Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May Reflections

Favorite picture book published in 2017:
No More Bows. Samantha Cotterill. 2017. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite new-to-me picture book published whenever:
Mama Cat Has Three Kittens. Denise Fleming. 1998. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite reread (picture book): Leo the Late Bloomer. Robert Kraus. Illustrated by Jose Aruego. 1971/1994. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite reread (not picture book):  Beauty. Robin McKinley. 1978/1993. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite to read aloud (picture book):
A Friend for Minerva Louise. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1997. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite early chapter book:
8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos. Vivian Vande Velde. Illustrated by Steve Bjorkman. 2011. Holiday House. 68 pages. [Source: Library]
Favorite nonfiction: Elephants Can Paint Too. Katya Arnold. 2005. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

Board books and picture books:

  1. Mama Cat Has Three Kittens. Denise Fleming. 1998. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Stack the Cats. Susie Ghahremani. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. I Don't Know What To Call My Cat. Simon Philip. Illustrated by Ella Bailey. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. The Cat Book. Silvia Borando. 2017. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. We're All Wonders. R.J. Palacio. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. The Queen's Handbag. Steve Antony. 2017. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  7. Harry by the Sea. Gene Zion. Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham. 1976. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. Say Hello to Zorro! Carter Goodrich. 2011. Simon & Schuster. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. Pig the Pug. Aaron Blabey. 2014. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
  10. No More Bows. Samantha Cotterill. 2017. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. Dog Book. Lorenzo Clerici. 2017. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  12. Little Miss, Big Sis. Amy Krouse Rosenthal. 2015. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  13. Big Sister, Little Sister. LeUyen Pham. 2005. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  14. Leo the Late Bloomer. Robert Kraus. Illustrated by Jose Aruego. 1971/1994. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  15. Corduroy. Don Freeman. 1948/1968. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  16. Pocket for Corduroy. Don Freeman. 1978. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  17. Minerva Louise. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1988. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
  18. A Hat for Minerva Louise. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1994. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
  19. Minerva Louise at School. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1996. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
  20. A Friend for Minerva Louise. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1997. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  21. Minerva Louise at the Fair. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2000. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
  22. Minerva Louise and the Red Truck. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2002. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  23. Minerva Louise and the Colorful Eggs. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2006. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
  24. Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2007. 24 pages. [Source: Library] 
  25. Rolling Thunder. Kate Messner. Illustrated by Greg Ruth. 2017. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Early readers and early chapter books:
  1. 8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos. Vivian Vande Velde. Illustrated by Steve Bjorkman. 2011. Holiday House. 68 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Squirrel in the House. Vivian Vande Velde. Illustrated by Steve Bjorkman. 2016. Holiday House. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. My Pet Human. Yasmine Surovec. 2015. 112 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. My Pet Human Takes Center Stage. Yasmine Surovec. 2017. Roaring Brook Press. 112 pages. [Source: Library]
Contemporary (general/realistic) fiction, all ages: 0

Speculative Fiction (fantasy, science fiction, etc) all ages: 
  1. Beauty. Robin McKinley. 1978/1993. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. The Horse and His Boy. (Chronicles of Narnia #5) C.S. Lewis. 1954. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. The Last Battle. C.S. Lewis. 1956. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. 8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos. Vivian Vande Velde. Illustrated by Steve Bjorkman. 2011. Holiday House. 68 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Squirrel in the House. Vivian Vande Velde. Illustrated by Steve Bjorkman. 2016. Holiday House. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. My Pet Human. Yasmine Surovec. 2015. 112 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. My Pet Human Takes Center Stage. Yasmine Surovec. 2017. Roaring Brook Press. 112 pages. [Source: Library]
Historical fiction, all ages: 0
  1. Trusting Grace. Maggie Brendan. 2017. Revell. 326 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Mysteries, all ages: 0
Classics, all ages:
  1. Oliver Twist. Charles Dickens. 1838/1839. 608 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. Doctor Thorne. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 639 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. The Horse and His Boy. (Chronicles of Narnia #5) C.S. Lewis. 1954. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. The Last Battle. C.S. Lewis. 1956. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
Nonfiction, all ages:
  1. With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School. Suzanne Slade. 2014. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Elephant Twins. Richard Sobol. 2014. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Elephants Can Paint Too. Katya Arnold. 2005. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

Christian fiction:
  1. Trusting Grace. Maggie Brendan. 2017. Revell. 326 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. The Horse and His Boy. (Chronicles of Narnia #5) C.S. Lewis. 1954. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. The Last Battle. C.S. Lewis. 1956. 224 pages. [Source: Library] 
  4. And It Was Good. Madeleine L'Engle. 1983/2017. Convergent Books. 213 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Stone for a Pillow. Madeleine L'Engle. 1986/2017. Convergent Books. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Sold Into Egypt: Journeys Into Human Being. Madeleine L'Engle. 1989/2017. Convergent Books. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Christian nonfiction: 
  1. The Story of Reality. Gregory Koukl. 2017. Zondervan. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. Give Them Truth: Teaching Eternal Truths to Young Minds. Starr Meade. 2015. P&R Publishing. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  3. Hope: The Best of Things. Joni Eareckson Tada. 2008. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. The Imperfect Disciple. Jared C. Wilson. 2017. Baker Books. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Chasing Contentment. Erik Raymond. 2017. Crossway. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God. Mark Jones. 2017. Crossway. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Taking My Life Back. Rebekah Gregory and Anthony Flacco. 2017. Revell. 272 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. The Reformation: What You Need to Know and Why. Michael Reeves and John Stott. 2017. Hendrickson. 100 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  9. The Good Book: 40 Chapters That Reveal the Bible's Biggest Ideas. Deron Spoo. 2017. David Cook. 397 pages.
  10. God's Story in 66 Verses. Stan Guthrie. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]
  11. The Whole Message of the Bible in 16 Words. Chris Bruno. 2017. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Elephants Can Paint Too

Elephants Can Paint Too. Katya Arnold. 2005. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I teach in two schools. One is in the city. The other is in the jungle. Some of my students have hands. Others have trunks. Some students eat grass. Others eat peanut butter and jelly. But they all love cookies.

Premise/plot: Elephants Can Paint Too is a WONDERFUL nonfiction picture book. There is a simple, straightforward text that would be more than suitable for sharing with the youngest of readers. Yet, there's additional text that is just PACKED with fascinating details. I haven't yet decided how to perfectly blend the two when reading aloud. The facts can disrupt the narrative flow, something you probably don't want to do when reading to the youngest listeners, but yet the facts are truly something.

For example,
The elephant's truck is both a hand a nose. Not only can a trunk pick things up, it can smell, snore, trumpet, purr, drink, and spray. Elephants also use their trunks to communicate in a kind of sign language. A young elephant sucks its trunk the way babies suck their thumbs.
Elephants have 150,000 muscles in their trunks. (Our entire body has only 639 muscles.) Some elephants hold the brush by wrapping their trunks around it. Others hold it inside their trunks. If an elephant throws the brush away or eats it, he probably won't become an artist.
My thoughts: I love, love, love, LOVE this one. It's filled with I-didn't-know-that facts. It's engaging and compelling--both text and photographs do a GREAT job telling a compelling story. (I love the photograph of the elephant eating a cookie!!!) I love the comparing and contrasting. It's just a delightful book from start to finish.

