Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Review: One Second After by William R. Forstchen

I feel so brain dead right now at 2000 hrs (that's 8:00 p.m. for you non-military/ non-Ham radio types.) And it's all the fault of this book:

Written by William R. Fortschen
Adult fiction (Older teens could read it, too.)
(Published in 2009 by Forge Books)

A little back story-
My husband got this book at Costco last week and devoured it in a day and a half. "You have to read this book," he kept breaking off to say. Two days later, I came down stairs after he'd already left for work (no, I don't make him breakfast-I'm nice like that) to find the book sitting on my desk in our co-office with a Post-It note on the cover that read:
I REALLY want your opinion on this.
Love, me.
Awwww. Reading the same book's the most romantic thing we've done in years. (I kid. Sort of.)

How then could I refuse? But it was a book, after having read the synopsis on the back, that I wasn't in a hurry to read. So I put it off, but Todd kept asking me, "Have you read it yet?" Finally, last night it was, "Are you ever going to read it?" So, romantic-minded me decided I'd better just hurry up and read the darn thing already.

Once the girls were FINALLY asleep last night, and AFTER Todd and I watched the movie The Mechanic (through which I covered my eyes about 50% of the time), I quit putting off the inevitable and went to bed to read.
And HOLY FREAKING MOLY!!! I got sucked into that book like a spider up a vacuum, and I read and read and read until after 0300 (3 a.m.) When I couldn't prop my eyes open anymore, I set the book on top of one of the piles of books on my nightstand (yes, there are 3 on top and 3 underneath... no, I will not take a picture) and slid into sleep...

...and into the most intense apocalyptic nightmares ever. It was a relief to wake-up, 'though I felt like I lived through a war. I wanted coffee so badly, and I don't drink coffee. My caffeine I.V. of choice is Coke. I watched the clock until 10ish ("No, Self, you can't drink a Coke for breakfast!") until my conscience would let me have one. I'm on my third one of the day, now. I'm soooo sleepy. I want my bed. Waahhh!

Book Synopsis-
The book is about a college professor in a small town in North Carolina who is a widower with two daughters, one of whom is diabetic. And then, out of the blue, all electronics shut down: cell phones, cars, electricity, etc. No one knows why or what has happened, but it's not coming back on, and the community begins to realize that something big has happened. And it has. An E.M.P. has been detonated in the atmosphere approximately 300 miles above the middle of the United States and has wiped out anything with solid state electronics (that hadn't been hardened.) Now John and his community have to come to grips with what that means. And what it means is shocking. And you will be dragged in to this book too, little spiders!

Utterly thought-provoking, completely scary (not in the horror book kind of way, in the oh-I-can-so-see-this-really-happening kind of way) this is a compelling look at what it means to be a society, and what it takes to be a society when you are suddenly thrust out of everything familiar, everything "normal", everything you thought "society" meant. This is not a book that will "go gentle into that good night."*

*From Dylan Thomas' poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Book Lover's Survey: Caution, Strong Passions Ahead!

Rachel Held Evans featured four intriguing questions on a blog post that I'm going to steal for my own post (Thanks, Rachel!), because as soon as I read them, I could immediately answer the questions. That doesn't happen to me very often.

Can you name...

1. A book you threw across the room in anger?
2. A book in which you underlined nearly every sentence?
3. A book you were surprised to love?
4. A book you're looking forward to reading?

1. A book I threw across the room in anger:
 On Becoming Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo

Not only did I throw this book across the room several times during the reading of it, when I was finished I threw it in the trash. I have only done that (the throwing and the throwing away) once in my life: with this book.

This book was recommended to me by another mother when my first daughter, Olivia, was a couple months old. I'd never heard of the book or the man before. I read the book, my mouth dropping open more and more in horror and disbelief.

