Archive of ‘Mrs. McGriff’ category

From tall tales to fairy tales

It’s still November so that means it’s still Picture Book Month! I made another trip to the library to find enough picture books to finish out the month. This time my husband went with me and complained that he couldn’t find me. I really wasn’t hiding. It’s just much easier to scoot along the floor while I pull picture books off the shelves to peruse before checking them out. Here are six of the treasures I brought home. The rest will be in a later post.

jumanjiJumanji by Chris Van Allsburg (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981) – I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I had not read this one before now, nor seen the movie. As with other Van Allsburg books, the black and white drawings drew me in until I felt like I could step right into the story. Though I’m not sure I would want to fall into this story (or game) with roaring lions, stampeding rhinos, and lost guides. I do want to see how the movie captures the story on the big screen.

darkThe Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Little Brown and Company, 2013) – This one belongs on my shelf next to Mercer Mayer’s There’s a Nightmare in My Closet (except I have to return it to the library). Laszlo is afraid of the dark, especially when it’s at home in the basement. Then one night the dark invites Laszlo into its home and Laszlo is no longer afraid of the dark. The angles of dark shadows and light play throughout the illustrations.

little red penThe Little Red Pen by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2011) – The Little Red Pen is determined to grade all the papers stacked on the desk, but the rest of the office supplies are too afraid to come out of the desk drawer. Only a catastrophe–Little Red Pen falls into the “Pit of No Return”–brings scissors, eraser, pencil, ruler, stapler, and the rest out of hiding to keep the sky from falling and the world from ending. If they can just quit arguing and work together, they might get those papers graded after all. Now why couldn’t my office supplies have been that helpful?

frog prince continuedThe Frog Prince Continued by Jon Scieszka, paintings by Steve Johnson (Viking, 1991) – As soon as I saw Jon Scieszka’s name on the cover, I knew I was in for a fun ride. Life is not happily ever after in the castle. The Frog Prince and his princess just can’t get along now that the royal wedding is over. The Frog Prince decides he was happier as a frog and sets off in the woods to find a witch to change him back. He meets witches aplenty, but none of them go with his story. After some close calls, he makes it back to the castle where another kiss gives a twisted ending.

three little pigsThe Three Litlte Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf by Mark Teague (Orchard Books, 2013) – What happens when you mix three pigs (one hungry for potato chips, one hungry for sody-pop, one hungry for books) with one hungry (but really not so terrible) wolf? A delightful twist on the old fairy tale. I’m not sure which made me laugh more–the twists in the story or the illustrations that reveal some very unpig-like pigs.

library lilLibrary Lil by Suzanne Williams, illustrated by Steven Kellogg (Dial Books for Young Readers, 1997) – This whopper of a tall tale starts with Lil’s origins (she was born with a book in her hands) and continues through her exploits as the librarian of Chesterville. She has her work cut out for her because the people of Chesterville much prefer television to books. Just when a thunderstorm knocks out all the power, Lil is ready to turn a town of couch potatoes into readers. Then Bust’em Up Bill zooms into town on his motorcycle. Will he be any match for our fearless librarian? This hilarious adventure is just the thing for all those super librarians I have known and worked with, who do indeed move mountains to get the right book into the right kid’s hands at the right time.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? Is a meme sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey.  Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Menor Texts gave the meme a kidlit twist.  It’s a great way to reflect on what you’ve read and reviewed the last week and plan what you want to read next.  Join up with us and discover what good books other people  are reading.


It’s been another whirlwind week. Our small town experienced a devastating fire on Friday. We weren’t personally affected, but it was hard to watch a city block in the historic district burn beyond repair. It will be a long time to recover and several families are now without homes. I have been proud of how our community has come together to meet this crisis, and I am sure we will continue to reach out to those affected.

I finished…

october mourningOctober Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman, narrated by Emily Beresford (and others who are not listed on the Overdrive blurb): Even though I had heard so much praise for this book, I have put off reading it. I know too many people who could have been in Matthew’s place, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to confront such violence. Then when SyncYA offered it for download, I added it to Overdrive, but I wasn’t sure how I would like listening to a book of poetry. How would I follow the structure of the poetry if I couldn’t see it? I needen’t have worried. By giving voice to the people, places, and things surrounding Matthew that night, Beresford explores his death with grace and sensitivity. Yes, I found tears streaming down my face as I shoveled snow and listened, but I also found hope and healing in her words. The multiple narrators brought each poem to life and clearly distinguished between titles, quotes before some poems, and the poems themselves. I would still like to see the poems on the page–and even better read while listening to them again. This is an important and powerful book that can open conversations.

girl who circumnavigated fairylandThe Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M.Valente – I love, love this book. I find myself wanting to copy down so many sentences that take my breath away. I love September as she takes the adventures that Fairyland offers and tries to do the right thing. The creatures are fantastical and captivating. I can’t wait to return.

I picked out 11 more picture books from the library. I also blogged about the 10 books I read last week: Picture books bring delight. Here are the books I read this week. I can’t wait to share them in a post later this week.

  • Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Brian Selzniicik
  • The Frog Prince Continued by Jon Scieszka, paintings by Steve Johnson
  • Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
  • Song of the Whooping Crane by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Elsa Warnick
  • The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen
  • The Little Red Pen by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
  • Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
  • Pecan Pie Baby by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
  • Library Lil by Suzanne Williams, illustrated by Steven Kellog
  • Elsie’s Bird by Jane Yolen and David Small
  • The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf by Mark Teague

I’m reading…

les-miserablesLes Miserables by Victor Hugo – I’m at 94%! The happy couple is now married, and Grandfather may be the happiest of all. Jean Valjean had a fortuitous injury that prevented him from having to sign any paperwork. Poor Marius (when he’s not delirously happy in love) is trying to discover who saved him from the barricade. Hehe…I know!

summer of letting goThe Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner – A busy week and late nights of homework kept us from reading this week, but it’s still waitinf for us to finish.

freelancers bibleThe Freelancers’s Bible by Sara Horowitz – This is an invaluable resource for everything freelancers need to consider. This may be a book I have to buy for my reference library. It covers everything a freelancer needs to consider–much more than I had thought of on my own.

Coming up…

I don’t have anything planned for my reading this week. I’m staying open for seredipity and surprises over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Have you read anything good this week? What books are you taking along for your holiday reading?

Picture books bring delight!

This week when I headed to the library to find more picture books to celebrate National Picture Book Month (this month!), I was much more excited than nervous like last week. I sat down on the other side of the row of shelves and began browsing. Once again I found some familiar authors among the mix as well as brand new titles and authors (at least new to me). Here are the treasures I discovered this trip in no particular order.

light of the worldThe Light of the World by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Francois Roca (Arthur A Levine Books, 2008) – I fell in love with Katherin Paterson’s writing when I first read Jacob Have I Loved and The Same Stuff as Stars, so when I saw this picture book retelling the life of Jeus, I had to read it. The simple text is beautiful and graceful as it tells an old, old story with freshness. The full page pictures that complement the text are luminous. I wish I had had this book when my daughter was young.

chester raccoon and the big bad bullyChester Raccoon and the Big Bad Bully by Audrey Penn, illustrated by Barbara L. Gibson (Tanglewood Press, 2008) – Chester’s first story, The Kissing Hand, is one of the few picture books that my daughter has kept and still rereads. She was as excited as I was to see Chester’s new adventure. This time a bully is disrupting school. Following Mama Raccoon’s good advice, Chester and his friends take on the bully and find a new friend.

if you give a cat a cupcakeIf You Give a Cat a Cupcake by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond (Laura Geringer Books, 2008) – If You Give a Mouse a Cookie was a perennial favorite in our house at one time. How could I resist reading another adventure that spirals out of control just to circle back to the beginning? The humor in this series is brilliant. I want to give it a try just for the fun of thinking up all the possible scenarios.

boy who was raised by librariansThe Boy who was Raised by Librarians by Carla Morris, illustrated by Brad Sneed (Peachtree Publishers, 2007) – Okay, how could I resist the title? Melvin grows up spending lots and lots of time in the public library. The three librarians–Marge, Betty, and Leeola–are always there to help him with whatever problem he faces (whether organizing and cataloguing insects or researching the motivation of an eggplant) because that’s just what librarians do. I loved the ending, but I won’t give it away.

