Sunday, May 5, 2019

MMGM - The Ghost, the White House, and Me


by Judith St. George

2007 Holiday House



 First off, this was a fun book. It takes place in the White House. Kay Kay Granger and her sister Annie just moved into the White House - her mother was just elected president!

It takes her a while to get used to living there. She misses her old house with its creaky floors and whistling radiators and big old kitchen where she tried out recipes. She loves to write and is currently working on a mystery. She soon hears about ghosts in the White House, especially the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. She wants to sleep in Lincoln's bedroom so bad - for research, you know. Her mom says "no," but she says that her brother, Kay Kay's uncle, can sleep there. Kay Kay plans on pranking her uncle the night he sleeps in Lincoln's room. But it backfires when a foreign dignitary stays in the room instead, and they end up pulling the prank on him.

They get grounded for two weeks. But to Kay Kay's surprise after the grounding is over, her mom says they can sleep in Lincoln's bedroom. Will she and her scaredy-cat sister see Lincoln's ghost?

You will have to read it to find out.

This was a fun read. At first I didn't think I was going to like the ending, but she put a twist to the story at the end, and I did. I think a kid who likes a mystery with a little history mixed in will enjoy this book.

Here are a few interesting facts about the author - Judith St. George has written more than forty distinguished books which have won numerous awards, including the Christopher Award, the Edgar Allan Poe Award, and the Golden Kite Award. Her picture book "So You Want to Be President!", illustrated by David Small, received the Caldecott Medal. Judy was a delegate to the White House Conference on Library and Information Services, but saw no ghosts while she was there.

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Sunday, April 28, 2019


Saving Zasha

Randi Barrow

Scholastic 2011

Saving Zasha (Zasha #2)

This story takes place post WWII Russia. Thirteen-year-old Mikhail finds a dying man and his German Shepherd, Zasha. Mikhail's mother was unable to save the man. They took his body to town to turn him into the police, but the children convinced their mother to let them keep Zasha. The father in the story was a soldier and had been missing for two years, but Mikhail and his family still held hope for his return.

There were hardly any dogs in Russia after the war. Many were lost in combat, to starvation and in the slaughter of German dogs. They had to keep Zasha hidden from the soldiers and from dog thieves who sold them on the black market.

People began to suspect that they had a dog (dog thieves,  Dimitri, the dog breeder and a young girl named Katia) and it became harder and harder to keep their secret of having Kasha, who they had just discovered was pregnant.

I loved this book. The author did a wonderful job of getting you to love Zasha and I was worried about her well being throughout the story. But I thought the ending was a little abrupt and too easily wrapped up. I wanted her to go just a little farther before ending the story.

If you like historical fiction and if you like dogs, you will like this story.

I read somewhere that if you are writing a children's story, you should have a dog as one of your characters. I agree and I have used that tip in my writing as well, and this author did a wonderful job with Saving Zasha.

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Sunday, April 21, 2019

Middle Grade First Lines and First Paragraphs


I'm always surfing the web for writing tips and techniques. I search for the rules of writing and advice from other authors. I have read that first lines or first paragraphs can stir your curiosity, create surprise, be humorous, have shock factor, state a simple statement of facts, and last, but not least, hook your reader into reading more.

Here are a few first lines and/or paragraphs from middle grade books:

Charlotte's Web - “Where’s Papa going with that ax?”

Holes -  “There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.”

A Wrinkle in Time -  “It was a dark and stormy night.”

A Series of Unfortunate Events -  “If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.”

The Hobbitt -  “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

Wonder -  I know I'm not an ordinary ten-year-old kid.

 Rain Reign - I am Rose Howard and my first name has a homonym.

Navigating Early - The first time you see the ocean is supposed to be either exhilarating or terrifying. I wish I could say it was one of those for me. I just threw up, right there on the rocky shore.

Fever - I woke to the sound of a mosquito whining in my left ear and my mother screeching in the right.

The Ballad of Lucy Whipple - "Mama," I said, "that gold you claimed is lying in the fields around here must be hidden by all the lizards, dead leaves, and mule droppings, for I can't see a thing worth picking up and taking home."

A Year Down Yonder - Oh, didn't I feel sorry for myself when the Wabash Railroad's Blue Bird train steamed into Grandma's town. The sandwich was still crumbs in my throat because I didn't have the dime for a bottle of pop. They wanted a dime for pop on the train.

Everything on a Waffle - I live in Coal Harbour, British Columbia. I have never lived anyplace else. My name is Primrose Squarp. I am eleven years old. I have hair the color of carrots in an apricot glaze (recipe to follow), skin fair and clear where it isn't freckled, and eyes like summer storms.

