Monday, August 22, 2016

Philadelphia Open House

Cory and I have been wanting to take the children to a temple open house for ages, but there aren’t that many opportunities to do so on the East coast. When we heard about the open house in Philly, we were eager to try.
We drove up to Pennsylvania (well, New Jersey) on a Friday afternoon. The drive was surprisingly pleasant. We stayed at a hotel in New Jersey. Saturday morning we checked-out and drove the half hour to the temple in Philadelphia.
We parked in the garage under the temple, came up through the visitor’s center, and walked across the street to the beautiful red brick chapel. The chapel has its own courtyard, from which one can see the temple spires.

After a ten-minute video about temples, our group walked across the street. The shoe covers (which look like shower caps) were one-size-fits all, so we pocketed a set in case little Q wanted to be set down. Mothers with younger babies had them in baby carriers. Ah, those were the days.
In the entrance to the temple, behind the recommend desk, is a beautiful painting of Christ. The picture is “framed” with columns and a roof-like peak. In the ornamentation above the peak I saw two crossed quills. 
K commented to an usher on the "nice chandeliers" in the entry. The usher pointed to a painting, off to the side, of the Founding Fathers in (I think) Independence Hall. The chandelier in that painting was a near match to the ones in the temple entry.
The single painting and the carved quills, while subtle, were touching to me. They seemed a fitting tribute to the men who laid a foundation for religious freedom, displayed in a building that only exists thanks to religious freedom.
Most of the art in the temple was either of Christ or his creations (landscapes). In one stairwell is a large print of Christ with two native American girls.
As we walked through the temple, I noticed a lot of colonial inspiration: colonial-style dressers in one hall, sconces on walls that looked like old candle-holders, American cherry wood stair steps with a colonial-style (carpet) runner  running up them, and so forth.
There is a captivating mural in an instruction room. It was like playing I-spy with the children: do you see the bald eagle? The woodpeckers? The butterfly? I wished we could have stayed there longer.
The Celestial room is full of light, which is remarkable in such a big building with art glass--really the whole interior was full of light. Maybe all the lights were on, but there didn't seem to be a dark corner anywhere. Being with my husband and all my children in the Celestial room has been a dream of mine, although I'm not sure it counts during an open house. I hope they felt God's love for them. I looked down and realized S had a handful of Legos out on the area rug--he must have brought them in himself. I suspect that may be the only time that happens there. Little Q began testing the acoustics in the Celestial room, and Cory hurried him out.

My daughter had been waiting to see the bride’s room, where women can get ready for their special day with the help of her mother, sisters, or friends. I don’t think she was disappointed. The bride’s room was large and beautiful, with formal furnishings and a sparkling chandelier. The guide in that room said she would be married in five weeks in that temple, and she would get to come to this room on her special day to be “pampered.” 
The tour finished in a large sealing room, where couples get married and families sealed for all eternity. My children kept trying to see their reflection go on forever in the mirrors that face each other. It doesn't work that way. You can see your family go on forever, but you block your own view of yourself. There's probably a lesson there.
From the rooftop garden on the Visitor’s Center, there is a lovely view of the temple. I imagine this would be an ideal place to take family photos.

While we were in the city anyway, we headed over to see the Liberty Bell. Sadly, the all the tickets for Independence Hall were gone by the time we checked (shortly after noon on a Saturday), but we had a good time anyway, and the kids earned some history flashcards from a park ranger.
This fun picture (above) was actually taken in the Visitor's Center. It's way too crowded around the real bell to get a great shot without strangers in it. Well, maybe if you're there at opening you can. We weren't.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Book Review of WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON, written and illustrated by Grace Lin, for ages 8-12

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Written by   Grace Lin
Paperback   304 pages
Genre   Fantasy (Asian inspired)
Lexile   810
Awarded   Newbery Honor
Recommended for   Boys and girls ages 8-12;
For ages 6 and up as a lengthy read aloud;
Classrooms and home schools studying ancient or medieval China

This is one of the most enchanting, elegant children's novels I've ever read. Adding to the charm of the text are the colorful illustrations done by the author sprinkled through the book. It's a rare author who can illustrate, and Grace Lin is one of them.

Our story begins near Fruitless Mountain where Minli lives with her practical Ma and storytelling Ba.  They spend all day tending the rice fields, and each day they have just enough to eat.
One day a goldfish man passes through the village. When he tells Minli that goldfish bring good fortune, she buys one, then regrets it when her Ma scolds her about having another mouth to feed.
One of the stories her father told her was about the Man in the Moon. Minli decides to find him, convinced he can change their families fortunes. There's just one problem: no one knows where to find him. That's where a talking goldfish comes in handy . . .
Along the way, Minli meets a dragon, some greedy monkeys, a boy with a buffalo, and an Emperor. It turns out that her father isn't the only one who has stories to tell. This book is full of little stories within the story, each as delightful as the last.
Along the way, Minli grows wiser. What she wants most by the end isn't what she thought it would be, and yet, because of the things that got set right along her journey, she discovers the secret to making Fruitless Mountain into Fruitful Mountain.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Book Review of Treasure at Lure Lake by Shari Schwarz; an adventure novel for boys 8-12

Treasure at Lure Lake
Written by  Shari L. Schwarz
Paperback  192 pages
Genre  Adventurous realistic fiction
Recommended for  Boys ages 8-12

Sometimes it can be hard to get boys to read real books. I don't know if the plethora of graphic novels targeted at boys represents the cause or effect, but they are a source of annoyance to me.
Like me, author Shari L. Schwarz is the mother of four boys. She said, "They don't just all love reading so I wanted to write an exciting adventure that they could relate to."

K, Boy age 13

I thought it was great.
Jack was my favorite character, because he was kind of the one that kept his cool, and he had the most perspective chapters. He'd rather stay where he can get cell phone reception.
I thought it was interesting that they encountered a black bear. That was the first sign of wildlife in the book.
I thought the part where Bryce came back . . . after being knocked-out after a fall from off a canyon wall was pretty cool. Apparently [someone was waiting there].

T, Boy age 11
Bryce is my favorite character, because he was more into camping.
I didn't know about the quartz and pocket-knife trick. I'll have to remember that when I'm camping. I'm going to try not to be a spoiler, so I'm just going to do thoughts on characters for now.
Like I said, Bryce is my favorite character, but Jack is interesting as well, and I agree with K: Jack would like to stay where he can get reception.
I'm not going to say what the treasure is, but the map was a little interesting, and why were those pictures hidden?
I like science-fiction and fantasy, this was realistic fiction, so it wasn't the kind I like, but it was still pretty interesting.

 What I (Mom) Thought of Treasure at Lure Lake
Now, in my opinion, what an adult thinks of a middle grade novel intended for leisure reading is superfluous (unless we're discussing appropriateness, as I'm all in favor of parental censorship).
What the target audience themselves think is what really matters, and not only am I not a 10 year old boy, but I never have been and never will be.
With that disclaimer out of the way, I did read the book, and I do have some thoughts on it.
Survival Skills: this is Schwarz's strongest point. She promises an adventure novel, and she delivers it with wild animals, fishing, rustic animal traps, fire, rock climbing without harnesses (don't worry, they get what's coming to them), a helicopter, and more. There's a little blood, vomiting and diarrhea, but here she is (graciously) sparse with words and doesn't get too graphic--just enough for you to get the idea. Electronics include a walkie-talkie, a video camera, and the older brother's cell phone which runs out of batteries.
Characters: My favorite character was Bryce, the younger brother. He's a bit of an outdoors nerd (is that a thing?). The older brother, Jack, was a bit tougher to like, with some teen angst going on, but maybe boys will relate to him. I did feel that the brothers did a good job acting their age, within their personalities. Unfortunately, I felt like the Grandpa wasn't a consistent personality. The mysterious hikers were a nice addition. Mom and Dad were referred to throughout the book, but don't show up until close to the end, but that works fine.
Point of View: the book is written from an alternating first-person point of view. Sometimes it's first-person Bryce, and sometimes it's first-person Jack. At first, I found this confusing, and would have to look back at the beginning of the chapter to identify which brother was narrating. For this reason, I would not recommend this book to boys who struggle with reading comprehension.
Also, I thought this book was a little overbearing with the emotions of the brothers, especially the older brother's. Narrating in third person might have toned that back.
Spoiler Alert: This book does include a near-death experience. The description of it, especially right at first, was really well done. This experience was not necessarily religious or anti-religious. The character gets far enough along to see his Grandmother, who tells him he needs to go back, and gives him a message for his family.
Toward the end, I wish things regarding the physical treasure were spelled-out or explained just a little bit more than they are.
Overall: I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to boys ages 8-12.

