Jul 25, 2014

Summer Goals . . . For Kids!

At the beginning of summer, I wrote a little about the flexible structure (no, that's not an oxymoron) I planned to implement. Part of that plan included doing one new activity each week (if you've missed any of our Summer Fun, click here). The other part centered around summer goals.

During the first week of summer break, Aaron, Maxwell, and Bradley each made a list of things they wanted to accomplish over the next three months. (Clark didn't participate since his goals consist of eating, sleeping, and crying, and he needs no motivation to accomplish them.) Mike and I helped them think of ideas.

For my part, I wanted their goals to be diverse, measurable, and attainable.


My hope was that their goals would teach them new skills, exercise their minds, and be fun.

One of the first things I did was consult the master plan (adapted from Merrilee Boyack's excellent book, The Parenting Breakthrough) to see which skills they were each ready for. Then I made biased suggestions (you can do this when your kids are 5, 4, and 2). Aaron ended up with learn to tie shoes, learn to make sandwiches, and learn to vacuum on his list. Maxwell got memorize address and phone number and learn to wash dishes. And Bradley's list included learn to use the toilet, learn to wipe off the kitchen table, and learn to sort laundry.

Then there were the academic goals. For Aaron, these included finishing a level in his piano books, completing a math workbook, and memorizing four Articles of Faith. For Maxwell, they encompassed doing twenty reading lessons, learning 30 sight words, and memorizing four Articles of Faith. And for Bradley, they involved learning his letters and numbers and writing the letter B.

And finally, the fun goals. These included doing puzzles, playing chess, and listening to music.


My boys (especially Aaron) love charts. In order for this plan to be successful, I knew they would need to be able to see their progress.

So we typed out the goals, printed them, and taped them to the kitchen wall. Nothing fancy, I can assure you. (In fact, since I see them every day, I've been a little annoyed that we didn't at least keep the wording consistent throughout, but oh well, we know what they mean.) Each goal has a little box by it that can be covered with a star when it's complete.

We broke down some of the goals even further so they could mark their gradual progress. For example, Aaron's piano book has eight units, so there are eight boxes next to that goal.

It has been very motivating for them to see their own progress as well as each other's. (I will admit, they're a little competitive and keep track of how many stars each one has.)


We had to come up with goals that were both realistic and challenging. Goals are not any fun if you set the bar so high as to make them unattainable. Likewise, without a challenge, there won't be a feeling of success when they're complete.

For example, one of Maxwell's goals is to learn 30 sight words. I've been helping Max learn to read for many months now. I knew what he was capable of, and I also knew what would be overwhelmingly daunting and impossible for him to achieve. We settled on 30 words because if we broke it down to about five words a week, he could easily learn them all in three months with plenty of review in between. At the same time, it wasn't something we could leave for the last two weeks and expect to come out on top.

Now that we're seven weeks into the goals, I think we hit just the right balance on every single one of them except . . . toilet training for Bradley. Part of me wonders if we were being overly optimistic on that one. Those of you who've done this before know that it isn't something you can really force. But in the last week or so, he has made significant progress, so I'm still hopeful.

We've settled into a flexible routine. Each morning we wake up, eat breakfast, and play for a little bit. Around 9:00, I tell the boys it's time to work on chores and goals. Their chores often include the skills their working on (for example, Maxwell usually gets to wash the breakfast dishes and Bradley helps me with the laundry). I help Max with his reading and Aaron with his piano, and if they don't get too distracted, then they're done with everything in an hour or so.

I will add the disclaimer that this takes an extreme amount of effort on my part. I feel like I spend the entire morning running from kid to kid. Maybe once my kids are a little older, they'll be able to take on more of the responsibility themselves, but for right now, it's a lot of reminding and teaching and helping. However, I actually love it (unless Clark is needy and crying--then I'm just stressed) because goals are my thing, and I love watching their progress and cheering them on.

Oh, and rewards! I forgot to mention the rewards! That's the best part. At the end of each month, as long as they've been making progress, we get to do something fun together. In June, we went out for snow cones, in July we'll go to the aquarium, and in August we'll go to the Lego store (and they'll each get to fill a Pick-a-Brick container).

So far that's what we've been doing. I'll talk about a few of the goals a little more specifically in the coming weeks. If you have questions or have been working on summer goals of your own, feel free to leave a comment!

Jul 23, 2014

All About Sam by Lois Lowry

I have very distinct memories of my mom reading this book aloud. I don't know how old I was, but I remember laughing my head off at some of Sam's antics. When the book begins, Sam is a brand-new baby (still at the hospital). He sees a bunch of smiling, happy faces surrounding his crib, but he thinks one of the people has his head on upside down (it turns out to be his father who is bald and wears a beard). I have remembered that scene from the book for over twenty years because I thought it was so funny to get Sam's perspective as an infant.

I'm guessing many of you are acquainted with the Anastasia Krupnick series. I think I read most of them as a pre-teen. All About Sam (and the three books that follow) focus on Anastasia's little brother, Sam. Although not told in first person, they offer a glimpse of the Krupnick household from Sam's point of view.

With a new baby of our own, I knew Aaron and Maxwell would also love this book. When Sam is a baby, he is often misunderstood. For example, at one point he gets distracted by his mobile when he is supposed to be eating. His mom stops feeding him, and a few minutes later, he realizes he's still hungry. So he yells, "I FORGOT TO EAT, AND NOW I'M HUNGRY." But it sounds like "Waaaaaaahhhhh." As we read about Sam's frustrations, we wondered what our little Clarky is trying to tell us with his wails and squawks? Plus, as Sam gets older and turns into a walking, talking toddler and preschooler, his activities result in quite a lot of mischief (flushing his sister's goldfish, hiding broccoli under the rug, etc.). My boys thought every episode was more hilarious than the last.

I, on the other hand, found that I was less enchanted with Sam as an adult than as a kid. As much as I like Lois Lowry, I thought most of the story was a little flat. The characters and Sam's shenanigans seemed formulaic. For example, in the chapter where Sam decides to steal a pack of gum, the episode unfolds in a very predictable way: Sam wants candy, he pockets a package at the checkout stand, he feels guilty, he confesses, he feels better. There was just nothing that made this particular scene stand out from the hundreds of other preschoolers (fictitious or real) who have been overcome with similar temptations. (In contrast, in our recent read of Ramona the Pest, Ramona also gets into common scrapes, but the execution and resolution were always wildly creative and unpredictable.)

In addition to that, I also found the book quite dated (and not in the charming way of, say, Ramona or Betsy-Tacy). When Sam comes home from the hospital, Anastasia carries him on her lap (my kids were rather surprised he didn't have to be in a car seat). Also, Sam and his little friend, Adam, are obsessed with guns and bombs (which is still the case with many little boys but not talked about so innocently anymore).  And Sam's father smokes a pipe (and it made me realize that smoking fathers are not prominent characters in books anymore because I had to explain some things as we went along). It just didn't seem like the way a book would be written today, but it also didn't have that classic feel about it in any way.

The one chapter I truly loved was when Sam cut his hair, and it didn't turn out at all like he wanted it to. His mother is horrified, and quite frankly, Sam is too. He wails, "I'm a porkypine! An ugly one!" And his mother says, "For the very first time, I feel a terrible desire to spank you." Sam feels so bad, he says, "I want to spank myself." But then his mother asks, "Do you think that we could try to laugh, instead?" And so they try. And pretty soon they don't have to try anymore; the laughter is effortless and real. I loved this example of how thy turned an awful mistake into a hilarious memory. I wish I would choose to laugh a little more often when my kids unpleasantly surprise me.

If I had to rate this book for myself, it would probably be a 5/10. But if I rated it according to my boys' enjoyment, it would jump up to at least an 8. I think they loved it just as much as I did when I was a kid, and that made me enjoy it a lot more.

Jul 21, 2014

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

For me, a really good book = a vividly beautiful location + realistically flawed characters + a sweet (but not overdone) romance + an historical backdrop + moral tension/resolution.

A really amazing (or insert superlative adjective of choice) book  = all of the above + gorgeous writing.

The Light Between Oceans was amazing (or awesome, fantastic, wonderful, magnificent, etc.).

When Tom Sherbourne returns from World War I, he just wants to continue to do his duty. So he requests a light keeping position off the coast of Australia. Janus Rock is almost no bigger than the lighthouse that sits on it and is completely uninhabited save for the lightkeeper, with visits from the supply boat once every three months. But when the post at Janus Rock becomes available, Tom takes it.  The quiet order of lightkeeping suits him fine and gives him lots of time to sort out his guilt over the War.

