Saturday, October 31, 2009

Picture Book Saturday

Happy Halloween to all of you out there! Hope you're enjoying some nice weather and are anticipating trick or treating with the little ones later. We don't have any kiddos in our house, so we're just handing out loads of candy, if the rain holds off.

I did my Halloween post last weekend, hoping to get the books into your hands before the big day, so for today's Picture Book Saturday, we're just focusing on a couple of books I enjoyed this week. And only two because I had an absolutely exhausting week and am spending my time decompressing rather than blogging. :)

Really, who doesn't like Jane Yolen's picture books? She's one of my favorites and one of her newest, The Scarecrow's Dance, tells a magical story of how a simple wind can turn a hay-stuffed scarecrow into a fantastical dance.

The wind starts to blow and up goes the scarecrow! He dances down the rows, through the cow pastures, past the barn, and was given a rare glimpse into the farmer's house, where he listened to a boy pray. Such a sweet, simple, rhyming story, but one with such a satisfying ending.

Illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline does such a magnificent job at creating the night scenes. He definitely enhances the magic Yolen creates with her story, given the scarecrow a true character. Just as a side note, he's also the illustrator of one of my favorites by Kate DiCamillo, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Love that one!

Great for a bedtime story (definitely appropriate for a Halloween read) or in anticipation of some autumn-themed storytime crafts.

The Scarecrow's Dance
Jane Yolen
32 pages
Picture Book
Simon & Schuster
August 2009
Review copy received from Raab Associates

If you need a story in which the main theme is about being one's self, Wanda's Freckles by Barbara Azore is a great choice. Book three is a series about Wanda by the author and illustrator Georgia Graham, this one shines with a self-esteem boost.

Our main character has lots and lots of freckles on her face (which her little cousin cutely refers to as "sparkles") and loves them. When other kids at the park start making fun of Wanda's "spots," she starts to think that maybe having freckles isn't so cool after all, attempting to get rid of them with various silly methods.

Kids can definitely be cruel sometimes, as I'm sure we've all experienced, and Wanda is a great role model for those kids. She ends up remembering why she loves her freckles...they make her who she is!

A great read aloud for all kids, reminding them not to make fun of people just because they may be different in some way. Great, eye-catching illustrations too.

Wanda's Freckles
Barbara Azore
24 pages
Picture Book
Tundra Books
August 2009
Review copy received from publisher

To learn more about either of these books, or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate and will receive a small commission for your purchase.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Piece de Resistance review, Christian Fiction

Book description:
"Having earned her chef's hat, Lexi Stuart bids au revoir to her glamorous and deliciously satisfying pastry mentorship outside of Paris and returns to her homeown of Seattle, Washington. There, she finds life unexpectedly complicated.

She's put in charge of a high end catering bakery Bijoux, which should be her dream job, but there's a catch: She has to make this lavish bakery into a successful business in just a few short months, which will require more than her ability to make an amazing wedding cake. In over her head and at a loss for creative marketing ideas, Lexi isn't sure what the recipe for success needs to be.

Stire in a complicated relationship with her French beau, Philippe, and his daughter, Celine, then add a dash of romance with down-to-earth, lawyer Dan, and life suddenly contains more ooh la la than Lexi can handle.

With the fate of her career and her love life hanging by a thread, the phrase "piece of  cake" has never been more daunting. Lexi learns that she must trust the dreams in her heart and the God who put them there."

This "French Twist" series has been so much fun to read! Sometimes, I really am in the mood for a lighter read and Sandra Byrd delivers with these books. They're often humorous and laced with fun, but Lexi Stuart faces realistic situations and handles them with God's help (and a bit of chaos). You see inside Lexi's professional life, but her personal life as well, making the story (and Lexi) very well-rounded.

Oh, and the element of yummy cakes and desserts? Such a delicious asset to the stories! I loved reading about what Lexi and another baker was working and trying to picture the yumminess of the finished product. Food lover that I am, this one was of my favorite parts of the books for sure.

Romancy? Yes, but not overly so. There are love interests, but this is a Christian fiction book, so all the scenes are clean, promise. It's more a personal growth, Godly growth, and yummy bakery book :)

You can visit the author's website at

To learn more, or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. As an Associate, I will receive a small percentage of your purchase price, of this book or anything else.

Piece de Resistance
Sandra Byrd
304 pages
Waterbrook Press
September 2009
Review copy provided by publisher

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I Need My Monster, Interview with Amanda Noll

Back in April, I fell in love with I Need My Monster, an adorable picture book written by Amanda Noll. So much so that I nominated it for a Cybil Award and have now done an interview with this awesome author. She is incredibly nice and gracious :) Enjoy!

Hi Amanda! Before we start, can you choose where to have our interview and a meal we would be enjoying? We could be eating candy canes at the North Pole, snacking on chocolates in Paris, pasta in Venice, or anything else you would like!Interviews always go better with food in the belly :)

That’s easy! We’d be eating big juice hamburgers, complete with fried egg, onions, and beetroot, at a small cafĂ© in the heart of Melbourne, Australia. I’d bring the breath mints!

Sounds yummy, though I've never had beetroot. I'd give it a shot!
How did you come to be an author? Have you always written or was it just something you came upon by chance?

Sheer boredom was my motivating factor. I’ve always been a voracious reader, but it wasn’t until I had a job that required me to sit at a desk all day long (regardless of the amount of work) that I realized I was telling myself stories to pass the time.

What kind of life do you, as an author, lead? Do you have a specific schedule for writing each day? Do you have an office where you go to write or are you just typing away on your couch? Give us a day in your life!