Text: 5 out of 5
Photographs: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10



© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Elephant Twins

Elephant Twins. Richard Sobol. 2014. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Have you ever seen a baby elephant? In the village of Ban Ta Klang, Thailand, you can see two! There, elephants live in people's backyards and homes, and walk around the town freely. The people care for their elephants as if they are part of the family.

Premise/plot: Sobol tells the story of Gold Light (Thong-Tang) and Gold Ray (Thong-Kum), elephant twins born to Double Gold (Thong-Kun). He describes what life is like for elephants and villagers alike.

My thoughts: I love elephants. I do. I always wanted a pet elephant. This is the second elephant book by Sobol that I've read. And his two books have only made me love elephants all the more. Definitely recommended if you're looking for nonfiction books to read with children.

Text: 4 out of 5
Photographs: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder. Kate Messner. Illustrated by Greg Ruth. 2017. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Rolling Thunder, freedom ride, today we'll be at Grandpa's side. Early morning, leaving home, gleaming wheels and polished chrome. Grandpa rides for Joe and Tom, friends he lost in Vietnam. Clicking clacking railroad track, our trip is for Uncle Zach, flying airplanes far away. His picture rides with me today.

Premise/plot: A child and his grandfather participate in the Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom on Memorial Day in Washington, D.C. It's written in verse, and is rich in descriptive language.

For example, Memories. Speeches. Quiet crowd. Bugle song, and heads are bowed.

My thoughts: I liked it. I think it fills a definite need. There aren't that many picture books I can recollect that explain--in vivid ways--the importance of honoring and remembering veterans. It may be a picture book for older readers as well. I had not heard of Rolling Thunder before reading this picture book, so it's always nice--in my opinion--to learn something new while reading.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Call the Midwife, series 6

Call the Midwife, Season Six
Christmas Special + 8 episodes

Sister Julienne = Jenny Agutter
Sister Monica Joan = Judy Parfitt
Sister Winifred = Victoria Yeates
Trixie Franklin = Helen George
Nurse Patsy Mount = Emerald Fennell
Nurse Barbara Gilbert = Charlotte Ritchie
Nurse Phyllis Crane = Linda Bassett
Nurse Delia Busby = Kate Lamb
Nurse Valerie Dyer = Jennifer Kirby
Dr. Patrick Turner = Stephen McGann
Shelagh Turner = Laura Main
Timothy Turner = Max Macmillan
Angela Turner = Alice Brown
Tom Hereward = Jack Ashton
Cynthia Miller = Bryony Hannah
Fred Buckle = Cliff Parisi
Violet Buckle = Annabelle Apsion
PC Peter Noakes = Ben Caplan
Mr. Kenley = Gerrard McArthur

I can't seem to find evidence that I blogged about season five of Call the Midwife. Perhaps I was too sad? Perhaps I was afraid of including spoilers? Perhaps I was busy? Regardless, I was READY for another season of the show.

I loved, loved, LOVED the Christmas special. Some of the midwives head to a mission hospital in South Africa--including Tom and Barbara, and Shelagh and Patrick. I really, really, really, LOVE Barbara. And am so pleased that the 'season' begins with this couple taking the next step!

Episode 1: Introduces the new sister in charge--Sister Ursula. She'll play the boo, hiss villain for the first few episodes of the show. The highlight for me was probably Shelagh's BIG news. I love, love, love, LOVE how she tells Patrick! I don't know that I've ever seen anything so sweet and adorable. This episode gives indication that Patsy and Sister Mary Cynthia won't be around much for season 6.

Episode 2: This episode has some action--an explosion actually. It introduces a new nurse, Valerie, though she won't join the Nonnatus House for quite a while! Patsy decides to go to Hong Kong to spend time with her dying father.

Episode 3: This is such an EMOTIONAL, EMOTIONAL episode. The powers that be are arguing that places like the maternity home are not needed and should be closed down because they're not efficient enough. But the Turners won't surrender without a FIGHT. The episode ends with DRAMA for the couple. And the maternity case in this episode--so, so, so, so difficult to watch. I had WORDS with the TV. Especially for Sister Ursula (boo, hiss) and Phyllis Crane (hurrah!)

Episode 4: Another emotional episode, but, not as much as the last one. This episode is all about adoption...and poverty...and the extremes we sometimes wrestle with.

Episode 5: So much happens in this episode!!! It introduces Reggie, Fred's cousin. He has Down's syndrome, and, he comes to stay with Fred and Violet after his mother dies. They come to love, love, love him as their very own. Ultimately they must decide what is best for him in the long term... I just have to say that Monica Joan in this episode is the BEST. She almost always has the best lines anyway, but, it's her wearing her emotions on her sleeve that keep me always on her side. The place Fred and Sister Monica Joan visit in this episode....there are no words. And the reveal that this is where Sister Mary Cynthia has been kept...is just heartbreaking. As if this wasn't enough, the maternity case in this one is almost unimaginable. Imagine having ALL your teeth pulled and while recovering in the dentist chair, you go into LABOR. Good thing the dentist is cute, right, Trixie?!?!

Episode 6: Cuban missile crisis episode. Valerie has now become a major part of the show. And this maternity case is HERS. And it is troubling.

Episode 7: Revisits Rhoda, Bernie, and BABY SUSAN. The maternity case in this one is Phyllis' and it's very EMOTIONAL. (In other words, if you hear a new mother tell her older children BE SURE NOT TO PLAY IN THE STREET BECAUSE I DON'T WANT YOU GETTING RUN OVER...take it as foreshadowing.) Trixie and the dentist are doing the two-step. In some ways, their relationship is progressing forward, but, in other ways, not so much. Both need to come clean about their pasts....and decide if they're serious.

Episode 8: I think this episode covers every emotion under the sun. On the giddy-making side, Shelagh and Patrick welcome a new baby into their family. And remember how I said it was PRECIOUS how Shelagh told him the news?! Well, it's just as precious how cute the couple are together while she's in labor. At first, she's so STUBBORNLY insistent that he will not be in the same room. And then when Sister Julienne encourages her to sing--she sings SECRET LOVE (think Doris Day) and he joins in singing outside the door. This song SO CAPTURES their relationship. And WOW what a great couple they are!!!! Still on the giddy-making side, we see BARBARA and Tom get married. And his SURPRISE at the wedding reception has to be one of the most magical, most romantic surprise ever.... But it's not without its drama either. Trixie is tested a bit in this one. And she shines like only she can.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Queen's Handbag

The Queen's Handbag. Steve Antony. 2017. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The Queen was ready for her tour of Great Britain when...swoosh! A sneaky swan swooped off with her handbag! The swan was fast, but so was the Queen. She drove after it to...Windsor Castle. Then she rode after it to...

