Monday, May 30, 2011

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein


The acclaimed author of the groundbreaking bestseller Schoolgirls reveals the dark side of pink and pretty: the rise of the girlie-girl, she warns, is not that innocent.

Pink and pretty or predatory and hardened, sexualized girlhood influences our daughters from infancy onward, telling them that how a girl looks matters more than who she is. Somewhere between the exhilarating rise of Girl Power in the 1990s and today, the pursuit of physical perfection has been recast as a source—the source—of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages.

But, realistically, how many times can you say no when your daughter begs for a pint-size wedding gown or the latest Hannah Montana CD? And how dangerous is pink and pretty anyway—especially given girls' successes in the classroom and on the playing field? Being a princess is just make-believe, after all; eventually they grow out of it. Or do they? Does playing Cinderella shield girls from early sexualization—or prime them for it? Could today's little princess become tomorrow's sexting teen? And what if she does? Would that make her in charge of her sexuality—or an unwitting captive to it?

Those questions hit home with Peggy Orenstein, so she went sleuthing. She visited Disneyland and the international toy fair, trolled American Girl Place and Pottery Barn Kids, and met beauty pageant parents with preschoolers tricked out like Vegas showgirls. She dissected the science, created an online avatar, and parsed the original fairy tales. The stakes turn out to be higher than she—or we—ever imagined: nothing less than the health, development, and futures of our girls. From premature sexualization to the risk of depression to rising rates of narcissism, the potential negative impact of this new girlie-girl culture is undeniable—yet armed with awareness and recognition, parents can effectively counterbalance its influence in their daughters' lives.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter is a must-read for anyone who cares about girls, and for parents helping their daughters navigate the rocky road to adulthood.

My thoughts:
A few years ago I read Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Night, and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother  by Orenstein.  I really enjoyed it and, unlike a lot of other books, parts of it stuck with me very vividly.  I recall Peggy going to visit a friend from high school who was part of a very devoutly Jewish family.  He and his wife had (I think) fifteen children.  At the time Peggy was struggling with infertility so they were on very opposite ends of the spectrum.  He explained that he and his wife were just very fertile.  I liked Orenstein's voice and way of relating a story so when I read about this book I put it on my TBR list.  Last week I found it on the shelf at the library!

I have to admit that for years I have hated how some things are marketed just for girls in pink.  If I buy one of those things, like a baseball glove or bat or Nintendo DS of Leapster then I will have to buy another one in a different color because the boys will consider the pink object just for girls.  (Actually in the case of the DS which we do have in pink they boys will play it if theirs isn't charged and hers is, I guess being able to play a game is more important than the color of the player, but in most things the pink is just for girls does hold true in my house.)  When my daughter was small her winter boots were all girly.  The first year they were pink, then purple, then princesses and then I got smart and started thinking about the power of hand me downs and if she didn't fit into a pair we already had I bought gender neutral colors so her two younger brothers could still use them.  Luckily blue is her favorite color so this year when I found blue ones it was like I had done something awesome for her!

The history of how pink came to be for girls and the rise of the princess toys and marketing line was really interesting.  I agree that I do not recall having so much pink and pretty when I was little.  Yes I saw Disney movies but I don't remember them having so many toys associated with them.  When my oldest was around one the movie Finding Nemo came out.  He loved the fish so we went to a museum with aquariums and the pet store.  We even set up an aquarium at home and bought some plush and plastic fish at the Disney Store.  The my daughter came around and if I didn't have her dressed in pink everyone thought she was a boy.  Sometimes even when she was in pink people thought she as a boy when we went out.  Slowly I started to buy more pink to avoid the issue. Just last week my neighbor asked me if she could borrow a red shirt for her daughter for field day because she only seems to own pink and purple.  I wonder a bit if the power of pink has been diminished a bit at our house because of the three boys and because my daughter decided that blue is her favorite color.

The chapter about toddler beauty pageant's was eyeopening.  Toddlers and Tiaras is a show I have avoided on TV.  I just don't want to see that because, as pointed out in the book, how much of that is driven by the girls themselves and how much by their parents, however well meaning they may or may not be?  But then what is the jump from a pageant to dance classes, which my daughter does take?  In dance classes and the dance recital the girls are performing a dance they are not walking and waving and blowing kisses.  They are not being judged in a bathing suit or on their hair and make-up, but is may still be a milder form of the ideas that form a pageant mentality.

When we moved six years ago we decided to not sign up for cable.  For two or three years we had no cable.  I would borrow movies at the library or let the kids watch ones we owned.  We usually skipped all the previews and when the show was over nothing else came on.  There are times that I miss that.  I was able to pick and choose what they were seeing and, by avoiding most commercials, they didn't form long laundry lists of things they wanted.  At the same time when we played with friends I felt like all of us were a bit out of the loop, we hadn't heard about the latest new thing and there started to be gaps in their conversations with friends.  Our decision to get cable had to do with our Internet connection and a bundled deal, but I know that were I to take cable away now it would be a hard adjustment for them.  Avoiding media may work when kids are really young, but at some point in time they need to be taught how to navigate that world not just avoid it.

While i do say no to a lot of toys, some of the ones that Orenstein had issues with or wondered about I said yes to only to have my daughter barely play with.  So instead of making them forbidden, we have them but they didn't hold interest which I then use later when asked for another similar toy.  "You already have X and barely use it so we don't need Y."

As a parent I know I need to keep the lines of communication open with my children and to help them question and put things into perspective.  I dread the day I have to deal with their asking to be on Facebook.  I am fine with their use of the Internet to go to some sites that we have discussed and used together, but I haven't let them do their own searches yet.  I shudder a bit at what they could stumble upon with Innocent words or phrases.

I agree with the synopsis, this is a great book for parents of girls.  It has made me questions so things that I hadn't given all that much thought to.  I do plan on looking into the Grimm's versions of the fairy tales, I think my children will enjoy the different perspective.

Product Details

Pub. Date: January 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Hardcover , 244pp
ISBN-13: 9780061711527
ISBN: 0061711527


Peggy Orenstein is an award-winning writer and speaker on issues affecting girls and women. She is a regular contributor to The New York Times Magazine, and her work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Vogue, Glamour, Mirabella, Details, Elle, Mother Jones, and The New Yorker. Her new book, Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids, and Life in a Half- Changed World, will be published by Doubleday in May 2000.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Wrath of Mulgarth (Spiderwick Chronicles Series #5), Vol. 5 by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black


Three ordinary kids, Jared, Simon, and Mallory Grace, have entered another world -- without leaving this one! Two remarkable talents, New York Times best-sellers Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, have risked everything to bring this remarkable account to light. Five books -- one thrilling adventure -- the Spiderwick Chronicles!

Their world is closer than you think.

My thoughts:
The final book manages to wrap up some of the lose ends.  Mrs. Grace gets a chance to play a larger role and to learn about the hidden world within our world.  The children have to rely upon themselves to reason out how to get past the ogre and outwit him.  With the help of Thimbletack and Hogsqueal they work as a team.  Arthur comes back into the story as well.

I was glad that the children finally shared what had been going on with their mother, although I wasn't thrilled that it was only shared with her after she had been kidnapped by the ogre.  I know they had planned to tell her everything in book four, only to find that she was already gone.  I know this is fantasy, but as an adult and a parent I wish they had trusted their mother enough to tell her what was going on.  Especially since they had the seeing eye stone that they could have used to show her and since Thimbletack was in the house along with the library and the guide they had a lot of evidence they could have used.  They thought she wouldn't believe them, but they didn't even try.  Not only could they have used some adult help and support, but she might have been safer if she had known there was something dangerous going on.

