[LISTENED TO: August 2014] The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

stormThis audio book was ten hours long.  We listened to it on a long car trip (from Michigan to New Jersey) and when it looked like we might not finish the book, I considered slowing down on the interstate so we’d get to the end before we got home.  THAT is how good this book was.

This book picks up a few months after the exciting conclusion of the first book.  The Princes are back home (well, most of them are), reveling in the glory of their accomplishments.  Except that those blasted bards have written new songs about the League of Princes, like the incredibly popular “The Embarrassment of the League of Princes” which is causing the Princes even more grief than they had before they saved the world from blowing up.

Prince Liam is living with Prince Frederic (in Frederic’s castle).  He is trying to train Frederic to be a better fighter (with very poor results).  Princess Ella is living there too (in separate rooms, of course).  Ella and Frederic have been engaged since their first adventure, but not much has been spoken about it since that first day.  Indeed, Ella is a much better fighter than Frederic and she has been training harder with Liam. Liam is clearly smitten with Ella, but he doesn’t want to hurt Frederic.  When Frederic’s father gets fed up with Liam trying to teach Frederic how to fight, he makes it clear that Liam is unwanted.  So Liam leaves.

Gustav is not fairing any better.  It is his brother’s birthday and the humongous cake has been set out for them (while Gustav has been sent to the kiddie table).  When he disrupts the ceremony once the bard sings “The Embarrassment of the League of Princes,” he is unceremoniously sent off to teach the trolls how to farm (so they stop stealing from the villager’s gardens).  Of course, Gustav knows next to nothing about farming, so he teaches them how to brawl, which the trolls love even more.

Duncan has been writing a book since the first book. It was originally to be called The Heroes’ Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (hey!), but has since been changes to The Heroes’ Guide to Being a Hero.

The Prologue of our book tells us about Duncan’s book and then says:

No you may be asking yourself, Who is this Prince Duncan and what makes him such an expert on heroes? To which I will respond by saying that perhaps you may have skipped a book on your way to this one.  You should probably check on that.

So yes, the series will continue to be hilarious. Continue Reading »

[LISTENED TO: June 2014] The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

heros1Holy cow, did I love this audio book!

I was looking for an audio book that the kids would enjoy on a long car ride.  The title sounded terrific and when I saw that it was read by Bronson Pinchot, I didn’t wait another second to download it.  And yes, Pinchot’s reading was stellar and amazing, but in addition, the story was hilarious and fantastic.

And I’ll get out of the way that the book is completely kid-friendly.  There’s nothing objectionable (the harshest word is crud).  Some of the violence is cartoony (and Pinchot makes it pretty visceral) but it doesn’t last long.  My nine-year old and six-year-old were just as hooked as the adults.

This book aims to set the record straight about Prince Charming.  Prince Charming is of course in every fairy tale, but you did know that they are not the same Prince Charming, right?   Those lousy bards who created the songs about the female leads certainly got the Princesses names correct, but they never bothered to get the Princes’ names into the songs.  (Charming is an adjective, not a name).  So, meet Prince Liam, Prince Frederic, Prince Duncan and Prince Gustav. They’re the Prince Charmings (actually it is Princes Charming–the book is very much a stickler for proper grammar), who saved–Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively.  And they are out to make names for themselves or at least make their names known.

Each one of them starts as an outcast for a different reason.  The only thing I found confusing about this story was trying to keep the kingdom names straight.   So I’m trying to outline them here. Continue Reading »

reySOUNDTRACK: ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN-“The Cutter” (1983).

echoI’ve never been a huge Echo & The Bunnymen fan, but I do like their greatest hits.  This is one of them, and it’s a song I’ve liked from pretty much the minute I heard it.  Ian McCullough has a Jim Morrison vibe in his vocals, and there are interesting Eastern melodies and pieces thrown into the song (like in the intro).  These give it an unconventional feel, even though the main melody is pretty straightforward.

I have no idea what the song is about–I sing along without really thinking about it.  And the “spare us the cutter” chorus, complete with screechy guitar chord is pretty dynamic.  As is the loud drum change during the “drop in the ocean” part.

By the end of the song the drums seem to sound bigger, and the fills really propel the song to the end.  It’s a fine song by a band that I’m not sure I need to hear more of.

[READ: August 25, 2014] Pale Summer Week 7 (§46-§47)

After the pile of small chapters that last week gave us, this week offers just two.  One is a very lengthy discussion between two characters.  The other is another piece of the Toni Ware puzzle.  I enjoy the way the first of these sections balances the medical, the emotional and the supernatural.  And it makes me laugh that Drinion’s supernatural bit is never addressed directly in any way–it just is–as assuredly as Rand’s psychological problems just are.  But I do find it interesting that more people have talked about Rand’s problems than Drinion’s (even though his is as fascinating as he himself is dull).
Continue Reading »

trinitySOUNDTRACK: GREASY KID STUFF–WFMU 91.9, New York City (1997-2006).

grekidIn my vast exploration of Greasy Kid Stuff (seriously, at least 15 minutes at work), I found the WFMU website.  It turns out that Greasy Kid Stuff, the radio show broadcast weekly from WFMU from 1997 until 2006.  Then they moved to Portland and couldn’t manage the remote connections properly, so the show ended on WFMU.

