Sunday, February 28, 2010

Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan (2009)

Told in three voices, Claire, Jasper and Peter, try to explain the events right after September 11, 2001.  All three are teenagers living in New York City,attempting to grasp the transformation that undertakes their city. Claire is the first one to speak, taking us quickly through the first plane crash and the second.  She rushes from her class to find her younger brother, Sammy and stays there, waiting for her mom to come, praying for her mom to arrive, willing her mom not to be dead.  In Jasper's first chapter he sleeps through the entire event, then can't stop watching it on television, emotionless.  Peter is outside Tower Records, listening to music and has to walk up to Washington Square Park to see the first hole in the tower. 

This story is so emotionally-told and I love the character's David Levithan has created to carry out his thoughts.  It's deep, sad, yet ever hopeful.  Claire struggles on her own and takes walks at night, in her city trying to find answers.  Peter and Jasper struggle through their first date, and... I have to stop talking about it because you have to read it and it should be read fresh.  I am so happy to have this horrific event memorialized because it shouldn't leave our minds.  Levithan does a great job of presenting those arguments over 9/11, which divided the country.  The overabundance of flags, and  Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, are both issues Claire struggles with and she marches against the war.  I related heavily with Claire's feelings and think this should be required high school reading. 

This is the first book I've ever read that made me want to make a soundtrack to remember it by.  Before I take it back to the library I'm going to make a list of the songs Levithan uses and make a playlist.  David Levithan's website-click here.
This book is a rare gem for all.  Click there for  Rainbow List review.
Highly Recommended-YA Fiction
5/5 peaceful stars
***Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge***

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (2009)

     It's been a week since I finished Jamie Ford's debut novel and my thoughts have been languishing in my edit box.  There is something about writing a review about certain books, good books, books that I really liked that make it difficult.  I don't know why it is but I'm going to push forward and just do it! 

The story:

Henry Lee, a Chinese-American tells his story, alternating between 1942 and 1986, and his friendship with Keiko, a Japanese-American girl and the only other Asian student at his all-white school.  Keiko and Henry quickly become friends as they ward off bullies and work in the kitchen "scholarshipping" together. Henry's already rocky relationship with his father quickly deteriorates as his relationship with Keiko grows.  Mr. Lee is a strong Chinese nationalist and Henry's relationship with Keiko creates this chasm that can't be healed between son and father.

In the alternating 1986 Henry deals with the death of his wife, Ethel and his estranged relationship with his son, Marty.  In the opening pages of the book, Henry still living in Seattle, finds himself in front of the Panama Hotel as the new owner announces unearthing Japanese-American artifacts from the basement of the hotel as they begin a major remodel.  Henry's mind shifts back to Keiko and the events of 1942 when the Japanese community were taken to internment camps during WWII.

My thoughts:

 I loved the writing as the story came alive to me through Henry's eyes.  It's a story of a father's love, even if misplaced and how children often do the opposite of what is expected.  It's a story of young love and the thrill of being twinkle eyed about another human being.  It's the story of our country at the worst of times, as we allowed ourselves to become irrationally prejudiced against citizens based on their race.  I loved how Mr. Ford used Henry's relationship with Sheldon, an African-American saxophone player, to contrast the racial conflict already occuring for years in our country.  Japanese internment camps became our slave quarters of the second World War.  I enjoyed this book as much as Kathyrn Stockett's The Help.
I'm not a fan of Amazon (more of an indie fan) but while scouting around for information on Jamie Ford I came upon this great little author video.-scroll down past the purchasing part to the vid. part.
Jamie Ford's website-click here.
Highly Recommended-Adult Fiction
5/5 peaceful stars
**Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge**

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Terrible Storm by Carol Otis Hurst

   Apparently I have a fascination with snow books at the moment as we are still knee-deep and frozen  in the Midwest.  Terrible Storm relates Hurst's grandfather's experiences surrounding The Blizzard of 1888.  Both grandfathers were going about their daily business; one was chopping wood and the other delivering milk when the storm hit, they both take cover and remain snowed in for three days.  The social grandfather is stuck in a barn with several animals for company while the more solitary grandfather is stuck at the White Horse Tavern with a group of people. 

