The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Title:  The Glass Castle

Author:  Jeannette Walls

Hardback:  288 pages

ISBN:  9780743247535

Dad came home in the middle of the night a few months later and roused all of us from bed.

“Time to pull up stakes and leave this shit-hole behind,” he hollered.

We had fifteen minutes to gather whatever we needed and pile into the car.

…An hour passed before we finally tied Mom’s paintings on the top of the car, shoved whatever would fit into the trunk, and piled the overflow on the backseat and the car floor.  Dad steered the Blue Goose through the dark, driving slowly so as not to alert anyone in the trailer park that we were, as Dad like to put it, doing the skedaddle.  He was grumbling that he couldn’t understand why the hell it took so long to grab what we needed and haul our asses into the car.

“Dad!” I said.  “I forgot Tinkerbell!”

“Tinkerbell can make it on her own,” Dad said.  “She’s like my brave little girl.  You are brave and ready for adventure, right?”

“I guess,” I said.  I hoped whoever found Tinkerbell would love her despite her melted face.  For comfort, I tried to cradle Quixote, our gray and white cat who was missing an ear, but he growled and scratched at my face.  “Quiet, Quixote!”  I said.

“Cats don’t like to travel,” Mom explained.

Anyone who didn’t like to travel wasn’t invited on our adventure, Dad said.  He stopped the car, grabbed Quixote by the scruff of the neck and tossed him out the window.  Quixote landed with a screeching meow and a thud, Dad accelerated up the road, and I burst into tears.

“Don’t be so sentimental,” Mom said.  She told me we could always get another cat, and now Quixote was going to be  a wild cat, which was much more fun than being a house cat.  Brian, afraid Dad might toss Juju out the window as well, held the dog tight.

-The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, pages 17-18

This incident haunted my mind throughout the whole book.  I couldn’t help think, “If they could just toss the cat out without a thought, telling me we could just get another, who’s to say they wouldn’t do that to me, as well?”  Later in the book when Jeannette takes a tumble out of the moving car, the same thought occurred to her as she watches the family disappear down the road.  “What if they decide I’m too much trouble to come back for?”  It had to be a terribly difficult uncertainty to grow up with.

Not only is there the impermanence of home and things, there are virtually no rules nor supervision, as the Rex, Jeannette’s father, spends much of his time “researching” at the local tavern and her mom, a narcissistic enabler with some sort of mood disorder fritters her time and money away escaping reality in books and painting.  Too many times to count, the kids are forced to go hungry… or worse, dig through garbage to find food… while Dad drinks and smokes the money away and Mom sneaks nibbles of Hershey bars hidden under her covers. 

On the rare occasion the mother works, it’s the kids who have to force her out of bed and onto school where she’s a teacher, then clean her classroom after school, grade her papers and make out her lesson plans in the evenings.  After spending 8 weeks away from Rex and the kids, living in a dorm, eating regularly and taking classes to keep her teaching licence up to date, she comes home to report she’s had an epiphany.  She tells her teenage daughter who has been handling the bills, working and feeding her siblings, that she’s spent her whole life taking care of everyone else and now she’s gonna live life for herself… say WHAT?!

yeah….. m’kay.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a shocking and heartbreaking memoir of growing up with an alcoholic father and mentally ill mother.  Over and over, I was stunned and even angered by the so-called adults complete and total lack of parenting skills.  At one point, Jeannette, who was 7 or 8 at the time, wakes up to find a strange man touching her beneath her covers, and when she tells her parents maybe they should shut and locked the doors at night so as to keep the creeps out, they tell her some crap about fresh air and not letting fear get the better of you.  In her teens, when Jeannette tells her mom that her uncle has been inappropriate with her, her mother tells her he’s just lonely and that “sexual assault is a crime of perception.”  Time and again, these two genetic donors (calling them parents is going too far, to be honest), show a complete lack of common sense and sheer laziness to step up to the plate.  I am amazed that the kids lived to adulthood, let alone to be anything close as successful as they nationally syndicated columnist and regular contributor to MSNBC.  Brian and Lori also made good despite their upbringing.

One thing I can say about reading this book is that I can say with 100% certainty that I’m not that bad as a parent.  It’s done a lot to make me feel better as a parent… at least I shut the doors at night and feed my kids and make sure they bathe regularly.  I make sure they’re fed before I feed myself and I’d damn sure have food in the fridge AND pantry before gnawing on a Hershey bar.  I feel guilty if I decide not to share my candy bar.. or Lindt truffle balls, nom nom nom…  but that’s because they’ve ate plenty and had dessert, and By GOD, this is ONE thing I kept for myself.  And I feel guilty for THAT!  I can’t imagine the utter self-centeredness, truly clinical narcissism, the mother wallowed in.  Also, I can say with certainty to my kids that they’ve never gone hungry.  They may not like what’s in the cabinets, but there IS food… it’s just not ready-made junk for them to snack on. 

I read a few reviews of The Glass Castle, and one reader dinged the book because the author conveys such neglect and abuse in a very unemotional manner.  How could anyone suffer such a life without feeling a sense of indignity and injustice?  To this I must point out that Walls is a professional journalist, and relaying information in an objective, matter-of-fact way is part of the job, so I wasn’t surprised by that at all.  Also, I think it’s a normal part of the coping skills of an abuse survivor to learn to be able to talk about it with some distance and disconnection.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a great story of resilience and survival.  I don’t recommend it to be read in one sitting, as it can get emotionally overwhelming, but definitely a worthwhile read.   If I could ask Walls one question, I’d want to know how she thinks her life might have turned out without public libraries and books to turn to.  At times, it seems the only escape the kids had and a part of her best memories.  I give The Glass Castle 4 out of 5 stars.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Title:  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Author:  Jamie Ford

Hardbound:  290 pages

Date Published:  January 27, 2009

Publisher:  Ballantine Books (div of Random House)

ISBN:  9780345505330

At the next mess hall, lunch had finished.  Mrs. Beatty had him wash and wipe down trays while she coordinated with the kitchen manager on needed supplies and menu planning.  “Just hang out if you get done early,” she said.  “Don’t go wandering off unless you want to stay here for the rest of the war,”  Henry suspected that she wasn’t joking and nodded politely, finishing his work.

By all accounts, the mess hall was off-limits to the Japanese when it wasn’t mealtime.  Most were restricted to their chicken shacks, although he did see people occasionally slogging through the mud to and from the latrine.

When he was done, Henry sat on the back step and watched smoke billowing from the stovepipes fitted into the roofs of the makeshift homes – the collective smoky mist filled the wet, gray sky above the camp.  The smell of burning wood lingered in the air.

She’s here.  Somewhere.  Among how many people?  A thousand?  Five thousand?  Henry didn’t know.  He wanted to shout her name, or run door to door, but the guards in the towers didn’t look like they took their jobs lightly.  They stood watch for the protection of the internees – so he’d been told.  But if that were so, why were their guns pointed inside the camp?

It didn’t matter.  Henry felt better knowing he’d made it this far.  There were still a chance he’d find her.  Among the sad, shocked faces, maybe he’d find her smile again.  But it was getting dark.  Maybe it was too late.

-Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, page 157

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford is a heart-touching tale of Henry Lee; the son of a prominent, traditional Chinese community leader who’s left his heart in the homeland; called “white devil” by his peers as he goes off to an all-white school on “scholarship” (translation – he does all the janitor work for the privilege of attending the school) where he’s bullied, heckled and harrassed on a constant basis as the only Asian student, that is, until Keiko, a Japanese-American girl, begins to “scholarship” with him; he is also father of Marty, with whom he struggles to communicate or even have much of a relationship after the death of Henry’s wife, Ethel, Marty’s mother.  As the story moves back and forth in time between 1986 to 1942, the reader is able to watch the unfolding of the young, innocent love Henry discovers he has for Keiko, a love that is forbidden, and could even get him disowned, by his traditionalist father, who sees Keiko as just a relative of those people invading and destroying his home.

Their love is undeterred by the war, even when all people of Japanese decent are rounded up and sent away to live in relocation centers (concentration camps) for the remainder of the war.  Henry promises he’ll wait for her, even until she’s an old woman… he promises to bring her  a cane if it takes that long.  However, being children, things are not always so easy or so lasting as young Henry finds out.

The discover of personal belongings left behind by residents of Nihonmachi (Japantown) in the basement of the Panama Hotel offers Henry the opportunity to open up and share with his son, and to heal the rift that had started between Henry and his own father, who made him the man and father he became, despite his desire to be different.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a quiet book, but deeply moving.  It explores racial issues of the 1940s, both those between Caucasians and Asians and blacks, but also between Chinese-Americans and Japanese-Americans, and between Issei (first generation Japanese immigrants) and Nissei (second generation Japanese-Americans).  The book addresses how traditional culture has had to give way to contemporary culture.  It also touches on the culture of jazz, and offers music as a unifying agent… something that all cultures can share and appreciate.

