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Book Report: The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

The Bridge Home

Written by Padma Venkatraman

Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2019

 

I read about The Bridge Home at KidLit411.  After commenting, I won a classroom Skype visit with Padma Venkatraman. I rushed to the library to borrow this book so I could read it before arranging the Skype visit.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Bridge Home. Tough topics are explored in this story, and those bits were difficult to read. Homelessness, abuse, extreme poverty, gangs, starvation, death. But there were also the important topics of family, friendship, dreams, and hope. This book is perfect for opening discussions about difficult situations faced by children, be it here or in international locations.

What I loved about The Bridge Home:

~ The characters! Each child had such personality, unique and interesting. I love the way the four main characters relied on each other and became a family unit. Four children, living on their own, a family. Think about that for a few moments.

~ Inclusion. Viji’s sister, Rukku, is differently-abled. I love how this younger sister is loved and accepted as she is by the other two members of the new family, Muthi and Arul.

~ Determination. These four friends are determined to make it work, whether living on the bridge over the river beneath tarps or heading to a new location after a scary incident (don’t want to ruin the details here).

~ The descriptions. Just imagine scrounging through huge garbage mountains. GARBAGE. Ick.

~ The writing. Clean, well stated, and easy to follow. This story is a winner.

Thank you, Padma, for showing us new windows on the world.

You can read Padma’s KidLit411 interview here.

Amazon Blurb:

Four determined homeless children make a life for themselves in Padma Venkatraman’s stirring middle-grade debut.

Life is harsh in Chennai’s teeming streets, so when runaway sisters Viji and Rukku arrive, their prospects look grim. Very quickly, eleven-year-old Viji discovers how vulnerable they are in this uncaring, dangerous world. Fortunately, the girls find shelter–and friendship–on an abandoned bridge. With two homeless boys, Muthi and Arul, the group forms a family of sorts. And while making a living scavenging the city’s trash heaps is the pits, the kids find plenty to laugh about and take pride in too. After all, they are now the bosses of themselves and no longer dependent on untrustworthy adults. But when illness strikes, Viji must decide whether to risk seeking help from strangers or to keep holding on to their fragile, hard-fought freedom.

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Calling all writers of picture books and chapter books. SCBWI has a new award out in memory of Kate Dopirak. What a wonderful way to remember such a special person!

Check it out. This year the focus and award is for writers of picture books. Go for it!

via Kate Dopirak Craft & Community Award


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Book Report: Pauses for the Vacationing Soul, A Sensory-Based Devotion Guide for the Beach

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Pauses for the Vacationing Soul, A Sensory-Based Devotion Guide for the Beach

Written by Cathy Baker

http://www.cathybaker.org, 2017

 

I was recently gifted Pauses for the Vacationing Soul, A Sensory-Based Devotion Guide for the Beach by the amazing Cathy Baker. Ok, by recently I mean…a bit ago. But I digress.

I started reading this adorable little devotional guide, again, a bit ago. Then I realized it would be the perfect special devotional guide to take with me on my week-long writing residency at Holly House (Hypatia-in-the-Woods). So I tucked it in my growing stack of things to take with me on my residency.

It turns out I was correct. This little gem was just the right length and focus for my week near several beaches in the Shelton, Washington, area. I loved reading the entry for each morning and reflecting on God’s beauty, vacation (though I was on a residency), relaxing, and resting. I especially enjoyed Cathy’s inclusion of travel days and coming back to reality after vacation.

Cathy has a sweet spirit, which is very obvious when you read her book or her newsletters. I first discovered Cathy when I bumped into one of her posts. Her site has a picture of the cutest Tiny House on the Hill. My honey and I want to build a tiny house, so I latched right on to her site. Cathy and her husband are working on her writing studio/retreat tiny house. I’ve loved watching each step they take as they add to the tiny house. I can’t wait to see it when it’s finished.

If you are heading out for a week away, or are still looking forward to vacation, consider reading Pauses for the Vacationing Soul, A Sensory-Based Devotion Guide for the Beach by Cathy Baker. Check out her web site at CathyBaker.org.

Thank you, Cathy, for the gift of a book that added just the right touch to my writing residency. Be blessed!

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Book Report: Badger’s Perfect Garden

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Badger’s Perfect Garden

Written by Marsha Diane Arnold

Illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019

 

Welcome Badger’s Perfect Garden!

I read a blog post about this new picture book and checked my library for a copy. They didn’t have one yet, so I requested the addition. Here it is! I love being the first one to check out a new book.

Hint: If you see a book you want to borrow from your library but they don’t have it, most libraries have a way to suggest new titles. Spread the word. This really helps authors.

I love the imaginative setting of Badger’s Perfect Garden. I know I’m not the only one who remembers being a small child and creating tiny worlds of my own, places where animals talked and anything I dreamed up happened?

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Badger’s Perfect Garden seems to be an extension of my early childhood tiny worlds. I love Badger and his plans to plant the perfect garden. He’s been carefully saving seeds and has made plans to prep the soil and plant the seeds just so. Badger has great friends who help him with his gardening adventure. And then they wait. But a summer storm wreaks chaos on Badger’s dream garden. I love the rest of the story, but you’ll have to read it to find out. 🙂

I am Badger, with my perfect garden plans every spring. I’m not beyond experimenting to see what happens. I hoard seeds and plot where they would best grow. But every year, by the end of summer, my brilliant plans have exploded with choatic growth of every which sort. But still, I plot, plan, and dream. Just like Badger.

What I love about Badger’s Perfect Garden:

*Badger and his type A personality feel just like me. 🙂

*The friends and friendships in Badger’s Perfect Garden are wonderful. Badger’s friends live with him through his plans, disappointment, and story resolution. Who wouldn’t want friends who would be right beside us all the way? And help with the hard work of gardening?

*The setting is one of my favorites, imaginative and nature-based.

*The plans and what really happens encourages readers to go with the flow. Some things we just can’t control. Let go and enjoy.

*The writing is simple, easy to understand, and tell the story in the best way.

*The illustrations are colorful and just perfect for this picture book.

 

You can find Marsha Diane Arnold on Twitter @MarshaDArnold

I hope you’ll buy a copy of Badger’s Perfect Garden or check it out at the library. Great read!


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Bird Sighting: 2 Pileated Woodpeckers & Haiku Moment

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red crest, heavy head

hop, skittle, scrape, taste, chitter;

wary woodpeckers

 

pileated woodpeckers by Angie Quantrell

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I feel like I struck gold! Or black and red, the colors on my 2 feathered guests.

I almost didn’t see them, as they were very quiet. I went out the Holly House front door to my car and spotted huge black birds, one on a dead stump, clawing to grasp and dig in, the other on the ground scooping bits of snack with a sideways tilt of the head.

As soon as red-crested heads popped into view, I knew exactly what they were. And they were huge! Due to my constant perusal of A Guide to Field Identification, BIRDS of North America book, in particular the page on woodpeckers and flickers, I recognized them. But only when I saw them in person did I realize the immense size compared to the flickers and scrub jays I usually identify. The guide says their length is 15-inches. Fascinating.

According to the guide book, pileated woodpeckers are “uncommon and local; a wary bird of extensive deciduous or mixed forests” (p. 180). I feel like I won the lottery. Here there were two uncommon and wary woodpeckers gently hopping along the driveway, chittering quietly to each other, sort of like chickens chat as they go about their day.

I watched them until they hopped beyond the bend of the driveway. They didn’t take off while I observed, and didn’t seem too bothered by me. They seemed a bit gangly in movement, young, perhaps teens? Not sure if they were mated or siblings, but I was thrilled to listen and watch.

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I love that Holly House has a copy of my favorite bird book. Their book is in much better shape. The pages are stuck in the proper place. What a special opportunity! Smack dab in the middle of a mixed forest, plenty of deciduous and coniferous trees and stumps for all to enjoy. Says the resident who learned the black bear is back and loves to scrub at trunks for bugs and wander behind my cabin on his dusk forays. Yikes! I would like to see him (or her) but only from my car or cottage window.

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Book Report: The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren

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The Virtue of Sin

Written by Shannon Schuren

Philomel Books

An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2019

 

Much thanks to Shannon Schuren, Literary Rambles,  and Natalie Aguirre for sending me this beautiful copy of The Virtue of Sin.

I don’t know what I expected when I read The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren, but this was not it. I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued to find out this debut YA is a tale of young love but also how that love goes awry in the midst of a secluded group.

Daniel, the group leader and mouth of God, has established New Jerusalem to provide members a safe and untouched by the outside world haven. Strict rules have been set in place regarding social interactions, life careers, even Matrimony.

Miriam is very excited for the Matrimony, as she is certain Caleb will name her as his wife. But when that does not happen and Miriam’s name is called by Aaron, a newcomer, Miriam’s life plan falls apart. And she begins to question and allow her voice to be heard.

There are sooo many unexpected twists in The Virtue of Sin. I really want to name a few, but I’m going to let you discover them on your own. Two thumbs up.

What I loved about this book:

~ The characters were rich! Mystery, emotions, hidden agendas, evil motivations, forbidden love.

~ I enjoyed Shannon’s portrayal of the group, leadership control, and member dynamics. Ok, not enjoyed, as I so wanted to speak out to Miriam and other characters. But I was totally engaged in the problems of the day.

~ The setting. Great descriptions that made me feel like I was right there in the book.

~ The plot line was fascinating. Like I mentioned above, so many unexpected twists. As I was reading, my side brain was constantly exploring the whats and whys and possible nexts. Loved it!

~ Great writing!

 

Amazon Blurb:

A compelling novel about speaking out, standing up, and breaking free — perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and Tara Westover’s Educated.

Miriam lives in New Jerusalem, a haven in the desert far away from the sins and depravity of the outside world. Within the gates of New Jerusalem, and under the eye of its founder and leader, Daniel, Miriam knows she is safe. Cared for. Even if she’s forced, as a girl, to quiet her tongue when she has thoughts she wants to share, Miriam knows that New Jerusalem is a far better life than any alternative. So when God calls for a Matrimony, she’s thrilled; she knows that Caleb, the boy she loves, will choose her to be his wife and they can finally start their life together.

But when the ceremony goes wrong and Miriam winds up with someone else, she can no longer keep quiet. For the first time, Miriam begins to question not only the rules that Daniel has set in place, but also what it is she believes in, and where she truly belongs.

Alongside unexpected allies, Miriam fights to learn–and challenge–the truth behind the only way of life she’s ever known, even if it means straying from the path of Righteousness.

A compelling debut novel about speaking out, standing up, and breaking free.

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Book Report: Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

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Spin the Dawn

The Blood of Stars, Book 1

Written by Elizabeth Lim

Alfred A. Knopf, 2019

 

Spin the Dawn was a fantastic read! A special thanks to KidLit411, Sylvia, Elaine, and Elizabeth Lim for this beautiful copy of Spin the Dawn! You can read the interview about Elizabeth Lim and her new book here.

Let me put a plug in for KidLit411. The blog posts, interviews, advice articles, and collection of writerly information is spot on with what writers for children need to know. Through their posts, I am able to keep up with what’s happening in the KidLit world. New releases, author and illustrator interviews, and opportunities to interact, discuss, and encourage other kitlit writers are all a part of KidLit411. And I’ll let you in on a little tidbit: Many authors offer the chance to win a copy of their work. You can find KidLit411 on Facebook or Twitter.

What I Loved About Spin the Dawn:

~ I really enjoyed the characters, especially the main character, Maia. I loved her determination to help her family despite cultural expectations and rules.

~ I enjoyed the Mulan meets Project Runway story. Girls (and women) can do and be anything they want. Maia’s story will inspire young girls to stick to what they want to do.

~ The adventures! I love adventure stories, and this tale took some very surprising turns.

~ The relationships were well developed and interesting to follow.

~ I loved the mystery, danger, and intrigue. Throw in some fantasy, and an engaging tale is ready and begging to be read.

 

Amazon Blurb:

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.
Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.
And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.
Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.

 


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Book Report: Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn

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Caterpillar Summer

Written by Gillian McDunn

Illustrations by Alisa Colburn

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019

 

It’s summer, and Caterpillar Summer is the perfect read! Thank you to Gillian McDunn and Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles for this lovely copy. If you look just close enough in the above photo, you will see a friendly butterfly snacking while I consider this perfect summer read. A nod to the main character and her name of Cat(erpillar).

Amazon Blurb:

Cat and her brother Chicken have always had a very special bond–Cat is one of the few people who can keep Chicken happy. When he has a “meltdown” she’s the one who scratches his back and reads his favorite story. She’s the one who knows what Chicken needs. Since their mom has had to work double-hard to keep their family afloat after their father passed away, Cat has been the glue holding her family together.

But even the strongest glue sometimes struggles to hold. When a summer trip doesn’t go according to plan, Cat and Chicken end up spending three weeks with grandparents they never knew. For the first time in years, Cat has the opportunity to be a kid again, and the journey she takes shows that even the most broken or strained relationships can be healed if people take the time to walk in one another’s shoes.

Why I Love This Book:

~ The names! Cat and Chicken? Fun and interesting.

~ The unique way Gillian created a mother who is an author that writes stories about her children, aka, Caterpillar and Chicken. Each section opens with an illustrated page from a story written by Cat’s mother and several other Caterpillar and Chicken illustrations are interspersed throughout the book. Stories upon stories.

~ The characters are great. I love how Cat is a caring, responsible older sister who is just finishing 5th grade. I love the uniqueness of Chicken and how Cat knows how to take care of him. The harried, busy mom, the newly met grandparents, old friends and new friends, the bad guys-the characters are fun to get to know.

~ The setting is fabulous! Who wouldn’t want to spend a summer in a huge house at the beach? On an island? I would. Cat gets to stay in her mother’s old bedroom. I love the small town community where Cat’s grandparents live.

~ The intrigue. Why has Cat never met these grandparents? What happened to Dad? Why does life have to have so many changes? How can Cat take care of Chicken but also still be a kid and enjoy life? How can Cat get her mother and grandfather to talk?

~ Fishing. This is a big hook (!) for Cat’s hopes of getting her family to reconcile.

~ Friendship, forgiveness, and family.

~ Great writing! I found Caterpillar Summer easy to read and very enjoyable. I think upper elementary and early middle grade readers will love this summer tale.

Two thumbs up for Caterpillar Summer.

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Summer Camp

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Alas, with the 4th of July and other extra activities, my guest bloggers were unable to contribute to the blog last week. Nana to the rescue!

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Summer Camp Theme of the Week: Gardening

Gardening is near and dear to my heart. Add outdoor and nature connections, and the setting and theme is just perfect.

Some activities we did during Gardening Week:

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~ We made dandelion play dough! Look on Pinterest for several different recipes. Tips from Nana: Use a LARGE blender or food processor for the boiling water and dandelions. Both of my prospects were too small and leaked. All over. Use MORE dandelions than you think you will need. We didn’t get as much yellow as we wanted, so added a bit of yellow gel food coloring. I doubled the recipe, since 5 gardeners wanted to explore.

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~ We watered. Of course. They are all quite adept at handling a variety of gardening watering implements. We also refilled the fountain numerous times. Like the grands, I’ve been enjoying the quick dip of a smaller watering can into the fountain to tend to tiny water needs. As a result, fountain water disappears much quicker than one would expect.

~ We dissected a sunflower from the Sunflower Forest. We have plenty! It was pretty neat to see baby seeds, petals, the pithy center, and other plant parts in their glory.

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~ After coloring cardboard egg carton sections, we went on a nature collecting hunt, looking for bits of nature that matched the colored sections. Rocks, flowers, petals, leaves, pine cones, bark, pottery shards, glass marbles . . . The grands did enjoy this activity even if all colors did not exactly match.

~ I’ve been wanting to have a nature loom for a long time. With freshly cut wood chunks from a recent trip to wood hunt, the oldest grand Hayden hammered in nails around the edges of one log. I looped jute around and back and forth to create a loom. I think Nana enjoyed this most, but I hope over time they will wander back and add to the nature weaving. I think next week I will have to allow them to hammer all the  nails they want into a sacrificial log. That seemed to be the biggest draw.

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~ The two girl grands, Khloe and Autumn, loved helping Papa transplant root-bound mint out in the pasture. Just for fun. Since it will be mowed with the pasture grass.

~ The youngest, Gage and Autumn, enjoyed giving hair cuts (mowing the hair) to paper plate faces.

~ Swimming! This involved puppy power and hogging of the big pool, but still, cooling fun was had by all.

~ Gardening books were read. Always books.

I had more plans, but the mid-week holiday took out a huge chunk of our Summer Camp time. Until the next week of Summer Camp (camping!), enjoy your July and the rest of this quickly evaporating summer vacation!


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Book Report: Remembering Joseph Chickadee by Nancy Peek Youngdahl

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Remembering Joseph Chickadee

Written and Illustrated by Nancy Peek Youngdahl

Mascot Books, 2019

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I love bird watching and travel with my falling-apart bird identification book at the ready to help me name the birds I see out car windows.

What about the birds I read about in books? Love, love, love birds!

Remembering Joseph Chickadee is a delightfully illustrated picture book telling the story of a bunch of birdy friends saying goodbye and remembering their friend, Joseph Chickadee.

It sounds sad, but it really isn’t. Instead, I enjoyed the stories of friends sharing happy memories of their friend. A Remembering Celebration was held in the woods where Joseph was a leader, helper, and friend to many feathered community members. The different birds told of their encounters with Joseph and all the ways he had helped them. As I read, I thought this picture book would be a perfect way to gently help young mourners as they face the loss of a loved one. And, of course, readers will learn about birds.

Why I Enjoyed this Book:

~ I loved the imagination in the story. A Remembering Celebration for a beloved community leader-grief and celebration in the bird world. Young readers will be able to put their imaginations to good use as they read Remembering Joseph Chickadee.

~ The illustrations are wonderful! I love the collage, watercolor, cut paper look of the different books. This book is very nicely done.

~ The availability of this book for use with grieving children is perfect. Readers can see how others grieve and remember, and perhaps, with gentle discussion, can apply the ideas to their own lives. Not that this book needs to be read only with grieving children, but all young readers can learn empathy as they hear about Joseph.

~ Birds! I learned new information about different birds. Maybe this book will spark an interest in readers to learn more about birds or encourage them to go outside and go for a bird walk.

I thoroughly enjoyed Remembering Joseph Chickadee. Thank you to Nancy Peck Youngdahl for writing this book for readers. Thank you to Mascot Books for my review copy, which I now get to share with the young readers in my family (we just focused on birds last week, one of our summer weekly themes). Thank you!

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Book Blurb:

When wise and kind Joseph Chickadee passes away, other birds of the forest come together to remember him and celebrate all that he did as a leader and friend. Follow along in this story of love, loss, and grace and Joseph’s family and friends say goodbye.

KID KANDY:

Play Dough Nest

Materials: play dough, sticks, leaves, rocks

1. Go for a bird walk. Watch for birds and peek at their nests in trees and shrubs. If you don’t find any nests, look in picture books or online for pictures of nests.

2. Warm up the play dough by playing with it. Form a nest shape on a plate.

3. Decorate the nest with sticks, leaves, or rocks. Birds often add soft materials to the bottom of the nests to protect the eggs and new hatchlings. Find something soft to place in the bottom of the nests. Let your nest dry.

4. Keep watching for birds!

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Khloe and her play dough bird nest (the rocks are eggs).