Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Walking and Listening to "as brave as you"

as brave as you by Jason Reynolds
Simon and Schuster Audio
7 hours and 2 minutes

Narrator: Guy Lockard

Spending your summer with your grandparents in the Virginia countryside isn't high on many people's list of fun things to do. That is exactly what is happening to Ernie and Genie though, as their parents are heading out on a trip to try and save their marriage. From the moment they arrive, Genie is unsure of the situation, questions flood his brain and he makes misstep after misstep. But even with all of that going on, he is having the time of his life, learning about country life, exploring and building an amazing relationship with his grandfather. Soon what seemed like would be forever turns into a summer neither boy will soon forget.

I hate to say this, but when I first saw this book I wasn't drawn to it. The cover didn't scream, "Pick me up and read me!" The cover also gave me the false impression that it was a historical fiction book, which I like but wasn't in the mood for. But once I saw that it was by Jason Reynolds, I decided to give it a whirl and I am so glad that I did. I loved this book. There are humorous aspects to it, honest and touching moments and was one of those books I wanted to go on forever. I enjoyed watching the relationship unfold between Genie and Grandpa and seeing how much they each grew from their time together and seeing what they gained from their relationship. I loved Genie's questions. He would drive me crazy if he was my kid, but as a reader I loved the non-stop flow of them.

I have listened to quite a few books narrated by Guy Lockhard and I love his narration. His voice is very expressive, honest and pulls you in. The voices that he chooses for each of the characters are amazing and match their personalities beautifully. Listen to this book!

I was walking to pick-up my car from getting repaired and went by this construction wall, covered in sign language.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Walking and Listening to "Save Me A Seat"

Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
Scholastic Audio
3 hours and 58 minutes
Narrators Josh Hurley and Vikas Adams

This is the type of audio book that stays with you. While I finished listening to this book a little over a week ago, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. I had an amazing discussion with the student, Kate, who recommended the book to me which brought up even more thoughts and feelings.

Told via alternating chapters, we meet Ravi who has just moved to town from India and Joe who has lived there his entire life. Both boys are starting fifth grade in the same situation, friendless and misunderstood. However their attitudes about it are completely different.  Ravi has always thrived at school and thinks he will fit in no problem, he's smart and eager to make friends. Joe dreads it because he is bullied, has an auditory processing disorder and his mom has begun working in the cafeteria. While Joe and Ravi sit next to each other in class, they don't hit it off. If only these two boys would talk to each other they would discover they have a lot more in common than they realize.

Side note: While it is rare for me to hate a book character, I found myself beyond hating Dillon. Yes, I get that this is what good writing is, but I just wanted to call his mother and scream at her. Kate didn't like him either and hated how he tricked Ravi into eating meat. She told me that calling his mother wouldn't make a difference because his mother was probably the same way and gave an example. Kids are seriously amazing.

Josh Hurley and Vikas Adams do a phenomenal job narrating this story. Every single character, no matter who they are, has their own very distinct and unique voice. You hear all the excitement, joy, humiliation, disappointment, sadness, shyness that the characters are feeling, but they do such an amazing job expressing those that you feel those emotions too. There is truly not one thing I would do to improve upon this narration. You have got to listen to this story.

The rock walls surrounding our school campus are covered in night blooming cereus. They are just stunning. Too bad they don't even last 24 hours.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Walking and Listening to "Shadow Magic"

Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan
Recorded Books
9 hours and 48 minutes
Narrator Ramon de Ocampo

When Thorn left home to find his father there is no way he could have predicted that he would become a slave, be sold to an executioner, ride the back of a giant bat, become friends with royalty and find himself wrapped up in a mystery. That is exactly what happened to him and then some.  How does all of this happen? Well, Thorn has no choice but to go with Tyburn, the executioner, once he is sold to Gehenna, where the House of Shadows rules. Shortly after arriving to Castle Gloom an engagement party is thrown for twelve year old Lily who is being forced to marry Gabriel from the House of Light. After refusing to dance with her future husband, Lily's dog accidentally drinks a poisonous drink intended for Lily and dies. Tyburn is convinced that the poisoner is the who he has been hunting for months and is behind the murder of Lily's parents and brother. Lily and Thorn have their own suspect and set out to to get to the bottom of it. They better hurry before another attempt on Lily's life is made.

I enjoyed listening to this story. Ramon de Ocampo's narration was great and held my attention. He kept the story moving along with his pacing and had great character vocalizations, all of which were very different and easily distinguishable. I think that kids will also enjoy listening to this dark fantasy story. If they are a bit squeamish, they may have a hard time listening to the description of zombies though, but it doesn't last that long.

Paddling season has begun and the canoes are in full force.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Walking and Listening to "The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse"

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse by Brian Farrey
5 hours 2 minutes
Recorded Books
Narrator: Ann Marie Gideon

Being 12 years old isn't easy for anyone. But throw on top of that the fact that your mother is dying and you will soon become the queen and you have what Jeniah is facing. Jeniah has a lot to learn about ruling the Monarchy and as part of her lessons her mother reminds her not enter Dreadwillow Carse or the Monarchy will fall. Jeniah is inexplicably drawn to Carse. Deciding to go against her mother's warning, she heads to the forest and meets Aon, who too is drawn to the Carse. The two girls strike a deal. Aon will go into the Carse and share with Jeniah everything that she learns and in return Jeniah will find Aon's father who have been taken by the Crimson Hoods. With each visit to the Carse, Aon learns more about how it works, but each visit takes more and more out of her leaving her in a deep depression. Not wanting Aon to put herself in anymore danger, Jeniah asks her stop, but Aon just can't. She is learning a great deal and finds comfort in what she learns. 

