Saturday, June 30, 2007

Picture Book Saturday!

I read some great picture books this week and can't wait to share them all with you guys! Hopefully you'll find some that you and the kids can both enjoy! Here we go...

The Kamishibai Man by Allen Say was one of the most sentimental books I've read in awhile. You really can't expect anything less when it's written by Allen Say. This story chronicles a old man living in Japan that used to be the local "kamishibai man," the storyteller of the town that would ride his bicycle into the city and tell children stories while handing out treats. Many years have passed since this man has ridden his bike into the town, or told any stories for that matter, but his wife encourages him to give it another try.

He returns to a city he no longer knows, technology and traffic having taken over, but still, the kamishibai man sets up his stand and waits for the children to arrive. Though the years have passed and times have changed, the art of storytelling has always remained magical and the kamishibai man is once again in business.

This story will bring tears to your eyes as you witness the sentimentality Say presents. The illustrations, also done by Say, are perfect for the story and never take away from the words written on the page. After reading it, I found myself wishing that we had the tradition of street storytellers in America. How great would that be?

We move on to a hilarious book that had me rolling in my seat! Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road" is written and illustrated by some of today's top writers and illustrators, including Mo Willems, David Shannon, Tedd Arnold, and Jerry Pinkney. That alone should make you want to read this book!

The basic premise of the book is the answering of the age-old riddle "why did the chicken cross the road?" Each author/illustrator takes a page to answer the question, including an illustration of their answer. Some of the answers such as Lynn Munsinger's "because the light said 'walk'" just make you laugh out loud. Kids will love this book and parents who are up on their knowledge of popular authors and illustrators will love deciphering who drew what. It's lots of fun!

Moving on...

Next up is I'm Pangoo the Penguin, by Satomi Ichikawa. This is a fairly simple book, great for a bedtime story or to help teach young ones to read. And if you know me, you know I love penguins, so of course, I smiled a lot while reading!

Pangoo is a stuffed penguin living with his owner, Danny. Danny loves Pangoo and takes him everywhere until Danny has a birthday party and receives new stuffed animals as gifts. Danny seems to forget about Pangoo, so the stuffed penguin decides he will go where he can find others like himself, namely the zoo, to the penguin exhibit. Once Pangoo finds out he is not like the other "real" penguins, he begins to feel as if he has no place to belong. The ending, like most children's books is quite happy and children will feel content after reading the story about true families.

To conclude this week's Picture Book Saturday, I have a specific series of books to share with you. They are the alphabet books "filled with fun facts" by Sleeping Bear Press. These books have really impressed me and I'm pushing them on as many patrons as I can. Each book focuses on a particular subject, giving an example of a word for that subject beginning with each letter of the alphabet. For example, a few of the books include : "A is for America, an American Alphabet. B is for Bookwork, a Library Alphabet. P is for Passport, a World Alphabet. W is for Wind, a Weather Alphabet." There is one (or more) for each letter of the alphabet. Each page also includes facts about the specific word being presented. In R is for Rhyme, a Poetry Alphabet, one of the letters/words presented is "S" is for sonnet. It gives an example of a sonnet in a fun, rhythmic way, but on the side of the page goes into detail as to what a sonnet is, where they originated, etc. These books really are great. All of them are filled with lively illustrations and tons of educational information.
Hope you enjoyed!!

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Mysterious Benedict Society

Another delightful children's book from the shelves at our library! This is probably one of the best books I've read this year and I believe it's the first in a series, which, of course, puts a big smile on my face. I love series books and I know this one can make it big.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart follows 4 children, Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance, that are all orphans of a sort. The children participate in taking a series of tests to determine if they are right for very mysterious positions that requiring "gifted children looking for special opportunities." Once chosen for this society (and only these 4 are chosen), they begin learning more about what their leader, Mr. Benedict wishes for them to accomplish.

The children set off to Nomansan Island, where a very peculiar school resides, under the leadership of a Mr. Curtain. The children must go undercover to the school and find out just how and why Mr. Curtain is planning to take over the world, as well as foil the plan. The children get into all sorts of scrapes and mishaps along the way, but always stick together, as true families do.

This book really is going to get big in the children's fiction world. I loved this book and stayed up quite late just to finish it all. The characters are fantastic and deep and extremely well contrived and the plot is unique and fast-moving. Definitely a page turner. If your child enjoys Harry Potter, the Spiderwick Chronicles, or A Series of Unfortunate Events, he or she will love this book. It's clean in language and a wonderful selection for bedtime reading. I really did enjoy this book and hope more people will pick it up in the future.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Apparently, I rock!!!

Some of you out there know me, without ever really knowing me. None of you have ever met me in person, yet you seem to understand when I can use a pick-me-up or a funny comment. Deena over at Wholly Devoted just made my day when she gave me the Rockin' Girl Blogger award and I love her for it!! I'm so glad that she (and hopefully some others of you out there) reads this blog and just think that I rock!
Thank you so much Deena! It definitely put a smile on my face after a very rough week!

Now, it seems to be my turn to nominate some nice lady bloggers for this little award. I know I should only pick a few, but so many of you really do rock, not only in the blogging world, but in your lives and careers as well. Here are my picks:

1. Lisa over at Lisa Writes. This woman writes about God and her walk with Him in such a manner that lightbulbs go on in my head every time I read a post. She has a way of stating simple things in ways that I never thought of and over and over again has given me reason to praise Jesus for all the good He has done in my life.

