Tag: holman wang

Children’s Book Review and Giveaway: Cozy Classics’ Les Miserables (closed)

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Recently I was asked to review the latest addition of the Cozy Classics series by brothers, Jack and Holman Wang. I am an avid reader, and love any opportunity to read and review books, but being a children’s book, I was unsure about taking on this task. However, I soon realized I was being asked to review the adaption of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables into a children’s book, and I couldn’t resist seeing how they made this happen.

After all Les Mis is a story of heartache, famine, rebellion, murder, revenge, and survival, concepts no child needs to understand. To further fuel my interest I discovered the Wang brothers sum up their stories in 12 words and introduce each word with an image to help the child understand the word. In addition to their recent Les Miserables adaption, they have also rewritten classics such as Pride and Prejudice, Moby Dick, and War and Peace.  How do you take such complex, deep stories and sum them up in 12 words? I decided I would find out.

Their Summary:

What happens when the most complex literary form – the novel – is skillfully combined with the most simple – the baby board book?

Cozy Classics – www.mycozyclassics.com – [Simply Read Books], the popular children’s board book series with a highbrow twist from twin brothers Holman Wang and Jack Wang, ventures to find out.

Designed as developmentally appropriate abridgements for the very youngest of learners, Cozy Classics retell the world’s most beloved literary works in just 12 simple, baby-friendly words. Complemented by photographs of lifelike, expressive and simply stunning needle-felted figures and objects,Cozy Classics inject a sense of narrative into the baby wordbook—and revitalize the genre for young and old alike. For while there are only so many years one can spend learning to count to ten or the colors of the rainbow, the pleasure that is to be found in the works of literature’s greats, as any adult knows, is forever!

Now, in April 2013, the brothers Wang expand the Cozy Classics repertoire with their takes on Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables and Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace.

“From a very young age, children fall in love with characters: Barney, Dora, Cinderella,” says Holman Wang. “TheCozy Classics books foster a love of characters that will ultimately lead to the classics themselves. Unlike Barney and Dora, Les Misérables’s Jean Valjean and Pride & Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennett are characters that children will never outgrow.”

My Summary:

I promptly requested two copies of the book, one for me to review, and one to giveaway to one of my lucky readers. I eagerly awaited the arrival of the book, I couldn’t wait to see what side of the story would be told. When it finally arrived I immediately opened it and was first struck by the images.

The images for the book are created by using a technique called needle felting, where felt is “punched” with a needle, causing it to become denser and entangled, allowing it to hold a shape. Each figure and object was carefully needle felted, with a surprising amount of detail added, then set in a scene, and photographed. The three dimensional quality this technique creates is mesmerizing, I found myself touching the images, almost believing they would feel fuzzy beneath my fingers. Although in true Les Mis style, not all of the images have the bright, happy colors associated with most children’s books, I do believe any child or adult would enjoy flipping through the pages.

As I read the Wang brother’s adaption of the story I did get a sense of the original with words such as “poor”, “rich”, “sad”, and “dark”. However, I felt some words were unnecessary to the story, such as the word “climb”. Yes, the characters in the story did climb from time to time to escape the vengeful police inspector, but if you have only 12 words to tell a story perhaps this one isn’t the best representation. In addition, the image that reflected this word was my least favorite. It shows an awkward angle of the inspector below a wall, with Cosette climbing over the wall, and Jean Valjean helping her up. Because of the angle it’s difficult to easily recognize Cosette as climbing.

Through the twelve words I did get a sense of the story, but only because I know it well. Someone unaware of the original will have no idea what is going on. However, I don’t believe their intent is for a baby or toddler to understand the complex emotions and story lines of Les Mis (thank goodness!). I believe their intent is for the parent to have the opportunity to share a book they love in a way that is appropriate for a child. This book acts as a learning tool, introducing them to new words, and as the child grows the parent can help them fill in the holes and eventually introduce them to the original.

