Welcome

A Bookaholic, Pro-life, Pro-Family, Pro-Oxford Comma, Catholic (with Asperger's) who reads and writes as her obsession. I've been reading over 400 books a year lately. These are my ramblings on some of the books I read. To read about all the books I read and comment on, visit me at LibraryThing or Goodreads.

I've been blogging since 2007 and at this point (July 2015) am trying my hand at turning the theme of this blog towards mystery, thriller, and crime, fiction and nonfiction. I have some special interest topics and categories within this broad genre which include (but are not limited to) serial killers, scandi-crime, Victorian history and historicals, history of the criminally insane and asylums, psychopathology, death, funerary practices and burial, corpses, true crime and anything dealing with the real life macabre, or that portrayed in fiction.

I also read a short story a day from various collections, sometimes anthologies othertimes collections of a single author's work. These reviews are also posted here and while they are of mixed genre the mystery, thriller, horror, gothic and macabre often appear within their pages as well.


I also blog about
graphic novels and manga on a separate BLOG.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

162. Taro and the Carnival of Doom by Sango Morimoto

Taro and the Carnival of Doom by Sango Morimoto (Canada) - (US)
The Adventures of Taro, #3

Pages: 95
Ages: 6+
Finished: Jul. 22, 2011
First Published: Jul. 5, 2011, English (2008, Japanese)
Publisher: viz media
Genre: graphic novel, children, humour
Rating: 4/5


First sentence:
Taro was just about to enjoy a tasty snack when the wise Magician suddenly appeared.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Reason for Reading: next in the series.

This is the final book in what turned out to be a trilogy.  Unfortunately, I really did not like the second book in this series but "Carnival of Doom" returns to the glory of the first book.  A fun, silly, wonderful story that young children are going to enjoy.  This time Hippity has been kidnapped by King Crossout and Terrie must save him, but first he must find him in the terrible carnival of doom.  Terrie meets a new friend in this volume, Blockade Boy, who takes the place of Hippity while he is missing.  BB is a hilarious, fun new character and once again the whole book is reminiscent of a cartoon show.  Since this is the final book, the storyline of King Crossout is solved and it is best to read this book last even though the three books do not share any common plot points.  Silly, adorable and a very satisfying end to this juvenile trilogy.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

161. Jack of Fables #8: The Fulminate Blade

The Fulminate Blade by Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges. Art by Tony Akins & Jim Fern (Canada) - (US)
Jack of Fables, Vol. 8

Pages: 126
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jul. 21, 2011
First Published: Feb. 1, 2011
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Rating: 3/5


First sentence:
I appreciate the honesty of monsters.

Acquired: Purchased a copy through an online retailer.

Reason for Reading: next in the series.

This volume collects 5 issues together of a mini arc called "Kings of Earth and Sky".  The Fulminate Blade is the title of the first chapter and the magical sword Jack Frost must obtain to kill the giant terrorizing the village.  Fairly well-used plot, only there are lots of twists and everything is not as straight forward as it first appears.  Jack finally delivers a village from a tyrant and really feels like he is the hero he has wanted to be all along and learns that heroes are a rare breed indeed.

This volume really didn't appeal to me all that much.  Yes, the story was good and an enjoyable read but as a whole it was not a satisfying read in the "Jack of Fables" series.  First of all, because the real Jack, Jack Horner, was not in this volume at all.  The whole volume was a side-story for Jack Frost alone.  Now, I've been quite fond of Jack Frost since he first appeared but all alone like this without his father's presence I didn't feel he was that worthy of carrying a book.  Especially, since I know this is the second  last book in the series.  The real Jack, of course, is a character that I don't like, but really have fun not liking and I must say he was missed.  If this had been a one-off titled "Jack Frost" something or other, so that I had known I was just going to get a side story I think I would have enjoyed it more, but as a volume in the Jack of Fables canon it is disappointing when the main character is nowhere to be found.  The Babe the blue ox one-pagers are still kept at the ending of each chapter so at least that kept some continuity with the series as a whole but, to tell the truth, I don't "get" the humour of the Babe pages more than half of the time so his presence was no biggie for me.

Now, sadly, there is just one more volume to read and then "Jack of Fables" is over.  I already have the book so will read it in a while.  I really hope the ending is worthy of the rest of the series.  Would it be too much to hope for that some of the old characters come back, like the Page Sisters, Gary and the real Jack Horner (not the dragon)?  We'll see!

Friday, July 29, 2011

160. Fables #15: Rose Red


Rose Red by Bill Willingham. Art by Mark Buckingham (Canada) - (US)
Fables, Vol. 15

Pages: 256
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jul. 20, 2011
First Published: Apr. 12, 2011
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Rating: 5/5


First sentence:

Fulfill your sworn duty.

Acquired: Purchased a copy through an online retailer.

Reason for Reading:  next in the series.

First, this is a satisfyingly huge volume coming in at over 250 pages; this is because it includes the celebratory 100th issue in which they included lots of extras.  I loved this volume!  The main story is carried along nicely, plenty of characters have resolutions in their lives, we see the departure of a character that's been in from the beginning and then the start of new story threads are briefly introduced.

The book starts off with the title story "Rose Red" which consists of 5 chapters and takes a deep look at Red's character and the mess she is currently in.  We are taken back into her past when she was a little girl with "Fables" retellings of "Snow White & Rose Red" and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs".  This is the real focus of the volume and takes up over 100 pages.  A very satisfying story; I've been unhappy with the direction of Red's character lately and this is a rewarding read.  Of special note is that Red is exposed to a stunning reveal but, we the reader, are not made privy to what she sees.  I have an idea as to what it is though, so we'll see if I'm right in future volumes.

Next we're taken into the Dark City for a single chapter to spend some time with the Dark Man and see what he is up to and planning for the future of the world.  Then onto a long single chapter in which all things come to a head when there is an ultimate battle (well, duel, really) between the Dark Man and one character who has long planned to take him on.

At this point we are treated to the bonus material with two short stories, one featuring Thumbelina and the other the Three Blind Mice.  Then a longer short story which is written in text about Pinocchio and Geppetto.  Finally finishing off with some fun stuff, a few graphic shorts, a Fables Puppet Theatre (which can be photocopied and actually built and played with), a Board Game and finally a sketchbook of Mark Buckingham's work.

