Reading Report for Northern, Central Texas: January and February 2018

Greetings!

January was a great reading month for me.  I was able to read my way through some of the large stack of books I received for Christmas.  I love getting books as gifts.  I bought Neil Gaiman’s book, Norse Mythology last year for Spring Break.  I finally got around to reading it in January.  It was wonderfully informative and entertaining.  I have blogged about Bridge of Birds, Frogkisser, and Finding the Constellations. These were all stellar books.  I am a Nora Roberts fan so I especially enjoyed reading her new book.  I am reading Finding Your Why for work.  It is an interesting read.  We have been working to find our personal whys.  February was a slower reading month as you can see by the size of the stack.

These days I find out what both girls are reading from their Facebook posts.  The three of us are participating in the 52 Book Challenge 2018.

All of us here at Haus Reimund love reading and we wish you “Happy Reading, Too!”

Robin’s list

  • Hughart, Barry, Bridge of Birds: A Novel of China That Never Was. New York: Del Rey, 1984
  • Nix, Garth. New York: Scholastic, 2017
  • Sarath, Patrice. The Unexpected Miss Bennett. New York: Berkley Books, 2011.
  • Thomas, Sherry. A Conspiracy in Belgravia. New York: Berkley Books, 2017.
  • Gaiman, Neil. Norse Mythology. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2017
  • Roberts, Nora. Year One. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2017.
  • Hambly, Barbara. Bride of the Rat God. New York: Del Rey, 1994.
  • Rey, H.A. Finding the Constellations, 2nd New York: Sandpiper, 2008.
  • Hanks, Tom. Uncommon Type. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.
  • Sinek, Simon, David Mead, and Peter Docker. Finding Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team. New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2017.
  • Pilkey, Dav. The Adventures of Captain Underpants. New York: Scholastic, 1997.

Alexis’ list

  • Hughart, Barry, Bridge of Birds: A Novel of China That Never Was. New York: Del Rey, 1984
  • Sarath, Patrice. The Unexpected Miss Bennett. New York: Berkley Books, 2011.
  • Mertz, Barbara. Temples, Tombs, & Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt. New York: William Morrow, 1984, 2007
  • Lucas, Dale. The Fifth Ward: First Watch. New York: Orbit, 2017.
  • Maaren, Kari. Weave a Circle Round. New York: TOR Books, 2017.
  • Telfer, Tori. Lady Killers: Deadly Women throughout History. New York: Harper Perennial, 2017.
  • VanderMeer, James. Johanes Cabal the Necromancer. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2010.
  • VanderMeer, James. Annihilation: A Novel. New York: FSG Originals, 2014. (ebook)
  • Howard, Jonathan L. Johannes Cabal: The Feat Institute. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2014.

Jim’s list

  • Nye, Bill and Gregory Mone. Jack and the Geniuses at the Bottom of the World. New York: Scholastic, 2017.
  • Carver, Jeffrey A. The Chaos Chronicles, Books 1-3 (Neptune Crossing, Strange Attractor, & Infinite Sea). NP: Starstream Publications, 2010 (nook book).

Sarah’s list

  • Meyer, Scott. Off to Be the Wizard. Seattle, WA: 47North, 2014. (ebook)
  • Meyer, Scott. Spell or High Water. Seattle, WA: 47North, 2014. (ebook)
  • Cooper, Susan. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2006.
  • Holt, Tom. New York: Orbit, 2012 (ebook)
  • Howe, Deborah and James. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010 (ebook). Originally published 1979.
  • Walker, Rysa. New York: Amazon Publishing, 2014.
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Find the Constellations-2nd Edition

Tween Star Gazing Flyer for event on 2/23/18Rey, H.A. Find the Constellations, 2nd Edition. New York: Sandpiper, 2008.

This past Friday evening, I found myself at the Georgetown Public Library for a stargazing event for tweens.  “What are tweens?” my husband asked, when I described the event we were attending.  Referencing the library poster, I informed him that tweens were children 9-12.  I am so glad that the library is developing activities for this group of children.  I remember when my girls turned this age that there were so library/literacy things for them to do.  They are too old for story time, but too young for some of the events for adults and teenagers.

