Monday, June 28, 2010

Lincoln and His Boys by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by P.J. Lynch

This is a collection of stories about Abraham Lincoln told from two of his sons, Willie and Tad.  In the first section, Willie recalls a trip to Chicago with his father, the lawyer.  The boys know that something big is about to happen, and Tad's father confides in him that he is about to run for President.  Tad's account of the trip is done in great fondness as he recalls many details of the trip: the train ride, waiting for his father at the courthouse while he works, meals together, and going to see entertainment.

In the second section, Willie narrates the experience of their family traveling to Washington DC after their father was elected President of the United States.  It is is an unstable time in America as war between the Northern States and Southern States is about to break loose.  The boys remember their father being carted off by the Secret Service, visiting their father in the Oval Office (much to the chagrin of his Cabinet...but they know their father loves the interruption....and playing in the White House with the Taft boys. 

In the third section, Tad recalls the painful experience of his brother's death and the effects that has on his family, and spending lots of time with his father as the war continues.  Tad sees the incredible toil the war has caused on his father, and he looks forward to returning to Springfield.  When the war finally does end, he observes his father celebrate victory in a most conservative and reluctant way and looks forward to returning home.

What I Thought: 
I adore stories about good ol' Abe and this one is no exception.  I loved how this book is narrated by Lincoln's sons, and it is quite obvious that the boys adored their father and the feeling was mutual.

I can never get enough stories of fathers who are just plain awesome. 

In the Author's Note, Wells talks about her research and how Lincoln may be one of the most documented personal histories as so many people left memoirs regarding this man and his family.  While this work is technically fiction, she points out that "The incidents in this story...are grounded in historical fact.  No detail was imagined or invented except the dialogue and the circumstances in which it took place." 

I love that Wells did so much research for this story and the result between that and her storytelling is that the reader feels connected to the whole Lincoln family, through the good times, and the bad.

Oh, and Lynch's illustrations are simply gorgeous.  Amazing. 

This is a wonderful book for those who enjoy Lincoln!  What a great short read-aloud for a class who is studying this president and it would give an exciting different perspective from the textbook. 

Very highly recommended. 

Want to see more?  Check it out on Amazon: Lincoln and His Boys by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by P.J. Lynch.

Reviewed from a library copy. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell

Could you imagine spending your summer living just like the frontier people of 1890 did?  Instead of spending your summer at soccer camp, or at the mall, at the spend two months milking cows, mucking stalls, tending to the garden and crops, cooking over a wood stove and washing the laundry by hand.  Oh, and don't forget the lack of indoor plumbing and running water. That's right...outhouses.

That's just what Gen experienced when her mother signed her family up for this frontier camp...where they lived just as they did during the 1890's.  This was the time Laura Ignalls Wilder was living that we experienced in her book Little House on the Prairie.

Upon arrival to the camp the "campers" are instructed to change clothes into the typical 1890 fashion and relinquish any item that was not time period appropriate.  Including cell phones, iPods...everything.  Gen manages to talk her way into keeping her facial soap...but in the box was actually her brand new cell phone.

Life is hard in the 1890's.  Their mom is learning how to cook using only a wood stove and the very basic staple items.  For days they ate corn grits and beans.  (Blech.)  Her dad must learn to tend to the corn crop while Gen and her brother figure out how to help around the frontier house, take care of chickens, and help their parents with the jobs of the farm.

Gen manages to stay somewhat sane by texting her friends back in the "real world" telling them all about her experiences and the other kids there, including Caleb the really cute guy and Nora who lives here all the time as her family runs the camp.  Even though they may be living in conditions like the 1890's, the drama that surrounds teens is exactly the same. 

When Gen's friend starts a blog with all of her texts, things get crazy.  And Gen doesn't even know!  Will Gen and her family survive? 

What I Thought: 
This book has such an interesting concept, I literally couldn't put it down!  I LOVE the Little House books and always thought it would be cool to live in that era.  But wow!  The work that entails living this life....we are definitely spoiled rotten living now in 2010!

Gen's family dynamic definitely changes throughout their experience.   I truly enjoyed "watching" them change...each of them.  The teenage drama keeps the book "real" and set in the current times.  Every good book has to have a little romance with drama mixed in right? 

Overall, a great book!  I think a lot of people, especially those into frontier historical fiction will enjoy this.

Highly recommended.

Want to see more?  Check it out on Amazon: Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell.

Reviewed from a library copy.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown

Stanley was just a normal boy, until one morning he woke to find that his bulletin board had fallen off the wall during the night, flattening Stanley into a boy who was paper-thin!  
After many failed attempts to return him to normal size, it determined Stanley would have to keep his thin state.  At first it was very fun, Stanley could slide under doors, travel through the mail, be a kite...he even helped solve a mystery at the local art gallery.

But eventually Stanley doesn't like his thinness...people keep making fun of him!  Will he ever find a way to return to his original size?

What I Thought: 
Such a cute story...I can see why this story has been a favorite with generation after generation.   The thought of being one inch thick and the benefits that could entail are endless!  

The Flat Stanley story has been used in so many creative ways, probably the most familiar is creating your own Flat Stanley and mailing him all over the world with a request to track his adventures.  Or, creating your own and taking him on your own adventures keeping a journal of his fun journeys.  

There is a new series of Flat Stanley books featuring some of his can check them out here:  

This is a super fun book and character that I hope will stick around for generations to come!

Very highly recommended.  

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella by Stephenie Meyer

Bree Tanner is a brand new vampire living in Seattle.  She was created by she--that's all she knows.  Bree lives in a house with twenty+ other newborns with leader Riley who instructs the group on when they can go out and hunt.  They've been instructed to stay as low-key as possible to avoid being noticed.

Yeah, good luck with that.  The Seattle news is consistently reporting of unexplained deaths in the area, causing even more unsteadiness within the house.

Bree befriends another young vampire Diego and together they begin to put together the pieces that all they have been told is not what it seems.  When the duo overhears a conversation between "she," Riley and several "dark hooded figures," the understand that they have been created for a fight.

If you've read know the rest of the story, but through Bella's eyes.  Read this to discover the story through another fascinating point of view: the young vampire Bree Tanner.  Things may not be what it seems!

What I Thought:
What a fascinating novella!  Meyer has taken a character from her novel Eclipse and fleshed out her entire vampire life.  (Short as a life as it was.)

It makes one remember that there are truly two sides to every story. 

One thing I found interesting about this book was that there was no chapter breaks.  This novella is 175 pages long, and it's straight through.  And every bit of it is fluid!  The only reason I even missed the breaks was when I needed to stop reading to take care of other things, like cooking dinner.  I found it hard to find a stopping point.

Oh, how I miss the days when I could just read all day without stopping.  Sigh.

Anyway, if you are a Twilight fan you don't want to miss this book.  You can read if online for free at through July 5.  But if you purchase the book, a portion of the proceeds will go to the Red Cross.   Which is awesome! 

Highly recommended!

Want to see more?  Check it out on Amazon: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella by Stephenie Meyer.

Reviewed from a personal copy.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff

Hollis Woods was abandoned as an infant in a little town named Hollis Woods.  The person who left her there pinned a note to her shirt instructing that her name be just that...Hollis Woods.  Hollis has been bounced around the foster care system for her entire life.  She has made it a habit to run away from these homes as well as skipping school and prides on being "trouble."

When really, all she truly wants is a family.

This book alternates between flashbacks of an almost perfect summer with a wonderful family in the mountains and the present when Hollis is placed with an older women, Josie who turns out to have some memory problems, but is a craftsman which is perfect for Hollis who is a very talented artist herself.

Hollis decides to stay at Josie's for a while but when the social worker informs Hollis she cannot stay with Josie because of her memory problems, Hollis talks Josie into running away.   They go to the cabin where she spent that wonderful summer in the mountains, but now it is winter and a harsh one at that!

As Hollis cares for Josie and tries to come to terms with her past, she learns a lot about herself.

What I Thought: 
A wonderful, well-written book.  I fell in love with Hollis Woods and so badly wanted her to get her dream...a family!  I loved how Giff alternated each chapter with a flashback allowing us to gain insight into her past while living her life with her in the present.   Hollis is a great girl who just has been let down by adults her whole life and has learned to fend for herself.  It's such a gift to see Hollis trust others and allow herself to become a part of a family unit! 

A super book...give to readers who love reading books about strong characters and happy endings.

Very highly recommended.

This book was the recipient of a 2003 Newbery Honor.  

Want to see more?  Check it out on Amazon: Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff.

In 2007, a Hallmark movie was premiered on CBS of this novel starring Jodelle Ferland as Hollis Woods,  Sissy Spacek as Josie, and Alfre Woodard as Enda Reilly--the social worker.  It was really a wonderful movie and though it has been several years since I saw it, I believe it was pretty parallel to the novel.   You can check it out here

Saturday, June 19, 2010

NEW Book Day!

Hip Hip Hooray!  Yesterday was NEW BOOK DAY!

First, I got this book:

Yes, I know it's available online at through July 5, but I'm the kind of girl who likes to hold the book.  And then add it to my collection.  So I bought it, and plan to read it tonight! 

Also, guess what my sweet husband got me for our 4th anniversary?  Well, besides a trip to NYC in May and a splurge at the amazing Books of Wonder? 


Oh yes...Mo's NEW Book!  HAPPY DAY!

But guess what?

[Insert squeal of joy]  It's SIGNED by Mo AND Jon Muth!  Hooray!  Thanks hubby, I LOVE IT! 

Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld

Two boys race to the toy box where one pulls out a shark, the other a train.

Thus begins the competition...who will win?

It depends on the situation of course...are they in the ocean?  Roasting marshmallows?  Playing hide-and-seek?  Running lemonade stands?

It sure to to be a fierce battle.

What I Thought:
Oh my, what a ridiculously fun book!  This book will be a guaranteed hit and I can't wait to pass it along to some kids who I think will love it too!

As you can tell from the cover, the illustrations are super fun and extremely will done.   The story is so creative as the two characters battle out who would be better in a wide range of situations.  I can totally foresee kids everywhere creating their own contests on their own toys---and maybe even creating their own little stories and illustrations to accompany those contest!

Give this book to kids everywhere...they are bound to love it!

Very highly recommended.

Want to see more?  Check it out on Amazon: Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld.

Reviewed from a library copy.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lawn Boy Returns by Gary Paulsen

In this sequel to the book Lawn Boy, where a twelve year old makes a killing mowing lawns after his grandmother gives him an old riding mower.  He unintentionally turned a little summer job where he hoped to earn enough money to purchase a bicycle tire innertube into a VERY successful business. 

Now the lawn boy experiences the joys and hassles of owning a small business!  His stockbroker and friend Arnold, who is essentially running the business while keeping lawn boy involved in every decision hires lawyers, accountants, PR people....and when the story of lawn boy's success hits the news-watch out!  Overnight he turns into an overnight star!

Oh, and don't forget several "long lost" family members who show up asking for help...and some of lawn boy's cash and wants to "help" his prize-winning boxer. 

Whew!  It's all a little overwhelming...all he wants is to cut some grass!  What's a boy to do??

What I Thought:
Gary Paulsen has made a way to teach boring old economic and business concepts through an interesting story.

And for that, I salute him!

You had to feel for the Lawn Boy in this story...his frustration level rises throughout the book as everything gets more and more complicated until Lawn Boy makes an important decision. 

This book is also a great example of what a successful entrepreneurship can reap.  And WOW.  Does Lawn Boy reap.

Hand this to any economic or business student, as well as your teenage child.  Then point them towards the lawn mower.

Highly recommended!

Want to see more?  Check it out on Amazon: Lawn Boy Returns by Gary Paulsen.

Reviewed from a library copy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Where the Wild Things Are...the Movie

So, the hubs and I finally got around to watching the movie Where the Wild Things Are.

I know, I know.  I'm a bad librarian for not running out to the theater and watching it on the big screen.

Hey, I'm a busy girl and the movie theater is about 45 minutes away.  Plus, I didn't think it would be that good. 


I loved it!  I thought it was simply charming and captured the feel of Maurice Sendak's beloved picture book quite well.  I don't know if kids would catch that, or even if my husband did, but he liked it too!

Anyway, I thought the "wild things" were done fantastically and the wild rumpus was too fun!  I loved Max and how his emotions played out during the entire film.  And I really enjoyed the music!

I'm hoping to show this film at my library in August, so I'll get to enjoy it again with lots of friends! 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Brand-New Me! by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

It's nearing graduation from 5th from grade and that means one thing...NO MORE PS 87 and HELLO MIDDLE SCHOOL!

Then a couple of setbacks muddy up the road for Hank.  First, he receives notice that he has not completed the required community service hours needed for graduation.  But, he takes care of that by helping Mr. Rock clean the school's musical instruments.

But when he finds out that his two best friends will be attending the middle school for the gifted and talented....leaving him behind. 

Thankfully, Mr. Rock sees something in Hank...something that no one else does.  Does Hank step out of his box and shoot for the stars? 

What I Thought:
Sigh.  I love Hank Zipzer.  I love his quirky character; he's a funny, smart guy.  I love his positive attitude.  And it doesn't help the book is set in New York City, one of my most favorite places in the world!

But my favorite thing about this installment of Hank's story?  The influence of teachers in Hank's life.  We see two dramatically different teachers: one who encourages Hank to mature his talents and work through his difficulties; and another who doesn't see the positive in Hank but harps on the negative.   Both teachers I'm sure Hank will never he will see as a positive influence, and the other he will strive to never ever emulate.  I think this is a GREAT lesson for anyone who works with children!

Be sure to give this story to anyone who is a Hank Zipzer fan, along with readers who need a positive story about overcoming adversity to reach your goal.

Highly Recommended.

Want to see more?  Check it out on Amazon: A Brand-New Me! by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver.

Reviewed from a library copy.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

God's Promises for Boys by Jack Countryman and Amy Parker

This book compiles short lists of Bible verses applicable for a variety of situations boys may encounter.  For instance, if  he feels sad and need comfort, the lad can flip write to a list of verses of God's promises for this situation.

What I Thought:
I think this is a great little guide that any child could use!  It's a great resource for anyone as we could all use a reminder of God's promises to us.

Each topic can be easily found using the table of contents which is organized by subheadings such as "God's Promises When..." and "God Wants You To..." and "God's Promises for You."

Each topic is opened with a short poem, then followed with several verses and a cute illustration.

Overall, I think this would be a wonderful gift to a boy.  Be sure to check out the book designed for girls by the same authors.  


Want to see more?  Check it out on Amazon: God's Promises for Boys by Jack Countryman and Amy Parker.

Reviewed from a copy provided by the Thomas Nelson Publisher Book Review Bloggers program.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver is the story of a girl named Grace, who at a young age was attacked by a pack of wolves in the woods near her house.   She remembers one wolf who stops the rest of the pack from killing her.   She remembers his eyes...

Year after year, Grace keeps an eye out for her wolf.  Every winter, she looks forward to seeing the wolf with the yellow eyes near her house, hearing his howl above the others.

When a boy at school goes missing, then is determined as dead a hunting party is organized to kill off the wolves.  Horrified, Grace goes out into the woods to stop them.

That's when she finds Sam, naked on her front porch.  And his eyes...his eyes are just like the eyes of her wolf.

Thus began a brilliant love story...between a girl and a boy who turns into a wolf. 

What I Thought:
Several of my friends read this book and just raved about I gave it a go.  And it was good!   All the reviews and such say that this book will give Twilight a run for its money, and while I think Twilight lovers will LOVE it, I kind of liked Twilight better.

But only because it had more sappy love story.  I'm mushy like that.

Don't get me wrong, this is a great love story too!  Sam is completely devoted to Grace, and vice's just not as unbelievably sappy as the Twilight books are.  Which I think a lot of people will appreciate!

Anyway, this book has it all.  Romance, paranormal, teenage drama, family issues, excitement, intense moments...everything you need for a great story!  And a cliff hanging ending that leaves you screaming in frustration.  But have no fear...the sequel Linger comes out in July!  So I don't have to wait that long.

This is a great book to hand to Twilight fans and those who enjoy paranormal romance.  I've already got a couple of people in line to read this one...I sure hope they like it as much as I did. 

Very highly recommended.

Want to see more?  Check it out on Amazon: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. 

Reviewed from a library copy.