Monday, May 16, 2011

I Can Breathe Again...For Now

It's been awhile since my last post, and I vowed not to let this happen, but how was I to know the upheaval that would be my life over the last month.  This will be a non-bookish post, as I haven't done much of that lately either, so it's up to you if you continue to read or not.

Life is getting back to some kind of normal, although that may change again soon.  As of today, we have completed all of our adoption training, turned in all of our paperwork, and we have our fire & health inspections on Sunday.  After that, we just wait!  Now, I'm not a patient person, which is why we're done with it all, because I was determined not to drag this out.  If we're going to wait, it's going to be on a baby, not the fact that we couldn't get the training or paperwork taken care of.

I'll tell you that the most stressful part of this whole thing has been the home study.  We are a simple couple, don't live in an elaborate house, and we raise horses.  Would the agency want someone like us?  Would they not want to place a child in our home because it's not high dollar?  You can't even imagine the thoughts that went through my head before the visit.  What was I worried about?  I just had to get over myself and get through it.  They weren't looking for perfect couples, just couples who would love a child.  Well, that's us!  We got the house ready and got through it...what a relief when it was over!  I thought you'd like to see some pictures of the nursery so far...

Curtain that my mom made

Crib sheet my grandmother made

Shelf that I painted and hubby hung for me

We painted the room a pale yellow and the material is mostly browns with yellows, pinks and blues, so it's gender neutral, since we won't know the sex of the baby until we get a phone call.  We don't have a preference one way or the other, so we wanted something that would work either way.  It's called Baby Animal Talk and has baby farm animals on it.
We did have to tell the agency what kind of a child we would like, race, age, etc.  Our hope is for a newborn, but we told them that if the infant had a toddler aged brother or sister, we wouldn't want to split them up.  Our family of 2 will grow to 3 or 4 in an instant.  Just the thought makes me nervous and excited at the same time!

I'm ready to start blogging again, now that the training and paperwork are over.  Yes, coupled with the end of the school year, waiting for state test results and adoption jitters, it's going to be sporadic, but I need it.  Blogging is therapeutic for me, the other bloggers my sanctuary in a sometimes crazy, hectic life.  I'm thankful to be part of such a welcoming, loving community.

I can breathe again, for least until the phone call comes.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Blog Tour - Broomsticks

Today I bring you 2 authors.  Sean McHugh and Katie McHugh Parker are the co-authors of Broomsticks.  They were gracious enough to stop by today and tell you the back story of the book and a little about themselves.  Check back next week for my review of Broomsticks.  Thanks to Diversion Press for allowing me the opportunity to host these authors and review their books.

Sean McHugh was born and raised in Maysville, Kentucky. He graduated cum laude from Morehead State University with a BA in Art. He lived in Lexington, Kentucky for ten years where he was the head writer and cartoonist for the Rock-A-Billy Cafe's Kid's Club Newsletter. In 2000, he moved to Florida and has since been working as a caricature artist at Walt Disney World.   You can find him online at

Katie McHugh Parker was also born and raised in Maysville, Kentucky and graduated from Morehead State University with a BA in Elementary Education and a Masters in Elementary Guidance Counseling. She has been teaching at St. Patrick's School since 1997. She resides in Maysville with her husband Ricky and daughter Sophia. You can find her online at

Broomsticks was originally conceived as a comic strip that I created in the mid-90s. Since childhood, I knew I wanted to be a cartoonist. I was obsessed with Peanuts by the great Charles M. Schulz and I equally loved the classic TV series, Bewitched. So, I took some inspiration from two of my favorite things, mixed with personal experiences and friendships and POOF!!! Broomsticks was born!

I submitted the comic strip to all the major newspaper syndicates but it was never published. I did, however, receive a lot of positive feedback from some of the editors. Two, in particular, said they liked it but thought it would work better as a children's book.

I had written several children's stories by that time. Along with my Charles Schulz dream, I also dreamed of being L. Frank Baum. I even took a children's writing class taught by Marcia Thorton Jones and Debbie Dadey, the authors of The Bailey School kids series.

Still, I had never tackled a chapter book before. I had worked with a co-writer before on a project and really enjoyed it. But Stamp & Pocky, the lead characters, were my babies. I couldn't just trust anyone with my babies! There was only one person I knew who had a great gift for writing, shared my love for fantasy and comedy, and who I could trust with my babies!

My niece, Katie McHugh Parker, always had a talent for writing and a love for children's literature. She was very excited when I asked her to co-author Broomsticks. Everything was falling into place. Unfortunately, I had just moved to Florida the same year that we wrote the first book. So, we had a long-distance partnership. There were a lot of phone calls and letter writing between us.

