Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Anna Dale/Stephanie Hemphill

Going to the library to obtain books cuts into reading time, but since summer reading programs start next week, I thought I had better get the children stocked up. Award Winning books are the theme this summer; the youngest wants fluffy pink books for third graders, the next child wants fantasy books based in reality, and the oldest is going back and forth between Laura Ingalls Wilder and time travel adventures. Keeps me hopping.

Middle child will like Anna Dale's Whispering to Witches (2004). This hit me as a delightful cross between Rumer Godden's The Story of Holly and Ivy (that whole 'being sent from school on a train in England' thing) and the Ruth Chew books. My library has a ton of fantasy books, so I am very careful when I buy new ones, but this one appealed to me. Pretty cover, easy to understand, good character development. Moved along well, fantasy element plausible. And it just made me happy. Read quickly for almost 300 pages.

Novels in verse are usually not my thing, so when I realized Things Left Unsaid was one, I was disappointed, since the description sounded so good. (Nice girl decides to walk on wild side with undesirable friend. Disastrous consequences ensue.) The verse, while not formal, was pretty good (I'm very picky), and there was a coherent plot that went somewhere, something lacking in many novels in verse. The thing I liked best was that the main character decides that the way she was headed was not a good place to go, and her trip back is depicted as well. So many times it is not. May have to buy this one. It has believable angst. And it's a bildungsroman!

Go look it up. It's good for you.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

M.T. Anderson/Rose Wilkins/Garbage

Lovd Anderson's Burger Wuss (1999) and haven't liked anything else of his, including Whales on Stilts (2005). It was a bit, well, stilted. Adults too cluelss, situations overly exaggerated-- wait a minute, my Lemony Snicket fans should love it. No. I need more funny books for boys, but this one just didn't do it.

Rose Wilkins' So Super Starry (2004) fits the category of "Pink" books of which I can never have enough, and in theory I love it-- daughter of celebrities lives in London and goes to posh school but doesn't feel she fits in. Starts dating brother of popular girl only to find out he isn't as nice as she had thought. Serviceable enough, but MUCH drinking of alcohol occurs. Even in the UK, isn't the drinking age higher than 15? I'm still debating this one.

Then, for some light reading, picked up Heather Rogers Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage (2005). I'm fairly conscious of recyling, I take my own cloth bags to the grocery store, etc., but this book made me feel like I'm not doing enough. Since our community offers recycling for plastics other than #1, I've been lax and bought shampoo in #2 plastic-- apparently the recycling facilities throw out a lot of plastic because there is no market for it. So, this is something for me to do over the summer-- look at ways to reduce waste further in my household. It is hard. In Germany, the government has made the manufacturers responsible for recycling packaging, which I think is brilliant.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

E.L. Konigsburg

The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place (2004) is in the book fair, so I picked it up. It was okay, but I don't think I will buy it. I can't think of any students who want to read about a girl staying with her quirky uncles and trying to save the folk art towers in their back yard from destruction. I must also say that it's been long enough since I've read Silent to the Bone (2000) that I didn't get why this is a companion book. They both took place in Boston? Oh, well.

That being said, I loved From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1967). Who wouldn't want to run away and live in a museum? Didn't hurt to have Lauren Bacall in the movie version, either.

That said, I'm not a big Konigsberg fan. A View From Saturday (1996) didn't resonate with me, although it was better than some of the early stuff like Father's Arcane Daughter or The B'nai Bagels, or even The Dragon in the Ghetto Caper.

I guess if I could write even one good book, that would be an accomplishment. But I didn't have a lot of fun reading through the shelf of her work.

Walter Dean Myers/Morpurgo

Finished the M's! Wheee! Now I can finally read all of the Naylor Alice books in order. (While I was shelf reading yesterday, I added numbers to the spines of some series, which will help a lot.)

Myers' The Glory Field (1994) was good but a bit confusing. Well, not so much confusing as not satisfying. It was interesting to follow the members of one family through five generations, but I would just get into the story and it ended. I was particularly interested in one woman in 1930's Chicago who set up her own cosmetics business, but even when we meet her again in the '90's, all we here is that since mainstream manufacturers were embracing the African American market, her business is down and she's had to go into real estate. At 86? Still, for students interested in the African American experience, this is a good read.

