Book Style: Karen Russell's Short Stories

Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Karen Russell's second collection of short stories, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, is getting ready to come to paperback this month and I have the privilege of helping to host her event at Town Hall Seattle while she's in town! I decided I needed to reread her stuff in anticipation because I love Karen Russell's writing so much! She does gothic whimsy so well. Honestly, if you want to read a modern fairy tale, think more Brothers Grimm and less Disney, then you need to pick up her books. 

I have to admit that I liked Vampires a little bit less that I did her first collection, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. That being said, there are a few standout stories in this collection. The incredibly haunting "Proving Up" and "The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis" are the best kind of creepy. And "The New Veterans" deserves to be expanded into a novella. While all of Russell's work tends to involve animals, what fairy tale doesn't really?, this collection seems more centered on that theme than her previous one. 

For the Vampires in the Lemon Grove Book Style I went for an adventurous business look, maybe a gallerista or graphic designer would rock this. (I mean, I totally could at work, too, but I can't stomach those heels any more. Sad face.) I gave "The New Veterans" a nod with those tattoo print Betsey Johnsons and the nail polish is called Henna Tattoo. The eponymous lead story gets the most attention with that killer vampire ring, the artistically imagined batwing earrings, black bat bag, and the bat print scarf. "Reeling for the Empire" gets a subtle nod with my intentional inclusion of real silk stockings. "The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979" is the reason I included that seagull charm bracelet, even if it was my least favorite story. And finally, that bunny ring is for "The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis" which legitimately gave me nightmares.

St. Lucy's Home For Girls Raised By Wolves

Like I said, I prefer this collection of Karen Russell's stories. St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves just seems so much more captivating and magical from start to finish to me. There's only one story in here, "from Children's Reminiscences of the Westward Migration", that I didn't particularly adore, but it does have a pretty astounding amount of creativity poured into it. (I just think I really can't enjoy anything pioneer/western themed). Like Vampires, there a lot of animals sprinkled throughout these tales. The intro story, "Ava Wrestles the Alligator" is, I assume, the beginnings of Russell's novel Swamplandia (which I still need to read someday). These stories share more characters and settings than the stories in Vampires, which may or may not be intentional.

I chose another creative professional outfit here, or something I would wear on a date night with my Mister. "Lady Yeti and the Palace of Artificial Snows" and " Accident Brief, Occurrence # 00/422" both get a reference with the Ice Queen ring. The turtle spine ring and the starry bangle are both a nod to "The Star-Gazer's Log of Summer-Time Crime". That stingray bag might be a good mending gift between the characters in "Out to Sea" and the conch earrings are obviously pulled from "The City of Shells". My final story reference comes in the form of the Z necklace, something the kids in "Z.Z.'s Sleep-Away Camp for Disordered Dreamers" would appreciate.


Book Review: Picture Books I Love

Here are my current favorite children's picture books. I think I'll do a board book list next, there were just too many to combine them all in one post.

Ganesha's Sweet Tooth
by Sanjay Patel & Emily Haynes

I've had an obsession with world mythologies/religions since I stumbled across an intro to Greek myths series when I was in 4th grade, so I may be a bit biased here, but I think this is an adorable introduction to the world of (very confusing) Hindu mythology. And Sanjay Patel's art is beyond gorgeous. I want to own all of his things! ALL!

Story moral(s): Making a mistake isn't the end of the world & Having something that makes you different (a flaw or physical handicap) can turn out to be a good thing.

Cheese Belongs To You
by Alexis Deacon

Sometimes the best storytime books are the ones filled with pure nonsense and I love this one for that fact. Rat law says the cheese belongs to you. Unless someone bigger, stronger, and/or scarier comes along... or does it? The imperfect grammar makes it so charming.

Story moral(s): The last few pages show that being a bully really doesn't pay (despite what rat law may make you think) and the final illustration also shows that sharing creates the true winner.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild
by Peter Brown

Mr. Tiger is feeling a bit stifled by his buttoned down society and decided to shuck his pointed collar and top hat and go wild. His uptight neighbors are appalled. But once he leaves the city, Mr. Tiger gets a bit lonely. Kids will relate to the feeling of needing to run amok, it's in their nature after all. And who doesn't love anthropomorphized animals in fancy dress?

Story moral(s): Everything in moderation, compromise, the importance of being with your friends and family.

Rosie Revere, Engineer
by Andrea Beaty

A young girl is something of an engineering prodigy but is painfully shy about sharing her amazing contraptions with others. She is helped past her fear of failure and rejection by her amazing aunt, who shares quite a resemblance with the iconic Rosie the Riveter.

Story moral(s): It's okay to fail, believe in yourself.

Iggy Peck, Architect
by Andrea Beaty

Andrea Beaty and illustrator David Roberts preceded Rosie with this gem about Iggy, a child prodigy with architecture, who finds himself at sea when his 2nd grade teacher bans architecture from the classroom. (She was traumatized by architecture at a young age.) Of course, events unravel in such a way that Iggy must use the forbidden architecture to save the day. Yay!

Story moral(s): Don't let naysayers and critics keep you from your greatness & childhood dreams are the most important things in the whole world.

Mustache Baby
by Bridget Heos

When Baby Billy is born his parents are shocked to discover he has a mustache! The nurse at the hospital sagely advises that they will have to wait and see if it's a good guy mustache or a bad guy mustache. Much to their relief, Billy's 'stache seems to be the good guy variety until one morning when he wakes up with a bad guy mustache to make even Snidely Whiplash green with envy. Billy proceeds to go on a crime spree that lands him in jail and as he waits and waits for freedom, he starts to really regret his evil deeds.

Story moral(s): Everybody has a bad day every once in a while.

by Oliver Jeffers

I adore all of Oliver Jeffers books, they are always pure whimsy and magic. This nonsense tale of a young boy whose kite becomes stuck in a tree and the lengths he goes to to get it down will have kids (and you) in stitches. 

Story moral(s): Keep trying (?) 

Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great
by Bob Shea

This was my holiday staff pick for kids this past season, I love it that much. Not only are there sparkly, rainbow cupcakes on the cover, but inside is a story about not judging others before you get to know them. Goat is a little disgruntled ever since Unicorn came to town. He's convinced that Unicorn must be so full of himself and just doesn't see why everyone thinks he's so great when Goat is pretty great to. It's hard to keep hating someone once they prove how nice they are and tell you how awesome they think you are, though.

Story moral(s): Don't judge a book by its cover.

Maude the Not-So-Noticeable Shrimpton
by Lauren Child

The Shrimptons are known for being outstanding, amazing, fabulous, and spectacular. They do not like to be second best. All except Maude that is. While her parents and siblings are the most fashionable, the most talented, the funniest and the prettiest, she blends into the background. When she gets a tiger for her birthday (instead of the rather sensible goldfish that she wanted) the rest of the Shrimptons may finally start to see why being so ostentatious isn't always a good thing.

Story moral(s): Being average isn't bad & having your identity based around being the best is not always good.


Link Love: 01.04.14

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