Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Trumpet of the Swan - E.B. White

I feel like there is never enough time to read alone before bed with my 4.5-year-old (we often can do this only after reading a few shorter books with his younger sisters) - so it takes us awhile to get through chapter books, but we really enjoyed Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White.  I'd never read this one as a kid, so it was fun to discover a new well-known story together.  Trumpet of the Swan tells the story of trumpeter swan, Louis, who is born unable to make any sound.  Concerned that he will never be able to woo his potential mate, Louis's father breaks into a music store and steals a trumpet for him.  With the sometimes help of his human bird-loving friend, Sam Beaver, Louis masters his trumpet and also learns to write.  I got a lot of "can a swan really do that?" questions during our readings - which were legitimate since the books is otherwise incredibly realistic in its descriptions of nature and animals.  This is a beautiful book for reading aloud, with some wonderful descriptive passages about observing animals and the changing seasons.  Often, I thought maybe Ben wasn't taking it all in, but he would check-in once in awhile and ask about a word, or tell me that he liked the way something was said, so I think he was getting into the rhythm of the book.  We have White's Stuart Little on the shelf which is much shorter, so we may turn to that next...or I may give Ben a break from my choice and let him enjoy a few superhero stories before we turn back to the "good stuff."

Friday, October 2, 2015

Sometimes you just have to laugh...

Every day life can be quite stressful - given my work and current events, it's easy to get bogged down in the negative.  When I have free time and want to unwind, I find that I tend toward the mindless - sitcoms on TV, comedies for movies...and whenever a well-known comedian comes out with a book, I try my best to put it on the list.  Here are a few of the ones I've read in relatively recent past:

No matter how bad her books get, I just can't quit Chelsea Handler.  Her most recent, Uganda Be Kidding Me, focuses on her travels around the world with her closest friends.  This book is horrible.  In chapter after chapter Chelsea gets drunk, is rude to her friends, makes some international faux pas, and then gets drunk again.  I didn't find much of it funny (and I do find her generally pretty funny) and feel like it's one of those situations where she really just thinks talking about how wasted she was is all she needs to get a laugh.  This was incredibly disappointing.  That being said, yes, I will read her next book when it comes out.

I love Amy Poehler.  I thought she was fabulous on SNL's Weekend Update, and after an iffy first-season, I became a true fan of Parks and Rec.  She seems like the kind of person I'd want to be friends with in real life, so I was eager to read her book, Yes Please.  Overall, I liked this book, but I wouldn't necessarily call if "funny."  I more appreciated her frank discussion of what it was like to be a working mom - the stress it put on her marriage (which ultimately ended in a divorce) and her emphasis on the help she receives from her nannies.  She is straight-forward and real, and to the extent there is humor, it kind of comes from a just a general shared vision of the world around us.  For people who are already fans, I would recommend this, but I don't see this winning over any new fans.

I'm not sure if this book is supposed to be funny.  Does Lena Dunham put herself out there as funny?  Or is it just that she is totally "real" about her generation in a way that just seems completely ridiculous so I feel like it's supposed to be funny?  I am not a fan of Lena Dunham's work.  I find Girls to be completely baffling, and do not (thankfully) know a single woman who behaves or speaks in the way the female characters on her show do.  That being said, Dunham has clearly gained incredible success in an industry in which she is not the typically successful (looking?) person.  And so I read Not That Kind of Girl in an attempt to gain better insight into this strange world in which she lives.  I thought this book was actually well-written - but it certainly did not endear me to Dunham.  She came across as a privileged spoiled-brat who created drama around her because her life was otherwise too boring.  I know there has been much made of the strange relationship she seems to have with her sister (including accusations of molestation), and I admit I was a bit taken aback by it all and wondered if she was exaggerating for some sort of perverse effect.  Whatever the case, it didn't really work for me.  I think Dunham is a bit clueless in many respects, but she is making it work in a world that doesn't think she has any right doing so - and that in and of itself is pretty impressive.