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George's Favorite Tooth Tidbits on books for young people.

15Oct/103

Scholastic’s I Am Canada Series: Making History Manly

Awhile ago, I posted in anticipation of Scholastic's new I Am Canada series.  I had a few reservations.  My feelings about the name remain (a bit beer commercially), but I'm won over by the prettiness.

The first two books are Hugh Brewster's Prisoner of Dieppe and Paul Yee's Blood and Iron. Both these authors are natural choices for these topics as they've already done their homework: Brewster's Dieppe: Canada's Darkest Days of World War II came out last year and no one should ever forget about Paul Yee's Tales From Gold Mountain and Ghost Train.

The I Am Canada website, as is the case with the Dear Canada site, is stellar.  It is also  imbued with a healthy amount of testosterone and perfectly reflects the books in all their navy blue glory.  I'm really impressed with the cover design - it has enough in common with Dear Canada with the photo and the weathered paper, but also stands alone, too.  These boys and girls sure look smart together, don't they?

We stand on guard for good book design.

It's interesting that the I Am Canada books seem available only in paperback (correct me if I'm wrong here).  Perhaps because of the maxim that boys prefer paperbacks?  If so, very interesting.

While I think boys might be reluctant to read the Dear Canada books (there's a picture of a chick on the front, plus the hardcovers have a ribbon for a bookmark), I can see gals partaking in I Am Canada.

Next up is to give these new boys on the block a read and see how they measure up.  But with authors like Brewster and Yee on board, I suspect the final verdict will be... Shannon: 0  I Am Canada: 1

6Oct/101

Tammy Grimes and Esther Averill. Audiobooks Don’t Get Better.

Even though I have this audiobook in my possession, I haven't heard it for at least fifteen years.  I can only find it on vinyl and I don't have a record player!  But, nevertheless, an ode to Averill and Grimes is in order.

I wish I could take better, not-dark picture in my living room. Sadly, this was the best of eleven...

I was a major audiobook kid.  I'm still very much an audiobook person.  I like to listen to them on the bus or while cleaning/putzing about the house.  If I'm doing something where I can't devote 100% of my attention to the story, I'll put on Charlotte's Web read by E.B. White - my theory is that, if I listen to him enough, I'll soak up some of his writing style.  Or I'll develop a booming Massachusetts twang.

My favourite audiobooks as a chidler were Roald Dahl's Matilda and The Witches (I can't remember the readers - lovely British ladies) and the abridged Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island read by Megan Follows.  But nothing can ever top Esther Averill's Jenny and the Cat Club read by Tammy Grimes (1978).

Grimes was a Broadway and television actress whose best-known audiobook accomplishment is likely Where The Wild Things Are (in addition to some other Sendak stories).  But man oh man, she nails Jenny Linsky.

Jenny Linsky is a black cat.  She lives with Captain Tinker (best name ever).  At night she rolls with her feline friends in the Cat Club: Concertina, Mr. President, Macaroni, The Duke, Romulus, Remus, Arabella, Antonio, and Solomon.  Anyone who doesn't know these books is at a serious disadvantage in life.

I don't know what it is about Grimes' voice that lends itself so well to Averill's stories.  There is something very old-fashioned and dear about the Jenny Linsky tales (the synopsis on the record calls them "unpretentious little classics") and there is nothing particularly dear about Grimes' voice.  It sounds very much like a cross between an ashtray, a cat's purr, and a grandmotherly cajoling.

But there is something about Grimes' reading that makes you believe she is just as pumped about the story as you are - she is utterly engaged and expressive to the hilt (but not in an overdone way).    I think I loved the audiobook so much because I felt like I had a kindred spirit in Grimes - she was just as wild about Jenny as I was. You could just hear it in her voice.

I borrowed the cassette tape over and over again from the library until one day it just disappeared (or, as I understand now, it went to the Land of the Weeded).  I thought about it often over the years and it was the first thing I looked up in WorldCat upon entering library school.  Now I just need to get my hands on (and learn how to use) a record player...