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1. What Can I Be? by Ann Rand & Ingrid Fiksdahl King





Holding What Can I Be? in my hands after reading it, I felt like I had just walked through a gallery at a modern art museum. I knew that there had to be a story behind this book, which was published this year by Princeton Architectural Press, but feels much older. The premise of What Can I Be?which was written by Ann Rand and illustrated by painter and architecture professor Ingrid Fiksdahl King, coauthor of A Pattern Language, one of the most influential books on architecture and planning, is simple, suggestive and playful, presenting readers with a shape and asking what could it be, then encouraging readers to imagine what else that shape could be. Reading this article at the marvelous Brain Pickings, I learned the story behind What Can I Be?









In the 1950s Ann Rand and her husband at the time collaborated on three picture books that are still in print. Her husband, Paul Rand went on to be a legend in the graphic design world, creating many of the corporate logos that are still in use today. Like Fiksdahl King, Ann Rand was an architect and trained under Mies van der Rohe. In the 1970s the two created What Can I Be? but it did not reach publication for forty years. It is always fascinating to me when creative people from different disciplines make picture books, and when it is successful, the results stand out on the shelves, and What Can I Be? is definitely successful.


What could be green and shaped like a triangle? "a Christmas tree / the sail of a boat / a tent / or maybe a kite flying high in a windblown sky." While concept books are, by their very nature, simplistic, Rand and Fiksdahl King add layers of complexity, especially in the illustrations, but also in the text, using words like "splendid," "ruffled" and "windblown." What Can I Be? will definitely appeal to parents with a background in in art, design and architecture, but I believe it will also truly inspire little listeners who will want to hear it read over and over.




Books by Ann & Paul Rand





Source: Review Copy


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2. My Thoughts on Call The Midwife, series 3

 Call the Midwife, series 3
1 Christmas special + 8 episodes

Jenny Lee = Jessica Raine
Trixie Franklin = Helen George
Cynthia Miller = Bryony Hannah
Chummy (Camilla Fortescue-Cholmondeley-Browne) = Miranda Hart
Sister Julienne = Jenny Agutter
Sister Monica Joan = Judy Parfitt
Sister Evangelina = Pam Ferris
Shelagh Turner = Laura Main
Dr. Patrick Turner = Stephen McGann
Timothy Turner = Max Macmillan
PC Peter Noakes = Ben Caplan
Fred Buckle = Cliff Parisi
Alec Jesmond = Leo Staar
Tom Hereward = Jack Ashton
Patsy Mount = Emerald Fennell
Sister Winifred = Victoria Yeates

Season three is the last season with Jenny Lee. That may be one of the more notable things about this season in retrospect. (We also see a lot less Chummy after this season. I know she makes no appearance at all in series 5, and, I'm not sure how much she's around in series 4. But I think she is some at least.) 

Shelagh. Last season's finale saw Shelagh become engaged in Dr. Turner. In the Christmas Special, these two were due to be married near Christmas. But DRAMA, DRAMA, DRAMA. This episode has so much drama. Much of it being caused by the discover of an unexploded German bomb left over from the war. And then there's POLIO. This is such a heart-felt episode. How is it possible to care so much about fictional characters on a TV show?

Episode one. New Nonnatus House. New Sister midwife. I really, really like Sister Winifred although it takes a few episodes to come into her own and feel like she BELONGS. In this episode, Chummy helps deliver a baby in an emergency, and is asked to come back to work part-time as a midwife.

Episode two. Cynthia and Sister Evangelina are in conflict over "new" methods to help mothers during childbirth...Jenny gets a promotion....and viewers meet Doris a pregnant woman who is between a rock and a hard place.

Episode three. Trixie and Sister Julienne temporarily take on prison duties and serve pregnant prisoners. Sister Julienne becomes especially close to one of the young girls, and, becomes a character witness of sorts. The young woman desperately wants to keep her baby and not be forced to give it up for adoption. Trixie--well, good news, she meets Tom...and the bad news, well, she gets LICE. Shelagh and Dr. Turner learn that she cannot have children. Already several episodes this season are about adoption. So it's easy to see where this might be heading.

Episode four. The beginning of the end for Jenny's time at Nonnatus House. Alec Jesmond is in a horrible accident. PC Peter Noakes is one of the first responders, also, I believe Dr. Turner is as well. They know him as Jenny's boyfriend, making it even more difficult. They KNOW it is really bad. Bad news, the two had been fighting that day. Good news, they do get the chance to make up.

Episode five, Shelagh is back working in an administrative role at least. And sister Julianne and Jenny are both away. Nurse Patsy Mount, now a midwife, joins Nonnatus House full-time. Sister Evangelina has a jubilee party. But she has to be tricked into attending. This celebration is all the more meaningful the second time around. (If you've seen season five, you know exactly why). The pregnancy case is very troubling in this episode.

Episode six, Trixie goes on her first date with Tom. But it does not go according to plan. Shelagh and Dr. Turner begin to look into what it would take to adopt a child...and viewers get to know a little more about the newest midwife, Nurse Mount.

Episode seven, this one has DRAMA and then some. Chummy's mother comes to town. Chummy, at first, thinks this is a visit. But several things soon come to light. Her parents are separated now, her mother doesn't have much money, and she is in a LOT OF PAIN, as she has terminal cancer. Chummy has about a hundred emotions at any given moment. And it's up to Peter to know what to do. His strength in this episode and the next are AMAZING. He is such a good, good guy. Sister Julienne and Cynthia, not to be left out, deal with a VERY VERY VERY mentally troubled woman after delivery.

Episode eight, Shelagh and Dr. Turner get GREAT news during this episode. But poor Chummy spends this episode in turmoil and angst. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Sister Monica Joan in this episode. And Jenny is supportive as well. These two cluster around Chummy and her mother and it's just beautiful to watch. Painful but beautiful. Jenny--who came back in episode seven--decides to stop being a midwife and switch to what we would now call hospice care. She does help deliver a baby in this episode, I believe, and her patient's cousin, I believe, is PHILIP WORTH, her future husband. This is young Jenny's last appearance in the show.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Pretty Minnie in Hollywood

Pretty Minnie in Hollywood. Danielle Steel. Illustrated by Kristi Valiant. 2016. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Minnie is a white, long-haired, teacup-size Chihuahua.

Premise/plot: Minnie and her owner live in Paris, France. Francoise (the child owner) and Minnie travel with the Mom to Hollywood to hand deliver a beautiful, glamorous dress to an actress for a movie. Most of the 'plot' of this one focuses on the trip there and back. While in Hollywood, Minnie gets her big break and stars in a movie of her own.

My thoughts: Could the cover of this book possibly have even more glitter? I didn't think so. The plot is what it is. It isn't horribly creative or clever or new or unique or compelling. More frivolous and predictable and obnoxious in a cutie-sweetie-pie way. Now, if the book had been a super-sweet story about a cat instead of a dog, would I feel differently? Maybe. But I don't see a cat dressing up and following directions. That would have been a whole different story. Several pages might have even been spent on trying to get the cat into traveling bag.

I was unimpressed with the writing of this one. But what slightly saves it are the illustrations.

Text: 2 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Rutabaga the Adventure Chef: Feasts of Fury by Eric Colossal, 128 pp, RL 3



 Last year I read and loved, as I do any book that makes food and cooking a central plot thread, Rutabaga the Adventure Chef #1 by Eric Colossal. Rutabaga, his pop-up kitchen and Pot, his trusty cauldron/pet, are back for more food, fun and adventure in Rutabaga the Adventure Chef: Feasts of Fury. And, as before, Rutabaga is a little bit goofy, a little bit gullible and a very passionate about cooking and feeding his friends, and even his enemies, from time to time.






Rutabaga the Adventure Chef: Feasts of Fury finds Rutabaga and Pot in the land of the dreaded gubblins where he meets, and cooks for, an old timer who shares memories of a soup he ate more than 30 years ago, prepared - with a special, secret ingredient - by his uncle. But, as he leads Rutabaga to the spot where he thought his uncle found the secret ingredient, a big, fanged surprise is waiting for him.



 From there, Rutabaga meets a troupe of actors and inspires a new play with an old favorite from his cooking school days, Poisoned Pot Pie. The pie isn't really poisoned, but there is a bean hidden in one of the individual pies and the person who gets it has to wash up. Rutabaga meets a mysterious thief/princess/liar named Minus and a very cool ingredient is part of a fantastic recipe that involves lock picking. When those dreaded gubblins do finally materialize, I think you can guess how Rutabaga gets himself, Pot and Minus out of a very dire predicament. And, quite happily, as with book 1, Colossal shares a handful of Rutabaga's special recipes - that kids can really make - at the end of the book. There are Popping Chocolate Spiders, Gubblin Snot, No-Bake "Poisoned" Cookies!

Source: Review Copy

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5. Listening to George, part 10

2009
If you want to follow along with this project, all related posts are tagged George Strait Project. This post will cover the years 2009-2015.

Twang is George Strait's twenty-sixth album. It features thirteen songs. Four songs from the album were released as singles: "Living for the Night," "Twang," "I Gotta Get To You," "The Breath You Take."

The other songs on the album include: "Where Have I Been All My Life," "Easy As You Go," "Same Kind of Crazy," "Out of Sight, Out of Mind," "Arkansas Dave," "He's Got That Something Special," "Hot Grease and Zydeco," "Beautiful Day for Goodbye," and "El Rey."

George Strait has some writing credits on this album. Three of the songs he cowrote with his son: "Living for the Night," Out of Sight, Out of Mind," and "He's Got That Something Special." One song was written by his son, "Arkansas Dave."

"Where Have I Been All My Life"

First stanza:
Been down the road to work and back
Been in what I thought was love a few times
But every once in a while I stop and ask
Where have I been all my life 
Premise/plot: The singer is reflecting on his life, and questioning, perhaps, why it took him so long to realize some important, essential things in life. He's grown up, in other words, and seeing life a whole lot differently than he used to.

Favorite lines:
These days broccoli don't taste so bad
And neither does swallowing my pride
And I'm agreeing more and more with my old man
Where have I been all my life
Been learning that forgiveness is as much for myself
As it is for the other guy
And I read the good book these days and believe it
Where have I been all my life
My thoughts: I really LOVE this one. I can relate to it in many ways.

Favorite songs: I really enjoy all the songs on the album. But I really want to highlight "Beautiful Day for Goodbye," "Easy As You Go," and "Hot Grease and Zydeco."

2011
Here For A Good Time is George Strait's twenty-seventh album. It features eleven songs. George Strait and his son wrote or cowrote seven out of the eleven songs on the album. Three of the songs were released as singles: "Here For A Good Time," Love's Gonna Make It Alright," and "Drinkin' Man."

Other songs on the album include: "Shame On Me," "Poison," "House Across the Bay," "Lone Star Blues," "A Showman's Life," "Three Nails and A Cross," "Blue Marlin Blues," and "I'll Always Remember You."

"I'll Always Remember You" is co-written by George Strait, and, it is written for his fans--about his fans.

"Three Nails and A Cross" is without a doubt one of my favorites on this album.

The song I'd like to pay special attention to is "Drinkin' Man."

First two stanzas:
I woke up this mornin' and I swore to God
I'd never, ever take another drink again
I fought it like the devil, but you know that you're in trouble
When you're fourteen and drunk by ten a.m.
Tried to hide it from my mom and dad, all my friends said, straighten up
I just laughed, said, you don't understand
That's a hell of a lot to ask of a drinkin' man
Premise/plot: An honest look at the ugly truths of alcoholism. Country music often--but not always--glamorizes drinking, drinking a lot, getting drunk, being stupid while drunk. But not all country songs treat it that lightly. The song ends exactly the same way it begins, repeating: "I woke up this mornin' and I swore to God I'd never, ever take another drink again."

My thoughts: I think this song would pair well with "Where Have I Been All My Life," and "Three Nails and A Cross." I think you could imagine one person progressing from one to the other. The key perhaps being, "Three Nails and A Cross," as the middle song.

This song is the COMPLETE and TOTAL opposite of Toby Keith's Red Solo Cup.

2013
Love is Everything is George Strait's twenty-eighth album. It features thirteen songs. Four of the songs were written or cowritten by George Strait. Three of the songs from the album were released as singles, "Give It All We Got Tonight," "I Believe," and "I Got a Car."

Other songs on the album include: "Blue Melodies," "I Just Can't Go On Dying Like This," "I Thought I Heard My Heart Sing," "That's What Breaking Hearts Do," "When Love Comes Around Again," "The Night is Young," "Sitting on the Fence," "Love Is Everything," "You Don't Know What You're Missing," and "When The Credits Roll."

My favorite is probably "I Got A Car." It's a fun, little story song.

"I Believe" was written in honor of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

2015
Cold Beer Conversation is George Strait's twenty-ninth album. It features thirteen songs. Three of the songs are written--or co-written by George and his son. Two singles were released from this album, "Cold Beer Conversation" and "Let It Go."

Other songs on the album include: "It Was Love," "Goin' Goin' Gone," "Something Going Down," "Take Me To Texas," "It Takes All Kinds," "Stop and Drink," "Everything I See," "Rock Paper Scissors," "Wish You Well," "Cheaper Than A Shrink," and "Even When I Can't Feel It."

I do like the two songs that were released as singles. But I am clueless as to why they didn't release IT WAS LOVE as a single. It is a GREAT song. And I just think it has HIT written all over it!

I really like Take Me To Texas. George loves to sing about Texas!
Take me to Texas, on the open range
The Rio Grande is in my veins
It’s heaven there and so my prayer
Is that you’ll take me anywhere in Texas
The only home I know
I’m a child of the Alamo and the Yellow Rose
So when I go
If you were ever curious what it would be like if Dr. Seuss wrote a country song, then give a good long listen to "It Takes All Kinds." This one is just catchy and FUN.

"Everything I See" is another must. A son is singing a song about his father who recently died. This one would also make a great single, I think.

This was the album that "inspired" the project in the first place.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Press Release Fun: A Curious George Documentary on the Horizon

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 10.01.08 PM

Documentary Following Curious George Creators Hans A. & Margret Rey Announced – Ema Ryan Yamazaki Directorial Debut

New York City, NY – July 26, 2016 – In celebration of the world’s most beloved monkey, who turns seventy-five years old this year, filmmaker Ema Ryan Yamazaki announces the first ever mixed-media documentary about Curious George. Monkey Business delves into the extraordinary lives of Hans and Margret Rey, the authors of the beloved Curious George children’s books. The Reys were of German-Jewish descent and narrowly escaped the Nazis on makeshift bicycles they rode across Europe, carrying the yet-to-be-published Curious George manuscript with them.

To tell this remarkable story, Yamazaki obtained exclusive rights from the Rey’s estate, curated by longtime caretaker to Margret Rey, Ley Lee Ong, gaining access to the over 300 boxes of the Reys’ personal archives at the de Grummond Collection, housed at the University of Southern Mississippi. Through a unique and Rey-inspired technique of animation, as well as archival photographs, the documentary tells the story of the couple’s lives, the birth of George and how the well-loved children’s book character almost didn’t come to fruition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Universal hold the publishing and merchandising rights to the literary and cultural icon, but it is Yamazaki who has been entrusted with documenting this inspiring story of perseverance, adventure, family and what it means to be a world citizen.

Monkey Business: The Curious Adventures of George’s Creators is Yamazaki’s directorial debut, after amassing an impressive editing credit list including collaborations with seasoned storyteller, Sam Pollard (When The Levees Broke). Marc Levin (Chicagoland) is onboard as Executive Producer.

Yamazaki, who claims Japan, the UK and New York as three unique homes, was inspired by the Rey’s journey and philosophy of living. She felt a kinship with the married authors of German-Jewish descent who were also multinationals having made homes in Brazil, Paris and ultimately New York City. With immigration and refugee-crises at the center of current and urgent international debate, Monkey Business reminds us that we are all world-citizens, searching for and deserving of a home.

To fund the post-production costs of Monkey Business, Yamazaki is running an ambitious Kickstarter campaign, releasing timeless original Curious George prints and digital archive downloads as rewards. The Kickstarter is also intended to be an invitation to the world-community to find inspiration in Hans and Margret Rey’s story. How curiosity & imagination gave them the power to overcome life’s greatest challenges. The link to the Kickstarter, which includes personal testimony by Yamazaki about the making of the film, can be found here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1344946756/curious-george-documentary?ref=filmpress

ABOUT EMA RYAN YAMAZAKI (Director)

Raised in Japan and England and currently based in New York, Ema has always loved telling stories – first as a dancer, and now as a filmmaker. She has directed documentaries such as MONK BY BLOOD and NEITHER HERE NOR THERE that have been seen around the world. As an editor, Ema’s work has screened on HBO, PBS, CNN at Sundance Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, among others.

MARC LEVIN (Executive Producer)

In his 30+ years as an independent filmmaker, Marc has won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, the Camera D’Or at Cannes, National Emmys and duPont-Columbia Awards. His work includes SLAM, HEIR TO AN EXECUTION, and the  BRICK CITY TV-series.

JACOB KAFKA (Animator)

The son of a rabbi and a seismologist, Jacob grew up in Massachusetts and has been making movies since he was five years old. His animated short films BASED ON A TRUE STORY and COLD FEET have played in festivals such as TIFF Kids, Woodstock Film Festival, Animation Block Party, ASIFA-East Animation Festival, and been featured on Cartoon Brew. He developed the animation software “RoughAnimator” for mobile devices, which has been used by thousands of animators around the world.

Photo Credits:

“Colored marker drawing of Curious George on flip chart”, H.A. and Margret Rey Collection, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, University of Southern Mississippi libraries

Hans & Margret Rey, Photo Credit Penny Stearns Palmer

Director Ema Ryan Yamazaki, Photo credit Adam Gundershimer

———————————————
Annie Bush

Curious George Doc title design.png

For More Information:
Annie Bush
annie@pro4use.com

 
 |P|R|O|D|U|C|T|I|O|N| |F|O|R| |U|S|E| 
   5555 N Lamar Blvd. Ste J125
   Austin, TX 78751

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7. Time Cat

Time Cat. Lloyd Alexander. 1963. 206 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Gareth was a black cat with orange eyes.

Premise/plot: Jason is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. But that begins to change when in the midst of complaining out loud to his cat, Gareth, Gareth surprises him by talking back. The cat reveals that he can visit nine different lives--any time, any country--and he can and will be happy to take Jason with him.

The times visited by Jason and Gareth: Egypt 2700 B.C., Rome and Britain 55 B.C., Ireland 411 A.D., Japan 998 A.D., Italy 1468, Peru 1555, The Isle of Man 1588, Germany 1600, America 1775.

If you're a cat lover who also enjoys time travel, this is a GREAT read.

My thoughts: I really, really, really found this to be a GREAT read. I found it entertaining and just FUN.

Here are some of my favorite quotes.
When I was a child, I always had cats. They seemed very fond of me. Then, after I became Pharaoh, they didn't seem to care for me half as much.
Jason thought for a while. "I don't know," he said at last. "Did you wear that headdress and that beard before you got to be king? That might have frightened them. And another thing," he added, "did you shout as much? Cats don't like being shouted at."
Neter-Khet brightened a little. "That might be it."
"Even so," Jason said, "when you weren't shouting, you'd think they'd have come around again."
"Oh, they did," said Neter-Khet. "But they'd never play or purr when I ordered."
"Did you expect them to?" Jason said. "No cat in the world will do that!"
"But I'm Pharaoh," Neter-Khet said. "I'm supposed to give orders."
"That doesn't mean anything to a cat," said Jason. "Didn't anybody ever tell you?"
"Nobody tells me," Neter-Khet said. "I tell them. Besides, they were my cats, weren't they?"
"In a way they were," Jason said, "and in a way they weren't. A cat can belong to you, but you can't own him. There's a difference." (19-20)
The only thing a cat worries about is what's happening right now. As we tell the kittens, you can only wash one paw at a time. (125)
Cats are good at being cats, and that's enough. (127)

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. Biblical Wives


I met TK Thorne at the 2016 Association of Jewish Libraries conference in Charleston, South Carolina. She is the author of Noah's Wife: 5500 BCE and Angels at the Gate, two award-winning novels about the wives of Biblical figures Noah and Lot. She also writes historical nonfiction about civil rights.

AUDIO:


Or click Mp3 File (15:53)

CREDITS:

Produced by: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel 
Supported in part by: Association of Jewish Libraries 
Theme music: The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band 
Facebook: facebook.com/bookoflifepodcast 
Twitter: @bookoflifepod 

Support The Book of Life by becoming a patron at Patreon.com/bookoflife

Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to bookoflifepodcast@gmail.com or call our voicemail number at 561-206-2473. 




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9. Listening to George, CONCLUSION

This will be the last post for my George Strait Project. I thought I would make a few lists, answer a few questions, etc.

One word to describe George Strait's music: TIMELESS
Some phrases to describe his music: consistently high quality;  forever true to himself, true to tradition; western swing at its best! makes you want to sing and dance!
Was the project fun? Yes, for the most part.
Did I get tired of George by the end of July? More than I thought I would be. I thought it would be impossible to have too much George in your life.
Did I only listen to George Strait? That's how I started out the month. But by the end, I was ready for a little distance and some other artists to listen to.
Would I recommend this project for someone else? Yes. But I would suggest spreading it out throughout a six month or even a year period. You could cover two to three albums per month and get it done in a year.
Would I be interested in doing another chronological project? Yes, probably. I'm not sure WHO at this point. And it will probably not be any time soon. I am also not sure if I'd ever devote that many posts to music at Becky's Book Reviews. Though if it were to be a year-long project, one post per month wouldn't be seen as quite the invasion that George became!!!
Which albums are MUSTS? If you were to only have TWO albums in your collection--say you have zero George Strait at the moment--then definitely 50 Number Ones (2004) and and 22 More Hits (2007). That would give you 72 of his best songs.
Favorite album from the 1980s? Probably Ocean Front Property. I really LOVE that one.
Favorite singles from the 1980s? Fool Hearted Memory, Amarillo by Morning, You Look So Good In Love, The Cowboy Rides Away, The Chair, Nobody In His Right Mind Would Have Left Her, Baby Blue, Ace in the Hole, Am I Blue, Famous Last Words of a Fool, Ocean Front Property, It Ain't Cool To Be Crazy About You, etc.
Favorite songs from the 1980s that were never released as singles? Friday Night Fever, 80 Proof Bottle of Tear Stopper, Dance Time in Texas, My Heart Won't Wander Very Far From You, You Can't Buy Your Way Out of the Blues...
Favorite album from the 1990s? I don't think I could ever, ever, ever choose. I might could come up with a top three albums from the 1990s...Livin' It Up (1990); Lead On (1994); One Step at A Time (1998).
Favorite singles from the 1990s? You Know Me Better Than That; Easy Come, Easy Go; The Big One; Check Yes or No; Lead On; Blue Clear Sky; One Night at a Time; I Just Want To Dance With You; We Really Shouldn't Be Doing This; Write This Down.
Favorite songs from the 1990s never released as singles?  Someone Had to Teach You; She Loves Me (She Don't Love You); Is It Already Time; You're Right, I'm Wrong; Baby Your Baby; Stay Out My Arms; I Wasn't Fooling Around; Nobody Has To Get Hurt; That's Me (Every Chance I Get); Real Good Place to Start; That's Where I Want To Take Our Love; Always Never The Same.
Favorite album from the 2000s? I'm torn between Twang (2009) and Honkytonkville (2003).
Favorite singles from the 2000s? Don't Make Me Comve Over There and Love You, Troubadour, Twang.
Favorite songs from the 2000s that were never released as singles? Honk if You Honky Tonk, I Found Jesus on the Jailhouse Floor, She Used to Say That To Me, Texas Cookin', It Was Me, Where Have I Been All My Life
Favorite album from the 2010s? Cold Beer Conversation
Favorite singles from the 2010s? I Got A Car; Drinkin' Man; Here for a Good Time.
Favorite songs from the 2010s never released as singles? Three Nails and a Cross, I'll Always Remember You, It was Love, Take Me To Texas, It Takes All Kinds.

Country Music Is....
  1. No more late nights, comin' in at daylight, and no more doin' you wrong.
  2. Nickels and dimes, memories and wines - she's on his mind once again.
  3. I ain't rich, but Lord I'm free.
  4. He must have stolen some stars from the sky, and gave them to you to wear in your eyes.
  5. We've been in and out of love and in-between.
  6. With a little mouth to mouth she was ready to go.
  7. Well, thank you, could I drink you a buy?
  8. Even my heart was smart enough to stay behind.
  9. I don't worship the ground you walk on.
  10. A devil when she held me close, an angel when she smiled.
  11. Don't put it all on the line for just one roll.
  12. All the times before she'd break down and cry.
  13. There won't be no more next time doin' me wrong.
  14. Truth be known, you're dyin', cryin', lyin' there in bed.
  15. I miss picnics and blue jeans and buckets of beer.
  16. When you hear twin fiddles and a steel guitar, you're listening to the sound of the American heart.
  17. We tried to work it out a hundred times, ninety-nine it didn't work.
  18. I'm not the hero who will always save the day.
  19. Oh they just don't make hearts like hers anymore.
  20. My heart's the only part of me that's not in love with you.
  21. She said I don't recall seeing you around here you must be new to this town.
  22. But I never felt this feeling with anybody else.
  23. I got my fingers crossed that this goes on and on.
  24. I hit my knees and told God how much I hurt.
  25. I caught you lookin' at me when I looked at you. Yes I did, ain't that true?
  26. We'd each be hurting somebody else if we don't say our good-byes real fast.
  27. That's where I wanna raise the babies that we make.
  28. My heart's been on a long vacation, but now it's beating like a cha, cha, cha
  29. Today I'm right where Mama prayed I'd be.
  30. Some peddle steel whining like a whistle of an old freight train... 
Can you identify which songs these lines are from? 

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. Oh my!

Have I been gone that long?

I picked up three more hours at the library for which I work.  I have done a smattering of storytelling engagements. - but enough to keep me busy and distracted.  I have read.  A lot.  Mostly eBooks.  Because actually budging to go to a library once I get home is just too much work.

So...The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.    The writing in this book swept me well into the fray.  There is a village.  Every year, that village leaves the newest baby deep in the forest as a sacrifice? gift? to the evil wicked awful witch.

And there is a forest wherein dwells an old witch, a swamp monster whose importance can only be imagined and a dragon who never seems to grow older.

The witch gathers up each child, - always wondering why the villagers leave the infants there but never wondering for very long, - and carries the infant to the other side of the forest where loving adoptive parents wait.  The witch feeds each child on starlight.

