Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “children’s literature”

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #26 – Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

“The time has come”, the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing wax —
Of cabbages — and Kings —
And why the Sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.”

Callou, callay – the further adventures of Alice and those wacky Wonderlanders.  This time she slips through a mirror, and meets talking flowers, as well as the Tweedle boys. The land is laid out like a chess board, and the inhabitants can only move around in a way that corresponds to their piece.  The Red Queen can move very fast, like the queen on a chess board can move anywhere (sort of.  It’s been a while since I played chess).

When talking to the Tweedles, Alice sees the Red King asleep under a tree. It’s possible that she might be in his dream, and will cease to exist when he wakes up.  Alice makes her way around the board, finally being crowned a queen herself. At a party, she seizes the Red Queen, putting the Red King in check – and he wakes up.  So does Alice, safe at home on the proper side of the mirror.

While this is a continuation, and takes place about a half year after the original Adventures, I don’t enjoy this book quite as much as its predecessor.  However, it’s yet another great escape from the ridiculousness of reality.

Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.”

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #25 – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place.And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”

I often feel like Alice.  Most days, actually.  I’m afraid it’s more to do with what I do for a living, which is an awful lot like a caucus race. Just running and running in circles, getting nowhere, and yet somehow expecting things to be different.  Trying to dry off, but getting swamped with waves just at the wrong time.

Alice is bored with real life and her lessons, and wishes everything was nonsense.  Her trip down the rabbit hole teaches her that while a little nonsense now and then (is cherished by the wisest men) is all right, nonsense all the time can be scary and confounding.

Alice tries to make sense of her surroundings and the beings she encounters, while growing and shrinking randomly depending on what she eats and drinks. She gets some good advice, especially from the Cheshire Cat (if you don’t care where you’re going, then it doesn’t much matter which way you go – you’ll get somewhere so long as you go on long enough).

Of course this is a favorite, it has been since I was a little girl. I can’t wait until my little one is old enough to sit still for a reading. Until then, I’ll continue to amuse myself with it.

“Mad Hatter: “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?”
“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied: “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter”

Because Poe wrote on both.  Yup, that’s it.

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR Review #47: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

“You’ll find that the only thing you can do easily is be wrong, and that’s hardly worth the effort.”

 Milo is a young boy who is bored by everything in his life.  One day, he comes home and finds a mysterious package.  Inside is a miniature tollbooth and a map.  He gets into his play car, drives through the tollbooth, and suddenly finds himself in the kingdom of Wisdom.  He visits the city of Dictionopolis where words are of the utmost importance.  Then he travels to the city of Digitopolis where numbers reign supreme.  The two cities have been feuding over which is more important.  Nothing has been right in Wisdom since the Princesses Rhyme and Reason were banished.  Milo is sent on a hero’s quest to restore Rhyme and Reason.

I loved this book as a child, but I think I appreciate it more as an adult.  I definitely get more of the puns and the metaphors.  There is an island named Conclusions that you can only get to by jumping.  The people in Dictionopolis literally eat their words.

I can’t tell you how many times I read this book as a child.  The Phantom Tollbooth was originally published in 1961 and the story still stands up.  It is truly timeless.  It is difficult to review a book that is so widely revered.  As I have said before, I suck at articulating why I like something.  If I think something is terrible, I can tell you in excruciating detail why.  It has taken me 2 months to write this review.  If you have somehow managed to make it this far in your life, you still owe it to yourself to pick it up.  Don’t dismiss it as “just for kids”.  You would be doing the book and yourself a disservice.

5/5 Stars

Caitlin’s CBR4 #35: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

This middle grade book (I think that’s what it’s called?) is told by Ivan, a silverback gorilla in a roadside zoo. He is spurred into action when the zoo acquires a new baby elephant, Ruby. It’s a sweet, but really sad, story.

You can read my full review here.

P.S. Even if you don’t read my review, you should watch the trailer. It’s awesome.

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR4 Review #39 The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling


I didn’t know that this book existed until I saw a few reviews of it on the Cannonball Read blog.  Thanks again Cannonball!  This is the book Dumbledore leaves Hermione in the beginning of the book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  It is a collection of fairy tales, similar to the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson, except they were written for Wizard children.  There are 5 stories, and each one has an afterword written by Albus Dumbledore.  Each of the stories is designed to teach a lesson, so maybe these are more like Aesop’s Fables than the Brothers Grimm.

This was a cute collection.  J.K. Rowling did the interior illustrations herself, and this book was used to raise money for the charity she co-founded, The Children’s High Level Group.  This is a great addition to the Harry Potter universe.

4/5 Stars

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR4 Reviews 32-38: The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

*Audiobook Review*

***This is my FOURTH attempt to write this review.  I have become paralyzed with fear that I cannot do justice to this amazing series.  Feel free to criticize, you can’t write anything worse than I have already thought.***

Since I am incredibly behind on my reviews, I’m doing one giant review of the series.  Shut up.  I need to spend more time reading and less time agonizing over reviews if I’m going to make it to 52 books.

I used to be obsessed with the Harry Potter books.  I read and re-read the first four books during that horrendous three-year wait between books four and five.  I was at midnight book parties for the last 3 books, and my first knitting project was an attempt at a Gryffindor scarf.  It was terrible, because I couldn’t knit very well and I was using cheap-o scratchy yarn.  I watched the movies, and I was relatively pleased with the first three.  Then they started turning 700+ page books into 2 1/2 hour movies, and the perfectionist in me reared her ugly head.  I was increasingly disappointed by what seemed to be glaring omissions in the films (S.P.E.W. anybody?).  I never even watched the last 3 films.

Lately I have had a Harry Potter renaissance.  I re-read all of the books, watched all eight of the movies, and even blasted my way through both Lego Harry Potter video games (which are the video game version of crack, by the way).  This was my fourth (maybe fifth?) re-read of some of these books, and even knowing what happens, they are as engrossing as ever.  I still get a little teary when certain characters are killed.  I still hate Delores Umbridge with the fire of a thousand suns.  The twelve-year-old me still identifies with Hermione Granger, and I still want a Hippogriff for a pet.

These books are credited with getting kids to learn that reading is fun. They are classics that will hopefully be read and re-read for generations.  Finishing the series is depressing, because I won’t be able to have any more adventures with Harry, Ron, and Hermione.  If you haven’t read these books yet, there is nothing I can say to convince you.  Just don’t make the mistake most adults make in assuming that because these books are written for children that they are childish.  These books have some very adult themes, and some of them are downright dark.  Characters die.  Characters that you love.  Your favorite characters will die FOR NO DAMN GOOD REASON.

*Audio-specific portion of the review*

Jim Dale’s narration is nothing short of amazing.  When he reads Hagrid, you think that Hagrid is there reading his part.  His Professor McGonagall was amazing as well.  These are wonderful for a car trip, or just listening while you clean around the house.  Probably the best-read audiobooks I have ever listened to!


I forced my roommate to watch the movies since he had never seen Harry Potter anything before.  I previously tried to get him into fantasy with Game of Thrones, but he hated all of the characters. Here’s the exchange we had after watching Prisoner of Azkaban.

“Do you like Harry Potter better than Game of Thrones?”

“Game of Thrones is like Harry Potter, if everyone was in Slytherin.”


There is nothing I can write that can top that.


5/5 Stars


xoxoxoe’s #CBR4 Review #52: The Spiderwick Chronicles, by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

Cannonball! Book 52 (actually 52-56, but who’s counting?)

I was happy when the kid took a break from the smart-alecky Wimpy Kid series and became enchanted with The Spiderwick Chronicles. We listened to the whole series on CD in the car, and really enjoyed the characters and the worlds created by authors Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.

Jared and Hogsqueal

The Spiderwick Chronicles are a series of five illustrated books which tell the story of the Grace children, 9 year-old identical twins Jared and Simon, and their 13 year-old elder sister Mallory, who discover that their new home is populated with creatures they never would have believed existed. The books are:

1. The Field Guide – After their parents’ divorce, the Grace kids and their mother move into their great-aunt Lucinda’s decrepit old mansion and find her father’s guide to faeries and other creatures, Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You, which leads them into another, extremely dangerous, world.
2. The Seeing Stone – Mallory and Jared must rescue Simon, who has been kidnapped by goblins. They meet Hogsqueal, who becomes a sort of associate, and Byron, a griffin, who Simon adopts as a pet.

Mallory, Thimbletack, Jared, and the seeing stone

3. Lucinda’s Secret – The Grace children visit their great-aunt Lucinda at the mental institution where she lives. She tells them how she got there and what became of her father, Arthur Spiderwick.
4. The Ironwood Tree – Jared and Simon must rescue mallory, who is being held prisoner by dwarves, associates of the evil ogre Mulgarath.
5. The Wrath of Mulgarath – Hogsqueal and the brownie Thimbletack help the Grace children rescue their mother, who is being held captive by Mulgarath.

With all of the kidnapping and rescuing the series does have a Saturday morning serial feel to it, but it is all in god fun. It’s nice that a book, the field guide, is such an important item. The power of words and pictures should never be underestimated. The illustrations by DiTerlizzi are quite engaging, and the otherworldly characters, especially Hogsqueal and Thimbletack, enchanted my daughter. There is a quite dark side to Spiderwick, as the Grace kids are frequently in deadly trouble. But there is also quite a bit of magic, and some of the creatures they encounter are nice to them and each other. The way that the kids bicker but then risk everything to save each other and the creatures that they meet is very appealing. Especially after the whiny wimpy ramblings of the Jeff Kinney series that dominated the kid’s sumer reading.

A griffin from Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You

The kid has since picked up the first two books to read on her own, as well as the beautifully illustrated companion volumes, Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You  and Care and Feeding of Sprites. We checked out the movie version too, which she loved, but it is of course very different and truncated. Most of her favorite parts of the books had to be left out. There is a second Spiderwick book series featuring another group of kids and their adventures. So far she hasn’t shown any interest in that (she really loves the main character, Jared), so we’ll see how far into Spiderwick she gets …

You can read more of my pop culture reviews on my blog, xoxoxo e

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xoxoxoe’s #CBR4 Review #50: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo

“Once there was a princess who was very beautiful. She shone bright as the stars on a moonless night. But what difference did it make that she was beautiful? None. No difference.”