Product Details

Pub. Date: September 2004
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Format: Hardcover , 160pp
Age Range: 7 to 11
Series: Spiderwick Chronicles Series , #5
ISBN-13: 9780689859403
ISBN: 0689859406

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Matchless: An Illumination of Hans Christian Andersen's Classic "The Little Match Girl" by Gregory Maguire


The beloved New York Times bestselling author of Wicked reimagines Andersen's "The Little Match Girl" for modern readers, putting a new twist on a timeless classic.

In Matchless, Gregory Maguire adds a different dimension to the story, exquisitely intertwining the match girl's tale with that of Frederik, a young boy who builds a city out of trash, and whose yearnings are the catalyst for a better future for himself and his family. Maguire uses his storytelling magic to rekindle Andersen's original intentions, suggesting transcendence, the permanence of spirit, and the continuity that links the living and the dead.

My thoughts:
I enjoyed this retelling and revision of The Little Match Girl story.  Maguire gives her a while back story and even shows her seeing her mother as she burns through the matches before she dies.  Frederick and his mother make an interesting addition to the story.  They live together in rented rooms, the mother is a seamstress to the Queen and Frederick steals fish that birds have caught.  On the night that the little girl dies Frederick accidentally gets her shoe which has her key inside.  Events occur that end up making life better for those left behind.

My favorite part is about hope.  I don't want to reveal too much, but something happens towards the end of the book and the feeling of hope that the events give is very strong.  I know that it is not Christmas time, but I love to revisit the Christmas season throughout the year to try to remember the hope and belief and kindness towards others that can get lost in the shuffle for the rest of the year.

Product Details

Pub. Date: September 2010
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback , 112pp
ISBN-13: 9780062004826
ISBN: 0062004824

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Memoir of Marilyn Monroe by Sandi Gelles-Cole


"My so-called death scene is always described the same: My housekeeper, Eunice Murray, finds my wasted, naked body tangled in a sheet, wet from secretions better left unexplained. I am face down with one hand hanging over the telephone. This detail is discussed often; am I answering a call or making one and if I am calling, then whom?

"But it did not happen that way. I cheated death . . ."

My thoughts:
I reviewed this book as part of a Pump Up Your Book Blog tour.  It was an opportunity that I am glad I took.

A number of years ago I decided to watch as many of Marilyn Monroe's movies as I could find on video.  Over the course of the summer I watched quite a few of them and enjoyed them all.  I wondered about Monroe's life and death and even read a few biographies about her.  This book was intriguing, the premise is that Monroe did not die as reported, but went into hiding and treatment for substance abuse.  The portrait that is painted over the course of time from her "death" to her eighty-fifth birthday is of a woman coming to know her trye self through living.

The story is told through a journal, but not all of it is chronological. It is written with Marilyn looking back at her life, but she mentions things that have happened recently and how she wants to get it all written down before having a medical procedure done.  She goes through time periods and explains how she was doing, if she was staying sober and going to meetings or if she had fallen back into her old bad habits, if she was dating a man or a woman, and where she was.  For parts of time she is in Florida, California, Cuba, Italy and Spain.  Castro had her thrown into jail when she wouldn't give information about Kennedy, she worked as a Marilyn Monroe impersonator, spent time working as a vet assistant, and spent a lot of time going to meetings where she everyone stayed anonymous.

Not everyone thought she was dead, Joe DiMaggio and his son not only knew she was alive but helped her.  At the beginning of her recovery she is still very selfish and not sure who she is or who she wants to be, where she wants to end up or what she wants to do.  Her transformation to a self-assured woman takes decades and she has a number of falls along the way and lets a number of people down along the way.  It makes me wonder, what would have happened to Marilyn Monroe if she hadn't been found dead that day?  Was an overdose just a matter of time due to her lifestyle?  Would she have fallen out of vogue when fashion changed?  How would aging have treated her?

The voice this book was written in rang true, it was very believable that this could be Monroe.  The details I know about her life ring true as well.  The author did a lot of research and really got into the character.  It had me wondering at points, what if this isn't a fictional account?  Her treatment of the time periods and emotions really rang true as well.  It was engrossing and thought provoking and made me want to read a biography again as well as watch some of her movies.  Will we ever lose our fascination with Marilyn?

Product Details

Pub. Date: April 2011
Publisher: Gelles-Cole Literary Enterprises

Saturday, May 21, 2011

My Fair Succubi by Jill Myles (The Succubus Diaries #3)



Living as a succubus has a bit of a learning curve, but with sexy fallen angel Noah to scratch her sensual Itch, Jackie Brighton is finally starting to feel ahead of the game. She almost doesn’t miss her gorgeous vampire master Zane—or his sinful, teasing mouth. She’s trying to convince herself of that, anyway.

But Jackie’s past mistakes catch up with her, spinning her life out of control once more. Just as her friend Remy’s inner demon comes out to play, Noah and Jackie are arrested by the angelic Serim Council. When Jackie seizes the chance to escape, she falls right into Zane’s waiting arms. As she’s pulled into a game of cat and mouse between vampires and angels, she finds she must also choose between the two men in her life. Can she decide between Noah and Zane, or will she lose everything she’s ever wanted? Because there’s more at stake than just her heart. . . .

My thoughts:
I started this series last year as part of a Pocket Books Blog tour.  Then I read book two when I borrowed it from my sister-in-law.  Book three came to me when I found it at our local Borders Store at their going of business sale.  It has been sitting at the top of a stack since then.  I knew I wanted to read it but simply hadn't picked it up yet.  Thursday night I picked it up and yesterday I managed to finish it.  It was a fun, fast read!

I like Jackie.  She has been thrown into her new life without having all of the rules and procedures mapped out for her.  It almost like they forgot to give her a guide book and she is walking around in uncharted territory!  Because she doesn't have all the facts, she makes mistakes that can have repercussions that are bigger than she ever could have imagined.

Jackie became a succubus when Zane, a vampire who was once a fallen angel and made a deal to get his wings back in exchange for being a vampire, drank her blood and then dropped her off at a bar where she would meet Noah, a fallen angel who is under a curse where he needs to be intimate once a month to survive.  The combination of being with the two men in one night begins her transformation from a mousy, frumpy archaeologist to a succubus who is desirable to all men and needs to be intimate every other day to survive.  She no longer sleeps and can eat whatever she wants.

Now Jackie has not seen Zane, her vampire master, in six-months in order to keep the queen of the vampires happy, and has been in Mexico with Noah on an archaeological dig that he is sponsoring so that she can continue her career.  When Jackie and Noah are arrested by the Serim Council (the other fallen angels) Jackie ends up on a quest with an Enforcer to find her best friend Remy and find a way to remove the demon that has taken her over via a halo she accidentally swallowed in the first book.  Zane comes back into her life to help with this task and Jackie finds out even more about the history between Zane and Noah and why they hate each other so much.

It is easy to think that all our problems would be solved with unlimited time at our disposal.  Also, think how much so many of us yearn to be able to eat whatever we want and still look great, but the consequences of having those things might not make them so great to have.  I like how even though Jackie is now immortal, she has retained who she always was.  Her true self is still there inside her new body and life.  Each of the things she does are guided by trying to do the right thing, it is simply that she is in a situation where the right things can be hard to figure out.  How do you pick between two men that you love?  How can she figure out if she just loves them both or if she is more in love with one of them than the other?  How can she tell who is really looking out for her best interest? 

I have to admit that, while I am not adverse to intimacy in a novel, this one had a bit more than my usual reading material.  Because it fits with her new life (being a succubus and needing to be intimate every other day) it didn't bother me, but there were times where I skipped part of passages.  I applaud the author in being able to write those passages.  Since I had trouble just reading them I can't imagine how difficult they might have been to actually write!  It will be interesting to see how the choices Jackie made in this novel play out in the next book.  Each book has had added consequences based on what happened in the prior installments.

Product Details

Pub. Date: December 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
Format: Mass Market Paperback , 368pp
Series: Succubus Diaries Series , #3
ISBN-13: 9781439188194
ISBN: 143918819X

The Secrets of Droon #1: The Hidden Stairs and the Magic Carpet by Tony Abbott


Underneath the steps leading down to Eric's basement is a hidden storage space. It's dusty and old -- nothing special at all. But when Eric, Julie, and Neal all huddle inside the gray room together, something unbelievable happens. A glittering light and then a rainbow-colored staircase appear. And as the kids take their very first step down into the mysterious land of Droon, they know that only magic and adventure await them!

My thoughts:
We are now revisiting another series from a summer or two ago.  My son brought home books one and two from his school library.  Even though he can, and is, reading the books independently, my other children wanted to read them too so I read it aloud as well.  We had fun the last time we started this series, but we never made it all the way through so it will be interesting to see  how long their attention stay on it this time around.

Eric, Neal and Julie are three good friends who visit the magical world of Droon by using a staircase in a closet under the stairs in Eric's basement.  The staircase is not always there.  They do not even know if they will be able to visit this new world again when they return.  They meet both friends and enemies when they are in this new world.

Princess Keeah is working to help her father the king and a wizard named Galen to defeat the evil Lord Sparr.  Lord Sparr is from the upper world, but has been down below for years.  He has purple gills on his neck and commands an army of Ninns (bright red puffy people) who ride flying lizards called Groggles.  He wants to find all of the objects of power so that he can take over not only Droon, but the Upper World as well.

The children have to work as a team and trust each other to help Keeah escape and to stay safe themselves.  There is very little fighting or disagreement among the children, which was refreshing, although maybe not totally realistic.I think this book really captures the imagination of children because we all love to think that good and evil are easy to distinguish from each other and that we would do the right thing.  It shows children fighting more with their minds and their intellect, than with weapons and violence. It seems to appeal to younger children as well, making it a good read for a larger age span of listeners.

Product Details

Pub. Date: June 1999
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Format: Paperback , 80pp
Age Range: 7 to 10
Series: Secrets of Droon Series , #1
ISBN-13: 9780590108393
ISBN: 0590108395

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Ironwood Tree by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black


First a pack of vile, smelly goblins snatch Simon. Then a band of elves try to entrap Jared. Why is the entire faerie world so eager to get their hands on Spiderwick's Guide? And will the Grace kids be left alone, now that the Guide has mysteriously disappeared? Don't count on it.

At school, someone is running around pretending to be Jared, and it's not Simon. To make matters even worse, now Mallory has disappeared and something foul in the water is killing off all the plants and animals for miles around. Clues point to the old abandoned quarry, just outside of town. Dwarves have taken over an abandoned mine there. And the faerie world's abuzz with the news that a creature with plans to rule the world has offered them a gift to join with him -- he's given them a queen...

My thoughts:
Sometimes it is hard to remember that Jared and Simon are supposed to be just nine years old.  Only a little bit older than my children.  They seem so resourceful and self-reliant.  At the same time, these are characters in a book and I am not even sure if the authors have children of their own, so these characters may be based on what the authors think nine-year-olds are like.  That  has troubled me a bit in the last books as well, but especially now.

In this book Jared and Simon need to help Mallory, who has been kidnapped by the Dwarves.  They work as a team and figure things out, but not without some fighting and hurt feelings.  It is easy to see that the stress of the faerie world is starting to wear on them, along with the constant vigilance against fantastical creatures and trying to keep all of this from their mother.

The picture of the Dwarves mines and mechanical creatures is very well done.  I could picture the mechanical dogs and birds as well as the tree that did not need sunlight.  At the same time all of these robotic beings seemed a bit cold and eerie as well.

In the movie version the Dwarves as cut out just as the elves were from book three.  It would have been interesting to see what Hollywood would have done with them if they had made it into the movie!
Product Details

Pub. Date: April 2004
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Format: Hardcover , 128pp
Age Range: 7 to 11
Series: Spiderwick Chronicles Series , #4
ISBN-13: 9780689859397
ISBN: 0689859392

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How Huge the Night by Heather Munn and Lydia Munn


Fifteen-year-old Julien Losier just wants to fit in. But after his family moves to a small village in central France in hopes of outrunning the Nazis, he is suddenly faced with bigger challenges than the taunting of local teens.

Nina Krenkel left her country to obey her father's dying command: Take your brother and leave Austria. Burn your papers. Tell no one you are Jews. Alone and on the run, she arrives in Tanieux, France, dangerously ill and in despair.

Thrown together by the chaos of war, Julien begins to feel the terrible weight of the looming conflict and Nina fights to survive. As France falls to the Nazis, Julien struggles with doing what is right, even if it is not enough-and wonders whether or not he really can save Nina from almost certain death.

Based on the true story of the town of Le Chambon-the only French town honored by Israel for rescuing Jews from the Holocaust-How Huge the Night is a compelling, coming-of-age drama that will keep teens turning the pages as it teaches them about a fascinating period of history and inspires them to think more deeply about their everyday choices.

My thoughts:
I received this book for review as part of Litfuse Blog Tours.  I would like to say thank you to Amy Lathrop for the opportunity to read this book.

This book paints a very believable and real picture of what life was like for people living in France and Europe when Hitler was in power in Germany.  The picture comes through the eyes of teenagers, who are dealing with all of the regular teen issues like fitting in, going to school and making friend and then also finding their world changing in larger ways.  Julien and his family have relocated from Paris to his grandfathers farm in a small town in France.  The other boys at his school consider him an outsider and make no effort to accept him.  His family is also hosting a boarder.  Benjamin goes to school with Julien.  He is treated as an outsider as well and along with being from Paris he is also Jewish.

Nina and her brother Gustavo are from Austria and are left alone when their father dies.  Before he died, their father made them promise to burn the papers saying they are Jewish and to escape from Austria through a network of help he has set up for them.  Unfortunately the rabbi who is supposed to help them escape from Austria to Italy is already in jail and they have to do it on their own.  Nina dresses as a boy and goes by the name Niko.  She is on crutches because of an attack by a boy she had a crush on in school because of her religion.

Each chapter is titled in a way that adds meaning to what follows.  Some chapters follow Julien while others feature Nina.  Each of them is dealing with consequences of where they are and who they are.  Nina and Gustavo hide in abandoned building, beg for food, receive help from Gypsies and deal with constant hunger and fear.  Julien and his family are also dealing with hunger and fear.  Julien has trouble fitting in with his new schoolmates and gaining acceptance, especially from the most popular boy, Henri. 

