Andy Update 5/31

31 05 2012

Andy’s mom had to take the car in to the shop yesterday.  Nothing major, it’s just an old car, so she wanted to get everything checked out before we went on our family vacation in July.  Usually, Andy (the 6 year old) would pick out out a movie to watch in the car, but now he’s really motivated to read.

So, instead of watching The Muppets for the 600th time (yes, it’s a great movie the first 599 times, but after that it gets old), he decided to bring two books to read.  After finishing both of them, he complained, “I should have brought more books.”

That’s the kind of complaining I can accept.

First he read Dino Racing, a Hot Wheels book about some cars that are in a race through a jungle filled with dinosaurs.  It doesn’t make much sense to me, especially why there’s a life sized, bright orange plastic racetrack zooming through the jungle… but, because it combines two of Andy’s favorite things (dinosaurs and race cars), it’s been one of his favorites for a long time.  If the sequel adds monster trucks and superheroes to the mix, it’ll be the perfect book for Andy.  

The second book he read was Spider-man 3: Spider-man versus Sandman.  See, I told you he likes superheroes.  This one tells part of the Spider-man 3 movie.  It’s a real simple version of the Sandman scenes, taking out all the parts of the movie that are about Venom or the Green Goblin.

I read somewhere once that comic books have a higher vocabulary than other books, and that superhero stories do a great job at promoting scientific knowledge.  If you think about how many superheroes and villains are scientists, I guess it makes sense – Spidey, Dr. Octopus, the Hulk, the Leader, Iron Man, Whiplash, and Mr. Fantastic just off the top of my head.  I bet there really is a lot of science to be learned from comics.

Finally, last night at bed time, Andy didn’t want me to read a story. Nate the Great and the Phony Clue.  He wanted to read to me.  He fell asleep in the middle of  a sentence, but finished the book this morning.  As soon as he was done, he asked if he could go to the library today to get more Nate the Great books.  With all this rain, I’m sure his baseball game will be cancelled tonight, so I bet we’ll be headed to the local library.  I know there are a few more Nate the Great books, but Andy will be looking for the one where Nate gets superpowers, drives a monster truck, and fights a dinosaur.

That’s 10 books for Andy so far this summer.  He’s shooting for 90 books in 90 days.  Can you beat him?

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I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today! and other stories

31 05 2012

Way back in 1969 when Dr. Seuss wrote this book, “lick” was a term that meant beat-up, like in a fight.  You might be watching a boxing match and say, “I think Joe Frazier is going to lick Muhammad Ali.”  That meant you thought Frazier would win the fight.  Now a days, if you said that one boxer would lick another, you’d have a very disturbing fight on your hands.

I don’t think any one would watch that on Pay-Per-View.

It’s weird how words change and grow over time.

Anyhow, I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today! is not about swiping your tongue across a streak of tigers (yup, a streak of tigers is the term you use for a group – just like a flock of geese, a pride of lions or a murder of crows – collective nouns are weird too).  It’s about a young boy, who looks a lot like a 7 year old Cat in the Hat, who decides that he can beat-up 30 tigers.

He brags about his ability to beat the whole ambush (that’s another collective noun for a group of tigers), until the tigers all show up, then, one by one, he starts back tracking – saying, maybe it’s better if he only fights 29, 28, 25…  Of course, this is all done in Dr. Seuss’ silly, rhythmic style.

The second story in the book – King Looie Katz – is about a king who doesn’t want his tail to ever touch the ground, so he hires a servant to carry it around behind him.  The servant gets jealous and wants someone to carry his tail too.  Then the servant’s servant wants a servant, and pretty soon the whole town is walking around in a giant parade of tail carriers.

Finally, there’s my favorite story in the book – The Glunk That Got Thunk.  This one’s about a little girl, who also looks like a younger version of the Cat in the Hat, who uses her imagination to create fun friends and situations.  One time, however, she goes to far and thinks up a Glunk, an obnoxious and rude creature who wreaks havoc on the girl’s life.

It’s a good collection, but really, how many bad books did Dr. Seuss write?  These are just like his others – they’re fun, funny, and great to read aloud.  Each of the stories also has a hidden message, just like so many of Dr. Seuss’ stories.

This book was #7 in my attempt to read 90 books in 90 days this summer vacation.  So far I’m right on track, 7 books in 7 days.  Follow me here if you want to see if I can make it.





Darth Paper Strikes Back

31 05 2012

Earlier this year, I read The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda and I loved it.  It’s a quirky, funny book about a kid a McQuarrie Middle School who isn’t quite right in the head (or so it seems).  Dwight shows up to school with an origami Yoda on his finger, and this little paper Jedi dispenses bits of wisdom that magically help all the kids at the school.

The book is actually a series of entries in a “case file” written by Tommy, another student at the school.  Tommy’s trying to figure out if the Yoda is just Dwight doing a silly voice of if the Force is actually strong in this one.  The case file includes hilarious illustrations by Tommy’s friend Kellen, and commentary from Harvey, the one student who remains skeptical about Yoda’s powers.

