Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Show To End All Shows (Cary Fagan)

The first book, The Boy in the Box, left me feeling like the story was definitely unfinished. I read it in Dec 2013. This one is book 2, and it sums it up quite well. Thank goodness!! If it had ended like the other one, I would have been mad. Luckily, it does have a happy ending.

The story has plenty of darkness and intrigue - enough to send a mopey kid into depression! It has a lot of dark topics such as kidnapping, bullying, abuse, homelessness, and feelings of low self-worth. There is also enough humour and kindness though, to outweigh all that.

Here is the goodreads summary:
Sullivan is still trapped with the Melville’s Medicine Show, along with Frederick, Esmeralda and Clarence, travelling around the country. But his family has not given up hope. His parents got in touch with the parents of the other children, and his sister, Jinny, is determined to get back on the road with Manny in order to pick up the trail of the mysterious medicine show. And they are helped by a very real clue: a decades-old newspaper article about a travelling medicine show that mysteriously bears the same name …

Back at the show, the Melvilles are becoming unhappy with the children’s performances. Sullivan drops some eggs, and worse, Clarence is finding it a tighter and tighter squeeze inside the “automaton,” the chess-playing Napoleon. They are soon going to need a new child to join the show, and the Melvilles know just the right one. Despite the children’s best efforts to prevent another child from being kidnapped, a new girl joins the show.
But the Melvilles may have underestimated the new girl, whose feisty nature is inspirational to Sullivan. The Melvilles certainly seem preoccupied with something—at every new site, Master Melville can be seen carefully examining the grounds. With their families ever closer, the children of the travelling medicine show band together to solve the mystery of who the Melvilles really are and just what they are looking for.

There were all sorts of ways I thought this story could go. It could have

Friday, May 30, 2014

Happy Birthday Baby Mouse (Jennifer Holm)

The Holms did it again. I can see why kids love these books. They talk about issues kids have (what if no one wants to come to your birthday party.....your main event of the year!) and they do it with great humor. This one is a keeper, for sure.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)

It is hard to even know where to start with this book. It is a book I would have never read, if it weren't a book club pick. I drug myself through the first 300 pages, grumbling to myself that no book should be given a 300 page grace before it becomes interesting.

That being said, there is something about this book, now that I am finished, that makes me think it is a book that I need to read a few more times because I am pretty sure there is more to it than I gathered from my first read.

I was bothered by the ignorant evangelical seal of Nathan Price and even his family. While they didn't feel a need to shout their beliefs at people like Nathan did, they did portray the idea that they were superior because of their beliefs and background. I really don't like it when people think their way is the only way and that they have any kind of right to walk into someone's life (or country) and expect it to change for them.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Chocolate Touch (Patrick Catling)

My students loved this book. It is a silly story that teaches a great lesson. You can really have too much of a good thing. It also is a great way to talk about the nutritious foods we need to be healthy.  It is  also a great read-aloud.

This was a great story for connections. We read the story of King Midas after we read this book. It was fun to find the parallels between the two. The author did a terrific job of keeping all the important factors of that story in his story.

We also made connections to the story, Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher. When John Midas goes to the store and gets the chocolate it is similar to when Jeremy Thatcher turns a different way and ends up at the mysterious shop where he buys the dinosaur egg. Later in the book the store is gone when John Midas tries to take his dad to it, just like how peopl who didn't believe in dragons couldn't see Jeremy's dragon.

Goodreads Summary:

In a laugh-out-loud hilarious twist on the legend of King Midas, a boy acquires a magical gift that turns everything his lips touch into chocolate. Can you ever have too much of your favorite food? John Midas is about to find out….
First published in 1952, The Chocolate Touch was an instant classic—and has remained a timeless favorite with kids, teachers, and parents

We are also reading this book for book club. It was a little bit too short a read for book club, but everyone seemed to enjoy it, nonetheless. I am thinking that we for sure need to have some chocolate at our book club meeting this month!

Book Club was a lot of fun. We had chocolate that was melted in a slow cooker. It was divine! We dipped chips, oreo cookies and even pretzels! We all came out relatively free of chocolate drips on our clothes.
We read The Midas Touch and made connections with The Chocolate Touch. We also talked about what kind of powers we'd like to have if we could have similar powers. Some of the suggestions were:
  • The friendship touch (solve friendship problems immediately)
  • the disappearing touch (make things disappear!)
  • The gravity touch (touch something and poof! gravity has no power over it!)
  • Mind control touch (you could change what your teacher is thinking!)
  • Candy touch (turn everything to candy...wait a minute, didn't we learn a lesson?!)
  • The homework touch (touch the paper and your homework is done!)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Moon At Nine (Deborah Ellis)

Deborah Ellis is an author I really admire. She seems to easily write about difficult topics. She seems to have a particular interest in the middle east. I have loved many of her other books like The Breadwinner (about the war in Afghanistan), as well as the rest of the books in that series, No Ordinary Day , Three Wishes, The Heaven Shop (about aids in Africa)

In this book, Moon at Nine, Deborah Ellis tackles another difficult topic: LGBQ issues. She handles it with ease. Although, the story broke my heart.

Here is the Goodreads Summary:

Fifteen-year-old Farrin has many secrets. Although she goes to a school for gifted girls in Tehran, as the daughter of an aristocratic mother and wealthy father, Farrin must keep a low profile. It is 1988; ever since the Shah was overthrown, the deeply conservative and religious government controls every facet of life in Iran. If the Revolutionary Guard finds out about her mother’s Bring Back the Shah activities, her family could be thrown in jail, or worse.

The day she meets Sadira, Farrin’s life changes forever. Sadira is funny, wise, and outgoing; the two girls become inseparable. But as their friendship deepens into romance, the relationship takes a dangerous turn. It is against the law to be gay in Iran; the punishment is death. Despite their efforts to keep their love secret, the girls are discovered and arrested. Separated from Sadira, Farrin can only pray as she awaits execution. Will her family find a way to save them both?

Based on real-life events, multi-award winning author Deborah Ellis’s new book is a tense and riveting story about a world where homosexuality is considered so abhorrent that it is punishable by death.

The story is called Moon at Nine because the two girls, when banned from being together, decide that they will each look at the moon at 9 and think of each other.

If this book doesn't cause you to want to do something about human rights, I'm not sure what will. Astounding story. Well worth the read.

When I was reading this book I wondered if perhaps Deborah Ellis could also be gay. Sure enough!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Somewhere In France (Jennifer Robson)

We read this book for book club. I wasn't too taken by it at first. I think I read the first four chapters 3 times. I had a couple books going at the same time, which might have been part of the problem. I did finally get into it while we were in Fernie, but it was a little too late. I ended up not finishing it in time for book club.

Book Club was the game changer though. First of, Karen handed me a book plate from the author. So cool! We had scheduled a skype session with Jennifer Robson. She gave us so much information. It is clear she lives the history of this era. There were so much more than a bunch of tea-lovers (although, they sure did love tea! p. 281)  I learned so much. I gained a whole new appreciation for women of this time, for people's dedicatation to the cause during the war and for life in general back then. The characters were very tied up in trying to do something to support the war and to do their part. One of the great struggles of the main character is that her family and her friends seem to want to shelter her and protect her rather than let her serve (p. 241). It was also very interesting to see what war brought out in people. Edward finds himself totally unflummoxed by all the horrors that he sees (p. 252), whereas Robbie is quite bothered by it all.

One of the things that initially drove me crazy was how women were not just subservient to men, but really seemed to bow to their wishes. Men could scold the women and they'll hang their heads sorrowfully (p. 279). That irritated me. However, it was a totally different time. Women couldn't vote. I learned from Jennifer Robson though, that even some men couldn't vote. You had to be a landowner to vote. That kind of tamed my feminist angst about this whole story. Lilly, the main character, though, stands her ground, even when people she loves try to lock her out of performing her duty (p. 318). I was proud of her for how she stayed true to what she felt was really important. In the end, Robbie loves her for just that (p. 356). I learned a lot of cool things in this book. Like a ceilidh. What is that? A ceilidh is a party, gathering, or the like, at which singing and storytelling are the usual forms of entertainment.

I was half way though the book when I went to book club. The next day, when I dropped my kids of at their church activities, I parked the van, got settled, and read for an hour and a half. The next morning I took Jill to seminary and sat and read again for another hour. I was sorely tempted to give my kids some seat work so I could continue to read during the school day (they were all for that!). Instead, Friday night I went and bought a copy of the book. My son was very impressed that I had a book plate from the author. He chose a new book. We came home, took freshly cleaned sheds out of the dryer, and jumped in bed while they were still warm. We read and read and read.

My opinion of the book changed from indifferent to loving it. This book is a great book!