Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Dory Fantasmagory Head in the Clouds

Dory Fantasmagory #4: Head in the Clouds. Abby Hanlon. 2018. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My name is Dory, but most people call me Rascal. I have an enemy named Mrs. Gobble Gracker--you might have heard of her. She has been trying to catch me and bring me to her cave. But today I have a problem that's even bigger than Mrs. Gobble Gracker. It's this coat.

Premise/plot: In this fourth book in the series, Dory gets her first loose tooth. What kinds of things will she imagine about the tooth fairy? And where will her imagination lead her?!

My thoughts: I enjoyed this imaginative chapter book. My favorite part of the series remains the illustrations. They are super fun. For example, the book opens with a map of Dory Land that is partially inspired (perhaps) by the Candy Land game board.

The first two chapters of this one are about a BUNCHY COAT and how it is the coat's fault that she lies again and again and again to her teacher. (Her parents don't buy that excuse, but they give the coat away anyway). The remaining chapters focus on a LOOSE TOOTH and Dory's speculations on the tooth fairy. Her siblings have her convinced that the Tooth Fairy is like Santa Claus, she only leaves money to GOOD children. She leaves EGGS or OMELETS for BAD children. And wouldn't you know Dory HATES eggs. Can she get on the good side of the tooth fairy? Perhaps she'll have the chance to explain when she "meets" the tooth fairy at the local grocery store.

There's never a dull moment if it's spent in Dory's company.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, April 23, 2018

Dory Fantasmagory: Dory Dory Black Sheep

Dory Dory Black Sheep (Dory Fantasmagory #3) Abby Hanlon. 2016. 156 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My name is Dory but everyone calls me Rascal. I am six. I have a lot of freckles. My hair is just messy. This is my nightgown that I try to wear as much as I can. But the most important thing about me is that I have two worlds. One is real and one is imaginary.

Premise/plot: Is Dory the black sheep of her family? Perhaps if you accept the lighthearted definition provided for readers at the beginning of the book: "a member of a family or group who does things a little differently." Dory does things differently. Ask her mom...or teacher...or her older brother, Luke, or her older sister, Violet. (Though her siblings' opinions might be biased!)

Dory does indeed live in two worlds: one real and one imaginary. But she doesn't give equal time and attention to both. In fact, 90% of the time she's in her own world and completely out-of-touch with reality. To use the world miracle lightly and perhaps inappropriately, it's a miracle if Dory stays on task and answers questions when asked.

Because Dory rarely--if ever--stays on task she's having difficulty learning to read. Her reading instruction time at school seems to be completely independent and without much guidance or instruction. Essentially the teacher saying: hey kid, read this book. Dory is paired with a partner, but the partner hasn't any more clue of how to read than Dory does. The teacher doesn't seem concerned with teaching them how to read--the skills and techniques they need to know to progress. Perhaps she just hasn't gotten around to working with their group yet.

Dory doesn't like being in the lowest reading group and being given a basket of "baby books" to read. But when she opens up the book and begins reading the illustrations, well, she supplies a story of her own imagination. A story peopled with her own imaginary friends and characters, and the black sheep of the farm story, well he leaps out of the book and becomes part of Dory's day-in, day-out imagination. Can she get the black sheep back in the book? Does she want to?

Her friends soon get swept up, up, and away with this new story. Even her friend who is able to read LONG chapter books all on her own. Dory's story is more exciting perhaps. 

This is Dory's third adventure. (I reviewed the first chapter book in the series in 2015. And here's my review of the second book in the series.)

My thoughts: One thing is delightful for sure: the illustrations. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the illustrations.

 I wanted to love, love, love this one. I didn't quite. Perhaps because I had a hard time NOT taking it seriously. Instead of getting swept up, up, and away by Dory's overactive imagination and delighting in her creative, free spirit, I kept thinking that her mom and her teacher weren't really giving Dory the attention she needed.

Learning to read is important, significant, life-changing. It isn't a cookie cutter process. And every child has his or her own timeframe for learning to read or becoming a fluent reader. There isn't one perfectly-perfect right way to teach reading. But I do think it is something that requires instruction. You just can't leave a child with a basket of books and hope for the best.
We pretend we are reading until she leaves. "If I was the farmer, I would just eat all the animals," whispers George. "If I was the farmer, I would move to the city and get an apartment with an elevator, I say. "If I was the farmer, I would run around naked and put mud all over my body and then stick things to it," says George. "But you would do that anyway," I say. "Yeah..." he says. 
"This little black sheep is kind of cute." I show George the picture. "And he's looking at you," George says. "What do you mean?" I say, and hold the book up closer. "I think his name is Goblin," I say. "Does it say that?" George asks. "I don't know," I say. "I can't read." "Raise your hand if you hate reading!" says George. And we both raise our hands high in the air.
Parenting Dory would be DIFFICULT to say the least. I don't envy her mom the task. But I get the idea that reading aloud to Dory wasn't ever a high priority to her. Perhaps Dory protested every time she tried. Perhaps the struggle wasn't worth it. Perhaps she was busy helping the older children with their homework. Perhaps Dory was so amazing at entertaining herself that she didn't want to interrupt her play, her free time. Perhaps she thinks teaching reading is the teacher's responsibility alone.

But Dory's homework of reading for a certain amount each day is completely independent. Her mom doesn't sit down with her, doesn't listen to her daughter read aloud, doesn't ask her questions about her reading, doesn't witness if her daughter is reading or not. So essentially there are no adults in her life that know Dory is struggling with reading. Dory seems to be all on her own, expected to make progress without any help, encouragement, or instruction.

Does Dory want to learn to read? Yes. Does she stay on task when left on her own to practice? Not really.

The book is cheerful. Dory, for the most part, is happy, happy, happy nearly all the time. She has her real friends and her imaginary friends to keep her company 24/7. Her imagination is over-the-top delightful. And I think Dory is content to make up her own stories instead of reading stories from a book. Her stories seem to be packed more with adventure and excitement.

Dory is a fictional character. I need to keep this in mind. Dory's over-the-top IMAGINATION has the potential to enchant young readers, to make them really excited about reading. Engaging real readers--real children--is more important than a technical behind-the-scenes guide for adults in how to teach children how to read. 

The writing is fun.

But before I get dressed, I have to wake up Mary. Lately, I've had to wake her up with a pan in my hand so she knows I really mean it. She's gotten super lazy now that she stays home when I'm at school. 
Rosabelle has a big thick chapter book in her lap. She looks up and sees me running toward her. We take turns picking each other up. It's like hugging, but more dangerous. 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Currently Reading #17

Something Old
Orley Farm. Anthony Trollope. 1862. 825 pages. [Source: Bought]

Short Stories of Lucy Maud Montgomery from 1909-1922. L.M. Montgomery. 2008/2010. 312 pages. [Source: Bought]
Something New
A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War. Joseph Loconte. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]

Pet War. Allan Woodrow. 2013. Scholastic. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

Something Borrowed
The Magnificent Century (The Plantagenets #2). Thomas B. Costain. 1951. 324 pages. [Source: Library]

Here Be Dragons. Sharon Kay Penman. 1985. 704 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

The Pendericks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and A Very Interesting Boy. Jeanne Birdsall. 2005. 262 pages. [Source: Library]

Something True
Beyond Suffering Bible NLT: Where Struggles Seem Endless, God's Hope Is Infinite. Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni & Friends, Inc. 1016. Tyndale. 1696 pages.

Old Paths. J.C. Ryle. 536 pages.
Renewing Your Mind: Basic Christian Beliefs You Need To Know. R.C. Sproul. 1973/1998. 218 pages. [Source; Bought]

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Saturday, April 21, 2018

My Victorian Year #16

Good news! I finished Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I wish I could say that I also finished Orley Farm as well. It feels like I've been reading it for three or four months! As of last night, I have exactly twenty chapters to go! (Unless my maths failed me. Entirely possible.)

I have also begun a reread of Little Women.

