Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Forge (2010) by Laurie Halse Anderson

     Did you read Chains (2008) by Halse Anderson?
Oh, it was a good read!  I liked it because it was a serious look at the Revolutionary War through the eyes of Isabel, a slave.  What a perfect paradox: Americans fighting for their freedom from King George while enslaving Africans into intense labor. 

Good Reads Summary:

     In this compelling sequel to Chains, a National Book Award Finalist and winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson shifts perspective from Isabel to Curzon and brings to the page the tale of what it takes for runaway slaves to forge their own paths in a world of obstacles—and in the midst of the American Revolution.
   The Patriot Army was shaped and strengthened by the desperate circumstances of the Valley Forge winter. This is where Curzon the boy becomes Curzon the young man. In addition to the hardships of soldiering, he lives with the fear of discovery, for he is an escaped slave passing for free. And then there is Isabel, who is also at Valley Forge—against her will. She and Curzon have to sort out the tangled threads of their friendship while figuring out what stands between the two of them and true freedom.

My thoughts:  I have to admit at first I was a bit disappointed with the heavy focus on Curzon and all the fighting.  I missed Isabel's character and the mystery and intrigue of the first book, but as I kept reading I enjoyed learning about the Valley Forge experience. I did not know, for example, that the soldiers had to build their own cabins in the snow.  Curzon's story follows the battles closely and they end up at Valley Forge. He is constantly tormented by some of his fellow soldiers and yet, remarkably, he manages to maintain his dignity throughout. Thankfully Isabel eventually comes back into Curzon's life, demonstrating how tenous life is for both of them, rounding the story out nicely for me.
     This is a perfect book to help young people understand the horrors of war, slavery and the importance of friendship throughout adversity.  I'm now anxiously awaiting the third installment, Ashes , in Halse Anderson's Seeds of American series.

Some books I have to really search for the perfect quote to share, not so with Halse Anderson's work because every page has something worth sharing.

Random Quote: 
The last lad was John Burns.  His rude  manner declared him my enemy the first time he clapped eyes on me.  Burns had white skin that turned red when he was angry (a frequent condition), dirt-colored hair that never stayed tied back in a queue, and small eyes like a badger's that were forever seeking a way to avoid work.  He spat at my feet whenever I walked by.  He accused me of stealing my new hat.  He said the crudest kinds of things about my parents and grandparents, and he convinced the Barry brothers to join him in his foulness. (54)
Read Abby (the) Librarian"s review.
Find the author's website and blog here-Laurie Halse Anderson
Enjoy this great article (Publishers Weekly/Shelf Talker) about a school visit

I'm an IndieBound affiliate. 
Buy Forge from an IndieBound

Sunday, November 28, 2010

German Pancakes

         My sister-in-law made thee most delicious German pancakes for us while we were visiting over Thanksgiving.  My kids loved them and she said they were easy to make so I googled and found a great recipe on a blog called Adventures in the Kitchen by Cheri.  I read around a bit on her blog and found other recipes I liked so now you can find her on the right-hand side bar Food and Wine section.  Thank you Cheri-I used your recipe tonight and my children ate them all up.

     We did have a very relaxing holiday with my mom and two of my brothers (oldest and youngest) and their families.  My youngest brother and I love to cook-a skill we attibute to both our mother and grandmother.  Throughout my childhood we had Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner at my grandmother's house (over the snow and through the woods to Amity Drive we go)  and she cooked up a storm.  She used an old gas oven in the basement to keep up with the demandsof  cooking a  turkey, sweet potatoes, bread and pies for many of us. It has always been tough to get down her timing of getting everything to the table at the same time.  We did it this year though between my mother, sister-in-law, brother and myself.  Yeahhh, Grandma Bruch-we did it. And then we sat down and ate it (almost) all up.

     The holidays of my childhood will live on through this yearly celebration but I still  miss her and her cooking terribly.   My grandmother was somewhat of a health nut but she was definetely a meat and potatoes women.  She balanced it out with oatmeal every morning.  My brother and I tend to cook more vegetarian now but we did have a 13 # locally-raised (right here in Iowa) turkey so the little ones, my husband, teenager and my oldest brother's family would not miss the  big bird.   It was yummy-all of it.  Yes, I tasted a little of everything.  Even the dressing was worthy (thanks Mom).

     Okay, I digressed from German Pancakes to our holiday time but we did have such a good celebration and it was all food-related.  I didn't blog once while gone as I just enjoyed my extended family.  I hope you had a lovely holiday time as well.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Patricia Polacco's In Our Mother's House-A Celebration of Love

     Published in 2009,  this book is a perfect showcase of how any set of parents, be they male or female, gay, lesbian or straight can bring love to children.  As a teacher I see children who need and crave that exact unconditional love good parents can provide-so many children are missing out on what  joy a real family can bring.  Patricia Polocco is one of my favorite authors and I've written before how easily she can make me tear up.  This book not only makes me teary (I had to stop reading at one point and my Groovy Girl took over reading, patted my hand and said 'it's okay, mama':)  but it brings a very timely message to the table. 

     This is what the end note has to say: " Polacco has met many children with parents just like Marmee and Meema.  She saw a true need for books that celebrate these children's wonderful, yet untraditional,  families, and created this heart-warming story in their honor." 

     The book begins:  "When my mothers told me about how they brought me home to live with them shortly after I was born, their eyes would shine and glisten and they'd grin from ear to ear.  They told me how they had walked across dry hot deserts, sailed through turbulent seas, flew over tall mountains and trekked through fierce storms just to bring me home."

