So I just finished Freckles, by Gene Stratton Porter.  Of the three of her books that I've read, it is the one she published first.  Freckles was quite the bestseller of its time (1904).  Personally, I liked A Girl of the Limberlost better.  

Freckles is about an orphaned young man who doesn't know his name or his heritage, but goes by Freckles.  By his hard work, honesty and sense of duty he builds himself up from penniless orphan to respected businessman. And, of course, he finds his true love along the way. :)

Such drama!  Porter really knows how to pack it in.  I was telling Jacob after finishing Freckles that "according to Gene Stratton Porter, if you don't end up in the hospital over it, it's not true love." heh.  It's fun to see the cultural differences in these books that were written more than a hundred years ago.  Heart-sickness was apparently more prevalent.  Now, Porter hasn't hospitalized anyone strictly for missing their true love, they always have another excuse (old ailment, fractured ribs, etc.).  But still.

The dialogue in the books is different, too.  For one, characters are much more likely to monologue for a page or two than they ever would be in a modern novel (I'm guessing authors like Fitzgerald and Hemingway had some influence on this).  For another, the characters come out with some fun turns of phrase -- some of which I've heard my grandmother use.  And my grandmother is also more prone to monologues than I, so, hey, there you go.  

Recommended, of course, though I'd probably start with A Girl of the Limberlost.

P.S. I despise the covers I see for this book, hence no cover image.

The Keeper of the Bees 
A Girl of the Limberlost

Despicable Me Winner!

And the winner of the Despicable Me book package is ...

#1 Letters to My Little Ones

So e-mail us at everead@gmail.com with your address info, and it will be in the mail in a jiff!

Despicable Me---A giveaway!

If you have seen any of the previews for the new movie Despicable Me, you have probably seen Gru, an ultra bad-guy villain, reading a bedtime story to the three little girls he adopts---a bedtime story called "Sleepy Kittens." Well, in conjunction with the movie's recent release, "Sleepy Kittens" has been made into a real book. I was sent a copy to read and review and was also given this awesome prize package to give away on our blog.

One (1) Winner will receive:
  • Sleepy Kittens
  • My Dad the Super Villain
  • The World’s Greatest Villain
  • Despicable Me: The Junior Novel
  • Despicable Me T-shirt
  • Despicable Me pencil

My husband has been showing my two-year-old previews for this movie for months, just to entertain him when he climbs up in Daddy's lap while Daddy is trying to check his e-mails. So we naturally had to take him to the theater to see it when it was released. The published book isn't quite like the one you see in the movie. The kittens are made of a stiffer material than they appear in the movie---a material that I find hard to manipulate, but I have smallish hands. There's no little hairbrush on a retractable cord to brush their fur. But in spite of the differences, it is a cute little bedtime book for those un-sleepy kittens in your home. So leave us a comment between now and noon, Central time, Tuesday, the 27th of July, and we'll randomly select a winner for this fun prize package.

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Recently our family has been loving picture books by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Namely the three titles, Bedtime for Mommy, Little Pea, and Little Hoot.  The prose is spare in all three, yet they manage to delight us with their wit.  So when I heard about a book for adults by her, I decided to check it out.

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary LifeIS actually an encyclopedia type thing. (One never knows with all the novels named "how to..." this days. heh.) It begins with a Readers Agreement, which I loved, goes on to give a time-line of Rosenthal's ordinary life, and finishes up (after the Pause) with alphabetical entries (some illustrated).  These I read somewhat out of order, but then went back to A again to make sure I had got them all.  How could I not, when I might run into a gem like this?

The entry for 15 Minutes (as stolen from the website):
Entries like this cracked me up.  It's not all funny though, a range of emotions colors the book.  And I have to say that despite all the funny bits, I hope the author's ordinary life is a happy one.  I mean, there is a big difference between reading a regular encyclopedia and experiencing the world.  I wonder what the differences and discrepancies are between this encyclopedia and her life (or another "ordinary" life).  

Still, this is my kind of non-fiction.  I loved reading the little musings, the tiny anecdotes, and especially the descriptions of social experiments she performs. 

*If you make a purchase after clicking on this affiliate link, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

The Dreamer and Jack Lime

Two totally different books, but each very unique and very enjoyable in its own way. First:

The Adventures of Jack Lime.
Jack is a high-school narcoleptic wise-guy detective dude. The story's written in first person and is very cool detective-y, evoking images of slowly spinning ceiling fans, striped shadows thrown through miniblinds, shady diners, and femme fatales. I loved the lines like,

The girl was nuttier than a pecan pie.
Sandra took my hand and looked deep in my eyes. "Be careful, Jack." We were having one of those moments between two people where the world stops and a classic love song kicks in, and you just melt into each other like two hot sticks of butter.

:) Even though it's modern, the main character seems straight out of a Hitchcock black-and-white flick. I think he might even call one of the female characters "doll." Not gripping, but an entertaining, clean, quick read. Recommended for teens to adults---any fans of mysteries.

And The Dreamer.
Neftali (picture an accent over the i) Reyes is a scrawny, distracted, painfully shy child who collects interesting rocks, shells, leaves, seedpods, pinecones, keys, words ... anything that touches his imagination and deepens his curiosity about the world around him. He dreams of becoming anything but the man his authoritarian father is trying to shape him into.

I won't tell you who the book is about, but he's a real-life figure whose work I admire very much. I hope you can read it without knowing his adult identity too, because that will make the revelation at the end all the more poignant. I unfortunately found out because of some blurb on Goodreads when I was only about a chapter away from when the book would've told me, and I was totally bummed.

I originally picked up this book because it looked really different, and I thought it'd be a bit of a stretch for me---maybe even a bit of a chore to work through. It wasn't a chore at all, however, and there was no "work" involved. Definitely recommended for adults and probably 14-and-up readers. There was zero questionable material---it just might not be action-packed enough to hold younger readers' attention.

And the winner is ...

Comment #8: Jill of the O.W.L.
Hooray for giveaways! :)
Just e-mail us your address info (everead@gmail.com), and we'll have the publishers send along your free copy of Dear Teacher.

Thanks, everyone!

Dear Teacher + a giveaway!

The first day of school is fast approaching, and Michael wants to be there, honestly, but what's a kid to do when he has been hired by the Secret Service to find a lost explorer, who gives him a treasure map that leads him from Egypt to the Amazon, where he gets attacked by a pirate king he must outwit if he's ever going to make it back in time for that start-of-the-school-year math test?

Dear Teacher is a series of letters from the unfortunate Michael that explain all the reasons why he just won't be able to make it back to school ("P.S. It's probably best not to mention this to Mom if you see her in the supermarket again."). It was originally published in England---hence the Dear Miss cover you see here.

I found this to be a cute and entertaining children's book---one that, even though there are more than one or two sentences on a page, my two-year-old was actually able to sit through. The illustrations are colorful and engaging, and the envelope-style of the book is fun. The publishers are generously offering a copy to one of our readers who comments on this post. So comment away!

Here are the details:

*One comment per person.
*No entries after noon, Central time, Wednesday, July 7.
*Winner randomly drawn and announced by July 8.

****Giveaway Closed****

Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City

Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City
by Kirsten Miller

So this was a fun adventure story.  In it, Ananka Fishbein tells the story of how she met the infamous Kiki Strike.  Along the way we meet the other awesome girls that become "the irregulars" Dee Dee, Oona, Luz and Betty.

Thing I loved about this book: it's just realistic enough.  I'm so glad that these girls, age twelve at the beginning of the book, don't get everything right the first time.  They get in a bit over their heads, and have to step back, learn, and grow a couple years older. Did I still have to suspend my disbelief?  Oh, yes.  But when a book has a realistic timeline, its so much easier to believe in an invention like the "Reverse Pied Piper."

I have to say, the characters were great, too.  I didn't realize how much I liked them until I typed all of their names just now. I love Ananka's spunk and ordinary-ness.  I love Betty's good attitude, (Luz's bad one is a nice contrast), and Oona reminds me a bit of my slick little sister.  They were all well done, really.  You know how it can be, when you've got a group of girls in a book.  They can become indistinguishable.  Not so for these ladies.

Anyway, this one will probably appeal most to girls, ages 10 plus.  Give it a go when you run out of Nancy Drew.
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