Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ending the year with Dumplin'

Reading the title of this post, you may think I am ending 2016 by eating dumplings. I do enjoy dumplings - old fashioned chicken and dumplings (my favorite meal each Wednesday evening served at church before GAs), as well as the Chinese variety, or pot stickers as they are sometimes known, but this is all about Willowdean Dickson, the main character in Julie Murphy's 2015 YA novel Dumplin'.

by Julie Murphy

I wish Dumplin' had been written when I was a teen. I don't know if it would have significantly changed by life, but it might have made growing up a large girl easier. I was never a badass, but I have always been fat. Like all teens, you go through awkward stages where your peers tease you (now called bullying), but when you're a large person, it never seems to stop. Society does not accept large people. I say large, because I have always hated the word fat.

I remember the summer of 1990 driving up to my parent's house and seeing a tall, dark, and handsome young man sitting in the front yard of the house next door. He was playing with a huge rabbit. I'm not sure what prompted me to walk over, unless it was the rabbit. I didn't know this person, but I was brave enough to go over and introduce myself. I was instantly attracted to him, but I knew it would never be possible for someone like him to want to be with someone who looked like me. I saw him outside a few times over the summer, but knew nothing would come of it. He was older and so much more intelligent than me. Again, why would he want to have anything to do with me? I was silly teenager ~ and fat! There's that word again, but it accurately described me (and still does). Thankfully for me, Walter saw through the person I saw in the mirror. We will celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary in May of this coming year.

Willowdean embodies the self conscious teen I was, as well as the middle aged adult woman I have become. I don't know if reading this book will help me to remove my own mental insecurities, but she has definitely put some things into perspective for me as we move into 2017. 

I love the quotation, "I think you gotta be who you want to be until you fee like you are whoever it is you're trying to become." To me, it seems like a great mantra moving forward as we open the door to wonderful opportunities and possibilities of a new year. I also need to remember "...half of doing something is pretending that you can". I hope I can embrace my inner Dolly Parton (and Willowdean) to make 2017 the best year yet, no matter what anyone else thinks, says, or does to stop me.

Dumplin' was published in September 2015 by Balzer + Bray. I would highly recommend this book for middle and high school readers. Although the book is listed as #1 in the Dumplin' series, I see no evidence of a subsequent book.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Pattern for Pepper

The first thing I noticed when I open this book was the amazing attention to detail. The title, A Pattern for Pepper has a two-fold meaning in this book. Pattern can mean "a model or design used as a guide in needlework and other crafts" as in to make a dress, or "a repeated decorative design" as would appear on material to make a dress.

Pepper and her mother visit Mr. Taylor's shop to have a very special dress made. After Pepper's measurements are taken, Mr. Taylor takes time to introduce Pepper to a variety of different patterns in the textiles she can choose from for her dress, including herringbone, seersucker, tartan, houndstooth, Ikat, Argyle, pinstripe, dotted swiss, toile, and paisley. This introduction to textiles is extremely child friendly and informative. Mr. Taylor points out the pattern, tells the name, shows an example, and gives a one sentence definition or explanation of the patterns history. It is a perfect amount of information to get the author's point across without providing too much detail.

The illustrations are amazing. Patterns are everywhere and we generally don't take the time to see them all around us. These patterns are very obvious throughout the book in the bolts of materials, the clothing, floor, and even the lamp shape in the shop.

This book will be available for purchase in August 2017.

*To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Tundra Books has provided a complimentary electronic copy of A Pattern for Pepper for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the author or publisher.

Can You Find My Robot's Arm?

Can You Find My Robot's Arm?
by Chihiro Takuchi

Chihiro Takeuchi presents a fun story and amazing cut paper illustrations in Can You Find My Robots Arm? The intricately cut designs  force the reader to spend time looking to see if the robot's arm is in the picture or if we are merely supposed to reflect on the possibility of a substitute for the missing arm. Each subsequent page seems to get more complex and requires more scrutiny.

At the end, I came to the conclusion the robot's arm IS actually on each page, however since the arm is black and the background is also black you can't see the overlaying arm. :-) Amazing book to share with young readers.

This title will be available for purchase in July 2017.

*To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Tundra Books, has provided a complimentary electronic copy of Can You Find My Robots Arm? for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the author or publisher.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

TLA Coloring Book - A Disaster Relief Fundraising Effort

This time last year an idea was planted. It took a few weeks for it to take root, but before I knew it a fundraising effort for the Texas Library Association's (TLA) Disaster Relief Fund was blossoming. The culmination of this year long project was revealed at the Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas on November 5, 2016.

TLA Coloring Book, Volume One & Volume Two
The TLA Coloring Book was unveiled and available for purchase on the first day of the festival at the TLA Booth. It was promoted with a huge coloring banner located in front of the state capitol.

Five images from the coloring book were displayed on the vinyl banner. Adults and children both loved using Sharpies to add their own personality to this collaborative coloring.

As the weekend progressed the backs of the banners were used by the festival attendees to show their own creativity and artistic expression. Even though the banner idea was not my own, I felt a great deal of pride seeing everyone having fun coloring together on images I brought together. The conversations of the young and old and the smiles were powerful to see as the weekend progressed. Everyone who colored on the banner walked away with a smile.

