Should Children’s Books Have a Rating System?

September 27, 2008

A recent article has me wondering if we should be taking a closer look at what we qualify as “children’s books.”

A recent article said that a bookstore in Shanghai is pulling the children’s book “Book of Bunny Suicides:  Little Fluffy Rabbits Who Just Don’t Want to Live Anymore’ after a rash of suicides by children and teens.

I had mixed emotions when I read this article.  In general, I’m against book banning.  Authors should be free to express their opinions.

And I don’t really believe that a normal, healthy kid read this book and then suddenly wanted to commit suicide.  I’m not even sure it even really gives a kid ideas for how to commit suicide since some of these illustrations are unrealistic — head in a DVD player for instance.

But what I am wondering is how this book got classified as a children’s book.  It’s definitely not age appropriate for young kids.

Suicide is a very sensitive subject that kids – and many adults, myself included – don’t entirely understand.  I can understand why there might be a book in the children’s section explaining to a child how to deal with it when a friend, family member or other loved one commits suicide.

But why would a book mocking suicide be considered a children’s book?  Because it has cute little bunnies in it?  If that’s the qualification, then we really need to look at how a book gets classified as a children’s book.

I recently read The Golden Compass.  When I went to buy the book, I found it in the children’s section.  Sure the story deals with the adventure of a little girl, but the book itself is a fantasy that deals with some pretty dark themes. 

While I wouldn’t call the book scary, I did have some very gloomy dreams when I read it.  And I wondered how it would affect a young reader.

After reading this book, I wouldn’t let my child read this book until they were well into their teens.  How did this book get classified in the children’s section?

So my question is do we need to be more diligently in accurately classifying books (i.e just because it had cute little bunnies in it doesn’t mean it’s meant for children) or do we need to take it a step further? Do we need a rating system (like we have for movies, video games, music) for children’s books?


Your Favorite Shows Are Finally Back, How Did You Survive?

April 8, 2008

Normally April brings warm showers and the first signs of spring.  But it’s bitterly cold and dreary here.  But nonetheless, I’m singing like a bird.  Because this April marks the return of our favorite television shows after a much too long hiatus brought on by the writer’s strike.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m doing a little happy dance (no video of said dance will be included) because finally television as we know is returning.  And even the threat of an actor’s strike will not overshadow my joy this month.

But in all honesty, I found plenty to do in the absence of my favorite shows.  I cleared off my DVR (it is now primed and ready for the April onslaught of shows), I watched BBC America (who knew I’d like British dramas), I read and read some more (including books on my favorite shows like Supernatural and Heroes), I’ve had plenty of field trips with my kids to museums and parks, and I’ve caught up on last summer’s blockbusters on DVD.

In fact, I’ve enjoyed a little break from my TV set.  But the break is over and I happily welcome the return of my shows.

Here’s a breakdown of the returning shows (source:  TV Guide):

Mondays:

8 p.m.

The Big Bang Theory on CBS, Returned March 17

Bones on Fox, Returns April 14

Gossip Girl on CW, Returns April 21

8:30 p.m.

How I Met Your Mother on CBS, Returned March 17

9 p.m.

Two and a Half Men on CBS, Returned March 17

House on Fox, Returns April 28

9:30 p.m.

Samantha Who? On ABC, Returned April 7

Rules of Engagement on CBS, Returns April 14

10 p.m.

CSI Miami on CBS, Returned March 24

Tuesdays:

 

8 p.m.

NCIS on CBS, Returns April 8

9 p.m.

Shark on CBS, Returns April 29

10 p.m.

Boston Legal on ABC, Returns April 8

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit on NBC, Returns April 14

Women’s Murder Club on ABC, Returns April 29

Wednesdays:

8 p.m.

‘Til Death on Fox, Returns April 15

8:30 p.m.

Back to You on Fox, Returns April 16

9 p.m.

Criminal Minds on CBS, Returned April 2

10 p.m.

CSI:NY on CBS, Returned on April 2

Law & Order on NBC, Returns April 23

Thursday:

8 p.m.

My Name is Earl on NBC, Returned April 3

Smallville on CW, Returns April 17

Ugly Betty on ABC, Returns April 24

8:30 p.m.

