My sons had their annual checkups the other day with our bustly little worrywart of a pediatrician. Love that woman.
Not only because she reminds me of Valerie from The Princess Bride, but also because somehow, for years, she was under the impression that my husband was a physician. I always kind of wondered why she discussed the boys' health with me in such good technical detail, until one day, as she was explaining an anomalous test result, she cautioned, "Now, your husband, as a professional, is going to suspect [something something]," and I was like, "Hold on. As a professional city planner you think... he might have some insight into Zhou's bloodwork?" Sure, he did two years of premed at Carnegie Mellon before transferring to Columbia and majoring in English and social injustice, but I know more about the implications of a low white blood cell count than he does, and all I did was date a med student for a couple of years.
Anyway, on our way in, I did a book check. "Everybody have something to read while we're waiting? I've got The Rise of Renegade X and no, you can't read it." (too much Frenching for a 9-year-old, he would think it was icky) Mao had The Smoky Corridor by Chris Grabenstein. Then Zhou showed me his book.
"Ugh!" I groaned. "Berenstain Bears? I can't stand those bears!"
"I like them! What's wrong with the Berenstain Bears?" Zhou protested.
"Read what you like, but jeez, they're so joyless. There's nothing those cubs can do that doesn't prompt some kind of correction. Mama Bear is always cleaning something, or lecturing someone, and she's all, 'Too much talking on the phone is a bad thing.' Lighten up, lady! And Papa Bear is made out to be such a dope. 'Oh, I'll teach you how to ride a bike!' and then he crashes into a tree!"
"Well, Papa Bear is pretty dumb," my big man, Mao, agreed with me. "Remember when he wanted a new car, and then the family just washed his old car so it looked real nice and then he didn't want a new car anymore?"
"That's what I'm talking about!" I said. "Mama Bear is a total nag and Papa Bear is this big buffoon. It's undermining! I mean, is that the way it is in our family?"
"No!" says Mao, while simultaneously Zhou says, "Yup. I mean... NOOO!" shaking his head and scowling. "No mom, it's not like that in our family AT ALL."
Seven. He's seven. And he's got the timing of a 70-year-old Vegas comedian. Naturally, I recanted everything I'd said about the dang bears. "Ok ok, if that's the way it is I take it all back! When we get home, don't forget to wash the windows and sweep the porch after you finish your homework!" Smartass.
Speaking of smartasses, do you read Unshelved regularly? Those guys are not just about drawing comics for librarians to print out and tack to the bulletin board ("LOL! SAD BUT TRUE!") and selling t-shirts (although I kind of want the Nancy Pearl shirt). They recently posted a big booklist review of (mostly) zombie books that I wish I had time to read and review but I don't because I'm so obsessed with all the superhero/supervillain books this year, so read this list and then read the books and think of me kindly. I like that their reviews include "Why I picked it up" and "Why I finished it". "Why I finished it" is a gooooood question sometimes.
And Amazon lists their top ten teen books for 2010. No real shocks - National Book Award winner Ship Breaker (reviewed on Pink Me) is on there, as well as Before I Fall and Incarceron (my review here), all books that have gotten a lot of attention this year.
That's "attention," as in lots of reviews and discussion, as distinct from "hype," which is what that damn I Am Number Four, also on Amazon's list, got. It wasn't even out yet and the publisher was handing out t-shirts like take-out menus. No I haven't read it, and it's by James Frey, and I'm still kind of disgusted with that whole exaggerating-one's-misdeeds-to-look-cool fracas, so I'm not going to. You read it. Nancy Pearl told me I don't have to read books that everybody else is going to read (which is why I will wear a tshirt with her face on it), and I still think Amy Sedaris did that cover concept better. (Yes. No. I know that picture is not apropos, you are right. But it is funny.)
Will Grayson, Will Grayson tops the list, which maybe should surprise me, but doesn't. Realistic fiction about two boys with the same name, one of them gay, written by two of the top guys in teen fiction? I don't know if it gets read as much by teens as it does by teen lit professionals, but god knows we've all read it. I didn't review it. I liked it a lot, but I was a little bothered by my own reaction: to me, the funniest parts of the book were the antics of the giant gay singing football player, and I wondered to myself when "gay" was going to stop being an automatic punchline. Couldn't decide whether that was my issue or David Levithan's, so I decided to recuse myself.
The real surprises on this list, for me, are Adam Rex's Fat Vampire, which has gotten very mixed reviews and is not as highly ranked in sales as most of the other titles on this list, but which I liked and which has some killer (no pun intended) video supporting it; and The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, which I think suffers terribly from a confusing title and cover. Every review I've read makes me want to read that book, but then I pick it up and I don't.
Overall observation: a lot of menfolk represented on this here list. Just an observation.
What else? Oh, Chemers Gallery in L.A. is having their 19th Children's Book Illustrators Show & Signing - yeah I can't get to L.A. either, but they are pre-selling the work online! Plump for one of Pat O'Brien's otherworldly oils, or a cut-paper piece from Julie Paschkis. David Diaz's gravity-free, beautifully colorful work always puts me in mind of Chagall. S.D. Schindler's unfussy, detailed watercolors and the sumptuously Italianate work of Gennady Spirin are also represented.
Well, that's Friday for me! I'll be continuing my heroic autumn next week with reviews of Renegade X and Barry Lyga's Archvillain, and this weekend I get to read The Lost Hero, having successfully wrestled it away from my son. Oh, also, buy the Team Atomic pinup calendar (sample above) - it benefits Moveable Feast, and it's packed full of cheesecake goodness. Just look at that lovely lady in lingerie above! And you can trust her: she's doctor!