The good news is that you can hear weekly playlists of all of the shows from 2000-2006 on the playlist page.  They have playlists that date back to the beginning, but there’s only audio starting in 2000.  The bad news is that you the shows are all archived in Real Audio.  Which, I don’t know, may or may not really work anymore.

But for a historical look at a funny and weird kids show check out the archives, and if you still have Real Player, give it a listen.

[READ: June 17, 2014] Operation Trinity

The Cahill Files were a series of “books from the vault” of the Cahill family.  They were originally released as e-books and some of them have been collected as print books.  The first was Operation Trinity.  And like Vespers Rising, it chronicles the history of the Cahill Family.

The story is broken into three parts, each one chronicling the “life” of a painting.  The painting in question is Jan Van Eyck’s altarpiece (see bottom of post for picture of it). The first part is set in Ghent in 1566.  In reality, the painting was finished in the 15th century and was installed in the Saint Bavo Cathedral.

The story follows Matheus Jacobs, an ordinary, some might say even less than ordinary, boy whose family doesn’t seem to think all that much of him.  Until one day when his mother says that she wants him to become an altar boy so he can protect this altarpiece from the Vespers.  (His father doesn’t think he is worthy, but she disagrees).  He doesn’t know why his mother chose him, or what his mother has to do with anything like this, until she reveals that she can speak several languages and is well versed in the history of the Vespers.  He rides his untrusty mule to the church, where he marvels at the beautiful painting.

He soon meets Father Gerard who sends him on an errand.  While away, he hears a man inciting a mob against the church.  The mob grows incensed, as mobs do, and sets out trying to weed out the Catholics in the village.  Matheus is freaked because they are heading for his home village.  And when he arrives, he sees that the mob is trying to burn down his house.  In the fracas, one of his family members is killed, and the rest of his family insist that he head back to the protect the altarpiece because the Vespers are behind the mob and they are headed for the church. Continue Reading »

rattleSOUNDTRACK: THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS-“Greasy Kid Stuff” (2013).

3This song was recorded especially for the Greasy Kid Stuff radio show and appears on Greasy Kids Stuff Vol 3.

It starts out like a very TMBG song–with funny lyrics (by John L) over a simple keyboard melody.  The lyrics are about his unruly hair (it needs some schooling).  But it quickly turns into a plea to the radio for songs about Greasy Kid Stuff!

The chorus sounds very “rock n roll” (with old style backing vocals).

It’s only 1:40 and it’s the kind of song TMBG seems to be able to whip out in a couple of minutes.  But it’s really quite catchy.  It’s nice to get some new fun from John and John and the Dans.

[READ: August 11, 2014] We Can’t All Be Rattlesnakes

Indeed we cannot all be rattlesnakes. Even the main character of this book, a gopher snake, can’t be one, despite how much she looks like one.

The gopher snake is unnamed because even though she is the main character, she has just been captured by a boy named Gunnar.   Well, actually he calls her Crusher, but that’s not her name, and she refuses to acknowledge it (especially since she doesn’t crush her prey, she asphyxiates it).  We see everything that happens to her from her own eyes. This allows us to see everyday human items (like a video game console) as completely foreign.

Gunnar is a kinda dumb, kinda violent boy, at least that’s what the other captive animals claim (reptiles can communicate telepathically, you know).  Speedy the tortoise and Rex the lizard tell Crusher all about how things are in this house.

Gunnar plays violent video games, disobeys his mom, has dumb friends and refuses to accept that Crusher is a girl.  At first Crusher is really angry about being captured and she vows revenge.  Not only won’t she eat the dead mouse he puts in there with her, she refuses to eat the live mouse he puts in there with her.  In fact the mouse, named Breakfast, becomes quite taken with Crusher, and cuddles up next to her. Continue Reading »


jksI once saw James Kochalka Superstar perform at a party in Vermont.  He was a lot of fun and the kids in the audience really dug it too.  This song is a perfect encapsulation of the JKSuperstar ethos–silly, irreverent, rocking, and more than a little off-kilter.