One of the things that I enjoyed about Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is that it inspires the reader to exploring history further, beyond the covers of the book.  It offers a vignette of American history and life, but it doesn’t preach or teach.  Ford could have very easily turned Hotel into a soap box and spoken out  against the unconstitutional suspension of the civil rights of American citizens by removing them from their homes, robbing them of their property and detaining them without just cause simply because of their genetic heritage.  This would have been a valid argument to have made, but Ford leaves the moral interpretation to the reader.  He could have turned it into a history lesson, but, instead, provides enough information for the reader to do his or her own homework.  Which I did.

And, I apparently found the same documentaries as Ford.  I recommend the following for better understanding of this book:

  • Time of Fear- a PBS documentary about the experiences of both the Japanese-Americans sent to relocation camps in Arkansas and their Caucasian and Black Arkansan neighbors.
  • Unfinished Business – The Japanese-American Internment Cases – while the civil rights movement didn’t really get going until the 60s, not every Japanese-American went along with the government’s unlawful treatment of it’s own citizens.  This documentary shows some of those attempts of civil disobedience.
  • Nanking- Performed by stars such as Woody Harrelson, Mariel Hemmingway, Jürgen Prochnow, Stephen Dorff, and Rosalind Chao, among others, this documentary dramatically tells the story of the Japanese Army’s invasion and occupation of Nanking, China.

All three of the videos will help you get a better understanding of the background of the book, but especially Nanking.  It will make all the difference in understanding where Henry’s dad is coming from and help you not to see him as a mean, bigoted, old man.

Well researched, but never feeling “studied,” Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford will allow you to step into the life and culture of another, and to see the world from a different angle, while still provide you with the entrancing escape for which most of us disappear between the covers of a book.  I give Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet 4 egg rolls and a fortune cookie(which, I guess, is 4 1/2 stars out of 5… lol)

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The following video is Jamie Ford talking about Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and what sparked his desire to tell the story.

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Don’t forget, I’m giving away my copy of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet! Leaving a comment here on the review post is your official entry, but check out The Giveaway Announcement for details on how to get bonus entries and when the contest ends!

Read-a-Thon ~ I’ve been Chosen by the House of Night

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First off, I want to say Thank You! and throw smooches and hugs at all the RaT cheerleaders :-) You are much appreciated ;-) And I’m glad everyone’s enjoying my button… you know me, I like to mock ‘em and shock ‘em :-D

Also, I “finished” Empire Falls and How to Be a Villian today, but they were unfinished reads already began before today. I read about 20 pages and 80 pages in them, respectively, and about 15 in The Magician’s Nephew So I’ve only read about 140 pages altogether, including what I’ve read in Marked. S.Krishna and a few others blow me away with their tweets ever 20 minutes, “Finished another book!” Gack!

But It’s not a contest… *deep, cleansing breath* :-D

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Okay, so on to Marked… I don’t know where I’d heard of the House of Night series, maybe from one of the publisher’s newsletters, but when I did, something about the books screamed for me to read them.

I’ve been thinking that I might want to include some of the more popular books in my reading and reviewing for two reasons: 1) It’s part of the Zeitgeist of our culture, so I need to read them so I can keep up with the conversations, and 2) Reading and posting reviews of the more popular books might increase my blog traffic. The House of Night series popped out as possibly being a more popular set of books. AND, they’re about vamps, and I like vamp books. :-D

So far, I’ve read the first 3 chapters of the first book in the series, Marked, and I get it. It’s more of a social commentary… an allegory of our culture… and “vampyre” is the concept being used, but I think “homosexuality” is really what the authors are saying.

Zooey is an average, just-wanna-fit-in, middle child, sixteen year old in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Her mom, who used to wear make-up and have fun, is now married to a church Elder who’s more concerned about what people will think of him than if Zooey should go where she can get what she needs.

When her step-loser (as she calls him) sees the sapphire-blue crescent moon given to her by the Vampyre Tracker that marks her as a Vampyre, he tells her he’s not surprised her bad behavior has brought this crisis on her. He tells her, “Get behind me, Satan,” and tells his wife and her mother to call the clueless family psychiatrist and the church Elders to come over and “cure” Zooey.

To all of this Zooey replies that scientists have proven than it’s a genetic change that happens to some teens, and is not brought on by a vamp’s bite or by a person’s “bad behavior.”

