Saturday, August 29, 2015

Sunny Side Up with Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm

If you enjoyed these graphic novels...

Then you will love...

This graphic novel was fantastic! From a teacher, parent, and avid reader stand point, this book hits the target on all three groups. I knew I was going to love this book from the outset. First, when sSunny tries the Dorothy Hamill hair cut, and then when Sunny's grandfather has an ashtray full of cigarette butts in his car. Children growing up in modern times will most likely not understand the struggle of being in a smoker's car, but I think most kids understand the struggle of having to stay with a grandparent, and being surrounded by a bunch of old people. No child wants to spend the summer without kids their own age. When Sunny is sent to stay with her grandfather in Florida for the summer, she imagines Disney World, and all kinds of other exciting adventures.

She thinks her summer is doomed, when along comes Buzz-a boy obsessed with comic books and who agrees to adventures with Sunny. Alligators who eat golf balls, runaway cats, and neighbors who disappear; it is all part of the Sunny and Buzz adventure duo! The larger, more looming question is why is Sunny staying in Florida? Why was she sent to live with Grandpa in the first place?  It is only a matter of time before Sunny finds out the family secret. This book is written by the same authors from the Babymouse graphic novel series, which my daughter devoured and loved! I really enjoyed this book, and would highly recommend it to teachers and parents.

Happy reading!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bad Girls by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple

Bad Girls by Jane Yolen

Bad Girl Power! This book is full of fun, engaging stories about powerful women in history, many of whom were labeled as "bad girls". Catherine the Great, labeled the "Queen of Coups" had two sons who were not (gasp) from the tsar of Russia! When her husband leaves, a palace coup occurs, and guess who is granted the charge of the kingdom? You guessed it! Catherine. She was pretty ruthless in ensuring she was the queen on the throne. There are so many other stories of women who were "bad", and though this book and its content sin my opinion is written for students 13 and older, I am certain that teachers will enjoy reading stories about "bad" girls who paved the way in history. The short illustrations at the end of each story provide a little vignette and insight in to the lives of Jane and Heidi. 

From Jezebel to Catherine the Great, from Cleopatra to Mae West, from Mata Hari to Bonnie Parker, strong women have been a problem for historians, storytellers, and readers. Strong females smack of the unfeminine. They have been called wicked, wanton, and willful. Sometimes that is a just designation, but just as often it is not. "Well-behaved women seldom make history," is the frequently quoted statement by historian and feminist Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. But what makes these misbehaving women "bad"? Are we idolizing the wicked or salvaging the strong?

Happy reading!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What to Read Wednesday featuring Janice Kaplan

This week's book is one for self-improvement. Desiring to make yourself a better person is a journey most will not undertake because of its difficult nature. Seeing life from a different lens, one of gratitude puts life into a completely different focus. When author Janice Kaplan decided to do this very thing herself, it was not a moment of instant epiphany, but rather a road filled with bumps. The important and over-arching idea is that gratitude has the power to transform and change every thing about your life. From marriage to children, and your work place, gratitude changes your life. The author is living proof that we can work to cultivate the kind of life others envy, simply because you are happy to be living it. There is a saying that goes something like "happy people don't have everything, but they make the best of what they have." An attitude of gratitude is an incredible gift, but a challenging puzzle that you must work with every day and every night. With wisdom from psychologists, philosophers, academics and doctors, you will anecdotes and advice on how to change your own attitude, and improve your life. 

I recommend you read

How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Transformed My Life
by Janice Kaplan

If you get a copy of this book, let me know how you liked it! Happy reading!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Friends for Life by Andrew Norris

If you liked this book...

Then upgrade to a more mature version of a story you are sure to appreciate and enjoy. A new release by Andrew Norris titled Friends for Life. 

