Feb 13, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Stuff

Stuff

After I finished Full of Beans a few weeks ago (or thereabouts) I was looking idly through the Jennifer L. Holm titles in our library system, which is where I came across Eighth Grade is Making Me Sick:  Ginny Davis’s Year in Stuff.  Because I have a serious library problem–um, I mean, because it looked interesting–I reserved it and checked it out, and since it was a short, easy read, I finished it shortly thereafter.  AND–on the one hand, I quite enjoyed it.  On the other hand, I didn’t realize that it was a sequel to Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf:  A Year Told Through Stuff until after I finished it.  (I didn’t realize that the first book existed until after I finished the second.  Believe it or not, I generally try pretty darn hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.)

That being said, it doesn’t stand too badly on its own, although I’d read the other first if I had it to do over again.  It’s amazing what a good writer can show through grocery lists, notes to teachers, brief text exchanges, hospital bills, report cards…you get the idea.  Ginny’s family is experiencing significant but relatable upheavals, and Holm does an excellent job of conveying what she needs to convey with no actual traditional text.  (It’s not a graphic novel, but it will likely have similar appeal to readers.)  She also stays within fairly appropriate bounds while dealing with real issues, which is an impressive feat in this day and age.

Bottom line?  A good book–one with substance belying its size–for your middle schooler, and one you’ll enjoy as well.

Feb 11, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Year’s First Newbery

The Year’s First Newbery

Since my reading time has been limited of late, I figured I’d get 2017’s only short Newbery out of the way; Freedom Over Me:  Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan is, essentially, a text-heavy picture book.  (Also title-heavy, when it comes right down to it!)  The illustrations are not necessarily my style, but I’m not a student of art, so I can’t offer an informed critique there.  Unfortunately, I can offer a more informed critique of the text, and while I wanted to love this book–I really did–the sad truth is that I just didn’t.  I loved the concept–the concept was certainly worthy of a Newbery–but the execution fell flat.

To be perfectly honest, I loved the concept more when I thought it was a bit more factually based.  I didn’t realize that the only facts the author had to work from were the names and prices of the slaves; he created not only the occupations of each one but the ages as well.  The title was a problem for me here, honestly.  The phrase ‘brought to life’ implies more of a factual basis than Bryan had.  Switching it out with ‘imagined’ would suit me better, because really, isn’t that exactly what he did?

The bigger problem, however, was the unevenness of the writing.  Some of it was fine for the setting, if not as sparely powerful as I would have preferred.  Some it it, however, was frankly jarring.  We aren’t all Mark Twain, so I’m not faulting Bryan for not attempting to write in dialect, but am I really supposed to believe that slaves born in Africa, who learned English as slaves without benefit of any formal education, thought statements like this?

Hearing the slaves

singing the songs

Mulvina and I created

reminds me

of the rich musical world

so integral and natural

in African daily and ceremonial life.

Or this?

My work has made this house

a model of beauty and comfort.

I’m loaned to other estates

to design their gardens

and bring style to their parlors.

Or this?

I am thinking

if I were free,

I would acquire my own

acres of land.

I would hire

men and women

from cities and farms

to work and study the land

with me.

Earnings from our labor

would benefit all of us,

the workers.

Those are not the believable voices of slaves.  Even some of those sentiments feel modern, frankly, but the language–the language is that of a lecture given on what those slaves may have thought or believed or known or felt.  Bryan could have created a powerful book using simple language and kept the first person; he could have created a fascinating book using more of the language he used if he’d switched to third person and altered the semantics to make that work.  Instead, he put modern-feeling lectures into the mouths of people who could never have expressed themselves that way.  They could have expressed themselves eloquently, mind–you don’t have to be or sound educated to be eloquent.  They just couldn’t have expressed themselves the way Ashley Bryan imagined in this book.  Ultimately, that problem kept me from connecting with the book in any meaningful way.  I wanted it to be a different–a better–book than it was.

Feb 9, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on So Happy Together

So Happy Together

I bought some avocados a few days ago when they were 3/$1 at Ream’s, because as my friend Andrea pointed out–didn’t EVERYONE buy avocados when they were 3/$1 at Ream’s?  (Except our friend Britt, who’s not a fan.)  They’ve been sitting and ripening quite nicely on my counter, and so today I looked over my recipe choices and went with this Avocado, Tomato, & Feta Dip.  (A pause while I gaze contentedly at my Oxford comma and my ampersand side by side.  I took the liberty of adding the former, because her blog is her blog but my blog is mine.)

Mmmm.