     I count several sets of same-sex parents as friends (is that like saying I have lots of friends who are black?) and all provide such happy, unconditional love to their children.  I wish Iowa had not ousted our judges who chose to uphold the law thus providing same-sex couples with the right to marry as U.S. citizens.  I consider this the civil rights fight of our time.  When will we see that love is just love and worthy of celebration.  This book shares the life of one couple, two mama's and the three children they raise together= a happy family and I'm glad  Patricia Polacco made the choice to write about this controversial topic.   

Find the synopsis here at Patricia's website.
Mary Ann reviews it at Great Kid Books.
and the Children's Book Guide talks about it too.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Linger by maggie stiefvater

What a beautiful cover, holding together a breath-taking story.  I read it quickly over the course of one weekend, snuggled in my bed.  Now I have to wait a long time for Forever to arrive-it will seem, well, like forever!

Good Reads Synopsis:

In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

My thoughts:

     I had no idea what Stiefvater had planned for Grace and Sam in this second installment but I hoped it wasn't just lovey stuff.  It wasn't and in fact the direction it took was so perfect because it involved Grace's parents, who were never around much in Shiver.  Her parents, in classic parental form, decide to ban Sam from her life, which doesn't work. Never does.  All of this could be quite cheesy love stuff but in Stiefvater's hands it is brilliantly written.  Extremely poetic and one chapter leads to another and another until you've devoured it all.
     The story, like Shiver, is told in alternating point-of-view between Grace, Sam, Cole and Isabelle, changing sometimes right in the middle of a chapter and this worked really well.   I despised Cole's character and fell more in love with Isabelle, making their attraction an interesting combination.  Grace and Sam weathered their storms, but not easily and I'm now quite anxious to read Forever, #3 in The Wolves of Mercy Falls.  As a former Minnesotan I can relate to the setting and think she's portrayed the cold, the seasons and the landscape so well.  If you haven't picked up this series yet-I highly recommend it, even if your not from Minnesota. 

Random Quote: " Later, I thought of the things I could have added to the list of resolutions, things I'd wanted back before I realized what being a wolf meant for my future.  Things like Write a novel and Find a band and Get a degree in obscure poetry in translation and Travel the world.  It felt indulgent and fanciful to be considering those things now after reminding myself for so long that they were impossible."  (27-Sam)

Other reviews:
See Michelle Read reviews it and has some good points.
Read Presenting Lenore's review.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

I saw it!  I loved it! 

     We went last night at 7 with teenage boy.  He sat between us so he could hold the popcorn bucket.  There were scary parts and swooning parts.  I didn't realize they were breaking it up into two parts but that was okay.  I liked the introspective flair to it-it wasn't just rushing from scene to scene although there were a few times I was like, oh, hurry up and speak.  There is one storytelling scene that blew our minds-we all agreed it was our favorite-it looked like paper cut-outs and puppetry combined.  I thought it was inspiring and really showed the acting growth of all three major players.  Luna and her father were luminescent in their secondary roles. 

     I haven't had a chance to read much about it in the blogging world yet as I alternated this weekend between relaxing to get well and working.  I was a little sad we didn't see it on Thursday night but for number 6 we did go to the midnight showing with both teenagers and well, (said sheepishly) I began to nod off at some point. [My husband says my elbow slipped off the armrest]..., really?? Even though I love Harry, Ron and Hermione it was way, way past my bedtime so this time we opted for an easier viewing time for all of us. 

post note:  I realized upon further contemplation that this is the perfect HP comparison to teenagers-the feeling is moody, troubled and tangled.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Seriously Selling Books

(My organic, buy-local hero,  Alice Waters)
      One of my dear friends is the brains behind our (now 2nd) annual Christmas Bazaar.  Last year she made me make chocolate covered pretzel sticks and cookies.  This year she asked if I would be in charge of a used book sale as part of the bazaar.  Well, that is right up my alley so it took about two seconds to say yes.
     So here I've been for the last three hours, selling books at rock-bottom prices.  We are a church filled with readers so the book selection is stellar-really!   I have a stack right next to me of excellent titles I just couldn't pass up.  Two are cookbooks:  Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Remolif Shere with a preface by Alice Waters and illustrated by Wayne Thiebaud.  I'm buying it because I trust Ms Waters so much but also because it has recipes like Nutmeg Geranium Ice Cream,  Langues De Chat and an entire chapter on just chocolate. 
     The other cookbook is a spiral-bound book called Screen Cuisine with a really silly illustration on the front.  I couldn't find an image of it and I don't have a fancy phone to snap a picture to share.  I happened to browse through it and discovered it was published by the National Film Society.  The list of recipes arefrom  a cornucopia of famous people such as  Rosemary Clooney's Viennese Goulash, Newman's Own Marinated Steak,  Carol Burnett's Fresh Peach Souffle and Dean Martin's "Dean's Chix Dish."  Wow-this is a classic. After each recipe is their "signature."  I have to buy it just for the amusement.  Only at a church bazaar could you find two such amazing recipe books.    My husband, of course, rolled his eyes at the amount of books I brought home!  You can't beat 50 cents a book. 
     This post is part of Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking.  She reviewed The Wine Trials; 2011-a fantastic book about blind taste testing a variety of wines and their rankings.  I know it is a useful book because I have the first edition-2008.  My thoughtful husband gave it to me as a birthday and I still use it.  A gift that keeps on giving!  Even though I haven't tried all the wines in my version I'd love to take a look at this newer version.  Thanks Beth Fish for a great reveiw!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Missing Chick by Valeri Gorbachev

     A few years ago while shopping at Target I lost my Groovy Girl for about 8 minutes.  I was terrified!  I think it happens frequently to mothers out shopping.  I was busy reading the label on something and she was jabbering away at me in her 5-year-old voice and I was uh-huh'ing her but my mind was elsewhere.  My son was close by looking at something else when suddenly it occurred to both of us that she was no longer there and jabbering!  Oh, how I suddenly missed her sweet voice.  We called her name and walked around in the general area but could not spot her.  When a Target employee walked by me I said "I can't find my daughter."  I could feel my chest tighten and my thoughts were going crazy. 

    That feeling is brought to life so well by Mr. Gorbachev in his picture book, The Missing Chick (2009).  Mother Hen is  hanging her laundry on the clothes line when Mrs. Duck stops by to chat.  Mother Hen says "My seven chicks are very good helpers!" Only six chicks are helping though-OH, NO!  One chick is missing and Mother Hen, her neighbors, the police and firemen all help her look.  Mrs. Duck eventually finds the missing chick in the laundry basket, asleep!  I adore Valeri Gorbachev's illustrations and this one is no exception.  Mrs. Duck looks lovely in her polka-dot hat, dress and petticoat.  Mother Hen in her apron and slippers looks so relieved when her little chick is uncovered and brought to her.  Gorbachev leaves a little surprise ending that children will love to discover because they will have to find it with their eyes. 

     Thankfully, my little chick was located just moments away as well-not sleeping but admiring accessories in the girl's section.  She clearly stated she was just looking at the pretty purses!  I felt as happy as Mother Hen did when the Target employee walked her to me.  BTW: if you say to a Target employee that your child is missing they immedietely walkie talkie the front door area and lock down the store.  I was freaked and grateful by how quickly the store responded! 

Read Planet Esme's blurb about The Missing Chick.
and Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast talks about Valeri's work.

Have you ever lost track of your own little chicks?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What Should I Make?

by Nandini Nayer
illustations by Proiti Roy

     This book was originally published in India, in English and in Hindi.  Neeraj's mother is making dough, rolling it into chapatis and hands him some dough to play with.  Neeraj is a cute boy with hair going everywhich way and he takes that dough, uses his imagination and makes all kinds of creatures. 
"Neeraj rolled th edough back and forth, back and forth, into a long rope.  At one end of the rope, he poked two tiny eyes.  The other end became a pointed tail.  'A snake!  A snake!'"

     Even though we never see all of Neeraj's mother we can tell she is dressed in a flowing green sari and with bangles at her wrists.  She has few lines in the book as well but they are playful as she encourages him to play with the dough.  I'm happy the author choose to make the main character a boy, crossing the stereotype of girl's helping mother's in the kitchen. 

     I love the heck out of this book, especially the back section, which provides directions for making chapatis.  The recipe is simple and I think we will make them some time soon.

She's Too Fond of Books loved this book as well.

     On the other end of the spectrum we read an awful picture book during storytime.  The cover is attractive but it ends there.  This book scared Groovy Girl right before sleeping.  Should I have to preview books before bedtime? No. The illustrations are like clay puppets; think Coraline in the "other world". The second disturbing thing was the text is scrawled in cursive.  She was supposed to be reading it to me but she handed it to me and said "I can't read that!"  I said but you are learning cursive...She said "Not like that."  So I read and well, we finished it but are both unhappy for it.

  The Look Book: Two siblings are bored on summer break and their mother sends them outside.  Outside they see different things, in contrast. 
One page:
"Ann saw a whole pie." 
Next page:
"Ian saw a pie hole."

farther along:
"Ian saw a car get towed."
"Ann saw a car get a toad"  (picture of blood stained road after the car has passed)
"Ian saw a bird soar overhead"
"Ann saw a bird with a sore head." ( an axe in a stump next to a chicken head, a chicken's body running in front of Ann)
After many weird and scary homonyms they return home and tell their mother they saw nothing...there I've ruined the end for everyone.   This is a perfect book for someone with a wry or slightly twisted sense of humor. Creative-Yes, Perfect storytime book-Nay!

The images and the text are disturbing and I'm not sure who made the decision to market this for children. Boo.
If It's Hip, It's Here has another take on the book.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

     I came home early from work, scratchy throat, monster headache.  Dear Daughter made me a snack of honey toast, a chocolate kiss and a glass of rasperry-flavored Emergen-C all on a tray with a note that says she loves me.  Now she is going to read to me for storytime instead of the me reading our book, Evangeline Mudd, together.  I need to sleep really well tonight so I can go back to work tomorrow.  I have Vick's Vapor Rub all over me, I've tea'd myself with Gypsy Cold Care and I made myself some onion, garlic miso soup when I first stumbled home.
I hope it is enough to scare away the cold germies!!
It is rather nice to have my children take care of me and I did finish A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce. 
 Good things abound.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ear Candling-Do You Do It?

     Years ago, while living in Denver, Colorado,  one of my dear friends candled my ears.  It was cool and felt good.  For years I've been candling my children's ears. I candled both children's ears tonight as per their request.  They ask for it when they feel stuffed up or ear waxy.  Luckily our small organic store still carries ear candles-though they come at a price.  I've heard and read lots of negative about this practice but as of yet we've never had a problem.  We only do it maybe twice a year.  My kids have never had any ear infections or even get sick that often (knock on wood) so I consider it to be just a bit of preventive medicine.  We can't get around the fact that our ears feel better afterwards.  Right now is the perfect time as we took a long road trip, the weather is changing and we are running on low energy-all factors which contribute to getting sick. 

     Have you ever had you ears candled?  Would you? 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bookclub Discussion

     Some of us started discussing our pick for November,  My Abandonment by Peter Rock even before we'd filled our plates (the food was delicious) or accepted a glass of wine from the hosts.  This is what happens when a book is well-written but controversial.  What was the author's purpose for leaving us dangling so much?  Had Caroline been kidnapped or was she this man's daughter?  After his death why does she continue to live on the fringe of society?  We tossed the questions around, snapping answers back and forth but with no real answers-we just all had our own opinions.  Some never once thought about a kidnapping scenario and one couldn't stand the father character, even though she believed he was the real father.  If she had been kidnapped, why didn't the social service agency who worked so hard to get them settled on the farm, ever come up with this evidence?  Why is Elizabeth Smart thanked in the back of the book?  I love when a book brings out so much passion!!

     If you've read this book I am interested to know your thoughts.  My idea is that Peter Rock purposely leaves us dangling and questioning their relationship.  I've searched other blog posts about the book but didn't find any further insight.  I've moved on to Elizabeth C. Bunce's A Curse Dark as Gold, which is good but thankfully, is not as thought-provoking.  

     Here is a great video of Peter Rock describing his inspiration for the story:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Abandonment

by Peter Rock

     I finished it yesterday which gave me some time to knit and start the third book I brought on our trip to Oberlin.  My new book is A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce.  I am reading it for my long distance book club and it is on my reading from my own shelves challenge, which I am wayyyy behind on.

     My Abandonment is still twisting around in my brain, which I always take to mean well-written-the characters are often still poking me.  I do think this is a literary story but I am left with questions. 

Good Reads Synopsis:

A thirteen-year-old girl and her father live in Forest Park, the enormous nature preserve in Portland,Oregon.   They inhabit an elaborate cave shelter, wash in a nearby creek, store perishables at the water's edge, use a makeshift septic system, tend a garden, even keep a library of sorts.  Once a week, they go to the city to buy groceries, attend  church, and otherwise merge with the civilized world. But one small mistake allows a backcountry jogger to discover
them, which derails their entire existence, ultimately provoking a deeper flight.

My thoughts:

     I enjoyed Caroline's narrator voice and the in-the-present-moment telling of this tale.  The father obviously has had trouble fitting back into society after his soldier experience.  He is paranoid and has taught his daughter how to stay below the radar in any given situation.  I'm torn as to whether this is really his daughter.  Rock has left it up to the reader to decide and I feel like I've fallen into a paranoid trap by thinking automatically that she has been kidnapped.  Why do we assume the worst?  It is perfectly logical that a father, having experienced war at it's worst, would lose his daughter to a foster situation but then still want her back.  When the police do pick them up they must run her picture, right?  If she truly were a kidnapped child wouldn't it show up then. 

     Beyond these questions my heart felt a deep sadness for Caroline.  She wants a friend and liked thinking about a regular life (riding a bike is a big one) she misses out on making choices for herself.   I do like how she is changing her path by the book's end but she will always be on the perimeter, always having a difficult time forming friendships and trusting.  I will recommend this book, can't wait to hear what my book club has to say about it tomorrown night and would love to know other's thoughts on whether this is her father or not??  Read it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Oberlin, Part Two

      We took a fascinating tour focused on Oberlin's history with the Underground Railroad.  Groovy Girl is sitting on a bench donated by author/poet Toni Morrison Society Bench by the Road Project.  The walking tour given by the Oberlin Historical Society was filled with good information and was made even more enjoyable by the beautiful summer-like weather.  We spent tons of time outside because it was so gorgeous but G. Girl and I did fit in some shopping while the boys went to a Yeoman vs. Allegheney Gators football game.  We had fun shoppiing for yarn, used and new books.  

One Room Ungraded School for Girls on Underground Railroad Tour

    Main St of Oberlin is a cool hot spot of chic boutiques, an old movie theatre and interesting eateries plus a large Ben Franklin with a used book store inside. Ben Franklin fun finds on one side and high shelves with so many used and new books on the other side was a little bit of shopping heaven for me and the girl.  She found a stuffed saddle horse and I found a used book to buy.  We had a great time browsing there as well as the Oberlin Book Store, the official college book seller, with an excellent children's section.  I heard author, Lynn Powell read from her new book, Framing Innocence; A Mother's Photographs, a Prosecutor's Zeal, and a Small Town's Response.   She was very interesting to listen to but we had to leave before I had a chance to buy it or have her sign it. 

Browsing at Oberlin Book Store

Friday, November 12, 2010


     Posting tonight on my continued effort to blog everyday in November I will have written 400 posts.  I'm feeling good about that-I love writing and sharing but I try not to get too crazy/obsessed about it because it is just a hobby.  But 400 posts is cool.

     Parent's Weekend has just begun and we've been to a Wine and Cheese party with a steel drum band playing away, we went to a great little diner for dinner (I had the Sunshine Salad) and we watched an improv troupe do their funny thing.  Tomorrow there are many events planned but for awhile we are just going to relax at the hotel.  No bed bugs so far.  Woo hoo!

     I am on page 98 of My Abandonment by Peter Rock, which is told from a 13-year-old's point-of-view.  It is well-written and I'm fascinated enough to keep reading along because I keep thinking there is going to be a major revelation-that and the writing is good.  I am enoying the character, Caroline but I'm not sure how I feel about her dad. I think his intentions are good but feel like his fear of the outside world is shutting out choices for Caroline.  I do enjoy how well the author can speak through a young female character.

Watch this video of Peter Rock discussing how the story, My Abandonment, came to be.

***My baking experience this morning (see yesterday's post) was great.  I was up early and my friend, Barb, and I made wheat bread, sweet bread, blueberry muffins, iced some scones and rolled some sugar cookies in pink sprinkles.  It was a really fun two hours, spent working, baking and talking. We did sit and have some Chai tea and scones before my family picked me up. What more can you hope for when spending time with long-time friends?  It was a quick but blissful visit. 