Having a young family, my youngest isn’t in school yet, makes writing somewhat unpredictable. My *ideal* writing day looks something like this: get everyone who’s going to school out the door, pick up around the house, run any errands, return e-mails, phone calls, and critiques. Break for a quick lunch with my son. Stick a movie or game on my son, try and write like crazy until the older kids get home from school. It’s a challenge, but it’s working so far.
Your book, I Need My Monster, is absolutely charming! Great for a bedtime story or a Halloween read.  How did you come up with the idea for a book on children and monsters actually liking each other?

It came from desperation. When my youngest son was an infant my 3 year old daughter wouldn’t stay in bed. I wished she would stop getting out. Yes, I wished she was afraid of monsters to keep her in bed. It’s not my finest parenting moment; I’m going to blame complete exhaustion from getting up with a fourth baby! It was a happy day in my house when everyone started sleeping through the night. Fortunately, I still had plenty of things to write about.

Do you have any plans in the works for new books? Can you give us any hints as to what we can expect from you in the future?

Absolutely! I’m working on a middle grade ghost story. It includes a crying ghost baby.

Most of my blog readers come to read reviews of books I loved, getting suggestions for their own reading lives. Do you have any favorite children’s books you can recommend to them? Ones you just love…?

I love funny picture books. Some of my favorites are, Click Clack Moo, A Job for Watilda, Escape of Marvin the Ape, and pretty much anything by Sandra Boynton.

One final question, just to have a bit of fun. If you could invite any three book characters to join us in our dining adventure from question one, who would they be? And why of course…

Hmmm, that’s a hard one. I think I’d start with Artemis and Holly Short from the Artemis Fowl series. Then I’d add Hari from the Blue Sword.

Awesome! Thanks so much for enjoying a meal and sharing some answers with me!

To learn more about I Need My Monster, or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I'm an Associate and will receive a small percentage of your purchase price.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Non-Fiction Monday: Never Smile at a Monkey

Jacket description:
"When it comes to wild animals, everyone knows that there are certain things you just don't do. It's clearly a bad idea to tease a tiger, pull a python's tail, or bother a black widow spider. But do you know how dangerous it can be to pet a platypus, collect a cone shell, or touch a tang fish? Some creatures have developed unusual ways of protecting themselves or catching prey, and this can make them unexpectedly hazardous to your health."

Oh how I love Steve Jenkins! He truly produces great, quality Non-fiction books for kids, complete with awesome illustrations and simple, yet totally educational facts. His latest, Never Smile at a Monkey, is easily another winner and one I can see teachers and librarians using all the time.

I can personally say that I learned a whole lot from this children's book! I did not know that confronting a kangaroo, swimming with squid, or petting a platypus were bad ideas, along with a bunch of other cool facts. The page spreads are awesome, each individual page featuring a different animal not to mess with, illustrated in Jenkins' cool way, with some reasons why and a nice, bold title.

There's an index of all the animals in the back, expanding on why they are not to be taken lightly.

Great for libraries, school, and home shelves.

To learn more, or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of your purchase of this book, or any other book/item.

Never Smile at a Monkey
Steve Jenkins
32 pages
Non-Fiction Picture Book
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
October 2009
Review copy courtesy of publisher

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Picture Book "Saturday" post read-a-thon

As you know, the Picture Book Saturday posts typically take place on, well, Saturdays. With the Read-a-thon yesterday, I didn't have room for a post, so I'm putting it up today. 3 great books for you all today, enjoy!

I Always, Always Get My Way, written by Thad Krasnesky and illustrated by David Parkins is a laugh-out-loud story, screaming to be read to your kids!

Jacket description:
"When Emmy accidentally spills juice on Daddy's pants, she's sure she'll get into trouble. But Mom tells Dad, 'Now sweetheart, you should let it be. After all...she's only three.'

For the next few days, whenever one of Emmy's creative projects ends in a wreck, she tried to wangle her way out of trouble by proclaiming, 'I'm only three.' With a carefully-aimed pout, a shift of blame, or an all-out tantrum, this girl sure knows how to always get her way."

Remind you of anyone? I'm sure we can all imagine a child that is just too cute to get into trouble, wrapping us around their little fingers! Emmy learns her lession eventually and it's fun watching her antics until the consequences are handed out!

I Always, Always Get My Way
Thad Krasnesky
32 pages
Picture Book
Flashlight Press
September 2009
Review copy courtesy of publisher

Spells, written and illustrated by by one of my favorite children's authors, Emily Gravett, is a hilarious, interactive pursuit of a little green frog, wanting to become a handsome prince.

The frog tries spell after spell, none of which turn out quite right, until he finally manages to turn himself back into a handsome prince. But....he didn't read the fine print!

The cover is just beautiful and the pages are fabulous as well. The story is definitely a Gravett story, as she has become known for her awesome endings and her somewhat dry humor. I love the different spells and I can picture children giggling like crazy after each one fails and the frog turns into something strange!

Just a teensy warning...when the frog becomes a prince, he is a bit under-dressed, though everything is definitely covered up! It just adds to the story and you know, by this point, the kids will be roaring!

This would make a great read aloud, though the split pages may make it hard to maneuver holding up to a crowd.

Emily Gravett
32 pages
Picture Book
Simon & Schuster
October 2009
Review copy courtesy of Amazon Vine Program

Rose's Garden, written and illustrated by the amazing Peter H. Reynolds, is my "sentimental" pick of the week (always gotta have the one)!

