Monday, July 31, 2017

Leggings aren't pants (at least, not for me)

I'm not big on leggings. I won't wear them as pants and I don't wear many dresses. But when I found Sonic the Hedgehog leggings for $4, well that's a different story. The problem I discovered after my fantastic leggings arrived? I didn't have anything to wear with them. My hunt for a reasonably priced tunic was fruitless. I lucked out this weekend when I found a Man's 3xl t-shirt on clearance. A little simple modification turned it into a t-shirt dress.

I might yet add some patch pockets

Friday, July 28, 2017

Book review - Sidetracked

Title: Sidetracked
Author: Diana Harmon Asher
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: A Long Pitch Home by Natalie Dias Lorenzi
                      The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
a delight

Summary (provided by publisher): To Joseph Friedman, middle school might as well be the Running of the Bulls. He’s friendless and puny, with ADD to boot, so he spends most of his time avoiding class bully Charlie Kastner and hiding out in the Resource Room, a safe place for misfit kids like him. But then, on the first day of seventh grade, two important things happen. First, his Resource Room teacher Mrs. T encourages (i.e., practically forces) him to join the school track team, and second, he meets Heather, a tough, athletic new girl who isn’t going to be pushed around by Charlie Kastner—or anybody else.
At first, track is as much of a disaster as everything else in Joseph’s life. But slowly Joseph hits his stride, and instead of running from the bulls . . . he’s just running.

My opinion: There's plenty to love about this book. Sports have a presence but don't bog down the personal development. While many of the characters are characterized as "Resource Room" but it isn't the bulk of their character. They aren't labeled with diagnoses. We see them as more than their labels. The surface plot is simple: an outsider finds acceptance on the track team as he learns about effort and integrity. It's much more than that, though. Joseph and his friends learn about compassion, persistence, overcoming fears, the complexity of adult relationships, good sportsmanship and more, all flowing organically with the plot.

More information: Sidetracked releases August 22.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Graphic novel spotlight - The Wendy Project

The Wendy Project by Melissa Jane Osborne

 This is the perfect argument to present to people who claim that comics are superheroes, fart jokes, violence, and lazy reading. Osborne has done some fantastic work here. Framing her plot around a familiar story allows her to both draw stark contrasts and to use that familiarity to give herself a little space to further develop her characters. The plot is, essentially, quite simple. But beautiful in that simplicity. The real strength here is the art. Its largely soft lines, a loose flowing style that reflects Wendy's relationship with the world around her. Illustrated primarily in grey-scale, the whole thing has a softened tone that is contrasted by the occasional use of color to draw our eye to an object and mark it as "other". It doesn't' take long to read and can easily be reread without loosing any of its charm.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Monday, July 24, 2017

"The Sharkticorn Origin" or "Why I'm Weird"

In the years that I've been blogging here, I've shared some crafts that can only be described as weird. I'm comfortable with that. As today's craft will prove, I'm a pretty weird person. And I come by it naturally.

In a casual conversation with my family, we somehow (naturally) came up with the concept of a sharkticorn - that is, a combination shark unicorn. And when I said "I feel like we need to draw it" nobody called me crazy. My mom just said "there's big paper in the cupboard". And now the sharkticorn is gracing my parent's refrigerator.

And because I'm me, I couldn't let it go at that. Since I had a plastic unicorn and a plastic shark, it was only natural that I make a sharkticorn.

The point of my story is that I have really awesome parents who have always given me space to be myself, who told me that there was nothing wrong with being a little weird.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Pick 6: Mysteries

There's nothing like a good mystery. Whether you're six or sixty, we all enjoy going over clues and trying to guess the solution before the book's characters do. Here are six new mystery stories published in the last six months. The first half of the list is geared at a younger audience while the latter half is more teen oriented.

6 new mysteries

1. Splinter by Sasha Dawn

2. The Mesmerist by Ronald L. Smith

3. Jack and the Geniuses at the Bottom of the World by Bill Nye and Gregory Mone

4. Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey

5. Artie Conan Doyle and the Grave Diggers Club by Robert J Harris

6. Wallace and Grace Take the Case by Heather Alexander

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Non-fiction book review - The Man Who Loved Libraries

The Man Who Loved Libraries by Andrew Larsen

Carnegie is a fascinating figure. A prime example of the American spirit: rising from nothing to great wealth through hard work and self improvement. I liked the emphasis on education and the value of reading, of course. But I also liked that it doesn't whitewash. Larsen sates that some of Carnegie's business practices were questionable, his treatment of employees not alway fair. Many children's biographies, especially picture book length, talk only about best moments. I appreciated this level of honesty.