About the Author
Shari Schwarz lives in Ft. Collins, Colorado near the Rocky Mountains with her husband and their four boys. TREASURE AT LURE LAKE (April 12, 2016) is her debut middle grade novel which reflects her love for a good survival adventure story. When she’s not reading or writing, Shari can be found freelance editing, weight-lifting, gardening or watching her boys play football, basketball, speed stacking, or wrestling. She frequently daydreams of exploring Oregon Coast beaches or plotting out her next children’s book.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary advance copy of this book.
Also, my blog is now "monetized," so if you follow a link to Amazon and choose to purchase, I get a little percent back (this doesn't affect your purchase price, however).

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Book Review of CINNABAR: The One O'Clock Fox, by Marguerite Henry

Cinnabar: The One O'Clock Fox
Written by   Marguerite Henry
Illustrated by   Wesley Dennis
Paperback   144 pages (including illustrations)
Ages   8-12
Lexile   800L
Genre  Historical fiction with animal personification
Recommended for   Boys and girls; Children who like animal stories; homeschools and classrooms studying American History (Revolutionary War); Anyone longing to know what this fox says

I have a vague recollection of reading Misty of Chincoteague in the fourth grade. I recently discovered that the same author (Marguerite Henry) wrote a host of other animal-centric novels, including Cinnabar: The One O'Clock Fox.

I placed a hold for it at the library and received what I suspect is an original library edition. Within the back cover is an old-fashioned envelope, on which is stamped the words "OVERDUE CHARGES, 2 CENTS A DAY." Delightful. It's the little things in life.

How Historical Is This Fiction?
"It was April in Virginia. The brooks and runs on George Washington's estate were overflowing in their hurry to join the big Potomac," begins chapter one. This book is a historical fiction, based loosely on an old legend about a fox who so loved a good chase that he would show up promptly at one to lead the hunt on a chase through the lands of Mount Vernon.
The historical aspects are mostly a geographic awareness of George Washington's estate (and some of the buildings adjacent to it, including a mill and a church), and an understanding of what a fox hunt was like. There is no reference to the Revolutionary War. George Washington himself only gets about one line, as Cinnabar is a skilled fox who keeps far ahead of the hunters, most of the time.

Even though it is light on what most would consider essential historical details, I still would recommend this book for young readers learning about early American history.  Adults underestimate the importance to a young child of seeing a familiar name again, and most people with a good understanding of American history have a pretty fuzzy idea of what Mount Vernon is like. In fact, there is a map on the page spread following the table of contents that shows Mount Vernon, creeks, the Potomac, the mill, etc (the above is my own creation).
More than historical details, I believe Cinnabar captures the feeling of the time very well. He is a hard working, proud provider for his family, which includes Rascal and Pascal (the boys), Mischief and Merry (the girls), and his dear wife Vicky. So many male "heroes" of modern times are self-serving bachelors, and I think Cinnabar is a fine contrast.
The author says, "Cinnabar represented the spirit of the times, the spirit of a people who fought for freedom and lived for freedom's sake. He eluded all who would catch or trap him, and he finished out his days as a free wild thing."

For literary snobs like me, this book was positively delightful. I think it would excel as a read-aloud with occasional rhymes and lots of fox calls. Due to my extensive knowledge of fox hunts courtesy of  having seen Mary Poppins, I was able to "hear" the various hunting calls. Young readers who may be less familiar with classic films, classic books, and the proper spelling of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious may appreciate hearing read out loud. Sadly, I haven't been able to find an audiobook, so I can't recommend that as a back-up.

Disclaimer: After beginning to review books and establish links to an online bookseller (Amazon), thinking it might be convenient for the reader to have such a link, I discovered another book reviewer who claimed to be compensated by Amazon for book links in her (?) blog. I thought you had to have obnoxious pop-ups to be monetized.
I did my homework, and am now "monetized" with Amazon. I hope this is a win-win for my readers and myself. I post books because I love them, but I wouldn't mind a little extra cash for Christmas savings, or to tuck away for later.
The only "bad" thing about this deal is that Amazon will use unobtrusive cookies on my site, which perhaps not everyone will appreciate. For more, see my sidebar.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Our General Conference "Campout"

A few days ago, I had a stroke of inspiration that I ran past my 11 year old son:
For the Saturday sessions of General Conference, we can have a "campout." We can set up our smaller tent in the living room, facing the tv; and between sessions we can cook hot dogs outside over our propane fire pit, and roast leftover Easter Peeps, then use what's left in our "Spring Mix" bag of chocolates to turn them into s'mores.
He hopped up and down while clapping. There's nothing like Easter Peep flambe  to excite 11-year old boys.

Yep. Inspiration.
While this idea might not directly affect their attention spans during the sessions, I think having the children look forward to General Conference weekend as a special event, not a burden, may help us in the long term.
And even I was looking forward to roasting Peeps over our propane fire pit.

So, fast forward Saturday.
Rain. All morning.
We ran errands to the library to pick-up a hold, the farmer's market for our last CSA pick-up, and the grocery store for milk. There were some serious breaches of umbrella ettiquette.
Arriving home about fifteen minutes before the noon (a.k.a. "morning") session of conference, it was still raining.
The children spread blankets on the living room floor and I took notes on my new iPad (courtesy of my husband, but that's another story).
After the session finished, it was still raining. We decided to make the best of it.
First, my excited young Boy Scout set-up our two-man tent in the living room. Everyone started feeling more cheerful already.

What's the next-best thing to Peep Flambe?
Exploding Peeps in the microwave.
Well, not actually exploding, but they definitely inflated to at least double their size.

8-10 seconds in the microwave

We went through one package of bunny Peeps and agreed to save the second package so we can do the same thing tomorrow.

M gathered coloring books and supplies and set them in the tent. During the session, there were usually one or two people in the tent. It wasn't used by everyone constantly, but that was probably a good thing.
Sunday Update: the weather was clear and dry today, so we roasted hot dogs and Peeps for lunch before the first session. It was awesome.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Book Review of In the Garden by Caralyn Buehner, Illustrated by Brandon Dorman

In past years, our family has retold the Easter story with gospel art pictures, with varying degrees of success.
The past few months, I have been wanting my children to know the gospel; not just know it, but to feel it. Yet every time I have sat down to teach my children, my pre-teen enters his defensive "don't preach at me" mode, someone else has the sillies, and anyone else is playing "can't touch me" with his neighbor.
Approaching Easter, I found In the Garden. One of the first things I noticed about it was that it was illustrated by Brandon Dorman, the same man who illustrated the beloved covers of the boys' Fablehaven and Candy Shop War books. Would an connection to some favorite novels spark some interest?
I decided it was worth a try, and ordered a copy through Deseret Book (we live hours away from the nearest church-themed bookstore). It took about a week to arrive at our address in the Eastern United States via the cheapest shipping method available. Since I ordered several weeks before Easter, that was fine. And, it was in perfect condition (unlike the board book I ordered at the same time, but that's another review).
I introduced this Easter book in advance, hoping they would get excited. I told them about the illustrator, and the fact that I actually bought a book for retelling the Easter story. They seemed mildly interested.
A week before Easter, I read this book to my children, ages 8-12. They listened fairly quietly (which is a huge success in itself). When I got to the author's wording of what Jesus took on himself during his prayer in Gethsemane, there was an audible, "Whoa," from one of my oldest boys. Reading this book to my children was the most spiritual experience we have had as a family since . . . I don't know when. Maybe ever?
I read this for a second time on Easter Sunday, and while the effect wasn't quite as pronounced (there was some whispering and extraneous movements) my often defensive child enjoyed showing off his knowledge of what happened, by adding to what the book has on the crucifixion.
I plan to keep this book special and look forward to it as an Easter tradition to continue over the next few years.

In the Garden is different from many other tellings of the Easter story, because the emphasis is on what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was written for an LDS audience.
Broken into page-spreads (two facing pages), the story flows as follows:

  • 1 page-spread on the Last Supper
  • 1 page-spread approaching the garden
  • 5 page-spreads on what happened in Gethsemane, including his prayers, the sleeping disciples, and the angel who "came to strengthen him"
  • 2 page-spreads on the mock-trials
  • 1 page-spread on the crucifixion (a mild scene with silhouettes of crosses)
  • 1 page-spread on placing him in the tomb
  • 1 page-spread on the resurrection
  • 1 page-spread of Jesus visiting with children
  • the end-page quotes John 3:16
I would recommend this book to LDS families with children ages 4-10 (or somewhat older, depending on the individuals).

