Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Skin I'm In by Sharon G Flake

I found The Skin I'm In by Sharon G Flake at a book sale at the library, ten cents for a book. I feel almost guilty about it, but at this point whatever feeds my book addiction and is legal, is good for  me. Finding sales like this helps to offset my $100 Barnes and Noble shopping sprees.

I enjoy reading books about cultures other than my own as I like to learn something new when I read. I didn't think I'd have anything in common with the characters of this story, but while this story is about Black Americans, anyone could relate to the themes in this story.

Every person on the planet has to learn to accept themselves and the skin they are in. Maleeka has very dark skin, like her father who has died. She is teased about being too dark. She gets a new teacher who has a white splotch across her face, probably vitiligo. Maleeka wants to fit in, she wants nice clothes, and she wants to be liked. All of these needs cause her to put herself in bad situations. Maleeka is a good person, though. She cares about her mother and wears the ill made clothing her mom makes for her because she feels like the act of sewing helps keep her mother sane. Maleeka is a good writer, and her writing gives her strength.

This book made me think about the skin I am in and how acceptance in most communities, black or white, often is hard to come by. I am white - pasty, Casper the Ghost colored white, so white that I was told I was a brunette albino. I used to look at Oprah Winfrey and covet her beautiful skin. And then the cult I was raised in, spread the rumor that my father was black because they were complete racists and wanted to hurt us. My mom was hurt by it, but my sisters and I didn't take it seriously and fortunately, we all made it out of that cult. Being the subject of that rumor helped keep us safe from those who normally would have wanted us for breeding purposes.

My oldest son has vitiligo, which isn't a horrible thing to have when you are the color of paste because the white spots are barely noticeable. He has to keep those spots protected from the sun, but otherwise he is not bothered by them. This made me think about how hard it must have been for Michael Jackson to have this skin condition and how people ridiculed him because of it.

The truth of the matter is that we all have to live in the skin we are in. We are born with the skin we have, and we have no control over the color of it or the skin conditions that may happen to it. All we can do is to value all people, no matter their skin color or condition, no matter their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. May we see the good in those around us and understand that everyone is just trying to live in the skin they are in.

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

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Although I probably should have read this years ago, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom came into my life at exactly the right time.

You see, I've been questioning a lot of sad things in our world lately. There have been too many senseless deaths in my life, and I wonder why. . .why things are how they are. Why things can't be better. Why drug abuse takes so many, and why depression isn't cured yet.

Corrie Ten Boom was raised by remarkable people, people who embraced all. Their love of mankind was so deep that they risked their own lives to safe others during the Holocaust. Their love of God and Jesus Christ was so great that they were able to see others as good - even people who had done horrible things to them - and forgive, love, and help those people find the light.

Corrie's sister, Betsie was probably one of the best people who has ever lived. She gave thanks and appreciated everything, even thanking God for the fleas that tormented them in the concentration camp. I thought surely she had lost her mind, but those fleas played a role in her story. Her attitude has changed the way I think about things, and I can only hope that I can stay upbeat in times of stress.

Their love and study of the scriptures helped them know what God would have them do, gave them strength through time spent in concentration camps and prison, and gave them hope and vision of how they could change the world by helping others. I was impressed that they were willing to share the scriptures of other faiths and see those truths along with truths from their own scriptures.

I love this book. One of the stories Corrie tells is of how as a child she sees the word sexsin in a poem and asks her father what it means. He answers her with an object lesson. They are on a train and ready to disembark. He says to Corrie as he puts his heavy traveling case on the floor, "Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?"

"I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning."

"It's too heavy," I said.

"Yes," he said. "And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you" (26, 27).

Later in the story, Corrie is asked, "What kind of God would let that old man die here in Scheveningen?" (a prison).

"I got up from the chair and held my hands out to the squat little stove. I did not understand either why Father had died in such a place. I did not understand a great deal. And suddenly I was thinking of Father's own answer to hard questions: "Some knowledge is too heavy . . . you cannot bear it . . . Your Father will carry it until you are able" (163).

This really hit me. I need to trust in the Lord. I also need to study his words more thoroughly as peace, comfort, and answers are found there.

Read today as the book you read may be just what you need. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

To Market, To Market by Anne Miranda Illustrated by Janet Stevens

I'll admit that I bought this book for the wonderful illustrations but was glad I did because the story is fun.

To Market, To Market by Anne Miranda Illustrated by Janet Stevens was published in 1997. The story begins with "To market, to market to buy a fat pig. Home again, home again jiggity jig!"

The settings are done in black and white but the items the woman buys are in vivid color. Each time she goes to the market, the animals she has left at home have gotten into some type of trouble. Your child (and yourself) will wonder just what she is going to do with all these animals.

I like this book because there are plenty of opportunities for predicting what will happen next. Each page is full of different types of food and animals, which makes for fun observing and discussing.

Spend some time in a book with a child today even if it's just you and your inner child. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Small Pig by Arnold Lobel

Small Pig by Arnold Lobel was a big hit with Angie's kids. Small pig has a happy life until the farmer's wife get a little carried away with her cleaning and vacuums up his mud puddle. He runs away from home and gets into all sorts of scary situations trying to find a restful mud puddle.

At last he finds a mud puddle, but the children listening to or reading the story can see that the mud puddle is really wet cement. Will small pig be rescued? Will he be stuck in the concrete forever? The farmer and his wife are looking everywhere for their small pig. Will they save the day?

Arnold Lobel is a good storyteller and his cute pictures are just right for this story.

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

Friday, December 2, 2016

Eyelike Numbers by Play Bac Publishing

I have a daughter who loves numbers. When she was little, she counted everything including holes in ceiling tile. She knows who she is. She would have loved this book as a child as it explains numbers and how they work with beautiful photographs. Eyelike Numbers 

Here is a peak inside: Think of the number word power your child will have after reading this book.
 A pair, twins, a couple:
 A lot, plenty, a few, zero:
Counting and multiplying by ten:
 Smaller than, bigger than:
 Even and odd numbers:
 Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division all get a shout out:

Your child gets fifty-five beautiful pages of numbers and math vocabulary. If you have a numbers aficionado at your house, they will love this book. My two-year-old granddaughter, Aria, enjoyed reading this with me and identifying number and colors. She also enjoyed counting the items on each page.

Read to a child today because with reading, your child can learn everything.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A is for Zebra: A Happy Ending on Every Page by Mark Shulman

A is for Zebra: A Happy Ending on Every Page by Mark Shulman and illustrated by Tamara Petrosino is the newest addition to my collection of alphabet books. I collect alphabet books that I find delightful (I collect a lot of books for that very same reason).
What do you mean, A is for Zebra? How can that be? Take a look at the first three pages and see if you can figure it out.

The pictures are fun and this book will help your reader think - to really look at words and see why they fit or why they don't. Children's books are wonderful, with them you can find ways to teach any concept.

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Comfort Reading: Clementine and the Family Meeting by Sara Pennypacker

Lately in my circle of friends and family, there have been several deaths - only one of which was expected. I find that when life gets hard, I need books that are comforting, books that don't make me think too hard, books that are not sad or too deep.

I reached for the fifth book in the Clementine Series by Sara Pennypacker. I knew that Clementine would delight me because she reminds me of my youngest daughter (who also delights me). I knew that I could finish the book in an hour or two. I knew that I would come away from the reading feeling a little better as I read about the love Clementine has for everyone and read about how good parents parent.

I was not disappointed. In Clementine's family; when they have something they need to discuss, they call a family meeting, and now that the family meeting sign is up, Clementine is worried sick that she's done something wrong because that is usually why family meetings are held. Instead, she is told that their family situation is going to change and she is uncertain if she likes the new changes.

I enjoy seeing Clementine conquer her fears and grow in each installment of this series. This is a perfect series for younger readers because it tackles issues that matter to them - things that adults may deem unimportant but to a child are pretty big deals.

This series would also make a great read-aloud.

Read to a child today, especially if that child needs some tender nurturing and comfort. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

NICU Delivery

We delivered 17 packets of books to the NICU last week. That means eighty-five more books are blessing the lives of our littlest new babies.

Michelle brought more books over because she is awesome like that, and one of our teacher friends is going to donate some of her Scholastic bookclub points for books for the babies.

One of the best gifts you can give your young child is a love of reading. Reading to your child builds your relationship as they snuggle on your lap and learn, laugh, and bond with you. Your child will be a better student and have a better attention span if you read to them.

Contact me if you'd like to donate books to the NICU babies.

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

ish by Peter H Reynolds

ish is a sweet book about Ramon who loves to draw. He draws all the time until one day his older brother laughs at Ramon's art. Ramon is heartsick and now feels he isn't a good artist. He keeps working on his art, but at the end of each attempt, he crumples his drawing and throws it across the room.

He tries for months to become a better artist, but he gives up and decides to quit drawing until an encounter with his little sister shows him an appreciation for his art that he didn't previously have.

I like this story because Peter Reynolds shows children with his art and words to not allow someone's unkind words to sink us. He also shows how kinds words build us and allow us to be our best selves.

If you have a budding artist in your life, they may love this sweet storybook.

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

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

LibriVox and our home remodel is getting me through more of my classic to-read pile. In listening to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, I was reminded of the television series House, with Gregory House as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. James Wilson as Dr. Watson.

Both House and Holmes are addicted to drugs and both are incredibly observant and smart, which shows they are functioning drug addicts, for now. Neither likes to take a case unless they find it interesting. Both are arrogant. I didn't think I'd enjoy Sherlock Holmes, but I found each case interesting just like watching each episode of House interests me.

Although this book is not the first in the series, I didn't have any trouble following along. Doyle paints his characters well, and the reader on LibriVox's version four, David Clarke, did an excellent job on the narration.

If you like reading things that make you think, you may enjoy this book.

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

Friday, November 18, 2016

Maus I and Maus II: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman

Maus I and Maus II have been on my reading list for a while, and I enjoyed reading both. I found Art Spiegelman's artistic true account of his father's life in Poland during WWII and his time in Auschwitz interesting, saddening, and realistic.

Realistic in the sense that Spiegelman doesn't make his dad out to be this perfect man who survived the Holocaust but a man complete with many flaws - and maybe more flawed because of his experiences.

Spiegelman depicts his father and all Jews as mice. The Germans as cats and the Poles as pigs. The Swedish are some kind of deer or elk, and the Americans are dogs. Often times the mice wear the mask of another nationality.

Spiegelman's series is a good one to share with teens who are interested in the Holocaust as they are graphic novels. They contain some language and adult situations. In Maus II, Spiegelman delves into his own mental health issues from being born to parents who survived the death camps and lost their first son in the Holocaust. These are quick reads, but pay attention to the pictures as much is depicted there.

Read to a child today, so that they might know why our world needs love and understanding.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Not a lot of reading of books is happening at my house lately, but I am listening to classics on LibriVox while I paint. This week, I listened to David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. Dickens said this was his favorite work.

In David Copperfield we get to see Dickens' sense of humor shine - of course the story has heartache and death, but I found myself laughing out loud at times. I listened to Version 2, and the narrator, Tadhg, was excellent, so excellent that if I met him in person, I might fall in love with him just for his accent and voice. Okay, I may be a little bit in love with him now.. :)

This novel tells what life was like in Dickens' day. Life could be very hard if you didn't have money. Snobbery, even in our main character was real and different classes of people didn't mix well. Again as in Bleak House, Dickens is not didactic in this telling, he trusts his reader's intelligence and allows them to figure it out for themselves.

Dickens' characters are well rounded and come off the page. I love David's Aunt Betsy. Everyone needs an aunt like her - one who calls it like she see it - and isn't afraid to throw your sister's behavior in your face - even though said sister doesn't exist. I laughed almost every time she was in a scene.

Tommy Traddles is David's friend and from Dickens' description of him, I can see him with his hair sticking up and him sitting drawing skeletons.

Copperfield has a tender heart, which at times gets him into trouble. The villains are vile and the noble characters, while flawed, are likeable.

Read to a child today or allow LibriVox to read to the child in you.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Shout Out

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

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

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

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

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

If you'd like to contribute to our book drive for NICU babies, here is how you can help:

1. You can order books for your own children (of all ages) from our online Usborne book party and the proceeds will go to purchase books for the NICU. I've received over $350.00 in free books for the NICU from people buying books for their own families through this web link. Usborne is really good to their hostesses, and they have great board books for babies. Click on the link: Usborne book sale to benefit NICU The books you order will be shipped directly to your home. You can then give them to your children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews. The free books from the hostess benefits go to the NICU. 

2. We have set up a baby registry at with many books listed for the NICU babies. Some of these books only cost $2.50. Many of these are classics that all children should have. Click on this link if you'd like to help provide books for the NICU: Catherine Crosby Building Lifelong Readers Book Registry. If you order books for us, they will be shipped to me, and I will package and send them to the NICU. 

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

Friday, October 21, 2016

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Remodeling a home along with LibriVox is helping me get through my stack of classic literature as I listen to my books instead of read them.

I listened to Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. This delightful tale pokes fun at a lot of things - parents thinking they can't afford their children, using a dog as a nanny instead of a person, putting dad in the kennel as penance.

The story is not politically correct by today's standards, but I enjoyed the tale for the most part. I struggled with how inept Mr. Darling is because it makes for a book without any positive male role models and our children need those. The women and animals are strong which is nice for girls, but I don't care to make one gender better at the expense of the other gender.

When the Darling children learn to fly, it is  most magical, and I think most children have wished for the power of flight, which is one reason they love swings. Swinging as high as we can, jumping out, and for one brief moment before we hit the ground, we fly.

The problem with Peter Pan is that he allows Wendy to grow up too soon while he only plays at being dad for the lost boys. If all the women grow up and the men don't, we are left with chaos and incredibly annoyed women. If you leave out the deeper meanings of this story, it is a fun tale of adventure with pirates, crocodiles, mermaids, fairies, lost boys dressed as wild animals, flying, and returning home to a mother's love.

Read to a child today even if that child is you, or allow LibriVox to do your reading for you. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Abel's Island by William Steig

Abel's Island by William Steig was published in 1976 and won a Newbery Honor. The entire time I read this sweet little book, I thought about how fun it would be to teach this novel along with a science unit. There are so many experiments and research projects that would tie right in to the story line.

Reading this made me miss my colleague and friend, Jeanne Bostwick, who is a stellar middle school science teacher, and when we taught, we tied what my Language Arts students were reading into what she taught them in the science classroom. If you have the ability to teach across the curriculum, this the perfect book.

Abel, a mouse, is swept up in a storm and deposited on an island in the middle of a river. Over the course of a year, he attempts to get off the island by using his creativity and thinking things through. I love each attempt and how he gets frustrated at times, but he keeps trying demonstrating a growth mindset. Your students could recreate what Abel does and see if their attempts work out better than Abel's. Abel has to survive by gathering the native edibles on the island; could your students survive a winter in the wilds? What would they do to prepare shelter and food?

Steig includes many fun illustrations, so this little 120 page book filled with pictures makes a quick and fun read.

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson

This is another book I listened to using the LibriVox app. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is a classic, and I can see why it appealed so greatly to teen boys of yesteryear and why it is still in print today.

