Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What's On Your Nightstand (May)


The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.
Reformation Heritage Study Bible--KJV. Edited by  Joel R. Beeke, Gerald Bilkes, and Michael Barrett. 2014. Reformation Heritage Books. 2218 pages. [Source: Birthday Gift in 2014]

Ginger is helping me out once again in introducing my newest Bible reading project. This is my fourth Bible to select as project this year. I am LOVING it.

Basic Christianity. John Stott. 1958. 179 pages. [Source: Bought]

This is one of the books I read while drinking tea. I am making good and steady progress, so I'm hoping to finish it this week. 

Dawn's Early Light. Elswyth Thane. 1934/2017. Chicago Review Press. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I am really excited to start this series. I've only read the last in the series (Williamsburg is the name of the series), and that was in high school--twenty-something years ago. (It was the only one in the series the school library had.)

Blood, Bullets, and Bones: The story of Forensic Science from Sherlock Holmes to DNA. Bridget Heos. 2016. 263 pages. [Source: Library]

 Each chapter tackles a different element or aspect of forensic science. Within each chapter there are dozens of true crime stories--mostly historical, but some contemporary. I am finding it fascinating!

The Portrait of a Lady. Henry James. 1881. 640 pages. [Source: Bought]

 It had me at hello. Literally.
Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.
 44 Scotland Street. Alexander McCall Smith. 2005. 325 pages. [Source: Library]

Started this last night. I am really enjoying it so far.

An Exposition of Psalm 119. Thomas Manton. 2025 pages. [Source: Bought]

Still enjoying this one. I have slowed down some, I admit. But I have every intention of finishing this one this year.

Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and On Earth. Douglas Sean O'Donnell. 2013. 1090 pages. [Source: Bought]
 This is a Bible commentary, and I'm to the part where he's explaining Matthew 25. So maybe I'll finish early-to-mid June!





© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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No More Bows

No More Bows. Samantha Cotterill. 2017. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Hugo and Milly had been playing tea party...and dress-up...and house...all morning. So when Hugo heard: "Time for a walk!" he was ready to go.

Premise/plot: Hugo is most unhappy when his owner, Milly, starts making him wear BOWS on their daily walks. He's being humiliated in front of all the other dogs. Something must be done?! Why is she doing this to him?! One thing is certain: NO MORE BOWS.

My thoughts: I thought this was a very cute, very funny dog story. I really enjoyed the repetition in it.
Hugo was not amused. But the neighborhood dogs sure were.
The writing was well done. And I thought the illustrations were very expressive. I loved the red-haired girl's pigtails! Very cute and adorable.

Text: 4.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4.5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10



© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Dog Book

Dog Book. Lorenzo Clerici. 2017. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I'll call my dog: _____________. Zzz Zzz. Look at your dog sleeping...and listen to him snoring! Hey, sleepyhead, it's time to get up! Do you want to help wake him? Call out his name and then turn the page.

Premise/plot: The Dog Book is an interactive picture book for parents to share with their children one-on-one. (Earlier I reviewed The Cat Book.) The premise is simple: children interact with the book by naming the dog, waking him up, petting and tickling and scratching him, giving him commands like 'sit' and 'fetch,' etc.

My thoughts: When I received review copies of The Cat Book and The Dog Book, I thought I knew which one would be my favorite. But I was wrong. I really do love cats a bit more than dogs. But there are a lot more interactions possible with this fictional dog. And none of them involve squishing fleas or preventing him from eating a bird! The illustrations seem more playful and lively as well.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Squirrel in the House

Squirrel in the House. Vivian Vande Velde. Illustrated by Steve Bjorkman. 2016. Holiday House. 80 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The dog who lives next door to the yard where I live tells me that people call dogs "man's best friend." Well, actually, the dog doesn't so much tell me this as he yells it. Usually while he's chasing me.

Premise/plot: Squirrel in the House is narrated by a squirrel, Twitch. He would never normally think about going INSIDE but on one cold wintry day, he does just that. He goes down the chimney and into the house of Cuddles' master's house. The dog is, I believe, the first to notice--perhaps the second. Also taking note of the squirrel is a young child. But it isn't just any day, the master has a LOT of people--family presumably--over to celebrate for some reason. (The squirrel doesn't quite grasp humans.) When the dog is locked up in the basement, and the young child punished for destroying the living room, I believe, the child runs away. The squirrel notices that the boy is dressed for the inside but in the outside and worries. He follows the child, and, when the boy collapses, it's up to the squirrel to alert the family and save the day. But who will listen to a squirrel?!

My thoughts: This is a fun and quick read. Twitch is an entertaining narrator. He loves the human party--especially the pre-shelled nuts. He develops a taste for potato chips and cupcakes too. What kind of tree do they come from, he wonders!

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Mama Cat Has Three Kittens

Mama Cat Has Three Kittens. Denise Fleming. 1998. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Mama Cat has three kittens, Fluffy, Skinny, and Boris. When Mama Cat washes her paws, Fluffy and Skinny wash their paws. Boris naps. When Mama Cat walks the stone wall, Fluffy and Skinny walk the stone wall. Boris naps.

Premise/plot: Mama Cat has three kittens. Fluffy and Skinny copy their mother; they excel at their kitty education--their kitten academy. Boris, well, he's BORIS. He excels in one subject: NAPPING. Perhaps with a minor in STEALING THE SHOW.

My thoughts: I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. I like all the cats, but, Boris has the last say! I would definitely recommend this one for parents to share with their little ones. I think cat lovers of all ages can appreciate it.

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


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, May 19, 2017

My Pet Human Takes Center Stage

My Pet Human Takes Center Stage. Yasmine Surovec. 2017. Roaring Brook Press. 112 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My name is Oliver. This is my pet human, Freckles. I have her well-trained. She feeds me treats. She rubs my belly. But today she's going to a new place of training. It's her first day of school.

Premise/plot: Oliver goes to school to be with Freckles. The school is pet-loving, so no big problem. In fact, there's a school club, Fur-ever Friends Club, that Freckles joins. The club is big on fund-raisers, and, this book is ALL about fund-raising. Freckles and her mom take in a foster-kitten during this time, and, Oliver is out of sorts about the attention being on another cat. Freckles idea is to TRAIN both of her cats for an act in the fund-raising show. Oliver has mixed-ideas about it. He doesn't want Freckles to be humiliated, and, he doesn't want the new kitten to do all the tricks and leave him looking stupid, and, he does like Freckles and want to please her....but is a cat trainable?

My thoughts: More happens in this second book, which, I think is a good thing. Oliver continues to be an entertaining cat. I like this series, but, I'm not sure I love it.


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

My Pet Human

My Pet Human. Yasmine Surovec. 2015. 112 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I'm a lucky cat. I live a carefree life.

