Thursday, January 31, 2013

Two Books You Can't Read

Well, you can read them, but you can't check them out here. One, because I need to order a copy, and one, because I just removed it from the system.
But, you should! You should read both of them! So, I'm putting them in a post together, even though they couldn't be more different.
Jinx, by Sage Blackwood
(ARC from HarperCollins)
     In the Urwald, you don't step off the path. Trolls, werewolves, and butter churn–riding witches lurk amid the clawing branches, eager to swoop up the unwary. Jinx has always feared leaving the path—then he meets the wizard Simon Magus.
     Jinx knows that wizards are evil. But Simon's kitchen is cozy, and he seems cranky rather than wicked. Staying with him appears to be Jinx's safest, and perhaps only, option. As Jinx's curiosity about magic grows, he learns to listen to the trees as closely as he does to Simon's unusual visitors. The more Jinx discovers, the more determined he becomes to explore beyond the security of well-trodden paths.
     But in the Urwald, a little healthy fear is never out of place, for magic—and magicians—can be as dangerous as the forest. And soon Jinx must decide which is the greater threat.

     What a fun book! Some favorite lines from the ARC:
     "The Bonemaster sucks out people's souls with a straw,"said Jinx. "Do you?"
     "I have some bad habits," said Simon. "But that is not one of them."
     Her face had a lot of nose to it.
     It's a good sign when I'm 15 pages in, and have already marked two passages! Jinx is instantly real and likeable, as are Simon and other characters - even while you share Jinx's distrust of them. That is actually one of the lessons of the book - should you, just because you like someone, trust them in every way? Can people be both very right and very wrong? Both good and evil? The cover illustration very nicely plays into the confusion that often surrounds Jinx: is that tree branch grabbing at him, or protecting him?
     Not to make this sound like a heavy-handed work, not at all. The whole story is a delightful trip into what is sure to become a popular series with middle schoolers. This first book is available now, and I'm hoping a sequel will follow soon.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
Bought off the discard shelf.
Yes, the discard shelf. I had to weed the young adult fiction section, an activity that is almost physically painful, because it had already been done recently. That meant that I had to cut deeper, in this instance taking out books that I had kept because they were award winners, but which have not checked out in a while. I ended up purchasing some for my own collection, muttering disparaging remarks about patrons who don't know what's good. I hadn't actually read this one, but I had certainly heard of it, so it ended up on the top of my pile.
Hello! Teenage and adult patrons! You were totally missing out!!! I read this in almost one sitting (or, as close to one sitting as I ever get), and thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. Okay, it's not without its issues (um...making the female protagonist the only intelligent one and all the boys more or less clueless is sort of reverse discrimination), but for the most part, it is packed with 'good stuff'.
We start with a letter of confession from the protagonist, taking full blame/credit for a series of pranks that have taken place on her exclusive boarding-school campus. While the titles of the pranks ("The Doggies in the Window", "The Canned Beet Rebellion") are lighthearted, and were in actuality pretty funny, there is a lot in here for the thinking reader. In fact, I have gone off to several adults, my husband included, about the comparison of the panopticon to a boarding school and how that relates so well to our present governmental trends.
Okay, maybe I can see where that might put off readers looking for fluff, but I promise you, it's an entertaining semi-intellectual read - especially for anyone remotely interested in sociology and strategy and multi-colored bras. I think every teenage girl, in particular, should read this. In fact, I am making the decision right now, to put this book back into the collection, so I can shove it into the hands of the next teen I see who I know remotely well enough to do so. (M., that would most likely be you!)
So, I suppose the title of this post is partially a lie - these are two books that you can't read yet. But the second paragraph - telling you that you should read them - is still absolutely true!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Birthday Girl!

I was doing so well, posting something every day, getting posts scheduled in advance. Then the stomach bug hit.

It started with L. Thursday night, then hit S. and I Saturday, soon joined by M. So far, C. seems fine, but Daddy is failing to convince us he can beat it by sheer force of will.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, we had a party! A very small party, which I am now thankful for, but a fun one. Three years ago today, January 30, I wearily told the doctor I really didn't mind any more if we went with a C-section. Thirty minutes later, I was wondering where all the strawberry blonde hair (now fairy blonde) had come from.

