Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet review

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet
Hamlet Kennedy just wants to be your average, happy, vanilla eighth grader. But with Shakespearean scholar parents who dress in Elizabethan regalia and generally go about in public as if it were the sixteenth century, that’s not terribly easy. It gets worse when they decide that Hamlet’s genius seven year-old sister will attend middle school with her— and even worse when the Shakespeare project is announced and her sister is named the new math tutor. 
(goodreads summary)

Like any other 8th grade girl, Hamlet just wants to blend in quietly. That's hard to do when her sister is a genius attending the same middle school and her parents eat, sleep and breath everything Shakespeare.  To make mattters worse, she is failing her pre algebra class, crushes on a popular boy who doesn't know she exists, someone is leaving mysterious origami pigs in her locker (could it be a secret admirer) and finds that she has a hidden talent that may not make her that far off from her embarrassing family.  Hamlets English class is also studying Shakespeare, which in turn involves her parents and makes Hamlet want to hide even more. 

Wow, there was alot going on in this book.  I think those are only half of the events that happened!  It turned out to be a fun, clean read and I ended up liking it.  I also learned quite a bit about Shakespeare too. Readers will relate well to Hamlet and her feelings as the author painted a very close picture of middle school life and its tragedies.  Well, tragedies to those of that age group. At first, I thought the portrayal of the parents seemed a little over the top. They would favor Dezzie over Hamlet and didn't get "it" sometimes.  But then I realized what an important part it played in understanding family relationships and having communication.  This was a main strength of the book along with finding acceptance within yourself, which I was happy to see.  Hamlet eventually finds that she too can shine if she just opens up.  It was nice to find a book that was a clean read and carried a message to the end.   I think this is a "just right book" for grades  5/6-8. 

Title: The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet
Author: Erin Dionne
Genre: realistic fiction
Pub. Date: February 2010,Dial Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, 290 pgs.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Blogger Hop

Thanks to  Crazy-for-books for hosting this hop, I hope to hop on from time-to-time......I also found some new blogs and I am looking forward to knowing what others are reading and saying! 

This week's question comes from Jen B. who blogs at I Read Banned Books:
 "Do you ever wish you would have named your blog something different?"

My Answer:  No, I like the name I chose (after finally narrowing it down to one out of many that I had thought of) but I have found other blog names really creative and think "oh, that's a good one, wish I would have thought of that"!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Quiet Book review

The Quiet Book

There are many kinds of quiet:
Quiet can be delicate.
Quiet can be thundering!
Quiet can be sweet,
and cozy,
and can most definitely help you fall asleep.

(jacket description)

The word quiet can mean many different things as this book shows with its delightful words and beautiful illustrations.   Starting from the serene front cover to the very last page, I smiled with every turn.  The expressions of each little animal fit perfect to every quiet moment given.  The "right before you yell SURPRISE quiet" and "too many bubbles quiet" are just a couple of my favorites .  After reading this with your child, they will probably think of a few of their own "quiets" they could add from their typical day too.   It is a calming and relaxing read when it comes time to settle down at the end of a busy day.  I loved this sweet but simple book and hope you will enjoy it with your family too. This is a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~

Title: The Quiet Book
Author: Deborah Underwood
Genre: Picture Book
Pub. Date: April 2010, Houghton Mifflin
Hardcover, 30 pgs.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book Blogger Hop

Thanks to  Crazy-for-books for hosting this hop, I hope to hop on from time-to-time......I also found some new blogs and I am looking forward to knowing what others are reading and saying! 
This week's question comes from Jessica who blogs at a GREAT Read:
 "What book(s) would you like to see turned into a movie?"

My Answer:  Wow, what a great question this week! I had a tough time thinking about one today. I have had some favorite books turned into movies but was disappointed because the movie ended up cutting out/changing  parts or choosing the wrong actors when I had an image of a certain character in my mind.  Thanks for getting my mind thinking already this morning......
One book I would chose would be Airman by Eoin Colfer.  It would be a great adventure/action movie for older kids that like Eoin Colfer who also wrote the Artemis Fowl Series.
Another book I would like to see is for the grown-ups. It would be The French Gardener by Santa Monterfiore. This is one of my favorite love stories and couldn't put it down.
The French Gardener

Friday, February 18, 2011

Like the Willow Tree: The Diary of Lydia Amelia Pierce review

Like the Willow Tree: The Diary of Lydia Amelia Pierce, Portland, Maine, 1918 (Dear America)

Suddenly orphaned by the Spanish flu epidemic in the fall of 1918, eleven-year-old Lydia Pierce and her fourteen-year-old brother, Daniel, of Portland, Maine, are taken by their grieving uncle to be raised in the Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake. Thrust into the spartan lifestyle of this isolated religious sect, which practices celibacy and pacifism, Lydia, a fiercely independent girl, must grapple with a new life that is nothing like the one she used to know. (goodreads summary)

This is a wonderful new historical fiction in the Dear America series by Lois Lowry. The setting takes place in Portland, Maine in the year 1918. Lydia Pierce just turned 11 years old and received a journal for her birthday. She has plenty to write about as the country has been hit hard by the Spanish Influenza epidemic and life will soon change for her and older brother Daniel.  With the loss of their parents, they move in with an Uncle who has troubles of his own and just cannot afford to take on two more children. The decision is made to place Lydia and Daniel under the care of the Shakers, a religious group living on Sabbathday Lake whose beliefs are very different from their own.  Making an adjustment to a new way of life is not easy for Lydia or Daniel.  As the months go by Lydia learns more about the sisters lifestyle and finds herself adusting easier.  She eventually makes friends, attends school and looks forward to learning new jobs and skills along the way to help make money for the community.

I found this story different from other Dear America books mainly because it focuses on the simple way of life in a Shaker Community instead of just the character Lydia going through an adventure.  I really enjoyed  learning about the Spanish Flu epidemic and its impact on the cities.  I was also intrigued with the hard working but yet joyful life of the Shakers (who eventually dwindle down in numbers over the years).  Like all other Dear America books, it ends with an epilogue about Lydia, historical notes and fabulous pictures of the past.  After reading it, I realized how much I've learned about a community that I have never seen or heard about until now and I have Lois Lowry to thank.  I guess that is why I love historical fiction so much! This is a "just right book" for ages 9-12 and any fan of the Dear America series will find this one interesting.~

Title: Like the Willow Tree: The Diary of Lydia Amelia Pierce
Author: Lois Lowry
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: January 2011, Scholastic Inc.
Hardcover, 217 pgs.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Oh....., to be Organized

Get Organized Without Losing It

Kids today have a lot to keep track of—and keep organized. Schoolwork, friends, activities, chores…rooms, backpacks, lockers, desks…and what about fun? Here’s friendly, practical, humorous help for kids who want to manage their tasks, their time, and their stuff—without going overboard or being totally obsessed.  (goodreads summary)

The buzz around my house this past week has been Middle School. My daughter (and my baby) will be attending this fall and her 5th grade class has already begun prepping for the transition.  She has a wonderful teacher this year and I feel confident she will alleviate some worries my daughter has about the "big" school. We've done the registration, orientation night and talked alot about how things will become a new chapter in her life.  If there is one thing that I know I could help her with, to make things a little less stressful, it would be organization.

Even as an adult, I don't think there is any one perfect way to organization. Something that works for one person may not work for another. We have to find our own system that compliments us.  I think it goes the same for kids.  I came across this book while at our school book fair a few years back when my son was in elementary school.  It is a wonderful tool that may help give kids a heads up on organizing themselves before they reach the older grades.  It offers some good suggestions on desk and locker neatness, planning for homework and large projects, note-taking, memory tips and tricks and a whole lot more.  I really liked that the author writes in kids speak and has some funny pictures.  In the back, it also gives suggestions for parents and teachers. As our kids reach middle school,  more responsibility is expected of them to keep up.  Teaching them the importance of how to organize, sooner than later, will not only help in their success but give them confidence before the new school year arrives.   It will give them one less thing to stress about.  This is a "just right book" for 5th & 6th graders who could use a little guidance in organizing and time management before having to reach  the "big" school.~

Title: Get Organized Without Losing It
Author: Janet S. Fox
Genre: nonficiton
Pub. Date: 2006, Free Spirit  Publishing & 2008, Scholastic
Paperback, 105 pgs.
booksource: owned copy

Friday, February 11, 2011

This is my first time joining a book blogger hop and I really love the idea. Thanks to  Crazy-for-books for hosting this hop, I hope to hop on from time-to-time......I also found some new blogs and I am looking forward to knowing what others are reading and saying!

This weeks question is:

"Tell us about one of your posts from this week and give us a link so we can read it (review or otherwise)!"

My answer: This week I read and reviewed  Hide & Seek by Katy Grant.  It is a middle grade book for any boy or girl that loves adventure/survival stories and the outdoors.  It describes geocaching (which is a fun treasure hunt game) along with the main character finding himself caught up with two boys abducted by their parent and choosing to do the right thing.~

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hide & Seek review

Hide and Seek

Chase lives in the high country of Arizona with his family, where they rent cabins and run a convenience store both tourist-driven business that aren't doing very well. The family is considering a move back to Phoenix, where Chase 's father lives and there are better opportunities both for parents and children. Chase loves the high country and doesn t want to leave. In particular, he loves geocaching, a  treasure hunting game involving a GPS. While on a geocaching expedition, he encounters two young brothers, camping in the wilderness with their father. Something's not right; that much he can tell. He's curious enough to return repeatedly, to figure out what's going on and how he can help.  (goodreads)

 Chase is a 14 year old boy who recently receives a GPS of his own as a birthday present and is eager to go on his first geocache find alone. He is looking forward to the tourist season ending at his family's cabins so he can adventure out with his faithful dog Dexter.  When Chase finds his first cache, he comes upon a mysterious message from someone saying they are in need of food. He tries to connect with the individuals and eventually finds that the mysterious message writers are two young brothers camping in the woods with their dad.  The two boys are mysterious in more ways than one. They don't like "snoops" or "cops" and Chase decides to take this adventure to the next level.   He makes friends with the boys and also takes a few to many risks in doing so. He later learns they have been abducted by the dad and are on the run. Using problem solving skills and deductive reasoning, he eventually finds himself in a predicament.  He choses not tell his parents and takes on a little too much for his age. He finds himself being kidnapped by the dad when he realizes that he has been found out.

I really enjoyed this book.  It gives a good sense of family relationships and being responsible. The writing did a great job of introducing readers to the thrill of geocaching and the outdoors. We have been geocachers ourselves for about 7 years and I connected well with the details. I found that I was able to read it fast and it was not lacking in excitement.  Any reader (boy or girl) who enjoys outdoor adventure and survivial stories could find this book worth reading. The plot keeps you going and has a beginning, middle and exciting end. One good discussion point - did Chase take on too much for his age and should he have had help from grown-ups in this situation?  Learning about geocaching may spark some interest in the reader to want to try something new too with the family. I would recommend it for middle readers from grade 5-7. It does have a subject matter of parental abduction that may have young readers questioning.~

Title:  Hide & Seek
Author: Katy Grant
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: August 2010, Peachtree Publishers
Hardcover, 230 pgs.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Secret Life of a Snowflake: An Up-Close Look at the Art and Science of Snowflakes

Before a snowflake melts on your tongue, it makes an epic journey.  This is the story of that journey, step by step, from a single snowflake’s creation in the clouds, through its fall to earth, to its brief and sparkling appearance on a child’s mitten.  Told by a scientist who knows snowflakes better than almost anyone, the story features his brilliant photographs of real snowflakes, snowflakes forming (in the author’s lab), water evaporating, clouds developing, ice crystals, rain, dew, and frost--all the elements of the world and weather that add up, flake by flake, to the white landscape of winter.  (goodreads summary)    

I know we have had an over abundance of snow throughout the US and wish Old Man Winter would give us a break already.  But, have you ever really looked at a snowflake? This book may just answer that question for you. The author is a professor of physics and holds an interesting hobby studying snowflakes under the microscope and photographing them. The text is well written for a child and will make a great science read. The pictures are captivating and its hard to imagine that a snowflake can be so detailed. It also describes the process of snow and how it is formed beginning with water, clouds and then into the birth of a snowflake.  This is a wonderful book for a child who has interests in anything relating to  science. At the back of the book, it even describes how to make the best snowflake ever out of paper.  I enjoyed reading this one and taking in the beauty of something that can be so unpredictable.  The recommended ages for this book was 6-12 but I feel that it would be a just right book for age 6-10 instead.  The author answers questions about our natural world and it would make a great addition for a classroom science library.

Title: The Secret Life of A Snowflake
Author: Kenneth Libbrecht
Genre:  Non Fiction
Pub. Date: October 2009, Voyageur Press
Hardcover, 48 pgs.
booksource: local library visit

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Play review

Snow Play

What are we going to do today??

After much anticipation yesterday, the blizzard of the decade finally arrived here in Wisconsin. I guess we were due since the rest of the country has had their share and probably in need of a well deserved break from snow. As I awoke to a blanket of deep white and howling winds, it gave me a sense of appreciation that I didn't have to go out this morning. The kids have off of school today and you would think they were the big jackpot lottery winners around here.  A couple weeks ago, I was in the bookstore and caught a glimpse of a new book about playing in the snow. I was waiting for the right day for this one and being snowbound today seems to be just that day.  I don't think kids get the chance to play outside in the snow anymore like we did. We'd be out making snow angels, snowmen and building forts for hours. Reading this book brought back those fun memories again.

I really liked this book. The creativity behind the projects and snow building activities will get those creative juices flowing.  The pictures are also very inspiring. One project tells about making giant footprints from cutouts worn on your feet. Couldn't get any more simple than that. From the snowman, to a snow slide and  a more elaborate snow campfire, this book will give you the right amount of inspiration. On the very last page  of the book I loved that it said. "Now go outside and play!" When my kids ask me later "what are we going to do today?",  I know exactly what I will tell them.  Let's seize the day!!~

Title:  Snow Play - How to Make Forts & Slides & Winter Campfires
Author: Birgitta Ralston
Genre: non fiction
Pub. Date: December 2010, Artisan
Hardcover, 111 pgs.
book source: bookstore

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Top Ten Books I wish I'd Read as a Kid:

While clicking around one day, I found a blogsite doing a Top Ten Tuesday. I tried adding myself to their list so I could participate but could not figure out how to add myself correctly so others participating could link to my blog too. Maybe someday I will figure all this stuff out. Well anyway, the Top Ten Tuesday is a great idea and is being hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and each week a different "Top Ten" topic is chosen. 

As a kid, I read alot of books.  I actually had a mental block for a couple of days coming up with ten!  But now coming across books to read to my kids during the summer and those cold winter weekend evenings, I have ventured into some new genres and titles that probably would have been my favorite if I had read them (or been around) as a kid.   

          Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling - All of these are my favorite. I can see why my kids couldn't  put them down.  I couldn't either.
              Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park - I sometimes wished I wasn't such a shy kid growing up and somehow wished now I had Junie B's spunkiness.
             Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech - Read this one this past summer to my kids. It will get you quite teary eyed for a few moments. 
          Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell - Great book about strength and courage.
             Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat - I think any boy who likes adventure stories will like this. Great read while we were in a rainstorm camping one year.
             The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Dicamillo - There's nothing to not love about this author in any of her books. 
          The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg - One of our favorite christmas eve tradition books to read by the fire as we wait for Santa.
              Chet Gecko Mysteries by Bruce Hale - I met this author at our local bookstore several years ago and he was wonderful with the kids demonstrating how he writes his series. His books connect so well wth kids.
              Nancy Drew Mysteries by Carolyn Keene - As a kid, I only remember reading a couple in the 5th or 6th grade. I don't know why?
              A Dog's Life by Ann M. Martin - I think I am a sucker for any dog book.