Ghetto Klown by John Leguizamo

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Title: Ghetto Klown by John Leguizamo

Premise:

This is an autobiographical graphic novel about John Leguizamo’s life–from his childhood through the present day.  It includes episodes from his stormy childhood days, through his varied and colorful acting career, to his marriage and family.

My thoughts:

My favorite role of John’s was as Chi-Chi Rodriguez in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything!  So when I saw that the library had this graphic novel about his life, I had to get it.  I was totally unprepared for what I found when I cracked it open!  It’s not for the faint of heart or those who don’t like painful honesty and plenty of potty-mouth language.

Objectionable parts aside, I really enjoyed the book.  It took me a little while to come to that conclusion, though.  After I got to the last page and closed it, I felt like I had gone through some sort of traumatic life experience and needed some time to recover and process what I had just read.  John’s life was pretty intense (often not in a good way), yet in this story he shares his heart and motivation with us.  I’m sure this was a cathartic endeavor for him–a chance to examine his life, come to terms with all of its stages, and accept it for what it is.  Without his past he wouldn’t be who he is today.  As someone who likes getting inside other peoples’ heads, this was a satisfying read for me.  It makes me thankful for my relatively uneventful (and peaceful) life.

I recommend Ghetto Klown to adults who enjoy autobiographies told in a unique way.  Just be prepared for a lot of crudeness and bad language.

Possible Objections:

  • Lots of bad language
  • Cartoon nudity
  • Sexual references & language
  • Drug use
  • Some violence
  • A few racial slurs

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Printable “The Story of My Life” Word Find Puzzle – Places

Here’s my second puzzle for The Story of My Life by Helen Keller!

Simply click on the link below and either print, or save it to your computer and then print.  Enjoy!

“The Story of My Life” Word Find Puzzle – Places

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

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Title: The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Premise:

This is Helen Keller’s autobiographical work covering the first 22 years of her life.  Before her teacher, Anne Sullivan, came to unlock the door to the outside world for Helen, hers was a very isolated and joyless existence.  Learning the manual alphabet opened up the wonders of the world to Helen and she went on to get a college education.  The last part of the book shows a progression of Helen’s thoughts, expressions and skill, as expressed in her letters.

My thoughts:

I finished reading this book a couple of days ago, and for some reason I’ve been struggling to record my thoughts about it.  I first read it as a kid, and I remember enjoying it back then.  Now that I’ve read it as an adult, I’ve developed a new appreciation for the book and probably come away with a bit more understanding.

Helen’s story is so encouraging and touching.  Her early years must have been steeped in frustration and confusion, but her life slowly blossomed as she learned to communicate and learn through the help of her teacher.  She must have had a remarkable mind to forge ahead through so many obstacles and to pursue her dream of going to college.

One thing which really stood out to me was that Helen got to rub shoulders with some pretty famous people.  She enjoyed the company of several famous authors, as well as regular interactions with Dr. Alexander Graham Bell.  It’s neat to hear about their interactions from her perspective.  Helen seems to have had a natural gift for winning people’s hearts with her fresh, novel way of looking at the world and expressing herself.  I’ll confess that I’m just a wee bit jealous that she got to meet Mark Twain.

Helen helped many people both during her lifetime and in succeeding generations.  Her academic achievements helped pave the way for those in the deaf and blind community who would come after.  Not only that, but through her writing, we get a glimpse into the mind of someone who has encountered great adversity and come out victorious on the other side.  That’s an encouragement to anyone who is feeling inadequate, discouraged, or overwhelmed.

I recommend The Story of My Life to teens through adults who would like to know more about this remarkable woman’s life.  It’s an enlightening read which will help you to better understand those who are deaf and blind, and the obstacles they face in everyday life.  Plus, it’s just a really interesting biography.

A favorite quote:

“Gradually I began to find that there were disadvantages to going to college.  The one I felt and still feel most is lack of time.  I used to have time to think, to reflect, my mind and I.  We would sit together of an evening and listen to the inner melodies of the spirit, which one hears only in leisure moments when the words of some loved poet touch a deep, sweet chord in the soul that until then had been silent.  But in college there is no time to commune with one’s thoughts.  One goes to college to learn, it seems, not to think.  When one enters the portals of learning, one leaves the dearest pleasures–solitude, books and imagination–outside with the whistling pines.”  (p. 72-73)

Possible Objections:

  • some outdated references to African Americans & glossed over issue of racial inequities (“crowds of laughing negroes,” etc.)

