Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Shift by Jennifer Bradbury

Shift by Jennifer Bradbury (2008)
I picked this book out again for Tristan, the 13-year-old, to read but the blurb inside the front cover had me. I finished it in the middle of the night on Sunday because I am suffering from some serious insomnia not because I was so gripped by the story. Again I liked the book but the front cover gave me a different impression or else how I read the blurb gave me a different impression, I'm really not sure (lack of sleep). I thought the book was going to be a bike ride then swing ahead into the later future where Chris discovers some amazing tale about what happened to his friend, which I guess would have been slightly more fantastical and cool. Instead it goes from bike trip to first week of college-still good. As it is Chris and Winston, two high school friends, set out on a long distance bike trek from West Virginia to Seattle, Washington. The tales along the way are interesting, their friendship is expressed in back-and-forth chapters between past, present and trip. The difference in boys is Chris comes from a loving, supportive family and Winston, a wealthy, cold family with a controlling father and vacation-happy mom. Chris becomes disenchanted with Winston and his antics and lack of responsibility and their relationship spirals out of control. The rest you will have to read yourself. One interesting fault that I had with the book was why Jennifer Bradbury had them ride so far north. She has them trek from Ohio, Indiana and Illinois up through Wisconsin and Minnesota, making note of a stop to see a statue of Paul Bunyon and his blue ox, Babe!! As a Midwest girl I kept thinking "why are they going straight north out of Iowa"- instead of cutting nw through South Dakota. Just me being a picky reader, knowing the lay of the map land way too much or very sleep-deprived. Bradbury does have a great website/blog and I enjoyed her story of how the book came to be. Also the ending (not a spoiler) to Winston's tale is hmmm...I guess I really can't say without spoiling so never mind. Suffice it to stay Winston's character grew on me.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Reading by candlelight...

And flashlight last night we read four great books, My honey, J and I all crowded on the love seat, and read Half a pig by Allen Ahlberg, The Lonely Moose by John Segal, How Mommy met Daddy by Katharina Grossmann-Hensel and The Perfect Bear by Gillian Shields and Gary Blythe, all picked from our local library! Half a pig was interesting but long! The Lonely Moose is a quick, sweet tale about friendship. How mommy met daddy is odd on the last page but the idea is how two very different people can come together and become, through love, a better version of yourself. The Perfect Bear took our collective breath away with the amazing illustrations, which had an antique quality and really bring the Velveteen rabbit-like tale to life! The expressions on the tiny face of the "do not touch bear" were so true and real. All four of these books will be added to my to-buy list for school, especially the bear book. It's not easy reading by a flashlight held by a wiggly 6-year-old!! Thank heavans we are not pretending to be pioneers for the long term. Family decision last night though was we should spend every Saturday using minimal electricity...getting snuggy on the love seat was a positive experience. We'll see what the teenager has to say about this new family development as he was at a sleep-over!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour

Earth hour is fast approaching and I can't wait to go outside and see if anyone else on this street could be participating!!! I need to get some candles ready because J is still awake and probably will not like utter darkness. I made delicious soup/chili with tomatoes frozen from last year's garden so our tummies are full and happy. I wonder if the lights at the White House will be off...maybe at least some of them.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Movie Trailer

I just watched a clip of Where the Wild Things Are by Sendak directed by Spike Jonze!

This is a very treasured book at our home and we even have our own collection of lovable Wild Things my honey has collected for me over the years in celebration of birthdays and anniversaries. I love movies but don't often spend the bucks to go sit in the theater except for special movies and this one makes that list!!
I just finished The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson, which was so unusual and well-written! I, too fell in love with Jenna and all her complexities! It raised so many questions for me of what the future holds for us humans. Second to Jenna I love Lily and their relationship, which seems cold at first but warms up as Jenna continues to question herself. I don't want to give any of this great story away but read it because it is filled with admiration for the human spirit!
My favorite read-aloud this week is The Zoo by Suzy Lee,
which tells the story of a young girl discovering the zoo on her own wild romp, while her parents are frantically searching for her. Ms. Lee's illustrations are so perfectly rendered using something close to chalk, which drew my wee students into it even more. Then when I showed them the back cover many were left wondering but just a few knew about her shoe already...we had to go back into the book to show everyone else her missing shoe. Some students thought the gorilla was going to eat the shoe but those of us that got it knew he was admiring not hungry!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Quick Vacation post; Rick Riordan series

I finished The Sea of Monsters...Yeah!!!!! I love this series. I am reading it with a fifth-grade book club and I love how this book creates an instantaneous love of Greek mythology.
I am anxious to read The Titan's Curse-wish I had brought it with me to Little Rock! I am reading The Adoration of Jenna Fox also though, which is very good and mysterious as well.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Story time in Little Rock

Today I was hanging with my friend Verda at her home in Little Rock when I nonchalantly went through her current library pile and found an absolute gem of a book by Holly Hobbie called Fanny! I don't know how this book got passed me because the adorable heroine on the front cover is wearing cute-as-a-button glasses and I am always looking for role models for J. in this area. I love the Toot and Puddle books so I don't know how this one slipped by but thank heavans Verda had it in her library pile so I had to stop and read it to Sela and Japhy right then and there. I love Fanny's sense of style because at our house we often have dance outfits mixed in with outfit of the day and we don't give in to the Bratz doll craze although we do have antique Barbies. Fanny is a heroine who does things for herself in the face of adversity...her Mom saying "no" to the fancy Connie doll. She makes her own doll and stands up to her friends as well. I would like to invite Fanny over to my house for a playdate with J.-the two could commiserate over their Mom's but have a blast playing in the meantime! Thank you V and S for introducting us to this great book!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More Spring Break reading

I don't really know what I expected but The Underneath by Kathi Appelt is not some simple animal companion story. I brought it home from the library a few weeks ago because I was anxious to read it and like a good mother I decided to multi-task and read it to J. for a bedtime read-aloud (a change of pace from Junie. B and fairy gems). I don't really like to read reviews about books before I read them as those words tend to get in the way of enjoyment but this may have been a time I could have used some red flags. Oh, the book is so well written and the story is woven so beautifully together and we have yet to get to where the stories come together. Kate DiCamillo's The tale of Desperaux is a perfect example of another extraordinary weaving together of seperate threads. I did ask J., after Gar Face appeared, if she would like me to quite reading the book to her and she bounced on her bed and said, something like "no, no, no" about a hundred times so she's hooked. I would say the book would really be better for 4th, 5th grade students, which are exactly who will read it when I take it back to my school library but for now it stays and J. and I will finish it with glee and some sadness- every three chapters or so.
Now for the other child...the 13-year-old I am so frantically trying to keep amongst the reading. The second book( first one was the previously blogged about Compound) I picked out at our public library for him is Gone by Michael Grant(watch this great youtube video of MG talk about the book). This book, I found out, is part of a planned six book series and Tristan and I are ready for the second one to appear. The premise of this book is that something has occured in the world and all the adult have simply disappeared...in fact, every one over 15 disappears. There are town kids, babies, and a prep school for teens in trouble all stuck in one community together. Many normal things happen such as looting but so much happens that I couldn't even, or wouldn't even think possible. This isn't a typical book I would pick up for just me to read but Tristan is looking for new material since the Eragon series is in remission. He finished it the other day so now I have been reading like mad and along the way we talk about it (don'cha love it). We talk about the character's choices and the author's ideas. What I love most though is his constant "where are you now Mom, what's happening now?" and well, it keeps us connected. I haven't finished yet but tomorrow looks like another good reading day.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Red Shoe by Ursula

