Posts tagged family

Nobody's Secret

“I’m nobody! Who are you?”

Nobody’s Secret: A Novel of Intrigue and Romance by Michaela MacColl

Nobody's SecretInspired by the poem, I’m nobody! Who are you?, written by Emily Dickinson, Michaela MacColl brings to life a fictional mystery about Mr. Nobody. We are introduced to a spunky, intelligent, and very observant Emily Dickinson as she seeks to experience life, or in this case a bee landing on her nose, when she meets the mysteriously intriguing Mr. Nobody. Soon thereafter, he’s found floating in the Dickinson’s pond.

From her few conversations with Mr. Nobody and the clues she finds upon his death, Emily knows that he did not drown, accidental or otherwise. Everyone including the doctor and the reverend are convinced he did. Emily takes it upon herself to find out who Mr. Nobody was and why and how he died. Like any great detective, she sees what others do not and has the fortitude to find the truth no matter what.

Emily Dickinson is one of the greatest poets of the 19th Century and with this novel, MacColl gives a peek into the mind and life of a young fifteen-year-old Emily. Her younger sister, Lavinia “Vinnie”, plays a part in solving the mystery with her sister. Both as partner and keeper to make sure Emily doesn’t overexert herself (or get into any trouble!). Often Vinnie is left to do the household chores on her own, whilst Emily escapes to write or investigate. The Dickinson household is an economical one. Why purchase items, material or food, if you can make it yourself. This is what Mrs. Dickinson instills in her daughters so they can one day manage their own household. However, Emily longs to write and live her life free from chores. She hides a notebook in her corset to put to paper her random thoughts, which will later turn into poems. (more…)

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

A Beautiful, Lyrical, Magical Story

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye WaltonThis is, without question, one of the best and most beautifully written books I’ve read in several years. Ava Lavender is a normal girl in many respects but with one major difference: she was born with wings. In an effort to determine where she came from, she recounts her family history and in doing so spans continents and generations. Love is gained and then lost, moments turn from thrills to devastation, and families break apart and come together again. Through four generations of women Ava comes to her own story in a stunning coming-of-age novel that embraces humanity in all it’s beauty and fragility. Walton’s use of lyricism, historical detail, powerful and unique characters, and magical realism combines to create a hearbreaking and unforgettable narrative. And though it was published as a young adult novel, its emotional maturity and expressive narrative make it an appealing read for both teens and adults. (more…)

"The Dragon's Tooth" book cover

Action-packed Fantasy (with a bit of history and mythology, too)

The Dragon’s Tooth by N. D. Wilson

In the middle of America (Wisconsin, to be precise), twelve-year-old Cyrus Smith and his older siblings Antigone and Daniel are living their everyday hum-drum lives. Of course, their version of “hum drum” involves living parent-less, managing a run-down motel, and eating pancakes for just about every meal while pretending to the outside world that all is well. But when a strange tattooed man claiming to know their deceased father shows up, a strange turn of events (and one wild taxi ride) takes them to Ashtown and the steps of the Order of Brendan, the secret society of famous explorers throughout history. Thrown headfirst into a world of conspiracy, secrets, and adventure, they fight to prove themselves and stay alive in what is a sometimes crazy, sometimes scary, and always entertaining journey.

N. D. Wilson, author of the 100 Cupboards series, has created an adventurous and magical world that could almost exist in your own backyard. Think Harry Potter but in America and with real historical people as characters. (more…)

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

History Turns Into Itself in This Newbery Winner

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Jack Gantos has a whole summer planned full of baseball, history books, and war movies when suddenly, caught in the middle of his quarreling parents, he becomes “grounded for life,” ruining everything. Even though he lives in the dying town of Norvelt (originally founded by Eleanor Roosevelt to help poor families) and there’s not much to do, when his mom volunteers him to help an aging neighbor type up the town’s obituaries, he’s less than thrilled. Soon, though, Jack finds himself absorbed in the town’s history and the “original” Norvelters, as his spunky neighbor calls them, and he’ll do anything to get out of house arrest and over to help her in her task. Soon he’s involved not only with the obituaries but in a feud with an old man who ride’s a trike, play-acting the Grim Reaper, distributing Girl Scout cookies, digging a fake bomb shelter, and a near-constant nose bleed, not to mention a potential murder. Suddenly his summer is anything but dull!

