Category Archives: Children’s Books

Who is Danny Birt?

Excuse me while I fangirl for a minute. I was going through old blog drafts, and I ran across this one from February 7th, which is the first time I really actually hung out with this Danny Birt guy mentioned in the title of this post. I don’t actually really read fantasy novels (unless you count the year-long ordeal that was me suffering through Eragon), I’d never heard of “filking” (it’s not as dirty as it sounds), and I had just gone to my first even Fan convention: MarsCon. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a geek. I’m probably too cool to even be a proper nerd (I can’t hear you, Peanut Gallery). But I was bored, I knew people that were going, and the theme was Twisted Fairy Tales. If there’s any theme I can get down with, it’s that one. Into the Woods, anyone? 3

So a really nifty (kinda nerdy) guy (not Danny) asked me to go, and I went. (Ladies, he is one of the good ones, and I’d be happy to pass your info along to him if you’re in the market.)

There were all kinds of amazing costumes, including one young couple dressed as Jareth and Sarah from the Labyrinth. I got sorted into Ravenclaw. There was at least one Dalek. And there were lots and lots of writery workshops and panels to attend.

One of the panels featuring Elizabeth Brooks was somewhat interactive: a table full of writers had to rewrite fairy tales with audience-imposed elements or limitations. On a timer. All of the authors were talented, but one of them was very, very funny. His tale was the only one that was completely finished in the allotted time, and it was by far (in my opinion) the most entertaining. He rewrote Goldilocks to include a dragon. Immediately, I had the sense that he was a person that I should know. But I didn’t know him. So I went on about my business.

Then, I went to hear some music – and lo and behold, he was there, singing hysterically funny song parodies. And I thought, I should probably get to know this person (and possibly marry him and have his babies). Instead, I left without saying a word to him, knowing that he’d be returning to his home in another state after the convention was over. Three weeks later, I looked him up on Facebook and sent him a message letting him know I was ‘stalking’ him. Turns out, he hadn’t left the state, and was still staying in my city. I asked him if we could meet for lunch, and when we met he was completely oblivious of my interest and expressed curiosity as to why I’d wanted to see him. So I interviewed him. I mean, what else is a girl supposed to do?

Here’s the interview as it went:

Who is Danny Birt?

After spending a couple of hours with him, I’m absolutely positive that I don’t know the answer to that question. What I do know is that he is funny.

He’s a writer:

A pianist, and a filker (which isn’t nearly as naughty as it sounds):
And a licensed music therapist. And he’s a pretty interesting person.

Which authors have influenced you most?
Tolkein, Stephen Hawking, Terry Pratchett and Patrick Rothfuss – Name of the Wind was the best fanatasy book that I have read in the last decade. Once I was done reading it, I couldn’t write for a few days because I’ve never been so blown away… It was just just so fresh.

Influential musicians include:
Beethoven, Sigur Ros, Paul van Dyk.

Favorite movies:
Amadeus, Memoirs of a Geisha, Shawshank Redepmtion, Lilo & Stitch

What kind of socks are you wearing? Goldtoe
What color? black

If you seal anything in the world, what would you steal?

Okay if you could acquire anything you don’t already have?
I would acquire sufficient money that I would be able to take care of my needs and the needs of those close to me that I could move forward for the rest of my life. Or, I would steal a better answer to this question.

How do you feel about trench coats?
They can be very warm.

Do you have anything to add?
Look up the singer/songwriter ‘Power Salad’ and his song ‘My Cat is Afraid of the Vaccuum Cleaner’. And if you think you’re able to judge me correctly by this blog, you’re probably wrong.

