Review: Ramona The Brave by Beverly Cleary

Ramona The Brave
by Beverly Cleary
Rating: *****
Read 8/2/2013
Poor Ramona. First grade is not the walk in the park she’d anticipated. Her new room, her all-by-herself-in-the-dark room is also not what she thought it would be. But Ramona faces down all the perils in this book with her usual √©lan and one goes away smiling. Love the narration. Love Picky-Picky, which I think may be my next kitten’s name.

Review: Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary

Ramona the Pest
by Beverly Cleary
Rating *****
Read 7/31/2013

Stockard Channing does a great job narrating this classic. Ramona is going to kindergarten, and that’s such a gigantic event it overshadows everything. Until she decides she’s never, ever going back. Ramona’s so real, so exactly herself that even when she’s at her most annoying she’s entirely believable. Some of the classic Ramona moments are in this book, including the dawnzer confusion (with which I identify entirely) and the drama of the lost tooth. Lovely rendition.

Review: Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

Beezus and Ramona
by Beverly Cleary
Rating *****
Read 7/31/2013

I love the book, so naturally I wanted to try the audio. Stockard Channing makes Ramona very annoying indeed, which is just right. Ramona is perfectly herself while at the same time she is everyone who was ever four years old. Her parents in this book are just right, alternating between fond annoyance and overt annoyance. Beezus suffers long but gives as good as she gets. Highly recommended.

Review: The Things A Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt

The Things A Brother Knows
by Dana Reinhardt
Rating ***
Read 7/29/2013

I really dug the STORY but I hated every minute of the first person, present tense. It nearly ruined the book for me, because it kept intruding into the narrative. I get why people think it contributes to the immediacy, the import, but oh, man do I hate hate hate it.

That being said, I did like the exploration of how a family member’s military service in wartime affects the family left behind, and how reintegrating into that family after one’s service is over can be problematic and fraught with all sorts of peril.

Review: The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman

The Making of a Chef
by Michael Ruhlman
Rating ***
Read 7/27/2013

Interesting though not riveting tale of a writer who goes to school at the CIA. I liked learning how Ruhlman made the transition in his head from “writer” to “cook” and I enjoyed the descriptions of the classes and the outsized personalities of the instructors. The narrator said ri-CO-tah instead of RI-CAH-teh, which bid fair to make me crazy every time. Yes, yes, I know it’s a perfectly acceptable alternate pronunciation. But it’s wrong to my ear.

Review: A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck

A Long Way From Chicago
by Richard Peck
Rating: *****
Read 7/19/2013

I insisted that my true love listen to this with me because I knew he would like it. He did, of course. I still think the sequel is better but this is some mighty fine tale-spinning, this is. The only disconnect was the narrator’s voice was pure Down East.

Review: Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick

Zen and the Art of Faking It
by Jordan Sonnenblick
Rating: ***
Read 7/19/2013

I thought this was a wise little book, and could be an interesting jumping off point for kids interested in Taoism. It’s heavy-handed in parts, and one sees the train wreck coming from the very beginning but it’s satisfying just the same. I liked San a lot, and was rooting for him the whole way through. Any book with a Zen basketball game is worth picking up.

The switch to present tense at the end (which seems to be a thing for MG/YA books lately) is annoying. I get it, but it’s intrusive and feels like the author not trusting the reader.

Review: The Late Bloomer’s Revolution: A Memoir by Amy Cohen

The Late Bloomer’s Revolution
by Amy Cohen
Rating: *
Read 7/16/2013

I have GOT to start looking for the keyword “anxiety” in memoir blurbs so I will stay away. This memoir didn’t work for me, I found the tone pretty… well, whiny for the most part, though the ending was pretty strong. I couldn’t find enough to relate to here to keep my interest level high. Not my kind of thing.

Review: A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck


A Day No Pigs Would Die
by Robert Newton Peck

Rating: *****
Read 5/7/2013

This spare and harrowing novel/memoir is every bit as brilliant as I remembered. Listening to it was harsh and clean and beautiful. This particular book makes most coming of age stories seem watered-down. Rob grows from boy to man in a big hurry, but he never questions the rightness of becoming a man like his papa. Haven Peck was a hard man, because he had to be. He was a loving father who never had to say words about that love.

For me, this book epitomizes stellar writing for young people. There’s nothing soft, there’s nothing pandering, there’s only what is and what must be, with a rock-solid base of love.

The audio was very well-done, and the narrator’s tone and accent were perfect. Highly recommended, indeed.

Review: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton


The Outsiders

by S.E. Hinton
Rating: *****
Read: 5/7/2013

I was thrilled to see this on my library’s list of new audiobooks, and I borrowed it immediately. I waited almost a whole day before I listened to it, wondering if I still knew most of it by heart. Yup.

The narrator is a little twangy, but that’s perfectly accurate to the locale of the book. Which I always conveniently ignored, mentally moving the setting to my own town, my own flat Midwestern singsong accent.

The thing that I am finding entirely fascinating about this book is how I move through time with it, how it changes for me. When I first read it, everyone was so much older than I was, so grown up. Then the characters were my age, more or less, and I knew them. They were just like my friends. Hell, they WERE my friends. That feeling stayed pretty consistent for many years. The last time I read it, my own son was roughly Ponyboy’s age, and there were parts that I felt uncomfortable with. I had some judgmental feelings about the kids smoking, for instance. And though I recognized how ridiculous those feelings actually were, I had them just the same. This time, my son’s as old as Darry, and I’m older by far than Two-Bit’s mother. This time, everyone in the book was so young, and I was maybe even more intimately involved with them than I’ve ever been.

This is among my favorites. Johnny Cade’s scared eyes have haunted me for 30-plus years, and I’m pretty sure this is where I learned the use of appending cakes to a name as a term of endearment, a shortcut I still use today. We won’t even mention Dally. Or the streetlight. Or how much I love him.

This time, I felt Darry’s part so keenly, and I watched the book unfold from his point of view. I spent some mental time with the parents in the courthouse.

I don’t love the book any less. In fact, I don’t think I could love it more. Though that’s just what I said last time, and I reproduce my 2007 review below.

Read: 10/01/2007
I read this book so many times that I wore out multiple copies. I did book reports on it in 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. I like to think I didn’t use the same one over and over again (but I probably did). I recently revisited this one, and found it complicated by the fact that I have an adolescent son. I kept switching viewpoints in my head and finding myself unwilling to believe that my son could be in the same places as Ponyboy.

It’s sorting itself out for me, in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I find that re-reading it has ultimately helped me to grasp the fact that Owen is a person in his own right, who has lots of decisions to make all by himself. With no input from me, thanks. And it’s easier to think of him that way now.

Which is to say that 30 years later, this book is not finished with me. Oh, and I no longer want to date Dallas Winston. Much.