Monthly Archives: April 2010

Read Aloud Books: Tried and True!

“You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.”  Paul Sweeney

I received this quote many years ago from my very first principal. It has been displayed on my bulletin board in my office all these years. A good book is like a friend.  A friend has a special place in your heart as does a favorite book. You can go revisit the book again and again to still get the same wonderful feeling and enthusiasm you did as the very first time the book was read.

Over the past 30+ years being a school librarian I’ve read numerous books. Several of these books make up the list below as some of my favorite read aloud books for children from pre-school to third grade. When I stop to think I’ve read several of these for all of these years it is a little mind boggling! Before I begin reading to the students I find myself saying, “This is one my favorite books!” There is always a child in the group responding, “Mrs. Parker you say they are all your favorites!” Quite true! If I don’t find a special connection to the book I’m reading then it doesn’t come across to the students. My excitement for a story carries over to them. I can see it on their faces and in their reactions.  For example, at the end of, The Araboolies of Liberty Street, by Sam Swope, each time I have read it, the students still clap and cheer as the army comes in and take away General and Mrs. Pinch! Or, each time I have read, Little Orphant Annie, by James Whitcomb Riley, the expression on their faces as they wait in anticipation for me to say, “And the goblins will get you, ‘ef you don’t watch out!” This story in particular has been a favorite with my own three girls when they were young. I could share  countless memories about each of these books!

The following special titles were the books that jumped out at me as I perused my read aloud list. Certain books carry an extraordinary message which is significant to me. Others are just entertaining books to read. Each one was almost saying, “Don’t forget to tell people about me!” If you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, a teacher, or a librarian, (hope I haven’t forgotten anyone!) enjoy my list of favorite books to read aloud with someone special in your life!

Product Details  The Araboolie’s of Liberty Street by Sam Swope

Product Details   Bad Kitty  by Nick Bruel

Product Details Chicks and Salsa by Aaron Reynolds

Product Details  Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin

 Product Details  Dinotrux by Chris Gall

 Product Details  Flossie and the Fox by Patricia McKissack

Product Details Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester

 Product Details I Stink! by Kate McMullan and Jim McMullan

 Product Details King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Don Wood and Audrey Wood

Product Details  The Library Dragon by Carmen Deedy

Product Details  The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams

 Product Details Little Orphant Annie by James Whitcomb Riley

Product Details  The Little Red Hen by James Pinkney

 Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear  by Ken Kesey

Product Details  Llama, Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney

Product Details  Lousy Rotten Stinkin Grapes  by Margie Palatini

Product Details Mars Needs Moms by Berkeley Breathed

Product Details  Mind Your Manners, B.B. Wolf by Judy Sierra

Product Details  Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook by Michael Garland

Product Details   Monster Goose by Judy Sierra

 Product Details Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present by Charlotte Zolotow and Maurice Sendak

 Product Details My Little Sister Ate One Hare by Bill Grossman

  Product Details Old Black Fly  by Jim Aylesworth

 Product Details  Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann

Product Details  Rhyming Dust Bunnies  by Jan Thomas

Product Details   Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt

 Product Details The Secret Science Project That Almost Ate the School by Judy Sierra

Product Details  Sheep in a Jeep  by Nancy Shaw

Product Details  Stephanie’s Ponytail by Robert Munsch

Product Details   Truckery Rhymes  by John Scieszka

Product Details  The Widow’s Broom   by Chris Van Allsburg

 Product Details The Wretched Stone by Chris Van Allsburg

 Product Details Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss

Happy Reading!!

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Books of Interest-#3-“So many books, too little time!”

I’ve recently read a vast array of book reviews. At first I was planning on keeping this short but I ended up adding more titles.  My list keeps growing as I’m sure yours constantly does. Here are more to add to your list!  Sorry, as the old saying goes, “so many books, too little time.”  My Kindle 2 seems to be getting heavier each time I download a title or add one to my “Wish List!”  Next week I will share what I have on my “wish list” for the summer.

There are several categories to choose, adult, young adult, middle-grade, and primary readers.  Read the reviews found at http://www.goodreads.com and then either download them onto your favorite e-book (mine being the Amazon Kindle 2), purchase from your favorite bookstore, or patronize your local public library.

Primary Grades:

Jeremy Draws a Monster, by Peter McCarty – A delightful story of young Jeremy, the monster he draws, and the demands of said monster! The story is simply enjoyable. It’s reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson.

Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don’t), by Barbara Bottner and illustrated by Michael Emberley – This story is for all librarians who have spent time with that one particular child who had a difficult time finding just the right book. 

