Friday, November 17, 2017

Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey

I read an ARC of Haunting Violet, and I always feel a little weird reviewing an ARC as I know that final edits will be made before printing. This allows me to be a little more lenient.

Haunting Violet is a ghost story that I think will appeal to teen girls. I like ghost stories, so I enjoyed it, and I am way beyond my teen years. Haunting Violet is set in 1872, and Violet's mother is a professed spiritual medium. She is a beautiful woman and a good actress, so she is able to fool everyone. Violet and their young servant Colin, assist with the seances, and while Violet doesn't feel good about lying to people, it is how her mother supports them. Her mother has a terrible temper, so Violet does as she is told.

During a seance, Violet is visited by a ghost, but she doesn't want her mother to know that she really can see and hear ghosts as her mother will make her become a spiritual medium. As the haunting of Violet becomes more severe, she works hard to keep her mother from finding out that she has the gift that her mother pretends to have.

The story is good, as is the suspense. I liked the friendship between Violet and Colin, and between Violet and Elizabeth. Issues of class and gender are brought up and handled well without taking power from Violet.

Some of the real seance scenes were a bit over the top, but I think teen readers will enjoy them. As a person who believes in and has seen spirits, I wanted it to be more like my own experiences.

I like the resolution of the story and felt the pacing of the book was right on. This book also has a cool cover that will appeal to the intended audience.



Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit so their parents can read to them while they grow. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address. We can use both English and Spanish books. If you have a graduate of the NICU, or if you have a baby whose life you would like to honor by donating books to this project, let me know, and I can make a book plate with their name for the books you donate.

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Prodigy book 2 of the Legend series by Marie Lu

Prodigy is book two of the Legend series by Marie Lu. I read the first book several years ago for brown bag and book at my school, but I was able to jump right into this one and remember what was going on.

Marie Lu writes a memorable story, and because she writes well, I remembered a lot of the story from the first book. I enjoyed Legend, but I liked Prodigy even more. The story takes place in the future and the United States has crumbled. Some want to put the country back together and recreate a democracy, and others want to keep the totalitarian government.

This books picks up right where Legend leaves off. In Legend, the reader understood who was good and who was bad. Things aren't so simple in Prodigy. The story digs deeper, and Day and June struggle to figure out which side they should fight for. The politics are a bit more complicated, and the love interests multiply.

This story alternates from Day's and June's points of view just like in Legend. Day is trying to find his little brother, while he and June go to work for the Patriots. Their characters developed even more and the action is fast paced.

I have already put the third book, Champion on my wish list.


Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit so their parents can read to them while they grow. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address. We can use both English and Spanish books. If you have a graduate of the NICU, or if you have a baby whose life you would like to honor by donating books to this project, let me know, and I can make a book plate with their name for the books you donate.

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Al Capone at Alcatraz Series by Gennifer Choldenko

I have read the first three books of this series by Gennifer Choldenko. I love historical fiction, and Choldenko has just the right balance of mystery, history, humor, and tension in this series. The fourth book is set to come out in the fall of 2017, so right away, and I will certainly add it to my collection.

I read the first book Al Capone Does my Shirts several years ago. Published in 2004, this Newbery Honor book tells the story of Moose Flanagan, a young boy whose father is an electrician on Alcatraz, and he and his family live on the island. Piper Williams, the warden's daughter, is quite the schemer, and may end up in a cell if she isn't careful. Moose also had a sister, Natalie, who I would guess has some form of autism and isn't accepted by society during the time period of 1935.

The story involves baseball, con men, inmates, and of course Al Capone.



The second book is called Al Capone Shines My Shoes, and continues Moose Flanagan's story. We see his relationship with his friends further develop, and his like/hate relationship with Piper also continues. Moose connects with Al Capone, and Al Capone needs a favor from Moose.



In the third book, Al Capone Does My Homework, Moose's dad has been promoted to associate warden, and all sorts of trouble breaks loose. His father now has a price on his head, and after a fire in their apartment, Natalie is blamed and shunned by some on the island. Moose and his friends try to solve the mystery before anyone gets hurt.