Of the sixty-six images in the two volume set, five were included on the coloring banner.
Image donated by Steve McDonald
(Chronicle Books)

Image donated by John Parra

Image donated by Nick Bruel

Image donated by Melissa Baker

Image donated by Betty Chapman

All of the images in the coloring book were graciously donated by the artists for inclusion in this fundraising effort for the Texas Library Association Disaster Relief Fund.  The fund started in 1999 with a raffle of the art work, The Bear Went Over the Mountain, donated by Rosemary Wells, who also donated a piece to the coloring book. Texas libraries impacted by disasters such as storms, fires, or flooding are encouraged to apply for financial support through the website. Over the years, funds have been used for a variety of reasons in libraries all across the state. Nine libraries received grants following the devastation of Hurricane Rita in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area in 2006 and eleven more grants were given to coastal libraries following Hurricane Ike three years later. In 2015 the Wimberley Village Library received a $2,000 grant to help with their photography recovery program following the devastating floods in the area.

The net proceeds from the sell of the coloring books go to the Texas Library Association Disaster Relief Fund. If you would like to purchase your own set of coloring books, they are now available online at the Texas Library Association website. The cost of the two-volume set is $20. However, if you purchase 4 sets, you will get 1 set free.

The coloring books will make a wonderful gift for all ages. In fact, it is two gifts in one because you are providing a one of a kind collection of images to color and you are helping Texas libraries who have been devastated by disaster.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of the talented artists who graciously donated their work for the coloring book. Here is a complete list of artists who contributed to the TLA Coloring Book.

  • Melissa Ann Baker
  • Winifred Barnum-Newman
  • Heidi Berthiaume
  • Sophie Blackall
  • Susan Branch
  • Lisa Powell Braun
  • Nick Bruel
  • Joe Cepeda
  • Betty Chapman
  • Sarah Cox
  • Bill Crawford
  • Christa Crawford
  • Bill DeOre
  • Tomie dePaola
  • Christopher Eliopoulos
  • Mary Ann Emerson
  • Denise Fleming
  • Brian Floca
  • Carolyn Dee Flores
  • Douglas Florian
  • AG Ford
  • Laura Freeman-Hines
  • Shinji Fujioka
  • Charlotte Garrett
  • Xavier Garza
  • Tad Hills
  • Molly Idle
  • CS Jennings
  • Pamela Johnson
  • Lita Judge
  • G. Brian Karas
  • Autumn Kinsey
  • Jarrett J. Krosoczka
  • Laura Logan
  • Loren Long
  • Rafael Lopez
  • Jeff Mack
  • Juana Martinez-Neal
  • Steve McDonald
  • Wendell Minor
  • Roxie Munro
  • Lisa Nowlain
  • Jessica Palmer
  • John Parra
  • LeUyen Pham
  • Rylie Philpot
  • Ronel D. PIerre
  • Lizzy Rockwell
  • Lynn Rowe Reed
  • Dan Santat
  • Judy Schachner
  • Maysa Sem
  • Diane Stanley
  • Elizabeth Rose Stanton
  • Mary Sullivan
  • Nicole Tadgell
  • Don Tate
  • Dan Thompson
  • Suzy Toronto
  • Evan Turk
  • Laura Vaccaro Seeger
  • Rosemary Wells
  • Kate Wiant
  • Salina Yoon
  • Toni Yuly
  • Paul O. Zelinsky

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Suspenseful Family Drama

I woke up extra early this morning so I could finish the book I only put down last night because I was so sleepy I could no longer focus on the words. Have I finished the book yet? No. I could make a long list of excuses, but the fact would remain I have not finished the book because I am too anxious for the ending. Is that not simply ridiculous? I don't want to finish reading the book because I am anxious to find out the ending! You'd think I was crazy.

Faultlines: a Novel
by Barbara Taylor Sissel

I have to admit I wanted to write my review of the book before finishing the book so I wouldn't ruin this wonderful story for anyone. I have never read any other book by Barbara Taylor Sissel, but after reading (almost to conclusion - as soon as I finish typing this review) Faultlines, she will definitely be added to my list of great authors. If I were to compare her to other authors I have read, I would have to say her writing style reminds me of a cross between Lisa Scottoline and Jodi Picoult (which happen to be two of my favorites). I believe these are justifiable comparisons, not only because of the character development, but also because of the twists and turns throughout the story line. In fact, while reading I told my husband, "Wow, that was a HUGE left turn at Albuquerque!" It is one of the tings I love about these authors. You think you know where they are going and then all of a sudden they through you a curve ball.

I have a number of connections to this book. I am a native Texan (I guess that statement is kind of obvious based on the title of my blog!). I have lived my entire life in the North Texas area, but have traveled extensively throughout my life to the areas mentioned in the book. Although I do not hold the position of counselor, as one of the characters - Libby - I have worked with a number of counselors in my position as a school librarian. I know and understand the bound which can be created between a student and their school counselor. Last, but by no means least, being the mother of a son who will soon turn twenty-one, I placed myself in the position of the two mothers in this book, Sandy and Jenna. I pray I never have to actually be in their shoes, but that is one of the realities we face each day as parents. We cannot control the actions of our children, only provide them with guidance, love, and encouragement.

Like I said before I have not finished this book. I want to make that point very clear. I highly recommend this book on the portion I have read thus far (77% of the book). I will not come back and revise my review based on the ending. I don't feel I could convey a fonder appreciation for this book. I know the characters and story line will remain in my thoughts for a very long time. I now need to stop praising the writing of Faultlines and go finish the book.

*To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Lake Union Publishing, has provided a complimentary electronic copy of Faultlines for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the author or publisher.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Book Club Murders by Leslie Nagel

The Book Club Murders
by Leslie Nagel

The opening pages show the scheduled book club selections for August through December. The diversity of female mystery writers on the list was a great start for this debut of the Oakwood Mystery Series by Leslie Nagel. This was the kind of book you start and do not want to put down until you have finished. The twists and surprises kept you on edge to the very end.

I love the character development and the sexual tension between Charley, the main character and a member of the Agathas Book Club, and Marcus Trenault, an Oakwood homicide detective. Although some of the actions taken during the story seemed a bit outlandish for the typical citizen, the story was presented in a very believable manner.

My only criticism is the inclusion of text from the books read by the Agathas (members of the book club). For those who have not read the titles listed at the front of the book, it might spoil the stories. Since I have read the majority of them, it was not a problem for me, but to those who could look to this list as potential reads, it just might be too much information. However, I loved how she built the mystery around these books.

I look forward to many more books featuring Charley and Marcus.

*To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Alibi, a division of the Random House Publishing Group, has provided a complimentary electronic copy of The Book Club Murders for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the author or publisher.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Home by Harlan Coben

by Harlan Coben
As soon as I heard about the upcoming release of Home, I started watching for it on NetGalley.  I searched every day for the book to appear on the site which promotes and publicizes upcoming books. To say I was excited to see the book appear is an understatement. Having to wait another week after requesting the title was torture, but now after finishing the book, in two days, it was worth the wait.

Home is the eleventh book in the Myron Bolitar series. I hate to admit I have not read any of the other books in this series, they are now on my TBR list, but it is the truth. In all actuality this book could be a stand alone. Enough background information is shared with the reader so you don't feel like you are in the dark with the character interactions. The promotional trailer for this book builds suspense, but truly does not do the book justice. The only reason it took me two days to finish the book was because I could no longer keep my eyes open. I wanted to know what happened to Patrick and Rhys. I wanted to know how Myron and Win were able to find answers to questions that had been ten years in the making.  I love Mr. Coben's writing. He provides the reader with a wonderful story and enough suspense to keep you on your toes from the start. You won't see the what's coming in the end, and THAT is the best part.

As a side note, I love the shout outs to some of my favorite musicals throughout the book.

You too will be able to read this edge of your seat thriller on Tuesday, September 20th, when it is released. Get ready.

*To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Dutton, has provided a complimentary electronic copy of Home for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the author or publisher.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Couple Next Door

The Couple Next Door
by Shari Lapena
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena is one of those gems you long for during a reading rut and then continue to ponder after turning the final page. Sadly I was in a reading rut this summer. I read some books, but they just didn't grab me and hold my attention like this debut suspense novel. I did not want to put this book down because of the intensity of the story line and the twists. Two BIG thumbs up to Lapena, and fingers crossed for more of her suspense in the future.

The book was released August 23, 2016.

**To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Pamela Dorman Books, has provided a complimentary electronic copy of The Couple Next Door for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the author or the publisher.

Monday, June 6, 2016

House of Secrets

The House of Secrets
by Brad Meltzer and Tod Goldberg
I am a fan of Brad Meltzer. It is NOT a secret in my house. I love not only his adult books, but also his children's books. If you don't know the children's series, Ordinary People Change the World, you MUST get them. I follow Brad on Facebook, Twitter, and we have actually corresponded with him via email. I am NOT a stalker, but I will be at the same conferences where he will be speaking this summer. No worries. I have already notified him that I will be at both locations. I want to get my books signed and to meet this masterful writer in person.

As soon as Brad started sending out teaser for The House of Secrets I knew I didn't want to read any of the chapters he was releasing on Facebook. I would not be able to stand the wait for the book to be published. Thankfully I was lucky enough to get an advanced electronic copy of the book. I was immediately hooked and desperately did not want the story to end.

I have to say in the beginning I was a bit concerned about the collaboration of Brad and Tod Goldberg. To be perfectly honest I did not know Goldberg. When I looked him up, I discovered he has written five books based on the characters from the USA television series Burn Notice, as well as other books including Living Dead Girl. I now have a new author and titles to add to my ever growing To Be Read list. Their collaboration reads seamlessly, as if they were writing as one. The only criticism I have for the book is in the use of the FBI Agent's name. They go back and forth between his given name Trevor Rabkin and his nickname Rabbit. Sometimes using both in one paragraph. That was a bit confusing, but it does not hold the storyline back by any means.

If you are a fan of the Culper Ring series with Beecher White, you will enjoy Hazel Nash as the heroine. Only knowing the book had something to do with Benedict Arnold, I thought it was a new title in the Culper Ring series. It is not, however White makes a "guest appearance" in this book. I do foresee a continued partnership between Meltzer and Goldberg. I would love to see more books featuring Hazel. She is a strong character with a great deal more to share about her past and to discover with her future. I am placing my order for more "episodes" of House of Secrets please.

The House of Secrets will be released on Tuesday, June 7, 2016.

**To comply with new guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Grand Central Publishing has provided a complimentary electronic copy of The House of Secrets for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the authors or the publisher.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Puppy Mind

Puppy Mind
written by Andrew Jordan Nance; illustrated by Jim Durk

Puppy Mind, written by Andrew Jordan Nance and illustrated by Jim Durk, makes a unique comparison of a child's mind to that of a puppy. You may say, what a weird comparison, but through the rhyming text and colorful illustrations the reader can easily follow this child's explanation and justify the comparison.

Whether because of boredom or a diagnosed attention disorder, children (and adults) can often find themselves daydreaming. Nance explains the feelings of losing time through a lack of concentration and the frustration felt by the young boy when his mind begins to wander. Through breathing exercises the boy is able to regain control over his "puppy mind".  I think this will be a useful book for parents and teachers at the beginning of the school year in helping students to focus on learning. 

Attention disorders are not a laughing matter and can be very difficult for a person to overcome. Puppy Mind is a great way to help educators and parents understand the very real symptoms faced by children who suffer from these conditions, while providing children a technical which might help them focus.

**To comply with new guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Parallax Press, has provided a complimentary electronic copy of this title for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the author or publishing company.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Summer Reading Kick-off

I've Got Sand in All the Wrong Places
by Lisa Scottoline & Francesca Serritella
I can't think of a better way to start my summer reading than with Lisa Scottoline and her daughter Francesca Serritella's new book I've Got Sand in All the Wrong Places! I have been friends with Lisa and Francesca for a number of years ~ I am one of their readers and according to Lisa if I'm a reader, I'm a friend! I will definitely accept that friendship.

This is their seventh compilation of essays and it is a perfect summer read for the beach or the couch. I love reading about the new products Lisa discovers, the reflections mother and daughter share, and the hilarity of being a Flying Scottoline. I will say I shed a tear a few times during this read, but for the most part I laughed. In one chapter I laughed and got a little sick all at the same time. (Once you read the book, I bet you will have the same reaction. Those who have read it will know exactly what chapter I referencing!)

If you haven't read one of these mother / daughter collaborations, I encourage you to start this summer. I've Got Sand in All the Wrong Places will be released on July 12, 2016, so between now and then you have time to read the others.

  • My Nest Isn't Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space
  • Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog
  • Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim
  • Best Friends, Occasional Enemies
  • Have  Nice Guilt Trip
  • Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?
* To comply with new guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, St. Martin Press Publishing has provided a complimentary electronic copy of this title for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the authors or publishing company.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Coloring Through Loss & Healing

As a coloring and bibliotherapy fan, Colors of Loss and Healing: An Adult Coloring Book for Getting Through Tough Times by Dr. Deborah S. Derman, spoke to me immediately. I was moved by Dr. Derman's Introduction. The strength shown through her own loss and healing can be a source of power and inspiration for anyone dealing with a difficult situation.  Each coloring page features a word or words to provide "a blueprint toward healing and recovery". Dr. Derman asks the reader / colorer to focus on the words and reflect on the their meaning to you as you begin to heal.

The beautiful images, created by Lisa Powell Braun, are shown as full page illustrations. Based on the electronic copy I am reviewing, it looks like the back of each image is blank for personal reflections. Some pages are single images (a grouping of hot air balloons, mandala) others are more elaborate with full background patterning or borders with a focal image. They are all intricate and look like they would be very therapeutic to color. I believe this would be a great book to gift to someone who is dealing with loss or in need of help through a difficult time in their life.

*To comply with new guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform has provided a complimentary electronic copy of this title for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the author, illustrator, or publishing company.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Syndicate

I LOVE time travel novels, especially when they have historical connections. When I read the first sentence describing this book (not the first sentence of the book), I KNEW I had to read it.

"In a future where time travel has been outlawed, a black market exists for anyone with the money, connections, and nerve to request items from days past."

My imagination began to run wild. What would I want to have brought back to me from the past, if I had the money?

Stassi is a runner.  This means she is one who goes back in time to retrieve items requested by clients of The Syndicate. The book begins in the middle of a jump that is not going as planned. When she and her partner, Gaige, return to the present (for us it is the distant future), they don't think they will be jumping again for some time. Instead they find themselves with the opportunity to jump to 1920s Paris in order to look for a lost manuscript.

I love the development of the story. There is not a great deal of detail explaining how The Syndicate was started, but as the story progresses you learn bits and pieces about the background. One of my favorite parts of the story is how far in the future the story takes place 2446. I was tickled that Stassi and roommate / best friend Molly, still have to use a remote for the television! It is hard to say I enjoyed reading about the history leading to the destruction of books, but it was a very interesting way to lead into the central topic of locating the manuscript. It was fascinating to read about the interaction of Stassi and Gaige with historical figures such as Ernest Hemmingway, his wife Hadley, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein.

I am thrilled to say this is the first book in a new series by Sophie Davis (pseudonym of two best friends) ~ Timewaves. I cannot wait for the second book to come out so I can see what Stassi and Gaige will be up to next. I highly recommend the book to those who love time travel, history, romance, and just a great read. It is listed as a YA (young adult) book, but I think it will be enjoyed by those from 15 - 115!

**To comply with new guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Sophie Davis book, has provided a complimentary electronic copy of this title for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the author, or any other person or company associated with the author.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Counting with Barefoot Critters

Counting with Barefoot Critters
written and illustrated by Teagan White

As a wonderful follow-up to Adventures with Barefoot Critters, Teagan White has created a delightful counting book with incredible attention to detail. In rhyming text from one to twelve the story is presented as friends gather to spend the day in play and adventures. The illustrations, created with watercolor and gouache, offer young readers a variety of ways to count to the focus numeral for each page. I am extremely impressed with the details and how numeracy was incorporated into this fun counting book perfect for bedtime or anytime.

This title will be release August 9, 2016.

*To comply with new guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Tundra Books, has provided a complimentary electronic copy of this title for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the author, the author's publicist, or the publishing company.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Some Writer!

Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White
by Melissa Sweet
I don't remember the first time I read E. B. White's Charlotte's Web. Honestly, I don't know if I first read the book, or heard the book read aloud to me. If I were to guess, I would say it was read aloud during elementary school, probably my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Ussery. I loved listening to her read to us each day after lunch. It would have been fine with me if she had just read to us all day long.

To this day, Charlotte's Web remains one of my very favorites. I couldn't even begin to count how many times I've read this book. It is one of the very few books I will re-read. When I was a kindergarten teacher, I read Charlotte's Web to my students every year when we studied farm animals.  I am currently re-reading it because the school district I work for is reading the book as the One District, One Book for this spring. I am so excited for the young children who will be experiencing the adventures of Wilbur, Charlotte, and even that rascal Templeton.

As soon as I saw the title of Melissa Sweet's new book, Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White, I knew it would be a book I NEEDED to read. She did not disappoint. Not only does Sweet provide a glimpse into the life of this amazing author, but she also takes us through his career as a writer. It is so cool to see the original hand written notes and manuscripts.  I was fascinated by the back story on Stuart Little and the research requested of friends for The Trumpet of the Swan. The scrapbook-like illustrations create a marvelous background for White's story and give you the feeling of being in one of his journals.

My only wish is this book was currently available. The publication date has been moved back to October 2016. I think the elementary children reading this book as part of our One District, One Book initiative would find the author's life very interesting.

I enjoy reading biographies and this is by far one of the very best I have read in a long time. The fact that it is geared toward children is even better. I have never had a problem reading a book written for children, especially if it provides me the information I need in a concise manner. I don't think a biography of E. B. White could be better presented by any author. I highly recommend Melissa Sweet's Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White for all elementary and middle school libraries and for anyone who loves White's writings. This is a fabulous celebration of a "Terrific" writer.

*To comply with new guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group, HMH Books for Young Readers has provided a complimentary electronic copy of this title for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the author, the author's publicist, or the publishing company.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Welcome to the World of Mamoko

When I was a child I loved perusing the pages of Richard Scarry's Busytown books. When I began looking through Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski's Welcome to Mamoko, I was immediately taken back to my childhood.

Welcome to Mamoko
by Aleksandra Mizielinska & Daniel Mizielinski
As you open Welcome to Mamoko you are  introduced to the main characters, twenty-four of them. These are the characters you will be observing throughout the book in order to determine what happens to them. Will everyone be able to go to the town carnival? If not, why? Children will have to be very observant in order to follow the story line of each of the characters. First you should choose one character to follow through the book. Turn the page and try to find that character. Look at their surroundings. What are they doing? Where are they and what do you think they are doing? Then turn to the next page and ask those same questions.

The World of Mamoko in the Year 3000
by Aleksandra Mizielinska & Daniel Mizielinski

The World of Mamoko in the Year 3000 - Twenty-eight different characters are introduced to the reader as this book opens. From there all of the characters are seen in seven very different scenes around the community. Text is only present on the first page. The reader is responsible for telling the story. The question, "What does the future hold for Mamoko's next generation?" is posed in order to jump start the readers imagination.

Much like the ever popular WHERE'S WALDO? series, the illustrations are filled with details. In Mamoko's world as the reader turns the page a story unfolds, sans words. This is a great book for building vocabulary and observation skills. I love the fact that words are not on every page. This allows young children to read the pictures and use their words to tell the story. I highly recommend this series of books (three in all to date - The World of Mamoko in Time of Dragons is the third in the series) for children from five to eight to read independently. It would also be great as a lap read with younger children.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

The Marvels
by Brian Selznick

Brian Selznick's masterful illustrations and writing are combined in this beautiful tome which captures your attention immediately with the elaboratly decorated cover and gilded pages. The first part of the story (approximately half of the 665 pages) is told with Selznick's signature style of illustrations, black and white, telling the story of a lone survivor - Billy Marvel - of a shipwreck in 1766. As the story progresses the reader follows the Marvel family through five generations of actors and theater life.

Abruptly the Marvel story ends (as do the pictures) and a new story (in text form) begins in 1990 as Joseph runs away from school to locate his eclectic and estranged Uncle Albert. Joseph finds himself in a home unluck he has never been. 

How are the two stories connected? Who are the Marvels? What connection do they have to Uncle Albert and Joseph? All of the questions will be answered in this marvelous story loosely based on The Dennis Severs House located in Spitalfields, London.

Brian Selznick created a wonderful book trailer for this book. It can be seen on The Marvels website.

I highly recommend reading any and all of Mr. Selznick's other books, such as the following.
  • The Houdini Box (1991)
  • The Boy of a Thousand Faces (2000)
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007) - Caldecott Winner
  • Wonderstruck (2011)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Harlan Coben Doesn't Fool Around

Back in 2012, I had the most wonderful experience of meeting two authors I had only recently discovered: Harlan Coben and Lisa Scottoline. My mother and I attended the Texas Library Association's LiFTA Luncheon in order to hear them speak about their books. Scottoline spoke about Come Home, which had only been released a week earlier and Harlan Coben enticed readers with bits of his book Stay Close. Since then I have become a huge fan of both of these fantastic authors and when I see information about a new book coming out, I have to jump on it immediately.

I was granted early access to Harlan Coben's next bestseller, which will be released March 22, 2016, title through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Fool Me Once
by Harlan Coben

Like his previous books, Mr. Coben leads you down a pathway and then allows you to plummet off the cliff not realizing you were lead astray. The book revolves around Maya Stern, a retired helicopter pilot, surrounded by scandal and also the murders of her sister (while she was in Iraq) and her husband (soon after her return). When Maya discovers a video of her "dead" husband on the nanny cam given to her by her best friend following her husband's funeral suspicions begin to arise. Could Joe be alive? Who killed her sister? Why is death following Maya and who will be next?

This stand alone novel by this best selling author will have you on edge until the very end. I highly recommend this book. Once you find Coben, you will want to read everything he writes.

**To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Dutton (part of Penguin Group) has provided a complimentary electronic copy of Fool Me Once for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or publishing company and is solely my opinion.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Great Listens by Mary Kubica

I have recently developed a new addiction. It is an addiction my son has had for years...listening to audiobooks. Don't get me wrong, I have listened to audiobooks in the past, just not to this extent.

I remember when the Harry Potter books were released in audiobook format our family purchased them as quickly as possible. It was back in the day when we took at least one family road trip a year. These trips included my husband, my son, and my parents. All being voracious readers, listening to books as we traveled seemed like a great idea. I never got a great deal out of these listening sessions. As a back seat rider the soothing ride quickly put me to sleep.

I find it so funny to think back on those days driving across the country listening to Jim Dale with his amazing collection of voices spin the tale of Harry and his friends, because my son, Timothy (four at the time) would make comments like, "Always Harry Potter" and "I hate Harry Potter". He wanted to watch his train videos, which he would do because we had a conversion van at the time. Now, at age twenty, he is beyond excited for our upcoming trip to Florida when we will be visiting Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. His feelings and opinions of Harry Potter have greatly changed, just as mine have of audiobooks.

I have discovered I can listen to a book while doing other activities and thoroughly enjoy the story. The best part is being able to increase the amount of literature I cover! I can read one book and listen to another without any problem, just not at the exact same. [Wouldn't that be awesome if you could listen to one book while reading another?!?]

So, to get to the point of this entry...Mary Kubica's The Good Girl and Pretty Baby. I recently discovered Hoopla, an amazing digital service provided by my local library. The service provides library users with 24/7 access to eBooks, movies, television shows, music, and audiobooks. While searching through the audiobooks, I discovered The Good Girl. It sounded like it would be an interesting book, so I checked it out.

The Good Girl
by Mary Kubica
The Good Girl (2014) is the debut novel of Mary Kubica, and what a way to start! The story centers around the abduction of Mia Dennett. Since I listened to this book, I am assuming each chapter was titled Before or After (preceeded by the name of the character from whose viewpoint the chapter was being told), at least this is how the narrator began. Eve, Mia's mother, Collin, Mia's abductor, and Gabe, the detective investigating Mia's abduction tell the main portion of the story. I loved the character development and really cared about each of the people telling their story. It really was a wonderful book to listen to, especially with the various readers performing the narration as the characters. It was a much more realistic, almost as if you were physically there participating in the action.

The book has been compared to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I can see where some would make the connection because of the narrative and the twists in the storyline.

Pretty Baby
by Mary Kubica

As soon as I finished listening to The Good Girl, I went back to Hoopla to see if Kubica had written anything since this debut. I was thrilled to find Pretty Baby (2015). I immediatly checked it out and downloaded the book. I listened to book as much as I could between work and sleep. The narration for this book was performed by a woman (Cassandra Campbell) and a man (Tom Taylorson) which again provided the sense that you were in the presence of the characters as they told their story. I wanted to know about the characters telling this story, Heidi, Willow, and Chris, and it was much more believeable because of the different narrators. Like her debut, this book provided a wonderful twist and lived up to the hashtag #PsychologicalThriller. 

I'm very excited to say I have recieved an ARC of Ms. Kubica's newest book, Don't You Cry, which will be released in June 2016. I have not had a chance to read it yet, but I will be posting my comments about the book as soon as I have finished it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


by Elizabeth Rose Stanton

In June 2014, while in Las Vegas for the American Library Association's Annual Conference, Elizabeth Rose Stanton and I played text tag. We attempted to meet each other at various times during the conference and it wasn't until the very last day that we were finally able to connect. She and Toni Yuly were waiting outside the exhibit floor doors and started waving to me before I even made it across the room. You can see our picture together from this previous post.

A few weeks ago when I received a review copy of her latest book, Peddles, from Simon and Schuster, I was thrilled to see the final product of which I had seen snippets on Facebook. I truly did not think Peddles could get any cuter, but I was wrong.

Peddles is an adventurous little pig who does not want to be a conformist. He has his own ideas and dreams to pursue and does not let anything or anyone get in his way. When Peddles hears "whooping and hollering" out in the barn, he begins to ponder the possibility of dancing. Behind the barn Peddles discovers the perfect accessory for his big idea, however it does not work out exactly the way he had envisioned. He soon learns the other pigs who had believed his ideas to be "spacey" were actually willing to provide a helping hand and join in the fun in the end.

I know readers, young and old, will enjoy not only reading this wonder story, but also delight in the beautiful pencil and watercolor illustrations. There might be a few people who will be upset with two of the small images of Peddles as he defecates (or three if you get technical - two times like a pig and once on a toilet), but like Taro Gomi wrote, Everybody Poops!

I highly recommend Peddles by Elizabeth Rose Stanton for all libraries with a picture book collection and as a gift for anyone you know with small children. I believe it will quickly become a favorite story to read over and over again, especially if you love pigs.

**To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Simon & Schuster has provided a complimentary copy of Peddles for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or publishing company and is solely my opinion.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Most Wanted

Most Wantedby Lisa Scottoline
release date: April 12, 2016

Most Wanted, is the perfect title for Lisa Scottoline's latest stand-alone thriller. It captures the very essence of this complex story. There are so many possibilities for the reason behind the title, but I think the most important one, the one that is the reason for the entire story line is pictured on the cover - a baby.

Christine and Marcus are happy, young professionals wanting to start a family. When they discover Marcus is infertile they decide to use a donor in order to conceive. As Christine prepares to leave her job as a reading specialist, she sees a breaking news story about the capture of a serial killer. She is devastated to see the image of her donor's face being pushed into a squad car in handcuffs.

Is your heart racing? Are you wondering, what would I do? That is exactly how I felt when reading this book! When you think the storyline is going in one direction, Scottoline turns it around and goes another way. The action and excitement keeps the reader on the edge of their seat throughout the book.

As an educator, I have to say I was impressed with the way Christine was depicted in the story. A lot of times educators are characterized as stuck in their profession. They are not given credit for the background and degrees held in order to be in their positions. Educators are often taken for granted and not respected by students or parents because public education is free to all. I respect Christine's decision to quit her job to raise her child, but I also liked reading about how much she cared for and would miss her students. A common characteristic of educators is their feeling of a lack of skills for a career after teaching. I have to admit I have felt this way many times. As I near retirement I wonder what I will do when I no longer have to be at school before 7:00 in the morning. I know I can create engaging lessons for children, keep the attention of large numbers of students with my read-alouds, teach adults how to integrate technology into their lessons, manage a classroom full of four- and five-year olds full of sugar and excitement during a classroom holiday party, and calm a hysterical parent when their child is hurt, missing, or in trouble. But how do those skills relate to the world outside of a school building? Scottoline has placed Christine in just that position and she comes out a true heroine! I'm so happy to see a strong woman educator pull herself up and be the confident leader she was born to be, even if the point of this story was not the fact the main character was a teacher. Thank you for showing everyone, especially teachers, they can do and be anything at any time.

I would highly recommend this book for fans of thrillers, books about educators, and law. 

* To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, St. Martin's Press has provided a complimentary electronic version of Most Wanted for review purposes. 


Monday, February 8, 2016

Fun with Nursery Rhymes: Little Bo Peep and More

Little Bo Peep and Her Bad, Bad Sheep: A Mother Goose Hullabaloo
written by A. L. Wegwerth; illustrated by Luke Flowers

One might think this book is simply about Little Bo Peep and her bad, bad sheep, but they would be wrong. Readers will find not only Little Bo Peep, but 38 other nursery rhymes in this fun book. The narrator in the story has a very difficult time reciting Little Bo Peep's nursery rhyme, but who can blame her when there is SO much going on in the illustrations

Nursery rhyme characters are running wild all on the pages of this book. The illustrations will capture even the youngest reader, or listener immediately and a number of conversations can be had while reading this book based on the jam packed illustrations. Before you get to the end of the book, try to make a list of all of the different nursery rhymes referenced in the illustrations.  It will be a fun challenge for older children who are more familiar with the various nursery rhymes. Young children may not know all of the characters, but they will quickly be able to recognize Humpty Dumpty and the three little kittens. All of the nursery rhymes depicted in the illustrations are included in the final eight pages of the book along with a small character to help the reader locate the reference in the book. I highly recommend this book for early childhood and elementary school libraries.

*To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Capstone Young Readers provided a complimentary electronic version of Little Bo Peep and Her Bad, Bad Sheep: A Mother Goose Hullabaloo for review purposes.

Monday, February 1, 2016

George by Alex Gino

I was fortunate enough to be in San Francisco on June 26, 2015. I understand if you are not familiar with this date and the historic significance. I will not judge, and I hope you will not judge me for being excited about that day.

June 26, 2015 was the day of the Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage a right nationwide.

I am a happily married woman. I have been married to my husband for over 22 years. Why should I not be excited for my friends who are gay or lesbian to have the same opportunity?

Alex Gino

I am remembering this time because of a book I just finished reading, George written by Alex Gino. It was during this trip to San Francisco for the American Library Association's Annual Conference I first saw George. In fact, I received an ARC (advanced reader's copy) of the book. I remember when I picked it up and read the insert that said, "This book will change your life" and a message from David Levithan, the editor of the book. I even got a button that says, "Be Who You Are". Sadly, my copy of George was hidden away in one of the many tote bags I picked up during conference. I re-discovered George when I was perusing our district's review shelves. I was so excited to see this title and immediately grabbed it to read and review. Ironically after pulling the book to review my ARC appeared along with the button which I now have proudly hanging with my button collection in my office.

The title character, George, is not gay or lesbian, but a young girl trapped in the body of a boy. Gino creates realistic characters who show true emotion and inner turmoil when confronted with George's reality. I am especially grateful Gino created a character with a safe place for George, even if it is only briefly mentioned. The reader can draw their own conclusions as to the purpose for this insight, but I believe it provides a glimpse into the life of the principal.

The story is woven around the school's study of E.B. White's Charlotte's Web. George desperately wants to play the role of Charlotte when her fourth grade class performs for the lower grades. However, since she is a boy, she is not considered for the role. The book seems to come to an abrupt end, but I like where Gino leaves the story. It is hopeful and uplifting.

The terms transgender and transitioning are used in this wonderful book for readers in third through seventh grade. The topic of being gay is briefly mentioned, but George explains she is not gay, but a girl in a boys body.

I highly recommend George by Alex Gino for anyone willing to stand up for children who need to read about characters in books who are like themselves. Just like books such as And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, A Tale of Two Mommies by Vanita Oelschlager or Daddy, Papa, and Me by Lesléa Newman, there is a need for book on topics a lot of people feel are controversial. If this is our society's reality, then we need to have books available to reflect all people, and not simply the ones that make us feel the most comfortable reading about and discussing.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Variations on a Theme of Little Red Riding Hood

Happy New Year!

I thought I would start the new year sharing some great versions of Little Red Riding Hood.

Little Red
written and illustrated by Bethan Woollvin
(April 2016 release)
Starting with the end papers, the simple color palette (black, charcoal gray, white, and red) used for this book proves dramatic. With a repeated pattern of evergreen (charcoal gray), followed by two bare tree trunks the reader's eye is immediately drawn to Little Red in her bright red cloak and shoes. The wolf, hiding behind an evergreen can been seen, but not as quickly.

Woollvin's story remains true to the original until she looks into the window to see the wolf in her grandmother's bed. The observant reader can spot an ax stuck in a tree stump in through the window, also reminiscent of the original fairy tale, but this time, Little Red makes a plan before going inside grandmother's house. The surprising twist, Little Red returns home with a new fur coat!

This might seem a little dark for a children's book, but you have to remember the original story has a much more disturbing end. In Charles Perrault's, author of the earliest known printed version of the story, entitled Le Petit Chaperon Rouge "Little Red Riding Hood ends up being asked to climb into the bed before being eaten by the wolf, where they story ends." The moral this story told children was not to listen to the words of strangers.

Little Red's Riding 'Hood
written by Peter Stein, illustrated by Chris Gall
(February 2015 release)
The end papers for this book remind me of the ones from the above book, except for the fact the wolf is now a monster truck named Tank and Little Red is a scooter. Both characters appear on the front end papers, but only Little Red is on the back end papers. The absence of Tank on the back papers sends the message to the read of the happy ending since Little Red is headed back home from Granny Putt Putt's house.

I am not a car fanatic, but I believe young children, especially boys will find this new version of Little Red Riding Hood fun to read and listen to during story time. The author was very creative in building the text around the scooter, cars, and monster truck. At times it feels like a stretch when reading, but this is to be expected in a fairy tale. I was delightfully surprised to see how "the wolf" was recycled in the end. Definitely an unusual twist to the classic Red tale.

Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood
written by Liesl Shurtliff
Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtliff is unlike either of the first two. This book is a chapter book, recommended for readers in middle elementary and up. The story does not just focus on Red's travels to grandmother's house and her encounter with the Big Bad Wolf. In the first chapter, we learn of Red's magical grandmother, as well as Red's attempts at magic herself. The humor in the first chapter is wonderful for capturing the reader's attention.  The magical spells included are very clever and create a great picture in the reader's mind.

Red does travel to her Granny's house in the story and finds Granny very ill. So ill in fact Red has to wonder through the woods in order to gather the ingredients for a Cure-All potion. As Red gathers the ingredients, we are introduced to a number of magical creatures, including pixies, dwarfs, and tree nymphs. I don't want to ruin the ending of this fairy tale for you because it is not what you will expect. The villain in Shurtliff's version, or "the true story" is not who you would suspect. You will have to read  Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood to find out the rest of the story.

*To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission,  the following publishers have provided a complimentary hard copy or electronic version of the book for review purposes. 

Little Red. Myrick Marketing & Media, LLC - Peachtree Publishers.
Little Red's Riding 'Hood. Orchard Books.
Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood. Random House Children's Knopf Books for Young Readers.

My review is in no way influenced by the publishing company and is strictly my opinion.