Friday, June 29, 2018

Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge: June 2018 Link-Up

This is the Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge link-up post for June! Please share your reviews and posts about any "old school" books you have read this month in the comments. (Even if you haven't signed up for the challenge you're welcome to participate with anything you've posted about a book published in the decade of your birth or before.)

I reviewed one "old school" book this month:

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Mid-Year Goals and Challenge Check-In

This year is already half over! Here's how things are going with my reading and blogging goals and the challenges I'm participating in.


Read fewer books. So far, so good. I'm mostly keeping up with my goal to read 500 books.  I am generally between 15 and 20 books behind, but nothing so terrible that I can't catch up. I am definitely glad I didn't set a goal of 800 again this year.

Review more books overall, but fewer books on the blog. I have definitely reviewed fewer books on the blog so far this year, and will in fact not be posting any blog reviews in July just to give myself time to catch up. I haven't tallied it up, but it does feel like I have posted more Goodreads reviews this year than in the past.

Review books in a more timely manner. I still have some room for improvement here, but it's gotten much better. I have really been making an effort to review ARCs as I read them and to decide right away if  I'm not going to review a given book. .

Branch out from book reviews. I'm still working on this. The Blog All About It challenge has been helping.

Post blog posts to Facebook regularly. Right after I set this goal, Facebook changed its algorithm and I pretty much abandoned my page. I post here and there, but there is nothing regular about the schedule. They just make it too hard to build up a meaningful following.

Host a #bookstagram challenge.  I'm doing this in July! Check out #picturebookpicnic, which will run from July 1-31 on my Instagram @mrskatiefitz.

Keep a bullet journal. This hasn't been successful in the way I intended, but I have enjoyed having one book to keep track of reading, tasks, packing lists, moving stuff, etc. I may start using it more after we move and start homeschooling.

Stop getting the news from social media.  I don't follow any news sources on social media anymore and it has been great. I get the major headlines here and there and occasionally look up more information if I feel the need. But otherwise, not knowing what the Internet at large thinks of every news story has been a huge relief and I waste much less time in "someone's wrong on the Internet" mode.



A to Z Challenge hosted by Ginger Mom and the Kindle Quest I've read children's books for 20 letters. I have J, N, O, Q, V, and X left. I wish I could participate more in some of the mini-challenges and things, but there's just so much going on all the time that it's hard to keep track of.

Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas into a Good BookFor this one, I'm focusing on adult books. So far, I've crossed off 17 letters, but still need to read books for K, N, Q, R, U, V, W, X, and Y.

Author Love Challenge hosted by Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun and Michelle @ Because ReadingI've read 10 of the required 15 books, but if I'm truly going to complete the entire list of this author's books, I have 22 to go.

Blog All About It hosted by Herding Cats & Burning SoupI've blogged about all six topics so far. It's been nice to have some prompts to help me brainstorm new post ideas.

Book Blog Discussion Challenge hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts at MidnightI feel like I can't break into this community. I comment on posts at different times during the month, but I don't seem to get a lot of visits to my posts in return. I'm going to keep working at it over the summer.

Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge hosted by Stormi @ Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh my! and Barb @ Booker T's FarmMy goal is to reach the Inspector level, which is 26-35 books. As of today, I've just hit 26, so I could technically be finished, but I plan to keep counting.

Craving for Cozies hosted by Escape with Dollycas into a Good BookI've read 20 cozies. I'm shooting for at least 28, so I have several more to go.

Family Tree Reading Challenge hosted by Becky's Book Reviews. I've read books for the years 1933, 1982, 1985, 2015, and 2017. I'm still looking for books published in 1946, 1959, and 2013.

Library Love Challenge hosted by Angel's Guilty Pleasures and Brooke BlogsI've been making decent progress on this thanks to ebooks and audiobooks downloaded through Hoopla and Overdrive. I need to read 16 more library books to meet my goal.

