What! Cried Granny an Almost Bedtime Story by Kate Lum

5 + stars Children’s

This book is hilarious!  Granny is amazing and Patrick innocence is charming.   I didn’t like the illustrations when I first read the book but after looking at them, they fit the book.  The illustrations are quirky and different.  It most definitely should be read at bedtime and then, read it anytime!

Patrick is spending the night at his Granny’s house for the very first time.  It’s getting dark so Patrick is asked to get ready for bed.   But there is a problem.  Remember, this is Patrick’s first time staying over with his Granny, so he doesn’t have a bed.  Big problem?  Nope!  Granny runs out the door, chops down one of the tall trees growing in the yard, takes it to her workroom and creates Patrick a bed with her tools.  Wowza!  She did all that while carrying her purse on her arm.  Granny now has blue paint splattered on her apron from painting the bed but with the red mattress on it, Patrick is ready! 

But wait, Granny mentions a pillow and Patrick doesn’t have one.  WHAT?   Yep, Granny to the rescue!  Granny does have some chickens, some cloth, thread and a needle.  A little later, Patrick has a pillow!    Do you see how this book is set up?  It’s so comical.  Granny is running around getting things ready so Patrick can go to sleep and Patrick, well he’s playing with a variety of toys and watching TV., waiting for Granny. Now, that Patrick has a pillow, Granny tells Patrick to climb into his bed (has that now), lay his head on his pillow (got that now), pull the blanket up (WHAT, no blanket yet), AND ……. (off we go again)

This is a hoot!  Granny is amazing, she can do almost anything!  Patrick is so lucky to have her.  I’m going to have to find a copy of this book.  It’s a keeper. 

To listen to the story:

Alone by Megan Freeman

4.25 stars Middle School

I have to admire an author that can take me on a journey using verse.  The word selection, the sentence structure, the punctuation, everything about the story has to be carefully selected by the author so they can lead their reader on a magical journey.  Set in Colorado, Megan introduces us to 12-year-old Maddie, who thought she was going to pull a fast-one on her parents but unfortunately, in the long-run Maddie ends up paying the price for what she did.  Alone, is a fantastic book about a world in which Maddie finds herself alone in, which had plenty of emotions as Maddie tries to survive on her own. 

I think we all have done something like this before but now, it was Maddie’s turn to try it.  She was telling her mom that she was staying at her dad’s house and then, telling her dad that she was staying at her mom’s house. Her friends are telling similar lies. Goal: sleepover at Maddie’s grandparent’s empty apartment.  Sounds like a great time but her friends get caught lying.  Maddie is by herself at her grandparents’ empty house. There’s noise outside the apartment during the night, but she’s technically not there so she stays hidden. In the morning, with her phone charged, alerts and warnings pop up on her screen. Imminent threat? Alert? When no one picks up or returns her calls, Maddie races home.  What is happening? Why isn’t anyone picking up their phone or returning Maddie’s phone calls?

Dang! What Maddie found is not good! Cell phones abandoned and individual houses look like people left in a hurry?  What was so urgent?  Maddie found the neighbor’s dog George, so at least she has someone to talk to but everyone, and I mean everyone is gone.  Eventually, Maddie has to start looking for food and supplies.  Searching in other people’s houses Maddie finds other pets that were left behind, some alive and some dead, they have been trapped in their houses. The two of them seem to be making it but for how much longer?  When Maddie has a question, the internet is no longer an option nor can someone provide the answer for her so Maddie takes her questions to the library.  Maddie looks up her questions at the library and while she’s there, Maddie begins to bring back books with her to read.  I liked reading about her experiences with the library.

It’s Colorado and the days are getting shorter.  Oh, I hate winter and just thinking about Maddie and winter, gave me the chills.  There’s also no electricity so Maddie has this to consider.  Would she be better off just packing some stuff and traveling to another city?  A year has passed and Maddie still wonders “when” they will be coming back for her.  I wonder, “if” they will be coming back.

