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 often 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.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Duke by Kirby Larson

It isn't often that I find a book for middle grade students that teaches me something new, but Duke by Kirby Larson does just that. I never knew that American citizens sent their pets to help with the war effort. Published in 2013, Larson has done her homework on this story set in Seattle during WWII.

Hobie's dad is in Europe flying planes, and Hobie feels a real pull to do all he can at home for the war effort. When he learns about a program that uses dogs to help the soldiers, he reluctantly sends his beloved dog Duke. Now that he has sent him, he does all he can to get his dog back.

The reader gets to see the emotions that Hobie goes through as he tries to make his father proud, yet still get his dog back home safely. We see the growth of his character. Larson adds all the other issues facing people back home. Trying to send care packages to soldiers and POWs, ration stamps, lack of shoes, gasoline, and rubber. She has sprinkled in the flavor the time well.

I have to admit that the letters Hobie sends back and forth to the soldier who has Duke made me cry at times.

The story is tender and heartwarming. I listened to the audio version, and while it was good, when the narrator did girl voices, it was a bit grating, so I may have enjoyed it more had I read it.

Hobie's relationships with his family, friends, and the neighborhood bully are handled well. He is a good big brother who gets annoyed at times with his little sister. I found this realistic. Any dog lover in your life or classroom 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 in the newborn intensive care unit.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth

The Three Questions, based on a story by Leo Tolstoy was written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth and published in 2002.  Of course it contains his gorgeous watercolor paintings. Did I tell you I love his art and have purchased books because of his artistic talent?

In this story, a young boy has three questions: When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? and What is the right thing to do?

As this child goes on a journey to find the answers, he gets a few different answers - all of them good answers, but they are not the answers he is ultimately looking for. After he helps a farmer and saves a panda and her baby, he discovers the answers to these questions.

This is a thought provoking book and I can picture myself using it in the classroom. I can imagine students trying to answer those questions for themselves, having a Socratic discussion or debate on each one. Not to mention that the art is fantastic and brings out the emotion of the story.

I am so happy to have added this treasure to my storybook collection. It is worth every penny.

 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 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.