What Evan Is Reading This Week [9.19.14]

Holy crap, this book is long.

60+ pages of “would you eat them…”

I may or may not have hidden this book on a few occasions.

Evan may or may not have responded to this by ALWAYS KEEPING IT IN HIS CRIB.

But the smile he gets with the Seuss Dude (who has neither a name nor a species assigned to him) tries the green eggs and ham and finds out he likes them is worth the 50 previous pages of refusals.

If only this would translate to Evan actually trying new foods.

What Evan is Reading This Week [9.6.14]

I meant to post this yesterday, but since he still asked for this book last night, I haven’t missed my chance.

This week is all about Moo Moo, Brown Cow by Jakki Wood and illustrated by Rog Bonner.

Moo Moo, Brown Cow is essentially a counting book. Kitten goes around asking various animals if they have any children (“Moo moo, Brown Cow, have you any calfs?”) and they respond, conveniently, with an increasing number of them. At the end (SPOILER), the animals as Kitten if she has any kittens and she responds, “no kittens, no kittens, but many, many friends” as she is surrounded by all of the animals and their children. It teaches counting, animal sounds, and animal names (particularly names for baby animals)

I like this book because of its rythym, which is why the last animals response, which doesn’t fit the responses of all of the other animals kills me. Evan asks for Moo Moo, Brown Cow at least once a day, so I guess it doesn’t bother him. I do love that he says, “oh there is a little fry” when I ask about the small fry though.

What Evan Is Reading This Week

To round out an ENTIRE WEEK OF DAILY POSTS, I am going to try a new just-for-fun Friday series, sharing Evan’s favorite book of the moment.

This week’s obsession is:

The other night, I read this to E four times in a row after Ben read it six times in a row.

It’s a silly little Doctor Seuss book about opposites and the different kinds of “feet you meet.” My favorite part about reading this one is that Evan seriously believes I just skip the word “foot” in the first page.

This page always goes like this:

Me: Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right. Evan: Foot.

Every. Single. Time. Apparently he thinks I’m pulling one of my pause-and-see-if-Evan-will-supply-the-word tricks. He can’t be convinced otherwise.

What book are your kids demanding this week? Or what book do you have fond (or not so fond) memories of reading with your kids or parents?

Radiance [Book Review]

Title: Radiance
Author: Alyson Noel
Genre: Middle Grade, Supernatural
ISBN: 0312629176
Length: 192 pages
Year: 2010
Publisher: Square Fish
Source: Review copy provided by Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Plot Summary:

Ever, her parents, and her dog, Buttercup, were recently killed in a car accident.  Ever, who was hesitant to crossover to the Here and Now is living her life much like she did on the Earth plane with the additional ability of being able to manifest whatever she likes (imagine how awesome that power would be). But on her first day of school, she is in for a bit of a shock. She is to be trained as a Soul Catcher, assigned to a trainer, Bodhi, who is beyond dorky (her words, I swear), and given the impossible task of coaching Radiant Boy – a soul who has been haunting an English castle for centuries – to cross over.

My Thoughts:

When I first picked up Radiance, I did not realize that it was a companion to another series.  Radiance is the first book in a new series featuring Riley, the little sister of Ever in the Immortals series.  However, I was able to enjoy Radiance without first reading the Immortals books.

Noel had me from the beginning by opening the novel with a quote from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I liked Riley. I thought Noel did a great job giving her a very age-appropriate voice without making her too annoying. I’m pretty sure most 12-year-old girls would like Riley.

The story was a little predictable, but that is not necessarily a bad thing in middle grade lit. While I knew there was going to be more to Bodhi than Riley first sees, I still enjoyed finding out what that was.  And the book certainly contains surprises.  Riley is still discovering her world and her role as a Soul Catcher and the reader is right there with her.

While this is a book about a girl who has died, it is not too dark. At the same time, it isn’t too light.  Riley still has the worries and prejudices of a 12-year-old girl but with some added regrets about what she missed out on in her old life.  Even if she doesn’t age, Riley grows up in Radiance and I expect she’ll grow up a lot more in the rest of the series.

I will read the Immortals series when I get a chance and I will continue reading this series.  It’s a nice take on the supernatural trend (there are no vampires, I promise).  It kind of reminds me of the television show Dead Like Me (streams instantly on Netflix if you’re interested) but is still unique.

Other Reviews:

Buy It Now: Amazon; IndieBound; Powell’s; Book Depository

The Everlasting Now [Book Review and Giveaway!]

Title: The Everlasting Now
Author: Sara Harrell Banks
Genre: Middle Grade
ISBN: 1561455253
Pages: 157
Year: 2010
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
Source: Review Copy provided by the publisher
Rating: 4/5

My Thoughts:

First of all, I love the title of this book. And a good title will at least get me to pick up a book and see what it’s about.   Luckily, this book lived up to it’s title.

Quick summary: It’s the middle of the Great Depression and James Longstreet Sayre, or “Brother” (this book is full of great names), lives with his mom and little sister in their boarding house in small-town Alabama. He loves trains, hates the sheriff, and like all 12-year-old boys, adores Joe Louis. The book takes place during the eventful summer the cook’s nephew, Champion (as in Champion Always Luckey – I told you there were awesome names), comes to Alabama from Detroit and, as Brother puts it, changes his life.

I read a fair amount of middle grade novels, but almost all of them are written for girls, so it was an interesting change to read The Everlasting Now. This book is a wonderful description of 1930s life in the South. It has hobos, boxing, and racial tension. It touches on the difficulties of living during the Depression, the effects of segregation, and the power of friendship and hope.

I find myself being drawn to Southern fiction lately and with each book I read, I continue to discover how enjoyable it usually is.


Peachtree Publishers has graciously provided me with a copy to giveaway. To enter, fill out the form below by midnight EST on July 15. I will pick a winner from random.org. The contest is open internationally.

Check out the other Peachtree Publishers books on tour!

BCS: The Summer Before [Book Review]

Title: The Summer Before (The Babysitters Club)
Author: Ann M. Martin
Genre: Middle Grade
ISBN: 0545160936
Pages: 224
Year: 2010
Publisher: Scholastic
Source: Library
Rating: 5/5 (for what it was – obviously not the “best” book I’ve ever read)

When I first heard that a Babysitters Club prequel was being published, I didn’t think I’d have any interest in it. A reunion maybe, but why a prequel? We already know the characters’ back stories. How could an entire book about them be interesting?

Oh, how wrong I was.

First, some background. I LOVED the Babysitters Club books when I was a kid. I had more than one entire shelf on my bookcase dedicated to the series – more than any other series would ever get on that shelf (sadly, I think a lot of those books were “lost” during the eventful summer of 2008 but I will have to take a look at what my brother salvaged for me). When I had to do a report on what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said I wanted to be an author and did my report on Ann M. Martin. I was hooked.

By 6th or 7th grade, however, I had abandoned the books for the more grown-up writings of RL Stine and Christopher Pike. I don’t think I really looked back.

But, to borrow words from Kelly, I missed these characters without even realizing it.

After only a few pages of The Summer Before, I was completely sucked in. I didn’t have high expectations for the book other than reliving some fond childhood memories. But what I got was a well-written, funny, warm-hearted story that made me so nostalgic for these books that I wished I bought the first three reissues when I saw them last week.

A quick plot summary:

  • The girls have just finished 6th grade and have their entire summers before them.
  • Kristy is dealing with her mom’s new boyfriend and the hurt from her dad abandoning her.
  • Mary Anne gets her first chance to babysit but still has to convince her dad she isn’t a baby.
  • Claudia experiences her first boyfriend and a distance as she matures faster than her friends.
  • Stacey, friendless in New York City, anxiously awaits her move to Stoneybrook where she can start over.

If you loved these books when you were a kid, I promise that you will also love this prequel.

Buy It Now: Amazon; Book Depository (32% off); Powell’s; IndieBound

When You Reach Me [Book Review]

Title: When You Reach Me
Author: Rebecca Stead
Genre: Middle Grade/Science Fiction(ish)
ISBN: 0385737424
Pages: 197
Year: 2009
Publisher: Random House (Wendy Lamb Books)
Source: Public Library
Rating: 4.5/5

Plot summary:

Four mysterious letters change Miranda’s world forever.By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:

I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.

I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.

The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.

My thoughts:

I’ve wanted to read this book ever since Emily reviewed it back in August. And then it won the Newbury Medal. And then everyone in Pinellas County wanted to read it so I had to wait a very long time to get it from the library. But it was worth the wait.

When You Reach Me is the kind of book I wish existed when I was a young girl. Just like the main character, Miranda, I loved A Wrinkle in Time. I did not carry it around everywhere like she does, but I still possess my well-worn copy.

When You Reach Me has wonderfully quirky characters. Miranda’s mom is training for the $20,000 Pyramid, her best friend’s dad is full of never-ending snacks wrapped in bows, and the sandwich shop owner trades cheese sandwiches for an hour’s work each day.  These characters weave their way through a creative and intriguing plot. I really don’t want to say to much more because you should discover this book on your own.

This unique coming of age novel blends time travel, friendship, and just good storytelling. How can you not love that in middle grade fiction?

Other Reviews:

Buy It Now: Amazon; The Book Depository (43% off right now!); ; Powell’s; IndieBound

Alice in Wonderland [Book v. Movie]

This is not the version I have. Mine is from 1960 and therefore impossible to find an image of.

I thought I would start a new category of “reviews” for when I discuss both the book and its movie. Here is the inaugural post.

As I’ve previously mentioned, my book club read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass this month in anticipation for the new movie. On Sunday, we all met at the movie theater, watched the movie (the 3D-Imax version), and then headed over to Panera to discuss.

I have never read Alice in Wonderland before. Which surprises me a little considering how much I read when I was a kid. And I wish I had read this when I was younger because I think 9-year-old Michelle would have really enjoyed it. But 27-year-old Michelle is glad she finally did read it.

Alice and Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are nonsense books that contain quirky characters, witty wordplay, and, although it may not seem so at first glance, an underlying theme about growing up. I actually enjoyed Through the Looking Glass more – even though I was the only one in my book club who felt that way. It’s hard to describe these books and they are better experienced than reviewed.

On to the movie. Tim Burton’s adaptation of Alice in Wonderland was in fact wonderful. The movie takes place years after the events in the books when Alice is a young adult on the verge of being married. Once again she follows a rabbit through the rabbit hole and is thrust into the role of savior of Underland (what she called Wonderland as a child). The film is visually stunning and the characters are marvelously imagined. There is some artistic license given – the red queen from TTLG and the queen of hearts from AIW are combined into one and the mad hatter (how can you not love Johnny Depp?) is given a prominent role despite his relatively brief scene in the book. Oh, and the costumes are fantastic.

I’ve heard some negative opinions of the film and I don’t entirely know why. It isn’t like the books, so maybe that’s what people were expecting, but I was thoroughly entertained. It reminded me a lot of Hook (one of my favorite movies). Both feature the grown-up version of the main character from the book who must return to the fairytale land of their childhood. Neither remember their earlier adventures and both must take on a role they don’t think they want yet clearly destined for.

I definitely recommend the movie.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoners Dilemma
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma

This book came out at the beginning of the month, but instead of reading it right away like I wanted to, I saved it for the read-a-thon.  I read the entire book on Saturday.  I found it to be a good pick for the read-a-thon because it was entertaining, but would have preferred it to be a little shorter.  Of course, I don’t actually want it to be shorter for regular purposes because the more MBS I get, the happier I am.

This is the third book in the series.   It is a series about four extraordinary kids and the adventures they have.  They aren’t magical, they aren’t destined to save the world, and there are no vampires.  No, this series is really about normal kids who happen to be very talented in their own ways (“ordinary kids living extraordinary lives” – anyone?) and strive to develop and protect their relationships most of all.

I enjoyed this book more than the second one, but not as much as the first.  The Society is once again called on to save the day and prevent Mr. Curtain’s diabolical scheme.  In the beginning, the foursome is trapped and bored inside Mr. Benedict’s home.  Then there is a mass blackout and everything changes.  The kids are sent on a chase around Stonetown and must once again escape their greatest enemy.

Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance are a little older, but they’re still kids.  There is no boy-girl nonsense yet.  But they do care deeply for each other, their guardians, and Mr. Benedict.  Constance develops a lot in this book, as she should.  The others change in more subtle ways – Reynie sharing responsibility, Kate learning to think before doing, Sticky becoming more confident.

As far as kids lit goes, this is a wonderful series and I highly recommend it.

By the way, “ordinary kids living extraordinary lives” was the tagline to Beverly Hills, 90210.

Discovering Besty-Tacy

I was a huge reader growing up.  I read anything I could get my hands on.  But apparently no one ever put the Betsy-Tacy books in my hands.  In fact, I’d never even heard of this series until recently.  I’m committed to give the series a fair shot and read to at least Heaven to Besty.  I thought it might be interesting to chronicle this journey.  I promised I wouldn’t judge yet, so that is not what this is.  It’s just my thoughts as I read each book.

Betsy-Tacy (Betsy and Tacy Books)

I finished Betsy-Tacy on Saturday during a rainy morning (in reality, I read all but the first 20 pages that morning).  The first book introduces Betsy and Tacy as 5-year-olds.  And the book feels like it’s meant for an audience not much older.  I read a lot of young adult/kid’s lit, but even I felt a tiny bit of embarassment picking up my pink and teal copy from the library (and subsequently running into one of my former campaign volunteers).  It was a nice story.  It follows Betsy and Tacy through minor scenes (like making up stories of going to Milwaukee) and more major-life events (like experiences with birth and death and their first day of school).  I’m sure I would have loved it as a kid, so I’m trying read as 8-year-old Michelle instead of 26-year-old Michelle.

I requested the second and third books from the library and I’m looking forward to reading them (although I am keeping my fingers crossed that they get better as many people have told me).

[Originally posted at michellen.vox.com.  For the original post and comments, click here.]