This series can be enjoyed by both boys and girls. If they enjoy history, especially prison system history, this book will get them doing further research. The characters are likable and grow over the course of the series. Choldenko presents Natalie in a realistic and positive manner. This is a fun historical fiction series.

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit so their parents can read to them while they grow. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address. We can use both English and Spanish books. If you have a graduate of the NICU, or if you have a baby whose life you would like to honor by donating books to this project, let me know, and I can make a book plate with their name for the books you donate.

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

In Honor of Liam Heintz's Second Birthday

Last week, I received seven books from our Amazon book registry for babies in the NICU. All of these books were sent in memory of Liam Heintz. I didn't get to meet Liam, but he was one of our precious NICU babies who became an angel.

What I do know about Liam is that he is loved and that he was wanted from the moment his parents knew of his existence. I know that Liam's parents were delighted when they felt his movements and saw his heart beating on the ultra sound. As a parent who has lost a set of twins, I know they dreamed and planned for the baby, child, and man he would become.

Sometimes our hopes and dreams get changed, and like Liam's parents, I look forward to that great day when I will embrace my babies and they will once again hold Liam in their arms.

Liam has many people who love him, so his sweet parents held a birthday party to honor his second birthday and asked people to bring books for the NICU to celebrate his time on earth. Guests brought a whole stack of books that will be on their way to us soon. I'll show pictures when they get here.

To Liam's parents: I want you to know that each gift of books brings me to tears as I get see the love that your baby boy brought into the world. Many books were donated on behalf of Liam several months ago, but I didn't know Liam's name then. I was gladdened to see this batch come with his name.

Each of the books that are donated in his name will contain the following bookplate, and each packet we give will only contain one of his books along with four others, so that many may receive a share of the love that surrounds Liam. When we get the box of books that were brought to the party, each of those books will also receive this book plate:



These are the books that came last week from people who love Liam and his family. I can already hear the children saying, "Again, again. Read it again." I memorized Where the Wild Things Are when my now 27 year-old was little. She would turn the pages in her car seat as I recited the book while I drove. She snuggled that book in bed at night like it was a Teddy bear.


These books will become keepsakes for the babies who receive them. Thank you to Liam's friends and family who have given the gift of reading and storytime to others.



Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit so their parents can read to them while they grow. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address. We can use both English and Spanish books. If you have a graduate of the NICU, or if you have a baby whose life you would like to honor by donating books to this project, let me know, and I can make a book plate with their name for the books you donate.

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


Friday, November 10, 2017

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan is the first book in The Heroes of Olympus Series. I listened to the first two books and will definitely be listening to or reading the rest of this series. 

Rick Riordan writes books that kids enjoy reading. The stories are fast paced, the chapters are short, the text size is larger, and the there is more white space on each page, so even though these books are thick, they are not intimidating to students who struggle with reading. 

The Lost Hero follows a new Hero, Jason who has lost his memory. He ends up at Camp Half-Blood with two other Heroes: Piper and Leo who will accompany Jason on a quest to save Hera. As in the Percy Jackson series, Riordan does a wonderful job of teaching about Greek and Roman mythology in a way that is incredibly fun. He also writes characters who know what it takes to be a good friend. 

My grandson, Isaac, loves these books and has read all of them. He's been after me to get them read, so I am. I called him after finishing the first book because of the Jack London reference in it. The wolf house in the story is located on Jack London's abandoned estate, so I was able to talk to Isaac about The Call of the Wild, and White Fang - both excellent classic books. 

The Son of Neptune is book two in the series, and it follows Percy Jackson, who has also lost his memory and has landed in the Roman half-blood camp. He meets Hazel, a girl who is no longer in her correct time period and has many secrets and Frank who feels he is too much of a klutz to ever be a good hero. Together they will go on a quest to keep the earth goddess from awakening. Riordan uses humor and an exciting story line to keep his readers turning pages. 

Rick Riordan, I hope you have a very long writing career because you do a lot to get and keep kids reading. Thank you. 

The covers of this series are gorgeous. 





Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address. 

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

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Dear Santa by Rod Campbell

Dear Santa by Rod Campbell was published in 2004, and it you love his book Dear Zoo, you will love this darling Christmas book. You still have time to get it before Christmas.

The story begins with a child writing a letter to Santa asking for something special. Santa wraps several different presents, and your child gets to lift the flaps on each present to see what is inside. Santa decides against each present until he gets to the very special last present.

This little board book captures the Christmas morning excitement of opening presents, and each gift gives you something to talk about with your child as you see why Santa decides against it. If you are looking for a cute Christmas book for the littles in your life, this is a great choice.




Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit so their parents can read to them while they grow. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address. We can always use both English and Spanish books. If you have a graduate of the NICU, or if you have a baby whose life you would like to honor by donating books to this project, let me know, and I can make a book plate with their name for the book you donate.

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

Friday, November 3, 2017

Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes

If you've been following my blog, you know that I love Keven Henkes' picture books. Some of his picture books are wonderful for children of three, four, five, six, and up, but he has also written books for babies.

If your baby or toddler loves animals - specifically cats, they will love the little kitten in Kitten's First Full Moon. Published in 2004, this storybook tells about a little kitten that thinks the full moon is a saucer of milk and tries without any luck to drink the moon.

The black and white pictures with heavy black outline are perfect for baby's eyes that are learning to focus, and this sweet story shows a kitten learning about his own world. This book won the Caldecott medal. You can be assured that if you purchase a Kevin Henkes' picture book for your child, you they will love it.



Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address. We are in need of Spanish books at this time, especially board books. We can always use both English and Spanish books. 

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

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson was published in 2014 and tells the story of a teen girl struggling to deal with her father's fight with PTSD from serving in the war in the Middle East.

The story is told from Hayley's point of view, who for the first time in five years is going to public school after being home schooled by her father while he drove truck. Her father was injured by an IED, so he has been discharged from the military after serving several tours. A couple of chapters are memories told from her father's point of view and help give the reader a sense of what haunts him.

As the story progresses, we learn that Hayley is probably suffering from PTSD as well, or at least a horrible case of anxiety.

I loved the strength and vulnerability that Hayley displays in the story. She is strong, yet she also needs help from others and is not an island unto herself. Although she thinks that the friends she has made since moving back into her grandmother's old house have perfect lives, she discovers that everyone has problems to deal with, and appearances are seldom what they seem. I loved the friendships in this story and how realistic they seemed. I also liked the way the school staff was portrayed.

I wish this book would have a longer conclusion, as I wanted to see the process Hayley, her family, and friends went through to get to where they got. However, the ending didn't leave me hanging and gave a sense of closure, so I was okay with it. This book may have seemed too short because I was enjoying it so much, and I really liked the characters.

Laurie Halse Anderson is one of my go to writers for realistic and historical fiction. My students enjoy her books as much as I do.


Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address. 

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice by Lisa Genova, published in 2007 tells the story of Alice Howland, a fictional cognitive psychology professor at Harvard.

She has just turned fifty, and finds herself becoming increasingly disoriented and forgetful. A tragic diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's disease had me questioning my own mind as I read about her stuggles.

 After I finished listening to this book, I went back and reread several sections just to relive them again, and to make sense of some scenes that I found confusing. Because this story is told from Alice's point of view and she becomes a  more and more unreliable character, I found as a reader, I had to work harder to figure out what she was talking about. I thought this lent a sense of realism to the story, so much so that I went online and did a little research to make sure my own moments of  forgetfulness were normal.

Alice is at the age where she should be enjoying becoming a grandmother, taking a little more time off work to travel with her beloved husband, but instead her world is turned inside out and upside down. Reading this story has enlightened me about what people with this diagnosis may go through. I found her portrayal of Alice's husband, John, realistic as he struggles to balance his career and needs with Alice's needs. Genova is a wonderful writer, and I will definitely be checking out her other books.




Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address or you can drop them off at the McKay Dee Hospital NICU in Ogden, Utah, Attention: Angie, and we will see they get to the right place. 