The other question that arose as I flipped through the book is whether or not a child really needs to understand rich vs. poor, happy vs. sad, shouldn’t a child be protected from these titles at such a young age? I don’t have an all-encompassing answer to this question, it is something only each child’s parent can decide for themselves. Although I don’t have children yet, personally I would introduce this to my child. After all at an early age I fell in love with Annie, which is the epitome of rich vs. poor and happy vs. sad.

In conclusion to a very long review based on a very short book, I believe this could be a great book for children. The images are captivating, and for the most part give a good visual representation of basic words. It is a great learning tool for babies and toddlers, just beginning to form their vocabulary. I also think it is perfect for those avid reader adults, who love the classics. This is a great way to share a complex story with your child, although don’t expect much of the story line to be retained in just 12 words. It may not appeal to every parenting style, but I think the underlying concept, introducing classic tales to children, is amazing!

If this review piqued your interest, comment below to enter to win your very own copy of this classic! To enter either tweet about the giveaway, and include a link to your tweet, or like my blog page on facebook here, and include your facebook name in the comment! The giveaway will close next Friday June 7th at midnight.

Read more about the Cozy Classic’s book here. Check back for a chance to enter in my upcoming giveaways of a photo canvas print, by photobox, and a new novel, All Roads Lead West, by Paul Matarelli. Thanks for stopping by and participating in this giveaway!

Coming Soon: Book Reviews and Giveaways!

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As a blogger I am often approached to review products, publish guest posts, and advertise for companies. This is an added bonus to something I already enjoy, however in the process I do a lot of nay saying. I refuse to present unrelated information or poorly written posts to my subscribers, and the general web browsing public. However, if something peaks my interest I gladly do a little research and decide if it is worth my time to write about it, and your time to read about it.

All of this comes down to my newest endeavor as a book reviewer. In the past couple of months I have been approached by four separate authors and publishing companies about review upcoming books. If you are a frequenter of my blog you should know by now that I am an avid reader and very supportive of tying the literary and art world together in and out of the classroom. Because of this, it was a no brainer to jump on board and offer something new to my readers. After all art, reading, and writing, are part of the same creative spectrum.

My plan is to post at least one review a month over the summer, and provide you with an honost review of each book. I hope your interest is peaked and you decide to pick up a copy for yourself, after all there is no better way to spend the summer than reading in a hammock or on the beach. I am also pleased to announce that each author was willing and excited to give me an additional copy to giveaway to one of my lucky readers. Along with each review I will set up a giveaway you can enter to win your own copy!

Here are excerpts sent to me by the authors and publishers of the books I have been asked to review. They have a wide range in content from children’s books, to research based, to quirky stories. I have never limited my reading to one genre, and I hope you are open to exploring a variety of books with me!

Cozy Classics presents Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables by Holman Wang and Jack Wang

“Designed as developmentally appropriate abridgements for the very youngest of learners, Cozy Classics retell the world’s most beloved literary works in just 12 simple, baby-friendly words. Complemented by photographs of lifelike, expressive and simply stunning needle-felted figures and objects, Cozy Classics inject a sense of narrative into the baby wordbook—and revitalize the genre for young and old alike. For while there are only so many years one can spend learning to count to ten or the colors of the rainbow, the pleasure that is to be found in the works of literature’s greats, as any adult knows, is forever!”

Now, in April 2013, the brothers Wang expand the Cozy Classics repertoire with their takes on Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables and Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace.

“From a very young age, children fall in love with characters: Barney, Dora, Cinderella,” says Holman Wang. “The Cozy Classics books foster a love of characters that will ultimately lead to the classics themselves. Unlike Barney and Dora, Les Misérables’s Jean Valjean and Pride & Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennett are characters that children will never outgrow.”

