Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

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Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

By Dusti Bowling

(Sterling Children’s Books, 2017)

 

I won a copy of Dusti Bowling’s chapter book Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus from Literary Rambles.

What first attracted me to this book was the title. I could just imagine what type of events a cactus would stoically attend, though I knew the book was not about those fascinating plants.

What attracted me next were the characters and the setting. Having grown up in Arizona, I looked forward to reading a book set in the starkly dry and hot desert. The book has a captivating cast of diverse characters. I loved reading of friends Aven (born without arms) and Conner (spits at people when he eats) and how they manage their disabilities. The strength and courage of Aven compelled me to cheer for her and will inspire others who struggle with any type of disability. Family issues, a mystery discovered in an old out building, and facing ones’ own fears come together in a nicely written page-turner.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus is a great read for any young (or old) person. Compassion, understanding, and acceptance of diversity will develop as readers live alongside Aven and Conner. I found that Bowlings’ book gave me the viewpoint of someone living with challenges and how they faced daily life and difficult situations. Readers will see that they can do anything if they put their mind to it!

Well done and great read!

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The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

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The Girl with the Red Balloon

Written by Katherine Locke

(Albert Whitman & Company, 2017)

 

Last fall, I won a copy of The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke from Natalie Aguirre’s Literary Rambles.

I immediately read The Girl with the Red Balloon. Who can not read a book with a tag that says The wall keeps us in. Magic gets us out.?

The tale is told of Ellie, a girl who visits the Berlin Wall Memorial during a school field trip. Ellie has family ties to World War II and Germany, as her grandfather miraculously escaped from a death camp. As Ellie considers the impact of that horrible time period, she notices a red balloon. Innocently, she grabs the string and is immediately deposited in East Berlin in 1988, where she is found by Kai, a member of an underground society. Ellie, Kai, and several others must work to figure out how and why Ellie was transported back in time when the purpose of the red balloons was to take death camp members over the wall and away from a certain terrible fate.

Much history is shared in the telling of this story. I loved the mixture of magical realism, history, teen relationships, family heritage, and mystery. Danger, high stakes, death, and good versus evil all blend together in this great story. Ellie is stuck in the past and must find a way to return to her own time. But this is complicated by magical developments and a budding romance.

Locke tells the story from different viewpoints, but the switch off is easy to follow as every chapter is clearly labeled with the point of view character. I had to focus a bit to understand the historical connections, but the book is well written and engaging.

The Girl with the Red Balloon is a great read for anyone who enjoys history hooked together with a bit of magic.

P.S. Look what comes out this fall!

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Reading for Pleasure

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How many of you read for pleasure? (“Me, me!” she shouts while waving her hand crazily in the air.)

A paper book? An e-reader story? A tale that lets you escape to a new land, new people, new problems? (Yes, please!)

Oh, the books we can read! Too many books, not enough time, right?

Consider this poem I wrote for a course:

This pleasure,

While reading,

Gives me a poetic mind.

Gobbled, devoured,

Digested words and tale.

Spit out to be

Read again.

Again.

And again.

Dissected, applied to life,

Reassembled with

New understanding.

Reading for pleasure;

A necessity as is

Air, water, food.

I pick up again

The feast of words

To consume the story

Each book tells.

 

Tell me, tell me please!

What book are you reading right now? What’s your favorite book? What chores have you neglected to read just. one. more. page? (…dishes, laundry, vacuuming, dusting)

I’d love to hear the tale of the words that let you escape.


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Grandmother Thorn – Picture Book & KID KANDY

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GRANDMOTHER THORN

By Katey Howes

Art by Rebecca Hahn

(Ripple Grove Press, 2017)

 

Grandmother Thorn gives new meaning to the words OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). She maintains her gardens with an iron will, daring anything to be out of place, grow where it’s not supposed to, or become mussed by irresponsible footprints.

Only one friend, Ojiisan, the man with a dragging foot and droopy shoulder, was allowed to make tracks in her perfectly groomed gravel paths. For they were best friends and enjoyed hot tea, conversation, and tasty sweets.

All was well until one day Ojiisan tasted gorgeous red berries and urged the salesperson to take some to Grandmother Thorn (but DO NOT walk on the path).

As you can imagine, he did not listen and disaster befell the merchant, the garden, and the welfare of Grandmother Thorn.

Or did it?

This beautiful picture book shares the story of letting go and allowing some things to be. And not all weeds are what they appear.

I love this book, both for the story and the tapestry-like illustrations.

KID KANDY:

Berry Hunt

1. Read GRANDMOTHER THORN. Memorize all the details you can of the weed and its fruit.

2. Does anyone in your family go grocery shopping or visit a farmer’s market? It’s time to go with that person. Go shopping.

3. Search the produce section. Can you find the fruit found in GRANDMOTHER THORN? Maybe your adult shopper will buy some!

4. Perhaps you live in an area where this type of fruit grows. Look around your neighborhood and see if you find the vines. If you time it right, you might even be able to pick some of those tasty fruits!


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With You Always, Orphan Train Book 1 by Jody Hedlund

By Angie Quantrell

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WITH YOU ALWAYS, ORPHAN TRAIN BOOK 1

By Jody Hedlund

Bethany House, 2017

 

I was gifted a copy of WITH YOU ALWAYS, ORPHAN TRAIN BOOK 1 from Jody Hedlund.

Set in New York City, 1857, Elise found herself an orphan with younger siblings. Befriended and helped out by Miss Pendleton, Elise and her remaining family took a room in a renovation-in-progress future home (instead of living on the streets). As circumstances changed and the need arose, Elise took a seat on an orphan train and headed out to work far from the city.

Danger, disaster, determination, foreboding, friendship, and romance fill the pages of WITH YOU ALWAYS. Before reading this book, I had not heard of orphan trains, but was fascinated to learn how they were used to gather orphans from the city and send them out into surrounding areas to work and become a part of new families. Some orphans had good experiences, but not all.

I loved the writing and setting. Hedlund did a fantastic job of building up characters and tensions between those characters. The events felt very realistic, both in the feeling of New York during that time period and the new situation and location Elise lived and worked. Hard work and a growing spark between Elise and Thornton fill the pages of this book.

WITH YOU ALWAYS is a very good read. Well done, Jody Hedlund. Thank you!

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TRAINS DON’T SLEEP ~ Picture Book & KID KANDY

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TRAINS DON’T SLEEP

By Andria Rosenbaum

Illustrated by Deirdre Gill

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017

 

I won a beautiful autographed copy of TRAINS DON’T SLEEP from KIDLIT411.com. After our family success last November with my birthday trip to The Polar Express train ride (it was my birthday, after all – I love books and Christmas!), I knew this train book was sure to please my train-loving grands! I was right.

TRAINS DON’T SLEEP tells the tale of many different working trains. Trains don’t rest, but chug and pull to carry people, goods, and animals. The story begins while families sleep and trains wake the day with their bustling work. As the day goes on, the trains continue their work in all sorts of environments like big cities, plains, mountains, and forests. Tucked into bed, families go back to sleep while the trains keep racing towards the next brand new day. This picture book makes a great bedtime read-together.

What I loved about this rhyming story is the train vocabulary! Readers will enjoy the rhythm of the words and hear language specific to trains. Fluid gorgeous illustrations perfectly compliment the tale of trains. A picture glossary identifies different trains and train-related fixtures.

If you know a train lover, share TRAINS DON’T SLEEP and see how quickly it becomes a favorite.

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KID KANDY

Here are some fun train activities you can do with your family.

*Visit a train museum.

*Play with train toys and cover the floor with tracks and make-believe adventures.

*Stand in a line. Show each person how to hold a hand on the shoulder of the person in front of him or her. Use the other arm, hand, and feet to shuffle and move like a train. Make sure to chug-chug-choo-choo!

*Dig out the markers, crayons, and paper. Draw train tracks, engines, and rail cars. Add your favorite scenery.

*Flatten play dough and use toy trains to make train tracks across the dough.

*Take a ride on a train!

 


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How to Use Goodreads

Source: How to Use Goodreads

I love Goodreads, but I have only the barest understanding of how it works. And, according to this post, I know just a sprinkling of things that one can do while visiting Goodreads! Now there is no excuse.

Thank you, Marcia Strykowski, from Writers’ Rumpus! http://Www.writersrumpuus.com


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Library Culture

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I spend time at the library. MUCH time.

Because I love books. The smell, the feel, the sight, and the anticipation of opening the pages and jumping into an adventure pull me in. Every. Single. Time.

So I live, I mean visit my library. Actually, I patronize nearly all of my libraries, the ones in the Yakima Valley. Plus I have connections with other libraries not in my area, which is perfect when I need resources or just want to snoop and see what is out there.

Really you can’t lose when you visit the library. Free books! Free help, internet, bathrooms, AC (or heating), gathering place, information, friends…The library is community.

In my much library time, I’ve noticed several different groups frequenting the hallowed halls of bookdom.

Story Time. If I pull up and the lot is full, I know it’s story time. Stories, songs, games, crafts, and fun times for the kiddos be going on. During the summer, libraries gain a larger audience in the form of kids and adults on break. Reading incentive programs keep readers involved and active with the printed word.

Computer Users. In the olden days, there were no computers. Period. But patrons can now log on to banks of computers to research, read, and check email. Library users can even log in with personal computers and use the internet free of charge (at least at our libraries). Electronic resources are available for check out and the card catalog can be searched from the comfort of home. While the term card catalog is out of date, library resources are still present and much easier to access. One of my favorite library features is the ability to reserve books from home and pick them up when they arrive at the nearest library.

Homeschoolers. The homeschool population is growing. I see homeschool families return to the library on a regular basis. Wonderful resources and reading materials are ready for the picking, so why not?

Book Clubs. What better place is there to have a book club than the library? Our library sometimes hosts a community read with a local author. Most times, the author does a guest visit where readers can meet and greet. Special programs are provided for different age groups, complete with authors, books, and activities.

Study Groups. High school and college students are often working collaboratively around large tables at the library. The library design has planned for this activity by including both small and large tables and seating areas which are perfect for meeting and working.

Retirees. These folks have it going on! Unlimited books to read, books on CD to listen to, computers to use, help on hand if necessary, and interactions with others make the library the place to be.

The Homeless. The library is free and climate-controlled, provides restrooms and drinking fountains, and offers multiple forms of entertainment and resources. While I’ve noticed several incidents of improper behavior, most of the homeless patrons seem to enjoy library benefits without causing any trouble.

Teachers. Yes, teachers, the library is an invaluable resource! During my teaching years, I made weekly trips to check out and return books. Lots of books. I became quite good at gleaning themed picture books (both fiction and nonfiction) for my students. In fact, there was one librarian who watched my shelf and request list so she could make her own book list.

Writers. I fit into several of the above groups, but the writing group is the closest fit. I regularly research different topics and locations around the world. I research picture books and check out stacks of them for my studies. I even haul my computer to the library and set up camp on one of the bigger tables when I need to work on deadlines. Love my library!

Readers. Of course. Why else? Book addicts. Adventurers. Researchers. Learners.

As the plant in the above photo illustrates layers of leaves, stacked and connected by a network of roots, libraries also connect information to people, layers of knowledge spread through the network of libraries – full of words.

I have found the most valuable thing in my wallet is my library card. ~ Laura Bush

 


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Bunny’s Book Club – Picture Book

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Bunny’s Book Club

Written by Annie Silvestro

Illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss

Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2017

 

Early this spring I won a copy of Bunny’s Book Club and have fallen in love!

As an advocate for children’s literacy, I love any book that entices young readers to jump into the world of literature. Bunny’s Book Club hits the sweet spot.

Who doesn’t want to be a part of a secret club? A library club? Anyone who LOVES books, that’s who!

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Bunny loves books and allows his imagination to run full reign as he listens to books being read aloud during outside story time. When summer ends Bunny is left with no other option. He has to figure out a way to get to all of those books.

Bunny finds a unique entrance to the library, where he ‘checks out’ books and reads to his heart’s content.

One by one, Bunny’s friends come looking to find out where he has been. And slowly, Bunny’s book club is formed.

Readers will love the enchanting illustrations and engaging story found in Bunny’s Book Club. This is the perfect picture book for librarians, teachers, and parents to read to young readers. Older readers will want full control of the pages.

And who knows? Maybe somebunny will begin their own book club!

Thanks, Annie and Tatjana, for such a lovely book. Hugging my book!

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What great summer reads have you discovered?

P.S. I just discovered that I’ve already blogged about this lovely picture book. I just can’t help myself!