    While it isn't a thrilling tale it has a good storyteller quality to it. Eventually each grandfather makes it back to their own comfort zone by shoveling out with other townsfolk.  The illustrations are beautifully drawn and show a different era, making it a wonderful way to show students how people dressed and worked in the 1800's.  No snow blowers or cars (Grandfather Fred delivered milk in a horse-drawn wagon).  I love to read this kind of HF to students because they are so amazed by the differences and this one in particular is a quick read, making its point with little text compared to many other elementary historical fiction picture books.  I enjoyed the author's note at the beginning about her grandfathers tales.  Click here for Carol Otis Hurst's website.  This one is the perfect choice for an easy read-aloud about history or the weather.  I picked this one up from the public library and I think on my next visit I need to look for books on Spring!!  I'm picturing a beautiful book about tulips!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Snow, Snow, Snowmen

A Really Good Snowman
Daniel J. Mahoney

This is a sweetly told story from the polka-dotted snow ball endpapers to the story inside. Jack is busy building a paper airplane when he hears his little sister, Nancy clomping toward his room and Jack is not excited.He hides his paper airplane behind his back, away from her eyes.  The next pages show why Jack isn't enthused to have Nancy's help with his plane. She's messed up other projects of his but luckily, Jack remembers he needs to help his friends at the Shady Woods Snowman Contest. He distracts her by taking her with to the park.
When Jack's friends, Angie and Melden remind him the rules say only three to a team, Nancy gets pushed to build her own snowman. Everyone's having fun building their snowmen until Jack hears some older boys teasing Nancy. Jack comes to her rescue and then decides to help her instead of his friends.
Peaceful Girl and I read this moments ago for a bedtime story. Even though the characters are bears, foxes, rabbits and mice she could fully relate to Nancy's heartbreak over her brother's quick abandonment and her glory when he returns to assist her.
I've tried to explain this often to my teen-age son, the hero worship little sisters place on big brothers and he doesn't take it to heart as much as I hope. My peaceful girl said this was definetely a two-thumbs-up story and she had some interesting thoughts on the brother/sister relationship. Hits on issues of teasing, bullying, family relationships and winning.  Daniel J. Mahoney's website-click here.  After exploring his website I realize I have none of his titles on hand in my school library-I need to change that after reading this one.
Highly Recommended-Elementary
5/5 peaceful stars

Monday, February 22, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

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! You don't want to give to much away and ruin it for others.
  • Share the title & author so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
Here is my teaser:
"We don't even see it at first-we just see everyone else looking up, and then we turn to look back at what they're seeing.  The towers are burning and people are cupping their hands over their eyes and staring straight at it."  p. 7 of David Levithan's Love is the Higher Law

I've only just begin this book but love it and have a new favorite author to explore. 
What are you reading to get you through the winter??

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Reading with my girl

Peaceful Girl and I finished reading Wild Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff, the author of Eleven and Nory Ryan's Song amongst many others.   I am amazed at the variety of Giff's story- telling topics!  Her latest book is about horse racing and Brazilian immigrants.  I'm not a fan of horse racing but years ago I had a Brazilian exchange student stay with our family.   Peaceful Girl loves horses as millions of other little girls her age and beyond do!  I knew when I picked it up at the library the horse theme would transport PG and it did-we also enjoyed Lidie's story, which begins with Lidie preparing  to leaveJales, Brazil for New York to join her family.  She has been living with her aunt and uncle for 4 years, after the death of her mother and the departure of her father and brother for the United States.

