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26. Caillou: Storybook Treasury: Ten Bestselling Stories | Book Review

Caillou, everyone's favorite preschooler, is back in this delightful collection of ten best-loved stories.

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27. My Thoughts on Downton Abbey, season 1

Downton Abbey, season 1
7 episodes

Upstairs
Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham = Hugh Bonneville
Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham = Elizabeth McGovern
Lady Mary Crawley = Michelle Dockery
Lady Edith Crawley = Laura Carmichael
Lady Sybil Crawley = Jessica Brown Findlay
Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham = Maggie Smith

Downstairs
Mr. (Charles) Carson = Jim Carter
Mrs. Hughes = Phyllis Logan
Mr. (John) Bates = Brendan Coyle
Anna = Joanne Froggatt
Gwen = Rose Leslie
Thomas Barrow = Rob James-Collier
Miss (Sarah) O'Brien = Siobhan Finneran
Mrs. Patmore = Lesley Nicol
Daisy = Sophie McShera
William Mason = Thomas Howes
Tom Branson = Allen Leech

Other Households
Isobel Crawley = Penelope Wilton
Matthew Crawley = Dan Stevens
Josephy Molesley = Kevin Doyle
Mrs. Bird = Christine Lohr

So, in the spring I was quite happy with the final season of Downton Abbey. I have never rewatched this series, so I thought this summer might be a good time. (Especially now that I've rewatched all of Call the Midwife, and there is a void in shows to binge-watch).

So, this is a rewatch. I am assuming that most people who have any interest in this one, have already seen this season, at least once. I will not purposefully come out and spoil things unnecessarily. But. I will talk freely about this season.

Equal time is spent between the upstairs and the downstairs.

People I loved downstairs = Mr. Bates, Anna, Mrs. Hughes, Mr. Carson. Now by the end of the sixth season, I can easily say that I've come to love more characters.

People I liked downstairs = William, Tom, Gwen, Daisy, Miss Patmore.

People I really DISLIKE downstairs = O'Brien and Thomas. I really LOATHE both characters. Now, O'Brien never, ever, ever redeems herself in my opinion. Thomas, on the other hand, as the series progresses, there are moments where I actually don't hate him.

People I loved upstairs: Dowager Countess and Sybil. I love the Dowager Countess!!!! Of the three sisters, Sybil is the one you'd actually want to know in real life and be friends with.

People I liked upstairs: Lady Cora, Robert Crawley, Lady Edith. Of those three, Lady Edith may be the most controversial for 'liking.' I do like Edith, however. I think Lady Mary has spent years and years and years tormenting her, without her parents ever correcting Lady Mary's behavior. I think she has dealt with a lot, not just from Mary, but from her own parents. There is a conversation in which it is revealed that neither parent thinks that anyone will ever, ever, ever want to marry Edith. Both parents assume that Edith with be the one daughter whom no one marries because no one wants, she will be the one to 'nurse' them in their old age, and, then they joke about how awful that will be to still have her around. I just CRINGED. Still, I think Robert and Cora have their redeemable moments.

People I really DISLIKE upstairs: Lady Mary. Mr. Carson may be the only person in the entire world that Mary is ever kind and respectful to. In every battle with Edith, Lady Mary seems to be the instigator. She also seems to be the one to keep adding fuel to the fire. Lady Mary is rude, hateful, spiteful, inconsiderate. Not just in private, when the two are alone, but in front of the entire family--why does her family think her rudeness is acceptable????--and as if that wasn't bad enough, in front of dinner guests as well. Lady Mary seems to exist to humiliate Lady Edith whenever, wherever possible. Now, that being said, Lady Edith, does not stand back and let Lady Mary say and do whatever without reacting and responding. I think Lady Edith was PROVOKED into doing what she did. I don't think it was inevitable. I think Mary's own actions--in more than one way--led to the gossip that 'ruined' her.

Other characters I loved: Matthew Crawley and his mother, Isobel. I honestly don't know why Matthew falls for Mary. I don't know what he sees in her, and continues to see in her, that keeps him coming around?! Mary's natural inclinations are to hurt and inflict pain at her whim. That being said, do I like Matthew in spite of his liking or loving Mary. Yes, for the most part. I do think Matthew is unnecessarily RUDE at times. For example, even though he's not interested--in that way--in Edith. He didn't have to rebuff her when she was making small talk. It wasn't as if she was saying, MATTHEW, I LOVE YOU TRULY, MADLY; FORGET ABOUT MARY, LET'S RUN AWAY THE TWO OF US, AND LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER. She was just trying to avoid an awkward situation and make the best of it. And he would have none of her small talk. Now, Edith is used to people treating her rudely, as if she is "less than." After all, her own flesh and blood treat her that way day in and day out. I think Matthew's standout moment comes when he rescues Lady Sybil, takes her to his own home, has his mother nurse her, sends for Mary, etc. When Mary seems Matthew as a HERO, that's when Mary decides that she likes Matthew after all. More than a "toy" an actual human being. Now that I think about, Lady Mary reminds me of Scarlett O'Hara.

Isobel. I really love to see her interact with the Dowager Countess. And also with Dr. Carson. She is a genuine person, and one you can't help loving.

Season 1 Highlights:
  • The family learns about the sinking of the Titanic, learns about the two next-in-line heirs being killed.
  • Lady Mary is upset not that her 'future husband' is killed but that she might lose what she's come to think of as her rightful inheritance.
  • Lady Mary invites someone to ride/hunt at Downton Abbey, and, then ignores the guest she invited to flirt with the guest her guest invited.
  • Lady Mary is NOT responsible for Mr. Kemal Pamuk coming into her bedroom--that would be Thomas who led him to her door and left him, knowing Mr. Pamuk's intentions--but she is at least partially responsible for not doing everything in her power to stop him. She was not exactly forced. She protested at first. Which makes me think that she's only partially responsible. He clearly was not a 'no' means 'no' guy. But she stopped protesting and became welcoming. To her credit, she never claims she was unwilling. Though she very well could have told her mother that he showed up in her room uninvited, and forced his attentions. Her mother might have been more sympathetic. 
  • Lady Mary's secret is voluntarily kept by Anna and her mother. It is held as ammunition by Thomas and O'Brien. Daisy also witnesses something of the aftermath.
  • The family accepts Matthew as the next heir, but, Mary is contrary and hates him except when she's flirting with him. But she only flirts with him a third of the time. The other times she leaves him confused and hurt.
  • Miss Patmore has a health crisis.
  • Daisy has an attack of conscience. And changes her mind about which footman is for her.
  • Thomas and O'Brien are set on destroying Bates. In many, many episodes, they plot and scheme. Carson seems to stay a step or two ahead of them.
  • Anna and Mr. Bates fall for each other, though, he likes to keep a little distance between them because his past is problematic.
  • Tom starts falling in love with Sybil....but she is so busy helping out Gwen that I don't think she's really noticed the swoon-worthiness of Tom just yet.
  • O'Brien reveals her evilness. And a family mourns as a result. 
  • The family learns that war has been declared.  (World War I)

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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28. I have proof! Dragons ARE Real!

Breaking News! Proof that Dragons are indeed REAL!

Maybe this news prompted you to drop your sandwich or even roll your eyes with disbelief….but I am here to tell you; Dragons are Real! How do I know? I have proof. In fact, I have MORE than proof! As a child I had a Dragon friend for two whole summers in Gotland, Sweden.

I shared this story with Rocco during an interview at the wonderful KitLit TV.


My newest book, Dragons are Real  tells this story in vibrant color and I am so honored that I was able to team up with reknown children’s book illustrator, .

Michael Welply was born in London, England ad raised in Winnipeg, Canada. He studied art in Winnipeg and Paris. He has illustrated over 80 books in Europe and in North America ranging from historical work to fantasy and fairy tales. He has two grown children, three grandchildren and currently lives in central France with his wife. It was Michael’s talent and vision that allowed us to accurately (and magically) capture what my brother and I experienced with our dragon friend for two summers.
Michael Welply

Dragons are real
SO basically what I am trying to tell everyone is that all of the fairy tales, myths and legends that have been told about dragons over the years are WRONG!

Dragons are not only Real, they are different than you’ve ever imagined.

Dragons are Real
This book isn’t for everyone. It’s only for those BRAVE enough to go looking for dragons in the most usual of places.

Once you find your nearest dragon you’ll need to know a few basic skills.

Are You:
 – Good at finding hidden things, like dragons in disguise ?
 –  Wanting a best friend who will take you for rides on their back ? OK we missed
      an important detail….riding on their backs while flying through the air ?
 – Good at telling jokes and riddles ?
 – Good at roasting hot dogs and marshmallows in a constant stream of fire. Don’t
     worry no fire protective gear needed.
 –  Willing to be a dance partner ?
 – Willing to listen and share poetry, especially rhymes ?
 – Are you clever enough to read a Dragon’s secret message? And then of course
     be able to send one back your local and friendly dragon ? Just a reminder that
     Dragon’s don’t text. They love to send secret messages.
If you’ve said a loud “YES” to even half of the above questions, chances are this book is just right for YOU!

