The Year We Fell From Space by A.S. King

5 stars Middle School

This is an important novel that addresses divorce and depression for children, that speaks their language. Addressing the promises, the hopes, the disappointments, the stresses, the anger, the blame, and just about every emotion that a child feels as their parents separate and divorce, this book confronts them directly.  A.S. King delivers another great book.

The arguing the occurs between Liberty’s parents has reached its limit and now, her dad was moving out.  He was making promises to Liberty and her sister, Jilly to smooth out the situation but nothing he could say would ever make this move easy. Liberty and her dad were close.  They spent a lot of time together, they loved to unravel the night sky together.

Liberty’s world begins to fall apart when her father moves out of the house yet she keeps everything inside her.  She continues to try to find comfort in the night sky but like everything else in her world, it just isn’t there anymore.  Wishing upon stars, asking for guidance, Liberty calls upon the night to help restore her balance. Liberty is spiraling.

I liked the difference between the two sisters.  Liberty was the older sister and she tried to keep her emotions inside and in-control. Her younger sister, Jilly made me smile and laugh numerous times, as she’s young, carefree and she’d let’s go with what’s on her mind, when given the chance.  Liberty couldn’t talk openly so what she really needed was to talk privately with some individuals throughout the book but she just couldn’t. 

I enjoyed how the book dealt with all the different emotions that occur during a divorce. Children are a major part of a divorce yet some parents feel that they’re not, forget to include them, or just don’t want to get them involved.  Children need to be able to talk about their feelings, ask questions and get a truthful (as truthful as they can handle) response to their questions.  Children need to feel valued and respected during this time. I think this book addressed these topics very well. 

I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it.  Another fantastic book by A.S. King!   

All The Forgivenesses by Elizabeth Hardinger

5 stars Historical Fiction

I didn’t want this book to end because I had fallen hard for these characters.  Times were hard in the Appalachian Hills of Kentucky, at the turn of the century, but as I turned the pages of this book, I wanted/needed Bertie to get a break. 

Bertie and Timmy liked to play hide-and-go-seek together until the day, little Timmy wedged himself into a tight spot and couldn’t get out.  Every day, Bertie is haunted by that day when her brother Timmy died.  As if that wasn’t enough, her mother now has basically, given-up-on-life and her father is a drunk who comes and goes as he please.  Add to that, four siblings and you have a lot of responsibility and no adult in charge.

In walks, tired Bertie.  She’s 15 now, and if helping running the homestead wasn’t enough to tire her out, add a new neighbor to her busy life, who doesn’t know what Bertie is actually experiencing.  I wanted to give Bertie a break but the situations for Bertie were on a downward spiral. When would they stop?

When her older brothers start to come up with a plan, I started to have hope, I really did. Life is hard as the family moves about and tries to make the best of the situation.  The highs and the lows kept me going and I loved this family. Oh, Bertie!  You knew you had to be strong, you hid your feelings but I knew how you felt.  What a fantastic book! 

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

5 stars Fiction

If it hadn’t been for bookclub, I wouldn’t have picked up this book. After reading it, I will now have to find the movie as it stars Robert Redford and Jane Fonda and I heard it’s pretty good. I really enjoyed this book and, in the end, I felt sorry for both Addie and Louis yet, I think they were content with how things worked out.

The story takes place in a small town and like most small towns, everyone seems to know what everyone else is doing. Addie is 70, and she calls upon her neighbor Louis, one day at his home. She asks Louis if he would like to spend the night with her. Now, this is not grade school, these are adults whose spouses are deceased. Addie is straight-up and tells Louis that they’ll be no sex, but that she just wants someone to talk to and be close to at night. Well?

That night, Louis cleans himself up, puts his toothbrush and pajamas in a bag and walks down the alley to her house and knocks on the backdoor. They do live in a small town, remember? Addie had been waiting at the front door for Louis and tells him to ring at the front door in the future, she’s too old to worry about what people think. I love her already! Well, I won’t tell you what happened that first night but it was perfect. It made me smile.

It isn’t long before the town knows what’s happening and you can imagine what happens. It’s what Addie and Louie do about it, that matters to me. I thought they were getting comfortable in their arrangement when Addie’s young grandson came for a visit. Addie has conflicting thoughts now.

I enjoyed how the author wrote, the reading was effortless and realistic. A great book about family, aging and life in general. It made me think about getting older in life and if I would have done anything different had I been Addie or Louie.

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

3.5 stars Middle School

I thought this graphic novel was okay. I liked the characters and I liked how things were progressing but there was something about the flow of the story that didn’t feel right. 

Moth doesn’t fit in and she’s basically accepted that.  She’s now thirteen-years old and suddenly things start to change for her on Halloween.  No one has told her the truth about her mom and that Moth’s obsession with witches might have something to do with her mom but now, someone might have to.  Moth was born a half witch but suddenly now, she’s showing her powers.  Moth is excited about her new identity but her mother, a witch herself, tells her that it’s not such a great thing. 

There’s some time travel as Moth learns about the craft and its history.  We find out how old mom really is and what mom has been through.  Mom has told Moth not to practice her new craft yet Moth feels she wants to help her friend and does so without anyone knowing.  

I liked that there was this emphasis on family and friendship in the book.  I liked how Moth tried to do things on her own and make her own decisions which at thirteen, has its positive and negative aspects. I thought the book at times felt too wordy.  It felt heavy and the flow felt off.  I thought the illustrations were well done and I liked how the cat was used in the book. 

Just Because by Mac Barnett

5 Stars Children’s

I fell in love with this book after the first few pages.  The sweet, calm fashion of this book had soon expanded and now, I was feeling the same way.  The situation was all too familiar for me and if only I could turn back time, it could have been me in that room, answering those questions.

Everything in this book made it perfect for me.  The way the book was laid out, its illustrations, and its text; everything had its proper place and time.   

As I watched the adult male in the illustrations, I liked how his movements changed from one illustration to the next.  I think his movements added a great deal to the book.  There are other small changes that were taking place in this bedroom scene, changes that were very important, changes that our eyes noticed automatically.

The questions that the young child asked, reminded me of ones that my own children would inquire about when they were younger. The constant questioning, the layer-upon-layer of mindful thinking. When would they stop? The answers came back in a creative response.  The adult even linked some of his responses together.  With fantastic illustrations in mixed-media tones, the illustrations complement the tone of the text, and they make you stop and take notice of them.   

A brilliant and sweet book, a book that I cannot get enough of.  It’s definitely a book that you’ll want to share.  

Link to the beautiful illustrations so you can view them yourself

Betty Crocker Halloween Cookbook

5 stars Cookbook

Let’s talk about some Halloween food, shall we?  I came across a Halloween display at the grocery store and picked up some fun decorations to go on top of some baking treats.  Growing up, I had just the colored sprinkles and if you got lucky, we got the colored little balls that rolled all over the place when you went to put them on anything and of course, they tasted so much better than the sprinkles.  Now the choices for decorations are endless. I ended up purchasing a creepy pack and not your normal sprinkles, my friend. I thought I needed a cookbook to go with these so I found a Betty Crocker Halloween Cookbook at the library and voila, I now have more than I asked for.

The decorations I picked up were a candy pack of skulls, bones, gravestones, large eyeballs and bats. My other pack is a mix of orange, black and white sprinkles of ghosts, bats, pumpkins, moons, and bright Halloween tiny balls (of course). What to do with all of them was the question that I hoped this book would answer.

Boneyard Dirt Pops were chocolate cake pops with chocolate sandwich cookies on top (dirt) with bone candies on top (excellent idea!). Tarantula Treats were cupcakes that looked like the creepy spider that I could use the eyes on. Tombstone Cupcakes were, just what they said they were and another great idea.  I was coming up with some great ideas in this book and getting hungry. The Halloween Party Pops were another great idea and I could decorate them anyway I wanted although they had some great ideas especially the spider web one.  I think I had enough ideas here. I noticed the Scary ghost Pancakes (I love pancakes) as I was making my way to the treats section.  I wouldn’t be using any of my treats but I would be eating some special pancakes.   

There are recipes for having a feast in this book.  Lots of snacks, meals, drinks, and of course desserts. In the Mystifying Main Dishes, I liked the Chicken Enchilada Mummies and the Serpent Sub. They looked like fun and a simple idea to bring the holiday to the table.   Need some Bubbly Black Punch with a Wormy Ice Ring or Lemon-Slime Punch to wash it all down?  How about some Spider Bites out of jello, or Bugs in a Blanket, or the Spiderweb Deviled Eggs (which, of my heavens looks so cool with all the lines on them). 

I would say that about half of the recipes call for premade items.  Items like Pillsbury Grands biscuits, Pillsbury Sugar cookie dough, a box of chocolate cake mix, a spice cake mix, or Bisquick.  Using these items, they explain how to shape or create the Halloween item using brown sugar, milk, eggs, etc. until you have the finished item.  Other recipes have the cook taking baby back ribs, or ground beef, or instant pudding, or chocolate ice cream or whatever and creating the Halloween treat from scratch.  If you want to make it all from scratch, make your own sugar cookie recipe, make your own chocolate cake recipe, do whatever you want or make substitutes if you have allergies, the ideas and the fun is inside the book.

There are 200 pages in this Halloween cookbook complete with an index and the recipes broken down into sections.  I hate to ruin the fun but there is a calorie counter for each of the recipes, along with step-by-step directions, the time to completion them, and how many each recipe will make.  Are there illustrations/pictures? You bet, one for every recipe which are directly across from the recipe.

Another great book from Betty Crocker.  I was entertained and I will be making some of these tasty treats this year.  

Amazon has some great pictures of the inside of the book: https://www.amazon.com/Betty-Crocker-Halloween-Cookbook/dp/1118388941/ref=sr_1_1?crid=14T18TV5N9F9G&keywords=betty+crocker+halloween+cookbook&qid=1568588181&sprefix=betty+crocker+hallo%2Caps%2C175&sr=8-1

Amal Unbound by Alsha Saeed

5 stars Middle School/YA

Amal’s dream of becoming a teacher were put on hold when she must stay home and tend to her mother, who has not recovered since giving birth to her fourth child.  Amal waits with anticipation for the day when she can return to school but an incident with a rich landlord/politician takes her even farther from her dream.  Yet, through it all, Amal continues to keep reaching for that dream.

Becoming one of his servants to pay off the debt, Amal works at his lavish estate and believes that she’s working off the debt, that the incident triggered.  This is a whole new world for Amal and I enjoyed how Amal handled herself.  Locating a library within the estate, Amal begins “borrowing” material until someone spots her and tries to stop her. When she located the library, the first thought that went through my head was Belle from Beauty and the Beast.  I imagined her reaction and amazement to be the same and that brought smiles to my face. 

Amal is wise and clever, which I feel gives her an edge.  She does what’s expected of her and she tries to stay out of trouble.  She just wants the debt to be paid off so she can return home and return to her studies.

I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was a fast read and I really liked the character of Amal. She was a bright individual, a character who matured in the novel and someone that I cheered for throughout the whole book.

The Evil Princess vs. The Brave Knight by Jennifer L. Holm

4 stars Children’s

Sister and brother, evil princess and brave knight.  They lived together in a castle but that didn’t always mean that they got along. The Evil Princess liked to be mean to the Brave Knight. The Brave Knight liked to be brave but he could also be mean, when the Evil Princess was evil to him. The Magic Mirror got tired of their mischief so she sent them each to their rooms!

That was fine…….at first. They played in their rooms and did what Evil Princesses and Brave Knights do by themselves.  Then, it got rather boring as they each had no one to play with.  The Magic Mirror said they could each come out ONLY if they played nice together.  When they came out of their rooms, it was boring playing nice together then, they decided to go on a quest together and then, well……let’s just say that the Evil Princess and the Brave Knight just might need to spend more time in their rooms later. 

This is a cute picture book that teaches a good lesson on playing together and getting along but what really gets resolved in the end?   It also helps children discover that not all kids get along and that perhaps they need to find something to do beside doing the same thing every day.  The illustrations were comical and colorful.  A very fun and engaging book.

Over the River & Through the Woods by Linda Ashman

5 stars Holiday

This is a fun twist on the classic. Everyone is going to grandma’s but they’re coming from different regions and in different methods of transportation. I enjoyed the creative modes the author used to get the guests traveling to grandmas yet somehow, when they arrive, they are all together, in the old traditional means of transportation. What happened along the way?

The whole family has received Grandma and Grandpa’s invitation to come to their house for the holidays and they’re all coming, with a pie. The four families pack up and begin their trip. Written in rhyme, each family has travel issues along the way but have no fear, just when they think they will not make it, they hear a “Neighhhh!” They are saved! The horse is pulling a large sleigh which has enough room for everyone, driven by a friendly fellow. Once everyone has boarded and everything is put on the sleigh for the holidays, they head off to another family member who is stranded.

After all four of the families have been loaded and their holiday goodies have been loaded on, they head out to grandma and grandpa’s house where the they celebrate with family and friends.

What a cute and fun holiday book. I loved the illustrations; they are simply beautiful to look at. Kim does an amazing job! Her attention to detail, the bright and colorful illustrations really make this book spectacular! It took me a while to find my rhythm with this book but once I did, it was fun to read. I really liked this book. 

Small Things by Mel Tregonning

5 stars Mental Health Children’s Picture Book

I know that just about everyone has dealt with the feelings that the boy in the book encounters.  What I didn’t know was the impact this picture book/graphic novel would have on me as it, blew me away. Containing no words, this book carries a strong, important message that I feel that children and adults can relate to.  I feel that this book needs to read together, at least the first time through, because there are many issues that this boy addresses that an adult should talk with a child about to make sure they understand what is truly happening.  

Life becomes overwhelming for this young boy and immediately, I start to see things piling up for him.  He’s not fitting in at school even though he tries, his grades at school are falling, and at home, he’s angry at those who are there for him. Life is not good. 

With powerful, black-and-white illustrations set in graphic novel format, this fantastic, wordless, picture book tells the story of a boy burdened with anxiety that literally, begins to eat at him.  I liked the concept of the emotion eating at him because this is what I typically say when I talk about some emotions so to actually see it, was very effective. The emotions begin to arrive in many places where he encounters his difficulties and then they continue following behind him, in the illustrations.  The boy notices the bites which occur on his arms, pants and his head. The emotions have no particular shape but are just random wiggly shapes and they seem to multiple. 

I just felt for the boy and I understood completely what he was going through.  Day-in and day-out, the same old and nothing was getting better.  Just looking at the illustrations, and watching the boy, you felt his despair.  Those eyes! The cracks on his face!  Who is going to help him!?  Then, a door opens and the look. 

I think reading it more than once and seriously looking at the illustrations is a must.  You definitely need to check out this book.  I highly recommend it.  

Author:   https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/sep/23/shaun-tan-completes-graphic-novel-after-authors-suicide-her-absence-made-me-try-even-harder