Friday, March 28, 2014

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren is an adventure from beginning to end. Pippi might be an orphan with no respect for proper civilization, but I think she's a fantastic role model.

The book follows Pippi and her next-door neighbor and friends Tommy and Annika through Pippi moving in, trying to attend school, an visiting the circus amongst other events. Pippi was raised on a ship with her father, but after he was blown overboard during a storm she goes to Villa Villekulla (the house her father had bought for them) to wait for her father's return. She's convinced that he managed to find an island and become king of the cannibals that live there. As soon as he has built a ship, he'll come home.

Pippi is perpetually optimistic. She just wants to have fun. And the adults and children around her don't always understand that. But really when you're an orphan, there seems to be two ways you can go. Either you become optimistic and look at life as an adventure to explore, or you become depressed and look at life as the worst thing there is. I think Pippi does a pretty excellent job of taking care of herself. She makes coffee and cookies. She has a pet monkey and a pet horse whom she cares for quite devotedly. She is willing to help others for next to nothing. She might not always know what society wants from her, but she does know what the best thing to do in a situation is.

I think Pippi is a great character to grow up with and I'd encourage young adventurous readers to try out this classic.

Favorite Quote: "He's the strongest man in the world." "Man, yes," said Pippi, "but I am the strongest girl in the world, remember that."

Middle Grade March Count : 18

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I miss homework.

There I've said it.

Now you're all thinking, who is this crazy lady and why am I reading her blog??

Okay, I'll admit that it's a little weird to miss homework. But how unusual is it really? All of you in school right now are probably saying that you can't wait to be done with school and homework and just live life like you want to. But I have the sneaking suspicion that some of you other graduates who are out of school might just be thinking okay, I can get where she's coming from.

I stopped into my local college campus for a few minutes today with my roommate, and I was reading while she was running an errand, and it just hit me how much I miss homework. I miss having a list of things to do which would have consequences if I didn't complete. I was a very organized student--I'd write down all my homework assignments in my planner and highlight them as I completed them. I wanted to pull out my planner and highlighter. I wanted to say YES I DID SOMETHING.

I was in AP classes in high school and in college, I breezed past most of the introductory level classes and straight into classes which I believed "mattered more." I'm an advocate for learning for learning's sake, but I also have learned through my years that grades are what matter. And I complain that I don't know how to be an adult. And I think part of the reason why is that nobody's grading me. I can write all the blog posts I want, but it doesn't really matter to anyone else. If I actually work on my novel or just let it sit open for a few hours, nobody is going to know but me. I have to hold myself accountable, and I don't know that I'm capable of that. I'm going to work harder. I tell myself this constantly, but I guess the good news is I mean it every time too.

What about you, lovelies? Do you feel accountable for your own life? Do you miss homework? What are you learning about?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Books Read Round-Up

Hello Lovelies!

I got really ridiculously behind on my reviews and since my reviews have been fairly short this month (can't make the review longer than the book!! :D ), I decided I wanted to just review the five that I'm behind on in one big swoop.

I might also be a little (teensy) bit lazy, and it's way easier to format this way. So here goes!

The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo is the story of a boy filled with sadness and a girl filled with anger. It's the story of a freedom plot and a rebellion. It's a moving story packed into just 116 pages. I can definitely understand why it was a National Book Award Finalist. I just continue to love and be moved by DiCamillo's writing. She wrings emotions out of the sparsest phrases. I really think this was her most compact novel, I've read so far, even though it's aimed at the higher end of middle grade (honestly more toward the young adult level but it says ages 10 and up). The simplicity is astounding in its effectiveness. I will highly recommend this book especially to those people who are having trouble with moving on and acceptance.

Favorite Quotes: "He was afraid that if he started wishing, he might not be able to stop."
"It was as if his soul had grown and was pushing everything higher in his body. It was an oddly familiar feeling, but he couldn't remember what it was called." 
"Her words sounded the way all those things made him feel, as if the world, the real world, had been punched through, so that he could see something wonderful and dazzling on the other side of it."
"He must, he realized, know somewhere, deep inside him, more things than he had ever dreamed of."

Middle Grade March Count : 13

The 13 Clocks by James Thurber was the wit and inanity that I was expecting from The Phantom Tollbooth. The 13 Clocks tells the story of an over-the-top villain and the daughter whom he will not wed to anyone. Zorn of Zorna is the prince who has meandered his way across the country known as a minstrel by the name of Xingu. He sees the princess Saralinda and decides he will rescue and marry her. Zorn is set the impossible task of bringing the Duke a thousand jewels by the striking of 5 o'clock on the 13 clocks in the castle. These clocks stopped working many years ago and there are no jewels to be found in the kingdom so the task is impossible. Never the less, Zorn aims to attempt it with the help of the Golux -- an absent-minded magician. I really liked this book. It's witty and simple. It has great illustrations. It was all I wanted The Phantom Tollbooth to be. I will definitely be recommending this to people looking for adventure and humor.

Favorite quotes: "Time is for dragonflies and angels. The former live too little and the latter live too long."
"I can find a thing I cannot see and see a thing I cannot find. The first is time, the second is a spot before my eyes. I can feel a thing I cannot touch and touch a thing I cannot feel. The first is sad and sorry, the second is your heart."

Middle Grade March Count: 14

You Want Women to Vote, Lizzie Stanton? by Jean Fritz is an interesting attempt at conveying a historical figure to young children through biography. Maybe it's because I'm more critical of non-fiction than fiction but I didn't enjoy this too much. I have a very large part of my heart dedicated to women's suffrage, and my actual research of it isn't high, so maybe I wanted more from this book than it could reasonably give me. Although I would like to believe that children can handle facts in a more straight-forward manner. I just wasn't thrilled with this work, but I'm giving it an extra star for subject matter.

Middle Grade March Count: 15

Capital Mysteries #9 : A Thief at the National Zoo by Ron Roy is a pretty darling beginning chapter book. It's a mystery that focuses on the theft of a "Tiger's Eye" jewel that's been loaned to the National Zoo for a year. The main characters of the Capital Mysteries are twelve year old KC--stepdaughter to the President--and her friend Marshall. I actually picked this book up because I loved the photos of the main characters on the back (particularly Marshall). I'll admit to being a tad bit disappointed when I realized the cover illustrator and the content illustrator were not the same person. However, the content of the book sure made up for it. Roy does an excellent job of keeping the story simple but entertaining. The plot moves quickly but not jarring. He introduces several political concepts through out the story as well. The only reason I'm giving it 3 out of 5 instead of 4 is because I didn't feel like it was as good as others I've read for this age group. I will recommend these books to young mystery lovers!

Middle Grade March Count : 16 

Elmer and the Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett is the sequel to the classic My Father's Dragon. In this installment, Elmer and the baby Dragon are flying over the ocean towards Elmer's home when a storm hits. The Dragon has to make a crash landing in the sea and ends up landing on an island. Elmer and the Dragon believe the island to be deserted until an old friend of Elmer's appears. I actually liked this book better than the original. There's much less problem solving, but you can still see the altruism and kindness in Elmer. This would be a great bedtime story or book for early readers. 

Middle Grade March Count: 17
Sequels and Prequels Series Points: +2  bringing the total to 20!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

As always, TTT is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish: This week we're looking at Top Ten Bookish Bucket List.

So here we go:

1. Get a book published.

I believe in myself!!

2. Have a library.
Like an actual room to house my books. Cause like I physically have enough books for a library but I don't have the space for them :(

3. Read all the books I own!!

Don't I own like 300 books I've never read and don't I work at a bookstore where I buy like a handful of books a week?? YEP. BUT I WILL PREVAIL. (Or I'll get rid of them eventually, but like I hope to read them first.)

4. Read 100 books in a year.
Yes this is a goal for this year. But I'm never sure if I'm actually going to reach it or not, so it's a lifetime goal as well.

5. Visit the Moors in England.
Because Wuthering Heights.

6. Meet JK Rowling??
I'm not actually sure if this is a goal or not because while I would love to meet her and talk to her--I'm actually terrible at talking to people I admire. When I went to Vidcon, I couldn't even ask the youtuber I was most excited about seeing for a picture because I was just too nervous and in awe of her.

7. Go to BEA!
I love Conventions and this sounds amazing. I'm hoping I'll be able to do it next year if I end up in Boston (since it's much closer to BEA than MT).

8. Read Les Miserables.
I want to read a lot of classics, but this seems like the most dense in my head, but I'm sure it's going to be fantastic.

9. Share my love of reading with future generations.
I'm hoping to do this as a children's librarian, but if not that, then at least with my own kids or my friends.

10. Get a collectible book of something. 
Like I want a super neat first edition of something cool. It'd probably be a young adult or kids book. But there are some really cool one's out there and I'll know it when I see it.

So that's what I've got. What about you Lovelies? Do you have any of these on your bucket list?

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo is a heart-wrenching tale of love and mistakes and regret camouflaged as a middle grade novel.

I loved DiCamillo's Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and I loved Tale of Despereaux. They're both clearly by the same author but Despereaux is written a bit differently as the whole story is directed to the Reader. I really appreciated this technique as it gave the whole novel a Jane Austenian flare. From the outside the story sounds incredibly silly: a mouse falls in love with a human and is sent to his death but instead escapes to rescue the human? Silly. Appropriate only for those who still believe in miracles and mysterious creatures who bring presents to your house. But DiCamillo's anthropomorphism of animals is incredible. Despereaux becomes real. Even though he's clearly still written as a mouse, it's possible to suspend disbelief and really believe that all mice can talk and think and feel as clearly as humans do. And that's what really affected me. DiCamillo has this graceful way of seeing directly into hearts and exposing the hopes and dreams that reside there in really powerful ways.

I cannot think of a single complaint. I understand why this won a Newbery medal. I haven't seen the film so I don't know how faithful the animated adaptation is, but I can see why someone would read this and want to create a film adaptation. It's lovely and tender and if I ever end up teaching middle grade students, I would want to use this as a classroom text.

Favorite quotes: "Love is ridiculous. But love is also wonderful. And powerful."
"[T]hankfully there is evil in the world. And the presence of evil guarantees the existence of prisoners."
""All living things have a heart. And the heart of any living thing can be broken."
"There are those hearts, reader, that never mend again once they are broken. Or if they do mend, they heal themselves in a crooked and lopsided way, as if sewn together by a careless craftsman."
"Forgiveness, reader, is, I think, something very much like hope and love, a powerful, wonderful thing."

Middle Grade March Count: 12

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy is a great historical fiction for middle grade readers.

I was originally intrigued by The Apothecary because Maile Meloy is somewhat local to me. However, The Apothecary is a truly entertaining read. Janie Scott is the protagonist of the series: a fourteen year old girl who's just been forced to move from Los Angeles to London by her parents who have been accused of being communists. The story is set in 1952 so being accused of Communism is a huge deal. Janie tries to adjust to life in London, but almost right away, she's drawn into a plot surrounding spies and alchemy.

The romance subplot seems sort of unnecessary. It seems like the romance is only there to give a reason behind Janie's actions which could have been explained through simple curiosity almost just as easily.

Overall, The Apothecary is well-worth the read. And I'll keep my eye out for the sequel.

Favorite Quote: To be a kid is to be invisible and to listen, and to interpret things that aren't necessarily meant for you to hear--because how else do you find out about the world?

Middle Grade March Count : 11

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hello Lovelies! As usual TTT is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is Top Ten Books to Read this Spring.

So here's my list:

Reboot by Amy Tintera : My friend gave me this for Christmas and I haven't managed to get it read yet! It looks soo good too!!

City of Glass : Yeahhhh this was also on my Winter TBR list. I didn't get to it. But my friend really wants me to catch up on this series. So I'm working on it.

The Hope Factory: Yup, this was also on my Winter TBR list. It looks so good but I just keep failing to read it.

I am the Messenger : Another Winter TBR repeat -- I really want to read it! I just haven't gotten to it yet.

Perfect: The last Winter TBR repeat offender!! I love this series. I just haven't gotten back to reading it.

The Broken Crown by Michelle West : I tried to read this when I got this in 10th grade or so, but I couldn't get into it. I have the first and second book of the series so I want to see if it's actually worth the read or not. If you've read it, let me know!

Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs : Somehow I ended up with almost all of Reichs' books (in HC even!) and I haven't read a single one. So I need to read this first one to see if it's worth keeping the whole series. Any one read these?

The House of Special Purpose: This is an ARC that I got which I still haven't read. Eeep.

Little Demon in the City of Light : This is also an ARC but I got it fairly recently so I don't feel too bad about it. But the book came out like a month ago, so I should really read it.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater: I've been hearing about this series for a few years and I've never gotten to it, so I'm making it a goal for this Spring!

What do you have on your Spring reading list? Let me know in the comments!