Described as “melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional,” Dead End in Norvelt is a most-times funny and sometimes heart-breaking story of a boy coming of age in an old town past its prime full of wacky yet believable characters. Both darker and lighter themes blend with Gantos’ humor as Jack finds himself imbedded in nearly everything going on in town. The relationships between Jack’s parents and himself are enough to fill a book, but author Gantos has woven an entire town’s worth of personalities and interactions together seamlessly. (more…)

It's Milking Time

A Beautiful & Authentic Midwestern Picture Book

It’s Milking Time by Phyllis Alsdurf, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I should tell you something: I fell in love with It’s Milking Time before I opened it.

Based on author Phyllis Alsdurf’s own childhood on a Midwestern dairy farm, this book has a lyrical story, a description of the daily chores a daughter shares with her father each evening as they milk and take care of their cows. Each two-page spread is a beautiful illustration that supports Alsdurf’s simple, straightforward narrative, a step-by-step introduction to evening tasks on a small family dairy farm. The story goes beyond that, though, sharing not only chores but the loving relationship between a father and daughter as well as the relationship between humans and animals.

So you won’t think I’m overly infatuated with this book (and maybe I am), I’ll let you in on a secret: I showed this book to an authentic dairy farm girl, and she loved it too. My soon-to-be Mother in Law grew up on her father’s Wisconsin dairy farm, and she gave It’s Milking Time her official seal of approval and accuracy. (more…)

Starters

What If Your Mind & Body Were No Longer Your Own?

Starters by Lissa Price (book one in Starters series)

Review based on an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC)

In a dystopian world in which only the very old and very young have survived, sixteen-year-old Callie is trying to make it on the streets while taking care of her sick younger brother. After the Spore Wars tore the country apart–only the weakest members of society, old and young, received the limited vaccine and survived–there was a strong division between rich and poor. Starters (the young) have virtually no rights, while Enders (adults age sixty through their hundreds) control all. Callie is an unclaimed Starter, legally unable to take a job and with no surviving parents or grandparents as guardian, giving her and her brother little choice but to squat in abandoned buildings to avoid being rounded up and sent to a terrible institutions.

When Callie hears of a company willing to pay Starters under the table, she ends up at Prime Destinations where, with the technology of a neurochip, Elders can “rent” the bodies of Starters for recreation and be young again. Creepy? Yes. Easy money? So it seems. But when Callie’s neurochip malfunctions and she wakes up in the middle of a rental–in her own body but with the belongings and credentials of a wealthy Ender–she discovers that she has been rented for a malicious, illegal purpose, and the high-suspense race to the truth begins. (more…)

The Great Wide Sea

Surviving Stormy Seas & Family Alike

The Great Wide Sea by M. H. Herlong

When their mom is killed in a car accident, fifteen-year-old Ben Byron and his younger brothers Dylan and Gerry are devastated, struggling to put the pieces of their family back together even as their own father becomes distant. Unable to cope with the pain of memory, their father packs them off to Florida where he buys a 30-foot sailboat and insists that the family–broken as it is–sail around the Bahamas for one year. Ben is beyond angry at the loss of first his mother and now his familiar everyday life. Not only must he take care of Dylan and Gerry as his dad remains emotionally absent, but now he must follow the “captain’s” orders, maintaining the boat day in and day out in the middle of nowhere. Things are shaky at best between Ben and his father, and in these close quarters, tension and frustration flare. When the three brothers discover their father missing one morning in the middle of the ocean, they work together to try to find him until a storm carries them off course, shipwrecking them on a small, deserted island with little for food our resources. It becomes up to Ben and his brothers to survive the elements while piecing together their lives and relationships with one another, all the while hoping for a rescue.

The Great Wide Sea is a book of survival and force of will, but it is also a book of emotional frailty and relationships, focusing on a fractured family of boys and men, a husband who has lost his wife and children who have lost their mother and, for a time, any connection to their father. Herlong creates a compelling narrative on multiple levels in this coming-of-age story about resilience, love, and hope.

(more…)

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

It’s Hard to Go Wrong with a Magic Castle

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

Castle Glower is a strange, magical place: one day the kitchen may be just next to the throne room, and the next it may be down three flights of stairs and through a winding corridor. Only the castle knows where things will be next, and only Celie–Princess Cecelia, youngest daughter of King Glower–bothers to chart the castle’s fluid blueprint. Celie is a combination archaeologist and architect, mapping out the ever-changing pathways and room arrangements of Castle Glower. She’s determined to be the first one ever to complete an atlas, and hers is stacked high with color-coded markings, for she knows the castle better than anyone. (The castle does, after all, like Celie best.) Along with her brother Rolf (heir to the throne), her older sister Lilah, and their parents (the king and queen), Celie lives happily with her royal family in their country of Sleyne.

When the king and queen, along with Celie’s eldest brother Brandt, go missing on an excursion to the wizarding college, a mutinous royal council declares them dead and their 14-year-old son Rolf to be king under a regency. Lilah, Rolf, and Celie, though, are not convinced, and as clues pile up–the castle itself continues to organize and decorate rooms as though their parents are still alive–they realize that something serious is amiss. When a foreign prince makes his way on the royal council and tries to become heir to the throne, the three Glower children must fight for the home–and country–that they love. Luckily they’ve got a magic castle on their side. (more…)

The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan

Oh my Zeus! Is that a Greek god in that book?!

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Really? you must be asking yourselves. Rick Riordan? Hasn’t the whole world pretty much reviewed his books, like, years ago?

Well, yeah.

But hey, I loved the books! (Also, I’d rather review The Son of Neptune than clean my room.)

On the off chance that nobody here has read (or heard of) the Percy Jackson series, here’s a brief overview: ancient Greek gods and goddesses are real, and they never disappeared–they’ve followed the rise of Western culture and currently reside on Mt. Olympus over the Empire State Building. Percy Jackson–main character, obviously–discovers he’s a “hero” or Greek “demigod”, a half-mortal, and his father is Poseidon, which turns out to be problematic. After a brief time at Camp Half Blood, he and his new friends are off on a quest full of mythical beasts, minor deities, and worldwide catastrophe. It’s rollicking good fun, incredibly smart, and impressively accurate on the ancient history/mythology level. Alas, after five books, the series was done.

But wait! There’s more! (more…)

The Kid with the Red Juice Mustache

Author Spotlight: Interview with Erik Korhel

When you first meet author Erik Korhel, he comes across as quiet, subdued. When you open up one of his collections of poems, though, you realize he’s anything but.

When we met Erik, he was doing a story-time event at the store, reading from his books with the help of an actor to bring the pages to life. (His books, as mentioned in the review of The Kid with the Red Juice Mustache I wrote a couple of months back, have also been turned into plays that are performed across the state in theaters, schools, and libraries.) Afterward I got the chance to interview him–here’s what he had to say!

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You said that The Kid with the Red Juice Mustache was written and illustrated after your own childhood experiences. What is your favorite story that you incorporated into a poem from childhood?

I think my favorite is called “Sizzle”, which is about using your imagination as a child [for example] playing the hot lava game. That really sums up how I was as a kid.

I definitely played the hot lava game as a kid. There were though alligators in the lava. They were mutant alligators.

Yeah, hot lava was enough for us!

What inspired you to start writing for kids?

I think it had a lot to do with my childhood just being so wonderful. I had a fantastic childhood, and as I started to get older, I started to become more nostalgic for those times when it was easier and we weren’t paying bills and didn’t have to work. (more…)

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