Gary Paulsen’s last book ~ so good!

Leif, orphaned at birth, raised as a wharf rat, next as a ship rat, was sent with four of the oldest, crippled crew members and the only other young boy on the ship (bought for a bolt of sail cloth) to set up a fish camp.  The rest of the crew sailed north on a seal hunt.  Those in the fish camp set about catching and smoking salmon.

After they had smoked enough fish the last the entire crew six months, they realized that the main ship was not going to come back for them.  It had been gone too long and so the six,  5-year old Little Carl, 12-year old Leif, and four seasoned seamen, including wise and caring Big Carl, created a cedar dugout large enough for all of them to return to a port to find another ship.  Before they were able to leave the fish camp, a ghost ship drifted into and out of  their bay, silently leaving a deadly sickness.

The older seamen succumbed first.  But before Big Carl became too ill, he gathered a bundle of supplies and pushed Leif and Little Carl out to sea in the canoe, advising them to head North to stay away from the sickness.  While at sea, the boys became ill too.  Leif recovers. Little Carl does not.  After burying Little Carl, Leif follows the old seaman’s advice and paddles North.  Day after day after day after week Leif paddles.  This Long Paddle is full of danger, challenge, constant change and wonder.  Leif observes carefully –  looks for new ways to understand and know – always questions and always learns.  What a journey!  You won’t regret a moment of your time with Leif.  Maybe you’ll be inspired to find a quest of your own.

Happy Reading! 📚

Sorry I was away for so long ~ I had computer issues.  They’re fixed for now.  Phew!📖


Boots completes Kate Hannigan’s The League of Secret Heroes trilogy. (Well, maybe?!.  As the books ends, there is room for more stories with these characters. I would be glad to read them.)   The series presents a blend of history, mystery and superpower action.  They are fun!  The graphic interludes sprinkled throughout are a nod to comic books, important to the era, and the stories.  Each book, Boots, Mask and Cape, celebrates the story of the girls who make the new super-hero group, The Infinity Trinity.  Through them readers learn about different aspects of society during the. World War II era.  One is an Irish immigrant, one is Japanese American and one is African American.

Throughout the series Josie, Akiko. And Mae, discover and grow their powers.  Drawn together by their love of comic book heroes, the girls soon realize something is wrong.  There are plots and spies in the. United States.  Through codes, ciphers and persistence, the girls realize they must do something to help their heroes survive and save their country.

Boots begins in Chicago where the girls discover a Nazi plot to disrupt airplane manufacturing.    Chicago is where Mae’s grandmother and aunts live  Mae’s aunts are pilots who deliver planes from the manufacturing plants to the air strips where they will be launched into service.  The plot becomes personal when the evil Metallic Falcon captures Aunt Willa and Aunt Janet in an attempt to keep the Infinity Trinity from achieving their ultimate goal of finding and freeing Zenobia and the other missing super heroes.

It will take all their courage and skill.  Can they complete their biggest mission yet?


Happy Reading!📚

A Year of Miss Agnes

The Year of Miss Agnes begins:

“What will happen now?” I asked Mamma and we watched the plane take the teacher away.

“Maybe no more school.” Mamma twitched her shoulder a little to show she didn’t care.Mamma never went to school much, just a few months here and there when her family wasn’t trapping or out at the spring muskrat camp.She said she hated school when she was little.”

10-year old Frederika (Fred for short) has had six different teachers already.  Some of them stay the whole school year, but most do not. 

“Sometimes we could see the look on their faces the first week they were here, cleaning out their little cabin, putting up pictures on the walls.  The ones who looked mean from the very first lasted the longest.   It was the ones who smiled all the time and pretended to like everything who didn’t last.”

Coming to teach in a remote Alaskan village is a different kind of challenge.  It’s definitely not for every teacher.   First off, school is an extra – kids attend when they can.   It’s not that schooling isn’t important,  it’s just that survival is more important.  Secondly, there are very few supplies, and what there is are cast-offs from other places.  And finally, if you don’t try to understand the culture and traditions of the children you’re trying to teach, it’s impossible to help anyone learn.

