Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday Malarkey

This was one of those weeks that I looked at the final pile of arrivals, muttered "Holy Toledo!" and told myself I'm back on a book-buying ban "with certain exceptions" (if/when I run out of feminist lit and can't find anything wonderful at the library, for example).



Recent arrivals (also known as The Holy Toledo Stack):


  • The Power by Naomi Alderman - purchased
  • The Golden Age by Joan London - purchased
  • The Third Level by Jack Finney - purchased
  • The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry - from Custom House (an imprint of HarperCollins) for review
  • The Great Rescue by Peter Hernon and
  • Spies in the Family by Eva Dillon - both from Harper for review
  • The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne - from Hogarth (an imprint of Crown Publishing) for review, via Shelf Awareness
  • The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas - from Flatiron Books for review, via Shelf Awareness


All of these books make me wish I had more hours in my day but The Third Level by Jack Finney is the most exciting of my purchases because he's a long-time favorite author. I've occasionally looked to see if there are any Jack Finney books I've missed, over the years, certain that I can't possibly have read them all. But, till recently, I've had no luck finding any that I overlooked. So, I'm not sure how I missed The Third Level but I can hardly bear sitting next to it without picking it up to start reading.


Books finished since last Malarkey:


  • Bellwether by Connie Willis (reread for F2F discussion)
  • Whatever You Do, Don't Run by Peter Allison


Posts since last Malarkey:




Last week was a deliberately light posting week. I figured that since I posted a virtual tsunami of book reviews the previous week, it would be a good idea to let frequent readers have some time to catch up if they so desired.


Currently reading:


  • Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson 


In other news:

I don't know exactly when I'm going to take my summer break from blogging, but I'm thinking probably mid-July? Maybe? I guess we'll just cross that bridge when we come to it. I'm not at all tired of blogging or in need of a break. But, I have other reasons for needing to step away - not only from the blog but from the internet - for a while. At any rate, a break is coming but not for at least a couple weeks.


©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Fiona Friday - Sink kitty

Just hanging out. It's nice and cool in the sink.


©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal


In winter, the days lost their shape early. The streets were blurry with shadows and traffic lights as Kulwinder walked home and thought about her day. 

~p. 37 of Advance Reader Copy, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows (some changes may have been made to the final print version)


Nikki is a modern, independent woman and the rebel of her family. The daughter of Sikh Indian immigrants, she is a university drop-out, formerly in law school, who lives above the pub where she tends bar. Her sister Mindi is Nikki's opposite; she just wants a traditional marriage. When Mindi asks Nikki to put her profile on the marriage board at the Punjabi community center in London's Southall, Nikki  discovers a job opening for a writing teacher.

Nikki gets the job but she's surprised to find that the class is entirely composed of widows who don't know how to write in English. And, one is completely illiterate. Nikki assumes the entire scope of the course will have to change; she'll be teaching her students to write, instead. But, the widows object. They really want to tell stories, even if it means dictating them. And, the stories they want to tell are very colorful. Nikki agrees to their wishes but does so knowing that if her boss finds out what they're doing, she'll lose her job.

While Nikki encourages her students to write what they love, she also gets to know them as individuals and learns about the secrets they keep. But, what she doesn't realize is that in seeking the answers to the mystery of what happened to her boss's daughter, she is putting her own life in danger.

Recommended - I added a family warning in my blog labels because of the short stories by the widows, interspersed throughout the book, for those who may have sneaky young readers with whom one should probably read and discuss if the book gets away from you. Having said that, there's a good deal about being empowered by creativity and the fact that women become invisible as they age - both important topics - so I wouldn't panic if a youngster gets hold of Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. I'd just discuss the story and its positive lessons.

There's a lot more going on than the erotic stories written by the widows that are interspersed throughout the book. Nikki starts to date someone but there are complications. Mindi is looking for love and wants encouragement from her sister but Nikki is skeptical of arranged marriages. Nikki's mom has been widowed for a couple years and Nikki still wonders if quitting law school contributed to her father's sudden death. Nikki's mother's income is becoming tighter, so Nikki really needs to keep her job but she knows it's likely not to last. And, then there's the mystery of a young woman's death, a gang of young Sikh men who go around harassing women about abiding by rules, and the fact that Nikki's first job at the pub is already threatened by loss of revenue.

Sometimes the widows made me laugh. And, toward the end of the book, there's a scene so tense that I went from lying against two plushy pillows to sitting bolt upright, hanging on every word. An excellent story with a good blend of darkness and light.

©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday Malarkey



Recent arrivals (top to bottom):


  • The River at Night by Erica Ferencik - purchased (I pre-ordered this one after reading about it, possibly in Entertainment Weekly)
  • Blackout by Marc Elsberg - purchased
  • Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi - Purchased for feminist reading after reading an article in which a prize-winning author mentioned the title.
  • The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen by Hendrik Groen - From Grand Central Publishing for review, via Shelf Awareness
  • World Pizza by Cece Meng and Ellen Shi - from Sterling Children's Books for review
  • Digital Wildlife Photography by John and Barbara Gerlach - purchased by husband
  • Wildlife Photography by Uwe Skrzypczak - purchased by husband



Books finished since last Malarkey:



  • World Pizza by Cece Meng and Ellen Shi
  • Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
  • The Explorers: The Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress

And, I reread all but one of the books that I reviewed (The Explorers, which was a first-time read).


This was definitely a fun reading week.



Posts since last Malarkey:




Currently reading:


  • Bellwether by Connie Willis - A reread for F2F discussion. 
  • Whatever You Do, Don't Run by Peter Allison - True stories of life as a safari guide in Botswana

I removed The Women in the Castle from my current reads temporarily because I had some other books that required priority, but I've only read a single chapter so it's not an abandonment so much as a setting aside.



In other news:

In case you missed my announcement, last week, it's probably pretty obvious from the sheer quantity of cute titles that last week I dedicated my posts to reviews of children's books. You know what that means? It means I granted myself permission to sit around reading and writing about children's books, all week. Bliss! I love children's books! It also means I'm totally out of children's books on my TBR stacks. There's good and bad to that, of course. I'm closing in on being "caught up" on reviews, which is a bit like catching up on laundry: it never lasts long. On the huge plus side, if there's ever a backlog, the reading must be going well. At any rate, it was a great reading and blogging week. Hope yours was, as well. Happy reading!


©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Explorers: The Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress



This story begins, like most stories do, with a pig wearing a teeny hat. And I'm sure right now you're thinking to yourself, "I've read this story before." But please let me assure you that this isn't that pig in a teeny hat story you're reading but the other one. The one you haven't read. Yet. 


This is the opening to The Explorers: The Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress. Sebastian is the hero and eventually we meet Evie, who becomes his partner in mystery-solving and adventure. I knew I was going to love the story as soon as I read that first page because I adore an author who writes with a sense of the absurd.

Sebastian is a 12-year-old with a devotion to routine, a photographic memory, a love of maps, and a propensity for science and math. His entire family is equally nerdy, so he gets a great deal of support in his pursuits. Evie is 11 years old, alone and sad, her parents dead, her only escape from the children's home in which she lives a weekly dinner with two very beige people called the Andersons who feed her beige food.

WARNING: The rest of this review contains spoilers. Skip down to the rating if you're concerned.

Then, things begin to change. Sebastian is forced to take a different route home from school and when he does, he happens across a door in an alley that says, "The Explorers Club". And, because of a pig in a teeny hat, he eventually ends up working behind that door and discovering a box full of photographs and newspaper clippings. Evie is out for her weekly dinner when two scary men show up at the Andersons' house looking for a key and Evie ends up having to escape from a fire with a mysterious letter sent by a man she thought was dead: her grandfather.

What happened to the people in the photos hidden inside the box Sebastian has found in The Explorers Club? Why does mentioning their names anger the club's members? How is the letter connected to the contents of the box? Will Sebastian and Evie be able to put all the clues together and duck all the bullets the two bad guys are shooting at them?

Highly recommended - Wow, what an adventure. I love the fact that the hero and heroine in this exciting middle grade book are very sharp kids, weird things happen, the book is action-packed to the point that sometimes you're practically hyperventilating at the end of an exciting scene, and the author has a wicked sense of humor. My only warning is that The Explorers: The Door in the Alley unfortunately ends on a cliffhanger. In fact, the author even makes a joke out of the cliffhanger - you have to love it that she's at least witty about it while she's ripping the proverbial rug out from under your feet. I call it a warning (maybe the correct word is "complaint") because I absolutely hate cliffhangers and often will refuse to buy a second book in a series if a first story isn't entirely wrapped up in some form. The rare exceptions are the books I love so much that I really must read on.

The Explorers may be one of those rare exceptions to my cliffhanger rule. It was so massively entertaining that it would have gotten 5 stars from me if it hadn't been a cliffhanger (I only took one star off -- and, in hindsight, that seems a bit harsh; I'll go back and change it to 4.5/5 at Goodreads). I love the characters. Sebastian is meticulous but kind and gracious. He means well and it's difficult for him to break rules, even when he's encouraged. Evie is sad, at first, but once given a challenge she puts her whole heart into solving the mystery, although she's definitely invested in it because it involves searching for a family member. And, she also really knows her mind. She's a nice, strong heroine.  The writing is excellent and often very, very funny, the pacing perfect -- she does give you a break, just as you're really gasping for air -- and The Explorers Club is an imaginative place that you can't help but wish existed. Also, there's a cat named David Copperfield. Who doesn't love a book with a cat? A perfect read for any adventure-loving kid and the first in a series.


©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Fiona Friday on the Wrong Day - Big stretch

It's almost like she's trying to imitate the shape of her scratching pad. But, no. She just likes a good stretch after a nap.


©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Almost Everybody Farts by Marty Kelley



Sisters fart.
Brothers fart. 
Sometimes even mothers f--

No. 
Mothers do not fart. 


I would like to think you simply cannot go wrong with a book that has a unicorn farting a rainbow on its cover and I'm right, in this case, but I was definitely concerned that I'd find Almost Everybody Farts by Marty Kelley an ackward or uncomfortable read and came *this* close to saying "No, thanks," to the offer to review. Wow, am I glad I changed my mind (it was the unicorn cover that got me, in the end).

Each spread has several panels in which various people, creatures, or groups are shown farting and types of farts are described (firey farts by dragons, farts that sound like horns).


Farting chicken.
Farting bunny. 
Uncles fart and think it's funny.


But, every now and then, someone tries to say mothers fart and a mother steps in to say that simply isn't so. Of course, in the end it turns out that mothers actually do fart and the mother is discovered farting behind a closed door.

Highly recommended - Hilarious. I saved Almost Everybody Farts for last because it's one of my new favorite children's books. With a subject that small children like to giggle about, amusing text with a great rhythm, and bright, playful illustrations, the book is a total winner and would be an especially fun book to read to a classroom full of wiggly preschoolers or kindergarteners; it has "crowd pleaser" written all over it. The text is minimal but invites a little bit of dramatic pause whenever the mother interrupts to say mothers don't fart and ends with a great laugh when Mom is found hiding to let one go.

©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Dance is for Everyone by Andrea Zuill

Note: I was hoping to finish my final review (only one children's book left!) and then post a Fiona Friday photo by tonight, but a storm is moving in. So, while I will definitely post one more book review if the storm holds off long enough, I'm going to hold the kitty photo for Saturday.


Mrs. Iraina's students are surprised when a new student shows up for ballet class. But, nobody wants to tell an alligator that she can't stay, and the alligator is good at following the dance moves. Mrs. Iraina reads about alligators and stocks alligator chow, just in case. The students grow to like the new student and start calling her Tanya because she resembles Madame Tanya Prefontaine, a prima ballerina.

Much like Madame Prefontaine, Tanya was very strong. 
A bit too strong. 

And she didn't seem to know what was going on with her tail.

But what could they do? [...]

They didn't want to hurt her feelings. That might make her grumpy or bitey. 

The "grumpy or bitey" line made me laugh. Fortunately, the children and their teacher are clever and come up with a solution to Tanya's swinging tail (tying it to her body with a sash) so that they can practice their new dance for the recital: "The Legend of the Swamp Queen". The recital goes well. Adults predictably think Tanya is a person in a realistic costume. But, after the recital, Tanya goes missing.

Where has Tanya gone? The class misses her until one day an invitation shows up and the children go to the swamp, where they find that Tanya has trained other the alligators to dance.

Highly recommended - I gave Dance is for Everyone 5 stars at Goodreads because it makes me smile throughout the reading and I love the illustrations, which are mostly color on an all-white background. Exceptions are the stage scenes in which green curtains and scenery serve as backdrops. I particularly liked the theme of acceptance in spite of differences. Apart from the fact that they're a little nervous about potentially being bitten or knocked off their feet by a swinging tail, nobody is all that bothered by Tanya's appearance. Of special note: I didn't notice on the first reading that one of the dancers is a little boy. Awesome! Inclusiveness goes in many directions.

©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

World Pizza by Cece Meng and Ellen Shi



In World Pizza by Cece Meng and Ellen Shi, a family is sitting on a hill at night, looking for wishing stars (shooting stars) when the mother of the family spots one. She tries to wish for world peace but a cherry blossom falls from the branch above her. It tickles her nose and she sneezes in the middle of her wish, turning the wish into something just a little bit different: "peace--ah...ahh...ahh...CHOO!". Everyone agrees with little Jack when he says, "Mama wished for world pizza!"

Soon, pizzas begin falling from the sky all over the world. The family eats a pizza and it makes them full and happy. Elsewhere, the hungry and grumpy and everyday people of the world eat the pizzas that fall from the sky. Every pizza is different but they're all good and nobody is left hungry. Even the grumpy neighbors who peer over fences and complain about noise are softened by the joy of a good pizza.

Pizza appeared in valleys, in deserts, and on the very topmost points of snowy, blowy mountains. [...]

People living in the smallest building of the smallest town got pizza. 

People with no place to live at all got pizza. (Those people got extra pizza). 

By the end of the next day, an entire world's inhabitants have full bellies and happy hearts. Can feeding the world be the answer to the search for world peace? It's an interesting thought, isn't it? Imagine a world in which nobody is left hungry - not the homeless, the rich, the poor. Everyone, no matter where they may live, satisfyingly full. Such a pleasant thought.

Recommended but not a favorite - World Pizza is a cute book with a thought-provoking concept but not as well executed as I would have liked. I found the text a little flat and repetitive. Of course, repetition is often a positive thing in children's books as it gets the point across to little ones, and the book also proposes a question worth talking about - both points in its favor. My favorite illustrations were those that showed various places around the world. Unsurprisingly, I was also hit by a massive craving for pizza, which has not yet been satisfied.

You can see some of the illustrations and some interior shots at the illustrator's website:

Ellen Shi's website


©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt and Adam Rex


Long ago,
in an ancient and distant realm called
the Kingdom of Backyard,
there lived a warrior named 
ROCK.
Rock was the strongest in 
all the land, but he was 
sad because no one could
give him a worthy challenge.

So begins The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt and Adam Rex, the only book in this tremendous pile I've been reviewing that I actually purchased with real money. I bought The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors after reading (somewhere - who knows where) that it was "hilarious". I'm always up for anything that makes me smile - and I guess I was in one of those weak moods that happen roughly weekly, these days - so I got online and bought it on a whim. 

And, sure enough, it's every bit as fun as advertised by . . . whoever. Rock is sad because he has found no worthy adversaries, so he goes in search of a challenge. First he comes to a clothesline, where he "met a warrior who hung on a rope, holding a giant's underwear": a clothespin. Rock tells Clothespin to drop that underwear and fight. Clothespin says he'll pinch Rock and make him cry. But, of course, Rock wins. Next, he challenges an apricot. 

Elsewhere, a piec of paper is enduring the same horror. Nobody can outwit Paper. He jams a printer and frightens off a half-eaten bag of trail mix by throwing his shade on the nuts and raisins. Meanwhile, Scissors is experiencing the same challenge, first defeating a roll of tape and then dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets. 

Of course, they finally meet and the outcome is predictable. And, now we all know the origin of the "joyous struggle [that] still rages on to this very day." 

Highly recommended - Large, vibrant, glorious illustrations that are both expressive and action-packed make The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors a visual feast and theatrical text makes for a perfect opportunity to polish off your ability to read using a variety of dramatic voices. Money well spent. It would be even better spent if there was a child around. Warning: Dramatic voices tend to frighten cats out of the room. So, you know, if all you have is a cat to read to, you might want to tone down the volume. 

©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ella WHO? by Linda Ashman and Sara Sanchez


The movers left the door wide open. 
That's probably how she got in. 

They were lugging furniture and stacking boxes - LOTS of boxes. 
That's probably why no one noticed her. 

In Ella Who?, when a little girl discovers a baby elephant in her house, she tries to tell her mother and then her father, then her grandmother. But, either they can't hear (Dad over the sound of the shower he's repairing, Grandma over the vacuum cleaner) or they're not listening (Mom, busy directing the movers). "Ella WHO?" they all say. Mom assumes Ella is the little girl next door.

The little girl and the elephant eat cookies, check on the baby, play dress-up, have tea, and read books. But, the elephant longs to go outside. So, out they go and they have a great time, although the elephant is not so hot at hide and seek and the seesaw doesn't quite work when one youngster is so much heavier than the other.

After she builds a tent, a man shows up to ask if anyone has seen a small elephant. The little girl is busy inside the tent but when she sees the flyer about a missing elephant, she does a test. The missing elephant loves apples and hates green beans, according to the flyer. Sure enough, her new friend the baby elephant eats all the apples and leaves the green beans behind. She calls the number and sadly says goodbye. But, it's likely a lot more animals will be showing up. There's an animal sanctuary behind the new house!

Recommended - I thought Ella WHO? was a fun read with one slight annoyance: I didn't particularly like the repetition of the words "Ella WHO?" throughout. But, the mistaken understanding is the focal point of the book - nobody else gets that the little girl is saying "elephant". And, anyway, that was the only thing I disliked. The illustrations are adorable, brightly colored on a solid white background with delightfully expressive faces. And, I love the way the little girl simply goes about her business, entertaining a small elephant as if it's no big deal. I love a book with an unflappable little heroine. The fact that there's an animal sanctuary behind the little girl's house and a babboon shows up in the last spread ("Babette who?" someone says from inside the house) brings this cute story full circle.

©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Caring for Your Lion by Tammi Sauer and Troy Cummings


Congratulations on your new lion! 
We know you ordered a kitten, but 
we ran out of those. 

Luckily, a lion is practically the same 
thing!

Caring for your lion is easy. Just 
follow this handy guide.


The text above is a note taped to a large crate in the opening spread of Caring for Your Lion. You know you're in for some fun the moment you get to that line about a lion being virtually the same thing as a kitten. If you're not already smiling, you should be.

Caring for Your Lion is written in 14 steps. The first is to open the crate. And, there, standing at the front of the crate is a grinning lion. Seriously, if you weren't already smiling . . . just wait. Next, you're supposed to find the enclosed feather to keep handy "in case of emergency".

My favorite step is:

Step 3: Try very hard NOT to look like a zebra. Or a gazelle. Or a bunny. 

The little boy from the cover just happens to be wearing a T-shirt with the image of a bunny on it. Fortunately, he has a button-down shirt on top of it, which he quickly draws closed. If you're not smiling by this point, I think we can give up on you, but I can tell you that the feather is for tickling the inside of the lion if you accidentally get eaten or to tickle his nose if he reaches for the 12 pizzas you've ordered and inadvertently swallows the pizza delivery man, instead.

From building a gigantic litter box (while the lion happily relieves himself in the garden) to giving him space to run (oops, there goes the neighborhood) to finding that a lion can nap just about anywhere (kitties and patches of sunlight go hand in hand), Caring for Your Lion takes you step-by-step through lion ownership while giving you plenty to laugh about. In the end, the unnamed boy from the cover has discovered that a lion is the perfect pet for him, in spite of all the hassles, as he ends up curled up in bed with his oversized kitty.

Highly recommended - The combination of funny instructions and absolutely marvelous illustrations makes Caring for Your Lion a pure delight. I'm a big fan of author Tammi Sauer and always jump at the chance to review her books. Once again, she has come up with a winner. And, the illustrations honestly could not be more perfect. Someone send me a child to read this to!!!

©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast: The Case of the Stinky Stench by Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney



Back in the kitchen and deep in the fridge,
past Trifle Tower, across Taco Bridge,
on a vacation at Mashmallow Coast,
sat Lady Pancake beside Sir French Toast.


Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast: The Case of the Stinky Stench takes the characters from Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast on a new adventure inside the fridge. This time, there is a strange smell in the refrigerator. Inspector Croissant, Sir French Toast's nephew, is on the job. But, he needs help and Toast is willing do try. Croissant has interrupted Pancake and Toast's vacation but they're a team, now, so they both join Croissant on the search.

First, they decide to check the lair of their nemesis, Baron von Waffle, who lives in the Onion Ring Cave. They cross Salsa Ravine and traipse around Mount Everbean to arrive at his home. Von Waffle is not happy to see them. But, he is clearly innocent. His home smells delicious and nobody can dispute it. Outside, the smell is growing worse. After crossing Applesauce River, they hear a rumor about a stinky red fish in the bottom of Corn Chowder Lake. It turns out to be . . . a red herring. And, yes, it smells fine. The puns are definitely one of my favorite things about this book. As they prepare to check out the lake made of corn chowder:

"Great!" said Croissant as he tripped by Miss Steak. 

Finally, they draw close to the bad smell and discover its origin is a fruitcake that's molded. But fruitcakes last forever! Surely there's a solution. The fruitcake tells the story of his downfall but Croissant says, "This is no villain. Let's help him. Make way!" And, off they go to find a place where the fruitcake can get a shower and shave.

Now that fruitcake has been cleaned up, the day is saved, the case solved. The contents of the refrigerator have a party with music by Spuddy Holly and the Croquettes. And as in its predecessor, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, the book ends with a fold-out page with a view of the contents of the refrigerator, which is quite different from the layout in the first book.

Highly recommended - Just like the first book, the colorful and creative fridge interior made me smile. I also found myself studying the geography - the Marshmallow Coast (which appears to be on the edge of a chocolate river), the bridge given its contours by bottles of maple syrup and tacos, the Salsa Ravine with chips wedged into its edges. I adored the use of puns, too. You're never too young to learn about clever wording. Because the food is animated, it's especially appreciated that the rotten item was salvageable. And, I love the full view of the refrigerator interior - a map on which one can trace the journey. So. Much. Fun.

©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney



In Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, the title characters live "Deep in the fridge and behind the green peas, way past the tofu and left of the cheese." They're good friends. But, when Miss Brie brings the news that there's only a single drop of syrup remaining in the bottle, they both announce their desire for the last drop. And, the race is on.

Through Broccoli Forest, past Orange Juice Fountain,
they climbed to the top of Potato Mash Mountain.

Pushing and shoving they fought for the lead,
Toast behind Pancake, who rolled at high speed.

As they race through the fridge, each has plenty of mishaps. Sir French Toast falls in an open pot of jam and takes an unfortunately ill-conceived ski leap off of Sauerkraut Peak, landing him below his destination. Lady Pancake gets stuck in Chili Lagoon and causes an avalanche of beans, even after being warned to change directions by a chickpea. 

But, finally they arrive, "battered and soggy, exhausted and crumbling," beside the bottle of syrup. And, it's empty. While they were racing each other, Baron von Waffle managed to sneak over to the bottle, first. He enjoyed that last drop. 

With one evil laugh, Waffle slipped out of sight. 
The syrup was gone. No more reason to fight.

Trudging back home beneath layers of grime,
Toast said, "Perhaps we should not fight next time."

Always a welcome lesson, that joining forces is better than fighting, Pancake and Toast begin their pact by immediately agreeing to share a pat of butter. 

Highly recommended - Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast is another one of my new favorites. I've fortunately gotten to read a lot of great children's books lately. The illustrations are pure delight. I've read the book several times and I find myself smiling all the way through. I particularly love the creative way food is used to make forests and mountains, a fountain, a lagoon . . . even a parachute fashioned from a lettuce leaf. At the end of the book, there's a fold-down page that shows the entire refrigerator interior, so you can see how when Sir French Toast fell way too far after vaulting off Sauerkraut Peak he landed in the vegetable crisper. Ridiculously fun.

©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Sammy's Broken Leg (Oh, No!) and the Amazing Cast That Fixed It by Judith Wolf Mandell and Liz C. Brown


Sammy's Broken Leg (Oh, No!) and the Amazing Cast That Fixed It is about a happy, active girl who likes to "run and twirl and skip and jump all day." When she goes for a jump on her trampoline and topples off, her leg is badly hurt and Sammy's mother must take her to the Emergency Room for help.

Step by step, Sammy's Broken Leg goes through what happens when a bone is broken. First, Sammy gets a shot to help her with the pain. She's x-rayed and given a cast that goes from her chest, all the way down both legs. A bit of magic happens in the operating room, as Sammy's getting her cast: "a thousand bazillion kisses" from her friends and relatives fly into the room and make their way into Sammy's cast.

When Sammy awakens, she learns the many rules about taking care of her cast and at home she discovers the frustrations. She can't move very well, can't fit in her favorite clothing, bathtime and bathroom time are a big ordeal. But, her friends bring her things to do and she gets to watch extra TV, so there's some good in being stuck in a cast, as well.

Highly recommended - Through vivid illustrations and simple language, Sammy's Broken Leg (Oh, No!) and the Amazing Cast That Fixed It walks children through the entire process of treating a broken bone, from the injury itself to the hospital experience, life at home in a cast, the scary process of having a cast removed by a noisy saw, and finally, the recovery. Sammy's emotions at each step are nicely described. I've buried the email I recieved from the publicist but as I recall, the author was prompted to write this book when a child she loved broke a bone and she was unable to find a book that described what the child would experience.

Sammy's Broken Leg would be equally great for doctor's offices, schools, and for reading at home. I received a paperback copy for review and it was damaged in the delivery so I'd recommend springing for the hardback. If you're ever looking for a book to donate in quantity as a public service, I think this would be an excellent choice. I know First Responders often keep stuffed animals to give to injured or sick children and I'm sure ER doctors or pediatricians would love to have plenty of this book to hand out. Teachers may enjoy it, as well, since it's not unusual for children to break a bone at school and classmates are undoubtedly every bit as curious about what happens to their friends as the children going through the process.


©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Elly and the Smelly Sneaker by Leslie Gorin and Lesley Vamos

Quick note: Until I've caught up with reviewing all the children's books I've received, the rest of this week will be dedicated to children's books. I've been piling them up, saving them to review together, and . . . well, the pile is substantial. So, instead of doing a single Children's Day, I'll just do several reviews per day until I've gotten to all of them.



Elly led a charmed life. 
Her stepmother treated her like a princess.
Her stepsisters showered her with bonbons and feathered hats. 
Maids scrubbed the house till it shone, making sure Elly never had a single cinder under her manicured nails. 


Elly and the Smelly Sneaker: A Riches to Rags Story is one of my absolute favorites of the many children's books I've read, lately. A tale that turns Cinderella on its head, Elly is a girl who is coddled by her stepmother and two stepsisters. They like to fuss over her, dress her up, throw parties for her.  She doesn't have time to make friends with the neighborhood kids or play with them. They play baseball! That's what Elly wants to do most of all. At night, she sometimes sneaks outside to practice playing baseball on her own. 

Then, one day, the family insists that Elly should go to the palace. The king has sent an open invitation but only one guest per household is allowed. Elly is frustrated. She's "... sick of fondues and froufrous!" She just wants to play ball. 

Suddenly, her fairy godfather appears. He says a magic spell, "Bibbity, bobbity, BLECH!" The spell turns Elly's lovely outfit into a baseball uniform with smelly sneakers. She can play ball till noon, then her outfit will disappear, replaced by her fancy dress. She plays ball - and she's very good. All that practice has paid off. But, then she realizes it's nearly noon. As she runs off the pitcher's mound, a single sneaker is left behind, stuck in the dirt. 

The next day, the coach goes in search of the owner of the smelly sneaker. He will make the owner of the sneaker his co-captain. Of course, Elly's stepmother is horrified when he shows up. But, the sneaker fits Elly perfectly and she pulls the other sneaker from her purse. Her stepmother is proud and the play on words that follows is doubly fun:

"Don't worry, Elly! You can still wear gloves . . . "

". . . and have a coach . . . "

". . . and you get to play on diamonds!" 

And, like that, Elly becomes a normal girl who can play with friends, wear sneakers, and go to ball games. 

Highly recommended - I absolutely love this story, in which girls are encouraged to do and be what they love and practice to become good at something. As soon as I closed the book, I got online and recommended it to a friend, so I've gotten a little feedback from a little girl who is much like Elly - she loves to play ball. She was a big fan of the book. I particularly loved the way Elly and the Smelly Sneaker takes the Cinderella story and flips it. The fairy godfather is hilarious (a substitute for Elly's fairy godmother, who's gone bungee jumping -- more female empowerment). The word play made me smile and the illustrations are perfect, with action nicely portrayed. Whether your child  of any gender prefers to play ball or dress up, Elly and the Smelly Sneaker is a winner. 


©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Monday Malarkey



Recent arrivals:


  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston - purchased

What a strange title. I would never have looked at this book if it hadn't been recommended to me as a title for my feminist reading. And, yes, Isabel did knock the book on the floor. You can get away with a lot when you're cute. 



