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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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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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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You Nest Here With Me ~ Picture Book & KID KANDY

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by Angie Quantrell @AngieQuantrell

 

You Nest Here With Me

Written by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple

Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

(Boyds Mills Press, An Imprint of Highlights; 2015)

 

I recently was given a copy of You Nest Here With Me. Thanks, Heidi Stemple!

That free gift, however, did not influence the fact that I had already fallen in love with the lyrical story and gorgeous illustrations of this picture book, having borrowed it from the library.

I see You Nest Here With Me as a good night story told by a mother to her daughter. The mother shares the nesting habits of many fascinating and captivating birds. Eggs, nests, habitats, birds, nestlings (is that a real word?) – and a human mama and her little girl. This is a perfect, calming, getting-ready-for-bed book.

While this picture book does not read like a science text, readers will still learn amazing bird facts. Readers can learn even more when they take the time to peruse the final pages where the authors share interesting information about each type of bird.

Readers will love You Nest Here With Me. I love You Nest Here With Me. Birds of a feather flock together. Tweet tweet!

KID KANDY

Look for Nests & Build a Nest

  1. Go on a nest hunting walk with your family. Spy high and peek low to find nests. Trees, shrubs, empty containers, bird houses, grasses…birds are very creative when they build a nest. How many nests can you find?
  2. Pull out some blankets and wrap them around yourself to build a nest. Grab some books, curl up in your snug nest, and read away!

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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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Visual Learner? That’s Me

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It has recently come to my attention that I have strong tendencies towards being a visual learner. I think visually and that impacts the things I do and how I do them.

Take for instance, my desire to learn French. This is what initially made me consider my bent towards visual learning. I love the French language. I adore seeing text – signs, words, symbols, and books in French. But hearing is a part of language learning, and I realized I can’t really hear what is being said and understand the different words. I kept thinking to myself If only I could SEE the words, I’d be able to comprehend what was being said.

Visual learner, yes I am.

Another example that points towards my tendency to acquire knowledge through visual means or to impart something visually is the way I plan for teaching. In my classroom, my displays – bulletin boards, posters, learning centers, student work, general decor – are of the utmost importance. I can’t rest until the room is visually arranged and attractive.

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Some other habits I’ve noticed:

~ In the teaching plans I write, I nearly always include suggestions for visual impact – displays, table decor, posters, signs, and room arrangement. Rarely do I include hearing-only activities. Good thing to notice right? Now I can make sure to suggest activities that lean towards the hearing and doing types of learning.

~ Photographs. I love taking photos of everything thing I do and every place I go. These photos become a visual diary of my pursuits.

~ Instagram. I love this app! Pictures and text inform and delight my visual brain.

~Pinterest. Same reason. Pictures and visual clues. I don’t often read the original post or seek out the origins of the image. I glean by reading the pictures, and my imagination goes from there.

~ Reading. I LOVE reading, and reading requires visual skills. I’d be happy if I could live in front of a fireplace sipping hot cocoa and reading a great book while snow piled up against the eaves.

The visual learning list goes on.

Do you think you are a visual learner? Check out this post I found that lists 10 Characteristics of Visual Learners here. I’d say I nailed it!

Of the learning styles, which are you? Visual, auditory, kinesthetic? I’d love to hear. I mean, see your name and comment in print. Wink, wink.

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Hoping for spring flowers. But first, the snow must melt.


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Storystorm Day 13: “The Mock Caldecott Awards” by Colby Sharp

by Colby Sharp One of my favorite things to do with my students is a Mock Caldecott unit. Each year, my friend Mr. Schu and I select 20 books for the study. Mr. Schu posts the list on his blog with…

Source: Storystorm Day 13: “The Mock Caldecott Awards” by Colby Sharp

Teachers! This is a great idea to do with students. Librarians, you could probably adjust and do the same activity. Readers – who wouldn’t want to be in on the decision making for the Mock Caldecott Awards? Pick me, pick me!