Ghetto Klown by John Leguizamo

This post contains an affiliate link.

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

Advertisements

The Gift of the Magi and Other Short Stories by O. Henry

This post contains an affiliate link.

Title: The Gift of the Magi and Other Short Stories by O. Henry

Premise:

This is a collection of short stories by O. Henry.  It includes “The Gift of the Magi,” “The Cop and the Anthem,” “Springtime à la Carte,” “The Green Door,” “After Twenty Years,” “The Furnished Room,” “The Pimienta Pancakes,” “The Last Leaf,” “The Voice of the City,” “While the Auto Waits,” “A Retrieved Reformation,” “A Municipal Report,” “A Newspaper Story,” “The Ransom of Red Chief,” “A Ghost of a Chance,” and “Makes the Whole World Kin.”

My thoughts:

I read this book specifically for “The Gift of the Magi,” a Christmas story.  The book is so short, though, that I decided to just go ahead and read the entire thing.  A couple of the stories were familiar to me (“The Last Leaf” in particular), though I can’t think of where I would have heard/read it before.  Overall, I really enjoyed the book.  Most of the stories were well-written, clever, heartfelt, and several had twist endings.  Henry’s writing is challenging to read, so you’ll want to keep a dictionary at hand.  You will certainly expand your vocabulary!

You should know that there are three instances of the n-word in this book.  I believe they are contained in only two stories, but in any instance where an African American is included in a story, they are talked of in a condescending way.  For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend the book to anyone younger than an adult.

I recommend The Gift of the Magi to adults who enjoy short stories.  Most of the stories in this volume are satisfying reads.

Possible Objections:

  • There is a general air of condescension towards African Americans
  • Outdated/offensive racial language (3 uses of the n-word)

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

This post contains an affiliate link.

Title: The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

Notable: Newbery Honor book, 1961

Premise:

Chester cricket is accidentally transported from his rural Connecticut home to the Times Square subway station in New York City.  A friendly cat and mouse help Chester fit into this new and foreign environment, and a boy named Mario Bellini adopts Chester as his new pet.  Chester is instrumental in saving the Bellini’s struggling newspaper stand.

My thoughts:

This book was completely new to me and I’m happy to report that it was an enjoyable read.  The story is very basic, but the animal characters are charming and really the focus of the story.

My two favorite characters are Chester cricket (of course) and Sai Fong, the Chinese gentleman.  Chester is so good-natured and you can’t help but feel sorry for him.  This poor little country cricket finds himself dumped in the big, loud, dirty city without a soul to help him.  Thank goodness Tucker mouse and Harry cat step in!  It’s fun to imagine the scenes when Chester is giving his concerts in the subway and all of the people are standing there rapt.  The child in me wants to go find a cricket now just to listen to their song.  (Incidentally, we had a cricket infestation in our house several years ago, and I can assure you that it’s not too fun hunting loud crickets in the middle of the night when all you want is to get some sleep.)

When we are first introduced to Sai Fong, the man who owns a Chinese laundry and trinket shop, I was afraid that it was going to be another stereotypical portrayal of a Chinese person, hinting at our American superiority.  Thankfully that was not the case.  Sai Fong is a lovable character who is ecstatic about Mario’s lucky pet cricket.  He helps Mario get a cage for his cricket (really a beautiful pagoda), has them over for dinner, and supplies Mario with mulberry leaves to feed Chester.  Although his character doesn’t step outside the bounds of the typical Chinese character, he is presented with a loving eye.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  Though it has not become one of my favorites, I still think it’s a great chapter book for kids.  The story would need a bit more than pure fluff to put it on my list of cherished books.

I recommend The Cricket in Times Square to elementary-age kids or as a cute family read-aloud.

Possible Objections:

  • Chinese man’s language is garbled and spelled phonetically (if you’re particularly sensitive, you might find this offensive)

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Confessions of Shopaholic – Movie 2009

This post contains an affiliate link.

Last night I watched Confessions of a Shopaholic, the movie adaptation of the book by the same name.  I hadn’t even known that they had made it into a movie, until quite recently.

As a very quick synopsis, the story is about a young lady named Rebecca Bloomwood who absolutely loves to shop and would like nothing better than to write for the well-known fashion magazine, Alette.  She tries to climb the corporate ladder by starting at a magazine entitled Successful Saving, but runs into many hurdles brought on by her own reckless spending habits.  If you want to know more about what I thought of the book, check out my book review.

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed the book, but it’s been almost a year since I’ve read it, so many of the details have slipped away.  That’s probably a good thing when watching the film adaptation of the book, because I didn’t get caught up in comparing every little thing to the book.  I had a general gist of what was going to happen, but the story was just there for my enjoyment.

Even though it’s been a year since I read the book, I could tell that they had taken some liberties with the original story.  However, I don’t think that the changes adversely affected the story, so much as created their own alternative story.  There is still the love interest, Becky’s awful spending habits, the extremely awkward situations, and a day when she must reckon with the mess that she has made.  However, most of the heavy and serious stuff is taken out of the story.  Maybe that’s why they changed some major plot elements–so it would be more of a fluff story.

I think that I liked the movie version of Becky better than the book version.  It probably has to do with the fact that Isla Fisher is completely likeable and charm seems to ooze from her pores.  I’m not sure how I feel about the changes made to Becky and Luke’s relationship in the movie.  I suppose they wanted to simplify and condense it, instead of making it develop over a period of time, as it did in the book.