All the little extras are a lot of fun, but the two main plot developments of Rose Red and the Dark Man carry the story along wonderfully and leave us poised for the next volume.  All the other characters do appear also and everybody gets a little character development or move forward in their plot.  Beauty finally has her baby and it isn't what she was expecting at all!  A highlight in the series!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

159. The Dusk Society by Sidney Williams & Mark Jones


The Dusk Society by Sidney Williams & Mark Jones. Illustrated by Naresh Kumar (Canada) - (US)
Campfire Originals

Pages: 88
Ages: 12+
Finished: Jul. 19, 2011
First Published: Jun. 7, 2011
Publisher: Campfire
Genre: graphic novel, YA, paranormal,
Rating: 4/5


First sentence:

Welcome, as the newest member of the Dusk Society...
...you must be told of the danger you face.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Steerforth Press.

Reason for Reading: I have become a fan of this publisher's graphic novels.  This standalone paranormal tale sounded fun.

A mysterious woman, whose job it is to recruit new members for the Dusk Society (a group of agents skilled in either magic or science who fight the forces of evil in the world, both human and non-human) centers in on a highschool where she had found a strong force and four subjects who are prime material to be trained as agents.  The teens are brought together quickly but time for explanations is cut quick when Pierceblood arrives on the scene, smelling the power also, wanting the magical teens for his plan to open a gateway to another dimension and bring forth a horde of creatures who will help him take over the world and shape it to his own desires.

A fast-paced, fun teen paranormal adventure.  Similar to a Buffy-plot where the teens form a secret organization that must rid the world of the bad guys: demons, vampires and others of that ilk.  The story was intense without being very creepy or gross.  A safe read for those who get scared easily.  The book ends on a proper note but could easily be expanded into a series. A good read.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

158. The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo


The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 201
Ages: 9+
Finished: July 18, 2011
First Published: Sep. 8, 2009
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, magical realism, fantasy
Rating: 3/5


First sentence:

At the end of the century before last, in the market square of the city of Baltese, there stood a boy with a hat on his head and a coin in his hand.

Acquired:  Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: I enjoy the author's books

This is an original fairy tale that illustrates that we never know what the future will hold, that dreams should never be given up,  and that fate (God's will) eventually does come to pass in it's own time.  It is a strange tale though of an elephant crashing through the roof of the opera house as a magician performs a trick.  The elephant becomes the centre of the city's attention and becomes orphan Peter's focus as a fortuneteller once told him that an elephant would lead him to his sister, whom he thought was dead.

This is a dark tale.  The atmosphere is dark, gloomy; the weather is grey and the feelings are of sadness, hopelessness.  Topics brought forward are hunger, childlessness, blindness, beggars, cripples, seeking attention and homesickness.  But there is always hope, the elephant is a symbol of this, she is a saviour for many though she must suffer silently before she is to leave them.  Though the book is dark and sad it has a happy, feel-good ending.

I must admit to having a hard time getting into the book though.  It starts off so strange, as it is a strange story, and I really wondered just what it was all about and whether children would actually "get" it.  But the further I read on the more I became attached to the characters and became invested in the plot.  For children, I think those that will most appreciate the book are the ones who have grown up on a steady diet of fairy tales, the real unaltered original tales, and are used to this type of dark fairy tale.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

157. Alexandre Dumas: The Three Musketeers Graphic Novel


Alexandre Dumas: The Three Musketeers by Bruce Buchanan. Illustrated by Amit Tayal (Canada) - (US)
Campfire Classics

Pages: 104
Ages: 12+
Finished: Jul. 17, 2011
First Published: Apr. 26, 2011
Publisher: Campfire
Genre: graphic novel, children, YA, classic
Rating: 4/5


First sentence:

It was the month of April in 1625, in Paris, France.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Steerforth Press.

Reason for Reading:  I am quickly becoming a fan of this publisher, and I love well-done graphic retellings of classics.

I have not read the original "The Three Musketeers", probably because I do not enjoy French literature or historical fiction, especial French Revolution era, but this takes place much earlier than the revolution and while set within the the real time frame of Cardinal Richelieu I was taken with the derring-do and humour of the musketeers.  Not having read the original I don't know whether it is supposed to be humorous but the graphic adaptation certainly was and a splendid story as well.  If this is as well representative of the original as the other "Campfire Classics" I have read then this graphic adaptation has given me a taste and an urge to want to read the original for the first time in my life.  The artwork this time around, compared to the previous "Campfire Classics" I've read is wonderfully original; taking on a cartoonish aspect with overemphasized facial features on all the characters making the simple-minded, heroic and evil apparent just by their looks.  I really enjoy this style of cartooning.  A fun read!

Monday, July 25, 2011

156. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Illustrated with Vintage Photographs (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 352
Ages: 12+
Finished: Jul. 17, 2011
First Published: Jul. 7, 2011
Publisher: Quirk Books
Genre: YA, magical realism, Gothic
Rating: 4/5


First sentence:

I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.

Acquired: Received a Review Copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading:  I couldn't resist!  This book has everything I love in one book: orphans, mysterious island, vintage photographs, creepy atmosphere and an old house.  How could I not want to read it.

Here is a book that once again uses photographs and text together in a unique way.  The obscure, peculiar vintage photographs are simply illustrative, but the author has had to write his story around already existing photos which enhance the story to such a degree that the book would not be what it is without them.  The notes do say that "with the exception of a few that have undergone minimal postprocessing, they are unaltered."  Really only one word sums up this book and that is the eponymous "peculiar" for peculiar it certainly is.  This is not a fast paced book, not one that will have you racing to the end for the grand finale which may put some of the intended audience off.  However, it is more meandering, taking its time, showing us all the "peculiar" characters, who and what they are, as the story unfolds.

Jacob comes to the island to get over the death of his grandfather who had told him fantastical tales of this place his whole life to prove that it is just an island after all, but he quickly learns his grandfather's tales were true.  The story settles in and slowly reveals the secret of the island, the house, the children, Jacob's grandfather, and eventually Jacob's part in it all.  A very moody atmospheric story that I quite enjoyed.  I loved the characters and as a lover of vintage photos was totally fascinated with the photographs.