30 Rock on NBC, Returns April 10

9 p.m.

CSI on CBS, Returned April 3

The Office on NBC, Returns April 10

Supernatural on CW, Returns April 24

Grey’s Anatomy on ABC, Returns April 24

9:30 p.m.

Scrubs on NBC, Returns April 10

10 p.m.

Without a Trace on CBS, Returned April 3

ER on NBC, Returns April 10

Lost on ABC, Returns April 24

Friday:

8 p.m.

Ghost Whisperer on CBS, Returned April 4

9 p.m.

Moonlight on CBS, Returns April 25

10 p.m.

Numbe3rs on CBS, Returned April 4

Sunday:

8:30 p.m.

Aliens in America on CW, Returns April 27

9 p.m.

The Game on CW, Returned March 23

Cold Case on CBS, Returned March 30

Desperate Housewives on ABC, Returns April 13

10 p.m.

Brothers & Sisters on ABC, Returns on April 20

The schedule looks a bit thin, but I think we will all take what we can get.  Mondays and Thursdays seem to be the nights that will pack the biggest punch.

How did you survive the strike?  What returning show are you looking forward to the most?


Tales of Robinson Crusoe Heading to NBC

February 25, 2008

Recently, NBC turned to the ‘80s in search of series for its fall lineup, banking on nostalgia for Knight Rider to be a hit.  Now, it’s turning to the classics in the pursuit of another hit series for its fall lineup.  Look for Robinson Crusoe to hit the Peacock network soon.

Robinson CrusoeAccording to TV Squad, NBC has already order 13 episodes of the new series based on the famous castaway.  The TV version of Daniel DeVoe’s novel could air as soon as the fall, but might be held in reserve until the mid-season.

It’ll be interesting to see how NBC is going to take a story first published in 1719 and modernize it.  In this case, I hope that take a page out the Brits’ book because I loved the way they recently revitalized the tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in Jekyll.

As far as I can tell, the castaway’s story has been told several times as a movie, but never as a TV series in the U.S. (France had a Crusoe series).  Do you think that the classic tale could translate into an interesting series?  What other classic books would you like to see as a TV series?


‘Heroes: Saving Charlie’ is no Fairy Tale

January 29, 2008

Heroes fans looking for more Sci Fi adventure while their favorite show is on hiatus will not find it in the new Heroes novel by Aury Wallington.  Instead “Heroes: Saving Charlie” is a story of lust – I mean love.

Unlike the online graphic novels, this novel offers no clues or tidbits to the overall mythology of the Heroes series.  In fact, “Saving Charlie” does nothing to answer those burning questions we all have about Heroes.  Instead this novel, delves into a side story of Hiro’s attraction to a doomed small town waitress that offers little to the overall plot of the TV series.

Saving CharlieHowever, on its own “Saving Charlie” is not a bad read, provided that you don’t mind already knowing how the story ends.  After all, we have seen the beginning and end of the story in Season 1 of Heroes.  Readers will have seen the beginning of the tale in Chapter 8 “Seven Minutes to Midnight” when Hiro and Ando stop at a diner in Midland, Texas on their way to ‘Save the Cheerleader’ in Odessa and the end in Chapter 10 “Six Months Ago” when a defeated Hiro returns to the Burnt Toast Diner.

Charlie

“Saving Charlie” is a sweet tale of the budding romance between Hiro and Charlie, the friendly waitress at the Burnt Toast Diner that has a knack for learning and retaining information with ease.  But as the plaque in Hiro’s dad’s office says in Chapter 5, “This is not a Fairy Tale.”

The beginning of the book was very hard to get into.  The first six chapters are almost verbatim from “Seven Minutes to Midnight.”  And while Chapter 1 sounds like the Hiro we’ve come to know and love, the Hiro described in Chapter 2 on the journey to Midland was whiny and grumpy.

But after Hiro travels back into time, the story of his mission to save Charlie is complimented with the charming tale of his courtship with her that reminds us all of how fun, magical and exciting it was to fall in love for the first time.  When else would a guy go through all the trouble of making 1000 origami cranes but when he woos her?

We are treated to a few flashbacks throughout the story that give us more insight into Hiro’s past and his relationship with his father, Kaito.

But the most interesting details are regarding Hiro’s development of his power to freeze time and space, or lack there of.  Although Hiro seems to have full control of his powers when he attempts to prove them to Charlie and when he uses them to romance her, he seems to lose complete control over them when he gets emotional.  More than once he’s teleported through time or space during very awkward moments – or at least they are awkward when he’s suddenly no longer there.

There’s even a point in the novel when Hiro travels through time in a Quantum Leap fashion jumping in and out of time erratically put gleaning a new piece of information at each new place in time until Hiro loses complete control of his powers.

Unlike in the TV series, Hiro’s ability to travel through time and space in the novel (at least towards the end) no longer seems like a gift – a power he controls – but more like something that controls him.

The end was a bit weak too.  But it must be hard to ease into an ending that everyone already knows.  Or maybe I’m just disappointed that it couldn’t have a happy ending.  After all, “Saving Charlie” was an adorable tale of young love, but it was no fairy tale.


‘Supernatural: Nevermore’ a Must Read for Fans

January 21, 2008

If other fans of CW’s Supernatural are anything like me they are going to love the new novel series based on the show.  First up is “Supernatural:  Nevermore” by Keith R.A. DeCandido.

 NevermoreThis series is only the second time that I’ve read books based on a TV show.  The first time was with the series Charmed.  The Charmed book series was more like a set of short stories.  You barely had time to get into the book and it was over.  They were more of a guilty pleasure that a serious read for me.

The case is not the same with the Supernatural series.  “Nevermore” was like just like watching an episode of the series, but better.  Why better?  Because you get a chance to look into the mind of Dean and Sam, to see what they are thinking and feeling.  And I have to say that the author did a pretty could job of channeling the Dean and Sam we’ve come to love as portrayed by Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki.

But fear not, those of you who have never seen an episode of Supernatural, the book also does a great job of giving you enough background on Dean and Sam Winchester and their quest to battle the supernatural to understand the story without boring loyal fans.  And although the novel is easily a stand-alone story, I can’t imagine anyone not wanting more.

Meant to take place during Season 2 between the eighth and ninth episodes, “Nevermore” takes the supernatural-fighting Winchester brothers to the Bronx to help a friend of a friend rid his house of a ghost – a ghost sporting a heavy metal t-shirt from the ‘80s and only appearing on nights when the homeowner’s cover band plays at the local bar.

But if a screaming banshee isn’t enough, the boys also stumble upon some gruesome murders that are so strange and shocking they could only be dreamed up in the mind of Mr. Dark and Creepy himself, Edgar Allan Poe.  Add the fact that these murders are being reenacted all in the vicinity of the Poe Cottage, Poe’s last home, and the Winchesters fear a ritual is underway.  But what is the ritual for and who is performing it?

The adventure that follows is a great blend of the same qualities that make the show great – dark and spooky mystery that delves into the supernatural and occult without crossing the line into horror, witty dialogue exchange between two vastly different brothers bonded forever in their demon-hunting pursuit to find their parents demonic killer, and the well placed, but hilarious pop-culture references.

The novel even picks up on two of my favorite aspects of the show – the car and the music.  The black 1967 Impala is the Winchesters only mode of transportation and Dean’s one prized possession.  Dean’s only other love (besides women) is his heavy metal music.

Given that one of the storylines was about a band that covers heavy metal songs, music played a large role in the story.  But Dean’s relationship with the music was so well described that I felt like I was not only listening to the music myself, but could also see Dean jamming away and feel Sam’s annoyance with Dean for letting it get in the way of the “job.”

And even though I’m not familiar with the boroughs of New York myself, I felt like I was right there in the Bronx with the Winchester boys.  The description of the Bronx was so detailed I wasn’t surprised to find that author was a native.

If I’m going to be forced to be without my favorite show during this drought we know as the writers strike, I can at least take solace in knowing that I can continue with the adventures of Dean and Sam in the Supernatural novel series and the new comic book series, “Supernatural:  Rising Son,” which debuts in April.