*Just a caveat before you buy/read, and that is parents and teachers will have to use their judgement on whether or not they feel this book is appropriate for their child/student. This book deals with bullying and suicide, and for you this may not be appropriate. I strongly encourage you to read it first, and make the determination yourself. *

That being said, I would like to share that I thought this book was well done. Francis is a loner, and chooses to stay far from the other kids at school. He loves fashion and dressing up dolls, and for this reason stays far from the harassment of his peers.  One day while sitting at a bench, Jessica appears to him. The odd thing is not just the way Jessica is dressed in the February frost, but that she is a ghost, and Francis can not only see her, but talk to her as well. Once the pieces of the puzzle are revealed, you find out just what kind of damage bullying can wreak in the lives of those it effects. I thought it was thought-provoking and well done!
A timeless and uplifting book about friendship, filled with humor and heart.
When Jessica sits next to Francis on a bench during recess, he's surprised to learn that she isn't actually alive--she's a ghost. And she's surprised, too, because Francis is the first person who has been able to see her since she died.
Before long, Francis and Jessica are best friends, enjoying life more than they ever have. When they meet two more friends who can also see Jessica, the question arises: What is it that they have in common? And does it have something to do with Jessica being a ghost?

Happy reading to you!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

My First Day by Leilani Sparrow

My First Day by Leilani Sparrow
My First Day
On Sale: July 7, 2015
Leilani Sparrow
Illustrated by Dan Taylor
Hardcover Picture
Ages 3-5
32 pp, Perfect Bound

We all know how nervous children are before they begin their first day of school! In My First Day, you will follow one little boy's journey as he experiences the myriad of emotions the first day of school brings. Locating things in the classroom, making new friends to play with, snack and recess time and writing your first letter. This book will provide your child with the back-to-school comfort they crave. When you read this book, you assure your child, or even your students, that it is normal to feel nervous and even anxious, but that in the end they will have a great day!

A perfect first day read!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey

The Gift of Failure
by Jessica Lahey

Every once in a while I read a book that has me nodding my head and saying "yes!" My friends, this book is one of those books. As a parent and educator myself, this book truly resonated with me. I think we can collectively agree that this is a generation of parents who glorify achievement. By this I mean parents who insist that their children excel at everything, and I mean everything. It all starts with doctors visits, and measuring your child against others in the form of weight, height, BMI, and milestones. Oh my goodness, what is wrong with my baby? They aren't talking yet! Pressuring children starts pretty early. Parents encourage their children to become festooned with ribbons, trophies, accolades and awards. A "B" on a report card? I think not. In my world, this would often result in an angry email asking you why their child has a "B", and what they can do to make sure that the report card has an "A" on it. It has, quite literally, been driving teachers mad. They are leaving the profession at a steady rate, and I venture to guess many would cite "parent" issues at the top of their unhappiness list. Truth be told, when I was younger, a "B" was a good grade, and my parents were generally pretty proud if you at least maintained a 3.0. This is no longer the culture we live in, and this book was a hearty reminder of why grit, perseverance, and determination are much better factors in determining success than any trophy on your shelf. 

There was a section on intrinsic and extrinsic rewards systems, and why in the long run, extrinsic reward systems (the hallmark of educators) fail to inspire true behavioral change. I ran my classroom on a system of rewards, and most of the students benefiting from the rewards were motivated with or without the tickets. These are the children for whom the reward was "gravy". Oh, man I wish I could have a do-over. I can only set my sights on communicating better practices for the future generation. This is a book that every teacher, parent, and member of the education community should add to their shelf. Very insightful and thought-provoking in the best way possible. I, for one, will tell any and all who will listen about the power of this book. Please read the synopsis and go get yourself a copy!

In the tradition of Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed and Wendy Mogel’s The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, this groundbreaking manifesto focuses on the critical school years when parents must learn to allow their children to experience the disappointment and frustration that occur from life’s inevitable problems so that they can grow up to be successful, resilient, and self-reliant adults.
Modern parenting is defined by an unprecedented level of overprotectiveness: parents who rush to school at the whim of a phone call to deliver forgotten assignments, who challenge teachers on report card disappointments, mastermind children’s friendships, and interfere on the playing field. As teacher and writer Jessica Lahey explains, even though these parents see themselves as being highly responsive to their children’s well being, they aren’t giving them the chance to experience failure—or the opportunity to learn to solve their own problems.
Overparenting has the potential to ruin a child’s confidence and undermine their education, Lahey reminds us. Teachers don’t just teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. They teach responsibility, organization, manners, restraint, and foresight—important life skills children carry with them long after they leave the classroom.
Providing a path toward solutions, Lahey lays out a blueprint with targeted advice for handling homework, report cards, social dynamics, and sports. Most importantly, she sets forth a plan to help parents learn to step back and embrace their children’s failures. Hard-hitting yet warm and wise, The Gift of Failure is essential reading for parents, educators, and psychologists nationwide who want to help children succeed.

Happy reading!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday Run-Down

Back to school madness has begun, and though my own two have not yet returned to school, I have resumed work. One of the bummers about returning to work for me is that it cuts in to my reading time. By the time I come home after work, I am exhausted, especially in the first few weeks when I am adjusting to the early wake-ups and being "scheduled" with my eating and break times. I miss spending all day with a book in my hands! I will continue to bring you all the best books to feature and review here starting with a few this week!

The Gift of Failure  by Jessica Lahey
In this culture of achievement and success, are we actually harming our children by keeping them at bay from failure? Is it important to be on the losing end of the deal every now and then? Learn to let go. I learned a lot, and founf this book very interesting!

Free books are not an author's best friend, because let's face it, they make more money from bookstore sales and not from online ventures. I recently shared I am becoming a huge fan of the mystery/thriller genre, and I received a recommendation through an author I follow on social media that one of the books featured on that sale was a must-read! I will share that book with you, dear readers.

Still Life Las Vegas by James Sie
I will share my thoughts on this book, and why it was so different from any other book I have read. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Saturday Kid Reads featuring Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Incredible novelist, and award-winner Rebecca Stead has returned with a new novel called Goodbye Stranger. This novel is geared toward an older audience (upper-grade/middle school), and the three girls in the novel share one rule-no fighting! But when you are in 7th grade, how long can a "no fighting" rule possibly last? When everything about your world seems to be evolving, you have to examine what love and friendship truly means.
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

This brilliant novel by Newbery Medal winner Rebecca Stead explores multiple perspectives on the bonds and limits of friendship.
Bridge is an accident survivor who’s wondering why she’s still alive. Emily has new curves and an almost-boyfriend who wants a certain kind of picture. Tabitha sees through everybody’s games—or so she tells the world. The three girls are best friends with one rule: No fighting. Can it get them through seventh grade? 
This year everything is different for Sherm Russo as he gets to know Bridge Barsamian. What does it mean to fall for a girl—as a friend? 
On Valentine’s Day, an unnamed high school girl struggles with a betrayal. How long can she hide in plain sight?
Each memorable character navigates the challenges of love and change in this captivating novel.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

Earlier this year, I picked up a copy of The Good Girl from the library after seeing many rave reviews for it via social media. I imagine if you follow reviews, and other blogs, you've no doubt heard about Good Girl. The book truly did not disappoint, and the ending was not what I expected. It also (happily) sparked a segue in to a new genre for me. When you read books by a talented author, you feel compelled to share the love with your fellow readers, and I did just that with Good Girl. If you're wondering if this book will operate in much the same manner, the answer is-yes. Picking up a random teenage stranger on the street? She's holding a small baby? Seems fairly innocent. What could possibly go wrong? Heidi finds out what could quickly go wrong when you attempt to help a stranger you know nothing about. Could you allow your family's safety and security to be compromised in order to afford someone the security of food and shelter? As a person who tends to lean on the side of helping people out, I will attempt to remain less guarded when seeing people who look homeless and in need of help. Once again, readers will turn the pages of Mary Kubica's newest read at a feverish pace.
Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can't get the girl out of her head… 

Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family's objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home. 

Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow's past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she's willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Rome in Love by Anita Hughes

Today's feature is brought to you by my fellow Californian, Anita Hughes. Anita is a celebrated writer with many books set in a variety of locales, so the reader has the experience of reading a wonderful book while also learning about vacation spots to add to their bucket list. Her newest book will definitely encourage you to book your next flight to Italy! Though Audrey Hepburn was an actress before my time, I still find her endearing, and it's no wonder the main character of this new novel uncovers letters written by Audrey that help right the pieces of her broken life. The trouble is that sometimes choices are difficult, especially when choosing between love and the truth. Rome in Love is certain to delight readers this summer.

Rome in Love by Anita Hughes

When Amelia Tate is cast to play the Audrey Hepburn role in a remake of Roman Holiday, she feels as if all her dreams have come true. She has a handsome boyfriend, is portraying her idol in a major motion picture, and gets to live in beautiful, Italian city of Rome for the next two months.
Once there, she befriends a young woman named Sophie with whom she begins to explore the city. Together, they discover all the amazing riches that Rome has to offer. But when Amelia's boyfriend breaks up with her over her acting career, her perfect world begins to crumble.
While moping in her hotel suite, Amelia discovers a stack of letters written by Audrey Hepburn that start to put her own life into perspective. Then, she meets Philip, a handsome journalist who is under the impression that she is a hotel maid, and it appears as if things are finally looking up. The problem is she can never find the right time to tell Philip her true identity. Not to mention that Philip has a few secrets of his own. Can Amelia finally have both the career and love that she's always wanted, or will she be forced to choose again?
With her sensory descriptions of the beautiful sites, decadent food, and high fashion of Rome, Hughes draws readers into this fast-paced and superbly written novel. Rome in Love will capture the hearts of readers everywhere.

I hope you are enticed to pick up your own copy of Rome in Love.

Happy Reading!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman

From the outset, the author of this novel captured my heart when one of her dedications was to none other than Frank McCourt. When USA Today calls your book "A rich literary feast", you know you have a book that will delight readers. To think of a child being abandoned on the streets of New York, and rising from that tragedy to transform her life is a marvel. There was something truly endearing about the thought of selling ice cream across America, rising from the ashes of ruin to make something of yourself. As with most people who rise to fame, often that popularity can involve infamy.  Fate can deal you both a full deck, and the next card could involve you losing everything. Lillian is a character who believes in fate, and the story is one readers will not forget. Fans of the Historical Fiction genre will truly enjoy this novel, which is now available in paperback.  
The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman

As a child in 1913, Malka Treynovsky flees Russia for New York with her family--only to be crippled and abandoned in the streets. Taken in by a tough-loving Italian ices peddler, Malka survives. When she falls in love with Albert, they set off together across America in an ice cream truck to seek their fortune; slowly, she transforms herself into Lillian Dunkle, "The Ice Cream Queen of America"--doyenne of an empire of ice cream franchises and a celebrated television personality.

Spanning 70 years, Lillian's rise--fraught with setbacks, triumphs, and tragedies--is inextricably linked to the course of American history itself, from Prohibition to the disco days of Studio 54. And when her past starts catching up with her, her world implodes spectacularly.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Cold War on Maplewood Street by Gail Rosengren

Cold War on Maplewood Street by Gail Rosengren

This book is about the Cold War, and a time in history that was strained and terribly frightening for many American families. Joanna's brother, Sam, is on a Navy ship headed straight for Cuba while it is in the throes of a missile crisis. Making friends with the Soviets was a way of protecting their land, the unfortunate weapon of choice one that could annihilate and level entire masses of people and land. Missiles being sent by the Soviet Union threaten to wreak nuclear havoc upon the people of the US, and Cuba, should the United States retaliate with nuclear weapons themselves. Joanna cannot bear the thought of her brother Sam being in the middle of that chaos. Fans of historical fiction will enjoy reading this book as the timeline unfolds like the pages of a history book. In addition, this book is aptly timed to inform children about what it means to be living in a time when nuclear threats are an every day occurrence, and when nuclear talks are essential to keeping these kinds of threats from approaching our shores. Joanna ultimately learns that sometimes, you have to break promises and leave the people you love behind. A hopeful story about living in a world of uncertainty. 

Cold War anxieties play out in a sensitively told story set during the Cuban missile crisis in the 1960s, perfect for fans of Gary Schmidt and Kristin Levine. 
Joanna can’t get over how her brother broke his promise to never leave like their dad did. Sam is thousands of miles away on a navy ship, and no matter how often he sends letters, Joanna refuses to write back. When she makes a promise, she keeps it.
But then President Kennedy comes on TV with frightening news about Soviet missiles in Cuba—and that’s where Sam’s heading. Suddenly Joanna’s worries about being home alone, building up the courage to talk to a cute boy, and not being allowed to go to the first boy-girl party in her grade don’t seem so important. Maybe sometimes there are good reasons to break a promise.
The tense timeline of the Cuban missile crisis unfolds alongside a powerful, and ultimately hopeful, story about what it means to grow up in a world full of uncertainty.

Happy reading!