What's On Your Nightstand (August)

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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.


Go Down Together. Jeff Guinn. 2008. 468 pages. [Source: Library]

I meant to read this before going to see the musical live....but that didn't quite happen. I started reading it a couple of hours after the show this past Sunday and it is REALLY fascinating. 

The Wretched. Victor Hugo. Translated by Christine Donougher. 1862/2013. 1456 pages. [Source: Bought]

This is actually Les Miserables. I started it late June, and it looks like I'll still be reading it come September. I am over halfway done--closer to 60% actually. But other books keep saying read me.


Castle Richmond. Anthony Trollope. 1860. 500 pages. [Source: Bought]

Continuing my way through Trollope chronologically. This one is set in Ireland.

Seeking Mansfield. Kate Watson. 2017. 300 pages. [Source: Library]

A contemporary YA retelling of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park.

Once and For All. Sarah Dessen. 2017. 358 pages. [Source: Library]

Sarah Dessen's newest YA romance.

ESV Reformation Study Bible. 2015. Edited by R.C. Sproul. Reformation Trust. 2560 pages. [Source: Gift/Bought]

I am committing to read all 66 books of the Bible, all 66 book introductions, and any in-text articles that appear in the books of the Bible.

The Bible also contains these creeds and confessions: "The Apostles' Creed," "The Nicene Creed," "The Chalcedonian Definition of the Faith," "The Heidelberg Catechism," "The Belgic Confession," "The Canons of Dort," "The Westminster Confession of Faith," "The Westminster Larger Catechism," "The Westminster Shorter Catechism," "The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith."

I haven't decided yet if I'm going to commit to reading ALL of these. I have an e-book that has a lot of these creeds, catechisms, and confessions. That may be easier on the eyes! I will NOT, I repeat NOT be reading the study notes. Not because I don't believe in study notes, but because Sproul is very wordy and there is no conciseness!


Learning to Love the Psalms. W. Robert Godfrey. 2017. Reformation Trust. 318 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I spent a week listening to W. Robert Godfrey's teaching series on Church History. I was so excited to get the chance to review his newest book. And it's on the PSALMS!



© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Bulldozer Helps Out

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Bulldozer Helps Out. Candace Fleming. Illustrated by Eric Rohmann. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The construction site bustled. Cement Mixer was stirring...stirring...stirring. Crane Truck was lifting...lifting...lifting. Digger Truck was scooping...scooping...scooping. And Bulldozer was--"Watching...watching...watching," he said with a sigh.

Premise/plot: Will Bulldozer get to work on this construction project? Construction work, he's told, is for rough, tough trucks. Can Bulldozer be rough and tough? The other construction trucks give him a work assignment, but can Bulldozer follow through?

My thoughts: I don't know what I was expecting from this one, but I was certainly surprised with the direction it went. Just when I thought a book couldn't surprise me.

S
P
O
I
L
E
R

I was oh-so-surprised by the ADORABLE kittens that Bulldozer finds on the construction site. I was also surprised by the reaction of the other trucks.
"They're pretty cute, kid," said Dump Truck. "But taking care of babies? Now that's a rough, tough job."
I liked it okay in the beginning, but by the end I was loving it.

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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Skitterbrain

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Skitterbrain. Irene Bennett Brown. 1978. 112 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Early dawn glowed softly across the harsh Kansas prairie outside the sod house where Larned "Larnie" Moran was just waking up.

Premise/plot: Skitterbrain is a coming of age novel set in Kansas in 1875. Larnie, the heroine, is responsible for the family's milk cow, Bessie. When Bessie wanders off, Larnie takes the family's mule and heads off after her. (She does not tell her mother or father where she's going or why.) Bessie is not an easily found cow. In fact, little of this search goes as planned. Bessie gets mixed up with other cattle in a cattle herd; Larnie's mule gets stolen; she's forced to decide how badly she wants this. Larnie thinks of only one thing: her mother is days away from having a baby. Her new baby brother--or baby sister--will NEED the milk from that cow to survive. Her mom is just not able. So finding this cow is a matter of life and death--as she sees it. Larnie proves her fierceness in this one.

My thoughts: It wasn't instant love. I can tell you that much at least. At first I was yelling at Larnie a lot. I just didn't understand why she didn't go to her Dad for help within minutes after discovering the cow was gone. Sure, he might have been upset. He might have called her "skitterbrain." But I still think that would have been the right thing to do--the responsible thing to do. I was also upset with the young thief whom Larnie ultimately ends up loving enough to bring back home to her parents saying, please adopt him. It wasn't just that he made one bad mistake; he kept on taking advantage of her time and time and time again. By the end, I was happy enough with how everything turned out. This book was a quick read, and I don't want my time back despite not loving it.


© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Eight Hands Round

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Eight Hands Round: A Patchwork Alphabet. Ann Whitford Paul. 1991. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Patchwork is pieces of fabric cut into different shapes and sewn together into patterns. During the first one hundred years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, many women and girls--and even a few men and boys--sewed patchwork.

Premise/plot: It is an alphabet book, but it is an alphabet book for older readers. The goal isn't to teach little ones the alphabet. Each letter of the alphabet shares information about a particular quilt pattern. Information is included providing background on how people lived and showing that how they lived influenced the name of the pattern. (Churn Dash, Grandmother's Fan, Log Cabin, etc.)

My thoughts: My mom is the quilter of the family. She loves to sew quilt blocks by hand. She has books of patterns. She is always looking for new books on quilting at the library. I shared this one with her. I wanted her perspective. She had opinions! What we both loved was that we get to see in each pattern both the one block AND the whole quilt. Not all quilt books include this 'big picture.' There were some letters where she was, "I wouldn't have chosen that block for that letter...."

Overall, I liked it well enough.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Week in Review: August 13-19

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Princess Super Kitty. Antoinette Portis. 2011. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
School's First Day of School. Adam Rex. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Three Little Pigs. Michael Robertson, illustrator. 2017. Scholastic. 7 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Mr. Moon. Michael Paraskevas. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Trucks. Byron Barton. 1986. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Five Minute Pete the Cat Stories. James Dean. 2017. HarperCollins. 192 pages. [Source: Library]
Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Louis Sachar. 1978. 144 pages. [Source: Library]
The Hate U Give. Angie Thomas. 2017. 444 pages. [Source: Library]
Hide and Seek. Wilkie Collins. 1854. 384 pages. [Source: Bought]
 
Where's The Giraffe. Ingela P. Arrhenius. 2017. Candlewick. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Where's the Ladybug? Ingela P. Arrhenius. 2017. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First Words Baby Signing. 2017. Scholastic. 18 pages. [Source: Review copy]
I'm Scared (My First Comics #4) Jennifer L. Holm. Illustrated by Matthew Holm. 2017. Random House. 18 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Sleepy Toes. Kelli McNeil. Illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld. 2017. Scholastic. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Hey Diddle Diddle (Sing Along With Me) Yu-Hsuan Huang. 2017. Candlewick Press. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 Happy Birthday (Sing Along with Me) Yu-Husan Huang. 2017. Candlewick. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]


Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids. David Murray. Illustrated by Scotty Reifsnyder. 2017. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Return. (Amish Beginnings #3) Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2017. Revell. 330 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Godless. (Fatherless #3) James Dobson and Kurt Bruner. 2014. 416 pages. [Source: Library]
Psalm 119 #13
Psalm 119 #14

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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The Hate U Give

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The Hate U Give. Angie Thomas. 2017. 444 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I shouldn't have come to this party.

Premise/plot: The Hate U Give is a thoughtful, intense, compelling, relevant, and timely book. The book opens with a party. When the party becomes violent, Starr and Khalil leave quickly hoping to avoid drama and danger. Unfortunately, their car is pulled over by a cop on their way home. The situation escalates within minutes; Starr will be forever haunted by the memory of a (white) cop killing her friend right in front of her. The book is about the aftermath of that shooting, and also of Starr's difficulties finding her voice and overcoming her fears.

My thoughts: What did I appreciate most about this one? I'd have to say the strong characterization of ALL the characters. Starr, her mother, her father, her siblings and half-siblings, her boyfriend, her uncle, her friends. A few words about Starr are perhaps in order. Well, she identifies closely with the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Though she still lives in Garden Heights, she attends a mostly white private school. She feels stuck being "the black girl" in her class. Stuck may not be the right word. Then again, maybe it is. She doesn't feel safe being her absolute true self in that environment. She filters things. In her own neighborhood, she doesn't quite fit in either. Going to that school, that rich-person school, that white-person school makes her different, not in a good way. It is only at home that she's able to authentically be her whole self all the time. What led to her being sent to that school is the fact that she witnessed her best friend being killed in a drive-by shooting: they were both ten. Now violence has again turned her world upside down...but this time she's old enough to do something in response if she's brave enough.

Is the book issue-driven? Yes. Is that a bad thing? I don't think so. Not in this case. I think any person who has watched the news in the past few years can see that this book addresses real issues in an authentic way. I think for an issue book to work, it HAS to have strong characters. Since this one does, it works beautifully.

I will say it was a difficult read for me personally. The book has (understandably) strong language. It has a good bit of profanity. This profanity includes blasphemy. I am NOT saying the book is inauthentic, that the profanity is out of place or doesn't belong. The situations in the book are INTENSE and DRAMATIC. I am also NOT saying that the book is inappropriate for readers. I think in many ways this book is a must-read. I could see this one as being a great choice for classrooms and book clubs. Books should be judged for what they are, not for what any one reader wishes or hopes they were instead. I'd be surprised if this one isn't recognized with a few big awards.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Trucks

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Trucks. Byron Barton. 1986. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: On the road here come the trucks. They come through tunnels. They go over the bridge.

Premise/plot: Trucks are useful, always working. This is a simple introduction to the working class of trucks. The intended audience is preschoolers or toddlers.

My thoughts: I like this one. The text is super simple. It is not text heavy. As a read aloud it flows well. The illustrations are bold and colorful. I'd recommend this to parents with truck-obsessed little ones. I do think that it could transition to an easy to read on their own book.

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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Pete the Cat: 5 Minute Stories

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Five Minute Pete the Cat Stories. James Dean. 2017. HarperCollins. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Pete the Cat loves bananas.

Premise/plot: This is a collection of twelve previously published Pete the Cat stories. The stories include Pete the Cat and the Bad Banana, Go Pete Go, Sir Pete the Brave, Rock On Mom and Dad, Pete the Cat's Train Trip, Scuba-Cat, Valentine's Day is Cool, Cavecat Pete, Pete the Cat at the Beach, Pete's Big Lunch, Robo-Pete, and Construction Destruction.

The stories vary in quality. In these stories, readers get to spend more time with Pete, meet his parents, and get to know his friends. I like Callie cat!

My thoughts: My least favorite has to be Cavecat Pete. My favorite is either Pete the Cat and the Bad Banana or Pete the Cat's Train Trip. I'd read both of these early readers before. I do like storybook collections. I think they make great presents.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Board book: The Three Little Pigs

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The Three Little Pigs. Michael Robertson, illustrator. 2017. Scholastic. 7 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Once upon a time, there were three little pigs. When they were all grown up, they went off to build their own houses. "Beware of the Big Bad Wolf," Mama Pig warned as she kissed her piggies good-bye.

Premise/plot: What you should know about this book: a) it's a board book; b) it's in a novelty shape with a handle; c) there are FOUR finger puppets and a built-in stage for story retelling; d) the story is THE THREE LITTLE PIGS; e) It is not the traditional story.

My thoughts: I enjoy the story The Three Little Pigs. In fact, in college I even did an annotated bibliography of picture book adaptations. I called it a pigliography. This retelling is not traditional in several ways. No pigs are actually eaten. All three pigs are alive and doing well at the end of the story. That in and of itself doesn't make this one all that different from many retellings. But in most retellings, the wolf is punished in one way or another for trying to eat the three little pigs. Justice is served up somehow, someway. That isn't the case in this one: the three little pigs willingly OPEN up the door and extend FRIENDSHIP. The book ends with these words: "The wolf stood up and smiled with a grinny-grin-grin! The End....or is it?

I like that children (or adults) can retell the story using the built-in theatre and the finger puppets. It can be retold in any way, one doesn't have to stick to the version used in the book. The finger puppets themselves are adorable.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Sideways Stories from Wayside School

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Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Louis Sachar. 1978. 144 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Mrs. Gorf had a long tongue and pointed ears. She was the meanest teacher in Wayside School.

Premise/plot: Wayside School was 'accidentally' build sideways. There are thirty floors, each floor containing one classroom. Sideways Stories from Wayside School contains thirty stories that focus on the students, the teachers, and the school. Primarily on the the classroom on the thirtieth floor. (Mrs. Gorf is only the teacher for one chapter. She's later replaced by Mrs. Jewls.) The stories are odd, strange, and sometimes amusing.

Mrs. Jewls, for example, keeps discipline with her chalkboard. If you're in trouble, your name gets put under 'discipline' on the chalkboard. If you get an additional checkmark and circle, you have to go home at noon on the kindergarten bus. There are a few students in her class that are a tiny bit curious what she does in her classroom from 12 to 2!

My thoughts: I liked this one. It's odd in the way Dahl's Matilda is odd. I love the short chapters. While I enjoyed some chapters more than others, my overall feeling is positive. Sometimes it's refreshing for a book to not be serious and realistic.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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