As readers turn the pages and learn the truth about Dragons, they will see that the fiercest beasts in known history can actually be the best of friends. It’s a lesson in finding companionship in the most unusual of places. Dragons are Real is a magical book filled with stunning illustrations and hints that dragon are indeed all around us :)

Dragons are Real

Dragons are Real is now available for purchase on both Amazon and Gumroad. We are also offering a special free bonus gift of a Dragons Are Real Inspiration Activity Guide when you purchase your copy of this enchanting picture book.

I also received exceptionally exciting news a few weeks ago and keeping the news of this huge honor has been hard! Here is the email that popped into my inbox that had me doing the Happy Dance for weeks:

Hi Valarie,
 
I hope you are well. I’m following up to let you know that your review for “Dragons are Real” was selected by our Indie Editors to be featured in Kirkus Reviews 7/1 Issue. Congratulations! Your review will appear as one of about 35 reviews in  the Indie section of the 7/1 Kirkus Reviews magazine which is sent out to over 5,200 industry professionals (librarians, publishers, agents, etc.) Less than 10% of our Indie reviews are chosen for this, so it’s a great honor. The digital version of this issue will be available for me to send to you on July 5th, and the print version will be available in a week or so after that.
 
 
All the best & congratulations again,
 
Crystal Timbeross

Client Promotions & Advertising Associate 

KIRKUS REVIEWS |  KIRKUS MEDIA LLC
Dragons are Real
To everyone who helped make this book not only a huge success, but let the story of Dragons among us be told, THANK YOU!

The post I have proof! Dragons ARE Real! appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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29. Announcing a "new" blog: NOW AND THEN

This July, I've started a new blog projects of sorts called Now and Then: A consistently inconsistent blog 'celebrating' the past and present. I've got some quotes up from old favorites. But mainly this week I've focused on two things I love MUSIC and iceskating. 

This week's posts:

Posts that NEED you (yes, you) to vote on something:

Country "Mexico" Songs, Now and Then #1
Country "Drinking" Songs, Now and Then #1
Battle of the Georges (George Jones vs. George Strait) #1
Battle of the Georges (George Jones vs. George Strait) #2 

Which song do you like better? Blame It On Mexico or Mexicoma? Margaritaville or Red Solo Cup? The idea of these 'battle' posts is that I'll be sharing TWO songs, and you'll help decide which of the two is your favorite.

Figure skating posts:

Evgeni Plushenko, Now and Then #1
Russian Pairs skating, Now and Then #1 

I do hope you'll visit my other blog and leave a comment or two if you're so inclined!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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30. Dedications

How do you decide to whom you should dedicate your book?

https://emusdebuts.wordpress.com/2016/06/20/this-post-is-dedicated-to/

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31. 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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32. My Thoughts On Call the Midwife, Series 2

Call the Midwife, series 2
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
Sister Bernadette (aka Shelagh) = Laura Main
Dr. Patrick Turner = Stephen McGann
Timothy Turner = Max Macmillan
PC Peter Noakes = Ben Caplan
Fred Buckle = Cliff Parisi
Jane Sutton = Dorothy Atkinson
Alec Jesmond = Leo Staar
Patsy Mount = Emerald Fennell

I LOVE and ADORE this show so much. This second series is great fun. The whole reason I'm rewatching the show in the first place, is while I had no trouble at all checking out the first two discs of season five from the library, there was a longer hold for the third disc. So I decided, well, why not use this "waiting time" to rewatch series two through four!

What you should know--there is no going slowly with Call the Midwife. I have found this is one to binge-watch.

The Christmas Special. It is Jenny's first Christmas at Nonnatus House. The episode focuses on the community and upcoming Christmas preparations--specifically a nativity play. The pregnant mother in this one is a teenager keeping her pregnancy secret from everyone....

Episode 1. Is the show issue-driven or character-driven? I think the answer is a bit of both. Both stories in this episode have their tragic side. In one story, we've got a girl literally brought up captive on her father's cargo ship--she being brought up to "service" all the men on board, including dear old dad. Trixie and Sister Evangelina are called to respond to this emergency call. This is one of the stories from the Call the Midwife memoir. In the other story, we've got spousal abuse. A pregnant mother (she's pregnant with her second child) is being abused by a horrid husband, and, Jenny can do little about it....

Episode 2. More than two stories in this one! Several stories last multiple episodes. So the show is becoming more like a soap opera. Only an actually good one. Cynthia (I was almost tempted to call her SISTER) has a rough time in this episode. Jenny thinks she's falling in love with Jimmy...only to find out that one of her new patients knows Jimmy much TOO WELL. Chummy decides to fulfill her dream to be a missionary in Africa with Peter's full support.

Episode 3. Jenny takes some time off from midwifery, conveniently just in time to save Jimmy's life. Jane comes to Nonnatus House. I really, truly LOVE Jane even though she doesn't stick around for the whole series. I can relate to her completely. And the fact that in the memoir she gets a good, happy ending makes me very pleased indeed. This episode also briefly introduces us to Nurse Mount. I thought nothing of it the first time around, it was only in rewatching I was like HEY, I DIDN'T KNOW SHE SHOWED UP IN THIS SEASON. The pregnancy case in this episode is STRANGE.

Episode 4. This episode mainly focuses on JANE and introduces the character of Reverend Applebee-Thornton. I LOVE LOVE LOVE parts of this one. A baby with special needs is born, and, the mother has a hard time accepting that her baby is not perfect. Can Jenny help? And how much help is too much help? I really love the husband/father in this one.

Episode 5. This episode is PAINFUL. Not because it's bad, but, because it is so very INTENSE. A woman is DETERMINED to end her pregnancy no matter what. And Jenny knows the woman is upset, but, can't really interfere and fix anything. Trixie gets in and out of a predicament when she starts dating a celebrity of sorts. Also SISTER BERNADETTE starts to show she has FEELINGS for Dr. Turner...and viewers see that he returns them!

Episode 6. Oh this episode gets to me. We're introduced to a single, pregnant woman estranged from her father. The woman is trying to keep her pregnancy secret from everyone--but Jenny knows what she knows. The woman is nine months along, and there's no fooling Jenny! The dying father is played by an actor I failed to recognize before...a familiar face from LARK RISE to CANDLEFORD. (He's not the only familiar face from that show we'll end up seeing....) Dr. Turner is able to get an X-Ray programme to come to Poplar, and Sister Bernadette is tested to show a little girl how easy and safe it is. SISTER MONICA JOAN has a fit in this one, if I remember rightly. And it's Fred to the rescue!

Episode 7. Chummy and Peter return from Africa!!! And their family is about to grow! Sister Bernadette is in a sanatorium undergoing treatment. Her crisis isn't just physical, but, spiritual as well. There are several cases in this one...but my interest was all on Dr. Turner and Sister Bernadette.

Episode 8. Jimmy introduces Jenny to his friend, Alec. Chummy has her baby, and, it's OH-SO-DRAMATIC. Fred gets a lot of attention in this one. His pregnant daughter visits, and, when her pregnancy becomes a bit complicated, it is up to Fred to babysit his grandson. Fred also gives Chummy some much-needed cheering up. Sister Bernadette makes a life-changing decision, and, reveals her name: SHELAGH. I love, love, love, love how Dr. Turner and Shelagh meet one another. Swoon!!!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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33. 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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34. First Day of School Jitters? Try Splat the Cat

First Day of School Jitters? Try Splat the Cat | Storytime Standouts

Storytime Standouts reviews Splat the Cat by Rob ScottonSplat the Cat by Rob Scotton
Picture book about starting school published by Harper Collins Publishers

There’s no doubt about it, going to school for the very first time can be nerve-wracking. It is no wonder that Splat is wide awake bright and early.

When mom opens his bedroom door, his first instinct is to pull the covers over his head. When that doesn’t work, Splat tries all sorts of tactics to delay leaving for school. He can’t find socks and his hair is a mess. One thing he knows for sure, having a friend in his lunchbox is certain to help. Splat pops Seymour the Mouse into his lunchbox and sets out to meet his new teacher and classmates.Splat the Cat spread

Mrs. Wimpydimple and Splat’s new classmates are very welcoming and soon Splat is full of questions. He is especially curious to know why cats chase mice! (A definite opportunity to introduce the concept of foreshadowing) When it is finally lunchtime, Splat opens his lunchbox and his small rodent friend, Seymour is suddenly the centre of attention – and not in a good way. Splat’s new classmates do exactly what readers will predict – the chase is on!

Engaging, playful illustrations provide many details for young children to notice and enjoy. A mostly grey and black color palette is highlighted with vibrant yellow and red details that pop off the page. Those who are able to read will love the signs in the storefront windows and Mrs. Wimpydimple’s blackboard illustrations.


Harper Collins has some terrific Splat the Cat printables for children to enjoy.

Splat the Cat at Amazon.com

Splat the Cat at Amazon.ca



Storytime Standouts - Raising Children Who Love to Read

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35. Shake Up Your Writer's Group!


This month my writer's group is trying something new: art journaling together. It isn't the first time we've "changed the rules" and jumped into fresh territory, but adding artwork to our writing is a bit of a departure for us. 

