Sunday, May 29, 2011

Library Loot

I had a lovely weekend cooking idea all about my attempt to bring less packaging into our home. The project is actually going quite well and I had photos to share but I cannot find our camera anywhere in the house!?! While I attempt to think back, back, backwards in my brain until the last moment I remember touching the tiny camera bag that post will just have to wait. We are a one camera family and my phone does take pictures but that is where they stay...on my phone...because I don't have a connecting cable.

Instead we have Library Loot as we did make it to the library yesterday with Groovy Girl in tow and we found lots of amazing books and DVDs. 

Sister's Gimm Books #'s 3 and 4.  We read 1, 2 and up to Chapter 5 of 3 but had to return it to her school library but they cut us off  and she had to return it on Friday.  (of course I get this as I'm a school librarian as well but it still felt a little like getting a book ripped out of my hands)   Have you read this series yet?  I tried a few years back and didn't get into it on my own but reading it with her has made all the difference.

Newsgirl by Liza Ketchum. (2009) This one's been getting a lot of press but I was drawn to it just from reading the flap.  My dad was a newspaper man and I love historical fiction making this a great combination.  Sadly, this morning while updating my status on Goodreads I read quite a few ho-hum reviews on this title.  How much do other reviews influence your take on a book?  I can't say for sure but I feel a little less excitement over this book. I'll forge ahead and form my own opinion.

Groovy Girl's picks from the "NEW" shelf in the library:

Welcome to Italy by Mary Berendes. (2008)
Welcome to Russia by Elma Schemenauer (2008).

Brava, Mimi! by Helga Bansch (2010)

Hide and Squeak by Heather Vogel Frederick. (2011)

Dotty by Erica S. Pearl (2010)
Everything but the Horse by Holly Hobbie(2010)

I can easily do a personality profile on Groovy Girl just by her library picks!  What do you think?  A girl who loves travel, learning, animals and bright covers!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Feature; A Book Lover's inventory!

Okay, truth be told, I don't love all inventory but I do love beep, beep, beeping my way through the fiction books.  It is much more than just a book count; it is review of what I have, what's been popular and not-so-popular.  While I'm doing this inventory I've been compiling a summer reading list with a notebook tucked next to my computer. 

As you might imagine it is slow-going but oh, so much fun!  I've been busted several times sitting on my step stool immersed in a book.  Even my trusted assistant, Janice, jokingly said "hey, no reading during inventory!"  I can't help it, going through the fiction section makes me reminisce about the books I've read, popular books with students this year, books I want to recommend to specific teachers and sadly, good books that don't fly off the shelves. 

I found these books irrisistible and had a difficult time setting them back on the shelf to continue with inventory.  I expect to go back to them very soon and may take a couple home tonight.

Treasures unearthed as I've done inventory.  Click on the title for a synopsis.

1. On the Run by Gordon Korman (I was roped in instantly to the Falconers troubles)
2. Silent to the Bone by e.l. Konigsburg (same here with what happened to the baby)
3. Iqbal by Francesco D'Adamo (made me think of The Breadwinner)
4. The Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz (baseball)
5. Stumptown Kid by Carol Gorman (baseball)
6. Over the River by Sharelle Byars Moranville (loved The Snows)
7. Roxie and the Hooligan by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (bullies)
8. Poison Ivy by Amy Goldman Koss (bullies)
Here's a quote I found inside Baby by Patricia MacLachlan:
I wondered what she would do when Lalo went off-island to high school.  Maybe she would wither away among all the books with all the words in them until no one could ever find her again unless they opened a book. (17)
What was I doing on page 17 of Baby, you could ask?  I'm pretty sure I've read it so I flipped through to read a page or two and no kidding, flipped right to that quote!  Perfect for me.  Inventory is a blast!

Have you read any of the above books?  Would you recommend any of them?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

River House; A Memoir by Sarahlee Lawrence

I picked this book up from the public library a few weeks ago and enjoyed reading Sarahlee's story. At the start Sarahlee is in Peru preparing to raft a river with her friend Marco.  She's always enjoyed the water, taking after her father in this regard, although his first love is the ocean.  Sarahlee applied for and received a grant right out of college allowing her to travel for a year to a variety of different rivers and she loves it but as she is running the rivers she begins to miss home.  She gets a letter from her dad that a family friend, Geraldine, has died and her dad is saving her woodstove for the time when Sarahlee builds her own home.  She also reads Ralph Waldo Emerson's Waldo as she is traveling, which creates a longing for land as well. 

