I was going to post last night–I really was–but I was so ridiculously tired that I just couldn’t do it. My niece is going on a mission and so my sister and her family AND my parents are in town, and we spent last night down at the Payson Temple together. (Thanks to my awesome hubby for being on child duty!) They’ll be in town for several more days, so I’m officially taking a bit of a break. I’ll be back on Wednesday!
My first exposure to Joyce Sidman was her Newbery Honor-winning Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night; I read it right after it won, and I remember enjoying it, and that’s about it. More recently, however, Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature popped up on my radar (I don’t remember how). I grabbed it because I have an artist for an oldest daughter, and both of my older girls enjoyed it. When it was no longer renewable at the library, I put another of Sidman’s books on hold, because why not? After all, Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors sounded like another title my artist daughter would enjoy.
My second girlie was so not interested that she actively did other things, even though it was her out-of-town Grandma reading it. My oldest stuck with it and thought about it, my mother said, but it was a stretch even for her. I read through it after they had moved on to something else, and I found myself in awe at the beauty of it, but it’s really not a children’s book at all. It’s a lovely poem with whimsically beautiful illustrations that no young child is going to fully appreciate. (If you love the seasons and the beauty of the world as it experiences them, though, you REALLY need to read this book.)
It will be interesting to see what the rest of her books are like, really. For the moment, I can say that in my experience, she’s always good, but not always in the same way. Nature lovers, you need to give her a try; Moms should pick and choose what they think is going to hold their children’s interest. Either way, she’s always worth looking at.
It’s no secret that I check mass quantities of books out of the library, for both me and my children. If I’m familiar with the book, or someone I know is familiar with the book and recommends it for my kiddos, I might pass it along without looking through it. (Then again, I might not–not if it looks fun!) If I don’t know anything about a book other than the title and its plot summary, however, I tend to give it a look-see first. Sometimes I do it because the book looks good and I’m afraid I won’t ever get to it if it disappears into the older girls’ bedroom; sometimes, however, I’m actively evaluating a book to see how I feel about giving it to my child to read.
Now, I’ve never taken a book she wants to read away from her (although I had her stop after the third Harry Potter for quite a while, since she’s only 9 and used to get scared rather frequently during her nighttime reading). I would, you understand, if I felt it was completely inappropriate; Judy Blume’s Forever is not at all appropriate for a 3rd grader, and Piers Anthony doesn’t need to happen at my house any time soon. (As far as I’m concerned, by the way, V.C. Andrews never needs to happen, because ewww, incest!) For the most part, however, I would like to follow Joseph Smith’s admonition to ‘teach correct principles and let the people govern themselves.’
What my kiddos bring home is one thing. (I did cringe a bit at the Beverly Cleary first love stories, but strictly in an ‘ugh, already?’ kind of way.) What I introduce them to and provide for them, however, is something else entirely. My oldest is into mysteries, and so I keep an eye out for titles that she might like–and then I preview them, because I’d rather not have her reading anything too creepy just yet. The last three I’ve checked out of the library have given me pause for that very reason, and I can’t help wondering if I’m underestimating her, or if it’s entirely reasonable to want her to wait a year or three before she’s reading about teachers being murdered (or being murderous, really). At the moment I’m leaning towards compiling a list of mysteries she should possibly wait until middle school to read. I just want so badly to find the right line between letting her discover and make her own choices while not pushing her to grow up any faster than she already will.
I do love historical verse novels, and so I was more or less excited about Caroline Starr Rose’s Blue Birds, even if I didn’t love May B. quite as much as I wanted to (AND even though the 16th century isn’t my first choice for historical fiction). As I read, however, I realized that what I really wanted was nonfiction about Roanoke; my meticulous need to know what is true and what isn’t makes it hard for me to enjoy books that make too many assumptions about a historical event (case in point: “The Perfect Storm” drove me crazy). It was interesting to read about Alis and Kimi, yes, and the author obviously did her research, but I cared a lot more about the event she used as her setting than I did about the fictional characters involved. The girls’ friendship was affecting, but the book ended up going somewhere I didn’t expect it to–somewhere that seemed a bit far-fetched to me. (Being a parent made the whole thing worse, by the way.) In the end, it wasn’t really my thing.
