Thursday, June 22, 2017

Money Hungry by Sharon G. Flake

Money Hungry by Sharon G. Flake was published in 2001. This high interest low Lexile book is great for reluctant readers. Thirteen year-old Raspberry Hill is obsessed with making money because she and her mother were homeless and and now living precariously in a rough part of town.

Raspberry gets into trouble for her money making schemes. She is called greedy, but people don't understand her fear of homelessness. She understands that money is what will keep her and her mother safe, but not even her mother understands her quest to earn money. I love Raspberry's tenacity and work ethic. Her mother frustrated me, and I found her actions at times to be childish.

I liked the relationships and situations in the story and found them realistic. I also liked how Sharon G. Flake shows how hard it is to avoid misunderstandings when people don't communicate well.

This book is the first of two books. The second book is called Begging for Change and I will read it as I want to know what happens to Raspberry and her mother. I like books grab a reluctant reader's attention quickly and move them through the story. This slim volume has 188 pages with a lot of white space and short chapters. The font size is large, but a teen reader won't feel they are reading a baby book.

The cover on my book is different from this one, but both are attractive to teen readers.

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 21, 2017

Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody

Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody was first published in 1950, and I would say it is the male equivalent to Little House on the Prairie.

Both my sister, Jill, and my neighbor, Lisa, suggested I read this book, so I did. This is the first of eight books in the series. Ralph Moody tells about his life, starting when he is eight years old and his family moves to Colorado in order save his father's health. He works in the east in a Woolen Mill and the air quality is destroying his lungs.

The story is set in the early 1900s. Ralph gets a few nick-names in this book. He is called Molly by the bullies at his school because his mother makes him wear nice clothes instead of overalls to school. He then gains the nickname of Spike when he fights back, and lastly, he becomes Little Britches when he learns to do tricks on a horse.

Ralph is a pretty average kid for the time period. He makes mistakes, but his parents are good people who try to teach him right from wrong. Children are spanked during this time period and Ralph gets his share of spankings. He loves his father dearly and the reader can see that his father really helped him grow to become a good person who values honesty and keeping his reputation clean.

I will probably read the next book in this series as I came to care about the characters - including the animal characters. Animals were a big part of life during the time period of this book. If you liked The Little House books, you will like this book. Your boys will prefer this one.

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 20, 2017

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway is one of those books that makes the reader contemplate life and the value of relationships and humanity. I listened to the audio version that was narrated by Gareth Armstrong, and he is a wonderful reader.

The narration and voice of the story reminded me of The Book Thief. Galloway is a remarkable writer. I could visualize every single scene: smell it, feel it, touch it. I love his attention to the little details, yet this book is only 259 pages of well spaced nice sized text, so he doesn't use his words carelessly - every word counts and packs an emotional or sensory punch. Even though the story ended, I wanted it to go on, which means I'll have to reread it. I'll also have to go find another Steven Galloway book as I really like his storytelling style.

In this story, Galloway takes the siege of Sarajevo that lasted over three years and condensed it into a month. After an attack in the city that killed twenty-two people, a cellist decides to play a piece at four o'clock each day in remembrance of each person killed. Although this story is based on that story, this book is fiction.

The story is told from the point of view of the Cellist, a female sniper named Arrow, a father named Kenan, and an older man named Dragan using third person omniscient narration. As each person tells their story, the reader gets a feel for what the people of the city must endure to get food, water, and medicine. The reader gets the sense of what becomes of people when they are reduced to only being concerned with taking care of the most basic of needs. We see people in their moments of weakness and their moments of strength. I loved how Dragan's narration ended - so profound. Without the daily niceties, we stop connecting with people. Those little greetings, kindnesses, and reaching out to others are what keep us human.

I highly recommend this book.

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, June 19, 2017

Totally Monster Manners by Sue DiCicco

Last week at Seagull Book, I found a board book with lift flaps that reminded me of a book that my children't loved when they were little. My kids loved The Thing-a-ma-jig books, but they are very hard to find now as they are out of print.

When I saw this Totally Monster Manners book, I had to buy it.

The pictures are cute and show the monsters using bad manners. "Some monsters never use their manners. They really are impolite. They never say 'please' or 'thank you.' Not morning, noon, or night."

Each new page has a stanza that rhymes. Books that contain rhymes are wonderful for little children. After listening a few times, they are often able to fill in the words if you leave them out or stop for them to fill in the words. This gives your little reader an opportunity to feel like they know the words and is one step closer to them becoming independent readers.

By the end of the story, the monsters have learned manners and play nicely with others.

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, June 16, 2017

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman looked interesting to me because the title is a good one, and it is about a child with epilepsy. I have a child with epilepsy, so I always want to learn more.