Her river images and her athleticism at manning the boats is an incredible part of her story but eventually she winds her way to Oregon and talks her dad into building a log home with her.  There is a lot of family history to understand; how her mother has always lived in this part of Central Oregon and is passionate about horses, how her father grew up on the beaches of California, surfing day in and day out and how all three of them are hearty, strong and determined. 

It is always difficult to move home after flying free for a few years of college but Sarahlee comes happily home, moves back into her old room and begins 12-15 hour work days, helping her dad with ranch chores and then planning, laying the groundwork and building her log home.  It's exhausting and at times they struggle with all they try to juggle as a family.   She finds out a few personal things about her father and how he has and continues to struggle with daily life on the ranch. Their relationship as a family was interesting but I prefered the interactions between her and her mother.  Her mother was low-key and calm; not filled with such frenetic energy. 

I was drawn to this memoir because of the father/daughter relationship and Sarahlee and her father's ties are strong but volatile, and eventually they learn to accept what is good about the other but it is a long journey together.  I  liked that Sarahlee strived to be intuned to nature, thinking about the placement of her home and how she cared about the earth around her.  What bogged me down was all the log cabin building lingo...I'm not a builder and I understand about as much as how Lincoln Logs notch together.  It was interesting but I found myself skimming some of the paragraphs about the house going up and the logs notching together just so.  I did fully understand how complicated and delicate of an operation it was. 

Checking out her website I discovered that she's begun an organic vegetable farm and I would love to read more about this  project.  I've already recommended this book to several very outdoorsy friends and family as well as to other members of my Good Spirits Book Club.  Be forewarned; the book contains swearing and a lot of references to her father's pot smoking and drinking habits. 

Find the author here -Sarahlee Lawrence.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Highlights of the week.

Weekend Cooking is a weekly meme hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  Anyone with a food-related post can play along.  Click to her blog and read about Man with a Pan.

I made several great recipes this week, amid the chaos of going in many different directions, that I'd like to share.  I have three categories: 

Adult Favorite:  Pearl Couscous Gratin with Goat Cheese and Spinach. This was so refreshing and light.  My husband and I loved it plus I shared it with a friend at work and she ate it cold right out of the container-she liked it so much!  It was easy to make and I'd never toasted couscous first.  I write in my cookbooks and this one I starred.  Loved the flavor combination of lemon, goat cheese, and fresh spinach.

Kid Favorite:  Micah's Mac and Cheese.  This was a huge hit which is saying a lot as my kids like one type of mac and after box of Annie's.   For years I've only had Annie's in my cupboard which has been okay except for the children who chose to spend time with my children over the years!  When that bowl of mac and cheese arrives in front of them and it is not bright orange, they are truly confused and more than a little disappointed.  This mac and cheese is pleasantly creamy, white and flavorful.  Husband and I added more freshly ground pepper on ours.

Best Hot-Hot Bites:  I also made these Rachel Ray baked poppers tonight.  A friend made them, said they were good and passed on the recipe.  I followed the directions to a T except for that one important line that said to scrape the seeds out using a spoon...I used my hands!  I've done it before but then again I have never scraped 12 JALAPENOS @ one time!!!!  Note to self...use the spoon next time. The poppers though were cheesy yummy spicy bites.   I burn myself frequently and I found the solution by tweeting about my pain.  @joellewrites told me to make a paste out of cayenne and water and apply it to my hand.  It worked.  Really.  It. Worked.  This was the very first Rachel Ray recipe I've ever made and I liked it.  I've never been a big fan because I like making things from ingredients not boxes.  This one, other than my hand burns, was a winner.  And the burns, of course, are my own dang fault. 

And last but not least I set a food-related goal for my summer.   A free summer is one of the MAJOR reasons I was drawn to teaching because I love love to spend all that quiet time with my children.(At least I used to feel that way until peaceful boy became  teenage cranky)  Standing in my kitchen at the end of a long teaching day and wondering what in the dickens to cook is one of my least favorite feelings. Summertime is the perfect time to implement menu planning so we can all get adjusted-the kids will have two days to plan as well.  I found these  fabulous menu plans at The Sister's Cafe blog...through Mel and the Boys.  If you haven't stopped by their foodie family blog-you must give it a try.

Happy Eating and Reading this rainy Saturday.  We're eating our cereal, watching the 1st Harry Potter.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hey, It's Franklin...

I just got this great little email announcing Franklin's debut into the ebook market.  I love Franklin just like I love Arthur.  I read and show Franklin DVD's in the library and sadly, many students are unfamiliar with this wonderful character.  This video clip shows author, Paulette Bourgeois and illustrator, Brenda Clark talking about their collaboration process.
Franklin, truly a 21st Century learning icon, can now be found on twitter. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review: I'll Be There

(Beautiful new cover-My copy is brown paper)

Holly Goldberg Sloan
(May, 2011)
Goodreads Summary:

Raised by an unstable father who keeps the family constantly on the move, Sam Border hasn't been in a classroom since the second grade. He's always been the rock for his younger brother Riddle, who stopped speaking long ago and instead makes sense of the world through his strange and intricate drawings. It's said that the two boys speak with one voice--and that voice is Sam's.

Then, Sam meets Emily Bell, and everything changes. The two share an immediate and intense attraction, and soon Sam and Riddle find themselves welcomed into the Bell's home. Faced with normalcy for the first time, they know it's too good to last.

Told from multiple perspectives, Holly Goldberg Sloan's debut novel offers readers fresh voices and a gripping story, with vivid glimpses into the lives of many unique characters. Beautifully written and emotionally profound, I'll Be There is a story about connections both big and small, and deftly explores the many ways that our lives are woven together.

My Thoughts:

I loved this book.  It was emotional and thrilling roller coaster.  Sam's family situation made me angry and I'm always amazing when remarkable children are born out of such chaos.  I've met my share of neglected children and I simply want to bring them home.  I did once as a teacher in Arkansas.

 It's too long of a tale to tell fully but Anton's mother wasn't home often and kids made fun of him for his body odor.  I had a rapport with him and his 5th grade teacher was a close friend of mine so I asked him one day if he would consider spending the weekend with my family.  He readily said yes and wanted to know if it could be the very next weekend.  I made arrangements and Friday after school took him across the street to the public housing apartment he lived in with several brothers and his mother. 

Nobody was home which gave me the opportunity to look around.  No shower curtain, no soap, no food in the cupboards, but the tv and a gas burner were both on.  In his room three cardboard boxes were on the floor for each brother's storage and three mattresses with no sheets just a few blankets were scattered on the floor.  It was shocking for my middle-class eyes.  I thought I'd seen poverty but not like that. 

My experience with Anton helped me understand other students' living situations, which has made me a more empathetic teacher.  I could relate to Debbie Bell's need to take care of the intricate Riddle (mostly) and Sam.  I would have done the same.  It amazed me the first time I took Anton into the grocery store (an experience we take for granted, even if we can't buy all we would like) and seeing his joy and confusion all mixed together.  He'd never been to an actual grocery store,  had only ever shopped at convenience stores. 

Debbie Bell experienced this same awe as she gets to know Sam and Riddle and how parts of life are a surprise to them; simple things like cooking in the kitchen.  Even though both boys really need help they are getting by with Sam's ability to understand and care for Riddle.   Mrs Bell, Emily's

Making a connection to a person can be the scariest thing that ever happens to you.
Sam knew that now.
He'd walked around coiled rattlesnakes.  He'd jumped off a train trestle to avoid an oncoming train.  He'd lain in bed shivering at night with infection and no penicillin.  He'd been pulled out to sea by the current when he couldn't swim.  He dodged the flying fist of his father.  Many, many times.
But this scared him more.
This scared him so much that he couldn't face her again.
He'd come home that night, and things had not gone well. Clarence was hearing voices and when he discovered Riddle by himself, the voices got louder.  Where the hell had Sam gone?  (70-ARC version)
The quote sounds confusing as the characters think back and forth, making the reader focus on the each particular character.  Once you get the hang of reading this stream-of-consciencness it makes the story go fast, just like real life.

Sloan's amazing job of  juxtaposing the "normal" Bell family against the craziness of Clarence Border is well done and she takes it a step further by adding Bobby,  another interesting character with his own bumbling moral code.  He has a major crush on Emily  and wants to "save" her from Sam.  Bobby's interwoven and often humorous tale is just another battle for Emily and Sam to face, even though Sam's family life would be enough for any young couple to handle. 

Maybe I connected to Sloan's story  because of my previous experiences but I truly enjoyed reading this book. It  has many surprising twists of which I plan to reveal none of here-suffice it to say it is a very unconventional tale of love, hope and family.     

ARC received from publisher, Little, Brown and Company,  but in no way influenced how I felt about the book.  A HUGE thank you!

I love searching out other posts about the book once I am finished writing my review.  After reading through this post at Flippin' Fabulous I had to smile as she and I share a few similar thoughts (hers is better, of course) and I'm choosing to leave mine as is.  This book does deserve to be read again!

Britta at I Like These Books.
Forever Young Adult. (love that she wants to adopt sweet Riddle)
and Ten Cent Notes.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Feature; Using our Imaginations with Peter H. Reynolds

Author/Illustrator/Creative Inspiration Peter H. Reynolds
This week has been a crazy week at our house.  I haven't made a real dinner all week except for Wednesday (organic burgers and butterfly pasta), which we ate on the fly, heading to a dramatic production of my husband's.  Otherwise we have had a mix of soccer, track and other school events.  Blogging (obviously) has taken a back seat but I've had a fun week at school so I have to share.

At the end of every school year I spend time talking about imagination, trying to get kids pumped up to use theirs during summer break.  I started off the conversation with "What are good, fun things to do in the summer?" Sure enough the first little one to raise his hand answered "play all my video games."  as if he was planted in my pint-sized audience.  I dramatically *gasped*, made my face look like this .  We then talked about staring at the television and video games and went on to share good things to do in the summer, like play outside.

One of the points I make is that it's okay to do those things in small doses just as it is okay to play on the computer every once in awhile. the trick is to make it worthwhile-by playing thinking games or imaginative games.  This week I paired a set of playful books with the author's website to demonstrate imagination.

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds (2003).  Vashti sits in her art class with a blank piece of paper; she can't think of anything to draw.  Her art teacher inpires her to just make a mark on the paper and then asks her to sign it.  When Vashti arrives in art the next week she is thrilled to find her marked and signed paper, framed, and hanging by the teacher's desk.  Vashti then goes on to make even better dots and eventually pays it forward by helping another young boy to make his mark.  This small book packs a huge creative message. 

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds (2004).  Similar artistic message here with an added dose of stick-with-it-ness.  Ramon loves to draw until his older brother, Leon, laughs at him.  Ramon is frustrated because, while he loves to draw, what he draws does not turn out perfect.  His little sister, Marisol, teaches him that sometimes they look enough "like" the object and that is good enough.  This one does take a lengthy discussion about what "ish" means for students to get it; otherwise they think of "ish" as being closer to "ick", which is not the message you want them to walk understand. 

The coup d'etat after the books is to share Reynolds' mastermind FableVision Place with students; although I "force" them to play the art game first then go to the other buildings.  Invariably they all end up at the arcade and isn't that what summer's all about!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bitter End

(May, 2011)
354 pages

Goodreads Summary:

When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole, a handsome, funny, sports star who adores her, she can't believe she's finally found her soul mate-someone who truly understands her and loves her for who she really is.

At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her best friends, Zack and Bethany, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all of her time with another boy? But as the months pass, Alex can no longer ignore Cole's small put-downs, pinches, or increasingly violent threats. As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose "love" she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose - between her "true love" and herself.

My Thoughts:

The story is very honestly told from Alex's point-of-view as she experiences the overwhelmingly  new feelings of falling in love.  I was drawn into the story because I liked Alex's character-she's thoughtful, she's a poet, she's nice to her friends and a hard-worker and I felt terrible as she got pulled further into this destructive relationship, which ultimately alters her original redeeming qualities. 

Even though I knew from the blurb that this was about an abusive relationship it still took me by surprise, which is how it happens in real life. (I know a little from personal experience-it is never pretty and they never get better. ) Alex is very excited when Cole notices her, asks to read her poetry and flirts with her.  The middle of the story is filled with her anxiousness and I cheered when she started listening to others. Her family annoyed me, especially her dad, because they weren't paying attention. Her dad has had his head buried since mom took off years earlier.  Georgia, Alex's boss at The Bread Bowl, is the one who seems to understand on a deeper level what Alex is experiencing.  Her friends want to help, try to help but keep losing out in the conversation.  It becomes an "us" or "him" game that has no good ending. 
I'll admit it.   I cried. I cried. I cried.

It's very well-written and the author's end note sums up just how she knows so much about abusive relationships...and it isn't how you think but it gave the book even more credence. 

If you have the chance, take time to read Jennifer Brown's Bitter End, it is worth it! 

Read Janssen's review of Hate List -makes me want to read it, even though it will be emotional as well. 

I received my advanced reader's copy from the publisher, Little, Brown and Company,  but this did not reflect in anyway on my review.  I truly loved it and finished it in two days because I couldn't put it down.  I look forward to other books by this new author.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Found this while blog surfing...Kyran Pittman's Mother's Day video-the message is perfect.

My Mother's Day started with breakfast in bed made by Groovy Girl.  She had a banana, a piece of toast from homemade bread, a glass of real grape juice and a package of good chocolates (oh, yes!) on a tray.  After we snuggled and ate together we got dolled up for church.  At church we celebrated Teenage Boy's (and 6 other youth's) confirmation.  He made it through both his readings and the passage he had to have memorized.  He did great and the whole ceremony was very personal.

Afterwards we had a Mexican lunch in a local park.  It was wonderful to have the sun shining so brightly.  The wind was whipping but the sun was warm.  We also stopped by a garden shop to pick up some plants for our huge pots at the front of the house.  Spring is really here!

The best part of the day happened while my husband and I were ripping out carpet (a huge undertaking for Spring), when Teenage Boy and Groovy Girl walked to his school to play basketball, leaving us a little quiet time to work and talk on our own.  Our kids are always around (a positive and a negative) and I miss that intimate time of conversing with him and we made good use of the time.  We (even) got a huge strip of carpet pulled up from the front entrance through the living room.  When the kids got home we shared some chocolate cake I made yesterday for Teenage Boy's big day.

I hope everyone's day was peaceful and relaxing. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Weekend Cooking; I'm not actually cooking ...but stop by anyway!

I haven't cooked it yet but in a moment of relaxing after school I found this recipe while paging through my new Vegetarian Times magazine.  I'm plan to cook it; maybe just not this weekend.  My plan is to put my feet up  a lot this weekend.  Starting now.

Potato and Cauliflower Burrito

1 15-oz can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, drained
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tsp. canola oil
1 small onion, halved and sliced (1 cup)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
3 cups small cauliflower florets
1 medium Yukon Gold or russet potato (6 ozs), cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3 T. chopped cilantro
4 8-inch flour or whole-wheat tortillas, warmed
1 cup cooked brown rice, warmed
1 cup grated vegan Monteray Jack cheese

1. Pulse tomatoes, chipotle chile, and garlic in food processor until coarse puree forms.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and oregano; saute 2 minutes.  Stir in cauliflower, potato, and tomato mixture, and season with salt and pepper, if desired.  Cover, and simmer 10 minutes.  Uncover, and simmer 5 more minutes, or until cauliflower and potato are tender.  Stir in cilantro.

3. Divide cauliflower mixture among tortillas, top with rice, and sprinkle with cheese.  Roll up tortillas, leaving one end open.

***I'm going to use regular (real)  cheese when I make this. 

This burrito is only 360 calories with 10 g. of protein.  There are 4 other burrito recipes included in this article, Better Burritos which states "forget those monster restaurant burritos that may be yummy, but are anything but low-cal. (A typical veggie burrito from a chain offering fresh ingredients clocks in around 750 calories-and that's without guacamole.) (35-VT, June) 
Golly, that's a lot of calories for a veggie burrito!!  I do  love Chipolte's burritos-not so much knowing this.  I'm  not much of a calorie counter but that's a large number for one item. Perusing Chipotle's website I have to say I'm still a fan as they do use good ingredients and they have a handy  nutritional guide-I rounded up and only got about 500 calories so I wonder which big burrito VT is talking about. 

Hope your weekend is lovely.  Happy Mother's Day to all.  I dropped hints to Groovy Girl and Teenage Boy about taking me for a long walk at our local nature reserve, if its not raining that is.  Either way it will be a beautiful day.
This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme.  Everyone can play along with any food related post.  Click over and see what she's cooking up-it's always informative.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Feature; Celebrating Multicultural Mamas

There are many, many beautiful books about the women who tend to us.  This is a short list of books featuring mother's and their struggles.

1) Hair for Mama by Kelly A. Tinkham; ill. by Amy June Bates (2007).

Marcus tells the story of his mother's cancer and how it affects their annual picture day.  Mama doesn't want to be in the picture if she doesn't have any hair and Marcus searches for the perfect solution.  Sweet, Sweet story.

2) Mama's Saris by Pooja Makhijani; ill. by Elena Gomez (2007).

A young girl admires her mother's sari collection, kept in an old suitcase under the bed, as her mother chooses one to wear for a special occasion.  The little girl desperately wants to wear one so she can feel just like her mama.  The illustrations are filled with gorgeous colors of the saris as they remember special occasions. 

3)  A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams (1982).

A fire destroyed their belongings so a young girl, mama and grandma save change in a jar in hopes of one day buying a beautiful new chair.  They find an apartment to live in and the neighborhood pitches and shares furniture with them but the young girl wants so much to purchase a big, comfy chair for her mother to sit in after a long day of waiting tables. 

What books are in your collection that celebrate mothers?

I don't know what's planned for me on Sunday but I do know I'll be happy, surrounded by my children.  My two wishes: great weather and a little time to read.

The Award-Winning Moon Over Manifest

342 pages

I would love to be the kind of person who is able to read the Newberry winner right away or even better, to have already read it before the announcement.  But let's face it, I have a  busy life with family, school and all the other books on my stack(s).  There is a certain amount of guilt involved as a librarian until you've read the Newberry there.  Ahhhh. I feel so much better now and I know the committee made a worthy choice.

When this one was announced it wasn't even on my radar so I quickly ordered it for my school and then, let it languish around the library.  One day in trying to model good reading to a class I picked it out of a stack and started reading while I wandered among the fourth grade students.  I was hooked. 
Abilene's voice is strong, clear and interesting.  Here she is getting ready to jump off the train:
At the last car, I waited, listening the way I'd been taught-wait till the clack of the train wheels slows to the rhythm of your heartbeat.  The trouble is my heart speeds up when I'm looking at the ground rushing by.  Finally, I saw a grassy spot and jumped.  The ground came quick and hard, but I landed and rolled as the train lumbered on without a thank-you or goodbye. (3)

Summary from GoodReads:

Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.
Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”

Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.

Powerful in its simplicity and rich in historical detail, Clare Vanderpool’s debut is a gripping story of loss and redemption.

My thoughts:

The last sentence says it all...It is a powerful tale! It is a gripping story!  One of the reasons I love historical fiction is because there's a lot to learn while reading and I AM a life-long learner at heart.  This story is special because you get two sets of histories; Abilene's in 1936 and her father's in 1918, which Abilene begins to understand as she tries to piece together her father's part in Manifest's history. The result is back and forth storytelling brought on by one of my favorite characters, Miss Sadie, a soothsayer or fortune-telling woman of Manifest.  As Miss Sadie tells her remembrances a beautiful picture of Manifest is created for Abiline and her friends. 

If you haven't had a chance to read this award-winner take the time as it is richly written.

To find this book at an independent bookseller near you, click on the title, Moon Over Manifest

Monday, May 2, 2011

Saraswati's Way

233 pages, including glossary

I love to get books directly from the author.  Monika Schroder contacted me and asked if I would read and review her book and I casually replied "Yes, I'd love to..."  and at that point you never know how it's going to turn out but the book was wonderful.  I especially loved learning more about Indian culture and I fell in love with Akash and his passion for learning. 

Summary:    Leaving his village in rurual India to find a better education, mathematically gifted, twelve-year-old Akash arrives at the New Delhi train station, where he relies on Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, to guide him as he negotiates life on the street, resists the temptations of easy money, and learns whom he can trust.

Akash's story demonstrates how difficult in many cultures it is to become educated and even though the United States has a public school system we experience the same; if your family does not value education that fact alone will make it hard to be a good student.  Akash has been in school but his math knowledge exceeds his teacher's and he needs to locate and pay for a math tutor so he can pass the a test and get a scholarship to get into a good high school.  His father believes in Akash's education but when his father dies his grandmother is quick to send him off to work in the rock quarry. 

After only a few days at the rock quarry Akash has the chance to "see" the ledger keeping all the accounts for the quarry.  When he realizes it will take him years and years to pay off his grandmother's debt he chooses to run away.  He knows he has what it takes to change and his desire is to be educated.  Jumping a train to Delhi Akash is hidden by a portly train employee.

In Delhi he doesn't know anyone and ends up sleeping in a box through the night.  While he's taken himself out of one bad situation (rock quarry) he quickly finds living on his own has its drawbacks. He has to deal with other boys fighting to stay alive, police, and drug dealers.  While Akash makes some good decisions and some bad ones he learns to keep his focus on finding an education.  On the train platform he eventually meets Ramesh-ji who runs the magazine stand.  He lets Akash sleep on top so he isn't bothered by the police officers in the night.  Ramesh and Akash build a good relationship, realizing there is more to each of them than one would think. 

Three Quotes:

Other street boys befriend Akash and teach him the ways of the station.  They all have ways to deal with their homelessness and hunger. 
"I will fly away," Deepak said, fluttering his arms. His face distorted to a horrid grin.

"Are they okay?" Akash asked.
"I told you," Rohit said. "The glue makes you see things that are not there."
"At first," Sunil said. "Then it makes you drowsy and when you can't stop it turns your brain into glue." (31)
"How come you didn't go to the movies?" Ramesh asked.  "Isn't it Friday today?"
"I didn't want to go.  I need to save my money for a tutor.  I found a man at Pahar Ganj who will teach me math."
"That is very wise of you," Ramesh-ji said, suddenly speaking in English.
"Ramesh-ji, I didn't know you spoke English."
"Maybe you would like to practice your English with me.  For the kind of school you want to go to, you need to speak, read, and write English well.  Didn't you even bring an English textbook?"
"How do you know English?" Akash asked.
"I used to work as a cook for British people," Ramesh said. "That was a long time ago." (35)

Schroder does a great job of intergrating Indian culture so anyone reading will have learned from their experience...
Akash would have like to accompany him to the temple, but since Ramesh didn't offer to take him, he didn't dare ask.  Navratri, the nine nights before Dussehra, had always been one of his favorite festivals.  In the evenings he had joined the other youths from the village to watch the dandia dance.  The men would form a circle on the outside and the women one in the inside.  When the music began each cirle started to rotate slowly in opposite directions.  (34)
I loved reading this book and couldn't wait to see how Akash dealt with the street boys and the drug dealers, especially when he decided to become a courier to make some money.  It is an intense story and I was cheering for Akash to get back on the right path.  Luckily his deep desire for an education does win out and Akash and Ramesh find a way to work together. 

This is a perfect middle school mulitcultural read.  Thank you to Monika Schroder for sensing my need to read her gem.  To find it at an Independent bookseller near you, click on the title...Saraswati's Way

Sunday, May 1, 2011

April Showers Bring May Flowers; April Reading Recap

Happy May Day!  

Groovy Girl and I usually do the whole May basket celebration, which is something I enjoyed as a child and is now fun to do with her and her friends.  This year we had a church event to help at and didn't get home until 3-ish and I truly needed a nap.  Needless to say no May baskets happened and Groovy Girl's answer when I said "sorry"-"that's okay, mama-there's always  next year!"  Love her.

I must have been blessed with a lot of reading time this month because I read a whopping 10 books!  This is a lot for me as evidenced by March's total of four. I generally average about 7-8 so I'm proud of 10.   Also I only count chapter books not picture books, which I read tons of every day for work.  The unfortunate part is that I've only reviewed one of them so this first week of May I'm going to attempt to write a post a day about each of these so I can get caught up.  They were all very, very good so writing should be easy.

  1.  Saraswati's Way by Monika Schrader 
  2.  Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpoole
  3.  The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  4.  The Sister's Gimm by Michael Buckley 
  5.  Not Your Mother's Casserole's by Faith Durand
  6.  The Time-Traveling Fashionista by Bianca (ARC)
  7.  Bitter End by Jennifer Brown (ARC)
  8.  Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
  9.  Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
  10.  I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg )
In other news I have a winner to announce....drum roll please...Natalie from one of my favorite blogs,  This Purple Crayon has won a copy of Marc Brown's Arthur Turns Green.  Quite awhile ago I won a copy of David Levithan's Boy Meets Boy at her blog so I this is a little karmic payback when her name was drawn.  She is an elementary librarian as well and does a lot of reading.  Congratulations Natalie! David  Levithan will be at our public library this week and I plan to get Boy Meets Boy signed by him.

and How was your weekend?