Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Anything But a Duke by Christy Carlyle - #2 of The Duke's Den series

In Anything But a Duke by Christy Carlyle, Diana is an inventor who hopes to sell her (very practical) inventions to keep her family afloat. She has little interest in marriage but promises her mother that she'll look for a suitor if she fails to sell her latest invention. Her family has fallen on hard times and she's determined to help out. Aidan grew up in poverty but has become wealthy through part ownership in a gambling establishment (which was described in more detail in the first Duke's Den book, A Duke Changes Everything). However, without a title, he is forbidden entry to certain establishments and events. He needs a bride with titled connections in order to obtain access. What will he do when he falls for a stubborn inventor without the title or connections required?

Diana and Aidan meet in the opening scene when he's robbed and she happens across the robbery-in-progress while on her way to a meeting. But, then they don't see each other for over a year. When they do, Diana is searching for a patron to help her fund her latest invention, which is a primitive vacuum cleaner that uses suction created through a manual pump. The opening scene nicely establishes Diana's determination and courage.

I had a little trouble letting go of skepticism about the concept of a female inventor who created the vacuum cleaner, since that's a real invention that is credited to not one but two men on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, but I liked the story, anyway. I just didn't fall massively in love with it because of that slight dissonance between fiction and reality. If I were the author, I have no idea how I'd resolve that issue -- an inventor seeking funding during a time period in a past whose inventors are known in the present? Tricky. But, I liked the characters and decided to try to shove my disbelief aside and just enjoy the story.

Recommended but not a favorite - An unremarkable story but it was the likability of the characters that made this book work for me. I cared enough to eagerly await their happy ending. Aidan's upward mobility is a little hard to buy into, and yet it makes him a sympathetic character. Diana's invention is a stretch as well, but again . . . she's an interesting character and her motivation worked for me. Yes, you have to work a little to suspend disbelief but it's worth the effort, in my humble opinion. I particularly liked the ending, which was very satisfying.

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves is about a couple who have reunited after 10 years apart. College sweethearts, Annika and Jonathan are surprised to find each other a decade after they parted. She has some unusual quirks but he's patient and kind. She loves her job as a librarian and he hates his investment banking job but is determined to succeed. Can they work through the complications that caused their breakup, along with the problems of the present and make it last, this time around?

OK, so about those quirks . . . it's pretty obvious from the beginning of the novel that Annika is on the autism spectrum, so her unique mannerisms, mode of speech, and difficulty with social interaction are not minor. In the past timeline, she and Jonathan meet at a chess club where only one person is willing to play with her. Like many high-functioning people on the spectrum, Annika is one sharp cookie. Their romance in both the present and the past unfold at around the same pace. So, while they're getting to know each other all over again and testing the waters, both a little afraid that it won't work out a second time, you're also getting to know them as a couple in college and eagerly waiting to find out how they ended up apart (because, honestly, they seem so perfect for each other).

I finished The Girl He Used to Know a couple weeks ago. I read maybe a chapter on the first night that I opened it and the next day construction on our patio was halted by rain. But, then we had a pleasant, sunny afternoon, so I dragged a towel outside and plopped it over the unfinished steps, sat in the sun, and read, hence the photo on the incomplete steps. I moved from steps to porch chair to couch to bed with that book and could. not. put. it. down. I had to warn my husband that I wasn't going to come up for air until I finished. It's very unusual for a book about a relationship to grip me so intensely but seriously . . . I adored the two main characters and was absolutely riveted. I had to know how their story would turn out.

In the last 30 pages or so, something major happens and I don't think I breathed for the entire last portion of the novel. Yes, it's true, I'm dead. And, oddly, I didn't love the ending. But, it didn't matter one bit. I enjoyed the book so much till that point that an imperfect (abrupt) ending wasn't enough to convince me to take off even half a point. I gave The Girl He Used to Know a 5-star rating at Goodreads and then couldn't stop thinking about it.

Highly recommended - The Girl He Used to Know is proof that a book with two immensely likable characters can be compelling to the point of being impossible to put down. Wonderful characters, flawed but kind, and a moving, entrancing tale of rekindled romance for an unusual couple. The last 30 or 40 pages had my heart in my throat.

