Thursday, May 29, 2014

Summertime and The Readin' Is Easy


School is almost over so it’s time to think about summer activities.  I’m just going to remind you that reading is a part of summer.  I have fond memories of sitting in our backyard with a book, reading at the picnic table and getting lost in the fantasy world I’d chosen.  We went to the library every week and I read everything I could get my hands on. Just in case your kids aren’t bookworms like I was here are some suggestions you might want to try.

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald

This is a whole series of books that are funny and subtle ways of reminding kids that it pays to be well behaved.  Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is the widow of a pirate, whose house is upside down and she loves and understands kids.  All the moms in the neighborhood call her for advice and she has a magic answer for them every time.

Ramona Quimby by Beverly Cleary

You can’t go wrong with Ramona.  From the time we meet her in Henry and Beezus until the last book in the series, Ramona is a constant source of hilarity and reality.  She has normal kid problems but a unique perspective on solving them.  She is real and adorable.

Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

You can really get lost in this series.  It is a whole world where animals talk and kids can become heroes.  There is conflict, love and growth wrapped up in one of the most exciting stories ever told.

Mo Willem's Books

If your child is too young for any of the above books, any one of Wilem’s books will fit the bill.  They are delightful and funny.  I love his illustrations and his sense of humor.

Little Golden Books by Various Authors

Read the classics, like Poky Little Puppy or The Animals of Farmer Jones.  Golden books are wonderful and fun.  The drawings are imaginative and beautiful.  The stories are simple and  kids love them!  My personal favorite??   I am Suzy.  You can probably guess why.
This is my last post of the school year.  I'll be back in August so come back and until then, keep on reading.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Polaris Uprising by Jennifer Ibarra


This is book one of a new series.  It takes place in the republic of Neress which is led by the President who has saved the country from a terrible war and has instituted a system wherein the government provides the people with everything they need so no one goes without.
The President’s two daughters live in the lap of luxury and enjoy the privileges and tortures of being famous.  Alanna is soft spoken and Ryla is outspoken.  They are opposites in every way except for the deep bond of love they share.  Alanna is a doctor who is working in the city center and Ryla is being groomed to be the next President.
As Ryla begins her training, she learns some things about her father and his government that shock and appall her.  Father has sworn her to secrecy so she never shares her knowledge with her sister.
Armed with this knowledge, Ryla is open to change and meets Alek who is resistant to her at first but as he grows to trust her he shows her his world.
In the meantime, Alanna is preparing for her contracted  marriage to Owen Callister, son of the Security chief.  Alanna fights the growing attraction to the charming Owen since all marriages are only for civic reasons.
Everything starts to fall apart as rebels start to make themselves known and things escalate to a tragic end which sends each girl on her own separate path.

I loved this book.  It was exciting and I couldn’t put it down.  The author made some shocking choices and I was blown away as I read them.
I loved the real relationship between the sisters.  Alanna felt a responsiblity toward Ryla that I could identify with, having a younger sister of my own.

Ryla loved Alanna like a mother and looked to her for comfort as well as companionship.  I would say they were as close as two sisters could be.
When Alek and Ryla met, I liked that the sparks took a while to fly.  He was a common boy and she was the heir to the presidency so I could understand his hesitation.  The rebel group he belonged to was Polaris and the descriptions of their activities were believable.

When Alanna’s fiancĂ© returned to Neress, she tried her best to remain calm and have a business like relationship.  I found that to be endearing as well as amusing.  Who could resist Owen?  He was not only a fighter pilot but he had a heart as big as all outdoors and did everything he could do to win Alanna’s heart.

The action in the story was first rate.  I never knew what was going to happen next.  The story flew by and I didn’t want it to end.  Lucky for me, there is a sequel due out later this year.  If you enjoy action or scifi or just romance, I think you would love this book.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

With A Song In My Heart


I love to sing.  I’m not very good at it but that never seemed to bother my students or my own kids.  We sang a lot. In Kindergarten we started the day with a song.  Try these books which are based on songs.

Over In the Meadow by Olive A Wadsworth

Mother animals and their babies are depicted in this story doing what they do best.  It is a lovely book with a lovely sentiment.  I would read this book to any child, even my baby.

Five Little Ducks by Pamela Paparone

Five little ducks go out to play and when mother duck calls them only some come back. It’s great for counting down and you can make up hand motions to go with it. I would read this book to any child, even my baby.  (See where I’m going with this yet?)

She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain by Jonathon Emmett

An old favorite that all kids love and we all know the motions that go with it!  I liked the lively pictures in this book.  I would read this book to any child, even my baby.

Old MacDonald by Amy Schwartz

Again, a classic song made into a book.  The animals are great and the sounds are ones the kids love.  Let yourself go and snort like a pig and moo like a cow as you read.  I would read this book to any child, even my baby.

