Sunday, October 30, 2011

Week in Review


I finished up a couple of books this week, both with reviews to come in the next couple of weeks.

The Scorpio Trials by Maggie Stiefvater was fantastic. Her writing is just impeccable and beautiful. I liked this one much more than her "The Wolves of Mercy Falls" series and cannot wait to see what else comes from her pen (or keyboard as it probably may be).

I finished up Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan on audio and was really impressed by the narrator, Ann Marie Lee. Not the best book I've ever read (or listened to), but I enjoyed it.

I just started The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard Morais for my book club meeting on Tuesday. It's a super slow read, only because of the amazing amount of detail put into describing the food and setting. So far, it's beautiful.


Have I mentioned that I'm blogging at another blog, as well as here? If you weren't already aware, I'm a bookseller at Hooray for Books! Children's Bookstore and we have a blog! I'm one of several contributors, so not every post is written by me, but you may see some similar posts between this blog and that one. Those would be mine :)

I would love it if you would check it out and spread the word. We don't have a whole lot of readers at this point, but definitely do have a lot of great books suggestions to share, covering genres from board books to adult titles. We have great choices for read alouds and storytimes, gift giving, and those special books to share one-on-one. Check it out!

This week, Baby Snow is the size of a butternut squash (about 2.5lbs and 15inches long). Seeing that description had me almost in tears (yeah, hormones), just because I can't believe I actually have a baby that big STILL INSIDE OF ME. Despite all of my doctor's telling me I could have a "normal" pregnancy, as a woman who has gone through a whole lot of bad stuff to get to this point, I am feeling incredibly blessed to have reached 29 weeks and the butternut squash stage. Keep on growing kiddo!

Aaron and I decided on a name this week. Hooray! We really thought we would be making delivery room decisions, but our list plan worked and last week got it down to three, finally making our decision just the other day. Can't let you in on it yet, but it's one we're sticking with :)

And speaking of names, this cool contraption will be going over our little one's crib in the nursery:

No, his name is not Ethan. My mommy brain hasn't kicked in that badly yet. It will be similar to this though, with a white rack and the blue and green letters. Buy your own here, on Etsy of course!

Hope you all have a wonderful week!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Picture Book Saturday

A Dog is a Dog by Stephan Shaskan

A dog is a dog right? Not if it's a cat. Or a squid. Or a moose! Imagine that! Silliness definitely plays a huge role in this new picture book, from the funny storyline to the bright (and sometimes downright devilish) illustrations, your kids will love shouting out what they think the next animal will be...and you can laugh when they're wrong. ;)

If you're looking for a great read aloud, this is definitely one to pick up next time you're at the bookstore or library. A lot of fun, with excellent rhyming and a bit of quirkiness drawn into the illustrations. A really nice choice to liven up story time and stray away from the same old reads.

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 A Dog is a Dog
Stephan Shaskan
40 pages
Picture Book
October 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Mustache! by Mac Barnett and illustrator Kevin Cornell

Arrogant King? Definitely. Duncan is more concerned with his appearance than maintaining his kingdom and keeping the citizens happy. He stars at himself in mirrors all day and even when the people protest for better roads or safer slides for children (the protest signs are quite humorous), the King's answer is to hang a giant poster of himself on the castle wall, for the kingdom to "enjoy."

A sneaky royal subject begins to gain revenge by painting mustaches all over the King's beloved billboards, enraging Duncan and creating some pretty silly results in the kingdom.

This one was a cute read for your older kids. The illustrations are definitely the standout portion of this story. Make sure you peruse the page for awhile to take in all the great details!

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Mac Barnett
40 pages
Picture Book
Disney Hyperion
October 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

A House in the Woods by Inga Moore

My quieter choice of the week comes from the amazing Inga Moore. I know her work through the gorgeous illustrations she has done for The Secret Garden and The Wind in the Willows, but this one is definitely cute, making a great gift book.

Friendship rises high, as four unlikely friends, two pigs, a bear, and a moose, decide that instead of living in separate houses, they would all be much happier in one big house! The enlist the help of a pack of beavers to build them the home of their dreams and when it's complete, the foursome couldn't be happier. They can now spend their evenings together having dinner and relaxing by the fire.

Nothing incredibly exciting happens in this story, but every once in awhile we all need a "slow it down" story. This would make a great bedtime read, especially with the soft, beautiful illustrations. I loved it!

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A House in the Woods
Inga Moore
48 pages
Picture Book
Candlewick Press
November 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

I am an affiliate of both IndieBound and Powells and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

Friday, October 28, 2011

What You Wish For: A Book for Darfur

Short stories aren't always my thing, but I knew if a book was raising money for an awesome cause, I at least wanted to give it a shot. This collection has stories by some of my favorite authors in the MG/YA genres, including John Green, Francisco X. Stork, Jeanne DuPrau, among others. It has loads going for it...and I chose it as our book club read at Hooray for Books, for October. We ended up having a great discussion!

Though I wasn't totally smitten with all of the stories and poems included in the book, I did appreciate the theme of wishes. Each story had something to do with making a wish, having a wish come true, or what a wish actually meant to the characters involved. I loved Cynthia Voight's "Stepsister," a reimagined Cinderella tale (with a bit of a gruesome ending), and Nikki Giovanni's poem "I Wish I Could Live (in a Book)" was definitely appropriate and fun.

Green and Stork definitely made me happy with their stories, "Reasons" and "The Rules for Wishing," both ending up more on the YA end of the book, which is probably why I liked them a little more.

Overall, a fun book of stories for a great cause. All of the proceeds of the book go to supporting library development in Darfuri refugee camps through Book Wish Foundation. If you have a reader who is hard to buy for, I would definitely recommend picking this one up. A great introduction to some top notch authors/poets and the proceeds all go to charity. Win-win!

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What You Wish For: A Book for Darfur
Book Wish Foundation
288 pages
Middle Grade/Young Adult
G.P. Putnam's Sons
September 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

I am an affiliate of both IndieBound and Powells and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick review

It's been awhile since I've read a book that both captures my attention from the first couple of pages, not letting it go until the very end of the story AND makes me laugh out loud repeatedly. Author Joe Schreiber definitely scored on all levels with this one. 

Perry is a pretty typical high school kid...plays in a band, does his homework, dreams about girls he can never get with, etc. After finally landing the biggest gig of his life, Perry's thoughts of stardom are dashed when his parents force him to take their incredibly geeky Lithuanian exchange student to the school's prom, the same night his band is supposed to play in NYC. 

Well, Perry definitely ends up making it to NYC, but it's definitely not going as he wanted it to. His exchange student date? She's actually a trained assassin (and quite hot) out to perform a few last "jobs" before heading back to Lithuania. And Perry is now along for the ride,  attempting to stay alive while Gobi kills people. Totally violent, hilariously fun, and even a bit sweet at times. 

I will warn, there is definitely some language in this one (but no f-bombs that I can recall), lots of violence (like bullets, stabbings, etc.), and a whole bunch of sexual references. Most definitely a teen book and one that will appeal to both guys AND girls, which is nice. 

I had a lot of fun reading this one! Would have made a great "beach book," had it been out during the summer. 

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick
Joe Schreiber
192 pages
Young Adult
Houghton Mifflin
October 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Monday, October 24, 2011

Week in Review

Well, better late than never right? This post is coming to you on a Monday, rather than my usual Sunday, because I had such a fun, fabulous weekend, I was just too tired to write one up last night. 

Saturday brought an awesome way to serve at our church, along with 250 others (just for our shift). We helped package a total of 142,000 meals to send to Haiti for hunger relief, via the assistance of an organization called Stop Hunger Now

They go all around the country, hosting these volunteer events, and having people like us package these meals and then ship them to areas where people are suffering from extreme hunger and poverty. Our church has a special connection to Haiti, my husband even went on a mission trip there after the earthquake, so we loved being able to help even more. 

After that, it was off to the mall with my small group ladies for a loooooong (but FUN) afternoon/evening of shopping and visiting. Left he house at 730am and didn't get home until almost 9pm! Hard day on my feet, but a joyful one. 

Sunday brought a trip to the Shenandoah Valley for Aaron and I. We've been wanting to drive Skyline Drive and see the foliage each fall since we've been here, but had yet to actually do so. We figure doing it before this little man arrives is a good plan, so we packed up the dogs, drove the hour there and proceeded to take some fantastic photos and enjoy an amazing fall day. 
We wish we had thought to pack up a lunch and then we could have spent even longer, but once in the Shenandoah National Park (which charges a ridiculous rate to get in btw), there really isn't any place to get food! And trust me, after a couple of hours, I'll fight someone for a sandwich ;)

We did talk about going back this spring/summer for a day trip with the baby and packing up food and books and enough stuff to really enjoy the woods and the gorgeous views. It's such a beautiful place, I highly recommend driving it if you're ever in this part of the country.

Oh...and the girls had a blast too! Shae loves anything that has to do with being outside and Zoey just wants to be with people, so they enjoyed themselves playing outside and hanging their heads out the window. So glad we decided to take them.

Alright, enough of that...onto the "normal" Week in Review stuff.


I'm in the middle of listening to Maine by Courtney J. Sullivan and have become quite invested in these characters' lives! It's one of the first times that there are actually characters I really, really don't like and I'm still enjoying the book. A great listen so far. 

I had a rough week in terms of physical books, not being able to find one that fit the mood I was in. I'm finally about 1/4 of the way into The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield, as well as an advanced copy of an upcoming middle grade novel called Storybound by Marissa Burt. Honestly, I'm ready for 2011 to be over, so I can get my hands on 2012's to hoping I won't have such a streak of reading slumps next year. 


This week, I'm being told the baby is the size of an eggplant or a Chinese cabbage. Not entirely sure what a Chinese cabbage even is, but he's around 2lbs and about 13-14inches long. I hit 28 weeks yesterday...hooray for the 3rd trimester!

Hope you all enjoyed your week!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Picture Book Saturday

How Do You Feed a Hungry Giant? by Caitlin Friedman and illustrator Shaw Nielson

Though it's not every day little boys find giants in their backyard, Oscar knows he can't turn away from this one. This poor giant is HUNGRY, or so his sign says. Oscar proceeds to do everything he can to help fill the giant's belly, from bunches of grapes to pizzas and jars of peanut butter. Nothing seems to help! Eventually, Oscar really does have to ask himself: how DO you feed a hungry giant?

The text is simple and bold on the page and the illustrations also evoke a sense of simplicity, which was really nice to see. A lot of "busy" illustrations in books today and this one was just the right match for the story. The addition of a few pull tabs, lift-the-flaps, and pop-ups keep things interesting without being over the top.

Two thumbs up!

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How Do You Feed a Hungry Giant?
Caitlin Friedman
32 pages
Picture Book
October 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Poor bear has lost his hat. Sad day. He goes around asking his fellow woodland dwellers whether or not they're seen the hat, all responding that they hadn't...except for one fellow, who definitely responds NO, but careful watchers will see otherwise. When the bear figures out who indeed does have his hat, he definitely gets it back...quietly, calmly, and in a very "bear-like" way.


(The bear eats the rabbit.)

Loved this one! Another simple story, but is one has a quirky twist at the end that will delight kids and probably cause some parents to put it back on the shelf. Those are always the best books I think. Add a little pizzazz to your reading pile!

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I Want My Hat Back
Jon Klassen
40 pages
Picture Book
September 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

I am an affiliate of both IndieBound and Powells and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

Friday, October 21, 2011

How to Save a Life review

Jill, a girl grieving over the death of her father still isn't quite sure what her new "normal" is supposed to be. Mandy, raised by a single mom who never really wanted her in the first place, is pregnant and desperately in need of someone to help her. When Jill's mom decides to adopt Mandy's baby and moves the pregnant teen into their home until the baby is born, Jill's life is completely thrown out of control. What does this girl want from her family? Why doesn't her story add up? Why does her mom want a baby of all things in the first place?

Told from the perspective of both Mandy and Jill, the reader is able to gain insight into what each girl is personally dealing with on an emotional level, while also attempting to blend their lives together with a new "family member." A lesson on compassion and healing is delivered along with a beautiful story and realistic characters. Even the secondary characters were done in a way that allowed us to connect with them and see their points of view on the adoption, the entire situation with Mandy as a whole, the relationship between Jill and her mother, etc.

Sara Zarr never disappoints me :) Highly recommended for those of you that have picked up a Zarr book before, have never seen a Zarr book before, enjoy reading Sarah Dessen or other realistic, contemporary fiction, or just need a great read.

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How to Save a Life
Sara Zarr
341 pages
Young Adult
Little, Brown
October 2011

I am an affiliate of both IndieBound and Powells and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mini-Audio reviews

Ok, I've been crazy for the audiobook for years now, but with the long commute to and from work and the fact that we only have one television in our house, plus the long walks I've been taking with the pup, I've been listening to more and more of them in recent months. And have yet to write about most of them. Blogger fail. Therefore, here are a few super-quick, thoughts-only, reviews for you on whether or not I liked the plot/narration.

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen; narrated by Karen White

I was impressed with how the tiny bit of "magic" involved in the story was woven in and fit perfectly. Not many authors could pull that off, but Allen definitely did. I really liked each character in their own way, though I did find Willa a bit stifling at times. The Southern setting was great and the book was a nice choice for reading during the summer. 

Narration: White's voice was perfect for describing the sweet smells of peaches in the air and the manner in which she changed tones for Willa and Paxton was seamless. I really liked her reading. 

The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright; narrated by Pamela Dillman

This was my first jump into an Elizabeth Enright book (I know, GASP!) and though I enjoyed it well enough, I think I'm partial to The Penderwicks for wholesome stories about siblings making their own fun. I did really like the concept of this particular story (haven't read the rest of the Melendy series yet) and the interaction between the kids was sweet, though not always believable.

Narration: I don't think I've ever experienced this narrator before, but she did a nice job distinguishing between the children. Her voice would be great for bedtime reading!
Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman; narrated by Kimberly Farr

The story is so beautifully done in so many ways, though it definitely falls on the depressing side of the emotional spectrum. This is a sad novel, a heartwrenching portrayal of a family's life after tragedy, and the sadness will creep into your bones as you listen. Definitely a character-driven story and one I won't be forgetting anytime soon. Just make sure you read it when the sun is shining!

Narration: I was not impressed with the Maine accents Farr gave to the men. I think she made them sound slightly ridiculous and as if they were unintelligent, rather than simply having a thick accent. Hard to explain, but I don't think it was done well. I, personally, didn't need an accent to know anyone was from was mentioned at least 100 times throughout the story. 
The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin; narrated by Kim Mai Guest

An absolutely fascinating story. I had never known much about Tom Thumb's life, let alone his wife's and though fictionalized, I really was intrigued by the entire concept of this story. I felt it rushed along in some places and I can't say I was a great fan of Vinnie's by the end, but the overall story was enjoyable.

Narration: Guest did a beautiful job at portraying the stubborn and often frustrating Vinnie, as well as the other characters in the story. I would definitely seek out another audiobook read by her.
The Scorch Trials by James Dashner; narrated by Mark Deakins

It's taken me almost 2 years to get to the 2nd book in this series. Why, I'm not sure. I loved The Maze Runner, but feel Dashner fell into a bit of a sophomore slump with this one. It was action-packed, as the first book definitely was, but I was unable to connect with any of the characters, which could have had to do with the narrator.

Narration: Not a fan. Deakins almost reminded me of the reader of The Lightning Thief (Jesse Bernstein), which, unfortunately, is not a compliment. Bummer. 
The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai; narrated by Emily Bauer

Though the plot of this wonderful little novel is completely ridiculous, unbelievable, and completely not-plausible, I loved it. The bookish quotes and references were perfect for my personality and fit into the story perfectly. I loved the characters, the slow-moving plot, and the emotional descriptions Makkai used. Fun!

Narration: I thought Bauer's voice was perfect for the book and for what I imagined Lucy to sound like. Young enough to still be naive without sounding like a little girl.

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I am an affiliate of both IndieBound and Powells and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Non-Fiction Monday: Just a Second

Woohoo! A new book from Steve Jenkins! In the non-fiction world, he's one of my favorites, combining really cool, unique illustrations and facts kids love. Short, to the point, fun, and educational...the best combo for a successful non-fiction book for kids, in my opinion. 

This one, as the subtitle suggests, looks at time in a different way. Listing different things that happen in one second, one minute, one hour, etc., we get little fact tidbits relating to animals, insects, population, and more. My favorite fact? "In one hour, feeding on its mother's milk, a baby blue whale gains almost ten pounds." IN ONE HOUR. Ten pounds people! Isn't that crazy?! 

The page layout is readable and visually intriguing and the extras in the back, like the chart of Earth's Human Population and the timeline of different animal Life Spans add a cool factor to the informational aspects. 

Steve Jenkins has yet to disappoint me! I would highly recommend checking this out for your library or homeschool shelves. 

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Just A Second: A Different Way to Look at Time
Steve Jenkins
40 pages
Houghton Mifflin
October 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

I am an affiliate of both IndieBound and Powells and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Week in Review

It's been two weeks since my last Week in Review post, but honestly, nothing exciting was happening around here (which is just the way I like it). This week, however, lots of fun stuff to talk about. Long post ahead, but there's pictures and a giveaway! Hooray!


Favorite topic ever. Can you blame me? So, we had our big growth scan this week, making sure my past history with early-onset preeclampsia is not making a reappearance. Baby Snow is growing right on schedule, at about 2lbs, and has a super cute face. Definitely his daddy's nose according to the 3-D ultrasound. My blood pressure, however, is slowly starting to increase, despite new medications, so they're watching me closely. No other pre-e symptoms yet though, so I think we're still good. 

He was breech this time around, which would explain the super-low stomping I continuously feel, and though we were suppose to get our "he's definitely a boy" statement, the stinker had one leg tucked right up under him the entire scan (30 minutes) and sucked on the toes of his other foot. Flexible AND sneaky.  We're sticking with boy though, 90% is pretty good odds for me.

Baby is the size of an EGGPLANT this week, which is amazing. At this point in my pregnancy with Jacob (27 weeks), we were about to have an emergency delivery in 3 days. I cannot imagine having a baby at this point this time around, so I'm glad this one feels the need to continue the cooking. We have chats every day where I tell him to stay put until Christmas (and he proceeds to kick me in the bladder). 

I had an amazing friend throw me a "Poky Little Puppy" baby shower on Saturday, which was amazing. I've never had one...with Jacob my shower was a week AFTER he was born, 3,000 miles away, and though I was supposed to have a big shower in NY last month, my grandmother unexpectedly passed away 2 days prior. This one was small and quiet, but perfect for me, who isn't quite the fan of being the center of attention. 

We had a "country brunch" complete with food inspired from the classic Golden Book. Muffins with flavors of rice pudding, chocolate custard, and strawberry shortcake were yummy, though left me questioning again...who fed their puppies dessert back when The Poky Little Puppy was written?? Or even now?? 

We made a wish tree for the baby, filled with everyone's thoughts for him for the future, which I LOVED...what a great keepsake! And we had fun playing with new baby toys and clothes. It was a great day. 


Moving on from baby-land....I'm in the middle of Alex George's A Good American, releasing this coming February, and it's FABULOUS people. A wonderful look at American life from an immigrant's eyes. The writing is fantastic and I can't wait to see where it goes. It keeps me company in the middle of the night, as I haven't been sleeping well lately, so I'm able to really concentrate on the beautiful words...quiet house, quiet mind!

I also started Maine by Courtney J. Sullivan on audio a few days ago and so far, I'm really enjoying it. I definitely go for more character-based novels than those filled with action or a whole lot of plot, so I think I'm going to appreciate this one a lot. I wish I had been able to get it during the summer though, perfect summer read!

I brought home A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness from the library. A coworker insisted I read it, though I'm not totally sold yet. If you've read it and loved it, sell me!


So, I never win things. Just doesn't happen. And on Saturday, the most perfect day this week already, I found out I won a giveaway! Lisa, one of my favorite bloggers, was giving away the most adorable owl coin purses to celebrate her 5th anniversary of blogging and I won this guy:

 You should definitely check out her Etsy shop: Made by Lisah. She's selling the owls, along with a bunch of other great items for kids AND adults One of my favorite shops. She does custom orders too...just ask my dog :) Her bed was crafted by Lisa!

I also have a giveaway going on...details can be found here. Picture books just in time for the holidays!

Phew! Lots of stuff! Hope everyone else had a great week!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Picture Book Saturday: Giveaways!

Two sets of giveaways in one month, what do you think about that?! Instead of my usual Picture Book Saturday post, I wanted to let you know about this fabulous giveaway I'm having, featuring a couple of books from Sleeping Bear Press, one of my favorite publishers of books for kids. 

They've been gracious enough to offer TWO winners each a copy of When Anju Loved Being an Elephant by Wendy Henrichs and Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band by Kwame Alexander (which I reviewed here). Anju has gorgeous illustrations and a really sweet story and Acoustic Rooster is a whole lot of fun. A great gift combo for those upcoming holidays presents we all have to give, hint, hint.

Entering is simple. Leave a comment by Thursday 10/20 at 11:59pm and I'll pick two winners. Nothing complicated, no extra entries. If you want the books, just say so! Sleeping Bear Press will mail the books out to the winners shortly after they receive your snail mail addresses.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Monster Calls review

I am a huge fan of the "Chaos Walking" series by Patrick Ness and I was more than a bit apprehensive to pick up a new book by him, knowing that it was absolutely nothing like his previous novels. I was afraid it would fall short and my literary crush would be forced to dissipate. Definitely didn't want that to happen, so I almost didn't even read this one! That would have been a very bad decision.

Ness creates a character in 13-year-old Conor that leaves the reader heartbroken, yet hopeful. His mom is sick with cancer, slowly succombing to the disease, though Conor believes a monster that comes to him in his backyard can cure her. Different from the monster that has invaded Conor's nightmares since his mother became sick, this one actually communicates with him, wanting something from Conor.

The story, mixed with bold black and white illustrations, is one the reader will not soon be able to forget. Thought-provoking, humbling, and simply beautiful in structure, Conor will fill your heart with the sadness he's feeling, while finally allowing the possibility of his own healing process to come to light. It will haunt you, but in the most perfect of ways.

I loved every minute I spent with this book and highly recommend it!

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A Monsters Call
Patrick Ness
224 pages
Young Adult
October 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

I am an affiliate of both IndieBound and Powells and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Picture Book Saturday

Stars by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrator Marla Frazee

Combine a super sweet story with one of my favorite illustrators and you'll definitely have winner on your hands. Going down as one of my favorites of the year, Stars is incredibly simple, explaining all the wonderful places one might find stars and just what those stars can mean.

From being given a shiny star for doing something great, to blowing on a dandelion and releasing thousands of stars into the sky, this is an absolutely beautiful representation about appreciating the little things in life. One of my favorites of the year...though I think I say that about anything Marla Frazee is involved in!

I'll definitely be giving this one out as a gift this Christmas!

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Mary Lyn Ray
40 pages
Picture Book
Beach Lane
October 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith

I've never come across a Lane Smith book that I didn't like and I think this one will be going on the "love" shelf! A beautiful telling of Great-Grandpa Green's life, through the amazing topiary trees he created in the garden. It's not only an exploration of family history from a young boy's perspective, but also a whimsical look at just what can be made out of nature.

I loved the flow of the story and though the concept is rather serious, the overall feel is that of wonder and amazement. Learning about heritage is incredibly important in one's family and this book might get your younger children asking questions about their own families.

An absolutely lovely book! Pick one up for grandparents or your own grandchildren!

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Grandpa Green
Lane Smith
32 pages
Picture Book
Roaring Brook Press
August 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Reaching by Judy Ann Sadler and illustrator Susan Mitchell

 If you have a baby shower gift to buy, keep your eyes on the lookout for this book! A new baby has arrived and his large family all has different ways of showing him love. From Oma playing peek-a-boo to puppy licking baby's face and sister tickling, the whole family loves their new addition and has wonderful ways of showing it. 

A very simple concept presented with a great rhyming flow. I loved that the extended family was all included in the story and the soft illustrations make for a nice book to read before bedtime.

I think I would have liked to see this as a board book, rather than a picture book, as the age range could definitely be infant-toddler and the pages are pretty easy to tear. I'm all about durability!

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Judy Ann Sadler
40 pages 
Picture Book
Kids Can Press
August 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Friday, October 7, 2011

Guest Post: Bobbie Pyron, author of A Dog's Way Home

Yesterday, I posted my review of the heartwarming A Dog's Way Home (which I'm also giving away), and I'm lucky enough to have Bobbie Pyron stopping by today to tell us a few of her favorite dog books. I love dogs myself, as you all know, and some of these I've read and others I haven't. Enjoy!

(My apologies for the strange font changes. Blogger did not like the document Bobbie sent)

As a passionate dog person, dog writer and librarian, I often get asked what my favorite dog books are. Not surprisingly, I have lots! I will also admit to not reading books with characters other than dogs—at least not normally. I know there’s lots of wonderful books out there with cats, rabbits, mice, and especially horses as main characters. But I’m a true blue dog person. 

With one recent exception. I was very lucky to receive from my editor of A Dog’s Way Home an amazing book called The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate. Does that name ring a bell? That’s because Ms Applegate is the author of the wildly popular “Animorphs” series. This new book of hers doesn’t come out until January of 2012, but I’ll give you a little sneak peak. 

This is the story of a gorilla named Ivan who has lived most of his life in a cage as the main attraction at a roadside zoo. He has never seen another gorilla, except on TV. Despite his heritage as a proud silverback male gorilla, Ivan feels there’s really nothing he can do to change his life. Until he makes a promise to two elephants—one old, and one a baby. This is a book that made me laugh and cry and hug to my chest when I finished it. The One and Only Ivan has Newbery written all over it!

Now on to dog books!

·         Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo
Just last night, I had a lengthy conversation with a 5th grader at the library about how wonderful Kate DiCamillo is and, more specifically, her wonderful Because of Winn Dixie. In Because of Winn Dixie, Opal and her father, the preacher, move to Naomi, Florida, Opal goes into the Winn-Dixie supermarket — and comes out with a dog. With the help of her new pal, whom she names Winn-Dixie, Opal makes a variety of new, interesting friends and spends the summer collecting stories about them and thinking about her absent mother. But because of Winn-Dixie, or perhaps because she has grown, Opal learns to let go, just a little, and that friendship — and forgiveness — can sneak up on you like a sudden summer storm. Recalling the fiction of Harper Lee and Carson McCullers, here is a funny, poignant, and unforgettable coming-of-age novel. My young friend and I agreed the book is a million zillion times better than the movie!
·         Love that Dog, by Sharon Creech
Given that my young patron loved Kate DiCamillo’s books, I recommended to her one of my other favorite authors, Sharon Creech. I added to her growing stack of books Love that Dog. Written in free verse, Love that Dog is told from the view point of Jack. Jack hates poetry. Only girls write it and every time he tries to, his brain feels empty. But his teacher, Ms. Stretchberry, won’t stop giving her class poetry assignments—and Jack can’t avoid them. But then something amazing happens. The more he writes, the more he learns he does have something to say, especially when it comes to a certain dog.
With a fresh and deceptively simple style, acclaimed author Sharon Creech tells a story with enormous heart. Love That Dog shows how one boy finds his own voice with the help of a teacher, a writer, a pencil, some yellow paper, and of course, a dog.
·          A Dog’s Life: the autobiography of a stray, by Ann M. Martin
Okay, so you know this name as the author of the Babysitter’s Club series, right? But she’s also the author of some amazing, beautifully written novels for middle graders and teens, including A Dog’s Life. Normally, I don’t like “talking dog” stories: I find them too precious. But Martin tells this dog’s story in a voice that is both dignified and true. Squirrel is not like most dogs. Born a stray, she must make her own way in the world, facing busy highways, changing seasons, and humans both gentle and brutal. Her life story, in her own words, is marked by loss, but also by an inspiring instinct to survive. And when it seems she will roam the woods and country roads alone forever, Squirrel makes two friends who, in very different ways, define her fate. This is not a bouncy, easy story. I tend to recommend it to older middle graders or dog-loving teens and adults. It is a haunting and hopeful story.
Martin has since written a sequel to A Dog’s Life titled Everything for a Dog.
·         Lassie Come-Home, by Eric Knight

Any discussion of favorite dog books of mine would be pointless without this classic. This is the original Lassie Come-Home, published in the 1930s and set in Scotland. There is no Timmy forever falling down wells and getting trapped in abandoned mines in this book. Just one very devoted, much-loved collie trying to make her way back home through the wilds of the Scottish highlands. It is an absolute must for any dog lover of any age. 

Thanks for stopping by, Bobbie! Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a copy of A Dog's Way Home!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Dog's Way Home review and a GIVEAWAY

11-year-old Abby and her dog, Tam, are best friends that do everything together. On a trip home from a competition with Tam, a car accident results in Abby being hospitalized and Tam's crate being thrown from their vehicle, landing somewhere in the woods by the side of the road. Abby is sick with worry and even more so when no one can find Tam.
Days turn into weeks and months and Abby doesn't give up hope. Tam, as determined as his person to make his way back home, fights against all odds to find Abby again. Their amazing tale is told from each perspective, showcasing a loyalty between species that any reader could appreciate. 

Pyron created a character in Abby that middle grade readers can easily relate to. She's strong, courageous, and determined, making her an excellent role model for readers. Tam, is incredibly brave, loyal, and beautifully done as his own character. 

A Dog's Way Home would make an excellent family read aloud, especially for fans of The Incredible Journey, Shiloh, or other books with strong dog characters. Highly recommended!

Alright, so you know you don't get a whole lot of giveaways here at the blog anymore, but I liked this book SO MUCH that when Virtual Author Book Tours offered up a copy for you guys, I definitely wanted to offer it. And it's super simple to enter, no crazy requirements.

Leave a comment telling me you want to enter and please make sure you leave your contact email. Giveaway is open until next Thursday October 13th at 11:59pm. One winner will be chosen to receive a paperback copy of A Dog's Way Home. GREAT for a gift for the holidays or to keep on your own shelves.

U.S. and Canada only please. Good luck!

Check back tomorrow...I'll have a guest post from author Bobbie Pyron!
A Dog's Way Home
Bobbie Pyron
336 pages
Middle Grade
Katherine Tegan Books
March 2011
Review copy provided by author

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

With a Name Like Love review

13 year old Ollie is used to living on the road. Her daddy, Reverend Everlasting Love, is a preacher, leading tent revivals all across the country for a living. Ollie, along with her parents and sisters, live in the travel trailer they pull along from town to town, being homeschooled and teaching the country about God.

When the family arrives in Binder, Arkansas, Ollie expects the three days to be like every other revival time. Passing out flyers, singing, collecting the offering, and packing up. However, she meets Jimmy Koppel, a troubled boy whose mother is in jail for murdering his father. Jimmy knows his mother didn't commit the crime and Ollie wholeheartedly believes him.

Convinced her family needs to help Jimmy, Ollie must prove to her father that they have to stay in Binder for longer than their usual three days, whether they're wanted in Binder or not.

This little book was such a heartwarming example of friendship and kindness that I smiled through almost the entire thing. Ollie has such a brave and strong persona, that even cruel townspeople are no match when she puts her mind to helping Jimmy, even when everyone else has simply cast him aside as a troublemaker.

A colorful cast of characters adds to the richness of the novel and the added bit of mystery will appeal to those that like more meat to their story.

Though Ollie and her family are driven to Binder by their faith and their are moments of quoted Scripture, I would definitely not be classifying the book as religious fiction. Simply a plot point and an added character trait in Ollie, I thought it was beautifully woven into the realistic fiction nature of the overall story. No need to be wary if you typically stray away from books mentioning God.

Ollie and her story carved a little place in my heart and I would love to get this in the hands of kids, as it has a great message of compassion. Though Ollie is 13, I would recommend this for the middle grade age range of 9-12ish. Nothing objectionable, easy to read, etc. Would make a nice family read too.

Buy from Powells
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With a Name Like Love
Tess Hilmo
256 pages
Middle Grade
September 2011
Review copy provided by publisher