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1. A Wetlands Story Time in Pictures

Instead of a launch party for Over in the Wetlands, I lead story time at the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library‘s Cherry Hills branch. Think stories, games, coloring pages, and gator cookies.

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Reading Wetlands by Cathryn Sill.

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Explaining the three things we needed to “make” a hurricane: wind, waves, and rain. Look at that handsome boy of mine on the right!

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And the other handsome one! (Incidentally, this is what happens when the Rose boys take over the camera).

 

The post A Wetlands Story Time in Pictures appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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2. A Curious Tale of the In-Between, by Lauren DeStefano

Pram has never truly been told the tale of her beginnings.  A beginning that started with her still inside her mother, even as she hung from the branch of the tree. Pram was orphaned right from the start, but was taken in by her two no-nonsense aunts. Pram is even short for Pragmatic -- named such because it was deemed sensible for a young lady, and sensible is just what the aunts wanted for Pram.

But Pram has always been the opposite of sensible.  She’s dreamy, and her oldest and best friend is a ghost named Felix who appeared one day in the pond by the home for the aged where she lives with her aunts.

Pram is forced by the state to actually attend school at the age of eleven and this is where Pram meets her first real life friend. She gets into an argument with Clarence before school even starts when he informs her that she is sitting in his desk. By lunch time they have discovered that both of their mothers are dead and with this the seeds of their friendship are planted.

As time goes on, Pram doesn’t tell Clarence that she can speak with ghosts, but she does agree to accompany him to a spiritualist show where he hopes his mother’s spirit will reveal herself. Things don’t go as Clarence hoped and instead the spiritualist is very interested in Pram. What Pram and Clarence cannot know is that the spiritualist is anything but a charlatan, and a girl like Pram is very valuable to her.

What follows is a haunting and frightening ghost story that straddles the world of the living and the dead. Lyrical and tender, DeStefano’s story will scare readers without tipping into horror. This is an achingly beautiful story of love and loss, of friendship and family. A Curious Tale of the In-Between is for the deep reader, and I can see it becoming that touchstone title that ferries readers into more complex and intricate stories.

Gorgeous.

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3. As promised

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Rilla’s pocket handiwork.

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4. Mom School (2015)

Mom School. Rebecca Van Slyke. Illustrated by Priscilla Burris. 2015. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: When I go to school, I learn how to cut and glue paper, count to 100, and sing silly songs. My mom says she went to school, too. I think she went to Mom School.

Premise/plot: A little girl is convinced that her Mom went to Mom School to learn how to be the BEST BEST mom in the whole world. She imagines all the things her Mom might have learned at Mom School. Things such as:
  • learning how to go grocery shopping without losing any kids
  • learning how to pitch a ball slowly so a kid can actually hit it
  • learning how to go on scary rides
  • learning how to talk on the phone and do hair at the same time
  • learning how to cook and listen to silly made-up songs at the same time
  • learning how to make forts out of couch cushions
And that's just a small sampling of one little girl's imagination.

My thoughts: This one was super-sweet and adorable. Predictably so, yes. But it's irresistibly charming in some ways. If you're looking for a sweet mom-and-daughter read that celebrates family life. I really love the little girl's pigtails. I do.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. New Winter Book

We have just completed the final edits on our new winter story told in verse.  We are now beginning the illustration process.  We are so excited about this next story and can’t wait to hear your feedback.  Here’s a few hints about what our next story will be about.  Aren’t they just beautiful?  What other animal reminds you of winter?

Red Fox 3

 

 

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) on snow at sunset, Kamchatka, Russia

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) on snow at sunset, Kamchatka, Russia


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6. Discombobulated

the correct way to read a book about a fly

I gained a whole week today. It feels luxurious: what to do with this newfound space of time? It’s like finding a $20 bill in the pocket of your winter coat. Of course, just as with found money, immediately upon the heels of the jubilant discovery rush the responsible thoughts: you could put the money toward bills, or into a child’s college fund. I should (must) work toward some impending deadlines; I should tackle the Extreme Purging project I keep saying I’m going to undertake.

After all, it’s not like I really gained a week. It was here on the calendar all along; it was factored into commitments I have made. I didn’t lose it for long, only misplaced it for a day or two. The culprit was Comic-Con brain, I’m sure. SDCC came earlier in July than it usually does. Somehow, after I emerged from the exhausted post-con daze, I jumped ahead a week mentally. Rose is in Colorado visiting my parents. I knew she was coming home the 24th, but until this morning, I thought that was today. We have family coming to visit at the end of the month. Until this morning, I thought next week was the end of the month. The time in between is filled up with assignments: in a way, I’ve only located the lost $20 I had already spent.

Still, I feel dazzled and charmed: some tasks I’d thought would be frantic may now unfold at a reasonable pace. And how much more might I read, write, draw this month than I had been supposing?

My friend Edith Fine (a wonderful writer) told me once that when she used to teach school, she would always begin a new month by having the kids take note of what day of the week the sevens fell on. Since, you know, the multiples of seven are going to be on the same day each week. I caught the habit from her—it’s quite useful! I think July is the first month I’ve forgotten to notice, ever since Edith shared the trick with me. The sevens fall on Tuesdays, this month. In August, they’re the Fridays.

Next Tuesday is the 21st, not the 28th, in case you were wondering.

***

There’s something I need to get a picture of—the story begs a visual—but the shirt in question has already gone into the laundry. I’ll share a photo later. The other day, I remarked on Twitter that Rilla has decided to be a fashion designer when she grows up—a designer, that is, of clothing with lots of pockets. A perpetual grumble around here is the dearth of girls’ clothes with useful pockets. This, Rilla has announced, is a wrong that must be righted. I applaud her vision.

Yesterday I had a doctor’s appointment. (Which I knew was on the 16th. HOW did I think today was the 24th??) When I returned home, Huck greeted me at the door, beaming proudly, urging me to take notice of his new pocket. Picture a worn gray t-shirt. Way up high near the shoulder, a teeny tiny pocket of some scrap fabric rummaged out of a storage bin, attached with embroidery floss in large, determined stitches. There’s just about room to keep a quarter in it. It is the dearest thing I have ever seen. No moss grows on Miss Rilla, for sure. When she announces a business plan, she means BUSINESS. I’m sure she knows what day it is.

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7. Book Review: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Title:  The Art of Being Normal
Author:  Lisa Williamson
Series:   N/A
Published:    1 January 2015 by David Fickling
Length:  368 pages
Source: library
Other info: This was Lisa’s debut
Summary :  Two boys. Two secrets.
David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.
On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.
When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…


Review: David, seen by everyone as a boy, really a girl, is continually teased and misunderstood by everyone bar his best friends, from parents to bullies. Leo is the new guy, with rumours about why he left his old school running around, and he just wants to be invisible. They  become friends after  Leo sticks up for David, and they
I enjoyed watching the friendship between David and Leo, the ups and downs and the things they tell eachother. Both narrations are well fleshed out, and so are most of the side characters.  My favourites were probably Alicia, Essie, and Felix, who are all great in their own way and who I want to befriends with.
I enjoyed the represntation of trans people here. I loved the fact that we see a trans character who has already undergone some of the transition process, and that being trans is not the only facet of their being, they have siblings, families, friends, and romantic issues to navigate too. I also liked the way we saw how gender expectations also influenced the trans characters’ perceptions of themselves, such as David’s despair at his growth spurt, defying his hopes to be small and feminine, because of the expectations society sets for women.
I  really appreciated the look at life as a queer child in a modern, less tolerant environment. I’m really lucky to live in a very tolerant school where our trans community, as far as I know, are treated with respect by both staff and students, and there’s no physical bullying. I know nationwide  figures for bullying, but like with many things, it all becomes more real, more important, if you’re reading a more fleshed out story, be it fact or fiction, than just looking at statistics.
I found  it weird that Leo continues to call David David and he when he’s learn David’s chosen name. I don’t know if that’s internalised cisnormativity or something. I just noticed and wondered why he of all people would continue  with that. It changes by the end though. Eh, I don’t know.
I really liked the look at  complex family relationships. Leo’s quest to find his father. David’s continual hiding and eventual coming out. The support given and not given to each child. It varies, and feeds into each character.
Emotions were had when reading this. Sadness for the environment that allows the continued bullying. Sadness and happiness when Leo and Alicia get together. Happiness and pride for David when coming out. Pure happiness at the Christmas ball they put up and how happy David.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to an eyeopening story about friendship, family, and  being transgender today.


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8. Sarah, Plain and Tall

Sarah, Plain and Tall. Patricia MacLachlan. 1985. Houghton Mifflin. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

I've read Sarah, Plain and Tall several times, but, I can't find proof that I've blogged about it. So. Sarah, Plain and Tall won the Newbery in 1986. It is historical fiction for the youngest of readers.

Anna is the heroine of Sarah, Plain and Tall. Through her we meet Caleb, her brother; her father; and Sarah, the woman who may become her step-mother if all goes well. The children want this very much, a new mother.

Sarah comes to visit the family for one month. Will she come to love them? Will they come to love her? Will they belong together? Is this meant to be? Or will Sarah miss her old home and her old life too much to stay?

This is a sweet novel full of innocent longing. I loved all of the characters. There is something so simple and pure about it. Definitely recommended.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Mischief and Malice by Berthe Amoss

It's 1941 and in New Orleans, Addie Agnew, 14, is a girl with a vivid imagination and some big growing pains.  Addie had been living with her Aunt Eveline in a house that she loved and that contained all her memories.  But when Aunt Eveline passed away, Addie was forced to move next door and live with her Aunt Toosie, Uncle Henry and her cousin/rival Sandra Lee.  But luckily for Addie, her strong Catholic faith and the communion of saints allows her to keep a running conversation with Aunt Eveline, who was and still is her moral compass.

Addie has always been best friends with Tom, a next door neighbor, but when his father Louis suddenly shows up, she falls head over heels in love with the older man, despite the fact that he had deserted Tom and his mother ten years ago.  And after Louise asks Addie to go to the train to pick up Tom, she is sure he feels the same way about her.  Tom, however, refuses to speak to his father and friction flares between him and Addie over it.

Meanwhile, a family has rented out the house that Addie lived in with Aunt Eveline.  Addie discovers their real home is a plantation called Oakwood, just north of New Orleans, so they are not planning on remaining in the house for long.  And they have a daughter, Norma Jean Valerie, who is rather thin and sickly.  She's Addie's age, and soon the two girls are friends.

Addie's life revolves around her family, her friends, her school, an upcoming dance that she doesn't want to go to and a Christmas play she is helping the nuns at her Catholic school put together, and of course, boys, crushes, and being in love with an older man and with always trying to best Sandra Lee and never succeeding.  It all sounds like pretty normal stuff, until Addie overhears a strange conversation between Louis and Mrs. Valerie.  Realizing they are up to something, their conversation leads her to do some investigating on her own, and pretty soon she has a real mystery on her hands to try and solve.  And, it turns out, the mystery involves her directly and the house she loves so dearly.  How could she possible have any connection to Louis and Mrs. Valerie's connivances?  She never met the Valeries before and Louis has been gone since she was four years old, much too young to get involved with anyone's schemes. Or is it?

And to top all that, the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and the US enters World War II.

Mischief and Malice is a sequel to a book called Secret Lives, written 30 years ago.  I hadn't read Secret Lives, so when I first started reading Mischief and Malice I was a little lost among all the names and Addie's relatives and their back story, but it didn't take long to catch on.  I think that is because it is written in the voice of a very chatty, lively 14 year old with lots of thoughts that are really explanations for the benefit of the reader.

Addie Agnew is the first person narrator and her thoughts and observations contain a certain honesty not often found in many coming-of-age characters but very well defined here.  Her confusions, her crushes, and conscience all make up a nice well rounded character.  Addie is a typical teenaged Catholic girl and her religion is a real part of her life.  She reminded me so much of some of my friends at that age who were Catholic.  

I did love the competition between Addie and her cousin Sandra Lee.  That reminded me of my sister and me when we were growing up.  But I also loved how they could pull together when the situation called for a united front.

The mystery isn't really a big deal and comes towards the end of the novel, but Mischief and Malice is a wonderful work of historical fiction giving us a window into life just before the US entered the war.  War was certainly on people's minds, in reality and in this story, but took a backseat to everyday life before Pearl Harbor.

I had a lot of fun reading Mischief and Malice and kudos to Berthe Amoss for taking up Addie's story again.  Will there be a third Addie story?  I hope so.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Ig Publishing

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10. The Great Good Summer (2015)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. Of Books and Travels and Gator Cookies

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I hope you’ve had a lovely June. As you’re reading this, I’ll be on a cruise ship, floating around Alaska, celebrating my twentieth anniversary (today!) and soaking up the scenery while reading this book. I imagine my children, who are with my parents, are eating entirely too much ice cream and spending loads of time at the pool.

This is another month of busyness around here — there’s a quick jaunt to Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon, and Phoenix (we won’t melt…there will be a lazy river involved). I’m still hard at work on first-round edits of my Klondike Gold Rush book (hence the novel I took on the cruise). And my first picture book launches mid month, the same day as another little book you might have heard of.

Those of you who live in Albuquerque, I hope you might consider joining me for one of two Over in the Wetlands events! There will be games, coloring pages, gator cookies, and reading, of course. On July 30 I’ll be at Cherry Hills Library (6901 Barstow St NE, Albuquerque, NM 87111) for the 10:30 story time. Page One Books will provide copies to purchase, and the library will have copies available for check out.

On August 22 at 10:30, I’ll do it all again, this time at Bookworks (4022 Rio Grande Boulevard Northwest, Albuquerque, NM 87107). Same stories, same coloring pages. If there are gator cookies left over, I’ll be sure to stick them in my freezer and bring them by!

Finally, in celebration of Over in the Wetlands and as a thank you to my readers, I’ll be giving three personalized, signed copies of the book away through my newsletter toward the end of the month. This is a 3-4 time a year publication delivered directly to your inbox, where you can get the inside scoop on new books, what I’m reading, and a few other details I don’t include on the blog. I’d love if you’d consider signing up. Simply click through to do so.

Let’s get back to this regular blogging thing…

 

The post Of Books and Travels and Gator Cookies appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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12. Katie Friedman Gives Up Texting (And Lives to Tell About It)

The first time I saw this title, I have to say I laughed out loud.  I lifted my gaze from the catalog, and surveyed the library to see most middle schoolers faces glued to their phones.  Needless to say, the title struck me even before I got my hands on the book.  While it was on my desk, it drummed up lots of interest from the kids and the adults alike.

Katie Friedman is an expert multitasker.  She's the kind of tech user who would have ALL THE TABS open.  As we begin she is texting her friend Hannah, posting a pic of her dog, receiving some texts from Becca, and sending texts to bff Charlie Joe Jackson. This is all before breakfast.  During breakfast she gets some texts from Nareem, Eliza, Hannah,  and Becca.  Then on the bus ride to school Katie is texting with Charlie Joe, and her mom.  Whew!  Exhausted yet?

The thing is, it's pretty easy to send a text to the wrong person.  Especially if you are texting multiple people at the same time.  Lots of times, it's kind of funny to send the wrong text to the wrong person. But sometimes it's really not.  Especially when you're texting about something personal.  Something like not liking your boyfriend so much anymore...and sending it to your boyfriend.

Hitting send changes everything for Katie.  Not only has she gone and really hurt Nareem's feelings, but she begins to realized how far into their phones her friends are.  She thinks about the fact that it just seems easier to text people instead of actually talk to them.

Inspired by her musical heroine, Jane Plantero, Katie sets out on a quest.  A quest to live without her phone for a while.  And Jane says if Katie can convince 10 of her friends to give up their phones for a week, she will come and play a show for them.  The twist is that Katie is not allowed to dangle to carrot of the concert.

How hard will it be to convince a bunch of middle schoolers to give up their phones?

Tommy Greenwald has tackled the topic of kids and phones without making it seem like a "topic".   Gweenwald nails the voice as usual, and if I didn't know better, I'd say he was a teacher.  Charlie Joe pops up throughout the book to lend his sarcastic wit with segments like, "Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Why Texting Is Awesome". Where Greenwald shines is in writing the relationships.   They are messy and fickle and constantly shifting ... totally like in middle school.  Katie isn't all good, just as Charlie Joe isn't all snark.  This is a book that should just show up on library tables, and in living rooms all over the place.  I think this would make a fantastic book club book, and the kind of classroom read that will get kids talking.

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13. Grandma in Blue with Red Hat (2015)

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Inside This Book (2015)

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

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

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

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

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. Why care?

If your parents required care, would you or a family member provide care for them or would you look for outside help? If you required care in your old age would you expect a family member to provide care? Eldercare is becoming an important policy issue in advanced economies as a result of demographic and socio-economic changes. It is estimated that by 2030, one quarter of the population will be over 65 in both Europe and the USA.

The post Why care? appeared first on OUPblog.

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16. Review – Teacup

I want to frame this picture book and hang it on my wall. To label Teacup as having bucket-loads of appeal for audiences familiar with and sympathetic to displacement, migration, social disruption and family change strips away the myriad of other sophisticated, elegant qualities this book deserves to be described by. It is simply sublime. […]

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17. Gone Crazy in Alabama (2015)

Gone Crazy in Alabama. Rita Williams-Garcia. 2015. HarperCollins. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

Vonetta, Fern, and I didn't sleep well last night or the night before. There's something about preparing for a trip that draws my sisters and me closer together than we already are. Maybe it's the planning and excitement of going places or seeing who we're going to see. 

Gone Crazy in Alabama is the third novel about the Gaither sisters. The first two are One Crazy Summer and P.S. Be Eleven. I really LOVED both previous books in the series, so my expectations for the third book were HIGH.

In the third book, the three sisters travel on their own to visit relatives in Alabama: they will be visiting their grandma, Big Ma; their great-grandmother, Ma Charles; and their Uncle Varnell, the one who stole from them in P.S. Be Eleven. (Also they will be spending time with Jimmy Trotter their older cousin).

I was not disappointed with Gone Crazy in Alabama. I loved it for much of the same reasons as I loved the previous novels in the series.

I loved the characterization. All three sisters--Delphine, Vonetta, Fern--and their extended family are wonderfully, believably flawed. The tension between the family members feels genuine and not forced. The family from the first book through the third book just feels oh-so-believably-right.

I loved the writing, the storytelling. I loved the dialogue too.

I loved the setting. Gone Crazy in Alabama is set in Alabama in the summer of 1969. Among other things, the book features the family gathering around the television and watching the Apollo 11 moon mission. But the book isn't just about that memorable moment, far from it. Most of the drama in Gone Crazy in Alabama is FAMILY DRAMA. Drama between the sisters' great-aunt and great-grandmother (a family feud) and drama between the three girls themselves. Relationships will be tested...

Gone Crazy in Alabama is a great coming-of-age novel.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Stella by Starlight (2015)

Stella by Starlight. Sharon M. Draper. 2015. Simon & Schuster. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

Nine robed figures dressed all in white. Heads covered with softly pointed hoods. Against the black of night, a single wooden cross blazed. Reflections of peppery-red flames shimmered across the otherwise dark surface of Kilkenny Pond. 

Stella by Starlight is set in Bumblebee, North Carolina, in the fall of 1932. What can I say about this one? I could say many things, but, I'll start with this: I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED IT.

I loved the narration. I loved the heroine, Stella, she makes a remarkable narrator. I loved her voice and her spirit. I loved the characterization--it was rich. I loved meeting Stella and her brother, Jojo. I loved her parents. I loved getting to know her neighbors. I loved that we get a real sense of community and place. It was the kind of novel that is completely absorbing--compelling. I loved the drama and the intensity. Stella by Starlight is what happens in one community after three African-American men decide to register to vote. The book captures why the men chose to act, what voting meant to them, what it represented. The book captures what it meant to their families and the community as well. Stella knows, for example, that it is a courageous act for her father, and, a necessary one as well. She's proud of her father for doing what he feels is right--knows is right. But Stella also knows a healthy-fear of the KKK. The book captures that uncertainty, that fear, it brings the community together as one. I also loved the religious/spiritual aspects of this one: how central the church is, how central the Christian faith is in the community. It celebrates faith, and shows it to be a powerful force. Stella by Starlight is beautifully written. I highly recommend it! 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. June is for Life and Living

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I’m taking my blog sabbath a month earlier than I usually do. This is a practice I started four years ago, and it’s something that refreshes and resets me in more ways than I know how to explain. In addition to the blog, I will also be off social media.

I’ve chosen June over July this year for a couple of reasons. First, I’m on deadline this summer. These early weeks, when I’m finding my way back into my manuscript, feel especially important. I don’t need any other computer time vying for my attention.

Second, we have a lot of family things going on next month. My boys are home from school. My parents are moving back to town. My husband and I are going on a cruise to celebrate our twentieth anniversary. This is a perfect time to step away.

Finally, I have a book coming out in July, and I want to be here to share its story.

I’ve scheduled some posts to re-run — a “new” one each week — that I hope will interest you. Enjoy your summer, friends! I’ll see you again soon.

The post June is for Life and Living appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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20. The Month That Ate My Brain

hellojune

Oh, May. You beautiful, terrible month. I can’t say I’m sorry to see the back of you. Massive workload, plumbing woes, multiple trips to the children’s hospital (which sounds more alarming than it ought to—here in San Diego they send your kids to Children’s for every little thing; for example: a chest x-ray when your child has pneumonia even though there is an x-ray lab RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the pediatrician’s office, AHEM, and a four-hour wait and a three-second x-ray later the radiologist will say, all right, I’ve just sent these to your doctor, zap)…but it’s June now, let’s put all that behind us.

Ahhhh…

I suppose, though, that May did have its moments. Scott surprised me with a trip to a big art supply story downtown, a wonderland full of pens singing at me. I came home with a metal brush pen, aka my new best friend, it feels amazing when you pull it across the page; and a tube of raw umber paint because I have been unsuccessful in mixing a shade the color of chocolate with my basic color palette. Rilla’s birthday breakfast is still waiting in my sketchbook to be painted. Since April, sheesh.

In May my boys’ writing class wrapped up—this was a group of nine homeschooled boys ages 10-14 whose mothers approached me about putting together an eight-week writing course. We had us some fun, let me tell you. A highlight of my spring was watching our freewrites transform from “TEN WHOLE MINUTES??!!?” to “Oh wait can I please have a bit more time?”

final freewrite

Other highlights:

Huck discovered the delights of the Oz books—specifically the Eric Shanower/Skottie Young graphic novel adaptations that Rilla loves so much. He spends a lot of time like this:

huckreadsoz

blurry photo but it’s all I got

He’s also enjoying the Magic Tree House books, like so many of his siblings before him. Scott read him the first one to get him started. The corresponding nonfiction volumes are particular favorites, and I am once again being treated to daily factoids about sharks and pirates. Never gets old.

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21. Huckisms

The younger kids and I have started spending the hour after dinner having family art time at the kitchen table. They mostly paint while I practice sketching, or Huck grabs markers and continues his mission to saturate every page of his beloved Angry Birds coloring book. I’ve taken to jotting down the funny things they say in my sketchbook alongside my (mostly very bad) drawings of them at work. A few choice Huck remarks from last night:

“When I was one—I mean zero—I swallowed paint. It tasted really good, like marshmallows.”

***

Rilla: “I know three people named Kelly.”

Huck: “I know Kelley Jones*. He likes jelly.”

*They’ve never actually met, but he’s seen Kelley’s name when he calls Scott to talk about the project they’re working on. I’m unclear on whether he does, in fact, like jelly.

***

“I bet all the kids with this coloring book are doing this with their moms right now, too.”

(Yes, I melted.)

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22. Road Trip


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23. The Summer of the Swan (1970)

The Summer of the Swans. Betsy Byars. 1970. Penguin. 144 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Sara Godfrey was lying on the bed tying a kerchief on the dog, Boysie.

I'm so glad that Hope is the Word is hosting a Newbery Through the Decades reading challenge. June is the month dedicated to reading winners and honors from the 1970s. I may never have picked up Betsy Byars' The Summer of the Swans without a little extra motivation. And The Summer of the Swans? Well, it's compelling, very compelling.

Sara loves her brother Charlie. She does. But she doesn't always like him, or, like having to take care of him all the time. To be fair, Sara, on the day we meet her, is in a bit of a mood. This is one of those days when it seems almost every person in Sara's life is frustrating or annoying her. Sara's day will get worse before it gets better.

I really liked The Summer of the Swans. I liked the intensity of it. Charlie goes missing in the night, and that changes everything. Primarily we see this through Sara's perspective. Though we know that it is upsetting news to their Aunt Willie as well. Everyone in the neighborhood gets involved including a boy, Joe, that Sara really doesn't like or trust. Will Sara, however, change her mind about Joe after spending the day with him? after seeing the 'real' him? Will Charlie be found? Is he okay?

The Summer of the Swans won a Newbery in 1971.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Dinner-table conversation

Rose: “Why are Huck’s dirty socks on my chair?”

Huck, much aggrieved: “They were on my chair first and I needed to sit down.”

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25. Papa's Suns Coming Soon!

I'm thrilled to announce that my latest picture book, Papa's Suns is scheduled to be released shortly.  Below is the official blurb for this book which should be coming out at the end of the month.

Jacob and his grandfather like to spend time drawing pictures together. But after
Papa has a stroke, Jacob is afraid that his Papa will be different. Although Papa’s
body is healing, Jacob discovers that the love between him and his grandfather will
never change.

This book is close to my heart because it based on the relationship between my father-in-law and my daughter. Here is a sneak peek at the cover.  The illustrations are beautifully done by Samantha Bell.

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