I cannot say anything good about this vile book. It is the worst parenting book I have ever come across. And dangerous to the psychological and physical safety of children. Ezzo presents pseudo-scientific "facts" all throughout his book, (e.g. there is no such thing as a mother's intuition; wearing your baby in a sling puts you on a social scale with animals; don't demand-feed your newborn, make her know who's boss and stick strictly to a feeding schedule; infants should bend around your schedule not you around theirs; from the time they're born you babies and children should learn that your husband is your TOP priority, and your time together takes precedence over them, etc.) that fly in the face of commonsense and recommendations by the AAP. If you are a breastfeeding mother, and follow Ezzo's advice and schedule for feeding your baby, I guarantee you will very quickly lose your milk supply, and your baby will always be hungry. But the worst thing is his completely callous, completely detached parenting style he pushes. His attitude toward babies and young children is appalling. Following his advice could be dangerous, and could lead to a baby who suffers Attachment Disorder, resulting from emotional neglect.
The overall impression I got from reading this book -and yes, I read the vile thing all the way through- is that this man hates children and hates women. I can't believe this man has a following...well, yes I can, because he advocates parental selfishness, which obviously is very appealing to certain people. (If you don't want to take on the care of helpless little beings that depend on you for their every need, DON'T HAVE CHILDREN!!! 'Cause once you have them, it's not all about you anymore.)
Awful, awful book.

*Robert Bucknam's name is apparently just on there to throw his M.D. weight behind the claptrap that Ezzo espouses, giving the book "credibility". And shame on him for doing so.

2. A book in which I underlined nearly every sentence:
 A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle

First written in 1971, this book is the first of L'Engle's Crosswicks Journals (there are four). I read it the first time as a Junior at university. (On my own, not as a class required reading.) I am not an underliner of books, but I did take copious notes in my journal as I read it. In the pages of this book, L'Engle ponders deeply on many subjects: art, writing, good and evil, spirituality, the whole creative process, one's sense of self, etc. I loved the way she worded her thoughts. And it resonated with that youthful me in many ways. By turns sure and questioning, the philosophical and religious self-examination was appealing to the young woman trying-to-find-her-way-in-life that I was then. It made me think of my concept of "self" in a new way, something my philosophy classes had not succeeded in doing.

I have since left religion and religious belief behind me, and don't know if I'd feel the same way about this book today as I once did. But once upon a time it touched me deeply enough to overcome my scruples and write in the book.

3. A book I was surprised to love:
 The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

I read this for the first time when I was 17 years old, at my mom's suggestion. It didn't sound like it would appeal to me at all AND it was freaking LONG, so I only started reading it out of respect for my mom, telling myself that I could stop if it was too boring. But I very quickly got swallowed up in the story of Edmond Dantes, a young man in love who is betrayed by his best friend and sent to the Chateau d'If, an impregnable island prison, for treason. Years later, he finally manages a daring escape and returns to France after amassing a fortune and travelling abroad, to meticulously exact his revenge on the man who was once his best friend and everyone responsible for sending him to prison.
I haven't read this book since then, and I need to, just to see if I'll feel the same way about it.

4. A book I can't wait to read:

Oh my, how do I choose? For right now, I'll say all the ones from my recent library trip. 
I also have an Excel spreadsheet with over 400 entries and growing everyday, of books waiting to be read.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Book Reviews: More Loved Bird Books

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon
Written by Jacqueline Davies
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Picture Book, Ages 5 and up
(Published in 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company)

My little bird-mad girls loved this story of John James Audubon, which gives a brief background, but focuses on the event which led him to be the first to definitively determine that small birds migrate during the winter and return in the spring, nesting in the same spot.

Such a beautiful book! Melissa Sweet's pictures are a treat and harmonize beautifully with Jacqueline Davies' wonderful story.

(A Cornell Lab of Ornithology Audio Field Guide)
by Donald Kroodsma
(Published in 2008 by Chronicle Books)

So engagingly written, this book is one of the best book purchases I've made; and it gets used a lot. The pages containing the bird descriptions and their habits are so interesting that you can just sit down and read for hours. The illustrations are exquisite. (I'm not sure, but I think they are the work of many artists.)
And the audio portion is amazing. The speaker does not sound tinny and fake at all. Playing the recorded birdcalls, it sounds like the actual bird is right there in the room. Too cool!
(We have yet to take it outside to use as a lure for the real birds. I'm afraid of harassing the birds by using it outside. We do use it outside to identify birds using the illustrations and descriptions, but not with the audio portion.)

