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Mainly reviews of children's and young adult literature. Primarily focuses on new literature, 2004-present, but may feature older titles if they are "favorites" of mine. Feel free to leave comments. I always enjoy reading what others have to say!
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1. How To Catch A Mouse (2015)

How To Catch a Mouse. Philippa Leathers. 2015. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: This is Clemmie. Clemmie is a brave, fearsome mouse catcher. She is excellent at stalking and chasing. She is patient and alert. She knows everything about how to catch a mouse. In fact, Clemmie is such a fearsome mouse catcher that she has never even seen a mouse. All the mice are afraid of me, thinks Clemmie. 

Premise/plot: Clemmie is confident that she knows everything about how to catch a mouse. But does she know as much as she thinks she does? Could a mouse be right in plain sight and Clemmie not know about it? Perhaps! Hint: The illustrations are EVERYTHING to the story.

My thoughts: I loved the story. I did. I thought it was wonderful. I loved how the illustrations tell so much of the story. The illustrations communicate a lot to the reader. In addition, the illustrations are just so precious and adorable. I loved Clemmie as a character as well. And I loved the "new trick" that she learned towards the end of the book.

Definitely recommended to cat lovers!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Funny Face, Sunny Face (2015)

Funny Face, Sunny Face. Sally Symes. Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence:
Bunny face, sunny face, wake up...
with a funny face!
Bear hair, fair hair,
hardly any there hair.

Premise/plot: A day full of rhymes: morning to evening. This one is all about the rhyme. Also the rhythm, I suppose. But essentially it's a feel-good-to-read-aloud rhyming book for young children. Probably toddlers and preschoolers more than older ones.

My thoughts: This one is a cute book. I liked the rhymes for the most part. There weren't any that didn't work for me. And there were a handful that I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED. For example:
Sticky lips, licky lips
love-you
kiss-me-quickly lips.
and
new teeth,
chew teeth,
only one or
two teeth.
I didn't just love the text of , however. I loved many things about this one. It started charming me from the start. I really LOVE the endpapers of this one. It's a beautiful design. And the illustrations are precious as well.

This one would pair well with the sadly out-of-print Grump which I reviewed earlier this week.

Text: 4.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4.5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. The Great Good Summer (2015)

The Great Good Summer. Liz Garton Scanlon. 2015. Simon & Schuster. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

God is alive and well in Loomer, Texas, so I don't know why Mama had to go all the way to The Great Good Bible Church of Panhandle Florida to find him, or to find herself, either.

The Great Good Summer reminded me, in a way, of Because of Winn Dixie. Ivy Green is almost as lovable a heroine as Opal herself. Her narrative voice is certainly strong throughout. Ivy's narration made the novel work well for me.

So Ivy's story, on the surface, is simple: her mom has recently left them (her and her dad) without a word as to where she's going and if she'll ever be back. Ivy and her Dad struggle with their new reality. Some things remain the same: Ivy's babysitting, weekly attendance at church; but some things are VERY different: her mom being gone, her never-subsiding-ache of wanting her mom back, her new friendship with a boy, Paul Dobbs, who most decidedly does NOT believe in God.

One of the book's greatest strengths is in the writing itself:
But the thing is, ideas are my talent. My only talent, really. My voice isn't right for singing, I freeze up in the spelling bee, and I can't shoot a basket to save my life. If I stop coming up with ideas, I'm not gonna have anything left to do or talk about. (5)
Personally, I think if you're an only child, you should automatically be issued a dog when you're born, as a consolation prize, but my mama and daddy disagree. (6)
"Daddy, what are we gonna say when people ask us about Mama?" I stir my bowl of milk. Daddy's right. I'm dawdling. "The truth, baby. They're church folks. Church folks understand other church folks." (23)
Paul isn't a redhead like his mama and sister, and he isn't exactly distinguished-looking either, but he is nice to look at. For a boy that I'm always getting a little mad at, I mean. (44)
I do find it interesting that faith in God is such a big part of this book. Not every character even believes in God. As I mentioned, Paul doesn't. And he challenges Ivy in several scenes, for better or worse. Why do you believe in a God you can't even see? Why do you think there is a God in the first place? How do you know he's real? Why aren't you more skeptical? But there are a handful of characters that do believe in God that do define themselves by their faith in God. And Ivy herself as emotional as she is, as angry as she becomes, does still believe in God.

Does the book get Christianity right? That's hard to say in a way. If your impression of Christianity is that it is a do religion: a do this, this, this, and that religion--a religion defined by things you do and things you don't do--I'm not sure there is enough gospel, enough grace, in The Great Good Summer to change that impression. If you (rightly) hold that Christianity is a done religion: what Christ has done for us, on our behalf, the price he paid to redeem us, to deliver us, then there aren't any passages that scream out heresy either. Though this passage makes me sad:
I hope you can forgive me sometime, Ivy. In the meantime I have to work on forgiving myself. And then it's up to God. That's the really awful thing about this whole mess--I was just trying to get closer to God, which makes it even bigger shame that I messed up as badly as I did." (183)
There were so many things I wanted to say to them both. Like it isn't about trying: trying to be better, or trying to do more. It's about trusting in what God has already done. It's about trusting that Jesus is enough. That God could not love you more than he already does. That he could not love you less either. That he really and truly has paid it all. 

I didn't quite love, love, love this one. But it certainly was worth reading.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. My Brother's Secret (2015)

My Brother's Secret. Dan Smith. 2015. Scholastic. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Karl Friedmann loves to play war games, and can't wait to join the Hitler Youth. But after his father's death, he begins to question the rightness of the war, and the rightness of the Nazi party. This change of heart isn't immediate, it's more of a journey as he observes what the war has done to his family, to his friends, to his neighborhood. Two people definitely make an impact on him: his older brother, who does have a secret, and his new best friend, a girl around his own age.

My Brother's Secret is an intense read with plenty of action and drama.

I definitely found it a compelling read--a quick one too! It was action-packed until the very end. I was almost sure there was no way they could resolve it with so few pages left, and, in a way, it did feel rushed. But still. Quite a read.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. June Reflections

 In June, I reviewed 65 books.

Board books:

  1. Board Book: The Doghouse. Jan Thomas. 2008/2015.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 36 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Picture books:
  1. Ask Me. Bernard Waber. Illustrated by Suzy Lee. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  2. Nobody's Perfect. David Elliott. Illustrated by Sam Zuppardi. 2015. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Inside This Book (Are Three Books) by Barney Saltzberg. 2015. Abrams. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  4. Here Comes The Tooth Fairy Cat. Deborah Underwood. Illustrated by Claudia Rueda. 2015. Penguin. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  5. A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat. Emily Jenkins. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. 2015. Random House. 44 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. Hop On Pop. Dr. Seuss. 1963. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library] 
  7. Fox in Socks. Dr. Seuss. 1965. Random House. 72 pages. [Source: Library] 
  8. I Wish That I Had Duck Feet. Dr. Seuss (Writing as Theo LeSieg) Illustrated by B. Tobey. 1965. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. I Had Trouble In Getting to Solla Sollew. Dr. Seuss. 1965. Random House. 59 pages. [Source: Library] 
  10. Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved A Mystery That Baffled All of France. Mara Rockliff. Illustrated by Iacopo Bruno. 2015. Candlewick. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  11. Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews. Kathleen Benson. Illustrated by Benny Andrews. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  12. Under A Pig Tree: A History of the Noble Fruit. Margie Palatini. Illustrated by Chuck Groenink. 2015. Abrams. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  13. Grump. Janet Wong. Illustrated by John Wallace. 2001. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Book I Bought]
  14. Peppa's Chalk ABCs. Scholastic. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  15. The Bus Is For Us. Michael Rosen. Illustrated by Gillian Tyler. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  16. Grandma in Blue with Red Hat. Scott Menchin. Illustrated by Harry Bliss. 2015. Abrams. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  17. London Calls. Gabby Dawnay. Illustrated by Alex Barrow. 2015. Abrams (Tate). 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  18. Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother on Earth. Kate Klise. Illustrated by M. Sarah Klise. 2010/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  19. Maisy Learns to Swim. Lucy Cousins. 2015. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  20. Peppa Goes Swimming. 2015. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  21. Hippu. Oili Tanninen. 2015. Tate Publishing (Abrams) 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  22. Little Big Boubo. Beatrice Alemagna. 2015. Abrams (Tate). 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Early readers/ early chapter books
  1. The Long Dog (Scholastic Reader, Level 1) Eric Seltzer. 2015. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. I Will Take A Nap. Mo Willems. 2015. Hyperion. 64 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. I Know A Story. Miriam Blanton Huber, Frank Seely Salisbury, and Mabel O'Donnell. Illustrated by Florence and Margaret Hoopes. Wonder-Story. 1938/1953, 1962. Harper & Row. 190 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. Magic Animal Friends #1 Lucy Longwhiskers Gets Lost. Daisy Meadows. 2015. Scholastic. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Magic Animal Friends #2 Molly Trinkletail Runs Away. Daisy Meadows. 2015. Scholastic. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Magic Animal Friends #3 Ellie Featherbill. Daisy Meadows. 2015. Scholastic. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Magic Animal Friends #4 Bella Tabbypaw in Trouble. Daisy Meadows. 2015. Scholastic. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Middle grade:
  1. The Cottage in the Woods. Katherine Coville. 2015. Random House. 400 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. Gone Crazy in Alabama. Rita Williams-Garcia. 2015. HarperCollins. 304 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. The Summer of the Swans. Betsy Byars. 1970. Penguin. 144 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. Stella by Starlight. Sharon M. Draper. 2015. Simon & Schuster. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. The Upstairs Room. Johanna Reiss. 1972.  HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library] 
  6. The Great Gilly Hopkins. Katherine Paterson. 1978. 256 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  7. The Little Prince. Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Translated by Richard Howard. 1943/2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  8. Jack. Liesl Shurtliff. 2015. Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  9. Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. Jonathan Auxier. 2011. Abrams. 397 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  10. Return to Gone-Away. Elizabeth Enright. 1961/2000. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 224 pages. [Source: Library] 
  11. The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects. Paul B. Janeczko. Illustrated by Chris Raschka. 2015. Candlewick. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  12. Book of Three. (The Chronicles of Prydain) Lloyd Alexander. 1964. 190 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  13. The Magic Pudding. Norman Lindsay. 1918. 144 pages. [Source: Bought]
  14. Judy Blume: Are You There, Reader? It's Me Judy! (Women Who Broke the Rules). Kathleen Krull. 2015. Bloomsbury. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

Young adult:
  1. Enchantress from the Stars. Sylvia Louise Engdahl. 1970/2003. Penguin. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  2. The Far Side of Evil. Sylvia Engdahl. 1971/2003. Penguin. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Saint Anything. Sarah Dessen. 2015. Penguin. 432 pages. [Source: Library]
Adult fiction:
  1. The Silmarillion. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1977. 386 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. The Semi-Detached House. Emily Eden. 1859. 172 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  3. The Infernal Device. Michael Kurland. 1978. 255 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Death by Gaslight. Michael Kurland. 1982. 279 pages. [Source: Library] 
Adult nonfiction:
  1. Follow Your Gut. Rob Knight with Brendan Buhler. 2015. Simon & Schuster (TED) 128 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Edited by Pamela Smith Hill. 2014. South Dakota State Historical State Society. 400 pages. [Source: Library] 
Christian fiction:
  1. A Worthy Pursuit. Karen Witemeyer. 2015. Bethany House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. Julie. Catherine Marshall. 1984/1985. Avon. 428 pages. [Source: Bought]
Christian nonfiction:
  1. The Truth About Lies. Tim Chaddick. 2015. David C. Cook. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. The Underestimated Gospel, edited by Jonathan Leeman. 2014. B&H Publishing. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3.  Why We Pray. William Philip. 2015. Crossway. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. The Root of the Righteous: Tapping The Bedrock of True Spirituality. A.W. Tozer. 1955/2015. Moody Publishers. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  5. The Message of the General Epistles: Wisdom from James, Peter, John, and Jude. Brandon D. Crowe. 2015. P&R Publishing. 240 pages.
  6. George Whitefield: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought. James L. Schwenk. 2015. P&R Publishing. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  7. Love Walked Among Us: Learning to Love Like Jesus. Paul E. Miller. 2001/2014. NavPress. 272 pages. [Source: Library] 
  8. Walking With Jesus Through His Word. Dennis E. Johnson. 2015. P&R. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  9. The Faith of a Mockingbird. Matt Rawle. 2015. Abingdon Press. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. Packer on the Christian Life. Sam Storms. 2015. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Top Ten Books I've Read So Far

The topic this week for Top Ten Tuesday hosted at The Broke and the Bookish is Top Books I've Read So Far in 2015.


The Cottage in the Woods. Katherine Coville. 2015. Random House. 400 pages. [Source: Library]


Up A Road Slowly. Irene Hunt. 1966. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]


Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Edited by Pamela Smith Hill. 2014. South Dakota State Historical State Society. 400 pages. [Source: Library] 


The Castle Behind Thorns. Merrie Haskell. 2014. HarperCollins. 336 pages. [Source: Library]


Miss Marjoribanks. Margaret Oliphant. 1866. 512 pages. [Source: Bought] 

The Family Under the Bridge. Natalie Savage Carlson. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1958/1989. HarperCollins. 123 pages.


Dory Fantasmagory. Abby Hanlon. 2014. Penguin. 160 pages. [Source: Library]


The Silmarillion. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1977. 386 pages. [Source: Bought]


Beyond the Parallel. Robin Brande. 2015. Ryer Publishing. 348 pages. [Source: Review copy]



El Deafo. Cece Bell. 2014. Harry N. Abrams. 233 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. The Silmarillion (1977)

The Silmarillion. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1977. 386 pages. [Source: Bought]
 There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Ilúvatar; and he made first the Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought, and they were with him before aught else was made. And he spoke to them, propounding to them themes of music; and they sang before him, and he was glad. But for a long while they sang only each alone, or but few together, while the rest hearkened; for each comprehended only that part of the mind of Ilúvatar from which he came, and in the understanding of their brethren they grew but slowly. Yet ever as they listened they came to deeper understanding, and increased in unison and harmony. And it came to pass that Ilúvatar called together all the Ainur and declared to them a mighty theme, unfolding to them things greater and more wonderful than he had yet revealed; and the glory of its beginning and the splendour of its end amazed the Ainur, so that they bowed before Ilúvatar and were silent.
I loved reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. That doesn't mean I found it easy the first time I attempted it. Or even the second. I do think you have to be in the proper mood to fully enjoy it--to appreciate it. There is a beauty to it, a certain grace to the language. Something that you don't see all that often. Something that brings to my mind--at least--the beauty and grace of the Authorized Version of the Bible (KJV). But with that beauty and grace there is a certain strangeness, a foreignness. Something that puts distance between the book and the reader. It's all about the world-building.

The Silmarillion is divided into several sections:
  • AINULINDALË
  • VALAQUENTA
  • QUENTA SILMARILLION
  • AKALLABÊTH 
  • OF THE RINGS OF POWER AND THE THIRD AGE  
Each section is unique, has its own style or tone. The longest section is Quenta Silmarillion. The section probably with the most reader appeal is Of The Rings of Power and the Third Age.

So is The Silmarillion similar to his other works? Yes and no. There are orcs, dwarves, elves, eagles, dragons, balrogs, wolves, giant spiders, humans, and wizards. And certainly much of The Silmarillion concerns the battle between good and evil. The two main "bad guys" are Melkor (Morgoth) and Sauron. And the book is about greed, ambition, honor, love, and friendship. There's plenty of action, and even some romance. The book features origin or creation stories. So there's a good chance that you can learn more background for putting The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit into context. But it does require some patience perhaps. For example, people rarely have one name--they may have up to a dozen! Turin Turambar comes to mind. I wish I'd known about the family trees at the end of the book while I was actually reading it!

Yes, The Silmarillion is beautifully written. But that isn't its only strength. The world-building is incredibly detailed. Its also packed with stories and interesting characters.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. Board Book: The Doghouse

Board Book: The Doghouse. Jan Thomas. 2008/2015.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 36 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:
Kick
Oh no! The ball went into THE DOGHOUSE.
Who will get it out?

Premise/Plot: A cow, a mouse, a duck, and a pig are playing ball together....when....it happens. The ball is kicked into the doghouse. Who is brave? Who is scared? Will they get their ball back? Read and see!

My thoughts: I do love Jan Thomas. And The Doghouse is a great example of just why. The Doghouse is funny, playful, and dramatic. Some drama can help keep read alouds fun and spirited. This one is just predictable enough--repetitive enough--to keep it fun.

The same characters can be found in A Birthday for Cow. (Cows feature into two other Thomas picture books: Let's Sing A Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy and my personal favorite, Is Everyone Ready for Fun?)

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Grump (2001)

Grump. Janet Wong. Illustrated by John Wallace. 2001. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Book I Bought]

Look how tired this Mommy is
Tired and frumpy
Grouchy chumpy
Oh, what a grump!


Look at Baby
Smart, good Baby
Happy Baby
Making gravy
Applesauce and ketchup gravy
Not too lumpy
Not too bumpy
Squish squish
DUMP!

Grump is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite books. I almost don't even need to make the qualification of favorite picture book. It's a book that begs to be read aloud again and again and again. The rhythm of it is almost magical--at least to me! I love the use of language, I do. I love the way it sounds, the way it feels on my tongue. It's real life. It's poetry. It just works.

The story of this one is simple. It's been a LONG, LONG, LONG day for this Mom and her Baby. And even if the Baby doesn't think he needs a nap, he needs a nap. But will this baby go down for a nap? Not without an all-too-familiar-struggle!

Baby's going to take a nap now
Baby's going to take a nap now
Baby's going to take a nap now
Take a nap now
Little lump.

She puts him in his crib and...

And oh of course that baby cries
Cries and whimpers
Cries and whimpers
Cries and whimpers
Play with me!
So Mommy sits 
And reads to Baby
Reads so pretty
Reads so softly
Reads and reads and reads until--

Can you guess what happened to the oh-so-tired, oh-so-grumpy Mommy?

This one is such a GREAT book. I loved how true-to-life it was. Not only for the baby, not only for the mommy--but it captures the ups and downs of the whole relationship.

This one has been a favorite going on ten years. Today I was looking to review some board books, hoping to find something great to share with you, when I thought again of Grump. Why isn't Grump still in print? Why hasn't it been reprinted? Why??? It's just a WONDERFUL book. And it would be a great board book!!! The combination of this story with that format would be just perfect!!!!

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. Follow Your Gut

Follow Your Gut. Rob Knight with Brendan Buhler. 2015. Simon & Schuster (TED) 128 pages. [Source: Library]

Just how much microscopic life dwells inside you? If we're going by weight, the average adult is carrying about three pounds of microbes.

Follow Your Gut is reader-accessible science. The book is packed with information--what we know for sure, what we think we know, how much we just don't know quite yet, what we still need to spend time researching. The focus of the book is on microbes: the microbes living in us and on us. How every individual has their own unique combination of microbes. Our microbes can tell scientists where we live and how we live. Most of the book focuses on the microbes living in our guts. The book seeks to convey HOW VERY, VERY, VERY important it is to have good microbes in our gut. How essential gut health is to overall health, but, especially brain health.

Table of contents:
  • The body microbial
  • How we get our microbiome
  • In sickness and in health
  • The gut-brain axis
  • Hacking your microbiome
  • Antiobiotics
  • The future 
The book is packed with (basic) information. And I think it's information that should be more well known. I think knowledge is the first step, a good solid step in the right direction. I do wish the book was slightly more practical. Yes, it's good to know what microbes do or might do. But which strains of microbes are best for dealing with specific health issues? And how can one add/change one's microbes?!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. The Semi-Detached House (1859)

The Semi-Detached House. Emily Eden. 1859. 172 pages. [Source: Bought]
"THE only fault of the house is that it is semi-detached." "Oh, Aunt Sarah! you don't mean that you expect me to live in a semi-detached house?" "Why not, my dear, if it suits you in other respects?" "Why, because I should hate my semi-detachment, or whatever the occupants of the other half of the house may call themselves." "They call themselves Hopkinson," continued Aunt Sarah coolly.
I very much enjoyed reading Emily Eden's The Semi-Detached House. This Victorian classic is fun, lively romantic comedy. Readers get to know Blanche, the heroine, and her neighbors well. What do we know about Blanche? Well, she's relatively newly wed--she's expecting her first child--and she's a little too imaginative for her own good. She's always worrying about a thousand things that might go wrong. Her husband will be away from her for three months or so--and she's distraught, as you can imagine. (Having her sister, Aileen, live with her will help.) She knows nothing about her neighbors, and, her neighbors know nothing about her. They will suffer through false impressions at first before becoming very close friends. What do we come to learn about their neighbors? Well, it's a mother and her two grown-daughters. (The daughters are Janet and Rose). (The father, I believe, is a sailor so he's often away at sea.) They are also raising a little boy (grandson, nephew). They still are in very close contact with the boy's father (the son-in-law/brother-in-law) who is a widower "lost" in grief. (His name is Mr. Willis). He's one of the comic figures of the book.  Readers also become acquainted with the neighborhood or community...

Quotes:
"Then the girls have won," said John, "for you are certainly going–I promised Arthur that I would bring you." "Oh, John! How could you? I can't dine out, I'm so fat." "Well, my dear, you can hardly expect to be as slim as you were at seventeen, but you are not half the size of your friend the Baroness; and this one dinner, unless you eat very voraciously, will not make you much fatter." This idea threw Mrs. Hopkinson into one of her most comfortable fits of laughter. "
The idea of Willis making the best of anything was so startling, such a very astonishing novelty, that this announcement was received much as the intimation of a great misfortune would have been from anybody else.
The Baroness wore a gown of such very bright yellow that the sun was affronted and went in.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. Peppa's Chalk ABCs

Peppa's Chalk ABCs. Scholastic. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Premise/plot: Peppa's Chalk ABCs is an activity book for young children who are ready or nearly ready to learn to write their letters. This is a practice book. There is space to practice each letter of the alphabet. Two letters per page. (Four letters per spread.) The illustrations feature characters from the Peppa Pig show. For example, "D is for Dinosaur" shows George playing with his dinosaur. Also, this is for learning lowercase letters.

My thoughts: Cute novelty book. It isn't really a book with a story.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Week in Review: June 21-27

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. Jonathan Auxier. 2011. Abrams. 397 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Inside This Book (Are Three Books) by Barney Saltzberg. 2015. Abrams. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
I Had Trouble In Getting to Solla Sollew. Dr. Seuss. 1965. Random House. 59 pages. [Source: Library]
The Long Dog (Scholastic Reader, Level 1) Eric Seltzer. 2015. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Bus Is For Us. Michael Rosen. Illustrated by Gillian Tyler. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Grandma in Blue with Red Hat. Scott Menchin. Illustrated by Harry Bliss. 2015. Abrams. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Great Gilly Hopkins. Katherine Paterson. 1978. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Little Prince. Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Translated by Richard Howard. 1943/2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother on Earth. Kate Klise. Illustrated by M. Sarah Klise. 2010/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Hippu. Oili Tanninen. 2015. Tate Publishing (Abrams) 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Little Big Boubo. Beatrice Alemagna. 2015. Abrams (Tate). 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews. Kathleen Benson. Illustrated by Benny Andrews. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Peppa Goes Swimming. 2015. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Maisy Learns to Swim. Lucy Cousins. 2015. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Return to Gone-Away. Elizabeth Enright. 1961/2000. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects. Paul B. Janeczko. Illustrated by Chris Raschka. 2015. Candlewick. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Root of the Righteous: Tapping The Bedrock of True Spirituality. A.W. Tozer. 1955/2015. Moody Publishers. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Underestimated Gospel, edited by Jonathan Leeman. 2014. B&H Publishing. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]


This week's recommendation(s):

I really enjoyed reading many picture books this week. It was my first time reading I Had Trouble In Getting to Solla Sollew and I just loved, loved, loved it. Inside This Book was also a fun read. And Grandma in Blue with a Red Hat was just super-sweet.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Library Loot: Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Trips in June

New Loot:
  • Faithmapping: A Gospel Atlas for Your Spiritual Journey by Daniel Montgomery and Mike Cosper
  • Jesus > Religion: Why He is So Much Better than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough by Jefferson Bethke
  • Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke
  • Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
  • Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Death and Mr. Pickwick by Stephen Jarvis
  • Pete the Cat's Train Trip by James Dean
  • Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
  • Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt
  • The Book of Lost Tales, volume 1 by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Bachelor's Anonymous by P.G. Wodehouse
  • The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
  • The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah

Leftover Loot:
  • The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
  • Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks
  • The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
  •  Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst
  • Perfidia by James Ellroy
  • The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna
  • Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai
  • The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows
  • The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
  • I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss
  • Mr. Brown Can Moon! Can You? by Dr. Seuss
  • The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss
  • Miles from Nowhere by Amy Clipston
  • Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt
  • To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
  • Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas, translated by Richard Pevear
  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
        Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. Seuss on Saturday #26

I Had Trouble In Getting to Solla Sollew. Dr. Seuss. 1965. Random House. 59 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
I was real happy and carefree and young
And I lived in a place called the Valley of Vung
And nothing, not anything every went wrong
Until...well, one day I was walking along
And I guess I got careless. I guess I got gawking
At daisies and not looking where I was walking...
And that's how it started.

Premise/plot: The narrator tries and tries to avoid having trouble in his life. That is one reason why he is trying to get to Solla Sollew in the first place. He's heard that in the City of Solla Sollew 'they never have troubles, at least very few.' But can he ever get there? He faces one challenge after another in his attempts to get there... If he gets there, will he truly find a trouble-free existence awaits him?

