Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Klass Act

I have held off on writing this review, because I enjoyed this book so much that all I feel like I can say is
Oh, this book is so good. It touched me. It made me laugh. It made me think. I identified with it. You just have to read this book.
That's not such a bad review after all, is it? I will elaborate, but before I do, let me explain how it is that I came across Every Mother is a Daughter. Many years ago, I actually had the time and inclination to read parenting magazines (when I had only one child who took lots of naps and I wasn't sure that I knew it all already), and I had enjoyed a few articles in one magazine by a pediatrician, Perri Klass. After taking notice of her as a writer I enjoyed, I noted when her byline said that she was writing a book. So I would periodically search for books by her. Recently I stumbled upon Every Mother is a Daughter on audible.net and I knew that this was one I had to hear--now. This book is written by Perri and also her mother, Sheila Solomon Klass, who is a writer and teacher. Both women wax on the times in which they came of age-- Sheila in the 1930's and Perri in the 1970's--and how their families of origin helped shaped who they were. They also share their thoughts on balancing work and family, relationships between mothers and daughters (from Perri's teen years with her mother on to her current relationship with her own teenaged daughter), mommy wars, cooking, cleaning, and husbands, just to name a few.

A note about the subtitle: It's not really about "the neverending quest for success, inner peace, and a really clean kitchen." In fact, one of the many ways in which I related with Perri Klass was that she does not put a high priority on a clean house. The other thing that stood out was the deep inner peace that emanated from Solomon Klass, a woman who has learned to accept herself in the nearly eighty years she has pilgrimed on this earth. And as for success, although both women did have careers, it seems that they do not measure success by financial results or even the good that a teacher and a doctor respectively could do in society, but by something more. Their measure of success is closely tied to just being who they are meant to me, which is an encouragement to anyone, no matter their current path. It's tied more to the connections they have made and maintained in their personal lives, not on the ladder of the success.

The book was a great listen--the voice actors did a great job. It truly sounded like a conversation between a mom and a daughter, or two women discussing all of those things that face us as moms. I could have begun listening to it again right after finishing it, however I also felt compelled to buy the book after hearing it, and did. I can't decide if I would recommend the book or the Audio CD format.

I am familiar with some of Perri Klass's novels and other non-fiction books, but I had to find out more about Shelia Solomon Klass after being so captivated by her writing and her story. She has written some novels and a number of books for children and young adults. A Shooting Star: A Novel about Annie Oakley sits prominently on our public library's shelf as a Nutmeg Book Award nominee from 2001, and so I selected it as one of the read-alouds for my Read to Me mission. Amanda and I were equally enchanted by this book. It's one of those exceptional books that can be enjoyed by an eight year old and a thirteen year old and a thirty year old. My review of the book appears today on the new site Deliciously Clean Reads, where I will be a regular contributor.

Friday, March 30, 2007

This and That--Announcements and Updates

Check out Buy a Friend a Book Week. I'll send you my address if you need it, friend. . . .


I loved reading all of your kind thoughts and results pertaining to the Read to Me mission. I'm glad that even if you didn't meet your goals, that you made an effort, and plan on continuing in that vein. I did give out some prizes, as promised and the winners are. . .

Baseballs and Bows
has been sent From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Books for the number of posts and book reviews and suggestions throughout the mission.

I drew The Wooden Porch for the $10 gift certificate to amazon.com

As sort of a random bonus, I decided to send Appliejuice my National Geographic book on Mozart, since she committed to read some biographies to her kids and reported that they were enjoying them.

How are you doing with your reading? I'm doing well with Amanda, and okay with Kyle, but I am noticing a bit of personal resistance creeping in, so I need to remember how quick and easy it really is to read to him in at least two chunks a day.



Speaking of updates. . . all of you really jumped right in to encourage me about taking up the 21 day challenge, in my case not to yell. I'm doing pretty well! I have had slip ups when I've allowed myself to get frustrated, but I have controlled the loud talking sort of yelling by getting up and walking upstairs or downstairs to talk to the children instead of yelling and physically going over to Kyle if he needs some instruction (or correction). Baby steps, baby steps. If you're trying not to yell or complain, how are you doing??



I'm finally updating what are supposed to my rotating links, but have been over there on the sidebar for a while. I honor of my bloggiversary, I am posting those bloggers who have been in it with me since the beginning. Maybe not the very beginning, but they each started blogging within a few months of me, and I sort of associate my blogging journey with them. Katrina and Katherine and Dianne are already on my permanent blogroll, but in addition to them, we have
Code Yellow Mom
Frog and Toad are Still Friends
This One's for the Girls (Michelle took a long break, and I sort of lost track of her, but she's good stuff)
Here and Now (same thing--Laura didn't really take a long break, but she had a baby, and well . . . .)


Introducing. . . .

Deliciously Clean Reads is a site that Emily started earlier this month. She says in her intro post:
The last few books I have started, I have not been able to finish due to pages full of swearing/sex scenes. It is extremely frustrating to get halfway through a page-turner and find that your conscience will not let you continue. I wish there was a rating system for books similar to movies. Then, I would know not to pick up R-rated books. Few Pg-13s would make my to-be-read list, to be honest.
It's true. For me there is so much that I want to read that if I get into a book that is a bit off-putting for me, it just seems like a waste of time. Reading a book isn't just like watching a two hour movie. It takes time, and it takes effort (I can't read and do something else, so I am choosing that book over anything else).

There are only a few reviews up right now, but if you are interested in this, please go over and leave her a comment and tell her so! You can find out how you can contribute new reviews or reviews from your archives. There are some fantastic links on the sidebar from great kids' lit bloggers and other sources including clean Young Adult and early teen reads. There are some really talented people writing for children, tweens and teens, so check them out for your own personal reading, or as recommendations for your own children.




I am in for the 30 Day Organizational Challenge. I even have my little project all picked out. Click the banner for more details and sign up April 3!



Thanks to Lauren S. for alerting me to the newest contest at 5 Minutes for Mom. They are giving away a free Dyson slim vacuum. Oh my heart is palpitating at this thought! Pick me, pick me!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thankful for Coffee

Each morning that I get the grind size and the amount of water just right to make a perfect pot of coffee, and manage to get the perfect amount of half and half into the cup, when I take that first sip of the first cup of the day, something hits me. I will often as not speak aloud: Thank You for coffee (because I am the only one up and no one will think twice of it--they probably wouldn't think twice of it anyway). I'm not being irreverent, in the way that Thank God is often thrown around. I truly mean it. By giving that little expression of heartfelt thanks over a simple cup of coffee, I am really expressing many things:

Thank You God for small pleasures, like a really great cup of coffee.

Thank You for financial provision so that I can buy coffee and half and half to make that lovely cup of coffee each morning.

Thank You God for the generosity of others--the coffee pot was a gift from my dad years ago and makes the best cup of coffee ever.

Thank You God that I live in America, in a nice house with heat in the winter and cold air in the summer, where I can wake up and have a cup of coffee and start my day easily.

And to show that God truly works all things for good (okay that is a little tongue in cheek, but not irreverent, I hope): "A new study shows that brewed coffee contains soluble fiber, the roughage found in oatmeal and apples that aids digestion, helps the body absorb vital nutrients and keeps a lid on cholesterol." Thanks to Mental Multivitamin for the link

Click the banner to see for what others are thankful.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Happy Bloggiversary to Me


When Amanda was one, I sent out an invitation to my neighbors inviting them to a backyard barbecue, in honor of them for helping us make it to that point. That's how I feel about making one year in the blogosphere as well. There are many blogs that come and go, but passing that one year mark is something. I would never have done it without the great blogging community who encourage me as I read their blogs and who encourage me with comments about how my little words have affected them--it's been a privilege.

I would like to invite you on a little walk down Snapshot memory lane. Only one person knew about my blog at first. But then one day, one of the two of us who knew about her blog commented on my blog, so now I had two readers! I posted only a couple of times in April, but by the end of May, I was posting regularly several times each week, and by June, I was hooked for sure and getting more readers by participating in carnivals and Works for Me Wednesday. After opening back up to writing, I was very surprised at the sentimentality that flowed out of my typically no-nonsense real life persona.

Here are a few of my favorite posts from those first few months. It's not as good as a backyard barbecue and cake, but I offer them to you anyway. Thank you so much for coming.

Amanda (my first real post, after the "hello I have a blog" post)
When am I Going to Learn?
Homeraising Mom
The Awkward Years
Settling for Second Best
Perspective
What a Friend We Have
How Do I Look?
Weeds

God Has Heard

Do you worry about your child?

Do you trust God do take care of your child?

Is there a Biblical example that we can follow?

Click over to Faithlifts to read my post addressing these questions today:


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Quiet is a Virtue

Laura exudes the quiet Here and Now. It comes through in each post that she writes, although she's pretty clever as well, proving that being quiet does not mean being boring. In this post she writes about making a commitment not to complain for 21 days. I was just thinking along these lines this weekend. I don't want to complain. I don't want to portray a sense of discontent or grouchiness, but actually what I've really become convicted about is yelling, which results in the same poor reflection of an inner attitude. I find myself yelling a lot, and not only does that affect my attitude, but the attitude of everyone in the house.

I have admitted before that I'm a naturally a loud person. So, it's easy for me to cross that line and slip into yelling. I yell because I'm lazy or tired or because I've already said something .

"Amanda! Come down here! I need you." I'm too lazy to go up to where she is so that I don't have to yell to get her attention.

"Kyle, put that down. Put it down! Put it down!" He is not a first-time obeyer, so I talk louder hoping that volume will make up for my lax disciplinary habits. Also, I don't want to go over and show him.

"Go get your pajamas on RIGHT NOW!!" I did not follow up with the first, second or third request, so now I'm really angry and I mean business!

I'm really making an effort. I'm thinking about what leads me into yelling, and trying to remedy those things. It all comes back to enforcing my requests. Expecting first time obedience. Being the strong link in the chain, not the weak link.

The vague They say that it takes 21 days to make something new a habit. I'm going to give it a go. I honestly don't hold out much hope that I will make a miraculous transformation, but I know that I've had enough of myself, and I also have heard my children picking up this habit (yelling in anger and frustration, but also just raising their voice to be heard).

It's hard being the Mom.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Perils of Friendship

Make a new friend? Not only do you have to leave your home and venture into The Unknown, but what about the perils like germs and the possibility of being bitten? These are elements of friendship that you and I may have long forgotten, but if you are Scaredy Squirrel or a toddler who has been on the receiving end of a nip from a dog or a playmate, you know how real these dangers can be.

I had purchased the Cybils award-winning Scaredy Squirrel last month. I then received a review catalog from Kids Can Press and saw that Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend was available. I loved the first book, so I was excited to see what the second book held in store. To be honest, when I first read it, I was a bit disappointed. I had enjoyed Scaredy Squirrel for so many reasons: it's humor, it's life lesson, and how it appealed to both my two year old and my eight year old. High expectations are hard to live up to, so I wanted to wait until we read the book a few more times before I wrote about it.

Sure enough, my opinions have changed. I know that my eight-year-old daughter still prefers the first book to the second one, simply because it is a bit zanier and off-the-wall, but I would be hard-pressed to choose a favorite between them, and I think that my almost three-year-old son prefers the second book. I think that the story is a bit easier to follow, especially for a younger reader.

The lesson this time around is friendship. If you read this blog regularly, you know that friendship is one the issues that is close to my heart (you can click the label to read more of my posts on this topic). Friendship takes effort. Sometimes it's scary, for adults and children, not to mention squirrels who are a bit afraid to venture into The Unknown. Scaredy Squirrel finds a safe friend worth pursuing, and the book includes a great quiz which helps him evaluate friend-potential in those he meets ("How many teeth do you have? A. 0, B. 10, C. 100, D. 1000"), but along the way his mind is changed about who the ideal friend might be.

A third Scaredy Squirrel book is in the works, according to the author interview, which appeared here on the Cybils site. I think that Amanda, Kyle and I will all be glad to find out what new obstacle he's able to conquer. I recommend both books for your collection for older toddlers up to age eight (see my full review of the first book HERE).



Elise at A Path Made Straight has started a feature called Children's Book Monday where we are invited to review or discuss a children's book and link up so that we can read what others are reviewing. I am all about promoting that, and I think it's great that people are starting to jump on board. I have seen posts crop up here and there over the last couple of weeks, and you can tell that they are written by people who truly love and appreciate children's literature.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Good Kids, Bad Habits

I appreciated that Good Kids, Bad Habits was full of information that we need to "raise healthy children" (as the subtitle suggests), and yet not full of guilt-inducing criticism. Dr. Jen writes practically, including the facts that we need to make our own decisions about creating a healthy growing environment for our kids (from birth to teens, although I would think that the target audience for this book would be toddlers to about age nine or ten, before it gets "too late"). The whole book is based on the Real Age theory, which is basically that as a result of healthy habits, one can shave years off of their age. The quiz that is in the book is also available online, as well as some other resources. In answering the questions, the author begins to raise your awareness about areas of importance. Then each section receives a chapter with the whys and hows of maximizing this area of health. The topics covered in this book include
Eat Up: Creating Healthy Food Habits That Will Last a Lifetime
Shape Up: Getting Kids to Play More than Video Games
Spiff Up: Convincing Kids that Being Clean--Teeth to Toes--is Worth the Effort
Smarten Up: Teaching Kids Good Homework Habits
Chin Up: Routines that Build Up Your Child's Self-Esteem
Gear Up: Habits that Keep Kids from Getting Hurt
Check Up: Staying on Top of Your Child's Health
The basic approach taken here is knowing the facts yourself, but there is a bit of a sense of passing the information along to your child so that he or she can take ownership as well. I supposed that some parents might feel guilty after reading this, knowing that their child eats too much sugar, watches too much TV, and is falling short in other areas as well, but I really did not feel the condemning attitude at all. I was left with a great sense of responsibility, knowing that it is my job to give my kids a head start on healthy habits that can increase their quality of life for the rest of their life. I felt like this book gave me the tools to actually do it.


This book was sent to me by the publisher as a part of the BlogHer book tour.

Groaning Pains


When I was about fifteen years old, I went with my grandparents on one of our summer road trips in the trailer to Mount St. Helens. It had been six years since it had erupted, but the land had been left as is. No clean up, per se, except for fixing roads and that sort of thing. Trees lay askew, blown down by the power of the volcanic blast. Ash remained like drifts of snow after a blizzard. Creation definitely groaned in this cataclysmic event. It was still groaning six years later as nature tried to right itself. The disaster left an imprint on me that is still felt twenty years after the fact. But what really made the impression take hold were the wild flowers that I saw. Charred wood, ash-covered ground, desolate gray everywhere you looked, and yet a glimpse of green and purple as the vegetation poked through, eager to go on. That is the hope.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Romans 8:22-25

In that one piece of vegetation, hope for an entire forest to be reborn existed. There was disaster, but there was a glimpse of the unseen. It would take patience to see the regrowth, but it was inevitable.


We groan inwardly as well. We experience personal disasters. We experience failure in our spiritual lives. But every once in a while, we experience a glimpse of hope in our peaceful response to an unsettling situation, or the supernatural ability to hold our tongue, or to act in a selfless way. Maybe I am changing. There is hope for me after all!

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

Romans 8:26-27

Have you ever been knocked down, as the trees from the volcanic spew of ash? One day everything is normal, and then with no warning--BAM! Take a lesson from the natural reforestation efforts. Don't always feel like you have to pick yourself up right away and make sure that the mountain looks like it did before the blast. In fact, sometimes that will be impossible. Let things lie. Allow the Spirit to intercede for you. Sometimes groans are all you can manage, and when that is the case, know that you are covered. I remember in one of my darkest times that I sent out a call to friends of mine to pray. They in turn spread the word to others. I don't remember praying much myself, but I was covered. As I read notes and emails reminding me that they were praying, I remember being comforted. I recall laying on my bed and groaning--not crying, not yelling, but silently inwardly groaning because I had no words to express my feelings.

In one single acorn lies the promise of a forest. Your step of faith is the acorn, the firstfruits of the Spirit. God is taking care of the rest, in good times in bad, building a virtual forest of Christian character within you as you wait expectantly for the time when there will be no sickness, no death, no pain. We must be patient. It will take a long time, but it is inevitable.

Revelation 21:3-5

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Valley of Betrayal

With that title, it sounds like I will be covering something sad and dramatic, doesn't it? No, no, it's just a day with one of the girls, author Tricia Goyer. I am hosting Tricia today for her blog tour for the first novel in her new series, A Valley of Betrayal. First, I will admit my stupidity. I had enjoyed the last novel in her World War II series that I read, Arms of Deliverance (click the link for my review). I had seen the rich hues on the cover of this upcoming novel, and knew it was about the Spanish Civil War, which I assumed was sometime in the nineteenth century. Let Tricia tell you the truth about the story behind this novel:

From July 17, 1936-April 1, 1939, well before America was involved in World War II, another battle was fought on the hillsides of Spain. On one side were the Spanish Republicans, joined by the Soviet Union and The International Brigade—men and women from all over the world who have volunteered to fight Fascism. Opposing them, Franco and his Fascist military leaders, supported with troops, machinery, and weapons from Hitler and Mussolini. The Spanish Civil War, considered the “training ground” for the war to come, boasted of thousands of American volunteers who joined to fight on the Republican side, half of which never returned home. Unlike World War II, there is no clear line between white and black, good and evil. Both sides committed atrocities. Both sides had deep convictions they felt worth fighting and dying for. During the Spanish Civil war, terror tactics against civilians were common. And while history books discuss the estimated one million people who lost their lives during the conflict, we must not forget that each of those who fought, who died, had their own tales. From visitors to Spain who found themselves caught in the conflict, to the communist supporters, Basque priests, and Nazi airmen . . . each saw this war in a different light. These are the stories behind A Valley of Betrayal.

This was a great story, so complex and about a place and time that I knew nothing about. This book is especially for you if you love war stories. In this novel, Spain, and the people of wartime Spain, definitely stood out as characters adding to the plot in their own right. The description was so rich that the reader can almost see it, feel it, hear it and smell it. I asked Tricia to elaborate on her process of researching a book where the setting is so real. Do you complete the research or the story first, or do you work on them concurrently?

I have a basic idea for a story when I sit down and write. Then I work on the layers back and forth. I work on the people. Then I research history. Then I research the place. It's like basket-weaving, one color of thread (rope?) goes in, then I add another. Once the platform is done, I add more--building up the story. This is the hard part, working on the layers. Once my basket is done, then it's easy to fill up the pages. I know the place. I know the people. I know their dreams, motivations, fears and that's when the story starts to flow! The story pours through my fingers as if I'm just writing out what is already there.

The other facet of the book that really stood out to me were the thoughts and voice of Sophie, as an artist. How do you think that the experience of writing compares to visual art, such as painting, and how are they similar and different as far as interpreting situations that the artist encounters?

Personally, I think artists have the same way of interacting with the world--they just share their feelings and thoughts in different ways. They see the world, take it in, then want to express it in their own interpretation. Sophie did that through painting. I do that through words. I don't know what I'm feeling until I put it on paper, and I think visual artists are the same.
I had a teacher once who said. . . that great art is only created when you discover the truth of what lies before you, and the truth found within, and you express it on the canvas. That's why I think I'd paint more beautifully here than anywhere else. I've found my heart, despite the war.

--Sophie in A Valley of Betrayal (p. 78)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Willing to be Made Willing

A friend recently shared something that she had read about a woman who was struggling with a decision to enter into a particular Christian service.
She told God, "I am not willing, but I am willing to be made willing."
That is at the core of so many of our issues, isn't it? We think that we are right, and so we are unwilling to change: to listen to another opinion that might sway our thoughts, to do things a little bit differently, because we know that our way is the right way, to step out of our comfort zone to embark on a new venture that might be a bit uncomfortable.

The first thought that entered my head as an area of unwillingness was housekeeping and care for my family. It's not that I am resistant to it, because most things like dinner preparation and cleanup and laundry have to be done whether or not I'm willing. Baths have to be given and pajamas have to be put on whether or not I want to do it. But when my heart has the right attitude of seeing it as a part of my job and wanting to do it fully and happily, then it's not so unpleasant.

So this week, each time I saw that pile of dishes in the sink and felt a bad attitude coming on, I simply sighed, "I'm not willing, Lord," followed quickly by, "but I'm willing to be made willing," as I tackled the task at hand. Did it work? Well, if we are assuming that I now love to do dishes and make lunches and dinner (again, and again, and again), then no, it didn't work. However, if the standard for it working is that I am complaining less, or feeling less put-upon by the rigors of being a full-time housewife and mom, then it is working.

Is there an area that immediately stood out to you for which you need to be willing to be made willing? Will you commit to pray and see if a change in attitude results in a change of action?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Thank God for Grandparents

I was in our local toy store, and the cashier (a man in his early 70's) was talking to a woman. He came back over to the check out lane where I was waiting and told me that he had known her forever. Their kids grew up together. He said that she was battling cancer right now for the third time, but she wasn't going to give up.

They had been talking about the toys that were on sale that week. She hesitated, thinking, and then said, "No, I don't need to buy any more Thomas stuff." He said that as grandparents they love to give to the grandkids, just to see the looks on their faces, eyes big as saucers. The kids don't care what it is, they just like to be remembered. I told him about my grandmother's box. Every month or two when we went to her house, the first place we went was the closet of the Green Room (so named for its green antiqued furniture and green patterned bedspread. It was next door to the Blue Room, which had royal blue carpet, a blue pattered bedspread and curtains--we were kind of scared of the Blue Room). Sometimes we would find a small pot set that she had replaced in her own kitchen, but most-often it was something as simple as a red Dairy Queen spoon with the trademarked swirl ice cream cone at the top of the handle. We ran to the box well-past the age of really caring what was in the box. That grandfather was exactly right. We didn't care what it was. We just wanted to see what special treat Mammaw might have left for us.

I felt as if I was talking to Confucius or some other wise sage as he imparted more of this wisdom that life's experiences and joys and sorrows has given him: "You don't see it now. You see them everyday. But we grandparents don't see them everyday, and we see it."

It.

The wonder, the change, the growth. There's nothing like a kid to teach you to appreciate life-- theirs and your own.

I am thankful for grandparents. I had all four of my grandparents until I was a senior in high school when my father's father died suddenly. My grandmother lived to see me get married. My mom's parents both lived to enjoy their great grandchildren, and I still have my Mimi. Likewise for Terry's grandparents. Two are still living, but all four lived to meet Amanda. We are fortunate. Even though we ourselves are graying, they still see "It" in us. To be loved by a grandparent is such a blessing.

I now have the pleasure of seeing my parents and my husband's parents as grandparents to my children. They love them because they first loved us. But when they are with the grandkids, we don't even matter much anymore. That wonder is hard to hold a candle to.

I have linked this up to Sting My Heart's Thankful Thursday.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spring Reading Thing



I like to read books in several genres, and often at the same time. I sort of have a master to-be-read list going, so I want to stick to that, with the exception that I would like to read at least one book that I find on someone else's list. I see SO many good books reviewed in the blogosphere, and then it just goes on that long master I-will-never-get-to-read list. So, I am going to take at least one book off of the Spring Reading Thing lists that I encounter as people post them. Reading all those lists detailing what people want to read and why was one of my favorite parts of the Fall into Reading Challenge.

Fiction:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn--I think that I bought this at the very cool bookstore we go to when we are in NYC. I know that I've heard about it, but I don't know much more about it, except that it seems to be a nice blend of fiction, and memoir which I love so much.

To Kill a Mockingbird--My town library is doing this great thing where the whole town reads a book together. Free paperback copies were distributed, and next month there will be special book groups and events including a talk by the guy who wrote the book about Harper Lee and a showing of the movie followed by discussion. Since I haven't read this since high school and it's on so many bloggers' personal favorites lists, I can't wait to read this.

Quaker Summer--I have loved everything I've read by Lisa Samson. I doubt that this will be any different.

I came across these next two titles at my addictive overstocks bookstore. They are both trade paperbacks, and were each only $3 new! I had not heard of this particular novel by Jodi Picoult, Mercy, but I'm sure I'll enjoy it. After reading Elizabeth I Royal Diary in the Fall into Reading Challenge, I was interested in learning more about that time period, and had seen The Other Boleyn Girl around a good bit. When I saw Chris' description on her sidebar as a of the books that take you to a place, I knew that I would enjoy it, because while I don't think of historical fiction as a favorite genre, I love a book that transports me into another world, such as a different place, time, or lifestyle (but don't all books do this? Isn't this why we read?).

I do not think I will read all 5 of these, but it's possible. In the fall, I read a fair bit more than I thought I would, but that included a long driving trip for Thanksgiving (where my husband drove and I read). I like to push myself, and I want to get through these books, so we'll see.

Writing:
I try to read through at least one writing book at a time to keep me inspired and hopefully improve my style. I will pick a couple that are gathering dust on my shelves at the moment, so that then maybe I can buy more.
The Right to Write by Julia Cameron
I'm about halfway through and would like to finish: Leads and Conclusions (doesn't that just sound SO interesting??)

Non-fiction:

Grace Based Parenting
Personality Plus
My Heart's in the Lowlands
Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood
ACK--I already forgot and am adding a book just a few hours later. I have a review copy of Queen of the Castle on its way, and I'm very excited to dig in to the "52 weeks of encouragement for the domestically challenged."

Kid Stuff:
I have really enjoyed reading non-fiction for kids (I can learn interesting facts without having to think too hard), and I love a well-written children's novel as well.

First Daughter: An Extreme American Makeover
Factory Girl
Eleanor Roosevelt
Ben Franklin, Inventing America

I also want to continue the habit of reading aloud with Amanda that we established in the Read to Me Mission last month by selecting some books that I am interested in reading anyway:

Sarah, Plain and Tall
Rickshaw Girl
Mary Poppins Comes Back
Amanda's school does something called "One School, One Read" (not related to the town thing, but a similar idea), where the whole school reads the book at home and at school. The book was just revealed, and it's Toys Go Out, so we'll be reading that one first.

Audiobooks:
I have been listening to one audiobook a month, so I might get through three in this time period. I really enjoy "reading" memoirs in this way (because it's just like listening to someone telling me their story), and some memoirs that are on my list are A Girl Named Zippy, The Good, Good Pig, and One Year Off, so perhaps I will listen to those if they are available.

Surprise!
I will update this section after I read other participants' lists. It will either be something totally new to me or one of those "I've really been wanting to read this for a while" books.

Free Books


Here are a few tips I have up my sleeve for supporting my book-buying habit. I think that I will be especially glad for it after reading through the great to-be-read lists that will be posted beginning today for the Spring Reading Thing that Katrina is hosting.

Amazon Credit Card
--I signed up for this several years ago. For every $2500 I spend, I get a $25 amazon gift certificate (and I get triple bucks for any dollar spent at amazon). We do not use our credit card for all our expenses, but we do fly back home to see family twice a year, and usually take a vacation once a year, and usually make some sort of big purchase at least once a year--a new TV, or a piece of furniture, and all of those things go on my card, in addition to some online shopping and special date nights. The "cashback" value is as high or higher as on other cards and since I get a paper certificate, I can give it as a gift, or use it to buy gifts, household goods, or of course (and most frequently) books for me and my family.

Amazon Associates--if you have a blog and if you review products or books, you should join amazon's associates program. If someone buys a book from amazon by clicking through a link to that book, or from the link on your sidebar, you will earn about 4%. I haven't had that many click-throughs, but it's nice to see the little balance steadily growing. When it reaches $10, you receive an email gift certificate. Your own purchases made through your link do not count (which I learned the hard way after hoping that all of my purchases would at least earn me something), but you can alert friends and family if they use the link on your sidebar or any of your book links to make any purchase that you will benefit. I make it a point to use the links of bloggers who recommend a certain book that I decide to buy, to throw a little of the love their way (I think if you put a book in your cart on that click-through, even if you don't buy it immediately, she gets the credit). I think that some people purposefully don't use these links and I'm not sure why. It's beneficial in two ways: it helps to make blogging (very very slightly) profitable, and therefore encourages her to keep it up, and by clicking through and purchasing the books I like, she gets an idea which books resonate with her readers and might review or suggest more of those types of books.

(Just so you know, I get no kickback from either the credit card link or the associates link--I'm just sharing what's Worked for Me).

Harper-Collins First Look--I have been a part of this for two months and have yet to be selected to receive a free book, but it's a great program and worth looking into to see which free books they are offering each month. You do NOT have to be a blogger. If you receive a book, you have to review it on their site.

Chronicle Books gave away a whole basketful of kids' books last month, and this month they have an autographed book up for grabs. Bookmark this page. They will be having contests every month or two spotlighting some of their best children's books.

Author blog-tours--The publishing industry is beginning to see bloggers as a great resource. For the price of a few review copies sent to bloggers who request them, they get a lot of free press. When a book gets blogged about, it is a great combination of a review and a personal recommendation, which one might take more seriously. So, many authors will post a blog call in regards to publicizing their new book. If you blog about books or certain topics, authors or publishers might even contact you directly to review certain books. For integrity's sake, I try to state when I've been given a copy free for review, but I still try to be honest. If I don't like a book, I probably just won't post about it, but I am more than happy to pass along a good word about the books I enjoy.

It was one of my readers who alerted me to the First Look program, so do any of YOU have any tips and tricks for snagging free books??

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Instructing and Inspiring the Writer

Last Spring, when I decided to further explore that little urge to write, I began to read and study books on writing. One philosophy is that if you read enough books on writing, you don't actually have to write, but I don't think that's my fixation. I find these books fascinating, probably for the same reason I love memoir: someone is sharing a passion with me from their point of view. Many deal with the author's specific call to write or how she "made it," and all deal with the work of writing, while most also contain some writing exercises which are designed to help train your brain to create. If you need some inspiration that you can write, that you indeed to have something to say, then many of these books will help you. If you want nuts and bolts help about how to actually unlock the store of ideas within you and let them out, some of these books will meet that expectation. If you want practical advice about breaking into the publishing world, you will find a bit of that as well.


Creative Call: An Artist's Response to the Way of the Spirit by Janice Elsheimer is written from a Christian perspective. She writes under the presupposition that all creative talent is a gift from God. This book also works under the theory that you may have buried your creative talent, or let it die, and you need encouragement to find it again. If you fully acknowledge your talent and it's always been something you practiced, you might not need this book. However, if it's something you've recently rediscovered, as it was when I read it last Spring, it will serve as a needed confirmation that this is part of who you are. This is produced in a journal format, where there are questions at the end of each chapter and space to write them in the book. One other unique feature is that it is not a writing book per se, but a book on unlocking creativity, which could include artistic talent, music, or even cooking or gardening. She maintains that each of us has a creative side and we owe it to ourselves and to our creator to find out what it is.



Pen on Fire: Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett is the second book on writing that I devoured. I read through this quickly, as it was on loan from the library and my due date snuck up on me, but also because once I started, I could not put it down. It was a good balance of inspiration, good advice, and wonderful tips (on when to write, where to write) and writing exercises.


I think I took a small break from reading about writing, and just wrote. Then I wanted some practical advice and checked out Writing Articles from the Heart by Marjorie Holmes. I had seen this recommended on a writing blog somewhere, but the reviews from amazon were less than stellar, so I was unsure. A friend told me that it was actually quite practical and informative, and she was correct. I loved this book. Marjorie Holmes made a living by freelancing articles for women. She first writes about different styles of writing that most magazines buy, and then goes into developing your ideas, pitching one idea several different ways to get more use out of it, and a bit of advice as far as selling your articles.


Escaping Into the Open by novelist Elizabeth Berg was another book I could not put down. I began reading it one Friday night and had read 100 pages by the next day. The writing exercises seem really good, but I could not slow down from reading her words to actually stop and do them. This book is part memoir, about her journey as a writer, and part advice, like something you would get from a good friend, and part expertise, since she has sold a lot of books. She started off writing magazine articles and then began writing fiction, so this is a good blend of both techniques. However, I think that what pulled me in is that she seems to so accurately portray the pull that writing can have on a person. The subtitle is The Art of Writing True, and her writing is indeed true, as it kept striking chord after chord within me.


As in most of the other books listed, Heather Sellers gives us a bit of her personal journey in Page After Page (which also has an apt, if long subtitle: Discover the confidence and passion you need to start writing and keep writing). She paints the picture of writing as work--a work that some feel that they must do, but something which is work nonetheless. Part I deals with creating a new writing self, Part II is how to maintain your commitment to writing, and Part III is finding your place in the world of writing. I must tell you that after reading it, I may have to take back my thoughts that I shared in this post on the writing hobby. I'm not sure that writing can be a hobby. You either write or you don't. She says that many people are indeed writers, but they do not write, for a variety of reasons. After reading just half of this book, you will be left with a clear thought. Either, "Yes, I want to write. I know it's hard, but it's who I am, and I am willing to make the effort," or perhaps it will be, "I love the idea of writing, but I'm not sure I am ready to commit fully to writing. I'll keep reading wonderful writers and maybe I'll write later." She states the mission of the book (on page 65): "to help you clarify for yourself what you want, how you want to be in your life, what you want to spend your time thinking about and making and writing or not writing." This book is also chock-full not only of writing exercises but practical steps you should take to get yourself from having the desire to write to actually writing, page after page.

I think if I had to recommend one book, it would be Page after Page, because I think it has a wonderful sampling of each of the elements that I am looking for when I read a book on writing (which I listed above). For some reason, even though the writing is compelling, I have actually stopped and done many of the writing exercises as I go. However, just as each writer has different goals and a different style, so does each of these authors, so don't take my word for it. Click on the links or the pictures and read the reviews on amazon.

Another thing that has really been helpful for me is having a real, live friend who has done the work that it takes to get published. Katrina at Callapidder Days wrote a bit about her journey into freelancing today. So, if you'd prefer to read someone who actually knows what she's talking about, click on over.

Have there been any writing books that you have loved and would recommend?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Did You Read to Them?


The month-long commitment is over.

Did it work? Did you enjoy it? Did the kid(s) enjoy it?

I gave some suggested topics in this post to cover in your final wrap-up that I am curious to read about, but the basic questions are how did you match up with your goals? If you didn't match up with your goals, did you at least do something? If you "failed," why? Is it still a goal you want to pursue?

I am so pleased about the feedback I've been hearing along the way, so now is the big day to assess how you did. As I mentioned in this post, even if you didn't sign up on the first post, but if reading about my progress or the progress of others along the way inspired you to make some changes, or commit to making future changes, feel free to link up here and share that with us.

I hope that all of you will make some time to read the posts of the participants. I think that we can all be encouraged and possibly pick up some tips or find out about some books that we might want to read and at least encourage the efforts that we've each made along the way.

Link up anytime between now and Friday, March 23 to be eligible for the prizes. I'll draw a name on Saturday for the $10 amazon gift certificate, and will also announce the winner of the From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Books book which I will give to someone who reviewed some of the books that they read.

They Asked, I Committed, We Read

It worked, it worked!

My overall goal was simply to do that which I knew was important--to read more to the kids by overcoming my own selfish ideas for the use of my time. Committing to read, publicizing my commitment on my blog, and trying to change my mindset really has worked to change our reading habits. I hope that the change will stick and continue, and I think that it will, since it is mostly due to a change in attitude (however, I will say that since it is attitude-related, I am also prone to slip back into that lackadaisical frame of mind).

I need to remember that reading is a great way that my busy-toddler-boy and I can sit still together. It's also a wonderful way to connect with my maturing-eight-year-old girl as we both make time for each other and enjoy sharing a good novel.

Let's look back at my specific goals:

Read at least three books to Kyle at naptime and bedtime each day--CHECK. I think that there was only one naptime throughout the whole time that I knew that he needed a nap and I needed a break right then, not three books later. Otherwise we enjoyed it and knowing that the reading was coming, it distracted him from his nearing-three chant of "I not take a nap," even though he still needs one, and actually settles into it quite easily when he admits that I'm right. So right after that protest, as we walked up the stairs, he would immediately remember and switch to "Read books? Want to read a book." After three (or four or five), he readily took his airplane ride into his bed.

More variety with Kyle--CHECK. We didn't use the Picture Book Preschool format, but I did check out books from the library as well as digging up some of Amanda's old favorites that had been boxed up. A few that we really loved are Jean Marzollo's rebus poem, I Love You (perfect for kids who want to help "read"), and Virginia Miller's Five Toddler Tales. Bartholomew is a nah-saying little bear to whom any toddler can relate, and George is a figure with whom any parent can relate (It appears that it is out of print as a collection, but Be Gentle, which is Kyle's favorite in the collection and some of her other stories appear to be available as board books). The drawings and parent child interaction are right-on.

TV Free Tuesday didn't happen, mostly because I'm out of the habit of it, and kept forgetting. However, we did have a few days where the TV was off, and I did try to say yes when he asked me to read books throughout the day.

Read 280 pages to Amanda--CHECK. We actually read close to 350 pages. We didn't read every day, as I knew we would not, but it was a regular habit, and on long afternoons or weekends, she often asked for more reading or I even suggested it.

More variety with Amanda didn't really come to be either, but as I mentioned in the review of Frindle, I think that selecting something that Amanda and I really like is more important to keep up that consistency. We really really liked what we read: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Frindle, and Shooting Star: A Novel about Annie Oakley (this book deserves its own review, so I will post it later this week).

Adding family reading and poetry into our routine--CHECK. We did not have a nice little after-school routine as I thought we might, but I found books that Amanda and Kyle both enjoyed, and so we read together on a semi-regular basis (see this review).

Goals for going forward to keep the momentum:

I am just going to keep doing what I've been doing. I am going to make sure that bedtime and naptime reading are non-negotiable (on my end), and keep selecting books that I want to read that I think Amanda and I will both enjoy. Sarah, Plain and Tall is up next. I've never read it. I'm going to specifically put down some titles of books on my Spring Reading Thing list, to allow me the acountability pressure to keep working for me.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Read to Me 2007 Coming to a Close



The official mission is coming to a close, but I hope that new habits have been borne and will continue into 2007. On Monday, the Mr. Linky will go up, and you can link up to your results. You don't have to cover all of these areas, but I would love to hear about
  • how the mission helped you actually read more
  • the changes you made in order to do this
  • how your attitudes and/or your children's were affected
  • your plans going forward for family reading
  • any or all of the books that you discovered and enjoyed.
I will be giving away a new hardcover copy of From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Books (the dustjacket is slightly torn--I bought it at my cool favorite overstocks bookstore) to one of the participants who posts some interesting reviews. If you have been updating and reviewing books throughout the month, as I know some of you have, include links at the bottom of your post to those reviews so that those who might have missed them can review them (much like I did in this post on Nonfiction for Students).

If you are at a good stopping point and ready to link up your summary right away, you can do it Monday. If you want to cram in some more reading this week, you have until Friday, March 23 to be considered eligible for the $10 amazon gift certificate and the Cover to Cover book prizes. Even if you didn't link up at the beginning of the challenge, but were inspired by it to read more to your kids this month, please feel free to link up a post explaining that, and if you record the books that you read and enjoyed, you could still be selected to receive the book.

Some have wondered what might be next in the area of encouraging reading together, and I think that this summer, I will launch a Read WITH Me mission, focusing on reading and discussing books with your kids. I hope that those of you with older children (or even grandchildren or nieces and nephews who live far away) might be encouraged to simultaneously read a book (aloud or on your own) and then discuss it. Check back in June for more details.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Nonfiction for Students

When assessing whether or not a child "likes to read" I think that we often are evaluating whether or not they like to read novels. To be fair, I think that most bookworms are/were avid novel-readers as child. I know that this bookworm and the daughter bookworm certainly are. But is this really the hallmark of a "reader?" I've noticed when I volunteer at my daughter's school library that many of the third graders select nonfiction. If they are indeed reading it, that's wonderful.
Nonfiction is an essential part of every child's library, whether the child reads it for specific information, recreation, or both. Many children prefer to read nonfiction exclusively, and they may voraciously read through every children's book a library owns on the subject of horses or ancient Egypt or basketball. . . . Whatever their motivation for reading nonfiction, children deserve to have books of information that are accurate, engaging, and well written.

From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Books, page 22

If your child does not seem interested in fiction, try to find some well-written books in a different genre. Many biographies read like fiction, yet may be informative enough to hold the interest of that child, and perhaps work as a crossover into enjoyment of some novels (in the same time period, or covering the same subject matter). For that matter, if your child devours fiction, try to challenge him or her with some nonfiction (again, perhaps in the same general vein of the novels he or she normally chooses). Amanda admitted earlier this week that she is not a nonfiction fan, but since I've come across such great stuff since I've been delving into juvenile nonfiction, and because she is already such a ready novel reader, I'd like to challenge her to broaden her scope a bit. Of the stack of non-fiction books I received, she immediately gravitated towards Amelia Earhart: Flying Solo, because she was familiar with Earhart in the context of being the heroine of Kit Kittredge, who is Amanda's favorite American Girl heroine. It was a start, although that alone has not convinced her to set aside her Nancy Drews.

All week I posted reviews of some nonfiction that I (and even Amanda!)have recently discovered and enjoyed:

National Geographic World History Biographies of Anne Frank and Mozart

Kids Who Rule
Sterling Biographies and Sterling Point books

Earlier this year, I really enjoyed Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini, and Isaac Newton. All of the above links will take you to my reviews of the books, and from there, the links within will take you to the amazon page for that particular book.

I have appreciated your positive feedback on my book thoughts and recommendations. I am glad that some of you enjoy reading them, because I enjoy reading and reviewing, especially when I can share what I liked about certain books or thoughts that they inspired. Please continue to tell me when I've suggested a book that you think you or your family might enjoy. I love it when you comment and give me recommendations of similar books you've enjoyed. Have you tried to encourage broader reading in your family?

Check out linked up reviews from all over the blogosphere each week at Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.

Friday, March 16, 2007

I'm So Proud

I offer this as proof that loving to read generally sparks some sort of love for writing as well, and occasionally a bit of talent. Amanda is working on her heritage journal project, where she writes from the point of view of a young girl who will immigrate from Ireland to America. This is from her diary entry after the girl learns that they will go to America:

Last night I dreamed that a big rotten potato named Ireland and a beautiful flower called America were fighting over me.


I had to ask her if she had read that somewhere else--where she had gotten the idea--and she said that she made it up, but her teacher said to use their imaginations and they could talk about dreams to express different thoughts.

Maybe she'll help her old mom along in a few years and convince her agent to sign me on and give me a shot.

In the interest of equal time, I am also quite proud of Kyle. This go-round with the runny nose, he has learned to sniff it in to solve that snot problem.

A Sterling Series of Biographies

Sterling Books sent me a whole boxful of their biography series, and I am so impressed at the variety of subjects covered and the approach taken. I read Franklin D. Roosevelt: A National Hero from the Sterling Biographies series (click the link for a more complete list of the titles offered). Since I am interested in the Great Depression, I have wondered what his role was in it. The information easily supplemented any knowledge that I had, but also thoroughly covered his early years, the start of his political career, his disability (which I assumed was from birth and I learned otherwise), and his politics. At first the format of the book reminded me of a textbook, and was not so appealing because of this. However, a young person reading this book does not likely have that aversion to history texts, which began for me in my seventh grade Texas History class and continued through my eleventh grade American History class. Only when my history classes included the reading of real books, in college, did I find it interesting. That said, the things that made this book feel like a textbook to me, are the very things that probably make it more digestible for an eight to twelve year old reader, such as well-captioned photos, sidebars of additional information, and emboldened words that are included in a glossary. This format, as well as an easy tone, made this book interesting to begin and to follow and understand. However, the depth is wide enough to cause me to feel as if I really know about FDR. I did find the information I was looking for, including the hows and whys of all of the depression era programs, his wealthy upbringing, and the role of his disability in his political career. I also got a taste of his wife's support and her own social views, but soon I am going to read the Sterling Biography devoted to her, Eleanor Roosevelt: A Courageous Spirit, to get the rest of the story.

