Monday, May 30, 2011

Non-Fiction Monday: A Butterfly is Patient


This one is a companion to An Egg is Quiet and A Seed is Sleepy, both of which I loved, but I think A Butterfly is Patient is my favorite. 


Beautifully illustrated by Sylvia Long, we get brilliant visuals of a huge range of different types of butterflies, from birth to full growth. The brilliant blue of the Pipevine Swallowtail might be my favorite, followed by greens and blues of Queen Alexandra's Birdwing. SO pretty!

The educational portion of the text is short and precise, with a great readability to it. A teacher can easily read this one aloud to her class, without the chance of losing kids to large words or long passages. Quick and to the point is always a plus. Author Diana Hutts Aston as includes beautifully poetic lines that flow from page to page make for a truly fantastic book. 

This book, along with the others in the series, should definitely have a place in your library or elementary classroom. And if you homeschool, run out and get a copy of these...so good!

A Butterfly is Patient 
Dianna Hutts Aston
40 pages
Non-Fiction
Chronicle Books
9780811864794
May 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Blackout...a new favorite picture book

A family is spending a typical summer evening busy with all their own activities. One is on the phone, another cooking, another working, all ignoring one another. Until the lights go out. Blackout in the city. Forced to spend time together, the family realizes that spending time together, without technology, can be a lot of fun!

They venture outside where, together with their neighbors, they partake in a blackout block party and also take time to star at the stars, which are a rare view in the city. When all the lights come back on, the family goes back to their every day routine...but also take time to turn off lights and enjoy each other's company.

I love John Rocco as an illustrator (he does the cover artwork for Rick Riordan's books, as well as his own) and this book proves to me that he can also be an awesome storyteller. The text is simple and direct and the illustrations, done in both black and white and color are just beautiful. It's my favorite for this summer so far!

Blackout
John Rocco
40 pages
Picture Book
Hyperion
9781423121909
May 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Thursday, May 26, 2011

In Grandma's Attic (or why I squealed when I opened the mail)

In 1989 I was 6 years old and took a road trip with my family from central New York to the middle of Missouri, on the way to visit my paternal grandparents. I was a fairly shy child and instead of interacting with my family during that time, I kept my face stuffed in a book series that my grandmother had sent me, in anticipation of us being in the car for a long time. Throughout that road trip and that week in the middle of the country, I had my nose in the stories written by Arleta Richardson, reading the sweet stories of Grandma's Attic.

I LOVED those books, but as my mother often did when we "outgrew" something, she sold them in a garage some years later. Then the reissues showed up in my mailbox :)

These books are all based on stories the author's own grandmother told her of childhood on a nineteenth century farm. They're all sweet and simple, inspirational, and teach lessons. They very much remind me of the Little House books in term of their simplicity and the heart that obviously went into the writing. Character-building, but lots of fun!

Each story is rather short, great for reading one each night before bed, and would make a really nice read aloud for families. I think the books are a bit on the girly side, thought there's enough humor injected that your boys might listen too. 

I really love these books and can't wait to get them back into the hands of readers! If you have a kid into reading about nineteenth century life on a farm, with lots of silly stories and a few great lessons, these are your books.

In Grandma's Attic (9780781403799) is available now, as is More Stories from Grandma's Attic (9780781403801), but the reissues of Still More Stories from Grandma's Attic and Treasures from Grandma's Attic will be available in August.


Thanks to Audra Jennings and the B&B Media Group for sending them my way!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cookies and Smoothies!!

While most of my lovely readers are off at BEA, basking in the glow of bloggy-friends, publishers, books, and everything related to reading, I thought I would do some non-traditional reviews here at the blog (at least non-traditional for this blog). Why not mix it up a bit?

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to review two cookbooks and now that I've made a few recipes out of each, I wanted to share the verdict with you all. If only could actually taste the results...yum!

Cookies, Cookies, & More Cookies! is by Lilach German and has a ton of delicious recipes paired with really bold and bright photos. My favorite cookbooks have tons of photos of the food featured in the recipe...very important to me. I need to see what I'm making!

I made three cookie recipes out of this one so far: the Cinnamon Twists, the Granola cookies, and the Nutella Thumbprints.

The Cinnamon Twists are in the "Cookies for Kids" section and were definitely super easy. 4 ingredients end up making 60 twists are they were really yummy. These would be great for a kid's party or to wrap up in a cellophane bag for a gift. 

The Granola Cookies are in the "Cookies for the Health Conscious" section and are chock full of yummy (and healthy) goodies, like raisins, pumpkin seeds, and almond slivers. I altered this one a bit, exchanging the cloves for cinnamon, and they came out crispy and really tasty. These would be great for taking on a hike.

Finally, I made the Nutella Thumbprints, also found in the "Cookies for Kids" section. The recipe makes a ton of cookies and it has NUTELLA! I'm a huge Nutella fan...like eating it straight from the jar fan...so these were definitely a big hit with me. I brought them to a potluck and they went fast!

The recipes I tried turned out great, so I expect the rest will turn out pretty fabulous as well. I really liked the two sections in the front featuring baking tools and ingredients preparation, making it a pretty nice choice for a beginner baker. 

I also was able to try out a few smoothie recipes from Smoothies, Smoothies, & More Smoothies by Leah Shomron & Hani Borovsky. We drink a lot of smoothies in the Snow household and I knew we would have fun trying out these!

The CinnaApple Almond was smooth and tasty...reminded me of fall! I like that there weren't a whole lot of ingredients to add and I was looking for a chance to try almond butter anyways. Yum! Nice for a meal replacement or for some extra protein. The almond butter probably takes the calorie count way up, but the smoothie will definitely fill you up!

Light 'n' Peachy wasn't my favorite, but if I did a simple swap next time, I think it would end up much more appealing to me. The recipe calls for both peaches and apricots and the apricots ended up making the smoothie have a bit of a bitter aftertaste. Too bitter for me. I think I would stick with just the peaches next time. 

The Lovingly Lemon was my favorite of the 3 I tried. The lemon and pineapple were a great combo and the smoothie was refreshing after a workout. You could even add some rum into this one for a party. 

I do wish each smoothie had some nutrition facts included, even if it were just fat, calories, and protein. I use smoothies as meal replacements a lot and I want to make sure I'm getting everything I need .

I did really appreciate that there was a photo for almost every smoothie recipe and the section on how to choose ingredients for your smoothies. Very helpful!

SO, now I expect you all that aren't at BEA to run off and be inspired to bake and use your blender! If you would like any of the recipes I mentioned, shoot me an email and I'll be happy to help you out!

Happy eating!


Thanks to the wonderful folks at Charlesbridge that sent me these cookbooks to review!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Blindsided review

Natalie is a pretty typical teen girl, growing up on a goat farm in rural Maryland. She has friends, a great family, and a pretty big crush on a guy at school. Having been born with an eye disease that is causing Natalie's sight to slowly get worse, she has grown used to adjusting the way she does her school work, farm chores, and pretty much everything else she does on a daily basis, but never truly believes she will lose her vision completely. She plans to do everything "normal" teens do, like drive, date, and go away to college.
 
After a visit to her eye doctor, Natalie is devastated to learn she will lose her sight in a matter of weeks. Her parents quickly make the decision to send her to school for the visually impaired, where she'll learn how to read Braille, walk with a cane, and other skills to aid her once she is blind. Natalie is scared and not at all convinced she belongs at the school at all, pushing away all attempts at friendship or learning new skills.
 
I really enjoyed the overall concept of the story and definitely learned a lot about the process of learning how to adapt one's life to not being able to see. Braille seems to be an incredibly difficult manner of reading and I'm now completely impressed with those that read it!
 
Having lived in Alamogordo, New Mexico for several years, home to the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, I was able to connect certain skills the students practiced in the book, to those I remember seeing students from NMSBVI practicing on the streets of town. Pretty neat! Definitely a whole lot of hard work.
 
I did feel that the story was as deep as it could have been. It was a pretty short book and could have used beefing up. Natalie was having to deal with an incredibly difficult change in her life and it I felt it was "resolved" a bit quicker than necessary. I would have liked to see a bit more meat to the emotional aspects, as well as to the skill learning portions, which were so interesting.
 
Overall, a good, quick read on a subject I haven't read a whole lot about.

Blindsided
Patricia Cummings
240 pages
Young Adult
Penguin
9780525421610
July 2010
Library copy

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Summer of May review

12-year-old May is not a troublemaker, but because of recent circumstances, she's definitely been acting like one. Living with her grandmother, a woman extremely depressed about the absence of May's mother, and her father, a man emotionally checked out of his daughter's life, only entering to make a poor attempt at keeping May "in line." In a fit of rage at a teacher, May makes a decision that lands her in summer school, alone with "Movado the Avocado," the worst teacher EVER.

Over the course of the summer, May is spiteful, mean, and rude to Miss Movado, having bottled up anger over her mother leaving, her father's lack of attention, her living situation, and her grandmother's depression. In bits and pieces, Miss Movado is able to reach May (though this child sure does make it hard), with attention, education, and a little bit of manual labor. The pair form a unique, yet incredibly sweet relationship, and soon May begins to realize how wrong her manner of dealing with her home life has been.

I am a big fan of Cecelia Galante's The Patron Saint of Butterflies, (though that one is definitely a YA read and much, much darker in subject matter) and even with this particular novel, being aimed at younger children, Galante still manages to create characters the reader can connect to, with emotional depth and a certain fire to their personality, whether it be in May's anger-filled heart or Miss Movado, a somewhat lonely woman with a quick tongue.

I didn't find the story unique, but the characters were really nicely written, making THEM the heart of the book, rather than the plot...which is fine with me.

The Summer of May
Cecelia Galante
256 pages
Middle Grade
Simon and Schuster
9781416980230
May 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Monday, May 16, 2011

Non-Fiction Monday: Meet the Planets

To find a book on the solar system, for kids, that isn't dry and boring seems to be a tough task!  Meet the Planets is funny and original, while teaching kids all about the planets. Short and simple, yet filled with facts, I was really impressed with the whole package and I think teachers/librarians will be too. 

Presented as a story in which the planets are each entered into the "Favorite Planet" Competition, with Pluto as the emcee. As each planet is introduced, the reader is given facts in a laugh-out-loud manner that will even have adults chuckling! The illustrations are also pretty funny and definitely lend an appeal factor to a book about the solar system. 

I LOVE the activities provided in the back of the book, giving even more information on the planets, and making this a great classroom book. Lots of fun!

Meet the Planets
John McGranaghan and Laurie Allen Klein
32 pages
Picture Book
Sylvan Dell
9781607181330
March 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Picture Book Saturday

Mitchell is one of those kids that just never wants to go to bed. When his dad graciously gives 3 year old Mitchell his license, the boy does all the saftey inspections on his "car" and sets off on an awesome bedtime road trip, on top of Dad's shoulders!

A silly and sweet story about a boy's imagination and love of things that "go," while also illustrating the bond between father and child. If you have a fan of cars in your life, pick this one up as a bedtime read! Be careful though, you just might end up with a road trip in your future.

 
Mitchell's License
Hallie Durand/Tony Fucile
40 pages

Picture Book
Candlewick Press
9780763644963
April 2011
Review copy provided by publisher
 
Cat is very cranky when he wakes up from a sound sleep, because of all the noise on the farm. He decides that the animals are much too noisy and he needs to remedy that! Making the rooster squeak, the pig cluck, and the chickens oink is only the beginning of Cat's mischief...until the tables are turned on him!

A great storytime read aloud, all the animal sounds get mixed up and your kids will be giggling as you do the "wrong" sounds. The illustrations are super silly too, making another winner from Emma Dodd!
 
Meow Said the Cow
Emma Dodd
40 pages
Picture Book
Arthur A. Levine
9780545318617
May 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Friday, May 13, 2011

Vacation!

The husband and I are off for our annual anniversary getaway! We're headed to the Outer Banks in North Carolina for a week with some family and I plan on doing nothing except eating, sunning, and reading. Lots of reading. And playing with the nephews of course.

I may occasionally be checking in on Twitter and I have posts set up through next week (prior to the Blogger crash, thank goodness).

See ya'll next week!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What Happened to Goodbye review

So, I am a BIG Sarah Dessen fan. Like, literally, a Sarah Dessen fan. I follow her on Twitter (@sarahdessen), obsessively read her blog where she muses about writing, motherhood, food, the beach, and UNC) and I love, love, love her books. My genre of choice seems to be realistic, contemporary fiction and Dessen always hits it spot on with the emotions girls face, the situations they're put into, and the love they feel SO intensely.
 
In this latest novel, we meet a girl who is completely and utterly lost in terms of knowing who she is and what she wants out of her life. Each time McClean moves to a new town with her restaurant-flipper dad, she reinvents herself and changes her name. She's been the quiet one, the overachiever, the popular girl, etc., always trying to escape her real life that includes a mom that had an affair, an eventual divorce between her parents, and a dad who can't even watch their favorite team play basketball anymore...something they've always bonded over.
 
This latest move begins the same as all the others: new restaurant, new house, new name, but McClean can't quite figure out who she wants to be in this town. She actually begins making real friends, including Dave, a guy who makes her think about herself in a way she's never quite managed to before. As time passes, McClean starts to be herself, forgive some people, and discover a lot about her family she never thought she could deal with.
 
I really liked McClean's character, as well as the supporting cast of smaller characters, especially McClean's dad. Something about him just felt really honest..a dad busy with work, but still totally loving his kid. and I LOVED all the yummy food talk. Fried pickles are delicious, so I was all over those.
 
The emotional impact Dessen is known for was definitely oozing out of the pages. You will be able to relate to McClean and what she thinks about herself and her family, and her relationship with her dad is really special. There's enough subtle humor in some of the dialog to keep things from getting too serious, which I appreciated, and which really lends this book to being a good summer read for teens. 

Another winner from Sarah Dessen!

What Happened to Goodbye
Sarah Dessen
416 pages
Young Adult
Penguin
9780670012947
May 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

Non-Fiction Monday: Princesses!

Overseas, England has gained a new princess in Kate Middleton (what a GORGEOUS princess she is!), while over here in little, old Northern Virginia, I'm just reading about a whole bunch of super cool princesses around the world.

The "Thinking Girl's Treasury of Real Princesses" features six books about real life princesses from history. Readers are given an educational look into the lives of these women, in a readable and interesting format. Each book gives background information on each princess, a map of where she was from, what she wore and ate, photographs and illustrations, and what the time period was like during her reign.


Princesses:

Isabella of Castile
Hatshepsut of Egypt
Artemisia of Caria
Sorghaghtani of Mongolia
Qutlugh Terkan Khatun of Kirman
Nur Jahan of India



You'll take a journey around the world! I've never come across a series quite like this one (and had never heard of most of these women) and it would be perfect for school libraries. Great for biography reports, but also nice for a unit on royalty or for home schooling families.


All of the books are written by Shirin Yim Bridges and illustrated by Albert Nguyen.

Thank you to Kids Can Press to sending the series for review!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Picture Book Saturday

Press Here by Herve Tullet

This one will most likely be in my top-5 favorite picture books of the year. It has everything i look for in an interactive picture book: a fun concept, bright colors, silliness, and short text.

Using a simple yellow dot, the reader is encouraged to follow exact instructions, each of which leads to more fun on the next page. You'll touch the pages, shake the book, tilt the book, all while fun, bright dots explode on the page. Tons of fun for toddlers and great for getting those that still aren't quite sure if they like books into reading.

Press Here
Herve Tullet
56 pages
Picture Book
Chronicle
9780811879545
March 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

I Spy with My Little Eye by Edward Gibbs

The concept of this one isn't exactly unique--trying to figure out what may be on the page using small clues--but the format of this particular spying book is fantastic. You get a spy hole!

Each page gives a small clue as to what might be hiding on the next page, paired with a spy hole giving a glimpse of the color of the animal. You'll find whales, polar bears, and even an orangutan hiding in the pages!

The illustrations are nice and bright and the pages are large, making it a great storytime read. I used it for a 3 and 4 year old group and they loved it!

I Spy with My Little Eye
Edward Gibbs
32 pages
Picture Book
Templar Books
9780763652845
April 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Weird Sisters review

Sisters Rosalind, Cordelia, and Bianca have grown up with Shakespeare-loving parents (as we can tell just from their names) and more than their fair share of disfunction. All are grown, having left home and started their own lives, but their mother's illness has brought them all back together, each with their own set of serious issues to deal with. There's a pregnancy, some embezzlement, and a huge vat of resentment stewing on these pages. 
 
As the girls attempt to deal with their mother's decline in health, they also have to sort out problems with men, each other, and themselves. Their self reflection is deep, while the dialogue is quite humorous, as each sister has their own very distinct personality and manner of dealing with the problems at hand. Their father speaks mainly in quotes from his beloved Shakespeare, which after a little getting used to, is quite charming, and the overall voice was brilliantly done. 

Told from all three of the women's perspectives, it is most definitely a unique voice, and one I've never come across before. I was pulled into their story from the first few lines and just wanted to keep on reading until the stories of each girl had come to a close. I don't have a sister myself, but I had a lot of fun reading about these sisters! 

The Weird Sisters
Eleanor Brown
336 pages
Adult fiction
Amy Einhorn Books
9780399157226
January 2011
Library copy

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thoughts on the awesomeness that is Divergent


By now, you all do not need a plot synopsis of this book, as it's all over the web and all of your blogs. Let's just say, I loved it. Love, love, love, love, love. Action, great character development, and a fast-paced plot totally sucked me in from the beginning.

There's a bit of a creepiness factor and enough violence that those loving the violence in The Hunger Games won't be disappointed. The emotions each character exhibited came out as real and honest and the fact that it's a trilogy has me almost drooling for more. 

Handed it to my teen ARC readers club and they loved it. Handed it to my 30-year-old male cousin and he loved it. 

Just go get it. It's awesome!

A quick note on the cover...it's the only part of the book I'm not a fan of it. And neither were my teens. Every single one of them said they wouldn't have picked up the book if I hadn't book talked it. It has a weird sci-fi vibe boy book vibe going on. Just don't judge on the cover!

Divergent
Veronica Roth
496 pages
Young Adult
Katherine Tegen Books
9780062024022
May 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Monday, May 2, 2011

Non-Fiction Monday: First Big Book of Why

The number of questions answered in this book is pretty amazing in itself, but throw in bold color choices, bright photography, and a fantastic layout and a success you have one awesome book!

Kids are always asking questions and we obviously can't answer them all (half if we're lucky). Covering four different categories: Amazing Me, How Things Work, Animals All Around, and Wonders of the World, answers abound on these pages! 

Questions like "why can't we touch the stars?" and "why do I have a belly button" accompany more complex questions such as "why do some people have twins" and why do planes fly." The range is quite amazing, but the answers are totally straight forward. 

Lots of neat facts are also included on question page, all related to the original question, as are some cool experiments kids can do on their own. 

This one will be available on May 10th.

First Big Book of Why
Amy Shields
128 pages
Non-Fiction
National Geographic
9781426307935
May 2011
Review copy provided by publisher