Thursday, December 13, 2018

Lulu & Rocky in MILWAUKEE: A Grandmother/Grandson Review and Giveaway

Congratulations to Jo Lynn Worden who won Robert Bateman: The Boy Who Painted Nature and to Linda Phillips who won The Elephant Whisperer. Both grandmothers plan to share these books with their grandchildren. I love it!

With the publication of Lulu and Rocky in MILWAUKEE, Sleeping Bear Press introduces a new series of books, Our City Adventures. (Click here for Sleeping Bear Press comprehensive catalog). Author Barbara Joosse and illustrator Renee Graef will be featuring Detroit in their next book in the series. 


In this entertaining travel guide for kids, Lulu and her cousin Rocky explore the city of Milwaukee. 

Their adventure begins with a ferry trip across Lake Michigan and then settling into the historic Pfister Hotel. 

After working up an appetite, they eat fried cheese curds in the Historic Third Ward. They take selfies at the Bronze Fonz, visit the North Point Lighthouse and Discovery World, and for dinner they visit the Lakefront Brewery. Although they're not shown drinking in the illustration, this might be a questionable location to include in a picture book for young children. Along those lines, Pufferson, Lulu's penguin companion, is pictured drinking beer at lunch. 

The next day they're busy exploring the lakefront.

The pair are inspired at the Milwaukee Art Museum and see a brise soleil on the roof that inspires Lulu's painting of herself riding in the clouds. 

At the end of their trip they wave to Milwaukee. 

The book concludes with a list of places that were included in the book and other places to visit. The series sounds like they'll be great books to use as a K-2nd grade resource.

I read this book with my 8-year-old grandson, Mason. Here are his thoughts:


Leave me a comment by December 17 if you would like to be entered in this giveaway. This would make a nice present for the midwesterner in your life! As usual, please leave your email address if you are new to my blog and US addresses only. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Elephant Whisperer: A Review and Audio Book Giveaway

Every so often I page through Tantor Audio's catalog and come across a title that sounds intriguing. That's what happened when I read the description of The Elephant Whisperer (April, 2009 PanMacmillan) by conservationist Lawrence Anthony along with journalist Graham Spence. The book comes alive through the British narration of BBC broadcaster Simon Vance


One of the opening lines that captured my attention was when Anthony wrote, "Elephants taught me how to listen." As the narrative unfolds, the reader discovers that his herd of rogue elephants also taught him about trust, loyalty, respect, and freedom.

South African Lawrence Anthony's game reserve, Thula Thula, is in the heart of Zululand. He started it in 1998 with 1500 hectare, and was committed to returning the area to its original state. When he was asked if he would receive seven elephants hostile in their interactions with humans, he couldn't refuse. This was the first of many difficult choices he faced: if he didn't take them, they would be killed. 

The first herd arrived in 1999.

Contrary to popular opinion which dictated that wild elephants should have no contact with humans when brought into a new home, Anthony decided he needed to let these traumatized "magnificent" animals (his favorite descriptor) get to know him. While they were in quarantine he spend night and day outside the fence talking to them and letting them get used to him. He named them and used their names in conversation. The day that the matriarch, Nana, reached her trunk towards him, he stood still while she sniffed him. The next day he released them into the preserve. 

The book is full of Anthony's challenges. The herd figured out how to break through the electric fences and head back home. Anthony spent time and money to bring them back--knowing that the alternative was for them to be killed. Poachers (who turned out to be his own guards) killed over one hundred animals and obtained thousands of pounds of meat worth thousands of dollars. Three white rhinos were introduced into the preserve; keeping the elephants away from them was a huge task. 

One time he was pedaling a bike with his fiancé, Francois, alongside of him. They accidentally ended up in the middle of the herd. Being up against seven huge animals who were unfamiliar with the bicycle and Francois put the pair in serious danger. 

Meanwhile, Anthony spent hundreds of hours with the herd gaining their trust. One night he opened the door of the lodge to see Nana practically inside. She snaked her trunk through his bedroom window and although she could easily have picked him up and done whatever she wanted with him, Anthony stood firm and let her sniff him. Later Francois recommended a bath-- Anthony was covered in half a pint of elephant slime. 
The main house which Nana decided to visit.

Anthony developed an uncanny ability to sense when the herd was near. He felt as if the elephants could project their presence into the area. If they didn't want to be found, they wouldn't be. He could sense their deep rumblings in the bush even if he couldn't hear them. "The elephants determined the emotional feelings of the encounter, not me." Similarly, the elephants set the boundaries, not Anthony. Mostly he sat and waited for them to feel comfortable before moving closer to them.

When Anthony was gone for a week, there would be a welcoming committee of seven elephants waiting when he returned. When a fire broke out on the reserve, the elephants led humans and other animals to the Crock Pool to wait until the fire burned itself out.

In 2004 Anthony and his team of rangers rescued a baby elephant who was born with deformed feet. He and Francois cared for him in their guest bedroom.
Despite bottle feeding and intensive medical care, baby Thula died and the entire staff was heart-broken.

Anthony noted that Nana communicated with her eyes, trunk rumblings, and subtle body movements. One day he walked out to her and she walked towards him and he had no escape route. Her legs--as big as tree trunks--could crush him. But the moment he spoke to her she relaxed and so did he. "Communication is a two-way street--whether it's a person or an animal. You have to acknowledge that the communication has reached you. Or, it's all over."

By the time Anthony died in 2012, the herd numbered thirty elephants. For three consecutive years the herd returned to the house on the day of his death to mourn him.

In 2008 and then again in 2010, Thula Thula partnered with adjoining lands and increased in size by another 2300 hectare. 

The Elephant Whisperer, which will be enjoyed by children and adults, ends with a plea for conservation. For more information about the reserve--including staying there and participating in bush excursions, please see Thula Thula's website. (All pictures are from the website.) Here's an audio clip so you can hear Simon Vance's terrific narration. 


To enter this giveaway, please leave me a comment by 9 PM on December 12. Remember--leave me your email address if you are new to my blog. This is a great present for the animal lover on your gift list!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Robert Bateman: The Boy Who Painted Nature- A Review and Giveaway

Congratulations to Clara Gillow Clark who won Finding Home: My Arc-O-Biography on last week's blog.

Note: In the next two weeks I'm going to try and post extra book giveaways so you have a chance to win a holiday gift for someone special. 


When I saw on Margriet Ruurs Facebook page that she had a new book coming out, I knew I wanted to share it with all of you. 
Robert Bateman: The Boy Who Painted Nature, (Orca Books, 2018) is a wonderful tribute to one of Canada's most famous artists. Both the text and illustrations are beautiful; I had a hard time selecting which illustrations to accompany this blog. Hopefully the pictures and short snippets of text will pique your interest; the animals I've named in the review are accompanied by magnificent illustrations.

From a youth, Mr. Bateman loved the outdoors and was "in awe of nature." He investigated fields and animals; birds and plants.

"In school he spent a lot of time staring out the window. He dreamed of traveling so he could see more wildlife, from whales to wrens."

Not only did Mr. Bateman "paint the shapes and patterns of the world around him," but he also carved wooden birds and noticed "details of feathers and form."

Owls, penguins, polar bears, and lions in their habitats. 

Towards the end of the book, there is a lovely illustration of Mr. Bateman walking through a field with his grandchildren. The text reads: 
Now Robert walks the forest with his grandchildren. He shows them the shape of a leaf, the texture of bark. He tells them to pay attention to the details of nature around them.
Robert Bateman: The Boy Who Painted Nature will be enjoyed by grandparents, parents, K-3 teachers, and of course--young readers themselves. Hopefully the text and illustrations will encourage our next generation to appreciate nature as Mr. Bateman did as a child. 


Leave me a comment by December 12 with your email address if you are new to my blog. For an extra chance to win, share this on social media (please let me know what you did) and I'll put your name in the hat twice. 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Finding Home: My Arf-O-Biography: A Grandmother/Granddaughter Review + Giveaway!

Congratulations to Clara Gillow Clark for winning Hanukkah Hamster from last week's blog. Clara is a fellow writer and blogger with whom I often trade books!

In this post, I'm introducing a new format for some of my book reviews. I'm known to five of my six grandchildren as the grandma who loves books. (The sixth is only 3 months old. Give him time.) When I read this book I knew it would be a perfect read for my seven-year-old granddaughter, Libbie, who not only loves dogs, but has wanted to be a veterinarian since she could say the word. She agreed to read the book and give you her thoughts. So here you go, friends--a book review brought to you by Libbie and me!

This sweet early chapter book is perfect for the 1-2nd grade reader who is starting to read on her own. This is Bridgett Langson's debut book and her love for all things four-legged and fuzzy comes through loud and clear.  

Like Christie Miller's book, Raccoon Rescue, FINDING HOME is written for young readers from the point-of-view of the animal character, involves a rescue, and is self-published.

"Puppy" as his new family calls him until they decide on his name, wants one thing: a boy of his own. He and his "Sis" were abandoned by their parents (Marf and Darf) in an attempt to protect them from a mean man they called Bad Boots. Puppy is thrilled when his boy, Eric, wants to keep him. But Puppy's problems aren't over. He arfs too much and doesn't always go potty in the right place. Even though he does his best to look cute and adorable,

Illustration by Edwina L. May
Eric's father dislikes his yapping and is not convinced he wants to add another dog to the household. 

Puppy's "dialogue" with Moka, the big scary dog who belongs to Eric's brother John, as well as his own thoughts are interspersed throughout the story. During a visit to Sis she tries to convince him to stay with her. He says,

I love visiting you, but I need to go back to my own home. Darf was right. It's the way of dogs to live with their own humans. (p.88)
At another time Puppy thinks,
Guess what, you boy named John? Dogs do know human talk! Even puppies like me, I arf. (p. 55)

Puppy has a keen sense of smell, and can smell when a person is scared. This sense of smell saves the day when Puppy finds Eric's father lost work notebook. 

This is the last illustration in the book. I'll give you one guess how the book ends!
Illustration by Edwina L. May



Please leave me a comment by December 6 and I'll enter your name in the giveaway. Bridgett will be happy to provide an autographed copy for one fortunate winner. This will make a great holiday present for a young reader. Don't forget to leave me your email address if you are new to my blog.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Hanukkah Hamster: A Review and Picture Book Giveaway

Congratulations to Elena Caravela who won eight audio books from last weeks blog.



Edgar, the cab driver, had a problem. 

Ohhhf! Something scrambled onto his chest.  
Ayyee! Something hard brushed his face. 
Was it a dream? 
No! It was a hamster!
Edgar tried to think who might have left a hamster in his cab, but couldn't think of anyone. He brought the hamster home, made a bed for him, and lit his Hanukkah menorah. 

After failing to locate the hamster's owner through the cab company, 
Throughout the celebration of Hanukkah, Edgar sends pictures of the hamster back to his family in Israel and searches for Chickpea's owner. Finally, on the eighth day Edgar drives to the outskirts of town where he recognizes a woman and her son. 

After Edgar shows them the pictures of Chickpea on his phone, the three realize that he is the hamster the woman bought for her classroom. The teacher understands that Edgar is far away from his Israeli family and decides to give the hamster to Edgar saying, "He looks right at home."
That is a sweet ending to a heart-warming story written by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Andre' Colin, and published by Sleeping Bear Press

Hanukkah Hamster will make a lovely present for a young reader on your holiday list. Leave me a comment by November 29th and I'll enter your name in the giveaway. Make sure you leave me your email address if you are new to my blog. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Holiday Audio Blog Tour and Giveaway

Congratulations to Joyce Hostetter who won Mothers of Massive Resistance from last week's blog.

As I've done previously, this week I'm joining the blog tour sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association. Details for this HUGE audio book giveaway are below. 

