Children’s Book Week – the Librarian reviews

by Meg

This week marks the 99th year of the National Children’s Book Week – and to celebrate, I thought I’d share what kids these days are reading and enjoying.

I got to fulfill one of my life-long dreams this year when I became the librarian for my children’s small school. Granted, it’s nothing glamorous. But once a week, I get to go into a room full of shelves of books (many of which I purchased this year) and try to inspire kids to “Read More!” – then watch their faces light up as they tell me all about the great book they just finished reading. That may not give everyone the warm fuzzies, but I love it.

Today – Library Day – I decided to survey each class and find out what their favorite books/series were from this past year. Each student got a chance to share. And honestly, my favorite part was hearing from certain kids who started out the year never wanting to check out or read ANY books. You’ll see below what made the difference for them. So if you’re a teacher or parent and you’re looking for some books for your kids (but don’t know how to get them reading), here is a  list of books submitted solely by kids.





  • The Harry Potter books (once one got started, they were all reading these – I couldn’t keep them on the shelves)
  • The Serafina books by Robert Beatty (see our reviews of them – also had these checked out every week).
  • Any and all of the Minecraft novels (NOTE: In my opinion, these aren’t the greatest books as far as writing goes; however, there were at least 5 or 6 boys in this class that wanted nothing to do with reading; but as soon as I got these, they started checking them out every week. I’ve gotten to where I will get this kind of stuff if it gets them reading. We now have 12 of these and many are checked out every week in all grades – 1st-6th) – this is just one of many sets.
  • The Red Rocks Mysteries by Jerry B. Jenkins & Chris Fabry – 15 total of these (might find sets on ebay), many of which were checked out weekly. The girls in particular would have “discussions” each week on who got to check out the next one in the series first.
  • Book Scavenger, by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman (a super-fun mystery – the most checked-out “new” book I got).
  • Jackie and Me, by Dan Gutman (for the kids into sports).
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WORLD BOOK DAY 2018 – 3 multi-cultural novels that are “out of this world”


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You Bring the Distant Near, by Mitali Perkins – (4/5 stars) I think I found this on a list of “New YA novels worth reading” and was intrigued by the multi-generational plotline involving a mother and daughters from India (Think classic traditional Indian mother with daughters trying to become more “American” –  one wants to be a feminist writer, the other an actress).  I’m assuming Perkins has a similar background/ancestry – she provided enough details to make this culturally enlightening for me while also expressing appreciation for other cultures (including English and American). Overall, it was an enjoyable story of love and family that I think would be perfect for both the adult and teen ages. A great one to check out at your local library. ~ Meg 

“There’s something about putting words on a page in private that makes me feel powerful in public.” — from You Bring the Distant Near


scotland44 Scotland Street Series, by Alexander McCall Smith – We’ve featured a few of McCall Smith’s novels before (including 44 Scotland Street), but since I’ve read 3 more in this series since January, I just wanted to put out another plug for what has become one of my favorite authors and series to read. AMS has such a unique way of blending philosophy and humor into his stories about everyday Scottish folk while easily working in all of the little places and traditions that make Scotland what it is. His human themes will resonate with most readers while still providing them a fun snapshot at this fascinating country. ~Natalie 

“The Scots’ language can do that—can effortlessly transform the mundane into the poetic, giving the dignity of profound truth to the most banal of observations, making even a weather report sound dramatic.” — from Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers by A.M.S.



The Winternight Trilogy, by Katherine Arden – We reviewed the first novel in this (soon-to-be) trilogy last year after all reading The Bear and the Nightingale. I was intrigued about Russian culture, particularly the people’s value system and their fairy/folk tales. This is an era and setting I know practically nothing about – a stark but enthralling portrait of 14th century Russia. But Arden’s ability to take a very old folk story and put it to paper in this way was inspiring. I know Meg had some drawbacks about the way the second novel (The Girl in the Tower) developed, so it’ll be interesting to see how Arden concludes this series. ~ AB

“Solovey will take me to the ends of the earth if I ask it. I am going into the world, Alyosha. I will be no one’s bride, neither of man nor of God. I am going to Kiev and Sarai and Tsargrad, and I will look upon the sun on the sea.” — from The Bear and the Nightingale

End-of-Year Reading Challenge Update

By Megan

2017’s Reading Challenge is in the books (ha – ok, maybe pun intended) – so I wanted to share the last few books I read to finish it up along with a few tips I learned about doing a “reading challenge” as well as share my goal for this new year (actual books on my list coming later).

Tips about Reading Challenges:

  1. DO try utilizing Goodreads – this website/app makes it really easy to keep track of books you’ve read/are reading/want to read. I almost always have my phone with me, so if I hear about a book or read something online, I can quickly add it to my “want to read” list – no more forgetting all those “friend recommendations.” They also set up a Reading Challenge that you can customize to any amount you want. And any book you mark as “Read” will go towards your reading goal for the year.
  2. DON’T try to assign titles to all of your reading goals – for instance, I want to read 40 books this year. But this time, I’m not going to write down 40 titles – only 25-30. I get so many recommendations throughout the year, I want to have room to fill in with new ideas.
  3. DO try to read a wide variety of genres – this is always stretching for me, but I loved the variety I got from last year’s challenge.
  4. DON’T shop for books on Amazon or if you have no money. Enough said.

2017 Books reviewed:

Here are 10 books that I read this year that I haven’t reviewed yet – some might be good ideas for your own reading challenge lists (or your kids’ lists!). A good number were juvenile/Young Adult books because I am now a volunteer school librarian, so … it just kind of happens. 🙂 Continue reading

Strep, Lies, and Audiobooks

41bsZf4KRFL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_By Natalie

I have been to the Walgreens health clinic four times in the past four weeks. Three times for strep and once for an ear infection. I’m sure each one of you can relate to this season of illness. And during this chaotic and mucus-covered (too gross?) time, I’ve been telling lies. Lies to myself. Lies like, “I am going to lose my mind if someone else sneezes on me,” or, “I am going to fall down dead if anyone else asks for a snack.” My inner voice tends to get overly dramatic during stressful times. Recently, I read The Happy Christian by David Murray. Murray’s premise is that our self-talk about circumstances and situations directly affects our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Continue reading

A Short List of Picture Books for Kids

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Autumn is a season that reignites our family’s love of reading, when we cozy up more often on the sofa with a good book. This past Sunday afternoon, my husband made hot cocoa, and he and our oldest read The Return of the King. For us, that’s a perfect afternoon.

And November was Picture Book Month! To mark this special month, we made an extra trip to the library just for picture books. Margaret Wise Brown is best known for Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny, but in recent years a collection of poems was discovered in a trunk in her sister’s barn. Part of that collection was published as A Celebration of Seasons: Goodnight Songs. Twelve artists lovingly created the illustrations for the book, and the poems celebrate the seasons, animals, and children. The book also comes with a CD collection of the poems set to music that won’t drive you crazy, parents. Continue reading

Reading Challenge Update with a little bit of everything (by Meg)

I know. I haven’t posted an update in a while, but I promise I’ve been reading and keeping up with this challenge. In a way. I’m on track with my book count – but I do keep switching out books. I know, this is kind of cheating, but I mean, all of you people keep recommending more good stuff that I have to read. So anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading since the last updateScreen Shot 2017-09-12 at 10.42.43 PM

First off, I ended up reading a bunch of AB and Natalie’s recommendations, like …

  • Elizabeth is Missing, by Emma Healey – Loved this. The perspective into someone struggling with dimentia coupled with a whodunnit was brilliant, IMHO.
  • Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin – With the exception of the ending** this was a powerful retelling of the Prodigal Son. I was on a bus full of teenagers on their way to camp … trying not to cry my eyes out (and hide this fact from said teens). The part where Cooper finds the map from his father is worth the entire novel.
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstoreby Robin Sloan –  The perfect vacation read, esp. for millenials in love with their technology … while also bringing in the love of real books.

I also finished a few that I’d mentioned in previous posts but hadn’t reviewed: Continue reading

Summer Reads 2017

Here’s just a list of fun and/or interesting-but-not-tedious reads for long vacation drives and warm summer days. We’ve categorized them (somewhat) for a quick perusal based on reader interest. We hope you’ll find some you enjoy! 

Editor’s Pick*

TMGTruly, Madly Guilty, by Liane Moriarty (Genre: Fiction)
Three couples gather for an afternoon barbecue and find their lives permanently altered. So what in the world happened at the barbecue? I (Natalie) couldn’t put down Truly, Madly Guilty until the author answered this question. Moriarty teases out the details in a somewhat maddening, but incredibly suspenseful way. That’s why this is my summer read choice. You won’t be bored reading it by the pool or on the beach. Continue reading