Meanwhile, he takes up a tediously slow correspondence (exchanging letters once every three months isn't a terribly effective method of communication) with pretty and vivacious Isabel Graysmark. Even with the distance between them,the sparks fly, and they get married when Tom gets shore leave.

Life on Janus Rock is idyllic for the newlyweds (even with all the work of maintaining the light, it's like an extended honeymoon), and Isabel is convinced the only thing that could make it better would be a child of their own. Two miscarriages and a stillbirth later, her dreams seem shattered, and she is on the brink of despair. Tom, who is also grieving deeply but much more quietly, doesn't know how to comfort Isabel.

One morning, Isabel hears a baby's cry carried on the wind. She's sure she must be hallucinating but then hears Tom calling from the shore. A boat has just washed up carrying a dead man and a crying baby girl. In a moment, all of Isabel's motherly instincts have fired up and she calms the crying baby with joy and gratitude. Tom wants to signal the authorities immediately (it is regulation, after all--he must account for every occurrence on the island), but Isabel begs him to wait just until morning, and by that time, she has already given her heart and soul to this tiny infant . . . who belongs to someone else.

On the surface, the whole scenario seemed pretty cut and dry: of course Isabel should have let Tom send for a boat immediately. As I was reading, my mind was practically screaming the instructions, Don't listen to her, Tom! She's still grieving her lost baby, but there will only be more pain if you keep a baby that isn't yours. Do your duty. Do what you know is right. 

But my heart? Another matter entirely. Especially since just two months ago, I was still pregnant and experiencing the daily anxiety, What if something happens to this baby? I already had so much love for him, and I hadn't even officially met him yet. And then once I did meet him? He instantly captured my affection and love and adoration.

So as I read and silently begged Tom to give up the baby, I held my own sweet baby boy and felt his contented breathing against my chest, and the emotional side of me just ached for Isabel. Decisions that are so black and white when we use our heads are much more difficult when we involve our hearts. And guess what? We're humans, which means it's virtually impossible to cut our hearts from the equation entirely.

I think it's fascinating to see how people balance the mind/heart conflict. In this case, Tom and Isabel are so different: Tom can't ignore his mind, and Isabel can't ignore her heart, and if it were just a struggle between those two alone, it would be heart wrenching enough. But then you factor in a whole host of other characters (Hannah, Ralph, Septimus, Lucy, Gwen, Violet, Bill), and you see that even if you live on an isolated island, your decisions have the ability to affect and hurt others.

And beyond that, events are not isolated to one moment in time. For example, Tom's decisions are affected not only by his experiences in the war but even before that, to the abandonment he felt as a child. Human nature is incredibly complex. Every time I thought I had a grip on the whole situation, Stedman would expose another layer and send me questioning everything again. This is truly great writing: to be able to present a problem in such a real way and give you so much empathy for every character that you feel the pain and trauma as if you're making these decisions yourself.

But in spite of all the mistakes and irrational decisions, there was only one point in the entire book where I held my breath in agonized suspense. Ultimately, my satisfaction with the story hinged on this one moment and the decision of one character. I don't want to give anything away, but if it had gone one way, it would have just been too much for me to bear, and I would have hated the book. As it was, there was still much sadness (this is not a sunshine-and-roses type of story) but also redemption.

One of the things I loved the most about this story was the lighthouse. It was both a tangible object and a constant analogy for life. I knew very little about lighthouses before reading this, but Stedman described everything so beautifully (the mechanics, the functions, the purpose). I could almost feel the strain in my legs from climbing so many stairs and see the shimmering glass of the lens. The lighthouse really provided an anchor for the entire story--all things led back to its constancy and steadiness. It was really, really beautiful. 

With a story like this one, that kept me guessing and hoping and cringing and pleading the entire time, I always wonder how long it will stay with me. Will I still be thinking about it in a week? A month? A year? As the details start to fade, will I long to return to these much-beloved characters and watch the struggle unfold again? These are not questions I can answer yet, but I have my suspicions this is not a story I will soon forget.

Content note: some foul language, including one use of the f-word and multiple deity terms.

Jul 17, 2014

Summer Fun: Popsicles

Pinterest is overloaded with popsicle recipes right now, and I've pinned my share of them. But last week, when my kids and I decided to make some, I fell back on the popsicles my mom always made when I was a kid. Turns out, it was possible to be a fun mom twenty years ago in the Dark Ages before the internet.

Jello/Kool-aid popsicles

1 (3 oz.) package jello (any flavor - and you can see I'm not particular about the brand)
2 cups boiling water
1 (0.13 oz.) envelope kool-aid (any flavor)
2 cups cold water
1 cup sugar

First, pour the jello into the boiling water. If you're having small children help you, keep their hands away from the measuring cup. Give it a good stir until completely dissolved.

Then, pour the kool-aid contents into the cold water. Give it another good stir.

Pour the two liquids together. You definitely don't have to use the same two flavors. Here we used raspberry jello and lemon-lime kool-aid (not because we were trying to be creative but because it's what I had in our pantry).

Pour in one cup of sugar and stir until dissolved. (One of the reasons I like these popsicles better than, say, just frozen juice is because the jello gives them a slightly softer texture, making them easier to bite into (if that's your thing)).

Pour the mixture into molds. With these particular molds (which I think are made by Tupperware--I picked them up at a garage sale for a couple of dollars), I made about two dozen popsicles.

Freeze for 4-6 hours.

Enjoy on a sweltering hot day, and think about what flavor you want to make next (lemon/lemon is one of my favorites!).

Jul 15, 2014

Books of 2014, First Half

In addition to my reading goals, I also made a more general goal to read 60 books this year. I know that probably seems like petty cash to those of you who read 150+ books a year, but 60 is proving to be more ambitious than I originally thought. At the end of June, I had only read 26 books. (Last year, at this same point, I had read 34 books, which I guess is why I thought 60 books was a reasonable goal.)

Nevertheless, here's what I've read. (Click on the title to go to the full review.)

1. The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty, 8/10
I'd have a hard time recommending this one because of some of the content, but man, I'd be lying if I didn't admit it was a gripping read and I've thought about it a hundred times since then. Plus, I just love Liane Moriarty's writing.

2. A Mind at a Time by Mel Levine, 5/10
This is the way to take an interesting and informative topic and make it draaaaaag on eeeeeeendlessy.

3. Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, AUDIO, 6/10
I didn't like it as much as The Real Boy, but it was the perfect thing to listen to on a cold January day.

4. By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder, AUDIO, 8/10
My eyes are being opened: it's pretty obvious why this is a favorite series of so many.

5. Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, 7/10
Not my favorite by Kate DiCamillo but contained some pretty hilarious moments. 

6. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, 10/10
Remind me to read this book if I'm ever feeling depressed about the cold and snow. 'Cause I'm pretty sure it will help me appreciate my nice warm house and little niceties like, um, food.

7. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, half-AUDIO, 6/10
Made me realize how very little I know about this world I live in. Also, I would love to read another memoir by Malala in fifteen years.

8. Henry and Beezus by Beverly Cleary, 10/10
Pretty much a perfect book.

9. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper, AUDIO, 6/10
The writing wasn't exceptional, but the story impacted me nonetheless.

10. Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, 8/10
Well, my kids are still fighting, but I still feel like this was a helpful read.

11. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, half-AUDIO, 10/10
I think I could read this book a dozen times, and it would still be one of my favorites.

12. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville, 5/10
I'd say it was just me except that my boys, who usually love dragons, weren't totally enamored with this book either.

13. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, AUDIO, 7/10
I wish I could say my eating habits were transformed after reading this book. But definitely some small changes were made with hopefully more coming in the future.

14. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin, 8/10
I'm not this much of a hippie, but I gleaned some good information nonetheless (that, and I can never resist a good birth story).

15. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, half-AUDIO, 6/10
Intricate and intriguing but not as gripping as I was expecting. 

16. Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool, 10/10
Now that I've read it a second time, I know my devotion and praise were not misplaced.

17. Quinny & Hopper by Adriana Brad Schanen, 6/10
Cute and fun. My boys loved it.

18. Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan, AUDIO, 8/10
Don't even think about reading this book unless you're going to listen to it.

19. Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary, 9/10
After realizing that Ramona was my boys' favorite character in the Henry books, I knew we had to give her series a try. We were not disappointed.

20. Babe, the Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith, 8/10
Super, super sweet.

21. All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior, 8/10
Aside from the fact that it made me absolutely terrified of having teenagers, I thought this was a fascinating book.

22. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic by Betty MacDonald, 6/10
I liked the first one, but this one is better.

23. Runaway Ralph by Beverly Cleary, 6/10
I guess I like boys (Henry) and girls (Ramona) better than mice (Ralph).

24. Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary, 10/10
Oh, Beverly Cleary, I don't think I'll ever get tired of you.

25. A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty, 6/10
Bizarre, but it all makes sense in the end.

26. A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, 8/10
Absolutely spindiddly.

What has been your favorite book so far this year?

Jul 14, 2014

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

Okay. I admit it. Sometimes . . . I decide to read a book just because I love the cover so much.

I'm sure I read the summary of A Corner of White before I started it. I think I even read a review of it. But really, the only reason I decided to read it was because of the cover.

Those red boots. The sparkles in the sky. That brilliant white card. The flying umbrella (which, incidentally, is still a mystery to me even after finishing the book).

It was even one of those books I checked out and had to return to the library before I read it, and I still went to the effort to check it out again just because I wanted to see what was behind that cover.

And what I found surprised me. Not necessarily in a bad way. Not necessarily in a good way either. Just . . . different. Surprising.

First there's Madeleine. She and her mom recently moved to Cambridge, England, but Madeleine misses her old life, which was filled with adventure and spontaneity and glamor. Now she is participating in a strange homeschooling arrangement with her two friends, Jack and Belle.

Then there's Elliot. He is not from Cambridge. He lives in Bonfire, a remote village in the Kingdom of Cello. A year ago, his father, uncle, and the high school physics teacher were attacked by a Purple. His uncle was killed, and the other two disappeared. Elliot knows the chances of them still being alive are miniscule, but he is determined to make every effort to find them, just in case.

The two worlds are separate. Completely unconnected. Until one morning, Madeleine walks past a broken parking meter and sees a small corner of white paper sticking out. She reads the cryptic note--"Help me! I am being held against my will!"--and, thinking it is a joke, decides to write back (and of course Elliot is the one who finds it).

This sets off a correspondence between Madeleine (who knows nothing about Cello and thinks she is exchanging letters with someone who may not be completely sane) and Elliot (who is well aware of Cello's break with The World hundreds of years before and realizes he has discovered one of the infamous "cracks" between the two worlds).

Besides the cover, there actually was another reason why I wanted to read A Corner of White. Jaclyn Moriarty is a sister to Liane Moriarty (author of What Alice Forgot and The Husband's Secret). You might recall that I adore Liane Moriarty's writing. I was curious to see how Jaclyn's writing compared, especially since her books are geared toward young adults, and I was hoping they'd maybe be a little cleaner than Liane's adult novels.

Their two styles are completely different. I remember I was smitten with Liane's writing from the very first page. With this book, I honestly spent the first hundred pages (at least) wondering what Jaclyn was smoking when she wrote it. There were horoscopes and auras and Colors and ditzy princesses. Every character acted just a little too weird for comfort. It was bizarre. That's the best word for it. It's a wonder I actually finished it. And I mean that. I considered sending it back to the library numerous times because I was so frustrated with the insane amount of confusion I was feeling.

But . . . I pushed my way through it (which isn't something you're supposed to say about a "light" read). And my persistent benefit of the doubt paid off. The ending was stellar. It was somewhere in the last 100 pages that I realized, Hey! I'm actually enjoying this! When I finally closed the book after reading the last page, my opinion of Jaclyn Moriarty had changed. I was awed by her creativity and surprised with the direction she took the story.

I won't say the ending completely redeemed the beginning because it didn't; 100 pages is too much of a commitment to expect from readers without acknowledging their efforts. BUT, it was comforting to see that there was a plan behind the madness. And by the end I no longer felt like I was going crazy. Always a good thing.

Putting all that aside however, I still have one complaint: Madeleine was too young for this story. For the entire first half, I pictured her as being fifteen or sixteen. Elliot is fifteen, so I assumed Madeleine was a similar age. Plus, her maturity, attitude, and action all seemed to represent a character in her mid-teens. Then, somewhere along the way, it comes out that she is only thirteen. This was a huge mental shift for me, and I never completely came to terms with it. Maybe I would have been okay with it if I'd known it from the beginning (and maybe it was mentioned somewhere early on, and I just missed it). Regardless, I still think it feels more like a young adult than a middle grade novel, so Madeleine's age is a problem.

This is the first book in a trilogy (is it absolutely impossible for young adult authors to write standalone novels anymore? Just asking . . . ), and I can't decide if I'm going to continue reading or not. The ending left me in a good mood: full of questions but also lots of answers. And yet, I can't completely forgive the beginning and don't know if I'm willing to invest so much time in something I might only enjoy half of. And I know I need to decide soon, or I'll have forgotten everything, and I'm not really committed enough to reread this one before reading the next one.

And finally, just so this review comes full circle, I have to show you the Australian cover:

It's definitely more dramatic than the American one, but I think it shows a different side of the story, which I like.

Jul 9, 2014

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

I usually don't like books with an abundance of quirky characters.

I usually don't like books set in quaint and cutesy small towns.

I usually don't like books narrated in first person by wordy 11-year-olds.

But in spite of all of that (or maybe, just maybe, because of it), I loved A Snicker of Magic.

The moon is full the night Felicity Pickle and her mother and sister arrive in Midnight Gulch, Tennessee. Felicity is so tired of new beginnings (and it seems like her mother is addicted to them), but she is hoping that Midnight Gulch will finally be the place they can call home. It has a few things going for it: it's the town where her mother grew up (and where her Aunt Cleo still lives); it used to be full of magic (and still seems to have "a snicker of magic" flowing through it); and it's the home of the Beedle (who soon becomes Felicity's best friend).

As for Felicity, she is a girl who loves words. And she sees them everywhere she looks: suspended in the air, slithering across the floor, popping out of nowhere. They take on shapes and colors and give her glimpses into the mind and heart of those around her. In a fit of desperation to keep her mother still for a couple more weeks, Felicity signs up to share her words with the whole town at the Duel (a talent show of sorts). She is scared out of her mind, but as she learns more about the history of the town, she thinks this might be the way to free her family of the century-old curse they seem to be prisoners to.

In the weeks since I finished this book, I've pondered why I liked it so much. It was kind of a cross between The Center of Everything (which features a donut-obsessed town and Ruby's fear of reading her essay in front of a bunch of people) and Savvy (where Mibs and her family have certain magical gifts). In this case, the town is ice cream--not donut--obsessed; similar to Ruby, Felicity is afraid to share her words; and instead of a family with supernatural powers, there are a number of characters with certain unusual gifts or talents. But where it definitely didn't work for me in The Center of Everything or Savvy, something clicked here. And I can't figure out why.

Maybe I felt a certain connection with some of those quirky characters. Or maybe it was because I found their quirkiness absolutely endearing (Jewell Pickett's Lube & Dye; Rosie Walker's cowboy boots;  Day Grissom's gnarly beard; Boone Harness's banjo).

Maybe the wide assortment of ice cream flavors (Blackberry Sunrise, Chocolate Orange Switcheroo, Chocolate Chip Pork Rind) were just more novel to me than donuts.

Maybe it was the element of mystery that threaded its way through the entire story. Or maybe I liked the link to history and the past.

Maybe it had to do with the fact that Felicity wasn't just trying to help herself but also her mother and Florentine and everyone else who'd been affected by the events of the past.

Maybe it was because the writing painted a distinct and vivid picture. (For example, this: "The base of the sky was turning orange and pale pink. I figure that was the sun's way of yawning and stretching before it puts its hands on the hills and pushes on up into the sky.")

Maybe it was because even though the ending was very satisfying, it wasn't perfect.

Or maybe something about me is different. Maybe I've changed. Maybe I'm less cynical. Maybe I'm more willing to believe in "a snicker of magic."

For whatever the reason, I was completely smitten with Felicity's story. It has received some early Newbery attention (Betsy Bird of A Fuse #8 Production predicted it to be "the most divisive book of 2014"), and I personally would not be one bit disappointed to see it receive a little Newbery love. That said, I can understand why everyone might not love it. Quite frankly, I'm still surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and a part of me wants to read it again to see if it was just some weird sort of fluke.

But love it, I did. And admit it, I will.
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