2. Jen from Jen Robinson's Book Page. This is a blog that is so full of info pertaining to the kids-lit business, I never miss a day of checking it out. Jen writes fantastic reviews and always includes little tidbits that a lot of reviewers tend to leave out. I have ordered a ton of books for the library based on her musings and my TBR pile has grown considerably thanks to her!

3. Becky at Becky's Book Reviews. Another lady blogger that makes my TBR pile grow almost daily! The reviews are always very detailed and between this site and her other site Becky's Christian Reviews, I could never run out of things to read. Not to mention she is SUCH a nice, sweet person. Another great friend I've made through blogging!

Well ladies, I think you all ROCK! Thanks again Deena!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos

I really have been incredibly lucky in the book department lately! Each book in the past few weeks has been pretty much great and this one was no exception. A nice change from May's reading slump! I had never read a book by this author before, but was delighted with her from page one and plan to seek out more of her work in the very near future.

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. LaFevers, takes place in 1906, London. 11 year old Theodosia spends all of her days in an old and dark museum that her father runs and her mother supplies with all sorts of interesting archeological artifacts. For most children, this atmosphere would become dreary and boring, but for Theodosia, there is always work to do. With special abilities no one in her family is privy to, Theodosia can feel out curses that have been placed on artifacts and dissolve them, saving the museum and her family from a lot of trouble. Unfortunately, Theodosia's mother brings back an object from Egypt that is cursed with such darkness it threatens to cripple the entire country of Britain. Theodosia, working with a crew of very interesting characters, must defeat the curse, before it's too late.

This book was fantastic. Really, I know I overuse that word at times, but really, it was fantastic. The character of Theodosia had such witty and sarcastic sense of humor, I found myself laughing out loud in spots (and being reminded of my boss who is the human version of Theodosia). This book is definitely a page turner, though not one inappropriate for younger children. Reading this to a six-year-old will not give them nightmares, though 8-12 year-olds will probably be the most interested. I loved the book and recommend it to all of you (and you're children). Let me know what you think, if you do read it!

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Little Venting...

I am lost and need some fellow blogger assistance. I am having a very difficult time being "ok" with where I am at career-wise and a big change needs to be made and soon. I am working part-time at a job that I half love and half hate. I love my job in the children's room, but it's not enough. I don't get paid enough and I was denied for full-time, so it just doesn't pay the bills. I need a full time job, preferably working with books, but there is nothing other than where I am at. No other libraries, no publishing companies, nothing. I'm stuck. Then Aaron gives me the idea to do something more with this blogging, but I have no idea where to even start. I would love to do this and get paid for it, but does that even happen? Is that even a possibility? Right now I just blog what I think about books, I don't really proofread or plan out what to write in a professional manner, I just do it. Spell check is as far into the editing field that I go, but if I fixed things and concentrated on writing longer, more in-depth, professional reviews could I get paid for it?

Even if blogging for money wouldn't work out, is there anything out there that revolves around books that does pay money? At this point, it doesn't even have to be about books, as much as I would like it to be. Are there any real work-at-home opportunities? I do a little freelance reviewing for a Christian publishing company, but those only come sporadically, definitely not bringing in the money. I need something and I need it quickly. I want to stay in the library field, but that doesn't seem possible right now, at least not until we are able to move somewhere with more than one library to choose from.

Any help you can offer would be great. If you have an idea of what I could do with this blogging or how I could make money from it, please let me know (or fill me in on if I'm just dreaming). If you have work-at-home suggestions, please send them my way. Any friendly advice would be much appreciated. I'm desperate at this point!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Picture Book Saturday!

Only two reviews this week due to the craziness of my life the past few days. I only had a chance to pick up a few picture books and only two caught my eye enough to review. Hopefully I'll have a whole bunch next weekend. Anyways...enjoy these two!

If Nathan Were Here by Mary Bahr is a story about loss in a young boy's life. After the death of a friend (the logistics of the death are never revealed), the boy must learn to move on and adjust to life without him. At first the story is based on the boy's grief and how "Nathan is not here" to participate in any of their former fun activities. Bahr slowly shows the boy beginning to simply think of Nathan in terms of the good memories of their friendship and how he can best continue to remember him in the future.

The story is very sweet and must be read with caution, knowing that it will probably evoke questions from children about where Nathan went, why he didn't come back to play with the little boy, and why the little boy is so sad. However, even with those questions, I feel this is an important book that can not only hold the interest of young children, but get them thinking about questions or thoughts they may have about death. It is a great conversation starter and a really well written book.

The second book of the week is titled The Friday Nights of Nana by Amy Hest. This book is incredibly sweet and just gives the reader that comforting feeling while it's being read. A very nice bedtime story I believe!

It's Friday and Nana and Jennie must spend their day preparing for the Sabbath. The work very hard washing the china, polishing candlesticks, shopping, make dough for the challah and getting all dressed up. When the rest of the family finally arrives that evening and are gathered peacefully around the table, Nana and Jennie say the Sabbath prayer together, while lighting the candles.

This is a rich story steeped in tradition and family love. It can help children learn about other religions, in the event the readers are not Jewish and/or do not understand what Sabbath means. The story also exhibits a lot about family values and the truly important things in life in terms of family and tradition. I thought the story was great and the illustrations were well done.