I halved the recipe, more or less, but I was fairly cavalier about ingredients.  No red onions in the house?  Eh.  I prefer green onions when I’m eating them raw, anyway.  No cherry tomatoes?  A diced small-ish regular one ought to do it.  Measure the parsley?  Not in MY house.  I did use fresh lemon juice and good red wine vinegar, and I actually measured those.  (Although next time I’ll be more generous with the lemon juice, because when SHOULDN’T you be generous with fresh lemon juice?  Never.)  I wondered about the tortilla chip bit–in fact, I almost just broke out the wheat thins instead–but they worked just fine.  Because when you marry avocado, tomato, feta, lemon juice, and parsley, friends, they’re just so happy together that they don’t really care where they are.  A spoon would have been just fine, too.

I may or may not have eaten the entire bowl myself.

Ok, fine, I absolutely did eat the entire bowl myself–in one sitting.  But only because Britt didn’t want any.

Feb 7, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Quick Thoughts on NCIS

Quick Thoughts on NCIS

My hubby and I have watched from the beginning; we mourned Kate but ended up loving Zhiva, we suffered through all those episodes about the French arms dealer whose name I’m too lazy to look up the spelling of at the moment, and we grew increasingly tired of Mike Franks (may he PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE rest in peace–FINALLY!).  We like Bishop, although they’ve made her less quirky than she was initially, to everyone’s loss.  Tonight we watched this season’s premiere–yes, we’re behind–and I’m curious to see what my hubby thinks.  I like Handy Manny, honestly.  I’m not so sure about the weird ex-instructor.

Thoughts?

Feb 5, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Good With The Bad

The Good With The Bad

Last night was an exercise in frustration, let me tell you what.  I turned off the light at 11:30, which is a good 10-15 minutes earlier than usual, because I COULD NOT KEEP MY EYES OPEN.  About 35 minutes later I was slowly dragged out of my slumber by my car alarm accidentally going off, my son came in to snuggle at 3-ish, and the almost-2-year-old was up at 5-something.  Needless to say, I didn’t exactly manage to get the rest I wanted; I dozed after church, but that was cut short by, well, screaming.  (From three different children, mind you.  I’ve only GOT four.)

On the other hand, my hubby grilled some tasty chicken for dinner, we ate our $.89/each artichokes and they were lovely, and everyone went to bed well.  AND I had one of those lovely, gleeful surprises when I went to register for SEP conferences with my children’s teachers–the website finally acknowledges that they attend the same school!  This sounds ridiculous, of course, but my kids’ elementary school houses the magnet program for our area (it’s a gifted sort of program). My oldest, with her November birthday and LOVE of new experiences, is in it; my second, with her just-made-the-deadline August birthday and her shy, new-things-are-dangerous personality is not.  And up until today, I’ve had to log in separately to schedule their conferences, because the magnet program and the elementary school were listed as separate schools.  (I did try to open different windows and schedule them at more or less the same time–once.  Only one of my scheduled conferences was actually recorded, as I discovered later.  I was NOT pleased.)  My fellow parents-of-elementary-schoolers will understand why this was such a ridiculously happy discovery.  Oh, and since, insofar as I cheer for ANY pro football team, the Patriots are my guys, the game ended weirdly well tonight, considering.

There’s good and bad in every day, right?  Here’s hoping for more sleep tonight!

Feb 3, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Whoops! Missed One!

Whoops! Missed One!

I really meant to post yesterday–I did–but then, well, I forgot.  My 7th grade band director comes to mind–Is there a reason for it?  Yes.  Is there an excuse for it?  No.  Mr. Kane, are you still in my head after twenty-five years?  Most decidedly.

Anyway.  The good news is that the extra day gave me time to finish Gator on the Loose! on the treadmill, and I’m pleased to report that what started out as a preview of a new series for my 7-year-old turned into a fun read for yours truly.  The Carters (and their friends!) are likable and full of personality, and their animal rescue business makes for some lively plot turns.  Keisha is an endearing narrator, and I especially appreciated the author’s explanation of the ending. Ultimately, this is well-researched, delightful fare for the middle elementary schooler; I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

Gator on the Loose! (Animal Rescue Team)


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Jan 31, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on My Go-To Banana Bread

My Go-To Banana Bread

My family LOVES banana bread.  ALL of them.  And while I’m experimented with different recipes and liked many of them, this Classic Banana Bread is my basic, tried-and-true, everybody-wants-a-second-(or-third)-slice recipe.  I don’t make many changes; I do half wheat flour and half white and I leave off the brown sugar (I just don’t need extra sweetness on top of my banana bread).  I’ve made it with both sour cream and plain yogurt and there’s not much of a taste difference, so I generally go with the healthier option.  OH, and I don’t measure the vanilla.  I just, you know, pour until it feels generous. And EVERYONE LOVES IT.  I used to serve it as our carb for a whole lot of meals when my second was a toddler, because I could get her to take bites of–horror of horrors!–new foods when I was offering bites of this banana bread afterward.  (I’ve made the chocolate variation, by the way–tasty but more work.)

