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Saturday Book Review: “Property of the Rebel Librarian,” by Allison Varnes; “It’s Not the End of the World,” by Judy Blume; “Squirm,” by Carl Hiaasen; “Travels with Foxfire,” from Phil Hudgins and Jessica Phillips; “The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek,” by Howard Markel; “All Are Welcome,” by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

September 8th, 2018

Yaquina Head, Newport, Ore. August 2018

Hermit Crab + Friend (Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Isn’t that crab cool? We found him at Yaquina Head, on the Oregon coast. OK, lemme get some coffee and I’ll be right back…

Back!

Saturday book review, baby. I have never read so many good books all at once in my life. I’m being serious here. I always have a stack of books next to my bed, and usually one is great, two are three are good, there’s my Kindle as back-up (Shakespeare and Dickens, you’re always there for me) but lately?

I always have a dozen good books close by, and they’re all excellent ones. Finish-in-one-day-or-two books, is what I’m saying.

So here we go with a selection of children’s, young adult and grown-up books:

“Property of the Rebel Librarian,” by Allison Varnes, took me by surprise. (Random House Children’s Books, 2018, ages 8 and older, 275 pages, $16.99.) This young adult novel introduces us to June Harper, and I hope she appears in future books, because she’s a great character. People in her life — parents, friends’ parents, some of the teachers, the principal, even some of her fellow students — lose their collective minds and ban pretty much every book in the school library, and at home.

But she has a secret evil plan and it just might work… Really good story, plot, characters, and the writing was on point. It’s a timely book, as well. #knowledgeispower #takealookitsinabook #readingrainbow

“It’s Not the End of the World” is Judy Blume’s classic young adult novel about how one family deals with divorce. Karen wants to stop her parents’ divorce, but her parents seem pretty set on the idea. Her younger sister, older brother, and nosy aunt and uncle aren’t helping the situation. Sometimes, you just need to call on Judy Blume for some answers. I’m glad that her books have enjoyed the shelf life they have over the years. Blume remains the best at dealing with domestic drama, puberty, conflicts, bullying and all things kid. (Dell Yearling, 1972, 169 pages.)

Carl Hiaasen’s latest, “Squirm” is another cool young adult novel. (Random House Children’s Books, 2018, ages 8 and older, 276 pages, $18.99.) Billy Dickens doesn’t really know his father, and doesn’t really care to, since he bailed out on the family several years earlier. He and his mom are nature freaks, and love bald eagles, golden eagles, all kinds of snakes and basically any critter they come across. He lives in Florida (Hiaasen’s stomping grounds, where most of his books are set) but when he decides to go visit his father in Montana, his whole world tilts.

I have never met a Carl Hiaasen book I didn’t love, so this should come as no surprise to longtime readers, but this really is one of his best titles yet. Billy is a great character, and he’s surrounded by women — and his dad — and it makes the book even stronger.

“Travels with Foxfire: Stories of People, Passions, and Practices from Southern Appalachia,” from Phil Hudgins and Jessica Phillips. (Anchor Books, 2018, 314 pages, $19.95.) Foxfire, in case you haven’t heard, is a heritage preservation organization that does good work with students and mentors who bring us stories and background on the traditions of the Appalachian people. I’ve followed their work for years — they’ve been at it for 52 years now (starting in 1966, with the first book released in 1972). As the writer Raymond Carver would say, it’s a small, good thing. (But it’s kind of quietly a big deal, truth be told.)

This book of stories introduces us to bootleggers; the drivers who turned stock car races into modern day NASCAR; the ancient art of water dowsing; bluegrass, country and shape note singing, and lots of other artists, workers and characters. I was glad to see it arrive in the mail, it was like having a longtime friend stop by for coffee.

For more information, go to Foxfire’s website.

“The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek,” by Howard Markel, is an offbeat book about a couple of knuckleheads, a foodie and a physician, who introduced us to Corn Flakes and the pursuit of wellness, in their own inimitable style. It’s different, but I think you might like it. Non-fiction rules, man. Go read a biography or autobiography today and get back to me. (Vintage Books, 2018, 544 pages, $18.00.)

Last!

“All Are Welcome,” written by Alexandra Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman, is a perfect picture book for the start of the school year. (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2018, ages 4-18, $17.99.) Everyone at this school is welcome with open arms. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Pretty pictures, a sentiment we shouldn’t need to be reminded of (but still do) and a poster under the flap of the book. Excellent.

Bon appetit, babies. Have a wonderful weekend.

