Thoughts on Thursday: Miranda’s Reading Technique Tips

Today on Thoughts on Thursday, I’m going to be sharing my top ten list of great ways to read a book!

  1. If a character is in a life or death situation, skim through the end of the book to see if the character lives.
  2. Whenever I read, I usually shift into some bizarre yoga pose, or just hang upside-down and let all of the blood rush to my head.
  3. If you’re reading a scary part at night and you’re brave, then keep on reading. If you’re not brave, wait until morning to read.
  4. If it’s late, I try to read as long as possible. You should try this, too! If your eyelids close and you didn’t even notice, then it’s time to give up.
  5. If the book gets boring, read faster. You would be wasting time– time that you could spend reading about action.
  6. If someone says they aren’t going to read a book that you’ve already read, don’t waste your time trying to convince them to read it. Just spoil it! Tell them the ending, who dies, who is in love with who; and if they end up reading it anyway, then at least they don’t have to cry when somebody dies!
  7. If you need to stop reading, and there isn’t a real bookmark next to you, grab the closest object such as a Kleenex, an old band-aid, a napkin, action figures, candy wrappers, junk mail, stuffed animals, or even another book. I use things like that even if there is a bookmark next to me!
  8. If you’re reading one series of books, but you see another great series, don’t wait till you’re finished with the first series. Never do that; just start the other series anyway. I’ve lost count of how many series I’m reading!
  9. If you’re reading a book, then have to stop, then go to number 7 on my list. But if you’re rushed, then just close your book. Look at the page number, remember it, and then search for it next time you read that book.
  10. If you’re just rereading a book, why read it all the way through when you can just skip to the best parts and read those instead? Rereading it thoroughly would just take too long.

Picture Book Pick: No Matter What

We’ve decided to let Mom join our fun by periodically posting.  We also thought some of our readers might appreciate some recommendations for younger children, so, we’re creating the “Picture Book Pick” series of posts, written by Mom (Tanya).

Title: No Matter What
Author: Debi Gliori

Let’s face it—we always love our kids, but we don’t always love the way they act. But how can we convince them of that love when rubber meets the road?

In this beautifully illustrated young children’s book about Small and Large Fox, Small is questioning the boundaries of a parent’s love.  Small presents Large Fox with a series of “What if?”s only to be gently reassured that Large’s love is there… “No Matter What.”

While many young children’s books are colorful, fun and worthwhile, not all have messages that I can get behind 100%. For example (some of you will cringe at my saying this), the ever popular children’s book Love You Forever by Robert Munsch leaves me with an uneasy feeling in my stomach.  Does anyone else see a problem when an aged mother hauls a ladder to her grown son’s window to rock him in her arms?!   The message that “I’ll like you for always…my baby you’ll be” is not only a recipe for many hours of therapy, but sometimes completely false. I don’t always like the way my child behaves, but I WILL always love her—this is a message I can support and it is tenderly portrayed within the pages of this short book.

Cleverly, Gliori avoids hinting to us if Small is a boy or girl and whether or not Large is a mom or dad. With this seemingly small sleight of hand, the book works for young boys and girls. Gliori’s illustrations include little treats on each page for the older reader or audience member: a witty piece of wall art showing the cuts of meat on a sheep and a pair of rabbit salt and pepper shakers are two of my favorites. With a mere thirty-two pages, No Matter What is short enough for young children with small attention spans and stories at bedtime while being just long enough to teach a great lesson.

Review: Dealing with Dragons

First, we need to apologize for not posting yet this week….our week has been filled with long rehearsals in preparation for tonight’s dance recital. So, here we go!

Title:  Dealing with Dragons
Author:  Patricia C. Wrede
212 pages

Synopsis: Tired of traditional castle life, Princess Cimorene, a princess who will not be proper, runs away. She meets a dragon named Kazul and becomes her “Princess.” Soon, Cimorene will be dealing with a cheating dragon, a stone prince, and some very obnoxious wizards! If Cimorene ran away to find adventure, it looks like she’s found lots of it!

Why kids would like this book: This book is exciting and is very funny. It has a little bit of romance (in the other books, too), loads of action, and has many amazing and quirky characters that you’ll love.

Why adults would like this book: It is a fun twist on fairy tale life through the eyes of someone who wants nothing to do with it.  I also enjoyed the author’s skill with blending the standard fairy tale writing style with the unexpected, such as “There was a great deal of etiquette, from the proper way to curtsey before a visiting prince to how loudly it was permissable to scream when being carried off by a giant.”

Miranda’s rating: 10 of 10. I cannot think of even one reason not to like this book!

Todd’s rating: 7 of 10.  I found the middle of the book to lose momentum a little bit for my taste, but found it enjoyable overall.

Miranda’s favorite character: My favorite character is Kazul because she’s nice and always takes Cimorene’s side in  things.

Todd’s favorite character:  Cimorene for her no-nonsense, non-traditional approach to solving problems in a fairy tale kingdom.

Miranda’s favorite part of book: Probably when Cimorene first gets started on her duties as a dragon’s princess.

Todd’s favorite part of book:  How Cimorene deals with the various princes who try to rescue her despite her not wanting to be rescued.

Miranda’s recommended age groups: 8+ because it isn’t that big of a book and I’m sure kids this age and up will love this book and the funny parts within.

Review: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

Title: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda
Author:  Tom Angleberger
141 pages

Synopsis: Ahhh…..middle school.  This book examines through a series of testimonials and eyewitness accounts whether Dwight’s finger puppet Origami Yoda is “real”.  That is, does a folded piece of paper in the shape of Yoda contain the wisdom of the jedi, and can it provide advice that can help solve a series of middle schoolers’ problems?  Let the facts described in this quick read help you decide for sure.

Why kids would like this book:  It’s hilariously ridiculous, and it has some Star Wars bits. Kellen’s darwings on the sides of the pages are super funny and make me laugh.  If you like Star Wars or funny books about real life school experiences, then you’ll like this book.

Why adults would like this book:  Let me keep it real here…….when Miranda asked me to read this one, I thought it looked fun, and heck, it was only 141 pages!!  As I read the first three quarters of the book, I was prepared to tell you to leave this one to the kids.  I thought it was a somewhat funny and somewhat uncomfortable look back at middle school drama.  (Let’s face it–who wants to re-live those years again–NOBODY!)  However, the last quarter of the book changed my mind in the way that the author ties together all of the testimonials for the blow-by-blow account of the climax.  All together–I’d definitely recommend reading this one with your kids…….but maybe not for your own adult enjoyment.

Miranda’s rating:  10 of 10.  Because it has Star Wars and real-life things that could happen to you.

Todd’s rating: 6 of 10.  Enjoyable and cute, but definitely written for kids.

Miranda’s favorite character: Origami Yoda, because he comes up with the best advice.

Todd’s favorite character: Tommy….maybe because he reminds me too much of myself at that age.

Miranda’s Favorite Part of the Book: The “all about Dwight” list of weird things about Dwight. One of the items on the list has to do with getting “locked” in a locker and calling out to the squirrels to save him.

Todd’s Favorite Part of the Book:  The school dance at the end of the book–it ties it all together in a very amusing way.

Miranda’s recommended age groups for this book: Maybe 9 to whatever? It is about middle school….


Flashback Friday: The Island of the Blue Dolphins

What is a “Flashback Friday?”  On some Fridays, Miranda will provide her opinion of a book I used to like as a child that I am “encouraging” her to read….  Not surprisingly, she hasn’t learned to trust my taste yet, but we’ll see if that changes someday!  I enjoyed The Island of the Blue Dolphins as a child because I was intrigued by the thought of kids having to survive alone in the wild.  Given Miranda’s independent nature (she was previously convinced she should start a solo expedition to the north pole…..), I thought she would benefit from this realistic portrait of a child in the wilderness. AND, this book is a Newbery Medal winner, which is usually a good enough reason to force (I mean encourage) Miranda to read it.  In case you haven’t figured this out yet, the blue bold font introduction means I (Todd) wrote it, and the bold green font introduction means Miranda wrote it, so here is the review in Miranda’s words only:

Title:  The Island of the Blue Dolphins
Author:  Scott O’Dell
184 pages

My reaction when my dad told me to read this: “Blech.” This was because I almost never like to read what my dad suggests I read. Each time, he says I will like it. Each time, I said I wouldn’t. And each time… I was wrong.

Synopsis: Karana is left behind when all of her people leave the island of the blue dolphins. She has to fight her enemies (the wild dogs), make weapons, and hunt food. All by herself. For years, she waits for a boat to land on the island, reuniting her with her family and friends. Will they ever come back for the girl they left to fend for herself?

Miranda’s favorite character: Rontu because he is funny and he was almost always wanting to be by Karana’s side.

Miranda’s favorite part of book: My favorite part is when she talks with her friend, even though they don’t know each other’s  languages. It is a very heart-warming moment, and it shares a message: It’s always good to make new friends.

Miranda’s rating: 7. This book has some sad parts that make you want to cry yourself.

Miranda’s recommended ages: 9+ because it has a few scary parts, and has some words that younger children might not know.

Why kids would like this book: it is sweet and is not historical fiction. It’s just historical. I was reading it one night and stayed up reading WAY past my bedtime! (I was super sleepy the following morning!)

Thoughts on Thursday: Meeting My Favorite Author

My favorite book series is the Warrior cat books. They are written by four different authors all under one name; Erin Hunter. One of the four Erin Hunters, Victoria “Vicki” Holmes, was going on a book signing tour. My friend and I were going to go to a nearby mall to see her, but I got sick. : (  Oh well. You’re probably thinking. Wow. This is going to be a very short story, but I’m not finished yet!

My mom looked at Erin’s (Vicky’s) tour schedule, and she figured out that her next book signing was in Charlotte, NC. We live in Maryland, so there was no way we were driving that far! However, there was another book signing on Monday in another place in North Carolina, closer to where I live. BUT it was 5 hours away and we had to drive. So, early Monday morning we got our suitcase and other stuff, grabbed the map and directions to the bookstore Erin was going to be, hopped in the car, and left. On the way there, my mom and I listened to some music, turned up the bass, turned up the volume to 14 (where it has never been before), and headed for North Carolina. It was great. I brought a stuffed snow tiger named Celine and a small toy cat that moved its tail and head when you pressed the button on its back. My mind was constantly filled with Warrior cat thoughts. Will Dovewing and Tigerheart fall in love? Or will she fall in love with Bumblestripe? Will Cinderheart ever talk to Lionblaze again?

Anyway, we only stopped twice on the way to the bookstore. Once to get gas and then at McDonald’s to satisfy our intense hungering for food. Finally, we got to the bookstore. I met a new friend there. Her name was Casey. She was very nice. It was very nice to have someone to talk to who loved Warriors just as much as I do. We waited for Erin (Vicky) to come out. Then we waited some more. And we waited some more. An employee at the store, a lady named Rosemary, made announcements about two or three times. Then we waited some more. Finally, after three stinkin’ hours, Erin (Vicky) came out. Casey and I held up a sign my mom had made. It said, #1 FANS FROM MARYLAND! WE LOVE WARRIORS! Casey was mostly trying to hide behind the sign.

Erin read a bit from her latest warrior book, The Last Hope. She was wearing a very short dress, so we all giggled when she said, “No one look when I sit down and stand up, or you might see more of my thighs than anyone would ever want to see!” It was also funny when she sat down on the plastic chair while saying, “Great. This chair is plastic. When I stand up, don’t look because I’ll have to peel my thighs off of the chair.”. That was hilarious! Then she started answering questions. I can hardly remember anything of what I asked and what others asked because I was delusional with excitement! Then, she finished her Q/A part of the book signing. Now it was time for the, well, book signing of the book signing! I got a picture with Erin Hunter  (Vicky Holmes), and I had all of my Omen of the Stars series signed.

On the way to the hotel from the book signing, my mom said to me, “Miranda.” I replied with a “What?” Then my mom smiled. “YOU MET ERIN HUNTER!” she exclaimed. I screamed. On the way home the next day she did the same thing. And that’s the story of how I met Victoria Holmes, one of the four Erin Hunters.

Review: “The Gideon Trilogy”

Title: The Gideon Trilogy (The Time Travelers,  The Time Thief, The Time Quake)
Author:  Linda Buckley-Archer
About 400 pages each

Synopsis:  Two kids stumble upon a science experiment that transports them across time, and they find they are stuck between the 18th and 21st centuries. They learn how the 18th century can be a very dangerous place, but with the help of good friends they may survive the pursuits of villains who want to exploit them and the technology that brought them through time.   Across the trilogy, they learn what special abilities time travel has created for them, and how that can help them when they really need it.  What part of modern life would you miss most?  What would it be like for someone from 1763 to live today?  Just how bad could it get if someone evil and power-hungry could go back and change key moments in history?  Find out in this incredible series.

Why kids would like this book: This book is exciting, and has a lot of twists and turns that you will love. This book contains edge of your seat moments where you can’t stop reading. If you’re reading this at night, it’ll make you say: “Just 5 more minutes, mom!”

Why adults would like this book:  Ok, maybe you are saying to yourself right now, “a time travel book–how cliché!”  I hear ya, and I hate predictable story lines, but this series was so riveting that I LOVED it!  Each book took the story in a new direction while trying to answer the main question of whether our heroes will ever make it home to the world and families they left behind.  Book one made me see life in the 18th century in a whole new way while I was trying to catch my breath between all the action.  Book two shows what could happen if someone from 1763 was thrust into modern city life…..and what trouble they can cause if they are EVIL!  Book three plays with what disastrous consequences come from changing the past. The author creates some very relatable and believable main characters that you want to hug and slap at the same time!  ….and the ways that the main characters deal with the voluntary and involuntary ways they can play with time is INGENIOUS and very entertaining.  …and the way that key plot twists can rip your heart out or make you want to scream.  Did I say that I LOVED these books already??

Miranda’s rating: book 1: 9 book 2: 10 book 3: 8

Todd’s rating: 10 of 10 (For books 1 and 2, but maybe an 8 for book 3 just because it got a little chaotic toward the end.)  These three are probably my favorite books from the last year.  Miranda and I would seriously hide the books from each other so we could read without the other stealing them!!

Miranda’s favorite character: Anjali. When my dad and I first read about her in book 2, my dad said: “It’s the girl with the dragon tattoo!”. She’s sneaky, she has a good sense of humor, and it’s always funny to read about how she deals with the Tar Man.

Todd’s favorite character: The adult version of Peter in book 2.  It was so cool to see how someone would become a man in an entirely set of circumstances, and what selfless steps he took from across time for his family’s emotional and physical well-being.

Miranda’s Favorite Part of the Book: Fast forwarding sequences. They’re kind of funny!

Todd’s Favorite Part of the Book: This is really tough……the climax at the end of book one, or any of the “fast forward” sequences in book two.

Miranda’s recommended age groups for this book: 8+. These are pretty big books, but each one is packed with action and adventure.

Have you read the Gideon Trilogy, and what did you think? What other books involving time travel do the kids or adults in your home love?