My only concern with the book is a certain tone of vulgar language coming mostly from Jacob, the narrator.  There is some swearing but it is the vulgar images that certain language convey which is of more concern.  The only reason I can think of this use is to show that Jacob is from the here and now, as opposed to the 1940's of the other children, though some of those boys have vulgar turns of phrase as well.  I wouldn't recommend the book for younger children.  Also, the book ends with the characters all set to take on a new adventure which is obviously a set-up for a second book, which is rather disappointing as I am getting tired of sequels and series these days.  Whatever happened to the good ole standalone?  However, teens and adults should find a rather spooky read that will keep them entertained.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

155. Romeo and Juliet Graphic Novel


William Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet by John F. McDonald. Illustrated by Sachin Nagar (Canada) - (US)
Campfire Classics

Pages: 80
Ages: 12+
Finished: Jul. 15, 2011
First Published: May 24, 2011
Publisher: Campfire
Genre: graphic novel, YA, play, classic
Rating: 4/5


First sentence:

Act 1 - Prologue
Two rich families from Verona begin an old feud again.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Steerforth Press.

Reason for Reading:  Honestly, I hate Romeo & Juliet; I think it is the stupidest love story ever written, but I won't go into my views on that here.  I read this adaptation solely because I was sent a review copy.

I've read the play and seen it performed at Stratford Festival so am very familiar with the story and I found this to be a very well-written adaptation, true to the original.  Written in modern English, which is how I prefer my Shakespeare. The story is very easy to read and unlike any other Campfire Classics I've read to date, this one had the occasional asterix to explain a perhaps uncommon word.  The cover art is very pretty but not representational of the inside art which is illustrated as realistic 16th century Italian life.  Well done and attractive.  The book begins with a brief bio. of Shakespeare and a cast of main characters page and ends with a two-page spread of did-you-know type facts about Shakespeare, in general, and this play in particular. This is a perfect introduction to the play.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

154. Don Quixote Part 1 Graphic Novel


Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quixote Part 1 by Lloyd S. Wagner. Illustrated by Richard Kohlrus (Canada) - (US)
Campfire Classics

Pages: 72
Ages: 12+
Finished: Jul. 14, 2011
First Published: Apr. 26, 2011
Publisher: Campfire
Genre: graphic novel, children, YA, classic
Rating: 5/5


First sentence:

In a certain village in La Mancha, there lived one of those old-fashioned gentlemen who are never without a lance on a rack, an old shield, a lean horse, and a greyhound.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Steerforth Press.

Reason for Reading:  I am quickly becoming a fan of this publisher, and I love well-done graphic retellings of classics.

I have never read the original Don Quixote, though I intend to one day.  I have, however, read a very old children's retelling from the late 1880s by, I believe, Alfred J. Church.  The story I read here in the graphic novel was identical to the one I had previously read before.  From these adaptations I presume I am just missing some of the more bawdy aspects of the story, which are certainly hinted at in this adaptation.  A wonderful, funny story that would make a fantastic introduction to the story of Don Quixote.  As seems the pattern with Campfire's Classic series the book starts with a brief biography of Cervantes then gives us a main character's page before staring in with the story.  The illustration is very nicely done showing us the 1500s way of life and when Quixote, in his madness, imagines he is in the grand old days of chivalry, there is a wavy line and a lightening in the colour to show us Quixote's distorted view of the same scenes as he imagines "common" women as ladies and windmills as giants.  I really enjoyed this one!  Am also looking forward to my next Campfire graphic read.

Friday, July 22, 2011

153. The Merchant of Venice Graphic Novel


William Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice by John F. McDonald. Illustrated by Vinod Kumar (Canada) - (US)
Campfire Classics

Pages: 192
Ages: 12+
Finished: Jul. 13, 2011
First Published: May 24, 2011
Publisher: Campfire
Genre: graphic novel, YA, play, classic
Rating: 4/5


First sentence:

Act 1 - Scene 1
16th- century Venice


You seem unhappy Antonio, What's the matter?

Acquired: Received a review copy from Steerforth Press.

Reason for Reading:  Mostly due to the fact that the publisher sent me a review copy, however, I am familiar with this Shakespeare play and am always interested in graphic or picturebook retellings of Shakespeare.

Written in modern day English, thankfully!  I am one of those who (gasp) appreciate Shakespeare in our own language and can't stand trying to fumble through Elizabethan English.  The book starts off with a one page intro to Shakespeare and then a Characters page which is very helpful.  It shows the four main characters which one can refer back to as Antonio and Bassanio have a lot of friends with names ending in "io" which could get confusing to some readers and remembering that they are only minor characters helps the reader focus on the four whom the plot centers around.  A nice faithful adaption to the play except that the controversial Jewish element has been removed, in fact, Shylock's being a Jew is never mentioned.  This does take away what is an important element of discussion/analysis of this play and makes Shylock's famous speech about being the same as others ("if you prick us, do we not bleed?") seem unwarranted and over dramatic when it appears.  Nicely illustrated in historical fashion, though I had a bit of a problem with Portia's depiction, she appeared rather manly looking to me, square jawed with broad shoulders.  Otherwise, a nice first introduction to the play or a new way to experience a classic.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Picasso: Soul on Fire by Rick Jacobson


Picasso: Soul on Fire by Rick Jacobson. Illustrated by Laura Fernandez & Rick Jacobson (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 32
Ages: 8+
First Published: 2004 (Jun. 14, 2011 paperback edition)
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: children, picturebook, biography, artist
Rating: 3/5


First sentence:

When young Pablo Picasso first painted Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, people were shocked.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Tundra Books.

Reason for Reading: I enjoy picture book biographies. Personally, I do not enjoy Picasso's artwork myself but he was a very intriguing personality and his life is certainly an interesting one to read about and I wondered just what a children's biography would focus on mostly.

This is a brief tale of Picasso's life which details his childhood and early years of artwork that brought him up to his influences which finally brought about his first piece of cubism, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.  Then it goes on to explain what he was trying to capture in this strange new art form, talks about his famous piece on the Spanish Civil War, Guernica, and ends with this passion and obsession of painting.  The very end of the book presents a timeline of his life.

Honestly, I found the story a tad boring, very fast paced, not giving enough info on Picasso's life but spending more time describing his artwork.  Aside from the reproduction of Guernica, the other few examples of Picasso's art could be called more like thumbprints in the top corners of pages and there were certainly not enough examples of his faces, which he is so well known for when one hears the name Picasso, to give a good representation of his art.  On the other hand, the book's artists Jacobson and Fernandez have done a brilliant job creating a beautiful picture book that calls back the time period of Picasso's hey days.  Not the best book for actually seeing Picasso's art but an OK story about the man.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Capturing Joy: The Story of Maud Lewis by Jo Ellen Bogart

Capturing Joy: The Story of Maud Lewis by Jo Ellen Bogart. Illustrated by Mark Lang (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 32
Ages: 8+
Finished: Jul. 10, 2011
First Published: 2002 (May 10, 2011 paperback ed.)
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: children, picturebook, biography, nonfiction
Rating:  4/5


First sentence:

A small figure moved through the crisp snow of a January evening.


