Books for the toddler set

I’ve been pretty good about not going overboard on toys for E this Christmas. He’s too young to care and so I just got him a few small things. But I’m a total sucker for good kids’ books. E will have these three waiting for him under the tree; the first two from us and the last one from one of his aunts (Thanks, Gwyn!)

Lovely, lovely stylized animal illustrations.
Apparently it’s now sold out at Amazon but it’s worth tracking down elsewhere.

Introduce baby to sushi. There’s a whole series for introducing your kids to wonderful foods they will probably refuse to eat: Dim Sum , Mexican, Italian, Jewish , Soul Food, and Indian.

Delicious contemporary art. Great paintings.

Let’s Make Cute Stuff!

I received this book, Aranzi Aronzo Cute Dolls (Let’s Make Cute Stuff), for my birthday from Gwyn, N.’s sister. It is SO much fun. I have a habit (which drives N. crazy) of collecting project or how-to books which I seldom actually make anything out. But this is one of the few books I have that I wouldn’t feel guilty about owning even if I never make anything out of it because it is that much fun to read. The translator did an excellent job translating the instructions and descriptions from the original Japanese and the whole book is a pleasure to read as a result. The book has that super cute, whimsical, Engrishy Japanese vibe that I’m a sucker for. Besides being fun to read, there’s a helpful tutorial at the front on the basics of doll construction. The tutorial is narrated by White Rabbit and Brown Bunny.

Argh, the cuteness! The text is entertaining on its own but the patterns are also great. There are about 20 patterns for adorable stuffies in the book and out of those there are at least 6 that I really want to make. N. was flipping through the book and declared that I had to make E. one of these:

Yes, that’s right: a kidnapper doll! Every child’s dream toy! If you can’t read the text, it says “Kidnapper is tall and trim. He’s always wearing a tight black suit. It’s so tight that it’s like a part of his body now. Kidnapper is always wearing a black hat. He doesn’t have hair underneath his hat. Kidnapper is always holding a white bag. That’s because his job is to kidnap kids. He’s off to work again today!”

I love that he comes with he comes with a white sack to stuff his victims in! So creepy. E. doesn’t really have a ‘lovey’ yet so how funny would it be if I made him a Kidnapper doll and it became his favorite childhood toy?

So yeah, if you like cute Japanese-style stuffies or know a child whose life is simply incomplete without a Kidnapper doll, I recommend this book.

Reading: Unaccustomed Earth

Before I talk about Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest collection of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth, there’s something I have to say. I suppose I should just get it out of the way: Jhumpa Lahiri is HOT. Hot as in crazy-beautiful. She definitely has my vote for hottest Pulitzer-prize-winning author. It’s simply one of life’s petty injustices. Shouldn’t there be a bit of a trade-off? You know, you get astounding writing talent but maybe you only get average looks. Or maybe there should be a sliding scale: the more successful of a writer you are, the odder you look (i.e. Stephen King.)

Anyway, I really enjoyed the book. I’ve read Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake, and it seems the Lahiri is continuing to grow a writer. Her prose is concise but she wrings an incredible amount of emotional complexity and and indirect characterization from her sentences.

The stories focus on the relationships: those between parents and children, husband and wife, sister and brother, and lover and lover. Most of the characters are Indian and Lahiri explores the quiet and not-so-quiet ways that cultural differences affect their relationships. Most of the characters immigrated to the States while children or are the children of immigrants and as such they stuggle with how to balance the traditions and expectations of Indian culture with the culture they have assimilated into.

As the daughter of an immigrant, I really relate to certain situations in the book. It’s cheesy, but her writing really rings true to me. Two thumbs up.

Book Tag

I’ve been tagged by Miranda. I’m not really one for these pass-it-along-type of things, but like Mindy, I don’t want to be a party pooper. So here we go.

1. Pick up the nearest book (at least 123 pages)
2. Turn to page 123
3. Find the 5th sentence
4. Post the 5th sentence on your blog
5. Tag 5 people

The nearest book was A Feast For Crows, by George R.R. Martin. It’s the fourth and latest book in Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series. N. and I both read all of the books in the series last year. I know that some people write off the fantasy genre, but these books are such good reads: well-written, epic, intelligent, and a little bit edgy. (Readers with delicate sensibilities might find some parts objectionable, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

So, with all that fanfare, here’s the 5th sentence from page 123:

“Have a swift safe voyage, and take care of her and Aemon and the child.”

(TOTALLY worth all of that build-up, no?)

As for tagging others, if you feel so inclined, consider yourself tagged!

Reading: Neverwhere

I have to confess: I have a tiny little crush on Neil Gaiman. I know, I know–it’s almost trite for girls to become fans of Gaiman’s as soon as they read his Sandman comic book series, but that’s what happened to me. In my defense, I’m not one of those creepy goth fangirls. I just…you know…think he’s pretty talented and dreamy!

Neverwhere was originally a TV series that Gaiman wrote for the BBC and later adapted into a novel in the 90s. I’ve read most of Gaiman’s other works but only got around to reading Neverwhere after receiving it for Christmas.(Thanks K. and M!) I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Here’s a plot summary from Wikipedia:
The plot of Neverwhere centres around Richard Mayhew, an average Londoner who encounters an injured girl named Door on the street one night. Despite his girlfriend’s protests he decides to help her, but that unfortunately also means that he suddenly ceases to exist for regular people and becomes real only to the denizens of ‘London Below’, whose inhabitants are generally invisible and nonexistent to the people of ‘London Above’. He loses his house, his job and nearly his mind as he travels London Below in an attempt to make sense out of it all, find a way back, and helps Door survive as she is hunted down by hired assassins.

Gaiman’s writing usually incorporates mythological and fantastical elements, but does so in an organic way. These elements add a timelessness to the story that contrasts with, and compliments, the setting of contemporary London. I know that some people are turned off by the idea of reading fantasy, but this book isn’t really Fantasy with a capital-F. It’s pretty accessible and I think that most people would enjoy it. It’s funny, creepy, sad, romantic, and well-written.

And besides, the author’s dreamy!

Reading: Scott Pilgrim Volumes 1-4

I received a lot of fun books, CDs, and DVDs for Christmas this year. I’ll try and post about things as I finish them. N. gave me volumes 1-4 of Brian Lee O’Malley’s comic series Scott Pilgrim. I just finished reading them and enjoyed them a lot. They’re a really fun read. Basically, it’s an action/romance: Scott meets his dream girl and has to fight her evil exes to win the privilege of dating her. It’s drawn in the style of Japanese manga. The narration incorporates some post-modern touches such as characters’ awareness that they’re in a comic and video game conventions (during fights characters level up and gain extra lives), etc… that work well with the story. Over all, the books are fun and sweet without being too precious.

One person who did NOT like Scott Pilgrim was N.’s grandpa. Grandpa was in town last week and stayed with us for a couple of days. I had left volume 2 on the kitchen table and one morning Grandpa started reading it over his breakfast of FiberOne.

Grandpa didn’t think that the story made a lot of sense (perhaps due to his beginning with volume 2), and he was scandalized by the book’s only love scene. I believe his exact words were “she was in her panties and he was patting her nudie bottom!”

I think it was this page he stopped at.

So, Grandpa=not a Scott Pilgrim fan. Stay tuned next week for his take on Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut!