Month: June 2017

What My Kids Are Reading: June 30, 2017

The Father Brown Reader: Stories from Chesterton   Jungle: A Photicular Book   Who Was Dr. Seuss?

The 6-Year-Old
Jungle: A Photicular Book

This book is just plain cool. I won’t lie-the words are too difficult for my 6-year-old to read, so I help him with that part. But the pictures are all photicular, so you can see the animals “moving” while you read about them. And the information itself is really interesting! There is also a Safari photicular book that I’ll be on the lookout for.

The 8-Year-Old
The Father Brown Reader: Stories from Chesterton

I heard about this book on The Read Loud Revival podcast when Sarah Mackenzie interviewed the book’s adapter, Nancy Carpentier Brown. When I heard the story of how the book came to be, I knew it would be added to our collection. This is an adaptation of four of G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries. (I believe it’s also a show on the BBC, re-aired on PBS in the States.) Brown wanted to share Chesterton’s mysteries with her kids, but they aren’t exactly appropriate for small children. There wasn’t an adaptation available, so she did it herself! How awesome is that? This book is a perfect way to get kids into mysteries. The stories are great, they’re very readable, and they’re fun to read aloud. She’s also adapted other Chesterton stories into books for kids!

What We’re Reading Together
Who Was Dr. Seuss?

We love the Who Was series, and lately my kids have been very interested in who Dr. Seuss actually was. (I’m pretty sure they thought he was an imaginary character along with the Cat in the Hat.) He led a very interesting life, and I love that my kids want to know more about who wrote some of their favorite books, and how he did that.


What did you and your kids read this week?

Review: The Other Einstein

“Together, we will become the ideal bohemian couple—equal in love and work.”

This was the Big Library Read (sort a national online book club through your local library and Overdrive) in June. It kept popping up as a suggestion every time I logged into Overdrive, so I finally checked it out. (The Big Library Read books are always available as ebooks during their chosen month-no waitlist!) As much as I loved the cover, I kind of prepared myself for a dry read. But wow. This book was such a surprise. It was so interesting and engaging, and really quite scandalous!

I went into this book with a basic knowledge of Albert Einstein. The Other Einstein tells the fictionalized story of Einstein’s first wife, Mileva Maric. Marie Benedict (who also publishes under the name Heather Terrell) has written a wonderful and interesting historical fiction novel about Mileva and her relationship with Albert. While it is fiction, the story is based in truth, and Benedict clearly did a lot of research. Mileva met Albert met while they were both in school at Zurich’s Polytechnic physics program. Mileva’s father had to petition the school to allow her to register, since it was still not the norm for women to go to such advanced programs. Albert is immediately taken with her and has dreams of living a “bohemian” lifestyle together, working and living as true partners. This is not exactly what happens. What follows is the story of not just two extraordinary physicists, but two people who had a real relationship that fell apart.

This feels very much like a stranger in a strange land late. Mileva is navigating a whole new world: women in university, learning about traditionally male subjects. There is a huge learning curve for her, as well as for the men. She not only has to figure out how she fits in to the male-dominated world of physics, but also how she fits into society as a woman, and how those two personas can work together instead of against each other. She did not want to choose just one personality (scholar or wife), and this is still an incredibly relevant topic today. We can all relate to wanting a group of likeminded people to be around, and not just trying to fit in with the mainstream crowd. Mileva worked very hard to have that, and she was not always successful.

This was an unexpectedly perfect summer read, and although it also unexpectedly broke my heart a little, it made me think hard about relationships and gender roles, and how much weight is still placed on those things. And please forgive this one superficial comment, but it was hard to see how much of a jerk Einstein truly was. I still think of him as Walter Matthau in the extremely fictional movie IQ. (And yes, I realize how much that dates me.)

Whether or not the fictionalized parts of The Other Einstein are completely false or loosely based on the truth, Benedict still lets us into the life of a women who is built up and then systematically broken down, although she does not go down without a fight. The extent to which that happened in real life is still being debated, but it did happen, and Mileva Maric had been all but lost to history. I’m so glad she was brought back to life with this book!

