Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hometown Track- MN Author Spotlight #1

 Laura Ingalls Wilder Author Spotlight Wrap-Up:
August ends today and so do TWO contests related to the Hometown Track Author Spotlight on Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

Please feel free to enter one or both contests by making a comment here or clicking the contest posted on my sidebar. 

 Several of my posts this month reflected my journey to visit three of Laura's homes in three different states in the Midwest.  One trip led me to her birthplace in Pepin, Wisconsin, another trip led me to Spring Valley, MN where Laura lived for a short time with the Wilder family.  I visited the Methodist church she attended there.  We then visited Burr Oak, Iowa where Laura's family helped run The Master's Hotel and where Grace was born.  All in all it was a wonderful journey with my children and a fulfilled childhood dream.

One review was posted on Laura Ingalls Wilder first published book titled Little House in the Big Woods which I read aloud to my daughter.   I offered two contests related to Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Personally, I am glad I created and participated in this meme.  I am going to continue with my monthly Hometown Track Author Spotlight and I have already lined up two authors to feature for September and October so stay tuned for tomorrow's announcement of who is in the Spotlight and what contest will be offered next month.  I am super excited!

I would love to know your thoughts about the Hometown Track meme and if you liked it or not and if you have any suggestions. I believe each month will be unique due the style of the author. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Little House in the Big Woods

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder  Illustrated by Garth Williams

I read aloud the full-color collector's edition of Little House in the Big Woods to my daughter Georgia, this summer.  While reading this book, I realized that the Big Woods was close to our house and after a little internet research we decided to embark on a Little House tour this summer.

I read this book when I was a little girl in the 1970's when the TV show became a big hit.  Of course, I didn't remember any of it and had great fun sharing this story with my daughter and discovering the beauty, joy and adventure in this book.  I am totally buying the first season of the TV show to share with my kids this winter.

Laura Ingalls Wilder and I have a lot in common.  First of all we share the same first name, both of us were born in 67 although 100 years apart.  We were both raised in the woods, and on a farm (I spent my summers on my grandpa's farm in Wisconsin).We both grew up and became teachers and writers.  She has a daughter named Rose and I have a aunt named Rose.  Well, I am sure you have figured out that I feel connected to Laura Ingalls Wilder and have since I was a child so it was with great pleasure that I reread this book with my daughter.

Little House in the Big Woods is the first book in the Little House series.  It is a set of stories set in Pepin, Wisconsin and Laura's memories growing up there.  When I read aloud the chapter called Two Big Bears, my family happened to be renting a cabin at Tomahawk Boy Scout camp and a bear had wandered into camp and ate a goat.  There were many bear sightings that week.  Pa was walking home in the dark without his gun and came upon what he thought was a bear and Ma and Laura found a bear in the cow's pen and ran to the house.  My daughter was over-joyed how our day experience mirrored what happened to Laura in the book.

I think my favorite chapter was on The Sugar Snow.  This is the snow that comes late in the Spring and increases the length of time that the maple syrup flows.  She describes how they gathered, cooked and danced all during this time and of course the maple sugar sounded delicious.  There is a story about a black panther waiting for its prey and I didn't realize that black panthers lived this far north.  I guess I am glad they are no longer in my neighborhood.

I love to be outdoors and participate in the wonders of nature and Wilder's book brought back all the youthful innocence, hard work and simplicity of living life as a pioneer.  There are lots of days when I wish TV did not exist and at night we could talk and read by firelight. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Huck.  The Remarkable True Story of How One Lost Puppy Taught a Family and a Whole Town About Hope and Happy Endings by Janet Elder

I have recently become a dog owner and as a result of that, I am finding myself drawn to books with animals.  Having a animal in your life as a pet is a transforming experience and so I was drawn to this book and Janet Elder's experience.

This book is about an adorable, darling, apricot, toy poodle named Huck.  Elder's son Michael had always wanted a dog and was an animal lover since birth.  The author made the decision to get her son a dog when she got the life altering diagnosis of breast cancer.  After all of Janet's chemo and radiation treatments and in honor of Michael's 12th birthday, Huck was adopted and became a valued member of their family. 

The family decides to take a much needed vacation and they leave Huck with Janet's sister in New Jersey.  The Elder's live in a apartment in New York.  Poodles are great dogs and are also fast runners and good escape artists.  I should know as I had a poodle growing up, who jumped out of fast moving cars, and broke through every safety gate and fence we owned.  So it comes as no surprise that Huck escapes and is lost in a unknown town.  What ensues is a community wide search for a beloved pet.

This book was endearing and made me glad that my current dog stays close to my side.  It is a fast read, and a hopeful story.  While the book was mainly about the dog, I wanted more information about Janet and her struggle with breast cancer.  As I read this book, I drew some parallels to my own life.  My son (like Michael in the book) is also twelve, we just adopted a dog, so now I am thinking I better go get a mammogram just for peace of mind.

Huck is available to purchase on September 28, 2010
Check out Janet Elder's blog/website at huckthebook.com
I think it would make a great movie.
I received this book from Crazy Book Tours

I am going to leave you with a picture of my adorable dog.  His name is Titus and he is part German Shepherd, part black Lab.  He is just 3 years old.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

F*** Me, Ray Bradbury

  I found this You Tube video on the Reading While Female blog and I knew I had to share it because it is flipping hilarious.  If you love Ray Bradbury (like I do) and you love reading (ditto) and are not opposed to hearing the F word in a music video, I think you will like it.  Think of the video this way:  It is a sexy, Rated R, love song dedicated to Ray Bradbury!  Let me know what you think? 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Burr Oak, Iowa - Home of Ingalls family and the Master's Hotel

Burr Oak, Iowa - Home of the Ingalls Family and the Master's Hotel

Burr Oak, Iowa is the third and last stop on our Laura Ingalls Wilder home tour this year.  It is over a three hour drive from Saint Paul, MN and just across the Iowa border.

The Ingalls family lived and worked in this town for about 2 years.  Their daughter, Grace, was born here in a little home about a block from the museum.  There are no published Little House books written about this location.  However, I heard that a unpublished manuscript is located in the Herbert Hoover Library in Iowa and could be published in a little over five years.  In fact, you can go to the library and ask them to make you a copy.  The Museum in Burr Oak has a copy you can view if you are interested.

When you arrive here you must first cross the street and visit the gift store to purchase your entry and tour into the museum.  Your tour guide then takes you to the hotel and shows you around the hotel.  My tour guide was great.  Below is a map of Laura's travels that is hanging outside the house.  Notice how close Pepin, Spring Valley and Burr Oak are.

Burr Oak was a main road for people driving their covered wagons west.  About 200-300 wagons passed through Burr Oak a day in the 1870's.  The Ingalls family boarded and helped run the Master's Hotel.  All of 5 of them crowded and slept in one bedroom and Ma was pregnant with Grace.  It cost about 25 cents a night to sleep in the hotel and most of the guests were men as there was a bar in the hotel.  Also guests slept three to a bed.  The cost included a meal as well.  Ma, Pa and the girls were busy cooking, cleaning, and serving  the guests.  Basically is was a very hard time for the Ingalls family.  They had recently lost their baby son, Ma was pregnant, exhausted,  they were making little money, had little privacy and were working very hard.  The only stayed at the hotel for a short time before renting a small house a block away were Grace was born.  They then made the decision to move west.

They traveled west by covered wagon.  This wagon that I am sitting on is located behind the Master's Hotel and in the Laura Ingalls Wilder Park where Silver Creek runs lazily through it.  My tour guide said that when Laura's family moved a block away, that Laura used to walk her cow to Silver Creek for water.

Well, I hope I have inspired you to take your own literary trip.  This year I still hope to attend the Laura Ingalls Wilder Festival in Pepin, WI on September 11 and 12th.  I am planning to visit Walnut Grove, Minnesota and De Smet, South Dakota in the future (hopefully next summer 2011)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The 19th Wife

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Historical fiction opens your eyes to a new world, a different time period or a place you can only imagine.  It may introduce you to people and events you have never heard of or want to learn more about.  These are some of the reasons enjoyed this book.   I was introduced to new people, new places and events I never knew occurred until I read The 19th Wife.