Acquired: Received a review copy from Tundra Books.

Reason for Reading: I'm a fan of picture book biographies and Maud Lewis is a favourite Canadian artist of mine.

Maud Lewis is a Canadian folk artist from Nova Scotia.  She is often known as what is commonly called an "outsider" artist as she painted for the pure joy of it, on anything she got her hands on, despite her physical limitations, without any formal training and though she did sell her paintings it was more because the buyers sought her out than she sought to find buyers. 

This is a lovely little biography with just enough information to give anyone a brief introduction to Maud Lewis' life and artwork.  For the majority of the book every right-hand side page includes a photographic reproduction of one of Maud's paintings giving a well rounded look at several of her styles and themes.  An entertaining book that could easily cause an older reader to want to explore Maud's work and life in greater length and detail.  A great addition to shelves on Canadian artists.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

152. The Devil all the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

The Devil all the Time by Donald Ray Pollock (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 311
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jul. 10. 2011
First Published: Jul. 12, 2011
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: dark southern fiction, Gothic,
Rating: 5/5



First sentence:

On a dismal morning near the end of a wet October, Arvin Eugene Russell hurried behind his father, Willard, along the edge of a pasture that overlooked a long and rocky holler in southern Ohio called Knockemstiff.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House US.

Reason for Reading: I love dark southern fiction.  The type of book where the characters reach redemption by the end or at least try to, but they all, mostly, end up dead anyway.

This is indeed a dark book and I just loved it!  The story revolves around three separate pairs of individuals who eventually share some ties, but most of all they connect with Arvin Eugene Russell, the orphan of one of the individuals.  The book starts out with the story of Willard and Charlotte Russell.  Willard marries Charlotte soon after he comes back from WWII, they move out into the back country, have a son and then Willard is tormented as his wife is ravished by cancer and he sacrifices buckets of blood to his "prayer log."  Next are spider handling preacher Roy and his crippled guitar playing sidekick Theodore, fakers, who end up running from the law for murder. And finally there is photographer Carl and Sandy Henderson husband-and-wife serial killer team who every summer "go on the road" and randomly brutalize and kill men.  But joining all three together is Arvin Eugene Russell, orphaned son of Will and Charlene, who grows up to be a good man but with a violence of his own.

This was a page-turner for me that I completed easily over the course of two days.  Not only was the story compelling in an often-times gut-wrenchingly perverse manner, but there were times when one saw how some of the antagonists had started off as victims themselves.  The writing is topnotch and the characterization of a whole cast of people who are mostly downright unlikable and unsympathetic yet somehow ultimately human is finely-tuned.  A mixture of religion, southern Gothic and haunting people, places and plots creates a dark story indeed.  Not suitable for those who like happy endings.  I found the ending redemptive and satisfying but those who like most characters to be alive at book's end will find this is not the book for them.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Canadian Book Challenge 5

I'm a little late in posting this, considering it started July 1st, but I've just got around to posting my first book for the competition.  The rules are the same as always:  read 13 books by June 30th, 2012.  Over 13 is fine.  Use your own definition of Canadian Author or Canadian Book.  I plan to read as many Canadian Authored books as possible, and perhaps a few Canadian illustrated graphic novels.  The Challenge is hosted as ever by the brilliant book host, John Mutford, over at Book Mine Set.  Here is my list starting July 1st, 2011.

Canadian Book Challenge 5
1. Canada's Maple Leaf: The Story of Our Flag by Ann-Maureen Owens & Jane Yealland
2. Capturing Joy: The Story of Maud Lewis by Jo Ellen Bogart
3. Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier
4. Bone Beds of the Badlands by Shane Peacock
5. The Color of Lightning by Paulete Jilles
6. Sinking Deeper or My Questionable (Possible Heroic) Decision to Invent a Sea Monster by Steve Vernon
7. Canada, Our History: An Album Through Time by Rick Archbold
8. Monster in the Mountains by Shane Peacock
9. The Tiffin by Mahtab Narsimhan
10. The Clockwork Girl by Sean O'Reilly* & Kevin Hanna
11. The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason
12. The Remains of War: Surviving the Other Concentration Camps of World War II by G. Pauline Kok-Schurgers
13. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley



*Sean O'Reilly is Canadian

151. Canada's Maple Leaf: The Story of Our Flag


Canada's Maple Leaf: The Story of Our Flag by Ann-Maureen Owens & Jane Yealland. Illustrated by Bill Slavin & Esperanca Melo OUT OF PRINT

Pages: 32
Ages: 8+
Finished: July 8, 2011
First Published:1999
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Genre: children, non-fiction, Canadian history
Rating: 5/5


First sentence:

What do you think of when you see the Canadian flag?

Acquired: Purchased new from a Homeschool supply store.

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my son for our history curriculum.

First, I'm shocked just now looking the book up online to find out that they've let this title go out of print.  It has been a favourite in our house and I've read it to both my children (11 years apart).  This is a wonderful book that captures the excitement of a country trying to choose it's own flag for the first time.  Prior to the maple leaf Canada flew either the Union Jack or the Red Ensign, both British flags, depending on the circumstances.  As soon as you open the book on the inside front cover is a nice big outline of a maple leaf that can be traced or photocopied so children can make their own flags or artwork without having to struggle trying to draw their own leaf.  This was much appreciated with my first son!

The book starts off with why Canada's flag is unique and takes a look at some other unique country flags.  Then we get a history of flags going back to ancient times and "vexiloids" up to the Vikings and their triangular flags and the Native Americans and their feathers tied to poles.  Historically we see all the flags that were flown over Canada before she had her own flag from John Cabot's St. George Cross to the American Stars & Stripes on the illegal trading forts in Alberta.  Afterwards it discusses the whole historical story of how Canada came about her famous Maple Leaf and flag etiquette.  The book finishes off with a look and description of the symbols on all 13 of Canada's provincial and territorial flags (and yes, that does mean Nunavut is included).

