compel me at all. The Crossover has neither of those problems: I care nothing for sports, not even the tiniest bit, yet I felt as if every scene on the court was electric. And Josh evolves perfectly, subtly, without artifice.

And talk about a great opening. The first few bits of verse, written like rap, hooked me. They were absolutely stunning. The rest of the book's writing is great too, but I was extremely disappointed that Alexander chose not to write the whole thing in a similar cadence. (Then again, if he had he may have been accused of gimmickry.) I'm extremely fond of verse novels regardless, so it was no huge problem for me. But man, it would've been great.

Josh is a great kid, one who feels completely like a real boy. The characters around him were a lot less compelling, unfortunately. Realistic? Sure. Not particularly distinctive? Well, aside from the parents, who I loved, not really. I feel like I barely got to know Jordan, or the others (whose names I cannot remember, not a good sign). But the parents! God, the parents. The tough mom and the fun but tragically foolish father were huge highlights of the story for me, and I wish we'd had more time to spend with them.

I also wish that the dad hadn't died, but it was handled very well despite me wishing that something, anything else had happened. I saw it coming a mile away (it was not so much foreshadowing as much as a giant red flag, really), and I hoped like you wouldn't believe that the story wouldn't take that particular turn. Despite that, it didn't feel like a cheap emotion grab. Nothing in this story did, though, and that's why I enjoyed it so much.

I can imagine hordes of middle school boys (and girls, of course) reading this for a class and loving it. It may have a bit of geeky words to it, but it's very well-done, and emotionally honest in a way that, I think, can really speak to kids.