I just finished The Red Shoe by Australian author Ursula Dubosarksky. It took me a few tries to get into this book but once I did I really loved it. In the 1950's outside of Sydney this family demonstrates the quirkiness that exits in every family. Matilda, as the youngest tells most of the story to us. She has spies living next door that she spies on, an imaginary friend named Floreal who came out of the radio one night and a father who is out to sea and missed for most of the book. Matilda has two older sisters, Elizabeth and Frances who struggle with their own demeans. Elizabeth, the oldest, quits school one day and decides to have an emotional breakdown. Frances observes and rarely talks. The spies next door create a bit of mystery as well as a trip the family took to the "Basin" for a picnic a few years ago. Interspersed among this fictional family's unusual tale are real newspaper clippings from The Syndey Morning Herald delivering to the reader facts about a Soviet defection and other various real events of the day. I was intrigued by the cover of this book, sitting on the middle grade new shelf at the library and I am so happy I gave it a try. Wow, if I didn't have to go to school every day I would get a lot more reading and blogging done!!! Yeah Spring Break!!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tarah the Barbie snatcher

We love our four-month-old Christmas puppy but we had forgotten how much work a puppy takes and how much a puppy can destroy. Here is a short list of things Tarah has ruined:
1. My cool glasses
2. one brown Mary Jane shoe J. size
3. Countless kleenex
4. Sunglasses
5. Lots of Barbie limbs
6. stuffed animals and Beanie Babies

The Barbie fetish has us really laughing (not the Barbie girls though!) because I have given J. many older Barbies that I have gleaned from second-hand shops. Older Barbies have more movement; their knees bend, their torso sometimes twists around. Newer Barbies tend to be just one plastic piece; boring. The puppy loves the Barbies and chews off their hands and has left several with permanently maimed limbs (click on the photo to see dramatic chews). If you look very, very closely you will see the right hands missing and lots of bite marks on each of these glam dolls. Tarah does not ever choose the variety of Only Hearts club dolls we have. Tarah is only a fan of Barbies and every once in awhile she likes to lick Elizabeth, J.'s A.G. doll. She obviously has her favorites and she is, after all, a girl pup!! What can we expect! J. happily plays with her dolls, with limbs or without...it just doesn't matter. She is non-discriminatory.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I finished Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson last night and was at once elated to have enjoyed it so much but also crazy about the ending...I wanted something to occur (and I do not want to give it away)-it did not happen!! In fact the story will be continued but when....I am going to have to check on her blog to find out more information because I was really not ready to be done with Isabel's story. I feel so proud of her for repaying her debt to Curzon.
I also finished last night the YA book Compound, which Tristan and I read in tandem. It makes me mad that I have to work out special deals in order to get my 13-year-old to read. He has been a reader but now he is an electronic dude and it is really frustrating to me. So I went to the library for him, picked him several (8) choices, brought them home, let him pick several and the Compound by S.A. Bodeen was one of his choices. We read it in about 4 days, partially because it is not a a difficult read but also because it was pretty gripping and we were both fascinated to see what would happen with this family. Really rare idea for a book topic and that is all I am going to see but we loved it. We are ready to go on to our next doom and gloom selection. He has already read The Graveyard Book...again because I went to the bookstore, bought it for him and handed it to him!!! It is tough being a reading, thinking Mama in the digital age...

Monday, March 9, 2009

What I have read this week...

is two fabulous historical fiction books for middle grade and YA. I read first A thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg, which was great, great, great and I am thinking of ordering it for my elementary library because it is very readable and has such a strong female main character. I think I have a few higher level readers that would enjoy it as well as a great read-aloud for teachers. The story is set in the South and the author uses Medgar Evers' and Emmitt Till's death as well as the Birmingham church bombing, killing 4 young Sunday School attendee's as a backdrop. I have been fascinated with this part of our American history for years and love Mildred D. Taylor's books for their honest portrayal and great characters. Addie Ann reminded me a great deal of Cassie, thoughful, wanting to make the right choices but not always knowing which path to take. I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to get caught up in an era when we, as a country, were not at our best, but that many used as a time to stand up and demand justice everywhere including their own backyards as this story proves.
Chains by Laurie Halse Andersen is the second historical fiction (I have about 3 chapters left) and I am riveted to the tale of Isabel and her sister, Ruth. My husband can attest that as I read this story I am disgusted with how this slave at this time in history (backdrop is the American Revolution) is treated. You really get, as a reader, that deep understanding of slaves mattering no more than furniture that works...like a vacuum cleaner, (well could be furniture it some homes?otherwise known as an appliance:)). There is such intensity to this book. I continue to be shocked along Isabel's journey at what befalls this brave young heroine. It always makes me incredibly sad, even when I read in a historical picture book to students nonetheless, when I read about families ripped apart and sold away from each other. Teary-eyes during story time is not always a bad thing for students to witness. As a mama I can't imagine anything worse than having my sweet children sold from me!!! Henry's Freedom Box describes this heart-wrenching practice by slave owners to further keep slaves feeling less than human. In Chains Isabel's sister Ruth suffers from perhaps epilepsy, which of course causes trauma in the household and Isabel discovers she cannot, no matter how hard she tries, protect her sister. Isabel is a great character, with tough choices to make, constantly thinking of how to get out of her place in life. She expects to work hard but it is her ability to see herself as human and thus unable to make her own choices that drive this character forward to the hope of freedom. It seems so much has been taken away from Isabel yet her soul stays strong.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Library by Eve Bunting is the winner!!

Last night J. and I read three fantastic picture books from the library, which I must share! The first one we read was Kate DiCamillo's Louise the adventures of a chicken and while reading, I was so accutely aware of my own life and how it fit into Louise's!! I made it through a few pirates and "cages" to get to my happy home that I adore now. It took me taking all those "adventures" to get to the place I am in and this is a good, just as Louise finally appreciates her chicken coop. The second book we read was My Library by Eve Bunting. I have been a fan of Eve Bunting's for awhile and have used her more poignant books to make teacher-y points to students. I love The Wall, Smoky Nights and Fly Away Home, all books that have a clear message. This new book (2008) has the lovely message of how important our libraries are to each of us!! Of course, I love this message. Lots of books are written about the library but this one made J. and I feel so happy after. I think it was that the animal children were the problem-solvers in the story. They found good solutions by reading the books on the shelves, pointing out there is a book for every problem! The third lovely book we read last night was Big Bad Bunny by Franny Billingsley, illustrated by g. Brain Karas. This is a very, very funny story that you don't automatically get (which makes you think a little-always good!) until the author wants you to and the illustrations fit perfectly. We felt there were two sets of drawings, the illustrator really convinced us of two seperate actions going on in the book. I don't want to tell anymore because you have to read it cold to appreciate the humor. J. loves to rate the books we read so she laid them out on her bed in order of her likes: The Library won with Big bad bunny second and Louise, third. The good thing is she really loved them all as did I! Another great night of story time at the Holt house!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Beyond Junie B.

Those of you who are following along might remember me ranting about how much I disliked, then grew fond of Ms. Junie B. Jones because she was making J. and I laugh at bedtime and sometimes randomly throughout the day, which is a great thing, of course, but after reading a bunch of Junie B.'s I am pretty tired of the language. How many stupid's, shut up's and your just dumb do we have to plow through? Many of those particular words are not acceptable language in our peaceful, hippie house so often I would pass over every third insert dumb, stupid, shut up... in reading chapters to J. but then I keep thinking when she is able (soon) to read these to herself she will read those on her own and think me a liar or be disagreeable that the author had to choose these words over and over even though J. is taught to expand her vocabulary. Sorry Barbara Park...yet the books are so funny. I wish we could go back and rewrite them with out those words because those are not the words that make the stories drop down funny. I am happy to see many other books out there for this age group though that don't have any stupid's, shut-up's or dumb. For example, we and many of my 2nd and 3rd grade library patrons love the Ivy and Bean series by Annie Barrow( see previous posts). I hope to find more kid lit out there like this for this beginning chapter book, mostly girl group. I think maybe it is a generational thing, Ms. Park?