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review 2019-03-12 17:47
Family Reminders by Julie Dannebery, illust. by John Shelley
Family Reminders - Julie Danneberg,John Shelley

Ten-year-old Mary McHugh’s world is shattered when her father is injured in a mining accident in the late 1800’s. After losing his leg, Mary’s father falls into a deep depression. He no longer plays the piano or has interest in carving the intricate wooden "Reminders" that he has always made to remind the family of the milestones they shared together. To make matters worse, the family may need to leave their home in Cripple Creek, Colorado in order to make ends meet. Mary’s love for her father and her desire to get life back to "normal" push her to take a chance that restores her father’s spirit and brings her family a new life, strengthened by the hardships they have endured.





Young Mary McHugh is growing up in the frontier town of Cripple Creek, Colorado in the late 1890s. She has a very loving home life full of jokes, laughter and her father's wood carvings he calls "reminders", since he tends to carve figures inspired by real life memories. 


Mary's father, a miner, experiences a work accident one day that costs him one of his legs. The transition into life as an amputee is not an easy one for Mary's father. Even once a large part of his initial physical healing has passed, he still struggles with the emotional turmoil brought about by this new life situation. Mary's father doesn't like to see his wife having to take up work as a laundress to pay the bills now that he is out of work... or Mary herself sneaking in babysitting jobs where she can to supplement the family income. Once a man who took pride in doing an honest day's work, Mary's father now battles a sense of uselessness. But when suggestions are made as to what he can contribute (work-wise), he goes back to moping. 



But Mary is determined to do whatever is necessary to raise her father's spirits and keep the family unit strong. It is through Mary's bold, optimistic spirit that an answer to the family's prayers comes about, guaranteeing the reader a happy ending to close on. Once he gets his groove back, Mary's mother can't help but lightheartedly comment, "Guess he got bored with his orneriness." 


Although Daddy didn't respond, I saw the corners of his mouth turn up. Just a tiny bit. And a new feeling, a spring feeling, lifted my spirits just a tiny bit too. After that, Daddy's hands were always busy. He made the bookshelf for the parlor. He worked on a new bench for the front porch, and he also began carving new Reminders. Mama didn't mind the mess...I didn't mind the mess either. I loved to sit beside Daddy at the kitchen table while he worked. It was like magic to watch him uncover the secret hidden in the wood. His hands were strong and sure as he held the carving knife. 




Family Reminders is a quick little read --- big print, lots of heartwarming illustrations --- but there's a fair amount of heart and inspiring, feel-good plot, even a little humor, woven into these few pages! Author Julie Danneberry writes that the storyline is loosely inspired by the childhood of her grandmother, who grew up in the real Cripple Creek, CO and who also had a father who lost a leg in a mining accident. I'd recommend for fans of the Little House on the Prairie books. 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2019-02-02 06:49
The Rainbow Fish
The Rainbow Fish - Marcus Pfister,J. Alison James

The Rainbow Fish is a childhood classic that teaches children the importance of sharing. In this story we are introduced to Rainbow Fish, the most beautiful fish in the sea. He is selfish with his scales and does not want to share them, which quickly causes him to be friendless. Rainbow Fish seeks the advice from a star fish, who encourages him to share his beautiful scales. Rainbow Fish takes the star fish advice and shares his scales until they are all gone. Although Rainbow Fish no longer has his beautiful scales, he finds himself surrounded with beautiful friends. 


How I would use this book in my classroom:

I would read this book in my class with the hopes that my students learn the importance of sharing. I would read it during whole group and even allow my students to create their own rainbow fish during a mental break moment. 


Lexile: AD610L

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review 2019-01-27 21:09
I am Apache by Tanya Landman
I Am Apache - Tanya Landman

A young woman seeks to avenge her brother's death by becoming an Apache warrior — and learns a startling truth about her own identity. After watching helplessly as Mexican raiders brutally murder her little brother, fourteen-year-old Siki is filled with a desire for vengeance and chooses to turn away from a woman's path to become a warrior of her Apache tribe. Though some men, like envious Keste, wish to see Siki fail, she passes test after test, and her skills grow under the guidance of her tribe's greatest warrior, Golahka. But Keste begins to whisper about Siki's father's dishonorable death, and even as Siki earns her place among the warriors, she senses a dark secret in her past — one that will throw into doubt everything she knows. Taking readers on a sweeping and suspenseful journey through the nineteenth-century American Southwest, Tanya Landman draws on historical accounts to imagine the Black Mountain Apache as a tribe in a fight for survival against the devastating progress of nations.





Siki, a fourteen year old Apache girl, witnesses the murder (by decapitation) of her four year old brother during a Mexican raid. Set on avenging his death, she sets out to become an Apache warrior. Siki vows to use her brother's spear to kill his murderer. The tribe notes how unusual it is to allow women to train to be braves, but it is later decided to let her try. She will need to complete four missions to be eligible for warrior council. The fourth mission puts her between a rock and a hard place, as she is forced to choose between honoring wishes of the Chief or the loyalty of a true friend.


To become a warrior, first must one learn to observe and supply the needs of others. This is the way of the Apache.


Geared toward a YA audience, I Am Apache is a solidly entertaining introduction into YA Historical Fiction. Author Tanya Landman writes in clear, straightforward prose while also developing a strong sense of Siki's environment. We learn of beliefs, customs and maybe just a touch of Native American feminism, as Siki breaks through traditionally male ranks. It's fun to be in on Siki's thought process, not to mention her intelligence and dedication to training, as she outwits cocky warriors during her missions. I also loved the student - teacher banter between Siki and Golhaka (reminded me a bit of Mulan and Li Shang).



...warriors must know and understand all the tasks of the tribe lest they should ever need them: they must stitch and sew and cook as well as any woman, as indeed the women of our tribe must shoot a bow and use a knife as deftly as a man.


For such a short story, Landman successfully takes her readers through the gamut of emotions:


* Humor : Scenes discussing a love of coffee

* Strength: Siki's skills with hunting, Golhaka commenting, "I would not want her for an enemy."


* Tension: The darkness that surrounds the rivalry between Siki and star warrior Keste

* Romance: Siki's good friend Dahtet (female) hiding deeper feelings for her

* Sadness: Learning that survivors of raids were not allowed to bury their dead but instead expected to just walk away, never look back.


A strong read all around! It's actually inspired by the true story of Lozen, a female warrior who rode beside Geronimo as one of the last truly free Apache. Her mother had been killed in a raid similar to that of Siki, her brother just ten months old. Lozen's father was killed when an Apache party attempted a retaliation ambush on the Mexicans. 


Lozen was eventually captured by the US military, dying of TB while in confinement in 1889.

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review 2019-01-22 20:32
Amazing Grace
Amazing Grace - Mary Hoffman,Caroline Binch

I believe this book is a must read to your students! It was introduced to me by my professor and if I can feel moved by this book, I know a child will be moved even further!  Amazing Grace is a sweet book on the importance of believing in yourself. In this story we follow a little girl named Grace who loves playing pretend. Grace's school is putting on the drama Peter Pan and Grace knows who she wants to be, Peter Pan himself ! A few of her classmates discourage her, telling her that she doesn't look the part. Will Grace listen to her classmates opinions, or will she show them that if she works hard enough she can accomplish anything? 


How I would use this book in my classroom:

I would read this to my students in the hope that they take a lesson on believing in yourself from it. 


Lexile: 680L



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review 2019-01-21 22:21
Amazing Grace
Amazing Grace - Mary Hoffman,Caroline Binch

When Grace's school decides to perform Peter Pan, Grace longs to play the lead. Her classmates are quick to tell her that Peter Pan was a boy and also wasn't black. Grace learns that she can be anything she wants through the support of her family. The play is a success, and Grace is a great Peter Pan. 

Students can point out character traits about Grace, Mom, and Nana and find text evidence to support these in the book.


Lexile: 680L

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