Another use we've found for this marvelous book is when we read about birds in other books, especially picture books. As a read aloud mom, the only time I am stumped (well, besides encountering words in foreign languages with which I am unfamiliar) is when authors write the sounds birds make. I never know if I'm saying it properly. So, to get around that, I always pull down this book and play the actual sound. Even when they don't write the sound, it's still fun to use with stories featuring birds: it takes the experience of reading the book to another level, making it more real.

The birds Audubon was studying in Jacqueline Davies' book were Pewees, and when we came to the sounds, we grabbed this oh-so wonderful book off our bookshelf. We went to the index, found the right pages and within a few seconds were listening to the real Pewee bird sounds. Whenever the sound came up in the book, one of my girls would push play on this marvelous book.

Can you tell we love it?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Review: Two Picture Books by Gene Barretta About Renaissance Men

Written and illustrated by Gene Barretta
Ages 5 and up
(Published in 2009 by Henry Holt and Company, LLC)

This very fun and eminently readable book highlights the inventions of probably the most well-known Renaissance Man. Leonardo da Vinci's fascination with the natural world inspired him to create all kinds of drawings and inventions based on the patterns he saw in nature. Gene Barretta has shown that so many "modern" inventions were products of da Vinci's mind hundreds of years earlier (e.g. flying machines, contact lenses, movie projectors, single-span bridges, tanks, gears and chains, etc.)
The author juxtaposes the "Neo" pages with "Leo" pages. The "Neo" pages feature other inventors who created a more modern working version of inventions then shown on the "Leo" page.

Written and illustrated by Gene Barretta
Ages 5 and up
(Published in 2006 by Henry Holt and Company, LLC)

Benjamin Franklin was another Renaissance Man: author, statesman, inventor, scientist, publisher, and political activist.

We read this book second, but really it was written first. Both books have the same style of presentation, with the "Now" page showing the things we use in our modern day, while next to it the "Ben" page shows how Benjamin Franklin's invention was the forerunner. Again, super fun pictures, very readable, interesting text.

My girls and I love these books and are fascinated by both the pictures and the stories. Even 3-year-old Susanna gets a kick out of looking at the pictures. And I love these books because not only do they make my kids laugh, but they teach important knowledge about two of the world's greatest men at the same time. How can you beat that?

Both books borrowed from the library.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Three Picture Book Biographies of Great Scientists and Mathematicians

Written and illustrated by Don Brown
Ages 6 and up
(Published in 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company)

This book introduced my girls to Albert Einstein, taking him from his birth to the years of his greatest accomplishments in theoretical physics, highlighting his early characteristics, personality and interests. My older two girls liked the book, even though they didn't understand the science it contained.
They were especially intrigued when the book mentions Einstein's early fascination with the compass, since they recently acquired compasses and we have been working on the concept of magnetic north and how to use a compass.

The author also includes a note at the end of the book containing more details of Einstein's life (including an intriguing suggestion of a book to read regarding what happened to Einstein's brain after he died), and lists other biographies to pursue more knowledge of Einstein.

Written by Joseph D'Agnese
Illustrated by John O'Brien
Ages 6 and up
(Published in 2010 by Henry Holt and Company)

The author says in his note at the end of the book that "Little is known about the life of the mathematician called Leonardo Fibonacci. This story is based on the few things we do know--and a bit of make-believe."

The book tells the story of young Leonardo Fibonacci who spends alot of time skylarking out of boredom and thinking about the numbers he sees in nature, much to the vexation of his teacher, who calls him a blockhead. His fellow students and the people of the town take up the refrain, so Leonardo spends much of his time feeling like he doesn't fit in. But one of the men who works for his father sees his potential and helps him explore his interest in numbers. As he travels the world with his merchant father, he learns about the Hindu-Arabic numerals. The ease of using them makes Leonardo excited to share them with the rest of the world, which is still using the clumsy Roman numerals. He wrote a book about the Hindu-Arabic numerals in which he included a riddle that became the famed Fibonacci Sequence. He realized that everywhere he looked in nature, he kept seeing the same numbers appearing: the numbers in his Fibonacci Sequence.

The book is well-written, and because it is told in first person narrative, it is very relate-able. I think D'Agnese does an excellent job of showing children that the natural world is full of numbers. D'Agnese also does an excellent job of presenting the Fibonacci Sequence in way that is easy to understand, although it may be a bit mind boggling to younger readers.
(I just hope I won't be hearing my girls call each other "Blockhead".)

Written and Illustrated by Peter Sis
Caldecott Honor Book
Ages 5 and up
(Published in 1996 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

"A book depicting the life of a famous scientist, mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, physicist: Galileo Galilei."

One of the things I really like about this fascinating book is that it has a little something for a wide spectrum of young (and old) readers. There is the main story line that is very readable and interesting for both younger and older children, and there are extra facts, fascinating trivia, and quotes from Galileo himself in cursive script, that will appeal to older readers of the book.

I only read the main story line on the first reading aloud of the book, so as not to interrupt the flow of the story. Then we went back and read some of the cursive parts. (Most of the information in the cursive parts was too detailed and the language and concepts too difficult to be of interest to my little girls, so I just skipped those parts. However, if Olivia or Karina happen to read it themselves, we'll deal with the questions that may arise.)

I liked the pictures that are so reminiscent of art in Galileo's day, but they were confusing to my girls. I think the pictures would be appreciated more by older children.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Book Review: They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

By Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Children's Non-Fiction
Ages 12 and up
(Published in 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing)

A marvelously well-presented, thoroughly researched book! And boy, was it difficult, scary, and sickening to read! Not because of Bartoletti, but because of the subject matter. If one wants to read horror stories, one need look no further than our own human history, at "man's inhumanity to man."*  In her book They Called Themselves the K.K.K, Susan Campbell Bartoletti lets you know up front what you're in for. She says in part of her note to the reader at the front of the book:
"Whenever possible, I have let the people of the past speak in their own voices. Some of these people use crude language. No matter how difficult it is to see the offensive words in print, I have made no attempt to censor these historical statements.
  You will see images from pictorial newspapers such as Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper and other sources. These images depict people, events, and viewpoints of the time. Some of the depictions are caricatured and racially offensive. I deeply regret any offense or hurt caused by the images, but again I have chosen not to censor."
I appreciate Bartoletti's bold, unflinching and compelling account of this era of history. She puts a terrifyingly human face on the subject of the K.K.K.'s terrorism, by her liberal use of both the victims and the Klan members' first-person accounts (the Slave Narratives of the 1930's), diaries, historical journals, newspaper reports, etc. Also included are a multitude of photographs and newspaper images from the day. Bartoletti doesn't whitewash anything.
She does an excellent job of explaining the many factors surrounding the beginnings of this group, things you won't find well-explained in school history books. This highly readable book will teach you a lot I'll bet you never learned before.

*From a poem by Robert Burns (1759-1796) entitled " Man Was Made to Mourn: A Dirge".
Many and sharp the num'rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And man, whose heav'n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, -
Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!
Please note that the publishers have labelled this book as suitable for ages 8-12, grades 4 through 6. My library has listed this as Young Adult and I would have to concur. I think the subject matter is too graphic for an 8 year old, but of course you as the parent must make your own determination.

