Saturday, October 4, 2014

2 (relatively) Short Reviews

This week I read 2 books in only 4 days.  That's fast for me.  HOWEVER, 1 is a collection of 64 essays that are supposed to be funny and clever and whimsical and poignant - I guess.  The book is called One More Thing, Stories and Other Stories.  The author is B.J. Novak, who was one of the cast members on The Office.  He was also a writer, director, and executive producer on the show.  You know, I'm not that into short stories and essays.  And some of these are only a line or 2 long.  So, we're just going to chalk it up to it not being my thing.  If I had to rate it, I would give it a 2/4.

P.S.  Right when I started reading it, but after Lauren left it for me before she returned to New York, I found out that B.J. will be coming to Rakestraw Books on October 10 and the JCC San Francisco on October 11.  Initially I was very excited to see him and was making plans to get to 1 of the events.  Now, I'm not so sure.

The 2nd book I read this week is a different story.  It's a middle grade book by JZ Bingham called Piranhas Like S'mores.  If you remember (and, really, how or why could/would you?), I reviewed JZ's Salty Splashes collection of Children's Illustrated Fiction (this is actually a genre) on April 16, 2013.  I really liked those, and I really like this. It's a fast read because it's for middle graders.  That doesn't mean that it isn't a good story with a good message and some very poignant moments.  But it doesn't overplay the sentimentality.

The book is about 2 cousins, a boy and a girl, who go to the same school and are in the same class.  The story is told by 11-year old Klyde (there's a story behind the spelling) and centers on him, his very smart 10-year old cousin, Bonney (it took me a 1/4 of the book to get the Bonny and Clyde reference - duh!), and their friend Seldon.  And it's mostly about an aquarium, piranhas, and a science fair.  But there is still stuff with parents and pets, along with a few mishaps.  I really like the way JZ hones in on the angst that middle graders go through (as best I can remember!) while still maintaining the child in them.

Another thing I enjoyed was the language.  There is tons of slang, such as "ginormous" and "sick" (which, here, is a good thing).  Klyde makes reference to "Madden football" and also says "...but I'll bet you ten Benjamins he did these drawings when he was younger than me (a reference to "this Picasso dude")."  He also compares a dessert to " angel's all-you-can-eat dessert buffet."  The author even throws in a detailed description of the filter system on an aquarium.  I like that she gives her middle grade readers something to learn.

And, finally, we come to my favorite part of any book - the part where I shed a few.  That happens twice in the final 10 pages.  I would have still liked it without the waterworks, but I so do love to emotionally connect with my characters - whether they're 31, 51, 81, or only 11.  Mission accomplished.  And you're going to love the final line in the book and the picture that accompanies the last page.  I can't give those details away, but you'll know what I mean when you see them.

The book is definitely geared for 8-12 year olds (the definition of middle-grade).  But even somebody who just went on Medicare (I'm not mentioning any names!) will enjoy it.


  1. Lloyd, you made me laugh out loud! "But even somebody who just went on Medicare (I'm not mentioning any names!) will enjoy it."

    Happy Sunday to you and Joni!

  2. Thanks, Beth. If it made you laugh, then it was well worth the entire posting!

  3. Good middle grade stories should appeal to everyone. After all it's this old guys who often read to the kids, right? I use ginormous, but I think I'll have to stop. It's becoming too popular in the MG category.

  4. I was just glad to recognize all of the slang. It made me feel a little less old!