Month: November 2017

Review: Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker

Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker

Thank you to the Kid Lit Exchange for the review copy of this book! All opinions are my own!

It’s tough being a kid sometimes, and it’s even harder to be a bit different from the crowd as a kid. Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker addresses this predicament in a sweet, creative way. If I had read this book as a kid, I know I would have loved it and found a kindred spirit in Beatrice.

Beatrice Zinker does her best thinking upside down. Her family is perfectly normal, but she doesn’t let that change who she is. When she and her best friend, Lenny, decide to dress as ninjas for the first day of school, she knows third grade is going to be the best year. But when third grade starts and Lenny shows up in a trendy outfit with a new friend, Beatrice has to figure out how to get her friend back and make both of their personalities work together.

In a world of in-crowds and cliques, it’s so refreshing to see an upside down thinker like Beatrice. She isn’t afraid to think outside the box, and while she’s willing to compromise, she’s not willing to change who she is for anyone. In order to fix her friendship with Lenny, she has to give a little too (even though she wishes Lenny would dress like a ninja and go back to the old ways of their friendship), and it shows that even in friendship compromise is important. Friendships grow and change, but differences don’t mean they have to end.

Another reason I loved Beatrice so much is that she reminds me of my beloved Ramona books. She’s precocious, and tends to get into trouble without really meaning to, but she has a heart of gold.

This is great for ages 7 and up, and perfect for readers looking for easy chapter books. The subject matter is entertaining enough for more advanced readers who want a quick book to read, and Beatrice has something to teach us all about remaining true to ourselves, and the importance of upside down thinking. I am SO glad there are more Beatrice books coming in the next couple of years!


Review: Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere

All her life, she had learned that passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. It so easily went out of control.

Celeste Ng’s first book, Everything I Never Told You, took 6 years to write. I’m so glad we didn’t have to wait 6 more from that publication to her newest. Little Fires Everywhere is Ng’s newest masterpiece, and it is just that. She’s managed to do what many authors cannot, and that is to write a second novel that is even better than her first. I was hooked from the first line, and I didn’t want to put it down. This book made me feel all the feelings, and made me question a whole lot about how I see the world and the people living in it.

Rules existed for a reason: if you followed them, you would succeed; if you didn’t, you might burn the world to the ground.

Shaker Heights, Ohio, is a perfectly planned community full of perfectly planned families. Elena Richardson, journalist, mother of 4, wife of 1, grew up in Shaker Heights and returned to start a family right after college. Image is extremely important to her, and she works hard to maintain a shining one. When Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl move to town, looking to start a new chapter in their lives, Elena takes it upon herself to help them out, beginning with giving them a good deal on a rental. But when Pearl and Elena’s children become entwined, Elena starts to wonder about Mia’s mysterious past, and why they don’t really know anything about her. When one of Elena’s friends tries to adopt a Chinese-American baby, Mia and Elena, as well as the entire town, are split on whether or not the adoption should go through. Elena will not stop looking into Mia’s past until she figures out everything, no matter how many lives she ruins along the way.

The first thing that came to mind when I started reading this book was the song Little Boxes. (It was the theme song to the TV show Weeds, and it’s about perfect little box houses all in a row, and all the families looking the same.) Ng’s Shaker Heights is just like the song. Everyone has a large, perfect house, everyone is a doctor, lawyer, or executive, and everyone wants to be the same. Elena’s youngest child, Izzy (who I wanted so much more of), throws a wrench into those plans, and that’s all I’ll say because I don’t want to ruin the plot for you.

This book made me think, and I’m still thinking about it. It made me question my own motives behind the decisions I’ve made, and what kind of judgments I’m willing to pass on people who I’ve never met. Elena wants to be charitable, and she is, but only for certain people who meet certain criteria. She is very quick to pass judgment on other people and their situations, but that judgment changes when she or her family is in a similar situation. Ng really confronts the black and white that most of us use for right and wrong, and delves into all the shades of gray that are in between.

The writing, as usual, is wonderful. Ng moves fluidly between the characters’ past and present, and does so so seamlessly that not only did I not feel removed from the main story, I didn’t even realize it was happening. She is such a beautiful writer. (And I mean that in the best way, not in the, “this book is highbrow and no one can really understand it” way.) It is a brilliant, original story, and I literally hugged the book when I finished it and wanted to re-read it immediately.

Little Fires Everywhere is one of my favorite books of 2017, and most likely will be a lifetime favorite. It is heartbreaking and intriguing. It deeply examines familial relationships, as well as the way we pass judgment on other people. Ng shows that sometimes life isn’t just about keeping secrets for secrets’ sake, but about why we keep them, and what lengths we go to to protect our children and family. (And what exactly makes up that family.)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ X 1,000


I have to include my favorite quote here, because it made me tear up when I read it, as a parent and as a fan of Ng’s writing.

“Parents, she thought, learned to survive touching their children less and less. It was like training yourself to live on the smell of an apple alone, when what you really wanted was to devour it, to sink your teeth into it, and consume it, seeds, core, and all.”

Ng is an expert at pinpointing the exact feeling we can all relate to and leaning into it with all her might. If you read this book and don’t feel SOMETHING, well, read it again!


What My Kids are Reading: November 17, 2017

It’s almost Thanksgiving, which means it’s almost time for the kids to be out of school for a week. 9 days, really, but who’s counting? I’m actually looking forward to being able to read more to both kids, since we can stay up a little bit later at night. As you can see from today’s post, they really love series, and they really love particular series! Tell me what you’re planning to read over the Thanksgiving break, and what your kids have been reading lately!

The 8-Year-Old
Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix

Do you remember how I said I was going to make my son wait awhile before starting the fifth Harry Potter book? Because books 5-7 are pretty dark and I was concerned about how he would handle it? Yeah. He wore me down after about a week, and he’s handling it just fine. Like my husband said, if I was 8 (almost 9) and had access to all 7 of the Harry Potter books, would I have wanted to wait? Nope. So he’s reading it on his own during the day, and I read it to him at night, and it’s been going great! He says this is his favorite one so far. (I’ll let you know what he thinks about the ending when we get there. Sirius is one of his favorite characters . . . )

The Getaway

I pre-ordered the newest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book because my son is a HUGE fan, as is everyone else! He read this in a day, and I’m pretty sure he’s read it a couple more times since. In this one, Greg Heffley and his family go out of town for the holidays, but of course nothing goes right. My son loved it, and he already can’t wait for the next in the series!

The 6-Year-Old
The 65-Story Treehouse

Clearly, my younger son still loves this Treehouse series! We are on to the next one, and it’s just as silly and crazy as the others. as silly as these books are, I have to say that they’ve helped with his reading skills a lot. He’s a good reader, but this book makes him WANT to read more, and to really sound out bigger and more difficult words. There are also a lot of nonsense words, and he’s been doing a great job sounding those out. Being able to sound out nonsense words might not sound like an important skill, but it really is! It prepares kids for bigger, real words. Think of this series as a modern Dr. Seuss series . . . with flying cats and chainsaw juggling.

What We’re Reading Together
The Story of Doctor Dolittle

I started to read this book to my kids by accident! I was going through some of my old books, getting a little nostalgic and teary-eyed over those dusty covers, and I came across Doctor Dolittle. My kids were playing around me, and I just started to read this out loud. They stopped playing, got a blanket, listened, and asked me to keep going when I stopped. It’s such a simple story, of a doctor who prefers animals and discovers he can talk to them, but it’s fun, sentimental, and very entertaining. I highly recommend this one for any age-it really stands the test of time!


Review: Abigale Hall

Abigale Hall

In a hidden corner of the Welsh countryside, beneath the dark green hills and stretching deep underground, lies a secret.


This is not the sort of book I would usually reach for, even around Halloween. Maybe especially around Halloween. But Madeleine at Top Shelf Text recommended it so highly that I had to give it a try. I’m so glad I did, because while it was an anxiety-inducing novel, it was a really well-written one. Abigale Hall by Lauren Forry is categorized as a suspense novel, but it’s written in the vein of gothic horror novels. If you want a well-written, fast-paced page-turner, this is the one to go for.

17-year-old Eliza and her younger sister Rebecca have orphaned due to various events during WWII. Their mother was killed in the Blitz, their father committed suicide, and their aunt very suddenly and mysteriously decides she can no longer care for them and they are sent to work at a crumbling mansion in Wales. They never see the owner, Mr. Brownwell, and the housekeeper, Mrs. Pollard, is . . . off. Eliza tries to make plans to escape back to London, but when she discovers a book covered in blood, she has to figure out what’s going in the house and why none of the other girls hired in the past are alive.

This book made me nervous when I read it, and I genuinely feared for the safety of the characters. If the plot reminds you of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, it’s for a good reason. There are definite similarities between the two, and if you like Rebecca you’ll probably like this book too. The story is creepy and mysterious, but it’s not gory, so if gore bothers you (like it does me) don’t let that keep you from this one! WWII is the backdrop of the story, but I wouldn’t say it’s a major theme in the book.

None of the characters in the book are completely likable, but it was ok because the story drew me in so much. Eliza, who frustrated me at the beginning of the book, does go through some necessary character changes, and I was completely on her side by the end. I don’t want to say much about Rebecca, because her role in the story is twisted and interesting, but suffice it to say that she definitely adds to the creepiness and mystery!

Abigale Hall is a great gothic fiction story, and it’s perfect for people who don’t like to read real horror, such as Stephen King. It fits right in with books like Rebecca and Wuthering Heights, but is a bit more modern and fast-paced. Forry is a talented author, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next!



What My Kids Are Reading: Thanksgiving Edition 2017!

You guys, I love Christmas. Love. It. I won’t tell you how many VERY LARGE bins of decorations I have, or how many traditions I attempt to foist upon my family, but believe me when I say there are a lot. Of all of it.


I also love Thanksgiving! And I have too many turkey decorations to just skip over this holiday for Christmas. Growing up, it was our biggest family holiday, and it continues to be that way. It now includes my family, my husband’s family, and any random friends that happen to need a place to go on Thanksgiving. The food is the best (my mom could take down Martha Stewart any day), the kids have a great time, and some years it’s even cold enough for a fire in the fireplace. (60 degrees or below if we’re hoping for a holiday fire!)

So in honor of the holiday that everyone seems to skip over in order to start decorating for Christmas, I’m going to share some of our favorite Thanksgiving books to read, as well as some new ones that I’ll be adding to our collection. I’ll probably also be sharing some of my many stuffed turkeys on Instagram over the next couple of weeks, so if you want to see just how many I actually have, head over there!

Mrs Hedgehog and Her Friends

This isn’t a Thanksgiving book, but it might as well be. This is one I grew up reading, and it’s all about Mrs. Hedgehog and her forest friends, the trouble they get into, and the food they make. And somehow, she makes even dandelions sound delicious. I love reading this with my kids in the fall!

The Berenstain Bears and the Prize Pumpkin

By now, you know that we love the Berenstain Bears, and every year we read this one right before Thanksgiving. Papa Bear decides he’s going to outdo the farmer next door and grow the biggest pumpkin in Bear Country. As you can imagine, things don’t go as planned, and it’s a fun story to read! (Both of my boys still love it.)

Thanksgiving on Thursday (Magic Tree House 27)

If you have elementary or middle school age kids, this one is great! Jack and Annie are transported back to 1621 for the very first Thanksgiving. They want to help out, but they don’t know how to do things the way the Pilgrims did. They learn what the Pilgrims actually ate back then (not turkey), get an interesting visit from Squanto, and learn what it means to work together.

Countdown to Thanksgiving

I got this years ago from a Scholastic book order form, and I still insist on reading it every year. It’s perfect for young kids and great for early readers. There are cute illustrations, and some funny parts about certain family members (grandma falls asleep), and of course there’s a big finale with the final meal!

The Turkey Train

This is a really fun book for younger kids about a group of turkeys who get into mischief on a train ride. The illustrations are really cute (I do love turkeys), and it’s a fun one to read out loud since it’s written in verse.

OLIVIA Talks Turkey

If your kids love Olivia (like mine used to), they’ll love her Thanksgiving book! She’s convinced she can “talk turkey” and tries to convince her parents that a turkey would make a great pet. If you can find the TV episode that this is based on, it would be fun to watch and read!

Pete the Cat: The First Thanksgiving

Do your kids love Pete the Cat? Ours do, and I have to say it’s one of the more fun books to read out loud. In this one, Pete is in the school play about the first Thanksgiving, and as usual, he uses his groovy ways to make it interesting! (There are also flaps with fun pictures hidden underneath.)

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Turkey!

My 6-year-old LOVES this series, and I’m going to get this one for our collection this year! She swallows many things, including a turkey, a football, and a boat. This old lady must have an iron stomach to continue surviving this series.

The Pilgrims Didn’t Celebrate the First Thanksgiving: Exposing Myths About Colonial History

This is for older kids (9 or 10 and up), and if you have a kid who loves history, this is for them. It’s a fun way for kids to find out how the pilgrims really celebrated (or didn’t celebrate) Thanksgiving, and what the true history of Thanksgiving is.

What Was the First Thanksgiving?

This is such a fantastic book series, and so far I’ve loved every one we’ve read. It’s for older kids (8 and up) but I think it would be ok to read to younger kiddos as well. It’s a really great way for kids to learn about the pilgrims, Thanksgiving, the Wampanoag tribe, and how our Thanksgiving celebrations have changed throughout history.