Friday, July 31, 2009

The Soloist.... One Joy From This Book.

It must be that I am living under a rock.  After reading the book The Soloist, I have had several people tell me that have read the book and seen the movie.  I have not noticed either the book or the movie until now.  With some things, it can be said that it is better late than never.  However,  with this book, it barely makes that statement true.  So having said that,  I will keep the blog brief  and just get right to the heart of the matter.
It was a surprise to this reader that the book turned out to be more about the reporter, Steve Lopez than it was about Nathaniel,  the soloist.  In summary, it was the musings of a 50 year old man who is worried about deadlines, mortgages and retirement.  As a side note, he stumbles upon a homeless man who is a musical genius, playing Beethoven on Skid Row.  More than once, the musings turn to complaints about how the reporter's time is consumed by his project, Nathaniel. What should have been the more compelling story, which is Nathaniel, is buried deep in the pages of the book.  If the reader is patient enough and curious enough about Nathaniel, they will read through the musings and find his story.  Mr. Lopez demonstrates how today's reporters are vastly different from the days of old.   In today's world, the reporter puts themselves in the story, thus taking the focus off of the subject and onto them.  This might have something to do with why newspapers circulation has dropped across the country.  But  I digress.
Nathaniel's story has brought this reader some joy.  It has opened up the curiosities about classical music.  Without even hearing Nathaniel play his bass or violin, the story has planted a seed to learn more about the works of Beethoven, Back and the endless list of other composers. When Nathaniel speaks about certain concertos or symphonies  in the book, it has caused me to go search for the music to hear it for myself.   It is a delightful piece of nugget from the story to learn about classical music.  Too bad the same can't be said about homelessness or mental illness. 
As for what to do about the homeless, well, Mr. Lopez was not really interested in that angle enough for the reader to really care or put thought into the matter. Which is sad because after reading the book, one would hope that it would bring inspiration to want to help.  It doesn't.  All that is lost with the author's  personal life. Perhaps with the book and movie deal,  he can relax about retirement and write another book.  This time, taking himself out of the picture, and actually engage the reader's mind  about this age old problem of homelessness and the mentally ill.   

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Great Summer Reads part 2 --- Be Creative @ Your Library

As promised I am back with some more titles  with Creativity as a theme.  For me the best part of reading these books was learning about the arts.  Little tidbits of information would flow from the pages, and I would find myself thinking, wow I didn't know that!  But along with some interesting tidbits, there were interesting tales that wove the arts into a story in ways that were quite different and unexpected.  The Entertainer and The Dybbuk by Sid Fleichman is a different tale on love,  justice, and revenge.   The Great Freddie is a decorated GI, who has stayed in Europe to try his act as a ventriloquist.  What adds spark to his show?  Avrom Amos the dybbuk (wandering soul/ghost) who convinces Freddie to let him speak for the  wooden dummy.  The act is a smash all over Paris.  One problem,  Avrom has an agenda of  his own. With Freddie's  help he tracks down a SS colonel who not only killed him but also tortured children, including his sister.   The story ends on a high note, but it will leave the readers with a haunting horror of how innocent Jewish children were the target of Nazi cruelty. 
Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear by  Lensey Namioka is an older book and still has a ring of truth for today's youngsters who are looking for their "place" in their family and the world.    Little Yingtao is part of a very talented, musical family.  His problem is that he does not have the same ear for music as the rest of his family.  To put it politely he just can't play the violin well.  The Yang family has just moved from China to Seattle.   Looking for new students, Yingtao's Father decides to invite his new neighbors and friends to a family recital.  Poor Yingtao wants to help, but  he is afraid his screeching violin will ruin the recital.  Fortunately for Young Yang,  his new friend Matthew will help save the day.   Mixed into this story are Chinese culture and traditions which helps the reader understand  blending America takes a dose humor and friendship.    The first time I read the review for this book, I knew I had to read the book for myself.  
I absolutely adore this book. Stanza by Jill Esabuam, is a quick read about a tough dog by day
and by night he is a poet dog. Why doesn't he come out in the open? His two brothers, Dirge
and Fresco might not understand. However, Stanza love for chicken pot pie inspires him to enter
a jingle contest for his favorite food. What will Dirge and Fresco think of him if he wins? Well,
its a dog tale worth reading to find out how this story ends.
The 39 Apartments of Ludwig Van Beethoven by Jonah Winter is a riot with its clever artwork and quick-paced storytelling with a little bits of facts thrown in just for fun.   The reader goes on a wonderful trip of following Beethoven from apartment to apartment and moving 5 legless pianos 39 times.  The moral of this story:  One might be a musical genius but moving 5 legless pianos is no fun for the moving company!   Good thing Beethoven made up for it by composing the world's best music!
Sometimes talent comes in way that no one can see to appreciate.  Sara Pennypacker reminds readers of this in Talented Clementine.  Clementine is back and this time she is looking for an act to perform in her school's talent show.  Singing, dancing, or playing and instrument are not talents she can perform.   Clementine goes to her overly talented friend Margaret and finds that her best friend can't even help her.  At the talent show, she shows off her unexpected talent to everyone and surprises everyone.   Including herself! 

Well that's all for now.  Catch me next time when I review The Soloist by Steve Perez.  

Monday, July 6, 2009

Great Summer Reads for BE Creative @ Your Library

The weather in Michigan has been pretty cool for summer, but the books that I have been reading are quite hot.  Okay, so that seems a little cheesy to say but the truth is these books are very good, worth the time to find them to take with you on vacation or just read at home.  The mix I have here reflect a nice mix of  children's , young adult and adult titles.   My reading habits range from I want to be a kid again to maybe I should learn something new.  This list has it all.  Drop me a note at anytime to let me know  what you thought of the title and suggest one of your own.  Without further ado, here is the quick summer list for Summer 2009. 

1. Born to Rock -- Korman.  I love this book.  It is funny, nostalgic and a little bit outlandish but hey, who says we can't have a little fun.  Korman is a veteran Young Adult author who knows how to bring a little history into his story.  This particular story introduces us to a Young Republican Leo Carraway who is on a fast track to Harvard, only to find out that his way there has a few minor bumps in the road.  He loses his scholarship because he is suspected of cheating on a test.  Well,  how will he get to Harvard.  Easy.  Convince his suspected biological Father, King Maggot to help pay the tuition and in return he will become a roadie for the King's 80's punk band making a revival tour.  Is King Maggot his father?  Well, Leo finds this out and a whole lot more! 

Troll Bridge: A Rock-n-Roll - Yolen  An interesting tale of classical music,  pop boy band, a fox and trolls.   This is a quick,  light-hearted journey into the land of Trollholm.  Moira, a harpist prodigy, and the Griffsons, brothers in a boy band, find themselves lured into this mystical land where they are caught in a tug of war.  The trolls seem eager to get them and Foxs seems to be the only one who can save them from being doomed in this faraway place.    Noting in Trollholm is as it seems and in order to find their way home they realize that they must rely on each other's unique musical talent.

3. Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa -- Scotti  You don't need to be a art historian to enjoy this book.  It is packed with lots of information but it reads like a novel.  Scotti does a wonderful job to paint the picture of  the summer of 1911 in Paris when Mona Lisa was taken from the Louvre to the moment that she was found in the winter of 1913.    The theft of the century leaves it mark on history and the Mona Lisa becomes more mysterious.  This Book should be on everyone's need to read list. 

4. I Ain't Gonna Paint No More! - Beaumont   If this book is not already on your bookshelf or on your child's bookshelf.  Don't panic!  Run to your nearest bookstore and get a copy.   It is a delightful rhyming story about a little girl who just can't control herself when it comes to making her body a living canvas.  You will never look at paint the same way again. 

5.  A Crocked Kind of Perfect - Urban  Zoe just wants to play the piano and someday make it to Carnegie Hall.  All she needs is a piano to practice. However, when  Zoe's agoraphobic father presents her with a D-60 organ, her musical ambitions takes an unexpected turn.  This charming tale will resonate with eleven year olds everywhere who find themselves chasing a wonderful dream in places that they never dreamed. 

There are lots more titles to come, but consider this an I.O.U for the next time when I list five more titles that are sure to get everyone reading!