Tuesday, December 21, 2010


"Heidi" by Johanna Spyri is one of my all time favorites. Every time I read it, it's like reading it for the first time again (and I should know... I think this was my fourth, uh, fifth time reading it.). I feel everything that the young girl feels: her compassion, her pain as she leaves home, her joy, her sorrow, and most of all... her love for the Swiss mountains, her grandfather, her goats, and her friends; of which she has many. It is such a fun book to read anytime. But let me proceed to the synopsis:It all begins with a woman named Detie dragging a five year old girl up a mountain to take the child to her grandfather. It seems like an ordinary scene, except for the fact that the young girl - Heidi (as you may have guessed), has never met her grandfather. And there are rumors everywhere that "Uncle Alp", as he is called, is the meanest man alive. But once he meets Heidi, his heart starts to soften, and he grows to love her. Heidi also grows to love him, and her new home.  But one day, years later, Detie returns, wanting to take Heidi with her. She tells Heidi that she is going to live in Frankfurt, with a girl named Clara, who is very sickly, and must be in a wheel-chair. She then promises Heidi that she can come back as soon as she likes. So Heidi is taken away from her home, and her grandfather, and goes to live with the Sesemann household. She meets Clara, and Sebastian, the butler; Miss Rottenmier, the lady in charge; Tinette, the maid; and many others during her stay. Secretly, Heidi longs for her grandfather, and the days in the mountains. She waits for when she can go home, and be free again....
This book, published in 1880, is great. I give it 5 stars, and would recommend it to any age. My copy is 283 pages, but it is more of an easy read. I hope that everyone who reads it enjoys this book as I do.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Very Charleston"

I told my mom a while ago, "They should make more school books with pictures like we read when we were little. Pictures of what the houses, clothes, cars and furniture would have looked like in a certain era, in a certain town. 
"Very Charleston"by Diana Hollingsworth Gessler  did that with its watercolor illustrations, it's informative (and sometimes humorous) captions, and its maps scattered throughout the book. I loved this book! It takes you through the streets of Charleston, SC. within its 6 chapters. It's divided into
1) South of Broad
3) Charleston Harbor
4) North of Calhoun
5) Mt. Pleasant and the Islands
6) The Lowcountry
It also has an appendix, acknowledgements, and an index. This book is a must read for everyone. If you already love the South, you will love this, and if you aren't as much of a Southern person.... it will make you one. It gives you plenty of information without completely giving you a headache. The way the author has the book set up makes it very enjoyable, and "Very Charleston". It has 145 pages (without counting the appendix, acknowledgements, and index - then it's 159), and is appropriate for any age, although ages 8 and up would probably get the most out of it. I give it 5 stars! Here is a small sample (sorry, it's the best one I could find!) and the one on the left is another work of art by the author.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever"

"Hey! Unto you a child is born!"
"The Worst  Best Christmas Pageant Ever" by Barbara Robinson is one of those books you pick up when you need some Christmas cheer and humor to brighten up your day. I read it for the first time last year, and from time to time my family could hear me laughing in my room at the comments and jokes made by the unforgettable characters. It starts with the Herdman children:
The worst six kids in the history of the world. Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie and Gladys. They do all sorts of bad things, and were never expected to be tangled up in any way with the church Christmas pageant. But thanks to Charlie, the brother of the girl who narrates the story, the Herdman kids show up at church one Sunday expecting cookies, cake and ice cream because of a lie he (Charlie) told. And because the usual director of the play, Mrs. McCarthy is stuck in the hospital, the story unfolds.  Imogene asks what the Christmas pageant is about, and when told that it's about Jesus, her reply is "Everything here is." So no one worries about it, assuming that the Herdmans won't want to stick around any longer. But they do. And pretty soon the Christmas pageant is starring the Herdman children as Joseph, Mary, the wise men and the angel of the Lord. Everyone expects it to be a total disaster... six kids who have never heard the Christmas story before starring in the Christmas pageant? But the performance makes everyone think about how the first Christmas really was. I love this book. It's an easy read, but I still enjoyed it and give it 5 stars! It would work wonderfully as a read-aloud. It has 108 pages, and 7 chapters. And it is very funny.
If this book ever enters your home library, it's sure to become a classic.


"Roller Skates"

"Roller Skates" by Ruth Sawyer is a wonderful book, which I can say I enjoyed thoroughly. Based on the first couple chapters, I thought it more of a dull and boring book, but the story picked up as it went along, and by the end of the book I was almost in tears. The book takes place in 1890's New York City, where ten year old Lucinda is spending her year while her parents are in Europe. Lucinda quickly makes many friends while staying with Miss Peters, and loves her new life as an "Orphan".  Lucinda goes from being a girl not much concerned with the needs of others, to being a mature and thoughtful girl. She puts on plays, "borrows" friends for the afternoon, and celebrates Thanksgiving and Christmas during the 10 chapters. "Roller Skates" is 186 pages, and the chapters are a nice length. I think that anyone over the age of five would appreciate the story, but really any age would be fine. It is a Newberry, and well written (and those of you who know me know that I love books like that!) At the end they weave in something to make the book - which has become very sad - sweet and touching. I think this book will become a favorite of mine, and I will read it a few more times. I give it 5 stars out of 5! Oh, and one more thing worth adding: the illustrations by Valenti Angelo are simple and beautiful, and are just the kind I like!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Shades of Gray"

"Shades of Gray" by Carolyn Reeder is a book that I wasn't sure if I would enjoy, because there are a few school books that I don't like as much as others. But this one was different.
The main character is Will Page, a twelve year-old boy dealing with the ruins of the Civil War. Everyone in his family has died and left him alone, and so he has to go and live with relatives in the ruined Virginia Piedmont.  It wouldn't be too bad living with the poor family, but the worst of it is he'll be living under the same roof as his Uncle Jed, who refused to fight in the war. Will considers his Uncle a traitor, and then a coward, until he finally learns the truth. So at a first glance, this book doesn't look like much, right? But it is well written, and won "The Scott O'Dell Award". And other things are involved. There's Meg, his cousin. She is a character that can change the course of the book with a word, and I think if she hadn't been in the book, it would have been a little boyish for me. But Meg comes into certain situations, and it gives the book a nice feel.  Then they house a Union soldier, Jim Woodley. Will is not exactly thrilled about this.  But he soon realizes that many kind people fought in the war - or didn't - because of their beliefs. And when he has to make an important decision, he finally comes to the truth, based on the many lessons he learned while staying with the Jones family. This book has a nice message concealed inside the pages. I give it 5 stars (out of 5) and recommend it to anyone 8 years old or older. It has 17 chapters and 152 pages.