Posted by hollybookscoops on February 8, 2013
I feel like I have a new friend after reading Home Front Girl. Joan Wehlen was so palpable on the pages of this book, that I wish I had in fact met her and could call her my friend. Full of historical snippets and teenage soliloquys, Home Front Girl is the Yin to Anne Frank’s Yang.
One of my favorite parts is something Joan Wrote at age 17:
“Oh you, my generation! –we were a lovely lot! Sharp minds—arguing all the time and brittle bodies and even more brittle laughter—and all the time knowing that we were growing up to die. Because we weren’t fooled, you know. All through those bright-colored years of adolescence we knew we were growing up to disaster. For at least four years—well, three, before it happened, we knew it was coming. Some sort of inner sense of war lay upon us. We were pretty brave—we joked about it the way we joked about love and about the polio epidemic when we were all scared to death of it.”
Joan, more than anyone I’ve ever heard of at this time, felt the world was small- that all were worthy of brotherhood and peace, and saving and that war for anyone and everyone was wrong. This is illustrated in another one of her quotes, “London is Troy tonight. . . . Berlin is Troy too.” I think in this sense Joan is somewhat unusual for her generation, for most youth of her time were not pacifist. (Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on that.)
I highly recommend Home Front Girl as a primary source for research and insight into the Greatest Generation as so many have called Joan and her peers. Joan’s writings are full of insight and humor and the every day happenings of a teenage girl. Even though Joan had profound insights, she also struggled with the same thing teenage girls struggle with now- school, boys, parents and knowing what to believe in.
Thanks to Susan Signe Morrison, Joan’s daughter for wading through pages and pages of memories to bring her mother’s diary to light and share it with the rest of us. I received a review copy of this book at no cost to me courtesy of Caitlin Eck, publicist for Independent Publishers Group. The opinions are my own.
Posted in Biography, Books for Girls, Books for teaching history, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized, Young Adult | 3 Comments »
Posted by hollybookscoops on December 13, 2012
Wrapped is a great audio book for teen girls- I’m sure it’s great in written form as well, but I listened to it and loved it out loud. Agnes Wilkins is a beautiful young woman about to make her debut on London’s high society. She is invited to a mummy unwrapping party and discovers that she has stumbled upon a mystery when she is chosen to cut into the ancient mummy wrappings.
While standing still for endless hours being fitted for top-secret ball gowns Agnes spouts off Jane Austen quotes in multiple languages, much to the chagrin of her mother. Of course, in keeping with Jane Austen’s most famous decree that every single, wealthy man is in want of a wife, Agnes is expected to be snatched up by her wealthy bachelor neighbor, the dry arrogant Lord Showalter who loves to flaunt his wealth and knowledge (he’s also the host of the unwrapping party). I think my favorite character, next to Agnes, was Caedman, the aspiring Egyptologist who has no means to pursue Agnes and no hope to succeed in winning her because of that.
I would love to read this in written form because sometimes I get distracted when listening to things out loud and I kept having to backtrack when my kids got too noisy. I learned a lot about Napolean and London in this refreshing glimpse into 1815 London. Most novels of this time period completely ignore the political turmoil of the time, and I enjoyed getting a more world-savvy view. I also enjoyed that Agnes defied the social expectations of young women of her day to accomplish some amazing things. If you prefer written words, to audio books, you may want to check this version out:
I have to ask, because the covers are so different- which cover most appeals to you? Or do you like them both?
Posted in Audio Books, Books for Girls, Books for teaching history, Young Adult | 2 Comments »
Posted by hollybookscoops on May 12, 2012
I just read Matthew J. Kirby’s debut novel, and I’m about to start devouring his next book, Icefall, which just won the Edgar Award in the juvenile ficiton category. I am looking forward to it. Unfortunately, we are putting in some landscaping- flower beds and such, and so I am going to have to work hard to sneak in some reading in between gardening. Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll work it in somehow.
But… back to The Clockwork Three… I had a great time reading this novel and seeing how the lives of Frederick, Guiseppe and Hannah worked together like the intricate gears of a clock. Frederick is an orphan clockmaker’s apprentice, Hannah is a maid and the sole provider for her poverty stricken family, while Guiseppe is a busker and slave to his Padrone (a really mean man that is basically a child-extortionist and slave-master). I love the name Guiseppe- it’s so Italian, and the Italian aspect of his heritage was a small part of what endeared Guiseppe to my heart.
I’ve heard great things about Kirby’s next book and I can hardly wait to get started. I also am looking forward to meeting Matthew J. Kirby in person this summer at the WIFYR conference and having him sign a copy for me. That’s one of the great perks about this conference. Not only do they have a First Line Contest (open to everyone) going on right now, but they usually have a first line contest at the conference and they have author/illustrator signings. It’s like a celebrity meet and great for the literary world. I can hardly wait to see all my favorite people @WIFYR!
Posted in Books for Boys, Books for Girls, Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction | Tagged: Fantasy, WIFYR | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hollybookscoops on March 17, 2012
For those of you who like to celebrate holidays with a good book- here’s a great one for St. Patrick’s Day! We all know that Irish folklore is filled with tales of faeries and supernatural beings. So, although the specific country is not spelled out in Princess of the Wild Swans, it seems an ideal fit for the setting to be in an Irish country. Especially with the fact that the villagers in the book dance Ceili dances together. Cari and I grew up with Ceili dancing as part of our family’s involvement in Irish step dancing. There’s a great site with a thorough history on this form of dance that you can check out at Ceili Dancing. However, there is no mention of kilts in the book, so if you imagination takes you to another land of faeries, kudos for you.
I enjoyed Diane Zahler’s third princess book- although A True Princess is still my favorite out of her three. Many of us avid readers know the basic story of the Princess and the Swans, but for those who need a refresher, here’s a summary: Like so many classic fairytales, this one begins with a princess who’s mother has died, and her father remarries a wicked woman who is a witch. She is determined to get rid of the king’s 11 sons and 1 daughter. Zahler’s book only has 5 sons and the faerie’s in her story are evil, rather than good, but it’s a great re-telling. Zahler clearly knows her folklore and fairytales well. You can check out wikipedia for fuller details if you care to compare the similarities and differences between the two.
Now, here’s a quick review of some of the highlights and things that I loved. The stepmother was one of my favorite characters. Why? Because she was so evil. You can’t have a really good fairytale without some opposition between good and evil. It was interesting to see just how persuasive she could be with her enchantments and silver tongue. My other favorite, of course, was Princess Meriel. It was especially gratifying to see how much she changed from being a spoiled little brat who thought she was entitled to everything, to a much more self-sufficient, thoughtful person. I think this part was so gratifying to me because I work with girls of this age on a regular basis in our religious community and Meriel’s character was spot-on to things I see consistently among this age group. Often my girls can’t see the point of learning a certain skill. Let’s say, for example’s sake, sewing. And so they pout, and roll their eyes, and sigh and sometimes sit there regally refusing to learn. They can’t imagine ever having a need to use such an archaic skill. Heaven forbid they should ever need it. Luckily for them they do not live in the land of faeries and witches and spells! Otherwise, they might find themselves in dire need of this basic skill like Meriel. Hopefully someday, they’ll be grateful for all those things I torture them with- just like Meriel becomes friends with her governess, who was another of my favorite characters.
If you’ve read the book, who is your favorite character? How about your favorite of the three princess books, and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Posted in Books for Girls, Fantasy, Middle Readers, Young Adult Fiction | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hollybookscoops on December 1, 2011
We have been loving some books lately that I want to share with you. The first two, my boys and I have read together. We’ve all laughed and it has allowed for some great conversations. Not to mention some fun activities.
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger. My boys and I read this out loud together last year and all got a kick out of Dwight and his escapades with the sixth grade and his talented origami finger-puppet Yoda.
Darth Paper, an Origami Yoda Book also by Tom Angleberger. We ordered this one from the Scholastic Book Order. It seemed to take forever for it to arrive. Monday, my 3rd grader came home triumphant, book in hand. I toyed with the idea of making my boys wait until Christmas- it is so close. But, I just couldn’t wait myself. The only one who likes to wait for presents in this house would be my husband. He’s good with surprises. And waiting. Me? Not so much.
Right after dinner, my husband and boys flipped to the back where there are instructions for folding your own Darth Paper. We then folded and colored a multitude of ten-fold Darth Papers. Mine turned out to be the five-fold Origami Yoda. Somehow I must be a little paper-folding challenged. Either that or I just never listen to the dark side (yes- that would be blatant denial there). I think all of my kids, including my kindergartener, have taken some form of Star Wars Origami to school this week. We’ve had such a great time together reading and folding. I (we) highly recommend this for a family-friendly Star Wars activity.
