children's books, Graphic format, Higher Elementary, nonfiction

Review: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #5: The Undergorund Abductor

23167768Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #5: The Underground Abductor
Nathan Hale
128 pages
First published in April 2015 by Amulet Books
Where did I get this? From my local library

Growing up, I didn’t read much nonfiction. As a kid and even as a teen, I think the closest I got to reading nonfiction was with historical fiction like Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars. Kids nowadays have so many engaging non-fiction titles to choose from, that it almost makes me wish I was growing up today. Almost.

In Nathan Hale’s latest volume of Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, Harriet Tubman is the subject of choice. Readers first meet Tubman as Arminta Ross, a six year-old slave who’s been rented out to a local family. When she can’t get the hang of weaving, Arminta is taught how to check muskrat traps in the swamp. The job is a cold and hard one, as the young girl catches the measles and ends up with bronchitis. After recovering, she’s hired out again and the next family isn’t any better.

Readers also see what happens when Arminta accidentally gets in the way of an irate slaveowner who tries to injure another slave. It took her months to recover from her traumatic head injury and even then, her owner tries to sell her.

After a series of events, Arminta Ross becomes Harriet Tubman, badass abductor of the Underground Railroad. She travels back and forth from the South to Canada and various places to help slaves get to freedom. The journey was so scary that Tubman really did keep a pistol on her in case someone wanted to turn back instead of completing the trip.

I was amazed at Tubman’s courage to go back and forth, helping strangers and reuniting her family. You can’t help but be in awe at her determination even as she risked her own life and freedom. I laughed at the jokes and felt sadness when Tubman was never able to rescue her sister, nieces, and nephews.

Nathan Hale does a wonderful job presenting Harriet Tubman’s life in graphic format. The story is rich with details and includes a bibliography in the back for more information. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor is a book that needs to be on the shelf of every library. It’s a book that’s perfect for readers in higher elementary school to adults. I will warn you; once you read this book, you’re going to want to reread it right away. Plus, there are four more books in the series with a sixth book being published in March 2016.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

children's books, fiction, It's Monday, nonfiction, reading

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila over at Book Journey.

It’s a new year and I am determined to read more! Well every year I’m determined to read more, but this year is different. 2015 started off with me reading children’s books, but after reading Ms. Marvel last night, I feel energized.

This week I’m hoping to read:

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (YA). My daughter read this book a few weeks ago and cried her butt off. She’s been waiting for me to read it ever since.

The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp (YA). I’m on the fence with this one. We’ll see if I end up reading it.

Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon. I bought this book two years ago and never finished reading it! It’s over 700 pages, so I don’t plan on finishing this week but I will get it done.

Children’s books

I’m determined to read more often to the kids. I don’t know what happened, but the kids and I don’t read together as often anymore. I’m hoping to change that with a few picture and chapter books.


  • Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh
  • Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen
  • Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank by Paula Yoo
  • Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
  • And Two Boys Booed by Judith Viorst

What are you reading this week?

children's books, favorite books of 2014, lists

Favorite Children’s Books of 2014

With the 2015 just days away and my reading going so slowly, I figured it’s time to throw in the towel and post my list of this year’s favorite reads. I divided my long list into three posts: children’s fiction and nonfiction, young adult and middle school reads, and adult fiction and nonfiction.
Though I didn’t read as much as I usually do, I was really surprised as to how many fantastic books I read. The books on my lists are ones that I really enjoyed, would re-read, and would buy.

Since I rarely review children’s books, all links lead you to Goodreads for more information about each book.

Children’s Fiction

BestCollage 6
The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo
Gravity by Jason Chen
Blizzard by John Rocco
Hug Machine by Scott Campbell

BestCollage 7
Miss Brooks’ Story Nook by Barbara Bottner
The Monsterator by Keith Graves
Going Places by Peter H. Reynolds
Ben Rides On by Matt Davies

BestCollage 8
Knock Knock by Daniel Beaty
The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
Camp Rex by Molly Idle

BestCollage 9
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
The Reader by Amy Hest
Off to Market by Elizabeth Dale
Mousterpiece by Jane Breskin Zalbin

Children’s Nonfiction

BestCollage 10
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jennifer Fisher Bryant
Noah Webster and His Words by Jeri Chase Ferris
Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock

BestCollage 11
Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Everything by Maira Kalman
The Noisy Paintbox: The Colors and Sounds of Kadinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock
Art From her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter by Kathy Whitehead

BestCollage 12
Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz
The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Lady Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins

What were some of your favorite children’s books this year?

children's books, poetry, reviews

Short Review: God got a dog by Cynthia Rylant

41oDJwYUDzLGod got a dog

Written by Cynthia Rylant

Illustrated by Marla Frazee

48 pages

Published in October 2013 by Beach Lane Books

Source: Public Library

I didn’t know what to expect from Cynthia Rylant’s latest book, God Got a Dog. I just knew that the title was interesting and I wanted to see what it was about. Man, what a good book.

God Got a Dog is a collection of poems written by Rylant and illustrated by the talented Marla Frazee. In each poem, God does something different: gets a dog, goes to the doctor, and catches a cold. The poems are touching and humorous, perfect for both kids and adults alike. I plan on buying my own copy as soon as possible. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

God got a desk job

Just to see what it

would be like.

Made Her back hurt.

God’s always had a

bad back anyway-

the weight of the world

and all that,

She thought Her job was tough,

till She sat at a desk all day.

It was torture.

She could feel the Light

Inside Her grow

dimmer and dimmer

and She thought that

if She had to pick

up that phone

one more time,

She’d just start the

whole Armageddon thing

people keep talking about.

(Not Her idea, not Her plan,

but in a pinch, She’s

sure She could come up

with something.)

The only thing that got

Her through to the

end of the day was

Snickers bars.

She ate thirty-seven.

Plus thinking about the Eagle Nebula

in the constellation Serpens.

That helped.

children's books, fiction, nonfiction, reviews

Short Children’s Book Reviews: We March by Shane W. Evans and I Have a Dream by Kadir Nelson

evans we marchWe March

Shane W. Evans

32 pages

Published in 2012 by Roaring Brook Press

Source: Public Library

In We March, author Shane W. Evans take readers to August 28, 1963, the day that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Readers follow a family of four as they start their day to get ready to march until they hear Dr. King’s speech. Evans’ writing is simple with just a few words on each page. The book is plain enough that young readers can read it to themselves but why the march and the speech itself is important will have to be put in context by adults so kids can understand it. I found this book to be a great introduction for younger readers. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

nelson kingI Have a Dream: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Paintings by Kadir Nelson

40 pages

Published in 2012 by Schwartz & Wade Books

Source: Public Library

Lord, I love Kadir Nelson’s paintings. He’s one of my favorite illustrators and is easily one of the most talented artists working on children’s books. His paintings are so good that you want to buy two copies of his work: one book to read and the other book to cut the pages out to hang on your walls.  Nelson takes Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and illustrates it. The result is a beautiful book that readers old and young will want to read. At the end of the book, Nelson adds the speech in its entirety. The book also comes with a CD recording of the speech as it was delivered in 1963 by Dr. King.  My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

children's books, nonfiction, reviews

Children’s Books on Famous Artists: Me, Frida, It Jes’ Happened, and Chuck Close Face Book

Me, Frida

Written by Amy Novesky. Illustrated by David Diaz

Published in 2010 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

I love beautiful art. I also love reading about Frida Kahlo, so when Jill (Rhapsody in Books) wrote a review about Me, Frida, I had to get my hands on it. Me, Frida is a non-fiction read about the short time in Frida Kahlo’s life that she spent in San Francisco, California with her husband, the muralist Diego Rivera. Novesky stays with the details that we know about Frida’s life. Of course, not everything is detailed but it doesn’t have to be since it’s a children’s book and space is very limited.