WM

Monday Book Review: I love kids’ books. It’s true. “The Itchy Book,” by LeUyen Pham; “The Gumazing Gumgirl! Popped Star,” by Rhode Montijo, with Luke Reynolds; “Super Saurus and the Egg,” by Deborah Underwood and Ned Young

August 6th, 2018

Kid Feet

“The Itchy Book,” by LeUyen Pham (Disney-Hyperion Books for Children, 2018, $9.99). This is from the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! book series, which is similar in style to the Dr. Seuss recommended readers. Super cute, and has art from Mo Willems to open and close the book. “Dinosaurs do not scratch,” the sign says. Who knew? But what if they get itchy? It’s a dilemma. (Warning: You will want someone to scratch your back after reading this.) It’s awfully funny, and the illustrations are funny and sweet, too.

“The Gumazing Gumgirl! Popped Star,” by Rhode Montijo, with Luke Reynolds (Disney-Hyperion, 2018, 147 pages, $14.99). Our superheroine Gabby Gomez is back for her third adventure in the series. Me? I like any book that commands you to “SMELL ME!” Great little graphic novel, action-packed and super-stretchy. But are Gabby’s parents going to flip if they find out her real identity?

“Super Saurus and the Egg,” written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Ned Young (Disney-Hyperion, 2018, $16.99) — “Beepity Beep,” “Beep,” “Beep Beep Beep” and “Boop” and off we go and into the story. Little Dino Super Saurus is busy battling Zottlebots when his parents inform him that a new little brother or sister is on the way. The egg, he decides, is the Egg of Doom. This could end badly. Maybe his parents will trade the egg for a cotton candy machine? Clever way to introduce the idea of a new sibling to an older child.

Monday Book Review — What’s New on My Nightstand: “Willa of the Wood,” by Robert Beatty; “Nothing Happened,” by Molly Booth; “Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen,” by Candace Fleming & Eric Rohmann

July 30th, 2018

“Willa of the Wood,” by Robert Beatty (Disney-Hyperion, 2018, 376 pages, $16.99) feels a bit like “The Borrowers,” which is cool. Set in 1900 in the Great Smoky Mountains, the book tells the story of Willa, a “night spirit” who borrows things from humans in order to ensure her clan’s survival. The novel is different, offbeat and has lots of adventures. Beatty is also the author of the Serafina fantasy series.

I’m enjoying reading “Nothing Happened,” (“what happens at camp stays at camp”) a twist on Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” (written by Molly Booth, Hyperion Books, 2018, 325 pages). Camp Dogberry, the year-round home of sisters Bea and Hana Leonoto and their parents, welcomes back counselors Claudia, Ben, John and the younguns who attend as campers. Book contains teen sexuality, some curse words, and dialogue that is funny, honest and real. Great summer read.

Another good read is “Strongheart, Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen,” written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann. (Random House Children’s Books, 2018, ages 8-12, 256 pages, $17.99.) The book is based on the true story of Strongheart and Lady Jule, canine movie stars of the 1920s. These German Shepherds were something else (if you google you can find some old clips on YouTube.) Kids like dog books, and “true” books (“Did this really happen? In real life?”), so I’m thinking “Strongheart” will be a hit. The illustrations are graphic novel-style — tip of the hat to Brian Selznick (“Hugo Cabret,” “Wonder”).

Bon appetit, babies.

WM

Saturday Book Review: So Many Summer Titles, Happy! “Miles Morales: Spider-Man,” by Jason Reynolds, cover by Kadir Nelson; “Hilo: Waking the Monsters,” written & illustrated by Judd Winick; “Grow up, Ant-Man!” written by Brandon T. Snider, illustrated by Jessika von Innerebner

July 21st, 2018

When someone sends me a case of books… oh, my gosh. The exhilaration, the joy, the goofiness that is involved, daily, with being a book geek… yeah. I loved when those Scholastic Book Club orders would show up, when I was a kid (and later, there were the Scholastic Book Fairs with my own kids, and my own fairs that I ran when I was a librarian). Ah, books. So that’s how I have felt a lot lately, when the mail shows up. :)

All photos by me :) Except I think the butterfly pic is by B, because how could I take my own pic with a butterfly on my arm? Lol.

Coronado Shores, Corvallis, chickens n dogs 💜
That’s a blue butterfly on Marys Peak in Corvallis. One of the endangered Fender’s Blues? Or one of the less-endangered ones? Who knows. Pretty, though.

First up: A review I needed to do months ago when this awesome cool book landed in the mailbox. “Miles Morales: Spider-Man,” by Jason Reynolds, cover by Kadir Nelson (Marvel, 2017, 261 pages, $17.99). Great book about a school-age young man who is smart, funny, loves his family, has fun with his best friend, is crushing out on a pretty poet in his class, puts up with school and the drama there and oh, yeah. He’s Spider-Man. Which is kind of a pain.

This book is a mystery, a story about a superhero, a love story, a family drama, and it’s all about poetry, too. It is poetry. Also? Brooklyn! (I like the Brooklyn/New York kid books. You know.) (And the cover is one beautiful work of art. Love Kadir Nelson, love.) You’ll like it. Reynolds’ other books include “When I Was the Greatest,” “The Boy in the Black Suit,” “All American Boys” and several others.

Coronado Shores, Corvallis, chickens n dogs 💜

That’s a lovely sunset at Coronado Shores, Gleneden Beach, Oregon coast. I miss living there, but you can’t have it all, babies. Where would you put it?

“Hilo: Waking the Monsters,” written and illustrated by Judd Winik (Random House Children’s Books, 2018, ages 8-12, 208 pages, $9.99). If you like the “Bone” series (or “Big Nate,” or “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”) you are going to love this graphic novel (this is Book 4 in the series). Hilo and his sidekick Gina are going to save the world, so watch out.

Coronado Shores, Corvallis, chickens n dogs 💜

My old front yard at the beach house, with gunnera plant (elephant ears) on front right.

Marvel’s “Grow Up, Ant-Man!” (written by Brandon T. Snider, illustrated by Jessika von Innerebner, Marvel, 2018, $12.99) is a picture book for the littles. Super fun, bright colors, and will hold the kiddos’ interest. Cassie’s dad, Ant-Man, is a little wild. She’d like him to grow up, but she would also like him to play in her dollhouse and have a tea party with her. So there’s some conflict. Lol.

All for now, babies.

WM

Thursday Book Review: For the Children! — “The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley,” by April Stevens; “Annie’s Life in Lists,” by Kristin Mahoney; “Star Wars: Are You Scared, Darth Vader?”, by Adam Rex; and Danica McKellar’s “Bathtime Mathtime” & “Do Not Open This Math Book”

July 5th, 2018

June 2018

I love books. But I also love sleep. And social mores dictate that I must at least “make an effort” around the house and yard, and work, and cook sometimes and there you have it. I am vowing this summer to take two blocks a week — a morning, an afternoon, an evening, whatever combo works — shirk all responsibility and read, instead.

“The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley,” by April Stevens (Schwartz & Wade, 2018, ages 8-12, 197 pages, $16.99). I am enamored with this book, and dear Frances, aka Figgrotten, and her desire to understand nature, anthropology, and her big sister, Christinia. The author has made some brave choices with this book. I like that, too.

“Often, at dinner, she’d ask questions that seemed to confuse her family. Things like, ‘I read that Margaret Mead used to hang up the phone when she was done talking to people. She didn’t even say goodbye. Just clunk, put the receiver down. Do you think that was because the people she studied didn’t have telephones?’”

This is a delightful and insightful read. Ditto for the next one:

“Annie’s Life in Lists,” by Kristin Mahoney (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2018, ages 8-12, 261 pages, $16.99). Do you like making lists? I do. So does Annie. But sometimes she makes lists, sees patterns, remembers details that other people don’t, and this makes her stand out. When she moves from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Clover Gap, population 8,432, she has to make some adjustments. Engaging story, believable characters, such a good book.

Now for something entirely different…

A Star Wars book: “Are You Scared, Darth Vader?” by Adam Rex (Disney/LucasFilm Press, 2018, $17.99). Have you read “Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich”? You should, because it is really good and very funny. So is this one. Darth Vader (surprise) isn’t scared of one thing — not witches, not bats, not public speaking, not spiders, not… children. Wait. Read the book and see what happens. It’s a good one, and the illustrations are a lot of fun. Yes, that’s right, I said “fun” and “Darth Vader” in the same paragraph.

Last but not least, two new math books from children’s author, math whiz and actress Danica McKellar: “Bathtime Mathtime” and “Do Not Open This Math Book” (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2018, ages 2-5, 20 pages, $8.99, and ages 6-9, 160 pages, $18.99). The first is a sweet little board book, with counting games and bright, colorful illustrations. The second is chock-full of addition + subtraction math games that are so fun and innovative that it might take the kids awhile to realize that they’re learning. So much fun. Get them comfortable with numbers, you won’t regret it. And you might even learn a little something, too.

Bon appetit, babies!

WM

Friday Book Review: What’s On My Nightstand — “Homing Instincts: Early Motherhood on a Midwestern Farm,” by Sarah Menkedick; “The Gravity of Birds,” by Tracy Guzeman; “An Unquiet Mind,” by Kay Redfield Jamison; and Kristin Hannah’s “The Nightingale”

June 29th, 2018

(All photos by my kid)

June 2018

“Homing Instincts: Early Motherhood on a Midwestern Farm,” by Sarah Menkedick (Vintage Books, 2018, 276 pages, $17). A woman who has traveled the world travels back and begins her new life as a mom on her family’s farm in the Ohio countryside. I like Menkedick’s style, sister-from-another-planet, but down-home at the same time. It’s an interesting read. You feel like you’re right there when you read it.

June 2018

“The Gravity of Birds,” by Tracy Guzeman (Simon & Schuster, 2013, 294 pages, $15.99). Just started this one, it’s very good.

June 2018

“An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness,” by Kay Redfield Jamison (Vintage Books/Random House, 1995, 219 pages). “well i think/i’m losing my mind this time/this time/i’m losing my mind/that’s right…” — “What’Cha Want,” Beastie Boys We’ve all been there, babies. I read this book when it first came out, to try to figure out where shit went sideways with my Dad. I’m re-reading it now for my own sanity, and because I’m working with elders now, and there is nothing scarier than to feel your mind slipping away (see: dementia, see: memory loss, see: Alzheimer’s, see: too much info crammed into the computer that is the human brain). To know it’s happening, and not be able to stop the slide? Scariest shit ever. This is a brilliant work, from a brilliant lady. Read it.

June 2018

“The Nightingale,” by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015, 567 pages, $16.99). World War II, the French Resistance, a love story… rock it. This was a birthday present from B. :)

June 2018

(^^ That’s me! ^^ And photo by me, Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Bon appetit, babies, have a great weekend, bye.

WM

Wednesday Book Review: “Still Alice,” by Lisa Genova; “The Night Gardener: A Search for Home,” by Marjorie Sandor; “Making Time for Making Music: How to Bring Music into Your Busy Life,” by Amy Nathan

June 27th, 2018

June 2018
(Photo by I don’t know who)

June 2018
(Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

“Still Alice,” by Lisa Genova (SimonandSchuster.com, 2007, 293 pages). I remember watching the Julianne Moore film based on this novel when it came out in 2014 — Kristen Stewart and Alec Baldwin co-starred and were great, but Julianne Moore just owned the film. I found the novel to be a profoundly beautiful and upsetting work. It was so good. Genova holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard, and is a columnist for the National Alzheimer’s Association. She is a big deal and all, and knows her stuff, but the only thing I care about is that she wrote a touching, insightful novel that will help others understand the inner workings of someone’s ravaged mind, and that will make you cry, too. Great novel.

June 2018

(Photo by my kid)

“The Night Gardener: A Search for Home,” by Marjorie Sandor (The Lyons Press, 1999, 206 pages). Beautiful collection of essays by this Corvallis, Oregon/Oregon State University writer and teacher. I came across this book awhile back and am glad it found me.

June 2018

(Photo by my kid)

“Making Time for Music: How to Bring Music Into Your Busy Life,” by Amy Nathan (Oxford University Press, 2018, 280 pages, $24.95). Great resource to get grown-ups inspired to begin or renew a love of music. The book includes a comprehensive reference section, as well. Nathan’s other books include “The Music Parents’ Survival Guide: A Parent-to-Parent Conversation,” and “The Young Musician’s Survival Guide.” Now go play.

June 2018

Bon appetit, babies.

WM

Friday Book Review: Tiny Bible Tales — “Daniel in the Lions’ Den” & “Miriam and Pharaoh’s Daughter,” by W.C. Bauers & Marta Costa; Loryn Brantz’s “Feminist Baby Finds Her Voice!”; plus Maria Shriver’s “I’ve Been Thinking… Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life”

June 2nd, 2018

All photos by moi, Nancy Ellen Row Rawley, and are not for steal.

Chickens
“The Girls, Strutting”

More from Tiny Bible Tales… “Daniel in the Lions’ Den,” and “Miriam and Pharaoh’s Daughter,” both written by W.C. Bauers and illustrated by Marta Costa (Grosset & Dunlap, 2018, ages 3-5, $7.99). More from this series of board books. Daniel is trapped in the lions’ den, but an angel and God watch over him and he is free. Miriam and her mother save their brother and son, Moses, by setting him adrift in a basket, where Pharaoh’s daughter finds him. Sweet illustrations and rhyming words make for an easy introduction to these Bible stories.

Chickens
“Mine”

“Feminist Baby Finds her Voice!” by Loryn Brantz. (Disney-Hyperion, 2018, all ages, but especially 2-5, $9.99.) This crazy series… The naked baby girls are back, fighting for their rights to milk, equality, love, flair, the right to speak and all the rest. Really good fun, and the lettering and illustrations are lively.

Chickens
“My Boy”

“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.” — Ann Landers, quoted in Maria Shriver’s new book, “I’ve Been Thinking… Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life.” (Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, 2018, 225 pages, $20.)

This latest collection of essays, prayers and affirmations is a solid little self-help book. Shriver has been through a lot, to put it mildly, and so has her family. Self-inflicted? Sure. A mess they landed in? That, too. Bad decisions? Often. Bad luck? Some of it. It’s inspiring to see what she’s made to help fight her demons. Her books are useful, and that’s all we’re looking for sometimes, and in need of.

Peace.

Spring garden — Corvallis

All for now. Bon appetit, darlings.

WM

Thursday Book Review: “Fuzzy Yellow Ducklings,” by Matthew Van Fleet; “Wish,” by Matthew Cordell; “Stay Close to Mama,” by Toni Buzzeo & Mike Wohnoutka & “Off & Away,” by Cale Atkinson

April 26th, 2018

Untitled

(Picture of a painting by moi)

One old favorite and three new ones:

“Fuzzy Yellow Ducklings,” by Matthew Van Fleet, (Dial Books for Young Readers, 1995) was one that my own kids were happy to read over (and over, and over) and I was, too. Touch a fuzzy yellow circle, a sticky pink line, a furry gray square, and watch the shapes transform into ducklings, frogs and koalas. Beautifully assembled and fun.

“Wish” by Matthew Cordell (Disney-Hyperion, 2015, $8.99). Because when a mama and a papa really want a baby, they will do anything to make it happen. Great companion book to “Dream,” another Cordell title.

“Stay Close to Mama,” by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka (Disney-Hyperion, 2012, $6.99). Darling board book from the creators of “Just Like My Papa” and “My Bibi Always Remembers.” Baby Twiga wants to venture out into the big world, but he also doesn’t want to stray too far from mama. (Twiga is Swahila for giraffe.)

“Off & Away,” by Cale Atkinson (Disney-Hyperion, 2018, $16.99). Oh, to be a young girl, off on an adventure at sea. When Jo’s seafaring dad is too sick to deliver the mail, she is is charge of getting the bottles to the recipients. Cool art, and a good story.

Wednesday Book Review: “Roar: A Dinosaur Tour,” by Michael Paul; Wee Society’s “Go! My Adventure Journal”; Life in the Country, it’s righteous

April 11th, 2018

Untitled

(Star Magnolia — Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

First up…

*“Roar: A Dinosaur Tour,” by Michael Paul (Crown Books, 2018, ages 2-5, 40 pages, $16.99). Super cute (can you say that about dinosaurs?). The illustrations remind me of Ezra Jack Keats’ work, with the paper cut-outs. (I’m not sure if this one was computer-designed or not, but it’s colorful and has good movement.) Why do kids like dinosaurs so much? They’re bigger than parents, and they’re extinct. The pronunciation guide in the front is great, too.

Now, some notes about life in the country. I’ve never lived in the country before. Well, okay, I did once, but I wasn’t there for very long. The plumbing kept breaking, and no working toilets + no working shower/tub means I’m out of there, babies. But we did have a creek, and crawdads, and that was good. I have a creek here, too. It’s a come-and-go creek — it only runs part of the year.

That’s cool.

Spring day/country

(“Pluck-Pluck!” photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

That’s not my creek, those are my chickens. They lay red eggs and green eggs and brown eggs. They’re versatile as hell.

Spring day/country

(“Up a Crick,” photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

That’s my creek.

Next book…

*”Let’s Go!” (Clarkson Potter, Wee Society, $14.99.) Wee Society also brought us “A Box of Awesome Things,” which was, indeed, awesome, “Me: A Compendium,” “An Incomplete Book of Awesome Things” and “Wee Alphas Postcards.” Very fun book to take along on a trip, so kids can record all kinds of stuff. Postcards and stickers included, score!

Spring day/country

(“Rose in April,” photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

That is one of my roses. The deer haven’t broken down the deer fence yet, so I have about half a dozen in the garden. The chickens weeded all around them and aerated the dirt, so I’m thinking we’ll all going to have a good summer, the chickens, the roses, the deer and me.

Ciao, babies.

WM

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