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Results 1 - 25 of 118
1. Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz & Margaret Chamberlain & other knitting picture books

Indulge me: Have a quick brainstorm about picture books you know for young kids which explore what it feels like to be different?

[Go on! Play the game!]
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Of those you’ve come up with, how many are about emotions rather than physical characteristics?

How many of them feature humans rather than animals?

How many of them have a boy lead character rather than a girl?

[I came up with very few, and even then I needed help from the ever resourceful and generous Letterbox Library. Between us we came up with Oliver by Birgitta Sif, Eliot Jones, Midnight Superhero by Anne Cottringer and Alex T Smith, Weslandia by Paul Fleischman and Kevin Hawkes but that was pretty much it.]

raffifrontcoverSo when Made by Raffi written by Craig Pomranz, illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain (@madgiemadge) appeared in my hands for the first time I sat up and noticed; it’s about a boy who feels he doesn’t quite fit in, for instead of football, his passion is knitting and sewing.

Although he’s a curious and generous kid, he feels sidelined at school. Unlike most of his classmates, he doesn’t like noise and rough play. But thanks to a supportive teacher he discovers a new passion – making his own clothes. When it is time for the school play could this new skill help him gain the respect of his peers? Without giving the game away, the ending is upbeat, but also authentic. This isn’t a sugar-coated story. (For the really interesting background to the story, take a look at this article).

This book deserves to be in every school and read in every family for a whole plethora of reasons. It’s bold, tackling gender issues that many adults might skirt around: I love Pomranz daring to use the word “girly“, and it certainly helped us talk about how being a girl interested in ‘boys’ things’ is often more accepted by society than a boy interested in ‘girls’ things’. It’s big hearted; not just the warm, loving family Raffi is part of, but also his supportive school. It shows all sorts of children playing together, with different skin colours and different physical abilities, as well as different interests. It’s a joyously inclusive book, which tackles big themes gently and playfully.

raffiinside

Margaret Chamberlain’s illustrations are delightful. She uses colour very cleverly to portray moods and to mirror how much more interesting – indeed colourful – the world is for a diverse range of characters; wouldn’t the world be a dull grey place if we all liked only the same things?

A book about loneliness, respect, difference, and learning to trust your instincts even when it means you don’t follow the crowd, Made by Raffi is a vital, delightful and unusual book I urge you to share.

M and J were recently shown how to knit by their Grandma, and reading Made by Raffi offered the ideal opportunity to practice their recently acquired skills. (Here are some Youtube tutorials we found helpful to refresh our memories of what Granny had taught us: Casting on, knit stitch, casting off.

knitting2

knitting1

Having a ball of wool with lots of different colours on it was an effective tool in motivating the kids; each child would knit one or two colours and then hand the needles and ball over to the other. It gave them easy targets to aim for, and I’m sure this is partly why they completed a long scarf far more quickly than I was expecting.

completedscarf

Whilst knitting we’ve been listening to:

  • Lots of songs by Raffi (an Egyptian-born Canadian singer-songwriter who creates great kid-friendly music), – here’s a whole playlist on youtube.
  • The Knitting Song by Bill Oddie
  • Knitting by Arthur Askey. Massively old fashioned but a great rumble through all sorts of stitches and garments.

  • Other activities which would go well with reading Made by Raffi include:

  • Learning to finger knit. Here’s the youtube video we used to learn how to fingerknit.
  • Letting the kids embellish their own clothing. I found this the easiest/most satisfying way to let the kids have a go at making something themselves – they chose buttons they liked and sewed them onto a couple of pieces of clothing. Simple sewing but with a relatively big (and ‘real’) result.
  • Making a cloak as described in the story. Alternatively, if you can find a department store selling off curtain samples (eg in John Lewis or House of Fraser), you can pick up pretty much prepared cloaks – all you need to do is add something (eg a large hook and eye) so you can have the cloak safely stay on your shoulders as you zoom around wearing it.
  • If in a school or a library setting, making a display with images of clothes designed by men (Galliano, Versace, Gaultier for example, cut out from glossy magazines) and as the centre pieces place Made by Raffi and The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams. Whilst not for primary school kids, I’d also encourage you to read Boys Don’t Knit by T.S.Easton, a hilarious take on a teenage boy who loves to knit. Ben Fletcher and Raffi would definitely like to meet each other!

  • Other picture /illustrated books which feature knitting include:

  • Socks for supper by Jack Kent
  • Knitting Nell by Julie Jersild Roth
  • Mr. Nick’s knitting by Margaret Wild and Dee Huxley
  • Shall I knit you a hat? : a Christmas yarn by Kate Klise and M Sarah Klise
  • Derek, the knitting dinosaur by Mary Blackwood and Kerry Argent
  • Annie Hoot and the knitting extravaganza by Holly Clifton-Brown
  • Mrs. McDockerty’s knitting by Ruth Martinez and Catherine O’Neill
  • Noodle’s knitting by Sheryl Webster and Caroline Pedler
  • The knitting of Elizabeth Amelia by Patricia Lee Gauch and Barbara Lavallee
  • Knitty Kitty by David Elliott and Christopher Denise
  • The truly terribly horrible sweater that Grandma knit by Debbie Macomber, Mary Lou Carney and Vincent Nguyen
  • Carrie measures up! by Linda Williams Aber and Joy Allen
  • knittingpicbooks1

  • Pa Jinglebob, the fastest knitter in the West by Mary Arrigan and Korky Paul
  • Pa Jinglebob and the Grabble Gang by Mary Arrigan and Korky Paul
  • The best little knitter in the West by Sermsah Bin Saad and Samantha Cook
  • The three billy goats Fluff by Rachael Mortimer and Liz Pichon
  • The long red scarf by Nette Hilton and Margaret Power
  • It’s gone, Jac! by Rob Lewis
  • A winter’s yarn by Kathleen Cook Waldron and Deborah Turney Zagwyn
  • Love from Woolly : a lift-the-flap book of woolly gifts by Nina Michaels and Nicola Smee
  • Pelle’s New Suit by Elsa Beskow
  • Milo Armadillo by Jan Fearnley
  • knittingpicbooks2

    If you like the sound of Made by Raffi and are anywhere near Edinburgh in August, don’t miss the chance to meet author Craig Pomranz talking about his book as part of the Edinburgh Book Festival.

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from the publishers.

    3 Comments on Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz & Margaret Chamberlain & other knitting picture books, last added: 7/2/2014
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    2. Cuddling up to Nightbear by Rebecca Patterson

    nightbearcoverThere are lots of recipes for great picture books but Rebecca Patterson has certainly worked out one of the best set of ingredients. She takes a good dose of humour, a non-patronising, reassuring, sincere child’s-eye view of the world and adds in highly observant illustrations and a sprinkling of drama. She did it with the Roald Dahl Funny Prize winning My Big Shouting Day!, the brilliantly perceptive My Busy Being Bella Day, and has pulled it off once more with her latest book, Nightbear.

    An old bear has arrived at a new home; the book opens with us following him from the factory where he was made, to his first (and unappreciative) home, to a charity shop where he is eventually bought by a young girl out shopping with her mum. The bear is thrilled to have been chosen, but how will he fit in, when he discovers that the girl already has lots of teddy bears with very important roles in her life?

    A heartwarming, delightful story not just about having a great teddy bear to hug, but also about the importance of having someone listen to your stories, and the reassurance that comes from being ‘picked’, about the everyday, real worries a young child can have (from nightmares, to being ill in the night), and most of all about the enormous fun to be had with imaginative play, Nightbear is a perfect picture book.

    patterson

    Starting with the gorgeous, dark sparkly cover, this book is so much fun to look at as well as to listen to. Patterson draws with a delightful, fluid simplicity; lots of smooth curves abound – as if echoing the cuddliness of the bears, and the warmth of the family. Some of the tiny details in the illustrations are like poems; they ring true in an uncluttered, authentic way that makes you see them anew, for example the way the mother holds the hand of the child when they’re browsing in the charity shop, or the manner in which the father holds the hair of the child whilst she is being sick.

    A book every nursery and infant school should have, a book every charity shop should use to make a brilliant, eye catching window display, a book every family with young children will enjoy, Nightbear is an ideal book to cuddle up with.

    Feeling sad at the thought of all those unloved teddy bears leading lonely lives on charity shop shelves we armed ourselves with 50ps and went off with a mission to each rescue and bring one home.

    teddy1

    This one (above) looked pretty comfy.

    teddy4

    This one looked rather resigned to its fate.

    teddy3

    These two had fallen over and were asleep when we saw them.

    teddy2

    This one was too expensive.

    But eventually we each found a teddy that we loved, came home, and celebrated by dressing them up (as happens in Nightbear). I’m rather jealous of the bustle and headgear newly named ‘Treacle’ got to wear:

    teddy5

    Little ‘Buttercup’ got a pretty nifty hat:

    teddy6

    But ‘Candy’ stole the show with her badges and slides…

    teddy7

    Whilst dressing our teddies we listened to:

  • Stompy the Bear by Caspar Babypants
  • Freddy Bear, The Teddy Bear by Ralph’s World
  • Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear by Elvis Presley

  • Other fun activities to get up to alongside reading Nightbear include:

  • Making a patchwork blanket. Even the youngest kids can have fun making a paper collage out of coloured squares, whilst older kids could paint fabric in blocks of colour (thinned down acrylic paint is great for this if you don’t want to get dedicated fabric paint).
  • Having a Teddy Bears’ Picnic! A blanket, some bears, some biscuits… oh and a good book or two and you’re all set!
  • Ready Baggy Brown by Mick Inkpen for another great view of a teddy bear factory line
  • Enjoying these pictures of really old teddies and wondering what sort of lives they’ve led
  • Have you a favourite teddy bear? Or a teddy bear who is assigned a special job?

    Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher.

    4 Comments on Cuddling up to Nightbear by Rebecca Patterson, last added: 5/22/2014
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    3. Review: Don’t Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley

     

    May Contain Spoilers

    Review:

    This is the third novel of Gwen Heasley’s that I’ve read.  I enjoyed it, too, with just a few caveats.  The first being that I felt Don’t Call Me Baby is written for a younger a audience than her previous works, but then again, maybe that’s because Imogen isn’t from the same privileged background that Corinne is from.  Imogen doesn’t have Corinne’s sense of entitlement, or her abrasive personality.  Definitely a plus!  The other reservation, and this is by no means negative – I am a blogger, so I could see both sides of Imogen’s conundrum, as well as her mother’s.  This made it easier for me to sympathize with both of them, but if you have no interest in blogging, some aspects of the story might bore you.

    Imogen is excited to start 9th grade, and at 15, she is determined to finally take back her privacy.  Her mom is a popular mommy blogger, and Imogen, AKA Babylicious, is the star of the blog.  Ever since she was born, she has been the featured topic of the blog.  Her mom shares every aspect of her life with her readers, and Imogen is tired of it.  She’s teased at school, she has no secrets, and she doesn’t appreciate the way her mom spins every coming of age moment for the entertainment of her blog fans.  Her mother’s happiness is measured in website clicks, and Imogen wants it to end.  Pronto.  Because her mom is so caught up in her blogging and growing her stats, there is an ever growing distance between them.  Is her mom genuinely interested in her troubles, or is she going to make them the topic of her next blog post?

    At least she has her BFF to lean on.  Sage’s mom is also a blogger.  Her blog is about healthy lifestyles and begin vegan, so Sage isn’t allowed to eat foods the rest of us take for granted.  Her mom constantly tries out new recipes, feeds them to Sage, and blogs about the experience.  Sage hates it.  If it wasn’t for her beloved piano, she would go nuts.  Instead, she’s forced to sneak off to the mall for binges in the food court. 

    When the girls are given an assignment in English class to write a blog, they are resistant at first.  Then they realize that it’s the perfect way to get back at their moms.  They will tell them how they really feel about having their privacy stolen from them, in a public place, and hope to shame their moms into immediately stop posting about them.  What they didn’t count on was the backlash from their moms, which threatens both their friendship and their relationships with their mothers.

    Don’t Call Me Baby is really about a young woman trying to take back her voice.  Her mom is very enthusiastic about her blog and about engaging with her readers, and she doesn’t stop to think that she’s invading her daughter’s privacy.  Because of the popularity of the blog, Imogen just wants to fade into the background.  She doesn’t like being the center of attention.  She hates it.  That’s what she’s trying to put a stop to.  She just wants to be a normal teenager, with normal teenage problems, without her mom’s blog subscribers being involved in every major life decision involving her upbringing.  I would have balked at that, too!

