Friday, March 31, 2017

If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, DON'T! by Elise Parsley

If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, DON'T! by Elise Parsley was published in 2015, and while the story is fun and very cute, the pictures alone are worth the price of this book. Oh, my word, every once in a while an illustrator comes along who completely delights me, and Elise Parsley does just that. Even her name is cool.

Your older children will laugh with the words and all of you will love the illustrations. There is so much emotion and detail in these pictures. You could use the characters in her pictures to create all new stories. Even the end flaps tell a story.

The kids in this classroom have been asked to bring something from nature for show and tell and Magnolia, the protagonist, tells you that the teacher means a hollow stick, a nest, or some sparkly rocks. Magnolia of course brings her alligator and it proceeds to get her into all sorts of trouble.

I can hardly wait to share this one with all of the grandkids.

I looked for Elise Parsley on and found she is the author of two other books and has illustrated a fourth book by another writer. I'll be on the lookout for more of her books.

Yesterday was a good day for the NICU book project. My good friend and neighbor, Alysen, brought over five brand new board books for the babies. She is such a sweetheart and has so much going on in her life right now, but she still thought about the babies. I love board books for little hands.

Michelle, the one person in the world who probably has more books than I do, brought four books for my personal library, and she brought all these lovelies for the babies. I was pretty excited about the Spanish Caps for Sale. I love that book.

I appreciate each and every book that is donated to the babies. Your donations help us give the gift of words to more littles.

Read and laugh with a child today even if that child is you. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Where I Belong by Mary Downing Hahn

In case you didn't know, Mary Downing Hahn doesn't only write scary stories, she also writes realistic fiction. Where I Belong is the story of a young boy, Brendan, who was abandoned at birth by a drug addicted mother. He hasn't been adopted and is in yet one more foster home.

He is failing school and is friendless, but he is okay with failing school as he is terrified of going to the middle school and being picked on by even more bullies. He feels that if he stays where he is, he will be too big to get bullied.

Brendan's foster mother is frustrated with is lack of motivation. He spends as much time as possible in the woods, and when he is forced to attend summer school, a girl follows him to his tree house in the woods and they become friends.

This story reminded me a bit of Bridge to Terebithia with two friends enjoying the magic of the woods. Brendan tries hard to find his place in a world where he doesn't feel he has a home. This is a book about friendships, about what we tell our friends to make sure they like us, and about what we withhold from the telling or lie about in order to keep our friends.

Read to a child today to help them understand how to be a good friend. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe was first published in England in 1958. I love learning about belief systems and cultures that differ from my own. This book is for adult readers.

I've read several books that paint the belief systems of those in Africa as silly and superstitious, so I enjoyed this book because it didn't cast that judgement. I love authors who trust their readers and allow them to make their own judgement calls.

This story follows Okonkwo, the son of a lazy farmer who is determined to be brave, masculine, strong, and more than his father. Although Okonkwo is a strong man, he is often unkind because he fears being viewed as weak. Many of his decisions are based on him doing all he can to be unlike his own father.

In his culture, a man can have several wives. The better crops he can grow, the more he is respected in his village - a place where twins are put out to die in the evil forest because twins are an evil thing.

I enjoyed the explanation about why the village believed what they did. I enjoyed learning why some of the people discarded their beliefs and converted to Christianity. My own muddled history of religious practices makes this type of book enjoyable for me.

This book is the first of a three book trilogy and although this one ends at a natural stopping place, I will probably read the others. I enjoyed the writing style of this novel.

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden was published in 1960 and won a Newbery Honor. I read this story often when I was in grade school, but I haven't read it since then and wanted to revisit it to see if I still found it as delightful as I once did.

This is the story of a poor family who owns a newspaper and magazine stand. The mother, father, and son all work here. One day the son finds a cricket and wants to keep him for a pet. His mother is against this idea as she doesn't like bugs, but he is allowed to keep the cricket.

This is where the magic comes in. The cricket, Chester, makes friends with a mouse and a cat and shares his story with them. Chester is a cricket with a strong sense of what is right and wrong. When he walks in his sleep and chews up a two dollar bill, he feels guilty and wants to make it up to the family. Tucker, the mouse, tries to convince him to blame someone else, but Chester refuses. He wants to do something to help the family.

This story is sweet, magical, teaches good values without being didactic, and leaves the reader feeling happy. I listened to the audio version and the narrator was wonderful. Garth Williams is the illustrator for the print version, and his artwork adds to the story. This books makes a fun read aloud.

Read an old favorite to a child today even if that child is you. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams was published in 2009, and I won a copy at an educator's conference. I put off reading it as I am from a polygamist cult and reading stories about this topic depresses me.

I listened to the audio version and the narration was good. Yes, it depressed me because I know how hopeless a person can feel once they make the decision that they want to get out. Williams' inspiration for this story was my cousin's story. She ran from the uncle she'd been married to and was badly beaten by her father for leaving. The case was highly publicized. Williams set her story in a more closed society than that of the Kingston's.

Williams did her research, and I found the fictionalized story she wrote believable with the exception of Kyra's escape. Skip the rest of this paragraph because of spoilers. I found it hard to believe that the cult would murder an outsider because that would bring too many people to investigate. This is something the cult would avoid at all costs. In reality, they would have let her go and gotten her back using their lawyers since she was underage, but it made for good drama. These cults thrive on secrecy and keeping things in the cold hard dark.

No more spoilers. I liked that Williams showed how nearly impossible it is to get out of these cults, as the cults control everything - your housing, your job, your families. People who leave have not had to open bank accounts, get jobs on their own, and many haven't finished school.

This book is well written, and if you find yourself asking why more people don't leave these cults, this book will answer your questions. In getting out, you risk everything. I'm thankful my family didn't disown me. They kept truth from me and lied to me about what was happening inside the cult after I left, but they still loved me and had contact with me. But from the day I left, I was an outsider, and yes, that did hurt. I am lucky that most of my immediate family have left the Kingston cult in the years since I left. Now there are no secrets, no fear of eternal damnation if the wrong thing is said, no mind control, and a great sense of freedom.

Read today even if what you read is hard for you emotionally. This book was hard for me to read, but I'm glad I did. I'm thankful for the freedoms I enjoy. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord

I've read two books by Cynthia Lord and enjoyed both of them. I read Rules several years ago, and last week, I read Half a Chance

Lucy is the main character in this novel. She is a budding photographer who has just moved to a lake in New Hampshire. Her father is a photographer who travels frequently for his job. Right before he leaves town, he tells her about a photo contest that he is judging when he gets back. Lucy wants to enter this contest but she wants to do so anonymously so her father judges her pictures by their merit, not because they are hers. 

I like how the contest makes the reader think about right and wrong. Lucy wants to the win the money to help her neighbor, but is it okay to do the wrong thing for a good reason? This book has the characters making many judgment calls which would bring up great discussion points in a classroom.

I also like the list of topics for the pictures Lucy needs to take as I would love to see how my students would interpret this list. 

One character is dealing with his grandmother losing her memory. Lord handles this with grace and realism. 

She has joined the ranks of authors whose books I will buy just because they wrote them. 

Read to a child today to help them know how to solve problems. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Good Earth by Pearl Buck

The Good Earth by Pearl Buck is a classic that was first published in 1931. This is the first book of a trilogy, and although I enjoyed it and found the writing beautiful, I don't feel compelled to read the other two books. This book ends in a good place, and the lives of the characters I cared about were covered. I felt it was complete.

The story begins with Wang Lung's wedding day. He is a poor farmer and his father has arranged for him to marry a slave - one who is neither small nor comely, but she is selfless and faithful.

The story takes place in pre-revolutionary China, and Pearl Buck gives the reader a portrait of customs, practices, and prejudices of the time.

The main character, Wang Lung is for the most part a decent person, but he is at times a puppet to the practices of his time period. The story begins with his marriage and ends with him as an old man whose sons don't value the same things he does. This sets up the next book if you desire to go forward with the series. I may or may not read the next two books.

This book would be an excellent choice for a book club as there are so many choices and customs that would make for great discussion points: foot binding, the value of men children, girls viewed as slaves, opium, the responsibility of taking care of extended family members, polygamy, fidelity, hard work, entitlement, death customs, birth customs, how women found power, and many more.

This book will make you think about what you have and what you value.

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Book Display for the Grandkids

Yesterday, I found this book at the library book sale: I Hate Picture Books by Timothy Young and it inspired my new display for the grandkids.

This is a story about a boy who is getting rid of all his pictures books because they get him into trouble. When his mom read Harold and the Purple crayon to him, he drew on the wall and got into trouble. When he ate green ham from the fridge, it made him really sick. 

There are so many great books that show up in this cute story. I pulled as many as would fit in my display area. All of the picture books in my display show up in this one book. If you are a book lover, you will enjoy this storybook. 

Michelle brought a few more books for the NICU. Thanks go to Michelle for giving the gift of reading to so many families. 

Read an old favorite to a child today even if that child is you. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Graphic Novel: The Hammer and The Anvil by Dwight Jon Zimmerman

The Hammer and The Anvil: Fredrick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the End of Slavery in America by Dwight Jon Zimmerman and illustrated by Wayne Vansant is a graphic novel biography of how Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln helped end slavery.

I love graphic novels as they are perfect for teens who don't really enjoy reading but are forced to read by their crazy book lady mothers (meaning my son and myself). There are many good graphic novels available about many different topics.

The book switches back and forth from Douglass's and Lincoln's stories, and Vansant does this switch well by showing Lincoln's story in sepia tones and Douglass's story in grey tones. I learned new things about our nation's history by reading this book and feel it would work well in a classroom environment by bringing up many discussion points and topics for further research.

I am thankful for these two men and the courage they had to fight evil in a time when so many were fine with the status quo. I would love to be in heaven some day and sit in on a conversation with Lincoln, Douglass, and Martin Luther King JR.

This book was published in 2012 and annoyingly is already out of print. Boo, Hiss. You can still find it at a reasonable price on line, but it being out of print means that classrooms won't be able to get it. I sincerely hope this book gets reprinted at some point.

Read to a child today so that may know and understand the history of our nation. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Rainbabies by Laura Krauss Melmed

The Rainbabies by Laura Krauss Melmed and illstrated by Jim LaMarche was published in 1992. I remember seeing this book years ago, somewhere, and being delighted with the illustrations. I'd forgotten about it until my sweet friend, Michelle gave me a copy of the book last week.

In The Rainbabies, an older couple who were never able to have a child discover a dozen tiny thumb sized babies in the grass after a rainstorm. They tenderly gather the babies and care for them. The babies face many dangers, yet the couple risk their own lives to see them safe.

When faced with a woman at the door who longs to purchase the babies from them, will they make the right choice?

The story is very sweet and the illustrations alone are worth the purchase price of this book.

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Principal's New Clothes by Stephanie Calmenson

The Principal's New Clothes by Stephanie Calmenson and illustrated by Denise Brunkus is a fun take on the Emperor's New Clothes.

In this story, the principal, Mr Bundy, is snappy dresser. His students never miss a day of school because they want to see what he will be wearing. A couple of tricksters come to town and tell him that they will make him a suit out of a special fabric that "is invisible to anyone who is no good at his job or just plain stupid."

The principal tells people about this and no one, including himself, will admit that they cannot see the fabric because they don't want to be seen as no good or stupid.

The pictures by Denise Brunkus are quite fun in this story that shows that it is best to be honest.

This book is currently out of print, but you can still find it online for a good price. Michelle provided a copy for me. Thank you, Michelle.

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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Wordless - The Silver Pony by Lynd Ward

The Silver Pony by Lynd Ward is an older wordless book published in 1973. Ward tells the story of a young farm boy who sees a Pegasus in the clouds. He tries to show his father, but when is father can't see the horse, he gives his young son a spanking.

The Pegasus comes back and takes the boy on many adventures. This is a sweet story with wonderful art and so much to see in each picture. Each adventure helps the boy to learn about other people in far off places.

This book has been reprinted in paperback format, but  my sweet friend, Michelle, found an original 1973 hardback for me. It is such a beautiful book. Thanks, Michelle.

Michelle also brought some more books for the NICU. I am thankful for her help on this project. 

Read a book without words to a child today even if that child is you. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath was a Newbery Honor book for 2002. This book reminded me a lot of the Trixie Belden book I recently read.

This is the story of Primrose Squarp, an accident prone girl whose parents are lost at sea. Everyone in the town believes her parents are dead, but Primrose cannot accept this.

This book is fun, action packed - mainly because Primrose can't seem to keep herself out of trouble. This book contains a recipe at the end of each chapter.  I like the message of this book that sometimes we believe something to be true even when all the evidence is against us. This is a reoccurring theme throughout the book. When is it okay to trust your instincts, and when should you believe the evidence?

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Trixie Belden: The Secret of the Mansion by Julie Campbell

My friend, Michelle, recommended  Trixie Belden: The Secret of the Mansion by Julie Campbell to me quite a while ago. I recently listened to the audio version and enjoyed it. This is book one in the series. In it, we meet, Trixie, a girl who speaks her mind, is prone to finding trouble, but is also smart enough to think her way out of problems. She has two living parents - quite a find in a children's book.

We meet her friend, Honey, who is rich but dissatisfied with her life as her parents ignore her more than they should. She is a good friend to all.

We meet Jim, an orphan who is battling a wicked step-father. He is also a good friend, and with Trixie's and Honey's help, he may be able to save his inheritance.

If you were born in the 50s, 60s, 70s, or 80s, this book will take you back to a time when children were more likely to roam free, do dangerous things, get hurt but survive, and have a lot of chores and responsibilities.

This book was first published in 1948 and is still in print - this shows you how popular this series is.

Today, read a book from your childhood to a child even if that child is you. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Cars! Cars! Cars! by Grace Maccarone

Cars! Cars! Cars! by Grace Maccarone and illustrated by David A. Carter is a book about cars told in a Seuss kind of way.

The pictures are fun, the colors bold and bright, and the words simple enough for little ones. The pages of this book are not quite board book thick, but they are plenty sturdy for little hands.

Both Vincent and Aria loved this book over the weekend. This is a perfect book for a toddler who is learning to count or learning their colors. The little ones also love the doggies that are pictured driving the cars.

This book is out of print, but you can find it used for a good price online.

Michelle brought more books for the NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit). She found some real treasures for the babies. We are always accepting books for the NICU book project.

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

I listened to the audio version of Cold Sassy Tree  written by Olive Ann Burns and narrated by Grover Gardner. I don't know that I would have liked it as much without this narrator. His voice reminded me of Morgan Freeman's - smooth, deep, and so good for storytelling voice.

The story is set in 1906 in the south when racism was strong and harsh, when people judged you on your religion, your job, where you lived, if you grieved properly, and what color your skin was. This story shows things how they were, but Burns doesn't preach; she trusts her reader enough to make judgments for themselves.

The story begins with Rucker Blakeslee, the proprietor of the town store marrying a woman as young as his daughters only three weeks after the death of his wife. The town, including his married daughters, are thrown into a tailspin. His daughters are determined not to like his new bride. The town is determined to shut her out. Only his grandson, Will Tweedy, is willing to give her a chance. He has a bit of a crush on her and misses his grandmother terribly, but he sees that Grandpa is happy.

The story is told from Will Tweedy's point of view. He is a likable boy who isn't afraid of a fight or hard work. He is also ready a willing to play pranks on his Aunt Loma - pranks that will make you laugh out loud.

I wasn't completely happy with how the book ended, but after thinking about if for a few days, I've decided that the story needed to head that way if only for the reader to gain understanding about life and living. I found myself saying, "No," aloud during certain scenes that I wanted to have end differently.

Watch out because you will get attached to these characters. You will laugh and cry with them.

Rucker Blakeslee is a wonderfully written character who will make you want to be a better person.

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

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu

Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu was published in 2010 and is the first book I've read about a teen living with a parent who suffers from a hoarding disorder.

If you've seen Hoarders: Buried Alive, you have seen what Lucy's home looks like on the inside.

Blurb on the back cover: Everyone has Secrets. Some are just bigger and dirtier than others. At least that's what I told myself. I stood at the bottom of our cracked cement walkway, the ache in my stomach starting the minute I saw Mom's car int he driveway. If you were paying attention, you could spot the black mold gathering along the edges of the living room windows and the way the curtains were pressed against the glass by stacks of boxes. Those were just small hints about what was really behind the shingled walls, but nobody on the outside ever noticed. All of our secrets stated at the front door.

Blurb from Barnes and Noble: "Everyone has a secret. But Lucy's is bigger and dirtier than most. It's one she's been hiding for years - that her mom's out-of-control hoarding has turned their lives into a world of garbage and shame. She's managed to keep her home life hidden from her best friend and her crush, knowing they'd be disgusted by the truth. When tragedy strikes, Lucy hesitates to call 911 because revealing their way of life would make her future unbearable-and she begins her two-day plan to set her life right.
With details that are as fascinating as they are disturbing, C. J. Omololu weaves an hour-by-hour account of Lucy's desperate attempt at normalcy. Her fear and isolation are palpable as readers are pulled down a path from which there is no return, and the impact of hoarding on one teen's life will have readers completely hooked."

While reading this book, I felt frustrated at the adults who knew what Lucy was living with but chose not to help. CPS should have been called. Although I haven't ever lived in a hoarder home, I could feel for Lucy and wanted so badly to help her with her hopeless situation. When she tried to clean, her mother would rage at her for taking her things or for making her feel like she was worthless. This child did not have the power to help her mother.

Mental illness is still such a misunderstood thing in our society. I'm glad to see books like this being published in order to shed light on how to make better choices when dealing with it.

This book would be excellent to read with students as the potential discussion points are vast: bullying, mental illness, neglect, obsessive-compulsive disorder, friendships, etc.

Read to a child today in order to build compassion. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman by Ernest J. Gaines

After reading A Lesson Before dying by Ernest J. Gaines, I wanted to experience another of his novels. I listened to the audio version of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman. There are several hours of time each day that I can't read a print book, but that I can listen to a book: getting ready for the day, cooking meals, running errands, cleaning house. I can get through so many more of my 601 pile of to be read books by using the Overdrive App to connect to my local library's audio versions of my books.

First of all, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman, is not a true story. It is not an autobiography, but an imagined conversation with a imagined woman who is over 100 years old. She was freed from slavery at the end of the Civil War when she was child, and it ends during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Although this story is not real, many of the situations probably happened to someone. This story shows the far reaching effects of slavery  and Jim Crow laws and how the pain of those laws are still felt in our world today. This story helps the reader feel more compassion for those who suffered under this system.

I found some parts of the narrative repetitive, but overall, this is a book worth reading. If we are to understand those who are not us, we must read a lot of books.

Blurb from Barnes and Noble:
 "This is a novel in the guise of the  tape-recorded recollections of a black woman who has  lived 110 years, who has been both a slave and a  witness to the black militancy of the 1960's. In this  woman Ernest Gaines has created a legendary figure,  a woman equipped to stand beside William  Faulkner's Dilsey in The Sound And The  Fury." Miss Jane Pittman, like Dilsey, has  'endured,' has seen almost everything and foretold the  rest. Gaines' novel brings to mind other  great works The Odyssey for the way  his heroine's travels manage to summarize the  American history of her race, and Huckleberry  Finn for the clarity of her voice, for  her rare capacity to sort through the mess of years  and things to find the one true story in it all."  — Geoffrey Wolff, Newsweek.

