Some Great and Life Changing Children’s Books

kid reading

I still love reading children’s books even today. In fact, a lot have had so much impact on me that they still remain some of my favorites. The following list is some of the major gems I’ve read in the world of children’s literature. In no particular order:

Charlotte’s Web by E.B White

charlottes-web

Charlotte’s Web is a special book to many. But for me, it was the first longer book I read as a kid. It was a major stepping stone into me loving reading. It’s also important because of how I received the book. We had a little drawing in class – the students’ names were written on slips of paper and put into a hat. Who’s ever named was picked got to choose out a prize from a big box. Well, my name was picked and I was elated since I never really won anything. One of the prizes was a copy of Charlotte’s Web and that’s what I picked. I still have the copy and it remains a very special book to me.

Sounder by William H. Armstrong

Sounder-by-William-H-Armstrong

I remember reading this for class and everyone in the class hated it. Everyone except me that is. But in some ways, I can see why many kids wouldn’t like it. You have to look under the surface to really understand and love this book. This is definitely something adults would appreciate more than children. Either way, Sounder is a beautifully written work. Children’s books with dogs are everywhere but this is one of the few that truly means something.

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

out of the dust

Out of the Dust is a sad and tragic story of a 1930s family facing the dust bowl among other things. It’s brilliantly told in a series of poems. I was drawn in by this book’s beauty from the start. It was one of the first books to have a strong emotional impact on me.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

coraline

The amount of time I have read this book is pretty much uncountable. The world of children’s literature needs more books like Coraline. It’s a book that builds a creepy atmosphere that’s better than some of the best adult horror novels.

The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B White

trumpet-of-the-swan-206x300

If Charlotte’s Web didn’t have such an impact on my childhood. I would probably have trouble choosing between it and Trumpet of the Swan. And I mean, a swan playing a trumpet is just awesome and manages to provide a beautiful and inspirational story.

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

sign of the  beaver

This tells the story of a young left to survive in the wilderness. During this time he gets help from a young native american around his age. It focuses mainly on the relationship between the two and their culturally differences. I say it’s a story that shows how people can learn to appreciate and understand other people’s cultures.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt

lizzie bright

Plenty of children’s books deal with the subjects found in Lizzie Bright (discrimination, forbidden friendships, etc.) However, this is one of the best to do it. The writing and imagery of the book is brilliant and beautiful. I think adults would like this book as well. The book is based on a true story (although from what I understand the main characters themselves are fictional), making it even more of a sad read.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

the one and only ivan

Adults and children should love this book. The story telling is simple but effective. In fact, near the end I was almost brought to tears. This is a book I would recommend to anyone.

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The Visit (2015) | Movie Review

tue visit

The Visit follows two teenage siblings, Becca and Tyler as they pay a visit to their grandparents’ house. Soon, they begin to notice strange behavior from their grandparents that only gets worse.

From what I’ve seen reactions to this film have been mixed overall. Some view it as a comeback for M. Night Shyamalan, after his line of bad movies while others view the film as ridiculous.

Well, I’m on the side of liking the film. First of all, this is actually the first M.Night film I’ve actually liked (and no, I’m not the biggest fan of The Sixth Sense). Does The Visit have flaws? Yes, it does but still I found myself liking it.

This is a slow-burning film that builds off one creepy event after another. I found it engaging although the two teen leads were rather annoying and one-dimensional. They are given qualities (germaphobe, inspiring rapper, emotionally distant, etc), but these all seemed forced and didn’t build any real character. Nana and Pop Pop, on the other hand are engaging in how over-the-top and weird they are. Tyler and Becca’s mom is also a character (they talk to her through skype), I guess she’s supposed to be important but I found her boring.

The movie is found-footage…a film sub-genre that I loathe with few exceptions. Becca and Tyler are filming a documentary while they visit. And here lies one of the movie’s flaws – it didn’t need to be found-footage at all. In a lot of ways, it limits the film as a whole.

Again, Nana and Pop Pop’s bizarre behavior is probably what makes the movie the most interesting. After 9:30 pm Nana has freak outs where she runs around naked and behaves like a deranged animal. Because of this, the kids are encouraged not to leave their room after that specific time. But Pop Pop also has a crazy quirk as well – he can’t control his bowel movements and defecates himself without warning. This means he has to wear diapers. He also keeps the dirty diapers in a shed outside that Tyler is very shocked to discover one day.

As things continue to get creepy, Tyler and Becca try to find out what’s up with Nana and Pop Pop.

Eventually we get to the twist…

that really wasn’t all that surprising but still cool. Nana and Pop Pop turn out not to actually be Tyler and Becca’s real grandparents. In fact, they killed their actual grandparents and stuffed their bodies in the basement.

However, the twist being revealed isn’t the the most intense part of the movie. There’s a very stomach turning scene where “Pop Pop” takes his soiled diaper (yes, with poo) and shoves it into Tyler’s face. Now there’s some brown shown but it’s not explicit but still shocking and gross. And although some people might think it was unnecessary, I thought the scene was well-done. Gross doesn’t always have mean something is “tasteless.”

The middle to the “near end” are the best parts of The Visit. The ending itself was disappointing.

It’s a film worth watching but will only appeal to certain people, I suppose. For me, it’s an achievement for M. Night.

4/5

My Favorite Female Writers | International Women’s Day

FAVORITE FEMALE WRITERS

So for International Women’s Day I decided to put together a list of some of my favorite female writers. I looked at how they influenced culture and such for a lot my choices but the list is primarily based on how they influenced me. A couple in the mix aren’t really “influential” on a wide scale but they inspire me in some way. Here is the list:

Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823)

Notable Works: The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Romance of the Forest

Ann Radcliffe doesn’t seem to be read by many readers of today. However, her work was very influential and popular in her own time. She’s basically one of most important writers when it comes to the development of the Gothic Novel. Radcliffe’s work might be hard for modern readers to enjoy but she inspires me due to her great influence on some of the best writers of all time. I’m also a big fan of the Gothic novel myself.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Notable Works: Various Poems

In my eyes, Emily Dickinson is the greatest poet in history. I don’t write a lot of poetry myself but Dickinson still inspires me whether I’m writing a short story, poem or novel. Her poetry has so much freedom but at the same time it’s controlled. That’s something I greatly admire.

Joyce Carol Oates (1938- )

Notable Works: Zombie, Black Water

Zombie is the first book I read by Oates and it’s one of my favorites novels of all time. Joyce has written a wide variety of things but Zombie is my personal favorite. Oates is a great writer that’s clearly not afraid to take risks.

Kate Chopin (1850-1904)

Notable Works: The Awakening, Various Short Stories.

I did a little tribute to Kate Chopin recently: https://mixedupsaydee.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/kate-chopin-tribute/

Elizabeth George Speare (1908-1994)

Notable Works: The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Sign of the Beaver

Some may see books like Sign of the Beaver and Witch of Blackbird Pond as the type of books kids are forced to read in school. Well, I don’t believe that. The two books are brilliant by any standard. Children should be reading books with deeper themes and such. I sure didn’t have trouble reading Sign of the Beaver or Blackbird Pond as a kid. They remain my favorites even today.

VC Andrews (1923-1986)

Notable Works: Flowers in the Attic, My Sweet Audrina, Heaven

In some people eyes, VC Andrews’ novels are the epitome of trash fiction. Some may even argue she gives female writers a bad name. However, I feel that Andrews deserves respect as a writer because she knows how to tell an engaging story like no other. In my opinion, her writing is not simply “trash.” She’s one of my favorite writers and I’m not afraid to admit it.

Lauren Oliver (1982- )

Notable Works: Before I Fall, Delirium

Lauren Oliver isn’t just another YA author, as some might view her to be. She is an amazing writer with beautifual prose that knows how to create emotionally complex and amazing characters.

Mary Shelley (1797-1851)

Notable Works: Frankenstein

Even today women are underrepresented in horror fiction.  Since I write horror, it makes me happy to know that a woman wrote one of the most influential novels in horror. This is why I feel obligated to include Shelley within my list.

Shirley Jackson (1916-1965)

Notable Works: The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Shirley Jackson has also had immense influence on horror, so that’s why I include her as well. As a female writer of horror fiction myself, I feel I owe her a great deal of respect.

J.K Rowling (1965 – )

Notable Works: Harry Potter

Harry Potter is an obvious choice on a book list. But Rowling deserves all the respect she gets. It’s amazing that she wrote a series that captivated and influenced so many people.

February 2016 Reading Wrap-up

If I could sum up this reading month…I would have to call it slow. At least, that’s how it felt. But I still read some good stuff.

The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

platform 13
The Secret of Platform 13 is a fun book but it doesn’t do enough for my taste. And it’s not as strikingly similar to Harry Potter as some made it out to be. I sure doubt Rowling ripped Ibbotson’s book off.

12th Night by William Shakespeare
12th night
This play had its moments but I don’t think it’s Shakespeare’s best work. Malvolio is probably the most interesting character.

Master of the Game by Sidney Sheldon
master of the game
Sheldon’s book is just plain fun and exciting. The writing’s not that great but Master of the Game doesn’t fail to entertain.

Richard III by William Shakespeare
richard the 3rd
I found myself drawn into Richard the 3rd as a character. And Queen Margaret was also very captivating. Shakespeare outdid himself with this one. I know it’s not really historically accurate but, oh well, it works.

Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill
long days journeyinto night
Now this is one of the best plays I’ve ever read. I found myself unable to turn away from the dialogue and the dysfunction of the characters.

Pall in the Family by Dawn Eastman
pall in the family
Psychics sure get murdered a lot….I’ve been wanting to read a cozy mystery for awhile and my choice for this month was Pall in the Family. It was a nice read and the mystery was solid.