Wednesday, July 30, 2008

100 Days and 99 Nights

What a great book this is for our current times! Alan Madison has created a touching story about a family whose father goes off to war, while still maintaining humor at a reading level perfect for 8 to 12 year olds.

100 Days and 99 Nights begins with our narrator, Esme, explaining what it's like to live the life of a military kid. Her family has lived in different countries, constantly moving as her dad receives new assignments, but Esme and her younger brother are resilient, looking forward to each move with excitement. When the family finally gets an assignment back to the United States, Esme is thrilled, but it comes with bad news as well. Her dad must deploy for 100 days and 99 nights. Esme feels it is her duty to be good while her dad is gone, but with a silly younger brother counting down the days becomes very interesting!

With so many families, including my own, facing military deployments and family members serving military time, this is the perfect book for a younger child. When a parent is away, especially at war, counting down the days can be long and scary, but with Esme's help the reader can learn how to best spend his or her days before Mom or Dad returns home. Madison did an awesome job of channeling a military child's mind.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Lucky Star

The Lucky Star, written by Judy Young and illustrated by Chris Ellison, is part of the “Tales of Young Americans” series, put out by Sleeping Bear Press. The book chronicles a time during the Great Depression when schools were closing; leaving young children without the chance for education, or in this stories case, to find their own means of educating themselves.

When the schools in her area close due to horrible economic times, nine-year-old Ruth is devastated. Her father has been forced to go to work hundreds of miles away and her mother to take odd jobs just to put food on the table and now she and her younger sister must stay home from school. Using her prized volumes of The Book of Knowledge, Ruth decides to take matters into her own hands, to ensure at least one of the sisters gets an education during the Depression, learning to count her lucky stars, just as her Momma taught her.

Very well-written, as well as educational, The Lucky Star is a certain winner. Though it appears in the format of a picture book, this will definitely work better as a juvenile fiction book for 8-12 year olds. The entire “Tales of Young Americans” series would be a great addition to any library or home shelves.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Picture Book Saturday

Well, my first selection for this weekend actually surprised me, hence my reason for including it. Trainstop by Barbara Lehman is a book without words…and we all know I don’t usually go for those…but this one was enjoyably unique. The story of a girl that gets on a train with her parents and gets off in a surreal land, was easy to follow and quite cute. The illustrations, also done by Lehman, are very simple, but convey the story perfectly. I would definitely use this one on one with a child, having them work out the story.




Next, Big and Bad, written and illustrated by Etienne Delessert is a reimagining of the famous Three Little Pigs tale. The big, bad wolf is running all over the countryside, eating every animal in sight, until the animals turn the tables on him, each trying to stop the wolf at his own game. Though a bit excessive in its violence, the story is still cute and the illustrations, done by the author, are beautiful.





Finally, my favorite of the week is Crocs! Written by David T. Greenberg and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. This book was so much fun! Written in an adorable, rhyming manner, the reader will laugh out loud as crocodiles take over the life of a boy on a much needed vacation. So much for a vacation! The illustrations are a perfect match to the story and your little ones will be giggling at the silliness of the crocs and the great faces on the boy.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Beyond the Reflection's Edge

Ooooh, fantasy, adventure, AND a Christian basis? I know that lovely description will have some of you salivating, so...here's the rest of my review of Bryan Davis's Beyond the Reflection's Edge, the first in a very promising new series:

Nathan's world is turned upside-down when he finds his parents have both been murdered. All Nathan has left is an old mirror and some notations his investigator father made based on a current case he had been working on at the time of his death. When Nathan goes into hiding, he discovers that his mirror can show events from the past and the future. Determined to figure out who murdered his parents and why, Nathan teams up with Kelly, the daughter of the man who is hiding him, and together they use the mirror, to work through who could have done the unspeakable.

This book is a wild ride from start to finish. Not only is there a wonderful aspect of fantasy, with the very cool mirror, a camera that takes pictures of people not even there, and a violin that just happens to play voices, there is also tons of thrills and adventure, all with a Christian basis. Perfect for teens!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Last Minute AWESOME Giveaway

The Old Red Barn Co. blog (supercool) is giving away an amazing quilt......but you have to enter by Tuesday at midnight! Go here to enter (or click on the graphic below or in the sidebar)! OOOOh it's beautiful! Do you know how quilt obsessed I am? Have you seen the title of my blog?!! I WANT IT!

