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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Thornhill by Pam Smy

Thornhill, a dark, creepy place for children who had no home. Children were under care of the management put there to protect, who seem oblivious to the needs of the one.  Two girls vastly different in all aspects, sworn enemies from the start. 

The girl keeps to herself and avoids "HER" at all costs. "Her" was recently homed with foster parents has been sent back to live at Thornhill. She intentionally locks herself away from all the others refusing to come out of the room. Keeping a diary of all the grievances from "Her", she sneaks downstairs to the kitchen only at night when everyone is asleep to get food.

The other girl is perfect in every way and all the other children flock around her and are friendly with her.  She spends a lot of time making nice to everyone so that Staff will not know about her evil soul.
Nightly visits to the room upstairs then pounding every night, She listens to Thump, Thump, Thump, on her door.  She is terrified that "Her" will get in.

If you enjoyed Hugo Cabret then you will love the illustrations, and the limited text tucked between.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's SUPER-SOAKING Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton

Who doesn't love squirt guns?  And a Super Soaker?  Yes!  A great story about African American rock scientist Lonnie Johnson and his inventions.  Did you know inventing the Super Soaker was made by accident? It was Lonnie's dream to be engineer.  He took a test and it told him it was  not a good career choice for him.  I'm so glad he didn't listen to that test.  He had a dream and he made that dream come true by never giving up.  Even when he had setbacks with the Super Soaker, he didn't let it stop him from taking his invention and making it a reality.

The illustrations are just wonderful and children can relate to Lonnie's curious nature which helped him create things.  Hopefully this book will be a future Bluestem nominee!

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Stepping Stones, a Refugee Family's Journey

Stepping Stones: a Refugee Family's JourneyBy Margriet Ruus
Artwork by Nazir Ali Badr

Stepping Stones, A Refugee Family's Journey, was displayed as a new book at the library, and I was immediately intrigued by the unusual artwork on its cover.  Five people in single file, created entirely out of stones, carrying bundles (also in stones) on their hunched backs, heads down - a sad and gripping scene.

Don't be fooled into thinking this is a "baby book" because it is shelved in the picture book section. This is the heartbreaking story of a young girl named Rama and her family's difficult and dangerous journey through their war-ravaged homeland, Syria, across the Mediterranean Sea, and eventually to freedom and peace in their new home. What makes this book extra special is the rock-artwork which is filled with powerful human emotion and astonishing detail.

The foreword is an important part of this story, as it explains how the book was conceived, developed, and eventually published.  The artist, Nazir Ali Badr, is a resident of Syria, a country torn apart by civil war.  He remained in his town, Latakia, gathering inspiration for his art by watching thousands of the town's inhabitants flee to safety.

I think everyone, including adults, should read and share this amazing book.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon

Hamster Princess: Harriet the InvincibleHarriet Hamsterbone is a princess who is also a hamster. Unfortunately, her dad the king kind of forgot to invite the evil fairy Ratshade to her christening, so Ratshade cursed the little princess: when she turns twelve, she will prick her finger on a hamster wheel and fall into a deep sleep forever. Harriet's parents are super depressed about the whole curse thing, but they finally tell Harriet about it when she turns ten, and her reaction is... not what they were expecting.

Harriet: So... this is going to happen no matter what, and I can't do anything to stop it, and I am definitely going to fall asleep possibly forever unless some prince kisses me and I wake up?
Parent: Yes.
Parents: ... huh?
Harriet: Nothing can hurt me for two years! The curse needs to keep me alive or it can't put me to sleep forever! I'm invincible, so I'm gonna go have adventures and save people and go cliff diving!

So Harriet goes on adventures for two years with her trusty riding quail, Mumphry, and they save a ton of people and fight monsters! But after her two years are up, will she be able to save her kingdom from the evil fairy Ratshade?

I LOVED THIS BOOK. It was hilarious and the characters were great and I basically wanted to curl up in the book and stay forever. This is perfect for children who love fairy tales, who like animals, and who like funny fantasy adventure stories.

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Monday, September 04, 2017

The Door Before by N. D. Wilson

The Door BeforeJust to state upfront, this is a prequel to the 100 Cupboards series. The heroine, Hyacinth Smith, can see things others miss.  She also has a special connection with dogs.  Her gift is summoning growth out of living things, which is how she discovers she can open doors into other worlds.  She discovers Caleb and Modecai Westmore, who have entered into our world from Hylfing as part of their firght with Nimiane the witch (she is an undying witch.  Yikes!).  Together Hyacinth and the boys must fight Nimiane to save each other's world.

So after reading this, I found out I probably should have read the series first.  This book would have made more sense then.  As I understand it, the prequel brings together the author's two series:  100 Cupboards triliogy and Ashtown Burials.  My suggestions would be to read those two series first before you read this one.  It will probably help you understand the story so much more than I did.  But hey, now I have two more series to add to my "must-read" list!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Quest To the Uncharted Lands by Jaleigh Johnson

The Quest to the Uncharted LandsIn this adventure, the reader meets Stella Glass, a determined young lady who will do anything to be with her parents.  Her well known parents are the healers on the Iron Glory, a ship that will travel from Solace to the world on that side of the mountains.  Their healing skills will be tested more than once  Stella is not permitted to go, so she creates a diversion.  As her smoke bombs go off, she gets on the ship as a stowaway.  Once she is sure that no one will discover her hiding spot, she sees Cyrus, a boy who is glowing white hot like heated metal. 

 Cyrus lives in Kovall, the city on the other side of the mountains.  He visited Solace and got separated from his fellow Kovallian travelers.  All he wants to do is get home.  So, he stows away on the Iron Glory.  Cyrus wants to use his powers to make sure the ship arrives safely in Kovall.  Stella is just starting to trust him a little when a sinister Kovallian person, the Faceless Man, tries to make the ship crash.  When he finally succeeds, Stella must trust her new friendship with Cyrus and get help before the Faceless Man takes more lives. 

Previously, I had shared my love for book one, The Mark of the Dragonfly by this author.  The second book, The Secrets of Solace, was just as full of adventure.  Then, Ms. Johnson introduced another set of believable, courageous characters in Quest To the Uncharted Lands.  These books are not exactly a series, however, the characters and their worlds do connect.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Ashes to Asheville by Sarah Dooley

Ashes to AshevilleThe title says is all: Ashes to Asheville. In this wonderful story, Fella, (short for Olivia) and her teenage sister Zany (Zoey Grace), are on a secret but poorly planned mission to bring the ashes of their mother, Mama Lacy, to her favorite place in the world, Asheville, North Carolina.  Their plan is very simple, and it should work, but many unexpected things happen along the way to slow them down.  Why the secrecy?  After Mama Lacy passed away, their other mother, Mama Shannon, lost custody of Fella because of the laws of their state and the wishes of Lacy's wealthy mother, Mrs. Madison.  Neither Mama Shannon nor Mrs. Madison want Lacy's ashes scattered, but Fella and her sister know it's the right thing to do to honor their mother's last request.

This book deals with some very sensitive subjects (death of a parent, same-sex marriage, and the break-up of a family) in a very realistic, powerful, but gentle way.  Your heart will break with Fella and Zoey as they begin to come to terms with the loss of their mother, but you will also laugh out loud when the two get into arguments as only sisters can.

In the end, everyone is forced to face each other and get their true feelings out in the open.  Lessons are learned about communications, honesty, and what it truly means to be a family, no matter its make-up.

If you are looking for a realistic fiction book that will have you thinking about it long after you've read the last page, this book is for you.  I hope you enjoy it.


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