#IMWAYR August 22, 2016

It's time for #IMWAYR again. Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers host this event where readers and writers of kid lit get together to talk about what they have been reading. I love to read everyone's posts and beware, if you start, it can get to be addictive and expensive. 

Aside from reading, I almost have the roses under control. I've got the scars to prove it. The people who lived in this house before we moved here last fall loved roses and rhododendrons. The roses surround the yard: a thicket to keep out intruders as though the cement fence isn't enough. In my last garden I had one rose and no rhododendrons. Roses are just too fussy. That said, there is something magical about pruning and deadheading them. It is akin to weeding the library. It seems like the harder I prune, the more it inspires new growth in leaves and blooms. The plants end up looking healthier than they were before.

It's been hot this week. Really hot for here in Vancouver, BC. The weather forecast is for another week of this at least. I'm almost ready to call on the rain gods to return. It's been too hot to do much more than read, but I haven't really been able to settle in to focus. Still, I seem to have read more than I realized. 


Still a Work in Progress by Jo Knowles

4 stars
I'm not quite sure how to respond to this novel. I started it one day and couldn't put it down till I was done. Knowles writes with such authenticity it feels like these characters and their experiences are real. Truth is revealed in her words. This story is told from the point of view of Noah, whose sister, Emma, has an eating disorder. Because of this, and that it is also loaded with humour in spite of the serious topic, it's the kind of book guys will be able to relate to.

Booked by Kwame Alexander

3 stars
I liked this book well enough but not as much as Alexander's first one. Eighth grade is hard enough without your parents splitting up. Nick lives for soccer and TV and hates to read. He wants April to be his girlfriend, but isn't quite brave enough to make the first move. Dan and Dean, two bullies harass him. His academic father has unrealistic expectations. Thankfully, his best friend and fellow soccer enthusiast, Colby, has his back in all things.

I appreciated that Nick has strong compassionate adults as teachers and parents. With their support he just might survive the year, and learn to enjoy reading. This book highlights why schools need school libraries and teacher librarians!

A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman

4 stars
Veda is a gifted Bharatanatyam dancer just on the cusp of achieving professional acclaim. Then a tragic accident results in her losing her foot. She is fortunate to have excellent care and ends up with a prosthetic leg that enables her to continue to dance. However, she has to leave the world of competitive Bharatanatyam dance and relearn how to connect with this dance at a more spiritual and emotional level. Along the way she learns to be more open and accepting of others. She also experiences her first infatuation and romance.
I enjoyed this book written in verse. It is beautifully written, philosophical and inspiring. I wanted desperately to be able to put it in the hands of one of my grade seven book club members who is also a gifted dancer.
The story is set in India. The country's culture of dance is integral to the plot. Aside from this, there isn't much description of place, which I would have liked to see more of.

2 stars
The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I abandoned this last week almost done. I am obviously not the target demographic for it, but it was just too painful to continue listening. I came to dread it. I may try to get to it again since I only have a couple more hours till it is complete, but so far, I'm done with it. 

4 stars
Maxi's Secret: or what you can learn from a dog by Lynn Plourde

I just finished this one Sunday afternoon. I'm in the process of writing a blog post about it to publish later this week. It was delightful and heart wrenching and I am not even a big fan of dogs. 


Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? (Tales from Deckawoo Drive #3)
by Kate DiCamillo & Chris Van Dusen (Illustrations)

5 stars
You know those books that lift your heart into the sky and let it soar? This is one of those.
Maybe it is because I am an older woman (ok 63 isn't that old and hopefully not as old as Baby and Eugenia) and I am on the cusp of a new way of being in the world. But really I think there is a universal message in this book about finding out who you are and sharing it with the world that can't be repeated often enough. 
If I wasn't already an unadulterated Kate DiCamillo fan, I sure would be after this one. 


Hippopotamister by John Green

4 stars
Fabulous illustrations filled with lots of humorous fun will make this graphic story a hit for younger kids. The zoo Red Panda and Hippopotamus live in is falling apart. No one visits and the animals are in terrible shape. Red Panda has gone off to work in the real world and comes back to tell Hippopotamus all about it. Eventually Hippopotamus, becomes Hippopotamister and goes to join him. Unfortunately all of the jobs that they try out end up in disaster, especially for Red Panda. Eventually Hippopotamus returns to the zoo while Red Panda stays outside. However all of the things that Hippopotamus has tackled in the outside world have given him the skills to start to work on the zoo and it's inhabitants, and it all works out in the end.
My only quibble is with the whole idea of a zoo in the first place.

The Storm by Akiko Miyakoshi

3 stars
I don't think Bluefire Reader does credit to the quality of Miyakoshi's illustrations. They came across as grainy and unfocused. In spite of this, I am awed by the quality of the art in this simple story of a boy looking forward to going to the beach when a massive storm blows in over night. Miyakoshi captures the violence of the storm and the boy's worry in her images. I was hoping to find a copy of this book at our local library, but alas, all I could find was The Tea Party in the Woods. I'm definitely going to read it. 


Why We Live Where We Live by Kira Vermond & Julie McLaughlin (Illustrations)

3 stars
I like the big picture scope of this book. It begins with information about why our planet is perfect for us. The answer to why we live where we live includes many different aspects including climate, water access, language, economics and family just to start. 

However, I wasn't happy to read this part in the section on immigration. The passage prior is talking about how some countries want people to come. Then there is this:

"A big country needs people to fill it up.
This happened in Canada more than 100 years ago, when the government offered Europeans 160 acres. (65 ha) free farmland in the massive country if they'd hop a (free) ship and come over. It worked. By 1910, Canada's population had doubled."
Notice that there is no mention that that free farmland was actually territory taken from numerous indigenous peoples whose children then ended up in residential schools?

Zak's Safari: A Story about Donor-Conceived Kids of Two-Mom Families by Christy Tyner & Ciaee (Illustrator)

3 stars
Zak's Safari is chock full of great information on how to explain to your children that they are donor conceived. Zak is a loveable kid who lets readers know how he came to be, but also shows us that he lives a pretty ordinary love filled life. I really enjoyed it, but wish the quality of the print was better. It doesn't do Ciaee's illustrations justice.


I'm listening to The Secret Place by Tana French. I am enjoying the sections from the detective's perspective better than that of the teenage girls. I'm reading Clara Humble and the Not-So-Super Powers by Anna Humphrey and Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart. 

I've got this pile from the library so one of these will be next. 

#IMWAYR August 15, 2016

Oh Monday, I'm so glad you are here. There has been blog writing and soon there will be blog reading! Hurrah for Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers who host this weekly event. If you are interested in learning more about kidlit, then this is your ticket to ride!

I have not been reading enough text. I've been house cleaning. I've been dealing with the boxes of peaches we brought home from the Okanagan. Numerous jars of peaches have been canned. I made peach salsa for the first time - both fresh and canned. Fresh is best, but what are you going to do in February if you don't can some? 

The garden looks like a jungle has erupted while my back was turned. I'm not looking forward to scrabbling in the dirt amidst the roses next week. It's too hot to wear armor.

I have been trying to get my netgalley account under control. For some reason I had books on my list that I read and reviewed but didn't leave feedback for. This meant I had to find all those draft reviews here on this blog, clean them up, and publish them. So while I got a lot of blog posts complete, my reading life doesn't quite compare.

It is just pure happenstance that three of the books I read this week feature 
Qin Leng as illustrator. She is a remarkably gifted artist. Go check out her work. I'll wait. 


 Happy Birthday Alice Babette by Monica Kulling & Qin Leng (illustrator)

4 stars
This book is delightfully charming. It is an imaginary vignette from the life of Alice B Toklas and Gertrude Stein. Alice wakes up on her birthday expecting a surprise, but it appears that Gertrude has forgotten. When she heads off for a walk through the streets of Paris, Gertrude gets to work to surprise Alice by cooking her favourite foods and writing her a special poem. Unfortunately, as the food is cooking, Gertrude gets lost in her poetry writing and the meal ends in a disaster. 

Qin Leng's beautiful watercolour illustrations capture the essence of Paris and the characters of the two women.

I only wish that their relationship was more fully acknowledged. Kulling refers to them as friends. Even in the endnotes wherein she says they lived together in Paris for forty years, provide no additional information. I don't understand this and question why she didn't refer to them as spouses or even partners.

Dear Baobab by Cheryl Foggo & Qin Leng (illustrator)

4 stars
Maiko has had to leave his home somewhere in Africa to come and live with his Aunt and Uncle in what looks to be North America somewhere. (I assume Canada since both the author and illustrator live here)

He has a lot of challenges: grieving for his dead parents, going to a new school and dealing with bullying, loss of his community and especially the baobab tree at its heart. When he discovers the young spruce by his new house is the same age as him, he connects to it and confides his troubles to it.
When the tree must be cut down because of its proximity to the house, Maiko does what he can to save it. When this doesn't work, he tries to run away.
I like that Maiko's aunt and uncle are kind and loving and ready to listen and act on Maiko's concerns once he articulates them.
Qin Leng's digitally coloured illustrations articulate the difference between where Maiko lived in Africa, and where he is now. I love how she captures emotions in the characters' faces and body language.

The problem with this book is that there is a lot of text on the pages. This will dissuade many younger readers. However, because the book portrays the experience of a young immigrant to our country, it is an important title to share with readers of all ages. It would make a good read aloud as part of a family or immigration unit.

A portion of the proceeds from this book go to a foundation that supports children like Maiko around the world.

Magic Words: From the Ancient Oral Tradition of the Inuit by Edward Field (Translator), Mike Blanc (Illustrations)

1 star
I got this from Netgalley. I was taken by the illustrations. Honest, they are spectacular. 

It's just that I have so many reservations about this book now that I have read it. 
First, It is both written, translated and illustrated by white men. 
I have to wonder why there was no Inuit input. Why not an Inuit illustrator? 
What this seems to be is essentially cultural appropriation. 
I wouldn't purchase it for my library. 


Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

3 stars
Emily Jenkins did a fine job narrating this book. There are some interesting things going on in this story, but it is also flawed. Had it not been an audiobook, I would have turned to the last few pages to see if it was going to be worth it. 

The books begins with a young girl being bullied by a new student at the town school. 
I am not a fan of bullying books, so that was its first strike against it. As I got into it, I was sorry to see no real character development of Betty, the mean girl. There was not even a hint as to how she had become this person. On top of this, I'm just not sure I could get readers at our school really interested I this kind of book. It's historical, which isn't a problem, but I'm not sure they would be able to connect to these characters and experiences. 

Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: Too Much Good Luck by Ellen Potter and Qin Leng

5 stars
I adore Piper Green. I wish I could have had a daughter just like her. Hopefully one of my sons will some day reproduce and have a daughter with her character. If they have a girl, I will advocate for calling her Piper. Perhaps I will advocate for Piper no matter the gender!

In this tale, what starts out as a good day, soon goes bad when Piper's tooth comes out in her cinnamon bun on her way to school. When she gets there she discovers the class rabbit is missing. This is because a new girl, Camilla, is starting on the next day and is allergic to bunnies. Piper ends up doing something nasty to Camilla. Thankfully there are responsible adults around to help Piper repair the damage and do the right thing. 


I put aside For Today I Am A Boy, since I can only deal with one bullying book at a time. I'm nearing the end of One Native Life, but still savouring it and reading it in small chunks. I checked my Netgalley account and discovered I had Still A Work in Progress by Jo Knowles available so I'm almost finished that. I'm listening to The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. I'm having a hard time with it, probably because I'm not a huge fan of fantasy to start with, I'm not into these star crossed lover themes, and I can already anticipate where the story is going. 


Since I am finished canning peaches, I hope to have more time for actual reading next week. I’ve got quite the pile waiting. I need to get back to reading from my #MustReadin2016 list. I know that Carrie Gelson is going to put out a call for an update soon. Luckily I am still ahead of schedule there!

How has your week been?