    There are times when Imogen’s protest goes a little too far.  I was seriously concerned that she was going to make a major, major mistake near the end of the book.  Because both Imogen and her mom have become deaf to each other’s words, she does make a few missteps in an attempt to make her mom understand her feelings.  She has lost the ability to have a meaningful conversation with her mom, and it takes a touching moment in a public place for her to finally understand that her mom has reasons for acting the way she does.  Imogen grew up so much after her mother’s revelation, and I liked her so much better for it.

    I enjoyed the secondary characters, too, especially Imogen’s grandmother.  I also liked Imogen’s resolve to disconnect for a while, so she can regain her perspective on life.  In today’s connected world, everyone seems more interested in doing anything other than talking, which led to most of her conflict.  She also had a major falling out with Sage, because Imogen realized that their tactics were not working, and she didn’t want to aggravate her mom just for the sake of aggravating her. She knew when to call it quits and launch another plan of attack.  Sage was just so angry at her mother, and by extension, at Imogen, that she keep getting more and more stubborn with her protest.

    Don’t Call Me Baby is an enjoyable read.  Though it’s character based, it moves along at a fast clip, and I had a hard time putting it down.  I kept worrying about what Imogen was going to do to get her mother’s attention, and it was nerve-wracking at times!  If you liked Gwen’s previous books, you’ll like this one, and if you enjoy books about conflict resolution, this will work for you, too.

    Grade:  B

    Review copy provided by publisher

    From Amazon:

    Perfect for fans of Jennifer E. Smith and Huntley Fitzpatrick, Don’t Call Me Baby is a sharply observed and charming story about mothers and daughters, best friends and first crushes, and our online selves and the truth you can only see in real life.

    All her life, Imogene has been known as the girl on that blog.

    Imogene’s mother has been writing an incredibly embarrassing, and incredibly popular, blog about her since before she was born. The thing is, Imogene is fifteen now, and her mother is still blogging about her. In gruesome detail. When a mandatory school project compels Imogene to start her own blog, Imogene is reluctant to expose even more of her life online . . . until she realizes that the project is the opportunity she’s been waiting for to define herself for the first time.

    The post Review: Don’t Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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    4. Oh, the Places You’ll Go

    bookCoverShannon Bowers’ son Alex loves Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go.

    Shannon gets teary-eyed when they read it together. Someday Alex will grow up, go to college and live out his dreams. Alex gets teary-eyed when Shannon reads too many of the pages. He’s five now. That’s his job.

    Recently, Alex and his classmates, students from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, all picked out brand-new books from First Book to take home. They chose stories about history, princesses and sharks. Their excitement was overflowing; many of them had no books at home.

    Shannon Bowers family 2014Books have always been an important part of Shannon’s life. Her parents read to her as a child, and she and her husband Paul entered parenthood sharing the belief that education creates opportunities. They have always made an effort to fill their home with books.

    Since Alex was born, Shannon and Paul have made reading as a family part of their nightly routine. Alex picks out a book; they all pile into his bed and share the story together. These days, Alex really likes to read to one-year-old Michael. He gets frustrated if mom or dad interrupts.

    Shannon hopes reading will help take Alex and Michael all the places they want to go – in their imaginations and in life. She hopes financial issues won’t stand in their way. She hopes the same can be true for all kids.

    “Our kids, they’re five years old,” she said. “None of them are thinking about [the future] right now. But we are. We think about that kind of thing… I want all of these kids to know if they make good enough grades, and they do what they need to do, then it’s there. They can do whatever they want.”

    Together we can prepare kids for brighter future. Please consider making a gift to First Book today.

    The post Oh, the Places You’ll Go appeared first on First Book Blog.

    0 Comments on Oh, the Places You’ll Go as of 4/16/2014 8:07:00 PM
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    5. Pottytime for Chickies, Bedtime for Chickies

    Books: Pottytime for Chickies and Bedtime for Chickies
    Author: Janee Trasler
    Pages: 24 each
    Age Range: 2-4 (padded board books)

    Pottytime for Chickies and Bedtime for Chickies, both by Janee Trasler, are part of a new series of padded board books focused on issues of interest to toddlers and early preschoolers (upcoming titles discuss the arrival of a new chick, and the development of table manners). Both books feature three little round chicks, apparently parented by three farm animals (Pig, Cow, and Sheep). The parent figures all look male to me, though this isn't completely, which makes for a nice, subtle message about varied types of families. 

    In Pottytime for Chickies, the chicks are, as you might suspect, learning how to use the toilet. They have their own ideas about what the potty is for, however, and when left to their own devices they do things like swim in the potty (ick!), and use the toilet paper like a trapeze. Each time, one of the parents returns, passes out hugs or kisses, and tries to get them onto the right track. So, for example, we have:

    "Pottytime, Chickies.
    Just two things.

    First wipe your tail feathers,
    then wash your wings.

    Goodbye, Sheep.
    Shut the door.
    We know what the potty's for."

    Followed by jumping off the back of the potty onto a pile of towels, followed by hugs and gentle redirection from Sheep. And in the space of a few short pages, the chicks figure out what to do. So, no, not the most realistic potty training book that parents can add to their arsenals. But it is pretty fun! My already potty-trained daughter pealed with laughter over the chicks in the potty. 

    Bedtime for Chickies tackles another common issue - the ways that kids will delay going to bed. Even as the adults are settling into their own beds, the chick are thirsty, have to go potty, and need a story, to the increasing chagrin of the three tired adults. Eventually, each chick ends up falling asleep in the lap of a similarly sleeping grown up animal (a more realistic ending than the first book). 

    One thing I liked about Bedtime for Chickies was the way the author teased kids, by making them think that a rhyme was coming when it wasn't. Like this:

    It's bedtime for chickies.
    It's bedtime for sheep.
    It's bedtime for pig and cow.
    Let's all go to ..."

    My four-year-old immediately chimed in with "sleep." But in face, on the next page the text is:

    "cheep, cheep, cheep.
    We can't sleep.
    We have to go potty."

    The disruption in the text mirrors that disruption in the actual bedtime process. Nice.

