Sunday, February 28, 2010

February Mini-Reviews

If you've never seen one of my Mini-review features, here's the synopsis: Reviews are of books that have already been reviewed about a million times by other bloggers and/or titles that I just feel don't need the full synopsis and in-depth reviews as other books I've read throughout the month. Enjoy!

Gone by Lisa McMann

Whole lot of buzz about this third title in the Wake trilogy. I enjoyed it and felt that it wrapped the whole series up nicely, though I did miss the whole "undercover cop" aspect that was in the previous two books. I think that added a hard edge to a rather dream-focused plot.

I think McMann creates believable characters, even if their stories are fantasy. Definitely a hard talent to achieve, but it shows in her writing.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

Lisa McMann
224 pages
Young Adult
Simon Pulse
February 2010
Review copy received from publisher

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent (audio)

This was the first audiobook that I listened to this month and I enjoyed both the reader,  Mare Winningham, and the plot. I really liked the main character being a child, telling the story of her family's witch trials from her innocent eyes, and the morphing of her feelings toward her doomed mother felt incredibly realistic.

I will say that the story is dark, depressing, and understandably sad, so if you're looking for something hoped-filled, The Heretic's Daughter is not for you. Listening to it, there were some moments I found my mind drifting away, but overall, the reader, the reading, and the overall story were very good.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

The Heretic's Daughter
Kathleen Kent
Audio Book
Hachette Audio
October 2009
Borrowed from my local library

The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg (audio)

Yeah, of the last librarians on earth to read this book (and I listened to it), but because of the Fill in the Gaps Challenge, I finally got to it. Do I think it was worthy of a Newbery Medal? Maybe. I didn't find it was good...but I don't remember what else was published that year to correctly tell you if I thought something else was better.

The reading was done by a full cast, some of whom were good and others not-so-good. The plot was unique and interesting, though some of the vocabulary the kids used I didn't buy for a second. And I can't really imagine 6th graders successfully having a tea party. So, for me, the believability was pretty low. Interesting though, I definitely wanted to hear what happened next.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5

The View From Saturday
E.L. Konigsburg
Audio Book
Simon & Schuster Audio
December 2009
Borrowed from my local library

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 the purchase price. Thanks!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Picture Book Saturday

The past couple of weeks have been interesting. I haven't felt like blogging very much, which probably has something to do with the fact that I'm waking up each weekday morning at 4:45am and feel like doing absolutely nothing by the time I get home. Sooo, Picture Book Saturday took an unexpected hiatus, but it's least for now!

Chester's Masterpiece by Melanie Watt

If you have yet to pick up a Chester book, go out to the library and grab the first two, pronto! These hilarious books, written "with no help from Melanie Watt," feature Chester the cat, a character kids are loving.

In the latest Chester installment, Chester's Masterpiece, the author and Chester go back and forth with each other, each trying to write their masterpiece. Melanie just wants to be able to write her book, but Chester insists that he needs absolutely no help from her, resulting in a very funny ongoing disagreement.

The illustrations of Chester are adorable (he even looks slightly annoying) and the cute sticky notes from Melanie add to the fun. Kids will love Chester's antics!
Overall rating: 4 out of 5
Kids love Chester, parents love Chester! My only issue is that books like these are slightly hard to use as read alouds, just due to the sheer amount of "stuff" on each page. Not necessarily a bad thing for a family read, but a little difficult with a group.

Chester's Masterpiece
Melanie Watt
32 pages
Picture Book
Kids Can Press
March 2010
Review copy received from publisher

What Color is Caesar by Maxine Kumin and illustrator Alison Friend

I'm a huge fan of dog books, no matter the genre and Caesar is just adorable! He's now one of my favorite dog characters and I want to just smush him for being so sweet.

Caesar simply wants to know one thing: is he black with white spots? Or is he white with black spots? He goes around asking all sorts of black and white animals what they think his basic color is, but no one can give him an honest answer. In the process though, Caesar learns a lot about colors and even more about what it means to be yourself.

This is not a typical "it doesn't matter if you're different" book. It has some substance, a lot of subtle humor, adorable illustrations, and a fantastic message. It's a bit wordy, so I wouldn't count on your toddlers sitting still through the whole book, but children a bit older will love Caesar.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
A unique spin on a pretty common theme. Loved the humor, loved the main character, and the not-so-obvious color lessons. Didn't necessarily love the length.

What Color is Caesar?
Maxine Kumin
46 pages
Picture book
February 2010
Review copy received from publisher

The Purple Kangaroo by Michael Ian Black and illustrator Peter Brown

Oh gosh, how fun this one was! This is the perfect read aloud book, with a hilarious Monkey that promise he can read your mind...

As the monkey asks if "you're thinking about..." kids will be shouting out "Nooooo!!!!" And laughing as the Monkey gets more and more detailed in his description of what we are supposedly thinking about. It's hysterical, trust me. You'll want this one on your shelves.

Overall rating: 5 out of 5
I loved it and can see children absolutely loving it as well, asking for it over and over again. Children's librarians, make sure you get a copy for your storytimes, as it makes an awesome read aloud! I can't say I'm surprised, the author/illustrator combo is a winner for sure.

The Purple Kangaroo
Michael Ian Black
32 pages
Picture Book
Simon & Schuster
December 2009
Review copy received from publisher

Looking Like Me by Walter Dean Myers and illustrator Christopher Myers

This one was a whole lot of fun, helping children to celebrate who they are, not only to themselves, but to others as well.

Jeremy is a brother, a son, a writer, an artist, and happy to be all of those things. The author encourages children to look in the mirror and announce just what they are to the world, all while giving a great big smile.

The illustrations are bold, confident, and vibrant, adding a certain joyful feeling while reading the book. I love the message and feel the activity is one we should all encourage children to do and as parents and educators we should help to celebrate just who each child is.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
A great addition to any library shelf. Would also make a very nice gift to a toddler or young child. Great, eye-catching illustrations and an awesome message.

Looking Like Me
Walter Dean Myers
32 pages
Picture Book
Egmont USA
October 2009
Review copy received from publisher

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 the purchase price. Thanks!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Poetry Friday: Think Again

Jacket description:
"This collection of quietly beautiful and surprisingly humorous short poems reveals first love's uncertainties, frustrations, and joys. Whether describing two people meeting or the misunderstandings and revelations that follow, these poems and the evocative illustrations that accompany them will give readers every reason to think...and think again."

The jacket description really does say what I was thinking about these poems. They're definitely short and so quietly beautiful. You can read the entire book in minutes, though you'll want to go back again and again, learning new things from each reread of the poems. My favorites? "Losing Track of Myself," "The Heart," and "Pleasant."
The Heart

"Make sure that your heart

Isn't too well defended:

Your heart is designed

To be broken and mended"

At first, I wasn't sure I liked the illustrations, they seemed too plain, however after thinking about it for awhile, I really believe the simplicity of the drawings brings out the simplicity of the poems. Obviously poet JonArno Lawson and illustrator Julie Morstad knew what they were doing! :)

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
I'm not much of a poetry judge, I can only tell you what I like. And I liked this a lot.

Think Again
JonArno Lawson
64 pages
Kids Can Press
March 2010
Review copy received from publisher

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 the purchase price. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Splendor...a gushing YA review

Jacket description:
"A spring turns into summer, Elizabeth relishes her new role as a young wife, while her sister, Diana, searches for adventure abroad. But when a surprising clue about their father's death comes to light, the Holland girls wonder at what cost a life of splendor comes.

Carolina Broad, society's newest darling, fans a flame from her past, oblivious to how it might burn her future. Penelope Schoonmaker is finally Manhattan royalty—but when a real prince visits the city, she covets a title that comes with a crown. Her husband, Henry, bravely went to war, only to discover that his father's rule extends well beyond New York's shores and that fighting for love may prove a losing battle.

In the dramatic conclusion to the bestselling Luxe series, New York's most dazzling socialites chase dreams, cling to promises, and tempt fate. As society watches what will become of the city's oldest families and newest fortunes, one question remains: Will its stars fade away or will they shine ever brighter?"

Typically, this is a book that I would include with my monthly mini-reviews as it's the fourth book in a very popular series, but I just really felt I had to give it its own spotlight. You see, The Luxe series by Anna Godbersen is really my guilty pleasure in reading...but one that isn't so guilty that millions of others don't love the books as well. They have everything I typically do not care for in a book: excessive romance, gossip, catty women, and betrayal after betrayal. But...I love them. And I really loved Splendor.

Don't keep reading if you plan to read the other books in the series first!!!! Spoilers!!

So, Splendor picks up right where Envy left off and wraps up all of these wonderfully written characters and their lives quite nicely (though I'm so bummed the series is over). We are given the same main characters again: Elizabeth, Diana, Penelope,  and Carolina, each with their own secrets, their own love lives, and their own deliciously described wardrobes.
Godbersen is incredibly talented in the way of drawing her reading into the lives of these characters and not letting them go until we have had the experience of being in late 19th century New York City. I am just in love with these books! And not just for the writing, but the covers look so pretty on my bookshelves. Those dresses! Sigh. To be able to wear just one of those for a day.

Overall review: 5 out of 5
Hand this to your fans of Gossip Girl and the like. Much better written, but along the same lines.

Anyone else loving this series and sad that it's ending?

Splendor: A Luxe Novel
Anna Godbersen
400 pages
Young Adult
October 2009
Book is my own copy

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 the purchase price. Thanks!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Non-Fiction Monday: How the World Works

Who doesn't love a good pop-up book? And one that actually teaches a thing or two is always nice as well. How the World Works by Christiane Dorion and illustrator Beverley Young is filled with all kinds of interactive elements, from pull tabs, pop-ups, flaps to life, wheels, etc, all centered around on our planet actually works.

Virtually an explosion of information on each page, all sorts of common questions are answered, such as "is the Earth moving beneath our feet," "why does it rain," "what is a carbon footprint," and "how do plants live." Every single page has fact boxes, bold illustrations, and interactive "things" to engage the reader into learning more about how the planet works.

My favorite part? The carbon footprint of a cheeseburger. Life-the-flaps in the shape of actual burger elements (bun, lettuce, burger, cheese, etc.) each contain the carbon taken to supply that specific element to the cheeseburger.

Other cool parts include the huge pop-up of the water cycle, the pull-tabs exhibiting plate tectonics, and the spinning wheel of earth's history. It's all very cool and will definitely hold the attention of a reader for quite awhile, just to take it all in.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
The book covers a lot of material in a really cool way, but at the same time might cover just a tad bit too much. All of the information really is slightly crammed onto the pages, which may be distracting to some readers. I personally really liked it though and would recommend libraries and home schooling families to check it out. Librarians beware: lots of wheels/life-the-flaps/and tabs to get torn out.

How the World Works
Christiane Dorion
18 pages
February 2010
Review copy received from publisher

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 the purchase price. Thanks!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A giveaway to make up for my absence...

I know I've been a loser blogger lately. Blame it on the new job, the early hour I am forced to get up in the morning, or the endless stream of activities I've seemed to sign myself up for, but whatever the reason, I haven't been around much. Sorry about that. I'm going to try to be better...but for now? A nice fat giveaway to keep you all happy!

I have tons of ARCs just sitting around, waiting for someone to want them and what better way to get rid of them than give them to you! What's in the prize pack you ask?

Boys without Names by Kashmira Sheth
Numbers by Rachel Ward
Epitaph Road by David Patneaude
After by Amy Efaw
Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Geektastic edited Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci
How It Ends by Laura Weiss
The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson
Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

Those are some pretty popular titles, so hopefully you see at least one or two that you really want.

How to enter? Leave a comment on this post by Sunday night, February 28th at 11:59pm Eastern time. Make sure you leave your email address if you don't have a blog account for me to find you at, in case you're the winner. Open to U.S. residents only.

You get an extra entry if you're a follower and an extra entry if you Tweet the giveaway. Make sure you let me know you've done one or both (and leave me your Twitter name). Thanks!!

I'll announce a winner Monday the 1st.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Poetry Friday: We Troubled the Waters

Jacket description:
"Jim Crow; Brown v. Board of Education; Bull Connor; KKK; Birmingham; the Lorraine Motel; Rosa; Martin; and Malcolm.

From slavery to the separation of "colored" and "white" and from horrifying oppression to inspiring courage, there are countless stories-both forgotten and immortalized-of everyday and extraordinary people who acted for justice during the civil rights movement that changed our nation."

I am not a connoisseur of poetry by any means. I'm not really a reader of poetry outside the children's book world. But, I do know what I like when I see it and I really liked this book. Poet Ntozake Shange and illustrator Rod Brown have created an awesome collection of poems and paintings that truly encompass the civil rights movement. From the expressions on the face of Martin Luther King Jr., to the power shown in the poem, "Crying Trees" and its accompanying illustrator, there is just SO much in such a short book.
The poetry is fantastic and the gorgeous paintings are just so incredibly. I feel I should warn parents that a couple of the paintings are a bit mature for children, but they show real events that happened to African Americans during this movement. Just browse through the book before reading it with your children.

Overall rating: 5 out of 5
I just cannot stop raving about the amazing package this book is. It better win something this year! A great choice for the classroom as a discussion guide.

We Troubled the Waters
Ntozake Shange
32 pages
October 2009
Review copy received from publisher

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 the purchase price. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Winter Garden review

Jacket description:
"Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard; the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. As children, the only connection between them was the Russian fairy tale Anya sometimes told the girls at night. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise from the women in his life: the fairy tale will be told one last time—and all the way to the end.

Thus begins an unexpected journey into the truth of Anya’s life in war-torn Leningrad, more than five decades ago. Alternating between the past and present, Meredith and Nina will finally hear the singular, harrowing story of their mother’s life, and what they learn is a secret so terrible and terrifying that it will shake the very foundation of their family and change who they believe they are."

Wow, what a family drama! I really thought this book might be too romancy for my taste, but I was completely enthralled in the story Kristin Hannah was telling, from start to finish. Such a rich and deep fairy tale intertwined with a family full of hopes, heartaches, and strong women.

I've read Kristin Hannah's novels before and have yet to find one as well written as this. You'll want to hug each and every character, delve deep into each one's story, riding it all out until an incredibly satisfying conclusion. This is no beach read...not light's emotional mayhem, in the best way possible. I really, truly enjoyed it and give it a whole-hearted recommendation for anyone looking for a good family story, a bit of history (I actually learned a lot!), and awesome characters.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
An fantastic choice for a book club!

Winter Garden
Kristin Hannah
400 pages
Adult Fiction
St. Martin's Press
February 2010
Review copy received from publisher

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 the purchase price. Thanks!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Non-Fiction Monday: John Brown

Jacket description:
"John Brown was a man who would stop at nothing to end slavery. In the late 1850s, many men and women spoke out against slavery, insisting that all people should be free. But few did more than talk. John Brown backed his beliefs with action and became one of the most well-known white abolitionists in history and one of the most controversial Americans of the nineteenth century.

Based on new scholarly research and findings, John Brown: His Fight for Freedom explores the life of this complex figure for a new generation. This compelling book is a fitting reminder that all men and women are created equal...and that some things are worth fighting for."

Author/illustrator John Hendrix has done a remarkable job at telling us Brown's story. Both the text and the illustrations are shown in eye-catching and bold ways, through beautiful illustrations and unique fonts for standout sentences. I was very impressed with the impact such a short telling could have, both educationally and emotionally. John Brown was a incredibly powerful man with a big voice, a huge heart, and the determination of a thousand men. You'll gain that...and so much more from this book.
An author's note is included at the back of the book, expanding on the information gained from the story version and again, emphasizing the passion Brown had for freedom for all.

Overall rating: 5 out of 5
This one is a must-have for libraries and for homeschooling families looking for a fantastic telling of John Brown's story. Great for Black History Month!

John Brown: His Fight for Freedom
John Hendrix
40 pages
Non-Fiction Picture Book
October 2009
Review copy received from publisher

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 the purchase price. Thanks!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I can't believe I FORGOT!

Well, the Cybils Awards were announced today, a day that I'm usually pretty psyched for considering I've spent the last three years serving as a first round panelist for something-or-other. This year? Young Adult Fiction.

I'll admit, I'm a little surprised that Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers was the winner...definitely not a bad surprise, but I had my little fingers crossed that Blue Plate Special was going to be the title announced. Find the rest of the winners here.  Lots of fun had by all and I hope I'm selected to participate next year. Thanks again to everyone involved!

So what was I doing this weekend that allowed my book-focused mind to forget about the Cybils announcement? Well, Aaron decided that yesterday was a good day for a date...not a Valentine's Day date (ask me about my Vday theory sometime), but just a nice day to go out and eat and shop a bit. Mention eating and shopping and I'm game! We don't get to do this often, living in the recession that we're in, but when we do, we definitely try to enjoy ourselves! If you live in the D.C. area and haven't been to this restaurant yet, you MUST GO!

On another note, my giveaway for D is for Drinking Gourd and Pappy's Handkerchief ended Friday night at 11:59pm Eastern time, as scheduled. I've already emailed the winner and she's responded, so if you haven't received an email from me...keep checking back for more giveaways! And if you're one of the three that entered Saturday afternoon...I'm sorry, but I closed the giveaway as scheduled and did not include your names.

So again, excuse my absence for the weekend, I was busy eating at Coastal Flats and spending all of our money at Eddie Bauer and Ann Taylor. :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Poetry Friday: Dizzy in Your Eyes

Jacket description:
"From award-winning author and poet Pat Mora comes a collection of fifty poems about love: Shared and unrequited. Lasting a moment and lasting a lifetime. Love for a pet, a sport, music. And love for a boyfriend or girlfriend, our family, our world. 

This collection explores the intensity, pain, and beauty that love brings -from first crush to love's first bloom, from a breakup catastrophe to starting over. Love is an experience that makes us think: No one has felt like this. Ever. It can make us look at someone and feel dizzy in his or her eyes."

I love Pat Mora. So, so talented. From picture books to now a poetry collection for teens, she seems to be great at every genre she puts her hands on!

I had some favorites in this collection, "Spanish" and "With Feeling" being two of them. Ooh and "My Song." Loved that one too! I really liked that the poems were not only written about relationships, but about love for all different people, things, and events in our lives, expanding the idea that a love poem had to be about a relationship between two people.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
A great choice for a Valentine's Day display! A unique poetry collection that will appeal to teens that typically aren't poetry fans. Most of these read like stories, which is a nice touch by the author.

Dizzy in Your Eyes
Pat Mora
176 pages
January 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Leaving Gee's Bend (MG review)

Jacket description:
"Ten-year-old Ludelphia Bennett has only ever known the log cabins, orange dirt, and cotton fields of her small sharecropping community. But when Mama gets deathly ill, Ludelphia does something drastic-she leaves Gee's Bend for the very first time. Mama needs medicine badly, medicine that can only be found in Camden, over forty miles away. It's a dangerous journey, but Ludelphia weathers each challenge in a way that would make Mama proud, including documenting her journey-her story-in a new quilt for Mama as she goes along. In the end, Ludelphia's courageous adventure saves the day for Mama and all of Gee's Bend." 

I was so impressed with every bit of Irene Latham's first book. From her characters, to the unique setting and the triumph-through-hardship theme, what we as readers have been given is an exquisite look into the life of Ludelphia and her family.

Not only are we able to learn about what it means to be a sharecropping family in the 1930's South, but also about quilting and the amount of heart, soul, and love that goes into the quilts these women and girls made. Gee's Bend, Alabama is a real place and though this particular story is fictional, it is inspired by the stories of people who actually lived there and experienced these events firsthand.

The writing is excellent and flowed so nicely that I felt comfort and hominess (yep, just made up that word now) while I was reading. I couldn't put Ludelphia's story down, reading all afternoon until I finished, having to know what happened to her and the rest of the Bennett family. And though the theme is something we've seen a hundred times, it's done in a refreshing and comforting way.

I loved the inclusion of Etta Mae and almost wished her part in the story was expanded. That's my idea for a sequel Ms. Latham, if you're reading! She was a great secondary character, but her own story is just screaming to be told.

Overall rating: 5 out of 5
A great choice year-round, but a nice selection for Black History Month reading. Leaving Gee's Bend could be the jumping off point for so many different types of discussions, both in classrooms and with families at home. Writing was superb, characters were beautiful, and the love that went into this book is obvious on every page.

Leaving Gee's Bend
Irene Latham
230 pages
Middle Grade Fiction
Putnam Juvenile
January 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lockdown: Escape from Furnace (YA review)

Jacket description:
"Furnace Penitentiary: the world’s most secure prison for young offenders, buried a mile beneath the earth’s surface. Alex Sawyer is the "new fish." Convicted of a murder he didn't commit, sentenced to life without parole, he knows he has two choices: find a way out, or resign himself to death in the darkness at thebottom of the world. Except in Furnace, death is the least of his worries. The prison is a place of pure evil, where inhuman creatures in gas masks stalk the corridors at night, where giants in black suits drag screaming inmates into the shadows, where deformed beasts can be heard howling from the blood-drenched tunnels below.

Escape is Alex's only option. But it's not just about saving his own skin. The more he discovers, the more he understands that he is going to have to do whatever it takes to expose this nightmare hidden from the eyes of the world."

This book scared the pants off of me! Full of complete thrills and shocking happens from the first page, you won't believe what you're reading...and you just have to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next. It's one incredibly compelling nightmare after the next and all the while, you'll be rooting for Alex to find a way out, knowing that the chances are slim of him leaving alive.

Totally creepy (and grossly descriptive at times), but chock full of adventure and page-turning thrills. Hand this one to any reluctant reader and expect them not to emerge from their rooms for a long time. Apparently this is the first in the series, with the second title, Solitary, due out this year. Can't wait for that!

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
Not a huge fan of the cover, but really enjoyed the story, as disturbing as it was.

Lockdown: Escape from Furnace
Alexander Gordon Smith
288 pages
Young Adult
Farrar, Straus, Giroux
October 2009
Review copy received from publisher

Monday, February 8, 2010

Some book news and a new look!

As you can see, I've changed up the look here at A Patchwork of Books and am really liking it so far! The header may change a bit in the next week or so and the dimensions still need some tweaking, but for now it's looking nice and updated. I have to extend thanks to my good friend, Katie at Katie's Literature Lounge who designed the  header and Izzie Grace blog for the background. I've needed an update for a looong time and since I'm getting close to 200 followers, now would be the perfect time to be fresh and modern.

Some bookish announcements for the week...

Abby at Abby (the) Librarian and Kelly of Stacked have announced the newish book meme to hit the Kidlitosphere, with AudioSynched. Each month they'll be alternating hosting a roundup of all the audiobooks us bloggers are listening to, helping to give us ideas of what to listen to next. Great idea, eh? Starting March 1, head over to Stacked and link your post to the roundup! Thanks to Abby (the) Librarian for the link.

A Fuse #8 Production, one of the most informative (and hilarious) kidlit blogs around, recently asked us all to submit our favorite chapter books EVER for her Top 100 Chapter Book poll. The countdown begins today with numbers 100-91. Go check it out and see if your favorite made the list!

Apparently President Obama has lost his mind and proposed the elimination of federal funding to Reading Is Fundamental. Carol Rasco, CEO of RIF blogs about the announcement and encourages us all to contact our congressional representatives to continue this vital program in our country.

The Guardian has an awesome interview with author Rick Riordan (of Percy Jackson fame) about his son's dyslexia and ADHD preventing him from enjoying reading. Well Mr. Percy Jackson's story helped fix that! Thanks to PW Children's Bookshelf for the link.

And my own news...

I survived another big snowstorm! Again, nothing on a good Upstate NY storm, but for the Northern VA area, this 30 inches was huge. We kept our power and water and only lost 2 trees in the backyard. We were blessed with a forced relaxation-filled weekend and even were given snow days from work today. Awesome! Here are some photos of our weekend in the snow:

My bulldog, Zoey, was swimming in measured about twice over her head! The first photo is actually of the street in front of our house, though you can't tell there is even a road out there. And the pretty sunset photo was taken by Aaron once it finally stopped. Pretty eh?

Non-Fiction Monday: Giveaway for Black History Month!

What better way to celebrate Black History Month AND Non-Fiction Monday than by hosting a giveaway? Details on how to enter are below.

D is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet by Nancy I. Sanders and illustrator E.B. Lewis

Part of the now famous and much loved Sleeping Bear Press Alphabet series, this one is a fantastic overview of different events and people in history for both young children and older kids.

Each letter represents a person/place/event/etc. and is explained with a short rhyme. On the sidebars, more detail and facts are given, expanding knowledge on the topic featured on that page. The rhymes are great for the young kiddos, the sidebars perfect for references for projects or the opening up of discussion of a particular subject.

I'm always impressed with these alphabet books, but this one is really exceptional. The illustrations are beautiful and the information is vast for such a small book. I learned about Malcolm X, Tuskegee Airmen, the March on Washington, quilts, and so much more.

Great for classrooms or home shelves. And you should really head to the library and check out the entire series...there are tons of these books and all of them are well planned, written nicely, and incredibly educational.

D is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet
Nancy I. Sanders
32 pages
Non-Fiction Picture Book
Sleeping Bear Press
September 2007 
Review copy received from publisher

Pappy's Handkerchief by Devin Scillian and illustrator Chris Ellison

This one is from another of Sleeping Bear Press's awesome series, Tales of Young Americans. Moses and his family, fish mongers from Baltimore in 1889, decide to make the long journey to Oklahoma where rumor has it there's free farmland.

Ice storms, sickness, floods, and other difficulties hammer the family as they make their way, but they're determined to be able to finally have their own farm. Once they arrive, however, the family isn't so sure the rumors they heard were true.

An adventure story for sure! The author's note explains that this particular book is not about any one family, but is a "medley of the struggles and experiences of thousands of families who journeyed west to live as pioneers on the prairie." Inspirational and educational. So even if it's not true "non-fiction" it is certainly based on real facts and events in history.

Great for units on westward expansion and blacks in history. I personally never knew that black families were pioneers as even I learned something!

Pappy's Handkerchief
Devin Scillian
37 pages
Picture Book
Sleeping Bear Press
September 2007
Review copy received from publisher

Sleeping Bear Press has been kind enough to offer a copy of each of these books up for a giveaway! Open only to U.S. residents. 

To enter, leave a comment on this post by Friday, 2/12/10 at 11:59pm Eastern time. Make sure you leave your email address if you don't have a blog for me to find it on. 

Extra entries? You betcha! 
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I'll email the winner on Saturday morning.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Picture Book Saturday

Valentine's Day is just a little over a week away and so I thought sharing some new books on love would be appropriate for this weekend's Picture Book Saturday post. If you find something you like, this will give you a head start on picking it up for your kids before next week. Enjoy!

Sugar Cookies: Sweet Little Lessons on Love by Amy Krause Rosenthal and illustrators Jane Dyer & Brooke Dyer

Big fan of Rosenthal here! In this one, the follow-up to Cookies and Christmas Cookies, she defines words that are typically associated with love. The meanings of the words, such as "compassionate," "adore," and "heartbroken," are given in a sweet way, perfect for young children.

For example, "heartfelt" means: "I made these sprinkly cookies for you because I know they're your absolute favorite kind." Cute, eh?

The illustrations are adorable and help to further explain the meaning of the words, especially for the youngest of readers. Ooh and there is also a recipe for sugar cookies in the back, which sounds pretty delicious right about now!

Sugar Cookies: Sweet Little Lessons on Love
Amy Krause Rosenthal
40 pages
Picture Book
October 2009
Review copy received from publisher

Henry in Love by Peter McCarty

A book on young love. So sweet! Henry discovers a girl in his class, Chloe who he really likes, but is scared to get to know. Henry is sort of quiet and Chloe definitely says what she thinks! She is outgoing and he is not. Could they still be a good match? A simple blueberry muffin answers that question for us.

Such a sweet story, with absolutely beautiful illustrations. Really, the illustrations are what stand out as magnificent in this book, though adults will be "awwwing" through the whole story. Very cute! Perfect for Valentine's Day.

Henry in Love
Peter McCarty
40 pages
Picture Book
Balzer + Bray 
December 2009
Review copy received from publisher

Kiss Kiss by Selma Mandine

Another with spectacular illustrations! A perfect bedtime book, this features a small child explaining to a teddy bear just what a kiss means. From grandpa is may be soft and fluffy, from Rex wet and cold. And when the bear still doesn't understand, the child gives him a kiss, which the bear loves!

For your toddlers, this would make a great bedtime book or anytime you want to shower them with kisses! Ask them what a kiss means to them and what types of kisses they give to others. Very sweet, with beautiful, soft illustrations. This one is definitely staying on my shelves.

Kiss Kiss
Selma Mandine
32 pages
Picture Book
Golden Books
December 2009
Review copy received from publisher

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Great new series for homeschooling families

I am a huge advocate of homeschooling (if you feel it's right for your family of course) and having previously worked at a library that was frequented by families that chose to homeschool, I know of the lack of quality children's books featuring homeschoolers. It's really hard when kids just want to read about someone that has a school experience like them, but there isn't anything to hand them.

I was hopeful when I received the first two books in the Wright On Time series by author Lisa M.Cottrell-Bentley that featured a homeschooling family and the adventures they participate in while traveling the country in an RV and I wasn't disappointed! The Wright Family visits Arizona in the first book and Utah in the second, learning tons of facts about the state, animals, people, history, etc., while having exciting adventures as a family.

I was most impressed with the manner in which the topic of homeschooling was presented. This wasn't an "issue" book as to why homeschooling is better or anything like that and the actual "school" portion takes a backseat to the exploring and adventures that Nadia and Aiden have. It wasn't in-your-face obvious that they were homeschooled. I liked that. I also really liked the state theme and having the family travel to each state and learn about specific things. It's great to learn about the country we live in!

I did have a couple of issues with the books, though mainly just opinion issues rather than writing or plot problems. I'm not a huge fan of the series title "Wright On Time" or of the illustrations. They came across as low-budget to me, which is disappointing, but doesn't impact the actual story in any way. I also didn't care for the parents being referred to by their first names. I loved that they were an integral part of the story all all the fun and learning, but personally wish they were Mr. and Mrs.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5
I know, as book reviewers, we're often bombarded with review requests from independent publishers, which we are pretty skeptical about. A lot of these books (at least the ones that I've received) are poor in quality, both in production and writing. This series is not one of them! I think it's written with an important and relevant topic in mind, gives kids an adventure-filled story, relatable characters, and teaches about all sorts of different subjects. The books are clean, family oriented, and very nicely written. I really enjoyed them!

Wright On Time series
Lisa M. Cottrell-Bentley
Chapter Books
Do Life Right Publishers
Review copy received from author

Monday, February 1, 2010

Non-Fiction Monday: Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride

Jacket description:
"Sojourner Truth was as strong adn tall as most men. She was big, black, and so beautiful. Born into slavery, Sojourner ran away as a young girl. She cherished her freedom, and believed it should be granted to everyone. But she didn't fight for it with her mighty fists, and she didn't stomp for it with her giant boots. Sojourner spoke the truth, and struggled against injustice with her brace, beautiful words.

Following Sojourner from her courageous plantation escape to her meeting with Abraham Lincoln, this is a stirring portrait of a woman who pulled herself up by her great big bootstraps. A warrior for justice above all else, Sojourner allowed no bias to cross her path without a fight."

I absolutely love the story of Sojourner Truth. She is one of the most amazing women in history and I love reading all the different versions of her inspirational story and this has just become one of my favorite versions. The husband and wife team of Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney did a truly fantastic job portraying Sojourner Truth and the path she took through her life, including the sadness she experienced in the beginning of her life, being born into slavery and sold from her parents, as well as the powerful message of all she did for the rights of her people.

The illustrations are a wonderful companion to the text, being a bit old-fashioned, but showing Truth as she was. "Big, black, and so beautiful."

A definite recommendation for all libraries. Great for units on Black History Month, slavery, or strong women in history.

Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride
Andrea Davis Pinkney & Brian Pinkney
32 pages
Non-Fiction Picture Book
November 2009
Review copy received from publisher

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