Of course, his reply is, “God’s knowledge surpasses science, and it’s blasphemous for you to say otherwise…”

Yeah, okay…. I get it. On the one side, yes, people can get very cruel about things, Christians or otherwise. Parents, too, can be absolutely clueless about what’s going on with their kids.

I am torn on the issue, too. On the one hand, I do believe that God can do anything. He can heal people of incurable diseases, one of my good friends was healed (against all the doctors prognoses) of ovarian cancer. He can change the nature of a person, the habitual thief can be touched and steal no more. He can change a person’s desires, too, and an alcoholic or smoker can lay down their vice and never look back or suffer a twinge of withdrawal. I know people who have experienced these things.

On the other hand, it is the job of those around these people to judge them as a freak, criminal, or worthless, only to love, befriend and support as a fellow human being. Providing a person is not harming another, it is not our business what they do in their own private moments.

*drags the soapbox away and stores it back in the closet*

Any way… lol… back to reading. I am enjoying the book Marked.

What are your thoughts or book selection being partially influenced by popularity and the hope of increasing blog traffic? Selling out?

Reading Update:

Empire Falls by Richard Russo ~ finished.
The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis, Chapter Four “The Bell and the Hammer” ~ finished
How to Be a Villian: Evil Laughs, Secret Lairs, Master Plans and More!!! by Neil Zawacki ~ finished :-D
Marked: A House of Night Novel by P. C. Cast & Kristin Cast ~ page 27, the start of Chapter Four

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling

Title:  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Author:  J. K. Rowling

Hardback:  352 pages

Publisher:  Scholastic Inc.

Publish Date:  2005

ISBN:  9780439784542

“Fine,” said Harry, who was concentrating on handing Ron a glass of pumpkin juice.  “There you go, Ron.  Drink up.”

Ron had just raised the glass to his lips when Hermione spoke sharply.

“Don’t drink that, Ron!”

Both Harry and Ron looked up at her.

“Why not?” said Ron.

Hermione was now staring at Harry as though she could not believe her eyes.

“You just put something in that drink.”

“Excuse me?” said Harry.

“You heard me.  I saw you.  You just tipped something into Ron’s drink.  You’ve got the bottle in your hand right now!”

“I don’t know what you’r talking about,” said Harry, stowing the little bottle hastily in his pocket.

“Ron, I warn you, don’t drink it!”  Hermione said again, alarmed, but Ron picked up the glass, drained it in one gulp, and said, “Stop bossing me around, Hermione.”

She looked scandalized.  Bending low so that only Harry could hear her, she hissed, “You should be expelled for that.  I’d never have believed it of you, Harry!”

-Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling, page 293

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling  is the sixth of the seven book series chronicling the lives and exploits of the orphaned title character and his friends and classmates as they discover they are witches and wizards, go to Hogwarts school to learn to hone their skills, and learn to bond with friends and co-exist with enemies under the genially paternal headmaster, Professor Dumbledore.  In this particularly darkest book yet (I’m told book seven is even worse), Harry struggles with coming to terms (still and again) with the deaths of those close to him, while desiring to get revenge on Lord Voldermort, aka Tom Marvolo Riddle, for the deaths.

Yeah….  I remember when the first book was taking the American bookworld by storm, causing some Christian groups to suffer apoplectic fits at the thought of their sweet angelic prodgeny being infected by evil should so much as the book’s binding touch their innocent hands, and children clamoring to snatch the books off their shelves.  However, six books in and it just seems to be a repeat of each of the last five books’ plotline.  The children return to school, Harry suspects evil is afoot right away, no one believes him, everyone turns against him and treats him like a nutter, then evil pops out from behind the painting of the tutu-wearing trolls and says “Bwa-ha-ha!”  Harry saves the day, Hogwarts and the entire wizarding world, everyone apologizes for doubting him, then they all say good-bye for the summer and look forward to returning in the fall where they can go through the whole cycle all over again.  HP and the HBP has all that plus pimples, crushes and love potions.

It’s an okay book, but nothing I’ll remember next year… I doubt I’ll remember it next month, even.  I found myself trying to remember when whatever event being referenced occured, and I realized that I’ve forgotten a lot of the content of the previous books already.  What’s more, I think up to a third of this book could have been dropped.  Some of it was a repeat of what had happened in a previous book, but some of it  just seemed superfluous.

I’m glad I read it since I’ve read the other books of the series, and I definitely wanted to get it done before the movie comes out this coming July.  Some people have said the last book, Deathly Hollows, is the best book of the series. 