They say that music soothes the savage beast.  Well, I don’t know about that but it sure calms down kids and makes them happy.  You can see I am a strong song supporter from the day a baby is born! 
So until next week keep on singing and reading.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Project ELE by Rebecca Gober and Courtney Nuckels


Life on Earth is hard.  There is a hole in the ozone layer that is making it hard to survive in the devastating heat and there is a plague that is killing millions of people. Willow and her family’s only hope is to be allowed into the shelter that FEMA has provided.
The family finally gets their number called and are tested for the virus when they enter.  It turns out that the youngest of them, 4 year old Sebastian has the disease and will not be allowed entry. After a tough decision, Willow and her father go in and her mother and brother go back outside the shelter.
Life in the shelter is pretty monotonous until Willow makes some friends and finds a boyfriend.  They scheme to get their day off coordinated and they make a fantastical discovery.  The shelter is not all it seems. There are hidden pathways and tunnels that the foursome decides to explore.  They find two pools, one is cold and the other is warmed by a small opening where the sun pours in.
After the visit, the friends find themselves developing strange powers as their eyes change color.  They have no idea what could have happened to them.
Unfortunately, they are not the only ones who know about these powers.  A terrible boy, Alex and his father, Dr. Hastings have discovered the truth and they want to experiment on Willow.
What happens next is catastrophic and throws Willow’s world into a whirlwind of using her powers to save her friends.

I really liked this book.  I thought Willow was an engaging heroine with spunk and spirit.  Her boyfriend, Alec was considerate and madly in love with her.
I really liked the friendships she formed with Connor and Claire.  She reached out to both of them.  She had met Connor in line to get into the facility and she brought shy Claire out of her shell.
The story was exciting and I’m looking forward to the next installment of the series but I did think that the editing was poorly done. I found many, many errors in spelling, grammar and word usage.  I think the authors are better than that. Too many incorrect homonyms led to a frustrating read for me. 
I still think that this series is well worth your time.  As I said, I enjoyed it and thought it was quite exciting.  If it hadn’t been for all those errors I would give it more stars.

Friday, May 16, 2014


I think there needs to be some clarification about what stars mean on my blog and possibly other blogs.  I won't give a book less than three stars on my blog.  I don't do 1 or 2 stars because it seems counterproductive.  I want to recommend books that my readers might really want to read.
If I give a book three stars it means I liked it.  If I give a book four stars it means I really liked it.
If I give a book 5 stars then I loved it.
Remember, too, this is just my opinion.  How many books have friends recommended to  you that you ended up hating?  I know I've had a few myself!  Or how about a movie that a reviewer hated and you loved?  It happens all the time.
If you keep reading my blog, you will get to know my taste and it might match up to yours.  If it doesn't at least you'll know the kind of books to avoid!!  I think we owe it to ourselves to try out things we think we won't like.  I learned that since I started this blog.  I've ended up really liking books I thought I wouldn't.
Anyway, readers and authors, just know that I give every book a fair shake and stars are just a guideline.  If it sounds good to you, go for it.  If you wrote it, you know you did your best to tell your story so just be proud.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Spring Has Sprung


Well, it has finally unthawed around here and the trees have leaves and flowers are starting to bloom.  Even though just a few days ago it felt like winter, Mother Nature knew better.  Here are a few books about Spring.

How Robin Saved Spring by Debbie Ouellet

If your kids liked Frozen then this is the book for you.  It can provide a wonderful compare and contrast lesson.  Lady Winter and Sister Spring live in the forest.  Winter should be ending but Lady Winter doesn’t want to go to sleep so she makes a magic blanket so Sister Spring will keep sleeping.  Robin calls all the creatures together to save her but none can until Robin thinks of a trick.  I would read this book to kids 4-8 years old.

Splish Splash Spring by Jan Carr

This little rhyming book about Spring signs is a charmer.  The illustrations are made from cut felt.  If you look closely you can see that and all the other details.  They are just delightful.  The funny rhymes are ones kids will love repeating.  I would read this book to kids 2-5 years old.

Rain Song by Lezlie Evans

Another rhyming book about Spring that centers on a storm that approaches and two little sisters run home as it grows more severe.  But like every storm it eventually dies down and the girls go out to splash in the rain and puddles.  I would read this book to kids 2-5 years old.

Hooray for Spring by Kazuo Iwamura

Three little red squirrels find a baby bird that seems hungry so they try to feed it with no success.  When its mom appears, the squirrels watch the baby eat a WORM!! This book is worth it for the illustrations alone.  They are beautiful and the three little squirrels are darling.  I would read this book to kids 3-6 years old.

I hope your spring has sprung too and you're not still shivering in the cold.   Until next week, keep on reading.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Hidden by M. Lathan


Most teens are trying to find themselves but Leah Grant has more trouble than most.  She hates her school where she is harassed by the “cool” girls and spends a lot of time alone and worrying that she isn’t good.  She fights to control the feelings she has when she wants to hurt someone.
When she finally can’t take anymore she summons up her power and is suddenly whisked away by a friendly, elderly witch.  Sophia takes Leah to her home and tells her that her name is not Leah but Christine and that she is very special indeed.  Sophia’s home is filled with four other special kids and Christine begins to think she is not so weird after all.
She makes friends with Nathan first and then Emma and Paul but Remi who has a special if scary ability seems to be her sworn enemy.
The entire story is filled with surprises galore for Christine (now called Chris) and none of them seem good.
I’m not going to reveal any more details as I feel it would spoil your enjoyment of the book.
I really liked the character of Leah once she stopped being socially backward.  I could understand her strong desire to understand herself and her wonder of all the things that were presented to her by Sophia.  Her romance with Nathan was sweet and based on friendship first.
Nathan was a helpful friend at first but the relationship between him and Chris grew to be a tender love.
The story was filled with twists and turns that kept me on the edge of my seat.  I had a little trouble believing all the special talents that people kept hidden away but once I suspended my disbelief, I really enjoyed the story and look forward to reading more.

