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!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Doll Bones by Holly Black begins with the reader meeting Zach, Poppy, and Alice who have vivid imaginations as they create worlds to play with their dolls and action figures.

Blurb from Goodreads: Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends forever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. 

But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the groundup bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity.

This story contains just the right amount of creep factor, friendship, and fun to keep the reader turning pages. There is a mystery of course, a bit of a haunting, and Zach dealing with a father who hasn't quite figured out the parenting thing. I enjoyed the friendships and the problems in this books. Holly Black created a realistic world and added a touch of anything may happen. 

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. We can also use gently used books if you have them. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved by Toni Morrison won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize and is well worth reading. I listened to the audio version read by the author. She has a wonderful reading voice, but I found myself stymied by the storyline at first.

Luckily for me, famous books are generally on, and so I went and read about the plot of the first three chapter, and then started the recording over from the beginning, and I was hooked. I struggled again at chapter 23 which is told in stream of consciousness, which is my least favorite type of storytelling. Once again, Sparknotes came to my rescue and helped me see that this chapter was much more than repetition and weirdness. It can be seen as the thought process of a slave during the middle passage in the hold of a slave ship.

The story begins with Sethe (the mother and former slave), Denver (the living daughter born when Sethe was on the run), Baby Suggs (Denver's paternal grandmother), Paul D (a former slave from Sweet Home), and an angry ghost of Sethe's murdered baby.

Baby Suggs' son, Halle purchased her freedom from his kindly master, but after the master dies, his wicked brother and nephews take over his slaves and life becomes unbearable for Halle, Sethe, and the other slaves living at Sweet Home. They decide to make a run for freedom, but their attempt doesn't end up turning out well.

Toni Morrison goes deep with this story. She will make you think, make you question, make you reevaluate everything you thought you knew about yourself and other people. I love this book for all of those reasons. I felt like I was learning, almost as if I was back in school. I can't stop thinking about the characters, their thought processes, and the role slavery has played in the dynamic of our country and the formation of our families. If we don't think about these things, we may continue to misjudge and get things wrong for another 200 years.

I loved how Morrison incorporated identity and the perceived value of each person into this narrative. She shows the long term damage of slavery and how it can take generations to recover from that damage. I found this book to be a literary masterpiece.

The next paragraph contains some slight spoilers. Proceed with caution if you don't like spoilers.

This book left me with questions that aren't answered, which in turn makes me continue to think. I want to know where Beloved went. I want to know what happened to her baby or if there even was a real baby. I loved that it took the community to set things right for Sethe and Denver, as I think that is what it will take to heal the wounds of our conflicted history - a community coming together and recognizing their shared blame in the narrative. Each of us is connected to those around us, and we need each other. I liked how Morrison showed that by our inaction we can also be guilty for failing to protect and shelter. Inaction is also a choice and has consequences. I loved the intergenerational aspects of this story that left me wondering if Beloved was Sethe's daughter or her mother. I also loved the dimensions of Sethe's character, how she struggled because the loss of her own mother and the fear of seeing her own daughters in slavery. I was saddened that her son's never returned and this reminded me of Gaine's A Lesson Before Dying where he tells of the males of Black families leaving.

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. We also love gently used books if you would like to donate books from your own child's library. We are currently in need of books as there has been a baby boom in the NICU. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card is book two of the Ender Saga. I struggled through the first two chapters not feeling connected, but I am glad I stuck with it. Yes, Ender is in this book.

Blurb from Goodreads: In the aftermath of his terrible war, Ender Wiggin disappeared, and a powerful voice arose: the Speaker for the Dead, who told of the true story of the Bugger War.

Now long years later, a second alien race has been discovered, but again the aliens’ ways are strange and frightening…again, humans die. And it is only the Speaker for the Dead, who is also Ender Wiggin the Xenocide, who has the courage to confront the mystery…and the truth.