Cheers to 400 posts-even if I'm just at the party myself!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oberlin, Ohio

(The Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies)

     We're on the road again, headed to our first college Parent's Weekend for daughter, Kaylee.  Last Spring we spent time in Oberlin for a quick weekend initial visit and we loved this little town.  It has a book store, knitting store and great little restaurant within walking distance of the campus.  And the campus is beautiful and very eco-friendly.  I'm listening to the train whistle outside of Chicago, in a small town called Hobart, where one of my closest friends live. 
     Early in the morning I'm going to get up and help her make bread at her bakery, Marilyn's and by 8:00 we'll be heading to Oberlin-a mere four (or so) hours away.  I have a guest teacher doing my job tomorrow-so all day I will feel a little like I'm playing hookey!  I finished rereading  Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins on the drive and start My Abandonment by Peter Rock as I crawl between the sheets.  Happy Reading everyone!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Om Baby-Green Books Campaign


This is a bright and colorfully-done book with a small, elfin-like, one-eyed creature.  "Hi, My name is Om Baby.  I am an Om Being from a small community called Omville.  I have only one eye because I see the world and all beings as one."  Om is the Sanskrit word and symbol meaning "all that is."  The book has a beautiful fluidity to it, with each picture accompanying simple text.

Om Baby is peaceful. 
Om Baby is kind.
Om Baby believes in the power of his  mind.

I like what Horsfield was going for but I wanted more.  Even the youngest reader can understand so much more and I felt she was just touching the surface of this one-eyed beings feeling toward the earth and the world around us. 

I loved this one:
Om Baby eats his greens.

Accompanied by a picture of a green garden, growing carrots, sunflowers, radishes or beets, corn, pumpkins with a sun blazing down.  Om Baby is shown eating his greens-like arugula! 

Check out Shamet Horsfield's interesting website.  You can sign a petition for peace while you there. She has a good story to tell and as someone on the outside edge myself, I can understand her need to create a book that represents her philosophy. I hope she continues to create, pulling more peaceful ideas into a deeper story. 

This review is part of the Green Books Campaign. Click on Green Books to find the list of 200 books being reviewed by participating bloggers today. 
This review is part of the Green Books campaign. 

    Today 200 bloggers take a stand to support books printed in an eco-friendly manner by simultaneously publishing reviews of 200 books printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using eco- friendly paper, we hope to raise the awareness of book buyers and encourage everyone to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Little Piano Girl; The Story of Mary Lou Williams, Jazz Legend

Illustrated by Giselle Potter

     From the very first page you can tell this is going to be a fun book to read.  Mary is riding on a train and is clapping and singing along to the sounds she hears.  The author's don't just tell us that, they show us, "She sang the sound of its whistle, 'Chug-ga, chug-ga, chug-ga...Toot! Toot!'  The train went faster, leaving home behind.  'Clackety-clack! Clackety-clack! Clackety-clack! Mary clapped and sang softly so that Mama and her sister, Mamie, could sleep." (1) 

     There seems to be a whole new genre of biographies in fiction format, making them perfect read-alouds.  Authors Ingalls and Macdonald wrote this with such a good rhythm that the words practically POP off the page.  Everything snaps together while we learn about Mary Lou Williams and how she learned to play sitting on her mother's lap at the age of three.  The illustrations by Giselle Potter (The Boy Who Loved Words) are bold and evoke an early era. 

5/5 picnic basket rating

Monday, November 8, 2010

Three Unusual Titles are all overdue!

     The Bog Baby (2008) by Jeanne Willis and Gwen Millward.  When two young sisters go fishing in a magic pond, they find an unusual pet.  They take him home, feed him cake crumbs and sneak him into school.  But the Bog Baby started to get sick, wouldn't eat, didn't jump up and down anymore and the sisters didn't know what to do.  Guess who helps them solve the Bog Baby problem...their mom, of course.  The illustrations are gorgeous and the story line magically simple.  Click on both of their names above and  explore their beautiful websites.  Doesn't the cover just make you want to open it up!

     You? (2009)by Vladimir Radunsky; translated from dog-ese to English by my learned dog, Tsetsa.  An owner-less dog and a dog-less girl are watching the people and dogs pass by in separate areas of a park, hoping to be noticed.  Eventually the stray dog and the girl find each other.  All the dialogue is told through thought/speech bubbles and this would demonstrate point-of-view to students.   In the author note, Mr. Radunsky says, "I love dogs; big and small, with spots and without.  I love dogs with chubby cheeks.  I love dogs with long noses.  I love dogs with bushy tails or no tails at all...." 

     Palazzo Inverso (2010) by D.B. Johnson: Inside this quote resides; "I don't grow up. In me is the small child of my early days." M.C. Escher.  This book demonstrates Johnson's love of Escher's work.  Mauk's master is building a grand Palazzo and something happens to turn the building upside down.  Master blames Mauk but all he does is sharpen the pencils...Kids will love turning this book around as they discover what really happens.  One reading will easily turn into "one more time" just so everyone can understand how things got mixed up. 

     My daughter smiled and her eyes glowed as we explored each of these titles from our public library.  Isn't that what we really want for all children-a simple love of literature that makes your face light up!  Now I have to rush them to the library as they are several days overdue!!!  What picture books made you light up this week?  Me: I was overjoyed that each author featured had a brilliant website!  I love when that happens.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Me and the Pumpkin Queen

by Marlane Kennedy
181 pages

What a perfect chapter book for any season but especially fall and spring when pumpkins would be a focal point.  Mildred's dream is to grow the perfect giant pumpkin to win the Pumpkin Show.  She's been infatuated with this idea ever since her mama passed and her daddy has regaled her with stories of how much she loved walking past the giant pumpkins at the harvest festival. 

What makes this a perfect chapter book for elementary students?

1. Easy characters: 11-year-old Mildred, her father, the veterinarian; her Aunt Arlene, a bit bossy but loves Mildred; her best friend, Jacob;and  Grover Fernhart, the gruff neighbor who relctantly tells Mildred how to grow a giant pumpkin.  At one point, Mildred is forced to take a trip to visit  other relatives and meets her cousin, Amanda.  Amanda is described as girly but she turns out to have some surprises up her sleeve, making her a perfect companion for Mildred. 