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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare

Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare was first published in 1957. I read it for the first time when I was in third grade. I was determined to read everything my twelve-year-old sister read. I was seven and not allowed to check this out at our school library as it was in the section for the older readers, but my teacher went to bat for me and talked the librarian into letting me get it.

Books in the allowed section for my age would only last me a few  minutes or a day at the most. This one would take me three days to read, and because we could only get one book at each visit, my teacher wanted me to be satisfied for a while. I checked this book out several times during that year and got to really know Miriam and her struggles.

This novel is based on a true story. I recently listened to the audio version of this book and found that I still enjoyed the story. Miriam is portrayed realistically. She is often selfish and vain, yet at heart she is good and kind.

Blurb from Barnes and Noble:

"In the year 1754, the stillness of Charlestown, New Hampshire, is shattered by the terrifying cries of an Indian raid. Young Miriam Willard, on a day that had promised new happiness, finds herself instead a captive on a forest trail, caught up in the ebb and flow of the French and Indian War.
It is a harrowing march north. Miriam can only force herself to the next stopping place, the next small portion of food, the next icy stream to be crossed. At the end of the trail waits a life of hard work and, perhaps, even a life of slavery. Mingled with her thoughts of Phineas Whitney, her sweetheart on his way to Harvard, is the crying of her sister’s baby, Captive, born on the trail."

This book started my love of realistic fiction and historical fiction. I liked seeing how people in bad situations handled their problems. Several months after reading this book, I read Jane Eyre for the first time - again because my big sister read it first and I idolized my sister.

I find it interesting to re-read books from my early days as a reader and see if my opinion has changed. As a girl, I didn't find Miriam selfish or vain because I hadn't yet become a mother. Reading it this time made me feel that Miriam should have been more concerned about her nieces and nephew. But the other me also realizes that Miriam was only a girl and couldn't see things through her older sister eyes.

What book have you re-read as an adult and what was your take on it after reading with new eyes?

Reread a book from your childhood today and see if your opinion of it has changed. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

John Steinbeck Of Mice and Men

Way back in high school, I read Of Mice and Men for the first time. I thought it was horribly sad but I enjoyed the book. Yesterday during all my driving around and cleaning, I listened to the audio version and other than the incredibly annoying harmonica playing at the beginning and end (yes, while the reading was happening), I enjoyed it all over again, but with a few more years of wisdom.

Steinbeck shows why he is a master storyteller with this book. The choices he makes in the characters and their behavior make this book work.

If Curly's wife had been kind and sweet instead of kind of trashy, the book would't have worked. If George had been completely understanding and never losing patience with Lenny, the book wouldn't have worked.

If you are unfamiliar with the story, it was published in 1937 and highlights the plight of the working poor. George and Lennie have found a job on a farm. George takes care of Lennie who is very large and very strong but has the mind of a child. Some are unkind to Lennie and torment him because of his differences, but because he is so strong, he can be dangerous. Alysen, this story is very sad, so you may not want to read it.

This story shows the struggle of the poor, the mentally or physically handicapped, and of black Americans. At this point in our history, these people were deemed less than and could be thrown away much as someone would put an old dog out their misery.

Steinbeck writing is flawless and puts the reader or listener right into the story.

Here is the blurb from Barnes and Noble:

"A controversial tale of friendship and tragedy during the Great Depression

They are an unlikely pair: George is "small and quick and dark of face"; Lennie, a man of tremendous size, has the mind of a young child. Yet they have formed a "family," clinging together in the face of loneliness and alienation.

Laborers in California's dusty vegetable fields, they hustle work when they can, living a hand-to-mouth existence. For George and Lennie have a plan: to own an acre of land and a shack they can call their own. When they land jobs on a ranch in the Salinas Valley, the fulfillment of their dream seems to be within their grasp. But even George cannot guard Lennie from the provocations of a flirtatious woman, nor predict the consequences of Lennie's unswerving obedience to the things George taught him."

Read a classic today to help you understand the journey of another. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day

I don't have St. Patrick's Day books, but I have many green books, so I set up the reading corner with green storybooks for the grand kids.

 It is Women's History month, so after St. Patrick's day, books about strong women will reside here.

NICU Book Project

The Newborn Intensive Care Unit babies and their parents appreciate the books they receive from us. Michelle brought over several more books in the last week.

Do you see any of your favorites in here? Thank you, Michelle.

Thanks to everyone who supports our quest to get books into the minds and hands of the littlest of readers.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf by Jennifer L. Holm

Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf by Jennifer L. Holm is the first of a duo. The second book is Eighth Grade is Making Me Sick. I enjoyed book one more than the second one. I felt the second book was a bit vague and rushed. I also felt Holm didn't really address the illness Ginny gets in the second book in a realistic fashion.

However, as an educator, I love all the inferring that has to happen to understand these books. The story is told with lists, notes on the fridge, comics, receipts, report cards, school assignments, and bank statements. The reader has to be observant to understand the story and decide what things mean because a lot is left out of the story. Holm trusts her reader to be smart enough to figure it out.

I think it would fun for kids to create a page in the life of someone based on this type of evidence: receipts, notes, report cards, etc. I want students to understand that there are many ways to tell a story.

Read to a child today and see if you can find a new way to tell a story. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

Ernest J. Gaines's thought provoking A Lesson Before Dying will make you rethink what you believe about capital punishment. It will make you think about the inequality of our criminal justice system. It will make you think about life, death, the measure of a human, and compassion.

The story is set in a small Cajun community in the late 1940s. Jefferson, a young black man has been arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit. His defender said, "What justice would there be to take this life? Why, I would just as soon put a hog in the electric chair as this" (8). Because of this statement, Jefferson feels less than a man. He refuses to see himself as human. His godmother asks the town's teacher to come and help him see that he is human so he will walk to the electric chair with grace and dignity.

What follows is an emotional account of human strength, compassion, and frailty.

One paragraph that really hit me was when Grant (the teacher) is trying to explain to his girlfriend what the elderly godmother wanted from Jefferson. "We black men have failed to protect our women since the time of slavery. We stay here in the South and are broken, or we run away and leave them alone to look after the children and themselves. So each time a male child is born, they hope he will be the one to change this vicious circle - which he never does. Because even though he wants to change it, and maybe even tries to change it, it is too heavy a burden because of all the others who have run away and left their burdens behind. So he, too, must run away if he is to hold on to his sanity and have a life of his own. I can see by your face you don't agree, so I'll try again. What she wants is for him, Jefferson, and me to change everything that has been going on for three hundred years. She wants it to happen so in case she ever gets out of her bed again, she can go to the little church there in the quarter and say proudly, 'You see, I told you - I told you he was a man.' And if she dies an hour after that, all right; but what she wants to hear first is that he did not crawl to that white man, that he stood at that last moment and walked. Because if he does not, she knows that she will never get another chance to see a black man stand for her" (167).

Keep in mind that in the south in the late 1940s there was no equality for black Americans. Black men were treated as children by white people and Jim Crow laws ran rampant.

In the last section of the book, we get to read Jefferson's journal and see how he really feels about going to the electric chair. This book will make you cry and cringe and look hard at accepted norms. This book will make you want to be a little kinder and more loving.

This book is life changing and thought changing. I started out  listening to the audio version, which is well acted with good voice actors, but it isn't the same as the book. It is more like dialogue, music, and sound effects. I felt like I was listening to a movie without seeing the pictures. I opened the book and saw that it is completely different - same story but the book has all the narration, descriptions, and internal thoughts and dialogue. I like audio books, but in this case, I recommend the book over the audio version.

Read a book today in order to keep an open mind and challenge your thinking.