I thought Maddie’s actions were typical for someone her age and I was happy to see that she didn’t get depressed or angry about her situation.  She addressed it a few times but she knew that she couldn’t just sit around and wait for someone to come rescue her.  She had to actively try to get food and supplies for herself and her dog so they could stay alive till someone came.  For more than 3 years, Maddie fought the elements, from the weather, to food, to emotional, and onto physical factors.  From snow and horrible rain storms, to fighting for food and hunting for it, to anger and being scared, and also enduring physical pain and exhaustion.  I still had some questions at the end of the book about the whole emergency situation, why Maddie was left alone so long and I really felt that the ending was rushed but I really enjoyed this book and the author use of verse to do so.  4.25 stars.

“If a birthday falls in the forest

but there’s no one there to celebrate

do we still get older?”

“Loneliness and insanity

are twin houseguests

and

it’s hard to entertain one

without inviting the other in

as well”

The Only (Endling #3) by Katherine Applegate

5 stars Middle School

Is this really the end? This is the third book in this series, supposedly the last book, yet I feel that the journey is far from over for some of the species in this book.  It has been quite an adventure and as I read this book, the struggle became more intense and determined than it had ever been.  Assigned to a mission, they knew that success was the only answer, and drawing from all sources, they gave it all they had.

I feel Byx and Tobble have come a long way from when I first met them in The Last and now, they’re responsible for gathering recruitments for the Army of Peace. The Army hopes that a peaceful agreement can be obtained amongst all the world’s species before the two most powerful groups come head-to-head and engage in war.  I thought this was a lot of responsibility for these two friends to take on, considering their lack of experience and all the risk that was assigned to this task.  They each had a skill but would that keep them alive?

I enjoyed this series and I would like to reread it now, that all the books have been written. I did cry reading this last book (it wasn’t when I closed the last page), it was when the two friends were with one another and their friends were close by, and that is all I am saying about that moment.  This was a wonderful journey, created with great imagination and unique characters.  I enjoyed the friendships that were created and how they developed.  The characters encouraged one another and they believed in teamwork.  I was surprised though, in this final book, at the difficult vocabulary used and the way that the author described the last scene.  I thought the author used some challenging words in this book which, if you’re able to decipher words, is fine. Sometimes though, it was hard to decipher a few of those words and I had to use the dictionary.  This is not a bad thing, it’s just something that caught me off guard.  The final scene though, I thought it might contain too many details for some students.  The confrontation that occurs gives some descripted details which to some students might be okay while to others, they would be fine with, “his xxxxx would never be the same.”  A great series that I highly recommend.

“I think being brave means being afraid and still doing what you must do.”

Links to trailers for Book 1 and Book 2

BOOK 1
BOOK 2

Choose Your Own Adventure Spies: Harry Houdini by Katherine Factor

4.5 stars Choose Your Own Adventure Series

This book took me back to when my children were little.  I used to love reading these books when my children would check them out from the library and this one, was no exception.  I choose my first path through the book, based on what I’d want to do and then, I went back and reread the book a few times, choosing paths that were totally different.  I was Harry Houdini, a magician with big dreams!

All paths in the book begin in America, in the year 1899.  Working as a traveling sideshow, you like to call yourself the “The King of the Cuffs,” as you’re able to outwit any handcuff that anyone tries to attach to you.  This of course, angers the police but you’re starting to make a name for yourself, as people are beginning to notice you. Now in Chicago, as a crowd gathers around, you’re getting the attention that you don’t want.  The police have arrested you, placed you in chains, and put you in a cell.  Can their charges be legitimate?  You’ve never attempted a cell break before, yet it could be possible.  You receive a sign just before the lieutenant rushes into your cell to offer you a deal. 

It’s time now for the first decision in this book: does Harry take the deal that was offered to him or does Harry decide to use the omen that he received and not take the lieutenant’s deal?  What the reader chooses will direct their path to the next section to read and set their course for this book.

This book is based on a true story and there’s an article about Harry at the back of the book.  I enjoyed my adventures as I traveled through the book; some were short-lived and I did have one very long journey.  I did learn a few things about this man as I read and having the opportunity to choose the storyline is a very fun way to read a story. 

If You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackall

5 stars Children’s Book

This book is beautiful!  This book says it all.  If you were to buy one book to have in your library, this should be the one!  It’s almost brought tears to my eyes as the author explains how we are all unite on this one big planet. 

I really enjoyed the illustrations inside this book, from how much detail was included, to the color choice, to how much there was to look at, these illustrations were wonderfully done.  I was impressed with how the author used an assortment of each topic to get her point across.  When she addressed how individuals traveled:  she included a rowboat, tugboat, skateboard, taxi, tractor, airplane, hot air balloon, camper, police car, ambulance, race car, wheelchair, pickup, bus, etc.  The two pages were full.  The author covers a variety of subjects in this book including families, weather, food, what people do, feelings, etc.   There was this feeling of love and community that came over me as I read this book, that we all are together on this planet, breathing and hopefully working together. 

This is an oversized book (11.25 x9 approx.) with 74 pages.  This is not one book that will be read once and put away as the illustrations again, are interesting and many of them have lots of look at.  I think this one is a keeper.  I highly recommend this one and make sure you read the last page of the book as the author talks about how she arrived at writing this book. 

” There are lots of things we don’t know.  We don’t know where we were before we were born or where we go when we die.  But right this minute, we are here together on this beautiful planet.”

“We humans define ourselves be where we are born, where we live, what we believe, by the clothes we wear, and the languages we speak.  But there is no “typical” person.  We are all different.”

They Threw Us Away by Daniel Kraus

4 stars Middle School

Why? Just why, would anyone throw a teddy bear away?  The whole cover of this book grabbed my attention from the fun text fonts used, to the unique teddies on the front who seemed to be in a wasteland, to how the author made this topic into a series, I had to know more.  Enter the world of Furringon Teddies.  Where a group of five teddies finally make it free out into the world and realize, perhaps they being inside the store was better.    

When Buddy wakes up, he finds that he’s no longer trapped.  It hot, bright and he’s sitting. As he moves his paws to shield his eyes, he makes a huge discover, he can actually move his paws!  He’s always been upright, bounded by white plastic cords but now, he could physically move every part of his body! He’s made it outside the store! The teddies in the store have always wondered about this place.  

Hearing something, Buddy spies a box that looks familiar.  Disappointed that it’s not his own box, Buddy realizes that it’s an identical box and there’s 3 more of them close by.  Buddy has found 4 other Teddies like himself.  They can’t stand around after Buddy releases them as there’s a group of gulls moving towards them.  How did this group of five end up in the trashlands? They read their boxes later, hoping to find clues, and they realize a few things about themselves. They’re supposed to “snuggle, cuddle, nap, sleep” and not talk, walk, get in trouble, and be mean. The group decides that they need to get out of the trashlands but as teddies, is any place safe?   

This book was different than how I thought it would be.  I liked how detailed the author was with setting the book up and how he shares that information.  There’s Reginald, he’s a gray teddy.  He has a lot of knowledge, he’s been on the shelf the longest, and he’s also the cautious one.  Then, there’s Sugar. Her box had a “sticker reading damaged merchandise” which had affected the box that she was found in and her face. Her actions and the way that others reacted to her were different than the other characters. Her actions at the end of this book surprised me. These are just some of the subtle ways that the author “tells” the reader about the world that they’re painting for them.

It’s quite a journey for the group as they make their way out, the store shelves are long gone.  They’re no longer the Furrington Teddies they once were. I was surprised at how dark this book became as they were met with outside influences. 

I liked how this story flowed and the variety of characters but I think my main issue was the use of the teddy bear characters.  For it being a children’s book, I became concerned for those who would be upset when they were reading it and suddenly, they came upon a section that they weren’t prepared for.  If I think along the lines of Toy Story, where dangerous situations happen to those characters, to me, those characters are toys.  Toys fall apart, you put them back together. Toys get their voices and attitudes from the children who play with them, typically.  These are teddy bears, most individuals think of teddy bears as sweet, loveable, huggable animals. 

I did think the ending was sweet and I look forward to the next book. Make sure you know your reader before handing this book to them.