Mad at her father for leaving her behind and disappointed because the men in her family see her only as the little girl she was when they left,  Lidie finds it difficult fitting in to their world.  She's wanted to be with her family so much but once in New York she feels lost:
I lay there listening to the soft clank of the radiator bringing up the heat.  But how quiet this house was.  In our kitchen in Jales, Titia Luisa would be singing as she prepared our rice and beans.  On the porch, Tio Paulo would be clucking over the news in the papers, the pages he'd drifting down the steps. And outside, Santos the dog would be barking as he chased animals he could never catch.  The only quiet one was Gato the cat, up on my bed,  staring down into my face, while Maria the canary...p. 25
  Eventually she finds her own way to communicate all her hopes for her family, even getting her dad to laugh a little.  Lidie just wants them to be together as they were in Jales-happy, talking, sharing in each other's troubles. Immigration and that outsider experience make the book more than just a horse book or a family story.  Rafael and Lidie both share how difficult it is to learn how to fit in to daily life.  Even though this was meant for an older audience-beyond a sweet seven-year-old- PG got it and it created good conversation about being a newcomer to this country.  Peaceful Girl found it difficult to imagine a world without her mom though and thought life would suck with just her dad and older brother. She enjoyed Lidie's strong spirit matched together well with her horse spirit as well.   If you have yet to read any of Giff's books she has an outstanding collection.  Click here for a list of PRG titles.
Highly Recommended
Middle Grade Fiction
4/5 peaceful stars
***Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge***

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Alabama in 1955-Separate is not equal

The $66 Summer
John Armistead

This one caught my eye while hanging around the YA section of the public library.  It was propped up with a bunch of other books for February's Black History Month. While I don't agree with a one month celebration of our combined history the book appealed to me.   I read the first chapter and thought maybe it was going to be a tough read- George's father is  a mean, drunk, racist!  I got all that from the first chapter when he wakes George up to go fishing.  They stop outside of town at a diner and their waitress acts "uppity," which causes a problem for the rest of the fishing adventure.  What I loved is that, even though George's dad points out the behaviour, George just doesn't see it or get what his father's so worked up about!  George's blind eye made the book worth reading. 

Their fishing boat overturns and once home George's mom argues with his dad and then calls her mom to complain wickedly about her husband's repeated drunkeness.  Mom bans Dad from ever taking George fishing again and Grandma shows up to support her daughter during this small crisis.  Fortunately Grandma decides to take George home with her for the summer.  She promises to pay him to work in her grocery store and he can hang out with two old friends in his spare time.  Esther and Bennett are Elizabeth's children and Elizabeth helps Grandma in the store/cafe and lives in an old cabin close by.  Elizabeth and Ms. Tilly (grandma) have been friends for years. The close relationship between Elizabeth and Ms. Tilly is exactly why George didn't get his father's earlier racial frustration.  George obviously takes after his grandmother. 

George, Esther and Bennett have fun exploring and working through the summer yet there is tone of anger and despair as they each deal with personal demons.  Esther has graduated from the 8th grade and she needs to make money for room and board if she wants to attend the black high school several towns away.  George has his father to worry about and Bennett is in a constant state of worry, working for Mr. Vorhise, another mean man who raises dogs for fighting.  Elizabeth's husband, Staple, disappeared 4 years ago and they still can't solve the mystery of his unexpected absense.  The book takes some unbelievable twists and turns, some of which I never, ever expected! 
My favorite quote from the book: 
Esther talked about little else but going back to the pines at Mr. Vorhise's pond and finding the bank robbers' money.  She wanted to know how much money they'd taken, so she went to the colored folks' library-a small, one-room brick building in town beside the colored cafe-to search back through old newspapers to find information on the robberies.  The library had newspapers dating back only to 1945.
She had  me go to the white library to see what I could find.  The librarian told me the old library burned down in 1926, and all the books and newspapers were destroyed.  Besides, she said, the Pontola County Times didn't start up until the beginning of WWII. p. 109

I love any reference to libraries while I'm reading but this one struck me because of the difference between the two libraries: not in the description but in the detail. There is a fullness to the history of the white library and the black library, in contrast, is so much less-only a one-room small brick building.   George has a librarian to discuss things with  and Esther only has a small building with no newspapers before 1945.
John Armistead's story from the back of the book is interesting as well.  He is a former pastor, teacher and was the religion editor of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.  He lives in Tupelo, MS and has a second book, Return of Gabriel, which follows Esther through the Civil Rights era.  I want to read this one as well.  I like how he showed this era-complete with the awful truth of injustice - with courtesy, grace and friendship.
Highly Recommended
middle grade-YA fiction
5/5 peaceful stars

Monday, February 15, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

 Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme,
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! (Don't share too much. 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:
She looked at him and took a deep breath. "Good, 'cause I need a favor, Henry.  A Big favor." Keiko got up, and Henry followed her down the hill a bit, behind a bench where a red Radio Flyer wagon was partially hidden.   p. 95 Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford 
What's your teaser?

