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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. 17 Carnations (2015)

17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History. Andrew Morton. 2015. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

Did I enjoy reading 17 Carnations: The Royals, The Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History? Yes and no. I enjoyed reading the first half very much. It was fascinating and informative. I couldn't put it down. The second half, however, felt both rushed and prolonged. Rushed in that the last few years of war were covered quite quickly and with no real detail. Prolonged in that the coverage of the "secret files" recovered seemed to go on forever and ever. And at the expense of covering the lives of the Duke and Duchess after the war.

I definitely am glad to have read it. It was my first book about Edward VIII (later Duke of Windsor). And I felt I learned much from reading it. I just wish it had stayed focused more on him and less on decades of cover-up. Or that it had handled the cover-up aspects a bit differently--in a more engaging way.

So the book isn't quite satisfying as a biography or as a "war book." Though it is almost both. I would say the book is definitely rich in detail and provides a unique perspective of the war and the royal family.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Revisiting Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web. E.B. White. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1952. HarperCollins. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 "Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.
"Out to the hoghouse," replied Mrs. Arable. "Some pigs were born last night."
"I don't see why he needs an ax," continued Fern, who was only eight.

 I love rereading Charlotte's Web. I do. It's not one I reread often, it is a sad book after all. Though bittersweet may be the better word for it. It's a beautifully written book with memorable characters and scenes. I love Wilbur, the runt pig who turns out to be some pig after all. I love Charlotte, the spider who sees Wilbur's loneliness and becomes the best friend a pig could ever have. I love, love, love Charlotte in fact. I love her wisdom and insight; I love her fierce determination. If I didn't love Charlotte so very, very much, the book wouldn't be nearly as touching. I like the other farm creatures as well--even Templeton--though none as much as Charlotte and Wilbur. I also love Fern who faithfully visits the nearby farm every day just to watch Wilbur. She has a 'true' understanding of things.

Quotes:
Mr. Zuckerman had the best swing in the county. It was a single long piece of heavy rope tied to the beam over the north doorway. At the bottom end of the rope was a fat knot to sit on. It was arranged so that you could swing without being pushed. You climbed a ladder to the hayloft. Then, holding the rope, you stood at the edge and looked down, and were scared and dizzy. Then you straddled the knot, so that it acted as a seat. Then you got up all your nerve, took a deep breath, and jumped. For a second you seemed to be falling to the barn floor far below, but then suddenly the rope would begin to catch you, and you would sail through the barn door going a mile a minute, with the wind whistling in your eyes and ears and hair. Then you would zoom upward into the sky, and look up at the clouds, and the rope would twist and you would twist and turn with the rope. Then you would drop down, down, down out of the sky and come sailing back into the barn almost into the hayloft, then sail out again (not quite so far this time), then in again (not quite so high), then out again, then in again, then out, then in; and then you'd jump off and fall down and let somebody else try it. Mothers for miles around worried about Zuckerman's swing. They feared some child would fall off. But no child ever did. Children almost always hang onto things tighter than their parents think they will. (68-9)

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. April Short Stories

    April Short Stories (original sign-up post) (my list of 52) (challenge hosted by Bibliophilopolis)
    • King Diamonds "The Child's Story" by Charles Dickens 
    • 2 Diamonds "Curious if True" by Elizabeth Gaskell from The Grey Woman and Other Stories
    • Ace Clubs "Death Ship" by Richard Matheson from The Time Traveler's Almanac
    • Ace Hearts "A Correspondence and A Climax" by L.M. Montgomery from Short Stories 1905-1906
    "The Child's Story" by Charles Dickens
    • I loved reading "The Child's Story" by Charles Dickens. Here's how it begins, "Once upon a time, a good many years ago, there was a traveller, and he set out upon a journey. It was a magic journey, and was to seem very long when he began it, and very short when he got half way through." I thought it was beautiful in its imagery. It is about a "traveler" who first meets a young child, then a boy, then a young man, then a middle-aged gentleman with a family, then an old man. It was an incredible read.
    "Curious if True" by Elizabeth Gaskell
    • I persevered through it, and, it could have just been a case of bad timing, but, I couldn't make any sense out of this short story at all. Other than it was set in France. And the narrator was someone--a man? a woman? probably a man? doing genealogical research and hoping to find out how he was related--if he was related--to John Calvin. And half of it was probably a dream of sorts. Probably. It's not that I love first person narrative to begin with, but, in a short story it can be even more disorienting. I wasn't impressed with this one.
    "Death Ship" by Richard Matheson (1953)
    • Premise/Plot: "Death Ship" was adapted into a Twilight Zone episode in 1963. The story introduces three astronauts to readers. (Mason, Ross, and Carter). Their mission, I believe, is to scout out other planets to see if they are suitable for colonization. But their mission is fated to fail, in a way. It begins with them exploring a 'flash' or sorts. It ends up they're investigating the crash of what appears to be an earth spaceship very much like their own. What they find inside the ship, well, let's just say that they have a very hard time making sense of it. Will readers do a better job?! Perhaps, especially if they've seen the Twilight Zone episode a few times.
     "A Correspondence and A Climax" by L.M. Montgomery from Short Stories 1905-1906
    •  Premise/Plot: Readers meet Sidney a young woman who has been swept up into a fantasy world of her own creation. She writes a young man all about how wonderful and glorious and full her life is--a real social whirl. In reality, she's a poor, hardworking country girl. When she learns that he's on his way to visit her, she's in for quite a shock. As is he. But it's a pleasant one for the most part. He doesn't mind her lies. He loves her as is.

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    4. Revisiting Scarlet (2012)

    Scarlet. A.C. Gaughen. 2012. Walker. 292 pages. [Source: Library]

    I first read Scarlet last year. I really enjoyed it, but, not as much as I ended up enjoying the second book in the series, Lady Thief.

    So. Scarlet is a retelling of Robin Hood. The narrator is "Will Scarlet" a young woman posing as one of Robin's men. All of the gang know her secret, though they didn't all learn at once. But most of the villagers don't. Scarlet is a thief with a past, a past that will catch up with her by the end of the novel. Through Scarlet's perspective, readers get to know Rob (Robin Hood), John Little, Much, and Tuck. Readers also get to know about the dangerous and cruel Guy Gisbourne. He's been hired to find Robin Hood and his gang and kill them...

    How did I feel about Scarlet the second time I read it? I enjoyed it so much more! I think one of the reasons I love rereading is because I can relax and enjoy how everything comes together. The first time I was focused on the potential of the premise, on the mystery--who was this Scarlet?--and on the action--will The Hood and his gang be able to save everyone?! The second time I was able to focus on the development of characters and relationships. I already had a connection with the characters, a LOVE for them, so that helped this reading experience tremendously.

    I'll be rereading Lady Thief before I read the third in the series, Lion Heart, which releases in May.

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    5. Library Loot: Fourth Trip in April

    New Loot:
    • The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales by Franz Zaver von Schonwerth
    • The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses by Chris Bruno
    • The Sound Of Music Story by Tom Santopietro
    • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
    • Dr. Seuss's ABC
    • Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book
    • King's Cross by Timothy Keller
    • Ten Apples Up On Top by Dr. Seuss
    • The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss
    • Onion John by Joseph Krumgold 
    Leftover Loot:
    • The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
    • The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas
    • Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas, translated by Richard Pevear
    • Murder at Mullings by Dorothy Cannell
    • Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss
    • Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George
    • Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George
    • Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
    • The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander
    • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, translated and with notes by Christine Donougher
    • Cursed in the Act by Raymond Buckland
    • The Search for the Red Dragon by James A. Owen
    • The Just City by Jo Walton
    • Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen
    • The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
    • The Indigo King by James A. Owen
    • Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
    • War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation by Cindy Hval
    • Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith
    • The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp
    • Memories Before and After The Sound of Music by Agathe von Trapp
    • Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P.L. Travers by Valerie Lawson
    • George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I by Miranda Carter
    • The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War, Peter Englund, translated by Peter Graves.
    • Anastasia and Her Sisters by Carolyn Meyer
    • The Far Side of Evil by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
    • The War that Ended Peace: To Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan
    • Pete the Cat's Groovy Guide to Life by Kimberley and James Dean
    • Who Thinks Evil: A Professor Moriarty Novel by Michael Kurland
    • The Infernal Devices & Others: A Professor Moriarty Omnibus by Michael Kurland
    • The Empress of India: A Professor Moriarty Novel by Michael Kurland
    • The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

          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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    6. Week in Review: April 19-25

    Miss Marjoribanks. Margaret Oliphant. 1866. 512 pages. [Source: Bought] 
    Dick Whittington and His Cat. Told and cut in linoleum by Marcia Brown. 1950. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
    Board Book: The Babies and Doggies Book. John Schindel and Molly Woodward. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]
    Board Book: This Little Piggy. A Finger & Toes Nursery Rhyme Book. Natalie Marshall. 2015. [May] Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
    Board book: Red Light, Green Light. Yumi Heo. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]
    Jampires. Sarah McIntyre. Illustrated by David O'Connell. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
    Side by Side. Rachel Bright. Illustrated by Debi Gliori. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
    One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. Dr. Seuss. 1960. Random House. 60 pages. [Source: Library]
    Ramona's World. Beverly Cleary. 1999. HarperCollins. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
    Ginger Pye. Eleanor Estes. 1950. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 306 pages. [Source: library]
    Bo at Iditarod Creek. Kirkpatrick Hill. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2014. Henry Holt. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
    Green for Danger. Christianna Brand. 1944. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]
    Dragon Flight. Jessica Day George. Bloomsbury USA. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
    Hippos Are Huge. Jonathan London. Illustrated by Matthew Trueman. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
    A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis. Devin Brown. 2013. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
    Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary. J.D. Greear. Foreword by Timothy Keller. 2011. B&H Books. 266 pages. [Source: Bought]
    The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. C.S. Lewis. 1950. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]


    This week's recommendation(s):

    I loved, loved, LOVED Miss Marjoribanks. I also really enjoyed rereading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    7. The Babies and Doggies Book

    Board Book: The Babies and Doggies Book. John Schindel and Molly Woodward. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]

    First sentence: Lots of things babies do, doggies do too. Babies and doggies hide and peek. Babies and doggies like to eat.

    Premise/plot: Photos and text reveal just how much babies and doggies have in common. The photos are adorable. If you find babies cute and adorable, you'll like the pictures. If you find dogs cute--especially puppies--then you'll like the pictures. If you like puppies and babies, you'll find the book precious.

    My thoughts: I liked it. I did. I loved looking at the photographs. The text was very nice as well. The rhyming worked well and didn't get in the way. 

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    8. This Little Piggy (2015)

    Board Book: This Little Piggy. A Finger & Toes Nursery Rhyme Book. Natalie Marshall. 2015. [May] Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]

     First sentence: This little piggy went to the market.

    Premise/Plot: A board book adaptation of the traditional nursery rhyme. Though these little piggies won't be eating any roast beef. I don't have a problem with adapting any of the lines. That's part of the fun of playing little piggies.

    My thoughts: I enjoyed this one! I love the sturdiness of the pages. I think the pages will be easy for little hands to turn. All books--even board books--can be "loved" too much and wear out quickly. But this one seems a little better than some I've read and reviewed. I thought the illustrations were nice.

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    9. Red light, Green Light

    Board book: Red Light, Green Light. Yumi Heo. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]

    First sentence: Let's take a ride. Here's your seat! We'll drive down this: One way street!

    Premise/plot: Red Light, Green Light is a concept board book on driving and road signs. It's a lift-the-flap book. Each sign is a flap that can be lifted to reveal what it means.

    My thoughts: It's okay. Not wow-worthy perhaps. It's obviously focusing more on the teaching elements, but, it does have a slight story to it. The family is on the way to the playground. Some of the rhymes work okay for me. Some don't. For example, "Slow down, car, the brakes go pop. Traffic light says red means stop."

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    10. Jampires (2015)

    Jampires. Sarah McIntyre. Illustrated by David O'Connell. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

    First sentence: "There's no jam!" yelled Sam. "This doughnut's all wrinkly! This doughnut is jamless and dry! Someone got to this doughnut before me and sucked out the jamminess! Why?"

    Premise/plot: Sam, the hero, gets mad when his doughnut is missing jam. He decides to set a trap in his room to catch the jam thieves. What he didn't expect was that the thief was actually thieves. Jampires. Creatures that suck out jam with their fangs. The jampires take Sam on an adventure, they take him home to where they live, a place with plenty of jam to be had every day.

    My thoughts: I didn't like this one. Of course, you may feel differently. You may love the play on words--jampires instead of vampires. But I thought the book was bizarre and creepy. Besides the weird story, the text itself seems awkward.

    Text: 2 out of 5
    Illustrations: 2 out of 5
    Total: 4 out of 10

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    11. Side by Side (2015)

    Side by Side. Rachel Bright. Illustrated by Debi Gliori. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

    First sentence: Deep in the heart of Wintermouse Wood, down in the grass where the autumn trees stood, lived all kinds of creatures--some big and some small--some spiky, some furry, some short, and some tall.

    Premise/plot: Mousling is the smallest mouse in her family. She's a lonely mouse who longs for a friend. While many answer her call and offer friendship, only one creature--a small black vole--is the exact, perfect forever-and-ever friend. These two make quite a pair.

    My thoughts: The story is a good one. Sometimes the text is quite lovely. "And now, side by side, they heard the same tune, so they sang to the stars and they danced to the moon." Overall, I liked this one.

    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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    12. Seuss on Saturday #17

    One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. Dr. Seuss. 1960. Random House. 60 pages. [Source: Library]

    First sentence:
    One fish
    two fish
    red fish
    blue fish.
    Black fish
    blue fish
    old fish
    new fish.
    This one has a little star.
    This one has a little car.
    Say! What a lot of fish there are.

    Premise/Plot: Does this book have a plot? I'm not sure it does! It does have a premise however. "From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere" (9). "From near to far from here to there, funny things are everywhere" (55). " Readers find plenty of funny things within the pages of the book. Classical Seuss rhymes make this one lovely.

    My thoughts: I like this one very much. Some pages are more memorable to me than others perhaps. For example,
    Who am I?
    My name is Ned.
    I do not like
    my little bed.
    and
    My hat is old.
    My teeth are gold.
    I have a bird
    I like to hold.
    Have you read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish? Did you like it? Did you love it? I'd love to hear what you thought of it! Both what you liked, and what you didn't like.

    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 Green Eggs and Ham.

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    13. Ramona's World (1999)

    Ramona's World. Beverly Cleary. 1999. HarperCollins. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

    Ramona's World is the last book in the series. Ramona is in fourth grade now. And she's definitely got a big crush on Yard Ape. (There's been no mention at all of Henry Huggins lately or of Mary Jane for that matter.)

    "Ramona Spreads the News" Ramona starts fourth grade. She's anxious to spread the news that she's a big sister. Her baby sister, Roberta, is oh-so-cute and oh-so-little. Ramona meets the new girl, Daisy, and hopes that they can become BEST friends.

    "The Role Model" Does Ramona like spelling? Does Ramona like teachers that emphasis how important spelling is? Does she like teachers that pick on and point out all her spelling mistakes word by word in front of the whole class? She does not! She is not liking her new teacher very much. But Roberta can make her day better. Roberta copies Ramona and sticks out her tongue and makes cute faces.

    "At Daisy's House" Ramona and Daisy get to know each other better and decide to be best friends.

    "The Invitation" Beezus has a new best friend, Abby. Abby is having a boy-girl party and invites Beezus, of course. Beezus is excited and anxious and sneaks out to get her ears pierced.

    "The Princess and the Witch" Ramona gets into trouble at Daisy's house, but, it isn't her fault, not really.

    "The Party" Beezus attends a party, and Ramona goes with her Dad to drop her off. Her Dad has been teaching Beezus how to dance. Does the party go well?

    "The Grown-Up Letter" Ramona sends off a letter when she sees something that bothers her in the paper. She impresses her teacher when she gets a reply.

    "Peas" Ramona's picture day

    "Ramona Sits" Ramona cat-sits Daisy's cat. It is NOT a fun week. Seven days feels like forever. Especially when her Mom leaves her in charge of Roberta too--for a whole FIFTEEN MINUTES.

    "The Valentine Box" Valentine's Day. Will she treasure Yard Ape's valentine?

    "Birthday Girl" Ramona turns 10, has a party, shares her cake with boys, and learns something surprising about her old nemesis, Susan.

    Part of me was sad to see an end to the series. I have loved visiting with Ramona so very much. The series did a good job at aging up the characters, however. Something that you can really appreciate better if you read the series all at once.

    Do you have a favorite book in the series? Mine would probably be Ramona the Pest or Ramona the Brave or Ramona Quimby, Age 8.

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    14. Ginger Pye (1950)

    Ginger Pye. Eleanor Estes. 1950. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 306 pages. [Source: library]

    Ginger Pye is a book that I never would have read as a child. Why? Well, for the simple reason that there is a dog on the cover. Why risk reading a book if there's a chance that the dog could die? Safer to read other books perhaps. Is it for the better that I didn't read this one until I was an adult? Probably. Though I should add that Ginger Pye, the dog on the cover, does NOT die. The book would have been sad enough for me as a child.

    As an adult there were quite a few things about the book that I enjoyed. Not that I loved, loved, loved it. Readers meet Rachel Pye and her brother Jerry. Jerry, we learn, really, really, REALLY wants to buy a puppy. He needs a dollar, and he needs it NOW. There is someone else who wants to buy "his" puppy, and, he'll need to hurry to get his pick. Fortunately, at just the right time, he's offered an opportunity to dust the church. What a relief! Rachel helps him clean, and they get there just in time it seems. They buy the dog, name him Ginger, and all is well...or is it?!

    For they are not the only ones who think that Ginger is the best dog ever. Never forget that someone else wanted Ginger. (They do forget.)

    The book is a bit of a mystery. They're not very good at detecting, however. Readers may guess a long time before they do. Still, this one has a happy enough ending. I am glad I read it.
    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    15. Bo at Iditarod Creek (2014)

    Bo at Iditarod Creek. Kirkpatrick Hill. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2014. Henry Holt. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

    I really did enjoy the first book in the series. And I wanted to love this one just as much. But it was more of an almost book for me.

    I still love Bo as a narrator. She still has a very unique voice to her. And the illustrations by LeUyen Pham are oh-so-wonderful which is probably why I like Bo so much.

    In this second book in the series, Bo and her new brother, Graf, go with their fathers Jack Jackson and Arvid Ivorsen to a new community: Iditarod Creek. They go where there's work, to keep it simple. So there are new characters to meet, new opportunities and situations. In fact, there might even be a THIRD child added to the family.

    The setting is unique, especially for a children's book. Historical fiction set in Alaska in 1929 and 1930. The world Bo is growing up in is probably a strange one to most readers. Bo is a six (or seven) year old girl growing up without many girls her own age, and without many ladies around in general. It's not exactly a "proper" or "traditional" upbringing. But what Bo has in abundance is LOVE and understanding. Both Jack and Arvid take time to talk with Bo, to love her, to teach her.

    One word of warning this book has racial slurs, matter-of-fact, this is the way it was language. So if you're reading this aloud to young(er) children, you should know what's coming.


    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    16. Green for Danger (1944)

    Green for Danger. Christianna Brand. 1944. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]

    Reading Green for Danger was like watching a soap opera--for better or worse. It definitely had its enjoyable moments now and then. But I can't say it was really a great fit for my reading taste. (Not that it was smutty. Just a lot of messy, oh-so-dramatic twists and turns, some of which related to their love lives.)

    I wanted to read Green for Danger because it's a vintage mystery published during World War II. It is also set during the war and focused on the war. All of the characters--all of the suspects--work in a hospital. Readers get a behind the scenes look at war-time England. It had the potential to be quite good: fascinating even.

    Was I disappointed? Yes and no. I would have liked more depth to the characterization with perhaps a tiny bit less drama. That being said, there was plenty of suspense and mystery. And looking back, there were plenty of clues throughout the book. It wasn't a great read for me, but, it wasn't all that bad either.

    I also watched the movie adaptation of Green For Danger (1946). I found myself enjoying it more than the book. The plot is different from the book in some ways, but I thought it worked well. If you like watching mysteries, I'd definitely recommend it.

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    17. Dragon Flight (2008)

    Dragon Flight. Jessica Day George. Bloomsbury USA. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

    I've spent the last week rereading Jessica Day George's oh-so-lovely dragon series starring Creel, Prince Luka, and their dragon friends.

    One war with the dragons is over and done with, but, a second is about to begin. And this time, it may not be an evil human controlling the dragons through alchemy, but, an evil dragon controlling a human king controlling dragons through alchemy. Not that Creel could guess that before she slips off to her second war as a spy. (She doesn't go into enemy territory alone, she takes some of her dragon friends.)

    I liked this one. Did I love, love, love it as much as Dragon Slippers? Probably not. But I still really loved it. I loved meeting Shardas' mate--the queen of dragons. I loved spending time with Creel and her friends, her dragon friends, and her human friends. The book has plenty of action and drama. Quite a showdown! But it isn't done without attention to characters. Overall, I definitely recommend this book and this series.
    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    18. Hippos Are Huge! (2015)

    Hippos Are Huge. Jonathan London. Illustrated by Matthew Trueman. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

     Hippos are huge! Except for elephants, no other land animals are as large as hippopotamuses. They can weigh as much as fifty men!

    I really enjoyed reading this nonfiction picture book about hippos. I loved the narrative--the larger font. I loved the additional details and descriptions--the smaller font.

    I found the book to be informative and entertaining. (I love it when a book is packed with a I-didn't-know-that facts. True, I didn't know much about hippos before picking this one up. So it was easy to intrigue me, I suppose. But still. I think the book is well-written.)

    I really love, love, love the illustrations by Matthew Trueman. I think my favorite illustration was of the baby hippo paddling to the surface and taking a first breath. (Did you know a newborn hippo (a calf) weights 100 pounds?! Did you know in just six months, he'll weigh 500 pounds?!) 

    I would definitely recommend this one if you're looking for nonfiction picture books to share with younger children. 

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    19. Ramona Forever (1984)

    Ramona Forever. Beverly Cleary. 1984. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

    Ramona is growing up quickly--depending on your point of view. If you consider that she was four in 1955, and nine in 1984, then, her childhood is taking forever. But when you're happily rushing through the series, it feels like she's growing up so quickly. Ramona Forever is the seventh book in the series. Ramona is still in third grade, I believe.

    "The Rich Uncle" Howie and Willa Jean have a rich uncle coming to stay with them. Will Ramona like Howie's uncle? He doesn't make the best first impression. He teases her about his name. He gives Howie and Willa Jean presents. Not that Ramona wanted a present. But. Since Mrs. Kemp BLAMES Ramona when Willa Jean breaks her present, she wishes that the Uncle had not come at all. Why is it HER FAULT?

    "Ramona's Problem" Ramona tells her mother that she doesn't want to go to the Kemps anymore. She HATES going there after school, can't her and Beezus come home instead. They'll be really, really good and responsible...

    "Being Good" How well are Ramona and Beezus getting along after school on their own?!

    "Picky-Picky" Ramona and Beezus find Picky-Picky dead in the basement. Beezus suspects that their mom might be pregnant, and doesn't want to worry or upset her. They decide to bury the cat in their yard on their own.

    "It" Beezus was right. Ramona is going to be a big sister. Their mom is going to have a baby in the summer. Is Ramona excited or not?!

    "A Surprise, Sort Of" Aunt Beatrice has a big announcement. And why is she bringing Howie's Uncle to dinner?!

    "The Chain of Command" Shopping for wedding clothes. Ramona is a thousand times more excited than Howie. Howie does not want to be a ring bearer.

    "The Families Get Together" Wedding planning.

    "Ramona Saves the Day" The wedding itself. Ramona, you guessed it, saves the day. This one has a very sitcom feel to it.

    "Another Big Event" Is Ramona ready to be a big sister?!

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    20. Seuss on Saturday #16

    Happy Birthday to You! Dr. Seuss. 1959. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

    First sentence: I wish we could do what they do in Katroo. They sure know how to say "Happy Birthday to You!"

    Premise/Plot: The narrator shares how birthdays are celebrated in Katroo. Every single moment of the day is packed with special fun just for you to celebrate how wonderful and unique you are. It begins with The Great Birthday Bird from the Katroo Happy Birthday Asso-see-eye-ation coming to your house. But his special birthday greeting is just the start.

    My thoughts: Happy Birthday to You is not a book I really enjoyed. Oh, I love Dr. Seuss's silly rhymes in general. But I didn't find this one particularly wonderful. I hope other readers appreciate it more than I did.

    Have you read Happy Birthday to You! What did you think of it? Did you like it? love it? hate it? Is it one you grew up reading?

    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 One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. 

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    21. Never Ask A Dinosaur to Dinner (2015)

    Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner. Gareth Edwards. Illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

    First sentence: Never ask a dinosaur to dinner. Really, never ask a dinosaur to dinner. Because a T. rex is ferocious and his manners are atrocious, and you'll find that if he's able…he will eat the kitchen table. He'll grow fatter while the rest of you grow thinner, so never ask a dinosaur to dinner.

    Premise/plot: The narrator shares with readers why they should never ask a dinosaur to dinner, why they should never share a toothbrush with a shark, why they should never let a beaver in the basin, why they should never use a tiger as a towel, why they should never choose a bison for a blanket, and finally why they should never share a bed with an owl. All in rhyme of course. This is a book all about the bedtime routine. It's a silly book, as you can tell.

    My thoughts: I liked it well enough, I suppose. I think the rhymes worked for the most part. I can be a bit picky when it comes to judging rhyming books. I can get annoyed quite easily when it doesn't sound right. That being said, I didn't love this one especially. It was nice, but, not an amazing read.

    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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    22. Week in Review: April 12-18

    The Family Under the Bridge. Natalie Savage Carlson. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1958/1989. HarperCollins. 123 pages.
    The Bears on Hemlock Mountain. Alice Dalgliesh. Illustrated by Helen Sewell. 1952. 64 pages. [Source: Bought]
    Ramona and Her Mother. Beverly Cleary. 1977. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
    Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Beverly Cleary. 1981. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
    Ramona Forever. Beverly Cleary. 1984. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
    Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky. Sandra Dallas. 2014. Sleeping Bear Press. 216 pages. [Source: Library]

    Dragon Slippers. Jessica Day George. 2007. Bloomsbury USA. 324 pages. [Source: Library]
    Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music. Margarita Engle. Illustrated by Rafael Lopez. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
    Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner. Gareth Edwards. Illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
    Happy Birthday to You! Dr. Seuss. 1959. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
    Isaiah: God Saves Sinners. Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr. R. (Preaching The Word Commentaries). Crossway. 2005. 496 pages. [Source: Bought]
    Bringing Narnia Home: Lessons from the Other Side of the Wardrobe. Devin Brown. 2015. Abingdon Press. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
    Cross: Unrivaled Christ, Unstoppable Gospel, Unreached Peoples, Unending Joy. General Editors: John Piper and David Mathis. 2015. B&H Publishing. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

    This week's recommendation(s):

    I loved, loved, LOVED The Family Under the Bridge. It was a complete surprise how much I adored it! I am enjoying reading the Ramona series, and Ramona Quimby, Age 8 is fantastic! The commentary I read on Isaiah was AMAZING as well.

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    23. Library Loot: Third Trip in April

    New Loot:
    • The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
    • The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp
    • Memories Before and After The Sound of Music by Agathe von Trapp
    • Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P.L. Travers by Valerie Lawson
    • George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I by Miranda Carter
    • The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War, Peter Englund, translated by Peter Graves. 
    • Anastasia and Her Sisters by Carolyn Meyer
    • The Far Side of Evil by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
    • The War that Ended Peace: To Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan
    • Pete the Cat's Groovy Guide to Life by Kimberley and James Dean
    • Who Thinks Evil: A Professor Moriarty Novel by Michael Kurland
    • The Infernal Devices & Others: A Professor Moriarty Omnibus by Michael Kurland
    • The Empress of India: A Professor Moriarty Novel by Michael Kurland
    • The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

    Leftover Loot:
    • Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
    • A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis
    • Living by the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible by Howard G.  Hendricks
    • War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation by Cindy Hval
    • Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith 
    • The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss
    • The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
    • The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas
    • Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas, translated by Richard Pevear
    • Happy Birthday to You by Dr. Seuss
    • Murder at Mullings by Dorothy Cannell
    • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
    • Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss
    • Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George
    • Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George
    • Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
    • The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander
    • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, translated and with notes by Christine Donougher
    • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
    • The Princess Plot by Kirsten Bole, translated by David Henry Wilson
    • Otis Spofford by Beverly Cleary
    • Back to School with Betsy by Carolyn Haywood
    • Betsy and the Boys by Carolyn Haywood
    • Betsy and Billy by Carolyn Haywood
    • Cursed in the Act by Raymond Buckland
    • The Search for the Red Dragon by James A. Owen
    • The Just City by Jo Walton
    • Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen
    • The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
    • The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
    • The Indigo King by James A. Owen
          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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    24. Dick Whittington and His Cat (1950)

    Dick Whittington and His Cat. Told and cut in linoleum by Marcia Brown. 1950. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]

    First sentence: Long ago in England there lived a little boy named Dick Whittington. Dick's father and mother died when he was very young, and as he was too small to work, he had a hard time of it.

    Premise/plot: Dick Whittington, an orphan, goes to London to seek his fortune--or at least a somewhat better life. It won't be easily come by that's for sure! He eventually finds work in the home of a merchant as a cook's assistant. With his one penny, he happens to buy a cat who is an excellent mouser. The cat will be the key to it all: his eventual success.
    Not long after this, Mr. Fitzwarren had a ship ready to sail. He called all his servants into the parlor and asked them what they chose to send to trade. All the servants brought something but poor Dick. Since he had neither money nor goods, he couldn't think of sending anything. "I'll put some money down for him," offered Miss Alice, and she called Dick into the parlor. But the merchant said, "That will not do. It must be something of his own." "I have nothing but a cat," said Dick. "Fetch your cat, boy," said the merchant, "and let her go!" 
    My thoughts: Loved the story. Dick Whittington and His Cat received a Caldecott Honor in 1951. I can't say that I particularly "liked" the illustrations. (But I didn't dislike them either.) I enjoyed the story more though.

    Have you read Dick Whittington and His Cat? What did you think? Do you have a favorite Caldecott or Caldecott Honor book? 


    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    25. Miss Marjoribanks (1866)

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

    First sentence: Miss Marjoribanks lost her mother when she was only fifteen, and when, to add to the misfortune, she was absent at school, and could not have it in her power to soothe her dear mamma's last moments, as she herself said. Words are sometimes very poor exponents of such an event: but it happens now and then, on the other hand, that a plain intimation expresses too much, and suggests emotion and suffering which, in reality, have but little, if any, existence.

    I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Margaret Oliphant's Miss Marjoribanks. Within a few chapters, I was going Why did NO ONE tell me how absolutely, wonderful this book is?!  Even before I finished it, I  had decided that I would NEED to read more Oliphant in the future. A lot more. (Which book should I seek out next?!)

    Lucilla Marjoribanks is the heroine. She's clever and stubborn, more than a little ambitious, and manipulative but well-intentioned. I also want to add that her manners are phenomenal; she's a proper lady. Readers meet plenty of characters: men and women of all ages, both upper and lower class.

    So the novel opens with Lucilla learning of her mother's death. She resolves then and there to be a comfort to her father. Her father wants Lucilla to stay in school, and, later go on a tour of Europe. But when Lucilla is nineteen, it is inevitable that she will return home to Carlingford and start being a comfort to her dear father. He's hesitant at first, as is his cook, but within a day--or two at most--she's got them both. They love and adore her. Her reign has begun without a bit of resistance.

    Lucilla has plans. Not just for her father and the household (a new makeover for various rooms). But for Carlingford. She wants to make a great society. She'll host her Thursday Evenings, and the town will be changed for the better, for the most part.

    As part of her project, Lucilla "rescues" Barbara Lake from the lower class (she's a drawing master's daughter) to sing duets with her on Thursday evenings. Barbara doesn't exactly like "being a project" of Lucilla's. Part of her hates the idea of a rich woman condescending to her and elevating her position--once a week--for entertainment purposes. On the other hand, she does love to sing. And one of the men who attends is quite swoon-worthy, and he flirts with her. So the evening isn't a complete waste.

    The book is essentially two stories in one. The first story occurs when she's nineteen and just getting started with her Carlingford project. She's young, beautiful, smart, ambitious. And most everyone is of the opinion that she will soon marry. Despite her protests that she will not marry for at least ten years so that she can be a comfort to her father. A handful of neighbors introduce various young men to her. One of the eligible suitors is Mr. Cavendish. (Cavendish is the one who can't help flirting with Barbara Lake). The other two "eligible" suitors don't seem all that interested in Miss Marjoribanks. (One (a general) falls in love at first sight with Barbara's sister, Rose, who happens to be visiting Lucilla because she's worried about her sister. The other (Archdeacon Beverley) coincidentally is the first-lost-love of one of Lucilla's friends--another project of sorts, her name is Mrs. Mortimer.) The second story occurs when she's twenty-nine. It mainly centers around Miss Marjoribanks schemes to get Mr. Ashburton elected to parliament.

    The book is part romance, part comedy, part drama. I LOVED everything about it. I loved the characterization. I loved the narration. I loved the plot. I loved that it wasn't predictable--at least not to me!

