Friday, February 29, 2008

Poetry Friday

I have two great selections for you all today! I really enjoyed both of these books and feel that each has it's own unique characteristics that will appeal to a variety of age levels.

First, The Seldom-Ever-Shady-Glades, written by Sue Van Wassenhove is an incredible book. Not only are the poems fantastic, both in their cute rhyming manner and their teaching technique, but the book is illustrated with the author's quilts. Each poem is set on a background of what at first may look like a beautiful watercolor, but is in fact an amazing quilt.

My favorite poem in the book is "Below the Keys' Seas," which also happens to showcase my favorite quilt in the book as well. Here is the beginning of the poem, showing the creativity of Van Wassenhove:

The Florida Keys
grow canopies
of mangrove trees
for manatees.

And Portuguese
sea men-of-war
patrol the shore.
Oh, don't you wish
moon jellyfish
had jelly bellies?
Weren't so smelly?
Had no stringy
things that sting?

And that's just a short sampling of that poem. The words in all the poems tell a rhythmic story about the Everglades and the magic that takes place within that vast area in Florida. They're fun and educational poems, very important for growing minds! Besides the great poems, parents and kids alike will love the quilts! I really had a lot of fun with this book. I also have a personal connection with the Everglades, growing up knowing how much my father loved it there and then spreading his ashes with the crocodiles in the swamps after he passed away. This book will be great way to not only teach my child about the greatness of the Everglades, but also about his grandpa.

The next book I want to share with you is Barefoot: Poems for Naked Feet by Stefi Weisburd, illustrated by Lori McElrath-Eslick. The most stand-out part of this book is definitely the illustrations, though the poems come a close second. Each poem features a different aspect of enjoying barefeet and saying NO to shoes...which if you know me, is a huge thing with me. I hate shoes! My favorite out of this book is entitled "Bathtub."

two puckered old men
splash out and totter
trailing beards of water
I almost don't recognize
my toes
in disguise
squinting at me
with Grandpa's eyes

I would definitely recommend this book towards a slightly older crowd, only because it lacks the "cuteness" I think poems need for younger children. If they don't rhyme or have a certain silliness, I've found the young kids at the library aren't interested. Older kids, however will love the poems and of course, the beautiful illustrations.

In both these books you can definitely see the passion the authors have for the topics they've chosen. I would love to interview Stefi Weisurd to see if she hates wearing shoes as much as I do! I would also greatly enjoy chatting about the beautiful quilts in Van Wassenhove's book, as I've always loved quilts (hence the name of my blog) and though I still haven't learned how to do it, talking with someone as talented a writer and quilter as she, would be an honor!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes

I love Kevin Henkes's picture books and I loved this novel! Not surprisingly it won a Newbery Honor a few years ago and it was quite an impressive from an author best known for Lily Purple Plastic Purse! This was also one of my choices for the Triple 8 Challenge.

Martha and her family are preparing to go on their yearly summer beach vacation to her grandmother's house, when the mother of a deceased classmate shows up at Martha's door. Olive passed away several months ago after being struck by a car and though Martha felt terrible, she barely knew Olive. The girl's mother hands Martha a page out of Olive's diary, professing Olive's want of being friends with Martha. This turns Martha's summer upside down, leading her to realize that if Olive can die, so can anyone.

Martha's summer consists of making sure her grandmother is not dying and getting the attention of Jimmy, one of the brothers from the beach that her family has known for years. Jimmy helps Martha keep her mind off dying, until he takes advantage of her crush on him and turns what should be a great moment in Martha's young life into one of the most humiliating experiences she has ever faced. Martha then proceeds to almost drown, which really solidifies her thoughts that anyone can die at any moment and it looks like her entire summer will be completely ruined until her grandmother, and a boy named Tate turn everything from rotten, to perfect.
This was a very enjoyable novel, one that I believe any 12 year old girl could relate to and love. I hope Kevin Henkes continues writing novels! Another challenge book down!

Monday, February 25, 2008

The 13th Reality by James Dashner

Oh how children are going to loooove this book! It's got everything: action, adventure, riddles, reality name it, it's in there. A perfect mixture of science fiction and fantasy for those kids that have that love of a bit of magic and a bit of weirdness all in one (is weirdness a word?). I can definitely see James Dashner becoming the next Rick Riordan or Jenny Nimmo!

