Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Book Review: Book Scavenger

Book Scavenger
By Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
Henry Holt and Company, 2015
Reviewed from NetGalley
Audience: Grades 4 to 8
ISBN:  9781627791151
Publication Date:  June 2, 2015

Emily's family moves often, but her one constant is Book Scavenger, an online book hunting game that combines literature and treasure hunting.  Now that she is moving to San Francisco, she's excited to learn about the new game from Garrison Griswold, the founder of Book Scavenger.  While on his way to the game unveiling, he is mugged, and ends up in the hospital.  Emily, with her neighbor James, end up at the BART station where the crime occurred and find a book-a book that is part puzzle, part treasure, and part target.  Emily tries to play the new game and learn the ropes at a new school while also trying to dodge men that seem to be after the book.  A fantastic bookish adventure along the lines of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library and The Westing Game.

If you know me, you know that I do not use the phrase "like The Westing Game" lightly, but I do feel that this is a fair comparison.  It has a similar feels to TWG due to the game aspect, which was by design.  Garrison Griswold does resemble a charitable Samuel Westing, although Emily is not as feisty as Turtle.  I would still say that Greenglass House has a little more magic, but Book Scavenger is a little more accessible, and more fast paced.

Ignoring the game for a moment, there is also a good friendship story at play here too.  Emily has never made friends before since she knows that she will be moving on.  This time, she does bond with James over his love of puzzles and she learns that it's nice to have a friend, but she doesn't know how to be a good friend when James needs her help on the cipher challenge.  This message isn't heavy-handed, even though as a secondary plot point it could have easily become so, and readers will likely understand the importance of this message.

Like so many adventure novels today, it strikes me as funny that authors have to always explain why the characters cannot use their cell phones to get out of trouble.  You can imagine that this book hunt does get Emily into trouble, and together with James and her brother, Matthew, they are on the run.  Of course Matthew's cell phone battery dies and they are left at the mercy of their enemies.  The message kids, never leave home without a fully charged cell phone!  This is an epidemic in children's literature, right up there with dead/missing parents!  Or, if you choose to write a book, you could set it in the 80's before cell phones were a thing, then you don't have to constantly explain why the characters can't just call the police.

Tangent aside, I would recommend Book Scavenger to readers that love a good puzzle or just love books in general.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Missed It: Happy Father's Day

Even though I failed to publicly declare it, or share it in a timely manner on this blog, my hubby and Ali's grandpas did get their Father's Day wishes from Ali on time.  This photo shoot went much like the Mother's Day photo shoot, except this time Ali's Grandma Erickson played the part of assistant instead of Doug so he could be surprised by this shot.

We used the chalkboard just like last time, but I didn't know what to draw.  I tried a goldfish, but that didn't look right, so I just wrote the message and went without a drawing, until Ali pawed at it the second I put it down, that's what lead to her little hand prints.  Then I drew the best heart of my life in the other corner.  Too bad her darling head is in the way!

There aren't as many outtakes this time.  It was the kind of annoying overcast day outside that makes it look perfect for pictures, but your still squinty, so that's why her little eyes are nearly closed.  She was also playing with an Easter egg the whole time, but she's happy.  And did you notice that she's in basically the same pose as the Mother's Day photo?  She knows what looks good!

Just like last time, we have a scheming kind of photo.  More accurately, she's watching Lucy our beagle run amok in our yard.

I love this little bonus picture.  When Ali gets really excited, this is kinda her look.  Mouth wide open and laughing.

For Daddy and Grandpa Erickson, we did a quick costume change and put her in a Cubbie Bear tee.  It's a little big, but still adorable.  She was getting a little tired of being outside, so I just went with this pic.

Happy Late Father's Day to all of the dads, grandpas, uncles, and friends out there.  I hope you had a great day and got lots of snuggles from your little ones!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sing a Book

Have you noticed that Every Day in May has dissolved into Maybe If By Chance in June?  Summer does have a way of running away with you.

But today I share a singable story time!

Continuing with the Read to the Rhythm theme, my story time last week was all in song.  Some children were delighted, others dismayed, but since I can carry a tune in a bucket, it went over pretty well.

I kicked things off with She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain by Jonathan Emmett.  This sassy cowgirl rides into town with style, and plenty of audience participation.

Wiggle by Doreen Cronin might seem like a dance book, but not when you sing it to the tune of Do Your Ears Hang Low?.  A friend in librarian school taught me this neat trick and I've loved using this book ever since.

Next, we did some more rock star stretching, because you have to warm up to sing!

I Miss You Everday by Simms Taback is based on a Woody Gutherie song, but when I first read the book years ago, I started singing Taback's lyrics to a tune of my own design.  We sang along to this lovely book next.

And what would story time be without a tale about accidental arson?  Mrs. O'Leary's Cow by Mary Ann Hoberman recounts the barn burning that may (or may not) have caused the Great Chicago Fire.  Just so all the kids know the truth, I did tell them that the poor cow was not to blame.  But this lively book offers some great sing-along parts for the audience and nonsense verses.

Due to another ear infection, my baby girl was with me the whole time, and thankfully she napped through her first mommy-led story time.  Don't worry, there will be countless others!

Go check out these books and sing along to the rhythm!

Friday, June 12, 2015

5 Things: Summer Days

5 Things to Brighten Your Day
Despite the BS that May Get in Your Way

1.  Easy summer days, so quiet and peaceful.

2.  Today is not oppressively hot, maybe oppressively humid, but not bad enough to keep me from taking a couple mid-day walks.

3.  I'm looking forward to some epic baked pasta tonight.  Ali was playing in the cookbooks and recipe sheets and pulled out this recipe that looks amazing.  This might be how I meal plan from now on.

4.  Lunch with Lucy.  I love going home to see my furry baby.

5.  It's Friday!  Enjoy it.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Strike Up the Band!

This year libraries around Illinois are participating in Read to the Rhythm and celebrating all things musical.  I'm back doing story time at the lovely Colchester Library on Mondays and I'll be sharing my story time outlines with you here.

These story times are the highlight of my week!  There were roughly 15 kids this week, and we meet outside by a busy highway, but they still pay pretty great attention.  The ages are 4 to 10, so it's a broad range, but I always have fun, and I think that most of the kids do too.

First up, Strike Up the Band!

I opened with Punk Farm by Jarrett J Krosoczka.  This is a go-to book for me.  The kids really loved the punk rock flavor of this book.

Then, we did some Rock Star Stretching.  This is an activity that I totally made up in the car on the way over.  We reached for the high notes, bent low for the low notes, arranged our keyboards and stretched to reach them all, played the drums, and did some pretty epic air guitar.

Next, The Remarkable Farkle McBride.  I'm not normally a fan of celebrity books, but this one is great, and it has a nice meter along with some wonderful sound words.  Plus, how many books introduce children to the orchestra?

Our next movement activity was a marching band.  I split the kids into three rough groups, gave each a sound to make, and we were off.  We marched a bit, made our noises, and sat back down.

Finally, I read Thump, Thump, Rat-a-tat-tat about a marching band that comes closer, and then moves farther away.  The kids did help me with the refrain and got louder and softer.

I have three more weeks of musical fun ahead of me.  My next story time will be all about singable books, and I am planning one on dance as well.  Stay tuned!

Happy Reading

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Whomp Whomp: An Every Day in May Update

I knew vacation would be the end of me!  I fell short of posting every day in May by 4 posts!  All while on vacation.  I did manage to post twice from a hotel room in Oklahoma City while rains pounded outside, but after that I was having entirely too much fun to think about this little blog.  But 27 posts in 28 days is pretty great, and when you think about it, I got an 87% for the month.  I'll take a B on this assignment.  And with the curve, I'm way over an A.

My other social media offerings were not as successful.  Instagram, which should have been a no-brainer during vacation, went completely silent.  Twitter is still dead to me.  I think I should just delete my twitter profile.  I just don't get it and don't have time or desire to learn.

Even though I didn't post at all while on vacation, thus ruining my Every Day in May resolution, I did something even more important, I unplugged.  I'm not a big social media girl on the best day, obviously, but even so, it's nice to not check email, not peek at Facebook, let you phone sit untouched for hours on end.  I barely managed to keep the thing charged because I paid so little attention to it.  But I did play with Ali, take long walks, get a much needed massage, and see some family that I never see.  And it was much better without a phone in my hands. 

So while I failed (but a B is not failing!) I enjoyed this past month.  It's shown me that I can be social and active online but that it's better to be social and active in the real world.  That's a lesson we should all learn!

Look for more posts to come, including a wrap-up of our road-trip vacation, summer reading plans, and VBS updates!

Happy Reading

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Book Review: Circus Mirandus

Circus Mirandus
By Cassie Beasley
Dial, 2015
Reviewed from NetGalley
Audience: Grades 3 to 7
ISBN:  9780525428435
Expected Publication Date:  June 2, 2015

Micah Tuttle is dismayed at his aunt's behavior.  Ever since she has come to live with him and his grandfather, she's been changing everything and she's nothing like them.  Micah and his grandfather Ephraim believe in magic.  Micah adores hearing his grandfather's stories about the magical Circus Mirandus, and as things are looking very bleak, Ephraim asks the circus' Lightbender for a miracle.  Micah, with the help of the very rational Jenny, must find the circus and try to find the miracle, whatever it may be.

Do you know how annoying it is to love a book, then have someone say "If you liked X, you'll love this book", then you don't love it?  Not here, folks!  If you were an adult that loved The Night Circus, then hand Circus Mirandus over to your children, but not before you read it first!

The circus itself is sufficiently magical.  I'm especially fond of the elephant that can do long division.  She's feisty.  And all of the tents are described in such stunning detail that you can't help but long to go.  The circus also brings up some wonderful questions about childhood.  It's long been believed that children can believe things that adults just can't, and no where is that shown more than the brief moment when the circus is discovered.  It's a sad fact, adults are too rational for our own good.

Micah's story was compelling enough, but the undercurrent of Victoria was heartbreaking.  Here is a woman with talent, but she's cruel and only seeks power.  What a villain!  This isn't really an adventure novel, but it could easily become one if her character was teased out a little bit more.  Instead, it's a quiet novel about family, belief and belonging.

And a giant gorilla balloon, but you should really read the book to find out why.

This was another home run for NetGalley.  I've been quite lucky with them lately, and I can't wait to see what comes next.

Happy Reading!