More information: The Man Who Loved Libraries releases August 15.
 Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Book review - Love is Both Wave and Particle

Title: Love is Both Wave and Particle
Author: Paul Cody
Genre: Realistic fiction
Similar books: Paintbrush by Hannah Bucchin
                      A List of Cages by Robin Roe
a lovely story, but not for everyone

Summary (provided by publisher): This achingly beautiful novel considers how to measure love when it has the power to both save and destroy.
Levon Grady and Samantha Vash are both students at an alternative high school for high-achieving but troubled teens. They have been chosen for a year-long project where they write their life stories and collect interviews from people who know them. The only rule is 100% confidentiality—they will share their work only with each other. What happens will transform their lives.
Told from the perspectives of Levon, Sam, and all the people who know them best, this is a love story infused with science and the exploration of identity. Love Is Both Wave and Particle looks at how love behaves in different situations, and how it can shed light on even the darkest heart.

My opinion: Non-linear. That's what stands out most to me about this book. While the heart of the narrative is fairly straight forward, the narration doesn't follow a linear path. It will for a while, but then we get another character who's perspective is years (or more disconcerting for me, weeks) in the past. We rehash known events from a secondary or tertiary perspective. Its a lovely exploration of relationships and families and the damage we inflict on one another, knowingly or otherwise. But it falls firmly in the odd category, so it's not a book for the easily discouraged. The thoughtful, though, could read it over and over and keep discovering something new.

More information: Love is Both Wave and Particle releases August 1.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, July 17, 2017


I have a couple of bigger craft projects in the works. In the meantime, here's a little craft kit for your entertainment. I have a growing fondness for these little kits. They usually only cost a dollar or two and are pretty cute. Their decoration is limited if you use the provided markers (in this case, a trio of obnoxious neons) but acrylic paint opens up a world of options.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Picture books for everyone

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

The premise of this book is simple: a boy's kite gets stuck in a tree and he tries to get it out. It's his methods of retrieving the kite that make the book genius. First he throws a shoe at it. Then the other shoe. And a list of increasingly absurd items, all in an effort to knock the kite free. Each item he throws, as the title suggests, get stuck along side the kite. Even very young kids can see the absurdity and humor of a little boy tossing a cat (much less a whale, a firetruck, and the family car) into a tree. Older kids will giggle just as much as their younger counter parts, and in their case this book can be a starting point for a discussion of effective problem solving.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Non-fiction book review - Get Coding

Get Coding by Young Rewired State

This is an excellent selection for kids interested in getting started with developing web projects. The directions are clear and concepts are reinforced without flatout repetition. It doesn't insult the reader's intelligence. The book is framed as a specific set of projects but encourages experimentation, so the lessons are easily extendable. And while the scope of the lessons is narrow there are plenty of resources included so an ambitions reader could easily use these resources to implement a more complex project. It was also nice to see a book that explained how three coding languages work together to create these projects rather than focusing on just one.

More information: Get Coding! releases August 1.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Book review - Last in a Long Line of Rebels

Title: Last in a Long Line of Rebels
Author: Lisa Lewis Tyre
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: How to Stage a Catastrophe by Rebecca Donnelly
                      Finding Fortune by Delia Ray
What a delight!

Summary (provided by publisher): Lou might be only twelve, but she’s never been one to take things sitting down. So when her Civil War-era house is about to be condemned, she’s determined to save it—either by getting it deemed a historic landmark or by finding the stash of gold rumored to be hidden nearby during the war. As Lou digs into the past, her eyes are opened when she finds that her ancestors ran the gamut of slave owners, renegades, thieves and abolitionists. Meanwhile, some incidents in her town show her that many Civil War era prejudices still survive and that the past can keep repeating itself if we let it. Digging into her past shows Lou that it’s never too late to fight injustice, and she starts to see the real value of understanding and exploring her roots.