The first in a series, The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters follows Atticus Higginbottom, or Tick as he prefers to be called. Tick is a bit of a loner at school, much preferring spending time at the library or on the internet trying to get a pen pal, to hanging out with kids his age. He is stunned when he gets a letter in the mail, postmarked from Alaska of all places, that contains a mysterious riddle. He is given the choice to burn the letter, ultimately un-involving himself from whatever escapade the letter has gotten him into, or keep it for a week and begin to receive more riddles, which supposedly are going to help him save the world.

Tick, of course, keeps the letter (would there really be a story if he didn't?) and all sorts of strange things start to happen. He encounters a weird woman that just happens to be 8 feet tall, has metal bugs attack him in his bedroom, not to mention all the odd characters that soon enter his small world. In fact, odd doesn't even begin to describe the characters Tick meets! In most kid's minds though, the odder the better! Oh and did I mention the reality hopping? Characters can move from one reality to another, which I think is quite magnificent....but not something I'm keen on trying for myself!
The story continues as Tick tries to solve each complicated riddle, in order to determine what the next clue may be. Some are very difficult and take a lot of brain power, as well as help from others to solve. Through all the craziness this book has to offer, we are able to watch Tick develop from a young boy content with staying in his shell, to an outgoing, confident young man, determined to help save the world!

Ultimately, I had a lot of fun with this book. I am not typically a science fiction fan, though I do love fantasy, so go figure. However, this book was more on the fantasy side than the sci-fi side, so I was quite content with my reading. And I know kids at the library will keep this book off the shelves for months at a time! I'm looking forward to the publishing date, so I can purchase a copy for the shelves and watch as boys and girls get involved in Tick's strange world. It's sure to be a hit!

Non-Fiction Monday

Being a part of the kidlitosphere is fantastic, but for some reason I've never participated in the cool weekly events they host, like Poetry Friday and Non-Fiction Monday. I was determined to have something to post about this Monday and I think you'll be very pleased with the offering, especially those blog readers with older children and those brave parents that homeschool.

Lerner Publishing has this great group of non-fiction books called the "Visual Geography Series," which includes over 80 different countries each as a featured book. The three I had a chance to read are Tanzania in Pictures, Niger in Pictures, and Bolivia in Pictures. I can not explain enough how wonderful of a resource these books are. The photographs are absolutely beautiful in all three books and the text is informative without being boring.

Each title includes additional unique resources besides the typical text about the country and the photographs including timelines, regional recipes, fun facts on sidebars, colorful maps, national anthem lyrics both in the native language and in English, and a list of sights to see if you were to ever visit the country. There is also an annotated bibliography with additional books, websites, and information if you were conducting a country report or doing in-depth research on that specific country. There is also a website, where the reader can go for up-to-the-minute information on that specific country, as well as cultural, demographic, and economic information that is being constantly updated.

These books, whether as a set or individually, would make such a great addition to any library or home shelf, especially if you are a home schooling parent. Using these books, as well as the offered website, rather than a simple social studies book in which the countries would have a one page blurb chronically their entire history, definitely allows your child to learn more about specific places in the world. I can imagine myself using these books during an Africa unit or a South America unit at the library, as well as with my child whom I hope to homeschool one day. The books are interesting, informative, and filled with cool facts that will not only interest your child, but intrigue you as well. Who knows, maybe someday you'll be planning a family vacation to Tanzania!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Jewish Books Across the Age Grid

I recently received a great big box of books in the mail to review and since that means a lot of typing, I figured I would combine some of my posts based on book genres. Hence the Jewish theme we have going today! These books all focus on Jewish holidays, Jewish families, and the country of Israel, spanning different age groups. Though I didn't absolutely love all the books, hopefully you'll find something worthwhile to read to your child or to help your child learn about his or her culture or other's culture.

The first selection is the simplest of the books. It's titled It's Israel's Birthday! and it's written by Ellen Dietrick with photographs by Tod Cohen. It shows a small group of children "celebrating" Yom Ha'atzmaut, or Israel Independence Day, by performing different pretend activities in their classroom. We see them sitting in a row of chairs, pretending to fly to Israel, putting pieces of paper in the famous "Prayer Wall" built out of colored blocks, and marching in a birthday parade, carrying small flags.

While this is a good learning tool for children that are Jewish and are expanding on previously learned aspects of their own culture, I don't think it's the greatest choice of book for a small child that is not of a Jewish background. There are a lot of Hebrew words used and the book, unfortunately, does not contain a glossary. It is, however, bright and colorful, which will catch any child's eye and the fact that the children in the photographs are playing pretend is very cute. It just may inspire your little one to act out holidays with their toys!

Moving up in age a little bit, we have Let My People Go! written by Tilda Balsley and illustrated by Ilene Richard. This is an adorable rhyming book that teaches the readers about the Ten Plagues and the Exodus of Jews from Egypt. It's really a neat book, as different lines are printed in different colors, allowing for a group of people to read it and make it a lot of fun! The illustrations are also quite good, though I was a little confused as to why all the character's noses were white. Maybe I'm missing something, or maybe I'm just blonde. :-)

My only warning about this book is that it appears to be for very young children, but due to the talk of the Ten Plagues, which can be intimidating to some, as well as quite scary, it may be more appropriate for older children, maybe 6-10, rather than the 3-5 it's appearance leads it to look like. The author, however, did a great job in writing about the plagues in a somewhat humorous manner, so adults can be the judge as to what age they want to begin reading this too. I thought it was a great little book!

Next we're going to jump to the Beginning Readers level with Private Joel and the Sewell Mountain Seder written by Bryna Fireside and illustrated by Shawn Costello. Private J.A. Joel is fighting in the Civil War as a Union soldier and being at war means no chance of celebrating Passover at home with his family. One of his friends and fellow soldiers somehow manages to arrange for a shipment of matzah to be delivered to the camp and the group is able to hold their own seder.

As a beginning chapter book and true story, this book is my favorite of this bunch. I find it very easy to read for a new or blossoming reader and it's a great story to learn about. The illustrations are beautiful and the message resonates loud and clear. I think this particular choice will make a great addition to my shelves both at home and at the library.

Finally we jump to the middle school/high school level with Keeping Israel Safe: Serving in the Israel Defense Forces written by Barbara Sofer. It is a great introduction into what four Israeli teens go through as they prepare themselves to enter the military. Not only does the book focus on the teens and their reasons for wanting to join, as well as their fears, the book also talks about different Israeli weapons systems, technology, and why the Israeli Defense Forces is so respected in the world, making this a huge learning experience in one, small book.

Though at first glance this book may appear to be something a student may only want to use in a report, it makes for very interesting reading for recreation as well. The information is giving in paragraph tidbits, making it a fast read. I also really enjoyed the personal side of the book, giving the reader a glimpse into four teens lives, while still teaching about different aspects of the Israeli military. Combinations like that are what get kids reading non-fiction books, even when they don't have to.

A New Challenge

This one will be an easy one I think! No specific books to read...which always makes it easier! J. Kaye is hosting a 100+ Reading Challenge over at this link. The goal is to read 100+ books in a year...not too hard I don't think! I've already got a pretty good start, but maybe this will make me want to read even faster.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

10 Kids, No Pets by Ann M. Martin

I knew when I signed up for Becky's Heart of a Child challenge, this book had to be on my list. I read 10 Kids, No Pets and it's sequel 11 Kids, One Summer, probably about 100 times over the course of my childhood and I was all too happy to have a reason to pick the book up again. It's a very simply story, but one that has always held my attention, not to mention made me wish I had a lot more siblings!

Each chapter in this book for middle grade readers is told from the perspective of one of the many Rosso children. Each are blessed with a somewhat unusual name, such as Bainbridge, Faustine, Dagwood, and Eberhard. Their mother started naming them using the letter A and working her way through the alphabet with each new child, ending up with 10 children, and 10 unusual names (except for Abigail of course).

When the Rosso family moves from New York City to a big farmhouse in New Jersey, they know it's the perfect time to convince their parents to let them get a pet. She has always said that 10 kids are plenty enough animals for one family, but now that they have lots of room the kids know they can show her how responsible they are and just how important an animal is to them. Working their way through rabbits, turkeys, and birds, the Rosso children try to convince their mom, but with no luck. Once mom shares a surprise of her own though, the children may just get what they wished...and more than they bargained for!

This is an adorable story that both girls and boys can enjoy. I always loved trying to read the book outloud to my brother and probably butchering the kid's names in the process. Now that my verbal skills are a bit more enhanced, maybe I'll give the reading outloud another shot to my own children.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull

Any book that promises children, mystery, humor, and candy, has me intrigued! In this adorable story by Brandon Mull, we meet Summer, Pigeon, Nate, and Trevor. The four kids begin helping out at a new candy store in town in exchange for candy, rather than pay. The candy at this shop is different than any other candy the children have ever tasted and slowly, the shopkeeper, sweet Mrs. White, lets them in on some of her candy making secrets, all the while making them perform stranger and more odd jobs around in exchange for the precious, and often magical, candy.

The Candy Shop War contains all the makings of a great adventure story, with a few quirks here and there. The kids are believable and the candy, lots of fun. There are plenty of bad guys, trying to get in on the secrets of the candy, a great infusion of action as the children attempt to ward off a rival candy seller. Though not the best of Brandon Mull's work, this chunk of a novel is a lot of fun and works as a great read aloud for parents and their children.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Unfortunately for me, I only became acquainted with Sarah Dessen's books within the last couple of years, when I really began to focus my career on youth librarianship and started devouring teen novels like they were oatmeal raisin cookies (yummy!). I fell in love with this author and her beautiful manner of writing about teen girls and their experiences with love, loss, family, and friendships. Dessen's books are not always easy to read emotionally, for the simple fact that they are so authentic to teens and really allow the reader to connect with the often hurting characters. Lock and Key, Dessen's latest (and maybe greatest) is not due out in stores until mid-April of this year, but when I received a copy in my mailbox this week, along with a bunch of others, I knew I had to read this one first.

We meet Ruby while she is still living in the old yellow house she and her mother are renting. Ruby is extremely independent, holding down a job while she attends high school, doing her own cooking and laundry. What Ruby doesn't have, however, is a choice. Her mother left her several months ago, simply disappearing one day and never returning, leaving Ruby to fend for herself. When her landlords find out that Ruby is trying to survive all alone, they call social services and Ruby gets placed with her sister Cora, whom she hasn't seen in over ten years.

Moving into a huge, beautiful house with Cora and her husband Jeremy may seem like a dream come true to most, but Ruby knows it's just temporary. She only has a few months left until her 18th birthday, when she can legally be out on her own, and is determined to leave by then. Her relationship with her sister is strained, at best, stemming from Ruby's feelings of abandonment by her big sister years ago. Though Jeremy tries hard to help the two sisters reconnect, Cora is dealing with issues of her own and Ruby simply isn't interested.

Over the next several months, as Ruby gets used to her new, private school, her new home, and a new job, she begins to wonder if she really does belong on her own. She slowly begins to connect with people again, an ability she lost once her mother left her, making a few friends and finding companionship with Nate, a neighbor that has his own sad past. Learning to trust again is very difficult for Ruby, but as she learns valuable lessons from each new person she meets, her eyes are opened to new possibilities, as well as relationships she never before believed were hers for the taking.

Sarah Dessen truly has a talent in her character creation. Every single character infused into the plot of this book is incredibly believable and leaves the reader connecting with each one of them. Whether it be sympathy (or empathy) for Ruby and Cora, dislike for Nate's dad, or just plain comfort with Jeremy, I was able to connect and enjoy each character. This is an amazing novel that I know teens everywhere will love, not to mention the adults that better be adding this book to their Amazon pre-order list once you're done reading my post (the book cover photograph links to Amazon)! Do it, you won't be disappointed!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Eleven by Patricia Reilly Giff

When Sam is almost eleven years old, he discovers a locked box in his attic, along with a piece of paper saying something about him being a missing child. Sam has lived with his grandfather for as long as he can remember and has had trouble reading for just as long, but has never questioned why he is where he is, or why he has terrible nightmares about the number eleven. Now Sam is not only having nightmares every night, but he also doesn't know if Mack is really is grandfather or if he is related to the man at all.

Sam soon gets paired up with the new girl at school, Caroline, to work on a school project, and he decides to enlist her help in solving this strange mystery of his life. Caroline always has her nose in a book, so Sam believes she can decipher the article and what the meaning may be. Unfortunately, Caroline is leaving school very soon, so the pair must hurry to answer the questions surrounding the newspaper article and the locked box in the attic.
This short novel for middle graders by infamous author Patricia Reilly Giff, is filled with personal discoveries for young Sam. He not only learns more about his past than he ever bargained for, but he also discovers a lot about friendships, family relationships, and how very ok it is for him to be himself. Sam may not be the smartest boy in school, but he has talents that go way beyond school, including a knack for being a great friend and grandson. If you've liked Giff's other work, you won't be disappointed with this title.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Baby Update

I've had several emails from blogger friends asking for baby updates, so I figured it was time for a post. I'm just going to repost the email we recently sent out to our friends and family... it pretty much covers it all for now!

On Tuesday the 5th we had our 2nd appointment with our midwife (who is amazing by the way) and got to hear little Snowflake's heartbeat for the first time. She found it in about 3 seconds and it was beating, loud, clear, and fast! Right at about 150 beats a minute, which is perfect. That was our first "surreal" moment, that we really have a baby on the way! We actually got to hear it, which was awesome. We've had several people already give boy/girl guesses based on the heartrate, so we would love to hear what everyone thinks!

Unfortunately, my blood pressure was a little high (what else is new, right?) so I had to spend Wednesday doing a bunch of tests just to make sure it's not hurting the baby. It's not at a horribly high level at this point, just about 140/90 so the midwife isn't even worried about it, she hasn't even put me on medication yet, but the tests will show exactly what the blood pressure is doing and if it's affecting the baby at all. If it is, which is doubtful, I'll just have to go on medication to bring it down a bit right away. If it's not, I won't start the medicine until the beginning of next month.

At the end of February we have an appointment with a geneticist to talk about the chances of the baby being born with congenital glaucoma, as Aaron's niece was. The chances are about 1 in 5 million, but our midwife thought it would be a nice thing for us to talk with this we get an extra ultrasound out of it. No testing will be done or anything, we're just going in to have a chat about it and then see Snowflake for the first time. :-) 16 weeks is also the point where sex can be determined and that's right where we'll be, so we're crossing our fingers that the first ultrasound will show the sex. If not, we will have another one about a month later.

That's really all the news I have! I haven't been sick at all (a blessing, believe me) and still have a good appetite. No real belly yet, it's still very small, but I know that's coming! We've been looking around at nursery decors and baby furniture (we know what tax money is being used for!!) but other than that life has been normal! We plan to come up to NY for a baby shower towards the end of May, so we'll let everyone know those plans as they're made. For now, just keep us and the baby in your prayers, as well as Heather and Jeremy whose little Bumper is due next month! YAY for a new niece or nephew!! Can't wait to meet that baby!!

That's all for now folks! I'll send another update around the end of the month!

Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix

As one of my favorite thrill-evoking authors, Margaret Peterson Haddix has swayed from her norm in this novel, based upon the horrible Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tragedy in the early 1900's. I was instantly intrigued at the topic, especially with Haddix being the author, however I think in the end I was left just a little disappointed.

Uprising is told through the eyes of three main characters, Yetta, an outspoken Russian Jewish immigrant, Bella, a young Italian immigrant, having just arrived in America, and Jane, a rich, spoiled American girl, considered of marrying age, yet still living under the watchful eye of her nanny. All three girls become intertwined though the novel, through the famous Triangle Factory strike, poverty, running away from family, and eventually the horrid fire that ravaged the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, leaving many dead due to poor and hazardous conditions within the factory itself.

Though very historically accurate and throughly explained, this book just lacked the spark (no pun intended) that all of Haddix's books contain. It was a little long in the sense that the strike took up 90% of the plot and the fire and aftermath only were described at the very end of the book. I was hoping for a little more on what the fallout was afterwards. The content was a little above middle grade level, which I do believe it is aimed towards, and though I'm sure middle grader's could read it, I think the story may do better with young adults.

I certainly still enjoyed the novel and will always look forward to reading books by Haddix. I may not have liked this one quite as much as her others simply because it was so different. Everyone needs variety though, even me!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

No Castles Here by A.C.E. Bauer

What a gem this book is! It isn't often that I come across a book that I truly love from the first page, but this was, indeed, one of them. First time author A.C.E. Bauer has written a novel that will capture the attention of both boys and girls (and obviously adults).

No Castles Here chronicles a difficult time in Augie Boretski's life. He is scrawny, geeky, and poor, making the target on his back for teasing by the neighborhood bullies huge. He is being raised by his single mother, can't get a good grade to save his life, not to mention his school is falling apart. When Augie accidentally steals a book of fairy tales, his life begins to slowly change. First, he actually starts to read the book, quite a feat for Augie. Then his mom makes him join the Big Brother community program and though that makes him an even bigger bully target, he gets to meet a great guy out of it. Augie also manages to "accidentally" join the school chorus, which he happens to be good at and loves.

Unfortunatley, just when things seem to be looking up for Augie, an ice storm destroys his school and the school board has no intentions of fixing it, instead, splitting up Augie and his classmates and sending them to different schools around the city. Meaning, different bullies (which have just started to leave him alone) and no chorus. Augie makes a deal with himself to have the school rebuilt and to continue to rebuild his life as well. With the help of some unconventional "friends," a big brother, and a strange book of fairy tales, Augie is well on his way.

I wish I had been able to get my hands on a copy of this book before the Cybil awards. It is easily one of my favorites that I've read this year, but since it was published last year I guess I can't nominate it for the Cybils this time around. As long as some of you read it now, I won't be disappointed!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Deep Green by Melody Carlson

Deep Green by Melody Carlson, is the second in the True Colors series, though it could easily stand alone. In this installment we meet Jordan, a high school girl smitten with Timothy, a gorgeous, popular boy in her class. Unfortunately, her best friend Shawna is dating him and isn't giving him up. When Timothy approaches Jordan to be his girlfriend instead, she jumps at the chance, not really caring what Shawna will think. Shawna soon rips back Timothy, tempting him with impure offers he can't refuse, causing a horrible love triangle between the three former friends.

As the novel progresses, Jordan feels her need for Timothy diminish into a need for something more. When her friend Kara, the main character of Carlson's previous True Colors book, Dark Blue, introduces her to Jesus (for the millionth time it seems) Jordan's attention is finally grabbed and she begins to understand how important a relationship with God truly is. Her determination to "win" at the love triangle game almost took her to a level that she never could have gone back from, a place the Lord would have been very disappointed to see her go. Luckily, Jordan is able to turn her life around for the better and begin to follow Jesus and his teachings.

Though I didn't like this one quite as much as I liked Dark Blue, the message in Deep Green rings loud and clear. Jesus is the right choice and following one's own heart is not necessarily always the correct path. I felt the ending was a little too good to be true, only because it was not too long ago that I was in high school and witnessing things like this happening all the time. Though I wish it had, the outcome rarely turned out as it does in Carlson's book. Wishful thinking maybe. Something I will teach my own children? Definitely.
One more challenge book down!

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

Memoirs, honestly, have to be the hardest books to write. The author can't just make up a story, put it together in a convincing sequence, and conclude. An author of a memoir is writing about his or her life and must write about that ultimate personal topic, in a manner that will attract readers. Many memoirs are written in the aftermath of tragedy or at the least, life changing events, and that makes these books, so difficult to write. In The Middle Place, Kelly Corrigan attacks the topics of motherhood, Alzheimer's, and cancer in a heart wrenching, yet very relatable manner.

After finding a lump in her breast while bathing her two young daughters, Corrigan soon finds herself in a precarious "middle place" in her life. She is the mother to these wonderful girls, yet is at times playing mother to her father, as well, who is also suffering from cancer. As life begins to seemingly spin out of control, Corrigan faces the possibility of losing both her father, and ultimately herself, in a poignant way. Though internally she felt weak and broken, she remained strong and often humorous, for the sake of her family.

This is the perfect book from any woman who has suffered from breast cancer, as well as any family member that has dealt with someone close to them having to battle cancer. That pretty much covers everyone! At some point in our lives we will most likely be faced with cancer somewhere, somehow. Reading this memoir will not be preparation for that, but it will be enlightening in so many aspects.

Another point I would like to make is that this is not a memoir simply about dealing with cancer. It is filled with experiences in taking care of one's parents, as well as one's children. It is about the difficulties of every day life as a mom, whether being a mom with cancer or not. It is as uplifting, yet terrible sad recording of Corrigan's experiences. You will enjoy this book. It's inevitable.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Alice in Rapture, Sort Of

How glad am I that I chose the Alice books for Caribou's Mom's Themed Reading Challenge? Oh, so glad! I am having a blast reliving one of my favorite childhood series and I'm only on book two. I loved this when I was younger and I'm loving them now!

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor is a genius for thinking up such a real-to-life character in Alice. In Alice in Rapture, Sort Of, Alice is just getting into what her dad calls "Summer of the Boyfriend." At the end of the last book, Alice and her first-ever boyfriend, Patrick, finally started going steady and this summer will bring a lot of time to spend together. Of course things do not run as smoothly as Alice would like, but throughout the summer she learns how to kiss and with some help from her friends and family, what type of bra to where, what to buy gifts to buy for a boy's birthday, and how to eat at a fancy restaurant without parents in sight.
Though Alice's mother is not around to answer all the questions she has, Alice does a very real job at figuring out life for herself, with just a tad bit of help along the way. Embarrassing moments ensue, but really, whose life isn't filled with embarrassing moments??
Even though this series was written mainly in the 80's, the character of Alice still rings very true. She has real life mishaps as she tries to impress her first boyfriend and stumbles along the way while becoming a teenager. Again, I'm so glad I chose this series to read for this challenge, all of them will make great rereads for me or great first reads for some of you out there! This particular book was hilarious, as was the first, and I really enjoyed it.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Name of This Book is Secret

I love books like this! Just by the title it is evident that the story is going to be mysterious, fun, and probably quite humorous, and this book was definitely all of those things. The author, a one Pseudonymous Bosch, is a mysterious character in himself (or herself) and that just starts the ball rolling.

Readers are introduced to The Name of This Book is Secret with big, bold lettering on the first page demanding: DO NOT READ BEYOND THIS PAGE. Apparently the secret the book holds is so much of a secret that reading it will ultimately put the reader in danger. Finally, the author decides to fill us on in the story, with fake names and places of course, as long as we promise to forget everything we've read as soon as we've read it. Intriguing isn't it?

We then get to meet Cass and Max-Ernest (fake names, don't forget) who embark upon a journey to discover the big secret. All sorts of different, crazy, odd things play a part including carnivals, a smell symphony, immortality, and awesome lip gloss, creating quite the puzzle for both the characters and the reader. There is also a very strange mixture of oddball characters, each with their own plan for solving "the big secret."

Though a chunker in size, this book definitely reads quickly and has short chapters (always appealing). There is some talk about violence, so I would definitely lean towards older middle grade students for the appropriateness level, but you be the judge for your own kids. It is very comparable to A Series of Unfortunate Events in both content, reading level, and subject matter. I had a lot of fun while reading this and found myself chuckling in quite a few parts. It's a great book for both boys and girls, as well as being excellent for read alouds.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Now and Zen by Linda Gerber

I'm not typically a huge fan of romance novels, whether they be adult or young adult, but books with a little romance and a lot of other plot are usually right up my alley. The "Students Across the Seven Seas" series, written by various authors is awesome in that exact way. In each book, a high school age girl heads to a different country for a few months to learn something about a new culture and typically manages to fall in love while she's there. Which is ok. There is so much cultural information and fun facts about the country that the romance definitely takes second place in the plot.

Now and Then, written by Linda Gerber, follows Nori Tanaka to Japan, where she is instantly confused with being one of the locals. Sure, Nori is Japanese-American, but she doesn't speak the language, doesn't know her way around the city of Tokyo, nor does she have a leg up on any of her assignments, though several of her classmates certainly thinks she does. Nori tries to keep out of trouble while spending a lot of time seeing the sights of Japan with her roommate Amberly and and eventually going to spend a week with her sweet great-Aunt and Uncle outside the city.

The trouble begins when Nori finds herself mixed up in a love triangle, torn between two boys she really likes. Erik is the popular guy in the program; gorgeous and highly wanted by lots of girls, and whom ultimately tries to change Nori's personality. Atsushi is the sweet, friendly guy that really likes her for who she is. While visiting the gardens in Kyoto, Mt. Fuji, and the bustling streets in Tokyo, Nori tries to find her own "zen" and understand what she wants and what she stands for.

A great blend of fictional plot and cultural facts make up this quick read. The series does really well on our young adult shelves here at the library and I definitely understand why. The romance really is subtle compared to the other great aspects of the story.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Click by Ten Authors

I have wanted to get my hands on this book since I heard about the concept mooooonths ago! Budgetary issues at work have prevented this book from being purchased for our shelves until now, allowing me to just now get it in my little paws, but it was most definitely worth the wait. Ten authors participated in writing this book, including the talented Eoin Colfer, Linda Sue Park, Gregory Maguire and Tim Wynne-Jones, as well as a six other much-loved authors for children and teens. A unique concept turned into an incredibly unique story and one I hope all of you get a chance to read.

Click has been described as a short story collection, but it is really so much more than that. Each author wrote a chapter and each chapter flows into the next, creating characters that somehow intertwine, whether it be immediately or much later into the overall story. In the first "story" we meet Maggie and Jason and learn that their beloved grandfather, Gee, has just died, leaving them each a gift. Maggie is devastated at the loss of such a great man and such an amazing, world renowned photographer, yet is excited to tackle the puzzle he left behind. At first she believes it is just a box filled with seashells, but soon learns that her grandfather has left her a puzzle that will take her most of the rest of her life to complete, resulting in Maggie feeling close to him at all times.

The subsequent chapters follow Maggie as she goes on the puzzle quest Gee provided for her, as well as following Jason, her very troubled older brother, and a myriad of people and photograph subjects Gee met in his travels around the world. The reader gets many in-depth glimpses (is that an oxymoron?) into many different characters, which is definitely something that is not easy to accomplish. Typically there is one main character to a story and this has several, though it is still very easy to follow and understand.

I was very satisfied when I completed this book, though I wish the authors would get together and write another! It was fun to try and pinpoint who was writing which chapter, though it does say at the very beginning of the chapter, simply by knowing certain author's writing styles. Even if you've never read a book by any of these authors, this is an excellent example of talented writing at its best.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

After about 800 people recommended this book to me, I finally got the chance to sit down and read it! This is a very intense story, one that is definitely not for those who love happy endings, but it was a very enjoyable read filled with history and a sweet love story.

Moloka'i begins with young Rachel, a native Hawaiian residing with her large family, contracting leprosy. Taking place in the late 1800's, when leprosy was still a very new disease and one that was greatly feared, Rachel and her family are terrified that something will happen to her once word of her contracting the illness gets out. Her mother is able to hide her illness for close to a year before the health inspector becomes aware and takes Rachel away.

Forced to leave her home and is sent to live on the island of Moloka'i. The island has been set up as a quarantined area for those that have contracted leprosy, where the infected are forced to spend the rest of their lives. She resides in a girl's home, with many other young girls her age, and though Rachel's symptoms remain mild while she is young, she witnesses many of her close friends become deformed, extremely ill, and eventually die.

She eventually meets a man that she falls in love with, one also infected with leprosy, and they have a lovely marriage, seemingly meant to live together. They soon become pregnant and what should be a miracle turns tragic and the couple are forced to give up their only child simply because they are lepers.

The plot goes on, as Rachel's sad life does, until she is eventually cured of the disease and allowed to leave Moloka'i. Though this may seem to be exactly what she had been waiting for all these years, Rachel is afraid to leave, Moloka'i being all she has known for almost her entire life. However, she realizes the importance of making contact with her long estranged family and hopefully finding her now grown daughter, resulting in her final release from the leper island.

Moloka'i is incredibly rich in history and the Hawaiian language. I learned a lot about not only what it was like to live in Hawaii during the nineteenth century, but also about the Hawaiian language and of course, leprosy. I never realized it had taken so long to find a cure for what now seems like an easily treatable disease. Overall this was an enjoyable book, though a bit wordy in areas.