Photo Challenge #24 / Focal Point

20210601ma_1209“Four!” / Theme: Focal Point

A little about this photo…

I was actually trying to set my focal point on the lighthouse in the background, but if you look carefully, you’ll see the camera actually focused on the post with the “four” written on it. I quite like the result though! Lighthouse is still there. The post just adds interest.

What does the “four” mean? I’m sure it has some sort of non-exciting meaning (like it’s the fourth post on the beach). But I like to think there’s a little more mystery behind that number. Maybe it’s the address of some beach-dwelling creature? A family of seagulls perhaps?


THIS 2021 WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE – Please join me in posting your own photos every Saturday with #2021picoftheweek

Note: Changes are coming soon in July to the #2021picoftheweek!

Photo Challenge Update

20210116ma_0153

Coming in July…

I’m going to be doing something a little different with my Weekly Photo Challenge.

Yes, I’m still going to be posting once a week on Saturdays, but I’m going to be changing the format a bit. Ultimately, I will divide the year-long challenge into four sections, divided by three months (the first six months have passed, so we won’t worry about them). 

Starting in July, the prompts are going to be featured on a Bingo card. Participants have three months to try to get a bingo (or several bingos).

Opening the Challenge up to Non-Photographers

I’m also excited that this NEW version will open the challenge up to non-photographers. At least this is my hope… That bookworms can use the same bingo card to post books they are reading. It can be picture books, novels, non-fiction, whatever. Every Saturday, post which prompt you’re using and how your book fulfills that prompt.

I look forward to the rest of this year. This next challenge will run from July through September. In October, a new bingo card will be posted.

Stay tuned. I will be posting the new format toward the end of June in time for July…

 


THIS 2021 WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE – Please join me in posting your own photos every Saturday with #2021picoftheweek

Review / From the Desk of Zoe Washington

20210604ma_1210Book: From the Desk of Zoe Washington (2020)
Author: Janae Marks
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Basic plot: Zoe looks baking, especially sweet stuff. And her big dream is to be a contestant in a bake-off competition. But Mom and Dad want her to intern at a bakery first. Problem is, she never gets to do any baking there. Meanwhile, she comes across a letter addressed to her from her biological dad, the guy she’s never met because he’s in prison. Now she’s curious about why he’s been locked up, curious enough to start a clandestine correspondence with him. It’s a secret until her grandmother finds out and becomes Zoe’s accomplice …

Opening lines from the book …
The day I turned twelve, I was certain it’d be my favorite birthday yet, but then I got the letter.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I loved the creativity Zoe exhibits when she decides to impress the owner of the bakery with her own cupcake recipe. It’s great how it’s partly inspired by the letters from her dad. It was fun to watch the process as Zoe figures it all out. (It kind of made me want to try baking it myself!)

2) The Little Tomato nickname is really cute. And I love how it works into the plot! I mean, it actually becomes very important to the story. It’s neat how father and daughter connect over the songs.

3) Man, that grandma! She and Zoe go behind Mom’s back. I think it’s great how she wants to keep Zoe safe (and makes sure she keeps an eye on the correspondence). Of course, you know it’s all going to blow up in their faces when Mom finds out.

4) Zoe really is a go-getter, isn’t she? She goes out of her way to find out about her dad’s alleged crime and about his supposed alibi. Then she and her next-door neighbour figure out a way to find the alibi. Not sure I’d want kids to be doing this in real life, but putting myself in the shoes of a kid-reader, I’d be all for it!

5) I do love the relationship Zoe has with her stepdad and her mom. It’s nice to read about a happy family not on the brink of divorce.

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) And while I really like the stepdad’s reaction in the story, I also did find it a tad unrealistic. Like does he not feel any sort of jealously toward this other man who was once the love of his now-wife? Not a big deal, but I think relationships are a little more complicated. But maybe Dad is just covering it up really well!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’ve been meaning to get my hands on this book for some time. I really did enjoy it, and I was rooting for Zoe all the way! I wish I could hire her to bake some delicious treats for my next birthday! 🙂

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Photo Challenge #23 / Follow Me

20210601ma_1199“Into the Lake” / Theme: Follow Me

A little about this photo…

A beautiful June day… we went down to the lake. While the water must have been cold, it was clearly irresistible! (Yes, there were people, not shown, who were actually swimming.) I’m not one to want to get in the water when my camera’s with me. But I sure had a blast taking photos!


THIS 2021 WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE – Please join me in posting your own photos every Saturday with #2021picoftheweek

PB Review / Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away

evelynBook: Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away (2020)
Author: Meg Medina
Illustrator: Sonia Sanchez
Genre: Picture Book

Opening Lines of the Book…
Evelyn Del Rey is my mejor amiga, my numero uno best friend.

MY THOUGHTS…

Such a beautiful celebration of friendship! Poor Daniela is losing her best best friend, Evelyn Del Rey, to a move. The story begins with their last day of being together.  As somebody who had to deal with such moves as a child (I was usually the one moving away!), I can see how this might help a child deal with such a hard part of their world. Because it is very hard to say goodbye to a good friend.

The illustrations are just perfect by evoking a child’s drawing/colouring. And they go well with the beautiful, almost haunting, lyrical language. The title alone is a beautiful piece of internal rhyme. (And this book is not written in rhyme!)

In some ways, it’s a sad book, yet it’s also hopeful at the same time. That friendships do survive such moves. (And I can absolutely attest to that!)

5 Reasons Why I Love The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

20210527ma_1181One of my favourite series of all times… Definitely a 5-star rating! And in honour of those 5 stars, I’ll give 5 reasons why I love this book…

*Note: This post may have some slight spoilers in it.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe // by C.S. Lewis

#1 – The Lion

You almost can’t separate Aslan from Narnia. I really do love that he’s a lion. It just works so perfectly. I love how we meet Aslan before we actually meet him. We keep hearing about him so it’s like we do know him. In fact, it’s kind of like the children not quite knowing him and yet knowing him all at the same time. (It’s also why I’d recommend reading this book as the first in the series. I really do think it’s the best introduction to Aslan!)

One of my favourite exchanges is as follows: “Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

#2 – The Witch

I think there’s a reason the movies kept bringing the White Witch back to have some part in each movie (at least the ones they actually made). I think that’s because she’s such a good (read: evil) antagonist! She has that lovely fairy tale witch-ness about her. You can sort of see why Edmund is drawn to her.

Now I love fairy tales (and apparently, so did C.S. Lewis), so I love a good (read: evil) bad guy. Or in this case, a wicked witch. (Note: We do also meet her in The Magician’s Nephew where Polly and Digory get to see her in all her wicked glory. Although, it is my humble opinion that, like Aslan, this is the better introduction to her character.)

#3 – The Wardrobe

Which, of course, leads to … Narnia! If I could visit any fictional land, yes, it would probably be Narnia. (I think I’d want to go during the time of The Horse and his Boy, which kind of fits in during the last little bit of this book. I.e. during the reign of the four kings and queens; after the White Witch has been defeated, of course!)

Here, it’s always winter, but never Christmas. I love how that encapsulates the whole of the oppression that the Narnians face under the reign of the White Witch. C.S. Lewis did some amazing world-building in these books and it all begins with this book. He was able to make this place so REAL, even though it’s obviously not real.

Or is it? I’m still checking every wardrobe I come across, just in case.

#4 – The Four Children

I have to say that, of the four, I’m partial to Lucy. In many ways, I’m probably more like Susan, but I WANT to be like Lucy! I’m definitely rooting for her. And, of course, that’s probably because the introduction of Narnia is seen through her eyes. So, I get quite annoyed at Susan and Peter and Edmund when they don’t believe her about the wardrobe.

But, I am also drawn to Peter and Susan in their own way. And as for Edmund… well, in this book, you just love to hate him! Oh, does he make my blood boil! (by the time of Prince Caspian and Dawn Treader, I have forgiven him and actually quite like him!) But in this book, how could he betray his siblings like that!

Maybe it was the Turkish delight. (Have you ever had Turkish delight? The real kind? It’s actually very good. I’ve had some cheap kind which did not impress me, but then a friend shared some amazing Turkish delight and I can sort of see why Edmund might have gone over to the dark side. Especially considering that there was sugar/sweets rationing during the Second World War.)

#5 – The Wonderful Characters

I love the idea of meeting animals that can talk. (Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Beavers!) Not to mention mythical creatures (Mr. Tumnus!) That scene where he first meets Lucy is so iconic. (And I love how he introduces himself as “Tumnus” but Lucy adds the “Mr.”)

And then there’s the Professor. While I’m one of those people who think you really should read this book first (rather than The Magician’s Nephew, even though, chronologically, it comes first), I do think it’s fun to realize later on that this is Digory. That’s where the magic of re-reading comes into play, folks! One of my favourite parts with the Professor is how he talks to Peter and Susan about Lucy. I just love his little asides on “What do they teach them at these schools?”

And then there’s the narrator. I love how he reminds us about the dangers of wardrobes! “Peter held the door closed but did not shut it; for, course, he remembered as every sensible person does, that you should never never shut yourself up in a wardrobe.”

FINAL THOUGHTS

When people ask me for my favourite book about Narnia, I usually don’t mention this one. In my opinion, it’s one of those books that goes without saying that it’s the best of the bunch. Usually, I tell people my second favourite. (Which happens to be The Horse and his Boy; although, when I was a kid, it was Voyage of the Dawn Treader. But really, I just love them all.)


Have you read this book? Did you love it as much as me? Let me know in the comments!

Newbery Verdict: Merci Suárez Changes Gears

20210522ma_1155Book: Merci Suárez Changes Gears (2018)
Author: Meg Medina
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Newbery Winner (2019)

Opening Lines of the Book…
To think, only yesterday I was in chancletas, sipping lemonade and watching my twin cousins run through the sprinkler in the yard. Now, I’m here in Mr. Patchett’s class, sweating in my polyester school blazer and waiting for this torture to be over.

MY THOUGHTS…

Merci Suárez is having trouble at school. She doesn’t want to be a Sunshine Buddy to some new boy from Minnesota. And she has to deal the Queen Bee of her class, Edna. Merci struggles with being ostracized but eventually finds her own tribe. One of the best scenes has to do with a mummy, Edna, and a pair of scissors. (Totally reminded me of a very memorable happening in a movie my sister and I loved as children: The Trouble with Angels (1966). If you know the movie, you will know what I’m talking about!)

And then there’s trouble at home. Lolo, Merci’s beloved grandfather, is acting weird… forgetful. He refuses to come to Grands’ Day at school, and poor Merci has no clue why. Of course, as an adult, we can deduce that it’s some form of dementia. (No surprise when it turns out to be Alzheimer’s Disease; although, this IS a surprise to Merci.) I did love her connection to Lolo. There’s one particularly scary moment when Merci can’t find her grandfather on the beach but does find one of his shoes lying in the sand! Ay-ay-ay!

What I didn’t get is WHY the family thought it a good idea to keep the diagnosis from Merci. It’s not like she couldn’t see that her grandfather was acting weird. (I didn’t quite buy that part of the book.)

I also loved Merci’s big extended family. She lives in one of three little houses with her own family, her grandparents, and her aunt and twin cousins. I did like her older brother, Roli. He’s super-smart but also a super-slow-driving brother. As he learns to drive, it’s his job to get them to school. But Merci always seems to be late because Roli drives like an old man!

So, what did I think about the book as a whole?

NEWBERY VERDICT…

I’ve been meaning to read this book since it won the Newbery back in 2019. I’ve taken it out of the library on at least 2-3 separate occasions only to return it before I could actually read it. But finally, I was able to get to this book. And I’m glad I did. Now, I’m looking forward to reading the next Merci Suárez adventure!

YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!


Newbery Verdict Reading Challenge: This is a personal challenge for me to read books that have either won the Newbery Medal or are a Newbery Honor book. The Newbery is named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. Since 1922, this annual award has given to the author of the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” A Newbery Honor book is given to the runners-up.

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Photo Challenge #21 / Garden Bliss

Garden Bliss“The Scent of Lilacs” / Theme: Garden Bliss

A little about this photo…

May really is the best month of the year, didn’t you know it? Every year, we try to make the annual visit to our local lilac garden. There are dozens of lilac trees, and a visit in May is a promise of wonderful blooms. I love to see (and take photos) of all the different lilacs. Really, there are so many photo options! I chose this one because of the bench. The perfect place to sit and drink in that bewitching scent. A visit in the morning and we pretty much had the place to ourselves! Garden bliss, indeed.


THIS 2021 WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE – Please join me in posting your own photos every Saturday with #2021picoftheweek

Review, Interview, Giveaway / Jurassic Rat

Twitter-GIVEAWAY-jurassicrat

Book: Jurassic Rat (2019)
Author: Eleanor Ann Peterson
Illustrator: John Seckman
Genre: Picture Book, Dinosaurs, Rats

Opening lines from the book …
Long ago in dinosaur times, there lived a rat as big as a cat.

MY REVIEW …

I don’t know a child who’s NOT fascinated by dinosaur times. Come to think of it, I’d say most adults are pretty fascinated too! In this story, we’re introduced to a rat dad who has a big family to feed. But when you live in the Jurassic era, well, there are lots of dangers. Did I mention … DINOSAURS?!

I found the information about rats (as big as cats!) very interesting. I’m rather glad the rats of today aren’t quite so big. And generally, I’m fine with rats as long as they stay out of the house or the garden. (Unless they’re a pet, of course. I once met a very lovely rat named Stockings who was a pet. Her owner (a young girl) was very keen to let me know how smart rats are and how they do make wonderful pets. After meeting Stockings, I’m very much in agreement.)

The illustrations by John Seckman are really quite delightful. And I love all the thumps and whumps and the ploppidy plops that accompany Rat on his mission to try to feed his family and evade some hungry predators.

Would definitely recommend it to anybody interested in dinosaur times.

 

INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR …

Eleanor Peterson reads her book, Jurassic Rat.

I was able to interview the author, Eleanor Ann Peterson. (Spoiler! There’s a BOOK GIVEAWAY at the end of the interview.)

Q: Hi Eleanor. First off, please tell me a little about yourself.

A: I’m originally from Ottawa, Canada, but after meeting the love of my life in Three-Rivers, Quebec, we married and moved to Italy. There I worked in a family-run bakery, computer shop, and lastly, in a machining shop with my hubby and son. My eldest daughter lives in Toronto.

I enjoyed creative writing when I was in school and kept it up when I left. Writing is an outlet for me to get thoughts out and make use of them. To improve my craft, I took writing courses and attended SCBWI conferences. Besides writing, I enjoy painting, photography, playing with clay, sports, and going for long walks in the wilderness.

Q: What’s the best part about writing for children?

A: The best part about writing for children is that anything is possible. The most incredible and bizarre can happen to your characters. I like to use the “what if” question. Like, “What if cows could fly?” I like to tell stories that come from a different angle or are based on real-life experiences. Teachers always told me to write what I know, what I want, and not what’s popular.

Q: You mentioned to me a story about your first book presentation. Tell me about that.

A: Oh goodness! After the book came out, life happened, and I couldn’t market my book the way I had planned. Then things got sorted out, and I was determined to present my main character, Rat, to the world. I contacted my local library, and the librarian was enthusiastic about my book presentation. I showed her my puppet of Rat and later sent her a clip of my bilingual (English/Italian) presentation which I filmed and edited with Movavi video editor. She was thrilled to have me. The event was published in various local newspapers. I was so excited. I prepared props and activities for the occasion. It was carnival season, so I had a dinosaur suit I would wear during the presentation on February 24th, 2020. A few days before the presentation, COVID-19 broke out, and we were all on lockdown. The event was canceled ‘til further notice. *Sigh!*

Q: Where did you get the idea for this book?

A: The idea for Jurassic Rat came while I researched how to remove roof rats from my old rambling house without poisoning them. I tried to talk them into moving elsewhere, but that didn’t work. In the end, my cats convinced them.

While surfing the web, I came upon an article of a fantastic discovery in Spain and China about an unearthed rat belonging to the Jurassic Period. Bingo! I had a story. Having studied the evolution process during my university studies, I thought, why not introduce young readers to the evolution of species in a fun way. I bet you didn’t know that the rat’s ancestors roamed the Earth alongside dinosaurs.

Q: Did this book need a lot of research? If so, what kind of research did you do?

A: As in any concept book, you need to get things right. Facts count even in picture books. I researched other fossilized rats found on different continents and tried to reach out to the scientists who wrote the articles but to no avail. I sent my research links to my publisher and editor, and they checked if the information was accurate. I also had the opportunity to collaborate with the illustrator, John Seckman. He also had to research which animals and plants lived in that period. I.e. T-Rex dinos did not yet exist in the Jurassic period. There are links in the backmatter for further reference.

Q: If you could visit the Jurassic Period for one hour, what would you want to do there?

A: Ride a sauropod while searching and documenting flora and fauna unknown to man in our era. I’d probably get eaten by a dinosaur while examining an insect.

Q: This book is about a rat dad on a food mission. What’s the most dangerous/exciting “food mission” you’ve ever been on?

A: The most dangerous was when I went fishing with my nephew in Canada. We didn’t catch anything other than mosquito bites and almost tipped the boat. I prefer veggies to meat. Therefore, the most exciting mission is clutching my basket and hiking stick and taking a walk in the wilderness searching for medicinal herbs for tea and edible plants and mushrooms for my omelets.

Q: What’s your favourite dinosaur joke? (Feel free to do rat joke instead, if you like.)

A: Q. Why don’t you see dinosaurs at Easter? A. Because they are eggs-tinct.

Q. What kind of rat can tell you what 6.022 x 10^23 means? A. Mole rats.

Q: Where can people find out more about you and your books?

A: You’ll find out all about me on my website: https://elenaorannpeterson.com You don’t need to subscribe or give me your email address. All you have to do is click follow, and you’ll get my latest blog posts in your inbox. (Sorry, I still haven’t figured out how to set up MailChimp newsletters yet. But it’s on my to-do list.)

Connect with Eleanor on:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/EAnnPeterson
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/eleanorannpeterson/
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/eleanorannpeterson/
Facebook personal: https://www.facebook.com/eleanor.a.peterson
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.it/eleanorannpeter/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHPeCYEAqvWHsADZxmYxnBw

 


*Chance to Win* a copy of the picture book: JURASSIC RAT by Eleanor Ann Peterson

CLICK HERE TO FILL OUT THIS FORM

Jurassic-Rat(So I know how to contact you if you WIN!)

Eleanor Ann Peterson is offering a free copy of this book for a giveaway, and YOU just might be the lucky winner. Open to entries from around the world!

You can win an additional entry by liking and commenting on this blog post!

Contest ends May 23, 2021 (9pm ET)