Read what other are saying about this book:
Becky from Becky's Book Reviews
Sharon from Outside of a Dog
Angela from Bookish Blather

Friday, May 13, 2011

Book Review of Alexander Hamilton: The Outsider by Jean Fritz

By Jean Fritz
Middle-grade Non-fiction
Ages 9 and up
(Published in 2011 by Putnam Juvenile)

When I saw this book sitting on the "New Children's Books" table at our library, I snatched it up for 3 reasons (well, 4 reasons, but the fourth reason was purely fluff):
1.  It was written by Jean Fritz, one of my favorite historical writers.
2.  It is about a man who definitely deserves to not be forgotten, but is not much mentioned beyond a line or two in primary and middle school history books. Alexander Hamilton was an honest, passionate man who played an integral role in how the economic system of the United States government was set up. It's amazing to think that a man who came from such humble and illegitimate beginnings would later rise to become a powerful, influential figure in a newly emerging America, a country he adopted and for which he fought passionately.
3.  I knew that Hamilton, our nation's first Secretary of the Treasury, formed the Revenue Cutter Service, the forerunner of our modern US Coast Guard. (A Coastie can get into real trouble for not knowing that!) And yes, there is a Coast Guard Cutter (a 378 footer) named after him.
4.  I loved the cover. (Told you it was a fluff reason.)
I feel strongly that children need to read biographies of real people who had a hand in shaping various aspects of society and the world as we know it. They need real life examples of real people, living and dead, good and bad, to learn from. But children reading about adults can sometimes be problematic, given the duality of human nature. Even the best among us can have feet of clay, or moments of clay.
Such is the case of Alexander Hamilton. The man is an example of honesty, hard work, determination and patriotism. But he made his mistakes. I appreciated the way Jean Fritz managed to honor Hamilton's achievements and life, while still including his weaknesses and failures. She doesn't dwell on his weaknesses, but she certainly doesn't dismiss them. She gets the information** across without overdoing the details.

Obviously then, I think the book requires a certain level of maturity, as it deals frankly and matter-of-factly, but tastefully, with some mature themes.

(While I don't think it would "scar" her to read it, I wouldn't want my 7 year-old daughter reading it, even though she is capable of reading it. I don't think it would appeal to younger-but-capable readers, anyway. There's is too much that they wouldn't understand, due to insufficient life experience. But obviously each parent needs to make that call.)

Lest you get the wrong impression from what I've written, let me unequivocally state that I really liked reading this excellent book about one of my country's Founding Fathers, and I learned a lot.

**(SPOILER ALERT) For example, his illegitimacy and later his affair with a woman outside his marriage. The reason this information is included is because the repercussions of both had far-reaching consequences to him politically and morally.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Book Review: How Did That Get In My Lunchbox? The Story of Food by Chris Butterworth; Illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti

Written by Chris Butterworth
Illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti
Picture Book, Children's Non-fiction; Ages 4 and up
(Published in 2011 by Candlewick Press)
"One of the best parts of the day is when you lift the lid of your lunchbox to see what's inside."
(First sentence.)
I'm willing to bet that your young children, if they're not living on a farm, exhibit a certain disconnect regarding where their food actually comes from. This book will change that. The text and pictures of this eminently readable book do a superb job of providing essential knowledge in a fun way by breaking down the food production chain of certain lunchbox items (bread, cheese, tomatoes, apple juice, carrots, chocolate chip cookies, and clementines) into sequential steps.

But the information doesn't end with the lunchbox. The book goes on to briefly talk about healthy food choices beyond your lunchbox, and the importance of a healthy balanced diet. There is a short Food Facts page at the end with some excellent advice like...
"Your body is growing all the time (even when you're asleep!) So remember, don't skip breakfast - it gets your body through the day."
My 7 year-old Olivia read this book to us all, with her sisters by her side looking intently at the pictures. We took the time to savor each page's illustrations, and I could see the figurative light bulbs going off in my children's heads as we read this book. Even though most of the knowledge was not new to them - we have discussed where food comes from many times before - I thought this book really helped them (and me!)actually understand the process better.
Chris Butterworth's clear, well-written text and Lucia Gaggiotti's engaging illustrations make this book so worth reading.

Other books by Chris Butterworth: Sea Horse: The Shyest Fish in the Sea
I think this is graphic designer Lucia Gaggiotti's debut as a book illustrator, but I'm not sure.

