Tuesday, August 24, 2010

. . . Let Me Sum Up . . .

Our July vacation was beyond wonderful. I think everyone must visit the Pacific Northwest. The trees, the weather, the seafood . . . sigh. Wonderful. But just in case you were thinking this was going to be a travelogue post, think again! We'll get to that, but first, 'what did you read on vacation, Juju?' I'm glad you asked.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor. Newberry winner from 1977. This was a painful read, but I can't wait to do it again. If you want to do a little civil rights study, pick this one up. It's so painful to think that this story took place in my parents generation. This was not 200 years ago, safely removed from all of us. This is a safe read for kids. It's dark, but not grotesque. Thanks to our road trip, I went through this one in a flash.

Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale. Newberry honor from 2006. Fantastic! So fun, but with a great message. I read on Shannon's blog (note how I call her Shannon, pretending we actually know each other?) that she never sets out trying to write a book with a 'message', but they usually just end up that way. This is a darling story, but not a 'useless princess is saved from the mean ogre by the all-capable warrior prince' story. I don't want to give away too much on this one. You MUST read it! Also a very quick read and not too hard for the young kids. Bug read this one in the second grade, and still remembers it.

Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Holy Cow! I purposely avoided this one, not wanting to buy into the hype. But any book that keeps me totally engrossed for 12 hours is a definite winner. BJ bought me this one before we came home, knowing he'd have four children asking him 'are we there yet?' every five minutes unless he did. The plot twists in this one were crazy. Totally unique plot, well written, fast paced . . . perfect vacation reading! I'm so excited for the second book in the series. I'm only number 128 on the library's hold list! Yeah, me!

And since we returned from vacation, I finished The Giver, by Lois Lowry. Newberry Award winner from 1994. Ever wondered what life would be like if we had chosen Satan's plan? Read this book and find out. This would be an amazing book group choice. Tons of discussion threads, an easy-quick read. And for the literary critic in all of us, lots of technical 'stuff' to chew on. I personally did not care for the ending. And from reading reviews on Goodreads, most agree with me. But, I think the way Ms. Lowry ended the book was totally intentional, and meant to be another book group discussion topic. ;)

On my nightstand right now? (drum roll please) Dracula, by Bram Stoker. So far I'm loving it. It's kind of like Jane Austen decided to write a horror book. There's murder and mayhem going on all around, but we're being very polite about it, and we're all impeccably dressed. Only downside is this is not the quick read-pick it up at bedtime-for a busy lady who still likes to read, kind of book. There is much concentration and slow turning of the pages going on right now.

And don't worry, I'll get to that travelogue soon. And the first day of school, and the toothless wonder at our house, and the finished landscaping . . . sigh, I need a nap!

Friday, August 20, 2010

By Popular Request

Just don't tell her you saw this. ;)

Keep On Smilin!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Don't Land In The Brocolli

Has it been over a month?! Well, I was distracted by non-Newberry reading for a bit. If you're interested in those, you'll just have to check out my goodreads list! Are you intrigued yet?

My return to Newberry-land was a doozy! 2010 Newberry Award winner When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead, was fantastic! You've really got to pick this one up and check it out for yourselves, especially if you're a fan of A Wrinkle In Time. It won't take you long to read, don't worry. I finished this one in a few days of quiet before-bed reading plus a mini road-trip.

The writing in this book is excellent. The voicing, the format, her syntax . . . they all combine to draw you into Mira's world. A special treat was how the author inserted great descriptions of Mira's surroundings. I could feel the textures of the walls as she describes them. Excellent! The story is so clever and unique and tackles several ideas seamlessly. And don't quit before the end or you'll miss one whopper of a plot-twist! Well, maybe I should say, it was quite a twist for me. A contributor to a message board I read said he had the whole thing figured out. I guess I'm just not quite that fast on the uptake!

Definitely put When You Reach Me on your reading list. And then call me so we talk about it!

I've got quite the road trip coming up, so I'm packing two books with me: The Princess Academy, and Mr. Popper's Penguins. Stay tuned, everybody!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Have You Ever Felt Like You Just Didn't Belong?

I recently finished The Moorchild, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, an honor award winner from 1997. For anyone interested in 'fair folk,' Scottish folklore, and an interesting commentary about who 'fits in' where, give this one a go. As I'm reading these Newberry books, I'm learning that a big part of what makes a Newberry a Newberry is a timeless story with several levels of meaning, that could hold meaning for an adult just as well as a child. A literary onion, if you will.

On the downside, this was kind of a chore to get through to the end for some unknown reason. I guess a great thing about the library is the deadline. And I'm nothing if not sensitive to a deadline. Ithink if I didn't 'have to' finish it, it would still be sitting on my nightstand. And my nightstand is a pretty busy place right now.

I'm taking a temporary Newberry detour for my next few books. Those pesky libraries and their deadlines! I've had these books on request from the library for so long, I totally forgot about them. But don't worry, I'll be back! Think Penguins and Pigs and Princesses, oh my!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Why Bri and Adam Should Sleep With Their Camera Under Their Pillow

Random Monday afternoon, not much to do but play with Bri's camera!

This little one definitely has the Hallstrom eyes, but her mother's Type-A tendencies. Remember how there is absolutely no middle ground with this little girl? Euphoric happiness or the depths of despair. Take your pick.

This tween of mine (yikes!) has discovered iPods, biking with friends, and e-mailing. Lucky for me, she hasn't discovered boys yet. I'm really not ready for that yet.
Apparently, Guy's pics were so great, the computer was jealous and won't let me post them. But trust me on this one, my Guy can take a picture.

I'm frantically trying to get prepared for the summer months. So far I've got zoo trips, movie madnes, lots of reading and (gasp!) music practicing, rec classes, swimming lessons, museum trips, art projects, maybe teaching the girls to sew (meaning I'd have to learn first myself) . . . I figure that should last us until about June 15th. Ahh, summer!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Those Lucky Storks . . . and two Guest Interviews!

I just finished The Wheel On The School, by Meindert DeJong, this afternoon. This book was the Newberry Award winner from 1955. I was a tad worried about the 1955 issue, but found the story to be sweet, charming, and engaging. I felt I was reading one of those Russian nesting dolls. Stories weaved into stories, and those stories had stories to tell. Plus, I have a new, sudden urge to make myself wooden shoes and a weird pointy hat.

What I learned: This would be a great story to read if your children are studying European History. It would lead into a great discussion of what life was like in Holland at this time, and what Storks meant to their society. In fact, we may just have to do that here at home. Ooh! A summer acivity in the making. My children won't know what hit them.

Now, on to new and better things: a Guest Interview with Bug, quizzing her about the book she just finished: Mr. Popper's Penguins, by Richard and Florence Atwater, a Newberry Honor book from 1939.

Me: So, Bug, did you like this book?

Bug: It was good.

Me: Fascinating. What made it good?

Bug: He took care of 12 penguins and went all over the country to perform.

Me. I see. Would you like your friends to read this book?

Bug: Yes.

Me: Care to elaborate?

Bug: In the end, he goes to the North Pole for two years.

Me: Sounds like a great place for an ice cream cone. Well, thank you, Bug. You've been great to have here on my blog. Now go to bed!

Bonus: Guest interview with Belle, who just finished Mercy Watson to the Rescue, by Kate DiCamillo, Newberry Author extraordinare. This is an easy-reading book, but with all the wit and fun of a DiCamillo book.

Me: Belle, you just read Mercy Watson's first adventure to me. A perfect book for a 1st grader getting into reading indepently. What did you think?

Belle: It was really, really, good.

Me: Sounds wonderful. What was your favorite part?

Belle: I think it would be the part where Eugenia was chasing Mercy.

Me: My stars! Belle, this is the first book in a series. Are you going to bug me until I buy you the rest of the books?

Belle: Yes.

Me: Well, talk to Grandma. She's the one with the Barnes and Noble card. Now, off to bed with you!

We're having a great time with our evening reading. Both Mr. Popper's Penguins and Mercy Watson were bestowed on our family by my mother, a former elementary school teacher and librarian, who has a little known talent: she has absolutely 100% fail-proof taste in books, especially kidlit. Don't believe me, ask for a recommendation. You won't be disappointed.

Next up: Mr. Popper's Penguins (you didn't think I was going to let Bug have all the fun, did you?), The Moorchild, by Eloise McGraw, and The Baseball Box Prophecy, by Bruce Newbold (Brett's Mom handed me this one, and I can't resist). I think I may need to wish for a back injury, a massive bout with insomnia, or something of the like. Then again, maybe the pile of books on my nightstand will topple over and kill me in my sleep. ;)

Happy Reading, Everyone!

P.S., if you'd like to see some incredibly cute and well-bred children, take a peek over here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Can You Scrumb Your Savvy?

I just finished Savvy, by Judith Law, last night. Can I just say I'm loving reading these books? There's so much less pressure reading a short kidlit for a few nights right before bed than an 800 page epic, requiring a dictionary and several e-mails back and forth to my more intelligent friends, asking for clarification!

Savvy was a Newberry honor book last year, and is a perfect fit for the pre-teen crowd. It has a fun story, but also has a lot to say about growing up, friends, and finding your place in the world. I tried reading it to the girls with my best midwestern drawl, but I'm afraid I left a little to be desired. I thought the character of Mibs was a great example to girls; someone who didn't have all the answers and wasn't perfect, but still knew right from wrong. Plus, there's nothing like a bunch of kids getting themselves in one crazy mess to make a story really interesting!

In conclusion ;), I feel totally comfortable recommending this book for you and your little ones. Or just you. Or just your little ones. You get the idea.

And just in case you were worried, I am working on a multitude of other projects. Summer's coming on fast (!), and I'm going to be ready! Plus (wait for it), I sewed yesterday! Yep, that's right. Don't get too excited, it was just a straight seam, but baby steps, right?! Plus, I'm a few closets closer to being able to die peacefully. Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere anytime soon. The chance that my mother will be the first person in my house in case of my untimely demise keeps me extremely healthy!
Next up on my nightstand, The Wheel on the School, by Meindert DeJong, Newberry Award winner from 1955. This could be interesting.