Throughout it all both children, but especially Julien, pray to God and wonder if He is listening.  While he doesn't receive an answer every time he prays, he comes to believe that God is listening and giving him answers, if he takes the time to look for them and understand.

While it takes awhile, eventually Nina and Julien end up in the same city.  Julien learns more about himself as he starts to see what is really important and what hunger and pain look like for other people.

I like how this book feels real, especially since it is based on a real city in France and how it gives the people and especially the teens who lived at this time a face.  It takes history and specific historical events and shapes them into a story that will resonate with readers and put a face on the refugees and citizens of the time.  It doesn't show anyone to be all good or bad, but shows how perspective changed how people saw things.  It shows how the little bits of filtered news gave an uneven or even inaccurate picture of what was happening and it shows how things can get so bad so fast.  But it also shows that there can always be hope, that people can be willing to reach out even when they do not have enough themselves and most importantly that people are able to change and adapt and have their eyes opened to truths.

Product Details

Pub. Date: March 2011
Publisher: Kregel Publications
Format: Paperback , 304pp
Age Range: Young Adult
ISBN-13: 9780825433108

ISBN: 082543310X

Kregel Publications is sponsoring an $50 giveaway open blog readers.

To enter all you have to do is send a tweet (using #litfuse) about How Huge the Night or share about it on Facebook!

If you tweet we'll capture your entry when you use the hashtag (#litfuse). If you share it on Facebook or your blog, just email us and let us know ( Easy.

FACEBOOK THIS: How Huge the Night by Heather & Lydia Munn is a compelling, coming-of-age drama that will keep teens and adults alike turning the pages late into the night!

Link to buy the book:

About the Munn's:

Heather Munn was born in Northern Ireland and grew up in southern France where her parents were missionaries like their parents before them. She has a BA in literature from Wheaton College and now lives in a Christian intentional community in rural Illinois, where she and her husband, Paul, host free spiritual retreats for the poor, especially those transitioning out of homelessness or addiction. When not writing or hosting, she works on the communal farm.

Lydia Munn, daughter of missionary parents, grew up in Brazil. She received a BA in literature from Wheaton College, and an MA in Bible from Columbia Graduate School of Bible and Missions. With her husband, Jim, she has worked in church planting and Bible teaching since 1983, notably in St. Etienne, near the small town in the central mountains of France which forms the background of How Huge the Night. The Munns now live in Grenoble, France.

Blog Tour Schedule:

Julie Arduini: The Surrendered Scribe
Sarah at Growing For Christ
Tina’s Book Reviews
Jami's Reviews

Becky at In the Pages
Anna at Goannatree
Debra at Footprints in the Butter
Jill at Book, Books Everywhere

SusieQTpies at Scraps of Life
Melissa at Books R Us
Heidi at Starts At Eight
Karla at Ramblin' Roads

Kari at Alas 3 Lads
Amy at The 160 Acrewoods
Judy at Seize the Book Blog
Tracye at A Heart Poured Out

Laura at The Book Tree
Diane at That's What I'm Here For
Kim at Window To My World
Crystal at My Reading Room

Mollie at The Gandy's Home Base
Heather at Proud Book Nerd
Kathy at I Am A Reader, Not A Writer
Stacie at Hobbit Door

Laura at Lighthouse Academy
Kaylea at My Scrappy Life
Julie at My 5 Monkeys
Melinda Joy: Living, Laughing, Loving
Elana at The Twinners Reviews & Giveaways

Whitney at Rambles of a SAHM
Isabelle at Canadian Ladybug Reviews!
Charity at Giveaway Lady

Musings By Lynn
Katie at Legacy of a Writer
Lauri at Knits, Reads and Reviews
Pamela at Daysong Reflections

Marissa at The Review Stew
Laura at Day by Day in Our World
Tina at Family Literacy and You
Janet at Home is Where God Sends You

Tiffany at A Cozy Reader's Corner Reviews
Carrie at Farming On Faith
Renee at Doorkeeper
Kathleen at Reviews From The Heart

Mandie at Taking Time for Mommy
Jacqui at Single Parent Retreat
Maureen at Maureen's Musings
Stacie at Simply Stacie

One Desert Roses' Blog--Christian Book Reviews
Sharon at The Legacy of Home
Norma at Wakela's World
Patty at Broken Teepee
Sharon at I Dream Of Writing for God

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lucinda's Secret (Spiderwick Chronicles #3) by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black


As if being attacked by goblins and a bridge troll weren't enough, Jared is now being targeted by Thimbletack. Simon is keeping an injured and very hungry griffin hidden in the carriage house. And Mallory is convinced the only way to get things back to normal is to get rid of the Guide. But that doesn't seem to be an option. With more creatures from Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You popping up, the Guide seems to be the only protection the Grace kids have. But why do the faeries want it so badly? There's only one person to go to for answers -- crazy, old Aunt Lucinda!

My thoughts:
This book continues to veer away from the movie.  I know it has been awhile since I saw the movie but I don't recall the elves being in it at all.  As we continue to get to see how much of the fantastical world of fairy exists within our own, things start to become even more scary.  The sibling fighting and disagreements ring very true to life and I like how the children have the chance to work them out on their own, for the most part, rather than showing them needing adult intervention.  I would love for my own children to get better at resolving their own issues without my having to step in.  Hopefully as they continue to get older this will become more of the norm in our house!

Aunt Lucinda doesn't seem as friendly here as in the movie either.  The lure of the fairy food is better explained as is the possibility that a human could survive for longer than humanly possible if he or she were captured.  It is setting up what is to come in the next two books.  There are things I don't recall from reading it the first time which is one of the reasons why I do enjoy rereading books.  Plus I want my children to see that books can be enjoyed more than once.

This time around I don't feel like my children are getting as into the story as they did when we read it the first time.  I don't know if it is because it is not longer a new story to them, because we have read a lot of other books and met a lot of different characters since then, or if is just a product of them getting older.

Product Details

Pub. Date: October 2003
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Format: Hardcover , 128pp
Age Range: 7 to 11
Series: Spiderwick Chronicles Series , #3
ISBN-13: 9780689859380
ISBN: 0689859384

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Seeing Stone (Spiderwick Chronicles #2) by Holly Black and Tony Diterlizzi

we said no
still you looked
now instead
someone gets cooked
My thoughts:
In this installment Jared finds out more about the creatures that share our world.  Thimbletack warns him that since he didn't heed the warning to get rid of the book he has set something in motion.  The Simon is taken by by goblins.  In order to see the goblins and other fairy creatures there are a number of things that can be done, one is to look through a stone with a hole in the middle.  When Jared finds one Thimbletack tries to stop him from taking it, in the ensuing struggle Jared manages to once again anger the brownie/boggart.

In this book all three of the Grace children meet a troll, goblins, a hobgoblin and a griffin.  Jared also sees some other creatures in the woods.  When Simon is kidnapped, Jared and Mallory have to rescue him.

The children start to show what they are made of in this book.  Book one set up who the characters were and why they had come to live in this house in the woods (their parents are either separated or going through a divorce.  Jared had started acting out and getting into trouble at school and it is also possible that money was an issue with living in the city).  Now they are adjusting to going to a new school as well as the new reality of there being creatures that they cannot see who are sharing their world. 

In this book their mother does not make much of an appearance.  We see her at the end when the children return to the house very late after their adventures rescuing not only Simon, but also a griffin, from the goblins.  When their story about why they are late falls flat they are grounded for the rest of the month.