My last recommendation is a super big secret. You can’t tell my kids. If you do, you will spoil Christmas. Don’t be a scrooge!
If you can’t keep a secret, the post ends here. I know, I know, I’m not good at keeping things secret. Let’s just say it’s a surprise. You can tell after December 26th. Here goes: Last year, Santa bought some lovely little reading lights from Costco for our boys. Unfortunately, they didn’t stand up to the destructive power of busy boy hands. They probably wouldn’t have lasted for girl hands either, but as we don’t have any of those in our house, I can’t make any promises. We were all sad when they ended up broken. Our nights were certainly more full of noise and rambunctious bunk bed escapades after the lights broke rather than peaceful, quiet reading-filled evenings. I have tried a few other kinds of book lamps but one thing has always frustrated me. The light never focuses where you want it by just hooking it on the book. It always required one hand for the light and one for the book. Leaving one or the other or both hands tired. Not to mention if you do manage to hook it effectively on the book, you end up moving it when you turn the page. Grrr! Not good for extended periods of reading in the dark. Which, if you are a night person and your sweetie is not, those little lights are necessary to happiness at times. So, I did some internet searching and found some Head lamps at Harbor Freight of all places. And check out the price! Only $2.49! For this price, I think Santa will definitely be stocking up. No more finger fatigue! They can break multiple times and still be cheaper than all those other more expensive, not to mention awkward, book lights. Happy reading! Yes, I will be wearing one of these ugly lights before long. They can double as Nerf Gun in the dark lights too. Think of the possibilities…
Posted in Books for Boys, Books for Girls, Middle Readers, Young Adult | Tagged: Books for Boys, Books for older Children, Christmas Book ideas, Headlamps, Middle Grade, Origami, Star Wars, Young Adult | 5 Comments »
Posted by hollybookscoops on October 3, 2011
The 2002 winner of the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in Young Adult literature.
Young Ju comes with her family to America. As they fly in the plane, Young Ju thinks they must be going to Heaven. Her Uhmma seems so happy to go to this America, it must be as wonderful as Heaven. An Na’s language took me back to college days when I had 3 Korean roommates. Her subtle language reflects exactly the grammar idiosyncrasies of new immigrants (not in the whole book, but at appropriate places). We had so much fun playing around with different words and the sounds that were difficult for my roommates to pronounce. I remember helping with grammar on English papers and being frustrated because you can’t change a whole paper to sound all-American without taking out the personality of the author, and the heritage they carry.
So, back to the story . . . Young Ju is frustrated by the discrepancies between home life- and true ‘American’ life. Her parents have brought with them traditional Korean ways, which when contrasted with discussions at school, bring Young Ju much difficulty. Americans think it is okay to question everything, but at home Young Ju must not question, or she is disrespectful. This story drives home the importance of family togetherness and understanding. Definitely sad parts, and difficult topics (physical and alcohol abuse), but overall a story of hope in America and the American dream.
Posted in Books for Girls, Juvenile Fiction, Uncategorized, Young Adult Fiction | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hollybookscoops on July 20, 2011
I just finished reading an amazing book! It would make a great audio for vacation- especially for middle schoolers and older. Without being preachy in any way, it will help your kids- especially your daughters appreciate the privileges and freedoms we enjoy today. You might find yourself discussing some important subjects about equality of the sexes and traditions that don’t make sense, but that are hard to question because they are so entrenched in society.
Lela and her family live in India at the cusp of Gandhi’s new political and social ideas. Lela has the misfortune of losing her ‘husband’ at the young age of twelve, making her a widhwa, or widow. I love the parallels that Sheth weaves throughout the story between the political and marriage practices of 1918 India. I found myself angry at the injustices that Lela must face because of her sex. Widows are not allowed to remarry, so Lela’s life as she knows it, will never be the same. For those unfamiliar with these marriage customs, children were engaged, and marriages arranged, by parents for their children at very young ages. Lela was on the cusp of actually moving to her in-laws’ home, when an unfortunate accident occurred, altering her life’s course forever. I encourage you to read this amazing story- that is actually based on the true life story of one of Kashmnira Sheth’s aunt’s.
Posted in Books for Boys, Books for Girls, Young Adult Fiction | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hollybookscoops on July 14, 2011
I first learned about the Cabin Creek Mysteries when I stumbled upon a book club for boys called Mysteries by the River at one of our area libraries. It is lead by Kristiana Gregory, who is a mother of grown boys, and an author who understands the drive that many children have to read about creepy things and solve mysteries. Although we were only able to go a few times after we found out about it (due to a new baby, new house further away, and sports conflicts), my boys enjoyed it and I enjoyed seeing so many boys shy, but excited about reading.
The Clue at the Bottom of the Lake is a formulaic novel similar to all those Nancy Drew and Hardy boy mysteries that Cari and I inhaled as kids. The only difference is, they are geared more specifically to a younger audience. With the perfect amount of suspense and fingernail biting, brothers Jeff and David, along with cousin Claire, solve mysteries in their cozy home in the Blue Mountains. The mystery of the moment all starts when Jeff and David witness someone dumping a lumpy, heavy bundle into the lake, across from their home and right in the front yard of their secret fort on Lost Island.
If you are looking for some fun summer reading for your kids- this series is affordable and perfect to inspire some great summer adventures when things are hot and ‘boring’. You just might find you have some detectives in your home who want to sketch (like David), or keep their things organized (like Jeff), or who are thinking up great diversions to trick the criminally minded (like Claire).
*For full disclosure, I must admit that Kristiana gave this book to my second son with her autograph inside the front cover. My other son was too embarrassed or self conscious, I’m not sure which, to get his own copy. Oh well. Son #2 wants to be an author one day anyway. Son #1, last I double checked, still wants to be a paleontologist. Anyone have a dinosaur bone out there they want to autograph? j/k
Posted in Books for Boys, Books for Girls, Middle Readers, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »
Posted by hollybookscoops on May 16, 2011
What teenage girl hasn’t heard of Lurlene McDaniel? I always got a good cry out of her books, maybe that means I’m sappy. Hmmm. McDaniels is known for her books that deal with hard realities. Sometimes, there are so many in one book, it’s a little unbelievable, but hey, it’s all about tugging on those heart strings!
Sissy is a very lovable main character whose older sister has skipped their small, homey town and run off to Hollywood. Underage and soon pregnant, she returns abandoned and in need of support. While struggling with the big decisions that come to pregnant teenagers, Briana actually begins to value her family. The twists and plot turns were well done and not as easily predictable as I thought they would be.
If you like McDaniels other books, you will not be disappointed!
Posted in Books for Girls, Young Adult Fiction | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hollybookscoops on March 4, 2011
Crispin: The Cross of Lead
I read and enjoyed this book many years ago, I re-read it just before reading the sequel, Crispin at the Edge of the World. A fascinating tale of murder and deception, the Cross of Lead traces the journey of a young boy struggling to discover who he is and why he has been proclaimed a “wolf’s head”, which means he can be killed on sight, no questions asked. Afraid to venture beyond the medieval village he has known his whole life, Asta’s son recognizes how little he knows when he meets the juggler named Bear. As Bear questions Asta’s son, and encourages him to use his own wit, Crispin learns that he has more potential than he ever imagined.
Crispin: At the Edge of the World
I enjoyed the sequel to the Cross of Lead, which follows the further journey of Bear and Crispin as they dare to sail away from England and escape the attackers who are hunting them without mercy. The people they find to help them along the way are genuine characters that add depth and perception to the story. Bear now acts as father to two children who trust him with their lives. Faced with impossible decisions and difficult situations, this is another successful spell-binding Avi tale. I look forward to reading the third and final volume of this planned trilogy!
Crispin: The End of Time
I was excited to find out what happened to Crispin in this, the last installment of the Crispin series. Crispin’s life has been one never-ending adventure since he left home as the wolf’s head in book one. The adventure continues in the foreign land he and Troth find themselves alone in. Set in a middle-ages environment, Crispin’s life story is fraught with danger and his life doesn’t slow down one bit in the last book! Once again escaping murderers and thieves, Crispin’s last tale will give readers the satisfying ending they desire and still leaves the door open for more tales, if Avi should change his plans. Avi has created a fun series for upper elementary students that will leave them with a great appreciation for the safety and security we enjoy in our civilized world!
Posted in Books for Boys, Books for Girls, Juvenile Fiction, Uncategorized, Young Adult Fiction | Leave a Comment »