Sunday, October 27, 2013

Hetty Feather and More PLUS a chance for an IPad Mini!

It's Monday! What are you Reading? is hosted by Jen at TEACH.MENTOR.TEXTS, and shared with Ricki and Kellee at UNLEASHING READERS.   
         And, also visit Sheila at BOOK JOURNEYS for more reviews. 
 Tweet! at #IMWAYR

It's been such a busy week, but good reading too.  Here are a few books I finished, including the review of the Hetty Feather trilogy later on in the post, and the entry form for the giveaway:

The Year of Billy Miller – Kevin Henkes
               I was afraid to read this book because a few others' words said it was a 'teary' book, and I wondered what that meant. It's not that I'm afraid of tough topics, it's just that I couldn't imagine how an author could write something that would bring tears for younger readers. I shouldn't have worried! The Year of Billy Miller is a lovely story that started so beautifully that I read most of it one evening, then had to leave the final part until the next morning. 

        The book tells about a family, a mama, a papa, older brother Billy Miller, and younger pre-school sister, Sal, and each is treated as an equal fourth of the whole, as families should be treated, although the story does revolve around Billy through his year of 2nd grade with Ms. Silver. Mom is a teacher, Dad is a stay-at-home artist and papa, and Sal stays with Papa during the day. We are given the pleasure of seeing a part of each one's life. And we experience the fact that Kevin Henkes 'gets' second grade thinking, and describes it so well. Toward the end of the book, when Billy's class is assigned to write poetry, he can't at first think of anything to write, so he draws a series of successive volcanoes. Doesn't that sound like a second grade boy, at least many of them? Henkes' language is so appropriate too, as in "Billy sat alone, considering the choice he had to make. He sucked the web of skin between his thumb and pointer finger, his hand falling across his chin like a beard." It is clearly about what young boys do, and I cannot explain why, but there is a further connection to an earlier scene in the book. It's a special kind of book that I can see so many enjoying, parents, teachers and kids (perhaps as a read aloud).

When You Wander, a Search-and-Rescue Dog Story – written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Mary Morgan
              I can’t wait to share this book with my young granddaughter who needs to learn to hug a tree if she should ever get lost in the forests of the Rockies (where she goes often), and that there will be sweet rescue dogs who will be looking for her.  The book tells a good, not scary, story of a little girl who does wander, but it is told from the dog’s point of view, what he will smell, and how he will follow the trail.  For example, he says, “When I sniff your delicious shoes…I learn that you love to jump up and down in squishy snail-slime mud.”  Along with the poetic text, Mary Morgan draws lovely realistic pictures of the dog as it imagines all the actions of the child.  The story is gentle, but realistic and will be helpful to a young child as one brings up this topic.  Margarita Engle helps her husband train his search-and-rescue dogs, and wrote this book as a help to parents so that they can teach their children the safe actions if lost.  There is a page of interesting information about dogs’ abilities at the end.

 Words With Wings – written by Nikki Grimes
            It doesn’t take Nikki Grimes long to tell a good story, and this time she’s written a verse novel, brief, but spanning the year of a young girl Gabriel, in and out of all her daydreams.  In this year, Gabriel’s voice shouts “I am me, who I want to be” (my words), but others don’t like who she is, a daydreamer.  She must survive her parents’ separation, which means her father is not around too much, and he was the “other” dreamer in the family.  As Nikki Grimes writes, the only thing in common with her momma is the letter P, Gabriel is a pretender, her mother is practical.  In one poem, she says, in reply to being called from her room to set the table: “I sigh, and leave my memories/ in my room.”
            Gabriel also must attend a new school, where daydreaming is not the expectation, and other kids stay away because she is “different”.  She does get in trouble with her teacher, too, Mr. Spicer, but there is a lovely turn of the story because of him too, which I won’t reveal.  You will like it, and will love this story of a little girl who daydreams. 

Follow Follow, A Book of Reverso Poems – written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Josée Masse
        I finally was able to read this wonderful book, and appreciate the art of both the clever wording by Marilyn Singer the illustrations by Josée Masse.  The poems and the pages show both sides of old folk and fairy tales, like one of my favorites, The Tortoise and The Hare, where one poem begins by calling the other “That ridiculous loser!”, only to be replied with “I am not/that ridiculous loser.”  Can you guess which is which?  Not always rhyming, yet each set of poems reads to a beat particular to the story they are telling.  The art, too, shows contrasts in the pages which are split in two, again showing a visual interpretation of each side. The book would be delicious to read in companion with the stories themselves, discussing the importance of examining everyone’s point of view, or as mentor text for older students to write their own reverse poetry.
Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree - written by Jane Kohuth and illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles
          This story taken from Anne’s diary tells of the chestnut tree she viewed from the attic when she hid with her family in the “secret annex”.  She never saw the outdoors for nearly two years, and wrote of her love of nature.  The story would be an appropriate introduction to this terrible time in our history for younger children who want to know about Anne Frank.  It relates the basic story of a happy Anne who ended up needing to escape into hiding with her family during the time of the Holocaust, and the way she kept a mostly positive attitude in spite of the challenging, long days of confinement.  There is some back matter at the end that tells more about Anne, the diary, and the tree that became so important to her.  The illustrations are soft, almost look faded as in old scrapbooks, showing images that go along with the text.

Baa Baa Black Sheep – As told and illustrated by Iza Trapani
         Iza Trapani posted one of her sheep pictures on Facebook and I found a copy of the book at my library.  The art is what attracted me first; it’s just gorgeous, filled with details of the animals in soft, colored pictures.  It’s a wonderful telling and imaginative re-telling of the ‘baa, baa, black sheep’ nursery rhyme.  Its focus is on sharing, and the ending has a sweet surprise.  I imagine pre-school, into younger primary grades will love this story of what happens to that black sheep!

              In Jacqueline Wilson's Hetty Feather trilogy, Hetty grows up.  Now also take a sneak peak at the 4th in the series, Diamond!          PLUS a Giveaway!

You can access Jacqueline Wilson's website right here!

The Hetty Feather Trilogy, by Jacqueline Wilson
             The adventurous, spunky, will-not-let-anything-wear-her-down heroine of Jacqueline Wilson's trilogy is red-headed Hetty Feather. Most recently, a fourth has been published, so if you like historical fiction, the challenging times of the 19th century for everyone, including children, this is a wonderful set of stories. The book titles are Hetty Feather, Sapphire Battersea, Emerald Star and Diamond.  The stories chronicle, in first person, Hetty’s childhood, brought up in the Foundling Hospital in London in the age of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee Celebration, almost at the end of the 19th Century.  According to information offered at the end of the first book, this was the first special children's charity in the UK.  Anyone could bring their child to the hospital, where over 27,000 abandoned children were cared for.  As you will find from the first book's story, care was not always the best given. 
          Each book is self-contained, yet Hetty, and Jacqueline Wilson’s writing, is so enjoyable, that you will want to find the next book quickly.   In Hetty Feather, Hetty runs away, and tries so hard to find a circus performer that was kind to her early in her childhood, yet Hetty is found (caught) and returned to the orphanage.  During the book, we discover both the kindnesses and the cruelty that she experiences, and even in one of the worst scenes, she shines: “Oh, how I hated her, talking about me as if I was a tamed wild beast.  Of course I wasn’t the least bit sorry I’d stuck up for poor Polly.  I had no respect whatsoever for Matron Bottomly or Miss Morley.  They were undisputedly my elders but they certainly weren’t my betters.” 
          Sapphire Battersea finds Hetty leaving the orphanage, trained to be a servant and set up as a house maid to a well known writer.  Hetty has high expectations that he will take her own writing seriously, but again life does not deal Hetty a good hand.  She finds that he is quite unscrupulous, accuses him, and is fired immediately.  Remember that in that time, no servant could speak ill of their employers!  Also, while Hetty also spends loving time with her mother, she loses her for a second time by a fatal illness.  Hetty is left adrift again, with the idea of setting off to find her father. 
           I reviewed the third book Emerald Star in the trilogy here, and hope you will read on to see that Hetty, in spite of very hard times, continues to have more courage than we can imagine in the face of hard work and cruel people.  There are kindnesses that help hold her together as she grows into adulthood, and we leave her with another adventure to come in the book Diamond.

Entry mechanisms are

a)      Answer the question “If you win, which of the new Jacqueline Wilson ebooks will you read first?”
b)      Follow @JWilsonebooks on Twitter
c)       Tweet “Win a mini iPad +10 ebooks from the UK's bestselling middle grade author Jacqueline Wilson! @jwilsonebooks”

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What I'm Reading: Finally found time to start Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein.  Sorry I put it off for so long!  Then I will read another book by Jacqueline Wilson or one being discussed as a possible for the Newbery award, for our Newbery lunch club.

                Thanks to Random House Uk.for furnishing the Hetty Feather books!


  1. I just received a copy of The Year of Billy Miller and can't wait to read it. This post makes me want to move it to the top!

    1. It won't take long to read, Leigh Anne. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! thanks!

  2. Such a lot of wonderful reading, Linda - I love the whole Wilson series being brought to America this way. Rich history and wonderful storytelling! I'll have to check the Nikki Grimes book, too - another magnificent writer.

    1. Thanks Tara-as you can read, I liked every book above. Words with Wings is very good, would be a nice read aloud.

  3. Great review of Hetty Feather! I am really loving the book. It is quite enjoyable. I also loved your review of Words with Wings. I love the title, and I love Nikki Grimes, so I need to get my hands on this one! Have a great week! I will chat with you next Monday, I am sure!

    1. Thanks Ricki-glad you are enjoying Hetty too-such a strong character! Hope you love Words With Wings-a nice surprise at the end!

  4. The Hetty Feather books sound amazing. I am a sucker for 19th century books...ones written then and ones set then. I will definitely have to look for them.

    1. I hope you entered the giveaway, Andrea. Perhaps you'll win the iPad & the books, too! They are very fun!

  5. Billy Miller is next up for me, and I love Marilyn Singer's poetry. All your other titles are new to me, but they all sound worthwhile. When will I ever have time to read all these books?!

    1. I know, I know, the piles grow! I think I may just have to give some up, Catherine. I want to read the ones that I can, and not worry about the rest. Best of wishes!

  6. Ah! Billy Miller. I just adored this book and am so pleased that you found so much to love in it as well. So glad you are getting the chance to read Code Name Verity. I have such vivid memories of reading that title. Whoa, what a story.

    1. I feel like I'm catching up, but still happy to read them, Carrie. Those two you mentioned are so different, but so good!

  7. Hi there Linda! So many great books here, and more love for Kevin Henkes! :) Words with Wings also sounds so special - great for the many daydreamers out there. Margarita Engle, as you know, is a favourite. I am hoping to find her newest book in our libraries here soon. I loved Marilyn Singer's Mirror Mirror and reviewed that when we had our poetry theme, I believe. I am sure, I would also enjoy Follow Follow. Those reverso poems are simply brilliant. :)

    1. Thanks Myra. Hope you'll find some of these books soon. All good in their unique ways!


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