‘The Paris Project’ by Donna Gephart is wonderful middle grade fiction about love and loss and betrayal

paris project

“The Paris Project” by Donna Gephart is an impactful story about the fact that children are not their parents, and that no one should be ashamed of their family because our families do not define who we are.  Gephart’s novels, including “Lily and Dunkin,” and “In Your Shoes,” are about kids who are different and who may be imperfect on the outside, but are perfectly wonderful on the inside. Continue reading

Five diverse picture books for older readers

Children often learn about the world around them through the books they read or the books that are read to them. The books that parents and educators choose to share can have a huge impact on a child’s view of the world and the diverse people in it. By exposing young readers to diverse literature, children learn that not all children have the same experiences that they do, and they learn that others are worthy of our compassion, our friendship, and our support. Continue reading

‘Survivor Girl’ by Erin Teagan is a middle grade story which proves that survival is not just about staying alive; a student review

survival girl.jpg

“Survivor Girl” by Erin Teagan is so good you will not stop reading it, and when you are done, you will want a sequel. Alison, the main character, has mixed feelings about her dad. She learns things about him that disappoint her, but she also learns aspects of herself that help her in life-threatening situations. If you want a good and intriguing page-turner, flip to the first page of “Survivor Girl.” Be prepared for adventure! Continue reading

Three captivating computer coding picture books

What better way to introduce children to the language and ideas behind computer coding (or just codes in general) than by reading picture books that combine real information with a bit of story-telling to inform and entertain.

“How to Code a Rollercoaster” written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Sara Palacios is a code rollercoasterlively story about Pearl, who visits an amusement park with her robot, Pascal. This brightly illustrated picture book introduces kids to the language of computers. Readers learn what words like “loop,” “code,” “variable,” and “value” mean. In fact, they also learn computer reasoning like true and false and “if-then-else.” Adults just might learn a bit about computer programming from this quick, interesting read. The author knows what he writes about because he’s a software engineer. This is not his first picture book. (Viking)

Continue reading

‘Winterwood’ by Shea Ernshaw is a bewitching young adult fantasy

winterwood.jpg

“Winterwood” by Shea Ernshaw is about witches. Specifically it’s about Nora — daughter, granddaughter, great-granddaughter, and more — descended from a long line of witches who live and practice their magic along the shore of Jackjaw Lake and in the shadow of the forest outside the town of Fir Haven.

The Walker women came out of the forest back in the days when Fir Haven was a small gold mining town, and ever since, they have lived in a log cabin between the summer cabins and the dark forest. Nora lives there with her mother, now that her grandmother has died, leaving Nora with her moonstone ring. But Nora’s mother has left to sell her honey (charming bees is her particular magic), and Nora is alone in the cabin with only her wolf, Fin, to protect her when a blizzard envelopes the town and cuts off electricity and the roads.

Continue reading

‘Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals about Death’ by Caitlin Doughty is eye-opening

cat eyeballs.jpg

“Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals about Death” by Caitlin Doughty, after two weeks in print, was eighth in hardcover nonfiction in the New York Times list of of bestsellers.  Death sells. Doughty writes a book that will simultaneously make you gag and smile, but certainly won’t make you die laughing. In fact, that’s one question that isn’t answered in this book with strange facts about dead bodies and death — can you die laughing? Apparently no child asked that question. Maybe in the next book, Caitlin?

Continue reading

‘An Elephant in My Kitchen: What the Herd Taught Me About Love, Courage and Survival’ by Françoise Malby-Anthony

elephant

While this memoir, “An Elephant in My Kitchen: What the Herd Taught Me About Love, Courage and Survival” is, in a way, a sequel to “The Elephant Whisperer,” it’s a different story with a different writer. Françoise Malby-Anthony is a fabulous narrator, and her story brings readers to tears at times, but her strength and her determination shine through, as do her compassion and her inner goodness.

Both books are about Thula Thula, the game reserve that Françoise and her late husband, Lawrence, built together. He was the animal guy, and she took care of the lodges, booking guests and running the marketing. He was out in the field, solving elephant problems and issues with poachers, while she dealt with bad Tripadvisor reviews.

Continue reading

Diary of the rescue of an old, mangled, neglected, black cat

IMG_5555.JPG

Last Friday I got a text from a young high school friend. She sent me a video of a black cat walking by her bus stop in our neighborhood. She said it looked skinny and seemed to be limping. It went up to a house where there was food outside, and when the man inside tried to greet it, it ran away.

I decided that I would try to help that cat, so after work I took a can of cat food and went to the house where they were feeding it. The woman who lived there agreed that I could try to trap the cat and get it medical care. She said that she would keep the cat if we caught it! I left canned food in the bowl she had left outside (filled with dog food). The next morning I went back and saw the food was gone. I left more food and explained that I was trying to find a humane trap and how they work. Continue reading

‘The Beast: A Darkdeep Novel’ by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs is the second in this middle grade horror novel

the beast.jpg

The series began with “The Darkdeep,” a horror story by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs, and now the stories of the monsters and the mystery behind the appearance of “The Beast” might just be solved. In the first book, we learn about the quiet town of Timber in the Pacific Northwest, and about several of its teenage residents.

Nico is the son of an environmentalist, and with his friends Opal, Emma, and Tyler, and another teen, Logan, the son of the richest businessman in town, all happen upon a houseboat in the middle of an unnamed island. Strange things happen both in the houseboat and in the waters around it, but in this second book, they learn that the fate of the world may be on their teenage shoulders.

Continue reading

‘Takes One to Know One’ by Susan Isaacs is a mystery/thriller and a page-turner

takes one.jpg

When a new Susan Isaacs novel comes out, her fans take notice. She’s not an extremely prolific writer; instead, she takes her time and writes a book every few years. But every one of her books has been a New York Times bestseller. She says she writes the kind of books she’d like to read — and she succeeds in writing books people love to read.

Continue reading