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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel and illustrated by David Catrow

Everyone once in a while, I meet a children's picture book that I want to hug, so I hug it. Our Tree Named Steve written by Alan Zweibel and illustrated by David Catrow is one such book. Michelle told me about this book, and I bought it because David Catrow is one of my very most favorite illustrators. The pictures are as wonderful as the story.

Once upon a time, I had an old apricot tree that I loved probably more than I loved most people. I sat up in the leafy branches of that tree on many a hot summer's day, hiding out from the world and enjoying being at one with nature. When that tree was toppled in a late spring snow storm, I was crushed. I begged my step-father to set it back upright and somehow make it okay again. Of course there was nothing he could do to save my friend, but reading this book put me right back in the branches of my friend.

This story tells about a family who loves a big old tree in their yard. They love him so much that they name him Steve. We learn about how this tree sees the family through many fun times as the children grow up, and unfortunately, we see the family's sadness when a storm takes down Steve. I may have cried a little. This family chooses to use Steve in a new way.

The pictures are delightful as is always the case if David Catrow is illustrating the story. If you have a little nature lover in your life, they will love this book. Thanks for the recommendation, Michelle.


Michelle also sent over more books for the NICU. She found some wonderful books for the babies. I know the parents of those babies will enjoy reading these books to their little ones while they grow in the hospital.
 Yes, that is a copy of the Napping House. Love that book. 
The Cow That Went Oink is such a fun story. 

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address. We are in need of Spanish books at this time, especially board books. 

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J. Gaines

A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J. Gaines was first published in 1983. Reading this book brought to my mind the killing of Ted Fields and David Martin, two young black men who were walking with two of their white female friends after dark. Joseph Paul Franklin, a serial killer and white supremacist, was later convicted of this crime that happened in my home state of Utah.

Ernest J. Gaines tells a story that will make you squirm with uncomfortableness. He challenges our thoughts and beliefs. He puts down on paper, the deepest, darkest thoughts of people regarding race and prejudices. He doesn't paint people good or bad, but he allows the reader to determine what they believe. He has also joined my list of authors who don't disappoint me as a reader. I'll buy and read anything he writes.

My only complaint with this book was that I wish it was longer. I wanted more, more back story, more days, and more about the characters after the story ended.

This book gives the reader a glimpse into the lives of several people in a community - those who are white and those who are black.

The story begins with the part owner of a plantation sending a young black male to run get certain people. Candy Marshall, the white owner, confesses to the murder of a white male, Beau Boutan. Of course, no one believes her, and before the sheriff can get there, she has assembled a gathering of old men armed with the same caliber of gun that killed Boutan. All of them are willing to confess to Boutan's killing. All of them have reason to have killed him as he and his family did a lot of things to hurt them. Candy swears she killed Boutan because she is trying to protect the people who work her plantation, one of them even helped raise her. If a black person goes to jail for killing a white man, he will be executed.

Gaines builds tension well in the story that is told from many different points of view. Each chapter begins with the name of who is telling the story. Each narrator enriches and deepens the story. The truths in this story still holds true today. We are each a part of our own personal history and that of those who came before us. In order to understand one another, we much also understand the history of those around us. This book makes me want to be a kinder person and to do more to reach out to understand and help people.


Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address. We are in need of Spanish books at this time, especially board books. 

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield was published in 2006. I just finished this book, and it kept me guessing almost all the way through the story, something I love in a book and especially in a mystery.

In this story we meet Vida Winter, and prolific writer who is now nearing the end of her life and wants Margaret Lea, a young woman who lives above and works in her father's bookshop to write her biography. Vida has lied to all other biographers who have attempted to tell her story. Will she tell the truth to Margaret?

This story twines classic literature into the story, but that still didn't help me figure out the mystery even though the clues are there. There are many unlikable characters in this book, but they are mostly well developed, although I would have liked to know more about Charlie and Isabelle's motivations and why they were such a mental mess.

Blurb from Goodreads.com: "The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself -- all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter's story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission. 

