Archive | July, 2013

Some Lucy News

30 Jul

With all of Fiona’s health issues I sometimes worry that my other dog, Lucy, feels like sloppy seconds.



Lucy is lean and active and  where Fiona is stocky and less active. She’s hunting a fly in this picture. Fiona gets most of my attention because she demands it and because her age & health just make her have greater needs.

It’s a bit the same with Lucy Beck-Moreau in The Lucy variations by Sara Zarr.


She was a famous pianist, until she walked away from it all at age 15. Now, at 16, she watches her 10 year-old brother follow the same path she did. She has faded into the background.

When her brother gets a new piano teacher, Lucy starts thinking about the piano again and wants to find out what it really means to be Lucy in a family that has very high expectations of its members.

Although she is smart and talented and a bit self -centered, you can;t bout help like her. yes, she’s flawed, but she’s working on her flaws. She loves music and the piano, and wants to play, but not under the terms her family dictates. It is really the story of a young woman finding her voice. She disappoints people, is disappointed by people  and makes mistakes. It was a quick and satisfying read.

Erupt, erupted, erupting

29 Jul

This morning I dropped Fiona off at the vet’s office. She’s having a little body work done. She has 4 items removed: an epulis in her mouth, and erupted cyst, a dormant cyst and a tumor on her tail. She has other lumps, but these require the most urgent attention. They are so significant, I have named them. The epulis is called Alpha. The tumor on her tail is Omega and I call the erupted cyst Vesuvius. It erupted a few weeks ago and is still not gone dormant, as these things sometimes do, so the surgery should clean things up for her. Unfortunately, scientists can’t make active volcanoes go doorman this easily.

In her new book, Eruption! Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives, Elizabeth Rusch  gives us another excellent work of non-fiction.


She begins the book describing the 1595 eruption of Nevado Del Ruiz in Colombia. And it’s eruptions in 1845, 1984 and 1985. When I lived in Medellin, Colombia in the early 90’s, this last eruption, which killed over 23,000 people (3/4 of the town of Armero) was still a topic of much discussion and national mourning.

Eruption! is part of the “Scientists in the Field” series from Houghton Mifflin and  addresses the subtitle, explaining the mission and work of a small group of scientists at the US Geological Survey’s VDAP (Volcano Disaster Assistance Program). Chapter two shows the steps the VDAP took in 1991 when the Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines became active, threatening the people in the area and Clark Air Force Base.

Rusch & photographer Tom Ullman travel with VDAP team member to  the Philippines ,where they chronicle the activities of the VDAP when  Mount Merapi became active again in 2010. Rusch shows how the VDAP scientists worked alongside Indonesian scientists, surveying the damage from a recent eruption and working to determine whether another eruption was coming.

The book moves at a quick pace and is full of action. Scientists drop from helicopters, lug heavy equipment through jungles and up volcano slopes and design and build specialized tracking equipment. Ample, detailed photographs give armchair volcanologists the sense that they r part of the team. As with all the books in this series, the book has a glossary and a  bibliography, making it an excellent reference.

Law & Order, Platypus Style

28 Jul

A really big struggle at my school, as at many, is finding good, age-approriate reading material for  8-11 year old boys. They are a fun, but challenging, demographic. When I find something I think they’ll really enjoy, I can’t help celebrating. And I am celebrating Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked by Jarrett J. Krosoczka.



This is a super fun read. Written like an episode of Dragnet  or  Law & Order,  we meet new detective Rick Zengo. he is parked with the crusty veteran, Corey O’Malley. They are confronted by a series of mysteries, that seem to be connected: a missing professor, illegal fish, a community member who seems to be too good to be true. The book is fast paced and full of black & white illustrations.


Although they solve the crimes by the end, the book is left open for sequels. This is a nice transition book for kids who are ready for something a little more substantial, but are still too young for a lot at their reading level.







When Girls Bully

27 Jul

As I started reading Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina, I wracked by brain for another book about girl bullies but couldn’t come up with one. I could think of lots of non-fiction titles, but not a fiction title. I’m sure there are some out there. There are probably even good ones. But, if  the topic sounds even remotely interesting, you should read this one.


When Piddy & her Mom move, Piddy has to attend a new high school. She has always been a good student and want to become an elephant researcher when she grows up. One day, someone tells Piddy that Yaqui Delgado wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is or what reason she might have to dislike her enough to want to beat her up. At first she ignores the threat, and she certainly doesn’t want to be a narc, but thing begin to spin out of control.

What  I liked about the story is how real it felt. Piddy is pretty ordinary and I can believe that this situation might really have happened. Meg Medina loosely based the story on something that happened to her. Piddy is likable and you really feel for her as she tries to keep her world from falling apart.  So many times, a problem like this can’t be solved in a neat way and I appreciate the  honest and realistic ending.

Poetry and Pets

26 Jul

When I was very young we had a dog, but all I remember about it was its last days in the basement. We begged to have pets throughout my youth. Mom always said no because they were messy. As teens who knit, my sister & I tried to convince my dad to have sheep, who could double as lawnmowers. So, I had to wait until I was an adult to become a pet-owner. Perhaps it was my deprived youth that cause me to become obsessed & involved with basset rescue.

On the other hand, we have the narrator of  The Pet Project: Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses, written  by Lisa Wheeler and illustrated by Zachariah Ohora.


She wants a pet and her science minded parents send her off to research the pet project.


She is systematic, logical and funny. She visits a farm, a zoo, the woods, her home, and a pet store. In each she carefully and poetically describes the ups & downs of each potential pet.

This book would be a fun intro to a Science Inquiry project or a persuasive writing assignment, to name but two ways I can see  teachers using it. It would also be a fun read aloud. But be warned: the word poop appears a few times. Kids will surely love that!

Bad Dreams Get Better

25 Jul

Today is my last day of summer school. It has not been bad and I have learned a lot. Most importantly, I will never become an administrator and the people in the office deal with crazier stuff than I ever imagined. But that’s not the bad dream of the title.

Two nights ago I dreamt I was the MC for Queen. That was an awesome dream. You should have seen my rock & roll kicks around the microphone!

No, the bad dreams of today’s post are the real ones kids experience. But, fear not! Help is at hand.


The Sleepwalkers  by Viviane Schwarz, introduces us to a band of brave souls who face their own fears and rescue kids from the grips of nightmares. All a kid has to do is write a letter & slip it under their pillow. From the safe house, the team will monitor the dream and take action to help put the kid in control. It is a cool concept.

I must admit that I am not a really good judge of graphic novels. kids like things that don’t thrill me. With Sleepwalkers, I like the concept of the book much more than the finished product. but I think kids will like it a lot more than I did.

Complementary Characters

24 Jul

I’ve mentioned before that my twin sister has always been far more outgoing than I. Sometimes that was hard.

Scan 2

Here we are dressed up for Hallowe’en. Despite my smile ( am the groom), I was not that happy about this costume because I wanted to be the bride and the bride always gets more attention My sister was taller & the dress fit her. I think I was too short for it. In spite of my initial feelings about this costume, I remember having a really good time in this costume. I’m a bit curmudgeonly and grumble about doing things or going places, but generally end up having a far better time than I expected.

And so it is with Unicorn & Goat in the fantastic Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea.


Narrated by Goat, we learn how life changes when Unicorn arrives. Anything Goat does, unicorn does better and Goat is not pleased. However, Goat soon learns that it’s not always easy being Unicorn. Nope, it’s not all rainbows and glitter. Together, though, Goat & Unicorn can be an unstoppable team.

This book reminds me of two other books I like to use that show how friends balance each other out:

Unknown-1  Unknown-2

There are a lots more out there. Why not share your favorite and then give these a try.

Princes and Heirs

23 Jul

With the birth yesterday of His Royal Highness Prince _____ of Cambridge, it seems appropriate to take a look at Richard Peck’s newest book, The Mouse With the Question Mark Tale.


This royal tale centers around Mouse Minor, a nameless mouse who lives in the Royal Mews at the time of Queen Victoria’ s Jubilee. Peck has created a believable parallel mouse universe in where, ” For every human on earth, there is a mouse doing the same job, and doing it better.” Mouse Minor sets off on an unexpected adventure on his last day at school. He becomes a Yeomouse, rides a horse, meets Queen Victoria and, ultimately, finds out his real name.   I must admit that I laughed out loud when his teacher, B. Chiroptera, announces that all the best teachers are old bats.”

I did not read Peck’s previous mouse book,  Secrets at Sea,  but I enjoyed this one so much, I think I’ll give it a read.

Oregon Basset Hound Games 2013

22 Jul

I’m exhausted, but we had a great turnout yesterday & beautiful weather. Here are some highlights







We started things off with the limbo!


This was followed by Best Trick.




Next came the costume contest.








And the Child/basset look alike contest



Then came Marathon Napping







Thanks to everyone who came!

Small truths

20 Jul


I think Patricia MacLachlan and I are kindred spirits. She writes the sensitive, quiet sort of books  I love and that touch my heart. In  The Truth of Me,  Robbie and his dog Ellie, are sent to spend summer with his Grandma Maddy. This is a good thing because he loves Maddie and feels far more at home than he does with his parents.He doesn’t really understand why this is so. Maddy has a special way with animals and she teaches Robbie some of what she knows and helps Robbie understand his parents.along the way.

One of my favorite scenes is in chapter 4 “Small Truths”. Robbie is talking with Henry, a doctor who lives a few houses away  and a good friend of Maddy. They are talking about Maddy and Henry says that Maddy’s stories are her truths. Robbie asks Henry if he has truths of his own and he replies “I am, in my heart, a man with a very large sailboat. I sail around the world with my two dogs and visit people everywhere.  I like the wind in my hair. I like the sun. I like the stars at night.” This starts Robbie down the road to discover his truths.

In our hearts, we all hold truths. Sometimes the truth is what people see. Oftentimes not. This book will start readers on their own path to discovering what is on their hearts.


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