Monday, October 31, 2016

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

If it wasn't for LibriVox, I wouldn't be getting through any of my books during painting time. I listened to Bleak House by Charles Dickens this week and for now, it is my second favorite Dickens - A Christmas Carol being my favorite.

I listened to version three with Mil Nicholson as the narrator, and this narrator made the story come alive changing voice to match each character even getting their characteristics correctly.

This is Esther's story mostly, but interwoven with her story is the Jarndyce vs Jarndyce court case, a sailor, a lost son, a lost mother, orphans, sickness, friendships, and many other people.

I loved Esther's guardian, and how he put others first. He was a treasure of a man. I love how Dickens shows class issues and social issues without being didactic about it. The reader can see how things were and make a judgement for themselves. I also loved Dickens sense of humor in this story and found myself chuckling at times.

Dickens, as many writers from his time period, goes on a bit too much at times and could certainly pare down the story, but this was first published as a weekly series, so he had room to be a bit verbose.

The friendships in this story are realistic. The people are realistic - flaws and all, which makes me like them all the more. Some consider this Dickens' masterpiece and it is indeed a masterpiece of storytelling.



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




Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Shout Out

I am lucky to live next door to and across the street from two amazing ladies. They are kind to my NICU book project - a project that honors the lost lives of my twins who were born too soon and honors the parents and babies fighting for life in the NICU.

Alysen brought me five board books. I put one board book in every single package for each baby. Babies need books they can handle, chew on, and not rip to pieces. She brought a book with cat ears - so cute. Alysen loves animals especially cats.


Michelle found this collection of board books at Costco. These are only $2 each and so sturdy for little hands. 

She also brought me a huge collection of paperbacks and hardbacks. She found quite a few Spanish books.


I appreciate help with this project because if I were Queen of the World, every baby would have a library of fun books to help them on their reading journey. Although we are unable to provide a whole library, the babies at McKayDee NICU get a taste of books with our packets of five books for each baby.

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.

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. AbbĂ© 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 Sparknotes.com 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

LibriVox

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 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.