An interesting book, well-written, with an entertaining voice, and colourful with great illustration.  A great book for Canadian households with children, if you can find a copy.  This one will be a keeper on my shelves!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

150. Think of a Number by John Verdon

Think of a Number by John Verdon (Canada) - (US)
Dave Gurney, #1

Pages: 418
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jul. 8, 2011
First Published: Jul. 6, 2010
Publisher: Crown Publishers
Genre: thriller, mystery
Rating: 4/5


First sentence:

"Where were you?" said the old woman in the bed.

Acquired: Received a Review Copy from Random House US.

Reason for Reading: I love thrillers and this new author's book sounded very interesting.  However, I never managed to get around to it and now I have the second book in the series waiting here to be read so thought I ought to get caught up with this one first.

A thoroughly splendid thriller of the serial killer type.  Verdon doesn't just bring us your typical serial killer, though, he's got a special, intelligent one, who sets up elaborate crime scenes, leaves messages taunting the police and before killing his victims he scares them with a series of threatening poems.  This is one guy who thinks he's too smart to be caught, and he almost is.

I loved the murders!  They were bloody but not exactly gruesome and the case was a cerebral one also that was fun to watch unfold.  I found the book quick-paced and it was a page-turner for me.  I really enjoyed the main character, a fairly down-to-earth guy but devoted, perhaps obsessed with the job.  He has a dark moment in his past weighing him down and his marriage.  I appreciate that he isn't one of the usual former alcoholics or divorced.  The fact that he is already married also means there isn't the typical partner love affair to go with either.  A really good book with an intriguing main character.  I'm looking forward to the next book, the next case, and how Dave and his wife work on their marriage.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

149. Fallen by Karin Slaughter

Fallen by Karin Slaughter (Canada) - (US)
Special Agent Will Trent, #5

Pages: 387
Ages: 18+
Finished: July 1, 2011
First Published: Jun. 21, 2011
Publisher: Random House
Genre: thriller
Rating: 5/5


First sentence:


Faith Mitchell dumped the contents of her purse onto the passenger side of her Mini, trying to find something to eat.


Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

A refreshingly, page-turning, exiting thriller that this long time Slaughter fan has finally found worthy of five stars again.  Slaughter's last several books have been in the 3 or 4 star range for me, good but just not up to Blindsighted and Kisscut, those first two explosive books.  With Fallen, Slaughter is back in the seat with an exhilarating new thriller.  Faith, Will's partner, is a major character in this book as her mother is kidnapped and she sets off to track down the merciless person or persons who have done so, along the way she even becomes a suspect.  She realizes she can't go it alone and comes to Will for help and even former coroner, Sara Linton.  The case is fantastic and an exciting read.  Possibly the plot is a little over the top, but who cares!  Slaughter is in top form here.

I've said it before in my reviews that I've never liked Sara Linton, but Slaughter takes her character through some major development in this book, as she does Will Trent.  Giving them both a much needed update in their current situations and taking them forward in a direction that I amazingly am very satisfied with.  An all around top-notch thriller with great character development for the series as a whole.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Human Body by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld


Human Body by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld (Canada) - (US)
Scholastic Science Readers, Level 1

Pages: 32
Ages: 5+
Finished: Jul. 6, 2011
First Published: 2000
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: children, easy reader, non-fiction, anatomy
Rating: 4/5


First sentence:


Your body has many parts.

Acquired: Purchased a used copy at a garage sale.

Reason for Reading: Ds read aloud to me as his reader.

A basic introduction to the human body and anatomy, filled with fun facts and photographs.  Even though labeled a Level 1, it is a little harder than most readers at this level with its use of specialized vocabulary.  However when extra tricky words appear they are followed by phonetic pronunciation, ex. "oxygen (ok-suh-juhn)".  The photographs contain a wide variety of racial groups, both male and female, and are eye-catching.  A nice little book for its purposes.  The 2000 edition I read is out of print and a reprint (with new cover) was published in 2010.  I cannot vouch that it is still the same.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Batman Returns: The Penquin's Plot

Batman Returns: The Penquin's Plot by Michael Teitelbaum. Illustrated by Rick Holberg & Tad Chow (US) Out of Print
A Golden Look-Look Book

Pages: 24
Ages: 5+
Finished: Jul. 6, 2011
First Published: 1992
Publisher: A Golden Book/Western Publishing Co.
Genre: picture book, superheroes
Rating: 4/5
First sentence:



It was Christmas in Gotham City.


Acquired: Purchased a used copy at a garage/book sale or thrift shop.

Reason for Reading: Son read aloud to me as reader.

Typical quality superhero story picture book.  Lots of action to please young fans.  Ds has had this read to him for years and now that he's actually read it himself it's time to pass it along through the thrift shops again.  Not sure how it relates to the actual movie as I barely even remember that, though illustrations of The Penguin are certainly recognizable as Danny DeVito inspired.  Reading level was quite exceptionally high for this type of a picture book though, probably around Gr. 5, ds had a hard time reading it but fortunately he was familiar with the story.  Fun little story for Batman fans.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

148. Twin Spica, Vol. 2 by Kou Yaginuma


Twin Spica, Vol. 2 by Kou Yaginuma (Canada) - (US)
Twin Spica, Vol. 2

Pages: 192
Ages: 12+
Finished: Jun. 28, 2011
First Published: 2002, Japan (2010, English)
Publisher: Vertical
Genre: manga, YA, sci-fi, magical realism
Rating: 5/5


First sentence:

The year 2024 the first International Space Station, after many years in orbit, is completing its mission.

Acquired: Purchased a new copy from an online retailer.

Reason for Reading: next in the series.

I really love this series.  The story is incredibly interesting but it is the emotions of the characters that are entirely realistic and pull you into this unique sci-fi/magical realism manga tale.  Asumi sets off for her first day at Space School and says goodbye to Lion, as he cannot leave with her.  At Space School Asumi finds the training challenging but she is up to the challenge, taking classes in advanced mathematics and physics along with physical training such as jogging up to 20 laps a day.  Her two teammates from the trials are there, as is a boy she grew up with in her home town.  The dynamics of Asumi with each of these three and that of them with her are an intriguing look at personalities and how each copes with the same situations.  Everything would be perfect if not for one thing.  Unfortunately, Asumi has an unknown enemy on the school board who is working against her and whose aim is make her leave the school, but of her own volition. The book then ends with two short stories of "Asumi", the author's earlier work of Asumi as a child and a final short autobiographical story of author.  These were present in the first volume and I think are going to be a common element in each volume.  I really enjoy the stories of Asumi as a child, they add greatly to gaining insight to her character and of course, contain Lion as well.

I think I'm going to concentrate on this series now, after the one I'm currently working on.  Up to volume 8 (out of 16) have been published with vol. 9 just out now and the rest are on an every 2nd month schedule.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Arthur's Honey Bear by Lillian Hoban

Arthur's Honey Bear by Lillian Hoban (Canada) - (US)
I Can Read Books, Level 2

Pages: 64
Ages: 5+
Finished: June 27, 2011
First Published: 1974
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: children, easy reader
Rating: 3/5


First sentence:


It was spring-cleaning day.


Acquired: Purchased a used copy from a book/garage sale or thrift shop.

Reason for Reading: Ds read aloud to me as his reader.

Arthur and his sister Violet are cleaning out their toys and decide to sell some of them in a tag sale but Arthur has a hard time deciding whether to sell his Honey Bear or not.  I was never fond of this series as a child myself.  Can't really say why, just that Arthur never appealed to me.  But since we had this one on the shelf we used it as a reader.  The reading level was just on par with ds's abilities but the story was on the immature side and I can't say he was much interested in it either.  Not a bad story but certainly recommended for the youngest ages, 5/6 or so.

Monday, July 11, 2011

147. Chi's Sweet Home, Vol. 2 by Konami Kanata


Chi's Sweet Home, Vol. 2 by Konami Kanata (Canada) - (US)
Chi's Home Sweet Home, Vol. 2

Pages: 154
Ages: All Ages
First Published: 2005 Japan (Aug. 24, 2010, English translation)
Publisher: Vertical
Genre: children, manga, humour
Rating: 4/5


First sentence:


Looks like it's time to move on to dry food.

Acquired: Purchased a new copy from an online retailer.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

An adorable series!  And another adorable entry.  I didn't find volume 2 quite as hilarious as the first but it was still funny and just as cute.  Cute little chapters in which the family is getting used to raising a pet and other's where Chi is exploring and learning about life.  He no longer misses his mother and siblings but he does have a couple of flashbacks of things that remind him of that comforting time.  While there is no real overarching plot to this volume there is the hanging nuisance of a large cat in the apartment complex who is causing trouble knocking over flowerpots, stealing salmon and he invades Chi's home.  Chi begins to meet him more often and at this point learns that he is a cat not the same kind as the family he lives with, though he doesn't really believe it.  Though the family has no problems this time with being caught with the cat, except for one near miss. There is some foreshadowing that this large troublemaker cat, similar in looks to a bear, may be the downfall for any hidden pet cats in the complex.  In the note at the back we learn about the author's background a bit and find that this is not her first foray into manga, but that it was her first manga written for a men's weekly comic anthology.  It is surprising to hear that the intended audience was men since the story is so suitable for children but then on the other hand the father's emotions and attachment to the cat are presented much more as story elements than the mother's.  A really cute, funny series!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

DNF: Leviathan by Scott Westerfield

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield  (Canada) - (US)
Leviathan, #1

Pages: 142/440
Ages: 12+
Finished: DNF
First Published: Oct. 6, 2009
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: YA, steampunk, alternate history
Rating:  DNF



First sentence:


The Austrian horses glinted in the moonlight, their riders standing tall in the saddle, swords raised.


Acquired: Received a review copy from Simon and Schuster Canada.

Reason for Reading:  I've always wanted to read the author, and the steampunk element appealed to me.

This just didn't work for me.  I was bored with it.  I had been looking for the steampunk of Arthur Slade or Kenneth Oppel but ended up with the alternate history of Harry Turtledove.  I just can't stand alternate military history and this being set in an alternate WWI was too much about the politics of their war which bored me and not enough about the characters' stories away from the war, which I would have liked.  And the animals turned into machines was absolutely disgusting to me, not something my stomach could handle. Just not my thing.  I still intend to try the author's Uglies series.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

146. Hanako and the Terror of Allegory, Vol. 3

Hanako and the Terror of Allegory, Vol. 3 by Sakae Esuno (Canada) - (US)
Hanako and the Terror of Allegory, Vol. 3

Pages: 249
Ages: 16+
First Published: 2005 Japan (Dec. 28, 2010, English translation)
Publisher: Tokyopop
Genre: YA, manga, horror
Rating: 3/5



First sentence:


...Allegorification!

Acquired: Purchased a new copy from an online retailer.

Reason for Reading: next in the series

This second to the last volume in the series has some good stories in it but is set up in an awkward manner which leaves the book with a final disappointing end.  First the book starts with the second part of a story about Aso himself becoming an allegory which was hard to follow since it had been so long since I'd read vol. 2.  Then came two very good stories , the first "Gap Girl" is based on an old Japanese folklore of a creepy yet attractive woman who haunts and squeezes into any gaps in a house, like between a dresser and a wall.  The other "Red Paper, Blue Paper" is again based on folklore where if an allegory asks you which is better and you answer red, you will be slashed to death and the blood will flow, but if you answer blue, you will be strangled until your face turns blue.  Their is a secret response.  Then the book ends with parts 1 and 2 of a very creepy story of a stalking and murderous doll.  Great story really; who doesn't love creepy doll stories?  But the book ends with a to be continued with part 3 of the same story and here is where the disappointment comes in.  The next Volume (4) was to be the concluding volume of this series, but Tokyopop closed their English publishing division and pulled the plug on all their upcoming titles.  I had this on pre-order and had it pulled only a few weeks before release date.  A real bummer, especially since it leaves the series hanging.  This is one I would have re-read all together to get the complete flow without the breaks between.

Friday, July 8, 2011

145. The Story of a Soul: St. Therese of Lisieux

The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of The Little Flower by St. Therese of Lisieux. Edited by Mother Agnes of Jesus. Translated by Michael Day, CONG., ORAT. Foreword by Vernon Johnson.  (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 175
Ages: 18+
Finished: June 21, 2011
First Published: 1899, French (1951, French, this edition) (2010, English, this edition)
Publisher: Tan Classics
Genre: memoir, diary, letters, Catholic, Christian
Rating: 5/5


First sentence:


My Dearest Mother, it is to you, to you who are in fact a mother twice over to me, that I now confide the Story of my Soul.



Acquired: Purchased new from my local Catholic Book & Gift store.

Reason for Reading: Our church has been run by the Carmelites for over 100 years.  Our priests are Carmelites and we have a statutory of St. Therese in the building.  I was much intrigued about her "little way' and after watching the recent 2004 movie about her life was ready to read her autobiography.

