Caldecott Medal Review (2006)

The Randolph Caldecott Medal is an annual award that honors the best illustrations in a book or novel (usually books, novels are rarely honored). I have decided to start a project where I attempt to review the honorees in a given year and give my opinion as to whether the right book won or not. 

This year I am going to review the FIVE books that were recognized in 2006.

Rosa (by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Bryan Collier)

This book is essentially about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It’s a surprisingly short book – taking place from a little before the bus incident to a year later when the Supreme Court declared segregation unconstitutional. There is so much more to the story (unfortunately the real full story isn’t as uplifting. Just do a quick Wikipedia search), but this is an effective way to introduce 4th and 5th graders to the subject. The Emmett Till paragraph should have either been left out completely or developed more. But Collier’s illustrations are wonderful – particular the marching scenes that requires a two page extension using flaps. The pictures are gentle, yet bold and striking. There are probably hundreds of picture books on Rosa Parks…and I haven’t read them all. But I was perfectly pleased with this one.


Zen Shorts (by Jon J. Muth)

A very gentle and calm book about a panda who teaches kids life lessons through zen philosophies. The watercolors are beautiful and soothing. I like how Muth transitions into a more inky and jagged illustration for the individual stories. Clearly Muth has a strong appreciation for “zen culture” and he might have converted a few kids with this book. I liked this a lot!


Song of the Water Boatman & Other Pond Poems (by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beckie Prange)

This book is part poetry anthology/part encyclopedia. This book highlights different pond dweller insects and animals with a poem and a short paragraph about each of them. I actually found the non-fiction elements more engaging than the actual poems (but I’m a 23 year old English graduate student so maybe I have a higher standard for poetry). Anyway, kids who are into science and animals would like this book, especially since this book talks about different species I personally had never heard of. However, I found most of it boring. It’s just not my style. And even the watercolor woodblock artwork didn’t excite me much. These are subjective reviews and ratings. I could see others loving this, but not me.


Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride (by Marjorie Priceman)

What an adorable book! This book tells the story of the first hot-air balloon launch in 18th century France. However, the first passengers in that balloon was a duck, a sheep, and a rooster. While the story has a textual prologue and an epilogue, the bulk of this picture book is without text. Instead we get to see the crazy hijinks between the animals as opposed to having it said to us with text. The artwork is detailed, elaborate and “fun.” The beginning text is engaging and funny. And I like how the author responsibly tells a more accurate and non-fiction version of the story in the last couple of pages. This book is perfect. I only reserve “10’s” for the elite few, but I give this book a very strong…


The Hello, Goodbye Window (by Norton Juster, illustrated by Chris Raschka) – CALDECOTT WINNER

Interesting. First…I have to point out that this book (told from the point of view of a little girl) showcases both interracial grandparents and parents, which, as far as I know, is unique in children’s literature. I think that choice by the author and illustrator is so cool. And it’s never mentioned. There’s no section where the little girl awkwardly says, “Some bad people don’t approve of our family.” The book handles race the same way  Ezra Jack Keats does in The Snowy Day – by not making it the main focus. The artwork is probably polarizing. I’m not confident all children would dig it…but I certainly appreciated the childlike and enthusiastic pictures. Raschka took some major risks with his drawings and I commend him for that.


I think Hot Air was the best book overall, but either Priceman or Raschka would have been worthy of this honor. I don’t begrudge Raschka’s win at all. However, I do commend Zen Shorts for having great text and some engaging stories overall.

Thanks for reading. I will reviewing another year soon (don’t know which one yet!)


Caldecott Medal Review (1986)

The Randolph Caldecott Medal is an annual award that honors the best illustrations in a book or novel (usually books, novels are rarely honored). I have decided to start a project where I attempt to review the honorees in a given year and give my opinion as to whether the right book won or not. 

This year I am going to review the THREE books that were recognized in 1986.

The Relatives Came (by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Stephen Gammell)

This is a simple story about relatives from Virginia driving up north to meet their extended family. I am a huge fan of Stephen Gammell. Old Henry is one of my favorite children’s books. His colored pencil artwork is so so beautiful, so full of movement, and so realistic and lifelike. I could look at these pictures for hours. The story is sweet and (as someone whose childhood was filled with relatives from another country visiting us) relatable. It’s not really much of a “story” to be honest. But it’s a fun, lazy day book that very young readers would understand. But, yeah, the artwork is great.