Duck and Cover - I survived the long drive from Cleveland. Now if I could just survive the Russians, I'd be OK. Some people worried they were going to blow up the United States. Mom and I had come back to West Virginia to start over. How could we start over if the world was coming to an end? (Sorry, but I had to include the first paragraph of my book.)

Wishtree - It's hard to talk to trees. We're not big on chitchat.

As you can see from the examples, some books do it better than others.

Have you read any of these books? Which one is your favorite line? What are some of your favorite first lines or first paragraphs?

A little practice can go a long way. Write and write again until you get it right.  

Now go and create the perfect first line for your story.

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

MMGM - The Little Riders & Ghost

The Little RidersThe Little Riders

I've read two books this past week. An older one . . .

Book - The Little Riders by Margaretha Shemin 

by Margaretha Shemin
illustrated by Peter Spier

I found this gem in one of our town's Little Libraries. It was originally published in 1963, but was published again in 1988. There was a movie made from it in 1996.

An eleven-year-old American girl named Johanna is living in Nazi-occupied Holland. She sits at her window and views the church steeple and watches the little riders as they ride out on their white horses when the clock strikes the hour. She resents the presence of a German soldier quartered in her grandparent's house, until the night she tries to hide part of the town's treasured clock mechanism.

I loved this little book. It is short, the book I have is only 76 pages, but it is a good historical fiction that takes place during WWII. Johanna is a very likeable main character. She is courageous and, near the end, forgiving. 

and a newer one . . . 
Related image 

by Raina Telgemeier

Ghosts, is a graphic novel. According to the reviews on Amazon, Raina Telgemeier's graphic novels are very popular.

I'm not really into graphic novels, but I must admit I loved Archie, Betty and Veronica when I was a child. Kids seem to love them. I think they would appeal to the reluctant reader because of the graphics and the lesser word count.  But I can tell there is a lot of work that goes into writing them.  Her characters are very expressive.

Here is what it says on Amazon:

Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn't happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister's sake - and her own.

If you, or a child you know, like graphic novels, I would recommend this book to you.

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Sunday, April 7, 2019

MMGM - The Key to Extraordinary

The Key to Extraordinary 

by Natalie Lloyd

February 2016

This is what it says on Amazon:

Everyone in Emma's family is special. Her ancestors include Revolutionary War spies, brilliant scientists, and famous musicians--every single one of which learned of their extraordinary destiny through a dream.

For Emma, her own dream can't come soon enough. Right before her mother died, Emma promised that she'd do whatever it took to fulfill her destiny, and she doesn't want to let her mother down.

But when Emma's dream finally arrives, it points her toward an impossible task--finding a legendary treasure hidden in her town's cemetery. If Emma fails, she'll let down generations of extraordinary ancestors . . . including her own mother. But how can she find something that's been missing for centuries and might be protected by a mysterious singing ghost?

I like this First Line:

It is a known fact that the most extraordinary moments in a person's life come disguised as ordinary days.

This is a neat book. It is filled with a little magic, mystery, wonderful characters, and a cafe that serves boneyard brew and peach-lavender muffins. They live at Blackbird Hollow, Tennessee. One of Emma's jobs is giving tours of Blackbird Cemetery, which happens to be in her backyard and is one of the oldest and most famous resting places in the state. She loves the beautiful names on the tombstones.

 I think you will enjoy this story. 

I don't make peach-lavender muffins, but I do make Applesauce Muffins that are delicious.So grab the book, a muffin and a cup of milk or coffee and enjoy.

Applesauce Muffins

 1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 t. vanilla
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cups self-rising flour
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. allspice
1/2 cup chopped nuts (Hickory nuts or walnuts)

In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in applesauce. Combine flour and spices. Stir into creamed mixture. Fold in nuts.

Fill paper-lined muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

 TOPPING:  1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 t cinnamon, 3 T melted butter. Dip tops of baked muffins into melted butter, then into sugar cinnamon mixture.

OPTIONAL TOPPING:  Shake cinnamon/sugar mixture on top of muffins before or after baking.

OPTIONAL: Just put a nut on top of the muffin before baking.

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Sunday, March 31, 2019

MMGM - The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg
By Rodman Philbrick
2010 Newberry Honor Book

A humorous and informative book from the beginning. Homer and his older brother Harold are orphans being brought up by a mean uncle. Their uncle sells 17-year-old Harold into the Union Army and 12-year-old Homer runs off to find him. The story, filled with one way-out adventure after another, starts in Pine Swamp, Maine and it ends up at Gettysburg.

The story is filled with characters with crazy names. It reminds you of Mark Twain’s Huck Finn. Homer is courageous and funny and has a knack of stretching the truth whenever he needs to.

The reader learns a lot about the time period – the underground railroad and the Civil War. When at Gettysburg the story does gets a little graphic about the fighting. He does find his brother, but I’ll let you read the book to see how it ends.

And if you don’t like the book, you have Jebediah Brewster to blame, not Homer. You also must read the book to find out why.

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Sunday, March 24, 2019

MMGM - The Littlest Bigfoot

The Littlest Bigfoot

The Littlest Bigfoot
by Jennifer Weiner
September 2016

I posted about this book before, but not for MMGM.

 I admit I am a "wanna be believer" in Bigfoot. So, when I saw this MG book, I just had to read it.

I love the beautiful cover with a pretty young girl and a cute littlest Bigfoot.

The MC feels she is unwanted, unloved, too big and has very unruly hair. I do feel that the cover should have been more true to the description of the main character in the book. I know some of you may think this sounds silly, but I feel if a young girl who is a little overweight reads this book and then looks at the picture on the cover, she's going to think, "If she's supposed to be big, then I must really be big."

The book starts out slow and is written in three POVs - Alice, Millie and Jeremy. If you can keep reading through the slow beginning and get used to the three POVs, you will find it to be an interesting read. In the second half of the book, I found myself wanting to finish the book to see what happens - and that is good.

This is what it says on Amazon:

Alice Mayfair, twelve years old, slips through the world unseen and unnoticed. Ignored by her family and shipped off to her eighth boarding school, Alice would like a friend. And when she rescues Millie Maximus from drowning in a lake one day, she finds one.

But Millie is a Bigfoot, part of a clan who dwells deep in the woods. Most Bigfoots believe that people—NoFurs, as they call them—are dangerous, yet Millie is fascinated with the No-Fur world. She is convinced that humans will appreciate all the things about her that her Bigfoot tribe does not: her fearless nature, her lovely singing voice, and her desire to be a star.

Alice swears to protect Millie’s secret. But a league of Bigfoot hunters is on their trail, led by a lonely kid named Jeremy. And in order to survive, Alice and Millie have to put their trust in each other—and have faith in themselves—above all else.

Have you read The Littlest Bigfoot?
Are you a "wanna be believer" in Bigfoot?

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Sunday, March 10, 2019

MMGM - The Last Treasure

Image result for the last treasure images

The Last Treasure
by Janet S. Anderson

This story is interesting and might be something you always dreamed of happening to you when you were a child - but didn't. 

You see, there's a family treasure. And that treasure can only be found by children in the family. The story spans many generations of the Smith Family. In the front of the book there is a family tree with all the names and dates of the Smith Family ancestors. There is also a map of the Square where all ten of the family houses are located.

I love mysteries like this and I am one of those who wishes that there was a treasure to be found in my family tree. (I even wrote a manuscript about it and hopefully one day it will be published).

Thirteen-year-old Ellsworth (Zee) Smith receives a letter from one of his relatives still living in the Square in New York. She wants him to return and help find the last of the three treasures that the Smith family patriarch left for his descendants. The Square is in bad shape. There's been a long drought, the pond is drying up, the huge trees are dying and most of the houses need repairs. They need to find the treasure.

His dad doesn't want him to go, but with money his relative sends him, he hops on a bus and goes anyway. When he arrives he finds and becomes acquainted with many relatives that he doesn't know anything about. He joins up with Jess, a girl cousin his age, and they become obsessed with finding the treasure.

There are a lot of characters and many of them don't get along. But in the end they come together to try and find the treasure - and bringing the family together might be the greatest treasure of all.

It is a good read and I recommend it for people who like a little mystery.

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Sunday, March 3, 2019

MMGM - Shooting the Moon

Image result for shooting the moon book


by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Atheneum Books for Young Readers



This story takes place during the Vietnam War. Twelve-year-old Jamie and her brother have both dreamed of following in the footsteps of their father, the Colonel. She is thrilled when her brother enlists in the army and is being sent to Vietnam. Her parents aren't as thrilled, because unlike Jamie, they know what the consequences could be. 

She looks forward to letters from her brother, but instead of writing to her, he sends rolls of film to her to develop on a regular basis. 

A lot of the story takes place in a rec room on the base where she volunteers at during the summer. She plays gin rummy with the soldier who works there. A  friendship grows between the two and slowly Jamie grows to dislike the war and worries about her brother and that her friend might also be sent to Vietnam.

The end is a little abrupt and different, but all in all satisfying.

The Horn Book said "complicated and unpredictable -- just like war."

This historical fiction was a fairly quick read. I read it in one day. If you are interested in the Vietnam War and that time period, I would recommend it.

Click here to check out my post on Darlene Beck-Jacobson's web page today. It is about the research I did on my book, Duck and Cover.

Happy reading!

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