How to Be a Villian by Neil Zawacki

Title:  How to Be  a Villain:  Evil Laughs, Secret Lairs, Master Plans, and More!!!

Author:  Neil Zawacki

Illustrator:  James Dignan

Hardback:  160 pages

Date Published:  2003

PublisherChronicle Books

ISBN:  9780811846660

Being evil is more than a job, it’s a lifestyle.  By embracing the dark forces, otherwise ordinary men, women, and even children and pets can gain power and wealth beyond their wildest dreams.  Perhaps the single greatest benefit of a career in evil is equal access to executive level positions.  Black, white, or green; male, female, or alien life form; spikes, scales, or brain in a jar – nothing prevents a devotee of darkness from rising to the top of the quagmire of destruction.

- “The Benefits of Being Evil” from How to Be a Villain by Neil Zawacki, page 10

In these troubling times, jobless rates on the rise, paychecks dwindling into microscopic amounts, and a general malaise about the economy, you might be considering a career change.  If so, might I suggest a career in EVIL?

The field of Evil-Doer is wide open, and you have a delicious variety of career paths that include:

  • Becoming a criminal mastermind!  Whether you choose to rob banks or send out emails asking for help to move your multi-million dollar wealth out of your impoverished, third-world country, crime is the tried-and-true classic medium for a villain to flex his wicked muscles.
  • Try your hand as a necromancer!  If graveyards and funeral parlors are your favorite places to hang out, and you can get your mitts on ancient books of the  occult, why not take possession of your true purpose and give Ol’ Scratch a run for the “Most Evil” award this year.
  • Take that corner office with the wall of windows and become a corporate bastard!  You can even mix career advancement and the pleasure of revenge by taking over and destroying the very company that let you go.  Make sure to funnel off all the executive pension fund before it’s demise, though, or you’ll be back to square one, JOBLESS and BROKE.
  • Have a knack for mixing ingredients?  Give mad scientista try!  Build up your army of mutant eight-legged simians, actual spider-monkeys, and take over the world.  Then you can set about re-create MAN in your OWN image.
  • If you like horseback riding and wearing metal clothing, black knight might be the path for you!  You will derive endless pleasure from making peasants your neighbors bow before you, quaking in terror, wondering if today will finally be the day you make good on your threat to “gut them like the pigs they are.”
  • If you own a lonely motel on a lonely stretch of never-used highway AND  have conversations with your long-since deceased mother, horror-movie villain may have your name written all over it!  Rub elbows with A-list actors and slay sexy starlets, not to mention peeping on the co-eds getting busy in the next room, are all in a days work!
  • Take dominion of the spirit world as an avatar for a god/demon/supernatural creature beyond all comprehension!  While allowing the forces of evil to use your body, you’ll be enjoying all the perks of your new-found godhood.
  • Not quite up to all-out evil?  Try a career as a marketing executive!  Shape the way future generations think by creating advertisements that mesh their favorite, beloved underwater hero and a sexually-depraved rapper.
  • You may even try your hand at an evil-lite career as a villain and become a telemarketer!  Endless pleasure can be derived from interrupting dinners, sleep, and the recipients physical fun with their significant other.  This career as an evil-doer, however, has been in a steady decline since the invention of caller ID.

How to Be a Villainby Neil Zawacki is a fun, light read full of tongue-in-cheek, dead-pan humor that feels like an actual tutorial how-to guide.  The quirky and fun illustrations, however, let assure you the book does not take itself seriously.  Get in touch with your inner villain by picking up a copy today :-D  I give this book 3 1/2  out of 5 black hats.

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This video is cheesy (on purpose)  and is an example of the information found in How to Be a Villain by Neil Zawacki.   They do not credit the book, so I don’t know if it’s where they got their ideas, but it’s great :-D  (seriously, though, cheese factor is off the charts!)

Bad Kitty Gets a Bath by Nick Bruel

Title:  Bad Kitty Gets a Bath

Author:  Nick Bruel

Illustrator:  Nick Bruel

Paperback:  128 pages

Publisher:  Roaring Brook Press

Publish Date:  August 2008

ISBN:  9781596435209

BE PREPARED.

The first lesson that all cat owners must learn is that …

 For your own safety, please repeat this to yourself four thousand eight hundred ninety-three times.

CATS

HATE

BATHS

 

Kitty + bath = explosion

-Bad Kitty Gets a Bathby Nick Bruel, pages 29, 32, 33

Bad Kitty Gets a Bathby Nick Bruel is a funny manual-esque book about – What else? – giving a cat a bath.  Most of us who have or have had a cat knows the mortal danger of this proposition, and yet we still attempt such folly.  As Bruel points out in this second book about Bad Kitty, there are times when it is necessary to baptize our feline family members for their health and our scented pleasure.

When these times occur, you must be prepared.  Be aware you put your life in peril, risking the chance of suffering extreme blood loss and soiled underwear. 

You need the following things to give Kitty a bath

-Bad Kitty Gets a Bathby Nick Bruel, pages 38-39

After using bribery, begging and reverse psychology in a failed attempt to get Kitty into the tub, tell Kitty that you’ll be giving the dog a long, icy cold bath AFTER her.  Her desire to watch Puppy suffer may help her to overcome her hatred of baths.

Without being mean-spirited or cruel, Bruel slides in facts about cats, such as their tongues are covered in papillae made from the same material as finger nails and facts about other cat species, making Bad Kitty Gets a Bath both entertaining and educational.  It’s humorous pictures and funny content hides the fact it is a chapter book… the dreaded CHAPTER BOOK… and Maggie happily read it through.  Her favorite part being the picture of Puff-Ball Kitty after she was dried.

Any time an author can teach while delighting young readers, especially those who balk at the bigger books, then the book is a success.  And few things are funnier than the whole concept of bathing a cat, an animal with 20 daggers on its feet as well as needles in its mouth and toxic saliva that abhors the very mention of submersion and will shred you for thinking it let alone trying it.

I give Bad Kitty Gets a Bath by Nick Bruel 4 out of 5 stars.  You don’t have to be a child to enjoy it, either.  I’ve had it on my wishlist since it came out last year.  Maggie told me that the book fair her school’s having this week was selling it, so I sent her with money this morning and read it (out loud to the kids, lest I look silly) immediately :-)

I couldn’t decide between the last video or this one. Enjoy!

few things in this world are more pathetic looking than a wet cat. Poor kitties!

Custard and Company by Ogden Nash

Title:  Custard and Company

Author:  Ogden Nash

Illustrator:  Quentin Blake

Hardback:  128 pages

Publish Date:  1980

Publisher:  Little, Brown & Company

ISBN:  0316598348

The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus

In Baltimore there lived a boy.
He wasn’t anybody’s joy.
Although his name was Jabez Dawes,
His character was full of flaws.
In school he never led his classes,
He hid old ladies’ reading glasses,
His mouth was open when he chewed,
And elbows to the table glued.
He stole the milk of hungry kittens,
And walked through doors marked NO ADMITTANCE.
He said he acted thus because
There wasn’t any Santa Claus.
Another trick that tickled Jabez
Was crying ‘Boo’ at little babies.
He brushed his teeth, they said in town,
Sideways instead of up and down.

Yet people pardoned every sin,
And viewed his antics with a grin,
Till they were told by Jabez Dawes,
‘There isn’t any Santa Claus!’
Deploring how he did behave,
His parents swiftly sought their grave.
They hurried through the portals pearly,
And Jabez left the funeral early.

Like whooping cough, from child to child,
He sped to spread the rumor wild:
‘Sure as my name is Jabez Dawes
There isn’t any Santa Claus!’
Slunk like a weasel of a marten
Through nursery and kindergarten,
Whispering low to every tot,
‘There isn’t any, no there’s not!’

The children wept all Christmas eve
And Jabez chortled up his sleeve.
No infant dared hang up his stocking
For fear of Jabez’ ribald mocking.
He sprawled on his untidy bed,
Fresh malice dancing in his head,
When presently with scalp-a-tingling,
Jabez heard a distant jingling;
He heard the crunch of sleigh and hoof
Crisply alighting on the roof.

What good to rise and bar the door?
A shower of soot was on the floor.
What was beheld by Jabez Dawes?
The fireplace full of Santa Claus!
Then Jabez fell upon his knees
With cries of ‘Don’t,’ and ‘Pretty Please.’
He howled, ‘I don’t know where you read it,
But anyhow, I never said it!’

‘Jabez’ replied the angry saint,
‘It isn’t I, it’s you that ain’t.
Although there is a Santa Claus,
There isn’t any Jabez Dawes!’

Said Jabez then with impudent vim,
‘Oh, yes there is, and I am him!
Your magic don’t scare me, it doesn’t’
And suddenly he found he wasn’t!

From grimy feet to grimy locks,
Jabez became a Jack-in-the-box,
An ugly toy with springs unsprung,
Forever sticking out his tongue.
The neighbors heard his mournful squeal;
They searched for him, but not with zeal.

No trace was found of Jabez Dawes,
Which led to thunderous applause,
And people drank a loving cup
And went and hung their stockings up.

All you who sneer at Santa Claus,
Beware the fate of Jabez Dawes,
The saucy boy who mocked the saint.
Donner and Blitzen licked off his paint.