King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub (by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood)

This story is about a King who refuses to get out of a bathtub; he does all his business from the tub, until the young page finally figures out what to do. He pulls the plug. What a charming, funny story. It uses “repetitive” text that would engage young readers. However, the illustrations are B-E-A-utiful. The oil paintings have so much detail. They are elaborate. If I were young, this book would last me months, maybe even years. The artwork is simply exquisite and full of action. I honestly wish it had been a little longer…and that is really my only “complaint.”


The Polar Express (by Chris Van Allsburg) – CALDECOTT WINNER

The Polar Express is simply a classic. It’s one of the most beloved picture books, at least in the United States. The scenery is lovely and bold. The story is akin to a classic Christmas tale (a young boy meets Santa Claus). I would have liked a couple more panels that had humans in them (there’s a long stretch where its all just scenery which is nice, but a bit boring). But, overall, this is a book that can warm even the saltiest of cockles. The double -paged photos are just lovely.


These are three very strong books. I think I was more impressed with Don Wood’s quirky, yet elaborate illustrations. But, considering how popular The Polar Express still is (it wasn’t made into a movie for nothing), the committee might have made the right choice. And I’ll always have a strong sweet spot for Gammell…even if he’s essentially third here.

Thanks for reading! 2006 is coming up next!


Caldecott Medal Review (1951)

The Randolph Caldecott Medal is an annual award that honors the best illustrations in a book or novel (usually books, novels are rarely honored). I have decided to start a project where I attempt to review the honorees in a given year and give my opinion as to whether the right book won or not. 

This year I am going to review the SIX books that were recognized in 1951.

Dick Whittington and His Cat (by Marcia Brown)

Based on an English legend, this “rags to riches” story revolves around a boy who grows up to become a wealthy lord thanks to his rodent killing cat. I had never heard of this story before reading this book. I’m assuming that this legend isn’t completely well-known to the American population. Nonetheless, Brown tells the story well and I was rarely ever confused. The pictures are elaborate but the color scheme is artfully simple (mostly black and white and yellow). I dont have any real problems with the book. It’s not extraordinary, but it’s a nice way to introduce children to this legend (although I’m not sure why they would need to be!)


The Two Reds (by Will and Nicolas, aka William Lipkind and Nicholas Mordvinoff)

Another book! Another boy! Another cat! This book, written by Lipkind, is about a red-haired boy and a red cat who (spoiler alert!) become friends in the end after a series of misadventures. Apparently, this book attracted some minor controversy because, well, between the “red scare” that was occurring during the 50’s and the Russian illustrator, a book titled “The Two Reds” might be promoting communism. But, I don’t see a message in this book outside “cats love fish.” This is fun book with a good deal of action. The artwork is really cool and distinct with the random uses of red and occasional splashes of yellow.


T-Bone: The Baby-Sitter (by Clare Turlay Newberry)

More cats! This book is about an obedient cat named T-Bone who would watch the baby while the mother did house chores. One day, the cat decides to be bad and cause havoc. So he is sent to the country. However, the baby is miserable because she loved the cat (my favorite page in this book is the one where the baby is crying her face out while she’s surrounded by all her toys) and the cat is miserable because he doesn’t belong in the farm. In the end, they are reunited and it’s happily ever after. Compared to what I’ve seen so far, I’m not loving the artwork. It just looks smudgy and unimpressive. The story is cute but I don’t think it’s the kind of book a kid could read over and over again. Newberry was honored for three other books. Clearly, she was respected during her time. And I should probably read those other books before I come to a conclusion about her.


