Thursday, August 25, 2016

Kids Picks: Back to School Picture Books

There are a ton of great new picture books out this fall. Harper Collins was generous with the titles they sent me to review (as usual). I've enjoyed reading them myself and can't wait to share them with kids.

Pete The Cat's Got Class by James Dean - Anything Pete the Cat is a huge hit with kids. I took this book to summer school and shared with my students who loved it. (This also prompted us to watch a bunch of Pete the Cat things on youtube).  In this installment Pete goes to school, where the class is working on math.  Pete helps another student learn to add, and ends with the wisdom that math is neat.

Otter Goes To School by Sam Garton - Otter is back for another installment - this time he's off to school after learning that Otter Keeper (which is a very cute way of referring to his owner) is so smart because he went to school when he was growing up.  Otter sets up school for his stuffed animals, and finds many things to teach them.

Ruby Rose Off to School She Goes by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi - Ruby Rose is excited to go off to school. She is full of rhythm - dancing everywhere. School isn't a place where there is much time for dancing, but after a little mishap, Ruby is amazed by everyone's dancing ability.  

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled by Lynne Rae Perkins - isn't a traditional school story.  Frank acquires Lucky one day and the two of them spend time learning about each other.  Their adventures lead them to learning about nature, about reading, and math, history, art and geography- all in unconventional ways.  This book is one that upper elementary students will also enjoy!

Lola Knows a Lot by Jenna McCarthy - this is a super-cute picture book about Lola who will soon be starting school. Lola isn't sure she needs school considering how much she already knows. She knows how to driver her sister crazy, how to use a remote control, and that it isn't always easy being a little sister.  In the end, Lola knows that she doesn't know everything yet, although she's working on fixing that.

Rappy Goes To School by Dan Gutman, illustrated by Tim Bowers - although this one can be read to yourself, it's much more fun to read it aloud.  Rhyming text, made this one a joy to read to my summer school students. Rappy's school year is starting off with some introductions of his classmates, and one classmate in particular who isn't being kind.  As the rhymes continue, they discover how treat each other.

On The First Day of Kindergarten by Tish Rabe, illustrated by Laura Hughes -This is another rhyming book with text that adds and repeats.  Much like The Twelve Days of Christmas, a list of things that are cool at school is added to.  This would be a great jumping off point to listing the many things that are cool about school.  

Winnie and Waldorf: Disobedience School written and illustrated by Kati Hites - Winnie decides to enroll Waldorf in school. She spends a lot of time teaching him things like art and math. and Waldorf excels at naptime all on his own.  After Winnie's busy day, she must prepare for tomorrow when she will go to school.

Since today is the first day back with kids, I've already got that nervous feeling that happens each year.  It will be great to get the 2016-17 school year under way.  There are plenty of great books to help kick it off.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

TLC Blog Tour: Carry On

Carry On:  A Story of Resilience, Redemption and an Unlikely Family by Lisa Fenn is at first glance a book about wrestling.  Once you read it you will realize it is a story about so much more.

Fenn, a journalist for ESPN, received a call from her father one morning telling her about two wrestlers he read about in the paper that day.  Intrigued, she decided to go and see these wrestlers in person, and felt compelled to share their story.

Fenn admits there are a lot of stories about handicapped athletes.  The two young wrestlers are also handicapped. Leroy Sutton was pulled under a train at the age of eleven and lost both legs.  Dartanyon Crockett is legally blind.  These two boys attended one of Cleveland's toughest high schools and decided to go out for wrestling one year.

Both were well built and muscular.  Neither had wrestled before.  Although the goal was winning, their records weren't amazing. Their friendship was.  Dartanyon took to carrying Leroy on his back wherever he went.  Their relationship went far beyond the wrestling mat, and inspired others in their school.  

Fenn could have walked away after the filming of their story was done.  She chose to become involved in their lives and help them find a way to make dreams such as college come true for them.  

This story is inspiring in so many ways. Both Dartanyon and Leroy had so many obstacles to overcome - poverty, poor parenting, and their physical disabilities certainly were high on the list.  Their work ethic and ability to continue to keep persevering despite what was thrown in their path is inspiring.  Lisa Fenn is also inspiring.  Instead of remaining detached from the story, she decided to go the extra mile and become involved with these two young men because she could see their need and potential.

I loved this book. My husband, a high school wrestling coach, also loved this book. Several years ago he watched the documentary Fenn produced, so Dartanyon and Leroy's story wasn't new to him, but still was interesting to read and see the behind-the-scenes perspective the book provides.

Although this might initially seem like a book for wrestling fans or sports lovers, this is a book for everyone.

Thanks to TLC Books for providing a copy of this for my review. All opinions expressed are, as always, my own.

Carry On is published by Harper Wave. 

Waiting on Wednesday: Searching for John Hughes

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that highlights soon to be released books we can't wait to get our hands on.

This week's pick:  Searching For John Hughes: Or Everything I Thought I Needed to Know about Life I Learned from Watching '80s Movies by Jason Diamond

Due out: November 29, 2016

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

For all fans of John Hughes and his hit films such as National Lampoon’s VacationSixteen Candles, and Home Alone, comes Jason Diamond’s hilarious memoir of growing up obsessed with the iconic filmmaker’s movies—a preoccupation that eventually convinces Diamond he should write Hughes’ biography and travel to New York City on a quest that is as funny as it is hopeless.
For as long as Jason Diamond can remember, he’s been infatuated with John Hughes’ movies. From the outrageous, raunchy antics in National Lampoon’s Vacation to the teenage angst in The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink to the insanely clever and unforgettable Home Alone, Jason could not get enough of Hughes’ films. And so the seed was planted in his mind that it should fall to him to write a biography of his favorite filmmaker. It didn’t matter to Jason that he had no qualifications, training, background, platform, or direction. Thus went the years-long, delusional, earnest, and assiduous quest to reach his goal. But no book came out of these years, and no book will. What he did get was a story that fills the pages of this unconventional, hilarious memoir.

In Searching for John Hughes, Jason tells how a Jewish kid from a broken home in a Chicago suburb—sometimes homeless, always restless—found comfort and connection in the likewise broken lives in the suburban Chicago of John Hughes’ oeuvre. He moved to New York to become a writer. He started to write a book he had no business writing. In the meantime, he brewed coffee and guarded cupcake cafes. All the while, he watched John Hughes movies religiously.

Though his original biography of Hughes has long since been abandoned, Jason has discovered he is a writer through and through. And the adversity of going for broke has now been transformed into wisdom. Or, at least, a really, really good story.

In other words, this is a memoir of growing up. One part big dream, one part big failure, one part John Hughes movies, one part Chicago, and one part New York. It’s a story of what comes after the “Go for it!” part of the command to young creatives to pursue their dreams—no matter how absurd they might seem at first.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Out Today: Behold the Dreamers

Imbolo Mbue's novel nearly broke my heart at times.  Behold the Dreamers is a wonderful novel about one immigrant family's experience. 

Jende Jonga is a Cammeronian immigrant seeking a better life in America.  Through a friend he secures a job as a chauffeur for a wealthy man, Clark Edwards, who has made his fortune at Lehman Brothers.

The Edwards seem to have it all: a beautiful family, large homes, and few worries.  Except that it is 2007 and the financial crisis is about to happen.  

Jende's wife, Neni, also begins working for Mrs. Edwards, and the Jongas are making progress in America, finally able to plan for their future. 

But as they hope to raise their family in America, Jende's citizenship is causing them problems, and he continues to receive mail sending him to court, and the threat of being sent back to Cameroon hangs over his head.  

These two families struggle in different ways, but Behold the Dreamers certainly proves that money cannot buy happiness and that despite wealth everyone has their own challenges.  It is also a realistic portrayal of the immigrant experience and the way in which our system does not work for everyone.

Mbue's novel is beautiful and sad and hopeful all at the same time.  It is a must read.

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Family of Readers

When I saw The Useful Book pop up on the list of new books purchased by my public library, I quickly put a hold on it.  It sounded like a great book full of common sense directions for a wide variety of everyday tasks.  I wasn't disappointed when I got it, either. 

The book was still in our car when I took Middle Sister on an errand. I handed it to her and instructed her to read the table of contents and let me know what types of things were included in the book.  

She spent about two seconds doing that, and then closed the book, letting me know that there was nothing interesting about The Useful Book.

A few days later I took Big Sister to some school event. I handed her The Useful Book and without prompting she read me the many different topics covered in it.  How to make a sandwich. How to boil an egg. How to weatherstrip doors and windows.  The Useful Book is full of...well....a lot of useful stuff.  

Big Sister loved this book and even mentioned needing her own copy.  I happily agreed that I could buy her one, and then suggested that she would need it because  Middle Sister will be calling her up someday asking her how to do all the things included in this book she couldn't bring herself to read.

I am convinced that this would make a great gift for anyone who is embarking on life on their own. And even though I've been on my own now for quite some time, I also found some good information in The Useful Book, which would be a great reference to have around for pretty much everyone.

As for my daughters, this once again brings home the point that all kids are different.  Amazingly so.  That's part of the joy of parenting - seeing these differences and appreciating them.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Friday Five

A few weeks ago I apologized for featuring any fall clothes. Now I'm all over the fall clothes coming out and can't help but share all of my great finds. If only I could revamp my entire wardrobe.  

1.  Classic Sneaker - I'm looking for a plain old basic boring sneaker.  I don't know if this is exactly plain, but I like them.  

2.  Women's Eddie Bauer Trace Boot - Last year I was on a quest for boots. I just can't seem to stop looking at them, and this pair is a reasonable price right now, too.  

3.  Factory Printed Quilted Puffer Vest - I have worn vests for years. I thought they were going to go out of style for a bit, and even got rid of my collection of them several years ago. But every season there are new ones coming out and I still love them.

4. Women's Tencel Moto Jacket - I am in love with the whole moto jacket design.  

5.  Wildflower Infinity Scarf - and this scarf is beautiful. I'm waiting for another sale at Loft to purchase it at this point. I can already think of many items this could go with in my closet.

6.  Beaks and Geeks Podcast - ever since Books on the Nightstand (my most favorite podcast) stopped production, I've been looking for others to replace it. This one features interviews with authors.  I've listened to a few episodes so far and thoroughly enjoyed it.

7.  Tapple - Last week I was at the Mall of America on Friday.  I love Marbles the Brain Store and never seem to leave without a new game to add to our collection.  I'm saving Tapple for a Christmas present.  The sales clerk did a great job selling me on this one and played with us (my friend Robin also bought this game, too).

8.  Boomer Phelps on instagram - this should have been on last week's Friday Five. I love Boomer Phelps. He is adorable.  After my friend, Kristin, told me she was following him on Instagram, I had to do the same.

And that's it.  What's caught your eye this past week?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: From Gilmore Girls To Gilmore Girls

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that highlights a soon to be published book.

This week's pick:  Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything In Between by Lauren Graham
Due out: November 29, 2016

Product Information taken from Amazon:

In her first work of nonfiction, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthoodrecounts her experiences on Gilmore Girls—the first and second time—and shares stories about life, love, and working in Hollywood. This collection of essays is written in the intimate, hilarious, and down-to earth voice that made her novel, Someday Someday Maybe, a New York Times bestseller.
“This book contains some stories from my life: the awkward growing up years, the confusing dating years, the fulfilling working years, and what it was like to be asked to play one of my favorite characters again. You probably think I’m talking about my incredible achievement as Dolly in Hello, Dolly! as a Langley High School junior, a performance my dad called “you’re so much taller than the other kids.” But no! I’m talking about Lorelai Gilmore, who, back in 2008, I wasn’t sure I’d ever see again. Also included: tales of living on a houseboat, meeting guys at awards shows, and that time I was asked to be a butt model. A hint: all three made me seasick.”—Lauren Graham

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Results May Vary

If anyone saw me walking around a few days ago, they would have thought I had just pulled an all-nighter.  No.  I haven't done that in years. However, I did stay up very late, totally absorbed in Results May Vary by Bethany Chase.

Bethany Chase is an author that people should be watching for. I have read both of her books now and loved them both.

Results May Vary is a romance of sorts.  Caroline and Adam were high school sweethearts and are now living in Massachusetts where he is a writer and she does something with art and galleries (honestly, this was all a little bit confusing to me since I'm not familiar with galleries or art shows).  

Within the first few chapters, it is revealed that Adam has cheated on Caroline, who discovers this devastating news as she is looking at some of a new, talented photographer's work that wasn't displayed at a showing and is a little too erotic in nature for the type of show he is having. The photos portray two men in a physical relationship, and the one man has a unique birthmark that is identical to her husband, Adam's.  

Which means that it is Adam in the photographs.  And that the perfect life Caroline thought she has isn't so perfect. 

Although there is the requisite , "should we work on our marriage?" and "can I ever trust this person again since he betrayed me?" types of questions that Chase addresses, I was so glad and impressed that this book moved far beyond that.  

In addition to the main storyline, I absolutely loved the subplots with Caroline's sister, Ruby, and her best friend, Jonathan.  I loved the Massachusetts setting. I loved the way Caroline grieved for her marriage and the perspective both her mother and an artist friend brought to the whole subject of divorce.

Chase's writing reminds me a little of Emily Giffin's with a bit more weight to it.  I can't wait to see what she writes next and think this is an author that is truly one to watch for.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Two Holocaust Stories

Many years ago I decided that I wasn't interested in reading Holocaust stories.  I felt like they were often similar and just had read so many of them.  So I stopped reading them for a while, and then all of a sudden, they were appealing to me again.  

This past week I read two Holocaust stories back to back, which may have been a bit too much all at once, but both were interesting and sad and will stay with me.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult is written in Picoult's typical style with different characters taking turns narrating the story. Sage, a baker, is asked by an elderly gentleman at a grief support group for help in killing himself.  He tells her he had been an SS officer during World War II and as she uncovers more of his past, turns him in to the division of government in charge of punishing war crimes.  Sage's grandmother had been in a concentration camp and she narrates much of the middle portion of the book, telling the story of her time in Germany during the war.  Typical Picoult, there is a twist at the end. I wasn't horribly surprised by the ending, and I enjoyed Sage's character a great deal.  

Karolina's Twins by Ronald Balson is another Holocaust novel I just finished up. Lena approaches a husband/wife investigator/lawyer team asking them to help her find her best friend's infant twins who were abandoned during World War II. Now seventy years later she has found the courage to try to locate them.  Her son Arthur stands in the way of his mother's search, trying to find her mentally diminished because of age, not believing the twins ever existed. The entire book is comprised mainly of Lena's story, as she recounts her family being taken away by soldiers, and the various places where she found shelter and was relocated.  
There are a few weak areas of this book. Arthur, Lena's son, is a poorly developed character and seems one dimensional. The conversations he is a part of were hard to believe.  However, despite this, I did enjoy this story.  I knew early on how this would end, and despite being a bit discouraged by it's predictability, I couldn't find a better way for Balson to wrap this one up.  
Karolina's Twins is enjoyable and fast, and readers who enjoy World War II stories won't be disappointed.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Friday Five

I'm actually up and getting on with my day very early this Friday.  Perhaps I should be preparing myself for going back to work all too soon, but instead the reason I'm up is that my friend, Robin, and I are going on our third annual IKEA shopping trip today.  With the nearest IKEA three hours away, we start our day early.

I've got a few things on my list that I'm looking for - especially a different bed for Little Sister.  

Hopefully I can refrain from getting sucked into all the beautiful fall clothes that are coming out.  I've been finding a ton of things online.

Boden Long Sleeve Breton - I don't always find things at Boden, but their new fall catalog arrived last week, and there are tons of things in there I love.

2. Women's Lofty Shaker Sweater Jacket - this looks better in the picture in the Lands End catalog which has it paired with a navy and white striped shirt. I absolutely love the outfit.

3.  Sleeveless Pintuck Swing Dress - this is going to be my first day back to school outfit. Yes, even teachers wear something new on the first day of school. I'm adding a denim jacket to it as well.

4.  Spot on Stripe Top - another Boden top I love.  

5.  Authentic 1969 Flare Jeans -and a pair of jeans.  I own one decent pair of jeans and StitchFix has been shipping me jeans to try but I haven't had any luck there, either.  Gap had 40% off earlier this week, so I ordered them then, but they haven't yet arrived.  Hoping that these work for me.

Have a great Friday!  And if anyone wants to share anything that's caught your eye this week, please do!