Read other bloggers' reviews at:
Kiss the Book
Mackin Books in Bloom

Friday, May 6, 2011

Weekend Reading

We're heading into the weekend, and I know I'm going to be too busy to post, what with our yard sale tomorrow morning, a charity fundraiser I'm working tomorrow afternoon which will lead to being too wiped out on Sunday to do more than grunt a little.
Here's a look at what we'll be reading this weekend. (All except Karina's book are from the library.)

For me:

From Goodreads:
"Once upon a time, three children and a little river dragon were the best of friends—until a promise was broken. Now they are almost grown up and barely speaking to one another.
Of the four, it is Princess Aurelie who feels the loss the most. How can she prevent a war when she can’t even make her friends get along? Heartsick at losing her dearest companions, Aurelie finds comfort in the beauty of fairyland. But a princess can’t hide from her duties forever. Her country needs her, and so do her friends, whether they know it or not."
Heather Tomlinson is a new author for me, and I'm about 3 chapters in. It's an interesting read so far. A bit choppy; but I'm optimistic.

By Barbara Hambly

From Goodreads:
"The new ‘James Asher’ vampire novel from the best-selling author - It’s 1911. War is coming, and according to one of the vampires of St. Petersburg, the Kaiser is trying to recruit vampires. James Asher, Oxford don and formerly on His Majesty’s Secret Service, is forced to team up again with his vampire partner Don Simon Ysidro for a journey to the subarctic Russian capital. Are they on the trail of a rogue vampire with a plan to achieve the power to walk in daylight? Asher wonders. Or is Ysidro’s real agenda to seek the woman he once loved?"

Isn't the cover just awful? It just screams campy horror book. But I promise it's not like that. If you haven't read the previous two books of this series, you really should. The series starts with Those Who Hunt the Night, continues with Traveling With the Dead and this book is the third. I am not into vampire books as a rule (I'm certainly not into the horror genre), but I love the Victorian era mystery in these books, and her characters are so well done. I guess you could read them out of order, but I wouldn't recommend it. In order to understand all the characters' relationship nuances, you really need to read them from the beginning. And they are good YA crossover books, especially the first one. 'Though technically listed as adult fiction, I'd far rather my teen read these than some other vampire themed books I can think of.

For Olivia:

Selected by Pamela Pollack; Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

From Goodreads:

"With illustrations by Caldecott award winner Paul O. Zelinsky, the anthology will have readers rolling in the aisles over 34 laugh-out stories by Judy Blume, Richard Peck, Beverly Cleary, E. Nesbit, Natalie Babbitt, Mark Twain, Roald Dahl, and many more!"

This book contains snippets of humourous stories from other books by the authors listed in the synopsis. Olivia has already begun this book, and has gigglingly shared many of the stories it contains. It has also made her want to read the books from which the stories come, which is the whole point of creating anthologies like this.

For Karina:

By Gertrude Chandler Warner; Illustrated by L. Kate Deal

From Goodreads:

"Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny, four orphaned brothers and sisters, suddenly appear in a small town.  No one knows who these young wanderers are or where they have come from.  Frightened to live with a grandfather they have never met, the children make a home for themselves in an abandoned red boxcar they discover in the woods.  Henry, the oldest, goes to town to earn money and buy food and supplies.

Ambitious and resourceful, the plucky children make a happy life themselves--until Violet gets too sick for her brothers and sister to care for her.

This story will delight any child who has fantasized about being on his or her own and overcoming every obstacle."

Karina just started this and is already eagerly sharing the story with me. "Mom, guess what's happening now!?!" I like how the writing is geared for young readers: intriguing story but not too hard a vocabulary.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Book Review: Nancy's Mysterious Letter by Carolyn Keene (Reviewed by Olivia)

My daughter Olivia (age 7) continues to love Nancy Drew books. And after reading her most recent book, Olivia asked me if she could write her own review for the blog. She wrote it out by hand (including the synopsis) and I'm just typing it. So here she goes, all in her own words...

