Thursday, December 29, 2016

Ogden, The Fish Who Couldn't Swim Straight

Title: Ogden, The Fish Who Couldn't Swim Straight
Author: Gabrielle Yetter
Illustrator:  Daro Sam
Design: Monnyreak Ket
Pages: 36
Recommended for children aged 2 to 8

While Anna and I have reviewed plenty of graphic novels on this blog, we've never reviewed a picture book before. But when the author of the picture book Ogden, The Fish Who Couldn't Swim Straight asked me if I'd be interested in doing a review, the book looked so delightful that I couldn't say no. 

Ogden is a contented little fish who lives in a plastic bag at the fair and swims in circles all day long. When he accidentally gets dropped in the river, Ogden's world is in complete upheaval. He doesn't know how to do anything but swim in circles all day long, so that's what he does.

Eventually, a friendly eel tries to get Ogden to swim outside of his comfort zone. Though poor Ogden is terrified, he decides to take a risk, and when he does he discovers a glorious new world that he never knew existed.
Ogden, The Fish Who Couldn't Swim Straight is a charming little story sure to bring a smile to the face of everyone who reads it - no matter their age: I was literally smiling the whole time I read it. The story's colorful, bright illustrations perfectly balance its sweet, playful tone and uplifting ending. Best of all, parents can use Ogden's story as a starting point to talk to their children about having the courage to step outside their own comfort zones. 

Overall, Ogden, The Fish Who Couldn't Swim Straight is a delightful read with an important message sure to inspire readers of all ages.

Until tomorrow.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!” - Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Merry Christmas from The Wood Between the Worlds! 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Beastly Bones by William Ritter

Hey everyone, before we get started, make sure you check out the 2017 2nd Annual Authors Talk About It Book Award Contest. If you're a new or aspiring author, this is a great opportunity for promotion and critique. And your book doesn't even have to be published yet to be accepted: you can submit published and unpublished books, manuscripts, and ebooks in a variety of genres. If you decide to enter, let us know how it turns out! (May the odds be ever in your favor.) And now onto today's review....

Title: Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2)
Author: William Ritter
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Publication Date: 22 September 2015
Number of Pages: 295

What Goodreads has to say:

I've found very little about private detective R. F. Jackaby to be standard in the time I've known him. Working as his assistant tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality . . .

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, R. F. Jackaby, are called upon to investigate the supernatural. First, members of a particularly vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens. A day later, their owner is found murdered, with a single mysterious puncture wound to her neck. Then, in nearby Gad's Valley, dinosaur bones from a recent dig go missing, and an unidentifiable beast attacks animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Policeman Charlie Cane, exiled from New Fiddleham to the valley, calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

What I have to say:

Really, I'd just like to say: thank you, William Ritter. 

It's like you wrote this book with me in mind - it has everything I love in it:

New England, for starters: 1890s New England - quaint, Romantic, and slightly creepy at night. 

A very complicated ghost.

A young feminist with a sharp mind and a thirst for adventure.

An odd detective/scientist with an eye for the supernatural.

A shapeshifter.

The dinosaur skeleton find of the century.

And dragons.

Not to mention warring paleontologists, a burly trapper with a love for magical creatures (think Hagrid), a spunky female journalist, and plenty of unexplained phenomena. 

But mainly dinosaurs.

I zipped through this book, completely captivated from Chapter One to the last page. Not only is it atmospheric, entertaining, and suspenseful; it's also beautiful. 

Several months ago, I attended a William Ritter book-signing and heard him read several passages from Beastly Bones out loud to his audience. Incidentally, he has the best reading voice and I would totally buy an audiobook of him reading the Jackaby books. Among the excerpts he read at that book-signing, the most striking in my mind was the following, which comes when Abigail Rook, the story's protagonist, finds herself conflicted by her desire to be a successful investigator, and her growing love for a young policeman (the shapeshifter mentioned above). She's received two opposing strains of advice from two different parties, and now feels like she can't take a definite step in either direction. With a great deal of awkwardness, she asks her employer, Detective Jackaby, for advice:

"So often," Jackaby said. "people think that when we arrive at a crossroads, we can choose only one path, but- as I have often and articulately postulated- people are stupid. We're not walking the path. We are the path. We are all of the roads and all of the intersections. Of course you can choose both."
 I blinked. 
"Also, if I hear any more nonsense about your allowing other people to decide where you're going in your own life, I will seriously reconsider your employment. You were hired for your mind, Miss Rook. I won't have an assistant incapable of thinking for herself." 
"Yes, sir," I said. "Thank you, sir."

