Review: The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles
The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So beautiful. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” This book illustrates the quote perfectly. My family loved it. Now if we could just get the courage to act on it…

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Review: March: Book One

March: Book One
March: Book One by John Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished this series, and I feel like it gave me an understanding of the Civil Rights movement that I missed in my US history classes. John Lewis’ story makes the struggle for equal rights personal, and the graphic novel format is engaging and so well done. It is a little more graphic than I’m ready to give my ten-year-old, but I think it’s necessary to bring home just how how much violence African-Americans and those who stood with them endured.
A few highlights:
-The explanation of the different groups working for civil rights. SNCC, SCLC, NAACP…this was all lost on me before. March functions as an introduction to the groups, but it was interesting to see their different priorities and philosophies, as well as how they worked alongside each other.
-The focus of Lewis and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee on only nonviolent action. This was so refreshing, especially in that they don’t gloss over the challenges of not reacting to violence with violence.
-March also functions as a timeline – putting all the events I’ve always heard about all jumbled up into a cohesive, orderly narrative, but not so long and detailed that I lose track of it all over months of reading.
Overall, I highly recommend March, both for personal growth and as a supplement to a middle school or high school US history curriculum. It stands alone as an excellent introduction, but also sets the stage and raises interest for deeper study into the time period.

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Review: The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Angie Thomas was one of the guest speakers at the Louisiana/Mississippi SCBWI KidLit conference this February, so I heard about her book in emails for weeks. I looked at the title, and the jacket, and thought, “This is probably a good book, but I don’t think I’m the target audience.” And I left it at that.
After hearing Angie describe her book, and why she wrote it, and what she hoped the book would say to the world (and the fact that it had just hit #1 on the NY Times list didn’t hurt), I changed my mind. Clearly, I was very much her target audience. I bought the book. I read the book. I passed on the book.
I highly, highly recommend The Hate U Give. The synopses are out there already, and I just have to echo so many other reviews in saying that this book is both timely and extremely well done. There are moments when I thought, “Yeah, I guess this is a first novel,” or “She is really driving home this point,” but it is all done so well within the world of the characters that it is totally believable. It is painfully enjoyable, in fact. Angie Thomas allows her characters to preach her truth through their lives, and her truth is beautiful.
What I loved about the characters in this book is the love they have for each other. Especially within Starr’s family. They are not perfect people, and they are not caricatures; they are ready to walk off the page, and I wanted to hug them all in their pain. But I realized I didn’t need to – Starr’s family is strong enough to support each other through anything. I especially appreciated Angie Thomas’ treatment of Starr’s parents: they are thoroughly real, not just a foil to create conflict or advance the plot. Honestly, Starr’s dad, Maverick, is my favorite character. For me, the fierce love and loyalty of Starr and her family is what makes this book shine.
Bonus: as intense as parts of the book get, the comic relief is perfect. It’s been awhile since I laughed out loud at a book, and this one had my kids running to see what I thought was sooo funny.
Angie Thomas took me to a world that white, suburban-born me had never encountered. And she welcomed me into it with open arms. I can only thank her for helping me see the world from that vantage point for a little while.
My concern is always, “Can I give this book to my daughter?” She’s 10, so for now, the answer is no. The language is strong, and while it’s not overdone, there are a couple of romantic scenes that would definitely be way too much for her. But when she’s older, I will expect her to read it. And I imagine she will love it as much as I have.

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Review: The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Review: The Pox Party

The Pox Party
The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fantastic. This book was not like anything else I’ve ever read. The premise of a slave being raised as the subject of an experiment in the nature of humanity and race was so interesting to consider. Anderson succeeds in pointing out the hypocrisy of the seperationist slaveholders who call for “freedom” from tyranny while continuing to deny their own slaves any hope of freedom. It is in-your-face, but so elegantly done that it is not offensive, but humbling and heart-wrenching.
This is not a book for the queasy; there are passages that will turn your stomach. The themes Anderson considers and his masterful way of handling them makes me want everyone to read this – but my kids will have to get a little older first.
In short, don’t be turned off by the length of the text, it is well worth it. Octavian is a character you want to root for, who succeeds, even in his own failures, to cry out for truth and dignity.

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And…we’re back

Re-opening the blog attempt #…

yeah, I don’t know either.

The whole keeping-up-frequent-posts-with-no-home-internet thing is a bit of a drag.  It requires discipline.  Which I sometimes lack.

But here goes again, anyway.

I went to my first writer’s conference this weekend.  The Louisiana-Mississippi region of SCBWI held its first ever KidLit conference Saturday at Sacred Heart Academy in New Orleans.  It was lovely.

The take-away:  Write for yourself, revise for your readers.  Thank you, Cheryl Klein.  

We also got to meet Angie Thomas, four days after her debut novel The Hate U Give hit #1 on the NY Times bestseller list.  Needless to say, she was glowing.  Though I suspect that is usual for her.  She was definitely an inspiration.  Yes, I bought the book.  No, I haven’t read it yet.  Really have to finish Octavian Nothing Part II before I take on anything else.  And that may be a while.  

I also got to meet Carrel Muller, who is the lower school librarian at Sacred Heart.  I want my girls to go to school there so she can be their librarian.  She is lovely!  She convinced me I need to go back and fill in all the holes in my folklore and mythology education.  And read do the same with my kids.  She also read a piece of mine (in the First Look part of the program where they read and critique the openings of several submissions), and it was exactly as I would dream of a children’s librarian reading it to little ones.  So that was a very cool moment.  Now if I can just convince someone out there to publish it…

Right.  So on that note, I could use prayers for persistence – to keep showing up at the page, and to keep sending things out, despite the piles of rejections.  Blah.

For those of you who are here less for the minutiae of my writing life, and more for cute baby stories, the lovely children are well.  I’ve picked up two Latin classes at JPG in the mornings, so they are spending the mornings with a friend and coming home for lunch, naps, etc. in the afternoons.

Just through May.  If the headmaster asks, you can assure him I still do not want to come on full time next year.  This experience has been a good reminder of where I want to be.  Home.  Period.  Which, of course, includes the library and the park.  But mostly home.

I thought our chickens had stopped laying, but it turns out they laid all their eggs in the bushes for a while.  Under the blackberry brambles, to be precise.  We found 24 one day, and 7 the next.  We have three chickens.  Three eggs a day, at best.  So it was a jubilee.  They seem to have figured out the purpose of the nesting boxes again, though.  Which is easier, but less exciting.  You can’t have everything, I guess.

We planted some vegetables and flowers last weekend.  (Thanks to Fr. Sam for the seeds!  The wildflower bed is well on it’s way!)  Hopefully there will be pictures…when I get better at technology.  Maybe next spring.  
Book of the week: This Is Not My Hat by John Klassen.  Hilarious.  It should be used in film classes as a study in dramatic irony, and in writers’ workshops as and example of how the pictures and text work together.  No redundancy – each does its own part towards a flawlessly integrated whole.  And it’s soooo funny.

I hope that there will be more posts soon.   And that is not intended as ironic, but whether it is or not remains to be seen.

Such a man!

After supper, Isaac stood on his high chair, wiped his nose with his fist, wiped that on his shorts, and climbed down.
To which Lucy commented, “He’s such a man!”
We’ve taught her well.

Let the omelets begin!

The girls contest that we are well on our way to a farm: Polly, the chicken, has started laying eggs. We are up to three beautiful brown, medium-sized eggs as of this morning.  So we can make about half a breakfast, once a week from our own chicken.

Hey, it’s a start.

Moving Tip #3

Have awesome friends.  We have some pretty fantastic friends. We made a few trips with the pick-up ahead of time, but our friends showed up Saturday morning with a fleet of minivans (and one awesome trailer) and we moved a house full of stuff in two runs. By lunchtime, we were taking a break and deciding where bookshelves should be planted. Our friends cleared the forgotten corners of closetrs, put together our massive dining room table, and didn’t complain about lugging our mountains of junk. They were jpyfdul and encouraging, and even offered to come back for more later in the week. Best moving asset: friends looks ours.

Transportation…or Delicious Snack

Isaac’s new passion: motorcycles. Which he pronounces “moka-sikles”. Which I would like to spell mocha-sicle, and enjoy as a frozen chocolate-coffee treat. Sounds good, right? So now I get a popsicle craving every time we go for a drive.  I guess ttings could be worse.


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