Wednesday, April 22, 2009

This blog is totally like Jesus, because it's about to rise from the dead.

That's right, I've decided to get ambitious again. Thank you Sadako, for the encouragement. I probably would have ignored your comment, but it made me think of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes which then made me think about hiroshima and childhood cancer, which made me feel really bad. And the only cure is some Beverly. I have a busy work week, but expect something up by the weekend.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I know, I suck!

Sorry guys, I moved and internet access was spotty for awhile there. Plus I'm working constantly and had a ton of class work. I'll be out in LA this week, but expect a recap posted by the weekend. Henry and the Clubhouse should go up first, but Anastasia Krupnik is soon to follow.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Henry and the Paper Route, or even the genius kid is too dumb to outsmart Ramona...

So I'm cheating a little bit with the Henry books by not starting out with Henry Huggins, but forgive me ok? I don't have a copy of Henry Huggins yet and I'm feeling motivated, so we're going to have to skip around a little bit. Something tells me no one is going to have a hard time following the storyline. And if you do, well... I recommend testing. Our inaugural foray into the wonderful world of Klickitat Street opens with a very bored Henry Huggins peeling apart a golf ball to see what's inside. I'd mock, but I spent my childhood sewing buttons onto socks for puppet shows and making earrings out of safety pins and beads. Henry's reflecting on his boredom and the fact that he wants things to be different, but isn't quite sure what exactly he wants to change. Gah, I think I just profoundly related to a kids' book yet again, someone remind me to mention that to my therapist. So Henry's sitting there on the front steps waxing philosophical, when guess who walks by? That's right, folks: Beezus and Ramona! This book just got automatically awesome, and we're only eight pages in. Beezus and Henry chat a bit, and off to the side, Ramona is hiding behind a telephone pole and jumping in and out of its shadow. Henry's confused, because being a mere mortal he cannot comprehend the genius behind a mind like Ramona Quimby's, so Beezus explains that Ramona's been trying to escape her shadow ever since she heard the "I have a little shadow" poem. Which incidentally, the Google just revealed was written by Robert Lewis Stevenson. Way to introduce us eight year olds to a good author on the sly there, Beverly. Sadly, Beezus and Ramona have to leave us to go to the store for Mother, so I'm stuck recapping Henry. I'll miss you, Ramona. Henry thinks a little more about how he wants to do something important, when who should arrive but Scooter McCarthy. Scooter McCarthy, with a name like that, I imagine him as the star of the high school football team who enjoys tackling the tight ends. (Everything written in the fifties has a closeted homosexual somewhere, expect lots of outings in this blog.) Scooter's entrance is apparently a source of some inspiration to our beleaguered Henry and low and behold, he suddenly realizes the Solution to All His Problems: getting a paper route. Man, I want to live in Beverly's world. So with major plot point firmly established, I guess that brings us to our cover:

Isn't that bicycle AWESOME? I have kind of an obsession with cruiser style bikes and desperately want a Schwinn Debutante because it's the cutest thing ever. I mean seriously, I might actually LOOK FORWARD to going to work in the morning if I was commuting in on this hotness:

So Henry, his fate decided and his path in life firmly before him, decides to get a paper route. Scooter's dubious about Henry's capabilities when it comes to something so complex and important, but clearly he hasn't seen the cover, where we plainly see that Henry Huggins is a paper boy extraordinare.You fail at judging people, Scooter. Leave the judging to ME, I can do enough for all of us, I promise. And Scooter? You're gay. Ignoring the naysayer, Henry sets off to meet his fate head on, determinedly striding out into the world to leave his mark when he happens upon a rummage sale and... ooh kittens! Someone get that boy some Adderall. Not that I can blame him for being distracted by a rummage sale, who DOESN'T love those? I mean, I once got 20 Babysitter's Club books for $3 when I stopped by one at random. (And now looking back on all the blunders I made by getting my theories of social interaction from Claudia friggin' Kishi, I think the garage sale people got the better end of the deal.) So Henry is momentarily distracted from fulfilling his destiny by four kittens. If it were puppies, I'd be sympathetic, but cats really don't do it for me. They're going to be taken to the pound if no one buys them, and Henry, like me, is apparently a huge softie because he's appalled by the thought. So he buys them all, puts them in his jacket, and goes along on his merry way. I'd mock, but I can't. I currently have four dogs in the house, my excellent lab mix, my roomate's toy rat and catahoula retard, AND a six month old pit puppy who was abandoned near my office. I've been listening to puppy cries and cleaning up accidents all day because I can't resist doggy kisses. But I promise, I won't shed tears when she goes to her new home on Monday. Even though she is awfully cute:
Not the best picture, but that's because she never holds still. If this freaking dog were a Catholic, her patron saint would be Our Lady of Perpetual Motion.

