Saturday, October 31, 2015

October Reflections

In October I read 56 books.

Board books:

  1. Board Book: Counting Dogs (StoryBox Book). Eric Barclay. 2015. Scholastic. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Board Book: Are You My Mommy? Mary Murphy. 2015. Candlewick. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Board Book: Peek-a-Boo Farm. Joyce Wan. 2015. Scholastic. 14 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Board Book: Are You My Mommy? Joyce Wan. 2014 [December] Scholastic. 18 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Picture books:
  1. Frankie Liked To Sing. John Seven. Illustrated by Jana Christy. 2015. Harry N. Abrams. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed. Leslea Newman. Illustrated by Amy June Bates. 2015. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  3. The Day the Crayons Came Home. Drew Daywalt. Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. 2015. Penguin. 48 pages. [Source: Library] 
  4. How to Read A Story. Kate Messner. Illustrated by Mark Siegel. 2015. Chronicle. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. How To Be Friends With a Dragon. Valeri Gorbachev. 2012. Albert Whitman and Company. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. Ding Dong! Gorilla! Michelle Robinson. Illustrated by Leonie Lord. 2013. Peachtree. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. Duck in the Fridge. Jeff Mack. 2014. Two Lions. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. The Full Moon at the Napping House. Audrey Wood. 2015. HMH. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  9. Willy's Stories. Anthony Browne. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  10. Hooper Humperdink...? Not Him! Theo LeSieg (Dr. Seuss). Illustrated by Charles E. Martin. 1976. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library] 
  11. Would You Rather Be A Bullfrog? Theo LeSieg (Dr. Seuss). Illustrated by Roy McKie. 1975. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. Please Try to Remember the First of Octember. Theo LeSieg (Dr. Seuss). Illustrated by Art Cumings. 1977. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  13. I Can Read With My Eyes Shut. Dr. Seuss. 1978. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  14.  Oh Say Can You Say. Dr. Seuss. 1979. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]
  15. The Tooth Book. Dr. Seuss. Illustrated by Joe Mathieu. 1981. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
Early readers and chapter books:
  1. Lana's World: Let's Have A Parade. Erica Silverman. Illustrated by Jess Golden. 2015. HMH. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Lana's World: Let's Go Fishing. Erica Silverman. Illustrated by Jess Golden. 2015. HMH. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  3. Big Dog and Little Dog Wearing Sweaters. Dav Pilkey. 2015. HMH. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Big Dog and Little Dog Getting In Trouble. Dav Pilkey. 1997/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party. Shannon Hale. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2015. Candlewick. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Dory and the Real True Friend. Abby Hanlon. 2015. Penguin. 160 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. The Story of Diva and Flea. Mo Willems. Illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi. 2015. Disney-Hyperion. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. Poor Excuse for A Dragon. Geoffrey Hayes. 2011. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Middle grade: 
  1. Enchanted Air. Margarita Engle. Illustrated by Edel Rodriguez. 2015. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Library]  
  2. The Great American Mousical. Julie Andrews Edwards. 2006. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Emerald Atlas. John Stephens. 2011. Random House. 448 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Book, My Autobiography. John Agard. Illustrated by Neil Packer. 2015. Candlewick. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Ship of Dolls. Shirley Parenteau. 2014. Candlewick. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Best Friend Battle. Lindsay Eyre. Illustrated by Charles Santoso. 2015. Scholastic. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Nightbird. Alice Hoffman. 2015. Random House. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  8. The Crossover. Kwame Alexander. 2014. HMH. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. Orbiting Jupiter. Gary D. Schmidt. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  10. Handful of Stars. Cynthia Lord. 2015. Scholastic. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  11. My Near-Death Adventures. Alison DeCamp. 2015. Random House. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  12. Circus Mirandus. Cassie Beasley. 2015.  Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  13. Chasing Secrets. Gennifer Choldenko. 2015. Random House. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  14. Two for Joy. Gigi Amateau. Illustrated by Abigail Marble. 2015. Candlewick. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Young adult:
  1. Somewhere There Is Still A Sun. Michael Gruenbaum and Todd Hasak-Lowy. 2015. 384 pages. [Source: Library]
Adult books:
  1. Nutcracker of Nuremberg. Alexandre Dumas. Illustrated by Else Hasselris. Translated by Grace Gingras. 1844/1930/2013. Pook Press. 172 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. Wouldn't It Be Deadly. D.E. Ireland. 2014. Minotaur. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
Christian fiction:
  1. The Imposter. Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2015. Revell. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
Christian nonfiction:  
  1. Christians Get Depressed Too. David Murray. 2010. Reformation Heritage. 112 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  2. Spurgeon's Sorrows. Zack Eswine. 2014. Christian Focus. 144 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  3. The Happy Christian. David Murray. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 256 pages. [Source: Borrowed] 
  4. God's Promise of Happiness. Randy Alcorn. 2015. Tyndale. 112 pages. [Source: Borrowed]  
  5. The Biggest Story. Kevin DeYoung. Illustrated by Don Clark. 2015. Crossway. 132 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. The Story of God's Love for You. Sally Lloyd-Jones. 2015. Zondervan. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Journey to the Manger. Paula Gooder. 2015. Hymns Ancient & Modern. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  8. Waiting on the Word. Malcolm Guite. 2015. Canterbury Press. 178 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  9. 100 Greatest Songs In Christian Music: The Stories Behind The Music That Changed Our Lives Forever. CCM. 2006. Thomas Nelson. 196 pages. [Source: Gift]
  10. Searching for Sunday. Rachel Held Evans. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  11. The Message 100: The Story of God in Sequence. Eugene H. Peterson. 2015. NavPress. 1600 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Week in Review: October 25-31

Enchanted Air. Margarita Engle. Illustrated by Edel Rodriguez. 2015. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
The Story of Diva and Flea. Mo Willems. Illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi. 2015. Disney-Hyperion. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
How To Be Friends With a Dragon. Valeri Gorbachev. 2012. Albert Whitman and Company. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Poor Excuse for A Dragon. Geoffrey Hayes. 2011. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Ding Dong! Gorilla! Michelle Robinson. Illustrated by Leonie Lord. 2013. Peachtree. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Willy's Stories. Anthony Browne. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Big Dog and Little Dog Wearing Sweaters. Dav Pilkey. 2015. HMH. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Big Dog and Little Dog Getting In Trouble. Dav Pilkey. 1997/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Great American Mousical. Julie Andrews Edwards. 2006. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Library]
The Tooth Book. Dr. Seuss. Illustrated by Joe Mathieu. 1981. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
The Happy Christian. David Murray. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 256 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
God's Promise of Happiness. Randy Alcorn. 2015. Tyndale. 112 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
100 Greatest Songs In Christian Music: The Stories Behind The Music That Changed Our Lives Forever. CCM. 2006. Thomas Nelson. 196 pages. [Source: Gift]

This week's recommendation(s): I loved, loved, loved two books this week. (Really more than that, but, I have to narrow it down somehow.) Enchanted Air and The Story of Diva and Flea are GREAT books you should read!!!!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Seuss on Saturday #44

The Tooth Book. Dr. Seuss. Illustrated by Joe Mathieu. 1981. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Who has teeth? Well...look around and you'll find out who.

Premise/plot: Readers learn a few things about teeth. Most of the facts that you'd expect are towards the end of the book. (Having two sets of teeth, taking care of your teeth, going to the dentist, etc.) The first half is just pure silliness.

My thoughts: I didn't expect much, and I didn't get much. It lived up to my expectations perfectly.

Have you read The Tooth Book?  Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Hunches in Bunches. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Willy's Stories (2015)

Willy's Stories. Anthony Browne. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Every week I walk through these doors and something incredible happens. I go on amazing adventures. Come with me and I'll show you...

Premise/plot: Willy loves to read. Willy loves going to the library and finding new books and new adventures. Actually, many of the books he reads are not exactly "new." This picture book celebrates classic adventure stories. How many do you recognize?

My thoughts: I like this one very much. I love the idea behind it. I think this is a great picture book for older readers. Not so much for younger readers. Each two-page spread celebrates a book, usually an adventure novel or a fantasy. One page is fully illustrated. The other is text-heavy. (It's not bad for a picture book to be text-heavy, especially in this case, but it does make it more appropriate for older readers, mid-to-upper elementary at least.) I think my favorite part was how each page asks a question of readers inviting them to join in the conversation. Readers might be inspired to write about their own favorite books and stories. And if they are at all creative or artistic, they might try drawing scenes from their favorite books. 

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Big Dog and Little Dog Getting In Trouble

Big Dog and Little Dog Getting In Trouble. Dav Pilkey. 1997/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Do you know Big Dog and Little Dog? If you don't, you should! Especially if you love dogs. (But also, even if you don't.) Big Dog and Little Dog star in a series of early readers. The stories are simple and funny. The illustrations are bold and bright. Overall, these books are just PURE PLEASURE to read.

Big Dog and Little Dog Getting In Trouble is no exception. This title is perfect for the series. (You do not have to read the books in any order. But my guess is that once you've read one, you'll want to read them all. Again and again and again.)

In this story, the trouble starts when Big Dog and Little Dog want to PLAY. Sounds innocent enough, right?! Well, then end up playing with the couch. And the title says it all, both dogs get in trouble!!!

I definitely recommend this series. The reading level for all the books, if I recall correctly, is Guided Reading Level D.

(Like previous books in this newly republished series, this book has activities at the end.) 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Big Dog and Little Dog Wearing Sweaters

Big Dog and Little Dog Wearing Sweaters. Dav Pilkey. 2015. HMH. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I happen to love Big Dog and Little Dog. You might come to love them too if you read this oh-so-fun series of Early Readers published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Dav Pilkey's series is super-fun.

Little Dog has a sweater. Big Dog does not. Does he want a sweater? Of course! Little Dog and Big Dog go in search of a sweater. Will they find one? Will it be easy or difficult? How much "help" does Big Dog need?

Out of all the Big Dog Little Dog books I've read, this one is probably my least favorite. I think probably because it's not quite as funny as the previous books in the series. That being said, I still love the series overall and would definitely recommend them. This title is good, but not GREAT. Good is still worth reading, in my opinion!

This book does have activities at the end. This one has a maze, for example. But new readers can also practice story sequencing. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Poor Excuse for a Dragon

Poor Excuse for A Dragon. Geoffrey Hayes. 2011. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: When Fred was old enough to leave home, his father and mother gave him a list. HOW TO BE A GOOD DRAGON: run amok, eat people, roar, breathe fire, act scary.

Premise/plot: Fred, a newly independent dragon, tries his best to follow his parents' advice and find his way in the world. But Fred doesn't always have it easy.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I didn't love it. But I have to say I didn't hate it either. It was cute in places. And was generally entertaining. It is a level four reader which, according to the publisher, means: challenging vocabulary, short paragraphs, exciting stories.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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How To Be Friends With a Dragon

How To Be Friends With a Dragon. Valeri Gorbachev. 2012. Albert Whitman and Company. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Simon loved dragons. He loved dragon toys. He loved books about dragons, and drawing dragons. In fact, he loved everything about dragons.

Premise/plot: Simon would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to make friends with a real dragon. When he tells his secret to his older sister, Emma, she tells him EVERYTHING there is to know about making friends with dragons. Some things she's encouraging him to do; some things she's warning him not to do. Simon listens carefully as his sister dispenses wisdom.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. It was cute and funny at times. I like Emma and Simon very much. The dialogue seemed just right. 

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Story of Diva and Flea

The Story of Diva and Flea. Mo Willems. Illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi. 2015. Disney-Hyperion. 80 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: This is Diva's story. For as long as she could remember, Diva lived at 11 avenue Le Play in Paris, France.

Premise/plot: The Story of Diva and Flea is an early chapter book. Diva is a small dog; Flea is a large cat, a flaneur. You might think these two could never be friends--best friends--because they are so very different from one another. Diva stays in her apartment, or in the courtyard of the apartment building; she's frightened of people--of stomping feet. Flea, well, Flea is a loner, a bit mistrustful of humans, who seem to always be waving brooms at him. Every single day is an adventure for this wanderer. He never knows when his next meal will be, or what it will be, but oh the sights he's seen. Yet these two do become friends, and they bring out the best in one another...

My thoughts: The Story of Diva and Flea is giddy-making. I loved, loved, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. I loved everything about it. I loved the setting--Paris, France. I loved the characters--Diva and Flea. I loved the premise: two animals becoming the best of friends. I loved how it reminded me of some of my favorite Disney movies (Lady & The Tramp and The Aristocats). I loved the illustrations. I loved the writing. For example,
Flea did not even have a fixed name. Some people called him "Puss" or "Midnight" or "Richard," but he didn't care too much about what people called him. He liked the name "Flea." He thought it was a funny name because he was a large cat, and a flea is a small animal. Also, he may or may not have had fleas.
I expected to love it because it is Mo Willems. But I didn't expect to love it so very, very much!!!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

What's On Your Nightstand (October)


The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.

The Night Gardener. Jonathan Auxier. 2014. Abrams. 350 pages. [Source: Library] 

I am reading The Night Gardener for the third time. I read it twice last year. I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this one.

The Old Curiosity Shop. Charles Dickens. 1840/1841. 576 pages. [Source: Bought]

This isn't a fast-moving read for me. But I want to finish it and not abandon it.

A Man Called Peter. Catherine Marshall. 1950. 384 pages. [Source: Bought]

I have read Christy and Julie this year--both novels by Catherine Marshall. I thought I would read this biography too. I think I'll end up really enjoying it.

Brand Luther by Andrew Pettegree. 2015. Penguin. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I've been reading this one for a few weeks. I just don't have enough time to read everything I want to read. At least not in a timely way!!! It seems to take forever to finish some books.

Owen on the Christian Life. Matthew Barrett & Michael A.G. Haykin. 2015. Crossway. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This is another book that seems to be taking forever. But I don't know that it is fair to blame the book. I don't know why exactly the Newton on the Christian Life seemed to be a quick, delightful PRACTICALLY PERFECT IN EVERY WAY read and this book in the same series is moving at such a slow pace. I feel like I need a cheerleader saying, You can do it! Come on, Becky! Pick up the pace!

Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. David Platt, Dr. Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida. 2013. B&H. 336 pages. [Source: Bought]

David Platt wrote the commentary for 1 Timothy which is the section I'm currently reading. I'm enjoying it very much. And I'm just a chapter or two away from finishing the commentary on 1 Timothy. It's great that this commentary features three books. But it might make reviewing it a bit tricky--or at the very least lengthy!!!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Great American Mousical

The Great American Mousical. Julie Andrews Edwards. 2006. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

I really found The Great American Mousical to be charming and delightful in all the right ways. I'm not quite sure why I tend to like books starring talking mice, but I do, I really do. And if you do too, then this one is a must-read. It is set in New York, in a theatre, in an about-to-be-demolished theatre that has seen better days. The truth is, the mouse theatre hidden within the human theatre is probably in better shape. Readers meet dozens of characters, all of them involved in the theatre. After setting the scene, things really get started after the star of the show, Adelaide, is trapped in a mouse trap and is "kindly" disposed of by one of the human construction workers. (It could have been so much worse!)

Several things keep this story going: will the mice find a way to save the theatre? will they be able to go on with the show without their big star? will Adelaide, the star of the show, make it back to the theatre in time?

The book is a very satisfying, very quick read. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Enchanted Air

Enchanted Air. Margarita Engle. Illustrated by Edel Rodriguez. 2015. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

Did I enjoy Margarita Engle's Enchanted Air? A thousand times yes! I don't remember when I first discovered Engle's verse novels, I just remember it was love at first sight from the first book on. Every novel of hers which I've read, I've ended up absolutely loving. I really should treat myself to rereading all of her novels.

Enchanted Air is the author's memoir of her first fourteen years. It is all in verse; wonderful, glorious verse as only she can write. She writes of her travels back and forth from the United States and Cuba. (In addition to writing about other family travels, vacations, if you will.) She writes of various moves within the U.S, all in California, I believe. She writes of summer days and school days. Of belonging, wanting to belong, needing to belong. Of uncertainty, confusion, and on the opposite extreme: JOY. Joy of knowing, of discovering, of loving, of living, of just being. The focus is on herself and on her family. She grew up during the "Cold War." And she shares with readers her experiences; how upsetting and confusing it could be to grow up Cuban American at a time when Cuba was very much THE ENEMY. She also writes about her love of reading, writing, and storytelling.

From "Learning" (p. 134)
At home, I scribble tiny poems
all over the walls of my room.
Inside those miniature verses,
I feel safe, as if I am a turtle,
and the words
are my shell.
"More and More Stories" (p. 82
I find it hard to believe
that I am surviving
a whole summer
without a library
for finding
the familiar
old magic
of books.
But storytelling seems
like magic too--a new form
that is also
ancient
at the same time.
Will I ever be brave enough
to tell old-new tales
in my own way?
From "Refuge" (p. 54)
When I climb a tree, I take a book with me.
When I walk from school, I carry
my own poems, inside my mind,
where no one else
can reach the words
that are entirely
completely
forever
mine.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Library Loot: Oops, I've Forgotten To Post This Month

New Loot:
  • The Tale of Oat Coke Crag by Susan Wittig Albert
  • The Tale of Applebeck Orchard by Susan Wittig Albert
  • How To Read A Story by Kate Messner
  • Thyme of Death by Susan Wittig Albert
  • The Tale of Briar Bank by Susan Wittig Albert
  • Mortimer's Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson
  • Monkey with a Tool Belt by Chris Monroe
  • Hunches in Bunches by Dr. Seuss
  • Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson
  • Old MacDonald Had A Woodshop by Lisa Shulman
  • Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss
  • There's No Such Thing as Little by LeUyen Pham
  • You're Only Old Once by Dr. Seuss
  • The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss
  • Duddle Puck: The Puddle Duck by Karma Wilson
  • Dewey Bob by Judy Schachner

Leftover Loot:
  • Bomb by Steve Sheinkin
  • Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews
  • 81 Days Below Zero by Brian Murphy
  • The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss
  • The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
  • Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
  • The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers
  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  • The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  • The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr
  • The Year of Fear by Joe Urschel
  • Click, Clack, Ho Ho Ho! by Doreen Cronin
         Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Ding Dong! Gorilla!

Ding Dong! Gorilla! Michelle Robinson. Illustrated by Leonie Lord. 2013. Peachtree. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

I loved, loved, loved Ding Dong! Gorilla! by Michelle Robinson. It reminded me of The Gorilla Did It by Barbara Shook Hazen, it is one of my favorite, favorite picture books. Sadly, I think it is out of print. The book opens with a confession.
You know we ordered a pizza? A great big one with extra cheese? Well, I'm afraid I have some BAD news...
But before he gets to the BAD news, he has a LOT to explain. It all started when he heard the doorbell ring. It was not the pizza delivery boy. No. It was a gorilla. A gorilla who made himself feel quite at home. (Think CAT IN THE HAT.)
So what is the bad news?! Well, he takes his time....that's for sure.

Ding Dong! Gorilla! had me grinning. I just loved it. I thought it was a very funny book. And I adored the illustrations by Leonie Lord.

I definitely recommend this one.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Week in Review: October 18-24

Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed. Leslea Newman. Illustrated by Amy June Bates. 2015. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Day the Crayons Came Home. Drew Daywalt. Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. 2015. Penguin. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
 Oh Say Can You Say. Dr. Seuss. 1979. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]
Duck in the Fridge. Jeff Mack. 2014. Two Lions. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Emerald Atlas. John Stephens. 2011. Random House. 448 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party. Shannon Hale. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2015. Candlewick. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Book, My Autobiography. John Agard. Illustrated by Neil Packer. 2015. Candlewick. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Nutcracker of Nuremberg. Alexandre Dumas. Illustrated by Else Hasselris. Translated by Grace Gingras. 1844/1930/2013. Pook Press. 172 pages. [Source: Bought]
Board Book: Counting Dogs (StoryBox Book). Eric Barclay. 2015. Scholastic. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Board Book: Are You My Mommy? Mary Murphy. 2015. Candlewick. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Journey to the Manger. Paula Gooder. 2015. Hymns Ancient & Modern. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Biggest Story. Kevin DeYoung. Illustrated by Don Clark. 2015. Crossway. 132 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This week's recommendation(s): I loved several books this week. But mainly I LOVED Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed and The Day the Crayons Came Home.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Seuss on Saturday #43

Oh Say Can You Say. Dr. Seuss. 1979. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Said a book-reading parrot named Hooey, "The words in this book are all phooey. When you say them, your lips will make slips and back flips and your tongue may end up in saint Looey!"

Premise/plot: A book of silly tongue-twisters.

My thoughts: Not nearly as fun as Fox in Socks. Though I did like the one about bed spreaders and bread spreaders. Also the ones focused on Christmas like "Merry Christmas Mush" and "But Never Give Your Daddy a Walrus." Here's how the Merry Christmas Mush one goes: "One year we had a Christmas brunch with Merry Christmas Mush to munch. But I don't think you'd care for such. We didn't like to munch mush much." So I liked it, but, didn't really, really like it.

 Have you read Oh Say Can You Say? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is The Tooth Book. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Duck in the Fridge

Duck in the Fridge. Jeff Mack. 2014. Two Lions. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "Daddy, why do you always read me Mother Goose before bed?" "Well...it all started when I found a duck in the fridge."

Premise/plot: A young boy asks his dad, WHY, he always reads him Mother Goose every night before bed. Readers probably may not be expecting the explanation they get. Though the title itself is a good indication that the story may just get a little WILD. I won't say too much more because really this too-wild-to-be-believed explanation is more than half the fun of this one.

My thoughts: Did I like it? Yes and no. I'm not sure. Do I have to decide now?! Well, let's see. I liked seeing the dad as a little boy himself. And it was something to see how the story goes from slightly strange to completely BIZARRE in just a few pages. This is a pun-filled book, for better or worse. And it had its gloriously fun moments. I think this one is best shared one-on-one with a child. The text can get a bit busy, same with the art. But it was a spirited, quirky read. Did I like it? I'm still not sure!

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, October 23, 2015

The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party

The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party. Shannon Hale. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2015. Candlewick. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Did I enjoy The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party? Yes. Did I love, love, love it? I wouldn't go that far. I really liked it but not to the same degree as the first book. I think the first book is where the novelty and uniqueness excelled. The second book is just more of the same. That's not to say it's bad. It's not. I think a big part of what makes series books so appealing to children IS the same, more of the same nature of it all. Characters you love doing exactly what you expect them to do. I don't fault a series book for being predictable and following a pattern. In an early chapter book, that's what is needed.

So in The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Dress, readers see our heroine trying her absolute best to balance her life. She's supposed to be hosting a princess party. But. She's also supposed to be protecting the kingdom from monsters. Both are important. She juggles the two, but not exactly perfectly. Meanwhile, readers get the chance to meet some other princesses. My favorite 'new' princess probably being Princess Sneezewort.

What I liked best about the book were the illustrations. I love, love, love LeUyen Pham's work. I do.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Day the Crayons Came Home

The Day the Crayons Came Home. Drew Daywalt. Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. 2015. Penguin. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: One day, Duncan and his crayons were happily coloring together when a strange stack of postcards arrived for him in the mail...

Premise/plot: The Day the Crayons Came Home is the sequel to The Day The Crayons Quit. The crayons have more grievances to share with Duncan. The crayons that are writing him this time are LOST crayons. Maroon crayon, for example, has been lost in the couch since being broken in half when Duncan's dad sat down two years ago. He made fast friends with a lost paperclip who is holding him together. That's just one case of a lost crayon. This book has plenty.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed the first book. I was excited for this second book. I think the first book is still the best. That being said, it was great fun to hear from more crayons!!!! Especially orange-yellow or yellow-orange. Some postcards were better than others. But overall a definite must-read to anyone who enjoyed the first one.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Book, My Autobiography

Book, My Autobiography. John Agard. Illustrated by Neil Packer. 2015. Candlewick. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: My name is Book and I'll tell you the story of my life. In good time you'll be hearing about clay tablets, the invention of the alphabet, parchment, manuscripts that light up, libraries, and all that kind of stuff. But my story goes even further back. Before Book, there was Breath.

Book has written an autobiography. He wants you--his readers--to know his life story: from his earliest beginnings to the present day. (Yes, book will let you know his thoughts on e-books.) It is written in a casual, conversational style. It includes some detail, but, it's not heavy on detail either, perhaps aiming for enough information to be entertaining but not so much that readers are tempted to skip or skim.

At times, I really liked the style of this one. For example:
It must have been fun being a little letter in those days, with different people taking you and shaping you to their own language--straightening you here, curving you there, as they saw fit. Even writing you in all directions, right to left, left to right, not to mention downward and upward. A page must have felt like a trampoline. (25)
But I wouldn't say that the reading experience cover-to-cover was all that magical. The book was good, but, not GREAT for me.

Readers learn some facts about the history of the book, the written word. Quotes and poems about books and reading are shared throughout.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Emerald Atlas

Emerald Atlas. John Stephens. 2011. Random House. 448 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The girl was shaken awake. Her mother was leaning over her. "Kate"--her voice was low and urgent--"listen very closely. I need you to do something for me. I need you to keep your brother and sister safe. Do you understand? I need you to keep Michael and Emma safe." 

 Did I enjoy The Emerald Atlas? Yes, for the most part. This fantasy novel for middle graders opens on Christmas Eve, but there's nothing cozy, sentimental, or sweet about it. It is all action and adventure, for the most part. It stars three siblings: Michael, Emma, and Kate, who is the oldest. These three not-quite-orphans have a tough time of it from start to finish. Most of their childhood is spent in various orphanages, and, it is at an "orphanage"--albeit a very, strange one where they are the only three children--that the real adventure begins. And it all starts with a photograph and a blank book....

The Emerald Atlas is the first in a trilogy, and it has all the elements that would make for a successful series. Plenty of action, plenty of danger, a clear struggle between good and evil, magical creatures both good and bad, objects with magical powers, a mysterious wizard, and a team on a quest. I also like the time travel aspect of it. And the hidden, magical world within our world.

Did I love it? I'd say not quite--more of an almost. I think I might not have been in the right mood to really enjoy it and find it satisfying.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed (2015)

Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed. Leslea Newman. Illustrated by Amy June Bates. 2015. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Love cats? Love music? Love sweet stories of animal rescue? If you do, then how could you possibly resist picking up a copy of Leslea Newman's Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed. Just spend a few seconds looking at the oh-so-precious cover. Don't you need to read the book now?!

Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed is a picture book based on a true story. The story is of Moshe Cotel and his cat, Ketzel, whom he found on the street one day. The two lived well together, quite a good pair, all things considered. One day when Moshe's inspiration was lacking, Ketzel, stepped in and composed music instead. Moshe was struggling with a contest entry: the challenge to write a piece less than a minute in length. A good piece of music. Moshe had no difficulty composing longer pieces, but, each attempt always ended up being too long. But Ketzel's stroll down the piano on her four paws was something SPECIAL to Moshe's ears. And the judges thought so too, though, her piece didn't win the contest, it was worthy of honor and attention. And it did go on to be performed for the public and later recorded on CD. And Ketzel did receive a royalty check :)

I really enjoyed this one. And I loved, loved, loved the illustrations by Amy June Bates.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Nutcracker of Nuremberg

Nutcracker of Nuremberg. Alexandre Dumas. Illustrated by Else Hasselris. Translated by Grace Gingras. 1844/1930/2013. Pook Press. 172 pages. [Source: Bought]

 In the city of Nuremberg lived a much respected Chief Justice called President Silberhaus, which means "house of silver." He had two children, a nine-year-old boy, Fritz, and a daughter Marie who was seven and a half years old. 

I first read E.T.A. Hoffmann's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (1816) last year. This year I thought I would read Alexandre Dumas' adaptation of The Nutcracker published several decades after the original.

The book opens with a preface, an excuse for the retelling. The author had taken his daughter to a birthday party. During the party, he made his escape and fell asleep in one of the rooms of the house. The children find him asleep and tie him up. To secure his release, he offers several bribes. The first--for candy--is rejected, as is the second--for fireworks in the park. But the third, well, the third is accepted. The children demand a fairy story. He warns that the story he's about to tell is not his own, not of his own making. But they don't care about originality. They want a GOOD, entertaining story.

In three parts, the tale of the Nutcracker is related to his young audience--who had already freed him. The first part introduces readers to Marie and her family. It is Christmas, of course, and she's taken a special interest in a Nutcracker. Her brother took an interest as well which led to the Nutcracker getting broken. Marie takes on the role of nurse, and this role continues even after the rest of the family has gone to bed. She remains behind in the living room (or equivalent) and reality becomes a bit blurred in what follows. It involves the Nutcracker and the rest of the toys coming to life and doing battle with mice led by a Mouse King. What readers learn is that somehow, someway, Marie gets injured--her hand, I believe--by broken glass. Marie remains in bed recuperating for the second and third parts of the story. Her godfather visits her and tells her the story of "The Nut Krakatuk and the Princess Pirlipate." This is a dark fairy tale of a king, queen, and princess cursed by mice seeking revenge, and, of what was done to try to break the curse. The third part of the story focuses once more on Marie, the Nutcracker, and the Mouse King. Several threats are made against the Nutcracker to Marie by the Mouse King, and several times she tries to appease him. For example, she gives in to his demand for all her candy, for all her dolls, etc. But it is inevitable: The Mouse King must do battle once and for all with the Nutcracker, and Marie, I believe, does find a sword for The Nutcracker. After the battle, the Nutcracker takes Marie away with him to a fantasy land where just about anything is possible....

I liked it. I did. But I'm not sure I loved, loved, loved it.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Counting Dogs

Board Book: Counting Dogs (StoryBox Book). Eric Barclay. 2015. Scholastic. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: One squirrel. Two kangaroos. Three turtles.

Premise/plot: It is a counting book. Various animals are counted.

My thoughts: But is it one dog counting? Or all ten?! It looks like just one dog gets to go on a counting adventure! Or perhaps they take turns being the one dog that gets to count? Regardless the dog in question I would say is definitely curious. But not always depicted as happy and carefree. Sometimes the expression on his face looks doubtful, worried, unsure, alarmed, or even unhappy. (For example, when he's balancing on one leg like a flamingo over the water. He doesn't look happy. And is it a coincidence that the next page has him IN the water counting fish?)

Overall, I was disappointed with this one. Why? Well. The cover looks fun, joyful, inviting. And the story itself, well, it doesn't match that spirit. The front cover, the back cover, the first page, the last page--there is something appealing and joyous about the illustrations. It looks promising. Like it would be a really fun, can't-miss book.

Also: This one says 3 and up.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Are You My Mommy?

Board Book: Are You My Mommy? Mary Murphy. 2015. Candlewick. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Are you my mommy? No, I'm a sheep. And...here's my lamb.

Premise/plot: A puppy is looking for his/her Mommy. The puppy is asking EVERYONE "Are you my Mommy?" Will the puppy find his/her Mommy? How many different animals will readers meet?

My thoughts: Are You My Mommy? is a flap book. I do like lift-the-flap books. Some better than others, of course. This is one of the better ones, in my opinion. One of the reasons why I do enjoy it is I really like the illustrations. The puppy is just adorable.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

24 Hour Readathon Update Post

I'll be updating this one post throughout the day--I'm not sure how often.

Which hour was most daunting for you? The hour always roughest for me is between 6 and 7pm. That is when I have to fight sleep the most. I usually never try to read during that time.
Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? I would say The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier.
Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Everything was great.
What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I love the hosts and co-hosts.
How many books did you read? 7 if you count picture books. Otherwise 4 books.
What were the names of the books you read? All Things Murder. The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root. MARTians. The Story of God's Love For You. How To Read A Story. I Can Read With My Eyes Shut. Oh Say Can You Say.
Which book did you enjoy most? That's hard. I enjoyed all of them. But The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root was magical.
Which did you enjoy least? Oh Say Can You Say.
If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I'd like to be a reader again.

Update five: hour seventeen-ish.
  • I did not make it 24 hours. I never planned to try.  
  • I did read more in the Bible. (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy)
  • I also read one Spurgeon sermon.
Update four: hours thirteen through sixteen, roughly:
  • I finished All Things Murder.
  • I also read The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root by Christopher Pennell. I must say it was DELIGHTFUL. 
  • I haven't walked that much more--I'm tired--but I am up to 8,103. 
  • I probably won't start any more books. But I probably will read some in my Bible, and, then read a Spurgeon sermon or two. 
Update three: hours nine through twelve, roughly:

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now? My current book is All Things Murder by Jeanne Quigley
2. How many books have you read so far? Well, I've read three picture books, one Bible story book, and one book-book, MARTians by Blythe Woolston.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? Finishing up All Things Murder. I might get to another book. I might not. We'll see. It's likely I'll start another book, but I'm not sure I'll finish it. I've got more Bible reading to do tonight. (I read some each morning, some each night.)
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? I'm my own worst interruption. I get distracted easily. Like with getting just-the-right kind of music on in the background. And before I know it, I've wasted a good thirty minutes sampling music and still haven't made up my mind!
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? I can't say anything really.
  • I've had supper: chicken-"noodle" soup with lots of veggies, gala apple. (Veggies include onion, celery, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, mushrooms. The "noodles" are gluten-free lentil-noodles. You cannot believe how thrilled I was to discover a gluten-free noodle that I actually really like. (It is not that easy. Believe me. After a few disappointments, I was ready to give up. Almost. Also gluten-free chicken stock. The chicken was a store-bought gluten-free chicken fajita package). For the record, I did not "choose" to be gluten-free. My body chose to rebel against what I wanted and all the hyphens are a result! 
  • I'm about to have another cup of ginger tea!!! 
  • I've read most of All Things Murder
  • I've gotten super-distracted, but I only have myself to blame
  • I've now walked 7,209 steps!
Update two: hours five through eight, roughly:
  • I've had lunch: pork chop, sauteed spinach and mushrooms (olive oil), english peas (organic), half of a fresh peach, some grapes.
  • I've had my afternoon tea--ginger tea. (Triple Leaf Tea, 100% ginger root; in case you're curious about the benefits.)
  • I've showered.
  • I've finished another picture book, one that I think is practically perfect in every way, KATE MESSNER'S HOW TO READ A STORY. I've reviewed it too.
  • I've finished Blythe Woolston's MARTians.  
  • I've written up my week in review post which I do every Saturday.
  • I've now walked 4,715 steps. 
Update one: hours one through four, roughly.
  • I've read some from the Bible. Some psalms, some from Joshua, some from John. I won't add these to my totals unless I finish a whole book of the Bible, in which case I might. Maybe. 
  • I've read The Story of God's Love for You by Sally Lloyd-Jones. 
  • I've read two Seuss picture books, one for this week's Seuss on Saturday, and one for next week's Seuss on Saturday. (This is a project I started in January--to read Dr. Seuss's books chronologically.) I've read I Can Read With My Eyes Shut and Oh Say Can You Say?
  • I've started Blythe Woolston's Martians. But I'll probably not finish it before lunch. I'm enjoying it so far. 
  • I've listened to my Readathon playlist. The new Cinderella soundtrack, the Ever After soundtrack, and now I'm on the soundtrack to MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. (I love and adore that soundtrack so much.) 
  • I've walked 2,000 steps so far. Not good. But not absolutely horrible either considering.
  • I've had breakfast: gluten-free steel cut oats with coconut oil (instead of butter), honey, cinnamon, and flax seed. Natural (preservative-free) turkey lunch meat. AND one cup of ginger tea, also with honey.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Week in Review: October 11-17

How to Read A Story. Kate Messner. Illustrated by Mark Siegel. 2015. Chronicle. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Frankie Liked To Sing. John Seven. Illustrated by Jana Christy. 2015. Harry N. Abrams. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
I Can Read With My Eyes Shut. Dr. Seuss. 1978. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
Dory and the Real True Friend. Abby Hanlon. 2015. Penguin. 160 pages. [Source: Library]
Ship of Dolls. Shirley Parenteau. 2014. Candlewick. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Best Friend Battle. Lindsay Eyre. Illustrated by Charles Santoso. 2015. Scholastic. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Nightbird. Alice Hoffman. 2015. Random House. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Crossover. Kwame Alexander. 2014. HMH. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
Board Book: Peek-a-Boo Farm. Joyce Wan. 2015. Scholastic. 14 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Board Book: Are You My Mommy? Joyce Wan. 2014 [December] Scholastic. 18 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Story of God's Love for You. Sally Lloyd-Jones. 2015. Zondervan. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Waiting on the Word. Malcolm Guite. 2015. Canterbury Press. 178 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Christians Get Depressed Too. David Murray. 2010. Reformation Heritage. 112 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
Spurgeon's Sorrows. Zack Eswine. 2014. Christian Focus. 144 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

This week's recommendation(s): I definitely loved FRANKIE LIKED TO SING and How To Read A Story.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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How To Read A Story

How to Read A Story. Kate Messner. Illustrated by Mark Siegel. 2015. Chronicle. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Step 1: Find a story. A good one. It can have princesses and castles, if you like that sort of thing, or witches and trolls. (As long as they're not too scary.)

Premise/plot: The book shares TEN STEPS with young readers about how to read a story. (Step ten is to say "the end" when the book is over.) It is a cute, clever, practical book that delivers just what it promises.

My thoughts: Want a book that celebrates reading? Want a book that celebrates a child learning how to read for himself/herself? It doesn't really get any cuter than Kate Messner's How To Read A Story. It advocates reading with a buddy. It advocates reading JOYFULLY and PASSIONATELY. For example, step six is "When the characters talk, whatever's being said...say it in a voice to match who's talking." Readers then are given a chance to practice. A lion saying: "I will save the kingdom." A mouse saying: "I am the most POWERFUL in all the land." A knight saying "I'm hungry for lunch."

I think this one will definitely prove appealing to teachers and librarians and parents.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Seuss on Saturday #42

I Can Read With My Eyes Shut. Dr. Seuss. 1978. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I can read in red. I can read in blue. I can read in pickle color too. 

Premise/plot: The Cat in the Hat is back in Dr. Seuss' I Can Read With My Eyes Shut. In this one, he's showing off--classic Cat style--about how great a reader he is.

My thoughts: I enjoy this one very much. I do agree that "you have to be a speedy reader 'cause there's so, so much to read." With such fun and silly phrases as: "You can read about anchors. And all about ants. You can read about ankles! And crocodile pants!" this one is just a delight.

 Have you read I Can Read With My Eyes Shut? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Oh Say Can You Say?  

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon, Introduction Post

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

 Texas
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Do I have to choose?! I'm keeping my goals reasonable, but, my stack unreasonable. Probably. I guess I'd go with Blythe Woolston's MARTians since I've heard the author was inspired by Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
None. For better or worse. I don't "snack" much since I'm on a gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, caffeine-free diet. But what I look forward to the most--on most days anyway, is eating a fresh peach. Since giving up most sugar-y, processed foods, I've discovered fresh fruit is amazingly awesome and an absolute must. Oh. Also GINGER TEA. (I have tea twice a day. The Readathon will be no exception!!!)
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I try my best these days to balance reading--a sitting down activity, for sure--and walking. It isn't always easy. I haven't found a way to be active and read at the same time.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
This isn't my first read-a-thon, but, I haven't participated in years--at least not officially. I'm not sure how much reading I'll actually get done. But I hope to read at least three books--maybe even four.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Dory and the Real True Friend (2015)

Dory and the Real True Friend. Abby Hanlon. 2015. Penguin. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My name is Dory, but everyone calls me Rascal.

Did I enjoy Dory and the Real True Friend by Abby Hanlon? Yes, definitely. Did I enjoy it more than the first book in the series? I'm not sure. Not that a second book has to be more enjoyable than the first book. Not so long as it is at least as enjoyable as the first book.

So essentially, the premise of this one is: CAN DORY MAKE A REAL BEST FRIEND? That is the challenge given to her by her older siblings. They are confident the answer is no. That their sister is just WEIRD and DIFFERENT. Who would WANT to spend time with her...as she is?! Can she do it?! Read and see for yourself!

