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1. The Flirt

I remember flirting – they did it back when I was in college, I think. It’s like penmanship – I was never any good at it. I was also bad at recognizing the few times it happened to me.

Case in point, I was at a party one time and a girl confided in me that she was having trouble with her boyfriend back home. She said it would be nice if she could find someone to make him jealous and gave me a long and rather odd look. I assumed the look meant she might be gassy or something, so I offered to refill her drink and plodded away.

Upon finding my friend, JC, I told him what had just happened. He gave me an equally odd look and said, “Dude, she wanted to make him jealous with you. Are you stupid?”

I refused to answer his charge, but rushed back to the young lady in question, only to find JC glued to her hip. In fact, he must have told every eligible male in the room because there seemed to be an impenetrable force field of testosterone around her. I have no idea what her intentions were and never saw her again.

800px-Eugen_de_Blaas_The_Flirtation

Now I’m old and married. I flirt with my wife sometimes. I’m so bad at it that she mostly laughs at me when I do. I am a believer in wearing my wedding ring and I don’t frequent bars – so I don’t see much flirtation anymore. If I was bad at recognizing flirtation back in the day, I’m totally out of practice now.

Which brings me to a recent lunch where a lady half my age at a table nearby seemed to be peeking my way. It got downright embarrassing. I kept my head down – no sense leading her on with my charm and good looks (Ha!). After all, I am not available. I often wonder what a man in his 40’s would even talk about with a girl in her 20’s. Most of the time when a person that young talks to me, I feel like I’m watching Telemundo – I understand every third word and just nod a lot.

I felt the weight of this young lady’s stare all through lunch. My mind was ablaze with ways to tell my wife about it – that was going to be fun. The old man still has it! I couldn’t get in trouble for this. After all, several witnesses could testify that I didn’t initiate or encourage the situation. I was just a pawn in her game of lust.

At some point, she appeared two feet away from me. I had no desire to hurt her feelings. After I spurned her advances, I hoped she wouldn’t be crushed. Now that I saw her up close, she was a very attractive young lady who could easily find love with an available man closer to her age.

“Excuse me,” she said. “I’m sorry I was staring at you.”

“That’s okay,” I answered gently. “People say I look like Opie Taylor, so I get that a lot.”

Her look of confusion betrayed that she had no idea who that was… So young.

“No, that’s not it,” she said. “You just look familiar to me.”

The oldest pick-up line in the book. Here we go.

“I don’t think I know you,” I said.

“Oh, I know that. But you look exactly like my dad if he were bald. Do you mind if we take a selfie so I can send it to him?”

Crap…

I smiled as best I could as she took the picture with my friends laughing wildly. My boastful story to my wife died with the flash of her phone, as did a piece of my self-esteem. I really gotta stop shaving my head.

 

***

Artwork:  The Flirtation by Eugen de Blaas


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

5 Comments on The Flirt, last added: 9/30/2014
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2. Grief

Death. Grief. Sorrow. Those aren’t words that any of us like, especially when they involve those closest to us. I don’t pretend to understand sorrow, though I have experienced it many times. I experienced it when my grandparents died. I experienced it when my own father was in a car accident, and again when my…

10 Comments on Grief, last added: 9/29/2014
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3. Serious business

So today I wrote this thing and then I wrote that thing, and then I spent a long time on that other thing, the result of which is that I didn’t finish writing this thing here. So all I have to report today is a long, amusing moment waiting outside Trader Joe’s while Huck painstakingly read the entire cautionary messaging on the seat of the shopping cart.

serious business

 

My favorite bit: “ALWAYS buckle up child in cart and fasten seriously.”

You probably can’t make it out in the photo, but what it really says is “fasten securely.” But Huck’s version certainly made sense to him. He took these instructions very seriously indeed and stoutly refused to stand on the end of the cart as is our usual arrangement. No, Mommy, look at the picture. (Pointing to another placard on the end of the cart.) The circle with the line through it means NO STANDING. 

He’s getting too big to ride up front, but today he insisted, and he buckled the seatbelt both securely and seriously.

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4. Cover Reveal: Rose Eagle

Last fall, Tu Books released Killer of Enemies, a post-apocalyptic steampunk adventure by Joseph Bruchac. Readers were introduced to seventeen-year-old Apache hunter Lozen, a kick-butt warrior who kills monsters to ensure the safety of her family.

Set to be released next month, Joseph Bruchac has written an e-novella that’s a prequel to Killer of Enemies, titled Rose Eagle.

Rose Eagle is set in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where readers are introduced to seventeen-year-old Rose Eagle of the Lakota tribe who is trying to find her place in a post-apocalyptic world.

Before the Silver Cloud, the Lakota were forced to work in the Deeps, mining for ore so that the Ones, the overlords, could continue their wars. But when the Cloud came and enveloped Earth, all electronics were shut off. Some miners were trapped in the deepest Deeps and suffocated, but the Lakota were warned to escape, and the upper Deeps became a place of refuge for them in a post-Cloud world.

In the midst of this chaos, Rose Eagle’s aunt has a dream: Rose will become a medicine woman, a healer. She sends Rose into the Black Hills on a quest to find healing for their people.

Gangly and soft-spoken, Rose is no warrior. She seeks medicine, not danger. Nevertheless, danger finds her, but love and healing soon follow. When Rose Eagle completes her quest, she may return with more than she ever thought she was looking for.

rose eagle coverThanks to the following blogs for participating in the Rose Eagle cover reveal:

Beyond Victoriana

Finding Wonderland

Rich in Color

We can’t wait to hear what you think of the cover!