    Trasler's illustrations aren't realistic, of course, but the three round chicks are cute and kid-friendly, and the adult animals are quirky (and wear clothes). The adults come across as more nurturing in the potty book, vs. just exhausted in the bedtime book (both of which seem appropriate to me). The colors are soothing - not to bright, and the energy of the chicks is apparent on nearly every page. 

    I think this is a nice addition to the ranks of toddler-focused board books. These take a very light tone, and focus more on the universal humor of things kids do than on "teaching" a certain behavior. And I do love that the adult caregivers are apparently male and of different species than the kids. Not only does this make the book more visually interesting, it quietly tosses stereotypes aside (an usual thing in the board book world). Recommended new baby gifts or first through third birthdays. I look forward to seeing the other books in this fun new series.  

    Publisher: Harper (@HarperChildrens
    Publication Date: January 28, 2014
    Source of Book: Review copies from the publisher

    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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    6. Interview with Varsha Barjaj, Author of Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Varsha!  Describe yourself in five words or less.

    [Varsha Barjaj] I am hard working, idealistic, optimistic, loyal and driven!

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood?

    [Varsha Barjaj] What thirteen-year-old Abby wants most is to meet her father. She just never imagined he would be a huge film star–in Bollywood! Now she’s traveling to Mumbai to get to know her famous father. Abby is overwhelmed by the culture clash, the pressures of being the daughter of India’s most famous celebrity, and the burden of keeping her identity a secret. But as she learns to navigate her new surroundings, she just might discover where she really belongs.

    [Manga Maniac Cafe]  Can you share your favorite scene?

    [Varsha Barjaj] My favorite scene is the one in which Abby and Shaan take a rickshaw ride to the beach in Mumbai. I loved writing the details of the rickshaw ride.

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] What gave you the most trouble with the story?

    [Varsha Barjaj] Striking the balance between the fun, playful aspect of the story and the deeper issues of cultural identity, belonging within a family and being in a city with vast disparities between the rich and the poor.

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

    [Varsha Barjaj] My comb

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

    [Varsha Barjaj] A picture of my family, A Don Quixote card holder, and a sunshine yellow “I Love Mom” mug made by my daughter.  

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

    [Varsha Barjaj] Michelle Obama. I love her charm, her look and her intelligence.

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

    [Varsha Barjaj] I just finished re-reading Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and it blew me away. I also read the ARC for School of Charm by Lisa Ann Scott and was charmed.

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

    [Varsha Barjaj] Readers can connect through my website or on twitter (@varshabajaj

    Thank you for this opportunity to “talk” to you and your readers.

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

    About the book:

    What thirteen-year-old Abby wants most is to meet her father. She just never imagined he would be a huge film star—in Bollywood! Now she’s traveling to Mumbai to get to know her famous father. Abby is overwhelmed by the culture clash, the pressures of being the daughter of India’s most famous celebrity, and the burden of keeping her identity a secret. But as she learns to navigate her new surroundings, she just might discover where she really belongs.

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    7. Henry Helps with the Baby by Beth Bracken

     5 Stars Henry helps take care of Penny, his infant sister.  He likes to get the things she needs.  If Penny’s diaper needs changed, Henry gets a clean diaper.  He finds Penny’s hat when everyone goes on a walk.  At bath time, Henry shares his bath toys, and when Penny is hungry, Henry shares mom. [...]

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    8. Hooked by Catherine Greenman




    Thea has been her own care-giver, since mom is flighty and dad seems Aspergers-esque. At the prestigious high school she meets a mesmerizing young man and falls immediately in love with him, Will. Hooked. He is a girl’s dream come true, even keeping their romance hot after he leaves for Columbia. During one love-making session, they do not use protection and Thea becomes pregnant. She tells everyone that she is aborting the baby, but leaves the procedure table, never to return. Both set of parents give them money to begin their lives together with Ian, the baby to which Thea is eternally hooked. Columbia is a must in this arrangement, and Thea worries their relationship into confrontations. Will has been traumatized since Ian’s birth, and when Thea accidentally burns Ian, Will explodes with a demand the adoption of Ian so their lives can go forward. That night Thea packs up to live with her father, the fellow I feel has AS. There are bumps, but things work out. Thea crochets adult replicas of her childhood bikini, and despite her father’s negativity, she persists in her hooked hobby becoming a money-maker. And Dad uses his mathematical skills to admit the market, and help with production. Will? They talk weekly, and there is room for more in their relationship. This is an powerful novel about the fears of a teen mom coming into being a parent, her fears, concern for her baby’s safety, and the epiphanies she has about parenthood, particularly about her parents. Will and Thea’s sex scenes are a bit too much for younger readers. But this would be excellent for a teen parenting class’s novel.

    ENDERS' Rating: ****
    Catherine's Website

    0 Comments on Hooked by Catherine Greenman as of 3/6/2012 2:22:00 PM
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    9. I’m Not Tired Yet! by Marianne Richmond

    A to Z Challenge Day 9:  I  5 stars I’m Not Tired Yet! has six-year-old Ralphie inventing every excuse to delay his bedtme.  His perceptive mom, however, sees his stalling as her invitation to engage Ralphie in a silly series of kisses, hugs, pinches, and pokes—all inspired by his favorite animals and each leaving the [...]

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    10. My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer, by Jennifer Gennari

    June has been content living with her mother on the shores of Lake Champlain, spending her time baking and selling sweets at the Stillwater Marina, and swimming with her friend Luke. This summer she is dreaming of what pie she is going to enter in the Champlain Valley Fair.  It seems pretty ideal, yes? 

    It is pretty ideal except for Eva.  Eva has just moved in with June and her mom.  It's not like June didn't know that her mom was gay, but having Eva living with them is making June uncomfortable.  After all, June and MJ have always had a rhythm, and Eva just doesn't fit.  Now that Vermont's civil union law has  passed, Eva and MJ are even talking about getting married!

    But not everyone in their town is happy with the idea of civil unions.  In fact, someone even had the nerve to put a "Take Back Vermont" sign on their front lawn.  June isn't even sure what that means, but she doesn't stick around to find out.  After Eva tears up the sign, June takes off with Luke to see the secret blueberry bushes that he found up by the jumping cliff. June can't wait to come back the next week to pick some for her pies.  Before she and Luke leave, however, June's friend Tina's brother Sam and some of his friends show up.  Sam calls June a "lezzie" for being too scared to jump off the cliff, and June starts to wonder if Sam put up the sign on her lawn.  And does Tina feel the same way her brother does?

    Soon the "Take Back Vermont" campaign starts to take off in town.  Folks stop coming into the marina, and June starts to worry about her mom.  But there are others who are willing to stick up for June, Eva and MJ, and June starts to realize that she needs to stick up for her family as well.

    Overall this is a coming of age story that easily could have turned into a didactic piece about marriage equity.  Gennari has managed to balance the discussion with June's struggles with friendships, her blossoming crush on Luke as well as the everyday growing pains that families go through.  I am always on the look out for LGBT books to put in our collection, and honestly ones that fit the tween audience are hard to come by.  My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer fits nicely into not only the LGBT collection, but into tween summer reads as well.

    0 Comments on My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer, by Jennifer Gennari as of 1/1/1900
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    11. The Stray Dog: From a True Story by Reiko Sassa by Marc Simont

    5 Stars The Stray Dog Marc Simont HarperCollins Children's Books 978-0-0644-3669-4 No. Pgs. 32 ….. Ages 4 and up ……………….. Inside Jacket: When a little dog appears at a family picnic, the girl and boy play with him all afternoon, and they name him Willy.  At day’s end they say good-bye. But the dog has won their [...]

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    12. Interview with Patricia Dunn, Author of Rebels By Accident

    Patricia Dunn is the author of Rebels By Accident, a young adult coming of age tale that takes place in Egypt during the revolution that recently swept through the country.  Patricia dropped by the virtual offices to chat about her book.

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

    [Patricia Dunn] I am the tangential queen. When I tell a story I take you around the world to bring you right back to where we started only with some new discovery, hopefully.
    [Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Rebels by Accident?

    [Patricia Dunn]  It’s the journey of an Egyptian-American teen who in our post 9-11 world is very disconnected from her culture, and how she finally figures out what it means to be Egyptian and American. It’s also a love story. Not just the girl meets boy story, but a story that also includes falling in love with a place and a people, and friends and family. And let’s not forget that it’s about Revolution on the outside and on the inside.

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

    [Patricia Dunn] It didn’t start off as a choice. I was in a writing class with Cassandra Medley, at Sarah Lawrence College, she’s an amazing teacher and playwright. Through a series of writing prompts, the voice of Mariam started to come through. Someone once said it was like I channeled her. And I must have, because I’d never have consciously written in the voice of a teenager. Teens are tough. But whenever I tried to go back to a more adult narrator Mariam kept fighting her way through and winning. When I finally accepted Mariam as my narrator, I let her tell her story, and there were many variations. After the recent Egyptian revolution, I knew that was part of her story and so with the help of a wonderful editor, and my then publisher Evelyn Fazio, and with the help of my best friend and agent, this version emerged. And like any story I write, revision, revision, and revision, and trial and error, lots of it. The more I worked on this book, the more I learned about my characters and the more the story revealed itself.

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] What kind of research did you conduct for this project?

    [Patricia Dunn] I’ve been to Egypt many times, so I could visualize a lot of the places I was writing about. But to get the events and the feel for a lot of the scenes at Tahrir square, I spent hours looking at YouTube videos and reading posts on Facebook and Twitter, and asking everyone I knew who was there or who had family there at the time. I also had many readers looking over the book and helping with fact checking. When it came to some of the Arabic translations, I made sure that these were checked and rechecked. I really tried to make sure that the transliteration was true to the way things are said in Egypt as opposed to other Arabic speaking countries. For example, in Egypt a “th” sound is used in a lot of words whereas it’s not used in other Arabic speaking countries. Oh, and I also talked to as many teenagers as I could to get a sense of what felt believable. I was constantly reading sections to my son and asking, "Does this sound like something a teen would say?" Or would your friends do this? Or would they do that? Then there was all the research around social media. It was amazing to me how the youth in Egypt were not only using Facebook to share news about fashion or friends but they were using Facebook to organize, to change the world.

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Mariam?

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    13. Waiting on Wednesday–The Language Inside by Holly Thompson

    Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

    Holly Thompson’s Orchards was one of my favorite reads in 2011.  I loved the book, and it got me hooked on novels in free verse; previously, I wouldn’t touch them with a 10 foot pole.  Her latest release, The Language Inside, will be in stores 2013.  I can hardly wait!

     

     

    A beautiful novel in verse that deals with post-tsunami Japan, Cambodian culture, and one girl’s search for identity and home.

    Emma Karas was raised in Japan; it’s the country she calls home. But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Emma’s family moves to a town outside Lowell, Massachusetts, to stay with her grandmother while her mom undergoes treatment.

    Emma feels out of place in the United States, begins to have migraines, and longs to be back in Japan. At her grandmother’s urging, she volunteers in a long-term care center to help Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write down her poems. There, Emma meets Samnang, another volunteer, who assists elderly Cambodian refugees. Weekly visits to the care center, Zena’s poems, dance, and noodle soup bring Emma and Samnang closer, until Emma must make a painful choice: stay in Massachusetts, or return early to Japan.

    What are you waiting on?

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    14. Liar & Spy, by Rebecca Stead

    After downsizing and moving to an apartment with his family, Georges (yes with an "s") and his dad are in the basement throwing out garbage when they see a sign posted on a door.  "Spy Club Meeting -- TODAY!".  Much to Georges' chagrin, his dad writes "What time?" on the sign, setting off a series of events that will occupy Georges' days for the next while.

    Georges himself, is a big of an awkward kid.  He puts up with the daily microbullying that his mom says aren't part of the big picture.  The big picture of life is kind of like the Seurat print they have in their living room.  If you look at it close up, it's just a bunch of dots, but back away to see the big picture and everything comes into focus.  Thinking about the big picture doesn't make school any easier, however.  The sarcastic clapping at his volleyball moves, the renaming him Gorgeous, the fact that his friend Jason came back from camp completely different -- these things all pepper Georges days.  Add onto this the fact that his nurse mom is always at the hospital, and his dad works plenty as well, and you get a sense of what Georges is going through.

    So when somebody answers on the Spy Club sign that there is a meeting at 1:30 and Georges' dad encourages him to go, nobody is more surprised than Georges to find a kid waiting in the basement room.  He first meets Candy, then Safer and their family from the 6th floor.  Safer says that he's a spy and that he's got his eye on one of the building's tenants.  He's creepy -- always wears black and is constantly hauling big suitcases in and out of the building.  Safer teaches Georges some of the art of being a spy, and before he knows it, he is in over his head.

    Rebecca Stead has written what could be called the perfect tween/middle grade novel.  She gets kids, and the situations the characters get into as well as their voices are spot on.  Each setting rings true, and the slow simmer and reveal are plotted precisely and perfectly.  Stead manages to pay close attention to detail without slowing the pace of the story.  There is a message in Liar & Spy about empathy and bullying and being an ally, but it doesn't feel the least bit didactic.  Liar & Spy has quickly risen into my top five for the year.

    0 Comments on Liar & Spy, by Rebecca Stead as of 10/14/2012 3:51:00 PM
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    15. Classics Illustrated Deluxe #9: Scrooge: A Christmas Carol & A Remembrance of Mugby by Charles Dickens

    5 Stars Scrooge: A Christmas Carol & A Remembrance of Mugby Charles Dickens Papercutz 96 Pages   Ages: 8 and up   Scrooge is actually two books in one. In addition to the traditional Dickens classic  A Christmas Carol there is also another Charles Dickens classic, A Remembrance of Mugby. Chances are good you have not [...]

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    16. That Cat Can’t Stay by Thad Krasnesky

    Cat Writers' Association Muse Medallion Winner World's Best Litter-ary Award Winner Nebraska Golden Sower Award list 2012-13 Illinois Monarch K-3 Readers' Choice Award list 2012-13 NY State Charlotte Award list 2011-12 Delaware Diamond Award list 2011-12 Storytelling World Award Honor Title 2011 Bank Street Best Books for Children 2011 Wanda Gág Best Read Aloud Book Award 2011 Honor Book Society of School Librarians International Honor Book 2010 Smithsonian Notable Books for Children 2010 NSW Premier Reading Challenge Book (Australia) 1st grade Read-Aloud Choice, 25th Annual Read-Aloud Day, Bridgeport, CT

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    17. Review: The Space Between Us by Jessica Martinez

     

    Title:  The Space Between Us

    Author:  Jessica Martinez

    May Contain Spoilers

    From Amazon:

    From the author of Virtuosity, a novel about two sisters and the secrets they tell, the secrets they keep—and the secret that could tear them apart.

    Amelia is used to being upstaged by her charismatic younger sister, Charly. She doesn’t mind, mostly, that it always falls to her to cover for Charly’s crazy, impulsive antics. But one night, Charly’s thoughtlessness goes way too far, and she lands both sisters in serious trouble.

         Amelia’s not sure she can forgive Charly this time, and not sure she wants to . . . but forgiveness is beside the point. Because Charly is also hiding a terrible secret, and the truth just might tear them apart forever.


    Contains spoilers!

    Review:

    Oh. My. GOD!  That is the only way I know how to express myself after reading The Space Between Us.  The book was not what I was expecting.  At all.  From the first page, I couldn’t put it down.  I kept hoping the puppies would go to sleep so I could read without all of their little distractions (like trying to chew on my rugs, dragging boots around the house, and wrestling over the millions of toys they have to play with!).  This is an emotional read, and the drama is built up entirely around Amelia’s feelings for her youngest sister Charly.  There were plenty of times when I didn’t like Amelia, but I always understood her.  She is enraged that Charly has completely derailed her carefully planned out life, and she can’t find it in herself to forgive her.  But even as she can’t forgive her, she wishes that life would go back to normal, that she and Charly could once again share that easy relationship that they once had.  Her resentment keeps getting in the way, though, and just keeps pushing them further apart.

    Amelia has one goal in life – to go to Columbia.  Her entire school life so far has been dedicated to this goal.  She has exceled in her classes, studied her heart out, and always been the good girl.  Charly, on the other hand, is her exact opposite.  Fun loving, bubbly, outgoing, Charly thinks that life’s a game to be played all out.  Everyone loves her, and though she gets into a ton of trouble, her antics have been harmless.  Amelia is resigned that she will be bailing her out of one scrape after another, but with Charly’s unpredictable streak, at least life is never boring.  Until she starts hanging out with a bunch of losers, and she winds up pregnant.

    Now, not being overly religious and not living in a small town, I didn’t sympathize with Amelia and her grandmother’s reaction to Charly’s condition.  Not even having a pastor father, who is a distracted and distant caregiver at best, could excuse their behavior and how they treated Charly like a tramp.  She’s pregnant, not a criminal!  She’s scared, suddenly alienated from her own family, and has no one to confide in.  The girls’ stern grandmother has decided that they will keep Charly’s pregnancy a secret from everyone, including their father.  They will both be shipped of to their aunt’s house in Canada, where Charly will take online courses for the rest of the year, and Amelia will be enrolled in the local high school.  Really?!  Sending them off to a relative they don’t know and  have only met once, at their mother’s funeral when they were babies, is the answer to Charly’s problem?  I hated their grandmother, I hated their clueless father, and I even hated Amelia for part of the book.  Everyone in her immediate family turned their back on her when Charly needed them the most, and I had a hard time forgiving them. 

    Amelia is infuriated that she is being shipped off to the frozen north.  She wants nothing more than to finish out her senior year at her Florida high school, and then she’ll be free!  It’s off to Columbia for her!  Freedom from Charly and her shenanigans, freedom from gossip, freedom from always having to be the good girl.  Argh!  Amelia does not make a good impression on anyone once she gets to her aunt’s house, and she sees nothing wrong with her rotten behavior.  She takes her rage out on everyone.  I could understand how devastated she felt after her dreams shattered one by one, but come on!  You are supposed to be the mature one!  There were times that I was so frustrated with her that I did not like her.  But even then, I could still sympathize with her.  It is so hard to have your entire life shaken up like snow globe, so while I didn’t condone her actions, at least I understood them.

    There is a lot of emotion packed into this book.  While it’s told from Amelia’s POV, Charly’s terror and unhappiness are painfully evident.  She’s a sixteen year old kid who, after one careless decision, ends up ostracized by her family.  The only caring adult in her life is the aunt she doesn’t even know.  Bree immediately tries to make both girls feel at home, but Amelia is so resentful and suspicious of her motives that she can only give her a hard time.  Ugh! I kept waiting for her to attain some measure of maturity, and it was a long time in coming.  Almost too late, really.  Amelia made me so angry!  I haven’t been this worked up reading a book in a long time!

    When forgiveness does finally come, there is still an awkward strain between the sisters.  Amelia has fallen into a pattern of thinking that constantly blames her sister for everything, and dismisses her unfairly.  I think my only disappointment with the story is that I felt that some of the issues that had pushed them so far apart weren’t settled enough for my satisfaction.  That space that developed between Amelia and Charly, and even between Amelia and her father and grandmother, had grown so great that I am not convinced it could ever be bridged.

    Grade:  B+

    Review copy obtained from my local library

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    18. Interview with Lisa Ann Scott, Author of School of Charm

    [Manga Maniac Cafe]  Good morning, Lisa! Describe yourself in five words or less.

    [Lisa Ann Scott] Loyal, creative, introvert, risk-taker, responsible.

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about School of Charm?

    [Lisa Ann Scott] It’s a universal story about the challenge of fitting in while still being yourself. 11-year-old tomboy, Chip, was her Daddy’s girl, but after he dies, she doesn’t know whose girl she is. When her family moves south to live with the grandma they’ve never met, they distract themselves from their grief by entering an upcoming beauty pageant. Only, Chip’s not a pageant girl. But she finds an unusual school where she secretly trains for the pageant, hoping to show her family she belongs, too. It’s a tale filled with heart, hope, and wisps of real life magic.

    [Manga Maniac Cafe]  Can you share your favorite scene?

    [Lisa Ann Scott] I love the scene where the girls at the charm school find the beginnings of a friendship while playing in the mucky pond. It always feels like summer when I re-read that scene.

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] What gave you the most trouble with the story?

    [Lisa Ann Scott] Making Grandma less mean. (Which is hard to believe because even now, she’s still a challenging character to like.)

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

    [Lisa Ann Scott] My smartphone (Mostly so I always have a book handy to read. Love the kindle app!)

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

    [Lisa Ann Scott] A glass of Teavana strawberry cream iced tea, a hair clip (that I annoyingly take in and out all day,) a betta fish in a small tank (my cat stares at him constantly.)

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

    [Lisa Ann Scott] My ten-year-old daughter (so I could possibly discover a way to understand and diffuse the constant drama.)

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

    [Lisa Ann Scott] I’ve been reading and loving ARCs from fellow Class of 2k14 debut children’s authors: Alienated by Melissa Landers, The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holzcer, Bird by Crystal Chan. All of them are wonderful.

    [Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

    [Lisa Ann Scott] LisaAnnScott.com or Lisa Ann Scott, children’s author on facebook, LisaAnnScottMG on Twitter

    About the book

    At the School of Charm, everyone has a wish to whisper. With an enchanting small-town setting, lively storytelling, and a hint of magic, this debut novel is perfect for fans of Ingrid Law, Clare Vanderpool, and Rebecca Stead.

    Eleven-year-old Chip has always been her daddy’s girl, so when he dies she pins her hopes on winning a beauty pageant to show her family of southern belles that she still belongs. But she’d rather be covered in mud than makeup! Can a rough-and-tumble girl ever become a beauty queen? A universal story about finding your place in the world, School of Charm explores themes of loss, family, and friendship.

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    19. Can You Compartmentalize?

    blindersfWhen re-reading Getting It Done by Andrew J. DuBrin, PH.D., I came to a section on dealing with procrastination. One suggestion is something I’d like your feedback on.

    He said you can make progress with procrastination if you “compartmentalize spheres of life.” He says that if you have multiple demands on your time that seem overwhelming, “mentally wear the same blinders placed on horses so they can concentrate better on the race and not be distracted.”

    Box It Up!

    I would love to be able to do that on a regular basis! Are you able to compartmentalize? I agree with the author that procrastination is more tempting when multiple demands are swirling and competing in your mind.

    I think that male writers have an advantage here. They seem able to put things in boxes, tape the lids shut, and then deal with one box at a time. (I know this for a fact because I can tell when I am being put in the “wife” box!)

    Women, however, mix things up. Our concern for our child’s health or marriage problems or a sibling’s financial crisis “bleeds over” into our writing time. And we tend to feel guilty if we’re happily typing away while a member of our family is in trouble or needs us.

    ‘Fess Up

    So…please share your wisdom with me. Men, if you can explain how to put things in boxes or make blinders work, please advise. Ladies, if you’ve figured out how to push aside your other concerns while you write, please share.

    I bet we could all use some tips!

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    20. The Help by Kathryn Stockett





    If you have been under a rock the last few months, let me help you escape. The Help is an entertaining, eye-opening, jaw-dropping novel about the lives of one young woman who is white, 23 years old, and in a southern protocol prison, and how two maids, "the help," helped her escape.

    The Help is about two extraordinary black maids, trying to make a living and trying to survive working for pennies for an array of fussy, social-climbing, vindictive white women. Before they know it they are authors and creating quite a stir in the town of Jackson, Mississippi. Didn't live during 1962? Not a problem. You will get this book.

    ENDERS' Rating: *****

    Kathryn's Website


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    21. Inner Critics and Time Wasters

    criticWriters are opinionated people.

    Our brains never seem to stop. We criticize because we “know” how things and people should be. This “critical editor component” of our personality is absolutely invaluable to the editing and revision process. If you can’t spot what’s wrong with a manuscript, you can’t fix it.

    However, this same critical ability can cause writers to actually lose focus, allowing their writing hours to slip away with little or no work done.

    Think About It

    Many of us go through our daily lives with our internal critic or editor in charge. We don’t see the person right in front of us as he or she is (which may be perfectly fine.) Instead, that person reminds us of an ex-spouse, and we “see” characteristics that aren’t there. Stress!

    Conversely, we think the person in front of us is “supposed” to be kind and supportive (our inner definition of parent/spouse/child/sibling). And yet many such relationships are anything but, leaving us hurt and upset because they should be supportive. More stress! Life rarely satisfies a person who lets the “shoulds” run his life.

    Do we spend our time “shoulding”? We don’t see a child who is happily singing at the top of her voice. (That child should be more quiet in the store!) We don’t see an interesting shade of purple hair. (That teenager should resemble a miniature adult instead.) We don’t see the predator or user sometimes either–because trusted family members shouldn’t be such things. Our “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” color everything we observe.

    Change Your Perspective

    Our inner editor sometimes keeps us from seeing what’s in front of us. We are constantly “revising” the facts. So what’s the problem with that? You can’t accept–and get peace about–what you can’t honestly see or face. You stay stirred up–a condition rarely suited to being creative. Sometimes the simplest solutions evade us because we’re all riled up inside.

    It reminds me of a story (you may also be familiar with) about “The River and the Lion: After the great rains, the lion was faced with crossing the river that had encircled him. Swimming was not in his nature, but it was either cross or die. The lion roared and charged at the river, almost liondrowning before he retreated. Many more times he attacked the water, and each time he failed to cross. Exhausted, the lion lay down, and in his quietness he heard the river say, “Never fight what isn’t here.”

    Cautiously, the lion looked up and asked, “What isn’t here?”

    “Your enemy isn’t here,” answered the river. “Just as you are a lion, I am merely a river.”

    Now the lion sat very still and studied the ways of the river. After a while, he walked to where a certain current brushed against the shore, and stepping in, floated to the other side.

    Control What You Can: Yourself

    We also can’t gain peace of mind and the ability to focus unless we’re willing to give up trying to control everyone and everything in our environment. We spen

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    22. Celebrating Children’s Book Week – Ourselves

    Here are our plans for Foundation Stage (3-5 year olds) on our special Book Day, as part of Children’s Book Week. Foundation stage’s theme is “Ourselves”. Please feel free to reuse, adapt and share any of the resources on this page.

    Session 1

    Book: The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith
    Follow up book: Kids by Laurence and Catherine Anholt
    Focus activity: (Group) collage with images of children and families
    Resources required: pre-cut-out images of people from magazines, either paper and glue or contact paper
    Additional Books: Big Book of Families by Laurence and Catherine Anholt, So Much by Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury.

    A cautionary note: When we chose this activity we didn’t realise how difficult it would be to find plenty of images of non-white people in magazines. Although maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise it was still a shock to realise how rarely non-white faces feature in “general interest” magazines. I found the best source of inclusive images was council publications! Finding photos of disabled people doing normal every day activities was even more difficult.

    Session 2

    Book: Wake Up! by Katie Cleminson (which I reviewed here)
    Follow up book: Tuck me in! by Dean Hacohen and Sherry Scharschmidt (which I reviewed here)
    Focus activity: “Dressing” dolls with a collage made from fabric squares
    Resources required: “Dolls” (we’re using this image and printing it on A4 paper), lots of small fabric squares (I cut up some of my remnants I’ve been hanging on to from various sewing projects, but you could ask children to donate old, worn clothes and cut them up if you don’t have your own fabric stash), wool cut into strips, PVA glue, pens/pencils to decorate the dolls and add faces.
    Additional Books: Kiss Good Night, Sam by Amy Hest, illustrated by Anita Jeram, All in a Day by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Nikki McClure

    Session 3

    Books: If you’re happ

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    23. North of Beautiful by Justina Henley Chen





    What kind of man will create an unbearable family life because of his professional humiliation?

    One son leaves to work in China. Another son does not return from college to visit home. They both leave their sister and mother to suffer from the emotional and verbal whippings of the father. They had their share. But Terra carries an extra burden, a large port wine birthmark that covers the side of her face. Another target for needling from her father. Terra's mom takes her to Seattle for yet another attempt to cure the birthmark. On their way home they spin out on ice and rear-end Jacob and his mother's SUV. And here starts amazing friendships that heal birthmarks deeper than the skin. Terra and her mother learn about themselves in...China!

    You will not like the dad, but you will cheer for everyone else in this amazing story.

    ENDERS' Rating: *****

    Justina Headley Chen's Blog

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    24. Key #2: Think Like a Writer

    We’ve talked about the benefits of writing in flow, in that relaxed timeless state, and we’ve talked about the first key to developing this skill: have a reason to write.

    Today let’s look at Key #2: thinking like a writer. These keys are based on Susan Perry’s Writing in Flow.

    CHANGE MY THINKING?

    We all think like writers already, or we wouldn’t be writing, correct? True enough, but in this series we’re concentrating on developing the ability to write in flow. Do writers who frequently write deeply and easily think differently?

    Yes, it appears that they do. They have a certain set of attitudes, based on hundreds of Perry’s interviews. If we study these attitudes and beliefs and incorporate them into our own thinking, we should also be able to write in flow, be more productive, and enjoy the writing more.

    WRITER ATTITUDES

    This doesn’t mean you need a new personality. Quite the contrary. Be who you are, Perry says. “When you work with what comes naturally to you rather than struggling against it—whether it’s your preference for an uncluttered workspace or your tendency to do the opposite when those little voices in your head suggest that you ought to be answering those letters rather than writing a poem—you can apply your energy to what matters most to you.”

    Another attitude, especially with writers in the early years, has to do with spending free time pursuing writing. They may be “troubled by the niggling feeling that taking too much time for their writing is slightly selfish because it’s like stealing time from their family,” Perry says. “If you identify with that second attitude, naturally you might find it more difficult to let go and focus fully when you do sit down to write.”

    This attitude is easy to overcome after you are published and making money at your writing. Before that, I found that I got over the guilt when I took my writing time from my own free time activities—my sleep, TV, time with my friends. I gave up my own “extras” instead of taking it from the family, and then I didn’t feel guilty. It’s very hard to relax and write “in flow” when you’re feeling guilty!

    RISK TAKING

    Relaxing into flow—that essential letting go—can feel risky to certain personality types like mine. I don’t like risks, and I spend too much time probably trying to avoid risks. I would love it if I could make all my loved ones stop taking risks too! H

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    25. Big Sisters Are the Best by Fran Manushkin

     4 stars Bringing a new baby into the home is a time of s miles and smells, hugs and kisses. Author Fran Manushkin celebrates this special milestone with a sweet story that shows that there is plenty of love for everyone, big sister and all. This cute little story can help an older sibling understand [...]

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