Quote of the day

Someone in my school shared this great quote with me today and I thought it was worthy and I loved that she thought to bring it to me.

It is from a desk top calendar-

"These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves."
-Gilbert Highet

I did research Mr Highet a bit before posting and found he was an early educator of Scottish heritage, attended Oxford and taught for years at Columbia University.  In reading his bio information I found another intriguing quote of his:

"The chief aim of education is to show you, after you make a livelihood, how to enjoy living; and you can live longest and best and most rewardingly by attaining and preserving the happiness of learning."

I'm now a huge fan of Gilbert Highet and am always amazed at how much there is still out there to learn.  I don't remember ever learning anything about Mr. Highet before-not in college, or grad school (where i studied Education...) and there he is just another interesting person waiting to be discovered!  He has published several books on the topic of education as well. 

I'm so glad to have been introduced...
Hope you are having a marvelous Monday!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Linger contest from Maggie's blog

Linger Cover LargeIn 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.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love -- the light and the dark, the warm and the cold -- in a way you will never forget.
Comes out in stores everywhere July 20th. Pre-order here.

Enter to win an advanced review copies of LINGER, Sisters Red, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and The Replacement on Maggie's blog.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ruined by Paula Morris (2009)

What would it be like to trust a ghost? What would it be like to befriend a ghost, hanging out in the local cemetery? I actually live across the street from an old and beautiful cemetery and I can imagine it a little…I mean to say, I really have tried to imagine it, especially after I read Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.
Rebecca Brown, a native New Yorker, is forced to spend some time in New Orleans when her father takes a long-term work assignment in China. An old family friend, Aunt Claudia and her daughter, Aurelia play host to Rebecca as she begins school at Temple Mead, an all-girl, old money learning environment which caters New Orleans daughters. It's tough getting adjusted to a new school, and classmates as well as New Orleans society rules.  She's not a major player and can't figure out why anyone is concerned with her but she's new and curious-worthy.  Rebecca definetly plays by her own rules.
One night Rebecca trespasses into the cemetery across the street and spies on some of the elite students-referred to as “them” by well, all the other students. These are the same students Claudia has asked her to stay away from, which makes them somewhat more intriguing and mysterious. While hanging around the oversized tombs, Rebecca meets Lisette, a young black girl with a torn dress. Rebecca finds Lisette more interesting than her other classmates at Temple Mead and after repeated meetings she uncovers a family mystery and several hidden secrets that tangle Rebecca in as well. Mixed together with a little romance from the handsome and off-limits, Anton Grey, the story is a pleasure to read. Anton and Rebecca's porch swing kiss was a wonderful moment, exciting, then a major twist!!

My thoughts: I like a plot to make sense and this one does although there are some twists and turns that make me go “hmmm?”, why did the author choose that path…but nothing glaringly out-of-place. I loved learning about New Orleans history and it was a perfect time to read this with Mardi Gras approaching and the Saints just winning the Super Bowl. I've never been to New Orleans and this book is a reminder of how much I would love to visit this historic city.  There are many references to Katrina, which added a timely quality. I love the cover on this book but when I stared at it today I had to wonder who the girl on the front is supposed to be? Do they read the book before they pick the cover? It is definitely not Rebecca, Lisette or Helena? Add this to the many cover controversies circulating right now!

One of my favorite quotes:

“Lafayette Cemetery’s not a safe place,” her aunt told her. Unfortunetely. You should keep away.”    “Why?” Rebecca had a sudden vision of dead bodies reaching up to grab her, their stiff fingers dark with soil. p. 13

This sentence “stay out of the cemetery” reverberates for Rebecca on more than one occasion. This one was not too scary and I like friendly ghosts so it all worked.  One scene in particular took me back to Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut -all masked and bizarre Mardi Gras style-see that image still shivers me while this book did not.  Thank you, Paula Morris for making it just- the-right-amount of creepy.
Recommended-YA Fiction
4/5 peaceful stars
So what is your creepiness level??
Even though this is a library book (UNI) it won't count toward my library challenge-a friend had to check it out for me as my alma mater does not let alum check out from the Youth Collection-now there is a rule I would change if I was in charge!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Leo and the Lesser Lion
by Sandra Forrester
296 pages

