Friday, October 21, 2016

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Remodeling a home along with LibriVox is helping me get through my stack of classic literature as I listen to my books instead of read them.

I listened to Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. This delightful tale pokes fun at a lot of things - parents thinking they can't afford their children, using a dog as a nanny instead of a person, putting dad in the kennel as penance.

The story is not politically correct by today's standards, but I enjoyed the tale for the most part. I struggled with how inept Mr. Darling is because it makes for a book without any positive male role models and our children need those. The women and animals are strong which is nice for girls, but I don't care to make one gender better at the expense of the other gender.

When the Darling children learn to fly, it is  most magical, and I think most children have wished for the power of flight, which is one reason they love swings. Swinging as high as we can, jumping out, and for one brief moment before we hit the ground, we fly.

The problem with Peter Pan is that he allows Wendy to grow up too soon while he only plays at being dad for the lost boys. If all the women grow up and the men don't, we are left with chaos and incredibly annoyed women. If you leave out the deeper meanings of this story, it is a fun tale of adventure with pirates, crocodiles, mermaids, fairies, lost boys dressed as wild animals, flying, and returning home to a mother's love.

Read to a child today even if that child is you, or allow LibriVox to do your reading for you. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Abel's Island by William Steig

Abel's Island by William Steig was published in 1976 and won a Newbery Honor. The entire time I read this sweet little book, I thought about how fun it would be to teach this novel along with a science unit. There are so many experiments and research projects that would tie right in to the story line.

Reading this made me miss my colleague and friend, Jeanne Bostwick, who is a stellar middle school science teacher, and when we taught, we tied what my Language Arts students were reading into what she taught them in the science classroom. If you have the ability to teach across the curriculum, this the perfect book.

Abel, a mouse, is swept up in a storm and deposited on an island in the middle of a river. Over the course of a year, he attempts to get off the island by using his creativity and thinking things through. I love each attempt and how he gets frustrated at times, but he keeps trying demonstrating a growth mindset. Your students could recreate what Abel does and see if their attempts work out better than Abel's. Abel has to survive by gathering the native edibles on the island; could your students survive a winter in the wilds? What would they do to prepare shelter and food?

Steig includes many fun illustrations, so this little 120 page book filled with pictures makes a quick and fun read.

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson

This is another book I listened to using the LibriVox app. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is a classic, and I can see why it appealed so greatly to teen boys of yesteryear and why it is still in print today.

Jim Hawkins, the main character is a teen, impetuous, brave even when he is shaking in his boots, and willing to do good. His courage and adventurous nature make him a likable character.

Long John Silver is the villain, yet he is truly fond of Jim Hawkins. He is a multi-layered character who is both charming and frightening - my most favorite kind of villain.

There are many other characters who bring this story to life and keep this novel published in 1882 a true classic. This may become a breakfast book for my son. In case you are unsure what a breakfast book is, it is a book that I read to my teen son after he is ready for school while he eats breakfast. This allows us to have a pleasant morning and gets his brain in gear for school.

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas is a classic that most will enjoy. This is an epic saga of a story that covers several decades. I listened to this novel on  the LibriVox app, and the narrator was wonderful. Although this novel is huge, I was sad to see it end as the story sucked me right in.

The heartbreak of Edmond Dantès and Mercedes when their lives were nearly destroyed by the covetous Fernand will make you want revenge for them.

Edmond goes through quite the growth process in this novel which asks the question, if you could be fate, would you? How far would you go as fate? What if you were innocently sentenced to years in a horrible prison in solitary confinement - then how far would you take your revenge? There were many characters that played a part in hurting Edmond, and I loved seeing how he returned to them what they had given him. I also loved how he played fate to those who had done all they could to help him.

The characters are well developed and multi dimensional. Abbé Faria was one of my favorites. At first, I believed, like the jailers, that he was completely delusional. I loved seeing how Dumas wrote him and the effect he had on Edmond Dantes. I found myself engrossed in their attempt to escape prison.

I loved all the characters that Edmond played, but through it all, he had such a broken sadness. The ending is satisfying, and if you get confused on the plot line, go to for help.

This is a novel that stays with you and has rightfully earned it place in the canon.

Read to a child today or allow LibriVox to read to you. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini was recommended to me by my friend, Michelle, and I'm glad I read it. 

So often when I think of wars, I feel detached from it because it is happening over there, but "over there" is home for someone and those someones are suffering greatly because of war. 

A Thousand Splendid Suns begins during a time of peace in Afganistan where we meet Mariam as a youg girl. Unfortunately, she is the bastard daughter of a rich man who already has three wives, and while he loves her, he is unwilling to help her the way he should because of the wishes of those three wives. 

Years go by and we meet Laila. At first I thought their stories would not connect and kept thinking, but what about Mariam - what happened to Mariam because I liked her so much. Laila's path will cross with Mariam's because of tragedy. When their stories get woven together, we learn why women need a voice in government. We learn why women and children are the most vulnerable during war. We learn how women support one another with love, caring, and superhuman courage in times of peace and in times of turmoil. 

This book is incredibly sad; however, it is beautifully written and has a good ending. The characters even the evil Rasheed are well written and complex. 

This story shows the reality of war, what it does to people, and why we need to care about what goes on over there. People like Mariam and Laila are good reasons for the USA to get involved in wars in other countries.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson was first published in 1886, and I am almost ashamed to admit that I haven't read it until recently. I read a few pages of the old Scholastic copy I own from 1965, but we are in the middle of a remodel, so reading time has been limited, but I have a free app from LibriVox that has the audio of many books that are in public domain, so I listened to Kidnapped while I packed the house for the remodel and bottled fruit before I lost my kitchen for eight weeks.

Robert Louis Stevenson is one of the old masters for a reason, and this book shows why. My only complaint was to wonder why David Balour's father hadn't told him more about his rotten uncle. Of course if he had, David's entire adventure would have never taken place.

I loved David's friendship with Alan and how realistic it was. Sometimes they struggled to get along, but they were loyal to each other anyway. Stevenson builds the spirit of suspense well, and I worried tremendously about David and Alan.

The story wraps up nicely, but I've since learned that there is a sequel Catriona, so I'll have to see if the ending worked out as nicely as I thought.

I'll be listening to many classics in the next little while. Currently, I am listening to The Count of Monte Cristo, and I am enjoying it so much that I will hate to see it end.

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


During our remodel, I haven't had as much time to read printed books. However, I own 608 books that are waiting to be read. Because many of these are classic books that are now in the public domain, I am able to listen to them using the free app LibriVox. The books are read by volunteers, some of which are complete masters of storytelling.

This week I listed to Little Women and Little Men by Louisa May Alcott. It is almost shameful that I waited until now to listen to/ read these books. While they are a bit didactic, I still enjoyed the stories, especially now when our world seems to esteem that which is corrupt over that which is good.

Little Women moved a bit slowly at first and Alcott often includes things in the story that could have been edited out, but over all both novels are endearing and show the importance of relationships and the ability we have to help one another.

I'd watched the movie of Little Women and did not like how Amy was portrayed. In the novel, she is a darling girl - a bit consumed with appearance, but she learns and grows and becomes a stellar adult. I love how Jo's future husband is portrayed in the novel verses how he is portrayed in the movie. In the movie I wanted her to end up with Laurie, but in the novel, I wanted her to end up with Mr. Bhaer.

I loved how Alcott showed the strengths and weaknesses of the characters and showed how they worked to improve themselves. I have seven sisters, so the relationships between the sisters touched my heart and reminded me of how thankful I am for all of them.

I loved all the parenting advice gained from both novels.

Little Men follows Jo as she creates a home for boys. I loved Nat and Dan the very most of all her boys. I loved how Mother and Father Bhaer created a place where the unwanted and unloved could become all they could be. I could see why Dan was such a hard case and why he did all he could to remain aloof.

My only complaints were that I felt it a bit didactic, and I couldn't understand why the children with families weren't with them for Thanksgiving. I also struggled with Meg allowing her children to live away from her.

Both books gave me a happy feeling even though at times they made me cry.

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I'm Here and Still Collecting Books

We are in the middle of a massive remodel of the main floor of our home, so I've been neglecting my blog, and instead I've been patching, painting, and cleaning up messes from construction crews. Today, I have two different crews upstairs, so I am hiding in the basement, which gives me a chance to play internet catch up.

We delivered 125 more books to NICU babies last week thanks to helpful contributors.

Cayli and Brandon from Nightchayde brought me four board books. They know that we are always short of board books, so these are appreciated greatly.

My sweet neighbor, Michelle, never allows an opportunity to find books for our project pass her by. She brings a stack of books each month and helps us reach so many babies.

Janet Newbold is a new contributor to our project. She was my granddaughter, Callie's, teacher, and she sent fifty-three books for the babies.

The parents in the NICU express their thanks for us providing reading material for their babies. When you are in an emergency situation, you don't think about bringing books, but these books bring great comfort to both the parents and the babies.

This little project has touched so many lives, and I am thankful that my own twins who were not able to survive have been the catalyst for this. Thanks to all who help us by donating books. I appreciate it more than you know.

If you'd like to contribute to our book drive for NICU babies, here is how you can help:

1. You can order books for your own children (of all ages) from our online Usborne book party and the proceeds will go to purchase books for the NICU. I've received over $350.00 in free books for the NICU from people buying books for their own families through this web link. Usborne is really good to their hostesses, and they have great board books for babies. Click on the link: Usborne book sale to benefit NICU The books you order will be shipped directly to your home. You can then give them to your children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews. The free books from the hostess benefits go to the NICU. 

2. We have set up a baby registry at with many books listed for the NICU babies. Some of these books only cost $2.50. Many of these are classics that all children should have. Click on this link if you'd like to help provide books for the NICU: Catherine Crosby Building Lifelong Readers Book Registry. If you order books for us, they will be shipped to me, and I will package and send them to the NICU. 

Read to a child today even if that child is you.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ellie's Story by W. Bruce Cameron

If you have a dog loving child in your life, this is the book for them. Ellie's Story by W. Bruce Cameron is told from puppy Ellie's point of view - of being a puppy in her litter, of being chosen and leaving her litter, and of being trained to be a search and rescue dog.

The story is just right for younger readers with a lexile measure of 620L. The story is interesting and will help a child see the value of animals. This story shows that animals are a responsibility, that they need love, training, respect, and a lot of time, but that with that investment, an animal will give all that and more back to you.

I enjoyed how Cameron wove Ellie's story into those of her handlers, and how even after she retired, she still had a purpose. She was a dog that loved to work. 

This is a sweet story that although there are scary and traumatic parts, it isn't too scary. 

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

First off let me say that I love Fredrk Backman's writing style, and while this book isn't as dear to me as A Man Called Ove, I still enjoyed it. And if you haven't read A Man Called Ove, I highly recommend it.

The characters are quirky and real. Elsa is a seven year old genius, but at times the writing of Elsa is a bit off. Sometimes she is brilliant and knows all the grammar rules and sometimes she can't pronounce a word correctly. This was my only hang-up with this book, but I loved her gumption and how she noticed the superpowers of the people around her.

Elsa's grandmother was a woman before her time. She was a surgeon, and often did things to shock people. When she dies, she leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to those she has wronged. She gives the Elsa the task of delivering the letters and describes this as a treasure hunt that goes along with the fairy tales that she and Elsa have shared.

I loved the characters. Backman makes the characters nearly come off the page. I also loved the seven kingdoms of the fairy tales and what they stand for. I'll let you discover that part for yourself, but I made notes in the back of my book about them, and I hope to remember to have all seven kingdoms in my own life in order keep things balanced.

This is a tender story of learning to accept others, to forgive, and to understand self. If you've ever had a complicated relationship with someone you love, you will relate to this story.

Read to a child today even if that child is you.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Alboom

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Alboom was different than what I was expecting. I thought this book would be preachier, and to be honest, I wasn't really looking forward to reading it, but instead of a lecture, this book made me think.

Books that make me think are ones that stay with me because my brain has twirled things around a bit. This slim 196 page volume made me question my life, who has touched my life, and whose lives I may have touched, and I wonder, who will I meet in heaven?

There are people I really hope to see again in heaven, but will they be the ones to welcome me home? This little book is fiction, so heaven may or may not be what this books says, but this book makes me want to be a better human, to understand our connections to one another, to reach out more, and to be a little kinder.

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld

Duck! Rabbit! is such a fun read aloud that your child will love deciding with you whether the picture is a duck or a rabbit. This cute story ends with a new animal that looks like it could be a dinosaur or an anteater.

Each person who sees the pictures forms their own opinion making this a fast read with a lot of thought. I've included a video of the story so you can decide for yourself if this is a duck or a rabbit. My little grandson, Jace, likes this one a lot.

 Not sure why it went sideways but it is better than upside down.

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Throwback Thursday: The Scapegoat by Daphne Du Maurier

The Scapegoat by Daphne Du Maurier was published in 1956. This is a filling novel - meaning is stays with you. I thought about the story line a lot while I was reading it, and it has stayed with me since I finished it.

Blurb from Barnes and Noble: 

"Someone jolted my elbow as I drank and said, 'Je vous demande pardon,' and as I moved to give him space he turned and stared at me and I at him, and I realized, with a strange sense of shock and fear and nausea all combined, that his face and voice were known to me too well.

I was looking at myself."

Two men—one English, the other French—meet by chance in a provincial railway station and are astounded that they are so much alike that they could easily pass for each other. Over the course of a long evening, they talk and drink. It is not until he awakes the next day that John, the Englishman, realizes that he may have spoken too much. His French companion is gone, having stolen his identity. For his part, John has no choice but to take the Frenchman's place—as master of a chateau, director of a failing business, head of a large and embittered family, and keeper of too many secrets.

Loaded with suspense and crackling wit, The Scapegoat tells the double story of the attempts by John, the imposter, to escape detection by the family, servants, and several mistresses of his alter ego, and of his constant and frustrating efforts to unravel the mystery of the enigmatic past that dominates the existence of all who live in the chateau.

Hailed by the New York Times as a masterpiece of "artfully compulsive storytelling," The Scapegoat brings us Daphne du Maurier at the very top of her form.

I find Du Maurier an excellent storyteller. She divulges enough to keep me turning pages, but she generally surprises me with her endings. This is not to say that I always like her endings. I didn't like the ending to this story, partly because I wasn't done reading. I wanted a sequel. I felt attached to this family and wanted to know what happened next after she ended it. I could have keep reading for several hundred more pages.

Du Maurier makes the reader think about human motivation, good verses evil, and the desire to be connected to others. I will be purchasing her other novels. She is that good of a writer. If you liked The Birds or Rebecca, you will probably like this novel.

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson writes historical fiction well. Forge, the second book in the Seeds of America series, follows Curzon, who escaped with Isabel in Chains.

Blurb from "In this compelling sequel to Chains, a National Book Award Finalist and winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson shifts perspective from Isabel to Curzon and brings to the page the tale of what it takes for runaway slaves to forge their own paths in a world of obstacles—and in the midst of the American Revolution."

"The Patriot Army was shaped and strengthened by the desperate circumstances of the Valley Forge winter. This is where Curzon the boy becomes Curzon the young man. In addition to the hardships of soldiering, he lives with the fear of discovery, for he is an escaped slave passing for free. And then there is Isabel, who is also at Valley Forge—against her will. She and Curzon have to sort out the tangled threads of their friendship while figuring out what stands between the two of them and true freedom."

I love how Anderson connects the reader to the trials that Curzon and Isabel faced, and reading this series can help us learn about the history of our country, and the history of slavery. At the beginning of each chapter, Anderson includes a journal entry from real people during the same time period. This helps the reader know that real people experienced the things that fictional Curzon and Isabel did.

I like the friendship between Curzon and Eben, and how Curzon helped him see that freedom should be for everyone, not just white people. I liked the descriptions of what the soldiers went through during the Revolutionary War.

I'll definitely get the third and final book, Ashes, of this series.

Read to a child today even if that child is you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli

Eileen Spinelli's book Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch shows the power of our own thoughts. Mr. Hatch is a normal, quiet man who keeps to himself until one Valentine's Day when the mailman delivers a giant box of candy from a secret admirer with a note that says, "Somebody loves you."

Mr. Hatch finds himself being more outgoing. He shares the candy, helps a sick acquaintance, and finds that he now has many, many friends.  But, the mailman comes back, and frantically explains that he delivered the giant box of candy to him by mistake.

Mr Hatch, alone in his living room after the mail carrier leaves, sighs, "Nobody loved me after all." He reverts to his old way of keeping to himself, and he is quite sad. His new friends notice and remember the kindnesses he showed them when he thought he had a secret admirer. His friends come up with a plan to help brighten his day and he realizes that someone - in fact a lot of people love Mr. Hatch.

What we perceive about ourselves becomes our truth. Make sure your thoughts about yourself are kind.

Read to a child today even if that child is you.