Julia’s Review: The Imaginary by A. F. Harrold

The Imaginary

Julia is on fire.  I have five reviews ready to go from her.  I’m feeling confident you’ll see recommendations from her once a week this summer.  Check out what she thought about  The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold and illustrated by Emily Gravett.

Three Words:  exciting, funny, interesting

Favorite Character:  Fridge. I loved how loyal he was to Lizzie.

Least Favorite Character:  I was scared by Mr. Bunting and his imaginary.

Favorite Part:  When Amanda got better and said she’d never forget Rudger, and Fridge and Lizzie were reunited.

Book synopsis from Bloomsbury “Rudger is Amanda Shuffleup’s imaginary friend. Nobody else can see Rudger-until the evil Mr. Bunting arrives at Amanda’s door. Mr. Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumor has it that he even eats them. And now he’s found Rudger

Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. He needs to find Amanda before Mr. Bunting catches him-and before Amanda forgets him and he fades away to nothing. But how can an unreal boy stand alone in the real world?”


ML Can’t Stop. I mean Tommy Can’t Stop

Tommy Can't Stop

Rumor has it ML’s teacher recently needed to remind her no dancing around the classroom.  I understand her teacher’s frustration.  Since ML started ballet class in January, she’s been pirouetting everywhere…the house, the yard, the grocery store.  Even on the soccer field.  She joined a team this spring and brings extra flair to the field.

Tommy Can’t Stop! by Tim Federle and illustrated by Mark Fearing arrived last week.  It’s a humorous picture book about a family trying to tire out Tommy, the bopping, pogo-sticking, elephant clomping whirlwind sensation who has over-taken their house.  After a few false starts, they find the perfect fit for Tommy’s moves… tap dancing.

ML’s still boycotting picture books; but I might be able to slip this one in.  After all, last week she asked if she could try a different type of dance in a few years.  Tap or hip hop?  Plus, Mike Fearing wrote and illustrated her favorite picture book of 2014, The Great Thanksgiving Escape.

Super Fly: The World’s Smallest Superhero!

Super Fly

I read 5 pages of this 115 page illustrated, novel. . . Super Fly:  The World’s Smallest Superhero! by Todd H. Doddler.  That’s all it took to realize this book is going to be a hit.  Particularly with the Kindergarten through 3rd grade set obsessed with the word poop.  Notice I did not single out boys.  I’m amazed at how often the words poop and pee come out of ML and her friends’ mouths.  I do not remember having this fascination in elementary school.

Now for a synopsis from the publisher, Bloomsbury.  “From just a tiny larva in diapers to . . . SUPER FLY! This is the story of Eugene Flystein, a small and nerdy, mild-mannered housefly, who also happens to be the world’s smallest superhero and humanity’s greatest crime fighter.

SUPER FLY!: Able to stop tornadoes from destroying towns with just one breath.
Strong enough to push a ship away from a looming iceberg.
He’s even read every book in the library twice. Yes, twice!

Can this four-eyed little bugger, along with his trusty sidekick Fantastic Flea, take on Crazy Cockroach and his army of insect baddies? It’s housefly vs. cockroach in this epic battle of good vs. evil. Who will come out on top? Stay tuned!”

Julia’s Review: Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose

Blue Birds

Another review by sixth grader, Julia.  This time it’s on Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose; a novel written in verse.

Three Words: touching, deep, heartfelt
Favorite Part:  When Kimi’s mom decided to let Alis stay.
Favorite Character:  Kimi because she was kind and selfless.
How did the book make you feel?  I was upset when George betrayed Alis, and sad when she left her family. I couldn’t believe she did that, especially because she loved baby Samuel so much.

Book synposis from Penguin “It’s 1587 and twelve-year-old Alis has made the long journey with her parents from England to help settle the New World, the land christened Virginia in honor of the Queen. And Alis couldn’t be happier. While the streets of London were crowded and dirty, this new land, with its trees and birds and sky, calls to Alis. Here she feels free. But the land, the island Roanoke, is also inhabited by the Roanoke tribe and tensions between them and the English are running high, soon turning deadly.

Amid the strife, Alis meets and befriends Kimi, a Roanoke girl about her age. Though the two don’t even speak the same language, these girls form a special bond as close as sisters, willing to risk everything for the other. Finally, Alis must make an impossible choice when her family resolves to leave the island and bloodshed behind.”

Confession Time


So I’ve been a little slack on my writing; but not my reading.  I continue to read several picture books a day and first chapters of most of the books written for elementary school students.  My reason for my writing hiatus is exciting.  Tonight is my stage debut.  I’m reading a post about my online dating experience at Listen To Your Mother Raleigh Durham.  If you’re not familiar with LTYM, you need to be.

Below is the piece I’m reading interspersed with the comments and actions of  ML and friend during my “dress rehearsal.”

Apparently my daughter’s been telling her friends I’m in a show called “Listen to Your Mother.” A mom of her friend texted me “SJ wants to come to the show.” After mulling it over and a good night’s sleep, I decided to practice in front of the girls. Reading about online dating to 8-year-olds may be the funniest experience I’ve ever had.

After picking them up from school, I asked, “Would you like me to practice my piece in front of you?” While jumping up and down, they yelled “YES!” Then, asked a few questions. . . “Can we make suggestions for changes if we don’t like something? Can we make you start over if you’re not reading with ENTHUSIASM?”

Upon our arrival at home, these budding naturalists discovered our bluebirds hatched and the strawberries were ripe. A rush of serotonin was coursing through their bodies before my rehearsal. Resulting in an audience crazier than the toddlers I entertain at story time. After feeding the girls, I asked “Would like me to make it a true dress rehearsal wearing my polka dot dress, red shoes and makeup.” I heard a resounding, “yes.” Along with the question, “Can we wear makeup too?”

So the reading begins. I started with a quick confession of why I wanted to share the piece with ML.

Me: “You see I lied to you and I feel really guilty. (The girls looked up at me somberly) “Remember when I said I went to the zoo with a guy I met at the library?”

ML: No

Single Mom Online – The First Forty-Four Days

My ex-husband left a month after our daughter’s second birthday. During the six years since he moved out, friends, co-workers, my doctor, and even my dentist asked from time to time if I was dating.

ML: Are you dating?

Me: I’ve been on a few dates.

ML: (singsongy) You’re going on dates! You’re going on dates.

(followed by lots of giggling from two second grade girls)

As a single mom who worked full time and wanted to make the most of my time with my daughter, I wasn’t interested. Then, last November, my dad asked, “Have you been on a date since David left?” I realized it was time. It was a bold step. I hadn’t been on a first date since 2001.

SJ: How’s it going for ya?”

I set a goal to go on one date by the end of the year. Reluctantly, I joined an online dating site.

SJ and ML: (lots of giggling and repetition of the words) “online dating”

You see, meeting someone via friends is next to impossible. Most of my friends are married. Their friends are married. Their friends’ friends are married… Someone suggested I volunteer. I already volunteer with a non-profit providing support to moms suffering a postpartum mood disorder. I doubt I’ll meet a man via this avenue… Others suggested church. After being surrounded by people all week at work, I prefer to worship in my garden planting and weeding.

Quickly, I learned I wasn’t very marketable.

(quick explanation by me on what marketable means)

ML: You know why? Cause you don’t look good.

My profile wasn’t garnering a lot of interest. If I was going to reach my goal, I needed to be proactive.

Me: Do you know what proactive means?

ML: Look better.

(lots of giggling)

ML: Wear skinny jeans and a tank top.

I sent messages to fifteen men who seemed educated and interesting. I heard back from three. In my twenties, this would have devastated me.

ML: He’s in his twenties and he wants to go dating with you. This is a really dumb guy.

Two kindly responded they met someone and wished me luck. I knew they might be lying; but I appreciated the responses. They were kind and articulate. This left one guy. We messaged each other a few times, talked on the phone one evening and made a date.

SJ: Did he come to your house and did you kiss?

ML: What if you have another baby?

You know . . . The greatest fear for men is the woman will be fat. But like most women, my biggest fear was meeting a serial killer. We agreed to meet at the zoo.

ML: I wanna go. Do you have a picture of him?

I had a plan. If he ended up being creepy, I could lure him to the lions and throw him in their den.
It never occurred to me I might be recognized at the zoo. It’s an hour and a half from my house! Ten steps from the zoo exit, I saw a familiar looking boy and thought, “He looks like Orson.” A man waved. I recognized him immediately.

ML: Seth

It was Orson’s father. Then, I heard a little voice, “Hi Ms. Kerri. Where’s ML?” Busted! I wasn’t planning on telling my daughter I went on a date; especially one at the zoo.

I knew the first thing my daughter’s friend would say Monday morning at school “I saw your mom at the zoo.” ML needed to hear this from me. So I called and confessed my sin.

Me: Do you remember me calling you?

ML: No.

“Who was he?” Adam.

SJ: Is he hot?

“Where did you meet him?” I was anticipating this question; but I couldn’t tell the truth. Knowing her dad was buying her a tablet for Christmas,

(I had to adlib the sentences above. I couldn’t remember if Santa or her Dad gave her the tablet.)

I had started the online safety conversation days before. No chatting or playing games with people you don’t know. So I lied. . . “The library.” I work in one, so she didn’t consider the answer strange.

After a fun date at the zoo, I was excited and ready for another date.

ML: Did you go on another date with him? I want to meet him.

SJ: Did you kiss him?

At that time, I was also chatting with Ted, a second guy. After a few messages, Ted and I arranged to meet for coffee. It took three minutes to realize he was lying about a few things. I ignored his messages for a few days until he wrote, “I’m eagerly awaiting your post on singlemomonline.” Before we met in person, I had explained I was writing a blog about my experience with online dating. Finally, I was ready to confront him. I replied:

I haven’t written my post about our meeting up for coffee. However, it will include my theory you are lying about your age. I did the math. If you are 46 years old, worked at SAS for 30 years, you would have started at age 16.

ML: How old was he?

SJ: Yeah, how old was he really?

Me: 53

ML and SJ: Wow

While chatting online you said you were hired directly after college. It doesn’t add up. . . unless you’re a child prodigy. I thought it was only women who lied about their age. What else did you lie about? Are you really separated or as my friend says are you one of those who are “separated in their mind?

He responded, “Well, it’s a long story.”

ML: Did you tell his wife?

Me: No, I don’t know his wife. What he did was wrong.

ML and SJ: Liar, liar, liar. He’s a liar

ML (leaves the couch, stands up) “This is what I would do to him.” She demonstrated some fancy karate moves.

After that experience, I was disenchanted.

Me: Do you know what disenchanted means?

(I wish I had a picture of their faces. Perfect examples of disenchantment)

Then, I recognized a profile picture. It was my mortgage broker! I sent a message.
Hey! It’s Kerri. I just ventured into the online dating world. Dating is very different these days. I’ve learned single moms in their forties aren’t in high demand. Fifty percent of the men I’ve met in person are married.

ML: (begins karate moves again) Mommy, Pretend you’re the married guy. (she proceeds to kick my butt)

Granted it’s only been two guys. I hope this isn’t reality. Would you like to get together sometime so I can change the percentage to 33? You’re welcome to stop by to see the house anytime.

My friend’s daughter saw him as he left the house. I found out later that she asked her mom if he was the maid. I love knowing I am raising my daughter in a time when a second grade girl sees a middle-aged man leaving my house and thinks he is the maid.

ML and SJ: Are you getting married? When are you getting married? You should get married on the third date.

ML: I want a stepdad. Actually, I want a collection of stepmoms and stepdads.

In the first forty-four days online, I learned a few things. Online dating is hard work,

ML: Because people lie.

a time suck and not very fun.

ML: If you get married will we move. I think we’d need a bigger house.

SJ: Especially if he’s fat and can’t fit through the door.

The most positive part of my experience is the realization I need a non-kid related social life.

So on January 1st I made a new goal. My New Year’s resolution: carve out an hour or more each week to catch up with a friend in person without our kids hovering.

ML: You mean me.

As for online dating, my profile is active.

SJ: How’s it going for you?

However, it’s not like the first twenty days when I was obsessed.

Now, I go days without viewing profiles. Instead, I’m focusing on my New Year’s resolution. During the first twelve days of January, I went for a walk, saw a movie, and went out for lunch and breakfast with a variety of friends.

Each time I went out with these ladies, I felt at ease and connected. This hasn’t happened via the online dating world. However, those first forty-four days did help me. I’ve learned what’s been missing these past few years: uninterrupted time with friends.

And sex. . .

but that’s a different story.

SJ: Why would you want to do that? It’s disgusting. Did you do that?

Me: Do you know what sex means?

SJ: Yes. A man and a woman take off their clothes, get all kissy, jump in the bed and make a baby.

The girls started bouncing all over the room yelling “You’re going on dates. You’re going on dates! You’re going on dates!!!

Me: What do you think about that ML?

ML: Yes! That means I get to spend more time with friends.

ML: Can I meet the guy you went to the zoo with? Are you going to marry him?

Me: Just because you go on a date with someone doesn’t mean you will marry them. In high school, you’ll probably have dates to dances.

ML: Yeah, prom. Duh!

Me: I didn’t marry the guy I went to prom with.

SJ: My mom didn’t either; but she got all smoochy with him.

(lots of kissy noises)

I showed the girls a picture of me on a motorcycle and told them that’s what I did on my latest date and I never want to ride one again. Then, I explained when we stopped for gas it was evident I was not having a good time. The man offered for me to stay at the gas station while he rode home for his truck. Then, I wouldn’t have to get back on the motorcycle.

ML: That’s very nice. At least you’re going to marry someone nice.

Me: Girls, just because you go on a date with someone doesn’t mean you’re getting married.

ML: Do you have a picture of him?

Me: No.

ML: Well, at least I can see his finger.

As you can see above, his finger is covering a portion of the picture.

Me: Do you want to go to the show?

ML: No, boring.

It ends with the girls running off yelling, “I’m getting your computer.” Until. . . they get sidetracked with the idea of asking for dessert.

I’m no longer nervous about Thursday and Friday night. Second grade girls are a tough audience. Heckling like I haven’t witnessed in all my days. Even scarier than riding a motorcycle.


So what exactly is Listen To Your Mother?

“The mission of each LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER production is to take the audience on a well-crafted journey that celebrates and validates mothering through giving voice to motherhood–in all of its complexity, diversity, and humor–in the form of original readings performed live on-stage by their authors.

LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER aims to support motherhood creatively through artistic expression, and also financially–through contributions to non-profit organizations supporting families in need. Each LTYM show donates a minimum of 10% of ticket proceeds to a local cause, as well as providing the cause awareness/fund-raising opportunities.”

Check out their website to learn more http://listentoyourmothershow.com

Julia’s Review: Nightbird by Alice Hoffman


I hit the jackpot last week.  Julia, a guest reviewer, sent me reviews on five different books for middle graders.  As a an avid reader and sixth grader, she’s an expert.  I’m hoping she’ll keep sending reviews so I can feature a review by her each week, especially during the summer.  (No pressure, Julia.)

After reading what Julia wrote about Nightbird by Alice Hoffman, I can’t wait to read it.  Trust me.  You are going to want to read it too.

  • Write three words to describe this book.  amazing, beautiful, WOW
  • Who was your favorite character?  Why?   I felt sorry for James because he couldn’t leave the house, and Twig’s mom, because she was so reclusive.  He was my favorite character because he was so kind, smart, and heroic.
  • How did the book make you feel?  I was so happy when James rescued Agatha and when Julia met Twig. This book is quite possibly my favorite book ever; it’s so full of feelings and I feel like all the emotions just blend together into a perfect, swirling dance.

Book Synopsis from Random House.  “Twig lives in Sidwell, where people whisper that fairy tales are real. After all, her town is rumored to hide a monster. And two hundred years ago, a witch placed a curse on Twig’s family that was meant to last forever. But this summer, everything will change when the red moon rises. It’s time to break the spell.”