Book Review | Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by

Title: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
Author: Robert C. O’Brien
Publication Date: 1971
Length: 249 pages
Genres: Animal story, science-fiction, children’s literature, fantasy
Awards: John Newbery Medal 1972
TW: Animal experimentation, captivity, serious illness- child, death, poisoning

So, I’m kind of dating myself here, but I remember a time before the Disney Renaissance. Not well, I mean I’m not that old, however that means that when I think of great animated films at the forefront of my mind, alongside Disney and Pixar and Dreamworks and Miyazaki, is Don Bluth.

Many of his creations stood out in the animated landscape of the 1980s and 1990s, but none possibly like The Secret of Nimh.

This, of course, isn’t a review of that film. The book predated it by about eleven years. It’s just that, considering the popularity of the movie, I find it strange and a little sad, that the book isn’t more well-known. Even being a bookwork, I wasn’t actually aware of the fact that the movie was based on a Newberry winner until I ran into this copy at a local thrift store. Now, this could be partially down to my childhood distaste for Newberry books (that’s a post for another day), however even in those times that I found myself perusing the Newberry devoted shelves at the bookstore I don’t recall seeing the book, and I think that’s something I would have noticed.

For those who aren’t aware, those who’ve never had the pleasure of being exposed to either the book or the movie, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh is the story of a mother mouse who’s confronted with the threat of losing her home, and possibly child, to the farmer’s plow come spring. Her only hope comes in the form of her connections to a mysterious society of rats whose abilities set them apart from the rest of the animal world.

It’s an unusual story in many ways, and not without its flaws. The good definitely, in my opinion, outweighs the bad however. The story itself is interesting – definitely unusual in some ways, as one doesn’t often get the mixture of animal story and science fiction. The premise of an advanced society of rats was fun, and the odd bits and pieces of (child-friendly) philosophy was a surprising addition.

One of the best things about the story is the flow, I think. It’s very well paced, and put together, with the various elements of the story all syncing up nicely. There were only a few places, I felt, where the story dragged, and even fewer where it felt rushed. In addition, the story lacks the sort of moralizing that sometimes plagues children’s books, the outside voice-of-god narrator that stands over the reader to give commentary. There are effectively two narrative voices within the book, one first person and one third person limited, and both work well, neither drawing our attention out of the story.

There are, of course some issues. At times, the dialogue can feel a little stilted, with an over use of ‘oh, so-and-so’ phrases- the sort that I’ve found at times in older children’s literature. This seemed to have improved a ways into the book, but I’m not certain if that’s because it smoothed out that much, or because I just get used to the speech patterns. Either way, it wasn’t something that felt a hinderance to the story overall, though it was a little annoying when I was trying to read it out-loud.

Additionally, I will admit that the story, eventually, starts to lean a bit much on the story of the rats of Nimh. Their story ends up being around seventy pages out of two hundred and forty nine all said, and while it’s interesting enough- and Nicodemus works as a good narrator for this section- it did start to feel a little stretched eventually, and it made Mrs. Frisby’s part of the whole ordeal feel a little scant through the latter portion of the story, at least compared to the earlier parts of the book. The balance, through that section, felt a little off.

As a whole though the book was entertaining and kept me reading for a good day or so, even knowing the story beforehand.

Book Review | Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules by Jeff Kinney

Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
Author: Jeff Kinney
Publication Date: 2008
Length: 217 pages
Genre: graphic novel, humor, diary fiction

TW: bullying (largely from the protagonist, though you could say he receives a fair bit from his older brother)

So, there are a lot of things that frustrate me as a teacher: grading papers, paperwork, staying late for meetings. The worst however, is the fact that the annoying kids in any sort of media, whether it’s movies, books, whatever, are no longer just annoying, but downright infuriating at times. Okay, so infuriating may seem a little strong, but deal with thrown pencils, cruel comments, and distraught students (a lot of times from said comments/behavior) for long enough and you’ll see what I mean.

A lot of people along the line forget or choose to ignore the fact that kids are jerks. I unfortunately do not have that luxury. Thus I have very mixed feelings about Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules.

Because wow. Yes, this story about a 7th grader dealing with everything, from parents trying to force sibling togetherness time to asshole big brothers who lock you in the basement during their (totally not allowed) party, is very true to life in a lot of ways- and with a certain frame of mind, is kind of amusing. But at the same time, Greg Heffley, the protagonist of the series, is an absolute jerk. Beyond standard kid jerkiness. And I mean, I don’t expect some saint. I’ve seen that before and that’s just boring, but I would expect something to let me know this kid isn’t just an asshole. That never happened.

