Sep 24, 2016 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Too Good To Miss

As I’ve said before, I usually don’t review the books that I skim on the treadmill before handing over to my daughter; I don’t feel like I’ve fully read them, and I’m a tad OCD about that.  Beetle Boy, however, was too good to skip.  It’s new this year and I ended up loving it; my daughter read it, loved it, and is now experiencing all the frustration of reading the first book in a series when it’s new and then having to wait to find out what happens next.

Beetle Boy begins with Darkus Cuttle, who is living with his Uncle Max since his father mysteriously disappeared.  He knows his father would never have just abandoned him, so he and two friends from his newest school make a pact to find him; Uncle Max agrees with Darkus, and he starts asking questions as well.

Then there are the beetles.

This book was nothing at all like I expected, really.   I think I assumed from the title that it would be more of a boy-oriented book, and boy books with bugs aren’t generally my first choice.  (Unless, of course, they take place decades ago, because I do have the obsession with historical fiction.)  In reality, Darkus’s relationship with his friends reminded me a bit of Harry, Ron, and Hermione; not so much specifically, but in its partnership feel that rendered gender unimportant.  The beetles themselves, far from being creepy, threatening, or gross, are completely cool, and I loved the way the story developed.  (The climax was fabulous.)  It’s exciting, and original, and thoroughly enjoyable; maybe “The Goonies” meets “The Mummy” meets Harry Potter meets A Wrinkle in Time meets The Secret Garden.

Okay, well, I may have gotten a little crazy there, but really.  My friend’s going-on-twelve-year-old loved it, my going-on-ten-year-old loved it, I loved it–you’ll love it.

Seriously.  You can’t miss this one.

Beetle Boy

New From: $8.69 USD In Stock

Sep 22, 2016 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Series Spotlight

When my daughter asked me to get My Teacher is an Alien for her at the library, I mentally shrugged–not my thing, but if she was interested, why not?  Bruce Coville’s “My Teacher” quartet, however, was both more fun and more interesting than I expected it to be.  These books are accessible, entertaining, and thought-provoking, and while they STILL aren’t actually my thing, I’m glad I went through them on the treadmill while they were hanging around the house.  If you’ve got a middle elementary school-er who likes sci-fi (or action!), this is a series worth getting.


My Teacher Is an Alien (My Teacher Books)

New From: $2.88 USD In Stock

Sep 20, 2016 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Make No Mistake…

I finished Joyce Carol Oates’ After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away three or four days ago, but I’ve been putting off this review because my feelings about this book are complicated.  A quote from The West Wing has been running through my mind:

Well, first of all, let’s not kid ourselves.  The Reykjavik Symphony can play.   These guys have some serious game.

(I really loved the first few seasons of that show, by the way.  I disagreed with the politics fairly frequently, but oh, I loved it!)

President Bartlet pretty much summed up my thoughts about Joyce Carol Oates right there.  The woman can write.  I hated the poem by her I read in junior high, mind you, but it took me quite a while to grow up enough to appreciate and admire writing that I didn’t find personally enjoyable.  (“Death of a Salesman” did a lot for me in that respect–props to Arthur Miller.)  After the Wreck isn’t precisely my cup of tea, either topically OR stylistically, but it was incredibly well done.  Jenna’s downward spiral after surviving the car accident that killed her mother feels all too believable, even if the parent in me was tearing her hair out over it, and the stream-of-consciousness-ish style worked in a way few others would have.  Some characters were far more developed than others, but that made sense with Jenna as the narrator.  Crow, as the older boy who helps Jenna deal with her trauma, seemed somewhat improbable, but he certainly wasn’t impossible.  It ended rather abruptly for me, but that worked in context, I think.

Bottom line?  Ultimately, this wasn’t my thing, but it was an excellent novel nonetheless.  If it is your thing, don’t miss it.

Sep 18, 2016 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Well, THAT Was A Weird Book…

What do bloodsucking iguanas, aliens, and abandoned children have in common?  Anyone?  Anyone?  (Bueller?)


They are, of course, integral plot components of Look Out For The Fitzgerald-Trouts, which is the sort of book you’d get if you crossed The Swiss Family Robinson with The Boxcar Children and Pippi in the South Seas and made Roald Dahl the author.  It tells the tale of the Fitzgerald-Trout children, who have a complicated family tree and aren’t all actually related to each other, but are still very firmly brothers and sisters.  They live in their car and look after themselves; Kim (the oldest) is actually quite a safe driver (even if she needs stew cans attached to her shoes to reach the pedals).  As they grow, however, the car is starting to feel cramped, and so finding a house has moved up to the top of their to-do list.  How they do so is quite the ride, beginning in jail and ending past the bloodsucking iguanas.  (My personal favorite attempt may have been an aborted night in what was clearly IKEA under an assumed name.)

Make no mistake–this is a strange book.  It is, however, quite the tale; it drew me in quickly and kept me reading.  If your elementary schooler enjoys humorous adventure, he or she is certainly going to find it here!

Sep 16, 2016 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Another Two-fer

I wanted to finish either one of the novels I’ve almost done with, but I was up from 1-3 this morning and I was incredibly sleepy today.  I did, however, read a bunch of picture books ‘one last time’ with my kiddos before putting them in the library bag to go back, and these two are standouts for me.

