Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Big Mistake

I checked this out from the library:

Now it is the soundtrack of our days.  Yesterday, it was playing in the van. Then it was on in Fran's room while he played Star Wars and Legos on the floor.  This morning it was playing in Fran's room: he swung a lightsaber and Claude was on his bed moving her head to the music, impressed with her brother's lightsaber skills.

Building a rebel base.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Claudia is doing puzzles with her doll.

She told her baby, "I'll do it...I have real hands."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Butt Chairs

Fran just announced that on page 70 of "Roscoe Riley Rules #1: Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs", the words "butt chairs" appear.  Clearly, a book worth reading for a second grade boy.

Please send on any other book recommendations that involve "butt chairs" to TRWH.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Sweet Valley Confidential"

There is a woman who lives in Atlanta that I like to talk books with. She has on occasion steered me wrong.  She singled-handedly provided me with two of the worst books I have ever read:
"The Quickie" by James Patterson and "The Nerd Who Loved Me" by Vicki Lewis. Other than that, I have few complaints with our 13 year friendship.

So clearly, I am saddened that the next book I need to add to my "worst book list" was self-selected,  available at no cost to me after a long hold queue courtesy of the Ann Arbor Public Library. The only person I can blame for this book coming into my life is myself. The third worst book in the world is "Sweet Valley Confidential" by Francine Pascal. The book claims to tell the tale of the Wakefield twins at age 27, but since the series launched with 16 year-olds in 1983, that makes those girls 44.

I heard about this book from one of my usual sources, The New York Times*. (I am also fond of author interviews on NPR, Colbert Report, and The Daily Show. Oprah and People booklists have even provided fodder for my reading. I found Nick Hornby by reading a book column in either Mademoiselle or Glamour on a plane.) I am always looking for interesting book recommendations.

This time, I should have known better. If a book series seemed pretty stupid to me as a 5th grader, why would a "look at them now" novel be any different for me at age 37? If I thought the characters were flat as a 5th grader, would 28 years make it better? Clearly, no. Yet, I still read the whole stinkin' thing.

I would post valid criticisms about the writing, but it would be much more entertaining for you (and time-saving for me) to suggest that you peruse  the reviews, where crazed fans write scathing reviews of the new book,  lovingly referencing the old books, savoring and celebrating what they feel was Pascal's literary heyday and contrasting it with her modern-day fall from grace.

Now, 28 years ago,  I only read a few of these books. I admit, I was in awe of the raciness of "Playing With Fire," but I also knew- even as 5th grader- that high school pool parties and Bruce Patmans untying bikini tops was out of my frame of reference and that Pascal's narration of judgement was unsettling. So I went on to read other things. Better things. I wasn't really a SVH reader, but I knew enough to understand it's place in pop culture to make surface jokes about the characters. (I can also do this with the initial cast of 90210, but not with the cast of Saved by the Bell.)

I think what makes me sad is not that I finished this book, wasting plenty of time that could have been spent reading something worthwhile. After all, I have watched the Tori Spelling movie "Mother May I Sleep With Danger" even though it was terrible without any guilt or shame. (Incidentally, her mother said NO to her sleeping with danger, but surprise, surprise she still did and here's the big shocker: she barely got out of danger.  Gripping tale.) What I found upsetting about reading SVC is that my quest for nostalgia was unsuccessful, fueld by truly horrendous writing and the idea that the narrator's angle had also not changed in 28 years: people were still an extension of what they were in relation to their high school selves and then judged accordingly. Oddly, I guess I am a little sad that the Wakefield girls still seemed to be in high school. And now I feel uneasy about attending a high school reunion. Ever.

In a twisted sort of way, I loved finding another worst book ever. I loved telling people how bad it was and watching the look of horror on friend's faces when I told them I read the whole thing.  I loved poo-pooing Blaine (aka Mr. TRWH) when he suggested that I stop sharing with others that I had read it. While I was not embarrassed to tell people I read it, clearly he was.

* Further examination showed the NYT article about the book to be in the Media and Advertising/ Business Day section, not Books.  Aha.  I never would have read that section, but reading the paper blurred the lines...and gave me a bad book recommendation!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

TRWH Michigan Radio Interview Official Statement

In the past weeks, TRWH has been rocked by the Michigan Radio interview situation and would like to make an official statement:

"As you may now, this year Francis corresponded with Mo Willems. He published two quintessential guides: All About Hockey and All About Labrador Retrievers. In addition to personal writing projects, he collaborated with Esther to illustrate a trilogy of holiday books, including The Night Before ChristmasEaster, and the soon to be celebrated The Fourth of July. His current projects include, but are not limited to: raccoon fiction stories, belated birthday thank you notes, and his groundbreaking informational book "How to Wipe Your Butt".* Additionally, his report card indicated that he "is enthusiastic about writing and learning to write." The Reading and Writing House is filled with joy and pride relating to Fran's writing accomplishments.

Much attention has been given to a controversial interview given by Francis, mostly by his mother who can't stop talking about it (even to people who are clearly disinterested) or emailing it to (unsuspecting) people as an MP-3 file. We ask for you to consider his accomplishments in addition to his words. TRWH is not claiming that Michigan Radio reporter Jen Guerra employed "gotcha journalism," just that Francis is a stinker. We thank Ms. Guerra for both her editing savvy and humor in helping us craft a last day of school to remember.

Furthermore, we submit this document, written by Francis mid first-grade:

There it is in black and white, America. He was "iksaided" about writing so much... And he even closed the story with "My hand was so sweaty, I needed a shower for my hand."  Sounds like a pretty engaged writer.

So all that leaves is...Go Cubs (but not professional).  And a happy summer to all!"

-TRWH Management

As you may have heard, HTWYB was sent home from first grade when it was determined to be a "home project. " A detailed post and review will be available on TRWH in July when it is expected to be published.  Please tell your friends.