Tag Archives: good books

Mennyms (A Book Review)

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This is the book I have really read, though I intend to acquire the rest.

Sylvia Waugh is a British writer of children’s books who has a lot in common with me.  She spent her career as a teacher of grammar.  In her late fifties she became a published author.  Her book series of the Mennyma is a charming fantasy adventure about dolls so loved by their owner, they actually come to life… and survive her…. and then have to make their way in a world that would be horrified by them and might easily seek to destroy them.

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Hopefully none of my dolls come to life after I croak. After years of collecting, they nearly outnumber humanity.

But rest assured, the dolls in this sweet-natured children’s book series would never prove evil.  The books are more fantasy-comedy than horror story.  In fact, they are impossibly far away from horror.

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The original book.

Joshua Mennym is the head of a family of life-size rag dolls.  He pretends to be a middle-aged man.  He generally keeps his distance from the general public, because, up close, his basic rag-doll-ness would stand revealed.  Rag dolls are not supposed to walk and talk, let alone have families and live in a home of their own.   His wife is Vinetta Mennym, also a rag doll.  Together they are parents to the ten-year old twins, Poopie, the boy, and Wimpey, the girl.

The teenage twins are Pilbeam and Soobie.  Pilbeam is the girl and constant companion of the elder teenage sister, Appleby.  Soobie is the boy and  blue.  Why their former owner, Kate Penshaw, made him with a blue head and blue feet and blue hands is a mystery both to the Mennyyms and to me.   It causes him to be the one most likely to cause exposure of the family secret because even at a distance he does not look like a “real people” person.

Baby Googles is the smallest of the family, constantly cared for by the nanny, Miss Quigley, who is also considered a Mennym because she is also a doll.

Grandpa Magnus Mennym lives in the attic with Grandma and takes care of the household bills.  He writes scholarly works on the English Civil War and publishes them for a modest income which comes through the mail.  Granny Tulip is also relied upon for her wisdom and experience whenever a problem with keeping the family secret comes up.

Each book in the series contains a different adventure revolving around the realistic comedy generated by impossible people trying so hard to be real.  I absolutely love the adventures, even the ones I haven’t read yet.  And I know that the only way you could possibly love these books too is if you share my loony love of the fantastically impossible that turns out to be real.  After reading these books, I fully intend to keep a very close eye on my own doll collection.

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Filed under artists I admire, book review, doll collecting, good books, humor, imagination, old books

Reading Old Books

My personal library is a final destination for a multitude of used and well-worn books.

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Half-Price Books employees used to know me by name.  They don’t now so much any more, because poor health has cut down on available funds, and they hire new people all the time.  But I have bought a number of books just cruising the Dollar-or-Less shelf.  A case in point is a recent purchase of an old book by one of my all-time favorite authors, Terry Pratchett.

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You can see why it was only worth about fifty cents.  It is all scuffed up and dog-eared from previous owners.  Of course, I know how to mistreat a book as well as the next guy, and some of the books I bought bookstore-new long ago look worse than this one does.  But that’s not what’s important.  The good part is on the inside.  You have to put in some effort to get at it.  It is an extremely funny and highly imaginative book.  Johnny is a kid living in Blackbury, England in 1996 (the present day of the story, though it is about time travel and drifts back to the early 1940’s).  He thinks he is just a stupid kid with more stupid-ness about him than he has pockets to keep it in, but he is blessed with an idiot’s ability to think outside of his own head (whatever the heck that means).  There just happens to be an old bag lady named Mrs. Tachyon who just happens to have a Tesco grocery shopping cart that just happens to be a time machine (or so Johnny and his stupid-kid friends just happen to believe).  Johnny and his stupid-kid friends, Bigmac, Wobbler, and Yo-less (don’t ask, okay) along with the girl Kirsty (who is definitely the opposite of a stupid kid), find Mrs. Tachyon lying in a bloody lump in an alley way, and sort of inherit the shopping cart when they get the old lady to a hospital.  And of course, the shopping cart is very unusual with its bags of mysterious wobbly stuff and its resident hyper-vicious cat named Guilty.  It soon accidentally transports the kids back to 1941 when German bombs (like the one in the title) are falling from the sky on Blackbury.  The very day, in fact, when the street they are standing in is supposed to be destroyed by a German bomb, according to history.

