Tuesday, January 22, 2019

KidLit Challenge - Raymie Nightingale by Kate Dicamillo

Title: Raymie Nightingale
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Age Range: 8-12 years
Publication Year: 2016
Length: 263 pages

Official Summary

Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie's picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.


As I sit here with a mug of hot tea, thankful for a snow day free from work, I'm also thankful for books like Raymie Nightingale. I don't know why it is that some adult fiction tends towards the absurd notion that life is all wine and roses. That has never been, will never be, the case. Which is why I love books that acknowledge sometimes life hurts but while still offering hope. That is pretty much this book in a nutshell.

Raymie, as the summary says, is trying to win a contest so she can get her picture in the paper and win her father back to their family. Her grief at his betrayal is to try and rectify the situation. You know and I know that her plan will never work, but she's a child where all the impossible things become possible so she has hope. 

But if she hadn't wanted to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, she would have never met Beverly and Louisiana. She goes from being a little girl with no friends to a little girl with 2 best friends.

This book is both an easy read physically but a difficult read mentally. It deals with adultery, with suicidal thoughts, with broken families, and with the horrors of an animal center that takes in abandoned/unwanted pets in the 1970s. Not pretty pictures for children. But all so very real scenarios.

I'm glad I read Raymie Nightingale

I'm glad because the end of the book is so hopeful and I know these children will be alright. There's even a bit of a miracle that crops up at the end, some special magic that made me smile. Sometimes the most improbable miracle is the miracle you most wish could happen.

If your children prefer books about realism than you really don't get more realistic than this novel. I've never read anything by Kate DiCamillo and if I don't ever read anything by her again, that's okay, because I loved Raymie Nightingale.

2 books down from this challenge, 13 to go!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

KidLit Challenge - Tumble and Blue by Cassie Beasley

Title: Tumble and Blue
Author: Cassie Beasley
Age Range: 8-12 years
Publication Year: 2017
Length: 390 pages

Official Summary

Blue Montgomery is cursed to lose. At everything. And to make matters worse, his dad abandons him at his grandmother's house, which is full of madcap relatives with terrible fates - all fighting for the one chance to have their curse lifted.

Tumble Wilson is a hero in training. She lives by her idol Maximal Star's self-help book, How to Hero Every Day. But whenever she tries to save someone, she fails - and fails spectacularly.

When Tumble and Blue meet one fateful summer, they dare to ask a dangerous question: What if you can make your own destiny? They don't know that only a fool would dare to mess around with fate.

Determined to be the heroes of their own stories, they'll journey into the Okefenokee Swamp in search of a legendary creature with the power to change fate itself - a mysterious golden alligator named Munch.

In the heart of the swamp, under the light of a bloodred moon, Tumble and Blue will finally learn if the legends are true..

Munch is about to meet two very brave fools.


Tumble and Blue is my starting point for kidlit in 2019.

The story incorporates a lot of real-life difficulties, such as an absentee father, or the death of an older sibling, etc. I appreciate children's fiction that acknowledges a child's loss or struggles, and Tumble and Blue fits that bill. It's also a delightful, magical, wondrous tale of friendship, zany relatives, and a family curse, so the fantasy element is brilliant.

But I think where the story really shines is in the development of the hero and heroine. Tumble's real name is Lily, implying a soft, delicate flower petal, but that's not the identity she wants at the moment. Hence the name Tumble, chosen by her as an excellent name for a beginning superhero. Blue loses at everything. It can be a footrace or a deadly game of tiddly-winks, but he is destined to lose. And yet, he's a caring, compassionate young boy who gives a lot to the people around him.

Friendship is crucial in storytelling. Get that right, and the rest of the story will follow. Tumble and Blue have a delightful friendship. Both of the children have the same goal, but for different reasons, and so of course, friction must happen. But that's a part of friendship. People make mistakes, get angry, apologize, and forgive. It's a cycle of reality that is captured really, really well in this story.

I didn't care for the ending because it felt unfinished, something I don't really like in book or film, but I get why the author left it that way, so I'll shrug and move on. If readers go in to this book realizing that reality and fantasy meet at the end of the novel then they'll be fine. Children who love fantasy will love this book.

Overall, Tumble and Blue entertained and delighted me despite a couple of "meh" moments. I'm glad I read it, and can definitely recommend it to parents looking for a fun magical realism/fantasy story for a slightly advanced reader in the 8-12 age range.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

hope is the thing with feathers

So begins a new year!

A part of me wants to throw confetti in welcome, but another part of me looks back on 2018 with a bit of sadness for everything that happened and can never be forgotten. Some of it's good, but some parts of it were overwhelming, hence the never to be forgotten bit.

My hope is that the growing I did in 2018 will benefit me in this new year. A new year is never going to be perfect and trouble-free, that much I know for sure, but I still want to approach the year with the same belief that God is faithful and in hope that I can handle anything that 2019 might throw my way.

How do you approach the new year? Optimistic? Hopeful? Fearful? Anticipatory?

What are some of the organizational decisions you make for every new year?

Now that I'm renting an apartment instead of living with my family, organization has become a must. To be transparent, it's never been my strength either. Which makes it a bit daunting. But there are a few things that I'm implementing this year that I've never tried before.

  • Time to move from card to cash. Starting with grocery money at the beginning of every month and then progressing by mid-summer to everything being paid for with cash unless it's an internet purchase.
  • Time for the daunting daily planner! Because, like I said, I suck at organization. I hate daily planners, though, so I'm going to research a variety of designs before choosing one. I'll have one in my possession by the end of the month. It may even end up being a whiteboard.
  • Meal planning. I've gotten used to eating out since I lived with my family and paid minimal rent. Not the case anymore, so it's time to reserve eating out for special occasions and get-togethers and implement tasty and cost-effective home-cooking.
  • Chop the website shopping! I'm addicted to Etsy. People have such incredible crafting ideas and every single one of them is listed on Etsy. It's time to switch my attention from web browsing in my spare time to crafting instead, with supplies I already have, of which there are many. 
  • And because I'm done with a small laundry basket, time for a bigger one. This will keep my closet, drawers, and room so much tidier.

How about the fun decisions? Things that are beneficial for you, but will also be fun once you get going?

There are so many things I love doing, but usually end up putting aside. Such as this, for one thing. A good friend of mine said something very profound recently. She reminded me that the important things with my hobbies, including my writing, is to just do it because I love it. And to not quit out of fear.

  • Read books, books, books, lots of them. A combo of middle grade fiction and classic literature with a solid focus on Charles Dickens. I'm already partially through Bleak House and loving it!
  • Knitting and crochet, finishing projects that are halfway done, so Hufflepuff fingerless gloves, a peacock inspired purse, a crochet Dobby, and a gorgeous blue shawl made of yarn from Finland.
  • Personal journaling of favorite memories.
  • Blogging for fun
  • Strengthening exercises because I really like not having lower back pain and I kinda love how the exercises make me feel, so much more capable.

Happy New Year to all of you! May you have the best success in 2019 with your dreams and goals!