Meanwhile, in the village there is grieving and sadness and someone who feeds on both.

One day,  the witch falls asleep and the infant in her arms feeds on moonlight... and everything is changed.  

This is a novel about oppression and parenthood - which really are NOT the same thing.  The witch finds parenting her moonfed child harder than she could imagine.   The novel is also about questioning the status quo and about powerful people who are parasites.  And the novel is about pain.

The novel is also a bit more complicated than I wanted it to be.  It all fits together nicely in the end. 

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11. Jazz Day

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxanne Orgill illustrated by Francis Vallejo Candlewick, 2016 Grades 2-6 In 1958, fifty-seven jazz musicians gathered on a street in Harlem to pose for a photo for Esquire. The photo entitled "A Great Day in Harlem" became an iconic image from the 20th century, and the story behind the photograph is amazing. In this extended picture book, Roxanne

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12. Singalong Saturdays (Summer Songs, Again)

Today's prompt: Songs that remind you of summer. I'm adapting it a bit to focus on songs that remind me of a particular summer--1997.


This meme is hosted by Bookish Things & More.

I'm choosing to focus on the Backstreet Boys. I remember going shopping for school clothes and getting a sampler of their music--maybe even on cassette--from a department store. It was love at first listen. And when their album released that August, I believe, I bought it.

Hearing any of these songs brings back that summer and COLLEGE.



Also I can't help including Sugar Ray's Fly.



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. I’m So Vain, I Probably Think This Book Is About Me

B.BirdToday we’re going to talk about what happens when your name is so common, it shows up in children’s books willy-nilly without actually having anything to do with YOU.  Which is to say, me.

I took my name willingly.  No parent in their right mind should name a child “Betsy Bird” after all.  When I met my future husband it was, I will admit, one of the first things I realized. “If I marry this guy I could be . . . Betsy Bird!”  So the die was cast.  You can do something like that to your own name.  When my own kids were born, however, I realized what a great responsibility a noun-based last name is.  And not just any noun.  An animal.  So out the window went possible names like Robin, Soren, Colin (think about the song “The 12 Days of Christmas”), Claude, Charlie, Larry, and any first name beginning with the letter “B”.  My husband and I broke the “no two nouns” rule, but at this moment in time I’m the only alliterative name in the family.

Mrs.BirdWhat I hadn’t counted on was how common it would be to find my name in children’s books.  I sort of suspected.  It happens in books for adults, after all.  Little Big by John Crowley (which is definitely not a book for kids) has a “Betsy Bird” in it.  And as for the name “Mrs. Bird” you can find it in everything from Buck’s Tooth to P.D. Eastman’s The Best Nest (where Mrs. Bird is a shrieking harridan, so I try not to read too much into that one).  Mrs. Birds are a dime a dozen, it seems.

I do occasionally show up in children’s books, though.  Sometimes clearly.  Other times I try to read between the lines (and fail).  As of this post there are only two instances of clear cut references.  They are:

The Librarian in Freckleface Strawberry: Best Friends Forever

Freckleface

This is only because artist LeUyen Pham is the nicest human being alive.  So in one scene Windy Pants is discussing what appears to be Junie B. Jones with this person:

188894_1782357952530_3072414_n

In future books in the series, the librarian looks entirely different.

The only other time it happened was, in all books . . .

A Very Babymouse Christmas

BabymouseChristmas

In this book various alliterative animals are having their names called.  Including (and off-camera):

307111_2391734523551_774554479_n

There is also a bird librarian in the first Platypus Police Squad title The Frog That Croaked.  The book takes place in Kalamazoo City and the librarian is a bird.  I’m from Kalamazoo and my name IS Bird.  However, this is probably just coincidental.  After all, my mohawk is nowhere near as nice as hers.

Platypus11

This year I’ve also noticed a significant uptick in “Mrs. Birds” in middle grade novels.  Women who are NOT me.  Not even slightly.  But folks do ask me from time to time, so to set the record straight . . .

The First Grade Teacher in The Best Man by Richard Peck

BestMan

Is not me.  She a bit dippy, so you’d be forgiven for mistaking us, but though I do own the occasional corduroy skirt, she’s not me.

Nor am I the mom in the next Rita Williams-Garcia book.  A great sounding title (coming out in 2017) I can’t remember the actual title but it involves a love of jazz.  As such, the mom is Mrs. Bird, probably because of Charlie “Bird” Parker.

I suspect that there are other children’s librarians out there who have accidentally found themselves within the pages of a children’s book in the past.  Maybe even as the librarian his or her own self.  If you have ’em, confess ’em!  We the commonly monikered should stick together.  And if you’ve been in the pages of a book thanks to the efforts of a kindly illustrator, tell me that too!  I’d love to have a working list of librarians that appear in books by great artists.

Thanks to Travis Jonker who suggested that I write a post called “I’m (Not) So Vain, I Probably Think This Book Isn’t About Me”.  That is because he is a nice guy.  My post’s title is probably a little more on the nose-y.

 

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14. Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray. Ruta Sepetys. 2011. Penguin. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: They took me in my nightgown. Thinking back, the signs were there--family photos burned in the fireplace, Mother sewing her best silver and jewelry into the lining of her coat late at night, and Papa not returning from work. My younger brother, Jonas, was asking questions. I asked questions, too, but perhaps I refused to acknowledge the signs. Only later did I realize that Mother and Father intended we escape. We did not escape. We were taken. 

Premise/plot: I'm tempted to not give any premise or plot at all. To just say: READ THIS BOOK. But I'm not sure that's exactly fair. While, I do think this book should be read WIDELY, I think it's only fair to tell you a little bit about what to expect. It's set in 1941 in Lithuania. Lina, the heroine, and her family are in a difficult position. They're trapped between two worst-case-scenarios: Stalin, on one side, and Hitler on the other. No matter which "wins" control over Lithuania, Lina and her family--and so many others--are in great danger.

The book opens with Lina's family being arrested. It doesn't get any cheerier from that point. Lina, her mother, and her brother, Jonas, take the reader on quite an emotional journey. It's an incredible read, partly set in Siberia as well, which is where these 'prisoners' end up.

My thoughts: This was a reread for me. There is a companion book newly released this year starring Lina's cousin Joana. The companion book is set at much closer to the end of World War II. I read Salt to the Sea not really realizing its connection with Between Shades of Gray. It worked. So if you do read the books out of order, that is okay. But definitely I think you'll want to read both books.

I love this one. I do. I love the characterization. I really, really, really love Lina. And I love Andrius as well. Just because there is a tiny bit of romance, don't mistake this one for a proper ROMANCE. It's so much more than that. It's a fight for survival, and, a fight for DIGNITY. It is very bittersweet. But if you're looking for a book you can't put down, this one is it.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. The Yeti Files: Attack of the Kraken by Kevin Sherry, 128 pp, RL 2



It's here! Book 3 in Kevin Sherry's superbly silly series of books featuring all your favorite cryptids is here! Following in the footsteps of Monsters on the Run and Meet the BigfeetBlizz Richards and the gang go under the sea The Yeti Files: Attack of the Kraken



But, before heading to Atlantis, Alex the Elf and Gunthar the goblin are getting up to no good, out of eyesight from Blizz. Blizz thinks the two are getting along nicely in their igloo, but really, the devious duo are off tending to Gunthar's new pet whose name begins with "pt."


As Blizz gets the cryptosub ready to head out, he explains to Alex, Gunthar and Frank, the arctic fox who always seems to know what's really going on, all about the hidden city of Atlantis and the merfolk who live there. He also reminds the gang and readers how they received an urgent alert from the merfolk at the end of The Yeti Files #2of Monsters on the Run. In Atlantis, they crew are greeted by the Mayor, Julius Blacksand, who has been making big additions to the city with the help of some powerful, precious, rare crystals mined nearby. But, a determined megafan of Blizz's named Coral tells him that the mayor isn't all he seems to be and that his continued mining of crystals is threatening the health of the ocean they live in - and the mysterious Kraken. Can Blizz and the gang prove that this is true and stop Julius Blacksand? And just who is Emily Airwalker and where is she? While I always adore the humor in Sherry's books, he weaves some very pertinent themes of conservation and environmental awareness into Attack of the Kraken that I appreciated.


 The Yeti Files Books 1 & 2:

      Meet the Bigfeet          Monsters on the Run


Source: Purchased

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16. First Impressions: The Last Best Kiss, Catching Jordan, Six of Crows

Title: The Last Best Kiss
Author: Claire LaZebnik
Published: 2014
Source: Local Library
Summary: Try as she might, Anna's never been able to forget dorky, sweet Finn, her freshman-year boyfriend that she drove away by not admitting they were dating. Their senior year, he comes back to town, no longer dorky, and no longer at all interested in her.
First Impressions: Awwww. I loved this. Quick read with strong emotional core. And of course it's an Austen retelling so you know I'm all over that.

Title: Catching Jordan
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Published: 2011
Source: Local Library

Summary: As the only girl and the quarterback, Jordan Woods is in a unique position on her football team. She wants to focus on getting an amazing college scholarship, not on romance - but romance seems determined to find her.
First Impressions: Did not entirely love this one. Not sure why. Maybe it's because neither romance seemed especially fleshed out? The dismissive and scornful way she treated other girls got under my skin, even though it was addressed.

Title: Six of Crows
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Published: 2015
Source: Local Library
Summary: A gang of con men and criminals get the biggest job of their career, but will their pasts, both with each other and with the people they're scamming, scotch the whole deal?
First Impressions: This was very unevenly paced, although I enjoyed the characters. But it seemed like we would have action and then this long flashback about each character. I didn't really get into it until the end.
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17. Review of the Day: Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe

Radiant ChildRadiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat
By Javaka Steptoe
Little, Brown & Co.
$17.99
ISBN: 978-0-316-21388-2
Ages 5 and up
On shelves October 25th

True Story: I’m working the children’s reference desk of the Children’s Room at 42nd Street of New York Public Library a couple years ago and a family walks in. They go off to read some books and eventually the younger son, I’d say around four years of age, approaches my desk. He walks right up to me, looks me dead in the eye, and says, “I want all your Javaka Steptoe books.” Essentially this child was a living embodiment of my greatest dream for mankind. I wish every single kid in America followed that little boy’s lead. Walk up to your nearest children’s librarian and insist on a full fledged heaping helping of Javaka. Why? Well aside from the fact that he’s essentially children’s book royalty (his father was the groundbreaking African-American picture book author/illustrator John Steptoe) he’s one of the most impressive / too-little-known artists working today. But that little boy knew him and if his latest picture book biography “Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat” is even half as good as I think it is, a whole host of children will follow suit. But don’t take my word for it. Take that four-year-old boy’s. That kid knew something good when he saw it.

“Somewhere in Brooklyn, a little boy dreams of being a famous artist, not knowing that one day he will make himself a KING.” That boy is an artist already, though not famous yet. In his house he colors on anything and everything within reach. And the art he makes isn’t pretty. It’s, “sloppy, ugly, and sometimes weird, but somehow still BEAUTIFUL.” His mother encourages him, teaches him, and gives him an appreciation for all the art in the world. When he’s in a car accident, she’s the one who hands him Gray’s Anatomy to help him cope with what he doesn’t understand. Still, nothing can help him readily understand his own mother’s mental illness, particularly when she’s taken away to live where she can get help. All the same, that boy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, shows her his art, and with determination he grows up, moves to Manhattan, and starts his meteoric rise in the art scene. All this so that when, at long last, he’s at the top of his game, it’s his mother who sits on the throne at his art shows. Additional information about Basquiat appears at the back of the book alongside a key to the motifs in his work, an additional note from Steptoe himself on what Basquiat’s life and work can mean to young readers, and a Bibliography.

radiantchild2Javaka Steptoe apparently doesn’t like to make things easy for himself. If he wanted to, he could illustrate all the usual African-American subjects we see in books every year. Your Martin Luther Kings and Rosa Parks and George Washington Carvers. So what projects does he choose instead? Complicated heroes who led complicated lives. Artists. Jimi Hendrix and guys like that. Because for all that kids should, no, MUST know who Basquiat was, he was an adult with problems. When Steptoe illustrated Gary Golio’s bio of Hendrix (Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow) critics were universal in their praise. And like that book, Steptoe ends his story at the height of Basquiat’s fame. I’ve seen some folks comment that the ending here is “abrupt” and that’s not wrong. But it’s also a natural high, and a real time in the man’s life when he was really and truly happy. When presenting a subject like Basquiat to a young audience you zero in on the good, acknowledge the bad in some way (even if it’s afterwards in an Author’s Note), and do what you can to establish precisely why this person should be mentioned alongside those Martin Luther Kings, Rosa Parks, and George Washington Carvers.

