Saturday, March 28, 2015

Books, et al

So this week I read:

I never read the other books in this series.  Reviews say that THIS book, which is supposed to be the last, is darker than the others in the series.  Joey just about makes himself unfixable in his attempts to put his family back together.  Gantos draws a picture of hope springing eternal and the ending has the reader crossing her fingers that everything hangs together.

 Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt
 Books about children who cannot read make me wonder who the audience is supposed to be.  This book is available as an audiobook and I am grateful for that.  How a child could get to 6th grade without anyone knowing that they cannot read is a puzzle to me, even though it happened to at least one of my siblings.
But Hunt's heroine hides her disability so well that everyone thinks she just has a bad attitude.  Enter thoughtful teacher!!!  And he understands that when a child "refuses" to learn there is something else going on.  Good book to share with a class, a teacher and a struggling reader - on audio, probably.

Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper 
Stella's brother wakes her up one night to show her the white hooded figures burning a cross on the other side of the river.  The year is 1932.   Times are hard everywhere.  And now, the black community is threatened.  On Sunday, the Pastor exhorts his flock to register to vote.  Stella's Dad is one of the three black man who choose to register.  He takes Stella along to be his "standing stone".  Based on family stories shared with the author, this book paints a credible picture of a black community in the south and the trials and joys they experience.  So good!

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming
I could not help draw parallels between the 1.5% of the Russion population who controlled 90% of the wealth in the beginning of the 20th century to our own rich and privileged few.  They were clueless about the sufferings of most Russians, choosing to believe that the poor were clean, happy and well-fed.  Nicholas andAlexandra would have made great suburbanites, raising their brood and tending their graden and gossiping with the neighbors.  But as leaders, they were ostriches - downright cruel in their insistent ignorance.  Awesome book!  Eye-opening and astounding.

ALSO The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett, and Jory John and illustrated by Kevin Cornell.
Niles is a prankster extraordinaire but at his new school an unknown nemesis outpranks him at every turn.  When he meets this mastermind face to face, Niles declares a prank war.  Oh, Niles, you FOOL!!  Please, if you do try these ideas at home, do NOT mention where you read this review.

Now, I will go to bed.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Moonpenny Island

Moonpenny IslandI hated growing up.  And that time - just before the world turned upside down - when I was still a child but I felt it all leaking away - I fought that time with every sobbing breath.  It took me a while to realize that you don't just - poof! - grow up.  It happens bit by bit.  I didn't like learning about adulthood's inevitability.  (There are those who think I fight it still.)

In Tricia Springstubb's Moonpenny Island, Flor and Sylvie are perfect friends.  This is a good thing.  They are the only 11-year-olds on Moonpenny Island.  But the end of summer brings enormous changes.  Sylvie leaves to go to school on the mainland and Flor is alone.  Flor's older sister, perfect Cecelia, has started acting strangely.  And her parents, well, they should not be acting that way at all.

On a small island, it can be easy to put people in slots. Flor must open her eyes.  She needs to see people as more than just labels.  Ceclia is not "perfect".  Perry is more than just the "bad boy".  Joe Hawkes is not "trash".  And her best, best BEST friend, does not have to stay the same always.

A young visitor to the island - a paleontologist's daughter - a family crisis, and her own impetus nature force Flor to truly see her island, and her family, for the first time. 

Good book.  Read it. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy Irish Day

So, in the 1890's one Garrett Nolan left his green, green isle and traveled west to this land of ours.  He was my great-grandfather.  I think that makes me 1/4 Irish.  But, isn't that silly?  I've never been to Ireland and I have barely been out of this valley of Lehigh.

New PolicemanBe that as it may, today we celebrate all the Irish immigrants who made this land their home AND we celebrate the British Roman citizen who loved Ireland, St. Patrick.  He was wise enough to describe Christianity in the terms of Celtic mythology making the two belief systems compatible.  Or so I have been led to believe.

When I think of Ireland and books about the same, I think immediately of Kate Thompson's The New Policeman.  Fantasy and lots of mythology and the theft of time and the loss of magic.  I only read the first book and no I find that there are 2 more.  I am so happy to add those to my list of books to read.

Before Maryrose Wood wrote her famous series about the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, she also wrote a series about the daughter of The Queen of the fairies.  The stories take place in Ireland where the teen has gone for a summer bike trip and falls head over heels for the tour guide.  She also discovers her legacy and a brother, who may or may not be a pooka.  The first book in the trilogy is Why I Let my Hair Grow OutThese books are a fun romp through the Celtic pantheon.

And, of course,  Hibernian Nights, by Seamus MacManus, belongs on any list of books about Ireland.  This collection of Irish tales is stupendous and fun. 

May your day be fun of green, sunshine and peace.
May your blessings flow over and troubles decrease!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Professor Wormbog - revisited

Grandkids let us revisit the books we hid from their parents because we could NOT BEAR to read those books one more time.  My son and I had a deal:  If I was an overly grumpy Mom - and we both had to agree that that was the case - I had to read  Little Monster's Word Book by Mercer Mayer.  And he had me read the CIP info on the back of the title page, the ISBN on the back of the book and any print he could find.  I loved the book a lot, just not every night for months on end.  Hence the arrangement.   ( I would never choose a book I personally disliked for this routine. Animal Crackers - a book of animal jokes - was another Grumpy Mom book.  I have a copy in the attic, just waiting for the right moment.)

I never hid this book by Mercer Mayer;  Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-a-zoo. I enjoyed the story, the fun-filled illustrations and the ending.  So did my boy, and now my grandchild loves this book, too.

Here is a video the author/illustrator made in 2007.

Monday, March 9, 2015

SLJ's BoB Round 1

Before I head over to see which book was chosen in this morning's Battle of the Kids' Books, I must state my choice to move on.  As intricate and complicated as Children of the King is, I hope that Brown Girl Dreaming wins this first round. Jacqueline Woodson's memoir in verse is magnificent. 

Brown Girl Dreaming     Let's see if today's BoB judge agrees with me.

Update:  YES!!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Children of the King

The BoB competition starts on Monday, March 9th, with Brown Girl Dreaming facing off against Children of the King.  I have chosen which book I hope will win but it is not an easy choice and I won't be surprised if my choice bites the dust early.
Brown Girl Dreaming             The Children of the King

Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett offers, at least, two story lines.  Cecily and her older brother Jeremy accompany their mother, Heloise, to the family seat, Heron Hall, to wait out the War.  Their father stays in London to do "important work". They arrive with scores of evacuee children and end up taking home 10-year-old May.  Uncle Peregrine answers questions about the castle ruins on the estate by telling a story about an historical Duke's rise to power. The stories intertwine as the German assault on London begins and worsens. 

 May, whose audacity surprises, maddens, and delights Cecily, discovers two boys hanging around the castle ruins.  Who are they?  What are they doing in a centuries old ruin?  Why do they speak so imperiously?

Meanwhile 14-year-old Jeremy is tortured by his inactivity.  The pressure of duty - to help in the war effort, to behave nobly - makes him irritable and demanding.  His mother refuses to listen to him - or to hear what he is actually saying.

I sometimes wondered for whom Hartnett wrote this book.  The sophisticated language hints at so much more than it says.  Hartnett offers the most insight into two characters, childish Cecily, and controlled Heloise.  Cecily is the main character, although she seems to fumble along after other people. But the glimpses behind icy Heloise's composure enlarges the audience to adults who enjoy historical fiction and stately language.

I will tell you if I believe this book will rise BoB victorious in a future post.  In the meantime, compare Children of the King to The War that Saved My Life for two different experiences of WWII young evacuees.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Life happens


林明子(Akiko Hayashi)

We had no water for 11 days.  Heat?  Check!  Power?  Good!  Water?  No, sorry.  We spent a lot of time filling up jugs and dragging them home, visiting relatives just to use their showers and washing machines, and melting snow.  Yes, I even resorted to melting snow for flushing toilets.

Since we are doing a lot of babysitting at the same time, I am not reading much - except for awesome picture books like Aki and the Fox by Akiko Hayashi.  Kon the Fox gets into a lot of trouble on the train ride to visit Grandma .  I have always wanted a sequel to this book.  I found the second illustration on

AND 10 Minutes to Bedtime by Peggy Rathman.  The little hamster kicking his soccer ball makes my favorite listener giggle every time.

10 minutes till bedtime