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review 2019-07-11 09:32
"Elementary, She Read - Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery #1" by Vicki Delaney - wonderful fun.
Elementary, She Read - Vicki Delany

My wife and I listened to "Elementary, She Read" on a five-hour car drive. The audiobook is eight hours twenty-five minutes long, so we ended up spending the evening listening to the rest of the book. It made us laugh several times but it also had us discussing the characters (why we liked them, why they liked each other, what we had in common with them) and admiring how cleverly put together the book is.


I was uncertain about the book because it seemed to be set up to press too many must-read-that buttons: it's set in a bookshop, it's set in a SHERLOCK HOLMES bookshop, it's set in a Sherlock Holmes bookshop IN CAPE COD, it's set in a Sherlock Holmes bookshop in Cape Cod that is linked to MRS HUDSON'S TEA ROOMS, and the main character is A DIFFICULT BRIT WITH A LIKEABLE, PRETTY, AMoERICAN best friend and business partner. Add in the fact that the bookshop has an adorable cat (Moriarty) who likes everyone except our main character and that our main character has a soft love-me-feed-me pet dog and we have a Royal Flush of cuteness. It seemed to me unlikely that, with that much icing on the outside, the fruitcake inside would be worth eating.


I tried the book anyway because I'd read good things about the series on BookLikes and because, if anyone can pull off a cosy mystery that plays on the foibles of the Brits and the Americans, it's going to be a Canadian writer.


Happily for me and my wife, locked into a long drive across some of England's least interesting Motorways, "Elementary, She Read" turned out to be pretty much perfect. The fruit cake inside the icing was rich, textured, met all my expectations and added a couple of "Hmm, is that cinnamon or quince giving that extra tang?" moments.


What made it work was that Vicki Delany made the story character-driven. Although there was a Sherlock Holmes-related mystery, involving multiple killings and a suspect-rich environment it seemed to me that the real mystery at the heart of the book was the personality of Gwen Doyle, the owner and manager of "The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop And Emporium".


Gwen is a wonderful creation, made even more interesting because we learn about her only through her own eyes. Gwen is very bright, very observant but her complete inability to see the world as anything but a frankly-not-that-challenging puzzle, constantly causes offence and conflict through inappropriate remarks and behaviour. Gwen's logic and determination made "Elementary, She Read" into something much more rigorous in terms of plot than other cosy mysteries I've read. Gwen's lack of social skills and her assumption that it will be obvious to anyone with even half a brain that's she's right, at least, it will once she's taken the time to explain it to them slowly so they can keep up, lands her as the prime suspect in the murder. Watching her dig that hole deeper without realising she's doing it was a lot of fun.


What made Gwen real to me was her relationship with her best friend the petite, pretty, open and honest Jayne Wilson. Jayne is a woman other women like and nice men fall in love with but who prefers to spend her time with arty bad boys who know how to have fun. Jayne understands Gwen's strengths and weaknesses and discretely compensates for them, protecting Gwen from her blindspots with regard to personal relationships, her poor ability to assess personal risk and ordering an extra portion to accommodate the fact Gwen never orders food but always eats of Jayne's plate.


The friendship between these women works well. It makes the plot run smoothly, adds a lot of humour and avoids Gwen coming across as the kind of arrogant ass Sherlock Holmes so often seems to me to be.


The plot is convincing and kept me guessing. The dive into Sherlockian culture was a lot of fun, referencing every Sherlock movie, TV series and pastiche I've ever heard of and describing the avidity of the collectors and the playful curiosity of the casual readers with gentle humour.


My wife and I have to make the return journey today. I have the next book in the series "Body In Baker Street" (yes, the bookshop is on 222 Baker Street in West London Cape Cod) ready to play. We're both looking forward to it.



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review 2019-02-04 03:48
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day - Ray Cruz,Judith Viorst

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst is about about a boy named Alexander who has bad hair, who gets out of bed to face a day that seems to grow increasingly worse with each passing minute. Indeed, on the very first page, Alexander wakes to hair full of gum, trips on his skateboard, and drops a sweater in a sink full of water. Throughout his day, Alexander continues to have a bad day, and cannot wait for the day to end. 


Guided Reading: Level M


Classroom Activities: 

Have the students write about a time when they had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day at school. What happened? Did the day get better? How did it change? Who helped make it better?


Create a class rap about the Class's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day at School. On a Mac, use GarageBand to create a podcast. On a PC use Audacity for recording. Each student records a part of their terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Have them create a chorus verse that will be said after every few recordings. After the voices are recorded, add a beat or music to the rap.



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review 2019-02-04 03:42
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish - Dr. Seuss

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss is about the activities of such unusual animals as the Nook, Wump, Yink, Yop, Gack, and the Zeds. It is a simple rhyming book for beginning readers. 


Guided Reading: Level K


Classroom Activities: 

  • Let students explore pattern possibilities with the addition of a third color.


  • Create a number book in the shape of a fish.



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review 2019-02-04 03:36
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - Judi Barrett,Ron Barrett

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett is about life in the wonderful town of Chewandswallow. Instead of snow, wind, or rain, they get a different kind of weather that falls from the sky three times a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The only bad part about living in Chewandswallow is that the people don't get their choice of what they'd like to fall from the sky: it may snow mashed potatoes, or rain juice or soup, or there might even be a storm of hamburgers that takes them by surprise. No one is too worried about the weather, until it takes a turn for the worse, the portions of food get larger and larger and fall faster and faster, until everyone in the town fears for their lives.


Guided Reading: Level M


Classroom Activities:

Learn about different types of weather, and how to stay safe during storms.


Students can keep a running record of what they ate for the school week. When completed, each student can create their own journal. The journals can be illustrated with the different foods and shared with partners.


Have the students read the thermometer at the same time every day for the next two weeks and record the temperature on a sheet of paper. At the end of two weeks have the students help you plot the readings on a graph. Discuss the graph and determine which days had the highest and lowest readings. Discuss any trends in the temperature and possible reasons for them. For example, you might notice that it’s getting warmer or colder as the days progress.


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review 2019-02-04 03:30
A Bad Case of Stripes
A Bad Case of Stripes - David Shannon

A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon is about Camilla Cream, who is worried about what other people think about her. She will not even eat lima beans, which she loves, because people at school don't like them. The very moment she most wants to fit in, she becomes completely covered in colorful stripes! She seems to change colors to match whatever is happening around her. When the class says the Pledge of Allegiance, she turns red, white, and blue! Instead of blending in, she's standing out.


Guided Reading: P


Classroom Activities: 

After reading the book, students discuss how it makes people feel when others tease them, and how to accept differences in others.

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