Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Books Read in January

Linked to my reviews.
Books with asterisks (*) are re-reads.

Picture Books
  • The Sorely Trying Day (Russell and Lillian Hoban) -  A chain of events leads members of a family to behave badly, causing a ripple effect of bad behavior down the line. Funny and still apropos, despite the somewhat archaic language form used at times. My girls laughed ruefully as they recognized their own behavior.
  • Fannie in the Kitchen (Deborah Hopkinson; illus. by Nancy Carpenter) - Takes place in the late 1880's in Boston, Mass. Marcia's mother appreciates Marcia's "helpfulness" but hires Fannie Farmer as a mother's helper, mostly for her cooking. Marcia's ire soon turns to intrigue as Fannie teaches her how to cook. Marcia in turn inspires Fannie to set down her recipes on paper. The pictures are an intriguing combination of images and styles: Victorian lithograph-type for the background, parents and baby; warmer, rounder drawings, in color, of Fannie and Marcia. The idea, obviously, is draw the eye to these two central characters. The hilarious little details in the period-inspired drawings keeps them from pretension; one page shows Marcia's mother licking her plate. The chapter divisions are in keeping with the theme. Each one is a meal "Course," with a little Fannie Farmer hint box on most full page spreads.
  • Apple Tree Christmas (Trinka Hakes Noble) - A terrible blizzard near Christmas ruins a girl's favorite apple tree. Will her personal sorrow ruin Christmas? A very good family Christmas story, non-religious, without Santa Claus.
  • Birdie's Lighthouse (Deborah Hopkinson; illus. by Kimberly Bulcken Root)  - Birdie's journaling of how her family becomes the lighthouse keepers on a small, bare, rocky and lonely island. Then when her father gets sick, she has to take over as lightkeeper. Although fictitious, Birdie is based on real women who were lightkeepers. There is a wonderful "Afterward" by the author that gives the history of real women/girl lightkeepers.
  • When Jessie Came Across the Sea (Amy Hest; illus. by P.J. Lynch) - A young Eastern European Jewish girl receives a boat ticket to America from her Rabbi. Leaving her beloved grandmother behind, she uses her sewing skills -taught to her by her grandmother- to earn money in America, saving it in order to bring her grandmother across the sea as well. A lovely story, beautifully told and illustrated, of devotion and love.
  • Uncle Vova's Tree (Patricia Polacco) - A story about a family's Epiphany traditions and the continuation of them even after their beloved uncle, who was the "keeper" of the traditions, dies. I liked it up until the mystical end, which made it lose its power as a family story, to me.
  • The Orange Shoes (Trinka Hakes Noble; illus. by Doris Ettlinger) My girls loved this story of a poor country girl who uses her art skills to turn an ugly incident into a work of art, and the family who loves and supports her through it all. Olivia was the one who found this book and read it first, and then came to me and said, "Mom, you have to read this! It's so good!"
  • *Tikki Tikki Tembo (Arlene Mosel; illus. by Blair Lent) - This classic brings a giggle every time we read it.
  • Grandmother Winter (Phyllis Root; illus. by Beth Krommes) - My girls were confused by this story until I explained the concept of Grandmother Winter. Then we read it again and they could enjoy it. Gorgeous illustrations. 
  • Blue Willow (Pam Conrad; illus. by S. Seilig Gallagher) - The "fable" of how the design on Blue Willow china came to be. Well written but sad story. 
  • Morris the Artist (Lore Segal; illus. by Boris Kulikov) Morris, who loves to paint, buys a birthday gift for another child that he wants, and when he gets to the party, won't hand over.
  • Uncle Blubbafink's Seriously Ridiculous Stories (Keith Graves) -  "Seriously ridiculous", yes. I think it takes a different kind of personality than mine to appreciate this book. Didn't appeal to me at all. I couldn't bring myself to read it aloud to my kids.
  • *The Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter) - I read this periodically to my children, but they never get excited about them. 
  • *Frog and Toad All Year (Arnold Lobel) - My girls are huge fans of Frog and Toad.
  • *Days With Frog and Toad (Arnold Lobel) Reading about Frog and Toad never gets old, although some volumes (like this one) are better than others.
  • *My First Counting Book (Lilian Moore; illus. Garth Williams) - Linked to my review. 
  • Al Pha's Bet (Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illus. by Delphine Durand) 
  • This Plus That (Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illus. by Jen Corace) 
  • Little Pea (Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illus. by Jen Corace) 
  • Little Oink (Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illus. by Jen Corace) 
  • Little Hoot (Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illus. by Jen Corace) 
  • Spoon (Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illus. by Scott Magoon)
  • *Blackout (John Rocco) - A young child wants to play a board game with someone, but all the family members are "MUCH TOO BUSY."  When the lights suddenly go out, there is nothing but time for family togetherness. My girls love this book and keep picking it up to read or look at the pictures. The pictures do most of the storytelling; the text is pretty spare. (As an aside, I love that the family is multi-racial, that the youngest family member could be a boy or a girl, and the dad is cooking.)
  • *Grandpa Green (Lane Smith) A little boy tells the life history of his great-grandfather, who is forgetting things. But the topiaries he creates do the remembering for him. A beautiful book, full of clever topiaries to help tell the tale. I appreciated it more than my girls did.
  • *Are You My Mother (P.D. Eastman) Always a favorite with my littles.
  • *A Bargain For Frances (Russell and Lillian Hoban) - Frances gets tricked by her friend into buying her friend's tea set. When Frances finds out about her friend's trickery, she figures turn-about is fair play. I was never that smart as a child.
  • *Bread and Jam For Frances (Russell and Lillian Hoban) - My personal favorite of the Frances books. Deals with the meal battles that parents face with picky eaters. If only they were resolved as easily (and amusingly) as they are in this book.
  • *Owl Babies (Martin Waddell; illus. by Patrick Benson) - Linked to my review.
  • *Chrysanthemum (Kevin Henkes) - A little mouse girl is made fun of because of her name, until a wise music teacher intervenes. My girls love this book.
Children's Non-Fiction
  • Swirl By Swirl (Joyce Sidman; illus. by Beth Krommes) - A lovely, lyrical book about spirals and the many places/ways they occur in nature. Gorgeous illustrations.
  • A Fraction's Goal - Parts of a Whole (Brian P. Cleary; illus. by Brian Gable) - Excellent for gaining an overall understanding of fractions. My only reservation was with the pages showing the baking measurements, as the drawings made it unclear to my daughters what the "whole" was. But I can understand how that would be hard to capture in a drawing. We followed up with some hands-on kitchen fractions.
  • So You Want to Be An Inventor? (Judith St. George; illus. by David Small) A big hit with my girls, this fun book that talks about the qualities necessary to be an inventor and highlights actual inventors throughout history and the inventions they created as a result of those personality qualities. Superb illustrations.
  • Just a Second (Steve Jenkins) A fun trivia book of happenings in the natural world based on time as the unit of measurement, i.e. things that happen in a second, a minute, an hour, etc. Fascinating stuff. Amazing collaged pictures.
  • What To Do About Alice? (Barbara Kerley; illus. by Edwin Fotheringham) - An amusing picturebook biography about Alice Roosevelt (daughter of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt) who wanted to "eat up the world." The illustrations are great.

Middle-Grades Fiction
  • The Little Bookroom (Eleanor Farjeon) - A compilation of fantastical little stories; some better than others.
  • The Middle Moffat (Eleanor Estes) - I read this aloud to Olivia and Karina. Linked to my review.
  • The Children of Green Knowe (L.M. Boston) - Linked to my review. 
  • Ballet Shoes (Noel Streatfeild) - Linked to my review. 
  • Rufus M. (Eleanor Estes) - I read this aloud to Olivia and Karina. They liked this one better than The Middle Moffat. The episodes are more amusing.
  • Breaking Stalin's Nose (Eugene Yelchin) - Linked to my review. 
  • Anna's Blizzard (Alison Hart)

Young Adult Fiction
  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Rae Carson) - I liked it.
  • Divergent (Veronica Roth) - I read this for book club. Meh.
  • The Wild Orchid: A Retelling of "The Ballad of Mulan" (Cameron Dokey)  Well written, likable characters, great storyline, but for the length of story it was (not long), there was too much build-up. When it came to the actual getting to the battle and what made her a hero, it felt rushed and hurried. This is my complaint of all Cameron Dokey's novels in this series: too much build-up, rushed climax and ending.
  • *Wildwood Dancing (Juliet Marillier) - This intriguing story is a wonderful blend of several fairy tales (12 Dancing Princesses, The Frog Prince, etc.) and Eastern European legends.

Adult Fiction
  • Gap Creek (Robert Morgan) - Just didn't do it for me.
  • The Hum and the Shiver (Alex Bledsoe) - Interesting modern Appalachian spin on Celtic legends. Just not sure how I feel about it.
  • The Informationist (Taylor Stevens) - Linked to my review.
  • *Sacred Hearts (Sarah Dunant) - Linked to my review.

Adult Non-Fiction
  • Reading For the Love of It: Best Books for Young Readers (Michele Landsberg) - I love her insightful look at so many aspects and issues within children's literature, and I agree with her on so much. So worth the read despite it's age (published in 1986.)
  • The World of Downton Abbey (Jessica Fellowes) - I loved this behind-the-scenes look at the world of BBC's Downton Abbey. A fun peek at history, too. Gorgeous photos and back story, in-depth look at the filming of the show. I'm so enjoying watching it right now.
  • HTML Manual of Style (Larry Aronson) - Marginally helpful. It would have been more helpful if I understood it better; I think I need a "dummy's" version.
  • The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins) - So interesting. He has many valid points, and makes his points very logically and sensibly, but I can see how religious people would be offended by some of what he says. But it's also true that religious people tend to see atheists as amoral at best and immoral at worst, which is just a completely false picture.
  • Things I Learned About My Dad (In Therapy) (essays compiled by Heather Armstrong) - Some interesting essays on fathers; some not so interesting.


  1. What an organized way to keep track of your reading! And I admire the collages you make of the book covers.

    I love books about reading, and about reading with kids. It sounds like a good month with a good variety.

  2. Such a great collection of books!! We've read a number of these, and there are several I'm keeping in mind for the future :)

  3. So so impressive! Girl of Fire and Thorns is on my stack.

  4. I loved Ballet Shoes as a kid. I don't remember much of the plot, though, so I might not like it as much anymore.

    I totally agree about Divergent. A resounding "meh."

  5. Beth, I'm just learning how to work with Picasa and make collages.

    I am happy with the variety.

  6. Susan, which ones here have you enjoyed?

  7. Suey, I think you'll like The Girl of Fire and Thorns.

  8. Bookzilla, I think I might have liked it better if I'd read it when I was 10-12.

    Too many unresolved inconsitencies with Divergent. I have a hard time with books that require me to suspend my disbelief.

  9. Let's see...we've read Fannie in the Kitchen, Uncle Vova's Tree, the Frog & Toad books, the Frances books, Owl Babies, Chrysanthemum,Swirl by Swirl, So You Want to Be An Inventor, What To Do About Alice...and we have enjoyed them all.
    I'd like to read all of the titles on your middle grade fiction list.