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.