Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Twisted

This is one of those books that I just could not seem to get my hands on until just now. Raves reviews from bloggers just kept teasing me, but only now did my library finally get their own copy on the shelves. Guess it helps that I'm the librarian, I get it first!

Twisted, by the infamous young adult author, Laurie Halse Anderson, is an extremely well-written coming of age story about a guy named Tyler. Tyler has always been considered a geek at school, his family life is a mess, and he just had to spend his summer doing court ordered community service after committing vandalism against his school. Lovely way to start out the new year! However, Tyler was able to gain a new body while participating in the required manual labor and actually attracts the attention of the hottest and most popular girl in school, leaving him flabbergasted and more than a bit on edge, as Bethany just happens to be Tyler's main tormentor's sister. After a tragic incident at a house party, Tyler's life quickly spins out of control, screwing up his home life even more than it already was, and leaving him feeling completely alone at school.

As Tyler's daily life seems to get more and more difficult, he vows to change things, slowly trying to determine just how to fix what went wrong. Not all the solutions Tyler is able to come up with are pleasant and I was constantly on the edge of my seat, wanting to know just what Tyler was going to do or contemplate next. I felt horrible for this character, knowing very much that high school and teens do things like this to each other every day. Though Tyler is ultimately responsible for his actions, he is, however, not responsible for many of the issues he ends up experiencing, a very heartbreaking realization.

Twisted is a great read for teens (and adults of course), the characters and situations being very real and accurate. It has been placed on the list of YALSA Teens Top Ten nominees, so if you have teens at your library or at home that would enjoy this, have them read it and vote in October. It's a great way to support the author, the book, and YALSA!

I completed this book for the Young Adult Challenge. Wahoo! Another one down!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I Love You More...and I love this book!

I can see this gem of a book being a hit with kids and parents all over the place. Not only is it fun, being in a flip-sided book form, but it has such a sweet message and one that can be turned into a fun game.

On the first side of I Love You More, written by Laura Duksta and illustrated by Karen Keesler, a son asks his mother, “Mommy, just how much do you love me?” This sparks the mother’s imagination and she answers the question in a variety of creative and rhythmic way. “I love you mightier than the mightiest wind ever blew. I love you fuller than the fullest moon you ever knew.”

The flip side of the book is the mother asking the son the same question: “So, just how much do you love me?” The son plays along and answers in fun rhymes just as him mother did. “I love you quieter than the quietest caterpillar ever creeped. I love you further than the furthest frog ever leaped.” The sides meet in the middle with a picture of the world and the text “I love you more than anything in the whole, wide, world.”

The illustrations fit in perfectly with the text and overall this was a lovely book. I can already picture playing this game with my son! Kids will have a blast flipping sides, as any physical interaction seems to amuse children, and parents will like the sweet message the author presents. This is definitely a winner of a book.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Non-Fiction Monday: Hey Daddy!

In my house, we're all about "daddy" books lately! As the baby grows in my belly, the husband wants to be more and more involved, and has been doing a lot of reading to our son the past few weeks. Cute huh? Well this week's Non-Fiction Monday selection may not be the best for reading to a still-growing baby-in-the-womb, but it is a pretty cool book for dads and their kids to share together.

Hey, Daddy! Animal Fathers and Their Babies is written by Mary Batten and illustrated by Higgins Bond. Different animal species and the father's roles are chronicled on each page, accompanied by beautiful illustrations. The text is a bit long at times, but the information is extensive and written in a flowing manner, one that will hold children's interests. The reader gets to learn about the known responsible animal fathers, such as penguins and seahorses, but also some not-so-well-known dads, like baboons and beavers.

As the author states on the last page, "It takes someone very special to be a good daddy" and that is very apparent in the text of this book. There are all types of cool facts that kids will get a kick out of (and the dads too). Have your hubby read this to your kids, it will be a great bonding experience!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Little Suspense...

I haven't been reading that many books in the suspense genre lately, a disappointing fact I believe is due to the seemingly endless amount of picture books and middle grade fantasy fiction I still have to review, so this weekend I was determined to finish two that have been on my shelves for quite awhile, one young adult, one adult. Gotta get some more book shelf space cleared off before my little guy arrives!

Fakie, written by Tony Varrato is a very small book in size (at least the ARC I received was), but packs quite the punch. It's filled with action, from the moment the first page is opened and I was sucked in, quickly turning pages throughout the entire novel.

Several years ago, Alex Miller witnessed something he shouldn't have and as a result, a very dangerous man landed behind bars and Alex and his mother had no choice but to enter the Witness Relocation Program. They've moved countless times, and taken on many different identities, determined not to let such an evil man ever catch up with them. Alex's latest home is in Virginia Beach, where he has taken on the persona of a typical teen, slightly obsessed with skateboarding. He makes friends pretty quickly and manages to blend in very well, the ultimate trick to remaining in one place for more time. Unfortunately, the bad guys are close on Alex's trail and will stop at nothing to silence Alex forever.

If you have a reluctant reader in the house, namely a male one, this is a book to definitely put in their hands. It's short, coming in at only 143 pages and is so fast paced, the story just flies by. I think I finished this one in less than an hour! It was very enjoyable and one for the library shelves.

Forsaken, my adult selection in the suspense category is written by James David Jordan and set to be published in October of this year. It follows Taylor Pasbury, a former Secret Service agent, who has started her own security business and is subsequently given a very high profile first client. Simon Mason is a world famous televangelist who has begun receiving numerous threats from Muslim terrorists, needing Taylor to protect him and his family.

When the terrorists make good on one of their threats, Taylor and Simon both realize what is at stake in each of their lives. Both possess more than a few secrets and as fear levels get higher, some of those secrets are bound to come out. Taylor must work harder than she ever imagined to keep Simon and his family alive, not to mention herself.

The beginning of this novel started out great, describing the events that led Taylor to pursue the life she now leads. It was exciting and engaging until about the middle of the book, where I felt it stalled a bit. Taylor's character seemed a bit unbelievable at times, in her actions and dialog, though emotionally she also could come off as very real. Just me being nit-picky probably! Though, with the amount of books I read and review, it's hard not to be nit-picky! Overall, I did enjoy the book and if you are a fan of Christan suspense, you probably will too.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Picture Book Saturday!!

It's Picture Book Saturday! Here are three reviews of books I've read and written about this past week. Enjoy!

The Way to Slumbertown
This is actually the book that I read to my son every night before bed. Though he may still be growing in my belly, I know he can hear my voice and I'm hoping he loves the book once he is born, as much as I do now. The Way to Slumbertown was originally published by L.M. Montgomery, as a poem, in 1916 and has now been made into a beautiful lullaby book, complete with soothing and calm illustrations by Rachel Bedard.

The rhymes are simple, yet contain words and phrasing that just make the reader sleepy! My favorite line is "But after all, the surest and the safest passage there; is by the way of mother's arms and mother's rocking chair" referring to the best manner in which to reach slumbertown. I loved all the subtle rhyming and the beautiful illustrations, done in soft blues, greens, and whites, definitely make this an exceptional bedtime book.

The Unicorn Races
If you're in need of a girly book, Unicorn Races by Stephen Brooks is an excellent choice. Combining princesses, unicorns, tiaras, and sparkles, this book packs a ton of girly into a little picture book. Beautiful illustrations, done by award winning artist Linda Crockett, helps tell the story of Abigail, a young girl who, at bedtime, travels to a magical world where she is royalty and overseas the nightly unicorn races. There are elves, a wonderful feast, a beautiful gown, and of course, a royal throne.

Though I felt the illustrations almost carried the text at times, the story is still bound to please that little girl in your life that dreams of being a princess. I also enjoyed the fact that the cover of the book was almost raised a bit, resulting in a puffy feeling. That and the holographic title certainly made this princess want to read the book!

The Adventures of Isabel
Finally, my last book for this Saturday is one that had me laughing out loud, but is definitely for children a bit older than the previous two selections. The Adventures of Isabel, written by Ogden Nash, is the hilarious account of a young girl that comes up against four things that would normally scare little girls, but she is courageous, incredibly brave, and stands up for herself in very unique ways.

Written in poem form (and read by the author on a CD that accompanies the book), Isabel encounters a scary bear, who she proceeds to eat, an old witch, who she eventually drinks, and a giant, whose head Isabel just happens to cut off. All is done in a lighthearted and humorous manner, not intended to frighten smaller children, and is actually quite clever. Though eating bears is not exactly the manner in which I would teach my child to handle his fears, the book does illustrate how being courageous is important and rewarding.

The illustrations in the book, done by Bridget Starr Taylor, are fantastic, bold, and often very funny, while the reading of the poem, done by the author, is great as well. Overall, this is an excellent book for both boys and girls, and one I think parents will enjoy as well, whether reading it out loud, or listening to the CD.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My Enemy's Cradle

Why I love to read books about the Holocaust period, I have no idea, but it has always intrigued me and did yet again with this title by Sara Young. A love story, filled with tragedy, heartbreak, and devastation, My Enemy's Cradle is not for the faint of heart, however there is an infinite amount of hope within the story, as well, making it a worthwhile read.

Cyrla is half-Jewish, having been sent to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousin in Holland when the war made living in Poland too dangerous. She gave up celebrating any Jewish holy days, though constantly kept track of them in her head, always pretending to be her cousin Anneke's sister. When Germans begin posting restrictions for Jews in Holland, Cyrla knows she must be more careful than ever and when Anneke gets pregnant and is set to go to a Nazi maternity home for unwed mothers, life instantly becomes incredibly dangerous for everyone involved.

After a strange and cruel twist of fate, Cyrla must go to Lebensborn in Anneke's place, taking over her cousin's identity. Having been promised she will be helped to escape in a matter of weeks, Cyrla goes to the home without much fear. As the months pass and Cyrla remains at Lebensborn without being freed she knows she must take her life into her own hands before her true Jewish identity is discovered and death becomes imminent.

I had never heard stories of these Nazi-run maternity homes until I came across this book, but I finished it wanting to do more research. I had no idea places like that even existed, though I can't say I'm surprised with all the other horrible things that were accomplished during those years. Another cool fact I discovered once I picked up My Enemy's Cradle was that it was also written by the one and only Sara Pennypacker of Clementine fame!She made a great transition from hilarious children's books to super-serious adult fiction!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Titan's Curse

Rick Riordan, you are a genius!Each book that I read in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series is more exciting and addictive than the last. The Titan's Curse was certainly no exception and by far my favorite in the series so far. I've waited almost 6 months in between reading this and The Sea of Monsters, book 2, knowing I would not want to wait very long for book 4, The Battle of the Labyrinth. I was right and now am not-so-patiently anticipating the May release of that title!

The action ensues in the very beginning of The Titan's Curse when Percy is summoned to a boarding school where two new half-bloods have surfaced. Camp Halfblood is in great need of new attendees, so Percy, Annabeth, and Grover are sent to recruit. Before the first night ends, the trio must fight a powerful manticore, Annabeth goes missing, and Artemis, a new goddess the trio meet in the woods, leaves them to hunt a monster. The fast paced book never slows down, as the Percy, Grover, and some new friends must find Annabeth, fight against constant monster attacks, and manage to remain alive in the process.

I really enjoyed how this edition in the series took the kids all over the United States. From Maine to Washington D.C. to the Hoover Dam, they are taken on quite the wild ride. I was exceptionally surprised/pleased when they showed up in Alamogordo and Cloudcroft, New Mexico, right where I happen to reside! Not many people have even heard of these small desert towns, so to see them in a Rick Riordan book was pretty cool!

The action in these books never slow down and result in the reader flipping pages as fast as possible to see what happens next. I hope this series continues on for many more books, allowing us mythology and fiction lovers to get our fill!

I completed this book for the Spring Reading Thing challenge.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Savvy

I've seriously been getting very lucky with my book choices lately. I've been reading a ton of ARCs and a whole bunch of adult books that I just hadn't had time to get to and I can't really complain a whole lot about any of them. Each book I've read in the past week or two has been excellent, which always makes a reader happy! Savvy, written by newcomer Ingrid Law and scheduled to be published this May, was one of those great books that I just couldn't put down from start to finish. It is definitely a quick read, held my attention the entire time, and had me rooting for every single character involved in the plot, of which there are quite a few!

Mississippi, better known as Mibs, Beaumont is just about to turn 13, an age at which everyone in her family looks forward to reaching. The Beaumonts are not exactly the most ordinary family, each possessing something called a "savvy" or special power they are granted at age 13. Mib's older brother Fish can control the weather, her other brother Rocket uses electricity to his advantage (or disadvantage as the case often is), and her mother is perfect, even going so far as to make mistakes perfectly. Mibs has no idea what her savvy will be, but hopes it is something that can really help people.

When her father is in a horrible car accident hundreds of miles away, the day before her birthday, Mibs knows that all plans for a great birthday are dashed, as everyone is worried sick over whether or not Papa will live. Mother goes to be with Papa at the hospital and the children are put in the care of their Pastor's wife, Miss Rosemary, who happens to bring her two children along, Will Jr. and Bobbi, two "normal" kids that have always looked down upon the crazy Beaumont clan. As the day of Mib's birthday arrives and she believes she discovers just what her savvy is, she knows she has to get to the hospital in order to save her father. What ensues is a wonderful adventure filled with a pink bus, talking tattoos, and lots of new friends.

Though written for the middle grade crowd, Savvy is going to score points across the board (Shhh...I even see Cybils in the future). The characters are perfectly created and the adventure aspects are fantastic. I really liked how the author incorporated magic and faith into the same book, something we readers definitely don't see every day. Though each member of the family has a magic power, they still rely on their faith in God to see them through each day. I love to see that in books! Ingrid Law definitely has a promising writing career ahead of her!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Non-Fiction Monday: Bugs!

I know I'm running a bit late today with my Non-Fiction Monday post, but it is still indeed Monday and only 6pm here in Mountain time! I had the chance to review this great book series this week and I'm really excited to share it, hence the better-late-than-never posting!

Lerner Publishing has put out an Insect World series consisting of eight different titles. I was able to review 4 of those titles:

Termites: Hardworking Insect Families
Praying Mantises: Hungry Insect Heroes
Luna Moths: Masters of Change
Hornets: Incredible Insect Architects


I cannot express enough how cool these books are and how great they will be for using in a classroom or home environment. I can see kids picking these up for both reports and entertainment reading, the combo of which typically means a great book! Each title includes large, color photographs of different stages of the insect's life cycle, diagrams, one sentence facts presented in boxs in addition to the text, a glossary, and activities/crafts the reader can participate in according to the topic. In the Termite book, a "Build Like a Termite" craft is described and in the Hornet title the reader can learn how to make paper like hornets do. Very cool!

Series like this are great for so many reasons, but the best is that they will immediately intrigue kids with their bright covers and cool photographs and the reader will learn a whole bunch of new facts while enjoy those elements. I plan to not only order these for the library, but I'll also be giving some as gifts to a young bug lover I know!

Winner!

The winner of my Do Hard Things giveaway is WindyCindy! Congrats! Just email me your address and I'll get it out to you ASAP. Thanks to everyone that entered!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Picture Book Saturday!

I haven't done a Picture Book Saturday post in a long while, so today is hopefully a treat for those of you that enjoyed the previous posts. Three new books for you today! Enjoy!

Not So Tall for Six


Kylie Bell is short, very short. Kylie is definitely the “not-so-tallest one in first grade,” but that doesn’t mean she lacks in courage or heart. When the class bully, Rusty Jacks, who just happens to wear a huge cowboy hat, a fact I find hilarious, begin picking on Kylie for her short stature, Kylie isn’t exactly sure how to deal with him. She even starts to show a little fear. She knows she could be mean right back, but decides to be the bigger person, even if that is physically impossible. Kylie begins being extra-nice to Rusty, even inviting him into her circle during reading time and sharing her favorite book. Eventually, Rusty comes around and becomes an asset to Kylie, rather than a bully.

Written by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Frank W. Dormer, Not So Tall for Six is a cute story of how to overcome a bully. Kylie shows that it’s ok to be afraid, but also ok to stand up for oneself, ultimately using kindness, rather than bullying to win over a new friend. I think the country-western anecdotes thrown in were a little over the top, but overall this was an enjoyable story.

Really, Truly Bingo


Creator the fabulous Zelda and Ivy series, Laura McGee Kvasnosky, is back with a delightful picture book that is sure to put smiles on children’s faces. Really Truly Bingo follows Bea, a little girl with a big imagination, who wants to play with her mother, but her mother is busy working. “Use your imagination” she is told and that is exactly what Bea does.

With the help of a talking dog named Bingo, Bea has a fantastic time outside in the yard, keeping herself occupied. Digging holes in the garden and filling them with pillows (to make a fort of course), running through the sprinkler, making daisy chains out of her mother’s flowers, Bea uses her imagination all afternoon, with the help of Bingo, of course. When her mother comes out to check on her, Bea definitely has some explaining to do!

The illustrations, also done by the author, are the perfect companion to this cute story. My only “issue” with the plot is when Bea’s mother bluntly responds with “I’m busy!” when Bea asks her to play with her. I didn’t really like the flatness of that response, though I realize that without her mother being busy, Bea would never have gotten involved with Bingo! Overall, this is a cute story that will have the kids giggling at Bea’s innocent…ahem…imaginative, antics.

Is Grandpa Wearing a Suit?


Oh, this one is a toughy. Books for children, written about death, are never the easiest to review, but this one was especially difficult for me. There were definite aspects that I liked and thought were done well, but others I most definitely did not like. Having won quite a few awards in Germany, including the German Award for Most Beautiful Picture Book and the German Picture Book Award, this book appears to be a winner to some, maybe it just fell short with me.

Is Grandpa Wearing a Suit?
is written by Amelie Fried and illustrated by Jacky Gleich. The basic story is that Bruno’s grandpa has passed away and the process of a funeral and burial are taking place. Bruno isn’t really sure what death is and though many adults try to explain it to him, he just continues to become more and more confused. I liked how he seemed to go through accurate emotions like anger, loneliness, confusion, and finally acceptance of the death. Age appropriate questions were asked, such as why all the adults were crying and who was going to comfort them and whether grandpa is in Heaven or in the ground. How could he possibly be in both places?

Now on to the things I did like. The text was sooooo long on each page. For the age level of this book, a child is simply not going to sit still that long to listen to a huge paragraph of text. My text little complaint is the illustrations. Though beautifully done, they are a bit haunting and could almost be scary to young children. The adults eyes are frightening and remind me a little bit of the Coraline book (though Coraline was written for middle graders).

Though this is great book conceptually, I personally don’t think it works out in the end. The questions Bruno asks about his grandfather’s death are spot on, but the text is way too long and the illustrations a little mature for younger children. If you have recently had a death in your family and want to teach your children about, possibly using this book, make sure you preview it first, just to make sure you think it’s appropriate for their age level. Don’t just take my word for it!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Two More Alice books!

I’m slowly making my way through Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice series for the Themed Reading Challenge hosted by Caribou’s Mom and I’m enjoying each book that I read. I know I read them all years and years ago, but it’s always fun to revisit old favorites. I guess that’s what challenges are for.

In Alice in April, our ever-so-lovable main character has decided that since she is about to turn thirteen, she is now the Woman of the House and needs to take on more “womanly” responsibilities, such as doing her dad’s and brother’s mending, making dinner, and all the other lovely things that come along with growing up. As usual, disaster ensues and Alice is left more confused than ever! While all her planning is going on, Alice is also desparetly waiting for the boys in her class to give her a state name based on her chest size, the more mountainous the state, the more appealing her breasts are, I suppose and Alice also gets a glimpse into tragedy after a student in her class takes her own life.

In Alice-in-Between, poor Alice gets the blues over not fitting in. She isn’t maturing quite as fast as some girls, but not quite as slowly as others, causing her to feel left out and lonely. She becomes romantically interested in Patrick again and their “in-between” status is not helping her feel any better at all. Lester’s girlfriends make another hilarious appearance in this sixth book in the series and Alice’s dad begins to get more serious with her teacher.

Though the Alice books are more mature material than a lot of parents want their girls reading at 11 or 12, they really do cover realistic experiences and emotions that the girls go through. The books are funny, well-written, and always enjoyable. Two more down!

5 Minutes for Mom Giveaways Galore


Head on over to 5 Minutes for Mom and check out their HUGE toy giveaway. Just click on the picture to link to the posting. My little one is on the way....time to start stockpiling the toys!

A Little Grace


How would you like to be known as “Just Susan” or “Just Tom?” Within pages Charise Mericle Harper’s Grace series, her poor main character is christened “Just Grace,” simply because there are already four other Grace’s in her third grade class and her teacher is at a loss as to how to tell the girls apart. The others end up being called Grace W., Grace F., Gracie, leaving Just Grace to tie up things. The name sticks and the poor girl just can’t seem to escape her “just” status.

In the first book, nicely titled, Just Grace, Grace bounces around a lot, involving herself in a myriad of activities, from trying to solve the mystery of her neighbor’s missing cat, Crinkles, drawing comics of super heroes, and dealing with her nemesis, Sammy Stringer. The pages are filled with drawings and Grace’s little anecdotes, as well as the stray photograph or two. She is a busy girl, though always feeling as if she must prove herself or be better than expected, in order to outrank her “Just Grace” name. Grace has more than a few laugh out loud moments and had me chuckling on almost every page.

Boy, can I relate to Grace’s name dilemma! I was lucky enough to have been given the most popular name in the nation for something like 10 years in a row. Amanda. Did my parents even give me a cool middle name? Nope…Lynn. Amanda Lynn. Booorrring…. I definitely sympathize with Grace on that issue, though I guess I didn't realize how popular that name had become! As for the story, I definitely felt some Clementine and Ramona in the pages, which will make a lot of readers very happy. The drawings and photographs help to break up the story and I think young girls, especially those that like Junie B. Jones, Judy Moody, Amber Brown, Ramona, and Clementine will enjoy these books. Just Grace is the first installment, followed by Still Just Grace and finally Just Grace Walks the Dog.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Alphabet and Some Pets


Not only am I an expectant first-time mommy and a children’s librarian, but I’m also an incredible pet lover, three reasons I fell in love with these two alphabet books. Twin sisters Andrea Burris, writer, and Anna Schad, illustrator, have created two different alphabet books, The Kitty Cat Alphabet Book and A Dog Lover’s Alphabet Book, both of which get stellar reviews from this blogger!

I was a little partial to A Dog Lover’s Alphabet Book, for no reason other than I am totally dog obsessed. As most of you know, I own one dog (as well as menagerie of other animals), my pit bull-terrier mix Shae, a rescue, and wish I could have about ten more jus like her. The adorable rhymes and hilarious pictures set up a great reading experience, as each page highlights a letter and a different dog. My favorite letter is “N.”

“N is for never, ‘Are you listening, young man?!
We’ve been down that puppy road time and again!
The piddling, the chewing, the whining at night!
We’ll take the floppy-eared one on the right.’”



The Kitty Cat Alphabet Book
is great as well and is written and illustrated in the same manner as the dog book (I believe this one was actually published first). Though I don’t love cats quite as much as dogs, I do still adore them and I now adore this book. With the kitties, my favorite letter is “G.”

“G is for going, first out and then in.
They stand there pondering on where they’ve been.
And then they decide once you’ve closed the door,
that they’d rather be where they were before.”


Oh how true is that?! In my world, the dog does the exact same thing. Wants out, then in, then back out. Silly animals!

With great rhymes, very funny illustrations, and lovable animals, these two books are fantastic works by sisters Andrea Burris and Anna Schad. Teaching the alphabet is lots of fun, especially when awesome books like these are available to reference with! I only wish to know how the sisters work together so well. I can’t imagine my brother and I sitting down to write one sentence together, let alone writing and illustrating a book!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

On Tour with Alex and Brett Harris...plus a Giveaway!


There are so many "self-help" books out there, many of which are directed towards teens, though not many of those actually speak to teens on their level. Do Hard Things, the new book by nineteen year old twin brothers Alex and Brett Harris, takes the idea of low expectations in teens and explains, in a teenager's language, how to rebel against that concept.

The boys call it a "rebelution," combining a rebellion against low expectations by growing numbers of teenagers, in short, a new revolution for a different generation. Using scripture, real-life stories, and God's teachings, the boys lay out five powerful ways in which teens can rebel against the expectations set for them and prove themselves to be so much more. The reader gets a great look into real "rebelutions" going on all over the world and the teens that are leading them.

The books evoked excitement and motivation within me and I'm not even a teenager! I wanted to get out of my chair and start doing something, anything really, after reading the words these boys wrote and I really believe that the teens that read this book will have the same sort of reaction. The message is powerful and intense, though completely necessary in today's society. Teens really need someone on their own level to tell them how to be successful and get out of the rut many find themselves in. Through God, Alex and Brett Harris are that voice.

Leave a comment here by Sunday night, April 20, and I'll pick a winner to receive a copy of this awesome book. Read it yourself and then pass it on to a teen you care about. If you don't win, just click on the book cover above to purchase the book at Amazon.com. Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Oh, Sweet Valley High...

I must admit, back in the day, I was one of “those girls.” I read books that were way above my age level, the books my teachers assigned; the books my mother wanted me to read, but….I also was addicted to Sweet Valley High books. Oh and let me tell you, it was not simply the SVH books, it was the Sweet Valley Twins and the Unicorn spin-off series as well. I loved them. I didn’t care that the girls were super skinny and beautiful, drove awesome cars and were from California, while I was just an ordinary girl from Upstate New York. None of those characteristics ever affected the way I read the books; I just liked the gossipy, trashy, romancy-ness of the books and the way I could read one right after another without skipping a beat. I may never have gained an ounce of intelligence from those novels, but I certainly enjoyed them!

Random House is reprinting at least the first four books in the SVH series, much to a lot of reader’s/blogger’s dismay. I’ve read at least three posts in the last few weeks about how the text was altered to fit “today’s girls,” and it was indeed altered. The posts go one to say just how wrong that is, along with how tasteless the books are. Well the first part I agree with. The text did not need to be altered; readers probably wouldn’t have noticed to begin with, especially the part about the girl’s body sizes. Size 4 or 6, who cares, really? It’s still super tiny and not a whole lot like today’s society of young women. Oh well. Not exactly a smart move, but also nothing to burn books over. Let’s look at the Clique series if we want to see not-so-great role models for young women. The tasteless part however, I just don’t agree with. If girls are reading books, that’s great to me! I don’t love it when I see the Goosebumps series still flying off my library shelves all these years later, but kids are reading, which to me, is the truly important thing. If I can get my teen niece to read an SVH book, after not enjoying a book in years because they are all “too serious,” then by all means, I’ll buy her the entire series!

My whole point in this vent of a post is simply this: if your teens at the library are reading books, appropriate for their age of course, then I don’t really see the cause to complain about how tasteless the book content is. Goosebumps isn’t exactly intelligent material, nor are the Clique novels, nor are a whole lot of books that teens and kids read, but the kids are reading and often that takes so much effort just to begin with, I can’t possibly argue with what books they’ve chosen. I think SVH books, the newly issued copies that is, will be just as popular as the original series, if not more so due to the re-vamped cover design. I’m all for kids and teens reading great books and I always have a list of those considered “great” by librarians and bloggers. I will not, however, ever tell someone they are reading trash and that’s not to say other bloggers are doing that, I just think they were much for “offended” by the concept of SVH than I am. Vent session complete.:-)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Non-Fiction Monday: Trout and Cemeteries

I like to have age variety in my Non-Fiction Monday posts, as I know a lot of my readers have children or are librarians and their main audiences span a large range. This week, I have a choice for the beginner reader through about age seven and I also have a choice for the older middle grader reader. Both are on very different topics and hopefully at least one will appeal to you or your reader!

Trout Are Made of Trees, written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Kate Endle, is definitely for the younger crowd, but still manages to provide a pretty decent amount of useful information. Offering a simplified explanation of the life cycle of trout, the book plays into the always curious mind of a child when it comes to animals and wildlife. Each page has subtle illustrations, done in appropriate earthy tones, accompanied by one or two sentences of text. The reader learns exactly how trout are made of trees, as well as how even people are made of trees. There is an excellent page in the back going more in-depth into the trout's life cycle, for those that are interested in knowing more. There is also a page explaining how the reader can be a stream hero, keeping streams healthy and full of fish, as well as a listing of additional resources. Overall, I was very pleased with this book and can see it being checked out quite a bit at the library. Also perfect for an upcoming Earth Day display!

My selection for the older reader is more on the scary side...always a winner at our library! Spooky Cemeteries, written by Dinah Williams, takes the reader on a creepy journey through eleven cemeteries, said to be the spookiest in the world. From the Robinson Woods Indian Burial Ground in Chicago, Illinois, to the home of six million skeletons in the Catacombs, located in Paris, France, the reader definitely is given a wide variety of scary places to learn about. Each page tells a bit about why that specific cemetery is famous, along with lots of photographs. The back of the book also includes a glossary of bolded words throughout the text, a resource list, and a map of where all the cemeteries are located around the world.

Kids at my library love anything that has to do with being frightened, so I know this will be a hit. It is written quite well and happens to be part of a series that includes 5 other "creepy" titles, including Ghost Towns and Haunted Houses. Perfect for a Halloween display or just for those kids that want to be scared!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

New Challenges and Updates

First, I have to include a blurb about Mother Reader's upcoming 48 Hour Reading Challenge. I participated last October and had a blast! Definitely looking forward to this one...lots of reading time, prizes, and fun with blogging friends! Just click on the picture below to get all the info!

Next, I figured some challenge updating is in order. Here's what I'm participating in and what I've completed. I think I've got a few too many on my plate!

Heart of a Child Challenge (February 1, 2008-July 14, 2008)

Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls
The Truth About Stacey
MaryAnne Saves the Day
Dawn and the Impossible Three
10 Kids, No Pets
Beezus and Ramona
Ramona the Pest

Triple 8 Challenge (January 2008-December 2008)

8 Adult Christian Fiction Novels
The Potluck Club Takes the Cake
Only Uni
Summer Snow
Sisterchicks Do the Hula
The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Rolling
The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Caught
Summer
Between Sundays
8 Newbery Honor Winners
Olive's Ocean
Our Only May Amelia
Home Was Here
Everything on a Waffle
The Great Gilly Hopkins
The Hundred Penny Box
Catherine Called Birdy
A Corner of the Universe
8 Non-Fiction Books
Book Crush
Four Paws from Heaven
One At A Time: A Week in an American Animal Shelter
Belly Laughs
The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy
A Passion for Books
Saving Levi
Slightly Chipped
8 Jodi Picoult Novels
Harvesting the Heart
Salem Falls
Perfect Match
Songs of the Humpback Whale
Mercy
Second Glance
Keeping Faith
Change of Heart
8 2008 Books
Light of the Moon
Peeled
The Mysterious Benedict society and the Perilous Journey
Where the River Ends
Breaking Dawn
Lock and Key
The Battle of the Labyrinth
The Adoration of Jenna Fox
8 Young Adult Novels
In Your Dreams
Only You, Sierra
Pitch Black
Life As We Knew It
Keeping the Moon
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Deep Green
Twisted
8 Classic Children's Books
Little Men
Pippi Longstockings
Heidi
The Secret Garden
A Little Princess
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
The Wizard of Oz
Alice in Wonderland
8 Fantasy Novels
The Shadow Thieves
Flyte
The Magician's Nephew
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Horse and His Boy
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
A Wrinkle in Time

Themed Reading Challenge (January 2008-June 2008)

The Agony of Alice
Alice in Rapture, Sort Of
Reluctantly Alice
All But Alice
Alice in April
Alice in Between
Alice the Brave
Alice in Lace
Outrageously Alice
Achingly Alice
The Grooming of Alice
Alice Alone
Simply Alice
Patiently Alice
Alice on her Way
Alice in the Know
Dangerously Alice

Young Adult Challenge (January 2008-December 2008)

Keeping the Moon
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
I Am David
Hoot
Homecoming
The Wednesday Wars
Chicks with Sticks: Knit Two Together
Sweethearts
Life As We Knew It
Twisted
This Lullaby
The Finnish Line

Spring Reading Thing Challenge (March 20, 2008-June 19, 2008)

1.A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin
2. Saving Levi by Lisa Bentley
3. Light of the Moon by Luanne Rice
4. Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen
5. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
6. Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
7. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
8. Eldest by Christopher Paolini
9. Peeled by Joan Bauer
10. The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
11. Audrey, Wait by Robin Benway
12. Physik by Angie Sage
13. The Report Card by Andrew Clements
14. The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
15. Gods of Manhatten by Scott Mebus

A lot of books left to go, but hopefully with the 48 Hour Reading Challenge coming up, I can knock out a few!

Sushi Anyone?

Food, romance, and some great Christian faith makes for one awesome book. In Camy Tang's first book, Sushi for One, we are introduced to one very cool woman, a large, somewhat...um...nosy family, and a great deal of Asian cuisine. When you meet Lex Sakai, you'll want to not only be her friend, but also sit down to an expansive meal with her!

Poor Lex. A twenty-something Asian-American that is somewhat obsessed with volleyball, truly loves her culture and the Lord, and is completely fed up with her meddling family. Her grandmother, nosy as can be, insists that Lex find a boyfriend before her cousin’s summer wedding, or else she will stop sponsoring the junior high volleyball team that Lex is passionate about coaching. What Lex really wants to concentrate on is finding a new job, moving out of her dad’s house, and getting a spot on a prestigious volleyball team where she can finally showcase her skills. Her grandmother’s ultimatum has put her in an incredibly tight spot. Lex doesn’t want to fail her girl’s volleyball team, but she also doesn’t want to fail herself either or God either by rushing into something she just isn't ready for.

Suffering through several hilarious (though miserable, I’m sure) dates and mishaps all along the way, Lex is determined not to let the girls down. Romance is somewhat difficult for her, due to a secret in her past, but if she shows fear, Lex knows she’ll run the potential man of her dreams off, exactly what she does not want to do. Through disasters, injuries, and backstabbing family members, Lex Sakai never forgets her connection to God and that He is truly the one she needs to make happy in her life.

Is it weird that my favorite part of this book is the food descriptions?! Ok, maybe not my favorite, but you have no idea how delicious and tantalizing the dishes sound! It seemed like every page I turned I was craving something else yummy. By the end, I didn’t care what it was; I needed some Asian cuisine in my life! Unfortunately, the crazy pregnancy-induced high blood pressure is putting a hold on all things salty, so I just had to dream. A little less than 4 months and I’m going back through this book and finding a restaurant that serves these dishes!

Camy Tang truly has a knack for awesome description and not just with the food. Her descriptions of each of Lex’s relatives and their hilarious antics was right on the ball, as was her subtle influx of Christian beliefs. The book is very much a Christian fiction novel, but in no way was it preachy or “too much,” which I loved. I know that all the readers of this book were really rooting for Lex, not only in finding a man that would love her for exactly who she was, but also for all the other positives that Lex really has in her life. I loved this book and can’t wait to get my copy of Only Uni, the second of the series.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Dinosaur book for the older kiddos

So, every once in awhile I come across a book that a lot of people have really liked, but I personally just do not. I may not get where those people are coming from, I may just not like the plot, but for whatever reason, I just don’t like the book. However, just because I don’t like something, doesn’t mean that I can’t think of a hundred other people that will love the story, hence the reason I still write a review! For me, TIM: Defender of the Earth, written by Sam Enthoven, is one of those books. I didn’t really care for it, didn’t really get it, but I can see boys by the dozens lining up to get their hands on a copy of this book. Who cares if Miss Amanda "gets" it, they still want to read it!

When Chris is on a class trip to the museum, something weird happens. One of the museum curators opens a case, that happens to be glowing, and snaps a strange bracelet on Chris’s wrist, a bracelet he has been “chosen” to wear and which he cannot remove. He tries to figure out exactly what he has been chosen for and ends up working with a girl, quite reluctantly at first, to solve this new mystery.

Meanwhile, underneath the streets of London, TIM, a caged up Tyrannosaurus Rex has lived his life as a military experiment that has gone very wrong. Treated as a brutal animal, TIM couldn’t possibly be more caring and kind, that eventually forms a friendship with Chris and Anna. The three are thrown into a chaotic world where TIM is all that stands between life and total world destruction. Together, the trio must overcome the evil Professor Mallahide in order to save Britain from devastation.

Yes, this book is about a giant dinosaur saving the Earth. For many of you, that is reason alone to not get it (I’m definitely in that group), but can’t you just see boys loving this book?! A T-Rex working to save the world! There is a huge amount of thrills and action, which even held my attention, and though the plot is a little…um…weird to me, I know guys will love this. Ten and up is probably a good recommendation for age levels.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

For Fans of Lemony Snicket...

Lois Lowry's newest title is perfect for all fans of Lemony Snicket and his famous Series of Unfortunate Events. A parody of sorts, The Willoughby's makes fun of all sorts of children's novels from across time. The children, Tim, Barnaby and Barnaby (twins with the same name), and little Jane, wish to be orphans and to rid themselves of their not-so-interested parents, involving themselves in strange schemes to do just that. All the while, those parents are also trying to rid themselves of their vile children, ever not-so subtly.

A nanny, somewhat reminiscent of a Miss Mary Poppins, comes into the picture, as does a baby left suspiciously on the Willoughby's doorstep. Interesting characters pop up out of nowhere and the children manage to ship their parents out the door, quite literally, while their parents try to sell the house out from under the children's feet, again, quite literally.

After the first few chapters, I realized that there was no way Lois Lowry could have written such a satirical and humorous book. So used to Lowry's solemn books, such as Number the Stars and The Giver, a parody was so far beyond the realm of her writing, she must have had help. But no. Ms. Lowry wrote this book and did a fabulous job at being humorous, witty, and quite funny at times. It's nice to see a work from an author that I love, that is so far out of my "accustomed to" box. Again, if you or your children (or patrons) enjoyed Lemony Snicket's books, this one is sure to be a pleaser.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Giveaways, New Blog design, lots of fun stuff!

Hello to all my readers! A Patchwork of Books is going to be getting a face lift in the next few days and I'm very excited about it! Look for a new blog design, some celebratory giveaways, and a few new ways of structuring posts. It's finally spring, I'm halfway through my pregnancy, and new starts are all around us....might as well give a new start to my blog as well! Keep your eyes peeled!

Touching, Heartwarming, Lovely

What would you do if you found out you had a three year old child you never knew existed? That is exactly what happens to James Keeper, in Edward Hardy's new book Keeper and Kid. James, or Keeper as he is called, is a kind, casual man that works in the antiques industry, has a beautiful girlfriend, Leah, and only occasionally has flashbacks to what life was like with his ex-wife, Cynthia. When Cynthia passes away, Keeper soon learns that she has his son three years ago, yet failed to fill him in on that most important piece of information; instead, choosing to place Leo with him once she died.

Keeper has never cared for a child before, disregarding the fact that he has never even met Leo. He and Leah have just moved into a new house, though when she finds Leo sitting in the living room one evening after returning home from a business trip, she jets out of there as fast as possible. Now Keeper is alone, with a three year old that just lost his mother, believes his father is away on an island, and will only eat round food. Thrown off the high dive into fatherhood, Keeper does what any respectable man would do: he basically gives up. Through some coaching by close friends and the subtle love of an irresistible three year old, Keeper slowly gets his life back and is allowed to watch Leo get his back as well.

Keeper and Kid is an incredibly touching story and one that I must recommend to all of you that believe men cannot write intimate novels without including raunchy sex scenes. Hardy does an amazing job of tapping into the psyche of Keeper, Leah, and little Leo, all without missing a beat. As I was reading the book this past weekend, I kept closing it after certain chapters with a smile on my face, knowing that this could actually be someone’s reality and the author did such a great job at making that known. Your heart will be opened by this novel and you will immediately be wanting another title from Hardy’s hand.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Drive by Nathan Clement

After reading Drive by Nathan Clement, I already have two little boys in mind that I would love to give this book as a gift to! Not only is the story charming and filled with a boy’s love for his father, but the illustrations, also done by Clement, are incredibly striking and larger than life.

Very simple in thought, this book packs a huge punch in meaning. A little boy lovingly tells the story of a day in his dad’s life, starting with waking up and ending with coming home again. The boy’s dad is a trucker, driving a big rig from place to place and a very busy man, but always remembering to say hello to people on the way. The boy explains how his dad is gone before he wakes up, but once he is home; there is time for fun together.

I love the idea of focusing the story on one thing and never straying from that, making this book excellent for beginner readers and those that often have a hard time with comprehension. Again, I cannot say enough how amazing the illustrations are and how boldly they standout against the black words of text. I loved this book and know some little boys that will really enjoy it as well.

Non-Fiction Monday: Cool Animals

As most of us librarians (and moms) know, animal books are almost always a hit with kids, whether fiction or non-fiction based. This week's non-fiction post has two very different types of animals, both very cool in their own way.

My favorite of these two books is Slimy Sea Slugs written by Natalie Lunis. The book is part of a series titled "No Backbone! The World of Invertebrates" and is filled with amazing photographs. Sea slugs are not necessarily one of the better known species authors write about when producing children's books, but this selection has lots of interesting facts, written on a level that children can understand. It also includes a brief glossary of bolded words, a short index, and a condensed bibliography, just in case the kiddos want to learn a bit more about these weird, yet intriguing sea animals. Again, the photographs really are what do this book justice, as the colors are bold and bright, not to mention they aren't typical animals kids see everyday, making them all the more interesting to look at.

The next book is another "water animal" choice, though this time we're focusing on Whales. The book, written by Lisa Rao, is part of a "Smart Animals" series that includes 12 other titles. Photographs on each page are surrounded by text about different types of smart whales, though the author seems to focus mainly on humpback and beluga whales (my favorite). There are little bubbles containing even more facts about the whales in places throughout the book, as well as a glossary, index, and short bibliography.

Both books are probably great for kids starting at around age 7 or 8, though younger children will get a kick out of the great photographs and mom or dad can always read the text out loud. Awesome choices for just looking at or for using in actual school projects.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

You've gotta read this book!

Once I picked up this book, I could not put it down. Maybe it was because it was filled with reptiles and in my house, reptiles are animals to love (and spend lots of money on). Maybe it was because the lead character grabbed my heart from the first page and didn't let go, even once I shut the book on the last word. Or maybe it's because this author has an exceptional talent, one for writing a book that allows the reader to enter the world she has created, and never want to leave.

Lizard Love, written by Wendy Townsend, is time in the life of Grace. The young girl lives in Mooresville, a back country town that she has lived in all of her life and absolutely loves. She is friends with the wilderness and cherishes the time she gets to spend with her beloved grandparents. When her mother gets a job in New York City and Grace is forced to move to a cement jungle, she is lost. Her heart was left behind and she feels completely hopeless, until she accidentally happens upon a pet store specializing in exotics, mainly reptiles. At Fang & Claw, amidst the snakes, monitors, and lizards, Grace finds herself again. She falls in love with her new environment and just maybe in Walter, the son of the pet store owner.

This was a fairy tale of a book. I loved reading about all of the reptiles that Grace encountered, especially since my own hubby works part-time in an exotic pet store where I have also had the experience of meeting the awesome reptiles she describes. Don't knock them unless you know them! Reptiles are not typical "book" animals and I loved that they made huge appearances in Lizard Love.

Grace's relationship with Walter, as well as with Spot, a huge iguana are touching and real. The writing is beautifully done and I certainly hope we hear from from Wendy Townsend.
Though the publisher classifies the book in the age range of 14 and up, I really believe this is perfectly appropriate for the older juveniles out there as well. I would almost say 10 and up would be fine. There is some talk of turning into a woman and growing breasts, but no other matter that would make this novel in-appropriate for that age level.

Again, I loved the book and I demand that all of you out there go read it. Especially if you are not a reptile lover...I guarantee your mind will change after reading this. :-)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Poetry Friday: Where is Spring?


I know many of you are asking yourselves where the beautiful Spring season is, what with snow and storms all across the country. I promise I won't rub it in that it was 75 degrees here yesterday. :-) Where is Spring? is a lovely poem that has been turned into a picture book for children, focusing on just where Spring is and just where it can be found in every day life.

Yang-Huan created a quaint world, featuring a young boy that is curious as to where to find Spring. He sends his beloved kite up into the air to investigate around him, into places the boy cannot see. What he finds, is Spring in faces of new flowers, in the fields by the river, and within the puffy white clouds that dot the bright blue sky. The gorgeous illustrations, done by H.Y. Huang and A. Yang provide the perfect backdrop for this flowy poem.

I've never been one to sit down and read a book of poems, making a picture book like this right up my alley. It's one poem, turned into a beautiful book, that really makes the reader feel as if he or she is reading a story. Great for a Poetry Friday choice and well as a one on one sit down with a child.




Thursday, April 3, 2008

Moms and Dads

Where would we be without mom and dad? Absolutely nowhere! That’s why I figured some books chronicling our time spent with those two, ever-so-important individuals was in order. Both are picture books, great for reading with the kiddies!

First, A Day with Dad, written by Bo R. Holmberg and illustrated by Eva Eriksson is the sweet telling of a boy’s date with his dad. Very subtly it is explained that the boy’s parents are divorced and sometimes Tim’s dad takes the train to spend the day in the city with him. On this particular trip, the pair buy hot dogs from a street vendor, take in a cartoon movie at the theater, read a book at the library, and share some pizza and sodas at a local shop. At each place, Tim declares: “this is my dad!”


Each page is both beautifully written and illustrated. I love the relationship that Tim has with his dad, showing both love and affection. The activities the boy and his father participate in are simple, yet it is obvious they mean so much to Tim, if only because he gets to do them with his dad. I also liked how the story did not focus on Tim being a child of divorce, but only on the aspect of spending a day with his father. A very cute book for dads and sons to read together, or fathers and daughters of course!


The second book, focusing on good ol’ mom, is the very sweet If I Could: A Mother’s Promise, written by Susan Milord and illustrated by Christopher Denise. The format of this book is what caught me right away, I love big letters, making story time much easier, but the story tugged at the very pregnant heartstrings inside of me. Sniff, sniff, the hormones are winning!


If I Could is all about a mama raccoon telling her little one how very much she loves him and how she would do anything for him that she could. The day is very ordinary, but mama makes sure her son knows that she would do all sorts of things for him, if she could. My favorite line is:


“If I could,

I’d sing a song

To make the stars wink

All night long.”


Awwwwwww. Sniff, sniff! The illustrations are beautifully done in soft tones, making this a great book for both bedtime or naptime. As I said, the letters are nice and big, with delicate illustrations, making this perfect for the parent or librarian doing a read aloud or even for those beginning readers that need the bigger visual. This is a very sweet story and one that is a must for all home bookshelves.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

In Search of Molly Pitcher by Linda Grant De Pauw

I cannot speak enough praise for this fantastic new juvenile fiction book! I read a lot of books and with my job, definitely a lot of juvenile fiction books, but I have yet to find a book that combines social studies information (that means learning) and a well-written story with perfectly developed characters. That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of great books out there that help children learn as they entertain; I write about those types of books all the time, I was just very impressed with Ms. De Pauw’s work.


In Search of Molly Pitcher introduces the reader to Peggy McAllister, an eighth grader that always gets good grades, but also always annoys her teachers with her in-depth questioning about every subject. When Peggy learns about an award she could win for writing a school year-long research paper on a great American hero, she knows she can win the prize. However, when she chooses Molly Pitcher as her subject, her teacher is less than thrilled. He insists that not enough information has been written on Molly Pitcher to fulfill the page requirement and that Peggy will end up failing the project altogether. Determined to prove him wrong, Peggy throws her heart into the project, learning not only about Molly Pitcher, but about her neighbors, her family history, and herself as well.


After reading this book, the reader will have so much information on Molly Pitcher, presented to them in an entertaining way, that I almost guarantee they will be hoping for Peggy to have to write another research paper so we can have another book! Informative, fun, and well written, this book is definitely a winner.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Saving Levi by Lisa Bentley

I love adoption stories, especially true ones. I love being able to read about a child that truly needs a home and about the parents that truly need that child. I’ve always known that someday I would love to be able to adopt a child and when reading stories such as Lisa Bentley’s, it helps me to understand exactly what process is involved. Mind you, this book is a lot more involved than a simple adoption experience, but that makes the happy ending all the more beautiful.

When Lisa and her family are spending time in China, helping to create a new orphanage, she learns of a baby that was left in a field, severely burned and thought to die. Lisa becomes emotionally attached to the baby, whom she calls Levi and goes to incredible lengths to ensure he receives the medical care he needs, though Lisa and her husband are struggling to make ends meet themselves. They realize that he needs care in the United States, though getting Levi out of China and into surgeries when he is not their child is basically impossible, not to mention incredibly expensive.

Throughout the book, Lisa and her family fall more in love with Levi and work very hard to get him the care he deserves. Eventually they are able to adopt Levi, as well as a second child from China, and though their family will never have millions of dollars, they have a love and a bond that is unbreakable. I learned a lot from this memoir, not only about adoption, but about loving and caring for a child that will have special needs his entire life. As an expectant first-time mother, the possibility of my child being born with special needs is always there and though all mothers pray for a 100% healthy baby, that is not always the end result and loving them unconditionally is all that we can do. Lisa does an excellent job at not only chronically her story, but also being an inspiration to mothers everywhere.

I read this book for the 888 Challenge and for the Spring Reading Thing challenge.

Choose Your Own Adventure Meets Graphic Novel

I don’t know about you, but when I was younger I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure series, where readers could basically decide how the plot turned out by simply making a decision every couple of pages. I loved those books and was so bummed when they stopped making them publishing them. Well, I guess my sadness has ended AND been updated for today’s kids.

Graphic Universe, a Lerner imprint, has begun putting out the “Twisted Journeys” series, which is part text, part graphic novel, and still puts the reader in control of the story. Just like the old books that I enjoyed so much, every couple of pages, a question is posed to the reader and where he or she chooses to go ultimately decides what other pages they read.


Not only are these books fun and interactive, they also get kids (ahem, young boys) reading, which is a big challenge sometimes. With “Twisted Journeys” they get the control they like, the graphic novel they love, and a pretty decent story, all mixed into one book. These are bound to be successful books with both boys and girls and even those adults that loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books as much as I did.