Premise/plot: This (early) chapter book is narrated by a cat. At first, this cat is convinced that he does not need a pet human; that having a pet human would be a bad idea, that having one would ruin his happy-go-lucky, carefree life. But when a little girl and her mom move into 'the old abandoned house,' he gives it a go. Not planning to stay, of course not! Just seeing if he has found a food-source. But the food is good. The belly rubs are even better. Soon she starts calling him OLIVER and he responds to it as his own. His name for her? Freckles.

My thoughts: I liked this one. It's a notebook novel. I've not read many of those. But I liked this one just fine. It is all from Oliver's point of view. I wouldn't say it's a must-read for cat-loving adults, but, it's a pleasant and "safe" read for children who love animals.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I Don't Know What To Call My Cat

I Don't Know What To Call My Cat. Simon Philip. Illustrated by Ella Bailey. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I have a new cat. She turned up on my doorstep one day looking hungry. She obviously liked the dinner I gave her, because she's stayed ever since. That's fine. I like cats. There's just one problem. I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO CALL MY CAT.

Premise/plot: The little girl in this picture book has a big problem: she doesn't know what to call her cat. She tries many, many, many names, but none seem to fit. (For one thing, she has to give up the girl names when she finds out it's a boy.) One day her cat disappears, and, a new "pet" follows her home...from the zoo. She'll have problems with this new pet too, but, not about his name. His behavior, well, it might just call for the Bureau of Naughty Animals!!! By the end, all things are resolved happily.

My thoughts: If you're looking for a funny picture book to share with children, I'd definitely recommend this one. I love the pairing of text and illustrations. It's this pairing that gives it a just right feel--an understated yet very funny tone. For example, "I thought Kitty would be just right. 'Here, Kitty!'" Readers turn the page to see over three dozen cats have responded. The text simply reads: "It wasn't."

Steve was a fun addition to this one. He is VERY naughty indeed.

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

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Cat Book

The Cat Book. Silvia Borando. 2017. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I'll call my cat: _________. Zzz Zzz. Who's that curled in a ball? Hey, sleepy cat, it's time to get up! Can you help wake him? Call out his name and then turn the page.

Premise/plot: The Cat Book is an interactive picture book for parents to share one-on-one with their little ones. (I say one-on-one because I imagine that it would be difficult to share with a large group of kids as a library or classroom read aloud.) How is it interactive? Children are encouraged to participate: naming the cat, calling out his name, petting him on the back, tickling him under the chin, squishing his fleas, blowing the dead fleas away, sheltering him with a hand so he doesn't get wet, drying him off with a shirt, smoothing down his fur, etc. Every page has something for little ones to do. (All the prompts are in green.)

My thoughts: I like this one. It's creative and unique. There is also a Dog Book.

Text: 3.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3.5 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Picture Book Parade

Option 1:
  • What picture books did you read this month?
  • Which squares did you fill?
  • Which squares are you having trouble with?
  • How many until you bingo?
  • Do you have suggestions for other participants?

Option 2:
  • What picture books did you read this month?
  • Which categories did you check off your list?
  • What is your goal? How close are you to meeting that goal?
  • Which categories are you having trouble with?
  • Do you have suggestions for other participants?

Option 3:
  • What picture books did you read this month?
  • Which letters have you read?
  • How many more to go until you've read the alphabet?
  • Which letters are you having trouble with? 
  • Do you have suggestions for other participants?
Books reviewed since last time:
Stack the Cats. Susie Ghahremani. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Big Sister, Little Sister. LeUyen Pham. 2005. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Leo the Late Bloomer. Robert Kraus. Illustrated by Jose Aruego. 1971/1994. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School. Suzanne Slade. 2014. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Little Miss, Big Sis. Amy Krouse Rosenthal. 2015. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Corduroy. Don Freeman. 1968. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Pocket for Corduroy. Don Freeman. 1978. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2007. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
Minerva Louise and the Colorful Eggs. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2006. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
Minerva Louise and the Red Truck. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2002. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Minerva Louise at the Fair. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2000. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
 A Friend for Minerva Louise. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1997. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Minerva Louise at School. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1996. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
A Hat for Minerva Louise. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1994. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
Minerva Louise. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1988. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
Thunder Cake. Patricia Polacco. 1997. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
I Am Helen Keller. Brad Meltzer. Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Steppin' Out: Jaunty Rhymes for Playful Times. Lin Oliver. Illustrated by Tomie DePaola. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Goin' Someplace Special. Patricia McKissack. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. 2001. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Rhyming Dust Bunnies. Jan Thomas. 2009. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
What This Story Needs Is a Bang and a Clang. Emma J. Virjan. 2017. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Quinoto's Neighborhood/El Vecindario de Quinito. Ina Cumpiano. Illustrated by Jose Ramirez. 2005/2009. 24 pages. [Source: Library]  

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Stack the Cats

Stack the Cats. Susie Ghahremani. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: One cat sleeps. Two cats play. Three cats? Stack! Four cats teeter. Five cats totter. Six cats prefer two stacks of three cats.

Premise/plot: Love cats? Love math? Looking for a more unique counting concept book? Stack the Cats is certainly unique and it's just as much math-centered as cat-centered. In all there are ten cats.

My thoughts: Did I love it as much as I wanted to love it? No. I really, really love cats. (My latest addiction is watching Kitten Academy's livestream.) It's not so much that I don't love math as math doesn't love me. (But this basic kind of math is just my speed.) I really found some of the spreads to be super-adorable. For example, "Two cats play" is illustrated by two adorable cats playing with yarn. But some of the spreads just didn't thrill me as much. It's hard for me to imagine eight cats stacked on top of each other! So did I like it more than I disliked it? Yes. I think that's fair enough to say.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Big Sister, Little Sister

Big Sister, Little Sister. LeUyen Pham. 2005. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: In this family, we have two sisters. She's the Big Sister. I'm the Little Sister. The Big Sister usually does things first. I'm the Little Sister. I'm always catching up.

Premise/plot: Who has it better? The Big Sister or the Little Sister?! Pham celebrates both roles really well, in my opinion. (I'm a LITTLE sister). I could see myself--and my sister--in this one.

My thoughts: I love, love, love, LOVE this one. I was very happy for the chance to read it again. I love the writing. I love the narrative. The Little Sister has such a distinct voice and vibrant personality.

The Big Sister is very neat. I'm the Little Sister. I'm not.
The Big Sister gets to stay up later and watch TV. I'm the Little Sister. I go to bed at 7:30. Sometimes.
The Big Sister isn't afraid of the dark. I'm the Little Sister. Help!
I also love, love, love the illustrations.

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



© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Doctor Thorne

Doctor Thorne. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 639 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Before the reader is introduced to the modest country medical practitioner who is to be the chief personage of the following tale, it will be well that he should be made acquainted with some particulars as to the locality in which, and the neighbours among whom, our doctor followed his profession.