The Arctic Fury by Greer Macallister

4.5 stars Historical Fiction

Virginia was charged with murder, yet she claims that she was innocent.  Leading this remarkable expedition, Virginia knew that other excursions had failed in their attempt yet, she accepted the position and prepared for the voyage.  Each of the other passengers that accompanied her, knew the dangers that awaited them before they set off but still, they all followed Virginia when she set off to the North. 

In this book, we follow Virginia as she prepares for and leads the expedition.  I don’t think any kind of preparation could have helped them for what awaited them.  Simultaneously, we also read about the court case that is brought up against Virginia.  A dramatic and intense case, Virginia knows her life is in the hands of the court now.

This was a group of 13 women, some not physically/mentally prepared for such an expedition.  Virginia was their leader and she was hired to guide these individuals into the North in search of Lady Jane’s missing husband. Virginia was only able to pick a few of her crew and those were individuals that she knew would be beneficial as they made their way.  The other women were chosen by Lady Jane and there were various reasons why she selected them.   They only had a fixed window of time before winter opened up its gates and turned the area into a frozen wasteland.  They’ll be on a ship for most of the journey but then, they’ll have to walk to where they believe the lost party was thought to be.  They would face many challenged but they didn’t know this when they set off.

I felt bad for Virginia as she only had a few women with her who were actually helpful.  As the journey continued, a few of the women started to understand exactly what they had gotten themselves into.  This is not a pleasure cruise ladies! It was a difficult and eye-opening journey and I’ll tell you now, not everyone made it home.   

In court, Virginia sits and listens as the prosecutor calls up his witnesses.  Virginia feels the door slowly closing shut on her prison cell as her attorney stands silent and does nothing as each witness takes the stand.  It’s hard for her to just sit and be silent, as others speak about her and the expedition.  I cringed as events in the case continued, I can’t believe it’s moving in this direction. What a dramatic case for this time period.  

I enjoyed the story as it was well written, intriguing and I liked the character of Virginia.  She wasn’t afraid of jumping in and taking a challenge.  Sure, this was a difficult one for her but she did the best she could.  There were a few big moments in the book and I enjoyed those ahhh moments.   I liked the idea of the women traveling together alone, trying something on their own.  They spent a lot of time getting ready for their voyage in the book and I really wished there would have been more time spent on their travels.  4.5 stars

Projekt 1065: A Novel of World War II by Alan Gratz

5 stars Middle School Book

Every book I read from Alan, I think he can’t write any better and then, he does it again.  In Project 1065, I time-traveled back to Berlin, where I met Michael and his parents who were spies.  Michael’s father is an Irish Ambassador so there is plenty of opportunity for the family to interact with high-raking officials.  Michael is 13, he attends an all-boy school and he does his part in the resistance.  Michael is also part of Hitler’s Youth Army where he can obtain information for the Allies.  One of the hardest parts of being a spy for Michael is, when he has to fake being a Nazi. 

When a British spy plane is shot down, Hitler’s Youth Army is called in to help search for him.  Michael wants to save the man yet his team is needed to turn him in.  The original search comes up empty but he’s found later and they’re able to safety hide him for the time being.  He’ll need to get out of the country soon and that’s when Michael’s family comes into play.

Michael meets a new boy at school, Fritz whose father is on the design team for a new aircraft w/o propellers.  This aircraft will help win the war.  At Fritz’s house, Michael steals the blueprint but later realizes, he only has a small section of the blueprints.  He’ll need to find the rest of the pages and get the information to the proper authorities BUT Fritz is quickly moving up the ranks in Hitler’s Youth and he’s leaving Michael behind.  This friendship is falling by the wayside yet Michael needs those blueprints soon but how can he get them? 

I’m sitting on the edge on my chair, the stories are running simultaneously, each one just as important as the others.  It’s war, there’s some violence but that’s expected, as that’s what these individuals experienced.  I enjoyed how all these stories were all tied in to one another, they’re full of energy and how enticing they were.  Alan’s book are phenomenal, I need to breathe now!  

Lift by Minh Le

4.75 stars Children’s Picture Book

Ha! This picture book is definitely a fun one and one you could have a good time with.  Iris got mad when things changed in her normal routine but then, she found a solution.  Little did she know that solution would lead her on magical journeys that began in her own bedroom. 

Iris loved to push the elevator buttons in the apartment building that she lived in with her family.  It always made her happy and she could count on it to cheer her up.  Whenever they needed to push one of the elevator buttons, Iris would step right up and DING, she’d push the correct button.     

She doesn’t know what happened that Thursday but once her family got inside the elevator to go up to their apartment, her little brother reached right over and pushed the elevator button before Iris had a chance.  WHAT!! Her brother was so proud and excited and her parents, well…. they had the same reaction.  Iris, she was mad! Then, on Friday when they left their apartment and again, got inside the elevator, her brother reached over and pushed the button AGAIN!  Oh, the look on Iris’ face!  I loved this part!!  She doesn’t hold back her anger, nope! What does she do? Yell? Scream? Iris reaches over and she pushes all the buttons and her family stops on all the floors.  This, my friend, I can see happening.  How does everyone on the elevator feel now?  I liked this part of the book as it shows through the text and the illustrations a lot about the characters.

When they finally reach the lobby, there’s a repair man fixing the other elevator. He’s currently replacing the elevator’s wall button and Iris notices when he throws the broken button in the trash can.  Ah!  Yep, Iris quickly grabs the broken elevator button and she shoves it into her coat pocket.  I liked how most of this activity is told without words. Following the text boxes, the illustrations tell the story.  Once home and safety behind her bedroom door, Iris takes the broken elevator button out of her pocket.  After grabbing some tape, she tapes it up on her wall.  She pushes the button (just for good measure)and starts to walks away when “DING!”

Don’t you love it?  I would love to read this to a child or to a classroom and see what they think is going to happen next because it’s time to turn the page and then, Iris has an amazing adventure.  Iris does return to her family’s apartment for just a bit and then, Iris is ready and we hear a DING!

I really loved this book and I have to get a copy of this.  I love how it opens up the avenue for discussions and possibilities.  I liked how Iris got angry and how she dealt with it, it was honest and representative of how some children might handle that situation, I think.  I wished her parents would have said something to her about her behavior, not a lecture but something to address it.  I thought her adventures were fun and entertaining and I think, children will like them too.  The illustrations in this book are fantastic. The detail and the colors really bring out the story.  It’s a mixture of a story book and wordless book as there were pages that didn’t have any words and you just had to follow the pictures to understand the storyline.  Iris’ feelings towards her brother were fitting and her actions at the end of the book were really sweet.  This is definitely a good book to read to the children in your life.  4.75 stars  

What We’ll Build: Plans For Our Together Future by Oliver Jeffers

3.5 stars Children’s Picture Books

I’ve always gotten excited when I hear that Oliver Jeffers has a new book coming out.  His words feel personal, carrying an emotional element, and those gorgeous illustrations, you get hooked on his books.   The illustrations inside this book did not disappoint.  Each page was lit with bright colors, capturing various unique ideas, and showcasing his wonderful imagination.  I was disappointed in the text though.

At the beginning of the book, a father and his daughter gather their tools as they build a door together.  Entering the door, they begin their journey.  A magical journey that the two of them will share as they begin their life together, father and daughter.

I liked the idea behind the book; a father-daughter relationship and the journey that they’ll take through the years.  Jeffers pulls at our heart, this journey leads them into dangerous and mysterious situations but the knowledge that they’re together looking out for one another, brings us comfort and tears, as we feel their love for one another.

There were a few things that didn’t work for me, in this book.  Some of the rhymes didn’t work for me.  I felt I had to force them, to make them work.  I also wasn’t a fan of some of the ideas that were used in the book.  They seemed like they were geared more for adults instead of something a growing child would come up with and would like.  A tunnel to the moon vs. a rocket ship to the moon, cruise ship vs. a submarine, but that’s just my opinion. This wasn’t one of my favorite Jeffers’ book but I’m looking forward to his next one.