This story takes place 3,000 years after Ender's Game and Ender is now seen as a villain - the person who destroyed an entire species. I liked how Card explores the role of knowledge and our interpretation of history. I like how he shows how our fears come from a lack of understanding. I like that he shows that we can be over-regulated to the point that knowledge can not move forward. I also like that he was able to speak for those who no one cared for in a way that was honest. 

I feel that now more than ever, we must learn to understand each other in order to have peace in our land. 

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. We are in need of books at this time as I am taking our last twenty packets to Angie this weekend. They've had a bit of a baby boom. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Harper Hall of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

I found The Harper Hall of Pern by Anne McCaffrey before knowing that there are books that come before it. It is one book that contains the entire Harper Hall series: DragonSongDragonSinger, and DragonDrums.  This series can and does stand on it's own, but now I must read the series that came before: The Dragon Riders of Pern

Published in 1976, 1977, and 1979 these three books tell about fire lizards that are small dragons and desirable pets in this story. In Dragon Song, my favorite of the three stories, Menolly is the main character. She is a girl with the desire and talent to be a Harper - a person who sings and teaches music to entire communities. The only problem is that she is a girl and girls are not Harpers. Her parents are awful to the point of abusing her for singing or playing music. 

I found myself cheering her on and wanting her to win. When this book was written, there were many jobs that were considered unsuitable for women based on the fact that they were women. This book shows the danger of limiting the gifts and choices of anyone regardless of their age, gender, or ethnicity. 

Dragonsinger tells more about Menolly and her ability to teach the fire lizards. We get to the know the characters better, and I loved seeing Menolly come out of her shell and shed some of the  issues caused by her parents' abuse. 

Dragondrums includes Menolly but follows Piemur, a young man whose amazing singing voice has just started to crack because of puberty. He is sent to play the signal drums and also act as a spy. This story is quite exciting and fun. 

This series address abuse and bullying and the dangers that go along with them. The magic in this series belongs to the magical creatures. The humans have to rely on their wits, gifts, and talents. I enjoyed this series and am now busily collecting the rest of her works. 

This is the cover of my book, but it has been reprinted and is available at a reasonable price. 

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, August 18, 2017

Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter

When I first saw Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou, I thought, "But she doesn't have a daughter."

Then in reading it, I discovered that she wrote it is for all the women in her life: friends, mothers grandmother, and to any woman who feels the need of a mother figure.

I listened to the audio version that is read by Maya Angelou, and I think it made me like the book even more than I would have if I had just read it. Angelou has a wonderful reading voice that is rich and soothing.

This book contains experiences and essays from her own life, and she has had quite the life. I love that she can find joy in the hard times and see the value of her experiences.

I loved her story about meeting the stranger who thought she was a friend, but they discovered that neither of them knew the other, and yet this woman went on to become a friend and play an important role in her life. She said, "I learned that a friend may be waiting behind a stranger's face" (75).

This is a book for women of all ages. She includes experiences from all ages and what she learned from the experience. As always, Angelou is profound and inspiring.

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.

Check out these board books that Michelle brought over. Seven of them are Spanish. Hooray and thank you!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Series- On the Run by Gordon Korman

The On the Run series by Gordon Korman is a great series for reluctant readers. The books have larger text size, more white space, and each of the six books have only about 150 pages. The chapters are short and the story is quite fast paced and exciting. The Lexile measure starts at 680 and goes to 790 as the books progress which allows your reader to increase their Lexile measure over the course of the series.

The series begins with Chasing the Falconers. Aiden and Meg Falconer have been placed in a youth correctional facility because their parents were convicted of being spies and sent to prison for life. Aiden and Meg believe their parents have been wrongly convicted, but now that the FBI has sentenced their parents, they won't look at any other evidence.

Aiden and Meg escape from the detention center to try to find a man who they believe can prove their parents' innocence, but in escaping, they find that they are in more danger than ever.

The series takes the pair across the country as they rely on their wits to stay alive and try to find the proof they need to reunite their family.

Students in my classroom enjoyed this series - even those students who hated to read. The fast pace Bourne Identity like difficulties the kids face keep the reader turning pages.

Aiden and Meg are likeable. They make mistakes but keep trying to learn from their actions.  Aiden at times doubts his parents innocence, but Meg believes her parents are blameless. They grow throughout the series, but underneath all the trauma, they are good kids who have to make hard decisions in order to stay free and alive. They have to rely on each other and know that they can't make it alone.

Korman knows how to write for teens. It is exciting to see a kid who didn't enjoy reading, read an entire series because "these are 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.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Little Lame Prince by Dinah Maria Mulock

The Little Lame Prince by Dinah Maria Mulock was first published in 1874. I enjoy reading books that were published long ago as they show our progression as people.

I found an illustrated edition of this story published in 1948. This book includes several fairy tales that were written by Miss Mulock.

The title story is about a prince who was dropped as an infant causing his legs to be useless. He is placed in a tower with a nurse and is supposed to stay there for life as his wicked uncle has usurped his throne. His godmother comes and gifts him with a cloak that he uses to travel the world.

This was the best of the stories in the book, but all of them have value. As with much of the literature that was published for children during this time period, there is a moral or lesson to each story.

Children and animals were often treated harshly and violence is included in the stories. I liked The Adventures of a Brownie and would have been delighted with his story as a child.

Some of the illustrations of this edition are a bit creepy, but overall, this is a fun book.

Stories included in this edition: The Little Lame Prince, The Adventures of a Brownie, The Prince with the Nose, Prince Cherry, and The Invisible Prince.

This book is still in print only with a different cover.

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. We give each parent a packet of five books that they get to keep to read to their baby while they are in the hospital and later at home.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The BFG by Roald Dahl

Recently, I've read a few other Roald Dahl books looking for the magic I found as a child in James and the Giant Peach, but not finding it. I listened to the audio version of The BFG read by David Walliams and found that magic.

Late one night, orphaned Sophie accidentally spots a giant who is out giving dreams to children, so he kidnaps her in order to keep himself safe.

The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) is unlike the other giants of his land as they like to eat humans. Sophie and the BFG have a magical journey combined with dreams, royalty, and a friendship. This one will stay in my library.

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, August 1, 2017

White Fang by Jack London

White Fang was written by Jack London and published in 1906. I listened to the audio version, and the whole time I was listening wondered if the producers of the first nature shows had read this book and gotten the idea for their shows from this book.

In White Fang, London shows the brutality of nature. The story follows the life of White Fang beginning with his mother before he was born. London is an amazing writer who paints vivid pictures with his words. I could see the beauty, the humor, and the violence of the Alaskan landscape.

We see White Fang as a puppy as he encounters new things for the first time. We also see what happens when he meets his first owner - one who wasn't a very good master, but who also wasn't the worst that White Fang will come upon.

For tenderhearted readers, the violence depicted toward animals in this story may too much for them to handle. London deconstructs the hows and whys of both good pet owners and horrible pet owners.

We see what happens to dogs and their minds when they are subjected to the cruelty of dog fighting and there is no question about how London feels about this despicable practice. He gets so into the mind of White Fang that it seems he becomes this dog.

I loved the ending of this story, but the path to the ending is rough and rocky at times - well written, but dang, I wanted to rescue that dog. In this story we see the progression of White Fang, and I think anyone who reads this book will want to be a better pet owner and spend even more time with their pets.

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.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Empty Schoolhouse by Natalie Savage Carlson

The Empty Schoolhouse by Natalie Savage Carlson was published in 1965 and reflects the unrest in our country during the fight for civil rights.

This book is great to introduce younger readers to the Civil Rights movement. John Kaufmann is the illustrator of this chapter book and his pictures show the emotion of this time period.

This story is narrated by Emma, and she tells the story of her little sister being one of the first black children to attend a white school. St. Joseph's is a Catholic school, and the staff has decided that all children will be allowed to attend no matter their color. Not all the families in the town are okay with this plan, but many are until some rotten person starts making trouble.

Soon, Emma's sister Lullah is the only child attending the school, and the rotten men are out to stop her.

This book shows the damage that is caused when prejudice, fear, hatred, and anger prevail. While there are scary moments, this book isn't too scary for young readers, but allows your young reader to see our Civil Rights history.

I like how the realistic the characters seem and how the characters develop over the course of the story.

This book is out of print, but you can still find used copies online.

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, July 28, 2017

Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville

Several years ago, my son gave me the book Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville. His teacher read this book to his class, and he loved it. I recently listened to the audio version and thought it a delightful tale full of magic and whimsy.

Jeremy Thatcher is small for his age. He is an artist, but the art teacher isn't very nice to him. A girl has a crush on him, so he gets teased about that. One day on the way home from school, he finds himself on a street he hasn't seen before, in a magic shop that he didn't know existed. He is allowed to buy a shiny egg type thing and then all the fun begins.

I liked the magic in this book. I also liked that Jeremy's dad is a veterinarian, and Jeremy has his father's love of animals. I like how he reminds himself and others that you shouldn't get angry at a cat for acting like a cat, or a dragon for acting like a dragon. I liked that this book shows that animals are a responsibility - one you have to take seriously. I also loved how this book shows that animals bring a lot to our lives and are worth the time they take.

This chapter book is well illustrated by Gary A. Lippincott, with just enough pictures for a child who may still be learning to visualize while they read. This is a great book for the 5 and up crowd and would be a wonderful read aloud.

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

We've received many book donation during the last week. I love that so  many people want to share their favorite storybooks with brand new, budding readers. 

Michelle donated this bunch of books to the NICU. I love that she included some Spanish books. 

One of the NICU nurses bought these darling board books for the babies. She sees first hand how much the parents appreciate the books that we give to each baby.

Miranda, a NICU mommy, sent these books. She also included some Spanish books. She understands the long days spent in the NICU and knows that story time helps. 

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit. We give each parent a packet of five books that they get to keep to read to their baby while they are in the hospital and later at home.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

After You by Jojo Moyes

After You by Jojo Moyes is the second book of the Me Before You duo. This story picks up over a year after Me Before You ends. Lou is still struggling to carry on after Will's death. She has traveled some and has purchased a flat, but she is in a dead end job and is not really living.

One night, Lou is startled by a girl (Lilly) from Will's past, and Louisa suffers a terrible accident. As she begins to heal emotionally, the paramedic and the girl from Will's past play a big role in helping Louisa's heart heal.

I don't want to give anything away, but his novel once again contains Moyes wit and her ability to weave comedy and tragedy together to highlight the human condition and the roles we play in helping one another. Louisa's family is back in this novel, and I love their interactions and the family dynamic.

Lilly is a frustrating character and at times I want to shake Louisa for allowing Lilly to walk all over her, but Lilly's character arc is good. There are many things brought up in this story that would be interesting discussion topics in a book club. This book contains adult language and situations, so younger readers may need to wait to read this one.

I enjoyed this book, but found I wasn't ready to for it to end. I listened to the audio version and it was expertly narrated by Anna Acton

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, July 21, 2017

Harry Sue by Sue Stauffacher

Every so often a book comes a long that I really connect with. Harry Sue by Sue Stauffacher is one such book. I found myself nodding my head and at times ugly girl crying as I knew just what Harry Sue was going through.

Harry Sue lives with her paternal grandmother as her mother is in jail for drug use and her father went to jail because he threw Harry Sue from a seven story window. Granny is a beast who has no business taking care of Harry Sue. Unfortunately, Granny also runs a daycare, so every kid in her care is in a bad situation.

Harry Sue wants to live a life of crime so that she can get sent to jail and be with her mother, but she has a tender heart that won't allow her to leave the little children who are in Granny's care. Harry Sue is neglected and starving for love and food. She has to rely on her own smarts to figure out how to survive. The book begins with a glossary of prison terms that Harry Sue sprinkles throughout her every day speech and thoughts.

Harry Sue's best friend is a quadriplegic who also happens to be a genius. In all her interactions, we see her tender heart unless she is getting back at someone who has crossed her. In those times, she is often too reckless.

Stauffacher uses every emotion in the story. At times, I was laughing because the situations were funny, but at other times, like when Harry Sue interacts with her art teacher, I sobbed because I know what it feels like to be that hungry.

In reading this book, I discovered a treasure. I found myself hugging the book as if to hug Harry Sue. I love that girl. She is brilliantly written, multi-dimensional, and seems so real. Stauffacher's writing style made me feel like I was watching this story in real time and could see, smell, taste, and feel everything that Harry Sue felt.

I thank you, Sue Stauffacher for sending Harry Sue out into the world for us.

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.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Game Changers by Mike Lupica

I'm not a sports fan, but I am a fan of kids finding books they want to read, so I read across all genres and even pick up a sports book from time to time.

My favorite sports author for young readers is Mike Lupica because he doesn't just write about sports although each of his stories seems like it is about sports. He writes about the human condition, about caring, about helping others, about bullies, about friendship, and about worries, fears, and doubts.

His novel Game Changers is about Ben who is kind of small, but he has a huge heart. He wants to be quarterback for his team, he should be quarterback for his team, but his coach wants his own son as quarterback. Ben's coach is a former professional quarterback and has groomed his son to be just like him.

I like this book because the parents and the coach seem real. They are good people. I like this book because Ben is an old soul, years more mature then his actual age. I like the friendships in this book, and Ben's ability to lead and help others. What I really like is that if I have a football loving student who doesn't necessarily like reading, he or she will probably enjoy this book.

Several years ago, I had a baseball loving student who didn't enjoy reading, but after I read Heat by Mick Lupica, I went to this boy and told him I had just finished a book about baseball, but the baseball vocabulary was too much for me. I asked him if would be willing to read it to see if it made sense and was a book I should add to the class library because I didn't understand all the baseball lingo. I told him that because of his baseball experience, I knew he would know if the author was using the vocabulary correctly.

Of course he was up for the challenge, and at the end of a week - a very short time for this young man to read a book - came back and said it was a very good book that belonged in my class libary, and the author used the words correctly. Part of being an English and reading teacher is knowing books and knowing your students. This is why I read books that don't necessarily interest me. I want to know which authors' books to hand to students.

Over the years, Lupica has been my go to sport story writer as his characters have depth and the stories are about more than the final score.

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, July 19, 2017

Vinnie's War by David McRobbie

Vinnie's War by David McRobbie 2011. While the author was a child during the bombing of London in WWII and he and his family moved out of the city, this is not his story. It is historical fiction set during that same time period.

Each chapter begins with an ad or news page from the time period, which adds to the story and will interest young readers. The story begins with Vinnie, an orphan in London who has finally found a safe place to live. After the first bombing, he is sent on a train to the country. He meets three people on the train who become his friends: Dobbs, Kathleen, and Joey.

The rest of the story follows these four friends. We see that not all of the people who provided homes for these children were created equally. Some children ended up in bad situations. Residents of the town are sometimes judgmental and unkind to the children.

Music plays a role in this story, and I loved that part of the story.

This book reminds me of Good Night, Mr. Tom, only this one doesn't wrench the heartstrings as much. This is great book for a younger reader to learn about what children had to go through during WWII.

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.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Cruel Crown by Victoria Aveyard

Cruel Crown by Victoria Aveyard was published in 2015 and is a prequel to sorts to Red Queen. I haven't read Red Queen yet, and upon looking at Goodreads, I probably should have as it would have helped me understand the prequel better.

Even though I didn't know about Reds and Silvers, I understood enough to know that I am looking forward to reading Red Queen.

Cruel Crown contains two novellas: one from the first queen of King Tiberias, and one from Diana Farley who is a captain on the Red side.

In Queen Song, we meet Queen Coriane. I enjoyed her story and found it haunting and sad. Reading this made me curious about the powers that Silvers have: healing, fire, mind reading, song. I want to know more about the magic aspect of this fantasy.

In Steel Scars, Diana Farley is a captain who is helping start a rebellion against the Silvers. This story takes place approximately twenty years after Queen Song, and we learn that there is more magic than the Silvers are aware of. I liked the strength of Captain Farley and how she was also vulnerable. She had more than one dimension. Shade is also an interesting character. My only complaint in this story were the military messages sent back and forth. I found them hard to understand at times.

I listened to the audio version of this book and the readers were good. Although I should have waited to read this book until after I read Red Queen, it has made me more excited about starting Red Queen. 

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, July 14, 2017

Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston

For several years, I've been looking for the definitive book about the interment of Japanese Americans during WWII. While Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston is not that book, it is a good book on the subject.

Author Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston was interred at Mazanar when she was seven years old and this is her story. There are parts of the story that hit hard, but so much of the story is telling - relating experiences without any dialogue that I felt like I was listening to someone give a speech or a talk about their experience. I didn't feel like I was in the situation. This book was written thirty years after her interment began, so she had time to process what had happened and try to make sense of it.

I was saddened to see how much her family lost because of their interment and how her father was treated because he was a commercial fisherman. Her telling of the story gave me hope for other children who endure hard situations because although things were hard for her and her family, she seemed quite resilient.

When it came time to shut down the camp and send people home, they no longer had homes or jobs to return to. On page 132, she writes, "The truth was, at this point Papa did not know which way to turn. In the government's eyes a free man now, he sat, like those black slaves you hear about who, when they got word of their freedom at the end of the Civil War, just did not know where else to go or what else to do and ended up back on the plantation, rooted there out of habit or lethargy or fear." Jeanne was the youngest of nine children. Her father needed to work, but he had lost his boats because of the interment, and because of the war, a law was passed making it illegal for anyone of Japanese descent to hold a commercial fishing license.

This account shows the danger to our society when people act out of fear instead of kindness or love. This book was published in 1973 and is well worth reading if you are interested in learning more about this topic.

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, July 11, 2017

Merry UnChristmas by Mike Reiss

Merry UnChristmas by Mike Reiss and illustrated by David Catrow was published in 2006. I bought this book because David Catrow is one of my favorite illustrators. While Catrow's art is wonderful, the story is also good.

In Merry UnChristmas, Christmas is celebrated every day of the year except for one day. On that day, kids get to go to school, there are no presents to try to cram into spaces that are already full of other presents from previous days. The Christmas tree comes down, and instead of a fancy dinner, they eat something regular like spaghetti or TV dinners.

This is a fun story for all the kids who wish that Christmas was every day. Reiss shows what would happen if it were indeed Christmas every day. If you collect Christmas books, this is a great one to add to your shelves. This book is currently out of print but is still available online for good prices.

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.

Michelle and her cute grandson brought over these books for the NICU. Thank you, Michelle. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee is a much awaited book surrounded by controversy. Some said Lee was coerced in to releasing this novel. Others feel that it sullies Atticus's reputation. This story is the draft that became To Kill a Mockingbird, which is one of the best novels ever written.

I listened to the audio version read by Reese Witherspoon, and she nailed the reading. I felt very sucked into the story, which begins with Scout coming home for a visit from New York. At first, Scout is happy to be home, but she soon sees that things aren't how she wants them be in Maycomb, Alabama, giving credence to the saying, "You can never go home again."

While listening to the story, I could see the points of the detractors and at times felt this should have remained a trunk novel - meaning one you write and hide away in a trunk never to see the light of day. The story meanders and could have used some editing. However, I enjoyed Jean Louise looking back on her life, and Lee's storytelling is strong during those scenes.

This is a novel about each person coming of age, meaning that there is no collective conscious. We all must decide who we are and what we believe. I think it is important to remember the time period that the story was written. People in the South had big changes in front of them, and their fear was large. While Atticus does get knocked around on his pedestal, he is still a good person trying to uphold justice.

I didn't like the way the abuse situation was handled near the end of the novel, but again, during that time period, hitting someone was not looked at the same as it is now.

Two quotes that I really liked.

  • "Every man's island, Jean Louise, every man's watchman, is his conscience. There is no collective conscience" (265),
  • '"Bigot,' she read. 'Noun, One obstinately or intolerably devoted to his own church, party, belief, or opinion" (267).
These quotes made me think about my own beliefs. Am I open to new ideas? Have I built my beliefs on those of others, or have I thought for myself? 

I found this book worth reading. Yes, it could have benefited from some editing and pacing, but I think it shows that Lee was indeed a talented writer. I only wish she'd written more. 

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, June 28, 2017

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini was published in 2013. This is an epic tale told in 421 pages, which is short for an epic. Hosseini does not waste words.

In the author's note, he says the title of the book was inspired by William Blake's poem "Nurse's Song.

357. Nurse’s Song
William Blake (1757–1827)
WHEN the voices of children are heard on the green,
  And laughing is heard on the hill,
My heart is at rest within my breast,
  And everything else is still.
‘Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down,        5
  And the dews of night arise;
Come, come, leave off play, and let us away
  Till the morning appears in the skies.’
‘No, no, let us play, for it is yet day,
  And we cannot go to sleep;        10
Besides, in the sky the little birds fly,
  And the hills are all cover’d with sheep.’
‘Well, well, go and play till the light fades away,
  And then go home to bed.’
The little ones leapèd and shoutèd and laugh’d        15
  And all the hills echoèd.

This poem really fits this story, and Hosseini has a poetic way of writing. He makes the characters and scenes come alive. This novel begins from Abdullah's point of view as he and his little sister travel to Kabul with their father. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but things don't go the way Abdullah thought they would. The story follows their lives into their old age, and it brings in many people whose lives intersect with theirs. I loved the parts about the feathers.

Each chapter begins with the year, but I wish the name of the character whose point of view the story was being told from was also listed. I always had a page or so of wondering who I was reading. I think having the name up front would have helped me immensely.

When I think of Hosseini's books, I can visualize what I've read much like watching a movie. If you liked A Thousand Splendid Suns, you will like this book.

Michelle and her cute little grandson brought me three new books today for the NICU. Thank you, Michelle. 

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, June 27, 2017

NICU Update 6/27/2017

Thirty-six years ago today, I lost my first baby of a set of twins. This was before doctors used ultrasound on a regular basis, so I didn't know that I still carried a second baby. On July 27th I would lose that little boy. Although I have often thought of those babies over the years, I didn't do anything to honor their lives until fall of 2014 when I read a book that a student's mother had written about pregnancy loss. She recommended doing something to honor the baby or babies you had lost.

Because I am a reading and English teacher, I decided that to honor my babies, I would gather books for a year and make a one time donation to the NICU in packets of five books each for the parents to read to their babies. I was able to get good deals on books because I was a teacher, so the the Scholastic book order helped immensely with this project as they generally have a one dollar book each month. At the end of the year, I had purchased 150 books for the NICU through Scholastic and other places. I miss those dollar sales now that I am out of the classroom.

I found that I couldn't stop gathering books for this project. My neighbor, Michelle, started gathering books for it as well. Several of my friends and friends of the NICU started sending books, and of course, I kept on purchasing books.

Recently, a NICU mom posted a link to my blog and many of her friends and family sent books. Today, on this anniversary of the loss of my babies, I received a package of books from her mother, Gail.

Thank you, Gail. You made my day. You didn't know that today had any significance to me, but I found it a tender mercy to receive these books today. I love touch and feel books for babies, and Mo Willems is awesome!

My friend, Michelle, brought me a Spanish book last night, which we always need.

  • In 2015 we sent 73 packets but not every baby received one.
  • In 2016 we sent 224 packets and most babies received one. 
  • So far in 2017, we have sent 149 packets, and I have 30 more to send. I love that there are enough for every baby in our NICU to get a packet of books. 
Reading to your child everyday is one of the best gifts you can give them. Thank you to everyone who helps keep this project going. 

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.