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Three Generation Review of Maryellen Larkin Books

Maryellen Larkin was brought out in 2015 by American Girl. Her stories are set in Daytona Beach, Florida, around 1954. This blog post is a review of the two Maryellen Classic books, both written by Valerie Tripp:

The One and Only: A Maryellen Classic 1
Maryellen tries to stand out, begins a new year of school, and has a Christmas adventure.
Taking Off: A Maryellen Classic 2
Maryellen plans a special tenth birthday party, her dad has big plans for summer vacation, and what about her sister's wedding?
Written by   Valerie Tripp
Paperback   224 and 200 pages, respectively
Genre   Historical Fiction (America, 1954)
Recommended for   Girls ages 8-12*
Lexile  American Girl does not list a lexile score for any of these books, but it is worth noting that each of these "classics" are three times as thick as their historical books used to be, and don't have any illustrations inside.
*(Since the character turns 10 in the book, 11 and 12 year old girls who aren't already fans of American Girl, might not enjoy her story as much).

For a list of other Maryellen books, please scroll to the bottom.

This is a very special review to me. My husband's mother turned 10 in 1954, which means she experienced the same point in American history at the same age as this fictional character (although she experienced it in the Seattle area, not Florida). At my request, she graciously agreed to read and review these books with us.

Review by M. (Girl, Age 10)

I like the Maryellen books. My favorite character is Maryellen. She's kind of like me. Her name starts with an M, she likes pink, and she likes to hang out with big [older] people.
The books have a lot problems [for Maryellen to solve]. For example, she decides to paint her door red, and then things get out of hand.
I also like her younger brother Mikey. He's adorable. Mikey likes "tick-tocks." "Tick-tock" is what he calls a watch.
Maryellen also likes tv. They watch a lot of tv in the 1950s. Maryellen likes Davy Crockett. Her favorite movie star is Debbie Reynolds.
I would recommend these books to old people because they might have lived during that time. I would also recommend it to 9, 10, and 11 year old girls, because that's close to Maryellen's age. I say girls, because who wants to read a story about the opposite gender?

Review by Stephanie (Mother)

I was really excited when I saw that Valerie Tripp was writing the classic books for this new character. American Girl uses a number of different authors for their books, and Valerie Tripp has been my favorite.
My daughter's maternal grandmother (my mom) gave her the 3 book boxed set with mini doll (purchased at Costco) for her birthday.
My daughter kept looking up from her book to report the funny things that happened in the book, like when her little brother tried to play firefighter with the hose when the brownies were burning.

What I loved about the Maryellen Books:

I loved Maryellen's big family. She has two older sisters, a younger sister, and two younger brothers. A lot of authors don't give their main characters large families, because it can be difficult to develop these extra characters, without having them upstage the main story. Still, it's hard for a historical fiction novel to feel very authentic when presented with a family of only one or two children, unless a medical reason (like death) is given). I'm very impressed with Valerie Tripp here. The siblings feel authentic (with a possible exception of Bethany who can't seem to decide how old she should be).

Also, the side-effects of having a large family in that time period feel very authentic, including:
  • A hand-me down bike
  • A hand-me down dress
  • A hand-me down teacher
  • Sharing a room with multiple siblings
  • Little brothers who tag along when you're playing with your friends
  • Older sisters who don't always enjoy having you tag along
I was impressed with how many big and little bits of historical tidbits made it into the story, like the polio epidemic of 1954, references to the Depression, World War II, and the Korean War. Everyday details of the fifties were there too: a sister staying home to wash her hair and iron a blouse? Only in the fifties. My mother-in-law gives a more detailed discussion of the history, so I won't say anymore.

So, what are the possible weak points?

There is a lot of fifties-style slang and jingles. Some people might find it fun and cute, others might find it annoying. I was unsure the first few times, but ended up deciding I thought it was fun and cute. Your mileage may vary.
Most of the family members feel are great. Younger sister Beverly is a bit annoying, pretending to be a queen all the time. I think it would be more plausible if she was the baby of the family, but she isn't. There are two kids younger than her.
Another reviewer thought that Maryellen was a self-centered. Well, yes, a bit. As a middle child in a large family, she does spend some of her time wanting to stand out, but not all of it. She helps take care of her younger siblings, she befriends a new girl at school at the temporary expense of her old friends, and turns her birthday party into a fundraiser for the new polio vaccine. So, she might not be the most selfless of all the American Girls, but I don't think it's fair to call her self-centered.
A school picture of Toni from the 1950s
Review by Toni 
(Grandmother, who turned 10 in 1954)

The entire first book screams fifties. The large families were very common then.  Family togetherness and standing up for one another -- even if you didn't get along -- was very important.

