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