If I Ran The Zoo (by Dr. Seuss)

There’s a reason this book isn’t given much recognition anymore (as opposed to Seuss’s later works The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, the Grinch, and so on…) And that’s because, from a contemporary viewpoint, there are passages in this book that are offensive and racist. He describes Asians as having slanty eyes. He stereotypes Africans, Russians, and Persians. There are a lot of other moments that are carefree, funny and creative. But those drops of insensitivity are sprinkled throughout. So I can see why, let’s say, librarians don’t recommend this book. I certainly don’t remember reading this book when I was little. But, at the same time, the artwork in this book is SO GOOD. It’s interesting. It’s imaginative. It’s fun and funny. The rhymes are cute. I couldn’t help but read this aloud. It has a great long length. This is the kind of picture book kids would want to keep and read everyday. Dr. Seuss made better, more sensitive books later in his career. But, for 1950, Dr. Seuss was a beast in children’s lit.


The Most Wonderful Doll in the World (by Phyllis McGinley, illustrated by Helen Stone)

This is a surprisingly long story about a girl who is never satisfied with anything, including her very large doll collection. In the end, she learns that just because she has dreams and an imagination, doesn’t mean she can’t appreciate the things that are real in life. It’s a nice message. And this story very well written. Stone’s hand drawn watercolors are gentle and pretty, but not terribly distinct or memorable. I think girls would probably remember the story more than the drawings. I’m not sure if a modern girl would like this book because it’s essentially about a very privileged girl who…I guess…wishes she was more privileged? It’s a book that would be more relatable to upper class girls…but I’m not sure if this is a book that would truly benefit them. If there had been an added message about how there are some girls in the world who can’t even afford one doll and that Dulcy (the main character) should be more grateful for what she has, then maybe it would be better. But, right now, this book is akin to Paris Hilton complaining about her limo service


The Egg Tree (by Katherine Milhous) – CALDECOTT WINNER

This book takes place during Easter. With the help of their grandmother, a bunch of kids take their painted eggs and create an “Egg Tree” (ie, a Christmas tree with painted eggs on them). The egg tree becomes a hit and more people start making their own egg trees. I don’t think this whole “egg tree” idea has caught on since then…but maybe I’m wrong. My church never did that. Anyway, the illustrations are very nice. It’s a colorful book (obviously) but Milhous uses her colors economically (like most picture books from before the 70’s.) The story isn’t, well, much of a story. There wasn’t really much of a conflict…and the text wasn’t interesting and fun like a Dr. Seuss book. It seemed like a plug for egg trees than anything else. But Milhous won for her artwork, not the story, so she’s not completely undeserving of the award.


Overall, I enjoyed reading these stories, but most of them weren’t particularly captivating. I think Dr. Seuss’s pictures were the most illuminating and intriguing. I would have given him the Caldecott this year (especially considering he never one of these which is nuts). And I think The Two Reds probably took more risks than the perfectly pleasant The Egg Tree. However, even though I found the story problematic, I appreciate Wonderful Doll‘s long, original story with a beginning, middle, and end, a semi-fleshed out lead character, and some stakes involved. Unfortunately, only illustrators are honored in these awards. (Dick Whittington also gave us a long story, but it wasn’t really original.)

Thanks for reading! Stick around for more years! All these books should be available on Amazon or in your local library.


My Working Mom by Peter Glassman (illustrated by Tedd Arnold)

my working mom

Naturally, as Tina Fey’s biggest fan, I have read her memoir Bossypants at least three times (and listened to her audiobook at least twice). In the book she discusses the subtle criticism and judgement working mothers are given. She uses the 1994 picture book My Working Mom as an example. While she admits that the book was probably written with good intentions, it may not be a big step forward for feminism or even women’s rights. You can read this portion of the book here. In a nutshell, the book is narrated by a young girl who discusses how hard it is having a working mom because, sometimes, she comes home late and sometimes she doesn’t spend a whole lot of time with her family. However, the girl counters these complaints with happy moments – like her mother throwing her birthday parties and cheering the loudest at her soccer games. The little girl also has some strong admiration for her mother’s work. The little girl concludes her story with “Even though I don’t always like having a working mom, I just can’t picture mine any other way. So I guess if I had to choose, I’d keep my mom the way she is.”