Sterling Point Books are another series. Some are biographies, but some tell of a specific event, and they are told in more of a straight narrative (without pictures or sidebars). These books are aimed at a slightly older audience. The variety here is vast. I have begun reading Amelia Earhart: Flying Solo, and it's nicely told so far. The titles here include everything from a pilot Behind Enemy Lines, to Benjamin Franklin: Inventing America, to the Barbary Pirates, to Alexander the Great (To explore these titles and more, click the link above). Camden, an eight-year-old Second Grader, gave me this report on Invasion: The Story of D-Day. I'm enjoying the book, because lots of exciting things are going on. So far it seems like the Allies are winning. I also like it because I'm learning a lot about something I didn't know much about before. It was confusing for a while but now I understand what's going on. I would recommend this book to someone who's interested in wars from history. I like the fact that he was drawn to this particular book, when given a choice of many, but I especially like the follow-up information that his mother gave me. It seems that he orchestrated a little re-enactment on the playground at school one day. Isn't that one of the wonderful things about books? To take the information gleaned from them and springboard into life?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Kids Who Rule

I requested Kids Who Rule: The Remarkable Lives of Five Child Monarchs from Annick Press because the premise was interesting to me. Perhaps kids would be interested in learning a bit more about some leaders who were kids when they ruled, learning a little bit about governing and history at the same time. It's a very inviting book. A colorful representation of King Tut adorns the front cover, and the interior pages are laid out in an interesting and eye-catching way as well . Each chapter begins with a vignette that could have occurred in the young ruler's life. Using this dramatic technique immediately peaks the reader's interest. The accurate historical information that is presented after this is much more readily absorbed within this context. The rulers who are profiled include Mary Queen of Scots, Queen Cristina of Sweden, Emperor Puyi of China, and the Dalai Lama. You can search inside the book and read much of the chapter on King Tut.


Some thoughts from Amanda--3rd grade, 8 years old--after I made her let her read the book:

Kids Who Rule is about how kings and queens were chosen when they were little kids. I liked how it was non-fiction, but I really don't like non-fiction, so that's a good privilege for the author. I liked it because it was educational, so parents might like that, and it's a good book! Most non-fiction books are boring. My favorite chapter was "The Girl was born to be King," Queen Cristina of Scotland. I would recommend this book to people who are looking for good books, and someone whose parents are looking for something educational, because they don't usually read non-fiction books. New words are explained really well, so I think someone younger than me could read this book, too.

Title: Kids Who Rule
Author: Charis Cotter
Publisher: Annick Press
Date: April 2007
Pages: 120
Source: Review copy from publisher
Recommended to: Boys and Girls, ages 7 and up

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Cash Money and True Love

Cash and love is a little more logical pairing than Mozart and Anne Frank, isn't it? No?

Cash Money

Have you seen Lindsey's new site, Finding Contentment in the Suburbs? In her first post, she introduces it this way:
I personally feel like the key to becoming debt free or making any financial progress really is by learning to be content. Contentment is a huge thing. If you live in suburban America, such as I do, you will quickly find contentment is a virtue that many do not possess. It almost seems unattainable. You can take all the financial seminars you want, read all the books out there, but until you learn to be content with what you have, you will never break free. Sure, you could be a millionaire without being content, but honestly, I'd rather have a contented spirit and have peace in my life.

People around you are constantly upgrading. Getting newer, bigger, better houses. Fancier cars. And gadgets for those houses and cars. Nothing is simple anymore here in suburbia; unless you purposefully choose it that way. We are surrounded by thousands of choices on a daily basis. Why, you can't even go into a coffee shop anymore without having 1,000 choices in front of you!
I have always been very thankful for my financially sensible husband. Maybe not always very thankful. But the truth is that because of his wise planning, we have never been under financial strain. I wanted to share a strategy that has worked for us over these last four years or so. Please click over to read "Controlling Spending with a Cash Allowance." If nothing else, you'll be able to drool over another fabulous design by Bluebird Blogs.

True Love

I hope that you have someone in your life who loves you completely, unconditionally. In order to feel that kind of love from someone, you have to believe that he or she knows you pretty completely as well. Yes, my husband knows me so well, and yet I know that he is always ready to forgive a dumb mistake or overlook an error in judgment and give me another chance. I'm posting at Faithlifts today about "Who Knows You Best." Please come on over.

Anne Frank and Mozart

What do these two have in common? Probably not a whole lot, but they are each the subject of their own book in the National Geographic World History biography series. These were both really attractive and informative books, and I'm sure that the others in the series would not disappoint either. At 64 pages, they are short, but feature information about the historical figure's early childhood and the world around them in the time that they lived. There is a timeline at the bottom of the pages running throughout the book to alert the reader of important events in the character's life as well as other world events. In the case of Mozart, who lived so long ago, this helped me to relate as I read about his life, which seemed so long ago and so far away. These may be the most beautiful books that I have had my hands on. Each one is filled with pictures, and the chapter introduction pages are laid out like a scrapbook page. The bright colors and informative captions move the story along in an easily digestible way. New terms are included in a glossary at the end of the book, but are also defined right within the text in a comfortable way. These books could be enjoyed by eight year olds on up. See other books in the series HERE.


Anne Frank grabbed my attention right away with the subtitle: "The Young Writer who Told the World her Story." I don't think that a student can leave high school without having been assigned The Diary of Anne Frank. What's more, I think it's one of the books that students actually enjoy reading. This series focuses on the childhood of the the subjects, so it was interesting to hear stories of her life before the Annex, along with seeing pictures that her father took of her in her early years. What's more, in this book we are told the unfortunate end to the story, which she herself couldn't tell after she and her family were seized by the German authorities and her diary was left behind. Not only is the subject of this book fascinating, it is an absolutely beautiful book. The preserved pictures that her father took of her and her sister are a treasure. The graphics pull together the pages in a compelling and beautiful way. This book stunned me.

Anyone who is interested in Jewish history or persecution, or is going to be studying Anne Frank would love this book, in addition to any child (or adult!) who is a writer at heart.



Mozart is somewhat of an enigma to me. I couldn't resist looking over this book as well. I especially enjoyed the details of his family life with a father and a sister who were also musicians. This book introduces the concept of Austrian leisure, royalty, the business of entertainment, the early "homeschooling" of Mozart and his sister Nannerl and other elements of daily life in the eighteenth century. Portraits and landscapes of both the Amadeus family and the world around them are included.

A child interested in music or one taking any sort of musical lesson would probably be interested to read about the way it was so much of part of Mozart's life as a child, as well as the culture in general.

These two books from the National Geographic World History Biography series were sent to me for review by the publisher.