This is a good book for teens who enjoy adventure paired with the paranormal.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sibling Rivalry

Oh, the trials and joys of having a sibling.  I’m happy to say my sibling brings me joy.  Hope yours does too.  This week I’m sharing some books that take a look at brothers and sisters.

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

If you don’t know this series, this book is a great way to start.  Beezus puts up with her rascally little sister as she embarrasses her in the library and ruins an art class but when she wrecks Beezus’ birthday party, it’s another matter.  How do two such different sisters get along?  Find out in this hilarious book.  I would read this book to kids 5-8 years old.

I’m a Big Sister by Joanna Cole

This is a sweet little book that explains a baby’s behavior and the role of the older sister.  It’s explained clearly and there’s also a companion book, I’m A Big Brother.  I would read this book to kids 2-4 years old.

D.W. All Wet by Marc Brown

Arthur and his sister, D.W. have always demonstrated too me the ups and downs of sibling relationships.  In this story, D.W. doesn’t want to go in the water at the beach.  See how Arthur tricks her and how D.W. ends up loving it.  This one’s in simple text and has Brown’s great drawings.
I would read this book to kids 2-5 years old, after that they can read it on their own.

Big Little Brother by Kevin Kling

What do you do when your little brother grows bigger than you? This is the problem for the boy in this story and the answer is there too.  It’s done in the cutest way.  I think kids could really relate to the story.  See how Little Bother, helps Big brother out of a jam.  I would read this book to kids 3-6 years old.

There are lots of dynamics between siblings, I hope your dynamic is wonderful!  Until next week, keep on reading!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cinder by Marissa Meyer


Cinder has a secret that she doesn’t want anyone know.  Her adoptive family knows and they treat her like dirt.  She keeps busy in her shop repairing electronics and making money for her step mother.  She has no close relationships except for a robot droid named Iko  and her younger step sister, Pearl.
When Prince Kai shows up at her mechanic’s shop she is surprised and smitten all at once.  He is the talk of the realm with his good looks and great future as their leader.  They have a mutual attraction but Cinder keeps the Prince at arm’s length so he won’t discover her secret.
There is a ball, a mean step mother, two stepsisters, and a sort of carriage so the old fairy tale is in there if you look for it.  Sometimes obvious, sometimes not.
Cinder and Kai join forces to fight the terrible disease that threatens their families and everyone in their realm.  They are both willing to make sacrifices for the safety of the people.
Everything comes to a terrible head at the ball, much is revealed and Cinder is left with some serious decisions to make.

I really liked this dystopian view of Cinderella.  I thought Cinder was fresh and unusual for a heroine.  I liked that she wanted to control her own destiny.
Even though Kai was the typical handsome prince, he had a depth of character that charmed and delighted me.
Pearl was an innocent little thing and she loved Cinder in spite of her differences.  She is the only person in the household who treats Cinder like a beloved family member.
The meanies abound and they are all wicked and deceitful and even a little creepy.  I loved them all.
This is not your usual romantic fairy tale.  It is rough and tumble but all the elements that make the story of Cinderella a classic are there.  So read it!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Mother, May I?


Mother’s Day is fast approaching and I wanted to share some good books about mothers with you.  I’ve been blessed with many happy Mother’s Days so I hope yours is wonderful.

Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman

A baby bird searches for his mother who is out getting him a worm.  He just hatched so he doesn’t recognize her and walks right by.  He asks animals and even machines if they area his mother but the answer is always the same. I am not your mother. Finally he gets back to the nest and is reunited with his mother.  If you have an early reader, this is a book that your child can read to you.  Now that’s a gift!  I would read this book to kids 3-6 years old.

Mother’s Day by Anne and Lizzie Rockwell

Once again the Rockwells present a lovely holiday story.  The kids in Mrs. Madoff’s class share what they are going to do for their moms on Mother’s Day.  The class is diverse and many kinds of families are introduced.  Mrs. Madoff has a surprise for them too; her mother comes to school to help make the Mother’s Day gifts.
I would read this book to kids from 3-7.

A Present for Mom by Vivian French

Stanley can’t think of what to give mom for her special day so he checks in with his siblings who gladly share their advice.  But every idea they share doesn’t work out for Stanley for various reasons.  After a fretful night, Stanley still has no gift until his sister says something special.  He presents his mom with an empty box…or is it?

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

If you want to cry your eyes out on Mother’s Day this is the book for you.  This very touching story follows the mom who takes care of the son through his life until it is the son’s turn to take care of the mother.  It is the circle of life in a lovely little book that I think every child should be exposed to.  I would read this to any kid over 3.

That's all for this week and until next week, keep on reading!