Monthly Archives: November 2010

Parker’s Picks – November/December 2010

Cover of "Blockade Billy"

Cover of Blockade Billy



A blessed companion is a book, – a book that, fitly chosen, is a lifelong friend,… a book that, at a touch, pours its heart into our own.  ~Douglas Jerrold

Envision cozying up in your comfiest reading chair by your warm blazing fireplace with one of these books I’ve selected for my November/December Parker’s Picks.  Sounds inviting, doesn’t it?!  Douglas Jerrold said it best in the quote above.  So many books we read touch our hearts and become emblazoned in our minds as I’m sure some of the following titles will for you.  I know these will meet with your approval!  I enjoyed all of these! I have a variety of books on this list from a baseball story, Blockade Billy, from Stephen King with a twist, of course – to a look back at the 1960’s in the book, Countdown, by Deborah Wiles.  I’ve also included book trailers for several of them to entice your interest! 

Beautiful Darkness (Caster Chronicles, #2)

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Darkness will satisfy many of your unanswered questions – the cliffhangers!!  Does Lena go to the dark side and do Ethan and Lena continue with their growing relationship.  Beautiful Darkness introduces an interesting mystifying character, John Breed. His purpose in the story is dangled in front of the reader like a carrot. I like how he was interwoven into this ongoing saga and the role he plays. There’s also a new girl in Gatlin who is working with Marian at the library. Do you see some love triangles forming?? There are battles and confrontations from those with strong powers from the Dark Side.  I enjoyed the fact that more of the minor characters in Beautiful Creatures were more developed in this sequel. There’s a HUGE surprise in story for you concerning Link!  Book 3 of the Caster Chronicles will be out in 2011 – stay tuned!

 Blockade Billy by Stephen King

I LOVE a good Stephen King book!  I was drawn to this particular book because of my fondness for baseball.  King takes a look back to baseball as it was played in 1957.  Billy Blakely is called up after two other catchers are injured.  He is dubbed –Blockade Billy– by his New Jersey Titan teammates because of his incredible feats as a catcher. Of course mystery surrounds Billy. King’s novella and the character of Billy are reminiscent to me of his book, The Green Mile, and the character, John Coffey.  Billy’s “skeleton in the closet” is revealed at the end….

Countdown

Countdown by Deborah Wiles

This is the first book in The Sixties Trilogy! Countdown is a brilliant look back in time.  Young adult readers will discover a time like no other. Deborah Wiles website is jam-packed with information from the actual “Duck and Cover” film to an iTunes playlist for all of the songs mentioned in the book!  Going to teach a decade unit with your students?  Look no further than Countdown.  It’s rich with information to enhance the learning experience! Anyone living during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, will thoroughly enjoy this historical fiction novel.  We are guided by the Chapman family in a truly scary time in our country when “duck and cover,” underground bomb shelters, and anticipating the “bright flash” dominated our daily existence. Told by Franny, the eleven-year-old daughter of a military pilot, her mother, older sister, Jo Ellen who is a college student, younger brother Drew, who she labels “Mr. Perfect & Saint Drew”, and Uncle Otts, a WWII veteran, all guide us in telling the story.  The pictures and footage of this unforgettable year enhance the story that intertwines with these events.  There is mystery, comedy, and adventure that grab your interest from the beginning.  A valuable lesson is disclosed as expressed by Franny’s sister, Jo Ellen.A safe bomb shelter is not required to relive or discover 1962 as you read, Countdown.  All one needs is to enjoy and cherish a truly emotional story. (This review is from my husband – thanks Steve!)

View the trailer of Countdown.

Every Last One

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

I’m a devoted fan of Anna Quindlen’s books!  Every Last One is mind-blowing and stunning! It centers on Glen and Mary Beth Latham, their children Ruby, Alex, Max, and a chain reaction of events that lead to the ultimate horror of every parent.  I thought I knew what would eventually happen but I must say it was a shocker and a bombshell.  Quindlen draws you into the everyday life of the Latham household where you get to know them like you would your next door neighbors – well almost.  Throughout the story Quindlen weaves, you’ll wait for the bottom to fall out and believe me it does.

The Good Thief 

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti

Conjure up the book, Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, but change the setting to 19th century New England, add a vast array of memorable villainous characters, and you’ll find yourself engrossed in, The Good Thief!  Ren is a twelve-years-old orphan with a missing left hand whom no one so far ever wants to adopt.  He continues in his daily life at the St. Anthony’s until one day Ren is plucked from the orphanage by Benjamin Nab who claims to be his brother.  Once on the road adventures and escapades ensue for Ren, Benjamin, and his band of thieves. Truly a remarkable and well written book worthy of your time!

View the trailer for The Good Thief.

Hold Still 

Hold Still by Nina LaCour

What words and praises can I say that haven’t already been bestowed upon this debut book by Nina LaCour?!  It’s a remarkable and emotional story of Caitlin who is left to continue with her life after her best friend, Ingrid commits suicide.  The story is told in seasons not chapters which I think moves the story along quite effectively through the transition of time.  By way of Ingrid’s diary the reader glimpses at life through her eyes and what leads her to the destructive decision to end her life.  Follow Caitlin’s journey from devastation to recovery.  Truly an amazingly brilliant story!

View the trailer of Hold Still.

I Am Not A Serial Killer 

I Am Not a Serial Killer (John Cleaver #1) by Dan Wells

Wells’ has created a psychological thriller in this first book for his trilogy!  It’s suspenseful and filled with horror which is perfect for reading on a dark cold night!  Fifteen –year- old John Cleaver has a fixation with dead people and serial killers which he knows it’s not quite normal – you might also if you lived above your family’s mortuary.  Once the first body appears behind the Laundromat, John tries to unearth the mystery surrounding the murder but when several bodies begin to be discovered it’s evident there is a real serial killer on the loose.  You’ll be drawn into this menacing and chilling story that just might haunt you until you close the last page of the book!

View trailer here.

Mockingbird 

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

I fell in love with ten-year-old Caitlin as she tells her story of how she and her father deal with the death of her older brother Devon who was killed in a school shooting. Caitlin has Asperser’s Syndrome so you see the world through her eyes and how she views it. Find out how Caitlin and her father find “Closure” with their grieving process. As you read the story you’ll discover the importance of the title, Mockingbird. Such a wonderful and poignant gem! This book would be an excellent choice for a read aloud with your students.

The Prince of Mist 

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I first discovered and then became a devoted fan of the author, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, when I read his book, The Shadow of the Wind.  I found The Prince of Mist to be just as entertaining eerie and chilling! I wasn’t disappointed with this Young Adult gothic tale.  The story centers on the Carver family who has moved to get away from the fears of the World War II to a small town overlooking a coast.  Max Carver and his older sister, Alicia, become friends with Roland to discover the terrifying secret of a longstanding curse with non other than the Devil.

Stop by to view the trailer of The Prince of Mist!

Tomato Girl 

Tomato Girl by Jayne Pupek

Tomato Girl is simply unforgettable!  It’s a painful look at how life can change so uncontrollably especially for eleven-year-old Ellie Sanders and how she must deal with the broken pieces of her very existence.  Once I opened this book I knew I was captivated by the heartrending chain of events faced by young Ellie as she tells her story.  Ellie’s father Rupert manages the General Store where Ellie loves to spend her time helping out any way she can.  Her mother Julia is a bit unstable and Ellie sometimes doesn’t quite understand her mood swings.   Tomato Girl isn’t Ellie but a teenage girl, Tess, who sells produce from her father’s farm to the store.  Rupert enlists Tess’ help at home when Julia has an accident.  The wheels of fate begin to turn and change the life Ellie once knew.   A very poignant story you soon won’t forget.

View the trailer of Tomato Girl.

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Guest Book Reviewer for Countdown by Deborah Wiles

Adlai Stevenson shows aerial photos of Cuban m...

Image via Wikipedia

Last week I received a copy of the book, Countdown, by Deborah Wiles, through the Goodreads First Reads contest.  This highly touted first book in the Sixties Trilogy is a must read for anyone who grew up in the 1960’s.  You’ll be immediately drawn to the cover of a 45 RPM record – I still have my collection!  Countdown is a brilliant look back in time.  Young adult readers will discover a time like no other. Deborah Wiles website is jam-packed with information from the actual “Duck and Cover” film to an iTunes playlist for all of the songs mentioned in the book!  Going to teach a decade unit with your students?  Look no further than Countdown.  It’s rich with information to enhance the learning experience!

Countdown

Now, onto my guest book reviewer, Steve Parker!!

 

As Kathy Parker’s husband, I am issued a required reading list of books to broaden my horizons as an interlude from watching ESPN, fishing shows, old movies, and the History Channel.  She always knows my moods and interests when choosing “my next read.” 

Countdown by Deborah Wiles was the perfect fit for me.  Anyone living during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, will thoroughly enjoy this historical fiction novel.  We are guided by the Chapman family in a truly scary time in our country when “duck and cover,” underground bomb shelters, and anticipating the “bright flash” dominated our daily existence.

Told by Franny, the eleven-year-old daughter of a military pilot, her mother, older sister, Jo Ellen who is a college student, younger brother Drew, who she labels “Mr. Perfect & Saint Drew”, and Uncle Otts, a WWII veteran, all guide us in telling the story.