Another thing I love is humor; and William Ritter has the best sense of humor. This book is hilarious:

The entry [Jackaby pointed to] briefly explained that an unidentified miscreant had broken into a shoemaker's shop three times in the past week.
 "Please tell me you're kidding, sir. It says the cobbler couldn't even find anything stolen. That's annoying, but it's not a case." 
"...Do you know who else is known for slipping into shoemakers' shops and not taking anything?"
"Please, sir. Don't say elves."

Beastly Bones is also romantic:

"I'm going to kiss you now," I said. "That's going to happen." [This is my favorite line.]

 And intense:

"He wrenched me off my feet, and the world spun for a moment as the two of us tumbled into Lamb's trench. My axe bounced out of my hands, and the cold earth and smell of loose soil filled my senses for several seconds as Jackaby pressed me into the dirt. From above us came a rumbling, belching noise, and then a muffled hacking cough. Jackaby's hold on my back lightened as he rose to peer over the edge of the deep furrow. I slid up tentatively to join him."

Recommended for fans of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grimm, and Harry Potter (if that doesn't cover you, I'm not really sure what you're doing on this blog, but hey, don't leave), Beastly Bones is a fantastical adventure that you won't soon forget. Also dinosaurs.

A word to those of you who aren't familiar with this series yet: Beastly Bones is the second novel in William Ritter's Jackaby trilogy (currently a trilogy, anyway). The first book is Jackaby; if you haven't read it, you're in for a treat. While I think you could get off OK reading Beastly Bones without having read Jackaby, I definitely recommend reading the books in order. Recently, Ritter has released the third book in the Jackaby series: Ghostly Echoes. Here's to hoping it will be as awesome as the first two - though I have no doubt it will be.

I freaking love these covers.

Until tomorrow.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Little Prince

Title: The Little Prince
Production Company: Netflix
Director: Mark Osborne
Screenplay: Irena Brignull, Bob Persichetti
Based on the French novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Mackenzie Foy, Rachel McAdams, Riley Osborne (and a lot of other people)
Release Date: 5 August 2016
Length: 1 h 48 min
Rating: PG
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Drama, (Sci-fi?)


A little girl lives in a very grown-up world with her mother, who tries to prepare her for it. Her neighbor, the Aviator, introduces the girl to an extraordinary world where anything is possible, the world of the Little Prince.

What I have to say:

At long last! You can now stream The Little Prince on Netflix! And the film lives up to its expectations: all in all, this is a funny, sweet, heart-warming film with beautiful animation that is sure to move viewers to tears. Lots of them. 

There are two stories in this film: a story about a little girl making friends with an old aviator, and a story about The Little Prince and his adventures. The Little Prince's story is framed beautifully by the real-world story of the little girl and the aviator. Each story has a different animation style, which is a wonderful touch and helps to distinguish between the two. I LOVE the animation style in which The Little Prince's story plays out. It suits the story and fits in perfectly with the original illustrations by Saint-Exupery. 

Both stories are well told and nicely executed. I could wish that the filmmakers spent a little more time on The Little Prince's story, as it seemed just a bit too brief and moved rather quickly. But even this didn't detract from the story's beauty and depth.

The only thing that I felt really detracted from the story was the episode after the conclusion of The Little Prince's story, when the little girl flies the aviator's plane to another planet. Here she finds all of the characters that The Little Prince meets on his journey through the stars before coming to Earth (the rich man, the king, the clown). 

As a fantasia on themes found in The Little Prince story, it's not bad and actually rather creative, but as a story that is of a piece with the story of The Little Prince himself, it's totally wrong and the effect is jarring. This episode feels disjointed when taken as a whole with the rest of the movie. For one thing, it's unnecessary. It springs out of the little girl's need to come to terms with things like letting go and growing up, which is a viable dilemma, but there are better ways to accomplish this that would have been more in keeping with the rest of the story. 

One thing I did really like about how this episode played out, however, was that, since the little girl falls off the side of the house and blacks out before waking up and finding the aviator's plane, and since the scene fades out after she leaves Asteroid B-612, you could assume that the whole incident was a dream, which makes me feel slightly better about the whole thing.

So if you watch The Little Prince, I recommend just skipping that whole episode in the middle, starting when the little girl flies the aviator's plane out of Earth's atmosphere. Just pick it up again when she gets up in the morning and decides to go visit the aviator with her mother. That's a sweet scene. 

Outside of that one part in the middle, the movie is absolutely beautiful: the visuals are stunning, the writing brilliant, and the story as poignant as ever.