Whether or not I recommend it, then, gets a bit tricky. If you don’t like a high level of supposition as part of your historical fiction, this is definitely not for you; on the other hand, if that doesn’t bother you and you’re interested by this era in history, you should possibly give it a try.
Let me know what you think of the ending.
My Dad is the sort of man who has always had strong opinions; not surprisingly, those opinions affected what I was exposed to when I was young. I saw “My Fair Lady” and “Operation Petticoat” and “South Pacific” and “Father Goose” many times as a child; I was an adult, however, before I saw an entire Barbara Streisand movie (she was Barbara then, and I’m over it). He was not a fan. He wasn’t a fan of Katherine Hepburn either; I saw “African Queen” once when I was growing up, but that was it. Which is why, at the movie night our church women’s group held this week, I felt weirdly disloyal for thoroughly enjoying “Desk Set”.
I actually had reservations going in, to be honest with you. Several friends had recommended it to me, and I didn’t disbelieve them, but I generally don’t love Spencer Tracy OR Katherine Hepburn. I was pleasantly surprised, however, by both. The film stars Spencer Tracy as a slightly awkward efficiency expert and Katherine Hepburn as the head of the research department he’s studying. Tracy played his part to such perfection that I didn’t once think of him as the turncoat in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”; Hepburn’s looks haven’t grown on me any, but she was surprisingly convincing as an intelligent woman whose loneliness interfered with her personal strength and judgment. (Non sequitur: her fashion sense puts me in mind of Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck.) The plot was enjoyable, the twist was well done, and the cast a pleasure to spend time with. The cinematography reminded me of a made-for-tv movie from back in the day, but it wasn’t a big deal. Despite my random touch of guilt for straying from my upbringing–or something–I have to say that it was totally worth seeing.
(It’s even better with popcorn, candy, and Oreo fluff; then again, most things are.)
It isn’t often that the Newbery Medal is awarded to a picture book. I can think of a few Newbery Honor picture books floating around, but even those are few and far between; I’d have to study my list to see if a picture book has ever won a medal before, and that’s the sort of thing I don’t currently do past 10. (Maybe when the baby starts sleeping through the night again.) Either way, this year’s winner was a surprise.
Matt de la Pena’s Last Stop on Market Street, however, is a worthy winner. (Of several awards, mind you–it’s a Caldecott Honor book and a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book as well–and please, please, PLEASE pretend that there’s a tilde on top of that “n” in Pena.) I really want to be friends with CJ’s nana, who takes him home from church on the bus and answers his every question in a way that sheds a different light of meaning on his world. I’m looking forward to my children’s reactions to her answers, actually. It should spark some interesting conversations. Really, if you haven’t read Last Stop on Market Street yet, pick it up for your kids. Or yourself.
(OH, and by the way? Buttercream frosting did quite a lot for those chocolate sugar cookies. Just butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, milk, and a touch of butter extract.
We have a plethora of heart cookie cutters in this house, from more than one source, and so I told the kiddos we’d make cut-out Valentine’s Day cookies this weekend. It was going to happen Friday–it really was–and then, you know, it didn’t, and so we did it today. (Life with a 1-year-old.) I asked the kiddos if they wanted regular sugar cookies or if they wanted to try a chocolate version, and my oldest (surprisingly) had the strongest opinion. Apparently she doesn’t like regular sugar cookies, because they’re “too sugary.” Nerds, you see, are fruity, and so they’re not.
She said this. I swear. I pointed out that sugar cookies are buttery, and she said they didn’t taste buttery to her. Does this make me a failure as a mother?
Anyway. I hopped onto Pinterest and settled on this Chocolate Sugar Cookie Recipe, and we now have two containers of cookies in my kitchen. The pristine ones will likely be iced tomorrow; the broken ones, well, you know. (What happens to broken cut-out cookies in your house?)