The pictures and footage of this unforgettable year enhance the story that intertwines with these events.  There is mystery, comedy, and adventure that grab your interest from the beginning.  A valuable lesson is disclosed as expressed by Franny’s sister, Jo Ellen.

A safe bomb shelter is not required to relive or discover 1962 as you read, Countdown.  All one needs is to enjoy and cherish a truly emotional story.

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“Find Your Passion!”- An Interview with Beth Hoffman, author of, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Cover of "Saving CeeCee Honeycutt: A Nove...

Cover of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt: A Novel

Last month our book club was fortunate enough to have author Beth Hoffman call in for a phone interview!  I had chosen Saving CeeCee Honeycutt for our book club to read and Beth graciously agreed to be part of our conversation that evening.  Prior to our evening I had asked everyone to come prepared with a question or two for Beth.  We had quite a lively discussion as Beth responded to all of our queries.  It’s one thing to converse with your own book club over a book but when you bring the author into the mix you’ve taken the discussion to a new level! It was fantastic and very enlightening!

Our book club also took a “field trip” to Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, IL, on Tuesday, November 2nd to meet Beth.  We were decked out in our “pale pink sweaters and pearls” – if you continue reading my post you’ll discover the importance of this gesture.  Beth was welcomed by many fans of CeeCee!  It was such a delight to finally meet her in person and hear more about “her story.”

If you haven’t had a chance to read Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, please put it on your list of “Must Read Books.”  You won’t be disappointed!  Check my February 2010 archives where you can read what I had to say about CeeCee’s story.

Now, onto our interview with Beth!

Was the title, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, the original title?

I had the title on the very first day I began writing the story.

Where did you get the idea for Saving CeeCee Honeycutt?

The novel was going to be based on my experiences as a child and then the character of CeeCee came to me.  I kept hearing the voice of a young girl who eventually turned out to be the character of CeeCee.  When I was a child I lived on a farm and I would visit my great Aunt Mildred periodically.  I would take the train and my Aunt Mildred would pick me up in her “Big Black Buick.”  She would be dressed so nicely along with her hat and gloves.  Aunt Mildred would say, “Here we are, Sugar,” when we reached her huge home with trees, gardens, antiques, and a library in the house.  There was a very educated historical presence about her home. 

 The experience was so profound that Beth saved money and eventually bought a historical home and restored it to be like her Aunt Mildred’s.

Where did you get your “Southernisms” for the book?

The “Southernisms,” in the book were the words of wisdom which came through the character Oletta.   Oletta was such an important character that she had to be authentic such as with the dialect. 

 Beth wanted Oletta to be wise enough to say what she had to say to the young CeeCee.

What was the significance of the pale pink sweater and the pearls?

Pearls are a sign of loveliness and femininity.  It was memorable to CeeCee because her mother wore a pale pink sweater and pearls.

Did Camille actually commit suicide or was it truly an accident?

Not certain.  Camille was out of touch with reality for much of the time and she just stepped out in front of the truck.  Didn’t see it as suicide but I suppose if others think it was, then maybe so.

Where did you get the idea for the “Life Book?”

 The idea for the “Life Book” came from when I was a little girl. A friend of the family had died and my Mom was hanging laundry. I couldn’t comprehend the idea of death as a young girl. She told me when we are born there’s a book with our name and our birthday written on the 1st page and our date of death is written on the last page.  All the pages in between are blank.  It bothered me.  It was disturbing to me because I wondered who would fill out my “Life Book.”   I gave this idea to Mrs. Odell to share with CeeCee.

Who is your favorite character?

There isn’t just one.  I love Oletta, Aunt Tootie, and Thelma Ray Goodpepper.  Probably though, I would have say – Oletta Jones. So many kids can’t be kids today because of many factors and in CeeCee’s case she was able to bloom as a child when Oletta turned up in her life. CeeCee had no opportunity to be bad or devilish like most young girls her age.  CeeCee was brought out of her shell and showed genuine love for Oletta.

Is Saving CeeCee Honeycutt a book to be shared by all?

Yes!  I was careful with the language so CeeCee could be shared and enjoyed by grandmothers, mothers, and daughters.

Where did you get the idea for using the perfume fragrance Shalimar in the story? As a book club we notice fragrances mentioned in books and Shalimar is found in many books.

A college friend of mine always wore it.

Where did your passion for writing come from?

I always wanted to write. Growing up in rural Ohio I had imaginary friends in a shoebox that I kept under my bed. I would cut out objects from the Sears catalog to decorate the shoebox.  I would also write stories about my shoe box characters.  When I grew up and was thinking of a career, my mother said to do something that would pay the bills.  Writing wasn’t on the map so I put it on the backburner.   When I eventually had my own business I would write stories for the furniture ads.  It was an ad I wrote about a beautiful ornate desk that I heard from an elderly man. He called my store and said I should write a book.  I contracted the “Jim Henson” disease in 1998 and almost died and in result this changed my view of life.   I finally had time to think.   I was a home decorator and wondered is there more than decorating?   I was able to get everything in order and I began to write.  I began writing CeeCee in 2004.  Four years later I wrote “The End” for Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.    I probably wouldn’t have changed careers without the “near death” experience. 

