To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party by Skila Brown

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This is a riveting account of the westward trek of 19th century pioneers told from the perspective of 19 year old Mary Ann Graves, one of the Donner Party survivors.  Written in verse, this is a story of the young woman and her family as they make the treacherous journey west in 1846. Working together or not, decisions good and bad all influence the outcome of this fantastic adventure and the fates of many brave families.  By focusing on one member of the Donner party, the author makes one of the most mysterious episodes in American history come to life.

Mary’s family later joined up with a wagon train led by George Donner. Together they continued heading towards California, certain the trip would only take a few more months by taking a short cut. If they had known of the dangers and the cost to their families that lay on the road ahead after they became lost for 32 days, they would all have stayed in Illinois…

Mary’s account of the horrors of their trip, which included death, starvation, freezing cold and mountainous terrain, will transfix readers. One hundred and seventy years later, all that they faced are brought to life in poetic verse.

The writing was as beautiful as it was dark.  The research that went into this is was impressive, and the intimacy and intensity of the verse is absolutely captivating. As you near the inevitable pages that have become fabled in history, you will sense the desperation of the men and women on this journey. It’s an unflinching story of death and survival.

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

“SOME PIG,” Charlotte the spider’s praise for Wilbur, is just one fondly remembered snippet from E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. In Some Writer!, the two-time Caldecott Honor winner Melissa Sweet mixes White’s personal letters, photos, and family ephemera with her own exquisite artwork to tell his story, from his birth in 1899 to his death in 1985. Budding young writers will be fascinated and inspired by the journalist, New Yorker contributor, and children’s book author who loved words his whole life. This authorized tribute is the first fully illustrated biography of E. B. White and includes an afterword by Martha White, E. B. White’s granddaughter.

Some Writer! is one of the best biographies, for kids, that I have ever read!  Seriously! E. B. White is one of my most favorite authors.  If you don’t know the name, he is the author of the iconic Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, among many others.

The mixed media approach calls for the reader to slow down to observe all the details and sweet emphasizes, that E. B. White did himself. It’s filled with maps and collages that connect to the stories/chapters included of his life. There are thirteen chapters, among them, White’s beginnings and his work for The New Yorker magazine, his three books, and his collaboration on a new edition of The Elements of Style. His love of solitude and being in nature is evident in nearly every chapter. A beginning page, for children’s use especially, is a full-page picture of a manual typewriter, and an explanation of how it works. There are pages of actual pictures of White’s manuscripts, some hand-written, some typed; and a page about boat building, which is a surprising thread throughout the book. He was given a canoe by his father when he was young, and when the family spent summers in Maine. And, among others owned, late in life his son built him another one. (His son became a boat builder!) He spent much time canoeing and sailing on the water, observing, thinking about life.

The whole thing is a masterpiece. It’s so lovingly and expertly written and illustrated – capturing White’s essence perfectly.  For any literary lovers, this is a must for your personal library!  I cannot wait to read a few more books from E.B. White such as a book full of letters.  A beautiful, exceptionally written book that is a gift to us all!

Jackaby (Jackaby #1) by William Ritter

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion–and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.

Abigail Rook has just arrived in New Fiddleham, New England in 1892.  She ran away from home in search of an adventure, one that her father would never take her on but leave her at home to ponder what adventures he would be embarking on.

The day Abigail arrived, she meets R.F. Jackaby who is an investigator for the ‘unexplained’ and has a key eye for the extraordinary happenings….including the ability to see supernatural beings.  Although Abigail only has the gift for noticing ordinary but important details, Jackaby hires her as his assistant and she could not be more excited!

The first day on the job brings the duo amidst a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

This book has won the Newberry award for Young Adult.  The story was interesting enough to make me want to continue on with the series.  Although just having watched “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” I kept having the inkling that Jackaby might possibly be a relative to Newt!

 

 

The League of Beastly Dreadfuls (The League of Beastly Dreadfuls #1) by Holly Grant

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

A creepy Victorian house, secretive aunties, and a great escape combine in this debut that is part Mysterious Benedict Society, part Roald Dahl. Join the League. . . 

We meet Anastasia a average almost 11 year old who’s parents die in a freak vacuum accident and her great aunties come to take her to their home in St Agonys insane asylum. between a creature in the woods, attacking poodles, a biting gardener and being locked in her room at night Anastasia`s life is turned upside down but all is what it seems and Anastasia is about to learn how horrible the world can be.

The pacing both in action and humor is perfect, and the narrator not too clever for its own good. Full of adventure and excitement, The League of Beastly Dreadfuls is a fast-paced and highly entertaining read. The story mixes the perfect amount of dark and quirky with comic relief and enjoyable characters. The writing flows wonderfully and pulls the reader in expertly, making this an excellent choice for reluctant readers.  something strange is going on at the asylum. Anastasia soon begins to suspect that her aunties are not who they say they are……

This Side of Wild: Mutts, Mares, and Laughing Dinosaurs by Gary Paulsen

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you do not know who Gary Paulsen is….then we can’t be friends….I supposed we COULD, but you must read his books!  Gary Paulsen is the Newbery Honor–winning author of Hatchet and Dogsong . In this book he shares surprising true stories about his relationship with animals, highlighting their compassion, intellect, intuition, and sense of adventure.

Gary Paulsen is an adventurer who competed in two Iditarods, survived the Minnesota wilderness, and climbed the Bighorns. None of this would have been possible without his truest companion: his animals. Sled dogs rescued him in Alaska, a sickened poodle guarded his well-being, and a horse led him across a desert. Through his interactions with dogs, horses, birds, and more, Gary has been struck with the belief that animals know more than we may fathom.

His understanding and admiration of animals is well known, and in This Side of Wild, which has taken a lifetime to write, he proves the ways in which they have taught him to be a better person.

I found this book in Juvenile non-fiction section at the library and due to that fact, the book to me was too short!  I want to hear more of his stories other than those I have already read!  I highly suggest you read about the very interesting life of Gary Paulsen!  You will wonder where and when did he have time to write over 200 books?  A fantastic author and person to read about!

The Best Man by Richard Peck

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Richard Peck, a Newbery Medalist, has written us readers a novel about gay marriage from a kid’s point of view!

Archer is a 6th grader who has a great life full of friends, family and wonderful teachers.  He soon finds out that his uncle Paul is about to marry another man.  The man he is going to marrying just happens to be Archer’s favorite student teacher.  Not only that, but Archer is to be the ring bearer!

The big talking point of the book will be that Archer realizes that his favorite uncle is gay, but this really wasn’t main point of the story. Yes, the uncle gets married to a man, but this was addressed in such a supportive and accepting way that it was never an “issue”. It’s just a part of life, no big deal to him.

This is a great book that emphasize the importance of family, no matter what the circumstance thrown their way.  A controversial topic handled with honesty, humor, and insight.   Richard Peck is an excellent story teller, the mundane and everyday ordinary lives of his characters are so real and well written!

The Night Parade by Ronald Malfi

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

First the birds disappeared.
Then the insects took over.
Then the madness began . . .

There is a new plague threatening to wipe out the human race…they call it “Wanderer’s Folly”.  It’s a disease of hallucinations, day dreams and nightmares.

Father and daughter, David and Ellie Arlen are on the run right from the start of the book.  Which is followed  by flashbacks revealing the events that lead to David running. The story continues like this, back and forth. David thinks he is protecting Ellie but she is a special girl, deep, insightful and she knows that he is lying to her.  She knows that her father is lying to her about her mother and exactly what they are running from.  Ellie is special….Ellie may be able to save the human race.

This book had me hooked from the beginning, it was eerie and full of surprises.  I have previously read his book “Little Girls”, which was fantastic as well!  The Night Parade could be a thriller or a horror novel, it was both and more!  I cannot wait to dig into some more books by Ronald Malfi, his writing is easy to follow as well as the story lines.  Check him out and all the books including this one that he has written!