Middle Grades:

Best Friends Forever: A World War II Scrapbook, by Beverly Patt – A fictional account of two friends Dottie and Louise who are separated when Dottie and her family are sent to live in a Japanese internment camp.

The Birthday Ball, by Lois Lowry – Lowry’s reputation as an excellent storyteller hits the mark again in this romantic fairy tale for middle grade readers. Introducing, Princess Patricia Priscilla!

The Last Best Days of Summer, by Valerie Hobbs – What every young girl attempts to emulate, a teen fashion magazine! Lucy and Megan decide to adhere to the fashion tips suggested by Seventeen magazine hoping it will project them into the popular group.

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg, by Rodman Philbrick – A Newbery Honor Book for 2010.  Homer’s older brother is sold illegally into the Union Army. Homer is on a quest to bring his brother home. Homer has been compared by some to the likes of, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Need I say more?

No Moon, by Irene N. Watts – Girls as well as boys are fascinated by the history of the Titanic. This is the story of fourteen-old Louisa who travels with an English family which she works for, on the Titanic.

The Vanishing Violin, by Michael D. Beil – If you enjoyed, The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamador, this next installment will find them solving another case. It will be available this August.

Books for Young Adults:

Ash, by Malinda Lo – William C. Morris YA Debut Award Nominee 2010.  A fabulous twist of the classic fairy tale, Cinderella!

Dead in the Family, by Charlaine Harris – Another installment in the Sookie Stackhouse series! This is a favorite of Young Adults AND adults!

The Devil amongst the Lawyers, by Sharyn McCrumb  – I’ve been a fan of McCrumb’s books for many years.  She writes crime stories that take place in the South. This one looks to be just as good.

The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors, by Michele Young-Stone – What draws Becca and Buckley together? Buckley lost someone who was struck by lightning and Becca was struck by lightning.

Hold Still, by Nina LaCour – A William C. Morris YA Debut Award Nominee 2010.  How does one deal and cope with life when someone’s best friend commits suicide?  Caitlin must contend with the death of her best friend, Ingrid.

Prince of Mist, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – This is Zafon’s first Young Adult book. In a coastal village, the Carver children are haunted by a young boy who previously lived in their home. 

The Rehearsal, by Eleanor Catton – I’ve read nothing but great things about Catton’s debut novel! It’s about a high school sex scandal and the repercussions when an area drama school turns it into a play. Catton was only 22 years old when she wrote this book – impressive!

The Sonderberg Case, by Eli Wiesel – With Wiesel as the author of this book it will be popular.

This World We Live In (Last Survivors #3), by Susan Beth Pfeffer – This is the third book which go along with: Life As We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone.

Adult:

Backseat Saints, by Joshilyn Jackson – A few years ago I read her book, Gods in Alabama and thoroughly enjoyed it. This new book is about domestic violence and what one woman, Rose Mae Lolly, does to get out from under her predicament.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, by Steig Larsson – I’m a huge fan of the trilogy!

The Last Fix, by K.O. Dahl  – Since I’ve read the Steig Larsson series, I’ve been discovering other Scandinavian authors to read similar to his. I think I’ve found one!

The Life of Irene Nemirovsky, by Olivier Philipponnat and Patrick Lienhardt. Tr. By Euan Cameron – I was so moved by Nemirovsky’s book, Suite Francaise , and the short biographical notes found at the end of the book. When I read the reviews for this book on her life I knew I would have to read it.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson – Pettigrew is a widower living in an English village. Looks like a delightful story!

The Murder’s Daughter, by Randy Sue Meyers  – A debut novel about family tragedy.  It is a compelling story.

The Postmistress, by Sarah Blake – The lives of Frankie, Iris, and Emma become entangled during the 1940 with World War II as a backdrop.

Private Life, by Jane Smiley – I’ve loved her books since reading A Thousand Acres.

Remarkable Creatures, by Tracy Chevalier – Historical fiction + Tracy Chevalier= a great book to read!

The Three Weissmanns of Westport, by Cathleen Schine – It’s been said, Schine’s book is a modern day version of Jane Austen’s, Sense and Sensibility.

Work Song, by Ivan Doig – Morrie Morgan was last seen in, The Whistling Season. Morgan is the focus of Doig’s newest book. I’m so happy Morrie is back because he was such a fun and slightly devious character to love!

Happy Reading!

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In Celebration of National Library Week: “What Was Your Favorite Book as a Child?”

I want to thank my husband, Steve Parker, for this beautiful and thoughtful introduction!

Celebrating National Library Week truly allows all who share the love of reading to reminisce and reflect on our favorite books that influenced us in our informative childhood years.  The anticipation of spending quality moments with a book that creates everlasting memories in our lives is a treasure that cannot be equaled.  Everyone can experience a wide range of emotions by discovering or revisiting the building block of our lives through the pages of a book.  Share your thoughts with others! We have a special week to endorse our libraries and reward ourselves by communicating with other readers.  Be good to yourself and take time to indulge yourself with a “good book.”  I know I will.

This past Sunday morning Steve and I were discussing the beginning of National Library Week and the affect books have on children.  It didn’t take us long to share what our favorite book(s) were.  Steve’s was, Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell.  Mine were, from the Nancy Drew Mystery Series, The Secret of the Old Clock, by Carolyn Keene and Louisa Alcott,: Girl of Old Boston, by Jean Brown Wagoner.  I have a copy of each of these books on display in our reading room.  From our discussion the idea was born: what if I ask others what their favorite children’s book was.  I sent out emails to family and friends. I also posed the question to my followers on Twitter. Our daughter, Sarah, posted the question to followers as well.   It didn’t take long for the responses to start coming in!  It was overwhelming!  Not only did I receive book titles but I also received some endearing short childhood memories from some.  Here are a few I’d like to share:

Jane Riva, “I couldn’t wait for my dad to come home from work.  I would climb on his lap, and he would read me this book. Then, I would stay on his lap when he read the newspaper.  This was a pre-dinner ritual!”

Gordon Duguid, “My favorite book when I was a kid was Scott’s Ivanhoe, which your Mother made me read in 7th grade!”

Kendra Olson, “I didn’t like Nancy Drew because my cousin Sally and I would play Nancy Drew and SHE ALWAYS WAS NANCY DREW!” 

“What Was Your Favorite Book as a Child?”

The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins – by Dr. Seuss

Submitted by: Marcie Koehler

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – by Mark Twain

                Submitted by: Stephanie Thompson  @Stefaniya

Alice in Wonderland – by Lewis Carroll

                Submitted by: Patty Wagner

Alligator Pie – by Dennis Lee

                Submitted by:  Robin McPherson @uglyshirt

Amelia Earhart biography – Various authors

                Submitted by: Jennifer Scheri

Anne of Avonlea – by L.M. Montgomery

Submitted by: Amanda Marx @amanda_marx

Anne of Green Gables – by L.M. Montgomery

                Submitted by: Amanda Marx @amanda_marx

Anne of Green Gables series – by L.M. Montgomery

                Submitted by: Amy Stumpf and Sarah Varga @SarahVarga

Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret – by Judy Blume

                Submitted by: Gena Wallin, Tiffany Wheeler, Katie Hartauer, and Dee Stewart @deegospel

Berenstain Bears “B” Book – by Stan Berenstain

                Submitted by: Cheri Hovius

Berenstain Bears Series – by Stan and Jan Berenstain

                Submitted by: Caitlin Mills @crmills

Big Doc’s Girl – by Mary Medearis

                Submitted by: Mary Caba

Big Red – by Jim Kjelgaard

                Submitted by:  Stephanie Thompson @Stefaniya

Black Beauty – by Anna Sewell

                Steve Parker and Fran Ogden

The Black Stallion – by Walter Farley

                Submitted by:  Stephanie @KeertanaA

Blubber – by Judy Blume

                Submitted by: Gena Wallin, Tiffany Wheeler, Janice Johnson, and Dee Stewart @deegospel

The Boxcar Children – by Gertrude Chandler Warner

                Submitted by: Jennifer Belden @mommy_grrl   and  Yvonne Smith

Bridge to Terabithia – by Katherine Patterson

                Submitted by: Jenna Maierhofer

Caddie Woodlawn – by Carol Ryrie Brink

                Submitted by:  Stephanie @KeertanaA

Caps for Sale – by Esphyr Slobodkina

                Submitted by: Jane Riva

Cat in the Hat – by Dr. Seuss

                Submitted by: Kendra Olson

Charlotte’s Web – by E.B. White

Nadine Maierhofer, Becky Meier, Dee Stewart  @deegospel  & Sally Royer-Derr @sallyroyerderr

Childcraft:  Storytelling and Other Poems, Volume #2

                Submitted by: Beth Kimes

Choose Your Own Adventure Series – by R.A. Montgomery

                Submitted by: Matt Maldre @spudart

Chronicles of Narnia – by C.S. Lewis

                Submitted by: Kathy Burkhead

Cinderella – by Charles Perault

                Submitted by: Laurie Evans

Danny and the Dinosaur – by Syd Hoff

                Submitted by: Hope Fabris

Danny The Champion of the World – by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake

                Submitted by: Stephanie Thompson @Stefaniya

Emily of the New Moon – by L.M. Montgomery

                Submitted by:  Stephanie @KeertanaA

The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew – by Margaret Sidney

                Submitted by: Sue Gumm

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – E.L. Konigsburg

                Submitted by:  Amanda Marx @amanda_marx

Garbage Delight – by Dennis Lee

                Submitted by: Robin McPherson @uglyshirt

Go, Dog. Go! – by P.D. Eastman

                Submitted by: Janet Kiper

The Golden Egg Book – by Margaret Wise Brown

                Submitted by: Kendra Olson

Goosebump Series – by R.L. Stine

                Submitted by: Caitlin Mills @crmills  & Samantha (Parker) Foster

Green Eggs and Ham – by Dr. Seuss

                Submitted by: Amy Stumpf

The Happy Hollisters – by Jerry West and Helen S. Hamilton

                Submitted by: Kathy Baker

Hardy Boys Series – by Franklin W. Dixon

                Submitted by: Kathy Baker, Kathy DeSerf, and Cathy Bergstrom

Harold and the Purple Crayon – by Crockett Johnson

                Submitted by: Caitlin Mills @crmills

Harriet the Spy – by Louise Fitzhugh

                Submitted by: Stephanie @KeertanaA  & Stephanie Thompson @Stefaniya

Harry the Dirty Dog – by Gene Zion

                Submitted by: Hope Fabris

Heidi – by Johanna Spyri

                Submitted by: Gerry Vicini, Nadine Maierhofer, and Yvonne Smith

Helen Keller biography – Various authors

                Submitted by: Jennifer Scheri

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – by Douglas Adams

                Submitted by:  David Despain @daviddespain

Ivanhoe – by Sir Walter Scott

Submitted by: Gordon Duguid

James and the Giant Peach – by Roald Dahl

                Submitted by: Jennifer Scheri

Jean and Johnny – by Beverly Cleary

                Submitted by: Mary Caba

Jennie – by Paul Gallico

                Submitted by:  Stephanie Thompson @Stefaniya

Johnny Tremain – by Esther Forbes

                Submitted by: Laura Frizol

Let’s Be Enemies – by Janice May Udry and Maurice Sendak

                Submitted by: Beth Kimes

The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe – by C.S. Lewis

                Submitted by:  Dee Stewart @deegospel

Little House Series – by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Submitted by: Amy Stumpf, Patty Wagner, Cheri Hovius, Reagan Stevens,

Laura Frizol, Kimberly Moniz @kimmiekm  & Maggie Hachenberger

The Little Prince – by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

                Submitted by: Zoraida  Sambolin @nbczoraida

A Little Princess – by Frances Hodgson Burnett

                Submitted by :  Stephanie Thompson @Stefaniya

The Little Red Caboose (Little Golden Book) – by Marion Potter

                Submitted by: Susan Warning

The Little Red Hen (Little Golden Book ) – by Diane Muldrow

                Submitted by: Susan Warning

Little Red Riding Hood (Little Golden Book) – by Mabel Watts and Joe Ewers

                Submitted by: Laurie Evans

Little Women – by Louisa May Alcott

Submitted by: Gerry Vicini, Amy Stumpf, Kendra Olson, Jennifer Belden @mommy_grrl  Ronnie Uebel, Mary Caba, and Stephanie Thompson @Stefaniya

Lord of the Flies – by William Golding

                Submitted by: Dave Mason

Louisa Alcott: Girl of Old Boston – by Jean Brown Wagoner

                Submitted by: Kathleen Parker @marianslibrary

Maniac Magee – by Jerry Spinelli

                Submitted by:  Andrew Shipp @Andrew_ShipPR

Mary Poppins – by Dr. P.L. Travers

                Submitted by:  Stephanie Thompson @Stefaniya

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel – by Virginia Lee Burton

                Submitted by: Kellee Widman @kelleew

Miss Nelson is Missing – by Harry G. Allard and James Marshall

                Submitted by: Jane Couto  @JaneHCouto

Misty of Chincoteague – by Marguerite Henry

                Submitted by: Stephanie Thompson @Stefaniya

The Mousehole Cat – by Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley

                Submitted by:  Madeleine Milan @maddymilan

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH – by Robert C. O’Brien

                Submitted by: Sherry Neimann

My Darling, My Hamburger – by Paul Zindel

                Submitted by: Beth Feldman @rolemommy

My Side of the Mountain – by Jean Craighead George

                Submitted by:  David Despain @daviddespain   

Nancy Drew Series – by Carolyn Keene

Kathy Baker, Kathy DeSerf, Katie Hartauer, Jennifer Belden @mommy_grrl  ; Kathy Burkhead, Cathy Bergstrom, Laura Frizol

Noisy Nora – by Rosemary Wells

                Submitted by: Tiffany Wheeler

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish – by Dr. Seuss

                Caitlin Mills @crmills   &  Beth Kimes

The Outsiders – by S.E. Hinton

                Submitted by: Lisa Reilly @lgreilly

Paddington Bear Series – by Michael Bond

                Submitted by: Stephanie @KeertanaA

The Phantom Tollbooth – by Norton Juster

                Submitted by:  Stephanie Thompson @stefaniya

The Pokey Little Puppy – by Jean Sebring Lowrey

                Submitted by: Laurie Evans

The Polar Express – by Chris Van Allsburg

                Submitted by: Trey Evans

The Princess and the Goblin – by George MacDonald

                Submitted by:  Monica Owens @Monica2point0

Ralph & the Motorcycle – by Beverly Cleary

                Submitted by: Lainey Canevaro   @Lainey

Ramona Quimby, Age 8 – by Beverly Cleary

                Submitted by: Kimberly Moniz  @kimmiekm

Ramona Quimby Series – by Beverly Cleary

                Submitted by:  Maggie Hachenberger and Sally Royer-Derr @sallyroyerderr

The Raven – by Edgar Allen Poe

                Submitted by: Doriano Carta  @Paisano

Rikki-Tikki-Tembo – by Rudyard Kipling

                Submitted by: Dee Marik

Roller Skates – by Ruth Sawyer

                Submitted by: Pearl Patarozzi

Sam, Bangs, & Moonshine – by Evaline Ness

                Submitted by: April E. @eileen53

Sammy the Seal – by Syd Hoff

                Submitted by: Kim Krueger @Traegonia 

The Secret Garden – by Frances Hodgson Burnett

                Submitted by: Stephanie Thompson @stefaniya

Secret of the Old Clock: Nancy Drew, Book 1) – by Carolyn Keene

Submitted by: Kathleen Parker @marianslibrary ,  Monica Owens @Monica2point0  & Sue Gumm

See Jane Run – by Joy Fielding

                Submitted by: Jane Sack

Starring Sally J. Friedman as Herself – by Judy Blume

                Submitted by: Patty Wagner, Janice Johnson,  Dee Stewart @deegospel

The Story of Little Black Sambo – by Helen Bannerman and Christopher Bing

                Submitted by Dee Marik

Superfudge – by Judy Blume

                Submitted by: Shane Severson, Tiffany Wheeler, and Janice Johnson

Surprise Island (2nd in the Boxcar Series) – by Gertrude Chandler Warren

                Submitted by: Marcie Koehler

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing – by Judy Blume

                Submitted by: Eric Misener, Tiffany Wheeler, Janice Johnson, and Dee Stewart @deegospel

The Thornbirds – by Colleen Mccullough

                Submitted by: Jane Sack

The Tomb of Ligeia – by Edgar Allen Poe

                Submitted by: Doriano Carta  @Paisano

Trixie Belden Series – by Julie Campbell

                Submitted by: Ronnie Uebel and Laura Frizol

The Velveteen Rabbit – by Margery Williams

                Submitted by: Becky Meier & Kim Fabiano Fassetta  @kimberlyfab

When We Were Very Young – by A.A. Milne

                Submitted by: Phoebe Antonio @PhoebeAnt

Where the Red Fern Grows – by Wilson Rawls

                Submitted by: Sarah (Parker) Evans @PRsarahevans  &  Dave Mason

Where the Sidewalk Ends – by Shel Silverstein

                Submitted by: Gena Wallin

Where the Wild Things Are – by Maurice Sendak

                Submitted by: Katie Hartauer

Winifred’s New Bed – by Lynn Howell

                Submitted by: Kallie Parker

The Wizard of Earthsea – by Ursula  K. Le Guin

                Submitted by:  Stephanie @KeertanaA

A Wrinkle in Time – by Madeleine L’Engle

                Submitted by: Jennifer Belden @mommy_grrl   & Eric Vroman

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories – by Dr. Seuss

                Submitted by: Kathleen Parker @marianslibrary

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Parker’s Picks, April/May 2010

Alice I Have Been – by Melanie Benjamin

Alice I Have Been (Hardcover) by Melanie Benjamin 

  As I child I loved watching Disney’s, “Alice in Wonderland.” I was quite fascinated by the characters Alice meets on her journey. Eventually I read, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. Little did I realize as I read this delightful tale there actually had been a real life Alice whom Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) based his story on.
Recently I was fortunate enough to attend Melanie Benjamin’s book signing and launch party in January at Anderson’s Book Shop, in Naperville, IL. Her new novel, Alice I Have Been, is the fictional account of Alice Liddell Hargreaves’s life and her encounter with Charles Dodgson – aka – Lewis Carroll. At Oxford, Alice’s father was the Dean of Christ Church. Alice and her family were friends of Charles Dodgson who was a professor there. Dodgson spent time with Alice and her two sisters and told them many stories. One in particular, Alice asked him to write about. It was of a young girl falling down a rabbit hole. For unknown reasons, the Liddell family abruptly broke off their association with Dodgson. There is no available information concerning what happened. For Benjamin, this was her chance to write what she thinks happened, as she says, Alice I Have Been, is Alice’s story.
Benjamin’s words transported me back in time to Alice’s world. She has spun a superb tale. Alice, at the age of 11, wanted Dodgson to write the Alice story because she would then be forever young. Do we all secretly wish the same – our youth? I was brought to tears as Alice, as an older woman, reflected on her life. It made me stop to reflect as well. Alice I Have Been is a treasure waiting to be open and enjoyed! I now am re-reading, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to discover a bit of Alice!

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet – by Jamie Ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Hardcover) by Jamie Ford 

Oai deki te ureshii desu” (How are you today, beautiful?)
“The Best Book Club Ever” February read was, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford. Our group met for dinner last night and had a first-rate discussion of the novel. This month since it was my book choice, I was compelled to research the subject of the Japanese Internment Camps since it played a main factor in the book. I felt it was important to discuss the fear which gripped the country after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the United States entrance into World War II. I also brought along two books of interest, Farewell to Manzanar, by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston & James D. Houston. It is the true story of a Japanese American family interred at the Manzanar camp. The other book is a children’s book which I read to students, Baseball Saved Us, by Ken Mochizuki. This is a fictional account of how a young boy finds something to look forward to during his time at an internment camp. Interestingly enough I found out the author’s parents were at the Minidoka internment camp in Idaho which is the same camp that one of the main characters, Keiko Okabe, and her family were sent to live.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet contains many elements which make it an excellent choice for book clubs to talk about. We were of the same opinion that cultural diversity and prejudices and loyalties were at the heart of Ford’s book. The story is told from the past and the present. It alternates from Henry as a 56-year-old to Henry as a 12-year-old boy living in Seattle at the time of World War II. It revolves around Henry Lee, who is Chinese and his friendship with a Japanese girl, Keiko Okabe. It’s a story of young love and the lengths one will go for it.
It was informative as to the pride of the Chinese and how it played an important role in the book. Henry’s relationship with his father was a component of the novel we probably addressed throughout the evening because as the book proceeds to the present, the reader learns of Henry’s relationship with his own son, Marty.
Music, in particular, jazz, plays an integral ingredient as well. Henry becomes friends with jazz musician, Sheldon Thomas, which in turn introduces Henry as well as Keiko, to the music of Oscar Holden and the song, “The Alley Cat Strut.” The 78” record of this song we all felt was very symbolic also.
The Panama Hotel seemed to be a character in itself throughout the book. Our group felt this is where “the bitter and the sweet” converged from beginning to the end.
We all agreed our favorite quote from the book, referring to Henry’s father, was, “His father had said once that the hardest choices in life aren’t between what’s right and wrong but between what’s right and what’s best.” (p. 204) Without giving anything away, we liked it because, to many of us, it was the heart of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.
It’s my hope you will also find this story as moving as I did. Domo! (Thank you!)

Labor Day – by Joyce Maynard

Labor Day: A Novel 

This is a coming-of-age story about 13-year-old Henry, his depressed mother, Adele, and Frank, an escaped convict running from the law.  Living in Holton Mills, New Hampshire, Frank holds Henry and Adele hostage over the long Labor Day weekend. Henry is that type of person who doesn’t have any friends and doesn’t excel in anything special.  What Henry learns from Frank in only five days, he will take with him into his adult life. The characters are so well developed you seem to get to know the personally. I was captivated by Henry’s narrative as a man as he looks back at that mesmerizing moment in his life. I think you will be too.

