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Results 1 - 25 of 115
1. 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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2. 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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3. 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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4. 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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5. 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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6. 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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7. 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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8. 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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9. 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.

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10. 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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11. 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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12. 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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13. 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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14. 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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15. 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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16. What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen






Mclean moves often with her dad, going to where he is assigned to resuscitate restaurants in trouble: "Restaurant Impossible" assignments. Mclean decides to be a new person for each move. But now her real self and name have bubbled to the surface. It all begins and ends with Dave. He yanks her into a hiding place during a chase. She repays the favor by ricocheting a basketball onto his head. There are a bevy of memorable characters. Deb commandeers a public service project that the distressed restaurant manager, Opal, has been suckered into assembling. Everyone of Dave's buds get involved. Dave's FBFs welcome Mclean and the oddball Deb into their circle. Jason, the cook, is Harvard educated. Tiffany, wait staff, is trouble and contributes some zingers. I loved the "ensemble casting." But part of that cast is Mclean's mother who insists on visitations with Mclean. Mclean resent her mother leaving her dad and refuses to go with her. But the money and lawyers of her new step-father might be more than Mclean can handle. Can Mclean and her family be fixed?

ENDERS' Rating: ****

Sarah Dessen's Website

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17. the summer i learned to fly by Dana Reinhardt






Okay, I have to confess: I snatch Dana's books at review group. She and Beth Kephart are two writers that pull you into the characters' feelings so artfully.

Drew, a loner and fellow rat lover, lives with her single mom who has opened a gourmet cheese shop in central California. Since it is a few years before the trend of "trendy food shops" profits are lean, but the bills are not. Also in the shop are gorgeous Nick, the pasta maker and Swoozie, the clerk and replacement grandma for Drew. One of Drew's jobs is to throw out the expired food to the alley which is whisked away. One night in the alley she meets Emmett Crane who lives on their thrown out foods. Emmett has a secret and Drew is determined to learn more about him. His quest sweeps her up. Does the mission succeed? One thing is for sure, the friendship does.

Wonderfully written so that we see into the souls of these two kids. Oh, and the story is told by Drew as an 18-year-old attending Berkeley. That perspective makes the story special.

ENDERS' Rating: *****


Dana's Website

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18. the piper's son by Melina Marchetta





Family tragedies can pile up on a person at dizzying speeds and Thomas Makee's pile is suffocating him. He has dropped out of school, dropped his music and family, but hasn't dropped his obsession with a former girlfriend, nor drugs. When he tumbled from a table and acquires 10 stitches, he starts part-time jobs in cubicle-ville and at a restaurant sink. Francesca, from Saving Francesca, works at the restaurant owned by a relative and practices her music in the back room. Tom and Ned, the cook, yell suggestions to her from the kitchen. Loved that! Back to the tragedies...they affect the entire family, sorrow dripping from the stories of Georgie, Tom, Dom and others. I was getting depressed. But humans do have the ability to choose their futures, and there is lots of right choices being made to shovel out of the misery. The family dynamics in this Italian (I am pretty sure) family are loud, argumentative and volatile.

Probably not the cheeriest review I have written, but I am hopeful for all the family! Lots of language, so best for older YA readers who can also wrap their minds around the heaviness of the plot. Well worth the read.

ENDERS' Rating: ****

Melina's Website

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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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