Monday, July 27, 2009


I just finished Hunger, sequel to Gone by Michael Grant. The second in this series came out recently, which was great, while I bide my time waiting for Catching Fire, sequel to The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins as well as the sequel to Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson!  
Tristan and I both read Gone and liked the idea of the story and the sequel is just as exciting.
The idea behind Gone:

Everyone over the age of 15 suddenly disappears (poof) and all the children are left to fend for themselves in Perdido Beach, CA.  Children learn to live with the loss of their families as well as find a way to live day-to-day! This would be hard for my children. That basic element of good and evil, of course, comes into play.  Some kids begin to step up and take charge.  Sam, Astrid and Albert organize and most of kids begin to look to Sam for answers. Perdido Beach is also home to Coates, an elite prep school with its own leader, Caine.  Adding Coates into the already difficult equation adds to the pure excitement.

In Hunger, good vs. evil continues to play out with Caine and Sam struggling with leadership of their own straggling "teams". As the title suggests food is the main concern for both sides. The grocery store is down to a few meager cans and kids are choking down random jars and cans of food (you know, all the stuff kids would normally hate).   Sam, Astrid and Albert know they need to organize kids into helpers, gather more food from fields and solve a few in-fighting going on amongst the town kids. There are a ton of plot conflicts back and forth-just when you think things are resting easy-BAM something else stirs it up!  I love some of the characters...Sam, Astrid, Quinn!  I can only hope the third book will continue their story well.  

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Another road-trip

Off we go for another summer trip, this time to Ely, MN where my extended immediate family will be gathering to celebrate my mother's 29th:) birthday!! My three brothers, two sisters-in-law and their five children (all under the age of seven) except for my 17-year-old step-daughter will be convening at a cabin there for the next five days. See there is Ely way up there, next to Canada. While I'm that close I could go check out there health care system (kidding, M. Moore already did that). I am looking forward to spending time with my family, reading, cooking, and playing with children. Hopefully, it will be warm enough to swim every day in the lake. Everyone in my family loves to read, cook and talk politics. Luckily, we are mostly of the same party so that leaves out one thing to argue about! My three brothers all had children later in life...about the same time I had J. so all the kids will be playing together happily! Of course, the only other girl cousin is only 7 mos. old bu J. will deal. She can run with the boys, then play dress-up with the real baby!

I am taking books to read but do not know if I will have time to blog or if I can borrow someone else's laptop as mine is still not functioning. Right now I have so much packing and house-cleaning to finish I can't even think of the books packed away in my duffel, waiting for me to read. Does anybody else clean their house before they leave for a trip? My fourteen-year-old thought I was crazy when I said I would be vacuuming soon! By the way, he won't be joining us in Ely as he is heading off for two weeks in Alaska with another set of grandparents!

Safe travels for everyone!
p.s. notice the new peaceful reader look!! I learned a little about
rewriting HTML code this morning!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dog's day

Through our house this summer we've had a pack of entertaining dog books. Maybe because we have our own naughty puppy these picture books have a certain appeal for us.
First we read Be Gentle with the dog, dear! (2008)by Matthew J. Baek. This is a well-written story with very expressive illustrations and we love the shadow play which really demonstrates the toddler/dog conflict. My husband and I glanced at each other, with smiles playing across our faces as we read this book, remembering back to ahhh, yesterday as our six-year-old carried the cat, Pony around. She used to drag the puppy around when she(the dog) was much smaller. The puppy now weighs 41 hefty pounds (see photo above:) so it doesn't happen anymore. Of course, since we have two teenagers this scene has been played out many times over with other pets. This is a great book to raise the issue to small children on how to treat a puppy or any pet really.

The second dog related book we've read is Before you were mine (2007) by Maribeth Boelts, a local Cedar Valley author. Seriously this book made me tear-up!! It begins like this: " Before you were mine...Did you live in a warm house with warm smells, and a rug that was only yours?" The little boy character continues to have this conversation with the sweet yellow puppy throughout the rest of the book. We learn the puppy was abandoned somehow and at the shelter just waiting for this little boy! Wonderful example of how we can rescue a pet and give it a new home. The author's note at the back of the book says a portion of the book sales will be donated to the Humane Society-added bonus for buying this very special book.