2. Grief plays a small role in this story.  Mildred is not torn up with grief, she loves her father and their life.  She talks to her mother and wishes she were still around but Mildred is happy.  She does show frustration as her attempts to grow a giant pumpkin fail but she continues to try.  She doesn't give up. 

3.  Growing up/maturing is talked about as Aunt Arlene takes Mildred shopping and buys several new bras for her.  It is touched on just briefly but not in great detail. 

The opening:
I don't think I'm abnormally obsessive.  I mean, Daddy hasn't taken me to the doctor or anything to find out for sure, so I prefer to describe myself as focused.  A lot of kids my age are focused.  Like Arnie Bradford.  He is focused on basketball. Every time we drive past his house on our way to town, he is his driveway shooting baskets. Even in the middle of winter.  Then there is Gloria Mathis.  She is all the time blathering about this teenage actor she is in love with.  She cuts his picture out of magazines and plasters them all over her school notebooks.  But truth be told they are focused on the usual kinds of things that kids all over the place are focused on.  Like there are probably hundreds of thousands of fifth graders into basketball and popular actors.  It just so happens that my thoughts are consumed with something out of the ordinary.  Daddy isn't worried about me at all.  Aunt Arlene sure is.    (1-2)
It has an easy-going rhythm and the chapters are short, making it a quick read-aloud.  Howard Dill's Giant Pumpkin Seeds are just what Grover recommends to Mildred and they really exist.  Students could have a great time researching and growing their own.  Mildred, playing on the computer at her father's office, is on bigpumpkins.com-which also really exists although you have to become a member to explore.  Find author information here at Marlane's website.
Book Trailers for Readers has a cute video about this book.
My Rating:

(how do we like the rating system my techy son created for me?)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Beets, Beautiful Beets!

     Beets are a favorite root vegetable here at this house.  I know this is rare.  I have other friends, even farmer's market-type friends, who turn up their noses at the lovely beet. The beet is nice and simple.  I roast them with their skins on, olive oil drizzled, just enough so they don't stick to the Corning Ware dish.  The outer skin just rubs right off except you are trying to get it off while they are steamy hot!  Once I get them peeled I sprinkle with some sea salt and serve them piping hot. Sometimes a small dollop of sour cream adds to the eating experience.   We've been eating them frequently as they were easy to find at our last remaining markets. 

  Beets and Jitterbug Perfume go hand-in-hand.   I started rereading Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins this week for my fourth book in the 451 Challenge, which finishes up at the end of November-I'm in a bit of a book-reading crunch as I have to catch up by two books (The Everafter and A Curse Dark as Gold) for my long distance book club and have to read My Abandonment by Peter Rock for my other book club.  I hope to get all four of these books done before Thanksgiving. 

This book has been one of my favorites since I read it the first time in my early twenties.  I've read most of Tom Robbins books and his other's are good but this one takes the cake or well, the beet!   It is a love story that transcends the normal confines of time and place.  It entertwines several lives, including a few mythical characters, from New Orleans, Seattle and Paris and they all come together over perfume, immortality and beets.  Yes, beets. 

From the beginning: 
The beet is the most intense of vegetables.  The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion.  Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity.  Beets are deadly serious. 
and another three paragraphs about the wonderul characteristics of beets!
The beet is unusual for sure and Robbins' choice of this blood red veggie adds much charm as the beet is a character in this novel as much as any other. 

Are you a lover of the lusty beet?
Have you read any Tom Robbins?

This post is connected to Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads. 
Here's a great post about the nutritional value of beets at The Lunch Box Bunch.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Crafting the Page-Turner by Pamela Samuels Young

Don’t you just love reading a page-turner? As a mystery writer, I constantly strive to write books that readers have a hard time putting down. After much trial and error, I learned to write fast-paced novels by dissecting well-written, engaging books and studying how the author structured the story.
You, too, can write a page turner. Here are five tips I use that will help you keep readers turning the pages.

1. Create Characters the Reader Cares About.

To hook your readers, give them characters they can root for as well as root against. If your protagonist is an underdog with the odds against her, make sure there’s a reason for the reader to be in her corner. The same goes for your villain.. If he’s a real scoundrel, readers will want him to fail. So make sure that you build your plot so readers aren’t disappointed in the end. Your characters must be intriguing as well as believable enough that readers will relate to them and care what happens to them.

2. Conflict is Crucial!

It’s essential that you have conflict in every chapter of your novel. Conflict engages the reader and entices them to keep reading. Conflict doesn’t mean people are arguing or yelling at each other. For me, it means the presence of one force working against another. There’s a struggle or collision of interests. For example, the prosecutor wants the defendant to go to jail, but the defense attorney is determined to see that his client goes free. Every chapter must have conflict. No one wants to read a book that meanders along with a bunch of happy people.

Once you’ve set up your conflict, don’t tell it all! String the reader along. Explain that Misty has a secret in Chapter 1, but hold off on revealing the secret until later in the book. If you spill the beans too soon, you must incorporate something else to keep the suspense going. If you string the reader along to a big buildup, make sure you reward them with a bombshell that is believable and worth the wait.

3. Understand the Impact of Narration vs. Dialogue.

Generally speaking, dialogue and action (e.g., people saying or doing something) will speed up

the pacing of your novel, while extensive narration and description will slow it down. Literary fiction, which is character-driver and lauded for its poetic prose, is typically heavy on narration and description. Commercial fiction, which is plot driven, often includes more action and dialogue. Compare, for example, a James Patterson mystery like Run for Your Life (commercial fiction) versus a novel like the Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter (literary fiction). The latter is heavy on the narrative, the former has far more action and dialogue. If you feel your story is dragging, analyze the amount of narration versus dialogue and action and make the appropriate changes.