The artwork by David Diaz is very beautiful. In her review, Jill wrote that there were pages that you want to tear out and put on your walls, and she is so right. You also see through the artwork how Frida thought of herself at this time. She wasn’t known as an artist but as Mrs. Rivera. At the beginning of the book, almost every page has the couple together. It’s not until Frida explores San Francisco that she comes out of her shell and starts to paint again, finding herself. The pages of just Frida are breathtaking. Young readers will enjoy this book especially the artwork. They’ll probably want to read more about the artist. My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Page from Me, Frida

Chuck Close Face book

Chuck Close

Published in 2012 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

If you didn’t read my read-a-thon posts, I should just tell you now that this book was a hit with my kids during the event and for good reason. Chuck Close Face Book features the artist, his artwork, and the questions of children who wanted to know more about him. Through the questions and the artist’s answers, readers learn a lot about Close including the fact that he was “severely” learning disabled as a child growing up in the 1940s and 1950s. He was dyslexic and diagnosed with prosopagnosia, also called “face blindness”. People who have the disorder can’t remember and therefore, can’t recognize faces.  Close has been drawing since he was a child. It was the only thing he was really good at and his parents encouraged him.  Something that’s really inspiring is that his disorder didn’t stop him. Close is famous for making portraits and he also share his techniques. You could say that this is a book for kids but I think this is a book for the whole family. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw

Written by Don Tate. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

Published in 2012 by Lee & Low Books

Source: Publisher

When Bill Traylor was in his early 80s, he started drawing. Alone and living in the back of businesses, he would draw using whatever materials he could find: the stubs of pencils, scraps of paper and cardboard. It didn’t matter that he didn’t really know how to draw. He just started and taught himself, drawing pictures from his memories of living on a cotton farm near Benton, Alabama. It wasn’t long before a young artist by the name of Charles Shannon saw Traylor’s work and took an interest in it. Developing a friendship that lasted for years, Shannon saved some of Traylor’s drawing, even hosting an exhibit. It wasn’t until almost forty years later, in the 1970s that others took an interest and appreciated Traylor’s “outsider” art. Tate’s writing along with Christie’s illustrations does a fantastic job of bringing Traylor’s story to a new audience. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

All books in this post, unless otherwise stated, were acquired via the public library.

Banned Books, Banned Books Week, children's books, classics, Fantasy, fiction

Banned Book Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver

Lois Lowry

180 pages

Republished in 2008 by Houghton Mifflin Company

Source: Public Library

It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened. No. Wrong word, Jonas thought. Frightened meant that deep, sickening feeling of something terrible about to happen. . .

I had to review this book for Banned Books Week. The Giver is a book that I’ve read as a seventh-grader and loved. It’s one of those books that I push on my younger sisters, who are now seventh graders, in the way that only a crazed bookworm can. I haven’t read The Giver since middle school, so when I picked it up; I wondered if I would love it as much as I once did.

Within the first few paragraphs, readers realize that Jonas’s world is very different from our own. An airplane flies over the community Jonas lives in, frightening not only the young boy but every person around. Airplanes aren’t a part of their everyday lives. But then, things like choosing your spouse or occupation aren’t a part of that life either.

When Jonas turns twelve he, like all the other twelve year-olds, learns what their occupation will be for the rest of their lives. But Jonas is different. Instead of being chosen to be an engineer or teacher, he learns that he’s been selected to become the next Receiver of Memory. It’s a job of high honor but little power. Jonas is to receive the memories of others who lived generations ago. That way, those memories aren’t a burden to the rest of the community and no one else needs to experience anything but the most ordinary life. During his training, Jonas learns of war and love, happiness and hope. But can Jonas go back to living his life as it once was without these things?

I’m glad to say that The Giver is just as powerful to me now as it was when I was twelve. I was surprised about how much of this book came back to as I read. After Jonas receives the memory of war and sees his friends playing it as game, he freaks out. Of course his friends have no idea what war is but Jonas does, and it sinks in how there’s so much this group will never know. Lowry’s writing is simple and the story gives readers just enough details to understand Jonas and the community he lives in. I can’t wait to read the last three books in this series.

The Giver is #23 on the American Library Association’s (ALA) list of Banned and Challenged Books of 2000-2009. The book has been challenged (someone has asked it to be removed from library shelves) or banned several times since its publication. It’s always been by parents who don’t like the ambiguous ending or the community’s method of dealing with troubled people, the elderly, and infants who aren’t thriving.

If you haven’t read The Giver, I think you should. My rating: 5 out of 5.

children's books, classics, fiction, Middle Grade, nonfiction, Read-along, reading, reading challenges, Spring Reading Challenge, tbr, Young Readers

Spring Reading Thing 2012

March 20, 2012 – June 20, 2012

Hosted at Callapidder Days

If you didn’t know that today was the first day of spring, you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking out my window. It’s nice and cold outside, perfect winter weather. So it seems a little funny to be making a list of books I want to read for spring. I missed last year’s Spring Reading Thing, a seasonal “challenge”, and I refuse to miss it again this year.

I decided to dedicate this year’s SRT to my many stacks of unread books. This idea came to me yesterday after “finding” an under-bed shoe storage filled with books. I think that’s one of the great things about Spring Reading Thing is that participants are encouraged to make goals. It’s not just the amount of books to read but anything else you can think of.

One of my goals is to read at least fifteen of my own books within the next three months. It doesn’t have to be the fifteen books on this list but it needs to be fifteen. I’ve own The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot since its publication in 2009. I even pre-ordered it and still haven’t read it. If I don’t read it by the end of this challenge, I’m going to give it away to my local public library. Which leads me to my second goal:

  • Give away at least ten books by June 20th. If I don’t miss the 30+ books under my bed, I won’t miss the ten that I plan on giving away. I’m thinking of this as my own bookish spring cleaning.

Last but not least is to have at least one read-along with my daughter. She’s ten and hasn’t read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett yet. It’s been a reading tradition of mine to read it every spring. I already bought her the book and movie version. Now it’s time to read it to her. Maybe I’ll give her a package of seeds to go with it. I think she’ll like that. If the read-along is a success, we can add Natalie Babbit’s Tuck Everlasting in June. It’s one of my favorite summer reads.

My pool of books:

  1. Head Off and Split by Nikki Finney (poetry)
  2. Land to Light On by Dionne Brand (poetry)
  3. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (non-fiction)
  4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (non-fiction)
  5. Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson (middle grade)
  6. The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna
  7. A Mercy by Toni Morrison
  8. Hate that Cat by Sharon Creech (poetry)
  9. The Humming Room by Ellen Potter (middle grade)
  10. Sula by Toni Morrison
  11. Alcestis by Katharine Beutner
  12. What Looks Like Crazy on An Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage
  13. No Regrets Parenting by Harley A. Rotbart (non-fiction)
  14. The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman
  15. Among Others by Jo Walton (young adult)
  16. The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier
  17. Wonder by R.J. Pollacio (middle grade)
  18. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (young adult)
  19. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (middle grade)
  20. Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith (middle grade)
  21. The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon (middle grade)
  22. Cousins by Virginia Hamilton (middle grade)
  23. An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor (non-fiction)

So that’s what I’m planning this spring. Have you started thinking about your spring reading? Are you joining Spring Reading Thing this year?

children's books, cookbooks, Cooking, nonfiction, reviews, Weekend Cooking

Weekend Cooking: Books for Young Foodies

Weekend Cooking is a meme hosted by Candace at Beth Fish Reads. Anyone with a food-related post can join.

My kids love books about food. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cookbook or a picture book, so lately we’ve been going out of our way to find more books with kid foodies in mind. It’s been a little hard finding fiction with recipes for kids but what we’ve found so far has been pretty good.


Written by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel

Illustrated by Janet Stevens

48 pages

Published in 2005 by Voyager Books

Source: Library

Big Brown Rooster is tired of eating chicken feed all day, every day. As the great-grandson of the famous Little Red Hen, he decides enough is enough. If the stories are right and Little Red Hen was as great a cook as people say, then he can cook too. With the help of a few friends, Rooster decides to try and make his great-grandma’s strawberry shortcake. But will the shortcake turns out the way it’s supposed to?

What I really like about this book is that the authors illustrate beautifully that not everything you make will turn out well but the key is to keep trying until you get it right. Kids will laugh at the animals as they try to figure out Great Grandma’s instructions while learning how to measure, sift flour, and other things.  Included at the end of the picture book is the recipe the characters use. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Pizza: How to Make and Bake More Than 50 Delicious Homemade Pizza

Written by Carla Bardi

128 pages

Published in 2011 by Reader’s Digest

Source: Library

If I were to describe Pizza, I would say “cute”. The book is shaped like a pizza. Bardi includes recipes for making pizza dough from scratch including whole-wheat and gluten-free dough. There are plenty of pictures for step-by-step instructions for the dough and for the various types of pizza the author included. As a mom with three picky eaters, there aren’t many recipes in this book that I could make and my kids would eat.  These aren’t your typical pizza recipes instead there’s eggplant pizza, bell pepper pizza, and even pizza with apple and Gorgonzola. There’s nothing wrong with the recipes but this isn’t a book I can really use. I’m still recommending it for those with a more “sophisticated” palate. My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Easy as Pie

Written by Cari Best

Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

48 pages

Published in 2010 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Source: Library

Jacob loves watching his favorite TV chef, Chef Monty, makes his famous recipes. When Jacob decides to make a peach pie, it’s a good thing he remembers all of Monty’s rules about cooking. There are a few mistakes and setbacks but Jacob’s determined to make his pie.

I thought this was a lovely book about making a goal and seeing it through until the end. With illustrations by Melissa Sweet, (A River of Words and Carmine), Easy as Pie is a book that will leave young foodies hungry for more. My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Have you read any of these? Are there any books you would recommend for young foodies?

children's books, Middle Grade, misc.

A Very Short Post

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente is a book that’s been receiving a lot of positive buzz lately. It’s in my tbr pile and on my daughter’s summer reading list. I’ve read a little of the book so far, and the imagery is just so beautiful and different like the golem made of lye or the three witches who can see the future.

I don’t watch many book trailers but when I saw this one, I thought it was excellent. I know there’s going to be more songs to go with this book and I can’t wait to listen to the rest of them. Have you read this book yet? If you haven’t, any plans to read it?

children's books, cookbooks, Library Loot, meme., Weekend Cooking

Weekend Cooking: The Library Loot Edition

Today I’m combining two of my favorite memes together: Weekend Cooking and Library Loot to share a few cooking-related books that I recently checked out from the library. Both books were on the “new books” shelf at the library and I hurried to grab them just in case someone else decided to!

Crazy about Cookies

Krystina Castella

Sterling Publishing

304 pages

Don’t you just love this cover! My daughter and I have been going back and forth searching through the book’s 300 recipes to figure out which cookie to make first. I’m torn between the Sugar-Free Carob Oatmeal Clusters or Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Cookies while my daughter is thinking about Explosion Cookies which are cookies that look like comic book captions. If you ever see this book at your library or bookstore, at the very least just glance through it. The pictures are beautiful.

Ugly Pie

Written by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Heather Solomon

Harcourt Children’s Books

32 pages

I love picture books that feature food and Ugly Pie is no exception. Ol’ Bear has a craving for ugly pie but has only one ingredient. So he goes around his neighborhood to see has anyone else made the pie that he’s craving. When he sees that his neighbor has made everything but ugly pie, Ol’ Bear knows it’s time to make it himself. It’s a really cute book. The bonus is that it includes the recipe for ugly pie which is an apple pie with red raisins and walnuts. My family doesn’t really eat pie but I’m still going to give the recipe a try.

Have you read any food-related books lately? What does your library loot look like?

children's books, poetry, reviews

Guyku by Bob Raczka

Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys

Bob Raczka

Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

48 pages

October 2010

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children


I picked up Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys because of all the positive reviews it was receiving on Twitter – a place that I receive many book recommendations from. After my first reading  of Guyku, I knew all the talk was right. The book is a great poetry introduction for young children – girls included. Raczka gives readers haiku for every season of the year that are great for reading aloud. With illustrations by the wonderful Peter H. Reynolds the book is a perfect addition to any poetry collection.

The haiku featured in the book are silly, funny, or lightly mourning a passing season. They’re also simple enough where even young children can understand them.

The illustrations are soft and compliment each haiku and season. I love that the boys in the book are of every shape and color. I really love how after every reading of this book, my kids and I wanted more.  Guyku is a great book for poetry experts and novices alike.

children's books, graphic novel, reviews

Review: Hereville by Barry Deutsch

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword

Barry Deutsch

144 pages

Publication Date: November 2010

Amulet Books

Source: Library

I love this book! Love love love! I love it so much that I checked it out of the library on Thursday, read it Thursday night, reread it Friday morning, and then bought it right afterwards. Enough gushing for now. I should at least tell you what this great book is about.

click on the picture to enlarge

Mirka Hirschberg is a spunky eleven-year-old who dreams of fighting dragons. The problem though is her family has other plans for her. As Orthodox Jews her slightly older sister Gittel wants her to start thinking about marriage, her stepmother Fruma wants her to become a better knitter while her younger brother Zindel thinks fighting dragons is for grown men. Mirka will not be deterred. She has no idea how she’s going to find or fight a dragon until she happens to find a witch’s home deep in the local woods of her town. When she steals a grape from the garden of the witch’s pig, that’s when the real adventure starts.

I don’t think there can ever be enough strong female characters in literature and Mirka is a great addition.  She’s a girl who’s true to herself while understanding the obligations she has in her family and community. The town she lives in, Hereville, is populated mostly by Hasidic Jews and Deutsch doesn’t shy away from showing us how religion and culture are intertwine in Mirka’s life. Readers don’t need to have any knowledge of Judaism to read this book.

For young readers who enjoy fantasy, Hereville is a book to add to their permanent collections. The witch in the story is unnamed and believable. She’s not a villain but a recluse who lives on the outskirts on the tiny town. I have so many questions about the witch, her background, and how does she know Fruma which is revealed in the story. The witch’s pig is another character I would love to know more about. It talks, grows a vegetable garden, and swears revenge on all who angers it.

I could keep going on and on about this story but that’s enough blabbering from me. Just go out and buy the book. You won’t regret it.

children's books, fiction, reviews

Mini-Reviews: Children’s Books

Immi’s Gift

Karin Littlewood

32 pages

Publication Year: October 1, 2010

Publisher: Peachtree

Source: Publisher

Summary: Immi is a young lonely girl living in an icy land. One day as she goes fishing, she finds a little wooden bird. The bird is just one of several mysterious presents that she starts to find and changes her world into a place that is less lonely.

My Thoughts: I thought the book was okay. It didn’t offer anything different or memorable. The illustrations by the author are beautiful, perfectly showing readers Immi’s cold winter world as how it goes from being a place of loneliness to one of comfort and friendship. The colors are brilliant and give young readers pages they can easily look at over and over again.

My Havana: Memories of a Cuban Boyhood

Rosemary Wells and Secundino Fernandez

65 pages

Publication Date: August 10, 2010

Publisher: Candlewick

Source: Library

Summary: Secundino “Dino” Fernandez is a young artist who loves his city, Havana. He loves the architecture, the vibrant colors, and its history. As a child, he spends hours drawing Havana over and over again. But at the age of six, his family moves to Spain where everything is different – the food, the culture, even the colors which aren’t vibrant but drab. To get through his homesickness, Dino makes a miniature version of Havana. It helps and eventually, his family moves back to Cuba. But when Fidel Castro takes over the Cuban government, Dino and his family leaves Cuba for good and move to the United States.

Thoughts: I thought this was a great story. I don’t think I’ve read many books about Cuba, so reading My Havana was a great introduction. Wells, Fernandez, and illustrator Peter Ferguson do a great job helping readers to “see” Havana for themselves. My only problem with this book is that I wished this book was at least two hundred pages longer so I could know more about Fernandez’s life in Cuba and Spain.  After reading this book I want to read more books about Cuba.


The Horned Toad Prince

Jackie Mims Hopkins

32 pages

Publication Date: September 1, 2010

Publisher: Peachtree

Source: Publisher

SummaryThe Horned Toad Prince is a retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Set in the southwest, the main character, Reba Jo is a cowgirl who loves lassoing anything she can find. But when she loses her brand new hat in a well, she makes a deal with a horned toad to get it back. But will she stick to her end of the bargain?

My Thoughts: I thought this was a really cute retelling. Reba Jo is a girl with a lot of spunk even though she doesn’t always do what she promised. In the end a deal is a deal, but this ending has a little twist to it. This is a book that young readers will really enjoy.

children's books, fiction, Middle Grade, reviews

Review: Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon

Zora and Me

  • Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon
  • 192 pages
  • Publication Date: October 12, 2010
  • Publisher: Candlewick
  • Source: Personal Library

Young Zora Neale Hurston can spin a story in a way that no one else can. Whether she’s talking about the pine tree that she loves so much or about gators that can turn into men, once you hear Zora’s stories the world looks different. Zora has a passion for storytelling and a curiosity to know all that she can. With best friends Carrie and Teddy, Zora explores their hometown of Eatonville, Florida which is the first all-black town to be incorporated. Things take a sinister turn when a body is found on the railroad tracks beheaded. Zora thinks she knows who committed the murder but what adult will believe her story of shape-shifting men?

What I really liked about this book is that the many storylines that are introduced in various parts of the story feel so authentic and blend together easily. There’s Zora and her stories, her best friend Carrie and her grief at the father who has abandoned his family, the murder of a drifter, the issues of passing and racism, along with figuring out who you really are in a world that wants you to stay in your place.

Zora’s curiosity about the world outside of Eatonville is something her mother understands. Her father wants her to stay in her “place” as a girl and an African-American. He thinks because she isn’t white, she doesn’t have a right to want the things that she desires. But Zora isn’t happy with that and in a suspenseful moment, she sticks up for herself even when the consequences could be painful.

Walking home later, I thought about the difference between a mama’s girl and a daddy’s girl. I decided that a daughter who belongs to her daddy expects gifts, while a daughter who belongs to her mama expects a lot more. Not from her mama. From herself.

My only complaint about this book is that it wasn’t enough description for me. I wanted to know exactly what Eatonville and the characters looked like. Other than that, I found Zora and Me to be a great read. Highly recommended.

Other reviews:

children's books, fiction, Middle Grade, reviews

Banned Book Review: Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret

Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret
Judy Blume
140 pages
Publication Year: 1970
Publisher: Yearling

Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret. We’re moving today. I’m so scared God. I’ve never lived anywhere but here. Suppose I hate my new school? Suppose everybody there hates me? Please help me God. Don’t let New Jersey be too horrible. Thank you.

A few days ago I was at the library and saw this book on the banned books display. I hadn’t read this since I was a pre-teen and seeing the title brought back so many memories of my life then, I had to check this out again.

For those of you who don’t know, the protagonist of the story is Margaret, an twelve year-old girl who has just moved to New Jersey from New York with her parents. She has the same worries that most kids that age have like fitting in, making new friends, and having crushes. She has a relationship with God, who she’s always talking to but worries about her non-religious status because her mom was born a Christian and her dad a Jew. She sees the way that religious differences can divide a family, sometimes forever. What makes this book a classic though is how realistic Blume makes Margaret’s growing pains. Margaret is at that ripe age where she starts to worry (and hope) over getting her period soon and her growing body. Blume doesn’t talk down to tweens and teens but talks to them with this book.

I have no idea why this book has been banned. Is it because Margaret has an open but non-religious relationship with God? Or the fact that she explores religion by visiting different places of worship? Is it all the talk about menstrual cycles and pads? No matter what the reason is, it’s not good enough to ban this book. Instead of being banned, this book needs to be given out to kids. Parents can use it as a starting point in discussions about crushes, religion, God, and more.  I plan on giving this book to my little sisters and daughter.

Have you read this before? What are your thoughts? What Judy Blume book is your favorite?

children's books, reviews

Banned Book Review: In the Night Kitchen

In The Night Kitchen
Maurice Sendak
40 Pages
Publication Year: 1970
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

It’s night and Mickey is in bed trying to sleep when he hears a strange noise. After shouting for silence, the young boy falls through the dark. He leaves his clothes behind and goes into the night kitchen where three cheerful bakers are trying to bake a cake to eat in the morning. Mickey is mistaken for the milk and is baked into the cake. He has to pop out of the baking dough and tell the bakers that he doesn’t want to be bake. That starts Mickey’s adventure to the Milky Way in search of milk. The story of Mickey and his nighttime dream sounds a little strange right?

But did you know that this book is a banned and frequently challenged book? It’s number 21 on the American Library Association’s list of 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books. The reasons: nudity and offensive language. Now I get the nudity part. Mickey loses his clothes when he falls in the darkness and spends a few pages totally naked. The offensive language part I really don’t understand. There’s nothing offensive about the book. The nudity is pretty innocent.

As with all banned and challenged books, I think this is another tale of adults reading too much into the story.  In the Night Kitchen is not a book for adults, it’s a book for kids. I read this book last night to my five year-old who loved it. He didn’t notice the nudity at first and when he did, he laughed and kept going with the story. Dreams can be strange, Sendak knows that. Banning this book is even stranger.

Have you read In The Night Kitchen before? What do you think about it being a banned book?

children's books, Fantasy, nonfiction, Read-along, reviews

Read-along: Touch Magic by Jane Yolen

I’ve been a bad blogger! This week I had much of my blogging schedule mixed up plus with the semester ending, my days have been hectic. I was supposed to post my part of the read-along that I did with Carrie from Books and Movies and Kelly from The Written Word on Tuesday but didn’t get to it.  (Sorry guys!) So here it is.

Touch Magic is a collection of essays by wonder writer Jane Yolen. Yolen is the author of over 200 books, in genres from children’s books to graphic novels, fiction, and non-fiction. In Touch Magic, Yolen discuss the connection between fairy tales and American culture, the need to preserve fairy tales and myths, and the importance of children to grow up knowing these tales. This collection of essays is one of the most inspiring collections I’ve read. Yolen mentions so many books and it makes you want to go out and read what she mentions.

One of my favorite essays in the book is the title essay. In it Yolen talks about the difference between the stories of then and now.

Touch Magic. The good sister in the old tale helps out without the thought of reward and is given a mouthful of diamonds. The bad sister goes looking for diamonds and gets toads. A condition of choice overlies the best stories and that is what is missing in so much of the new literature for children. Instead of that reminder of the hard work of choosing, we are each of us told that we can marry the prince or princess. The half of the kingdom is ours for the asking. There is never the risk of a mouthful of toads.

Tough Magic usually asks as its price the utmost sacrifice: a life, a soul, a never-ending torture. And those who choose Tough Magic never really know whether the ultimate rescue is at hand. The outcome is always in doubt at the moment of choosing. Prometheus knows he must endure until a son of Zeus arrives, but he does not know when that will be. Arthur waits in Avalon, neither dead nor alive, until he is needed again in the world, betrayed but not forgotten. . . .And so the tensions of the stories carry us past the unbelivability of the magic into the credibility of miracles in our everyday lives.

I love this collection and would recommend it to parents and lover of fairy tales. Click on the link for Carrie’s review of this book.

Do you have a favorite fairy tale or myth?

Touch Magic
Jane Yolen
130 pages
Publisher: August House
Source: Personal Library

children's books, Fantasy, reviews

Review: The Magickeepers Book Two: The Pyramid of Souls

Magickeepers: Book 2: The Pyramid of Souls
Erica Kirov
162 pages
Publication Date: May 1, 2010
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Source: Publisher

I think I enjoyed The Pyramid of Souls even more than I did The Eternal Hourglass, which is the first book in Erica Kirov’s Magickeepers series. Like all first books in a series, The Eternal Hourglass had to set up the world in which the main character, thirteen-year old Nick Rostov, lives in.

In The Pyramid of Souls, Nick is enjoying his new life with his Russian relatives. He’s getting the hang of his magical abilities, eating Russian food (but not caviar!), and being around his controlling cousin Damian.  When another magical relic is stolen along with his cousin Sascha, Nick has to use every trick he’s learned to help bring back his cousin from the evil Rasputin.

Just like the first book in the series, The Pyramid of Souls had me asking a few questions. In book two, the magical relic is a pyramid that can trap souls and keep them there indefinitely. One of the most famous people to have it was Edgar Allan Poe. The book did a great job setting up the story of how the author received the relic but readers are never told how it was stolen from him.

As usual Kirov does a wonderful job of keeping readers interested and the pages turning. A great read for younger kids.

children's books, Fantasy, reviews

Review: Magickeepers Book 1: The Eternal Hourglass

Magickeepers Book 1: The Eternal Hourglass
Erica Kirov
256 pages
Publication Date: May 1, 2009
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Source: Publisher

Nick Rostov is a young boy who’s life is about to change. He lives in a rundown casino with his father, the worst magician in Las Vegas. Tired of moving from place to place and school to school, Nick’s glad that summer is finally here. He doesn’t have to worry about making friends or being the new kid. On his thirteenth birthday, Nick is whisked away from his father and sent to live with his mother’s family, one of the most powerful magical families in the world. It’s then that Nick discovers he has powers of his own and must help his family find a hourglass that can stop time before it gets into the wrong hands.

Does this sound a little familiar? A boy with magical powers whose life changes at thirteen? Whose mother died protecting him from evil? I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between Nick Rostov and Harry Potter. Sometimes these similarities had me asking more questions which don’t get answered like why did Nick had to be told he had magical powers instead of him accidently finding out?

The good thing about this book is that even with the similarities, Magickeepers is a great book for kids to read. It takes Nick awhile to adjust to his strange Russian family, all of whom he didn’t know existed before he was sent to them. He doesn’t like the weird food or going to school during summer break but he loves using magic and finding a place that he really belongs. The book also gives history lessons on Russian history using figures like Rasputin and the Grand Duchess Anastasia while using American figures like Harry Houdini.

I found Magickeepers to be a book that kept me turning pages. The plot didn’t lag and I wasn’t ever bored. Once I started reading, I didn’t stop until the final page.

I think this is a great book for kids who haven’t started the Harry Potter series yet and are starting to read thicker books.

children's books, Uncategorized

2009 Children’s Books Notables

Here’s the thing you should remember about this list:

  1. Not every book on this list was published this year.
  2. Every book on this list was read this year.
  3. Each book caught my kids’ attention and held it, becoming a huge re-read this year.

There’s a Wolf at the Door (2008) by Zoe B. Alley. Illustrated by R.W. Alley. Nominated for a Cybils award last year, There’s a Wolf at the Door is a collection of fairy tale sretellings. All five stories, from Little Red Riding Hood to the Boy Who Cried Wolf features the same main character, the Big Bad Wolf. With illustrations by R.W. Alley, this is a book that’s perfect for reading aloud.

Babymouse series by  Jennifer L. Holm. Illustrated by Matthew Holm. Babymouse is a mouse with a huge imagination. From fighting imaginary dragons when she should be studying for a math contest to trying to get some alone time away from her baby brother, Babymouse is one of the funniest characters in children’s literature right now. Another great thing about the series is that they’re not drawn in the traditional black and white but black, white, and pink drawings. One book in the series, Babymouse: Monster Mash is drawn in orange, black, and white for Halloween. This is a series that my kids haven’t grown tired of.

Sleeping Ugly by Jane Yolen. Jane Yolen is one of my favorite authors ever. Whether it’s reading her picture books or collection of essays, Yolen is a writer for all ages. Sleeping Ugly turns the traditional tale of Sleeping Beauty on its head, showing that beauty isn’t everything and you can still get what you want in life.

A Good Day by Kevin Henkes. This is a book that my five-year old had me reading over and over again to him. The day starts out horribly for the book’s characters, a fox, squirrel, bird, and dog. But as the day goes by, it becomes better for each one. With beautiful illustrations by the author this book has a place in our personal library.

New Socks by Bob Shea. My youngest loves the voice I use every time I read New Socks and I enjoy reading it to him. A young bird takes delight in his new socks, slipping and sliding throughout the house while using his imagination. Shea is also the author of Dinosuar vs Bedtime, another favorite in this house.

The Black Book of Colors(2009) by Menena Cottin. The premise behind this book is how would the reader describe colors to a blind person. An imaginative and thoughtful read.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig. Do you remember the show Reading Rainbow from the ’90s? As a child I loved watching this program, dedicated to reading that had Levar Burton as its host. Reading Rainbow was probably the only time I was ever read to as a child. I discovered many books through the program including Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. This year I thought my kids were old enough to appreciate this book and I was right. Sylvester is a young donkey who finds a magic pebble and makes three wishes. The third wish turns him into a rock. The kids loved wondering if Sylvester was ever going to turn back into his original form.

Let’s Do Nothing (2009) by Tony Fucile. Like many of the books I’ve found this year, if it wasn’t for bloggers I wouldn’t know this book existed. After playing every game and doing every activity they can think of, Frankie and Sal are bored. The boys decided to declare do nothing for 10 seconds. That means sitting still, no blinking, no moving, nothing. They imagine themselves as redwoods trees, statues, and more with the same results. I may have read this more than the kids.

Most read children’s author of the year: It’s a two-way tie between the books of husband-and-wife team Sarah Stewart and David Small and Daisy Meadows with her Rainbow Magic series. I prefer Sarah Stewart and David Small because their books are ones that both kids and parents can enjoy reading together.

So for all the children’s book readers out there, are you including children’s books in your notables/favorite books lists?

children's books, reviews, Uncategorized

Two Christmas Books for Children

Mrs. Claus Explains It All (2008)
Written by Elsbeth Claus.
Illustrated by David Wenzel
Review copy from Publisher

In Mrs. Claus Explains it All, Mrs. Claus answers the questions that real kids have, from how Santa’s reindeer received their names to how Santa’s village is hidden from almost everyone. There’s questions about Santa’s favorite food and also whether Santa is exercising or not since he’s getting a little big.  One child wanted to know where did the elves come from. One of my favorite answers in the book is the answer Mrs. Claus gives about what the elves’ favorite books are. One answer I didn’t really like was the answer Mrs. Claus gives about why we don’t always receive what we ask for. Sometimes no matter how hard we wish or pray for something, we’re not going to get it.

The illustrations by artist David Wenzel was part of the magic of this book. My favorite illustrations are the ones of Santa’s Village on the endpapers and the elves in the Village’s library.

I read this book during my kids’ book club meeting and they enjoyed the book a lot. My daughter was happy to learn that Santa’s favorite food is macaroni and cheese. Guess what we’re leaving out for Santa on Christmas Eve?

Mrs. Claus Explains it All is a perfect book for the Christmas season and children who want their questions answered.

Horrid Henry’s Christmas (2006)
Francesca Simon
Illustrated by Tony Ross
Copy from Publisher

Goodness, I had no idea what I was getting into reading Horrid Henry’s Christmas. To call Henry horrid is no exaggeration. From stealing the show in his school’s Christmas play to forgetting to buy his family Christmas gifts (or forgetting to replace the ones he ate or used), to fighting with his brother Perfect Peter, the boy is a handful. With all his adventures I did laugh often but wondered how Henry’s parents secretly coped with him.

My favorite story in the book was “Horrid Henry’s Ambush” which made me laugh so hard, tears ran down my face. In the story, Henry tries to ambush Santa to ensure that he gets the presents he wants.  He lays a trap filled with string, a bucket of water, jump rope, and a whoopie cushion.  I won’t give the ending away but it has a surprise or two. I read a few of the stories included in the book to my kids and they loved it. Horrid Henry is a hit with independent readers.

children's books

What My Children Are Reading – July 16th

This is a meme started by Jill over at Well-Read Child. For some reason this week has been really laid back. I don’t think any of us over here has read as much as we wanted to except for my youngest Oli. Oli’s asthma has been acting up again, so he’s spent most of the week at home with me. Here are a few books the kids and I have been reading this week.


My Mom Is Trying to Ruin My Life (2009). Written by Kate Feiffer. Illustrated by Diane Goode. The girls in my house love this book and I have to admit I do too. The main character, a little girl, swears her mother is trying to ruin her life by doing a number of embarrassing things like giving her a kiss in public and talking too loud. The main character then thinks of a plan to get rid of both of her parents. The ending is such a nice lesson for kids about how great our parents can be.

Gone with the Wand by Margie Palatini (2009). Written by Margie Palatini. Illustrated by Brain Ajhar. After Bernice, a fairy godmother, loses her magical powers, her best friend Edith the tooth fairy comes to the rescue. What ensues is a hilarious journey to help Bernice get her powers back. The first time I read this I laughed so hard, I had to stop reading for a second.



Dog’s ABC: A Silly Story about the Alphabet (2000) by Emma Dodd
Dog’s Colorful Day: A Messy Story about Colors and Counting (2000) by Emma Dodd
Dog’s Noisy Day: A Story to Read Aloud (2002)by Emma Dodd

The Dog series by Emma Dodd is the series right now in our family. All the kids, ages 4-9, have read and re-read these three books. In Dog’s ABC, Dog goes through his neighborhood noticing the different creatures. It’s a great ABC book and my family loved the illustrations by Dodd. Dog’s Colorful Day is a story about colors and counting that’s easy and fun for kids to learn. Dog goes through his neighborhood getting dirty by adding a new color spot with each adventure he has.  Then Dog takes a tour of a farm in Dog’s Noisy Day, listening to all the sounds that different creatures make. My youngest enjoyed making the sounds along with each creature.


Frogs (2008) by Nic Bishop. The title is pretty self-explanatory. This book is all about frogs, telling readers how they reproduce, live, and the different species. I just this as a read aloud for the older kids and though most aren’t into reading about animals, they really enjoyed reading the book and looking at the great photos that the author took.

Chicken Soup with Rice: A Book of Months (1996) by Maurice Sendak. Oli has read this book several times a day this week. A little boy loves chicken soup with rice so much that every month he does something different with it. Told in rhyme, readesr will love seeing what happens with every month.

What books are you and your children reading together this week?

children's books, Fantasy, fiction, reviews, Young Adult

The Ghost’s Child

hartnettThe Ghost’s Child (2008)
Sonya Hartnett
176 pages
Young Adult Fiction

Matilda, an elderly woman, comes home one afternoon to find a young boy sitting in her living room waiting for her. She has no idea who he is or what he wants. As they sit down for tea, the boy asks Matilda about the picture of her as a young girl on  her boat.

Matilda tells the story of her childhood and growing up as a young girl named Maddy. She was the daughter of a materialistic mother and a father who had to divide himself into two different people: the “Iron-man”, an important and wealthy member of the community who only wants to make money and “Daddy”, a man who loves his daughter and only wants her to be happy.

Matilda describes her childhood self as

an over-lookable child, doubtful and reluctant in her dealings with others, mousey as a mouse. She was easily hurt, deceived and dispirited.

After a year-long journey with her father all over the world to experience life for the first time, Maddy comes back changed and more sure of herself.

Soon she falls in love with a mysterious boy named Feather. They fall in love and though Feather wants to make Maddy happy, one day he disappears to the horizon and a place called The Island of Stillness. Unable to let Feather go, Matty learns to sail and goes off on an adventure to ask Feather for the answer to the only question she has. . .

I really enjoyed reading this book. The Ghost’s Child is a book that has to be read slowly. The book isn’t really plot-driven but focuses more on character-building: Matilda as an old woman and as a young girl named Maddy. One of my favorite things about this book was the language. There were so many passages that I marked to read again later.

I love this passage by Matilda on love:

The world changes when something in it is loved. Words become feeble. Colors glow. Every moment vibrates with possible importance. And the heart that loves wonders how it live, in the past, without loving-and it will live now, now that it loves.

What I didn’t like were the few times that were unbelievable. Maddy as a child was a little too mature. She understood too much about life though she hadn’t experience life yet. Here’s a passage from Maddy as a child:

In the black of night, however, she was wrung with fear. She did not want to be uncaring, and uncared-for. She did not want to spend her whole life taking steps in the darkest, the coldest, the most lonely direction. Yet how, she wondered, does one craft sturdy happiness out of something as important, as complicated, as unrepeatable and as easily damaged as a life?

A beautiful passage but from a child? The Ghost’s Child has few faults and all can easily be overlooked. This is a great fable about the lessons of love and letting go, beauty, and having the courage to live life as you see fit.

Highly recommended.

Bedtimes Stories, children's books, picture books, reading, reviews, Young Readers

Three books by Sarah Stewart

I learned from the last read-a-thon that a great way to pass time and feel like you’re accomplishing something is to read children’s books. They help to settle your mind between the readings of bigger, more intense stories. Within a small amount of time children’s books can give you a glimpse of someone’s life and story without weighing you down.

stewart-moneyThe Money Tree (1991)
Illustrations by David Small

The Money Tree tells the story of Miss McGillicuddy and the unusual tree that suddenly starts to grow into her backyard one January. As the seasons change the tree grows larger and larger. When Miss McGillicuddy realize that the tree’s strange leaves is paper money, she starts giving them away. Soon crowds of people are coming to pluck the money off the tree. Will it ever end?

The was a great book to read. Simple and perceptive, The Money Tree shows kids and adults what’s really important in life.

stewart-libraryThe Library (1995)
Illustrations by David Small

I found out about The Library from my kids. Told in rhyme, The Library is the story of  Mary Elizabeth Brown’s life from a child to an elderly woman. Brown loves books and would rather read than do anything else. Does that sound like anyone you know? One of my favorite passages from the book,

Books were piled on top of chairs

And spread across the floor.

Her shelves began to fall apart,

As she read more and more.

I wish I could show you the beautiful illustrations by David Small, Stewart’s husband. They compliment the story perfectly. My favorite illustrations of the story are a two-page spread that has the illusion that Mary Elizabeth Brown has so many books they’re about to fall off the page.


The Gardener (2007)
Caldecott Honor Medal

Out of all three of the books I’ve read by Stewart, The Gardener is my favorite.

Lydia Grace Finch is a little girl living during the Depression who loves to garden. After her father loses his job and money stop coming in, Lydia Grace is sent to the city to live with her Uncle Jim.

Jim owns a bakery and never smiles. He allows Lydia Grace to grow flowers and vegetables around the bakery. A transformation takes place and no one is the same in the year.

Told in letters to uncle Jim and her family back at home, readers get to see Lydia Grace’s life and the resilience of a little girl to make the things she touch beautiful.

children's books, Fantasy, fiction, reviews

Bird by Rita Murphy

murphy1Bird by Rita Murphy (2008)
150 pages
Middle school fiction

From the inside flap:

Miranda has no recollection of where she came from-only that years ago, a gust of wind deposited her outside Bourne Manor. The Manor’s sole inhabitant, Wysteria Barrows, took Miranda in and promptly outfitted her with special boots-boots weighted with steel to keep Miranda anchored to the ground. But aside from shelter and clothing, Miranda receives little warmth from the aging widow. The Manor, too, is a cold place, full of drafts and locked doors. Full of menace. Full of secrets.

Then one day a boy named Farley appears, and with his help, Miranda embraces her destiny with the wind . . . and uncovers the Manor’s hidden past.

I saw the cover of this book and decided to check it out. Originally I picked this book up for the read-a-thon because of its small size but I became a little impatient and decided to read it now.

Miranda is a girl so small she can easily be carried away by the wind. She was so young when the wind carried her away and dropped her in trees next to Bourne Manor that she cannot remember where she came from and what her name was. One day Miranda finds a skeleton key and her imagination opens  up. She secretly explores Bourne Manor behind the back of her guardian Wysteria. After Miranda meets Farley and Wysteria is sent away to the hospital to recover from an illness, Miranda starts to become more sure about herself and learns the Manor’s past.

I loved the cover of Bird which was done by Fernando Juarez. In the beginning of the book Murphy describes Bourne Manor and I wouldn’t have been able to see it in my mind without the cover. The inside of the Manor was easy to visual with its many rooms and the ballroom that no one had ever danced in. I love the way Miranda described the Manor, which is not just a setting in the book but an actual character:

For although no one ever perished unnaturally within its walls that I knew of, the Manor, set out on its own as it was, battered by the wind, invited the spirits of those long departed and of those who roamed the shores in search of a warm fire, as it had invited me. The lost and aimless: to these Bourne Manor gave its shelter.

Rita Murphy’s writing style is simple yet so beautiful. Every character comes across the way they’re supposed to. There is not one sentence that is there needlessly.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I recommend this book to any reader of middle school or young adult fiction. I hope the author writes more stories about Miranda.

Bedtimes Stories, children's books, Dewey's weekly geeks, meme., picture books, Young Readers

Weekly Geeks: Your inner child and poetry

This week’s Weekly Geeks is the brainchild of Becky. I have to say this week’s assignment is tied with my absolute favorite assignment which is a quote a day.

Option A: Be a kid.

  • You could read a picture book (or two or three) and share what you read.
  • Write up a post sharing your favorite books from childhood.
    Write up a post about reading together with your child(ren).

Option B: Be a poet.

  • Write your own poem and share with us!
  • Write bookish ABC poems–ABC’s of favorite authors, favorite books, favorite characters, favorite book blogs, or any combination of the above. Maybe even an ABC’s of a bibliophile or book addict. (A is for…B is for…etc.)(For example, ABC’s of Dr. Seuss)
  • Review a book you’ve read recently in haiku. (It doesn’t need to be a poetry book you’re reviewing, any book will do.) See Emilyreads for an idea of what I mean.
  • Read a poetry book and review it.
  • Participate in Poetry Friday (This week’s host will be Carol’s Corner.)

Isn’t this a great assignment? I think throughout this week I’ll attempt to do every idea.


About two years ago I came up with the idea to start a book club in my home. Mind you the only members are everyone who lives here but the kids loved the idea.  So we came up with a name and agreed or I decided that every night, right before bedtime, we would get together and share our favorite books and read to each other. Even the boys, who are the youngest, could pick out a book to share and read. I thought it would be nice to share with everyone our favorite picks of the week.

Van’s pick is Princess Peepers by Pam Calvcalvertert (2008). Illustrated by Tuesday Mourning. 40 pages.

Princes Peepers is a girl who knows who she is. She loves wearing glasses and has one for each of her favorite outfits. But when she starts a new school and gets laughed at, she throws every pair of glasses into her trunk and promises never to use them again.

The story started out great until the end when the princess meets Prince Peerless and go away with him. Van loved the book but I felt the end wasn’t necessary. Don’t we have enough books with princess riding off with princes? Princess Peepers didn’t find confidence with herself until she met the prince.  What really kills me is the fact that both prince and princess look like they are no older than ten. *sigh* This is one that won’t be added to our home collection.

spinelli-eVal’s pick is Someday by Eileen Spinelli (2007). Illustrated by Rosie Winstead. 32 pages.

Someday is about a little girl’s longing for more than what she has in her life presently. One of the things she longs for us to be a great artist who paints by the sea but instead she’s helping her dad paint the shed. At the end of the book, the little girl finally thinks it’s okay to be mindful of the present.

Av’s pick: Dinosaur vs Bedtime by Bob Shea (2008). At three sheayears old, Avi’s the baby of the family but don’t tell him that. He won’t believe you. For the last two weeks I have been reading Dinosaur vs. Bedtime every morning, noon, and night. Imagine my surprise when Avram read the book to me yesterday. I’m surprise I didn’t cry.

martin-claudia-and-mean-janinePip’s pick is The Baby-Sitters Club: Claudia and Mean Janine(2008). Written by Ann M. Martin. Illustrated by Raina Telgemeiser. 176 pages.

One of the funny things that never fails to surprise me is that motherhood makes you go full-circle in your life. I was the same age as Pip (7) when I discovered this series.  Claudia and Mean Janine is actually book seven in the original series.

Claudia and Janine are sisters who can’t get along. Janine is a genius who lives at her computer desk while Claudia is the artist with a passion for junk food. When their grandmother has a stroke after having an argument with Claudia, Claudia blames herself. The sisters come together to help their grandmother get better.

Oli (age 5) doesn’t have a favorite  pick. I think it might bepattou because he’s been going to sleep earlier than everyone this week, so I’ve been reading to him from my own reads. I read the first several chapters of East by Edith Pattou and several poems from various poets like Raymond Carver, Langston Hughes, and Christina Rossetti. I haven’t bored him yet so I’m calling it a success.

children's books, fiction, reviews

Hansel and Gretel

rylantI should be honest–as much as I like fairy tales I’ve never really cared for Hansel and Gretel. A brother and sister being left in a forest to starve and die by their cruel stepmother and cowardly father. Then for the siblings to find the gingerbread house in the middle of the woods. We’re all aware of what happens next. As a child I always wanted an explanation. Why was the stepmother so cruel? Why was the father such a coward?

Cynthia Rylant’s retelling of Hansel and Gretel is the story that’s been missing. In the beginning,

It has been said that guardian spirits watch over and protect small children, and that may be so. But there are also stories of children who find the courage to protect themselves.

Such is the story of Hansel and Gretel.

Instantly I was lost inside this short tale. With illustrations by Jen Corace, it’s a new classic. What’s different about this re-telling from all others is the feel and language of the book.

The father and the stepmother again told the children to wait under a tree, promising this time certainly to return with berries.

The children waited all night. By morning they were waiting still.

I read Hansel and Gretel in one sitting and reread it before getting up. This book will be a new addition to my children’s library.

Book Infomation:

  • Hansel and Gretel by Cynthia Rylant (2008)
  • Illustrated by Jen Coarce
  • Hyperion Books for Children
  • 32 pages

Read for the Once Upon a Time, Young Readers, and 100+ challenges

23 books in 23 days, children's books, fiction, reviews

Day one summary

In total I read four books today: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling, The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood, Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis, and I know an old lady who swallowed fly guy by Tedd Arnold.

The Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspirations for Writing (2004)
Monica Wood
256 pages

I received this book just yesterday from paperbackswap. The Pocket Muse is filled with exercises, quotes, and advice on writing. I read this in almost one sitting. Before I started I had a new pack of post-its for pages I liked. When I finished the book I had went through all of my post-its tagging page after page. One of my favorite exercises was “Inventing an Opposite” (what’s the opposite of a kiss?). Included also are black and white photos and fill in the blank sentences to inspire.

Not A Stick (2007)
Antoinette Portis
32 pages
2008 Cybil Nominee for Fiction Picture Book

I had to read this sequel to Not a Box. This time there’s a little pig whose imagination takes a stick and makes it so much more like a paintbrush and sword among other things.

There was an old lady who swallowed Fly Guy (2007)
Tedd Arnold
2008 Cybil Nominee for Easy Reader

A funny read about Fly Guy being swallowed by an old lady along with several farm animals.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard (2008)
J.K. Rowling
112 pages

Part of the world of Harry Potter, this book is a great addition for any HP fan’s library. My favorite stories were “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” “The Fountain of Fair Fortune,” and “The Tale of The Three Brothers.”

Now four down and nineteen to go.

children's books, Newberry Challenge, something about me reading challenge

The Tale of Despereaux

This is my newest favorite book! The Tale of Despereaux by Kate Dicamillo is a book about a mouse, a princess named Pea, a rat, and a slow-witted girl. This is such a great book. I started the book this morning only to be finished a couple of hours later. I was reading it for the Newberry challenge and also the Something about me challenge. Thanks Booklogged for suggesting it.