This story is a biography/non-fiction about a child, Lia Lee born in American to Hmong refugees. She is beautiful and very well loved, but as a baby, she begins having seizures. Fadiman handles the complexity of the story well. She explains the cultural divide, and it is huge: language, religion, family and clan dynamics, and the role of children. Hmong adore their children, and children with epilepsy are thought of as chosen ones as they believe these children can commune with spirits.

I loved learning about the Hmong culture and found their belief in Dabs and spirits interesting. I found some of their beliefs quite healthy and feel we could do better by incorporating them into our own lives.

As a mother with a child who endured the entire neurology workup, I can't imagine doing so without being able to understand the doctor and without an interpreter. Initially when your child receives this diagnosis, the medicine routine is very difficult. You introduce the medicine and then gradually increase it over the course of several weeks, all the time on the look out for side-effects and trying to see if the medicine is at a therapeutic level in order to stop the seizures. It was confusing, and I am college educated and speak the same language as the doctor.

I like that Fadiman didn't try to paint anyone as guilty or innocent in the fiasco that was Lia Lee's case. She presented the facts. She presented the culture differences and misunderstandings. She worked hard to present a balanced non-biased story.

As an educator, I wish I had read this book a long time ago, as it explained some of the cultural differences that would have been nice to know with a few of my own students. This is a book that anyone who works with the public should read. If you are someone who loves to learn about other cultures, this is a book you will enjoy.

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, June 15, 2017

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson was published in 2014. This book is told from the points of view of a boy/girl set of twins. Noah's part is told at the age of 13/14 and Jude's part is told at age 16. The story goes back and forth in time, but it isn't at all confusing.

This is a story with a LGBT character. This story talks about sexuality and sex. This story has profanity. This story has teen sex and the repercussions that go along with teen sex. This story has adultery.While I have been known to stop reading a book with any one of these things, I am also no prude and will gladly complete and enjoy a book that includes these things if they are done well and not just for shock value. This story also contains death, grief, and sorrow.

This story will also make you laugh, and it is incredibly well written. Jude and Noah have always been close, but as they hit their early teens, things get tense in their relationship. Where they were once each a part of the same whole, they have splintered apart. Art plays a huge part in this story. Both of them try to get into the an art school, but it doesn't work out they way everyone thinks it will.

Noah is a painter and I swear I could visualize the art he describes in his invisible art gallery. I want the pictures to be created. Although the art isn't included in the book, as it is invisible, it sure was spectacular inside my head.

Jude is a sculpture, only she struggles to see herself as an artist. This book shows why as parents, we need to make sure we don't squash a child's dream. This book also shows how important it is not to squash our own dreams.

This is a story of coming to terms and learning to go forward after someone close to you leaves this world. This story shows the raw edge of grief and how it can cause those to change and sometimes self-destruct in its wake. It also shows how healing can happen and how we need others to give us back the sun after it leaves our world.

I found myself writing in the margins on this book. I saw myself in the pages - the mistakes I'd made as a young person when I was making decisions without my adult knowledge.

I appreciated the honesty of the LGBT character and hope that as more books are published with LGBT characters, bullying will diminish and the rate of suicide in the LGBT population will drop.

I felt like this book deserved a better cover. I wanted one of Noah's paintings or one of Jude's sculptures: NoahandJude or a Sand Woman.

Yep, that's the cover.

This book is not for children or young teens. I would wait until a student is mature enough to read this. I would say age 16, but I know that could be still be too young for some and that others may be able to read it earlier. Know your child and what they are reading. I think this book could be very valuable for a student who is thinking about having sex when they are too young or for a student who is LGBT as it would help them feel not so alone.

Read to a child today, but not this book unless the 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 14, 2017

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta was originally published in Australia with the title, On the Jellicoe Road. When I first started reading this book, I was confused, so much so that I nearly abandoned the book.

I logged onto and took a look at some of the reviews. I also found a website that explained the first few chapters for me. I had read them five times and was still confused. If this book hadn't been rated as well as it is, I would have walked away from this book, but I'm so glad I stuck it out.

Jellicoe Road is a story within a story. The book begins with an amazing first line, "My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die. I counted."

But then you get to chapter two and the time period has changed, the narrator has changed and because both are told in first person narration, it is confusing.

Things to keep in mind. When the typeface is italicized you are reading another story set 22 years in the past and Narnie is the narrator. The other chapters are Taylor's story. The stories are set in the same town. To add to the confusion, Taylor is having very strange dreams about a boy in a tree.

This is a story about a girl trying to forget but trying to remember. This is a story of redemption, of depression, of sorrow, of grief, of guilt, and of friendship. The characters make changes that make sense for them, so the story doesn't seem contrived - it seems natural once you figure out what is happening.

