Author: Jack Prelutsky
Illustrator: Jimmy Pickering
My rating: 3.5 of 5
Past the outer reaches of our solar system lie wonders the likes of which you could never imagine. But beware! Not all of those wonders are friendly, and some are downright deadly . . . planets that make you laugh yourself to death, giant demon birds, a beholder who waits in silence with one solitary, staring eye. Scary stuff.
The Swamps of Sleethe does something most unusual–it combines the dark cautionary tones of older fairy tales with the chilling horror of a good ghost story with an absurd Seussical element. All in a variety of verse forms. And manages to do it well! I actually quite enjoyed this strange collection of children’s poetry. It’s obviously tailored to appeal to a middle-grade audience, but I enjoyed it as an adult as well. Fair warning that basically all of these poems are describing strange ways to die on equally strange and impossible planets. It’s all pretty macabre, but as with Last Laughs, it’s in a darkly humorous sort of way that’s actually kind of appealing. (Or maybe I’m just a terrible person and they’re not really funny at all.) The last poem was kind of a sucker punch to the reader, but a timely one that made the whole volume all the more powerful and striking. Ooh, and the illustrations that accompany the poems are just fabulous–interesting color combinations and weird but fascinating designs that I really liked. I wouldn’t say that The Swamps of Sleethe is for everyone, but if you enjoy a bit more macabre sense of humor, this could be fun. Or if you’re a parent/teacher who’s having trouble getting a middle-grader to read poetry, this could be a good option to try; they might actually find it enjoyable!
My rating: 4 of 5
Warning: Mature Audience
There are plenty of girls who would love some excitement in their lives. Miyuki-chan? Not so much. She’d be happy to be able to just go to school, work her part-time job, and hang out reading and playing video games like a normal girl. But Miyuki-chan has . . . a unique sort of problem. Adventure just seems to find her–and drag her into the midst of it, whether she wants to go or not. Whether it’s falling down the skating bunny-girl’s hole into Wonderland on the way to school or getting dragged straight into her video game to be the heroine, Miyuki-chan’s been there and done that. And probably will again. . . .
I may have mentioned before, but I love CLAMP’s manga, always. Having said that, Miyuki-chan in Wonderland is a bit different from anything else they’ve ever written. It consists of a series of short chapters (7 in all, fitting into a single manga volume), each focusing on a single, bizarre episode in Miyuki-chan’s life. I really like the character of Miyuki-chan; in a lot of ways, she’s your average high-school girl, only I’d say that she’s generally just a bit more blonde and go-with-the-flow in character than most. Overall, a nice kid though. The folks she runs in to on her adventures . . . not always so nice. And I must give the warning: this whole story is kind of yuri. I mean, there are some pretty sadistic individuals that Miyuki-chan encounters, all of them female. So, the end effect can be sort of hentai. One of the reasons I don’t like this one as much. But . . . Miyuki-chan always makes it out okay, so it’s not as creepy as it could be. And the situations she ends up in are certainly varied and imaginative–you kind of get the impression that the CLAMP members were just having fun and went with whatever they felt like writing at the time. On the plus side, there are some fun references, including references to other CLAMP works. (Oh, and I’ve mentioned this before, but check out Miyuki-chan making cameos all over the place in Tsubasa!) I guess I would mostly recommend Miyuki-chan in Wonderland to older readers who are familiar with CLAMP’s work and who enjoy something a bit off the wall (a more limited demographic than usual, I know).
Author: Dr. Seuss
I dare you to read this book aloud three times fast. Okay, so for myself that would be impossible. In Oh Say Can You Say?, Dr. Seuss presents a variety of challenging, vocabulary-building, humorous, and nonsensical tongue twisters ranging in topic from traveling with unusual pets to purchasing gifts. All with the classic Seuss flair, naturally. I’m not typically a fan of tongue twister books–they feel cheap and not literary at all, something like joke books–but I make an exception for this one. This is one of the books that I read/had read to me when I was first learning to read, and I still remember it fondly from that time. It may not be great art, but it’s certainly good fun! Plus, it’s a good educational tool for teaching kids to read and enunciate clearly (or adults, for that matter). Personally, I think that Oh Say Can You Say? is one of those “children’s books” that is both timeless and ageless. And impossible to read aloud!