This will be the first of my book review series, and I am excited to discuss it with my friends and family who have children. I am very intrigued to see how such complex stories could be reduced to only 12 words. In addition I can’t wait to see the felt sculptures turned photographs used to illustrated the book and reinforce the idea behind the 12 words. Keep your eyes peeled for this review and giveaway at the end of May or beginning of June. To all you mommies out there, this could be a classic addition to your children’s library of educational books!

All Roads Lead West by Paul Matarelli

“How do you know when you’re supposed to stop what you’re doing and change course? I did everything they tell you to do: I went to college, got my degree, and landed a great job. I get wined and dined in the best restaurants New York City has to offer, I do the minimum amount of work that’s required, I take long lunches, I meet celebrities, and I negotiate multi-million dollar television ad deals hung over. If I continue on this path, I will become a wealthy corporate executive…and miserable. What they don’t prepare you for – in all of the canned speeches you hear about your future – is truth about what you’re getting yourself into. The truth is you will be dealing with disgruntled bosses, office politics, vindictive colleagues, and the crippling reality that you are going to spend the best years of your life chained to a desk doing work that will ultimately leave this world worse off than when you arrived. I’m Jamie Hayden, and that’s all about to change.”

This book will be my first novel review and read of the summer. This book sounds like an interesting perspective of the life and career attitude that is so prevalent in our society. When I read this excerpt I immediately begin to visualize a Wizard of Oz type scene, everything gray, black, and white, until Dorothy lands in Oz and everything turns to color. Similarly, this character seems stuck in a dreary world, a life he isn’t satisfied with, until he takes a stand against it. However, leaving me with the line “and that’s all about to change” keeps me in the dark, the black and white world, and I can’t wait to see where this character, Jamie Hayden, and the author, Paul Matarelli will take us. Look for the review and electronic giveaway (for your tablet, Nook, Kindle, or other electronic reading device) of this book in the middle or end of June.

Fun & Games By David Michael Slater

“The 1980’s: it’s the time of Dungeons & Dragons, banana clips, and Atari. Jonathan Schwartz is growing up in a family like no other. His sisters, Nadia, the dark genius, and Olivia, the gorgeous tease and temptress, manipulate Jon and his friends for their own entertainment.And his Holocaust survivor grandparents? Their coping techniques are beyond embarrassing. A disastrous visit to Jon’s class by his grandmother unhinges his famous father, setting off a chain of events that threatens to send the dysfunctional Schwartz clan up in flames once and for all. Fun & Games is a heartbreaking and hilarious story of faith, family secrets, betrayal, and loss—but it’s also a tale of friendship, love, and side-splitting shenanigans.”

This book peaks my interest in so many ways, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. The quirky characters combined with interesting history is right down my ally. I love nothing more than a good character study, and this sounds like it is full of interesting characters. The book is set to be released July 20th, and I can’t wait to spend the remainder of June with my nose buried in this novel. Look out for my review and giveaway at the beginning to middle of July.

Studio City A Mile of Style by Joann Deutch

“Impeccably researched, erudite, and filled with unforgettable stories and pictures, Deutch’s book is a MUST-READ for anyone working in the film/TV business, anyone considering a career in the entertainment industry, anyone simply in love with Hollywood, and/or anyone hoping to understand Los Angeles’ past, present and future. 

Author Joann Deutch – a Studio City based lawyer who served on the Chamber of Commerce Board for over 15 years as the President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary – tracked down the many untold stories which have left their mark not only on her community, but as well on Hollywood. A riveting and fascinating book that reveals the untold story of a more than often under-exposed, under-valued city and its rich and influential contribution to the film industry.”
I currently have three close friends living in Los Angeles, trying to break into the movie industry. Taking advantage of having a free place to stay, I have been to LA twice to visit, and like many people, was mesmerized by the glamor of the city. I’m looking forward to delving into this book and learning more about the history and inner workings of the complex city and industry that LA is. Look for the review and giveaway of this book in August!
I hope you are as excited as I am about these new books, and will be coming back for a chance to win a free copy of each one! Thanks for stopping by and supporting my blog!
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