I can understand this fictional little girl’s struggle. Thinking back to when I was little, I have memories of seeing my father in the home as much as I saw my mother. My father worked while my mother was student. By elementary school, both my parents worked while my older siblings were there to watch over me. By middle school, my mother was working more hours than my father. She’d leave home early in the morning and come home late. Sometimes, unfortunately, there were full weeks where I just wouldn’t see my mom because of her work. And I was obviously sad about that. However…I was sad because I loved both my parents equally and I wanted to see them both equally…not necessarily because I believed that mothers should be like the “stay-at-home” mothers on television. For as long as I could remember, I’ve never thought a woman’s place was in the home. If my mother had stayed home and depended on my father to earn our family’s income, neither me nor my older siblings would have the opportunities we were given growing up. And I think that’s one of the main complaints about the book. Although we have to keep in mind that the book was published during the mid nineties, the book is “outdated” that it portrays the working mother as a strong, yet inconvenient anomaly because…well…this isn’t how mothers are supposed to act.

Just think…would this book had worked if it had been entitled “My Working Dad?” Yes, there has been plenty of children’s media that has portrayed fathers as being neglectful workaholics. But those media don’t necessarily criticize (and I realize that “criticize” may be too strong of a word but you get the point) fathers for the simple act of being “working fathers.” Fathers are allowed to work…as long as they don’t take it too far. However, idea of a mother working? That’s already going too far! I’m not trying to put thoughts into the author’s head. Like Fey almost passive aggressively points out, Glassman and Arnold probably had the best intentions in writing this book…but the book still highlights a problem we as a society have with women who dare decide to support their families financially. One part of the book that bugs me is the part where the girl laments her mother’s bad cooking which makes me ask…why isn’t the father doing the cooking then?

It also doesn’t help that the mother in the book is a witch. Her occupation is literally that of a witch. And I can understand how that can throw some people off. But, here’s the kicker: despite my own personal feminist leanings, I would still recommend this book. I still think this book has more good things going for it than bad. From a technical standpoint, it is a well made picture book. Glassman’s text itself isn’t extraordinary…but what I find fascinating about the text is that it never makes reference to the fact that the mother is a witch. That part of the story is portrayed through the illustrations. So while the text talks about the mother thinking her meetings are boring, the illustration shows the mother at some sort of witch’s gathering. Or when the girl excitedly talks about how everyone in class thinks her’s mother’s job is cool…it’s essentially because, well duh, she’s a witch! The point is…it’s as if the Glassman is trying to be neutral and grounded in his text while Arnold’s illustrations (which were apparently conceived by Glassman) tells a fantastical story. It’s a very clever technique that allows kids to create their own stories with the pictures.

In terms of the message – again, I understand the complaints from Fey and others. And hopefully books published in the 21st century would deal with the reality of working mothers better. However, I still think the sweet ending by a tolerant and understanding and loving daughter saves the book. It’s not like the girl is saying “Oh well! I guess having a working mom isn’t so bad. I can deal.” She’s ending by saying that she wouldn’t want any other type of mom. And as someone who grew up with a working mom (a working mom who was so busy one night that she forgot my birthday), I wouldn’t want any other type of mom either. And not only because I love her, obviously. Because I had first hand experience at how malleable gender roles could be. And that having a father that drove me to soccer and cooked me dinner wasn’t weird or undesirable at all. I learned I could be anything I wanted to be because of my working mom. And I’d like to think the fictional girl realizes this when she’s older (because it seems like she’s already getting to that point of realization).

It looks like this book is still striking a chord with young readers by the fact that the book is unusually checked out of my local library (or it could be checked out by another curious Tina Fey fan who knows?) But, regardless, I would recommend this book because it has a positive message (even if it doesn’t hit a home run) and the pictures are really cute. It can be a semi-appropriate book for Halloween as well. I think the negative reviews are from people who let Fey’s glowing recommendation affect their viewpoint. I don’t think they’re fair assessments. However, in between reading this book to your child and watching Frozen for millionth time, be sure to let him or her know that they can be anything they want.


Mei Li by Thomas Handforth

mei li

In 1939, Thomas Handforth became the second illustrator to win the Caldecott Medal. However, he was not only the first illustrator to win for a book he also wrote, but Mei Li is technically the first winner to have its own “original story” (while the very first winner, Animals of the Bible is simply a bunch of so-so pictures with bible verses attached to them). Mei Li is set in China. Handforth lived in China for a while before publishing the book and his passion for the culture certainly shows in his illustrations. For a book set in the 1930’s, the pictures are surprisingly detailed and inoffensive. He uses a lot of “white space” (that is, he rarely sketches overwhelming scenery or background), but the people, the costumes/clothes and even the animals are drawn well throughout.

While the pictures are great, the story itself is interesting, yet conflicting. The story revolves around  young girl named Mei Li who decides to sneak out to the fair with his brother – something she’s otherwise prohibited from doing because of her gender. After her seemingly exciting misadventures, she is relieved to be back home, where she is told by “The Kitchen God” that, essentially, her kingdom is the home she lives in. This book seemingly has a “Home is where the heart is” message which (particularly considering that she is a girl) might seem a bit outdated. However, I have to remember that this was the 30’s…and it was China! And that it’s not really fair to read this book through such a rigid contemporary lens. Also, after the Kitchen God makes his declaration, Mei Lei ends the book by saying “It will do for a while anyway” with a happy sigh, signifying that she plans on breaking free and finding more outside adventures when she is older. So, I guess, in that sense, Handforth is playing with traditional gender roles. Mei Li is a spunky, resourceful girl who is independent for most of the book. This is definitely fine for the 30’s. I just hope any modern children reading the book won’t get the wrong idea (although…I’d be surprised if children were still reading this!)

The text isn’t as “illuminating” as the pictures. With sentences like “Inside the house on the morning before New Year’s Day, everyone was very busy,” Handforth wasn’t much of a writer. The text never really pulled me in; and I doubt it will do the same for today’s youth. But as an adult, I appreciate the illustrations and the history behind them.

6/10 (4 for the illustrations, 2 for the writing)

Check this book out on Amazon, Open Library, and your local library!

Saturday Night Live Review (Bill Hader / Hozier)

So…I’m doing something a little different for this review. Usually, I don’t post a review until the next morning/afternoon, after I’ve watched the episode at least twice. However…Sunday is going to be so busy for me that I might as well pull a Hitfix and review the sketches as I am watching them now. Which means (for people not familiar with my recaps) this review will be posted (or, I guess, is posted) a lot earlier than usual. Also…this means this review is mostly based on first impressions. Will that change anything? Will there be sketches I initially hate that I will love after a second viewing. I guess…well, you all will probably never know. But here’s the review anyway! Enjoy!

Kim Jong Un Cold Open: Sad, but this is probably the strongest opening the show has had so far this season…even if the none of the jokes were particularly original or fresh. But between Bobby Moynihan’s recurring tap dancing skills, a brief Pete Davidson sighting and the smartly short runtime, this was a fine sketch for a part of the show that’s usually not the best.

Monologue: I’ve been so excited for this episode all week. Bill Hader is one of the my favorite SNL cast members and one of the most talented. His impressions are spot on, like Kristen Wiig’s (who, obviously, makes an appearance here). However, in his monologue, Hader brings up the interesting point that (unlike Wiig) he’s never really sung on the show. So…that was the theme of this monologue. It’s always fun seeing Kristen and I liked the Harvey Fierstein cameo. But…hopefully this isn’t representative of the night. I probably would have simply preferred a nice “back and forth” between Wiig and Hader.

Herb Welch: Nice to see this one back. This sketch had the senile Herb Welch attempt to interview students and teachers at a “virginity rally.” Besides the “maybe” live glitch (was Hader supposed to put his left hand off screen so it would “reach around” and hit Davidson from the other end?), this is a solid sketch that, like the cold open, doesn’t overstay its welcome. Welch’s “why didn’t your wife take your last name?” line to Killam cracked me up. And, hey! More Pete Davidson. Yay!

The Group Hopper: Yeah, this is definitely the first great sketch of the night. This fake trailer is a parody of all the young adult dystopian adaptations that have been popping up lately.The sketch particularly pokes fun at the genres use of fake words that sound serious, seemingly forced romances, and the whole “you belong to this group” objectives that the main character attempts to escape from. Bill Hader as a painted Effie Trinket is the highlight. But it’s nice seeing Pete Davidson and the other featured players have a sketch to themselves. All four killed it!

