Photo Challenge #33 / The Great Outdoors

IMG_0387“Salt Lake at Sunset” / Theme: The Great Outdoors

A little about this photo…

This photo was taken at Manitou Beach in Saskatchewan. Little Manitou Lake is a salt lake. We didn’t actually go swimming in it on this visit since, when we arrived, because of the winds. We practically were blown away. This photo was taken in the calm after the storm.


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2019picoftheweek

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Photo Challenge #32 / It’s Hot

IMG_0234“Tug-a-War” / Theme: It’s Hot

A little about this photo…

I saw these sculptures in a park. (This is just one in a series.) I absolutely loved the playful tone! I’m choosing “It’s Hot” for my prompt because, well, isn’t a game of tug-a-war perfect for a beautiful, hot summer day?


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2019picoftheweek

Review: Elephant Secret

elephant-secretBook: Elephant Secret (2018)
Author: Eric Walters
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot: Sam and her dad run an elephant sanctuary where they care for a herd of misfit elephants. Just as one abused elephant arrives, another is born to an elephant of the herd. But the new baby elephant has a secret… one that Sam and her father have yet to find out. A secret they won’t know about until they  meet their mysterious benefactor… Or should we call him “partner”?

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Sam (Samantha) is an elephant girl. She knows elephants better than anything. In fact, she has such as strong bond with the elephant herd that it’s fun to watch (i.e. read about) her doing her thing. I love how she ends up leaving her eighth grade dance (in full formal-dress mode) to go be with the elephants when the new baby is born.

2) I loved the elephants in this book! I thought Walters did an amazing job of letting us get to know the herd. This isn’t always an easy thing to do for authors since the elephants never talk. They act like… elephants. And yet, we as readers get to know them and their personalities. I loved the matriarch, Trixie. And the younger ones, Raja and, of course, Woolly (who is adorable). I think my favourite elephant is the rescue one: Burma.

3) Jimmy was an interesting character. He’s portrayed almost as if he were a kid who never grew up. He’s also one of those characters that you’re not sure if you like him or hate him.

4) I really liked Sam’s dad, especially with his relationship to his daughter and to the elephants. Joyce (the lawyer girlfriend) is an interesting addition to the cast of characters. It was nice to see her relationship grow with Samantha, especially toward the end when the “girls” stand together after Dad gets upset over the incident with Burma.

5) (**SPOILER) The scene where Burma gets out of the cage was probably the best scene in the book. I found this scene quite emotional. Sam is completely crazy in that scene, but it all makes sense since she’s the elephant girl. Every step she took with those apples was tense. (End Spoiler)

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) We never find out what happens to Burma in the long run. I was really rooting for him so I want to know what happens!!

2) There is an element on cloning in this book. It’s actually the Elephant Secret. (**SPOILER) It all has to do with cloning animals. Think: Jurassic Park. Although, not with dinosaurs, but with woolly mammoths. I wasn’t too crazy about they concluded things. I don’t think cloning is a good thing. THAT was the lesson of Jurassic Park! (End Spoiler)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I loved the elephants in this book. And I enjoyed reading about the inner workings of an elephant sanctuary. This book has some great discussion points. I would definitely recommend this to animal lovers.


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 #31 / Rule of Thirds

IMG_0528“Bridge at Dusk” / Theme: Rule of Thirds

A little about this photo…

Grabbed this shot on a photo shoot. We were walking back along a path on the river when I saw this. Loved the lights reflecting in the water. I put the bridge is in the upper thirds of the photo and… Bam! One more prompt completed. 🙂


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2019picoftheweek

Review: The Impossible Journey

impossiblejourneyBook: The Impossible Journey (2004)
Author: Gloria Whelan
Genre: MG, Historical (Soviet Union 1934)
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot:  Marya and Georgi want nothing more than to be reunited with their parents who have been taken during one of Stalin’s purges. The two determined children set out on an impossible journey across Russia towards a remote village in Siberia with the slight hope that they will find their mother there. (A companion book to Angel on the Square.)

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I read Angel on the Square a long time ago. (Hint: It’s about Marya’s and Georgi’s mother.) I didn’t know this book existed until now! I like that it’s not a direct “sequel”, but that it does give us another peek into the lives of the characters from the first book. (Note: You can also read this book without having read Angel.)

2) The sibling relationship between Marya and Georgi is both realistic and sweet. He’s the typical younger brother who frustrates Marya. And yet she can’t leave him behind!

3) I love the look at the different families in this book. The book is about two children seeking to reunite their own split-apart family. Then there’s the neighbor family (with the bear) who initially take them in…. The doctor’s family on the train… And the “big family” of the Samoyeds (nomadic tribe).

4) The history of the time period of this book has always fascinated me. I thought Whelan did a good job in depicting the hardships of living under Stalin. One of my favourite parts was when Marya meets the Government Man and is forced to sing the praises of Stalin. (And how Georgi almost sabotages her plan!)

5) I really enjoyed learning about the Samoyeds (nomads who lived in Russia/Siberia at this time). I liked the interaction they had with the children, especially with regards to Georgi’s snow globe. I really liked how Marya and Georgi are not only helped by them, but also end up helping them in return.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I found it hard to understand Marya’s impulsive nature, especially with regard to showing off her mother’s locket. (I suppose you could argue that it’s still only 1934 and she doesn’t yet know the danger of such items. The height of Stalin’s purges doesn’t happen until 1938.) Not a major criticism as the episode does show how school was a place where information was gleaned about parents.

2) In the very end, there is (what I’d consider) an unnecessary death. Certainly it’s realistic, but it didn’t seem to be absolutely necessary to the book.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – This book gives a good sense of this oppressive time period in history. I’d definitely recommend for anybody who likes history as well as those who like plucky-children-who-take-impossible-journeys stories.


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 #30 / More Please!

IMG_0423“Have Your Cake…” / Theme: More Please!

A little about this photo…

I love how photography allows you to have your cake and eat it, too!

When my niece was asked what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday, she replied “any cake with whipped cream.” So this is the cake we made for her. And… it was delicious! Can I have another piece of cake?


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2019picoftheweek

Review: Skylar

skylarBook: Skylar (2008)
Author: Mary Cuffe-Perez
Genre: Lower MG, Contemporary (Animals)
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic plot:  Skylar and his friends are pond geese. They never migrate. That is until a heron shows up needing to find his way to Lost Pond. Now it’s up to Skylar and his ragtag band of geese to tap into their instinct and begin the journey…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I found this very interesting. Told from the perspective of the geese, it’s an interesting look into the migration of Canada geese. Plenty of goose facts, but in the format of a story.

2) I loved the quirks of all the geese! The boasting of Skylar and quiet wisdom of Esther. Roosevelt’s a bit of a know-it-all, too. And then Weedle and Loomis add a lot of fun to the story with their antics. Love the character arcs for all of them… Especially with how they band together (despite all their bickering).

3) And then there’s the Who-on (the name the geese give the heron). He’s so patient with them. Even when he finally gets angry at them for not knowing exactly where they’re going! I especially loved the part at the end when he speaks to Skylar and reveals some things. (I won’t spoil it here.)

4) The illustrations are a nice touch.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) At times, I found the story a little slow. (But it does pick up.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – A fun* story about Canada geese. It is lower MG, and I would definitely recommend for kids who like animals-can-talk books. Also, if you’re interested in learning about geese migration, this is a nice peek into that topic (from the POV of the geese).

(SPOILER Warning: *There is a sad event that does happen in the book involving a death. Nothing graphic, but it is sad in the vein of a book like Charlotte’s Web.)


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 #29 / Sunset

IMG_9562“Painted Sky” / Theme: Sunset

A little about this photo…

The colour of the sunset was stunning a few nights ago. I grabbed my camera and practically ran out of the house to get this shot. Got two random houses, but I love how their silhouettes are juxtaposed against that amazing painted sky!


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2019picoftheweek

Review: Island War

island-warBook: Island War (2018)
Author: Patricia Reilly Giff
Genre: MG, Historical (WWII)
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot:  Izzy and Matt arrive on an Alaskan island around the same time–Izzy with her mother, and Matt with his father. When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, it isn’t long before Japanese soldiers land and the islanders are evacuated to camps in Japan. However, Izzy and Matt find themselves left behind. Now they have to survive on their own, making sure nobody knows they’re even on the island.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I loved this from a historical perspective. I didn’t know the U.S. was “invaded”. So, this part of history really grabbed me.

2) The beginning of the novel (when Izzy and Matt both get used to life on the island) was very pleasant and interesting to read. I particularly liked Maria, the island girl that befriends Izzy. (She also has a super cool name. Just saying.)

3) Then half-way through the book, the plot takes a turn… to more of an Island of the Blue Dolphins vibe. Once the kids are on their own it becomes a survival story. Not only do they have to find food, but they also have to hide from the enemy. (And I love that one particular soldier may not be such a bad guy after all.)

4) The story is told through alternating chapters and POVs of Matt and Izzy. I loved their rivalry and how Giff portrays their mutual dislike of one another. It makes it even better when they have to put their differences behind them in order to survive. I liked how both characters have arcs.

5) I really like the muted colour on the cover of this book. I think it works very nicely for the story inside.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Some of the backstories were a little confusing to me. Especially with what happened to Izzy’s dad. I think he’s dead (but I’m not sure… Did I somehow miss that part?)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – This book is for anybody who is interested in a lesser-known story about World War II. And also for people who enjoy a good survival story.


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 #28 / Here I Stand

IMG_9242“Dress Form” / Theme: Here I Stand

A little about this photo…

There was this old board game we used to play as kids called “Scavenger Hunt”. It had a dress form as one of the items you had to find. When I saw this, it made me think of that game!

I’ve decided to go with the “Here I Stand” prompt for this week. 🙂


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2019picoftheweek