Why did it make no difference?” asked Abilene.

Because,” said Pellegrina, “She was a princess who loved no one and cared nothing for love, even though there were many who loved her.”

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is a children’s book, geared towards ages 7 and older, but after reading it, I’m not sure what kids might think of it. It is ultimately uplifting, but also, quite frequently and unremittingly sad. It’s a lot like life. The tale will resonate with adults, as love and loss are beautifully examined. But children may just focus on the dangers and sad moments that befall hero Edward Tulane.

Edward is a unique china rabbit, beloved by a little girl named Abilene Tulane. She adores him and dresses him in beautiful clothes and takes him everywhere with her. Edward is also exceedingly vain. He doesn’t consider himself to be a toy. He is something beyond, something special. He accepts Abilene’s love, as something one so fine as himself should deserve, but doesn’t seem to even consider returning it. He is very observant of the world (as his painted eyes are always open), and is especially fond of glimpses of the night sky and the stars, but not very interested in the humans that populate it.

Abilene gives Edward a hug

But one day Edward is separated from Abilene, and his world is never the same. He is buffeted by weather, chance and other circumstances to a series of new homes and relationships. Through a series of trials and separations he finally finds himself interested in others. Like Dr. Seuss’s Grinch, Edward must discover whether a china rabbit can have a heart at all.

Author Kate DiCamillo’s prose is compact but lyrical. Edward is exasperating, but readers will still care about what happens to him — and especially what happens to the people that he encounters. Edward has an effect on everyone he meets, and eventually they begin to affect him. Illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline’s black and white and color drawings are a perfect accompaniment to the story, their style lending a vintage touch.

“Open your heart. Someone will come. Someone will come for you. But first you must open your heart.”

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is bound to be a classic. I think it might be best for an adult to read the book to a child first, so one can discuss some of the darker aspects of the story — and there are darker aspects. But once a child knows the story and china bunny Edward’s fate, it will certainly be a book to read and re-read. Adults may find they want to pick it up again and again too, as a reminder about love and loss, and how special some things and some people can be in our lives.

You can read more of my pop culture reviews on my blog, xoxoxo e
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xoxoxoe’s #CBR4 Review #47: Catwings & Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings, by Ursula K. Le Guin

These are both short, so I am counting them as one entry.

The kid and I have fallen in love with audio books for our driving around town and beyond. We first tackled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which we owned. That kept us busy for quite a while. Then we discovered our local library has quite an extensive selection of audio books in the children’s library, so we grabbed a few titles we thought would be fun. She loved Catwings, by Ursula K. Le Guin, when her kindergarten teacher read it to the class, and I’m happy to report that now that she is a big third grader she still loves it, as well as one of its sequels, Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings.

Mrs. Tabby and her winged kittens

Not only are they both charming books to listen to, but they are read by the author herself, which adds another layer of fun. Catwings features four little city kittens, Thelma, Roger, James, and Harriet, whose loving mother, Mrs. Jane Tabby, sends them out in the world, to the country, away from the harsh and dangerous city. The kittens are unique, in that they have all been born with wings. The neighbors don’t hesitate to speculate, “I suppose their father was a fly-by-night.” Mrs. Tabby, who doesn’t have wings herself guesses, “Maybe they have wings because I dreamed, before they were born, that I could fly away from this neighborhood.”

Kittens having wings can be a convenience, and a boon, but can also prove to be dangerous, as other animals that they encounter are not too thrilled to meet cats that can fly. Catwings is a gentle story, for the most part, full of great imagery, as the cats learn to fly and interact with their new environment. But Le Guin does not shy away from the real dangers of a stray cat’s existence, even one that has wings. A few dangerous and exciting moments are provided by one of the kitten’s interactions with a large owl, but my daughter, although scared for the cats, was also enthralled. It’s a great little book.

The other book was just as fun. In Alexander the Wonderful and the Catwings a ginger kitten named Alexander gets lost in the woods on a winter’s day — a terrifying situation for a little cat. Luckily he also meets one of the Catwings, and his feline life will never be the same.

These books are definitely geared towards children, but they were highly enjoyable for me to listen to as well. Le Guin has wonderful enunciation and connects with each of the characters in her narration. After we listened to the books we had to dig out our hard copy versions, as they have some great illustrations by S. D. Schindler. I was trying to picture them while I listened to the author relate the Catwings’ adventures.

You can read more of my pop culture reviews on my blog, xoxoxo e

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pyrajane’s review #25: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, Illustrated by Ana Juan

This was absolutely delightful.  If you need a break from heavy subjects or want to rest after finishing a long book, catch your breath with a quick fairy tale.  Valente uses the familiar to create something new and fun, and I really enjoyed it.

Read more over at my blog

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