It worked out even better than I imagined. Katie and I work very well together. I would usually come up with the plot and storyline. I'd then break them up into chapters. Katie would work on half the chapters and I'd work on the other half. Then we would send each other our chapters to review. I write my chapters in script form. Katie then suggests changes and adds her beautiful narratives to my chapters. She then sends me her chapters and I add my suggestions to hers. It worked beautifully. If we do edit each other, it usually consists of Katie telling me that a nine-year-old wouldn't say that, or me telling Katie that Stamp wouldn't say that. I admit, I'm rather parentally protective over the two main characters and Katie respects that. The personalities of Stamp & Pocky were established early on in the comic strip, but there were no supporting characters in the strip. So, Katie co-created all of the characters in the supporting cast. Once our story is finished, Katie types it, and I do the artwork. It works like...magic!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Blog Tour: Flip

This has been a month for blog tours and I am pleased to be working with yet another wonderful author, as he tours the blogosphere.  Please help me welcome, Martyn Bedford, author of Flip, to the blog today.

Martyn Bedford talks about M.C. Escher's Connection to Flip

Since I first came across M.C. Escher’s work, I’ve been a fan. I love the way his optical illusions draw you in, making you see the picture first one way then another, until the layers of sense and interpretation pile up.

One of my favourites is “Hand with Globe”, in which a bearded man with an intense expression is gazing at his reflection in a glass sphere. We see the hand holding the sphere but otherwise everything else in the picture is contained in the surface of the glass and, as a result, appears to be trapped inside.

There’s the man, of course, as well as the room he’s sitting in, with its chairs and bookshelves, but everything is distorted by the fish-eye curvature of the glass so that, in fact, the picture takes on the appearance of a surrealist work. I had a post-card sized print of this picture on my wall for years and, later, on my writing desk.

It chimes with one of the ideas I wanted to explore in FLIP – this notion that if we look at (or inside) ourselves closely enough, we begin to see ourselves differently. Who are we, really? Are we actually more interesting, more complex, more strange than we – and others – assume? Are we forced by the conventions of society to present a false image to the world which distorts the “true” us trapped inside?

Similarly, “Drawing Hands”, another of Escher’s better known works, has long been a favourite. Two hands in the final stages of sketching one another, each hand simultaneously creating the hand which creates it . . . it’s a wonderfully impossible puzzle. And if we assume they are the right and left hands of the same artist then it has something to say, too, about the interplay and interdependence of the right and left sides of the brain in creating works of art. This interests me very much as a writer.

In relation to FLIP, the image informs another of the novel’s themes, as Alex’s mind and Philip’s body become increasingly intertwined until it’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. Is this hybrid Alex-Flip actually two separate boys or are the two slowly merging into one and, if so, how can Alex ever break free?

About the Book:  One December night, 14-year-old Alex goes to  bed. He wakes up to  find himself in the wrong bedroom, in an unfamiliar house, in a different part of the country, and it's the middle of June. Six months have disappeared overnight. The family at the breakfast table are total strangers.And when he looks in the mirror, another boy's face stares back at him.  A boy named Flip. Unless Alex finds out what's happened and how to get back to his own life,  he may be trapped forever inside a body that belongs to someone else.  Questions of identity, the will to survive, and what you're willing to sacrifice to be alive make this extraordinary book impossible to put down.

Here are the other stops on the blog tour, if you'd like to go back and visit them:


Monday, April 18th

Tuesday, April 19th
Cracking the Cover 

Wednesday, April 20th

Thursday, April 21st
The Children’s Book Review 

Friday, April 22nd
Random Acts of Reading 

I have been given 3 copies of Flip to give away to 3 of my readers.  Please let me know in the comments if you would like to have one and will choose the winners on Friday, April 29th.  You can enter until Thursday, April 28th at midnight CST.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blog Tour: Halloween Kentucky Style

I am pleased to be partnering with a new to me publishing company, Diversion Press, for some blog tours this month and next.  Hopefully it's the start of a great relationship!  Today's guest is Charles Suddeth, author of the book, Halloween Kentucky Style.

Although he was born in Indiana and grew up in Michigan, he has spent most of his life in Kentucky. He lives in Louisville with his two cats, Binks and Wendy (Wendy says it should be Wendy and Binks). He is a graduate of Michigan State University. He has also done graduate work at MSU, Spalding University, and the University of Louisville. He is a member of Green River Writers of Louisville, a PAL member of SCBWI (children’s books writers and illustrators), and is active in the Midsouth division (Kentucky and Tennessee).

About Halloween Kentucky Style:  For Halloween 1959, best friends Mike and Timmy try to scare their cousins, Alice and Rose. The trick’s on them when a homeless man and their younger neighbor team up to give them a Halloween scare that they will never forget! It’s Halloween Kentucky Style!

Stats on Halloween Kentucky Style:

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Diversion Press, Inc. (October 15, 2010)
  • Language: English

For today's tour stop, I asked Charles to tell us the back story of Halloween Kentucky Style.  Here is what he had to say:

The Birth of Halloween Kentucky Style

I write for only one reason. Joy! I love writing stories, and I want kids to love reading. Once reading becomes fun, they will read more and read better and exercise their minds. Halloween is my favorite holiday. It’s dark and scary so thoroughly mixed up with fun and silly that you can’t tell one from the other. And you don’t want to.