-Custard and Company by Ogden Nash, pages 50-54

Ogden Nash, a popular American poet, was known for his droll humor and unconventional rhymes.  Most of us have heard his poetry, through we may not know him as the author, as he’s often used in everyday conversations.  A great example of this is Nash’s quick verse, “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker,” from his book Reflections on Ice-Breaking.

Custard and Company by Ogden Nash is a collection of Nash’s poems and include “The Tale of Custard the Dragon” and “Custard the Dragon and the Wicked Knight,” two of Nash’s most beloved works.  The book is also illustrated by Quentin Blake, who is best known for his collaboration with writer Roald Dahl.

Most of the poems in this book have a quality that appeals to children, both young and old, many of them mythical characters and animals as their focus.  A few of the poems have children as the main characters, such as Jabez Dawes in the one quoted above, Belinda in the Custard poems and Isabel, an adventurous young girl who never screams or scurries, instead standing in the face of danger and winning.

Isabel met an enormous bear,
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t care;
The bear was hungry, the bear was ravenous,
The bear’s big mouth was cruel and cavernous.
The bear said, Isabel, glad to meet you,
How do, Isabel, now I’ll eat you!
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry,
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry,
She washed her hands and she straightened her hair up,
Then Isabel quietly ate the bear up.

-from “The Adventures of Isabel,” Custard and Company by Ogden Nash, page 88

Something surprising I found with many of these poems is that they are often clunky and terrible when read silently to yourself, but become playfully fun when read out loud, and even more so when read out loud to a child.  I read a number of these to my oldest daughter, Sammi, age 16, who is a big Shel Silverstein fan.  She was actually the one who picked up the similarity of the illustrations to those in Roald Dahl’s books.  She will be very excited to find out she was right ;-)

Wonderfully fun and a book for the whole family, Custard and Company by Ogden Nash is a treasure of American Literary history.  I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

********************************************************************

The video I’ve selected to accompany Custard and Company is a bit longer than usual. It is a 10 minute, mini-movie of “The Tale of Custard the Dragon” and makes use of HALO characters. It’s quite funny, but is a little slow to get started. It started out as a school project, for which I hope the creator received an A+ :-D Enjoy!

The Tutu Ballet by Sally O. Lee

Title:  The Tutu Ballet

Author:  Sally O. Lee

Illustrator:  Sally O. Lee

Paperback:  36 pages

Publisher:  BookSurge Publishing

Publish Date:  2008

ISBN:  9781439209165

Ms. Berry had her hands full with this class. She tried very hard to get all her students to plie at the same time, or jump at the same time, but they would all fall back to their favorite dance steps and it would result in mayhem.

Fillippo would bump into Harriett with his jumps and Beminda would accidentally kick Mirabel with her famous left kicks.

Sometimes it looked more like a boxing match rather than a ballet class.

-The Tutu Ballet by Sally O. Lee, pages 24-25

Guest Review by Maggie

The Tutu Ballet by Sally O. Leeis about the students of Ms. Berry’s ballet class wanting to only do their favorite moves. Belinda the Bear only liked to do kicks, Fellippo the Fox only liked to do jumps, Mirabel the Mouse only plied, and Harriett the Hare like to twirl. This made class clumsy and a big mess with everyone hurting each other.

What I liked about this book is that it’s about ballet. My favorite part was when everyone in the class was going crazy and falling on each other.

The only thing I did not like about this book is the words are hard to read. I wish they had been typed up on the computer instead of hand written. The letters were small and the words sometimes ran together and made it hard for me to read.

I thought the message of this story is friendship and working together. I give The Tutu Ballet by Sally O. Lee 4 out of 5 stars.

hated it!didn't like itIt was okayLiked it.Loved it!

The Kool-Aid Mom’s review 

The Tutu Ballet by Sally O. Lee is a cute little story of a group of ballet students who prefer to do their favorite moves instead of performing the ones their teacher directs them.  I suppose it may have to do with their ages, though that information is never given, or it may just be that this particular group struggles with paying attention as the quote given suggests that not all the classes are this way and that they fall back into doing their favorite steps.  But, for what ever the reason, the class presents a challenge for the former prima ballerina teacher Ms. Berry in creating a recital program.

What I found interesting with this book is that Maggie, age 10, and I, an adult and parent, understood two different messages.  She saw it from the point of view of the children and came away believing the message was friendship and unity.  Whereas I, viewing it from the “gotta get things done” and “we need order” point of view, understood the book to be about creative problem-solving.

As with her previous book, The Rabbit and the Snowman, Lee both wrote and illustrated this book.  The artwork is warm and inviting, not clean and realistic as with some children’s books but rather having that feeling of a child’s imagination.

The Tutu Ballet by Sally O. Lee offers a pleasurable few minutes of togetherness through reading with a child and gives easy-to-pick-out conversation starters and points of discussion. I also give The Tutu Ballet 4 out of 5 stars.

hated it!didn't like itIt was okayLiked it.Loved it!

Support independent authors and buy a copy today!

Cherise the Niece by J. K. Benton

 

 

Title: Cherise the Niece
Author: J. K. Benton
Illustrator: J. K. Benton
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: PLUME
Publish Date: June, 2008
ISBN: 97804522289482

No Aunts or cats were harmed in the writing of this book. Under no circumstances should people harm other people or cats even if they are Aunts. And besides, Cherise is a fictitious character. Although, if I was an Aunt, I’d probably check under my bed tonight just in case we’re wrong about that part.

With that as an opening paragraph, I knew this book was going to be absolute fun. Cherise is a self-made orphan, who methodically eliminates her aunts, one by one (and two at a time in the case of the twin aunts), until she finally runs out of aunts. The illustrations are morbid, drawn only black and white, and reveal a sinister eight-year-old girl with fangs who is very creative with her methods of murder, varying her M.O. from bug spray in the aunt’s tea to stabbing one aunt with the Christmas star tree-topper.

Cherise the Niece is written and illustrated by J. K. Benton, creator of It’s Happy Bunny. It is a dark comedy about a sociopathic little girl with a taste for murder. It is an adult children’s book, meant for 14 and up, but also appealing to the child still residing in every grown-up.

Benton’s rhymes are hilarious and creative, each page containing one four line stanza on one side and an illustration on the other. Cherise herself is somewhat cute, but has a menacing look complete with evil looking eyes, fangs, and demonic pointed ears.

I, personally, love this book. I had written to Benton asking for a copy to review, and he sent me one with a postcard on which he wrote a quick note, and autographed the book “To Aunt Alisha” and drew a picture of Cherise. I shall never part with it :-D

They told her the orphanage
Was where she must go.
But Cherise softly uttered:
I have Uncles, you know.

*Shivers*… 5 out of 5 stars, I recommend it to all grown-up children with a morbid sense of humor and an appreciation for the finer points of murder :-D

The Rabbit and the Snowman by Sally O. Lee

Title: The Rabbit and the Snowman
Author: Sally O. Lee
Illustrator: Sally O. Lee
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing
Publish Date: 2008
ISBN: 9781419656255

Oddly enough, despite being The Kool-Aid Mom, this is the first children’s book I’ve reviewed for my blog. It’s quite a cute little book about friendship, a rabbit, and a snowman. Sally O. Lee, both author and illustrator, creates a fun book that has the magical quality that keeps a child’s attention.

As soon as I pulled it from the envelope today I read it, then reread it with Maggie, my 9-year-old, allowing me to get a child’s perspective so as to give a well rounded review. At first glance, the artwork draws you in. The cover has a snowman hugging a bunny, and is brightly colored which catches the eye. Opening the book, my daughter’s eyes fell immediately to the author’s signature, and was impressed Lee had taken the time to sign it.

The story tells of a snowman who is built by a group of children who run off when they are finished with him, leaving the snowman to wonder what is wrong with him that they no longer want to be with him. Soon a new friend, rabbit, comes along and they spend hours and days talking about the world around them. But one late winter day, rabbit comes to visit his friend the snowman, only to find him disappeared. Rabbit wonders if there was something wrong with him, his fur or ears or eyes, that the snowman no longer wanted to be his friend. The rabbit is sad, and goes on with his life. When the first snow falls the following winter, he runs to the field where the snowman had been to see if he’s returned.

The Rabbit and the Snowman is well-written. It’s clear and easy for me as an adult to read out loud, and easy for a child to understand. It is well-written in that my daughter could explain in a few sentences what the story was about and what the moral of the story was: Sometimes friends go away, but it doesn’t mean you did anything wrong, and sometimes they come back and you can have fun with them again (Maggie’s words).

Maggie’s favorite part in the story is when the rabbit and snowman meet for the first time, and her least favorite thing about the story is that it’s a little sad. She loves the illustrations and colors, and gives The Rabbit and the Snowman 4 out of 5 stars.

For me, my favorite thing about this book is that, in our ever increasingly mobile world where people move often for jobs and other things, this book teaches kids that sometimes friends come and go and it doesn’t mean the friends didn’t like them anymore, and they will make new friends, too. What I didn’t like about the book is the font on some of the pages are small, which might make it difficult for beginning readers to get through on their own.

Overall, The Rabbit and the Snowmanis a very cute book that would make a good classroom read for grades K through 3. I think it might be too long for the pre-K set and too babyish for much older than 9-year-olds (Maggie got a bit restless with it).

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