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: 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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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: How to Walk an Ant by Cindy Derby

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How to Walk an Ant

Written and illustrated by Cindy Derby

Roaring Brook Press, 2019

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Cindy Derby, Roaring Brook Press, and KidLit411 gifted me with a copy of How to Walk an Ant. Thank you for such a delightful book!

Opening lines:

“My name is Amariyah, and I am an Expert Walker.

No, I don’t mean I walk perfect,

I mean I walk things.”

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Amazon Blurb:

There are nine steps to becoming an ant walker, and Amariyah, the expert ant walker, is here to show you how it’s done.

This irreverent and quirky picture book, How to Walk an Ant, follows a young girl as she goes through the process of walking ants, from polite introductions to tragic leash entanglements.

In the end, this unique book from author-illustrator Cindy Derby shows that as long as you’re doing what you’re best at, you may find a like-minded friend to tag along.

*Zero ants were harmed in the making of this book.
**Oops, 7 ants were harmed in the making of this book.

 

Why I Like This Book:

Quirky and irreverent is correct! I loved reading about Amariyah and her efforts to educate me in the best ways to walk ants (always carry plenty of thread, …). The illustrations perfectly match the story and I had to laugh loud and giggle to myself several times as I read. Seriously, which picture book do you know where FUNERAL plans are a part of the appendix?

The writing is clear and entertaining. Amariyah has a unique voice and I love her personality and adventures. A limited palette for the illustrations allows images to pop into life. Add diagrams and insets, and anyone who reads How to Walk an Ant will quickly reach expert level. This book is a fun read.

Spring is here, the best time to practice walking newly emerged ants. Read How to Walk an Ant and then head outside to practice walking ants.

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KID KANDY:

Ants on a Log

Ingredients: celery, peanut butter (or other nut butter if you can’t eat peanuts), raisins

4 Steps to Eating Ants

1. With an adult, wash and cut celery sticks into 3-4 inch pieces

2. Spread peanut butter in the celery (log) trough.

3. Plop ants (raisins) on the peanut butter.

4. Eat ants on a log. Now you are an expert eater of ants.

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Nature’s Lullaby Fills the Night by Dee Leone – Picture Book & KID KANDY

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Nature’s Lullaby Fills the Night

By Dee Leone

Illustrated by Bali Engel

(Sterling Children’s Books, 2018)

 

I won a copy of Nature’s Lullaby Fills the Night from KIDLIT411. Thanks, Sylvia and Elaine!

Nature’s Lullaby Fills the Night is the perfect bedtime – or anytime – read aloud! Peaceful rhyme tells the story of nature getting ready to go to sleep. Animals, plants, and other beauties prepare and nestle in for a good nights’ sleep. The illustrations, set in gorgeous deep blues and purples highlighted by nighttime light, perfectly match the winding down of the day.

I’ve totally enjoyed reading Nature’s Lullaby Fills the Night. Now, on to share it with the littles in my life. Thanks for the beautiful book, Dee and Bali!

KID KANDY:

Nighttime Painting

Materials: watercolor paints, brushes, water, crayons, heavy paper

1. Read Nature’s Lullaby Fills the Night. Notice the colors used in the illustrations. What’s your favorite page (animal, plant, setting)?

2. Use crayons to draw a nature picture. Include the moon and stars.

3. Paint over the drawing with darker colors like purple, blue, and black.

Ta-da! You have your own nighttime illustration!


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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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Bunny’s Book Club

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Look what came in the mail!

Bunny’s Book Club

Written by Annie Silvestro

Illustrated by Tatiana Mai-Wyss

(Doubleday, 2017)

Bunny’s Book Club is an adorable book about a bunny who loves books. Bunny LOVES books enough to find a way to get them from the library, though in a nontraditional way. Since I LOVE books, I sometimes feel like Bunny and stockpile books for later reading. A bag or nightstand without a book is dire indeed!

Not that I would go the same extremes Bunny did to get books. But I would love to enjoy a book club with my friends, hot tea, and mountains of books.

Thank you, KIDLIT 411 and Annie Silvestro! This is a beautiful book and I know it will be personally treasured and my grands will adore it. They might even try to borrow it for their own book hoards.

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