Books Comparing Now and Then

A Fine DessertWhale Trails

Recently ML and I were introduced to the app Trivia Crack.  We’re addicted.  It’s like Trivial Pursuit but online.  This has sparked an interest in history for ML.  Two picture books arrived recently to fuel her new passion.

A Fine Dessert:  Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Sophie Blackall – We followed the making of blackberry fool from Lyme, England to present day San Diego stopping in outside of Charleston, SC in the 1800s and Boston, MA in the 1900s.  ML is eager for blackberries to be in season so we can try the recipe.  We may go blackberry picking and make a whisk with clean, soft twigs like the mom and daughter in the 1700s.  However, we will buy the cream at the grocery.  We don’t have access to cows we can milk ourselves.  The details in the illustrations span centuries. . . from an ice pit in the hillside to gumball machines at the supermarket.

Whale Trails:  Before and Now by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by G. Brian Karas – A delightful tale comparing today’s whale watching industry with whale hunting ships of the 1800s.  Each page spread includes one page showing a modern whale watching adventure in bright gouache and acrylic;  and a page that looks like aged paper with black toned illustrations.

Julia’s Review of Waiting For Unicorns

Waiting for Unicorns

I’ve found another avid reader to help me review books for middle grade children.  Lily’s sister, Julia.  She is a sixth grader.  I was reading a book when I learned these sisters were eager to review books for the blog.  I almost didn’t send it because I was enjoying it so much.  As I’m writing this review, I’m trying not to read Julia’s review.  Other than her three words describing the book, which convince me I should read this book.

Waiting For Unicorns by Beth Hautala

  • Write three words to describe this book.  touching, well-written, captivating
  • What was you favorite part of the book?  Why?  My favorite part was when Talia got the necklace from her dad for her birthday.
  • Who was your favorite character?  Why?  My favorite character was Simon (aka Guitar Boy).
  • How did the book make your feel?  I felt very sympathetic for Talia because she had lost her mom and then her home, and then her dad got stuck out on the ice.
  • Did anything in the book make you happy?  If so, what? I felt happy that Talia became friends with Simon, Sura and the Birdman.
  • Did anything in the book make you sad?  If so, what?  I was sad that Talia didn’t get to see the narwhals, but also kind of happy because Sura had said, “Unicorns break your heart.”

Book Synopsis from Penguin website – “When twelve-year-old Talia—still reeling from the recent death of her mother—is forced to travel with her emotionally and physically distant whale-researcher father to the Arctic for the summer, she begins to wonder if the broken pieces inside of her will ever begin to heal. Like her jar of wishes, Talia feels bottled up and torn. Everything about life in Churchill feels foreign, including Sura, the traditional Inuit woman whom Talia must live with. But when Sura exposes her to the tradition of storytelling, she unlocks something within Talia that has long since been buried: her ability to hope, to believe again in making wishes come true.”

Icy Roads – Thankfully We Had Books, Friends, Food and Heat

Cat & BunnyRaindrops RollLetter for LeoPapa ChagallPlease Mr PandaPrincess PattyGeorge in the DarkSnoozefest

It wasn’t Boston here; but there was sleet and snow this week.  On Tuesday, five children meandered from house to house sledding, eating, drinking hot chocolate, holding gerbils, and to my dismay forgetting to close to the door.  I’m hoping they will remember the fun times; not me yelling “Close the door!”

Cat & Bunny by Mary Lundquist – Sometimes there is drama when second grade girls get together.  It’s more likely to happen when there is an odd number.  Wednesday morning ML had two friends over.  For about thirty minutes one of the girls was upset at ML and the other friend.  We read this book the night before.  Sadly, my brain was fried.  I didn’t think to read it to ML’s friend.  It’s the perfect book to discuss feeling left out.

Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre – As the sleet fell, we read this book filled with exquisite photographs.  The girls couldn’t choose a favorite page.  Mine was the spider web.  ML and I decided the next time it rains, we’ll take pictures of rain in the natural world.

A Letter For Leo by Sergio Ruzzier – Our mailman wears shorts in spring, summer, fall and winter.  Even on days when there are inches of sleet on the ground.  In this book, Leo is mailman.  (He only wears a hat and carries a satchel) You can get away with that when you’re a weasel.  I’m not going to summarize the story.  It would take away the charm of discovering it yourself.  Promise me you will pay close attention to the illustration of the snowy day.

Papa Chagall Tell Us a Story by Laurence Anholt – ML saw the cover and exclaimed, “That painting’s in the art room at school.”  Anholt has created an entire series on a variety of painters.  ML wants to read Picasso and the Girl With a Ponytail next.

Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony –  Panda carries around a box of donuts asking everyone he meets, “Would you like a doughnut?”  However, he only gives one to lemur.  ML knows why lemur receives the doughnuts.  Can you figure it out before you read the book? Here’s a hint.  ML said, “The ostrich shouldn’t have said, ‘No, go away.’ He should have said, ‘No Thanks, I’m good”

Princess Patty Meets Her Match by Charise Mericle Harper – I’m not going to tell you the story line of this book.  It’s my favorite princess book ML and I’ve read together.  With eight years of reading together, I’d say twenty-five of the books involved princesses.  This doesn’t count the Disney princess books, which I always paraphrased.

George in the Dark by Madeline Valentine –  I was afraid of the dark.  ML rarely is.  If it was a nightly occurrence, this is the book I would choose to read to help discuss her fear.  The book begins with a positive slant; highlighting how brave George is about many things.  Then, shows his fear of the dark.  After he saves his bear from the darkest place, you get a clearer view of the items making the creepy shadows.

Snoozefest by Samanta Berger and illustrated by Kristyna Litten – After this week, I would love to have a Snoozefest.  There are a variety of places to snooze in the digital illustrations.  ML and I chose the hammocks.



Lily’s Review of Fish in a Tree


I’ve found an avid reader to help me review books for middle grade children.  Lily is a fourth grader.  I gave her mom a few new library books at a PTA meeting last week.  Within days, Lily had written two reviews for me.  She emailed me her first review saying, “Thanks, I really liked the book.”  Based on the word bookworm in her email address, I anticipate she will be an active reviewer.

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

  • Write three words to describe this book.  Intriguing Exciting Satisfying
  • What was you favorite part of the book?  Why?  My favorite part of the book was the end when Mr.Daniels meets Travis because Travis will start learning to read.
  • Who was your favorite character?  Why?  My favorite character was Mr.Daniels because he is funny and not like an ordinary teacher.
  • How did the book make your feel?  The book made me feel happy for Ally because she is finally getting help.
  • Did anything in the book make you happy?  If so, what?  The part of the book that made me feel happy was the part when Albert finally stands up to the boys that are mean to him.
  • Did anything in the book make you sad?  If so, what?  I didn’t like the parts where Shay and Jessica are mean to Ally.

Book Synopsis from Penguin – “Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions.  She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.”

Presidential Reads

Presidential MisadventuresThose Founding FathersThomas JeffersonDear Mr WashingtonPresident TaftiPhone George Washington


It’s Presidents Day and I planned to finish this post before the day arrived so I could post it.  I didn’t; but have decided to post it in it’s incomplete form.  These are some great books.  Trust me.

Presidential Misadventures:  Poems that Poke Fun at the Man in Charge by Bob Raczka and art by Dan E. Burr – Have you ever heard of a clerihew?  I hadn’t until I read this book.  It’s a four line poem that pokes fun at a famous person.  The first two lines rhyme and the third and fourth lines rhyme.  There’s a poem written about each of the forty-four presidents.

The Founding Fathers: Those Horse Ridin’, Fiddle Playin’, Book Readin’ Gun Totin’ Gentlemen Who Started America by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Barry Blitt

Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything by Maria Kalman – An exquisitely illustrated picture book describing the interests and complexities of Thomas Jefferson in simple age appropriate words.

Dear Mr. Washington by Lynn Cullen and pictures by Nancy Carpenter

President Taft is Stuck in the Bath by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

The Left Behinds and the iPhone That Saved George Washington by David Potter


Keenan’s Review on Masterminds by Gordon Korman

Keenan is the fifth grade son of a coworker.  He’s an avid reader.  Every week I pick his mom’s brain about the books he enjoys.  When he visited the library last weekend,  I asked if he would do a review of a recent favorite read.  He chose Masterminds by Gordon Korman.
  • Write three words to describe this book.  Action packed, mysterious, exciting.
  • What was your favorite part of the book? Why?  My favorite part was when they found they were clones.  I loved their reaction.
  • Who was your favorite character?  Why?  Eli.  He was funny and had the best reactions.
  • How did the book make you feel?  Sad, but also in a weird sort of way happy.

Summary of the book from Harper Collins website:
Eli Frieden lives in the most perfect town in the world: Serenity, New Mexico. In this idyllic place, every lawn is perfectly manicured and everyone has a pool and a tree house. Honesty and integrity are valued above all else. The thirty kids who live there never lie—they know it’s a short leap from that to the awful problems of other, less fortunate places.

Eli has never left Serenity . . . Why would he ever want to? Then one day he bikes to the edge of the city limits and something so crazy and unexpected happens, it changes everything. Eli convinces his friends to help him investigate further, and soon it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems in Serenity. The clues mount to reveal a shocking discovery, connecting their ideal crime-free community to some of the greatest criminal masterminds ever known. The kids realize they can trust no one—least of all their own parents.

Worst in Show

Worst in Show

Worst in Show by William Bee by Kate Hindley – “It’s time for the Best Monster in the World Competition, and Albert can’t wait to enter his very own monster, Sidney, in the contest! Albert is absolutely sure that his pet is a winner. But, as monsters go, is sweet, well-behaved Sidney really the smelliest, dirtiest, most parasite-ridden monster of all?” (from Candlewick Press website)

Why should you read this book?
It’s “fartastic!”  My friend’s four-year-old son loves it and insisted they read it the past three nights.  Trust me, your child will be filled with glee hearing you read the words “Hairiest warts, smelliest fart, fartometer and Fartbuster 2000.”

Add an hour to bedtime stories the night you read this book.  You’ll need the extra time to delight in the silly illustrations.  ML enjoyed finding which judge fainted each round of the competition.

King Thrushbeard

King Thrushbeard

The first thing ML said when saw saw the cover of King Trushbeard by The Brothers Grimm and illustrated by Irina Dobrescu was, “Wow!  That’s a big dress!”  Neither of us was familiar with the fairy tale.

“When a beautiful but conceited princess cruelly turns down each of her suitors, her father, the king, forces her to marry a beggar. But a life of hard work and love soon teaches the princess a valuable lesson, and her hardness gives way to kindness and compassion. And through loving eyes, the princess is surprised to see who her husband really is.” (from book jacket)

Why should you read this book?
It’s an opportunity to read a little known tale from the Brothers Grimm. Plus, the book tells an important message without being preachy.  Filled with whimsical illustrations. . .  one can’t help but laugh at the artwork accompanying the princess’s quote, “Oh, goodness!  What a small house; to whom does this miserable hovel belong?”  While writing this post, I noticed many details we missed.  We’ll read this one again soon.

Forget Chocolate. . . Give a Book

SuperloveWho Wants HugHug MachineStormy NightHow to Grow FriendI Love Dogs

Today I purchased a book to give ML for Valentine’s Day.  Last year, I gave her chocolate.  Guess who ate most of it?  At the bookstore recently, ML saw a new Geronimo Stilton book.  She asked, “Will you buy it for my birthday?”  Her birthday isn’t until October.  I wish I had a red valentine chocolate box to put it in.  That would make ML laugh.

Below are some new picture books about love.  Perfect for the huggable child in your life.

Superlove by Charise Mericle Harper and illustrated by Mark Chambers – Most girls dream of being a flower girl.  ML did.  The young girl in this book has a plan; but Pinky her cat has other plans.  Who will come to the rescue?  A delightful story highlighting imagination and loving families.

Who Wants a Hug? by Jeff Mack – Bear loves to give hugs and is always asking skunk if he wants a hug.  Skunk refuses time and again.  Bear perseveres.  Will skunk finally give in?  Adorable, animated illustrations fill this book.

Hug Machine by Scott Campbell – No thing is too small or big to receive a hug from Hug Machine.  A perfect read with my favorite hugger in the world. . . ML

Stormy Night by Salina Yoon – As a child, I was petifried whenever there was a thunderstorm.  This sweet, loving book is a perfect read for children like me.

How to Grow a Friend by Sara Gillingham – Other than one’s family, the greatest love in childrens’ lives is friends.  Read it.  Then, read it again to see if you can find the cute little bird that graces each page spread.

I Love Dogs by Sue Stainton and illustrated by Bob Staake – What kind of dogs do you love?  Lazy or Crazy? Spotty or Dotty? Prowling or Howling?  Use this book to help children love adjectives.

Now for the unveiling of the Geronimo Stilton book ML is receiving February 14th.

Geronimo Stilton


Cole’s Review on The Terrible Two

Terrible Two

Cole is a third grader who enjoys Diary of a Wimpy Kid books.  When The Terrible Two by Jory John and Mac Barnett and illustrated by Kevin Cornell arrived, I knew Cole was the perfect boy to read and review the book.  Why? The front cover includes a quote from Jeff Kinney, the author of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books.  “A DOUBLE HELPING OF FUN AND MISCHIEF!”  You can learn more about this new series at The Official and Secret Website of The Terrible Two.

  • Write three words to describe this book.  Funny, Entertaining, Interesting
  • What was your favorite part of the book? Why?  When principle Parkin’s car was pulled up to the top of the stairs.  It was my favorite because it showed a picture of a trampled car.  I found that to be incredibly amusing.
  • Who was your favorite character?  Why?  Niles because he was a prankster.
  • How did the book make you feel?  Happy, also made me feel like I wanted to maybe be a little mischievous.

You can learn more about this new series at
The Official and Secret Website of The Terrible Two.

In Memory of my Grandma – Irene’s Wish

Irenes Wish

ML and I read Irene’s Wish by Jerdine Nolen and illustrated by A G Ford this past October.  We both loved it.  I decided to wait for a special day to share the book.  That day has arrived.  My grandma, named Irene, was born 105 years ago.

In this story “A young girl wants her father to be home more, but her wish takes an unexpected turn.”  Reading this book reminded me of the advice my grandma often told my dad, “Stop and smell the roses.”  In my bedroom, there is a framed picture of grandma and myself (at age 2) in front of her roses.

I wish ML could have met her.  She was amazing.  Going to work at the shirt factory to pay off the farm when my grandfather died suddenly in his fifties. . . taking care of her cows. . . waking to her singing hymns and the smell of bacon frying anytime I spent the night. . . driving her John Deere riding lawn mower into her late eighties.

The dazzling acrylic and oil paints used in this book remind me of the brightness of her little yellow house and the crisp green of the fields, vegetable garden, fig tree, pecan tree, dahlias, irises and roses surrounding her house.  A few years ago, I dug up some of her irises and moved them to my home two states away.  Below is a picture of the first bloom from last spring.





Superb Job by 2015 Caldecott Committee


ML and her friend, were elated to learn The Adventures of Beekle won the Caldecott medal; and The Noisy Paint box earned was chosen as a Honor book.

Pleased doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings about this year’s choices by the Caldecott Committee.  I love it when the books chosen are favorites of children too.  It doesn’t always happen.  Below are my thoughts on the winner and honor books.


“The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend illustrated by Dan Santat – I’m ecstatic!  There’s no doubt in my mind Beekle will be a classic in the cannon of children’s literature.  I reread the post I wrote about Beekle on June 3rd.  It reinforces how much this book deserved the medal.

Six Caldecott Honor Books also were named:

Nana in City

“Nana in the City,” illustrated by Lauren Castillo – I haven’t seen a hard copy of this book, yet.  However, I love all of Lauren’s Castillo books; so I know it’s deserving of the honor.  I’ve been assured it is being ordered.

Noisy Paint Box

“The Noisy Paint Box: The  Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art,” illustrated by Mary GrandPré and written by Barb Rosenstock – ML is an expert on picture books.  This book was her “Favorite Nonfiction Book of 2014” and her choice for the Caldecott Medal. ML’s Christmas gift from me was this book.  Her face was filled with glee when she opened the present.

Sam and Dave

“Sam & Dave Dig a Hole,” illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett – Of the books I’ve seen this was my least favorite.  ML judged the book by the cover and put it in the return pile before we ever read it.  I’ve requested it so we can take another look.

Viva Frida

“Viva Frida,” written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales – I can’t believe I didn’t share a post last year highlighting this book.  ML loved the inventive, exquisite, mixed media illustrations.

The Right Word

“The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus,” illustrated by Melissa Sweet, written by Jen Bryant – I’m thrilled this title was selected.  overjoyed, elated, delighted, exultant, jubilant are a few of the words I used to describe this book on October 3rd.

My Caldecott Awards & Where I Plan to Be In 2017



I wanted to make it to Chicago this year to attend the awards ceremony for the Caldecott Medal; but my budget didn’t allow it.  Next year, the Caldecott award will be announced in Boston.  Closer. . . but probably not in my budget.  Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I will be there in 2017.  Where?  Atlanta. . .a six hour drive, a free place to stay and the chance to visit my family.

It wasn’t easy for me to choose a winner this year.  Many worthy books were published in 2014.

My Choice – Caldecott 2015 Medal 
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

My Choices – Caldecott Honor Books
Telephone by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jen Corace
The Farmer and The Clown by Marla Frazee
The Adventures of Beekle:  An UnImaginary Friend by Dan Santat