Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Historical Fiction I've Read

Picture Books
Aston, Dianna Hutts - The Moon Over Star (1969 Moon Landing)
Atkins, Jeannine - Anne Hutchinson's Way (1634 Massachusetts Bay Colony)
Barron, T. A. - The Day the Stones Walked (Ancient Easter Island)
Bartone, Elisa - Peppe the Lamplighter (Immigration NYC - Little Italy)
Bildner, Phil - The Hallalujah Flight (1932 Transcontinental Flight)
Burleigh, Robert - Abraham Lincoln Comes Home (Civil War/Post-CivilWar)
Fleming, Candace - Boxes for Katje (1945 Netherlands)
Fredericks, Anthony D. - The Tsunami Quilt (1946 Hawaiin Tsunami)
Huget, Jennifer LaRue - Thanks a Lot, Emily Post! (1922 America)
Kerby, Mona - Owny, The Mail -Pouch Pooch (1888 Across America)
Koehler-Pentacoff - Jackson and Bud's Bumpy Ride (1903 Across America)
Levine, Ellen - Henry's Freedom Box (Underground RR)
Lowry, Lois - Crow Call (1945 America, after-the-war)
Malaspina, Ann - Finding Lincoln (Civil Rights Era in the south)
Peacock, Louise - At Ellis Island (Immigration from Armenia to Ellis Island) 48 pgs.
Polacco, Patricia - Fiona's Lace (Immigration)
Polacco, Patricia - January's Sparrow (Underground Railroad)
Polacco, Patricia - An Orange for Frankie (turn-of-the-century America)
Stroud, Betty - The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom (Underground Railroad)
Wiviott, Meg - Benno and the Night of Broken Glass (1938 Berlin)
Wood, Douglas - Aunt Mary's Rose (1950s America)

Middle Grade Books
Anderson, Laurie Halse - Chains (American Revolution) or YA?
Giff, Patricia Reilly - Gingersnap (1944 Brooklyn)
Hesse, Karen - Brooklyn Bridge (1903 Brooklyn, NY)
Lai, Thanhha, Inside Out and Back Again (1970s Vietnam)
Latham, Irene - Leaving Gee's Bend (1932 Depression Alabama)
Partridge, Elizabeth - Dogtag Summer (Flashbacks to 1975 Vietnam)
Patt, Beverly - Best Friends Forever (1942 Japanese Interment Camp)
Rose, Caroline Starr - May B. a Novel (late 18th century Kansas)
Selznik, Brian - Wonderstruck (1927 NJ and 1977 Minnesota)
Stolz, Joelle - The Shadows of Ghadames (19th century Libya)
Whelan, Gloria - Listening for Lions (1919 Kenya & England)
Whelan, Gloria- Small Acts of Amazing Courage (1919 India)
Williams-Garcia - One Crazy Summer (1968 California)

YA Books
Cushman, Karen - The Loud Silence of Francine Green (McCarthy era)

Adult Books
Barnes, Kim - In the Kingdom of Men (1967 Saudi Arabia)
Brooks, Geraldine - Caleb's Crossing (1660s New England)
Dallas, Sandra - Prayers for Sale (1930s/Depression, Colorado)
Gerritsen, Tess - The Bone Garden (1830 Boston)
Harkness, Deborah - Shadow of Night (1591 England, France, Prague)
Hashimi, Nadia - The Pearl That Broke Its Shell (Early 20th Century Kabul, Afghanistan)
Howe, Katherine - Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (Salem Witch Trials)
Kline, Christina Baker - Orphan Train (1929 Minnesota)
Otsuka, Julia - Buddha in the Attic (1920-1940 California)
Shaffer, Mary Ann & Annie Barrows - Guernsy Literary and Potato Peel Society (German Occupation of Guernsey Island)

The Butler (Civil Rights era)
Invictus (end-of-apartheid South Africa)
The King's Speech (1930s England)

66. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin

2014, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
HC $24.95
260 pgs.
Adult CRF
Finished 10/20/2014
Goodreads rating: 4.01
My rating:    (5) Awesome 
Setting: Contemporary Alice Island (a fictional island off Hyannis, Cape Cod, Massachusetts)

1st sentence/s:  "On the ferry from Hyannis to Alice Island, Amelia Loman paints her nails yellow and, while waiting for them to dry, skims her predecessor's notes.  'Island Books, approximately $350,000.00 per annum in sales, the better portion of that in the summer months to folks on holiday,' Harvey Rhodes reports.  'Six hundred square feet of selling space.  No full-time employees other than owner.  Very small children's section.  Fledgling onn-line presence.  Poor community outreach.  Inventory emphasizes the literary, which is good for us, but Fikry's tastes are very specific, and without Nic, he can't be counted on to hand-sell.  Luckily for him, Island's the only game in town.'

My comments:  I loved this book.  I loved the way it was written. I loved all its references to books and short stories. I liked the format.   And I adored the characters. I appreciated all the "hints" in A.J.'s notes of what was to come, how you slowly realized what was going to ultimately happen.  The plot unfolded perfectly. It's been a long, long time since I've stayed up so late into the night to finish a book.  My favorite character?  The chief of police, Lambiase.  Biggest problem?  How to pronounce "Lambiase" and "Fikry." Super story.  I've listed the short stories that begin each chapter below.

Goodreads book summary:  On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.
          A. J. Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who's always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.'s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.
          And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It's a small package, but large in weight. It's that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn't take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.'s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn't see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

 Short stories mentioned:
Dahl -  "Lamb to the Slaughter" (1953)
Fitzgerald - "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz (1922)
Harte -  "The Luck of Roaring Camp" (1868)
Bausch - "What Feels Like the World" (1985)
O'Connor - "A Good Man is Hard to Find" (1953)
Twain - "The Celebrated Frog of Calaveras County" (1865)
Shaw - "The Girls in Their Summer Dresses" (1939)
Paley - "A Conversation with My Father" (1972)
Salinger - "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" (1948)
Poe - "The Tell-Tale Heart" (1843)
Bender - "Ironhead" (2005)
Carver - "What We Talk about When We Talk about Love" (1980)
Dahl - "The Bookseller" (1986)

Monday, October 20, 2014

MOVIE - This Is Where I Leave You

R (1:43)
Wide release 9/19/14
Wed. 10/15/14 at ElCon
RT Critic: 43   Audience:   67
Cag:  4 - Liked it a lot, although the sad parts almost overwhelmed me, and they would probably be considered not-very-sad.... just poignant.  VERY funny in many places. 
Directed by Shawn Levy
Warner Brothers Pictures
Based on the book by Jonathan Tropper

Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Timothy Olyphant, Adam Driver, Jane Fonda

My comments:  Funny.  Sad.  Touching.  And then a little more of the funny......  This is a look at a family, at relationships, and at the choices we make in life  What is important?  What is happiness?  Four siblings come together at the funeral of their father.  The protagonist is Judd (Jason Bateman) who has left his wife after finding her cheating with his boss/friend.  He hasn't told his family.  His sister, Wendy (Tina Fey) is in a seemingly loveless marriage with a guy who's always on the phone wheeling-dealing and still in love with her brain-damaged ex-boyfriend, Horry (Timothy Olyphant) who lives across the street from her parents.  The eldest, Paul (Corey Stoff) is married to Judd's ex-girlfriend and they are frantically trying, hopeliessly, to get pregnant.  And then there's the baby brother, Philip (Adam Driver), who is incredibly immature and will say and do anything, no matter how embarrassing to his family.  Last but not least is Mom (Jane Fonda), whose part is small but perpetually hysterical.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

PICTURE BOOK - Fossil - Bill Thomson

Illustrated by the author
2014 Two Lions (Amazon!) (I'm quite sure it said 2014 in the book, but Goodreads says it was published in November of 2013.
40 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.91
My rating: 4/Loved it
Endpapers: grey-green
Title Page: A wordless beginning to the story - the start of their walk
Illustrations: "Bill Thomson embraced traditional painting techniques and meticulously painted each illustration by hand, using acrylic paint and colored pencils.  His illustrations are not photographs or computer-generated images."
1st line/s: None - it's completely wordless
Dedication:  "In loving remembrance of the students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School"

My comments:  This wordless book is about a boy and his dog, out for a walk along the sandy shore of a lake or pond.  The fossil he discovers when he accidentally trips splits open to begin a series of events that are chronicled beautifully in pictures only.  The facial expressions of the boy AND his dog give the story incredible dimension. I only had one problem with the book.  Near the end of the it, he boy intentionally destroys fossils.  He does this (SPOILER!) to save his dog.  I have a really hard time with this...it makes total sense for the story, but I don't want the idea of destroying a fossil to ever be in an impressionable kid's mind. Other than that, the book was incredibly glorious.  What a beautiful pair this boy and dog are!

Goodreads:  When a boy and his dog go for a hike, the boy trips on a fossil, and it comes to life, revealing an ancient plant. The boy is so intrigued that he breaks two more fossils that come to life—a dragonfly and a pteranodon. When these prehistoric creatures collide with present reality, the boy must figure out a way to make things go back to normal. Visually told through art, this "wordless story" will surely spark imagination and creativity.

65. The Good Luck of Right Now - Matthew Quick

2014 Harper Collins
285 pgs.
Adult Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Finished 10/17/14
Goodreads rating: 3.60
My rating:   3.5 Liked it a lot, with one reservation
Setting: Contemporary Philadelphia with a foray to Montreal and Ottawa

1st sentence/s: "Dear Mr. Richard Gere,  In Mom's underwear drawer -- as I was separating her "personal" clothes from the "lightly used" articles I could donate to the local thrift shop -- I found a letter you wrote."

My comments: This book was certainly quirky and fun. And funny.  The protagonist, Bartholemew (love that name!) Neil reminded me a bit of The Rosie Project's Don Tillman. But somehow it's impossible to totally picture a grown man of 38 never having a job, a friend other than the local priest and his mom, a vocation, a hobby, an interest... I tried and tried to conjure an image of this poor guy, but to no avail.  My imagination is usually pretty good, but to totally love a book I need to relate in some way and I couldn't. I wasn't IN this story, I was watching from afar, if that makes any sense.... But I still liked it very, very much.

Goodreads book summaryFor thirty-eight years, Bartholomew Neil has lived with his mother. When she gets sick and dies, he has no idea how to be on his own. His redheaded grief counselor, Wendy, says he needs to find his flock and leave the nest. But how does a man whose whole life has been grounded in his mom, Saturday mass, and the library learn how to fly?
          Bartholomew thinks he’s found a clue when he discovers a “Free Tibet” letter from Richard Gere hidden in his mother’s underwear drawer. In her final days, mom called him Richard—there must be a cosmic connection. Believing that the actor is meant to help him, Bartholomew awkwardly starts his new life, writing Richard Gere a series of highly intimate letters. Jung and the Dalai Lama, philosophy and faith, alien abduction and cat telepathy, the Catholic Church and the mystery of women are all explored in his soul-baring epistles. But mostly the letters reveal one man’s heartbreakingly earnest attempt to assemble a family of his own.
          A struggling priest, a “Girlbrarian,” her feline-loving, foul-mouthed brother, and the spirit of Richard Gere join the quest to help Bartholomew. In a rented Ford Focus, they travel to Canada to see the cat Parliament and find his biological father . . . and discover so much more.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

PICTURE BOOK - Mr. Wuffles - David Wiesner

Illustrated by the author
A Caldecott Honor Book
2013, Clarion
HC $17.99
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.01
My rating:3
Endpapers: solid gray
Title Page: spread across two pages - large black (and white) protagonist with each letter of the title done in a different color.
Illustrations:  Really great.  Watercolor & ink
1st line/s: This is a wordless book.

My comments: I've got to admit, I had to read this book more than several times to figure out what I thought was going on.  It was wordless and I guess my imagination wasn't up to par.  I wasn't prepared for aliens from outer space....

GoodreadsA 2014 Caldecott Honor Book In a near wordless masterpiece that could only have been devised by David Wiesner, a cat named Mr. Wuffles doesn't care about toy mice or toy goldfish. He’s much more interested in playing with a little spaceship full of actual aliens—but the ship wasn't designed for this kind of rough treatment. Between motion sickness and damaged equipment, the aliens are in deep trouble.When the space visitors dodge the cat and take shelter behind the radiator to repair the damage, they make a host of insect friends. The result? A humorous exploration of cooperation between aliens and insects, and of the universal nature of communication involving symbols, “cave” paintings, and gestures of friendship

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

MOVE - Hector and the Search for Happiness

R (1:54)
Limited release 9/19/14
El Con - by myself - 10/9/14
RT Critic:  31  Audience:   66
Cag:  6/Awesome  5/Loved it  4/Liked it a lot  3/Liked it  2/It was okay  1/Didn’t like it
Directed by Peter Chelsom
Relativity Media
Based on the book by Francois Lelord

Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Toni Collette, Stellan Skarsgard

My comments: This is a movie that stays with you.  It's stayed with me - for days now.  I've created my own list, trying to figure out what makes me happy.  The movie?  I loved it.  I really loved it.  I'd like to go back and see it again.  It didn't get good reviews from critics, and I haven't even read them.  This will go down as a favorite movie for me, I think.  Definitely quirky.  Off-beat.  Tongue-in-cheek.  Clever.  Absurd.  
       There was one, somewhat disconcerting element.  Two days before I saw this I saw Gone Girl, where Rosamund Pike is a psychopath.  She has a pretty-decent-sized part in this story, with an entirely different persona.  It was hard not seeing her as the psychopath!d  She did a wonderful job, though, I almost wish I hadn't just seen her play such a seriously different part.

RT Summary: Hector (Simon Pegg) is a quirky psychiatrist who has become increasingly tired of his humdrum life. As he tells his girlfriend, Clara (Rosamund Pike), he feels like a fraud: he hasn't really tasted life, and yet he's offering advice to patients who are just not getting any happier. So Hector decides to break out of his deluded and routine driven life. Armed with buckets of courage and child-like curiosity, he embarks on a global quest in hopes of uncovering the elusive secret formula for true happiness. And so begins a larger than life adventure with riotously funny results. Based on the world-wide best-selling novel of the same name, Hector and the Search for Happiness is a rich, exhilarating, and hilarious tale.

64. Pay It Forward - Catherine Ryan Hyde

Young Reader's Edition
2014 Paula Wiseman, Simon & Schuster
274 pgs.
Supposedly for kids-middle grades; see my comments
Finished 10/9/14
Goodreads rating: 3.93
My rating:   2/ It was okay...
Includes discussion questions

1st sentence/s:  Prologue - "Maybe someday I'll have kids of my own.  I hope so.  If I do, they'll probably ask what part I played in the movement that changed the world. And because I'm not the person I once was, I'll tell them the truth.  My part was nothing.  I did nothing.  I was just the guy in the corner taking notice."

My comments:  A "2" means that it was okay, not that it was horrible.....but I wish I liked it more.  I really want to.  I wanted to read it aloud to my class.  But I don't think it would hold their attention - I think it's too disjointed and adult-centered.  It just doesn't strike me as a book for kids.  There's too much from the adult point-of-view and nowhere near enough from the kid's.  And not telling the ending seems a huge cop-out.  The book deals with crime and being down-and-out...if it's based on a true story, after reading about people's problems that we don't really care so much about, why not be truthful about the ending, too?

Love the cover.

Goodreads book summaryThe internationally bestselling book that inspired the Pay It Forward movement is now available in a middle grade edition.
          Pay It Forward is a moving, uplifting novel about Trevor McKinney, a twelve-year-old boy in a small California town who accepts his teacher;s challenge to earn extra credit by coming up with a plan to change the world. Trevor;s idea is simple: do a good deed for three people, and instead of asking them to return the favor, ask them to ;pay it forward; to three others who need help. He envisions a vast movement of kindness and goodwill spreading across the world, and in this quiet, steady masterpiece with an incandescent ending; (Kirkus Reviews), Trevor's actions change his community forever.
          This middle grade edition of Pay It Forward is extensively revised, making it an appropriate and invaluable complement to lesson plans and an ideal pick for book clubs, classroom use, and summer reading. Includes an author'snote and curriculum guide.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

MOVIE - Gone Girl

R (2:25)
Wide release 10/3/2014
Viewed 10/6/2014 at ElCon with Sheila, Connie, & Gwen
RT Critic:  87  Audience:  91
Cag:  5/It was a really well-done movie
Directed by David Fincher
20th Century Fox
Based on the book by Gillian Flynn.  My review here.

Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, 

My comments: I liked the movie more than I liked the book (a bit unusual....). I considered Nick Dunne a jerk-of-an-idiot in the book, and I considered Amy Dunne a psychopath.  I felt a little better...though not much....of Nick in the movie, and considered Amy even crazier than in the book.  You had to like Nick, because no matter how sleezy a character Ben Affleckk could ever play I'd HAVE to root for him.  So I wonder how I would have felt with another actor portraying Nick?  Both Affleck and Pike (as well as Perry, Harris, and Carrie Coon, who plays Nick's twin sister Margo) were terrific.

RT Summary:  GONE GIRL - directed by David Fincher and based upon the global bestseller by Gillian Flynn - unearths the secrets at the heart of a modern marriage. On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) reports that his beautiful wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), has gone missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nick's portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble. Soon his lies, deceits and strange behavior have everyone asking the same dark question: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?

63. Cress - Marissa Meyer

#3 The Lunar Chronicles
Audio read by Rebecca Soler - who's spectacular and perfect for these voices - she really does them justice.
13 unabridged cds/ 16 hours
2014 Felwel & Friends/Macmillan Audio
550 pgs.
YA SciFi/Dystopia
Finished: 10/8/2014
Goodreads rating: 4.50
My rating:   5/Awesome, didn't want it to end....
Setting:  All-over-the-world (which is now six countries), but mostly orbiting in space between Earth and Luna (the moon).  When?  maybe a couple hundred years from now?

1st sentence/s: "Her satellite made one full orbit around the planet earth every sixteen hours. It was a prison that came with an endlessly breathtaking view -- vast blue oceans and swirling clouds and sunrises that set half the world on fire."

My comments:  I am really enjoying this series.  I'm listening to it as I drive back and forth to work, and I think the Rebecca Soler, who does the reading, is terrific.  She adds personality to each of the characters and is able to switch instantly to individual nuances as the dialogue progresses.  I think she's added a dimension to each of the characters that I might not have done if merely reading the words. The story is part scifi, part dystopia, mystery, adventure and a tiny bit of romance.  It works really well together and I must give Marissa Meyer TWO THUMBS UP! I'm very much looking forward to the next installment.  This one ended perfectly.

Goodreads book summary:  In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. 
       Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who's only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. 
       When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Poems About Books and Words


All sizes, all colors,
"Come inside!"
"Come inside!"
Printed words
are a mystery.
How can they be
full of sounds?
How can you
look at this page
and hear my voice?
Read this and see
a green parrot
with a
bright read head
and long
Words can frighten.
Words can sing.
Words can tickle.
Words can sting.
Words show us
never seen before.
Read this
and see
golden waves
on a crimson shore.
And don't forget...
books smell good
         ~ Mordicai Gerstein
            from Dear Hot Dog

Giant Bookmobile of Tomorrow

I am a very moving van.
Driver: he's the Gingerbread Man.
Fuel: imagination power.
Speed: a dozen aisles per hour.
Whether it be comic strips,
Poetry at your fingertips,
Picture books or trivia,
The Wizard of OzOlivia,
My bookmobile has just one goal:
To entertain on cruise control.
but kids get on at every block
And I forget to watch the clock.
So if my van is "overdue,"
It's okay if you are too.
        J. Patrick Lewis
              from Poem-Mobiles


I'll tell you a story.
I'll spin you a rhyme.
I'll spill some ideas ----
and we'll travel through time.

Put down the controller.
Switch off the TV.
Abandon the mouse and
just hand out with me.

I promise adventure.
Come on, take a look!
On a day like today,
there's no friend like a book.

Laura Purdis Salas
from Book Speak!


Poetry is like some
sugar-crazed teenager
who just got a license
but refusees to follow
the rules of the road.

It races out of control
then jams up the traffic by
going reeaaaaaal slooooooow.
It turns up the music so loud
you can’t figure out how it Decides
to capitalize certains Words.
Punctuation? Ha! A joke!
Won’t use complete sentences.

And why does it refuse to
The most annoying thing?
Poetry won’t shut up.
It embarrasses everyone
by telling the truth.

Ralph Fletcher
from A Writing Kind of Day

In the Land of Words

In the land
of words,
I stand as still
as a tree,
and let the words
rain down on me.
Come, rain, bring
your knowledge and your
music. Sing
while I grow green
and full.
I’ll stand as still
as a tree,
and let your blessings
fall on me

Eloise Greenfield

POETRY PICTURE BOOK - Dear Hot Dog - Mordicai Gerstein

Illustrated by the author
2011, Abrams Books for Young Readers
HC $16.95
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.49
My rating: 4
Endpapers: Bright, sunny yellow
Title Page:  Across the two pages the little girl is waking up as the sign rises behind her prone figure.
Illustrations: Acrylics on paper.


All night
dozing in your holder
you wait for me.
I give you toothpaste
for breakfast,
your favorite flavor.
Then you go to work
in the foamy, pink
cave of my mouth,
scouring and scrubbing,
gargling your little song;
shreds of carrot,
pebbles of peanut,
cracker crumbs
hiding in cracks
---all washed away.
I rinse you off, and
back in your holder
you sigh and dry.
As my day begins,
you go back
to sleep.


I never stop
to think about socks,
and if I get them
for a birthday present
from Aunt Adi,
I'm disappointed.
You can't play
with socks.
But now,
with wind rattling
the icy windows,
putting on these
soft, thick, red ones
makes me happy
all day.

Ice-Cream Cone

I hold you high against the sky
like Liberty's torch,
a snow-topped,
milky mountain,
while rivers
of vanilla slide
over my fingers
and down my sleeve.
I turn you and lick you,
and with every lick
there's less of you.
Come back!
I see you hiding
deep in the cone.  
I bit off its 
bottom tip
and the very las of you
dribbles into my mouth.
I give the cone
to my little brother.
He likes them.
I don't.
My comments:  Great poems, from the point-of-view of three different boys during the day.Toothbrush, Pants, Toes (! !) Socks, Shoes, Cup, Bowl, Kite, Air, Water, Summer Sun, Hot Dog, Ice-Cream Cone, Leaves, Rain, Books, Crayons, Scissors, Spaghetti, Bear, Light, and Pillow!  Great poems!

Goodreads:  Whether it’s slurping up spaghetti or catching some sun at the beach, the everyday wonders celebrated in this collection of poems will appeal to young readers.
          Cleverly crafted by Mordicai Gerstein, Dear Hot Dog follows three friends from the time they wake up and brush their teeth to when they snuggle up for bed with their favorite stuffed animal. In between playing outside, making crafts, eating their favorite treats, and reading, together they delight in the adventure and magic that each day brings. Gerstein’s vibrant illustrations and lighthearted verse make Dear Hot Dog a great introduction to poetry for young readers

PICTURE BOOK - Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch - Eileen Spinelli

Illustrated by Paul Yalowitz
1991 Aladdin Paperbacks
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.43
My rating: 4.5
Illustrations:  "The illustrations in this book were first drawn with ebony pencil on Bristol plate paper and then colored over with Derwent color pencils.  Because the artist is right-handed, he starts on the left side of the paper and moves to the right so that the picture won't smudge.  The paper is very smooth, and only the artist knows where that mysterious texture comes from."  Cool.

1st line/s:  "Mr. Hatch was tall and thin and he did not simle.  Every morning at 6:30 sharp he would leave his brick house and walk eight blocks to the shoelace factory where he worked.  At lunchtime he would sit alone in a corner, eat his cheese and mustard sandwich and drink a cup of coffee.  Sometimes he brought a prune for desert."

My comments:  I'm going to use this for Annatude/ Owning Up/ Character Education immediately.  It will follow up perfectly with "being present."  It's SO easy to brighten up someone else's day.  Just a hello, a smile, a good word, a tiny gift, holding a door open for someone with a grin.  Kids are sometimes (umm...frequently) so absorbed in their own worlds that they don't realize how much little things make a huge difference.  This book with bring that idea home...LOUD, HARD, and FAST! (And although this takes place because of a valentine's day gift, it really isn't a valentine's story.)

In-Class Follow-up:   I will follow this up with brainstorming little ways that we can make days better for people.  Then we'll brainstorm (individually) people that have done kind things for us, or that are just great people in our lives.  I'll pull out some cool, cute stationary and we'll write notes to them and MAIL them, too!

When I read this book, I'm going to end with this poem by Bruce Coville:


No one acts in isolation
And no act leaves the world the same.
Words and gestures ripple outward,
What shores they reach we cannot name.

All our lives end in a riddle --
A mystery without an answer,
For even gone we ripple on,
Like a dance without the dancer.

Did you extend a friendly hand?
Did you lift a battered spirit?
The one you helped helped someone else
Ah! Now we're getting near it.

That second someone dropped despair
Did not give in, instead revived
To teach, to love, to fight, to dare,
And what you've done lived on, survived.

On and out the circle widens,
Past all hope of comprehending.
The slightest touch can change the world
Healing, helping, lifting, mending,

Actions last for generations
Our fathers' mothers mold our hearts.
We in turn shape all that follows;
Each time we act, a ripple starts.

       ~Bruce Coville

Goodreads:  One wintry day, a postman delivers a mysterious package with a big pink bow to a lonely man named Mr. Hatch. "Somebody loves you" the note says.
          "Somebody loves me!" Mr. Hatch sings as he dusts his living room. "Somebody loves me!" Mr. Hatch whistles as he does his errands in town. "But who, " Mr. Hatch wonders, "could that somebody be?"
          After some time, Mr. Hatch discovers just who his secret admirer is and, in doing so, enjoys the biggest surprise of his life!

PICTURE BOOK - Fiona's Lace - Patricia Polacco

Illustrated by the author
2014 Paula Wiseman; Simon & Schuster
HC $17.99
40  pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.03
My rating: 4
Endpapers: solid bold green background with intricate last recctangle almost covering the entire page
Illustrations: ah, Patricia Polacco......
1st line/s:  "Many years ago my father's family lived in a small, poor village a few miles from Limerick in Ireland.  Everyone in the village depended on the textile mill that was soon to close.  Most of the vilagers were unsure of their futures.  But Glen Kerry was their home and all that any of them had ever known."

My comments:  Another lovely family story from Patricia Polacco with many themes and at least one strong moral.  Most of Polacco's stories come from family stories, and within the book itself there is usually some sort of oral story-telling.  This is very strongly of that sort - a piece of the lace that is the second protagonist in the story is framed on the wall in Polacco's home.  This is also a very vibrant immigration story.

Goodreads:  An Irish family stays together with the help of Fiona's talent for making one-of-a-kind lace in this heartwarming immigration story from the New York Times bestselling creator of The Keeping Quilt.
          Many years ago, times were hard in all of Ireland, so when passage to America becomes available, Fiona and her family travel to Chicago. They find work in domestic service to pay back their passage, and at night Fiona turns tangles of thread into a fine, glorious lace. Then when the family is separated, it is the lace that Fiona's parents follow to find her and her sister and bring the family back together. And it is the lace that will always provide Fiona with memories of Ireland and of her mother's words; "In your heart your true home resides, and it will always be with you as long as you remember those you love."
          This generational story from the family of Patricia Polacco's Irish father brims with the same warmth and heart as the classic The Keeping Quilt and The Blessing Cup, which Kirkus Reviews called "deeply affecting" in a starred review, and embraces the comfort of family commitment and togetherness that Patricia Polacco's books are known for.

PICTURE BOOK - Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind - Judy Finchler & Kevin O'Malley

Illustrated by Kevin O'Malley
2006 Walker & Company
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.00
My rating: 4/ Liked it a lot
Endpapers: The protagonist running from flying books, which are tumbling through the air straight at him.
Illustrations are done in markers and colored pencils.  Both.  Think I should have my kids give this a try.  I usually ban markers for illustrating.....
1st line/s:  "It's the first week of school, and this year Miss malarkey said our class would be doing the Everybody Reads in America program.  She thinks that reading is about the finest thing a person can do and she promises to find each of us a book we'll love before the end of the year."

My comments:  Miss Malarkey works and works to match kids and books so that they'll give reading a chance.  And it works!  Sometimes it DOES take all year, though, just as it does in the book.  The one thing that just doesn't ring true to me is that the protagonist didn't complete one single book the whole year.  I find that pretty difficult to believe....unless all he read for reading was a basal reader?  This book is only 8 years old, so I find that hard to believe.  Oh well, I guess I'm too much of a realist.  I'm glad she got him going! (I also love the name Miss Malarkey.)

IDEAS:  I love that near the beginning of the book there's a list entitled, "Fifty Nifty Books for November."  They are all made up book titles with a short anecdote about each.  What a great idea for an extension after reading this book to a class - have them create the title and a one-page description of a book they'd really enjoy reading if it existed!

GoodreadsMiss Malarkey can make a reader out of anyone.
          Principal Wiggins promises to dye his hair purple and sleep on the school roof if the students read 1,000 books this year. Miss Malarkey is determined to find the right book for each student so they'll participate in the school program, and learn to love reading. She's got a tough audience -- video game fanatics, artists, sports lovers -- nonreaders all. But she won't give up until Principal Wiggins can flip his purple wig. 
          With all the new pressures being put on teachers these days, the one thing everyone agrees about is the need for all children to learn to love reading. Now, the best-selling Miss Malarkey series uses all the programs and initiatives developed to help children read as fodder for the humor mill, keeping everyone laughing about this important topic. No teacher, librarian or parent should leave this book behind!