Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On the Pretty Bookshelf, May '12 Edition

"On the Pretty Bookshelf" is my monthly book nerd series in which I babble on about my & Master P's respective favorite reads of the month; you can see more of what I'm currently reading, delightfully awful s-m-u-t du jour included, at Goodreads.


I mean, who doesn't want to read about teens with terminal cancer or fencing felines? Good times.


For the Teens Grown-Ups:

"The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green

via Goodreads
Sometimes, you read a book and it just fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. ("The Fault in Our Stars")

Exactly. That oh-so-meta description is exactly how I feel about this ambitious, unflinching, deeply funny, nerdily perfect, thought-provoking, and - uh - adjective-provoking novel.
Hazel Green is a 16-year-old living with a terminal thyroid cancer diagnosis, out of school and in near-constant medical treatment. She has survived beyond her initial diagnosis thanks to an experimental drug but is stuck in a limbo of ongoing treatments, having been taken out of school and most of what we'd call a "normal" teenage life.

And then there was Augustus. Oh, Augustus. Gorgeous & in cancer remission himself, he strolls into the support group Hazel begrudgingly attends and swiftly upends her life in the way only your first love can, with the urgency (I can only imagine) a cancer diagnosis brings.

Somehow this book skillfully tackles no less than life, death, terminal illness, the meaning of love, sex, friendship, and philosophy without ever once straying from believability or growing didactic. In the wrong hands, the humor woven throughout here could have been too glib for the subject matter, but Green masterfully walks that line. Here is an intelligent and entirely readable book - how often can you say that?

I've read reviews complaining about the dialogue of those two, how real teenagers don't use such fancy SAT words or talk about highbrow topics, let alone with such wit or eloquence. This is akin to complaining that the weather is too perfect, or your meal too delicious - in short, it is stupid. Hazel and Augustus are smart and funny - and wholly believable at that, just like any number of actual, real-life teenagers I've known. Let's not pander to our teens via dumbed down language, America.

*steps off soapbox* Ahem.

I don't know how you write a book about terminal childhood illness with such unflinching honesty, with such a total lack of sentimentality, yet one that doesn't gloss over the complexities of the situation. Ok, fine - I don't know how you write a book at all, but if I did, I sure as Hell would hope it turned out half as compelling as this one. It's a first love story at its core, but much more than that.

All living humans need to read this book. Bring your hankies while you're at it.

For the Nursery School Set:

"Skippyjon Jones" by Judy Schachner

via Goodreads

This is the most fun I've had reading (and re-reading, and re-reading - this is the wee CEO's current favorite) a book out loud in, well, ever.

Our hero, Skippyjon Jones, is a mischievous Siamese kitten and adventurer who finds himself in time out yet again. While sequestered in his room, he embarks upon a mysterioso adventure, involving sword-fighting, bravery, and . . . beans.

This book is musical with its language, and I mean that literally - you'll find yourself singing passages out loud while you read, clapping along and, at times, speaking in a gringo accent. If y'all want to come over and hear me read aloud in a Spanglish twang - bet you never envisioned that particular scenario - here's your chance; I'll make the margaritas.


What are you reading this month? Any recommendations for me or the toddler?


The Preppy Princess said...

You have me convinced, I am adding it to the "to read' shelf next time I log in at Goodreads!

Sending you a smile,

AEOT said...

Can't wait to try both! Thanks for the suggestions.

Have you read Master P The Napping House yet? It's SYT's current favorite.

Amy @ Forever 29 said...

Your book reviews always have me wishing I was more of a reader. I will be needing an non-s-m-u-t read for the cruise. Recs?

Emily said...

Thank you for your very kind comment on my Mother's Day weekend post!

I'm adding The Fault in Our Stars to my must read list immediately. I just can't bring myself to read the Twilight-esque fiction du jour which seems to be all the talk right now, so this will be a great diversion.

Mary said...

I love goodreads...and Skippyjon Jones. My reads are text books and blogs at this time. Summer will change that.

Anonymous said...

Do you know Maurice Sendak's What Do You Say, Dear? It's the rare book that delights at both the Master P level and the Smug Mummy level, and what better way to remember Sendak--*and* it teaches manners.

Also, if you haven't yet read Wolf Hall, you must. And if you have, the sequel is out...


Jess said...

The Fault in Our Starts is the best book I've read in a long time! Great review! It's hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time. I have never cried while reading, until this book.


Jen said...

yes; I'm looking forward to reading that book! I've heard other great things about it, and I read the first few pages on Amazon and I was hooked.

For Master P, I highly reccomend Mo Willems' Gerald and Piggie series. Start with, "We are in a book!" Also try, 'Don't let the Pigeon drive the bus..'by Mo Willems.
Finally, I also reccomend Peggy Rathaman's '10 minutes til Bedtime,' and 'Good night Gorilla.' I teach kindergarten and preschoolers and K's love these!!!

Nat said...

Thank you for this review- I need a new book and this one sounds like exactly what I'm looking for! Pulling out my kindle now

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