Written by Carolyn Keene
Juvenile Fiction; Ages 8 and up

The book starts when Nancy mistakenly gets a letter of inheritance for a Nancy Smith Drew. The book is all about the things she has to do to find this Nancy Smith Drew. Will she ever find her? You will find out if you read the book.
I really liked this book. I was interested by the idea that someone out in the world had nearly the same name as Nancy. I liked the way she decided to search for this other Nancy. I liked that it took her a while to find her, and I didn't think she'd ever find her. How she went about her search was interesting to me.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Books Read To/By the Kids in April 2011

Reading aloud to the girls suffered dreadfully in April, but here are most of the library titles we managed to get to. And of course, they pored over our own shelves and re-read lots of favorites. I'm proud of Olivia for picking up my slack and taking it upon herself to read her 3 year old sister stories anytime she wanted them, while Mom was otherwise occupied. There's nothing that squeezes a mother's heart quite like the sight of one of her children reading a story to a younger sibling.

Written by Diana Hutts Aston
Illustrated by Sylvia Long
Non-fiction Picture Book; Ages 4 and up
(Published in 2006 by Chronicle Books)

  This beautifully written and illustrated book is a nature lover's dream. The rich, poetic prose discusses the physical qualities of eggs. And the incredible pictures featuring dozens of eggs had my 6 year-old Karina poring over this book time and again. I love them so much I plan on purchasing this book and the others Aston and Long collaborated on: A Seed Is Sleepy and A Butterfly Is Patient (not yet released).

I borrowed this from the library after I saw it featured on Janice Durant's blog Books of Wonder and Wisdom. Thank you, Janice.

Written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco
Picture Book; Ages 4 and up
(Published in 1988 by Philomel Books)

Every year old Babushka paints eggs to sell at the Easter festival. One day, when a wounded goose falls from the sky, Babushka takes her in, tenderly nurses her back to health, and names her Rechenka. When the goose accidentally breaks all of Babushka's eggs that she labored all winter to paint, Rechenka makes amends by providing a miracle.

(Again, thanks goes to Janice Durant for the book recommendation.

Written by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Young Readers; Ages 6 and up (Younger if read aloud.)

Ah, Mercy Watson, how my children love thee!
All the Mercy Watson books are perennial favorites around our house and get re-read every few months by both my older girls (ages 6 and 7). This is one series that they can both read themselves, and they are delighted to read them aloud to their little sister. This whole series of Mercy Watson books (there are 6) got a work-out this month. Literarily, the stories are pretty fluffy, but my girls bask in the marshmallowy yumminess. And the pictures, with their fifties retro feel, add greatly to the fun.

Mercy Watson is a buttered-toast obsessed pig, and an unwitting hero. She gets herself into and out of some silly predicaments and manages to come out smelling like roses butter.

In Mercy Watson Fights Crime (the 3rd book of the series), Mercy unwittingly foils a small would-be, cowboy wanna-be house burglar.
For some reason or other, this book was read the most this month by both girls. (I heard it read aloud to Susanna WAY.TOO.MUCH!)
(We've also borrowed the audio CDs before and they are well done. The girls like listening to them at night.)

Here are the other titles:

Written by Katherine Paterson
Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
Picture Book; Ages 4 and up

When a Japanese lord sees the beautiful plumage of a male mandarin duck, he orders his capture. In captivity, the male pines for his mate and begins to die. Appalled at his plight, a maidservant sets the duck free, and she and the Lord's one-eyed steward are sentenced to death for their perfidy. Help comes from unexpected quarters, and the two disgraced servants must flee for their lives. Find out what happens next in this beautifully told and illustrated story of compassion, courage, heroism, and loyalty.

Written by Sarah Stewart
Illustrated by David Small
Picture Book; Ages 4 and up
(Published in 1997 by Farrar, Straus, Giroux)

My girls and I so loved this Caldecott Honor book about a young girl who is sent to live with her uncle in the city because her father is out of work. Set during the Depression and told in the form of letters -first to her uncle and then to her parents and grandma at home in the country- Lydia Grace transforms her Uncle's drab life and bakery, one plant at a time, into a bower of blooming brightness.