Darth Paper Strikes Back is the sequel.  Now, it’s not just Yoda helping the students of McQuarrie anymore.  Darth Paper, Harvey’s evil answer to “Paperwad Yoda” is doing anything he can to turn the school to the dark side and bring down Origami Yoda and Dwight.

Harvey and his evil folded paper manage to get Dwight suspended, maybe even expelled from school.  Now it’s up to Tommy and Kellen and the other kids of McQuarrie to save Dwight and Yoda.  This time, however, they have to manage to do it without Yoda’s advice.

The added bonus in this book is instructions on how to make a simple Origami Yoda and a complicated Darth Paper (the complicated Yoda directions were in the first book) and rules for a fun little Star Wars related game that will be sure to kill a lot of time in study halls after kids read this book.

I loved these books.  They’re clever, loaded with fun references to the Star Wars movies, and the illustrations and commentary make them totally unique.  I can’t wait for the third book to show up soon.





Babe Ruth Saves Baseball

29 05 2012

Babe Ruth Saves Baseball! isn’t really a biography of the Bambino, instead it’s the story of the impact The Babe had on the game in the early 1920s.  

The book is loaded with fun, colorful illustrations help tell the story of how Babe Ruth became the greatest homerun hitter in baseball, and how, after the 1919 Black Sox scandel, his larger than life personality and towering homers kept people interested in the game.

The book is historically accurate, and gives some great insight into what made the Babe tick, why his switched from pitching to hitting, why Yankee Stadium was called “The House the Ruth Built,” and just how popular the Yankee slugger was all around the country.

This one was my 5th book of the summer as I shoot for reading 90 books in 90 days over break.  Keep following along here as I shoot for my goal.





Hot Rod Hamster

27 05 2012

What can I say about Hot Rod Hamster?  It’s about a hamster who, with the help of some rats and dogs, builds a hot rod.  Its a fun little story that caught my eye at the library because of the bright, clean illustrations and the author’s name.  Cynthia Lord is more famous for having written the award winning young adult novel Rules.  This one is nothing like Rules, but it’s good all the same.

The fun part was as the hamster builds his race car, he keeps asking the reader’s opinion on which tires to pick, which engine to build, and which body design looks the best.  That was a lot of fun for my 3 year old son, Josh, but he got mad when the hamster didn’t pick the same things as he did.

Definitely worth reading if you’ve got a toddler to take care of.  They’ll really enjoy it.

This was book #4 in my quest to read 90 books in 90 days this summer.





One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

27 05 2012

Ivan Denisovich is a Russian soldier during WWII.  He’s captured by the German army, but manages to escape.  Unwilling to believe that he could have possibly gotten away from the Germans, the Russian army assumes he must be working with the Nazis as a spy.  They put him in a Siberian prison, sentenced to ten years of hard labor when he didn’t even do anything wrong.

The short novel was written by Aleksandr Solzhenistsyn after he spent almost ten years in a  Russian prison camp.  It was written in the early 1950s and was one of the first pieces of literature that the Communist government allowed to be published that spoke ill of the regime of Josef Stalin.   Ivan Denisovich opened the world’s eyes to the cruel treatment and harsh conditions Russian prisoners dealt with, earning its author a Nobel Prize for Literature.

The story follows one day in the life of prisoner Ivan Denisovich Shukhov from wake up call, through meal times, and a day of manual labor in the freezing Siberian winter.  The story is told from Shukhov’s perspective, giving us his take on how to survive both physically and psychologically in the torturous camp – how to deal with other prisoners, guards, lack of food, and the work.   Ivan becomes a very sympathetic character who shows us just what it takes to get by.





Andy’s 90 Book Progress

27 05 2012

Today my big guy, Andy, who just finished kindergarten this week, tackled a few books.  He heard me telling my wife about my goal of reading 90 books in 90 days this summer, so he wanted to play along.

The first book he read today was a chapter book – the first one he’s ever finished all the way through – called The Magic Tree House #6: Afternoon on the Amazon.  He says he really liked the bugs in the book, but his favorite part was the monkey that helps the two heroes – Jack and Annie.  He said the ending was a little sad, because the kids had to say good by to their mouse friend, Peanut.

He has 5 or 6 more Magic Tree House books on his shelf, so I bet he gets into those soon.  I’m betting the one about ninjas will be pulled out before the weekend is over.

Later in the day, he read Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss.  I bet I’ve read this one to him 30 times, and we always have fun trying to do the tongue twisters faster and faster.  His little brothers always laugh when we mess up and start giggling about it, so I think Andy did that on purpose a few times.

So far this summer he’s already read 3 books, so I don’t think 90 will be a problem for him.  On the plus side, I haven’t said a word to the kids yet, but our TVs been off the last two days.  With so many good books, I don’t think anyone’s even missed it.

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