Premise/plot: Frank Gresham LOVES, LOVES, LOVES Mary Thorne, the doctor's niece. BUT. His family is in financial trouble, in debt. It being the nineteenth century and work being a horrible suggestion for a young man, Frank is told that he MUST--no doubt about it--MARRY for MONEY. Since Mary doesn't have money, she won't do at all. His parents have different ways of going about separating the two. But essentially Frank spends a year or two away from 'the love of his life.' And Mary spends those years being shunned by a family that formerly welcomed and received her as one of their own. Meanwhile, Doctor Thorne is busy doctoring a local family of drunkards. He tends first the father, then the son. Unbeknownst to the community, but not unknown to him, these are Mary's maternal relatives--her very, very, very wealthy relatives (Scatcherds). But their background--their status--is low. The doctor knows that there's a possibility that Mary will be extremely rich one day. But he has to keep this a big secret since it's just a possibility. If the current heir lives and is able to overcome his alcoholism...or if he lives past his twenty-fifth birthday...then the money won't be Mary's at all. Mary herself doesn't know the connection.

My thoughts: I really LOVE this third book in the Barsetshire series by Anthony Trollope. It's a romance with plenty of drama and gossip. It's a good, old-fashioned romance. Modern readers may be less than impressed that one of the big love scenes works its way up to holding hands for a few minutes. But as for me, I really enjoyed it for what it was.

I also loved to see the bond between Doctor Thorne and his niece. 

If you appreciate Anthony Trollope, if you look upon him as a particular friend--as I do--then you'll love Doctor Thorne.

Doctor Thorne promising the child's mother to take her in and raise her as his very own:
“She is my niece,” said the doctor, taking up the tiny infant in his huge hands; “she is already the nearest thing, the only thing that I have in this world. I am her uncle, Mary. If you will go with this man I will be father to her and mother to her. Of what bread I eat, she shall eat; of what cup I drink, she shall drink. See, Mary, here is the Bible;” and he covered the book with his hand. “Leave her to me, and by this word she shall be my child.”
Other favorite quotes:
It is so much easier to preach than to practise.
How is one to have an opinion if one does not get it by looking at the things which happen around us? 
Habit is second nature, man; and a stronger nature than the first. 
Our sheep have to put up with our spiritual doses whether they like them or not. 
People must be bound together. They must depend on each other. Of course, misfortunes may come; but it is cowardly to be afraid of them beforehand. 
“You haven’t got another cup of tea, have you?” “Oh, uncle! you have had five.” “No, my dear! not five; only four — only four, I assure you; I have been very particular to count. I had one while I was—” “Five uncle; indeed and indeed.” “Well, then, as I hate the prejudice which attaches luck to an odd number, I’ll have a sixth to show that I am not superstitious.” 
When one is impatient, five minutes is as the duration of all time, and a quarter of an hour is eternity. 
It’s hard to say in these days what is wrong and what is not. 
See the world on all sides if you have an opportunity; and, believe me, a good dinner now and then is a very good thing. 
We strain at our gnats with a vengeance, but we swallow our camels with ease. 
How can I tell him to be sober when I have been a beast all my life myself? How can I advise him? That’s where it is! It is that that now kills me. Advise! Why, when I speak to him he treats me like a child. 
You ain’t worth a shilling, and yet you regret nothing. I am worth half a million in one way or the other, and I regret everything — everything — everything! 
Alas! she-dragons are not easily convinced of the innocence of any one. 
It is so hard to throw off a tyrant; so much easier to yield, when we have been in the habit of yielding. 
“I don’t give a straw for the world.” “That is a mistake, my boy; you do care for it, and would be very foolish if you did not. What you mean is, that, on this particular point, you value your love more than the world’s opinion.” “Well, yes, that is what I mean.” 
when one is specially invited to be candid, one is naturally set upon one’s guard. 
Wounds sometimes must be opened in order that they may be healed. 
Who can console a heart that has lost all that it possessed?
Love can only be paid in its own coin: it knows of no other legal tender.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Leo the Late Bloomer

Leo the Late Bloomer. Robert Kraus. Illustrated by Jose Aruego. 1971/1994. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Leo couldn't do anything right. He couldn't read. He couldn't write. He couldn't draw. He was a sloppy eater. And, he never said a word.

Premise/plot: Much of Leo the Late Bloomer covers conversations between a mother and father as they discuss their late bloomer, Leo. The father worries that Leo will never, ever bloom. His mother is confident that Leo will bloom. Seasons come and go but Leo hasn't bloomed. Then one day, he does. And Leo's "first word" isn't a first word, but a sentence: "I made it!"

My thoughts: I did not grow up with this one. In fact, I didn't meet Leo until I was in college. But I definitely connected with him once I met him. I liked the optimism of the mother tiger. I could understand, in part, the frustration of the father. And I cheered the happy, happy ending. Overall, I'm not sure that it's perfectly-perfect in terms of modeling what to do if your child has learning difficulties. But I'm not convinced that it has to be. This isn't a how-to book for children or parents.

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

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, May 12, 2017

With Books and Bricks

With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School. Suzanne Slade. 2014. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: From sunrise to sunset, young Booker worked hard. He carried water to the fields. He carried corn to the mill. He carried rocks from the yard. All day long, Booker lugged heavy loads with a heavy heart because he was a slave.

Premise/plot: This picture book biography of Booker T. Washington focuses on his mission of education. He believed that education would lead to empowerment and freedom and opportunity. Most of this one focuses on his work to literally build a school: working to find the right clay, making bricks, baking bricks, using those bricks to build school buildings. It was not simple or straightforward. It was challenging, frustrating, seemingly hopeless. But with fierce determination, he proved that anything is possible.

My thoughts: What an inspiring story of determination. When the third kiln broke, most anyone would have given up. But not him. I think this was a well-written story.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Little Miss, Big Sis

Little Miss, Big Sis. Amy Krouse Rosenthal. 2015. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The big news is this: Little Miss will be a big sis. Will be a big sis? Will be a big sis! Waiting and waiting. Anticipating. Then... Ow. Now! Wow! What now? Sleep. Fuss. Eat. Repeat.

Premise/plot: Little Miss, the heroine, is excited to become a big sister. What's it like to have a newborn in the house?! Little Miss provides readers with a behind-the-scenes glimpse into life as a big sister. It doesn't just cover the first few weeks. By the end of the picture book, he's walking, talking, and HUGGING.

My thoughts: Very sweet. I expected it to be SWEET and ADORABLE. I will definitely miss Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

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

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Beauty

Beauty. Robin McKinley. 1978/1993. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I was the youngest of three daughters. Our literal-minded mother named us Grace, Hope, and Honour, but few people except perhaps the minister who had baptized all three of us remembered my given name.

Premise/plot: Beauty is a retelling of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. It is very much character driven. Beauty, the youngest, is the plain, no-thrills, practical daughter. She's not outstanding or amazing at anything in particular. She's a hard worker, almost Cinderella like. Her father is a dear, but not horribly developed. Her two sisters are pleasant as well. Again not horribly developed, but they are important to her so they're important to us. Over half the book takes place before her father steals a rose thereby endangering Beauty's freedom.