This is Mary Bayliss Pettigrew's story.  It involves her whole family during the Depression.  Bayliss has an older brother, Leo and an older sister, Kathleen.  Her and Leo are like "two peas in a pod"-pulling pranks and finding all sorts of ways to get in trouble together.  Even though it's the Depression and her father, the country doctor, gets paid in potatoes the family has a good life, a happy life.  It never lasts, though and this tragedy comes in the form of a boat, given to Bayliss from Leo on her birthday.  The first part of the story deals with Leo's death and Bayliss' painful recovery.  While she misses Leo, her father takes in two orphan sisters and this second stage makes the Bayliss' story shine as she adjusts to making room for these two very different sisters.
My thoughts:  I loved Bayliss.  She was plucky and had a wonderful best friend, Annie, who always gave her good advice.  I loved the strong brother/sister relationship between Leo and Bayliss, which thankfully, we get to experience first hand not just in flashbacks.  I thought the struggle in Bayliss' heart was real and true; how difficult it would be to share your family with strangers when your heart feels broken.  I, also, thought Bayliss' father's struggle with God was candid and accurately portrayed.  My favorite character was Tommie Dora, Bayliss' grandmother, who was rough and a bit crusty but like good bread, really soft and a little sweet in the middle.  This one didn't make me sob as much as other tragedy books, which was okay and I can't explain the difference, except maybe because the sadness was mixed with an awful lot of Depression happiness! 
Here's an example of the joy: 
It couldn't have been more than two seconds later when somebody jerked the quilt off me, and then Mother was yelling in my ear, "Rise and shine, sugar! This morning is a gift." 
This morning is a gift.  I'd heard those words hundreds-maybe thousands-of times in my life.  Mother would say them on steamy summer mornings and frosty winter ones.  On any day she judged to be especially fine.  And my mother seemed to think most mornings were especially fine. (p. 43-44 Leo and the Lesser Lion, Sandra Forrester)
I guess it's because this family comes closer to each other and not apart that I didn't fall apart-I was rooting for them, too.
I checked this out from my local library so it counts for the library challenge!
Highly Recommended
Upper Elementary/Middle Grade Fiction
5/5 peaceful stars

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

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
Here's my teasers:

"What are you two?"
"Goddesses!" grinned Aurelia.
"Can I be a goddess as well?" Rebecca asked.
p. 38 of Paula Morris' Ruined, a fabulous New Orleans ghost story!

One might think I could have produced this TT a little earlier in the morning since it is a snow day here but I read this book until my eyes could no longer stay open a moment longer and so waking up was a bit difficult!!  What a problem:)  I plan on finishing the book today!!!  Yeah, for snow day even though it means we will be going to school until something like July!
Whatever your doing today...Happy Reading!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Hurrah, Library Day!

I spent a good portion of my day today (sunday) at my local library and wow, did I have a great time.  Let it be noted here though I would have left with less if I had not been with Tina-she is the Queen of knowing ALL the good new books!  I just finished Leo and the Lesser Lion by Sandra Forrester-excellent historical fiction and still need to share my thoughts about it and I just started Ruined by Paula Morris, at the urging of my friend, Angelle.  I  still have tons of books on my own shelves to keep reading so why add more to the chaos???  
Yah, you know the "pain" I'm in..."Hi, my name is Michelle and I'm a book addict..."

Here is what I brought home:

First the picture books:
Osbert in Love by E.C. Kimmel
Puffling by M. Wild
Robot Zot! by J. Scieszka/D. Shannon
Panda Kindergarten by J. Ryder
A Really Good Snowman by D.J. Mahoney
Terrible Storm by C.O. Hurst
Knitty Kitty by D.  Elliott
Red Ted and the Lost Things by M. Rosen
and Tacky Goes to Camp by H. Lester (Tacky is a family fav.-my husband has even dramatized some of Tacky for our children)Helen Lester's site.