BookSpeak!: Poems About Books is a must for every book lover.  The poems are told from the book’s/part of the book’s point of view, and the index’s poem cracked me up; the Middle’s Lament (a poem for three voices) was fabulous, and the End poem was simply perfect.  If you love books, you absolutely CANNOT miss this one.

Normal Norman, on the other hand, will appeal to just about anyone.  The junior scientist/narrator is using Norman (presumably a gorilla) to illustrate what “normal” is; unfortunately for her, Norman keeps exhibiting behaviors that are anything but.  He will crack you up even as he quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) turns the (useless) idea of “normal” on its head.

It doesn’t matter if you have kids, folks.  These two are worth reading either way.  Enjoy!

Sep 14, 2016 - Uncategorized    No Comments

This and That

  1.  We currently have 196 library books in our house–and more on hold.
  2.  I officially have a plane ticket to attend my 20th  high school reunion, which means RI in October, which means I want to dance around singing, “I’ve got a golden ticket!”
  3.  AND my glasses are in at Costco.  It almost killed me not to be able to pick them up today, but tomorrow–here I come!
  4.  I’m bringing soup to a women’s service project for my church tomorrow night, so I made a BIG pot tonight for dinner.  (I’ll have someone else’s tomorrow!)  Now, what do I serve my kiddos before I leave?
  5.  My bed looks like a laundry room exploded on top of it.  I’ve miles of folding to do before I sleep.
  6.  But I’m going to RI in October!
Sep 12, 2016 - Uncategorized    No Comments

A Worthy Pair

Among the books we’re returning to the library this week are Doreen Rappaport’s Lady Liberty:  A Biography and Carole Boston Weatherford’s Voice of Freedom:  Fannie Lou Hamer:  The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement.  These are picture books meant for older elementary students or adults, really.  Lady Liberty is a series of vignettes from different perspectives about how the Statue of Liberty came to be; Voice of Freedom is a series of poems about the life of an amazing civil rights activist that I had never even heard of.  Their illustrations are lovely and their stories are fascinating.

You should read them.

Sep 10, 2016 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Living Up to a Truly Fabulous Title

I can’t remember how Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer came onto my radar, but once it did, well–I ask you.  How can you NOT be fascinated by that title?  It’s been sitting patiently on my library shelf for quite a while, but no more (it moved down to my daughter’s library shelf instead).

I think she’s going to love it.
I can’t tell you as much about the plot as I’d like, because this is not a book you want spoiled for you, but here’s what I CAN say.  Sophie’s parents have inherited her Great Uncle Jim’s farm, but otherwise they’re broke; her dad lost his job.  Her mother is supporting them by writing and publishing articles, and Sophie is missing her family in LA and her late grandmother when an unusual chicken enters her life.  From there, well…you’ll just have to read it yourself.
(I will say that it’s far funnier than that introduction makes it sound, and delightfully unexpected, and perfectly illustrated, and, and, and…
Just go read the book.  I promise you won’t regret it!)
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Sep 8, 2016 - Uncategorized    No Comments

The Perfect Approach

When I picked up Treaties, Trenches, Mud, And Blood–the 4th of Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales–I couldn’t figure out how he was going to make a book about WWI anything but depressing.  Trench warfare was ugly, the casualties were awful, and all in all, it was a fairly pointless war.  I have to say, though–the man came through.  He uses different animals to represent the nations/empires/etc. involved; bears for Russia, bulldogs for Britain, otters for the Ottoman Empire…

(Sounds of a 37-year-old mom giggling.)

It was a perfect strategy–it totally worked.  This is a exceptional installment in Hale’s series–it’s fascinating, humorous, and packed to the gills with information.  Please get these books for your kiddos, if you haven’t already…especially your reluctant readers.

They are SO worth it.

Sep 6, 2016 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Books That Made the Cut

I generally take the time to go through the books I stick on my almost-10-year-old’s shelf.  I’m not actually worried about most of them being inappropriate (although occasionally I find one that seems a little old for her); I read through them because a)I pick what looks good and why not read through it while it’s in my house? and b)I want the books I’m providing for her to be worth reading.  I’ve never censored anything she’s picked, but I have, on occasion, read through a book I thought looked good for her and thought–life’s too short to bother giving her that.  There are too many excellent books in the world for me to waste time bringing mediocre ones to her notice.

Now, I generally don’t review the books I skim through, because I don’t feel I’ve fully read them; on the other hand, some of them still ought to be brought to your attention.  Without further ado, then, here is my first ‘Books That Made the Cut’ list.  I’m sure it won’t be the last!

1)Chasing Vermeer, The Wright 3, and (presumably) the books that follow.  Blue Balliett’s philosophical bent works, in part because there is also emotional depth, plenty of action, and a dose of mysticism.

2)Operation Bunny, The Three Pickled Herrings, and (presumably!) the rest of the Wings & Co. series.  Hilarious, but (again) with emotional depth and some extraordinary creativity.

3)Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, Detectives Extraordinaire, and its sequel.  Polly Horvath has done herself proud–oh, how I laughed!

4)Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains.  This is a bit of an odd mix of a plot, but it works.  Laurel Snyder has some excellent picture books as well.

5)Upside-Down Magic.  This first in a new series has three authors, and there’s quite a lot of depth here considering that it’s definitely aimed at the younger side of the JF spectrum.

Give any or all of these a try–or give them to your elementary-age daughters!