Beauty chooses the path of honor when her father is put into a dilemma. What she finds at the castle surprises her. It may surprise readers too. The castle is beautiful, just awe-inspiring. Her every need is met, almost her every desire. From their first meeting, she finds him well-mannered, kind, considerate, generous. He may be ugly, no woman's dream mate, but a beast he is not. He doesn't stomp around having tantrums. He doesn't yell or scream. He is practically perfect in every way.

Nearly every day ends the same: with a marriage proposal. This always is awkward for Beauty, but, the hours they spend in each other's company each day more than makes up for it. Within weeks, she couldn't imagine life without him.

The library. One of the enchantments of the castle is the fact that the library contains every book that will ever be written. Think about it: ever!!! Every book written past, present, future. This is the stuff of dreams!

The enchantments are mainly invisible and more subtle than Disney would have you believe. Voices mainly that she hears as she's drifting off to sleep.

My thoughts: I loved many things about the book. I loved that Beauty wasn't beautiful in a most beautiful woman in the world way. I loved that most of her appeal, most of her beauty was internal. She was also humble, meek, modest. I also loved that there was no villain. The sisters weren't vain, selfish, immature. There was no Gaston. No angry mob. No wolves even! This was an almost conflict free read.

I also liked the dream aspect of the book. The Beast sends her family true dreams every night so they see that she is happy and safe. He sends her dreams of her family--not as often--so that she can see they are doing well. He very much cares about them and her. He isn't lacking feeling, in fact, he seems a hundred times more compassionate than the average hero. He may need Beauty to agree to marry him to break the spell and restore his humanity. But he isn't redeemed by her. There is nothing beastly about his soul. She doesn't transform him, if anything, he transforms her.

Is it romantic? It depends on how you define romance. If it depends on flirting, longing, and smut...then no. Much more subtle in this one is the romance. Conversations. Reading aloud. Eating together. Riding horses. Walking together. Love sneaks up on her. She's almost the last to know her own heart.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Pocket for Corduroy

Pocket for Corduroy. Don Freeman. 1978. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Late one summer afternoon Lisa and her mother took their laundry to the laundromat. As always on such trip Lisa carried along her toy bear, Corduroy.

Premise/plot: Corduroy is "lost" at the laundromat when he leaves the chair Lisa placed him in, and goes off in search of something to make a pocket out of. Fortunately, he is not washed OR dried. Though his overalls do come off! Corduroy has a unique way of seeing the world--and his take on laundry baskets and soap flakes is interesting. Will he get a pocket at last?

My thoughts: I never knew about this one until I was searching for books published in 1978. I really enjoyed it overall. Lisa has a special bond with her best friend, and, she always understands exactly what he wants or needs. It must be nice to be Corduroy!!!

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

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Corduroy

Corduroy. Don Freeman. 1948/1968. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Corduroy is a bear who once lived in the toy department of a big store.

Premise/plot: Corduroy is a toy bear wearing overalls with a missing button. He didn't exactly realize his button was missing until it was pointed out to him. That night, he searches for his missing button unsuccessfully. Fortunately, the next day a LOVELY little girl buys him and takes him home.
"You must be a friend," said Corduroy. "I've always wanted a friend." "Me too!" said Lisa, and gave him a big hug.
My thoughts: I loved this one as a child. It doesn't really get any sweeter. The ending is just about perfect.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, May 08, 2017

Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve

Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2007. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Minerva Louise loved the way the snow sparkled on the house with the red curtains.

Premise/plot: Minerva Louise returns to the house with red curtains. She's curious about the sparkly tree topped with a hen and the goats on the roof. Why is the farmer wearing a red hat? So many questions this hen has. She's back and as silly as ever.

My thoughts: It's Christmas and Minerva Louise is confused about all the changes inside and out! I really am fond of this chicken! My favorite is her confusion about why the strange man was eating her farmers' breakfast!

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

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, May 07, 2017

Minerva Louise and the Colorful Eggs

Minerva Louise and the Colorful Eggs. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2006. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Minerva Louise loved the springtime.

Premise/plot: Minerva is very confused by the Easter egg hunt on the farm. She thinks that there's an absent-minded chicken abandoning her eggs ALL over the place. She rounds up the other hens and has them trying to find the eggs to sit on them to keep them warm. Then they notice the "farmers" picking up the eggs. The other hens are content that all is well. But Minerva is still curious! She asks questions of the "brown bunny" and "yellow chicks" but candy doesn't answer questions!

My thoughts: I loved this one. I'd never thought to imagine how a chicken would view egg hunts! Minerva Louise may get a lot of things wrong, but I love her gumption.

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

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, May 06, 2017

Minerva Louise and the Red Truck

Minerva Louise and the Red Truck. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2002. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Minerva Louise loved the red truck. It was one of her favorite places to play.

Premise/plot: Minerva goes on a ride and sees a lot of trucks at work as the world speeds by. Will her favorite truck remain her farmers' red truck?

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. Minerva gets in the back of the truck, spots the toy box, table and chairs, and has herself a grand old time. The toy box is a tool box, the table and chairs a couple of clay pots. This one is a joy to read. Pure silliness at work.

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


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, May 05, 2017

Minerva Louise at the Fair

Minerva Louise at the Fair. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2000. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Minerva Louise loved how peaceful the farm was at night.

Premise/plot: My favorite silly chicken is disturbed by the "stars falling from the sky" and leaves the farm to see what is making all the booms. She finds herself at the fair. She even finds herself on a ride at one point. The world is so new and exciting when seen through the eyes of an inexperienced chicken.

My thoughts: I liked this one. The merry go round as horse barn was probably my favorite bit.

Text: 3.5 out of 5
Illustrations 3.5 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, May 04, 2017

A Friend for Minerva Louise

A Friend for Minerva Louise. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1997. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The house with the red curtains looks different today, thought Minerva Louise. What is it? Oh, they have a new wheelbarrow. Isn't it fancy! I wonder what else has changed around here. That fence wasn't there before. And look--a new rabbit hutch.

Premise/plot: There's a new baby at the house with the red curtains. Minerva Louise is curious. Oh, she's not smart enough to see that the wheelbarrow is really a stroller and that the rabbit hutch is really a crib. She's definitely in search of a BUNNY and not a baby.

My thoughts: Minerva Louise is a fun chicken to spend time with. She's not the smartest or most observant. Well, technically she observes plenty. But she doesn't have the gift of discernment! She doesn't understand what she sees. This misunderstanding provides a lot of humor to the book. It's very funny to see the world through the eyes of this oh-so-silly chicken. You never know how she will see the world.