Which is frustrating, because the book does have a lot of things that I like. I’ve always loved comics and graphic novels and I’m always up for books that combine visual elements with writing. This series does that in a really interesting way, since the writing is set up to look like Greg’s journal, notebook lines and all. The illustrations, inserted into the text, almost feel like they could have been drawn by Greg himself. If it weren’t for a few more-detailed drawings, plus the addition of some of Greg’s own comics, I would have assumed they were meant to be. It’s that style of storytelling I think that drew me to the book to begin with. I love slice of life types of stories- letters and diaries and such- and despite its flaws, this series is a really good example of that. Also, I’ve heard it’s done great things for reluctant readers and that always a plus in my book.

I just wish that I could connect more with the main character. It’s not that he’s unrealistic, but rather that he’s the sort of person I would have steered clear of as a kid because he just doesn’t seem to care about anyone but himself. I’ve had to deal with that enough in my life without reading about it. Which is also the reason this one probably won’t find its way into my classroom library- because I’m not about to make my life more difficult than it already is, and I have a feeling this book, while some of my kids would enjoy it, would only ramp up a bad situation.

Thankful Thursday- So that happened…

So, you may have noticed (probably not, but hey I can hope) that I kind of dropped off the face of the earth these last few weeks. First from the thankful Thursday updates and then from everything else. And considering why I made this blog to begin with you may be able to guess who or rather what the culprit is. Yeah, that whole making sure I don’t drive myself into the ground with work hasn’t exactly panned out, because evidently, I’m even more of a perfectionist then I would’ve thought. Also evidently a lot easier to become a workaholic than you might think. But hey, life or fate or what-have-you decided to step in and kick my butt so that’s no longer an issue, because my winter exhaustion finally kicked in and it’s walloped me. I’ve spent the last week and a half kind of feeling like I’m two steps from falling physically on my face.

So the overworking was a thing that is hopefully no longer a thing.

Let’s try this again.

This week I am very very thankful for:

No School
So, going along with this whole theme, I can say that I am very thankful for the fact that I have a five day weekend. Because the flu has hit my school so hard we’re having to call in substitute bus drivers. on top of that there’s flooding, so even if we had had the numbers to have school a lot of people would not have been able to get there anyway. Yay for a break! Couldn’t have had better timing.

New clothes? Kinda?
I discovered this week that I can finally wear a few sweaters and shirts that have been sitting in my bottom drawer for the last year or so. This one’s a little double sided since the reason they now fit is that my metabolism is out of whack, but hey I’ll take the positives where I can get them. This way I can still wear them while the temperatures are cool enough and if my system has to be on the fritz at least I can be cozy.

Hello Mr. Blue
We’re dealing with an awful lot of rain now, but we did have a really pretty day on Saturday. Blue sky, nice temperatures- just an awesomely beautiful day. We’ve been dealing with the winter blahs, everything gray and sunless, so seeing a clear sky was like getting a breath of fresh air. I hadn’t even realized how much I needed it until I stepped outside. It was like a twenty pound weight being lifted off of me.

A Nice Case of the Lazies
Last weekend was just really nice overall, since I spent it being utterly lazy. I did so little it’s not even funny and it was marvelous. The fact that I got to be lazy with my parents was just an added plus. I hadn’t seen them in awhile so i made an extended visit. Movie marathon on Saturday (and hey, who knew I’d enjoy the hallmark mystery series that much?), sunny outing on Sunday, and NO STRESS.

Bye Bye boring windows
Lastly, and this may seem like an odd one, I finally figured out how to hang up curtains in my classroom. Not done yet, but I’ve finally got a plan. I’ve been trying to figure that out for the last month and my kids spent just as much time before that complaining about the glaring sun in the mornings. Now I can avoid that issue and it’ll hopefully add to the environment score during my observations. Plus, it’ll just look nice.

So that’s that. Hopefully, I can keep up the time and energy to make more posts because the weeks that I couldn’t were absolute heck. I’ve missed doing my weekly updates hello and sharing these bright spots in my life. Hello I know very few people read these, at least in comparison to some of my other posts but I like them all the same and it’s good to just think of yourself sometimes. And now to flip this around- to the few people who do stop in, how was your week? Good, bad, somewhere in between? Feel free to drop a comment and let me know.