    Quotes:
    There are people who talk of themselves, and think of themselves, as it were, under protest, and with depreciation, not actually able to convince themselves that anybody cares; but Lucilla, for her part, had the calmest and most profound conviction that, when she discussed her own doings and plans and clevernesses, she was bringing forward the subject most interesting to her audience as well as to herself. Such a conviction is never without its fruits. To be sure, there were always one or two independent spirits who revolted; but for the crowd, it soon became impressed with a profound belief in the creed which Miss Marjoribanks supported so firmly.
    At other times she had been a visitor; now she had come into her kingdom, and had no desire to be received like a guest.
    But it was only in the morning that Lucilla unfolded her standard. She was down to breakfast, ready to pour out the coffee, before the Doctor had left his room. He found her, to his intense amazement, seated at the foot of the table, in the place which he usually occupied himself, before the urn and the coffee-pot. Dr Marjoribanks hesitated for one momentous instant, stricken dumb by this unparalleled audacity; but so great was the effect of his daughter's courage and steadiness, that after that moment of fate he accepted the seat by the side where everything was arranged for him, and to which Lucilla invited him sweetly, though not without a touch of mental perturbation. The moment he had seated himself, the Doctor's eyes were opened to the importance of the step he had taken. "I am afraid I have taken your seat, papa," said Miss Marjoribanks, with ingenuous sweetness. "But then I should have had to move the urn, and all the things, and I thought you would not mind."
    The Doctor's formidable housekeeper conducted her young mistress downstairs afterwards, and showed her everything with the meekness of a saint. Lucilla had won a second victory still more exhilarating and satisfactory than the first; for, to be sure, it is no great credit to a woman of nineteen to make a man of any age throw down his arms; but to conquer a woman is a different matter, and Lucilla was thoroughly sensible of the difference. Now, indeed, she could feel with a sense of reality that her foundations were laid.
    Lucilla, who was liberal, as genius ought always to be, was perfectly willing that all the young ladies in Carlingford should sing their little songs while she was entertaining her guests; and then at the right moment, when her ruling mind saw it was necessary, would occur the duet—the one duet which would be the great feature of the evening. Thus it will be seen that another quality of the highest order developed itself during Miss Marjoribanks's deliberations; for, to tell the truth, she set a good deal of store by her voice, and had been used to applause, and had tasted the sweetness of individual success.
    There is nothing one cannot manage if one only takes the trouble.
    "I am always afraid of a cousin, for my part," said Mrs Chiley; "and talking of that, what do you think of Mr Cavendish, Lucilla? He is very nice in himself, and he has a nice property; and some people say he has a very good chance to be member for Carlingford when there is an election. I think that is just what would suit you."
    Thus all the world contemplated with excitement the first Thursday which was to open this enchanted chamber to their admiring eyes. "Don't expect any regular invitation," Miss Marjoribanks said. "I hope you will all come, or as many of you as can. Papa has always some men to dinner with him that day, you know, and it is so dreadfully slow for me with a heap of men. That is why I fixed on Thursday. I want you to come every week, so it would be absurd to send an invitation; and remember it is not a party, only an Evening," said Lucilla.
    It was when she was in this unhappy humour that her eye fell upon Mr Cavendish, who was in the act of making the appeal to Lucilla which we have already recorded. Barbara had never as yet had a lover, but she had read an unlimited number of novels, which came to nearly the same thing, and she saw at a glance that this was somebody who resembled the indispensable hero. She looked at him with a certain fierce interest, and remembered at that instant how often in books it is the humble heroine, behind backs, whom all the young ladies snub, who wins the hero at the last. And then Miss Marjoribanks, though she sent him away, smiled benignantly upon him. The colour flushed to Barbara's cheeks, and her eyes, which had grown dull and fixed between fright and spite, took sudden expression under her straight brows. An intention, which was not so much an intention as an instinct, suddenly sprang into life within her, and, without knowing, she drew a long breath of eagerness and impotence. He was standing quite near by this time, doing his duty according to Miss Marjoribanks's orders, and flirting with all his might; and Barbara looked at him as a hungry schoolboy might be supposed to look at a tempting apple just out of his reach. How was she to get at this suitor of Lucilla's?
    As for poor Barbara, she is only a little shy, but that will soon wear off. I don't see what need she has to talk—or to move either, for that matter. I thought she did very well indeed for a girl who never goes into society. Was it not clever of me to find her out the very first day I was in Carlingford? It has always been so difficult to find a voice that went perfectly with mine."
    "I always make it a point never to shock anybody's prejudices," said Miss Marjoribanks. "I should do just the same with them as with other people; all you have to do is to show from the first that you mean to be good friends with everybody. But then I am so lucky: I can always get on with people," said Lucilla, rising to greet the two unfortunates who had come to Colonel Chiley's to spend a merry Christmas, and who did not know what to do with themselves.
    It was rather vexatious, to tell the truth; for to see a man so near the point and not even to have the satisfaction of refusing him, is naturally aggravating to a woman.
    If there was one thing in the world more than another which contented Lucilla, it was to be appealed to and called upon for active service. It did her heart good to take the management of incapable people, and arrange all their affairs for them, and solve all their difficulties. Such an office was more in her way than all the Archdeacons in the world.

    For even the aid of Miss Marjoribanks was as nothing against dead selfishness and folly, the two most invincible forces in the world.


    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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