Of course, I can’t help but love any book by Terry Pratchett.  But this one is quirky-wonderful and full of surprises.  I really can’t even tell you more about it without spoiling something magical.  I won’t, however, recommend that you read this book.  After all, I had a lovely time reading it, and you certainly don’t need to share in that.  I can keep it all for myself.  No, don’t even think about trying to find a copy and read it!  I think it is out of print anyway.  Don’t you dare go to Half-Price Books!

I will continue to read and fall in love with old books.  I have a few in my library that haven’t actually gotten around to reading yet.  And I have a large number of books I want to read again.  Old books are the best books, and I will continue to say that… at least until I have a new book of my own coming out.

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More Books to Make You Crazy

I have now written several goofy book reviews in which I explain some of the goofy books I have read that I blame for my current state of crazily unbalanced intellectualism.  If you decide you would like to be as goofy and crazy as me, for some totally inexplicable reason, you can read some of these oddball choices.

34504Michael Beyer‘s review

Sep 13, 15  
Read in September, 2015

 

Terry Pratchett wrote books of magical power and satirical alchemical wit, but not a single one of them tops Wyrd Sisters. I believe this is the best book he ever wrote from a collection of several of the best books ever written. The three witches, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick call up visions of the witches in MacBeth. But no Shakespearian special effect ever captured the searing ridicule of kings and kingly aspirations as this book about king-making, or king un-making, or witchly interference with the best laid plans of mice and would-be kings. Granny Weatherwax is a witch you never want to meet in real life, but this book portrays the practical-minded old witch so talented at headology with such clarity, that you realize that you have indeed met her in real life… probably more than once. And the book has as unlikely a plot as ever underwent loop-the-loops and barrel rolls in its flight through a book. I have now smeared loopy gushings of hyperbole and weird wordy praises all over this book, and hopefully you will take time out from feeling nauseous long enough to give it a look.
I am also guilty of having a great love for non-fiction books and learning.  So here is a singularly weird choice to obsess about.

Michael Beyer‘s review

Sep 13, 15  
461434by Dennis Craig Smith
Read in September, 2015

 

Back in the 1980’s, I had a girlfriend whose sister lived in a clothing-optional apartment complex in Austin, Texas. Visiting there was an exercise in absolute embarrassment and near apoplexy. But it made me curious as well. There were children as well as adults there. Family-oriented nudity? I needed to know more. So, on advice from friends I located a naturist society based in Florida and corresponded with them. I bought a copy of this book from them. It contains a fascinating study, told mostly through collections of anecdotal data, of the effects, and possible effects of living parts of your life completely naked. And the effects it could have on kids. Having grown up with considerable burdens of shame and trepidation about being seen naked, this book helped me to understand that being naked is not necessarily the bad thing I thought it was. I confess to becoming a closet nudist… er, if never letting anyone else see you naked qualifies as being a nudist. And I have met, over time, wonderful people who are totally nutty about being nude. I will never become one of them. But this book helped me to at least understand them better.
I basically got the notion that books make you insane from the next author, a favorite of mine for reasons I can’t begin to explain.

Michael Beyer‘s review

Sep 13, 15
Read in September, 2015

 

H.P. Lovecraft gives me real nightmares because he is such a master of the arcane arts of creating unease and worry. I have never read another author’s work where the atmosphere of the story leaks toxic chemicals of fear and loathing into your brain quite the way this story does. As you experience the rotting, festering, tainted town of Innsmouth through the eyes of the narrator, your entire being is slowly sauteed in a stew of creepy details, unsettling characters, and an architecture of decay. It is decay of both the actual seaport town, and the mouldering culture of a humanity that long ago yielded to the temptation of ultimate corruption. Frog people from the ocean’s depths could easily be humorous or simply bizarre. But Lovecraft’s slow, relentless reveal makes the unwinding plot absolutely horrifying. If you like a good scare, this book may be too much for you. If you love a bad scare that makes your very skeleton shiver, then this is the perfect book.
All of this book-review nonsense can be found on Goodreads, a critical website for readers and writers, and I have peppered this post with enough links to it that you probably can’t avoid accidentally ending up there.

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