Thursday, June 30, 2016

June Reflections

Stand-Out Books Read in June 2016
  1. The Road to Paris. Nikki Grimes. 2006. 153 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  2. When Green Becomes Tomatoes. Julie Fogliano. Illustrated by Julie Morstad. 2016. Roaring Brook Press. 56 pages. [Source: Library] [POETRY, CONCEPT BOOK OF SEASONS]
  3. Prairie Evers. Ellen Airgood. 2012. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Fantastic Mr. Fox. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1970. 96 pages. [Source: Library]  
  5. By the Great Horn Spoon! Sid Fleischman. 1963. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. When Daddy Prays. Nikki Grimes. 2002. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [CHRISTIAN]
5 Decades "Visited" in June 2016

1. 1930s
2. 1950s
3. 1960s
4. 1970s
5. 1980s

Picture books:
  1. When Green Becomes Tomatoes. Julie Fogliano. Illustrated by Julie Morstad. 2016. Roaring Brook Press. 56 pages. [Source: Library] [POETRY, CONCEPT BOOK OF SEASONS]
  2. Barnacle is Bored. Jonathan Fenske. 2016. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Strictly No Elephants. Lisa Mantchev. Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo. 2015. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Be A Friend. Salina Yoon. 2016. Bloomsbury. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. When Daddy Prays. Nikki Grimes. 2002. 32 pages. [Source: Library] [CHRISTIAN]
  6. Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator. Mo Willems. 2011. HarperCollins. 72 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. An Apple Pie for Dinner. Susan VanHecke. Illustrated by Carol Baicker-McKee. 2009. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Early readers and early chapter books:
  1. Frog and Toad Together. Arnold Lobel. 1972. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
    [SERIES BOOK]
  2. Frog and Toad All Year. An I Can Read Book. Arnold Lobel. 1976. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Library] [SERIES BOOK]
  3. Days with Frog and Toad. An I Can Read Book. Arnold Lobel. 1979. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Library] [SERIES BOOK]
Contemporary (general, realistic) fiction, all ages:
  1. The Road to Paris. Nikki Grimes. 2006. 153 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  2. Prairie Evers. Ellen Airgood. 2012. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. The Education of Ivy Blake. Ellen Airgood. 2015. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. The Truth of Me. Patricia MacLachlan. 2013. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Gidget. Frederick Kohner. 1957. 154 pages. [Source: Bought]
Speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, etc.,) all ages:
  1. The World of Winnie the Pooh. A.A. Milne. Illustrated by Ernest Shepard. 1926. 353 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Return of the King. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1955. 590 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. Life As We Knew It. Susan Beth Pfeffer. 2006. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 352 pages. [9 hours, read by Emily Bauer] [Source: Review copy] [AUDIO BOOK]
  4. Flowers for Algernon. Daniel Keyes. 1966. 311 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Dragon, Dragon and Other Tales. John Gardner. Illustrated by Charles J. Shields. 1975. 73 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. Gudgekin, The Thistle Girl. John Gardner. 1976. 55 pages. [Source: Bought]
  7. Socks. Beverly Cleary. 1973. 160 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. James and the Giant Peach. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1961. 146 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. Fantastic Mr. Fox. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1970. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
  10. George's Marvelous Medicine. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1981. 89 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. The BFG. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1982. 199 pages. [Source: Library] 
  12. Matilda. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1988. 240 pages. [Source: Library] 
Historical Fictional, all ages:
  1. A Lion To Guard Us. Clyde Robert Bulla. 1981. 117 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. By the Great Horn Spoon! Sid Fleischman. 1963. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
Mysteries, all ages: 0

Classics, all ages:
  1. Bleak House. Charles Dickens. 1852-1853. 912 pages.  [Source: Bought] 
  2. Best In Children's Books. Volume 6. 1958. Nelson Doubleday. 160 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. Best in Children's Books, Volume 31. 1960. Nelson Doubleday. 160 pages. [Source: Bought]
Nonfiction, all ages: 0