Hollywood Game Night: I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again…I am a huge sucker for these “celebrity impression” sketches. You know sketches that are pretty much “fill in the blank” types. However, rarely do we get a sketch where all the impressions work. This is one of those rare exceptions. All the impressions cracked me up. Beck Bennett’s Nick Offerman was surprisingly on point. Cecily Strong as the national spokeswoman for everything Sofia Vergara made me stupid giggly. Kristen Wiig’s Kathie Lee Gifford was a welcome return – as was Hader’s Al Pacino. Kate McKinnon held the fort down well as Lesbian number 2 Jane Lynch. And, as much as I love Hollywood Game Night…the challenges on that show are stupid easy and the famous contestants on that show are stupid…stupid.

For the Price of a Cup of Coffee: I haven’t actually seen these types of commercials in years. But…this was a still a funny parody of them. It revolved around the poor African people in the commercial asking for more money than 39 cents a day. Any sketch that features Leslie Jones (who at this point should probably be upgraded to featured cast member) automatically goes up a few points. I love her.

Love is a Dream: I suppose this is a good time to discuss Jan Hooks, who sadly passed away a few days ago at the young age of 57. As someone who was born in 1991…I’m not too familiar with “classic SNL” (particularly that messy 80’s decade). But I was first introduced to Jan Hooks and her comic genius in her season 4 recurring role as Jenna’s money hungry deadbeat mother on 30 Rock. Her “I sexually assaulted Scottie Pippen” line still cracks me up on random occasions. One major fault in the last three seasons of the show is that they never brought her back. Hell! I even legitimately thought she deserved an Emmy nomination for that year. After her small cameo in the “Women of SNL” special that aired that same year, I did seek out more of sketches from the online archives…and I fully understand why fans regard her as one of the best cast members. It’s a pity that she was on the show during a time when it was still undeniably a “boy’s club” (we can thank Gasteyer, Oteri, Dratch, Poehler and, especially, Fey for changing that). But her talent and comedic skills are still very apparent…particularly in that diner sketch she did with Nora Dunn and Alec Baldwin (a sketch that still utterly confuses after 10 viewings of it…I still love it).

I’m really glad Bill Hader donated some of his hosting time to honor Jan Hooks by re airing one of my favorite SNL sketches of all time. It’s a very strange sketch for SNL because…it’s humorless. It’s not funny…and it’s not so much a parody as it is a homage to classic movie musicals from Hollywood’s golden age. And that’s what makes it so brilliant. It’s beautiful, charming, and Hooks and the also deceased Phil Hartman show so much raw chemistry that if I had no idea who they were, I would think they were married in real life. I’m not saying “digital shorts” need to follow this lead every week…but it would be nice if, this season, the writers experimented with a sketch that’s as unironically heartfelt as this (Mooney and Bennett came close last year with their “I know” short). Anyway…perfect sketch. Perfect tribute. I wish Hooks could have made one last current appearance for us…but, despite her limited work after SNL, she created enough of a legacy (and, hello!, she was nominated for a guest acting Emmy for 3rd Rock From the Sun!)

Weekend Update: I think this is the SNL where Michael Che finally got comfortable and came to his own. His little aside about how gay men who didn’t want to get married before this week will finally have to was hilarious. Pete Davidson (who is finally having the night I’ve wanted for him) came back to do a bit about buying an expensive gold chain after listening to a 2 Chainz (or maybe it was T-Pain…one of them) song wasn’t as funny as his last Weekend Update appearance…but it was a nice “opening act for the main event: STEFONNN!!! And, yes, I cheered and laughed with the rest of the audience. There isn’t another character that can receive that type of applause (Drunk Uncle comes the closest). I was a little worried about how this would work since part of what made Stefon so great was his “back and forth” with Seth Meyers. But, Che (who was oddly “given” both special guests this week) didn’t have to speak much during the segment. All Hader had to do was repeat “Daniel Cortese” another time and I (along with Hader) would lose it. Great segment overall.

Puppetry for Advanced Students: They’ve done this sketch back before during the Seth MacFarlane episode from a couple years back. While this second go-around was still funny…it (obviously) wasn’t the revelation that it was the first time. But Bill Hader still does a skilled job as an ashamed war vet who is projecting through his puppet. The cigarette smoke scene and the flashback scene were the two fresh moments that really made me LOL.

