Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Tale of Two Trilogies and a Winner!



First off,


We Have a Winner!  Congratulations to Jill L!  She has won the Driscoll's berry coupon giveaway!

Secondly,  I hope each and every one of you is having a wonderful Easter Week!


Public Service Announcement:  Don't forget - This Friday is Meat Friday! 

Now for some book reviews:



The third installment of Jennifer Niesen's The Ascendance Trilogy is out!  And it's awesome!

Young King Jaron and his landlocked country of Carthya are being attacked on all sides, by all of his enemies who have banded together against him.

With a few friends at his back, and lots of witty comments along the way, Jaron must face incredible odds while injured and grieving a devastating loss.

As usual, Nielsen combines great dialogue with action-packed adventure.  I was particularly impressed with Jaron's invocation of "the saints" as he leads his people into battle and his concept of an afterlife for those who've lived virtuously.


I'd say these books are appropriate for ten and up?  In The Shadow Throne, you will find battlefield violence, some tortuous beatings, death, blood, and the occasional kiss (maybe twice?).  You will also find sacrifice, true love, loss, and responsibility, not to mention an epic surprise ending.

I reviewed Part One:  The False Prince here and Part Two:  The Runaway King here.  You should definitely begin at the beginning.


Technically speaking, The Lunar Chronicles is a series, not a trilogy, with Part 4:  Winter yet to be released.

I greatly enjoyed Cinder, had some issues with Scarlet, and was delighted to find Cress not only resolves one of my qualms, but is a better book (than Scarlet) with better characters overall.


Cress is Marissa Meyer's sci-fi re-telling of Rapunzel, complete with a blind "prince."

Cress is a shell, which is like the Lunar version of a "squib."  Lunars, the race of people that populates the moon, generally have the ability to control the minds of Earthens.  But Cress doesn't.

She does have a gift for technology and hacking, which is why she has spent the last seven years of her life alone, in a satellite, monitoring all of Earth's secrets for the evil queen and cloaking the Lunar ships that are set to invade Earth.

Scarlet is only in this book briefly as she is captured by the Lunars and imprisoned on the moon.  In those brief moments, she mentally re-hashes her one night of passion with Wolf and makes it seem as though perhaps it was just some passionate kisses.

In my opinion, the best scene in Cress, is when she and Captain Thorne (again, the likeness to Captain Jack Harkness was striking) crash land on Earth.  Thorne has been blinded in a fight, and Cress has never been to the surface.  He must ascertain their location and manage their survival through the eyes of someone who has never seen an animal in real life, or the sky, or the sun.

Her total naivete and innocence is the perfect foil for his brash womanizing attitude and their romance is one of the greatest things about this series.

Unlike the previous two volumes, Cress is very clean.  Focused on fighting the evil Queen Levana and stopping her marriage to Cinder's heartthrob Emperor Kai, Cinder, Wolf, Cress, Thorne, and the lovable droid Iko face the impossible.

This series is definitely "young adult."  I'll let my high school kids read it, I'd probably let an 8th grader read it, but with the joking sex change reference in Cinder, and the love scene and references to porn (which is frowned upon) in Scarlet, I'd definitely reserve this series for teens.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Clickables on Holy Thursday

If you don't read Rebecca at Shoved to Them you should, and you definitely need to check out her 9 year old daughter's art blog that Rebecca introduces in this post.

Peter is taking a Theology of the Body elective this semester.  He told me that they watched this TED talk in class recently:


Which led to me telling him about former America's Next Top Model contestant Leah Darrow and her journey from fashionista to chastity speaker.

Which led to him telling me about actress (former Power Ranger) and designer, Jessica Rey, and her line of modest swimsuits inspired by Audrey Hepburn.


The things she has to say about scientific research, male brains, and bikinis is all new to me (around 4:30). National Geographic is one of her sources.


Did I mention that she is a former Power Ranger?  That fact alone gives her a lot of credibility in my book.

Sweet Beth lost her little Rebecca Irene this week.  I just can't help picturing Beth and Rebecca and thinking of this mama who lost her baby too.


This video of a young man with Down's Syndrome getting his college acceptance letter made me smile.

Lastly, I have a lovely conversion story to share with you about a couple entering the Church this weekend. I am always blown away when I see people make this journey from another faith or from no faith at all.  Seeing new Catholics profess the faith at the Holy Saturday vigil is always a high point of this weekend.  

Have a blessed Easter!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WWRW: 3 Good Books

I am on a reading streak lately.  Three for three.  Three books from the Caudill shelf that I thoroughly enjoyed and can whole-heartedly recommend!


Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins is a modern-day story about the civil war in Burma and the young boys who are forced to fight in it.  The first half of the book is Chiko's story.

Chiko's father is in prison (they hope) and his mother is running out of money for food and rent. When Chiko answers an ad for a teaching position, he is tricked by the government and shipped off to a military training camp.  At fifteen years old, Chiko is one of the older recruits.

In addition to learning kickboxing and strength training, Chiko experiences first hand the cruelty of the captain and the wisdom of a savvy street-fighting friend. Sent on a mission in the jungle, Chiko is seriously injured by a mine.  He is found unconscious by Tu Reh and his father.  Tu Reh and his father belong to a small ethnic minority, the Karenni, aka the enemy.

Tu Reh narrates the second half of the story.  He must choose whether to mercifully end Chiko's life, or bring him back to the refugee village just across the border, risking the wrath of his people.  Tu Reh listens to his father, makes his decision, and has to stand before a village council to defend his choice.

Bamboo People has a good amount of violence.  There are beatings and deaths.  A Karenni girl that escaped the Burmese soldiers has experienced some horrible things that are never disclosed.  Her gentle and peaceful spirit is a wonderful point of contrast to her love interest's desire for revenge.

For middle-schoolers and up, Bamboo People is a compelling story of war and forgiveness set in a region that I knew little about.


Close to Famous by Joan Bauer opens with 12 year-old Foster and her mother fleeing the mother's abusive Elvis-impersonating ex-boyfriend.   They leave Memphis and end up in a small town in West Virginia.

Foster dreams of having her own cooking show.  Since her father's death while serving our country in Iraq, Foster has looked up to Food Network cooking star, Sonny Kroll. She learned to bake from his show; cupcakes and muffins are her specialty.  It's good that Foster has a talent to develop, because she has a severe learning disability and barely passed 5th grade.

The new townspeople support Foster and her mother, helping them find a place to live, a job for her mother, and Foster even gets the help she needs with reading. Foster and her mom have their own effect on the town too, making friends, saving lives, changing the world one cupcake at a time.


Wonder by R. J. Palacio is just. incredible.  I cried.  A lot.

August Pullman is going to attend a real school for the very first time, and he's going into 5th grade.  The reason he has homeschooled until now is because he has had so many surgeries.  On his face.  Because he was born with severe birth defects.  On his face. Facial abnormalities. Severe facial abnormalities.

Wonder is about acceptance, suffering, and seeing people with your heart instead of your eyes.

I was reminded of this episode when I read Wonder.
Wonder is about 5th graders, some of whom fancy themselves as dating each other. Not that they actually go on any dates or anything.  Note passing is about as exciting as it gets.

Augie has a sister is in high school.  She has a boyfriend and they do occasionally kiss, but this story is much more about how his sister deals with feeling eclipsed by her brother's needs her whole life, and her struggle to figure out her own identity in a new school where no knows her as "the sister of that deformed kid."

Reports state that author "R. J. Palacio wrote Wonder as a sort of  "penance" When she was getting milkshakes with her two sons in Brooklyn one afternoon, they saw a girl with a facial deformity. Her three-year-old started to cry and she rushed her kids away, and instantly regretted that she hadn’t stayed to talk to the girl."

The same WSJ blog article that reported the above, also declared Wonder to be a "crossover hit." Generally, a crossover hit is a book written for one age group that appeals to another age group.  For example, the Twilight series and the Harry Potter books are all examples of crossover hits.  

In other words, I'm not the only adult who loves this book.



Don't miss out on a chance to win $15 in coupons from the berry people at Driscoll's!  

Looking for that last minute book purchase for the Easter basket?  Or need a unique First Communion gift? I reviewed two books on Monday that would be perfect.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blueberries for Jill and a Berry Good Giveaway

We are big time berry lovers here.

More than one of us is allergic to tree fruit, so berries, pineapple, kiwi, and citrus are our staples.

Berries are so very, very good for you too!  Vitamins and fiber!  They taste good in cereal, yogurt, salad, and just plain.

I eat a bowl of fruit every evening for dessert and it usually looks like this:


That dish there is blueberries, bananas, blackberries, pineapple, and kiwi (peeled because I'm a baby). Sometimes, my evening bowl has strawberries or raspberries or a drizzle of Hershey's syrup.  It's on the couch because that's where I do my best eating, knitting, and laundry folding.

I love that Driscoll is offering organic berries now.  Sometimes the price difference between their organic offerings and the regular fruit is negligible.  Score!

The berry people at Driscoll's sent me a storybook and send coupons to use in berries a fun and delicious way.


First, the book. The Scary Blueberry (written by Jaden Shelton and illustrated by Livia Jovanovic) is about a boy who is afraid to try a blueberry.  After his father points out all of the things he is not afraid of:  pirates, aliens, monsters, etc, the boy tries tasting a blueberry.

But he doesn't like it.

He keeps trying them however, and eventually realizes they are delicious.


Jill enjoyed the book.  She "reads" it to herself now because the minimal text matches the illustrations perfectly.

Now for the dish.  We had some excellent French toast, made with Costco baguette. That baguette makes the best French toast.  Jill had hers with syrup and blueberries.


Guess which part she liked best?

That mini glass of OJ is served in a votive candle holder, an idea I stole from my sister-in-law.  Jill loves her tiny glasses.


Lastly, the fun part!  Giveaway Time!

Driscoll sent me the book and some coupons for myself, and they have some coupons they want to send to one lucky reader!  $15 worth of coupons!

One of those $3 coupons paid for one of those berry boxes.  That means free berries! Sorry not sorry but the blackberries "accidentally fell into my mouth" before their photo op.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 14, 2014

Children's Books for the Upcoming Canonizations

Recently, the good folks at Ignatius Press sent me two of their newest titles to review in preparation for the upcoming canonizations of John Paul the II and John XXIII.


John Paul II: The Journey of a Saint, written by Guy Lehideux and Louis-Bernard Koch and illustrated by Dominique Bar, is a non-fiction graphic novel (sounds like an oxymoron, I know).

The graphic novel format means that it is comic-book style.  Some people love it, some people hate it.  The graphic novel format has gained respect in the literary world and is used to lure reluctant readers, especially boys.

John Paul II: The Journey of a Saint is different from a regular comic, not just in its content, but also it's size and binding.  This book is large, making it easy to read, and the hardcover binding guarantees that it will last a long time.

The story of John Paul II: The Journey of a Saint is compelling and thoughtfully told.  I found the Polish names hard to read and remember (who's who), but the pictures are a great aid in this.  Beginning before his birth, we follow Karol Wojtyla through his youth, the loss of his family members, his foray into the theater, his abrupt decision to enter the priesthood, his role in post-WWII Poland, and his papacy.

After John Paul II is elected pope, the storyline dwindles into a list of dates of prominent writings, journeys (World Youth Days are noted), and canonizations.  The book ends shortly after the canonization of St. Josemaria Escriva.

I felt that this left out an important part of the saintliness of John Paul II, namely his suffering and death.  His decline of health was a public witness to the power of suffering, which modernity would have us eschew.

Despite the omission of his end days, John Paul II: The Journey of a Saint is an excellent and attractive book for children of all ages.


Do not judge a book by its cover.

Do judge this book by it's entire title:  Our Holy Father, the Pope: The Papacy from Saint Peter to the Present.

This beautifully illustrated book by Don Caffery is NOT a biography of Pope Francis, as I had first thought, but rather a very good explanation of the papacy, how Christ began it all with St. Peter, how popes are elected, what they do, and where they live.

Our Holy Father, the Pope: The Papacy from Saint Peter to the Present is written in language geared to early readers and would make an excellent First Holy Communion gift. Especially considering that a few popes are given special focus including St. Clement, St. Leo, St. Pius X (who allowed young children to receive Holy Communion and encouraged receiving the Eucharist among all Catholics) and soon-to-be St. John Paul II.

You can order these books through Ignatius Press, or through my Amazon affiliate links.  I do get a small percentage of the proceeds from Amazon.  Ignatius did not pay me for my opinions, they only provided me with the books.  You still have time to get them for Easter if you use Amazon Prime free shipping!  You have even more time if you would like them for the canonizations on April 27th.

I'm thinking about sending these books to my godson for his first communion present.  I always struggle with boy gifts for occasions like these but these books are Catholic, geared for children, and somewhat masculine.




Friday, April 11, 2014

7QT: Funguses and Phones

1.  Peter's baseball coach told the team on the very first day of practice that he didn't want to see anyone wearing gym uniform shirts under their jerseys.

He also said that he didn't want to see anyone wearing shirts with other people's names on them.

Peter was wearing a gym uniform shirt with someone else's name clearly written across the front when this announcement was made, and he has gone out of his way to wear a different person's gym shirt EVERY day that he has baseball.

Which is funny in his own pushing-the-envelope-but-he's-a-senior-way.  I believe the coach is ignoring the flagrant shirt disobedience, or hasn't noticed.

When I asked him where he gets all of the gym shirts, he replied, "I find one or two every day on the locker room floor."

Then he held up his elbow and asked me, "Does this look like ringworm?"


2.  For the record, ringworm is not a worm.

It's a fungus, and it's treated with over-the-counter anti-fungal cream.

It's contagious, and easily caught via shared towels, athletic equipment, and clothing.


3.  Phone Saga

The camera stopped working on my iPhone.  I did all the things:  restart, reset, upgrade software, and Genius Bar appointment.  At that appointment, the genius said the only thing I could do is buy a new phone for $269, thank you very much.

My phone is less than two years old.  Never been damaged.  Never been wet.

4.  You might think having an iPhone without a camera is NoBigDeal, but when I thought about how we texted a photo of newborn Baby J to all of our sibs within hours of her birth,


and I remembered the other treasured pictures I've taken with my phone,

like a picture of my sister Mary, in the hospital with Jill and my two nieces crawling all over her, tubes, wires, and all (which I cannot locate right now, but deep breaths...someone has a copy.)

I got panicky and yes, I cried.

Patrick searched and searched Apple's help boards and found an article that has been read over 150,000 times about this common problem and an easy fix.


Pinch the corner of your phone REALLY REALLY HARD!

It worked!

Then I took a picture.


Then I had to pinch my camera again.  And again.  And again.

5.  Patrick also spent 50 minutes on the phone with Apple. Because he is kind and sanguine and asks nicely, they are sending me a new phone.  (Kohler just sent us a whole new medicine cabinet after 2 years because he did the same thing.)

My choleric/angry tweets did nothing.  To find out your temperament, click here.


But I have to send them my broken phone first.  Nope.  They won't do it in the store.

Hopefully, this phone will last at least two years.  So I'll be spending Holy Week waiting for the resurrection and my new phone.  Alleluia!

6.  I really want to see Noah.


I read this review by Bonnie, and this review by Sr. Helena Burns, and this review by Fr. Barron, and Yup. Definitely want to see it.

I haven't gotten to see Noah yet, but we watched Evan Almighty recently, and it was pretty good. Yes, there's the obligatory bird poop and llama spit scenes, but all in all, a very good message.


Plus when Evan's beard starts growing uncontrollably, Jill said, "He looks like Dad!" and that was the best-funniest part of the whole movie.


7.  Holy Week!


If anyone has a Rockstar recipe for Hot Cross Buns, please share.


I have never tried these Resurrection Rolls, but they look super easy.


We'll be eating our Chicago-style seder supper from Gyros Express, watching our traditional Holy Week movies, and attending the Triduum.

The next time I get to link up with Jen's 7 Quick Take party, it will be a Meat Friday!  Joining Jen for the last Lenten link-up of 2014.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

WWRW - Barbara McClintock


Aunt Pitty Patty's PiggyThe Tale Of Tricky Fox, and  The Gingerbread Man  are three well-loved books that have been in our home for many years.  I've written about these adaptations by Jim Aylesworth and illustrated by the fabulously talented Barbara McClintock before.

Recently, Patrick overheard me saying to Jill, "Come closer and speak louder," which everyone should recognize as the line the fox uses to get the gingerbread man close enough to eat..."with a snap and a snick, and a lap and a lick, the gingerbread man was gone!"

Jill recognized the quote and immediately took off, "Run, run as fast you can, you can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man!"

These are longer stories, for an older toddler or pre-schooler.  Jill loves the stories with their repetition, I relish the beautiful pictures.

We recently discovered some books that Barbara McClintock has written and illustrated all by her-own-self.


Adèle & Simon and Adèle & Simon in America both have the same plot.  Older sister Adele warns younger brother Simon not to lose his many belongings.  Boys will be boys, and while stopping at various Parisian events, Simon manages to lose every single thing. The same thing happens in America, when Adele and Simon travel by train with Aunt Cecile throughout America circa Teddy Roosevelt.

While I did not appreciate Adele's complete lack of patience and understanding as she chides Simon on every single page, I do appreciate the incredibly detailed Parisian street scenes and the American vistas.

IF you have Very Sharp Eyes, You might find Simon's things before they get returned to him at the end of each story.


Barbara McClintock has also written a charming re-telling of Cinderella.  In this version of the tale, the older stepsister is especially mean and takes to calling Cinderella, Cinderbottom, which I have to say I have called Jill a time or two lately.  When I play the role of evil stepsister or stepmother, and threaten her with the ball, she is far more likely to clean up her messes.


McClintock sets her version of Cinderella in France during the reign of King Louis XIV (a fact that I gathered from a savvy review on Goodreads), and the sets and costumes are simply exquisite.




Dahlia Animal Fables from Aesop, Goldilocks And The Three Bears, and Our Abe Lincoln are McClintock treasures that we have yet to explore.  Today we are heading to that place of wonder and marvel, the library, and hope to get our hands on a few of them.

Too many picture books in this post?   Check out my review of I, Emma Freke from Monday.  And be sure to check out all of the other well-read bloggers links below!



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Tale of Two Trilogies and a Winner!



First off,


We Have a Winner!  Congratulations to Jill L!  She has won the Driscoll's berry coupon giveaway!

Secondly,  I hope each and every one of you is having a wonderful Easter Week!


Public Service Announcement:  Don't forget - This Friday is Meat Friday! 

Now for some book reviews:



The third installment of Jennifer Niesen's The Ascendance Trilogy is out!  And it's awesome!

Young King Jaron and his landlocked country of Carthya are being attacked on all sides, by all of his enemies who have banded together against him.

With a few friends at his back, and lots of witty comments along the way, Jaron must face incredible odds while injured and grieving a devastating loss.

As usual, Nielsen combines great dialogue with action-packed adventure.  I was particularly impressed with Jaron's invocation of "the saints" as he leads his people into battle and his concept of an afterlife for those who've lived virtuously.


I'd say these books are appropriate for ten and up?  In The Shadow Throne, you will find battlefield violence, some tortuous beatings, death, blood, and the occasional kiss (maybe twice?).  You will also find sacrifice, true love, loss, and responsibility, not to mention an epic surprise ending.

I reviewed Part One:  The False Prince here and Part Two:  The Runaway King here.  You should definitely begin at the beginning.


Technically speaking, The Lunar Chronicles is a series, not a trilogy, with Part 4:  Winter yet to be released.

I greatly enjoyed Cinder, had some issues with Scarlet, and was delighted to find Cress not only resolves one of my qualms, but is a better book (than Scarlet) with better characters overall.


Cress is Marissa Meyer's sci-fi re-telling of Rapunzel, complete with a blind "prince."

Cress is a shell, which is like the Lunar version of a "squib."  Lunars, the race of people that populates the moon, generally have the ability to control the minds of Earthens.  But Cress doesn't.

She does have a gift for technology and hacking, which is why she has spent the last seven years of her life alone, in a satellite, monitoring all of Earth's secrets for the evil queen and cloaking the Lunar ships that are set to invade Earth.

Scarlet is only in this book briefly as she is captured by the Lunars and imprisoned on the moon.  In those brief moments, she mentally re-hashes her one night of passion with Wolf and makes it seem as though perhaps it was just some passionate kisses.

In my opinion, the best scene in Cress, is when she and Captain Thorne (again, the likeness to Captain Jack Harkness was striking) crash land on Earth.  Thorne has been blinded in a fight, and Cress has never been to the surface.  He must ascertain their location and manage their survival through the eyes of someone who has never seen an animal in real life, or the sky, or the sun.

Her total naivete and innocence is the perfect foil for his brash womanizing attitude and their romance is one of the greatest things about this series.

Unlike the previous two volumes, Cress is very clean.  Focused on fighting the evil Queen Levana and stopping her marriage to Cinder's heartthrob Emperor Kai, Cinder, Wolf, Cress, Thorne, and the lovable droid Iko face the impossible.

This series is definitely "young adult."  I'll let my high school kids read it, I'd probably let an 8th grader read it, but with the joking sex change reference in Cinder, and the love scene and references to porn (which is frowned upon) in Scarlet, I'd definitely reserve this series for teens.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Clickables on Holy Thursday

If you don't read Rebecca at Shoved to Them you should, and you definitely need to check out her 9 year old daughter's art blog that Rebecca introduces in this post.

Peter is taking a Theology of the Body elective this semester.  He told me that they watched this TED talk in class recently:


Which led to me telling him about former America's Next Top Model contestant Leah Darrow and her journey from fashionista to chastity speaker.

Which led to him telling me about actress (former Power Ranger) and designer, Jessica Rey, and her line of modest swimsuits inspired by Audrey Hepburn.


The things she has to say about scientific research, male brains, and bikinis is all new to me (around 4:30). National Geographic is one of her sources.


Did I mention that she is a former Power Ranger?  That fact alone gives her a lot of credibility in my book.

Sweet Beth lost her little Rebecca Irene this week.  I just can't help picturing Beth and Rebecca and thinking of this mama who lost her baby too.


This video of a young man with Down's Syndrome getting his college acceptance letter made me smile.

Lastly, I have a lovely conversion story to share with you about a couple entering the Church this weekend. I am always blown away when I see people make this journey from another faith or from no faith at all.  Seeing new Catholics profess the faith at the Holy Saturday vigil is always a high point of this weekend.  

Have a blessed Easter!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WWRW: 3 Good Books

I am on a reading streak lately.  Three for three.  Three books from the Caudill shelf that I thoroughly enjoyed and can whole-heartedly recommend!


Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins is a modern-day story about the civil war in Burma and the young boys who are forced to fight in it.  The first half of the book is Chiko's story.

Chiko's father is in prison (they hope) and his mother is running out of money for food and rent. When Chiko answers an ad for a teaching position, he is tricked by the government and shipped off to a military training camp.  At fifteen years old, Chiko is one of the older recruits.

In addition to learning kickboxing and strength training, Chiko experiences first hand the cruelty of the captain and the wisdom of a savvy street-fighting friend. Sent on a mission in the jungle, Chiko is seriously injured by a mine.  He is found unconscious by Tu Reh and his father.  Tu Reh and his father belong to a small ethnic minority, the Karenni, aka the enemy.

Tu Reh narrates the second half of the story.  He must choose whether to mercifully end Chiko's life, or bring him back to the refugee village just across the border, risking the wrath of his people.  Tu Reh listens to his father, makes his decision, and has to stand before a village council to defend his choice.

Bamboo People has a good amount of violence.  There are beatings and deaths.  A Karenni girl that escaped the Burmese soldiers has experienced some horrible things that are never disclosed.  Her gentle and peaceful spirit is a wonderful point of contrast to her love interest's desire for revenge.

For middle-schoolers and up, Bamboo People is a compelling story of war and forgiveness set in a region that I knew little about.


Close to Famous by Joan Bauer opens with 12 year-old Foster and her mother fleeing the mother's abusive Elvis-impersonating ex-boyfriend.   They leave Memphis and end up in a small town in West Virginia.

Foster dreams of having her own cooking show.  Since her father's death while serving our country in Iraq, Foster has looked up to Food Network cooking star, Sonny Kroll. She learned to bake from his show; cupcakes and muffins are her specialty.  It's good that Foster has a talent to develop, because she has a severe learning disability and barely passed 5th grade.

The new townspeople support Foster and her mother, helping them find a place to live, a job for her mother, and Foster even gets the help she needs with reading. Foster and her mom have their own effect on the town too, making friends, saving lives, changing the world one cupcake at a time.


Wonder by R. J. Palacio is just. incredible.  I cried.  A lot.

August Pullman is going to attend a real school for the very first time, and he's going into 5th grade.  The reason he has homeschooled until now is because he has had so many surgeries.  On his face.  Because he was born with severe birth defects.  On his face. Facial abnormalities. Severe facial abnormalities.

Wonder is about acceptance, suffering, and seeing people with your heart instead of your eyes.

I was reminded of this episode when I read Wonder.
Wonder is about 5th graders, some of whom fancy themselves as dating each other. Not that they actually go on any dates or anything.  Note passing is about as exciting as it gets.

Augie has a sister is in high school.  She has a boyfriend and they do occasionally kiss, but this story is much more about how his sister deals with feeling eclipsed by her brother's needs her whole life, and her struggle to figure out her own identity in a new school where no knows her as "the sister of that deformed kid."

Reports state that author "R. J. Palacio wrote Wonder as a sort of  "penance" When she was getting milkshakes with her two sons in Brooklyn one afternoon, they saw a girl with a facial deformity. Her three-year-old started to cry and she rushed her kids away, and instantly regretted that she hadn’t stayed to talk to the girl."

The same WSJ blog article that reported the above, also declared Wonder to be a "crossover hit." Generally, a crossover hit is a book written for one age group that appeals to another age group.  For example, the Twilight series and the Harry Potter books are all examples of crossover hits.  

In other words, I'm not the only adult who loves this book.



Don't miss out on a chance to win $15 in coupons from the berry people at Driscoll's!  

Looking for that last minute book purchase for the Easter basket?  Or need a unique First Communion gift? I reviewed two books on Monday that would be perfect.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blueberries for Jill and a Berry Good Giveaway

We are big time berry lovers here.

More than one of us is allergic to tree fruit, so berries, pineapple, kiwi, and citrus are our staples.

Berries are so very, very good for you too!  Vitamins and fiber!  They taste good in cereal, yogurt, salad, and just plain.

I eat a bowl of fruit every evening for dessert and it usually looks like this:


That dish there is blueberries, bananas, blackberries, pineapple, and kiwi (peeled because I'm a baby). Sometimes, my evening bowl has strawberries or raspberries or a drizzle of Hershey's syrup.  It's on the couch because that's where I do my best eating, knitting, and laundry folding.

I love that Driscoll is offering organic berries now.  Sometimes the price difference between their organic offerings and the regular fruit is negligible.  Score!

The berry people at Driscoll's sent me a storybook and send coupons to use in berries a fun and delicious way.


First, the book. The Scary Blueberry (written by Jaden Shelton and illustrated by Livia Jovanovic) is about a boy who is afraid to try a blueberry.  After his father points out all of the things he is not afraid of:  pirates, aliens, monsters, etc, the boy tries tasting a blueberry.

But he doesn't like it.

He keeps trying them however, and eventually realizes they are delicious.


Jill enjoyed the book.  She "reads" it to herself now because the minimal text matches the illustrations perfectly.

Now for the dish.  We had some excellent French toast, made with Costco baguette. That baguette makes the best French toast.  Jill had hers with syrup and blueberries.


Guess which part she liked best?

That mini glass of OJ is served in a votive candle holder, an idea I stole from my sister-in-law.  Jill loves her tiny glasses.


Lastly, the fun part!  Giveaway Time!

Driscoll sent me the book and some coupons for myself, and they have some coupons they want to send to one lucky reader!  $15 worth of coupons!

One of those $3 coupons paid for one of those berry boxes.  That means free berries! Sorry not sorry but the blackberries "accidentally fell into my mouth" before their photo op.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 14, 2014

Children's Books for the Upcoming Canonizations

Recently, the good folks at Ignatius Press sent me two of their newest titles to review in preparation for the upcoming canonizations of John Paul the II and John XXIII.


John Paul II: The Journey of a Saint, written by Guy Lehideux and Louis-Bernard Koch and illustrated by Dominique Bar, is a non-fiction graphic novel (sounds like an oxymoron, I know).

The graphic novel format means that it is comic-book style.  Some people love it, some people hate it.  The graphic novel format has gained respect in the literary world and is used to lure reluctant readers, especially boys.

John Paul II: The Journey of a Saint is different from a regular comic, not just in its content, but also it's size and binding.  This book is large, making it easy to read, and the hardcover binding guarantees that it will last a long time.

The story of John Paul II: The Journey of a Saint is compelling and thoughtfully told.  I found the Polish names hard to read and remember (who's who), but the pictures are a great aid in this.  Beginning before his birth, we follow Karol Wojtyla through his youth, the loss of his family members, his foray into the theater, his abrupt decision to enter the priesthood, his role in post-WWII Poland, and his papacy.

After John Paul II is elected pope, the storyline dwindles into a list of dates of prominent writings, journeys (World Youth Days are noted), and canonizations.  The book ends shortly after the canonization of St. Josemaria Escriva.

I felt that this left out an important part of the saintliness of John Paul II, namely his suffering and death.  His decline of health was a public witness to the power of suffering, which modernity would have us eschew.

Despite the omission of his end days, John Paul II: The Journey of a Saint is an excellent and attractive book for children of all ages.


Do not judge a book by its cover.

Do judge this book by it's entire title:  Our Holy Father, the Pope: The Papacy from Saint Peter to the Present.

This beautifully illustrated book by Don Caffery is NOT a biography of Pope Francis, as I had first thought, but rather a very good explanation of the papacy, how Christ began it all with St. Peter, how popes are elected, what they do, and where they live.

Our Holy Father, the Pope: The Papacy from Saint Peter to the Present is written in language geared to early readers and would make an excellent First Holy Communion gift. Especially considering that a few popes are given special focus including St. Clement, St. Leo, St. Pius X (who allowed young children to receive Holy Communion and encouraged receiving the Eucharist among all Catholics) and soon-to-be St. John Paul II.

You can order these books through Ignatius Press, or through my Amazon affiliate links.  I do get a small percentage of the proceeds from Amazon.  Ignatius did not pay me for my opinions, they only provided me with the books.  You still have time to get them for Easter if you use Amazon Prime free shipping!  You have even more time if you would like them for the canonizations on April 27th.

I'm thinking about sending these books to my godson for his first communion present.  I always struggle with boy gifts for occasions like these but these books are Catholic, geared for children, and somewhat masculine.




Friday, April 11, 2014

7QT: Funguses and Phones

1.  Peter's baseball coach told the team on the very first day of practice that he didn't want to see anyone wearing gym uniform shirts under their jerseys.

He also said that he didn't want to see anyone wearing shirts with other people's names on them.

Peter was wearing a gym uniform shirt with someone else's name clearly written across the front when this announcement was made, and he has gone out of his way to wear a different person's gym shirt EVERY day that he has baseball.

Which is funny in his own pushing-the-envelope-but-he's-a-senior-way.  I believe the coach is ignoring the flagrant shirt disobedience, or hasn't noticed.

When I asked him where he gets all of the gym shirts, he replied, "I find one or two every day on the locker room floor."

Then he held up his elbow and asked me, "Does this look like ringworm?"


2.  For the record, ringworm is not a worm.

It's a fungus, and it's treated with over-the-counter anti-fungal cream.

It's contagious, and easily caught via shared towels, athletic equipment, and clothing.


3.  Phone Saga

The camera stopped working on my iPhone.  I did all the things:  restart, reset, upgrade software, and Genius Bar appointment.  At that appointment, the genius said the only thing I could do is buy a new phone for $269, thank you very much.

My phone is less than two years old.  Never been damaged.  Never been wet.

4.  You might think having an iPhone without a camera is NoBigDeal, but when I thought about how we texted a photo of newborn Baby J to all of our sibs within hours of her birth,


and I remembered the other treasured pictures I've taken with my phone,

like a picture of my sister Mary, in the hospital with Jill and my two nieces crawling all over her, tubes, wires, and all (which I cannot locate right now, but deep breaths...someone has a copy.)

I got panicky and yes, I cried.

Patrick searched and searched Apple's help boards and found an article that has been read over 150,000 times about this common problem and an easy fix.


Pinch the corner of your phone REALLY REALLY HARD!

It worked!

Then I took a picture.


Then I had to pinch my camera again.  And again.  And again.

5.  Patrick also spent 50 minutes on the phone with Apple. Because he is kind and sanguine and asks nicely, they are sending me a new phone.  (Kohler just sent us a whole new medicine cabinet after 2 years because he did the same thing.)

My choleric/angry tweets did nothing.  To find out your temperament, click here.


But I have to send them my broken phone first.  Nope.  They won't do it in the store.

Hopefully, this phone will last at least two years.  So I'll be spending Holy Week waiting for the resurrection and my new phone.  Alleluia!

6.  I really want to see Noah.


I read this review by Bonnie, and this review by Sr. Helena Burns, and this review by Fr. Barron, and Yup. Definitely want to see it.

I haven't gotten to see Noah yet, but we watched Evan Almighty recently, and it was pretty good. Yes, there's the obligatory bird poop and llama spit scenes, but all in all, a very good message.


Plus when Evan's beard starts growing uncontrollably, Jill said, "He looks like Dad!" and that was the best-funniest part of the whole movie.


7.  Holy Week!


If anyone has a Rockstar recipe for Hot Cross Buns, please share.


I have never tried these Resurrection Rolls, but they look super easy.


We'll be eating our Chicago-style seder supper from Gyros Express, watching our traditional Holy Week movies, and attending the Triduum.

The next time I get to link up with Jen's 7 Quick Take party, it will be a Meat Friday!  Joining Jen for the last Lenten link-up of 2014.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

WWRW - Barbara McClintock


Aunt Pitty Patty's PiggyThe Tale Of Tricky Fox, and  The Gingerbread Man  are three well-loved books that have been in our home for many years.  I've written about these adaptations by Jim Aylesworth and illustrated by the fabulously talented Barbara McClintock before.

Recently, Patrick overheard me saying to Jill, "Come closer and speak louder," which everyone should recognize as the line the fox uses to get the gingerbread man close enough to eat..."with a snap and a snick, and a lap and a lick, the gingerbread man was gone!"

Jill recognized the quote and immediately took off, "Run, run as fast you can, you can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man!"

These are longer stories, for an older toddler or pre-schooler.  Jill loves the stories with their repetition, I relish the beautiful pictures.

We recently discovered some books that Barbara McClintock has written and illustrated all by her-own-self.


Adèle & Simon and Adèle & Simon in America both have the same plot.  Older sister Adele warns younger brother Simon not to lose his many belongings.  Boys will be boys, and while stopping at various Parisian events, Simon manages to lose every single thing. The same thing happens in America, when Adele and Simon travel by train with Aunt Cecile throughout America circa Teddy Roosevelt.

While I did not appreciate Adele's complete lack of patience and understanding as she chides Simon on every single page, I do appreciate the incredibly detailed Parisian street scenes and the American vistas.

IF you have Very Sharp Eyes, You might find Simon's things before they get returned to him at the end of each story.


Barbara McClintock has also written a charming re-telling of Cinderella.  In this version of the tale, the older stepsister is especially mean and takes to calling Cinderella, Cinderbottom, which I have to say I have called Jill a time or two lately.  When I play the role of evil stepsister or stepmother, and threaten her with the ball, she is far more likely to clean up her messes.


McClintock sets her version of Cinderella in France during the reign of King Louis XIV (a fact that I gathered from a savvy review on Goodreads), and the sets and costumes are simply exquisite.




Dahlia Animal Fables from Aesop, Goldilocks And The Three Bears, and Our Abe Lincoln are McClintock treasures that we have yet to explore.  Today we are heading to that place of wonder and marvel, the library, and hope to get our hands on a few of them.

Too many picture books in this post?   Check out my review of I, Emma Freke from Monday.  And be sure to check out all of the other well-read bloggers links below!