Saturday, May 15, 2010


I am supposed to be gone fishin' or at least gone sightseein' as of this evening, but who knows as it seems my family and I are in a race against a new volcanic ash cloud to see who can reach London first. Hopefully I will be absent from The Book Bench for a week and will come back with tales of European books and such.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Question for You

Imagine you are going to be on an airplane for seven to eight hours. What book (or other reading material) would you bring?

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Nominee

Ok, this isn't really about books, but it is big. Moreover, I plan to read lots more about Elena Kagan in the coming days. I love that she praised her late mother and brothers, all public school teachers, today when President Obama introduced her as his nominee to the Supreme Court.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Thief Lord

Here is a book I've recently finished and passed on to my ten year old daughter. I'm pretty sure she is going to love it. In all honesty, I did not pass on to her the actual copy I read since I listened to the audiobook on my drive to and from work, and I checked a paper copy out of the library for my daughter. Do you consider listening to the audiobook "reading"? I know some book clubs scorn it. It makes good sense to me as I can't stand overly political or overly hyuk hyuk silly talk radio in the morning.

Back to the book. The Thief Lord, written by master German storyteller Cornelia Funke (Inkheart, Igraine the Brave, and so on) tells an adventure story of two orphaned brothers who run away to Venice after the younger one is about to be adopted by an unloving aunt and the older is to be sent to boarding school. Once in Venice, the brothers, Prosper and Bo, meet up with other children on their own and join forces to survive. They also become involved with Victor Getz, a kindhearted private detective the aunt has hired to search for the brothers. Victor is easily my favorite character in the book, which is saying something as this is a very character driven book. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of plot going on as well. There is a lot of adventure, a touch of mystery, and even a tiny bit of magic. And even though it is written for young people, this old lady learned a good bit about the city of Venice from the pages of The Thief Lord.

Apparently the book was adapted into a film a few years back, but I was unaware of that. I am quite glad I "read" the book, and I think my daughter will soon be as well. It is a good choice for fourth through I'd say seventh graders who like a bit of adventure.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Two More Bits of Horseradish

If this irritating Icelandic volcano cooperates, the Book Bench family will be heading to Europe soon. There were flight restrictions in Ireland yesterday and in Spain and southern France today. Aaargh! If nothing else, my kids are learning their European geography and some volcanology out of all this worry. I am trying very hard to ignore all of my anxiety and pretend that the trip will go off without a hitch. I've been told that emphasizing the "if" as in "if we make it to Paris," is a bit of a downer. I am trying to cut back on that and am proceeding as if we will be following our itinerary. That involves buying granola bars and gum, dragging suitcases down from the attic, and searching for the passports. The passports put me in mind of another funny bit of Horseradish from Lemony Snicket:

A passport, as I'm sure you know, is a document that one shows to government officials whenever one reaches a border between countries, so the officials can learn who you are, where you were born, and how you look when photographed unflatteringly.

Another Horseradishism my daughter feels applies to overseas travel and all of life for that matter is:

Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Lemony Snicket is one popular guy in my house lately. My kids have been moving through and giggling at his Series of Unfortunate Events for the last month or so. On a recent library run, they picked up a book of his sayings, wit, and wisdom entitled Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid. It would make a good coffee table book if tweens had coffee tables in their bedrooms.

One of my favorite lines from the book is:

If writers wrote as carelessly as some people talk, then adhasdh asdglascuyt[bn[pasdlgkhasdfasdf.

I love this one as well because it seems to agree with a long held suspicion of mine about royalty (well, the only royalty I ever had contact with):

One of the world's most popular entertainments is a deck of cards which contains thirteen each of four suits, highlighted by kings, queens, and jacks, who are possibly the queen's younger, more attractive boyfriends.

Come to think of it, I believe I will move the library's copy of Horseradish to my living room coffee table for awhile.

Monday, May 3, 2010

We Are Not Responsible For The "Sleeper" Part

In the last few weeks I've been reading about how the animated kids' movie How To Train Your Dragon is turning into a real sleeper hit, gaining momentum and box office draws over time. Not to be all "I was into that band before anyone ever heard of them," but I did take my kids to see How To Train Your Dragon the first week it opened. Therefore, I am only responsible for the hit description, not the sleeper bit. We were inspired to see the film after reading several of the books in Cressida Cowell's How To Train Your Dragon series. Our favorite, by the way, is How To Be A Pirate. In our post-film discussion, held while grocery shopping, all three of my children found it impossible to say which was better, the book or the film adaptation. That allowed me to explain the "comparing apples and oranges" analogy. The plot of the book is quite different than that of the film. The main character is still Hiccup, the scrawny but plucky son of Stoick the Vast, leader of a band of Vikings. Please allow me to mention that Stoick is voiced by Gerard Butler in the film and somehow his Scottish burr is just as handsome as his Scottish face. It wouldn't be a punishment to have to share a box of Lorna Doones with him if you know what I'm saying. Back on point, there are new characters introduced in the film, and the 3D effects are quite good. That brings me to one advantage of the book. I didn't spend half our time reading the book pausing to wipe popcorn butter of 3D glasses. Anyway, if you haven't experienced them yet, I recommend How To Train Your Dragon, both the book and film. Once you've enjoyed one version, check out the other because both are appealing to kids and nothing is revealed in one the spoils the other. There is something in each for both boys and girls from about ages six to twelve.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Another Thing I Am Too Old For

My precious bibliophile daughter turned ten this past week. Ten! I can hardly believe it. She had a pajama party here at the Book Bench house with a bunch of lovely but high spirited girls on Friday night. I am still tired. Her friends know her well and several gave her books and gift cards to the bookstore. We were in the aisles of our local Borders spending one of those cards by noon on Saturday. With a fistful of coupons, she was able to do some damage to their stock. Currently, Hayden is reading three books, Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos, Mary Poppins Comes Back, and The Magician's Elephant. She is also reading a book in school with her class. I don't know how she keeps the plot lines straight. I can't even remember where I put my book down half the time. It's good to be young!