Sharon Creech’s Hate that Cat is a super quick read, perfect if you have a book report due tomorrow and hadn’t started a book. Though Creech’s Walk Two Moons is among my favorite novels for children, Hate that Cat didn’t grab me.
Evidently, Hate that Cat is the second book in a series. The hero writes letters to his favorite teacher and shares all his thoughts about poetry, cats, dogs, and writing with the teacher. The book introduces young readers to poets like William Carlos Williams and Edgar Allen Poe. The most interesting facet of the book was that the narrator’s mother is deaf and he can sign ASL.
For a mature reader, there isn’t much in the theme that isn’t well worn ground. The book doesn’t delight readers of all ages, which is a hallmark of the best of children’s literature. The narrator seemed like a cookie cutter Creech hero, but one who shares little of his personality or background.
Famous for hard-boiled police stories, Ed McBain delights with And all through the House. Set in his 87th Precinct with thieves and drug dealers getting hauled in on Christmas Eve, McBain creates a – dare I say charming- modern nativity story with 16 year old, Puerto Rican Maria and her young husband José getting arrested for squatting in an abandoned building.
I enjoyed the tough guy bravado and the clever mix of the nativity with the police genre. Published with illustrations that have a straightforward look, this short story was a fun, quick read.
E.B. White: Some Writer! is some biography. A book for children, say grades 4 and up, is well researched and well written. Barbara Gherman’s biography is based on White’s letters and papers as well as on interviews with his relatives.
The biography begins with an overview and then proceeds to describe E.B. White’s life from grade school onward. The tone is delightful and readers get a sense of White’s shyness, his sense of adventure (within the US – traveling abroad was too much for him), his family life, love of nature and writing career. White, whose friends called him Andy,
The book contains many photos of White, his parents and family, which helps readers get to know White in yet another way.
As Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and his essay’s are among my favorite writings, I enjoyed learning more about the man. He’s as sincere and caring. He deeply cared about his friends, family and quality writing. The book was a fun, insightful read, which I highly recommend.
Junichiro Tanizaki’s Diary of a Mad Old Man is just what the title says. Well, he’s not completely mad. The main character is an old man obsessed with his daughter in law, a former cabaret singer, whose husband’s grown tired of her.
The old man is sickly and most of his life is spent going to doctors and taking medication. His infatuation of Satsuko, the daughter in law who leads him on, but doesn’t let him do mor e than kiss her legs or eventually her neck, gets him to buy her jewels and later a pool. She’s got a lover and a fondness for Western fashion. It’s an interesting look at desire mixed with a battle against a failing body.
A quick read, the book provides an interesting glimpse of Japan in the post-WWII period when the Japanese were starting to prosper. Old age (over 75) is largely ignored by writers. This novel rings true as a chronicle of a man with his wits about him who’s able to analyze his actions and his family. He’s aware of how Satsuko, the daughter-in-law operates.
To me, Steven Krug offers the feng shuiof web design. When a site, ugly and inconvenient, ignores or rejects the principles in Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think, one’s qi or sense of calm vanishes. Not only sites with garish pages possibly designed 10 or more years ago offer bad feng shui, but the sites that are just a little inconsistent or whose designers wanted to flout conventions and come up with their own cutting edge placement for search boxes and buttons, make users perceive that several small things are amiss. Soon people move on to a competitor is that’s an option or get frustrated and put off their task till they feel more patient (as I had to several times with healthcare.gov).
Written for reading in one or two short sittings, Krug’s book offers designers, professional and non, clear advice on how to design a site that people can use without frustration or confusion. The book has a breezy, sometimes humorous tone, making learning easy. Krug practices what he preaches as the illustrations and layout enhance rather than distract.
I have read this book and others before. Rereading didn’t hurt because I could use a reminder of principles such as:
Take advantage of conventions,
Break pages into clearly,
Create effective hierarchies,
Format to support scanning,
Innovate when you know (for certain) you’ve got a better idea,
Name every page, and more.
While many of these principles seem obvious, we know that they aren’t widely followed. Some ideas Krug offers, e.g. people don’t care how many clicks it takes to get somewhere as long as they don’t feel lost, may not be obvious though they are true and should be heeded.
Just as writers benefit by keeping Elements of Style close at hand while working on an important project, web designers ought to have Don’t Make Me Think near to remind them of best practices.