Friday, January 20, 2017

Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

In Dear Mr. Henshaw, Beverly Cleary gets what it is like to be a child of divorce when your dad doesn't take any interest in you. I could relate to Leigh Botts and how he felt forgotten.

I enjoyed Leigh's writing process and how he became less dependent on Mr. Henshaw for feedback as he began to write in a journal. This Newbery winner was published in 1983, yet it is still relevant to today's students. 

This book would work well with a writing unit to help students be more original writers instead of trying to copy what someone else is doing. This book shows the importance of voice and of expanding our reading lists. 



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

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

For those who have ever wanted to switch places with someone from a different lifestyle, The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain is a warning of the dangers of doing so and the knowledge that can be gained when we walk a mile in the shoes of another.

This story is classic Mark Twain. The growth in Prince Edward who was kind yet uniformed of what common folk went through was rewarding for the reader. The growth in Tom Canty, the abused son of a thief was also profound. Both boys were good people who became better people after a chance encounter placed Prince Edward as Tom Canty, and Tom Canty as Prince Edward.

I listened to this book on Librivox as read by John Greenman. He is a good narrator.


Read to a child today or let LibriVox do so for you. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Parallel Journeys by Eleanor Ayer with Helen Waterford and Alfons Heck

Parallel Journeys is the story of Helen Waterford, a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust and Alfons Heck, a high ranking Hitler Youth. They didn't meet during the WWII, but after the war they meet and spoke out against what happened during the Holocaust.

This was the first memoir I've read that tells the story from the perspective of a person who participated with exuberance in Hitler's plan to destroy an entire race. I found Alfons Heck's honesty haunting and courageous. He details how Hitler trained the youth of Germany to hate Jews and to embrace Germany as the master race that would control the world. The brainwashing of the children was methodical and well planned. Heck was able to realize that he too was a victim of Hitler's evil. 

Eleanor Ayer's husband died in the death camps and she nearly died. They sent their young daughter into hiding, and she survived, but after being away from her parents for three years, she had a hard time adjusting to her mother. So much was stolen from Ayer. 

I enjoyed reading about their speaking tours and how some people were angry with Ayer because she sat alongside a member of the Hitler Youth - one that had fought and killed allied troops. I appreciated her ability to forgive and to understand the he too was a victim. 

Heck said, ""When I speak to young people, the message I hope that they most remember is this: the murder of eleven million people in the Holocaust began very simply with prejudice, minor harassment. If you allow harassment to grow and fester, if you do nothing to stop it, then you become one of the perpetrators. What began in the Hitler years as minor harassment turned, in the end, to genocide" (226).

This is an important book that was written for readers over age ten and shows the importance of kindness and fighting against bigotry of any kind. 

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




Friday, January 13, 2017

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson is about two girls who suffer from Anorexia. One of them dies at the start of the story, and the other, Lia, is left to fight the battle.

Published in 2009, this book is up to date and hard hitting as many of Anderson's books are. The reader gets to experience Lia's downfall as she tries to deal with her own eating and cutting disorders along with her guilt over Cassie's death.

This book is potentially triggering for those with eating disorders or those who cut, but it could also be a book of healing for those with eating disorders and those who cut.

Although I felt the book had some pacing issues, I enjoyed the story and all the poetic words that bothered some other reviewers. I like language that helps me visualize the story, and Anderson is very good at making the reader see the story. I also liked her use of strike-out formatting. I felt it worked for the character and the intended audience.

I felt for Lia's parents. I found myself asking, "What would I do in their shoes?" How do you help a child when you don't understand what they are feeling, when they won't do the work needed to get well, when your insurance won't cover treatment?

I liked the growth in Lia's character and how realistic she seemed in her relationships with everyone around her. Nothing felt contrived - only brutally real. Her stepmom was wonderful, real, not the evil stepmother archetype, but instead a woman of great compassion who was frustrated and trying to protect her own child.