pirates guide to recessPirate’s Guide to Recess by James Preller, illustrated by Greg Ruth (Feiwel and Friends, 2013) – When the recess bell rings, pirates take over the school yard. Soon the stormy seas are filled with the clashing of swords as Captain Red encounters fierce Molly and her crew. Clashing swords, walking planks, and mutinying crews fill recess with adventure. I love the action filled text and the imaginative drawings that emphasize creative play. A glossary of pirate terms on the end papers lead readers to their own pirate adventures.

case of the incapacitated capitalsThe Case of the Incapacitated Capitals by Robin Pulver, illustrated by Lynn Rowe Reed (Holiday House, 2012) – If there’s a way to make grammar fun, this book might lead the way. Because the students in Mr. Wright’s class have been forgetting to use capital letters correctly, the capital letters are growing sickly. Will the emergency medical team arrive in time to make things right again? This humorous story would be a good introduciton to (or reminder of) the importance of capital letters (and a history of how they got their other name–upper case letters).

butterlyThe Butterfly by Patricia Polacco (Philomel Books, 2000) – Polacco draws on her family history to tell the story of a courageous mother and daughter from the French Resistance in Nazi occupied France during World War II. Monique first shares a secret friendship with the ghostly girl who visits her room at night and lives secretly in the basement. When they are discovered, Monique and her mother must act quickly to save the family. This book would be a valuable addition to any study of the Holocaust for any age.

little drummer mouseThe Little Drummer Mouse by Mercer Mayer (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2006) – Really, I’m not trying to rush Christmas, but I love Mercer Mayer! This retelling of “The Little Drummer Boy” puts a tiny mouse in the starring role. I enjoyed the story, but it was the paintings that really drew me in. I could get lost in in picture, looking for more and more details to surprise and delight me.

canoe daysCanoe Days by Gary Paulsen, illustrated by Ruth Wright Paulsen (Doubleday, 1999) – Did you know Gary Paulsen had written a picture book that his wife illustrated? I didn’t, but I’m glad I discovered it. The poetic text immerses you in the quiet stillness found floating in a canoe across the lake. The illustrations glow with a soft light that matches the peacefulness. Now I want to take my canoe and float down the river.

jazzJazz by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Christopher Myers (Holiday House, 2006) – This collection of poems echoes the rhythms of jazz as it explores the history of American’s homegrown music. I found it hard to read without tapping my feel along with the poems. The introduction sets the stage with an overview of jazz’s evolution. More information in the back defines jazz terms and gives a timeline of important musical events. The illustrations are filled with vibrant color and movement.

I can’t wait until my next trip to the library. What picture books should I look for?


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? Is a meme sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey.  Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Menor Texts gave the meme a kidlit twist.  It’s a great way to reflect on what you’ve read and reviewed the last week and plan what you want to read next.  Join up with us and discover what good books other people  are reading.


I woke up this morning to our first snowfall. Even though many neighbors are complaining about the too early start to winter, I can’t help but revel in the beauty. Every leaf and branch is painted with soft, wet snow. Everything blurred as snowflakes still swirl thorugh the morning light. After I drop the kids off at school, I’ll put another book on my iPod and head out to clear the driveways of snow. Yes, I even enjoy the shoveling! then I can warm up with soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch and help my husband with butchering the four deer he shot over the weekend. Now, on to the books!

I finished….

branding only works on cattleBranding Only Works on Cattle: the New Way to Get Known (and drive your competitors crazy) by Jonathan Salem BAskin – I’m not from the world of marketing, but I think a lot of what Baskin says makes sense. He claims that developing a brand that is just a pretty idea–no matter how amazing–seperated from action is a waste of money. Instead, a company’s brand needs to be rooted in action:  both prompting action from the customer along the sales funnel and tied to all the actions of the company. A pretty idea doesn’t do much to support a business if customer service or supply chain processes or even payroll and personnel processes don’t support the customer in making a purchase. From a customer standpoint, it makes sense. It doesn’t matter how clever an ad is if I have a lousy experience with the company or product.

I am having so much fun with reading picture books this month. Last week I shared the first ten picture books I read in two posts: The Picture Books Are Coming and More Picture Books Are Coming. I made another trip to the children’s room at the library and read ten more. Come back later in the week to discover more about these gems:

  • The Little Drummer Mouse by Mercer Mayer
  • Jazz by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated by Christopher Myers
  • Canoe Days by Gary Paulsen and illustrated by Ruth Wright Paulsen
  • The Butterfly by Patricai Polocca
  • The Light of the World by Katherine Paterson and illustrated by Francois Roca
  • If You Give a Cat a Cupcake by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felcia Bond
  • Chester Raccoon and the Big Bad Bully by Audery Penn and illustrated by Barbara L. Gibson
  • The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians by Carla Morris and illustrated by Brad Sneed
  • The Case of the Incapaciated Capitals by Robin Pulver and illustrated by Lynn Rowe Reed
  • The Pirate’s Guide to Recess by James Preller and illustrated by Greg Ruth

I’m reading…

les-miserablesLes Miserables by Victor Hugo – I only made it to 92% this week. Marius is saved, recovered and reunited with both Cosette and his grandfather. I’ve slowed down because it’s just a lot of lovesick giddiness going around. I’m not sure who is the giddiest–Marius and Cossette (as the gaze adoringly into each other’s eyes and say not much of anything) or the grandfather (who showers Cosettte with gifts and plans an elaborate wedding).

summer of letting goThe Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner – We’re at the point where my daughter begs for more when I get to the end of the chapter. We’re also at the part where I can’t read without weeping. Let’s just say I’m putting lots of emotion into reading aloud. So far I haven’t completely embarrassed myself, but I can’t help but give in to the strong emotions evoked through these chapters.

freelancers bibleThe Freelancers’s Bible by Sara Horowitz – This is an invaluable resource for everything freelancers need to consider. Did you know that up to a third of the workforce today is considered a freelancer/independent contractor/temp worker? It seems like I’m in good company.

girl who circumnavigated fairylandThe Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M.Valente – For some reason, this book slipped to the bottom of my TBR pile. My only regret is that I didn’t read it sooner. I am captivated by every page.

Coming up…

I will definitely be off to explore more picture books. I hope to finish two of the novels I’m currently reading and make more progress on Les Mis. I can finish this! I’m also headed off to see what audio book I want to start next. I still have some that I downloaded from the Sync YA website over the summer.

More Picture Books Are Coming!

I continued to stick with the theme of the familiar with the rest of the picture books in my stack. Some were books and authors and illustrators that I had been hearing about–usually more than once for them to stick in my mind.

old bearOld Bear by Kevin Henkes – I don’t listen in on a discussion about picture books before someone speaks up in praise of Kevin Henkes. Old Bear was the only title on the shelf, so I grabbed it. Old Bear falls asleep in his den for the winter, but his dreams carry him throughout the seasons. I loved the illustrations that brought the simple text to life. I want to nap in flowers as big as trees and catch blueberries on my tongue as they rain from the sky.

extra yarnExtra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen – I get it now! I have heard readers rave about this book since it first came out, and now I’m ready to join the chorus. Annabelle found a box filled with yarn and her world will never be the same. She gets busy knitting and knitting and soon the drab black and white of winter is bursting with color and snuggled in sweaters. Not even an evil archduke can steal the magic (even though he tries). This is a book I could read over and over again. I’m not sure which I like better–the story or the illustrations. They blend together perfectly to create this magical tale.

click clack mooClick, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin – This is another book that I have heard many readers rave about. I can see why. I chuckled at the cows with the typewriter and at Farmer Brown’s growing frustration with cows that demand electric blankets. Before long the hens and ducks want their demands heard as well. The lighthearted, whimsical illustrations add to the fun–at least for the reader if not for Farmer Brown.

The last three books in this stack are from authors and illustrators that are new to me, but they are the familiar genres of fairy tale and fantasy. I love the concept of fractured fairy tales where things are turned upside down and topsy turvy in a story I thought was familiar.

wolf who cried boyThe Wolf Who Cried Boy by Bob Hartman and Tim Raglin – This time it’s Little Wolf who raises the false alarm a few too many times. He can’t help it. He’s tired of the same old dishes for dinner and just wants his favorite meal–BOY! But when a boy–a whole troop of them–shows up, his parents are wise to his tricks and won’t look up from the paper. This funny twist on an old favorite will have you howling along with Little Wolf. Not many tots today can relate to tending the sheep, but many of them will relate to Little Wolf trying to get out of dinner and eating snacks instead.

little red riding hoodLittle Red Riding Hood A Newfangled Prairie Tale by Lisa Campbell Ernst – When this Little Red Riding Hood sets off on her bicycle, nothing will stop her from getting to Grandmother’s house–not even a wolf with nefarious plans. The Midwestern grandmother is pretty tough herself as the wolf soon discovers. But never fear, a surprise twist leaves everyone living happily ever after. There’s even a recipe for wheatberry muffins (if you promise to make sure no wolves are lurking around when you add the secret ingredient).

dancing tigerThe Dancing Tiger by Malachy Doyle and Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher – I picked this one up based on the title and cover. I could not resist the image of a tiger and little girl dancing under a starry sky. The lyrical paintings and inviting verse invite you to dance along through the seasons, but only when the moon shines bright. It’s also an invitation to pass on treasured traditions from one generation to another.

I am excited by the pictures books I’ve discovered so far. What picture books do you recommend?

The Picture Books Are Coming!

Did you know that November is National Picture Book Month? I didn’t until Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts shared her plans to read #bookaday–and share out on her blog–for the month. I decided to join in the fun.

When it comes to middle grade and young adult literature, I can list hundreds of books on hundreds of topics and genres and by hundreds of authors. But when it comes to picture books, not so much. I’ve been seeing the pictures books shared by other readers and have wanted to explore this format more.

I headed to the children’s room in our  public library and quickly became overwhelmed. All those thin books sticking out at odd angles up and down the shelves. Where do I  even begin? I sat down at one end of the shelves and began browsing. (Of course, I didn’t write down any of the titles I discovered through IMWAYR or other blog posts.) Even so, it didn’t take long to create a stack of books to bring home.

I discovered some familiar friends among the authors. Some wrote books that I enjoyed reading to my daughter when she was younger. Other were authors I recognized from their books for middle grade or young adult readers. The picture books did not disappoint.

hello red foxHello, Red Fox by Eric Carle – My daugher (and me, too) loved Eric Carle. We had board books and hardback and paperback picture books. As soon as she saw Hello, Red Fox, she recognized Carle’s distinctive artwork. I was surprised there was another Carle book that we hadn’t read. Little Frong invites his friends to his birthday party, but Mama Frog thinks they are the wrong color! Using an optical illsusion based on the color wheel, the reader helps Mama Frog “see” the right colors. As a kid, I loved these illusions. I enjoyed the concept even now, but my eyes are getting old! It’s hard to stare at the colors page after page.

louise the adventure of a chickenLouise, The Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo and Harry Bliss – How could I go wrong with a story by Kate DiCamillo? Louise is a brave chicken who yearns for more adventure than she can find in the hen house and farm yard. She discovers pirates sailing over the seas, lions rampaging at the circus, mysterious strangers lurking at a bazaar. After each adventure, she is glad to return home…until the next adventure calls.

holly & ivyThe Story of Holly & Ivy by Rumer Godden and Barbara Cooney – Godden’s The Diddakoi was one of my most treasured books from my grandmother’s library. Discovering The Story of Holly & Ivy was like having tea with an old friend. The magic of Christmas wishes brings together three unlikely characters on a cold Christmas night. The oprhan ivy wishes for a family of her own, so she sets out for Appleton to find the grandmother she is sure is waiting for her. Holly wishes to leave her perch in the toy store window so she can be some little girl’s Christmas doll (even if the scary owl Abracadabra says impossible). Mrs. Jones wishes for a child and decorates a tree even though she’s not quite sure what she’s hoping for this Christmas.

strega nona's giftStrega Nona’s Gift by Tomie dePaola – Of course I remembered Strega Nona. This one turned out to be another Christmas story. (I’m really not trying to rush the season, but I do love Christmas stories.) Strega Nona is cooking and cooking and cooking for all the feasts through the month of December in her village of Calabria. She even cooks a feast for the animals, but something goes wrong when Big Anthony can’t resist the goat’s treat. What will it take to set the world right again?

I have even more great picture books to share tomorrow. What picture books should I be looking for to read next? Let me know your suggestions in the comments.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? Is a meme sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey.  Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Menor Texts gave the meme a kidlit twist.  It’s a great way to reflect on what you’ve read and reviewed the last week and plan what you want to read next.  Join up with us and discover what good books other people  are reading.


November is National Picture Book Month, so I decided to jump in with the fun and catch up on some picture books this week. I have wanted to read more picture books, but didn’t take the time. A trip to the library netted a stack of good books for this week. Look for my post tomorrow where I give my reactions to these gems. For here, I’ll keep it simple with a list and pictures!

I finished…

  •  Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
  • Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, pictures by Betsy Lewin
  • The Wolf Who Cried Boy by Bob Hartman, pictures by Tim Raglin
  • Little Red Riding Hood a Newfangled Prairie Tale by Lisa Campbell Ernst
  • The Dancing Tiger by Malachy Doyle, paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
  • Old Bear by Kevin Henkes
  • Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo, pictures by Harry Bliss
  • Strega Nona’s Gift by Tomie dePaola
  • Hello, Red Fox by Eric Carle
  • The Story of Holly & Ivy by Rumer Godden, pictures by Barbara Cooney





sharp objectsSharp Objects by Gillian Flynn – I’ve heard all the hype about Gone Girl, but I haven’t read the book or seen the movie. But when I found this earlier novel by Flynn on my shelf, I decided to pick it up and see if I wanted to check out what the fuss is all about. On the surface, Sharp Objects is a murder msytery. Camille, a second-rate journalist from a small Chicago newspaper is sent back to her small Missouri town to report on two girls who turned up missing and dead–what appears to be the work of a serial killer. Along the way she must confront the dysfunctional family dynamics of her childhood. Okay, dysfunctional is an understatement. This book was intense on many levels–and downright disturbing on some. I had a hard time putting it down and just when I thought I had figured out who had done it, I was surprised.

 I’m reading…

les-miserablesLes Miserables by Victor Hugo – I made it to 90% this week! I really think I’m going to finish it. Jean Valjean’s journey through the sewers while carrying the unconcious Marius was much more harrowing in the book than the movie–and ended with a bit of treachery by our “friend” M. Thenadier that put Valjean in the hands of Javert. Another difference from the musical that I liked was that Javert chose to let Valjean go before he had his crisis that led to his death.

Poliser_SummerLettingGo_jkt_website_207_1The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner – We’re getting to some of my favorite parts in the book. I am so glad I get to share the story of Frankie Sky and Beans and Bradley and Lisette with my daughter.

branding only works on cattleBranding Only Works on Cattle: the New Way to Get Known (and drive your competitors crazy) by Jonathan Salem Baskin – I’m trying to brush up on my marketing knowledge since the class I took way back in college. I may have been better off to start with something more basic rather than something trying to uphend conventional knowledge, but I do enjoy the voice (who knew writing about marketing could be funny) and the thought-provoking ideas.

Secrets of Writing High-Performance Business-to-Business Copy(AWAI) – I always had dreams of being a creative (fiction) writer, but I am pleasantly surprised by how much I am enjoying learning about and practicing copywriting.

Coming up…

I have a book on managing a freelance business to read and another trip to the library for more picture books planned!

What are you reading this week?

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

I’m not a big horror fan. I close my eyes in the scary parts of movies and don’t read Stephen King because his stories give me nightmares. But I did get brave enough to listen Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein last summer through SYNC YA’s free downloads over the summer. It was not what I was expecting, to say the least. I found the doctor to be much more monstrous than his creation.

this dark endeavorI’ve had This Dark Endeavor (Scholastic 2011) by Kenneth Oppel on my bookshelf for some time. I wanted to read it because I had heard such good things about it, but I was also nervous (see nightmares above). I am glad I finally read it.

Oppel’s vision of a young Victor Frankenstein is complicated. Yes, Victor loves his twin brother, Konrad, and would go to all lengths to save him. Much of the excitement in the book comes from his (along with the spirited Elizabeth and dreamy Henry) adventures in securing the ingredients to make the elixir of life to give to Konrad. Yet at the same time, Victor is intensely jealous of his twin and wants all the glory for himself. I can see how this Victor grows into the doctor of Shelley’s book.

Did I mention that the adventure starts with the discovery of a secret library? Down a narrow staircase behind a secret door is the Dark Library, filled with tomes of alchemy and magic. Even though the Frankenstein family is quite on the cutting edge of science, Victor is fascinated. He returns again and again even though his father forbids it. Then when Konrad falls ill, Victor becomes desperate to save him–and to be the hero. Victor and his friends make a secret alliance with the mysterious Polidori–a man reknowned for his alchemical works and whose life was ruined by practicing them.

For all of Victor’s complicated nature, I couldn’t help but like him–even knowing where his fascination ultimately leads. My favorite character, though, has to be Elizabeth. She is determined not to be left behind on any adventure and can match Victor’s rages with her own temper. Henry would much rather write or read about adventures than go on them himself, but he goes along and tries to restrain some of Victor’s impulses–not with much success.

I found myself engrossed in this lush, gothic adventure–and no nightmares! I’m looking forward to finding the next installment, Such Wicked Intent.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? Is a meme sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey.  Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Menor Texts gave the meme a kidlit twist.  It’s a great way to reflect on what you’ve read and reviewed the last week and plan what you want to read next.  Join up with us and discover what good books other people  are reading.


It’s been a week filled with reading, writing, and music. And I’ve enjoyed the crisp fall air and spent lots of time outside.

I finished…

i heard the owlI Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven – It had been so long since I first read this one, it was like reading it for the first time. I found it to be a gripping and powerful story about learning to truly live by stripping life down to the necessities. The story also has much to say about respecting people who live differently and how to bridge the gap between different cultures. Even though my daughter glanced at it and said the language was old-fashioned, I find it still has much to say to today’s world.

this dark endeavorThis Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel – Such a fitting prequel to the original Frankenstein. Victor is such a complicated character, driven equally by love for his twin and jealousy of his twin. Victor wants it all–to be loved and to be powerful. I’m glad I read this one.

I’m reading…

les-miserablesLes Miserables by Victor Hugo – I made it to 87%! For once I enjoyed one of the long digressions. I couldn’t help but laugh when Hugo went off on a tangent about the sewers under Paris when he described how Parisians lost out by not composting the waste for fertilizer. In esssence, he told them they were flushing money down the toilet while polluting their waters. I could have done without the next few chapters describing various excavations and creations of the sewers throughout Paris history. Anyway, I’m back to Jean Valjean carrying Marius through the sewer to avoid capture.

Poliser_SummerLettingGo_jkt_website_207_1The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner – We are nearing the end, and it makes me sad. Even though we struggle to find time every day to read a chapter, both my daughter and I are enjoying reading together.

Secrets of Writing High-Performance Business-to-Business Copy(AWAI) – I always had dreams of being a creative (fiction) writer, but I am pleasantly surprised by how much I am enjoying learning about and practicing copywriting.

Coming up…

I found Gillian Flynn’s first novel, Sharp Objects, on my bookshelf and picked it up. I also want to join in the fun with picture books. Of course, here it is the third day of November, and I haven’t made it to the library yet to grab a stack. I’m on my way this afternoon, though, to grab a stack and start reading!

What are you reading this week?

October books read

Happy Halloween! I’ve had many more treats than tricks with my reading this month. Instead of rushing through, I’ve been savoring. All the novels were my favorites. They are each so different that’s it hard to compare.

130) Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah – I’m so glad I finally read this heartbreaking, hopeful memoir

131) Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick – Another powerful read

132) Smokey Bear and the Campfire Kids – My first digital storybook app

133) The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline by Nancy Springer – Enola Holmes ranks right up there with my favorite sleuths like Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy

134) Again Calls the Owl by Margaret Craven – I wish I could write prose so direct and filled with such beauty

135) This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel – a satisfying prequel to Shelley’s Frankenstein

What treats have you read this October? What books are you looking forward to in November?

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