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1. A Tribe of Three

How exciting to have so much to look forward to!

A new face.
Baby smell.
Cute outfits.
Small toes.
To be needed, ALL. THE. TIME.
Sleep deprived.
Baby shrieks.
Poopie diapers.
Toddler regression.
>_<
I could go on and on.....but that may be TMI.

I have so many mixed emotions about what is to come, but our family has been busy making the most of every moment being together as a tribe of three before there is four. And I can't be more than blessed and thankful!

My art has taken the back seat. Although I have been able to do some drawing here and there, it has been far more minimal than usual. Yet, some chapters in our lives require attention on our relationships than career.

Here is what we've been up to the last couple of months:

In August we traveled to Elgin, IL for the fantastical World of Faeries Festival! This was our first real big family road trip and extended stay. We spent four days there in a hotel and working my shop, Sara B Illustration, in a tent. It was definitely a large learning experience for Brian and I as parents, as a family working a festival together, and the logistics of traveling 6 hours in the car with a toddler.


•  •  •

In September we spent time with good friends playing and working at the Renaissance Festival at Sleepy Hollow in Des Moines, IA. It's a three weekend event that I work selling corsets and dresses for EaGenie's Scots N Knots. I have many friends there that I get to spend ample amounts of time with, including my dad (which I treasure)! Norah also has a blast dressing up and seeing all of the pirates and princesses.

My ladies, Amber on the left, Jess on the right.

Time with Papi (my dad)


•  •  •

In October we ventured to the pumpkin patch at the Center Grove Orchard in Cambridge, IA. I didn't think I could do a day on my feet like this, but I am so glad I did!! We had a blast playing in the corn kernel pool, shopping for pumpkins, eating cider donuts, and feeding goats.


•  •  •

And had a great family dinner night out at the amazing landmark restaurant The Iowa Machine Shed in Clive, IA. This place not only represents all of Iowa in great atmosphere and shopping, but it also has the best comfort food!! It was definitely a treat for all of us. :)


Making Norah feel special, growing our bond with her, and establishing our unit as three has been paramount for us during this waiting period until Jaxon arrives.

•  •  •

As an artist it's challenging to divide myself between parent and creator. 

This in itself has caused bouts of depression for me. I so desperately want to be both at the same time! Keep my house organized, the studio open at all times, painting side by side with my kids, coming up with all kinds of crafts and to dos to share with them. Yet when I think of all that, I freeze and just sit staring at Norah playing puzzles, and do nothing.

Our trials and what appear to be hardships or undesired results can actually help shape and form us for the better if we allow it.

I have learned in the last couple of months that in this crazy artistic life of mine, I have chapters of family, and I have chapters of creating art. For myself it is currently very difficult for me to combine the two. I admire those moms who can with littles running around, keeping some kind of organization and self discipline in their daily routine. I thought I had to be that, but I don't. I can step aside, let God lead my feet, and being willing to do what is called of me every day. One. Day. At. A. Time.

"They're little only once."

I'm told that over and over again. Even by artists I highly admire and are successful. I do not want to make the mistake of regretting my time spent on something that can be done later, and not spending it with my children when they need me most.

It will be hard. It will be a struggle. It will be crazy. It will be WORTH IT.

We may not see the outcome of our hardships right now, but in hindsight we will and have no regrets. ♥︎

How can you relate?
Share in the comments how you manage your time between life and art. 

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2. BOY: A Poem

-

A couple of boys I know.

A couple of boys I know.

-

Funny, I just discovered this poem in an old file. Never printed a copy, never thought about it again, though I can faintly recall writing it a few years back. I don’t write many poems anymore, though I used to write them often. My first love as a writer, in fact, and certainly a good education for any aspiring wordsmith. As Donald Trump says, “Even bad poems can teach us bigly.” In this case, I surely figured, not good enough, and rolled on. Like usual. I’m not sure I’m even okay with the idea of attaching the word “poem” to this rambling meditation-slash-manifesto. But today, before I think better of it, I’m going to take this forgotten thing down off the shelf and place it before you. Kick it, pull it apart, ignore it, whatever. Because what are blogs for? My poem, “Boy.” 

 

BOY, by James Preller

 

I am a boy.

I can pee standing up.

Some days my dad knows

exactly how I feel.

Other days, it’s my mom

who understands.

I am more than farts and fire trucks.

Though I won’t deny — 

farts are funny

and fire trucks are cool,

especially if they let you

scamper up,

wear the hat,

and blast the horn.

I am more than

rocks and spitballs,

dirt and hammers –

though I am that, too.

I am boy

and I am friend,

tustled head

and wicked grin.

I am sweetness,

I am love,

I am trees in the wind,

kites crossing a pale blue sky

like the billowing sails

of pirate ships at sea.

I am pieces of bright glass

found by the curb,

jagged things,

bee stings and

dead birds and fascinating bugs,

cars and dinosaurs

and trampolines.

I love secret places to hide

and spy

and see unseen, invisible

to every eye.

I am boy,

so much more

than cupcakes

and rainbows, farts

and firetrucks,

but I’m those things, too.

I am laughter and I am love.

I am boy.

 -

My cousin Billy and yours truly, 1968.

My cousin Billy and yours truly, 1968.

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3. Family Dialogue Journals

Can a Family Dialogue Journal help build stronger home-school connections through written conversation?

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4. Applesauce Weather

Applesauce Weather. Helen Frost. Illustrated by Amy June Bates. 2016. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Today is the day I've been waiting for: the first apple fell from the tree.

Premise/plot: Faith and Peter love, love, LOVE applesauce weather. When the apples are ready to pick from the family's apple tree. Uncle Arthur comes and tells stories--thousands of stories--and it's the best time ever. This year, there's some question though if he will come at all. Though Faith--aptly named Faith--never wavers in her belief that he will come. This year will be the first time for making applesauce WITHOUT Aunt Lucy. Uncle Arthur is still deeply mourning the love of his life. Lucy was someone he knew since he was a child, his best friend and soul mate. Will he come? Will he still tell stories? Or will he be too sad?

My thoughts: I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this one. Dare I say it's more than practically perfect in every way, that, it is in fact actually perfect in every way?! I love Faith and Peter. I do. I love Uncle Arthur. I love seeing Arthur interact with his great-niece and great-nephew. I love how Arthur tells true stories--of him and Lucy--and more fanciful tales as well. (For example, how he lost his finger.) I love seeing authentic family moments.

It is a verse novel. But Helen Frost excels in this genre. Her verses resonate. One never feels that her verses are chopped up prose. At least I never feel that way. I suppose I should be careful generalizing!

Here's a verse from Uncle Arthur's perspective:

Here comes an old memory
walking down the road,
like a peddler
pushing a heavy load.
I'll walk out to meet him,
see what he has to sell--
a hammer, and a pound
of two-inch nails,
a cooking pot, and
a new tin pail.
Somewhere in the mix,
I might have found
the beginning of a strange
new tale to tell. (48)

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Furthermore, by Tahereh Mafi

To be honest, I was first drawn to this book because of the gorgeous cover. Who wouldn't fall for the jeweled toned rich hues suggesting autumn evenings wrapped up in cashmere? Then I noticed the girl, front and center oddley white except for a hint of a blush on her cheeks and gold toned eyes. I was curious.

Furthermore joined me on my journey upstate to my summertime reading retreat.  It's August pub date meant it wasn't the first book that I read, but I kept eyeing it as I pulled others from the shelf.  Clocking in at 393 pages, this is not a slight read, but once I started it, I put it down only to sleep.

Alice, almost twelve, is filled with anticipation for Ferenwood's annual Surrender. She is anxious for life to change, because frankly Alice's life hasn't been so easy lately.  Not only is Alice considered odd, even by Ferenwood's magical standards, her father is still missing.  Alice's father is the one who really cared for her and understood her despite her differences from everyone else in Ferenwood. He indulged her and listened to her. And now it was only Alice, her three little brothers and her mother.

 "Alice was beginning to realize that while she didn't much like Mother, Mother didn't much like her, either. Mother didn't care for the oddness of Alice; she wasn't a parent who was predisposed to liking her children." (p.10)

Because of her situation, the Surrender is more important to Alice than she can really say.  Ferenwood is a magical place, and everyone who resides there has magical gifts. The Surrender is the time when all the 12 year olds share their gifts upon the stage.  At the end of the surrender, only one child would be celebrated and given a task. The task is always an adventure of some sort and is rather secretive as well. This year there are 86 twelve-year-olds. Alice meeds to win the task in order to leave her home.

But Alice is odd, and she believes that in this magical world, her love of dance is her gift. After all her father always encouraged her to listen to the earth and to dance when she feels it.

Alas.

Alice's failure on the stage, however, is not the death knell for adventure. An acquaintance of hers named Oliver approaches her with a request. One that will bring her on the adventure of her life if she chooses to accompany him.

What follows is an adventure reminiscent of the Phantom Tollbooth, with a dash of Through the Looking Glass and a coming of age bent.  Furthermore is a place like no other. The orderly magic of Ferenwood is wild here, and the rules seem to change from town to town.  Will Oliver and Alice be able to find her father and bring him home?

This is a fantasy adventure that will keep readers on the edge of the page. Interestingly both Alice and Oliver are unlikeable at times for very different reasons which get slowly revealed as their adventure moves along. At first I was worried about the idea of Alice being white in the sea of color that is Ferenwood.  What did it mean? But it works in that it others Alice in a way but helps explain her own magic as the story unfurls. 

I enjoyed the voicey nature of Furthermore. Alice, though exasperating, is endearing as well. I was charmed by the chapter sections' headings as well as the fox! There is a cinematic aspect to Furthermore and I would *love* to see it on the big screen.

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6. Sad News

@Godfox
Summer skies between Lichfield and Burton, July 2016

Dear friends, some readers may have heard that my father passed away very recently, his illness this year has been one reason for my recent silence on the blog, though other various factors have also had a major part.

I had hoped to post a full tribute to my dad, but I've been asked by family not to share our grief on social media. I will be back shortly with illustration and art related posts however.

Many thanks for your understanding.

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7. Wrapping Presents


I've been doing more black and white work lately.
This was drawn with a black colored pencil (well, three, actually).

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8. Paper Wishes

Paper Wishes. Lois Sepahban. 2016. FSG. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Grandfather says that a man should walk barefoot on the bare earth every day.

Premise/plot: Paper Wishes is a middle grade historical novel set during World War II. Manami, our heroine, soon finds herself ripped away from the life she knows and loves--along with her family, her friends, her neighbors--because she's Japanese-American. Manami's family includes her grandfather, her father, her mother, an older brother (Ron) and an older sister (Keiko). Manami and her grandfather are especially, especially close to their dog Yujiin. So close that Manami tries to sneak the dog onto the bus or train that is taking them away. It does not work. And the dog is taken from her. This traumatic event leaves her without a voice. She does not speak for months--almost the entire book. But just because she isn't speaking doesn't mean she doesn't have a way of expressing herself and finding a voice. She DRAWS. She paints. And she gives some of her drawings to the wind as PAPER WISHES. What does she wish for most of all? HER dog, of course. So she sends along dozens of drawings of Yujiin hoping that somehow these wishes will come true...

My thoughts: I really found this to be an emotionally compelling read. I loved Manami and her family. In particular, I love her, Ron, and the grandfather. (I don't honestly feel I got to know-know her parents. Though I liked them well enough). I really liked getting to know her teacher as well.

Anyone who enjoys character-driven historical novels with a lot of heart will enjoy this one.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart, by Lauren DeStefano

If there is one request I get from students the most it is, "Stacy! I want a scary book!" This is always tricky business, because invariably this question is not coming from an 8th grader. It's coming from a 4th-6th grader. And honestly, there aren't that many titles. This is one of the reasons I am so thankful for DeStefano.  I first got to know her through The Curious Tale of the In-Between, which is so absolutely creepy and scary in a subtle way. I am incredibly happy to have gotten my hands on The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart, which is perhaps even scarier.

Lionel and Marybeth live with Mrs. Mannerd in a home for orphans. They are among the youngest in the home and couldn't seem more different from one another. Lionel is somewhat of an animal boy. He would rather eat with the animals and be outdoors with the animals than do anything as seemingly silly as eat at a table with untensils! Marybeth, on the other hand, has perfect manners, is a quiet child, and does things like brush her teeth and comb her hair without even being asked. While everyone else in the house thinks that Lionel is weird, Marybeth does not.

Marybeth often follows or accompanies Lionel out on his journeys into the woods to see the animals. Lionel often talks about the animals he is friends with, and just recently he has been talking about a fox with a blue coat that he saw but is unable to track. One rainy night, Marybeth sees a streak of blue running outside of her window. When she goes to wake Lionel, she is admonished and chased away by one of the older boys he shares a room with a decides that she will go track the animal on her own. She heads out into the dark and rainy night toward the river. As she plummets into the river she is surrounded by a blue light before she surfaces.

When Marybeth shows up back at Mrs. Mannerd's house at the end of the following day, everyone is relieved to see her alive. Lionel is one of the first to realize that the Marybeth that returned to the house is not the Marybeth who left. She is not wearing her glasses anymore, has not plaited her hair. When one of the older boys steals her breakfast because she is too slow, she does something that is decidedly not Marybeth. She lunges across the table and bites his neck!

What was that blue light in the water that surrounded Marybeth?  And how did it get inside of her?

What follows is an absolutely chilling tale of ghostly possession, friendship, madness and family. Moody and atmospheric, readers will be able to picture the settings and feel the tension and desperation Lionel feels as he tries to save his friend.

Breathtaking!

(Publishing 9/13/16)


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10. Summer Holidays, Family, and the Writing Life…

Wait. You're staying how long?
We Canadians love our summer holidays, and other than major holidays such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, it’s the only time when we can get together with our families and just chill. This begs me to ask the question: Is it possible to write during the summer months? Um. Yeah. It’s a toughie, but I did manage to get some writing done. And I have been busy editing the second book in my young adult time travel series, The Last Timekeepers and the Dark Secret. So there’s a thumbs up for that. But when I read a recent post from Mirror World Publishing’s blog entitled It’s Okay Not to Write, I decided to put aside any guilty feelings of ‘not’ writing regularly in the summer, and just enjoy this hot, sunny season and time spent with my family.

The first Monday in August is our Civic Holiday, which is a roundabout way of saying ‘Public’ Holiday. It’s not a statutory holiday in the province where I live (Ontario), but if your employer is on the generous side, then you can probably book that long weekend away with no problem. The Civic Holiday weekend also marks the middle of summer—halfway to fall and five weeks till school starts. Sorry, kids!

When we lived at our cottage, it seemed like the busiest weekend of the summer, and since we were on a medium-sized lake, you had to take turns going out water skiing or tubing. Our kids usually ambushed visited us that weekend for food and fun-in-the-sun, and somehow they left their children behind. LOL! Thankfully, there was a lot to do around the cottage for the grandkids with swimming, fishing, boating, tubing, canoeing, reading on the beach (yes, I have a few readers), watching movies, and campfires. We found that the week just flew by! I truly miss those days, and I’m grateful for those cottage memories with our family and friends.