There are twists and turns and many surprises. This story will make you cry. It takes some work to process the beginning, but this book is worth it.

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 13, 2017

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

I am always on the hunt for good Graphic Novels. Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke is one such offering. In this story, Zita and her friend find a button in a pit with a crashed meteoroid. They wrestle over it, and the result is that a portal opens and a creature reaches through and steals Joseph. Zita has to find a way to save him.

If your child likes the Legend of Zelda stories, they will probably like this book. The art work is descriptive and helps move the story along. I also like the font used in this book. Often the fonts in graphic novels are hard to read, but his font is great.

Zita learns, grows, and becomes a better friend in this book. The space creatures are creative and work well with the story. Some of them remind me of the creatures in the new Zelda, Breath of the Wild. Yes, I am a Legend of Zelda nerd.

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, June 12, 2017

Storybooks with Girl Characters: Part 2

Last time we talked about books with red-headed girls, today I will highlight three books with girls with dark hair.

1. Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon was written by Patty Lovell and illustrated by the amazing David Catrow. Published in 2001, this story tells about Molly Lou Melon, a very tiny girl who loves her grandmother and has an astounding sense of self. The book begins, "Molly Lou Melon stood just taller than her dog and was the shortest girl in the first grade. She didn't mind. Her grandma had told her, 'Walk as proudly as you can and the world will look up to you.'"

Molly Lou soon has to move; will her grandmother's advice see her though a new school and the mean Ronald Durkin? This book is so darling. The story is timeless and profound and the pictures are stunning with amazing colors and details. Every child should have this book in their library.

2. If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don't by Elise Parsley is a darling book about a little girl who doesn't want to bring a sparkly rocks, a nest, or a hollow stick for nature show-and-tell day, so she brings an alligator. Unfortunately, the alligator keeps Madeline hopping all day trying to keep him out of trouble. The artwork will make even the most ornery adult laugh, and all of my grand-kids love this book. Great book for a budding zoologist or scientist.

3. Amazing Grace written by Mary Hoffman and beautifully illustrated by Caroline Birch is a book about Grace, a girl who loves stories and always casts herself as the most exciting character in the story. I like Grace's creativeness and her ability to see herself as being whatever she wants to be. She has an amazing Nana and mother who remind her that she can indeed be anything she wants.

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

Michelle brought another stack of books over for the NICU babies. She is so generous to our project.

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

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce is a book that I listened to on Overdrive. The reader was fantastic and may have contributed to why I enjoyed this book so much.

Harold Fry has recently retired. He and his wife are estranged. He seems to love her a lot, but for some reason they have grown apart. He gets a letter from a woman he used to work with years ago telling him that she is dying of cancer. At some point, Queenie, the woman who is dying, did something for Harold, but the reader doesn't know what she did.

Harold writes her a letter, but as he goes to mail it, a letter doesn't seem like it is enough, and he decides to walk 600 miles to visit her. He isn't in walking shoes, has forgotten his cell phone, and only has the clothing on his back, but walk he does.

As he walks, he thinks over his life. We learn about his wife, his child, his job, and Queenie. He meets people during his travels, and he learns about himself by learning about others.

This book made me feel good. It made me want to be a little kinder. There is a plot twist that kind of blew my mind. It also made me listen again to the audio after I'd finished it. So yes, I listened to this book twice in the period of a few days.

This is book one of two, and I will be getting the second book, The Love Song of Queenie Hennessy. I want to know more about Queenie as I loved how she was portrayed in the first book even though she isn't in it a lot. This book has surprises, and I love when an author can surprise me. This book will make you laugh, cry, and think about the relationships in your life and how you might make them stronger.

I love the font used on the cover.

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

This darling book was delivered yesterday and given to our project by Diane. Thank you, Diane. I love the words of Audrey and the art of Don Woods. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev

In our area, we have a little bookstore called Seagull Book. They mainly sell religious books, but they always have a selection of children's literature that is sold at a discount.

I found Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev and illustrated by Taeeun Yoo last week when I stopped in. Published in 2015, this book is about being a friend and accepting others. The little boy in this story has a tiny, dog-sized pet elephant, but in his city. other people don't allow his pet elephant to be included.

He tells about going for walks with his pet elephant. "He doesn't like the cracks in the sidewalk much. I always go back and help him over. That's what friends do: Lift each other over the cracks." When they get to the pet clubhouse meeting a sign on the door says "Strictly No Elephants."

When the little boy finds out that other unusual pets are being excluded, he and the other kids decide to all be friends together. '"Come along,' I say, making certain that my tiny elephant follows me. Because that' what friends do: never leave anyone behind."

He paint a sign on the door of the new meeting place that says, "All are welcome."

I like this book because it allows a parent to talk to a child about inclusion, being a good friend, and seeing if anyone has made them feel that they don't belong.

The pictures and animals are cute and this book will bring up good discussion points about including others and being a good friend.

Read to a child today to help them navigate problems they may encounter. 

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

This week even more books have arrived for the NICU book project. 

Kaytie sent this book by Erick Carl. Thank you, Kaytie.

Caitie, my daughter, brought these to honor the brothers she never got to meet. She found some fun ones. If you'd like to donate books in honor of someone you love, let me know, and I'm happy to mention your loved one. Thank you, Caitie. 

Michelle brought these books over last night. I love Stellaluna. Thank you, Michelle. 

That is 18 more books for the babies. Thank you to all who have contributed to our project. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

She Touched the World: Laura Bridgman, Deaf-Blind Pioneer by Sally Hobart Alexander and Robert Alexander

When I was a little girl, I was fascinated with Helen Keller's life story. I read everything I could find about her. In all my Helen Keller studies, I never heard about Laura Bridgman. Laura Bridgman became deaf and blind after being sick with Scarlet Fever, an illness that killed her two older sisters when she was only two years old.

In She Touched the World: Laura Bridgman, Deaf-Blind Pioneer, The Alexanders cover Laura's life with dignity. Laura was a Pioneer because Doctor Samuel Gridley Howe tried a new way to teach her. Laura was born in 1829, and this book shows how important the women's movement was for people like Laura. If one of her teachers got married, they by law could no longer be a teacher, so while Dr. Howe looked for a new teacher, Laura was often alone. She was inquisitive and loved to be with people so this was very hard for her.

The family tree in the front of the books reminds me how grateful I am for modern medicine. Laura's parents had nine children but only five of them survived into adulthood. Antibiotics and immunizations have saved parents from having to bury several children during the same week. Not to mention that often the medical care received was more dangerous then the illness the doctor was treating.

Laura taught Helen Keller's teacher, Anne Sullivan, to finger spell when she was student at Laura's school. Charles Dickens met and wrote about Laura. Laura was at one time the most famous person in America. Laura could sew, knit, and make lace. Scarlet Fever had stolen her eye sight, her hearing, her sense of taste and smell, but it could not steal her zest for life and her desire for knowledge.

If you have a child who is fascinated with Helen Keller, they will love this picture book sized treasure that comes with a lot of pictures along with the text.

Read to a child today and help them see the power of learning. 

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

Friday, June 2, 2017

So This Has Been Happening - NICU Update

On May 27th, I did a NICU book project update and told people what we needed in the NICU.

Book people are awesome. People who value literacy are awesome. People who have used this service in the NICU are awesome. Apparently the right people saw my blog post because since that update, we have received 78 new books to give to the newborns in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit. The packages of books have been streaming in, and sorting these new books has been so much fun.

I may have cried a little to see that there are others who value literacy they way I do. This book project is about literacy, but reading to your babies builds so much more than literacy. It builds a bond that can't be broken between parent and child. I treasure the memories I have of my sweet mother reading to me. I remember myself and siblings rushing to get into bed on time in order to have a story read to us. My mother has a beautiful reading voice and made the books come alive.

I am thankful that these tiniest of babies can begin their journey through life with a parent's kind voice reading to them.

Thank you to all who shared our post or felt compelled to send books. We are helping families who often spend weeks and months in the hospital, and we are helping the babies get started on their literacy journey.

Just look at all these darling books. Many are board books which are great because babies need books they can handle and nibble without worrying about damage. Each packet of books we give contains five books. I try to have 2 paperbacks, 2 hardbacks, and 1 board book in each packet. Parents also receive an insert that explains the importance of reading to their baby from birth. All of this is contained in a 2 gallon ziplock to keep them safe at the hospital bedside.

Mikiya sent this group of books. I'm thankful to get so many board books. Thank you, Mikiya.

My neighbor's niece, Aimee, sent this group. Those double delight books are incredibly fun and check out the hardbacks and board books. Thank you, Aimee.

 This selection that includes two Spanish books is from Diane. I was completely out of Spanish books. Thank you, Diane.

Judson sent this adorable touch and feel board book. Thank you, Judson, the babies will love it.

 Heather included two Spanish books in her selection; we really needed them.  Thank you, Heather. 

This group is from Mary. I love the touch and feel books and Don and Audrey Woods are master storytellers. Thank you, Mary.

Leslie sent this batch that includes 12 board books. The babies will love these. Thank you, Leslie. 

Thank you again to all who shared our link and sent books. Together we can help so many more babies than I can help on my own. People are good.

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

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wuthering Heights: The Graphic Novel Edition retold by Jim Pipe

You know I can't walk away from a 50 cent graphic novel retelling of Emily Bronte's classic Wuthering Heights. This slim little volume summarizes the story in a scant 41 pages.

I liked that this book had a family tree and character list. The artwork by Nick Spender captures the mood of the original story. Jim Pipe's retelling is good, but one doesn't really get the layered nuances of Heathcliff's character. If you need a quick refresher on characters and plot points, this book is one way to do so. This is also a good way to interest a student in a classic.

A couple of pages are dedicated to Emily Bronte's life. My only concern was that it said, "The girls were treated so badly there (at a school) that Emily's elder sisters Maria and Elizabeth both became ill with tuberculosis and died shortly after they returned home" (42). Poor treatment doesn't cause TB.

Read to a child today even if that child is you revisiting an old favorite in a new way. 

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

I'd like to give a shout out to those who have been ordering books from this registry. Thank you so very much. I almost cried when I saw that over 40 books are headed my way. Okay, I did cry a little. This project means so very much to me. Thank you. Thank you, Thank you. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Aaaarrgghh, Spider! by Lydia Monks

Anyone who know me knows that I am not a spider lover. I don't smash them because you have to be close enough to it to smash it, and I don't take them outside because there is no way that I going to pick up a spider, so the vacuum cleaner it is for me.

In Lydia Monks Aaaarrgghh, Spider!, a spider really wants to be a pet. He keeps showing the humans in the house what a good pet he would make, but they keep putting him outside. They finally see what a good pet he would make, but then things get really creepy. This is one spider book that I can relate to although the spider never would have been invited inside in the first place.

This book is darling. Lydia Monks also wrote The Cat Barked? She knows what kids like and how to make a story fun.

Yesterday, Angie brought me 38 books from generous people for our NICU book project. One of her work friends brought 10 board books and 8 hard backs. People are good. Thank you to this sweet friend who would like to stay unnamed.

Angie's sister-in-law, Janelle, sent 20 books for our project. She included some real treasures in this group and yes, that is a Spanish book you see in there. Thank you, Janelle!

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

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

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Newborn Intensive Care Unit Update

I will deliver 32 more packet of books to the NICU on Monday. I have been amazed at how the books I need for this project seem to come my way because of good people in the world. If I'm low on any type of book, I say a prayer and within the week, what I need is either provided at an incredible price at a store or yardsale, or some kind person seems to donate just what our project needs.

For instance, I ran out of brightly colored cardstock that I use to make the inserts for the book packets explaining the importance of reading to your children. Today, I found a ream of just the paper I needed at a yard sale for a dollar.

Last week, we were getting low on board books, and not only did I find a few at good prices, my cute neighbor brought her two darling children over to each donate a Sandra Boynton book for the NICU babies. Thank you to Emily and her two littles.

Today, I am going to share what we need for our project.

1. Right now we are completely out of Spanish books. Children need to be read to in their home language.  It helps if a child is first proficient in their first language before learning a second language. So we need Spanish books for babies.

2. We need hardback books. Each packet of books contains 2 hardback, 2 paperback, and 1 board book. I am completely out of hardback books.

3. We still have a few board books, but we can always use more.

If you'd like to help us with this project, you can bring new or gently used books to me or Angie, or you can use our Amazon link and they will ship the books you choose directly to me.

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

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this project. Helping children become readers is so dear to my heart as I believe that knowledge and books save lives and bring a tremendous amount of enjoyment to our world.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Rent Collector by Cameron Wright

The Rent Collector by Cameron Wright is a fiction based on a true story. Published in 2012, this story follows Sang Ly, her husband, and ill child as they live at and gather recyclables out of a huge garbage dump in Cambodia. Living at the dump has caused their baby to be very sick. They take him to many doctors, but he always goes back to being sick once the medicine is gone.

This story contains several stories as Sang Ly learns to read. I enjoyed all the short stories that Wright incorporated into the story. The story follows the Cinderella story which Wright brings up as one of the most universal tales of all time. Sang Ly even leaves a shoe behind at one point.

The character of Sopeap was one of my favorites along with the character Lucky. Sopeap is a many layered character - neither good nor bad. She is human and her experiences that are revealed throughout the story make her seem so real. This story made me tear up many times, so beware, Alysen. Lucky seems older than his years and is blessed with a positive disposition. I wanted to take him home and raise him in a good environment.

My only complaint was that at times, Sang Ly's voice doesn't seem authentic. However, the overiding message of this book is such a good one. This book makes the reader think about life, poverty, the things we throw away - including humans. I enjoyed the Cambodian history that was relayed throughout the story and how Wright wove all the stories that Sopeap taught Sang Ly into the main story.

I enjoyed the push this book makes about the value of literacy and storytelling. Teachers are important, and the ability to read and write will help end poverty. I loved how a child's picture book opened the door for Sang Ly to have a teacher.

The ending was good, but I was left wondering how the Healer worked. I wanted the science behind his techniques. I also want to watch the documentary that Wright's son produced about the real Sang Ly and her family.

This was our book club choice for May, and everyone enjoyed it.

Read to a child today because you may just change their world for the better. 

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Keeping Score by Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park has the ability to take subjects that I have no interest in (like baseball or centuries old pottery) and create an interesting and enjoyable story. When I picked up her book A Single Shard and read the blurb, I thought, "This could be really boring," but it was a Newbery book, so I read it and ended up loving the characters and found the parts about pottery pretty fascinating.

I felt the same way when reading the blurb on Keeping Score as I have no interest in baseball. Published in 2008, Maggie, named for Joe DiMaggio, loves baseball. She has no desire to play the game, but she is an avid fan. She learns how to score the games from one of the firefighters who work at her dad's old station. Their friendship develops, but Jim is drafted and sent to Korea. Maggie writes to him, but soon his letters stop and she is determined to find out why.

The story is set in New York with the trifecta of amazing baseball clubs in New York during that time period. I enjoyed seeing how Maggie learned about her relationship to God and religion, how she was willing to sacrifice for others (something that happens in a baseball game), and that she had two good parents.

I learned about baseball in a way that was interesting and would highly recommend this book to any of my students who love baseball or any other sport. I love that the main character was a girl who wanted to do something that boys normally did. In the 1950s, women's choices were limited, and I liked that Maggie was able to see possibilities of using her skill of keeping score in her future.

Linda Sue Park is on my short list of authors whose books I will buy just because their name is on the cover. She has written many books that I still need to add to my library. Two other books by Linda Sue Park that I have read and loved are A Long Walk to Water and When My Name was Keoko.

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, May 16, 2017

Storybooks with Girl Characters: Part 1

Recently I've seen several posts on social media that tell about the dearth of children's storybooks that feature a female as the main character. I went through my own library of children's books, and yes, there are a lot more children's books out there with male main characters.

As a parent of both girls and boys, I want there to be good and fun books for my boys and my girls. Often the main character is an insect or animal and often they are also male, but there are good books with female main characters; you just have to look for them. I think it is important for little boys and girls to see characters of both sexes in the books that are read to them.

Here are three of my favorites. I'll do a couple more blog posts in the future to highlight more books for girls.

1. Rodeo Red written by Maripat Perkins and illustrated by Molly Idle. Published in 2015, this book has a cute little redhead who goes by the name of Rodeo Red. She dresses in cowboy gear, can swing a lasso, and is quite creative. When Sideswiping Slim shows up (her new baby brother), Rodeo Red has to figure out a way to keep him happy while also keeping her stuffed hound dog, Rusty, as her favorite sidekick. She and Rusty "had always been happier than two buttons on a new shirt."
Unfortunately, her little brother takes a liking to Rusty, and she has to find a way to get her stuffed dog back in her arms.

This book has darling illustrations and is fun to read. Little children will probably not understand the figures of speech, but my three-year-old grandson likes this book.

2. Hip, Hip, Hooray for Annie McRae! written by Brad Wilcox and illustrated by Julie Olsen is another book about a little cowgirl. Annie McRae has curly, red hair and a gap tooth grin. She is a happy girl who has wonderful parents who cheer her on with the words "Hip, hip, hooray for Annie McRae!" When her parents have a day when they don't cheer her, Annie gets very sad, but she figures out how to cheer for herself using the internal dialogue that her parents have given her.

The pictures are darling and Annie McRae is full of life. I love the facial expressions in this story. I was fortunate enough to take a college class from Brad Wilcox and he told us about the creation of this book. He is an author who truly cares about people. This book was published  in 2001 and is currently out of print although you can still find it online for a good price.

3. Humbug Witch by Lorna Balian was published in 1965, and it was my favorite picture book when I was little. I love the pictures in this book and how Balian uses text size and placement to complement the telling of this story. This book is about a red-headed little witch whose spells don't work right. She has a cat named Fred and this book has a surprise ending. This book completely delighted me when I was a girl, and luckily, it is still in print.

All three of these characters have red hair, and all are imaginative and strong.

Do you have a favorite children's book with a female lead?

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, May 15, 2017

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer was published in 2006 and has languished in my to be read pile. I listened to the audio version of this book and the narration was excellent. This is the first book in a series of four.

The premise of this book is interesting. A meteor has hit the moon and knocked it closer to earth causing catastrophic weather conditions: tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions that cause ash to cover the earth and block the sun.

The main character, Miranda, tells the story in journal entries that reminded me of Anne Frank's diary as they seem realistic and cover the fact that food is running out. Miranda and her family try to survive in a world where food is scarce, communication has broken down, and the government has crumbled.