In truth, the book is really not an autobiography but more of a snippet of memoirs.  It is divided into three pieces, the first, being the longest, was commissioned by her Mother Superior who also happened to be her sister.  This is where Therese tells of her childhood up until she is accepted into Carmel.  Therese was a sheltered child, raised along with 4 other sisters who also became nuns and devout Catholic parents who kept them from the worldly ways of life but raised them within a deeply loving family atmosphere.  Therese was very much childlike her entire life of 24 years, never having experienced any of life's degradations and was a complete innocent in so many matters.  Yet her soul belonged to the Lord from a very early age (three) and she knew she wanted to be a saint.  Even though her mother died while she was still young her childhood  seems to have been happy enough, with Therese preparing herself for a Religious life and a holy, saintly, Heavenly eternal life which may have taken some of the childhood fun out of her but her soul was content with this and she yearned to suffer for Jesus while she was exiled here on earth.

The second piece is a much shorter memoir written for another Mother of the Abbey who had requested Therese write of life at Carmel.  Here we see Therese grow-up though she will always retain her childlike innocence.  Here for the first time she will actually suffer from things the reader is more able to relate to rather than the childish sufferings in the first part.  Therese met fellow Sisters who did not care for her because of her young age and the nepotism that seemed to be going on with her family within the Abbey.  She was treated harshly by some, worked hard at back breaking chores, and never let her faith slip.  She learned to put into practice what she called her "little way", making small, little efforts to please to the Lord.  Over time these little things will add up to a greater good in the end.

Finally, the last piece is more of a letter written to Sister Marie (again her actual sister) who has asked for a small piece from her as she now lays on her deathbed dying of Tuberculosis.  Here she writes of her most secret thoughts and desires and requests of Jesus.  Her visions, dreams and then glories that await her when she reaches Heaven as she knows she will be gong straight there to continue her work of saving earthly souls from her place in Heaven.

A beautiful little book, with a powerful message between its deceptively short pages.  St. Therese was not writing for anyone to read other than her intended singular audience and perhaps she knew other sisters would read her words.   Thus she writes simply and childlike and again this can be deceptive to the reader especially as one goes through the first half of the book about her childhood but there are some very wise lessons about living, love and the pursuit of eternal life that came from this dear soul who died at the age of 24.  She actually gives us a way to live our lives according to the Gospels, her "Little Way" is an inspiring way to lead one's life.  She was not made a Doctor of the Church without reason.  This is one of those books that every Catholic should read.

I will be finishing my study of St. Therese with one more book which is a fairly recent autobiographical book written about her life and her way.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

144. Bone: Eyes of the Storm by Jeff Smith

The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith (Canada) - (US)
Bone, Vol. 3

Pages: 132
Ages: 9+
Finished: June 20, 2011
First Published: 1994, 1995 (2006, colourized edition)
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: children, graphic novel, humour, fantasy
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:
High aloft in th' cross-trees was that mad Tashtego!
Acquired: Purchased a new copy from an online retailer

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Vol. 3 starts off with Fone Bone and Thorn having strange dreams and Phoney and Smiley settling down to life at the farm.  Soon enough the latter two are taken back to the village to work off their debt to Lucius.  The rat creatures are out after everybody as each party gets caught in a rain storm.  Then Gran'ma Ben finally tells Thorn the real story of Thorn's life so far, the mysteries of her dreams and she is stunned.  This is a major turning point in the plot giving the story a new direction and mission.  Lots of laughs to be had here, as well as tons of action.  Rat creature attacks and the return of the red (orange) dragon.  (Love that guy!)  Another funny, exciting adventure in the Bone series that has me clamouring for Vol. 4.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

142. The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Translated from the Spanish by Lucia Graves (Canada) - (US)


Pages: 531
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jun. 14, 2011
First Published: 2008, Spanish (2009, English)
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Genre: magical realism, Gothic,
Rating: 3/5


First sentence:




A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: I had heard great things about Zafon‘s first book and the mysterious plot of this one intrigued me. It has taken me a long time to get around to reading it though as the book was so heavily reviewed at the time of its publication I kind of got tired of hearing about it and lost my desire to read it, however the time was now right for me.

Not having read “The Shadow of the Wind”, I cannot compare the two books. Many others say that the first is much better. This is a very intriguing story; dark, mysterious and Gothic in all the perfect ways: an old creepy house with a tower, a gruesome death from the past, an unrequited love story, a mysterious man in dark, expensive suits and a perpetual atmosphere of gloom. I really enjoyed the story, though I found it slow-going. The pace meandered along and while things became strange and spooky, they never reached intensity for me. It was not a page turner. The magical realism elements added quite an entirely new perspective to a story which could have been written straight without the supernatural involvement for a tale of mystery and madness. I did enjoy the book but I’m afraid I never did really “get” the meaning of the plot, the overall theme. I thought I had it all figured out quite early, that this was the story of a man who had sold his soul to the devil, and part of me still believes that but by the ending I felt that had been disproved and it left me unsatisfied. It could also be the story of a man’s descent into madness but again the ending can disprove that theory too. The ending blew my general grasp of the story out of the water and I finished up with a big “huh?” and a question mark hanging over my head as to what it all meant. But then the whole story is told by an unreliable narrator and the ending leaves one wondering what, if anything, was the reality. A very strange story but I can say I'm glad I read it. I will read the author again; I just won’t expect the ending to answer any questions.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

141. Bone: The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith

The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith (Canada) - (US)
Bone, Vol. 2

Pages: 132
Ages: 9+
Finished: June 14, 2011
First Published: 1992, 1993 (2005, colourized edition)
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: children, graphic novel, humour, fantasy
Rating: 5/5


First sentence:

The Spring Fair! Don’t you just love it, Fone Bone?


Acquired: Purchased a new copy from an online retailer

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

The story continues on from Vol. 1 with everyone arriving at the anticipated spring fair. Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone put their plan into action to scam the townspeople and Gran’ma Ben is ready to take on the cows in the annual cow race. Of course all sorts of shenanigans happen and nothing works out the way it should, well except for Gran’ma Ben. Thorn is having strange dreams about the past and the Rat Creatures are after Phoney Bone but with orders to kill the other two, if necessary. Not a lot to say except I’m loving the story and the characters. Fone Bone is still my favourite and his crush on Thorn is cute, though I haven’t taken to her yet. I much prefer Gran’ma Ben as main female lead at this point. Looking forward to Vol. 3, then I will have to decide whether to buy the next volumes, as well, or start using the library.