Now that we live in the ‘Banana’ belt of Canada (think Florida weather), and farther from some of our family, we see the kids less. Most of the grandchildren have their own lives now. Sigh. The bright spot is we do get to see our youngest grandchild (now ten), and have her for the week of the Civic Holiday. Yay! So I’ve compiled a list of things to do around in this area to keep the little minion busy, happy, and motivated. Read on…

1.      Baking with Grandpa (Grandma doesn’t do baking)
2.      A day at the beach…Holiday Beach to be precise!
3.      Movie night at Silver City in Windsor; granddaughter’s pick!
4.      Walking the Riverfront and catching a boat tour with Windsor River Cruises.
5.      Cooling down at the Toddy Jones Park Slash Pad, then heading over to the Waterfront Ice Cream Parlor.
6.      Visiting the Amherstburg Freedom Museum. This is a win-win, as I get to do some research for my next time travel book too!
7.      Heading to my brother’s pool for a swim. Thank God for relatives with pools!
8.      Catching up on Disney shows! (Grandpa is looking forward to this!)
9.      Keeping cool at the Devonshire Mall in Windsor where I’m sure someone is bound to score a gift or two.
10.  If time permits, going to Adventure Bay Family Water Park in Windsor. After a few hours there, we’ll be water-logged for the week! LOL!

Now, if we play our cards right, our granddaughter will look like this each night:

Nighty, night. Sleep tight.
I hope you have a safe and happy holiday with your family or friends, and enjoy the rest of your summer! Remember life is short, and no one who is on their death bed says that they wished they could have spent more time at work. Think about it. Relationships truly matter. Cheers and thank you for reading my blog!

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11. The Biggest Little Brother - A picture book for siblings!





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12. White Fur Flying

White Fur Flying. Patricia MacLachlan. 2013. 116 pages. [Source: Library]

I really enjoyed Patricia MacLachlan's White Fur Flying. I loved Zoe and her family. Her mom rescues dogs--Great Pyrenees--fostering them until they can find forever homes. Her dad is a veterinarian, I believe. He brings home a parrot one day that is in need of a home. The parrot was--and this is very surprising to me--one of the highlights of the book. In fact, without the parrot, I don't think this novel would work as well, be as emotionally moving. She has a sister, Alice, who is always talking, telling stories, writing poems and stories, etc. Zoe's own character is revealed slowly throughout the book. Kodi, the other "family member" is a dog--Great Pyrenees, of course. He likes having other dogs around, and doesn't mind them coming and going.

So. The novel opens with the family watching the new neighbors move in. They haven't officially--or even unofficially--met the new family yet. And so some are quite busy making up stories about who they are, and why they're moving. Phillip is a boy around 9 or 10 that is moving in next door. He's the quiet type. The really-super-quiet and choosing-not-to-talk-at-all type. But that doesn't keep Kody and Alice and the other dogs from wanting to make friends with him....

Why is Phillip so silent? Will befriending dogs "save" him and help him reconnect with the world again?

This one is predictable enough--if you're an adult reader especially. I can't say honestly whether or not I would have found it predictable enough as a child. For one thing, if a book had a dog on the cover, I wouldn't read it because I was afraid the dog might die. Even though it might be on the slightly-predictable side. I found it very high on the feel-good side. I liked the way the book made me feel, especially at the end when Alice shares her poem. I think that is worth noting. Predictable does not always equal "bad."

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Lessons from my Brother…

Ian at his home in spring 2014
I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since my youngest brother, Ian, has left us. Truth be known, we actually got closer when he was diagnosed with cancer over two years ago. I’d phone him once a week, and he’d phone me when he was feeling up to it. He brought his son to our ‘Farewell to the Cottage’ party and had fun watching him fish and hang out with the family. Oh, there were times when I wanted to slap my brother across the back of his head for his bad behavior and callousness in the past. I know I’m not the only sibling in that boat! LOL! Still, in the end, Ian was my brother. And as the old saying goes, blood is thicker than water.

They say you can choose your friends but not your family. But I believe that we choose the family we want to be with before we’re born. Scary concept, eh? We choose what lessons we want to learn from our family that will help our souls grow, develop, and evolve into someone better than before we were born. And when those lessons are over, the teacher leaves us.

So this got me to thinking. What lessons did my brother teach me? I did a little time traveling, since I’ve been so good at that lately, and came up with some answers…

I remember when I got my father’s station wagon crooked in the garage and tried to straighten it. Um, not one of my finest moments. I scraped both sides of the car, until I realized that there was no way I could straighten it. So what did I do? I ran crying to my two brothers. I swear they couldn’t stop laughing, but my heart was pounding so hard knowing I was gonna get in trouble. Ian managed to get the car out, and drove it back into the garage with no sweat.