Books finished since last Malarkey:


  • Shrill by Lindy West
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Shrill is my feminist title for the month and I liked it a lot, although occasionally I thought she droned on a bit. I'd never heard of Lindy West but she's a writer and comedienne. She can be offensive but in a good way; she's bold to make her point, rather than just being offensive for the sake of a laugh, in other words.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a book I just grabbed at random because I was in the mood for YA, not thinking about the fact that it was a perfect choice for Gay Pride Month. I couldn't put it down. Such a good story, very emotional.


Posts since last Malarkey:




Currently reading:


  • Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
  • The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck


In other news:

Can't think of any. Maybe something interesting will happen, this week. I'll let you know, next Monday.


©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, June 09, 2017

5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior by Siegel, Siegel, Bouma, Rockefeller, and Sun


Oona Lee goes to Sand Dancer Academy but she feels out of place. Clumsy in a way her big sister never would have been, she struggles to keep control of her aniform (dancing sand figure) but it always gets away from her. When she's sent out of class to retrieve her sand after losing control of her aniform, Oona overhears a conversation that disturbs her. The Five Worlds - interconnected moons - are dying. The only way to save them is for the chosen sand dancer to light the five beacons on Beacon Day, which will create harmony. Then it'll all be copacetic. Or, so they hope.

But, last year's Chosen One not only didn't perform the proper rites to light the beacons on Beacon Day, she ran away. That Chosen One just happened to be Oona's sister, Jessa Lee. Oona doesn't have anywhere near the confidence or ability that her sister had and neither does the new sand dancer, this year's Chosen One. But, Jessa has written to Oona, instructing her to take a ship to Moon Yatta. That will mean missing Beacon Day but Oona is prepared to leave. Maybe her sister can help her work out how to save the Five Worlds.

Instead, when Oona shows up for her flight, chaos ensues. Her world is attacked by the people of another moon, the Toki, who plan to steal the queen's bones to help them become powerful. The Toki have been conquered and enslaved by Oona's people but the Chosen One is one of them. Oona is confused but still thinks Jessa can help light the five beacons, if only she get to her. But, with her world at war, is that even possible?

From the attack onward, 5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior becomes an adventure so intense that I found myself gripping the book, sitting up straighter, absolutely immersed. The Sand Warrior is a quest and Oona is the unwitting heroine. On her adventure, she meets a young boy named An Tzu, who suffers from a disease that's making him slowly disappear but who has special abilities. She also meets Jax Amboy, a star ball player who is not quite what he seems. Her team gathered, they go looking for help. But, in order to get to their goal, they'll have battles to fight and prejudices to overcome.

Highly recommended - 5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior is a graphic novel for middle graders that starts a little slow as it introduces Oona but then her quest gradually comes into focus. From the moment Oona meets the current Chosen One and begins her quest, she realizes that she may have more natural ability than she could have guessed. Regardless, she is determined to make sure the interconnected worlds survive.

There are hints of various Earth concepts. The light from the beacons, for example, is what keeps the five worlds in balance. What's happening to them is basically climate change. And, to restore balance, the worlds - which contain entirely different peoples (some blue-skinned, some basically animated plants) must overcome their prejudices and work together. Oona has never had many friends because of her awkwardness but her willingness to take help where it's offered not only enables her to gather the strength of others but also leads to the creation of a second family, of sorts. My favorite kind of book!

I've never been a fan of graphic novels, although I do occasionally read and enjoy them (I just don't go out of my way to seek them out) but I'll be on pins and needles till the next book in this series comes out. It's easy to read but also requires thought; and the quest is so gripping I stayed up to finish, even though I got a very late start on my reading. I closed it in the end and thought, "I want to reread this!" Seriously, it's that good. I loved the adventure, the growth of the characters (especially Oona), the meaning behind the story, and the denouement. There's a surprise about Oona's sister at the end, also, that leads to an epic good vs. evil battle. I just can't tell you enough how fun 5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior is. Recommended for middle graders, as it was intended, but if you like a good adventure and you're an adult, you might want to sneak this one into your basket for when you need a light, adventurous read. I was honestly shocked at how much I loved it. I will definitely reread it and I can hardly bear thinking about how long it will take for the second book to come out.

My thanks to Random House for the chance to read and review 5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior!

And, it's Friday; time for a Fiona Friday pic (starring Isabel). Isabel is attracted to fresh laundry and this pile of laundry hadn't been on the bed more than a minute before she showed up and began tunneling into it. My plan was to fold the laundry immediately, but after she'd tunneled for a bit, Izzy made herself a nest and, I suppose, told herself, "The laundry is clean and I must be, also" because she took a lengthy bath and then settled into the middle of her nest and fell asleep. I did the only thing available to me. I picked up the closest book and read, instead of folding.



©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

The Baker's Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan


Emma (short for Emmanuelle) is a young baker living in Normandy. When the invading Nazis tell her she must cook 12 baguettes of bread, each day, she complies but cleverly adds an extra ingredient to stretch the food a little farther. The two extra loaves she's able to make will help keep villagers alive. Eventually, she discovers that she has other skills. But, every time she adds that secret ingredient to her flour and every day that she continues to help the villagers acquire what they need, she endangers her own life. While Emma grows hard from the war and tells everyone that the Allies will never arrive, somewhere inside her is a beating heart. Will Emma survive the dangers she places herself in? Who will live and who will die in Vergers? Will the love of her life return and help to soften a heart hardened by years of hardship and loss?

The Baker's Secret doesn't contain specific dates till nearly the end of the book but the passage of time, the deprivation of life under an invading army, and the daily terror are made perfectly clear. The village of Vergers in Normandy is the setting, near the ocean and beaches where D-Day took place on June 6, 1944.

Recommended - I had a little trouble liking the main character of The Baker's Secret; but while I disliked Emma's refusal to embrace hope (which I admit could be easily defended as a survival mechanism), I admired her determination and resourcefulness and cared about what happened to her and the other villagers. The final scenes that take place on D-Day are particularly tense and moving.

It's truly serendipitous that I finished the reading of The Baker's Secret on the day before the anniversary of D-Day. The fact that photographs and news stories about the anniversary are everywhere has given the story an extra dimension. I've saved a few but this photo taken on D-Day in Vierville, France looks closest to how I'd expect Vergers to look:



Side note:  I didn't realize I'd read another book by this author till I began to write my blog post about it. That earlier book, The Curiosity, was one I harshly criticized. This one is dramatically better. I have a feeling I'll be thinking about Emma, her grandmother, The Goat, and the rest of the characters and their story for a long time. Well done, Mr. Kiernan.

And, another thing: I always feel like this is secondary to acknowledging the anniversary of D-Day, but today is my 11th bloggiversary. *Blows out imaginary candles*

©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Monday Malarkey

It's been two weeks since a Monday Malarkey post, so there's a lot of catch-up in this one but don't worry; it's not all that long.



Recent arrivals (all purchases):


  • On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder
  • Shrill by Lindy West
  • The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus


Two of those were impulse purchases, although I'd been considering one for a while. On Tyranny had been on my radar but just obliquely and then I started paying closer attention to books about politics. I've been seeing a lot of political books that piqued my interest, lately, and I figured On Tyranny would be a good place to start, although I bought it in an impulsive moment. Shrill was one of many books on a list of feminist titles I've gathered and I needed to find something for this month's feminist read. The Portable Veblen has been on my wish list since before it was released and when a friend mentioned that the e-book was on sale, I considered buying the e-book but decided the price for the paperback was good enough that I might as well buy that, instead. I'm far more likely to actually read it, after all. Gone With the Wind is a replacement for the copy I began reading last year, which almost immediately began to fall apart in my hands. And, One Thousand White Women was my second impulse purchase, bought after I saw an ad for the follow-up novel on Shelf Awareness and looked up the original book.

If I end up broke in a ditch under a haphazard shelter made from books, you'll know why. Also, in case you're wondering, the London taxi on top of the pile is there to hold down the cover of On Tyranny, which I've already read. It didn't look attractive with the cover bowing upward.


Books finished since last Malarkey:


  • Same Beach, Next Year by Dorothea Benton Frank
  • Some Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler by Trudi Kanter
  • Shadow Man by Alan Drew
  • 5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior by numerous authors
  • On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder
  • The Baker's Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan


Posts since last Malarkey:





Currently reading:


Nothing, actually, although there are several books I have my eye on. I just finished The Baker's Secret and will probably start reading my feminist title and the classic I have set aside, The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck. I also need to get back to Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit and have a middle grade book that I want to start soon, if not right away.


In other news:


We had a free channel weekend and found a couple of excellent movies.

Next Stop Wonderland (1998) says it's a "romantic comedy" on the movie poster, at left, and it's funny. But, over 90% of the movie is more "two ships that pass in the night" than romance. Erin is ditched by her live-in boyfriend (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) at the beginning of the movie. When her mother places an ad in the personals, Erin goes out on a number of trial dates, all the while almost running into Alan, who is clearly perfect for her. Alan is struggling to make ends meet while studying to better his life. You know they'll eventually meet and it will be magical, but since it doesn't happen till about the last 10 minutes of the movie, I can see why some people were frustrated and gave it low ratings. Huzzybuns and I found it surprisingly fun.  I gave it a mental rating of 9/10 and Huz said it was an 8 or 9 for him, which is  shockingly high for him. He's a harsh critic.

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn (2014) is about Henry Altmann, a man who was happy till recently but has become a very angry man since tragedy struck. When he's told he has a brain aneurysm and only 90 minutes to live, he tries to hurriedly reconcile with his family in the remaining hour-and-a-half he believes he has to live but spends most of that time utterly failing at his goal because his anger has distanced him from all the important people in his life. Meanwhile, the doctor who gave him that diagnosis only said 90 minutes because Henry was yelling in her face. She certainly didn't expect him to slip away before she could get him admitted to the hospital. Knowing he could drop dead at any minute, the doctor goes in search of her missing patient.

I wasn't sure I was going to like this movie because you have to sit through a lot of Robin Williams blowing his top and people ignoring him and the doctor going nuts trying to find him before their paths finally intersect, but in the end it was a lovely story and it rained in the living room. Or something. My face got wet.

That's about all! I'm pretty happy with both my reading and blog posting for the past two weeks. How about yourself?

©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Fiona Friday

When you see your sister kitty climbing up above you and it damages your calm.


©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains by Jon Morris



They say you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. If the intergalactic Dr. Voodoo is following that advice, it's difficult to say what job he's aiming for. Clad in tuxedo and tails, he seems more prepared for a career as a maitre d' or a cartoon mayor than as the servant of an ever-living goddess of evil. 

[...]

When Lilith's planet -- also called Lilith -- is destroyed in a battle with Wonder Man, Dr. Voodoo searches for a new seat of the empire. But the queen of evil considers Earth her rightful domain. Harried and henpecked, Voodoo has no choice but to comply. 

Dr. Voodoo and his allies disappeared from Wonder Man's ongoing narrative, though the hero's saga continued for a few more issues. Perhaps Voodoo was marshaling his anthozoons when he should have been recharging his frigitrons for another attack on Earth's peaceful cosmoplanes.

~p. 60

I'll have to take an interior shot of The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains by Jon Morris (page down . . . it'll be here, by the time I post this review) because a view of one spread gives you a pretty good idea of what you're in for when you open the book.

With a sly sense of humor, author Jon Morris describes various villains, which hero was the villain's enemy, where and when the character appeared and what happened to him (some of them appear and then simply fade away, some are quickly dispatched, some bumble around practically asking to be exterminated).

The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains, published by Quirk Books, is the follow-up to The League of Regrettable Superheroes, which I have not read but am now totally dying to read. A friend read The League of Regrettable Superheroes and went straight to her library to request Supervillains when I posted it in my stack of arrivals. She had to exercise patience because it had not yet been released. But, it has now! And, you'll want to grab a copy if you're a fan of old comic books.

Beginning with The Golden Age, from 1938-1949, The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains describes a time period, progressing forward, and then goes into details about various villains. Occasionally, there will be a spread with interior shots from one of the comic books (they're readable, thank goodness), and sometimes a spread will contain brief blurbs about 5 or 6 supervillains who bore similarities to those who are described in greater detail. The result is a book that gives you a good sense of the historical perspective in which the books were written (so many Hitler-like villains in the years before and after WWII) as well as a broad look at a variety of villains, some of whom were clearly more regrettable than others.

Interior shot! Hopefully, you'll be able to enlarge it for a better view.



Highly recommended - Comic fans, in particular, will enjoy this book but I'm not exactly what you could call a comic fangirl and I thought the book was a total delight. I read it slowly, maybe 10 villains per night, and found it immensely entertaining. It's the kind of book you can't shut up about. While I was reading, I'd read excerpts to my husband or tell him some funny little factoid about a supervillain, read one of the humorous side notes written by the author (on the supervillain Colossus: "Earth shirt size XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXL"). Loads of fun and would make a great gift as it is one freaking gorgeous book.

©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Some Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler by Trudi Kanter



It is hard for us to say goodbye. Uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews, cousins, grandmother. Seventeen people. 

I remember a tiny pink-and-white gingham dress trimmed with white rick-rack.

None of Walter's family survived Theresienstadt.

~p. 143

On Sunday, 3 September 1939, I see a policeman wearing a tin hat. On top of our red pillar box a yellow square of gas-detector paint. The street is deserted. Everyone is listening, waiting, at home, abroad, at sea. Germany has invaded Poland, Warsaw is being bombed. The clock strikes eleven.

"The ultimatum has expired," Walter whispers.

I close the window. We sit at the kitchen table, staring at the wireless, trying to understand what Chamberlain is saying. 

"Everything that I have worked for, everything that I had hoped for, everything that I had believed in during my public life, has crashed in ruins."

Outside, silver barrage balloons float in the blue sky.

~p. 191


Somewhere, I've got a copy of the book that The Sound of Music was based upon, but I haven't yet read it so Some Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler is the first book I recall reading that describes Austria at the beginning of WWII.

Some Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler by Trudi Kanter is the memoir of a woman who owned her own millinery. Both a savvy businesswoman and an artist, she was responsible for going on buying trips to purchase the ribbons, flowers, forms, and other parts to make hats, as well as keeping an eye on the market and coming up with designs, which she then had her employees make in the studio portion of her Vienna flat. In the process of divorce as the book opens, Trudi (then Trudi Miller) was aware of the horrors happening in neighboring Germany and kept her eyes and ears open. But, the new love of her life was oblivious. Heedless to her warnings that they needed to leave the country, Walter presumed that the danger would be minimal and they ended up staying well after the German tanks rolled into Austria. Both Trudi and Walter were Jewish, as was her former husband, Pepi.

Through the author's eyes, you get a glimpse of what it was like being a Jew living in Austria at the beginning of the occupation. As her story opens, Trudi and Walter are falling in love. Both are prosperous but Walter seems particularly well off. When the Germans arrive, though, they begin to confiscate his possessions and eventually they go in search of the man, himself. Trudi is helped by sympathetic neighbors at least twice when the Nazis come to arrest him.

Using various contacts and with dogged persistence, Trudi slowly gathers the documents needed and takes journeys to help her prepare for their escape. She also manages to acquire the needed visas for her parents. In Czechoslovakia, they stay with Walter's family, and then they finally end up in England, where Trudi is able to work in her chosen profession and eventually set up her own business.

Trudi Kanter's story is particularly unique for its artistic viewpoint. As a hatmaker, she's got an artistic eye and aesthetics are very important to her. So, while someone else might describe the frustration of living in a drab flat after escaping Austria and leave it at that, Trudi talks about the way she worked to bring color into her life by draping a bright yellow shawl over the bed and buying yellow flowers. Some memoir readers might find her eye for beauty a distraction but it didn't bother me. I particularly thought it was interesting when she said hats were getting so small that a you could put a sequin and a feather in your hair and call it a hat.

At any rate, I thought the book was an excellent addition to the many WWII memoirs I've read. Having never read the perspective of a Viennese Jew, I was unaware that Jews were put to work scrubbing the streets. Just two weeks after closing the book, I read about that in another book (which I'm currently in the midst of: On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder). There are moments that it seems like Trudi's life could have sailed on just fine in spite of Hitler, and then something will happen . . . something terrifying or shocking . . . and you realize that, no, they're not safe. They'll never be safe in Austria.

Recommended - Particularly for those who like WWII memoirs. The only problem I had with Some Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler was that it was a bit choppy and sometimes that meant reading a paragraph or a sentence twice in order to figure out what exactly the author was trying to say. And, yet, there's an immediacy and a uniqueness to her storytelling that makes it a great addition to the many memoirs of WWII. During a particularly vivid bombing scene in which both Trudi and Walter ran to help pull people from the rubble and put out the fire, I think I barely breathed. Some Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler can also be seen as a tribute to Walter, the love of Trudi's life. The two times she spoke of his death, I could barely see through the tears. "To exist in a world which did not contain Walter seemed pointless," she said while Walter hid from the Nazis.

Trudi Kanter was, in fact, ahead of her time. She wrote Some Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler in the 1980s (the original publication date is 1984), before memoirs became a popular publishing category. It was apparently largely ignored. The copy I have, with the cover above, is a reprint by Virago with a "Clearance, $2.00" sticker on its cover. I have no idea where I bought it but it's been floating around for a while.

While looking for a cover image to post, I came across another cover that I really like:


This one is fitting because there were a lot of heavily flowered hats at the shows she attended; in fact, the author described some hats that were not just covered in roses but made entirely from them. I like the pink-dominated cover for that reason. But, I like the Virago cover, as well. I think both give a good sense of the time and place and the focus on the author's profession. Trudi Kanter was a formidable woman, admirable for her business sense and her persistence. Terrifying as the story can be, it almost feels like the word "feminist" should be attached to the description, somewhere. She was a feisty woman. A great book to read with a teenage daughter, to discuss how one woman's persistence and belief in herself paid off.

©2017 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.