Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Book review - Louisiana's Way Home

Title: Louisiana's Way Home
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Genre: historical fiction
Similar books: Jelly Bean Summer by Joyce Magnin
                      Okay for Now by Gary D Schmidt
Rating:
charming

Summary (provided by publisher): When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town — including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder — she starts to worry that she is destined only for good-byes. (Which could be due to the curse on Louisiana's and Granny’s heads. But that is a story for another time.)

My opinion: This book has all the charm of a standard DiCamillo novel. She has a real flair for world building and creating unique characters. It's that second point that I struggle with in this book. In some ways, Louisiana is too unique. While her voice is strong, she's incredibly overly dramatic. And since the book takes the form of letters, its entirely from her perspective, her interpretation of events. It gives the "looking for family" standard plot an almost soap opera tinge.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Fall decorations

I love these little wooden color-your-own ornament kits. Historically, I've painted them but I wanted to try something different with this fall kit. My experience coloring them with markers has never been very good. But, it turns out, colored pencils work quite well. It gives them a more muted look.

 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Non-fiction book review - Apollo 8

Apollo 8: The Mission that Changed Everything by Martin W. Sandler

I think sometimes that younger generations (my own included) are at a disadvantage. We don't fully grasp how much of a feat the space program was. We don't really understand the dangers they faced or the political climate it all happened in. Having begun in the Cold War, the eventual accomplishment of Mir is all the more interesting. Without any of that background, this book is a solid choice for a middle grade reader. Sandler presents a wide variety of information without overwhelming the reader with details. The tone is nearly conversational, making very readable. I learned a great deal from this book and it left me excited to learn more.

Looking for more about Apollo 8? A tie-in or something for younger readers? Give Earthrise by James Gladstone a look

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Book review - The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

Title: The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge
Author: M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin
Genre: fantasy
Similar books: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik
                          The Enchanted Files: Trolled by Bruce Coville
Rating:
more political than magical

Summary (provided by publisher): Uptight elfin historian Brangwain Spurge is on a mission: survive being catapulted across the mountains into goblin territory, deliver a priceless peace offering to their mysterious dark lord, and spy on the goblin kingdom — from which no elf has returned alive in more than a hundred years. Brangwain’s host, the goblin archivist Werfel, is delighted to show Brangwain around. They should be the best of friends, but a series of extraordinary double crosses, blunders, and cultural misunderstandings throws these two bumbling scholars into the middle of an international crisis that may spell death for them — and war for their nations. Witty mixed media illustrations show Brangwain’s furtive missives back to the elf kingdom, while Werfel’s determinedly unbiased narrative tells an entirely different story. A hilarious and biting social commentary that could only come from the likes of National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson and Newbery Honoree Eugene Yelchin, this tale is rife with thrilling action and visual humor . . . and a comic disparity that suggests the ultimate victor in a war is perhaps not who won the battles, but who gets to write the history.

My opinion: Given the combination of Anderson and Yelchin, it should come as no surprise that this book is complex and dense. It's clearly a fantasy world with elves and goblins and assorted mythical beasts. It's also a heavily political allegory. We have two nations at war for generations with a long history of invations, slaughter, subjugation, espionage, and misinformation. Both parties are forced to face their biases and the lens through which they view the world. The interplay between the way the narrated passages differs from the visual passages and the two perspectives those sections represent adds to the depth. This is a book that a middle grader could enjoy as a fantasy adventure and then read again as an older teen and get more of the political commentary.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Caroler candles

One of the new items I featured this year at my craft fair was some small candle holders. I got a good deal on these small candles and agonized for a while over what type of holder to make for them. I'm pretty happy with these little polymer clay carolers.

 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

I'll be back soon

Hi all!

I intended to keep to my regular posting schedule but my craft fair is in a couple of weeks and I'm SUPER far behind. So, I'm going to take a blogging break. I'll be back as soon as I'm caught up, no later than November 10. 

Thanks for sticking with me.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Custom plaque

In my quest to make unique plaques for my craft fair, I've discovered a lot of unique shapes. If you can find the underlying shape, you can find a lot of promise under a sometimes tacky decoration. This particular plaque isn't bad in it's original form, though I'm not a fan of the cardboard banner attached to the front. It's shape presented some unique challenges in coming up with a new design.