How to Avoid Extinction

How to avoid extinction words with dinosaur eating the a in avoid. Buick electra car with girl and dog looking out window.Acampora, Paul. How to Avoid Extinction. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016

I am still making my way through the stack of books I purchased at the Texas Book Festival last fall. It is here that the Texas Library Association announces their annual Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List.  I wanted to make the live announcement, but was too late.  I was not too late to pick up a copy of the new list.  Towing my very patient husband in my wake, I hurried over to the book tent to look at the books on the list.  I selected this one.  It looked fun.

It was a fun and unexpected book.  What would you do, if your Grandma decides to hop in her 1973 Buick Electra and make an unexpected road trip? She wanders regularly and you are her appointed finder.  This is an irregular wander, even for Grandma, what would you do?  What if your Mom has become the “official head of household as well as President, Principal, Queen, and Savior” (this means she is more bossy than usual)? If you are Leo, you unhappily obey your Mom, grab your backpack, hop into that 1973 Buick Electra, and reluctantly have an adventure with your Grandma, Abbey, your third cousin once removed, and Abbey’s aged dog, Kermit.

What prompts this sudden road trip? Unfortunately, it was a death, the death of Leo’s extraordinary grandfather.  A year before this book begins, Leo’s grandfather dies unexpectedly.  He was a strong leader in their family, loving, free spirited, intrepid, wise, and smart.  His passing left a large void in the lives of those he left behind.  Leo and his Mom have always lived with his grandparents.  When Pop passed away, Mom assumed the mantle of head of household as described above.  Grandma is lonely, Leo is mopey, and Leo’s Mom is suffering in her own way.

Before he died, Leo’s Grandpa was planning a road trip to the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry near Price, Utah. Grandma decides she needs to follow his path. As with many good books, everyone in the story discovers something about themselves and others. What does Leo discover about his family?  Does he learn how to avoid extinction? Please pick up a copy of this charming book, read it for yourself, and recommend it to someone else who might enjoy it.

I really liked this book. In January 2019, students in grades 3-6 all over Texas will vote for a book on this year’s master list to be the winner. I hope many of them decide this was a good book and vote for it.  When I was looking for the link to this year’s Texas Bluebonnet list, I read about the goals of the program.  One goal is to encourage students to read for pleasure.  My parents were readers and they encouraged me to read. I read all the time. I like to think that I became an excellent and passionate reader, because of their encouragement and my continuous practice.   This week I am attending a workshop on literacy for students with complex communication needs.  One of the big ideas this week is that all students can be readers.  To be a reader, however, a student needs to read.  We want students to enjoy reading.  It is crucial to developing their reading skills.  To enjoy reading, students need to be able to select what they want to read be it books, magazines, comic books, graphic novels, websites…anything as long as it interests them. Help the children in your life love reading. Suggest books, like How to Avoid Extinction, but let them choose!

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Reading Report for Northern, Central Texas: May and June 2018

MayJune2018It seems like so long since I have had the opportunity to write!  May and June are grueling months in my world.  In Texas, we can tell it is summer even though it is only a short time after the Summer Solstice.  We have already had several days over 100˚. I am looking forward to some cool summer reading.

Jim

  • Reynolds, Alastair. Revelation Space.  New York: Ace, 2000.

This is a book that Jim received during the Christmas Book Flood Celebration.  He has been enjoying it.  It looks like he may finish it soon.

Robin

  • Bryson, Bill.  The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. New York: Broadway Books, 2006.

I started this book a couple of evenings ago.  It is Bill Bryson’s description (imagination?) of growing up in Des Moines, Iowa.  I can already tell that it is a book I can’t read in bed.  I chuckle too much.  He grew up in the 1950s and 60s like I did.  I am eager to see, if his experiences mirror mine.

  • Carey, Jacqueline. Kushiel’s Dart. New York: TOR Books, 2001.

I have resisted reading this book for a time.  I am glad that I gave up and read it.  It was an engaging and entertaining book.

  • Gilliam, Richard, Martin H. Greenberg, Eds. Grails: Quests of Dawn. New York: ROC Book, 1994.

I can’t remember when I bought this book at Half-Price Books.  It has been in my reading pile for at least 5 or 6 years.  I am not certain what kept me from digging into it although I prefer novels to short stories.  This is a lovely book! I shouldn’t have waited so long to read it.  It has an afterword by one of my favorite authors, Fritz Leiber.  It has stories and poetry by some other authors I favor, like Jane Yolen, Andre Norton, Mercedes Lackey, and Marion Zimmer Bradley to name a few.

  • Grisham, John. The Litigators.  New York: Dell, 2012.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  John Grisham took it a little on the lighter side for this book.  A young, fast-track attorney can’t face another day of billable hours in his prestigious law firm.  He abandons his job and goes to get very, very drunk.  He lands at the very shady litigation firm of Finley & Fig.  How does it all end?  Read it and find out.

  • Michaels, Kasey.  Maggie by the Book. New York: Kensington Books, 2003.

Another easy read!  I needed this one as it has been a busy June.  Maggie Kelly is a romance/mystery author, who can’t seem to stay out of danger and trouble.  Her current trouble (aside from the dreaded Chapter 10) is Alexandre Black and his side-kick, Sterling Balder. They have come from her imagination to her apartment in New York.  It is difficult and aggravating to see your imagination living in your apartment. Will they stay? Will they go?  It was an amusing book.

Arthur Goes to Camp

Cover art for Arthur goes to camp.Brown, Marc. Arthur Goes to Camp. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1982.

Here in central Texas, school is out and the hot weather is upon us.  We topped out at 100˚ today.  It is going to be a long hot summer!

Do you have children?  How will they spend their time this summer?  When my girls were young we were able to send them to camp a couple of times.  They went to Day camp, Girl Scout camp, and Band camp to name a few.  They enjoyed camp and were excited to go.

In this book, Arthur’s parents are sending him to Camp Meadowbrook to learn all about the outdoors.  He is not happy!  He does not want to go!  At the camp bus stop, he is even more unhappy.  His nemesis, Francine, and most of the other girls from his class are going to the same camp.  It doesn’t matter that his friend Buster is going, too. Things were going to be just like at school, girls against the boys.

The bus passes Camp Horsewater, Camp Meadowbrook’s adversary in the annual scavenger hunt.  The campers look impressive, perhaps that is why they always win. Arthur is not impressed. On the bus, before arriving at camp, he writes his first letter home.

Dear Mom and Dad, I am not at camp yet. I am very homesick and I miss you very much. Please write soon. Love, Arthur.

This lament reminds me of the old Allan Sherman song, Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah. Have a listen.  It is very funny and you can compare this boy’s experience to Arthur’s.

Hello Muddah, hello Faddah
Here I am at Camp Grenada
Camp is very entertaining
And they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining

This song sums up Arthur’s opinion and experience of camp. It is just as awful as he supposed.  The girls do everything right.  They are having a wonderful time.  The boys on the other hand are not.  Arthur’s counselor, Rocky is very strict and very athletic. He wants his boys to get in shape. If the pictures in the book are to be believed, he is a little frustrated by them. The boys find poison ivy.  The girls win all the contests.  The boys find frogs in their beds, and someone runs their underwear up the flag pole. This camp is not fun! What is a boy as miserable as Arthur to do?  On the day of the great scavenger hunt, he leaves camp and heads home.

At the end of Allan Sherman’s song, the young boy finds out that there are things to be excited about at camp.  Will Arthur make it the same discovery? Will he be miserable all summer? Who will win the scavenger hunt? What is going on at Camp Meadowbrook? You will have to read the book to find out.

Whether you are going to camp, on vacation, or just staying home, pick up a cool summer book and read!

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard

MagnusChase.gif

  • Riordan, Rick. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer. New York: Hyperion, 2015.
  • Riordan, Rick. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor. New York: Hyperion, 2016.
  • Riordan, Rick. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead. New York: Hyperion, 2017.

Here is another great story arc based on mythology.  Have I said I love mythology?  I enjoyed these mythology-based stories as much as I did the works of Lloyd Alexander and Susan Cooper. Rick Riordan is an excellent storyteller.  I have appreciated his tales based on Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythologies. In this series he has explored Norse mythology.

It seems that I have waited for a long time to read this series.  I have a friend who was able to hear Rick Riordan talk about his work 3 or 4 years ago.  She mentioned that he talked about his Norse series.  I have been waiting for this series to be published since that time. I have also been waiting for Alexis to finish this series so I could read it.

Like the heroes in Rick Riordan’s other series, Magnus Chase thinks he is a regular boy with crappy luck.  He witnessed his mother’s death by strange beings that looked like wolves.  She told him to run and to stay away from the only family he knew, his Uncle Randolph.  The story opens on Magnus Chase’s sixteenth birthday.  He is living on the streets of Boston trying to keep away from policemen and truancy officers. He gets a tip that someone is looking for him and off he goes. It turns out to be his Uncle Randolph.  Magnus learns from Uncle Randolph that he is the son of the Norse god, Frey. He also learns that his quest is to retrieve his birthright, the Sword of Summer, from the bottom of the Charles River.  Retrieving the sword was the easy part, the rest of the book describes his struggles to defeat the God of Muspelheim, Surt.  With this first encounter with Surt, he dies and is chosen by the Valkyrie, Samirah, to be a hero of Asgard.

Magnus goes to Valhalla.  The Valhalla of this series is a luxury hotel for heroes.  Here they can be close to the action.  The heroes practice every day to be ready for the Ragnarök, also known as the doom of the gods. When will Ragnarök happen?  Who knows, but for the God Loki, it can’t be soon enough. As in many Norse stories, Loki plays an important role in these books.  He is the chief protagonist.

Read The Sword of Summer to find out, how Magnus retrieves and (spoiler alert) keeps the sword.  Read The Hammer of Thor to see how Magnus and his friends find the Hammer that Thor carelessly misplaced.  Read The Ship of the Dead to see what mischief Loki has designed for Magnus and his friends to work against.  Does Ragnarök happen? Does the world end?  Read, read I say to find out!

Summer is coming soon!  This would be a terrific summer series for a mythologically-minded person to read.

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!