Sunset on the Farm: December 2009

When I admire the wonder of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator.--Mahatma Gandhi.

This is what I see when I look out my family room window toward the setting sun.


Book Review: Vibes

by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Houghton Mifflin
Young Adult

The paperback version of this book will be out in January. Kristi Carmichael has always been able to read people's minds, but when her father returns home two years after he abandoned Kristi and her mother, and Gusty, the popular boy Kristi has a crush on, starts showing an interest in her, Kristi begins to wonder if she can read people at all. (BWI annotation.)

This was one of the best books I read in 2009. I love angry, gutsy, flawed heroines who eventually work out their issues. Deep inside, Kristi isn’t very secure, but she covers it well with an in-your-face attitude, thick eyeliner, and the unique clothes she’s made out of such things as torn umbrellas. She also thinks she’s able to read minds, which came about a couple of years ago, after her dad divorced her mother and left town. Mindreading is a double-edged sword for Kristi. Who wouldn’t want that ability? Yet, it seems like no one ever thinks anything nice about her.

It’s especially hurtful when she “hears” her former best friend’s brother, Gusty, on whom she is secretly crushing, think “sick,” whenever he looks at her. There is plenty of other plot material in this book, but in the end, Kristi discovers what Gusty meant by “sick." She also comes to realize that maybe she doesn’t have special powers, and that’s not so bad. I enjoyed watching her become less hostile and more trusting as the book wore on.


African Acrostics: Poetry Friday

African Acrostics: A Word in Edgeways

poems by Avis Harley
photographs by Deborah Noyes
Picture Book

Each page has a luscious picture of an African animal and a brief poem about it. The poem is an acrostic, so when the first letter in each line is read, top to bottom, it forms a word or phrase. Some of them get even a little fancier than that.

Kids from 8-10 will get a kick out of this book. (So did I. See what I did with my highlighter?)

A Croc Acrostic

Poetry Friday is being hosted today at Becky's Books. Click on over for more!


A Thanksgiving Prayer 2009

A Thanksgiving Prayer
by: e e cummings

Father we thank thee for this food for health, strength, and all things good. May others all these blessings share, and hearts be grateful everywhere. I thank you God for most this amazing day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is infinite, which is yet.

The picture is of our first grandchild. We have two granddaughters, two grandsons, and a new grandchild on the way ...

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.


Pumpkin Butterfly: Poems from the Other Side of Nature: Poetry Friday

Pumpkin Butterfly: Poems from the Other Side of Nature
by Heidi Mordhorst
illustrated by Jenny Reynish
Wordsong (Boyds Mill)
1590786203 / 9781590786208
Picture Book

This collection of 23 poems is extraordinary. In them, Heidi Mordhorst cycles through the year's seasons, inviting children to see nature in surprising new ways. She does it with unique word combinations that will bring a smile to your lips and a nod of of recognition--"Sunflowers are like that, aren't they?" The illustrations are also active and fresh.  

My favorite poem from the collection ...

Botanical Jazz

Quiet down, flower—
Not so loud!
All this stretching your neck
And spreading your arms
Bellowing your brassy yellow sass—
You’re breaking our eyedrums
Trumpeting all that color and sun
Blowing that blazing yellow jazz. . . .

Belt it out, flower—
We’ll join in!

(Sunflower picture was taken from a clipart program, not from the book.)


Flying Adventure: Sandpoint, Idaho

From now until next spring, our flying days are severely limited, alas. These pictures were taken a couple of weeks ago. We flew to the resort town of Sandpoint, Idaho, for the afternoon. The weather wasn't so great, and so we pulled our mini-bikes out of the luggage compartment, pedaled into town (2 miles from the airport), ate lunch at Spuds, did a bit of gawking along touristy Main Street, and then hurried back before the weather crapped out and we couldn't fly home again.

I ordered the Sonoma Sandwich special, which was soooooo good. Hubby had the Spicy Steak sandwich special. He said it was maybe the best sandwich he'd ever eaten.

Hubby built our airplane. It's a Van's RV-7 (which he'll be painting it this winter). It cruises between 180-210 mph. The flight took about an hour. We tucked our collapsible mini bikes back into the luggage compartment, and away we flew.


Top Ten Books for Young Adults and Adults that Promote Peace

This list ends the series on Top Books for Young Readers that Promote Peace. All of these books are still readily available for purchase in bookstores and/or you should be able to find them in your local library.

Ender's Game
by Orson Scott Card

Young Ender Wiggin may prove to be the military genius Earth needs to fight a desperate battle against a deadly alien race that will determine the future of the human race.

Fallen Angels
by Walter Dean Myers
originally published in 1988

Seventeen-year-old Richie Perry, just out of his Harlem high school, enlists in the Army in the summer of 1967 and spends a devastating year on active duty in Vietnam.

I Had Seen Castles
by Cynthia Rylant

Now an old man, John is haunted by memories of enlisting to fight in World War Ii, a decision which forced him to face the horrors of war and changed his life forever.

Lord of the Flies
by William Golding
Originally published in 1959

After a plane crash strands them on a tropical island while the rest of the world is ravaged by war, a group of British schoolboys attempts to form a civilized society but descends into brutal anarchy.

The Red Badge of Courage
by Stephen Crane

During his service in the Civil War a young Union soldier matures to manhood and finds peace of mind as he comes to grips with his conflicting emotions about war.

Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life In Sarajevo
by Zlata Filip

The diary of a thirteen-year-old girl living in Sarajevo, begun just before her eleventh birthday when there was still peace in her homeland.

Books Written for Adults (appropriate for grades 9 up):

All Quiet on the Western Front
by Erich Maria Remarque

Depicts the experiences of a group of young German soldiers fighting and suffering during the last days of World War I.

by Joseph Heller

A bombardier, based in Italy during World War Ii, repeatedly tries to avoid flying bombing missions while his colonel tries to get him killed by demanding that he fly more and more missions.

Cat's Cradle
by Kurt Vonnegut

In the year 2000, a young man discovers ice-nine, which can set off a chain reaction more deadly than a nuclear bomb, and a new prophet whose teachings sweep the world.

(Annotations courtesy of BWI unless otherwise noted.)

For further reading:
Top Ten Picture Books that Promote Peace
Top Ten Books for Early Readers that Promote Peace
Top Ten Books for Middle Grades that Promote Peace

If you counted my entries, I posted only NINE. Can you think of another, to round out the list?


Seven Kreativ Bloggers

I've decided to give the Kreativ Blogger award to the following people and their blogs: (But it feels unfair to limit to seven ... can I throw in a few more? Make it a round number?)

1. Laurie from Doughnuts'n'Things. Laurie's a friend in real and virtual life. She's a wonderful, aspiring writer of MG fiction. I read her blog for a couple of years before ever dipping into the blogosphere and discovering that it is populated by countless fantastic people, with all varieties of voices and interests. It's because of Laurie that I ever went down that path into blogland at all .... Laurie's is mostly a personal blog. She writes about her daily observations, her family and friends, writing, photographs, and short book reviews. 

2. Kadie from In My Mind's Eye. Kadie is a designer for The Greeting Farm, which manufactures rubber stamps for cardmakers. Like Kadie, I'm into all things scrapbooking or cardmaking, except that I currently don't have time for it. So I look at the card Kadie makes every day instead. Besides that, Kadie is my very young sister-in-law, married to my husband's very young half-brother, and they're all awesome.

3. Kim from KHarrisThacker. Kim is also a real and virtual friend. She is an amazing, aspiring writer of MG fantasy. And if she'll let me tell a little secret on her, this woman is only 28 years old! Which makes her manuscript, in my opinion, all the more incredible. She is represented by an agent at Curtis Brown. She's just started her blog, but it looks like she's going to write about the writing process.

4. Julia at Brainella the Librarian. I laughed out loud when I stumbled upon her blog one day. She's funny and she's also gutsy, which I wish I were more of (both). She's not afraid to rant at times, and unabashedly state her political views, which I share, but only hint at, in my blog. She also makes fabulous pottery for sale.

5. Melinda at Country Dreaming. Tears started streaming down my face, the day I stumbled upon Melinda's blog. The template (which she's since changed), the background music, and the carefree country charm that Country Dreaming is about had that effect on me. But besides that, Melinda is just plain nice. If she lived next door, I just know we'd be great friends.

6. Trish at 100 Mile Fitness Challenge. Like me, Trish also blogs about books, but it was her fitness challenge where we made acquaintance. I am SO glad she posted the challenge. I guest posted there, and so everyone knows I have a personal trainer in my Polar F11 Heart Rate Monitor. But there's nothing like being accountable to the other people. That takes my commitment to fitness to a whole 'nother level. Thanks so much, Trish!

7. Sandy at You’ve Gotta Read This. Sandy reviews adult and young adult books, movies, audio books. Her tastes are quite similar to mine. But what's really extraordinary are her travel pictures! You just gotta see them, and drool.

Just three more, pretty please?

8. Jennifer at Jean Little Library. Jennifer was the first acquaintance I made in the Kidlitosphere. She's a children's librarian in Wisconsin, and she is also a CYBILS judge, but in the Picture Book category.

9. Dog-Eared and Well-Read is a high school librarian who blogs about her great loves: YA books and dogs. Her dog looks a LOT like my dog, which I love to death, so how can you not like someone like that?

10. Kelly at Yannabe. I'd no sooner hit "publish" on my first review when bing! Someone commented on my post. It all felt like some really weird magic. How in the heck did she find it, when I was a brand-new blogger? Don't the experts say that search engines can't even find a blog until the number of posts has reached a critical mass? I followed the link back and discovered that, like me, Kelly's a YA wannabe writer, except that she's working harder at it than I am. She's currently doing NaNoWriMo. Very best wishes in your writing, Kelly.

So that's it for now. Someone give me an award in another six months, and I'll honor ten new blogging friends. What a treat this was for me.     


I'm a Kreativ Blogger

Hey! I always wondered how people got those cute blog awards, that you see on their sidebars. Susan Quinn from Ink Spells sent me one, so now I know--Fun!

Sort of ...

It comes with rules:
1) Copy the pretty picture and post it on your blog. Easy!
2) Thank the person that gave it to you and link to their blog. Done!
3) Write 7 things about yourself we don't know. Oh, crum. What do I say? This is going to stress me out. Should I try to be funny? (Can I be funny?) Should I let people know other areas of my expertise, so that, if readers are interested, I might steer my blog in those directions as well? I'm an expert in the Enneagram, so there. What if what I say about myself is boring? Eew. Cardinal sin. Do not be boring. (Or am I just boring, anyway?)

4) Choose 7 other bloggers to pass the award to. Ditto to stressing me out. Should I highlight my friends? Should I reach out to someone whose blog I subscribe to, but have yet to make contact with? I currently subscribe to 119 blogs. I want to meet all of those people, but it takes time, you know? Lots of time!

5) Link to those 7 other bloggers. Okay. I'm going with my friends, because I get so much from them, and they deserve to be honored.
6) Notify your 7 bloggers. Will do.

Seven things you (probably) don't know about me:

Inspired as a kid by Eleanor Estes's The Hundred Dresses, I then went on to make a paper doll with 167 outfits. (Yeah, it took me a while.) That was one honky envelope full of paper doll clothes!

I started writing stories when I was 11. I wrote only one story throughout my teen years, which went on and on ... because I didn't know how to end it. I suppose that's why I became an (unpublished) novelist (as opposed to poet or short story writer) as an adult. But, thankfully, I DO know how to end my novels.

On a related note, I drive by intuition. Which means I seldom consult a map, and never get where I'm going directly. But I always DO get there, and I sure enjoy visiting all the little side roads, and learning all the cool things about the surrounding area. Except when I'm on a deadline. Then I'm cursing myself for not paying attention to the map.

And why do I behave this way? Because I'm an ENNEAGRAM NINE, with a very strong ONE wing. The Enneagram is a truly brilliant map of the human mind, of our defense systems. It was created many years ago by Gurdjieff and expanded upon in recent time by other brilliant psychologists, including Jung. It tells us how it happened that the five-year-old child within us is running our lives, and how we might learn to work around our childhood wounds if we ever hope to break free of our past.

I'm a descendant of John Cary, the Plymouth Pilgrim. I own a book that traces my ancestors all the way back to him. I wonder how many millions of Americans are his direct descendants? That would be interesting to research ... if I was into genealogy, and I am not.

My favorite movie for many years was Moonstruck. I doubt I'd like it as much anymore. Movies get dated, and I've certainly changed. But wasn't it romantic?

Mountains or Ocean: Ocean

My favorite book: Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carlton. This book came out many years ago and was a huge NYT bestseller. I read it in the mid-80's. I was happy to see it was reissued in April of 2009.

Second favorite book: At Weddings and Wakes by Alice McDermott.

Third favorite book(s): Everything written by Elizabeth Berg ...

Tomorrow, I'll be featuring my friends' blogs. That will be so much fun. Great ladies, all!

Top Ten Books for Middle Grades that Promote Peace

A Special Fate: Chiune Sugihara: Hero of the Holocaust
by Alison Leslie Gold

It's one of the great Holocaust rescue stories. Chiune Sugihara, Japanese consul in Lithuania, defied his government and personally wrote transit visas for about 6,000 desperate Jewish refugees, visas that allowed them to travel across Russia and escape the Nazis ... A moving epilogue describes how, after years of grief and disgrace, Sugihara was finally honored in his own country and in Israel. (Partial book review from Hazel Rochman, Booklist.)

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Fourteen-year-old Liyana Abboud, her younger brother, and her parents move from St. Louis to a new home between Jerusalem and the Palestinian village where her father was born, where they face many changes and must deal with the tensions between Jews and Palestinians.

The Breadwinner
by Deborah Ellis

Conscious of the strict limitations imposed by the Taliban rulers of Kabul, Afghanistan, on women's freedom and behavior, eleven-year-old Parvana disguises herself as a boy in order to earn money so that her family can survive after her father's arrest.

Parvana's Journey
by Deborah Ellis

Sequel to The Breadwinner. With Kabul in ruins from the Taliban's control, Parvana dresses as a boy and sets out to leave Afghanistan in search of her family.

Swiftly Tilting Planet
by Madeleine L'Engle
Square Fish
Originally published in 1978

The youngest of the Murry children must travel through time and space in a battle against an evil dictator who would destroy the entire universe.

Samir and Yonatan
by Daniella Carmi
Arthur A. Levine

Samir, a Palestinian boy, is sent for surgery to an Israeli hospital where he has two otherworldly experiences: making friends with an Israeli boy, and traveling with him to Mars, where Samir finds peace after his brother's death.Palestinian, Jewish

Shattered: Stories of Children and War
by Jennifer Armstrong, editor

Presents twelve short stories about the experiences of young children and teenagers in war, showing a variety of perspectives, and provides factual notes on each conflict dramatized.

The Fighting Ground
by Avi
originally published in 1984

Thirteen-year-old Jonathan goes off to fight in the Revolutionary War and discovers the real war is being fought within himself.

The Flag of Childhood: Poems from the Middle East
Naomi Shihab Nye

Provides English translations of sixty poems from the Middle East

Torn Thread
by Anne Isaacs
Blue Sky Press

Based on true experiences in a Nazi prison camp. “Eva Buchbinder, 12 years old in 1943, has recently been forced into the Jewish ghetto in Bedzin, Poland, along with her father and sickly older sister, Rachel. … Given its precise detail and sensitivity to unimaginable suffering, this gripping novel reads like the strongest of Holocaust memoirs. (Abridged from Publishers Weekly review)

For Further Reading:
Top Ten Picture Books that Promote Peace
Top Ten Books for Early Readers that Promote Peace
Top Ten Books for Young Adults and Adults that Promote Peace


Top Ten Books for Early Readers that Promote Peace

Written and illustrated by Demi
Margaret McElderry

Color illustrations fill this chronicle of legendary pacifistic social activist Mohandas Gandhi, whose work to change India's caste system and free India from British rule inspired both Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

Gleam and Glow
by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Peter Sylvada

After his home is destroyed by war, eight-year-old Viktor finds hope in the survival of two very special fish.

Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story
by by Ken Mochizuki
Illustrated by Dom Lee
Perfection Learning

An Asian man saves a Jewish family in World War II.

The Cello of Mr. O
by Jane Cutler
Using poetic language, a young girl describes what it's like to live in a city ravaged by war.

War and Peas
by Michael Foreman
Anderson Press Limited

King Lion looked around his country and was sad. For a long time, there had been no rain, and the ground was hard and dry. Nothing could grow, and there was nothing left to eat. His greedy neighbor the Fat King refuses to help, even though his own people have more than enough to eat. So war is declared. It's war, but not as we know it--or should that be peace? Or even peas? A modern classic, War and Peas is an early work by Michael Foreman. It is a powerful and percipient fable for our time, highly imaginative and intelligent, bursting with spectacular images.

Faithful Elephants
by Yukio Tsuchiya
Illustrated by Ted Lewin
Houghton Mifflin

Recounts how three elephants in a Tokyo zoo were put to death because of the war, focusing on the pain shared by the elephants and the keepers who must starve them.

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes
by Eleanor Coerr

Reissue 2002

Hospitalized with the dreaded atom bomb disease, leukemia, a child in Hiroshima races against time to fold one thousand paper cranes to verify the legend that by doing so a sick person will become healthy.

Pink and Say
Written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco

Chronicles the frienship of Pink, a fifteen-year-old African-American Union soldier, and Say, his poor white comrade, as one nurses the other back to health from a battle wound and the two of them are imprisoned at Andersonville. Based on atrue story.

by Nikolai Popov
North-South Books

You would probably have a hard time purchasing this book. Amazon lists only a handful of copies, all used, which range from $26 to $155.00. It's had a checkered history in my library district, and in our 55-library consortium, there are exactly three copies. The annotation reads, "A frog, peacefully sitting in a meadow, is suddenly attacked by an umbrella-wielding mouse in a confrontation that quickly turns into full-scale war." Basically, it's a thought-provoking book about war and peace.--CE

The Wall
by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Rona Himler

A boy and his father come from far away to visit the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington and find the name of the boy's grandfather, who was killed in the conflict.

(Annotations courtesy of BWI)

For Further Reading:
Top Ten Picture Books that Promote Peace
Top Ten Books for Middle Grades that Promote Peace
Top Ten Books for Young Adults and Adults that Promote Peace


Top Ten Picture Books that Promote Peace

It's fitting on Veteran's Day to honor the patriotic Americans who fought and died for the freedoms that we love, but are so apt to take for granted. It's also appropriate to read books that shine a light on the concept of peace. Here are Ten Picture Books that Promote Peace, appropriate for the youngest readers.

This list is not exhaustive. My criteria was a simple one: The books are still widely available, either for purchase, or to check out from your local library.

Dear Ichiro
by Jean Okimoto
Illustrated by Doug Keith

After fighting with his best friend and vowing to hate him forever, eight-year-old Henry attends a Seattle Mariners baseball game, where his great-grandfather explains that enemies can sometimes become friends again.

Mole Music
Written and illustrated by David McPhail
Henry Holt

Feeling that something is missing in his simple life, Mole acquires a violin and learns to make beautiful, joyful music.

Rainbow Fish and the Big Blue Whale
written and illustrated by Marcus Pfister
North-South Books

A big blue whale comes to live near their reef creating a misunderstanding between him and Rainbow Fish and his friends that leaves everyone very unhappy and hungry.

The Butter Battle Book
written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
Random House

Engaged in a long-running battle, the Yooks and the Zooks develop more and more sophisticated weaponry as they attempt to outdo each other.

The Story of Ferdinand
Written and illustrated by Munro Leaf

In Spain, a young bull named Ferdinand who would rather sit peacefully under a tree and smell the flowers than butt heads with the others is chosen for the bullfights in Madrid when a sting from a bee makes him stomp and snort like the fiercest bull of all.

Home of the Brave
Written and illustrated by Allen Say
Walter Lorraine Books
Following a kayaking accident, a man experiences the feelings of children interned during World War Ii and children on Indian reservations.

Peace Begins with You
by Katherine Scholes
Illustrated by Robert Inkpen
Little, Brown

Explains, in simple terms, the concept of peace, why conflicts occur, how they can be resolved in positive ways, and how to protect peace.

Somewhere Today
by Shelley Thomas
Illustrated by Eric Futran
Albert Whitman

Poetic verse gives examples of ways in which people bring about peace by doing things to help and care for one another and their world.

Written and illustrated by Leo Lionni

Swimmy, a small black fish, finds a way to protect a school of small red fish from their natural enemies. (Caldecott Honor 1964)

Island of the Skog
Written and illustrated by Stephen Kellogg

Jenny and her mouse friends, in search of a peaceful place to live, come to the island of the Skog, who seems a more terrible threat than city cats and dogs.

For further reading (I'll be posting these over the next three days):
Top Ten Books for Early Readers that Promote Peace
Top Ten Books for Middle Grades that Promote Peace
Top Ten Books for Young Adults and Adults that Promote Peace
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