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Perdita by Hilary Scharper

To be published: January 1, 2015


Garth Hellyer is a historian in charge of the Longevity Project, which is collecting oral histories of the oldest people in Canada. A woman at a nursing home claims to be 134 years old and shows him her birth certificate to prove it. When he is obviously skeptical, she decides to give him her personal journals, which start in 1897 and document the life of Marged Brice. They tell the story of what life was like in the Georgian Bay of Ontario and the Cape Prius Lighthouse at the turn of the century, especially in the context of this vibrant young woman and her natural connection with its landscape and its people. It shows a tale of love, loss and a bit of redemption, which is mirrored in its modern day accompaniment story. Just who is Perdita and what is her connection to Ms. Brice? Is Marged really who she says she is? 4 stars.

I liked the cover of this book and the initial premise sounded interesting. I actually loved the incredibly detailed descriptions of the nineteenth century part of this book, but wasn’t so much a fan of the modern day story. It wasn’t until after I read the book that I saw it compared to Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre and I can definitely see aspects of them in the romantic brooding story. I liked that the book was mostly a historical fiction mystery with a little mythology thrown in for good measure, but I think the book got a bit bogged down by the mythology. It was nearly 3/4 the way through the book before we figured out who Perdita actually was and her true importance to both Marged and Garth. I also liked the way the author kept you guessing as to who was the true love of Marged’s life.

Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.



Finding Rebecca by Eoin Dempsey

Published Oct 28, 2014


Christopher discovered Rebecca one day in 1924 when he was six years old. She had escaped from her abusive father and alcoholic mother. Christopher and his father and sister, newly arrived from Germany to the island of Jersey (an English colony off the coast of France), take her in without a moment’s hesitation. From then on, Christopher and Rebecca are inseparable. As a teenager, she runs away to England to again escape her family and Christopher believes he has lost her. She eventually comes back with a fiancee, but Rebecca falls in love with Christopher despite this. Things were going well for the two lovers until the Nazis came into power in Germany and suddenly Rebecca’s Jewish ancestry gets her and her family shipped to labor camps in 1943. Christopher decides to try to rescue her and gets himself into the SS as an accountant at Auschwitz, hoping to be able to secure her release. Will he be able to rescue her and be reunited? Will his cover be blown at the hands of the Nazis? 3 stars.

I found this book on Netgalley and thought it had an intriguing story. I am always fascinated by books about the Holocaust, and this one was different because of its original setting on the Isle of Jersey and as it is taken from the viewpoint of someone working for the Nazis. The author definitely did a lot of research for this volume. It was a little sad to see how easily the British gave up the island to the Germans. The book kind of dragged in the middle and then the subject matter kind of got to me. Whenever I have gone to the National Holocaust Museum in DC, the one thing that always makes me upset is the piles of shoes and suitcases that the Nazis collected and sorted after the prisoners exited the cattle cars that took them to the concentration camps. I guess I’m always a little out of sorts reading about a culture who willing participated in genocide as though it was a commonplace everyday activity. The detail in which the author describes how the Nazis methodically got rid of a person’s belongings, separated the people out (to see which would live and which would die), and then heartlessly killed them. And continued to do it day after day because it was their job. Another reason the book dragged, for me at least, was how long it took the story to resolve itself and the ending wasn’t that great.

Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.


If everyone tried these techniques, which I think anyone can do, just think of how many happy readers we would have out there. My son gets so excited to read with me and I can’t wait for him to be able to read on his own.

Originally posted on Nerdy Book Club:

As he sounds out the word painfully slowly, he looks desperately to the illustration for assistance. He looks at me. I look back blankly. He says each sound separately, but blends it incorrectly. He shakes his head. He looks at me. I look back with my gentle smile.  He glances over at the boys reading through the books in their book boxes effortlessly, happily even.  


The silence is loud and a little too long.  I want to cover my ears, but instead I hold my hand over my mouth. I must not tell him the word. He should be allowed to feel that power of saying the word and recognizing it first. I am his teacher. It is my job to align the planets so that this miracle can take place.  There is only so much I can do.

  1. Introduce books as if they are an ore…

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San Francisco Mountains in Autumn

Fall in Flagstaff, AZ with the San Francisco Mtns in the background

It is finally Autumn in Arizona. Now I realize it is late November and winter storms are plaguing most of the Midwest and East coast, but it has only in the last few weeks gotten cool enough here to warrant long sleeves in the morning and evening (with temps in the low 70s – 21C for the rest of the world) and leaves starting to fall. The majority of the trees are still green and still have their leaves. Fall is my favorite time of year. I miss having real seasons in Arizona, we mostly just have a lot of summer with a very small fall/winter/spring. In October, I started craving cozy foods like homemade mac ‘n’ cheese and stews, and more importantly hot tea and cider. And this was when it was still 90 degrees outside. I also started crocheting again, and have made three scarves so far. I have decided to do “Autumn” as my theme for the last DiscoveryTime (DT) of the year. Sadly I can’t do a lot of the experiments I found online because almost no leaves have fallen. I added more songs and fingerplays in though, and an extra book so hopefully that will make up for it. I started doing take-home activity sheets as well, to have the parents and children do something fun related to the storytime.

While I was researching for the DT, I found a couple of poems, one of which I decided to add because it was from an award-winning children’s book called A Child’s Calendar by John Updike, illustrated by Tricia Schart Hyman. I also decided that if it was possible, I would like to include more poetry in my storytimes, as I enjoy it and it would be nice to expose the children to it as well. One that I could not add, not because it wasn’t a great poem (it is gorgeously vivid and lovely) but because it is a bit long and too complicated for 1-4 yr olds to sit through, was the following Keats poem. I’m sure most people have heard of it or heard it quoted before.

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Judy: A Dog in a Million



Judy: A Dog in a Million by Damien Lewis

To be published Dec 2, 2014

Judy was a remarkable liver-colored (chocolate brown) and white English Pointer born in Shanghai, China in 1936. When she was about 6 months old, she was adopted as the ship’s dog (mascot) aboard the HMS Gnat and later the HMS Grasshopper. This gunboat patrolled the Yangtze River when the British were still a colonial power there. After the Japanese started attacking the Chinese during the second Sino-Japanese War, and Judy was especially adept at hearing oncoming aircraft and warning the crew ahead of time. It was on the Grasshopper that Judy was involved in the Battle for Singapore, but nearly died after the ship sunk trying to get evacuees from Singapore to the Dutch East Indies. Thankfully she was rescued by a crew mate. The remaining crew, evacuees and Judy managed to make it to Sumatra and after hiking 200 miles through the island’s jungle, they were unfortunately captured by the Japanese and put into Prisoner of War (POW) camps. It was at her second camp that she met the man who would change her life, an airshipman named Frank Williams. With his help, she managed to survive many attempts on her life and she became the only dog to be registered as a POW in World War II. Judy helped him and other British POWs survive the hellish experiences of the workers on the Sumatran railroad by being their mascot, alerting them to danger and saving many lives. 3-1/2 stars.

Judy and Frank Williams

This book was one that I originally wasn’t all that interested in but it was offered as a “Read Now” so I decided to try it. In the end, the book reminded me a lot of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, in that Judy, like Louis, faced incredible odds many many times and still survived. Plus they both managed to survive Japanese Internment camps, which had even more deplorable conditions than those of the German POW camps (at least in my opinion). Despite the grimness of the subject matter, I really enjoyed reading the book and was curious to see how it ended. My only gripe about this book is that the beginning was so slow I almost lost interest in it before the story really got going. I am curious now to read his other book on a WWII hero dog entitled The Dog Who Could Fly. 

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