I think those who know someone with an eating or cutting disorder could be helped by reading this. This is definitely a book for older teens and adults. With a Lexile of 730L, this makes a good high/low book for older teens that haven't become avid readers yet.


I love the cover art of this novel.

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

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

2016 Gifts to the NICU Book Project

Check this out: Carolyn Rich-Denson donated 68 brand new books to our NICU book project. Sixty of the books are board books which are so valuable for little hands. Babies need to touch and turn pages without worrying about harming the books. Thank you Carolyn. I always run out of board books, so your donation will help build a lot of packets.


My friend, Michelle, has been beyond generous to our book project. Look at all the fun books she found for the babies - 39 more books of all types. I appreciate her consistent support of this project. She donated 365 books to our project last year - one for each day of the year.



Because of donations like these and from other people who have donated books this year, we were able to continue this project in a bigger way than I could ever do on my own. Thank you all for your support.

I feel that these gifts honor my two babies who didn't survive pregnancy as this project was started in their memory and that of two grandchildren who didn't survive pregnancy. These books are gifts that help other babies who were born too soon or who were born needing the services of the NICU.

2016 donors:

  • Michelle Schwendiman
  • Carolyn Rich-Densen
  • Janet Newbold
  • Angela Jensen
  • Cayli and Brandon Johnson
  • Alysen Jeffries
  • Angie Moore (my NICU nurse daughter)
  • Anne Marie Stirbis
  • Catherine Crosby (me)


Together we gathered a total of 1,123 books for the NICU in 2016, which is nearly double what they would have received had I been doing this on my own. This means we gave 224 babies a packet of five books. 224 families were able to read to their babies while their babies were in the NICU. 224 families were able to start building lifelong readers and help their babies develop stronger vocabularies and attention spans. 224 families were able to use books to calm themselves in a stressful situation. 

Thanks to each of you who made this possible. 

Email me if you'd like to know how to contribute to our NICU project as we are always looking for good quality books for infants and toddlers for this project. 

Edited to add: Here is a link to a book registry at Amazon where you can purchase books that will be shipped to us for the babies. Book Registry at Amazon for NICU

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Odyssey by Homer

I listened to The Odyssey (version 1) by Homer on LibriVox. I didn't expect to like this book that was written centuries ago, but I found it fascinating. If you enjoy Greek mythology, you will like this book. If you have a reader who loved the Percy Jackson series, they will like this book.

Greek mythology contains illicit love affairs, violence, and mayhem, and Homer's depiction will keep you reading or listening. I wanted to flay the suitors and make them go away. I loved how faithful Penelope remains to Odysseus. I loved the trickery of the gods and how the story ends.

Don't be afraid of a 1200 year-old text. It is an understandable and wonderful adventure.



Read an old book today and see if it can become a new friend.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Skin I'm In by Sharon G Flake

I found The Skin I'm In by Sharon G Flake at a book sale at the library, ten cents for a book. I feel almost guilty about it, but at this point whatever feeds my book addiction and is legal, is good for  me. Finding sales like this helps to offset my $100 Barnes and Noble shopping sprees.

I enjoy reading books about cultures other than my own as I like to learn something new when I read. I didn't think I'd have anything in common with the characters of this story, but while this story is about Black Americans, anyone could relate to the themes in this story.

Every person on the planet has to learn to accept themselves and the skin they are in. Maleeka has very dark skin, like her father who has died. She is teased about being too dark. She gets a new teacher who has a white splotch across her face, probably vitiligo. Maleeka wants to fit in, she wants nice clothes, and she wants to be liked. All of these needs cause her to put herself in bad situations. Maleeka is a good person, though. She cares about her mother and wears the ill made clothing her mom makes for her because she feels like the act of sewing helps keep her mother sane. Maleeka is a good writer, and her writing gives her strength.

This book made me think about the skin I am in and how acceptance in most communities, black or white, often is hard to come by. I am white - pasty, Casper the Ghost colored white, so white that I was told I was a brunette albino. I used to look at Oprah Winfrey and covet her beautiful skin. And then the cult I was raised in, spread the rumor that my father was black because they were complete racists and wanted to hurt us. My mom was hurt by it, but my sisters and I didn't take it seriously and fortunately, we all made it out of that cult. Being the subject of that rumor helped keep us safe from those who normally would have wanted us for breeding purposes.

