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Monday, April 27, 2015

Shel Silverstein

I have been teaching an early morning poetry class at my kids' school. It's for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders, and we have been having so much fun! Each time we come to class I spotlight another poet, and Shel Silverstein is one of my favorites! I have a couple of his books, but I had no idea how many he has! I went to the library and checked out a bunch more for the class, and we have enjoyed going through all of them. I thought I'd put all the poetry that's on my brain to use on my blog, and do an author spotlight. Enjoy!

Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein Bio. (Taken from www.shelsilverstein.com):

"And now . . .a story about a very strange lion—in fact, the strangest lion I have ever met." So begins Shel Silverstein's very first children's book, Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back. It's funny and sad and has made readers laugh and think ever since it was published in 1963.
It was followed the next year by four new books. The first,The Giving Tree, is a moving story about the love of a tree for a boy. In an interview published in the Chicago Tribunein 1964, Shel talked about the difficult time he had trying to get the book published. “Everybody loved it, they were touched by it, they would read it and cry and say it was beautiful. But . . . one publisher said it was too short. . . .” Some thought it was too sad. Others felt that the book fell between adult and children's literature and wouldn't be popular. It took Shel four years before Ursula Nordstrom, the legendary Harper & Row editor, decided to publish it. She even let him keep the sad ending, Shel remembered, “because life, you know, has pretty sad endings. You don't have to laugh it up even if most of my stuff is humorous.” Shel returned to humor that same year with Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros? and A Giraffe and a Half
If you had a giraffe . . .
and he stretched another half . . .
you would have a giraffe and a half . . .
is how it starts, and the laughter builds to the most riotous ending possible.
The fourth book in 1964 was Uncle Shelby’s Zoo: Don’t Bump the Glump! and Other Fantasies, Shel’s only book illustrated in full color. Shel combined his unique imagination and bold brand of humor in this collection of silly and scary creatures. Shel’s second collection of poems and drawings, Where the Sidewalk Ends, was published in 1974. It opens with this Invitation:
If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer . . .
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!
Shel invited children to dream and dare to imagine the impossible, from a hippopotamus sandwich to the longest nose in the world to eighteen flavors of ice cream to Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who would not take the garbage out.
This was followed by The Missing Piece, published in 1976, and The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, published in 1981—two companion fables that explore the concept of fulfillment.
With his next collection of poems and drawings, A Light in the Attic, published in 1981, Shel asked his readers to put something silly in the world, not be discouraged by the Whatifs, and turn on a light in the attic.
There’s a light on in the attic.
Though the house is dark and shuttered,
I can see a flickerin’ flutter,
And I know what it’s about.
There’s a light on in the attic.
I can see it from the outside,
And I know you’re on the inside . . . lookin’ out

He urged readers to catch the moon or invite a dinosaur to dinner—to have fun! School Library Journal not surprisingly called A Light in the Attic "exuberant, raucous, rollicking, tender and whimsical." Readers everywhere agreed, and A Light in the Attic was the first children’s book to break onto the New York Times bestseller list, where it stayed for a record-breaking 182 weeks.
Yet Shel did not set out to write and draw for children. As he told Publishers Weekly in 1975, "When I was a kid . . . I would much rather have been a good baseball player or a hit with the girls. But I couldn’t play ball, I couldn’t dance . . . so I started to draw and write. I was lucky that I didn’t have anyone to copy, be impressed by. I had developed my own style."
Shel Silverstein was born in 1930. He grew up in Chicago and created his first cartoons for the adult readers of thePacific Stars and Stripes when he was a GI in Japan and Korea in the 1950s. He also learned to play the guitar and to write songs, including “A Boy Named Sue” for Johnny Cash and “The Cover of the Rolling Stone,” sung by Dr. Hook. He performed his own songs on a number of albums and wrote others for friends, including his last, in 1998, “Old Dogs,” a two-volume set with country stars Waylon Jennings, Mel Tillis, Bobby Bare, and Jerry Reed. In 1984, Silverstein won a Grammy Award for Best Children’s Album for Where the Sidewalk Ends—“Recited, sung and shouted” by the author. He was also an accomplished playwright: His credits include the 1981 hit The Lady or the Tiger and The Devil and Billy Markham. He and David Mamet each wrote a play for Lincoln Center’s production of Oh, Hell!, and they later cowrote the 1988 film Things Change. A frequent showcase for Shel’s plays, the Ensemble Studio Theatre of New York, produced The Trio in its 1998 marathon of one-act plays.
Shel Silverstein will perhaps always be best loved for his extraordinary books. Shel’s books are now published in more than 30 different languages. The last book that was published before his death in 1999 was Falling Up (1996). Like his other books, it is filled with unforgettable characters, such as Screamin’ Millie, who screamed "so loud it made her eyebrows steam." Then there are Danny O’Dare the dancin’ bear, the Human Balloon, Headphone Harold, and a host of others. Shel was always a believer in letting his work do the talking for him. So come—wander through the nose garden, ride the little hoarse, and let the magic of Shel Silverstein open your eyes, tickle your mind, and show you a new world. NEW WORLD
Upside-down trees swingin’ free,
Busses float and buildings dangle:
Now and then it’s nice to see
The world — from a different angle.

Shel Silverstein’s legacy continued with the release of a new work, Runny Babbit. Shel’s first posthumous publication, conceived and completed before his death, was released in March 2005. Witty and wondrous, Runny Babbit is a poetry collection of spoonerisms, which twist the tongue and tease the mind!
Way down in the green woods
Where the animals all play,
They do things and they say things
In a different sort of way –
Instead of sayin’ “purple hat,”
They all say “hurple pat.”
Instead of sayin’ “feed the cat,”
They just say “ceed the fat.”
So if you say, “Let’s bead a rook
That’s billy as can se,”
You’re talkin’ Runny Babbit talk,
Just like mim and he.

Then a new collection of Shel Silverstein’s poetry, Every Thing On It, was published in 2011, comprised of 140 never-before-seen poems and drawings that Shel had completed before his death. Say Hi-ho for the toilet troll, get tongue-tied with Stick-a-Tongue-Out Sid, play a highly unusual horn, and experience the joys of growing down! This book is filled with Shel Silverstein’s blend of humor and poignancy that bends the brain and opens the heart.
These boots are a little too big.
It’s a fact I am forced to admit.
I am clumsy and slow,
But in ten years or so
If my feet only grow,
They’ll fit.

Shel Silverstein’s incomparable legacy is apparent in each one of his books and continues with every reader he inspires.


When I am gone what will you do?
Who will write and draw for you?
Someone smarter—someone new?
Someone better—maybe YOU!

Thank you Shel Silverstein for
hours of entertainment and for teaching
kids that poetry can be fun!!!

        Pictures and text taken from: www.shelsilverstein.com
Visit this site for more info.!

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Heart Revealed

A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack


Amber Marie Sterlington, the Rage of the Season in Regency-era London, has her pick of men, and she knows what she wants most in a husband: a title and a fortune. Why would she ever marry for something as fickle as love? And why would she ever look twice at Thomas Richards, a third son of a country lord?

But when Amber's social standing is threatened, the character of her future husband becomes far more important than his position. After a public humiliation, she finds herself exiled to Yorkshire. Alone except for her maid, Amber is faced with a future she never expected in a circumstance far below what she has known all her life. Humbled and lonely, Amber begins to wonder if isolation is for the best. Who could ever love her now?

My Review:

I have only read one of Josi Kilpack's other books, and that was Lemon Tart. It was one of her Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mystery Series, and I liked it. It was entertaining and I enjoyed the recipes in it. When I was asked to review this new book I was excited, especially since it is a different genre for her. I have read a few of the proper romances and have enjoyed them, so I couldn't wait to read this one. I was hooked from the start. It is very Jane Austin-esque with the setting in England and the season of balls, debutantes, and beautiful gowns. I enjoy reading about this time period, so I got all giddy when I realized that's what it was. Miss Amber Sterlington is "the rage of the season." She is the one who turns the men's heads and is never in want of company or a dance partner. She is beautiful with long dark hair and bright eyes. She has a distinctive voice and is confident in herself. Unfortunately, she is arrogant, mean, uncaring, and unlikable. I didn't like her at the beginning of the book. At all. She was rude to her servants and her sister, and she only cared about herself. She looked past many eligible men because of her station, and if they didn't fit her desire she would not give them the time of day. Then the unthinkable happens. This "unthinkable" thing was different than what I expected. I thought it was kind of corny at first, but then I saw where it could take the story and I realized that it does happen to people; it is a real thing. It may not be very common, but it actually fits here. The story is written well. It flows well, is easy to read and understand, and the character development is very good. I especially liked Suzanne, Mr. Richards, Fenton, and Darra. The growth that occurs in Amber, Darra, and Suzanne is fun to watch. Lady and Lord Merchant were characters that I did not like. I couldn't believe how they treated Amber. I couldn't imagine treating my children like that-ever! I enjoyed the lessons taught in this book. Unconditional love, treating others with respect and kindness regardless of their station, loyalty, friendship, and hard work were only a few.    

The story was somewhat predictable; I had the who figured out right away, it was just the how that I wasn't sure about. It was cheesy and sappy, but that is what makes a romance a romance right? I also felt that there was a lot of time spent on getting to the ending, and then the ending was super fast. I wouldn't have minded a few less pages to get there and a few more pages to slow the ending down a bit. I think the decision made at the end was made quickly, and before much was known (I'm trying to say it so it doesn't give it away....), but that's also part of a romance, so it was ok here. I loved that it was clean. It is definitely a proper romance. There is some kissing. There is a slight allusion to symptoms that might be the result of an STD. There is not a name associated with it, and it never actually says it. A younger reader would probably not even pick up on it. It's so brief that I almost passed right over it. It's not a reason to bypass this book. Other than that it is squeaky clean, which is great. There is no profanity or violence. If you enjoy the proper romance genre the you will definitely like this one.

Rating: PG (Some kissing and a brief allusion to symptoms that might be the result of an STD--by the way, it's not an STD and the symptoms are not associated with that. It has nothing to do with that. It was simply speculation by another character that was briefly mentioned. I feel like I'm making it more than it was. It really was so vague and brief. I debated whether or not to even mention it, but I thought I better just in case. There is no "intimacy," profanity, or violence.)

Recommendation: 13-14 and up. It is YA approved, and it's great for adults too. 

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Impossible Race (Cragbridge Hall Book Three)

The Impossible Race (Cragbridge Hall Book #3) by Chad Morris


"In the final book of the Cragbridge Hall trilogy, Abby, Derick, and their friends must utilize their skills in time travel and technology to survive roving bands of dinosaurs, race through space, build robots, and fight virtual dragons. It's known as the Race--an annual tournament where teams of students compete in the hopes of winning an unbelievable prize. But before their year's competition, Derick and Abby receive a terrifying message from the future: Charles Muns's plan to control history is going to succeed. It will cost countless people their lives and change the destiny of the world. And there is nothing anyone can do to stop him. Despite the danger, the twins gather their friends and enter the Race, ready to compete against the best of the best in order to claim what might turn out to be a key of ultimate power. Can they complete the Race in time and stop Muns? Or has the future already been written?"

My Review:

I love this series! My boys and I have been counting down to book three since we finished book two. May I say that it did NOT disappoint!! Wow. This book is action-packed from the beginning. Not only does it continue with the history and excitement of the first two books, but it adds more! Think space, robots, and the future. Seriously, could it get any better? Well, now think spies, betrayal, dinosaurs, dragons, mythology, deadlines, and even more secrets. Abby, Derick, Carol, and Rafa are there, and this book adds many more fun characters. I love how Abby never gives up. Her attitude is so great. She is such a great, strong female character. You see a little bit of a more vulnerable side of Derick, and Carol is still as hilarious as ever. There isn't as much history in this book as there was in the previous two, but there is still some, and there are other twists and turns that make up for it. I love how this series makes being smart and trying hard in school a good thing. I love how it shows that doing your best in school translates to success in other areas in your life as well. I love the lesson of never giving up and thinking through problems, and I also love the lesson that the future may not be set--work harder and/or smarter, try something different, think of things in new ways, and your future is in your hands. You have the power to do whatever you want to do in life. There are some fantastic new inventions in this book that I really wish I had. Someone needs to invent them for real! And did I mention the illustrations and cover art? Brandon Dorman has definitely outdone himself this time. This book is the perfect way to end this series (Does it have to end??). Everything does get tied up nicely, but it's a middle-grader series, and that's of course how I wanted it. I can't wait for my boys to read it, they are going to love it!

Another great thing about this book is that it is clean! Yay! There is no profanity and no "intimacy." There is a little bit of violence when they are fighting robots, and Muns is still evil, but it's not too bad.

Rating: PG (No profanity or "intimacy." There is some minor violence when they're fighting robots, and Muns is still his evil self.)

Recommendation: Third Grade and up (Boys and girls will enjoy this book, and it would make a fabulous read-aloud.)

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.