What happened after the ‘interview’? “I want to write stuff with you,” I breathed. And so we collaboratively wrote a flash fic ending with the line, “The inexplicable smile on the corpse of Martini helped, too.” And then a lot of other things happened, and then more things after that, eventually resulting in him becoming my boyfriend and me even reading some fantasy stuff he wrote. I have pretty high hopes for a Happily Ever After with Danny Birt; after all, I found him in a Fairy Tale.
More after the jump:

I’m completely biased, but I think everything Danny has ever written/played/created is brilliant and you should check it all out. You can (and should) find Danny’s newest book Beginning a Beginning here, his children’s/young adult book about a Dragon raised by a family of birds here, and his awesome new sylph story (my favorite) in Bad-Ass Faeries: It’s Elemental here. He also has five albums out, and you can check all of them out at The Scribbling Lion.

UPDATE: I realize that a lot of you also have interest in stalking Danny now (I’m a trendsetter like that) and the easiest way to stalk him is through his website. Easy-peasy.

Dear Edward Gorey: We Love You. Also, Happy Birthday

Dear Edward Gorey: We Love You. Also, Happy Birthday.

Check out my hack on Kirinjirafa’s blog.

The Secret School by Avi

This was a little thrift store find which we picked up because it was a Newberry Award winner (and priced at a quarter). It was written for a ten year old readership and flows smoothly enough to keep an adult’s interest. The story is somewhat unpredictable and artfully told; I found it delightful and consumed it in just a few hours.

The plot is in the title. Set in a one-room schoolhouse, a group of farm children wish to complete their academic year after their teacher leaves town to care for a family emergency. Since the tight-fisted school board director doesn’t wish to pay for a replacement teacher, though, the children decide to finish secretly on their own, electing the oldest girl to be their teacher.

As far-fetched as the premise is, the author does an excellent job of making it a believable scenario. I thoroughly enjoyed the setting and local color especially; Avi communicates the hardships of poverty and farm life so naturally that I felt I could relate to everything they experienced. Furthermore, the underlying theme of little children wanting so badly to finish their school year that they will extend themselves to such lengths may seem absurd, but is handled well enough to be entirely plausible (and, of course, is a great positive message for the young readers). Click here to get a copy on Amazon.

Harry Potter Hype by a Non-fan

What is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 like if you aren’t a fan? This is the blog of a woman on a mission.  A mission to see the show after not having seen any of the films or read any of the books since the first of each.

Disclaimer: This was my third stop of the evening and I had a huge tanker of beer sitting between me and my incredibly attractive date.

While my earlier Harry Potter post may lead you to believe I’m one of you trendy Harry Potter-loving nerds, I’m not; the truth is that I’m just a big admirer of J.K. Rowling’s business acumen. I’m not not a fan, mind you – I just read the first book, said, “It’s cute,” and shelved the thing. I didn’t think the movie was cute at all. I thought it was downright disappointing after the vibrant world that I’d imagined, chalked it up to the way of things, and moved on.

Well, here’s what I thought of the movie: It was flashy, visually mesmerizing, and it really ticked me off because I just found out that Ron and Hermoine are together. Um, excuse me? Emma Watson is much, much too cute for Ron or Rupert Grint (apologies to Rupert and all of his cult followers), and I hope that in some of the upcoming releases, she realizes this and kicks him to the curb. Hermoine is obviously meant to be with Harry. (Ginny who? He doesn’t even hang out with Ginny, she just makes random appearances when nothing important is going on.) Harry and Hermoine, now- power with depth, and a much shorter attractiveness gap to bridge.

As a standalone movie, this really wasn’t half bad, but I guess the other pieces of the puzzle might enrich it further. Here’s my conundrum: I didn’t like the first movie (though the book was alright) but I liked the last a lot. Do I read the books or watch the movies, or leave it alone now that it’s over and the Libran-o-meter has tipped towards “like”?

By the way…. do these make anyone else anywhere on this whole planet think of Narnia?

Catching Fire – More Hunger Games!

Katniss Everdeen lives in a dangerous world. Her district is one of twelve that is punished yearly for a previous uprising against the imperialism of the City of Panem by a perverse lottery which lands those teens whose names are drawn in a televised fight to the death, and for the impoverished families of the districts to gain further coal and grain allotments to survive, the children must enter must enter multiple times.