Dog Blue (2004) by Polly Dunbar is the third great dog book we have read. This one is all about Bertie, who loves the color blue! To round out his blue collection he really wants a blue dog and since he doesn't have one he uses his imagination and creates a blue dog:
"So Bertie pretended he had a blue dog. He patted his pretend dog. He fed his pretend blue dog. He took his pretend blue dog for a walk. He threw a stick for his pretend blue dog."

I like Polly Dunbar's art and this one has a nice surprise ending!! Woof! Woof! Check out her fabulously creative website!

The last book and my personal favorite is Don't lick the dog; making friends with dogs(2009) by Wendy Wahman . This one is a very creative how-to for any potential dog owner or dog friend. Her illustrations are zany and the text is rhyming!! Here's how it goes:

"Easy now, take it slow when meeting dogs that you don't know.
Don't stick your nose in Stella's face-until you're friends, she needs her space."

Each two- page spread has a suggestion for humans wanting to know more about dog etiquette. Love this one and so did J. and the husband as he took time to read it to our teenagers at the dinner table. Wendy has her own creative website here.

How many of you have dogs out there or a favorite dog picture book?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Vidalia in Paris by Sasha Watson

The cover and the first paragraph inside the front flap appealed to my sense of adventure, which reads:

"When Vidalia wins a scholarship to study art in Paris for the summer, she can't believe her good fortune. Finally she'll get some time away from her needy mother, and the small town where she feels like an outsider."

I want to go to Paris! When I read the back author flap I found that the author had spent lots of time in Paris so I thought this might be a great way to "travel" there myself if even for a few hours. I liked the story and I liked Vidalia, who seemed independent at first. It was wonderful to read little snippets about cool locations in Paris. I want to go to Shakespeare and Company, the little American book store Vidalia's mother directs her to visit. This is where Vidalia meets her first friend, Julien. Julien is a likable character and I wish more would have happened between him and Vidalia. Unfortunetely, she meets her bad guy character, Marco and well, let's just say her independent nature goes out the window for awhile! In between Vidalia helps out an old friend and deals with her very needy mother. It's wasn't the great adventure I was hoping for but I do appreciate the work Sasha Watson put into her writing. I think she has what it takes and perhaps her next books will have more snap! Does anybody know if there really is a Shakespeare and Co. in Paris? I know there are in NY, but Paris? Has anybody been shopped there?
Compulsive Reader has a review.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Don't leave picture books behind, pleeease!

We are not reading as many picture books (small sob) now that J. is a member of that vast group of children who love chapter books, even though they are not really able to read them. She gets tired of reading after about 2 pages and hands the book back to me w/ a "you read the rest." But the other night we took a small break from our chapter book to read a few picture books from the library.
We love Valeri Gorbachev's new book, Turtle's Penguin Day (2008) about a young turtle who falls in love with penguins after his father reads him a bedtime book about...yes, penguins! The little turtle dreams about penguins and wakes the next morning wanting to be nothing other than a penguin. He waddles to school w/ an old black tuxedo jacket on...looking very much penguin-like. I myself have parented several children who have spent their days morphing into cats, dogs, and wolves. They have insisted on drinking water from bowls on the floor and even food from plates on the floor-yum. Watching Little Turtle "become" a turtle struck a very funny chord for us. The teacher uses Little Turtle's penguin fascination as a "teaching moment" and the whole class spends the day doing penguin-like things, like "during music time, they all danced a waddling penguin dance." Lots of fun. J. said she liked all the details in his artwork and she helped me read it. I love all of Gorbachev's books as much as Kevin Henkes' books for teaching certain ideas to children. Not too didactic because of the cool animal characters. The end includes a page of interesting penguin facts. five cool stars.
Click here to find a list of Gorbachev's other titles.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Author Joseph Bruchac

I like Joseph Bruchac...well, I like the three books of his I've read; Skeleton Man, Heart of a chief and his newest book, March toward the thunder (2008), a historical fiction novel set during the summer of 1864. The main character is Louis Nolette, an Abenaki Indian from Canada. He is 15-years-old and is recruited to join the Fighting 69th, Irish Brigade. He joins because he knows it is wrong to own another human, he likes the idea of a paycheck and perhaps also he is looking for a bit of adventure. What follows is a fictional account of the battles taking place from April to August.