Inside SoCal: Another solid short from Good Neighbor. This is sort of off topic…but now that he’s part of the writing staff, I’d like to see Nick Rutherford make a cameo in one of the videos (if writers Leslie Jones and Mike O’Brien can still make appearances than I don’t see why this can’t be a possibility.)

Cat in the Hat: A great weird sketch to end the night on. This is strange considering I rewatched my old VHS of the Cat in the Hat animated special last week for some reason.

And, overall, this was a great episode. Clearly this is strongest episode so far this season. Maybe I’m just a sucker for Bill Hader and all his characters. The show had a semi-slow start, but pretty much was on fire since the tasteful Jan Hooks tribute. I don’t think my opinion of this episode will change after my Sunday morning second viewing.

MVP: I’m tempted to say Pete Davidson since he appeared so much this week. But I can’t give him this prestigious honor after one episode of prominence. I think…I’ll give it to Taran Killam, who gave a great Christoph Waltz impression in the HGN sketch and appeared consistently throughout the rest of the episode.

I think next week will be a rerun. But the next host will be Jim Carrey which is exciting since I think he did such a great job the last time he hosted. Let’s hop he brings back Alan Thicke.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday Night Live Review (Sarah Silverman / Maroon 5)

sarah silverman snl

This is an episode I’ve been looking forward to all week. In fact, to prepare for this episode, I rewatched a few episodes from one of the most underrated modern cable comedies: The Sarah Silverman Program. I just find the series so random and irreverent. It lasted three glorious (but short) seasons and earned Silverman a semi-surprising Emmy nod for Best Actress. Along with that show, I just think Silverman is a funny person. She’s great in interviews. Her stand up is great (poop and vagina jokes and all). She’s even good in School of Rock, which was probably definitely my first time of being exposed to her. In terms of “female comedians,” she is right behind Fey, Louis-Dreyfus, and Wiig. Although the humor in The Sarah Silverman Program is VERY different from that of SNL, I was still looking forward to seeing if the writers could write for Silverman the same way they could write for other stand up comedians like Dane Cook and, more importantly, Louis CK. This episode wasn’t the rare “slamdunk” I was unreasonably expecting…but it was still a stronger episode than last week with a couple sketches that could have some real staying power. And, yeah, Silverman is a very game and energetic host.

Like last week, I won’t be discussing every sketch lie; but I’ll highlight sketches I really liked or the ones I believe are notable. So…let’s just skip the cold open…

Monologue: Anytime a host willingly decides not to do a singing monologue, it’s great. However, in Silverman’s case…that wouldn’t have been so bad. If you’ve seen her previously mentioned show, every episode has at least one musical break that’s hilariously weird. However, I still very much enjoyed Silverman’s very natural monologue. The first half consists of her sitting on a female audience member’s lap and fishing compliments from her. The second part references her short stint as an SNL featured player where she would only ask questions from the audience. It’s a creative bit that thankfully had no technical difficulties. Also, I would love to hear that “Black Guy…God’s Mouth” joke that made Lorne Michaels crack up.

The Fault in Our Stars 2: The Ebola in Our Everything: As much as I love the movie (and book) The Fault in Our Stars, the funniest thing in this parody is the idea that kids with terminal illness are somehow overly articulate and thoughtful. So even those moments before Olive (Silverman) reveals she actually has ebola when Killam is sprouting out nonsense about “oblivion” made me laugh. But yeah, that was a very nice twist; and this was overall a very good commercial featuring a too-short Terrence Howard impression by Kenan Thompson.

joan rivers snl

Joan Rivers Tribute: The only problem with this sketch was Sarah Silverman pretty much flubbing every punch line (her impression, otherwise, was passable). I’m a sucker for sketches where multiple cast members play different celebrities so…this was one of them. Bobby Moynihan’s confused, but overjoyed, Benjamin Franklin and Sasheer Zamata’s Eartha Kitt stood out. But, overall, this was a nice, tasteful tribute to the great Joan Rivers. But, again, Silverman’s inability to read cue cards threw the audience off.