To start things off, we agreed to each choose a special sketchbook or journal to work in. In keeping with many of my "how wrong can this go" attempts to get things right, I chose a sketchbook that came with impossible-to-remove stickers on both the front and back covers. After an hour of attempting to remove them, I ended up with a thousand little bits of paper still clinging on like limpets, as well as some deep gouges and tears in the cardboard. Solution? Start my art journal with some cover collage!



Lemonade out of lemons, right? 

Despite my somewhat rough start to the project, I think it's going well. We've had two art journal-based meetings so far; chosen themes for our journals (I've only changed mine twice); written down our intentions for our journaling practice, and started filling pages.

Regardless of whether we're working on journaling, short stories, or poetry, our group meets every two weeks, usually in a bookstore or museum cafe, and the one thing we've always done is have fun. The second objective that has kept our group strong and lively is that we concentrate on writing together rather than critiquing. It's made a difference to a) not have "homework assignments" between meetings; b) be able to support each other's creativity without playing editor, imposing our opinions where they don't really belong, and/or stifling a work at any stage of the draft-process. 

Writing together has had all sorts of benefits, new manuscripts being the least of them. More than anything we've learned to: 
  • Write on demand regardless of where we are, how we're feeling, or how lousy we think our work is at any given time. 
  • Be fearless. After we write, we read aloud. Although we've always provided the option to not read if something feels too personal or too raw for sharing, I've never known any one of us to use that option. 
  • Ink. In every color of the rainbow. We write by hand when we get together, and the results have never been anything less than impressive. (Hear that, writer's group? You are fantastic writers!!)
Some of the other ways we've kept the inspiration high has been to:
  1. Write flash fiction or poetry using word and picture prompts cut from magazines. Sometimes we'll all use the same picture, e.g., a strange setting, an evocative character, or an unusual object. At other times we'll combine them, or have a little package of our own (passed out during the meeting) containing two or three individual images. I never cease to be amazed at how different our stories are, or how publication-ready the writing is. 
  2. Go for timed writing. We give ourselves anywhere between thirty to forty-five minutes to write. Once the time is up, it's pens down. 
  3. Take field trips. We haven't had as many of these as I would like (note to group: take more trips!), but the trips we have taken have been unforgettable. I'm especially thinking of the time we all went up to Santa Fe and back by train. 
  4. Bring pot-luck brunch and meet at someone's house. Yum. 
  5. Treat ourselves to a restaurant lunch. No clean-up involved. We had pizza last time. Super yum. 
  6. Watch a how-to video together. Great for discussion (and eating. We combined the video with another pot-luck.). 
  7. White elephant parties. We got so good at this we've had to give them up, but essentially what we did was bring unwanted items from home, play a silly game to hand them around, and anything we didn't want was collected and taken to the thrift store the next day. Now that we're all beautifully de-cluttered, we've decided to keep our homes as junk-free as possible meaning the parties are over, but they were entertaining while they lasted.
I can't wait to see how our art journaling experiment works out. Although we are pretty much trying a free-form approach, we are also using this helpful list of 50 ideas I found at Blacksburg Belle for when we get stuck and need a small prompt (or a big shove). This motivational blog is loaded with lots of other excellent creative tips, so I highly recommend a visit. In the meantime, get out those glue sticks, write your hearts out, and keep the lemonade flowing.

Tip of the Day: Break out of the box. Even if you love your writer's group exactly the way it is, it never hurts to shake things up a bit. Meet somewhere new, read a book together, brainstorm some fresh possibilities. Drop a line a let me know how it's going.

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36. Singalong Saturdays (Drinking Songs)

Today's prompt: Favorite Drinking Songs

This meme is hosted by Bookish Things & More.

I thought I would connect this post in with my current George Strait Project. For those that haven't noticed, I am listening to George Strait's albums chronologically this July. I only have four albums left, which will either be one long post, or two smaller posts.

I thought I would choose one 'drinking song' from his first album, Strait Country (1981), and one 'drinking song' from his last album, Cold Beer Conversation (2015).

I could go with "Unwound" or "Blame It On Mexico." But I think I will go with the much lesser known gem of Friday Night Fever.




I have several options from Cold Beer Conversation: "Cold Beer Conversation," "Stop and Drink," "Wish You Well," or "Cheaper Than A Shrink." But I think I'll go with Goin' Goin' Gone.



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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37. 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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38. CBCA Shortlist: The Flywheel by Erin Gough. Ampersand Prize Winner


I bought this in ebook while listening to the author at Reading Matters last year, as well as a copy for the library. I never got past the first few pages, for no special reason. 

