My Nana’s Garden by Dawn Casey

5 stars Childrens

With tears in my eyes, I write.  Reluctant to stay with her Nana, she soon realizes how special her Nana really is.  As the little girl spends time with her Nana in her garden, she begins to understand that the overgrown garden is actually an exceptional place.  A place where Nana lets things happen. Where the wildflowers grow for the insects and the critters can run freely, where the apple tree brings forth fruit for harvesting, and that old tree is called home to some animal friends.  The garden is also a special place where Nana and the little girl can spend some quality time together, enjoying each other’s company while appreciating the world around them.  It isn’t long before she starts to enjoy visiting her Nana and tending to the garden space alongside her.   

The book progresses quickly and Nana has moved into a wheelchair.  It is my assumption that this little girl is her granddaughter and she has also grown up quickly.  The daughter now accompanies her granddaughter on the visits to Nana’s.  The three of them now visit the garden together, relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.

“In my nana’s garden,

I curl up and cry.

The sun doesn’t shine

in the winter sky.” 

The tone of the book changes after this quote and my mood does also for, I feel that life has changed for this family.  The garden is cold and bare all winter long as the granddaughter looks out the window remembering her Nana.  Come spring, the daughter and granddaughter get to work in Nana’s garden tending to it, just like Nana did. The garden springs to life and there is energy within the book again.  The daughter is changing too and as I flip the page, there are now 3 individuals surrounding the tree in Nana’s garden, “We think of Nana by the trees.”

What a sweet book.  I loved looking at the illustrations and seeing how they changed without any mention of it in the text. I felt the author did an excellent job addressing the relationship of the little girl and her Nana, Nana’s passing, and how they honored Nana by caring for her garden.  With a rhyming text, the words did not feel forced but were smooth and flowing.  This Nana truly enjoyed this book.  5 stars

I am the Storm by Jane Yolen

5 stars Children’s

Mother Nature throws at us some fierce storms, whether that be hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, or blizzards but as humans we are fierce too. Jane Yolan does an excellent job showing that although we have no control over Mother Nature, we can control how we react to what happens in our area.  Each of these situations are unpredictable, yet in this children’s book we find comfort and strength to weather any storm that should come our way.

The illustrations inside this book are just wonderful. From the purple-orange swirl of the tornado to the burning marshmallow, for each of these little details brings this book to life.  I enjoyed the diversity as each of the families as they dealt with their disaster.  Although their situations weren’t as devasting as we witness on the news, there was still work to be done and emotions that need to be addressed, after their event had passed.  Yolan text is soothing and instills with her readers that the disaster will eventually end and they too, will survive.  Things might look different outside for them but “It’s okay to be scared” for they are “strong and powerful” and each of them have characteristics of the storms within them.  In the back of the book, Yolan gives a brief description about each type of storm. 5 stars

“And when the storm passes,

as it always does,

I am the calm, too.”

The Invisible Alphabet by Joshua David Stein

3 stars Children’s

This book is very creative.  By itself, I don’t think the book is a hit but grouped with other books, I liked it.  I think by itself, it’s boring and I don’t think most young children will find it appealing yet if you group this book with other ABC books or other black/white books or other books with a theme, you’ll have something.  On the other hand, older teens might like the book and find it humorous.   

The author created this ABC’s children’s book with mainly black and white illustrations.  Adding just a bit of orange color to each illustration, the author gives each letter of the alphabet at least one page in this book.  The words selected for each letter are what sets this book apart from other ABC books, as his concepts are centered around “gone.”  Whether that be physically gone, permanently gone, or just the concept of being gone, something on the page is missing.  N is for Nothing and that blank page says it all.  S is for Secret and by the look on the children’s faces on this page, that secret was a good one.     

While flipping through this book, I thought of a great activity to use with this book.  How about having your students/child create their own ABC book, using the opposites of this book. This would be a fun, entertaining challenging for you also as there are plenty of different words you could use for each letter in this book.  Example: O if for Out in this book. For your own book, you could use P is for Plenty, E is for Enough, T is for Too much, etc.  I think this would be an interesting activity for an extension on this book. 3 stars.   

The Bat Book by Charlotte Milner

5 stars Nonfiction

I’m not bat savvy so I needed this book.  I thought I knew a few things about them and I knew I had some “deceptions” about them but now, I feel knowledgeable.  In our neighborhood at night, you can see a few bats soaring in the sky come dusk.  I’m grateful that they’re eating the insects yet, I’m also thinking how dirty those little guys are and how I don’t want them to get tangled up in my hair.  At least now, after reading this book, I feel educated and grateful that they picked our air space to do their hunting.

I have to share this eye-opening moment for me first.  I never realized that bats pollinate. Bees, yes but bats?  It makes sense but I never really thought about it until I read about it in the book.  A few pages were focused on this topic and I guess looking back over the years, pollination was always about bees and birds. 

I enjoyed this book immensely as I do with most DK books.  The paper is the thick matte finish which compliments the illustrations/text.  I think the paper provides a richness to the book and will hold up better over time.  The illustrations are fantastic, with their convincing drawings that pull your eyes in to pagefuls of helpful information.  I liked the contrasting text colors and the use of graphs, text boxes, and the how everything is labeled and arranged. 

I found plenty of information inside this book which was presented in an easy-to-read format.   From different types of bats and their body types, to why they are so important, to myths about them, the author gives us plenty to think about.  A great book! 5 stars    

Every Minute is a Day: A Doctor, An Emergency Room and a City Under Seige by Robert Meyer MD

5 stars Nonfiction

I know, I know, I know.  People are tired of hearing about Covid but I really wanted to hear from someone different.  Someone who actually worked on the front lines, in an area different than my own and I wanted to hear his own words about what he experienced and witnessed with his own eyes.  I really enjoyed this book, in fact, the book exceeded my expectations.  At first, I hesitated on reading it, afraid it might contain difficult medical jargon but the book was very down-to-earth.

This book centers on Montefiore Health System in Harlem which serves about 1.5 million people annually.  With their staff including their medical students, their facilities including their modern equipment, they feel that there’s no better equipped hospital to serve Covid patients than their building.  Within one month of receiving their first Covid patient, the hospital gets control of the situation but there’s no end in sight.  They were able to manage the shortages that came with the demand of this illness while still providing what they could to their patients and staff.  The hospital experienced highs along with the lows while they provided care for their patients, those highs amongst all the chaos and despair provided hope and strength for another day. 

There were many references that I enjoyed in this book, remarks that stood out as I read them.  The first one referred to how the hospital dealt with the crisis.  This state of mind continues today as officials examine the booster vaccine.  The doctors learned as they go. They learned about the illness from others, they learned from doing something different, and they learned from going outside-the-box. This illness is new, it’s something our society has not dealt with before.  This is a new crisis- there are no set rules, there is no handout to follow, no set procedures in place.  We are creating the handout and the rules as the days on the calendar move forward and unfortunately, as people get sick, die, and refused to believe that this illness really exists.  The second comment that stuck with me was how the medical staff put everything on hold while they dealt with Covid. How will that effect our future?  What will happen if we encounter another untreatable illness?  I stop and think about the implications of this time?  What has this done to us as a nation and to us around the world? Has this united us or tore us apart?  According to a few surveys, our children’s education has suffered.  That’s our future.  How long will we continue to argue and battle what is “right?”

There was a wake-up moment in Harlem when other colleagues in other areas of the hospital started to offer their help.  Months earlier they’ve been too scared to help but now, they see how things are not letting up and they feel the need to pitch in but how? They don’t have the training to work in the ER.  The emergency doctors took them, they trained them on something/anything that they thought they could do, they needed another pair of hands, someone to provide some relief.  These newly trained ER staff members thought they were scared before, well working on the front lines now, they’re realizing just how bad Covid really is.

I didn’t expect a happy story and I found myself crying a few times while I read this book, the emotional toil and the personal stories hit me.  You never knew how things would turn out.  An image that stayed with me as I read this book was the person lying in the hospital, just waiting, all alone.  Imagine yourself lying there, alone, isolated, no TV or entertainment, all you hear is the constant beeping of the monitors all around you and the noises of the staff as they scramble to assist the others that are lying nearby.  How do you feel?  Sick, helpless, defeated, worried, deflated…..

It’s a crisis that’s hitting every continent and not everyone is able or willing to stop/control it.  You need to be able to live your life, not just survive but live.  We need to remember all of those who have died, what we have learned through these individuals, and we need to honor those who have helped us along the way. 

It’s a great read and one that I highly recommend.  I appreciate the two cousins getting together and sharing this story with us and although, I haven’t witnessed it firsthand, I have heard enough stories from friends and loved ones that I don’t want to nor do I need to, to understand how serious this crisis is. Emergency medicine is constantly changing and you have to remember that no one has all the answers yet. Stay well everyone.  5 stars

Leaving Lymon by Lesa Cline-Ransome

4 stars Middle School

He’s a person, can’t anyone see this!  This book states that it takes places in the 1940’s but the story is all too familiar.  Living with his grandparents, Lymon has the stability, connections and the ability to express himself but that quickly vanishes.  When they’re no longer able to care for him, other family members step in and accept Lymon into their home but not everyone in the household is thrilled about having him there.

The only person who Lymon was wanting and needing was, the one individual who would just pop into his life, whenever they felt the need to.  You can feel the desperation in his voice and in his actions as they made their appearance and when they walked out, Lymon was again looking, looking for them everywhere.  Lymon has lots of questions but no one was honest with him. They liked to dance around the questions that he asked of them.   

When Lymon lived with his grandparents, his grandfather taught him how to play the guitar and this love united them.  This was a connection that he also had with his father, for his father did gigs and he always had another show.  I enjoyed this music connection and how the author used this throughout the story. 

This was a fantastic story and it was an emotional one for me.  Lymon needed some stability and he needed someone to be there for him but would he ever find it and who would that person be?  I think the ending was too perfect for me considering how the story was progressing and the characters. 4 stars   This is a sequel to Finding Langston.

“Daddy, when am I gonna see you again? Feel like I have been asking this question my whole life and never getting the answer I want. But I keep asking hoping for the answer I want to hear.”

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

4 stars Memoir

This memoir covered a lot of ground but there seemed to be one common thread: Michelle wanted to connect with her heritage. As her mother prepared her traditional Korean dishes, Michelle stood by, trying to comprehend everything that was playing-out before her.  Michelle wanted to please her mother, she wanted her mother to be proud of her and food was going to be her stage.  If only she could please her mother, the pieces would fit together and so she persisted. 

Michelle is Korean-White and we do meet her father in the book.  We hear more about him in the second half of the book whereas the first part of the book, he worked his job and he liked his drink.     

I didn’t know much about this book when I went into it, except that it was a fairly popular book.  I think the driving force about the book for me was how much Michelle, a bi-racial woman, was trying to connect with her mother. Michelle felt a void in her life, her mother would be the one to fill it.   

It was going well and then, they hit a road block.  Mom was diagnosed with a form of cancer and everything, I mean everything changes.  Time, energy, emotions, space, and values have to reevaluated.  What has the highest priority?  It’s not as if anyone’s desires have changed but now: new necessities have become the top priority.   

This was an interesting and honest story and I appreciate Michelle sharing her story.

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:

Oh No, George! By Chris Haughton

4.5 stars Children’s

I think everyone, children and adults, can relate to George. He has the best intentions but sometimes, he just can’t resist going against them. This was a funny story and George’s expressions and eyes captured my attention on each page and just knowing some background information about dogs made the story more entertaining.

George lives with Harry and George told Harry he would be very good as Harry is headed out the door. Left alone, Harry hopes he’ll be good but eyeing that big cake sitting on the kitchen counter is just too much for George. Oh, George thinks about what he told Harry but he knows how he feels about cake and “What will George do?” Yep! I hope Harry didn’t have special plans for that cake. As I walked along with George in the house, I heard about all the other things that George loved in the house (all the other temptations that were lingering in the house for him) and how George actually managed being home by himself.

I loved the excitement on George’s face when Harry returns! You could feel the love and enthusiasm. As Harry made his way around the house with George right beside him, the look on both of their faces, priceless. The rest of the story is cute and George tries so hard as he loves Harry so much. A cute story with bright simple illustrations. 4.5 stars

Baby Shark by Stevie Lewis

3 stars Children’s

I was very excited to find this book at the library but it was short-lived when I saw the reaction of my 2-year old grandson. My grandson loves Baby Shark, I mean he LOVES Baby Shark! He can sing the song, he has multiple sets of the sharks, he has some of their clothing, and of course, he has us all singing, dancing, and acting out the song.

When he saw this book, he was totally confused because, “this is not Baby Shark,” he told me as Baby Shark is yellow and in this book Baby Shark is blue. They missed the mark on this one for him. They got the colors all wrong for him and well, the book was a no for him. I had to chuckle as I tried to read/sing the book to him but he was not buying it. “This is not right,” was all I heard as I tried to read him the rest of the book and he’s not interested in this book at all. This was a huge disappointment for me at first but it’s okay as he loves so many other books. The text in the book pretty much follows the song except for the last refrain, which is different, “Bye-bye, sharks! doo doo doo doo doo doo!” I did like the illustrations (except for the colors of the sharks – ha), as they were bold, colorful, and simple for younger children. You should checkout the Hungry Sharks page, as they do look like they’re hungry but the children aren’t reacting to them, they don’t look scared/afraid.