That's it for this week, but I'll try and find some good ones for next week. As for an update on the rest of my reading...I'm about 3/4 of the way through a fantastic juvenile fiction book, Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos and am loving every minute. The book is great and the character of Theodosia is incredibly witty and sarcastic. A great book I will be sorry to see end. I'm about to start another Summer Reading Challenge book, The Mysterious Benedict Society, will also be starting HP #6 around July 1st for the Book Award Challenge and of course because July 21st is fast approaching! I may even reread #5 just because the movie is coming out soon as well. We'll see! Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Friday, June 22, 2007

July 4th Giveaways Galore!

Over at 5 Minutes for Mom, they are hosting a fantastic series of giveaways, which everyone should enter! First up is a very cool ice cream maker (that's incredibly easy to use, no churning required) and a very cute set of bowls. They are posting more contests up until July 4th, when they will decide on winners. Go enter! Everyone loves a good giveaway!

A little more about me...

Ready to learn a bit more about Amanda?! I found this fun meme at Becky's Book Reviews and figured I would waste a little time filling it out. :-) Enjoy!

5 Things Meme

Five Things I Was Doing Ten Years Ago
1) Well, I was 14 ten years ago, so I was probably preparing for my first year of high school.
2) Hanging out with my best friend, Robin (who is still my bf today) and riding our bikes 10 miles once a week just to buy magazines with stupid quizzes in them.
3) Bridge jumping. Not the smartest thing, I know, but that's what you do when you live in the sticks. Jump off 50 foot bridges into the river.
4) I spent a lot of time babysitting the summer I was 14. Too much time!
5) Reading...I've always loved reading and that year was no exception!

Five Snacks I Enjoy
1) Wheat things with dijon mustard and cheddar cheese
2) Ice cream cones, preferably a twist with chocolate sprinkles, but I can deal with hard ice cream too.
3) Chips and mild, chunky salsa
4) Frozen grapes
5) Popsicles, red or purple please!

Five Songs I Know All the Lyrics To

1) Strong Tower by Kutless
2) Saved by Grace by Shane and Shane
3) Tupelo Honey by Van Morrison
4) She's Everything by Brad Paisley (my wedding song :-)
5) Glory of Love by Peter Cetera

Five Things I Would Do If I Were A Millionaire

1) Pay off our bills/loans/etc, as well as my mother's
2) Buy a nice house on a lake in NY
3) Have a book savings account, specifically for any book that I want to buy, as well as a nice big, regular savings account
4) Buy my hubby all the techie gadgets he could ever want, including that new computer and plasma tv he's been wanting forever
5) Donate to the bajillion charities I would love to help out

Five Bad Habits

1) I worry waaay too much and yes, that is a bad habit. I just can't let things go sometimes.
2) I brush my hair about a thousand times a day. It's long, about halfway down my back and very straight, which makes it look messy pretty much instantly. I can't help it, I have to brush.
3) I say "I'm sorry" for everything, even if the something isn't my fault or even have anything to do with me. It's my way of showing sympathy, but I know it's annoying.
4) Reading through movies/tv shows. This drives my husband crazy, but I just like to multi-task!
5) I have the horrible habit of not returning phone calls. I'm an email junkie, but leave me a voicemail and it may be a week before I get back to you. Sorry!

Five Things I Like To Do

1) I love, love, love to read/shop for/look at/browse for books. Anything to do with books, I'm there.
2) Hiking in the mountains with my hubby and my dog. Every Sunday we make the 25 minute drive up to Cloudcroft and hike/play/get coffee. It's great!
3) Swim. I love to swim. Love it. Too bad here in NM, the chance to do that is slim to none.
4) Camping. Camping is the best...and I mean real camping. Tents and sleeping bags and firewood. No campers, no Rv's, no electricity. I love REAL camping.
5)Road trips. Living in the middle of nowhere means Aaron and I take a lot of these. We'll go to El Paso for the day....or maybe somewhere in Arizona. Sometime soon we're going to get to South Texas to the beach.

Five Things I Would Never Wear Again:

1) Stirrup pants
2) The little tie things that bundle your shirt at the side. Those were just dumb.
3) Scrunchies.
4) A ponytail to the side. Does that count as wear?
5) Acid washed jeans

Five Favorite Toys

1) LightBright. That was the coolest toy ever!
2) Any board game. In fact, we are having a game night with some friends this evening. Can't wait! I'm the trivia queen!
3) Barbies. I was a total Barbie-holic. I hope my future daughter likes them too.
4) My Little Pony. I collected these when I was little and still buy them as gifts for the nieces.
5) The My Sister doll. I had a blast reading to her and having her "read" back!

Well that was fun! If you feel like taking this and doing it, leave me a comment so I can come read yours!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Spring Reading Thing Finale

I finished the rest of my list for the Spring Reading Thing Challenge a couple of weeks ago and in honor of the actual completion date, Katrina has asked us all to post some wrapup info to share with everyone. Easy enough!

What was the best book you read this spring?
Out of the 18 or so that I read, my favorite was probably The Kindness of Strangers by Katrina Kittle. It was fantastic, though tragic.

What book could you have done without?
I think I could have done without The Prince of Tides, though only because I've read it many times before. This time was just one too many and I got feelings of dislike towards the story, rather than love for it.

Did you try out a new author this spring? If so, which one, and will you be reading that author again?
I actually tried out 6 new authors! I would definitely read more by Katrina Kittle, Ann Hood, and Brian Selznick. Probably nothing else from Chris Bohjalian. I didn't like either of his books and I didn't finish either of them.