There’s this moment in the film Basquiat when David Bowie (playing Andy Warhol) looks at some of his own art and says off-handedly, “I just don’t know what’s good anymore.” I have days, looking at the art of picture books when I feel the same way. Happily, there wasn’t a minute, not a second, when I felt that way about Radiant Child. Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Do you know what one of the most difficult occupations to illustrate a picture book biography about is? Artist. Because right from the start the illustrator of the book is in a pickle. Are you going to try to replicate the art of this long dead artist? Are you going to grossly insert it into your own images, even if the book isn’t mixed media to begin with? Are you going to try to illustrate the story in that artist’s style alone, relegating images of their actual art to the backmatter? Steptoe addresses all this in his Note at the back of the book. As he says, “Instead of reproducing or including copies of real Basquiat paintings in this book, I chose to create my own interpretations of certain pieces and motifs.” To do this he raided Basquiat’s old haunts around NYC for discarded pieces of wood to paint on. The last time I saw this degree of attention paid to painting on wood in a children’s book was Paul O. Zelinsky’s work on Swamp Angel. In Steptoe’s case, his illustration choice works shockingly well. Look how he manages to give the reader a sense of perspective when he presents Picasso’s “Guernica” at an angle, rather than straight on. Look how the different pieces of wood, brought together, fit, sometimes including characters on the same piece to show their closeness, and sometimes painting them on separate pieces as a family is broken apart. And the remarkable thing is that for all that it’s technically “mixed-media”, after the initial jolt of the art found on the title page (a full wordless image of Basquiat as an adult surrounded by some of his own imagery) you’re all in. You might not even notice that even the borders surrounding these pictures are found wood as well.

radiantchild1The precise age when a child starts to feel that their art is “not good” anymore because it doesn’t look realistic or professional enough is relative. Generally it happens around nine or ten. A book like Radiant Child, however, is aimed at younger kids in the 6-9 year old range. This is good news. For one thing, looking at young Basquiat vs. older Basquiat, it’s possible to see how his art is both childlike and sophisticated all at once. A kid could look at what he’s doing in this book and think, “I could do that!” And in his text, Steptoe drills into the reader the fact that even a kid can be a serious artist. As he says, “In his house you can tell a serious ARTIST dwells.” No bones about it.

How much can a single picture book bio do? Pick a good one apart and you’ll see all the different levels at work. Steptoe isn’t just interested in celebrating Basquiat the artist or encouraging kids to keep working on their art. He also notes at the back of the book that the story of Basquiat’s relationship with his mother, who suffered from mental illness, was very personal to him. And so, Basquiat’s mother remains an influence and an important part of his life throughout the text. You might worry, and with good reason, that the topic of mental illness is too large for a biography about someone else, particularly when that problem is not the focus of the book. How do you properly address such an adult problem (one that kids everywhere have to deal with all the time) while taking care to not draw too much attention away from the book’s real subject? Can that even be done? Sacrifices, one way or another, have to be made. In Radiant Child Steptoe’s solution is to show Jean-Michel within the lens of his art’s relationship to his mother. She talks to him about art, takes him to museums, and encourages him to keep creating. When he sees “Guernica”, it’s while he’s holding her hand. And because Steptoe has taken care to link art + mom, her absence is keenly felt when she’s gone. The book’s borders go a dull brown. Just that single line “His mother’s mind is not well” says it succinctly. Jean-Michel is confused. The kids reading the book might be confused. But the feeling of having a parent you are close to leave you . . . we can all relate to that, regardless of the reason. It’s just going to have a little more poignancy for those kids that have a familiarity with family members that suffer mental illnesses. Says Steptoe, maybe with this book those kids can, “use Basquiat’s story as a catalyst for conversation and healing.”

That’s a lot for a single picture book biography to take on. Yet I truly believe that Radiant Child is up to the task. It’s telling that in the years since I became a children’s librarian I’ve seen a number of Andy Warhol biographies and picture books for kids but the closest thing I ever saw to a Basquiat bio for children was Life Doesn’t Frighten Me as penned by Maya Angelou, illustrated by Jean-Michel. And that wasn’t even really a biography! For a household name, that’s a pretty shabby showing. But maybe it makes sense that only Steptoe could have brought him to proper life and to the attention of a young readership. In such a case as this, it takes an artist to display another artist. Had Basquiat chosen to create his own picture book autobiography, I don’t think he could have done a better job that what Radiant Child has accomplished here. Timely. Telling. Overdue.

On shelves October 25th.

Source: F&G sent from publisher for review.

Professional Reviews:  A star from Kirkus

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18. Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library

Summary: Cath is bewildered and intimidated by her first year of college. She's not rooming with her twin sister, as she'd assumed she would. Her classes are harder than she thought, a guy in her writing class seems to be using her ideas for his own project, her terrifying roommate keeps bringing her (possibly?) boyfriend around, who is equally terrifying because he actually seems interested in Cath.

The only touchstone is her ongoing epic fanfic, which she's hurrying to finish before the final book in the series comes out. In the world of Simon Snow, a world that's nurtured her and her sister since their mother left, she's in control. But it's the only place where she is.

First Impressions: Yikes did this cut close to the bone.

Later On: Rainbow Rowell has a reputation for RIP UR HEART OUT!! emotional stories, and since this is the first one I've read, I can see where she gets it. Cath is a raw nerve, and her emotions, not only around Levi but around everything are constantly close to the surface. I said it cut close to the bone because this was basically my college experience (except for the sweet boy who adored me, unfortunately). I think a lot of kids get in over their head and intimidated, and feel more isolated because they think that the nonstop party portrayed in TV and movies is what everyone else is experiencing. By contrast, this felt entirely real.

I have to mention how much I appreciated the respect that fandom got in this book. As a longtime fic writer in various fandoms (including, full disclosure, Harry Potter), I was prepared to see it mocked and belittled as an activity for children, or at least for people who couldn't handle the world. I also loved the way Cath's relationship to her own fic writing changed and grew as she did.

I wish that we'd gotten more acknowledgement from other characters of how profoundly Cath was freaking in, as much as Wren was freaking out. While writing and posting fic was a nurturing and supportive activity for her, she often used it to retreat from the world and escape her own fears as much as Wren was using drinking and partying to do the same.

Something in the back of my mind was the backlash against Rowell for her stereotyped portrayal of Asian characters in her previous novel, Eleanor & Park. This was a pretty white book (two fairly minor characters were Latino), so we didn't get any bad portrayals of POC, but we didn't get any fleshed-out good ones either. Do with that what you will.

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19. The Hotel Mystery

The Hotel Mystery. (Whodunit Detective Agency #2) Martin Widmark. Illustrated by Helena Willis. 2002/2014. 80 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Every year, on the day before Christmas Eve, nearly everyone in the little town of Pleasant Valley does the same thing: They all head to the holiday buffet at the town's hotel, where they find turkey, ham, roasted carrots, and mashed potatoes and gravy, all served on big platters in the beautiful dining room.

Premise/plot: Jerry and Maya are friends and classmates who formed the Whodunit Detective Agency. Over Christmas vacation, these two are working at the town's hotel. (Jerry's uncle works there.) The hotel is in great excitement because the hotel's best and most expensive suite has been rented out to a family, the Braeburn family. Making the new guests HAPPY is to be their top priority. But their stay is not uneventful, and before the book ends, Jerry and Maya will need to solve a crime.

My thoughts: This is the second book in the Whodunit Detective Agency series. It is an early chapter book with a lot of colorful illustrations. These mysteries are simple and straightforward. The characters aren't exactly complex and intriguing. But. I think for the intended age group, these mysteries are fine reading material.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Donner Dinner Party

Donner Dinner Party. (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #3). Nathan Hale. 2013. Harry N. Abrams. 128 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye!

Premise/plot: Nathan Hale returns for this third hazardous tale in this graphic novel. The story that will prolong his life and delay his hanging is the story of the DONNER PARTY. His immediate audience, of course, is the hangman and a British officer. It's very convenient that since being eaten by the large American History book he can see the future and use the future to tell super-entertaining stories. Readers first meet the Reed family led by James Reed. Other families will be introduced as they journey west and join (and quit) wagon trains. The dangers are MANY. Some dangers are unpredictable and almost unavoidable. Other dangers they walk straight into confidently, sweeping away warnings. Usually if not always, always, it's the MEN making the decisions and the women and children who can do nothing but except the judgement of husbands and fathers. The story is FASCINATING AND HORRIBLE at the same time.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. It is quite a compelling, absorbing read. You wouldn't think there would be a lot of characterization in a graphic novel, but, surprisingly there is. I had read very little if anything about the Donner Party, and, so I found it really interesting. I knew it was a grim story, but, I had not realized there were survivors too. So it wasn't quite as depressing as I first imagined it to be.

I definitely recommend this series of graphic novels. Even if you don't necessarily love reading graphic novels. The focus on history has me hooked. And I've become quite fond of Nathan Hale and his two would-be executioners.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. It’s Tuesday! Write. Share. Give.

Welcome to Slice of Life Tuesday! Write a slice of life. Share your link. Give at least 3 comments on other posts!   Stacey Shubitz, TWT’s Chief of Operations and Lead Writer, recently… Continue reading

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22. This week on Now and Then

So I thought I would share what I've posted on my new-ish blog, Now and Then. I hope you'll visit and leave a comment or two.

First, on Sunday I shared two posts. The first was looking at Country Pride songs, now and then. The two songs were "Song of the South" by Alabama and "Chicken Fried" by Zac Brown Band.  Preparing for that post, I learned there were FOUR different versions of Song of the South. The song started out its life--in 1980--as a slow, soulful ballad. It haunts, trust me. But by the time Alabama recorded it in 1988, it was a happy-clappy, peppy, rallying song to get a crowd going. I ask you to decide Who Sang It Best?!

 On Monday, I turned to gymnastics. I shared Mary Lou Retton's uneven bar performance from 1984 U.S. Nationals...and also Madison Kocian's Uneven Bars from just a few weeks ago. Uneven Bars is one of the events you can CLEARLY see just how different the sport has become.

On Wednesday, I went for fashion. I shared "teen party" fashion from 1959 and 1988.

On Thursday, I created a playlist for Western Barbie. She came out in 1981, I believe. Perhaps 1980. But around there. The assumption being, that "Western Barbie" was a *real* person listening to and loving music. I also shared Western Barbie's commercial.

On Friday, I shared a GUESS WHO game with Country Music is.... I shared thirty lines from thirty different country songs. Read together, I think, you get a great glimpse of what country music is all about.

And today, I shared a picture of a DOLL you won't really see being marketed today. The "selling feature" of this one from 1964, is I CRY REAL TEARS WHEN YOU SPANK ME. And the doll's bottom, reads the word HERE.

This week's posts, show a bit more variety than last week's posts.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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23. What's On Your Nightstand (July)


The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.

Currently reading:

Johnny Cash: The Life. Robert Hilburn. 2014. Little, Brown. 688 pages. [Source: Library]

Why the sudden interest in Johnny Cash? I have no idea really except perhaps my discovery of "Music on Murder Row," and the question what IS country music? I am finding this a very interesting read.


Testament of Youth. Vera Brittain. 1933/2015. Penguin. 672 pages. [Source: Library]

I've been wanting to read this since watching the movie. It's good, but, the chapters are LONG. 

Golf Without Tears: Stories of Golfers and Lovers. P.G. Wodehouse. 1999. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

I am reading this for the VT Reading Challenge (aka Challies) for the "sports" category. For the record, I don't like golf....but I do love Wodehouse. So it is working for me.

Man in White. Johnny Cash. 1986/2006. WestBow. 194 pages. [Source: Library]

I haven't gotten very far in this one. But it's a fiction novel about the Apostle Paul...and I'm interested in reading it in the weeks ahead.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. The Journey That Saved Curious George

The Journey That Saved Curious George. Louise Borden. 2016. HMH. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: For many years, I was intrigued by the story of Margret and H.A. Rey's flight from Paris on bicycles in June 1940.

Premise/plot: This children's nonfiction book is just right for elementary readers. It begins by providing background and context for young readers. Hans Augusto Reyersbach and Margarete Waldstein grew up in Germany. Both were Jewish. At some point in the 1920s, he moves to Rio de Janeiro. She follows a little while after. They meet again there, and fall in love. Paris is one of the stops on their honeymoon--they are Brazilian citizens now--and Paris is where they decide to remain. They work many happy years together in Paris. But their work--and their lives--are threatened when World War II goes from being something you read about in the papers--to something happening a few miles outside the city limits.

As Jews, they are at great risk if they remain in Paris and Paris is captured by the Nazis. But. For better or worse. They waited a little too long to leave the city...in an easy way. The last rush sees them desperate to find two bicycles. I believe the book says he had to build the bicycles himself from parts. But it isn't just a story about saving the authors' lives, it's a book celebrating the manuscript that would become Curious George. That was one of the possessions that they took with them--on their bikes. Of course what you may not know is that "George" wasn't George just yet. The monkey was originally called Fifi. And publishers had already agreed to publish the book before they made their flight...

The book focuses on H.A. and Margret Rey, their work as writers, and how the war effected their lives.

My thoughts: This is a very enjoyable read. I loved how the author was able to reconstruct their lives and give readers a behind-the-scenes look into the writing and illustrating of books. The book felt personal, but, always appropriate.

I would definitely recommend this one.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. The Diamond Mystery

Diamond Mystery (The Whodunit Detective Agency #1). Martin Widmark. Illustrated by Helena Willis. 2002/2014. 80 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The streets were empty in the little town of Pleasant Valley.

Premise/plot: Jerry and Maya are classmates and friends who have opened a detective agency out of Maya's basement. They live in the small, quaint town of Pleasant Valley. The book opens with Mohammed Caret hiring these two child detectives to find out who is stealing diamonds from his shop. Their cover will be that he has hired these two children to do some light cleaning and run a few errands for him. They meet the three employees that work for him. And after a day of close observation, they are ready to solve the case.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. It's an early chapter book. I'd say just about right for second graders. It's the first in a mystery series for children. It has been translated into English from the Swedish.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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