Middle Grade Monday: Little Author in the Big Woods (2014) by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Little Author in the Big Woods: A Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Yona Zeldis McDonough, Illustrations by Jennifer Thermes (2014)

Suggested age range: 7 and up (Henry Holt, 157 pages)

Rating: 3.5/5 stars (This short and sweet biography with its charming illustrations is a good choice for fans of the Little House books.)

Source: Personal Copy

Genre: Nonfiction, Biography

little author in the big woodsThe Book: Divided into eight chapters and illustrated with charming and comfy black and white pencil drawings, McDonough’s biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a good choice for elementary readers interested in the life of the beloved Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie. Here we learn more about the lives of Laura’s parents, Charles and Caroline, and about Laura’s early life growing up in the “Big Woods.” The book follows Laura all the way until her death, providing details about her life with Almanzo, her daughter, Rose, and her life as a writer. Readers will recognize events shared in the biography if they’re familiar with the Little House books. This is something the author mentions—the fact that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about the life she knew—and which made her historical fiction that much more powerful. The book also includes quotes of Laura’s, “Games Laura Played,” a craft, and even recipes of foods mentioned by Laura.

Highlights: Love the map in the front of the book—“Places Laura Lived”—including the states of South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. At several points in the book, the author connects different events in Laura’s life to reinforce how those events contributed to her becoming a writer. These reminders made me think about how so many factors influence the roles we end up filling in our lives—but if we have a strong passion for something, it’s hopeful that we’ll end up nurturing that anyway.

Who Should Read This Book: Readers of the beloved Little House books will appreciate this short and sweet biography, peppered with charming black and white drawings of various scenes from Laura’s life. It’s an easy read, filled with loads of information and interesting details about the various moves Laura’s family took throughout her life.

To Read or Not to Read?: Yes! I’ve been a fan of the Little House books since I was a young reader, and I have always been fascinated by the fact that the books were inspired by the real life of a girl growing up on the Prairie. This biography reminded me of how much I loved reading about the Ingalls family and the daily routines of their life back in the middle of the 19th century. Historical fiction is a genre I ADORED as a young reader, and I still LOVE a good historical read today. You’ll notice I don’t post reviews of as many nonfiction books on the blog, but reading Little Author in the Big Woods has made me rethink that. Nonfiction literature for children and young adults is a valuable genre, and it may be that my jaunt over the vast space Laura Ingalls Wilder journeyed during her lifetime via this short read just may inspire me to pursue more nonfiction journeys for young readers in the near future!

Do you have a favorite Nonfiction read from 2014? Or from any year that you think I absolutely must read??

 

Middle Grade Monday: Nest (2014) by Esther Ehrlich

Happy Christmas Week! Things have been a bit slow on the blog due to travel by yours truly, but I’m settled in for the holidays now, so glad to be back! You may have noticed: my blog announcement hasn’t been made yet. That will change soon, so stay tuned.

Welcome to another Middle Grade Monday!

Nest by Esther Ehrlich (2014)

Suggested age range: 12 and up (Wendy Lamb Books, 336 pages)

Rating: 3.5/5 stars [I will definitely recommend it to readers who would be drawn to this type of story; The book was pretty good but not sure it’s for everyone and there may be a few things about the book that didn’t work for me.]

Source: e-ARC from Netgalley

Genre: Historical Fiction

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley from Wendy Lamb Books. This in no way influenced my review! Thank you, Wendy Lamb Books!

nestThe Book: Set in 1972, on Cape Cod, this middle grade realistic story charts the ups and downs in the life of a young girl whose mother becomes ill with multiple sclerosis. Along with her sister and father, eleven year-old Chirp wants to see her mother get better, and attempts to cheer her up in the midst of a very difficult season of life. Even though Chirp’s friend, Joey, has his own challenges at home, the antics of the two friends keep the story filled with humor. At times heart-wrenching, the story reflects the work of an author who doesn’t shy away from engaging with serious topics in this heartfelt and beautifully written story.

Spirituality in Nest: How does the heart heal after tragedy? Is the love between family members strong enough in the face of losing a loved one? Both of these questions are raised in the story, suggesting a deep and moving aspect of the book. This one definitely raises some thought-provoking moments, though it took me awhile to get into the story.  Chirp’s aesthetic appreciation for the natural world and her awareness and observation of that world is yet another aspect of spirit in the narrative. Her keen observation of birds and wildlife reminded me a little of the way Anne Shirley is in tune with the natural world.