Sharing a Teacher
My sister, Billie, adored her fourth grade teacher Mrs. Guthery. I was assigned to the same teacher the following year. The first time I entered the classroom, Mrs. Guthery said, "If you're half as good as your sister . . . " I didn't want to be just like my sister to be accepted. I didn't enjoy that year of school at all.

50s Style
Words like switcharoo, scalawag, peddle pushers, skiddaddle, and crinoline were common.
We always wore crinoline skirts under our full cotton skirts and poodle skirts. My poodle skirt was deep grey with a bright pink poodle and I loved it!
Girls did wear their hair in ponytails with silk scarves. Bobby socks were important, too.
Drive-in restaurants with waitresses on roller skates? Yes! I think they must not have had insurance for their employees back then. They would carry large trays of food out to the cars and set them on a stand that attached to the window frame. It was a real treat to go to that type of restaurant.

I don't remember weekly tv shows with water skiing or synchronized swimming. Maybe in Florida, but not in Washington state. Other shows like Rin Tin Tin, Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers we had.
I remember when we got our first tv set. It had an itty bitty screen in a great big box, but it was a big deal to see what was going on. Before that we had a radio that was four feet tall. There were tubes in the back of the tv and if your tv went out, you took the tubes to the grocery store where there were tube testers.
Of course, the picture was strictly black and white, but people wanted color, so plastic sheets were manufactured that you put over your screen. The sheets were blue at the top, yellow in the middle and green at the bottom. A close-up head shot would have blue hair, yellow nose, and blue chin and neck! Rabbit ears were set on top of the tv which were adjusted to try to get a clear picture. It was crazy, but it was also a big deal.

We wanted to have a picture postcard Christmas. I remember my mother taking boxes and books, and covering them with thick, fluffy, glittery cotton to make a "snowy village" on our mantel. She added mirror "ponds," trees, villagers and buildings; it was very special.
If you wanted a flocked Christmas tree you flocked it yourself. We took hours decorating the tree. Wire trees were common in pink, blue, and silver, but we always had a green fresh cut tree that we bought at the hardware store in Seattle. Vern's family had a silver aluminum tree.
Jewelry boxes with a wind up music box and a ballerina or ice skater dancing around was the ideal present. I remember getting one and it was really cool. It was a beautiful blue with blue satin lining.

A train trip for a 9 year old on her own? I can't see that happening. It definitely wouldn't have happened in my family. When we still lived down in the Fremont area, they didn't have school buses. If you didn't live close to the junior high, you had to take a city bus to school. My sister and I had to transfer buses too; that was a big thing: to pay bus fare every day and transfer halfway.
We couldn't go to Seattle shopping until we were in high school and then our Mother went too. We could go outside and play "kick the can" with the local kids, but the bus to school and the neighborhood was our world.

The second book had references to polio and the new vaccine for it. My little brother had polio as a baby and it put him about a year behind when learning to walk and in his studies too. I don't remember people having birthday parties about polio, but they definitely had fundraisers.
The book also talked about the Cold War and bomb shelters. We could never afford one, but every Wednesday at noon a siren went off and you were supposed to get under a table at home or under your desk at school. It got hard when some kids wouldn't fit under their desk.

Grandpa Vern Adds:
One of the things I remember as a little kid living in a project in Seattle was when a Dairy Queen opened up. They had a special: one penny a mound. I remember my brother and I had about eight mounds because we had a dime.
They had Saturday matinees at the theater for a dime. You got two shows, plus a serial and a cartoon. You saw things like Flash Gordon, Roy Rogers, Zorro, those folks.
The skate rink was also a dime, as was the swimming pool. 
We used to ride bikes all over because buses weren't dependable and you didn't know when they were coming.

A Linked List of All American Girl Books Featuring Maryellen Larkin

$ Purchasing Tips:
Both of the classic books are almost guaranteed to be in your local public library, and it would be worth checking for the others.
If you plan to purchase these, each of these books is about $10, purchased separately. Sometimes they are bundled with a third Maryellen book, and sold as Maryellen Larkin 3 Book Set (The Sky's the Limit: My Journey with Maryellen). When I last checked Amazon, the three pack was the same price as buying the two classic books separately (about $20).
My daughter was given the set from Costco, which included the three book set, and the mini-doll, (which American Girl prices on their website for around $25). The set is somewhat expensive (around $40), but is an alright value if you had planned to purchase all three books and the mini doll.