Search This Blog

Friday, August 26, 2011

Good Book...Honest

True (...Sort Of)  by Katherine Hannigan

True (...Sort Of)This was another good book from Ms. Hannigan, the author of Ida B.  It is similar to Ida B--both have a character with a very close bond with nature, both deal with a serious issue, and both end with hope.  In True, Delly is trying to stay out of trouble, something she hasn't been able to do up to now.  It's not that Delly's bad or mean or thoughtless--quite the opposite in fact.  Delly's passion and spirit usually lead her on path she shouldn't have rushed onto.  To stay out of trouble, Delly decides to trail Ferris, a new kid in her class.  Since Ferris doesn't talk (ever) (for a serious reason), Delly figures Ferris should be boring enough to keep Delly out of trouble. Should be anyway.

My kids really liked the Dictionary in the back of the book with words Delly made up and her invented no-cuss words.  They're used heavily in this household now.  My youngest son didn't really understand the ending and that's okay.  He was able to enjoy the magic of the story and not deal with the serious stuff.  My older son liked the book but felt uneasy at the end, which I think is a good thing.

In the book, Ferris has a special relationship with animals.  Birds and squirrels flock to her.  She easily communicate silently with her cat.  Yet, the story is quite real.  It's not a fantasy book.  I hadn't thought about a story being about realistic people in a realistic setting and having a little bit of magic in that real world, too.  At first, I tried to ignore the unrealistic reaction the animals had to Ferris and chalk it up to Delly exaggerating a little, but later I asked myself 'Why can't there be this "unrealistic" thread in a realistic story? Who says it has to be one or the other?'  Then I embraced that part of the book.  I was very glad this book again reminded me not to live in a world that's black and white.  Gray happens, gray is real, and gray can be good.

It's been so many years since I read Ida B that I don't feel I could give an accurate review of it.  I just remember being very moved by the book.  The main character is home schooled until her mom becomes very sick and she has to go to "regular" school. 

This book was one my wife chose to do as a read aloud to the kids on a recent trip we made. As I was driving, and almost all the reading was done in the car, I got to listen too. Author Katherine Hannigan spins a really good tale of friendship, of overcoming perceptions and of learning how to do what's right.

The story centers mostly around Delly Pattison, a 5th grader who likes surpresents (surprise presents). But, her surpresents tend to get her in trouble. In fact, she is in trouble so often, that most of her family and friends have given up on her. That all changes when Delly meets Ferris Boyd, the new kid in town who is like no one Delly has ever met before. Ferris comes with her own set of troubles though. Can Delly overcome her troubles and help Ferris?

There is a side story involving another kid's (Brud Kinney) interaction with Ferris as well, but I think the Delly/Ferris story is definitely the main theme. I really enjoyed this book, and my wife read it so well. This story is funny at times, sad at others, and heartwarming at others. A great choice for a read aloud book with kids. There are some tough themes at times, so I'd suggest kids 8 or older. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I Don't Have the Words

These Is My Words by Nancy Turner

This is a fantastic book!!  I don't have the right words to say how much I liked it, but I really really did.  I read it as an ebook so I was spared a spoiler on the cover of the paperback, which kept me in suspense for at least the first half of the book.  Don't read the reviews on the cover of the book.

The book is the diary of a woman pioneer, Sarah, in the Arizona Territory.  The diary begins when she is seventeen years old, and her family is traveling across the southwest to sell horses.  The diary continues on for almost two decades.  Sarah faces many trials, but she is so strong and compassionate.  Her outlook on life is so interesting.  I found her thoughts both comforting, inspiring, and thought-provoking, while I enjoyed the plot line immensely.

I enjoyed the diary format of this book.  Sarah is not formally educated so she doesn't write with proper grammar.  Some people told me this bothered them in the beginning until they got use to it, but it didn't bother me at all.  I think that was a good decision by the author because is makes Sarah's voice so much more real.

I was very pleased when I realized there are two more books about Sarah following this book  [Sarah's Quilt and The Star Garden].  Living in the midwest, I'm familiar with the life of pioneers in the this area (see Laura Ingalls Wilder), but I hadn't thought much about the life of pioneers in the southwest.  I was glad to be exposed to that part of U.S. history.  This book was inspired by the diary of the author's grandmother.

You've got to read this book.  It's great.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lost in a Good Book

Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff          

Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War IIThis book tells the story of a true rescue mission in New Guinea towards the end of World War II.  An officer rewards some of his workers stationed in New Guinea with a flight over a newly discovered civilization in a valley on the island.  The plane crashes; only three aboard survive.  The survivors are located by plane, but the military has few plausible ideas on how to remove the survivors from the deep forested valley.  As they wait to leave, the survivors meet the "locals". 

Mr. Zuckoff does a great job of painting the picture of life at the base camp so we can understand the people on the flight.  He expertly weaves the story of the crash and rescue with interesting information about the native inhabitants, the history of the war, and types of military equipment.  The book also contains photographs.

It's got to be a good book, when you know the ending but you still can't wait to read it. 

Not Blazing But Still a Great Read

The Ring of Rocamadour (The Red Blazer Girls Series #1) by Michael D. Beil

Again, as I was shelving books at work, I found the second book of the Red Blazer Girls series.  I was very intrigued because it was girls in a Catholic School who were working with a priest to solve a mystery.  Could this be a secular Catholic book, I wondered. 

I read the first book and I really liked it.  The girls in the book do refer to Cosmo and Vogue, which I don't think most of the Catholic homeschool girls I know would relate to, but I don't have girls so maybe they would and probably most girls regardless of religion would know about those magazines.  I did not like that the girls said hell.

But, there were many things I did like.  I liked that the girls were good kids who came from a variety of backgrounds.  School was important to them and one of their teachers is a good mentor for them.  The girls are also respectful to adults.  In the end, they help bring members of family who were estranged from each other back together again.  The priests in the book are portrayed as good people, not sticks-in-the-mud or hypocrites.

The girls must use knowledge about literature, social studies, math, and more to solve the many clues in the mystery.  I thought that was really cool.  Along with the mystery, there's also a crush to deal with.  In the end there is a kiss in public with their families there.  A good compromise?  There's the kiss for the audience, but with a purer environment for selective parents' of the reader. 

I think this is a great read for young girls with a bit of boy and Glamour and an emphasis on what we should really treasure-friends and family.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Book for Book Lovers

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

What a wonderful book.  I enjoyed it so much.  This is definetly a book for booklovers.  Guernsey is a small island off the southern coast of England, quite close to France.  The island was occupied by the Germans during World War II. 
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyThe book, told in letter form (the perfect way to tell this story), takes place just after the end of World War II.  A man writes to a woman whose old book he now owns, to ask her if she might help him find other books by the same author.  The woman writes back.  We learn she is an author, looking for inspiration for a new book and a new opportunity at living again.  Her correspondence extends to others on the island, member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.  A friendship forms between them.  We learn about wonderful people and the suffering endured during the German occupation of their home.  The writing is wonderful, the characters become your friends, and the history revealed is absorbing.  The importance and relief the love of books and reading brings is interwoven throughout the story.  Pick this book up, and you won’t want to put it down.

This Book is Over the Top Awesome

Gregor the Overlander (Underland Chronicles #1) by Suzanne Collins  

I have been meaning to read this book for years.  I finally did.  It was one of the free books offered to kids who completed the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program.  My friend was having a book discussion on it, so I got the audio for the kids and I to listen to as we drove back and forth from camp.  I mentioned earlier that my kids don’t really like fantasy books, so I wasn’t expecting them to like this book, but since we were stuck in the car I hoped they would just keep listening.  Well, they were hooked within the first couple chapter when the cockroaches say Gregor’s two-year old sister smells good and she announces, “I poop.”  I think I had to pause the CD so they could finish laughing and copying what they heard, but they were hooked and they paid close attention throughout the whole story.  And, we all loved it!!!!  We immediately listened to the second book once we finished the first, and we can’t wait to read the third!

Suzanne Collins wrote this story after wondering what city kids would think of Alice in Wonderland.  They wouldn’t have rabbit holes around.  I’m so glad she wondered that, and then wrote about it.

Life has been difficult for Gregor and his family after his father disappeared over two years ago (Grerogt can tell you how long his dad’s been gone to the day).  Soon into the story, Gregor and his sister, Boots,s fall down a shaft taking them to Underland.  Giant cockroaches find them and greatly admire Gregor’s sister.  Eventually, Gregor and Boots find themselves in Regalia, a city of underground dwelling humans who ride giant colored bats.  They live in fear of the Gnawers.  Gregor learns of a prophecy telling of a warrior who helps them against the rats.  The humans believe Gregor is the warrior.

So far, this follows the path of the ever-loved classic quest.  A boy, unsure of himself, is forced upon a quest to find his father and help his friends, if only he can find the inner strength to make the right decisions.  There’s a reason we love quest stories so much.  And this is definitely one to love!

Technical Difficulty

Sorry about the lack of posts recently.  I had computer trouble, but now we're back up and running.