Kids Book Corner

  • Goose Girl
  • Mrs. Frisby and The Rats of NIMH
  • Peter and The Shadow Thieves
  • Peter and The Star Catchers
  • Simon Bloom, The Gravity Keeper
  • Stella Brite and The Dark Matter Myster
  • The Island of The Blue Dolphins
  • The Phantom Toll Booth
  • The School Library Journal
  • The Sisters Grimm
  • Tuck Everlasting


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Reading, Reading, and More Reading...

***Edited Post: See correction before Dracula and Frankenstein book reviews.
The meaning of "Friend" has a ton of definitions. One of the ones I subscribe to explains a friend who politely tells you when you have goofed up and straightens you out, or reminds you of what really happened. You might think the absence of drug use in my life might limit my need for memory correction, but that is not the case. I have to go over things several times to remember things and try to get them right, and you can tell me the same joke repeatedly because I forget them. My brain is magnetized to collect trivial and inane information, which I find perplexing (and Michael finds mildly disturbing). I do think that I can be taught, you just have to keep saying it sometimes. This was my loooonnnnggg winded way to tell Teacherninga, Jim, that I appreciate his kindly correction.

Well, school has started back. Okay, so it was a few weeks ago, but we are starting to settle into our routine of homework, not doing homework, grumbling, stern glares, stern talking to, remembering to do school work...well most of it, as least. The one shining thing has been unexpected. Aaron and Rachel want to be in Drama Club in their respective schools. Rachel is waiting to hear if she will be allowed in her club, but Aaron just has to show up and help out at his school. The director of the Drama program has a genuine love for all of the kids. Aaron wants to help in stage designing and set up. He has already liberated six dollars from my purse, with permission, to support the bake sale for the drama program. Michael and I see that this is a positive avenue for him so we signed up to be Gold Sponsors of the club. Rachel already is familiar with the teacher through drama summer camps each year, so we figure why not support Aaron and the program now. He told us that he wishes he had started in his freshman year. He came home with names of drama club folks on his arm to add them to his Facebook friend list. I would have used paper, but he often goes a different route.

Comfort Snowberger's "Life Notices" made me laugh and I agreed with her that "Death Notices" are too boring. My own maternal grandmother, Mama Doris, would read the obituaries in the newspaper each day to see if her name showed up. I would read them out of curiosity and always wondered about those who died...well really, about the life they lived. People intrigue me. My maternal grandfather's family had run the Harris' Funeral Home in Phenix City, Alabama, so when my friend Kim told me about this book I checked it out from the library. I loved Comfort's family and her dog Dismay. I really loved Great, Great Aunt Florentine and I agreed with her that there can never be too many brownies. The advice for how to act at a funeral and what food to bring is practical and should be taken to heart. My heart was broken in the last chapters, so just be warned to grab some tissues. This was a great read.

***Great set of books! I need to correct one thing, though. Mary Shelly did in fact write Frankenstein after the summer of 1816 which she spent in Geneva with Percy Shelly, Lord Byron, and Dr. John Polidori. They all told fantastic tales to each other and hers went on to become Frankenstein. Polidori came up with the only other published piece, "The Vampyre" which features, as far as I know, the first aristocratic vampire. This was an influence on Bram Sroker's book, I'm sure, but since he wasn't even born until 1847 and Mary Shelly died in 1851, I don't think they ever got a chance to tell each other any stories in person. Sorry, I wrote a paper on this once!

By the way, I think the disease book is the creepiest one of the bunch!

I finally got around to reading the books that came out of a rainy night ghost story challenge. Written in the form of letters back and forth was a great vehicle for telling this story. Dracula, not surprisingly, is one creepy dude. He has had quite a lot of time to make some devious plans that take him to England. He enlists the help of a lawyer, Jonathon Harker, who thinks he is only brokering a simple land deal to find himself trapped in Dracula's castle. Harker eventually escapes back to London where Dracula has already ensconced and putting his plans into action. One of the first victims is Lucy Westenra who is the best friend of Harker's fiance Mina.
Overall, I thought the mixture of superstition, pseudo-science, and science interesting. There was one character I wanted to beat with a stick and that was Lucy Westenra's mother. Weak female characters drive me to distraction. I got pretty perturbed when the character of Mina Harker puts the various threads together and figures out what Dracula is doing, then the men in the story put her in a room to keep her "safe", which allows Dracula to get to her. I have always disagreed with the mentality of a victim being filthy because they were violated. I would argue that this has been prevalent for centuries in most cultures. In Dracula, the person bitten becomes immediately filthy and could not go to heaven unless the vampire that bit them has been destroyed, which can be compared to how victims of rape are perceived. I think this parallel is something that is worth discussion.
The book was a great "ghost story" with the devious machinations of a centuries old nut job, a handful of loyal friends, damsels in distress, some fly and bird eating, a bit of dismemberment, a ship voyage, a lot of superstition, and a smidge of suspense. It was worth the read and a good baseline for the pop culture that I have grown up watching.

Another of the ghost stories that came from the rainy night challenge. I prefer this one over Dracula. It was nice to read this after growing up watching different movie versions of the Frankenstein monster. The format for telling the story is initially letters, then it turns in to a manuscript, then back to letters. What happens when you have the ability to reanimate parts in to a whole, especially one that you created to be larger than life. Victor Frankenstein immediately flees from his odious creation leaving that creation to fend for itself. The monster's realization of what he is coupled with the reaction he gets when he seeks kindness from those around him drive him to hatred of his creator and humanity. Victor Frankenstein abhors what he has done and it leads him to a mental and physical breakdown as he constantly berates his actions. The monster wants Frankenstein to build him a companion, which leads to more emotional and physical turmoil. A great book for discussing how humans treat those with physical differences and the "godlike" powers of some scientific endeavors.

I have to read about the same subject repeatedly because my ability to retain information is abysmal. This book touching on the subjects of smallpox, leprosy, cholera, AIDS, plague, and malaria. The section on leprosy explaining how research figured out what was going on, which allowed for the idea of the illness being a disease, not a curse was really amazing stuff. The fact the the microorganism that causes leprosy likes the cooler parts of the body, then multiplies in the nerves making them thick and rope-like. This thickening makes the nerves numb, which leads to injury.
The section on Tuberculosis was a must read since a student at our elementary school was diagnosed with the disease and it lead to some students and staff being tested. Tuberculosis can hide out and wait for the immune system to be compromised and then attack the tissues. The author listed some of the treatments people tried throughout the centuries to fight this disease. None of them pleasant.
The section on Malaria explained some of the unintended consequences of using DDT. Houses sprayed to kill mosquitoes would leave the chemical to also be ingested by the roaches, which would be eaten by the lizards. The weakened lizards would be caught and eaten by the cats. The cats would die, which allowed the rat population to burgeon and the risk of plague to replace the malaria.
Cholera is just plain nasty. If you are able to replace the massive lose of fluids you can survive, but outbreaks usually strain the ability of health care workers to give aid. Make sure your water source is clean. I thought it was fascinating that people that live in India could use Saris folded over eight times as filters. The older cloth would actually work better. A practical solution for rural people.
Overall, a fascinating book and one great for teens to adult.

My next books will be mostly from books I will be reading for Book Club. I am excited about the choices.


Friday, August 27, 2010


Getting around to some layouts of Aaron and Michael's trip to Philmont:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Free, Free...Set Them Free...


I checked Eve out of school early for a dental appoint. She had to get 3 fillings on the right side. She goes back next week for the 2 on the left. She is one brave girl. I told the dental assistant I need some of the nitrous oxide for my house, so the kids would laugh at my jokes. That comment made Eve laugh...but, of course, she was breathing in nitrous oxide at the time.


I am reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I am surprised how much I am enjoying the writing style. I'll let you know what I think of the whole thing when I finish.


I laugh out loud multiple times during each episode. I had to wipe my monitor down after the most recent episode that I watched on The 80's reference to Webster was a riot. My guess is the writers are my age. Check out the show for some crazy stories and laughs.

Later, gators!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Whoa...Can You Hear The Quiet?

The first day of school came today. I drove Aaron to high School for the start of 10th grade. No photos...I was just awake enough to drive.

Then, the wee beasties were awakened for their day. Eve was so excited she only ate half of an apple. Noah had his French toast. Sabrina F. came over to catch the bus with Rachel.

Here I was playing with the curve function on Photoshop:

Noah chose to be silly for all his photos:

Here is the regular photo of Eveybug:

She got annoyed because I kept calling her Taylor Swift:

Apparently, two boxes of tissues and a roll of paper towels turns Noah into a Sherpa:

Sabrina and Rachel cutting up at the bus stop:

Rachel purchased these shoelaces that say "I love Nerds":
Rachel...the girl behind the at 11:

Waiting for the bus is not high on the Fun-O-Meter:

:::::::::My Day::::::

I walked and read at the park, took a shower, did laundry, made beds,scowled at the ants at the sink (they are baited, so killing them would not be the best long term choice),uploaded photos, playing with some digital layouts and catching up with a little Warehouse 13 on HULU.

I hope y'all had a great day!

Monday, August 02, 2010


That was the title in my head when I was thinking about the history stories in this first book review:

I had a good laugh along with learning some changes to history as researched by Graeme Donald. There always seems to be a caveat to any historical story, so I am even skeptical about these changes, but they are plausible. I was intrigued by the theory that many of the presumed bubonic plague cases might have actually been anthrax. For those who love to learn about history, but think it a bit dry this book is up your alley.

This book brought back a bit of nostalgia. The main character's mother is practicing for her appearance on the Twenty-Five Thousand Dollar Pyramid. That was one of the many t.v. game shows that I loved to watch. Miranda is a 6th grader who is a latch key kid who can't figure out what is going on with her best friend Sal. New York City is the setting and Miranda begins to get mysterious notes that spook her. A thread that runs through the book is the time traveling, science fictions story by Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle Time.

This book combined layered characters, science fiction, friendship, growing up and questioning how far you might go to right a wrong. A fantastic book for tweens to adults.

The setting for this book is Adenville, Utah where only a few towns folk are not Mormons. Tom, The Great Brain, and is brothers and mom and dad are part of the non-Mormon contingent. Tom and his brothers hold their own in the hard scrabble life of kids growing up at the end of the 1800's. In this town you have to show your strong, so you won't get beat up. Tom is always looking for a way to make a penny and his family keep him, somewhat, in check...but not much.
This book was recommended to me by a friend with the review that it was a lot of fun. I would have to say that there are, indeed, many adventures that the boys get into throughout the book, but the undertones maintained a mean-spiritedness that Rachel and I found distasteful reminding us of how we felt while reading The Diary of A Wimpy Kid. I felt that the entire book was a set up for the last page, which surprisingly delivers. Unfortunately, there are the rest of the pages that led up to that last one that you have to read. Simply not a fun book for our family read.

As I read this book absentmindedly, then more nervously scratching at a couple of mosquito bites on my neck, I was drawn in with the clear and engaging prose of Sonia Shah. She presented the history of Malaria and the mosquito as the vector for it's spread in a fascinating way. She explains the health consequences of malaria and how quickly and easily it can be transmitted throughout the world. She explains the political and economic ramifications of this plasmodium parasite and doesn't genuflect to deep pocket backers of malaria research who throw money at the problem in the genuine effort to fix the problem without listening to and looking at other more realistic scientific options. The plasmodium parasite has an ability to quickly adapt to the changing environment and pesticides while researchers continue to seek a way to defeat it's transmission.

Grab a hankie my friends! This book plucks all the heart strings. Petey is born with a severe case of cerebral palsy and also given the diagnosis of "Idiot" though he doesn't have a mental deficit. His mother and father are unprepared or able to take care of Petey's physical needs and those of their older children who feel neglected by all of the care required by Petey. At the age of 2 Petey goes to a state asylum. Over the years Petey's natural good nature helps him make friends, but most move on. Finally a young boy befriends Petey and learns that family can be more than biological. Petey also teaches those around him to appreciate things that are taken for granted.

Mo Willems can make Naked Mole Rats look great. This book was a fun read about being an individual...with style.

A rather clinical approach, not surprising, for the history of the Epidemic Intelligence Service. The evolution of this program to help locate the vectors and origins of epidemics. They can upset people because they are not on the scene as health care providers. They are masters at asking pertinent questions to find the source of the outbreaks through interviews and on sight detective work. There was a lot of information to present, which I'm sure was daunting. Though I found the subject fascinating I kept comparing this work to the writing of the development of forensics in the U.S. by Deborah Blum titled, The Poisoner's Handbook. Blum's prose is captivating, while Pendergast is a bit dry. I still found the characters and the development of the E.I.S. worth the read.

Learning to say "it's my fault" and "I'm sorry" is a hard lesson for many of us. This gooey mess of a book brings it home in a creative, eye-catching way. A Dr. Seuss I should have read eons ago. A simple message that can accomplish great things.

::::::::::::::::Conversations with Noah and Eve

On our return from the dentist office Noah and Eve got into a discussion about children and marriage.

Noah: I'm never getting married. I'm going to adopt.

me: You don't want any one who can help you?

Noah: No. I can do it.

Eve: Are you going to adopt a boy or a girl?

Noah: It will probably be a dude.

me: Will you make him wear a belt and get a haircut? (This is a reference to our discussion on Sunday about wearing a belt and getting his hair cut.)

Noah: Yeah, I'll make him wear a belt sometimes, but no ties. I hate ties.

Eve: Why not adopt a girl they don't wear belts.

Noah: I don't understand girls. I don't get them at all.

:::::::::::::Michael and Rachel Circulating the Room:::::::

Rachel requested a room makeover. She firmly stated that she had outgrown pink and lavender along time ago (this did not take into account that Eve was 7 and still liked it). We went to the home improvement stores to get paint samples. She did get final approval with Eve, since they share the room. She chose "Aegean Blue" and "Blue Suede". The lighter color matched exactly to the sample, but the darker bottom color came out greener, but it still looked good so we went with it. I cut it everything and Michael did a couple of coats of the lighter top color before leaving for Philmont, NM with Aaron. Eve cried that the castle Michael painted would be gone, but Michael assured her it would be okay and that we would take a photo.

Bye, our Castle in the Sky...

I patched all the little nail and pin holes.

I finished touch ups on the top, painted the bottom and the chair rail:

When Michael got home he helped Rachel put up her repositionable vinyl circles in chocolate brown and white:

I had already hung the Japanese paper lantern I found at Kohl's department store:

The company sent a complimentary pair of chocolate brown butterflies:

Michael found a salvaged cork board for some of the girls' artwork:

Rachel loves her Photo booth pics with her brother Noah:
Rachel displays a letter and magazine photo from her friend Julia (apparently there is some inside joke about llamas). She also has her detailed map of "Rachovia" (a town from her imagination...or is it? The photo of the crazy, long curly fry was a keeper too.

:::::::::::::Next post should have Philmont photos from Michael and Aaron's trip.

Smiles and thank you to Michael for fixing the computer!