Linz the Bookworm hosted by Linz the BookwormMy goal is just to finish level 1, but it sure is taking a long time. I have these categories left: A comedy or a satire book ; Read a book by Nora Roberts; A book on a best seller list

Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge hosted here at Read-at-Home Mom. I've read 40 of the 52 "old school" books  I pledged to read, but I haven't reviewed them all as I had originally planned. There just is not enough time to review everything!

Writing Reviews Challenge hosted by Delighted ReaderI wanted to write 100 reviews this year, and I'm already up to 83.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Paging Through Picture Books: Seed School (2018); Do Re Mi (2017); My Favorite Things (2017); Poetry for Kids: William Shakespeare (2018); Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (2017); Swim Bark Run (2018); How to Catch a Mermaid (2018)

Here are some reviews of some recently published and soon-to-be published picture books (and board books!), review copies of which I downloaded from Edelweiss. 

Seed School: Growing Up Amazing by Joan Holub, illustrated by Sakshi Mangal

This book follows a group of young seeds (including one acorn) as they prepare to bury themselves in soil and wait to grow. The illustrations are very charming, the scientific concepts are explained really well, and the jokes included in the text are mostly pretty funny. I read this aloud to my four-year-old and two-year-old and they were completely enamored of it, and asked a ton of questions. For the preschool and kindergarten audience, this is a great way to introduce concepts related to planting and growing seeds. 

Do Re Mi illustrated by Miriam Bos
My Favorite Things illustrated by Daniel Roode

My middle daughter (the two-year-old) loves books that can be sung, so I knew she would enjoy these Broadway Baby board books. I was really impressed myself by how well the illustrations brought the songs to life even for kids who don't yet know The Sound of Music. Of the two, Do Re Mi is my favorite, but both have wonderfully bright illustrations in bold colors and remain true to the spirit of the original songs without spoiling the movie. 

Poetry for Kids: William Shakespeare edited by Marguerite Tassi, illustrated by Merce Lopez

My four-year-old recently memorized just a snippet from The Tempest ("Where the bee sucks, there suck I..."), so I shared this book with her, just reading the poetry aloud as she played on the floor. The selected passages are a good mix of the ones everybody knows ("Romeo, Romeo;" "To be or not to be;" "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" etc.) and some that would not necessarily be readily recognizable to the average casual reader. Most of the content went over her head, but I think the rhythm and cadence of the language was pleasing for her to hear. The illustrations are also well-done, and they match the mood and time period of each play and sonnet mentioned. I think this would be a nice introduction to Shakespeare for most kids, and even for adults!

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by Joe Rhatigan, illustrated by Caroline Farias

This was a quirky take-off on the song in which some cats wish to visit a star they have nicknamed Twinkle., so they make plans to go to space. The concept felt a little too weird and silly for my taste, but my girls seemed to find it amusing, and they talked about it a bit at the dinner table the evening after we read it. For me, I think the story would have been more interesting had it not piggybacked on a favorite song, but instead just told the story without that gimmick. I probably wouldn't seek out others from this particular series.

Swim Bark Run by Brian & Pamela Boyle, illustrated by Beth Hughes

In this book, some dogs decide to participate in a triathlon similar to the one their owners are doing. That concept is already pretty thin, and this book doesn't do much with it. The illustrations are bright and cheerful, which did appeal to my girls initially,  but the "everyone gets a trophy" message didn't get far with my four-year-old, who said, "Mommy, they can't all win. That's silly." I also wasn't fond of the writing, which felt mostly flat and generic. 

How to Catch a Mermaid by Adam Wallace

I ordinarily avoid very commercial-looking picture books like this one, but my girls have been really interested in mermaids so I decided we'd give this book a try. Unfortunately, the rhyme scheme didn't quite work for me, and the focus was more on designing ways to capture the mermaid than on actually spending time with her. (I also thought it was weird for people to be trying to capture a creature that is at least half-human and looks like a person from the waist up. I feel weird thinking about the dignity of a mermaid, but it felt odd to me.) Good mermaid books are hard to find; alas, this book does not alleviate that difficulty.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Cozy Mystery Series to Make Your Stomach Growl

Though recipes in books are a major pet peeve for me, I do enjoy a good food-themed cozy mystery from time to time. Here are several of the cozy mystery series I enjoy that involve cooking and/or eating good food. (This post is in response to Blog All About It's June prompt of "growl.")