Written by Munro Leaf
Illustrated by Robert Lawson
Picture Book; Ages 4 and up

It's hard to believe that this book about a gentle bull who only wants to sit "just quietly" and smell the flowers, was once banned by Franco of Spain. First published in 1937, a few months before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Francisco Franco saw the book as a message of pacifism directed at him and banned the book from Spain.
To me this book's timeless message is about being true to yourself and that being different is okay. I loved this story as a child and my girls love it, and enjoy re-reading it. They laugh hysterically when Ferdinand sits on the bee, and at the illustration showing his expression. And they laugh at the bullfight scene.

Monday, May 2, 2011

April's Reading Round-up - Books For Me

My blog posting suffered during April due to the INSANE amount of books I read. My duties as a Round 1 judge for the YA Bloggers Best Overlooked Book Battle are at an end, and my Top Ten has been submitted. It was hard to choose. (There were some books from the Book Battle reading list that I have already read, so I didn't re-read them.) In a few days I'll be able to share which books I chose for my top ten.
I also (yes, I'm crazy) read some other books while I was waiting for Battle books to become available. I think I might be forgetting a couple of books, but since my head feels like it's about to explode, I'll quit here.
  1. Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City - Kristen Miller
  2. She Smells the Dead - E.J. Stevens
  3. Nomansland - Lesley Hauge
  4. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer - Lish MacBride
  5. Academy 7 - Anne Osterlund
  6. Threads and Flames - Esther M. Friesner (Young Adult)
  7. The Thin Executioner - Darren Shan (Young Adult)
  8. By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead - Julie Anne Peters (Young Adult)
  9. Stolen - Lucy Christopher (Young Adult)
  10. Little Blog on the Prairie - Catherine Davitt Bell (Middle Grade/Young Adult)
  11. The Actor and the Housewife - Shannon Hale (Adult Fiction)
  12. StarCrossed - Elizabeth C. Bunce (Young Adult)
  13. The Mockingbirds - Daisy Whitney (Young Adult)
  14. Women in the Material World - Faith D'Aluisio (Non-fiction)
  15. She's So Money - Cherry Cheva (Young Adult)
  16. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda - Tom Angleberger (Middle Grade)
  17. The Grimm Legacy - Polly Shulman (Young Adult)
  18. Some Girls Are - Courtney Summers (Young Adult)
  19. 13 Little Blue Envelopes - Maureen Johnson (Young Adult)
  20. Adios, Nirvana - Conrad Wesselhoeft (Young Adult)
  21. The Cry of the Icemark - Stuart Hill
  22. The Summer I Turned Pretty - Jenny Han (Young Adult)
  23. A Little Wanting Song - Cath Crowley (Young Adult)
  24. The Sky Is Everywhere - Jandy Nelson (Young Adult)
  25. Stork - Wendy Delsol (Young Adult)
  26. Compromised - Heidi Ayarbe (Young Adult)
  27. The 10 p.m. Question - Kate De Goldi (Young Adult)
  28. Perfect Chemistry - Simone Elkeles (Young Adult)
  29. Eon - Alison Goodman (Young Adult)
  30. Birthmarked - Caragh M. O'Brien (Young Adult)
  31. Whale Talk - Chris Crutcher (Young Adult)
  32. Out of My Mind - Sharon M. Draper (Middle Grade)
  33. Stravaganza: City of Masks - Mary Hoffman (Young Adult)
  34. Hate List - Jennifer Brown (Young Adult)
  35. Bloody Jack - L.A. Meyer (Young Adult)
  36. Harmonic Feedback - Tara Kelly (Young Adult)
  37. Dreamhunter - Elizabeth Knox (Young Adult)
  38. High Heat - Karl Deuker (Young Adult)
  39. The Last Knight - Hilari Bell (Young Adult)
  40. Fat Cat - Robin Brande (Young Adult)
  41. Heist Society - Ally Carter (Young Adult)
  42. The Magic of Ordinary Days - Ann Howard Creel (Adult Fiction)
  43. The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch - Joseph Delaney