"As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized. It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire. 

"Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida's storytelling but remains suspicious of the author's sincerity. She demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves."




I found this feeling of this story reminiscent of Du Maurier's Rebecca. The beginning was a bit slow, but once I got into it, I couldn't put it down. 



Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address. 

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Loving Spirit by Daphne DuMaurier

The Loving Spirit by Daphne DuMaurier was her first novel and was published in 1931. Even then, she was a good storyteller.

I struggled with this book and almost didn't finish it, but I ended up enjoying the story that follows Janet Coombe, and three more generations of her family. I didn't care for Janet Coombe's part of the story. She was a strong woman, which I like in a character, but she was messed up. Her section of the book is uncomfortable to read. She is obsessed with her son Joseph, and talks about him as if he is her lover instead of her son. She treats him like he can do no wrong, and he is a spoiled boy who isn't very nice a lot of the time. Janet's obsession with Joseph has a negative impact on one of her other sons who becomes quite jealous of Joseph, and his anger will be a part of the entire story.

I enjoyed Joseph's section of the book more, but still didn't feel compelled to keep turning pages. However, at this point, I was beginning to enjoying seeing how the actions of a previous generation affected the next generation.

He in turn favors one of his children, but luckily, this child has a mother who creates some distance between the two, and Christopher grows up to be a fine man. Because DuMaurier is telling the story, be sure to expect tragedy. She loves to tell a dark story, which may be one reason I like her storytelling so much.

The last section of the story, is about Christopher's daughter, Jennifer, and she is my favorite character of the story. She is strong, brave, and headstrong, although at one point, I wish DuMaurier had allowed her to rescue herself. She believes in revenge, but goes about it in a kind but strong way.

This book made me think a lot about people and how the actions of others change them, and how part of who we become depends on who our ancestors were. This is not DuMaurier's best work, but it is thought provoking, and if you enjoy her work as I do, you will want to add this book to your collection.



Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address or you can drop them off at the McKay Dee Hospital NICU Attention: Angie Moore in Ogden, Utah and we will see they get to the right place. 

Here are some recent donations to our NICU book project. Scholastic always has a $1 book each month, and Angie and I purchased thirty of these treasures. This allows us to get brand new books for the NICU at a good price and it allows your child's teacher to get free books for their classroom - win, win. 
 If you haven't checked out Mo Willems before, he is a wonderful author for beginning readers and younger children. He makes kids feel like reading is fun and possible. 

Brandy Peterson, a friend of the NICU, donated a big box of books to the NICU. The top pictures shows books that will go to the NICU babies. The bottom picture is books that are in good condition, but not pristine enough for the fragile babies. The nice part is that as a teacher, I have many teacher friends who are desperate for books to set up classroom libraries, so every book that is donated to our cause, finds the right place to help children on their lifelong reading journey. 

Thank you, Brandy. 


At the current time, our project is in need of Spanish books, especially Spanish board books. Children need to be proficient readers in their home language before they can become proficient in English, so we need Spanish or Spanish/English books for these sweet little ones whose first language is Spanish. We as always can use English storybooks. 


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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr was published in 2014, and it has been on my radar since then. I listened to the audio version and found it well narrated.

This book follows a blind French girl, Marie-Laure and a young German orphan, Werner, during the time before WWII, the period during the war, and concludes after the war. Doerr shows us how these two people have such different paths, yet their paths will connect.

Doerr writes characters well. I cared about his characters. I loved how he developed them and how the story went back and forth from each character and in time.

This story is complex. Doerr shows the mind set of the young Germans who were recruited to fight for Hitler's vision and how he made these young men and women feel that they were someone.

I loved Werner's zest for learning and could understand why he didn't stand up for his friend when he was being bullied.

I love the characters of Marie-Laure, her father, her great-uncle, and his housekeeper. The vivid descriptions made me feel like I was in the story watching it happen.

I loved this story up until almost the end, but I wanted a better ending. I thought the rape scene at the end of the book back at the orphanage was unneeded. Yes, those things happened, but that wasn't the focus of this story, and it seemed out of place. I also wanted more for Werner and wanted to see him deal with what he had done toward the war effort.