What I loved about this book were the descriptions of what soldiers experienced in the Civil War. I'd always heard stories of brothers fighting brothers in battle but this book brings to life what it must have felt like to feel so close to the enemy. There is a two-page description (p. 34-35) of what it was like to load their issued ball at a time, so each time they fired they had to reload. The description of the doctor's tent is vividly real. I've read other fictional accounts of this time period; this one really helped me grasp exactly how those battles would feel. Louis tells us all about how each battle was won or lost in a remembering back sequence, which makes it easy to understand and feel how awful the battle really was. This is a great book to show what is truly lost during war.

Bruchac does a wonderful job of telling the story through Louis' eyes in this first person narrative. Louis, a quiet soldier, easily makes friends and through his relationships we see what kind of person he is and how it is that through it all he survives. He experiences racism in the midst of putting his life on the line for a country that doesn't even see him as a full citizen. I learned a great deal reading this book and now want to read Codetalker, Bruchac's book about Native Americans in WWII. Anybody interested in the Civil War, Native life or great characters will enjoy this story.
Check out Joseph Bruchac's website here.
American Indians in Children's Lit. website reviews it here.
and a great review by Brian Griggs here.

What is your favorite historical fiction book?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Recap of last 17 days-Whew!!

Wow. I expected to write many posts while on vacation. Obviously, that didn't happen!

Our drive across country was beautiful with one long stop in Ohio to visit Oberlin College for my 17-year-0ld stepdaughter, Kaylee. Beautiful campus-loved the school and spent money at the book store, of course. At this point in the trip I was reading Airhead by Meg Cabot. Interesting premise for a teen read; a smart, kinda nerdy girl swan dives into a model's body and tries to balance her old life with the new life of an over-the-top-famous star! Today's version of Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers. I received Airhead in the mail two days before we left for DC, after winning it from Lizzie @ Shelf Elf; read, write, rave. Thank you, Lizzie!!

We arrived in Sperryville, VA to visit my wonderful in-laws at their mountain retreat and by this time I was reading Jodi Picoult's, Second Glance. Tucked so peacefully away, our destination, while breath-taking, did not have cell or internet service so out of luck again to post! Second Glance has been on my to-read pile for about a year so glad I can check it off. It's a cool ghost mystery with, the usual Picoult twists. I love how she can combine so many characters and have them all tied together by the end!! I've enjoyed most of her books and while this one is not at the top of the list it is def. worth the read.
At this pt. in our trip I had to take a break from reading and spend some family time. My mother-in-law is the greatest though and we spent the rest of the time drinking wine, trading recipes, cooking together and playing board games with everybody else. J. and I took a trip through Little Washington to see the farm where they pick up their CSA vegetables. (CSA=Community Supported Agriculture) Buy Local is always our motto. The veggies were beautiful and delicious. J. discovered she loves beets on this trip!! Beets always make me think of my all-time favorite book, Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins!

For the last half of our trip we headed to Silver Spring, MD and spent time in DC where Greg grew up. We took all the kids to the Capital for the 4th of July celebration-the Sesame St. part was our favorite. We weren't really close enough to see how cute Jimmy Smits is in person but we had a great time listening to him, Barry Manilow and Aretha! We kept hoping to run into the Obama family but alas, it never happened. We did have lunch with our favorite White House intern though and that was great!!

On the way home I read Peter and the Starcatchers, which will be a 5th grade book club choice this year and I think it will be easier to read some of the selections over the summer instead of trying to keep up with the four clubs. I loved this book and can't wait to read the rest in the series!
What about you? Which Jodi Picoult novel is your favorite?