Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Book Review: 'When You Are Brave' by Pat Zietlow Miller

✰✰✰✰✰ Sometimes the world is full of things we don’t want to do. That’s exactly how a little girl feels as her family packs up and moves to a new home. Will she like the new house? Will she make new friends? Will the neighbors be friendly?

The little girl worries about the all the unknowns as her family drives to their destination. Along the way she remembers other times that seemed scary, but turned out alright. Little by little she realizes that deep inside of her there has always been a little bit of courage when she needed it the most. Once you know where to find it, courage is always there for you.

The Bottom Line: While the beautiful illustrations in this picture book put the focus on a family moving to a new house, the text can easily apply to many situations. The thoughtful lesson of finding the courage within yourself to tackle things you don’t want to do shines through. Children in grades PreK – 1 will appreciate the stunning illustrations, and the powerful message in this picture book will encourage kids to believe in themselves.

Details: When You Are Brave written by Pat Zietlow Miller & illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. Picture book published by Little, Brown and Company in 2019. 40 p. ISBN: 978-0-316-39252-5

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Book Review: 'Same Kind of Different As Me' by Ron Hall & Denver Moore

✰✰✰½ If there were ever two men who were complete opposites, it would be Ron Hall and Denver Moore. Ron was white, wealthy, and married. Denver was black, poor, and had spent time in jail. Ron was an educated art dealer who despised the homeless. Denver was a modern-day slave who was as tough as they come.

Yet, somehow their paths crossed. They would have completely ignored each other if it weren’t for one thing…Ron Hall’s wife. Deborah Hall was full of unconditional love,  and she didn’t hesitate to reach out to people in need. She dedicated herself to serving others, and in the wake of discovering her husband’s infidelity, Deborah felt called to serve the homeless. Ron, feeling the call to be a better husband, agreed to help out.

Deborah recognized Denver as the poor, wise man from her dream, a man who would change the city. In order for the dream to come true, Deborah asked Ron to befriend Denver. The two get off to a rocky start, but God works in mysterious ways. With a little persistence, faith, and trust, a bond began to develop, but who will really be helped by the friendship? The answer may surprise you.

The Bottom Line: The book is written in the perspective of both men. The chapters alternate between Ron and Denver, with each man giving his version of the events. Each has a very distinct voice, and it's fascinating to read. Recommended for people who are interested in social issues including homelessness and volunteering. Also, recommended for readers who enjoy inspirational books about friendship and faith.

Book Club Notes: Overall, this was an enjoyable book to read. It was fascinating reading about the same events from the point of view of two very different people. General comments from the group included that this was a story that needed to be told. We learned about modern-day slavery and the issues the homeless face on a daily basis. Our favorite story from the book was when Denver talked about the fishing technique called "catch and release" and how some people apply that technique to friendship. Denver was indeed a wise man.

This was a good story worth reading about or watching the movie; however, the movie left a lot of our favorite scenes from the book out. Nonetheless, those who watched only the movie really liked it and were able to grasp all the major themes. As a group we liked the book just a little bit better than the movie though. On a scale from 1 – 5 with 5 being the highest, the book received an average of 4, while the movie received a 3.5.

To supplement this discussion we watched the following video featuring both Ron Hall and Denver Moore.  It illustrates their friendship and is definitely worth watching.

Details: Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall & Denver Moore with Lynn Vincent. Paperback published by W. Publishing Group in 2006. 272 p. ISBN: 978-0-8499-1910-7

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Book Review: 'Purls and Poison' by Anne Canadeo

✰✰✰½ The Black Sheep Knitters are back again to help solve another crime. When one of their members, Suzanne Cavanaugh, has trouble at the realty office, the friends are eager to lend their support, especially when Suzanne's rival, Lisa Devereaux, steals a sale right out from under her. The rivalry between Suzanne and Lisa is so toxic that when Lisa later turns up dead, everyone suspects Suzanne. Indeed, the clever culprit has made sure all the clues point to Suzanne as the killer. With the clock ticking, Suzanne and her friends must quickly uncover the truth to clear her name before she gets arrested and her reputation as a realtor is trashed.

The Bottom Line: This quick and clever cozy is the perfect weekend or beach read. While I have not yet read the other titles in the series, this installment was very easy to pick up with lots of knitting references, of course. It's an entertaining read recommended for knitters and mystery buffs. Includes a recipe and links to knitting patterns and charities looking for donations.

Details: Purls and Poison by Anne Canadeo. Hardcover published by Kensington Books in 2018. 320 p. ISBN: 978-1-4967-0863-2

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Book Review: 'You Are Light' by Aaron Becker

✰✰✰✰✰ This visually stunning board book introduces children to the most basic color wheel. Beginning with all the colors on the right-hand side, as the reader flips through the pages, you gradually rebuild the color wheel on the left beginning with the primary colors. Additionally, the poetic text and illustrations work well with the colors to describe the water cycle, which is also in its simplest form.

The Bottom Line: This is a brilliant introduction to both a little bit of color theory and science. Colorful plastic discs are used to filter the light and produce a color wheel as you read along. It's a creative idea that both children and caregivers will enjoy. Enthusiastically recommended for children in Preschool.

Details: You Are Light written & illustrated by Aaron Becker. Board book published by Candlewick Studio in 2019. 16 p. ISBN: 978-1-5362-0115-4 NOTE: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible via the publisher and the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Book Review: 'The Last Lecture' by Randy Pausch

✰✰✰✰✰  The Last Lecture is the result of an actual lecture that Dr. Randy Pausch gave in 2007. It's based on the exercise where college professors are asked to imagine that they are near death and have one final opportunity to pass along their wisdom and knowledge to their students in the form of a last lecture. As the audience listens to the lecture, they can't help but to ponder on the same question: What wisdom would I share with the world if I knew I was dying?

Dr. Pausch didn't have to imagine his demise. He knew he was dying of cancer, and this truly would be his last lecture. He could have backed out. Yet, Dr. Pausch embraced the idea of giving a last lecture that really was a last lecture. He approached it with the same zeal he lived his life...full speed ahead.

And as it turned out, his last lecture wasn't about dying at all. It wasn't about cancer or even his family. Dr. Pausch's lecture was about living...really living in the moment and having fun while doing it. He distilled his philosophy for living into succinct lessons.

On that day nearly twelve years ago, the auditorium was packed with an audience of 400 students, colleagues, friends, and family, who laughed and cried along with Randy as he gave the speech of a lifetime. Co-author Jeffrey Zaslow was in the audience that day, and witnessed something remarkable.

It was almost an afterthought that the lecture was taped. In the end, what was meant as a gift to his children, has inspired people around the world. As Jeffrey Zaslow wrote, "His fate is ours, sped up." And that message has resonated with people around the world.

The Bottom Line: This is an inspirational guide on how to live your life to the fullest. Dr. Pausch saw life as an adventure, and he turned his experiences, including cancer, into lessons for his children and anyone else who cared to listen.  Filled with anecdotes, tips, and encouragement, this slim book is one that you will read again and again. Highly recommended reading for everyone including young adults. This should be required reading in high schools and colleges as it makes you stop and think about your priorities. It also makes you appreciate the moment you are in right now. Written with humor, honesty, and humility, you'll feel like you're chatting with a childhood friend. Nonetheless, it's best to read this book in short sittings because there is so much packed on every page.

Book Club Notes: This book was very well received by the members who picked it up and took the time to read it. While the book represents a very tough topic to talk about, the focus of the book was actually about living your life to the fullest rather than the process of dying. Dr. Pausch exemplified the beauty and adventure of life. He packed more living into his 47 years than others do in 90. On a scale from 1 - 5 with 5 being the highest, the median rating was a 5 with ratings from 4.5 - 5.

As one member mentioned, this book is just one of Dr. Pausch's legacies. He was a brilliant man who will live on in his lessons. Someone else mentioned that The Last Lecture accomplished so many things: lessons to his children, a goodbye to his co-workers, and a thank you to his family and friends; it really was the perfect head fake. We talked about the overall theme of optimism that permeated the book, and there is so much wisdom contained within that many of us will revisit this book again in the future as well as share it with others. Dr. Pausch had a gift for inspiring others to become the best they could possibly be.

Another member saw this book as a "roadmap to life;" a heartwarming story that makes you realize how short life is. And another commented that he wished he could have met Dr. Pausch in person. This is a book about overcoming obstacles and finding your passion. By bravely sharing his journey with the world, Dr. Pausch and his family were an unbelievable example to us. In fact, Dr. Pausch's message of living life to the fullest is still relevant today. Very highly recommended for book clubs.

There are a multitude of discussion questions available online. Here are a few:
ReadingGroupGuides, LitLovers, BookRags, Exclusively Books, &
HCC Learning Web.

Here's a list of additional resources used for this discussion: 

  • Dr. Randy Pausch's obituary from The New York Times.
  • Links to both Randy Pausch's Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams and Celebrating 10 Years of the Last Lecture can be found here.
  • Dr. Randy Pausch's website. 

Sadly, co-author Jeffrey Zaslow died young as well. He was tragically killed in an auto accident only four years after The Last Lecture was published. You can also visit Jeffrey Zaslow's website here. 

Details: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow. Hardcover reissue edition published by Hachette Books in 2018. 206 p. ISBN: 978-1-4013-2325-7

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Book Review: 'Here Comes the Easter Cat' by Deborah Underwood

✰✰✰✰✰ Everyone loves the Easter Bunny because he’s nice and delivers chocolate eggs. Cat wants to be like the Easter Bunny. Cat has nice clothes and transportation. There’s just one problem. Cat needs lots of naps, and the job of Easter Bunny doesn’t allow naps.

By the time the Easter Bunny arrives with an egg for Cat, he is ready for a nap. Cat understands how the tired Easter Bunny feels. Can Cat hatch a plan to help the sleepy bunny get some zzz’s and still deliver the eggs on time? Read this funny holiday book to find out.

The Bottom Line: This adorable book is a holiday winner.  The “dialogue” between the narrator and the cat is engaging and humorous. Rueda’s illustrations in colored pencils and ink are lively and expressive. This book is highly recommended for seasonal reading. Kids ages 3 – 7 will love it!

Details: Here Comes the Easter Cat written by Deborah Underwood & illustrated by Claudia Rueda. Hardcover picture book published by Dial Books for Young Readers in 2014. 80 p. ISBN: 978-0-8037-3939-0  

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Book Review: 'Cheaper by the Dozen' by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. & Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

✰✰✰✰✰ What do twelve kids, a dog, and two motion study experts for parents add up to? Total chaos and pure fun. With a family that is run like clockwork, there’s never a dull moment in the Gilbreth household. Their lives were regimented, but fun. Efficiency is the key here, and every moment is a teaching moment. Whether this is your first time reading this classic or your twelfth, you’re sure to get a laugh as the children endure the assembly call, family council meetings, rides in Foolish Carriage, and chaperoned dances.

The Bottom Line: This classic book has delighted generations of readers and is still relevant today. Filled with lots of humorous anecdotes, this is a very quick read. Highly recommended reading for everyone! This is sure to bring a smile to your face and brighten your day.

Book Club Notes: Our little group loved this book! On a scale from 1 – 5, with 5 being the highest, we gave this one an average of 5.0! Ratings ranged from 4.9 - 5+++. Additionally, most of us watched the original movie, which we greatly enjoyed. We agreed that the original movie closely follows the book with just a few minor changes. Book club members commented that reading the book made the film richer. The book was well-written and funny. We learned a lot and the film especially portrayed a bygone era very well. There were lots of wonderful lessons contained within the pages of the book. This was one of our best discussions to date, and the original film brought back found memories for many. On a less positive note, the 2003 film of the same name was a disappointment, and members gave it a 0.

This book club was supplemented by watching this short film, Gilbreth Time and Motion Study in bricklaying and a few films on Trade PracticesIf you have the time, here are a few more short films.  

Most of us didn’t realize that one of the children had died very young. This article, Cheaper by Eleven?, helped explain what happened to Mary. We discussed how this was handled (or not handled) in both the book and the original movie. 

Finally, discussion questions for book clubs are abundant online, but the CLC Charter School has a great chapter by chapter discussion guide here.   

Details: Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. & Ernestine Gilbreth CareyPaperback published by Perennial Classics in 2006, original published in 1948 by T.Y. Crowell Co224 p. ISBN: 978-0-06-008460-8