Thursday, July 17, 2014

42. Gooney Bird Greene Collection - Lois Lowry

Gooney Bird Green Books 1 - 4
audio read by Lee Adams - superb!
6 unabridged cds (7:01) Listening Library, 2009
1 - Gooney Bird Greene  (2002) 96 pgs.
2 - Gooney Bird and the Room Mother (2005) 80 pgs.
3 - Gooney the Fabulous (2007) 96 pgs.
4 - Gooney Bird is So Absurd (2009) 112 pgs.
(382 pgs. total)
Finished 7/17/14
Early/Intermediate Readers, the characters are in the 2nd grade
Goodreads Rating: 4.01
My Rating: 4/ Loved it
Bosler Library
Setting:  Contemporary Anywhere, USA

My comments:  Though pretty much implausible, this book is nonetheless enchanting.  I've read the first book previously, loved it. This time I listened with my 2nd grade granddaughter, who LOVED it.  Lee Adams, who read it, is TERRIFIC. Mrs. Pidgeon is a dream teacher.  And all four books (which I highly recommend reading in order) are full of writing and poetry lessons.  The implausibility is Gooney Bird herself.  I've taught a lot of creative, clever, extremely intelligent kids and Gooney Bird is still not quite a a believable character for me.  But who cares?  She's great! (And so is Mr. Leroy, the principal.  Every principal in the world should take pointers from this guy....

Goodreads Review:  This four-story collection includes:

Gooney Bird GreeneThere’s never been anyone like Gooney Bird Greene at Watertower Elementary School. She is the star of story time and keeps her class on the edge of their seats with her “absolutely true” stories. But do her classmates have stories good enough to share?

Gooney Bird and the Room MotherGooney Bird wants to have the lead role of Squanto in her class Thanksgiving pageant. But that role will go to whoever finds someone to be the room mother. Gooney Bird finds a room mother alright, but promises not to tell who it is until the day of the play. But will the mystery room mother really show up?

Gooney the FabulousGooney Bird has a fabulous idea after her teacher reads fables to the class. Her fabulous idea is that each student create their own fable and tell it to the class! Everyone but Nicholas is excited about their stories and costumes. Can Gooney Bird find out why Nicholas is unhappy and get him to join in the fun?

Gooney Bird Is So AbsurdOn the day that Gooney Bird wears her special brain-warming hat to school, Mrs. Pidgeon is teaching her class about poetry. But just when things are going well, the kids get some terrible news. And Gooney Bird will need all the inspiration her brain can muster to organize the most important poem the class has ever written. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

PICTURE BOOK - At the Same Moment, Around the World - by Clotilde Perrin

Illustrated by the author
2014 US - Chronicle Books
2011 France
Tall & thin, $17.99
32 pages with large foldout map
Goodreads rating: 4.01
My rating: 4
Endpapers: blue scratchboard swirls
Title Page: White scratchboard swirls
1st line:  It is six o'clock in the morning in Dakar, Senegal.  Keita wakes up early to help his father count the fish caught during the night.

7 am:  Paris France
8 am: Sofia, Bulgaria
9 am:  Baghdad, Iraq
10 am:  Dubai, United Arab Emirates
11 am:  Samarkand, Uzbekistan
noon:  Himilaya Mountains, Mt. Everest
1 pm:  Hanoi, Vietnam
2 pm:  Shanghai, China

3 pm:  Tokyo, Japan
4 pm:  between Ayers Rock and Sydney, Australia
5 pm:  Noumea, New Caledonia
6 pm:  Anadyr, Russia
7pm:  Apia, Somoa
8 pm:  Honolulu, Hawaii
9 pm:  Anchorage, AK
10 pm:  San Francisco, AZ
11 pm:  Phoenix, AZ
midnight:  Mexico City
1 am:  Lima, Peru
2 am:  Amazon rainforest, Manaus, Brazil
3am:  Nuuk, Greenland
4 am:  island of Fernando de Noronha, near Brazil
5 am:  mid-Atlantic, on a ship

Includes two pages of information about time zones and a large pullout map that shows all the countries mentioned and the kids that reside there.

My comments:  I poured over the information and the illustrations many times.  Ella took a long look twice.  We'd just been learning about Australia and she was tickled that it was mentioned, as well as Brazil, which she'd heard about because of the soccer championship.  Great picture book.

Goodreads:  Discover Benedict drinking hot chocolate in Paris, France; Mitko chasing the school bus in Sofia, Bulgaria; and Khanh having a little nap in Hanoi, Vietnam! Clotilde Perrin takes readers eastward from the Greenwich meridian, from day to night, with each page portraying one of (the original) 24 time zones. Strong back matter empowers readers to learn about the history of timekeeping and time zones, and to explore where each of the characters lives on the world map. A distinctive educational tool, this picture book's warm, unique illustrations also make it a joy to read aloud and admire.

Friday, June 27, 2014

PICTURE BOOK - If.... - Sarah Perry

Illustrated by the author
1995, J. Paul Getty Museum
HC $16.95
44 pages
Goodreads rating: 4.34
My rating: 4.5
Endpapers: Bright yellow with a trail of ants
Title Page: Simply the words, black on white, with one ant

My comments: Twenty "if" statements accompanied by 20 imaginative paintings - I can think of a dozen ways to use this in a classroom! Check 'em out:

          If cats could fly...
          If mice were hair...
          If worms had wheels...
          If frogs ate rainbows
          If dogs were mountains...
          If zebras had stars and stripes...
          If music could be held...
          If ugly were beautiful...
          If toes were teeth...
          If caterpillars were toothpaste...
          If whales lived in outer space...
          If leaves were fish...
          If clouds were spirits...
          If butterflies were clothes...
          If lightning made rhinos...
          If ants could count...
          If the moon were square...
          If kids had tails...
          If spiders could read braille...
          If hummingbirds told secrets...
Goodreads:  A diving board to creative wordplay, the fascinating picture book If...offers a surrealistic view of the natural world. The two-page spreads present artful watercolors paired with such strange possibilities as "If zebras had stars and stripes...," "If the moon were square...," and "If worms had wheels...." Although some of the ideas and pictures are whimsical to the point of being downright creepy ("If caterpillars were toothpaste, if spiders could read braille..."If toes were teeth..."), the hypotheticals will surely inspire flights of fancy for readers of all ages. What could be more appealing for a 5-year-old than imagining the silliest suppositions and seeing them come to life in realistic paintings?       
          Sculptor Sarah Perry creates a world to make us stop and think. One of her best illustrations depicts a large, hairy warthog with a sparkling crown and the text, "If ugly were beautiful...." With every if idea, the author encourages the kind of mental double take that comes naturally for children. (Ages 4 to 7, and adults, too) --Emilie Coulter

41. The Language Inside - Holly Thompson

2013, Delacorte Press
522 pgs. (but it's in verse, so it's a quick read)
YA CRF with a multicultural twist
Finished 6/26/2014
Goodreads Rating: 3.80
My Rating: 4/Very, very good
Amelia Given Library, Mt. Holly Springs
Setting: a contemporary Lowell, Massachusetts suburb
1st sentence/s:
       third time it happens
       I'm crossing the bridge
       that slides through town
       on my way to a long-term care center
       to start volunteering

My comments:  This book certainly had many layers, and many, many themes.  One of those books that keeps you thinking.  Imagine having a stroke in your 30s that only allows you to move your eyeballs?  Imagine living in America, being an American, and having half of your thoughts and dreams in another country? And then on top of that, having your mom very ill, prognosis uncertain.  Tsunami devastation in Japan, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Japanese and Cambodian dance, volunteering in a rehabilitation center, living in a new culture and missing the old one as well as living with immobilizing migraines...well that's a lot for one book.  But it works.  Beautifully.
          The book was written in verse and included a lot of references to poetry, which was wonderful.  But some of the verses in the book did not flow well, for me, as I read them (of course, some did). Line breaks and page breaks seemed to come in weird places.  Was it the way it was edited or the way it was written?  No matter, the story was extremely well done.

Goodreads Summary:
          Emma Karas was raised in Japan; it's the country she calls home. But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Emma's family moves to a town outside Lowell, Massachusetts, to stay with Emma's grandmother while her mom undergoes treatment.
          Emma feels out of place in the United States.She begins to have migraines, and longs to be back in Japan. At her grandmother's urging, she volunteers in a long-term care center to help Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write down her poems. There, Emma meets Samnang, another volunteer, who assists elderly Cambodian refugees. Weekly visits to the care center, Zena's poems, dance, and noodle soup bring Emma and Samnang closer, until Emma must make a painful choice: stay in Massachusetts, or return home early to Japan.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

40. The Year of the Dog - Grace Lin

audio read by Nancy Wu (very well, too)
3 unabridged discs/ 3 hours
2006, Little Brown
160 pgs.
Middle Grade CRF
Finished 6/26/2014 (with Ella while riding around Cumberland County)
Goodreads Rating: 3.88
My Rating: 4 (Ella thought it was awesome, I liked it)
Bosler Library, Carlisle
Setting: Upstate New York
1st sentence/s: 

My comments:  Ella (7) and I listened to this as we were driving around this week.  She loved it.  When I asked her why, she said she liked learning more about the Chinese culture and the way American and Chinese cultures combine during holidays.  It was a very sweet story.

Goodreads Summary:   It's the Chinese Year of the Dog, and as Pacy celebrates with her family, she finds out that this is the year she is supposed to "find herself." Universal themes of friendship, family, and finding one's passion in life make this novel appealing to readers of all backgrounds. This funny and profound book is a wonderful debut novel by a prolific picture book author and illustrator and has all the makings of a classic.

PICTURE BOOK - Dusk - Uri Shulevitz

Illustrated by the author 2013, Margaret Ferguson Books; Farrar Strauss Giroux
HC $17.99
32 pages
Goodreads rating: 3.34
My rating: 3 (I actually liked this better than most of his previous work)
Endpapers: rusty orange
Title Page: illustrated in an oval, title in colored-in font (a nice example/idea)

1st line/s:
          Days are short.
          Nights are long.

          Boy with dog and grandfather with beard go for a walk.

My comments:  The illustrations are cool; the day going from sunshine to darkness is illustrated really nicely.  We meet a few odd but interesting people, each with his/her own destination.  The lights come on slowly - and the reader soon learns that it's not just WINTER, it's the holiday season.  Depictions of lights in several cultures are shown.  Words are sparse and unexpected - grammatically and syntactically (have I just invented a new word?)

Goodreads:  One December afternoon, boy with dog and grandfather with beard take a walk to watch the sun begin to set over the river. When the sun drops low in the sky, they start home. Buildings grow dimmer. People are rushing. As nature's lights go out, one by one, city's lights turn on, revealing brilliant Hanukkah, Kwanza, and Christmas displays in streets, homes, and stores. A stunning picture book that's sure to be a winter holiday classic by Caldecott Medalist Uri Shulevitz.

Monday, June 23, 2014

39. The Testing - Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing #1
audio read by Elizabeth Morton (she did great with Cia's part, but didn't like the way she read the male parts, especially Tomas)
10 unabridged discs/ 11.25 hrs.
2013 Houghton Mifflin/Recorded Books
336  pgs.
YA Dystopian Fiction
Finished 6/23/14 riding between Maine and PA
Goodreads Rating:  3.95
My Rating:  3/Liked it

My comments:  Yes, I liked this book, even though it was a thinly disguised Hunger Games. Will be interesting to see where the second book in the series goes....

Goodreads Summary:  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same? 
     The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career. 
     Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies--trust no one. 
     But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

Friday, June 20, 2014

38. Shock Wave - John Sandford

#5 Virgil Flowers
Audio read by Eric Conger
388 pgs.
Adult murder mystery
Finished on the road to Maine 6/20/2014
Goodreads Rating: 4.14
My Rating:  5/Fantastic story
Setting:  Rural Minnesota

Goodreads Summary:  The superstore chain PyeMart has its sights set on a Minnesota river town, but two very angry groups want to stop it: local merchants, fearing for their businesses, and environmentalists, predicting ecological disaster. The protests don't seem to be slowing the project, though, until someone decides to take matters into his own hands.
     The first bomb goes off on the top floor of PyeMart's headquarters. The second one explodes at the construction site itself. The blasts are meant to inflict maximum damage-and they do. Who's behind the bombs, and how far will they go? It's Virgil Flowers's job to find out . . . before more people get killed.

My comments:  It's official - I have such a crush on Virgil Flowers.  I need another fix, soon.....

Monday, June 16, 2014

37. Orphan Train - Christina Baker Kline

read on my iPhone/Kindle
2013, William Morrow Paperbacks
304 pgs.
YA/Adult CRF/HistFict
Finished 6/15/14
Goodreads Rating:  4.08
My Rating: 4.5/Super story
Setting: 2011 MDI, Maine and 1929 (+) Minnesota
1st sentence/s:  "I believe in ghosts.  They're the ones who haunt us, the ones who have left us behind."

My comments:  4.5  I love books that flip back and forth in time, as this one does.  One orphan in 1929 Minnesota and another in 2011 Mount Desert Island, Maine.  (What a hoot reading about Somesville OneStop, Bar Harbor, MDI High School, and even the Island Explorer bus).  Which town is Spruce Harbor - Southwest Harbor I'm guessing.  I couldn't put this down - such trials and heartbreak each of these protagonists have endured.

Goodreads Summary:  The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.
     Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from "aging out" of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.
     Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.
     The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life - answers that will ultimately free them both.
     Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are

Sunday, June 15, 2014


PG-13 (1:20 - though it seemed longer)
Limited release 5/2/2014
Viewed Sunday, 6/15/2014 in Harrisburg at the Midtown Theater
RT Critic:  93 Audience:  79
Cag:  2/It was okay
Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
Music Box Films
in Polish, with English subtitles

My comments:  The story was a good one, but could have been told in about 45 minutes. It was depressing.  And dark...literally.  Black & white and dark.  And although it ended exactly as I knew it would, it really pissed me off...probably because of my own personal religious bent, especially about the Catholic church.  However, the thing that bothered me most were the long silences.  L...o....n....g silences.  Way too long......

RT Summary:  From acclaimed director Pawel Pawlikowski (Last Resort, My Summer of Love) comes IDA, a moving and intimate drama about a young novitiate nun in 1960s Poland who, on the verge of taking her vows, discovers a dark family secret dating from the terrible years of the Nazi occupation. 18-year old Anna (stunning newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska), a sheltered orphan raised in a convent, is preparing to become a nun when the Mother Superior insists she first visit her sole living relative. Na├»ve, innocent Anna soon finds herself in the presence of her aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza), a worldly and cynical Communist Party insider, who shocks her with the declaration that her real name is Ida and her Jewish parents were murdered during the Nazi occupation. This revelation triggers a heart-wrenching journey into the countryside, to the family house and into the secrets of the repressed past, evoking the haunting legacy of the Holocaust and the realities of postwar Communism. In this beautifully directed film, Pawlikowski returns to his native Poland for the first time in his career to confront some of the more contentious issues in the history of his birthplace. Powerfully written and eloquently shot, IDA is a masterly evocation of a time, a dilemma, and a defining historical moment; IDA is also personal, intimate, and human. The weight of history is everywhere, but the scale falls within the scope of a young woman learning about the secrets of her own past. This intersection of the personal with momentous historic events makes for what is surely one of the most powerful and affecting films of the year.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

36. Lost Light - Michael Connelly

#9 Harry Bosch
audio read by Len Cariou
Listened on my iPhone through Overdrive/TPPL download
9 discs/parts
416 pgs.
Finished 6/11/14 in my cozy PA apartment
Adult murder mystery
Goodreads Rating: 4.09
My Rating: 4.5 Loved it
Acquired: TPPL Overdrive Audio
Setting: LA and Vegas
1st sentence/s:  "There is no end of things in the heart.  Somebody once told me that."

My comments: Harry Bosch #9 did not disappoint.  This time he's no longer on the LAPD homicide squad, he's out on his own.  Although Virgil Flowers has overtaken Harry as my favorite protagonist, I'm still a total Harry Bosch fan.  I've got the next one on reserve!

Goodreads Review:  The vision has haunted him for four years--a young woman lying crumpled in death, her hand outstretched in silent supplication. Harry Bosch was taken off the Angella Benton murder case when the production assistant's death was linked with the violent theft of two million dollars from a movie set. Both files were never closed. Now retired from the L.A.P.D., Bosch is determined to find justice for Angella. Without a badge to open doors and strike fear into the guilty, he's on his own. And even in the face of an opponent more powerful and ruthless than any he's ever encountered, Bosch is not backing down.

MOVIE - The Railway Man

R (1:56)
Limited Release 4-11-14
Viewed at Carlisle Theater (reminds me so much of the Criterion, except it doesn't smell old and musty) Wed. 6-11-14
RT Critic: 66 Audience: 70
Cag: 4/Liked it a lot (I had to....It was Colin Firth....)
Directed by Jonathan Teplitzky
The Weinstein Company

Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Stefan Skarsgard, and a young man named Jeremy Irvine, who played the young Firth beautifully

My comments: I always love stories that are based on a true story, but always wonder how much is close to the truth and how much is fictionalized.  I really enjoy the way this one was told; overlapping present and past, reality and memory to piece everything together. I usually refuse to go to war movies, but this one (probably because of Firth) tempted me too much not to go.  What happened to the British prisoners, especially the protagonist, Eric Lomax, was more-than-horrible-and-horrifying, but it's good to get a good dose or reality once in awhile.  It's too bad that this is the reality, though....

I am NOT fond of Nicole Kidman at all.  This role didn't help me like her any more, although I guess she did an acceptable job.  I'm not even sure why I dislike her....just never liked any of the roles I've seen her do, I guess.....

Rotten Tomato Summary: Based on the remarkable bestselling autobiography, THE RAILWAY MAN tells the extraordinary and epic true story of Eric Lomax (Colin Firth), a British Army officer who is tormented as a prisoner of war at a Japanese labor camp during World War II. Decades later, Lomax and his beautiful love interest Patti (Nicole Kidman) discover that the Japanese interpreter responsible for much of his treatment is still alive and set out to confront him, and his haunting past, in this powerful and inspiring tale of heroism, humanity and the redeeming power of love.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

PICTURE BOOK - Maple - Lori Nichols

Illustrated by the author
2014 Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin
HC $16.99
32 pages
Goodreads rating: 4.25
My rating: 4/Delightful
Endpapers:  pale lime green with pale white drawings of leaves, trowels, watering cans, sprouts; rear end papers the same except light blue
Title Page: single page, facing white; top and bottom large maple leaves, title in cursive brown.
Illustrations: "Pencil on mylar, then digitally colored."  The girl's face is nicely expressive.
1st line: Maple loved her name.  When she was still a whisper, her parents planted a tiny tree in her honor!"

My comments:  I was looking for new picture books at the library and grabbed this one for two reasons - I love books about tress, and because all the others appeared to be anthropomorphic...which aren't my favorites.  It was really cute, and quite joyous.  And - it's a wonderful book for a child that's about to have a new baby join the family.

Goodreads:  Lori Nichols’ enchanting debut features an irresistible, free-spirited, nature-loving little girl who greets the changing seasons and a new sibling with arms wide open.
          When Maple is tiny, her parents plant a maple tree in her honor. She and her tree grow up together, and even though a tree doesn’t always make an ideal playmate, it doesn’t mind when Maple is in the mood to be loud—which is often. Then Maple becomes a big sister, and finds that babies have their loud days, too. Fortunately, Maple and her beloved tree know just what the baby needs.

35. This is What Happy Looks Like - Jennifer E. Smith

2013 Little Brown & Co.
407 pgs.
Finished 6/7/2014
Goodreads Rating: 3.71
My Rating:  4/Really liked it a lot
Setting: Contemporary small-town southern Maine coast

1st sentence/s:  (email) "Hey, we're running pretty behind here.  Any chance you could walk Wilbur for me tonight?"

My comments:  This is a charming story of unlikely teenagers in a place very familiar to me -- smalltown coastal Maine. Although over 400 pages it was a fast read, all in one day - and you can't keep telling yourself how improbable it all is.  Just take it as it is, a sweet, feel-good, thoughtful kind of tale.

Goodreads Review:  If fate sent you an email, would you answer?
          When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O'Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds. 
          Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs.

Friday, June 6, 2014

34. In the Blood - Steve Robinson

#1 Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Crime Mystery
read on my phone through Kindle each night on my trip east in June, 2014
394 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Contemporary Cornwall, England, with flashbacks to 1783 - 1803
Goodreads Rating: 3.82
My Rating: 2.5 Some of the time it was okay, some it wasn't, others it was good....never great, unfortunately (sorry Mr. Robinson...though I will probably try another because I love the concept)

1st sentence/s: PROLOGUE:  "1803.  Helford Passage, south-west England.  Mawgan Hendry was dying.  If he'd seen it coming then he might have had some chance to prevent it." 
 CHAPTER ONE:  "Air horns screamed!  The air inside the car resonated, buzzing the dash, forcing Jefferson Tayte's eyes wide open."

My comments:  I liked the protagonist, Jefferson (JT) Tayte, a thirty-something, slightly overweight loner who hates to fly and is a genealogist - a really good genealogist, which is his work.  He is self-employed and tracks down hard-to-find ancestors for people. He gets himself into all sorts of crazy, unbelievable situations and then gets out of them somehow.  The plot was a little thin, the characters predictable, the outcome unsatisfying because there were no surprises.  But this was the first in this series, I'll happily try another.

Goodreads ReviewTwo hundred years ago a loyalist family fled to England to escape the American War of Independence and seemingly vanished into thin air. American genealogist Jefferson Tayte is hired to find out what happened, but it soon becomes apparent that a calculated killer is out to stop him.
          In the Blood combines a centuries-old mystery with a present-day thriller that brings two people from opposite sides of the Atlantic together to uncover a series of carefully hidden crimes. Tayte's research centres around the tragic life of a young Cornish girl, a writing box, and the discovery of a dark secret that he believes will lead him to the family he is looking for. Trouble is, someone else is looking for the same answers and will stop at nothing to find them.