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

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Minerva Louise at School

Minerva Louise at School. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1996. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: One morning, Minerva Louise woke up before everyone else. It was a beautiful morning, so she decided to go for a walk through the tall grass. She walked on and on. Oh, look! A big, fancy barn, thought Minerva Louise.

Premise/plot: Minerva Louise explores a "big, fancy barn" in this third adventure. The barn, of course, as you might have guessed is really a school! She explores the stalls (classrooms) and looks for animals (students.) She even finds nesting boxes (cubbies) and an egg (a baseball). She never does see any animals, but she returns to her own nesting place full of good ideas.

My thoughts: This one may be the funniest Minerva Louise yet. Especially if anyone you know and love is a teacher. It's just a very silly book. I love that the humor comes from the differences between the text and the illustrations. Minerva's "truth" is far from reality. And readers young and old can spot all the many, many ways this chicken is wrong.

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


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, May 02, 2017

A Hat for Minerva Louise

A Hat for Minerva Louise. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1994. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Minerva Louise loved snowy mornings. Her friends didn't like them one bit. They stayed inside all day with their heads tucked under their wings.

Premise/plot: Minerva Louise is back in her second adventure, I believe, and in this adventure she goes and plays in the snow. Part of this snowy-day adventure includes searching for WARM THINGS to put on which would enable her to stay out and play longer. She tries many things on before finding a "hat" to wear.

My thoughts: This one was silly. Minerva Louise is quite mistaken about a lot of things. For example, a water hose is not a scarf, and gardening gloves are not shoes. I like the silliness of it. The story overall was very enjoyable.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, May 01, 2017

Further thoughts on reading Oliver

Oliver Twist dares you to be uncomfortable as a reader, to look head-on at another's pain and misery. The novel places you in horridly unjust situations time and time again. Will you look away? Will you shrug off another's burden or struggle? Or will you open your eyes, your ears, your heart? Can you stand to stand witness? Or will you cling to Dickens dark and slightly inappropriate humor? If Dickens can find much to laugh about, I can too, right? But is poverty, hunger and starvation, homelessness, and abuse something to make light about...then or now? Just because Oliver Twist gets a happy ending doesn't wipe away the injustices--the deep embedded injustices. Are you willing to think about injustices, specific injustices? Are you willing to do more than think? Are you willing to act? It is easy, it is natural to not dwell on subjects that make us uncomfortable, situations that just don't seem to be 'our problem'. Problems don't disappear because you ignore them; problems don't go away because you ask nicely.

Is the novel still relevant? Domestic abuse happens. Every day it happens. There are women whose lives are in danger. Nancy is not alone in her situation. Unfortunately. For me, it is harder to witness Nancy's plight than Oliver's. What kind of person is Nancy? Brave certainly. Why? She finds a way to have a voice, to speak out to others, to speak up for another. She finds a way to stand by her conviction despite enormous risk. This is no small thing she's doing--and readers should not presume that it is easy for her. I don't think it is. Speaking up reveals inner strength, but what does staying reveal? Could it ever be anything but foolish? Perhaps inevitable is a second choice. We can imagine Nancy's background, how she came to be under the control of Fagin and Sykes, but we haven't--most of us at least--walked in her shoes. We don't know why her heart was so full of love for Bill, we don't know why he was her everything, her whole world. We see a violent, abusive, cruel, domineering man--she sees him differently. It is easy to conclude she's a fool to stay. But are we quick to think we know her? She's spent her whole life being the property of others, doing what she's told, not questioning orders, not speaking back. What changes Nancy so much that she starts thinking for herself, acting for herself, being bold and risky?


She sees something in Oliver perhaps, or maybe there's a life within her that has her thinking of the future? There has to be a moment when she realizes that this is no kind of life to be living, that there is still a chance for Oliver even if she is all out of chances for her own life. Perhaps she is wishing that someone had stepped up to save her. She may not be able to save every child, but Oliver, he can be saved. Once that decision has been made, there's no turning back. Nancy is fiercely brave.

Hunger and homelessness also still persist in the world. Not to mention the buying and selling of women and children. This isn't a one issue problem novel. It is a dark, bleak novel that is written in a tongue in cheek way at times. I let myself become distant so I wouldn't have to deal with the problems--so long as they weren't real to me, I could forget them, right? Yes and no.

Is it right to dismiss injustice because you don't like to feel uncomfortable or awkward?

Oliver Twist was the medicine that I didn't want to swallow because of the way it tasted.


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Minerva Louise

Minerva Louise. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1988. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Minerva Louise loved the house with the red curtains.

Premise/plot: Minerva Louise explores the house with the red curtains in this picture book. It is the first in a series starring this lovable hen. She may not be the smartest chicken, but, she may be the funniest. For example, "a comfortable chair...and friendly cows." The chair is a flower pot. The 'friendly cow' is a kitten.

My thoughts: I like this one very much. I don't know if I love, love, love Minerva Louise yet. But. I am curious about this CURIOUS chicken. I want to see what other types of adventures she has. Will definitely be returning to the library for more!

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

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist. Charles Dickens. 1838/1839. 608 pages. [Source: Bought]
First sentence: Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born; on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events; the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter.
 Premise/plot: Oliver Twist, the 'hero' of Charles Dickens novels, endures much drama before finally getting a happily ever after ending. 

Who is Oliver Twist? He's an orphan born in a workhouse. He's an orphan who dares ask for MORE gruel. He's a boy sold to an undertaker. He's a boy who's bullied to the point of running away. He's a boy who dreams that London holds the answers. He's a boy who falls into bad company. Coincidences surround Oliver. (He happens to be taken in to Mr. Brownlow's household. He happens to be taken into Mrs. Maylie's household. Both Brownlow and the Maylies knew his parent(s). Both care about what happens to him in the future. Both are on his side--Oliver is never truly alone against this mad, bad world.) He's a boy worth risking your life for--if you're Nancy. He's a boy that things happen to. Ever notice how all the drama just happens to him, because of him, around him, and Oliver is just there. (If Oliver is the hero, he's the most boring hero ever.)

The characters that are of interest in this one are: Nancy, Fagin, and Artful Dodger. If the novel is worth reading, it is because Dickens has peopled it with the likes of these, the least of these, the thieves and prostitutes. 

My thoughts: Here's my advice for what it's worth: Read the book before you see the movie or the musical. Every time you're tempted to watch an adaptation, make a point of rereading the book. That may slow down your eagerness some. Why this admittedly weird advice. I read this book years ago--years--and I've since seen about two or three adaptations. (Including the live musical a few weeks ago.) I had forgotten that most adaptations--if not all adaptations--really, really mess around with the plot. Some adaptations are better than others. (One adaptation in particular I wish I could get my time back!) But having all those adaptations in my head really ruined reading Dickens for me. 

