Friday, December 31, 2010

#46 - Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm

2000 Honor Book
"It isn't easy being a pioneer in the state of Washington in 1899, but it's particularly hard when you are the only girl ever born in the new settlement. With seven older brothers and a love of adventure, May Amelia Jackson just can't seem to abide her family's insistencethat she behave like a Proper Young Lady. Not when there's fishing to be done, sheep to be herded, and real live murderers to be captured! May is sure she could manage better if only there were at least one other girl living along the banks of the Nasel River. And now that Mama's going to have a baby, maybe there's hope..."
I LOVED this book. The heroine, May Amelia, is a spunky little thing with a knack for getting into trouble. The story was full of excitement as she gets herself into and out of one scrape after another. At parts, the story was heartbreaking...I won't give it away, but I cried. I wasn't just reading this book, but was IN it, and part of it. I highly recommend it!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

#45 - A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

1963 Medal Winner

"It was a dark and stormy night." This is truly how this book starts. Am I the only one who remembers that Snoopy always started his novels like that in the comic strip? hee hee. ANYHOW, I started reading this one because Emily's class was doing a family novel study, and she and I read it together and every week answered questions about each chapter. Now, THAT is my kind of homework, lol! I was excited this one was chosen, because I was actually fortunate enough to not only MEET author Madeleine L'Engle in person, but took part in an award ceremony in her honor! This was back when I was a Teen Team volunteer for Tulsa Public Libraries. I still have the book that she autographed for me (it's actually the sequel to this book...)

Ok, on to what it is actually is about a girl named Meg - a very smart, but socially awkward girl, her scientist parents - including a father who mysteriously disappeared some time ago, twin brothers, and young Charles Wallace - an extremely bright young boy who has a special relationship with Meg. Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace meet 3 very unusual ladies - Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit who show them how to "tesser" (basically, this is a wrinkle in time). The ladies bring them to their father, who had discovered the tesseract, and was in the grip of the evil IT. Charles Wallace quickly falls victim to this evil being, and it is up to Meg to figure out how to save her father and brother.

This book is FULL of allegory. It symbolizes the fight between good and evil, angels and demons, God and Satan. L'Engle does not dance around religion in this book either, which makes me respect her even more. (When I met her, we actually discussed Christianity. She is Episcopalian, and I was also at the time...) When Meg's father admitted that he was unable to rescue Charles Wallace, he tells Meg, "We were sent here for something. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." There are many other direct references to the Bible. I believe the underlying message of this book is that if we put all of our faith in God and always remember His love for us, Satan will have no hold on our lives.

I read this book a looooooong time ago, and to be honest, I'm not sure I finished it then. It would be very difficult for children to pick up on all the symbolism. The story without the symbolism - eh, let's just say I am not a fan of science fiction. But, I am a sucker for symbolism in literature. I cannot wait to discuss the ending of this book with Emily and talk about the message behind it!

Overall, two thumbs up from me!

Monday, December 27, 2010

#44 - The Loner by Ester Wier

1964 Honor book
"He has no home, no name, nothing. Once, he remembers, there was a mother who was nice to him, but that was too long ago. He has to rely on himself now, and himself only. Wandering westward, picking fruit on various farms to make money, that's the way things are. If you don't keep up with the rest of the pickers, you'll be left behind.
Then he realizes that there are people who care, who want to care for him. They befriend him, give him a name, an indentity - everything he's ever longed for. Life is good. But is it too good to last?"
I'll admit I was reluctant to pick up this book. Just felt "blah" about it. But it ended up being a really good book. It's not only about sheepherding, but about a woman who had lost her son taking in a boy who had noone in the world. Initially, they were leery of each other, for different reasons, but each proved to the other that they were meant to be together.
My favorite part of the book was when Boss (the lady herding sheep) decided that the boy must have a name. So, she gave him the Bible, and told him to turn to a page and point to a paragrah, and she would see what to make of it. Well, the boy's finger found I Samuel 16 and the lines "Send me David thy son, which is with the sheep." So, it was decided that he would be called David. Boss realized that God must be placing David in her care to help tend the flock of sheep.
Several mishaps occur because of David's inexperience with the sheep, but I don't want to give away the exciting parts! It was a little slow moving at first, but it was a very good read!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball - Donita K. Paul

My first Blogging for Books review

I recently signed up to "blog for books" with WaterBrook Multnomah and this was the first book I chose to review.
This story is about Cora Crowder, a single woman from a not-so-happy family, and Simon Derrick, her serious natured boss who comes from a very close-knit Christian family. One evening near Christmas, they both end up in the same bookstore - a very unusual and magical bookstore. This chance meeting spurs a romantic chain of events. After bringing home their purchases they discover they each hold a ticket to the "Wizard's Christmas Ball" - an event that only a select few have even heard of. Several events occurring after the bookstore meeting seem to keep throwing Simon and Cora together, and opening up their stubborn hearts to the possibility of romance.What we discover is that the Wizard's Christmas Ball is actually a sort of matchmaking event to bring together couples that God have designed for each other. I don't want to give away any more of the plot...
This is a charming story that is full of surprises. I will be honest and say that I found some of the writing a little "corny." BUT, the story line was very different, especially for Christian fiction, and it was...refreshing. I liked that the story included magic and whimsy, but had none of the "dark side" of magic. I think that the author used the magic theme to illustrate the kind of "magic" we can experience once we invite Jesus into our lives and trust Him to direct our paths.
This was a great book to read during the holiday season, but can be enjoyed at any time of the year. The characters were very likeable and engaging. It was a light, quick, and very enjoyable read. I highly recommend it! I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

#43 - Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer

2001 Honor Book
"One new life....coming right up! When Hope and her aunt move from New York City to small-town Wisconsin to run the local diner, Hope's not sure what to expect. Luckily, she's used to thinking on her feet - she hasn't become a terrific waitress by accident. And when G.T., the diner's owner, decides to run for office against the corrupt mayor, Hope's drawn into G.T.'s vision of the future. Because, after all, everyone could use a little hope to get through the tough times...even Hope herself."
I loved this book!! It was just very heartwarming. I loved how it showed that teens are capable of so many things, like in the case of this story, completely changing a small town by exposing a mayor's corruptness and getting a man elected for mayor who can do many great things for the town. Also, this book had a lot of spirituality in it, which is a lways a plus to me.
I think I am going to try to start including favorite excerpts from this book. The following excerpt is a quote from the town preacher as he tries to convince the election board administrator to give G.T. a little more time to gain the signatures he needs to get on the ballot for the election. The administrator at first told them no. But Pastor Hall says to her "Even if we imperfect beings mess up again and again and do things that we'll regret for years to come. The Lord is there, understanding our weakness, reaching out his kind, forgiving hand and saying, 'Let me help you change your ways. Let me give you my love for people. Let me fill you with my...' he leaned forward, 'mercy'....And isn't it a fine thing to know that right now God Almighty is looking down at us wanting to lead us in the way that is best? Doesn't that make you want to shout hallelujah?"
After that, how could she say no?! lol
Great book!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

This is not a Newbery book, and it is definitely not a kids book. Just have to add that disclaimer, because it has a lot of bad language in it.
"Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.
This improbable story of Christopher's quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years."
When I first added this title to my "want to read" list, I was under the impression that this was a novel written by an autistic man, so I was intrigued. I really love reading books that deal with psychological issues, whether fiction or non, and when I googled "fiction and autism", this title popped up over and over again. But, I was misled by the websites...or else I wasn't paying close enought attention, lol. I became suspicious about 40 pages into the book (I could just tell that it was written by someone "trying" to write from an austic person's viewpoint, but not truly autistic). I did further research (had I paid attention to the cover of the book or read the author's bio, I would've known...) and realized it was a complete work of fiction. was definitely interesting - very unusual writing style, and I would imagine it would give one some insight into how an autistic mind thinks.
While researching, I found that a movie version of this book is in the works. That should be very interesting!

Monday, December 6, 2010

#42 - The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman

1987 Medal winner
"Prince Horace is so naughty that everyone calls him Prince Brat. But the prince is not allowed to be spanked. So an orphan boy named Jemmy is taken from the streets to be the prince's whipping boy.
When Prince Brat decides to run away, he takes Jemmy with him. The boys begin a wild adventure that lands them in the clutches of two thieving cutthroats! Can Jemmy use his street smarts to outwit his kidnappers and free himself and the prince?"
This was another one of those that I wasn't particularly looking forward to - again, not a big fan of the midieval era stories. But, it was a good story about an unlikely friendship.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

#41 - The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

2008 Honor book
"Holling Hoodhood is really in for it. He's just started seventh grade with Mrs. Baker, a teacher he knows is out to get him. Why else would she make him read Shakespeare...outside class?
The year is 1967, and everyone has bigger things to worry about, especially Vietnam. Then there's the family business. As far as Holling's father is concerned, the Hoodhoods need to be on their best behavior: the success of Hoodhood and Associates depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? Rats, for one thing; cream puffs for another. Then there's Doug Swieteck's brother. And Ariel's costume: tights. That's just for starters. In a series of mishaps and adventures over the course of the school year, fate sneaks up on Holling again and again. "
This was a really cute story about a boy who's sure his teacher absolutely hates him, but it turns out that she sees something in him that no one else seems to, and takes the time to nurture that, even if it does seem she's making life more miserable for him. This is a story that many kids can relate to

Friday, November 19, 2010

#40 - Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan

2003 Honor Book

Another milestone - the big 4-0!! I'm slowly, but surely making my way through this very long list!!

"Jake Semple is a scary kid. Word has it that he burned down his old school in his home state. Only weeks into September, the middle school in Traybridge, North Carolina, has thrown him out too.

Now there's only one place left that will take him - a home school run by the most outrageous, forgetful, chaotic, quarrelsome family you'll ever meet. Each and every Applewhite is an artist through and through - except E.D., the smart, scruffy girl with a deep longing for order and predictability. E.D. and Jake, so nearly the same age, are quickly paired in the family's first experiment in "cooperative education."

The two clash immediately, of course. The only thing they have in common is the determination to survive the families' eccentricities. In Stephanie S. Tolan's hilarious tale, a local production of
The Sound of Music - directed, stagecrafted, choreographed, and costumed by Applewhites - brings the family together and shows E.D. and Jake the value of the special gifts they've had all along."

This was a fun book with a nice story of a "bad kid" turned good when put in just the right environment. I love how Jake found his niche in this story.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

#39 - Lily's Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff

1998 Honor book
"As in past years, Lily will spend the summer in Rockaway, in her family's summer house by the Atlantic Ocean. But this summer of 1944, World War II has changed everyone's life. Lily's best friend, Margaret, has moved to a wartime factory town, and, much worse, Lily's father is going overseas to the war.
There's no one Lily's age in Rockaway until the arrival of Albert, a refugee from Hungary with a secret sewn into his coat. Albert has lost most of his family in the war; he's been through things Lily can't imagine. But soon they form a special friendship. Now Lily and Albert have secrets to share: They both have told lies, and Lily has told one that may cost Albert his life."
This was a sweet story about an unlikely friendship cemented by a common bond - families affected by World War II. Patricia Reilly Giff has been one of my favorite children's authors since I was a child myself. This was another great piece of her work!

Friday, October 29, 2010

#38 - The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson

1959 Honor book

I decided to work on some of the older titles. I actually found a copy of this book in the Salvation Army thrift store, so - why not? And guess what? It was really good!

"Once there was an old man named Armand who lived under a bridge in Paris. Everything he owned could be pushed around in an old baby buggy without a hood - it was easy for him to move from place to place. Armand loved his solitary, carefree life. Children, he said, were like starlings, and one was better off without them.

But the children who lived under the bridge knew a true friend when they saw one, even if that friend was a little bit grumpy to begin with. And it did not take Armand long to see he had gotten himself a ready-made family - one he loved with all his heart, and one he would have to find a better home for than the bridge."

This was a sweet, very quick read, about a hobo with a hardened heart. But the Calcet children work their way into his affections and pretty soon Armand is doing everything he can to keep them all together. Very cute story!

#37 - Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

1991 Medal winner
I am officially at 10% - 37 out of 370! Wow, I have a long ways to go, lol! But I look at it this way - think of all the stories I have left to discover!
"Jeffrey Lionel 'Maniac' Magee might have lived a normal life if a trolley accident hadn't made him an orphan. After living with his unhappy and uptight aunt and uncle for 8 years, he decides to run - and not just run away, but run. And this is where the myth of Maniac Magee begins, as he changes the lives of a racially divided small town with his amazing and legendary feats."
Where to start? I LOVED this book! It was in parts heart warming, and in other parts heart breaking. Maniac is an amazing boy with a big heart. He befriends many people who change his life as much as he changes theirs. He even manages to bring together a racially divided town. But it also made me feel so bad that such an amazing boy had such a difficult life.
Definitely 2 thumbs up for this one! And I will be looking for more books by this author!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Made in the USA by Billie Letts

Let me emphasize - this is NOT a children's book. I repeat, NOT a children's book.
"Lutie McFee's history has taught her to avoid people, to places, and to almost everything. With her mother long dead and her father gone to find his fortune in Las Vegas, fifteen year old Lutie lives in the godforsaken town of Spearfish, South Dakota, with her 11 year old brother, Fate, and Floy Satterfield, the three hundred pound ex-girlfriend of her father. While Lutie shoplifts for kicks, Fate spends most of his time reading, watching weird TV shows, and worrying about global warming.
As if their life were not dismal enough, one day, while shopping in their local Wal-Mart, Floy keels over and the two motherless kids are suddenly faced with the choice of becoming wards of the state or hightailing it out of town in Floy's old Pontiac."
If you are looking for a nice, light, fluffy happy-go-lucky read, this is not for you. The first 2/3 of the book was extremely depressing and emotionally difficult to read. However, it was definitely a page turner - full of action. There are lots of heavy topics discussed in this book - homelessness, stealing, drug use, rape, pornography, language - so if you are sensitive, be forewarned.
I try to read these kinds of books with an open mind - this particular story might not be true, but there are many similar stories out there that ARE ture. And it makes my heart break for kids in these types of situations.
Fortunately, this book DOES have a happy ending!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

#36 - Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes

2004 Honor Book
"Olive Barstow was dead. She'd been hit by a car on Monroe Street while riding her bicycle weeks ago. That was about all Martha knew.

Martha Boyle and Olive Barstow could have been friends. But they weren't - and now all that is left are eerie connections between two girls who were in the same grade at school and who both kept the same secret without knowing it.
Now Martha can't stop thinking about Olive. A family summer on Cape Cod should help banish those thoughts; instead, they seep in everywhere.
And this year Martha's routine at her beloved grandmother's beachside house is complicated by the Manning boys. Jimmy, Tate, Todd, Luke, and Leo. But especially Jimmy. What if, what if, what if, what if? The world can change in a minute."
Incidentally, Kevin Henkes is one of my favorite picture book authors. He wrote Lily's Purple Plastic Purse and Wemberly Worried among others, which I LOVED reading to my kids when they were smaller. This book was a sweet coming-of-age novel about a girl's relationship with her family, first crush, and grief over the loss of a classmate, even if they weren't close.

Monday, October 18, 2010

#35 - Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry

1941 Medal Winner
"Mafatu's name mean 'Stout Heart', but his people call him a coward. Ever since the sea took his mother's life and spared his own, he has lived with deep fear. And even though his father is the Great Chief of Hikuero - an island who's seafaring people worship courage - he is terrified, and consequently, he is severely scorned.
By the time he is twelve years old, Mafatu can bear it no longer. He must conquer his fear alone...even if it means certain death.
This classic tale of a young boy's hidden strength has been a favorite of readers of all ages since its 1940 publication."
I am going to make a confession - this was one of those books on the Newbery list that I honestly was dreading to read. I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, and this one just didn't sound appealing to me at all. BUT, that is why this Newbery project is a CHALLENGE for me. I'm not going to LOVE every book on the list. So, I decided to go ahead and knock this one off the list. But, you know what? It wasn't that bad. It's not going to go on my list of all time favorites, but it was not as hard to read as I thought it would be. It had a very good message about facing your fears.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wow. That's what I have to say about this book. Just wow. It's not a Newbery book, but it was an AWESOME book. First, the blurb...

"Lia and Cassie were best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies. But now Cassie is dead. Lia's mother is busy saving other people's lives. Her father is away on business. Her stepmother is clueless. And the voice inside Lia's head keeps telling her to remain in control, stay strong, lose more, weigh less. If she keeps on going this way - think, thinner, thinnest - maybe she'll disappear altogether. "

This book deals with several psychological problems: anorexia, depression, cutting, suicide, etc. So, it is not a light, easy read. But, it was SO interesting from a psychological perspective. The book was written in a way that made you feel like you were in Lia's head, and gives insight into how people with eating disorders think.

I highly recommend this book, however, it can be quite disturbing in places.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

#34 - Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

1998 Medal winner

"A terrible accident has transformed Billie Jo's life, scarring her inside and out. Her mother is gone. Her father can't talk about it. And the one thing that might make her feel better - playing the piano - is impossible with her wounded hands.

To make matters worse, dust storms are devastating the family farm and all the farms nearby. While others flee from the dust bowl, Billie Jo is left to find peace in the bleak landscape of Oklahoma - and in the suprising landscape of her own heart."

I wasn't sure how I'd like this book. It is written in an unusual writing style - in stanzas, like poetry, and I wasn't sure I would be able to get past that. But, I loved it, and I think it should be required reading for students of Oklahoma history!

Friday, September 24, 2010

#33 - A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin

2003 Honor book
"Hattie Owen has never really thought about the world outside her small town. Her family's boarding house is where she feels most at home, with its eccentric tenants and predictable routines. But there are secrets in Hattie's family, and the biggest one is her young uncle Adam. Hattie doesn't even know he exists until he shows up in her town, right when she's about to turn twelve. Suddenly the place she thought she knew so well begins to feel different. Her family and neighbors aren't ready to deal with Adam's mental Hattie gets caught in the middle. In one summer, Hattie will find out how small a small town can be, how big the world outside is, and how far our hearts and minds can go."
Ann M. Martin has been one of my favorite authors since I was about 11 years old, and discovered the Babysitter's Club series. I really enjoyed this book. The relationship between Adam and Hattie was heartwarming. It had developments that made the book very gripping (but I'm not going to give anything away...)
It is interesting to me just how many award winning books deal with the topic of autism.

Monday, September 13, 2010

#32 - Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

2006 Honor book
"High on the slopes of rocky Mount Eskel, Miri's family pounds a living from the stone of the mountain itself. But Miri's life will change forever when word comes that her small village is the home of the future princess. All eligible girls must attend a makeshift academy to prepare for royal life. At the school, Miri finds herself confronting bitter competition among the girls and her own conflicted desires to be chosen. Yet when danger comes to the academy, it is Miri, named for a tiny mountain flower, who must find a way to save her classmates - and the future of their beloved village."
I honestly did not expect much from this book. I'm not generally a big fan of books set in mideival times, and I had looked at this book a long time ago with disinterest. But, I was pleasantly surprised. I loved how one of the underlying themes was the discovery of books and the importance of education. It had a good amount of adventure, and a little bit of romance. I will be looking for other books by this author!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

It's been a tough week!

It has been over a week since I finished a book - any book! :( I had so much homework this week, I haven't felt very well, and other factors have made this past week a tough one, with not much time to read for pleasure. But, I didn't want to go TOO long before posting here. I have not given up on my project! In fact, we went to the Salvation Army store, and I found some great book deals! It just so happened that the deal of the day was 50% off books!! I found several Newbery books to add to my collection - Rifles for Watie, My Side of the Mountain, Shiloh, and Out of the Dust were some of them, along with several other great non Newbery titles. Some are fairly new titles, that I have actually been eyeing at Walmart! I love hitting the book jackpot! Oh, and the kids found some for them too, lol!

I'm working my way through the third Hunger Games book right now. Here's hoping for a better reading week this go around!

Friday, August 27, 2010

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

This is not a Newbery award book, but it's another one that is too good not to mention. First, the synopsis from the inside cover:
"Clay Jensen's first love records her last words.
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker - his classmate and crush - who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
Hannah's voice tells him that there are 13 reasons she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why.
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a first-hand witness to Hannah's pain, and learns the truth about himself - a truth he never wanted to face."
This is a young adult novel - I would say for ages 15 and up. I know I won't be letting my 12 year old read it for a few years. There are some deeply disturbing themes (obviously). But, it is of a subject that young adults need to be educated about - teen suicide.
The format of the book is very, very interesting - the majority of the book is the content of the cassette tapes, the voice of Hannah in the days leading up to her death. Clay's reactions to what he hears is included. It was so gripping, and very hard to put down.
Although it is a sad story, it was entirely worth reading!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

#31 - The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

2007 Medal Winner
This was a cute little book, but honestly I don't have a lot to say about it. A nice story with a happy ending, but just nothing spectacular, in my opinion. One thing that did bother me in the book was that Charles Darwin was mentioned several times as being a favorite scientist of the main character.
Inside cover:
"Lucky, age 10, can't wait another day. The meanness gland in her heart and the crevices full of questions in her brain make running away from Hard Pan, CA (population 43), the rock-bottom only choice she has.
It's all Brigitte's fault - for wanting to go back to France. Guardians are supposed to stay put and look after girls in their care! Instead Lucky is sure that she'll be abandoned to some orphanage in Los Angeles where her beloved dog, HMS Beagle, won't be allowed. She'll have to lose her friends Miles, who lives on cookies, and Lincoln, future U.S. President (maybe) and member of the International Guild of Knot Tyers. Just as bad, she'll have to give up eavesdropping on twelve step anonymous programs where the interesting talk is all about Higher Powers. Lucky needs her own - and quick.
But she hadn't planned on a dust storm. Or needing to lug the world's heaviest survival kit backpack into the desert."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

#30 - Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson

This book was a 2008 Newbery Honor Book.
This was a very quick 118 read. Here is what the inside cover has to say:
"Frannie doesn't know what to make of the poem she's reading in school. She hasn't thought much about hope. There are so many other things to think about. Each day, her friend Samantha seems a bit more "holy." There is a new boy in class everyone is calling the Jesus Boy. And although the new boy looks like a white kid, he says he's not white. Who is he?
During a winter full of surprises, good and bad, Frannie starts seeing a lot of things in a new light - her brother Sean's deafness, her mother's fear, the class bully's anger, her best friend's faith and her own desire for "the thing with feathers."
Newbery Honor Award - winning author Jacqueline Woodson once again takes readers on a journey into a young girl's heart and reveals the pain and the joy of learning to look beneath the surface."
Basically, the theme of this book is hope and looking inside of people to who they really are. I liked the spiritual references. When Samanthat admitted she thought the new boy WAS Jesus returning, the others started looking for Jesus everywhere.
Overall, a very good read! I will pass it on to my girls!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

For fans of Anne of Green Gables

This is not a Newbery book, but it was definitely worth commenting on. I came across this book at my local library, and was intrigued. I have been a huge fan of the Anne series since about 3rd grade, when I read the entire series. I was a tad obsessed with the movies too, watching them over and over and over again (and I confess that Gilbert was my first ever crush.) But I was also a bit hesitant - I mean, this book is not written by Lucy Maud Montgomery, so how good could it be? I just finished reading this tonight, and I thouroughly enjoyed it. You can tell the writing style is different, and there were some things that I don't think Montgomery would've put in her books...but for diehard Anne fans, it's a great prequel.

From the inside cover:

"When readers first met Anne, she is eleven, and has just been sent from an orphanage to meet her new family. Readers never learned the events of Anne's life before she arrived at Green Gables. Until now.

After baby Anne's parents die in an epidemic, she is sent from one foster family to another, always searching for the love and comfort of a real home. A clever child, she learns to talk early, and even in her darkest times she finds joy in the power of her imagination and, eventually, by escaping into the world of books. Through her adventures at school and in foster homes and orphanages, Anne's vibrant personality - her imagination, her hot temper, her impetuousness, her dramatic flair - shines through.

For the millions of readers who devoured the Green Gables series, Before Green Gables is an irresistable treat: the story of how on of literature's most beloved heroines became the girl who captivated the world."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

#29 - Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

This is a 2005 Honor book.

This was a really great book! Here is the "commercial" on the back:

"Murderers, mob bosses, and convicts...these guys are not your average neighbors. Not unless you live on Alcatraz. It's 1935 and twelve-year-old Moose Flanagan and his family have just moved to the infamous island that's home to criminals like notorious escapee Roy Gardner, Machine Gun Kelly, and, of course, Al Capone. But that's just the beginning of Moose's troubles because on Alcatraz the kids are all cowed by the clever, danger-loving daughter of the warden, Piper Williams. Now Moose has to try to fit in at his new school, avoid getting caught up in one of Piper's countless schemes, and keep an eye on his sister, Natalie, who's not like other kids. All Moose wants to do is protect Natalie, live up to his parents' expectations, and stay out of trouble. But on Alcatraz, trouble is never very far away."

Moose's sister Natalie, who they tell everyone is only 10, but she is actually 15, is autistic. Autism is a disorder that has always fascinated me, so it was very interesting to read about how this was dealt with in the 1930's. They didn't even have the diagnosis of autism back then, and they were often put in "insane asylums." But, the family in this book were determined to do all they could to help Natalie lead a normal life, and that was the primary topic of this book. Moose's close relationship to his sister was heart warming. I highly recommend this book!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How to get cheap books

Well, obviously, the library is free...but my local library doesn't have the biggest selection. Plus, sometimes, I like to read a book without worrying about finishing it before it being due. So, how do I buy books on a budget? Well, in the last year I discovered - a division of ebay where people go to sell books, video games, dvds, cds, etc. But, there is no bidding war. You put in the title you want and it brings up all the sellers who have it and their prices. So, you can select the price and condition you want. You do pay a flat shipping rate of 3.99 per item, so keep that in mind. But I recently found 6 books on my Newbery list - all excellent condition HARD BACK copies for .75 each! So, even with the shipping, they were less than $5 each for books that were originally about $15 each.

Another place I love to book hunt is thrift stores - particularly the Salvation Army store. Paper backs are .99, kids paperbacks are .49 and hardbacks are 1.99! Today I found 6 Newbery books for .49 each! And 6 other books I had been wanting (including a Jodi Picoult book I haven't read yet!)! My kids find books for themselves too, and I don't have to say no because they are only .49 each!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

If I Stay

This is not a Newbery book. Although it has lots of excellent reviews, as far as I can see, it hasn't even won any awards. Yet. Although the movie rights have been purchased by Summit with Catherine Hardwicke slated as director. This is the same company and director that did the Twilight movies. But, I HAD to blog about it. It is one of those books that left me feeling like somehow, my life has been changed in some small way. Here is what the back of the book says (the "commercial" as my daughter Natalie used to call it when she was little...)

"Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, adoring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. Then, in an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left - the most important decision she'll ever make.

Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting, and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving."

The entire book takes place in one 24 hour period, but it includes many of Mia's memories. A lot of times when this is done in books, it seems so jarring going from past to present. But the author, I think, does an excellent job of meshing it together. Just very well written. And such a romantic story, but not a cheesy romance. Sad, but hopeful.

2 thumbs up! Run to the store and buy it- only $8 at Wal-Mart, lol! Definitely worth it!

Friday, August 6, 2010

#28 - Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins

2006 Medal Winner

I finished this book last night. It is a coming of age novel about a group of 14 year olds and how lives "criss cross."

From the back of the book:
"She wished something would happen. Something good. To her. Checking her wish for loopholes, she found one. Hoping it wasn't too late, she thought the word soon.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, he felt as if the world was opening. Life was rearranging itself; bulging in places, fraying in spots. He felt himself changing, too, but into what?

So much can happen in a summer."

This was a nice, warm and fuzzy book about kids discovering who they are, and the meaning of love - topics relevant to any teen or pre-teen. At the end, one of the main characters, Debbie, discusses a particularly insightful thought about the topic of love. I won't give it away.

I liked this book, and the illustrations in the book were very interesting - a mix of photos, drawings, and even music. I'll be honest though, I didn't really find this to be "award winning" material. Maybe someone younger would disagree, but I just found it so-so.

Starting this project with 27 titles under my belt

Like I mentioned in my first post, I have already read several titles on this list. Most of them I read as a child, but some were a little more recent. My plan is to blog as I read - my thoughts on each book. As of today, there are 28 on this list that I know for certain I have read. There may actually be more that I don't remember - I may not remember until I see the book again - it HAS been a long time...anyway, I will start off with a list of what I've already read, and some brief information. I'll only go into detail on the more recently read titles, because, well, they're fresh in my mind.

1. On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder - 1938 Honor book
2. Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater - 1939 Honor book
One of my childhood favorites!!!
3. By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder - 1940 Honor book
4. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder - 1941 Honor book
5. Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder - 1942 Honor book
6. The Middle Moffat by Eleanor Estes - 1943 Honor book
7. These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder - 1944 Honor book
8. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes - 1945 Honor book
Another chidhood favorite - it inspired me to draw 100 dresses of my own, just like in the
9. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White - 1953 Honor book. Who hasn't read this?
10. The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden - 1961 Honor book
11. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigbsburg - 1968 Medal
Yet another favorite - read it several times!
12. Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth by E.L. Konigsburg - 1968
Honor book
13. Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars - 1971 Medal winner
14. Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel - 1973 Honor book
15. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson - 1978 Medal winner
An all-time favorite. Just a truly awesome book, and somewhat recently made into a movie.
16. Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary - 1978 Honor book
Hands down, the Ramona books were my ALL TIME favorites!!
17. Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson - 1981 Medal winner
LOVED this one!
18. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary - 1982 Honor book
The book that started my love for Ramona!
19. Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary - 1984 Medal winner
20. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan - 1986 Medal winner
My 9 year old recently read this too, she loved it!
21. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi - 1991 Honor book

And the titles I have read recently....

22. The Giver by Lois Lowry - 1994 Medal winner
My friend, Tristen, recommended this along with the companion books (Gathering Blue and
Messenger) and words cannot express how good these books were! I would not have chosen
these titles myself, but I am SO glad I read them. The series has a common theme of self
sacrifice. And I don't know if it was intended, but the final book seemed to be an allegory
to how Jesus sacrificed His life for us, so that we may have a better life.
23. The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman - 1996 Medal winner
A really interesting book about the practice of midwifery in mideival times. Also a story
about how a young, orphaned girl discovers herself and the person she was meant to be.
24. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo - 2001 Honor book
I read this book with Natalie a few years ago. Very cute story and movie.
25. Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff - 2003 Honor book
Natalie had checked this book out last summer, and it looked interesting, so I read it too.
26. Rules by Cynthia Lord - 2007 Honor book
About a girl with an autistic little brother. She develops a list of "rules" to help him fit in
better socially. She also learns what is more important - inward or outward appearances.
27. Savvy by Ingrid Law - 2009 Honor book
An extraordinary family with extraordinary "gifts" called savvies, received at the age of 13.
One brother can control the weather, one has an "electric" touch. Their little sister learns her
savvy and how to handle it on her birthday. new project!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am - and always have been - a bookworm. From the time I started reading, I DEVOURED books. I was the one at the library who could be seen teetering to the checkout desk barely able to peek over the stack of books in my arms. Some things never change, lol. Although now the majority of the books in those stacks belong to my bookworm offspring. I don't get to read as MUCH as I used to - now I have to do laundry, cook, and do other such boring activities in between books. But, I read whenever I can.

I love books so much, that I want to be a librarian. I have always wanted to, actually, but I kind of gave up on the notion when I got married, because, well, librarians are not known to rake in the dough. But, having kids and encouraging them to eventually pursue whatever makes them happy (as long as it is morally in line, of course) has made me realize that it doesn't matter if it will make us rich. I want to LOVE my career. And with my husband, Billy's encouragement, I have decided to pursue my lifelong dream of being a librarian, however "nerdy" that sounds.

I would really love to be a children's librarian, specifically. I have always enjoyed working with children, and there is just nothing like seeing children develop a passion for reading - watching their faces light up in awe and excitement when they walk into a library and see all those rows and rows of stories just waiting to be discovered. I have been blessed to see this already in my own 3 children.

I still love to read children's and young adult literature. Don't get me wrong, I do read grown up books too. But, some of the best literary works out there are written for young people. Plus, you don't get as much of the foul language and "smut" that runs rampant in modern adult fiction.

Let me also share a story of something that happened recently that put the spark of an idea for this project into my head. We were visiting our local library - it is a small town library. One of my son's summer homework assignments was to go to the library and ask a librarian for a Caldecott award winning book to check out. So, he did - and was met with a blank stare. "What does that mean?" she asked me. I said "CALDECOTT. You know - the children's literature award - the Caldecott award?" More blank stares. "I've never heard of that," she says and turns to another librarian. "Do you know what that is?" The other librarian shrugs and says "nope." So, the first librarian tells the second, "well, just google it." I then had to proceed to spelling it so she could google it. Now, I don't expect everyone to be familiar with the names of literary awards. I don't mean to sound condescending or anything. But, come on, the Caldecott is THE award for picture books. I would expect a LIBRARIAN to know this. It was just sad to me. So, I started to think about how I would know this stuff when I was a librarian....and then I thought, 'you know, I want to be REALLY knowledgeable about the books around me when I'm a children's librarian.' So, then I thought 'what better way to become familiar with them, than to READ them all?' So, the idea was born. There are many different awards out there. But the best known is the Newbery award - an honor given to books written for young people - generally for the 8-18 or so age group.

So, the Newbery Project was born. I looked up the list of books awarded this honor. It was started in 1922. I read through the list, and realized that there were several that I have read before, mostly when I was a child, of course. So, I thought, 'I can totally do this.' But, then I counted them out. There is usually just ONE book given the top honor every year, but there are 3-4 "honors" named every year as well. I decided to include ALL of them. Yikes. There are 370 titles on the list....wowzers. A little daunting. But, it's a challenge...and I've decided to try and tackle it. I don't know how long it will take. I would like to say that I can do it in 2 years. But, since I like to read OTHER books too...I don't know...and also considering that each year they will add about 3-4 more I'm not going to put a time limit on it. I don't want to make something enjoyable into just another deadline - I've got enough of those.

So, anyway, that is the story of my newest project. I plan to update as I cross titles off my list, and talk about my thoughts on each book. Enjoy!