Premise/plot: The Queen is about to set off on a great adventure. Her adventure may not be the intentional tour of Great Britain she had scheduled, but, her wild-swan-chase takes her all over the UK. Readers catch a glimpse--in passing--of Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, the White Cliffs of Dover, Oxford, Snowdonia, the Giant's Causeway, Angel of the North, Edinburgh Castle, and the London Marathon. A note at the back of the book gives a bit more information about each.
Snowdonia is a national park in north Wales. It has the biggest mountain in the United Kingdom. Many rare animals live in the park, including feral goats, rainbow leaf beetles, and red kites.
My thoughts: Is The Queen's Handbag really for children? Maybe, maybe not. I know plenty of adults who will get a thrill out of watching the Queen chase after her handbag. It's just amusing to see the Queen pilot a plane, ride a motorcycle, run along the top of a train, etc. It's just as amusing to see anyone and everyone chase after the Queen. Some of the pages have a Where's Waldo feel to them. It takes a little work to spot the Queen among the crowd. For example, when the Queen 'accidentally' participates in the London marathon. The book is of interest to anyone of any age who loves all things British. The illustrations definitely are worth paying attention to. Like the end when a policeman is scolding the swan!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10



© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Share-a-Tea May Check-In

  • What are you currently reading for the challenge? 
  • Have you finished any books for this challenge this month?
  • Is there a book you're looking forward to starting next month?
  • Want to share any favorite quotes? It could be from your current read. It could be about reading. It could be about drinking tea. 
  • What teas have you enjoyed this month? 
  • Do you have a new favorite tea?
Currently reading for the challenge:
  • KJV Reformation Study Bible
  • Living Bible
  • Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
Have you finished any books for this challenge this month?
Books I've finished but not posted reviews yet:

  • Prisoner's Base by Rex Stout
  • Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat 
  • Basic Christianity by John Stott
  • Champagne for One by Rex Stout
Is there a book you're looking forward to starting next month?
I imagine I'll keep on with the classics and the Bible. It seems to be working for me!

Favorite quotes:
  • Look with kindness and you will always find wonder. ~ R. J. Palacio
  • Christ is the center of Christianity; all else is circumference. John Stott 
  • It is more natural to us to talk than to listen, to argue than to submit. John Stott
  • How is one to have an opinion if one does not get it by looking at the things which happen around us? ~ Anthony Trollope
  • People must be bound together. They must depend on each other. Of course, misfortunes may come; but it is cowardly to be afraid of them beforehand. ~ Anthony Trollope
  • “You haven’t got another cup of tea, have you?” “Oh, uncle! you have had five.” “No, my dear! not five; only four — only four, I assure you; I have been very particular to count. I had one while I was—” “Five uncle; indeed and indeed.” “Well, then, as I hate the prejudice which attaches luck to an odd number, I’ll have a sixth to show that I am not superstitious.”  ~ Anthony Trollope
  • When one is impatient, five minutes is as the duration of all time, and a quarter of an hour is eternity. ~ Anthony Trollope
  • We strain at our gnats with a vengeance, but we swallow our camels with ease. ~ Anthony Trollope
  • Wounds sometimes must be opened in order that they may be healed.  ~ Anthony Trollope
  • Love can only be paid in its own coin: it knows of no other legal tender. ~ Anthony Trollope  




All my teas these days seem to be Stash. Organic Earl Grey Black and Green Tea, Organic Chai Black and Green Tea, English Breakfast Tea, Organic Premium Green Tea.


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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We're All Wonders

We're All Wonders. R.J. Palacio. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I know I'm not an ordinary kid. Sure, I do ordinary things. I ride a bike. I eat ice cream. I play ball. I just don't look ordinary. I don't look like other kids.

Premise/plot: We're All Wonders is a companion book to R.J. Palacio's Wonder. It's a picture book prequel, of sorts. It is an affirming book with a couple of strong messages. One of the messages is daring yourself to see differently, to see the WONDER in all of us.
I know I can't change the way I look. But maybe, just maybe...people can change the way they see. If they do, they'll see that I'm a wonder. And they'll see that they're wonders, too.
Look with kindness and you will always find wonder.
My thoughts: Does the world still need anti-bullying messages? I think that's an obvious yes. Words hurt--as do actions. Sometimes the pain is inflicted purposefully, intentionally. Sometimes not. Sometimes we're just clueless about how the little things we say or do effect others. Either way.
This book has an obvious message, a positive message. I think it's very well-written. The illustrations make sense if you're familiar with the cover of the original novel. But if you're not, I'm not sure what you would make of the illustration style.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos

8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chao. Vivian Vande Velde. Illustrated by Steve Bjorkman. 2011. Holiday House. 68 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Being a squirrel is the best thing in the world.

Premise/plot: One day a squirrel named Twitch ends up INSIDE the school. How? Why? Well, Twitch was seeking to outrun an OWL and a dog. Twitch had until then only been acquainted with the school pets through the windows. Now, he finds himself in need of a lot of FRIENDS and ADVICE. Why? Well, the dog--the principal's dog--follows him INSIDE as well. (The owl doesn't!!!) Soon, both are trapped by the closed doors. The dog remains in pursuit of the squirrel; the squirrel has to be quick, quick, quick. The end result is a LOT of laughs. Each chapter is narrated by a different animal.

My thoughts: This one was so much fun. I didn't expect it to be so FUNNY and enjoyable. I think the alternating narrators makes this one even better than it could have been. Almost every chapter has something worth quoting--worth sharing--to draw in reluctant readers. I think this would be a great read-aloud in the classroom.

For example,
A squirrel mother teaches her young all they need to know by the end of summer, but human children spend five years in School. Five years is long enough for a squirrel to grow very, very old, so it's a good thing we're faster learners. And the humans aren't even truly finished in five years!
Ms. Walters never talks about being in first grade, so I think she may have skipped first grade, too. But she does talk about last year's second grade class. I'm smart enough to know that means Ms. Walters was kept back. But I am polite enough not to mention it.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Say Hello to Zorro

Say Hello to Zorro! Carter Goodrich. 2011. Simon & Schuster. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Mister Bud had it pretty good. Everything was just right. He had his own house. His own bed. His own toys. His own dish. But most of all...he had his own schedule. And everybody stuck to the schedule.

Premise/plot: Mister Bud is a dog who likes things his own way. This book is about when a new dog, Zorro, comes. Everything changes, but, are the changes for the better or for the worse? Will Zorro and Mister Bud get along?!

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I loved the schedule bits! I really liked how these two resolved things! Definitely recommended for dog lovers of all ages.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Pig the Pug

Pig the Pug. Aaron Blabey. 2014. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Pig was a pug and I'm sorry to say, he was greedy and selfish in most every way.

Premise/plot: Pig is a selfish, greedy dog who often gets REALLY, REALLY, REALLY upset with the other dog of the house, Trevor. Trevor seems to be a happy-get-along-with-everybody dog. Essentially, Trevor and Pig are complete opposites. One day his selfishness leads him into big trouble....

My thoughts: I didn't like this one very much. The rhyming worked for me for the most part. But the story itself was just okay, in my opinion. While Pig got exactly what he deserved, I just wasn't charmed overall.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Harry by the Sea

Harry by the Sea. Gene Zion. Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham. 1976. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Harry was a white dog with black spots who liked everything about the seashore, except...the hot sun.

Premise/plot: Harry gets too hot at the beach, and, while looking for some shade, accidentally gets swept out to sea. The good news is he makes it back to shore. The bad news? He's covered in seaweed and EVERYONE mistakes him for a sea monster. Can this misunderstanding be cleared up before he's captured? Will he be reunited with his family?

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I'd read other books in the series. But we did not have Harry By the Sea in our home library. I had no idea this one existed until I spotted it at the library. (I might have squealed a bit.) It was a very fun book.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What's On Your Nightstand (May)


The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.
Reformation Heritage Study Bible--KJV. Edited by  Joel R. Beeke, Gerald Bilkes, and Michael Barrett. 2014. Reformation Heritage Books. 2218 pages. [Source: Birthday Gift in 2014]

Ginger is helping me out once again in introducing my newest Bible reading project. This is my fourth Bible to select as project this year. I am LOVING it.

Basic Christianity. John Stott. 1958. 179 pages. [Source: Bought]

This is one of the books I read while drinking tea. I am making good and steady progress, so I'm hoping to finish it this week. 

Dawn's Early Light. Elswyth Thane. 1934/2017. Chicago Review Press. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I am really excited to start this series. I've only read the last in the series (Williamsburg is the name of the series), and that was in high school--twenty-something years ago. (It was the only one in the series the school library had.)

Blood, Bullets, and Bones: The story of Forensic Science from Sherlock Holmes to DNA. Bridget Heos. 2016. 263 pages. [Source: Library]

 Each chapter tackles a different element or aspect of forensic science. Within each chapter there are dozens of true crime stories--mostly historical, but some contemporary. I am finding it fascinating!

The Portrait of a Lady. Henry James. 1881. 640 pages. [Source: Bought]

 It had me at hello. Literally.
Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.
 44 Scotland Street. Alexander McCall Smith. 2005. 325 pages. [Source: Library]

Started this last night. I am really enjoying it so far.

An Exposition of Psalm 119. Thomas Manton. 2025 pages. [Source: Bought]

Still enjoying this one. I have slowed down some, I admit. But I have every intention of finishing this one this year.

Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and On Earth. Douglas Sean O'Donnell. 2013. 1090 pages. [Source: Bought]
 This is a Bible commentary, and I'm to the part where he's explaining Matthew 25. So maybe I'll finish early-to-mid June!





© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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No More Bows

No More Bows. Samantha Cotterill. 2017. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Hugo and Milly had been playing tea party...and dress-up...and house...all morning. So when Hugo heard: "Time for a walk!" he was ready to go.

Premise/plot: Hugo is most unhappy when his owner, Milly, starts making him wear BOWS on their daily walks. He's being humiliated in front of all the other dogs. Something must be done?! Why is she doing this to him?! One thing is certain: NO MORE BOWS.

My thoughts: I thought this was a very cute, very funny dog story. I really enjoyed the repetition in it.
Hugo was not amused. But the neighborhood dogs sure were.
The writing was well done. And I thought the illustrations were very expressive. I loved the red-haired girl's pigtails! Very cute and adorable.

Text: 4.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4.5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10



© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Dog Book

Dog Book. Lorenzo Clerici. 2017. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I'll call my dog: _____________. Zzz Zzz. Look at your dog sleeping...and listen to him snoring! Hey, sleepyhead, it's time to get up! Do you want to help wake him? Call out his name and then turn the page.

Premise/plot: The Dog Book is an interactive picture book for parents to share with their children one-on-one. (Earlier I reviewed The Cat Book.) The premise is simple: children interact with the book by naming the dog, waking him up, petting and tickling and scratching him, giving him commands like 'sit' and 'fetch,' etc.

My thoughts: When I received review copies of The Cat Book and The Dog Book, I thought I knew which one would be my favorite. But I was wrong. I really do love cats a bit more than dogs. But there are a lot more interactions possible with this fictional dog. And none of them involve squishing fleas or preventing him from eating a bird! The illustrations seem more playful and lively as well.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Squirrel in the House

Squirrel in the House. Vivian Vande Velde. Illustrated by Steve Bjorkman. 2016. Holiday House. 80 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The dog who lives next door to the yard where I live tells me that people call dogs "man's best friend." Well, actually, the dog doesn't so much tell me this as he yells it. Usually while he's chasing me.

Premise/plot: Squirrel in the House is narrated by a squirrel, Twitch. He would never normally think about going INSIDE but on one cold wintry day, he does just that. He goes down the chimney and into the house of Cuddles' master's house. The dog is, I believe, the first to notice--perhaps the second. Also taking note of the squirrel is a young child. But it isn't just any day, the master has a LOT of people--family presumably--over to celebrate for some reason. (The squirrel doesn't quite grasp humans.) When the dog is locked up in the basement, and the young child punished for destroying the living room, I believe, the child runs away. The squirrel notices that the boy is dressed for the inside but in the outside and worries. He follows the child, and, when the boy collapses, it's up to the squirrel to alert the family and save the day. But who will listen to a squirrel?!

My thoughts: This is a fun and quick read. Twitch is an entertaining narrator. He loves the human party--especially the pre-shelled nuts. He develops a taste for potato chips and cupcakes too. What kind of tree do they come from, he wonders!

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Mama Cat Has Three Kittens

Mama Cat Has Three Kittens. Denise Fleming. 1998. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Mama Cat has three kittens, Fluffy, Skinny, and Boris. When Mama Cat washes her paws, Fluffy and Skinny wash their paws. Boris naps. When Mama Cat walks the stone wall, Fluffy and Skinny walk the stone wall. Boris naps.

Premise/plot: Mama Cat has three kittens. Fluffy and Skinny copy their mother; they excel at their kitty education--their kitten academy. Boris, well, he's BORIS. He excels in one subject: NAPPING. Perhaps with a minor in STEALING THE SHOW.

My thoughts: I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. I like all the cats, but, Boris has the last say! I would definitely recommend this one for parents to share with their little ones. I think cat lovers of all ages can appreciate it.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, May 19, 2017

My Pet Human Takes Center Stage

My Pet Human Takes Center Stage. Yasmine Surovec. 2017. Roaring Brook Press. 112 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My name is Oliver. This is my pet human, Freckles. I have her well-trained. She feeds me treats. She rubs my belly. But today she's going to a new place of training. It's her first day of school.

Premise/plot: Oliver goes to school to be with Freckles. The school is pet-loving, so no big problem. In fact, there's a school club, Fur-ever Friends Club, that Freckles joins. The club is big on fund-raisers, and, this book is ALL about fund-raising. Freckles and her mom take in a foster-kitten during this time, and, Oliver is out of sorts about the attention being on another cat. Freckles idea is to TRAIN both of her cats for an act in the fund-raising show. Oliver has mixed-ideas about it. He doesn't want Freckles to be humiliated, and, he doesn't want the new kitten to do all the tricks and leave him looking stupid, and, he does like Freckles and want to please her....but is a cat trainable?

My thoughts: More happens in this second book, which, I think is a good thing. Oliver continues to be an entertaining cat. I like this series, but, I'm not sure I love it.


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

My Pet Human

My Pet Human. Yasmine Surovec. 2015. 112 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I'm a lucky cat. I live a carefree life.