I loved The Girl He Used to Know so much that I ordered another book by Tracey Garvis Graves, The Island. If I could stop everything and read it right now, I would. But, I have quite a toppling stack of ARCs to conquer in the next couple of months. We'll see what happens. I might not be able to keep my hands off of it.

I received a copy of The Girl He Used to Know from St. Martin's Press via Shelf Awareness and wow, do I feel like a lucky girl for getting to read this book. The release date was April 2.

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Monday Malarkey

Recent arrivals (top to bottom):

  • Far Flung by Cassandra Kircher - from West Virginia University Press for review
  • No Flying in the House by Betty Brock - purchased
  • The Desert Sky Before Us by Anne Valente - from HarperCollins for review
  • The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri - from Ballantine Books for review
  • Inspired by Rachel Held Evans - purchased
  • Summer Country by Lauren Willig - from HarperCollins for review 

Nice pile, again. Far Flung (essays) and The Beekeeper of Aleppo were both won via Shelf Awareness drawings and both excited me in a way you'd think books would no longer do. But, yes, I get excited like a kid looking at shiny packages under a Christmas tree, to this day. Kind of wild how the joy of books, especially those that are unanticipated, simply refuses to fade. No Flying in the House was purchased on a whim when someone on Twitter posted her childhood favorites. Since I always liked books with some sort of magical, paranormal, or unusual-gift element -- like The Trouble with Jenny's Ear, which is about a girl who can suddenly hear everyone's thoughts -- I figured the kid in me would like a book about a little girl who can fly (she's part fairy). And, I can always pass it on to my grandkids, when I'm done. 

The Desert Sky Before Us and Summer Country are both "second chance" books. Long ago, I read Lauren Willig's first book and didn't care for it. But, I always figured I'd give her a second chance if any of her titles appealed to me and the synopsis of Summer Country intrigued me. Anne Valente's Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down was a DNF -- last year, I think. But, again, I like to give authors a second chance. I remember just not buying the emotion of the characters in Our Hearts, etc., so we'll see if The Desert Sky Before Us works for me. The Tattooist of Auschwitz was purchased for F2F discussion, a few months from now, and I ordered Inspired after hearing that the author has been placed in a medically-induced coma. It's been on my wish list since it came out but I just kept hesitating. When I heard about her illness, I started thinking about how much I've wanted to read Evans' latest book and that was that. Ordering online is far too easy. I wish there was a bookstore within 20 miles of my home. I was always a little slower to purchase books at full price in person. Not that I regret the purchase; I don't. 

Books finished since last Malarkey:

  • Forbidden Area by Pat Frank

After somewhat frantically reading and posting for National Pet Day (or, is it "Pets", plural?), I went instantly into a slump. I blame the Klawde books. I loved them so much that nothing else sang to me. It took about 5 days before I finally began to read, again, and then it was Forbidden Area, by the author of Alas, Babylon, that rescued me from my brief slump. While Alas, Babylon was post-apocalyptic, Forbidden Area is about people who are desperately seeking to prevent an apocalyptic war. It was a little unevenly paced, but once you realize the clock is ticking, it becomes pretty exciting.

Currently reading: 

  • The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal 

Just about 50 pages in and I'm finding this story, by the author of Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, somewhat less compelling than her last book but it took about 45 pages for the main characters -- three sisters who are fulfilling their mother's last wishes in India -- to get to the first item on their list. I have a feeling the pace will start picking up, now.

Posts since last Malarkey:

So, it may have been a slumpish reading week but at least it wasn't a bad blogging week, too! The first 6 of those book review links lead to children's books because I made Tuesday a Children's Day. Then, I reviewed my March classic, The Awakening. And, because everyone was headed home for Easter, I convinced myself that Thursday was Friday and posted Fiona Friday on the wrong day. Oops. After I realized what I'd done (and the storm had ended), I figured I might as well do another review on Friday.

In other news:

After the storms finally left, Mother Nature gifted us with some incredible weather so we've spent a lot of time sitting on the patio, sipping beverages and either reading or talking. When it's nice outside, it's very, very difficult not to just spend the entire day outdoors. The railing on our upper patio (it's a double-decker) is about 12-15" in from the edge, which means there's room to sit in front of the fence for almost the entire edge of the upper deck. My husband also discovered it's perfect for walking along and going, "Chugga chugga chugga chugga, choo-choo!" The grandchildren will have fun when they visit.

I watched the usual, last week: NCIS, Chicago Fire, a couple episodes of The Royal, one of The Widow, and Les Miserables. Actually, I missed most of Les Mis because we were out looking for a place to get supper (the cook was fatigued) and most everything was closed. I'm almost glad I did. Poor Fantine. It was hard enough seeing her near the end, much less watching her downfall.

Once again, I need to mention that I'm currently unable to post replies to comments. Blogger's sending me to an error message saying I need to empty my cookies and cache, but since I did that just to get online when I shifted computers, a week ago (Blogger wouldn't let me enter till I cleaned the cookies and cache), that shouldn't be the problem. If it is, I'm going to have to clean them constantly. I've tweeted to Blogger's help-twitter twice, now, because there appears to no longer be a way to contact a human. Has anyone else had this problem?

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, April 19, 2019

My Coney Island Baby by Billy O'Callaghan

Books, for Caitlin, had never been anything less than a kind of sorcery. As a child she was constantly armed, and even by her late pre-teens she'd become so voracious a reader that the twice-weekly visits to her local library could barely sate her hunger. More than just educating her, books offered release and freedom in every direction. Desert islands and deepest space became as real as the Brooklyn streets; she learned of headless horsemen and river rafting, Victorian-era London and dogs that would trek across continents to find their masters, and she got to know peg-legged pirates, pipe-smoking detectives and cowboys who drank and brawled but who loved their horses more than their women and who prized honor above all else. 

~p. 91 of Advance Reader Copy, My Coney Island Baby (some changes may have been made to the final print version)

You can guess why I chose that particular passage to share with other booklovers. In My Coney Island Baby by Billy O'Callaghan, Michael and Caitlin have been meeting once a month at Coney Island for decades, sharing their deepest thoughts and intimacy in a way neither can with their respective spouses. But, now things are changing. Will this afternoon in Coney Island be their last or will they finally decide to run away together?

Of course, My Coney Island Baby is not just about that specific afternoon. Instead, as the couple walk to their hotel in the biting winter cold, warm up over coffee, and then climb into bed, their story unfolds. You get to know not only how they met and became lovers but how they met their spouses and the crushing pain that shattered Michael's and his wife's joy, the slow deterioration of warmth in Caitlin's marriage.

I'm not normally a fan of books about marriage or infidelity (or both) and tend to prefer a plot-driven book over one that's character-driven, but Billy O'Callaghan is the friend of a friend and I've wanted to read something by him for a while. I just hadn't gotten around to hunting down anything when My Coney Island Baby became available for review. I didn't enjoy the details of the sex scenes, where they're waxing on about how love makes a freckle on the shoulder special or whatever (not my thing, in general) but I found O'Callaghan's writing poetic and I thought he did an excellent job of balancing the past and present so that by the end of the book I cared about the two people enough to be invested in the decision they had to make about whether or not they'd end up together.

Recommended but not a favorite - Particularly recommended to readers who enjoy a character-driven novel and don't mind a slightly melancholy tone. A story of love and longing, marriage and infidelity, joy and grief, My Coney Island Baby was never going to be a favorite because it has elements I dislike. So, I was surprised at how gripping I found it. It ended up being a 4-star book (out of 5) because of the beauty of the prose, the magnetic pull of the central question, the depth of emotion, the moments of wisdom or acute observation:

In your forties your sense of longing shifts, and pleases itself in comfort rather than thrills. 

I'll definitely be looking for more by Billy O'Callaghan. My thanks to HarperCollins for the review copy.