I was reminded many times of the starvation of those who existed during the Holocaust. The science of this book was also interesting. I liked that the catastrophe was not caused by a war or government, but by a natural disaster. What would happen to our world if the moon was knocked out of its orbit? This book makes the reader think about such a scenario. What would you do if something like this happened? Would your family be prepared to cook, heat, have water and food?

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, May 11, 2017

NICU Update 5/10/2017

So far this year, we've had 273 books donated for the NICU babies. Along with the 336 that I've purchased, we've been able to place 122 packets with babies. Each baby gets a packet with five books that their parents can read to them while they grow in the NICU. Often when babies are born premature, they spend a long time in the hospital, so there is a lot of time to read to these little ones. One book won't cut it, but five books gives the parents some options. When the babies are released from the hospital, they take their packet of books home with them.

This project wasn't intended to be a long term project, but it has turned into one. I can't bear to stop sending books because it helps the parents, and I know from experiences as a mother and teacher that children who are read to start school with a huge advantage over those who are not read to. Each packet we give highlights the advantages of reading to your babies.

Our most recent donations:

Angie sent these five and that Dino Pop-up Faces book is adorable. Now you, too can be a dinosaur. I also love the touch and feel books for babies. Plus, she included a Spanish board book. We are always in need of Spanish books.

Sharon Hall sent over these nine board books. I love getting board books for the babies. Babies need to be able to handle their books and these allow them to do so. Mem Fox's Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes is one of my favorites. She also included some touch and feel books.

Michelle dropped off thirty-five: I love when anyone brings books and especially when Where the Wild Things Are is included. Every child should have that book. Michelle is my dear friend who loves this project as much as I do. She is our biggest benefactor and has donated 238 books so far this year.

I appreciate those who have embraced our little book project and helped it grow. Together we can reach so many more babies and give them the gift of literacy than I can do on my own. Getting a donation of 200 ziplock bags from my mom also helped us out and keeps the books safe while they are at the baby's bedside. Thanks to all of you who send books and other supplies to keep this book giveaway going.

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to newborn babies.

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord

Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord was published in 2010, and with a Lexile measure of 750, this would be a good hi/low book.

Tess, the main character, is a superstitious girl. She carries lucky charms and each chapter begins with a quote about luck. She lives on an island that will lose its school unless they can get more students before fall, so the community decides to take in five foster children in order to save their school.

Tess's family gets Aaron, a teen boy with a lot of baggage. I liked that this book seemed realistic. It is told from Tess's point of view, yet we get to see Aaron's reaction to things as well. He struggles being away from his mom, he has moved from the city to a small island where everyone is in his business, and he acts coldly toward Tess and her family.

There is growth in the characters. They don't always make the right choices but their motives are good. Tess's five year old sister is written well. She acts like a five year old other than the fact that she loves to play Monopoly. Granted there could be five-year-olds who are obsessed with Monopoly; I've just never met one, but I had a two year old who was obsessed with Phantom of the Opera, so I'll accept the Monopoly obsession.

This is the third book by Cynthia Lord that I have read and enjoyed. I hope to read more by her. If you liked her book Rules or Half a Chance, you will like this book.

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.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Babushka's Doll by Patricia Polacco

My California kids are here this week, which means that four-year-old Xander and I have been reading a lot of stories. When he asked me if I had a book about a Babushka, I was taken by surprise.

"How do you know what a Babushka is?" I asked.

"Justin Time told me about Babushka's," he said.

Luckily, I had purchased Babushka's Doll by Partricia Polacco the previous week, so I was able to say, "Yes, I have a book about a Babushka." This book was published in 1990, and any parent who has ever spent the day with a whiny, demanding child, will appreciate this book. Of course this book is all the more fun if you read the Grandmother (Babushka) with a Russian accent and the doll with a demanding voice.

After Natasha spends the day whining and demanding that her Babushka do everything for her, Babushka leaves her with the doll telling her that she only ever played with the doll one time. Natasha is delighted to have time with the doll. After Grandmother leaves, the doll comes to life and is demanding and pushy, quickly wearing Natasha to a frazzle. Of course Natasha decides that she never wants to play with Babushka's doll again.

As soon as we turned the last page, Xander wanted me to read it again. This is a fun story with cute pictures. Xander enjoyed looking at the facial expressions to see what the characters were feeling.

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, May 8, 2017

The 39 Clues by multiple authors

Several years ago, Matthew and I read the first installment of The 39 Clues titled The Maze of Bones. Matt loved it and I thought it was a fun story. We liked the fast pace,  excitement, and the sense of danger and humor, but what may be most valuable about these books is that they teach history in a very fun way.