My thoughts: I don't remember ever having read I Had Trouble In Getting to Solla Sollew before. I liked it, I did. It was oh-so-easy to relate to the narrator. And the narrator makes some good observations. For example, "And I learned there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind." The illustration of our poor narrator trying to look out for trouble in back and in front is something. Did I like the ending? Yes and no. I agree that you do have to face the troubles that come your way, but, the narrator's solution is that all you need to face those troubles is a big bat. (I think it works in his situation especially.)

This one might pair well with Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst which was first published in 1972.   

Have you read I Had Trouble In Getting to Solla Sollew. Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it.

 If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is The Foot Book.
 
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. The Long Dog (2015)

The Long Dog (Scholastic Reader, Level 1) Eric Seltzer. 2015. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:  Calling all Dogs! This is a hot dog. This is a cold dog. This is a young dog. This is an old dog. And here comes a long dog.

Premise/plot: Readers meet all kinds of dogs in Eric Seltzer's The Long Dog. But the dog that they may just remember best is a really, really super-long dog. Just how long is this dog?!

My thoughts: The book is simple and fun. This one may pair well with Go, Dog, Go.  My favorite dogs may just be the dirty dog and the clean dog. (I really love the grin on the clean dog!)

Level 1 readers include sight words, words to sound out, and simple sentences.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. The Great Gilly Hopkins (1978)

The Great Gilly Hopkins. Katherine Paterson. 1978. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]

"Gilly," said Miss Ellis with a shake of her long blonde hair toward the passenger in the back seat. "I need to feel that you are willing to make some effort."

Galadriel Hopkins is the narrator of The Great Gilly Hopkins. What's she like? Angry, sarcastic, bitter, reluctant to make connections. Gilly is a foster kid. She's been in plenty of different foster homes for most of her life. Some slightly better than others. But none of them ever feeling like a real home. To tell the truth, Gilly wouldn't know what to do in a foster home that feels like HOME. For Gilly is clinging tightly to the dream that her mom will come back for her, that her mom loves her very much and actually misses her. When the novel opens, Gilly is getting placed in a new home...

Mrs. Trotter is her new foster mother. She also has another foster kid, William Ernest, in her home. From the very start, I thought Mrs. Trotter was a great character. And I also loved Mr. Randolph, the blind neighbor that comes to the Trotters' house for meals. These two adults were so lovable in comparison to the not-so-lovable Gilly. And the love they show to Gilly is something. I was reminded of hesed love.
"Hesed is one-way love. Love without an exit strategy. When you love with hesed love, you bind yourself to the object of your love, no matter what the response is... Hesed is a stubborn love" ~ Paul Miller, A Loving Life: In A World of Broken Relationships, 24.
Did I love The Great Gilly Hopkins? Not exactly. I liked it. I appreciated it. But I didn't love it.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. The Bus is For Us (2015)

The Bus Is For Us. Michael Rosen. Illustrated by Gillian Tyler. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I really like to ride my bike. I like going far in our car. When it starts to rain, I like the train. But the best is the bus. The bus is for us. 

Premise/plot: The Bus is For Us is a rhyming picture book about transportation. Most of the book focuses on actual types of transportation, however, by the end, things get slightly more imaginative. The book has a chorus of sorts, everything always comes back to the fact that THE BUS IS FOR US.

My thoughts: I'm not sure why this one didn't work better for me. It just didn't. Perhaps it was because for me it didn't feel like a proper story, just rhyming phrases strung loosely together.

Text: 2.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3.5 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. The Little Prince (1943)

The Little Prince. Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Translated by Richard Howard. 1943/2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Once when I was six I saw a magnificent picture in a book about the jungle, called True Stories. It showed a boa constrictor swallowing a wild beast... 

I've read Little Prince twice now. I've enjoyed it both times. The book is quirky and at times quite delightful. Its story is definitely unique!

A pilot crashes in the desert and meets a strange 'little prince.' They have many conversations together over the course of a week. These conversations make up the heart of The Little Prince. It's a quick little read.


Favorite quotes:

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
“All grown-ups were once children... but only few of them remember it.”
“But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world.”
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Little Big Boubo (2015)

Little Big Boubo. Beatrice Alemagna. 2015. Abrams (Tate). 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

  Boubo Boubo isn't a baby. Boubo is a BIG boy now. Want to know all the reasons why he's a BIG boy? Boubo will happily tell you himself. Apparently only big boys can walk backwards without falling over (almost). Little Big Boubo celebrates growing up and small accomplishments.

Did I like it? Not really. Reading books is subjective, and, reading picture books is especially so. I didn't care for the illustrations. You might though. 


Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother on Earth

Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother on Earth. Kate Klise. Illustrated by M. Sarah Klise. 2010/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First Sentence: Little Rabbit heard the drums beating far away. It could mean only one thing.

Premise/plot: Little Rabbit is super-excited that the circus is in town. But because he has a MESSY room and is unwilling to clean it, he's not allowed to go to the circus. In anger, he runs away to JOIN the circus. But the circus doesn't want him, not unless he has something worth seeing. He promises THE MEANEST MOTHER ON EARTH. But can he make good on such a claim?!

My thoughts: This one was cute. I think it worked for me because of the twist. The circus may not be impressed with the boast of the meanest mother on earth...but they will be impressed with another boast of the mother's making.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. Inside This Book (2015)

Inside This Book (Are Three Books) by Barney Saltzberg. 2015. Abrams. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Inside this book is a book I made called...Inside This Book by Seymour.

Premise/plot: Readers meet Seymour, Fiona, and Wilbur three siblings who have all made books. Seymour and Fiona can write--so their books have words and pictures. Wilbur is too little to know how to write, but, he can draw and tell Seymour what to write. The fun began when their mom gave them books with blank pages. The books are called, "Inside This Book," "Inside This Book, Too" and "My Book."

My thoughts: I love the creativity of this one. It is fun to make books, to read them and to share them. I love that each book within Inside This Book is written in a unique voice so that readers get to know each writer. Which book is my favorite? Well, I really loved all three books. But probably I loved "My Book" best. It is the shortest, smallest, and simplest. But it is funny! I can imagine it causing giggles whenever it's read by the family.

Text: 4.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4.5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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23. Return to Gone-Away (1961)

Return to Gone-Away. Elizabeth Enright. 1961/2000. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

I really enjoyed reading Elizabeth Enright's Gone-Away Lake. I didn't enjoy reading the sequel nearly as much. Was I not in the right mood? Perhaps. I hope it was just a mood thing. It felt like the magic--the energy--was gone.

The book features many of the same characters, and tells of their further adventures in the spring and summer the following year. Their adventures AFTER they have purchased the old-and-crumbling house.

Portia, the heroine, reconnects with Julian, her cousin. Foster, Portia's younger brother, reconnects with the friends he's made in the community. All the children enjoy spending time with Mrs. Cheever and Mr. Payton. Adventures are to be had in their new house that requires fixing-up in every room and then some. Adventures also to be had outside in nature. Each chapter focuses on some mini-adventure that one of the children is having.

While I found myself connecting and caring with the characters in the first book, I didn't with the second.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Grandma in Blue with Red Hat (2015)

Grandma in Blue with Red Hat. Scott Menchin. Illustrated by Harry Bliss. 2015. Abrams. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Saturday is the best day. Because that's the day I go to art class at the museum. I have been coming here forever.

Premise/plot: The narrator of Grandma in Blue with Red Hat comes to an important realization about art and about his Grandma. He listens to his classmates describe art, what makes art, well, ART. He realizes that his Grandma has all the attributes of a GREAT museum-worthy piece of art. Should he donate his Grandma to the museum?! Or can he honor both his love of art and his love of his Grandma in his own special way?

My thoughts: I liked this one very much! I thought it was very sweet. It gets big and little details just right. I love his relationship with his grandma. I appreciate the focus on art. I also noticed that the narrator has two pet cats, and, that he LOVES to draw them!

Note: Not every teacher *appreciates* illustrated underwear. This one does have a LARGE pair of underwear on display at a museum...in the boy's imagination!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. Hippu (2015)

Hippu. Oili Tanninen. 2015. Tate Publishing (Abrams) 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Hippu looks out of the window and sees a dog.

Premise/plot: Hippu is a small, square picture book originally published in Finland in 1967. Hippu, a mouse, meets Heppu, a dog, and they become good friends. The book is about what the two do together. The text is very matter-of-fact. For example, "Hippu sleeps. Heppu sleeps. Good night."

My thoughts: Hippu is a strange little book, in a way, certainly different from what is currently being published. But just because it's strange doesn't mean it lacks charm. The illustrations are simple, yet bold and striking. (The only colors in the book are red, white, and black.)

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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