Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I'm reading the book, The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis.

I want to give Darling Dear Deza a big hug and tell her she's one of the bravest and smartest characters I've ever met.

In a 'To Kill a Mockingbird' style, it's a book everyone should read... and re-read.

more Wonder

Official book trailer...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Betty says, "I'm going to marry chocolate cake."

The perfect read-aloud for any chocolate lover.

Is the kingdom's fate in the hands of an orphan cat?

The Familiars series is currently two books, with a third - The Circle of Heroes - to be released in September. This book series has been a favorite at our house: filled with magic, adventure, time travel, humor, peril, and friendship.

The first book is already being made into a 3-D animated movie.

My favorite part of this book is that the familiars refer to their human partners as their 'loyals'.

It's a great series. Be sure to read it before the movie comes out. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

a day of reading

I just started reading the book A Monster Calls. I am just a few chapters in, but it is one of those books that have me planning my day around reading... I can bring it to the gym with me tomorrow... and then again while I'm waiting for an oil change at the service center...
It's a book by Patrick Ness, but it's based on the last story idea from Siobhan Dowd who died in 2007 from breast cancer at the age of 47... the age I am now.

The story opens in England. Thirteen year old, Conor O'Malley, is a brave boy with a recurring nightmare: his mother slips from his grasp, lost forever. Conor's waking life isn't much better, his mother is dying from cancer.

So when a monster appears after midnight, like they always do, Conor isn't frightened. He's seen worse. 

I'm at the point in the book now where the monster is going to tell Conor three parables. After the final story, Conor must tell the monster his own story... but not just any story, he must tell the monster his own Truth.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


A lot can happen in eleven minutes. Decker can run two miles easily in eleven minutes. I once wrote an English essay in ten. No lie.
Eleven minutes might as well be eternity under water. It only takes three minutes without air for loss of consciousness. Permanent brain damage begins at four minutes. And then, when the oxygen runs out, full cardiac arrest occurs. Death is possible at five minutes. Probable at seven. Definite at ten.
 Decker pulled me out at eleven.


Eleven minutes passed before Delaney Maxwell was pulled from the icy waters of a Maine lake by her best friend Decker Phillips. By then her heart had stopped beating. Her brain had stopped working. She was dead. And yet she somehow defied medical precedent to come back seemingly fine — despite the scans that showed significant brain damage. Everyone wants Delaney to be all right, but she knows she’s far from normal. Pulled by strange sensations she can’t control or explain, Delaney finds herself drawn to the dying. Is her altered brain now predicting death, or causing it?

A book about a near death experience that leaves the protagonist inexplicably changed... add some kind of preternatural gift or connection... and I was hooked.

The beginning was wonderful. There's a creeping dread and a lot of action. But then, about a third of the way through, there was the f-word. I thought, "Hmmm... really? Was that necessary to the story?" But, I let it go. By the end of the book, there it was again... and again.

What do you think? Am I being too critical of a young adult novel?

Otherwise, it was an exciting story with a great paranormal twist.

Monday, January 23, 2012

2012 Newbery Award

curious & wonderfully peculiar

Jacob is a 16 year old boy who has spent his childhood listening to his grandfather's stories.

The stories take place on a mysterious island. They involve time travel, an abandoned orphanage, shapeshifting, and a strange collection of vintage photographs. 

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a book that must make it into your reading queue... it's thrilling, creepy, mysterious, and adventurous. Read it before it becomes a movie. Word on the internet is that Tim Burton is purchasing the rights to it... which could be wonderfully curious.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Do you believe in ghosts?

No, me neither... at least, that's what I keep telling myself. 

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake is scary! Anna isn't just any girl; she's a ghost that kills people.

Enter Cass, our hero...  He's not just any teenage boy; he's a ghost hunter.

You can see where this is going. But this book is more than a love story. It's sweet and funny and absolutely terrifying.

If you know a teen who loves to be scared, this is the book for them.

Book 2, Girl of Nightmares, comes out in August.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A beautiful new picture book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (illustrated by Peter Reynolds).

One small act of love blooms into something bigger and more dazzling.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

ripple effect

My favorite bit:
"Now, at seventeen years old, Emily's question was how she fit into the big scheme of things. Where was her minor incident that would change the course of major life events? So far it had all gone according to plan. Good parents. Decent younger brother. World's greatest dog. Loyal best friend.

There had been no dramatic hairpin turns in her road. And not any real bumps to speak of.

But she had lived in one town, and she had seen how small things changed big things. She saw every person as part of a ripple effect.

And, because of that, she believed in destiny.

At least that's what she would later tell herself."

Emily is seventeen and believes that nothing is mere coincidence... into her life walk brothers, Sam and Riddle... let the 'ripple effect' begin.

I'll Be There, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, is a beautiful story about all the little ways we connect with each other. How we have an impact on everyone we interact with... for good or for ill.

