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1. Book Review: Revenge of the Flower Girls by Jennifer Ziegler

Book: Revenge of the Flower Girls
Author: Jennifer Ziegler
Published: 2014
Source: review copy from publisher via NetGalley.com

Triplets Dawn, Delaney, and Darby are shocked to learn that their adored big sister, Lily, is getting married to her dull, allergy-ridden, armadillo-looking boyfriend, Burton. Disaster! Calamity! Unthinkable! They just know that it will be the biggest mistake of Lily's life.

Burton is booooring. His favorite president is Franklin Pierce. He got them sparkly buzzing toy cats meant for six-year-olds. He looks like an armadillo. Worst of all, he doesn't make Lily happy, they just know he doesn't. Not like her old boyfriend, Alex, did.

Somehow they've got to stop this wedding. By hook, by crook, by schemes and plots and plans, inopportune sprinklers and pirated USB sticks and faked phone calls, these redoutable triplets are going to stop this wedding. And when all else fails, they'll bring in the big guns: Alex himself.

Ever had a day where you just needed a book that made you smile? Yeah, so do I, and this book filled that bill,. It's nonstop fun. Not only the crazy schemes they get up to (one involves Darby being held out the window by her ankles, and taking the inevitable tumble), but the narration made me laugh out loud. I also really enjoyed that the girls are obsessed with politics and the US presidents, just as a facet of their characters.

Plotwise, it doesn't hold up particularly well, but this is such a romp of a book, I was mostly able to switch off my nitpicks. If there's one complaint I have, it's that it was awfully hard to tell the difference between Darby, Dawn, and Delaney. Yes, they each had their little quirks (one is the ball of energy, one is super-shy, one is the yakker) but the first-person narration and the focus of the story being on someone other than the narrators made them all blend together. It didn't really detract from the story that much. The effect was mostly of one girl who managed to be everywhere and do everything.

I'll be watching for more of these triplets, and more of Jennifer Ziegler.

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2. Book Review: The Memory Bank by Carolyn Coman, illustrated by Rob Shepperton

Book: The Memory Bank
Author: Carolyn Coman
Illustrator: Rob Shepperton
Published: 2010
Source: Local Library

Hope has always known that her parents were pretty much gigantic failures in the loving and nurturing department. But even she is taken aback when they dump her little sister, Honey, on the side of the road for laughing too much during a long car ride. They tear off, leaving a small child in a cloud of dust, and order Hope to forget her.

Hope retreats into hours and hours of sleep so she can dream of her sister, and leaves real life behind. Then she gets repossessed by the Memory Bank, because she’s been spending so much time asleep that she hasn’t made any new memories.

For the first time in her life, Hope finds love and approval. But still, Honey is out there somewhere, and Hope knows she needs to find her. She has a feeling that the Memory Bank holds the key.

Often with these books, you try to think of other books to compare them to. I knew before I was a quarter of the way through that The Memory Bank was utterly unique. It’s sort of Dahl/Grimm-esque, with the awful parents, but with more gentleness than those. Honey’s story after her abandonment is told almost exclusively in pictures, while Hope’s is told in text. This makes it a very, very quick read. I think I tore through it in about an hour. It's a quirky little book, maybe not perfect for every kid, but the ones who love magnificent flights of fancy with a powerful human underpinning will eat it up.

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3. Book Review: Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford

Book: Captain Nobody
Author: Dean Pitchford
Published: 2009
Source: Local Library

Newton Newman (yes, really) is used to being overlooked. He’s got that nerdy name, after all, and it’s really hard to shine in the shadow of somebody like his older brother, football star Chris Newman. It’s okay; Newt’s used to it.

But then Chris gets knocked into a coma during the Big Game, and all of a sudden, Newt feels more helpless than ever before. A Halloween costume comes to his rescue. Captain Nobody isn’t helpless. Captain Nobody is brave. He does stuff, like foiling robberies, stopping traffic, and preventing suicides. But can even Captain Nobody help an idolized big brother in a coma?

