Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “reviews”

Reader Round Up: Good Night Mr. Tom


One book pops up as the June spotlight read: Good Night, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian.

Though it was published in 1986, it has an old-fashioned story cadence to it, being almost a Dickens novel in scope.

A captivating read

The story has so many deep issues that it is surprising it is considered a children’s novel. Child abuse and abandonment are two central issues. There is also the painful experiences of children evacuated from London to billet safely out in the country with strangers during WWII. Magorian weaves these and other issues in with her engaging story of matching a young malnourished boy, William, with a flinty widower, Tom.

Tom’s unhurried persistence to helping William settle in hastens the boy to heal both physically and emotionally, and as a result Tom also begins healing of the grief over losing his wife and child forty years earlier.

The joy of childhood, making friends, trying out new experiences, and the deep bond of friendship comes singing through the expressive prose. A thoughtful perspective of how the London evacuees fared as well as those who took them in during the war.
For those who enjoyed Carrie’s War, Goodnight, Mister Tom is recommended.

Reader Round Up: May


Even though I read seventeen books last month, which keeps me at six books ahead of schedule, May’s five star reads were slim. There were several enjoyable reads, yet only one good read, or in this case a great read.

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Published in 1948, Paton’s book became a recognized bestseller that still has relevance today. The story of two fathers, one an umfundisi, a native reverend of a poor district, and the other a white landholder who owns a successful farm, High Place. Each father loses their only son, one by the hand of the other, yet the sons’ death brings these men together during a time when racial tensions are rising to a concerning level. A searing portrayal of the pain of separation–separation of family, separation of traditional values, separation of people inhabiting the land, the country. This was a rereading as I wanted to teach it as a unit to my juniors. So far it’s been well received. Plus, I don’t mind having an excuse to familiarize myself with excellent literature.

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton | BookDragon

Any of you read at least one really notable book in the month of May?

Reader Round Up: November


Thanksgiving break proved extra relaxed this year since no traveling was involved and no expected or unexpected company . The only obligation was making two pumpkin pies. Oh, with a side of Thanksgiving dinner.

Less demands meant more reading time. Check out the links to the Goodreads reviews. Here are November’s highlights:

Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Sometimes seeing the movie can spark an interest in the book. Of course the book was better. A brother and sister are shipped to the country as part of the WWII evacuation. No matter how many of these type of stories I read I continue to find each of them intriguing.

The movie

The Right Kind of Fool by Sarah Loudin Thomas
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
The newest Appalachia story from Sarah. Her books are always provide an particular insight into the region based in some way a true story. In this case, the story revolves around a deaf boy and a murder mystery.

We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Based on a true story of a woman who gave birth while in an iron lung. A likable tale that transcends into an implausible fairy tale with a surprise appearance of Elvis.

My Daniel by Pam Conrad
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
A story of the enduring bond between a brother and sister set during Nebraska’s early settler days. An added element is dinosaur fossil hunting.

Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Another older Newbery find. A young girl is sent to live with her spinster aunt when her mother dies. The catch is she has a family in town and they are all on good terms, which is unusual for a story plot. Not an orphan, definitely loved—the conflict? Which family is her true home?

My reading list is still filled with a composite of classics, Newbery titles, and new releases. My favorites tend to be the old Newbery winners. Nothing like solid writing from the past where the big problems of today were not in residence.

Reader Round Up: October


With the first month of school squared away with its new expectations and schedule, I felt a bit more at leisure to read in the evenings.

I’m finishing up my foray into Newberry winners and I am discovering the older titles can definitely hold the attention. I am also trying to whittle down my TBR list, and at this point the titles left are going to be though my library’s inter-library loan system, unless they value my request enough to purchase (that is always a fun surprise).

Here are the highlights of October:

The Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle Book Review
Goodreads

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Read-at-Home Mom: Book Review: Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (1994)
Goodreads

Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee
Goodreads

The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Amazon.com: The Wheel on the School (9780064400213): DeJong, Meindert,  Sendak, Maurice: Books
Goodreads

With the hour turned back the evening comes just that much sooner, and the lingering outside in the fading autumn afternoon warmth is less appealing as the shadows overtake my outdoor reading nooks. More reason to cozy up inside in my lounger and linger longer in my reading.

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.

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?

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
Video Link

Activites Link

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!!

Reader Round Up: March


March began in the usual way: school, home, the routine of routine. Then murmurings of a really bad flu flutter into the periphery around the middle of March (ironically teaching “Beware the Ides” with Julius Caesar walking to the forum). Routines are jarred as parents pull students from school and we watch and wonder if our school will also shut down with one week to go before spring week. We did and in two weeks all has changed and routine is a daily challenge.

Where does reading fit into this new normal? Reading used to be my anticipated reward, my stress reliever, my defrag from working with screens. Now, with only a scant handful of books (paper, not electronic, preferred) to last, who knows how long, reading becomes a quandary. Reading helps wile away the hours and keeps my brain from fogging over from too much screen time. Yet, I will clearly run out books on hand sooner than anticipated. Why didn’t I grab more books from the library before it closed?

Highlights of March:

The Rope Walk by Carrie Brown ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ A bit like To Kill a Mockingbird with a tomboy, an odd playmate, a mysterious neighbor and a life lesson.

Moonfleet by John Meade Falkner ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ An old fashioned adventure in the style of Robert Lois Stevenson

In the Jellicoe Road by Marlena Marchetta ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ A YA that combines the ruthlessness found in Lord of the Flies with the mind-warping plot twists of I Am the Cheese.

Letters from Yellowstone by Diane Smith ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️ One of those mad grabs off the shelf before the library closed and an unexpected joy as the book reveals the early days of Yellowstone Park through the witty and informative epistolary exchanges of a hodge podge of characters pursuing science.

Dandelion Summer by Lisa Wingate ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Imagine Henry Fonda from his role in On Golden Pond and a teenage Queen Latifah, you then would have Norman Alvord and Epiphany Jones, better known as J. Norm and Epie. These two form a symbiotic friendship as they battle their dysfunctional families.

The Least of My Brothers by Harold Bell Wright ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ A classic re-edited by Michael Phillips. Turn of the century story of the difference between being a disciple of Christ and a member of the church, with plenty of drama and characterization and a minimum of preaching making for a thoughtful consideration of what defines a Christian.

Ender’s Shadow by Scott Orson Card ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️ Having read Ender’s Game several years ago I thought it time to read its counterpart. Read it in a couple of days since I was able to dedicate that much time to reading a 400+ page book being on spring break.

A mixture of titles and interests as usual. As my library stash dwindles I will begin getting creative (or desperate) and begin prowling my meager collection which consists of read and reread classics or dipping into my hubs’ technical journals and how to manuals.

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