This last year of being two was very much a year of being too. Too smart, too funny, too articulate, too creative, too everything for her age! Friends tell me they look forward to our Facebook posts about her, sort of as their daily humor page. I decided that would be a fitting way to do a year of S. in review - in past status reports (mine, daddy's, and Grandma's.) Here are just a few:

I told S. she couldn't go outside in just her underwear:


After C. found her doll's pacifier for her: "Why thank you C! You are a fine smart boy!"


 For the record, this is not how we enforce bedtime with her:

S: He has my cell phone rock!
 Grandma: Just get another one. Here, this one looks nicer.
S.: But I have to answer THAT one! M. is calling me! (Sobbing)

S. is crying because L. took all of the imaginary candy out of her hand and threw it all over the floor, and now he won't help her pick it up.


Photo: More from the costume box.


My poor child is so confused.."Jingle bombs, jingle bombs, Robin laid an egg...and Joker...did something."



S: The zombies are going to eat my baby's brains. Mommy says they cook 'em slow in the crock pot.


Should I be concerned that her reaction is a proud grin?


S. was asking me questions about today's EMS call. I told her I didn't know the answer, and even if I did, I couldn't tell her.

S: "Why not?"
Me: "HIPAA laws."
S. (nodding sagely): "Oh, right, HIPAA laws."


The Puppy Whisperer


Standing at the checkout at Home Depot paying for the Christmas tree, clerk looks at S. bopping and singing her own song and says "My little girl is just 11 weeks old. I can't wait until she's that age." At which point S. stops her performance, sticks her finger up her nose and proudly shows us all "I gots a big booger in my nose!"


So, THAT'S where my lipstick went!


S: "Mommy, when I am sad, I do this." (plays two notes, slowly, on Cookie Monster piano, while making sad face.)
"When I am happy, I do this!" (plays all keys wildly with a big grin.)

My two-year-old has her own soundtrack?


Watchig the movie "Wild America"...and way too enthralled:


S. is doing her math:
Now we have another boy dog! 2 boy dogs and 1 more boy dog - 3 boy dogs! And we have 4 girl dogs! (Thinking for a minute) We had 6 dogs. Now we have 7 dogs! But when he (Rusty) is all better and goes to his new home we will have 6 dogs again.

Who, ME?


Let the kids watch "Zoom" last night. Now S. is insisting everyone call her "Princess". I am a little afraid of what will happen if I don't.


Photo: She shaved.


S: "Mommy, will you hold my puppy?" (hands me the mechanical dog Aunt Susie got her for Christmas)
Me: "Sure."
S: "No, hold it like this." (Places it so it is standing on my chest.)
Me: "Okay."

S. pushes button to turn the puppy on. "Mommy, my puppy peed on you!"


And, yes, Jen from Epbot has seen this.


A few days ago:

(Reading a book about apples)

Mommy: "When the trees are about three years old, they grow flowers."
S: "I am three years old!"
Mommy: (eyes wide) "Are YOU going to start growing flowers all over?"
S: (thinks for a minute) "I'm not three YET."


Photo: Cutest dang mountain lion I've ever seen.


And, finally, last night's:

M. was helping S. get ready for bed. S. was taking her socks off, and when M. turned back, she saw S. closing her drawer.

M: "S., did you just put those back in the drawer?"
S: (thinks for a moment) "Yeeeeeeeeeees."
M: "Why, aren't they dirty?"
S: "Noooooooo."
M: "Honey, haven't you been wearing them all day?"
S: "Noooooooo." (pause) "I've been wearing them for several days!"
Happy birthday, my beautiful, smart, amazing, sweet, BIG three-year-old girl!


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Elsewhere on the Web... which I bring your attention to posts on other blogs, which you really should be following anyway.
Beore you read this first one, quick pop quiz: What color is Anne of Green Gable's hair? When I asked at the last Teen Cafe, every single teen, even those who had never read the books, called out the correct answer in unison. This is...this is...gahhh!!!
What's that on my keyboard? Oh, it's drool. Don't judge me - go here and try to tell me you don't get an instant case of "I want"!
I already shared a link to this fun plate decorating idea on Facebook, and have several people now scouring town for ceramic markers. In retrospect, I probably should have hit the thrift shops for old plates before I brought it to anyone else's attention.
Have fun scoping these out, and stay tuned - I plan to make this a weekly feature! What fun is it to rant or rave about a blog post if there's nobody to rant or rave to, right?

Picture Books for Learning at Home

A Is for Musk Ox
by Erin Cabatingan
As I posted earlier, S. is learning the alphabet. We are on "A". The second I read this little gem, though, I became anxious for her to reach the end of the alphabet, because I got so excited about possible extensions.
When Musk Ox is caught eating Zebra's apple, he points out to the irate Zebra that EVERY alphabet book says "a is for apple". He then proceeds to show Zebra how every letter - almost - can be for "musk ox".
Besides teaching letter sounds and descriptive words, this lends itself to a fun story-writing extension: Have each of your kiddos choose an animal, or pick one collectively, and rewrite the book to fit. Or, you could use your child as the main character - A is for S., for example, because she is Amazing and Awesome and likes to do Art!

Hair Traits: Color, Texture, and More
by Buffy Silverman
Eye Color: Brown, Blue, Green, and Other Hues
 Also in this series: Body Parts, Facial Features, Unusual Traits, and Vision. Lerne is slowly but surely taking over our Junior Reader section. They have some fantastic nonfiction series that are at just the right reading levels, and their photographs and bright colors draw kids like magnets. We forget sometimes that young kids are fascinated with "what's really real", and feed them a limited diet of fiction (not that there's anything wrong with a heavy dose of Elephant and Piggie, mind you!)

All the books in this series begin with a brief explanation of genetics, using very simple vocabulary. In many households (mine included), not everyone is related by genes, so I was very pleased to see the blurb, "Birth parents are related to their kids. Adoptive parents take a child into their family and become his or her parents." Simple and straightforward, no platitudes or apologies. Perfect!

When S. is a little bigger, I plan to read through the whole series together, then do some graphing and charts with the whole family - what traits do we have that are the same? Where do we think some of those traits came from? We know that C. gets his height from his birth father, but Daddy is tall, too. His hair color matches Daddy's and M.'s, while S.'s fairy blonde hair is a complete mystery. Some children may not know anything about their birth families, but approached in the right way, this can still be a fun exercise in exploring how members of your family are alike or different. While the traits explored are all physical, it could easily turn into a discussion of things like hobbies, food preferences, etc., and who may have influenced those. Well done, Lerner!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Nothing makes Mom look cool, while not costing a penny, like the old baking-soda-and-vinegar trick (assuming you already have baking soda and vinegar in your kitchen.) This one actually cost me a whopping $2, because I found a volcano kit at a yard sale last week (it's New Mexico - we have yard sales in January.) It has been good for hours of business, because first we had to build it:

Oh, and then read the instructions.
And paint it.
serious work!
And then place the dinosaurs. Because.
Then comes the exciting part! A little baking soda...
a little vinegar..
a lot of excitement!
And, if your children are weird, some vinegar-sniffing at the end. I guess his sinuses will be clear.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review of Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

It isn’t easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.
When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises. The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past—and hers?
A LOT is going on in this book. Just about every fairy tale you have ever read gets woven in, many of them in passing mentions - a golden ball in a well, women speaking in snakes, a giant who swallowed the sun. There are also a multitude of characters. In addition to the seven sisters, a couple brothers, parents, and the prince, we have two fairy godmothers, spouses of some of the sisters, a king, a few other fey individuals, friends, soldiers, and servants - many of whom, in another book, would have served only to muddy the waters, but somehow Kontis manages to bring us just shy of confused.
You definitely want to pay attention while you are reading, but personally I found all the interwoven details to be intriguing rather than confusing. A reader who did not devour every one of Lang's fairy tale tomes as a child will be missing out on a bit, but will enjoy this very delightful story just the same.
A few things aren't quite explained - or maybe I missed them! Mentioning some would cause spoilers, but here's a minor bit - what were the instructions Rumbold gave  regarding the moneylenders? What did they have to do with anything??? None of that detracted from the story for me, but did serve to remind me this is her first novel. And gads, if I had to keep track of as many threads as she did in writing this, I'd probably forget whole characters! I am definitely looking forward to future works by Kontis.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pineapple Lime Chicken

I don't have step by step pctures for this one, because I wasn't sure what I was making until I was done! It sure did turn out yummy, though, so here's the quickie recipe:
1. Put a teensy bit of oil in a pan and add however many chicken breasts you want to cook. Sprinkle with garlic salt or garlic pepper and brown nicely on all sides. Resist the urge to stop and eat hem right here because they smell SO good.
2. Whil hose are browning, open a can of pineapple slices and spread the slices on a broiler pan (save the juice in the can). Broil on low until they are as brown as you like them.
3. To the can of juice, add soy sauce, lime juice, and honey to the proportions you prefer, until you have a can full of liquid. I have been on a lime juice kick, so I added a LOT of that. Give it a quick stir so the honey doesn't stick to the can, then...
4. Dump it all in with the chicken breasts. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cover. Simmer until chicken is cooked through, 20-30 minutes.
5. You didn't forget about the pineapple rings like I did, did you? Quick, rescue them! Lay them on the tops of the chicklen breasts, cover again, and simmer another 5 minutes.
Serve over rice, or with steamed or stir-fried veggies.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Two New Read-Alouds

Both of these are from Lerner, and we have been enjoying them at home. Both have a great sing-songy rhyme pattern that will make them perfect for some future read-alouds at the library, too!
Hippospotamus by Jeanne Willis
Illustrated by Tony Ross
There's a spotamus on hippo's bottomus! Her friends try to diagnose and treat her, with increasingly hilarious results. Finally, a boy wanders by and solves the mystery with a satisfying "Ewwwwwwwwww!" moment. The rhymes are just tongue-twistery enough to make reading it aloud a fun challenge, and kids will love the made-up words. Even with only one human in the book, the colors and facial expressions of the illustrations screamed Tony Ross, which may be part of the draw for my Little Princess fan club at home.
Oopsy, Teacher! by Stephanie Calmenson
illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa
Poor Mr. Bungles is having one of those days, and when his ill-timed sneeze gives the class hamster a chance to escape, the whole class jumps in to help. The wonderfully rhythmic rhymes put the last word on a subsequent page, allowing students the chance to guess and yell that word out. S. had a great time with that, and even L. flabbergasted me by guessing two! (Have I mentioned he is 18 months old? My children frighten me.) Yoshikawa's vibrant illustrations and fun little touches had both C. and S. leaning in to check them out.
The first is from Anderson Press, and the second from Carolrhoda Books, both a part of Lerner Publishing Group, so you can order them both from the same spot. Or, come check them out here at the library - as soon as I can tear them away from my kiddos!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A is for...

S. is learning about the letter "A", and I have all sorts of fun coloring pages.
Unfortunately, S. is not big on coloring. A little too sedentary for her, I think. I tried agreeing to color with her, and got the above result: see the dot towards the lower left with a little bit of blue in it? That's how much she colored while I did everything else.
That's okay, though, there are plenty of more tactile ways to explore letter shapes, and what better way to start than with food?
I had one tube of crescent rolls left in the fridge, so I cut those into strips, and she built capital As with them.
As you can see, L. wanted to get in on this, so we gave him the scraps, and he happily mushed them around with fingers and spoons.
One we had our letter shapes, we brushed them with butter,
and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.
Then L. discovered the brown sugar lumps, and of course, had to taste one.
That meant S. had to taste one.
And soon they were shoving them in their mouths as fast as they could.
I can't really blame them, can you?
Finally, the letters were coated enough to go into the oven for a few minutes,
and, voila! A tasty treat to have with supper tonight.
Yes, I know, I can't stop seeing the name "Ava" either.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Just to See if This Will Work...

...since Blogger is not leting me download videos from my camera or computer right now...

