Friday, February 28, 2014

Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims by Rush Limbaugh

My first exposure to Rush Limbaugh was in my college days. Back then, I was quite the liberal thinker. While I hadn't actually ever listened to him, I knew from news snippets here and there that he was a totally, like, bad person who was a hater of all people and probably puppies and babies, too. Enter Jon. Jon was one of my Latin buddies. We lived in the same dorm, and before class I would walk down to his room to meet him so we could walk across campus together. Each day before class, Jon would be setting his VCR to record Limbaugh's televised show when I knocked on his door.

"Ugh. You watch Rush Limbaugh?!" I asked disgustedly.

Flash forward many a year.  I am now married to a man who has listened to Rush for years. In fact, my husband prefers to listen to talk radio while driving instead of be-bopping to music like I do. Suffice it to say that I am now well-acquainted with Rush. My children are Rush Babies. In fact, when my third-born was a toddler we sometimes were saved from sleepy tantrums because he was soothed as soon as Rush's opening music came on the radio.

My opinion of Rush has changed a lot, too. I now realize he is not evil. In fact, I'm a conservative and actually agree with a lot of what El Rushbo says even if I'm not a big fan of the manner it which he says it. I will not, however, choose to listen to Rush on my own because I still prefer music. I don't like his language and sometimes crass way of talking about people. I don't like being bombarded with the negative subject matter of politics all the time. Of course, I know tons of people completely revile the man and tons love him 100%.

None of these opinions matter to me in reviewing his book, Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims.  I was excited to have his book to read before I handed it to my boys, but I was disappointed in the book. It wasn't that it didn't have a lot of history in it; from what I've read in other children's book about the Pilgrims, it seemed accurate. It wasn't that the presentation was poor; there were color pictures, and the writing was on pages that looked like old parchment-type paper. It wasn't that it was filled with typos and grammar errors; it wasn't.

It just wasn't one of the carefully crafted types of books that I enjoy reading. The narrative sounded like. . . well, it sounded like Rush Limbaugh. It had his energy and his tongue-in-cheek humor (a little light potty-humor, too, if I recall). It had a not-so-veiled reference to/ advertisement for Limbaugh's iced tea. It had a talking horse as the panacea for all plot difficulties. While informative, I found it tedious.

My sons and husband, however, loved it. They laughed out loud while reading it. Since I didn't read anything too gross or offensive, I suppose I should give my stamp of approval for the book. My boys all gave it a big thumbs up, so I guess I'll begrudgingly do the same. This is, after all, a blog for books boys will like.

Just be aware that this is NOT a literary masterpiece.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Amazing Cows: Udder Absurdity for Children

The title says it all. Okay, not all. This fun book by Sandra Boynton is sure to please those boys who loved her board books when they were younger. It has jokes, riddles, stories, poetry, and all manner of cow silliness-- but all good, clean fun. My boys who love wordplay were giggling. They had to read it out loud to me. I had to read it because I love Sandra Boynton's humor. This book did not disappoint. I especially liked "Red Rover."

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Petticoat Party series by Kathleen Karr

Whoa! Hold on. I know what you're thinking. This is supposed to be a blog about books for boys! Don't worry; read on.

The series written by Kathleen Karr has four books: Go West, Young Women!Phoebe's FollyOregon, Sweet Oregon; and Gold-Rush Phoebe. The books are historical fiction focusing on the life and times of one Phoebe Brown, a girl in her tween/early teen years traveling with her family on the Oregon Trail and later seeking her fortune in the California gold rush. The recommended age on the back is 10 up.

One of my sons picked out the first three books of this series at the library. I try to at least glance at what they pick out so I can okay or nix their choices. I was in a hurry, and just checked out the front of the first book. It seemed harmless enough and said, "Good-bye, Massachusetts--Hello, Wild, Wild West." I could see why he might be interested. I tossed it in our bag and brought it home. 

I didn't think of the books again until after my son had already devoured the first one and was well into the second.  He told me I should read them because they were good; I was busy but decided I could at least read the back cover. What I read made me think I should quickly delve a little deeper; the blurb on the back talked about Phoebe not being able to "stand another day of her father and the other bossy male members of the wagon train." It also touted them as the first feminists of the frontier.

What I read inside the covers of those first three books (no, I didn't finish the series) caused me to tell my son he shouldn't read the rest of the books, and I explained to him why. You see, all the men are painted in the worst possible male chauvinist colors. Phoebe's father is a bully, he and the other men on the wagon train are unbelievably stupid, they force their families to go west, they expect to be served and to be kept content. The men are nothing but clowns. 

In one exchange, Phoebe's older sister comments, "Anyway, according to Mr. Cooper, Indians prefer their women silent and submissive." Phoebe replies, "That doesn't sound any different from Papa or any other white male I've ever known, Amelia."

All three books were filled with unhealthy stereotypes. Perhaps the author meant it to be funny and satirical. Regardless of why, I simply don't want my boys to grow up being put down. The stupid male stereotype is now dominant in family shows and movies. It doesn't need to find its way into my little boys' heads disguised as historical novels.  

By the way, there are other reasons I don't like the book, if you're interested. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Why "Books for the Boys"?

When I was teaching 8th grade language arts, I struggled to find books that boys wanted to read. Maybe that was because the boys just didn't like to read. Maybe not. There were a couple of books that really, really interested them. Many of them were nonfiction, and I just didn't get that. I rarely saw girls with nonfiction "fun" books. The boys gravitated more toward science fiction than the girls did. I noticed, for better or worse, there were definite differences in what the boys and girls read.

Flash forward a decade or so. Two of my sons, ages 9 and 8, are voracious readers. As a mom, I have a different perspective. My struggle is not finding books that my boys want to read, but finding books that I want them to read. You see, I am still a teacher, but the difference is that my students are my own children, my precious gifts. I do not want their heads filled with raunchy and lame humor. I do not want their heads filled with bad language. I do not want their head filled with gratuitous sex and violence. And at this tender age, I do not want their heads filled with philosophies that might hurt them in the long run. If at all possible, I do not want a bunch of words carelessly spewed out on paper that pathetically take on the form of a book.

What I do want is books that uplift them, challenge them, engage them, fill them with the beauty of images and the music of words, teach them the certainty of truth, and make them want never to stop reading. When they are reading, I want to watch my sons giggle hysterically, whimper in sympathy, cry in sorrow, shout in victory, and sigh at the joy of it all.

So why not a blog dedicated to all books--both for girls and for boys?  Much has been noted recently that our schools are biased toward girls and the way they learn. So many of the books out there today are also geared more toward girls and how they think. While I think it's great that girls now have that chance to learn and follow their talents, I want my sons also to have that opportunity.

I know many other parents, grandparents, and teachers desire that same chance for the boys in their lives. That is why I am starting this blog. Maybe I can introduce you to a great book for your boy or steer you away from one that is less than ideal. Maybe you can give me your feedback on a highlighted book or author or even suggest another great read. Maybe you'll disagree with me, and that's fine. I know I'm opinionated.  But I will attempt to include enough objective details in my reviews that you may use your own standards and values to judge whether or not a book deserves to be the object of Bobby's book report or that special birthday gift for Ralph. Above all, I hope I can be helpful to you as you try to instill that lifelong love of reading.