More Book Recommendations for Boys

January 29, 2010

The Art of Manliness recently posted a list of 50 Best Books for Boys and Young Men that you may want to check out if you’re looking for good books for boys. The website in general is intriguing, and you may find yourself spending a few minutes looking around at other things it has to offer once you’ve finished checking out the book recommendations. I found it to be both funny and informative. Here’s the description from the site:

“The Art of Manliness is authored by husband and wife team, Brett and Kate McKay. It features articles on helping men be better husbands, better fathers, and better men. In our search to uncover the lost art of manliness, we’ll look to the past to find examples of manliness in action. We’ll analyze the lives of great men who knew what it meant to “man up” and hopefully learn from them. And we’ll talk about the skills, manners, and principles that every man should know. Since beginning in January 2008, The Art of Manliness has already gained 53,000+ subscribers and continues to grow each week.”

Of course not all the books are limited to boys. I really want to read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. And books I loved when I was growing up and still do are Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Holes by Louis Sachar, and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I adored Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of my all time favorites. My daughter, Catherine, would appreciate The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. Check out the whole list to find your new or old favorites.

Questions to Answer When You Choose Your Book Club Book

January 28, 2010

When you choose your book club books, have you ever thought to start off your discussion by answering a few questions about why you chose it? Starting out with this little step can get the ball rolling and provide insight to the rest of your conversation. Here are a few questions you may want to answer:

  • What made you want to read it?
  • What made you suggest it to the group for reading?
  • Did it live up to your expectations? Why or why not?
  • Are you sorry/glad that you suggested it to the group?

There’s often a lot of self-imposed pressure when you choose a book for your book group to pick something everyone will like. But unless you’ve read the book first, you may not even like it yourself! It actually helps you relax and lead a discussion more easily if you can say, “I expected to like this book because…” “I think this book brings up several issues we can talk about like…” Then you can focus more on the discussion topics and less on whether everyone liked and disliked the book, which is very subjective. I’ve rarely seen a book that 100 percent of our book club members liked and would recommend to others. And that’s a good thing actually. Because the best discussion usually comes about through disagreement, although I’m talking about respectful disagreement where you may benefit and learn from someone else’s opinion even if you don’t share it.

Be the first to open up, and you may just inspire everyone in your group to be more candid.

Resource for Book Clubs—Lit Lovers Website and Blog

January 27, 2010

I’ve recently discovered the LitLovers website and blog, and I have found both to have lots of helpful information for book clubs. Today, for instance, the conversation is titled Old Wine in New Bottles and it’s about sequels or prequels to classics written by new authors. While the books in this post are mostly for adults or those in high school, in general there are lots of good ideas about book club activities, food and more. I’m adding a permanent link to my blog here and plan to visit frequently.

Book Review: — Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When by Annette Laing

January 26, 2010

When Hannah and Alex move to Snipesville, Georgia from San Francisco with their father they are incredibly bored and somewhat resentful. Their mother has died in a car accident, and when they leave California they also leave their grandparents behind. But their dad says he’s being transferred, so off they go to an area of the country totally alien to them.

To occupy their time, their dad enrolls them in summer camps at the local community college, which is where they meet Brandon. None of the kids really wants to be in the camp they signed up for, so they sneak away and hide out in the library. But something odd happens when they leave to go home. The community college buildings disappear, their clothes change, and they suddenly find themselves outside of London during World War II. Mistaken for children being sent by their parents to the countryside to escape London’s bombings, they find an ally in a woman they recognize as a professor at the community college they just left.

So begins the adventures in Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When, Book 1 of The Snipesville Chronicles by Annette Laing. Hannah and Alex are billeted with a local couple who don’t seem happy to have them. Brandon, who is black, ends up being singled out and runs away, then taken to London by Mr. Smedley, who is with the Ministry of Health. When London is bombed, Brandon ends up going even further back in time to 1915 and the days of World War I.

These time traveling kids are lucky: their clothes and accents change and they have money in their pockets. So while their sensibilities are modern, they don’t stick out right away. The professor occasionally shows up to check on them, and she gives them clues about tasks they need to complete before they can go home. Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When is like The Magic Tree House for older readers in some ways. A clue to a former time shows up in their current lives, and suddenly they are transported back to that time to solve a mystery.

I really liked Alex and Brandon’s characters. They were smart and inquisitive, and while they occasionally slipped up and said things that didn’t fit with their times, they were always aware of their mistakes. Hannah was hard for me to like as a character. She didn’t exhibit much curiosity about the time or place she was in, and she didn’t care if the things she said were out of time and place. But I suspect that kids reading this books wouldn’t have the same concerns about Hannah that I did. I think girls and boys aged 9 to 12 are more likely to see this is an adventure and happily read about what all three kids experienced when they went back in time.

Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When gives a great sense of the people of wartime England. The kids realize that while they know Hitler eventually loses, the people around them don’t know that. The bombings and shortages and insecurity everyone feels are very real. Mother-daughter book clubs that read this book can talk about the historical time period as well as the fantasy of time travel.

King Cake Recipe for Mardi Gras, Super Bowl

January 25, 2010

It’s Mardi Gras season down in New Orleans, and I’m sure the people there are celebrating even more with news that the Saints are going to the Super Bowl. I grew up near Baton Rouge when the Saints were first getting established, and I well remember all the losing seasons when they were known as the ‘Aints and fans wore paper bags over their heads. Now they are going to play for the NFL championship for the first time in the franchise’s 43 years. With Super Bowl Sunday on February 7 and Mardi Gras on February 16, I’m sure lots of people will be having parties. And every party during Mardi Gras has to feature a King Cake.

If you’re not familiar with King Cakes, they come in many different flavors, but they are similar to coffee cakes and perfect with a good cup of coffee with chicory. If you’d like to know more about the history of King Cakes, here’s a great write up at Mardi Gras

As you might guess, King Cakes are great to serve to a crowd. They’re good for breakfast or dessert, and they’re good to serve at your next mother-daughter book club meeting. Here’s my recipe:

King Cake

(Recipe Makes Two Rings)

Basic Dough

* 1 envelope dry yeast
* 1/4 cup warm water
* 1/2 cup milk
* 1 cup butter
* 2 egg yolks
* 2 whole eggs
* 4 cups (or more) unbleached flour
* 1/2 cup + 1 tsp. sugar

Mix yeast with warm water and 1 tsp. sugar and 1 tsp. flour. Bring milk to a boil then stir in butter and sugar. Pour into a large bowl and mix. Once mix is lukewarm beat in egg yolks, whole eggs, and yeast mixture. Beat in approximately 2 cups of flour until dough is fairly smooth, then add enough flour to make a soft dough you can form into a ball. Knead by hand until smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a bowl, turn dough once or twice to coat, cover with a cloth and leave in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1-1/2 – 2 hours. Pat down cover with damp towel and refrigerate overnight. Remove dough from fridge. Divide in half. Shape each half into a long sausage shape. Roll dough into a 30″x9″ rectangle as thin as a pie crust. Let dough rest while you make the filling.


* 16 oz. cream cheese
* 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
* 4 Tblsp. flour
* 4 egg yolks
* 2 tsp. vanilla

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Divide filling in half and place each half in a one inch strip down the length of each dough shape. Fold one end of the dough over the filling and onto the other side. Crimp at ends so filling won’t come out. Shape dough into rings, place each on a separate cookie sheet or jelly roll pan and let stand 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350. Brush with egg wash and cut deep vents into cake. Bake for 20 – 35 minutes until risen and golden.


* 1-1/2 cups confectioners sugar
* 2-1/2 Tblsp. milk
* 1/4 tsp. vanilla

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Once cake has cooled spread on icing. Sprinkle colored sugar crystals of purple, green and gold over the icing before it hardens. (You can buy colored sugar or make it yourself by placing ½ cup of regular sugar in a zip lock bag and adding one drop of food coloring at a time until you get the color you desire. For purple mix equal parts of red and blue.)

Reading Poetry on Fridays

January 22, 2010

For the last couple of years, children’s book bloggers have observed Poetry Friday, a time when kid lit bloggers post poetry of their own or feature poetry and poets they want to write about. For a more detailed explanation, check out this blog at Chicken Spaghetti.

Each Friday, a host blog lists the others who are participating for the day. Kelly Herold, at Big A, Little A recently printed a list of each poetry Friday host through April. But since today’s host is a private blog (?), I’ll link here to last week’s host, Farm School. At Farm School you can click on links to participating blogs. I especially liked the poem at Two Writing Teachers from last Friday, January 18. Enjoy the poetry.

Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations Seeks New Lists

January 21, 2010

In December Peter at Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations published a list of great books for book clubs compiled by a list of book bloggers, including me. He’s been getting great response to that list, along with his multiple other lists for book clubs. Now, he’s hoping to find more book clubs who are willing to put together a list for him. I’ve already created lists for mother-daughter book clubs in four age groups, the first of which went up on his site yesterday. It’s a list of recommendations for mother-daughter book clubs with girls who are 7 and 8. Compilations for readers aged 9 and 10, 11 to 13 and 14+ should be up soon.

Here’s a message from Peter on what he’s looking for:

Open Call for Lists of Book Club Recommendations!

“Hello and happy new year from Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations—where you can find books so good, they’ll keep you up past your bedtime. 😉

It seems the book club community has recently discovered my book club recommendations. From the feedback, not only are the lists very much enjoyed, but people are clamoring for more.

That’s where you come in. While I’ve read plenty of books, I’m looking to book club members to contribute new lists—themed, annotated lists of highly discussable books.

Can you name and describe 5+ flashlight worthy, discussable books that follow a theme? Maybe ‘7 Great Books that Revolve Around Food’? Or ‘6 Women’s Memoirs That Will Start an Argument’. How About ‘5 Discussable Novels Set in Africa’?

Take a look at the lists I have and give it some thought. If you’re interested, email me at Info AT flashlightworthy DOT com. Thanks so much and have a great new year!

(The guy who runs Flashlight Worthy)
Recommending books so good, they’ll keep you up past your bedtime. 😉

Find New Books to Read From Cybils Nominations and Finalists Lists

January 20, 2010

Are you searching for recommended books to read? The Cybils (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards) provide recognition for books and their authors that combine literary merit with “kid appeal.” Anyone can nominate during the nomination period in October. Nominations are narrowed down to a list of finalists, which a panel of judges is reading right now. The awards will be announced on Valentine’s Day. You can find more information about the awards and how they work at the Cybils website. While you’re on the site you can check out finalists and winners from 2007 and 2008, and you can peruse the list of finalists for this year. Finalists compete in 10 categories:

  • Easy Reader and Short Chapter Books
  • Fantasy and Science Fiction (Middle Grade)
  • Fantasy and Science Fiction (Young Adult)
  • Fiction Picture Books
  • Graphic Novels
  • Middle Grade Fiction
  • Non-Fiction Middle Grade/YA
  • Non-Fiction Picture Books
  • Poetry
  • Young Adult Fiction

Stay tuned in February for the announcement of 2009’s winners.

New Book Review: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

January 19, 2010

The summer of Calpurnia Virginia Tate’s 11th birthday was a hot one. Everyone in her large family suffered from the heat in their Fentress, Texas home, but as Calpurnia was the only girl in a family of seven children, she also found freedom during afternoon naptime. That’s when she stole away from her room and down to the river, where she floated dreamily in the cool water.

During her outings away from the noise of having six brothers, Calpurnia discovers the natural world and starts making observations about it in her notebook. She also screws up her courage to talk to her grandfather, a shadowy figure who spends most of his time by himself caught up in reading or scientific experiments. But when her grandfather discovers that Calpurnia’s interest is genuine, he begins to include her in his experiments and observations. When they believe they discover a new species of vetch, they send it in to the Smithsonian for judgment.

Calpurnia’s activities with her grandfather brings up a conflict with Calpurnia’s mother, who believes that in the year 1899 girls must prepare to be women who run households, and nothing more. That means cooking, sewing, knitting and tatting, all occupations Calpurnia abhors. As she struggles to follow her heart’s desire, Calpurnia must discover if there are options for women in her time who have interests other than the domestic.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly is historical fiction that reveals turn-of-the-last-century times in rural Texas. It was a time not very far removed from the Civil War, and Calpurnia’s grandfather as well as many others in town fought in the war. The Tate family farms cotton, and they are wealthy by the standards of most people in town. They have a housekeeper and a cook as well as regular farm hands, and while the children have daily chores, they don’t have the responsibility of making the farm productive.

This was also a time when Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species was making an impact. It had been published for about 50 years, but his conclusions were still hotly debated, and as Calpurnia found out, some libraries refused to carry copies of the book. Each chapter begins with a quote from Darwin that’s applicable to the action to come. As the book progresses, Calpurnia grows in her ability to understand the people and the world around her through observations made with a microscope and her regular vision.

This book is sure to delight mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 12 and up. Discussions can center on the differences between life for girls and women in 1899 versus life now, living up to the expectations of your parents versus following your heart, and scientific experiences. Girls may even find inspiration for a school science project, and groups can even tie in craft or sewing projects. I highly recommend it.

National Gallery of Writing

January 18, 2010

A couple of months ago I attended a lecture where author Katherine Dunn (Geek Love) talked about how writing as personal communication was making a comeback. She said that even though most people no longer write long letters to each other, they are staying in touch more often through email and other forms of communication. It appears the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)would agree. Here’s a comment from their website on the National Gallery of Writing:

“Whether we call it texting, IMing, jotting a note, writing a letter, posting an email, blogging, making a video, building an electronic presentation, composing a memo, keeping a diary, or just pulling together a report, Americans are writing like never before. Recent research suggests that writing, in its many forms, has become a daily practice for millions of Americans. It may be the quintessential 21st century skill.”

The bring attention to their assertion, last year NCTE sponsored a National Day on Writing. Their purpose?

“By collecting a cross-section of everyday writing through a National Gallery of Writing, we will better understand what matters to writers today—and when writing really counts. Understanding who writes, when, how, to whom, and for what purposes will lead to production of improved resources for writers, better strategies to nurture and celebrate writers, and improved policy to support writing.”

While the National Day of Writing has passed, you can see what’s already been collected and contribute writing of your own to the National Gallery of Writing. Submissions are being accepted until June 1, 2010, and the gallery will be online for reading through June 30. You can read samples of already submitted work, then check the guidelines for submitting something of your own. When you’re ready to send in something, it’s easy to do it right from the website. Then you can have fun browsing to see what others have written. Children as well as adults are eligible to submit.