If there were books you didn't finish, tell us why. Did you run out of time? Realize those books weren't worth it?
I started both of Chris Bohjalian's books: Before You Know Kindness and The Double Bind but couldn't get into either. Both bugged me enough by the 3rd chapter or so that I just figured they weren't worth it. I added bonus books to make up for those 2.

Did you come across a book or two on other participants' lists that you're planning to add to your own to-be-read pile? Which ones?
Oh lots! I get most of my ideas for reading from other bloggers. Kabul Beauty School was one that I added to my TBR pile, read last week and just loved. So thank you for the bloggers who reviewed that one!

What did you learn -- about anything -- through this challenge? Maybe you learned something about yourself or your reading style, maybe you learned not to pick so many nonfiction books for a challenge, maybe you learned something from a book you read. Whatever it is, share!
I learned that just because someone is a bestselling author doesn't mean I will love their work. I didn't like Chris Bohjalian's books at all. I also learned that even though I may have loved a book for years, there can come a time when I have changed enough as a person, that I just plain don't like it anymore, as in The Prince of Tides.

What was the best part of the Spring Reading Thing?
Getting all sorts of books out of my TBR pile and into my head!

Would you be interested in participating in another reading challenge this fall?
I will definitely be participating in another challenge. I would love another from Katrina!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Oh what a wonderful, fantastic, tragic, magnificently horrible book! I wanted to savor this one as long as possible, knowing how long it took for it to come out after the publication of The Kite Runner, but I couldn't help myself....I devoured it in about a day. This is certainly one of the most powerful portrayals of friendship you could ever imagine and one of those rare books that will keep you thinking for days.

Hosseini tells the stories of Laila and Mariam, first individually and then about their lives together, living through nightmares unimaginable to most people. Both have loves in their life and both are torn apart from those loves. Both have severe tragedy in their lives, yet continue on as strong human beings. Their friendship is amazing and the story had me in tears more than once. I really don't want to write much more than that about the plot of this novel, for some reason I would just rather you all find out on your own. Sometimes you just have to trust your fellow bloggers on this and I'm asking you to trust me! Read this book! And if you still want more of a review or a little more info on the plot, I know a bunch of other bloggers have reviewed this title and of course, there's always Amazon!

Really though, read this. Read it. You really won't be sorry.

Monday, June 18, 2007

2 Summer Reading Challenge Selections

Week 3 of the summer reading challenge is now complete and I've finished two more books. I love that I picked mostly juvenile/YA's because I'm finally getting a whole bunch read that I needed to catch up on!

My first read was Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko, a book that I have passed by for the past year or so, never before being interested. Now that I'm actually working in a profession that requires my knowledge of books that have won awards and honors (this won the Newbery Honor), I finally picked it up and am SO glad that I did!
The story begins when Moose's family moves from San Franciso to Alcatraz Island in order for his father to begin a job at the prison. Moose hated leaving his friends behind, but soon begins making acquaintances with the other children living on the island. The only issue standing in his way to becoming a normal kid that fits in with the other kids is his very "abnormal" sister Natalie. In today's terms it would be said that Natalie had autism, but in the 1930's she is simply deemed as being odd and Moose is in charge of her well-being while his parents work. With Natalie constantly following him, Moose and his new friends make the attempt to make contact with some of the famous inmates of Alcatraz prison, including the infamous Al Capone.

Choldenko created a story that is very much a reality in a lot of kids lives, even in today's terms. The characters are real, as are their situations. Moose is a kid that really wants to fit in, meaning he will get himself into many mishaps, but always trying to do what is morally right. He loves his sister and only wants the best for her, vowing to do anything to try and get her a normal life. I really loved the characterization of this story, not to mention the unique plot line. I would definitely read other books by this author and hope she has something new out soon!

Next, we have Among the Betrayed by Margaret Peterson Haddix. I only recently got into the Shadow Children series, loving the first and second books and this third companion novel was no exception. It was fast paced, thrilling, and definitely a page turner!

Haddix takes a turn away from following the young boy, Lee Grant, and this time focuses on Nina, a shadow child that was arrested in the 2nd book. The reader watches as she is thrown and jail and threatened with execution if she does not find out information from 3 other shadow children being kept in the same jail. Nina is placed in a cell with them and bribed with food in order to get the 3 siblings to answer her questions. Nina, being a very moral individual, hates the idea of betraying others, especially those that have a background much like her own. When Nina gets the opportunity to escape the jail, we learn whether or not she has the ability to betray or instead will risk her own life to help 3 others.

I love this series because of the thrills it gives with every page. It is an awesome series for reluctant readers, with enough books to keep them occupied for awhile! I was very happy with this book and look forward to the next, Among the Barons, which is another Summer Reading Challenge selection.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Picture Book Saturday!!

It's Saturday again, which means picture book reviews! I know I missed last Saturday, so instead of three reviews, you get six. Hopefully you will find something in here that you or your children will enjoy! Here we go:

Wild About Books by Judy Sierra introduces a bookmobile driver named Molly McGrew. On accident one day she drove her bus into the local zoo, where she learned that animals loved books and reading, but had no one to supply them books! Molly sets out to find the perfect book for each animal. Tall books for the giraffes, joke books for hyenas, and lots more. Once the animals have the right books, Molly quickly learns that she needs to teach them to care for the books as well, because they love them a little too much!