The 19th Wife was an incredibly entertaining and educational read for me.  This book contains a duel story line about two different wives that are both number 19.  The first story is a modern murder mystery where the 19th wife is accused of murdering her husband in 2004.  This part of the story takes place is Mesadale, Utah where a group of "radical" Firsts still practice traditional polygamy that the LDS Mormons removed from their religious doctrine in the 19th century.  It is narrated by the 19th wife's son named Jordan who she left on the side of the road in the middle of the night with 17 dollars in his pocket, when he was 14 years old, because the prophet told her it was the will of God.

The second story line is the historical and familial stories of  Brigham Young (the second prophet of the Mormon church) and his 19th wife, Ann Eliza Young.  Brigham was over 60 when he married Ann Eliza who was in her early twenties.  She is later abandoned by him and begins divorce proceedings and seeks to end polygamy in the Mormon church.  She writes a book called The 19th wife, which is an ebook you can download, in which this book parallels her story.  Basically the author, Ebershoff, read Ann Eliza's book and presents the important details of her story while weeding out parts he felt unnecessary.  Another interesting historical mystery is that Ann Eliza disappears and no one knows what happens to her.  The author speculates on different scenarios of her death and I have formed my own opinion.  I am curious to know your opinion on what could have happened to her.

The historical accounts in the book were so interesting to me as I didn't know anything about their relationship, nor did I know much about Brigham Young.  So this part contains some history about how the church formed, their time in Illinois, the travels to Utah and the forming of the large Mormon community in Utah.  Totally fascinating and utterly amazing what this group of people accomplished in such a short time.  

Both of these interesting stories intertwine and intersect in the book.  Personally, I learned so much and was blown away by how much I liked this book and how fast I devoured all 600 pages of it.  I liked the approach the author took using websites, Wikipedia, letters, and primary source documents, most of which he wrote himself.  It was interesting reading it, as it felt like reading the true sources.  In some ways I wish he would have included actual sources and documents inside the text. 

I have included two pictures, one of Brigham Young, the other Ann Eliza Webb Young.

I have to say that I really, really loved this book and I would recommend that you read it.  I am curious to know what you think.

It is also important to mention that this is being made into a Lifetime Original Movie set to air in September, 2010.  Check your local TV listings.  I believe the film is only going to cover the modern storyline and not the story of Brigham and Ann Eliza but I am not positive.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Spring Valley, MN- Home of Almanzo Wilder

On August 9th, my kids and I drove to Spring Valley, MN.  It was about a two hour drive from Saint Paul (about 110 miles) and we wanted to visit the church that Almanzo, Laura and Rose once attended.  This little town was only mentioned once in the Little House books (in Little Town on the Praire).

The church was erected in 1876 and the Wilder family contributed a sum of about 50 dollars which today would be about 1000 dollars to the construction of the church.  It is quite beautiful with many stained glass windows.  You can take a tour of the church for a small fee.  There is also a museum in the basement of the church that details the history of the town of Spring Valley.  Did you know that Richard Sears (one of the guys who created Sears and Roebuck) is also from Spring Valley, MN and that he and Almanzo Wilder were friends. Well, I didn't until I took the tour.  There is also a small book shop in the church. 

The sign above is located in front of the church.
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote a book called FARMER BOY about Almanzo's experience growing up in New York.  The Wilder family was quite wealthy compared to the Ingalls family.  Inside the church is a photo of the house the Wilder's built in Spring Valley.  It no longer stands, but it was quite large compared to the houses in which Laura and her family lived.

The Wilder barn still stands but is located on private property although people do drive by it, I chose not to.  I did include a picture of it below.  Almanzo's brother Royal is the only Wilder who stayed in Spring Valley until his death.  He owned a store in town, a short walk from the church which is now a bar.  He is buried in the Spring Valley cemetary.
It was a good trip on a very hot, hot Minnesota day.  The church is not air conditioned.  From here we drove to Burr Oak, Iowa to visit another of Laura's homes.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Super-Parenting for ADD

Super-Parenting for ADD.  An Innovative Approach to Raising Your Distracted Child by Edward M Hallowell, M.D. and Peter S Jensen, M. D.