And today I read the lot, finishing a few minutes ago. It's one of those "just one more chapter" books. It was a Saturday and the book was on the CBCA shortlist, so... 

It has a lot of charm and humour. It reminds me, oddly, of one of Will Kostakis's novels, without the Greek family or the gay boy. This one is about being a gay girl and trying to run the family restaurant to give her Dad a chance to have a break and an overseas holiday after years of no holidays and a wife who left him for another man and moved from Sydney to Melbourne. But Del(short for Delilah)has troubles when the manager is deported over visa issues and she can't find another one.

 Like the vengeful barista she had to sack when he was lazy and stole money. Like the franchise cafe competing with hers. And then there's her friend Charlie who has moved in to hide from the police after he punched out the father of a young woman he had a crush on. And the beautiful flamenco dancer Rosa whom she watches performing at the tapas bar across the road every night from her window. And the bullying at school for being gay and having had a romance with a girl who is now denying it and telling everyone who will listen that Del had the wrong idea about her. 

Somehow, despite all the disasters, and a case of insta-love, the book is funny, the voice delightful. 

I'll be interested to see how the book will go over with our students. They don't seem to mind the gay boy books - Will Kostakis and David Levithan's books go over quite well in our library, though usually after a teacher recommendation. One of our boys is currently reading and enjoying The Sidekicks, but then, he's a Kostakis fan in general. It was so nice to be able to introduce them last year at Reading Matters when Will came over to say hi. 

I'm sure there are some girls out there not admitting to their sexuality, but I don't know. Even if they aren't around at my school, there's plenty for everyone. 

Interestingly, if Cloudwish was a love letter to Melbourne, this novel is a tribute to Sydney. I've been in Glebe, where it's set, in the YHA, probably the hostel mentioned in it. It's a fairly posh suburb near the sea. I haven't been to the library which the characters campaign to save, but you can check it out in Google Images. It has tourists wanting a bus to Bondi beach, Rose Bay, where two of my nieces live, Central Station and Redfern. You don't have to live there to be able to picture it. 

This novel won the Ampersand Prize given annually by Hardie Grant Egmont for a debut novel.

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39. Try! Try! Try!, by Lindsey Craig | Book Review

Try! Try! Try! is an entertaining board book that encourages young readers to try new things.

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40. Toads and Summer


Recently, I came across a delightful new book  -- The Toad by Elise Gravel.  I exclaimed to my coworker – “I love toads!  Toads are my childhood!”  This was met with much merriment.  But, it is true.  Tadpoles and toads were a big part of my life when I was growing up in Massapequa Park.  We lived near a storm basin, filled with water, and we would look for and easily find tadpoles and baby toads and grown-up toads.  At night, we would hear them sing.  It is one of my favorite sounds.  These days, I rarely see toads anymore.  Sadly, they are disappearing due to pollution and loss of habitat.  But when I am lucky enough to come across one or if I hear them sing, it always makes me happy.  It evokes wonderful memories of summers past.

Toad booklist (this is a very short list --- these are not all the books the library has on toads; for more titles, please ask one of the librarians.  Preferably one that has an appreciation for toads.  Probably not Miss Amy):
The book that inspired me -- The Toad by Elise Gravel (it is part of a series called Disgusting Critters but toads are NOT disgusting. At all).  It is filled with interesting information about these creatures and is very entertaining:



This beautiful book, Gem by Hollie Hobbie, is aptly titled:





Posted by Miss Sue Ann, certified toad lover.


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41. Picture Book Monday with a review of Little Robot

Graphic novels have been around for a long time, but English language titles in this genre that are suitable for younger readers are a more recent phenomenon. Thankfully First Second books and other publishers are now creating many wonderful graphic novels for children and young adults. There are books that are suited to readers who are just starting their reading journey, and there are also books for readers who are comfortable with complex and rich stories.

Today's picture book title is a mostly wordless graphic novel that young children will find captivating. In the story there are robots, a strong-willed, tool-wielding little girl, and plenty of action-filled adventure. What more can one ask for.


Little RobotLittle Robot
Ben Hatke
Graphic Novel
For ages 6 to 8
First Second, 2015, 978-1-62672-080-0
One day a little girl sneaks out of her trailer home and she sets off to explore. She sees the other kids going to school, she plays on the swing set in an old man’s yard, and then she goes to a place where lots of old cars are piled up. She finds an old set of tools in a belt, which she takes and slings across her shoulder. Then she sees a box floating in a stream. She pulls the box out of the water, opens it, and finds out that it contains a strange metal canister. When she presses a button on the top of the canister it starts to open up.
   The little girl runs away to hide in an old car and watches as the canister opens up some more and then turns into a robot; a not very coordinated robot that tips over on its back when it tries to walk. It lies there with its legs flailing until the little girl takes pity on it and helps it get back on its feet. When the robot tries to walk again it falls flat on its face. Clearly the little machine needs help figuring out how to walk, and the little girl is the one who gives it that help. She also teaches the robot that a cat is not something to be afraid of, and that flowers are alive.
   What the robot and the little girl don’t know is that a machine in the factory knows that one of the robots is missing and a large and rather terrifying retrieval robot has been sent to find it.
   The next day the little girl and her new friend explore together again. The robot turns out to be very good at skipping stones and the two of them have a wonderful time.
   On the third day the little girl and the little robot have a falling out when the little robot seems to prefer hanging out with a broken down car than with her. The girl walks away in a huff. Luckily for the little robot the little girl sees something that makes her think that perhaps something is amiss. She runs back to her mechanical friend just in time to rescue him from being captured by the enormous retrieval robot. They manage to get away from the terrible machine, but their troubles are far from over. The machine is not going to give up without a fight.
   This delightful mostly wordless graphic novel tells the story of a special friendship We meet a courageous little girl whose skills with a wrench and screwdriver helps her to do something special. She is the quintessential heroine, and when they get to the end of the story readers will most certainly be left with a warm, fuzzy feeling in their hearts.

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42. Win Autographed Copies of Rocket-Bye and Can a Princess Be a Firefighter?

Enter to win autographed copies of Rocket-Bye and Can a Princess Be a Firefighter?, written by award-winning author Carole P. Roman and illustrated by Mateya Arkova. Giveaway begins July 23, 2016, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends August 23, 2016, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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43. Library Loot: July

So where have I been? Despite my lack of 'library loot' posts, I've actually been averaging about three to four trips to the library per week. There is the difficulty. If you know you're going to the library "tomorrow," it's hard to get down to writing a library loot post "today." But since it's been almost a month since my last post...here I go:

New Loot:
  • Camille by Alexandre Dumas, fils
  • Fudge-a-mania by Judy Blume
  • Double Fudge by Judy Blume
  • Golf Without Tears by P.G. Wodehouse
  • My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
  • Waylon: One Awesome Thing by Sara Pennypacker
  • Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  • Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
  • Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn
  • Man in White by Johnny Cash
  • Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin
  • Another Day as Emily by Eileen Spinelli
  • The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham
  •  Fork-Tongue Charmers by Paul Durham
  • All-Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
Leftover Loot:
  • Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
  • A Royal Experiment by Janice Hadlow
  • Are You Experienced by Jordan Sonnenblick

  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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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44. OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS by Krystal Sutherland \\ A Book With A Kick Of Realism

Review by Jackie... OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS By Krystal Sutherland Hardcover: 256 pages Publisher: G.P. Putnam (September 6, 2016) Language: English Goodreads | Amazon John Green meets Rainbow Rowell in this irresistible story of first love, broken hearts, and the golden seams that put them back together again. Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but

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45. Why Queries Are Rejected

Agent Janet Reid shares the reasons she rejected some queries.

http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2016/06/reasons-i-said-no-to-25-queries-and-how.html

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46. Getting Rejected Can Help Your Writing

Why you should aim for a hundred or more rejections a year.

http://lithub.com/why-you-should-aim-for-100-rejections-a-year/

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47. Historical Nonfiction Children’s Books I’d Like to See (Based Entirely on Drunk History Episodes)

Recently I did a post where I mentioned several wonderful Hark, A Vagrant webcomics featuring historical figures that I’d love to see turned into picture book biographies.  Well, in a similar vein, I’m a big fan of the Drunk History series on Comedy Central too.  It’ll be returning soon for a fourth season and has a lovely way of highlighting stories that I think would adapt brilliantly into the children’s nonfiction book format.  The real stories, that is.  Not the drunk tellers.  That would be weird.

Now because this is a post where comedians get drunk and try to tell historical moments in history, I think it’s pretty safe to say that a goodly chunk of the videos embedded here are Not Safe for Work.

A quick note too that this is mostly male, just as the Hark, A Vagrant piece contained mostly women.  Kate Beaton’s better at awesome women than Drunk History.  Sad but true.

And none of these video clips are complete by the way.  They’re just little snippets of the full stories.

First up!

Jim Thorpe is named the greatest athlete of the 20th century

The Joseph Bruchac picture book biography Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path and his fiction work Jim Thorpe: Original All-American are pretty much the gold standard on all things children’s-books-about-Jim-Thorpe. Still, considering how amazing the guy was, I bet we could get a lot more books about him out there (though I’d be amiss in not also mentioning Don Brown’s Bright Path: Young Jim Thorpe).  You could even do what Drunk History does here and just highlight one amazing moment in his life.  This clip doesn’t get to it, but when his shoes get stolen and he competes with a pair he finds in the trash . . . I mean, that’s amazing.

Japanese-American Daniel Inouye fights in World War II

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – We do NOT have enough picture book bios of badass Asian-American heroes.  In the Hark, A Vagrant post I made a case for Katherine Sui Fun Cheung.  Well considering Daniel Inouye’s life and contributions it is doggone weird that he has so little in the children’s biography realm.

Sybil Ludington takes her midnight ride

Sadly this clip doesn’t really get to the thick of her contributions in the Revolutionary War, but it’s a good start.  Very few 16-year-old female war heroes out there.  To be fair, this very year (2016) Feiwel and Friends published E.F. Abbot’s fictionalized accounting in Sybil Ludington: Revolutionary War Rider.  But a little nonfiction wouldn’t hurt too.

Muhammad Ali refuses to fight in the Vietnam War.

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 11.33.43 PM

One of my favorites.  I know we’ve a fair number of Ali bios for kids.  But, again, what about highlighting this moment in his life? It makes for a fascinating story in and of itself (and lord knows we have too few pacifist bios out there on beyond Gandhi).

Despite having only one hand, Jim Abbott proves to be a great baseball players.

Again, I wish we had the full clip here for you to watch.  Abbott’s story is amazing in and of itself.  The Cuba part is nice but let’s just get into the fact that he could pitch one-handed.  How about that, eh?

Thanks for checking them out!  And with the fourth seasons of the show at hand (including one told by Lin-Manuel Miranda) more ideas are bound to come up.

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48. Paris in July Playlist

Maurice Jarre
I have definitely enjoyed participating in the Paris in July blog event. Today, I thought I would share my top three French composers.

3. Maurice Jarre (1924-2009) was a composer who did a LOT of movie scores. Most likely, you are familiar with his scores for Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Witness, Dead Poets Society, and Ghost. Also he did Passage to India, Is Paris Burning?, The Man Who Would Be King, Jesus of Nazareth, and A Walk in the Clouds.

His biggest hit, of course, was "Lara's Theme."

2. Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) is a popular choice for figure skaters. I'll be honest. That's how I came to know his music.

I'm sharing with you today:
Danse Macabre
Carnival of Animals
From the Carnival, but for the impatient sort, The Swan
Samson and Delilah, and, for the impatient sort, Bacchanale
Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso
Piano Concerto No 2 in G minor

1.  Georges Bizet (1838-1875) is definitely my FAVORITE, FAVORITE French composer. He is perhaps best known for Carmen, the opera. And I do love that. Though I prefer instrumental versions for easy-listening. But I really ADORE L'Arlésienne.

I'm curious if anyone will see the connection between these pieces of music and a certain children's television program. Bizet must be a big favorite of the LITTLE EINSTEIN folks.


Carmen Suite #1 and #2 Playlist



L'Arlésienne Suite No. 1 & Suite No. 2



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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49. Eden West Book Review

Title: Eden West  Author: Pete Hautman Publisher: Candlewick Publication Date: April 14, 2015 ISBN-13: 978-0763674182  320 pp. ARC provided by publisher This is a book that could be confused for dystopia at first glance. Jacob lives in the community of Nodd, home to the people known as the Grace. Their prophet, who has a penchant for young wives, says that the Grace will be spared when

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50. Waiting for Augusta by Jessica Lawson: Book Review

Book received at no charge in exchange review.

It's been a month since Benjamin Putter's father passed away. It's hard for an eleven-year-old to describe what it feels like to lose a loved one but Benjamin is convinced the lump he feels in his throat is a golf ball caused by his loss. If that isn't enough, he hears his father's voice coming from his urn imploring him to scatter his ashes on the 18th hole of the famous Augusta National golf course. He has no idea how he's going to get there but he knows he must.

As he begins his journey, Benjamin meets up with a spunky girl named Noni who is determined to travel with him. Together they face obstacles that seem insurmountable. They also face the ugly inner demons of lingering racism and have to come to terms with what they see and hear as opposed to how they feel.

Strong writing and plot pacing make for a poignant and heart warming story. However, young readers may be turned off by the heart breaking subject matter. While it's written for middle grade, it may be too deep and unsettling for the younger end age group.


Rating ★★★★☆

Publishing Information:

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers (May 10, 2016)
Pages: 336 hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-1481448390
Ages: 8-12

This book can be purchase from the following retailer:






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