Month: March 2018

Review: Educated

Educated: A Memoir

You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them . . . You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.

I have been struggling to write this review, not because I didn’t like the book but because I loved it so much that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I want to get the words exactly right, because I think everyone should read Educated by Tara Westover. And I do mean everyone. This is an extremely powerful, disturbing, and moving memoir about a girl in a situation most of us will never fully be able to understand. It is well-written and captivating, and I could not put it down.

Tara Westover grew up in the mountains of Idaho. Her parents, radical survivalists, kept her and her siblings out of school for most of their lives, did not believe in doctors or modern medicine, and taught their children to prepare for the end of the world. When Tara decides that she does want to be educated, she begins to read as many books as she can in order to prepare for college entrance exams, despite never having attended school. When she gets into and begins classes at Brigham Young University, she is in for a shock when she learns, for the first time, about events such as the Holocaust, civil rights movements, and that Advil will cure a headache, not kill her. Even though she has willingly escaped an isolated and violent life, she struggles with her choices and the choices her parents wish she had made. Tara has to choose what’s best for her and her future, even if it means going against her family.

This book is startlingly personal, and I think it’s because she wrote it very soon after going through all of the events. I could really feel Tara’s struggle with what amounts to choosing between her family and the “real” world. Reading it as someone who has never been in her situation, the choice for me seemed clear (There is a scene in which someone is burned very badly, and they still refuse to go to a doctor. It is truly unbelievable and shocking.), but seeing it through her eyes, I understand why she was in an impossible position. She was choosing to leave her family in order to receive an education, and it was clearly not an easy choice.

Educated is a moving novel about the education and coming-of-age years of a woman who is stronger than most of us even realize. I get the feeling that Tara Westover is probably still not ok, and maybe won’t ever be ok, but this book feels like an attempt to sort everything out in one place. It feels a bit unsettled, probably because she is still in the situation. She is still young and her complete break from most of her family happened recently. I would love to read an essay from her reflecting on everything in 20 or 30 years, when she’s completely come out on the other side. Until then, all I can do is beg you all to read this book!



The Guardian has a great interview with Tara!

Interview with Tara Westover

What My Kids Are Reading: March 23, 2018

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince The 78-Story Treehouse The Boo-Boos That Changed the World: A True Story About an Accidental Invention (Really!)

Thank you to Blue Slip Media for the copy of The Boo-Boos That Changed the World! All opinions are my (and my kids’) own!

This week’s post is a little bit different. There are only two books, and they are books that I’ve been reading to my kids AND that they read a little bit of on their own. We’ve all been pretty tired getting back into our routine after spring break, so they both want me to read to them more often than reading on their own. (Outside of the reading they do at school. They’ve been checking out Big Nate and Captain Underpants from the school library, and my 9-year-old’s class is still reading Charlotte’s Web. So they do quite a bit of reading on their own in the classroom.) On to the books!

The 9-Year-Old
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I debated on whether or not to go ahead and read this book with my 9-year-old, but I decided it would be fine. And he also said he could just check it out at the school library. SO. We are mostly reading it together, but he is taking it to school and reading a bit on his own as well. There have been a lot more questions with this book than the others, and I suspect they will continue, given just how dark this one gets. I haven’t re-read this one in years, and I’m really liking getting into the story again! Harry Potter is one of my all-time favorite series, and I love bonding with my son over it!

The 6-Year-Old
The 78-Story Treehouse

This was just released in the states, and my son found the last copy at the bookstore we visited! He loves this silly series, and I’m glad that the next one will be published here this summer. (They are published in Australia first!) This one involves a movie, a crazy movie director, and a huge fight between Andy and Terry, the main characters. As usual, it’s ridiculous, funny, and my 6-year-old LOVES it!

The Boo-Boos That Changed the World: A True Story About an Accidental Invention (Really!)

We really enjoy non-fiction books that make learning interesting, and this is one of the best ones we’ve read. I have honestly never thought about how Band-Aids were invented, but it’s a truly interesting story. Earle Dickson, and employee of Johnson & Johnson in the 1920s, had an accident-prone wife. When he tried to devise something to cover her many cuts and scrapes, it led to the invention of the modern day Band-Aid! The illustrations are great, the story is unexpected, and the writer throws in plenty of jokes. I think most kids will find this interesting-mine loved it, and we all wanted to look up more information about the inventors. The book also includes a timeline at the end of other inventions, and encourages kids to do their own research to learn about more inventions.


Review: The Swans of Fifth Avenue

The Swans of Fifth Avenue

This, this moment, was real, but more precious, more golden, than any fairy tale.

My mom saw Truman Capote once. She lived in New Jersey at the time and had gone into NYC for dinner. She saw him through the window of the restaurant she was eating in, walking past in his signature white suit and white hat. There was no doubt it was him. He was glam, mysterious, and popular, and always surrounded by scandal. In Melanie Benjamin’s The Swans of Fifth Avenue, we get to read a fictionalized re-telling of Capote’s golden years. The 1950s, NYC, surrounded by his socialite friends, his swans. It’s an interesting story, with a sad undercurrent, and it made me want to read more about all the real life characters in the book.

Truman Capote and Babe Paley (a popular, perfect socialite married to CBS founder William Paley) were best friends, and saw each other more as family. Babe was at the top of the social food chain in 1950s New York City, and she brought Truman along with her. Her upper-crust friends, dazzled by the gossipy, famous Truman, trusted him with their more scandalous secrets. When he started his fall from grace after publishing his self-proclaimed masterpiece In Cold Blood, he decides to use his friends’ stories as the basis for a new book. The fallout from that decision is, in some cases, truly life-ending.

This was my first Melanie Benjamin book, and I definitely want to read more. She does historical fiction so well, and I love being entertained while I’m learning something about an interesting time in history. I don’t know a lot about Capote’s history, but I want to know everything about it now! This is like a crash course in this particular society and time; after every chapter I found myself saying, “Did that really happen?” And then Googling the event to find out the entire backstory. (Which is why it took me longer than usual to finish this book!)

While this book is reminiscent of a fairy tale, it’s more like a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, with dark secrets and broken trust throughout. Capote’s world of socialite swans was gossipy and glittering, but at its heart is a sad story. Given Truman’s background and personality, he should never have been able to fit in with that high society group in NYC. He was built to be an outcast, and he absolutely knew it. He also knew enough to take advantage of every opportunity. Babe Paley, beautiful, popular, and Truman’s darling, was unhappy in her platinum cage, and tried to seek happiness in her friendship with Capote.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue is a wonderful, fictionalized telling of the scandalous and extra juicy evens surrounding Truman Capote’s rise in his socialite swan pond and his subsequent crash down to the ground. If you like historical fiction and good stories, I definitely recommend this one!



The author’s website has great resources if you want to read more about the real people who inspired this book!

Following in the Footsteps of the Swans


Review: I Am Famous

I Am FamousThank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for sending me this book! All opinions are my own!

If you have kids or know anyone who has kids or have seen anyone in public around kids, you understand how . . . overzealous we can get with taking pictures sometimes! I Am Famous is an adorable picture book that looks at that situation from a child’s point of view, and it is so wonderful!

Kiely knows without a doubt that she is famous. People follow her ALL THE TIME with their cameras. Those darn paparazzi! She loves it, but being famous can be tiring. When she has a big performance at her grandfather’s birthday party, she makes a mistake and is worried that she might lose her fans forever. (Spoiler alert: She doesn’t!)

I so loved this book, and believe it or not, both of my sons did too! (They are ages 6 and 9.) The illustrations are so good, and the story is very cute. I loved seeing what it might look like from a child’s perspective to have someone following you around all the time taking pictures, whether you want them to or not.

I definitely recommend this book for young readers, and it would make a fantastic book gift for anyone with a child as sassy and wonderful as Kiely!



What My Kids Are Reading: March 9, 2018

Big Nate: Welcome to My World Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon: Tales from Deckawoo Drive

Well, I tried to make this picture a bit celebratory since we’re on Spring Break! (But really, when does school start again???) We have been reading a lot lately, but have been so busy with school and extracurricular activities that I haven’t been able to update you guys as much! But we have discovered some new-to-us series and just started a really fun buddy read!

The 6-Year-Old
Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon: Tales from Deckawoo Drive

Kate DiCamillo writes wonderful chapter books for older readers, but we’ve just discovered her Deckawoo Drive series, and it’s perfect for my first grader! He loves seeing recurring characters pop up throughout the books, and they always get into funny, ridiculous situations. (And for a former theatre major like myself, there are plenty of opportunities to give the characters fun voices when reading aloud.) In this one, Francine Poulet, animal catcher extraordinaire, is sidelined when a wily, ghostly raccoon refuses to be caught. Will she overcome her fears to catch the animal, or will she give up her career forever to work in a pet store instead? This is a great, easy chapter book for younger readers, or for older elementary readers who like a funny story!

The 9-Year-Old
Big Nate: Welcome to My World

Lately, my 9-year-old has been taking a break from the bigger chapter books he was reading (the 5th Harry Potter book really did him in) and has moved on to graphic novels for a bit. He discovered Big Nate and hasn’t looked back! Nate is a regular kid with bad luck, but he always seems to find a way to get out of it! His character is in 6th grade, but I think these books are fine for kids around 9 and up who love graphic novels and funny books!

What We’re Reading Together
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race

This is my favorite of the bunch! We are doing a full family buddy read with Sara and her kids over at Meaningful Madness. The author of Hidden Figures (the adult book) wrote the book in two other formats: one for young adult readers and as a picture book. Our kids happen to be the same ages, so we are reading all three books together. We just read the picture book together, and my kids LOVED it. (My 9-year-old even tried to re-create Katherine Johnson from his many Lego minifigs, and drew on her glasses and everything.) This picture book format makes the story very accessible, without leaving out important information. The illustrations are beautiful, and it made all of us want to learn more about these amazing scientists. my kids were shocked at how much they had to go through as black women scientists just to get jobs, even though they were smarter than…everyone. This is an important story, and I’m so grateful that Margot Lee Shetterly has written in for everyone to learn!