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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: family, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 1,614
26. Books Strengthen Family Bonds

DSC00616Lydia sat with her two children in the waiting room. Her eldest read aloud from his new book, pausing every now and again to teach his mother and younger sister how to say the words in English. His little sister beamed with pride when he let her turn the page.

Andrea Gatewood of the Nassau County (NY) Department of Health knows that providing new books to families like Lydia’s leads to priceless interactions. For the past ten years, she and her colleagues at the Nassau County Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program have been giving books from First Book to the local low-income women and children they serve.

Traditionally, WIC programs supply women who are pregnant or recently gave birth and children up to age five found to be at nutritional risk with supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education. But at five WIC sites in Nassau County, families also receive colorful new books.

teen parenting program 3“The books from First Book teach children how to count, the alphabet, the importance of family, other languages, colors, different foods and incentives to promote physical activity,” said Andrea. “They strengthen family bonds, promote diversity and improve literacy.”

Andrea takes great care in selecting books that are both engaging and culturally relevant as nearly 100 percent of the children she serves come from minority households.

“We have distributed books at Christmas, Halloween and to kick off the school year. Our goal is to reach as many children as possible,” Andrea shared. “The partnership between First Book and WIC has allowed thousands of children to receive brand new books and will have a lasting impact on an individual and community level.”

Over the past ten years, the Nassau WIC Program has received approximately 20,000 books from First Book, thanks to grant funding made possible by members of the First Book – Long Island volunteer chapter and the Guru Krupa Foundation. The Foundation, based in Jericho, New York, funds initiatives related to education, health and basic sustenance of underprivileged children in India and the United States, and has helped First Book provide more than 51,000 books to children in need in the greater New York and Los Angeles areas in the past two years.

DSC00612“We at Guru Krupa Foundation believe that education is a cornerstone for future success in life,” said Mukund Padmanabhan, president of the Guru Krupa Foundation. “Supporting initiatives that bring the benefits of education to underprivileged children can lead to enormous future dividends, not only for the children but to society.”

Join the Guru Krupa Foundation in supporting program leaders like Andrea by making a gift to First Book. Just $2.50 provides a brand-new book to a child in need.

The post Books Strengthen Family Bonds appeared first on First Book Blog.

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27. The New Phone Book’s Here

In the immortal words of Navin R. Johnson:

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Things are going to start happening to me now!

Yes, due to life, it took a long time to arrive, but that lovable scamp Virgil Creech is back in Virgil Creech Sings for His Supper.

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Even the idyllic little town of Portsong isn’t immune to the coming depression. What will our favorite family of eleven do when their chief bread-winner is left without a job? Enter the youngest son, Virgil Creech, who discovers an unlikely talent that may just keep the family afloat.

Meanwhile, half the world away, town grocer Harland Gentry discovers the truth of the ancient proverb, Pride goes before a fall. On the vacation of a lifetime, Harland decides to reinvent himself as a man of means, hoping to leave the small town behind. But he is not prepared for what he discovers on his unpredictable African adventure.

Of course, Virgil Creech Sings for His Supper contains a healthy dose of the lovable Colonel Clarence Birdwhistle, as he and Henry begin to rebuild the Lee family farm. All of these stories come together for another delightful romp through Portsong, the southern town halfway between Savannah and heaven.

 

From the back of the book, here is our new friend, Harland Gentry as drawn by Aprilily.

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It is always rewarding to have someone read one of my books. But I was particularly excited to get a Five Bookworm Review on the first book in the series because it came from a kid, which is my target audience.  He is also not a family member!

You can read his take here.

 

If you haven’t had a chance to read Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption, the ebook version is going to go free for a week sometime soon as publicity for the sequel. Of course, I’ll announce it here.

I wrote the final piece of the Portsong Series last year hope to release it fairly soon. I am now working on my first piece of adult humor and would love to put it out in 2015. We shall see if life gets in the way of that one as well.


Filed under: From the Writer

4 Comments on The New Phone Book’s Here, last added: 8/14/2014
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28. Why hope still matters

By Valerie Maholmes


Someone asked me at a recent book talk why I chose to write about hope and children in poverty. They asked whether it was frivolous to write about such a topic at a time when children are experiencing the challenges associated with poverty and economic disadvantage at high rates. As I thought about that question, I began to reflect on the stories of people I know and families I’ve worked with who, despite the challenges they experienced, were managing their lives successfully. I also reflected on popular figures who shared stories in the media about the ways in which they overcame early adversity in their lives.

As I reflected on these stories, it occurred to me that a common theme among these individuals was hope. I began to see the various ways in which hope is a highly influential and motivating force in their lives. This kind of hope is not passive—it is not merely wishing for a better life, but it is active. It involves thinking, planning, and acting on those thoughts and plans to achieve desired outcomes. It is the driving force that keeps us moving despite the adversity and allows us to adapt and to be resilient in the midst of these circumstances. In reflecting on these themes, I decided that I wanted to tell these stories and to link the stories with theoretical frameworks that help illuminate why I believe hope is so important. Most of the theories and ideas I discuss are well known to those of us who study children and families. However, it occurred to me that practitioners and policymakers may not be so familiar with these ideas and may find them useful in planning their work with children and families. My goal is to foster understandings of hope and resilience in practical terms so that together researchers, practitioners, and policymakers alike can help more children and families manage their circumstances and chart pathways toward well-being.

I Hope You Dance. Photo by Lauren Hammond. (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr.

I Hope You Dance. Photo by Lauren Hammond. CC BY 2.0 via sleepyjeanie Flickr.

So when I think about a response to the question “Why focus on hope?” — I respond “Why not?” Why not focus on strengths rather than deficits? Why not focus our interventions, legislative activities, and funding priorities on processes that will motivate individuals to strive for the best outcomes for themselves and their children? In so doing, we can formulate an action agenda on behalf of children and families that first assumes they can and will succeed in rising above their circumstances.

As I learned from the families I interviewed, success means different things to different families. For some, success is being able to keep their family together—have dinner together, talk with each other, and support each other. For other families, success means being able to be a good parent– to go to bed at night realizing that you’ve provided for your child emotionally, spiritually as well as materially, and that by doing so, your child might have an even better opportunity than you did to achieve success. These individuals are truly courageous. They have overcome many obstacles and are striving to continue along that path. There are countless other courageous individuals who may never have the opportunity to tell their stories or to have their experiences validated with concepts and theories I discuss from the psychological literature. I hope this volume will represent their lives too. I challenge those of us who work with children and families and who advocate for or legislate on their behalf, to have the courage to “ hope” and to allow that hope to be a motivating and unrelenting force in our efforts to foster resilience and well-being in these families.

Dr. Valerie Maholmes has devoted her career to studying factors that affect child developmental outcomes. Low-income minority children have been a particular focus of her research, practical, and civic work. She has been a faculty member at the Yale Child Study Center in the Yale School of Medicine where she held the Irving B. Harris Assistant Professorship of Child Psychiatry, an endowed professorial chair. She is the author of Fostering Resilience and Well-Being in Children and Families in Poverty.

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29. Over in Them Wetlands: A Summer Swamp Tour

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In June, we spent two weeks in Texas.  While my husband had some meetings the boys and I headed to Houma, LA, the second-happiest city in the US, and our home for three years. Ten minutes in to Louisiana, a roseate spoonbill, a native bird I’d never, ever seen, flew over our car, kind of like a state ambassador welcoming us back.

I was determined to go on a swamp tour while we were in town — something we never got around to doing when we lived in Houma (though we sure loved our swamp adventures). I scheduled a trip with Cajun Man Swamp Tours, invited some friends to come along.

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The super personable “Black” Guidry was our guide (check him out here in this Kia commercial). As there were French Canadians on board, Black gave the tour in both English and French, which was a lovely little Cajun bonus.

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Oh, we sweltered. But there was Spanish moss!

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And cypress knees (those little knobby things poking out of the water on the left-hand side)!

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Egrets!

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Even Leroy came to visit!

The tour felt especially personal knowing OVER IN THE WETLANDS, my picture book love letter to Coastal Louisiana, is coming out sometime next year.

A few days after the tour I stumbled on these gorgeous WETLANDS images from illustrator Rob Dunlavey’s studio.

The tour, that spoonbill, those illustrations, they were all like coming home.

 

 

The post Over in Them Wetlands: A Summer Swamp Tour appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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30. Fire-up your Summer with Mouth-watering Maple-Planked Stuffed S’Mores...


Sticky, gooey, melt-in-your-mouth heaven. I’m talking about S’Mores – one of the mainstays of camping and a first choice with kids around the campfire. Here’s an easy-peasy treat that takes five minutes to prep, fifteen minutes to make, and serves eight. And guess what? No campfire is required. You can create this treat in the comfort of your own back yard with your barbecue.

What You Need:
8 jumbo marshmallows
16 milk chocolate squares
3 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
½ cup of crumbled honey graham wafers (about 3) spread on a plate, plus 16 whole wafers for serving
Maple grilling plank, soaked in water for 2 hours

What You Do:
Preheat barbecue to medium.

Make a slit in the middle of each marshmallow end. Stuff each marshmallow with 2 squares of chocolate (one in each end), hiding chocolate inside. Lightly brush stuffed marshmallows with butter and roll in graham crumb to coat evenly.

Grill soaked plank for 2 to 3 minutes on each side (to help intensify smoky flavor and prevent warping). Once plank begins to smoke and crackle, place prepared marshmallows on top and close barbecue lid. Bake for 3 minutes or until marshmallows are lightly toasted and slightly gooey.

Remove plank from barbecue and set on metal pan. Serve marshmallows directly on plank with whole wafers for scooping and sandwiching.

ADDED BONUS – if you feel adventurous you can spread smooth peanut butter over the milk chocolate squares before stuffing it into the marshmallow. Trust me—it will make a peanut butter cup blush. Oh, and make sure you have plenty of napkins or wipes on hand. Enjoy!


0 Comments on Fire-up your Summer with Mouth-watering Maple-Planked Stuffed S’Mores... as of 8/4/2014 7:46:00 AM
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31. Prototype

Enter Wilhelmina. Older sister (by 2 yrs.) She likes to show off her reading skills. She dislikes her brother–very much.Filed …

Continue reading

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32. And suddenly it’s August

photo (36)

Our 20-year-old niece flew out for Comic-Con and stayed a few extra days for some San Diego fun with her cousins. This turned into a delightful little staycation for us: Balboa Park, Seaport Village, Coronado Beach. She left last night, but our fun continues: another contingent of family just landed and will arrive at the house shortly. In between excursions, I’m trying to catch up on work that got shoved aside during SDCC. So not much blogging time this week, but I’ve been tossing lots of things up on Instagram. Poor old neglected Bonny Glen, I’ll dust you off soon, I promise.

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33. Wordless Wednesday

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34. Between Two Worlds, by Katherine Kirkpatrick | Book Review

Travel back in time to the year 1900, and place yourself in the shoes of sixteen-year-old Billy Bah, who lives in the unrelenting wintry land of northern Itta, Greenland.