Fallen Angels (1988) is a good Vietnam Conflict (although I think it's been upgraded to a war in the last 10 years.) book, but has a lot of the f-word in it. Sigh. I don't care if they actually use language like that in the army. They shouldn't. You use language like that, and you can drop and give me ten. Anyway, it has enough of the battle scenes and living conditions, and of course shows the horror of war. This is why I never understand the little War Mongering Boys who want to read about the war. None of the books I've come across make war sound like a good idea. So why does war still appeal to them?

With that in mind, Michael Morpurgo's Private Peaceful (2003) is not going to do it for this crowd. There is some battle coverage, but a good half of the book is flashbacks of his life, and this will lose the boys by page five. Drat.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Scholastic Titles

Working my way through some new things that are in the book fair. The hard part about this is that many are available only in paperback, although the way my budget looks, I am going to be buying a lot of prebinds next year. *Sigh* That's a whole conversation right there.

Sharon Draper's The Battle of Jericho (2003) was a lot better than I expected. Her other titles (Tears of a Tiger, Darkness Before Dawn, Romiette and Julio) are all sad, but that children love them. I think that this one, with its secret society initiation, social consciousness and personal responsibility themes will be good for students, and they will enjoy it. I was tickled that she included Cincinnati references (haven't thought about LaRosa's Pizza for years) and wrote the book discussion notes at the back, since she taught English for 25 years.

Sallie Lowenstein's Sender Unknown (2003) had a promising cover and premise, but the first thing I thought was "Wow. The print is really small." Unfortunately, that's the very comment my son made as well. If the main character had been 14 instead of 24, it would have worked better for me. I liked the idea of strange catalogs appearing on his doorstep, but it didn't play out the way I had hoped.

Dietlof Reiche's Ghost Ship (2005) was better than the premise, exceptionally pleasing to read for a translation from the German, but I lost interest in the plot early on. This doesn't fill any needs in my collection, so I'll have to pass.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Klause, Morey, Myers, Zusak

Actually liked three books last night!

I'd read Annette Curtis Klause's The Silver Kiss (1990) a while ago and decided not to buy it. Then, I was at the public library, asked for any vampire book (yuck!), and the librarian enthused about this one so much that I read it again. Less gory than R.L. Stine, much less gory than Shan's Lord Loss, and really very well-written. Lyrical, almost. Good moral tale of a vampire who really doesn't want to be one, and whose main purpose is to avenge the death of his mother at the hands of his brother. Nicely played against the main character's mother dying of cancer. Is there a hardcover in print? Of course not. Oh, well. Prebind are cheaper.

Walter Dean Myers' Somewhere in the Darkness (1992) is quite a departure from The Young Landlords. Depressing through and through, but effective. Boy's father is in prison, gets out, comes to take boy ostensibly to Chicago, though instead takes him on a road trip to important places in the father's life-- because the father is dying. Boys don't read problem novels as much as girls, but this one is good. Will recommend.

An easier pick is Walt Morey's Deep Trouble(1971). Nonstop adventure in the ocean off Alaska, an 18 year old main character who is not engaging in scandalous behavior but instead trying to support his family after his father's death in a diving accident-- by diving. This was written in a clear, engaging, straight-forward style. It's a manly book. Been gathering some dust, but my adventure fiction fans will love it. This is why I need to read every book.

Did not care for Steve Alton's The Malifex(2003). Wonderfully evil cover hides a slow story. It would check out, only to come back with complaints. Will pass.

Didn't have to get far into Markus Zusak's Getting the Girl(2001) to realize it wasn't appropriate for middle school students. Wait, yes, the first sentence reads "It was Rube's girl's idea to make the beer ice blocks, not mine." Lovely. And it went downhill from there.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Monday morning

Off to a roaring start-- had my book fair delivered before 6:00 a.m. and am too early for the new posting of the Columbus Dispatch. Now to the big ol' pile o' books on my desk:

The only one I have that I want to buy: Gail Giles Dead Girls Don't Write Letters(2003). Fast-paced mystery, intriguingly written, surprise ending-- wow. This will go out frequently.

