Friday, January 29, 2010

Kreativ Blogger Award

My very first...blogger award...I am so excited!! Thank you so much to Natalie at This Purple Crayon, which is a beautifully unique blog so I'm happy she thought of me!  Thank you Natalie!

Here's how the award works:

•Thank the person who gave this to you.
•Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
•Link the person who nominated you.
•Name seven things about yourself that no one would really know.
•Nominate seven "Kreativ Bloggers."
•Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.
•Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated   them.

I have to try to find seven different traits of mine  not listed on my list of 21, over on my left sidebar so here goes:
  1.  I stick my foot in my mouth often; (example) I went to a visitation tonight and told the family "Thank You" instead of "I am so sorry for your loss."  I'm not insensitive just tongue-twisted.
  2.  I am easy to live with-(the opposite of a high maintenance woman) or so my husband says. 
  3.  I am a vegetarian who eats locally-raised meat (odd, yes) so if I'm eating at a restaurant I will only order veggie options but in my own home I might have bacon from a local farmer's market.  My switch to part-time meat-eater came after reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Mineral plus I had several blood tests done, showing that I have a serious anemia issue.  Does this make me high-maintenance?-luckily, my family doesn't think so!!  
  4.  As a young child I had open heart surgery on my mitral valve twice...thus the wide gap between my two naturally-born children.
  5.  Both  of these sweet children were premature (3 lbs, 4 ozs, and 4 lbs, 4 ozs) yet fully developed and healthy!
  6.  I am an eternal optimist, generally happy and try to see the good in all. 
  7.  I was a bartender and worked for years in the restaurant business before I went to graduate school to get my degree in Library Science.  People are generally surprised by this.   Oh, and I have a tattoo of Winnie-the-Pooh! 

Okay, that wasn't so hard.
Here are my 7 favorite bloggers where I try to read everyday! 
Please check out  these marvelous blogs!  Happy Reading!
Thank you again to Natalie of This Purple Crayon for thinking of me!!
Now I have to stop blogging so I can watch a movie and eat popcorn with my night owl husband.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

In my mailbox

Today I came home and found two very exciting things in the mail, always wonderful when there are more fun things than bills!!  The first wrapped package was obviously a book and I was thrilled to unwrap Meg Tilly's Gemma, which I won over at Find Your Next Book Here from Jenners!!  I love winning things probably because it doesn't happen very often.  Gemma's tale circles around child abuse/molestation issues so I know it will be a tough read but interesting.  I've enjoyed Meg Tilly's odd roles as an actrees so I look forward to reading her latest creation.  Thank You to Jenners for her latest giveaway!!

My second fun piece of mail was my Vegetarian Times-one of my favorite magazines.  I used to get quite a few magazines but found, sadly, they were often the last thing I would read and I would get months behind.  I seem to easily be drawn into Veggie Times' great articles and healthy ideas.  I found some amazingly tempting recipes like:  Garlic and Kale Soup, Red Pepper-Carrot Soup, Vegetable Korma and this one which made me think of a summertime farmer's market, Roasted Vegetable Linguine with Torn Fresh Basil.  (I thought I would be able to search VT's website to add in these delicious dishes but for some reason the website isn't searchable for the magazine's recipes???  that is a glitch!)  Sorry!

I was so happy to find these delightful items in the mailbox I forgot momentarily about my earlier goof.  I lost my phone for about 25 minutes and even made a trip back to where my last meeting took place to check the parking lot, to no avail!  Luckily, (fueled by my urgent, pleaful prayers) I found it between the seats in the Volvo, when I unbuckled to go pick up my daughter.  Yeah!!!  I hate losing things-so very frustrating-so I was near-tears-thankful to find it!! 
Other important items I read today: a great blog post about AR (accelerated reading) from TeacherNinjas and an email that says I was given a blog award from Natalie at This Purple Crayon.  Thanks Natalie!  I will have to dream up seven interesting things about myself to share as well as seek out candidates for my seven choices (accepting all manner of bribes)
How about you there-how was your day??

Happy Reading!!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Flowing words bring tears

Love, Aubrey
Suzanne LaFleur

This is an amazing book and I commend LaFleur for her very first writing attempt!!  It is melodical and  free-flowing!  I loved Aubrey's character so much the very first chapter brought me to tears!  Be forewarned...the rest of the book will made you cry also because Aubrey suffers such tragedy!

Aubrey is an 11-year-old, just trying to keep it together. at home, by herself.  We gather from her thoughts why her home is empty.  Her father and younger sister, Savannah have died fairly recently and her mother, numb with grief, has taken off somewhere.   Aubrey is brave and determined to make it on her own.  When she is down to her last food items, she heads to the local grocey store to buy what she needs.  When the phone rings to much, bringing unwanted help, she stops answering the phone. 

Thankfully, the door opens one day and Gram comes walking through the door to save the day!  She's an amazing Grandma and she gave me many flashbacks of my own motherly grandmother.  She folds Aubrey into her arms and takes her back to Vermont with her.  Gram helps Aubrey begin a long-overdue healing process, using little chore lists to get her moving.  As fate would have it I lovely young family, with an 11-year-old daughter, Bridget  live next door and through their friendship and a counselor at school, Aubrey moves forward, past her grief. 
I don't want to give much away as it is full of sweet surprises but  here is one of my favorite quotes:

I listened to the rain, which was a bad idea because my stomach started feeling funny and I felt like there was oatmeal stuck in my throat.  I pulled a pillow to my chest and held it tight.  Bridget put the photos down, and put her hands in my hair, and on my back.  'It's okay,' she said.  That didn't work.  Words never helped anything.  I pressed my eyes closed and remembered that other rainy day, when words didn't help us...Daddy, why didn't you just say it a little bit louder?  Why?  Why didn't you make us all stop?'  Bridget didn't say anthing as I started to cry.  She just listened, and kept petting me.  'I'm glad youre here,' Bridget said.  I liked Bridget, but I couldn't agree.  I should have been down in my own house in Virginia, with my own family.  Then I thought I heard Bridget thinking.  Bridget was thinking, Tell me, It's okay, just tell me.  And I thought back to her, No, Bridget, I can't.  p. 77

I would have loved a next-door neighbor friend like Bridget, understanding and full of compassion.  LaFleur makes Aubrey's feelings so palpable for me and the dialogue between characters as well as Aubrey's thought process make this a treasure!  I would love to see a companion book to unfold more of  Aubrey's story as she  puts her life back together with her mother. 
Click on Suzanne LaFleur's website here.
Highly Recommended-Middle School
5/5 peaceful stars

Happy Reading!!
(p.s. this one was one of my random library picks from last week, thus counting for my brand new 2010 Support Your Local Library Challenge)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bill Bryson's The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid; A Memoir

This book has been recommended by many friends and was my book clubs third  reading choice.  I didn’t read it then because I was busy reading other stuff!  I kept putting it off…then when Bibliophile By The Sea presented the Reading off my Shelves Project; this book made my list!  After reading Dreamland by Dessen I need a change of pace.  Jenners from Find Your Next Book Here highly recommended this choice so I picked it up and read it. 
I liked it far more that I thought I would…I’m not a huge fan of memoirs.  It made me think and laugh and I really enjoyed the historical time-travel aspect of Des Moines history.  I felt transported back to the 1950’s; a serene and innocent era of our history.  
Here’s one of the many “expand my knowledge” parts:
“Often, all that was necessary to earn America’s enmity, and land yourself in a lot of trouble, was to get in the way of our economic interests.  In 1950, Guatemala elected a reformist government-"’the most democratic Guatemala ever had,’ according to the historian Howard Zinn-under Jacobo Arbenz, an educated landowner of good intentions.  Arbenz’s election was a blow for the American company United Fruit, which had run Guatemala as a private fiefdom since nineteenth century.  The company owned nearly everything of importance in the country-the ports, the railroads, the communications networks, banks, stores, and some 550,000 acres of farmland-paid little taxes, and could count confidently on the support of a string of repressive dictators.” p. 133
He proceeds to inform how United Fruit took care of Jacobo Arbenz.  I loved learning these horrible historical facts  and thought Bryson did an amazing job of researching facts about this time period.  He discussed how  the Atomic Age impacted our lives-the fall-out (in my opinion) is something we are dealing with still!!  Mixed in with all these facts are humorous stories (like the toity jar, p. 19), hysterical looks at his family life and the greater world around him.  I loved the part about his paper route as I had brothers who suffered through the paper route ordeal and having to collect money from neighbors!  Bill Bryson's website-click here.
As per Project I need to let you know where this one is going-I'm sending it to my brother in Denver, CO, who attended Drake University.  I think he will enjoy Bryson's wit as well as the history of the city.

Highly Recommended/Memoirs
4/5 stars
Happy Reading!!!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My Weekend!

I've had an eventful weekend again...

1. My new Dell Inspiron Laptop arrived and I am now writing my first post on it!
2.  Our washer/dryer purchase from last weekend fell through (back to dislike Home Depot-blech, blech)
3.  We ended up going to my first, but more expensive choice, Smitty's, the local and apparently far superior choice.
4.  Here's why:  they were upfront about delays from Maytag (backorder problems) and offered to get us a "loaner" washer while we wait for the washer to be delivered .  Yes, that is worth repeating...on Monday morning they will deliver, install a washer  (and take away old Kitchen-Aid washer) so we have one to use for the month it will take for the Maytag to be designed, made and then delivered!  There is a bit of a price difference, but hey, it is peace-of-mind that by Monday evening I will be able to do the piles and piles of laundry around my house (two weeks worth).
5. Peaceful Girl had ice skating lessons and 4-H meeting today-fun but no time to read for me.
6. I met with a local Yoga instructor to research yoga in our school idea -our wellness committee put me in charge of figuring out!
7. As I walked around rink, during skating lesson, I thought of Isometrics from reading Bill Bryson's Thunderbolt Kid-he discusses his dad's love of the 50's exercise program-it made me laugh quietly to myself.
8. The book makes me laugh and think but I'm so ready to be finished with it.
9.  Instead of reading it tonight I am heading downtown for a friend's birthday celebration.  Jazz, friends, cold beer-should be fun!
10. I love my new laptop and it is hard to leave 14-year-old will play with it while I'm gone.  I'm not giving him the password though:)

Happy Reading!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

by Sarah Dessen
This is my third finished book for 2010 and like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo it was not an easy read.  I love Dessen's writing but the topic of this one made it very difficult.

Ever since she started going out with Rogerson Biscoe, Caitlin seems to have fallen into a semiconscious dreamland where nothing is quite real.  Rogerson is different from anyone Caitlin has ever known.  He's magnetic.  He's compelling.  He's dangerous.  Being with him makes Caitlin forget about everything else-her missing sister, her withdrawn mother, her lackluster life.  But what happens when being with Rogerson becomes a larger problem than being without him?

You see, I read all that on the back when I purchased the book six months ago-I knew from that description the boyfriend, Rogerson was bad news but reading it was so powerful, so real, so right on-I was shocked and shaky at points while reading it.  I made little gurgly, grunty noises of fear for Caitlin.  It was powerful reading particularly because I had one boyfriend who had some snarky resemblence to Rogerson.

My "Rogerson" was Joey and he was gorgeous; curly, wild hair (hmm, like Rogerson), funny, sweeter-than-sweet smile, and a happy, no worries-kind-of attitude.  All good until his vivid green stripes started showing and I don't mean his environmental tendencies, either.  Then he became wicked controlling within one weekend and his severe temper reared up and out and toward me. It was completely unexpected for me-he drove a VW Bus and worked by day as a talented carpenter for heaven's sake!!   For me, this situation only lasted one weekend and then I said "see ya" to sweet Joey.  It doesn't ever really end that easy and it doesn't for Caitlin but having lived through an abusive situation I was amazed at how perfect Dessen's writing was on this topic and crushed because this wasn't going to be a love story where I could secretly love the young male character!  Statistically, I know high school young women are so vulnerable (I was a little older-out of college) and I knew, as soon as I heard Rogerson controlling her, which road we were heading down.

Intermixed with the abusive relationship are flashbacks and thoughts about Caitlin's sister, Cassandra, who  disappears with her boyfriend, Adam instead of heading off to Harvard.  This is the event which throws Caitlin into a tailspin.  I enjoyed her family story and thought it related to so many together families...nothing really wrong-more right than wrong but somehow kids don't go down the projected path. The hippie/neighbor/best friends were wonderful characters as well.  
I wish all teenage girls would read a book like this and learn the signs of someone who does not have their best interests at heart.  It hurt to read the book but I've never written anything out about Joey, so maybe the light shines through!  Sarah Dessen writes this with such vivid descriptions it makes me wonder if she too has a Joey in her past??
As part of Bibliophile By The Sea's Reading from my shelves project I am passing this on to my stepdaughter Kaylee.
Highly Recommended YA/ 4/5 peaceful stars

Happy Reading!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Some weekends are simply great!

I've had a hectic but wonderul weekend.

1. Started on Friday meeting another couple for laughter, sushi and martinis.
2. Saturday spend a record amount of money purchasing (maytag) washer/dryer set, new phone for me and #1 son, both necessary purchases due to breakage.  I don't love spending money but it felt good to get both issues accomplished.
3. Went to the library on Sunday and found good books:  Leo and the Lesser Lion by Sandra Forrester, My Life in Pink and Green by Lisa Greenwald, Wild Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff, Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur.
4. Choose to cuddle with Peaceful Girl and watch a movie instead of Golden Globes.  
5. Got up really early to watch podcast of ALA Awards announcements!  Now I have more books to read!!
6. Spent most of today (Dr. King's birthday) with my mother because her birthday is also the 15th of January so I took her to lunch.  We sat and talked for 3 hours:)
7. This evening I have book club discussion at a friend's house on The Art of Racing in the Rain.
What I have not finished is Bryson's Thunderbolt Kid or the bag off lesson planning I toted home with me from school.  Oh, well--I had lots of fun!!

Hope you have had a restful, relaxing weekend!!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by by Stieg Larsson

Lots of reviews exist about this book so I'm not going to rehash the plot.  It was my first pick for 2010 and I enjoyed it.  It kept me up reading and I plan to read the next two in the series at some point. 
The back blurb says:  "At once a murder mystery, family saga, love story, and tale of financial intrigue wrapped into one satisfying complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel."
(What the heck is an atmospheric novel, really?
 It contained all that ( I enjoyed the family saga and financial intrigue) plus two very intriguing characters, Mikael Bloomkvist and Lisbeth Salander.  I'm not a big fan of scary thrillers so this veers way, away from my normal reads but  again,  I did enjoy it.  My husband noticed my sleep issues while I was immersed in the book.  I had trouble falling asleep and woke randomly through the night. Maybe knowing that will make many of you want to read it.  Some people love getting scared and while this is a mild thriller it was enough for me. 
There is also the sexy issue-my son noticed on the back this comment-"A sexy, addictive thriller."-Glamour.  He didn't think I should be reading anything sexy or addicting!!  It does have s-e-x in it, which is generally not a huge deal but this goes to the extreme with bondage and abuse occuring.  This is the issue that really CREEPED ME OUT!!
I struggled through the several areas where this occurs.  I don't want to give much away as I know there are many out there who have not picked up this series just as I have yet to read Twilight.
It was addictive because I enjoyed those two characters but sexy, well, not for me!!  How many have read this thriller??  Have you read the whole series yet?  A friend told me the second one is the best.  Agree or Disagree?  As this was one I read from my own shelves I must tell you I passed it on to my husband...after he reads it we will pass it on to someone else.  (I'm not interested in any of my kids reading it for quite a few years.)
I'm on to something lighter-Bill Bryson's The Life and Times of Thunderbolt Kid, which is just plain funny and a unique historical trip.

Happy funny reading-

Here is the fairly interesting article for NY Times reviewer, Alex Berenson.-I like how he brings up the Swedish issue-is this a common occurence in their culture-the author made it seem so!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Toby and the Snowflakes by Julie Halpern

Some books just make sense to me and I loved this book.  It's like the meaning of life in a picture book.  Most kids don't know it when you read it to them but some kids get the bigger picture.  This is the kind of book you could use for all ages because its simple message of friendship resonates with all.
 Toby and the Snowflakes
by Julie Halpern
illustrated by Matthew Cordell
(husband and wife writing team)

Toby's best friend has moved away yesterday and he is sad.  He's left only with his friend's baseball glove.  When he goes outside (after bundling up with scarf, hat, mittens and coat) to check the mailbox one snowflake drifts by (a magical chance meeting)  The snowflake introduces himself and Toby proceeds to make some new, albeit cold friends.  A day later when the snow begins to melt and the snowflakes give Toby a simple life lesson...  "We snow, we disappear, we come back again.  It is the nature of the snowflake."  Nature of the snowflake, indeed it is the nature of all living things-the meaning of life!!

 This book is a treasure and if you have little ones still at home, go get it from the book store or the library and read it tonight while there is still snow on the ground.  Thank you to Julie and Matthew for an life-affirming picture book!!  While searching around on Cordell's website I see he has illustrated quite a few other books including Trouble Gum, another new favorite of mine.  Check out his website here and his wife, Julie Halpern's here. She is a fellow elementary librarian and they live in Chicago.  This is their first book together but I'm hoping for many more!! 

I read this all week with pre-k through 2nd grade and I could have read it to all classes and had them get something out of it.  We discussed The Main Idea of the story: friendship and why it is a fiction book: the snowflakes speak to Toby-big red flag:) I paired it with another great snow book; Snow Sounds by David A. Johnson.  I can't believe Toby was published in 2004 and it is now, let's see, 2010 but I guess the time was right!!  Great, great book!!!

Happy Reading!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix

After enjoying Haddix's new Missing series I was determined to read more of her collection.  The Shadow Children was a great series but after that I didn't pick up anything else this prolific writer had written. 

Running Out Of Time (1995) is  her first book and proved to me Haddix's early ability to craft other worlds.  In this instance, the "other" world is Clifton, Indiana, a historical village set in 1840 as a tourist attraction, except the children living there don't know their being watched.  The parents do as they signed up just because they liked the idea of living in a simplier time.   What they didn't sign up for is being lab rats in a large research experiment. 

When Jessie's mother realizes too many children have diptheria within the village she has to trust her middle daughter with the secret of the century.  Jessie learns from her mother, a nurse at one time, that the year is not 1840 but 1996 and her  mother expects her to travel outside the confines of the village, through an underground tunnel system, past guards who may kill her to find one man who might be able to save the sick children.   Jessie's journey, her confusion and delight of the world we take for granted is exciting to read.  If you are a fan of Margaret Peterson Haddix or haven't discovered her yet then begin your journey with this book.  Personally, I'm not a fan of reality tv but this book reminded me of that general idea-being watched in your world.  I'm amazed how she created this concept before reality television became such a hit!  Click here for Haddix's website.
Reading this book means I have now read 2 books for Reading from my own shelves challenge.  (cheer from massive crowd...)
I look forward to reading other Haddix books, filling in the years between her two major series titles.
Click here for my thoughts on Haddix's Found and Sent.
P.S. Since this is from Reading from my shelves challenge hosted by Diane @ Bibliophile by the Sea I must tell you how I passed this book on...happily, I put it back in my school library shelves.  I plan to book talk it to 4th and 5th grade students next week!  Yeah, it is off my shelf!!!

Happy Reading!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Teaser Tuesday-Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!                           
       My teasers: 
    "Ouch," he said, and before I could even move he reached out and touched my bandage, running a finger across it.  Then he looked up at me and said, "You okay?"     from Sarah Dessen's Dreamland, pg. 50-51
     Makes me want to find out more...:)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Civil Rights Chapter Books

I cried this morning (Sunday) in my kitchen when I finished Yankee Girl by Mary Ann Rodman.   The only one around to witness my tears as I set the book down on the counter was my 14-year-old slightly jaded son.  He saw my moment though and said "why are you crying, Mom?" to which I replied "It was a good book".  He hugged me.  [smile]
                                                            Yankee Girl

By Mary Ann Rodman
I love how powerful literature can be and this is a perfect example.  Mary Ann Rodman reconstructs her own childhood during the Civil Rights Movement in Jackson, MS.  In this recreated story Alice Ann Moxley is the main character and her father is an FBI agent.  Because of his job the family moves from Chicago to Jackson in 1964.  Alice tries hard to make friends from her first day and she can't quite get it together.  She wants to be friends with "the cheerleaders," you know, the popular, pretty girls of 6th grade but they won't have anything to do with her  'cuz she talks like a Yankee.  She does make friends with her next door neighbor, Jeb, which is fine but well, he is a boy, after all and not the close companionship she was seeking.  Through Jeb she learns the ins and out of Southern "rules" like you don't introduce yourself to the "help." Jeb repeats all these "rules" like he's talking about what he ate for lunch-it's second nature to him and he doesn't really understand why Alice doesn't just know these things too.

Two weeks before school begins Alice's family learns her school will be integrated for the first time.  Reverend Taylor's daughter, Valerie joins Alice's class and with charm and grace endures all manner of horrific taunting from her classmates .  Since the cheerleaders didn't accept her attempt at friendship, Alice figures she'll try to make friends with Valerie.  Hmm, not so easy in Mississippi, 1964. Valerie doesn't want to be friends with any white kids she plainly tells Alice. Some of the antics pulled by the cheerleader group are sick but believable if you've read any of the accounts of The Little Rock Nine at Central High in Little Rock, AR.
I loved Alice's character, even as I wanted to shake her!  Somehow every young girl goes through this terrible trial and error of friendship. The complexity of trying to be liked and included; the essential human need to be part of group overshadowed Alice's journey until she figures out what is truly important and she figures it out much earlier than many do in life. Through Alice and Valerie's fathers we experience many of the days tragedies up-close as Alice's father is called to work frequently and Reverend Taylor works alongside Dr. King.
 Highly Recommended-High Elementary-Middle School Fiction
5/5 peaceful stars

Several weeks ago I read another interesting historical fiction set in 1917 Alabama.  I read this one with my long distance friends and reading buddies (V and A-when are we going to talk about this book??).  I think the two pair well together.

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had
by Kristin Levine

Harry "Dit" Sims and Emma Walker are the unlikelist of friends.  Emma, the educated twelve-year-old daughter of Moundsville's new postmaster, is all wrong as far as Dit's concerned.  Dit was told the new postmaster would have a boy his same age, not a girl.  But the rest of the town  is more surprised by the family's color  than whether Emma's a boy or a girl.  No one said the new postmaster and his family would be black.

It's 1917, Moundville, Alabama and Dit finds friendship with Emma to be a completely new arena for him.  While I enjoyed their friendship it did not capture my attention as much as Yankee Girl.  I enjoyed Dit and Emma and liked how they grew in cultural knowledge of each other.  I just did not get as involved in their friendship as much.  I don't know what makes the difference-what it is about the story that makes you fall in love with characters??  Levine's story is well-developed but at the end when Emma's family moves back East I was left feeling empty;  life in Moundville changed only temporarily. 
Both books are wonderful and worth the read.
Highly Recommended-High Elementary-Middle School Fiction
4/5 peaceful stars
Kristin Levine's website click here.

Happy Reading!!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Magic Words

6:00 this morning I received this special announcement...Snow Day!!!  Yahooo!  I immediately crawled back in bed and tried to finish my first fiction book of 2010.  I didn't quite make it to the end-I fell back to sleep, which isn't a bad thing either!
A few months ago I recieved one of those lovely padded envelope packages we so look forward to opening.  This one came from a marketing person and held 4 books for me to look at and review.  Two of them are chapter books, Runt Farm #1 and #2 and as of yet, I have not read them.  Recently Peaceful Girl and I read through both the board book and the picture book that were included in the package.

Dear Baby; What I love about you! 
by Carol Casey and illustrated by Jason Oransky

The pages are bright and very attractive; eye-catching for the youngest book readers.  The lines are catchy and make you smile as you read. It begins: "I love the way you laugh and smile...I love your sassy baby style" accompanied by happy baby illustrations. I don't have any more tiny ones around this house but I can just picture snuggling a little one close and reading this to them.  This is a very sweet book to read with a new baby and would make an excellent baby gift, especially with the  guest sign in spot at the back of the book.
Highly Recommended for baby snuggling
                                                     5/5 peaceful stars

Scarecrow Finds a Friend
Written by Blume J. Rifken
Illustrations by Carol W. Wenzel

Scarecrow Finds a Friend is a lovely read with very unique illustrations to match.   Scarecrow is finished protecting the farmer's crops and is happy to smell the delicious smells of Thanksgiving approaching.   As he takes a little nap in the field he reminisces about the fun he had on Halloween.  He remembers Tally, the friendly witch granting him one wish; to go trick-or-treating like the farm children do.  As Scarecrow is thinking about his past fun with the witch, Tally shows up again needing a wish for herself.  Scarecrow returns the favor and helps Tally get her powers back.  Scarecrow's plan is to get the
wishbone  from the Thanksgiving turkey to help Tally.
The story is simple, seasonal and delightful to read.  I enjoyed how it used the age-old tradition of making a wish using a wishbone.  I remember the excitement over the wishbone, and even as I became  a vegetarian the wishbone still held its power.  We never even paid attention to the fact that our specific wishes didn't come true-it was just fun to pull and hear the snap.
Luckily, Tally's wish does come true and she is able to fly again.  I love the illustrations of Tally,  truly magical, adding to the special friendship theme of the story.
Highly recommended-elementary
5/5 peaceful stars

Thanks to Paula Krapf for sending me these copies. 


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2010...and I'm freezing!!

I feel like I've been playing hooky but really I've been scattered.  I lost my phone for a day (left it at church-in the nursery) and my house is freezing, which makes my fingers too numb to type-Yes, it is that cold!  I spent the weekend (except when I had to go church) hunkered down on my sofa, wrapped in a sleeping bag, watching movies or playing Jeopardy on the new PS3 game system.  What fun!!

Monday brought the first day of school, which is dreadful usually, but students were coming to the new school and that made the first day back from break very exciting and tolerable!  It is pure joy to walk into my new library!!  Classes have been going very smoothly and it is a fantastic to have seven working computers!!! 

I finished one last book in 2009 and have yet to review it.  I give it to you here:

The Blind Faith Hotel

I picked this up off the YA library shelf at random-something about the cover struck me as interesting. 

It is the story of three siblings, Nelia, Zoe, the narrator and Oliver.  Dad works on a fishing boat off the coast of Alaska and Mom is ready to find her own path, away from Dad.  She is busy packing up from their rental home, getting ready to move everybody to her family home someplace in the Midwest.  The crisis through most of the book is Zoe and Oliver missing their dad and we are never quite sure why the mom chooses to take the kids and run.  Through Zoe's memories we get a general understanding of an unstable family existence with dad missing often to chase the fish.  Zoe is mad at her mom for moving them to this tiny town where her mother has a history-this is the town where her mother grew up and Zoe doesn't want her mother to be happy away from her father.  There are a few hidden family mysteries along the way and Zoe gets in to some trouble.  She ends up working at a local prairie preserve with Hub, a grizzled old man whose own story ends up connecting him to Zoe as well.  At the preserve she also meets an intriguing, young man, Ivy, who runs wild and helps Hub out.  Through Ivy's family story Zoe learns to face her own life with clearer vision.  I did really enjoy the prairie information and thought that added a very interesting and different twist to the story.  Understanding how the grasslands are affected by urban sprawl and Zoe's newfound passion for the natural world around her did enhance her character, for me.

My thoughts: While I liked the story line and Zoe's voice was strong, I didn't fall in love with any character.  They seemed fairly wooden and since we don't find out the true issues behind her mom's choices to abandon dad until 3/4 of the way through the book-it made me wonder "why" too frequently.  Zoe's anger at her mother seems unfounded without having that good reason earlier on. 
Another review can be find by clicking here.