“You are a genius at everything but the human heart.”
Mileva to Albert


You might also like The Last Days of Night


Review: Watch Me Disappear

“Olive,” Billie says, her voice lower now, almost chiding. “I miss you. Why aren’t you looking?”

“Looking for what?” She’s hallucinating, isn’t she? She isn’t really talking to her dead mom.


I don’t know about you, but when I read a suspense novel, I still want to care about the characters, not just what moves the plot forward. In Janelle Brown’s new novel, Watch Me Disappear, out July 11, the plot really moves forward as a result of the characters’ personalities. Part ghost story, part suspense novel, it’s the best of both worlds.

Olive Flanagan’s mom, Billie, has been missing, presumed dead, for a year. She never returned from a solo hike in Desolation Wilderness, and no body was found. A single hiking boot and a destroyed cell phone are all that’s left of Billie Flanagan. Until Olive starts to have visions of her mom, and she and her dad, Jonathan, start to wonder what really happened to Billie. As father and daughter go on a mission to track down Billie’s body, dead or alive, they discover more than they ever knew (and maybe more than they wanted to know) about Billie and themselves.

This story felt very much like Where’d You Go, Bernadette, but creepier, and with none of the fun quirkiness that Maria Semple does so well. If you enjoyed that novel and you like suspense, I think you would enjoy this book. It almost feels like a literary novel disguised as a thriller. The plot moves fairly quickly, but not so quickly that you don’t get an insight into what the characters are really like. After the first few chapters, when Jonathan starts to go through Billie’s old things and begins to realize she may not have been who everyone thought she was, I was completely hooked and wanted to find out all about her and exactly what happened.

My one caveat is that I think, personally, I would have enjoyed the novel even more if it had been more about who Billie and her family are. Olive wasn’t explored as much as she could have been, and she’s such an interesting character that I wanted to know her better.

This is such a perfect summer read, for the beach, the pool, or just your couch on a hot day! If you invest the time to read Watch Me Disappear, I guarantee you will not be disappointed with the story. (Or the ending. It was definitely a jaw-dropper for me.)


Watch Me Disappear: A Novel will be out July 11!


Netgalley provided me with a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinion are my own!

What My Kids Are Reading: June 23, 2017

The 8-Year-Old
The Dangerous Book for Boys

I’ve been looking at this book for ages and finally picked it up for my 8-year-old. It is fantastic and I can’t recommend it enough! This book is full of activities, history, survival skills, and how to make the world’s best paper airplane. My son has been carrying it with him around the house and outside, and he taught himself how to tie a square knot from the tutorial in the book. If you’re looking for an alternative to electronics in the summer, if your son is interested in outdoor skills or history (my son thought the Seven Wonders of the World chapter was really cool), or if you just want to add another fun book to your collection, this is the one to get. I only wish I’d bought it sooner! And don’t worry, if you have a girl, The Daring Book for Girls is for you! I looked through it, and it is most definitely NOT a princess book. Several little girls I know will be getting this as Christmas gifts this year!

Boys’ Life
Another magazine! My son gets this magazine as part of his Cub Scout membership, and it goes perfectly with The Dangerous Book for Boys. The articles are great, there’s a whole joke section that my son finds hilarious, and it gives him creative ideas for things to do during the week. Even if you don’t have a Cub Scout, you can get a subscription to the magazine!

The 6-Year-Old
Clark the Shark: Tooth Trouble

Clark the Shark books are perfect for young readers. Clark is afraid of going to the dentist for his toothache, but he learns that the dentist isn’t so scary after all, and can help him feel better. (There’s also a good message about not listening to your friends when they tell you scary stories that might not be true.) My 6-year-old can read most of it on his own, and the ocean characters are well-drawn and funny. This book is particularly good if you have a kid who is on the verge of losing a tooth or might be nervous about losing teeth!

What THEY’RE Reading Together
Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets

My boys have been reading together lately, mainly my 8-year-old reading to my 6-year-old, and they both love the Captain Underpants series. This is the second book in the series, and George and Harold have gotten themselves into some trouble by accidentally creating an army of evil, talking toilets. (You might recognize a few scenes from the movie too.) Captain Underpants has to save the day again! (Having boys means I’ve read books with storylines I never could have imagined…)

I hope you all had a good week reading with your kids too!


Reluctant Readers: Do I HAVE to read?

The last thing any lifetime reader wants to hear a kid say is, “Do I HAVE to read?” Because no, unless it’s for school, kids don’t technically HAVE to read. But we hope that they all WANT to read. Big difference.

As a reader and a mom, this frustrates me to no end! My kids love books, but even they have moments of reading reluctance. (There are weeks that my 8-year-old refuses to read anything except his Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. Over and over. My 6-year-old is currently uninterested that anything that isn’t Star Wars-based.) So I went on a book-hunting expedition to try and find interesting, weird, funny, great books that my kids would love and maybe wouldn’t have chosen on their own. I also thought about why some kids love to read and why some just don’t seem interested.

Why are they reluctant? Is reading difficult or have they just not found books of interest? And why is reading for pleasure so important anyway? Why not just let kids do the bare minimum for school and accept that some of them just don’t like to read?

(Sidenote: I am that stubborn person who will never accept that people don’t like to read. They just haven’t found the right books yet!)

As adults, we get to choose what we want to read. Comedy, mystery, suspense, literature with a capital L. We might ask friends for suggestions or read book reviews to get ideas, but ultimately the decision is up to us. Why should it be different for kids? I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say that I am an offender of trying to push my own literary wants onto my kids. “What do you mean The Boxcar Children isn’t interesting?! Yes it is, try it again.” Now, if it’s an age thing, and happens to be a book that would be better when they’re older, maybe giving it another try would be ok. But the more we push what we think our kids SHOULD read onto them, the less they will WANT to read. Why not give them some options and then let them choose? Or, better yet, let them roam free in the children’s section of the library and pick anything? This one is hard for me, but at the library I usually just sit at a kid’s table with my own book and let them discover books on their own. (I sneak in a few here and there, though. Hey, no one’s perfect.)

We all have reasons for reading. Sometimes it’s for work, sometimes it’s to learn, and sometimes yes, it’s because the teacher says we have to. But reading for fun, in my opinion, is the best reason of all. I think it’s especially important for kids for a variety of reasons. They inevitably end up learning something, even if it’s just how to tell a funny joke. (Thanks, Captain Underpants.) Through books, kids can travel the world, become a guest in another time period, or visit imaginary lands, which will expand their own imaginations. Books also offer a type of friend that can’t always be found in real life, a friend on the pages who a child can relate to, or aspire to be like. And when you find the right book, reading is just fun! It is important to gently encourage kids to take a break from the busy-ness of life and snuggle up with a book.

Here are a few of the many books that might be perfect for your reluctant reader. Leave them lying around, or just start reading aloud from them when your kid is nearby. They might still be a tough sell, but I think at least one of these will capture your little reader’s attention.

Let me know in the comments what books your kids have fallen in love with! I would love to add more to my list!

**I have focused on elementary school-age books here, but I’m planning a future post about middle school and high school reluctant readers as well.

Mr. Ball Makes a To-Do List
The Adventures of Captain Underpants
Darth Vader and Son
Goodnight Darth Vader
Vader’s Little Princess
Darth Vader and Friends
Captain Raptor and the Space Pirates
Captain Raptor and the Moon Mystery
Magic Tree House
Star Wars: Jedi Academy
Squish 1: Super Amoeba
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Ada Twist, Scientist
Rosie Revere, Engineer
Iggy Peck, Architect
The Great Pet Escape (Pets on the Loose!)
The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors
The Day the Crayons Quit
The Day the Crayons Came Home
Dragons Love Tacos