Friday, August 25, 2017

Doll Bones by Holly Black

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

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

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

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

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

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit. We can also use gently used books if you have them. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Beloved by Toni Morrison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit. We also love gently used books if you would like to donate books from your own child's library. We are currently in need of books as there has been a baby boom in the NICU. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit. We are in need of books at this time as I am taking our last twenty packets to Angie this weekend. They've had a bit of a baby boom. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Harper Hall of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Series- On the Run by Gordon Korman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Little Lame Prince by Dinah Maria Mulock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The BFG by Roald Dahl

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

White Fang by Jack London

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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