Since you've have heard my reasons for listening to audio books, I decided to ask my Facebook friends for their reasons. Out of the twenty-one people who answered, only two hesitated to give audio books a full thumbs up. The three most common positive reasons were that audio books helped pass the time on car trips, while exercising or walking, or doing household chores. I'm giving the less than totally positive responses first, since other responders kindly answered these concerns. I'm also sharing some of the more novel reasons why my Facebook friends like audio books. 


Teresa F: "Once when we were deep in traffic on Hwy 13 in Delaware, my husband turned on the tape Congo. He liked the movie and wanted to see if the book tracked. Well, the car was quiet, the girls were interested and the narrator started. We were about ten minutes in when something big happens. I forgot what it was, but it was a shocker and I almost drove off the road and into another car! My husband turned it off and that was it. We listen to old Time Radio now. Maybe it was too intense of a story…But I may find out that I’m better than that now!"

Melody S: "I’m on the fence about audio books. It’s great to catch up on the latest while you’re stuck in traffic, waiting for an appointment, etc. But my mind often wanders without a focal point which means I have to retrace my steps (so to speak) more often than not."


Elena C. "I listen while I paint."

Mare B: "I love audio books because I get to listen to someone express the text with emotion. I love listening to them as I fall asleep."

Debbie A: "It helps me shape my craft by listening to published authors and hear what editors decided to publish."

Sarah A: "If I’m sitting and relaxing, I need the actual book, as long as my hands are active, I can listen and focus on the audiobook. The moment I sit still, my brain starts to wander. My 7-year-old son likes to listen to audio books and read along in the actual book."

Sandra W: "Audio books help me, a writer, to HEAR the difference between a well-crafted novel and one that is not so well done. It’s a great way to hear repeat words that work those that are annoying and the subtle ways an author draws you into setting or leaves you wondering. It helps to hear better ways to do attributions and catch the rhythm of the words in sentences and paragraphs…Listening to books on CD or on your phone is the next best thing to reading your own work out loud!"

Carrie S: "My kids and I enjoy listening to books in the car. It equals the playing field with the book level for my 3 and 11-year-old and we are all a captive audience." 

Janet B: "My husband is a non-reader. I soon found, however, that he loves audio books as much as I do! We usually choose mysteries and thrillers, with an occasional historical thrown in. After our daughter moved seven hours away, we found we could just about finish a book on a round trip visit to her. We also have to drive over half an hour from our home in the country to the town where we do everything--doctors, groceries, eating out, etc. So for us, those trips provide a serial listening experience like I suppose the old time radio programs did. We have been known to pull into our garage and sit there listening for fifteen minutes or more when we happen to be at the end of an intense story."

Faith K: "We listen to novels, biographies, histories, theology, poetry, essays, lectures and short stories as part of our homeschooling and for pleasure. We have used Librivox, ITunes, Audible, and CDs from the library. My husband I listen and discuss books as we listen. A good narrator makes all the difference for listening without the mind wandering, but if the book is really good, then even a poor narrator can’t ruin it. The best narrator I’ve listened to recently is Sissy Spacek’s reading of To Kill a Mockingbird. The worst reader was Ray Bradbury reading his own Fahrenheit 451. But I still finished listening to it!"

Kathleen B: When I’m in pain and can’t focus to read a book, I find audio books to be very comforting. Especially on nights when pain wakes me up.

Susan R: My mom used to be an avid reader but has severe macular degeneration now. She doesn’t use CD's but gets books on tape from the Association for the Blind. So not quite the same as what you were asking but it has definitely brought her a lot of happiness and helps fill her time.   

Myra D: "I’ve been diagnosed with Graves disease and my vision is off. Audio books are necessary if I wish to read. But we’ve had them for trips about 20 or more years. Helped lots when girls were squabbling in backseat. LOL."

Jo Lynn W. "When I went back to school I listened to audio books when I was commuting to Northern Illinois University (2 hours round trip). It was a great time to unwind. I remember Anne of Green Gables fondly."

Melinda L. "It’s entertaining, and the actors who read the books bring life to the characters to enhance the author’s work. So much fun! Try the Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters for a real treat." 

Judy M. "We like to listen to audio books when doing long repetitive jobs like working in our greenhouses. It frees our hands and eyes to multitask. When I read to myself, I tend to skim and hurry. Listening to a book read aloud slows me down and allows me to savor a story. A skilled reader turns a book into theater for your ears. Pet peeve is when they cut a six-hour book down to 1.5 in an abridged version-- especially if it's one I read myself and really enjoyed.

My Last Five Audio Book Reviews

Like Faith K, I listen to novels, poetry, and nonfiction. In case you missed my recent audio book reviews, here they are:

Mothers of Massive Resistance: White Women and the Politics of White Supremacy  


Why do you listen to audio books? Leave me a comment and I'll enter your name for this contest and use your name for my next audio blog tour and enter you for that too!

Here are the eight titles that will be available to you if picks your name on November 22. If you are chosen, you will be provided with a promo code from to download the books. Please leave me your email address if you are new to my blog.

  1. BRIDGE OF CLAY by Markus Zusak (Penguin Random House Audio)
  2. SPILL by Leigh Fondakowski (LA Theatre Works)
  3. HOW TO BE LESS STUPID ABOUT RACE by Crystal Fleming (Beacon Press)
  4. AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE by Tayari Jones (HighBridge Audio)
  5. SALVATION by Peter F. Hamilton (Tantor Audio)
  6. THE HUNGER GAMES: Special Edition by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
  7. HEARTLAND by Sarah Smarsh (Simon Audio) 
  8. NINE PERFECT STRANGERS by Liane Moriarty (Macmillan Audio)

Limited to US addresses only. Giveaway ends November 22. 

Do you want more chances to win these audio books? Then check out this list of bloggers and enter through their blogs. 

If you are a writer, check out this post on Writer Unboxed on Writing for Audiobook.


Monday, November 12, 2018

Mothers of Massive Resistance: White Women and the Politics of White Supremacy: A Review and Audio Book Giveaway

Congratulations to Connie Saunders who won Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop from last week's blog.

When I read the blurb about MOTHERS OF MASSIVE RESISTANCE: White Women and the Politics of White Supremacy (Oxford University Press, 2018) in the Tantor Audio catalogue, I thought it might provide a different perspective on the Jim Crow era. It definitely did.  

Dr. Elizabeth Gillespie McRae's work is a comprehensive, well-researched treatise on the role white women played in the politics of Southern segregation from the 1920's-1970's. McRae focuses on four women who influenced multitudes of others through their writing and political activism:

Since I am unable to summarize twelve hours of listening, I will share some facts that resonated with me. 


  • In Bear Mountain, Virginia from the 40's - 90's light-skinned blacks (and possibly some native Americans) paid a lot of money to purchase "white" birth certificates. Changed birth certificates allowed children to attend the better, all-white schools. Monacan Native Americans were forced to identify as black. White bus drivers, teachers, and voter registrars were often the people who determined a person's race and generally upheld Jim Crow and the one-drop rule. See this article on Walter Plecker.
  • Mildred Lewis Rutherford (1851-1928) was a pro-confederate daughter of a Georgia plantation owner who paved the way for pro-segregationists white women. As the historian general of the Daughters of the American Confederacy, she believed that whites were superior, state governments should dominate schools and social welfare and textbooks should be censored. McRae said she "single-handedly reinvented the South."
  • Women's suffrage in the South gave a platform to support Jim Crow. McRae described Florence Ogden as a "subversive columnist." Besides being anti-integration she also supported anti-immigration legislation. 
  • Cornelia Tucker's efforts in Charleston, SC led to the rise of Republicans in South Carolina and Eisenhower winning the vote in 1954. She was against European refugees and wanted blacks purged from the Republican party.
  • Nell Lewis, the first female reporter for the Raleigh News and Observer, considered The Birth of a Nation the best film ever. At the same time that she wanted to end child labor, promote mental health reform, abolish capital punishment, she was also against labor unions since she believed they were pro-Communist. McRae writes that Lewis's stories upheld white supremacy as white women were the "guardians" of racial segregation. 
  • White women were angry with Eleanor Roosevelt for eating with blacks in North Carolina.
  • During WWII, segregationists feared white women working with black laborers. They wanted to protect workplaces for returning white soldiers.
  • Cornelia Tucker linked Communism with civil rights. Her battlefield was school textbooks. 
    Montgomery, Al anti-school integration protest. 1961

  • Many southern women defended segregation as what "God began and wanted." 
  • They appealed to women's maternal duty to protect their children from mongrelization; there was a pervasive fear of miscegenation.
    Baltimore, 1954
    Image via AP
  • Many white southern women feared progressive education that included curriculum which studied other nations.
  • Members of the DAR condemned the United Nations
  • After the Brown decision in 1954, black parents feared sending their children into white schools that were hostile to their children. They lived with fear, uncertainty, and hope. 
  • In 1956, following the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, North Carolina "patriots" wrote to black families asking them to reconsider going to white schools.
  • When Emmett Tillett was murdered, one of the women (I believe it was either Nelle Lewis or Florence Ogden) wrote, "There is no outcry. It must not have happened."
  •  Calling upon their duty as mothers, segregationist women thought white schools would prevent interracial marriage and maintain white supremacy. They feared federal court decisions which would challenge their private lives. They blamed the Jews, communists, socialists, and NAACP for integration attempts. 
  • In North Carolina alone, there were 28,000 people who signed petitions against the Brown vs. Board of Education decision.
    Little Rock, 1959
  • In Little Rock, AK closing Central High in 1958 was the white women's victory to mobilize their children and preserve white schools. 
  • In Virginia and North Carolina "school choice" was a way to avoid integration. 
    September 2, 1970, protest at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public School headquarters. White students adopted the 'freedom of choice' language that segregationists had invoked since the Brown decision. While black youth in the NAACP watched as white students pledged support for integration but not for the busing that would accomplish it. Courtesy of the Charlotte Observer and the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
  • In the mid-1970's Boston mothers who were opposed to busing, looked to southern women for direction. The bus, not the children became central. Complex class politics, working class concerns, and maintaining property rights were central in protecting white privilege for these "true American women."
Anti-busing rally in South Boston
Spencer Grant Collection
Boston Public Library

Here is an audio snippet narrated by Kristen Potter. Ms. Potter does an excellent job articulating the book and using a southern, genteel voice as appropriate.

Click below for an interview with the author.


I am giving away my copy of this audio book. Please leave me a comment by November 15. Share it on social media or become a new follower of my blog and tell me what you have done, and I'll enter your name twice. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: A Review and Giveaway

Congratulations to Linda Phillips who won a copy of Back On Earth from last week's blog.

Alice Faye Duncan reached out to me through Twitter and asked if I was willing to review her two new picture books. Since I'm always interested in highlighting new books for you, of course I said yes! Here's the first one, MEMPHIS, MARTIN, AND THE MOUNTAINTOP: The Sanitation Strike of 1968, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. (Boyds Mills Press, 2018)

This historical fiction picture book aimed at upper elementary or middle school readers, is based on the life of Memphis teacher, Dr. Almella Starks Umola. Her father was a pastor, community organizer, and strategist for the sanitation strike. Dr. Umola walked with her parents during the protests and heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech. 

Here's a great interview with Ms. Duncan that includes the many revisions that went into this story told from the fictional character, nine-year-old, Lorraine Jackson's POV. 


I remember Memphis. 
I remember the stinking sanitation strike. 
Alley cats, rats, and dogs rummaged through the trash.  
Black men marched through Memphis with protest signs raised high.  
I also marched in '68 with red ribbons in my hair.
That is the stark opening to Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop. Lorraine relates that the garbage trucks were old, rusty, and not well maintained. On a rainy, bleak day in Memphis, two black sanitation workers--working for $1.70 an hour--were crushed when a packer blade malfunctioned. 

"Slop dripped down their clothes."

Sanitation workers formed a labor union asking for better pay and safety on the job. Mayor Loeb refused their requests and one month later, the sanitation workers struck. 
In the morning and afternoon for sixty-five days, sanitation workers marched fourteen blocks through the streets of downtown Memphis...My daddy marched in that number. He marched for better pay. He marched for decent treatment. My daddy marched for me.
It was a difficult winter for young Lorraine, her parents, and the other strikers' families. But everyone was encouraged when they heard Martin Luther King, Jr. was coming to Memphis. 

"Dr. King said, 'All labor has dignity,'
Dr. King's voice was loud and stirring."
Dr. King organized a protest march and Lorraine, her mother, and other mothers and children went to the back of the line, while the sanitation workers marched in the front. Unfortunately, fifteen minutes into the march it was interrupted by rioters. The police responded quickly with tear gas and by beating innocent people. Her mother said, "Sometimes bad people mess things up for good people doing good."

That night, Mayor Loeb declared a state of emergency. "From my bedroom window, I saw soldiers in big green tanks creep slowly up the street. I waved to my friend Jan who sat in her window too."

"Nobody played outside that day. Fear locked us in our houses."

In April, Dr. King returned to Memphis but became sick and was unable to speak in person. His speech was broadcast to those who had gathered together at Mason Temple Church. "In the face of death threats, Dr. King spoke boldly. He encouraged Memphis strikers and strike supporters to march, boycott, and raise their voices for workers rights until victory was won."

That night, he was gunned down when a "bullet pierced the dreamer's neck." Afterwards, Lorraine Jackson wrote this poem and her mother hung it up on the crumbling walls of their rental home:

The King Is Dead

Not long ago,  
There lived a King. 
He did not live in a castle. 
He did not wear a crown. 
He did not rule a royal court 
Or ride in chariots.

The King marched in the streets. 
He lived to help the poor. 
He lived for peace and love. 
Hate killed the King.
The King is dead. 
What will the people do? 

The sanitation strike ended eight days later when President Lyndon B. Johnson sent in a labor official to negotiate a settlement. In the deal, the city recognized the labor union, the sanitation workers received 15 cents an hour more, and they were promised job promotions based on merit--not race.

"So much was won.
So much was lost.
Freedom is never free."
That hopeful yet sobering thought helps conclude this informative picture book. Ms. Duncan, as a librarian for the last 25 years in the Memphis public schools, included a timeline and annotated source list at the back of the book. I recommend this book as a curriculum resource for grades 4-7. There is a lot to learn within these pages and R. Gregory Christie's illustrations amplify the text.

Having recently listened to Eyes on the Prize, Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop helped me visualize this particular event on the civil rights timeline.


Ms. Duncan is giving away a personally autographed copy of this book to one fortunate winner. As she said in an email to me, "Readers deserve kindness and an extra 'oopmh'." Please leave me a comment by November 8 and your email address if you are new to my blog. If you share this post on social media and let me know what you did, I'll enter your name twice. 

Monday, October 29, 2018

Back on Earth: A Review and Giveaway

Congratulations to Bridgett Bell Langson who won, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl.

"I wrote BACK ON EARTH: When Men First Landed on the Moon in anticipation of the fiftieth Apollo Eleven anniversary in 2019," North Carolina author Gretchen Griffith said. "I wanted today's young readers to understand how significant this event was to the children who witnessed it."

Illustrated by Bobbie Gumbert, this non-fiction picture book for elementary school students invites readers to participate in the experience. Here is the opening paragraph: 
Two of us landed on the moon July 20, 1969. Those of us back on earth stared into the sky. "Was the moon any different?" we wondered. 
Gretchen used the first person plural to emphasize that, "This story is much bigger than my personal reflections. It is a story about a world-wide corporate experience." In choosing that unique point of view, she aligns those watching the launch, the landing, and the recovery with the astronauts who made history plus implies that the reader is also part of the historic event. 

"Those of us at the launch site felt the ground tremble under our feet. We saw birds rousted from their nests."

In BACK ON EARTH there is a great juxtaposition of ordinary events along with what was going on in outer space:
While we waited [for the landing], we played space games. We designed helmets with tin foil and pretended we were astronauts. We pretended we could fly like birds. We strapped thermos jugs to our backs for make-believe air tanks...We mixed orange flavored powder in glasses of water and sipped the same tangy drink as the astronauts. 

After three long days of waiting, the Eagle landed!
"That's one small step for man,
One giant leap for mankind." Neil Armstrong

Gretchen included a list of YouTube titles, a glossary, and information on how to interview others who witnessed the moon landing with the hopes that "this will start the conversation between generations."

Just in case you want to watch (or re-watch) the landing, YouTube offers this:

GIVEAWAY: Leave me a comment by November 1 with your email address if you are new to my blog. Gretchen will send the winner a personally autographed book. US addresses only. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl: A Review + a Giveaway!

Congratulations to Rosi Hollinbeck, my California blogger counterpart, who won the E-ARC of Lisa Kline's book, ONE WEEK OF YOU.


Authors are always encouraged to write an opening hook that will make the reader keep on reading. If this opening doesn't make you want to read more, I'm not sure what will:
I don't remember the moment that changed my life 4 years ago. Call it a side effect of being struck by lightning. That bolt of electricity burned a small hole in my memory. It also rewired my brain, transforming me into Lucille Fanny Callahan, math genius. (p. 1)

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl (Random House, 2018) is by North Carolina writer Stacy McAnulty, a former mechanical engineer. Stacy's previous career explains why she can write a book that seamlessly weaves math into every page of the book.  

Lucy's newly acquired brilliant math skills is central to this middle grade novel that both boys and girls will enjoy. But the book is much more than that. Along with Lucy's new skills, she struggles with obsessive compulsive habits that make her feel different than others and leave her perfectly happy to be home schooled by her grandmother. But, Nana has other ideas. When her grandmother insists she attends East Hamlin Middle, Lucy thinks,
...Nana is forcing me to be part of this germ-infested community where people are called my peers only because we are the same age. My real peers [people she interacts with online] are creating algorithms and solving problems. They'll be changing the world while I'll be wasting time memorizing textbooks and ducking dodgeballs. p. 23
In school, she is cruelly teased for her OCD habits, but, "The dirt and germs bother me more than the nasty comments." (p. 38) 

In an effort to blend in and not be seen as a freak, she deliberately makes mistakes in math class. 
Nana wants 1 year, 1 friend, 1 book, and 1 activity. I calculate this will be easier to achieve without being a freaky genius. I can be normal smart. It's only middle school. This is about survival. (p. 55)
Lucy is grouped with Windy (the girl who knows everything about everybody) and Levi (a quiet photographer who "sees things in an instant that I must miss every day" (p. 113) for a service project. When the unlikely trio bond over their project at a pet adoption agency, for the first time, Lucy has friends who stick up for her. Working at the agency takes this plucky protagonist out of her comfort zone and proves to be a turning point for her. Suddenly, people (and dogs) start mattering to her more than getting the right answer to a math problem. 

In the end, 
Since starting at East Hamlin, I've climbed the 55 steps in the school 232 times and counted all 950 lockers. I've grown 3/4 of an inch and gained 6 pounds. I've had 77 math classes with 1 amazing teacher. I've read 2 books in language arts class (or 91,255 words). I've helped save 23 dogs so far and fallen in love with 1. I've even made 2 friends. I can add it all up, but the total doesn't begin to tell the story. As it turns out, I'm more than just numbers. (p. 283)

Teachers will like the comprehensive Educator's Guide; Educators and Counselors will appreciate the Empathy Guide that stimulates discussion on stereotypes and relating to someone who is different than oneself. 


Random House is giving away a copy of LIGHTNING GIRL. Leave me a comment by October 25 for a chance to win. Make sure you leave me your email address if you are new to my blog. US addresses only. 

Lulu & Rocky in MILWAUKEE: A Grandmother/Grandson Review and Giveaway

Congratulations to Jo Lynn Worden who won Robert Bateman: The Boy Who Painted Nature and to Linda Phillips who won The Elephant Whisperer ....