Monday, March 30, 2020

Social distancing update

Hello fellow readers :)

Wow, crazy how much things can change in just a few weeks, isn't it? We are under a "stay at home" order where I live in the US - we can leave for essentials like groceries, but otherwise we're supposed to stay home. So that's what we've been doing.

My husband is a teacher so he's doing live lectures from home now. This leaves me to try to entertain our toddler outside for a few hours at a time so we don't bother him and his students. So far we're all doing fine - our little guy is kind of frustrated that he can't go out to all his favorite places having adventures like we usually do, but we're all still happy and healthy - which I am grateful for every day.

I haven't had much down time to pick up a book, let alone write reviews and do all the posts I want to be doing. We were just taking things day by day, trying to come up with new activities to keep us all entertained... but now that my husband is teaching live online, we're all having to figure out how this is going to work and come up with a new routine. I probably won't be posting much until we get everybody settled in that... but I'll be back as soon as I can!

Wishing you and your families health and happiness during these strange times. <3

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Review: 50 Fearless Women Who Made American History by Jenifer Bazzit

50 Fearless Women Who Made American History: An American History Book for Kids
by Jenifer Bazzit

Available as: paperback, Kindle edition
Pages: 172
Publisher: Rockridge Press
Publication date: January 7, 2020
Suggested tags: middle grade, nonfiction, biography, history



From Amazon (since the publisher's website directs you to Amazon for their products):
"50 women who shaped American history―how will they inspire you?

Women have always been at the forefront of American history―and now it’s time to hear their stories! This look into American history for kids is bursting with engaging biographies that explore the lives of these inspiring women from different backgrounds and a wide array of fields.

From Revolutionary War soldier Deborah Sampson and abolitionist Harriet Tubman to Hawaiian Queen Lili‘uokalani and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, this guide to American history for kids takes you on a fun and fascinating journey, one fearless woman at a time. Each of these chronologically ordered biographies offers an exciting look into the life and accomplishments of these heroic figures and how they made history.

Unearth American history for kids with:

  • Incredible stories, incredible women―With multi-page biographies that focus on the accomplishments of heroic women, this is what a book on American history for kids should be.
  • Historical timeline―Better understand how each of these women fit into history thanks to timelines that show what else was happening during their lifetimes.
  • Dive deeper―Entries also feature a helpful sidebar that further explores a specific part of the biography, launching you into more learning about American history for kids.
Discover the amazing women who helped shape America with this enjoyable journey into American history for kids."

I'll be honest: I don't usually read biographies because usually I find them... um... boring. I'm sorry! I know!! That's terrible! But I just do not naturally find myself drawn to the Biography section. Maybe because the biographies I've read in the past have been a bit too dry and wordy for my tastes.

Not so with 50 Fearless Women Who Made American History! These bios are short - mostly 3 pages or less - which means the history and events that are included are just the most essential and exciting parts of these amazing women's stories. An illustration of each woman (in the style of the book's cover image) starts off each bio, along with their name, the years they were born and died, and a few words about the work they did, such as "first lady and activist," or "abolitionist and author." A variety of women from different cultures and backgrounds are included. Most of the women included are ones that I have heard of before, but there were some new names and faces that I was not yet familiar with. There is a timeline running throughout the bottom third of the book, so you can see what other historical events are taking place during the times when these women were doing incredible things.

I was really pleasantly surprised by this book, and it actually makes me want to seek out more biographies in a similar style - shorter snippets about each person, focusing just on the most important things they did and achieved. I can see this book working well in schools or libraries as a starting point to find a woman that students would like to learn more about as the subject for projects or reports. I can also see it as a sort of "5-minute stories" type book, for bedtime or anytime, for kids to learn about some incredible women and be inspired to live their own lives to the fullest and to make the world a better place.


Final verdict: I loved it! I thought this book was great! I might buy it for myself and I would definitely recommend it to others.


{ Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a review copy.
My reviews are honest and my opinions are my own; 
your reading experience may vary, so give it a read and see what you think. :) }

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

{ 52WRR }: Review of The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

Welcome to Week 3 of { 52 Weeks of Recommended Reading }!

I'm reading one book every week that is an award winner (or honor book) or has been included on a list of great books. You can find my reviews from previous weeks here.

(Just as an FYI... the start of this year was unexpectedly busy so I'm a little behind - I'll be posting a few of these in a row to get caught up on my weeks. :/ But then the plan is that it will be a once-a-week feature, posting on Tuesdays.)


The Bridge Home
by Padma Venkatraman

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 208
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Publication date: February 5, 2019
Suggested tags: middle grade, realistic fiction, India, homelessness



From the publisher:
"Four determined homeless children make a life for themselves in Padma Venkatraman’s stirring middle-grade debut.

Life is harsh in Chennai’s teeming streets, so when runaway sisters Viji and Rukku arrive, their prospects look grim. Very quickly, eleven-year-old Viji discovers how vulnerable they are in this uncaring, dangerous world. Fortunately, the girls find shelter–and friendship–on an abandoned bridge. With two homeless boys, Muthi and Arul, the group forms a family of sorts. And while making a living scavenging the city’s trash heaps is the pits, the kids find plenty to laugh about and take pride in too. After all, they are now the bosses of themselves and no longer dependent on untrustworthy adults. But when illness strikes, Viji must decide whether to risk seeking help from strangers or to keep holding on to their fragile, hard-fought freedom.
"

Awards/Booklists (as of the time of my review - if you know of more please let me know!):


This is a beautiful, heartbreaking book. Viji tells her and her sister Rukku's story, which is not an easy one, with honesty and strength. From their time at home with an abusive father and a struggling mother, to their time on the streets with their new "family," struggling to survive in every sense of the word... It's far more than girls their age should have to face, and while this story is fiction, it is painful to read because I know many children in the world are living this reality every day. Viji shares a range of emotions with readers: anger at her father and their situation, happiness with her new friends and their freedom, the uncertainty and stress of making decisions for herself and her sister (who seems to have a developmental disability)...

This is an amazing story, and I think an important story, but it is not easy to read. Ultimately, it ends on a note of hope for Viji, who is now able to envision and better future for herself, but the road that got her there is full of pain and struggle. The relationship between Viji and Rukku and their new "brothers" is a beautiful example of how friends can become more like family, which adds a warm, uplifting feeling to the story. For older middle grade readers or those who can handle difficult subject matter, I think this is a great book to read and discuss, to give readers around Viji's age an idea of what life might be like for other kids around the world that we don't often hear about.  


Final verdict: I loved it! I thought this book was great! I might buy it for myself and I would definitely recommend it to others.



{ My reviews are honest and my opinions are my own; 
your reading experience may vary, so give it a read and see what you think. :) }

Monday, February 17, 2020

Review: Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters by Emily Roberson


Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters
by Emily Roberson

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 352
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication date: October 22, 2019
Suggested tags: young adult, fantasy, mythology



From the publisher:
"Greek mythology meets the Kardashians in Emily Roberson's Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters, a fresh, fast-paced debut young adult novel about celebrity culture, family dynamics, and finding love amidst it all.

Sixteen-year-old Ariadne’s whole life is curated and shared with the world. Her royal family’s entertainment empire is beloved by the tabloids, all over social media, and the hottest thing on television. The biggest moneymaker? The Labyrinth Contest, a TV extravaganza in which Ariadne leads fourteen teens into a maze to kill a monster. To win means endless glory; to lose means death. In ten seasons, no one has ever won.

When the gorgeous, mysterious Theseus arrives at the competition and asks Ariadne to help him to victory, she doesn’t expect to fall for him. He might be acting interested in her just to boost ratings. Their chemistry is undeniable, though, and she
can help him survive. If he wins, the contest would end for good. But if she helps him, she doesn’t just endanger her family’s empire—the monster would have to die. And for Ariadne, his life might be the only one worth saving.

Ariadne’s every move is watched by the public and predestined by the gods, so how can she find a way to forge her own destiny and save the people she loves?
"

This was a nice escape from reality for a bit! I wanted to read it because it had a lot of elements I like: retellings, mythology, reality TV, competitions... and it delivered on all of that for me! The synopsis is accurate: it does feel like the Kardashians (or what little I know about them, since I don't watch their show or anything), with Ariadne's two sisters famous for their, um, anatomy and the things they may or may not be willing to do on camera, and their mother pretty much running their lives and focused only on making them all famous... They all live in a huge palace with cameras following their every move, and everything revolves around The Labyrinth Contest and its ratings.

The romance between Ariadne and Theseus was a bit... eh, for me. It didn't really do anything for me. I know it's part of the story and it explains why Ariadne would be willing to help him, but I just didn't really feel it while I was reading. It's said a few times that it's Eros (god of love) who's making people fall in love, and that's kind of how it felt: someone else was telling them they should be in love, so they were.

But honestly, I didn't need the romance, because I thought the best part of the book was Ariadne's interactions with the monster. Her motivations for wanting to care for and protect him were really well explained and I loved reading the parts where she went down to the maze to be with him.

The ending wraps up a bit neatly, but it felt right for this kind of book - an escape from reality. When I'm reading a book to escape, I want everything to work out and end on a positive note, and I got that here. It definitely left me with good vibes. 


Final verdict: I liked it! I thought this book was good! I enjoyed reading it and I would probably recommend it to others.



{ Thank you to Goodreads Giveaways for providing me with a review copy.
My reviews are honest and my opinions are my own; 
your reading experience may vary, so give it a read and see what you think. :) }

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Weekly Wrap-Up: January 26-February 15, 2020

Here's a recap of my posts from this week, along with my weekly collection of news, announcements, and booklists I've found while browsing around the internet. Hope you enjoy! :)
** (I missed a few recap posts, so here's 3 weeks worth of goodies! I'm sure I've missed a bunch - if you know of anything, please leave me a comment and I'll add it in!) **



Here @ PPBN

Awards

Booklists

Articles

New & Upcoming Books


I'm sharing my Weekly Wrap-Up posts on 
https://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/the-sunday-post-meme

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Review: The Bat Book by Charlotte Milner

The Bat Book
by Charlotte Milner; illustrated by Charlotte Milner

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 48
Publisher: DK Children
Publication date: February 4, 2020
Suggested tags: picture book, nonfiction, animals, conservation

From the publisher:
"Take an amazing journey through the upside-down world of bats.

Bright, bold, and beautiful illustrations accompany fascinating facts about these furry flying mammals and their importance to the world we live in.

From the way they fly, to how they communicate with one another, how they hunt, and why they sleep upside-down, each of the world's 1,300 types of bat is unique and utterly fascinating. Bats are also incredibly important to the environment. As well as gobbling up pests, and spreading seeds through the forests, they also pollinate more than 500 different species of plants throughout the world, including some of our favorite fruits such as mangoes and bananas.

Following on from
The Bee Book and The Sea Book, Charlotte Milner continues to highlight important ecological issues faced by our planet to children, this time focusing on the world's only flying mammals. The Bat Book is perfect to teach little animal-lovers all about these clever creatures who do so much for our planet. Discover how much they matter, why they are declining, and what we can do to help. This charming celebration of bats shows children just how extraordinary these animals are, and is a reminder that it is up to us to care for our planet and its creatures."

I've been meaning to read The Bee Book and The Sea Book by this same author, but I never got around to it... Now I can't wait to get my hands on them!! I loved this colorful, wonderful introduction to bats and the ways we can help protect them. There is plenty of information provided, but it's spread out nicely across each spread of pages so it never feels overwhelming. The illustrations are detailed, but they are soft and pleasant. I think bats are pretty cute IRL, but these bats are adorable!


The first part of the book gives information about bats - how they look, how they fly, where they live, what they do, etc. It gives a lot of great info about how bats help the world, including us humans - by pollinating, spreading seeds, and helping with reforestation.


The last part of the book explains some of the challenges bats are facing and how we can help protect them, such as by making seed balls (instructions included!), planting bat-friendly gardens, or hanging bat houses.

This was a really well-illustrated and nicely balanced informational book about bats. I think older picture book readers would really love all the neat facts and the detailed pictures. As a librarian, I always think about how I could use a book at library programs - there is perhaps a bit too much info to read word-for-word at a storytime, but I would not hesitate to use portions of this book to read aloud during a conservation-themed program. I think an age range of somewhere around 5-10 years old would love being shown some of the pages about how bats spread seeds and help conserve ecosystems, followed by a snack of some fruits that bats help to grow, and wrap it up by following the directions in the book to make their own seed balls to take home. I could see this working for younger kids at home with a parent/caregiver also, or a homeschool or scout group looking into some environmental conservation topics. Overall, I think it's a great book and I'll definitely be keeping my eyes out for more titles in this line!


Final verdict: I loved it! I thought this book was great! I might buy it for myself and I would definitely recommend it to others.


{ Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a review copy.
My reviews are honest and my opinions are my own; 
your reading experience may vary, so give it a read and see what you think. :) }



This review is for the 
hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy!
http://www.kidlitfrenzy.com/kid-lit-frenzy/2020/1/7/nonfiction-picture-book-challenge-the-start-of-the-9th-year
You can find more info about the challenge in my post here

Monday, February 10, 2020

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2020



I'm so excited to be joining the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2020, hosted by Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy! It's a great way to celebrate nonfiction picture books (or nonfiction middle grade or YA books too!) and check out what others are reading and reviewing. You can find more info about it and the linkup to join in here!



My goal for this year is to read 20 nonfiction picture books! My *unofficial* goal is to participate every week in the #NFPB2020 Challenge, but I'm a stay-at-home mom of a busy little dude and I just don't have a lot of free time, so I'm trying to be kind to myself and start setting lower blogging goals. I know realistically I won't be able to post every week, but a goal of 20 for the year feels doable!

I can't wait to get started! Look for my first nonfiction picture book review coming this week! #NFPB2020