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

When You Find Out the World Is Against You: And Other Funny Memories About Awful Moments by Kelly Oxford

The World is Against You

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A special thank-you to Dey Street Books and Goodreads for providing an ARC for me to review!

Title: When You Find Out the World Is Against You: And Other Funny Memories About Awful Moments by Kelly Oxford

Premise:

This book is a memoir detailing a variety of especially awkward and/or funny episodes from Kelly’s life.  The stories run the gamut from childhood social gaffes to raising her own children, divorce to sexual assault.  Whatever the circumstances, Kelly’s keen observations, wit and humor shine through to help give perspective to each story.

My thoughts:

There were parts of the book which were very entertaining and I found myself getting quite wrapped up in them (like when Kelly went to camp!).  There were a couple of chapters, however, which kind of fell flat for me.  For some reason they didn’t pull me in and didn’t seem to add a lot of value to the book.

With that being said though, overall I enjoyed the book very much.  I read through it fairly quickly and it was easy to digest each chapter as a separate anecdote.  Some of Kelly’s antics are so socially awkward that it’s difficult to read about them.  The story about her husband and the guy he meets in the gym comes immediately to mind.  Yikes!!!  I’m too embarrassed to even tell you what it’s about online–you’ll have to read it for yourself.

Probably the chapter I appreciated most was the last one about Kelly’s reaction to the Trump and Billy Bush recording when they were talking about sexually assaulting women.  I had to psych myself up to the read the chapter after I skimmed it and saw all of the tweets by other women who had experienced sexual assault.  It was right before bed and I put the book down, deciding that I had better wait to read that chapter until the morning when I’d have the whole day to process it and work through the unhappy feelings before trying to go to sleep.  The way that Kelly helped so many women to feel connected and heard was amazing!  Quite frankly, I think it was necessary at the time, especially since the behavior and language of those men was being justified by so many.  For all of the women who’ve been on the receiving end inappropriate behavior or language, it’s like a slap in the face seeing it brushed off as “locker room talk”.  So on behalf of all of the women who were feeling marginalized by that recording and the ensuing justification of it, thank you Kelly for putting yourself out there to start the conversation on healthy attitudes towards women.

I recommend When You Find Out the World Is Against You to adults who like funny and/or awkward memoirs.  Kelly is an entertaining lady and you just might enjoy exploring some of her more memorable socially awkward moments.

A Favorite quote:

“The loudest drunks are groups of sober teenage girls.  They think all their jokes are hilarious.  All their drama is the biggest deal in the whole wide world.”  (p. 259-260)

Possible Objections:

  • lots of swear words (not used offensively, but sprinkled generously as potpourri)
  • explicit talk about sexual stuff (particularly in reference to sexual assault)
  • a bit of drug use

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Ugly by Robert Hoge

Ugly

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Title: Ugly by Robert Hoge

Premise:

Robert was born with some major birth defects (a growth in the middle of his face and deformed legs) because of a medication his mother took while he was in utero.  His life is a tale of resilience and the quest to fit in in a world that too often judges people based on appearance.  Though the cards are stacked against him, Robert comes of age as a well-adjusted young adult, demonstrating to all that a person’s looks don’t define who they are as a person.

My thoughts:

Thank you to smile rac for recommending this book!

Wow–what a refreshing and well-timed book!  There is so much talk nowadays about acceptance and mainstreaming children with special needs, but that was not the case back when Robert was a child.  It was even a fight for him to be accepted into his own home!

Robert’s memoir is poignant and entertaining at the same time.  His wry humor helps take the edge off of some very painful experiences and helps the reader to identify with the human behind the hurt.  The narrative is detailed enough to keep the attention of older readers, but simple enough that it’s still accessible to a younger audience.  I appreciate that Robert left out offensive language, etc. which would have been questionable for the younger crowd.

The surgery which doctors performed on Robert’s face took place during the early days of craniofacial surgery.  Truly he underwent a groundbreaking surgery which helped pave the way for so many after him.  I thought that was pretty interesting, though I don’t know that he feels particularly heroic for doctors having experimented on his face when he really had no say in the matter.  I’m not sure how I would feel about that, if I were in his place.

