Sunday, August 31, 2008

My BIG Announcement...WAHOO!!!

So over the past few months life has not been overly easy for me and I've decided I need to freshen up a few things, if only to give a new perspective to the daily grind. My sprucing up will include this blog...which also leads to good things for all of my readers! This is what you and I will have to look forward to, beginning (hopefully) on Wednesday of this week:

-a brand new blog design

-a RSS feed

-a whole bunch of giveaways (YAY!!!!)

-the continuation of Picture Book Saturday

I've also enrolled in the Amazon Associates program, after a lot of thought. Though I realize that Amazon needs customers like I need more books on my shelves, I am trying to find any tiny bit of income that will help offset some of the traveling costs we have accumulated over the past three months of living 4 hours from home. Amazon won't pay my rent, but it may help towards our outrageous gas bills. Just keep me in mind when you know you may want to make a purchase of one of the books I review and click through to Amazon. I'll make an itsy-bitsy portion of your purchase.

So come back each day this week and check in to see how my progress is coming. Though my new blog design may debut before Wednesday, that's the day giveaways will start. There will be at least each one, each day for awhile, so make sure you keep coming back!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I'm back, with many thanks and an announcement

Though the news about our Jacob has not been any better in the last week since I posted, I am back to the blogging world after my needed break. When my mind doesn't have anything constructive to accomplish, I think too much, which at this point is not a good thing! Thus, I will be back to my posts, beginning tomorrow, with a BIG announcement...(which involves giveaways and ya'll know you love those :-). Thanks so much for all of your comments and support this past week, you are wonderful people and I realized how blessed we are to have something like this great blogging community pulling for us. Most of us are friends through our blogs, but strangers in real life, making it all the more amazing how many supporters we have. Thank you all so very much!

Just as a final note for today, I will not be posting many updates on Jacob on the blog, though my husband and I do send out a weekly update email to anyone interested. At this time I think we have 97 family and friends on the list, so if you would like to be added, just email me your address and we'll add you on.

Don't forget the BIG announcement tomorrow!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I have to take a break...

Unfortunately my son is not doing very well and I'm forcing myself to take a break from blogging and computer time in general. Though I already spend 90% of my day at the hospital, I've still managed to keep up with posting, however we have just been dealt some bad news in terms of Jacob and his long term health. Most of you know he was born 3 months early, back in May, and we have still not been able to leave the NICU here in Albuquerque, creating a very difficult living situation for all involved, which may be made worse in the near future. I will try to post an update in the next few days, just because I know a lot of you are praying for my little man and I know how much he needs those extra prayers. I'll be back as soon as I can think straight, promise.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Non-Fiction Monday: Lady Liberty

Doreen Rappaport and Matt Tavares have created an incredibly beautiful and moving book in Lady Liberty: A Biography. Each page features the perspective of those involved in building and promoting the monumental Statue of Liberty, from Auguste Bartholdi the sculptor to Emma Lazarus, the poet that created the words that grace the bottom of the statue. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful and accompany the text perfectly. Also included are the dimensions of the statue and the important events surrounding Lady Liberty, from construction to completion.

This book is an must have for all library and school collections, never have I come across a better description of how the Statue of Liberty was created and the emotions it evoked in the many different people connected with her. I loved reading each page and savored the lovely illustrations. Though the size of a picture book and about the same length in pages, I think I involved myself for close to an hour while reviewing it. I really believe kids will love to read this book, especially if they’ve seen the Lady up close, and adults will enjoy it in the same way I have, savoring the facts and the illustrations alike. A lot of other bloggers have posted about this title, all positively as far as I can tell, and I'm certainly in agreement with them. Definitely a must-have!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Picture Book Saturday!!

I have a whopping FOUR books for you all this weekend! I guess I’m making up for skipping last Saturday; my apologies again. I read to my son each day and the books I select are mainly picture and board books from all different genres, though I do try to get at least one Christian-based choice in there per day. I want to begin teaching Jacob about Jesus and His world and while he is still so young, reading him stories about believing is the best introduction form. I really enjoyed all four selections, there were definitely two standouts, one for writing and one for illustrations. I hope you find something you like!

God Gave Us Heaven is part of author Lisa Tawn Bergen’s famous “God Gave Us” series, God Gave Us You probably being the most popular. In her own beautiful way, Bergen tells us the story of a little polar bear cub that begins asking her Papa questions about heaven. Some of the questions are difficult for Papa to answer, such as “How do we get to heaven?” and “Will I get to see you in heaven?,” though he tries to answer in the best manner that a Daddy possibly can. Little Cub is, as most children are, very curious and wants to know all she can about that great place called Heaven.

The manner in which Bergen produced such a simply written story about such a complex subject is amazing to me. I loved how innocent Little Cub was and how real her Papa’s answers were. They were given to Little Cub in a true and honest form. Papa wasn’t afraid to use phrases such as “I think,” letting his daughter and the reader know that he wasn’t trying to have exact answers.

Illustrator Laura J. Bryant did a great job as well, bringing soft, simple artwork to a beautiful story.

When God Created My Toes, written by Dandi Daley Mackall and illustrated by David Hohn is a cute rhyming story about just what God was thinking when he created each of us. Told in whimsical and playful tone, with lines such as “When God created my nose, did he know I’d sneeze in a wintry breeze? Did we kiss like Eskimos when God created my nose?”

Though definitely not serious in topic or the best in rhymes, the book is silly and fun, with great illustrations. Kids will take one look at the pages referring to God creating our hands and laugh out loud!

I think this one is a good choice for helping to explain to children that God created each part of us specifically and for a purpose, though sometimes we can have fun with each part!

My favorite choice this week, story-wise, is another by the team of Mackall and Hohn, titled God Loves Me More Than That. Hohn’s great illustrations accompany the telling of just how much God loves us…much more than we could ever think! The reader gets to see God loving us higher than the moon, deeper than a treasure chest at sea, and louder than a cheering football crowd.

If looked at critically, the writing may not be considered fabulous and the librarian side of me probably wouldn’t be recommending it to those parents that want an excellent picture book to teach about God, but in my own opinion as a mom, this is a very nice telling of how God always loves us more than we could ever imagine. The mom side of me loves it, the librarian side (and critical side) thinks it’s just ok.

My final choice for this week is my favorite in the category of illustration. Fire Fish is written and illustrated by Davy Liu and part of “The Invisible Tails” series, which are all based on biblical stories and told by an animal’s perspective.

In this specific story, we meet three little fish that take on a quest to become Fire Fish, which they believe is the ultimate goal (though the Fire Fish are not what the three little fish imagine). With the help of the omnipotent Finmaker, they triumph over danger and lots of frightening moments on their journey, finally coming to the conclusion that they really don’t need to become Fire Fish after all. The three little fish realize that they were made to be the fish they are and as long as they have a home and family, they are perfectly happy.

Now, here’s my thing. Liu has worked for Disney Feature Animation, as well as Warner Bros. and you can definitely tell. His illustrations are flawless, beautiful, and almost indescribable. The underwater landscape in the book is magnificent and the fish have that quirky, silly, Disney-style to them that children will love. However…I think the story may be a bit over little one’s heads. The book is really one huge metaphor, the Finmaker being God and with His help we can all accept ourselves as we are. I just think this message is told in such a complex manner that it may be missed. It will probably need to be explained just what the Fire Fish are, just where Momma and Pappa disappear to, and who the Finmaker really is supposed to be.

That being said, if you have the time to read Fire Fish with your children and proceed to have a discussion with them about it, then it’s a great choice. Ask them questions about who they believe the Finmaker represents and what they think the three little fish are trying to accomplish on their journey. Talk about self-esteem and how God made each of us to be exactly our own and not to be like everyone else. According to the last page, the story is loosely based on the events in Exodus, so maybe bringing in the family Bible and reading through some of that specific book would be a good idea as well. In this manner, Liu’s story can be very successful, especially accompanied by such amazing illustrations. Older children can read it on their own and will be able to appreciate not only the illustrations, but also the message.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Why haven't I done this before?

I love participating in memes, but haven't yet done a Friday Fill-in post. Time to jump in with the rest of the crowd!

1. The last meal I had at a restaurant was a grilled veggie salad at California Pizza Kitchen. SOOO good!! I love Albuquerque restuarants.

2. Low-rise pants are something I intensely dislike. Who invented those? Seriously!

3. The full moon is beautiful. Other than that, it doesn't mean a whole lot to me.

4. It's a dry heat is one of my favorite local expressions. It's still darn hot!

5. Sometimes it's best to just smile and nod. People can be calling attention to it isn't very nice.

6. As much as I hate to admit it, the new Batman is the best movie I've seen so far this year!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to holding my baby boy, tomorrow my plans include spending the day at the hospital and Sunday, I want to be told we can be released. Not gonna happen, but it would be nice!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Last place finish....

I'm going to be the last librarian on earth to read Breaking Dawn, I just know it, not to mention being the last blogger! I have, however, insisted to myself that I reread the previous three books and with spending my days at the hospital with the baby and working on lots of ARC reviews, I'm only just now restarting Eclipse. Have patience everyone...a review will be forthcoming! Someday. Sigh.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Hanging Woods

Scott Loring Sanders has written a novel that is already being compared to the Harper Lee classic To Kill a Mockingbird. Three friends spend the summer together hanging out fishing, swimming, and getting into general mischief. When Walter, the main character of the story, reads something in his mother’s diary that is not revealed to the reader, the boys’ world seems to change in an instant. Troll, the resident homeless man of the town living under a bridge becomes the center of a scandal and then a trial. Innocence is lost, tragedy strikes. The ending is heart-wrenching and will leave the reader with thoughts of this book long after the last page.

Listed as a young adult novel, The Hanging Woods is definitely not a book for the younger, juvenile crowd. Adult situations and language, as well as frightening images fill the pages of this book, though seem necessary for the effect Sanders is attempting to achieve. You will connect with the characters in a way that doesn't come often (the last time I felt the connection was with Liesel and Rudy in the The Book Thief, well over a year ago). Enjoyable, though heartbreakingly so, both young men and women will enjoy this possible classic-in-the-making.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Non-Fiction Monday: Famous Firsts

Famous Firsts: The Trendsetters, Groundbreakers, & Risk-takers Who Got America Moving, written by Natalie Rompella, is perfect for those young kids that love almanac types books. This particular title, part of the “My America” non-fiction series, focuses on ten different sports, each somewhat unique, and each having been started in the United States.

The reader gets to learn about sports such as cheerleading (I’m a bit partial to that one myself), skateboarding, racing a sled dog, and snowboarding, among others, through photographs, text descriptions, trivia boxes, and sections for learning that particular sport’s “lingo.” The pages are bright and engaging, the information straight to the point, yet still interesting enough to hold a young one’s attention, and presented in the ever-popular almanac style.

It's really refreshing to see a book that focuses on sports that aren't often mentioned in the media today. Perfect timing with the Olympic Games going on! We see so much baseball and basketball, that things such as skateboarding and mountain climbing are overlooked. This would be a nice addition to school and public library shelves.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Mighty 12

When I entered my senior year of high school (which now seems so very long ago) I signed up for Journalism as my Advanced English elective for that year. After the first 5 minutes, I absolutely hated the class and the very next day I transferred to the other course offered that semester: Myths and Legends. On my first day in that class, I began my love affair with Greek Mythology. Through the years I have read many stories and books surrounding the Greek myths and have found I really can't get enough of the subject. Thank goodness I hated Journalism!

The latest book that has followed my love of the Greek myths is a work written by Charles R. Smith Jr. and illustrated by P. Craig Russell entitled The Mighty 12: Superheroes of Greek Myth. The book is presented as almost an anthology of the different Greek Gods, what they represent, their powers, and appearance. Both the font and the illustrations are done in a recognizable comic book style format, which I'm not typically a huge fan of, but works very well in this particular book. The coverage of the mythological characters is extensive and interesting, as well as entertaining, and a good choice for adding to collections of this nature.

The Mighty 12 would be a great companion to the infamous "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series by Rick Riordan or Anne Ursu's "Cronus Chronicles."

Monday, August 4, 2008

High Dive

For those teens and adults that enjoy travel and awesome food descriptions with some great drama thrown into the mix, Tammar Stein's new novel is perfect. When I was first sent this book and read the description, I was instantly hooked, as I am one of those that loves a combination like this. The writing is great, the emotion is very real, and the settings are magnificent.

High Dive is the story of Arden, an incredibly mixed up and lonely girl that is incredibly talented at putting on a happy face. Her father died in a car accident and her mother has recently been deployed to Iraq to fight the war, leaving Arden to take on the task of closing up the family vacation home in Sardinia. The house holds some of Arden's best memories of her family when they were still whole, together, and happy and she is having a difficult time allowing herself to begin the letting go process. While on the plane to Sardinia, she meets three girls from Texas, traveling to Paris for a vacation and Arden decides to join them, a very non-Arden thing to do. The girls learn about each other while exploring Paris, though Arden often feels like a fourth wheel. She can't decide if these girls are helping her to let go of the thoughts of her old family life or if they are only making her long for it more. By the end, not only does Arden get the answer to this question, she also learns more about herself, her strength, and her ability to grow than she ever thought possible.

The country descriptions alone will grab the reader, but Arden's fragile emotional state is the true shining star in this book. I felt connected to her immediately and wanted to know everything she knew. Strong, yet vulnerable characters that come across as beautifully lost as Arden do not come along nearly as often as we would all like, but if you pick High Dive up for yourself or a teen, you will not be sorry. I loved it and know a lot of you will as well.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Picture Book Saturday!!

Truck Stuck
, written by Sallie Wolf and illustrated by Andy Robert Davies is a very cute, very simple book, with the potential to be a bit hit with the younger crowd. When a truck gets stuck under a bridge, the accident turns into a huge block party with all sorts of people, as well as trucks, getting together to watch crews try to get the truck out. The illustrations are great…and I love the lemonade stand in the background. You’ll have to read it to see what I mean!

In The House That Max Built by Maxwell Newhouse, the reader is taken on a complete construction journey. We get to learn all the major steps in building a house, from pouring the foundation and putting up walls to installing insulation and tiling the floor, this is the perfect picture books for boys (or girls) that are interested in building.

Finally, my favorite of the week is The Sandman written by Ralph Fletcher and illustrated by Richard Cowdrey. A retelling of the famous “Sandman” story, Fletcher shows the reader how an ordinary man who can’t sleep finds the scale of a dragon and realizes it holds the power to allow sleep to come. He becomes the Sandman and brings sleep to many, using dragon scales. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful (what a cover!!) and this will definitely be used as a bedtime story in my house!