Yep, this is a pretty implausible setup. What helped was that Captain Nobody’s bravery largely stems from Newton innocently wandering or tripping into situations that he doesn’t fully understand, but handles nonetheless. He’s one of those good, decent kids who find themselves in over their heads but gamely start swimming. I remain annoyed with the parents for not only keeping him away from the hospital, but largely ignoring him during the entire ordeal, even though he has questions and fears. I guess I can forgive them because if they had been even mildly attentive, most of the book wouldn’t have been possible.

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4. So what do we think? Heaven in her Arms

Hickem, Catherine. (2012). Heaven in Her Arms: Why God Chose Mary to Raise His Son and What It Means for You. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. ISBN 978-1-4002-0036-8.

What do we know of Mary?

 What we know of Mary’s family is that she is of the house of David; it is from her lineage Jesus fulfilled the prophecy. Given the archeological ruins of the various places thought to have been living quarters for their family, it is likely the home was a room out from which sleeping quarters (cells) branched. As Mary and her mother Anne would be busy maintaining the household, with young Mary working at her mother’s command, it is likely Anne would be nearby or in the same room during the Annunciation. Thus Mary would not have had a scandalous secret to later share with her parents but, rather, a miraculous supernatural experience, the salvific meaning of which her Holy parents would understand and possibly even witnessed.

 Mary and Joseph were betrothed, not engaged. They were already married, likely in the form of a marriage contract, but the marriage had not yet been “consummated”. This is why he was going to divorce her when he learned of the pregnancy. If it were a mere engagement, he would have broken it off without too much scandal.

 Married but not yet joined with her husband, her mother would prepare her by teaching her all that she needed to know. This is further reason to assume that Mary would be working diligently under her mother’s eye when the Annunciation took place.

 We know that her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy was kept in secret for five months, and not made known until the sixth month when the Angel Gabriel proclaimed it to Mary. We know Mary then rushed to be at her elderly cousin’s side for three months (the remaining duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy), and that this rushing appeared to be in response to Elizabeth’s pregnancy (to congratulate her), not an attempt to hide Mary’s pregnancy. Note how all of this is connected to Elizabeth’s pregnancy rather than Mary’s circumstances. As Mary was married to Joseph, he likely would have been informed of the trip. Had the intent been to hide Mary, she would have remained with Elizabeth until Jesus was born, not returned to her family after the first trimester, which is just about the time that her pregnancy was visible and obvious.

 So we these misconceptions clarified, we can put Mary’s example within an even deeper context and more fully relate to her experience. We can imagine living in a faith-filled family who raises their child in strict accordance of God’s word. The extended family members may not understand, and certainly their community will not, so Mary, Anne and Joachim, and Joseph face extreme scandal as well as possible action from Jewish authorities. But they faced this together steep in conversation with God, providing a model for today’s family.

 Although sometimes scriptural interpretations are flavored with modern-day eye, overall this book will be more than just a quick read for a young mother (or new bride, or teen aspiring to overcome the challenges of American culture, or single parent losing her mind). It is a heartwarming reflection with many examples that open up conversation with God. As an experienced psychotherapist, the author’s examples are spot on and easy to relate to. We do not need to have had the same experiences to empathize, reflect, and pursue meaning; we see it around us in everyday life. As such, a reflective look upon these examples can help one overcome an impasse in their own relationship with God and also open the reader up to self-knowledge as Hi

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5. BOOK OF THE DAY: The June 2012 List!

BOOK OF THE DAY-June

Plan in advance for father’s day! The month of June is dedicated to books for dads and boys…don’t worry, a few dads & daughter books thrown in too! Good list for reluctant readers as well as summer vacation. Enjoy!

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6. BOOK OF THE DAY: The May 2012 List

BOOK OF THE DAY-May

In celebration of Mother’s day, moms, women and daughters, recommendations span ages and areas of interest. Great for summer vacation reading too!

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7. Book of the day: April

BOOK OF THE DAY-April

The full April list is here. Get a sneak peak at the 2nd half of the month and stock up for summer vacation too!

