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 Goodreads.com: "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.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Celebrating Differences: The Very Sleepy Sloth by Andrew Murray and Jack Tickle

In a world that tries to pigeon hole children with standardized testing, The Very Sleepy Sloth by Andrew Murray and Jack Tickle shows that each of us has different abilities.

All the animals are awake and busy doing what they do best when they notice that sloth is lazily snoozing. They tell him to get up and do something. He challenges each of them to do something another animal is good at, and each of them fail. He explains that all of them, including himself are doing what they do best.

This book shows the importance of not comparing our weakness to another's strengths. We all have areas where we can shine. Helping children find their strengths builds self esteem.



Read to a child today even if that child you. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards

Published in 2010, Jame Richards' Three Rivers Rising is a historical fiction about the Johnstown Flood told in poetry form.

I enjoy books written in this format because it forces the writer to choose only the most important words which makes for an emotional impact. This book made me cry, which is a good thing because it means the writer knows her art form well.

Richards researched the Johnstown flood, added fictional characters, and created an interesting and heart rending story about class lines, culture, shunning, family relationships, bravery, and the incredible human spirit.

I loved Celestia's spirit and bravery. I liked the change in her father. Maura was brave, strong, and true. Kate took heartache and turned it into a new life for herself.

This novel is the well deserved winner of the PEN New England Children's Book Caucus Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award.

Richards lists non-fiction books for further reading about the Johnstown flood, and she includes a time line that shows what happened to cause this devastating flood.

This book is for older teens and adults because of the situations and themes it contains.

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

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A Whole Lot of Books for the NICU

Recently, Angie asked me how many books we've sent to the NICU since September of 2015 when we first started our project. 

In 2015, we delivered 365 books to the babies. So far in 2016, we've delivered 650 books to the babies. That means we've helped 203 babies begin their literary journey. This makes me happy because with knowledge comes power, emotional healing, and the ability to reason. 


This is what our latest delivery of 33 packets looked like. 

Michelle has been sending over a lot of books lately. She loves books the way I love books. Here are some of her contributions. There is The Napping House in this batch.
 Caps for Sale is such a fun read.


 Owen by the remarkable Kevin Henkes is a darling book.

I also had a couple of lovely ladies sell me some like new books for next to nothing (only a few dollars). 
Every books helps us help more babies. We have a hard time finding board books for a good price, and I like every packet to have at least one. Luckily, Seagull Book had a good sale on this cute book. I bought seventeen of them so I could make more packets. 

This cute book teaches the numbers one and two. The child can see the numeral, the spelling, and the items being counted. Your child can also learn about different animals with this book. This is a flap book but also a board book. At only 1.99, I couldn't pass it up. 

Check out the inside. 






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 Amazon.com 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.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Cookies: Bite-Size Live Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Have you ever wondered how to explain cooperation, patience, pride, modesty, respect, trustworthiness, fair-play, compassion, generosity, pessimism, optimism, courage, envy, loyalty, open-mindedness, regret, contentment, and wisdom to a child? Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons explains all these concepts using the baking and sharing of cookies.

Beautifully illustrated by Jane Dyer, this is a must have for your family library.

The story begins: "Cooperate means, How about you add the chips while I stir?"

A few pages in we learn: "Respect means offering the very first cookie to your grandmother."

Towards the end of the story: "Open-minded means, I've never seen cookies like that before, but, uh, sure, I'll try one."

My only complaint with this storybook is that part of the text is in cursive, which will make it hard for a pre-third grade student to read on their own. It is an excellent read aloud, though, and each concept is one to talk about. On the open-minded page, I would want my child to know that they don't take anything from a stranger, and if they feel uncomfortable with anything, they should walk away from it.

Each page could be expanded on as you read. Each page could stand alone as a trait to work on that day or week, so that the child (or even the adult) could incorporate it into their lives.

The book ends with a cookie recipe so that you and your little one can bake together.


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

Friday, July 29, 2016

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke

I had a hard time getting into Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke. I felt disconnected from the characters and nearly put it down. That changed with the introduction of the villain, Nettlebrand. Every dragon story needs a good villain, and while Nettlebrand isn't particularly complex, he is evil.

In Dragon Rider, a dragon, a boy, and a brownie seek a safe place in our modern day world for dragons to hide from humans encroaching in their living spaces. They need to stay hidden in order to stay alive and not end up on display. Unfortunately, there is a golden dragon by the name of Nettlebrand who loves to hunt and eat dragons more than any other thing.

I liked the relationships in the story and hope that Ben's character will be more fleshed out as the series progresses. This is book one of so far a two book series. Book two will be published in English in 2017.

If you like dragon books, you will probably enjoy this story.


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

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Crank by Ellen Hopkins

I enjoy book length poetry. In Crank by Ellen Hopkins, she tells the story of a girl addicted to meth. To say this book is depressing is an understatement. However, the format of the poetry was brilliant and the story is an important one for more mature teens. Published in 2004, this story is fiction but based on her daughter's addiction.

This book contains language, sex, rape, drug abuse, and teen pregnancy. That being said, Hopkins  brilliantly captures Kristina's descent into life with the monster called meth. If you have a loved one who has been captured by this monster, you will be able to relate to Kristina's journey. This story doesn't have a happy ending. In fact, it is one of a three book series. From experience, I know that there are few happy endings after someone gets addicted to meth. It is an insidious beast that twists the lives of those who take it inside out.

I enjoyed the format of the poems. Some are shaped like what Kristina is talking about and some have messages off to the side that fit into the larger poem. If you are a writer, I think you will enjoy the artistry of this novel.

I'll have to read the next two of the series to see what becomes of Kristina. I wish her the best, but from experience, I know that for many meth addicts, there is only despair awaiting them at the end of their journey.



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

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I Wish I Were a Butterfly by James Howe

I Wish I Were a Butterfly by James Howe is the story of the littlest cricket who doesn't want to make music. Instead, he wants to be a beautiful butterfly. A frog told him that he is the ugliest creature he's ever seen, and the cricket can't let go of these mean words.

Cricket meets many other insects who try to help him, but it takes him a long to time to believe what they say. By the end of the book, he finds his beautiful music which makes the butterfly envy him.

Ed Young is the illustrator of this beautiful story, and although I didn't buy this book for the pictures, they add to the mood and words and make the story come alive.


My grandson requested that I read this one on Youtube, so this one's for you, Isaac.



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

Monday, July 25, 2016

Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming

This is another book recommended to me by my friend Michelle. She really knows her books. Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming, published in 2002, is an amazingly fun read aloud.

When Mr. McGreely decides to plant a garden, he cannot keep the rabbits out of his produce. "But one night, when the sun went down and the moon came up, three hungry bunnies appeared. Tippy, Tippy - Tippy - Pat! Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!"

Mr. McGreely builds all sorts of obstacles around his garden, but he can't outsmart these rabbits. This book should be in every child's library.


The entire book:


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