Lips Touch: Three Times – by Laini Taylor

Lips Touch: Three Times 

Lips Touch: Three Times has been the recipient  of numerous awards,  National Book Award Nominee for Young People’s Literature (2009),  British Fantasy  for Top Ten (2010), and Cybils Award Nominee for Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction (2009).  This book was so captivating. It drew me quickly into the tales and held my interest.  There are three stories in the book. In each tale a different girl longs for kiss which in the end might be deadly. The first story, Goblin Fruit, was my favorite. It was reminiscent of Eve and the forbidden fruit.

“There is a certain kind of girl the goblins crave. You could walk across a high school campus and point them out: not her, not her, her. The pert, lovely ones with butterfly tattoos in secret places, sitting on their boyfriends’ laps? No, not them. The girls watching the lovely ones sitting on their boyfriends’ laps? Yes.
Them.
The goblins want girls who dream so hard about being pretty their yearning leaves a palpable trail, a scent goblins follow like sharks on a soft bloom of blood. The girls with hungry eyes who pray each night to wake up as someone else. Urgent, unkissed, wishful girls.
Like Kizzy…..”    Hope this sparks your interest to read it!

The Lonely Hearts Club – by Elizabeth Eulberg

The Lonely Hearts Club 

Penny Lane Bloom –her parents are Beatles fanatics-has had it with boys after her boyfriend cheats on her. What does she do? She creates her very own, “Lonely Hearts Club.”  Penny is weary of guys and the games they play. Her friend Dianne conveys how once a girl finds a boy – you forget about your girlfriends and sometimes alter who you are just to make your boyfriend happy.  Soon not only are her friends joining the club but other girls in her high school.  There are six simple rules to follow to be in the club – read the book to find out what they are!  I also took pleasure from all of the Beatle references throughout the book.  I found myself totally enjoying Eulberg’s debut novel! It took me back to my high school days!  Every girl can relate to the story and the message it conveys. This is a timeless message to all girls – be true to yourself.

Elizabeth Eulberg will be at Anderson’s Bookshop, in Naperville, Illinois, on Saturday, May 1, 2010, at 2:00 p.m.  Stop by and meet her – I’ll be there!

Love in Translation – by Wendy Tokunaga

Love in Translation: A Novel (Paperback) by Wendy Tokunaga 

I started reading, Love in Translation, right after I had finished, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford. It seemed like an appropriate segue since in the previous book I learned so much about Japanese families and their culture. The author, Wendy Tokunaga, sent me a copy to read. Not really knowing what to expect – I did do my research though on the book – I found I truly enjoyed the storyline, the characters, particularly Celeste’s journey, the mystery surrounding the search for her Aunt’s sister, and the possibility of finding the identity of her father.
How scary it would be to take off for unfamiliar parts in pursuit of one’s heritage but I thought Celeste grabbed the bull by the horns. She was eager to fit in and persevere what obstacles came her way. There were some funny incidents for Celeste in addition to moments which brought me to tears.
I would recommend this heartwarming story to readers who enjoy books that deal with relationships, cultures, and ultimately – finding yourself. Love in Translation should be a novel book clubs on the whole would embrace because of the discussions it would bring about.
Thank you to Wendy Tokunaga for sharing her wonderful story with me! I’ll be anxiously awaiting her next creation! 

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt – by Beth Hoffman

Saving Ceecee Honeycutt  (Hardcover) by Beth Hoffman 

I first heard of this book via Twitter. After reading a few reviews I knew this book was one I definitely had to read! Amazon compared it to “Steel Magnolias meets The Help!” That comment sold me as well. The author, Beth Hoffman, shares a CeeCee Honeycutt’s young life story with us and it’s one you won’t easily forget! You will laugh, cry, and be awestruck by what CeeCee has to endure as young girl of twelve.
CeeCee is caring for her mother, Camille, who is mentally unstable and the laughing stock of the town. Her father cannot handle the difficulties Camille’s illness so he is absent much of the time. Just when you think CeeCee can bear no more, her mother is killed by an oncoming truck as she crosses the street.
Enter, CeeCee’s great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell, to take her to live with her in Savannah, Georgia. During her summer in Savannah, CeeCee’s life is suddenly transformed for the good. There are many women who enter her life, for one, Tootie’s wise housekeeper, Oletta Jones, who becomes a friend and confidant to CeeCee. She decides early on which of Tootie’s unusual neighbors, Thelma Rae Goodpepper and Violene Hobbs, is trustworthy and enjoyable and which one is prejudicial and unpleasant. CeeCee has lost her mother, but through this loss, gains a wealth of love from some wonderful women! I must say, I laughed until I cried, while I read one particular episode in the book! I won’t give it away but it has to do with a camera and a brassiere –hilarious!!!
You will be touched and affected by CeeCee’s innermost thoughts, her favorite books, feelings, opinions, and most of all her, “Life Book!” My favorite quote from the book: “Life is full of change, honey. That’s how we learn and grow. When we’re born, the Good Lord gives each of us a Life Book. Chapter by chapter, we live and learn.” (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, Beth Hoffman)
Thank you Beth Hoffman for sharing a part of CeeCee’s life with us! 

Still Alice – by Lisa Genova

Still Alice 

Alice is a Harvard professor. She has a loving husband and three adult children. She’s only 50 years old and discovers she has the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. There is so much she still wants to accomplish with her life.  As you read the book you know from Alice’s point of view her fear, dread, and horror of what is to become of her and her mind. Several have said this will scare you. I agree because Alzheimer’s is a terrifying disease. Book clubs would find much to discuss and examine. Read Alice’s story.

Viola in Reel Life – by Adriana Trigiani

Viola in Reel Life (Hardcover) by Adriana Trigiani 

This is a wonderful coming-of-age book by Trigiani in her first ever Young Adult book.  Fourteen-year-old Viola Chesterton loves making movies as much as her parents do.  They make film documentaries. Viola’s grandmother, “Grand,” is an actress, so it’s safe to say it’s in Viola’s blood.  Viola is sent to “The Prefect Academy for Young Women Since 1890” in South Bend, Indiana because her parents are off to Afghanistan to make a documentary about Afghan women. It’s a big change for the native Brooklyn, New York teen. She is a pretty independent girl and eventually develops a close bond with her roommates. What young adult story wouldn’t be complete with a boy! Viola begins to make a film diary of her stay at the Academy when she stumbles upon something in her film that she sees.  It’s an image or is it a ghost of a woman, “The Red Lady.”  Viola makes this the subject of her short film that she enters in a contest. This was the part of book I enjoyed the most. I don’t want to give too much away but I liked Viola’s methodical research she did on the woman once she discovers who she really was. One of my favorite scenes was when Viola explains to “Grand’s” friend, what she knows about “screwball comedies” – by the way I happen to love this film genre. Her favorite is, The Awful Truth, starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.  I’m anxiously awaiting Viola’s next adventure, Viola in the Spotlight, which will be published this August.

The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag (Flavia de Luce #2) – by Alan Bradley

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag (Flavia de Luce, #2) by Alan Bradley 

Yes! Eleven-year-old sleuth and want-to-be chemist, Flavia is back and ready to solve another mystery! She also has some new revenge in store to bestow on her two older sisters! I featured Flavia’s first adventure, Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, this past fall. I was anxiously awaiting the next installment and wasn’t disappointed. As Flavia and her family watch the production of Jack and the Beanstalk at the area church a murder is committed. We are introduced to a new character, Flavia’s, Aunt Felicity. Flavia knows the death wasn’t from natural causes. The young sleuth is at it again trying to solve the murder and to discover who the killer is.  Is there a possible connection with this death and one that happened several years ago?   I don’t want to give too much away since it is a mystery. It is another successful tale about Flavia if I must say so myself!  You will be thoroughly entertained by Bradley’s work!

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Best Book Club Ever – March 2010 Book Selection

Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of an Egomaniacal, Self-Centered, Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office – by Jen Lancaster

Bitter is the New Black : Conf... 

Our book club member chose this book based on reading another book club’s selections which were very similar to ours. It’s a great way to discover new authors!

As a group we found the author’s memoir to be funny, yet she goes through a life altering change when she loses her job. Jen Lancaster is very witty, sarcastic, smart, loves material items, and oh yes, she loves herself!  After Jen loses her job, she slowly changes and evolves into somewhat of a different person.  It took her quite a long time to finally land a job because her reputation preceded her. She realizes eventually what truly is important in life. She begins to care for others and not just herself. Some of us thought Jen had grandiose opinions and skewed ideas about herself.   Like so many of us, when Jen was depressed – she went shopping!! We related to her experience at the beauty salon!

We enjoyed reading and discussing this book. It was quite entertaining.  I would recommend you check out her blog, “Jennsylvania,” after you’ve finished this book.  Lancaster has written a few others and I intend on reading them.

Our April book club selection will be, Unfinished Desires ,by Gail Godwin.

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Spring Break and Upcoming Posts

I am on Spring Break which means a hiatus from blogging this week. You can bet I’ll be back with new reviews, April/May Parker’s Picks and my book club’s review of Bitter is the new Black by Jen Lancaster.

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