Monday, May 19, 2008

The Giving Tree

You knew the review on a picture book was coming, right?

I absolutely and positively LOVE picture books. Sometimes I feel as though I get more meaning out of reading a 20 page picture book than reading a 500 page novel.

This book was written by Shel Silverstein, one of the more prominent writers in children's literature. His books always have a hidden meaning behind them ... a lesson to be learned. This book was first published in 1964 and it is one that I read to my students every year. This book definitely has staying power.

In essence, this story is about a boy who is friends with a tree. This tree gives the boy everything that he asks for without expecting or wanting anything in return. As the boy grows older, his time with the tree is less frequent, and he finds himself going to the tree ONLY when he needs something. In the end, the tree is reduced to a mere stump. When the boy returns, a wary old man, the tree is sad that it has nothing left to offer. When the boy/man says he just wants a place to rest ... the tree offers its stump, pleased that it can at least offer that.

This is a story of unconditional love and generosity. The tree loves the boy so dearly that it will give everything it has, just to see the boy happy. One might compare the relationship that the boy and the tree have as that of a parent and its child. Like a parent, the tree embraces this boy, even when he grows up and spends less time with it. The tree is never bitter that the boy doesn't spend more time with it ... it is just happy with the time it is given.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet

Patterson co-writes this book with Charbonnet as he returns to writing a new romance novel. In an interview, Patterson described this book as a "fairy-tale for grown-ups." I was somewhat skeptical of the premise, basically a woman falls in love with her imaginary friend, and wondered how in the world he could even write such a book.

The plot begins as young Jane is having dessert with her imaginary friend, Michael in a New York hotel. Jane's mother, a highly successful Broadway producer, is very strict while Jane's father is essentially non-existent. Michael is her very best friend. On Jane's ninth birthday, Michael must leave Jane as that is just what he must do. He tells Jane that she will eventually forget him as all the children he's worked with eventually do but, Jane never does. Next, we find Jane all grown-up, working for her mother, and fresh from having huge success with a stage play based on her childhood relationship with Michael. At the same time, Michael arrives in New York for vacation before he receives his next assignment. By chance, the two find each other again but can they ever really be together?

The entire story is so far-fetched, sappy, and definitely a "fairy-tale" but I actually really enjoyed reading this one. I think it is simply because of the fast pace in which Patterson writes that makes me want to keep turning the pages. I just have to see what happens next. Good read and possibly a good beach read for the summer.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

There's No Place Like Here

It's common to lose things and never find them again. A pen tossed in a bag that somehow fell out. A sock lost in a dryer, forever dooming its pair to be shoved in the back of a drawer. But what about people who go missing? Those who are gone, without a trace nor motive. Those who were expected at school, work, a friends house, but just never show up. Where do all of these things go? That's exactly what There's No Place Like Here by Cecelia Ahern covers.

Sandy Shortt was the complete opposite of her name. Donning long dark hair and standing at a staggering height, she stood out her entire life. One day, at the age of ten, the girl across the street (and her eternal bully) went missing. She just disappeared, never to be seen again. Rather than mourning the girl's loss, Sandy asked herself one question: "where do things go when you can't find them?" At the age of ten, she committed her life to finding these items.

The slightly psychological disorder took over her life. Her search was never over, always retracing steps to find lost socks, journals, toys. And, later on in life, people as she started her own Missing Persons agency. She was committed to her job, she lived by her job, and because of that, her personal life took a back seat.

But what happens when Sandy, the person committed to finding things, goes missing herself? What happens when she finds herself in a place called Here, a place where all missing things go. A places where she's among her lost socks, toys, and possibly even the people she's been looking for her whole life.

With a unique premise, There's No Place Like Here is instantly engrossing. Juxtaposing the story of Sandy's struggle in a new area and her past that led her there, you see how she got to that point and cross your fingers that she'll get out. She's an interesting character, Sandy, one that you don't always like, but somehow in some ways relate to. And that's what attached me to the book.

Always involving, the book takes you through a journey of discovery as you learn that it's possible to be lost in life as well. That it's possible to commit yourself so thoroughly that you lose yourself along the way. It also asks the question...can we be found again?

The book is a quick and easy read. Ahern rightly so maneuvered her way from classic chick lit to fiction as she combines a magical element to the story. Although far from her best book (which I'm still convinced isLove, Rosie, it is still very enjoyable. My only complaint has to be the ending. Although it offers hope and, possibly, an answer, it leaves you wondering about other characters.

If you're looking for a fun book to read, I definitely suggest it. Because, in the end, the book is relatable. We all get lost at times...but only some of us are willing enough to be found.