Jim Hawkins, the main character is a teen, impetuous, brave even when he is shaking in his boots, and willing to do good. His courage and adventurous nature make him a likable character.

Long John Silver is the villain, yet he is truly fond of Jim Hawkins. He is a multi-layered character who is both charming and frightening - my most favorite kind of villain.

There are many other characters who bring this story to life and keep this novel published in 1882 a true classic. This may become a breakfast book for my son. In case you are unsure what a breakfast book is, it is a book that I read to my teen son after he is ready for school while he eats breakfast. This allows us to have a pleasant morning and gets his brain in gear for school.

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas is a classic that most will enjoy. This is an epic saga of a story that covers several decades. I listened to this novel on  the LibriVox app, and the narrator was wonderful. Although this novel is huge, I was sad to see it end as the story sucked me right in.

The heartbreak of Edmond Dantès and Mercedes when their lives were nearly destroyed by the covetous Fernand will make you want revenge for them.

Edmond goes through quite the growth process in this novel which asks the question, if you could be fate, would you? How far would you go as fate? What if you were innocently sentenced to years in a horrible prison in solitary confinement - then how far would you take your revenge? There were many characters that played a part in hurting Edmond, and I loved seeing how he returned to them what they had given him. I also loved how he played fate to those who had done all they could to help him.

The characters are well developed and multi dimensional. Abbé Faria was one of my favorites. At first, I believed, like the jailers, that he was completely delusional. I loved seeing how Dumas wrote him and the effect he had on Edmond Dantes. I found myself engrossed in their attempt to escape prison.

I loved all the characters that Edmond played, but through it all, he had such a broken sadness. The ending is satisfying, and if you get confused on the plot line, go to for help.

This is a novel that stays with you and has rightfully earned it place in the canon.

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

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini was recommended to me by my friend, Michelle, and I'm glad I read it. 

So often when I think of wars, I feel detached from it because it is happening over there, but "over there" is home for someone and those someones are suffering greatly because of war. 

A Thousand Splendid Suns begins during a time of peace in Afganistan where we meet Mariam as a youg girl. Unfortunately, she is the bastard daughter of a rich man who already has three wives, and while he loves her, he is unwilling to help her the way he should because of the wishes of those three wives. 

Years go by and we meet Laila. At first I thought their stories would not connect and kept thinking, but what about Mariam - what happened to Mariam because I liked her so much. Laila's path will cross with Mariam's because of tragedy. When their stories get woven together, we learn why women need a voice in government. We learn why women and children are the most vulnerable during war. We learn how women support one another with love, caring, and superhuman courage in times of peace and in times of turmoil. 

This book is incredibly sad; however, it is beautifully written and has a good ending. The characters even the evil Rasheed are well written and complex. 

This story shows the reality of war, what it does to people, and why we need to care about what goes on over there. People like Mariam and Laila are good reasons for the USA to get involved in wars in other countries.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson was first published in 1886, and I am almost ashamed to admit that I haven't read it until recently. I read a few pages of the old Scholastic copy I own from 1965, but we are in the middle of a remodel, so reading time has been limited, but I have a free app from LibriVox that has the audio of many books that are in public domain, so I listened to Kidnapped while I packed the house for the remodel and bottled fruit before I lost my kitchen for eight weeks.

Robert Louis Stevenson is one of the old masters for a reason, and this book shows why. My only complaint was to wonder why David Balour's father hadn't told him more about his rotten uncle. Of course if he had, David's entire adventure would have never taken place.

I loved David's friendship with Alan and how realistic it was. Sometimes they struggled to get along, but they were loyal to each other anyway. Stevenson builds the spirit of suspense well, and I worried tremendously about David and Alan.

The story wraps up nicely, but I've since learned that there is a sequel Catriona, so I'll have to see if the ending worked out as nicely as I thought.

