Saturday, February 23, 2013


I seem to be far behind on my book reviews.  Okay, not so far behind in terms of books that need reviewing so much as far behind in the chronology of my reviews.  I have lots of books I read many moons ago that are getting neglected in favor of books I read only a few moons ago.  In the interests of not letting those poor books slip into the abyss of the unreviewed, I think it's time to take a stab at some reviewlettes and get the juices flowing.

Let's start with The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg (and a slew of other well-known authors).  I picked up a copy of this at BEA in 2011, where I was ecstatic to get the autograph of an author/illustrator whose books shaped my childhood, as they've shaped a bunch of childhoods, I'm sure.  In The Chronicles, a collection of authors take on the pictures and captions from Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, and write their own stories for each.  Obviously, the most fun is in kids creating their own stories, but this collection is a fun way for authors to give us theirs.  The collection is, as collections often are, a little uneven, with some authors capturing the picture they've written on, while others totally miss the mark.  Jon Scieszka's quick story, "Under the Rug," about sweeping problems under the rug and Louis Sachar's "Captain Tory," about the benevolent ghost of a sea captain who "haunts" a doughnut shop and a hardware store are my favorites of the lot.  Walter Dean Myers, Lois Lowry, and Jules Feiffer also do a remarkable job of capturing the essence of "their" illustrations.  Gregory Maguire's bizarre tale missed the mark for me, and, I'm sad to say, Stephen King's selection disappointed me a bit.  All in all, though, I would recommend the book.  It's fun to see these classic illustrations fleshed out a bit, and, of course, Van Allsburg's stunning illustrations are always worth seeing. (Thanks to HMH at BEA for my copy)

It's probably safe to give Princess Academy by Shannon Hale a reviewlette, because I've already talked about it so much.  Really, I read this book for last year's fall Readathon, and it was the perfect book.  It's all about Miri who lives on Mount Eskel where all the villagers have to work quarrying valuable linder from the mountain to survive.  Her father won't let her work in the quarry, so Miri always struggles with feeling somehow less than the rest of her townspeople, despite being clever and brave.  When royals arrive from the lowlands with news that the next princess of Danland will hail from Mount Eskel, the girls of the village are taken away to be schooled, polished, and made fit for a prince.  At the academy, Miri struggles at first but then finds her chance to shine. 

I'd heard plenty of great things about Shannon Hale's books, and if Princess Academy is any indication, they're all true.  Princess Academy is tightly plotted, filled with brave, strong-willed girls for characters (most of all Miri!) who make the best of a complicated situation, and has an absolutely fantastic "knowledge is power" message that is never too heavy-handed.  If you're anything like me, you might find yourself initially put off by the notion of a book about princesses in training.  Don't be.  This book and these would-be princesses defy expectations and stereotypes alike!

Lastly, a tiny review of The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories Vol. 2.  Receiving a copy of this for review was a no-brainer after reading the first volume (Thanks, Harper It!).    I'll admit, I didn't like this one quite as much as the first one, but it's still got plenty to recommend it.  The stories are, at most, a sentence long but can make you contemplate for much longer.  Some I related to, some I laughed at, others just confused me.  The illustrations that accompany each story are whimsical, bizarre, clever, most well-suited to the story they represent.  It's a book that can easily be read in a sitting, but one that you might find yourself wanting to spend more time on.  I think, perhaps, that I didn't love this one quite as much as the first because I didn't find so many stories that I felt spoke directly to me, but I'd still recommend grabbing both volumes.  Chances are you'll find at least a little of yourself in each.  (Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review.)


  1. I think I'm one of the few people who liked the second Tiny Book as much as the first.

  2. I've looked at the Van Allsburg with longing; his illustrations alone are enough to purchase that book!

  3. reviewlettes are perfect IMO! Haven't read these but enjoyed reading your thoughts.

  4. You got Van Allsburg's autograph??? That is so awesome!!!! And I actually really liked the second Tiny Book :) At first I had the same reaction…not as good as the first…but then I thought on it more and I really think that was just because it wasn't a "new concept" anymore…went back and read them again and really liked them!