My opinion: This novel has the perfect level of complexity for young readers. Tyre yses an exciting plot (the hunt for treasure) to address more serious topics (such as past and present prejudice). While the plot was a bit obvious at times and made a few logical leaps, it was ultimately compelling reading. There is a scene in which Lou discovers her ancestors were slave owners. The shame of our family history can be very real and shake our image of ourselves. This book is worth reading for that scene alone, and the rest of it is just as good.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Sock puppet surfer dude

A local thrift store got the inventory from a yarn shop that shut down. With serious bargains on yarn I couldn't help myself. I bought several hanks of tapestry yarn with no clear idea of what I would do with them. Turns out, tapestry yarn makes pretty good puppet hair. Another trip to the thrift store may be in order...


Friday, July 7, 2017

Book review - Fires of Invention

Title: Fires of Invention
Author: J. Scott Savage
Genre: fantasy/sci-fi
Similar books: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
                      The Voyage to Magical North by Claire Fayres
had my doubts for a while there

Summary (provided by publisher): Trenton Colman is a creative thirteen-year-old boy with a knack for all things mechanical. But his talents are viewed with suspicion in Cove, a steam-powered city built inside a mountain. In Cove, creativity is a crime and “invention” is a curse word.
Kallista Babbage is a repair technician and daughter of the notorious Leo Babbage, whose father died in an explosion—an event the leaders of Cove point to as an example of the danger of creativity.
Working together, Trenton and Kallista learn that Leo Babbage was developing a secret project before he perished. Following clues he left behind, they begin to assemble a strange machine that is unlikely anything they’ve ever seen before. They soon discover that what they are building may threaten every truth their city is founded on—and quite possibly their very lives.

My opinion: Steampunk and closed societies are unusual subjects for middle grade readers but it works pretty well in this instance. I had lots of ideas about the secrets behind the city of Cove early on, their reasoning behind seclusion and the technology ban. The reality was far from my suppositions. That revelation put this book on shaky ground for me. I couldn't see the connection behind their history and the rejection of technology, not for an entire culture. Once I was able to accept this tenuous plot point, the rest was pretty compelling reading. I loved the exploration of creativity, innovation, and character all mixed together.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Books on screen

The Incredible Journey/Homeward Bound

Homeward Bound was a notable movie in my childhood, one I can recall watching on multiple occasions and I was surprised to find I still enjoy now. It wasn't until I became a librarian that I realized that it was based on a book. There are a number of similarities between the two and a few notable differences. Many of the major plot points from Burnford's novel are played out on screen (or if not the exact plot elements, something similar enough to recognized it's origin). One could say that the heart of these two stories remains the same. The book, though, is largely a drama, a survival tale. It chronicles the drive of a group of animals to find home, the ways that they take care of each other and the lengths that they will go to in order to survive. The movie, on the other hand, is a family comedy. The adventure/survival elements are still present, they're just tempered by humor. The movie gives the animals voices and alters their personalities, creating interpersonal conflict to amp up the drama. To my mind, though, both of these stories are worth experiencing.
In my research, I discovered that this is the second version of The Incredible Journey that Disney has made. I wasn't able to get a copy of the 1967 version. If anyone has seen it, I'd love to hear what you thought of it and how it compares to the original book.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Non-fiction book review - Energy Lab for Kids

Energy Lab for Kids by Emily Howbaker

I've evaluated a lot of kids' science experiment books and this is one of the better ones. It succeeds on a number of fronts.
1) It has a clear theme. From the title onward, you know exxactly what sort of experiments you are getting.
2) The steps for each experiment are clearly explained and supported by photos.
3) Each experiment is accompanied by the scientific explanation for what participants will observe. 
I could see using this book to supplement homeschooling curriculum or as a part of a summer education program, not to mention just being fun for science minded kids.

Monday, July 3, 2017


In my continuing effort to celebrate female superheroes in peg doll form, I had to celebrate my favorite X-man. It bothers me sometimes that most female heroes are given passive powers, abilities that are most useful when used away from the major action. Not so with Storm. Aurora Munro is a force to be reckoned with. And she makes a pretty cool peg, too.