Great Book, Bad Marketing

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I found the White Magic Five and DIme while browsing through eBooks. From the cover art and the description, this one looked like a nice new-age themed chic-lit novel.

It’s not.

It’s nothing at all like that.

Just to be clear: I really enjoyed this book.

Unfortunately, this novel suffers from extraordinarily poor marketing, beginning with the description:

Much to Alanis McLachlan’s surprise, her estranged con-woman mother has left her an inheritance: The White Magic Five & Dime, a shop in tiny Berdache, Arizona. Reluctantly traveling to Berdache to claim her new property, Alanis decides to stay and pick up her mother’s tarot business in an attempt to find out how she died.

With help from a hunky cop and her mother’s live-in teenage apprentice, Alanis begins faking her way through tarot readings in order to win the confidence of her mother’s clients.  But the more she uses the tarot deck, the more Alanis begins to find real meaning in the cards … and the secrets surrounding her mother’s demise.

This sounds like standard chic-lit with a bit of a low-key family mystery thrown in for dramatic effect. In reality, the book is about Alanis, a woman who survived a harrowing childhood at the hands of hardened criminals. She manages to escape by conning her con-artist mother but can’t shake the law of the street. Well into adulthood, Alanis is convinced she owes her mother a heavy debt. When a lawyer locates Alanis to pass along the news that mom has not only been murdered but left behind an inheritance in her name, she decides it’s time to pay back her debt by finding the killer and exacting revenge street-style. Alanis does this knowing that there is a very strong possibility that her mother is using the inheritance to set-up her estranged daughter for some hardcore revenge post-mortem.

The fact that Alanis has been living in secret, under an assumed name, with her every move entirely focused on not being found by her mother, makes the letter-from-the lawyer even more interesting.

That’s where this book begins.

It’s a murder mystery set in a small town with a woman cast as the primary hard-hitting tough-as-nails mystery-solving hero. The new-age magic and tarot cards are merely part of the story because…and only because…that was the narcissistic mother’s last con-game.

This book reminded me of the  V I Warshawski books by Sara Paretsky. I’ve posted quotes from both Hockensmith and Paretsky to this blog – go ahead and compare the two!

I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it, but ignore the marketing material – here is a more accurate description:

The White Magic Five & Dime is hard-hitting murder mystery featuring tough people with difficult lives. There’s abuse, neglect, and extremely non-motherly actions; but there is also a solved mystery, adventure and….ultimately…a daughter who manages to put the ghost of her mother to rest.

Pre-Television Kids Lit

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This book was published in 1928. The length of the story, the style of the artwork and the plot make an interesting contrast to children’s books published more recently.I found myself wondering how pre-television children reacted to the stories they were told. The portrayal of cats and feline behavior is also interesting. Well worth a look.

I’ve seen hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats – and not one was as pretty as this one.

Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag

The Tears After The Storm

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This book is a parable about Rhino, who survives a terrible storm that destroys his home and everything dear to him. Rhino swallows the storm down and must learn to deal with the feelings, and tears, in the aftermath. It’s a good story for all children, but will be particularly helpful to those going through a particularly difficult time.

Quote:

He understood now it was love that mattered. Love could never be lost. Love could never be shattered.

The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, written by LeVar Burton and Susan Schaefer Bernardo, illustrated by Courtenay Fletcher

Taking A Child To Work

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This book is a lot of fun but I would strongly recommend reviewing it before reading it to a child – particularly if you are planning to take that child to work.

I honestly found myself wondering if this book was for children or parents because there are many worst-case-scenarios illustrated, but it all works out in the end.

Quotes:

“Another nice adult might try to show you how to use the hole punch and the paper shredder: They probably don’t know you’re already a confetti-making expert!”

“Even bosses get nervous before show-and-tell, so let him know you can help. And this time, don’t take no for an answer…When the boss gives his presentation, sit in the back and give him a thumbs-up. And when he’s done, clap really loudly, It’s good to set a positive example.”

Take Your Mama To Work Day, written by Amy Reichert and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

April 28th is Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day!

Giggle Book Award: Santa’s Magic Train

dThe Polar Express has become something of a Christmas classic. Yet, around my house, this book is request, frequently, year-round. It’s 90+ degrees outside, we’ve spent the day at the beach or playing in the sprinkler, and the bedtime story request consists of a mid-winter trip on a magical train to visit Santa.

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As the adult, I don’t understand it. I’m sure I made similarly perplexing requests as a child, even though I do not recall doing so. Yet, holiday season or no, the effect is the same – starry eyed children caught up in the fairy tale world of Santa and his elves. Who am I to judge?