I'll be listening to many classics in the next little while. Currently, I am listening to The Count of Monte Cristo, and I am enjoying it so much that I will hate to see it end.

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


During our remodel, I haven't had as much time to read printed books. However, I own 608 books that are waiting to be read. Because many of these are classic books that are now in the public domain, I am able to listen to them using the free app LibriVox. The books are read by volunteers, some of which are complete masters of storytelling.

This week I listed to Little Women and Little Men by Louisa May Alcott. It is almost shameful that I waited until now to listen to/ read these books. While they are a bit didactic, I still enjoyed the stories, especially now when our world seems to esteem that which is corrupt over that which is good.

Little Women moved a bit slowly at first and Alcott often includes things in the story that could have been edited out, but over all both novels are endearing and show the importance of relationships and the ability we have to help one another.

I'd watched the movie of Little Women and did not like how Amy was portrayed. In the novel, she is a darling girl - a bit consumed with appearance, but she learns and grows and becomes a stellar adult. I love how Jo's future husband is portrayed in the novel verses how he is portrayed in the movie. In the movie I wanted her to end up with Laurie, but in the novel, I wanted her to end up with Mr. Bhaer.

I loved how Alcott showed the strengths and weaknesses of the characters and showed how they worked to improve themselves. I have seven sisters, so the relationships between the sisters touched my heart and reminded me of how thankful I am for all of them.

I loved all the parenting advice gained from both novels.

Little Men follows Jo as she creates a home for boys. I loved Nat and Dan the very most of all her boys. I loved how Mother and Father Bhaer created a place where the unwanted and unloved could become all they could be. I could see why Dan was such a hard case and why he did all he could to remain aloof.

My only complaints were that I felt it a bit didactic, and I couldn't understand why the children with families weren't with them for Thanksgiving. I also struggled with Meg allowing her children to live away from her.

Both books gave me a happy feeling even though at times they made me cry.

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I'm Here and Still Collecting Books

We are in the middle of a massive remodel of the main floor of our home, so I've been neglecting my blog, and instead I've been patching, painting, and cleaning up messes from construction crews. Today, I have two different crews upstairs, so I am hiding in the basement, which gives me a chance to play internet catch up.

We delivered 125 more books to NICU babies last week thanks to helpful contributors.

Cayli and Brandon from Nightchayde brought me four board books. They know that we are always short of board books, so these are appreciated greatly.

My sweet neighbor, Michelle, never allows an opportunity to find books for our project pass her by. She brings a stack of books each month and helps us reach so many babies.

Janet Newbold is a new contributor to our project. She was my granddaughter, Callie's, teacher, and she sent fifty-three books for the babies.

The parents in the NICU express their thanks for us providing reading material for their babies. When you are in an emergency situation, you don't think about bringing books, but these books bring great comfort to both the parents and the babies.

This little project has touched so many lives, and I am thankful that my own twins who were not able to survive have been the catalyst for this. Thanks to all who help us by donating books. I appreciate it more than you know.

If you'd like to contribute to our book drive for NICU babies, here is how you can help:

1. You can order books for your own children (of all ages) from our online Usborne book party and the proceeds will go to purchase books for the NICU. I've received over $350.00 in free books for the NICU from people buying books for their own families through this web link. Usborne is really good to their hostesses, and they have great board books for babies. Click on the link: Usborne book sale to benefit NICU The books you order will be shipped directly to your home. You can then give them to your children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews. The free books from the hostess benefits go to the NICU. 

2. We have set up a baby registry at with many books listed for the NICU babies. Some of these books only cost $2.50. Many of these are classics that all children should have. Click on this link if you'd like to help provide books for the NICU: Catherine Crosby Building Lifelong Readers Book Registry. If you order books for us, they will be shipped to me, and I will package and send them to the NICU. 

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

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ellie's Story by W. Bruce Cameron

If you have a dog loving child in your life, this is the book for them. Ellie's Story by W. Bruce Cameron is told from puppy Ellie's point of view - of being a puppy in her litter, of being chosen and leaving her litter, and of being trained to be a search and rescue dog.

The story is just right for younger readers with a lexile measure of 620L. The story is interesting and will help a child see the value of animals. This story shows that animals are a responsibility, that they need love, training, respect, and a lot of time, but that with that investment, an animal will give all that and more back to you.

I enjoyed how Cameron wove Ellie's story into those of her handlers, and how even after she retired, she still had a purpose. She was a dog that loved to work. 

This is a sweet story that although there are scary and traumatic parts, it isn't too scary. 

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

Monday, August 29, 2016

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

First off let me say that I love Fredrk Backman's writing style, and while this book isn't as dear to me as A Man Called Ove, I still enjoyed it. And if you haven't read A Man Called Ove, I highly recommend it.

The characters are quirky and real. Elsa is a seven year old genius, but at times the writing of Elsa is a bit off. Sometimes she is brilliant and knows all the grammar rules and sometimes she can't pronounce a word correctly. This was my only hang-up with this book, but I loved her gumption and how she noticed the superpowers of the people around her.

Elsa's grandmother was a woman before her time. She was a surgeon, and often did things to shock people. When she dies, she leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to those she has wronged. She gives the Elsa the task of delivering the letters and describes this as a treasure hunt that goes along with the fairy tales that she and Elsa have shared.

I loved the characters. Backman makes the characters nearly come off the page. I also loved the seven kingdoms of the fairy tales and what they stand for. I'll let you discover that part for yourself, but I made notes in the back of my book about them, and I hope to remember to have all seven kingdoms in my own life in order keep things balanced.

This is a tender story of learning to accept others, to forgive, and to understand self. If you've ever had a complicated relationship with someone you love, you will relate to this story.

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

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Alboom

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Alboom was different than what I was expecting. I thought this book would be preachier, and to be honest, I wasn't really looking forward to reading it, but instead of a lecture, this book made me think.

Books that make me think are ones that stay with me because my brain has twirled things around a bit. This slim 196 page volume made me question my life, who has touched my life, and whose lives I may have touched, and I wonder, who will I meet in heaven?

There are people I really hope to see again in heaven, but will they be the ones to welcome me home? This little book is fiction, so heaven may or may not be what this books says, but this book makes me want to be a better human, to understand our connections to one another, to reach out more, and to be a little kinder.

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

Friday, August 19, 2016

Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld

Duck! Rabbit! is such a fun read aloud that your child will love deciding with you whether the picture is a duck or a rabbit. This cute story ends with a new animal that looks like it could be a dinosaur or an anteater.

Each person who sees the pictures forms their own opinion making this a fast read with a lot of thought. I've included a video of the story so you can decide for yourself if this is a duck or a rabbit. My little grandson, Jace, likes this one a lot.

 Not sure why it went sideways but it is better than upside down.

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

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Throwback Thursday: The Scapegoat by Daphne Du Maurier

The Scapegoat by Daphne Du Maurier was published in 1956. This is a filling novel - meaning is stays with you. I thought about the story line a lot while I was reading it, and it has stayed with me since I finished it.

Blurb from Barnes and Noble: 

"Someone jolted my elbow as I drank and said, 'Je vous demande pardon,' and as I moved to give him space he turned and stared at me and I at him, and I realized, with a strange sense of shock and fear and nausea all combined, that his face and voice were known to me too well.

I was looking at myself."

Two men—one English, the other French—meet by chance in a provincial railway station and are astounded that they are so much alike that they could easily pass for each other. Over the course of a long evening, they talk and drink. It is not until he awakes the next day that John, the Englishman, realizes that he may have spoken too much. His French companion is gone, having stolen his identity. For his part, John has no choice but to take the Frenchman's place—as master of a chateau, director of a failing business, head of a large and embittered family, and keeper of too many secrets.

Loaded with suspense and crackling wit, The Scapegoat tells the double story of the attempts by John, the imposter, to escape detection by the family, servants, and several mistresses of his alter ego, and of his constant and frustrating efforts to unravel the mystery of the enigmatic past that dominates the existence of all who live in the chateau.

Hailed by the New York Times as a masterpiece of "artfully compulsive storytelling," The Scapegoat brings us Daphne du Maurier at the very top of her form.

I find Du Maurier an excellent storyteller. She divulges enough to keep me turning pages, but she generally surprises me with her endings. This is not to say that I always like her endings. I didn't like the ending to this story, partly because I wasn't done reading. I wanted a sequel. I felt attached to this family and wanted to know what happened next after she ended it. I could have keep reading for several hundred more pages.

Du Maurier makes the reader think about human motivation, good verses evil, and the desire to be connected to others. I will be purchasing her other novels. She is that good of a writer. If you liked The Birds or Rebecca, you will probably like this novel.

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson writes historical fiction well. Forge, the second book in the Seeds of America series, follows Curzon, who escaped with Isabel in Chains.

Blurb from "In this compelling sequel to Chains, a National Book Award Finalist and winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson shifts perspective from Isabel to Curzon and brings to the page the tale of what it takes for runaway slaves to forge their own paths in a world of obstacles—and in the midst of the American Revolution."

"The Patriot Army was shaped and strengthened by the desperate circumstances of the Valley Forge winter. This is where Curzon the boy becomes Curzon the young man. In addition to the hardships of soldiering, he lives with the fear of discovery, for he is an escaped slave passing for free. And then there is Isabel, who is also at Valley Forge—against her will. She and Curzon have to sort out the tangled threads of their friendship while figuring out what stands between the two of them and true freedom."

I love how Anderson connects the reader to the trials that Curzon and Isabel faced, and reading this series can help us learn about the history of our country, and the history of slavery. At the beginning of each chapter, Anderson includes a journal entry from real people during the same time period. This helps the reader know that real people experienced the things that fictional Curzon and Isabel did.

I like the friendship between Curzon and Eben, and how Curzon helped him see that freedom should be for everyone, not just white people. I liked the descriptions of what the soldiers went through during the Revolutionary War.

I'll definitely get the third and final book, Ashes, of this series.

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

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli

Eileen Spinelli's book Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch shows the power of our own thoughts. Mr. Hatch is a normal, quiet man who keeps to himself until one Valentine's Day when the mailman delivers a giant box of candy from a secret admirer with a note that says, "Somebody loves you."

Mr. Hatch finds himself being more outgoing. He shares the candy, helps a sick acquaintance, and finds that he now has many, many friends.  But, the mailman comes back, and frantically explains that he delivered the giant box of candy to him by mistake.

Mr Hatch, alone in his living room after the mail carrier leaves, sighs, "Nobody loved me after all." He reverts to his old way of keeping to himself, and he is quite sad. His new friends notice and remember the kindnesses he showed them when he thought he had a secret admirer. His friends come up with a plan to help brighten his day and he realizes that someone - in fact a lot of people love Mr. Hatch.

What we perceive about ourselves becomes our truth. Make sure your thoughts about yourself are kind.

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

Monday, August 15, 2016

Celebrating Differences: The Very Sleepy Sloth by Andrew Murray and Jack Tickle

In a world that tries to pigeon hole children with standardized testing, The Very Sleepy Sloth by Andrew Murray and Jack Tickle shows that each of us has different abilities.

All the animals are awake and busy doing what they do best when they notice that sloth is lazily snoozing. They tell him to get up and do something. He challenges each of them to do something another animal is good at, and each of them fail. He explains that all of them, including himself are doing what they do best.

This book shows the importance of not comparing our weakness to another's strengths. We all have areas where we can shine. Helping children find their strengths builds self esteem.

Read to a child today even if that child you.