For any child or parent who has a friend or family member with special needs, this is an especially important read.  When you feel different it can be very cathartic to hear from others who have gone through the same experiences.  It leaves you feeling a little less alone, a little more hopeful, and a whole lot more understood.  I highly recommend Ugly to all kids–elementary through teens.  For those with a personal tie to special needs or those who have experienced bullying, I recommend it doubly!

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

moveable-feast

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I want to challenge myself to read more biographies and autobiographies, so A Moveable Feast is a step in the right direction.  It’s a memoir by Ernest Hemingway.  I haven’t read much else by him, but I will be doing so now.  His writing style is interesting and he’s a master at making you feel like you’re a part of the action.

Premise:

A Moveable Feast highlights the early part of Hemingway’s life, when he and his wife lived in Paris as a young couple.  It talks about writing, food, alcohol, friends, love, sex, reading, art, marriage, horse racing, skiing, and some of his now-famous friends and acquaintances.

My thoughts:

This was a fantastic book!  Hemingway’s writing style is very distinctive, so if you can wrap your head around it, you’re bound to appreciate his stories.  He has a way of drawing the reader into the surroundings and events he’s describing, so that you feel like you’re a spectator just looking over his shoulder.  I find myself wanting to explore the places he’s describing.

Hemingway’s way of life as a young man was so alien to me, and that is probably what made it so interesting.  The way he talked with friends; the food he ate; the alcohol he drank; the things he did in his spare time–they are all outside of my own world experience.  I love learning about what life is like for other people.

I had no idea that Hemingway was friends with such well-known people as Picasso , T. S. Eliot, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  It’s neat to get a little peak into their social lives and realize that in a way they were regular people just like the rest of us.

It would be helpful to know some French when trying to tackle this book, but you can get by without it. Some of the place names, food, and drink will be lost on you.

I recommend this book to older teens and adults who are looking for a good biography of Ernest Hemingway.  Though the stories only pertain to his younger years, you get a good sense of his character, motivations, and a fascinating look into his life.

A Favorite quote:

“’We’re always lucky,’ I said and like a fool I did not knock on wood.  There was wood everywhere in that apartment to knock on too.” (p. 42)

Possible Objections:

  • Some bad language (SOB x 1, etc)
  • Sexual-themed talk (an STD, prostitution, homosexuality)

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber

Hard Times

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I’m not sure where I got My Life and Hard Times–perhaps at a library book sale.  (I love those!)  This is the only book by James Thurber that I own, but I will definitely be reading more of his works!

This book is a short collection of autobiographical stories about Thurber’s life in Ohio around the 1930’s.  The episodes he shares run the gamut–from a biting dog to crazy servants, from a broken dam to a car that had to be pushed.  I can’t do justice to the humor contained in this book.  You just have to trust me and read it for yourself.  The ludicrous situations are just right to make you chuckle, chortle and snort.

Also, Thurber included his simple illustrations throughout.  I think they add a nice touch to the stories.  I highly recommend this book as a fun, short read!

 

Possible Objections:

  1. The b-word makes an appearance.
  2. Thurber’s grandpa regularly takes God’s name in vain.
  3. There is some talk about a “yellow” gal and a “Negro”/”Negress” in the chapter about servants.

Rating: 5 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

Boy by Roald Dahl

Boy

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Boy is a collection of memories that Roald Dahl shares from his childhood.  It is not an all-inclusive story about his childhood years, but just touches on the particular happenings that stood out to him.  He tells the reader about his parents and family, his preschool years, his time in boarding school, vacations in Norway, and his eventual start in life as an independent young man.  Scattered throughout the text are excerpts from letters that Dahl wrote to his mother as a child, photographs, and illustrations.

I am already a big Roald Dahl fan, so I enjoy reading a book that gives me a little more information about his personal history.  Even if you’re not a fan of his, the stories are quite entertaining and informative.  I really think you’ll enjoy this book.  It’s a fun, quick read.

Possible Objections:

  1. The d-word made at least one appearance in the book.
  2. There is an awful lot of talk about caning boys as a form of punishment.  While the author is simply relaying the facts of how punishment was handled in the school setting, it may be a bit traumatic for some readers.
  3. There are also a fair share of scenes in which the teachers treat students harshly.  This may upset some children.
  4. An incident is described in which the author’s nose was sliced almost all the way off in an automobile accident.  Again, this could be a traumatic idea for some kids.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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