First, I do love Dory. I still love Dory. She's pretty much the same Dory we got to know oh-so-well in the first book. That being said, if readers haven't read the first book, I don't think they'd have any problem at all just picking up the second book. It won't take long for Dory to make an impression on readers.

Second, I do love her family for the most part. Do they always "get" Dory? No, not really. Dory surprises them in this one, I must say! They "thought" they knew her so well, that they could tell the difference between reality and Dory's fantastic imagination.

Third, I really appreciate that so much of this one was set at school. Part of me wishes it had been clear what grade--if any--Dory was in. We do know that this is her second year. That could mean two years of preschool, or, one year of preschool and kindergarten, or even kindergarten and first grade. (Though Dory doesn't seem like a first grader to me.) It doesn't really matter. Dory is DORY even at school. Whether Dory is purposely bringing her imaginary best friends with her to school or not. She can't turn her imagination off. Everyone KNOWS that Dory will never make a "true" "real" friend if she keeps hanging out with her imaginary ones, right?!

Fourth, I do love the illustrations. They really add to the overall Dory experience. And these two books are to be experienced make no mistake.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Ship of Dolls (2014)

Ship of Dolls. Shirley Parenteau. 2014. Candlewick. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Did I enjoy reading Shirley Parenteau's Ship of Dolls? Yes! I adore historical fiction, and this one was a satisfying read.

Lexie Lewis is living with her grandparents (paternal grandparents) in Portland, Oregon. She wishes she was still living with her mother, but, her mother has remarried; that in addition to their big dreams of show business makes it inconvenient to have Lexie with them. The novel is set circa 1926 and 1927.

Lexie's school is participating in the Friendship Doll Exchange with Japan. Lexie is very involved in this. She longs to be able to touch the doll, hold the doll. But, of course, this isn't allowed. The teacher can't let her students play with the doll that is to be sent to Japan later that year. When Lexie breaks a rule, she is "punished" by her teacher. (Does the teacher really view this as punishment, or is she sympathetic to young Lexie?) Her punishment is that she has to sew an outfit for the doll to pack in her trunk. True Lexie can't sew and she's never made a pattern before, but, Lexie will get to be more involved with the doll than her classmates. For anyone who sews knows that you have to take measurements and try on the garment(s) throughout the process.

In addition to being about the doll exchange, the novel is very much a coming-of-age story focused on family, friendship, longing and belonging.

Lexie learns early on in the novel that whoever writes the best letter (for the assignment) gets to travel with the doll to San Francisco. She MUST win. Not because she's obsessed with the doll. But because her mother now lives there and if she wins she could spend some time with her...

I enjoyed spending time with Lexie. But I also enjoyed spending time with her grandparents. I really did. This one was definitely a character-driven novel. It is relatively slow-paced.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Best Friend Battle (2015)

Best Friend Battle. Lindsay Eyre. Illustrated by Charles Santoso. 2015. Scholastic. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

It was a quick read. Was it a good quick read? For the most part, yes. Though I admit I'm not the target audience for this one. Sylvie, the heroine, is having a hard time sharing her best friend, Miranda, with others. With a few boys, to be exact. And one of the boys she just can't stand. His name is Georgie. And she thinks he's awful. But her friend, Miranda, well, she's friendly with him. She even cheers him on at baseball when he's on the opposing team to Sylvie. How could she, thinks Sylvie!!! Or, perhaps, how DARE she?!?!

When the novel opens, Miranda's birthday is fast approaching, and Sylvie is quite DESPERATE. How can she prove that she is all the best friend Miranda needs, and, that there is no room for Georgie too?! Well, Sylvie's methods are a bit extreme. And the book does get a bit dramatic, more over-the-top comedy than serious drama. And some of this drama is due to Sylvie's twin brothers getting involved in the friendship war...

This one is enjoyable. I liked it.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Nightbird (2015)

Nightbird. Alice Hoffman. 2015. Random House. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

What one word best describes Alice Hoffman's Nightbird? I'd go with atmospheric. Did I enjoy it? Yes, for the most part. It's not a perfect fit for me, I'm not the ideal reader--the ideal match--for this type of book. But I enjoyed it and can easily recommend it to others knowing that they probably will enjoy it even more than I did.

The heroine of Nightbird is a young girl named Twig. (I have to say that I quickly came to love Twig.) Twig's life is a lonely one. For her family has a super-big secret that would endanger them all if it became known. Her mom trusts her to do what is best for the whole family. She can't invite friends over to her house, and, knowing that, she doesn't feel exactly comfortable going over to other people's houses. She knows that any "friendship" she begins would only lead to frustration and disappointment and misunderstandings. But when a new family moves in next door, a new family that isn't exactly "new" to the town, a family with historical roots in the community, Twig takes a chance and makes her first friend. Her mother may not exactly approve, so some discretion is needed, but Twig's life will never be the same...

The less you know about this one, the better, in my opinion.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Frankie Liked To Sing

Frankie Liked To Sing. John Seven. Illustrated by Jana Christy. 2015. Harry N. Abrams. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Frankie didn't act like other kids. Frankie was always singing. Frankie didn't look like the other kids in Hoboken, New Jersey, either. He was scrawny and his mom liked to dress him up fancy. She wanted Frankie to stand out from the crowd.

I loved, loved, loved this picture book biography of Frank Sinatra by John Seven. I did. I love, love, love the music of Frank Sinatra. I've loved it for years and years. Yet I've never thought to read more about him, and, never imagined that there would ever be a picture book biography written about him. I am so glad Seven chose to write about Sinatra!!! The narrative is very friendly and casual. It includes an author's note, bibliography, and a playlist for young listeners.

I may have gotten a little giddy when I saw the reference to High Society. Though the movie isn't mentioned by name, it is clearly referenced in the illustrations. High Society is one of my most favorite, favorite, favorite movies. Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra together on screen. AND LOUIS ARMSTRONG TOO. How can it get better than High Society?!?!

Last sentence: Frankie's still singing. Can you hear him?

One of the last images you see is the illustrated Frank telling you, "May you live to be one hundred, and may the last voice you hear be mine."

The illustrations are by Jana Christy. They were very well done. I especially liked the cover.

There was just something oh-so-right about this one.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Library Loot: Second Week in October

New Loot:
  • Dashing Through the Snow by Debbie Macomber
  • Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews
Leftover Loot:
  • Bomb by Steve Sheinkin
  • Where Trust Lies by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan
  • 81 Days Below Zero by Brian Murphy
  • The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss
  • I Can Read With My Eyes Shut by Dr. Seuss
  • Oh Say Can You Say by Dr. Seuss
  • The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
  • Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
  • The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers
  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  • The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  •  The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr
  • The Year of Fear by Joe Urschel
  • Click, Clack, Ho Ho Ho! by Doreen Cronin
         Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Crossover (2014)

The Crossover. Kwame Alexander. 2014. HMH. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

First, I owe this book an apology. I've been purposefully avoiding it, despite it winning a Newbery, simply because it was about basketball. You see, I don't necessarily "like" reading sports books. I wasn't trusting enough, perhaps, that a book could be about basketball and so much more than basketball at the same time.

The Crossover is an award-winning verse novel starring Josh Bell (aka, Filthy McNasty) and his family. Josh and his brother Jordan (aka, JB) both play basketball. Their father, at one time, played professional basketball. But an injury ended all that, and now his focus, his full-time focus, is on his boys, his family. Their mother's almost full-time focus is on the health of her husband who absolutely refuses to go to the doctor. Though, of course, she loves watching her sons play basketball too.

The novel has its ups and downs...especially for Josh. Things are changing, always changing, and he doesn't like it. His brother is distancing himself from the family, from him, and even from the game itself at times, because he's head over heels in love with 'the new girl.' The more besotted his brother becomes, the more disgruntled Josh becomes. And Josh's choices, well, they aren't perfectly good and right. (Whose are?) Still, the two brothers will be tested as never before when their mother's fears prove correct...

I wasn't expecting such an emotional journey. But that's exactly what I got. This one has depth and substance to it. The characterization was very well done. And the narrative verse worked really well.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Are You My Mommy?

Board Book: Are You My Mommy? Joyce Wan. 2014 [December] Scholastic. 18 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Mommy! Mommy! Where is my mommy? Are you my mommy? No, I'm a chicken and my baby is a...chick!

Premise/plot: A baby bunny goes in search of his (or her) mommy. The search takes place on the farm, of course, and the bunny will encounter several different animals before finally finding MOMMY.

My thoughts: I like this one. I don't love, love, love it. But I like it. There is just something charming about Wan's illustrations. I like the die-cuts on the pages which provide some clues for little ones.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Peek-a-Boo Farm

Board Book: Peek-a-Boo Farm. Joyce Wan. 2015. Scholastic. 14 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: With a curly tail, I am pink and short. I play in the mud and go, "Oink, oink, snort." Guess who? Peek-a-boo! Pig

Premise/plot: Peek-a-Boo Farm is a board book for parents and caregivers to share with little ones. It is a companion book to Peek-a-Boo Zoo which I reviewed earlier in the year. Each spread reveals a riddle for little ones to solve. Can they guess--based on the rhyming clues--which animal is playing peek-a-boo? Flaps reveal the answer.

My thoughts: My favorite Joyce Wan title remains You Are My Cupcake. That title is probably my most favorite board book ever.  But Peek-a-Boo Farm is probably my second favorite title. I do enjoy her unique style of illustration. And the riddles are fun. Another title you might enjoy sharing with the little ones in your life: Pig-a-Boo! A Farmyard Peekaboo Book.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Week in Review: October 4-10

Orbiting Jupiter. Gary D. Schmidt. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Handful of Stars. Cynthia Lord. 2015. Scholastic. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

My Near-Death Adventures. Alison DeCamp. 2015. Random House. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Circus Mirandus. Cassie Beasley. 2015.  Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Somewhere There Is Still A Sun. Michael Gruenbaum and Todd Hasak-Lowy. 2015. 384 pages. [Source: Library]
Wouldn't It Be Deadly. D.E. Ireland. 2014. Minotaur. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
Lana's World: Let's Have A Parade. Erica Silverman. Illustrated by Jess Golden. 2015. HMH. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Lana's World: Let's Go Fishing. Erica Silverman. Illustrated by Jess Golden. 2015. HMH. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Would You Rather Be A Bullfrog? Theo LeSieg (Dr. Seuss). Illustrated by Roy McKie. 1975. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]
Please Try to Remember the First of Octember. Theo LeSieg (Dr. Seuss). Illustrated by Art Cumings. 1977. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
The Imposter. Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2015. Revell. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Searching for Sunday. Rachel Held Evans. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This week's recommendation(s): So many!!! Orbiting Jupiter, Handful of Stars, Circus Mirandus, just to name a few. But I really have to say that Lana's World is a great new early-reader series that I adored!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Seuss on Saturday #41

Would You Rather Be A Bullfrog? Theo LeSieg (Dr. Seuss). Illustrated by Roy McKie. 1975. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Tell me! Would you rather be a Dog...or be a Cat? It's time for you to think about important things like that. 

Premise/plot: The narrator asks readers a long series of questions. All questions are silly--or at the very least playful--but some are sillier than others. Some questions are about which animal you'd rather be. Others are about inanimate objects like...would you rather be a ball or a bat OR would you rather be a door or window.

My thoughts: First time reading this one. Honestly I'm not sure I have a decided opinion on it. I certainly liked it better than I thought I would. But I had low expectations in mind. I wasn't expecting it to be a great find, something I'd been "missing" in my life. It was fun in its way. And I think I liked it well enough. Perhaps it will help me remember the difference between rather and whether.

Have you read Would You Rather Be A Bullfrog? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

Please Try to Remember the First of Octember. Theo LeSieg (Dr. Seuss). Illustrated by Art Cumings. 1977. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Everyone wants a big green kangaroo. Maybe, perhaps, you would like to have TWO. I want you to have them. I'll buy them for you... if you'll wait till the first of Octember.

Premise/plot: All your dreams and wishes will come true...on the first of Octember. "You'll get all that you want. You just write out your list. Everyone has an Octember First list. Write slowly now! Don't break your wrist.

My thoughts: Dare I admit I want to write an Octember First list?!?! I had low expectations for this one. I didn't think it would be much of a book. But I really ended up liking it. If you haven't read it yet, you should!

 Have you read Please Try to Remember The First of Octember!? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is I Can Read With My Eyes Shut.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Lana's World. Let's Have A Parade!

Lana's World: Let's Have A Parade. Erica Silverman. Illustrated by Jess Golden. 2015. HMH. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Pitter pitter pat, sang the rain. Mama was making pancakes. "Let's have a parade," said Lana. "It's raining," said Mama. Papa set the table. "Let's have a parade," said Lana. "We'll all get wet," said Papa. Jay poured syrup. So did Ray. "Let's have a parade," said Lana.

Premise/plot: Lana, the heroine, really, really wants to have a parade. Her family have excuses, admittedly good excuses, for not wanting to have a parade. When she can't get anyone to join her, she creates her own parade. In the house, of course. Will her family want to join in on the fun once they see how much fun she's having?!

My thoughts: I've read two books in this series so far, and I've enjoyed both of them very much. The books are quite similar to one another, both focus in on playing pretend, so if you love one, you may very well love both. I hope there are MORE books to come in this series!!! The other title I've read is Let's Go Fishing.

This book is a Level Two Green Light Reader published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (Level 2 is reading with help.)

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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