Monday, July 21, 2008

How to Build a House

One thing I've learned about Dana Reinhardt is that she can write with the best of them! From page one, her newest book, How to Build a House, grabbed me and pulled me in for a great ride. Though not a thriller or a mystery, this is most definitely a page-turner filled with characters that you will not soon forget.

Harper is feeling incredibly lost after a rough divorce has rifted her family. She is so lost that she decides to literally "get lost" and heads to rural Tennessee with a group setting out to rebuild a family's home after a tornado destroyed it. She finds herself living in a rundown motel with an incredibly eclectic group of peers, all of them there with their own personal missions. Harper begins to form friendships, though never meaning to, and also how to love again...and she definitely doesn't mean to do that!

How to Build a House is one big metaphor, though of course you'll have to figure out what the metaphor is by reading it. I really enjoyed the story, loved the characters, though Teddy was my favorite, and I looooved Harper's name. Great choice Ms. Reinhardt! Like her infamous A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life, this title is an excellent YA novel and one that will easily be read by teens and all their friends.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Jacob Update!!!

Well! So much has gone on since the last time I updated everyone in the blogging world...I don't really know where to start. First of all, we've reached 4 pounds! Quite a leap from the 1lb 5oz the little guy was when he was born huh? Now, he tends to retain quite a bit of fluid, so that may not be true weight, but if it is off it would only be by an ounce or two, so we are still pretty close to the 4lb mark. YAY! He's finally wearing his preemie clothes and though they are a bit big, he still looks adorable!

We made the move to a big boy crib yesterday and finally out of the isolette. Jacob is holding his temperatures just fine and so far seems to like being out in the world. We are also attempting to move him to short prongs again today (a much better breathing apparatus), but Mom and Dad are a bit apprehensive about it. We attempted this move about two weeks ago and he only lasted two hours on the new prongs...a failed attempt for sure. It took him a few days to bounce back from such a big step-down and we just don't want to see that happen again. We have to try though! I'm including a picture of the sweet boy when he was trying out the short prongs last time. You can see so much more of his cute face!

We are still looking at probably another month here in Albuquerque at least, but Aaron was just able to get orders to be here all the time, which means no more "just weekends!" YAY! Once we can get Jacob off his Hudson prongs and onto the short prongs, we can work on feeding, which is what may take quite a long time, depending on how he likes it. Some babies take to the bottle and breast right away, others, not so much.

We are getting some visitors this weekend, which is really nice, so I probably won't be posting until Sunday night. Look for some picture book posts at that time. Thanks everyone!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Girlwood

Claire Dean has written a young adult novel that certainly left me intrigued throughout, but also a bit puzzled. Though I enjoyed the writing and the storyline, I was a bit confused as to what the actual focus of the plot was meant to be...a confusion that never really cleared up.

Polly, our young teen main character, has always been considered slightly strange, geeky even, by her classmates, as well as her older sister Bree. Polly can see colors around people and because of this strange trait, she finds she is only comfortable when with her grandmother, foraging for plants in the woods. When Bree becomes involved in drugs and depression, she makes the decision to leave her home, telling only Polly that she is leaving, and ultimately catapulting Polly into a limelight she had no interest in being in.

Polly believes that Bree has run away to a specific place in the woods and begins leaving clothing and food for her. When a local developer purchases the woods in order to build homes, Polly knows she has to fight to save Bree's new home.

My confusion with this well-written novel was in what exactly the main focus of the story was meant to be. Was it Polly's ability to see colors around people? Was it an environmental plight? Or was it fantasy? There was an awful lot of talk of fairies and magical places, which I didn't really feel was necessary to the story, it just made it a bit odd. Though the book was entertaining and the emotions believable, I think it would have been more successful (for me at least) with a bit more simplicity.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Savvy eBook


Penguin is offering their hit book Savvy, by Ingrid Law, which I've reviewed here, as a free eBook from today until July 20th. How cool is that?! Just go to www.penguin.com/savvy to access your FREE copy. Wahoo for free books!!!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A must read dog book...

Everyone who loves dogs and especially those who believe they don't love dogs, needs to read this gem of a book. The Dogs Who Found Me: What I've Learned from Pets Who Were Left Behind, by the amazing Ken Foster, could quite possibly be a life changing book and one that truly everyone needs to pick up and read cover to cover.

I'm sure I've mentioned about a thousand times that I am dog obsessed and within my dog obsession, I have a pit bull breed obsession. My husband and I love the breed and advocate for them every chance we get, trying to make people understand that they are such lovable, smart, beautiful animals and that their bad rap is simply untrue. In his book, Ken Foster also forms a love for this breed, as well as pretty much any breed of dog that somehow ends up in his house. Foster adopts one dog, Brando, and that leads to him rescuing and helping a myriad of different dogs, all of which he comes to love in a different way.

The chapters are broken up into different dog's stories as to how they came to be part of Foster's life, with little lessons for dog owners along the way. I learned a lot about different rescue organizations and how they operate, including the tidbit about PETA wanting the pit bull breed to be eliminated altogether. PETA! Like this one, a lot of the facts presented in the book are not pleasant, but are a sad truth in our country. Foster brings to light the dogs who really have been left behind and the help that they need to be happy again.

I will rave about and recommend this title to everyone and I'm already on my way out the door to pick up Foster's other titles. I've never been one to look the other way when a stray dog needs my help, pulling over and putting a dog in my car when it's stranded on the side of the road or taking in the puppies that no one else wants until they have a forever home, but this book really made me want to do more and it will make you want to do more too. I cannot tell you how much I want to meet and take home the dog on the cover! SO SWEET! Please read Foster's book...and tell everyone you know to read it too!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Alive and Well in Prague, New York

Ahh, a book about Upstate New York. My birth place and the one part of this country I consider to be home. Alive and Well in Prague, New York is written by Daphne Grab and its main character does not necessarily love what I love about Upstate, at least at first.

Matisse is purely a New York City girl and would never deny it. She shops at city stores and eats at the best restaurants, loving her culturally expansive life. When her father gets sick and her parents decide to move to a tiny town upstate, Matisse is devastated and believes her life is pretty much over. She isn't into hayrides, rinky-dink stores, or small town life at all. Though at first, Matisse draws into herself and refuses to make friends with anyone from Prague, she slowly begins to form connections with people and starts to realize these aren't flaky city-friends, these are real friends that she can count on. She soon starts to branch out emotionally to these new friends and is able to begin to deal with her family issues.

Grab's story is written in an extremely realistic style. Matisse is a believable character, as are her parents and friends and the overall reactions to Matisse's father's illness. The reader is able to connect with the story and the characters, leaving a very satisfied feeling once the last page has been turned. I really enjoyed this title and can see my teens at the library loving it as well.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Picture Book Saturday

Author David Elliot and illustrator Holly Meade have created a simple book in On the Farm, about farm animals and their specific attributes. Each page focuses on the different animal, including a dog, a barn cat, a rooster, and a bunny, infusing simple, rhyming text with beautiful woodcut illustrations. I loved the simplicity and know kids will enjoy the different animals, easily involving themselves in making animal noises and talking about what role each takes on the farm.


Maisy’s Nature Walk: A Maisy First Science Book
, written by Lucy Cousins, is an adorable addition to the Maisy line of books. An interactive story, children can pull tabs, lift flaps, and find treasures all while enjoying their friend Maisy’s latest adventure.

In my experience, the more interactive a book, the more fun it is for a child. The bright colors of the illustrations are typical Maisy style and are just as successful in this book as in the others. This one will be checked out lots from the library, so go ahead and buy your own copy.

For the older kids (or a read aloud) The Apple-Pip Princess is an adorable new fairy tale, written and illustrated by Jane Ray. When the Queen of a kingdom dies, all the beauty, laughter, and happiness vanish. The King convinces his three daughters to come up with a way to restore the kingdom and make his people happy again. The daughter who succeeds will become heir to his throne and the new Queen. Two of his daughters are quite selfish and vain and only wish to gain the position of Queen. The third daughter, however, truly wishes to restore the kingdom to its original state and make the people laugh again. Unfortunately, her methods are much more subtle than her sisters, so much so that she is afraid her father will not notice effort.

This is a wonderful story for those little girls that love princess books. The illustrations are wonderful and the message is prominent. A great fairy tale!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Poetry Friday: 42 Miles

JoEllen is suffering from an identity crisis. Her parents have divorced and she is forced to spend her time split between two places- her mom’s home in the city and her dad’s new home on a farm in the country. During her time with her mom, she is called Ellen, plays her saxophone and hangs out with her friends. While with her dad, her nickname changes to Joey and she prefers riding horses and hanging out with her cousin, Hayden. After awhile, JoEllen becomes confused as to who she really is. Whether Ellen or Joey, she doesn’t feel herself any longer and begins searching to find out just where she belongs and who the real JoEllen is.

In 42 Miles, Tracie Vaughn Zimmer has created a quick read that I’m sure many children of divorce will be able to relate to. Told in linked free verse poems, middle graders will be able to enjoy a writing style different from typical novels, yet still telling a story.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Audrey, Wait!

I cannot imagine anyone ever writing a song about me (though my husband sweetly tries when he’s had a few drinks), especially one that ends up on the radio, becoming an instant hit. That is the exact case with Audrey, the title character in Robin Benway’s Audrey, Wait!.

After Audrey breaks up with her wanna-be-rocker boyfriend, she feels guilty and agrees to go to one last gig, hearing a song he has obviously written about her.
The song is also heard by some important people in the music business and her ex’s band ends up getting a record deal. Their first radio single? “Audrey, Wait.” Audrey becomes the subject of constant paparazzi scrutiny, finding tabloids filled with lies and the repercussions become almost too much for her to handle. Being catapulted into an unwanted spotlight, Audrey must rely on her wonderful best friend and her fabulous sarcastic attitude to get through her new life as a public figure.

A very cute book, I do have to say that Audrey, Wait! is only appropriate for the older of young adults. Lots of language and talk of casual teen sex result in my recommending this only for that older age bracket. If your teens bring this home, you may want to flip through it first (or read it all the way through) to create an opinion for yourself. I enjoyed the writing and Audrey’s wit and sarcasm are spot on, I just wouldn’t feel comfortable with the younger crowd reading it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Art of Racing in the Rain

Simply stated, I loved this book. And no, it's not just because it happens to be narrated by a dog. I know what you all are thinking, I'm dog obsessed (yes, I am), but this book is worth reading even if you aren't a dog fan. It's unique, addictive, and wonderfully sad. I wish Enzo could meet my Shae, I think they would be friends.

Enzo is the family dog of Denny, a professional race car drive, his wife Eve, and little daughter Zoe, and is the narrator of Garth Stein's lovely new book. The first paragraph indicates that Enzo is telling his story of growing up with this family on the eve of his death, setting in motion a plot that is sad, yet so beautiful. Through Enzo's eyes, we are able to see Denny meet his soulmate in Eve, marry her and have Zoe. We see Eve become ill and eventually pass away, leaving Denny to deal with more than he ever bargained for. Depression, a court trial, and heartbreak are all shown through Enzo.

I loved the manner in which Enzo took care of his family, yet was still able to be just a dog at the same time. The writing is wonderful, not to mention incredibly unique. This is one title everyone should read. I've said that about very few books, but The Art of Racing in the Rain is most certainly one that should make the list. I believe that the way Enzo views his family is the way that all dogs view their families...as something to love and protect, have fun with and mourn with. Dogs are so much more intelligent than we give them credit for. They really are our best friends and Enzo gives us that needed glimpse into a dog's perspective. Read this!

There is a great video preview of the book at Amazon. Watch it! The dog is the perfect Enzo!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Girl Named Dan

Author Dandi Daley Mackall has written an excellent children’s book based on an event that happened directly to her when she was younger. A Girl Named Dan chronicles Mackall’s determination to be treated as an equal when it came to playing sports, before the induction of Title IX Education Amendment which came into effect in 1972.

Ten-year-old baseball enthusiast Dandi (or Dan as she is called by family and friends) knows her sport like the back of her hand. She religiously follows every Kansas City game and loves to play the game with her classmates, when the boys actually let her play that is. When the owner of her favorite team announces an essay contest designed to find new batboys for the home games, Dandi wants to win more than anything. A batboy position would be a dream come true! Unfortunately, her friend Ray points out that the contest is only open to boys…but when did being a girl stop Dandi from doing anything?

A great story of motivation and determination, A Girl Named Dan will be enjoyable for both boys and girls. The illustrations, done by Renee Graef, are a nice complement to the text and time period. Also great as a read aloud, though be careful, I stumbled over some of the baseball speak…get your announcer’s voices ready!