4. Hook Your Readers and Don’t Let Go.

Many readers who aren’t already familiar with an author will make a decision to buy a book after reading just the first few pages. Hence, your opening scene is your chance to grab their attention. But don’t stop there. Make sure you grab them throughout the book. You can accomplish this through conflict and suspense and by presenting engaging characters. You must end your chapters with a hook. That will make it hard for the reader to put down the book because he’s dying to know what’s going to happen next. If your protagonist narrowly escapes a tough situation, present him with another crisis. Keep your readers on the edge of their seats wondering, What’s going to happen next?

5. Record Your Book On Tape.

he last step in my writing process is to read my entire manuscript into a tape recorder and listen to it with pen in hand, ready to make any necessary changes. I often hear things that I don’t see when I’m simply reading the manuscript. I’ve discovered things like word repetitions that I missed, a lag in the pacing, and inconsistencies in my story line. After several hours of listening to my story, I’ve sometimes discovered that it takes too long to get to a pivotal events. So I go back to the drawing board.

If you’ve never listened to a book on tape, try doing so before you listen to your own book. Ask yourself if the story grips you and if not, figure out why. By the same token, if the book doesn’t grab you, analyze what the writer could have done differently to engage you. If you only follow one piece of advice from this article, please follow this tip! You will be amazed at how much you will be able to sharpen your manuscript as a result of this simple exercise.

About Pamela ~ Corporate attorney Pamela Samuels Young has always abided by the philosophy that you create the change you want to see. Fed up with never seeing women or people of color depicted as savvy, hot shot attorneys in the legal thrillers she read, Pamela decided to create her own characters. Despite the demands of a busy legal career, Pamela accomplished her ambitious goal by rising at four in the morning to write before work, dedicating her weekends to writing and even spending her vacation time glued to her laptop for ten or more hours a day. The Essence magazine bestselling author now has four fast-paced legal thrillers to show for her efforts.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Make your dreams a reality-Pamela Samuels Young Guest Post

From the desk of Pamela Samuels Young:

Today is a new day, which means you have a fresh opportunity to pursue your passion.

Have you been thinking about changing careers? Perhaps you’d like to go back to school or start your own consulting firm. Maybe being a stay-at-home mom is your dream job. Unfortunately, every time you think about taking the first step, the fear of leaving the virtual security of your current job floods your head with dozens of sound reasons why you should stay put.

Whether your dream is to write a novel, become an interior decorator or start your own catering business, you can make it happen. Here are five tips that will help you begin your journey.

1. Find Time To Plan Your Career Move

With the demands of work, family, church and community activities, you may think you don’t have a spare moment to even think about, much less pursue, your dream career. You’re wrong.
If someone had told me I could’ve published four novels in four years while still practicing law, I would’ve said, “No way.” The key is having a passion and a plan.

It won’t be easy, but you can find free time where you least expect it. The next time you’re taking a neighborhood jog or walking on the treadmill, use the time to think about possible locations for the day spa you’ve dreamed of opening or mull over the plot for that book you’ve wanted to write. Instead of listening to your favorite CD during your morning and evening commute, use the time to work on the business plan for your jewelry-making business. A Dictaphone can be a pretty handy tool in that situation. Your lunch break and the two to three hours you spend in the beauty shop can also be put to good use. With your family’s support, you might even find an evening or two to run off to your local library or a nearby Starbucks for some business-planning time. Even if it’s only an hour a week, use it.

2. Don’t Reinvent The Wheel

You may not realize it, but you have a multitude of resources all around you -- family, friends, colleagues, church members, sorority sisters, and even strangers. Don’t be afraid to request an informational interview. If you want to run a bed ‘n breakfast, call up the owners of a similar establishment in another community, invite them to lunch and tap their brain. People love to talk about themselves and many will be flattered that you want to ask them for advice. The Internet is also a valuable resource. You can enter a few key words on Google and thousands of helpful articles will appear right before your eyes. Just remember: research, research, research!

3. Join Professional Organizations

It’s a good idea to surround yourself with others who share your interests and passion. There are hundreds of professional groups whose sole function is to help their members develop their creative talents and realize their business goals. As a writer, I belong to Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America and Romance Writers of America. I rarely make many of the meetings, but when I do, I always learn something or make some contact that helps me along in my writing career. No matter what your passion is, there’s bound to be a networking group you can join.

Organizations like Minority and Women Business Owners, Women Entrepreneurs, Inc., and BizyMoms.com, just to name a few, provide information, support and networking opportunities. Find the organizations that can be most helpful to you and join them.

4. Understand That It Won’t Happen Overnight

Unfortunately, entrepreneurial ventures don’t come with the guarantee of a regular paycheck. I assumed that after releasing my first novel in 2006, Oprah would call and the rest would be history. That has yet to happen. Somehow, I’m still balancing both my legal practice and my passion: writing legal thrillers. It can sometimes be quite stressful, but each time I have a new book that hits the stores, I’m re-energized and more committed than ever about reaching my goal of becoming a full-time writer.

There will no doubt be disappointments when things don’t happen in accordance with your time schedule. But if you remain faithful and focused on your goal, it will happen.

5. Ignore The Naysayers

We all know people who believe you should find a good job, work as hard as you can for 30 years, then retire at 65 and enjoy life. For them, the thought of leaving a secure, well-paying position for the uncertainties of entrepreneurial life is unthinkable. That kind of limited thinking won’t help you realize your dream.

When I proudly tell people I hope to one day give up practicing law to become a full-time novelist, they smile and look as if they want to pat me on top of my head and say, “That’s nice. Now run along back to your briefs.”

You have to decide what you want to do and go for it. And don’t be surprised if you turn out to be your biggest obstacle. When that happens, just look your self-doubt squarely in the face and command it to go away. The same degree of preparation and persistence that helped you land your current position will also help you smoothly transition into your dream career.

So don’t just dream about pursuing your passion, make it happen!

I need to follow this sage advice and get some of my bucket list crossed off! 
Thank you Ms. Young for contributing this piece for my readers and thank you for getting up so early in the morning to write! 
Pamela Samuels Young's website

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Buying Time

by Pamela Samuels Young
414 pages
Goldman House Publishing

     I'm always stunned when I read a well-written book by an author that I've never heard.  It's  not that I think I know every good writer but the book world does seem to buzz, buzz buzz about the already famous ones, like Piccoult, Kingsolver, Scottoline and the list goes on.  I am so happy to have discovered this author
This is Pamela Samuels Young's fourth novel and I plan to backtrack and read the others because I enjoyed her writing style so much.  Young is a successful lawyer herself and began her writing career to create characters of color with real experiences as smart and interesting attorneys-something she didn't find in other thrillers. She has definetely succeeded.
     Buying Time is a sexy, fun, fully-engaging mystery focused on the viatical insurance business. Viatical insurance is when a broker swoops in and buys your life insurance policy for half the amount, giving you quick cash for a medical procedure not covered by insurance or even a family vacation before you die. Terminally ill patients are generally the focus for this business. Young's characters are as interesting as the mystery, making the book spin rapidly along.  Many of her characters are unsavory but still likeable.  Waverly Sloan is the down-on-his-luck lawyer, about to be disbarred, who "stumbles" upon the viatical business.  He quickly  moves up in this shady business and is soon under investigation as his clients are dying unexpectedly.  Angela  Evans, an Assistant U.S. attorney, leads up the team of investigators looking into Waverly Sloan.  Lawrence Erickson is chairman of a top law firm with Roland Becker as his right hand man.  Erickson is being considered for attorney general by the president of the United States and Becker needs to make sure Erickson wins the nomination.  Erickson, unfortunately, has a few problematic issues to hide and he'll do just about anything to keep them secret.  Sloan, Evans and Erickson, alternate chapters and bring a slew of family and friends into this twisted tale, creating very interesting sub-plots including Angela and her love life! 

     Angela Evans is about to marry Judge Cornell L. Waters, III, even though she's  not really feeling it.  She meets Dre, a sexy, single father, at the gym and her heart and her eyes notice what is missing from her relationship with the steady and controlling Cornell. I loved Angela's character and hope she might be featured in upcoming titles.  Young does an amazing job of writing characters who, like us, make mistakes, say the wrong thing, and make bad choices.  Most of these characters I loved even despite their poor choices but a couple of them made decisions that simply could not be forgiven.  But you'll need to read it for yourself to discern whom I found dispicable and who had more redeeming qualities. 

I leave you with a good tantalizing teaser:

     At only 130 pounds, she was no physical match for her assailants.  They easily overpowered her, forcing her back into a prone position.  As one man sat on her upper legs, strapping her left arm to her side, the other man bent her right arm at the elbow and guided her hand up toward her forehead.
     During her deepest period of her grief, Veronika had longed to join her mother.  But now that she was face-to-face with the possibility of death, she fought valiently for life.  That changed, however, the second Veronika felt something cold and hard connect with her right temple.  She stiffened as one of the men grabbed her fingers and wrapped them around the butt of a gun.  (3)

    I'm all pumped up again just rereading the passage to type the quote.  This book hooked me from the very first chapter and I thank Tracee L. Gleichner, PR specialist from Pump Up Your Book for my copy.  Not only did I enjoy this mystery but I have a new author to search for!

Buy a copy here:

Shop Indie Bookstores

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Books that make you teary...

     Story time tonight we read The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco.  I am always amazed at the stories Polacco has to tell.  She had difficulties during her childhood and she shares these stories through her books so others, young and old, can, I don't know, feel represented out there in the big world.  Each time I read some of her titles I get teary.  Betty Doll did it to me.  Thank You, Mr. Falker did it to me. Pink and Say did it to me.  Add The Junkyard Wonders to the list-Books that make me cry. 

     Polacco tells the story of the year she stayed in Michigan for school and was placed in the junk class of misfits.  Mrs. Peterson, her new teacher, is one of those amazing individuals who see her students as unique and worthwhile.The class bonds and work together to create some special hands-on projects.  Mrs. Peterson's brilliant teaching is reason enough to read the book but there's more.    If you haven't checked out Patricia Polacco's latest book I highly recommend it to all.

What books are on your tear up list? 

GTC reviews it at Books For Kids.

While I haven't had a chance to download my Halloween photos I did make this over the weekend...Watch my Skater Girl video-she is learning to spin! I should have added music-I'm a novice-and the best moment is at the end.  She is awfully cute.

Tomorrow stop back to read about Buying Time by Pamela Samuels Young.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Welcome November

I like it when I push myself to write/blog everyday so I am signed up to do just that via National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) and the question for today is What if I didn't have a to pay a mortgage or rent?

 1. Charities/Church
 2. A few big vacations (some place tropical, Scotland, NYC for a week or two) 
 3. College Funds
  4.  Retirement 

Wouldn't it be fantastic to not have that major payment every month?  Yes!  Dream On...

Upcoming Events:

Tomorrow's post will be my review of Buying Time by Pamela Samuels Young and  two guest posts she has contributed which will appear this week.  Lots of exciting events happening.  I look forward to November, sliding quietly in after the excitement of October and Halloween.  November is a month to celebrate gratitude and all things I am thankful for in my life.  What better way to do that than posting everyday.

Blessings as we turn the calendar page. 
What exciting events do you have planned for November?
Soup making is big on my list.