Ok, apparently my ADHD is worse than Henry's. Back to the story. So he's got four kittens in his jacket and he's off to see Mr. Capper about his paper route, but the kittens in his coat aren't making it easy. Especially since Mr. Capper has a large "police dog" which I'm assuming refers to a German Shepherd, and Major the dog has taken an interest in Henry's furry little passengers. Shenanigans ensue, and unsurprisingly Henry's told he's a little too young for a paper route. Oh, Mr. Capper. Clearly you're unaware that you are a marginal character in Henry's story, so your opinion really isn't going to matter all that much.

Henry heads home dejected and wondering what the hell he's going to tell his parents about four kittens (I say hell, Henry's mind probably says something along the lines of "what the dickens" or "what on earth", that is, if he's uncouth enough to even think in expletives) and he comes up with a cunning plan that kids everywhere have failed with since the dawn of time. That's right folks, it's the old "I did something I know you're going to hate, but I'm going to act like I think you're delighted" maneuver. I believe I tried it when I skipped school a few times in high school to go to a local museum. Something along the lines of "But Mom, I thought you'd be pleased that I was taking the initiative to expand my education beyond the constraints of the classroom environment!" Yea, it didn't work for me, and it's not going to work for Henry. Mr. and Mrs. Huggins bicker about whose side of the family Henry inherits his idiocy from, while Henry ruminates on how to get rid of four kittens. The parents are in favor of just giving the kittens to the pet store to sell (Who the hell knew that was ever even possible?) but Henry decides that they'll have a hand (a paw?) in his destiny, and that he'll use them as a promotion to sell The Journal, proving to Mr. Capper that he is The Best Paperboy Ever. He tries to give them away with a subscription and in a page turning shocker of a plot twist, is remarkably inept, and the kittens go to the pet store. To rub the salt in good, it turns out Mr. Huggins has become fond of one of the kittens, and he sends Henry back to the pet store to purchase it. Ahh Henry. How comically you fail. Or to put it more eloquently:

Our plucky protag is undaunted though, and continues to work towards his all important goal of becoming Klickitat Street's Own Journal Carrier and I'm not overly shocked when his opening comes through our dear pal, Scooter McCarthy. Old Scooter really needs some time to hang out down at the Y.M.C.A. (didn't make that up, I swear) so Henry agrees to fold his papers once a week. He makes himself totally annoying to the other carriers by never shutting up about his great ambition, but Scooter's a lazy ass so for several weeks, Henry keeps folding his papers. And then the day comes when Scooter needs double swim time and he asks Henry to deliver the paper for him too. I picture Scooter gazing longingly at this guy while he grabs some poor girl's pigtail as a clever cover up:

Henry succeeds finally, while also becoming the champion of the class paper drive, by advertising to all of Scooter's customers that he'll pick up and bundle their old papers and magazines. Scooter's pissed, because that means his class loses out on the big $6 prize but too bad Scoot, you spent your afternoons ogling Frankie's toned calves instead of keeping your head in the game. That's the end of Henry's tenure as annoying wannabe paper boy though, since Scooter refuses to let him help with the route any longer. That sucks, whatever. Moving on.

New kid moves into Henry's neighborhood, he's the same age as Henry, but honestly he's kind of creepy. He's all into electricity and he's building a robot named Thorvo and he spends a lot of time being pretentious about it. Kid calls himself "Murph" and everyone is a bit in awe of him, which is weird because I'd bet any money he grew up to have a personality similar to Ted Kazinsky's. Anyway, Ramona is totally fascinated by him, so she spends lots of time clanking around after him in her fabulous high heeled shoes while the other kids keep respectful distance and watch the construction of Thorvo in misplaced awe. I'm assuming Klickitat Street didn't offer much else in the way of afternoon entertainment. Ramona in her awesomeness even takes to wearing taped on glasses with the glass removed to emulate Murph, the freaky genius kid. What can I say, Ramona's quite precocious when it comes to comedic satire. Unfortunately for Henry, it turns out that Murph has one more talent up his polymathic sleeve and he's already gotten the paper route that Henry was counting on taking. Aww, sadface. Murph, you suck. Enter the real hero of the story, the girl of the hour who never fails: Ramona Quimby, the real Genius of Klickitat Street. She decides she wants to be the paper boy, so she spends most of her time following Murph around undelivering the papers he's already delivered and generally ruining his day as only Ramona can. She was the coolest little kid ever, and no one ever understood her. I'm so glad she ended up taking over the series, Ramona's way more interesting than Henry. Well, Murph can't hack it when it comes to Ramona, so he ends up quitting to spend more time in the basement with his robot and his pasty complexion, and Henry finally achieves victory, albeit only because Ramona is awesome. Our story concludes with Henry riding off into the sunset, dreams achieved, while Ramona dresses up as a robot. Henry, I like you ok. You're not a bad guy. You're just no Ramona Quimby. But at least you have the good sense to let her steal the show.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fifteen, or if he hasn't called, it's probably because he had to have emergency surgery...

