Category Archives: author

Where The Heart Is by Billie Letts

Do you have this too?
Sometimes I’m searching for a new book to start reading, and I’ll scan one; read the jacket flaps of another… But they don’t quite appeal. Then suddenly you see one and you just know that’s the book you will spend the next few days or weeks with.

Where The Heart Is by Billie Letts is a fantastic (summer) read. I liked the cover, the short content sounded just right and once I start, I could not put this book down. Amazing that this is a first novel!
I loved everything about it: the premise of a teen pregnancy, the girl dumped by her boyfriend at Walmart; the way her life unfolds; the support characters; the realistic dialogue. I was ‘there’ with her all the way. And reluctant to let go when I finished the last page.

And now, when I just googled the author’s name to see what else she write, I am shocked to find out that she passed away 3 days ago… just while I was engrossed in her story. What a shame. But I will go to my library to look for the three other novels she published, including “The Honk and Holler Opening Soon” (1998) and “Shoot the Moon” (2004). Her husband, it turns out, wrote ‘August: Osage County‘. 

Book Review: The Other Author Arthur

The Other Author Arthur, by Sheree Fitch
It might be because I love word play that I like this early reader so much. How brilliant is it to come up with this idea: an author named Arthur is about to visit an elementary school. The children are all excited.
The author, however, wished he could spend the day writing.
Meanwhile, a furnace repair man also named Arthur would love nothing better but to share stories with the students.
Everyone is happy when the two Arthurs are accidently switched, allowing one to tell stories and the other one to write in the furnace room!
This comedy of errors and mistaken identity brings a day of great stories for the children. Writing, telling our own stories, and the family feel of a small elementary school are themes beneath this farcical adventure. Grades 2-4. I hope, for your sake, that it is still in print.
A children’s chapter book illustrated by Jill Quinn.
Pottersfield Press, now distributed by Nimbus
ISBN-10 1-895900-20-4
Author’s website:

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

When Billie Jo is just fourteen she endures heart-wrenching ordeals that no child should have to face. The quiet strength she displays while dealing with unspeakable loss is as surprising as it is inspiring.

Written in free verse, this Newbery Award winning story is set in the heart of the Great Depression. It chronicles Oklahoma’s staggering dust storms, and the environmental as well as emotional turmoil they leave in their path. An unforgettable tribute to hope and inner strength.

I completely fell in love with the language of this book. Not all Newbery books are books that I love, although most of them are. And that medal on the cover always makes me want to read the book, just to see why the judges felt it was worthy. Out of The Dust is powerfully written and deserves this recognition. It made me want to read all the free verse novels I could get my hands on. Love the genre. Karen Hesse says more with fewer words. Read it!

Special picture books: GIFT DAYS and ONE HEN and MIMI’S VILLAGE

 One Hen, the story of micro lending and Mimi’s Village, And How Basic Health Care Transformed It, both by Katie Smith Milway. These large, hardcover picture books for middle school share important global issues such as health care, micro loans and environmental awareness. One Hen, in particular, shows how one egg can lead to one chicken, to more eggs and eventually to food and income for an entire village. Each book is based on a real person or event. The books give information on how you can help to make a difference in the world.

These titles are part of an inspiring series called Citizen Kid. Each title, such as If The World Were A Village, explains an important aspect of global awareness, be it health care, wildlife preservation or clean water. In addition to a good story, each book gives information on organizations you can join to help others. The website tied to these books allows children to take action beyond the books: has online interviews, videos and activities that complement the books.
ISBN: 978-155453-028-1

Teaching guides:

Gift Days by Kari-Lynn Winters, is a new picture book for ages 8 up. This is the touching story of Nassali who longs to learn to read and write like her brother, Baaba. But since her mother’s death, Nassali is responsible for looking after her younger siblings and running the household. There is no time for books and learning. But one day she wakes up to discover that her chores have already been done. It is her first gift day. From that day on, once a week, Baaba gives Nassali the gift of time so that she can pursue her dream of an education, just as her mother would have wanted. The book itself is also raising money for the charity. Through the organization I am a Girl, which focuses on education and women’s rights, money has been raised to send girls to school in Uganda for a full year.
Check out:

ISBN-10 1554551927; ISBN-13 9781554551927

Where River Turns to Sky

Where River Turns to Sky, a novel by Gregg Kleiner, HarperCollins

Weaving a tale of immense power in his magical voice, Kleiner tells the story of a man determined to realize an improbable dream after the death of his best friend. Eighty-year-old George Castor promised he would never let his best friend Ralph die alone at the Silver Gardens Nursing Home — but Ralph passed on while George was away fishing. Distraught, guilt-stricken and seeking redemption, George buys a broken-down mansion in  Oregon, paints it fire-engine red, and begins searching for other old folks to share it with him. Because George has made a new promise that will alter the course of the rest of his life. And, with the help of a miraculous old woman named Grace, he assembles a ragtag bunch of aging strangers, determined to make their last days on earth–and his own–an adventure.

I discovered this book while living in Oregon and enjoyed the humor. A great read if you need a relaxing summer book. Would make a fun movie, too!

Author’s website:

Sticks by Joan Bauer

Sticks, Joan Bauer

While I have enjoyed most of Joan Bauer’s books (Hope Was Here, Looking for Alaska, Almost Famous and more) I wasn’t sure when someone recently gave me a copy of Sticks.
Cover? Not that great…
Short content? Said it was about pool and math.
I am not into pool.
And I don’t like math.
But Newbery Award winning author Joan Bauer spins a great tale. Her words, her language drew me right in. I came to care for Mickey. And his motley crew of friends.
They became real. I wanted to know more. What would happen.
I couldn’t put the book down.
One of those wonderful books where you “see the movie in your head” as you read. Where you do want to know how it ends, but you don’t want the ending to come. Which it always does.
OK, maybe it was just a tiny bit predictable. I kept wondering if all would really end well. But the ride was wonderful.
This is a book that especially boys will like. A story about tough kids in a small town. 5th Graders. But there’s just enough girl to make it a story for them, too. A good book for anyone, really. If she’d made it a 7th grader it would have worked too, and more kids would possibly read it.
What intrigued me most is how Joan Bauer weaves playing pool and math together effortlessly. Who knew that pool can be based on math? It sure sounds plausible. Throw in a science project, a bully, a truck, and you have great ingredients.  Let Joan Bauer tell the story and you have… a plain good book you should read.

Then follow up, if you are a teacher, with her teaching guide:

  • ISBN 13: 9780142404287ISBN 10: 0142404284

Liebster Award

How fun to discover that teacher Kemble Flynn has nominated my Book Blog for the Liebster Award. Liebster means ‘favorite’ so I am flattered that Kemble likes my book reviews!

Check out her blog here:

And the rules are:
1. Post 11 random things about yourself.
2. Answer the questions the nominator set for you.
3. Create 11 questions for your nominees.
4. choose 11 other blogs with fewer than 200 followers to nominate and link them to your post.
5. No tag backs, but please leave a comment on this post if you were nominated so I can learn more about you and see who you nominate.
Let’s see if I am tech savvy enough to do all this…
1. 11 random things:
• I love reading
• I write books for children
• I love dark chocolate 
• I like to hike
• I don’t like winters
• I like to knit
• I have moved 24 times
• I met the Queen of England
• I don’t watch much TV
• I like dogs but am not crazy about cats
• I can count to 11!
2.  Questions to the nominees:
1.  What book would you recommend reading?
     Any books posted on my blog!
2.  What song makes you smile?
     Yesterday by the Beatles
3.  The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?
     Beatles, of course!
4.  What is your favourite movie?
5.  Do you have any pets?
     Do 47 chickens count?
6.  What has been the most amazing thing you have seen?
     The birth of my children.
7.  What is your favourite season?  Why?
     Summer. I love sandals and sunshine.
8.  What is your favourite saying/quote?
     No worries!
9.  What is your favourite word in the english language?
     Love. Or ‘chocolate’.
10.  What is your favourite TV show?
    That’s an oxymoron as far as I am concerned.
11.  If I came to visit, what restaurant would your recommend in your city?
   The Tree House, it’s an experience.
3. 11 questions for my nominees:
1. What’s a favorite book now?
2. What was a favorite book as a child?
3. Who’s one of your favorite authors? 
4. What’s the most amazing country you have visited?
5. How many places have you lived?
6. What’s your favorite food?
7. What advise do you have for new parents?
8. What’s your favorite color?
9. Sunrise or sunset?
10. Sun or snow?
11. Favorite internet site?

My nominees:

Go and Come Back

Go and Come Back by Joan Abelove

One of the reasons I love being part of a YA book group, is that it sometimes makes me read a book I would not necessarily choose myself. Go and Come Back is the perfect example. The cover is dark and unattractive. I don’t think I would have picked it up. But when my wonderful YA book group in Eugene, Oregon decided to read it, I bought a copy. I have treasured it ever since.

In this multi-award-winning novel, two female American anthropologists come to stay in a jungle village near the Amazon. The villagers are initially skeptical, especially teenaged Alicia. But as the months go on, Alicia finds herself drawn in, even becoming friends with one of the women.

Oddly, this is not a YA novel I would easily recommend to any child. But as a writer I am fascinated with how well it is written. The voice of a child in Peru is totally authentic. The book gives a glimpse into a foreign culture, which includes daily and social habits with which I was not at all familiar. I found it an intriguing story, well written and captivating. has this information about the author:

Joan Abelove is an American writer of young adult novels. She attended Barnard College and has a Ph.D in cultural anthropology from the City University of New York. She spent two years in the jungles of Peru as part of her doctoral research and used the experience as background for her first novel, Go and Come Back (1998). Go and Come Back earned numerous awards and citations, including a “Best Books for Young Adults” selection of the American Library Association and “Book Prize Finalist” selection of the Los Angeles Times. she also wrote Saying it Out Loud. She is also in a critique group with Gail Carson Levine, writer of “Ella Enchanted” and “Writing Magic”, a guide for child authors who wish to make their stories better. Joan Abelove now lives in New York city with her husband and son.

ISBN: 0141306947 (ISBN13: 9780141306940)

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

I am in awe of the fact that a writer, Gail Carson Levine, can take a well known, ancient fairy tale, and give it a life of its own. Who knew that Cinderella, the shallow character from a short story, could have and would have such depth, such an amazing tale to tell!

At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the “gift” of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been burdened by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: “Instead of making me docile, Lucinda’s curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally.”
When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella’s life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and spunky nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way. Yes, there is a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and a happily ever after, but this is the most remarkable, delightful, and profound version of Cinderella you’ll ever read.

“Gail Carson Levine’s examination of traditional female roles in fairy tales takes some satisfying twists and deviations from the original. Ella is bound by obedience against her will, and takes matters in her own hands with ambition and verve. Her relationship with the prince is balanced and based on humor and mutual respect; in fact, it is she who ultimately rescues him. Ella Enchanted has won many well-deserved awards, including a Newbery Honor.”

Paperback, 240 pages, Scholastic Books
ISBN 0590920685 (ISBN13: 9780590920681)

Discussion Guide for Gr 3-5 and Gr 6-8: