Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Books”

Reader Round Up: August


Ah, August—the last month of summer. The weather is still amazing with its warm days and blue skies, essential ingredients for reading in the backyard hammock. I made good use of blogger suggestions and kept my library busy with hold requests. Unfortunately, the library has returned to only providing curbside service which means I no longer can browse the shelves and can request an unsatisfying six books at a time. *Sigh*

Some incredibly fun reads in August:

Frindle by Andrew Clements ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

As a Word Nerd, I cheered how a boy created a new word as a prank only to have amazing consequences. A new favorite. Goodreads

How Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Having just watched March of the Penguins this was a natural to read. If you like cranky oldster novels, this is recommended. Goodreads

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Semi-autobiographical, this is an engaging account of a Jewish girl and her family become refugees as they try to escape Hitler’s persecution. Goodreads

Coffee with Shakespeare by Stanley Wells ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

As a Bardinator I am always up for another book providing more insights about Shakespeare. Stanley Wells create a mock interview and it is fun and informative. Goodreads

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

A favorite read and reread. Bradbury supplies a truly spellbinding reminiscent semi-autobiographical tale of a summer before life became so dependent on technology. Goodreads

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

I missed this one as a kid. Glad I caught up to it finally. Precocious children running away to a museum. Perfect. Goodreads

Dragonwyck by Ana Seton ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

In the midst of my kid reads I found a classic adult gothic to read, much like those of Daphne Du Maurier. Goodreads

Onion John by Joseph Krumgold ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

I thought I had read this as kid. As an adult I appreciate how it is a coming of age for young readers and as an adult I see it as a parent parable. Goodreads

The View from Saturday by E.L. Koningsburg ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Another unique story from Konigsburg. This one is about friendship and accepting differences and learning how to cope with difficulties. Goodreads

Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️

Published in 1940, it’s a fine classic adventure and its message about overcoming tough situations is quite appropriate for our current times Goodreads

Carry On, Mr Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️

Another fine children’s classic, this is a biographical novel based on Nate Bowditch whose contributions to maritime navigation are still respected today. Goodreads

The Summer of the Swans by Betsy Bears ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️

The message of the book seems to be “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and how it’s caring for people is what really matters. Another timely story for today’s world. Goodreads

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyeau ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️

Surprised this isn’t a Newberry winner. For those who appreciated Wonder, this is another important book about how kindness makes a difference. Goodreads

I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️

As a bonafide Book Booster I could not resist Bogel’s book of essays on being a Reader. Quite relatable. Goodreads

Yes, there were quite a few kid selections this month. I am trying to read all the Newbery winners, many I have read, but I have missed a few over the years. It’s never too late to enjoy a well-written kids’ book!

An update in statistics:

  • Hit my Goodreads goal of 101 books
  • I have read most of the Newberry winners
  • Read 55 books this summer (a number of them were children’s books, I grant that fact)

WONDERFUL UPDATE:

The library is opening its doors once again on September first!

Throughout the summer I appreciated the library’s curbside and inter-library loan service. I’m not sure what I would have done without the availability of books to checkout.

Book Booster Boogey: Milemarker


Today marks my 💯 milestone! Usually I read about 100 books for the year, but 2020 has influenced my reading habits immensely. Staying at home means I am either working in the yard, writing on the computer, or reading in my hammock. Guess which one garnered most of my dedication?

And the 💯th book is….

No surprise, eh?

Yes, without intentionally doing so, my 💯th book for this year is a book by a Reader writing about reading specifically “The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life.”

Even though school starts for me on Monday, I shall continue reading. I have four more months until the end of the year. Hmm, how many more books can I squeeze in by the Goodreads tally deadline?

What are your guesses?

25?

37?

52?

State a guess in the comments below and we will see what happens by December!

Reader Round Up: July


July proved diverse in reading interests. I reread Austen’s Emma, which prompted me to view the different flavors of cinematic Emma.

I then forged on and submitted a few of my TBR requests to the inter-library loan quadrant of our library since that train is allowed to roll down the track to provide literary supplements to the collection once again. I also wandered amongst the shelves*, selecting book titles that caught my fancy as a means of prolonging my visit to the library. It is one of the only places in town that requires masks (not suggests or recommends), creating a safe atmosphere that promotes a sense of peace.

*sadly, the library has recently closed until further notice, but the good news is that curbside service is still running along with inter-library loan.

Here are my highlights–click on the Goodreads link to read more thorough review information.

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Not my favorite Austen, yet it is fun anticipating the lines from all the different films. Goodreads
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Written by a friend and former writing group comrade, Dianna has written books for Scholastic and her writing is engaging and interesting in the topics she tackles. This one is based on a true story of a courageous bull terrier. Goodreads
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I revisited the Thin Man films with William Powell and Myrna Loy–then I read the book. Verdict: I preferred the films. William Powell is soooo funny (although the drinking part got tiresome). Goodreads
Finally, I have read all three of the Bronte sisters. Agnes Grey is an appetizer, not a full meal—at least compared to Jane Eyre. Goodreads
Winner of the 1964 Hugo Award—if you like Ray Bradbury, check out this winner of a galactic tale. Goodreads
Gladwell knows how to conversely present a complicated topic, in this case, he dials in the factors of what creates success. Goodreads
Westover’s memoir is worth the hype and acclaimreading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers before her book added more depth to Westover’s story of overcoming adversity to reach academic success. Goodreads
Pride and Prejudice enthusiasts might enjoy this focus on Mary, the middle Bennet sister. Purists? Hmmm… Goodreads
Amelia and her Egyptian adventures definitely provide a lively read. Goodreads
Clever idea of telling a story through physical construct instead of the usual chapter within. A quick, fairly engaging read. Goodreads

Have you read any of these titles? Any of the titles entice you?

Bard Bits: Hamlet/Hamnet


I have my reserve in for the new Hamnet. I am anticipating and checking my library notifications frequently. If you are unaware—

This is a fictional account of a playwright (who is supposedly not named in the story) and his 11 year old son, his only son, who dies, perhaps of the bubonic plague. Of course it got my attention. If it looks like Shakespeare, talks about Shakespeare, might shed more light about Shakespeare—gotta read it. Being a Bardinator sets one up for mandatory reading at times.

A new view of Shakespeare, perhaps?

Since I have yet to read the novel, I thought this installment of Bard Bits would focus on what others have said of the play, which is supposedly a reference to Hamnet, Shakespeare’s son, whose name is thought to have alternately been spelled Hamlet. There is ongoing academic conversation about that connection.

So-no thoughts yet on Hamnet. However, here are what some think about the titular character of the play:

A rich kid from Denmark.

—Diane Sawyer

A sad, screwed-up type of guy.

—Holden Caulfield

A half a dozen characters rolled into one.

—George Bernard Shaw

An Anglo-Saxon bore who talked too much.

—Henry Miller

What Hamlet is, before he is anything…is an authentic tragic hero who is himself a man of genius.

—Orson WellesHamlet

Hamlet doesn’t care if he bites the dust. He’s dangerous. He’s a human time bomb.

—Mel Gibson

Indeed. Hamlet is a bit of all these impressions. But beyond his perceived personality is the remaining core of who Hamlet is and the engine of the play: he is a son who has lost a father. What is notable, is the play is written by a man who lost a son. The play is about how a father and a son are both lost. Sometimes it’s a fine line between life imitating art and art reflecting life.

All quotes are from the fun and fabulous The Friendly Shakespeare by Norrie Epstein. It is a treasure of a Bardinator resource.

What are your thoughts on Hamnet? No spoilers, please.

Feel free to add your two cents to thoughts on Hamlet. Having watched too many adaptations I have to push aside Mel, David, Jude and cohort before deciding on my own ideas. Above all else, I think Hamlet is a grieving young man who truly missed his father. I think Shakespeare did indeed reflect how grief wears heavy on a person in his play about how a person grapples with significant loss and how loss is absolutely a very personal experience.

Reader Round Up: June


Sometimes a novel stands out from the others. It shines out its brilliance so noticeably that it deserves an entire post. Leif Enger’s Virgil Wander is such a read.

Five Star–most def

Halfway through the book Virgil , out titular hero, and Rune, think Gandalf with kites, are drinking a Nordic spirit, apparently possessing the kick similar to sake, and Rune makes the philosophic observance “…that just because a thing was poetry didn’t mean it never happened in the actual world, or that it couldn’t happen still.”

This is what is so noteworthy about Virgil Wander as a novel. It is not exactly real-world in scope, neither is it magical realism, but neither is it so unbelievable as to be dismissable. The naysayer critics argued that Enger’s engaging tale is stretching unbelief a bit too much. Like Rune noted, just because it didn’t happen, doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.

It seems storytellers, the ones like Garrison Keillor who come from Minnesota are the ones who take the ordinary and lean it somewhat so that you have to tip your head to get it all in focus. Or at least I do. I took it with a grain of salt when Keillor spun his hometown stories of seemingly average citizens and transformed their lives and situations into above average. Enger does the same with his own Minnesota tale. He takes a small town on the banks of the Lake Superior and tips its inhabitants a bit sideways and creates intriguing situations out of the mundane. For instance, a sturdy sturgeon that is repudiated to be the cause of death for one fisherman takes on menacing qualities akin to Moby Dick. That homey festival that every small town hosts, the one with corn dogs, a parade, face painting, and a band? Enger turns into an event celebrating the hard luck days of the town, complete with children dressing up as frogs to replicate the day it indeed rained frogs upon the fair town. There may or may not be a bomb threat involved. There is even a raven who becomes mildly domesticated of his own volition.

If the novel sounds odd in highlighting aspects that caught my eye. Well, it is odd. Odd wonderful. Oddly captivating. Odd how I couldn’t stop reading it, being irritated when I had to stop periodically to eat or sleep.

I vastly relished Enger’s debut novel Peace Like a River, and so did the nation. It only took eighteen or so years for his third novel to appear (haven’t caught up to his second one yet), but it sure was worth the wait.

Looking for amusing, Keillor-style storytelling, winsome characters, unforgettable setting, and a couple of mysteries to sweeten the plot? Then I hope you locate a copy of Virgil Wander.

Let me know if you found a copy or if you have read it. Let’s dialog this five star find.

Debut Redeux


With libraries and bookstores barely on the open side, you may not have had the opportunity to properly meet my debut picture book, Someday We Will.

written by Pam Webb
illustrated by Wendy Leach

The book’s focus is building the anticipation of grandparents and grandchildren sharing activities when they visit together.

Swimming is a favorite activity

The idea for the book developed from my own anticipation list, for all the “someday” activities I would one day share with my own granddaughter.

There are so many fun activities to share together!
Reading books together builds lovely memories

Reading books together is a favorite activity. Going to the library and selecting titles, suggesting favorite authors, or discovering new reads creates shared moments of lasting value.

Waiting, waiting for that special day to be together again

Being separated from loved ones is difficult, yet keeping that hope of being together again someday is important. That hope and anticipation of one day sharing good times together again is like keeping a bit of sunshine in our hearts on cloudy days.

Memories are sunshine for cloudy days

Although the book’s target audience is for grandparents and grandchildren, holding on to that “Someday” applies to anyone who anticipates being together with a loved one.

Thanks for stopping by!

If you are looking for a book that expresses how you look forward to being with someone, especially if you are a grandparent, I hope you will look up Someday We Will.

BOOK DETAILS
TITLE: Someday We Will
AUTHOR:
Pam Webb
ILLUSTRATOR:
Wendy Leach
PUBLISHER:
Beaming Books, 2020
TOPICS: family, visits, multi-generational, anticipation
AGES:
K-3
FICTION: Hardcover

Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Beaming Books
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Reader Roundup: May


Books kept me sane during May.

Between creating and maintaining distance learning lessons that “needed to have value, but not overwhelm students,” while preparing juniors and seniors for their AP exams, I escaped into reading as means of escaping being chained to my laptop screen.

Fortunately, my local library opened up curbside service, allowing patrons to order up books from the website catalog and we would then schedule a pick up appointment. A definite sanity saver. I was beginning to wonder if I would have to raid my hubs’ technical reference books and hunting guides for reading material.

Title Highlights for May:

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

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I will grant that Cormier is a brilliant writer, and his novels are unique in how they challenge readers to lift up the rocks of humanity to study the ugly that lives underneath. I personally cannot tolerate the bullying and senseless cruelty that is the center of the plot, and had to really force myself to finish the book.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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Second read, six years later:
Having devoured the 530 page book in a day the first go round, I have always felt I did it an injustice. I am glad I returned to this sumptuous novel and took the time to savor its brilliance this time. I initially avoided it as I didn’t want to read about WWII during Covoid quarantine, yet I then realized it wasn’t so much a war story as it was a story how the human spirit can endure through tragedy, often continuing with the means to thrive. It is an inspirational story deserving of all its accolades.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham

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Creative plot, and more mystery/thriller than detective novel, The Tiger in the Smoke is a quick and mostly satisfying read if one can keep the characters straightened out—a problem when starting out with #14 in a character driven series.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins

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The story vacillates between Mayberry and Parks and Rec with its wholesomeness, off-color humor, quirky characters, and small town politics. Apparently, this is the first in the series. Frankly, I was hoping the novel would live up to its title. The seventh daughter talking with books was the best part of the plot.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr

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Despite its unique and lyrical style, it’s difficult to connect with characters who continually make incredibly unwise choices. No doubt a five star book in its own right, yet this reader still needs to enjoy the story, not just admire the writing.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ I Can’t Remember What I Forgot by Sue Halpern

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For those who like their science delivered in friendly, anecdotal ala Malcolm Gladwell style, then Halpern’s book about the timely topic of memory loss, as in preventing dementia or finding a cure for Alzheimer’s, is a read to consider.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

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Take the trope of outlier girl meeting up with too-good-to-be-true boy (Meg/Calvin from Wrinkle in a Time) and stir in a time traveling plot complete with distracted mother and missing father, and you find yourself on familiar ground in Brashares’ story about the future.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

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Ah, there is nothing like a full-blown, well-written Victorian drama set in a quaint English town. There’s gossipy neighbors, entangled romances, unexpected weddings and funerals, secret undercurrents, plot twists—just the right elements for a BBC historical series. Bronte and Austen seem to be the more remembered lady novelists of that era; however, Gaskell holds her own and should not be overlooked.

May consisted of a grand mix of genres and the variety proved a tonic for my frazzled state of mind. You can find more reviews at my Goodreads website.

UPDATE: The library opened its doors today! Double Woo-Hoo!!

Bard Bits: May


I managed to go to school without any experience with Shakespeare (yeah, how did that happen?) I can easily relate to my student’s bewilderment when we begin our drama unit. Freshmen study Romeo and Juliet, sophomores experience Julius Caesar, juniors skip Shakespeare to study American Literature (The Crucible), and depending on the teacher, students have a range of selection from an overview of the comedies to a dive into tragedy with Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, or Macbeth.

I am usually prepared for groans from my sophomores when I announce we are studying Shakespeare. “Not again!” “We did him last year.” “Shakespeare is so boring.” Instead of coming up with excuses and defending our Wily Bard of Stratford, I agree with them. This gets me some interesting looks–most def.

I do agree with my students. Shakespeare can be boring, or at least his plays were until I got the hang of them. Watching, let alone reading the plays, was painful to endure, and I felt I could never get anywhere, no matter how hard I tried. Then again, learning how to ski was painful, and I wondered if I would ever get down the mountain without a initiating a yard sale. Hmm, I should use this analogy with my students since they have grown up with a mountain in their backyard.

Here are two thoughts on Shakespeare:

“I am more easily bored with Shakespeare, and have suffered more ghastly evenings with him, than with any dramatist I know.” Peter Brook, English theatre director

“We find Shakespeare boring because we’re lazy. We’re not willing to get through the language. That’s the only barrier. If a play is performed right by those who are properly trained, after about twenty minutes you won’t be aware of the language because the human story is so strong.” –David Suchet, actor

What are your experiences with Shakespeare? Bored, frustrated, from having to endure year after year of his plays in school? Perhaps initially bored, but then the story unfolds and the words are no longer a barrier and serve as a contribution to the experience? Or maybe you grew to appreciate him with time and experience?

One of my standout memories of teaching my favorite play, Hamlet–sorry, I do mention that often, don’t I?–is after we wrapped up the unit, one student, from my regular, not AP class, stayed behind. “You know I’m going to miss discussing Hamlet, I really got to like this play.” He grew thoughtful. “I can’t discuss Shakespeare with my father.”

I never discussed Shakespeare with my father either. But I sure discuss him with my own children when I get the chance. Shakespeare boring? Not for long. Hang in there, dig in your poles, don’t cross your ski tips, and you will enjoy the thrill of going from snowplow to slalom. That applies to skiing as well.

Mail can be a happy place…


Amidst the current state of concerns arrived a day brightener:

Yes, a bit of celebration receiving a box of my debut picture book!

A happy moment holding my first published book

The premise of Someday We Will seems even more appropriate now. The anticipation of being together once again due to distance takes on different meaning.

In these times of uncertainty my prayer is that you and your family stay well and stay strong. Take care and celebrate being together in ways that bring you happiness.

Igniting a Discussion on Happiness


In my day job as an AP teacher I have the privilege of introducing students to literary works of merit. I look forward to their insights and perspectives.

Image result for f451 images are you happy

We have just begun Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian tale of government control: Fahrenheit 451. This deceptively easy read contains complicated topics. One discussion topic is happiness. Guy Montag is not a happy fireman, or at least he was one until Clarisse asked him, “Are you happy?”

Image result for f451 images are you happy

So I put it to my students a discussion statement prompted by Clarisse: “Happiness is a choice, not a given.”

A lively discussion developed with a split between total agreement and a few who decided happiness was a complicated issue and they couldn’t come to complete agreement about it.

I then prompted them with this question: “What is the difference between happiness and joy?”

Their conclusions were opposite of my mine.

They said: “Happiness is long lasting, while joy is a temporary emotion.”

Hmm, I’ve always reckoned it to be the opposite. Happiness is a temporary state, dependent on outside circumstances, yet joy lives deep in our being, dwelling in our soul.

Nope. They didn’t buy that. Maybe I did have it wrong. I proceeded in the course of action that all teachers must do when wondering if what they are teaching to their students is baloney. I Googled it.

This is what I found: Joy or Happiness?

What are your thoughts? Is happiness dependent on outside circumstances? Does joy stem from emotional contentment from within?

Interestingly enough Guy Montag, F451’s protagonist, upon realizing he is not happy begins making decisions involving enormous collateral damage. Joy is never mentioned as Guy Montag seeks happiness. Does he find happiness or joy? I will have to reread it and decide if he actually did. And that’s why F451 remains a classic—it keeps asking the reader questions after the last page is turned.

Image result for joy vs happiness
What are your thoughts about joy vs happiness?

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