As advertised this event was to feature stargazing in the library parking lot by the Williamson County Astronomy Club.  My husband is a member.  His connection to the event is how I happened to be at the library on a Friday evening.  Alas, it had been a gloomy day it was an equally gloomy evening, the outside stargazing was scrubbed, but the program was scheduled and so Plan B was used.  The librarians already had the most important items for an evening for tweens, food (Probably a part of their Plan A)!  There were star-shaped rice crispy bars, asteroids (grapes) and flying saucers (pizza).  After food there were crafts.  I particularly liked the one with the rocket ship and straws.  There was also make a kaleidoscope station and make a constellation station using mini-marsh mellows and toothpicks. I wonder, if they found a book in their collection with these activities or if they found them on Pinterest?  All of them looked fun!

Realizing a few days before the event that anything outside would be scrubbed.  The Williamson County Astronomy Club moved to their Plan B. Several amateur astronomers brought their telescopes inside and set them up so the students could take a look at them and ask questions.  The club president provided a very interesting 30-minute presentation on basic astronomy, including: a bit about the different types of telescopes (there were 3 different ones on display), how telescopes work, things you might see with one, and a small bit on light pollution.  Only about 10-15 tweens attended, but all of them paid attention during the presentation part of the evening.  At the end, they had thoughtful and intelligent questions to ask the group of amateur astronomers.  One tween asked about who gets to name constellations, which brought a wonderful answer from the club president, “they were named a long, long time ago”.  This question and its response jogged loose the memory that I had this book in my collection, Finding the Constellations, 2nd Edition.

This book was written by H.A. Rey in 1954 and was updated in 2008.  I found it on a past vacation and wanted it, because H.A. Rey, the author of the Curious George series, wrote it.  I love his style of illustration.  I was also intrigued by its content.  It is a delightful explanation of the constellations and how to find them.  Here is a bit from the foreword.

Few people can tell one star from another.  Most of us can tell an oak from a maple or a jay from a woodpecker even though we don’t see woodpeckers often, but the stars, which we see any clear night, remain a mystery to us.

Yet it is not difficult to know them.  Simple shepherds, 5,000 years ago were familiar with the heavens; they knew the stars and constellations – and they could not even read or write – so why don’t you?

Its is good to know the stars, if only to enjoy better the wonderful sight of the starry sky.  But you simply must know them if you are interested in space travel.

I wish I had taken it with me on Friday.  I think it would have been a cool resource to share.  It was written for tweens.  It has plenty of basic astronomy information, but is written in a fun and chatty style.  You can learn about star magnitudes, their names, and where to find them in the constellations we see in our northern hemisphere night sky.  Did you know that there are only 15 stars of the 1st magnitude (brightest) in our northern skies?  If you remember that constellation names came from the distant past, you also might remember that some of them come from ancient myths.  He tells the stories of two of them, Andromeda and Orion.

The book contains some very practical help.  It has sky view charts for winter, summer, spring, and autumn stars.  It has some helpful hints for stargazing outdoors.  Although they aren’t constellations, he doesn’t neglect our solar systems planets.  Some of them are as bright in our night sky as a star.

Alas our skies are not as dark as they were for H.A. Rey, but there are still some wonderful sights to behold.  So find a clear night, drag out your comfy chair, or better yet a blanket, and look up.  You don’t need any fancy equipment to view our heavens.  I end this blog the way Mr. Rey ends his book: Happy stargazing!

Here are some interesting links for you.

Frogkisser!

FrogkisserNix, Garth. Frogkisser! New York: Scholastic, 2017.

This is the second book I received for the Christmas Book Flood on Christmas Eve.  I asked the daughter who gave it to me why she thought I’d like it.  First, she knows that I like Garth Nix.  Second, she read the acknowledgements in the back of the book.  Here is what the author wrote and what influenced her choice. He begins by acknowledging that all writers are influenced by the books they read.  Sometimes the influence is apparent and sometimes it is not.

With this book, I would like to particularly acknowledge the inspiration and positive influence that came from my youthful reading (and frequent rereading in later years) of the works of Lloyd Alexander, Nicholas Stuart Gray, Dianna Wynne Jones, Robin McKinley, and T.H. White. There are many other writers who have influenced my work, of course, but I think for Frogkisser! these five deserve special mention.

Wow!  Some of my favorites!  I am going to have to look up Nicholas Stuart Gray.  The others are writers of stories about reluctant or unexpected heroes and heroines.  Thank you Sarah for this wonderful book!

This book, as it happens, is about a reluctant heroine.  A princess, who just wants to be left to read, study, and be a companion to the royal dogs.  Enter Princess Anya, second daughter, to the queen of Trallonia.  As the story opens, Trallonia has lost its queen and her consort.  The queen died first.  Anya’s father married Countess Yselde, an enthusiastic botanist, who cared not for children.  After a year, he passed away.  Countess Yselde married Duke Rikard.  While Countess Yselde could have been the evil step-mother, she is merely disinterested. Duke Rikard, on the other hand, is the evil step-parent of this story.  He is a sorcerer and he wants to be king.  As the story opens, Anya’s sister, Morven is nearly sixteen.  At sixteen, she will be old enough to wed and to begin her reign as queen.  Duke Rikard wants to prevent this from happening, after all he has grand ambitions, first Trallonia and then the world.

Duke Rikard makes a strategic error.  He turns Morven’s current beau, Prince Denholm, into a frog.  Had he waited a little while, Morven would have found another beau, she was notoriously fickle.  Anya, the more practical of the two, tells Morven to dry up her tears and kiss Frog Prince Denholm and turn him back.  He is after all her theoretical true love.  Unfortunately, Denholm has escaped through the window and into the moat.

Here is where Anya’s adventures begin.  She finds a frog, but Morven refuses to kiss the icky thing.  Anya, goes to her friend the librarian, Gotfried.  They discover that not only true love’s kiss will reverse this spell, but so will the Transmogrification Reversal Lip Balm and he just happens to have a small amount. Anya anoints her lips with the balm and kisses the frog that she thought was Prince Denholm. Oops!  Not Prince Denholm, but the prince of the month from last November.  It seems the Duke has been transforming all Morven’s suitors into frogs.  He was taking no chances!

After feeling Anya’s reversal of his spell, he is determined to send her halfway across the world to a very good school even though it is a perilous journey to get there.  At this point, Anya takes counsel with Tanitha, oldest and wisest of the Royal Dogs.  She is advised to go on a quest to find help to defeat the Duke.  Like all reluctant heroines, she cries, “Why me!”  She remembers that her real parents would want her to do the right thing.  Reluctantly, she leaves the dubious safety of her home.  With Ardent, the royal dog  who has a quest of his own, she begins her quest.

Her quest, like most, takes her all over the country side.  She is pursued by transmogrified weasels and other agents of the Duke’s.  She befriends, Shrub, a thief boy, who was turned into a newt.  She meets Merlin and the seven dwarves.  She meets Bert, leader of the Association of Responsible Robbers, who tells her about the All-Encompassing Bill of Rights and Wrongs.  All of them have a part to play in her quest.

You must read this book.  It is a hoot!  Will Anya be able to defeat Duke Rikard?  Will she be able to save Princess Morven?  Once saved will Morven restore the All-Encompassing Bill?  Will that restore the kingdom?  Can Anya make enough lip balm to change back all the people the Duke and his fellow sorcerers have turned into frogs and other animals?  Does she get chapped lips?  You must read this book.  It turns the fairy tale of the Frog Prince on its ear.

 

Dragons Love Tacos

DragonsTacosRubin, Adam.  Dragons Love Tacos. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri.  New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012.

Here in Texas we are big taco lovers. According to the Texas Monthly, San Antonio is the Taco Capital of the World.  According to other sources, Austin is the Breakfast Taco Capital of the World.  We love all kinds of tacos, breakfast tacos, puffy tacos, fish tacos, vegetarian tacos.  Let’s face it, we Texans are crazy about tacos.  It might surprise you to learn that dragons love tacos, too.  It may be that their love of tacos exceeds that of even the most taco-loving Texan.

What do you love about tacos?  Is it the tortillas, flour or corn?  Is it one of the fillings?  This week I am making poblano and butternut squash tacos.  I hope they are good.  My mouth waters just thinking about them. Is it the sizzle of the pan, when meats and vegetables are getting caramelized?  Maybe you have a secret reason to love them.  Dragons are like Texans, they enjoy all kinds of tacos, big ones and little ones.  After reading this book, I am certain there that dragons love tacos down to the very last bite!

In this book, Robbie and his dog want some dragons for friends.  How do you get a dragon to be your friend?  You have a party, dragons love parties!  They like lots of things about parties like conversation, dancing, and laughter.  Make it a taco party and the dragons are sold and will flock to your do.  Robbie and dog invite all the dragons in their neighborhood to their party.  I wonder where the dragons live?  I haven’t seen one around here lately.

Robbie and Dog want to be good hosts so they make tacos, lots and lots of tacos. They make a boatload of tacos, you know you don’t want to run out. During their party preparations they learn dragons don’t like spicy salsa, not one little bit and for good reason. What do you think happens when a fire-breathing dragon encounters spicy salsa?  Something explosive happens!

This is a silly, funny book!  I chuckled all the way through to the end.  You will have to read it to see if the party was a success.  Did the dragons like the party?  Were there enough tacos?  Did Robbie and Dog bury all the spicy salsa in the back yard? Remember the trick to getting a dragon friend is tacos!

Things to Make and Do for Valentine’s Day

VDayDe Paola, Tomie.  Things to Make and Do for Valentine’s Day.  New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1967.

Happy Valentine’s Day!  I was looking through my book collection for a book to share on this day and this one leaped off the shelf and into my hands.  This book wanted to be shared so I decided that I would.  Over the years, I have been a room mother for one or the other of my girls elementary classrooms, a preschool teacher, and a library story-time lady.  I expect I purchased this little book as a resource for activities for an evening at home or a party at school.  These were the kind of resources you needed “back in the day” as my stint in all those roles came after 1983 and before the age of Google, DIY, and Pinterest. Here is the perfect book for all your DIY needs from ancient times.

Do you need Valentine Cards?  How about making some?  This book has easy, but detailed instructions on how to make block print cards with Styrofoam and poster paint.  Messy work, but fun to do.  It also included instruction for making an envelope for your cards.

Does you child need a Valentine Mailbag for school? Do they still have Valentine Mailbags at school?  It has been a long time since I have attended a party at an elementary school.  Here are the instructions for making one using a brown paper grocery bag.  Brown paper shopping bags were terrific!  You could make so many  great things from one.  Alas this activity might need modifications as brown paper grocery bags are hard to come by these days.

Do you need to organize a Valentine’s Party?  This book has all you need from food to games. For food there is a recipe for fancy sandwiches and chocolate snowball valentines. I don’t have any food stains on the book so I never made these recipes. With supervision each of these recipes would be easy for a child to construct.

What else do you need for a party?  Why decorations of course!  This author provides some simple decorations that can be made in a snap.  Once your guests arrive, you need games to entertain them.  This is a one stop book, so it includes information on several different games.  I found some construction paper hearts tucked in the back of this book so I have organized the Valentine Relay Race at some point.  It is a rowdy game, sure to tire out some silly players. Here’s what you need and how you play.

You need:

  • Red construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Black crayon
  • A piece of string six times as long as your arm

How to do

  1. Before the part, cut out a heart for each player.
  2. Think of some things to do, such as jump, crawl, hop, skip, and walk backwards.
  3. Take two hearts. Write the same thing to do on each.
  4. Do this for all the hearts. Put the hearts into two piles.

How to play:

  1. Make two teams of players
  2. Put the string on the floor
  3. Line each team up behind it.
  4. Put a pile of hearts across the room from each team.
  5. On “Go”, the first player on each team runs up to a pile and takes a heart.
  6. The players then come back, doing what it says on the hearts.
  7. When the first players get back to their teams, the next players run to the hearts.
  8. The team finished first wins.

Do you need a gift for your Valentine?  The book had an excellent recipe for making “Baker’s Clay.”  You could craft a little something wonderful for your special person.

This little book has everything you need for a wonderful day of activity for young ones or those young at heart.  Interspersed throughout the books are bits of valentine humor.  They are groaners.  I will be kind and share only two.  I hope you have a terrific day with all of your loved ones!

A Valentine’s Joke

Knock knock
Who’s there?
Olive.
Olive who?
Olive you!

A Valentine Tongue Twister

Lila’s love laughs loudly!

Bridge of Birds: A Novel of Ancient China That Never Was

Asian girl with birdHughart, Barry.  Bridge of Birds: A Novel of Ancient China That Never Was. New York: Del Rey, 1984.

This blog is late, late, late, but I still say Happy New Year, everyone!  I was able to get in some extra reading over the holidays.  This was one of the books I enjoyed.

We had our 2nd annual Christmas Bookflood (Jólabókaflóð).  I think it must be making a splash over here.  If you are interested in reading about it, here is a link to a NPR story on the subject: https://www.npr.org/2012/12/25/167537939/literary-iceland-revels-in-its-annual-christmas-book-flood.  Everyone gets a book on Christmas Eve.  You snuggle up with your new book and a cup of something warm by the fire, or on the sofa, or in your bed and read until you fall asleep.