Who Should Read This Book: Though booksellers might consider this book for readers younger than twelve, because of the subject matter and the way it’s represented, I’m going to suggest the book for readers twelve and up. Of course, parents may decide for themselves whether this book would work for a young reader or not. That’s just my two cents. There are some very serious and intense topics and moments in the story, but realistically, some young people have to face situations such as the ones the story brings up. In that case, the book would be extremely relevant.

The Final Word: It took me awhile to get into this story as I felt the pace was a bit slow, but once I reached a certain point—about halfway through—it seemed to pick up. I enjoyed the patterns and echoes Ehrlich employed in the story, and the motifs she used, such as the nest and the birds. I especially appreciated learning more about Cape Cod and the different types of birds living in that environment. The story reflects multiple moments of beauty and celebrates an aesthetic appreciation of the nature world. The story, though tragic at times, ends on a note of hope.

Have you read this new Middle Grade release? What did you think?

Top Ten Books I Read in 2014 (Top Ten Tuesday)

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This weekly meme is hosted by The Broke and Bookish—check out their blog and join in the TOP TEN TUESDAY FUN!

This week, we’re sharing our Top Ten Books Read in 2014—a perfect Top Ten Tuesday for this 16th of December. I can’t believe it’s almost the end of 2014. I don’t know about you, but I love the Christmas season—time to bake, relax by the fire, spend time with family and friends, celebrate, give gifts, and especially…read! I have grading to finish up for a literature course I teach online, and I’m going to appreciate the time off I as soon as the term is officially over.

Then, it’s time for me to squeeze in a few more 2014 reads…

So here’s my list of my very favorite books read in 2014. I’m not going to overlap titles from New to Me Authors Read in 2014, so you will see some of my favorites missing from this list to make room for others—simply because I already mentioned them in another post.

Code Name Verity

By Elizabeth Wein code03,200_

So I had owned this book for awhile and read it while on holiday this summer at the ocean and oh my goodness….THIS BOOK! It’s amazing historical fiction, researched beautifully, and depicts an amazing female friendship that may leave you weeping by the end of the book, but let me tell you, it’s worth it! This is one of those books I will recommend to EVERY PERSON I MEET!

Rose Under Fire

By Elizabeth Wein

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I just read this book on a cross-country flight and I never put it down the whole five hours—except to maybe eat something. It’s a companion novel to CODE NAME VERITY, and this book is just as fantastic and may be even better than CNV. I love all of Elizabeth Wein’s books, and I cannot wait for her 2015 release! I need to read a book by her at least once a month! This one sees its protagonist caught by the Germans and sent to the concentration camp, Ravensbruck.

The Winner’s Curse

By Marie Rutkoski winner-curse1-624x936

If you read my review of this gorgeous fantasy, you will understand why I love it so much and why I can’t wait for the sequel to be released. These characters are dear to my heart and I love Rutkoski’s world building.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye

By Rachel Joyce harold frye

This book has been out for awhile and I can’t believe I waited so long to read it. It is worth all the awards it has won, and here is yet another story that I think every adult reader needs to know about.

Dorothy Must Die

By Danielle Paige

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Again, with this one, all you need to do is review my thoughts about it. Love the Oz reworking, and am so excited about what is in store in the sequel!

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

By Kate DiCamillo flora

It was no surprise to me that this most recent book of DiCamillo’s won the Newbery. You can find my review here to see why this humorous and heartwarming story was so chock full of moments that engaged my heart on many different levels.

The Assassin’s Blade

By Sarah J. Maas

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I discovered Sarah J. Maas for the first time in 2014, and though a lot of readers have chosen Heir of Fire (because they started reading the series before 2014), I’m going to have to go with the first book I read of hers—The Assassin’s Blade. I loved all the novellas in this collection, and they really stirred my interest in the story of Celaena, the young assassin who is center stage in The Throne of Glass books. These novellas serve as a prequel to Throne of Glass and I was so glad I read these first!

The 5th Wave

By Rick Yancey

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This was one of my first reads of 2014, and let me tell you—I was on the edge of my seat with this one. All I have to say is…the Aliens are coming

The Madman’s Daughter

By Megan Shepherd

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This was another early read in 2014 and this book solidified my love of Shepherd’s series and now I am avidly awaiting the third book! You can read my review here.

The Tragedy Paper

By Elizabeth Laban TRAGEDY PAPER cover

Finally, another early read in 2014 that I still think about from time to time. Thought provoking and a story that wasn’t predictable. I was invested in the characters, and would have loved a sequel, but my feeling is that we probably won’t see one.

Are any of these books on your top ten list for 2014? Which 2014 reads should I make sure to jump into before the year is out??