The LITTLE Book!
& friends


024) The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White, finished April 2

Can you believe I've never read this before? It's always amazed me when I stopped to think about it. It is "the little book," after all.

And I must say that reading it was an utter and absolute joy. Not hard to see how Strunk affected White, one of our great writers.

In a way, I guess I'm glad that I've figured out all this stuff on my own already (exception: I finally understand why some people are so uptight re that-v-which), but frequently, as I read a sentence or paragraph, I would want to be in my classroom, grab my students' heads, and shove them into the book and yell, This! This is what I'm trying to tell you!

I think when I read it again (of course I will), I'll carry with me a highlighter to mark all those bits, then make posters to plaster upon my rooms' walls.

To quote from White's original New Yorker essay that inspired Macmillan to republish Strunk's masterpiece on usage,

I think, though, that if I suddenly found myself in the, to me, unthinkable position of facing a class of English usage and style, I would simply lean far out over the desk, clutch my lapels, blink my eyes, and say, "Get the little book! Get the little book! Get the little book!"
perhaps a month---I don't really know


023) UNTITLED MS by Kyle Jepson, finished March 12, 2012

A great read. Hope to be able announce its publication sometime.

three days


022) The Complete Peanuts 1981-1982 by Charles M. Schulz, finished March 4

The utter joy the early books delivered by, say, having Linus appear for the first time
or Snoopy stand up for the first time
or Sally learn how to speak
that joy has passed. The strips have their essential cast and essential rules fully established. Now the joy provided by Complete Peanuts is just that of watching a master of his craft do what he does best. And it is utter joy.

One bit of a note for this set, the intros are excellent. Which has not always been the case (they are clearly the most uneven aspect of the series). But Al Roker (who surprised me) and Lynn Johnston (who did not) both wrote thoughtful, interesting, worth-reading introductions to their respective volumes.

We're more than halfway through the over 17,000 strips now and while we've years to go, I'm reminded of how sad I was to learn he had retired, that he had died, to read his final strip. In the next volume for instance, is Violet's final speaking role. Shermy's already been gone for years. And Frieda.

And someday God too will turn out the lights and walk away.

about a month


021) The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, finished March 3

I know Adam Rex as a creator of comicsy picture books, so when a student told me this was her sister's favorite book and constantly being quoted around their house, I asked the library for it and expected it to be a three minute read. When it turned out to be a 400+page novel, I nearly did not check it out. But I did and I read it and it was a lark.

Here's the idea: a girl is writing an essay for class. The best essay will be entered in a national competition. The topic? The year aliens---first the Boov, then the Nimrog---took over the Earth. She has a remarkably unique view on those events and thus it takes her many many pages to fulfill the assignment. Even so, half the book she keeps hidden away because she doesn't want all the facts out there.

Her mother is abducted twice. The first time leads to her being shunned by her community, the second time happens on Christmas Eve, the day before Smekday. And our hero, Tip, has to try and find her mother.

People who are looking for strong female characters of color in their YA lit, rejoice! Tip is your character!

Adults who like being amused for hundreds of pages and kids who enjoy constant laughter, rejoice!

People who like smart funny new science-fiction ideas, rejoice! (At least, to someone with as much background in the genre as me.)

People who enjoy references to classic literature (example: Huckleberry Finn), rejoice! Especially if you don't like the author drawing attention to said references.

People who enjoy deeply embedded references to historical events, rejoice! Especially if you don't like the author drawing attention to said references.

If you enjoy your science fiction loaded with fun and ironic references to classic science fiction, rejoice!

In other words, this is the thinking person's kiddy SF book.

Here are some scans.

This first one comes after tip befriends a Boov under the name of J.Lo who fixes up her car:

Next, the first comics page from the book. J.Lo draws the comics (Earth languages are too difficult for him to write) and Tip adds the captions.

After their trip to Florida proves to be a bust (the Boov have moved all the American humans, including Tip's mom, to Arizona), they buy a map. Here's the page showing the map:

One of Tip's smart observations is that, should the alien invasions end, the rest of the country will return home yet Arizona will now be part of each American. While Arizona will be sullied for the native Arizonans. It's a smart observation and presented through Tip's mature-but-child perspective and typical of what I like about the thematic presentations in the book.

If you look close at that last scan, you'll see this:

This, of course, I am emphasizing not because it is vital to understanding Smekday but because I am contractually obligated to emphasize any and all Mormon content. So here's the first part of the next page as well:


Anyway, fun book. One of those books that, having read, I can image the young Theric checking out again and reading again and again and again.

Some mild language (which Tip usually apologizes for or censors) and some violence (the most horrifying moment of which is later dehorrified).

less than a week

Previously in 2012 . . . . :

Read the reviews of 14-20.
020) Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25
019) Good-bye, Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson, finished February 26
018) Madman 20th Anniversary Monster HC by [everybody], finished February 25
017) Billy Hazelnuts and Crazy Bird by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25
016) Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25
015) Habibi by Craig Thompson, finished February 20
014) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 1910 by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, finished February 15

Read the reviews of 12-13.
013) Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell, finished February 12
012) Black Hole by Charles Burns, finished February 11

Read the reviews of 6-11.
011) The Complete Peanuts: 1979-1980 by Charles M. Schulz, finished February 4
010) Blankets by Craig Thompson, finished February 4
009) Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, finished February 2
008) The Millstone Necklace (forthcoming) by S.P. Bailey, finished January 31
007) American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, finished January 27
006) Across a Harvested Field by Robert Goble, finished January 23

Read the reviews of 1-5.
005) Hark! a Vagrant! by Kate Beaton, finished January 21
004) The Death of a Disco Dancer by David Clark, finished January 12
003) Bucketfoot Al: The Baseball Life of Al Simmons by Clifton Blue Parker, finished January 9
002) Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestly, finished January 9
001) What of the Night? by Stephen Carter, finished January 5


  1. 1. As a linguist, I'm no fan of Strunk & White, but I trust that you're not making yourself or your students a slave to blind prescriptivism.

    2. I'd heard of The True Meaning of Smekday in passing (maybe on Writing Excuses), but I didn't know much about it. You've made it sound like a blast, so I'll have to check it out.

  2. .

    2. It is fun; you won't regret it.

    1. I think S&W are correct on 90% of their points, and White is quick to add that once you know what you're doing then you should feel free to deviate. And though I am no prescriptionist myself, I'm sure you'll agree that giving teenagers the same freedom one might give, say, Margaet Atwood is a terrible terrible idea.

  3. What actually bothers me about S&W isn't the prescriptivism. (I take no issue with the existence of style guides. On the contrary, every publishing house needs one and I find The New Yorker's idiosyncratic punctuation utterly endearing.)

    What bothers me is that most prescriptivists have no idea what the hell they're talking about, so they rail against the use of adverbs or the passive voice, but they couldn't reliably identify either if their life depended on it.

    S&W are better than average, but they still frequently break their own rules (and not in a self-aware way, either). And that kind of inconsistency and arbitrariness is nothing we should be passing on to teenagers.

  4. .

    I see the validity of that argument, but I look at it like telling second graders you can't subtract 7 from 3. It's a good place to start.

    Also, the style and clarity issues are what I most loved about this book.