Review of Fang Girl by Helen Keeble

I didn't pick this one up for a while, because the title and cover screamed "cheesy", and I wasn't in the mood for cheesy.

Fang Girl
review copy from HarperCollinsPublishers

After Girl of Nightmares, however, cheesy seemed like a nice change, and I was right - unapologetically cheesy, but also darn near hysterical. I mean, let's face it; if vampires were real, and I were to become one, this is the kind of vampire I would be:
(upon discovering that she has vampiric superspeed) "...I was having too much fun running to stop now. I quickened my pace, and it was as easy as shifting gears on a bicycle. When I looked down at my feet, they were flickering over the ground almost too fast to see, and -
I ran straight into the wooden fence at the end of the field.

 There were many, many bits I had to read out loud to M., and several snorts of laughter that I tried to explain and failed (mild spoiler alert):
Me: "Her goldfish just ate a bird."
M: "What? How does...what...wait, she turned her fish into a"
Me: "No, her mother did."
M: "Her mother is a vampire, too?"
Me: "Nope."
M: "?????"
The basic plotline: Jane (please don't use her first name) knew a lot about vampires - read all the books, wrote some fanfic herself, was even a star blogger on She's not an idiot, though - she didn't believe vampires were actually real. Until she woke up in a coffin.
Now she has to find her sire - which may or may not be a good idea - and ditch the studly vampire hunter - which also may or may not be a good idea - and convince her family to chill out (what? of course she went home, that's where her clothes are) - probably not possible - and sort out the good and bad guys in the crazy world of vampire politics. Oh, and then there's the evil undead goldfish.
We end just right for a series (I do hope this is a series), with some things neatly wrapped up, and some problems still to solve. Plenty of laughs, enjoyable characters, fun plot twists (did not see the father reveal coming!) Perfect fun read, can't wait to see the next one!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Amy Krouse Rosenthal Story Time

We had a definite subtheme going on with this week's story time. I started off by asking the kids if they had ever had one of those days where everything just seemed to go wrong. Most raised their hand, although only one group (we do this twice a week) offered examples. I told the kids that my daughter, M., recently had one of those days. I asked if any of the parents/grandparents had ever, for example, locked themselves out of their car, and of course most sheepishly raised their hands (myself included.) M, I explained, somehow managed to lock herself INSIDE her car. She was sitting in the driver's seat of her 1980 pickup, holding her keys, and couldn't get the doors to open! She spent ten minutes frantically calling friends, trying to find someone to rescue her, before finally realizing...she could just roll the window down.
We've al had those days, and there are many ways to have those kinds of days, which segues very nicely into:
One Of Those Days
The older kids especially showed that they identified with several of the bad days described. One was an "It's not fair day", which provided the segue into:
It's Not Fair!
I love authors who make my job easy. They got a kick out of even babies, aliens, and planets shouting that things aren't fair. And, of course, sometimes we think things aren't fair when really they are just different, which goes along with:
I introduced this one by showing the kids a spoon, fork, (butter) knife, and chopsticks, and we talked about what you might do with each one. If you aren't familiar with the story, spoon is jealous of the things his friends can do and he can't, but in the end realizes there are things only he can do. An obvious moral, but handed over in a silly enough way to be completely palatable.
For our craft, I searched the internet for a while, and finally settled on decorating our own plastic utensil people. I wasn't sure if it would be a hit or a flop - fortunately, it was very definitely the former. I LOVE when their creativity takes off, and they put my examples to shame! Here are a few shots from our Monday group:
Why yes, she does like pink, how did you guess?
Pirate, Abraham Lincoln, and Mr. Spoon.
The pirate added an earring, so I had to take another picture.
Why are there spoons and no food? I don't understand!
Loving that hair!
The knife, I was told, is the bad guy.
If you're looking at hands, you'll see that while the mommies helped with some of the cutting and tying, the kids really did most of the work!
Best of all, when I got everything cleaned up and returned to my desk, I found myself tagged in a video on Facebook - one brother and sister had already gone home and put together a puppet show with their creations! Excellent way to make it a good "one of those days" for your pet librarian!