With illustrations by Marc Brown, this book was adorable. It also would be incredibly helpful in teaching children book etiquette. Plus, kids that love books will enjoy the title! Very cute for preschool and up.

A wonderfully written book with some Biblical background is titled How Noah Chose the Dove, written by Isaac Bashevis Singer, with illustrations by Eric Carle. The story, accompanied by the pictures, explains how all of the animals attempt to prove their greatness to Noah, in order to be the chosen ones for the Ark. The animals try to outdo one another, constantly arguing as to who is the best of the best. Noah finally notices a dove, the single animal that has not tried to win the invisible battle of the best and it is that animal he chooses as his special messenger.

Singer wrote a very educational, yet entertaining book for young children. With Eric Carle's pictures, this makes a great read aloud for preschool and up.
Seven for a Secret, by Laurence Anholt is a book I had never heard of until I ordered it for the library, but was delighted by it once I actually got a chance to read the story. Ruby, a young girl living in the city with her parents, writes letters to her grandfather in the country, describing her life. The book is written entirely in the form of these letters, which, being a style not typically seen, is refreshing. The reader gets to view the bond that forms between a young girl and her grandfather, the difficulties the girl faces in her every day city life, and the eventual passing of her grandfather.

Though the issue of death is dealt with in this picture book, it is done so in a tactful and educational manner. I loved this book and will soon purchase it for my own shelves. The words are wonderful, as are the illustrations (done by Jim Coplestone) and I would recommend this for all children, preschool and up. Parents should read it first, due to the death topic, but I'm sure you'll find it as wonderful, and appropriate, as I did.
Another delight that I had the pleasure of picking up, was My Hippie Grandmother, by Reeve Lindbergh, which I originally planned to review last week. This lovely book, filled with beautifully bright illustrations, is written in poem form, telling the story of a young girl with a hippie for a grandmother. The grandmother has a boyfriend named Jim, plays the banjo, hasn't cut her hair since 1969, and of course, drives a purple bus!

This story is nothing but fun! I think it would be a great addition to storytime with any age group and adults will get a kick out of it as well. The colors are bright and engaging and the rhyming format is very enjoyable.
Letterbox Lil (a cautionary tale), by Jim Helmore and Karen Wall, is the perfect story for the little snoop around your house. Lil, a young girl with the perfect knack for snooping, spends her free time open her neighbors letterboxes and taking peeks, always seeing something just a little bit strange. She sees lots of interesting things, until one day, gets a little more than she bargained for. Will it cure her of her snooping ways for ever?

Lil is very cute and normal in her curiosity. The illustrations are done very well, one page includes a flip-up, and the large lettering makes it very easy for a read aloud. This is great for any age, allowing kids to enjoy the book, yet showing them that snooping doesn't always end well!
Finally, we have our last selection of the week. One Potato, Two Potato, by Cynthia DeFelice, was another of those "surprise" books that I had not heard of until I did an order for the shelves. Mr. and Mrs. O'Grady, a very old, and very poor couple love each other very much. They share their only chair together each night to eat the one potato they also have to share. When they eat the last potato in the garden, the O'Grady's are worried as to how they will find their next meal, but when digging in the yard come across a magic pot. Whatever is thrown into the magic pot doubles! Throw in one potato, out comes two potatoes! Throw in one hairpin, out pops another hairpin! The O'Grady's are overjoyed until one day, Mrs. O'Grady falls in the pot! What will they do with TWO Mrs. O'Grady's?!
This book is adorable and definitely a laugh out loud read. The illustrations, done by Andrea U'Ren, are just right for this book, done in muted colors to match the O'Grady's personalities. I really enjoyed this book and children will too. This may be for the older "young" child. I think it was great!

Well another picture book Saturday has passed. Look for more selections next week! Enjoy your weekend!

Always Green

The other day I posted about a Did-Not-Finish I had earlier in the week, stating that it just wasn't catching my attention. After reading a comment by Deena, encouraging me to complete it, I picked the book back up and finished it on the ride to El Paso yesterday. Always Green, by Patti Hill, was not nearly as intriguing as the first book in the Garden Gates series, but it turned out to be not quite as bad as I thought. Actually, it was quite good! Thanks again Deena!

Always Green, is the second book in Patti Hill's Garden Gates series, the first being Like a Watered Garden. In this installment, we pick back up with Mibby Garrett, a single mother after losing her husband to cancer and a garden designer extraordinaire. The plot follows Mibby as she gets herself into one scrape after another, first going on several disastrous dates, then being entered into a garden design contest on accident, all while trying to raise a 14 year old boy that is interested in nothing but computer games, as well as trying to keep track of her huge dog, Blink.

As in the first novel, Always Green showcases just what it is like to be a single mother and a business owner. Mibby's life appears to be a mess, yet she always comes out shining because of her faith in God, her hilarious friends, and her strong sense of inner confidence. She may appear weak and disheveled on the outside, but Mibby Garrett is incredibly strong. Hill lets the reader root for Mibby and always leaves them chuckling at her mishaps. I really did end up enjoying this book and will definitely get the 3rd in the series. I would recommend this for those needing a quick and lighthearted read, but I would also say that reading the first in the series is a must before picking up this one.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Such a Great Read!

I finally finished a fantastic book! I've been lacking in the fantastic category for awhile, only finding good books that I've enjoyed lately, but this one ranks as a fantastic! I read Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez for the Non-Fiction 5 and am now passing the word on to all of you that you MUST read this book! It's eye-opening, wonderfully written, and such an educational experience.

In 2001, very soon after the Taliban fell in Afghanistan, Debbie Rodriguez went to the country as part of a humanitarian group offering aid. She fell in love with the country, but being surrounded by doctors and other medical professional on the mission, felt she had nothing personal to offer in terms of aid. A hairdresser in Michigan, Debbie soon realized that the women of Afghanistan had nothing in the way of beauty salons, all having been closed during the reign of the Taliban. Debbie decided to not only open a salon that would help these women with their needs, but she would also open a school, teaching the women to be beauticians and allowing them to earn money on their own, creating a whole new realm of independence for these women in Kabul.

Debbie's road was not without hardship. The school almost didn't happen several times, it was almost closed down even more times, but through it all, Debbie was resourceful, always coming up with a way to continue helping these women learn skills, even when the country was trying to run her out of Kabul. I read this book very slowly because I wanted to absorb all of the wonderful stories about the different women and the manner in which they arrived at the beauty school. I was completely absorbed in this book from the moment I opened it, not wanting to put it down to go to work or to sleep, which is rather surprising from a non-fiction selection. I really do encourage everyone to read this book, it was truly fantastic. One of the best of the year!

Just as a side note, you'll notice that all of my Non-Fiction 5 choices are based on the current war or in countries that are right now being affected by the war. These were not conscious choices. I didn't set out to read only books about Afghanistan or Baghdad, but I think because the chance Aaron is being sent back to Iraq this fall is very good, God wants me to read up on it. Probably a good idea. Proves that we, as Americans, are doing good there I guess and my husband isn't being sent away for nothing. God is always working folks, even in things as little as reading choices.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

One Down!

I've finally finished the Spring Reading Thing Challenge, which feels really great! I got a lot of reading done and was able to accomplish the goal of getting books off my TBR list...always a plus!I had originally placed 18 books on my list, 16 of which I actually completed, but I did substitute 2 more for the 2 I didn't finish. I also had 3 bonus books, finishing a total of 21 books for that particular challenge. Yay me!

I'm now in the midst of the Summer Reading Challenge 2, which I've pledged to read 11 books for which 2 bonus/alternate books for a total of 13 (already done with 2) I'm also participating in the Non-Fiction 5, which I'm obviously reading 5 books for, with one alternate/bonus selection (done with 1). Starting July 1st is my final challenge, the Book Award Challenge, which requires at least 12 books be read in a year from various award lists. Easy enough!

I obviously love these challenges, mainly because they make me read books I've been wanting to read forever, as well as discover new books and authors. It's a win win situation folks! Plus, if I don't finish something, no one will be knocking on my door to arrest me (will you)?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Few Reviews

In the last week or so, I've finished up a few books for challenges and just haven't had the time to blog about them. The time has come where I'm actually going to sit down and attempt to process what I read, so forgive me if my thoughts come all as gobblydegook!

First, I have completed the Spring Reading Thing Challenge! Yay for me! And with almost 2 weeks to spare, which is good considering how many choices I had placed on my challenge list.
My final selection was The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, a beloved favorite of mine. I've read this book many times and have always loved it...surprisingly this time, after completing the final page, I think I'm done with that book for at least 5 years. I'll explain why in a minute.

The Prince of Tides tells the story of Tom Wingo, his twin sister, Savannah, and their older brother, Luke, growing up in the lowlands of South Carolina. The plot begins with the characters as adults, Savannah having made yet another suicide attempt and Tom running to New York to try and help her psychiatrist figure out what is going on in Savannah's head. In order to do so, he starts telling the story of their childhood and the abuse they suffered at the hands of their father, the ridicule they were often subject to by their mother, and the painful experiences all three of them were forced to deal with over they years.

This book is extremely difficult to get through. I am a very fast reader, yet each time I pick up this book it takes me several weeks to get through the 600 or so pages. It's tough. Everything about the story is sad, devastatingly so at points, and it is just depressing. However, that being sad, it is still a fantastic book. I love Savannah's character, as crazy as she is, because I think we can all find some of ourselves in her. Conroy made these characters real , as real as they possibly could be and I believe that's why I am always so sad throughout the telling of their lives.

I would definitely recommend this book for high schoolers and adults. Those of you doing the Southern Reading Challenge, this would be an excellent pick. Be prepared for this book though, it's not easy in the least. I have now told myself that because of the effect it always has on me, I'm going to put it away for at least 5 years, allowing myself to forget some of the images that have again been placed in my head. I love this book and it will always hold a top spot on my All Time Favorite Books.
I finished two books on my Summer Reading Challenge list, but being that it is comprised of mainly juvenile and young adult books, that isn't exactly a feat. I really enjoyed one of them, the other, not so much.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson was great. It is labeled a YA book, as it should be, and I really enjoyed the story. The plot line was unique and the characters refreshing. Definitely a good "light" book.

Ginny's favorite aunt, who happened to be the most eccentric women Ginny knew, passes away and shortly after, a package arrives for Ginny containing 13 blue envelopes. In the first envelope, Ginny is instructed to purchase a plane ticket to London and then open her second envelope. The reader proceeds to follow Ginny on a spontaneous journey around Europe that interlopes her with people in her aunt's life, resulting in a love interest, the meeting of a new family member, scary hostels, and loads of interesting adventures.

Ginny shows the reader that even when we are frightened, it's still ok to take risks, simply because you never can tell what you'll find out when you're finished. Ginny was not only able to tour Europe and meet interesting people, she also overcame a lot of her fears and learned a lot about her aunt in the process. A really great book for teens or even mature middle schoolers.

Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse is the selection I really didn't enjoy, which is surprising because I love Karen Hesse. Basically, this short juvenile fiction novel tells the story of a family from the Aleutian Islands, that is forced to relocate to a camp after the Japanese attack. Hesse writes of the manner in which the family adapts to their new surroundings and the new hardships they are forced to live with. The book is written in unrhymed, very short vignettes, about 3 lines to a page, which I think is the part I disliked the most. I felt that it was ineffective and didn't allow the reader to get as close to the main character as possible, leaving a distance that turned me off. I didn't think the historical basis was very strong either and that a lot more could have been told within the story pertaining to this event in history.
The concept of this book was very good and I still think middle schoolers could benefit from the writing, even if I personally didn't care for it very much. Not to mention, the appeal to kids could go up simply because of the short pages. :-) Kids love that!

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, June 11, 2007


Well everyone, I really did mean to post Saturday for my picture book day. Really I did. I wrote out the whole post on Thursday before moving day, saved it as a draft in order to have it ready to post on Saturday morning before 6 tough Air Force men showed up at my door to help Aaron and I move...and for some reason, my draft didn't save. get nothing. :-) My apologies to all who were looking forward to that, I promise this Saturday I'll have extra books in the post to make up for it. For now, I must get back to unpacking...I'll have a book review tomorrow.

Friday, June 8, 2007

DNF, oh well

I had one of my only Did-Not-Finish books of the year this morning. Bummer. I have been trying to sneak in reading wherever I can, seeing as though I'm signed up for like a bajillion challenges and have a bajillion plus 10 books checked out from the library (seriously...46 books, it's a sickness really). For the past 3 days or so I've been working my way through Patti Hill's Always Green, and I just gave up on it this morning after only making it about a quarter of the way through. I really enjoyed the first book in this series and I think Patti Hill is a delightful Christian author, which made my decision to stop a little disappointing, but I think I just need something a little more exciting right now. Something to keep those pages turning quickly! This book was not horrible in the least. It wasn't even bad and I know I'll pick it back up was just a little slow for me right now. I think for this week and next, while I'm wading through boxes in my new house, I'm going to stick to YA and juvenile fiction. Most of those are pretty quick reads for me, so we'll see what they bring.

I hope everyone else is doing well on those challenges! Enjoy your weekend and don't forget about my Children's Book Saturday post! 3 (or more) pictures books will be reviewed tomorrow, so stop on by!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

We're moving!

We finally got approved to move onto the Air Force Base, which is great news! We have been living in an "ok" house in a not-so-good area, so leaving is great for us both. We are downsizing to a two bedroom house, but the rooms are all a bit bigger than we have now, so we really aren't losing any real space. Unfortunately we have to move in on Saturday, which just happens to be in 3 days. Between us both working full time and packing, not to mention the actual moving, I probably won't be on much until next week. AND I can't take place in the 48 Hour Reading Challenge, which is a bummer. Just wanted to let ya'll know why I won't be around for a bit! Back soon though!

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Seven Wonders and The Lost Flower Children

I had another busy weekend at work, but also got in some reading time on two excellent juvenile fiction books. Since both of my lists for the Summer Reading Challenge and the Book Award Challenge are filled with this genre of books, I figured I better get started!

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty Birney was one of those rare gems that you find once in a great while. In 1923, Eben, a young boy living on a farm in rural Missouri, is bored with his simple life, yearning to see the Seven Wonders of the World that he read about in his favorite book. He wants to see exotic places and learn about different people, something not in his future while living in Sassafras Springs, or so he thinks.

Eben's father challenges him to find his own seven wonders right in Sassafras Springs, promising him a train ticket to see relatives in Colorado if he meets the challenge in seven days. Eben sets out across all of the different farms, asking folks whether or not they have a Wonder for him. In the process he learns a lot about his neighbors and does find a few wonderous things in Sassafras Springs.

I really loved this book and the character of Eben. He reminded me so much of myself a couple of years ago, always wanting to leave the small town I was raised in for something more. Once I did leave, all I've wanted to do is go back, forgetting how many Wonders were in that town. I would recommend this book for young readers, ages 8-12 or so, and of course us adults that love these types of books!

Just this morning, I sat down with another wonderful book, finishing it in one sitting. The Lost Flower Children by Janet Taylor Lisle. I've read her books before, all being delightful and this one didn't disappoint.

Motherless Olivia and Nellie are heartbroken when their father drops them off to stay the summer with their Great-Aunt Minty. They want to spend time with him, but he just doesn't seem interested in them anymore. The younger Nellie, has attached herself to Olivia, looking to her as a mother and refusing attention from anyone else. Olivia is incredibly lonely, wanting to make friends and have fun, but too busy mothering Nellie.

When the girls find a story on Great-Aunt Minty's shelves based on the garden in the backyard, the girls set out to find the magic described in the book. As their search continues over the course of the summer, the girls change and grow, not only closer together, but also closer to others and learn to let go of each other.

Lisle definitely didn't disappoint with this short novel. I read the entire thing with a smile on my face and could feel the magic of the story. I loved the book and look forward to more from this author. Another great selection from the 8-12 category.

Maybe I'll move onto an adult novel of some sort!

You can find people online and with the different people searches. Go and find someone you haven't talked to in a while.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Children's Book Saturday

I made the decision that as a children's librarian and a lover of picture books, I really should start reviewing them on here. I review juvenile fiction and young adult fiction all the time, but I really lack on the picture books. From now on, each Saturday I will devote my main post to a few picture book selections that I believe are great reads for children. I know a lot of my blog readers have kids, so hopefully it will be benefitial to some! For this week I have 3 selections...

Miss Smith's Incredible Storybook by Michael Garland was wonderful! Miss Smith is a teacher with the magical ability to read stories out of books, creating a fantastic show each day during story time. When each story ends, the characters jump back into the book, returning the second grade classroom to normal, but always leaving the children enchanted. When Miss Smith is late one day, the principal takes over her job of reading to the children and is horrified to find book characters in the classroom and doesn't realize that by simply finishing the story, the characters will return to their story land, creating immense chaos in the room.

The story is humorous enough, but the illustrations are just fantastic in this book. Lots of bright colors will draw a child's eye all over the pages and the depictions of famous storybook characters are perfect. I love this book and am anxious to read the sequel. I've ordered if for our library, but the waiting period stinks!

The Story of Giraffe by Guido Pigni and Ronald Hermsen was excellent. It is the tale of a lone giraffe that wishes to board Noah's ark, but is turned away because he is not one of a pair and the animals are supposed to arrive on the ark "two by two." Giraffe sets out on a journey to find another giraffe to join him on the ark, searching high and low without any luck. Giraffe is incredibly lonely and worries that he will never find another giraffe before the flood comes.

This story was very subtle and sweetly told. The illustrations were very simplistic, but done in beautiful, soft tones that help tell this soothing story. I think this would be a perfect bedtime selection, as well as one that helps explain the story of Noah's ark to young children.

Finally we have The Unexpectedly Bad Hair Day of Barcelona Smith by Keith Graves. This is the story of Barcelona Smith, a boy with wild blue hair that has a very tame personality, never taking risks, exposing himself to germs, or having any fun! One humid day, his hair goes out of control, resulting in Barcelona Smith going out of control as well and doing all the fun and "risky" stuff he had never tried.

The story itself, as well as the illustrations are witty and charming. I loved the description of activities Barcelona felt were too risky such as smelling roses, playing on playgrounds, or having a pet. Children will find this book really funny and will get a kick out of Barcelona's wacky hair.

Hopefully some of your kids will be able to enjoy these books...or just you!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Books Read in May

I am pretty surprised I read as many books as I did this month with the wedding/honeymoon/SRP program. My quick reading skills come in handy I guess!

May 2007

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Scrap Everything by Leslie Gould
Quaker Summer by Lisa Samson
The Kindness of Strangers by Katrina Kittle
The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
The Potluck Club: Trouble's Brewing by Linda Evans Shepard
Sadie's Song by Linda Hall
The Quilter's Homecoming by Jennifer Chiaverini

Hopefully June will be even better, especially with all the challenges I'm in now!

Another new challenge

Over at 3m's blog, she is promoting the newest challenge to hit the blogging world: The Book Awards Reading Challenge. This one is quite easy and we have 12 whole months to complete 12 books, equally out to a book a month. Works for me! Anything to clear more off my TBR shelf! Follow the above link to the challenge and it will give you lists of eligible books, which there are a ton of! My list of 12 will probably consist mainly of Newbery winners, since I'm trying desperately to get those done. In the next day or so I'll have a list of the books I plan to read.

A Quilter's Homecoming

I love Jennifer Chiaverini's Elm Creek Quilter novels and have devoured them since I discovered the series about a year ago. I've wanted to learn to quilt for quite awhile and since at this point, I have no one to teach me and can't really afford classes, I live vicariously through these books! I really enjoy the cozy, homey, feeling that the books give and the friendships they evoke. Though typically I enjoy the books that focus more on the present Elm Creek quilters, rather than the semi-historical novels that center upon past Elm Creekers or their families, this book was one of the best!

In 1925, newlyweds Elizabeth and Henry set out from Elm Creek Manor in Pennsylvania to run a ranch Henry purchased sight unseen in Southern California, they are both incredibly excited about starting their new lives. When they arrive in the small California farming town and learn they have been cheated out of their money, both are devastated to have lost not only all of their life savings, but also their dreams of running their own ranch, but are lucky to learn they will be given work at a local farm. Elizabeth puts her heart and soul into making their small cabin a home, while Henry begins to reject her affection, focusing only on his work, his pride having been hurt so badly that he feels he has failed his new wife. Chiaverini writes this story in a manner that connects the reader to Elizabeth. I read on and on, wanting to constantly know what would happen next. It was refreshing to see a woman in the 20's as headstrong and stubborn as Elizabeth, one who would not simply listen to every word her husband said and obey his every command. Elizabeth has a good head on her shoulders, content to be assisting in the money making ventures, as well as being a skilled quilter.

I really did enjoy this story and the accompanying side story. I really hope this isn't the end of the Elm Creek Quilter books, I always look forward to the next one. Maybe by the time that one is published I will be on my way to learn the art of quilting! 8 out of 10 from me.