Friday, November 28, 2014

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado

Linda Tirado was a college student, mother of two, and working two low-income jobs. In 2013, she posted a response on a discussion board titled "Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or Poverty Thoughts." The post went viral and then came a book deal, Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America which is gritty, tough, and inspiring.

Tirado discusses what life is like for the working poor - making just enough money to possibly make the bills and feed your family, but not enough to ever really get ahead. When criticized for her authenticity, Tirado posted a video of her dental issues online and sent copies of her welfare records to The Washington Post. She is a spitfire determined to have a voice in a world of calamity. The whole basis of her argument being that people just don't realize how tough it can be until you've lived it - yet someone has to be the garbage man. So why can't the garbage man make a living wage?

She is a writer with gumption and grit, defending her actions regarding her struggle to survive. Much like her initial essay, her book is taking the world by storm, contributing to a much bigger discussion on poverty, medical care, minimum wage and more. Wherever your opinion may lie on such matters, it's a worthwhile read if only to be inspired by one woman's determination.

For similar titles, you might also try Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich or Hidden America by Jeanne Marie Laskas.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Run, Turkey, Run! by Diane Mayr

Happy Thanksgiving! In honor of the holiday, I thought it would be best to talk about being thankful. I am thankful for this adorable story, and the turkey in Run, Turkey, Run is thankful to enjoy another day not being dinner.

The day before Thanksgiving, turkey runs around the farm trying to hide from the farmer. He hides in the pig pen, the duck pond, and even pretends to be a horse. Only when he flees the farm is he safe and the farmer's family must have grilled cheese for dinner. That is until the family heads out to the woods, and the turkey might not be so safe for Christmas.

This is a quick, very funny read for kids and grown ups. The book is full of rhyme and animal noises to help build important early literacy skills for children as well. The illustrations are full of fabulous fall colors and the story is a great read aloud as everyone can yell "run, turkey, run!" Those wishing to enjoy a turkey dinner today might be more sympathetic to the farmer gobbling grilled cheese, but it's fun all around.

For some more funny stories for the upcoming  holidays, you might try Lemony Snicket's The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming or The Lump of Coal.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Paper to Petal: 75 Whimsical Paper Flower Ideas to Craft by Hand by Rebecca Thuss and Patrick Farrell

Rebecca Thuss and Patrick Farrell are a wife and husband team who have created an awe inspiring collection of do-it-yourself paper flowers in Paper to Petal.

From scrap paper to coffee filters, roses to posies, there is practically no stone unturned in this collection of crafts. Ideas are organized by color and occasion, so whether you are decorating for a child's birthday party or creating wedding invitations, look no further.

For those such as myself who may question your ability to craft, have no fear! The back of the book contains patterns for all the petals, leaves, and accouterments in addition to step-by-step, easy to read instructions. Plus, as an added bonus, some of the flowers even include coffee mug ring stains as artful coloration - even the clumsiest of crafters (that would be me!) can't make a mistake.

If you begin a paper crafting frenzy, also take a peek at Paper Blooms: 25 Extraordinary Flowers to Make for Weddings, Celebrations and More and the Ultimate Paper Craft Bible.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bob and Rob and Corn on the Cob by Todd McQueen

Meet squirrels, Bob and Rob, and as the title would suggest, the two really enjoy corn on the cob. However, they have a friend, Ella Mae Dobbs, who is a bit of a snob, and she prefers tofu.

One day, the squirrels suggest that Ella try the corn and they will in turn try her tofu. This is when things get a little weird and a robot appears, looking for his mother. As it turns out, the robot's mother is a popcorn maker, which makes the beloved corn on the cob into popcorn and Ella finds this decidedly "interesting."

And, this is an interesting tale. It's funny and surprising with rhyming text that will have you giggling. The photographic illustrations are hilarious, with the squirrels turning green as they eat tofu. Yet, an important lesson in not being snooty and trying new things resonates under all the comedy.

For more lyrical and funny picture books with important lessons you may try Lemony Snicket's The Dark or This is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems.

Monday, November 24, 2014

I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales from a Happy Life without Kids by Jen Kirkman

In Jen Kirkman's  I Can Barely Take Care of Myself, the comedian and former regular and writer on Chelsea Lately, Chelsea Handler's late night talk show, Kirkman tired of constantly hearing "you'll change your mind" when telling people that she did not in fact wish to be a parent. She does not hate children, she just simply recognized that children were not for her.

As a woman of a certain age who wishes to remain childless, I can relate. Most days I subsist on a diet of sugar and carbohydrates; how would I raise a healthy child? In this humorous and endearing collection of stories, Kirkman walks us through a series of events in her life that offer a resounding answer to all the interrogations and insinuations. The title would suggest, as many who like to criticize the childless would believe, that woman sans children are broken in some way - just because I like cupcakes doesn't mean I'd make a bad mother. Or as Kirkman points out, we must substitute being mothers toward our careers as justification. The fact of the matter is, just like any choices any individual makes, she just didn't want children for reasons that were singular to her life, which she is brave enough to share. She is funny and thoughtful, and makes astute social observations and snarky criticisms that would make anyone think and chuckle. Any reader can appreciate her candor, humor, and engaging writing.

For more lifestyle memoirs, you might enjoy some of Kirkman's fellow Chelsea Lately colleagues, such as My Inappropriate Life: Some Materials May Not Be Suitable for Small Children, Nuns, or Mature Adults by Heather McDonald or one of Chelsea Handler's own collections.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan


Brian K. Vaughan, currently publishing Saga, wrote this series of comics - now a series of ten graphic novel volumes - about a man name Yorick. Actually, he's not just a man... he's the man. The only man left alive after something mysteriously killed off every other male primate in the world. Well, besides his companion monkey.

The series follows Yorick as he tries to hide his identity - can you imagine the chaos that would ensue if everyone knew there was one man left alive? - and try to find answers to the mystery of what killed off the men, or at the very least, another male survivor.

This is not a graphic novel series for young teens; there are adult themes and behavior throughout. If you like Brian K. Vaughan's other work, such as Saga and Runaways, you'll enjoy Y: The Last Man.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling


Best known for her role on "The Office" and her new TV show, "The Mindy Project," Mindy Kaling published this autobiographical collection of essays in 2011.

She asks questions the average, non-famous person in their mid-20s to mid-30s might ask. It's like having a conversation with her. There's a chapter about the photos that were in her Blackberry at the time of writing. There's another that details what she would want her funeral to be like. She also has a chapter (if you can call it that) that is nothing but a list of suggested alternate titles for the book.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) not as "put-together" as, for example, Tina Fey's Bossypants, but if you like Mindy Kaling or just like reading books by comediennes, this is a lovely quick read.