I am glad I read this book, and I found it worthwhile, informative, and well written, but I may need to invent the ending I wanted for it.



Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address. 

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



Thursday, October 5, 2017

WeedFlower by Cynthia Kadohata

I've been continuing my quest to find "the" Japanese interment camp book. WeedFlower by Cynthia Kadohata is the one of the better ones I've read so far. Another one that I liked was Under the Blood-red Sun

The story begins shortly before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the setting is California. Sumiko is a young American of Japanese descent who lives with her younger brother, her aunt, uncle, grandfather, and cousins on a flower farm that they run.

Kadohata showed the loneliness that Sumiko feels as she come to realize that she is the other. The scene with the birthday party was heartrending. Sumiko is a responsible girl who is willing to work hard and be be helpful. The feelings of being shunned by their community and country, of being scared nearly to death of the government and the authorities is well portrayed. Everything that was taken from Japanese Americans is well expressed. The change in the family dynamic is also well illustrated. They went from a multi-generational nuclear family, to one that was torn apart with members of the family ending up in different camps. She shows well what happens to the family dinner hour and the discipline of the children.

The interment camp that Sumiko's family is sent to is in Arizona on Mohave Indian Reservation and was called Poston. By reading this book, I learned about the relationship that the US Government forced onto the American Indians. They didn't want this camp on their land. I also learned that in Arizona, American Indians were not allowed to vote until 1948. I love books that teach me things I didn't know before.

Kadohota shows how the prisoners suffered from depression  "the ultimate boredom" and how important it is for our lives to have purpose and goals.

This book shows the danger of treating anyone as the other, and that if we will take the time to help  and get to know each other, no one needs to be the other.

I will admit to buying this book for the cover. It is gorgeous and the story is good.



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

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

I will admit to buying this book because I found the title funny. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler was published in 2003 and the story still holds true in today's world.

Virginia, the main character is overweight and her best friend has moved to the Northwest. She has horrible self esteem even though her mother is a teen psychologist. Virginia can't help but compare herself to her perfect parents, and her two perfect older siblings.

She obeys the "fat girl code of conduct" with the boy she has a crush on, but she fails to give herself or him the credit they deserve. Things go from bad to worse for her when her father receives an upsetting phone call, and her world falls apart. Can she find the strength to put herself in her own orbit or will she remain the doormat for her family?

Her parents want to help her fight her weight problem, but they go about it the wrong way. I'm not sure what the right way is.

This book deals with older teen issues: discovering sexuality, make-out sessions, weight problems, date rape, teenage drinking, bullying, eating disorders, self-harm, teen rebellion, and body piercing. This book has the potential to be triggering for some but to also be a great dialogue starter.



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

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Cryptid Hunters: the series by Roland Smith

Cryptid Hunters by Roland Smith is the first book of the Marty and Grace series. This four book series is complete, so you can start reading it without having to wait for more books to be published.

I read the first book a few years ago for Brown Bag and Book at our school and all the kids enjoyed it. They were so angry with the villain and felt attached to the main characters. Roland Smith is a good author for middle grade and middle school aged students. His stories have a lot of action, contain humor, and have good character development. He creates a lot of tension in the stories, which will keep you turning pages.

In the Marty and Grace series, the story begins with a thirteen-year-old set of twins finding out their parents' helicopter has crashed and they are missing. They go to live with their Uncle, Travis, who hunts cryptids (animals who are thought to not exist). He hunts them to try to preserve their lives. Unfortunately, another cryptid hunter tries to catch them to kill them.

Marty and Grace are both very smart and Marty is an excellent cook. In Cryptid Hunters, Travis is on the trail of a dinosaur, and Noah Blackwood - the villain of the story is close behind him. Travis wants to leave the twins behind, but they find a way to crash the party.



As you can see, the covers of these books are appealing.

In the second book, Tentacles, Travis is trying to be the first to catch a giant squid and bring it in alive. The trio set sail to find the squid. Blurb from the back: "But their huge freighter may be haunted, and someone on board seems determined to sabotage the mission. If Grace and Marty follow the clues, will they get to the bottom of all this fishy business or end up at the bottom of the sea?"



The third book is called Chupacabra and things in this story get pretty scary. Grace has been kidnapped by Noah Blackwood. Marty and his friend Luther are determined to rescue her, but Noah is conducting evil experiments in the basement of his animal "sanctuary". If he can't find a real cryptid, he is not opposed to using genetic experiments to create his own. In this installment we learn just how dangerous Noah really is.



The fourth book is Mutation, and the threads from the first three books find resolution in this one. The danger is greater than ever as Marty, Grace, and Travis are on the trail of Marty's parents in Brazil. When all technology is blocked in their area, they must use their ingenuity to rescue their friends and loved ones from Noah Blackwood''s evil ways. They will face creatures unknown in the real world, and real evil in Blackwood and his henchmen.



All of these books combine adventure, science, technology, and a bit of the fantastic to create a fast paced fun series for the reader. These books have a little larger type size and more white space which make them perfect as Hi/Lo books. Roland Smith is one of my go to authors when recommending books for the 10 to 18 age group.

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

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The False Prince by Jennifer A Nielsen

The False Prince by Jennifer A Nielsen is a newer trilogy, and the first book was published in 2012. The entire trilogy has been published, so you can start this series without waiting for a new one to be published.

Blurb from Goodreads.com: "In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point—he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well. As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together. "

I enjoyed the first book of this series and will read the next one for sure. I liked the characters in the book, especially Sage, who is strong willed but likable. His character grows throughout the story, which is something I like. This is an action packed book complete with battles and violence making it a good story for any reader who enjoys a tale of a kingdom from times of old. This is also a story about the importance of friendships, family, and loyalty.




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

I've mentioned recently that we have been running low on books for the NICU. Michelle and I found an amazing sale at one of our local thrift shops and we were able to find many treasures. I found over forty books, and Michelle found these beauties. I was happy that we both found some Spanish books as we are critically low on those.


Dani Phipps sent these to my daughter, Angie, and there is a bilingual book in there. Thank you, Dani.

Heidi Crezee  found these fun books at Seagull book. They are always a good option for low priced children's books. Thank you, Heidi.

As always, we give each baby a packet with five books and a handout that tells about the benefits of reading to babies. You are welcome to donate in remembrance of someone you love or to honor a family member. We are thankful for those who send books for this project and help these tiny babies begin their literary journey. 


Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit. Or you can bring or ship books to me or Angie. Yes, we can use gently used books as well. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley with Ron Powers

Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley was published in 2000. I listened to the audio version and while I found the beginning a bit slow and documentary/textbook like, I soon found I couldn't stop listening. I also own the printed book, and felt the pictures that were included added to the story.

In Flags of Our Fathers, James Bradley tells about the five servicemen who raised the flag on Iwo Jima during one the of the bloodiest and most brutal battles of WWII. We've all seen the picture, and James Bradley tells us about these men, one of whom was his father.


We learn why so many of the soldiers of that time could not talk about what they went through. They saw things that no person should ever see, and endured the unendurable. Although I'd heard about Iwo Jim, I didn't really understand the battle that was fought there and why it was so important to win that island, but this book explains all of that. This book also shows that our politicians have a long history of sticking it to our servicemen, and if they would do the right thing, so many of these men and women would be coming home alive instead of in a box or not at all. If the military had been given what it needed, this would have been a far less life costly battle.

I am glad I listened to this book as I feel it is a story well worth knowing. It gave me an even deeper appreciation for our military and their willingness to protect those who cannot protect themselves.


Read to a child today even if that child is you in order to understand more about our country, the world, and history. 

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit.

Friday, September 22, 2017

NICU Book Harvest

Our NICU books project has been low on books. We had a lot of packets, but many babies have been born and are currently using the packets during their stay in the NICU. The babies who have graduated, have taken their packets home to enjoy story time with mom and dad.

However, our neighborhood had a community yard sale, and I found 33 books that I paid 25 cent or less for each book. Check out these treasures.


Angie called me and told me that Scholastic had a Mo Willems book as the $1 special, so I ordered twenty of them. Angie ordered ten, and Michelle bought 28 books, and just like that, we have packets again.

Thank you, Michelle.


I'm grateful to have books coming our way for the babies. Parents appreciate having these books at bedside to read to their sweet littles. I love getting babies started on their literacy journey.

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address. 

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

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I'm a bit late to the party, but I finally read, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Actually, I listened to it and probably liked it even more because I adore listening to British accents, and the three narrators were divine.

This story pulled me right in as Rachel takes the train each day and tells about Jess and Jason, the couple she watches when the train stops at the traffic signal. She loves their perfect life and invents an entire backstory for them along with the names Jess and Jason. We soon learn that Rachel is an unreliable narrator because she drinks herself into blackouts.

But when a woman comes up missing, and Rachel is the only one who may know what happened, will anyone believe her? Will she even be able to believe herself?

This book is filled with some highly unlikable characters who show us that life is not always as it appears. Something sinister may be hiding behind those beautiful faces. This book kept me guessing for a long time. My brain was constantly trying to predict the outcome, but I was wrong until almost the end. I was satisfied with the ending and enjoyed the ride with all of its twists and turns.

This book is for adult readers as it contains adult language and situations.





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

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Olivia by Ian Falconer

I was introduced to the Olivia series by my daughter Angie. When she was pregnant with her fourth child, we knew our very own Olivia was coming, so I bought several of the books in this series for my unborn grand daughter. Our Olivia is just as busy as Falconer's.

If you haven't read Olivia yet, you are missing out. This is a series that both children and parents will enjoy. The illustrations, also by Ian Falconer, are darling and very funny. Any parent who has a child full of energy, love, and sass will see their own child in these books.

The story begins: "This is Olivia. She is good at lots of things. She is good at wearing people out. She even wears herself out."




The first book is called Olivia and introduces you to this adorable pig, but the other books really allow you to get know her. Our kids love these books and every one of them in the series is adorable. 




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

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit.

Cayli and Alysen bought these books for the NICU babies. I really appreciate it because we are nearly out of books. Check out these cute books.

The board books all have moving parts allowing the baby to interact with the books. Thank you, Alysen and Cayli. I can make two more packets with these books. 


If you have new or gently used books to donate, you can bring them to me or to Angie. I am happy to come pick them up if you live nearby. The parents of the NICU babies appreciate these books so much. It allows them to do something normal with their babies while they are growing in the NICU. 


Friday, September 1, 2017

Woodsong by Gary Paulsen: Companion books

As an educator, I often look for non-fiction that complements fiction works. I recently read White Fang by Jack London and found that Woodsong by Gary Paulsen makes a great companion book for White Fang.

Both books talk about sled dogs, dog training, treatment of dogs, and the brutality of nature. White Fang is fiction and told from the dog's point of view. Woodsong is autobiographical and told from Paulsen point of view.

If you ever wondered why Paulsen writes adventure stories so well, this book will answer that question. Paulsen is not a writer who sits while doing his research, He lives it. He has sleds and dogs and has run the Iditarod. This book gets real with the dangers of being out in the elements for long periods of time. He lets the reader in on the cold, exhaustion, hallucinations, and even death that can come from facing extreme elements of nature.

I loved the stories of his angel that helped him during some pretty scary times. He shows the near humanity of his dogs, and any child who loves animals will enjoy these stories. Hatchet was always my most loved book in my classroom, so if you have students who love that book, they will enjoy this one. If they love this one they will love The Call of the Wild and White Fang.



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

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit.

Last week, two of Angie's friends donated books for out NICU project. I really appreciated their generous donations as we are very low on books right now. We need books, so if you have new or gently used children's books and would like to help us spread the love of reading, please send them our way. 

This first group of books came from Christy. Thank you!

Angela sent these cute Elmo books. Thank you!