Oops, forgot to mention the reason Fiona Friday ended up on Thursday! Well, obviously I mixed up the days of the week but I also had to hurriedly post because I knew storms were coming and that line of storms was a doozy. You may have seen an image of two flipped cars on the news (I watched the CBS evening news and saw it), last night. That was from our local Walmart. Because the storms lasted quite a while, once I unplugged the computer I just left it that way and spent my evening reading. Today, it's raining but I can see a wedge of blue sky and I'm very much looking forward to it pushing the latest clouds away. My yard is a lake. Ready to dry out, here. Happy Good Friday to those who celebrate Easter!

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Fiona Friday - Yes or no to cuddles?

This happens a lot. Isabel flops down next to Fiona because she's a cuddler. Fiona gives her a couple of licks on the head and then jumps up and walks away. If you can click to enlarge, get a load of Fi's expression. She was on the verge of leaving, while Isabel was all blissed out. She always looks stunned when her sister vamooses.

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

There were strange, rare odors abroad -- a tangle of the sea smell and of weeds and damp, new-plowed earth, mingled with the heavy perfume of a field of white blossoms somewhere near. But the night sat lightly upon the sea and the land. There was no weight of darkness; there were no shadows. The white light of the moon had fallen upon the world like the mystery and the softness of sleep. 

~p. 35 of The Awakening

Edna Pontellier is spending a lazy summer in her family's cottage near the beach at Grand Isle in Louisiana. Her children are mostly watched by an unreliable servant (the term used to describe this woman is archaic and, according to the site where I looked it up, now considered offensive) while Edna spends the bulk of her time hanging out with Robert, a single man who is around her age, talking, taking walks or listening to music, wading into the ocean. She is learning how to swim but is not quite comfortable going far out into the water and has a frightening experience, at one point.

Meanwhile, Mr. Pontellier spends most of his time either at his club or ignoring everyone, especially his wife. He's disinterested in her until and unless she steps out of line.

"Sometimes I am tempted to think that Mrs. Pontellier is capricious," said Madame Lebrun, who was amusing herself immensely and feared that Edna's abrupt departure might put an end to the pleasure. 

"I know she is," assented Mr. Pontellier; "sometimes, not often."

~p. 37

Nobody is bothered by the fact that a married woman is publicly spending her time with a single man. The neighbors all know each other, both through the proximity of their vacation homes and socially, when they're back home in New Orleans. Edna's clearly a daydreamer and Robert is willing to listen to her flights of fancy. She's lightened by his presence.

When she and Robert stepped into Tonie's boat, with the red lateen sail, mostly spirit forms were prowling in the shadows and among the reeds, and upon the water were phantom ships, speeding to cover. 

~p. 51

But, then Robert abruptly decides to go and seek his fortune with some friends when a business opportunity in Mexico arises. After he leaves, Edna is lost. She is in love with Robert, feels penned in by her husband's demands for a certain type of behavior, restless, and probably depressed. When they return to New Orleans, Edna's longing grows more pronounced. A friend is receiving letters from Robert, but he isn't writing to Edna.

When Mr. Pontellier leaves town for an extended business trip, Edna purchases a small house next to her home and moves in. There, Robert eventually comes to visit her. But, when he makes it clear that he's not going to indulge in an affair or attempt to break up her marriage, Edna makes a fatal decision.

Recommended - I am utterly fascinated that, upon finally reading this classic I've heard was considered so scandalous upon its publication, I discovered it to be so mild. It seemed to me less a book about a woman who desired to have an affair and more a novel about a women whose husband was completely immune to her charms to the point of torturous indifference. She was clearly not just capricious and whimsical, although Edna certainly was a woman who danced to her own tune. I think The Awakening is really a story about a woman who is so choked by convention that it leaves her chronically depressed. Would Robert have been able to save her from herself, had he been willing? Hard to say. The ending both shocked me and was expected, though. I felt Edna's pain throughout the reading. Loved Chopin's prose. There were several of Kate Chopin's short stories included with the copy I read. At least one of those had a shocking twist ending, as well, and I closed the book wishing I'd read The Awakening with a buddy or a discussion group.

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Growing Season by Maryann Cocca-Leffler - Children's Day #6

In Growing Season by Maryann Cocca-Leffler, El and Jo are the best of friends. They're the two smallest children in their class and their names are short, too. They sit together at perfectly-sized desks, help each other reach things that they couldn't reach alone, and pose together for class photos. They play elves together in the Holiday Show and are small enough to share the special reading chair (I assume this chair is in their classroom, as the beginning of the book takes place at school).

Then, suddenly Jo has a tremendous growth spurt in the spring and El is left behind. Jo doesn't need El's help reaching things anymore. She can move to a bigger desk and she's able to reach over El when everyone is told to go get a flower to take home and grow over the summer break. El's the last to get a plant and her little aster is completely devoid of blooms. She feels sad and small but her teacher, Mr. Diaz, assures her that her plant will bloom.

Mr. Diaz leaned in. "El, that's an aster plant. Aster means 'star'."
"It's no star. It's just a little, plain green plant," said El.
"Just you wait! In time, it will grow and have beautiful purple blooms," said Mr. Diaz.
El was not so sure. 

Jo notices El's envious glance between her plant and Jo's and Jo hands El her zinnia, which is covered in blooms, saying she's going to be at her grandma's all summer, anyway. El puts the two plants in her garden, waters them, talks to them, and waits all summer (with her adorable kitty, Maddy -- another book with a cat, yay!) and the girls write to each other while they're apart.

At the end of the summer, both flowers are blooming, Jo comes home, and El realizes something big has happened. She's grown, too!

Aster had finally bloomed . . . and so had EL!

Highly recommended - I absolutely love this sweet story about growing plants, growing bodies, and friendship. At the end of the book, there's a page entitled "Plant life cycles" that describes annual, perennial, and biennial flowers, as well as tender perennials, which I'd never heard of (they may or may not return, depending upon the climate) but have experienced because we're in a climate zone where certain plants I knew as annuals when living farther north come back year after year, here. I'm always especially fond of children's books in which there's some factual information to round out a story. I already enjoyed the tale of the two little girls who grow at different speeds in the same way their plants bloom at a different rate but the extra info just added to what was already a 5-star read.

This is the final review for today's special Children's Day event and not a dud in the bunch. Awesome. Many thanks to Sterling Children's Books for another wonderful pile to read and share with the world!

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Holy Squawkamole! by Susan Wood and Laura Gonzalez - Children's Day #5

Holy Squawkamole! Little Red Hen Makes Guacamole by Susan Wood and Laura Gonzalez is an updated version of the old "Little Red Hen" story in which nobody will help the Little Red Hen gather ingredients and cook. In Holy Squawkamole! she's making guacamole instead of baking bread. She asks Coati, who is up in the trees when she goes to the avocado grove, to help her pick the avocados she needs for her guacamole. Coati says no.

"I'm hanging out. But I'll help eat it when it's done, gallinita roja. Nothing beats a tasty guacamole."

"Then I'll gather the avocados myself," said Little Red Hen. And she did. 

Similarly, she asks the snake to help her pick tomatoes, the armadillo to help her pull onions, and the iguana to help her snip cilantro from the garden. All turn her down and none will help her do the cooking, either. So she does all the work of harvesting and cooking, and at the end she adds a special ingredient. When the guacamole is done, everyone is happy to help her eat it and they all choose a different way to eat it -- in a taco or a burrito, rolled into a tortilla, or straight. But, they get a surprise. The special ingredient she added was a hot pepper and the guacamole is super spicy. 

Suddenly they stopped chewing. 
They huffed and puffed.
They winced and wheezed. 
They sweated and slobbered. 

The Little Red Hen confesses to having added a surprise ingredient, but agrees that nothing beats a tasty guacamole and they all finish it up. 

The story is followed by a two-page spread entitled, "The Story of Guacamole" that tells how guacamole (then known as ahuacamolli, or "avocado sauce") was created in Mexico, in the 1300s, and brought back to Europe by Spaniards in the 1500s. It talks about the fact that guacamole recipes have a regional flair, depending on the country in which the guacamole is made, and about National Guacamole Day in America. I didn't realize there was a National Guacamole Day. I must plan for this. 

There's also a guacamole recipe with helpful hints (how to choose a perfect avocado, how to keep your guacamole from turning brown, ideas for extra ingredients to add). The following three pages contain an illustrated glossary of terms used in the book. "Gallinita" is Spanish for "little hen", for example, and "roja" means red, so when Coati calls the hen "gallinita roja", he's calling her "Little Red Hen". 

Recommended - I didn't give this my highest recommendation because I thought making the guacamole hot but still sharing was a little weaker than the lesson in the original "Little Red Hen" story, in which the other animals are taught that if you're not willing to help out with the work involved in harvesting and cooking, you don't get to share when it's time to eat. But, I love Holy Squawkamole! anyway. I love it for all the extra bits of information. And, I'm crazy about the illustrations. They're both vibrant in color and give the illusion of action. And, it's true that nothing beats a tasty guacamole.

I received a copy of Holy Squawkamole! from Sterling Children's Books for review and it's definitely one of my favorite books of this lot to look at. I adore the illustrations. Many thanks to Sterling!

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Some Days by Karen Kaufman Orloff and Ziyue Chen - Children's Day #4

Some days 
are chocolate pie days.
Kites up in the sky days.
Jumping super high days. [...]

Some days are hurt myself somehow days.
Icky . . . sticky . . . OW! . . . days.
Need my mommy now days. 

Some Days by Karen Kaufman Orloff and Ziyue Chen is a rhyming book that would make an excellent prompt for classroom or home discussion with little ones. Some days, the book shows, you have fun swimming, jumping, getting a puppy, playing dress-up, etc. But, other days are not so good. You can feel lonely, scrape a knee, get in trouble, have to run to catch the bus, or do chores you may or may not like.

I kind of wish I could copy the entire text of this book in this post because it does such a nice job of covering a lot of the types of fun activities and big disappointments that a child may have. The illustration that shows children stuck indoors on a rainy day when they'd rather be playing kickball reminded me that I used to keep a small pile of books on a high shelf in my eldest son's closet when he was little, just for rainy or sad days. That's what one of the things I think this book would be especially good for -- keeping up high to pull out on a grumpy day or a day the little one's stuck indoors and not happy about it.

Highly recommended - Each of the rhyming paragraphs above comprises a two-page spread, so the text is on the light side. Also great for thinking about the fact that there will be bad days, I think Some Days is especially useful for pulling out on a moody day, a sick day, or a stuck-indoors day to remind children that both good and bad things happen and even if you're having a bad day, good days will come.

Yet another wonderful book sent to me by Sterling Children's Books for review! My thanks to Sterling!

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Just Read by Lori Degman and Victoria Tentler-Krylov - Children's Day #3

Just Read by Lori Degman and Victoria Tentler-Krylov is a tale of people of all ages reading anywhere and everywhere. Wildly imaginative illustrations show people reading from paper books and electronic devices (audio books are also mentioned). One child reads braille while another tells a story to a smaller child using sign language. Two children read dots and dashes drawn in the fog on a window (Morse Code, I presume). The places people are shown or described reading are as broad as the types of reading material: in a car or on a train, in a pile of raked leaves, while grocery shopping, on a playground, beneath a tree, in a treehouse (my favorite illustration, by far) -- even in a music store.

Some of the illustrations show places to read, some show what the reader is imagining. In one illustration, a child is reading a book with a person holding an umbrella on the cover. She glances outside, through an airplane window, and "sees" (read: imagines) people floating in the rain with air in their umbrellas like latter-day Mary Poppinses.

Recommended - A great book to encourage future readers or beginning readers. I love the diversity of places shown, types of reading matter, and even the cast of characters created to encourage children of all stripes to read anywhere. A note on the illustrations: I found that the busy-ness of the illustrations overwhelmed me a tiny bit, but once I became accustomed to them, I liked the fact that there was so much to look at. Just Read is a good book, then, for children who enjoy looking at illustrations that have a lot going on, especially before they're old enough to actually read. My children spent a lot of time flopped on their bellies, looking at illustrations and often reciting memorized text before they were old enough to read. They would have loved Just Read.

I received a copy of Just Read from Sterling Children's Books for review. Thank you! More reviews forthcoming!