Quotes from Orley Farm
“I cannot understand Madeline,” Lady Staveley went on, not caring overmuch about Felix Graham’s acquirements.“Well, my dear, I think the key to her choice is this, that she has judged not with her eyes, but with her ears, or rather with her understanding. “But I must acknowledge that I cannot feel angry with Madeline.” “Angry! no, not angry. Who would be angry with the poor child?” “Indeed, I am somewhat proud of her. It seems to me that she prefers mind to matter, which is a great deal to say for a young lady.”
“Wit and intellect and power of expression have gone further with her than good looks and rank and worldly prosperity. If that be so, and I believe it is, I cannot but love her the better for it.”
Half-hours between young ladies and young gentlemen before breakfast are very serious things.
I believe that schoolmasters often tell fibs to schoolboys, although it would be so easy for them to tell the truth. But how difficult it is for the schoolboy always to tell the truth to his master!
But I believe that people can never really love each other merely because they are told to do so.
Friendship between true friends must extend to all the affairs of life.
Unhappiness and a melancholy mood suited him perhaps better than the world’s ordinary good-humour. He was a man who looked his best when under a cloud, and shone the brightest when everything about him was dark.
And Sophia also was not unequal to the occasion. There was, however, this difference between them. Lucius was quite honest in all that he said and did upon the occasion; whereas Miss Furnival was only half honest. Perhaps she was not capable of a higher pitch of honesty than that.
I cannot understand how any gentleman can be willing to use his intellect for the propagation of untruth, and to be paid for so using it.
“Yes, he is clever enough,” repeated the judge, “clever enough; and of high principles and an honest purpose. The fault which people find with him is this, — that he is not practical. He won’t take the world as he finds it. If he can mend it, well and good; we all ought to do something to mend it; but while we are mending it we must live in it.”
High position and a plentiful income are great blessings in this world, so that they be achieved without a stain. But even in this world they are not the greatest blessings. There are things much sweeter than them.
“Money and rank are only good, if every step by which they are gained be good also. I should never blush to see my girl the wife of a poor man whom she loved; but I should be stricken to the core of my heart if I knew that she had become the wife of a rich man whom she did not love.”
But what I say is this: you should never give up as long as you live. There’s a sort of feeling about it which I can’t explain. One should always say to oneself, No surrender.
“Nobody should ever knock under of his own accord.”
Quotes from Little Women
“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug. “It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.
He will stay and do his work faithfully as long as he can, and we won’t ask for him back a minute sooner than he can be spared. Now come and hear the letter.
 I know they will remember all I said to them, that they will be loving children to you, will do their duty faithfully, fight their bosom enemies bravely, and conquer themselves so beautifully that when I come back to them I may be fonder and prouder than ever of my little women.
Our burdens are here, our road is before us, and the longing for goodness and happiness is the guide that leads us through many troubles and mistakes to the peace which is a true Celestial City.
Now, my little pilgrims, suppose you begin again, not in play, but in earnest, and see how far on you can get before Father comes home.” “Really, Mother? Where are our bundles?” asked Amy, who was a very literal young lady. “Each of you told what your burden was just now, except Beth. I rather think she hasn’t got any,” said her mother.  “Yes, I have. Mine is dishes and dusters, and envying girls with nice pianos, and being afraid of people.” Beth’s bundle was such a funny one that everybody wanted to laugh, but nobody did, for it would have hurt her feelings very much.
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Keep It Short #16

This week I read two L.M. Montgomery short stories.

The Romance of Jedediah.

First sentence: Jedediah was not a name that savoured of romance. His last name was Crane, which is little better. And it would be no use to call this story "Mattie Adams's Romance" because Mattie Adams is not a romantic name either.

Premise/plot: Jedediah is a tin peddler. He's new to the job. He decides to pay a call at the home of his old sweetheart never dreaming that she'd still be living there after all those years. She invites him in. He accepts. The neighbors begin to talk--as neighbors do in Montgomery's stories. Will their romance be rekindled?

My thoughts: I definitely liked this one!

Romance cares not for appearances and apparently delights in contradictions. The homely shambling man you pass unnoticed on the street may have, tucked away in his past, a story more exciting and thrilling than anything you have ever read in fiction.
"What a fool you are, Jed Crane," he told himself. "You used to be a young fool, and now you're an old one. Sad, that! Get up, my nag, get up. It's a poor lookout for a man of your years, Jed. Don't get excited. It ain't the least likely that Mattie Adams is here yet. She's married and gone years ago, no doubt. It's probable there's no Adamses here at all now. But it's romantic, yes, it's romantic. It's splendid. Get up, my nag, get up."
When Selena had come over Mattie had not the slightest idea of resuming her former relationship with the romantic Jedediah. She had merely shown him kindness for old friendship's sake. But so well did the unconscious Selena work in Jed's behalf that when she flounced off home in a pet Mattie was resolved that she would take Jed back if he wanted to come. She wasn't going to put up with Selena's everlasting interference. She would show her that she was independent.
"Well, this is romance. What else would you call it now? Me, poor, scared to speak—and Mattie ups and does it for me, bless her. Yes, I've been longing for romance all my life, and I've got it at last. None of your commonplace courtships for me, I always said. Them was my very words. And I guess this has been a little uncommon—I guess it has. Anyhow, I'm uncommon happy. I never felt so romantic before. Get up, my nag, get up."
The Tryst of the White Lady
First sentence: "I wisht ye'd git married, Roger," said Catherine Ames.

Premise/plot: Does Roger fall in love with a ghost? A beautiful, impossible to obtain phantom? An old family haunt? Roger definitely is in love--or at the very least in love with love--by the end of the story. But who is the mystery girl?

My thoughts:  This is a strange story. But at least the girl is real enough.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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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