Kochalka’s voice is a little strainy and whiny which works perfectly for this kind of song.  The backing band, The Zambonis, write exclusively hockey-based songs, so although JKS wrote this one, they are perfect for this song about a hockey monkey.  And they rock through this simple, funny song with lyrics like:

all the scientists are running around
looking for the monkey but he can’t be found
cause he’s down by the pond playing hockey with the kids

and all the mothers are running around
looking for their children but they can’t be found
cause they’re down by the pond playing hockey with the monkey

and its 1..2..3.. the kids love the monkey and
4..5..6.. the monkey’s got a hockey stick
7..8..9.. havin a good time yeaaaa

In my mind, James Kochalka is more known for his books (done in the cool style of the album cover above), which are wild and very funny.  And so is his music.  Go on up to Vermont and check him out.

[READ: August 10, 2014] Odd, Weird and Little

Since we were on a Patrick Jenning’s kick, I decided to grab Odd Weird & Little.  I didn’t realize it was his newest book, and I really liked it a lot.  And so did the kids.

They both pointed out how the cover drawing looks like an owl and how the initial letters spell owl.  Well, the chapter titles also spell O W L all the way down.  It’s weird and funny.  And so is the story.

As with Jenning’s other stories where mildly supernatural things happen, we never quite learn enough about this odd, weird, little character.  His name is Toulouse Hulot (I loved that) and he comes from Quebec, Canada.  He is definitely little, and definitely odd–he doesn’t take off his gloves or his hat in class (which the teacher allows because he is new).  He barely speaks and he is so…proper.  He wears a suit and has excellent penmanship.  It’s weird.

Toulouse Hulot is not the only funny name in this book.  The narrator’s name is Woodrow Schwette.  And he tells us all about Toulouse, as they are in the same class.  He relates how the two bullies are preparing to gang up on the new kid (which is okay with Woodrow as they usually gang up on him).  But he feels sympathy for Toulouse, because he is so weird.  And little.  And, actually, kind of cool. Continue Reading »

myhomeSOUNDTRACK: MUCKAFERGUSON-“MC Speller” (2010).

muckaI had never heard of Muckaferguson.  Okay, that is not true, as I see I made a post about them because of the They Might be Giants song “John Lee Supertaster.”  Because the real John Lee is a indeed a supertaster and was in the band Muckaferguson. (And John Flansburgh of TMBG produced this album).  So there.  But I still hadn’t heard them until now.

This song comes from that album.

The album is a flurry of genres and styles, and amid all of this, we get this old school beat box rap (sorta early Beastie Boysish).  And I like it because it is quite funny.  And since it’s only a minute and a half long, I’ll put all the lyrics, because I can’t pick a favorite line:

my name is mc speller and i like to spell…s p e l l spells spell. mc speller and i love to spell…q u e u e spells queue.

he’s a maniac, ya’ll. here comes the heart attack, yo. chris likes food. andy like atari. i like the work of john baldessari. my rhymes are fresh and my moves are hard. i play the plastic guitar like baudrillard.

my name is mc speller and i like to spell…d a d spells dad. mc speller and i love to spell…r h o n g spells wrong.

i’m mc scared of bees, ya’ll cause you know that i’m scared of bees, ya’ll. when i see a bee i run because by definition i’m scared of bees.

yo, i’m comin’ to you straight out of sutton in suburban south london. white, middle class, educated 20 something. i got me degree in pure mathematics. i don’t like to rap i’m just being sarcastic.

r i g h t spells right, mc speller’s gonna spell all night, talkin’ about. n i g h t spells night, mc speller spells everything right

Despite the kid friendly nature of some of some of these songs, the album as a whole is definitely not kid friendly (I mean, look at the cover and, frankly the band’s name).  The song “I Wanna Get…” is all about getting, well, F’d up, so be mindful.  But many of the songs are delightfully witty.

John Lee, incidentally, is also responsible for the show Wonder Showzen, so if you know the show, you get a sense of the kind of mischief he makes.

[READ: August 9, 2014] My Homework Ate My Homework

Regardless of how I felt about Guinea Dog 1 and 2 (overall I liked them quite a bit), it was impossible not to snap up a book with a title like this.  Especially when the book is about a ferret.  (The cover is by the same artist as the Guinea Dog books, which led me to assume the style was similar, which it was).

This book is about 10-year-old Zaritza (the unusual name is never explained).  She is… dramatic.  And is a fan of dramatic….  pauses.  She is incredibly excited to be playing Calamity Jane in the upcoming traveling theater production of Calamity Jane.  She has watched the film dozens of times and has her “Calam” down perfectly.

The problem is that if she doesn’t bring her grades up she’s won’t be allowed to do extra curricular activities.  Like drama.  She is not the best student, so rather than actually doing her work, she decides to do some extra credit.  Like bringing the classroom pet Ferret home for the weekend.  She hates the ferret.  She hates its smell, she hates its look. Hates it.  But she needs the credit.  And so it comes home.  And then she forgets to close the cage door and the ferret gets out.


While the ferret is out, and they are trying to catch it, Zaritza hears something–gnawing.  And that’s when her homework ate her homework. Continue Reading »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 584 other followers

%d bloggers like this: