Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Book Report: Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley

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Three Things I Know Are True

Written by Betty Culley

HarperTeen, 2020

 

Two best friends. A single shot. A family broken.

These words on the book jacket perfectly set the scene for Three Things I Know Are True.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this debut YA novel by Betty Culley. Thank you, KidLit411  and Betty Culley, for sending me a copy!

***Spoiler Alert

Three Things I Know Are True is the tale of (as mentioned above), friends, a loaded gun, and two families broken. The story, written with brilliant and spare words, packs this emotionally charged tale about dealing the the aftermath of an accidental shooting. Liv, the younger sister of the victim, tells the story through her viewpoint. I absolutely love how she processes and reacts to the situation. Raw, honest, painful, witty, flawed. All of the good things. And I say two families are broken, because Liv’s family and the family who owned the weapon are both torn apart by a tragic event.

Why I Love This Book:

~ Raw, honest, emotional (you will be amazed, cry, admire, and appreciate the reality of living with tragedy)

~ Brilliant writing (the book looks huge, but it’s not; I stayed up well past my bedtime to read it)

~ I CARED about the characters in the book and what happened next

~ The pain and conflict in the book are phenomenal; it’s full of emotional landmines!

~ I love the Three Things I know Are True game

~ Hope and acceptance in difficult circumstances

~ Friendship and romance

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Amazon Blurb:

Fans of Jandy Nelson and Marieke Nijkamp will love this deeply moving novel in verse about the aftermath of a gun accident.

Life changes forever for Liv when her older brother, Jonah, accidentally shoots himself with his best friend Clay’s father’s gun. Now Jonah needs round-the-clock care just to stay alive, and Liv feels like she’s the only person who can see that her brother is still there inside his broken body.

With Liv’s mom suing Clay’s family, there are divisions in the community that Liv knows she’s not supposed to cross. But Clay is her friend, too, and she refuses to turn away from him—just like she refuses to give up on Jonah.

This powerful novel is a stunning exploration of tragedy, grief, compassion, and forgiveness.


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Book Report: JELLY by Jo Cotterill #BookBirthday

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Jelly

Written by Jo Cotterill

Yellow Jacket (an imprint of Little Bee Books); January 7, 2020

 

Happy Book Birthday, Jelly!

I LOVE Jelly! This is a great story about a large girl who figures out how to cope with rude comments about her size. Humor and excellent impressions of others keeps everyone laughing, but deep in her heart, she hides her true feelings. This is also a coming of age story. I loved the writing, the setting, the poetry (!!!), and the music. Not everyone has to fit in the same package or do the same things to belong. Honesty with family and friends is worth the risk. I love the way school, friendship, and home life is all tied up in one exciting bunch. Excellent read!

Thank you, Yellow Jacket, for the Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of Jelly to review.

As an adult who struggled with being the chubby kid at school, Jelly resonated with both my younger and more mature self.

 

Why I LOVE This Book:

~ The personality of Jelly is fantastic. This is someone I would love to meet in real life. Her story rings true.

~ The struggle with being overweight and how Jelly is treated by others is sadly life-like. Bullies are everywhere and Jelly learns how to deal with mean comments by reacting with humor. But beneath it all, she is hurt and is hiding her true self.

~ The courage and honesty of Jelly as she changes how she interacts with others and shares her real feelings is refreshing.

~ I love that Jelly writes in her journal to process life. I love the way she expresses herself through poetry.

~ Fantastic friendship, family, and school dynamics

~ The story!

~ I really enjoyed Jelly. Readers will see themselves in the many characters and hopefully learn to treat others kindly, no matter what size.

Happy Book Birthday, Jelly!

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Amazon Blurb:

Twelve-year-old Jelly hides her true self behind her humor and keeps her true thoughts and feelings locked away in a notebook. Can she find the courage to share who she really is?

Angelica (Jelly for short) is the queen of comedy at school. She has a personality as big as she is, and everyone loves her impressions. But Jelly isn’t as confident as she pretends to be. No one knows her deepest thoughts and feelings. She keeps those hidden away in a secret notebook.

Then her mom’s new boyfriend, Lennon, arrives. He’s kind and perceptive, and he is the first person to realize that Jelly is playing a part. Jelly shares her poetry with him and he convinces her to perform one of her poems as a song at the school talent show. Can Jelly risk letting people see the real her? What if it all goes wrong?

  • Age Range: 10 – 14 years
  • Grade Level: 4 – 9

 


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Book Report: Happy Book Birthday to SKY DRAGON by James Blackburn

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SKY DRAGON

Written by James Blackburn

Illustrated by Stephanie Fliss Dumas

Mascot Books; January 7, 2020

 

Thank you, Mascot Books, for this review copy of SKY DRAGON. I am delighted to read it and share it with you, friends. I love this story written in rhyme, the colorful illustrations, and the message to keep trying to do what you want (or need) to do in spite of the challenges you face.

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Why I Like This Book:

~ Dragons! Drake is adorable. He’s young and must get out and play like any other human or animal youngster.

~ Fun telling of the story through rhyme

~ Age-appropriate actions by Drake. This book is geared towards 5-6 year-old readers, but I imagine younger and perhaps older readers will enjoy reading about Drake.

~ Colorful illustrations

~ Doing things a young dragon would normally do accidentally puts Drake in a challenging situation.

~ Despite being handicapped with a clipped wing, Drake enjoys his dragon life doing dragon things.

~ This book shows how perseverance and hard work will help you get what you need done or get where you need to go. It also builds empathy for others who are not the same as we are.

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Amazon Blurb:

Drake the Dragon, born with a lame wing,

seeks to see what this new day will bring.

Through hapless adventure, where he dare not go,

Drake mistakenly tumbles into the world below.

How will he make it back to his home above?

Well, of course: through courage and bravery, and with lots of love.

 

Happy book birthday, SKY DRAGON!


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Book Report: The Memory Keeper by Jennifer Camiccia

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The Memory Keeper

Written by Jennifer Camiccia

Aladdin, An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division; 2019

 

I received a copy of The Memory Keeper through Natalie Aguirre’s blog Literary Rambles. Thank you, Natalie and Jennifer!

I enjoyed reading The Memory Keeper. The cover is very attractive and captured my attention while also giving me a place of setting. The characters are really fun and engaging. I learned SOOOO much about brains in this book. Do not be turned off by that statement. This is a far cry from medical descriptions of brain information. Jennifer expertly wove brain facts into the story. Each chapter begins with a new bit of information relevant to that chapter, and then off we go!

The story of Lulu, a young girl with HSAM (Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory) and her grandmother, who might be beginning to suffer from dementia OR memory-related stress incidents, is a great read.

Why I Loved This Book:

~ The characters are fantastic.

~ I learned so much about brain science (in a fun, non-textbook sort of way).

~ Mystery, danger, intrigue!

~ I liked the friendship factor.

~ Dysfunctional family. Who doesn’t have one of those?

~ I enjoyed the history and inter-generational relationships.

~ The problem-solving and hidden secrets really upped the story intrigue.

~ Excellent writing and story telling.

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Amazon Blurb:

Fish in a Tree meets The Thing About Jellyfish in this heartfelt middle grade debut about long-buried secrets, the power of memory, and the bond between a girl and her gram.

All Lulu Carter wants is to be seen. But her parents are lost in their own worlds, and Lulu has learned the hard way that having something as rare as HSAM—the ability to remember almost every single moment in her life—won’t make you popular in school.

At least Lulu has Gram, who knows the truth about Lulu’s memory and loves her all the more for it. But Gram has started becoming absentminded, and the more lost she gets, the more she depends on Lulu…until Lulu realizes her memory holds the very key to fixing Gram’s forgetfulness. Once Lulu learns that trauma can cause amnesia, all she needs to do to cure Gram is hunt down that one painful moment in Gram’s life.

With her friends Olivia and Max, Lulu digs into Gram’s mysterious past. But they soon realize some secrets should stay buried, and Lulu wonders if she ever knew Gram at all. It’s up to Lulu to uncover the truth before the only person who truly sees her slips away.

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I hope you enjoy The Memory Keeper. Great read!

 

 

 


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Book Report: Odd Dog Out by Rob Biddulph

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The REAL front cover is a sunshiny yellow, but I cannot make my photo true to color. Please use your imagination to view ODD DOG OUT in brilliant yellow. My apologies!

THIS is closer to the true color. 🙂

Odd Dog Out

Written and illustrated by Rob Biddulph

Harper Collins Children’s Books, 2019

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Oh, doggy lovers, this one is just too cute! Odd Dog Out will bring joy to your young readers and encourage them to be confident as they go through life marching to their own beat.

I received a copy of Odd Dog Out from Abigail at Wunderkind in exchange for a review.

What I love about Odd Dog Out:

~ The adorableness of the illustrations! You need to check out this book. There is only one type of dog-weiner dogs-and they are so cute. The bright colors on each page appeal to me as well. The odd dog out stands out from the crowd and is easy to identify.

~ The simple rhyming text perfectly tells the story and matches the illustrations.

~ The message of being comfortable in your own skin, marching to your own drum, and feeling confident in yourself rings through loud and clear.

~ The variety of doggies at the end, all uniquely expressing themselves, is a great ending (SORRY, spoiler alert!)

~ The appropriateness for young readers (4-8 years old, Preschool-3rd grade).

~ The clever wordplay.

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This is one of my favorite spreads in ODD DOG OUT.

Amazon Blurb:

A heartwarming and poignant story from award-winning creator Rob Biddulph about the power of embracing your true colors. Perfect for fans of Peter Brown’s Tiger Goes Wild.

It’s a dog’s life in the big, busy city, but there’s one lonely pup who doesn’t quite fit in. She behaves differently from the rest, sports rainbow in a sea of gray, and marches to the beat of her own drum.

She’s one Odd Dog.

Join Odd Dog as she journeys to the other side of the world to find her place in it, only for her to discover that maybe she’s meant to be right where she started.

And check out Rob Biddulph’s other books for children, including:

Blown Away

The Grizzly Bear Who Lost His GRRRRR!

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Book Report: Winter Cats by Janet Lawler

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Winter Cats

Written by Janet Lawler

Illustrated by Ela Smietanka

Albert Whitman & Company, 2019

 

I won a copy of Winter Cats by Janet Lawler from Writing and Illustrating, a blog by Kathy Temean, Janet Lawler, and Albert Whitman & Company. Thank you! I adore cats (and have one who believes she is queen of both indoor and outdoor realms).

There are so many new and wonderful books being released. I enjoy reading about them on a variety of blogs. Sometimes the blogs have giveaways. If one takes the time to read and comment about the new books, authors, or illustrators, your name is put into a hat.  On good days, your name is pulled out. And TA-DA, a shiny new book appears in your mailbox! I love shiny new books in my mailbox.

I encourage you to support authors and illustrators by learning about their work and searching for their books at bookstores and libraries, two of my most favorite places to visit.

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Why I love this book:

~ Cats! I love cats. I’ve nearly always had a cat or two in my life. Right now I have a cat who adores her daddy (not me). But that’s a different story.

~ Winter! Winter is a favorite season for me. The snow, the holidays, the expectant hope of new life in spring.

~ The story is told in rhyme. This is a lots of fun to read aloud to young readers.

~ The winter activities are the same ones we enjoy, but in Winter Cats, the cats enjoy them. Too adorable!

~ Indoor versus outdoor cats. I love both. This is a good problem for a main character to have. When our cats were forced to be indoor cats for a short time, there was no joy in our lives. They were monsters! I am glad Willy was able to sneak out and enjoy the outside.

~ I appreciate the nature activities and the characters getting outside. Nature is a very important theme to me.

~ Friendship is a main theme for Winter Cats. Willy makes new friends while he is outside. He invites them home to visit. These friends are responsible and clean up their mess. What great guests!

~ The colorful winter blue illustrations are perfect.

Amazon Blurb:

Willy’s an indoor cat who dreams of becoming an outdoor cat, but his parents tell him that indoor cats and outdoor cats are different. When he sees the outdoor cats having tons of wintery fun, he decides to sneak out and join in! Willy and his new outdoor friends soon learn that labels are meaningless in the face of friendship.

So if you love picture books, winter, cats, or rhyming, be sure to check out Winter Cats.

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Book Report: All Colors by Amalia Hoffman and Book Winner

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First, congratulations are in order to announce the winner of Baby’s First Nativity by Nomar Perez (Little Bee Books).

The winner is: Melissa!

Watch your mailbox, Melissa. I hope you enjoy this adorable Christmas board book. Merry Christmas!

And now, on to the book report.

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All Colors

Written and illustrated by Amalia Hoffman

Schiffer Publishing, 2019

 

I won a copy of All Colors from Kathy Tremean’s blog Writing and Illustrating and Amalia Hoffman. You can read more about Amalia Hoffman here. Thank you to Kathy and Amalia!

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Why I Love This Book:

~ The colors! I’ve seen colors represented in books many times, but usually the colors are introduced on a white background. It’s very interesting to see them on black.

~ The friendship theme (spoiler alert). We need books about being friends with others even if they are different than we are.

~ The board book. This is one durable book. Nice and sturdy for lots of use.

~ Kid-friendly. I read this one to my two youngest grands, and one immediately said, “Again!”

~ The art approach. I know this book can be used to help young readers feel confident in drawing pictures (instead of just coloring them). Each step is easy to replicate, no matter the age.

Amazon Blurb:

This board book introduces children to colors, textures, and parts of the body while conveying a message about friendship, celebrating diversity, and inclusion. As the reader turns the pages, colors are added one by one, creating the image of a boy. Different strokes and textures make up each body part, and at the end the boy joins his friends, all made of different combinations. All Colors shows that all people are made up of the same pieces, yet are all unique and full of color!

 

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day!

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Need a fun board book that teaches colors AND how to draw a simple person? Check out ALL COLORS by Amalia Hoffman. #boardbooks #picturebooks #kidlit

Click to tweet! Thank you!

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Book Report & Giveaway: Baby’s First Nativity by Nomar Perez

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Baby’s First Nativity

Illustrated by Nomar Perez

Little Bee Books, 2019

 

Oh, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas! You are going to love this adorable board book as much as your smallest reader does.

Just in time for the Christmas season, Little Bee Books has released Baby’s First Nativity. This sturdy board book is filled with wonderfully illustrated pictures of all the main characters of the Christmas story. Ending with a simple “Merry Christmas,” Baby’s First Nativity will become a favorite.

Why I Like This Book:

~ The illustrations are detailed, simple, and colorful-perfect for the youngest of readers

~ The simplicity of the one or two-word pages

~ The introduction of the main Christmas story characters

~ The Merry Christmas greeting

~ This Christmas story of Baby Jesus is one of my favorites

~ The board book is very sturdy

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Amazon Blurb:

In this bright and attractive book, children will learn the main figures in the nativity story. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the manger, angels, the wise men, and more are beautifully introduced. Perfect for the holidays, but precious no matter the season, this sturdy board book is a great addition to a child’s library.

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GIVEAWAY!!!

Thanks to Little Bee Books for sending a giveaway copy of Baby’s First Nativity.

To enter the giveaway, comment on this blog and tell me the name of your favorite Christmas picture book.

A winner will be chosen on Friday, December 6. This giveaway is open to residents of the United States.

***Come back tomorrow for an interview with NOMAR PEREZ!!!


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Book Report: Everything is Always Gonna be Alright, Durban Frankenshooze by Jamie McHone

Everything is Always Gonna be Alright, Durban Frankenshooze

Written by Jamie McHone

Illustrated by Walter Policelli

Mascot Books, November 5, 2019

 

Happy Book Birthday! Today is a special day for both Jamie and Walter as Everything is Always Gonna be Alright, Durban Frankenshooze is released to the world. Book birthdays are super important to book authors and illustrators. Cue the music, balloons, and confetti!

Chris Baker at Mascot Books sent me a review copy of Everything is Always Gonna be Alright, Durban Frankenshooze. I am happy to spread the word about this new release.

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Book Blurb:

Durban is a bird with giant sneakers and wings so small he can’t fly. He’s tired of being made fun of by all the other flying birds, so he sets off on a journey to find out who he really is. Along the way, he meets Maudry, a smart and sassy female bird, and Wainwright, a grumpy worm with a short temper. Together, the unusual trio goes through thick and thin to discover what it really means to be yourself.

This zany tale of Durban Frankenshooze and his friends will help children begin dialogues about diversity, acceptance, and appreciation of differences, all while building vital language skills.

Southwest Virginia native Jamie McHone is delighted to share her very first children’s book with young readers everywhere! Although McHone enjoys animals, she does not have birds in her home in Blacksburg, Virginia. Instead, she has Rottweilers!

To set up an interview, reading, signing, or for information regarding Everything is Always Gonna be Alright, Durban Frankenshooze, please contact Chris Baker at chris@mascotbooks.com.

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What I liked about this book:

~ The names are super creative and fit each character and the problems faced by the characters. Clever and fun!

~ The issue of feeling unlovable due to personal characteristics-be it tiny wings, huge feet, needing glasses, or having thick eyebrows-is universal to humans of any age. Young readers will discover how Durban, Maudry, and Wainwright form a unique friendship and head out to explore the world and solve their “challenges.” (Really, they have fun together and learn to enjoy life in spite of their perceived physical shortcomings.)

~The vocabulary is wide and varied. Readers will be exposed to different words, idioms, and sayings. Stopping to discuss new ideas and vocabulary will enrich the story and reading time.

~While the story is told in a longer format and might not work for a read-it-all-in-one-session, it would be easy to break the story into sections for multiple readings. Older readers will enjoy reading this as a chapter book.

~I love the friends aspect of this book. Despite their differences, all 3 main characters find commonalities and learn to enjoy time spent together. They also make new friends as they travel on their adventures.

 

For a fun read, check out Everything is Always Gonna be Alright, Durban Frankenshooze.

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Book Report: Making Their Voices Heard, The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe by Vivian Kirkfield

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Making Their Voices Heard, The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

Written by Vivian Kirkfield

Illustrated by Alleanna Harris

Little Bee Books, January 14, 2020

 

Are you a music lover? Or someone who enjoys special friendships? You will love reading Making Their Voices Heard, The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe.

Who knew? I had no idea these two historical figures knew each other at all, let alone were good friends and helped each other along in their career paths. I love what fascinating stories we can learn by reading great picture books. This unlikely friendship proved that friendship can be found in unexpected places and true friends stick up for and help each other along.

P.S. Come back tomorrow to meet and greet Vivian Kirkfield! Vivian will be my first guest author. I can’t wait to hear what she has to tell us. Vivian is a wonderful author. She is also a supporter and encourager to many authors and writers. See you soon!

What I LOVED about this book:

* The characters! I didn’t know much about either woman before reading this picture book, other than general Hollywood-type fast facts. I was fascinated to learn how closely connected they were in real life.

* The language of this picture book is wonderful. Easy to read yet full of meat. Young readers (and older ones like me) will be enchanted as they inhale the story and the illustrations.

* The illustrations are captivating. The images match the feel of the story and the time period of this friendship.

* Learning new information. I loved to read how the women worked together to fight against beliefs of the time. This theme is very much current to what women are still fighting for today.

* The backmatter (all that glorious information at the end of the book) is enlightening. I loved adding to my knowledge about the two friends by reading the extra information.

I hope you will order a copy of this book. January 14, 2020, is the book birthday for Making Their Voices Heard, The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. You can order this book in advance.

 

Amazon Blurb:

Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. On the outside, you couldn’t find two girls who looked more different. But on the inside, they were alike–full of hopes and dreams and plans of what might be.

Ella Fitzgerald’s velvety tones and shube-doobie-doos captivated audiences. Jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington couldn’t wait to share the stage with her, but still, Ella could not book a performance at one of the biggest clubs in town–one she knew would give her career its biggest break yet.

Marilyn Monroe dazzled on the silver screen with her baby blue eyes and breathy boo-boo-be-doos. But when she asked for better scripts, a choice in who she worked with, and a higher salary, studio bosses refused.

Two women whose voices weren’t being heard. Two women chasing after their dreams and each helping the other to achieve them. This is the inspiring, true story of two incredibly talented women who came together to help each other shine like the stars that they are.