Spoiler Alert! If you don’t want the details from me, just buy the book, already, and read it yourself! I know many bookstores are sold out, but you can download it!

Katniss has already survived the Hunger Games once, along with Peeta Mellark, the good-hearted young man from her district that confessed to being madly in love with her before the games. Instead of being free to survive in peace with her extra supply of food, fuel and acclaim as they expected, the Capitol is furious that they have made the government appear foolish by humanizing the contestants with their refusal to kill one another, and neither of them are safe. Will they be thrown back into the arena again?

And what of Gale, her lifelong friend and hunting partner, who also has feelings for Katniss?

This book is equally as fascinating as the first, and even more fraught with tension and intrigue. Read it, read it!

Harry Potter Returns?

Are you sitting down for this? Good. J. K. Rowling has announced [insert dramatic pause here] that her new site, Pottermore will open to the public at large in October with new DRM-free ebooks, downloadable to any digital device. You just fell off your broom, didn’t you?

And, the twist- there’s a “chance” to get in early. I guess we’ll all wait for the golden ticket. Meanwhile, brace yourself for another couple months of internet fan-fic.

B is for Beer

B is for Beer is one of the only books I’ve ever pre-ordered on Amazon. I read it and kind of shrugged- it’s the only Tom Robbins novel I’ve ever read that didn’t totally send me. So here’s what was missing: a kid. I stuffed it onto a top shelf in my son’s room, waiting for him to be old enough to be curious about beer, and a couple of weeks ago I took it down in a fit of desperation when he firmly refused to hear any more of The Neverending Story (“It’s too boring!”), fully expecting him to tire of it equally fast. He didn’t. We read the first chapter and he listened raptly and had a miniature conniption when I tried to set the book down. He worked me for another six chapters the first night- and kept begging for more. Instead of being bored by Tom Robbins’ pontifications, he was fascinated.

This “Childen’s Book for Grown-ups/Grown-up Book for Children” isn’t misrepresented in the least. The stage is set for a very educational lesson about beer’s history, creation and composition when five-year-old Gracie Perkel begins an inquiry on the subject. “Have you ever wondered why your daddy likes beer so much? Have you wondered, before you fall asleep at night, why he sometimes acts kind of “funny” after he’s been drinking beer? Maybe you’ve even wondered where beer comes from, because you’re pretty sure it isn’t from a cow. Well, Gracie Perkel wondered those same things.” And so it begins. Mommy’s of little help in understanding it, so she asks her father himself, and then dear old Uncle Moe Babbano steps in to enlighten her on the subject. Finally, after a couple of minor setbacks on her quest to understand this adult favorite, the Beer Fairy comes and whisks Gracie off through “the Seam,” to visit a barley field, a brewery, a festival, and see firsthand both the good and bad results of beer, wrapping it all up neatly with a firm emphasis on drinking responsibly- and only when you become of age.

Robbins’ take on the taboo subject of beer for children follows: Children see beer commercials every time they watch a sporting event on TV. In the supermarket, they pass shelves and coolers overflowing with the stuff. Neon beer signs wink at them as they’re driven to school, to church or the mall. And, if their own parents and older siblings aren’t enjoying beer, then the parents and siblings of their friends surely are. Kids are constantly exposed to beer, it’s everywhere; yet, aside from wagging a warning finger and growling — true enough as far as it goes — “Beer is for grownups,” how many parents actually engage their youngsters on the subject? As a topic for detailed family discussion, it’s generally as taboo as sex. It’s a kind of largely unpremeditated side-stepping, and part of the reason is that most parents are themselves uninformed. Even if mommy and daddy have more than a clue about beer’s ingredients and how it’s brewed, they know nothing of its history, let alone the rich psychological, philosophical, and mythic associations bubbling beneath the surface of its wide appeal.(From Amazon.) This book would be an excellent read for any child that has a beer-drinking parent (or grandpa), especially if they read the book together. My five-year-old was fascinated until the end, and it opened the door for us to have a lot of meaningful and enlightening conversations that we might not have had for years.