From the way this book has ended, Deathly Hollowsat least seems like it will break the endless cycle.  Harry tells Ron and Hermione that he doesn’t plan to return to Hogwarts for his final year because he plans to hunt down and kill Voldemort, and his friends inform him they’ll be right beside him wherever he goes.  But… it’ll be a while before that movie comes out so I needn’t get into too much of a hurry reading the book.

While Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling  was an easy and comfortable read, it often fell flat and fizzled in places.  I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

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The movie looks like it’ll be really good, I thought the others were good, too.

TSS ~ I’d Sell My Soul for a House Elf!

The Sunday Salon.com

Yay!!! Spring Break is here and two of my three lovelies have flown away to daddy’s for the week.  I still have Gwen, but without Maggie to fight with she’s rather tame.  She’s made plans to have sleep-over parties with her friends this week, too, so it’s going to quiet this week.

Our library will be having several movie events this week, including Twilight, which never did show at our theater.  I’ll have to take Gwen to it and do some other special things with her since she so rarely has me to herself.  She’s the middle child, so she’s often waiting on the side for her turn.  She always enjoys vacation times when the other two are gone.

I finished reading The Book Thief on Tuesday, but my brain has yet to put it down.  My mind wanders back to it often, even while reading one of the five books I’m currently working on. It’s now my favorite book, and I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t read it yet to do so.  It’s a beautifully written and haunting tale. :-)

I’ve finally gotten around to picking up the sixth Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and am almost halfway through it.  It’s fun and okay, but somewhere along the way I’ve lost the wonder for the series I once had.  It’s the same book over and over again.  Harry knows some deep dark truth and no one believes him.   Even his best friends think he’s off his nuttter.  Then a horrible thing happens that proves Harry was right all along.  Sorries are said, forgiveness given, and everyone leaves Hogwarts with smiles and looking forward to next year…. when they’ll repeat the cycle all over again.  Add to all that pimples and crushes and love potions, and you get the gist of HP and the HBP.   Meh.   The Goblet of Fire has been my favorite so far.

I stopped into the Catholic thrift store here in town to check out their books and left with Christopher Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus.  It’s okay, and the thought occurred to me while reading it, “Would Marlowe have been more widely known if Shakespeare’s plays were never wrote down?”  It’s an interesting thought, and makes me wonder about authors today.

What modern authors would be read more but for the mega-star writers like Patterson, Clancy, Grisham, King, and more?

TSS – Mummies, Mishka, and More!

The Sunday Salon.com

Wow! What a week! It’s Sunday already and I don’t know where the week went! I only read one adult book and on children’s book, but I’m okay with that. I gave away $50 in Borders gift cards, announced a giveaway for a signed copy of Mishka: An Adoption Tale, I helped capture a dangerous sociopath, and more.

This week was the last week for Maggie’s summer school classes. One of her classes was a drama class which held their performances on Wednesday and Thursday. Sammi and I went on Wednesday, and were the only family audience that day, then I took my little actress out for a fish sandwich at Burger King afterwards. Then I went to sign Gwen, my 14-year-old, and Mags up for school. Meg’s happy because she’s got a sweet teacher and all her friends (and none of her enemies) are in her class this year. Sammi’s in 10th grade this year, and high school registration is on Tuesday.

I thought I was excited and ready for them to go back to school… until I went clothes and supplies shopping. YIKES! Three outfits a piece totalled $270. Supplies, backpack, unmentionables for growing girls, and a Hannah Montana outfit I promised to get Mags two weeks ago added up to another $260 at Wal-mart.  We might have to cut back to one meal a day, but at least they’ll look great when they go back to school ;-)

Thursday was the last day of the giveaway contest. So Friday I ran the numbers through Research Randomizer and posted the winners: M, The True Confessions of a Book Lover Named M, won the $20 Borders gift card and a bonus gift, then Jessica and Dawn, She Is Too Fond of Books…, won the $10 cards, and Suey, It’s All About Books, and Judy Brittle won the $5 cards. I still haven’t heard from Jessica or Judy Brittle and if they don’t email me their address by 3 pm today, then I will draw two new names for their $10 and $5 cards.

Friday night, while y’all were fighting in line for Breaking Dawn, I haven’t read any off them and have a copy of BD on hold, we went to the movie theater to see the new Mummy movie.