My oldest son has vitiligo, which isn't a horrible thing to have when you are the color of paste because the white spots are barely noticeable. He has to keep those spots protected from the sun, but otherwise he is not bothered by them. This made me think about how hard it must have been for Michael Jackson to have this skin condition and how people ridiculed him because of it.

The truth of the matter is that we all have to live in the skin we are in. We are born with the skin we have, and we have no control over the color of it or the skin conditions that may happen to it. All we can do is to value all people, no matter their skin color or condition, no matter their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. May we see the good in those around us and understand that everyone is just trying to live in the skin they are in.


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

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Although I probably should have read this years ago, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom came into my life at exactly the right time.

You see, I've been questioning a lot of sad things in our world lately. There have been too many senseless deaths in my life, and I wonder why. . .why things are how they are. Why things can't be better. Why drug abuse takes so many, and why depression isn't cured yet.

Corrie Ten Boom was raised by remarkable people, people who embraced all. Their love of mankind was so deep that they risked their own lives to safe others during the Holocaust. Their love of God and Jesus Christ was so great that they were able to see others as good - even people who had done horrible things to them - and forgive, love, and help those people find the light.

Corrie's sister, Betsie was probably one of the best people who has ever lived. She gave thanks and appreciated everything, even thanking God for the fleas that tormented them in the concentration camp. I thought surely she had lost her mind, but those fleas played a role in her story. Her attitude has changed the way I think about things, and I can only hope that I can stay upbeat in times of stress.

Their love and study of the scriptures helped them know what God would have them do, gave them strength through time spent in concentration camps and prison, and gave them hope and vision of how they could change the world by helping others. I was impressed that they were willing to share the scriptures of other faiths and see those truths along with truths from their own scriptures.

I love this book. One of the stories Corrie tells is of how as a child she sees the word sexsin in a poem and asks her father what it means. He answers her with an object lesson. They are on a train and ready to disembark. He says to Corrie as he puts his heavy traveling case on the floor, "Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?"

"I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning."

"It's too heavy," I said.

"Yes," he said. "And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you" (26, 27).

Later in the story, Corrie is asked, "What kind of God would let that old man die here in Scheveningen?" (a prison).

"I got up from the chair and held my hands out to the squat little stove. I did not understand either why Father had died in such a place. I did not understand a great deal. And suddenly I was thinking of Father's own answer to hard questions: "Some knowledge is too heavy . . . you cannot bear it . . . Your Father will carry it until you are able" (163).

This really hit me. I need to trust in the Lord. I also need to study his words more thoroughly as peace, comfort, and answers are found there.


Read today as the book you read may be just what you need. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

To Market, To Market by Anne Miranda Illustrated by Janet Stevens

I'll admit that I bought this book for the wonderful illustrations but was glad I did because the story is fun.

To Market, To Market by Anne Miranda Illustrated by Janet Stevens was published in 1997. The story begins with "To market, to market to buy a fat pig. Home again, home again jiggity jig!"

The settings are done in black and white but the items the woman buys are in vivid color. Each time she goes to the market, the animals she has left at home have gotten into some type of trouble. Your child (and yourself) will wonder just what she is going to do with all these animals.

I like this book because there are plenty of opportunities for predicting what will happen next. Each page is full of different types of food and animals, which makes for fun observing and discussing.



Spend some time in a book with a child today even if it's just you and your inner child. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Small Pig by Arnold Lobel

Small Pig by Arnold Lobel was a big hit with Angie's kids. Small pig has a happy life until the farmer's wife get a little carried away with her cleaning and vacuums up his mud puddle. He runs away from home and gets into all sorts of scary situations trying to find a restful mud puddle.

At last he finds a mud puddle, but the children listening to or reading the story can see that the mud puddle is really wet cement. Will small pig be rescued? Will he be stuck in the concrete forever? The farmer and his wife are looking everywhere for their small pig. Will they save the day?

Arnold Lobel is a good storyteller and his cute pictures are just right for this story.


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


Friday, December 2, 2016

Eyelike Numbers by Play Bac Publishing

I have a daughter who loves numbers. When she was little, she counted everything including holes in ceiling tile. She knows who she is. She would have loved this book as a child as it explains numbers and how they work with beautiful photographs. Eyelike Numbers 

Here is a peak inside: Think of the number word power your child will have after reading this book.
 A pair, twins, a couple:
 A lot, plenty, a few, zero:
Counting and multiplying by ten:
 Smaller than, bigger than:
 Even and odd numbers:
 Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division all get a shout out:


Your child gets fifty-five beautiful pages of numbers and math vocabulary. If you have a numbers aficionado at your house, they will love this book. My two-year-old granddaughter, Aria, enjoyed reading this with me and identifying number and colors. She also enjoyed counting the items on each page.


Read to a child today because with reading, your child can learn everything.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A is for Zebra: A Happy Ending on Every Page by Mark Shulman

A is for Zebra: A Happy Ending on Every Page by Mark Shulman and illustrated by Tamara Petrosino is the newest addition to my collection of alphabet books. I collect alphabet books that I find delightful (I collect a lot of books for that very same reason).
What do you mean, A is for Zebra? How can that be? Take a look at the first three pages and see if you can figure it out.




The pictures are fun and this book will help your reader think - to really look at words and see why they fit or why they don't. Children's books are wonderful, with them you can find ways to teach any concept.


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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Comfort Reading: Clementine and the Family Meeting by Sara Pennypacker

Lately in my circle of friends and family, there have been several deaths - only one of which was expected. I find that when life gets hard, I need books that are comforting, books that don't make me think too hard, books that are not sad or too deep.

I reached for the fifth book in the Clementine Series by Sara Pennypacker. I knew that Clementine would delight me because she reminds me of my youngest daughter (who also delights me). I knew that I could finish the book in an hour or two. I knew that I would come away from the reading feeling a little better as I read about the love Clementine has for everyone and read about how good parents parent.

I was not disappointed. In Clementine's family; when they have something they need to discuss, they call a family meeting, and now that the family meeting sign is up, Clementine is worried sick that she's done something wrong because that is usually why family meetings are held. Instead, she is told that their family situation is going to change and she is uncertain if she likes the new changes.

I enjoy seeing Clementine conquer her fears and grow in each installment of this series. This is a perfect series for younger readers because it tackles issues that matter to them - things that adults may deem unimportant but to a child are pretty big deals.

This series would also make a great read-aloud.

Read to a child today, especially if that child needs some tender nurturing and comfort. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

NICU Delivery

We delivered 17 packets of books to the NICU last week. That means eighty-five more books are blessing the lives of our littlest new babies.

Michelle brought more books over because she is awesome like that, and one of our teacher friends is going to donate some of her Scholastic bookclub points for books for the babies.



One of the best gifts you can give your young child is a love of reading. Reading to your child builds your relationship as they snuggle on your lap and learn, laugh, and bond with you. Your child will be a better student and have a better attention span if you read to them.

Contact me if you'd like to donate books to the NICU babies.

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


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

ish by Peter H Reynolds

ish is a sweet book about Ramon who loves to draw. He draws all the time until one day his older brother laughs at Ramon's art. Ramon is heartsick and now feels he isn't a good artist. He keeps working on his art, but at the end of each attempt, he crumples his drawing and throws it across the room.

He tries for months to become a better artist, but he gives up and decides to quit drawing until an encounter with his little sister shows him an appreciation for his art that he didn't previously have.

I like this story because Peter Reynolds shows children with his art and words to not allow someone's unkind words to sink us. He also shows how kinds words build us and allow us to be our best selves.

If you have a budding artist in your life, they may love this sweet storybook.


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