Most of children don’t care much for school.  They go when they can, but they don’t mind missing a week or two.   Fred is different.  She lives with her grandparents, her mom and her deaf sister, Bokko.  Now that her grandparents are older, they don’t do as much fishing, hunting and trapping so Fred is in town.  She likes how school changes things up.  She helps out where she can in the store.  She want to learn to read as fast as Mr. Anderson and she want to write better too, so when Sam,  the bush pilot drops off the new teacher, Fred rushes to check her out.

She is older.  She’s wearing pants.   She’s English and she offers tea and cookies to Fred for the help she has given.  She appreciates Fred for who she is and what she has to offer.  That’s different and exciting.  From that first moment, school is different.  Miss Agnes makes the schoolhouse a place all the kids want to come to.  She cleans the window and fills it with  their art.  She shows them how important they are in the world and their place in history.  Miss. Agnes knows how to make each one of the children feel special.  She highlights their strengths and helps them help each other learn even more.  She even finds a way to include Bokko in school for the first time.

The schoolhouse becomes an exciting place of laughter and learning.  The whole community recognizes the importance of school and learning because. of Miss. Agnes.  A year isn’t very long when it is exciting and full – but a good year can stay with you for a lifetime as you “remember when…” Is a year enough to change everything?  Read A Year of Miss Agnes to find out.

If you’d like to read more about living and growing up on Alaska in the early 1900’s check out these other books terrific by Kirkpatrick Hill:

I loved them!

Happy Reading!📚

A Place to Hang the Moon

When A Place to Hang the Moon begins it is 1940 and Anna (9), Edmund (11) and William (12) find themselves orphaned and alone in London.  After the death of their grandmother, the children discover she has left no provision for their guardianship in her will.  What will happen to them now?  Could the mass wartime evacuation of children from London be the answer?  Maybe.  Their solicitor develops a “preposterous plan.”  He suggests the children go to the countryside.  Perhaps there, they will find a forever family for themselves.  The solicitor helps the children join the local schoolchildren who are being evacuated to countryside for the duration of the war.  The hope – for the solicitor AND the children –  is to be placed in a temporary home that will last forever if all three of the childre agree on the choice.

The children are determined to stay together, but this proves challenging.  Not many homes are willing to billet three new children.  First the siblings have to deal with the cruel tricks and bullying from their foster brothers.  Next they have to survive the cold realities of poverty, outdoor toilets and gnawing constant hunger.  Always they have to satisfy the head teacher, who did not want them in the first place, and who finds Edmund to be a real trial.

The only comfort in their terrible ordeal is the small lending library and the librarian, Nora Müller.  Every time they arrive at the library there is a warm fire, a kind smile, an extra cookie and just the right set of books.  Anna thinks Mrs. Müller would be an excellent choice for their “forever home”, but her husband is German.  No one knows where he is currently, and some in the village stay away from her and believe she is most unsuitable as a home for children. The boys think she is a good choice, but time will tell.

Time does tell.  Eventually it becomes clear that something must be done if they are to survive … and it is.

A Place to Hang the Moon is an unforgettable book.  It is impossible to make it last just as Anna found with her one book –  one page leads to the next, and the next and the next, until, before you know it, you’ve reached the very satisfying end. 

In the Author’s Note, Kate Albus tells us that her Edmund is named for the first Edmund she met when she read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  She says that is where the idea for this book began.  The similarities shine.  What a wonderful story.  What a wonderful book.  

Happy Reading!📚

If you find yourself interested in reading more about the children involved in the evacuation please look for The War That Saved My Life.


I waited a while to read Pony by R. J. Palacio.  I’m not sure why.  If you haven’t read it yet, don’t wait.   It’s different and special ~ a hero’s journey and Wild West tale rolled into one.

Silas is different.  He has a special relationship with his dad – a boot maker for a living, an engraver and photographer too.  Both Silas and his dad read widely and deeply.  They know many things that others do not.  Silas realizes he may not know things that most most everyone knows.  He just hasn’t needed to know them yet.  He will as the need arises.  Silas love to read and discover right along with Pa.  He helps with the chores around the house.  Hunting is a challenge.  He does not like the woods.  They speak to him in a way that makes him very afraid.  He passed out the first time he tried to go in with his father.  He’s not gone back since.

