Saturday, November 22, 2014

Saturday Roundup #4: Thanksgiving Edition

Thanksgiving is a great time to pause and read some books about this favorite holiday with the kids.  There are so many good books out there, but here are some I liked.

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message 
by Chief Jake Swamp, illustrated by Erwin Printup
Lee & Low Books, 2003, 40 pages

This is not a traditional Thanksgiving Day book, but a book about giving thanks every day.   It is a children's version of the Mohawk Thanksgiving Address of the Six Nations or Iroquois, giving thanks to the natural world for providing all the things needed to live.  It is written by Chief Jake Swamp of the Mohawk Nation.  The illustrations, done by Erwin Printup, are in a folk art style and rendered in acrylic paints, in colors that are a basic and simple as the beautiful Thanksgiving Address.  This is one of my favorite books, reminding us of the importance of the natural world, a world we should all give thanks for and work to preserve.

You can hear Chief Jake Swamp reading the text of Giving Thanks courtesy of New Hampshire PBS.  As he reads, in both Mohawk and English, and accompanied by a slide how of the books illustrations. 

The Mayflower by Mark Greenwood, illustrated by Frané Lessac
Holiday House, 2014, 32 pages

In 1620, 102 people boarded the Mayflower, a small wooden ship, and crossed the Atlantic Ocean seeking a new life.  In straightforward language, the reasons why these people, called Pilgrims, decided to risk such an uncertain trip, the hardships of the first year, the help received from Natives Americans including Squanto,  a member of the Wampanoag tribe, that insured their survival, and the shared first Thanksgiving after a successful harvest.  Lessac's illustrations, painted using gouache, are done in simple, but brightly colored folk art type, so reminiscent  of Early American art and really bring the factual text to life.

Giving Thanks by Jonathan London, paintings by Gregory Manchess
Candlewick Press, 2014, 32 pages

This lovely book feels very much like the book Giving Thanks by Chief Jake Swamp and no wonder, Jonathan London is also an advocate of the natural world and how people are connected to it.  In his book, also called Giving Thanks, a young boy and his father hike through the fields and forests near their home and "Like his Indian friends- singers and storytellers- Dad believes that the things of nature are a gift.  And that in return, we should give something back.  We must give thanks." As dad gives thanks to the different things of the forest, his son admits to feeling a little embarrassed about it, until he tries it himself.  Accompanying this short, heartfelt book are oil painted illustrations in a soft earthy, autumnal palette.

Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving
edited by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Pamela Dalton
Chronicle Books, 2013, 56 pages

Gathered together, like the world's most diverse Thanksgiving table, are some wide and varied words of thanks.  Some you will recognize, some may be new to you.  These 50 songs of praise are especially  timely as the holiday season begins, and all carry of basic message of joyful thanks.  The book is delicately illustrated using cut paper-or Scherenschnitte designs, many of which are that illuminate with watercolor.  Be sure to look closely at each illustration to fully appreciate the textured intricacy of each design.

Over the River and Through the Wood: The New England Boy's Song about Thanksgiving Day
by L. Maria Child, illustrated by Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press, 2013, 32 pages

I remember learning this poem as a song about going to grandmother's instead of grandfather's house for Thanksgiving when I was in grade school. This poem first appeared in 1844 and has been a Thanksgiving Day favorite ever since. This lovely book returns to the original words and includes all stanzas, many of which will be new to readers.  The poem captures all the excitement and anticipation of a family going by sleigh to the the grandparent's house to celebrate the holiday - not so very different from today's world.   Matt Tavares has used a mix of watercolors, gouache and pencil to successfully render the frosty cold snowy day of an early New England Thanksgiving.  A nice family touch is including the family dog running beside the sleigh, just as excited as everyone else.   

Curious abut an illustrators creative process?  Matt Tavares has posted the short video showing that process for one of his illustrations for Over the River and Through the Woods:

This poem was written by Lydia. Maria Child (1802-1880), who was a teacher, an abolitionist, a journalist, and a champion of women's rights, and who was a very prolific writer.  

Gobble, Gobble, Tucker! by Leslie McGuirk
Candlewick Press, 2014, 32 pages

Here is a fun Thanksgiving board book that is sure to appeal to the very young.  Tucker can tell by the smell of things that it is Thanksgiving.  That means good food, maybe a few tastings if something drops accidentally while cooking, helping to clean and decorate and waiting for the relatives, and his cousins Tiger and Murphy.  Tucker's is a typical Thanksgiving Day, just told for a dog's point of view.  There is no excitement, no canine calamities, just family, food and fun on a special day and a nice introduction to the typical Thanksgiving celebration.   The author used whimsical gouache illustrations to help tell her story. 

The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing
Candlewick Press, 2014, 32 pages

OK, so not every one's Thanksgiving is quiet and joyful and thankful and peaceful.  Sometimes, kids can get overwhelmed by all the relatives that show up at grandma's house and spread themselves out everywhere. So, when cousin Rhonda suggests to little Gavin that they escape the crowds and make their own fun, he decides this is a good idea.  But, it seems that every room in the house is full of people. There are the aunts in one room just waiting to scoop them up, pinching and squeezing your cheeks, there are the other kids playing wildly in the kids' room, and teenage kids watching TV zombie-like in the basement.  Even the kitchen, with all that good food it a relative trap.  Will Gavin and Rhonda actually be able to make their own fun in the mass of relatives?  The Great Thanksgiving Escape is a humorous look at  is a very different look at this holiday, but one that may be closer to true than we like to think.  The cartoon-like illustrations were done by Fearing in digitally manipulated color pencil and are all done at the eye level of a kid, so only the bottom half of the adults are visible.   

by Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin, 2011, 40 pages

I reviewed this back in 2012 and it remains one of my favorite Thanksgiving books.  I thought it worth a second look.  Sweet chronicles the history of master puppeteer Tony Sarg and the evolution of the first gigantic balloons used in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.  Like the parade itself, Sweet's child friendly illustrations, done in a mixed media of watercolor and collage, will have kids turning pages in a procession of anticipatory fun and they will not be disappointed.

by Barbara Park
Random House, 2012, 144 pages

Three days before Thanksgiving, Junie B's school is have a contest to see which class has to best list of things they are thankful for and the winning class gets a pumpkin pie.  None of this makes Junie happy - she hate pumpkin pie, her pilgrim costume itches, and maybe exploding biscuits isn't quite what the school had in mind for thankful things.  This is a fun and funny look chapter book, and in the end, well, let's just say, it's a pretty thankful ending.

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O'Neill Grace,
Margaret M. Bruchac
National Geographic Society, 2014, 48 pages

In an attempt to set things right and dispel some of the myths that surround the first Thanksgiving, Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac, together with the Plimoth Foundation, have produced this informative book showing that Thanksgiving is, indeed, is a shared history, shared by 52 white colonists and 90 Wanpanoag men for three days after the first harvest.  But, too often in books for kids, only the pilgrim's point of view is given and the Native Americans are relegated to a minor role in serious books or a comical role in more lighthearted stories.  Most don't really give full credit to how much the Pilgrims survival was due to the help of the Wampanoag and their leader Massasoit.  This picture book for older readers (age 7+) includes copious photographs, a bibliography, and a timeline.  

An extensive PDF lesson plan for this book is available from the Montana Office of Public Instruction HERE

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

As fifth grader Rose Howard, 11, will tell you, she has a diagnoses of high-functioning autism, or Asperger's syndrome.  She is also obsessed with homonyms, calms herself by reciting prime numbers when she gets upset and likes rules to avoid getting overwhelmed.  Rose lives with her angry, impatient, not terribly understanding mechanic dad, Wesley Howard who spends a lot of his time drinking in The Luck of the Irish.

Luckily, Rose has her Uncle Weldon, who totally gets her, and Rain, a dog her father found and brought home to her.  Everyday, Uncle Weldon drives Rose to and from school during which they talk about any new homonyms either may have come up with, so that Rose can add them to her painstaking handwritten alphabetized list.

Everyday, Rose comes home and takes care of Rain, after, she sometimes looks through the box of Rose-related stuff her mother left behind before she walked out on Rose and her dad.  Then she makes dinner for her and her dad, then she and Rain wait to see what kind of mood he will be in.

One night, Rose hears on the radio that a storm is coming, a superstorm "of epic proportions" as the forecaster describes it.  But when she tells her father, he brushes it off saying they are too far inland for a storm to reach them in upstate Hatford, NY.  But a few days late, the storm is a real threat so Rose and her dad go out and buy emergency supplies just before the it hits.

And Superstorm Susan is epic,  Trees are knocked down in their yard, their small bridge onto the road is washed away, the power goes out and the wind continuously howls outside Rose's bedroom, she and Rain lay huddled together for warmth and safety.

But in the morning, Rain isn't there, or anywhere in the house.  During the storm, her dad let Rain outside to pee and she never came back.  Rose is beside herself and as days go by and Rain still doesn't return, Rose devises a plan to start searching rescue shelters with the help of Uncle Weldon, a plan that forces to step out of her comfort zone of rules, homonyns and prime numbers to find her dog.

Weeks later, when she finally locates Rain, Rose is in for a terrible shock, and the repercussions of it will change her life dramatically.

Rain Reign is not the easiest book to read but kudos to Ann Martin for taking on the task of writing a much needed middle grade novel with first person narration in the voice of a girl with Asperger's and for getting it right.  Martin draws an empathic picture of Rose's world, showing just how much of her social interactions are learned behaviors, how she is prone to behavior problems such as inappropriately calling out in school, and how she orders her world with rules and categorizable interests (like homonyms), and her difficulties with the kids in her class, who often refer to her as "retard."

Martin's depiction of Rose is spot on, but her portrayal of a father who is completely clueless about his daughter is also, unfortunately, true to life.  While we like to think that when a child gets diagnosed with a serious condition like Asperger's their parents are understanding and supportive, that just isn't always the case.  Wesley Howard isn't exactly abusive, but on occasion, when his frustration levels get high, he does raise a fist to Rose but never acts on it.

Rain Reign is an important. powerful book about family, love and loss that should not be missed.  Rain Reign would pair very nicely with Kathryn Erskine's Mockingbird.

This book is recommened for readers age 10+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is a weekly event hosted by Shannon Messenger at Book Ramblings, and Plenty of Shenanigans

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Saturday Roundup #3: Other Books I Read, Rated But Review This Week

The Brilliant World of Tom Gates (Book #1) by Liz Pichon
Candlewick, 2014, 256 pages

From the UK, this book tries hard to be like the Wimpy Kid, but I found Tom to be a little too
mean and disrespectful to his family, schoolmates and even his teachers for the sake of a joke or 
prank.  It is written in diary form, and Tom's voice is light and breezy, and there's lots of doodles.
Kids will definitely find an probably like this book.

Voices from the Oregon Trail by Kay Winters, illustrated by Larry Day
Dial, 2014, 48 pages

Written in free verse, this picture book for older readers (age 7+) tells the story of a wagon train heading to Oregon from the perspective of different people heading west, young and old.  The only thing that kept this from being a 5 star book is that everyone sounds the same, even the American Indian boy 
watching the wagon train pass by.  Too bad, because the illustrations are wonderful

Sabotage by Karen Autio
Sono Nis Press, 2014, 293 pages

This is the last book in a trilogy about Finnish immigrants living in Port Arthur, Canada.  It is now 1915
and Canada is at war.  The story is told by brother and sister John and Saara in alternating chapters.  John begins to suspect that there are German saboteurs in their midst, even as Saara befriends a young
German girl.  The story is slow and by the time I finally got to the action, I had basically lost interest.
I did not read the two previous books in the trilogy, but Sabotage does stand alone. 

Upside Down In the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana
Chronicle Books, 2014, 320 pages

It is almost Armani Curtis's 10th birthday and the celebration is going to be big.  Only problem - a hurricane named Katrina is on its was to New Orleans and the Ninth Ward where Armani lives. Unable to evacuate because of Armani's birthday party, Katrina leaves not just destruction in her wake, but also heartbreak for Armani and her family.  Realistic and gripping, despite a few narrative flaws.

The Great Greet Heist by Varian Johnson
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2014, 245 pages

Eight grader Jackson Greene has given up his life of crime and cons, that is until he discovers that
wealthy Keith Sinclair is out to steal the election for School President from Gaby de la Cruz so he can funnel money into his favorite activities.  Enter Jackson to save the day with his biggest con yet.  This is an OK novel, which gained some popularity for its very diverse cast of characters.  

Out of the Blue by Alison Jay
Barefoot Books, 2014, 32 pages

I love a wordless book that invites young readers to use their imagination and this one really does the job.  Whimsical oil painted illustrations depict a day spent at the beach in the company of a boy and his dog who live in a lighthouse with his family and provides ample material for exploring beach and sea life.  

Knockout Games by G. Neri
Carolrhoda Books, 2014, 304 pages

If you know this book, you may wonder why I gave such a violent novel a 5 star rating.  I found this to be a difficult book to read, but it certainly made me think.  New to St. Louis, Erica, a 15 year old white girl, finds she is quite a talented videographer.  She gets involved with some black kids who like to play the knockout game and watching themselves on video later.  Erica feels detached from the consequences of this game until it turns deadly.  This is a book that will may make you feel uncomfortable when it addresses issues of racism, sex, and crime, but it is written so honestly, it can't help but make the reader think about things in a different way.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, illustrated by Gilbert Ford

A mere ten months before the start of the 1893 World's Fair, the planners were still looking for a star attraction.  The French had really outdone themselves at the previous World's Fair by showcasing the Eiffel Tower in 1889, and now something even more spectacular was wanted.  A contest was held, but all the entries looked like Eiffel Tower imitations.

Enter George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., an engineer who had a dream.  Instead of going straight up and being stationary, George's dream was round and moving.  At first, his proposal was rejected by the contest judges as too big, too complicated, but as the time for the fair drew closer, the judges changed their minds, but refused to fund George's project.  With the help of private investors, and a lot of hard work, the 1893 World's Fair opened with a most successful star attraction: The Ferris Wheel.

Kathryn Gibbs Davis has written this wonderfully detailed, absolutely accessible picture book about the first Ferris wheel for older readers who have most likely seen and maybe ever ridden a Ferris wheel, but who probably have never thought about how it was done, or by whom, for that matter.

What an inspiring story it is, too.  George Ferris met with obstacles from the judges first rejection of his idea, to his difficulties getting his dream wheel funded, and when ground was finally broken, the workmen ran into problems with broken tools, quicksand (yes, quicksand, the stuff of grade B movies), Chicago's strong winds, and, of course, skepticism.  But George Ferris had a dream and perseverance, as well as confidence in his skill as an engineer and in the new amazingly strong metal - steel - that he used and his dream came true on June 21, 1893, opening day of the World's Fair.

Not only has Gibbs written a very readable book, but she has included sidebars of factual information throughout the book, giving more information about the Ferris Wheel and how George made it work.  And there is lots of wonderful back matter, including quote sources, a selected bibliography and websites the curious can visit for more information.  There is also a photograph of George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., taken from the Chicago World's Fair pamphlet.

The illustrations are done in a digitally mixed media using ink and watercolor and using a soft palette of purples, yellows, blues and greens and that just feel so right for the time period.  I particularly liked the cover illustration showing the Ferris Wheel lit up again a night sky, towering over the buildings that surround it, but under the twinkling stars of the heavens.  It gives such a wonderful perspective of the magnitude of this amazing accomplishment.

When was the last time you were on a Ferris Wheel?  I was 6 and it was on the Wonder Wheel in Coney Island.

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was purchased for my personal library

Ferris Wheel at the 1893 World's Fair

This is book 8 of my Nonfiction Picture Book Reading Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy

Sunday, November 9, 2014

I'm My Own Dog by David Erza Stein Blog Tour

About this book:

Many dogs have human owners. Not this dog. He fetches his own slippers, curls up at his own feet, and gives himself a good scratch. But there is one spot, in the middle of his back, that he just can’t reach. So one day, he lets a human scratch it. And the poor little fella follows him home. What can the dog do but get a leash to lead the guy around with? Dog lovers of all ages will revel in the humorous role-reversal as this dog teaches his human all the skills he needs to be a faithful companion.

Meet the author:
David Ezra Stein is the creator of many award-winning picture books, including Interrupting Chicken, which was awarded a Caldecott Honor, Because Amelia Smiled, and Dinosaur Kisses. He lives with his family in Kew Gardens, New York.
You can visit David and learn more about him at his website Funny with Love

Up close and personal Q&A with David:

ME:  Hi, David, and welcome to Randomly Reading.  I've read I'm My Own Dog and laughed pretty hard while I did.  You really seem to have hit on a truth about owning a dog.  Are you a dog owner?  Or is your dog a human owner?

DES:  Hi Alex! I don’t own a dog, though I can see why you’d assume so. But I do live in a doggy metropolis, so I guess they are part of my life anyway. I see it all, from people pushing dogs in baby carriages, to dogs riding shotgun in cars, to people and dogs gazing lovingly at each other on hilltops.

ME:  I can certainly attest to the fact that you live in a doggy metropolis, since I live one borough away from you.  So, if you aren't a dog owner, where did you get your inspiration for I’m My Own Dog?

DES:  I made an illustration one day of a dog walking himself with a leash. The caption read, “The true master is master of himself.” I had that hanging up for a long while on my studio wall. One day, while on the road, I started hearing the voice of that dog. It was telling me all about itself. It was a tough and independent character. I jotted down as much as I could, along with sketches.

ME:   Which usually comes first?  The story or the illustrations?

DES:  The character. Usually I get this funny character, and draw it, and jot down some ideas for it. Hopefully I can plug this character into lots of funny situations. If I have enough sense of the character, the situations usually begin to form a story.

ME:  Which part of the book is your favorite?  

DES:  I love “LOOK, LOOK, LOOK, that is a squirrel,” because it sounds like a dog barking. That’s the part where the dog takes the man to the park and show him things. I have seen lots of dogs do this behavior. They want to let you know about every squirrel as if it’s breaking news you need to know about. Or maybe they just want to give chase.

ME:  Lots of time in the classroom, kids would be drawing during Arts and Crafts.  I've often wondered if any of them would grow up to become an illustrator.  Do you have any advice for future author/illustrators?

DES:  Be your own dog!

Ask yourself, what makes me different? What makes me, me? Then do that thing on paper. And as you do so, as Robert Louis Stevenson said, “indulge the pleasure of your heart”. It makes for an enjoyable life, in any case.E Be your own dog!

Ask yourself, what makes me different? What makes me, me? Then do that thing on paper. And as you do so, as Robert Louis Stevenson said, “indulge the pleasure of your heart”. It makes for an enjoyable life, in any case.

Thanks for your visit here, David.  And for answering all my questions.

Be sure to visit the stops on the blog tour for I'm My Own Dog:

11/5/2014 Cracking the Cover
11/9/2014 Randomly Reading
11/10/2014 Children's Corner
11/11/2014 Flowering Minds
11/12/2014 Teach Mentor Texts
11/13/2014 KidLit Frenzy
11/14/2014 Literacy Toolbox

    I would like to thank Candlewick Press for providing me with a copy of I'm My Own Dog and for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour.  

    Friday, November 7, 2014

    A Year in the Secret Garden by Valarie Budayr, illustrated by Marilyn Scott-Waters, Blog Tour, Review and Giveaway

    A Year in the Secret Garden - Blog Tour Button  

    About the Book

    A Year in the Secret Garden - cover
    Title: A Year in the Life of the Secret Garden | Author: Valarie Budayr | Illustrator: Marilyn Scott-Waters | Publication Date: November, 2014 | Publisher: Audrey Press | Pages: 144 | Recommended Ages: 5 to 99 Book Description: Award-winning authors Valarie Budayr and Marilyn Scott-Waters have co-created A Year in the Secret Garden to introduce the beloved children’s classic, The Secret Garden to a new generation of families. This guide uses over two hundred full color illustrations and photos to bring the magical story to life, with fascinating historical information, monthly gardening activities, easy-to-make recipes, and step-by-step crafts, designed to enchant readers of all ages. Each month your family will unlock the mysteries of a Secret Garden character, as well as have fun together creating the original crafts and activities based on the book.Over 140 pages, with 200 original color illustrations and 48 activities for your family and friends to enjoy, learn, discover and play with together. A Year In the Secret Garden is our opportunity to introduce new generations of families to the magic of this classic tale in a modern and innovative way that creates special learning and play times outside in nature. This book encourages families to step away from technology and into the kitchen, garden, reading nook and craft room.

    Amazon * Audrey Press * Goodreads


    My Review:

    Last weekend, I reread Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1911 novel The Secret Garden, which I downloaded for free from Project Gutenberg

    It's a book I loved as a young reader but it's been a while since I read it and I wanted to refresh my memory, the better to enjoy reading this lovely new book by Valarie Budayr and Marilyn Scott-Waters.  

    I was pretty excited when I first heard about A Year in the Secret Garden because while I love a good novel, I also love a good activity-learning book as well and that is just what this is.  

    Beginning with September and Mary's life in India, we are introduced to the delicious taste and smells of Indian spices with a recipe for Indian Style Chicken Curry followed by instructions for making a traditional Rangoli, a brightly colored Indian decoration hung in people's homes.

    Life changes drastically for Mary when she arrives in England.  There is different food, different kinds of people, different things to do.  All of this is captured in the A Year in the Secret Garden with easy recipes, wonderful character studies, cultural information about Britain and lots of fun DIY crafts and projects kids can do throughout the year.  

    November must have been quite a shock for Mary, with its cold weather and days that were getting shorter and shorter, especially on the Yorkshire moor.  A good way for anyone to start the day would be with some hearty hot Oatcakes, such as the ones that Dickon's mother Susan Sowerby would make for her family of 12.

    You can find the recipe for these Oakcakes along with instruction for making a jump rope like the one Susan Sowerby sent over for Mary to play with.  Jumping rope warmed Mary and put some rosy color in her cheeks, making her look less sour.  And you will find some nice Jump Rope Rhymes to learn in the book. 

    As Mary skipped around the grounds of Misselthwaite, she became friendly with the elderly gardener, Ben Weatherstaff, and November includes a nice character study of this loyal, trustworthy man. 

    But there are other favorites to be found.  One of mine was in December and seeing a recipe for Toads in the Hole made with sausages and Yorkshire Pudding, a dish my mom used to make for us when we were kids, followed by instructions for making a Winter Bird Feeder.  If you are planning on reading The Secret Garden soon, you might find January's Yorkshire Phrasebook handy since Burnett wrote a lot of dialect into her novel.  And if your kids are anxious for the return of Spring as mine always was, they are sure to want to plant a Garden in a Jar, a fun way to experience nature up close and personal.

    In June, kids can learn about traditional afternoon tea and how to do one, complete with a recipe for delicious lemon cookies.  Afternoon tea is delightful outside on a warm sunny day, especially after  learning how to make daisy chains and Midsummer Dancing Ribbon Wreaths.  

    A Year in the Secret Garden is a colorful, beautifully illustrated reader-friendly book jam packed with so much for you and your kids to read and do, that it is sure to become a family favorite, especially since it cover all four seasons of the year.   

    About the Author: Valarie Budayr

    Valarie Budayr
    Valarie Budayr loves reading and bringing books alive. Her popular website,, inspires children and adults alike to experience their books through play, discovery, and adventure. She is founder of Audrey Press, an independent publishing house, as well as an Amazon and iTunes best-selling author. She has written The Fox Diaries: The Year the Foxes Came to our Garden and The Ultimate Guide to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Valarie is passionate about making kid’s books come alive and encouraging families and schools to pull books off the shelves and stories off the pages.  

    Book Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

    Pinterest | Google+ | Goodreads


    About the Illustrator: Marilyn Scott-Waters

    Marilyn Scott-Waters
    Marilyn Scott-Waters loves making things out of paper. Her popular website,, receives 2,000 to 7,000 visitors each day, who have downloaded more than six million of her easy-to-make paper toys. Her goal is to help parents and children spend time together making things. She is the creator of a paper toy craft book series The Toymakers Christmas: Paper Toys You Can Make Yourself (Sterling), and The Toymakers Workshop: Paper Toys You Can Make Yourself (Sterling). She is also the co-creator with J. H. Everett of the middle grade nonfiction series, Haunted Histories, (Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt Books for Young Readers). Ms. Scott-Waters illustrated The Search For Vile Things (Scholastic), and created paper engineering for Pop & Sniff Fruit (Piggy Toes Press).

    Website | Facebook | Google+


    A Year in the Secret Garden Blog Tour Schedule (2014)

    November 1
    Coffee Books & Art (Guest Post)
    WS Momma Readers Nook (Book Review)
    November 2
    Hope to Read (Excerpt)
    November 3
    Eloquent Articulation (Book Review)
    November 4
    BeachBoundBooks (Excerpt)
    November 5
    Monique's Musings (Book Review)
    November 6
    SOS-Supply (Book Review)
    November 7
    Randomly Reading (Book Review)
    November 8
    Adalinc to Life (Book Review)
    November 9
    100 Pages a Day (Book Review)
    November 10
    Edventures With Kids (Book Review)
    November 11
    November 12
    Girl of 1000 Wonders (Book Review)
    November 13
    Seraphina Reads (Guest Post)
    November 14
    Juggling Act Mama (Book Review)
    November 15
    Pragmatic Mom (Author/Illustrator Interview)
    November 16
    Stacking Books (Book Review)
    November 17
    Oh My Bookness (Book Review)
    November 18
    November 19
    The Blended Blog (Book Review)
    November 20
    All Done Monkey (Book Review)
    November 21
    Geo Librarian (Book Review)
    Grandbooking (Author/Illustrator Interview)
    November 22
    November 23
    Christy's Cozy Corners (Book Review)
    November 24
    Bookaholic Chick (Excerpt)
    November 25
    Ninja Librarian (Guest Post)
    November 26
    Jane Ritz (Book Review)
    Rockin' Book Reviews (Book Review)
    November 27
    November 28
    Deal Sharing Aunt (Book Review)
    November 29
    Mommynificent (Book Review)
    November 30
    This Kid Reviews Books (Book Review)
    Java John Z's (Author/Illustrator Interview)

    * $100 Blog Tour Giveaway *

    Amazon 100 gift card Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice) Contest ends: December 7, 11:59 pm, 2014 Open: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the authors Valarie Budayr and Marilyn Scott-Waters and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com. a Rafflecopter giveaway MDBR Book Promotion Services  

    Wednesday, November 5, 2014

    Randomly Retro Reading: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

    The original 1911 cover
    It's been a really long time since I read The Secret Garden, but I decided to sit down and reread it last weekend.  I remember loving every word of it when I read it as a middle schooler, so I was curious as whether it would stand the test of time for me.

    A brief recap, with spoilers:
    Though British, ten-year-old Mary Lennox was born and raised in India.  Her father was a wealthy Army captain, and her mother was a beautiful but vain woman.  Neither wanted anything to do with Mary and left her care to their Indian servants.  As a result, Mary has become a spoiled, unfriendly, unlovable little girl who can't do anything for herself.  When both parents die of cholera, Mary is sent to England to live with her uncle Archibald Craven in Yorkshire, whom she has never met.

    Arriving in Yorkshire, Mary finds herself living on a massive estate, Misselthwaite Manor.  Uncle Archibald is a severely depressed man since the death of his wife ten years ago and wants nothing to Mary, who is told by the housekeeper not wander around the manor, with its one hundred closed doors.

    Martha Sowerby is a friendly, chatty young maid assigned to care for Mary and who teaches her how to dress herself, tells her about Dickson, her 12 year old brother and shows her how to jump rope.  Outside, Mary meets Ben Weatherstaff, the old gardener.  Mary learns about a secret garden that has been locked for 10 years since her uncle's wife died.  The key to the garden has been buried somewhere.  Curious, Mary finds the garden and key with the help of a robin.

    But Mary also hears crying at night.  One night she goes to investigate and discovers her cousin Colin Craven, also 10, lying in bed.  Colin has been told he will not live to manhood, that his body is crooked and he will eventually develop a hunched back.  Colin is also spoiled, but desperate for Mary's company.  The two strike up a friendship and eventually Mary tells him about the secret garden and about Dickson, whom she has gotten friendly with and has been helping her tend the overgrown secret garden.

    Colin wants to see the garden, and eventually gets to go in his push chair with Mary and Dickon.  The three friends spend the summer in the garden tending flowers and playing games.  Eventually, they also help Colin learn to walk and run but keep it a secret from the servants, except for Ben Weatherstaff.  Colin wants to surprise his father when he returns home from his extended trip abroad.

    Through all this, Martha and Dickon's mother has been kept abreast of what was going at the manor and, after visiting the secret garden, she takes the liberty to write to Colin's father telling him he needs to come home to see his son.  Suddenly, Craven has a feeling he must get to the garden and immediately returns to England and his estate, where he literally runs in Colin.  Craven's depression is immediately lifted when he sees how healthy and active Colin has become and they are reunited as father and son.

    Well, did I still love The Secret Garden?
    Yes, I did, but I have forgotten how wordy it was.  I can see why kids might prefer an abridged version.  Some expository paragraphs just went on for too long, even for me.

    But I can appreciate Mary as a different kind of protagonist more now than I did before.  She began as a very irritating girl - sour, unfriendly, even mean.  Everyone in the book commented on how her attitude was reflected in her countenance.  And that is true - a sour person has a sour face.  But this time, it was wonderful watching her transformation into someone who didn't love and was unlovable to a girl to began to experience loving feelings.  And yes, everyone commented on that as it happened.  In other words, as her garden bloomed, so bloomed Mary.

    As a young reader, I probably didn't make the connection between the garden and the characters.  In fact, the garden is a lovely symbol of the state of mind not only of Mary, but of Colin and his father.  On the surface, it looked like the garden was dead, but underneath, there was still life.  That was certainly true of these three characters.  If things hadn't changed, if Mary hadn't discovered the secret garden, they would have eventually all shrived and died.

    And I have forgotten how much Colin attributed magic to his recovery.  As a young reader, I probably took that as just the kind of thing a child thinks when they have not other explanation for something.  This time, I could see that Colin's recovery had nothing to do with magic as much as it had to do with realizing that there was nothing wrong with him in the first place.  Magic is also attributed to the garden's regrowth, but I think both instances of magic have more to do with the essence of nature, a force that is so well represented in the character of Dickon.

    A word about the Yorkshire accent - young readers may find this to be difficult, I know I did at first.  But I also found that after a short while, I could read it with no problem.  I don't know if newer versions take out the Yorkshire dialect, but I felt it really worked to heighten Mary and Colin's feelings of isolation and loneliness and later their acceptance and inclusion when they starting using it, too.

    I hardly ever get time to reread a book, so I was happy that I was able to reread The Secret Garden.  In fact, I may try to reread some old favorites a little more frequently from now on.

    This book is recommended for readers age 9+
    This book was downloaded for free from Project Gutenberg