As a parent of two children with ADHD, I need all the help and strategies I can get to help my kids be successful.  This book was great for me as a parent.  ADD is described in the book as having a race car brain with bicycle brakes.  I told my kids this and we all agreed it is an accurate, positive description.  ADHD runs in the family so for our little family of four we could potentially have four race car brains inhabiting our home and leaving tracks of debris all over the house.  Welcome to my chaotic super creative life.

One of the things I am going to do this year is educate the teachers of my children better and work on improving their 504 plans.   This book contains a section that you can photocopy especially for the teacher that gives positive,  instructions for helping your child be successful.  I am totally photocopying this section.

If you know any kids with ADD/ADHD most of them believe they are stupid, lazy, disorganized, angry, no one likes them, etc...  It is always negative feedback from their teachers, bus drivers and their own opinion in many cases is negative.  My biggest goal is to be positive this year, as it is so easy to fall into negativity and as a teacher and a parent negativity really hurts kids.  This book does an excellent job of taking a so called negative trait and showing the reader the opposite positive trait that any parent would be proud of.  So instead of saying your child is stubborn use the positive trait, persistent instead.  The authors takes about 10 traits and explains to the reader the positive and negative aspects of each component.  Very helpful.

What I didn't like about the book is that the authors talk about the Kolbe model and suggest you and your child as well as their teacher take an online test to determine your preference but what they don't tell you is that it costs fifty dollars.  What I find frustrating is that these tests cost to much for the average person and I wonder why they can't be priced more reasonably or even offered for free.  Most parents who have kids with ADD/ADHD need help now and paying a lot of money isn't always the best option.

What I have found to help me is having my kids see a child psychologist once a week as well as reading blogs, the ADDitude magazine and books.  Here are a few websites I would suggest:


Blogs I like:
A Mom's View of ADHD
Life in our ADHD family

I really love my kids and my crazy ADD life.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Read Your Own Books in August

I am going to participate in Mel's Info and Books Read Your Own Books In August Challenge.  The object is not to buy any new books but read the books you already own.  I can do that!  Here are the rules, I created for myself and I am sticking to them.
1.  I will only read books I currently own
2.  My only exception is that I can read an ARC book tour book if it arrives in August.

Even though I am announcing this challenge today, I have only read my own books this month as opposed to buying new ones.  Seriously, I probably don't need to buy a another book for about 5 years.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Laura Swag Contest

Laura Ingalls Wilder Swag Contest

One lucky winner will receive two bookmarks, and five individual postcards from three Laura Ingalls Wilder historic sites.  Do you have a child in your life who loves THE LITTLE HOUSE books, or maybe your a fan yourself.  Either way these are nice collector items, fancy bookmarks or an inspiration to journey to various Laura Ingalls Wilder sites throughout the US.  Anyone can enter, it is open internationally. 

Please leave a comment telling me what is your favorite LITTLE HOUSE book,  include your name, e-mail and blog site if you have one.  This contest will end on August 31st at midnight.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pepin, Wisconsin: Birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder

My kids and I took a trip to Pepin, Wisconsin to visit Laura Ingalls Wilder's Birthplace.  It is about and hour and a half drive from Saint Paul.  We traveled on Laura's historic highway and it was a beautiful picturesque drive.  I took tons of pictures but unfortunately my camera is on the verge of breaking and for some reason won't download any of my pictures from Pepin.  So the images you see in this post are taken from google images.  
Laura was born in February of 1867
 in Pepin, Wisconsin.  Her house and the story about her time there takes place in her first book, Little House in the Big Woods.  The house if no longer in the woods but surrounded by farmland.  The house you can visit is a replica and not built to be exact.  It is exciting to be on her property and in the area where she was born.  There is no cost to visit the house, the museum or park in town.  The beach at Lake Pepin is also free.  

 The house is seven miles from downtown Pepin off of County Road 7.  Laura describes her visit to town in Little House in the Big Woods and her view of the seeing the Lake.  Visiting the town and swimming in the lake was a great experience for my kids.  It was extremely hot when we were there and we got an ice cream cone at one of the old storefronts, possibly where the mercantile was.  
I would definitely suggest a visit to this hidden little town, it is quiet, peaceful and not very expensive.  We did not stay overnight here but there are accommodations available.  We also visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in town and the park 4 blocks down that is dedicated to her. 
The museum is really nice with a cute gift shop.  My kids actually walked through it and asked lots of questions.  Next door to the museum is a interactive museum where the kids can play school or jump on a boat.  There are places to take your picture and lots of brochures about the other Laura houses and the area. Every year in September the town holds Laura Ingalls Wilder Days Festival, with a pageant, parade and a play based on the book.  I am definitely going to attend that festival soon, maybe this year.  I would highly recommend a trip to the area if you are a Laura fan or if your kids are reading the books.  I am so glad my kids and I had this experience.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Northanger Abbey || PBS - trailer

I love this short movie trailer.  Let me know if you have seen the film and your opinion.  I can't wait to watch it.

Northhanger Abbey Readalong week #4

Northhanger Abbey Readalong week #4

Pages read: 179-257
Chapters read: 24-31

This week was the dramatic conclusion of Northhanger Abbey.  It reads a bit like a soap opera minus the erotic passion and kissing.  The drive behind relationships tends to be wealth and titles.  In the end Catherine gets her man although she has to fret and worry for awhile since they are no cell phones for Henry to call.  He must actually drive his carriage to her home if he wants to speak with her.  In the end, I am not really sure why he wanted to marry her.  Maybe because she was so in love with him and that made him love her or maybe it was to anger his father and teach him a lesson.  It seems that eventually everyone in the book lives happily ever after except Isabelle and her wretched brother.

I have learned several things while reading this book.  First of all, Jane Austen book's are not as boring as I thought they were.  The second thing I learned is that I really like readalongs.  They get you to read a challenging book with other people, that you may or may not read alone and it kinda forces you to keep to a schedule and then reflect on what you read.  It is kinda like a online book chat.  So I am going to read more Austen and participate in more readalongs.

I also plan to read Radcliffe's book The Mysteries of Udolpho soon, while Northhanger is still relatively fresh in my mind.  I also want to watch the PBS film adaption of Northhanger Abbey as my reward for reading the book. I would like to thank Jennifer at Reading with Tequila for hosting the readalong.  It was fun to participate.

Friday, August 13, 2010

How many books are in your TBR pile?

Friday Follow and Book Blogger Hop
Welcome Visitors!

Question:  How many books are in your TBR pile?

I have more books in my TBR pile than I can ever read in my lifetime.  Seriously, there are to many to count.  Currently in my library, I have 5 overflowing bookshelves and I still have books in boxes.  This is not even counting the books I have on the multiple shelves in my classroom library.  Reading is definitely my addiction and obsession.  My two kids also have a overflowing bookcase in each of their rooms.  I love to be surrounded by books and to just look at them and all the knowledge they impart.

Books in a sense are my trophies. 

So many books, so little time!


Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Wives of Henry Oades

The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran

A debut historical novel from Johanna Moran that is entertaining, insightful and thought provoking.  The story takes place in 1890 to 1900 and it is based on a actual legal case presented in California on bigamy.

Henry and Margaret are married and living in New Zealand when Margaret and the children are abducted by Maori and forced into slavery.  Henry becomes convinced they are dead and crazy with grief he moves to Berkeley, California.  There Henry takes a new wife, named Nancy, when the previous Mrs. Margaret Oades shows up on  his doorstep with his children.  What ensues in problematic for both wives, the children, Henry and most of all for the town of Berkeley who considers them bigamists.

I was riveted to the page for most of this book.  Frankly you know a book has gotten into your head when you dream about it at night.  I couldn't stop thinking about the dilemma of two wives and who has rightful dibs on Henry.  It is such a complicated issue and one in which the author handles very well, in my opinion.  I wish I would have read this with my book club because this is a book that demands to be talked about and argued over.

If you like historical fiction,  you will really like this book!  This book wowed me!  I just can't imagine how you could choose between the two people you love. 
I received this book as a part of Crazy Book Tours.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

FALLOUT, by Ellen Hopkins

FALLOUT Book Trailer
This book trailer was created by Teresa Schauer. Teresa has a blog that you can check out by clicking on her name.  This book trailer brought tears to my eyes and makes me think that FALLOUT is going to be an emotional book for me.

Announcement:  I am giving away a copy of FALLOUT for Blogfest September 10-12.  If I get a lot of followers I will add Crank and Glass to the list for one special follower.  Because you really have to read all three.  Or should I split the books up?  What do you think?

If you haven't signed up for Blogfest yet, you need to do so, just click on the button located on the left side of my blog. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Glass by Ellen Hopkins

GLASS is the second book in the Hopkins trilogy about Crystal Meth and its effect on unwed, teenager mother, Kristina Snow and her family.  GLASS is just as addicting to the reader as was the first book, CRANK.  FALLOUT, the third book, is eagerly anticipated by many of her readers and I plan to be first in line to pick it up.

Ellen Hopkin's books continually keep me riveted to the page.  Glass is no exception.  She understands teenage girls so well and the amazing amount of pain and tragedy that exists in some of their lives.  The character of Kristina Snow is modeled after her own daughter.  Glass goes by many nicknames and destroys many lives and its effects spiral across generations.

My sister flirted with the monster and became addicted.  The struggle for her was unbelievable and her children did not come out unscathed.  I am proud to say she is sober now for 5 years but the fear of addiction is still there.  When reading these books, I have a new appreciation and understanding for what people addicted to a drug go through mentally and how it physically takes a hold of them and doesn't let go for years.  I can't even begin to imagine the struggle. 

It is scary how a drug can take possession of your very soul, make you steal from those you love, abandon your relatives, lie, cheat, and do all manner of things you wouldn't do unless you happen to be under the influence.  I am also scared by the fact that people can be high, and be so convincingly normal, that one cannot even guess they are living a life beyond rational and addicted to GLASS.

This book is written entirely in verse and it is close to 700 pages, but don't let that scare you.  The drug itself is more scary than the book, and of course some of the men and strangers Kristina meets.
Hopkins is my new favorite author this year and I plan to read all of her books and loan them to my students, especially struggling readers.  Do yourself a favor and read Crank and Glass.  They will blow your mind.

FALLOUT is being released on September 14th, 2010 and I will see you at the bookstore.

Check out the author's website at www.ellenhopkins.com

Monday, August 9, 2010

Moby Dick T-Shirt

I have finished Moby Dick and have just purchased my reward, a T-shirt from Out of Print Clothing.  Yes, I am so excited to wear this shirt and I hope everyone asks me if I have read the book and I can proudly say:  Yes, I have.

Here is what I love about this company.  They sell book T-shirts of classic book covers.  For every shirt purchased they donate one book to a child in Africa.  I also really like that they have women's t-shirts and not just mens.

I am gonna look good in this shirt!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Northhanger Abbey Readalong week #3

Northhanger Abbey Readalong week #3

Pages read 121-178
Chapters read 16-23

Part 2 in the book. 
I am really starting to like this book and I really love Henry Tilney, he is hilarious.  He is seriously cracking me up, as Catherine says the oddest things and he is good at jesting her.  For example, Catherine says "I have just learnt to love a hyacinth."  (who says that?) pg. 163  She takes it all in stride probably because she has no idea he is jesting which makes the reader understand the joke that the main character does not.

I read almost all this weeks required pages in one day.  The text was entertaining to me and honestly I can't believe I am liking a book by Austen.  But I am, I am liking it indeed. 

Here is what I like: 
I like that Catherine is now at the Tilney Abbey and away from John and Isabelle Thorpe. (those two characters get on my nerves, like a fly buzzing around my head) I like that Catherine is swept up in her invented mystery of the Abbey and that she totally reminds me of a modern day teenager and the drama that gets invented in their day to day lives.  I like that Austen has included plots and twists from the popular Gothic romances of her day.  I am totally going to read Radcliffe's book The Mysteries of Udolpho.  I like that Henry Tilney reads books since according to Catherine most men don't.  I like that the book is funny and the author is quite witty.  I like Henry, he is definitely my favorite character. 

Next week's drama continues with the remaining pages and persists till the harrowing end.  Stay tuned for the dramatic conclusion on Booksnob.