So I got out of work early last week for a crawfish boil, which meant I had time to cruise the old Blooming Deals thrift store (oh Junior League, how witty you are) where I stumbled across a few incredible finds, including this copy of Fifteen. I know I read it once or twice as a kid but I'd totally forgotten about it, mostly because it is... let's be honest... a bit forgettable. It's like reading the novelization of an episode of Pleasantville before Reese Witherspoon sexually liberated 1955. Let's examine our cover, shall we?


Ok, so doesn't it look like something way more interesting is going to happen? Come on, cover designer! Clutched arm, pleading eyes, guy who won't make eye contact? This is all YA for "Unwanted Pregnancy" and how dare you insinuate that anyone in this book even THINKS about sex? I went in looking for a story, and found instead two characters that I actually think have Barbie and Ken style anatomy. And that tagline? Having a boyfriend isn't the answer? Ok... answer to what? Jane's lesbian tendencies? Her bastard child fathered by a handsome stranger? Her abusive situation? This cover is promising so many things that just aren't going to be delivered. Sigh.

On to our heroine. Jane Purdy. Christ, could we make her sound any plainer? Our story begins with Jane en route to a babysitting job with an apparently sociopathic little girl named Sandra, who enjoys trapping and killing flies. Watch out Jane. Jane's being very careful not to step on any cracks, because apparently she believes not stepping on any cracks will help her meet boys. Um, you're doing it wrong. She apparently realizes this, and her new cunning plan is to go hang out at Nibley's Confectionary and Soda Fountain after babysitting in the hopes that a new boy, old enough to drive, tall, cute and funny (Damn Jane, demanding much?) will ask her to get a root beer float or whatever the fast crowd is doing these days. I wouldn't count on it. Just to hammer home how much of a sad apple Jane is (You can thank the Gilbreth kids for the phrase "sad apple", I had a slight obsession with those books too) two of the kids who are popular and wealthy and probably heading off to Lover's Lane to neck and get pinned (heh, dirty) stop and remind Jane that she's a loser. Marcy smiles at Jane with "the kind of smile a girl riding in a convertible with a popular boy on a summer day gives a girl who is walking alone" which I'm assuming is 1955 for "bitch face". Jane spends a few pages thinking about how bad she sucks compared to Marcy and eventually we arrive at the Norton house and Jane's babysitting job with this kid:

Sandra wreaks general havoc, mocks Jane's bad French, threatens to dump ashes on the carpet when Jane can't remember a vocabulary word (I kind of like Sandra actually) and eventually lets the stupid yappy pug Cuthbert (Yay, Marilla!) out into the yard which will apparently piss off her snotty bitch mother and her cloud of Chanel Number 5. Jane is frantic, and now that the damsel is officially in distress, in comes our Gallant Hero, Stan, the new boy in town who apparently works for the Doggie Diner delivering dog food. (Dude, they used to deliver EVERYTHING back in the day, what the hell happened? We have way less incentive to leave the home than the people of the 1950's what with cable and the internet.) Stan saves the day by distracting the little brat with some pig latin, and Jane officially has a crush. On the Doggie Diner guy. You so know that if Jane had decent girlfriends, that'd be his nickname when they talked about sexcapades.

Jane's in like, so there's a chapter of obsessing about how she's going to meet Stan again, blah blah blah where she tries to talk her dad into getting a dog so they can have Stan deliver dog food, No such luck. She then considers finding out his last name, looking him up in the phone books, and casually strolling by his house "accidentally". Man, Facebook makes stalking so much easier. Eventually she decides just to volunteer to babysit Sandra again, which goddamn Jane, that is some hardcore devotion considering all he did was throw out a little pig latin. Ok, so she's thinking about all this, Stan calls, and it's so boring I start fantasizing about this book with an alternate ending:

Jane fights with her mom, obsesses about what to wear, and blah blah blah it's so cliche'd (but still adorable, Beverly, I SWEAR!) that I'm not even going to bother retelling it, just insert your preferred "First Date" episode of any sitcom that reran on Nick at Nite in the mid-nineties. Stan meets the parents and Jane feels embarrassed, they walk to the movies and talk about the weather, they stop at Nibley's for ice cream, and Marcy the bitch and Greg the latent homosexual crash their date and make Jane feel awkward. See, every show ever has done this plotline.