Anyway.  To make a long story short, this is good banana bread.  Try it.

You’ll thank me.

Jan 29, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Very Belated Review

A Very Belated Review

Loathe as I am to admit to such a level of procrastination, I confess–I finished Civil Rights Childhood sometime in November, and I’m just now getting to its review.  How bad is that?  It’d be worse, of course, if I hadn’t taken time off for the holidays, but still.  Two months?  Seriously?

The thing is, I did have a few reasons.  It felt like a more complicated review to write, partly because of the book itself and partly because of its format.  The two months’ wait will, of necessity, simplify the review, but it’s still not an entirely easy one.  I put off reading the book itself for a year because of the font size, because OH.  MY.  GOSH.  My eyes may not be young anymore, but I have friends who wouldn’t have wanted to read that font in high school–it’s evilly small. When I took a good look at the publisher, however, I realized that the font and the general format were likely functions of being put out by a university press.  My dad was a professor at RIC for decades, and I remember some of the travails he went through to get his book published.  He ended up going through a university press as well, and I especially recall him lamenting the size of the maps.

Format aside, I thoroughly enjoyed most of the book.  Jordana Shakoor had a fascinating childhood, and the contrast between her mother’s and her father’s families and situations give her book balance.  I learned things I hadn’t known and gained additional perspective on the issue of race in this country, which I imagine was part of her purpose.  My only real problems with the book are the title and the ending.  Civil Rights Childhood is an acceptable title for a research paper, but for a published book, it’s clunky.  (I tried to think of a better one and couldn’t, but I’m terrible at coming up with titles.)  It’s also not entirely accurate, because while the balance of the book is about Shakoor’s childhood (and the relevant aspects of her parents’ before her), the last 20 or 30 pages morph into something else.  When the Jordan family (Shakoor changed her name as an adult) moved to Ohio, their lives diverged from the main stage of the civil rights movement; her own life becomes more generic (so to speak).  The very end of the book, moreover, reads like a biography of the author’s father, and while his Ohio teaching career and later family life aren’t un-interesting, they belie the title.  Ultimately, though, this was a worthwhile read.  In an ideal world, it would be picked up by a major publisher and Shakoor would work with an editor to make the book a tighter finished product; in this world, however, its good points still outnumber its imperfections.  Get yourself some reading glasses and give it a try!

Civil Rights Childhood


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Jan 27, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Plate Is Empty!

The Plate Is Empty!

Okay, okay, so the pun might be slightly lame, but I have finally finished The American Plate:  A Culinary History in 100 Bites.  It’s the sort of book that lends itself to being read in small chunks, so it’s been residing in my bathroom drawer for, well, months.  (Judge me if you will, but when you’re a stay-at-home mom, stealing enough time for a page or two a few times a day can do wonders for your sanity.  In retrospect, perhaps that’s why my parents always took longer in the bathroom than it seemed like they should have…)

My sister actually recommended this one to me, and overall, it was an enjoyable read.  O’Connell is sometimes heavy-handed with her social commentary, but the occasional hilarity of her regular commentary balances that out decently well.  (The section on beaver tail made me laugh out loud.)  Some of her “bites” were more general than I might have preferred, but much of her information was fascinating.  Ultimately, it’s a great book for a food lover to read in snatches.  And if you try any of the recipes, let me know how they are!

Jan 25, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Inter-Novel Relationships

Inter-Novel Relationships

I started Full of Beans because I assumed it was a sequel to Jennifer L. Holm’s Turtle in Paradise (which I thoroughly enjoyed).  It was quickly apparent, however, that that wasn’t really it at all, and so I spent most of the book considering it a companion novel.  Different protagonists, same setting–it looked like a duck (so to speak), and so I assumed (which, of course, one should never do) that that’s what it was.  It took until the very end for me to realize that it’s actually closer to a prequel, which tempts me to re-read Turtle in a quest for new insights.  (Because, you know, I need more books on my to-read list.)

I have no issue with varying relationships between and among books at all, mind–I just didn’t look closely enough at this one initially.  Thankfully, it didn’t make much difference to my enjoyment of it.  Beans is a prickly but (ultimately) lovable character, and the story intertwined with his–the salvation of Key West during the Depression–was a fascinating one about which I knew absolutely nothing.  Jennifer L. Holm’s genius lies, in part, in her ability to use her family history as literary inspiration, and it’s won her more than one Newbery Award.  If you like historical fiction, make it a point to read hers.

You won’t be disappointed.

Full of Beans


New From: $7.78 USD In Stock

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