Therefore, on the strength of year-round appeal, I am awarding this month’s Giggle Book Award to The Polar Express.

Quote:

“I knew I could have any gift I could imagine. But the thing I wanted most for Christmas was not inside Santa’s giant bag. What I wanted more than anything was one silver bell from Santa’s sleigh. When I asked, Santa smiled. Then he gave me a hug and told an elf to cut a bell from the reindeer’s harness. The elf tossed it up to Santa. He stood, holding the bell high above him, and called out, “The first gift of Christmas!””

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Johnny Is Hungry

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I am not a teacher or an expert in Native American culture (or language or history or…), but when I read this book it occurred to me that this might be a particularly useful story for Native American Heritage Month. The reason is that the story is about an Ojibwe boy who arrives at a community event feeling very hungry. Ojibwe traditions require allowing the elders to eat first, so Johnny (who loves to eat), must learn to sit patiently and wait his turn.

It’s a very simple story about a cultural tradition that kids can readily understand. It’s also the kind of thing that exists in many cultures, in one form or another, so it’s an easy thing to talk about.

Again, I’m not an expert, and I most certainly could be wrong about all of this, but those are my thoughts. Take them for what you will.

Quote:

“He looked at all the people still waiting to eat and started to count them. “One, two, three…” Grandma tapped Johnny’s knee. “It’s Time to eat.””

Hungry Johnny, written by Cheryl Minnema and illustrated by Wesley Ballinger

Bullying Ravens and Silver Wings

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This book is about a big Raven who bully’s a little raven and how they (eventually) become friends. It’s beautifully illustrated and presents an excellent (and often overlooked) perspective – the remorsefully bully. However, it provides very little in the way of useful or positive advice for those being bullied. Highly recommended as a conversation starter, particularly if used in conjunction with books geared toward providing practical advice to victims of bullying.

“I fell asleep, but in my dream I saw him flying still higher, the beating of his little heart thundering in my ears. When he was close to the moon, a harsh blinding light lit up the sky. It took me a moment before I could see clearly but then I saw him. He was gliding high above, his wings glittering silvery and as bright as the moon itself.”

The Little Moon Raven by Marcus Pfister

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

Giggle Book Award: Worm Puppets

dGiggly Wiggly Worms is written for very young children (age 3 and up). It has simple rhyming phrases and five finger puppets. It tells the story of five worms living in a compost bed. They are an amazing collection of worms living rather exciting lives and sporting a rainbow of bright colors, so it isn’t exactly compost realism.

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I picked this book up at a second-hand store. It was well used, with a binding that had seen better days, but the rest of the book was (and still is) in very good condition, so I thought ‘what the heck.’ It was something different and puppets are always fun.

As it turns out, this book has been regularly and repeatedly requested over the handful of years that I have owned it, which is why I am awarding this month’s Giggle Book Award to the five little composting worms in Giggly Wiggly Worms.

Quote:

“Purple worm slimes on moldy cheese. Purple worm yells out yip-yippees! He wriggles and giggles, and tickles your knees.”

Giggly Wiggly Worms by Neecy Twinem

Ninjas Must Obey Rules

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This story shows, by way of illustrations, a child breaking many rules because he sees himself as a ninja. He is punished by both school and parents but the story implies that he continues to identify (and act) as a Ninja in secret.

If you have a ninja-wannabe in the house, it may be prudent to review this book before reading it to your budding superhero.

Quote:

“Don’t forget, a ninja must learn to pretend that he is not really a ninja…even when he is.”

Ninja Boy Goes to School, written by N.D. Wilson and illustrated by J.J. Harrison

Giggle Book Award: Red Riding Hood Deconstructed

dThe August 2015 Giggle Book Award!

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I’ve read this book many times to the kids in my life and listened to them quote the book back to me at random moments throughout the day. I honestly don’t know if they are remembering the book or the funny voices I make while reading it.

If you enjoy reading children’s books as though they were theatrical performances (yes, I do this), then this book is made just for you! In fact, this is a perfect candidate for a reader’s theater performance – if you are a theater student looking for Reader’s Theater (AKA: Chamber Theatre or Interpretive Theatre) material…you’re welcome.

Quotes:

“So let’s see if I have this right. The Red hood is on her way to help an old lady when she meets the Wolfman. He has an evil plan. He likes to dress up in girl’s clothes and eat people. He and Red have a big battle, and Red’s father puts an end to Wolfie.

Well…Sort of…

It’s not a very nice story, is it?”

The Cat, The Dog, Little Red, The Exploding Eggs, the Wolf and Grandma by Diane and Christyan Fox