Ok there are more dates, their relationship progresses, we get it. No need to relive it. Eventually, Stan asks Jane out for a fancy dinner in the city to celebrate the end of summer, with two other couples. Marcy and Greg are there, and Jane sets her friend Julie up with Stan's friend Buzz. Buzz sounds desirable doesn't he? Guys called Buzz always are. They go to dinner, all riding in the Doggie Diner truck, and Jane has a bad time because she's an unsophisticated moron who's never eaten chinese food before and she's totally afraid to try anything. Seriously who doesn't love chinese food? If you're reading this blog and you don't like chinese food, GTFO. I mean, at one point, Buzz teases Jane and asks her if she'd like some "flied lice" in the second most racist depiction of an Asian stereotype ever (Mickey Rooney still holds the top spot) and Jane actually THINKS THERE IS REALLY LICE IN THE FOOD because yes, she's stupid. Jane, I liked you in the beginning but I'm kind of starting to hate you, just so you know. Also, I feel the need to post a picture of Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's imitating post Pearl Harbor propaganda:


Moving on. I'm about to cheat you guys, but I'm sorry I just can't take much more. Jane and Stan are in love, blah blah blah, everyone knows Jane's Stan's girl blah blah blah, Jane feels validation cause she has a man blah blah... WTF? Sigh. Pages and pages detailing her rapture at being half of a couple, so I'm almost happy when the first dance comes around and Stan doesn't ask her and Jane ends up staying home dateless. Yes, I know, I suck. I wish ill on all characters that make me want to reread The Feminine Mystique. Julie reports back, Stan was there with some cute petite girl called Bitsy (I've hated that nickname since I read Tiger Eyes, incidentally, but I thought it was stupid even before that) and Jane is sad. Stan apologizes and explains the date was a family obligation, and Jane accepts his apology, but she later lets Buzz kiss her in front of Stan because she's a passive aggressive slutbag and a terrible friend. Stan gets all weird about it, and Jane apologizes and tells him to call. He doesn't. She waits around. She panics. Turns out he had appendicitis and was brought to the hospital for surgery that day and that's why he didn't call. Um, Beverly? Way to give girls everywhere waiting by phones that won't ring the idea that if he doesn't call, the reason is probably because he had to have emergency surgery, and not the obvious:


Jane brings him flowers, meets his mom, finds out from his little sister that Stan really likes her, and it's pretty clear we're looking at happily ever after. They go to the big senior movie and date night, more comic blocks to their romance occur, and the book ends with Stan giving Jane his I.D. bracelet and asking her to go steady. I'm not mocking, that's actually what happened. Go Jane. The moral of the story is that nice boys like smart, understanding girls like Jane and not hot bitches like Marcy. Jesus, no wonder most of us who read lots of YA novels are totally dysfunctional when it comes to adult relationships.

Thanks for reading my first recap guys! It was an experience. I look forward to many more nights of staying up way too late reading books so sickly sweet they give me the dibeetus.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Welcome people!

So I know lots of great people are recapping YA books these days, and I've been looking for my niche. I was talking to the talented Ames of Somewhere Between YA Lit and Death when it occurred to me that nobody's been doing Beverly Cleary, at least as far as I know. Score! I loved Beverly Cleary as a kid; she writes about a happy universe where bad things don't happen, aside from normal thoughts and everyday embarrassments of happy kids. Nice break from the cancer and date rape right? I'll be starting with one of the stand alone novels, Fifteen, and then moving into the Henry Huggins series- which is where we first get introduced to Ramona. Trust me, I want to jump ahead, but Ramona deserves some buildup. I mean, she named her doll Chevrolet. She had an elephant named Ella Funt. She pulled that stupid bitch Susan's hair, and eventually she had a crush on Yard Ape. Ramona Quimby is AWESOME. If anyone has any suggestions or requests, feel free to email me, but the goal is to recap every one of Beverly's books. And now I need to go start rereading Fifteen, ignoring Grey's Anatomy waiting on my DVR, and the lure of and do as Ramona commands and Drop Everything and Read.