Interestingly enough, I’m looking forward to the icing. I’m usually not that into icing cookies, but these are rather on the dark-chocolate-y tasting side, and I think icing will complement them nicely. Without it, they’re good, but not necessarily make-again good. (And by the way, they break easily enough that the icing had better make a NOTICEABLE difference in taste, because I think the application thereof is going to be slightly frustrating.)
Anyway. I will report on the finished product next time, I promise; for now, I’m on the fence about this one.
No, never fear, I am not moving. (If I were moving, I’d have to do something about the 193 library books that are currently residing in my house.) My friend Britt, however, is, so I hung out and packed a bit and cleaned with her last night, coming home smelling not-so-faintly of Pine-sol. (Item: Can one smell faintly of Pine-Sol? I’m not sure Pine-sol does “faint.”)
(By the way, in case you’re wondering, I probably still owe her a few more favors, but we stopped counting years ago. She’s that kind of friend.)
Anyway, by the time I got home last night, and caught up on Facebook, and showered, well–it was late, and I really needed to go to bed. (In case you’re wondering, it’s an italicized and parenthetical kind of day. I’m okay with this, partly because italicized and parenthetical are good words that feel underused to me. In fact, I changed the structure of this aside because I wanted to use parenthetical instead of parentheses.) Hence, my postlessness last night. I’m sure my legions of adoring fans were inconsolable.
Today, then, I bring to you the review intended for last night, which is of Emma Lesko’s Super Lexi. I’m pretty sure the book came on my radar because Britt marked it as to-read; it sat on my shelf for months before I finally took it down to the treadmill to read it and decide if my kids would be interested. I would have picked it up months ago, however, if I’d known I’d enjoy it so much.
Super Lexi is told from Lexi’s point of view, and Lexi is clearly–different. How different? Hmmm. Possibly OCD-ish, possibly on the autism spectrum, possibly, well, I’m not sure. And it doesn’t matter, anyway. What matters is that Lexi’s differences make music class torture for her on a good day; they make the thought of the Parents’ Day performance coming up unbearable. Her efforts to avoid it, and the outcome, give the book direction, but the best part of the story is getting to see life through Lexi’s eyes. Her meticulously accurate responses to questions (“I heard your voice, not words”), her reactions to requests for eye contact (“I needed my eyes to look for cereal in the cupboard”), and her phobias (yogurt, the cafeteria trash compacter, and eyeballs staring at her, to name a few) give you such a clear view into her personality that it’s sometimes hard to understand why the adults in her life act the way they do. (If only we could all see into our children’s heads, right?) Ultimately, I found it amazing that a 93 page book (with a large font!) could tell its story with such depth. Don’t miss this one, folks. It’s a perfect glimpse into a world that’s different from our own–although not, necessarily, in the ways that truly matter.
I’m kind of bitter that our library system doesn’t have the sequel.
In this review it is, anyway, because telling you too much about Rowboat Watkins’ Rude Cakes would ruin the effect. Suffice it to say that rude cakes–who don’t listen, don’t take turns, and don’t speak nicely to others–learn that it’s better to be polite after all. That being said, trust me when I tell you that you are unlikely to accurately predict where the story goes; it may be a book that champions good manners, but it’s also a hilarious book with amusing illustrations.
You MUST read it.
You should probably buy it.
Hooray for having read one of this year’s Newberys! Yeah, okay, it was the graphic novel, and those go rather quickly, but still. Still! And I ended up REALLY liking Roller Girl. I know, I know, graphic novels aren’t my thing, but Victoria Jamieson does an amazing job of conveying complex emotions through facial expressions, and she paints a beautifully accurate picture of how friendship dynamics change as we grow up. I also learned quite a bit about roller derby, and while Astrid’s drawn-out lying to her mom bothered the parent in me, I felt like the issue was ultimately resolved in a satisfying way.