Chapter Books to read with little girl:
Willa by Heart by C.M. Paratore
Dog by Daniel Pennac
Look Out, Jeremy Bean! by A.  Schertle-this one we started last night and reads really well!!
Piper Reed, Navy Brat by K.W. Holt

Chapter books:
The $66 Summer by John Armistead (historical fiction)
Gossip of the Starlings by Nina de Gramont
Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan (Sept. 11th events affect 3 teens)
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford 
The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech (love Sharon Creech)
Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin (great cover art)

Let it snow, let it snow so I can have a reading day...
Now I have a little mix of everything to keep me and little girl happy!
Going to the library to let our little ones play together and getting a chai tea are just perfect rituals for any given Sunday.
Happy Reading!!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Reading Ritual

After last night's post about the lack of picture books at our before bed storytime, my peaceful girl showed me  just how 21st Century she is using this cool tool,  Screen Actor's Guild site, which  streams videos of SAG members reading favorite picture books.  We listened to Guji GujiThe Night I Followed my Dog and My Rotten Red-Headed Older Brother by Patricia Polacco.  It wasn't exactly the cuddly time (the videos did not stream well on my new computer?) I was longing for but she loved sharing it with me.

After psycho-analyzing myself I realized I'm just remorseful over the facts; she is growing up!  Soon our bedtime reading ritual will be a thing of the past and it makes me sad.  She's my last baby and I'm not ready for this major change.  Luckily, I think we still have a few years left before she dumps me but I will have to be prepared for the inevitable "I'm just reading this chapter book on my own, mom."  It happened with her two older siblings as well.  The three of us read together, taking over the living room sofa.  The last book we read was Summerland by Michael Chabon.  Oh, that was a great summer!! 

I'm glad my girl was able to share her new way of looking at/reading picture books.  I didn't bother to mention that I have this site on my school blog and have used it with classes-I didn't want to spoil her excitement to share.  What other sites are out there like this and do they always stream slow??

In the meantime I've mentally promised to enjoy all the storytimes I have left with her and to make them as exciting as I once did-reading under the covers, flashlights, etc. and I guess I will have to be on the lookout for thrilling picture books, websites and beginning chapter books to keep her interested. 

I miss picture books!!

My little peaceful girl has moved herself away from reading picture books and into early chapter books.  As a parent I'm happy her reading goals have expanded but sad that our nightly reading ritual does not include a pile of picture books!!
We did just finish this great little chapter book, Ava Tree and the Wishes Three by Jeanne Betancourt, illustrated by Angela Dominguez.  Ava lives with her older brother, Jack and a pet rabbit, Tibbar.  As per Annie or Oliver Twist, Ava's parents have died and she is left with just Jack.  Jack is old enough to act as Ava's parent and he loves the alphabet ("Happy B-day, A," Jack said)!  The language in the book made it such an entertaining read-aloud!

In the first section Ava and Jack are preparing for Ava's Backward, Upside-Down, Inside-Out Birthday Party. While cleaning up, Ava makes a wish about her rabbit and it comes true, then she makes a second wish about her best friend,  Priscilla Purhfect. Young readers will love dreaming up their three wishes!  All my little one could think about was what she would wish for...oh, if only she could tap her foot just the same way as Ava!! 
We nabbed this book off our public library shelf and I've now ordered it for my school library as well.  My wish would be for more Ava Tree books, if your listening J.B. and A.D.
Highly Recommend-Elementary Fiction
4/5 peaceful stars

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass

11 Years Ago-Willow Falls Birthing Center
The oddest thing about Angelina D'Angelo was that no one could remember a time when she didn't live in Willow Falls.  The oldest man in town, Bucky Whitehead, swears Angelina was an old lady when HE was a boy.  But when questioned, Angelina just smiled.  The person asking would get so distracted by watching the duck-shaped birthmark wiggle on her cheek, they would forget their question altogether. 
Rereading that first paragraph  made me rethink how we meet these two odd and interesting characters over again.  This is a fun story which begins with a mysterious encounter between Angelina and two sets of parents at the Willow Falls Birthing Center.  Two babies, Leo and Amanda, born on the same day fall under an enchantment given to their great-great grandfathers, bickering men, who owned adjoining apple orchards.  Amanda and Leo have celebrated every birthday together since the very first and have a comfortable and close relationship until Amanda overhears Leo say mean things at their 10th birthday.  Amanda storms out and the two do not speak for a year. 
Interesting that I should finish this book today because what happens to Amanda and Leo is they keep reliving their 11th birthday until they get it right...12 days later.  This little twist will delight students and create all kinds of great classroom conversation if used as a read-aloud.   They are witness to how their actions affect many around them and learn slowly how to patch it back together as well as how important it is to stay true to yourself.  I loved it when Amanda decides to head to band try-outs instead of the gymnastics audition she keeps flubbing. Of course, it reminded me of the great and wonderful, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray-where he is forced to relive this day over and over!!
This is a very easy read, great for the intended audience and should lend itself to easy discussion. 

