LGB reviews – The Sailor Dog

the sailor dog jennitalula

Title: The Sailor Dog
Author: Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrator: Garth Williams
Collected in the Bedtime Stories treasury.

My all time favourite Little Golden Book. I had to start with the best I’m afraid, I just couldn’t resist

My memories of this book are just of reading it again and again and again. I love the look of the pictures, the lushness of Scuppers’s fur, the strangeness of his story and the satisfying ending with the song.

Overall story: Scuppers was born at sea and after growing up on a farm wants to go back to sea. He finds a lot of different land and air based travel options and turns them all down before he finds a boat and he gets on the boat. He is shipwrecked in a storm, makes a house on the beach and then mends his ship.

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He sails to a foreign land, buys new supplies and then goes back to sea. The buying supplies page is amazing because there’s suddenly this massive wall of text but it’s all a list of good and bad things you can find in the picture. I really love Scuppers’ new pith helmet, but the shoes are just terrible. Poor choice of shoes Scuppers!

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And why does this clothing shop sell oranges?

Real message: Follow your dreams! You can be a sailor dog! You can mend the boat! The smoke goes up the chimney! Well… yes, I’d say this is a story about being true to yourself and following your heart.

Best line: Get a load of this bad boy from ‘And went down below…’

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Yep, it’s all one long run on sentence about how everything has a place. Now that’s writing!

Best page is this one where Scuppers makes his house. It just is. I mean, look at the intricate details of the house, and you can plainly see the brick chimney with the smoke going up it. Doesn’t it just make you want to take a toolbox down to the beach and build a drift wood house? No? Just me then?

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In conclusion the writing is totally atrocious but the illustrations are endearing, how much do you want to moosh his belly in the picture where he’s sleeping? So much.

Rating 5 out of 5 sailboats. Scuppers is a fantastic hero who rises above clunky writing, aided by the most excellent illustrations and continues to fill my heart with joy and a desire to go to sea. Plus there’s lyrics to a song at the end which I always sing in my head to ‘popeye the sailor man’

I’m Scuppers the sailor dog
I’m Scuppers the sailor dog
I can sail in a gale
Right over a whale
Under Full Sail
In a fog

Things I Love Thursday

❤ Travel! I am in America right now. It's only my second time visiting and I was pleased with how much I remembered about San Fran, but disappointed in how poor my sense of direction is. My phone's GPS has been very handy, and I have been buying all the things. It's great.

jennitalula cable car selfie

❤ My best friend Sophie. Look, it's not that I was getting weird after a few days on my own in a big foreign city, it's just that it's good to have someone else to talk to. And she motivates me to do a bit more than I might otherwise. And she has brilliant ideas such as 'let's go to Baskin Robbins' or 'let's go to that Whiskey bar'.

❤ Postcards! I really love finding awesome postcards and buying them but then I don't always want to let them go to people back home. Because the postcards suddenly become mine. It's a bit of a problem, but on the up side I have bought lots of awesome postcards and people will receive some of them.

❤ Food. I've had remarkably good luck on this trip with food, yesterday I had a fantastic beef and cheese taco and some Texas BBQ pork ribs, in San Fran I was staying in Japantown and got some exceptional ramen. It's been delicious and for the most part, not fast foody.

❤ Books! I have located many a fine bookstore on this trip and managed to buy a book or two at most of them. This is less than ideal when it comes to repacking and travelling to another city but whatever, books are awesome and I'm excited about my purchases. Powell's City of Books is an exceptional place and I love it there. It was in fact, overwhelming with its size and selection, but I loved that about it. I may have to go back and buy the tote bag with the 'Perks of being a wallflower' quote on it.

Honourable Mentions: skype so I can keep in touch with my lovely while I'm over here, getting IDed nearly every time I buy alcohol, comfy T shirts, new socks, being horizontal in a comfy bed after a long haul flight, deep talks over rye and bourbon, lovely friendly Americans and looking forward to XOXO starting tonight!

Awesome YA books

Love is Hell

…is a book of short stories including some personal favourites of mine Scott Westerfeld and Melissa Marr. The collection is themed Love is Hell which means you know that it’s more about the course of true love running less than smoothly. I enjoyed them. There was quite a spooky ghost story to start the book, and I particularly enjoyed Westerfeld’s perfect world school assignment romance where kids elected to experience some of the crap humans had to put up with in the past, such as the common cold, or sleeping. Overall, good light fun.

As You Wish by Jackson Pearce

Classic teen supernatural romance, except this time it’s human girl/Djinn boy. I really liked this. It alternated points of view between the two leads, which was really nice for seeing the changing way they felt about each other. It was pretty light, pretty fluffy and I’m not too sure I endorse the ending, but the book as a whole is cute and a good read.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

OK so. Unlike the other two this is not a light or fluffy read. This is the story of Sam, who has an ordinary school day (she’s one of the popular mean girls, but painfully aware of her geeky roots) and then dies. Then she wakes up on the morning of her last day, like a horrible version of Groundhog Day where she’s not sure what she has to do to get out of the time loop and save her own life…It’s very compelling.

I loved the way the author showed you scenes from multiple points of view and as Sam learned more about her actions and the consequences, she saw how they impacted everyone around her. Very good, very life affirming, and if the romance was kind of obvious, I forgive it for being sweet and believable. There were a couple of missteps in the telling of it (notably the italics where Sam addresses the reader directly) but otherwise I was really into it and read the last third in a day. Highly recommend this one.

Awesome YA book

So, I picked this book up from the New Books shelf in the Young Adult section of the library because it had a sexy cover.

Crash into me by Albert Borris.

I was all, ‘who is this pretty boy with the lips and the androgynous girl holding onto his arm like she owns him?’ and then I read the blurb and saw this was a book about suicide. Some days I would have put it back on the shelf because of that but something about the premise: four teens make a pilgrimage to various famous suicide’s graves before all killing themselves…I dunno. It sounded like it could be fun.

I started reading it at the library, taking breaks from writing my new novel when my wrist got sore. (I write at a fast pace.) The narrator, Owen, was endearing. Something about his shy demeanor and the way he described the other Suicide Dogs just felt very real.

I ended up reading the whole book in about a day. I mean, it’s short and all, but it was also very involving and I was desperate to know what happened. Issues explored include: being a gay teenager, getting drunk/alcoholism, rebelling from your parents, family, first love, sex and expectations for the future.

I don’t want to say too much about the actual plot because spoilers, but it was jarring when one of the characters pointed out to the Cobain-obsessed one that she wasn’t even alive when he died…well, I felt a little old. But whatever. The author is a counselor, so he knows what he’s talking about and it shows. Excellent book for a first time novel I have to say.

Awesome book, I give it two thumbs up and I might read it again before I return it to the library.

Awesome YA novels

Dull Boy
By Sarah Cross

Avery has super powers -strength and flight, but he keeps them secret because he doesn’t want to be vivisected. The problem is that he accidentally causes a lot of property damage and his parents are running out of money. One night he crosses paths with some other teens with certain talents and things change. It’s a pretty straight forward story, actually, but something about the way it’s told is completely engrossing. I couldn’t put this book down. Avery is such a great character, an actual decent person who is just trying to his best.

The secondary characters were excellent too, and although it is a light hearted story it doesn’t shy away from darkness at all. It actually reminded me a lot of Hero by Perry Moore, while still being its own excellent book. I have my fingers crossed for a sequel.

Will Grayson Will Grayson
By John Green and David Levithan

Jackie told me that this book was amazing. It is amazing. I’m not sure if I loved *quite* as much as her, but I did like it a lot. It’s a collaborative novel told from two points of view: two different teenage boys called Will Grayson. The first Will we meet has a simple code for life involving not getting involved and shutting up. This is made difficult by his extremely large, extremely gay best friend Tiny Cooper who is putting on a musical based on his own life. The second Will is very emo, very angry and in love with a boy he met online. The two Wills meet each other a few chapters in and things are changed…it was cute and sweet. There is plenty of bad behaviour from all of them, some realisation and some funny stuff. It kind of reminded me of the movie Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist except less focussed on just two characters.

The Poison Eaters
Short stories by Holly Black

Holly is awesome, I completely love her stuff. She writes how I wish I could write. The Poison Eaters is a collection of her short stories which all read like new fairy tales. Some are set in the past, some in the present. There’s one that uses the characters from her Tithe series but the rest are stand alone, eerie stories. The very first one “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” was a very spooky and unsettling vampire story, which I had trouble sleeping after. The other stories deal with (sexy) fairies, werewolfism, deals with the Devil…you know, the usual fairy tale fare. It really felt to me that these stories could stand the test of time and be remembered in a hundred years. Definitely recommend them.

Insatiable
By Meg Cabot

This is technically not a YA novel, it’s pretty much an adult romance/vampire novel parody but the way she writes and the way I read what she writes I think it can be crossover. In it there are descendants from characters in Dracula and the lead character Meena, really hates vampires and all the popular vampire fiction. There’s lots of romance and lots of action and suspense. I really liked the ending too.

Awesome YA books

Demon Princess: Reign or Shine by Michelle Rowen

This book really reminded me of Meg Cabot’s work, also Debbie’s writing, and to a lesser extent, my own. For that reason I insist that Debbie tracks it down and reads it.

Story: an ordinary, slightly geeky girl discovers when she turns 16 that her absentee father is actually a king of a demon dimension and she is coming into insanely powerful magical half-demon powers. There’s a neat relationship with her best friend at school, a fake-out popular boy and a darkly mysterious hottie who it turns out, is only stalking her because he’s working for her father.

Pretty light weight, but great fun. Great first love, fluttering kind of relationship stuff plus neat alternate universe stuff and a very promising cameo from a rather sexy Faerie King. First in a series, can’t wait for the next one.

Handcuffs by Bethany Griffin

Parker broke up with her boyfriend because she wasn’t ready to have sex with him. Except she keeps going to his house and making out with him. Then one day he comes by her house with a pair of handcuffs. Naturally her parents come home early and she gets in massive trouble.

This book is an awesome examination of the powerful pull of lust and first love, power imbalances in relationships and continuing to return to someone who you know is bad for you because you love the way he makes you feel. There’s also some really strong minor plot stuff dealing with Parker’s relationship with her older sister and her younger brother who has ADHD. This book is compellingly written, a bit sexy and funny and I really recommend it.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

I haven’t finished reading this one, because I had to return it to the library but I want to finish it. Set in the American South it’s the story of a boy who’s lived all his life in a small town, dreaming of getting out. A new girl comes to town who dresses differently to the others, she’s lived in all these different countries and she plays beautiful music.

And the real kicker? Ethan has been having these really vivid dreams about her where they are drowning, he wakes up with bruises on his arm from where she’s been holding onto him. Or his bed full of dirt from the mud they fell through…he didn’t think she was real until she appeared in school.

Thornspell by Helen Lowe

I finally got around to reading this book, after buying it on the night I saw Helen and Tim talk about spec fic last year. It’s a twist on the sleeping beauty story, in that it follows the path of the prince. Sigismund is coming of age and coming into some magic powers as well, he walks the sleeping castle in dreams, for example. A paladdin-ish hero knight called Balisan is sent to him to be a mentor. I liked Balisan, he reminded me of the best male characters in Tamora Pierce books.

I enjoyed it immensely. Helen easily creates a world you want to stay in and explore. It feels comforting, familiar while somehow being new to explore as well. The story was strong all the way through and there were some very nice and neat twists I didn’t see coming.

The Witches

I read the Witches by Roald Dahl last week. I can’t recall the last time I read it, must have been over 15 years ago. But the number of times I read it as a kid were in evidence. Every single paragraph was familiar to me. Not in the ‘I know what happens next’ way, but like revisiting an old friend. Familiar, but still delightful.

Holy crow it’s a scary book though. The stuff that happens. The first few chapters have the protagonists parents being killed, and then chapter after chapter about REAL WITCHES (Dahl’s capitals) and the terrible things they do to children, followed by all the ways that make them monstrous and how to spot them.

I remember dreaming as a kid, thinking about all the women I knew who could *possibly* be Witches, and what I would do. I remember the hours and hours I tried to work out how it would feel to be girl who is trapped in a painting. Wondering how I could try and make Formula 62 Delayed Action Mouse Maker.*

The story is very basic, only taking about two days of action to play out. I really, really enjoyed it. You should read it again too.

*You can’t. Roald Dahl lists the ingredients as mostly mythical creature parts.

Awesome young adult books

Lips Touch: three times by Laini Taylor

Three stories about supernatural romance, strong female characters and the danger of kissing. The first story was the strongest in my opinion. Very visual storytelling, combined with literal visual storytelling as well because of graphic novel portions.

I really really liked the first story, which is about a girl being romanced by a goblin, and falling for him even though she should really know better. It was so Silver Kiss of the Magical Twilight of the Full Moon in the best way. The second story was neat, about a Victorian lady in India who makes a deal with a demon and one girl’s terrible curse. The third story was a bit hard to read, too much backstory for too many characters mashed up with present day stuff. It would have been stronger told chronologically I think. Great ideas in it, though, about demons who can ride around in humans.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

A frighteningly convincing insight into the mind of a girl with anorexia. Her best friend, who has egged her on to be thin for years, dies before the book starts. Lia is in turmoil, she had fallen out with her best friend some months before and ignored the calls she received on the night she killed herself. The writing is compelling and it got me. I had to read this book very quickly because I found myself worrying about eating. Which, yeah, might mean it’s a really bad choice of book for some people. But I thought it was a startlingly good book.

Pretty Dead by Francesca Lia Block

I love FLB and I love stories about vampires. The two combined make Jenni happy. Francesca Lia Block’s writing is strange and magical, the inclusion of a lonely vampire in her version of LA seemed natural. It was a sad story, about love and death (as you would expect) but you did believe that the lead had learned enough in her long life to not want to be alive anymore.

Bonus extra kid’s book:

Wishing for Tomorrow
by Kathryn McKay

The sequel to A Little Princess, the classic children’s book. This story isn’t about Sara, it’s about Ermengarde and Lottie and the other girls left behind at Miss Minchin’s Select Seminary. It was lovely. McKay did a fine job of writing in the style of the original while moving their stories along.

It was like an old friend who tells you a new story. Comforting, familiar, warm and calming. I didn’t want to stop reading it. In fact, I wanted to read A Little Princess again and then read this again and then just be in a constant loop of Sara and Ermy and Miss Minchin’s. Good work Kathryn McKay.

I got all of these lovely books from the Wellington City Library. Tune in for my next batch soon!

Awesome Young Adult books

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.

The second book in the Hunger Games series. Just as dark, just as action packed, just as awesome. This author knows a thing or two about suspense and is insanely good at ratcheting up the horrific stakes. I can’t really go into details, except that its like reading an action movie. A really good action movie.

Kiss of Life by Daniel Waters.

The second one in the Generation Dead series. This one was overall sadder than the first, due to the stuff that happened in the first one, but as an examination of discrimination, minorities and the horror of racism it’s fantastic. Something about the writing is very visual as well, I can totally see it as a movie.

Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr.

Third in the Wicked Lovely series, it felt a little bit like a difficult middle child. Our kick-ass herione Ash became a bit emo in the absence of Seth, who is off making stupid decisions. Lots of politics, lots of set up for the final book.

The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd.

Slight departure from the earlier titles. Set in the future, this book chronicles one girl’s experiences of the first year of Carbon Rationing, which England is trialling after a number of extreme weather events. Her parents can’t really cope with the loss of their car, her father, a travel agent, loses his job because no one can afford the carbon credits it would take to leave the country. It made me want to conserve energy, but we already do quite a lot of that. I guess imagining how bad it *could* be does make you want to prevent that happening.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking book 1)

Strange. Hard to explain. Sci-fi. Todd has lived his whole life in Prentisstown, which is only populated by men. Prentisstown is on the New World, when settlers arrived in their spaceships they ended up upsetting the native aliens. The aliens fought back by releasing germs…one lot of germs infected the animals the settlers had brought with them, and gave them the ability to talk. The second lot of germs killed all the women and half the men. The remaining men were given the Noise. That is, all the things they think become audible to everyone around them. Images and words bombard everyone around.

Fascinating.

It’s also very exciting, as Todd discovers that everything is not as it seems and the book becomes more or less an action movie. Won’t say anything more, except that Todd’s conversations with his dog are adorable and funny.

Awesome young adult books

Wicked Lovely Melissa Marr

Ash has always been able to see faeries but has been taught not to let them know that. She’s always been in love with her friend Seth too, but his womanising ways have stopped her taking it any further. That is, until Keenan, the cursed Summer King decides that Ash is the one to break the curse and become the Summer Queen.

It’s a complicated story with a realistic reaction to being stalked and a genuinely intriguing Faerie court plot. I really enjoyed the mystery of it and had to stop myself from skipping to the end to find out what happens. Plus Ash was awesome and I loved the boys too. This is part of a series but each book is intended to be stand alone.

A Great and Terrible Beauty Libba Bray

I wanted to like this one a lot more than I did. I actually gave up around page 100, I just wasn’t feeling it. Like Star pointed out, all the characters were just kind of horrible, and I found the story to be slow.

Before I Die Jenny Downham

Oh my Goodness. I nearly bought this to read on the plane to Raro but changed my mind because I thought it would be too sad. It’s about Tessa, who has terminal cancer and has made a list of things she wants to do before she dies. Number one is sex and out of the way rather fast, the rest of her list is a bit tougher. It’s an incredibly moving book, to say the least. It does make you want to seize life by the privates and live the hell out of it. It’s also very elegantly written. Check it out. It’s sad, but it’s also hopeful.


Twenty Boy Summer
Sarah Ockler

This book is also about death, but it’s about the people who survive a terrible accident and have to deal with loss. Anna, her best friend Frankie and Frankie’s big brother Matt were inseparable, the three musketeers. Then Matt was killed in a car crash. One year on Frankie and Anna are going on holiday to the beach, determined to meet 20 boys, only Anna has been keeping something from Frankie.

The book started out kind of annoyingly, because of the flashbacks and forwards it was a little hard to follow. Once I got a handle on it though I really enjoyed it. Sarah Ockler’s really got a knack for making the over the top teenage emotions real and immediate.

Generation Dead by Daniel Waters

The dead are coming back to life, and they’re attending high school. A very personal, small, story about the ‘living impaired’ students at high school. Centred around Goth girl Phoebe and her connection to the dead boy Tommy. Her best friends, Adam and Margi can’t quite unserstand it. There aren’t any big answers in this, no one knows why the dead are coming back, they don’t seem to be eating the living and we’re told that it’s only American teenagers that come back. The story is more concerned with prejudice, understanding and dealing with difficult emotions. I found it to be absorbing, interesting and hard to put down. Hopefully it’s the start of a series….