Monday, August 14, 2017

Jack-The True story of Jack & the Beanstalk

     My reading is slowing down as I get closer to school starting!!! AH! On a good note, I've been writing more and only have a few letters in my reply pile. My goal is to completely finish my reply pile before school. (And have my house clean, school work prepared, kids ready for school, on and on and on) 

Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk  
      Last year, there was a book called Rump on the Massachusetts Childrens Book Awards list. I was really interested in it; Tim, not so much. Well, it turns out that the author, Liesl Shurtliff has written a similar book, but about Jack & the Beanstalk. 

Here is David's review:
Jack, The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk” is a great story. It's an adventurous tale about Jack and his family. He has a mother, a father and a little sister, Anabella. One day giants come down from the sky and steal their village. They steal their houses, a bakery, farms, food and even people. The giants stole all of these things because there was a famine in their land so they needed food. They stole the people to work with the smaller food and animals. Jack's Papa and their cow, Milky White, were stolen by the giants and that's where the adventure begins.
One character I liked was Sir Blueberys. He was a knight who rode an old donkey. He was always giving people advice on how to defeat the giants but he wasn't a person who could save the village, so he wasn't really a good knight.
I would give this book 4.5/5 because although this was a long book, it was a fun one. I read this book out loud with my mom. Some of the things we liked were: the characters, the plot and the different creatures in the story, like pixies and animals.

     I also enjoyed this book. It had a lot of nice lessons for kids. Jack grows up knowing that he has been names after his great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, slayer of giants. He expects to grow up "great," but often feels like maybe he doesn't have it in him to live up to (his own ) expectations. It has some good messages about family and not placing too much importance in "stuff" and riches. 
       The MCBA site lists this as an early 4th grade reading level. David struggled a bit through this one. I don't know if it was that we were reading aloud or if it was just long for him. (He also has some speech issues, which adds a level of complication.)  If you've read this with your kids, I'm curious to hear your thoughts. He really enjoyed the story, but I think I may have liked it more. Maybe he needs more exposure to the original Jack & the Beanstalk story? My older son also came in a few nights to read with us because he could tell it was a fun story. I think I might still try to read Rump.  

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

My Brilliant Idea (and How it Caused my Downfall)

My Brilliant Idea (And How It Caused My Downfall) 

     This is another book that has been on my TBR shelf for too long. I'm reading it for my Mount TBR challenge as well as my Keyword Reading Challenge (My).  I actually felt badly when I picked it up to read because I saw that Goodreads had sent it to me as an advanced reader copy, but the book was published June 2016. So, I apologize for the delay.    This book is about a boy named Jack Dawson, nicknamed Jackdaw, who comes up with an idea to create an app that would prevent you from getting in trouble for daydreaming at school. The only problem is that he doesn't know how to program an app, and the only person who knows at his school is a strange girl named Elsie. In order to get what he wants, Jackdaw makes a series of deals and comes up with schemes to get each deal to work. Unfortunately, many of his plans are hindered by outside forces and don't go exactly how he planned. 
      I gave this book 3/5 stars on Goodreads. This book is geared towards teens but I could tell right away that it was not written by an American author, so I'm not sure if teens here would immediately connect with the book. I think if my son read this book, he wouldn't know what some of the slang meant.  Also, one of the ideas that Jack has is to trick a boy into getting naked in front of a girl, which isn't the most edifying thing for me to pass on to my kids. It fits in with Elsie's weirdness, but wasn't an idea I liked in a book younger kids might be reading. There were some sections that were pretty humorous. As a person who works with teens, I liked Jackdaw's convictions that his "good ideas" are brilliant and his sense of humor.

Happy anniversary

       I am not a girl who "needs" flowers, but every once in a while, it's nice to receive them. Today is my 19th wedding anniversary and I wanted to show off the beautiful flowers my husband sent me.
Image may contain: flower and natureVery sweet! Marriage can be a lot of work sometimes. These were a really nice surprise after taking the boys out to swim at a local river. Thanks, Matt!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Mount TBR update

    I recently took a screen free week and got some reading done too! I've been chipping away at my to be read pile for the Mount TBR challenge. My original goal was 24 books. I'm at 15. So, I'm well on my way. I am planning on telling you about 2 books- The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver H.C. Chester and  Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke.
The Shrunken Head (The Curiosity House, #1)

      This book tells about the lives of 4 orphans growing up in Dumfrey's Dime Museum of Freaks. They are the only children as part of his show. Pippa is sort of a mind reader, but she sometimes can only tell what is in your pockets. Thomas can squeeze into small spaces. Sam is a strong man and Max is a knife thrower. Dumfrey's museum is struggling so he brings in a new exhibit- an Amazonian shrunken head. Unfortunately, at the first show that exhibits the head, a woman in the audience dies. A reporter in the audience writes an article and suggests that the shrunken head might carry a curse with it.
        This story was just "ok" to me. (Tim too) We both felt that the story had potential and that the characters were kind of fun, but the amount of deaths in the story seemed extraneous. Don't get me wrong, this is not filled with people killing each other, but we think the story could've been told without some of the deaths.  Neither one of us are interested in reading the rest of the stories in the series.

Inkheart (Inkworld, #1)

     This book has been sitting on my to read shelf forever! I don't even remember where I got it. My guess is that I picked it up somewhere for Tim a few years ago, but wanted to read it first to see if there is anything inappropriate that he shouldn't be reading. (There isn't)
      I don't often say that I love a book, but I might have loved this one- or at the very least, liked it a lot. Who knew I'd spend my summer enjoying middle grade fantasy? I love the premise of this whole book. There is a bookbinder- called Mo by his daughter and nicknamed Silvertongue by some other characters- who has the ability to read characters out of the books that they are written in. Unfortunately, when a character is transported out of their story, someone from Mo's word is transported in. His 12 year old daughter, Meggie, knows nothing about this ability since her father has always told her that he is not good at/doesn't like reading aloud. One night, Meggie is sitting in her room when she hears a noise outside. She looks out her window to see a man, Dustfinger, in their yard. She informs her father and it becomes obvious to Meggie that her dad knows this man.The 2 men talk privately and soon we learn that a man named Capricorn has been seeking Silvertongue and a book that he is in possession of.
     I don't want to give away too much of this book (even though it's from early 2000s so you may have read it!) so I'm not going to write more about the plot. Here's a few things that I loved:
1) The story in general. It's full of love for books and reading. It captures that books can take you to far away places and fill you with wonder, or scare you while you're reading alone in your room. I just felt that everything was really imaginative.
2) The characters- There is one character, Elinor, who I grew to like more within the story. She is Meggie's great aunt. She seems kind of like a bitter, old woman who is obsessed with books. Her books are kept in pristine condition in her massive house full of bookshelves and a special library. (Kind of like how my books are kept in wonderful condition within my messy Elinor sees her books almost like her friends or her children and they are precious to her. Although I am not a person who is easily attached to material things, I get being attached to books.
3) The beginning of each chapter starts with quotations from other great books. I have always loved that. Is it Dean Koontz that does that in most of his books?

Read this book.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Stormy Seas

     I saw this book on NetGalley a while back and decided that it would be good for me to read. I don't know many refugees personally, and I the ones I do know I don't know well enough to ask their stories. With the events of the world and in the US lately, refugees have been on my mind more than they had previously been. I thought this book might open up some conversations with my sons about how their lives are similar/different from the lives of children in different times and places.  In the introduction, the author writes "If you're reading this, you-like me- have probably won the lottery. Not the giant-check, instant-millionaire kind of lottery. The other lottery in-   the really valuable one. That random, lucky break that means you were born-or immigrated to a relatively peaceful and prosperous place in the world. Along with all the other amazing things about you, that makes you pretty extraordinary."  I think that is an important point that many kids might not have thought about much before.
      Stormy Seas tells the story of 5 people who fled their countries on boats. Ruth is 18 when she flees from the Nazis in 1939 with the intention of arriving in Cuba. However, after 6 days in Havana Harbor, their boat is turned away and told to return to Europe. Ruth eventually ends up in England.  Phu leaves his family and travels from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon.  Thirteen year old Jose leaves the Castro regime in Cuba to come to the United States. Najeeba, 11 in 2000, escapes Afghanistan through Pakistan and India before arriving in Australia. Mohamed, a 13 year old orphan,  arrives in Italy after fleeing the Ivory Coast, working in Guinea, Mali, and Algeria, being smuggled into Libya, then crossing the Mediterranean to Malta. 
      I thought this book was good. The art in the book is similar to what you see on the cover. I liked the collage aspect of it and liked that they showed the routes each child has traveled on a map. I asked my youngest son what he thought of the art and he said he thought "it was interesting" and "likes the patterns" in the background of a lot of pages. I liked that they told what happened to each person later in their life as well. The book also includes a brief history of people who had "come by boat" before these 5 as well as after these 5.  The stories of each person were told in an appropriate manner for children. There were also a lot of subject specific vocabulary- like "refugee," "asylum," etc- that are defined for kids who might not have encountered these words in previous reading. 
      I am planning on recommending this book to our middle school librarian and the librarian at my son's school. This book is available from Annick Press.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Last Namsara

    July seems to be my month to get a lot of reading done :) I cannot stop!  I would normally have no problem with this but my mental traveling into different worlds has slowed down my writing so I'd like a little more balance.   I'm looking forward to telling you about this next book, which I just received as a digital copy from NetGalley and Orion Publishing last week. The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli will be released in the US on October 3 and in the UK on October 5. It is a YA fantasy.
 The Last Namsara (Iskari, #1)  
     The Last Namsara was great. I devoured it. I usually don't read a ton of fantasy but this one drew me in right from the beginning. It is about a girl named Asha, who is the daughter of the king of Firgaard. When she was a child, Asha told dragons old stories that had been forbidden by her people. One night, this almost cost her her life. The first dragon, Kozu, burned her badly and destroyed her city. Lives were lost and Asha was feared. She was thought to be the Iskari- a death bringer, created by the Old One to establish balance with the Namsara, who carried love and laughter.  In atonement for her deeds, Asha becomes a fierce dragon slayer and is promised in marriage to Jarek, the boy who saved her life and whose parents were killed by Kozu, Jarek is powerful and cruel and he serves as the commandant under Asha's father. When the king offers Asha an opportunity to avoid being married to Jarek, she is happy to oblige; her freedom from marriage in exchange for the head of Kozu. 
       If that story line doesn't sound exciting enough for you, there is way more. Dragons. (Cait, I put that first for you) Forbidden love. People coming together for an uprising against wrongs that have been done to them. Old stories telling the history of Asha's family,   It's all here.  
     I'm excited that this is going to be part of a 3 book series. I will definitely check out the other books!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Space Case

Space Case (Moon Base Alpha #1) 
       After I shared one of David's reading books with you, I decided to take a look at the books Tim is reading. Tim has loved most of the MCBA books he's read and has a goal to read them all this summer. This is his first MCBA book. I decided to check it out too (Thinking that it was one of his assigned summer reading books.. oops)  This book is geared to 6th graders. (
      Space Case is about a 12 year old boy named Dashiell (nicknamed Dash) who is growing up on Moon Base Alpha with his parents and younger sister, Violet. Life on the moon was not always what NASA had advertised. Adjusting to low gravity life, space food, toilets! and being around the same people all the time can be hard. There are not many kids on base, and the ones that are there are not exactly the type of kids that Dash wants to be around all the time. His choices of what to do are somewhat limited since kids are not allowed on the moon's surface and he has to be restricted to base.
       Life gets a lot more complicated when it's discovered that Dr. Holtz, the base's top scientist, has died after making a mistake with his space suit before going out to the moon's surface. There are a few problems with this- 1) Dr. Holtz is super concerned with safety and is particularly cautious about the space suits and 2) Dash had overheard Dr. Holtz speaking with someone about an incredible discovery that would change the course of mankind. Holtz was planning a meeting on base to reveal his discovery just hours after he was found dead. (This conversation that Dash overhears takes place during a very humorous toilet episode.Both Tim and I had a good chuckle with Gibbs' wording.)   While Dash suspects that something might be wrong, most of the other people on the base are hesitant to even address the possibility that foul play might be involved. 
       Lucky for Dash, a rocket is scheduled to arrive from Earth. It is carrying some new residents of the base, some temps who have jobs on the base and extra food/supplies. One of the new residents of MBA is a girl named Kira, who immediately becomes friends with Dash. With her help, Dash is able to examine what really happened to Holtz.
        I liked this book. There were some exciting parts. It was humorous. It did include a few "it sucked" type lines, but realistically, I know that's not the worst my son is going to be hearing from kids his age. It is part of a series and I'm sure that Tim would not hesitate to read the other books in the series. This might be a great book for kids who aren't usually readers.
      Here's what Tim had to say about this book:
      "It was very interesting and it had a lot of diversity between the types of people at the space station. I loved it. I'd honestly recommend it to everyone. It's thrilling."
   His next read was The Nest by Kenneth Oppel. I haven't read this one but he described it to me. It sounded pretty scary for a younger kid. Tim, who is usually creeped out pretty easily, read it while camping. He thought it was exciting and said he wants to try more books like this.
Tim: "The Nest was very creepy and fast paced for sure."