Lesson learned:Patience is a virtue. Oh, and never try to straighten a big-ass car in a small garage.
I remember when I used to cheer Ian on during his hockey games. I wished like hell I could have played hockey back then. But being born in a time when no such opportunities existed, I settled for being his team’s number one booster.

Lesson learned:A team doesn’t just consist of players. The backbone of any sport is comprised of the blood, sweat, and cheers of all family members. Plus, I believe I found my true voice with all that cheerleading I did!

I remember when Ian let me drive his and my other brother’s green Challenger. Somehow, I managed to put one of the front wheels into a ditch while backing out. I think we had to pull it out with my father’s station wagon (yes, the same one that got a garage door make-over). Again, my brother got me out of another tight spot and didn’t berate at me.

Lesson learned:I always have the support I need to overcome obstacles. And never make wide turns in a small driveway.

I remember when my brother and his best buddy sat on me so I couldn’t go to church. They held me down until it was too late to attend. Um, yeah. Hope God forgave them for that one. Still, I know Ian was never one for religion or going to church, and sometimes we all have our faith tested again and again to see if our beliefs have changed from when we were kids. I know mine have.

Lesson learned:Develop an understanding of where other people are coming from. Even if those people are sitting on you.

I remember when my brother tried (operative word here is tried) to teach me how to drive three on the tree in his red truck. He drove me down to the town’s fairgrounds where I could practice shoving the stick-shift in the column. About ten grinds later, we called it quits before I did something very bad to the transmission. He never took me out again.

Lesson learned:When something doesn’t work for you, just let it go.
Finally, I remember when we celebrated the first Christmas during Ian’s apprenticeship as a mechanic. He bought us some wonderful and expensive gifts, and I truly appreciated his generosity. I still have part of that gift – the mirror to the tea caddy he bought me. Ian was very generous to our family that year, and I believe our father would have been so proud of him, had he lived.

Lesson learned:Enjoy the fruits of your labors, so that you may share them with those you love the most.
Ian celebrating our 'Farewell to the Cottage' party

As the first year of your absence in our lives comes to a close, I want to just thank you for choosing me as your big sister, Ian. It was a truly a gift from the Universe, and I believe I made the right choice too. Here’s a toast to you, who in the end, will always be my little brother…

“Be grateful to those who left you, for their absence gave you the strength to grow in the space they abandoned.” ~ Dodinsky

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14. Waiting for the Magic

Waiting for the Magic. Patricia MacLachlan. 2011. 143 pages. [Source: Library]

Can a book about a father abandoning his family actually be good and funny and heartwarming? Apparently it can if it's written by Patricia MacLachlan.

The novel opens with Will, the narrator, discovering that his Dad has left them. He finds a note from his dad for him, and one for his sister. The mom, who is struggling to hold it together, decides to do something that many might consider drastic in its suddenness. The family needs a dog; that very day they will go to a shelter and get one. Will and Elinor can come along to help pick one out. Do they come home with a dog? Yes. They come home with FOUR dogs and ONE cat. The dogs are Bryn, Grace, Neo, and Bitty. The cat is Lula.

The way it's talked about in the novel--the way its perceived--is that 4 dogs and 1 cat can successfully replace the absent Dad. And that's a little true, at least on the surface, the dogs definitely take their minds off the problem, and prove lovable and entertaining as well. They all help take care of the animals. Everyone loves to play with all the dogs. And at night, the dogs are often in their beds. Bryn, I believe, "owns" the Mom, and takes over the bed.

The dogs are very joyful and fun. The novel has some 'magic' in it. The dogs (and cat) TALK. At first, it's just the four year old, Elinor, that hears them. The animals are all, OF COURSE SHE CAN HEAR US, SHE'S FOUR. YOU ALWAYS HEAR WHEN YOU'RE FOUR. But eventually Will hears them too....and he's not the only one.

I don't want to spoil the book. I don't. But the Dad is not out of the picture for good....and the family drama isn't nearly over. But it's drama in the best way under the circumstances. I wasn't expecting the book to be so delightful and heartwarming. I really wasn't.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. The Seventh Wish, by Kate Messner

I always look forward to books by Kate Messner. Why? Because I know they will be solid, kid centered and bring something to the table. I had read online that she had recently been disinvited to a school due to the content of her latest book.  I quickly went to my TBR pile and pulled out my copy to give it a go.

Charlie's sister Abby is home from college for the weekend and things aren't going exactly like Charlie had imagined they would.  When she goes to wake Abby up to see if she will come out to look at the lake with her just in case the ice flowers have shown up again, Abby waves her off telling her to just go away. Somewhat chagrinned, Charlie trudges out to the lake only to see that the ice flowers have come back. Her neighbor Drew and his nana are also out on the lake but they are checking the ice for fishing possibilities. Drew tells Charlie about the fishing derby he plans on entering and the prize of $1000 for the biggest lake perch. Since Charlie really wants a new dress for her Irish dancing competitions, she decides to give it a go.

But despite living near the lake, Charlie is scared of its winter ice. So when she joins Drew and his nana, she sticks closer to shore. Soon everyone is landing fish left and right except for Charlie. When she finally pulls one in, it's hardly bigger than the bait she used to catch it. But right before she releases it she hears something. The fish is talking to her. "Release me and I will grant you a wish."

Well, what would you do? Charlie hastily wishes on her crush liking her and to not be afraid of the ice anymore. What harm could wishing on a fish really do?

Anyone who has read a fairy tale knows that wishes can easily go awry. And Charlie's wishes are no exception. While no harm is truly done, Charlie finds herself out on the ice more and more  (since she miraculously is no longer afraid of the ice) with Drew and his nana. Not only is it adding to her feis dress fund, but it's getting her out of the house. It turns out that Abby has changed in ways that Charlie never even imagined. While she was away at school, she started dabbling in drugs which led to a full blown heroin addiction. Who can Charlie even talk to about this? When she thinks about it, she feels ashamed and bewildered. How could Abby, who she had always looked up to, done this?

Kate Messner has written an important book that somewhat gently looks at the fact that anyone can be swiftly taken down by drugs, and specifically by opiates. I live on Staten Island where opiate abuse and heroin are at an all time high.  I commute to Manhattan with my children, and by the time they were 9 and 12 respectively they could tell the difference between someone napping and someone in a nod. They have witnessed police using narcan on people who have OD'd in the ferry terminal. They watched me try to convince the friends of a woman in the throws of an OD to allow me to call an ambulance for her. Kids aren't too young for this story. My kids are living this story everyday they commute. And the brothers and sisters of kids all over our Island are living Charlie's story.  So I would like to applaud Kate Messner for telling this story. It is one I plan on sharing and book talking whenever I get the chance.

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16. Blitzed by Robert Swindells

This post was originally posted in 2012, but something odd happened on Blogger and it had to be reposted.

It is 2002 and Georgie Wetherall loves two things - knowing all about England in World War II and creeping. Creeping?  That is when you “streak across a row of back gardens, over fences, through hedges, across veg patches...without getting caught or recognized.” (pg13)  And he especially likes leaving Miss Coverley’s garden is shambles.  Georgie knows she doesn’t like him - she's always watching him.  So when he has to repair her fence post as punishment for his last creeping adventure, Georgie discoveres she watches him - it seems he reminds her of someone, but who?

All this is forgotten, however, when Georgie’s class goes on a trip to Eden Camp, a former POW camp turned into a WW 2 museum of 29 huts each dedicated to one aspect of the war.  Hut 5 is a realistic replica of a bombed street in London during the Blitz.  The sounds and smells add to the realistic atmosphere - but wait, it is perhaps a little too realistic.  In fact, Georgie suddenly finds himself transported back to wartime London.

Finding himself faced with the real deal, cold, hungry, lost and scared, Georgie wanders around until he finds a friendly searchlight crew who give him something to eat.  After living through a night of bombing in a public shelter, Georgie notices four kids emerging from a bombed out pub.  He and the kids start talking and they tell him he can stay with them as long as Ma approves.  Ma turns out to be a 14 year-old girl who watches over orphaned kids in the pub's basement.

Ma has a job in a second hand shop owned by what she believes to be is a Jewish refugee from Germany called Rags.  But when Georgie discovers a radio transmitter locked in one of the shops upstairs rooms, the kids begin to suspect that maybe Rags isn't who they think he is.  And they decide to find out exactly what he is up to with that radio transmitter.  Trouble is, Rags begins to suspect Ma of snooping in his stuff and decides to find out what she is up to.  So, Georgie, along with Ma and the other orphans, is on a wartime adventure he never dreamt possible.

I liked this coming of age time travel story.  It is told in the first person, and the author maintains the voice of a 12 year-old boy throughout, giving it an authentic quality - quick, witty, full of colloquialisms from 2002 that are questioned by the folks from 1940.  I also found Georgie's reaction to his predicament refreshing.  In most time travel stories, kids end up in a different time and place and seem to assimilate so easily.  But for Georgie, it isn't just a jolly adventure.  He worries throughout about not getting home, not seeing his parents again.  As wartime London loses its romanticized aura and becomes reality, it causes Georgie to experience real reactions like throwing up more than once and even wetting himself at one point.

But it is also a story of survival, complete with a cast of orphan characters right out of Charles Dicken's London, who become Georgie's family away from family, helping him adjust and carry on. And most importantly, helping him see the reality of war.

Blitzed is a fast paced but wonderful book.  The chapters are only a few pages long, but the events are exciting, making it an ideal book for a reluctant readers and certainly one that would appeal to boys as well as girls.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was purchased for my personal library

You can hear Robert Swindells speaking about Blitzed here.  It is on YouTube but the embed function is disengaged.

And there really is an Eden Camp in Yorkshire, so if you happen to be in England and would have an interest in visiting (you might want to go to Yorkshire anyway, it is a wonderful place to see.)  Information about visiting can be found here

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17. Celebrating Writers and Teachers

It’s the end of the school year and our days are full of reflections, assessments, and all kinds of celebrations. During those final days before summer vacation begins, we find many ways celebrate… Continue reading

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18. The Boy on the Page, by Peter Carnavas | Book Review

Life is about who we touch, who we love and who loves us back. This book is a wonderful way to talk to children about the grand scheme of everything.

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19. StoryMakers On Location| The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems

STORYMAKERS Mo Willems Featured Image

StoryMakers host Rocco Staino caught up with Mo Willems at the preview for The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems, a retrospective of Willems’ work at the New-York Historical Society. The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems exhibit contains many pieces that show Willems’ process as he created some of kid lit’s most memorable characters. He hopes children create their own art after they leave the museum. The author and illustrator briefly discussed The Thank You Book, the 25th and last book in the Elephant and Piggie series.

Mo Willems has had a huge impact on the lives of children. As a television writer for Sesame Street he garnered six Emmys. His witty one-liners inspired children to quote characters from Codename: Kids Next Door amongst other familiar cartoons. In 2003 his first picture book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, was published and since then it’s been a stream of accolades; three Caldecott Honors, two Geisel Medals, five Geisel Honors, and a place in the Picture Book Hall of Fame.

Willems’ surly pigeon, the mismatched pair of Elephant and Piggie, and everyone’s favorite Knuffle Bunny are a few of the characters visitors will get to see evolve via the exhibit.

The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems exhibition brings together original art, sketches, and inspirational drawings from Willem’s most popular series, plus stand-alone classics such as Leonardo the Terrible Monster and That is NOT a Good Idea!. It displays the efforts behind the effortlessness, the seriousness behind the silliness, and the desire, as Willems says, “to think of my audience, not for my audience.” His ability to crisply weave together life lessons and humor creates artful volumes that speak to all, regardless of size.

The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems is open now, until September 25, 2016. Click here for ticket information, directions, and more.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art organized the exhibition, which is supported by Disney Publishing Worldwide.

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StoryMakers On Location - Mo Willems
ACTIVITIES

Click the images or links below to access fun activities with characters from Mo Willems’ books!

Go Mo Fun Games Go Mo: Fun Games!

Pigeon Presents Fun

Pigeon Presents: Fun

Pigeon Coloring Sheet of the Month

Coloring Sheet of the Month

ABOUT THE THANK YOU BOOK


The Thank You Book
The Thank You Book - The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems
Written and illustrated by Mo Willems (Disney-Hyperion, 2016)

Gerald is careful. Piggie is not. Piggie cannot help smiling. Gerald can. Gerald worries so that Piggie does not have to. Gerald and Piggie are best friends. In The Thank You Book!, Piggie wants to thank EVERYONE. But Gerald is worried Piggie will forget someone … someone important.

ABOUT MO WILLEMS

#1 New York Times Bestseller Mo Willems began his career as a writer and animator for PBS’ Sesame Street, where he garnered 6 Emmy Awards for his writing. During his nine seasons at Sesame Street, Mo also served as a weekly commentator for BBC Radio and created two animated series, Nickelodeon’s The Off-Beats and Cartoon Network’s Sheep in the Big City.

While serving as head writer for Cartoon Network’s #1 rated show, Codename: Kids Next Door, Mo began writing and drawing books for children. His debut effort, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! became a New York Times Bestseller and was awarded a Caldecott Honor in 2004. The following year Knuffle Bunny: a Cautionary Tale was awarded a Caldecott Honor. The sequel, Knuffle Bunny Too: a Case of Mistaken Identity garnered Mo his third Caldecott Honor in 2008.

In addition to picture books, Mo created the Elephant and Piggie books, a series of “Easy Readers”, which were awarded the Theodor Suess Geisel Medal in 2008 and 2009 and  Geisel Honors in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. For older audiences he has published an illustrated memoir of his year-long trip around the world in 1990-91 entitled You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When it Monsoons and Don’t Pigeonhole Me!, a collection of 20 years of his annual sketchbooks. His books have been translated into over 20 languages.

Read more: Mo Willems FAQ

CONNECT WITH MO WILLEMS
Website | Twitter

ABOUT THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research, presenting history and art exhibitions, and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical is the oldest museum in New York City. New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered political, cultural and social history of New York City and State and the nation, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.

New-York Historical is recognized for engaging the public with deeply researched and far-ranging exhibitions. Supporting these exhibitions and related education programs are one of the world’s greatest collections of historical artifacts, works of American art, and other materials documenting the history of the United States and New York.

The New-York Historical Society’s museum is the oldest in New York City and predates the founding of the Metropolitan Museum of Art by nearly seventy years.

Read more: New-York Historical Society

CONNECT WITH THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY
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StoryMakers On Location
Host: Rocco Staino
Executive Producer: Julie Gribble

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The post StoryMakers On Location| The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems appeared first on KidLit.TV.

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20. #840 – We There Are Yet? by Nina Laden and Adam McCauley

Are We There Yet? Written by Nina Laden Illustrated by Adam McCauley Chronicle Books   3/01/2016 978-1-4521-3155-9 32 pages    Ages 3—6 “We’ve all been there. Or more accurately, we’ve all been with kids in the backseat clamoring (over and over!) Are we there yet?” [back cover] Review It’s time for a trip to grandma’s. …

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21. Not to make you feel old or anything, but

…Rilla is ten years old today.

rillaandbeanie2006day1

The posts from the week following her birth gave me a lot of smiles. And then I just sat here quietly freaking out for a while because that was TEN YEARS AGO.

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22. Sesame Street: I Love You Just Like This! | Book Review

I Love You Just Like This! is an adorable story about love and all the ways parents feel it for their children.

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23. Happy Little Family (1947)

Happy Little Family. Rebecca Caudill. 1947. 107 pages. [Source: Bought]

I loved, loved, loved Rebecca Caudill's Happy Little Family. I bought this one because it was marketed for "those who love Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books." In fact, Rebecca Caudill was a contemporary author of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Happy Little Family was published in 1947, just a handful of years after These Happy Golden Years.

Happy Little Family is set in the Kentucky Mountains. The main character, for the most part, is a little girl named Bonnie who is about five years old. Bonnie has lots of siblings: Debby, Emmy, Chris, and Althy. (Readers also get to know the Mother and Father.) Each chapter is set in a different season of the year.

It opens in January with "Crack the Whip" a story about Bonnie wanting to go skating with her siblings and Father. She's "five" now--just turned five--and she wants to do everything her older sisters do. But skating isn't as easy as it looks, and, being the youngest has its advantages and disadvantages.

"The Pink Sunbonnet" is the story set in spring. Bonnie is jealous of her sisters who get new hats. She doesn't exactly want a new sunbonnet even if it is pink. She thinks only "little" girls wear sunbonnets. One really gets a sense of the family in this story. Even more so than in the first chapter. By this point, it was LOVE for me.

"The Arrowhead" is the story set in summer. The theme this time is BRAVERY.

"The Red Toboggan Cap" is the story set in fall. It is a lost and found story....

"The Journey" is the story set in December. Though she's not quite ready for school full-time, Bonnie gets to visit school for the very first time in this one. It is a bit about bravery too, I suppose, and a lot about growing up or trying to grow up! This story had its precious moments. Like when Bonnie thought she'd be brave enough to cross the oh-so-scary bridge by herself if only she could learn how to read and write the word CAT.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Book Review- This Is Not a Love Story by Keren David

Title: This Is Not A Love Story
Author: Keren David
Series:  N/A
Published:  7 May 2015 by Atom
Length: 352 pages
Source: library
Other info: Keren David has also written the When I Was Joe series (When I Was Joe, Almost True, and Another Life), Salvage, Lisa's Guide to Winning the Lottery, and Cuckoo. 
Summary : Kitty dreams of a beautiful life, but that's impossible in suburban London where her family is haunted by her father's unexpected death. So when her mum suggests moving to Amsterdam to try a new life, Kitty doesn't take much persuading. Will this be her opportunity to make her life picture perfect?
In Amsterdam she meets moody, unpredictable Ethan, and clever, troubled Theo. Two enigmatic boys, who each harbour their own secrets. In a beautiful city and far from home, Kitty finds herself falling in love for the first time.
But will love be everything she expected? And will anyone's heart survive?
Review: Kitty and Theo have recently moved to Amsterdam. Kitty's mother's boyfriend's son is Ethan. The three of them must deal with falling in love, keeping secrets from each other, and getting through life.
I wanted to read this because it kept getting flagged up in chats for featuring bisecusl boys, and I'd been meaning to read things by Keren for a long time. Keren reading short story from Ethan's viewpoint made me want to know more about him and therefore I started on this.
It did seem a bit wandering regarding Kitty and Ethan's story, to start with (probably because I'm generally less interested in people working out who they like until there's bigger conflicts involved). I did like seeing the development of Theo's relationship with Sophie, which is told partially by flashback partially in the present too. I also liked seeing all the relationship strands between Kitty, Theo and Ethan converge and how that all panned out. The building and breakdown of relationships in this book are tumultuous, but good to read about.
I really enjoyed reading about different cultures - Jewish and Dutch. I especially liked that Keren provided characters with different attitudes to aspects of their culture, offering a range of characters within such an under-represented group.
The side characters made a good group. My favourite was Rachel, Kitty's sister, who was funny, and a good support for Kitty.
There's a lot of things our main trio have to deal with. Family relationships, working out friendships, health issues, fitting in when moving abroad... A lot is happening here, and I quite liked seeing how Theo and Kitty fit in after the move.
Part one is the climatic event, part two is before, part three is after. I liked this structure, as it catches your attention immediately, and establishes characters.
I loved the ending. Kitty's discussion with her friends is good for reminding all of us of some lessons in life. Characters' justifications for the way they wanted things were realistic, especially Ethan's (last paragraphs of chapter 44) and while the strands unpacked within the novel are tied up, there's still an openendedness for the future.
Overall:  
Strength 4 tea to a story that is not about love, but is about relationships, romantic, familial, and friendshippy, and overall about life.


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25. Character work has begun on "The Biggest Little Brother" ....

A family from Sierra Leone moves to Atlanta and all is well.....until the little "big" brother learns his older brother will soon be living with them. Written by Aminata Jalloh.



















































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