The Tao of Pooh

taoofpoohby Benjamin Hoff
First sentence: “‘What’s this you’re writing?’ asked Pooh, climbing onto the writing table.”
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Content: It’s a primer on philosophy and the Tao Te Ching. If that sounds interesting, then it’s probably your speed. It’s in the Religion/Philosophy section of the bookstore.

Of COURSE one follows up Winnie-the-Pooh with The Tao of Pooh, right?

Right.

I’d read this once, a long time ago (probably after I was first married because the copy we have is Hubby’s), and honestly didn’t remember it much at all.

It’s an interesting hybrid of imitating the Pooh stories, an analysis of the stories and a comparison to the Tao Te Ching. I enjoyed the comparisons of Pooh to the principles of Tao, because it helped explain these admittedly foreign (at least to me) principles in a way I could understand. It reinforced the idea that meditation — the act of actively doing nothing — and being present in the moment are Good Things. And it reinforced the idea that not getting caught up in Ideas and letting your brain run away with itself is not healthy.

The only downside is that while Pooh (and sometimes Piglet) gets all the Praise, he kind of knocks Eeyore, Rabbit, and Owl, and I do have a soft spot for them. So it was kind of sad to see that, at least in the Way, they’re less valued.

Even so, it was a good reminder of helpful practices and good ideas that I needed.

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Reader, I Married Him

readerimarriedhimEdited by Tracy Chevalier
First sentence: “Why is ‘Reader, I married him” one of the most famous lines in literature?”
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Content: Some of the stories are sweary, including a dozen or so f-bombs spread out over several stories. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

First, a confession: while I’ve read Jane Eyre, I don’t love it. I’m not a huge Bronte fan, though I recognize the literary merit of their books. So, I really didn’t know what to expect from a short story collection that was built around one of the pivotal moments in Jane Eyre.

And, for the most part, I enjoyed this. I liked the ones that spun off completely from the idea of Jane Eyre, except for “The Mirror” which played with the idea that Mr. Rochester was a narcissist, an idea to which I can definitely ascribe. I also liked the parallels to the original in ” The Orphan Exchange.”

Other than that, I liked the ones that played with historical fiction — like “Since I First Saw Your Face” and “Reader, I Married Him.”  Though I think my favorite was “Self-Seeding Sycamore. ” I liked the play between the characters in the story; I think it was the only one where I felt there was actually chemistry between the characters.

So, while this was not a collection I would have picked up on my own (it was a book group book), I did enjoy it.

 

Heartless

heartlessby Marissa Meyer
First sentence: “Three luscious lemon tarts glistened up at Catherine.”
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Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There’s some kissing. And it’s length might turn some readers off. It’ll be in the YA (grades 6-8) section of the bookstore.

All Cath wants to do is bake amazing sweets. It’s something she’s good at, it’s something she enjoys, it’s what makes her happy. She has dreams of opening up a bakery, of selling her goods to everyone in the Kingdom of Hearts. But she’s the daughter of the Marquis of Rock Turtle Cove, and her business partner is her maid, and she’s attracted the attention of the King, and, well, it just isn’t Done.

And then she meets Jest. Dark, brooding, handsome, and the court joker. Not someone she should be paying attention to. And yet, she’s attracted to everything about him. His sense of whimsy, his magic. It’s all… impossible.

And because this is Wonderland, fate has something else entirely in mind for Cath.

This book is to Alice in Wonderland as Wicked is to The Wizard of Oz. Its the backstory of not only the Queen of Hearts, but many of the characters in Alice. In fact, the better you know Alice in Wonderland, the more fun Heartless is. It’s clever the way Meyer weaves in the original story (and Through the Looking Glass as well!) and gives us a wholly new story as well. I liked Cath as a character, I liked that she had a dream and a plan to have a happy life. And yet, she wants to please those people she cares about. And she gets put into an increasingly tight situation. Which leads to heartbreak and some less than ideal choices.

I found it fascinating. I enjoyed the way Meyer played with the original. I liked the chemistry between Cath and Jest. Where it kind of fell apart was the dark ending. It had to be that way — it’s the backstory about the Queen of Hearts, after all — but it kind of came out of left field for me. That said, it wasn’t enough to completely throw my enjoyment of the book. It was a good story, complete, and one that is definitely is worth spending time on.

 

Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure

missypigglewiggleby Ann M. Martin
First sentence: “The most wonderful thing about the town of Little Spring Valley was not its magic shop, and not the fact that one day a hot-air balloon had appeared as if from nowhere and no one ever knew where it had come from, and not even the fact that the children could play outside and run all up and down the streets willy-nilly without their parents hovering over them.”
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Review copy snagged off the ARC piles at my place of employment.
Content: There’s nothing to cause concern. Lots of illustrations, short chapters (they’re kind of like connected short stories). It’d made a great read-aloud as well. It’s in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

I never read the Mrs Piggle-Wiggle books, but I did have a couple of girls who were into them. C, if I remember right, especially loved them. So, while I was familiar with the whole concept, I hadn’t actually read them before.

In this one, Mrs Piggle-Wiggle is off to find her husband (she had a husband?) who was called away “some years ago” by pirates. Not wanting to leave the children of Little Spring Valley without some sort of positive influence (because heaven knows they need it!), she writes to her niece, Missy, to come and stay at the upside-down house and help guide these wayward children to a much happier life.

(I shouldn’t let sarcasm seep through. The Piggle-Wiggles would disapprove.)

The chapters, after the introduction, go basically like this: there is a child who has a “problem” that needs to be fixed. The parents, at their wits’ end, go to Missy who gives the kid some sort of magical solution, which exacerbates the problem, which, in turn, solves it. As an adult, I found it super didactic, but that’s just me. I’m sure that there are tons of kids who would find the solutions hilarious (I think they were meant to be…) and maybe even a few who could learn from it. (I, personally, got tired of the perfect LaCarte kids and wanted there to be something wrong with them.)

It wasn’t a bad book. Just maybe not one for grown-ups.

Lilliput

lilliputby Sam Gayton
First sentence: “All down the pebble path to the beach, Lily sulked about her iron shoes.”
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Content: There’s some abuse and danger, and there are some larger words, but for the most part, this one is suitable for grades 3 and up. It’s in the Middle Grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

Lily is a young child in the land of Lilliput when this big giant, Gulliver, comes and snatches her away. He takes her back to London to serve as “proof”. It seems, his stories of his travels have been dismissed as fake and so for the sake of his pride, he kidnapped Lily. He has her in a cage while he finishes his book. Lily, however, just wants to be free. Her life span is a lot shorter than Gulliver’s, and she’s spent half of her life in this cage. She needs to be free.

So, she keeps trying to escape. And eventually, she finds some humans who are willing to help her.

It’s an interesting take on Gulliver’s travels, and I enjoyed having it from the point of view of Lily. There’s some nice subtle commentary on the ethics of taking people from their homeland as well as the conditions which children often found themselves in, both in orphanages as well as in apprenticeships. It was a nice change to have the Spanish character be the “good” guy (in addition to him being the stay-home dad while his wife traveled the world).

But, while it all added up to something nice, it wasn’t overwhelmingly compelling, in my view. And that’s too bad.

(Just for the record: because this is a Cybils nominee, I’ve been asked to make sure y’all know this is my opinion only, and not that of the panel.)