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

A Little Chicken by Tammi Sauer and Dan Taylor - Children's Day #2

Dot is a chicken with anxiety issues. A lot of things scare her: wolves, bears, the occasional lawn ornament. One day, Dot is adding safety features to her chicken coop when she accidentally bumps an egg ("a soon-to-be sibling"). The egg rolls out of the coop and down the hill.

Dot gulped. She knew this wouldn't be over easy. 

This is the moment you realize A Little Chicken is going to be very punny. I like puns. A friend of mine calls them cheap humor but since I'm not as clever as he is, I can enjoy lesser wordplay. And, there's plenty of it in A Little Chicken. Dot is determined to save her little brother or sister, so she chases the egg down the hill (and trips). The egg keeps rolling onward in a way no egg truly can: across a pond where it bounces on a lily pad, flies up into a tree, the limb breaks and the egg rolls onward, deep into the woods.

At the edge of the woods, Dot's tail feathers shake because, of course, there are things she's afraid of in the woods. But, she must save that egg. It's one of her siblings.

Dot fluttered past one stunned wolf, two startled bears, and three very questionable lawn ornaments. 

This made me laugh. The lawn ornaments are gnomes, which I love (I have one hidden in the bushes outside my library window, where I can see it but nobody else can).

Dot eventually saves the egg and a baby sister immediately hatches from it. By this point, she's made it back to the farmyard and she's a hero. The book ends with the thought that it's okay that Dot is still afraid of a lot of things:

Sometimes a big hero . . . is just a little chicken. 

Highly recommended - This is an especially good book for a very wiggly child who is still getting used to being read to, because it has few words, and for the child who loves word play. And, trust me, really young children can understand puns. I've been surprised by both my children and eldest grandchild, in that regard. A great theme -- you may have fears, and that's okay, but there are times even someone who is afraid of things can be courageous. Love it. I adore the illustrations, especially the fact that the lawn ornaments are gnomes and the chicken is more than a little awkward. Note that he looks terrified of a butterfly on the cover! Also, I may be a tiny, tiny bit biased in my love for this book by the fact that I pretty much adore everything Tammi Sauer writes. She's been a favorite children's book author since Chicken Dance, which I reviewed way back in 2009 (it's still an all-time favorite with a special place on the shelves).

I received a copy of A Little Chicken from Sterling Children's Books in return for my review. Many thanks! This is my second review for Children's Day. More to come!

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree by Jamie L. B. Deenihan and Lorraine Rocha - Children's Day #1

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree by Jamie Deenihan and Lorraine Rocha is the story of a little girl who gets an unexpected gift for her birthday. She has a list of 6 items she wants (mostly electronic, like a drone and a pair of headphones) but when the unnamed little girl is given a lemon tree by her grandmother, the narrator gives her some advice. She should act excited and thank her grandma.

Keep smiling until Grandma leaves (or falls asleep),
and do not harm your lemon tree. 


Drop it off a bridge.
Tie it to your birthday balloons.
Play ding dong ditch the lemon tree. 

The narrator tells the little girl to keep her lemon tree warm, wait for it to grow (she is shown repotting it and putting it under a light), and take it back outside when the snow melts. When the tree finally grows lemons and they can be harvested, the little girl makes lemon juice and turns it into lemonade to sell so that she can buy some of the things on her wish list. But, instead of getting something electronic with the money she makes from her lemonade stand, she buys flowers and plants a garden.

Highly recommended - A lovely book about being polite when receiving an unwanted gift, following instructions, exercising patience, and sharing with one's community, all wrapped up in a sweet, colorful story. The book even includes a recipe for lemonade -- perfect! I love the illustrations. Almost every page has a little gray cat (not all, but most), which warms my cat-loving heart. And, there are a lot of smiles on the faces of the characters. When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree is a happy, uplifting, positive book that will encourage little ones to learn how to grown things -- not necessarily just lemon trees.

I received a copy of When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree from Sterling Children's Books for review and it's the first of 6 posts I'm going to publish for today's Children's Day. I'm going to try to schedule all the posts about 2 hours apart.

©2019 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.