Thursday, May 28, 2015

My First Cinderella Retelling and First Steampunk Story

I was nervous about this one. I requested the e-ARC for it and waited. And waited, and then decided it wasn't one I'd get to read before it came out, but that maybe I'd read it when it released. Then I got the email saying I could download it! But what if I'd built up my hopes and it wasn't that great and I'd been waiting and anxious for nothing??
I'm happy to announce: this one did not disappoint.
I downloaded this one and read the first quarter of it. Then I had to deal with reality, but being able to finish a book in a week for me is actually saying something huge. I didn't put this one down and pick up anything else. I didn't get bored.
This was the first Cinderella story I tried and it was almost perfect. This was also the first book I've read that would classify as "steampunk" because I was a little worried about how I'd feel about it. My worries were in vain. It was a great twist to be added.
What I loved:
- Mechanica was not named Ella! At all!
- While Nick usually didn't cause waves and was kind, she fought back when she could/when she really reached a breaking point. This was more realistic, I felt, than the Cinderella who never, ever complains.
- She did not need a man to make her dreams come true. She built her dreams from the ground up, on her own terms. She had help from some bugs, but who doesn't need a little assistance when you're in such a crappy place?
- The ending was damn near perfect. Not a typical happily ever after, but was exactly the kind of ending I love.
- The story is really more about friendship than romantic love and I think we need more of that in the teen genre.
- This book very briefly touches on the ideas behind other types of relationships, as opposed to just a monogamous heterosexual relationship.
- It's clean so I have no worries if I recommend it to anyone, regardless of which age of teen they fall into.

What I didn't love:
- There were a couple elements that were never explained.
- Some of the writing felt like fluff. Basically, the same sentences, or similarly written ones, were repeated throughout when it wasn't entirely necessary.

I would definitely recommend this one to anyone looking for a new, and very different, very feminist twist on Cinderella.

**I'd like to thank Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing an advanced reading copy of this text in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my review in any way.**

Monday, May 11, 2015

Why I Won't Be Reading The Rainbow Fish to My Daughter

I guess I should preface this by saying, that I know at some point T will read The Rainbow Fish, either at school or daycare or on her own. I won't stop her from reading anything, unless it's something too mature for her (probably not too many restrictions there either), but I won't encourage this one.
I also want to say that I have not read any of the follow up stories of all the adventures Rainbow Fish goes on so maybe it gets better, but I just don't know about it.

When you work in a bookstore, people ask you all the time “how do you take home a paycheck?” Well, because this is my living, I have to pay my bills and feed my child so I don't have a lot of choice. At the same time, I understand the question and I do have a very difficult time talking myself out of buying all of the books. Due to a small apartment, I've gotten much better, but there are still times when I buy impulse books, then realize that I maybe shouldn't have.
Rainbow Fish was one of these. I remember that I read this as a kid. It's a classic, after all. Who doesn't love Rainbow Fish?? I bought it as soon as I saw a used copy come through because I thought, “I have to read this to T.” Then I did. All I could think after I re-read this book was that I think I'm missing something.
Maybe the board book version of Rainbow Fish leaves too much out of the story, maybe the regular version has something more to it. But in the version I read, I was left with a feeling of “I don't want to fill my daughter's head with this.” I understand the point of him learning to share, I really do. What I don't love is that he has to give away everything he loves to have friends. I don't love that he gives up who he is, that he can't be beautiful and have friends. I don't love that no one will be friends with him unless he gives them things. Maybe I just read too much into this one, maybe I'm overly cynical. Either way, this was not the lesson in sharing that I wanted to teach T. So I'm getting it back out of the house.

I would like to suggest another of Pfister's books, though. I know most people only know Rainbow Fish from him because it's the biggest/most popular one, but I also picked up Milo and the Magical Stones and really loved it. This is a story of a mouse who realizes that the only way to save his world is by working together with the others in his community to find a solution. There are two endings, a happy one and a not happy one. I think this one teaches a great lesson about working together and I will definitely read this one to T. Although, she'll probably have to be a little older since there are a lot of words, which requires a lot longer attention span than she currently has. If she's anything like me, though, she'll intentionally pick out the longest bedtime story possible when she's a little older.