Jacket description:
"After traveling the world in her fantastic teapot, Rose is ready to put down roots. She sets about planting flower seeds in a neglected corner of a bustling city. And then she waits--through rain, cold, and snow. Rose waits, never doubting that the garden she envisions will one day come to be."

A beautiful story focusing on community, nature, and how powerful a faith in good can be. This would make a nice bedtime story or as a discussion provoking read aloud with your family. Talk about what it means to love others, even if you don't know them.

Reynolds has dedicated this book to the late Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, mother of the late Ted Kennedy (who has a quote on the back of the book) in which there is a foundation created in her name, the Rose Fitzgeralf Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, which you should definitely check out, it's an awesome organization!

Rose's Garden
Peter H. Reynolds
40 pages
Picture Book
October 2009
Review copy courtesy of publisher

To learn more about any of these books, or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of your purchase price of the books or any other item/books. 

Read-a-thon Hour final wrap-up post

I bailed out early, as I always do, but I still feel like I got a lot of reading accomplished and had so much fun checking on how others were doing, keeping up on Twitter, and doing different mini-challenges. I ended up actually shutting the computer down a little after 11, but read for another 45 minutes once I actually went to bed AND got up and read a bit in the early morning. So my final tallies are:

Total time reading/blogging: 11 hours 55 minutes
Total books read: 9.5
Total pages read: 1376

And the end of event meme is as follows:

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Hour 15, that's when I gave up and went on into bed.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? I read Jumped by Rita Williams Garcia and it was fast paced, short, and thrilling. Also, one I didn't read for the readathon but would certainly make a good book choice for the event is The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? I personally didn't enjoy a whole lot of the mini-challenges and therefore didn't participate in a lot of them. I think if they focused more on books/reading and not so much on multimedia, twitter, or writing things, I might have enjoyed them more. Surveys, memes, book title stuff, are all easy and quick to do and don't take a lot of time out of reading.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I think the fantastic organizers did a fabulous job at keeping all the info up-to-date. I really liked being able to head to the home page and see what challenges were still going on, who the most recent winners were, etc. 
5. How many books did you read? 10. Well, 9.5 really. I read 9 and finished half of another.

6. What were the names of the books you read? Annie Glover is NOT a Tree Lover, Walking Backward, and William S. and the Great Escape, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, Jumped, The Naming of Tishkin Silk, Notes from the Dog, Tofu Quilt, Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix, and finished Fat Cat. Reviews to come of all.

7. Which book did you enjoy most? I got lucky, I really liked all of them. It's probably a tie between Jumped and Notes from the Dog.

8. Which did you enjoy least? None, I really liked them all.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I'm sure I'll be a reader again, if time allows. 

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Read-a-thon Hour 15.... and I'm out

Typically I make it to midnight, but I think I'm calling it a night at 11. I'll be reading before I actually fall asleep and I'll be up early in the morning to walk the pooches, which always requires an audiobook, so I'll still have some adding to do in the morning on my final post. It's been fun folks, good luck to all of those that are staying all night!


Time Started: 8:03am
Time Now: 11:01pm
Time Spent Reading/Blogging:  10 hours 46 minutes
Total Pages read: 1273
Total Books read: 9 (Annie Glover is NOT a Tree Lover, Walking Backward, and William S. and the Great Escape, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, Jumped, The Naming of Tishkin Silk, Notes from the Dog, Tofu Quilt, Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix)

Other tasks accomplished: Played with the pups, folded laundry

Read-a-thon Hour 14 meme

We're more than halfway there! The folks running the Read-a-thon have asked us participants to take part in this mid-way meme:

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now? Just finished Notes from the Dog by Gary Paulsen, about to pick up something new.
2. How many books have you read so far? 7
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? Front and Center by Catherine Murdock. I'm attempting to hold off until the end and use it as my reward :)
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? No, I have an understanding husband and the weather really worked in my favor
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? I was interrupted to go out to dinner, but that only took a couple of hours. No problem.
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? I'm still SO surprised at how  many participants there are. Something like 350?
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Unfortunately, only a couple of the mini-challenges have been appealing thus far.
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Nothing so far, I'm getting through a whole bunch of books.
9. Are you getting tired yet? Yep, but I'll make it a few more hours. I think we're taking the day off from church, so I'll get to sleep in a little.
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? Get up often to keep yourself awake, listen to an audiobook for awhile, make a snack!


Time Started: 8:03am
Time Now: 9.07pm
Time Spent Reading/Blogging:  8 hours 17 minutes
Total Pages read: 1022
Total Books read: 7 (Annie Glover is NOT a Tree Lover, Walking Backward, and William S. and the Great Escape, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, Jumped, The Naming of Tishkin Silk, Notes from the Dog)

Other tasks accomplished: Listened to the man from the local Volunteer Fire Department pitch his fundraiser and wrote him a check. Good cause. 

Read-a-thon Hour 12

Not much to report at this point folks. Took some time out and headed out for some dinner and a quick sweater-buying trip for the husband. Oh and a's a treat day right? So two in one day isn't bad?

I did read in the car, but only for about 10 minutes total.


Time Started: 8:03am
Time Now: 7:49pm
Time Spent Reading/Blogging:  7 hours 09 minutes
Total Pages read: 910
Total Books read: 6.25 (Annie Glover is NOT a Tree Lover, Walking Backward, and William S. and the Great Escape, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, Jumped, and The Naming of Tishkin Silk)

Other tasks accomplished: Had some pumpkin soup and roasted veggies for dinner, bought the husband a couple of warm sweaters, and picked up a latte, and a chew toy for the dogs.

Read-a-thon Hour 9

Whew, time is passing too quickly! I've gotten a lot read though and the last four books I've read were fantastic, so it's going just fine for me.


Time Started: 8:03am
Time Now: 4:28pm
Time Spent Reading/Blogging:  6 hours 59 minutes
Total Pages read: 899
Total Books read: 6 (Annie Glover is NOT a Tree Lover, Walking Backward, and William S. and the Great Escape, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, Jumped, and The Naming of Tishkin Silk)

Other tasks accomplished: Cleaned up from lunch, chatted about where to go for dinner. 

The next couple hours will probably be spent away from the reading room. I've been convinced to go OUT to dinner (apparently, the food gets too cold by the time it hits our doorstep) and have also been talked into a quick Old Navy trip as well. I can read in the car :)

Read-a-thon Hour 7 and some pictures

Still going strong! It has now started pouring outside, which is making for some really nice background noise. I took a couple of pictures of my reading area for the dog (complete with doggies), which I'll share after my progress update.


Time Started: 8:03
Time Now: 2:48
Time Spent Reading/Blogging:  5 hours 26 minutes
Total Pages read: 691
Total Books read: 4.5 (Annie Glover is NOT a Tree Lover, Walking Backward, and William S. and the Great Escape, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days)

Other things I accomplished: Cleaned up dog vomit. Gotta love having a dog with no thirst sensor in her brain. She will drink water until you physically stop her and if you don't catch her in time, all the water...and whatever she recently ate...comes back up. Typically it lands on a carpet, as it did this time. Sigh. 

 The first is my little loveseat where I'm cuddled up with the puker, Zoey. She takes up more room than I do, lovingly shoving me farther over to the side with her feet every few minutes.

Next is Shae, the dog I prefer cuddling with, showing her depressed face at the fact that Zoey beat her to the loveseat. I could sit on the big couch with both dogs, but that would mean moving the light and I'm too lazy today. You can see out the window how gray, dark, and gloomy it is outside.

Anyone else taking pictures of their spots today?

Read-a-thon Hour 6


Time Started: 8:03
Time Now: 1:35
Time Spent Reading/Blogging:  3 hours 18 minutes
Total Pages read: 623
Total Books read: 4 (Annie Glover is NOT a Tree Lover, Walking Backward, and William S. and the Great Escape, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days)
Other things I accomplished: Lunch (lentil soup and a cupcake :)
I'm going to keep updating every hour I think. It gives me a chance to get up and move around.

Read-a-thon Hour 5

It's started raining outside, so no more guilt about needing to work in the yard today. The leaves are gross and wet, so they can't be raked anyway! I got some great reading done in this last hour and a half and completed book #3. It definitely helps doing the shorter books.

Time Started: 8:03
Time Now: 12:34
Time Spent Reading/Blogging:  2 hour 19 minutes
Total Pages read: 408
Total Books read: 3 (Annie Glover is NOT a Tree Lover, Walking Backward, and William S. and the Great Escape)
Other stuff I did: a load of laundry (it was necessary...I did it last night and forgot to take the wet clothes out of the washing machine, made the bed, let the dogs out and cleaned their muddy paws. 

 Oh and have I mentioned how awesome Aaron is lately? Not only did he go get donuts and lattes this morning, he also ran my errands, heading to the post office, the dry cleaners, AND picked up chocolate cupcakes from a new bakery in town. The diet is smashed for the day, but my husband is lovely. :)

Read-a-thon Hour 3 and a mini-challenge

Well the Mini-Challenge of Hour 3 is to head to Hey Lady Whatcha Reading and pinpoint yourself on the map. Cool isn't it?!

My progress:

I didn't read much this hour, as I had to answer some phone calls regarding work next week and then decided it was time to shower. I'm sure the dogs and my husband were tired of smelling me. :)

Time Started: 8:03
Time Now: 10:41
Time Spent Reading/Blogging:  1 hour 53 minutes
Total Pages read: 194
Total Books read: 2

Read-a-thon Hour 2 and a Mini-Challenge

Here's the progress so far:

Time Started: 8:03
Time Now: 9:49
Time Spent Reading/Blogging:  1 hour 21 minutes
Total Pages read: 138
Total Books read: 1.75

And the mini-challenge for this hour is hosted by 
Word Lily. She asks us to take a Twitter screen shot of the #readathon trending (which I didn't have a clue what that meant, but I think I figured it out).

 Hopefully, that's what she's looking for! And if you want to follow ME on twitter, I'm @APatchworkofBks

Read-a-thon Hour 1, meme

It's begun! I have my donuts and latte in hand and have already gotten through one book (it was a short one). Hopefully this gloomy day will help me to stay put and read, but we'll see :)

Time Started: 8:03
Time Now: 8:37
Time Spent Reading/Blogging: 32 minutes
Pages read: 120
Books read: 1

And the meme for the hour is as follows:

Where are you reading from today? My house in Virginia :) Either the couch or the porch probably. 

3 facts about me: Fall is my favorite season, I have a slight obsession with Skinny Decaf Hazelnut Lattes from Starbucks, and I have 2 dogs cuddling at my feet. 

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? 13, but I probably won't get through them all. 

Do you have any goals for the Read-a-thon? Well, my goal is to get through all 13 books. More realistically, my goal is to actually read all day and not feel guilty for slacking on the housework. 

If you're a veteran Read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time? Choose short books! Really, it makes you feel like you're accomplishing something! And participate in the games and memes, they make it fun :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

My game plan for the Read-a-thon (including donuts)

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon starts tomorrow morning!! 5am West Coast time, means an 8am starting block time for me, working out much better than the spring when I was still in NM and 2 hours behind. 6 is just too early for me to focus on pages. Anyways....

I have perfected my Read-a-thon days over the last few events and thought I would share with you now, what a tomorrow should be like. Of course, I'll be posting tomorrow and things will change, but these are personal tips and methods of getting through a whole lot of reading.

I start my day with donuts. Doesn't sound very special, but believe me, it is! I only let myself have donuts on pretty special occasions: friends/family stay over, we are driving to NY at 3am at stop for coffee, Read-a-thons). Soooo, the husband will be shooting over to Dunkin Donuts around 730 am tomorrow, picking me up a decaf with 2 creams and a couple of donuts. Probably a glazed and a marble froster, in case you're that interested. ;)

My reading list contains 13 books, most of which are pretty short. Though I am on the Cybils YA panel and probably should be reading only Cybils books, most of them are fairly long and I know I'll get bogged down easily if my page numbers aren't kept low per book. So I have 2 Cybils choices and the rest have been laying around for quite some time, waiting to be read and reviewed. Complete list of what I'm reading below.

I try to park it on the couch upstairs (we have 2 family downstairs with a TV and the other w/o just off the kitchen). I don't really want a television to distract me, so I'll sit upstairs as long as I can stand it. Then, once the ants enter the pants and I don't want to sit still anymore, I'll start moving around. Back porch, bedroom, stairs leading to the backyard from the deck, etc.

Dinner will probably be Thai takeout, as we seem to have an obsession with it lately and I won't be cooking. A great excuse for Thai, if you ask me!

I will inevitably not read for 24 hours. Let's just get that out in the open right away. Never have completed a full challenge and I don't really even aspire to, I just like to participate with everyone else and read as much as I can. Saturdays are big "chore" days in our house, especially in the yard, and though my husband will tell me a million times he doesn't need help, I feel horrible watching him mow/rake/mulch/trim/etc., without any help at all. Soooo part of my afternoon will probably be spent in the yard. I would bet on it actually.

So that's how I do it. Will I stay up all night? No, I go to church early in the morning. Will it be lots of fun and will I check a bunch of books off the TBR list? You betcha!

Oh and I'm reading for Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, which does such amazing things for animal welfare. Having a rescue dog myself, especially one that is of a breed that has a bad rap, I love supporting an organization that focuses not only on rescue, but on prevention and education. $1 a book read will be pledged to them. :)

Here's my list:

Flight of the Phoenix by R.L. LaFevers
Walking Backward by Catherine Austen
The Naming of Tishkin Silk by Glenda Millard
Notes from the Dog by Gary Paulsen
Annie Glover is NOT a Tree Lover by Darleen Bailey Beard
William S. and the Great Escape by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Fade to Blue by Sean Beaudoin
Tofu Quilt by Ching Yeung Russell
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney
The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech
Front and Center by Catherine Murdock
Jumped by Rita Williams Garcia

See you all tomorrow!

Begin Smart, series review

I don't do a whole lot of "baby books" on the blog, as I don't see them as often as the picture books, middle grade, and young adult books that I work with every day. I recently had the chance to review a few books from the Begin Smart series, which I was familiar with, but had never sat down and really thought out how infants and toddlers would respond to the claims the series makes.

My overall thoughts on the series are incredibly positive, as I really enjoyed flipping through the books and I feel the claims can easily be reached with the age set they are each aimed towards. The tagline of the series is "A Developmental Read-and-Play Book Program for Babies and Toddlers" and the books really are to be read with and played with, opening up great possibilities in getting children to love books from an early age.

The series is broken into sub-series by age level, beginning with Newborn-6 months. These books focus on visual skills and repetitive texts, which are shown through bold colors and simple drawings. These books also have small animals or squeaker attached for play.

The Six to Twelve months books include touch-and-feels and more sounds to start to encourage the different senses. Some parts of the books have teethers, which is probably a necessary part for this stage in life! Built sturdy to withstand little teeth and more noise elements could help children recognize specific sounds.

The Twelve to Eighteen months books are the most vibrant and fun, understandably. Different interactive aspects are included with each book, including button pushing, die-cuts to encourage an object permanence theory, and an introduction to colors.

Finally, for the Eighteen months to 2 years set, there are books focusing on rhyming, finger-play, more noises, and advanced peek-a-book concepts. Some of these books have handles and eye-holes, encouraging children to hold the books themselves and interact with the story. There is also a cool set of flash cards for learning games, which includes talking points for parents to keep their children engaged in the activity.

The idea of using this series to evoke a love of reading at an early age and to encourage different system developments is awesome! I would love to someday have the chance to start my own children from the newborn books and work through the end of the series and really give a solid review, but for now, I can only tell you that I see the books as a lot of fun and worth your time. Even if you aren't into buying an entire series, the books do stand alone just fine.

Review copies provided by publisher.

To learn more, or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small commission from your purchase.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

S is for Story, interview with Esther Hershenhorn

If you read this blog often, you know of my love of Sleeping Bear Press books, especially their awesome alphabet series. Well, there's a new one on the block, S is for Story: A Writer's Alphabet, written by Esther Hershenhorn and illustrated by Zachary Pullen.

Setup as all the other books in this series are, we are given cute rhymes introducing younger readers to each alphabetical topic, with a sidebar filled with facts regarding the topic for older children. There are also quotes from famous authors all throughout the book, as well as writing tips for those children that are interested in writing, as a hobby or even a future career.

The illustrations are just magnificent, probably my favorite out of any alphabet book in this series, making for a very pleasant journey from A-Z. The page spread for D and E is exceptional, featuring Abraham Lincoln, looking very real!

The author has graciously answered a couple of questions that I thought you all might be interested in learning about.

How did you become involved with Sleeping Bear Press’ alphabet book series?

I’ve always known about, used and recommended Sleeping Bear Press books, from their earliest legend retellings and abecedarian titles up to their current list of YA fantasy. Their books both educate and entertain; the iconic format allows beginning and older readers to participate. I credit my good friend and fellow Sleeping Bear Press author Steven Layne for introducing me to the possibility that I might propose a relevant series title. As I wrote in my January, 2007 proposal for the originally-titled W is for Writing, “I live and breathe this book.” I write children’s books, teach Writing for Children to adults, coach writers of all ages and facilitate writing workshops for teachers and students. Creating an A-to-Z journey through a writer’s life and process was right up my alley.

Which letter entry is your favorite?

I so love “M is for Magic.” It sits smack dab in the middle and it was the choice of 16 of my 22 Louisa May Alcott School fifth graders with whom I brainstormed letter possibilities. But “Z is for Zorro” especially grabs my heart. What better way to affirm young writers than to remind them to place their signature beneath their stories, perhaps with an identifying symbol or a telling signature quote. Richard Peck’s closing words also make me smile: “My advice for children who want to write is, you can start right now.”

I soooo appreciate Ms. Hershenhorn stopping by this blog to give us an author's insight into one of my favorite series. I know a lot of others out there are fans of the Sleeping Bear Press books as well, so check this one out next time you're at your library. :)

S is for Story: A Writer's Alphabet
Esther Hershenhorn
40 pages
Picture book
Sleeping Bear Press
September 2009
Review copy provided by publisher

To learn more, or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I'm an Associate and will receive a small percentage of your purchase price.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Maze Runner (YA Review)

"When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind. "

What a wild ride this book takes you on! From the first page I was hooked and can definitely see the appeal bloggers have been raving about since the ARCs starting arriving in mailboxes. Boy and girl teens alike will enjoy the fast-paced plot and the variety of different character types.

A unique concept doesn't begin to describe the idea of a giant maze and boys being sent to solve it. A little bit Lord of the Flies, yes, but it's taken to an entirely different level, modernized, and is this awesome thriller that you can't help but fall completely into.

I wasn't entirely loving the cover once I saw the published hardback, but I love the book enough to not complain too much :)

Hand this to a reluctant reader or fans of The Hunger Games. No gender bias, anyone will enjoy the thrills and twists that author James Dashner provides. Apparently it's a trilogy, so look for two more books in the future. Yay!

The Maze Runner
James Dashner
384 pages
Young Adult
October 2009
Review copy provided by publisher

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Winners of The Man Behind the Peace Prize

I have three winners to announce! has chosen the following names to receive a copy of The Man Behind the Peace Prize by Kathy-jo Wargin, from Sleeping Bear Press. Congrats to....





Congrats ladies! Email me your mailing info ASAP and I'll send it off to the publisher. Books should get to you within a couple of weeks.

If I don't hear from you by Saturday morning, I'll have to choose another winner. So email!

Thanks again to Sleeping Bear Press!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Non-Fiction Monday: Teen Memoir

I really, really, really enjoyed this book. I Can't Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs By Teens Famous and Obscure, is edited by Smith Magazine, and truly a wonderful addition to any library or as a gift for a teen.

Getting a teen to read a memoir may be somewhat difficult, but with this anthology of sorts, short, six-word memoirs by 600 different teens is a unique concept and your teen is bound to find someone he or she can relate to out of all these fabulous authors.

I had some favorites, including Ally O. who writes: "Allergic to reality; compelled by fiction." And Katie N. who writes: "I walked on eggshells; they cracked." And Ivy V. who writes: "Smoke detectors taught me to cook." And Taylor Swift's? "My diary is read by everyone." How true is that?

Some are sad, some are really funny, some are a little strange. I loved this, think it is entirely worthy of it's Cybils nomination, and hope you'll hand it to some teens that you love!

I Can't Keep My Own Secrets
edited by Smith Magazine
192 pages
Young Adult/Non-Fiction
September 2009
Review copy provided by publisher

To learn more, or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I'm an Associate, so I'll receive a small percentage of your purchase price.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Vampire giveaway!!

With my Halloween-focused Picture Book Saturday post yesterday, I thought today was entirely appropriate to feature a wonderful giveaway, just in time for Halloween!

I'm sure you've all seen the "Practical Guide to..." series, which includes Monsters and Dragons, and Wizardry. This is the latest entry, A Practical Guide to Vampires. Lisa Trutkoff Trumbauer, compiled by Treval Vorgard (vampire enthusiast and occasional hunter), this book, along with the others in the series, are a whole lot of fun this time of year.

Featuring all sorts of aspects of "vampire life," explained to us that aren't always knowledgable about this stuff, the book is humorous and a great resource for library activities around Halloween.

There is a description of a proper vampire banquet, complete with menu, a explanation of how vampires travel and where they hide, basic vampire protection, and known enemies and allies. Basically, everything you could ever want to know about the vampire world!

The illustrations are well done and include great detail in regards to the different pieces of protection and combat equipment required for vampires.

If you have a young vampire fan that may not be quite ready to indulge in those famous Bella/Edward books, this would be an excellent choice. Lots of fun and lots of info!

So....when sending me a copy of the book to review, the publisher sent some other little goodies along, which I am now gifting to one of you, just in time for Halloween!

Included in the giveaway is:
1 hardcover copy of A Practical Guide to Vampires
1 activity book, which includes story starters, cross-curriculum activities, programming suggestions, worksheets, booktalks, and more
1 Practical Guides Calendar for 2009-2010

Fun!! This package would make a nice gift for a preteen. To enter, please leave a comment below. If you are not a blogger, please leave an email address so I can reach you if you win.

To earn extra entries, Tweet and/or blog about the giveaway. One extra entry for each. Please leave a separate comment for each entry.

U.S. entries only for this one please :)

This will run until Thursday night, the 22nd at 11:59pm, so I have time to get it to you by Halloween.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of your purchase price.

A Practical Guide to Vampires
Lisa Trutkoff Trumbauer
80 pages
August 2009
Review copy provided by publisher

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer review

I am a huge fan of memoirs, which make up probably 90% of my adult non-fiction reading choices. Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, written by Novella Carpenter (isn't that the coolest name???) was a fabulous memoir, filled with the utmost honesty and passion about growing and raising one's own food, even when the setting is not the most ideal.

Carpenter and her boyfriend move from Seattle to a not-so-great...well, really, terrible, section of Oakland, California, where gun shots are their background noise and drug dealers litter the corners. They choose this area on purpose, liking the places that others find undesirable, and decide to start their own farm in order to subsist of the land, no matter where that land may be.

Filled with funny and sad escapades surrounding the growth of a successful garden, the raising of chickens, ducks, turkeys, bees, and pigs in downtown, urban Oakland, this book is really an enjoyable and educational read, cover to cover. We get the insight into who Novella Carpenter is, the biggest aspect of a memoir to me, and we learn a bit about farming...the good and the bad.

I was so impressed with the determination of Carpenter, especially when it came down to killing the animals for food. I know I couldn't kill a duck or a turkey I had raised, but she knew what she wanted and was not going to consider these animals her pets. She raised them, killed them, and cooked them!

I was also totally impressed with the couple's passion for the urban area they lived in. Though people were killed right around the corner from their home, they were not going to run away or be scared. They wanted to live an urban lifestyle and bring somewhat of a backyard paradise to the people of Oakland. Though they sometimes took advantage, people were encouraged to come and take vegetables for free, helping to feed the hungry as well as Carpenter.

I loved the cover, I really loved learning about Carpenter's eccentric neighbors, and definitely took away some valuable information when it comes to growing gardens. I plan to start my first this coming spring and enjoyed gathering tips as I read through the book. Carpenter and her boyfriend are inspirations to those of us that desire to live more from the land and help cut-down our usage of "stuff."

A great gift for an adult in your life that enjoys gardening or farming. I would also recommend this to fans to memoir reading or those new to the memoir genre. A very enjoyable, fast-paced read.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of your purchase price.

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer
Novella Carpenter
288 pages
Adult non-fiction
Penguin Press
June 2009
Borrowed from library

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Picture Book Saturday: Halloween Books

You all still have a couple of weeks to get the Halloween books together for the kiddos, but I wanted to give you time to check these ones out. Very cute for a spooky time of year!

Haunted Party, written and illustrated by Iza Trapani is filled with rhyming and counting, starting with our 1 ghost host and working up to 10 trick or treaters at the door, then working back down to 1 again.

All sorts of creatures attend the Haunted Party, including goblins, werewolves, and vampires, but all are written about in very non-scary rhymes. It's not the best set of rhyming verses I've ever seen, but the cute enough that kids will enjoy it,

Filled with typical Halloween traditions, such as bobbing for apples, pumpkin carving, and all the "creatures of the night," this is a nice intro to Halloween for little kiddos.

Haunted Party
Iza Trapani
28 pages
Picture Book
July 2009

Review copy provided by publisher

Druscilla's Halloween, written by Sally M. Walker and illustrated by Lee White, is a fun look into just why witches ride broomsticks!

Our main character, Druscilla the Witch, is pretty upset because her knees crack so loudly and give her away when she tries to scare anyone. She and her cat, Drizzle, attempt to come up with a new way for the witch to be frightful, failing miserably at every turn...until they come up with flying in on a broomstick!

The story is very cute, nice and mild for those new to the whole "scary Halloween story." The illustrations are cute too, though each page is a bit busy. An overall nice read aloud for Halloween.

Druscilla's Halloween
Sally M. Walker
32 pages
Picture Book
Carolrhoda Books
August 2009
Review copy provided by publisher

Monster Madness, illustrated by Brenda Sexton (I couldn't find an author listed anywhere!) is one of those just-plain-fun books that your littlest ones will enjoy for Halloween.

Simple rhymes compose a story of different characters getting ready for the big Halloween party. Each of the spooky characters, including a ghost, a vampire, a skeleton, etc., are illustrated in a bright and simple way, so no worries about scaring the kiddos.

A button on the front cover, brings the interactive nature of this book to life, as lights start flashing, music plays, and a wheel of the characters starts to move. A giant pop-up on the last page completes the experience.

Just a lot of fun, nothing literary or award-worthy in this one, but your kids will love to watch the cover, hear the rhymes, and rip out the pop-up :). Board book style.

Monster Madness
Brenda Sexton
Board book/Picture book
Silver Dolphin Books
August 2009
Review copy provided by publisher

Friday, October 16, 2009

Books that are just ok...