Filed under: Book News, Cover Design, New Releases, Tu Books Tagged: black hills, cover reveal, dystopia, family, first love, friendship, genetic engineering, healer, healing, Joseph Bruchac, Killer of Enemies, lakota, medicine woman, mining, native americans, novella, rose eagle, science fiction, south dakota, steampunk

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5. The Red Pencil, by Andrea Davis Pinkney






We begin with Amira's 12 birthday.  She is finally old enough to wear a toob yet young enough to enjoy her Dando lifting her to the sky.  Amira lives on a farm in South Darfur surrounded by friends and family, but changes are afoot.  Amira's best friend Halima and her family are packing their things and moving to the city.  They say the city has more opportunities.  Amira wishes she could go with them to Nyala and attend the Gad Primary School with Halima.  Amira is not so sure about her Muma's old fashioned ways.

                  "She does not like the idea of Gad,
                    or any place where girls learn
                    to read
                    or write,
                    in Arabic or English
                    or think beyond a life
                    of farm chores and marriage." (p. 13 arc)

Soon, the extra chores of 12, missing Halima, and trying to solve the ongoing bickering between her father and villager Old Anwar seem anything but troubling.  The relative peace of her village is shattered when the Janjaweed  attack, changing Amira's very existence.

Amira and the other survivors must pick up the pieces and leave the ruins of the village to find safety.  Their trek takes them to the refugee camp Kalma - the Displaced People's Camp.  Amira doesn't like this space surrounded by fences and barbed wire.

                    "Everywhere I look,
                      I see
                      people, people, and more people.

                      I'm glad to stop walking.
                      I'm glad we have finally reached who-knows-where.
                      But already I do not like this place." (arc p. 139)

It would be easy enough to give up in such a desperate place with no real end in sight.  Amira and her family have lost so much.  But when Amira meets Miss Sabine and is given a gift of a red pencil she discovers some things about herself, her family and those on the journey with her.

Written in free verse, The Red Pencil is a story of family and loss and hope.  It was eye opening for me on a number of levels.  One is that it is so easy for me not to see what is happening in the world from my perch here in NYC.  The horrors of Darfur in the early 2000s seemed so far away in time and place that I wonder how many people in North America are aware of what was happening.  I find myself very impressed with the deftness of Andrea Davis Pinkney's hand when it came to writing the passages dealing with the violence.  She truly tells the story from a 12 year old's point of view, and the free verse format allows for silences that speak volumes.  The illustrations by Shane W. Evans are playful within this serious book and somehow bring a feeling of safety to the pages.

A must read for librarians, teachers and students.


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6. 10 Clues Your Family’s Faith is Like a Fairy Tale

    by Sally Matheny 

    

    Once upon a time, there were parents who wished upon every shooting star for their kids to turn out okay. Shiny pennies were tossed into fountains and wishbones pulled, in hopes that their children would grow up to be joyful and productive citizens of the land. Imagine the parents’ sorrow and dismay when they did not.

     Is this your family’s philosophy? Are you sure? Check out these 10 clues to see if your family’s faith is like a fairy tale:






1.  Your children have no idea where the location of their Bibles. However, you keep your copy under the seat in the car, just in case you need it one Sunday.

2.  A Bible isn’t used at home for individual study or for a family time of devotions.

3.  Someone says a blessing before meals, but only when company is present.

4.  The only time you pray with your kids is at bedtime—when you remember—and actually, that’s your child praying her usual list.

Is Your Family's Faith Like a Fairy Tale?
5.  At Christmas, discussions are mainly about being good for Santa and about presents. At Easter, the focus is more about emptying a plastic egg than the miracle of Christ’s empty tomb.

6.  Quite often, your family chooses to attend to many things on Sunday, except church.

7.  When you do attend church, you focus more on what’s in it for you than how you can serve others.

8.  At home, there is more talk about reality shows than the reality of God, His love, and His will for your lives.

9. When sin occurs in your home it is often justified rather than dealt with it in a just manner.

10.  Family members’ speech and behaviors are vastly different outside the church walls.
      
     
     The true story is families are not living in a fairy tale world. God is real. And so is Satan. We can’t live out our days haphazardly, hoping our sons eventually turn into knightly men and our daughters don’t become damsels in distress.

      We live in a sinful world. How are you strengthening your family for spiritual battle? A fairy godmother is not going to show up and make your troubles disappear with the wave of a wand. It requires standing firmly on faith and living by the Sword of Truth. Gather your family and get back to basic training. Actively participate in a church that teaches and practices God’s Holy Word. Make your testimony real to your children.
     
     You either make-believe or you do believe in Jesus Christ. One belief leads to chaos and the other leads to a joyfully ever after.


     

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7. A Horse Called Hero by Sam Angus

It's 1940, and British soldiers have just been evacuated from Dunkirk, but Dodo (Dorothy) Revel and her younger brother Wolfie, 8, still haven't heard from their Pa, Captain Revel.  When a telegram arrives, Spud, the children's housekeeper, tells them the sad news that their Pa is missing.  Later that night, however, the children overhear Spud talking to someone that seems to indicate something else about Pa.

Next thing Dodo and Wolfie know, they are being evacuated to Dulverton, North Devon.  Billeted with a reluctant woman whose son is off fighting, their only relief is at school with their kind teacher Miss Lamb.  One day, on their way home from school, Dodo and Wolfie find a newborn foal.  For Wolfie, it's a miracle.  Pa had loved horses and knew a lot about them, much of which he had already taught Wolfie.  Dodo and Wolfie decide to hide the foal, now named Hero for Captain Revel, with the help of a local boy named Ned.

When word breaks that Captain Revel is being charged with desertion and disobedience at Dunkirk, Mrs. Sprig decides she can't have his children living with her.  Luckily, they end up with Miss Lamb and her elderly father, Rev. Lamb.  There is even a place for the growing Hero there.

Life is better with the Lambs, though not at school.  The whole nation is following Captain Revel's court-martial and his children are bearing the brunt of people's anger.  It is a slow process and as time goes by life gets harder, with increasing shortages and rationing.  Hettie Lamb has been watching over a small herd of Exmoor ponies, which are slowly disappearing.  During a particularly cold snowy winter, the ponies are rounded up, and, along with Hero, put into a pen where they can be fed.  But one night, the ponies and Hero disappear.  Wolfie is devestated.

When Rev. Lamb dies, Hettie is told she must move and so the three of them go to live in County Durham, a coal mining area in Northeast England.  There, Dodo gives art lessons to the children of a coal mine owner, while Hettie teaches school.  The war has now ended and Captain Revel is serving a two year sentence and still hoping to have his name cleared.  He had always worked to improve condition for coal miners, and now, even in prison is continuing that work.

But when the truth about Ned, the boy who had helped Wolfie with Hero back in Dulverton, and the shady activities he had been bullied into doing by his father come to light, things begin to change.  Is it possible the Ned holds the key to what happened to Hero?

I really enjoyed reading Sam Angus's novel Soldier Dog when it first came out, so I was excited to read A Horse Called Hero.  And I wasn't disappointed,  it is a very compelling, though somewhat predictable, story with lots of coincidences.  What is nice about this story are the glimpses the reader gets into so many aspects of life during the war.

There are the pacifist demonstrations in Knightsbridge the children witness while out shopping with Spud.  Sometimes we forget that not everyone supports war.  The crowds of children and parents on Praed Street heading to Paddington Station was palpable.  And although evacuation was difficult under the best of circumstances, Dodo and Wolfie's story show how absolutely capricious the whole process was.  Mrs. Sprig was a horrible, narrow-minded woman with friends just like herself and wasn't able to really welcome these two scared, displaced children into her home.  It makes one wonder how often that or worst happened in real life.  

However, Angus draws a lovely picture of the relationship between Wolfie and Captain Revel in the letters exchanged throughout the war, much of which was advice on caring for a horse.  Wolfie's hero worship of his father is touching, never flailing even when the circumstances surrounding Captain Revel's arrest are revealed.  Captain Revel was clearly a very compassionate character and it is one of the best fiction father/son relationships I've ever read.

The reader also learns so much about what life was life for coal miners and the pit ponies, as they were called.  These horses pulled tons of coal out of the mine each day, never seeing daylight once they were  deep in the mine.  The men and horses labored under dangerous conditions and that was what Captain Revel was working to change.

Two things did bother me - we never find out how old Dodo is, only that she is older than Wolfie.  And a map showing the relationship of London, North Devon and County Durham would have been nice (maps are almost always nice in historical fiction).

But, in the end, the novel really asks the readers to consider what makes a hero.  For that, it is a novel  well worth reading.

This book is recommended for readers 9+, but proably better for 11+
This book was purchased for my personal library

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8. picture stories

              An afternoon drive out of Atlanta, a patriotic rest stop, a Confederate flag flying over the Columbia, South Carolina Statehouse, an arrival at Mama's house on John's Island. O Charleston, O Youth, O History of Long Ago. The marsh, the swamp, the salt, the

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9. Honesty Has a Smell

A relaxing morning, cooler temperatures, a good run, and a mystery to be solved. That’s what greeted me on Sunday. What started off as an excellent day devolved into a conspiracy against me! The evidence piled up early until I had no other option but to come to the conclusion that I am not trusted in my home when it comes to selecting fragrances.cp

No one would tell me this shocking news, of course. I had to figure it out on my own. Since my littlest’s sickness means my wife stays with her most of the time, I must do a good portion of the shopping. I am up to the task. I have now purchased things I didn’t know we used, needed, or even existed. One of those things is fragrance products. Did you know there is a whole store that just sells that? I knew about air fresheners, baking soda, and odor-eaters, but do we really need a store.

The aforementioned little one currently loves bubble bath – which apparently, they only sell at the smell store. So I volunteered the previous day to go and get her more. When I did so, I noticed a few sneers and strange looks around the room. Never did I think they would stoop so low as to plot an underhanded way to keep me from helping. But that’s just what they did.

I believe in honesty! If someone has an issue with me, tell me. I would much rather someone tell me that my pants are too tight and my shirt too puffy than let me walk around all day looking like a foolish pirate. I guess this is a value I have been lax in instilling in my children…

On our way home from church, we passed the smell store. When I suggested to the two daughters present that we stop in, I got fumbling excuses about homework and hunger. I should have known something was amiss right then. I mean, when do they ever want to do homework?

Arriving at home, pizza appeared from nowhere along with cold Dr. Pepper. I was ushered to the TV where the Falcons game was already cued up on the DVR. Hmmmm….

Lulled into a football coma, three hours passed as my team got pushed around by their opponent. Likewise, I got manhandled by five delicate females. Angry about the game, I grabbed my keys to go – only to find that the purchases had already been made.

I was going to get something exotic, tropical… something that would have let her float away to an island retreat… Whatever scent I picked would have soothed her beyond all her troubles. It would have uplifted her mood and spirits just to reflect on its glorious scent. My choices were as endless as a box a crayons:

Warm Vanilla Sugar

Peace, Love & Daisies

Pure Paradise

Endless Weekend

 

Why wouldn’t they let me? Why?

None would make eye contact with me as I probed for an answer, leaving me:

Hurt

Disappointed

Rejected

Betrayed

 

Finally the little one said, “Dad, you like the smell of your farts.”

And there it is! Honesty! That’s all I’m asking for.                  Wait… Huh?


Filed under: Dad stuff

5 Comments on Honesty Has a Smell, last added: 9/17/2014
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10. Offsides - Kerry Madden-Lundsford

The best advice I ever got, as an author was, "Write what you know." Kerry Madden-Lundsford takes that to a whole new level with her debut novel (republished - 2014), Offsides.

The daughter of a college football coach, Kerry Madden-Lunsford grew up in a series of hometowns, transplanted from one place to the next with the changing of the football season, uprooted from childhood friends with almost no warning. It is this hectic, whirlwind lifestyle which Madden-Lunsford draws upon in writing her first novel, Offsides.

The first thing Kerry will tell you is, "No, my father isn't John Madden." She does, however, pull memories-some good, some bad-from her days as the oldest child of a football coach, being uprooted from one football-crazy college town, to the next.

I found Madden-Lundsford's characterization of an awkward, self-critical, defiant Liz Donegal, refreshing and believable. While she protests every move, we know she will eventually give in and pick up roots, once more, in order to follow her father's never-ending search for that elusive head-coaching job.

On the surface, Liz appears to be an island; never quite fitting in, even with her family, but in between the lines, you feel the love and loyalty the Donegal family possesses, even when her closest confidants, her mother's sister and her father's brother, appear to leave her behind.

While I'm a dog lover, and cringe at the thought of losing a beloved dog, Madden-Lundsford writes an especially vivid scene in which the grave of "Bear Bryant" is dug up by his replacement, "Halfback". Equally traumatic is that all this takes place during Liz's boyfriend's first meeting with her family.

I highly recommend this book for YA and mature teens.

Further proof that Offsides is written from experience? Check out this picture from one of the author's latest booksignings.


Kerry Madden-Lundsford with Lynn Majors, wife of famed Tennessee football coach, Johnny Majors

Offsides: Amazon Kindle
Kerry Madden Books


Mary Cunningham, author, Cynthia's Attic Series,
The Adventures of Max and Maddie Series
 

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11. Offsides - Kerry Madden-Lunsford

The best advice I ever got, as an author was, "Write what you know." Kerry Madden-Lunsford takes that to a whole new level with her debut novel (republished - 2014), Offsides.

The daughter of a college football coach, Kerry Madden-Lunsford grew up in a series of hometowns, transplanted from one place to the next with the changing of the football season, uprooted from childhood friends with almost no warning. It is this hectic, whirlwind lifestyle which Madden-Lunsford draws upon in writing her first novel, Offsides.

The first thing Kerry will tell you is, "No, my father isn't John Madden." She does, however, pull memories-some good, some bad-from her days as the oldest child of a football coach, being uprooted from one football-crazy college town, to the next.

I found Madden-Lunsford's characterization of an awkward, self-critical, defiant Liz Donegal, refreshing and believable. While she protests every move, we know she will eventually give in and pick up roots, once more, in order to follow her father's never-ending search for that elusive head-coaching job.

On the surface, Liz appears to be an island; never quite fitting in, even with her family, but in between the lines, you feel the love and loyalty the Donegal family possesses, even when her closest confidants, her mother's sister and her father's brother, appear to leave her behind.

While I'm a dog lover, and cringe at the thought of losing a beloved dog, Madden-Lunsford writes an especially vivid scene in which the grave of "Bear Bryant" is dug up by his replacement, "Halfback". Equally traumatic is that all this takes place during Liz's boyfriend's first meeting with her family.

I highly recommend this book for YA and mature teens.

Further proof that Offsides is written from experience? Check out this picture from one of the author's latest booksignings.


Kerry Madden-Lundsford with Lynn Majors, wife of famed Tennessee football coach, Johnny Majors

Offsides: Amazon Kindle
Kerry Madden Books


Mary Cunningham, author, Cynthia's Attic Series,
The Adventures of Max and Maddie Series
 

0 Comments on Offsides - Kerry Madden-Lunsford as of 9/16/2014 10:42:00 AM
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12. Upcycling

photo (39)

Contrary to appearances, we are not giving away our youngest son (and all his toys, to boot). The neighbors put out this shelving unit and we thought it might be just the thing to replace our sagging makeshift TV stand. We stand corrected. What it is JUST THE THING for is setting up a shop, of course. What were we thinking? The Legos and Wedgits are being offered in lots ranging from  “small pile” to “big pile” to “treasure.” When business is slow, you can fold yourself into your house and take a nap.

TV stand. ::snort:: What nonsense adults come up with sometimes.

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13. Bumps and Petty Annoyances

There once was a humble Lord who refused the high stature, fame, and glory that he so rightly deserved. He lived with his beautiful Lady in a quiet manor deep in a thick forest. The two had a dog who rarely barked, save at pillaging squirrels – and that was just fine because the Lord hated squirrels nearly as much as he detested noise.noise

Slowly, however, noise crept in. It started with a small bump on his Lady that grew and grew until the bump turned into a baby. How proud he was of this little bump. It cooed, it giggled, it smiled… and it cried. It shattered his peace with its colicky wails and while he loved this little bump, the Lord yearned for the peace it had stolen.

From time to time, snuck off to the porch, basement, or rolling meadow to get away from the ruckus. As time marched on, the little bump became mobile. For some reason, it loved the Lord of the manor and would follow him to any retreat and destroy the silence he sought.

Three more bumps put an end to any refuge on the grounds. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide, no square inch of silence to be found. The bumps may have shattered his peace, but they brought him laughter, love, and joy he hadn’t known before. He loved the little bumps more than he ever thought possible… even though they were loud.

All four little bumps grew in stature and decibel until they could no longer be called little. In fact, the time came for one of them to strike off on its own. It was the oldest and loudest bump that left home in search of her destiny. Both Lord and Lady were sad. There was but one comfort in her absence, some measure of quiet returned to the manor.

