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Children’s Book Review: GRUMP GROAN GROWL

GRUMP GROAN GROWL by bell hooks, illustrated by Chris Raschka





Bad mood on
the prowl

In his fresh look at a fun and positive way to face our bad, grumpy, and wild moods, bells hooks brings a vision of calm with soothing rhythmic text while Chris Raschka’s vibrant art adds compassion and humor, reminding readers that sometimes you just have to go inside and let it


Like a lot of the children’s books I end up reviewing here, I picked this one up at the library. I can’t remember if I was browsing the online catalog for children’s picture books or bell hooks, but when I saw the two intersect, I knew I had to check it out. There’s nothing quite like the exhilaration of getting your child into the things you love.

Once I had the book in my hands, I was a little worried. I mean, I could enjoy it by myself. If I wanted to do that, though, I could pick up something more adult oriented. She’s certainly written enough.

The imagery in the book can be scary. Our toddler seemed to have some of the same reservations as I did, but I read it out loud and it had an almost hypnotic draw. GRUMP GROAN GROWL is a book few words. But they’re powerful. And powerfully presented. The first six pages are just those three along with their accompanying paintings.

The images themselves are simple, brilliant, and entirely appropriate. They depict fear, frustration, and anger with ragged edges and bleeding colors. Chris Rashcka brings the words to life with bold lines and arresting color.

Our toddler was repeating the book back to me before the halfway point, exulting in phrases like, “All I am is wild.” And then the book performed its incredible magic. It’s as much about those negative emotions and letting them out as it is recognizing and controlling them. After whipping my child into a minor frenzy, it took a calming turn.

The pictures softened almost imperceptibly and the text became almost a how to for getting through those moments when our emotions overwhelm us. GRUMP GROAN GROWL had wound us up and brought us back down. Something great literature has the power to do.

Highest possible recommendation. Get your hands on this one if you can.

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DELAYED: Early Observations about Once Upon a Time 4×20

Normally, The Dinglehopper shares some of the pop cultural references and delights in the ships of the most recent episode of Once Upon a Time on Monday mornings. But today we find ourselves unable to to family business. No not 4×06; we did that one almost six months ago. An illness prevented both a comprehensive watch and any real writing.

We apologize to anyone who came expecting our weekly roundup and we promise it’ll post tomorrow morning.

4x20 The Sorcerer and Merlin

In the meantime, enjoy this comparative study of the Sorcerer and a certain old wizard from The Sword in the Stone.


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Once Upon a Time “Lily” Previews and Predictions

Coming Tonight: Once Upon a Time 4×19

CAUTION: sneak peaks, speculation, and spoilers

“Lily” – Emma’s potential for darkness is looming over everyone, but when Emma realizes Maleficent’s daughter Lily is in fact her closest friend from her foster care days, she resolves to find Lily and reunite her with her mother. Regina joins forces with Emma and together they set out to track down Lily and to warn Robin about Zelena. However, neither of them is prepared for the harsh realities they’ll encounter in the outside world. Meanwhile, in Storybrooke, Gold faces a crisis involving Belle. In a foster care flashback, things are looking up for young Emma with her new family until Lily’s appearance threatens to destabilize everything, written by Andrew Chambliss and Dana Horgan, and directed by Ralph Hemecker.

Here’s the post De Vil promo:

The first sneak peek features a microfilm reader and a role reversal.

In the second, Lily’s trail goes cold.

I think it’s safe to say I was on the right track with the interpretation of the Queens of Darkness last week. Cruella’s death served as the defining moment with regard to corrupting the savior. while it’s arguable whether Emma’s action was evil, it’s important to remember that’s how it’s playing in the context of the show. Emma said to Mary Margaret, “I’m sorry, but if it were me no matter what I would not harm a defenseless person.” And right before she did exactly that, its significance was reinforced when Mary Margaret said, “Cruella can’t kill anyone. She’s defenseless.” Heroes don’t kill.

“Emma’s potential for darkness is looming over everyone”

The Heart of the Savior

With only four hours left in the season, they’re going to be walking the razor’s edge of the will-she-won’t-she question. But look at what’s happening in just a few minutes already. Lily’s been associated with sacral rites and Regina and Emma are talking about beating fate. Because challenging fate has worked out so well for characters in stories for thousands of years.

4x19 Announcement Microfilm

“Lilith Page, the infant daughter of ????? and Priscilla Page, was baptized Sunday in downtown Minneapolis. After…”

While talking to Isaac about obtaining ink for the quill, Gold noted that, “Once her heart has been blackened, everything I need shall fall into place.” It’s pretty morbid, but Cruella falling to her death might be precisely what he was talking about. It was a bit odd and maybe even anticlimactic when all the spilled ink did was give her parti-colored hair and exaggerated eyebrows. Perhaps she was also a living receptacle from which the ink can now be extracted.

4x19 Cruella Ink

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Star Wars Saturday: Review of Star Wars Issue #4

Star-Wars-004-coverIt’s good to see Jason Aaron perfectly following the pacing of the original films. In the first three issues he presented the opening mini-mission, quick on the action, pulling the reader into the story and establishing the story’s tension. In this case, the Rebel Alliance trying to seize their advantage after the destruction of the first Death Star and the realization in Luke that he’s not quite the Jedi he imagines himself to be.

But that mini-mission concluded at the end of #3, and in #4 we pick up with the character-building second act. Han and Chewie rebuilding the Falcon, Leia negotiating with Ackbar and Mothma about resources to continue striking out at the Empire even as the Rebels are on the run, and Luke dealing with the volatile teammate he is as he attempts to grow and learn to control his use of the Force. Aaron, with Cassaday’s evocative art and spot-on likenesses, develops what fans already know about these characters while also adding new insights, especially with Leia’s role in the Rebellion and Luke’s Jedi growing pains.

But that’s not all! Issue #4 also brings together two villains–Vader, now doing the Emporer’s resource-gathering negotiating, and Jabba the Hutt. Their interaction is largely humorous thanks to the personality clash and the off-kilter observances of the Hutt, who loves the smell of freshly slain Bantha in the morning. And we get a mysterious new player on the scene in Tatooine and the surprise appearance of an old favorite. jabba issue 4

The young woman working at my local comic book store on Wednesday reported that every person who had come in that and bought comics had picked up the new Star Wars. Here’s why: issue #4 continues to deliver the characterization, pacing, and tone of the original trilogy films we love so dearly. I thank Aaron and Cassaday for filling in this time period between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back with deep insights and a light touch.

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Frozen Friday: The Snowman and the Trailer

Frozen Teaser

Last week, I learned about a copyright infringement lawsuit against the creators of Frozen. Or, specifically, the creators of the goofy-snowman-on-ice teaser. You know the one. Olaf and Sven struggle to reach the carrot nose on a frozen pond. It’s not in the movie. It barely has anything to do with the movie. But it’s cute. And it was apparently effective.

In March of 2014, the creators of a digital short called “The Snowman” brought suit. They acknowledge that the movie itself bears little resemblance to the short, but the teaser is another matter. It’s almost immediately obvious why they decided to go to court

The Snowman animated short film for all ages created by Kelly Wilson and Neil Wrischnik.

Disney sought a dismissal, as one does, but was denied. Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California Vincent Chhabria stated that “the sequence of events in both works, from start to finish, is too parallel to conclude that no reasonable juror could find the works substantially similar.” Their second attempt at summary judgement was a claim that none of their employees had seen “The Snowman.” This also failed. The Hollywood Reporter has more details and the judge’s full order.

The trial is tentatively scheduled for October.


The Snowman

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Bitch Planet Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine TPB Hits in July

BITCH PLANET LOGO 1Image Comics recently released the solicitation for the first collection of Bitch Planet issues. Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine will gather the first five issues and be released in July. They are using an introductory price of $9.99 and including a discussion guide! They describe it thusly:

“…Critically acclaimed and deliciously vicious sci-fi satire. Think Margaret Atwood meets Inglourious Basterds.”

So come July, your book club or stitch and bitch circle ought to pick this collection up and start the wild discussion it will surely engender. Include discussion of this fantastic interview with Kelly Sue DeConnick (which includes an issue #4 preview graphic that mansplains Duemila) wherein she discusses the significance of the comic for certain fans as:

“…[I]t’s just about giving them a place to be angry and say, ‘I am not broken. I am not criminal for my skin color or my size or the fact that I don’t want to fucking smile at you.’ And to hear you’re not crazy. A whole lot of us are super pissed off.”

Pair it with a viewing of Caged Heat to give a little historical context to the genre. Bring a wine that is tart, acidic, and dry like a 2013 Illahe Estate Grüner Veltliner from Oregon ($20). Schedule yourself for NC tattoos and mani-pedis afterwards.

Truly, I can’t wait to see this discussion guide. Will it have the sincerity of the essays included at the back of each issue? (Indeed, will those also be included in the collection?) Or will the discussion guide itself be part of the satire, like the ads on the back cover? Who will it be geared towards–higher academia or book clubs?

If you or your group needs further guidance through the issues, check out my analyses of the first three issues here and look for the issue #4 and #5 posts at the ends of April and May.



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Book Review: Half the World

Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

Half the World AbercrombieSometimes a girl is touched by Mother War.
Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named a murderer by the very man who trained her to kill.

Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior.
She finds herself caught up in the schemes of Father Yarvi, Gettland’s deeply cunning minister. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh lessons of blood and deceit.

Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon.
Beside her on the journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill, a failure in his eyes and hers, but with one chance at redemption.

And weapons are made for one purpose.
Will Thorn forever be a pawn in the hands of the powerful, or can she carve her own path?

Half the World is the second installment of Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea Trilogy. The first, Half a King, was one of the first books I reviewed for the blog, courtesy of NetGalley. I’d only recently gotten in to Abercrombie’s work at the time, but was impressed with the structure of the book as much as the story.

And the story was excellent. It is now three years later. Yarvi, the young protagonist and point of view character of Half a King, now minister to his regal uncle, is on a mission to secure alliances. Getland is on an inevitable path toward war with the High King and the cunning Grandmother Wexen, and won’t stand a chance without help.

Yarvi grew into the character presented here in the last book. First at the mercy of his body, his elders, and even to some extent fate, he turned a bad end into an auspicious beginning. Here he’s dangerously cunning and reputed to be so throughout the world. Unlike a lot of Young Adult fiction, the protagonist has been allowed to grow and secure a place in the world.

Abercrombie’s doing something different here. While you still care about his journey and interact with him as a reader, the world has moved on. So we receive the second installment through fresh eyes.

The narrative is split between the points of view of Thorn and Brand. Where Yarvi straddled the gender gap of his society, they grate against it. Everything about them is set in opposition. You probably know where this is going, but the journey there is real.

“Never sail in a ship you can’t carry.”

Structurally, the doubled narrators increase the scope of the series. It grows as it continues. This is intentional. The final book will have three new perspectives of its own. Half a King was a look at one child’s journey into adulthood. Half the World is a critical examination of that world and the opportunities it affords. Thorn and Brand have to traverse it in order to discover themselves.

The story explores and elides binaries. Thorn is driven by masculine traits, yet tempered by feminine realities. The opposite is true of Brand. Pursuing peace, the expedition finds violence. Through violence accord is reached. Death begets hope. Life promises war. With Yarvi propelling the narrative, this “on the one hand… on the other hand” is both obvious and darkly amusing.

As before with the notion of coming full circle, this isn’t just threaded into the plot, it’s integral to the structure. There’s a sequence at the meeting of two rivers where the crew overcomes a literal barrier to complete their journey. But the narrative itself actually makes its 180° exactly halfway through the book. Fortunes change. Stakes rise. Theory becomes praxis and the courses lives, of relationships, indeed of nations are altered.

Half the World has most of what folks love about Abercrombie. He takes the reader on a journey full of the fantastic, mediated by the familiar, and rarely cliché. I can’t wait to see how this ends.

You can read the first seven chapters here.

Recommended for fans of Macbeth, Fitzcarraldo, and Prince Caspian.


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