Friday, August 18, 2017

Pete the Cat: 5 Minute Stories

Five Minute Pete the Cat Stories. James Dean. 2017. HarperCollins. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Pete the Cat loves bananas.

Premise/plot: This is a collection of twelve previously published Pete the Cat stories. The stories include Pete the Cat and the Bad Banana, Go Pete Go, Sir Pete the Brave, Rock On Mom and Dad, Pete the Cat's Train Trip, Scuba-Cat, Valentine's Day is Cool, Cavecat Pete, Pete the Cat at the Beach, Pete's Big Lunch, Robo-Pete, and Construction Destruction.

The stories vary in quality. In these stories, readers get to spend more time with Pete, meet his parents, and get to know his friends. I like Callie cat!

My thoughts: My least favorite has to be Cavecat Pete. My favorite is either Pete the Cat and the Bad Banana or Pete the Cat's Train Trip. I'd read both of these early readers before. I do like storybook collections. I think they make great presents.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Board book: The Three Little Pigs

The Three Little Pigs. Michael Robertson, illustrator. 2017. Scholastic. 7 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Once upon a time, there were three little pigs. When they were all grown up, they went off to build their own houses. "Beware of the Big Bad Wolf," Mama Pig warned as she kissed her piggies good-bye.

Premise/plot: What you should know about this book: a) it's a board book; b) it's in a novelty shape with a handle; c) there are FOUR finger puppets and a built-in stage for story retelling; d) the story is THE THREE LITTLE PIGS; e) It is not the traditional story.

My thoughts: I enjoy the story The Three Little Pigs. In fact, in college I even did an annotated bibliography of picture book adaptations. I called it a pigliography. This retelling is not traditional in several ways. No pigs are actually eaten. All three pigs are alive and doing well at the end of the story. That in and of itself doesn't make this one all that different from many retellings. But in most retellings, the wolf is punished in one way or another for trying to eat the three little pigs. Justice is served up somehow, someway. That isn't the case in this one: the three little pigs willingly OPEN up the door and extend FRIENDSHIP. The book ends with these words: "The wolf stood up and smiled with a grinny-grin-grin! The End....or is it?

I like that children (or adults) can retell the story using the built-in theatre and the finger puppets. It can be retold in any way, one doesn't have to stick to the version used in the book. The finger puppets themselves are adorable.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sideways Stories from Wayside School

Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Louis Sachar. 1978. 144 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Mrs. Gorf had a long tongue and pointed ears. She was the meanest teacher in Wayside School.

Premise/plot: Wayside School was 'accidentally' build sideways. There are thirty floors, each floor containing one classroom. Sideways Stories from Wayside School contains thirty stories that focus on the students, the teachers, and the school. Primarily on the the classroom on the thirtieth floor. (Mrs. Gorf is only the teacher for one chapter. She's later replaced by Mrs. Jewls.) The stories are odd, strange, and sometimes amusing.

Mrs. Jewls, for example, keeps discipline with her chalkboard. If you're in trouble, your name gets put under 'discipline' on the chalkboard. If you get an additional checkmark and circle, you have to go home at noon on the kindergarten bus. There are a few students in her class that are a tiny bit curious what she does in her classroom from 12 to 2!

My thoughts: I liked this one. It's odd in the way Dahl's Matilda is odd. I love the short chapters. While I enjoyed some chapters more than others, my overall feeling is positive. Sometimes it's refreshing for a book to not be serious and realistic.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Picture Book Parade

Option 1:
  • What picture books did you read this month?
  • Which squares did you fill?
  • Which squares are you having trouble with?
  • How many until you bingo?
  • Do you have suggestions for other participants?

Option 2:
  • What picture books did you read this month?
  • Which categories did you check off your list?
  • What is your goal? How close are you to meeting that goal?
  • Which categories are you having trouble with?
  • Do you have suggestions for other participants?

Option 3:
  • What picture books did you read this month?
  • Which letters have you read?
  • How many more to go until you've read the alphabet?
  • Which letters are you having trouble with? 
  • Do you have suggestions for other participants?
Books reviewed since last time:
  1. Big Cat, Little Cat. Elisha Cooper. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Counting with Tiny Cat. Viviane Schwarz. 2017. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  3. How to Track a Truck. Jason Carter Eaton. Illustrated by John Rocco. 2016. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. How to Babysit a Grandpa. Jean Reagan. Illustrated by Lee Wildish. 2012. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Miffy at the Library. Maggie Testa. 2017. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. Trains Don't Sleep. Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum. Illustrated by Deidre Gill. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  7. Amazing Grace. Mary Hoffman. Illustrated by Caroline Binch. 1991. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. Bird, Balloon, Bear. Il Sung Na. 2017. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Library] 
  9. Tea with Grandpa. Barney Saltzberg. 2014. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  10. School's First Day of School. Adam Rex. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  11. Mr. Moon. Michael Paraskevas. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  12. Princess Super Kitty. Antoinette Portis. 2011. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  13. Trains. Byron Barton. 1986. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]  
  14. And the Train Goes. William Bee. 2007. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Library]  
  15. Monkey: Not Ready for the Baby. Marc Brown. 2016. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  16. Fiona's Little Lie. Rosemary Wells. 2016. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  17. Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes. Tim Wynne-Jones. Illustrated by Brian Won. 2016. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  18. Spy Guy: The Not So Secret Agent. Jessica Young. Illustrated by Charles Santoso. 2015. HMH. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  19. My Favorite Pets: By Gus W. for Ms. Smolinski's Class. Jeanne Birdsall. Illustrated by Harry Bliss. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  20. Making Faces: A First Book of Emotions. 2017. Abrams. 14 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  21. Peppa's First Colors. 2017. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  22. Are You My Cuddle Bunny? Sandra Magsamen. 2017. Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  23. Good Night, Sweetie. Joyce Wan. 2017. Scholastic. 14 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  24. I Dare You Not to Yawn. Helene Boudreau. Illustrated by Serge Bloch. 2017. Candlewick Press. 28 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  25. Maisy's Sailboat. Lucy Cousins. 2017. Candlewick. 18 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  26. Maisy's Bus. Lucy Cousins. 2017. Candlewick. 18 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  27. Peppa and the Big Train. 2017. Scholastic. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  28. Train. Chris Demarest. 1996/2017. HMH. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  29. Bus. Chris Demarest. 1996/2017. HMH. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  30. Tinyville Town: I'm a Firefighter. Brian Biggs. 2016. Abrams. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  31. Tinyville Town: I'm a Veterinarian. Brian Biggs. 2016. Abrams. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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School's First Day of School

School's First Day of School. Adam Rex. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: That summer, they dug up the big field, and poured the foundation, and set brick on top of brick until they'd built a school. A sign above the door read, FREDERICK DOUGLASS ELEMENTARY. "That's a good name for me," thought the school.

Premise/plot: If schools could talk, what would they say? Adam Rex gives us his answer to this question in SCHOOL'S FIRST DAY. Will school like the students and teachers? Will school yearn for the days when it was just the two of them--the school and a lone janitor? What kind of memories will the school make during the school year?

My thoughts: Interesting premise, I must admit. Not entirely realistic, however. I can't get over the fact that one lone janitor is all the staff he ever sees (and gets to know) BEFORE the first day of school. Since teachers often spend at least a week or two before school starts for children. Most teachers head back, I imagine, before they have to because there is so much that HAS to be done. But setting aside real life, this one has its cute moments.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Mr. Moon

Mr. Moon. Michael Paraskevas. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Good night, Miss Sun. Time for Mr. Moon to awake.

Premise/plot: Mr. Moon is a night-themed picture book for young readers. It isn't necessarily a book about children going to bed, as it is a look at things the moon might look down and see during the course of a night. It is whimsical, not realistic, so be warned. Some parents may not appreciate the GHOSTS that are portrayed as roaming the earth and searching for a home.

My thoughts: Didn't care for this one much. On the one hand, a few spreads of the illustrations were very nice. (I liked the train! I liked the sheep. I liked the raccoons.) On the other hand, it is a bit too whimsical for my taste.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Princess Super Kitty

Princess Super Kitty. Antoinette Portis. 2011. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: There are girls who are regular girls. But not me. I have ears and a tail. Because today I am a kitty! When Mom says, "Maggie," I say Meow." That means "I am a kitty, not a Maggie." Kitties are cuter than regular people.

Premise/plot: Maggie is an oh-so-lovable heroine. On this day, she is a kitty, a super hero, a princess, and a mermaid. We also catch glimpses of her family in this one. Cover to cover this one is adorable.

My thoughts: I think I know a Maggie. No, I know I KNOW a Maggie. I really love this one. I think my favorite illustration is of Super Kitty rescuing the baby. I think my favorite line is, "A Princess Super Kitty is someone you obey."

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek. Wilkie Collins. 1854. 384 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: At a quarter to one o'clock, on a wet Sunday afternoon, in November 1837, Samuel Snoxell, page to Mr. Zachary Thorpe, of Baregrove Square, London, left the area gate with three umbrellas under his arm, to meet his master and mistress at the church door, on the conclusion of morning service.

Premise/plot: Mr. Valentine Blyth is an artist. While working in the country side--painting portraits of babies and sometimes painting portraits of horses--he sees a deaf/dumb girl named Mary. She's ten or so. He and his wife don't have any children, and, he pities her since she's literally the property of a circus. Mrs. Peckover (the wife of one of the clowns) is raising her as best she can but she agrees that Mr. and Mrs Blyth might make more suitable parents. She tells Mr. Blyth all she knows about Mary's (Madonna's) origins. She gives him a hair bracelet--all that is left of the mother's belongings. Many years later, Mr. Blyth welcomes into his home a Mr. Zack Thorpe. Zack has aspirations for being an artist; at the moment he's a semi bad-boy. He isn't past all hope yet, but, he's certainly not hanging out with the right people and doing as he should--if he wants to be a respectable, honorable gentleman. One day, however, he does a good deed for a stranger, a "wild" man named Mat Grice. Mat swears that he will always, always think of Zack as a brother. The two move in together, and Zack introduces him to Mr. Blyth. While a guest in Blyth's home, he becomes a bit sly and seems very shady. Thus the mystery begins...Who is Madonna's father? Who was her mother? How is Mat connected--if at all--to Madonna? What kind of man is Mat?

My thoughts: Hide and Seek is Wilkie Collins' third novel. I've not read either of his previous novels: Antonina (1850) or Basil (1852). It is his first mystery novel, I believe.

I definitely enjoyed this one. I can't say that I loved, loved, loved it. But I definitely wanted to keep reading. I did not guess everything ahead of time. But I did get a strong sense in the beginning of the novel that the romance between Zack and Madonna was doomed some way, some how. The character that surprised me most was Mat. I really had my doubts about him when he was first introduced. But by the end of the novel, I definitely wanted him to have a happy ending.

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One word about the plot, I do think it seems a bit ridiculous how Mat pieces EVERYTHING together based on two locks of hair being the EXACT SAME SHADE. Hair color does not equal a DNA test. That is all. 

Quotes:

Our destinies shape the future for us out of strange materials: a traveling circus sufficed them, in the first instance, to shape a new future for Mr. Blyth. (41)
Art wouldn't be the glorious thing it is, if it wasn't all difficulty from beginning to end. (120)



© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Week in Review: August 6-12

Trains. Byron Barton. 1986. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
And the Train Goes. William Bee. 2007. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Monkey: Not Ready for the Baby. Marc Brown. 2016. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Fiona's Little Lie. Rosemary Wells. 2016. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes. Tim Wynne-Jones. Illustrated by Brian Won. 2016. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Spy Guy: The Not So Secret Agent. Jessica Young. Illustrated by Charles Santoso. 2015. HMH. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
My Favorite Pets: By Gus W. for Ms. Smolinski's Class. Jeanne Birdsall. Illustrated by Harry Bliss. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 
Making Faces: A First Book of Emotions. 2017. Abrams. 14 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Peppa's First Colors. 2017. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Are You My Cuddle Bunny? Sandra Magsamen. 2017. Scholastic. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Good Night, Sweetie. Joyce Wan. 2017. Scholastic. 14 pages. [Source: Review copy]
I Dare You Not to Yawn. Helene Boudreau. Illustrated by Serge Bloch. 2017. Candlewick Press. 28 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Maisy's Sailboat. Lucy Cousins. 2017. Candlewick. 18 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Maisy's Bus. Lucy Cousins. 2017. Candlewick. 18 pages. [Source: Review copy]

1984. George Orwell. 1949. 268 pages. [Source: Bought]
Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global. Andy Johnson. 2017. Crossway. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Gospel According to Peanuts. Robert L. Short. Introduced by Martin E. Marty. 1965/2000. 130 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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And the Train Goes

And the Train Goes. William Bee. 2007. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Here is the station all noisy and full, and the station clock goes tick-tock, tickerty-tock...and the man in the station office cries, "Hurry up! Hurry up! Any more tickets...?"

Premise/plot: I guess the point of this one is to make adult readers make a lot of silly noises out loud? There is a definite repeated pattern. "Here is the..." and "And the train goes..." The sounds themselves don't repeat all that often--until the ending when a parrot says all the sounds over again.

My thoughts: I was disappointed. It is not as obnoxious as say, The Wheels on the Bus. But I think it's a missed opportunity of a great train book with familiar, repeated train noises. For example, why is the fireman MUTTERING "shovel-shovel" to himself. That's not an onomatopoeia. It doesn't even make for a good story. For me, this one just lacks something.

Text: 2 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 4 out of 10


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Monkey: Not Ready for the Baby

Monkey: Not Ready for the Baby. Marc Brown. 2016. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Monkey is having a rough day, and then it gets worse. "We're having a baby!" "Our family is growing!" "You'll be a big brother just like me!"

Premise/plot: Monkey is not excited about being a big brother. He does not want a baby at his house. Will he change his mind after the baby comes?

My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. The story was a bit predictable, but it was also easy to relate to. The ending was sweet. I am glad that he gets a little sister!!!

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Fiona's Little Lie

Fiona's Little Lie. Rosemary Wells. 2016. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Fiona wanted to be Felix's Birthday Elf so much she nearly fell off her chair.

Premise/plot: Fiona was supposed to bake birthday cupcakes for Felix for the school party. But. She forgot...and also lost the note the teacher sent home. The next day, she remembers--but it is too late. (Or is it?) What will Fiona say when everyone asks where the cupcakes are? Will she tell the truth? Or will she lie?

My thoughts: I liked this one. I didn't love it. I just don't like Felix as much as I like Max and Ruby (Ruby and Max). But it was a solid enough story about friendship.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping

Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes. Tim Wynne-Jones. Illustrated by Brian Won. 2016. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: S.A.M. is digging for the Lost City of Raisins... He is tracking down the treacherous green spitting bug, balancing on high places, and stealing home. K. is hanging out clouds. "You need new shoes," says K.

Premise/plot: The book chronicles the adventures of a Mom and her son. It is told solely through his perspective, and, since he's a SECRET AGENT MAN, there is a lot of spy-talk. Illustrations clarify some of his code, however. For example, the toilet is the "Holding Cell of Despair," and the closet is the "Secret Chamber of Silence."

My thoughts: This one is definitely cute and creative. S.A.M. I think would be fun to play with. I like this one very much. I'm not sure it's love, love, love. But I'd definitely recommend this one.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Spy Guy: The Not-so-Secret Agent

Spy Guy: The Not So Secret Agent. Jessica Young. Illustrated by Charles Santoso. 2015. HMH. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Spy Guy was a spy. But not a very good one. Spies are sneaky. Not Spy Guy.

Premise/plot: Spy Guy wants to be a spy--a GOOD spy. So since he's having trouble being really sneaky, he seeks advice from the Chief (his father). His father is full of advice, which he gives out a little at a time. Will Spy Guy ever get it right? Will he be able to sneak up on the Chief?

My thoughts: It was cute. I liked it. It's sweet to see a picture book focusing on fathers and sons. But the text itself is not overly sweet or precious. It is action packed. It even has a BURP. I really liked the illustrations too.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, August 07, 2017

My Favorite Pets

My Favorite Pets: By Gus W. for Ms. Smolinski's Class. Jeanne Birdsall. Illustrated by Harry Bliss. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: My favorite pet is sheep. We have seventeen in our yard. Seventeen sheep are still sheep, not sheeps.

Premise/plot: Gus is writing a report for his teacher. It is ALL about sheep and then some. As his report progresses, it gets wackier and wackier. It goes from "A boy sheep is a ram. He has horns" to "Sheep won't ride a skateboard, no matter how long you teach them." I must say that it reveals more about Gus himself than the sheep he professes to love.

My thoughts: I like this one. I do. The narrative voice is very strong with Gus. I like the format, seeing the 'handwriting' of this report. The dialogue is also nice. But I think more than anything, I love the illustrations.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, August 06, 2017

Trains

Trains. Byron Barton. 1986. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: On the track the trains are running. Here is a train with people inside.

Premise/plot: Trains by Byron Barton introduces little ones to multiple types of trains. Passenger, freight, steam, electric. The text is simple, but not as simple as Freight Train.

My thoughts: The very fact that this book is NOT Freight Train might make it appealing to parents who've spent weeks or months reading Freight Train. I did like it. I think it makes a good read aloud. Love the amount of text on each page. The illustrations are very bold, basic colors.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, August 05, 2017

Week in Review: August 1-5



Big Cat, Little Cat. Elisha Cooper. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Pumpkin the Hamster. (Dr. Kitty Cat #6) Jane Clarke. 2017. Scholastic. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Nate the Great Goes Undercover. (Nate the Great #2) Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. Illustrated by Marc Simont. 1974. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
Nate the Great and the Lost List. (Nate the Great #3) Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. Illustrated by Marc Simont. 1975. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
Great Expectations. Charles Dickens. 1860. 640 pages. [Source: Library]
It Can't Happen Here. Sinclair Lewis. 1935. 400 pages. [Source: Library]

Peppa and the Big Train. 2017. Scholastic. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Train. Chris Demarest. 1996/2017. HMH. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Bus. Chris Demarest. 1996/2017. HMH. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Tinyville Town: I'm a Firefighter. Brian Biggs. 2016. Abrams. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Tinyville Town: I'm a Veterinarian. Brian Biggs. 2016. Abrams. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Treasured Grace (Heart of the Frontier #1) Tracie Peterson. 2017. Bethany House. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
Great Expectations. Charles Dickens. 1860. 640 pages. [Source: Library]



© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Big Cat, Little Cat

Big Cat, Little Cat. Elisha Cooper. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: There was a cat who lived alone. Until the day a new cat came. The cat showed the new cat what to do. When to eat, when to drink, where to go, how to be, when to rest. Big cat, little cat.

Premise/plot: A simple yet profound book on life, love, and legacy. Dare I say we're talking meaning-of-life stuff here? The story at its most basic: Big Cat trains Little Cat on how to cat. Little Cat grows up to be a Big Cat. The two enjoy each other very much. My favorite line, "For five minutes each day they went wild." Everyone is sad when 'Big Cat' dies. But a new kitten joins the family a while later. And so once again there's a Big Cat, a Little Cat, and a whole lot of lessons to be learned.

My thoughts: I was tempted to just have my review be a song clip of Disney's Circle of Life. And this book is about the circle of life. But I think it goes beyond that. Personally I think it's all about LEGACY. Big Cat taught Little Cat everything. And that 'everything' stuck with him. Big Cat is not forgotten. Big Cat's legacy lives on and will always live on. At different points in our lives we're all "Big Cats" and "Little Cats." We have the opportunity--the privilege--of passing on what we've learned, what we've been taught to the next generation. We can remember and honor those in our lives that have come before, that have loved us, that have raised us. And one way to do that is to keep engaging in life, in being a part of the community, of being involved with children, contributing in our own small ways to the future.

I think the book is also about change. Nothing stays the same forever. Little Cat had to grow bigger and bigger and bigger. Big Cat had to grow older and older. That's just how life is. You can't stay a kitten forever. No matter how much fun being a kitten is, there's a time when you're a CAT. That doesn't mean all the fun is gone from life. You can still be a kitten-at-heart I suppose. Change is inevitable. It can be sad. But it can also be happy. There is joy and sorrow in life.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, August 04, 2017

It Can't Happen Here

It Can't Happen Here. Sinclair Lewis. 1935. 400 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The handsome dining room of the Hotel Wessex, with its gilded plaster shields and the mural depicting the Green Mountains, had been reserved for the Ladies' Night Dinner of the Fort Beulah Rotary Club.

Premise/plot: Could America become a fascist nation seemingly overnight? That was the question raised in Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here. This political what-if novel was published in 1935, a year before the 1936 election. The novel itself begins in 1936; the early chapters chronicle the '36 election. FDR, the current president, is running again, but in Lewis' novel he loses badly. Who wins? A racist, sexist, power-mad politician named Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip. The rest of the novel sees the collapse of America--at least America as a democratic nation. Windrip wins because of his promises; his promises proclaim that he's for the people: that people will have better, richer lives if they vote for him. But it isn't long before people start regretting--deeply regretting--aligning themselves with such a monster.

The main character of the novel is a newspaper man named Doremus Jessup. Jessup opposes Buzz and all he stands for. He sees that America is in deep trouble. He eventually joins a new underground movement, a rebellion. His actions do have consequences. But so would his inaction. I think that's one of the points perhaps: fear of consequences can keep you from acting, but fear doesn't keep you safe--fear doesn't keep the world from falling apart around you.

My thoughts: Did I like this one? Maybe. I didn't really like any of the characters. Jessup wasn't as sympathetic as you might suppose. Human, yes. We see into his family life: meet his mistress, his wife, his daughters, his son-in-law, etc. We learn a little about his religious beliefs, and a lot about his political beliefs. He's far from the ideal man, but, by comparison I suppose he's better than the actual politicians and those swept up in the mad schemes. The novel covers several years....

Quotes:
Why, where in all history has there ever been a people so ripe for a dictatorship as ours! (17)
Summarized, the letter said that he was all against the banks but all for the bankers--except the Jewish bankers, who were to be driven out of finance entirely; that he had thoroughly tested (but unspecified) plans to make all wages very high and the prices of everything produced by these same highly paid workers very low; that he was 100 percent for labor but 100 percent against all strikes; and that he was in favor the United States so arming itself, so preparing to produce its own coffee, sugar, perfumes, tweeds, and nickel instead of importing them, that it could defy the World...and maybe, if that World was so impertinent as to defy America in turn, Buzz hinted, he might have to take it over and run it properly. (57)
His political platforms were only wings of a windmill. (70)
And daily he wanted louder, more convincing Yeses from everybody about him. (340)
Here in Canada the Americans had their Weeping Wall, and daily cried with false, gallant hope, "Next year in Jerusalem!" (368)



© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, August 03, 2017

Nate the Great and the Lost List

Nate the Great and the Lost List. (Nate the Great #3) Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. Illustrated by Marc Simont. 1975. 80 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I, Nate the Great, am a busy detective. One morning I was not busy. I was on my vacation. I was sitting under a tree enjoying the breeze with my dog, Sludge, and a pancake. He needed a vacation too.

Premise/plot: Claude interrupts Nate's vacation one morning when he loses a list. Can Nate help him find his lost list? It was an important list--a grocery list of items he needs to bring home from the store. He can't REMEMBER a single thing from the list, so without it, he's likely to get in trouble. Nate takes the case, and, thus begins an interesting case. Nate decides to retrace Claude's steps and let the wind show them which direction it is blowing. The wind leads them straight to Rosamond's house, but, she hasn't seen the list--or so she claims. Can Nate the Great solve this case?! Or will he be too distracted by Rosamond's new recipe for pancakes?

My thoughts: I really, really enjoyed this one so much! I am really loving Nate the Great. The writing continues to be so strong. And Nate's letters to his mom just make me smile nearly every time.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Great Expectations

Great Expectations. Charles Dickens. 1860. 640 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.

Premise/plot: Can any Charles Dickens' novel easily--painlessly--be condensed into a couple of sentences that summarizes the plot and introduces the characters in an enticing, compelling way? I say NO. But I'll try. (Because I'm stubborn like that!)

Pip is a young man being raised by his older sister and his brother-in-law--the Gargerys. Mrs. Joe isn't all that nice to him, but, Joe--a blacksmith--is a godsend. The novel opens with some excitement. Pip has been approached--in a cemetery--by a shady character, a grown man, a man readers learn to be an escaped convict. He wants a file--to rid him of his chains--and some food. He's depending on Pip for both. Does Pip have a choice in helping him? Not really. (Though Pip is used to threats since he lives with his sister.) Some time later, Pip is given another opportunity. This time an eccentric old lady, Miss Havisham, wants Pip to be a companion for her and her adopted daughter, Estella. Does Pip have a choice? Again I'll say not really. The meeting is memorable and life-changing. Both his meeting of Miss Havisham and of Estella will change him for better or worse. It is this meeting that brings about his angst--his discontent. After meeting these two, he's no longer content in his home being raised by Joe and Mrs. Joe. He's no longer content being barely literate. He's no longer content with the idea of apprenticing to Joe and following in his footsteps. He wants what seems to be impossible: to be a gentleman--to walk, talk, act, live as a gentleman. But never say never, right? One day--in the middle of his apprenticeship to Joe--his life takes another turn. A lawyer approaches him with glad tidings: he's now a man with expectations. The catch: his benefactor wants to remain anonymous. His life from that moment on will change dramatically. He's being given the opportunity to become a new man. But does new always mean better? And what about those he leaves behind? Joe and Biddy, in particular. (Biddy is a young woman who has come to live with the family after Mrs. Joe is seriously injured. Biddy is of their class but has some education.) He's thrust into a whole new world, and, his manners and morals can sometimes lag behind. Joe goes to live with the Pockets; he becomes best-best friends with Herbert Pocket. Herbert christens him "Handel." The two go through much together; their friendship is deep and sincere. Life seems to be going swell, going according to Pip's grand plan, when Pip learns an unsettling truth. He learns the identity of his benefactor. Pip is shaken, confused, and ANGSTy once again. What is he to do now?! The foundation of his hopes and dreams has collapses. His big plan of marrying Estella seems to be truly impossible now. But not just that plan but all his plans seem to be off-track now. Who can he depend on in this crisis? From this point on, in my opinion, the novel shifts from being a coming-of-age story to a dramatic MYSTERY. So much ACTION and DRAMA are packed into the last hundred or so pages.

My thoughts: I recommend reading Great Expectations at a steady pace. It is not one to rush through in one or two days. If you do, chances are you won't remember what you read, and the novel won't stir up your emotions. It is not one to read slowly hit-or-miss style. If you don't read in it every day or every other day, you might not remember much either. The greatest danger may be that you won't connect with the characters or care about them. And unless you become attached to a character or two, the book won't stay with you. This was my third time to read the novel. In high school, I waited until the day before it was due to open it. It was a NIGHTMARE reading experience. I hated every minute of it. In college, I don't think I made the same mistake twice. I don't think I procrastinated. I think my sin in that instance was holding a grudge and reading it with a closed mind and heart. Since graduating college, I've read Dickens voluntarily. And this year I decided to read Great Expectations--as if for the first time. The goal: to read it with fresh eyes, open heart, open mind, looking for what made Great Expectations GREAT.



What was great about Great Expectations? I really enjoyed the characters, the themes, and the contrasts. What kind of contrasts? Love and hate, foolishness and wisdom, bitterness and forgiveness, friends and enemies, pride and humility. For example, we have two characters that live for revenge and thrive on bitterness to a certain degree. Abel Magwitch and Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham may be the more memorable of the two. She is living in a her worst moment, perpetuating the agony of it. She was jilted at the altar, and from that moment on her life stopped. Instead of moving on with her life, instead of finding a reason to keep living, she became filled with hate, pain, anger, bitterness. Not far behind her is Abel Magwitch. He has an enemy and there is this constant need to get him, to get revenge, to come out on top, to win no matter what. And this enemy haunts him--taunts him. Abel has his good side, as does Miss Havisham. But their worldview is tainted more by hate than love, more by this need to hurt others than to love.

What unites this novel is Pip. And a large part of Pip's identity is his undying, never changing love for Estella. It's unrequited love at that. Pip loves Estella. Estella does not love Pip. Estella loves Estella. I'm not sure if Dickens was trying to enter into the debate of nature versus nurture or not. But Estella has been raised to hate, raised to hurt. Miss Havisham thinks she's protecting Estella from having her heart broken by showing her day in and day out what happens from trusting a man. But in reality, Estella doesn't have a heart to hurt. She doesn't even have a heart to love the woman who raised her. Pip has trouble seeing the real Estella. His Estella is an idealized version, perhaps a version of who she could be if she'd been raised differently, if she'd allow herself to be human, if she'd allow herself to be vulnerable.
"You must know," said Estella, condescending to me as a brilliant and beautiful woman might, "that I have no heart,—if that has anything to do with my memory." I got through some jargon to the effect that I took the liberty of doubting that. That I knew better. That there could be no such beauty without it. "Oh! I have a heart to be stabbed in or shot in, I have no doubt," said Estella, "and of course if it ceased to beat I should cease to be. But you know what I mean. I have no softness there, no—sympathy—sentiment—nonsense."
Then, Estella being gone and we two left alone, she turned to me, and said in a whisper,— "Is she beautiful, graceful, well-grown? Do you admire her?" "Everybody must who sees her, Miss Havisham." She drew an arm round my neck, and drew my head close down to hers as she sat in the chair. "Love her, love her, love her! How does she use you?" Before I could answer (if I could have answered so difficult a question at all) she repeated, "Love her, love her, love her! If she favors you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces,—and as it gets older and stronger it will tear deeper,—love her, love her, love her!" Never had I seen such passionate eagerness as was joined to her utterance of these words. I could feel the muscles of the thin arm round my neck swell with the vehemence that possessed her.
"Hear me, Pip! I adopted her, to be loved. I bred her and educated her, to be loved. I developed her into what she is, that she might be loved. Love her!" She said the word often enough, and there could be no doubt that she meant to say it; but if the often repeated word had been hate instead of love—despair—revenge—dire death—it could not have sounded from her lips more like a curse. "I'll tell you," said she, in the same hurried passionate whisper, "what real love is. It is blind devotion, unquestioning self-humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and against the whole world, giving up your whole heart and soul to the smiter—as I did!" When she came to that, and to a wild cry that followed that, I caught her round the waist. For she rose up in the chair, in her shroud of a dress, and struck at the air as if she would as soon have struck herself against the wall and fallen dead.
"Herbert," said I, laying my hand upon his knee, "I love—I adore—Estella." Instead of being transfixed, Herbert replied in an easy matter-of-course way, "Exactly. Well?" "Well, Herbert? Is that all you say? Well?" "What next, I mean?" said Herbert. "Of course I know that." "How do you know it?" said I. "How do I know it, Handel? Why, from you." "I never told you." "Told me! You have never told me when you have got your hair cut, but I have had senses to perceive it. You have always adored her, ever since I have known you. You brought your adoration and your portmanteau here together. Told me! Why, you have always told me all day long. When you told me your own story, you told me plainly that you began adoring her the first time you saw her, when you were very young indeed." "Very well, then," said I, to whom this was a new and not unwelcome light, "I have never left off adoring her. And she has come back, a most beautiful and most elegant creature. And I saw her yesterday. And if I adored her before, I now doubly adore her."
"O Estella!" I answered, as my bitter tears fell fast on her hand, do what I would to restrain them; "even if I remained in England and could hold my head up with the rest, how could I see you Drummle's wife?" "Nonsense," she returned,—"nonsense. This will pass in no time." "Never, Estella!" "You will get me out of your thoughts in a week." "Out of my thoughts! You are part of my existence, part of myself. You have been in every line I have ever read since I first came here, the rough common boy whose poor heart you wounded even then. You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since,—on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the light, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea, in the streets. You have been the embodiment of every graceful fancy that my mind has ever become acquainted with. The stones of which the strongest London buildings are made are not more real, or more impossible to be displaced by your hands, than your presence and influence have been to me, there and everywhere, and will be. Estella, to the last hour of my life, you cannot choose but remain part of my character, part of the little good in me, part of the evil. But, in this separation, I associate you only with the good; and I will faithfully hold you to that always, for you must have done me far more good than harm, let me feel now what sharp distress I may. O God bless you, God forgive you!"
Favorite character: I think my favorite character was definitely Joe Gargery. Joe loved Pip unconditionally. Joe loved Pip even when Pip was being a brat or a snob--which was often especially in the first half of the book. Pip did nothing to earn Joe's unconditional love and support. Pip often thought of Joe as a fool, as ridiculous, as an embarrassment. But this reader saw him differently. I didn't need a late hour epiphany to see how awesome and amazing Joe was.

Favorite relationship: I really LOVED Herbert and Handel's friendship. I love how these two supported one another, confided in one another, wanted the best for one another. Herbert knew Pip--his strengths, his weaknesses--and loved him as a brother. That brotherly love was returned. When Pip came of age, he thought of Herbert first. How can I use my wealth to help Herbert get a start in life? When Pip's world started crashing in, I loved that Pip thought first of what this meant to Herbert and only secondly to what it meant for him and his dreams. I loved how these two seemed to understand one another. In hard, dangerous times or easy-going good times, these two were there for each other.

Favorite scene: I think one of my favorite scenes is between Pip and Miss Havisham. He is an adult now; he knows at last who his benefactor was; his own dreams are gone--his illusions shattered. He's come to ask for her help: he is not asking for money for himself, but money for his friend, Herbert, in setting him up in a career. His maturity in this scene effected me.
"If I give you the money for this purpose, will you keep my secret as you have kept your own?" "Quite as faithfully." "And your mind will be more at rest?" "Much more at rest." "Are you very unhappy now?" She asked this question, still without looking at me, but in an unwonted tone of sympathy. I could not reply at the moment, for my voice failed me. She put her left arm across the head of her stick, and softly laid her forehead on it. "I am far from happy, Miss Havisham; but I have other causes of disquiet than any you know of. They are the secrets I have mentioned." After a little while, she raised her head, and looked at the fire Again.
"It is noble in you to tell me that you have other causes of unhappiness, Is it true?" "Too true." "Can I only serve you, Pip, by serving your friend? Regarding that as done, is there nothing I can do for you yourself?" "Nothing. I thank you for the question. I thank you even more for the tone of the question. But there is nothing." She presently rose from her seat, and looked about the blighted room for the means of writing. There were none there, and she took from her pocket a yellow set of ivory tablets, mounted in tarnished gold, and wrote upon them with a pencil in a case of tarnished gold that hung from her neck.
She read me what she had written; and it was direct and clear, and evidently intended to absolve me from any suspicion of profiting by the receipt of the money. I took the tablets from her hand, and it trembled again, and it trembled more as she took off the chain to which the pencil was attached, and put it in mine. All this she did without looking at me. "My name is on the first leaf. If you can ever write under my name, "I forgive her," though ever so long after my broken heart is dust pray do it!" "O Miss Havisham," said I, "I can do it now. There have been sore mistakes; and my life has been a blind and thankless one; and I want forgiveness and direction far too much, to be bitter with you."
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Nate the Great Goes Undercover

Nate the Great Goes Undercover. (Nate the Great #2) Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. Illustrated by Marc Simont. 1974. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I, Nate the Great, am a detective. I work hard, I rest hard. Tonight I am resting hard from my last case.

Premise/plot: Nate the Great's latest case involves a "pest" named Oliver. (He's the kid-next-door who always, always catches up with Nate no matter how fast Nate walks.) Oliver is reporting a garbage-snatcher in the neighborhood. He wants Nate to figure out WHO is getting into the garbage and making such a huge mess. This won't be an easy case for him to solve, but, Nate--in addition to loving to eat pancakes--is stubborn or persistent when it comes to being on a case until the case is solved.

My thoughts: I liked this one. In addition to introducing Oliver to readers--I'm relatively sure Oliver didn't appear in the first book--readers meet Nate's new dog, Sludge. Some other characters show up again in this one. (Like Rosamond and her cats). I like the writing very much. There are several notes to his mother. I didn't read these at first, but, I'm glad I read them as I was reviewing the book. Nate is a hoot of a character, I believe.


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Pumpkin the Hamster

Pumpkin the Hamster. (Dr. Kitty Cat #6) Jane Clarke. 2017. Scholastic. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The old-fashioned telephone on Peanut's desk began to ring.

Premise/plot: This is the sixth book in the Dr. KittyCat series by Jane Clarke. In this one, Dr. KittyCat and Peanut take a group of small animals on a stargazing adventure. On the trip, Pumpkin--the hamster--trips and falls into a hole. Fortunately, he's surrounded by animals--including the doctor--who know how to bandage legs. Why did Pumpkin trip in the dark? Well, it turns out that Pumpkin has bad vision and needs glasses.

My thoughts: I really LOVED this one. I do love the series as a whole. I admit I am very partial and not all that objective. I think this is the most adorable chapter book series for young readers ever. I liked Pumpkin the hamster. I love hamsters, perhaps not as much as cats, but a great deal. Peanuts is definitely growing on me more and more with each book. In this one Peanuts gets to be the hero!


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, July 31, 2017

July Reflections

Favorite picture book published in 2017:  Counting with Tiny Cat. Viviane Schwarz. 2017. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Favorite picture book biography:  I am Jim Henson. Brad Meltzer. Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite graphic novel:  Real Friends. Shannon Hale. 2017. 214 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite short story collection:  The Doorman's Repose. Chris Raschka. 2017. 184 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite classic:  Camille. Alexandre Dumas, fils. 1848. Translated by Edmund Gosse. 254 pages. [Source: Library]

Board books and picture books:

  1. Trains Don't Sleep. Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum. Illustrated by Deidre Gill. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Counting with Tiny Cat. Viviane Schwarz. 2017. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Bird, Balloon, Bear. Il Sung Na. 2017. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Library] 
  4. I am Jim Henson. Brad Meltzer. Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. John Ronald's Dragons: The Story of J.R.R. Tolkien. Caroline McAlister. Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. 2017. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. Prickly Jenny. Sibylle Delacroix. 2015. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. Tea with Grandpa. Barney Saltzberg. 2014. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. How to Babysit a Grandpa. Jean Reagan. Illustrated by Lee Wildish. 2012. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. How to Track a Truck. Jason Carter Eaton. Illustrated by John Rocco. 2016. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. Mouse Paint. Ellen Stoll Walsh. 1989. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. Extremely Cute Animals Operating Heavy Machinery. David Gordon. 2016. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. Amazing Grace. Mary Hoffman. Illustrated by Caroline Binch. 1991. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  13. Dogzilla. Dav Pilkey. 1993. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
  14. Kat Kong. Dav Pilkey. 1993. 29 pages. [Source: Bought]
  15. Each Peach Pear Plum. Janet and Allan Ahlberg. 1978. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  16. Dog Days of School. Kelly DiPucchio and Brian Biggs. 2014. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  17. Board book:Peppa's First Pet (Peppa Pig) 2015. Scholastic. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  18. Maisy Goes Swimming. Lucy Cousins. 2017. Candlewick. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  19. Board book: Pug in a Truck. Nancy Coffelt. 2006/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  20. Board book: Hush, Little Horsie. Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Ruth Sanderson. 2010. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  21. Board book: Good Night, Peppa. (Peppa Pig) 2015. Scholastic. 16 pages. [Source: Board book]
  22. Board book: The Goodnight Train. June Sobel. Illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith. 2006/2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 30 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  23. Board book: Time for Bed. Petr Horacek. 2014. Candlewick Press. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Early readers and early chapter books:
  1. Miffy at the Library. Maggie Testa. 2017. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Skunked. (Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet #1) Jacqueline Kelly. 2016. 106 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. If You Lived In Colonial Times. Ann McGovern. 1964. 80 pages. [Source: Bought]
Contemporary (general/realistic) fiction, all ages:
  1. Real Friends. Shannon Hale. 2017. 214 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd). Julie Bowe. 2017. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. The Doorman's Repose. Chris Raschka. 2017. 184 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. 44 Scotland Street. Alexander McCall Smith. 2005. 325 pages. [Source: Library]
Speculative Fiction (fantasy, science fiction, etc.) all ages:
  1. How To Train Your Dragon. Cressida Cowell. 2003. 214 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. The Doorman's Repose. Chris Raschka. 2017. 184 pages. [Source: Library]
Historical fiction, all ages:
  1. Skunked. (Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet #1) Jacqueline Kelly. 2016. 106 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Funeral in Blue. (William Monk #12) Anne Perry. 2001. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers. Deborah Heiligman. 2017. 464 pages. [Source: Library]
Mysteries, all ages:
  1. Funeral in Blue. (William Monk #12) Anne Perry. 2001. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
Classics, all ages:
  1. Camille: A Play in Five Acts. Alexandre Dumas, fils. Translated by Matilda Heron. 1852. 72 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Camille. Alexandre Dumas, fils. 1848. Translated by Edmund Gosse. 254 pages. [Source: Library]
Nonfiction, all ages:
  1. John Ronald's Dragons: The Story of J.R.R. Tolkien. Caroline McAlister. Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. 2017. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. I am Jim Henson. Brad Meltzer. Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. Anne of Green Gables Treasury. Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson. 1991. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. The Novel of the Century. David Bellos. 2017. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. When Your Child Has Food Allergies. Mireille Schwartz. 2017. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers. Deborah Heiligman. 2017. 464 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. If You Lived In Colonial Times. Ann McGovern. 1964. 80 pages. [Source: Bought]
Christian fiction: 0
Christian nonfiction:   

  1. Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering. Kelly M. Kapic. 2017. IVP. 197 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. How Does Sanctification Work. David Powlison. 2017. Crossway. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and On Earth. Douglas Sean O'Donnell. 2013. Crossway. 1090 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. The Wisdom of God: Letting His Truth and Goodness Direct Your Steps. A.W. Tozer. Edited by James L. Snyder. 2017. Bethany House. 190 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. The Legacy of Luther. R.C. Sproul, editor. 2016. Reformation Trust. 308 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. A Description of Christ. Richard Sibbes. (1577-1635, Sibbes lifespan). 29 pages. [Source:Bought]
  7. Lifted: Experiencing the Resurrection Life. Sam Alberry. 2010/2012. P&R. 142 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  8. RSV Bible. 1977. Oxford University Press. 1904 pages. [Source: Gift]
  9. A Survey of Church History, Part One: A.D. 100-600.  W. Robert Godfrey. Twelve 23-Minute Messages. [Source: Gift]
  10. A Survey of Church History, Part Two: A.D. 500-1500.  W. Robert Godfrey. Thirteen 23-Minute Messages. [Source: Gift]
  11. A Survey of Church History, Part Three: A.D. 1500-1620.  W. Robert Godfrey. Twelve 23-Minute Messages. [Source: Gift]
  12. A Survey of Church History, Part Four: A.D. 1600-1800.  W. Robert Godfrey. Twelve 23-Minute Messages. [Source: Gift] 
  13. A Survey of Church History, Part Five: A.D. 1800-1900.  W. Robert Godfrey. Twelve 23-Minute Messages. [Source: Gift]
  14. A Survey of Church History, Part Six: A.D. 1900-2000.  W. Robert Godfrey. Twelve 23-Minute Messages. [Source: Gift]
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Novel of the Century

The Novel of the Century. David Bellos. 2017. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence from chapter one: Victor-Marie Hugo was born in 1802 in the garrison twon of Besancon, where his father was stationed.

Premise/plot: The Novel of the Century tells the story of Les Miserables. It seeks to do two things, really: 1) It tells how Victor Hugo came to write, edit, and publish Les Miserables; 2) It discusses the impact of the novel since its publication to the present day. It is a book for literature majors and/or history majors, especially. It is simply packed with information.

Did you know that...
  • Victor Hugo lived in exile for decades; France's most popular, much-beloved writer was exiled with the new regime that came into power in the mid 1840s.
  • Victor Hugo started the novel in the 1840s, but, it wasn't finished and published until the 1860s.
  • Worried that the book might be banned and/or destroyed, NO review copies were sent out before its publication, and the contents of the book were kept very secret. Still the book needed to be promoted, so they used BILLBOARDS of some of the interior illustrations to advertise.
  • The book was released in five parts of two volumes each, I believe.
My thoughts: I am so happy and so thankful that I got a chance to review this. Les Miserables has been one of my favorite books since I first read it in 1997. I had not heard the often dramatic story of how the novel came to be. This one isn't so much a biography of Victor Hugo's whole life or career as it is finely focused on his years writing, editing, publishing this one novel of his. The chapters vary between an entertaining narrative style that just about anyone can understand and appreciate and a more technical, scholarly style which may or may not hold every reader's interest. I really found many of the 'interludes' to be fascinating.

For example, "Reading novels as historical resources is not a way of paying attention to what the author meant to say, but a matter of identifying what was once so obvious that it didn't need to be said."



© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Tea with Grandpa

Tea with Grandpa. Barney Saltzberg. 2014. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Every day at half past three...Me and Grandpa. Time for Tea. I can pour so carefully. Grandpa holds his cup for me.

Premise/plot: What you see is what you get...or is it?! Every day a little girl and her grandpa have tea together. The book shares what they do every day at tea time: tell stories, laugh and joke, sing and dance. What the book waits a while to reveal....is....that the grandpa and the little girl are not "together" for tea time. They are communicating via computer.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I love the illustrations. So simple yet so emotionally genuine or expressive. I like the message that you don't have to be in the same room with someone to be with them in spirit. There are many ways to stay in touch with your loved ones. This tea-time ritual being one way to stay connected.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Bird, Balloon, Bear

Bird, Balloon, Bear. Il Sung Na. 2017. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It was Bird's first day in a new forest, and he was looking for a friend. It wasn't long before he spotted someone! But Bird was too shy to say hello. When he finally felt brave enough...

Premise/plot: Will Bear and Bird ever become friends? What is the fate of the red balloon? Essentially, Bird is very shy, and, while he really, really, really wants to make a friend and have a friend, he's a bit hesitant to make the first step. Bear is a great character who is very easy to be with. These two seem destined to watch a lot of sunsets together.

My thoughts: I like this one. I'm not sure I love, love, love it. But I do love the illustrations. They pair well with the simple story.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Share-a-Tea July Check-In

  • What are you currently reading for the challenge? 
  • Have you finished any books for this challenge this month?
  • Is there a book you're looking forward to starting next month?
  • Want to share any favorite quotes? It could be from your current read. It could be about reading. It could be about drinking tea. 
  • What teas have you enjoyed this month? 
  • Do you have a new favorite tea?
What I'm currently reading for the challenge:

ESV Reformation Study Bible. Edited by R.C. Sproul. Reformation Trust. 2560 pages. [Source: Gift/Bought]

MEV Thinline. Passio. 2014. 1184 pages. [Source: Bought]

The Wretched (Les Miserables) Victor Hugo. Translated by Christine Donougher. 1862/2013. 1456 pages. [Source: Bought]

Great Expectations. Charles Dickens. 1860/2016. Macmillan Collector's Library. 640 pages. [Source: Library]


Books I've Finished This Month:


RSV Bible. 1977. Oxford University Press. 1904 pages. [Source: Gift]

Looking forward to...:
  • Finishing Les Miserables
  • Finishing Great Expectations
Favorite quotes:

From Les Miserables
  • True or false, what is said about men often figures as large in their lives, and above all in the fate that befalls them, as what they do.
  • Man exists in the flesh, which is at once his burden and his temptation. He drags it around with him and gives in to it.
  • To sin as little as possible, that is the law of mankind. Not to sin at all is the angel’s dream. Everything earthly is subject to sin. Sin is a gravitational force.
  • Let us fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers. Vices are the real murderers. The great dangers are within us. Never mind what endangers our life or our purse! Let’s be mindful only of what endangers our soul.
  • To put an end to abuses is not enough, attitudes must change.
  • He did not study God, he yielded to the radiance of God.
  • But it is no more possible to pray too much than it is to love too much;
  • ‘You didn’t have to tell me who you were. This isn’t my house, it’s the house of Jesus Christ. This door does not ask whoever enters whether he has a name but whether he is in distress. You’re in distress, you’re hungry and thirsty: you’re welcome here. And don’t thank me, don’t say I’m inviting you into my home. No one is at home here except whoever needs a refuge. I tell you, a passing visitor, this is your home more than mine. Everything here is yours. Why should I need to know your name? Besides, even before you told me, I already knew your name.’ The man eyes widened in astonishment. ‘Really? You knew me by name?’ ‘Yes,’ replied the bishop, ‘by the name of “Brother”.’
  • The good Lord has given indigestion the task of teaching our stomachs a lesson. And remember this: every one of our passions, even love, has a stomach that mustn’t be overfed.
  • The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that you are loved, loved for yourself, better still, loved despite yourself.
  • The mind is no more to be prevented from returning to an idea than the sea from returning to the shore. For the sailor, this is called the tide. For the guilty man, it is called remorse. God stirs the soul as he causes the ocean to swell.
  • Diamonds are found only in the darkness of the earth. Truths are found only in the depths of the mind. It seemed to him that having descended into those depths, having long groped in the pitch-black of that darkness, he had at last found one of those diamonds, one of those truths, and he now held it in his hand. And he was dazzled by the sight of it.
  • Every event is a bend in the road. And all of a sudden you are old.
  • If you want to understand what revolution is, call it Progress. And if you want to understand what progress is, call it Tomorrow. Tomorrow comes into effect irresistibly, and does so even today. It always achieves its end by strange means.
  • The best of us are not exempt from a selfish way of thinking.
  • Before you grasp a thorny stick, you put on gloves.
  • This book is a drama whose main character is the infinite. Man is the secondary character.
  • Facts, however, are not easy to confound, and they remain obstinate.
  • Man lives by affirmation much more than by bread.
  • To be lost in thought is not to be idle. There is visible work and invisible work.

From Great Expectations:
  • Some medical beast had revived Tar-water in those days as a fine medicine, and Mrs. Joe always kept a supply of it in the cupboard; having a belief in its virtues correspondent to its nastiness. At the best of times, so much of this elixir was administered to me as a choice restorative, that I was conscious of going about, smelling like a new fence. On this particular evening the urgency of my case demanded a pint of this mixture, which was poured down my throat, for my greater comfort, while Mrs. Joe held my head under her arm, as a boot would be held in a bootjack.
  • Joe's station and influence were something feebler (if possible) when there was company than when there was none. But he always aided and comforted me when he could, in some way of his own, and he always did so at dinner-time by giving me gravy, if there were any. There being plenty of gravy to-day, Joe spooned into my plate, at this point, about half a pint.
  • Neither were my notions of the theological positions to which my Catechism bound me, at all accurate; for, I have a lively remembrance that I supposed my declaration that I was to "walk in the same all the days of my life," laid me under an obligation always to go through the village from our house in one particular direction, and never to vary it by turning down by the wheelwright's or up by the mill
  • In the little world in which children have their existence whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt as injustice.
  • "There's one thing you may be sure of, Pip," said Joe, after some rumination, "namely, that lies is lies. Howsever they come, they didn't ought to come, and they come from the father of lies, and work round to the same. Don't you tell no more of 'em, Pip. That ain't the way to get out of being common, old chap. And as to being common, I don't make it out at all clear. You are oncommon in some things. You're oncommon small. Likewise you're a oncommon scholar."
  • If you can't get to be oncommon through going straight, you'll never get to do it through going crooked. So don't tell no more on 'em, Pip, and live well and die happy."
  • That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.
  • Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.
This month's teas:
  • English Breakfast
  • White Tea
  • Earl Grey (Black/Green Organic)
  • Peppermint
  • Candy Cane Lane
  • Sweet Harvest Pumpkin

New teas:
I tried Peppermint tea and loved it. I tried Oolong tea, but, I'm not sure if I like it or not. It may take another cup or two before I make up my mind.



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace. Mary Hoffman. Illustrated by Caroline Binch. 1991. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Grace was a girl who loved stories. She didn't mind if they were read to her or told to her or made up in her own head.

Premise/plot: Grace, the heroine, loves stories. She loves acting out stories. She does it all the time. So when her class performs Peter Pan, she knows exactly what part she wants--that of Peter Pan. Her classmates, at first, tell her she can't be Peter Pan. She's a girl. She's black. She just doesn't look the part. But Grace knows different. She's been raised to believe that she can be anything she wants. She proves that she can be an amazing Peter Pan.

My thoughts: I liked this one very much. I think Grace is adorable. The kind of girl you'd really love to be friends with in real life.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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