Poetry Tuesday: An Admonition to Myself

By Chao Meng-Fu, 1254-1322.

Your teeth are loose, your head is bald.
You’re 63 years old.
Every aspect of your life
Should make you feel ashamed.
All that’s left that interests you
Are the products of your brush.
Leave them behind to give the world
Something to talk about.

;o)

Book Reviews: Every Day Is Kids Day

Gwen the Rescue Hen
A hen dreams of flying, but is rudely woken up by a tornado that sends her out into the world. After being ignored by a giant artificial version of herself, she’s befriended by a boy, and more shenanigans ensue.
I had imagined from the title that the hen would be rescuing others, but not so. The story is silly but endearing, especially the way the boy and the hen hang out.
The artwork is strange, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For one, the start is done negative style: the background is black and the lines are white inside the chicken coop. Said chicken coop shows long lines of hens at work, but on first impression they looks like music staffs.
Special section at the end on chicken facts. Did not know chickens can see in UV! Imagine the research to find that out. . .
3.5/5

This Is a Whoopsie!
Everything you ever wanted to learn about moose—including the plural—from the clumsiest, most self-effacing example.
Like with reindeer, the other moose kid him, but unlike Rudolph, this guy has no self-esteem. After a while it gets a bit boring to hear him say they should get someone else to tell this story.
“As soon as this page turns, go for it!” As if it wasn’t apparent yet, there is no fourth wall here. Whoopsie’s yell blocks some words, while his fall shatters letters so that it’s impossible to see what’s been said. Annoying for those of us with vast curiosities, but there’s some laughs in trying to fix it.
Finally he learns to go with what he’s best at. Even his bird friend sheds a tear at the end.
The artwork is serviceable, getting the job done without trying to be more than that.
3/5

Who Did That? A Whodunit for Children
This isn’t really meant as a whodunit, as any children who know about a particular animal will figure it out. . . and if they don’t know the animal, it won’t mean anything to them anyway. No, this is about a moral, or how a child can be smarter than adults by being simplistic, or something like that.
The story’s also simplistic. It’s a cute tale, but it’s doubtful that this will become one of those books that a kid will want to read or have read to them over and over. Let’s hope the townspeople are smart enough—doubtful—to rebuild using steel.
The artwork is simple as well, though there’s a hilarious shot of a beaver on a Vespa!. . . that’s smaller than him.
3/5

Diary of a Monster
A three-headed eight-limbed monster tells its diary about itself, which seems rather strange, when you consider the monster should be the only one reading it.
From what I gather, this was originally written in Spanish. I’m always wary about rhyming translations, ever since college where I had to read The Odyssey in rhyming couplets. Some of these verses come in five lines and no rhyme, which only makes things stranger. Even the ones that rhyme are frequently forced.
I can’t help but think this would have been done better without attempting poetry, but also from a better perspective than a diary; perhaps the monster telling another monster, maybe a baby one, would have been a better way to go. Because as it stands, even though it’s about a talking monster, it should make more sense.
2.5/5

The Bedtime Battle
One’s a blonde princess, the other a brunette tomboy, but they’re BFFs, and together they fight off trolls and work on faster ways of communication, amongst other things. But there’s still time for tea parties and sleepovers, though the latter is interrupted throughout the night by monsters. After a variety of ways to get rid of them, they finally hit on a solution.
It’s never clear if this is some fairy-tale kingdom or just the imaginations of two creative girls, but I guess it doesn’t matter. They’re really different, but they’re best friends. Period.
4/5

Little White Fish and the Beautiful Sea
Everything is colorful, including the titles, to contrast the main character. The tiny sea creature wanders around its small part of the ocean while all the others talk about what they think is the most beautiful object in the sea.
The book ends with a classic friendship motif, but more than anything it’s likely to inspire trips to the aquarium, whether the parents had that in mind or not.
3/5

Discover Thanksgiving
Like most if not all of the books in this series, there’s less drawings and more photographs, in this case full of turkeys and families gathered around the table. From the history to the traditions to the food to the traffic to football, it’s all in here, a lot of stuff considering the few pages.
Parents should be wary of the last photo, or they might find their little ones demanding pumpkin pie.
4/5

I Like!
Both dancers and vine swingers are featured at the start of this book about things kids like to do, ending with a friendship note.
Incredibly simple, but that’s the point, as this is designed to be one of the first books a child picks up when starting to read. The artwork is fun enough, but not the point; this is made for reading out loud.
3.5/5

I Say Thanks
In rhymes that play out over several pages, this book mentions various things to be thankful for, such as food and family and various activities. Aww, the dog didn’t get thanked. . .
Just like others in this series, this tome is designed for those little ones just starting on their reading journey, so there’s a lot of repetition. Should be read out loud.
3.5/5

The Magic Trapdoor
A hole under his bed leads a boy to a place full of dinosaurs, which he then draws when he gets back home.
In the intro the parent is told that the big print is for the kids to read, while the smaller boxed words are nonfiction background on what is featured on the page. This works very well.
There’s a note at the end about the latest research, which is interesting, and leads to a weblink, should the child want to learn more. And they probably will.
4/5

Tongue Twisters
A simple drawing is a paired with a classic tongue twister
Hard to figure what age group these are meant for when most adults would have a hard time, but I suppose kids would enjoy trying it. I’d never heard the one about the butter, and almost made it to the end.
3.5/5

Jurassic Giants
As expected, the T-Rex is the star. Seems like half the book is dedicated to that most famous of old lizards. The comparison to the size of a bus was the best I’ve seen; I knew they were big, but not that big. Not quite as much but still impressive was the drawing showing its height equivalent to three elephants standing on each other.
Giganotosaurus looks like T-Rex’s bigger meaner brother. Would probably beat him in a fight, but—and this is weird to say—T-Rex had him on smarts.
There are bright drawings of well-defined dinosaurs, which is good because all the info dumps are dry, like a lecture.
Holy cow, a crocodile the size of a bus! That’s somehow scarier, since crocs are current and dinosaurs are only seen in movies and at the museum.
Nice glossary at the end, along with instructions on how to build your own T-rex, hopefully not to scale.
I’m giving the text a three for being lackluster though somewhat informative; I feel like it’s not interesting enough to keep the attention of the kids who’d be reading this. The artwork, though, earned a solid four. (I was told there’s be no math. . .)
3.5/5

Monster Sharks
This one sets a different tone than the Jurassic Giants entry right from the beginning, describing the first animals on Earth as “Probably weren’t a lot of fun at parties.” Thankfully it did keep things less serious than that other book.
Megalodon takes center stage, of course. Described as torpedo-like for its speed, it was big and strong enough to take down whales. I’ve seen the skeletons, but that fact brings its size into better perspective.
Fork Tail, Sharp Nose, Ironing Board. . . and you thought Hammerhead was weird.
There’s some nice bits of trivia, particularly the possible inspiration for a famous maritime tongue-twister.
My main complaint with the Jurassic Giants book was its dry lecturing tone. This one inadvertently addresses that, being much more conversational. But even though this has more fun stuff to it, eventually all the info makes it feel overwhelming. Still really good, especially the artwork.
There’s a glossary and instructions for making your own giant prehistoric shark, not to scale.
4/5

One Day, So Many Ways
Some of you might be old enough to remember the Day In The Life book series, where photos from all over the world described the differences, and ultimately the similarities, between different cultures. This book does the same, only with children and drawings.
Done chronologically, this shows different homes around the world as they wake up and prepare for breakfast, then through the rest of the day. It’s hard to imagine the kids in the poorer regions looking so happy all the time, but then this isn’t exactly meant to be realistic.
I love that quiet time in California consists of yoga. But the sport to play in the Galapagos is basketball? Some entries are kinda silly, as though running out of inspiration, but for the most part they show kids around the world doing what most kids do, which is likely the point.
There’s a lot of info packed in here, but most of it is captions on the drawings, so many that they seem to overflow the pages.
At the end there’s a list of countries, flags and small details on each, all topped by a Russian girl doing a handstand.
3.5/5

Simone de Beauvoir
The latest in the children’s series featuring introductions to famous women, this entry teaches about a lady whose name is more familiar than her accomplishments.
There’s an interesting dichotomy to her father, wherein he’s very progressive in wanting his daughter to have an education and get a job, but apparently it was all because he was lazy.
“Mind-mate” as well as soulmate. Nice. She didn’t marry that more-famous philosopher, which must have been shocking at the time but is a perfect example of her philosophy.
For those who have read the previous books in this series, it’s easy to notice this is done in a different art style. Everyone’s always smiling, except when her book comes out.
I guess as an introduction it’s okay, and it certainly peaks interest in learning more. “Mother of Feminism” is a nice touch. But I felt there could have been a little more here.
3.5/5

Silent Night
The famous nativity story told for very young kids, using the lyrics as a backdrop to the rudimentary artwork. Includes the rarely heard third verse.
What is there to say? If this is simply an illustrated version of the carol, that’s fine, but if this is meant as an introduction to this religion. . . not so much. Kids being curious, they’re likely to ask about the words they don’t know, of which there are plenty.
2.5/5

A Hundred Kisses Before Bedtime
A small chick does exactly as the title says, but rather than giving them all to one person, the kisses are spread around, starting with a crocodile! You would think that would be the last kiss in that short life, but in this world crocs don’t eat. Pigs mix with giraffes, monkeys, and lions; there’s even a penguin! Most of the animals have to be in on it, otherwise the chick couldn’t reach high enough for a peck. On the other hand, rarely are the animals, especially the elephant, drawn to scale when compared to the future chicken.
The chick tells the dog good night, but the sun is high in the sky behind them.
Quite a few animals need to be told to shut up.
It’s all really sweet, but you just know kids are smart enough to see the inherent logic problems and ask their nonplussed parents.
3/5

Duck Is Stuck
Animals work together to get a waterfowl out of the ice he’s stuck in, though everyone greets him with the same, ultimately rude, question.
Right away there’s a problem: the text is tiny! There’s plenty of room to make it bigger without messing up the artwork.
At the start there’s a page with the ducks sitting in a lake, but one of them is upside down, the webbed yellow feet sticking out. It made me chuckle. Another shows Duck breaking the fourth wall, looking startled to find himself in such a predicament. Nice to see that even a life-threatening situation isn’t taken too seriously.
3.5/5

When Spring Comes to the DMZ
This has to be the strangest idea for a children’s book. . . maybe not so much for a kid growing up in South Korea, but still. . .
Vegetation and animals can do whatever they want at the border’s no-man’s-land, but not people. A grandfather is a unifying figure in the story, as he climbs to the observatory to take in the view over and over. The reader is led to believe he’s looking at the landscape and all the animals described, but of course it’s so much more than that.
Despite the small article in the back, a parent should be prepared to explain to the young reader why grandfather can’t go over there.
Best part of this is the artwork, done in the beautiful style of this part of the world.
3.5/5

;o)

Travel Thursday Encore: Or as Michael Jordan calls it, the Louie, part 4

More Art edition

“When photography came into being, realism in painting pretty much died.”
“But photography doesn’t have to realistic either.”
Never letting an opportunity to tease her slip by, I tried, “Pascal once said, a long time ago, ‘How vain painting is, exciting admiration by its resemblance to things of which we do not admire the originals.’”
“Sounds like he was talking about Van Gogh.”
“It was long before the Earless Wonder.”
“He still had one ear.”
“Good thing he didn’t fall in love again. Imagine what body part he’d send his third love.”
“Overdoing it as usual,” she sighed. “Anyway, this Pascal dude missed the point. Admiring a painting that depicts a place we know but don’t like seems absurd and pretentious at first, but only if we imagine that painters do nothing but reproduce exactly what they see.”
I grinned, liking it so far, but she’d never believe it, so I let her ramble on.
“If that were true, then all we could admire in a painting would be the technical skills involved in the reproduction of an object.”
“I just thought of something.”
“What?”
“I might have seen those five-legged creatures at the British Museum.”
“Moving on. . .” she sighed. (That’s two.)
“Cythera was a mythical island associated with the Goddess of Love,” I told her as she went glum again. She’d been hoping to reestablish superiority in the paintings, but I was already ahead of her.
“I didn’t know you were an expert on mythology as well,” she grumbled.
“You think I’m not going to know something about the goddess I worship?”
“That’s true,” she brightened. “I am the current priestess, right?”
“At least for today,” I bright-sided while flexing my biceps, knowing the blow would be coming. It did, but luckily she only had superhuman strength in bed.
We continued looking at The Embarkation for Cythera. To be completely honest, there was nothing in it to suggest it was a masterpiece. Except for the sky, the colors were very dark; all you could see was a large number of people heading away from the viewer toward the distant sea.
“Now that you know what it’s about,” I gave her a wicked grin, “what do you think they’re doing? Are they about to go to the island, and who wouldn’t, seeing it’s run by the goddess of love, or are they being forced to leave the island? If you look carefully, you can see they’re a bit sad.”
She looked closely for a bit longer, then turned to answer and found a stranger there. Looking around, she saw me walking toward the next gallery, but I saw the Mona Lisa was in that direction and made a rapid U-turn.
“I don’t know,” she admitted when she finally caught up with me. “which is it?”
“I don’t know either.” I interrupted her growing grin with, “Nobody knows. Watteau died of tuberculosis when he was 37, and he didn’t tell anyone.”
“Then why did you ask me?” she growled, nettled.
“No reason in particular,” I said lightly, walking along regardless of her slow pace. “You ready to stop this little competition?”
She startled, then was about to make things worse by saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” but luckily refrained.
I nodded, as if agreeing with that course of action. “Can you be satisfied with being the second most-intelligent person in this country? After all, I’ll be gone soon, and you’ll be back to being number one. The sad thought is that you’ll leave too, and then where will this country be?”
She stared at me for a while, then burst into laughter, causing me to do the same. The guard there this time was obviously immune to her blandishments–or just too plain old to bother anymore–and ordered us out of the hall.
“Gladly. Let’s get the hell out of here. I’ve seen enough of Reuben and almost the Mona Lisa to last me a lifetime anyway. . .”

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Zito the Magician

By Miroslav Holub (b. 1923).

To amuse his royal majesty he will change water into wine.
Frogs into footmen. Beetles into bailiffs. And make a minister
out of a rat. He bows, and daisies grow from his fingertips.
And a talking bird sits on his shoulder.

There.

Think up something else, demands his royal majesty.
Think up a black star. So he thinks up a black star.
Think up dry water. So he thinks up dry water.
Think up a river bound with straw bands. So he does.

There.

Then along comes a student and asks: Think up sine alpha
greater than one.

And Zito grows pale and sad: Terribly sorry. Sine is
between plus one and minus one. Nothing you can do about that.
And he leaves the great royal empire, quietly weaves his way
through the throng of courtiers, to his home
in a nutshell.

;o)