In the evenings, while the other three bumps pursued wordless interests, the Lord sat back in his easy chair and relished the silence. This newfound peace lasted several days before he realized something was missing. Something he had previously considered an annoyance was gone. He should have been happy. He should have rejoiced over the removal of the thorn. But instead, he felt a different way.

So it went until a long weekend came and the oldest bump burst through the door with a very large bag of laundry. Beside her stood an equally loud jester she suspiciously called “boyfriend”. They sung, hooted, hollered, and raised the excitement of the other bumps until the Lord of the manor had to hold his ears. Now he knew what was missing. Though his head did ache, his heart was full enough to accept even the added noise of her jester friend.

In this merry state, he wondered what joys had he missed over the years simply because he had loved silence over substance.

Petty annoyances can be dangerous things, don’t give them more credence than they are due.   


Filed under: Dad stuff

7 Comments on Bumps and Petty Annoyances, last added: 9/9/2014
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14. #652 – I Love You Infinity by Jillian, Max, and Sam Schmidt

coverx

I Love You Infinity

Written by Jillian, Max, and Sam Schmidt
Illustrated by Robert Pracek
Blue Note Books 2014
978-0-9895563-2-3
Age 4 to 8 32 pages
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“I Love You . . . Infinity brings a precious, yet simple message about expressing love, while journeying through space and experiencing a fun fact about each planet in our solar system with the characters Fisher and Rigley. The book’s vivid and colorful illustrations and lovable characters help your children engage in bringing them along on this lively adventure Fisher and Rigley’s characters are so entertaining and charming, they will pull your children’s attention in like gravity and encourage their imagination to explore an out of this world love. Bring the message of love into your home when you and your children say I Love You . . . Infinity.”

Opening

“Mommy, How much do you love us?” asked Fisher and Rigley.”

The Story

The family of three starts out on the ground asking if mom loves them bigger than their house. Then Rigley, who is a giraffe, wants to know if Mom loves them farther than the moon. The next spread shows Rigley in his space outfit, floating near the sun. Once again, he asks,

“Do you love us BIGGER than the sun?”

Of course, mom does love him bigger than the sun. Then the trio head off to a star; the rocky planets Mercury and Venus; the beautiful Earth; red Mars; Jupiter, the largest planet in the system; Saturn and all its rings; cold Uranus; as far out as Neptune and the once, but no longer planet of Pluto. Mom loves the boys more than all the planets in the solar system, the universe, and finally infinity.

1

Review

Brothers Fisher and Rigley ask Mom how much she loves them. This sparks a long series of increasing degrees of love. The first thing mom must do is explain the meaning of infinity. Mom says,

“It means forever and always.”

Though not exactly correct, that definition fits the book. Infinity is limitless in time, space, or distance; a number so great you cannot count it. For a four-year-old, “forever and always” may be easier to understand. Do not think your child will learn a “fun fact” about each planet. The “fun facts” include the Sun is big, planet Earth is beautiful, Mercury and Venus are rocky, Mars is red, Uranus is cold, Saturn has rings, Neptune is a long way away, and Pluto is no longer a planet. I expected more, something new, something interesting. If you want interesting facts about the solar system and each planet, go to Kids Astronomy.com. (http://www.kidsastronomy.com/) The writing is good and nearly error-free.

I love the spread, near the end, with the complete solar system laid out including poor abandoned Pluto. The brightly colored illustrations fill up each page, and, because you are in space, expect to see a lot of yellows and blues. The three characters are cute, especially Rigley, who is a giraffe.  Somewhere I read that the two brothers were to represent the two brothers who co-authored the book with mom. Now, which one chose to be a giraffe? Whoever you are, your giraffe is cute and one of my favorite animals.

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I really like the last spread where mom finally proclaims,

“I love you infinity.”

The light blue page shows each planet, in correct order, and the spaceship carrying the characters moves around those planets in a lopsided figure eight—the symbol for infinity. All of the illustrations are pleasing to the eye.  When you purchase I Love You Infinity, be care to get the correct book, there are two other children’s books with the same title.

Kids will enjoy I Love You Infinity, especially if they are into science or the planets. Anyone can make this book work into a fun, giggle-fest, ending in a series of hugs and kisses goodnight. Boys in particular will enjoy this picture book, which I think the authors have planned as a series, though I do not know what is next on their agenda. Though I Love You Infinity is a simple picture book about the complex solar system, it does a good job of orienting kids to our solar system and space, and it gives parents a fun read. The font is rather large, often too large, but if read in a story hour with several kids, the extra large font could be visible to every child. An interesting debut by mom and her two creative sons.

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I LOVE YOU INFINITY. Text copyright © 2014 by Jillian, Max, and Sam Schmidt. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Robert Pracek. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Blue Note Books, Melbourne, FL.

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Buy I Love You Infinity at AmazonB&NBlue Note Booksyour favorite bookstore.

Learn more about I Love You Infinity HERE

Meet the author, Jillian, Max, and Sam Schmidt at their Facebook page:    https://www.facebook.com/Jillian.Anjill

Meet author, Jillian Schmidt, at her website:   http://infinityauthorjillian.blogspot.com/

Find other books at Blue Note Books website:   http://www.bluenotebooksonline.com/

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i love you infinity

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Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: Children's Books Tagged: family, Jillian Schmidt, love, Max Schmidt, outer space, relationships, Sam Schmidt, solar system

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15. Reread #36 Blue Plate Special

Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney. 2009. Chronicle Books. 366 pages. [Source: Library]


I originally reviewed Blue Plate Special in February of 2010. I loved it. I loved it the same way that I love Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Blue Plate Special is a compelling, dramatic story about three daughters. (John Mayer's "Daughters" kept coming to mind. For better or worse. Also Atticus' advice to Scout: "if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.") The book is very much character-driven. I don't know that I'd go so far to say that it is one of those "what it means to be human" books, but, if not it comes very close.

All of the characters are flawed; not one person within the pages of this book is perfect or flawless. Relationships in Blue Plate Special are messy. Readers meet three heroines. Madeline (1977-78). Desiree (1993-1994). Ariel (2009). Their stories are told in alternating chapters. I believe all the heroines are around fifteen to sixteen. As you'd expect, in some ways their stories are the same, yet, in other ways all three are different. All, for example, are coming-of-age stories. All focus on first love, or first significant romantic relationships. All are bittersweet, but in different ways. But each heroine is unique. The book is great at complexities. Of seeing the whole person from different angles, which made it easier perhaps to take Atticus' advice. I cared about all three.

I definitely would recommend this one.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. The Fine Line between Grocer & Gangster

Going to the grocery store is akin to walking down a city street where a guy in a pinstripe suit says, “C’mere… I needs to have a word witcha.” If you follow him down the dark alley, you’ll stumble back out pennyless.

A grocer is just a gangster in an apron. They act like your friend, but they are only there to rip you off.

Take toilet paper. We all need it, but they stymie you with choices and ridiculous descriptions that make no sense! Double rolls, triple rolls, soft, extra-super soft – what does all that mean? I got the Delicately Quilted Super Cuddly Teddy Bear Soft one time and it felt so good the whole pack was gone in a day. The kids wiped when they hiccuped just to feel it and our septic tank backed up from all the quilting. Forget that, now I buy the thinnest, coarsest paper I can find – single ply and unscented. The stuff lasts forever because it’s almost a punishment to go to the bathroom. Some kids refuse to use the toilet at school, mine hold it until they get there.

Another hang-up I have is laundry detergent. It’s so stinking expensive! It’s just soap! When did they start charging by the fragrance? My wife is very particular about her lavender scent. Me? I’m just partial to clean and really not immovable on that point. So, while at the store, I made the command decision that we needed a new scent at our house. Out with the lavender and in with the wonderful smell of whatever the store brand that’s half-price. It’s gotta be good, it says it is Trustworthy right on the box.

I worked out savings on paper products, hygiene, and hair care all before tackling food. 1024px-Man_grocery_shoppingThere I found some pretty good bargains in meats. The store has this whole refrigerated section of half-priced meat. Some of it seemed slightly discolored and the expiration date was fast approaching. But as long as we cook it real well and have 3 – 5 pounds with every meal before Friday, we should be fine.

Yesterday’s bread – check.

Dented cans – perfect.

Brownish bananas – Viva Variety!

 

By the time I had my cart filled, I noticed the apron-clad robber standing in the dairy section watching me. He worked a toothpick with his stumpy fingers as he sized me up. The plethora of orange clearance labels in my cart told him I was onto his little game. We squared off like gunslingers in the Old West. Time stood still. Mothers pulled children out of the center aisle in slow motion, afraid of the impending showdown. From the back of the produce department I heard the signature ominous whistle and somehow, the slap of saloon doors. I cracked my neck, rolled my fingers, and readied for the call to draw.

But the old grocer was yella. I had him beat and he knew it.

couponsI checked out to find I had shaved $87 from our weekly bill. Genius. Street genius. The little old lady behind me nodded proudly as she fingered through a thick wallet of neatly cut newsprint. Intrigued, I inquired about them and learned all about these things called coupons from my new friend, Mildred.

Turns out they save you even more money! Who knew?

 

“Hey Guido the Grocer, I’ve got a coupon-cutting date with Mildred on Saturday… After that, I’m coming back to town. And it ain’t big enough for the both of us.”

 

 

(This story would have ended happily if I hadn’t have changed scents. Turns out, my wife didn’t feel threatened at all by my new 84 year-old coupon girlfriend. She just really likes lavender.)

 

Photo by: By Bill Branson


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

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17. 3 Crucial Reasons to Attend Your Next Family Reunion

by Sally Matheny
Smushy Kisses at Family Reunions

     Is there cringing, wincing, and gnashing of teeth at just the thought of a family reunion? Perhaps you had an agonizing experience as a child. Some crinkled stranger planted smushy kisses on your cheek. Then, pulling you away from your mother, the stranger weaved you through a chattering sea of unfamiliar faces. Finally, she anchored in front of another foreign body and the torture began.

     “This is your mother’s great aunt’s, second cousin, Bertha, who first married Joe Schmitt, who was a tire salesman, but then he died, and about ten years ago she married John Brown, who manufactures straight pins in Detroit and he just so happens to be your dad’s podiatrist's first cousin! How about that?”

Excruciating. But you’re an adult now and here are three crucial reasons why you need to attend your next family reunion.


Remember

     When multiple generations gather, there will always be times of remembering special moments from the past. Births, school days, weddings, funerals. While certain memories will mean more to some than others will, this is your heritage.
     Even if you’re attending your spouse’s family reunion, you can learn a great deal. Maybe listening to your mother-in-law’s childhood memories will give you a better understanding of why his family celebrates Christmas the way they do. What annoyed you in the past, you may perceive differently now.

Too often, an unforgiving spirit
is a person's only legacy.
     Pausing to reflect on the past brings joy, knowledge, and healing. Perhaps the reason many people resist a family reunion is due to a past hurt.   
     Aunt Bertha said or did something she shouldn’t have five, ten, or fifty years ago and for whatever reason people chose to hold onto that strife rather than letting it go. Bitterness was chosen over forgiveness. Pain over joy. Too often, an unforgiving spirit is a person’s only legacy.
     What healing might take place if you go to your next family reunion?


Record

     If there’s emotional or physical healing in the family, record it! Everybody has a story. A family reunion is a wonderful time to record those stories. Make a scrapbook or journal. Better yet, make a video.
     Are there any veterans willing to share their experiences? Those who survived a war can instill fresh perspectives on freedom.
     Who survived an accident or a disease? A problem at work or their first day of high school? Survivors bring strength and hope to the family.

Survivors bring strength and hope to the family.
    Ask the older ones to recall interesting tidbits about the family’s ancestry.
     Even recording opinions on current events will be an interesting piece of history for the next generation.
     No family reunion will ever be the same. The dynamics change. People come and go, jobs vary, and events alter our lives.
     So often, we never submerge past the friendly greetings. Families need to go deeper conveying their life experiences. They inspire us and we can encourage them to keep pressing onward. Everybody has a story that can affect others. You need to share your story.


Recount

     If nothing else, family members need to recount God’s blessings to the next generation. How have you seen God working in your life and the lives of others?

     Describe times when God answered your prayers, when he brought healing, and when your needs were met.

    Share experiences where your faith was tested and God was glorified. Consider the value others could glean from lessons you learned through setbacks and poor decisions.

     If you carve out time for your next family reunion, and share the love of Christ, what eternal rewards are possible? It is not within our power to fathom how God can use us. He is quite capable of making transformations we never thought possible.

 

…which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach their children,
 so the next generation would know them,
    even the children yet to be born,
    and they in turn would tell their children.
 Then they would put their trust in God
    and would not forget his deeds
    but would keep his commands.
Psalm 78:5b-7 (NIV)


     Is it time for a family reunion?

Live out your faith at the next family reunion!
     Reflect on what’s worth remembering, and what things are best left in the past.
     Record family stories to share for generations to come. Recount God’s blessings and faithfulness.

     It’s quite possible, family reunions will have a quirk or two. With a large gathering of imperfect humans, we’ll experience occasional flawed moments. For some, showing love to family is more difficult than it is to friends. God freely offers His assistance with that. He’s the master demonstrator of mind-boggling grace.  
     If you truly believe you’ll attend a perfect, glorious, and joyful heavenly reunion one day, then live it out at your next family reunion.




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18. Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson

I was lucky enough to hear Jacqueline Woodson speak about and read from Brown Girl Dreaming during the School Library Journal Day of Dialog last spring.  If any of you have seen Woodson before, you know she is charming, and dynamic and funny.  She read a few poems from the book and spoke of her family and writing life.  Like the rest of the librarians, I waited in line to speak with Ms. Woodson and have an arc signed, but 10 minutes or so into the wait I knew this arc wasn't going to be for me to keep.  Instead, I had it signed for a student and gave it to her when I saw her next.   So like so many others, I waited for the book birthday to get my hands on the hard cover copy on the day of its' release.

I'm not sure I can add much to the conversation around this book, as I agree with the buzz.  Brown Girl Dreaming is more than a book or a memoir....it is a gift.  We follow Jacqueline and her changing family from Ohio to South Carolina and up to NYC and each poem is a revelation of sorts that brings the reader through the timeline of Woodson's life.  From the "how to listen" haikus to poems like "sometimes, no words are needed", "stevie", and "as a child, i smelled the air" I found myself closing the book to pause again and again.

I had posted a photo of "stevie" on Instagram and commented that I was swooning over this book, and a friend commented that her copy is so dog-eared that she isn't going to share it with her students.  It made me comment back that this is the kind of book you carry around with you.  I will take the dust jacket off, and place it in my school bag.  And when the world gets to be a little too much, I will open the pages and gift myself with a little bit of magic.

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19. The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier

Molly and Kip are trying to find the Windsors, their new home of employment, but the locals are not making it easy for them.  Every time Molly asks, they speak of the sour woods and tell Molly that she should stay away.  But it's not like Molly has a choice - she and her brother are far from home and without parents.  When they encounter Hester Kettle on the road, they seem to have found a piece of luck.  She is willing to tell the children how to get to the Windsors for a promise of future stories. Molly agrees and they are soon on their way.

Molly's introduction to the family is a far cry from welcoming.  Hired by the Windsor's solicitor, Constance has no idea Molly is coming and is less than pleased to find her telling stories to her young daughter Penny in the dusty foyer of the house.  Constance and her son Alistair want Molly and Kip to leave immediately, but Molly is able to use her gift of the gab to convince them that they would much rather live in a well tended house, and that she and Kip can provide it for them.

She will soon live to regret this move, as the family and the house seem to be harboring dark secrets.  While she is able to throw herself into the ample work of cleaning up the household during the day, it is at night when Molly is most afraid.  Every night since she's been sleeping in the house, she has been having terrible nightmares.  And it turns out the darkness isn't just in her mind.  She wakes to find her door open, leaves in her hair and mud on the floor.

As it turns out, the Night Gardener Miss Polly has mentioned is real.  He wanders the house and the grounds at night and has his hand in the nightmares of the household.

And he is not the only dark element at the Windsors' place.  The tree, growing much too close to the house, is more than it seems as well, and will soon ensnare Molly as it has the Windsors.

This is a deliciously scary story that will have readers up into the night to finish. Jonathan Auxier is one of those writers who seems like he's been around forever.  Not because there are a plethora of his books lining the shelves, but because he is a craftsman.  His books have a timeless quality to them and are made of the stuff with staying power.  The Windsor's legacy is slowly revealed piece by piece which helps bring the suspense level to that of a slow burn.  He explores the themes of human weakness and greed, family and loyalty with aplomb.  The setting is expertly laid out and even now as I close my eyes I can see the grounds, the stables and the green door.

Fans of dark fantasy, Victorians, and well crafted stories will be left shivering with delight.




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20. Risen: The Battle for Darracia, by Michael Phillip Cash | Dedicated Review

Risen is the third book in Michael Phillip Cash’s dramatic sci-fi trilogy, the Darracia Saga.

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21. Reread #34 Out of the Dust

Out of the Dust. Karen Hesse. 1997. Scholastic. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]

I first reviewed Out of the Dust in March 2008. Out of the Dust is a historical verse novel that I likely would have avoided at all costs as a kid. It is set in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl and Depression.

Billie Jo is our piano-playing heroine. Life was hard enough for Billie Jo and her family BEFORE the tragic accident. Multiple crop failures in a row. Worry and doubt weighing down whole communities, and, not without cause. But after the accident, things are even worse.

Added to despair and doubt is anger and bitterness and regret. Billie Jo doesn't know how to talk to her father anymore. She doesn't know how to be in the same house with him. Things are just off between them. Both are suffering souls. Both have needs that aren't being met. Both need time to heal at the very least.

The novel spans two years, 1934 and 1935. These two years are very hard emotionally for almost all the characters. Out of the Dust is a great coming-of-age novel. I think I liked it even more the second time.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. Home, a bracelet and the Maasi

Maasi women (photo credit : D. Burrows)

Maasi women (photo credit : D. Burrows

Some of the joy of travel is when I return home and share the fun and stories with my friends and family.

On this trip though, it occurred to me that I really didn’t have a home to come back to. Not the kind of home that I had always had. This thought kept me traveling for much longer that I had planned and would take me around the world. It was in the space of time when I left the plan behind that I realized home is no longer a place, but resides in my heart. And the heart, while fragile, has an infinite capacity for love.

Some trips shape me. Some trips change me. Some trips transform me. Some trips have affected my family and friends. And sometimes, the stories I tell and the gifts I give have reached beyond those I know and love. Far beyond anything I could have ever imagined.

This is the story of the bracelet.

Wherever I was, whether in the countryside on the outskirts of Melbourne, trekking the Himalayas, in the jungles of Java or on the shores of the Bali Sea, I had my eye out for little treasures. Unique gifts I could bring back for friends and family. As I was backpacking through the world, portability was key.

In Kalibaru on the island of Java I found and purchased a handful of beautiful handmade bracelets. For the next sixty days they would travel with me all over the world. When I returned to the U.S. I gave one to my very good friend. She loved the bracelet so much she never took it off. It stayed on her wrist as she journeyed to Wales and then to Africa.

The bracelet (photo credit: A. Burrows)

The bracelet (photo credit: A. Burrows)

And it found its way to a little village in northern Tanzania where a tribe of Maasai lived. The women of the village made bracelets to help support their families. The Maasai women surrounded my friend when they saw her bracelet. The idea of using different-sized beads on the same bracelet never occurred to them. The type of beads captivated them. The way the bracelet fastened was a curiosity. This gave the Maasai women lots of ideas about bracelets and their future designs. My friend bought one of their bracelets and when she returned home, she gave the bracelet to me.

And through my friend and the bracelet and the Maasi women, my home just got a little bit bigger.

So often in life we think that the little things we do don’t matter. We discount our influence or even our own significance, at times. But the biggest things we do can be the smallest. A smile. A joke. A well-timed call. A small gift. A simple treasure. The little things your heart whispers can bring so much joy to the world.

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23. Gone Camping: Smiles All Around!

Actually, we’ve just returned from our annual weekend camping trip to Forked Lake Campgrounds. There’s something so comforting and yet revelatory about tradition. You go back, do the same thing every year, more or less with the same people, but each time feels unique. Familiar, yet changed in small ways. A big part of that is our children, growing up before our eyes. The kid you used to watch like a hawk is now out on the kayak, muscles rippling.

This year school year our oldest will be a senior in Geneseo. He missed the trip, already gone. The middle child, Gavin, enters 10th grade; he’ll begin the year on the JV Volleyball team — a new sport for him. Our youngest, Maggie, just 13, enters 8th grade.

They are growing up.

Here’s a fun snap taken in Long Lake, outside of Hoss’s legendary (Triple-S’s!) store. That’s Gavin in the Cape Cod sweatshirt; Maggie, standing beside him, apple in hand; I’m up above in gray (shirt and hair), fondling the bear; and Lisa, my wife, is on the other side in the light-blue tee and vest. Those other folks? No idea how they got in there.

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24. A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd | Book Review

A Snicker of Magic, Natalie Lloyd’s sensational middle grade debut novel, begs to be read aloud and shared with an audience of dreamers.

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25. Eight years ago this week

Found on my old private family blog, dated August 27, 2006. Scott was out here in San Diego, a month into the new job. I was back home with the (then) five kids, trying to get the house sold. Rilla was only a few months old. Rose would have been eight, Beanie five. Scott and I did not bear the separation easily. I created a little daily-snippets blog just for him so he wouldn’t feel like he was missing everything. At night, after the kids were in bed, I had a gig writing parenting articles for a medical website. Scott and I would keep a chat window open and ping each other back and forth as we worked away on opposite coasts. Sometimes we’d go to audio and listen to the sound of each other typing. Four months, and it felt like forever.

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August 27, 2006

The Conversation Went Like This

Bean: Why did SHE get to sleep in your bed last night?

Me: Just because. You may tonight, if you wish.

Rose: But won’t she be lonely, waiting for you to come to bed?

Bean: What?

Rose, breaking it to her gently: If you sleep with Mommy, you have to wait a long time in the dark before she gets there.

Bean, brow furrowed: Oh…

Rose, kindly: Do you want to sleep in Mommy’s room, or do you want to snuggle up with me?

Bean’s reply? She threw her arms around her sister. The hug went on long enough for me to snap it.

2006sisterhug

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