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1. Our Dog, Daisy, Photobombs Maggie’s “Upward Dog”: Hilarity Follows

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Backstory: Maggie is entering 9th grade. A talented athlete, she’s encountered more than her fair share of physical setbacks. Three ACL surgeries over the past two years. These are devastating injuries with long and uncertain recovery periods. But the thing about Maggie is she’s unstoppable. Best spirit ever. Unable to play basketball or soccer, she’s recently gotten into yoga and crew. Yesterday a friend took some snaps while Maggie was demonstrating a few positions in the backyard. Our dog, Daisy, got involved. Namaste!

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2. dispatch from mississippi: belonging

I was born in Mobile, Alabama, while my dad was stationed at Brookley Field. He had gone off to the Korean War in 1951, just after he and my mother married, and now here I came, in 1953, on the heels of his return. We lived in Mobile for five years, until the Air Force transferred us to Hawaii. I have always claimed Alabama as the land of my birth, and I also claim Mississippi as home, as it was the land we returned to over and again as I grew up, and as my own children grew up, as my people were there. And so was my heart.

My mother was born in Mississippi and grew up in West Point, MS. My dad was born in Jasper County and grew up there. I grew up there, too, with the wacky grandmother who became Miss Eula in LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER, and the three maiden aunts who become Ruby's chickens, and all the cousins and aunts and uncles and a decaying town that is even more of a ghost today than it was when I was wandering its one main road and its cemetery and crossing the railroad tracks to visit Aunt Mitt and playing piano in the unlocked Methodist church.

Mississippi doesn't claim me, though. According to book committees who decide these things, I didn't live for five continuous years in Mississippi, so I am not in the club, even though I am a Mississippian by blood and by words.

This is a long story and one I hope to write about at some point, so I can figure out how I feel about choosing home. Home is in Atlanta today, of course, but home will always be where I've hung my hat: Hawaii, Maryland, D.C., South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia.... and Mississippi as well. "What you know first stays with you." I am a Southern Girl, through and through. I am a human being with stories to tell. What does that mean?

Here's what it meant this week, as I took part in the first-ever Mississippi Book Festival, visited that family I love so much (Uncle Jim is our patriarch now, about to turn 92), and that place that defined me as a child -- and as a writer. Photos below of what becomes Aurora County in my books LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER; EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS; and THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS.

And then there is my first book, FREEDOM SUMMER. I have never before posted pictures of the pool and roller skating rink that closed in 1964. The forest is claiming it now. I have taken photos there for many years, and have documented this abandoned place as it goes back to forest land. I wrote FREEDOM SUMMER -- and REVOLUTION -- to understand what happened. To keep this time and place alive, so we remember our history. So young people will know what it was like then. What it is like now.

Dispatch from Mississippi:


Picking up Kerry Madden along the way
downtown Jackson, Mississippi. My folks retired to Jackson after a long military career, and I kept coming to Mississippi with my own kids as they grew up... Mississippi has been a constant in my life, all my life.

With Ellen Ruffin at the Eudora Welty house on Friday night at the author reception
Kimberly Willis Holt, moi, Chris Barton, and Karen Rowell of USM.
Jamie Kornegay and Turnrow Books in Greenwood, Mississippi has been such a staunch supporter of my books. Jamie's new novel is SOIL. "It has saturated the South!" Jamie says.
Kelly Kornegay, who (among other things) reads and buys children's at Turnrow. She heard me whining about not being recognized literarily as a Mississippian and said, "Debbie, people who have lived here all their lives are trying to ESCAPE Mississippi!" which made me laugh and gave me perspective. She also said, "Your books are THE quintessential books on what it means to be from Mississippi, to be a Mississippian. You're IN." hahaha.

Fuzzy photo of a bunch of us including Lori Nichols, Ellen Ruffin, Greg Leitich Smith, Susan Eaddy, Kerry Madden
taking in all in. What a lovely evening.
We had to turn people away, in Room 113 of the State Capitol, for the Young People's Literature panel. It was that way on all panels, all day. The turnout was tremendous. HOORAY!
Pontificating. Which I am very good at.
This is what it's about at a Festival.
And this. Clara Martin is the children's book buyer at Lemuria Book in Jackson. Last year on the REVOLUTION tour, she had me sign her copy of LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER that she has had since she was a fourth grader. "My favorite book!"
Chris Barton signing Shark vs Train and John Roy Lynch in the Lemuria tent.
At dinner, Saturday night, with my loves.


My son Jason with his Great-uncle Jim. Both of them jesters.

Two more Jims: mine, and the cousin I have always called Bubba.

If you're a RUBY fan, you recognize this sign!





My grandmother's house, The Pink Palace, in RUBY, Snowberger's Funeral Home in LITTLE BIRD, House Jackson's home in ALL-STARS, and Young Joe's home in FREEDOM SUMMER. This was my world every summer, and the place I longed for when I wasn't there. Still do, I guess.
The back kitchen. Sloped ceiling, lightbulb on a string, Nanny eating buttered toast and milky coffee at the enamel table, closthepins in a bag hanging on the door, a pan of green beans waiting to be snapped. I did dishes in the deep sink with my Aunt Evelyn, who we all called Goodness. Once, when my mother sent me in to dry while Aunt Evelyn washed, Goodness waved me away with, "Go play. I let God dry the dishes."
My friend Howard now lives in Rhiney Boyd's house, across the road from my grandmother's. Rhiney had a son named Luther Rhinehart Boyd, which is where I took Mr. Norwood Boyd's name from in ALL-STARS.

Kerry listens to Merle's stories. Merle now owns my grandmother's house (The Pink Palace, in the background).

I adore Lois. She has just entered the Witness Protection Program. I think she got dressed just for us. "I used to wear all black and brown, but now I wear COLOR all the time." You go, Lois. Go on with your colorful self.
This is where I'm sitting this morning. Back to the pink chair and back to work. Knowing that it doesn't matter if Literary Mississippi claims me or not. I claim me, and those people who are, and who once were: moments, memory, meaning, as I always say when I teach. 

I will never live long enough to write all the stories asking for my attention. They claim me. And for that I am grateful.

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3. My Brother's Secret by Dan Smith

It's summer, 1941 and there is nothing 12 year old Karl Friedmann enjoys more than being part of the Deutsches Jungvolk, anticipating the day he'll be old enough to join the Hitler Youth.  But on the day he wins a badge for achievement during some war games, he is also forced to fight another boy, Johann Weber, whose has just received word that his father was killed in the war.  Suddenly, fighting feels more like bullying.

At home, Karl knows his older brother Stefan is the family rebel, always getting into trouble and was even sent away to a boot camp for a week, where the Gestapo had beaten him and shaved his head.  When Karl notices an embroidered flower sewn into Stefan's jacket, he wants to know what it means.  But before that happens, the Friedmann's receive a telegram that their father has been killed flying for the Luftwaffe.  Their mother falls into a terrible depression, not speaking and refusing to get out of bed, so it is decided that the family would go stay with their grandparents in a village near Cologne.

Once there, Karl is kept out of school to prevent him from participating in Jungvolk activities and it doesn't take Stefan long to hook up with some friends who are also rebellious troublemakers.  One day, Karl decides to go out for a ride on his bike, but he has an accident, colliding with the beloved car of Gestapo Commander Gerhard Wolff.  Luckily, Karl is wearing Jungvolk uniform, but Wolff still seems suspicious of the Friedmann family, anyway.  Karl also makes friends with Lisa, a girl who isn't afraid to let her hatred of Hitler and his whole Nazi regime be known.  And when he notices that the embroidered flower has been cut out of Stefan's jacket, he is more curious than ever about his brother's activities and friends, suspecting anti-Nazi undertakings.

Slowly, Nazi brutality forces Karl to rethink his own beliefs and patriotism.  He learns that Lisa's father was taken away one night because of his beliefs and she has no idea where he is or if he is alive.  Instead of feeling proud that his father sacrificed his life for the Fatherland like he is supposed to, Karl feels grief and sadness, and wonders what was it all for.

Karl's suspicions that Stefan is involved with a resistance group are conformed when his brother's finally confesses to him that he is a member of the Edelweiss Pirates, a loosely bound group of anti-Nazi young people who are trying to enlighten the German people to the truth of Hitler and his ideas.  Unfortunately, Commander Wolff also suspects Stefan of resistance activities and periodically shows up to search the house.  One night, he finds one of the anti-Nazi leaflet that had been dropped by RAF planes in Karl's copy of Hitler's book Mein Kampf.  Stefan is placed under arrest and taken away.

Now, Karl and Lisa decide to become their own Edelweiss Pirates and paint anti-Nazi messages around their village, and to find a way to free Stefan from Gestapo headquarters.  And although they are a resistance group of two, Karl is still wracked with guilt since it is because he chose to save the leaflet without telling anyone and feels it is his fault his brother has been arrested by the Gestapo - again.  

Like Dan Smith's last novel, My Friend the Enemy, My Brother's Secret is a thought-provoking story loaded with action, excitement, and nail-biting tension.  Karl's life felt so simple and straightforward before news of his father's death arrived.  But his hesitant feeling about having to fight Johann Weber at the beginning of the novel, clearly indicates that there exists a slight crack in his loyalty to Hitler and everything the Führer stands for.

There aren't too many books about young people in Nazi Germany who were involved in the Hitler Youth groups, so it was interesting to read this coming of age novel and to witness Karl's complete turnabout as he begins to see and experience the Nazis for the cruel people that they could be if you opposed them.  It is also interesting to see how easily the Nazi could sow an atmosphere of fear, mistrust and suspicion to keep people in line.

Dan Smith always includes nice historical information in his novels which give them such a sense of reality.  There weren't many youth resistance groups in Nazi Germany, besides the White Rose (Weiße Rose) in 1942 Munich, and the Edelweiss Pirates (Edelweißpiraten), who, as Smith demonstrates through Stefan, were not pro-Allies even though they were anti-Nazi.  Like Stefan, many young people who were part of the Edelweiss Pirates quit school in order to avoid having to join the Hitler Youth, which was mandatory.

My Brother's Secret is a well-written, well-researched, eye-opening, gripping novel with a lot of appeal.  Karl is a protagonist that goes from unsympathetic to sympathetic as the action unfolds and as he learns valuable lessons about courage, loyalty, friendship and brotherly love.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an ARC sent to me by the publisher, Chicken House Books

(People tend to think of the Swing Kids (Swingjugend) as a resistance group but they were really a counter-culture group without a political agenda, with a common interest in jazz and dancing.)


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4. The Jumbies, by Tracey Baptiste

Corrine La Mer is totally at home on her island. She’s not afraid of the woods like most of the kids she knows, so when two village boys tie her late mother’s pendant to the leg of an agouti she simply follows her instincts and dashes into the woods after it. It is all she has of her mother and she needs to get it back.

But once she retrieves the pendant and is not concentrating on the chase, Corrine does start to feel some unease. Her skin prickles as she thinks about the creatures the villagers talk about inhabiting these woods...the jumbies.  Corrine thinks she sees some eyes behind a bush and she hightails it out of the woods straight into the arms of her Papa as he and the rest of the village makes their annual trek to the graveyard to pay respects to those who have passed.
On their way home, a woman stands in the shadows. Corrine’s Papa asks if she needed any help but she refuses.

This is both the end and the beginning.

It is the end of the simple life with the people living on the outside and the jumbies living in the woods. It is the beginning of Corrine’s coming of age. Not only has a jumbie followed her out of the woods, but this particular jumbie has Corrine and her Papa in her sights.

So begins the adventure that will test Corrine’s will.  Even though she has always been strong willed and independent, she must bend a little and learn to ask for help and depend on her friends.  She learns that things aren’t always as they seem, and that adults are very adept at keeping secrets.

One of the most interesting parts of the story is in the way that Baptiste weaves in a narrative about colonialism, and as Betsy Bird put it “us” and “them”. There are some very poignant moments filled with these big ideas that are handled with aplomb and never seem forced.

This book fills several voids for the audience. First, most of the retellings of folklore in novel format that I have read are European in source. The Caribbean setting is a stand out.  Also, this title fits perfectly into the just creepy enough and just scary enough for the audience.  The island is lushly painted with its’ port and marketplace and dense woods.  Corrine and her friends are off on their own most of the time, but the adults in their lives clearly care for and love them deeply. This gives readers the reassurance that things will hopefully come out okay.

I will be booktalking this one as soon as we go back to school!

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5. Review: The Girl Who Rode the Wind by Stacy Gregg

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I noticed The Girl Who Rode the Wind while trolling the shelves of my local library.  How could I ignore a book with a horse on the cover?  When I read that the book features Italy’s Palio, the world’s oldest, most dangerous horse race, I had to check it out.  I had just seen a video short about the race, and I’d read about it when I was a kid.  I have always found the race interesting, so I couldn’t wait to read this.

I have to admit that I was not immediately caught up in the plot, and I thought about putting it down.  But then Lola describes an altercation with a bully, and I was hooked.  After the academic achiever is suspended from school, her grandmother proposes a trip to Italy for the summer.  Her grandmother hasn’t been back to her homeland since just after WWII, and she’s finally ready to face her past.  She rarely discussed her childhood in Siena, and instead focused on the present and the family business; training racehorses.

The story revolves around horses.  Lola wants to work with them when she’s older, but her father won’t hear of it.  With her grades, he expects her to be a doctor or a lawyer.  The only time Lola is happy, however, is when she’s with the horses.  She’s angry because her older brothers are working on the track, training to be jockeys.  Her father was a jockey, and Lola wants to be one, too.  She doesn’t particularly want to go to Italy with her grandmother, but her father is so disappointed with her behavior that he refuses to allow her to help out at track over the summer.  Suddenly, a summer in Siena doesn’t sound so bad!

Lola meets a local boy whose father trains racers for the Palio.  They become friends, and Lola is invited to help work the horses.  As Lola learns about the race and makes friends with the other exercise riders, her grandmother slowly opens up about her own past, and her history with the Palio.  Her family bred horses for the race, and her older brother was a winning jockey several times. Then the war came, along with unbelievable hardships.  The race was canceled, and it was hard to feed themselves, let alone the horses in their care.  Her father was forced to join the army, even though he didn’t believe in the war, and her brother joined the freedom fighters.  By the end of the war, her nonna’s world was torn apart, and she fled Italy for America and the chance to start over.

I did have a few issues with believability.  I found it so difficult to swallow that a 12 year old American girl would be allowed to excise the horses, let alone ride in a dangerous race like the Palio.  Think of the bad press if she was injured, or worse, during the rough, no holds barred race.  Another thing that irked me was that everyone spoke English, a huge convenience for Lola, since she didn’t speak Italian.  This is the second book I’ve read this summer that the youthful protagonist was in another country, and everyone else spoke English.  It wasn’t believable in the first book, and I didn’t like it here, either, but that is a pet peeve of mine.  

Despite the highly unlikely premise, this was an enjoyable read. The horse races were exciting, and Nonna’s acceptance of the past, after so many years of guilt, was touching. Lola’s struggles with bullying rang true, and her father’s insistence that she become a doctor or a lawyer instead of a track rat gave Lola another conflict to solve. There were also great characters, including the horses.

Grade:  B

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book:

An epic, emotional story of two girls and their bond with beloved horses, the action sweeping between Italy during the Second World War and present day.

When Lola’s grandmother Loretta takes her to Siena, Italy, for the summer, Lola learns about the town’s historic Palio races – a fast and furious event where riders whip around the Piazza del Campo, and are often thrown from their horses while making the treacherous turns. Lola is amazed to learn her grandmother used to take part in these races – and had the nickname ‘The Daredevil’!

Nonna Loretta tells Lola that she used to race in a rival team to the boy she loved – who was captured by the Nazis in 1941. Lola develops a bond with a beautiful racehorse. She jumps at the chance to enter the Palio – can she win, in honour of her grandmother? And can she uncover the mystery of the boy’s capture and fate all those years ago?

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6. New Use for Old Manuscripts

My boys and I just re-discovered this particular book. Thought it would be fun to share with all of you again!

Cut in half.

Rustle up some silly kids.
Spread out on the kitchen table.
Set up a chart.

Number your pages.

Create a Choose Your Own Adventure Story.

(Ours is called THE BLACK DOOM and includes a haunted castle with a parking lot, an eyeless lifeguard [who later gets olives as eyes], lots of gorillas, a pool full of raspberry Jello, and an annual haunted castle pizza party).

Staple.

Enjoy!

The post New Use for Old Manuscripts appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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7. Story World Building: Social Contracts

The terms of the social contract in Dick and Jane’s world puts pressure on them to behave in certain ways. The constraints can make whatever they have to do to solve the story problem difficult, if not impossible. If Dick and Jane violate the social contract in their world, they pay a price for it.



It is especially important in Fantasy and Science Fiction when writing about alternative worlds that you consider the demands social contracts impose on the people in them. 


In writing historical novels, it is important to understand what the social contract of the time and place required. Morals and practices changed over time and across geography. Small desert tribes had a different social contract than societies in king-ruled Europe and those of hunter-gatherers in Africa.

Studies have suggested that groups of one-hundred or less are pretty good at self-regulation. There isn’t a need for organized law enforcement in such a small community because the members all know each other and are able to keep tabs on one another. If one of the members commits an act that is detrimental to the group, the other 99 are willing and able to correct or punish them. Even in a small community, there are rules that they follow to keep the peace.

It isn’t in the group’s best interest if they can’t trust one another. If someone is lying, stealing, killing, or lusting after someone else’s mate, conflict will ensue and the transgressor will be booted out. It is hard to survive in the world alone, especially if you suck at hunting or gathering.

In groups larger than one-hundred, it is imperative to have some form of social contract with rules that are enforceable and enforced. The golden rule of most societies can be boiled down into the loose statement: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” This isn’t effective if you’re visiting a community of purple people eaters.

Ancient Egyptians had a long list of “I will not ...” statements in their Husia. Jews and Christians embraced commandments which included admonitions to not worship different gods or idols, to not lie or bear false witness against a neighbor, to not murder, commit adultery, steal, or covet their neighbor’s wife.

Hinduism’s rules of dharma encouraged patience, forgiveness, self control, honesty, sanctity, control of senses, reason, knowledge or learning, truthfulness, and absence of anger.

In your story world, your characters will be subject to the rules of their society's contract. If Dick breaks those rules, there will be consequences. He may fight to change the rules or reveal the dark side to one of his society’s rules.



It is considered a plot hole if you apply modern sensibilities to the people from a historic setting. That doesn’t mean you can’t take some artistic license. However, having Victorian girls behave like the cast from a modern reality TV show does not work for most readers, unless you are portraying an alternate universe in Science Fiction or adding a Fantasy twist. 

Errors of this type will, at the very least, make the reader cringe. At worst, your book will go on the to-be-burned pile.

If you write fantasy or Science Fiction, develop your own ten commandments for your story world. How are they enforced? What are the consequences for breaking them? Are some infringements more serious than others? Are some ignored on a routine basis without consequence?

In The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the citizens of District 12 aren’t supposed to hunt outside the fence, yet Gale and Katniss do so regularly. Because they transgress, Katniss is better prepared to survive the Hunger Games. Breaking the social contract benefitted her. Katniss and Peeta break the contract again at the end of their first Hunger Games by refusing to kill each other, which sets up the conflict for the second book in the series.

Think about your story. Have you directly or indirectly explored social contracts in your story world? Have you put it to work for you in terms of complicating your characters’ lives? Have you utilized transgressions and punishments?

For more information on crafting believable obstacles, pick up a copy of Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict in print or E-book version.

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8. Best Friends (2015)

(Peppa Pig) Best Friends. 2015. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Once upon a time, Peppa's best friend, Suzy Sheep, came to play. "I have something to show you," said Suzy. Suzy held up a photograph of a baby sheep. "Look! It's me," said Suzy. "You're not a baby, Suzy," said Peppa, shaking her head. "This is an old photo," Suzy explained. "It was taken when I was a baby." Peppa snorted. She didn't remember Suzy being a baby. That was just silly!

 Premise/plot: Peppa Pig is skeptical that Suzy Sheep and herself were ever, ever babies. The idea is beyond belief. But Suzy's photograph, and the photographs Mummy Pig show her prove her wrong. Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig tell Peppa all about "the olden days" when she was a baby: how she's always been friends with Suzy sheep, and how she's almost always loved jumping in muddy puddles.
"What did we do when we were babies?" asked Suzy. "You cried...you burped...and you laughed!" said Mummy Pig. Suzy and Peppa giggled. It must have been so silly being babies! 
My thoughts: Best Friends is an adaptation of an episode of the Peppa Pig television series. ("The Olden Days.") It is one of the last episodes of the show. And it is probably among my all-time favorite, favorite episodes. Adorable, sweet, precious, and FUNNY.

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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9. Your Alien, by Tammi Sauer | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of YOUR ALIEN (Sterling Children’s Books, August 2015), written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Goro Fujita! Giveaway begins August 9, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends September 8, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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10. High Tide for Huck and Rilla

tuesdayinmay

The other day I mentioned that I was putting together some shelves of books to use for Huck and Rilla this year. Huck is 6 1/2, and Rilla is 9, and according to the boxes I will have to check on the form I file in October, they are in the 1st and 4th grades respectively.

(Of course you know we have more of an Understood Betsy approach to grades around here.)

‘What’s the matter?’ asked the teacher, seeing her bewildered face.

‘Why–why,’ said Elizabeth Ann, ‘I don’t know what I am at all. If I’m second-grade arithmetic and seventh-grade reading and third-grade spelling, what grade am I?’

The teacher laughed. ‘You aren’t any grade at all, no matter where you are in school. You’re just yourself, aren’t you? What difference does it make what grade you’re in? And what’s the use of your reading little baby things too easy for you just because you don’t know your multiplication table?’

‘Well, for goodness’ sakes!’ ejaculated Elizabeth Ann, feeling very much as though somebody had stood her suddenly on her head.

I don’t think Rilla has any idea what grade she would be in if she went to school…my kids don’t usually pay attention to grade level until they reach an age—usually around 12 or 13—when they want an answer to the question that comes from just about every new adult they encounter.

But back to my booklists. I compiled these selections according to my patented, highly scientific method of Walking Around the House Grabbing Things Off Shelves™. These are books we already own, favorite tomes I have read with the older kids in the past but which my younger set haven’t yet heard or read—due in large part to the abundant inflow of new treasures that have come our way for review. (Oh you guys, I have so many good new books to share.)

I imagine there will be a lot of crossover: Huck will listen in on Rillabook readalouds and vice versa. Both collections also include a good many read-alone possibilities. If you’ve been reading Bonny Glen for a while, then you know that read-alouds are the core of my homeschooling method, especially in the younger years. (But continuing on, you know, into high school. We still read aloud together lots of history, science, and poetry.)

I know a lot of you are as addicted to booklists as I am, so my project this weekend is to type up these collections to share here on the blog. I hope to post them on Sunday or Monday. When they’re ready, I’ll update this post with links.

So what else does high tide look like in my house for ages 6 and 9?

In no particular order:

• Lots and lots of art, especially watercolor painting and Sculpey fun.

I keep watercolors handy on a shelf by the kitchen table for easy access. These days, they are doing a lot with acrylic paints, too—I caught a sale at Michael’s when those little Folk Art bottles were three for a dollar. I grabbed a set of small plastic palettes (six for $2) and filled a jar with our older, more battered brushes. (We reserve the nicer brushes for watercolors.)

I’ve written about this before*, but for watercolor paper I use large sheets I bought in bulk a good many years ago, folded and torn into smaller sizes. And then cheap recycled paper for drawing. Plus everyone has a sketchbook to do whatever they want with.