I have to say something about the animated mannequins here.  At first they kind of creeped me out, but as the film progressed they started to make sense.  Since shopping is such an integral part of who Becky is and since it is a magical experience for her, I think that the “living” mannequins were a good choice.

The film is fairly tame.  There’s one instance of the b-word, at least one instance of the a-word, lots of leg and cleavage exposure, and a drinking session with her friend while they go through credit card bills.

I recommend this movie to teens and women who want to watch a feel-good romantic comedy.  While it’s not the best I’ve ever seen, it is one that I wouldn’t hesitate to watch with friends.  If you’re hoping for it to accurately reflect the book, you will be disappointed.  Look at it as a cousin of the book.

Possible Objections:

  • a handful of bad language
  • some ladies show lots of skin
  • a drinking scene
  • a cat fight

Rated: PG

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC POSTS:

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

from-the-mixed-up-files

This post contains an affiliate link.

The boys and I just finished From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler as our chapter book for homeschooling.  I read this book as a child, but had forgotten the details.  It’s the 1968 Newbery Medal winner.

Premise:

Claudia and Jamie Kincaid decide to run away from home and hit upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City as their home away from home.  They successfully evade detection–sleeping on one of the antique beds, bathing in the fountain, and hiding their belongings in various locations.  When a statue arrives at the museum which could be the work of Michelangelo, Claudia won’t rest until she finds out the truth about the statue’s origins.

My thoughts:

My kids and I enjoyed this book, even though it is not full of rip-roaring action.  The story is more of a meandering tale about a brother and sister who learn how to be self-sufficient and how to function as a team.  Claudia and Jamie partake in the typical teasing banter of siblings, which adds humor and levity to the story.

I think kids who read this book will enjoy the idea of children taking care of themselves and making an interesting museum their home.  Personally, I found the story amusing but don’t feel like I’ll return to it for any subsequent reads.

This is an amusing book for those who are in the later elementary/preteen years.  I’m not certain that it will hold the attention of everyone in that age group, though.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

12 Years Slave - WM

This post contains an affiliate link.

Twelve Years a Slave is the final book in my Rainbow Cover Reading Challenge!  I am so excited to give away the books from this challenge to one lucky winner–so stay tuned!

I was really looking forward to reading this book because I’ve been studying slavery and other social justice issues since I was a child.  For some reason, those difficult subjects have always fascinated me.  I had never heard of Solomon Northup, nor seen the recent movie that is based on this book.

First, you should know that this book uses old-fashioned language.  That’s just something that you’ll have to get used to.  The words may not flow off your tongue like melted butter, but you should really stick with it because of how truly fascinating the story is.

Second, you will notice that this story seems to be choked with minute details that wouldn’t really be necessary for simply telling the story.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, Solomon had to establish his right in representing the true state of slavery by proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that his story was undeniably true.  All of the small details in the book are facts that could be checked and corroborated.  Additionally, Solomon published this book a short time after he was rescued from captivity, hoping that by sharing his story he could educate people about the truth of slavery.  (Remember, at this time there were people who actually believed that the slave preferred his state of bondage to a life of freedom.)  As a free, educated colored man, he had a unique perspective to offer.  He had been accustomed to freedom, then that freedom was stripped from him and he was forced to endure slavery.  Twelve years later he was restored to freedom again.  Upon his return, he could give utterance to the true state of slavery in an observant, introspective, and educated manner.  He could speak to whites at the time on an equal footing (at least intellectually).  So, while the details may get tedious and seem irrelevant at times, they served a very specific purpose when the book was written.

I must say that I really enjoyed this book.  I didn’t enjoy reading about the hardships and injustices, but I appreciated learning about Solomon’s experiences.  Mainly he shares events and information about his daily life in a matter-of-fact tone.  He also shares the things he felt and what others said.  The reader is expected to arrive at their own conclusion as to whether or not slavery is a just institution.  I appreciate that Solomon appealed to the reader to take what they had read and consult their own conscience about what was fair or not.

A couple of my favorite quotes:

“They left me in the cabin, that I might rest.  Blessed be sleep!  It visiteth all alike, descending as the dews of heaven on the bond and free.  Soon it nestled to my bosom, driving away the troubles that oppressed it, and bearing me to that shadowy region, where I saw again the faces, and listened to the voices of my children, who, alas, for aught I knew in my waking hours, had fallen into the arms of that other sleep, from which they never would arouse.” (p. 94)

“‘If I was in New-England,’ returned Bass, ‘I would be just what I am here.  I would say that Slavery was an iniquity, and ought to be abolished.  I would say there was no reason nor justice in the law, or the constitution that allows one man to hold another man in bondage.  It would be hard for you to lose your property, to be sure, but it wouldn’t be half as hard as it would be to lose your liberty.  You have no more right to your freedom, in exact justice, than Uncle Abram yonder.  Talk about black skin, and black blood; why, how many slaves are there on this bayou as white as either of us?  And what difference is there in the color of the soul?  Pshaw! the whole system is as absurd as it is cruel.'” (p. 179)

Because of the subject matter and language, I would suggest this book for teens and up.

Possible Objections:

  • A lot of violence
  • Racial epithets
  • Bad language — mostly the d-word
  • Some talk of sexual exploitation

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori