Category Archives: book reviews

Book Review: Caterpillar Summer

The last of the books I got on my last library trip was Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn. I finished it a few days before we had to return it to the library. I had Tiffany read it to so that I could talk about it with someone and see if I could work out my thoughts a bit more.

I enjoyed it from some standpoints but struggled with others. Here’s a bit about the story:

Caterpillar is about eleven years old. Her brother Chicken is about six or seven and has “special needs.” Her father died of cancer several years prior and her mother works three jobs. Cat has a special relationship with her brother.

It was the sibling relationship that drew me to this book. I liked the idea of it being a summer vacation kind of story. I did not realize that Chicken had special needs when I picked up the book.

I have no background with special needs children and I enjoyed reading about how Cat dealt with and helped Chicken. I felt like it gave me some insight into dealing with a child with special needs (although I’m clueless as to just what these “special needs” are, still). So from that standpoint, I think it can help shed some light, especially if your child knows someone who has a sibling that has special needs of some kind. (I’m wording this badly but I think it can be helpful in some situations.)

However, I had a big problem with the book in that the mother is pretty absent, so much so that Cat makes most of the meals and tends to Chicken most of the time. It is made pretty clear that her mom works a lot and doesn’t even stop to eat meals with them even when she is working from home. I just really felt that the children were not her priority.

Now, if you don’t want any spoilers, I recommend you stop reading here because I’m going to do a few specifics and scroll past the next two paragraphs for my bottom line and things to consider.

 

 

 

 

 

I did not like that Cat and Chicken didn’t even know they had other grandparents. They were aware of their father’s parents but not her mother’s, even though the mom says that she talks to her mom frequently. Now on top of that, she is leaving them with her parents and they are several hours away from where she has to work for the time period. Not only that but this was supposed to be a vacation time of doing things together in the evenings and now that just won’t be possible. She does promise to come on the weekends but work things keep her from keeping that promise. So you can see this book does not build a very good relationship between parent and children but it is what causes the relationship between siblings.

However, Cat is beginning to dislike the responsibility she feels to always be self-sacrificing. I think this book does a good job dealing with this aspect but because of these things I cannot recommend that you just hand your child this book and let them read it. At best, read it together (as a read-aloud) enjoying the book together and talking about what’s happening and if decisions that were made were right or if it had been better if other decisions had been made. Otherwise be sure to read it yourself and talk about it with your child(ren) even if you don’t read it together.

 

 

 

Bottom Line:

  • This book can give insight to children with special needs.
  • It is a fun summer read taking place on a NC Island.
  • It is about a girl realizing that she can do things she enjoys doing.
  • It is about finding grandparents and learning to love and trust them.
A few things to consider:
  • father is dead (cancer) but not shown
  • parent who works a lot
  • estranged relationships
  • special needs child
  • assumed responsibilities

I also really liked how there were a couple of situations that arose where there was a misunderstanding but it was resolved very quickly! Too many times misunderstandings are a whole big plot point in books but in this it was handled well.

Let me know if you have read this book or if you do read it, in the comments. I love to chat about books.

Until next time,

Michele ºÜº

Book Review: The Strangers

When we went to the library back in May (living 25 minutes from the library causes us to only go once a month), I was perusing the children’s books. Yes, a fifty-five year old adult was perusing the juvenile books.

You see, I love Narnia. I enjoyed The Hobbit. I liked The Mysterious Benedict Society. I liked Heidi, Polyanna, and The Little Princess and many more. So I decided to start browsing the children’s department to see what I could find.

I saw several new books displayed on top of the stacks that intrigued me. All three of them featured siblings that, seemingly, got along together. I was already at my book limit for the day so I took pictures of them so I could find them again next time. I was surprised to see that all three of them were available when we went back for our June visit.

I’ve already read the first one and really enjoyed it. So, I thought I’d share a little about it with you.

The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix

This book starts out when three children: 11yo Chess, 9yo Emma, and 7yo Finn, come home from school and are not greeted with the happy mother they are used to seeing. In spite of their father being dead for seven years now, they are generally a very happy, if somewhat reclusive family.

Today is different though. On the news is the story of a kidnapping of three children: Rocky age 11, Emma age 9, and Finn age 7 from somewhere in Arizona. There are remarkable similarities and their mother is acting most strangely.

She must leave on an unexpected business trip and is leaving them with near strangers until she returns. Ms. Morales is very protective and acts a bit oddly, in the children’s estimation. Her daughter Natalie has an apparent better relationship with her smart phone than with her mother, which the Greystone children think strange.

I love the relationship the Greystone children have with each other. This is a good story to encourage good sibling relationships. I remember being a few chapters into the story and wondering if I was mistaken about what I thought was supposed to happen. About the time I had convinced myself that it was just about some very similar children being kidnapped (and trying to work through how that could be: cloning, twins, and so on) the alternate reality popped in. :D Don’t worry; I’m not giving any spoilers as it is stated plainly on the cover summary.

I love that this story did not make adults look stupid and that the children were the only ones smart enough to fix the problem. I liked how some adults worked with the children and the realistic reasoning behind Ms. Morales’ lack of involvement in the story.

I was sad to realize that this is the first book in a series and that the next book is not available yet. :D I’ve read so many series lately, I was looking forward to a good old one books story. :D But that didn’t happen. I will look forward to the release of the second book.

As I read the book I was so engrossed in it that I was surprised that it is juvenile fiction; it was that engaging for me. Emma loves math, so there was that whole element there that I enjoyed too.

Bottom Line:

  • I recommend this book. :)
  • I like the relationship between the siblings.
  • I like how they work together.
  • I like how the relationship with Natalie develops.
  • I like how Natalie’s behavior (concerning phone and mother) is addressed or at least acknowledged.

So many times siblings fight or have bad relationships in books and I appreciate that this is not the case here. It is also refreshing to see how they protect Finn and include him.

A few more things to consider:

There are some tense situations in this book but I feel they were handled well. However, I thought I would mention them in case you or your child doesn’t handle some of these situations well or they are triggers in your household.

  • Kidnapping
  • Mysterious similarities with other people (same names and birthdays)
  • Dead father
  • Abandonment
  • Bad Government (in alternate reality)
  • Sneaking around
  • Chase scene
  • Trial and Death Sentence Possiblility

Because of these tense situations, depending on your child, I would recommend reading it together, so that you can talk about some of these things.

No matter if you read along or not, definitely have your child tell you about the story (narrate), so that you can talk about some of these situations and discuss them. Are they portrayed in a realistic manner? How does your child feel about them?

I would have had no qualms with my children reading this book and I would have even encouraged it. I enjoyed it so much that Tiffany read it shortly after I did and also enjoyed it. Although she did not like the ending. I’m expecting it to be straightened out in the next book. ;)

Well, I hope this helps you. Let me know if you or your kids read it and what you thought of it.

Until next time,

Michele ºÜº

Review of Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, Books, and Trees Update

I started to share about my sourdough adventure but it turned into a post all its own and I’ll share that on Tuesday next week. Suffice it to say, I will definitely be making the honey oat sourdough bread again. :)

I read Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan MacNeal this week. Hmmm, what to say about it . . . okay, I liked the idea of cryptography and mathematics and a historical fiction book; I haven’t read historical fiction in ages and so this seemed like it would be good.

I loved this bit about a ballet . . .

I’ve never been one to get ballet but this one sounds interesting to me; I might even see if there is some recording of it that I can watch online. ;)

I liked that this seemed to be a stand-alone book, as I’ve got way too many books in series that I’m reading. It felt good to have a one and done. And then I got near the end of the book and realized that it is the first book in a series. Boy! I’m glad I picked up the first one in the series, since it ended up being a series. It looks like there are currently about six books in the series. ;)

The story was okay. There were some things I didn’t prefer and it seemed a bit slow to me. However, I am tempted to continue on with the series. I did not pick it up on this trip to the library though and I returned the other books I had that I didn’t read. The fifth one in the series is the one that is really pulling at me, Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante.

This is about a girl born in London and raised in the United States that inherits her grandmother’s house in London. She goes to London, postponing beginning graduate school, to sell the house and ends up having to stay an extended period of time to make the repairs in order to sell the house but without sufficient funds, must get a job first. She gets some boarders and gets a job as Mr. Churchill’s secretary.

The story is about her learning who her parents were and stopping a plot of destruction. ;) I enjoyed the cryptic bits but they were minor in the story, so don’t let that stop you from reading it. However, if you don’t like to read any cursing or mentions of homosexuality (non-explicit) then this is not the book for you as there were several of both. This is not a book I need to own but it was an okay read.

Oh, I know why this series thing is bugging me now. Last month at the library I picked up a Robert Ludlum book (the first in a series), a Clive Cussler book (the first in a series), the third in the Puzzle Lady series, and the next one in the Hannah Swensen series. Ugh! Too many series!

On this trip to the library I returned all the books I had and got out three juvenile fiction books and two books by Dee Henderson. :) Here are two of the books I got:

These along with Caterpillar Summer are about siblings that get along, and appear to like each other. I saw them last month and knew I needed to check them out. I’ll let you know how they go. :p

Tiffany has a lot of Ted Dekker books and I’ve been wanting to read his Circle series. I also had started Rematch by Erynn Mangum and want to finish it. We have a lot of books on our shelves that I want to read. Oh, and then there is the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson that Tiffany owns and I want to read as well.

I got Unspoken by Dee Henderson. I think it follows Full Disclosure with new characters but I don’t know. I just know I enjoyed Full Disclosure and wanted to read another of her books. I love her O’Malley series and saw the library had Jennifer’s story. It is small; I guess you’d call it a novella. I know it will be a tear jerker so I’m not sure when I’ll read it. ;)

Tiffany and I checked on the fruit trees in the side yard this week. Turns out that the tree I thought was plums is my nectarine tree! I thought that baby died. I guess it was my other plum tree that didn’t make it.

The nectarines look yummy. The peaches on this tree, not so much. :D I haven’t looked at the peaches on the tree in the chicken yard but suspect they are nearly ready too. :)

I’m excited about the pears and also sad that there are only three. I’m just happy to have any. :D

All the apple trees are alive in some stage but I doubt they’ll produce apples this year either. We really need to fertilize them and mulch them and hope next year is better. ;)

Well, I’m going to run for now. Hope you have a great weekend. The guys have a men’s breakfast tomorrow. Tiffany and I are helping serve the pancakes and sausage. I’m taking some low carb/keto pancakes and have been asked to sing a song too. So it will be a busy morning but a good one.

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº