Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Emilie & the Hollow World

I found Emilie & the Hollow World in the YA section of my local public library but, except for two or three "bad words," I think it would be a better fit in the Children's Section. Emilie and the other human characters aren't quite old enough for romance, although there's a hint that might happen in the future. Perhaps there will be sequels that are a better fit for Young Adults.

Regardless of the intended age group, it's a good book.

I love that it's based on a unique Sci-Fi concept.

Instead of going to outer space or another typical fantasy world, Emilie, who is fleeing from an unpleasant family situation, finds herself on a ship that takes her to the center of the planet Earth.

I did wonder why the force of gravity wasn't different there but, otherwise, that amazing world seemed realistic.

Emily encounters all kinds of dangers and meets people and a variety of creatures that don't exist on the surface of our planet. She and the other characters, human or not, seem alive and real and we care what happens to them.  The plot is exciting, but I don't want to give it away so I won't tell any details.

The ending is satisfying, but I hope Marsha Wells  goes on to write more books about Emilie because I've come to care about that character.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Lumpy Duckling

I've always cared about helping people who are different, especially kids, to be accepted by others. That's why I was eager to read The Lumpy Duckling by Kai Strand, and I'm glad I did.

The title of this book is a reminder of the classic tale, The Ugly Duckling, but it's not about ducks. It's about a girl known as Wheezy (short for Eloise) and a boy who is fat and - well - lumpy. In fact Lumpy is what he's called.

But Lumpy is Wheezy's best friend and she hates the way the other kids treat him.

Then Wheezy is given a chance to make a magic wish. She wishes the others would see Lumpy the way she sees him.

But, like most magic wishes, this one doesn't turn out the way she expected.

I don't want to give away the plot, but I will say the story involves a horrible accident and Wheezy missing Lumpy - a lot. 

Kids will certainly enjoy reading The Lumpy Duckling. The characters seem alive, the magic is believable, and the book does have a happy ending.

They'll also learn that physical appearance is not what's important about people.

This book by Kai Strand is one in The Weaver Tales series and the author is certainly an excellent story weaver.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Political Rant

Shame on me for posting something on my blog that's off topic. I usually only write about words, books, and kids. Well, maybe this could be considered about words.

I'm talking about the trickle down theory of economics. A while back some politicians said if the top people in society had plenty of money some of that would trickle down to help all the others. Perhaps that's true to some extent. After all, income taxes do help pay for welfare.

Here's a scientific experiment to try out the trickle-down concept.

When you take a shower, use plenty of shampoo and soap on your head, neck, and top of your shoulders, but don't touch the rest of your body at all.

Now do that every time you shower for a year. Then do it for four years. Remember, no tub baths and no exceptions.

Well, perhaps once a year on Christmas or whatever similar holiday you observe you could use the washcloth on your feet and between your legs, but that's all. After all, some rich people do make charitable donations once in a while.

Now, what do you think will be the over all health of your body at the end of the four years?

If anyone actually dares to try this, I'd love to hear how it turns out.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why I Read

Why do I read so much?

I'm a bookaholic with no intention of getting into recovery.

I learned to read well at an early age and discovered books could take me away from my troubles. My father had died, we were poor, I had severe, chronic asthma and got teased and bullied in school. Books took me away from all that.

They also opened up new worlds to me. I learned a lot about another culture and another time in history from the Heidi series and The Little House in the Big Woods. Those were some of the first "big kid books" I owned.

And that made me aware that I could explore the world and learn a lot by reading fiction and non-fiction.

Books have helped me understand other people and both the fiction and non-fiction ones I've read have enriched my life in more ways than I can explain.

Years ago I wrote this poem which tells why I love to read. (Feel free to share it as long as you give me credit.)

The Library


Janet Ann Collins

In the library I look and look

Until I choose one special book.

I open the book and there I see

A world of wonders waiting for me.

I read the book and then I find

All of those wonders are now in my mind.      

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fiction Timing

I recently read a book from one of the children's series that was published long ago. The kids went off for adventures without any adults, and their parents were fine with that. Most of the books written for kids in past decades had the protagonists experience all sorts of things without any grown-ups around.

When I was a kid it was normal for us to go out and play for hours without adult supervision, and sometimes we'd even go for hikes or otherwise leave our own neighborhood, though we had to get permission from our parents.

That probably couldn't happen today. And even if modern kids should be on their own because of an emergency all they'd need to do is pull out their cell phones and help would arrive.

It's becoming more difficult for authors to come up with exciting plots for contemporary stories.  Of course there are situations like child abuse, but those topics aren't usually appropriate to show in books for children in the middle grade age group.

That's one reason why lots of historical fiction, Sci-Fi and fantasy books are getting published.

Of course there are a few exceptions, but the authors of those books had to come up with extremely creative ways to get their characters in trouble. 

Have you read any good books for kids lately?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Family Reunions

Last weekend we had a family reunion at my house. Only 20 people were able to attend, but it was great to see so many relatives. They came from all over California, some traveling  for hours, but those who live farther away or had to work couldn't make it.

Some of us have known each other all our lives while others have joined the family more recently. The youngest relative who attended is two-and-a -half years old while the oldest was in the late 70s.

If I were to list all our relationships this post would take all day to read. Our extended family consists of siblings, parents, grandparents and their offspring, cousins, second cousins, second cousins' cousins,  cousins once or twice removed, cousins-in-law, etc., etc., etc.

Long ago my husband gave up trying to figure out all those terms and just called everyone step-neighbors-in-law.

And our complete extended family, or "clan," as we call ourselves, includes people of multiple races, religions, and nationalities. But we're all family. And it was wonderful to have so many of us together.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Phones, Then and Npw

Long ago Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone because he was trying to find a way for his deaf wife to communicate. When telephones became available for the public they were fastened to the wall. Lots of Victorian houses and flats have what was called a telephone bench in the hallway so people could sit there and chat. Hallways were the best place for telephones because they were in the center of the home and the bell could be heard from every room.

When I was a little kid we lived in urban areas and had dial phones, The phone  numbers had a word  indicating two letters to be dialed, followed by five numerals. Everyone 'knew' it was impossible for most people to remember more than five numbers at a time.

Then,for a while we lived in a small town and had an older phone network. We'd pick up the receiver, a voice would say, "operator," and we'd tell her the number we wished to call. In that community the word was followed by only four numerals.

Today we remember all sorts of long numbers and phone numbers include area codes, etc. so they're usually about 8 numerals long and we remember lots of phone numbers. But if we forget, automatic dialing of numbers we've saved solves that problem.

And, today,  e-phones that allow texting and video apps that can show someone using Sign Language make it easy for Deaf people to communicate. Alexander Graham Bell did succeed, but not at all as he imagined.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Walls Within Walls

This book is mysterious and exciting. The plot is about kids following clues to figure out a puzzle and experiencing some strange things in the process.

Walls Within Walls begins when a some kids, whose parents have recently become wealthy, move to an impressive apartment in an upper-class section of New York City. The parents are pleased, but the kids are not happy about leaving their friends, having a nanny because their parents are seldom home, and expecting to enter snobbish private schools in the Fall.

Then Brid, Patrick and CJ find out the original owner of the building had turned their new home into a giant puzzle with all sorts of hidden clues. If the puzzle can be solved, a treasure may be found, but the kids aren't the only ones trying to figure it out.

Readers may be able to guess the answers to some of the puzzles, but that isn't easy to do. In the meantime, they'll come to care about the characters, have some thrills, and learn some interesting things about the history of New York City.

Maureen Sherry has written a book that's fun and exciting and I'm sure lots of kids will enjoy reading it.