The Cat Who... series by Lilian Jackson Braun

While this series is not directly about food, its protagonist, Jim Qwilleran, does do a brief stint as a restaurant reporter in one of the early books. Later, when he moves to Moose County, Qwilleran dines at many interesting places, always bringing home some leftovers for his cats Koko and Yum Yum. Braun always includes detailed descriptions of these meals and the atmosphere in which they are eaten.

Noodle Shop Mysteries by Vivien Chien

Death by Dumpling, the first book of this series, was just published in March, and the second one, Dim Sum of All Fears, will be out this August. Main character Lana Lee is in her twenties, and she works at her family's noodle restaurant, which is part of a larger shopping center devoted to Asian cultures. In the first book, the murder victim is allegedly poisoned by a lunch ordered from the restaurant, but otherwise, the descriptions of food in this book will make you hungry for Chinese food.

The White House Chef Mysteries by Julie Hyzy

Olivia "Ollie" Paras is a chef at the White House in this series, which came to an end in 2016. In addition to compelling mysteries, this series includes fun details about working in the White House kitchen, catering to the needs of the First Family, and dating a secret service agent. The writing is consistently great as well.

Supper Club Mysteries by Ellery Adams

This series originally published under the pseudonym of J.B. Stanley focuses on five friends who form a supper club to help each other lose weight. The series has been rereleased in ebook and audiobook recently and a new title, Pasta Mortem, cowritten by Rosemary Stevens has just been published. The "flab five" enjoy a different type of food in each book, usually while trying to solve a murder that impacts the life of one of their own. 

Ethnic Eats series by Kylie Logan

There are three books in this series about a Hollywood personal chef turned small-town restaurateur. (Book 3, Italian Iced, will be out July 3rd.) I've only read the third book, but the writing is excellent and the plotting of the story is handled especially well. Like the Supper Club mysteries, these books focus on a different type of food each time so there is always something new to focus on.

Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny

These books are not quite cozies, but they are gentle enough to almost match the genre. They make this list because of all the delicious meals Gamache and others enjoy at Olivier's Bistro and at Clara's house. In fact, food plays such an important role in the series, that a while ago the publisher put out a Three Pines recipe book called The Nature of the Feast.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The RAHM Report for 6/25/18

What I Finished Reading

  • Our Library by Phyllis R. Fenner ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    This was a fascinating look at schools and school libraries of the 1930s. I enjoyed reading all the anecdotes about using the card catalog, luring kids to the library with the victrola, and storytelling. Though times have changed, much about libraries has not, and it was fun comparing the similarities and differences between then and now.
  • Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren ⭐⭐
    I tried a few times to read this as a kid and never got into it. As an adult, I just flat-out disliked it. Pippi is an obnoxious child and I don't find any of her behavior funny. My kids, however, loved her, and I had to read the entire book aloud. The rest of the series they'll have to read on their own when they're ready because I don't plan to read anymore myself.
  • Back Yard Angel by Judy Delton ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I found this book on Open Library after seeing a post from @yearlingreads on Instagram. It's a little slice of life story about Caroline, known as Angel, who must often look after her brother, Theodore, who is nicknamed Rags, because their mother is a single mom who is very nervous about her kids' safety. Angel was a believable and sympathetic character, and I'm excited to read more from this series.
  • My Backyard History Book by David Weitzer ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    I read this book in two sittings as part of my preparation for homeschooling kindergarten starting in the Fall. We're going to introduce history by exploring our family tree and the memories of our relatives.

Did Not Finish

  • The House that Lou Built by Mae Respicio
    The writing style in this book was just too flat and straightforward for me. I didn't feel any warmth or humor, and then the main character and her friends started lecturing the boys in their class about the contributions of women throughout history, and it began to feel too preachy. I wasn't invested enough in the story by that point to stick it out, so I put it on the DNF shelf.

What I'm Currently Reading

  • The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis by Max Shulman 76%
    These stories are clever, but a lot of them at once gets old, so I'm still just reading a story now and then. I expect to finish the book this week. 
  • Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen, audiobook read by Stina Neilsen 49%
    Listening to this audiobook has been such a great dose of nostalgia for me. The story really holds up well, and I'm remembering how much I loved the book the first time I read it, almost 20 years ago. 
  • Italian Iced by Kylie Logan (ARC) 34%
    This is a well-written and tightly plotted mystery. I haven't read any others from the series, but that hasn't been a problem so far, and I'm enjoying all the characters.  I've been curious about this author for a while, and I think I'll be looking for more of her books after this one. 
  • The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny 28%
    I haven't been in a Louise Penny mood lately, but I am intrigued by this mystery and will get back to it soon. 
  • The Sparrow Child by Meriol Trevor 17%
    This is not my favorite Trevor book so far, but it does seem to forecast the themes that make her The Rose Round  such a perfect book. I'm enjoying it mainly because of that connection.
I'll be linking up today with Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Book Review: Save the Date by Morgan Matson (2018)

Charlotte (called "Charlie") is about to finish high school and she is the youngest of the five Grant siblings, who have been the subject of their mother's family-oriented comic strip, Grant Central Station, since they were very young. Now, though, the comic strip is coming to an end, and the family home is being sold, so Charlie's sister's wedding weekend is the last chance for her and her brothers and sister to be together in their childhood home. Unfortunately, not everything about the weekend - or even the wedding - goes according to plan. Mike, one of Charlie's brothers, has been estranged from the family for over a year due to a falling-out with his mom. Danny, Charlie's oldest and favorite brother, shows up for the wedding with a girlfriend no one has heard about, and whom Charlie instantly dislikes. Charlie herself is also preoccupied with a love interest - Jesse, Mike's best friend, whom she kissed at Christmas and hasn't seen since. When the wedding planner skips town suddenly, and a substitute is called in, Charlie also finds herself partnering up with Will, the new wedding planner's nephew who clearly likes her, and whom she helps to combat the series of mishaps threatening her sister's wedding day bliss.

I can't remember the last time I read a young adult novel that I loved as much as I loved this book. It was a perfect blend of contemporary romance and family drama, and every single character charmed me and made it impossible to put the book down. The mother's comic strip, and specifically its coming to an end just after the wedding, gave the book the exact right feel of nostalgia and longing for the past that often accompanies planning for the future at the end of high school. I could completely empathize with Charlie's feelings, and with her desire for just a few more days of togethernness with her siblings before everything changes.

The problems with the wedding itself were also written really well. Though they were funny and somewhat unlikely, the author completely made me believe in them as real things that can go wrong during a wedding ceremony. I also appreciated that each of Charlie's brothers and her sister felt like real adults, but that their friendships with Charlie also felt plausible. They acted like siblings, not surrogate parents, and I don't think we get a lot of older siblings like that in teen fiction.

This year is not quite half over, but I already know this will be on my list of favorites come December. It's just such a heartwarming and pleasant book, and it was a great way to kick off my summer reading.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

ARCs on my TBR for Summer 2018

This week, Top Ten Tuesday is focusing on beach reads and summer to-read lists. I plan to continue checking books off of my Spring TBR since I still have about half of those to go, and I'm also hoping to revisit several Sarah Dessen books by listening to the audio versions. But for today's post, I'd like to share the ARCs I'm planning to read this summer that will be published between now and the start of Fall on September 22.


Italian Iced by Kylie Logan 

What it's about (from Goodreads): Hot pasta and a cold corpse make for quite a combination in the latest book in the Ethnic Eats mystery series.
Why I requested it: Cozy mysteries are hard to find in my libraries, so I like to take the opportunity to request a few new ones for review as my reading schedule allows. I haven't read any others from this series, but I liked the description of this particular mystery, which involves a murder victim with many enemies. 
When it comes out: June 26 

Midnight Snacks are Murder by Libby Klein

What it's about (from Goodreads): When her sleepwalking aunt is accused of committing murder, Poppy McAllister finds out there's no rest for the weary . . .
Why I requested it: I absolutely loved the first book of this series, Class Reunions are Murder, and Poppy's aunt was one of the best characters. I can't wait to see how she gets out of trouble in this second book. 
When it comes out: July 31 

If the Coffin Fits by Lillian Bell

What it's about (from Goodreads): When an unnatural cause of death finds one of her clients, Desiree must get to the bottom of the murder before she’s fitted for a coffin, herself.
Why I requested it: I loved the concept of this series from the beginning and requested the first book via inter-library loan. I'm so excited to get back into this universe. 
When it comes out: September 11 

Read and Gone by Allison Brook

What it's about (from Goodreads): Seven-million dollars' worth of missing gems bring Carrie Singleton's long-lost and larcenous dad back into her life and it's up to Carrie to clear his name. 
Why I requested it: I love a good mystery set in the library, and I really enjoyed the first book Haunted Library Mystery, Death Overdue, even though I am ordinarily not that into ghosts. I also love the festive Christmas-themed cover.
When it comes out: September 11


So Done by Paula Chase

What it's about (from Goodreads): When best friends Tai and Mila are reunited after a summer apart, their friendship threatens to combust from the pressure of secrets, middle school, and the looming dance auditions for a new talented-and-gifted program.
Why I requested it: There is no middle grade story I love more than one about the difficulties of female friendship in middle school. I also really like the cover art on this one.
When it comes out: August 14

A Long Line of Cakes by Deborah Wiles

What it's about (from Goodreads): Emma Lane Cake has five brothers, four dogs, and a family that can't stay put. The Cake family travels from place to place, setting up bakeries in communities that need them. Then, just when Emma feels settled in with new friends . . . they move again. Now the Cakes have come to Aurora County, and Emma has vowed that this time she is NOT going to get attached to ANYONE or ANYTHING. Why bother, if her father's only going to uproot her again? But fate has different plans. And so does Ruby Lavender, who is going to show Emma Lane Cake a thing or two about making friendship last. 
Why I requested it: The Aurora County All-Stars, which is set in the same universe as this book, was on my Spring TBR, and I really enjoyed it, so I'm looking forward to reading this fourth book of the set. I also think it has a great cover, even if it's not illustrated by Marla Frazee like all the others.
When it comes out: August 28

Naomis Too by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick

What it's about (from Goodreads): A heartfelt, sweet, social justice-themed ode to blended and unconventional families—perfect for fans of Rita Williams-Garcia, Lisa Graff, and Sara Pennypacker. 
Why I requested it: I really enjoyed the first book, Two Naomis,  and was pleasantly surprised to learn there will be a sequel. I also love the way the titles of the two books mirror each other. I'm a little nervous that "social justice-themed" means "preachy and in-your-face political" but I'm willing to risk it to see how these characters are doing.
When it comes out: September 11

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Favorite Classic Children's Books for Summer

There are many great "old school" children's books set during summer vacation. Here are some of my favorites.

The Magic Summer by Noel Streatfeild (1966)

What it's about: With their parents gone for the summer, the four Gareth children - Alex, Penny, Robin, and Naomi - move into Reenmore with their great-aunt Dymphna, who expects them to cook, clean, and entertain themselves without any of the comforts they are accustomed to having at home.
Why it's great: Aunt Dymphna is a fabulous larger-than-life character, and the lessons about resilience and self-reliance learned by the Gareths are great for promoting free-range childhood.
Recommended for: ages 7-12.
Read my review. | Borrow the book from Open Library. 
Note: This book's original UK title is The Growing Summer.

Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright (1938)

What it's about: When Garnet Linden finds a thimble at the start of the summer, it almost seems to lead her into some good luck, including an end to a drought, the arrival of a new friend, and a series of other wonderfully memorable adventures.
Why it's great: This story has great secondary characters and Garnet's simple day-to-day adventures are an inspiration to kids who stay close to home for the summer but still want to make some good summertime memories.
Recommended for: ages 7-10.
Read my review. | Borrow the book from Open Library.
Note: Thimble Summer won the Newbery Medal in 1939.

In Summer Light by Zibby O'Neal (1985)

What it's about: During a bout with mononucleosis, Kate, who has been away at boarding school, moves home for the summer, where she faces the demands of her artist father while also developing a strong fondness for Ian, the graduate student who is staying with the family to conduct research on her dad.
Why it's great: The lyrical and atmospheric writing make this book stand out as special, The coming-of-age plot is also something to which many adolescent girls can relate.
Recommended for: ages 13 & up.
Read my review. | Borrow the book from Open Library.

The Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars (1970)

What it's about: During a summer filled with uncertainty about her own place in the world, Sara's brother, Charlie, who is developmentally disabled and nonverbal, goes missing, causing her to worry she has lost him forever.
Why it's great: Byars demonstrates a real sensitivity toward vulnerable kids in all of her books, but it comes through strongest in this one. Though the appropriate terminology surrounding disability has changed since this book's publication, the story is still respectful of both the trials of puberty and the dignity of those with developmental disabilities.
Recommended for: ages 10-14.
Read my review. | Borrow the book from Open Library.
Note: The Summer of the Swans won the Newbery Medal in 1971.

Canadian Summer by Hilda van Stockum (1948)

What it's about: When the Mitchell family (including five children: Joan, Patsy, Peter, Angela, and Timmy) must relocate suddenly for Father's job, they move to a rustic lakeside building without any amenities, which troubles Mother initially, but ultimately leads to a fun and adventurous summer for the whole family.
Why it's great: This book is the second of a trilogy van Stockum wrote about characters based on her own children. The story is perfect for encouraging kids to spend more time in nature and to become less reliant on technology and other modern-day conveniences.
Recommended for: ages 8-12.
Read my review. | See the book on Amazon.

The Long Secret by Louise Fitzhugh (1965)

What it's about: This companion novel to Harriet the Spy follows Beth Ellen ("Mouse") through a summer in which she must deal with her flaky absentee mother and the domineering Harriet, who enlists her help in finding out who is leaving nasty notes around town.
Why it's great: This is a great way for readers who find Harriet grating to enjoy Fitzhugh's writing without having to try too hard to like Harriet herself. It's also a compelling mystery with a surprise ending and a sophisticated piece of writing that only Louise Fitzhugh could have written.
Recommended for: ages 11-15.
Read my review. | Borrow the book from Open Library.

The Goodbye Summer by Crosby Bonsall (1979)

What it's about: Allie, who lives with her mom in a boarding house, is troubled by endings and goodbyes until she meets a new boarder, Wanda Lenya, who helps her come to terms with this difficult part of life. 
Why it's great: This novel by the author of such beloved easy readers as Mine's the Best and The Day I Had to Play with my Sister is a little-known quirky gem, perfect for kids who struggle with change, and for those who like offbeat protagonists. 
Recommended for: ages 10-14.
Read my review. | Borrow the book from Open Library.

When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson (1967)

What it's about: Anna, who struggles to make friends at boarding school, spends her summer with her foster mother's friends in Norfolk, where she meets Marnie, a finely dressed young girl who quickly becomes her best friend, and then leaves suddenly one night, leaving Anna to wonder whether she ever existed.
Why it's great: For readers who like magical realism and lots of twists and turns in their books, there is none better than this beautifully written tale. The writing is gorgeous, and the story has a way of sticking with you for a long time after it's been finished. 
Recommended for: ages 10-14.
Read my review. | See the book on Amazon.

Have you read any of these? What are your favorite classic children's books about summer?

Monday, June 11, 2018

The RAHM Report for 6/11/18

Last week, I was traveling home from North Carolina on Monday and didn't have a chance to post, so the books I'm sharing today are the ones I've finished since May 28th. I'll also be out of town next weekend and probably won't get to post, so my currently reading list is really what I'll be working on for the next two weeks.

