Saturday, December 31, 2011

Favorite Picture Books for 2011

My Year in Review: Ahhh....picture books. I can't say enough about them. They can inspire creativity and imagination. They can take their readers to giggling out loud at their silliness or send messages that can be taken with them. They can be colorful and bold or simple and pleasing to the eye. This year there were plenty of books to choose from and I found new authors and old authors that did just all of these and more.

Here were a few that stand out in my mind as being some of my favorites for our little readers:

The Quiet Book
The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood

The Loud Book!

The Loud Book by Deborah Underwood

Little Croc's Purse

Little Croc's Purse by Lizzie Finlay

The Best Pet Ever

The Best Pet Ever by Victoria Roberts

My Mom Has X-ray Vision

My Mom has X-Ray Vision by Angela McAllister

Follow Me

Follow Me by Tricia Tusa

Perfect Square

Perfect Square by Michael Hall

How Rocket Learned to Read

How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills

Hush, Little Horsie
Hush, Little Horsie by Jane Yolen

Kindergators: Hands Off, Harry...
Hands off Harry! by Rosemary Wells

Little By Little

Little by Little by Amber Stewart

Favorite MG Reads for 2011

My Year in Review: I found many well written and great books this past year for middle grade readers. I am always happy to find books that have strong characters, good development and of course positive messages for our young readers. Too many books are promoted for middle grade readers that are advanced in content and are just not a right fit for their reading level or maturity.

Here are a few books that I remember that were good middle grade reads:

Wild Wings

Wild Wings by Gil Lewis

Selling Hope

Selling Hope by Kristin O'Donnell Tubbs

Sparrow Road

Sparrow Road by Sheila O'Connor

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Na...

A Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet by Erin Dionne

Hide and Seek

Hide & Seek by Katy Grant

A Crooked Kind of Perfect

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

Hound Dog True

Hound Dog True by Linda Urban


Hothead by Cal Ripken, Jr.

Calli Be Gold

Calli Be Gold by Michele Weber Hurwitz

Wild Life

Wild Life by Cynthia DeFelice

The Year Money Grew on Trees
The Year Money Grew on Trees by Aaron Hawkins

Favorite YA Reads of 2011

My Year in Review:  I read several YA books this past year but I really think I had a tough time finding some good ones. I found a wide selection of different genres as well over this past year but ended up abandoning quite a few of them because I lost interest in the characters or the storylines were weak. I am hoping 2012 will bring me some better choices. I do have several lined up now for January reads that I am looking forward to diving into from some new authors that have sent me copies.

I was able to pick a few memorable YA reads that really stuck out for me in 2011:

Close to Famous

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer

The Revenant

The Revenant by Sonia Gensler

Imaginary Girls

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Death Cloud (Young Sherlock Ho...

Young Sherlock Holmes - Death Cloud by Andrew Lane

The Name of the Star (Shades o...
The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1) by Maureen Johnson

Chamelia review


Meet Chamelia! Chamelia is a chameleon. Most chameleons like to blend in, but Chamelia prefers to stand out. She just loves being the center of attention. But when standing out means being left out, can Chamelia learn to share the spotlight?  (goodreads summary)

This is a cute story about keeping your individuality but mostly how to make it fit for the right moment.  Chamelia is quite charming and full of expression in the way she dresses so she will not blend in with the other chameleons. She wears colorful patterned clothes and loaded with accessories to stand out.  Although it backfires on her when her sequined high heels are not right for playing soccer and she overdresses her part for the Goldilocks play.  Instead of feeling special she begins to feel left out.  She realizes that she can join in and still be different with just a touch of something special instead of overdoing it. The illustrations are colorful and the text is short and simple. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 4-7.~

Title: Chamelia
Author: Ethan Long
Pub. date: May 2011, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 40 pgs.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Cryer's Cross Review

Cryer's Cross

The community of Cryer’s Cross, Montana (population 212) is distraught when high school freshman Tiffany disappears without a trace. Already off-balance due to her OCD, 16-year-old Kendall is freaked out seeing Tiffany’s empty desk in the one-room school house, but somehow life goes on until Kendall's boyfriend Nico also disappears and also without a trace. Now the town is in a panic. Alone in her depression and with her OCD at an all-time high, Kendall notices something that connects Nico and Tiffany: they both sat at the same desk. Then she begins receiving graffiti messages on the desk from someone who can only be Nico. (goodreads summary),

The story opens with the end of Kendall's junior year and the community is searching for Tiffany Quinn. Eventually over the summer people stop talking about the disappearance and a new school year resumes. Kendall, who also has OCD, tries to manage her challenges on a daily basis living on a small farm in Montana and starting her senior year.  She arrives the first day of school doing her usual routines but finds it more difficult with Tiffany's desk sitting empty and new changes ahead. The only one who understands her is Nico Cruz her best friend whom she has known her whole life.  In the meantime, two new students Marlena and Jacian Obregon move to Cryer's Cross from Arizona. Marlena is happy about the move but her brother Jacian is not thrilled with the new transition to such a small town. He is hard to reach and seems very withdrawn. Kendall moves on with her new school year and one day notices some changes developing with Nico. He seems to be in a sleepy state and one day turns up vanishing just like Tiffany had months before. The community issues a curfew and a buddy system for all students and Kendall's buddy ends up becoming Jacian. As she tries to deal with the grief and loss of Nico, she also finds herself fighting feelings for Jacian. One day, she notices strange messages appearing on the desk that Nico once sat at during school asking for help. She also pieces together that it is the same desk that Tiffany sat at as well. Kendall finds herself becoming entranced with the eerie messages and soon believes that she hears Nico's voice calling to her for help. Will she find what is behind the strange feelings and messages to possibly save Nico from being lost forever if he is truly trying to reach her?

I was very uncertain about this book when I finished the last pages. It will probably be viewed differently to other readers. It had a teenage girl with OCD, a best friend who wasn't sure if he was a boyfriend, a new guy that was hard to connect to, the mystery of missing teenagers, a little bit of romance, adults with secret pasts and some supernatural elements. It had a lot packed into this fast paced, easy-to-read book. I found myself reading it in one day because I was determined to find out what was with the creepy desk?  It was definitely written with a small town feel making the townspeople and families seem realistic as well as Kendall's daily struggle with OCD. It was not that extreme but just enough for me to feel what it would be like to be the character. As the days move on, Kendall also finds herself having unsure feelings about Jacian. I didn't connect with this part of the storyline and wasn't sure if it was going to lead into him being a likely suspect in Nico's disappearance. When the end finally revealed the paranormal side of the story, I felt like I just read a John Saul book. I will say it was chilling and creepy with a bit of a disturbing twist with that desk that kept my wondering thoughts alive. Reading about the lost souls in the book were sad and the thought of how they became that way was even sadder for my soft heart. It did have a few profanities but it wasn't anything out of the norm. I usually enjoy a good ghost story and will say that this one was unique.  It's a book where either you'll like it or not. I'm glad that I did give it a try and I probably would look for other books by this author just to get a feel for her talents. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 14 and up.~

Title: Cryer's Cross
Author: Lisa McMann
Pub. date: February 2011,  Simon Pulse
Genre: young adult, mystery/supernatural
Hardcover, 233 pages

Friday Hops - December 30

Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly meme which is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read that expands your blog following.  It is a great way to meet new bloggers! Each week there is a great question and each host will have a featured blog too. I have been a follower of Alison's blog for the past year and finally decided to join on this hop. I hope to hop from time-to-time!

This week's question is:

The New Year is here -- and everyone wants to know your New Years Blogging Resolution! What are you going to try to revise, revamp and redo for 2012 on your blog? 

My Answer:  Oh, Resolutions are so hard to keep......this year I have a few changes planned for myself and family. I plan on doing my best sticking with them!  But I do want to keep on blogging.
As for my blog, I would like to keep up better with my posts and not letting them go so far in between. I have books read (alot waiting to be read too) but something always came up which delayed my reviews. So, I am going to dedicate one day a week to writing and scheduling posts. I also want to learn how to make buttons and do giveaways if anyone has suggestions on how these work for you........
Happy New Year everyone and may 2012 be a great year for reading!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Hops - December 16

Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly meme which is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read that expands your blog following.  It is a great way to meet new bloggers! Each week there is a great question and each host will have a featured blog too. I have been a follower of Alison's blog for the past year and finally have found the time and decided to join on this hop. I hope to hop from time-to-time!

This week's question is:

Q: When you’ve read a book, what do you do with it? (Keep it, give it away, donate it, sell it, swap it..?)

My Answer:  Good question this week.. I noticed that so many people have such a wide variety of books that I was interested in finding out where they all come from and what they do with them when they are done.  I get the majority of my books from our local library so it is easy enough to return when I'm finished. I sometimes purchase books that I really want and then just save them. Since our books we own are in such good shape, once a year I go through them and donate to our Friends of the Library group for their sales.

I'm looking forward to reading what others say and hope to find some new bloggers along the way! Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - December 6

It is time for Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Anyone can join and it's fun to read what others have to say. This week's Top Ten is:

Top Ten Childhood Favorites

I used to love getting the scholastic book order form when I was a kid and would circle a ton of books every time. There were so many favorites and I feel like I am aging mysef, so here it goes.

Once again, not in any particuliar order:

Tikki Tikki Tembo  - Tiki Tiki Tembo by Arlene Mosel

Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Ped... - Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

Green Eggs and Ham - Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

The Elephant's Child - The Elephant's Child by Rudyard Kipling

Clifford The Small Red Puppy - The Clifford Series by Norman Bridwell

The Giving Tree - The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Little House on the Prairie - Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret - Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

The Boxcar Children (The Boxcar Children, #1) - The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler

Black Beauty - Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

I am looking forward to reading what others have to share. I'm sure there will be many that will bring back wonderful memories for me. Have a great week!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

How Do You Hug a Porcupine review

How Do You Hug a Porcupine?

Can you imagine hugging a porcupine? Sure, it's easy to picture hugging a bunny or even a billy goat, but where would you begin to try to hug a porcupine?  After seeing all his friends hug their favorite animals, one brave boy works up the courage to hug a porcupine, but the porcupine isn't so sure he wants to be hugged!  (goodreads summary)

This was such a cute book! The rhyming text makes for a wonderful read-aloud. It flowed easily and children will love seeing each animal getting its own special hug. The illustrations are pleasing to the eye and adds an extra warm feeling with all the smiles and hugs going around. The little boy really wants to know how to hug a porcupine and comes up with a funny resolution in the end. Children could come up with their own animal to hug and catchy rhyming words to make their own story. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~

Title: How Do You Hug Porcupine?
Author: Laurie Isop -  Illustrated by Gwen Millward
Genre: picture book
Pub. Date: July 2011, Simon & Schuster Books for Young  Readers
Hardcover, 32 pgs.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Let it Snow Review

Let It Snow

From building snowmen to drinking hot chocolate by the fire's warm glow, LET IT SNOW celebrates wonders of winter!
With softly-colored art, adorable children, and festive outdoor scenes, LET IT SNOW is the perfect wintry follow-up to LET IT FALL.
(goodreads summary)

Winter will soon be upon us and yet another season has arrived. To get you ready for that first snowy day, here is a cute book to warm you from your head to your toes. Wonderfully bright and bold pictures take you right along with the children as they play in the snow, have a snow day from school and find all the great things winter has to offer us. This is another great book about the seasons that will make for a good classroom read leading into a fun winter activity as well. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~

Title:  Let It Snow
Author: Maryann Cocca-Leffler
Pub. Date: April 2011, Scholastic
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 24 pgs.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Marty McGuire review

Marty McGuire (Marty McGuire #1)

Marty McGuire would rather spend recess catching frogs in the pond than playing dress-up with the other girls in third grade. So when her teacher casts Marty as the princess in the class play, Marty's absolutely, positively sure that there's been a huge mistake. But after a special lesson in the art of improvisation, Marty comes up with her OWN plan to IMPROVE the play: Why use stuffed-animal frog onstage when a live one would be so much better? In the end, Marty's one-of-a-kind performance makes for an unforgettable show. Maybe Marty CAN live happily ever after, after all! (goodreads summary)

So far, third grade for Marty has not turned out like it was suppose to. She feels her best friend Annie was stolen by Veronica Grace, who is also taking over recess time by insisting the girls play princess dress up. Annie seems to not have the same interests anymore like catching frogs or crayfish or pretending to be Jane Goodall like the two girls used to and this troubles Marty. Instead of dress up, she would rather see what the boys are up to by the pond and has no fear of the creatures that inhabit there. As if this year couldn't get any worse, the class will be performing the play "The Frog Prince" and to Marty's surprise unexpectedly gets the lead role as the princess! She refuses having the part but her teacher and mom encourage her to stick with it and try her best.  When a theatre professor arrives to help the class with their drama skills, he teaches them the keys to acting improv which takes Marty to new levels of creativity that just may make being a princess a little more bearable for her.

This is a wonderful book for early chapter readers.  Marty has a great voice telling her story and expressing her feelings about the many things she feels has gone wrong in third grade.  Her character is strong and she shows us that you can stay true to yourself when you are faced with the many ups and downs of friendships that change, bossy girls and unexpected disappointments. Children will connect with the details of the daily happenings of a typical third grade school day with humor.  I liked that there was a lot of development, not only with Marty, but among a few other characters as well.  It is a fun read with a quick wit humor that had me laughing at many parts throughout the book.  The idea of improv was a wonderful way to help kids understand that a little flexibility in certain situations can go a long way. There are wonderful illustrations that are full of expression and children will look forward to turning every page to discover another. It is always nice to find a book where the writing matches the age group that it is intended for.  A second book , Marty Mcguire Digs Worms, is due to arrive April 1st and I am thrilled to see a great series like this one for our younger readers to enjoy and learn from. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 7-9.~

Title: Marty McGuire
Author: Kate Messner
Genre: realistic fiction
Pub. date: May 2011, Scholastic
Paperback, 132 pgs.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - November 22

It is time for Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Anyone can join and its fun to read what others have to say. This week's Top Ten is:

Ten Authors I'd Love to have at My Thanksgiving Feast

This is a good one..... I wish I had a table big enough for all ten and then some. I really had to think hard to pick ten of my favorite authors. Here is my choice in no particular order. Just ones off the top of my head:

1.  Stephen King - I wouldn't let him carve the turkey though

2.  Kate DiCamillo - she has written two of my favorite children's books, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Tale of Despereaux.

3.  Dr. Seuss - he'd just be silly and funny.

4. Aldo Leopold - very wise and speak's from the heart.

5.  J.K. Rowling - I find her inspiring.

6. Rick Riordan - my kids would love to have him and would beg him to tell a fantastical story.

7. Santa Montefiore - her writing makes me want to run away to the countryside and live in a quaint cottage by a little lake somewhere and paint...........

8.  Nicholas Sparks - the only time I read romance novels is by him.

9.  Judy Blume - she captured my heart with her books when I was a kid. I'm glad that I could share her books with my kids too.

10. Paula Deen - does she count as an author? She has a ton of cookbooks and I could use some extra help making a feast for all these people.

Looking forward to reading who others have picked. Have a great week!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Little Mouse's Big Secret review

Little Mouse's Big Secret

 Little Mouse, like many of us, can't resist the temptation to hoard goodies from even his closest friends. When he finds a luscious-looking apple, he buries it to save it for a hungry day. Before long, however, his deeply grounded secret sprouts into a blossoming tree, offering its delicious apples for all to savor. (goodreads summary)

A simple and delightful book about a little mouse with a very big secret. Mouse's lucky day arrives when he finds a wonderful apple waiting just for him! He decides to keep it secret and hide it from all the others especially when they ask what it is that he has. Even though the book is so simple, it sends message about sharing. The illustrations are minimal and the sentences are either one or two long but you get the idea behind this charming story.  I wonder what mouse thinks when he finds out that the apple had a secret it was hiding too after it blossomed into an apple tree.  That would make for a good discussion with the little ones. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 4-6.~

Title: Little Mouse's Big Secret
Author: Eric Battut
Pub. Date: March 2011, Sterling Publishing
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 24 pgs.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - November 15

It is time for Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Anyone can join and its fun to read what others have to say. This week's Top Ten is:

Top Ten Books that have been on my shelf for the longest but I have never read........

I have a lot of books on my shelves that have been sitting there which seems like forever. If only there were more hours in the day and less cleaning, laundry, driving kids around etc. then I just may be able to catch up on some of these title.

1.  Running Dark by Jamie Freveletti - I received this second book by the author after going to the bookstore and listening to the author talk last year. I read her first one which I enjoyed but just have not gotten around to the second one.

2.  The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian - I just looked at this book and saw that it was an autographed copy.....must have been sitting there for a while cuz I don't remember that before.

3.  The Mermaid Garden by Santa Montefiore - I received this as a gift from my husband for my birthday in July! I love the author and her other book The French Gardener was a beautifully written love story. I keep saying I am looking forward to reading this one soon.

4.  Last Child in the Woods-Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv - I started this book but remember getting interrupted and never picking it up again. Ended up on my shelf.

5.  Women & Money by Suze Orman - I think this one depresses me cuz I think she is going to give me the big lectures on what I'm doing wrong with my life and money. I know I should read it.........

6. The Wish Stealers by Tracy Trivas - My daughter loved this book and keeps asking me if I've read it. I think I'll put it on my winter TBR list.

7.  Divergent by Veronica Roth - I just have a hard time with the dystopian genre.

8.  The Pirate Captain's Daughter by Eve Bunting - now that I look at this one I wonder what is taking me so long to read it?

9.  Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt - I loved the Wednesday Wars and when I read it to my kids they did too. I picked this one up because of that reason.

I guess I don't really have 10 books but I think 9 is more than enough. Have a great week!

The Name of the Star review

The Name of the Star (Shades of London, #1)
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago. Soon "Rippermania" takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities. (goodreads summary)

Rory is spending her senior year in London attending the Wexford Boarding School while her parents teach American Law at the University of Bristol in England.  She is anticipating the many new things awaiting her in London. She finds the school is quite different than back home in Louisiana but adjusts easily and fitting in with her new roommate Jazza. Upon her arrival though, the city of London and its residents are caught up in the frenzy of a copycat serial killer mimicking the gruesome murders of the once famous Jack the Ripper of 1888. Rory finds herself a main participant as well as she becomes a witness to a strange man lurking about the area of a recent murder.  Rory begins to question what she believes to be true as her friend Jazza did not see the same man.  She soon discovers that she has developed a rare ability to see people (mainly ghosts) who others cannot see. She finds there is a small group of others that have the same unusual capabilities but who are connected to a secret underground ghost police force. Is the man that Rory eyewitnesses really a copycat killer or could it actually be the ghost of Jack the Ripper himself? With Rory's sudden unexplainable ability, she finds herself  involved in a crime solving mystery and becomes a link between the supernatural world and the real world.

I first saw this at my local bookstore where they have the young adult section divided up between books for ages 12/up and 14/up.  It was under the 12+ section and I was curious if the age recommendation was correct.  The mystery of Jack the Ripper and his crimes are terribly shocking and turning the history of this into a present day paranormal story was quite interesting. The first half of the book was slow going and it took a while to get exciting. But since this was the first of a new series, I realized there was a lot of focus on character developing and I enjoyed it. I liked the wide variety of characters with each one given a unique personality and back story that made them fit well into the happenings of the book.  I also appreciated the descriptive details put into the London setting. It gave me the sense of being there, taking in the sites, sounds and all of the activity surrounding the Rippermania frenzy. There was a love interest for Rory with an English boy named Jerome, which I questioned why it was there though. I think it got lost in the real story.  Towards the middle of the book, it finally became exciting when Boo, Stephen and Callum were introduced. I gained a better insight to their purpose as the underground ghost police and how their abilities connected them to protecting Rory.  From there it developed into a paranormal thriller centered around solving a mystery of the copycat murderer and stopping a ghostly serial killer before he strikes again.  The author included many grisly details of the murders and history of the Ripper that gave me some shivers after reading them. All the murders were re-enacted in the same style and on the same dates as those of Jack the Ripper giving the impression that he has returned. Because there were so many different characters, I had a couple of conclusions in mind myself but in the end proved that I'm not a crime solving sleuth.  I thought this was a good introduction to the series and definitely left the door open for more. I gained good understanding of the characters and how their roles will used in the future. Do I agree that it is for age twelve? No.....a murderer dismembering victims like Jack the Ripper did to prostitutes is another can of worms I am not ready to open up just yet for my child. I think that this would be a "just right book" for ages 16 and over.~

Title: The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Pub. Date: September 2011
Genre: paranormal,  young adult mystery
Hardcover, 372 pgs.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Kinder Gators - Hands Off, Harry review

Kindergators: Hands Off, Harry!

"Guess what happened at school today!"
Kindergators work and play happily in Miss Harmony's class. But Harry isn't being a good classmate! He's disrupting Friendly Circle, causing accidents, and upsetting the class. Can the Kindergators find a way to help Harry learn to respect personal space?  (goodreads summary)

There are many children that need movement and are just a hands-on type of kid. On the flip side, it is hard on the other students when they have a classmate that does not know how to respect others personal space.  In this book, Harry could represent many of those children on either side of the coin. Harry finds himself getting in trouble because he knocks over others, pokes at others and just has a hard time staying still and keeping his hands to himself.  The story is gentle and makes for a good teaching tool for preschoolers and kindergarteners on the importance of learning personal space. The students help Harry's teacher problem solve and offer a solution to help Harry remember the hands rule. It ends with a happy outcome for Harry that gives him a feeling of importance. Something children need when they do not understand how to make the right choices when it comes to personal space.  I think this will be another great series and a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~

Title:  Hands off Harry
Author: Rosemary Wells
Genre: picture book
Pub. Date: June 2011, Katherine Tegen Books
Hardcover, 40 pgs.