Book Reviews and More

Hi! This blog is for my classes at Texas Woman's University.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello everyone,

  Just a quick wish for a Happy Thanksgiving to all. I hope that you were able to enjoy time with family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday. I am thankful for those of you that check into my blog from time to time. I appreciate it!

  If you are a SCBWI Houston member, don't forget to join us for our holiday party on Monday, December 1st. Details are at I'm coming up with some bookish games for the party, and there will be yummy food and member book sales. Join us to celebrate another successful and inspiring year with the Houston chapter.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New lists to increase our To Be Read (TBR) pile

Hi everyone!

Here in Texas, it's an exciting time because the new Bluebonnet list for 2015-2016 is out. The list is recommended reading targeted toward 3-6th graders and put together by the Texas Library Association (TLA). To be honest, the timing of the lists always confuses me a bit, because at most schools, kids are still trying to read the 2014-2015 selections. While I understand that the lists come out in November for the following year, since most Bluebonnet programs are done at schools, I've always thought a list that coincides with the school year would be a little less confusing. Regardless of all of that, on with the list!

First, let me give a big hooray(!) because one of my favorite books I read this year is on the list: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy. In fact, I enjoyed the book so much that I chose it for my latest book trailer project. This time for it's for my Youth Programs class. Here's the link to the trailer: or hopefully it will play here:

To my surprise, that is the only book on the list I've read so far. Although, quite a few have been on my bed stand for a while - so now I will have the motivation to move them up the pile.

Here's the selections this year:

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant
The Misadventures of Salem Hyde: Book One: Spelling Trouble by Frank Cammuso
Always, Abigail by Nancy Cavanaugh
Emily's Blue Period by Cathleen Daly
Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague
Sky Jumpers by Peggy Eddleman
The Vanishing Coin by Kate Egan and magician Mike Lane
The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert
Mountain Dog by Margarita Engle
Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus
The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill
Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina by Rodman Philbrick
Quinny & Hopper by Adriana Brad Schanen
The Lost Planet by Rachel Searles
Rutherford B., Who Was He?: Poems About Our Presidents by Marilyn Singer
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and her Family's Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh
The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage

Here is the link to the official Texas Bluebonnet list:

What do you think of the list? I'm seeing a few more historical-based titles, which should make great tie-ins with other classroom subjects, especially social studies, art, and music. Some repeat performers as well, The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing is the follow-up to Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. Marilyn Singer was also on the list for her creative poetry book Mirror Mirror, so I look forward to seeing her poetic take on the Presidents.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Bonjour everyone!

I just returned from Paris and had a lovely time. This trip was for training for Girl Scouts, and I was lucky to meet so many nice ladies who are working hard to make sure their troops have great international experiences.

Since Veteran's Day was approaching, there was quite a bit of focus on the trip about World War II and the Nazi occupation of France. I was so grateful that I had recently read Code Name Verity (which is about spies during WWII). There were so many references that I understood (even French words that I knew the meaning!) because I had read that historical novel. Places, dates, and events had much more meaning to me because I remembered them from the book. And that was a fiction book! It helped emphasize to me the ways that fiction can be used to help bring history to life, as well as nonfiction or textbooks.

My parents listened to the book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand on a car trip a few weeks back. When we went to the air show recently, my mom commented that seeing the historical fighter planes and re-enactments was especially meaningful since they had just listened to that novel.

The first time I went to Paris, a friend recommended a collection of short stories, Paris in Mind, edited by Jennifer Lee. It was great to experience Paris through many different eyes, as well as my own. In fact, at one point on the trip, I sat on a blanket in the grassy area below the Eiffel Tower and read the book and people watched. What a wonderful memory!

I just love examples of how reading and literature can enhance our experiences. While reading is generally a solitary activity (although can easily be shared with audiobooks), it can open us up to the world in so many different ways.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

November SCBWI Houston Book Reports (and I'm in the newspaper!)

Hi everyone,

First, let me give a big thanks to Melissa Buron for using some of our Blog Hop tour from this summer for an article in one of the local Houston area newspapers.

Here's the link if you want to check it out:

Thanks Melissa for my 15 minutes of fame!

Here are my book report titles from this month's SCBWI meeting. Check them out and let me know what you think!

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (YA)
Disney-Hyperion ISBN 9781423152194

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff (MG/Upper Elementary)
Philomel ISBN 9780399164057

Dog Days of School by Kelly Dipucchio, Illustrated by Brian Biggs
Disney-Hyperion ISBN 9780786854936

Pig and Small by Alex Latimer
Peachtree Publishers ISBN 9781561457977