Whites: Awww…it’s like Mike O’Brien never left. Anyway, this commercial, in my opinion, parodied the (few) American white people who, for some reason, feel victimized (when they’re not). The white people who somehow believe “white extinction” is a thing (it’s not and BTW, if white people are becoming extinct because of interracial coupling…then so is every other race…but the “white race” is the only race that can be pure). The white people who somehow believe that because their ancestors barged into a land that wasn’t theirs to begin with, stole it from Native Americans, and created this whole new country, they deserve some kind of parade for that “achievement.” The white people who believe that their historical oppression of other races and their undeniable privilege through the years somehow had no effect on the fact their race accomplished so much. The white people who freak out over the fact that we’ve had ONE non-white president vs. the 43 white ones we’ve had before him. Again, I’m not saying this is all white people. But there is a passionate group that lurks around…and they play poker with the MRAs and the “pro-family” homophobes.

Moving on…

Forgotten TV Gems: Kenan looked like he was having so much fun with this character (Reese De’WHAT?). I expect to see him again. But, besides that, I thought this was a good sketch about a forgotten TV show that featured women who are nice to each other (as opposed to the female to female backstabbing we see in the standard soap). The first scene with Cecily pouring a substance (later turned out to be Emergen-C) into Silverman’s drink was great.

Weekend Update: Although not as consistently tight as last week (Al Sharpton didn’t do much for me), there were still a couple moments I really liked. One was Kate McKinnon and Silverman as the feminist indie folk band “Garage and Her” where they proclaim that everything is a woman, including Italians and Walt Disney. As great as Silverman was…I sort of wish another cast member had played her role so we could see this bit recur. I thought it was funny. I also liked the back and forth between Jost and Che about what they can and cannot say (Jost can’t say “in da club” while Che can’t say “Thank you for your help, Officer.”) While Che still needs to work on annunciation and Jost needs to loosen up a bit, I have faith in this duo. Like I mentioned last week, Che’s “relaxed, conversational” approach could work well with Jost’s more professional, yet vanilla schtick. They just need time.

tina turner snl

Rolling on a River: OK. The audience wasn’t feeling this one. And I can’t say I laughed out loud watching. But…it sort of reminded me of “Santa’s My Boyfriend” from a years back. A sketch that’s more entertaining than anything else. I thought the singing and the dancing were very well done (Cecily, Sasheer, and Silverman) and the asides about their miserable lives on the boat made me smile at least. But…considering how muted the audience was, I’m not quite sure how this one made it past dress.

Car Proposal: Yeah…it looks like I’m pretty much reviewing every sketch sans the cold open. Ugh. What can I say? It was a solid episode. And this was a solid sketch. I could have done without the Adam Levine a bit. I think this sketch needed a couple more rewrites. But I definitely LOL’d when Moynihan first popped up with that engagement ring.

The December Generation: A funny sketch that parodied that romantic movie trope where two characters begin saying the same thing at the same time with a mutual understanding. God…I’ve always hated that.

Vitamix: Apparently, this is actually a real product that costs 650 dollars. Although…what Vanessa Bayer did with that apple was pretty impressive. Maybe the price is worth it. Anyway…I think this is another sketch (like car proposal) that needed a few more rewrites. It’s not as great as the dog food commercial parody from last season that featured Seth Rogen and Cecily Strong. But…eh, whatevs. It’s the last sketch.

sarah silverman snl

I’m a little surprised and disappointed that Pete Davidson couldn’t appear at all this week considering how much buzz and praise he got last week. Hopefully he’ll do something great with Bill Hader next week. I need to see him as a real “sketch performer” before I can figure out why exactly he was hired. But, the rest of the episode was good. And hopefully Silverman will appear again next year. She seemed like she had fun and reviews seem “decent” at best so…success?

MVP: Like usual, Taran Killam was given a lot (almost too much to be honest…another actor could have played his role in the car proposal sketch). But I think this was an unusually strong episode for Kenan Thompson. Clearly, if this is his last season, then he’ll want to leave on a high note. This episode proves that he’s still relevant to the cast.

Thank you all for reading. See ya all next week!!!! (Hugs a bunch of SNL cast members).