For example, in the movie, Nancy helps kidnap Oliver Twist and brings him back to the thieves. He's held hostage until the end finale--the big showdown. A lot of intense stuff happens and Nancy is all about rescuing Oliver from his fate. In the book, Nancy helps kidnap Oliver Twist; Oliver is forced to help in a robbery; he's shot; he's abandoned; he's taken in by a kind and loving family; his happily ever after essentially begins right then and there; the book has hundreds of pages left where Oliver is safe and the drama is moving on without him. Plenty of drama. New characters are introduced--like Monks--old characters are also reintroduced--like Noah and Charlotte, Mr and Mrs. Bumble. But Oliver Twist has disappeared from the plot--almost proving that though this novel has his name, he's the least interesting character in it.

I think if you read the book with the expectation that he will be DOING anything except asking for more and accepting whatever comes his way, you'll be disappointed.

I think the most interesting character in this one is Fagin. Especially in the musical adaptation. He can MAKE the show. His songs are the most interesting, most entertaining, best for energizing the audience.

I think the next most interesting character is Nancy. Her scenes were very emotional. But I don't understand why she would keep going back knowing that her very life was in danger. I don't understand love like that. I hope I never do.

 

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

April Reflections

Favorite picture book: 
Goin' Someplace Special. Patricia McKissack. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. 2001. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite early reader:  
What This Story Needs Is a Munch and a Crunch. Emma J. Virjan. 2016. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite early chapter book: 
Pig & Goose and the First Day of Spring. Rebecca Bond. 2017. Charlesbridge. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite poetry:
 The Dream Keeper and Other Poems. Langston Hughes. 1996. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite classic:
The Three Clerks. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 648 pages. [Source: Bought]
Favorite graphic novel: 
 Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller. Joseph Lambert. 2012. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite nonfiction:  
Gosnell: The Untold Story of America's Most Prolific Serial Killer. 2017. 347 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite biography: 
Joni: An Unforgettable Story. Joni Eareckson Tada. 1976. 205 pages. [Source: Bought]
Favorite christian nonfiction: 
 Surprised by Suffering. R.C. Sproul. 1994/2010. 214 pages. [Source: Bought]

Board books and picture books:

  1. Steppin' Out: Jaunty Rhymes for Playful Times. Lin Oliver. Illustrated by Tomie DePaola. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur: A First Book of Manners. Judy Sierra. Illustrated by Tim Bowers. 2012. Random House. 40 pages [Source: Review copy]
  3. Goin' Someplace Special. Patricia McKissack. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. 2001. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Quinoto's Neighborhood/El Vecindario de Quinito. Ina Cumpiano. Illustrated by Jose Ramirez. 2005/2009. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Rhyming Dust Bunnies. Jan Thomas. 2009. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Antoinette. Kelly DiPucchio. Illustrated by Christian Robinson. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Gaston. Kelly DiPucchio. Illustrated by Christian Robinson. 2014. 40 pages. [Source: Library] 
  8. Thunder Cake. Patricia Polacco. 1997. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. I Am Helen Keller. Brad Meltzer. Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Early readers and early chapter books:
  1. What This Story Needs Is A Pig in a Wig. Emma J. Virjan. 2015. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. What This Story Needs Is a Hush and a Shush. Emma J. Virjan. 2016. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. What This Story Needs Is a Munch and a Crunch. Emma J. Virjan. 2016. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. What This Story Needs Is a Bang and a Clang. Emma J. Virjan. 2017. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Pig & Goose and the First Day of Spring. Rebecca Bond. 2017. Charlesbridge. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. A Mystery Comes Knocking (Hamster Holmes) Albin Sadar. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. Combing for Clues. (Hamster Holmes) Albin Sadar. Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. On the Right Track (Hamster Holmes) Albin Sadar. Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti. 2016. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. Can You Guess My Name? Traditional Tales Around the World. Judy Sierra. Illustrated by Stefano Vitale. 2002. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
  10. The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God. Lise Lunge-Larsen. Illustrated by Jim Madsen. 2007. HMH. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. Up and Down the River (Fairchild Family #3). Rebecca Caudill. Illustrated by Deci Merwin. 1951/2009. 143 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. Schoolroom in the Parlor (Fairchild Family #4) Rebecca Caudill. Illustrated by Decie Merwin. 1959. 145 pages. [Source: Library]
  13. Fly Guy Phonics. Tedd Arnold. 2017. Scholastic. [Source: Review copy]
Contemporary (general/realistic) fiction, all ages:
  1. Wish. Barbara O'Connor. 2016. FSG. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
Speculative Fiction (fantasy, science fiction, etc) all ages:
  1. The Magician's Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia #6) C.S. Lewis. 1955. 221 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  2. Can You Guess My Name? Traditional Tales Around the World. Judy Sierra. Illustrated by Stefano Vitale. 2002. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God. Lise Lunge-Larsen. Illustrated by Jim Madsen. 2007. HMH. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
Historical fiction, all ages:
  1. Up and Down the River (Fairchild Family #3). Rebecca Caudill. Illustrated by Deci Merwin. 1951/2009. 143 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Schoolroom in the Parlor (Fairchild Family #4) Rebecca Caudill. Illustrated by Decie Merwin. 1959. 145 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Audacity Jones to the Rescue. Kirby Larson. 2016. Scholastic. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Anna and the Swallow Man. Gavriel Savit. 2016. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
Mysteries, all ages:
  1. Headed for Home. Mary Helen Brown. 2016. 178 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. A Mystery Comes Knocking (Hamster Holmes) Albin Sadar. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Combing for Clues. (Hamster Holmes) Albin Sadar. Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. On the Right Track (Hamster Holmes) Albin Sadar. Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti. 2016. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Classics, all ages:
  1. The Three Clerks. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 648 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. The Dream Keeper and Other Poems. Langston Hughes. 1996. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Washington Square. Henry James. 1880. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. Kolyma Tales. Varlam Shalamov. Translated by John Glad. 1978/1994. 508 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. The Magician's Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia #6) C.S. Lewis. 1955. 221 pages. [Source: Bought]
Nonfiction, all ages:
  1. Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller. Joseph Lambert. 2012. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Gosnell: The Untold Story of America's Most Prolific Serial Killer. 2017. 347 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. I Am Helen Keller. Brad Meltzer. Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
     
Christian fiction:
  1. The Magician's Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia #6) C.S. Lewis. 1955. 221 pages. [Source: Bought]
Christian nonfiction:  
  1. Surprised by Suffering. R.C. Sproul. 1994/2010. 214 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. Alive in Him: How Being Embraced by the Love of Christ Changes Everything. Gloria Furman. 2017. Crossway. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue. R.C. Sproul. 1990/2010. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. Joni: An Unforgettable Story. Joni Eareckson Tada. 1976. 205 pages. [Source: Bought]
  5. Here I Stand. A Life of Martin Luther. Roland H. Bainton. 1950. 336 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. Pursuit of God Bible -- NIV. 2013. 1587 pages. [Source: Gift]
  7. The Work of Christ: What the Events of Jesus' Life Mean For You. R.C. Sproul. 2012. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
  8. The Cross of Jesus: What His Words From Calvary Mean for Us. Warren Wiersbe. 1997. 144 pages. [Source: Bought]
  9. The God I Love. Joni Eareckson Tada. 2003. 368 pages. [Source: Bought]
  10. Unveiled Hope: Eternal Encouragement from the Book of Revelation. 1997. 244 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  11. Martin Luther In His Own Words. Jack D. Kilcrease and Erwin Lutzer, editors. 2017. Baker Books. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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I Am Helen Keller

I Am Helen Keller. Brad Meltzer. Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I am Helen Keller. When I was little, I was just like you. I loved to play. I loved my dog. And I loved seeing all the bright, beautiful flowers. I also loved copying people.