Unfortunately, as a blogger that attempts to review everything I read, I do sometimes have to provide reviews of books I really didn't completely love. Does that stink?'s not fun to write about something that was boring or slow or I just plain didn't like, but that was my resolution for this write about everything (and that will be changing next year!). These three books were not titles that I "disliked," they were just ok. Nothing entirely bad, but nothing really good for me either. You may love them!

One Lonely Degree, written by C.K. Kelly Martin was a big surprise for me, not really loving. I did enjoy the last book from this author, I Know It's Over, when I read it last year for the Cybils, and I was really hoping this one would get that same reaction.

Jacket description:
"Fifteen-year-old Finn has always felt out of place, but suddenly her world is unraveling. It all started with The Party. And Adam Porter. And the night in September that changed everything. The only person who knows about that night is Audrey--Finn's best friend, her witness to everything, and the one person (under thirty) finn trusts implicitly. So when Finn's childhood friend, Jersy moves back into town--reckless, beautiful boy Jersy, all lips and eyes and hair so soft you'd want to dip your fingers into it if you weren't careful--Finn gives her blessing for Audrey to date him. After all, how could she possibly say no to Audrey?

With Audrey gone for the summer, though, Finn finds herself spending moer and more time with Jersy, and for the first time since September, for the first time in her life maybe, something feels right--absolutely, stunningly right. But Finn can't be the girl who does this to her best friend...can she?"

Unfortunately, I felt the book dragged. It moved really slowly for me and I really didn't understand what part of the plot was supposed to be the main point. Was it Audrey and Finn's friendship possibly being broken up over a guy? Or was it Finn's emotional healing after an assault?

Oh and as a last note...I didn't like the cover even a little bit.

It gets great reviews on Amazon, so I may alone in my feelings about this one.

One Lonely Degree
C.K. Kelly Martin
256 pages
Young Adult
Random House
May 2009
Review copy provided by publisher

Well at least I loved the cover for this next one! Karma for Beginners, written by Jessica Blank, had a whole lot of promise for me. I really liked the description, the cover was one of those that pulled me in and made me want to flip through the pages, and I actually really enjoyed the plot, until I was about 3/4 of the way through.

Jacket description:
"Fourteen-year-old Tessa has never had a normal life. Her mother, a frustrated hippie with awful taste in men, has seen to that. But when her mom pulls her out of school to live at an ashram in the Catskills, Tessa goes from being a freak among normal people to being an outcast among freaks. Freaks who worship an orange robe-wearing guru. And while her mom is buzzing with spiritual energy, and finding a little too much favor with the guru, all Tessa feels are weird vibes.

Unless she's with Colin, the gorgeous boy who fixes trucks for the ashram. The connection they share is the most spiritual thing Tessa has ever felt. But he's older-like illegally older-and Tessa's taking dangerous risks to spend time with him. Soon her life is blooming into a psychedelic web of secrets and lies and it's clear that something's about to give way. When it does, will she have anyone to hold on to? Will she even know herself?"

I really was intrigued by the inside look at a cult-like setting and I thought the relationship between Tessa and her mother and then Tessa and Colin was interesting as well. I felt connected with Tessa and her feelings of not fitting in and confusion over why her mother doesn't seem to love her as much as she loves the guru. And Tessa wanting to know her absent father...that was a great plot point as well. When Tessa decided about 3/4 of the way through the book that she would become a pothead and begin taking all sorts of strange drugs and doing totally crazy things, I was pretty much over the book. Done. It was soooo not needed.

I thought the smoking pot part was ok, as much as drug use in a teen novel can be seemed to fit the plot. However, when acid and doing illegal stuff and sleeping with a 20 year old guy came into the picture, it was unnecessary and took away from what I really enjoyed in the beginning. And the fact that Tessa's mom finally begins to understand her after she comes down off an acid trip after stealing a statue from the ashram and the police arrest Colin? Yeah...not exactly believable.

So...I'm probably not going to be recommending this one to anyone, but once again, it gets a 5 star review from someone on Amazon and has been nominated for a Cybil, so someone out there loves it. Maybe you!

Karma for Beginners
Jessica Blank
320 pages
Young Adult
September 2009
Review copy provided by publisher

Finally, the one I probably enjoyed the most out of this bunch, but still wasn't totally loving, was Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles. I'll probably get some flack for this one...I know a lot of you really loved it, but it just moved soooo slowly for me. It took me almost a week to read it, just because I kept wanting to put it down and get a faster-paced story into my hands.

Jacket description:
"Ellie has hooked up with more than a few boys. Each time, she is certain there will be more to the encounter than juts sex. While she is with them, she feels loved. For awhile anyways. So when Josh, an eager virgin with a troubled home life, leads her from a party to the backseat of his van, ellie follows. But their "one-time thing" is far from perfect : Ellie gets pregnant. Josh reacts with shame and heartbreak, while their close friends, Caleb and Corinne, deal with their own complex swirl of emotions. No matter what Ellie chooses, all four teenagers will be forced to grow up a little faster as a result.

Told alternately from each character's point of view, this deeply insightful novel explores the aftershocks of the biggest decision of one girl's life--and the realities of leaving innocence behind."

I did really like the alternating character voices and I really enjoyed and believed in each character and their purpose to the story. Totally relevant to today's teens, I felt the plot was well-done, just really slow.

This is one I would recommend to teens and I think they will definitely enjoy. It really was just "me" that wasn't feeling the pace.

Jumping Off Swings
Jo Knowles
224 pages
Young Adult
August 2009
Review copy provided by publisher

To learn more about any of these titles, or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small portion of your purchase price.