Silas is special.  He can see ghosts.  One, Mittenwool, has been with him since birth.  They are best friends.   It’s Mittenwool who woke him up on the night the gang came and took Pa.    That was how Silas heard all that was said and saw the three men and the horses.  It’s Mittenwool who agreed to go with him to see if they can find Pa and bring him home. That is how Silas found the courage to overcome his panic and push on.

At the edge of the wood, one of the gang’s horses, the pony finds them.  Silas takes this as a sign.  He must go into the fearsome wood, find his father, and bring him home.  And so their journey begins – Silas, Mittenwool and Pony.

It’s not an easy journey.  Terrible things have happened in those woods – and while you and I might feel the ominous energy, Silas can see the horrific ghostly proof.  There are others traveling through the wood – and while you and I might be skeptical and suspicious, Silas hasn’t had much experience with others in the world and trusts them.

I would have turned back many times, but Silas continues.  He is pushed forward by his love of family, the kindness of friends and his courage to do the right thing.  It is an amazing story that will stay with me long after the cover has been closed.

The book is illustrated with old daguerrotypes, tintypes and other photographs Pa may have taken.  And is further enriched by quotes and passages from books, likely to have been in Pa and Silas’ library

What a story!

Happy Reading! 📚

Root Magic

The reviews for Root Magic, Eden Royce’s debut novel, caught my eye.  I’ve also noticed this title on a couple of Mock Newbery 2022 list so I made sure it rose to the top of my TBR pile.  This story had me intrigued from the graveside opening through to the the final words, “‘That’s okay.” I smiled, full of hope and promise.  “I know how to keep a secret.'”

Jezebel Turner and her family live on a South Carolina island.  They are of the Gullah Geechee people.  Her family chooses to keep the old ways alive.  Jez and her twin brother, Jay, have each other.  They  gather what they need from the salt marsh – shellfish and grasses to be woven into mats and baskets.  They work with their grandmother making healing potions, lotions and teas.  They help their mother tend the garden and harvest the produce, bringing what’s extra for Mama to sell at market.  They enjoy each other and play wherever they can find the time.  Summers are full of work and joy, quiet and fun.

But summers end. Gran, the calming anchor of their lives, dies.  She has been Jez’s dearest – maybe her only friend.  Her final gift to Jez is a treasured rag doll carefully sown from the scraps of their shared life and carrying one of Gran’s final breaths.  With almost no time to process her loss, Deputy Collins in on their doorstep threatening to take action for… Jez doesn’t know and she knows she can’t ask either.  It is 1963 and white law enforcement are able to act freely in communities of color. In less than a week after the burial and “the visit”, school will begin.  This year school will be different too.  Jez’ll be skipping to 6th grade, while Jay will travel with their classmates into fifth.

Feeling alone at home…and at school… the twin’s 11th birthday bring some striking revelations.  Dinah, the doll walks and that’s not all the magic that is put into motion.  Jez and Jay begin to learn about their heritage Uncle Doc. Through his teaching they come to understand the importance of ROOTS,  and also the importance of following your heart and believing  in the power of ancestral stories

Bravery, kindness, family love and historic truths anchor this incredible story.  Wow!

Happy Reading!📚

Amber and Clay

Another magically crafted book from Laura Amy Schlitz, Amber and Clay takes us to Ancient Greece.  Several characters take turns narrating the chapters.  Some speak in poetry.  Some speak in prose.  Through each narrator’s unique voice readers gain a rich understanding of the social structures that define daily life across the classes.  At the center of the story are Rhaskos, an enslaved boy ~ as common as clay, and Melisto, daughter of a wealthy Atheneum citizen ~ as precious as amber.  Their story begins to take shape around their fifth year.

After his mother was sold, Rhaskos collects dung in his enslaver’s yard.  He is befriended by the younger son of his owner and inadvertently sees the mural of a horse in the men’s room of the house.  From then on he dreams of drawing horses.  Later after the death of this friend, Rhaskos becomes the personal servant of the older son.  Here he meets with near daily physical and emotional abuse.  It is incredibly cruel, but as a slave, what rights does he have?  Eventually he is sold to a potter and there he is able to learn the trade and further develop his artistic abilities.  It is better ~ but he is not free.

Melisto has been born into a family of means.  She beloved by her father, but finds it difficult to meet her mother’s expectations and to accept the confines given her because she is a girl. Melisto and her mother grate on one another. Thratta, Rhaskos mother, is purchased to step between them.  She helps Melisto fulfill her role as daughter and female in society, while also honoring her curious and active nature  Miraculously Melisto is selected to serve Artemis at her sanctuary in Brauron.  Melisto finds her home there. She is at peace there – free to be herself and live a life that honors the goddess.  It is better ~ but sacrifices are required.

After Melisto is killed in a lightning accident her body is returned to Athens for burial.  Thratta prepares the body when Melisto’s mother will not and that when the two children connection becomes apparent.  Thratta binds Melisto’s soul to the earth until she is able to find a way to lead Rhaskos to freedom.

Through their stories, readers discover more about life in these times.   They present is a clear picture of the ever-present slavery and warfare of the time.   Art, dance and ceremony are also shared.  Sokrates (the Greek spelling) befriends Rhaskos at one point in the story, and before his death, encourages him to be “his own master.”  Hermes and Hephaistos narrate some of the chapters adding a godly twist.  The writing is expressively descriptive, surprisingly contemporary, and laced with references to mythology and the epic stories.  The narrative creates a world for readers to live in where they can uncover the past, and at the same time come to a greater understanding of their own present.

What an amazing book!

Happy Reading!📚


Bo at Ballard Creek

Bo at Ballard Creekby Kirkpatrick Hill

278 pages of small town adventures for intermediate readers – it would make a fun read aloud for younger readers too.

Jack Jackson and Avrid Ivorsen had arrived in Alaska in 1897 Klondike Gold Rush.  They were both big men – bigger than most and that’s how they met each other.  They helped each other get the large sized clothes they needed.  Once they met, they figured out they were good help for each other – Jack ran the kitchen and Arvid did the blacksmithing for the mine.   They were good company.

One day Arvid was taking a break, standing on the riverbank watching the commotion of the logs and passengers being loaded on a steamship when Mean Millie, one of the good-time girls, walked up him and handed him her baby. Told him to take it to the orphanage in Nulato next time he went to town and walked away.  Arvid had no idea of what to do with a baby, but Jack did.

When the time came to take that baby to the orphanage, Avrid and Jack just walked on by and that was how Bo came to live at Ballard Creek with her two Papas.  She worked in the kitchen with Jack helping out with all she could.  She cut the biscuits and filled the wood box with kindling.  When her chores were done, Bo went to find Oscar – the only other child not yet old enough for school and they’d go visiting.  Sometimes they’d read magazines at Milo’s Roadhouse, sometimes they’d visit Lilly and Yovela or sometimes they’d visit Nakuchluk and Unakserak, the oldest people in town.  Bo could speak English and Eskimo.  She was a friend to everyone and everyone at Ballard Creek looked out for her too.

It is interesting to learn about life at the turn of the century in Alaska.  Interesting to learn how the gold was mined, how the mail was delivered, how supplies were shipped and how traditional ways were married with new customs so that all in the village survived and prospered.

The About the Author blurb says, “Kirkpatrick Hill was born into a mining family:  her father was a miner as was her grandfather.  When she was little the family lived at Cleary Hill Mines near Fairbanks, Alaska – a place much like Ballard Creek.  She says, ‘I almost always write bout true events and my characters are often based on actual people.  I couldn’t make up anything more interesting than things that really happened.’  That means that Ms. Hill has known some wonderfully caring people and they have shared some amazing times together.  Reading Bo at Ballard Creek is a real treat!  I hope many readers will join Bo in her small town and meet all the her friends as well.

Hero on a Bicycle

Hero on a Bicycleby Shirley Hughes

a different view of of World War II – the tension of being caught in between

In 1944 in Florence, Italy, Rosemary Crivelli, Paolo’s mother… “knew she should remind him of the dangers of what he was doing and forbid him – forbid him – to go out alone again at night, but somehow she could never find the heart to do it…She reflected grimly on the old cliché that wartime, when not terrifying, was a combination of long stretches of boredom and grinding hardship.”

Paolo can’t stand doing nothing.  He sneaks out at night to ride his bike through the city –the tension of breaking the rules brings some excitement to his life. Controlled and commanded by authority that could snap at any moment, Paolo is looking for a way to do something in the chaos that surrounds him.  His father left secretly two years ago to join the resistance and now the Crivelli family is under close watch by the ever-present Gestapo.  Signora Crivelli is British, another reason to be watched closely by Colonel Ritter – where do the true sympathies of the Crivelli family lie.

Paola thinks his rides are secret, but they are not.  Both his mother and 16-year old sister, Constanza know of them.  They hear him leave and the lie awake until he returns well after midnight.  This last time, Paolo was given a message at gunpoint to take to his mother. That one message removes all hope of being left alone to endure whatever ordinary hardships might come their way.  That message brings them into direct contact with Il Volpe, the leader of the Italian resistance and puts them in charge of seeing that the escaped prisoners of war make it back across Allie lines.

Quick thinking and smart decisions barely keep the Crivellies safe through to the liberation of Florence.  They suffer when friends bend and break under the pressure of fear and distrust.  The witness the horrific cruelty and pain of war and the fearless dedication of those committed to their cause.  While I wished for more detail and for the plot to be developed more completely, I appreciate how this original tale, set in a different place and with a unique vantage point, adds to our understanding of World War II.  Intermediate and middle grade readers interested in this topic will like Hero on a Bicycle and will be compelled to turn each page as the tension mounts and secrets unfold.


Gingersnapby Patricia Riley Giff

recipes seasoned with herbs and care are always the best – even when ingredients are rationed and scarce.

Janea lives with her brother Rob.  He’s nine years older than she is and has just become old enough to gain custody and take her from foster care.  That’s been their dream since she’s been five and Rob has visited her every Sunday.  Finally they can build a home together.  It is a home of love, stories, shared meals, soup and change. Rob is a cook at the Navy base and he’s about to be shipped out on the USS Muldoon.  He’ll be cooking meals for the sailors and Janea will be living with their landlady, Celine until he comes back.  Rob assures her it won’t be long.  When the war is over and Rob is home they plan to open a restaurant where he’ll make the meals and “Gingersnap” will make the soup.  Gingersnap is the nickname Janea’s mother gave her because of her ginger-colored hair.  The name makes Janea feel closer to her family.

Rob leaves and the days pass by.  Celine thinks that Janea needs to learn manners and perhaps she does.  Janea tries her best to be a quiet, neat girl.  She tries to stay out of the way.  She cares for Theresa the turtle in the soon-to-be dried up pond in their old backyard.  She carries the rock girl with her always – the funny rocky face from one of the last days at home with Rob, when she’d been trying to pick a yellow flower in the pond and become stuck in the mud completely.  Rob had rescued her and found the curious rock that looked like a face. He’d given to her with a quip and that’s when she’s seen the ghost – her but not her.  Curious.

Then the unthinkable – Rob’s ship is sunk and he is lost in the Pacific.  Celine feels burdened by the responsibility of Janea.   Janea feels totally alone.  Both want their old lives back, but have no idea how that can be.  At the insistence of the ghost, Janea goes back to their house one more time.  She finds a box of carefully saved things that must once have belonged to her parents.  There is book of carefully written recipes with a photograph of woman in front of a bakery named “Gingersnap.”  Janea knows right away that this is a key – her grandmother she dares to hope.  There is an address and so Janea, along with Therea for company, sets off to Brooklyn full of hope in search of her place to belong.

You’ll have to read Gingersnap  what happens to Janea when she arrives in the city.  You might become a soup specialist too – Janea shares her recipes with you.  Savor every page – it is delicious.