One of the big differences between the book and movie at this point is the griffin.  I know the griffin comes to play in the rest of these books, but there was no griffin that I can remember in the movie.

Product Details

Pub. Date: May 2003
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Format: Hardcover , 128pp
Age Range: 6 to 10
Series: Spiderwick Chronicles Series , #2
ISBN-13: 9780689859373
ISBN: 0689859376

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Field Guide Vol. 1 by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi

Go away
close the book
put it down
do not look

My thoughts:
A year and a half ago we listened to these books in the car.  I was wondering what they would be like the second time around, especially since my children are older and much more fluent readers on their own.  Last time around they got very into the stories and started playing the parts in the backyard.  We even had fish named after Simon, Mallory and Jared Grace!

Today we listened to book one as we went about our day with trips here and there.  The story was mostly as I remembered it.  One thing I recall noticing last fall was that there are some differences between the print version of the book and the audio version.  Mark Hamill is reading it and I don't know if he made changes while reading it or if there are more than one version, but last year we had a copy of the book as well as the audio because I wanted my son to practice following along.  When I would check it I would sometimes find that a word or two would be changed on a page.  Not enough to change the meaning of the story, but often a synonym for what was printed.

In the first book Jared, Simon and Mallory move with their mother to a dilapidated old house that belongs to their great aunt Lucinda.  Lucinda has been taken away to a home because she refuses to eat, saying that fairies bring her food that is better than anyone has ever tasted.  The first day there the children hear sounds in the wall and dismantle what they take to be an animal nest.  After a few acts of retribution on Simon and Mallory, the children discover a brownie/boggert is living in the house and that a special book they have found is angering other fantastical, plus invisible, creatures.

This is book one of five.  The set of five were made into a movie.  The movie is similar to the books, but as always seems to be the case, a number of things have been changed to adaptation to the screen.  I like that the story is broken into five parts because is makes it a bit more manageable for younger readers who can be overwhelmed with large books.  It is good for getting their feet wet too with a story that spans more than one book.

Product Details

Pub. Date: May 2003
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Format: Hardcover , 128pp
Age Range: 6 to 10
Series: Spiderwick Chronicles Series , #1
ISBN-13: 9780689859366
ISBN: 0689859368


Holly Black is the bestselling author of the Spiderwick series. Her Modern Faerie Tales series is comprised of Tithe, which was an ALA Top Ten Book for Teens and received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews; Valiant, which was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a Locus Magazine Recommended Read, and a recipient of the Andre Norton Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America; and Ironside, the sequel to Tithe, was a New York Times bestseller. White Cat, the first book in the Curse Workers series, was a Kirkus Reviews Best Book, and ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults, and received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and BCCB. Red Glove, the second book in the Curse Workers series, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Holly has also written a collection of short stories, The Poison Eaters and Other Stories. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. Visit Holly at

Tony DiTerlizzi is the author of The Search for WondLa. He is also the co-creator and illustrator of the bestselling Spiderwick Chronicles, the author and illustrator of Jimmy Zangwow’s Out-of-this-World MoonPie Adventure, as well as the Zena Sutherland Award winning Ted. His brilliantly cinematic version of Mary Howitt’s classic The Spider and The Fly earned Tony his second Zena Sutherland Award, and recieved a Caldecott Honor. Tony’s art has also graced the covers of such well-known fantasy writers as Peter S. Beagle, J. R. R. Tolkien, Anne McCaffrey, and Greg Bear. He has also made significant contributions to Dungeons and Dragons and Wizards of the Coast’s Magic; The Gathering. His first chapter book, Kenny & the Dragon debuted as a New York Times bestseller. He lives with his wife, Angela and their daughter in Western Massachusetts and Jupiter, FL. Visit Tony on the web at

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Haunted by Joy Preble


Anne Michaelson is trying to forget everything that happened last year. But it's hard to do when her heart aches for Ethan and there's a wild-haired woman stalking her...

My thoughts:
First I would like to thank Cindy at Princess Bookie for running so many book contests earlier this year.  I won this signed book from her site.  I was really excited to read it because I had read the first book when it was free to download on Amazon to celebrate the release of book two.  Dreaming Anastasia really sucked me in.  Since I'm not used to e-books I ended up reading it all in one day because it was hard to find a good place to stop!

Haunted starts later the same school year.  In the first book it is the fall of Anne's junior year.  Now it is now the summer after.  It is the summer after Anne discovered that she has magic, that Baba Yaga is a real witch and not just as story, and that spells can be real.  Ethan has been gone for months and in order to feel normal Anne has been dating Ben, a lifeguard at the pool.  Ben loves her, but she isn't sure how she feels about him.  her mother is still coping badly with her brothers death from cancer, her best friend is still funny and outspoken, and now there is a crazy haired mermaid haunting her.

Ethan comes back into Anne's life at the same time the woman shows herself to be a Rusalka, a Russian mermaid that seduces men into the water and to their deaths.  In just a few days everything falls apart again and Anne and her friends have to deal with Baba Yaga, her horsemen and the house on chicken legs in the forest.

Within all the magic and myth, Anne is still trying to find a way to be herself and find balance.  Mostly she wants time to be a teenager, to spend time with her family and see them heal from the loss of her brother, to find love, and to be a friend.  More mysteries and family history is revealed and comes to light and the book is very open to another installment since she is tasked with something at the end.

Seeing Anne try and try to make Ben the choice of her heart so that she could feel normal and finding that it wasn't working felt real to me.  i think a lot of times in high school both girls and boys make choices in dating life for reasons outside of how they actually feel.  Who will their friends be impressed if they date or hook up with?  Who will help to open doors into certain clubs or groups?  Who is going to make them look good?  Rather than thinking, who is going to let me be myself?  Who is really going to listen to and care about me for me?  We all need to learn to ask the hard questions and be more true to what is inside of us.

Russian folklore is new to me.  I had always thought of mermaids as in the Disney Little Mermaid sense, so seeing them as something more dark and sinister was an interesting twist.  I am wondering if the mermaids in the new Pirates of the Caribbean might be more along the same line as the Rusalka in this book.

I am glad I had the opportunity to read this book and add a signed copy to my shelves!  I would recommend it and will be looking out for more books by this author.

Product Details

Pub. Date: February 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
Format: Paperback , 304pp
Age Range: Young Adult
ISBN-13: 9781402244681
ISBN: 1402244681


Joy Preble grew up in Chicago and later moved to Texas. She has an English degree from Northwestern University and she teaches English to high school kids. Dreaming Anastasia is her first novel.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Hardy Boys #4 Malled by Scott Lobell Artist Daniel Renden: Graphic Novel


Frank and Joe Hardy finish up a case helping a fellow ATAC (American Teens Against Crime) agent, who sharp-eyed fans may recognize despite her Alias.

Things seem to quiet down when ATAC sends Frank and Joe undercover to investigate a new Mall opening in Bayport, due to several suspicious accidents there. But things get exciting when the night before the big opening, Joe, Frank, and seven others are mysteriously locked in the mall with a murderer on the loose. If that wasn't enough, everything that could go horribly wrong in a mall, does. A flood caused by water beds. An electrocution at an electronics shop. A bow and arrow used to kill in the Sporting Goods store. A runaway elevator. A damsel in distress in the dress shop. Fire in the food court. And much, much more. Ages 8 to 12.

Papercutz is the exciting new graphic novel publisher that's building a huge following among the next generation of comics fans. Even the most reluctant readers are becoming addicted to the Papercutz approach of giving classic characters a modern makeover! Each Papercutz graphic novel features comics stories drawn in the style of the popular Japanese comics known as manga, and beautifully rendered with state of the art color. While educators rave about the high quality of the Papercutz writing and artwork, readers 8 and up are simply enjoying the great adventures found in each fun-filled volume. Be sure to check out other Papercutz titles such as Nancy Drew, Totally Spies, and Zorro.

My thoughts:
I never got into the Hardy Boys books when I was younger.  I think I tried giving them a chance a few times but can't recall actually finishing any of them.  I was expecting this book to be like the Nancy Drew graphic novel I read last week.  Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys have always been linked in my mind as the sleuthing books meant to appeal to both boys and girls.  So all of this was new to me.

I found this book to be a bit more violent than I would have expected.  Joe and Frank do a lot of saving people from danger, disarming bombs, and bodily getting people out of the way.  I haven't made up my mind yet if I plan to pass this one along to my son or not.  I think he would enjoy it, but I think it sets up an almost MacGyver like ton where Joe and Frank can do it all and have all these special skills.  In Nancy Drew she uses what she knows, and she was able to pick a lock, but it never went as far as disabling bombs and appending criminals by themselves.

The graphics were well done.  They maintained their features from frame to frame and it was easy to tell who was who.  Mr. Hardy didn't look quite old enough to be the father of his sons but I was okay with that.  The male characters all appear athletic and fit while the female characters seem to sport a lot of short skirts, belly baring tops and pigtails.  That is another reason why I am not sure that I want to pass this one along to my children.  This is the type of stereotype I would rather not purposefully expose them to.  It is around in enough other places as it is.

The story was entertaining and it was very fast paced.  The chapters were short and the titles gave them meaning and focus.  I don't plan on seeking out any more of the books in this series, but as I said at the beginning these were never characters that I read much and I don't seem to have generated much more.
Product Details

Pub. Date: January 2006
Publisher: Papercutz
Format: Paperback , 96pp
Age Range: 8 to 12
Series: Hardy Boys Graphic Novels: Undercover Brothers Series , #4
ISBN-13: 9781597070140
ISBN: 1597070149
Edition Description: REV

Monday, May 9, 2011

Thor: A Movie Review


Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins
Directed by Kenneth Brannagh

The powerful but arrogant warrior Thor is cast out of the fantastic realm of Asgard and sent to live amongst humans on Earth, where he soon becomes one of their finest defenders.

My thoughts:
This is the type of movie I always associate with summer.  At the beginning of May there often seems to be a big action film released which coincides with my husband's birthday.  This time we got to see Thor not only in 3D by in IMAX 3D.  I haven't seen an IMAX movie in ten years or more and I think I had forgotten just how big the screen would be!

I enjoyed this story.  I thought Chris Hemsworth did a very good job with the character of Thor.  His arrogance was spot on.  Seeing his face when he is cast out of Asgard showed all the shock he felt at the consequence for having disobeyed his father the king.  Sometimes in action movies, and especially ones with Superheros or Comic book characters, the actors seem almost wooden in their roles, but here that was not the case at all.

Some of the aerial shots of landscapes, when the camera panned over something and then went lower almost felt like being on a roller coaster.  A few times I felt like I was losing my stomach or even felt a bit dizzy.  The scenes where Thor was flying with his hammer at times reminded me of the old Superman movies with Christopher Reeves, but I guess it is hard to make flying like that unique.

The interaction between Thor and Natalie Portman's character felt underdeveloped.  Yes, it was easy to see that she found him very attractive and had a bit of a crush, but he didn't really seem to reciprocate those feelings.  He even seemed like he had missed that she might feel anything towards him.  Then all of a sudden they share the kiss seen in the previews and it is assumed that they were in love.  That I didn't buy.

Watching Thor come to terms with having been cast out and had his powers revoked felt real.  Seeing him lose some of his arrogance and become more human and sympathetic made him more likable and in turn, made the movie more powerful.  It will be interesting to see what his role is like in the upcoming movie that will be bringing so many of the comic characters together.

Geronimo Stilton Review: Free Comic Book Day: Geronimo Stilton and the Smurfs

Product Info:

Geronimo Stilton: (W/A) Geronimo Stilton

Smurfs: (W) Peyo (A) Yvan Delporte

A sampling of one of the bestselling children's books characters (over 12 Million sold, 300,000+ this year) plus a full-color Smurfs story! Geronimo Stilton, editor of the Rodent's Gazette stars in "Play it Again, Mozart", as the Pirate Cats travel back in time to Milan, Italy in the year 1770, to steal a symphony composed by Mozart. Plus: The evil Gargamel takes his battle with the Smurfs to the seas - with surprising results - in "The Smurf Submarine"!

Pages: 32, FC


My thoughts:
Saturday was Free Comic Book Day.  We visited one of our local stores and each of us got a free comic.  I was surprised when none of my children picked this one out so I picked it myself.  Since it has been at our house they have all either looked at it or read it.  So far I have only ever read one Geronimo Stilton book, but I really liked it and it kept my children engaged and interested.  In this one the Pirate Cats kidnap the professor and hide him in the Cretaceous Period.  Geronimo and his gang go to rescue him and meet some dinosaurs.  The story is not finished in this comic but continued in another one (all the better to get you to buy more of course!).  Included as well is a short comic with the Smurfs.  One of them builds a submarine and Gargamel tries to get him by building his own ship as well.
The illustrations were nicely done and look like the ones in the chapter books.  According to the forward there is a series of graphic novels for the Stilton book and comics for the Smurfs series as well.  I've never noticed either of these on the shelves at the comic book store but I guess I'll have to check out the children's shelf a little better the next time we go in.  It is easy to get overwhelmed at the store because there are so many comics, graphic novels, figures, manga books, movies and more displayed.  Click here to see the other comics from the free day.

Encyclopedia Brown Cracks the Case by Donald L. Sobel


Since 1963, when Dutton published the first book in the series, Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective , the brainy crime-stopper has been a favorite character among middle-grade readers. Now, for the first time in twenty-five years, Dutton is pleased to present a brand-new Encyclopedia Brown mystery. Following the classic formula, the book presents ten separate mysteries, complete with answers that allow the reader to solve the cases along with the Boy Detective. Encyclopedia Brown Cracks the Case will be a flagship for the backlist titles, which Puffin will reissue in paperback on the same list with new cover art.

My thoughts:
I thought that I had read some Encyclopedia Brown books in elementary school, but if I did I must not remember them very well.  My preconceived notion of what the book was going to be was that the whole book was going to be one mystery that Leroy, aka Encyclopedia Brown was going to solve.  Instead this audio book contained ten mysteries that Brown is able to solve using the knowledge he has from being the most read person in Idaville.  The twenty five cent price to work a case dated the book to me, even though this is supposed to be a new book to revive the series.

My children really enjoyed listening to this.  After each case when the narrator would announce that Encyclopedia had solved it and the solution was about to be announced we would pause the CD and each person would make their guess of who the criminal was and why they thought so.  Many times they were not correct, but it got them thinking and using reasoning skills which I think are important to practice.

I think I will be looking for more Encyclopedia Brown books at the library since this one seemed to be a hit with my older children.

Product Details

Pub. Date: September 2008
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Format: Paperback , 96pp
Age Range: 6 to 8
Series: Encyclopedia Brown Series
ISBN-13: 9780142411674
ISBN: 0142411671

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Rio: A Movie Review

We had another family movie day.  This time we split into two groups since the kids wanted to see different things.  I had the chance to see Rio in 3D.  As an added touch the kids got a bag of Silly Bands with their tickets.

In Rio Blu is a Blue Macaw who was stolen from Brazil and lost in transit to a pet store in Minnesota.  A little girl named Linda finds him and they become best friends.  Fifteen years later, while running a bookstore she meets Tulio who has come from Rio to find the last known male Blue Macaw.  He wants Linda to bring Blu to Rio to keep the species going with his female Blue Macaw, Jewel.  The birds are stolen and getting away is complicated by Blu's inability to fly.  Many lively creatures, many of them colorful birds, make appearances.  Also included are scenes from Carnival.

The segments with the birds flying and air dancing to music are really impressive.  A lot of the animals are really funny and the fight scene between the  monkeys and the birds was fun for my children.  At times the ineptitude of Linda and Tulio was  a bit overdone and there was a part when it started to drag for me, but my seven year old seemed to enjoy it the whole time.  My younger children lost interest, but it kept their attention for the span that seems appropriate for their age.

While the scenes in the jungle with the birds flying to music and the hang gliding scenes were neat in 3D, a lot of the movie would have been just as fine without the special effects.  My younger children have a hard time keeping the glasses on and I often wish more movies were offered without 3D, not just for price but because young kids can't keep the glasses on.

We enjoyed our morning at the movies and I would recommend Rio to other families.  I found a trailer for it on the official web site that I posted below for anyone who hasn't already seen it advertised on TV or at the movies.

High Tide in Hawaii by Mary Pope Osborne (Magic Tree House Series #28)


Jack and Annie are ready for their next fantasy adventure in the bestselling middle-grade series—the Magic Tree House!

Catch the wave!

That's what Jack and Annie do when the Magic Tree House whisks them back to a Hawaiian island of long ago. They learn how to surf and have a great time—until strange things start happening. Jack and Annie soon discover the cause: A title wave is headed their way! Can they help save their new friends in time?

Visit the Magic Tree House website!

My thoughts:
I love this series.  I discovered it years ago when I as teaching second grade and used the first book, Dinosaurs Before Dark, for part of our dinosaur unit.  Since then I have read the books to many classes and shared a good part of the series with my own children.  Two years ago Wendy's was giving four of the audio books as their kid's meal treat and we received two of them.  Those were the two books that started us on audio books in the car and on the series.  This book is one of the ones that we got from Wendy's.  Since we had listened to all of our library books we ended up throwing this one in to listen to again the other day.

Jack and Annie are in the middle of looking for specific things for Morgan by going on missions.  This time they are sent to old Hawaii to build a special kind of ship.  They make friends with two children, try new food, hula dance and surf.  While they are there a tsunami happens and they are able to warn their friends and get high enough that everyone is fine.  The book contains some historical facts about how Hawaii came to be.

These books are great for beginning readers and children just getting used to chapter books.  They are on the short side and each chapter is a manageable length.  They include enough details to keep children engaged and interested without overwhelming them with too many facts and the characters are very likable and seem real.

Part of me wants to start listening to the series all over again this summer just because even I had fun with the books the other times we've read them.
Product Details

Pub. Date: March 2003
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Format: Paperback , 73pp
Series: Magic Tree House Series , #28
ISBN-13: 9780375806162
ISBN: 0375806164

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride by Kate DiCamillo


It’s the best thing since buttered toast — Mercy Watson in paperback!

Mercy loves nothing more than a ride in the convertible, with the wind tickling her ears and the sun on her snout. But one day the Watsons’ elderly neighbor Baby Lincoln pops up in the backseat in hopes of some “folly and adventure” — and in the chaos that ensues, an exuberant Mercy ends up behind the wheel!

My thoughts:
My children requested that we listen to "another pig story" so we listened to the second one on the our audio CD.  They thought the idea of a pig driving a car was really funny.  They noticed things I wouldn't have thought of either, for example at the end of both of the books we read the Watson's eat buttered toast with someone.

Since they enjoyed listening so much I think I am going to need to check the library for print copies.  It would be interesting to see what kind of illustrations the books have and I am pretty sure my daughter could read these on her own.  Having a book that is interesting and appropriate reading level wise is important to me.

As an adult, this was not the most thrilling book to listen to, but seeing how my children were enjoying it made it better for me.

Product Details

Pub. Date: December 2009
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Format: Paperback , 80pp
Age Range: 6 to 8
Series: Mercy Watson Series
ISBN-13: 9780763645052
ISBN: 0763645052

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo


From the one and only Kate DiCamillo comes an irresistible new hero for early chapter book readers, brightly captured with comic nostalgic flair by Chris Van Dusen.

To Mr. and Mrs. Watson, Mercy is not just a pig — she's a porcine wonder. And to the portly and good-natured Mercy, the Watson's are an excellent source of buttered toast, not to mention that buttery-toasty feeling she gets when she snuggles into bed with them. This is not, however, so good for the Watsons' bed. BOOM! CRACK! As the bed and its occupants slowly sink through the floor, Mercy escapes in a flash — "to alert the fire department," her owners assure themselves. But could Mercy possibly have another emergency in mind — like a sudden craving for their neighbors' sugar cookies? Welcome to the wry and endearing world of Mercy Watson — an ebullient new character for early chapter-book readers in a series that's destined to be a classic.

My thoughts:
I think as a chapter book for beginning readers this book is probably just right.  There is a lot of repetition and enough that was funny to keep interest.  The chapters were all relatively short so that it wasn't overwhelming.  Unfortunately we checked this out of the library as an audio book.  It was short to listen to (less than 20 minutes) but not all the interesting from an adult perspective.  That said, I think this is one of the books that my four year old has followed the best and been the most excited about hearing in the car.

Mercy is a pig who is treated like a child.  She has a room, lives in their house and gets sung to sleep.  On the night that she tries sleeping in bed with the Watson's the floor starts to break.  mercy's antics get the attention of the fire rescue men and everyone is saved.  It held the interest of my children which is the biggest feature for me. 

When I was browsing on the shelf at the library I was looking for books that were of interest for younger readers and that were not overwhelmingly long.  We tend to get into book series and if feels like we are listening to them forever.  Last school year and summer we went through the Chronicles of Narnia, the Spiderwick Chronicles and Harry Potter.  While I am not against series and really enjoyed them, it is nice to break up the longer books and series with some shorter ones.

I recognized DiCamillo's name from The Tale of Despereaux and  Because of Winn-Dixie.


Kate DiCamillo has a great talent for presenting some of life s most sensitive questions to young readers. Her characters struggle with tough issues -- abandonment, death in the family, making new friends, forgiveness -- but with a sense of humor and honesty that carries her audience beyond this struggle, and toward inspiration.

Product Details

Pub. Date: December 2009
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Format: Paperback , 80pp
Age Range: 6 to 8
Series: Mercy Watson Series
ISBN-13: 9780763645045
ISBN: 0763645044
Edition Description: Reprint

Monday, May 2, 2011

Nancy Drew Girl Detective #4: The Girl Who Wasn't There Graphic Novel by Stefan Petrucha Illustrated by Sho Murase


Nancy gets a call for help late one night from a girl she befriended over the phone when getting technical support to help fix her computer. When the line goes dead, Nancy is determined to get to the bottom of things. Soon,

Nancy, her Dad, and friends George and Bess are on their way to India to find Kalpana, the girl who wasn¹t there! It's only a matter of time before Nancy is captured by Sahadev the crime lord and is being sacrificed to Kali! Ages 8 to 12.

Papercutz is the exciting new graphic novel publisher that's building a huge following among the next generation of comics fans. Even the most reluctant readers are becoming addicted to the Papercutz approach of giving classic characters a modern makeover! Each Papercutz graphic novel features comics stories drawn in the style of the popular Japanese comics known as manga, and beautifully rendered with state of the art color. While educators rave about the high quality of the Papercutz writing and artwork, readers 8 and up are simply enjoying the great adventures found in each fun-filled volume. Be sure to check out other Papercutz titles such as The Hardy Boys, Zorro and Totally Spies.

My thoughts:
I was browsing at a comic book store last weekend and came across this book on the used manga shelf.  I grew up reading a lot of mysteries.  Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon were two of my favorites.  I wanted to be a detective and look for clues!  I had not heard about this line of books and was excited to give this one a try.

Nancy, Bess and George accompany Nancy's dad to India because a friend of Nancy's called her for help and then went missing.  They look for clues at the company the girl worked for and at the girls home.  Nancy ends up kidnapped, George is great with technology and Bess can fix mechanical things.  I recall that Bess was good with mechanical jobs but not what George was supposed to be good at.  The drawings depict them similar to how I remember, just updated.  Bess is blond and rounder, George has short dark hair and Nancy has longer reddish blond hair.

Since this book is intended for young readers a lot of explanation was included about how call centers for computer companies are in India, how in India they speak two languages and the a lot more.  It almost felt like the author was trying to sneak learning into the book, but I think more likely he just wanted to make sure that children understood what was going on.

I started to get worried that the mystery wasn't going to be resolved before the end of the book, but as in all the ones I recall for childhood, Nancy and her pals save the day and solve the mystery and the bad guy is apprehended.  That part reminded me a bit of Scooby Doo which is not an association I ever made before, but the kids like to solve mysteries in both.

I liked the use of technology and the way the story was brought into current times.  I haven't read a Nancy Drew book for years.  I am not even sure if they are still being written, but I wonder how they are dealing with all the changes that have happened since the series started.  I recall some of them being a bit dated when I was reading them and that was pretty long ago!  I think this new (or newer) series is a nice introduction for readers who are new to the characters.

Product Details

Pub. Date: January 2006
Publisher: Papercutz
Format: Paperback , 96pp
Age Range: 8 to 12
Series: Nancy Drew Graphic Novels: Girl Detective Series , #4
ISBN-13: 9781597070126
ISBN: 1597070122

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver


Ninety-five days, and then I'll be safe. I wonder whether the procedure will hurt. I want to get it over with. It's hard to be patient. It's hard not to be afraid while I'm still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn't touched me yet. Still, I worry. They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don't.

Lauren Oliver astonished readers with her stunning debut, Before I Fall. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called it "raw, emotional, and, at times, beautiful. An end as brave as it is heartbreaking." Her much-awaited second novel fulfills her promise as an exceptionally talented and versatile writer.

My thoughts:
Last year I had the chance to read Lauren Oliver's first novel, Before I Fall, as part of Barnes and Nobles First Look Book Club.  I got so into the book that I read it all in a day or two.  Something about it grabbed me right from the start and kept me reading straight through to the end.  In this, her second book, I wasn't hooked quite as early.  Once I was I finished it in two days, but I put it down for a while to finish  library books and review books, then picked it back up.  It could have also been that I was just too distracted when I started it as well.

Lena starts the novel impatiently waiting for her day to receive the cure for love, a brain operation that all citizens receive sometime after they have turned 18.  Love was identified as a disease 63 years earlier and 43 years ago a cure was developed that has led to a society without wars.  To go along with that, the residents of Portland, Maine, as well as all the other towns, are surrounded by an electrified fence to keep them safe from Invalids who live in the wilds.  Invalids are people who have resisted the cure and live outside of the cities.  The government bases your profession on how you score on standardized tests and gives you approved matches for marriage based on your evaluation scores.  Lena can't wait to escape the chance of disease until she herself finds love and starts to see how the protections provided by society also work in reverse to keep people in a prison like environment.

This book reminded me a bit of Suzanne Collins Hunger Games series.  People are kept in and not allowed to leave.  It also called to mind a mini-series I recall from many years ago called Amerika.  Unfortunately my details of the mini-series are pretty sketchy, but I recall gates and one of the characters being caught doing something against the rules and having a procedure done that made him almost like a vegetable.  I wondered if the procedure in this book was like a lobotomy but less severe.  All of the adults seem a bit detached.  One of the possible side effects is a detachment for a mother or father from their child that makes them unable to care for the child.

Not all of the cured individuals believe in the system, so there is a network of people working against the government.  This resistance has members on the outside called Invalids and inside who, if found, are labeled Sympathizers.  Phone calls and all interactions are monitored and have the possibility of being reported.  Everyone is afraid of what their neighbor might see and report to the monitors.  A society managed through fear.

Lena meets Alex a few times before he helps save her from a raid on an illegal party.  As they get to know each other they start to spend more and more time together secretly.  Alex introduces her to ideas she has never had and opens her eyes to the way things work.  He gets her to start thinking for herself and being herself,which has always been discouraged.  Seeing Lena grow and change within this constrictive society gave me hope.  It also made me wonder how much people in general just accept how things are and go with them, how they plod from day to day looking to the future without giving too much thought to how they could change things for the better in the here and now.

Product Details

Pub. Date: February 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Format: Hardcover , 441pp
Age Range: Young Adult
ISBN-13: 9780061726828
ISBN: 0061726826

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll

Alice is wondering what to do one day, when a talking rabbit steals her attention. She is so intrigued that she follows him into his hole, and tumbles down into Wonderland. Alice soon discovers that reality and logic, as she knows them, do not apply here. In an attempt get out of the hole and into, "the loveliest garden you ever saw," she eats a cake to grow large enough to reach the key to the garden.

My thoughts:
Somehow I have gotten through life without ever reading this book.  I've seen the Disney animated version and last years live action version, but not read the story.  After having read Alice I Have Been last year I was even more curious about the book.

I borrowed the audio version from the library to listen to with my children in the car.  I was surprised to find that I really didn't care for it.  Not liking a book is pretty rare for me.  I can usually find something about a story that I enjoy and like, but this one really didn't do anything for me.  I'm not sure if I was filtering it through the ideas about the author that I generated from Alice I Have Been, or if it was just the story itself.  Nothing making sense, having no logic and the used of foods to make one grow bigger or smaller just had me wishing we could hurry up and get to the end of the CD's.

As far as animated movies go, Alice in Wonderland was never one of my favorites.  I always thought that the use of animals and the walking deck of cards was just for the movie and really they would be people.  Not sure why I thought those details would have been changed, but I really did, so I was surprised when the Queen's workers really were cards and the Mad Hatter and friends were really animals.  My children seemed to enjoy it well enough, but I think they had more trouble following this story than most.

I am glad that I can say that I have read it, but doubt very much that I will ever read it again.