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8. BOOK OF THE DAY: March 2012 list

BOOK OF THE DAY-March

Spring is upon us, and you can prepare for both Spring and Summer vacations with plenty of good books! Check out recommendations for all ages, plus DVD’s and teaching too!

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9. Are Children's Books So Cut and Dried?

In today's Guardian book blog you'll find a post entitled The eternal allure of good v evil. The subtitle reads "The larger-than-life, black-and-white morality of children's books is a relief for adult readers tired of ambiguity."

**Shaking head** Hmmmm... Really?

Here's how it begins.
Children, like dogs, see morality in black and white, their monochrome perspective reflecting the heated simplicity of the playground ("He started it!", "It's not fair!"). Before they're old enough to concede, sullenly, that life's not fair and start reading the latest contenders for the Booker, young readers immerse themselves enthusiastically in extravagant, epic quests: viscerally satisfying showdowns between good and evil in which you emphatically don't have to see the other fellow's point of view.
Williams is writing about epic quest novels here and discusses some of her favorites from childhood. Pullman and Rowling are also mentioned. While I understand what she's trying to say, I find it simplistic to say that children's/young adult literature is so cut and dried. And lacking ambiguity? Please! Yes, there is the theme of good vs. evil, but sometimes it's not easy to tell which team folks are playing for. Fantasy books today are not as black and white as they seem. And as to not seeing the other fellow's point of view? I have a "Trust Snape" t-shirt (thanks Leila!) that says otherwise.

4 Comments on Are Children's Books So Cut and Dried?, last added: 3/19/2009
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10. Book Review: Jack Plank Tells Tales by Natalie Babbitt

Book: Jack Plank Tells Tales
Author: Natalie Babbitt
Published: 2007

Jack Plank has just been laid off from his pirate job. He's put ashore with a little money in his pocket and no idea what to do next. He finds a boarding house and the landlady reluctantly agrees to let him live there on the condition that he finds a proper job as soon as possible (i.e, nothing piratey). But Jack searches day in and day out, and never finds a job. Or rather, he finds several, but they always seem to remind him of some crazy event in his past.

The household is kept entertained by his nightly tales around the dinner table, but as the days pass, Jack gets more and more worried. How is he ever going to find the perfect job?

While Natalie Babbitt doesn't have the general-public star power of Madeleine L'Engle or Beverly Cleary, she's one of those names known to teachers and librarians for a long, long time. After reading this book, I know why. Jack Plank's stories run the gamut from hair-raising (the mummy's hand) to sweet (the music-loving crocodile. No, really), but the whole book has a light, charming, tall-tale tone about it.

It took me a couple of hours to finish Jack Plank Tells Tales, but due to the episodic nature, this would work perfectly as a middle or upper-elementary classroom or bedtime readaloud across a week or two.

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11. The Year of the Rat: A Time to Make A Fresh Start

The Year of the Rat
Grace Lin
Little Brown
2008
Ages 8-12

The Year of the Rat, a semi-autobiographical novel written and illustrated by Grace Lin, follows a year (one Chinese New Year to the next) in the life of Pacy, a young Taiwanese American. The Year of the Rat is the first year of the Chinese twelve-year cycle and therefore it symbolizes new beginnings. The Year of the Rat is the time to make a fresh start and to change things. And Pacy does experience important changes during the Year of the Rat: her best friend Melody moves away, there's a new boy who is the only other Asian in her elementary school (aside from her sister Ki-Ki), her favorite cousin Clifford gets married, and she starts doubting her dream to become a writer and illustrator. Pacy does not like most of the changes the year brings.


I found The Year of the Rat a refreshing read because it is simple, innocent, and unpretentious (though at times it is corny); and because it is children's literature I can really relate to.

As an Asian who grew up in the United States, I could relate to Pacy's confusion and the prejudice she encounters. I kept getting flashbacks while reading The Year of the Rat. For example, Pacy remembers that in kindergarten her classmates Kurt and Rich would stretch their eyes with their fingers and chant pretend Chinese at her. That's happened to me - and I'm not even Chinese! Pacy says: "Sometimes, I felt like I was more than one person. At home, everyone called me Pacy, my Chinese name, and at school, everyone called me Grace, my American name. At times I wasn't sure which person I was supposed to be-Taiwanese Pacy or Chinese Pacy or American Grace." I've certainly felt that way before!

I've always thought that Asian cultures are beautiful and I LOVED learning so many things about Taiwanese and Taiwanese American culture from The Year of the Rat. But the work is not about Taiwanese or Taiwanese American culture, neither is it about immigrant experiences. These things are gently weaved into an engrossing story that is really about family, friendship, and growing up.

I was a little sad when I finished reading The Year of the Rat. It's a short novel (with cute illustrations!) that I didn't want to end. I want more stories about Pacy and her family and friends!
____________________________________________________________
Tarie is a reader, grad student (major Anglo-American literature), editor of EFL instructional materials, and former (and future) English teacher in the Philippines. She blogs about literature for the young and young at heart at Into the Wardrobe.

5 Comments on The Year of the Rat: A Time to Make A Fresh Start, last added: 6/17/2009
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12. Top 100 Chapter Books of All Time

If there's a poll to be done, trust Betsy Bird to take it on. Her latest project is the top 100 chapter books of all time. That link goes to numbers 100-90, but she's added links to the rest of the list at the bottom.

I meant to post about this while the poll was open, but kept putting it off until--oops!--it was closed. So I'm linking to the results. What do you think? Agree or disagree? For my money, the best part is reading the snippets that other people sent in with their favorites. Although I have to say that her inclusion of all the various covers and trailers from movie adaptations is pretty cool as well.

1 Comments on Top 100 Chapter Books of All Time, last added: 2/11/2010
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13. Book Review: Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano (but she does love being in recitals) by Peggy Gifford

Book: Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano (but she does love being in recitals)
Author: Peggy Gifford
Published: 2009
Source: Local Library

Moxy is back, and more Moxy-ish than ever. This time, she’s got a big, big, big piano recital coming up. She’s all ready. She’s got her glittery crown, her fake-ermine-trimmed cape, her sparkly shoes, and of course, her bow. Yep, this is going to be the best piano recital ever, and even the fact that Moxy hasn’t exactly practiced all that much isn’t enough to dim her excitement.

Reading this, I was struck by the fact that the series, while merely called Moxy Maxwell, is really about Moxy and her mom and the relationship that they have. In this one, Mrs. Maxwell is just back from Africa, where her twin sister fell off a ladder (yes, really). Jet-lagged to within an inch of her life, Mrs. Maxwell nevertheless is on the case, frosting 150 cupcakes, keeping the kids from using The Sharp Scissors, discerning whether Moxy does, in fact, know how to stop playing “Heart and Soul”and most of all, being there for Moxy when (as it does) stage fright inevitably strikes.

Balancing out poor Mrs. Maxwell’s world-weary (and sometimes just weary, poor woman) point of view is Moxy’s wild enthusiasm and grand ideas, which will strike a familiar chord with anybody who is or was a kid with more energy than experience.

Bravo for Moxy, three cheers for Mrs. Maxwell, and plentiful huzzahs for Peggy Gifford. I can’t wait for more.

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14. Infinite Space, Infinite God II: Frankie Phones Home

  12 Days of Sci-Fi, Day 11:

 Having stories centered either in outer space or on earth, we now have both. Frankie in space returning to earth…

 Frankie Phones Home by Karina Fabian

 Responsibility

  Editor’s comment: “God’s calling or no, she should have honored her parents by telling them personally what was going on…”

Rather than a story, this is more of an amusing intermission. Carrying on from the story first presented in ISIG volume I, we are to imagine its main character, Frankie, finally returning home. Imagine, after a two year absence in outer space, what it would be like to call mom and try to explain it all to her…well, I’ll let you read for yourself in Infinite Space, Infinite God II http://ow.ly/4F48e .

 (Karina Fabian writes a wide variety of fiction involving characters with faith. Her first anthology, Infinite Space, Infinite God I, won the EPPIE award for best sci-fi. Her humorous fantasy involving a dragon and nun detective team, Magic, Mensa and Mayhem, won the 2010 INDIE for best fantasy. She’s also written a small devotional with her father, Deacon Steve Lumbert, Why God Matters. Visit her website at http://www.fabianspace.com .)

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15. So what do we think? Genesis by Bernard Beckett

Genesis young adult book review  Beckett, Bernard. (2006) Genesis. London: Quercus Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84724-930-2. Author age: young adult. Litland recommends age 14+.

 

Publisher’s description:

The island Republic has emerged from a ruined world. Its citizens are safe but not free. Until a man named Adam Forde rescues a girl from the sea. Fourteen-year-old Anax thinks she knows her history. She’d better. She’s sat facing three Examiners and her five-hour examination has just begun. The subject is close to her heart: Adam Forde, her long-dead hero. In a series of startling twists, Anax discovers new things about Adam and her people that question everything she holds sacred. But why is the Academy allowing her to open up the enigma at its heart? Bernard Beckett has written a strikingly original novel that weaves dazzling ideas into a truly moving story about a young girl on the brink of her future.

 Our thoughts:

 Irregardless of whether you are an evolutionist or creationist, if you like intellectual sci-fi you’ll love this book.  How refreshing to read a story free from hidden agendas and attempts to indoctrinate its reader into a politically-correct mindset.  And while set in a post-apocalyptic era, the world portrayed is one in which inhabitants have been freed from the very things that sets humans apart from all other creation, including man-made. Once engulfed in the story, the reader is drawn into an intellectual battle over this “difference” between man and man-made intelligence. The will to kill; the existence of evil. A new look at original sin. And a plot twist at the end that shifts the paradigm of the entire story.

 Borrowing from the American movie rating scale, this story would be a PG. Just a few instances of profanity, it is a thought-provoking read intended for mature readers already established in their values and beliefs, and who would not make the error of interpreting the story to hold any religious metaphors. The “myth” of Adam and Art, original sin and the genesis of this new world is merely a structure familiar to readers, not a message. The reader is then free to fully imagine this new world without the constraints of their own real life while still within the constraints of their own value system.

 Genesis is moderately short but very quick paced, and hard to put down once you’ve started! Thus it is not surprising to see the accolades and awards accumulated by Beckett’s book. The author, a New Zealand high school teacher instructing in Drama, English and Mathematics, completed a fellowship study on  DNA mutations as well. This combination of strengths gives Genesis its intrigue as well as complexity. Yet it is never too theoretical as to exclude its reader.  See our review against character education criteria at Litland.com’s teen book review section.  And pick up your own copy in our bookstore!

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16. Inspriation for Neverland to Become Center for Children's Literature

Have you seen the article Peter Pan's Neverland could become forever-land? Here's an excerpt.
For the teenager James Matthew Barrie, the sloping, terraced garden overlooking a gentle river was an enchanted land where he and his friends became pirates, clambered over walls, built hideouts and scaled trees in the sunshine.

But the back garden of Moat Brae, a late Georgian villa in the rural town of Dumfries, became more than a playground for the aspiring novelist and playwright. Thirty years later, it inspired Neverland, the magical kingdom where Peter Pan and Tinkerbell flew into battle against Captain Hook, an adventure that captured the imaginations of millions of real-life children.

Now, nearly 140 years after JM Barrie played there as a boy, the mansion and gardens are to be transformed into a national centre for children's literature, after the derelict and decaying building and its garden were saved from demolition by a local trust.
Read the article in its entirety at The Guardian.

1 Comments on Inspriation for Neverland to Become Center for Children's Literature, last added: 8/18/2011
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17. So what do we think? The Wild West: 365 days

 

 The Wild West: 365 days

 

 Wallis, Michael. (2011) The Wild West: 365 days. New York, NY: Abrams Press. ISBN 978-0810996892 All ages.

 Publisher’s description: The Wild West: 365 Days is a day-by-day adventure that tells the stories of pioneers and cowboys, gold rushes and saloon shoot-outs in America’s frontier. The lure of land rich in minerals, fertile for farming, and plentiful with buffalo bred an all-out obsession with heading westward. The Wild West: 365 Days takes the reader back to these booming frontier towns that became the stuff of American legend, breeding characters such as Butch Cassidy and Jesse James. Author Michael Wallis spins a colorful narrative, separating myth from fact, in 365 vignettes. The reader will learn the stories of Davy Crockett, Wild Bill Hickok, and Annie Oakley; travel to the O.K. Corral and Dodge City; ride with the Pony Express; and witness the invention of the Colt revolver. The images are drawn from Robert G. McCubbin’s extensive collection of Western memorabilia, encompassing rare books, photographs, ephemera, and artifacts, including Billy the Kid’s knife.

 Our thoughts:

 This is one of the neatest books I’ve seen in a long time. The entire family will love it. Keep it on the coffee table but don’t let it gather dust!

 Every page is a look back into history with a well-known cowboy, pioneer, outlaw, native American or other adventurer tale complete with numerous authentic art and photo reproductions. The book is worth owning just for the original pictures.  But there is more…an index of its contents for easy reference too! Not only is this fun for the family, it is excellent for the school or home classroom use too. A really fun way to study the 19th century too and also well received as a gift.  I highly recommend this captivating collection! See for yourself at the Litland.com Bookstore.

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18. So what do we think? Wally the Cock-Eyed Cricket

  

Wally the Cockeyed Cricket

 

 Brown, Bea (2011) Wally the Cockeyed Cricket. Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing. ISBN 978-1-61777-106-4.  Recommended age 8 and under.

 Publisher’s descriptionWhen Wally the Cockeyed Cricket finds himself trapped in Mrs. Grumpydee’s kitchen, he sings a sad song and Mrs. Grumpydee’s locks Wally in a jar. When the jar is knocked over and shatters, Wally the Cockeyed Cricket sings a different tune.

 Our thoughts:

 Read it—see it—listen to it! The great thing about books from Tate Publishing is that you do not need to choose between print and audio formats because books have a code that permits you to download the audio version on MP3 too! The print version has beautifully captivating illustrations. Yet the young man (ok, he sounds young to this old reviewer!) reading the audio does an excellent job at it. A great enhancement to teach reading to little ones :>)

 Of course, the most important reason to consider adding this book to your child’s bookshelf is because they will enjoy the story! As evidenced by its title, Wally looks a little different than most crickets. He doesn’t think anything of this difference and is happy as can be. Until, that is, he unfortunately wanders into Mrs. Grumpydee’s kitchen! Captured, bullied and made a public spectacle, Wally never loses courage or confidence. Helped with the aid of a complete stranger, he is rescued and makes a new friend. Virtues exhibited are courage, justice and friendship.  A feel-good story where the good guys win! Great parent-child sharing, Pre-3rd grade class or homeschool, bedtime reading, gift giving, therapy use, and family book club! Grab your copy at the Litland.com Bookstore.

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19. So what do we think? Abe’s Lucky Day

Abe’s Lucky Day

 

 Warren, Jill. (2011) Abe’s Lucky Day. Outskirts Press Inc. ISBN 978-1-4327-7305-2. Age 8 and under.

 Publisher’s description:  Any day can be a lucky day.  Abe is a homeless man who lives in the alley behind a bakery and winter is coming. What will happen on his lucky day that will change his life? 

Our thoughts:

 Introducing us to the varied faces of distress and homelessness, Abe’s Lucky Day reminds us that , while food, warm clothes and dry beds feel great, helping others feels even better. Illustrations permit the child to imagine themselves in the story, and so can feel the heartwarming rewards of selflessness…definitely good for your Litland.com family book club or a preschool classroom. Part luck and lots of kindness, Abe’s Lucky Day infuses a desire for kindness and generosity into its reader’s mind and heart, and is sure to strengthen bonds within the family reading it as well :>) Great for gift-giving, pick up your copy in our Litland.com Bookstore!

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20. So what do we think? Just Fine the Way They Are

Just fine the way they are

Just Fine the Way They Are

Nordhielm Wooldridge, Connie. (2011) Just Fine the Way They Are: From Dirt Roads to Rail Roads to Interstates. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek of Boyds Mill Press. ISBN 978-1-59078-710-6. (26 pgs) Author recommends grades 4-6; Litland adds excellent for younger advanced readers.

 Publisher’s Description: Change. Who needs it? We do! Mr. John Slack, the keeper of a tavern beside a rutted dirt road in the early 1800s, thought things were just fine the way they were. So did Lucius Stockton who ran the National Road Stage Company in the mid 1800s. So too, did the owners of the railroads when the first model T appeared in 1908. Yet with each new innovation, Americans were able to move around the country more quickly, efficiently, and comfortably. Connie Woolbridge offers an informative, yet light-hearted look at how the dirt roads of the early 1800s evolved into the present-day U.S. highway system. Richard Walz’s gorgeous paintings capture both the broad sweep and the individual impact of change and progress.

 Our thoughts:

 What a great overview of American history focused on transportation! Told in a folky style, the narrator’s storytelling voice reminds us of sitting on the front porch and listening to elders of the family recount the same stories over and over again. And even though we already knew the story, we enjoyed hearing it once more. Only for 8-11 year olds, these stories will be new :>)

 Just Fine the Way They Are has lots of potential uses:

 * reluctant readers, particularly boys, will find an easy and entertaining style holding their attention.

* a discussion tool for talking about feelings or conflict, making it great for family book clubs or class discussions.

* illustrations are brilliantly eye-catching—I was sitting in a diner reading this, and the waitress walked over saying “What a cute book!”. As such, it would surely keep the students’ attention if read to the class, whether reading to a traditional classroom or homeschool kids around the dining table.

* While intended for 4th, 5th & 6th grades, it also would be great for accelerated students writing their first book report.

 An added touch: it comes complete with a historic timeline, bibliography, and list of relevant websites. Plus the author (a former elementary school librarian) has lesson plans on her website too (see http://conniewooldridge.com/ )!  This is one of those unique books that provide diversity on the bookshelf, catching the eye of the reader looking for something a bit different, and being enjoyed many times over :>) Pick up a copy at our Litland.com Bookstore!

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21. So what do we think? The End of the Line

End of the Line: A Parker Noble Mystery

 

Manno, Mike (2010) End of the Line: A Parker Noble Mystery. Five Star Publishing of Gale, Cengage Learning. ISBN 978-1594148637. Litland recommends of interest to adults, acceptable for older teens.

 Publisher description:  When former banker R. J. Butler is found murdered on a city transit bus, police take little time making a connection with the embezzlement at his former bank. But is that the motive for his murder? State police detective Sergeant Jerome Stankowski and his persnickety “partner,” Parker Noble, are called to investigate and run into a host of possibilities including a trophy wife on drugs and an ex-wife desperately needing a church annulment R. J. was blocking..

 Our thoughts:

 The second installment of the Parker Noble series, End of the Line, is a fun yet engaging, quick-paced detective mystery. Parker Noble may be the genius who solves the crimes, but it is Detective “Stan” Stankowski’s antics both on and off the job that lighten the story. Truly a man’s man, Stankowski enjoys girl watching while being easily manipulated by his somewhat-girlfriend Buffy the reporter.  He  tries to juggle dating 3 girls at the same time, each end up having a role in solving the mystery. Meanwhile, the contrast of Parker’s rigidly-ordered life to Stan’s adds color, and both humor and clues surface throughout the story just often enough to keep the reader alert. My favorite dialogue pertains to Parker’s dog, Buckwheat Bob the basset hound, who listens to talk radio while Parker is at work:

(Stan) “I take it that the human voice is soothing for him?”…(Parker) ”Not really, he likes to listen to the political talk”…”You don’t think he understands all of that, do you?”…”Don’t know, Stanley. All I can tell you is that he’s turned into quite a Republican.” LOL!

 A cozy mystery written for adults, it would probably have a PG rating if a movie: use of the bird finger; one suspect referred to as tramp, hussy, nude model; Buffy pressuring Stan into taking a vacation together. However, Stan remains chaste in his girl-chasing and the story is focused on the relationships between all the characters, which adds depth, interest and a few chuckles along the way. A fun story available in the Litland.com Bookstore.

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22. So what do we think? The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag (Flavia de Luce)

The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag

 Bradley, Alan. (2010) The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag. (The Flavia de Luce Series) Bantam, division of Random House. ISBN 978-0385343459. Litland recommends ages 14-100!

 Publisher’s description:  Flavia de Luce, a dangerously smart eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders, thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey are over—until beloved puppeteer Rupert Porson has his own strings sizzled in an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. But who’d do such a thing, and why? Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What about Porson’s charming but erratic assistant? All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can’t solve—without Flavia’s help. But in getting so close to who’s secretly pulling the strings of this dance of death, has our precocious heroine finally gotten in way over her head? (Bantam Books)

 Our thoughts:

 Flavia De Luce is back and in full force! Still precocious. Still brilliant. Still holding an unfortunate fascination with poisons…

 As with the first book of the series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, we begin with a seemingly urgent, if not sheer emergency, situation that once again turns out to be Flavia’s form of play.  We also see the depth of her sister’s cruelty as they emotionally badger their little sister, and Flavia’s immediate plan for the most cruel of poisoned deaths as revenge. Readers will find themselves chuckling throughout the book!

 And while the family does not present the best of role models (smile), our little heroine does demonstrate good character here and there as she progresses through this adventure. As explained in my first review on this series, the protagonist may be 11 but that doesn’t mean the book was written for 11-year olds :>) For readers who are parents, however (myself included), we shudder to wonder what might have happened if we had bought that chemistry kit for our own kids!

 Alas, the story has much more to it than mere chemistry. The author’s writing style is incredibly rich and entertaining, with too many amusing moments to even give example of here. From page 1 the reader is engaged and intrigued, and our imagination is easily transported into  the 1950’s Post WWII England village. In this edition of the series, we have more perspective of Flavia as filled in by what the neighbors know and think of her. Quite the manipulative character as she flits  around Bishop’s Lacy on her mother’s old bike, Flavia may think she goes unnoticed but begins to learn not all are fooled…

 The interesting treatment of perceptions around German prisoners of war from WWII add historical perspective, and Flavia’s critical view of villagers, such as the Vicar’s mean wife and their sad relationship, fill in character profiles with deep colors. Coupled with her attention to detail that helps her unveil the little white lies told by antagonists, not a word is wasted in this story.

 I admit to being enviou

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23. BOOK OF THE DAY: February 2012 List

BOOK OF THE DAY-February

No need to wait until the end of February for the complete list. Here it is–plan ahead! Click on the link above, and also follows us on Facebook at Litland Reviews http://facebook.com/Litlandreviews

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24. BOOK OF THE DAY: The January list!

BOOK OF THE DAY-January

Here it is! The book of the day challenge, to recommend a new book or related media every day in 2012. January is complete, and attached for handy download–just click on the above link. February is on the way! “Friend” Litland Reviews on Facebook to see daily recommendations as they post. http://facebook.com/Litlandreviews

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25. World Mathematics Day


Well, I missed it—no suprises there, maths being my least favourite subject, but the reoudtable Trevor Cairney, literacy expert, did not. He has a great blog post up at his “Literacy, Families and Learning” blog (which if you’re not subscribed to, you should be) linking great children’s books to World Mathematics Day. Read it here, and if you have any favourite maths-related children’s books, for any age, please send a comment with the details.

Me, I loved Jenny Pausacker’s YA novel Getting Somewhere*, which features a female teenage protagonist who is a maths maven: not something we see a lot of in YA books. Maybe because like me, most writers weren’t so strong in the maths department (I understand Jenny enlisted the help of a maths whizz friend for the relevant passages in the book).

* Shortlisted in the 1996 CBCA Awards.

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