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REVIEW: Who Could That Be at This Hour?

Author: Lemony Snicket

2012, Little, Brown

Filed under: Mystery, Children’s

Find it at Goodreads

C4 Ratings...out of 10
Language..... 9
Entertainment..... 8
Depth..... 7

The only book I’d previously read by Lemony Snicket (real name: Daniel Handler) is his adult novel Adverbs, which was surprisingly good. Though I quite liked the Lemony Snicket movie, I never got around to trying the Snicket books.

So when Handler/Snicket released the first of a new series, I jumped in. Who Could That Be at This Hour? is the first in the four-part All the Wrong Questions series, which delves into the childhood of the fictional author Snicket, and his apprenticeship to a mysterious organization of freelance detectives/fixers.

After reading the first half of this book, with its noir sensibility and tidy plot, I chose it as one of my best books of 2012. But after finishing it, I have to downgrade it a level because it doesn’t solve its own mystery. The four-part series, it seems, will cover a single mystery broken into four parts, which is quite irritating. 
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REVIEW: The Tiger Rising

Author: Kate DiCamillo

2006, Candlewick Press

Filed Under: Children’s, Young Adult

Find it on Goodreads

C4 Ratings...out of 10
Language..... 8
Entertainment..... 6
Depth..... 9

Rob is a young boy whose mother died of cancer, and whose dad is down on his luck. They live in a motel in backwoods Florida where Rob’s dad works as a janitor for a pittance. When playing out in the woods, Rob finds a mysterious caged tiger. DiCamillo sets this all up with a beaut of an opening paragraph:

That morning, after he discovered the tiger, Rob went and stood under the Kentucky Star Motel sign and waited for the school bus just like it was any other day. The Kentucky Star sign was composed of a yellow neon star that rose and fell over a piece of blue neon in the shape of the state of Kentucky. Rob liked the sign; he harbored a dim but a abiding notion that it would bring him good luck.

The writing is strong, though not overly complex. “Abiding” may be the biggest word in the book, which is targeted for readers on the younger side of young adult. It’s not a kiddy book by any means however. Tiger Rising deals with some pretty heavy themes: death, mourning, race and class, bullying, infidelity–as well as maturity, loyalty, and foregiveness.
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REVIEW: Tess’s Tree

Author: Jess M. Brallier, with illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds

Harper Collins, 2009

Filed Under: Children’s

C4 Ratings.....out of 10
Language..... 4
Entertainment..... 5
Depth..... 8
Art.... 8

When I saw Tess’s Tree on display at The Blue Bunny, the local independent bookstore in Dedham, I grew excited. Here, I thought, was an opportunity to satisfy my interests on many different levels. A relative newcomer to Dedham, I’ve been making an effort to read books by local authors. I started with Peter Reynolds, an author, illustrator, and bookstore owner. The first book of his I purchased was The Dot. This was a wonderful story that my entire family enjoyed, and a book that I have since purchased to give as a gift. The illustrations were lovely, the character was both feisty and adorable, and the themes of the genesis of the artist and overcoming the fear of trying new things were compelling and well executed.

I purchased  Tess’s Tree in the hopes of not just another great reading experience for me and my children, but one that would hold a special place on their bookshelf. I would be supporting the work of a local bookstore, a local artist, and I could do my best to advocate for it with a lovingly and spectacular review.  My enthusiasm was doubly buoyed because I recognized the name of the author, Jess Braillier. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I worked with Jess, but I knew Jess from the days when our former employers shared an office space. Jess was the publisher of Planet Dexter, and among other books, he brought us the New York Times Bestselling title Grossology, by Sylvia Branzei, another book I consider special.

So I walked into The Blue Bunny and bought a signed copy of Tess’s Tree and everything was set for a great night. I removed the dust jacket delicately just before settling down into my glider and then plopped my daughter down on my lap and planned to be amazed.

My expectations were set too high. Tess’s Tree is a solid, well-illustrated book with an original story line and a wonderful message. However, I felt somewhat disappointed. Though I couldn’t quite figure out why.
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REVIEW: Mouse Guard Fall 1152 & Winter 1152

Author: David Petersen

2008/2009 Archaia Studios Press

Filed Under Graphic Novels, Fantasy

C4 Ratings.....out of 10
Language..... 6
Entertainment..... 7
Depth..... 4
Art Style..... 8

I used to love Brian Jaques’s Redwall series when I was younger (and I’d probably still love it if I went back now to read it, which I now may), so when I saw the cover of Mouse Guard Winter 1152 depicting the cloaked and armed mice trudging determinedly through the snow, I couldn’t help but get it. This review is actually of two books, Winter and Fall, both quite short.
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Read This Book Now, Part 7: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass

Drop everything and read these books by Lewis Caroll nowSee other entries in this series here.

We all know the story. But if you have not read the book, do so. If it is not too late, don’t spend $23 to see a computerized smile come flying at you in 3D and Johnny Depp in yet another role where you cannot help think pedophile. Instead, pick up a used copy of the book on Amazon for a penny (actual price) and go to the park and read it. Better yet, patronize your local library…and hope you don’t encounter that pedophilic character after all.

The story we know as Alice in Wonderland is actually an amalgamation of the two books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I originally considered writing about just one of the two, but each are not much more than 100 pages and the font is bigger then I’m sure the numbers on the phone the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” lady couldn’t reach, so I’m cool with treating them as one.
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