Premise/plot: This is a picture book biography of Helen Keller. It includes narrative--which I liked for the most part--and speech bubbles--which I could take or leave. Meltzer has Keller speaking directly to young readers--or listeners. "Close your eyes and block your ears. I couldn't see anything. Or hear anything. That's right. Nothing." That page is completely black except for the white text. The book celebrates teaching, learning, reading, and writing. Also THINKING. The concept of the braille alphabet is introduced and readers can feel the letters.
I may not be able to see, but I have vision. I may not be able to hear, but I have a voice.
My thoughts: This one is written in the first person, for better or worse. The message of the book is good. It's hard to argue with the positive, hopefulness of it. But I can't help comparing it to Helen's Big World. That picture book included quotes from the real Helen Keller. And it was beautifully written and illustrated. This one may pack a LOT of information, but, it is not beautifully illustrated. It bothers me that Helen stays the same size no matter if she's a year old, six years old, or fifty-six years old. Her face, her hair, EVERYTHING stays the same. It's just not REGULAR.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10



© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Thunder Cake

Thunder Cake. Patricia Polacco. 1997. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: On sultry summer days at my grandma's farm in Michigan, the air gets damp and heavy.

Premise/plot: A young girl (the author) is terrified of thunder until one day she learns how brave she is. The lesson comes from her Grandma. And it involves CHOCOLATE CAKE. As the two hear the storm approaching, the two prepare all the ingredients for making THUNDER CAKE. They gather eggs from the hen house; they milk the cow; they go to a storage shed in the WOODS for chocolate, sugar, and flour; they pick strawberries and tomatoes from the garden. At last when all the ingredients are at hand, the two bake the cake. By the time the storm arrives, the Grandma points out how brave she has been and is being. She is no longer scared of the thunder.

My thoughts: In 1997 or perhaps 1998, I took my first class in children's literature. The class read this book, and, for me it was LOVE. I've been enjoying Polacco's books ever since. Some have been like; some have been love. But this one probably remains my favorite. I love the bond between grandma and granddaughter. I love the baking and eating of cake too. I also love the fact that it's based on the author's childhood.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Share-a-Tea April Check-In

  • What are you currently reading for the challenge? 
  • Have you finished any books for this challenge this month?
  • Is there a book you're looking forward to starting next month?
  • Want to share any favorite quotes? It could be from your current read. It could be about reading. It could be about drinking tea. 
  • What teas have you enjoyed this month? 
  • Do you have a new favorite tea?
Currently reading:

KJV Reformation Study Bible. So far I've finished Genesis, Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, Matthew, Mark, Romans, 1 Corinthians.

Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope

Books I've finished and reviewed since March check-in:

Books I've finished but not reviewed yet:
  • Prisoner's Base by Rex Stout
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
  • Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Favorite quotes:
  • “it doesn’t take long to like a person — when once you begin.” Henry James
  • “The alphabet of common sense is something you will never learn,” the Doctor permitted himself to respond. Henry James
  • Wherever there are two men, there will be two opinions. Anthony Trollope
  • “We always lose when we evaluate ourselves according to someone else’s ideas or standards. And there are as many standards as there are people. A jock measures you by your athletic ability; a student by your brains; a steady by your looks. It’s a losing battle,” he said, striking a sour piano chord for added emphasis. “We have to forget about what people say or think, and recognize that God’s values are the only important ones.” Joni Eareckson Tada
  • Children have one kind of silliness, as you know, and grown-ups have another kind. C.S. Lewis
  • Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed. C.S. Lewis
Favorite teas:
I'm still loving Stash's English Breakfast Tea. I'm still drinking away my green tea...and my white tea. I have tried two new teas this month.
I haven't drank sweetened tea all month. 

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Gosnell


Gosnell: The Untold Story of America's Most Prolific Serial Killer. 2017. 347 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It wasn't a homicide case--until it was. Originally the authorities weren't investigating murder, or even illegal late-term abortions. They were just trying to bust a prescription drug mill. But they wound up discovering something far worse.

Premise/plot: This true-crime nonfiction book focuses on the investigation, trial, and sentencing of Dr. Kermit Gosnell. It also brings to light the absence of the media's coverage throughout. No one it seems wanted to present abortion in a negative light. Or to be perceived as presenting abortion in anything but a glowing, empowering light. Question one abortion provider's practices--ethics, procedures, philosophies--and who knows what might be the result. Better to err on the side of caution and ignore the story.

The facts, I won't lie, are gory and disturbing. For example, Gosnell's collection of severed baby feet. Scores of jars of baby feet he kept in the office. (These were not part of the case, part of his charges.) Essentially there were several things going on: filthy, unsanitary, unsafe facilities; untrained, paid under the table employees that had no business dispensing medicine, or assisting during abortions, or overseeing patients after the abortions; an illegal side business of dealing out prescriptions for drugs; doing a lot of illegal late-term abortions (anything past twenty-four weeks is illegal in the state he was practicing in.) What should be shocking is that he was purposely, intentionally delivering babies alive and then killing them a minute or two afterwards. He was proud and happy that he was doing a service for the community. He was not treating the born-alive babies with dignity, or respecting their personhood. Waste, unwanted waste, to be put down the garbage disposal, or, to be stuffed in a kitty litter container. His motivation on all counts is money, money, more money.

My thoughts: Everyone should read this one. No matter if you're pro-choice or pro-life or some hazy position in between. I think the story is disturbing but worthy of your time. How should patients--white or black; poor or middle-class, young or old--be treated. What are a patient's rights? And who is looking out for patients best interests? Multiple government agencies or authorities knew about some of the violations--perhaps even most--and did nothing. Not their problem, not their neighborhood. Perhaps a generalization but some truth I think. No one wanted to step in and shut down this clinic. The authors point is even if you discount the babies or fetuses, how can you discount the dangers posed to grown or nearly grown women? No twenty-four waiting period, no counseling, no consultations with the doctor, drugs dispensed before, during, and after ineffectively or incompetently. Sometimes too much, sometimes too little. Also the conditions of the facilities: no working bathrooms, dirty blankets and chairs and floors, fleas everywhere because of the cats who had free range throughout, the repeat use of medical supplies that are one use only, the lack of training of the staff. How can you support women's rights and ignore the horrors of this clinic?
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Can You Guess My Name?