 Beth left us with this thought: “Find YOUR Passion,”  — she did and we’re grateful for her gift!!

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“Gobble, Gobble, Said the Turkey…..” – November Read Alouds for Kids!

A Turkey.

Image via Wikipedia

Gobble, gobble, said the turkey (Use Hands and Gobble)
Soon twill be Thanksgiving Day (Hold up one finger and shake)
The way they treat me (Hold arms up),
They’re going to eat me (Shrug),
Guess I’d better run away! (Run in place and gobble)

This is a very enjoyable and entertaining Thanksgiving finger play to teach young children!  It’s one my own daughters liked to perform when they were children.  Thanksgiving stories were always a part of our family tradition after the big meal of the day.  We would clean up to get everything in order for what my Mother always called, “the second sitting of the day.”  She would always have an evening Thanksgiving Open House and I’ve continued on the family tradition now that I host Thanksgiving Day.  The following Thanksgiving read aloud books are quite fun to share with your children on this special family day of gathering – in between all of the football games!  Enjoy!

Albert's Thanksgiving (Aladdin Picture Books)

Albert’s Thanksgiving by Leslie Tryon

PTA President, Patsy Pig, has requested the help of Albert the Duck to assist her with the school’s upcoming Thanksgiving celebration.  Through a series of letters to Albert, sent by Patsy Pig, he begins to get overwhelmed with all of the tasks she asks him to do.  I love this story along with the colorful illustrations! 

I Know an Old Lady Who Swallow...

I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie, by Alison Jackson

This is another cumulative rhyming tale about Old Lady and what she inhales for this hilarious Thanksgiving story!  “I know an old lady who swallowed a pie, a Thanksgiving pie which was really too dry, perhaps—-she’ll die!”  So continues what she devours along through this delicious and funny book!  Your kids will never tire of this one!

The Night Before Thanksgiving 

The Night Before Thanksgiving by Natasha Wing

Charming Thanksgiving rendition of Clement C. Moore’s, The Night Before Christmas!  The students love this twist of a story for Thanksgiving!  Their mouths water as the child in the story tells of the impending preparations for their feast to be shared with many extended family members.  An entertaining addition to your Thanksgiving collection!

Setting the Turkeys Free

Setting the Turkeys Free by W. Nikola-Lisa

What an excellent read aloud to be accompanied by an art project with your children or students!  A boy uses his hands to draw, paint, and decorate his turkeys he has made.  Do they come to life or is it just the young boy envision they are real?!  Of course, there has to be some conflict à enter “FOXY!”  Will the boy be able to save his beloved turkeys from the crafty fox??!!

This Is the Turkey

This is the Turkey by Abby Levine

Here’s another superb read aloud that’s both a cumulative and rhyming book that is always a winner with kids!  Max is enthusiastic with the upcoming Thanksgiving Day dinner preparations.  Like most families on Thanksgiving all the family attending dinner at Max’s house is bringing a scrumptious dish to share!  Max and his sister have been able to help their Mom with organizing their part of the meal, especially the turkey!  A disaster almost ensues but it can’t take away from what makes Thanksgiving really special!

Turk and Runt: A Thanksgiving...

Turk and Runt: A Thanksgiving Comedy by Lisa Wheeler

Turk lives with his brother, Runt, and his parents on Wishbone Farm.  Turk is the favorite with his parents because of all his special talents.  “He’s a dancer, says his Mother.”  “He’s an athlete, says his Father.” “He’s a goner, says his brother, Runt.”  The dilemma is none of them pay attention to what Runt has to say – and they should!  Thanksgiving is approaching and visitors are stopping by Wishbone Farm with one thing in mind—a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner—not a turkey with special talents!

'Twas The Night Before Thanksg... 

‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey

Ah! Here is a much loved book by many people I know!  Here’s another variation of Clement C. Moore’s, The Night Before Christmas!  The students take a class trip to Old Farmer McNugget’s turkey farm with their teacher.  They love the little turkeys and are having fun until a little girl discovers an axe and asks Farmer McNugget what it’s for.  He tells of the turkeys impending demise for Thanksgiving feasts.  As the children “clamor in a chorus of cries” the teacher goes with Farmer McNugget to fetch water from the well to calm the kids down.  When they return the kids are “mysteriously fatter!”  Pilkey has written such a brilliant piece of work that it succeeds with the children!

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