About 15 years ago (!) I bought half a dozen scratch-and-dent whiteboard seconds from a discount site. We use these as painting boards. Not only do they protect the kitchen table from spatters, but they are large enough that I can stack them on toy blocks to save space while paintings dry.

painters2

* In that 2009 post, I mentioned that for littles I use good paper and cheap paints. That was back when Rilla was three years old. ::sniff:: Nowadays we tend to experiment with artist-quality tube watercolors quite often, because that is what I myself am learning to paint with, and both Rilla and I are pretty addicted to color-mixing and the way colo. We still keep basic Crayola or Prang kids’  paint sets around, though, like the ones in the photo, because they’re quick and fun and easy and portable. They’re what the kids use for casual, everyday painting.

Kortney has been posting some wonderful resources for doing art projects with kids. And I have a list of my best suggestions in this post.

• Poetry every day

I pulled some of my favorite anthologies for this year’s Huck and Rilla shelves. They’re also in the room for a good bit of the poetry reading and discussion I do with the older kids. I work in lots of opportunities for low-pressure memorization (if you read the same poem out loud a few days or weeks in a row, before you know it, everyone has it down)—including my recent brainstorm to require Huck to learn a new poem by heart before he gets a new iPad app. :)

• Handwriting practice* with fun materials like dip pens or slates-and-chalk. 

dip pen

I asterisked practice because I need to qualify that term. I subscribe to the John Holt school of thought about the misleading way we often use the word practice. He argued that when you are doing what we call “practicing” piano, you are really playing piano and we ought to think of it like that. You are making music. When I am “practicing” drawing, I am actually drawing. Huck is learning to write. When he sits down with a marker or crayon and makes some letters, he is writing—not some separate intermediate activity that leads up to writing. I think that word “practice” can set up a feeling that what I’m doing right now isn’t real, it doesn’t count. But it all “counts.” If you’re doing it, it’s real. Another way of putting it is that writing letters to friends is a form of handwriting “practice.”

For Rilla, a third year of group piano class 

And yes, despite the above paragraph, you will from time to time hear me ask her if she has practiced yet today. :)

• Nature study and narration. 

My old Charlotte Mason standbys. Re narration: casually for Huck, more deliberately and regularly for Rilla. All oral, still. We add written narration at age ten.

Nature study isn’t something we have to work at. Both Rilla and I enjoy adding new plants and bugs to our sketchbooks. You’ll see a fair number of nature-themed nonfiction on both booklists.

• A little bit of foreign language.

Beanie is ramping up her German studies this year. My younger set pick up whatever the older ones are working on, sponge-style.

• Math.

Via games, money, dice, and daily life for Huck; Math-U-See for Rilla. Works for us.

• Folk songs and other musical fun. 

Including daddy’s guitar-playing. The recorders seem to have made a comeback around here, too; and Rose came home from her Colorado trip with a pair of ocarinas.

• Baking, sewing, and other handcrafty activities. 

Sometimes this is simply a part of daily life; in other cases we may undertake a special project, such as making clothes for a cloth doll with the Dress Up Bunch Club.

• Games of all sorts.

Board games, word games, Wii games, iPad apps, you name it. Together or alone. And lots and lots of Minecraft.

• As much outdoor play as possible!

All the small fry on the block seem to congregate at my house in the afternoons: they know when my kids get their Wii time. 😉 Afterward, they troop outside to bike and scooter and make secret hideouts and chat with passing dogs and help Miss-Joanie-down-the-block rake leaves. (She’s a treasure. She keeps a stash of child-size yard tools in her garage! She saves all those little stickers and calendars and bookmarks that come in junk mail! She has cups labeled for all the kids on our street and sometimes mixes up fruit drinks to fill them with instead of water. Everyone should be so lucky as to grow up down the block from Miss Joanie.)

• What about history and science? 

See above re: readalouds and narration. Lots of good stuff on our booklists. :)

And if I don’t stop gabbing and start compiling, these booklists are never going to get written. More later, my dears. Feel free to fire away with questions below, if you have any!

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11. 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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12. 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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13. As promised

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Rilla’s pocket handiwork.

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14. 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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15. 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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16. 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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17. 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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18. 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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19. 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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20. 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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21. 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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22. 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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23. 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…

 

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24. 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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25. 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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