Can You Guess My Name? Traditional Tales Around the World. Judy Sierra. Illustrated by Stefano Vitale. 2002. 128 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence from the introduction: Many of the world's folktales resemble one another in surprising ways, as anyone who hears them or reads them soon discovers.

Premise/plot: Judy Sierra has collected fifteen folktales from around the world. There are five sections (with three stories apiece): "I'll Blow Your House In!" "Just the Right Friends," "Can You Guess My Name?" "I Married a Frog," and "The Scary House in The Woods."

My thoughts: I enjoyed reading this book very much. While I can't say that I loved each story and each section equally, what I loved I really LOVED. My favorite story, without a doubt, was "The Three Geese" (Italy). IN a way, it reads like The Three Little Pigs, but, it stars geese not pigs. And it ends with a fabulous line: "and there they ate macaroni and lived happily." Another story I enjoyed was "Medio Pollito" (Argentina).
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Kolyma Tales

Kolyma Tales. Varlam Shalamov. Translated by John Glad. 1978/1994. 508 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: How is a road beaten down through the virgin snow? One person walks ahead, sweating, swearing, and barely moving his feet.

Premise/plot: Kolyma Tales is a collection of short stories and essays; what these short stories and essays have in common is a shared setting--Kolyma, a forced-labor camp in the Soviet Union. The stories are not connected to one another; there are no main characters. Some stories are long; some stories are short. All of them are bleak though perhaps some are bleaker than others. The style throughout is matter of fact, almost like there's no extra emotion to spare to dress up the stories. The edition I read has five sections: "Kolyma Tales," "The Left Bank," "The Virtuoso Shovelman," "Essays on the Criminal World," "Resurrection of the Larch."

My thoughts: I wanted to love this one, or at the very least really like it. I almost wish it had been a novel, novella, or memoir. I think I would have connected more with the text if it had not been short stories. Each story was a variation of a theme; each story was the same, yet, not the same. Like no two snowflakes are supposed to be identical, yet snow is snow is snow. There are no words--were no words--for how bad conditions were. Yet here's a whole book of words that makes the attempt.

I am glad I read this one. I don't regret my time by any means. But I would have felt more if they'd been a greater connection. I didn't want to get to know a hundred or two hundred characters a little bit. I wanted to get to know three or four characters really, really well.

Quotes:
Knowing how to live is a real skill. (260)
Death was replaced not by life, but by semi-consciousness, an existence which had no formula and could not be called life. Each day, each sunrise brought with it the danger of some new lurch into death. (285)
Oh, how distant is love from envy, from fear, from bitterness. How little people need love. Love comes only when all other human emotions have already returned. Love comes last, returns last. Or does it return? Indifference, envy, and fear, however, were not the only witnesses of my return to life. Pity for animals returned earlier than pity for people. (287)

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What's On Your Nightstand (April)


The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.

Good news! I finished the NIV Tozer Bible, The Three Clerks, Oliver Twist, Here I Stand, and Gosnell. All of these books appeared on March's nightstand post.

Reformation Heritage Study Bible--KJV. Edited by  Joel R. Beeke, Gerald Bilkes, and Michael Barrett. 2014. Reformation Heritage Books. 2218 pages. [Source: Birthday Gift in 2014]

Ginger is helping me out once again in introducing my newest Bible reading project. This is my fourth Bible to select as project this year. I am LOVING it. You can read about my initial impressions at Operation Actually Read Bible.

Prisoner's Base. (Nero Wolfe) Rex Stout. 1952. 209 pages. [Source: Bought]

I was looking for something to walk to and put my Nero Wolfe series in the DVD. I fell in love with Archie Goodwin--swoon--almost immediately. I questioned WHY I had ever taken a break from reading and rereading this series. OR watching and rewatching the series. I might be tempted to reread all the ones I own.

Doctor Thorne. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 522 pages. [Source: Bought]

Yes, I'm still tackling Anthony Trollope chronologically. This is a re-read.

Dawn's Early Light. Elswyth Thane. 1934/2017. Chicago Review Press. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I am really excited to start this series. I've only read the last in the series (Williamsburg is the name of the series), and that was in high school--twenty-something years ago. (It was the only one in the series the school library had.)

An Exposition of Psalm 119. Thomas Manton. 2025 pages. [Source: Bought]

Still enjoying this one. I try to read a sermon or two per week.

Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and On Earth. Douglas Sean O'Donnell. 2013. 1090 pages. [Source: Bought]

I've been reading this commentary since February. I am making some progress. I think I'm around Matthew 16 or Matthew 17. So I'm hopeful that another month will see it done. If I can stay consistent!





© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Headed for Home

Headed for Home. Mary Helen Brown. 2016. 178 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Tommy Austin getting killed by the angel was the first strange thing to happen that summer, but it certainly wasn't the last.

Premise/plot: Enjoy Southern fiction? Enjoy coming of age stories? Enjoy mysteries with a touch of the supernatural? Enjoy family dramas? Headed for Home might be the best book that you've not heard of...at least not yet. Speedy is the narrator of this small-town charmer. Speedy's sister, affectionately nicknamed SISTER, is home for the summer and she's brought some college friends with her. They aren't taking the summer off, however, but are instead working collectively on a research project.

They are doing research on their hometown (Rowja, Texas), on their families, on local folklore, etc. All but one of the girls have definite connections to the town's past--for several generations. But one doesn't. She thinks there is a slight chance than a great-uncle might have visited the town based on a photograph or maybe a postcard. The background is Rowja's courthouse, I believe. But she doesn't really know anything at all about this distant relation. Just that he disappeared around the time of World War I and never communicated with the family again.

Speedy will be staying with Sister and her classmates at the Big House. On their first night of "research," they have a seance of sorts and hear from a spirit identifying himself as Tom. He was murdered. He's buried. The girls--young women--think it would be compelling--good for their grade--if they used this angle to make their research more interesting. At first, no one actually believes that Tom is a disgruntled spirit--ghost--trying to communicate with them. But by the end, most everyone does believe.

My thoughts: On the one hand, I loved it. Mary Helen Brown's short novel is super-entertaining and the characters are so developed and fascinating. The little details have a just right feel to them. The way she writes--the way her characters talk--feels authentically Texan. I was drawn into the story from the very beginning. On the other hand, I really didn't love it. There were spiritual "danger, danger" signals going off now and then. I did not like the seances, or the use of Ouija boards. While I wanted Tom's story to be told, the facts to be discovered, I just wish the clues they'd followed hadn't been received the way they had. Because it is a matter of faith--and reading is subjective--I went with a full five stars. My objection to the book's content in that one area is completely subjective. Another reader may think the mystery is amazing. And the writing was so strong, so good.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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