What I Finished Reading

  • Goodbye, Chicken Little by Betsy Byars ⭐⭐
    (finished reading 5/29/18)
    It's been a while since I read anything for the Author Love challenge, so I borrowed this from Open Library so I could check it off my list. It wasn't my favorite book by Byars, probably because it opens with a child witnessing a death but doesn't get very emotional about it. It felt strange to me. My review will be up on the blog soon. 
  • The Aurora County All-Stars by Deborah Wiles ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    (finished reading 6/5/18)
    This is a heartwarming story about a small-town little league team. I cried near the end. This is probably my favorite of the original Aurora County trilogy. I'm excited to read my ARC of the newest book, A Long Line of Cakes, a bit later this summer. 
  • The Twin Test by Rula Sinara ⭐⭐⭐
    (finished reading 6/5/18)
    It took me a while to get into this one because I have to be in the right mood for a romance novel. When I got into it, though, I was impressed by the depiction of the setting (Kenya) and by the author's portrayal of the hero's eleven-year-old twin daughters. My review is on Goodreads.
  • Front Desk by Kelly Yang ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    (finished reading 6/6/28)
    I heard so many positive reviews of this book in the week that it was published that I was worried it would not live up to the hype. Thankfully, it was everything the reviews promised and more, and I actually stayed up until nearly 2am because I couldn't put it down after just one chapter. I will post a review here on the blog in the next couple of weeks.
  • Lakeside Cottage by Susan Wiggs ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    (finished reading 6/6/18)
    I enjoyed this romance novel, mostly because there was a lot more to it than romance. I especially enjoyed Callie, the runaway foster child the central couple befriends. I'll review this one on Goodreads.
  • Save the Date by Morgan Matson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    (finished reading 6/7/18)
    I don't read a lot of YA, but boy did this book hit the spot. This wound up being as much a family story as a romance, and I absolutely loved it. I will probably review this one on the blog since it's likely to make my favorites list at the end of the year.
  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, audiobook read by  ⭐⭐⭐
    (finished reading 6/8/18)
    Literary fiction is usually hit or miss with me. This was compelling enough to read to the end, but some of the metaphors were painful. Review coming this week on Goodreads.
  • A Little Way of Homeschooling by Suzie Andres ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    (finished reading 6/10/18)
    My husband recommended this to me, and I zipped through it. We plan to homeschool, not unschool like the families profiled in the book, but there were still some useful ideas. 

What I'm Currently Reading

  • The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
    This book keeps taking a backseat to quicker reads but I am making steady progress. Now that Gamache has arrived in Three Pines and started to investigate the murder, I'm getting more invested in the story and it's moving more quickly. 
  • The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis by Max Shulman
    This book is so light that I have been picking it up and reading just one story at times when I don't have the energy for anything deeper. I'm enjoying the humor, and I plan to track down some of the episodes of the old TV show to see how they compare.
  • Our Library by Phyllis R. Fenner
    This is a 1939 book about school libraries. It's fascinating reading. Some things haven't changed in 80 years; others have changed a lot. I'm almost done with the book and will probably finish it today. 
  • Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen, audiobook read by Stina Neilsen
    I am planning to revisit Sarah Dessen's books this summer by listening to them in audiobook format. Though I might go back and do That Summer and Someone Like You later on, I decided to start with this one, which was included in the list of books for which Dessen was awarded the Margaret A. Edwards award in 2017, and which I have not re-read since I was a teenager.
  • Back Yard Angel by Judy Delton
    I discovered this series through @yearlingreads on Instagram and found all of the books on Open Library. I'm only a few pages in, but I like the writing so far.
  • The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio (ARC)
    I started this right after finishing Save the Date, but realized I needed more time to let that one digest before starting another ARC. I hope to get back into it later this week, since it comes out tomorrow.
I'll be linking up today with Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Reading Through History: By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman (1963)

Jack, a young boy whose parents have died, lives in Boston with his Aunt Arabella. When Aunt Arabella loses all her money, Jack and the family butler, Praiseworthy, sail off to California to seek their fortunes in the Gold Rush. Though Praiseworthy is a bit out of place amongst the other miners, his cleverness and ingenuity at every turn ensure that both he and Jack survive their adventure and have a great time in the process.

This book got off to a slow start for me, and at first, I wasn't sure where things were headed. Once I got past the early scenes of the book when the main characters are stowed away on a ship, however, things really picked up. Praiseworthy is a wonderful character and the plots he hatches in order to escape from trouble, raise money, and care for Jack are so clever and fun to read about. His devotion to Arabella - and the reasons behind it - also give the entire story an unexpected emotional impact that I found very satisfying.

For some strange reason, back in 2015 when I was reading 52 historical fiction novels in chronological order by setting,  I chose Fleischman's Bandit's Moon instead of this book as my Gold Rush read. While Bandit's Moon was okay, it was nowhere near as funny or as memorable as this excellent novel, which is more on par with Fleischman's Newbery medal book, The Whipping Boy. In both of these books, Fleischman creates a really strong central relationship that drives the plot and encourages the reader to look at human nature in a different way.

There is a film adaptation of this book: Disney's The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin, released in 1967. It's an enjoyable film in its own right, but it deviates quite a bit from the book, changing Praiseworthy's name, making Arabella Jack's sister instead of his aunt, and adding more complicated plot points that increase the number of action scenes and change the entire ending of the book. The book is more subtle, and more clever, and I think it's important to read it all the way through and enjoy its nuances before bothering with the movie.

All in all, I am really surprised by the number of Goodreads reviews that call this book dull. It was far from boring, and I think kids who are fascinated by the Gold Rush and the Wild West will love it even more than I did.

Friday, June 1, 2018

The RAHK Report for 6/1/18 (New Books Edition!)

Over the past few months, we have received a variety of books for review. Today, I want to share what we received and how the girls enjoyed them.

You're My Little Cuddle Bug by Nicola Edwards

This sturdy board book is a sweet love note from caregiver to baby in which little insects snuggle with their loving grown-ups. Each page features a cut-out insect, which is raised slightly so that babies can reach out and feel the shape. Both Jumping Joan (7 months) and Little Bo Peep (2.5 years) love this book and seem to enjoying hearing it repeatedly. Jumping Joan is drawn to the insects' faces, while Bo Peep seems to like hearing the names of the different bugs. We liked this one so much, we wound up recommending it to friends who have a 9 month old.

Colorama: From Fuchsia to Midnight Blue by Cruschiform

This book introduces the many shades of each color of the rainbow. The left-hand side of every spread is a giant block of color (like an over-sized paint sample) and the right-hand side shows an object in that shade, along with a little explanation. I was originally hoping to have Miss Muffet (age 4.5) look at this book during nap time, but she has shown very little interest. I think it's a fun concept, but it seems like more of a coffee table book for grown-ups than something kids are going to spend a lot of time on.

Adventures in Science: The Human Body by Courtney Acampora

This kit from Silver Dolphin Books was very well-received by Miss Muffet. It includes a paperback book, a poster of the human body with stickers showing each body system, fact cards, and a plastic model of a skeleton. Miss Muffet loved placing the stickers on the poster and she frequently asks to play with the "bone statue." Though the fact cards and book are geared toward an older audience, we found plenty to interest Miss Muffet and to satisfy some of the questions she had about things like blood and digestion. The skeleton is now on display in our living room, and we will be keeping him around for future homeschooling activities.

In the Rain by Elizabeth Spurr and Manelle Oliphant 

Bo Peep took a special liking to this book, which shows a little girl having fun outside her home during a rainstorm. We had a lot of rain this spring, so it reflected a lot of what Bo Peep was seeing in her real life. She also enjoys telling the story to Jumping Joan, who isn't that interested in the pictures or story, but is always happy to stick a corner of the cover in her mouth.

Dr. Seuss's 100 First Words

This oversized board looks appealing at first glance, but it quickly becomes apparent that at least some of the artwork is not Dr. Seuss's original work, but new art made by another illustrator in his style. The new pictures do not have the character or charm of Seuss's many beloved illustrations, and the whole concept for the book seems like a mediocre homage rather than a new Dr. Seuss book. Miss Muffet and Bo Peep have both had access to the book for weeks now, but neither has given it more than a quick glance. They enjoy word books and they love Dr. Seuss, but this book just didn't make a connection.