“Halloween Kentucky Style” is not true but….Some of the people, places, and events bear ghostly resemblances to some real ones. And horses? While I live in the suburbs, and I’m not a horse person, I love the critters. And what would a story taking place in Kentucky be without them? 1959? It was a simpler time. And Halloween 1959 fell on Saturday, which is the perfect day for Halloween because school is out. Boo!

Charles Suddeth

I hope that you will visit the other stops on Charles' tour and look for more Diversion Press tour stops and authors on the blog, in the future.

Diversion Press April 25
Buried in Books April 26

Tales from the Bayou May 3

Outrageously Wonderful Literature From the Middle Grades  May 10

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Blog Tour: Fifo "50 States"

I am pleased to be participating in another Pump Up Your Book Promotion's Blog Tour.

Author:  Hayley Rose
Review Copy Provided by:  author

About the Book:  Fifo s been bitten by the travel bug! Digging up diamonds in Arkansas, looking for fossils in Kansas, enjoying a delicious bowl of gumbo in Louisiana, and even seeing a Broadway show in New York. America is an exiting place! In Fifo s second book, told in rhyme, Fifo dreams about visiting all 50 states. A colorful reference-like book, Fifo discovers the wonders each state has to offer. He learns along the way each state s capital, shape, flag, motto, and much, much more. The possibilities are endless! So, come along with Fifo and you ll soon discover the beauty of America one state to another.  

My Thoughts:  What a great way to share facts about the 50 states!  Fifo the Bear takes children on an alphabetical field trip through each state in the United States.  Each state is described, through poetry, with references to state flowers, mottos, capitals, etc.  In the border of the page is the name of the state as well as the motto.  The illustrations give even more information about each state.  They show the shape of the state, the state flag, and other pictures that are indicative of that particular state.

I can definitely see this book being used in the classroom.  Young children want to learn about the states, but there aren't many books out there that are kid-friendly.  Hayley Rose has solved that problem along with her illustrator, Jessie Orlet.  Kids will love this book because of the rhyme and vivid pictures.  There is also a pattern to each page that young children can pick up on:  "It's a wonderful place to visit, I'd like to go there, wouldn't you?"  Even if they were unable to read all of the other words, they would catch on to the last lines quickly and be able to read along. 

There are so many facts loaded in the pages of the books, that it is a goldmine for the child traveler!  He or she, along with Fifo, will learn many things about the state they live in along with all the other states in the US.  Kudos to Hayley Rose and her book; it's a winner!

"Waiting On" Wednesday - Moonglass

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:


By Jessi Kirby
Publication Date:  May 3rd 2011 by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

from Goodreads:

From Jessi Kirby, a debut novel about confronting the past in order to move ahead.

I read once that water is a symbol for emotions. And for a while now, I've thought maybe my mother drowned in both.

Anna's life is upended when her father accepts a job transfer the summer before her junior year. It's bad enough that she has to leave her friends and her life behind, but her dad is moving them to the beach where her parents first met and fell in love- a place awash in memories that Anna would just as soon leave under the surface.
While life on the beach is pretty great, with ocean views and one adorable lifeguard in particular, there are also family secrets that were buried along the shore years ago. And the ebb and flow of the ocean's tide means that nothing- not the sea glass that she collects on the sand and not the truths behind Anna's mother's death- stays buried forever.

I actually have an ARC of this one that I'm just dying to get to!  It seems like a great summer read and I am getting summer ready! 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday - I'll Be There

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

I'll Be There
By Holly Goldberg Sloan
Publication Date:  May 3rd 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Raised by an unstable father who keeps the family constantly on the move, Sam Border hasn't been in a classroom since the second grade. He's always been the rock for his younger brother Riddle, who stopped speaking long ago and instead makes sense of the world through his strange and intricate drawings. It's said that the two boys speak with one voice--and that voice is Sam's. 

Then, Sam meets Emily Bell, and everything changes. The two share an immediate and intense attraction, and soon Sam and Riddle find themselves welcomed into the Bell's home. Faced with normalcy for the first time, they know it's too good to last.

Told from multiple perspectives, Holly Goldberg Sloan's debut novel offers readers fresh voices and a gripping story, with vivid glimpses into the lives of many unique characters. Beautifully written and emotionally profound, I'll Be There is a story about connections both big and small, and deftly explores the many ways that our lives are woven together.

I'm very intrigued by this one because it deals with a child who has not been in school, forced to take care of his younger brother.  The fact that the younger one doesn't talk and the older one still knows how to communicate with him fascinates me.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Sunday Salon - Not a Good March

I have never done end of the month wrap ups on my blog.  Yes, others do it, yes, I read them on others' blogs, yes, it's fun to see the stats, but I just don't do it.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe this past month is a good reason why I don't. 

March was not good to me as far as reading went.  For what it's worth, April hasn't taken off with a bang either, but my plan is to remedy that before the month gets away from me.  Anyway, back to March.  Did I even finish a book?  According to Goodreads, I did...Adventures in Nowhere, but it was at the very beginning of the month, so it's just a blur in my memory.  Did I do a lot of reading?  Not as much as I would have liked, but I started some books:  Alice in Zombieland, Hailey Twitch and the Great Teacher Switch, and The Wilder Life.  These are all good books, but they just didn't hold my attention.  I've been in a reading slump before, but enough already!  I want a book that will "catch" me.  So, last night I started reading Hourglass while I took a bath.  2 chapters in and so far so good...let's hope it lives up to all the blogger hype.  I really need to get through this one, for me, for my reading inspiration, for the love of blogging.

April is a busy work month for me, but I've got to learn to prioritize so that it doesn't consume me.  For those of you with children or who are in the education industry, you know that states give standardized tests.  The end of the month is the TAKS, Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, test in Math and Reading for our 3rd and 4th graders.  They have been busily preparing, we have been anxiously stressing over practice test scores, etc.  Once it's over, I'll be able to breathe a whole lot easier and so will my teachers.

After that, it's adoption anticipation.  We went for our 2nd and final day of PRIDE training yesterday.  Now, we have CPR/first aid on Friday, our home study on the 13th, psychotropic meds on the 14th and then behavior management on the 23rd.  We've got almost all of our paperwork turned in, so after the 23rd, she can submit for our license and then we just wait on a phone call.  My oldest step-daughter is coming over today to help me clean out and redo the middle room for a nursery and my mom's coming to go get the material for all the nursery "stuff."  My grandmother and I will spend next Saturday sewing everything.  It will make for a long day, but in the end, it will be so worth it.  This is the material that we will be using.

It's gender neutral because we won't know if we'll be getting a boy or a girl until the phone call comes.  We don't have a preference one way or the other, just a healthy baby to love.  It's amazing to think that our life will change overnight and I'm trying to prepare for it in a month.  Pregnant women have 9 months to do all of that...hmmm...maybe I'm crazy!

Saturday Snapshot - April 2

Last weekend, 2 of our granddaughters came over for a little while.  They rode horses and then my husband washed down the horses before putting them up.  Our youngest granddaughter had so much fun playing in the mud that when she left, she was only in her shirt and diaper.  Boy, was she a mess!!  This picture was taken after she had been splashing in the water.  She was laughing because she thought it was so funny!

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books.  To participate, just post a picture that you, family, or a friend have taken.  The amount of captioning is up to you.  Pictures must be clean and appropriate for all eyes.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Fill-Ins - 4/1/11

No April Fool's jokes for you today, just a fun Friday Fill-In.  Have a great weekend!

1. I can't believe it's April already.

2. Drinks for everyone.

3. How can I get all this done in just a month?

4. Chicken soup with vegetables was the last thing I cooked.

5. Six of one half a dozen of another is a saying I use all the time.

6. Oh my gosh; nonono!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to relaxing at home, tomorrow my plans include our 2nd day of PRIDE training and Sunday, I want to clean out the middle bedroom to turn it into a baby room!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday - Starcrossed

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

By Josephine Angelini
Publication Date: May 31st 2011 by HarperTeen

How do you defy destiny?

Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is—no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it's getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she's haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they're destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.

As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together—and trying to tear them apart.
Sounds so good!!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Sunday Salon - Family News

I'm late with my Salon post, but it's been a busy weekend and I really wanted to write about this, so I couldn't pre-write and schedule the post ahead of time. 

This is a book blog and I don't often share personal information with you, but there are times when I want you to get to know me better as a person, which I think is important in the blogging community.  So, I'm taking the opportunity to let you into my world a little bit today.

My husband and I embarked on an emotional journey yesterday.  We started the process of adoption.  Yesterday was our first training class.  We will go again next Saturday, then 2 weeknights and one more Saturday to fulfill the training requirements.  We will also be undergoing a home study along the way.  This decision has been a long time in the making.  You see, my husband has 2 children from a previous marriage and they have given us 5 beautiful grandchildren, but I've always wanted a child of my own.  Unfortunately, after many years of trying, lots of doctor visits and tears, we just aren't able to do so on our own.  Yes, we could go the in-vitro route, but it's expensive and not 100%.  We decided just to keep trying and if it happened, it happened.  Well, it hasn't, so here we are.

One of my teachers adopted a little boy last year, and she introduced me to Sans Pareil Center, who we are working with.  Sans Pareil does adoption with CPS as well as private adoptions.  Private is very costly, so we are going foster to adopt through CPS.  Our desire is to get an infant, foster until the CPS case is closed and then officially adopt him or her.  No, we don't have a gender preference.  We will be happy with whatever the Lord blesses us with.  We have been told that the process should go quickly, it will be emotional, sometimes stressful, but worth it in the end.  I will keep you posted.

One thing I do want to share with you is One Cause.  One Cause provides adoptive parents a way to raise funds for adoption related expenses in an easy way.  It allows people to earn contributions while shopping online.  Part of the money that is spent with everyday merchants is given back to the adopting family, from the National Adoption Foundation.  I'm sharing with you, the letter I sent to friends and family.

Dear Family and Friends,

We want to share our exciting news with you! We have decided to expand our family through adoption and are busily getting ready to welcome our new child!

For us, the difficult part of this process - other than the waiting - is the expense. As some of you may know, adoption expenses include agency fees, legal fees, document preparation costs, travel expenses and more. We have been saving some, but are still seeking ways to raise more funds for our wonderful venture.

We recently learned of a program through OneCause and the National Adoption Foundation that we think will help us make our adoption dream come true. OneCause is a nontraditional fundraising program that will help us earn the funds we need through everyday opportunities, such as shopping at hundreds of name-brand merchants online or in stores and catalogs, through purchasing gift certificates, by using the OneCause credit card, or through a variety of other easy programs.

We're really excited about this program and wanted to let you know that you can participate and help us build our family by becoming a member of OneCause. There's absolutely no cost or hassle to you - just do what you do every day and we will earn credit toward our adoption costs!

Here's How You Can Help

1. Become a registered member of OneCause. Simply go to and register as a OneCause member. This only takes a minute and you'll be on your way to helping us out.

2. Once you have registered, find the "Dues Crediting" field at the bottom of the online registration screen. You will see a field called "Benefiting." Enter our registered email address and your contributions will automatically begin to benefit us.

Our registered email address is:

3. Begin shopping at hundreds of OneCause merchants online, in stores, and through catalogs. You'll earn a merchant contribution on each purchase, a percentage of which will go toward our adoption credit. Remember to begin all of your online shopping at OneCause so we earn credit!

4. Consider signing up for and using the OneCause Visa card for all of your purchases. On every purchase you make with the card - no matter where you make it - the National Adoption Foundation earns a 1% contribution, part of which goes toward our adoption. To sign up, go to or call 1-800-297-1286 and use code 28B8. Once your card arrives, be sure to activate, register your card, and start shopping!

5. Ask us about other OneCause opportunities to help us earn adoption credit!

That's all there is to it!

Please call or email us with any questions you may have regarding our situation. We are always excited and happy to talk about this wonderful adventure. When our child arrives home to us, we will contact you with our happy news. Thank you so much for helping us bring our child home.

Thank you!
Willie and Shelly Burns

Register with OneCause and help us build our family!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Fill-Ins - 3/25/2011

1. Why does it always seem darker before the dawn?

2.Too much is equal to not enough, for some people.

3. My favorite breakfast includes waffles with strawberries.

4. Exposed was the last book I read that I absolutely loved.

5. I am SO glad today is Friday and it's only a 1/2 day with kids.

6. Sleep would make me feel better right now.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to possibly visiting friends who just had a baby, tomorrow my plans include PRIDE Training, for adoption and Sunday, I want to work outside!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: Stuart Murphy's I See I Learn Series

When I was a classroom teacher, I used Stuart Murphy's MathStart books to teach math concepts to my children.  Well, Mr. Murphy is back with a new series to help children learn skills important for school and life, called the I See I Learn series.  Thanks to Charlesbridge Publishing, I was fortunate to receive two of the books in the series, for review.

Author:  Stuart J. Murphy
Review Copy Provided byCharlesbridge Publishing

About the Book:  Sometimes Percy gets upset. He scowls and stamps his feet. But when he learns to take a deep breath, count to ten, and talk about his feelings, he can calm down. When Percy's not upset, he can have fun again! 

My Thoughts:  This is a great book to use with young children and teach who deal with frustration, being grouchy, being cranky and/or being angry.  It is all about emotional skills and what a child can do to deal with those appropriately and ultimately become happy again.  Children can relate to Percy because he feels as they would when they're upset.  Through the story, Percy teaches children how to stop being upset.  The colors are vivid in the illustrations, the pictures eye catching, and the print large enough for a read - aloud to children or for older children to read themselves.

I can see this book being used in classrooms and/or counselor's offices with children 2-7.  It is recommended for 2-5, but I think older children, maybe up to 2nd grade would enjoy it if used as a read - aloud to spark discussion.  One of the things I love about Stuart Murphy's books is the discussion questions that he adds at the end.  You won't have to come up with questions on your own, because they are provided for you.

Author:  Stuart J. Murphy
Review Copy Provided by:  Charlesbridge Publishing

About the Book:  Camille loves to build sand forts at the beach. But it's hard to build a big fort alone. Camille and her friends make a plan. They find that they can get more done--and have more fun--when they work together.  

My Thoughts:  Where Percy dealt with emotional skills in children, Camille's Team deals with social skills.  It teaches children how to work together.  There's even a plan that children can follow:  make a plan, work together, and share the fun.  In Stuart Murphy fashion, the pictures are vivid and eye catching, exactly what children like to see.

Again, there are discussion questions that lend themselves to opening up a classroom discussion or even a discussion with your young son or daughter.  This is a great series to help young children learn important life skills!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday - Red Glove

I am pleased to say that Rodeo Houston has come and gone for another year!  Not that I don't enjoy my volunteer time out there, because I do, it's just that it takes SO much of my time, that reading and blogging get put on the back burner.  I'm glad to be back in the blogging world and am anxious to share with you many of the books that I've been receiving for review.

 "Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

By:  Holly Black
Publication:  April 5th 2011 by Margaret K. McElderry 

from Goodreads:  Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe's world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else.

That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she's human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila's been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila's love is as phony as Cassel's made-up memories, then he can't believe anything she says or does.

When Cassel's oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can't trust anyone—least of all, himself?

Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

I received an ARC of this title in the mail and I'm anxious to read it as I loved White Cat, the first book in the series.   

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - March 19

Last weekend we celebrated my nephew's 2nd birthday.  Those of you that have followed my blog for awhile know that I absolutely adore this little guy!  He is the spitting image of my brother when he was a baby, with the exception of the light hair.  We had his party at one of those indoor jumping facilities.  Everyone had a blast, but the best part for me was watching him enjoy this pizza.  Even after the cake was brought out, a gift overnighted from his aunt in Florida with his favorite cartoon character on it, he still wanted the pizza.  I'm not sure if he ever ate a bite of that cake!

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books.  To participate, just post a picture that you, family, or a friend have taken.  The amount of captioning is up to you.  Pictures must be clean and appropriate for all eyes.

Friday, March 18, 2011

In Anticipation of Holly Black's Red Glove

Last week I received a package from Simon & Schuster that included a paperback copy of Holly Black's White Cat and an ARC of her newest title in the Curse Worker's Series, Red Glove.  I read White Cat as an ARC last year and fell in love with Holly's writing, characters, and this series.  If you've read White Cat, then you know Lila Zacharov.  In anticipation of the release of Red Glove, on April 5th, Holly Black has written a story from Lila's point of view.  The story is told in vignettes that can be read in any order.  Are you ready for this?  There are 13 vignettes!  You are invited to read them by clicking on the link for Lila Zacharov in 13 pieces.  This is brilliant!  It's a short story generator that mixes and matches the vignettes in a randomly generated order.  The story may never be the same as there are over 6 million variations possible.

I hope that you will visit the site to read the story from Lila's point of view.  If you haven't already gotten hooked on the Curse Worker's Series, there's still time for you to read White Cat before the April release of Red Glove.  What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Because of A Book with Stuart Lutz

This week I have Stuart Lutz on the blog talking about the most influential book that he has read.

Stuart Lutz has always been fascinated by the stories told by older people. Perhaps it started when he was a boy and heard his great-grandparents recount their immigrant voyage to America, their first airplane sighting, and the first time his great-grandmother could legally vote (even though she had been married four years). Also, when he was young, he was intrigued during a family trip to Charleston, South Carolina, when the tour guide pointed out the building that still housed some Confederate widows, even though the Civil War had been over for 125 years. He could not understand how that could be, until the guide explained that some young ladies married much older men who had fought in the Civil War.

Lutz’s interests in history and writing come together in The Last Leaf, an oral history book featuring the stories of almost forty survivors and eyewitnesses to historically important events. Lutz is the only person to have interviewed the last three Civil War widows (the last one died in 2008), but The Last Leaf also features the last American World War I soldier, the final living person to have flown with Amelia Earhart, the final pitcher to give up a home run to Babe Ruth in his historic 1927 season (when Ruth hit sixty home runs), the last suffragette, the final Medal of Honor winner for heroism on Pearl Harbor Day, the last person to have made design contributions to the ENIAC (the first electronic, programmable computer), the final Iwo Jima flag raiser, the last survivor of the sunken Lusitania, the final Harry Houdini stage hand, and the last employees of Thomas Edison and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Each chapter blends the narrative of the “Last Leaves” with historical background so readers can understand what occurred and the long-term importance of each event.

Lutz owns Stuart Lutz Historic Documents, Inc., a firm that sells rare letters and manuscripts ( He has written for American Heritage and Civil War Times Illustrated, and appeared on National Public Radio. He has a B.A. in American History from Johns Hopkins.

My Most Influential Book

By Stuart Lutz

About fifteen years ago, I lived in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Not only is it one of the country’s wealthiest counties, it is one of the showiest too. Everyone, it seemed to me, owned a luxury car, took exotic vacations, and shopped at the local boutiques. And frugal me was driving an old Mitsubishi Colt with 140,000 miles that required bi-monthly repairs, and living in a small apartment in a woman’s subdivided house. It was easy to wonder what I was doing wrong.
I mentioned this conundrum to my uncle, who was then a top executive for one of the country’s most prestigious financial firms. “Most Americans,” he explained to me, “are so far in credit card debt that they will never get out, or they two weeks away from living on the street [his forecast is being proven by today’s foreclosure crisis].” I was momentarily puzzled by what he said, and I responded with, “Perhaps for the little guy, but these people who drive Mercedes, they can’t be two weeks away from foreclosure.” “They frequently are,” he replied. “People who make big money usually spend big money. Or they skip contributing to their retirement funds so that they have no accumulated wealth. I read recently that the average luxury car buyer only makes something like forty or fifty thousand dollars a year. It’s hard to get ahead financially when the price of your car equals your annual salary.”
Soon thereafter, I received a package from my uncle containing The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William D. Danko. The book is an academic, yet easily readable, study of people who have at least a million dollars in wealth, excluding the value of their homes. The people profiled include business owners worth seven figures, or others who have frugally saved over a million dollars in their retirement accounts. Stanley and Danko emphasize several characteristics the millionaires generally share, including frugality, a desire for financial independence, self-employment, and an emphasis on saving, investing, and budgeting. The authors define “underaccumulators of wealth” and “prodigious accumulators of wealth,” and introduced me to one of my favorite phrases, “big hat, no cattle.”
The Millionaire Next Door is the most influential book I have read in the past two decades for a few reasons. First, it is my desire to be financially independent. Recent news stories state that the Social Security trust will be exhausted in 2037, about the time I can first collect. If there is not going to be Social Security, then I need to be a “prodigious accumulator of wealth” to retire.
Second, the book showed that the frugality that I learned from my parents is the lifestyle that I want to have. I am just not a Mercedes or BMW person. Instead, I am delighted to drive my seven-year old Toyota with 146,000 miles or my fifteen year old Acura with 206,000 clicks; I prefer them to the slavery of new car payments or a lease. Yet my frugality does not mean all self-denial; my wife and I have twice traveled to Hawaii and Ireland; we just do it in the off-season when rates are cheaper.
I re-read The Millionaire Next Door at least once a year for continued inspiration. But my page-flipping is only the theoretical. As for the actual practice of becoming financially independent, I think of the book once a month when I deposit my hard-earned, hard-saved check into my retirement accounts.
To conclude, I own a business that buys and sells historic documents and letters. I have a client who made a fortune on Wall Street and collects papers related to early financial history. About fifteen years ago, he bought at auction one of the first known American stock certificates for almost $40,000. Subsequently, I bought the letter that should accompany the aforementioned stock, and I sold it to him for nearly $10,000. I met this gentleman at a New England hotel to show him the letter. When we finished our business, we walked out to the parking lot, and he got into a beat-up Buick that looked like it belonged in the local demolition derby. Yet he had spent nearly $50,000 on two sheets of paper. He was living proof of the millionaire next door.

About The Millionaire Next Door:  The bestselling The Millionaire Next Door identifies seven common traits that show up again and again among those who have accumulated wealth. Most of the truly wealthy in this country don't live in Beverly Hills or on Park Avenue-they live next door. This new edition, the first since 1998, includes a new foreword for the twenty-first century by Dr. Thomas J. Stanley.

Buy it at Amazon
Buy it at IndieBound
Buy it at Powells

About The Last Leaf:  When we read about famous historical events, we may wonder about the firsthand experiences of the people directly involved. What insights could be gained if we could talk to someone who remembered the Civil War, or the battle to win the vote for women, or Thomas Edison's struggles to create the first electric light bulb? Amazingly, many of these experiences are still preserved in living memory by the final survivors of important, world-changing events.
In this unique oral history book, author and historic document specialist Stuart Lutz records the stories told to him personally by people who witnessed many of history's most famous events. Among many others, Lutz interviewed:

-the final three Civil War widows (one Union and two Confederate)
-the final pitcher to surrender a home run to Babe Ruth
-the last suffragette
-the last living person to fly with Amelia Earhart
-the final American World War I soldier
-the last surviving employees of Thomas Edison, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Harry Houdini.

The wide-ranging stories involve humor (the 1920 Olympic medalist who stole the original Olympic flag), tragedy (the last survivor of the 1915 Lusitania sinking), heroism (the final Medal of Honor recipient for actions on Pearl Harbor Day), and eyewitnesses to great events (one of the last scientists at the first nuclear chain reaction, and the final Iwo Jima flag raiser).
In more than three-dozen chapters, Lutz blends background information in a lively narrative with the words of the interviewees, so that readers not familiar with the historical episodes described can understand what occurred and the long-term significance of the events.

Buy it at Amazon
Buy it at IndieBound
But it at Powells

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mailbox Monday - 3/14/2011

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme started by Marcia at The Printed Page.  You can read all about it at the Mailbox Monday blog.  Well, the mailbox has gone on tour.  This month's host is I'm Booking It.

I love this meme because it lets me take a peek into other bloggers' mailboxes and find out what they received over the last week.  I will warn you, it does lead to more books as you will find many that you want because of others mailboxes.  If you'd like to join in on the fun, post about your books and link up!

I had a rather large mailbox this week and I'm not sure why because I haven't been requesting as many books lately due to lack of time to read.  Many of these were unrequested, just sent from the publisher, and I'm thankful.  I also have some packages at the post office that I hope will be delivered today.  Work has been so busy lately that I can't seem to get out of there in time to get to the post office before it closes.  Hopefully the mailman will be nice and deliver my packages so that I can put them in next week's mailbox.  This week is Spring Break, so I'm hoping to get a lot of reading in.  You may not see me online very much, but know I'm around...I'm just catching up on some reading.

Amaryllis in Blueberry (ARC) by Christina Meldrum, from Simon &  Schuster
Women Food and God by Geneen Roth, from Simon & Schuster
Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard, from Knoph Delacorte Dell Young Readers Group
The Queen of Water by Laura Resau and Maria Virginia Farinango, from Knopf Delacorte Dell Young Readers Group
Jersey Tomatoes are the Best by Maria Padian, from Random House Children's Books
Exposed by Kimberly Marcus, from Random House Children's Books - I've already read and reviewed this one, so I will be giving it away.
Night Road (ARC) by Kristin Hannah, from St. Martin's Press
Amos Daragon: The Mask Wearer by Bryan Perro, from Knopf Delacorte Dell Young Readers Group
Show Time by Sue Stauffacher, from Random House Children's Books

White Cat and Red Glove (ARC) by Holly Black, from Margaret K. McElderry - both of these came packaged together, from the publisher.  I read and enjoyed White Cat, so I'm anxious to see what's in store in Red Glove.
The Source of All Things by Tracy Ross, from Free Press via ShelfAwareness
Where She Went (ARC) by Gayle Forman, from Dutton Juvenile

Go, Dog Go! Party Book by P.D. Eastman, from Random House Books for Young Readers
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe: A Counting Nursery Rhyme by Salina Yoon, from Random House Books for Young Readers
Go, Dog Go! by P.D. Eastman, from Random House Children's Books
Baby's First Book, The Poky Little Puppy, Baby Farm Animals (not pictured), and Home for a Bunny (not pictured) by Little Golden Books, from Random House Children's Books - these four titles are in Random House's new padded board book format for babies, the all-new Golden Baby line.  I gave 2 of these to my nephew for his birthday and he is enjoying them.

So Shelly by Ty Roth, from Delacorte Books for Young Readers - I have been waiting on this one, so I'm excited to get to read it now.

What was in your mailbox?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Fill-Ins - 3/11/11

1. Oh gross! I thought it was flushed.

2. Kissing a pig, well THAT's off my bucket list!

3. No, you didn't really do that.

4. Marriage takes your heart and soul.

5. And then along came Jones.

6. I can't forget how lucky I am.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to dinner out, tomorrow my plans include my nephew's 2nd birthday party and Sunday, I want to rest!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday - The End of the Line

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

By Angela Cerrito
Publication:  April 14th 2011 by Holiday House 

from Goodreads 
Gripping and suspenseful, this powerful, no-holds-barred novel by an exciting new talent goes deep inside a young boy's mind. Thirteen-year-old Robbie is locked in a room with nothing but a desk, a chair, a piece of paper, and a pencil. He's starving, but all they'll give him is water. He is sure he's in a nuthouse or a prison. Actually, he's at Great Oaks School, aka the End of the Line. Kept in solitary confinement, Robbie must earn points for food, a bed, even bathroom privileges. He must learn to listen carefully, to follow the rules, and to accept and admit the truth: he is a murderer. Robbie's first-person account of his struggles at the school—at times horrifying, at times hilarious—alternates with flashbacks to the events that led to his incarceration. Ultimately he must confront the question: which is worse—that he wanted to kill his friend Ryan or that he killed him by accident?

Just the cover had me, but the synopsis hooked me!  The cover is different than anything I've seen in YA in a while, and the story, well I have one word for you, WOW!  I'd love to read this one before April, but I guess I'll have to wait; it's not that long, right?  I'm glad to see more male main characters in YA.  There haven't been many lately, but I'm starting to see more and more and I'm glad.  Yes, I can connect with female leads since I'm a female, but it's great to read stories from the male POV as well.  Looking forward to this one!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Blog Tour: Adventures in Nowhere

I am pleased to be participating in another blog tour for Pump Up Your Book Promotions!

Author:  John Ames
Review Copy Provided by:  publisher, Pineapple Press

About the Book:  Before Disney and far from the palm-lined Florida beaches, ten-year-old Danny Ryan is transplanted to a tiny community on the hyacinth-choked Hillsborough River outside Tampa, a place his older sister calls Nowhere. But for Danny and his best friend, the irrepressible Alfred Bagley, whose fondest desire is to grow up to be a junk dealer, Nowhere is where adventures lurk and lure them into more trouble than they can handle. More trouble is not what Danny needs as he copes with a family that includes a father sinking into schizophrenia; two sisters, one very ill and the other ready to run away with a shady boyfriend; and a mother trying her best to hold it all together.  

My Thoughts:  This wasn't an easy book for me to get into.  I'm not sure why, though.  After I got past the first chapter or so, it was an easy read.

This story is written from a young boy's perspective and set in the 1950's.  It takes the reader back to a time when youth was innocent, and young kids could run free without being afraid.  It's a very compelling coming of age story.

I loved Danny's character!  He was strong, witty, and independent.  Danny is like many kids today who come from a troubled family.  He does what he needs to do, within himself, to get through his childhood and become a strong, independent adult.    His family is dysfunctional: a dying sister, a father who could blow his top, at any moment, and a mom who tries to hold it all together, the best she can.  He doesn't have many friends, but the ones he does have stick by him.  John Ames has written a wonderful character in Danny; one I'd like to know in real life.

The story pulls you in, takes hold, and doesn't let go, even after you've turned the last page.  Ames has written a winner.  Open the cover and take a trip back in time with Danny; you'll be glad you did!

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