It was an incredible movie. It has something for everyone (except small children I suppose), mummies, dragons, Yetis (is that the right word for more than one Yeti? or is it like the word “fish”), new love, reclaimed love, animal love (yeah, but is strictly platonic), action, battle, immortals and Shangri La. The kids came home and immediately put the first Mummy movie in the DVD player, and they’ve been flipping back and forth between one and two. I want to see this one again!

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THIS WEEK, blogwise that is. Seriously, I can’t say this enough, Mishka: An Adoption Tale is an exceptionally good book. Not only is the book a really wonderful and heartwarming book, but for each book that’s sold, and any other DRT Press book, 5% of the profit is donated to charities that help orphaned children in the EE and Russia. How can you go wrong with that? You get a great book to keep, AND the knowledge you are helping a child, who has no one, eat or get a new pair of shoes. It’s win-win!
Don’t forget to check out my Interview with Adrienne Ehlert Bashista and be sure to enter to win a signed copy of Mishka!

OH, and by the way… tell me what you think of my new look!  I’ve added a “Quote of the Day” to my sidebar, as well as rearranging the widgets (thanks readerville for the text box trick!)

Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry

Title: Gooney Bird Greene
Author: Lois Lowry
Pages: 88
Publisher: Yearling (Random House Children’s Books)
Publish Date: 2002
ISBN: 0440419603

Gooney Bird Greene -that’s Greene with a silent ‘e’ at the end- arrived at Watertower Elementary and in Mrs. Pidgeon’s second grade class in October… the class would never be the same. She shows up wearing pajamas and cowboy boots, her red hair in pigtails, a lunch box and dictionary in her hands. She asks for a desk in the middle of the room because she likes to be in the middle of all the action. As the class begins studying how to write a story, the whole class decides they want to hear Gooney Bird’s story.

Gooney Bird adjusted the pink ballet tutu she was wearing over a pair of green stretch pants. Her T-shirt was decorated with polka dots. Her red hair was pulled into two pigtails and held there with blue scrunchies… She felt her earlobes, which were small and pink and empty.

“I should have worn the dangling diamond earrings that I got from the prince,” she told the class. “Maybe I’ll wear them next week.”

“Diamond earrings? Prince?” Mrs. Pidgeon asked.

“Well, actually, the prince didn’t give me the earrings. I got them at the palace,” Gooney Bird explained.

“Why were you at the palace?”

“Well, first I was in jail, and then -” Gooney Bird interrupted herself. “It’s a long story.”

Gooney Bird entrances the whole class, including their teacher, with her stories about how she came from China on a flying carpet, or how her beloved cat, Catman, was consumed by a cow, or why she was late to school because she was directing an orchestra. With every story, Gooney Bird reminds her audience that she only tells absolutely true stories.  And she does.

What brought me to Gooney Bird Greene is the fact Maggie and I have read the entire Junie B. series, and we’ve been looking for a replacement series. Gooney Bird does work great for that, and she’s quite creative, as well. Both characters are funny, extroverts who are often the center of attention. Both characters are rather unique individuals, and express themselves very well. The differences, though, are that Parks has developed Junie B’s character a lot more, as she has written over 30 Junie B books to Lowry’s three Gooney Bird books.

Maggie’s review is: Gooney Bird Greene is a good, funny and cute book. Her favorite things about it is Gooney Bird is funny and she likes it when Gooney Bird bosses the teacher around. The thing she didn’t like about it is when Gooney Bird lost her cat… that was sad… but it was funny that Catman’s tail got cut off by the lawn mower.

Back to me, now… to clarify the “bossing the teacher”, Gooney Bird isn’t mean and hateful with it, she says things like “look up China on the map”, or when the class erupts in questions saying, “Mrs. Pidgeon, do you want to deal with this?”. Even Mrs. Pidgeon gets so caught up in the stories that she interrupts, then apologizes. It’s this kind of polite role-reversal that is often what makes a favorite children’s book. Not only is there the “bossing” the teacher, but also directing the adults of the orchestra, and helping a neighbor find his dog. Gooney Bird takes the role of rescuer for the grown-ups.

Honestly, I can’t really find any negatives about this book, other than there are only three books, which means it’s not long before we’re hunting a new series very soon. We’ve read a couple Lucy Rose books, but she’s just not quite the same. We’ve just started Amber Brown Goes Fourth, and it’s promising, but I don’t know how many there are. I’ve also got an Anastasia Krupnik book, and a couple Molly Moons. SO, if you have any suggestions for Maggie’s dilemma, let us know!

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