I received two books one from each of my daughters.  The first one I read was Barry Hughart’s Bridge of Birds: A Novel of Ancient China That Never Was. I asked the one who gave it to me, why she picked it.  I like to know what people are thinking, when they give me a book. She was looking for a funny science fiction or fantasy book for me.  She said it kept popping up on lists of best lighthearted fantasy novel.  Oh, the girl knows me well. As an aside, she said she also wanted to read it.

It is a funny book.  Amazingly, it begins with a double tragedy.  The village of Kufu raises silkworms for its livelihood.  All the children between 8 and 13 pick mulberry leaves to feed to the silkworms.  At the end of their feeding stage, all the silkworms die and all the children, who had picked the mulberry leaves were afflicted by a plague.  What was to be done?  Number 10 Ox was sent to Peking to find a wise man to help find an answer.  The wise man was Master Li Kao.   In a filthy, foul, hovel in Peking #10 Ox discovers a very drunk Master Li.  Master Li is a scholar with a slight flaw in his character. Is being inebriated this slight character flaw?  After this first auspicious meeting, it is off to the races.  Master Li is indeed a great scholar, but many quests are needed to solve the puzzle of the plague afflicting the village children.  In the end it is a race against time.

Despite the urgent mission of Master Li and #10 Ox, this is an amusing, bawdy, and at times poetic book.  The author skillfully weaves stories that could be myths of ancient China throughout the book. It gives the book the feel of a book from an ancient time.  Number 10 Ox and Master Li must work together to accomplish a delicate and dangerous mission.  Characters are many and some are of questionable character.  They disappear and reappear unexpectedly.  I was surprised how all were skillfully woven into the story. This is complicated, complex, comic tale for anyone to enjoy. It was the lighthearted fantasy my daughter wanted for me. Read this book and see how a wizened sage and a sturdy, young peasant solve a puzzle to save a village and reunite two lovers.

Last Stop on Market Street

LastStopDe La Peña, Matt.  Last Stop on Market Street. Illustrated by Christian Robinson.  New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015.

Many of the children’s books I featured in my blog are older books. I write about them, because I have wonderful memories associated with them.  When I pick up a book, I remember the first time I read it either to one of my daughters or to a group of children.  I have been lucky to have read many fine books over time.  I am delighted to add this new book to my collection.  Eventually, I will get to read it to special young person.

This is a very new book to me. I picked it up on a whim at this year’s Texas Book Festival. I am ever in pursuit of Caldecott and Newberry award winners.  Not only did it win these two awards, but it also won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor.  I brought it home and placed it on my shelves for a future blog post.  Just after the first of the year, I bought myself a 2018: Desk Diary Literary Datebook from Barnes and Noble.  It is chock-a-block full of all sorts of literary bits and bobs.  A couple of weeks ago, I was looking it over for interesting facts and I found one about this book.  My diary informed me that on January 11, 2016 Matt De La Peña became the first Hispanic winner of the John Newberry Medal award. It was kismet!  It was a sign! This must be my next book blog.

Wonderful words and praiseworthy pictures come together for a charming story about CJ and his Nana.  I already have something in common with CJ.  He calls his grandmother, Nana and that what I called my grandmother and my girls called theirs. Every week after church, CJ goes with his Nana to help at the soup kitchen, which is near the last bus stop on Market Street.  He is young and restless.  Why do they have to walk to the bus stop in the rain? Why don’t they have a car? He has a few other laments.  For each question, his strong and sunny Nana has a calm and thoughtful answer.  She guides him to ideas and thoughts outside of himself.  A question about why they don’t have a car, brings this reply, “Boy, what do need a car for? We got a bus that breathes fire, and old Mr. Dennis, who always has a trick for you.” It took me a couple of readings and examination of the illustrations to find the reference to the bus that breathes fire.  It is an illusion to the fire-breathing dragon Christian Robinson has illustrated on the side of CJ and Nana’s bus.

This is a wonderful book about how we see things about us.  CJ, with Nana’s help, learns to hear and see the wonder of the world that surrounds them.  Whether you’ve ever ridden a bus with your Nana or not, this is a wonderful book.  Read it and remember all the times someone who loved you, helped you see the bigger picture.