We have had this book in the library for quite sometime now and for some reason or other I just hadn't picked it up. I wish I had read this book rather than listen to it. I really hate to say this, but Ann Marie's Gideon's narration of this story didn't hold my attention. I thought that the main characters voices were too similar and that they lacked emotion. Maybe that was intentional, the Monarchy is a place where happy is the only emotion felt, but I didn't even get the feeling of joy and happiness in the characters voices. I would suggest skipping  the audio version of this book and go with the reading of the physical book.

I loved the shadow this bird created. Such a big shadow for a smaller bird.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Walking and Listening to "Hello, Universe"

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
Harper Audio
5 hours 17 minutes
Narrators: Ramon de Ocampo and Amielynn Abellera

"It's hard not to believe in fate when you watch a boy climb out of a well using a jumprope" 
As the school year comes to a close, Virgil deems himself a failure. Not because of bad grades or anything school related, but because he never got up the courage to say hi to a girl in his school. Not sure how he'll get over this, he consults his friend (and psychic) Kaori and her assistant/sister Gen. Convinced that Virgil and V.S. are destined to be friends, Kaori sends him out to find 5 different stones for her to consult and asks that he hang her business card up at the grocery store. These  requests sets off a chain of events, which may just seem like they are unimportant or unrelated, but as Kaori and Gen repeatedly tell us, "There are no coincidences."

I loved this book! The characters were amazing, each with qualities that readers can relate to, whether they are shy, trying to find friends, being picked on, finding their voice etc. I loved how Filipino folktales were woven throughout the story, which not only help Virgil to cope in various situations but are also a great way to expose readers to stories they most likely have never heard before. I love how the story introduces kids to fate in a way that they can understand.

I am a sucker for audiobooks that use different narrators. Ramon de Ocampo and Amielynn Abellera were great choices for this book, keeping the story moving along and the listener engaged. They beautifully vocalized the characters personalities and emotions. I hate to say this, especially since I enjoyed the book so much, but I did had teeny tiny problem with one bit of the narration. Growing up and living in Hawaii, a Filipino accent is something I am very familiar with, hearing it on a daily basis and this accent was off. Yes, the pronunciation of "Ay Sus!" was spot on, but Lola's accent was something I just couldn't quite place. I know the understanding of a thick Filipino accent might be a challenge to some listeners, but this seemed too mild to me. I appreciated that the narration for Valencia was varied from her thoughts to her speaking voice. How one sounds inside themselves is often quite different as to how they sound in the real world and I am glad this was done for Valencia.

Favorite Chapter Title: Drama in the Freezer Department

Summer is here!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

May Bulletin Boards

With the end of school approaching at a way faster pace, it's taken me awhile to share this months bulletin boards. I am obsessed with this one, the kids are too. They are loving guessing who the characters are featured in the silhouettes and peeking behind them to see if they were right.
The silhouettes are fantastic!

Summer is here which mean a lot of time to spend at the beach. Sure, we can go to the beach all year long, but without school, the kids can go daily.
Greg is hitting the beach this summer!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Walking and Listening to "Fuzzy"

Fuzzy  by Tom Angleberger and Paul Dillinger
Recorded Books
4 hours, 33 minutes

Narrator: Erin Moon

Max is absolutely beside herself, a robot will be coming to their school. Sure, there are already several robots at her school. There's a robot vice principal, a robot librarian, but this new robot, this one is special. This robot, Fuzzy, will be joining as a student, the first robot student to attend any school, anywhere. However, when she comes to face to face with him, he collapses and crashes down to the ground. Not exactly the first impression she had in mind. Before he collapsed though, Fuzzy had seen how Max had navigated the hallways to get to him, and was so impressed that he and the members of the Robot Integration Program ask for her help. Thrilled to be helping, Max and Fuzzy go just about everywhere together. Unfortunately, this is getting Max into trouble. You see, Vice Principal Barbara is watching and listening to everyone at every possible second, issuing d-tags for any and all infractions and instantly notifying your parents of what you did. Walk down to the hallway without permission, d-tag. Late for class by a millisecond, d-tag. Max is racking them up left and right. To make matters worse, she is failing the weekly upgrade tests all students are required to take. Max is completely confused by this, she is studying, she feels confident taking the tests and week after week she fails. Fuzzy is concerned too. But, after scanning her most recent test and seeing that she only answered one question incorrectly, he is sure things are turning around for her. Sadly, they are not and Max's most recent test score come back at 62%. Fuzzy is determined to get to the bottom of this. He better hurry though, because the Robot Integration Program has other plans for him.

This is a fun book. It has everything in it that kids love, it has some humor, some intrigue, friendship, robots, a robot showdown, and a glimpse as to what the future could possibly be like. Erin Moon does a great job of character vocalization, making each one distinct so the listener can easily identify them. She kept the story moving along at a nice pace. I personally enjoyed the shout out to Mr. Schu I mean who wouldn't want a character named after them?! Sign me up for that!

The stephanotis is in full bloom on my walks.