Tag Archives: book review

Roqué’s Sunday Book Review: The Wanderer by Peter Van Den Ende

June 27, 2021

Culture and Society

Today’s book recommendation is for no ordinary book.  I’d say it is a children’s book for all ages—a whimsical, spellbinding, and imaginative tour-de-force!

The Wanderer by Peter Van Den Ende is one of those rare books in which its author and illustrator are the same person.  (This is not often the case, and by my estimation, this work is of the same caliber as that of the legendary author and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg.) Peter Van Den Ende has crafted a marvelous tale in which the detailed images tell the entire story. No words are needed.  

In its story, a tiny paper boat sets off on an epic voyage across an enormous ocean filled with strange creatures. The boat floats and scurries along while getting much-needed help in the most unlikely and magical ways.  The artwork is meticulously detailed and awe-inspiring.  Each page and vignette can stand alone and still be more than enough.

I am a big fan of children’s books, and I have a small collection of ones that are unusual and incredibly beautiful. This book checks all of my boxes and has a permanent home in my collection.  To me, a children’s book is a work of art. The good ones tell a story poignantly in as succinct and eloquent a manner as possible. The best ones are fueled by striking imagery that is both visionary and skillfully rendered. 

If you know of a child who would love a book as amazing as this, I highly recommend that you give that child this book. He or she will find their own imaginations wandering out into the most fantastical places fearlessly and boldly—just like the little paper boat in this book and just as every child’s (and adult’s) mind unabashedly should.


(P.S.—I am what most people would consider a grown-ass man, and I bought this book for MYSELF. You don’t need to get this for a kid.  If you are an art lover like me, you’ll love this book. It is literally EVERYTHING.)

Roqué’s Sunday Book Review: A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind

June 20, 2021

Culture and Society / Reading Books / Roque Recommends

I found this week’s selection in a lovely used bookstore, and it is one of the best purchases I have made recently. A Zen buddhist monk named Shoukei Matsumoto wrote it, and the book is entitled A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind. Before you run off screaming or rolling your eyes, I should preface this recommendation by saying that over the years I have become more and more enamored of Japanese culture—particularly the parts of it that deeply integrate Zen Buddhism. If this is a sensibility that you share with me, then you will thoroughly enjoy this book.

Originally published in 2011, the English version I found was released by Penguin Books in 2018. I have found that this book could have been written 50 years ago, and it could still be relevant to our modern lives today.   

So, what are the polka dot pros? 

  • Clear and gentle writing style.  Whoever wrote the English translation of this book must have taken a few notes from the sweet and magnetic Marie Kondo. There is a disarming and friendly voice that speaks through its pages.  The writing has a smooth flow that is not judgmental or pretentious in its tone.
  • Whimsical illustrations. As a visual artist, I can appreciate the extra effort it takes to add illustrations to a book. The drawings are adorable and effectively reinforce each kernel of wisdom that Matsumoto offers. 
  • Applicable to real daily life. There is nothing in this book that is impractical or obtuse.  Matsumoto explains how to carry out each practice and the underlying philosophy that is its cornerstone.

Of course, not everyone can live like a monk, and there are many people who would not want to. That is actually not the point of this book.  One of its basic tenets is that one’s home is an extension of one’s physical body. As such, one should take care of one’s home as one does with his or her body. It contends that one’s mental health and wellbeing have a lot to do with how a person manages her or his surroundings.  This book does not just show people how to clean a home. It presents a lifestyle that cultivates one’s values and priorities through daily practices and intentionality.

I, for one, loved everything about this book, and I have already started to implementing a few of its recommendations.  

Do I want to live like a monk? 


Do I want to mold a more calm and meaningful life for myself?


If someone offers you a piece of wisdom, it is often wise to take it.  

I am so glad that I bought this book.


Roqué’s Sunday Book Review: “See You in the Cosmos” by Jack Cheng

June 13, 2021

Reading Books / Roque Recommends

Today’s book recommendation is another local library find. More often than not, I like to wander all around a library to look at what’s on display in hopes that something catches my eye. Well, this book certainly did. I found it in the children’s section of the Woodbury library, and while it is specifically geared toward younger readers who are in middle school, it’s one of those books that can be read by people of any age.

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng is a book that explores the complexities of what it means to be a family and centers around a charismatic young boy who is traveling with his dog to participate in a rocket launching conference. If that premise alone does not attract your interest, then you may be better off taking a nap. This book is written from the perspective of this boy as a conversation with extraterrestrial beings from outer space. (Are you more interested now? No? Then go fluff your 500 thread count Egyptian cotton pillow, pronto!)

Here are the pros of this book in bedazzling polka dots:

Engaging, endearing, and thoughtful characters. It’s always good when the people you read about have integrity and the best intentions. There are a group of characters in this book who practically move mountains to make everything better for the rocket-launching kid. Not to give anything way, but there is something deeply troubling in his life that undermines his wellbeing and his lofty aspirations.

A unique and clever book format. I’ve read books whose chapters are actual diary entries or correspondence letters between characters. This book takes a similar, but quite modern, variation on this format. The chapters are recordings voiced by the boy that are logged in an iPod that he carries everywhere with him. As such, it reads in a way that a middle-school aged child would talk if he happened to be an ambitious and articulate young scientist who often fires on all cylinders. The book flows quickly in an organic and conversational way, ingeniously betraying every vulnerability that this child has.

Many layers and dimensions. It was a lovely surprise to understand that this book has depth and complexity, even though it is intended for young readers. The story confronts some heavy stuff and makes no assumptions that a young mind cannot handle heavier, weightier things. I admire that the author did not hold back and trusted that young readers could comprehend the twisted dynamics that bind people together (or tear them apart). Outside of this, the story is also a coming-of-age adventure, a quirky comedy, and a hero’s journey all balled-up into one. Any reader will get swept up into the swirling pace of its saga.

Okay, are there any cons?

Nope. None that I could think of. Does this make me a bad reviewer?


All I can say is that I genuinely enjoyed this book. It’s story is rich, and its characters are strong and compassionate. The writing kept me wanting to know what would happen next. I wanted this boy to be okay.

So, that’s that. If you are still not interested in this book, then, after your long and luxurious nap, step outside and look out into the night sky. The stars and hazy clusters that you see are not what they seem, despite the beauty that they present.

What you see in that night sky is what you’ll find in this book—something wholesome and worthwhile hidden in the distance of things, like the surprising (but often elusive) presence of tenderness and love where it cannot be seen.

It’s the kind of feeling I hope we all experience in our waking hours, soft Egyptian cotton be damned.