The story is simple and poetic and told almost completely in narrative.

Once the action started, this was a hold-your-breath and read-as-fast-as-you-can-to-find-out-what-happens sort of book!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I Wonder...

"...I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse."

I just pre-ordered the book Wonder by RJ Palacio.

It's the story of a 10 year old boy named August.
August spent his childhood undergoing painful surgeries and treatments. He was born with a rare facial disfigurement and has been home schooled his whole life... until now.

This is the story of his first year at school.

It's a book about being yourself, even if the odds are against you, because in the end, that's all you can be.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Juniper Berry

Juniper Berry is an eleven year-old girl who feels trapped living in her mansion with her famous film star parents. To make matters worse, her mom and dad are changing before her eyes. They are no longer interested in Juniper; they are more interested in their own careers. They have lost the spark in their eyes and seem to be no more than controlled mannequins, although controlled by who or what Juniper does not know
Juniper Berry is a tale of terror and temptation by M.P. Kozlowsky.

This is a frighteningly creepy story. 

Juniper Berry lives what might seem like a dream life. Her parents are famous movie stars. She lives in a huge mansion. Her life, however, is far from perfect. Lately she has noticed that something is terribly wrong with her parents.
This book was 'making a deal with the devil' spooky. And reminds you that the choice between what's right and what's easy is never... easy.

Be careful what you wish for. It can change you... not always for the better.
Read the first chapter Here (if you dare!)

just in case...

I love the book, Justin Case by Rachel Vail. It's witty, ironic, touching, and compassionate... but that's not why I love it. I love it because it was the first book my son loved. The first book that sparked a love of reading. The first book he read again and again. It is the absolute perfect book to get for any third grader.
"It's the start of the school year, and nothing feels right to Justin. He didn't get the teacher he wanted, he's not in the same class as his best friend, and his little sister, Elizabeth, is starting kindergarten at his school. Elizabeth doesn't seem nervous at all. Justin is very nervous about third grade. And to top it off, he's lost his favorite stuffed animal, but he can't tell anyone, because technically he's too old to still have stuffed animals. Right? Here is third grade in all its complicated glory-the friendships, the fears, and the advanced math.
Acclaimed author Rachel Vail captures third grade with a perfect pitch, and Matthew Cordell's line art is both humorous and touching. As Justin bravely tries to step out of his shell, he will step into readers' hearts."

This is the story of a kind, lovable, charming, very believable  third grade boy - and all that goes with being 8 - friendships, fears, sports, the bully, teachers, gym class, retainers, haikus, superstars, and times tables .

Read an excerpt Here
Check out the Discussion Guide Here
I will forever love Justin Krzeszewski.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

our lives will twist

Do you know very much about the Vietnam War? 

Did you know that when the Vietnam War ended with the fall of Saigon, that over 150,000 people fled the country looking for a safe place to live? 

Many of those who fled Vietnam went to a military base in Guam where they were then assigned to live in a new country.

I was 10 when the Vietnam war ended.

The book, Inside Out and Back Again, is the story of Ha - a ten year old girl. She lives in Saigon in 1975, during the end of the war. Her family escapes on a boat to Guam and eventually they end up in Alabama.

The story is poetry... literally

This is a beautiful book about change, bullying, kindness, and wanting to belong.

the story starter

The mysterious writer was walking to the cemetery in the rain.  

Have you tried The Story Starter?

It's a web site that randomly generates 1,660,497,300 story starter sentences. It's a great idea generator.

There's also a Story Starter for kids - how cool is that?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

consider author Maggie Stiefvater...

Do you ever make bookmarks for your books?
For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl.

This is the story of a boy who used to be a wolf and a girl who was becoming one. Just a few months ago, it was Sam who was the mythical creature. But now it is spring. With the heat, the remaining wolves will soon be falling out of their wolf pelts and back into their human bodies


The conclusion to #1 bestselling Shiver trilogy. In Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. InLinger, they fought to be together. Now, in Forever, the stakes are even higher than before. Wolves are being hunted. Lives are being threatened. And love is harder and harder to hold on to as death comes closing in.

Another great book by Maggie Stiefvater is The Scorpio Races...

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

Monday, January 9, 2012

dazzling & magical

V started reading Liesl & Po last night and she couldn't put it down. Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver is both a beautiful fairy-tale and a wonderful adventure story. Since her father's death, Liesl has been locked away in the tiny attic room by her conniving stepmother. After 3 days in the attic, Liesl grows despondent and catches the attention of a ghost, Po. He has come from the Other Side and is as lonely as Liesl. Po brings Liesl a message from her father: 
"I shouldn't have eaten the soup."

The dark themes of this book are softened by a wonderful description of The Other Side - a place where one goes after death. It is written in a dazzling and magical way that removes any fear of death and instead leaves a sense of peace that even grieving Liesl can understand.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

get hooked on Alice

Today we found a cool digital novel called Inanimate Alice. Inanimate Alice is a multimedia online novel by Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph.
The novel is interactive and requires the reader to move the story forward. It uses text, images, music, sound effects, puzzles and games to illustrate and enhance the narrative. The reader is a direct participant in telling the story.
There are currently 4 episodes... but Inanimate Alice is an ever growing story and a beautiful use of media.

So far, V & H are reading & re-reading, playing & re-playing Inanimate Alice.
I love how Alice connects different technologies, languages, and cultures. 

Feel like co-creating globally? Check out Inanimate Alice.

You can download the Starter Activities Booklet
There's information for parents & teachers

Saturday, January 7, 2012

a strong-willed girl's quest to rescue her brother from kidnapping crows

I finally finished The Wildwood Chronicles by Colin Meloy. At 560 pages, it took a while,

Twelve year old Prue is the adventurous, headstrong, sarcastic main character. She is fiercely loyal to her younger brother - so much so, that when he is kidnapped by a flock of birds (did you know that a group of crows is called a 'murder'?), she heads into the Impassable Wilderness to rescue him.

What begins as a rescue mission becomes something much bigger; Wildwood is a hero's journey.

Check out the first chapter here.
First sentence: How five crows managed to lift a twenty-pound baby boy into the air was beyond Prue, but that was certainly the least of her worries.

The beautiful illustrations in this book are done by Carson Ellis (Colin Meloy is her husband... he's also the lead singer for The Decemberists... he's also the brother of Maile Meloy who is the author of The Apothecary... cool)

Friday, January 6, 2012

I just ordered...

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

"Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human—except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and, rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers’ passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout.
Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. " - The Kirkus Review
Animal stories break my heart. I cry every time I watch Dumbo... well I don't really need to watch all of Dumbo to cry... I can just see bits of the 'Baby Mine' video and my eyes begin to tear and there's a lump in my throat...
I'm hoping I can make it through The One And Only Ivan... with one box of kleenex. I love a good book about courage and kindness and wrongs made right... and for that I am willing to have my heart broken, just a little.

(let me know if this makes you tear up too)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

save the apothecary

A mysterious apothecary. A magic book. 
A missing scientist. An impossible plan.

The Apothecary is full of history, war, power, freedom, romance, physics, adventure, and magic. A wonderful middle grade novel by Maile Meloy; beautifully illustrated by Ian Schoenherr.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Put the right book in the hand of a child... 
and you've created a reader.

Here are some fantastic books to think about today:
Bigger Than A Bread Box by Laurel Snyder

The Aviary by Kathleen O'Dell

The Books of Elsewhere by Jacqueline West

Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

reading is:
  • devouring a book cover to cover, and then starting at the beginning again
  • poring through each recipe, and the stories in between
  • exploring the repair manual so you can fix your car
  • discovering the story in the game so you understand the game
  • watching the episodic movie breaks between one game level and the next to experience the story
  • tweets
  • blogs
  • signs
  • information to get stuff done
  • information for fun
  • in any format any time
  • facts and figures
  • lifesaving or death defying
  • therapeutic
  • relaxing
  • searching flickr images
  • flicking through pages just reading a few words
  • watching the faces in the crowd as an author/storyteller engages the audience in their story
  • reading in games

reading can be:
  • fun, sad, traumatic, confusing, fast, slow, episodic, continual
  • collaborative
  • participatory
  • exclusive
  • inclusive

It's all reading, no matter the format.

To read is to learn and grow, to experience, to empathise, to understand, to marvel, to wonder, to laugh and to cry. To live other lives in other places and times, to deepen a connection with place. Reading is immensely important to me. It shapes my personality and identity. I am a fuller, more rounded person because I read. I am able to imagine and empathise with others. I learn things that help me in my daily life and I experience joy, sorrow and relaxation when I read.

Reading is an every day activity.

Monday, January 2, 2012

starting something new...

I love to read. I always have.

I feel about bookstores the way some people feel about shoe stores. I could spend all day there combing the isles and scanning the tables. A window display of books can stop me in  the street.

I recently read How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen. 

In this book she says, "For some of us, reading begets rereading, and rereading begets writing. (Although there is no doubt which is first, and supreme; as Alberto Manguel writes in his wonderful A History of Reading, 'I could perhaps live without writing. I don't think I could live without reading.') After a while a story is familiar, the setting known, the characters understood, and there is nothing left to discover but technique. Why that sentence structure and not something simpler, or more complex? Why that way of ordering events instead of something more straightforward, or more experimental? What grabs the reader by the throat? What sags and bags and fails? There are only two ways, really, to become a writer. One is to write. The other is to read."

Anna Quindlen gives us a wonderful reminder: never discourage rereading. It is from that familiarity that structure can be seen and admired, interpreted and adopted.

And so... I am trying something new in 2012: reading, re-reading, and writing.

"Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home." 
~ Anna Quindlen