Premise/plot: This (early) chapter book is narrated by a cat. At first, this cat is convinced that he does not need a pet human; that having a pet human would be a bad idea, that having one would ruin his happy-go-lucky, carefree life. But when a little girl and her mom move into 'the old abandoned house,' he gives it a go. Not planning to stay, of course not! Just seeing if he has found a food-source. But the food is good. The belly rubs are even better. Soon she starts calling him OLIVER and he responds to it as his own. His name for her? Freckles.

My thoughts: I liked this one. It's a notebook novel. I've not read many of those. But I liked this one just fine. It is all from Oliver's point of view. I wouldn't say it's a must-read for cat-loving adults, but, it's a pleasant and "safe" read for children who love animals.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I Don't Know What To Call My Cat

I Don't Know What To Call My Cat. Simon Philip. Illustrated by Ella Bailey. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I have a new cat. She turned up on my doorstep one day looking hungry. She obviously liked the dinner I gave her, because she's stayed ever since. That's fine. I like cats. There's just one problem. I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO CALL MY CAT.

Premise/plot: The little girl in this picture book has a big problem: she doesn't know what to call her cat. She tries many, many, many names, but none seem to fit. (For one thing, she has to give up the girl names when she finds out it's a boy.) One day her cat disappears, and, a new "pet" follows her home...from the zoo. She'll have problems with this new pet too, but, not about his name. His behavior, well, it might just call for the Bureau of Naughty Animals!!! By the end, all things are resolved happily.

My thoughts: If you're looking for a funny picture book to share with children, I'd definitely recommend this one. I love the pairing of text and illustrations. It's this pairing that gives it a just right feel--an understated yet very funny tone. For example, "I thought Kitty would be just right. 'Here, Kitty!'" Readers turn the page to see over three dozen cats have responded. The text simply reads: "It wasn't."

Steve was a fun addition to this one. He is VERY naughty indeed.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Cat Book

The Cat Book. Silvia Borando. 2017. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I'll call my cat: _________. Zzz Zzz. Who's that curled in a ball? Hey, sleepy cat, it's time to get up! Can you help wake him? Call out his name and then turn the page.

Premise/plot: The Cat Book is an interactive picture book for parents to share one-on-one with their little ones. (I say one-on-one because I imagine that it would be difficult to share with a large group of kids as a library or classroom read aloud.) How is it interactive? Children are encouraged to participate: naming the cat, calling out his name, petting him on the back, tickling him under the chin, squishing his fleas, blowing the dead fleas away, sheltering him with a hand so he doesn't get wet, drying him off with a shirt, smoothing down his fur, etc. Every page has something for little ones to do. (All the prompts are in green.)

My thoughts: I like this one. It's creative and unique. There is also a Dog Book.

Text: 3.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3.5 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Picture Book Parade

Option 1:
  • What picture books did you read this month?
  • Which squares did you fill?
  • Which squares are you having trouble with?
  • How many until you bingo?
  • Do you have suggestions for other participants?

Option 2:
  • What picture books did you read this month?
  • Which categories did you check off your list?
  • What is your goal? How close are you to meeting that goal?
  • Which categories are you having trouble with?
  • Do you have suggestions for other participants?

Option 3:
  • What picture books did you read this month?
  • Which letters have you read?
  • How many more to go until you've read the alphabet?
  • Which letters are you having trouble with? 
  • Do you have suggestions for other participants?
Books reviewed since last time:
Stack the Cats. Susie Ghahremani. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Big Sister, Little Sister. LeUyen Pham. 2005. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Leo the Late Bloomer. Robert Kraus. Illustrated by Jose Aruego. 1971/1994. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School. Suzanne Slade. 2014. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Little Miss, Big Sis. Amy Krouse Rosenthal. 2015. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Corduroy. Don Freeman. 1968. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Pocket for Corduroy. Don Freeman. 1978. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2007. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
Minerva Louise and the Colorful Eggs. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2006. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
Minerva Louise and the Red Truck. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2002. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Minerva Louise at the Fair. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2000. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
 A Friend for Minerva Louise. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1997. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Minerva Louise at School. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1996. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
A Hat for Minerva Louise. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1994. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
Minerva Louise. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1988. 24 pages. [Source: Library]
Thunder Cake. Patricia Polacco. 1997. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
I Am Helen Keller. Brad Meltzer. Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Steppin' Out: Jaunty Rhymes for Playful Times. Lin Oliver. Illustrated by Tomie DePaola. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Goin' Someplace Special. Patricia McKissack. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. 2001. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Rhyming Dust Bunnies. Jan Thomas. 2009. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
What This Story Needs Is a Bang and a Clang. Emma J. Virjan. 2017. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Quinoto's Neighborhood/El Vecindario de Quinito. Ina Cumpiano. Illustrated by Jose Ramirez. 2005/2009. 24 pages. [Source: Library]  

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Stack the Cats

Stack the Cats. Susie Ghahremani. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: One cat sleeps. Two cats play. Three cats? Stack! Four cats teeter. Five cats totter. Six cats prefer two stacks of three cats.

Premise/plot: Love cats? Love math? Looking for a more unique counting concept book? Stack the Cats is certainly unique and it's just as much math-centered as cat-centered. In all there are ten cats.

My thoughts: Did I love it as much as I wanted to love it? No. I really, really love cats. (My latest addiction is watching Kitten Academy's livestream.) It's not so much that I don't love math as math doesn't love me. (But this basic kind of math is just my speed.) I really found some of the spreads to be super-adorable. For example, "Two cats play" is illustrated by two adorable cats playing with yarn. But some of the spreads just didn't thrill me as much. It's hard for me to imagine eight cats stacked on top of each other! So did I like it more than I disliked it? Yes. I think that's fair enough to say.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Big Sister, Little Sister

Big Sister, Little Sister. LeUyen Pham. 2005. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: In this family, we have two sisters. She's the Big Sister. I'm the Little Sister. The Big Sister usually does things first. I'm the Little Sister. I'm always catching up.

Premise/plot: Who has it better? The Big Sister or the Little Sister?! Pham celebrates both roles really well, in my opinion. (I'm a LITTLE sister). I could see myself--and my sister--in this one.

My thoughts: I love, love, love, LOVE this one. I was very happy for the chance to read it again. I love the writing. I love the narrative. The Little Sister has such a distinct voice and vibrant personality.

The Big Sister is very neat. I'm the Little Sister. I'm not.
The Big Sister gets to stay up later and watch TV. I'm the Little Sister. I go to bed at 7:30. Sometimes.
The Big Sister isn't afraid of the dark. I'm the Little Sister. Help!
I also love, love, love the illustrations.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10



© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Doctor Thorne

Doctor Thorne. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 639 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Before the reader is introduced to the modest country medical practitioner who is to be the chief personage of the following tale, it will be well that he should be made acquainted with some particulars as to the locality in which, and the neighbours among whom, our doctor followed his profession.

Premise/plot: Frank Gresham LOVES, LOVES, LOVES Mary Thorne, the doctor's niece. BUT. His family is in financial trouble, in debt. It being the nineteenth century and work being a horrible suggestion for a young man, Frank is told that he MUST--no doubt about it--MARRY for MONEY. Since Mary doesn't have money, she won't do at all. His parents have different ways of going about separating the two. But essentially Frank spends a year or two away from 'the love of his life.' And Mary spends those years being shunned by a family that formerly welcomed and received her as one of their own. Meanwhile, Doctor Thorne is busy doctoring a local family of drunkards. He tends first the father, then the son. Unbeknownst to the community, but not unknown to him, these are Mary's maternal relatives--her very, very, very wealthy relatives (Scatcherds). But their background--their status--is low. The doctor knows that there's a possibility that Mary will be extremely rich one day. But he has to keep this a big secret since it's just a possibility. If the current heir lives and is able to overcome his alcoholism...or if he lives past his twenty-fifth birthday...then the money won't be Mary's at all. Mary herself doesn't know the connection.

My thoughts: I really LOVE this third book in the Barsetshire series by Anthony Trollope. It's a romance with plenty of drama and gossip. It's a good, old-fashioned romance. Modern readers may be less than impressed that one of the big love scenes works its way up to holding hands for a few minutes. But as for me, I really enjoyed it for what it was.

I also loved to see the bond between Doctor Thorne and his niece. 

If you appreciate Anthony Trollope, if you look upon him as a particular friend--as I do--then you'll love Doctor Thorne.

Doctor Thorne promising the child's mother to take her in and raise her as his very own:
“She is my niece,” said the doctor, taking up the tiny infant in his huge hands; “she is already the nearest thing, the only thing that I have in this world. I am her uncle, Mary. If you will go with this man I will be father to her and mother to her. Of what bread I eat, she shall eat; of what cup I drink, she shall drink. See, Mary, here is the Bible;” and he covered the book with his hand. “Leave her to me, and by this word she shall be my child.”
Other favorite quotes:
It is so much easier to preach than to practise.
How is one to have an opinion if one does not get it by looking at the things which happen around us? 
Habit is second nature, man; and a stronger nature than the first. 
Our sheep have to put up with our spiritual doses whether they like them or not. 
People must be bound together. They must depend on each other. Of course, misfortunes may come; but it is cowardly to be afraid of them beforehand. 
“You haven’t got another cup of tea, have you?” “Oh, uncle! you have had five.” “No, my dear! not five; only four — only four, I assure you; I have been very particular to count. I had one while I was—” “Five uncle; indeed and indeed.” “Well, then, as I hate the prejudice which attaches luck to an odd number, I’ll have a sixth to show that I am not superstitious.” 
When one is impatient, five minutes is as the duration of all time, and a quarter of an hour is eternity. 
It’s hard to say in these days what is wrong and what is not. 
See the world on all sides if you have an opportunity; and, believe me, a good dinner now and then is a very good thing. 
We strain at our gnats with a vengeance, but we swallow our camels with ease. 
How can I tell him to be sober when I have been a beast all my life myself? How can I advise him? That’s where it is! It is that that now kills me. Advise! Why, when I speak to him he treats me like a child. 
You ain’t worth a shilling, and yet you regret nothing. I am worth half a million in one way or the other, and I regret everything — everything — everything! 
Alas! she-dragons are not easily convinced of the innocence of any one. 
It is so hard to throw off a tyrant; so much easier to yield, when we have been in the habit of yielding. 
“I don’t give a straw for the world.” “That is a mistake, my boy; you do care for it, and would be very foolish if you did not. What you mean is, that, on this particular point, you value your love more than the world’s opinion.” “Well, yes, that is what I mean.” 
when one is specially invited to be candid, one is naturally set upon one’s guard. 
Wounds sometimes must be opened in order that they may be healed. 
Who can console a heart that has lost all that it possessed?
Love can only be paid in its own coin: it knows of no other legal tender.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Leo the Late Bloomer

Leo the Late Bloomer. Robert Kraus. Illustrated by Jose Aruego. 1971/1994. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Leo couldn't do anything right. He couldn't read. He couldn't write. He couldn't draw. He was a sloppy eater. And, he never said a word.

Premise/plot: Much of Leo the Late Bloomer covers conversations between a mother and father as they discuss their late bloomer, Leo. The father worries that Leo will never, ever bloom. His mother is confident that Leo will bloom. Seasons come and go but Leo hasn't bloomed. Then one day, he does. And Leo's "first word" isn't a first word, but a sentence: "I made it!"

My thoughts: I did not grow up with this one. In fact, I didn't meet Leo until I was in college. But I definitely connected with him once I met him. I liked the optimism of the mother tiger. I could understand, in part, the frustration of the father. And I cheered the happy, happy ending. Overall, I'm not sure that it's perfectly-perfect in terms of modeling what to do if your child has learning difficulties. But I'm not convinced that it has to be. This isn't a how-to book for children or parents.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, May 12, 2017

With Books and Bricks

With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School. Suzanne Slade. 2014. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: From sunrise to sunset, young Booker worked hard. He carried water to the fields. He carried corn to the mill. He carried rocks from the yard. All day long, Booker lugged heavy loads with a heavy heart because he was a slave.

Premise/plot: This picture book biography of Booker T. Washington focuses on his mission of education. He believed that education would lead to empowerment and freedom and opportunity. Most of this one focuses on his work to literally build a school: working to find the right clay, making bricks, baking bricks, using those bricks to build school buildings. It was not simple or straightforward. It was challenging, frustrating, seemingly hopeless. But with fierce determination, he proved that anything is possible.

My thoughts: What an inspiring story of determination. When the third kiln broke, most anyone would have given up. But not him. I think this was a well-written story.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Little Miss, Big Sis

Little Miss, Big Sis. Amy Krouse Rosenthal. 2015. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The big news is this: Little Miss will be a big sis. Will be a big sis? Will be a big sis! Waiting and waiting. Anticipating. Then... Ow. Now! Wow! What now? Sleep. Fuss. Eat. Repeat.

Premise/plot: Little Miss, the heroine, is excited to become a big sister. What's it like to have a newborn in the house?! Little Miss provides readers with a behind-the-scenes glimpse into life as a big sister. It doesn't just cover the first few weeks. By the end of the picture book, he's walking, talking, and HUGGING.

My thoughts: Very sweet. I expected it to be SWEET and ADORABLE. I will definitely miss Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Beauty

Beauty. Robin McKinley. 1978/1993. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I was the youngest of three daughters. Our literal-minded mother named us Grace, Hope, and Honour, but few people except perhaps the minister who had baptized all three of us remembered my given name.

Premise/plot: Beauty is a retelling of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. It is very much character driven. Beauty, the youngest, is the plain, no-thrills, practical daughter. She's not outstanding or amazing at anything in particular. She's a hard worker, almost Cinderella like. Her father is a dear, but not horribly developed. Her two sisters are pleasant as well. Again not horribly developed, but they are important to her so they're important to us. Over half the book takes place before her father steals a rose thereby endangering Beauty's freedom.

Beauty chooses the path of honor when her father is put into a dilemma. What she finds at the castle surprises her. It may surprise readers too. The castle is beautiful, just awe-inspiring. Her every need is met, almost her every desire. From their first meeting, she finds him well-mannered, kind, considerate, generous. He may be ugly, no woman's dream mate, but a beast he is not. He doesn't stomp around having tantrums. He doesn't yell or scream. He is practically perfect in every way.

Nearly every day ends the same: with a marriage proposal. This always is awkward for Beauty, but, the hours they spend in each other's company each day more than makes up for it. Within weeks, she couldn't imagine life without him.

The library. One of the enchantments of the castle is the fact that the library contains every book that will ever be written. Think about it: ever!!! Every book written past, present, future. This is the stuff of dreams!

The enchantments are mainly invisible and more subtle than Disney would have you believe. Voices mainly that she hears as she's drifting off to sleep.

My thoughts: I loved many things about the book. I loved that Beauty wasn't beautiful in a most beautiful woman in the world way. I loved that most of her appeal, most of her beauty was internal. She was also humble, meek, modest. I also loved that there was no villain. The sisters weren't vain, selfish, immature. There was no Gaston. No angry mob. No wolves even! This was an almost conflict free read.

I also liked the dream aspect of the book. The Beast sends her family true dreams every night so they see that she is happy and safe. He sends her dreams of her family--not as often--so that she can see they are doing well. He very much cares about them and her. He isn't lacking feeling, in fact, he seems a hundred times more compassionate than the average hero. He may need Beauty to agree to marry him to break the spell and restore his humanity. But he isn't redeemed by her. There is nothing beastly about his soul. She doesn't transform him, if anything, he transforms her.

Is it romantic? It depends on how you define romance. If it depends on flirting, longing, and smut...then no. Much more subtle in this one is the romance. Conversations. Reading aloud. Eating together. Riding horses. Walking together. Love sneaks up on her. She's almost the last to know her own heart.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Pocket for Corduroy

Pocket for Corduroy. Don Freeman. 1978. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Late one summer afternoon Lisa and her mother took their laundry to the laundromat. As always on such trip Lisa carried along her toy bear, Corduroy.

Premise/plot: Corduroy is "lost" at the laundromat when he leaves the chair Lisa placed him in, and goes off in search of something to make a pocket out of. Fortunately, he is not washed OR dried. Though his overalls do come off! Corduroy has a unique way of seeing the world--and his take on laundry baskets and soap flakes is interesting. Will he get a pocket at last?

My thoughts: I never knew about this one until I was searching for books published in 1978. I really enjoyed it overall. Lisa has a special bond with her best friend, and, she always understands exactly what he wants or needs. It must be nice to be Corduroy!!!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Corduroy

Corduroy. Don Freeman. 1948/1968. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Corduroy is a bear who once lived in the toy department of a big store.

Premise/plot: Corduroy is a toy bear wearing overalls with a missing button. He didn't exactly realize his button was missing until it was pointed out to him. That night, he searches for his missing button unsuccessfully. Fortunately, the next day a LOVELY little girl buys him and takes him home.
"You must be a friend," said Corduroy. "I've always wanted a friend." "Me too!" said Lisa, and gave him a big hug.
My thoughts: I loved this one as a child. It doesn't really get any sweeter. The ending is just about perfect.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, May 08, 2017

Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve

Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2007. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Minerva Louise loved the way the snow sparkled on the house with the red curtains.

Premise/plot: Minerva Louise returns to the house with red curtains. She's curious about the sparkly tree topped with a hen and the goats on the roof. Why is the farmer wearing a red hat? So many questions this hen has. She's back and as silly as ever.

My thoughts: It's Christmas and Minerva Louise is confused about all the changes inside and out! I really am fond of this chicken! My favorite is her confusion about why the strange man was eating her farmers' breakfast!

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, May 07, 2017

Minerva Louise and the Colorful Eggs

Minerva Louise and the Colorful Eggs. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2006. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Minerva Louise loved the springtime.

Premise/plot: Minerva is very confused by the Easter egg hunt on the farm. She thinks that there's an absent-minded chicken abandoning her eggs ALL over the place. She rounds up the other hens and has them trying to find the eggs to sit on them to keep them warm. Then they notice the "farmers" picking up the eggs. The other hens are content that all is well. But Minerva is still curious! She asks questions of the "brown bunny" and "yellow chicks" but candy doesn't answer questions!

My thoughts: I loved this one. I'd never thought to imagine how a chicken would view egg hunts! Minerva Louise may get a lot of things wrong, but I love her gumption.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, May 06, 2017

Minerva Louise and the Red Truck

Minerva Louise and the Red Truck. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2002. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Minerva Louise loved the red truck. It was one of her favorite places to play.

Premise/plot: Minerva goes on a ride and sees a lot of trucks at work as the world speeds by. Will her favorite truck remain her farmers' red truck?

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. Minerva gets in the back of the truck, spots the toy box, table and chairs, and has herself a grand old time. The toy box is a tool box, the table and chairs a couple of clay pots. This one is a joy to read. Pure silliness at work.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, May 05, 2017

Minerva Louise at the Fair

Minerva Louise at the Fair. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 2000. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Minerva Louise loved how peaceful the farm was at night.

Premise/plot: My favorite silly chicken is disturbed by the "stars falling from the sky" and leaves the farm to see what is making all the booms. She finds herself at the fair. She even finds herself on a ride at one point. The world is so new and exciting when seen through the eyes of an inexperienced chicken.

My thoughts: I liked this one. The merry go round as horse barn was probably my favorite bit.

Text: 3.5 out of 5
Illustrations 3.5 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, May 04, 2017

A Friend for Minerva Louise

A Friend for Minerva Louise. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1997. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The house with the red curtains looks different today, thought Minerva Louise. What is it? Oh, they have a new wheelbarrow. Isn't it fancy! I wonder what else has changed around here. That fence wasn't there before. And look--a new rabbit hutch.

Premise/plot: There's a new baby at the house with the red curtains. Minerva Louise is curious. Oh, she's not smart enough to see that the wheelbarrow is really a stroller and that the rabbit hutch is really a crib. She's definitely in search of a BUNNY and not a baby.

My thoughts: Minerva Louise is a fun chicken to spend time with. She's not the smartest or most observant. Well, technically she observes plenty. But she doesn't have the gift of discernment! She doesn't understand what she sees. This misunderstanding provides a lot of humor to the book. It's very funny to see the world through the eyes of this oh-so-silly chicken. You never know how she will see the world.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Minerva Louise at School

Minerva Louise at School. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1996. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: One morning, Minerva Louise woke up before everyone else. It was a beautiful morning, so she decided to go for a walk through the tall grass. She walked on and on. Oh, look! A big, fancy barn, thought Minerva Louise.

Premise/plot: Minerva Louise explores a "big, fancy barn" in this third adventure. The barn, of course, as you might have guessed is really a school! She explores the stalls (classrooms) and looks for animals (students.) She even finds nesting boxes (cubbies) and an egg (a baseball). She never does see any animals, but she returns to her own nesting place full of good ideas.

My thoughts: This one may be the funniest Minerva Louise yet. Especially if anyone you know and love is a teacher. It's just a very silly book. I love that the humor comes from the differences between the text and the illustrations. Minerva's "truth" is far from reality. And readers young and old can spot all the many, many ways this chicken is wrong.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, May 02, 2017

A Hat for Minerva Louise

A Hat for Minerva Louise. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1994. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Minerva Louise loved snowy mornings. Her friends didn't like them one bit. They stayed inside all day with their heads tucked under their wings.

Premise/plot: Minerva Louise is back in her second adventure, I believe, and in this adventure she goes and plays in the snow. Part of this snowy-day adventure includes searching for WARM THINGS to put on which would enable her to stay out and play longer. She tries many things on before finding a "hat" to wear.

My thoughts: This one was silly. Minerva Louise is quite mistaken about a lot of things. For example, a water hose is not a scarf, and gardening gloves are not shoes. I like the silliness of it. The story overall was very enjoyable.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, May 01, 2017

Further thoughts on reading Oliver

Oliver Twist dares you to be uncomfortable as a reader, to look head-on at another's pain and misery. The novel places you in horridly unjust situations time and time again. Will you look away? Will you shrug off another's burden or struggle? Or will you open your eyes, your ears, your heart? Can you stand to stand witness? Or will you cling to Dickens dark and slightly inappropriate humor? If Dickens can find much to laugh about, I can too, right? But is poverty, hunger and starvation, homelessness, and abuse something to make light about...then or now? Just because Oliver Twist gets a happy ending doesn't wipe away the injustices--the deep embedded injustices. Are you willing to think about injustices, specific injustices? Are you willing to do more than think? Are you willing to act? It is easy, it is natural to not dwell on subjects that make us uncomfortable, situations that just don't seem to be 'our problem'. Problems don't disappear because you ignore them; problems don't go away because you ask nicely.

Is the novel still relevant? Domestic abuse happens. Every day it happens. There are women whose lives are in danger. Nancy is not alone in her situation. Unfortunately. For me, it is harder to witness Nancy's plight than Oliver's. What kind of person is Nancy? Brave certainly. Why? She finds a way to have a voice, to speak out to others, to speak up for another. She finds a way to stand by her conviction despite enormous risk. This is no small thing she's doing--and readers should not presume that it is easy for her. I don't think it is. Speaking up reveals inner strength, but what does staying reveal? Could it ever be anything but foolish? Perhaps inevitable is a second choice. We can imagine Nancy's background, how she came to be under the control of Fagin and Sykes, but we haven't--most of us at least--walked in her shoes. We don't know why her heart was so full of love for Bill, we don't know why he was her everything, her whole world. We see a violent, abusive, cruel, domineering man--she sees him differently. It is easy to conclude she's a fool to stay. But are we quick to think we know her? She's spent her whole life being the property of others, doing what she's told, not questioning orders, not speaking back. What changes Nancy so much that she starts thinking for herself, acting for herself, being bold and risky?


She sees something in Oliver perhaps, or maybe there's a life within her that has her thinking of the future? There has to be a moment when she realizes that this is no kind of life to be living, that there is still a chance for Oliver even if she is all out of chances for her own life. Perhaps she is wishing that someone had stepped up to save her. She may not be able to save every child, but Oliver, he can be saved. Once that decision has been made, there's no turning back. Nancy is fiercely brave.

Hunger and homelessness also still persist in the world. Not to mention the buying and selling of women and children. This isn't a one issue problem novel. It is a dark, bleak novel that is written in a tongue in cheek way at times. I let myself become distant so I wouldn't have to deal with the problems--so long as they weren't real to me, I could forget them, right? Yes and no.

Is it right to dismiss injustice because you don't like to feel uncomfortable or awkward?

Oliver Twist was the medicine that I didn't want to swallow because of the way it tasted.


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Minerva Louise

Minerva Louise. Janet Morgan Stoeke. 1988. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Minerva Louise loved the house with the red curtains.

Premise/plot: Minerva Louise explores the house with the red curtains in this picture book. It is the first in a series starring this lovable hen. She may not be the smartest chicken, but, she may be the funniest. For example, "a comfortable chair...and friendly cows." The chair is a flower pot. The 'friendly cow' is a kitten.

My thoughts: I like this one very much. I don't know if I love, love, love Minerva Louise yet. But. I am curious about this CURIOUS chicken. I want to see what other types of adventures she has. Will definitely be returning to the library for more!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist. Charles Dickens. 1838/1839. 608 pages. [Source: Bought]
First sentence: Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born; on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events; the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter.
 Premise/plot: Oliver Twist, the 'hero' of Charles Dickens novels, endures much drama before finally getting a happily ever after ending. 

Who is Oliver Twist? He's an orphan born in a workhouse. He's an orphan who dares ask for MORE gruel. He's a boy sold to an undertaker. He's a boy who's bullied to the point of running away. He's a boy who dreams that London holds the answers. He's a boy who falls into bad company. Coincidences surround Oliver. (He happens to be taken in to Mr. Brownlow's household. He happens to be taken into Mrs. Maylie's household. Both Brownlow and the Maylies knew his parent(s). Both care about what happens to him in the future. Both are on his side--Oliver is never truly alone against this mad, bad world.) He's a boy worth risking your life for--if you're Nancy. He's a boy that things happen to. Ever notice how all the drama just happens to him, because of him, around him, and Oliver is just there. (If Oliver is the hero, he's the most boring hero ever.)

The characters that are of interest in this one are: Nancy, Fagin, and Artful Dodger. If the novel is worth reading, it is because Dickens has peopled it with the likes of these, the least of these, the thieves and prostitutes. 

My thoughts: Here's my advice for what it's worth: Read the book before you see the movie or the musical. Every time you're tempted to watch an adaptation, make a point of rereading the book. That may slow down your eagerness some. Why this admittedly weird advice. I read this book years ago--years--and I've since seen about two or three adaptations. (Including the live musical a few weeks ago.) I had forgotten that most adaptations--if not all adaptations--really, really mess around with the plot. Some adaptations are better than others. (One adaptation in particular I wish I could get my time back!) But having all those adaptations in my head really ruined reading Dickens for me. 

For example, in the movie, Nancy helps kidnap Oliver Twist and brings him back to the thieves. He's held hostage until the end finale--the big showdown. A lot of intense stuff happens and Nancy is all about rescuing Oliver from his fate. In the book, Nancy helps kidnap Oliver Twist; Oliver is forced to help in a robbery; he's shot; he's abandoned; he's taken in by a kind and loving family; his happily ever after essentially begins right then and there; the book has hundreds of pages left where Oliver is safe and the drama is moving on without him. Plenty of drama. New characters are introduced--like Monks--old characters are also reintroduced--like Noah and Charlotte, Mr and Mrs. Bumble. But Oliver Twist has disappeared from the plot--almost proving that though this novel has his name, he's the least interesting character in it.

I think if you read the book with the expectation that he will be DOING anything except asking for more and accepting whatever comes his way, you'll be disappointed.

I think the most interesting character in this one is Fagin. Especially in the musical adaptation. He can MAKE the show. His songs are the most interesting, most entertaining, best for energizing the audience.

I think the next most interesting character is Nancy. Her scenes were very emotional. But I don't understand why she would keep going back knowing that her very life was in danger. I don't understand love like that. I hope I never do.

 

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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