Matt was on the internet researching the Paris Catacombs during and after his read of this book. He created on his own project about the Catacombs to share with his class - this wasn't assigned. When a book can make research and learning this much fun, it is a book worth reading. We read the first two books together.

Lately I've been listening to the audio versions of these books. The story follows orphans, Amy and Dan who took on their Grandmother Grace's challenge to find the 39 clues which are hidden all over the world. The winner will get the entire Cahill fortune. They are competing against other branches of the family - many of which have murderous appetites, and are not afraid to lie, cheat, or kill to get to the next clue.

There are holes in the stories at times, but all of them make the reader (or listener) want to jump online to see the sights and learn more about the history that is shared in the books. Each book is written by a different author, and so far, each book is quite fun. Series are great for readers who don't like to have to get to know new characters in every book. This book follows the same characters and allow the reader to dive right in.

Here are the ones I've listened to or read so far:

Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan (The amazing author of the Percy Jackson series)

One False Note by Gordon Korman

The Sword Thief  by Peter Lerangis

Beyond the Grave  by Jude Watson

The Black Circle by Patrick Carman

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.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Legend of Jimmy Spoon by Kristiana Gregory

Published in 1990, The Legend of Jimmy Spoon by Kristiana Gregory is the story of a young boy who feels stifled by his pioneer life in a city near The Great Salt Lake. He inadvertently runs away from home and ends up with Chief Washakie's tribe of Native Americans. This is a fiction based on a true story.

I liked this book because I think children, especially boys, will enjoy this adventure story. I also like that Gregory doesn't tell the reader what is good or bad. She gives us Jimmy's reactions to the traditions of Washakie's tribe. She also shows Jimmy's reactions to the way the pioneers live.

I think a young reader will understand Jimmy's desire to have a pony and his aversion to being cooped up in store all day. They will also sympathize with his struggles to control his temper and his body's adjustment to living a tougher lifestyle. I liked the progression of Jimmy Spoon's character, although I found his attitude towards his birth family a bit heartless. Of course he lived in a time where young boys were expected to take over the family business, so I won't judge him too harshly for trying to make his own way.

This book may give your reader the desire to learn more about conservation efforts, the plight of our country's indigenous population, and early pioneer history.

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.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland

Nick Bland's The Very Cranky Bear is such a fun read aloud. Bland's artwork is full of emotion and his story flows well with rhyme and rhythm.

The Story begins: "In the Jingle Jangle Jungle on a cold and rainy day, four little friends found a perfect place to play. Moose had marvelous antlers and Lion, a golden mane. Zebra had fantastic stripes and Sheep . . . well, Sheep was plain. None of them noticed that someone else was there. Sleeping in that cave was a very cranky . . .Bear! 'Roaaaar,' went the cranky bear, 'Roar, Roar, Roar!' He gnashed his teeth and stomped his feet and chased them out the door."

The story continues with the friends trying to cheer up the cranky bear and the results are fun to read aloud. This is a book that would be easy to memorize, and if you get it, you probably will memorize it because your child will want to read it over and over again. I'll be on the lookout for Bland's other Bear books.

I had not heard of this book before finding it last week, and it's been around since 2008, so I wanted to make sure that those of you who collect pictures books because they are so awesome have small children were aware of this book. All of my little grandchildren love this book and say, "Again, again," when we get to the end.

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

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009. In my experience, Pulitzer Prize winning books are generally about the human condition. This book is no exception.

In a story reminiscent of Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, Strout tells the story of many people in a small coastal town. Each story reads like a short story, and some left me wanting to know more, but the majority of the stories center around the character Olive Kitteridge. Olive is a math teacher who is married to a kind man. They have one child who feels the pressure of being the only child to a quiet father and a domineering mother. Olive is emotional and easily angered, but at times she is stoic and helpful.

This novel puts the reader inside the heads of many different characters and shows that no one has a picture perfect life. We all face disappointment, trials, and joys.

This book also shows that sometimes we need to be in the right place in our life to appreciate a book. While perusing Goodreads reviews, I noticed that many of the one or two star ratings came from younger readers. I'm not sure that this book is for younger readers. I doubt that I would have had the life experiences needed to fully appreciate it at age 20, 30, or even 40, but now that I am in my 50s, this book resonates with me.

I feel the fear and worry that encroaching age bring into a relationship. I don't want to be a widow now or in twenty years. After raising several children, I see the worry of having children move far away, longing to see them more often, and missing them dearly. I see that life can often be hard and disappointing and that loneliness can bring people together even if they wouldn't like each other normally.

This book is honest. It shows that even though we may not act on all our thoughts, our thoughts can often be inappropriate. This book contains strong language in some parts, but I didn't feel like the author used it out of context, and I am okay with profanity if it fits the story and isn't marketed to young children.

I enjoyed this story and would recommend it to my older more mature readers. :)

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.