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35. "Family Camp-In"


Illustrating for The Friend is not only a pleasure, but can be exciting as well, especially when one forgets about an illo only to open the newly arrived issue and discover it there! I never get tired of seeing my work in print! VERY satisfying, unless of course I wasn't pleased with the finished work, which happens, and then I cringe!
I had so much fun with this one, watercoloring it traditionally, and then sending it to Photoshop to add the final lighting etc. I still am struggling to get the techniques down, but am enjoying it as well, and appreciate the confidence placed in me now and then.
On to the next assignment! What fun!

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36. Staycations in the Countryside- What’s On Your Radar?

by Sally Matheny
   
 
Whether you’re short on time or low on money, don’t abandon a family getaway just yet. Instead of a vacation, consider a staycation or two.  Staycations can be fun activities, such as a luau, planned for your own backyard.  However, staycations also include day trips.  Even if you live out in the countryside, you may be surprised by the slew of possibilities you discover within a two-hour drive from home sweet home.
     Besides the obvious museums and municipal pools, here’s a few ideas to consider when checking what’s on your staycation radar.
     Perhaps some family members would enjoy creating their own Visitor’s Guide for the area. Include photos, drawings, and descriptions of interesting areas.
     Obtain a map of your county and surrounding counties. Make a copy of the map for each family member. Ask them to highlight the places they’ve visited before. Circle new places they’d like to visit. Highlight a road route they’d like to try. Pleasant surprises may lie on the road less traveled! One time our family visited beautiful, twin waterfalls. The only way to get to them was to park in a neighborhood of homes and hike from there. No one would imagine that majestic falls were nestled behind these little homes.
     Research the history of your area. Your local librarian or town historian can help you locate sources. Have any famous people lived in or visited your town? Were any movies filmed nearby?
     Visit visual and performing arts guilds. Several of these offer classes for adults as well as children. Are there other local artisans open for tours?
     Perhaps a social media survey asking friends about their favorites in the area would reveal a new farmer’s market or roadside ice cream stand to try.
     Google search for free or inexpensive things to do within a two-hour drive of your hometown. You may be surprised! Search for new restaurants to try. Find a new picnic spot.
     What about those historical landmark signs you drive by every day? Find out what important historical events occurred in your area. Visit antique stores. Check out some of the smaller museums such as car and farm equipment museums. Not only will your children gain an education of the past but perhaps a greater appreciation for the conveniences of today.
     Are there aspiring photographers in your family? Travel around and look specifically for great photo opportunities. A mulched path between tall, lush green trees presented a gorgeous backdrop for one of my daughter’s wedding photos. The path emerged between a mammography office and an assisted living center.

    You don’t have to live near a big city in order to enjoy an entertaining staycation.  A little investigation will provide plenty of gratifying locations. Be creative! Taking time out to do something fun together is what counts.    

Other things to consider:
airports to watch planes
bus tour group
tea room
farms & gardens
historical sites, battlegrounds, & battleships
water activities
visit & view various animals
try a new sport
try a new creative art
try a new food
play a new game

So, what's on your radar?


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37. A Time to be Brave by Joan Betty Stuchner

Ever since the Nazis invaded Denmark, David Nathan, 10, and his best friend Elsa Jensen have been hungry, despite the fact that his dad is the best baker in all of Copenhagen.  But the Nazis have been helping themselves to whatever they want since 1940, and that includes anything that they fancy in Nathan's Patisserie

Now, it is September, 1943 and David is looking forward to Rosh Hashanah and his mother's special honey cake all month long.  The Jewish New Year is always a family celebration shared with Elsa's family.   If only he thought his sister might be there, but university studies keep her at school more and more.

Or so David's mother tells him whenever he asks about Rachel.  But on their way home from school one afternoon, Elsa tells David her secret - Rachel and Elsa's cousin Arne are in the Resistance, doing whatever they can to sabotage the Nazis.

That very afternoon, when he arrives at his father's bakery, David is asked to deliver 6 éclairs to Arne's house and to make sure all 6 get there.  But no sooner does David leave the shop, when he is stopped by two Nazi soldiers who insist on seeing what he has in his bakery box.  Seeing the éclairs, each soldier helps himself to one.

Finally, David is able to deliver the remaining four éclairs to Arne, who immediately dips his finger into each, finally pulling out a piece of paper from the last one.  All David can make out is the word train.  A few days later, David's father tells him that a train has been sabotaged by the Resistance, and David proudly realizes he had actually played a role in that.

And at last Rosh Hashanah arrives.  The longed for honey cake has been made, but when David and his father are sitting in the synagogue, the Rabbi announces that the Nazis are planning to round up Denmark's Jews that very night and advises everyone to go home and prepare for their escape.

Well, we know the end of this story because we know that Denmark's citizens did not allow the Nazis to capture most of that nation's Jewish citizens, and so we know that David and his parents escape to Sweden with the help of their friends the Jensens.  But, of course, young readers may not know this.

A Time to be Brave is a nice easy reader chapter book that provides a good introduction to what happened in Denmark in World War II.  It is the perfect book for a young reader who is not quite ready for Number the Stars.

The writing is simple. never condescending, the story is straightforward and the characters well-drawn. There is nice back matter, too, including a map of Denmark and Sweden, a World War II timeline, explanations of who Victor Borge is (yes, he in mentioned in the novel), the Resistance, King Christian X (an important figure to the Danish people during the war), and a recipe for honey cake (that I may have to try making).

If A Time to be Brave sounds vaguely familiar, it is because it was originally published in 2008 under the title Honey Cake.  I suspect it has been reissued under the new title because it now has "updated content that emphasizes Common Core and renewed interest in nonfiction" even though the story is fiction.  It is, however, based on a true story.

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was provided by the publisher


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38. El Deafo, by Cece Bell

After an illness at age 4, Cece loses her hearing.  She is soon equipped with a hearing aid that involves wearing a pouch around her neck attached to some "ear globs".  Cece is happy to hear again, but now has to learn how to understand once more.  To top things off, Cece now has to go to a new school.

A good thing about the new school is the other kids are wearing hearing aids too, and Cece is learning some useful skills like lip reading and using visual, context and gestural clues to help in understanding.  Cece is just finding her way, when her family decides to leave the city and head to the country, where she will be going to a regular school.

Cece gets a brand-new-BIG-for-school-only-around-the-neck hearing aid (The Phonic Ear) that comes with a microphone for her teacher to wear and is superpowerful.  What nobody expects is that it comes with the added feature of having a super long range, allowing Cece to hear not only her teacher teaching, but whatever her teacher is doing when she is out of the room as well (yes...even *that*!).

Cece has to negotiate the things that all kids go through at school - including navigating a friend who is not-so-nice, and getting her first crush.  Things unique to her situation include dealing with friends who TALK TOO LOUD AND TOO SLOW, and those who refer to her as their "deaf friend".

This is more than a graphic memoir - it is a school and family story for all kids.  Cece is an imaginative and emotional kid with whom readers will identify.  There is an accessibility to Bell's art that immediate draws you in and you can't help but cheer with her successes and cringe with her tears.  Fans of Telgemeier and Varon will readily scoop this up off of the shelves, and it *will* be passed hand to hand.  I am certain I will see many doodles of Cece and her friends in the margins of writer's notebooks this coming school year.  Do yourself a favor...get more than one!

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39. Saying Goodbye

It is hard to say goodbye to an old friend. I am currently having to do just that. Sometimes, things deteriorate beyond salvage and the relationship must end. I have had this happen before, not very often – but it has happened.

In my younger days, I was a bridge-burner. I just moved on. I left high school and kept up with very few friends, mostly the ones who went to the same university. After four fun-filled years at college, I left those friends with every intent of doing better. I did not. Oh, I tried. For a year or two I kept up with some. But we all got scattered around the country and once-close ties severed. I predate social media, so we didn’t have that easy connection to tether me to my friends.

I have had to end relationships since then, though not as frequently. It was much easier to end friendships when I moved cities. I have lived in the same city for twenty-five years now and have no intention of leaving. So I can’t pack up and forget to give a forwarding address. Also, the aforementioned social media makes ending a relationship a public event. You have to be sure it is the proper thing to do before you push “unfriend,” or “block.”

What are some causes of ended friendships anyway? Here are some big ones. It isn’t an exhaustive list, you might have experienced other issues.

A trust violation – can be major or minor, equally damaging.

Priority shift – things become important to one and not the other.

Lack of support – a friend has stopped being there for you.

Selfishness – the friend who has all day to complain but has to go when it is time to listen.

Drift – Sometimes, friends just drift apart. It isn’t a willful decision on either side.

Friends can’t always be replaced. Depending on the length and emotional depth of the friendship, there can be a sizable void when the friendship ends. Pain. Regret. Panic, doubt, and second-guessing can even set in. Most of the time, there is even a grieving period when a friendship dies.

So it is with this friend. We’ve been through a lot together. There were entire days we spent together and I don’t regret them. They were good days… comfortable days. Never tight or strenuous, my friend and I got along perfectly. We fit together. I felt a certain contentment with this friend that I rarely feel. In fact, besides my wife, I’ve been closer to few others.

Why, do you ask, must this friendship end?

Is my friend moving? Did my friend betray me?

Loneliness_(4101974109)

 

No, due to old age, my friend’s elastic waistband ripped through the soft, cotton fabric and my favorite pair of boxers is caput. The friendship is no longer salvageable. I could save it for a dust rag or staining cloth, but that’d be weird… unlike writing a blog post about underwear.

 

 

Photo attribution: Bert Kaufmann from Roermond, Netherlands (Loneliness Uploaded by russavia)

 

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

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40. The Impossible Knife of Memory, by Laurie Halse Anderson | Book Review

This is a book that will have readers reveling in and recognizing the difficult journey that is trying to make sense the present and the future, all while navigating the complexities of high school and teenage life.

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41. In the After: Demitria Lunetta

Book: In the After
Author: Demitria Lunetta
Pages: 464
Age Range: 13 and up

In the After is the first of a two-book series by Demitria Lunetta (the second book was just released, though I haven't read it yet). In the After is set in the wake of a world-wide apocalypse caused by an invasion of predatory, man-eating creatures. 17-year-old Amy has lived for three years in hiding, alone except for the company of Baby, a young girl she rescued from a grocery store. Amy and Baby live in silence, for fear of drawing Them. They use sign language to speak, and have never even heard one another's voices.

They actually have things pretty good, all things considered. Amy's mother held an important government position, and their house is surrounded by an electric fence that keeps the monsters out. Her dad was an environmentalist who kept their home as off the grid as possible. Amy and Baby have electricity and water. But they do have to venture out among the creatures to scavenge for food. An encounter with other survivors on one of their trips starts a process that changes Amy and Baby's lives forever. 

In the After is a compelling read, one that will keep the reader guessing. The first part of the book takes place in and around Amy and Baby's home in Chicago. Without giving too much away, I'll say that the second part of the book takes place elsewhere, among other people. This is where Lunetta's storytelling really starts making the reader think. In brief, italicized scenes, Amy is in a mental ward. The rest of the story is told in intermittent flashbacks, as a mentally foggy Amy tries to pieces together how she got there. Because of Amy's fragile state, the reader isn't always sure how to interpret the flashbacks, which makes the story even more thought-provoking. 

The characters apart from Amy are distinct, though not always highly nuanced. Basically, we get to know Amy very well, and the other characters not so well. But Amy is great. Here are a few snippets, to give you a feel for her voice:

"I only go out at night.

I walk along the empty street and pause, my muscles tense and ready. The breeze rustles the overgrown grass and I tilt my head slightly. I'm listening for them." (Page 1)

"So much of who I used to be was about being good in school and having friends who were also good in school. We were, to put it simply, arrogant little know-it-alls. But I miss that." (Page 78)

"The arts were probably pointless now that everyone was focused on survival. I thought back to all my time alone, reading, as the world crumbled around me. It was the only thing that gave me solace and hope." (Page 191)

In addition to keeping the reader wondering about plot points, Lunetta is good at creating atmosphere. She makes the reader feel the creepiness of walking down a dark street where silent monsters might be a only few feet, and the helplessness of being trapped in a mental ward. 

In the After grabs the reader from the first page, and doesn't let go. Recommend for fans of YA dystopias, particularly of the alien invasion variety. Particularly recommended for those who enjoyed Rick Yancey's The Fifth Wave. Readers who have read many dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories will notice certain universal themes, but I don't think this takes away enjoyment of the story. I think that In the After is a book that will especially appeal to adult readers, actually, though I would expect teens to enjoy it, too. Highly recommended. 

Publisher: HarperTeen (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: June 25, 2013
Source of Book: Bought it on Kindle

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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42. Saturday Snapshot

legoartist

He takes his work very seriously.

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43. All our books are now on Kindle Unlimited

beecover

Just announced today Amazon has a new subscription service for e-books called Kindle Unlimited.  For a flat monthly fee of $9.99 you can enroll and download up to ten e-books at one time.  When you are done, just return them and then you can download more.  We know young children can be voracious readers and we are excited about the opportunity to reach new readers with this program.  Now parents can download books for themselves and load up on some quality children’s books too for one low price.  There are over 600,000 titles currently available and they can be loaded onto any device.  What a bargain!

 

Try the new Kindle Unlimited FREE for 30 days HERE

 

MonstersHaveMommies


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44. Reread #27 Umbrella Summer

Umbrella Summer. Lisa Graff. 2009. HarperCollins. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

 I have been wanting to reread Umbrella Summer for several years now. I first reviewed it in October 2009. I remember having a good, strong connection with Annie, the heroine. Every single person in the Richards family is struggling with grief--with the loss of Jared, Annie's older brother. But it is Annie whom we come to know and love throughout the book. We see the parents handling of grief, of moving on or not moving on as the case may be. We see how they parent, if they parent, Annie. All this is seen through Annie's perspective. Annie's perspective is seen through a complex range of emotions: fear, anxiety, sadness, and anger. For example, Annie has a hard time sympathizing with her friend, Rebecca, who has lost her pet hamster. Her response to Rebecca's strong grief is understandable, but, problematic for the friendship. He was just a hamster. It's not like you lost your brother. While the book is very much about grief, it is also a very good book about friendship, about what it means to be a friend, about building new friendships and restoring broken ones.

One of my favorite friendships in Umbrella Summer is Annie's friendship with their new neighbor, Mrs. Finch. Mrs. Finch is no stranger to loss, she has also lost someone close to her, her husband. Mrs. Finch and Annie both feel their losses strongly, yet, by coming together, by being honest with one another, by sharing the best memories, the best qualities about those they have loved and lost, they realize that they are beginning to heal a little, and that is a very good thing.

I also thought it was sweet that Annie and Jared's best friend have a special connection and come together as friends to truly celebrate Jared.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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45. Family Mission Trips- How to Prepare Your Children

by Sally Matheny
 
Take Your Family on a Mission Trip!
     In making your summer plans, have you considered a family mission trip?  
     A trip planned for serving others, rather than ourselves, puts our faith into action.  When we practice sacrificial giving and serving, our faith grows. Flexibility and working as a team strengthens the family. Leaning to trust God with the details, and most of all, the results of our efforts, trains us for further service.
    
    

     If you choose to adventure on a mission trip, here are a few helpful tips on how to prepare your children.

Prayer
     Essential for a successful trip, with all its details and decisions, is earnest prayer. Through prayer and discussion, focus on the purpose of the trip. Remind one another of the Great Commission and everyone’s need for Christ. Pray continually for the people your family will serve. Every detail—the victories and the snags—are entrusted to God.

Bible Study
Share scriptures on serving
others.
     During family devotion times, include scriptures on serving others.    
     Regularly share with one another how God is working in your life and it will become easier to conduct these same conversations with those outside of your home. Give older children opportunities to practice sharing their faith in a comfortable environment before stretching beyond their comfort zones.
     Remind the family of how God works through our weaknesses. Recall Moses, Paul, and people of today who have reached others through the power of God. God enables ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

 Destination
     Whether it is within or outside the United States, research the culture of the area you will serve. Host a special family night. Serve foods commonly served there. Watch a movie or read a book about the area.
     Show your children the destination on a map. If possible, let them highlight your travel route and allow them to take this map on the trip.
     Discuss how this is not a vacation. It’s not all about our comfort and pleasure. While there will be fun moments, the focus is on the mission.

Packing
     Allow children to help with some of the packing. If there is a required packing list, let children help check off items. Give them choices, when possible—even if it’s between two colors of shirts. This will be another opportunity for children (and parents!) to practice flexibility and sacrifice.
     Will you be taking items to the people you will be serving? This may be Bibles, VBS materials, candy, or other supplies. Enlist the help of your children in collecting and packing the items.

Traveling
     Pack a backpack of items to keep your child entertained during travel. Consider small toys, card games, art supplies and snacks. Pull out that map with the highlighted travel route. Allow children to trace over the line as the trip progresses, circling areas of interest.
     Help them collect mementos at each stop. Collect items such as tree leaves, area information from free brochures, and camera shots. When you return home, these can be transferred to a scrapbook or lap book.
     Encourage children to share these with family and friends as a way of testifying to God’s goodness on the trip.
Befriending another child is ministry.

Serving
     If possible, plan service opportunities that include each member of your family. Running errands, assisting with laundry or just befriending another child are areas of ministry. Stress how God uses all things (big and little) for His glory.
Serve with a humble spirit.
     Remind your children they are there to serve others and how to do that in a way pleasing to God. Perhaps role-play appropriate and inappropriate ways (ex. with humbleness and with haughtiness).
     Also, remember to include Jesus. Repairing a roof for someone benefits him now, but sharing Jesus Christ with him offers eternal rewards. Be intentional and pray for opportunities to witness about Christ’s love.

  
Spiritual Warfare
     If your children are old enough to understand good and evil, then they will understand that obstacles and difficulties will arise. Discuss the importance of prayer, staying in the Word, and not giving in when difficulties arise. Before the trip, talk about possible trials and temptations and how the family can help each other.
 
Testing comes when the unexpected
occurs.
     Testing comes when the unexpected occurs. Understand that the spiritually maturity levels vary in each family. Teach by example by showing the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
     Although no one wants difficulties, they produce a wonderful time to grow in our faith.

 



Zeal
Never lacking in zeal.
     Let your love and enthusiasm for the Lord overflow to your children.

    “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:10-12 (NIV)
     Excited about planning your next family trip? Below are a few links to get you started!


    Has your family ventured on a mission trip together? Share with us your helpful tips!

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46. Dangling Feet & Screws by the Pound

Nearly every winter I have had to trap a flying squirrel or two in my attic and send them packing. Fortunately, I have a walk-out attic easily accessible from my 13 year-old’s closet. When she was an infant, I went on a hunting excursion and learned a valuable lesson – Don’t walk on rafters in socked feet. Yup, I slid right off the rafter and ended up perched on a 2×10 with half of me in the attic and half of me in the family room. Two of my kids and my nephew were watching a Christmas special and all three instantly yelled, “We didn’t do it!” to my lovely wife who stood looking up at my dangling feet.image

I’m not sure if I caught the little critter on that trip, but it did force a trip to the hardware store where Hershel works. Hershel is the best. He’s a little old guy who is slightly stooped from years of hard work. He can fix anything better than anyone who comes in the store, but he is never condescending about:

  • a) your lack of knowledge or
  • b) your stupidity for breaking whatever you came in to fix.

Hershel: Morning Mark, what can I do for you?

Me: I need some drywall.

Hershel: Big project? (His eyes light up! He loves big projects – not only because of what he can sell you, but he also lives vicariously through his customers’ building experiences.)

Me: Nah, actually a really small one.

Hershel: Well, the smallest we’ve got is 4 x 8. They’re in aisle seven. Follow me.

I don’t follow and he notices.

Hershel: What’s the matter?

Me: Nothing smaller? (I look down and estimate the size of my feet, adding an appropriate amount for overage.)

Hershel knows instantly: Where’s the hole?

Me (eyes still low indicating appropriate shame): The den.

Hershel doesn’t flinch or betray just how dumb he thinks I am. Telling me how much patchwork I have in store, he leads me to drywall area and loads me up with tape, mud, sandpaper, screws, and ceiling paint.

Hershel: Once Betty checks you out, go round back. Beside the dumpster, we’ve got lots of broken pieces of sheetrock. You just pick one out and take it with you.

Me: But I really only need about four screws. You sure this is the smallest size?

Hershel: We sell ‘em by the pound. That’s just one pound – smallest we got.

I wondered what genius came up with selling a countable product by volume, but yielded to Hershel’s judgment and headed home. A few days of work and the hole was patched – good as new!

This all leads me to the 4th of July weekend. We are updating the 13 year-old’s room, making it more teen and less little girl. This necessitated a few trips to the attic to store things. You guessed it, I missed a rafter.

Can a house really be considered a home until you’ve broken through the ceiling… twice?

A trip to the store. Hershel, slowed but still knowledgeable and helpful, stood leaning against the wall as I entered.

Herschel: Hey there, Mark. What can I do ya for?

I’ve long gotten over embarrassment over mayhem and destruction I’ve caused in my home. I confidently replied: I need some drywall.

Herschel: Where’s the hole.

Me: It’s in the garage this time. I’ve got the screws leftover from the last time and I don’t need your mud and tape because I don’t care how it looks. (I look at him pleadingly).

He knows what I want, laughs, and says: Sure, go round back and get you a piece… and be more careful next time.


Filed under: Dad stuff

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47. Poking Fun at the Enemy

One can learn so much from children. Too often, in our haste to exercise control of every situation, we grown-ups unfortunately root out their innate curiosity and creativity. We drive from point A to point B without noticing the roadside art, whim, and fancy of the trip that is not lost on the childish mind. There is joy to be had in every journey.

I have recently learned you can poke fun at even the vilest of enemies. If you haven’t had a run with my current foe, hold on – cancer will find you somewhere. I don’t wish it on anyone, but unfortunately it worms its way into everyone’s life at some point whether through family or acquaintance. The Myers clan is relatively new at this contest. There is no rule book or instruction manual that I can find. No article 7, subsection 34b that tells us we can’t fight this demon with a joke and a smile.

Sometimes, you have to laugh to keep from drowning in tears. While my bald, frail daughter lays in what was formerly my bed, at times, she seems to find ways to make us smile.

Take for instance a little wresting match with her sister when she attempted to apply a surprise atomic wedgie, but was blocked by the classic counter: the roll onto the back. Rather than move to a frontal assault, she poked her lip out and meekly proclaimed, “But I have cancer.”

With that, her sister waved the white flag, accepted defeat, and soon left the room to repair the damage to her drawers in private.

*****

Just the other day while urging her to drink more water to avoid dehydration and the inevitable trip back to the hospital, I declared, “If you don’t take a drink I’m going to sit on you.”

Her immediate response, “The doctor says you can’t sit on chemo patients.”

Touche, young one! Touche!

*****

 

Yes, we might be behind shoddy castle walls with little defense besides a catapult and barnyard animals, but we have our smiles and cheery hearts. The enemy can’t take that away.

Now leave before I taunt you a second time!

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

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48. I Survived #4: I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941 by Lauren Tarshis

Living in New York City, Danny Crane, 11, and his best friend Finn were always in trouble.  Danny's father had skipped out before he was born, so his mother worked as a nurse by day and cleaned offices at night to support them and was often not home.  There are just too many kids in Finn's family for anyone to keep an eye on him  The two boys skip school, sneak into the movies, and pretty soon, they were hanging out with gangster Earl Gasky.

So, in late1941, Danny's mother takes a nursing job at the hospital at Hickam Air Force base on Oahu, Hawaii.  Danny hasn't been living in Hawaii for very long before he hatches a plan to stowaway on a ship bound for San Francisco on December 7th, and from there, he plans to cross the country riding the rails back to Finn and the life he loves and wants.

On the morning of December 6th, Danny meets his new neighbors when toddler Aki Sudo wanders into the Cranes backyard.  The Sudos are a family of Japanese descent that had been born in Hawaii.  And Aki Sudo may only have been 3 years old, but he knew every plane the Americans had in their Air Force, thanks to the detailed drawings his fisherman father drew for him.

Danny likes the Sudos, but he is still determined to get back to Finn and NYC.  Yet, on the morning of December 7th, Danny is having a hard time getting out of bed and setting his plan in motion.  Thinking about his mother and how she will feel when she discovers him gone, Danny is jolted out of bed by little Aki's cries.  Planes, swarms of them, are coming and they aren't American.  Suddenly, as the two boys are heading to the Sudo home, they hear loud explosions followed by fire and smoke.  Pearl Harbor is under attack.

Returning Aki to his mother, Danny decides he needs to get the Hickam, to find his own mother.  But along the way, there is another round of bombing, and shooting.  Then, Danny meets Mack, a  lieutenant and pilot of a B-17.  Mack likes Mrs. Crane, but Danny was resentful of that.  Now, though, with a bullet wound to his arm, he and Danny try to make their way to Hickam together.

But, will the two be able to survive the rain of bullets and bombs the Japanese pilots are unleashing on all of Pearl Harbor?

I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor is the 4th book in this popular, action packed I Survived series for boys about boys living in different time periods and facing different historical disasters and making them real coming of age stories.  And, like the others, it won't let the reader down.  There is plenty of real historical information couched in the fictional story of Danny and since Danny more or less sees the attack on Pearl Harbor from a distance, the descriptions of it are realistic, but not so graphic they will upset the age appropriate reader.

One of the side issues that Lauren Tarshis addresses in this particular story is how easy it was for boys like Danny to fall into the wrong kind of life.  Danny is at an age when friends can be all important, so the reader sees how he is torn between staying with his mother and his loyalty to his friend and partner in crime Finn.  These two friends were on their way to being in real trouble when Mrs. Crane moved Danny to Hawaii.  Juvenile delinquency was a problem back then because so many parents, like Mrs. Crane, had to work long hours, often at two jobs.  Doing little things for someone like Earl Gasky was just the beginning.  Both boys are at an age when they could have gone either way and I wondered what happened to Finn, left in NYC.  

Since I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor is a work of historical fiction, the author has included lots of back matter for further exploration.  There is a lengthy Q&A about the actual attack, a Pearl Harbor Time Line, Pearl Harbor facts and resources for reading other books about kids caught in the bombing of December 7, 1941.

In addition, the publisher of the I Survived series, Scholastic, has put a Teacher's Guide online that is compatible with Common Core State Standards and it can be downloaded HERE

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was purchased for my personal library

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49. The Hallmark Conspiracy

I hate greeting cards. Oh sure, I’ve been touched by the sentimental commercials. Maybe I shed a tear, maybe not. But they didn’t inspire to me buy a card or like them.

The only cards that resonate with me are blank cards. In this day and age, if someone takes the time to write their own thoughts out and mail it – that is a treasure.

What greeting cards really say in their flourishing font is: “I’m lazy!”

Write this in your card: “I was too lazy to set a few minutes aside to put my own thoughts into words, so here are some prepackaged, canned, inauthentic thoughts that a wanna-be romance writer who hasn’t shaved in weeks and smokes big cigars in Spokane thought were relevant just for you, my sweetest. Please say ‘Awwwww’ and kiss me.”

Frankly, greeting cards are disingenuous at best.

 

When I was a kid, they were just speed bumps to the present. Oh sure, I would pretend to read them on my way to disemboweling the wrapping paper that stood between me and the gift. I liked the ones Aunt Eunice would underline so I could skip most of the words – kind of a cliff notes version. Later in life, she began underlining every word, including the price and printing information – which made it less helpful. Of course, by then she was wrapping up ten year-old toasters and place mats for presents, so haste was less of a concern.

Just because you are paranoid does not mean they are not out to get you

-Henry Kissinger

Greeting cards and I have a turbulent history. Since I am negatively disposed against them, they do their best to shame me at every turn. Instead of bowing to their convenience and paying the price, I try to take the time to write personal notes, especially to my lovely wife. But there are instances when I run out of time and am forced to rush into the store and get one. When this happens, I treat it like a commando raid – rush in, select the victim, and get out before anyone gets hurt. I choose based on color and frill, often neglecting  to check the sentiment inside – time is what I lack, anyway. With that method, it is pretty easy to stay away from sympathy and get-well cards, but sometimes (okay, most of the time), the sentiment of my selection doesn’t match the occasion or is age inappropriate. That is where The Hallmark Conspiracy comes in.

Take this week. This week marked her birthday. I had a great present in advance, but completely forgot the stupid card until the day of. So I put on my camo, blacked my eyes and descended upon the grocery store. Although every fiber of my cheap being steered me to the 99¢ rack, I’ve been warned about those and went all out – $3.99! I found the birthday section, saw one with a cute little boy and girl on it and dashed out of the store.

Here is what I got:

image

Hastily altered in the driveway – think she noticed?

 

Mis-shelved! The card was mis-shelved! I swear I was in the birthday section!

Swine greeting cards!!!!!!

Someday society will truly be paperless and I won’t have to deal with these verbose phonies. Until then, I’ll shred a few in effigy and steer clear of the aisle altogether.


Filed under: Don't Blog Angry

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50. Kill Some Stress, Run Faster, Be Happier

The last few days my Adobe was acting up, legit like a two year old heck bent on crippling me. I couldn’t finish work that NEEDED to be done, I cursed the computer and slammed some fists. It had turned ME into a toddler. Hot mess.

Stress. Frustration. Anxiety. We can’t avoid it in life and we can’t avoid it in running either. There are ALWAYS going to be things totally out of our control. My tantrum wasn’t going to solve the computer issues, and neither is the wildest of fits going to cure a stress fracture. Sometimes sh*t just sucks but you NEED to deal.
stress fractures suck
In the moment that can feel impossible but our fast-paced lives have gotten to a point where the stress, anxiety, and frustrations churning through us are destroying us. Making us sick. Clearly even if you’re not on the verge of a stress induced heart-attack or breakdown, I dare say everyone and anyone has some sh*t going on that they would do well to unburden themselves with.

What do I mean by unburdening? You most likely can’t take away or change every situation, you can’t make money float down upon you or force so-and-so to get back to you with a quote that you NEED because your article deadline is hours away.

Unburdening can be more like shifting how YOU are dealing with the situation. Adjust and learn to let go. I’m sum it up:

Do EVERY single thing you can to control the situation and make it work how you’d like it to…from there, heed to the ‘que sera, sera’.

Injury?

You get hurt, injuries come with the territory in running. Do what you can to reduce your risk but you can’t avoid them. Here are your three steps:
1) Throw your dang tantrum. You deserve it. But put a time limit on your baby breakdown. Ten minutes, a day max.
2) Get proactive. Shift to problem-solver mode (logic and reason side of the brain, move out of emotional/reactive side). Come up with a cross training and rehab routine.
3) Do it. Move through that routine and ONLY take it a day at a time. Don’t dwell on XXX weeks or months. Look at your rehab like taking your medicine…spoon full of sugar that crap down. ;)

Bad Race or Workout

Also comes with the territory in running. Ironically the steps are eerily the same as above:
1) Mild upset is allowed. You deserve to be disappointed and that’s the same feeling that will motivate you to work harder next time. But don’t be a pouter, don’t be one of those jerks who ruins everyone else’s workout/race/day/etc. Cry on the inside like a champ. Haha.
2) Get proactive. Learn anything you can from the experience, is there a reason it was bad? Reassess your training if need be.
3) Move on. Keep on trucking. Some days your legs just don’t show up for whatever reason. Learn what you can the move forward.
missing legs
Never let a bad workout or race turn you into a pessimist. That kind of perspective is what kills peoples’ passion and could ruin your love of running. No one wants that.

All that stress and anxiety [psst...don't get too nervous before races either, here's my post on that.] only makes things more of an uphill battle for you. So don’t make things worse on yourself. Unburden that sh*t.

Ironically, the more balanced and less stress you put on yourself in running the better you end up performing. There’s a little thing called over-thinking, My Friends.

Back to life because 99.9% of us aren’t running for our jobs. Which means our jobs and life events are brining us the most stress. [that extra stress will effect our running too...so if you're also wanting to run better you'll do well to unburden some life stress...logic holds there. Haha] But far too many of us let things that shouldn’t stress us out THAT much, well, stress us out THAT much.

I challenge you to let go of some little things. Lots of those things include wondering what someone else thinks about you OR complaining about someone else. A tip there, years ago I adopted the thing of not saying anything about someone else that I wouldn’t just say right to them. I’m a straight-shooter so rather than complain, isn’t it better to just go to the source and [strategically] say whatever you need to? Problem solved there.

Now for the curveballs and bigger things life will deal you often, we’ll circle back to what I suggested we do in running. Hey, like I say EVERYTHING circles back to running, right?! ;)
1) Baby tantrums. You can be entitled to a fist pound on the laptop but put a time limit on yourself.
2) Proactive mode. Do EVERYTHING you can to set yourself for the best outcome.
3) Move the heck on. You can’t control lots of things in life, namely other people. So…”let it go.” ;)
ryftreesitting
Stress makes you unhappy, it will also make your running harder. All the more reason to unburden some of that crap!

1) What is one little thing you’re going to unburden yourself with TODAY?
2) How do you handle BIG life stress?
3) Do you consider yourself a highly stressed and anxious person?

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