Highly Recommended
Elementary Fiction
4/5 peaceful stars

***Sadly, I had this book in my book bag and somehow on the way home from work, in the back seat of my car, my water bottle leaked its remaining 1/3 all over four books, including this one.  While I made dinner for my children this evening I used the microwave to slowly eek the water out of the pages and the is not back to normal but it isn't fat and crinkly either!!!   
Minor damp spot in an otherwise beautiful Feb. 2nd!
Happy Reading...
This one has been on my mental to-read list, since I found out Mass will be coming here to speak with students for our annual Cedar Valley Youth Reads.

TT and Happy Groundhog's Day!!

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!
Here's my two:
"Leaning back in the chair, I tilt my face to the sun until I feel its warmth spread across my cheeks.  I could get used to this." p. 81 from Wendy Mass', 11 Birthdays.
Speaking of Wendy Mass, she will be heading here for a week long program sponsored by our joint public libraries!!  I'm so excited and this is an adorable book.  I'm almost finished! 
What are you reading today?
Think Spring today...right now, here it is snow, snow, snowing...but
I still hope the P.P. will NOT see his shadow!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

My Life in Pink and Green by Lisa Greenwald

This book resonates with the idea that young people will be the ones to change the world!!

 Lucy, a twelve-year-old, helps out at the family pharmacy.  Her mother and grandmother are constantly at each other over bills and whether or not the pharmacy and their family home are going to survive.  Lucy's mom loves causes and the grandmother loves the pharmacy but neither one can see anyway to save it.  Lucy, on the other hand, is brimming with fabulous ideas.  She knows her products and one afternoon she helps an older student with a really bad hair plan gone wrong.  Soon others are coming to Lucy for advise and beauty tips.  Through an afterschool Earth Club she locates a Going Green Grant from the mayor.  All she has to do is figure out a way to tweak the pharmacy's business to fit it into a green plan.  Lucy's older sister, Claudia, a first-year college student at Northwestern, helps her fill out the grant information.   This is such a great idea for a story with so many important themes running through (green businesses, eco-friendly products, as well as what can happen when bills are a struggle, girl power) to make the book timely and relevant.  Lucy's friend Sunny is a great addition as a multi-cultural character who suffers from her very first boy crush-Lucy gives her wonderful advise here as well.  Lucy is all about being yourself and she passes this message out very well.

That said it wasn't my favorite read so far this year.  I loved Lucy-she was a great character but her mom and grandmother fell short for me.  They were slightly wooden and spent way, way too much time in the back room of the pharmacy.  There were also the little inconsistencies like when I'm broke I can't go out for pizza (they do)  and even though they are broke, Claudia, the older sister, heads to a third-world country to help out on a Spring Break trip.  Usually college trips are only partially funded by the university and it seemed an odd choice because of their financial crisis.  It would have made more sense for me if they would have just made mention that Claudia wanted to come home to help but couldn't because of flight prices or homework.  It was far-reaching for me to keep hearing allusions to expensive things when in the next chapter their power goes out because the bill hasn't been paid. 
 My thoughts are that a younger audience is not going to pay any attention to that-they are going to see Lucy as an energetic, smart character, with great life tips and not worry about these minute inconsistencies.  Even though I saw this listed as a YA title on Titlewave and in my local library I really think a younger girl audience would read it. 
Highly Recommended
Middle Grade Fiction
4/5 peaceful stars

YA Books Central-good review-a 10-year-olds review!!!
Laura Mercier's website-Lucy idolizes her and hopes to be as successful as her one day!!
This one I picked up at the public library, counting for J. Kaye's