Monday, February 27, 2017

Ponder Post: Word of Mouse

Delightful. Pure fun. Educational. Did you know a group of mice is called a mischief? Or that they are crepuscular? Or that mice are color-blind? Well, not completely. They see black, white, and blue.

How could I not buy a book about a blue mouse with the same name as my grandson, Isaiah? Word of Mouse ©2016 by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein was an impulse buy from the book table at Costco but I am very glad I was weak and bought it. Correction. I was not weak, I was smart and inspired. Perhaps I was even as clever as Isaiah.

I thoroughly enjoyed this tongue-in-cheek action packed book intended for a young adult audience. Isaiah faces the crises of imprisonment /escape from a research laboratory, separation from his ninety-six brothers and sisters, chases from cat and bird predators, dangers of food foray expeditions, threat of traps and the challenges of transitioning to a life in suburbia. In a fast-paced, humorous style that somehow manages to be educational as well, Isaiah sets a good example for an honorable way of life in which fostering bravery and accepting diversity are desired and encouraged. Told in first person by the very creative and resourceful Isaiah himself, this is one book you should not pass up. Read it. The chapters are short. Read it to your kids if you need an excuse. But read it.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Ponder Post: Whirligig

Lesson learned:
One of the worst ways to select a book is by its title, at least that was my experience with the young adult book Whirligig.

My current quilting project, Whirligiggles, is the topic of my most recent quilt blog post. In idly googling the word "whirligig", I came across the book Whirligig by Paul Fleischman ©1998. What a coincidence! A brief research about the author told me he had won many awards – Newbery Medal in 1989 for Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, a Newbery Honor Award for Graven Images, the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction for Bull Run among others. He also hailed from my area of CaliforniaSo after checking that my local library did not carry a copy of it, I ordered Whirligig from Amazon. The book and shipping were free due to my build up of points from my Amazon credit card. I was overcharged.

The plot is that a teen boy depressed and driving drunk is trying to kill himself. He survives the car accident relatively unscathed but inadvertently kills a teenage girl in another car. One of his court assigned atonement tasks, requested by the girl's mother, is that he travel to the four widely separated states of Washington, California, Florida, and Maine to build and erect a whirligig in each in memory of the girl. Seeing a whirligig is to bring hope to four unrelated characters who view it when they are in need of encouragement.

Normally I avoid reading Amazon reviews on a book until I've written my own. I will skim the book description to see if I am interested in the plot and check out a little information on the author to pre-judge a book by its author rather than its cover. But, for the most part, I try to avoid having my opinion swayed by what others think. I made an exception for this book. I just finished it and I did not know what to think or what to write. I could not make heads nor tails about what I was to absorb from the book but the writing style was non-taxing and the book was short so I completed it, half-hoping but not really expecting to see some revealing redemption at the end. There was none. It read like the author had re-purposed several of his unrelated mood-setting or scene-setting assignments from a writing class. Why was its average Amazon rating four stars? In my opinion, any rating greater that 1 star is more indicative of an Emperor's New Clothes type response based on the author's reputation rather than an honest evaluation. Also, reflecting a personal bias... what a shame that such a depressing book sports such a misleadingly upbeat title!

Amazon had a one star review from a 12 year old in the seventh grade who reviewed this book far better than I ever could. I repeated it here verbatim. What is that saying "from out of the mouth of babes..."?

I am a 12-year old in seventh grade. My language arts teacher made me read this. Honestly, it is one of the worst books I have ever read, and I would give it a 2 on a scale of one to ten. It had no action from chapter two to the end. It also didn't have any suspense. The four people that experienced the whirligigs that Brent built were just in some random order. My favorite part of the book is the only chapter that that had any suspense or action. It is chapter one, where Brent is publicly humiliated in front of his friends and he tries to commit suicide and almost dies. Whirligig would have been a lot better if Brent had died in the crash and the story ended there. From chapter two to the end, it is very boring. It is basically repeating the same thing four times. Brent builds a whirligig in a city. Then comes a story about someone in the future who sees it. That pretty much repeats three more times within a different city for each chapter until the end. Also, I highly disliked the ending, too. Brent was on his way home and the book just ended. At least give an epilogue or something. Overall, I pretty much hated the book. Most people say that you can learn valuable lessons from it, but I think most people already know them. I will list them here so you don't have to go through the torture I did by having to read the book: Actions have consequences. It is very nice to always forgive those who do wrong. So in conclusion, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK!!!!!!! I hated it for those reasons, and I am giving this to you to help you. Goodbye.