Monday, July 4, 2011

140. Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi


Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. Translated by Emma Rose. Illustrated by Sara Fanelli. (Canada) - (US)
Candlewick Illustrated Classics

Pages: 191
Ages: 7+
Finished: Jun. 10, 2011
First Published: 1883, (Jul. 13, 2010 this translation/edition)
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, classic, fantasy
Rating: 5/5


First sentence:

Once upon a time there was ...
" A king?" did I hear you cry?"

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to the ds.  This is actually my third attempt at reading this book to him.  Pinocchio is one of my favourite children's classics.  The first time was when he was five and was my edition that I had read, an old Rainbow Classics, but I think he was just too young.  The second time, he was older and at that time I had a different edition, don't remember which, but it was an awful translation and we gave that up as well.  So my hopes of reading him Pinocchio were put on the shelf until I saw this edition, which noted it was a brand new translation and I was taken right away with the collaged/mixed media artwork which I used to dabble in myself.

Starting with the art, the book is beautiful.  I love this collage, mixed media art style and each page was a visual delight to me and my son, who has seen me dabbling in the art myself.  An extremely gorgeous book.  A square, softcover with french flaps make for easy handling and browsing.  Ds would often pick the book up between reads and just look at the pictures. 

There's no need to give a summary, I think everyone is acquainted with the story of the wooden puppet who wants to become a real boy.  But if you've only been exposed to the Disney version, then just let me tell you that you do not really know the true story of Pinocchio, which is rather moralistic in teaching boys to be good boys and quite violent along way.  One part that always makes me smile (because I hate Disney's Jiminy Cricket character) is that in the book when Pinocchio meets the cricket (no name, btw) who moralizes with him to annoyance is that Pinocchio's final response is to pick up a mallet and throw it at him, squashing the irritating bug against the wall. LOL.  The cricket's ghost does return to annoy Pinocchio some more.  DS thoroughly enjoyed the story as he wasn't familiar with it.  He saw the Disney movie as a little kid but it had too much slow singing in it so he didn't like it, or pay much attention to it.  He loved when anyone got what they deserved, even Pinocchio, and he found it fun when he could see it coming.  The whole story is a lot of fun.  With the modern translation and the new illustrations, this edition is entirely whimsical and doesn't come off as moralistic as earlier translations I've read do.  Oh, it hasn't been left out, but Pinocchio is such a rude, naughty boy that he needs to be taught a lesson and eventually even he knows when he is doing the wrong thing.  I highly recommend this translation, especially for reading aloud.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

139. If You Lived at the Time of Martin Luther King by Ellen Levine


If You Lived at the Time of Martin Luther King by Ellen Levine. Illustrated by Anna Rich (Canada) - (US)
If You... series

Pages: 80
Ages: 8+
Finished: Jun. 10, 2011
First Published: 1990 (1994, new illustrations)
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: non-fiction, children, history, 1960s, Civil Rights Movement
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Black people were brought to America from Africa as slaves.

Acquired: Purchased a copy new via an online retailer.

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to ds as part of our history curriculum.

As with all "If You..." books, the book is presented in a series of questions and answers which progress naturally from a beginning point to an ending.  After the brief introduction which leads us up to the plight of the black people in the US in the fifties and sixties the book starts with the question "What was segregation?" This is a very thorough book which looks at the Civil Rights Movement from the earliest rumblings of the brave lone men and woman who took a stand by sitting on a bus in the white section or sitting in diners for white people all the way through to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination and modern day prejudice.  Though the book's title refers to MLK, this is not a biography of him and he is not mentioned until well into the book.  Of course once he is mentioned then he and the movement become inseparable, but the book is about the times first.

My son was very interested in this book, and with us being Canadians this was the first time he had heard about this topic in such depth.  Of course, we have come across the subject in our readings to date and I've discussed it with him but this book really brought the reality of the situation, mostly in the Southern US, to life for him.  He was plain outright flabbergasted at the "whites only" and "no coloreds" signs that were posted everywhere and everything that was actually involved with segregation.  It was a real eye opener for him that a world like this once existed and we tried to imagine what it would be like for us today if we were out in the world with so many rules against what we were allowed to do and where we could go and he found it near impossible.  He is glad that Canada is a free country and that we were a welcome destination for the slaves back in those days. (from previous studies)  This book definitely made an impact on him and I personally was well pleased with it, also.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

DC Super-Pets!: Pooches of Power!

Pooches of Power by Sarah Hines Stephens. Illustrated by Art Baltazar. (Canada) - (US)
DC Super-Pets! series

Pages: 54
Ages: 6+
Finished: Jun. 8, 2011
First Published: Jan. 2, 2011
Publisher: Picture Window Books
Genre: Easy Reader, Superheroes
Rating: 4/5
First sentence:

Ace the Bat-Hound stretched his legs.


Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Publishing.

Reason for Reading: Ds read aloud to me for his reader.

This new series "DC Super-Pets!" is a younger sibling to the already established "DC Super Heroes" series by the publisher. While the latter series is for established, and perhaps reluctant readers, this new series is for emergent or reluctant readers. All six books in the series are at a GR. 2 level with this one being at a RL:2.8. Following the same format as the established series, DC Super Pets uses colourful cartoon graphics for all the sound effect words. It goes on to make the books more appealing to younger readers by using different colours of text for each character's spoken words. There are also illustrations on every page, using a variety of formats from full-page to half-page to single illustrations amongst the text. This may sound crowded at first but the lines of text are double spaced creating a nice graphic display, easily read on each page.

We've now read all six books in this new series. Ds asked if there were any more and I had to tell him this was all there was for now. He's really enjoyed reading this series and it has stretched his reading capabilities. In this book we meet-up with Batman's pooch Ace, he goes to investigate missing sardines from the marina. While there Krypto the Super-Pooch shows up and as a team they find The Penguin up to his usual tricks. Together they take on the villain and his sidekicks, a penguin, vulture and puffin. Another action-packed, superhero story and one of my son's favourites in the series, though his (and my) favourite of the bunch is still "Heroes of the High Seas". Fun book!

Friday, July 1, 2011

I'm in the gLOBE AND mAIL!

I was interviewed for an article in the Globe and Mail (national canadian newspaper) about reading challenges and it was published this last saturday.  You can read it online here.