Christian fiction:
  1. The Road to Paris. Nikki Grimes. 2006. 153 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  2. First Virtues for Toddlers. Mary Manz Simon. 2016. B&H. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  3. When Daddy Prays. Nikki Grimes. 2002. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Christian nonfiction: 
  1. The Joy Project. Tony Reinke. 2015. Desiring God. 122 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God's Grace. John Piper. 2013. 94 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  3. Breaking the Islam Code. J.D. Greear. 2010. Harvest House. 176 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. The Five Love Languages of Children. Gary Chapman, D. Ross Campbell. 1995/2016. Moody Publishers. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  5.  Exalting Jesus in Philippians. Tony Merida and Francis Chan. 2016. B&H. 209 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. God Has A Wonderful Plan For Your Life. Ray Comfort. 2010. Living Waters. 128 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  7. How To Enjoy Reading Your Bible. Keith Ferrin. 2015. Bethany House. 176 pages. [Source: Bought]
  8. Seasons of Waiting. Betsy Childs Howard. 2016. Crossway. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  9. Reading The Word of God In the Presence of God. Vern S. Poythress. 2016. Crossway. 464 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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An Apple Pie For Dinner

An Apple Pie for Dinner. Susan VanHecke. Illustrated by Carol Baicker-McKee. 2009. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: One day, old Granny Smith wanted an apple pie for dinner. She looked around her cozy kitchen. She had flour and butter. She had sugar and spices. But there was one thing she didn't have.

Premise/plot: Granny Smith wants to make an apple pie but has no apples. What will she do? She'll take a good look at what she does have--plums, in this case, and make the most of it. She herself has no use for plums--at least not that day--but someone, somewhere will. So Granny Smith sets off to go trading...

My thoughts: I really LOVE this one. It's based on an English folktale. I'm not sure how familiar that original folk tale is today, but, it felt vaguely almost familiar to me. It was a relief to learn that it was inspired by a folk tale. I liked Granny Smith very much. I liked how she set about to do things and actually got things done. I liked all the people she met along the way. I liked how she included them in the ending and asked them to share the pie! The illustrations are very unique and handcrafted.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Truth of Me

The Truth of Me. Patricia MacLachlan. 2013. 128 pages. [Source: Library]

The Truth of Me almost has a melancholy feel to it. Robbie, our narrator, and his dog, Ellie, will be spending summer at his grandmother's house. These two have a special bond. Robbie feels safely and securely loved by his admittedly eccentric grandma, Maddy. He is staying with Grandma Maddy while his parents go on a music tour in Europe.

Robbie doesn't always feel so loved when he lives with his parents. The good news? This isn't one of those melancholy books about parents separating or divorcing. The bad news? His parents don't make time for him--their careers come first, always. And even when they're at home, they're not in the moment WITH Robbie. Sometimes Robbie learns more about his parents by reading newspaper clippings of music reviews and listening to music programs on the radio than by actually observing them and talking with them. This young boy points out to his grandmother that his mother loves her violin more than she loves him. And the grandmother admits that is probably true--for better or worse.

Robbie loves being with Maddy. And Maddy has a way with stories, and, a way with animals. Some people think she's spinning stories, making up all the animal stories she tells. But Robbie believes her. He may just become part of one of her stories when they start to camp together....

It isn't that The Truth of Me lacks a plot; it has one, it's just a melancholy one where even when fun stuff is happening, one never really loses a sense of loss or sadness. It brings to mind when Sadness says, "Remember the funny movie where the dog dies." Now, that was NOT a hint that Ellie dies. The dog's life is never in danger.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Strictly No Elephants

Strictly No Elephants. Lisa Mantchev. Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo. 2015. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The trouble with having a tiny elephant for a pet is that you never quite fit in.

Premise/plot: Readers meet a boy and his pet elephant in Lisa Mantchev's Strictly No Elephants. The book recognizes loneliness and celebrates friendship. One day the boy and his elephant want to go to a pet club meeting, but neither is allowed inside because of a sign that states: strictly no elephants. He's sad, but, hope is not lost for he soon meets a girl with a pet skunk. Together the two decide to form a club of their own where ALL are welcome.

My thoughts: I really, really liked this one. I read it several times, and liked it more each time. I liked the text. I liked the message. The text incorporates little lessons about friendship into the text. It isn't completely seamless, but, it works for me just fine. The illustrations are practically perfect. Loved them!!!

Watch the Emily Arrow video.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Audio Book: Life As We Knew It

Life As We Knew It. Susan Beth Pfeffer. 2006. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 352 pages. [9 hours, read by Emily Bauer] [Source: Review copy]

Lisa is pregnant.

In an effort to be more well-rounded, I decided to listen to an audio book or two this summer. And since I prefer to listen to only books I've already read and loved, I decided to go with Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. (This was my second time to listen to the story.)

Premise/plot: Miranda gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at a cataclysmic event that changes life on earth forever when a meteor crashes into the moon changing its orbit and proximity to earth. The book is Miranda's diary, and through her entries we meet her mom (Laura), older brother (Matt), younger brother (Jon), father, stepmother (Lisa), her mother's boyfriend (Peter), and a handful of her friends and classmates (Dan, Megan, Samantha). It reveals one family's struggle to just survive.

This won't be a proper review really. More a rambling list of observations.

From the very first time I read this one, I've really, really, really, really WANTED it turned into a video game.

Miranda and her family don't mention music much at all. But I personally would GO INSANE if I couldn't listen to music. If there was a video game, I'd want the family I create to have at least one musician in it (piano, acoustic guitar, violin, etc.) so that music could be made even without electricity.

Even after having read it so many times (probably six or seven???) I am still bothered by the inaccuracy about the water supply. Miranda makes such a deal of being on well water and their well running dry halfway through the novel. Remember that they've been without electricity for most of the book. (Except for when it comes on in fits and bursts allowing Miranda to vacuum and her mother to do laundry.) Wells don't pump water without electricity. The family would have had to find an alternate source of water practically from the very beginning of the novel. And being without water that much sooner would have complicated all aspects of their lives. (Their main source of water after the well goes dry is to melt snow and ice and boil it for purity.)  

The diary gives Miranda an opportunity to vent. Let's be honest, in her situation, we'd all need a safe place to VENT. Miranda records her many heated arguments with her Mom. She doesn't come out looking like a saint. But I'm not sure she's meant to. As an adult reader probably a lot closer to her mom's age than Miranda's 16, it is easy to form judgments about Miranda.

Miranda is VERY opinionated about Christianity. The book is not faith-friendly. And really in the book's three-hundred-something pages, the only villains (except for some street thugs stealing plywood) are Megan's minister, and the President of the United States (who can't magically make things better for every human on the planet). Miranda and her mom are definitely opinionated in terms of politics as well. (Let's just safely guess that the author was not a Bush fan.)

I do think that a cataclysmic event like this would make everyone--no matter their age--contemplate their own mortality and reflect at least a little on the big questions of life. What happens when I die? Is there a heaven? Is there a hell? How can I know that I will go to heaven? What can I do to be saved? What is heaven like? What is hell like? So the fact that Miranda and a few people in her life are talking about these things seems believable enough to me. And since Miranda does not come from a religious family, it makes sense that she'd be muddled about what Christianity is all about. It makes sense that she'd reflect the modern society of not really believing that there is such a thing as sin. And it also makes sense that she'd reflect society's misunderstanding of what the gospel actually is. I think we very much live in a time and place where even those who've been exposed here and there to "the church" in some form or another--even if only coming through talking vegetables--believe that you earn your way into heaven through good works. That Christianity as translated through our culture is DO THIS, THIS, THIS, THIS. DON'T EVEN THINK OF DOING THAT.

The gospel isn't about a long, rigid list of rules and laws to be kept. The gospel is saying here's the long list of rules [the Old Testament]. You haven't kept these rules and laws since the time they were given to you. You've never been able to manage keeping them. Ever. No matter how many times you try and fail and fail to try, you can't keep these rules. Stop struggling and striving and listen to the good news. For anyone who gives up the fight to be good enough on their own, to all who admit that they are unable and unwilling to keep the law, to all who are honest about their need for help...there's GREAT news. Someone came and perfectly kept the law on your behalf and in your place. Jesus. He DID it all for you. It is done. He lived the life you could never, ever, ever, hope to live. He died the death you deserved. Believe that He has done it all, that it is indeed finished, and eternal life is YOURS.

The gospel is not to be confused with the prosperity gospel. The gospel is not believe in Jesus and get that dream job you've always wanted! Believe in Jesus and be cured of cancer! Believe in Jesus and get that dream body! Believe in Jesus and you'll never need another alcoholic drink in your life. Believe in Jesus and your gambling addiction will be broken forever. Believe in Jesus and your marriage will be saved.

Speaking hypothetically, I think a cataclysmic event of this nature would perhaps bring out the best in true Christianity, perhaps driving a zealous revival and urgent evangelism, perhaps even street evangelism. But reveal all the flaws of the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel believes in the power of your words, and that you speak your own reality. That if bad things happen, that it is your fault.

According to Amazon, twenty mentions of the word "God," twenty mentions of the word "hell," sixteen mentions of the word "church," and fifteen mentions of the word "heaven."

I think it is important to remember that her use of religion in this book is for DRAMA and CONFLICT and TENSION. And it was not to be offensive or potentially offensive to a portion of her readers. Megan's pastor, in my humble opinion, falls shy of preaching the true gospel and is much closer to a false teacher.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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