QZ qz thoughts
a blog from Eli the Bearded
Tag search results for 2010 Page 1 of 6

books for young readers

Swallows and Amazons, a long series, along with many other boating books (Stowaway by Karen Hesse and Carry on, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Lathan come to mind) were enjoyed by my eldest, but are probably still too high a reading level.

The Swallows and Amazons stuff is also about indepence. My Side of the Mountain goes hand in hand with that. The Rosemary Sutcliff books about ancient Romans (The Lantern Bearers, The Eagle of the Ninth, etc) have a bit of that, too, but also get into the historical fiction that boy liked.

Some of the Edith Nesbit books, like The Magic City and Half Magic might work. Those are out of copyright so you can find and print a chapter to decide if you like them.

There's some Philip Pullman stuff that's easier to read than the His Dark Materials series (The Golden Compass, et. al.), things like Clockwork. The story structure of Clockwork is itself interesting. Sort-of a "Don't sell your soul to the machine because the machine will cash that chip in."

The Secret of Kells

The Secret of Kells at IMDB

This is a short (75 minutes) animated feature about boy who would become one of the illuminators of the Book of Kells. The story is fantasy, rather than realistic, and drawn in a very highly stylized manner. The artwork is excellent, the characters engaging, and the touch of history refreshing in a kid-friendly animated movie.

Five goose quills out of five.

One quibble, there's a woman's voice speaking during the opening credits and I found it very hard to make out what she was saying, between the accent and the music on top of the voice. After the credits I had no further problems.

Final thought: was worried about understanding the movie at first


Quicky, with no links and minimal formating.

Megamind shows how much Dreamworks computer animation has advanced. The animation in Madagascar was crude compared to Pixar of the same day. The gap has narrowed. I was quite impressed with the range of transparent materials, from the invisible car, goblets of liquid, windows clean and dirty, each changing the way things looked. In many ways it serves as a proxy for the materials emulated in the world illustrated.

The story, is not bad, good even, but not outstanding. Many parts are ripped from / similar to / pay homage to other movies such as Superman and Dispicable Me.

The general plot is at least a novel twist on super-hero and super- villain. The villain is happy in his role, and when he wins the fun all goes out of it, leaving him feeling "melancholy" (but Megamind pronounces it funny, his pronounciations are a chink in his armor). What he decides to do to improve his spirits is unusual and forms the second half of the film. The "Tighten" name mocked recently comes right from the film, apparently Titan himself doesn't know how his name is spelt (others in the film get it right).

I saw it in 3D, but not Imax, the 3D is not essential but not too much overdone. Some of the trailers, ugh. I want to stay far away from that Yogi bear film, and triply so for the 3D version.

Final thought: four death ray option settings out of five

The Mennyms

Some years ago I read Ascending Peculiarity, which is a collection of interviews and profiles of Edward Gorey culled from magazines. In one of them Gorey mentions that The Mennyms books are worth reading.

The books are by Sylvia Waugh and are about a family of life-sized rag dolls. These dolls move and talk and live their lives, which at first seems a bit juvenile. But the dolls are fully aware of their unusual nature and spend quite a bit of effort managing their lives so as not to arouse the suspicions of the humans around them. And they are concerned with the metaphysics of their own existence which gives the books a hook to interest an adult reader.

The first book, The Mennyms, starts when the dolls have been alive for about forty years. The are three generations living in one household, with another woman who lives in a closet but pretends to be a neighbor. Sir Magnus is the bed-ridden patriarch who makes a living writing history articles for magazines. His wife, Tulip is the accountant of the family and makes sells knitwear to retailers by post. Vinetta and Joshua are middle generation of the Mennyms, and Miss Quigley is a friend of Vinetta. Joshua has a job as night watchman, a low paid position, but the hours and loneliness of the job are vital to his staying unrecognized. Vinetta is a stay at home mom with two "teenagers", "ten-year-old" twins, and a baby.

This youngest generation have the most quirks, starting with their names. Soobie is the eldest, a blue-skinned boy who spends most of his time reading and has the least tolerance for the "pretends" of the rest of the family. Appleby a teen girl a little younger than Soobie. She is the most realistic looking of the family and gets sent out for most of the shopping and post office errands. In contrast to Soobie, she is the most interested in the "pretends". Poopie, a boy, and Wimpey, a girl, are the twins. The baby is named Googles.

Life at 5 Brucklehurst Grove consists of pretending to be real, which involves some real activities like cleaning, washing, and paying bills. They live in the house that had belonged to the woman who made them, and they maintain the utilities so that they may have electricity and water for their cleaning and pretends and a phone to avoid face to face contact in their business.

Plus there a great many pretend activities that start with eating and drinking. No one ever grows, and children remain children in judgement, so everyone just pretends to always be the same age. Appleby, for example, spends part of each year as fifteen and part as sixteen. Soobie, least realistic in looks, is most realistic in attitude, takes part in few pretends — he never joins the meals — and breaks taboos like complaining about the pretend notion that Miss Quigley lives on Trevewick Street instead of the hall closet. The teenage judgement and attitude of Appleby is a source of many of the conflicts that arise.

This first book also introduces a new character that springs to life at a time when Appleby is near death. These events first introduce the characters' attempts to come to terms with their metaphysics. At one point Soobie ends up in church and thinks a mental prayer that at once is agnostic and soul searching. Later books introduce complete death and more complete understanding of themselves.

It's an engaging series that works well for tweens or as lighter fare for adults.

Final thought: Ascending Peculiarity is also a good read