Walter Dean Myers' The Young Landlords (1979) was okay. Struck me as a little dated; halfway through I thought "Where's J.J.?" because it reminded me of the t.v. show Good Times. Inner city African Americans at a time where the inner city was run down but not too run down. Young teens are given possession of an apartment building when they complain to the slumlord, then realize how much work it is to keep it up. Some contrived zaniness. The students who like this author's other work will pick it up.

Books I am not going to buy (there seems to be more of these than books I will buy): Adoff's Freek (2004) struck me as almost a novel in verse. Certainly disenfranchised youth are always a big seller, but this one lost me early on. Lori Aurelia Willam's Broken China(2005) also started out well-- young teenaged mother is trying her best to get her life together and suceed, but after the death of her daughter, she goes heavily into debt to get her an expensive coffin. To pay for this, she takes a job at a strip club. There would be a lot of good lessons there, but we start spending way too much time at the strip club, and again, it lost me. Sonya Sones' One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies(2004) is something I seem to pick up every six months, only to get to lines like:

"I tiptoe down
to the kitchen
to try to sublimate my sexual frustration
with a Haagen-Dazs bar--"

and I'm down. This said, I love Helen Frost's novels in verse, Spinning Through the Universe (2004) and Keesha's House(2003). Even Mel Glenn's book and Wolff's Make Lemonade (1993) I enjoyed, so it's not ALL novels in verse I hate.

With all the hoo-ha about the plagiarism of Megan McCafferty's novels, I picked up Second Helpings (2003), and was grateful when she dropped the gratuitous f-bomb on page 4. More of an adult novel, this one; certainly not middle school.

At 552 pages and with Death as the narrator, Markus Zusak's The Book Thief (2006) could not reel me in even though the premise of a girl who survives the Holocaust by stealing books is intriguing. It would sit on the shelf with Chabon's mammoth Summerland (2002) and get checked out once every other year.

And after disliking so much, I had to read a Chick Lit novel to cleanse my palette. Now I may be able to finish off the M's, although with the book fair sitting there, there are probably some of those titles I need to read.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Books to read this summer--Classics

Okay, maybe they aren't all classics, but they are books that strike me as the sort of thing that I can hand to just about anyone, and the books will be enjoyed. I like all of these, myself.

Alexander, Lloyd. The Book of Three
Atwater, Richard. Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Bellairs, John. The House with a Clock in Its Walls
Booth, Martin. Doctor Illuminatus
Byng, Georgia. Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism
Cleary, Beverly. Pick any of her books!
Clements, Andrew. Frindle
Colfer, Eoin. The Legend of Spud Murphy
Corbett, Sue. 12 Again
Dahl, Roald. Boy (His autobiography)
DeFelice, Cynthia. Nowhere to Call Home
DiCamillo, Kate. The Tale of Desperaux
DuBois, William Pene. Twenty-One Balloons
Duncan, Lois. Anything by this author
DuPrau, Jeanne. City of Ember
Eager, Edward. Half-Magic
Ellis, Deborah. The Breadwinner
Farley, Walter. The Black Stallion
Gates, Doris. Blue Willow
George, Jean Craighead. My Side of the Mountain
Henry, Marguerite. Misty of Chincoteague
Holm, Jennifer. Boston Jane
Howe, James. Bunnicula
Hunt, Molly. No Promises in the Wind
Ingold, Jeannette. Hitch
Jones, Diana Wynne. The Dark Lord of Derkholm
Juster, Norton. The Phantom Tollbooth
Kjelgaard, Jim. Stormy.Konigsberg, E.L. From the Mixed-Up Files of…
Lawrence, Caroline. Thieves of Ostia
Lawson, Robert. Mr. Revere and I
L’Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time
Levine, Gail Carson. The Two Princesses of Bamarre
Lindgren, Astrid. Pippi Longstocking.
MacDonald, Betty. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
McCloskey, Robert. Homer Price
Mikaelsen, Ben. Touching Spirit Bear
Morley, Walter. Gentle Ben.
Napoli, Donna Jo. Stones in Water
Nimmo, Jenny. Charlie Bone
O’Conley Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Orlev, Uri. The Man From the Other Side
Park, Linda Sue. The Kite-Fighters.
Peck, Richard. Ghosts I Have BeenPierce
Tamora. Alanna, The First Adventure.
Pilkey, Dav. The Adventures of Captain Underpants
Pracht, Terry. Only You Can Save Mankind
Raskin, Ellen. Figgs and Phantoms
Rawls, Wilson. Where the Red Fern Grows
Rees, Douglas. Vampire High
Robinson, Barbara. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Rodgers, Mary. Freaky Friday
Selden, George. A Cricket in Times Square
Yolen, Jane. Odysseus and the Serpent Maze

And yes, obviously I ran out of steam around "R". I might try to correct this, but this is plenty of books for most people!

Ellen Schreiber's Comedy Girl

Like Teenage Mermaid(2003), and have two copies of Vampire Kisses(2003) and have the sequels on order, but Comedy Girl didn't do anything for me. There wasn't anything that I hated about it, but also nothing that I really loved. Perhaps if the main character had been a socially inept boy who pursued stand-up comedy, I would have had readers for it, but it struck me as not pink enough for my pink, fluffy book fans, but too pink for the boys. Enjoyed it, but won't buy it. There's a limited amount of money I can spend on books, so if I don't love something, I don't get a copy.

Han Nolan's Summer of Kings (2005) looked interesting, but I don't need another civil rights movement book from the point of an adolescent white girl, even if she has decided to fall in love with a young black man. Nothing rang true or hit any cords with me at all. I was also not keen on this author's 1997 Dancing on the Edge, ("A young girl from a dysfunctional family creates for herself an alternative world which nearly restults in her death but which ultimately leads her to reality.") although one of my student's liked it well enough to but the Accelerated Reader test for it. I will have to look for a civil rights book from a different point of view.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Top Five Favorites

Jennifer Smith Richards, of The Columbus Dispatch, interviewed me yesterday, and asked what my five most favorite books are. That is such a hard question. My five personal favorites? The ones I like most to recommend? New books? Old books? Fun? Artistic? I thought a lot about this, and came to the conclusion that I should have told her the five books that I have read repeatedly and will no doubt read again.

Here's the list I gave her:
The Phantom Tollbooth (1961) by Norton Juster
Anne of Green Gables (1908) by L.M. Montgomery
The Luckiest Girl (1958) by Beverly Cleary
The Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998) by Diana Wynne Jones
Candy(2005) by Kevin Brooks

The first three stand, although if I were really honest with myself, I would list Lenora Mattingly Weber's A New and Different Summer instead of the Cleary. The same type of book, though.

Upon reflection, I would have to replace the last two, which I liked but won't read again (and don't own copies of), with Julie Edwards' Mandy (1971) and Maureen Johnson's 13 Little Blue Envelopes (2005). At number six, I'd have to put Mary Norton's The Borrowers (1953).

The most influential book in my life has been Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (1953). I always feel so trite when I say that, but it's true. I read it in freshman English in 1979 and to this day cannot leave the television on for noise. I frequently ask students not what their favorite book it, but what book they would commit to memory if all books were banned. I would be The Phantom Tollbooth, which is why I always state that it is my favorite.

Plastic Fantastic/Be More Chill

I really wanted to like Simon Cheshire's Plastic Fantastic (2006), if only for the cover. British teenage boy stuck in an elevator with his favorite pop star. Students love books about rock and roll (or whatever they're calling it these days), and an exploration of the downside of being a pop star sounded great. Most books on the topic contain too much profanity and inappropriate (Guitar Girl), and this one didn't, but it also failed to portray enough of the lifestyle and was more concerned with the social malfunctions of the teen boy, told in flashbacks. Just didn't quite hit it. Will stick with Triana's Back Stage Pass.

Ned Vizzini's Be More Chill (2006) also looked promising but ultimately failed. This is more a function of my advanced age-- the quick-paced narrative makes it very clear that the author is 23-- and my prudishness when it comes to pointless vulgarisms. This story of a geeky teen boy who longs for a popular girl to such an extent that he swallows a squip ( a supercomputer that communicates with his brain and instructs him on how to be cool) would be very popular at a public library, but the casual references to sex and the drug taking make it something I don't want to hand to someone.

When did pointless vulgarism become artistic?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bloor's Story Time/Kidd's Monkey Town

I was really prepared to like this book, and it started out well. Gifted child qualifies for magnet school with TBC (test based curriculum). Considering all of the emphasis on standardized testing, I was delighted with how this book depicted test mania taken to the extreme, especially since test scores just came back here. (Blendon did great. Does this mean the teachers were working harder this year? I don't think so. I know that I always work as hard as I can to get students to read; some years, the scores are higher. Anyway.) However, the book veered off from this midway, into a series of weird paranormal events involving a demon possessed Mother Goose book and several rather gory deaths. It seemed like two separate books, which, at 424 pages, it could have been. The students love Bloor's Tangerine, but I don't think that I will be buying this.

Liked Elizabeth Lenhard's Chicks with Sticks (It's a Purl Thing)(2006) which was a good story centered around unlikely friends who come together over knitting, but it just didn't seem like something my students would care to read. Once I got to the graphic scene of the kittens being born, I lost interest myself.

The only one I really have liked lately, and intend to buy, is Ronald Kidd's Monkey Town (2006). I had expected not to like it, considering that Kidd's Sizzle and Splat (1983) sat neglected on my shelves for a long time, but this was really good. I learned more about the Scopes monkey trial than I ever knew, and Kidd used a real person for the main character and involved her in a quasi romance with Scopes, which was fun, even though he stretched the truth a bit. This is a great book when students "have" to read historical fiction, and my historical fiction fans will be pleased with this book as well.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Good books I'm not buying, etc.

William Lavender's Aftershocks (2006) was great-- girl in 1906 San Francisco wants to become a doctor but is not allowed, Japanese family maid becomes pregnant by the girl's father and she tries to save her half-sister after the big earthquake. Enjoyed it. However, it is long and I don't think it would be of tremendous interest to my students. Better at the high school level.

Olsen's The Girl with a Baby (2003) was a bit too graphic, even though this is one of the problems that girls like to read about.

Still pondering Alegria's Estrella's Quinceanera (2006). Again, enjoyed the story of a Latino girl who goes to a private school and is trying to balance her school and family life, as well as dissuade her mother from bankrupting the family with a huge quinceanera, complete with orange poufy dress. A bit longer, and the f-bomb is dropped, rather gratuitously, one time. I have a few other novels with a Hispanic focus, and they don't go out often. Osa's Cuba 15 (2003) is good, but it's hard to push. So I'm thinking.

May take the plunge on Claudia Mill's Makeovers by Marcia (2006) as well as a hard back version of Alex Ryan, Stop That (2003). The West Creek Middle School books would be good for the girls who finish all of the Naylor Alice books and the Lowry Anastasia books.

Liked Gloria Miklowitz's The War Between the Classes(1985), and think it has aged well, although Jim Murphy's Death Run (1982) has got to go-- it's been gathering dust, students, when asked, thought the cover was stupid, and the first sentence contains the word "buttocks". There should be rules about writing young adult fiction, and one of the top ones would be "Don't use the word 'buttocks' in your first sentence." Especially if the story goes down hill from there.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Just trying to add this to my profile. Haven't worked with HTML in too long.

Good, Better, Best(Warrior Heir!!)

Cinda Williams Chima's Warrior Heir (2006) was fantastic! It came in the box of advance copies that HarperCollins sent me, and I must admit, it sat next to my chair for a long time. I kept picking it up thinking "Oh, great. Mythic swords. Boys who don't know they're wizards. Yawn." I'm not a great fantasy fan most of the time, so I didn't pick it up until I was out of things to read.

But it was set in Ohio. And there were really, really good suspenseful scenes, great fights, and the whole plot seemed plausible, which is a big plus for me in fantasies. I liked the plot twists, loved the traveling to England, thought the character development was good for the main characters; the mother was a bit marginalized, but she needed to be. (Remember the tenets of a great YA book-- character must be a boy, character must save world, character must be orphan or practically so. All check.) Resolution of conflict a bit quick, but I liked that things were wrapped up in the end. There is no law that says that all fantasy books must be part of 45 book series.

Handed this immediately to one of my fantasy fans the next day; saw her later walking to her class while glued to the book. Always a good sign. May order two copies for next year. Looking forward to finding Wizard Heir.

Claudia Mills Dinah in Love (1995) is poorly titled, but a good read, reminding me slightly of A Girl Called Al (1969). While Dinah has her issues with her boyfriend, the main concern of the plot is the fact that she's upset on the first day of school by her science teacher, who informs the class that the sun will run out of energy in 5 million years. What is the point of anything after that? Dinah doesn't get in the school play, isn't elected class president, and everything is getting her down. This is a nice change from school stories that are either really upbeat and funny, or dealing with serious problems. Most of middle school is dealing with random problems like Dinah's, and I think the students will like this whole series. (Dynamite Dinah, Dinah for President, Dinah Forever.)

Mills' Lizzie at Last (2000) didn't hit quite the right note with me. I shop at thrift stores, and I think Lizzie would have a lot of trouble finding white dresses like Emily Dickinson's these days. There were a lot of anachronisms-- Lizzie's parents are hippies? They had her at 50? Still, a lot of students like to read about girls who reinvent themselves. (Conford's Seven Days to a Brand-New Me (1981) has had a big readership lately.)

It was good to have some time to read again. The end of the school year is tough. I also had to treat myself to Rosamund Du Jardin's Double Trouble (1953) last night. Philosophical question of the day: when did it become uncool for ordinary, middle class people to aspire to the country club? Was it ever, or have I read too much John Cheever?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Assorted reading

Two students insisted that I read Stefenie Meyer's Twilight (2006), and it wasn't bad. A little slow moving at the beginning, but the whole "in love with a vampire" plot will get many of the girls interested. I do not understand the fascination with vampires at this age, but it is certainly there. I think there is to be a sequel to this one. Main plot-- girl moves to rainy Washington state town, girl tries to make friends, girl falls in love with vampire, girl becomes target of another vampire, all must run and hide. It was pleasant enough, nothing objectionable.

And it was alphabetically close to where I am now-- Anna Meyers Graveyard Girl(1995) was a good historical novel about the yellow fever plague. Students often read Anderson's Fever 1783, so this would be a good follow up book. Fast paced, intriguing.

Walt Morey's Deathwalk (1991) with be good for the boys who like adventure and survival fiction. This one had a little more suspense than others, although with the requisite growing up and getting a grip.

Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Libby on Wednesday (1990) isn't for every student, but for the academically inclined students who don't get along with everyone, it would be serviceable. I liked the book, but somehow I didn't like Libby. Sure, she was homeschooled for a long time, but it seemed like she never got out with other children, at least from the way she acted toward them. Not a book in favor of homeschooling, even though Libby is portrayed as academically advanced.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Kate McMullan's series (Have a hot time, Hades; Keep a lid on it, Pandora; Say Cheese Medusa; etc. is a good example of why it's hard to be an adult and read young adult literature: these annoyed me ever so slightly. I love that they are funny takes on mythology, but reading them was somewhat painful. The students love them, I realize that, but I had a hard time reading Poseidon refered to as "Po" over and over, all numbers expressed in Roman numerals, and Greek words sprinkled hither and you ("Don't work up a drosis (sweat)!")

This, however, just means that I don't like to read them, not that they aren't great books for students, who usually read one and then beg me for more. They aren't great literature, but they fill a big need, so for that, I love them.

Plodded my way through McCaffrey's Dragonquest, which I liked less than the others because of all the bickering and fighting. Fighting, especially when dragons are involved, gets the books off the shelves, but this was more like bickering. Bleah.

Namioka's Village of the Vampire Cat was serviceable. Also read a biography of Tolkien, which was good. Gave a lot of insight.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Royal Diaries

The girls can't get enough of them, and they are published on a variety of extremely esoteric time periods. So why do I dislike them so much? In general, I have found that they are not noteworthy, and are more filled with whining about daily life than with history. Read Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba last night (Patricia McKissack) and was pleasantly surprised. Still some of the whining (My younger brother will be king when I won't be able to rule!), but more details and history, most of which I didn't know, considering that West Africa in 1595 is a pretty rare topic. The back of these books always gives lots of details and pictures of the time, so they are something I purchase, just not something I usually enjoy. So this was a pleasant surprise.

Weather is too nice to read too much, and the dog's been keeping me busy.