#632 Looking for Me by Betsy R. Rosenthal

Looking for Me by Betsy R. RosenthalLooking for Me by Betsy R. Rosenthal

Edith doesn’t know where she fits in a family with eleven other brothers and sisters. She has older siblings and she has younger siblings. There are and equal number of boys and girls. Edith and her siblings hope there won’t be anymore babies. Edith feels as if her family are a big set of nesting dolls.

Edith goes to school. She comes home. Her house is always noisy. It’s always like a party. She likes her two grandmothers, but feels sore at one of them for something she had to do years before. Edith helps to work at her family’s diner. All the siblings work there, except for one, but she gets to do whatever she wants.

Edith is tired at school. Her teacher sees it. She asks Edith about her life and Edith tells her. Edith’s teacher thinks she is smart, smart enough to go to college. From this point on, Edith thinks she can. Her father says she can’t, but her mother and grandmother are going to help her out. Edith figures out that she’s Edith.

What I liked

I don’t usually like books written in verse. This one was alright though. The entire story is told through poems. The poems move from one to the next and tell the overall story of Edith. Edith was actually real. Edith was Betsy’s mother. Betsy talked to her entire family about their life growing up and she ended up writing this.

What I didn’t like

Even though I said it wasn’t bad, I still don’t like the idea that this story was written in verse. I’m not the biggest fan of poetry and while I will read it, it’s not my preferred reading material.

Why would you tell your kid that they can’t go to college? If they can figure out how to go, you encourage them.


I’m glad that Edith found out who she was.

Weigh In

How would your life be different if you had as many brothers and sisters as Edith?

Would you still have gotten to go to school or do the things you did?

#631 The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ivan lives in a domain in the shopping center. Along with Ivan there’s Bob the dog, but he doesn’t belong to anybody, and Stella the elephant. Stella is old and she is not well. She has a spot on her leg that keeps getting infected. Ivan has a stuffed gorilla that a little girl named Julia gave to him. He paints pictures. He has a small television that he watches. People come to see Ivan, but not as many as before. Stella and Ivan talk about many things.

Ivan occasionally remembers his old life. when he used to live in the wild and then when he used to live in a house with humans.

One day something new is brought to the shopping center. It’s a baby elephant. She doesn’t look well, but Stella takes to her right away. The problem is that Stella isn’t well herself. The owner of the shopping center works Ruby, the baby elephant, hard trying to get her to learn how to do tricks. Their enclosures are small and there isn’t enough room. Stella has told Ivan about zoos before. The animals can be outside. It’s a way humans make up for things like this.

Stella takes a turn for the worse and ultimately the worst does happen. She makes Ivan promise to take care of Ruby and get her out. At first, Ivan does not know how to do this, but he uses his painting skills to help Ruby. With the help of Julia and Bob Ivan gets a message out. People come and check on Ivan and Ruby. Soon Ivan and Ruby are both living a life they never could have imagined.

What I liked

This is a sweet little story. It’s based on true events actually, loosely though. Ivan was a real gorilla. He lived out the remainder of his days at Zoo Atlanta. He actually lived to be fifty years old, which is saying something. I thought, at first, that this story might be about Willie B since Willie B had a similar background story to Ivan, but it turns out both Willie B and Ivan were kept in similar conditions before going to Zoo Atlanta. Zoo Atlanta isn’t the nicest zoo I’ve been to, but it’s more than adequate enough for an animal that’s been kept in the type of captivity that Ivan and Willie B were.

Ruby, as far as I can tell, is made up. Elephants have been mistreated, just as gorillas have been mistreated, in captivity. It’s sad that someone takes this animals away from their homes only to mistreat them. I think stories like this, although fictional, are important so that we remember that animals aren’t here to be mistreated.

What I didn’t like

Who lets a gorilla live in a shopping center? This was apparently a real thing, that happened more than to just Ivan. Gorillas are just too big to live in such a small environment. I don’t understand how anyone could have thought this was ok.


Ivan seems like a great gorilla.

Weigh In

To you, are zoos happy places or sad places?

Do you think the real Ivan was anything like this fictional Ivan?

#630 The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire LegrandThe Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand

Victoria is the best student, or she would be if it hadn’t been for that ‘B’ in music class. Her best, and seemingly only, friend is named Lawrence. One day Lawrence disappears. A lot of kids disappear actually. The parents start to act funny. They don’t really care where their children have gone to. Victoria starts to poke around. She begins to suspect Mrs. Cavendish from the children’s home, but she doesn’t have any evidence. When she goes to the house to speak to Mrs. Cavendish, she forgets why she was there, as most people do.

Victoria speaks to a couple of other people who seem to suspect something is going on. One of them soon disappears in a flurry of black beetles. Victoria knows she must be careful. Several people tell her just to be careful and be good. It would all pass, but Victoria is tired of all of that.

Soon she finds herself taken into the Cavendish home herself. Things are perfect there, or expected to be. Mrs. Cavendish takes children and makes them into what they’re supposed to be, according to some. The children either leave, or they don’t. Victoria finally finds out what happens to the children and it’s quite ghastly. Something in Mrs. Cavendish’s own home works against her though and Victoria learns a valuable lesson–not everyone is supposed to fit into a mold.

What I liked

This book is creepy and I kind of liked it. I mean, I think it could be scary to some children. I liked the whole lesson that Victoria learns. She thinks that Lawrence needs straightened up since he wears his shirt untucked and he likes music. Lawrence doesn’t need straightening up. That’s just Lawrence and Lawrence is special for his untucked shirt and musical ability.

I don’t like the idea of children being stamped to be all alike, nor adults for that matter. We are not all supposed to look the same, or act the same, or talk to the same, or have the same thoughts. We’re all supposed to be individuals. We’re not supposed to be just like Bob or just like Janice. We’re supposed to be ourselves.

It’s like that episode of Spongebob where Spongebob heeds Squidward’s suggestions and becomes normal. Squidward and everyone else find that they don’t like the normal Spongebob. They like Spongebob as he was, despite how annoying he could be.

What’s that saying…”Variety is the spice of life”?

What I didn’t like

Although I liked the creepy factor, some of the stuff in the book was just gross. Gross! It’s a little severe for something a kid would read, definitely more of a YA book than a children’s book. I don’t want to say what happens or what Victoria finds out, but it’s pretty awful. It’s seriously like something out of a Stephen King book. Do not read this to your small child as a bed-time book.


Be careful when you wish someone would be normal.

Weigh In

Looking at today’s school systems, do you think children are pressured to be all alike?

At the end, do you think Victoria probably learned to cut some people some slack? Do you think she continued her perfectionist ways?

#629 Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly ClearyDear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

Leigh Botts has been writing his favorite Author Boyd Henshaw. At first, it’s simply an assignment, but Leigh begins to write to Mr. Henshaw to tell him about his life and asks him writing advice. He asks Mr. Henshaw a list of questions and Mr. Henshaw asks Leigh a list of questions back. Leigh does not answer them all right away, but does eventually.

Leigh tells Mr. Henshaw about his home life. His family used to live in a trailer, but his parents got divorced and Leigh and his mother had to move. They moved into a tiny cottage. Leigh didn’t have his dog anymore and his mom worked all the time. People kept stealing his lunch. He tried to make a lunch alarm and it worked for a bit. He didn’t have many friends, but he soon starts to make a few.

Leigh starts a diary and writes to Pretend Mr. Henshaw. Then he enters a story writing contest. He doesn’t win, but does receive an honorable mention. He’s still trying to work through his new home life, but Leigh’s friendship with Mr. Henshaw helps him along the way.

What I liked

I think it’s really nice that Mr. Henshaw took time out of his day to write back to Leigh so many times. We don’t see anything that Mr. Henshaw wrote, the book is rather one-sided, but it’s nice anyway. When I was in school, I met several authors actually, for various reasons. I always got singled out because I was one of the top readers in the school, no joke. Yes, I know I’m a nerd. I couldn’t tell you their names, but I remember getting to eat lunch with one of them in elementary school. I think it’s great when authors encourage kids to write and to imagine things. Their time may be filled with writing and promotion of their writing, so it’s nice when one of them takes time out to prod a kid along a little.

What I didn’t like

It’s all awfully sad about Leigh’s family splitting up, but sometimes it’s necessary. Sometimes two people just don’t work out. Leigh’s father was never going to grow up to the extent that Leigh’s mother needed. I feel you Leigh’s mom, I feel you. It’s still sad for Leigh because his family has been torn apart. He still gets to see both of them from time to time, but it’s not like it was.

I feel sorry for Leigh’s mom. She’s busting her butt trying to pay rent and raise Leigh all by herself all while having to emotionally reconcile the fact that the man she loved is just a big kid and will never be anything different. She may miss him, but she knows it’s not good for her, or Leigh, to be in that kind of environment. I know Leigh doesn’t entirely understand the situation, but maybe one day he will.


Let’s hope Leigh did become a writer.

Weigh In

Do you think penpals can comfort you even though they’re very far away?

Do you imagine that Mr. Henshaw became invested in Leigh’s life and looked forward to his letters?

#628 Matilda Bone by Karen Cushman

Matilda Bone by Karen CushmanMatilda Bone by Karen Cushman

Matilda is taken from the only life she knew and told that she is to be an apprentice to a bone setter on Blood and Bone Alley. The messenger will not even take her into the alley and tells her that she must go alone. There she meets Peg, who is the most blasphemous person Matilda has ever encountered. Matilda has been raised by a man of God and knew how to read Latin and say her prayers. She knew all the saints and many of the demons of Hell, but she really doesn’t know anything of the outside world.

Her life with Peg is quite difficult at first. Matilda doesn’t know how to make a fire or buy fish for dinner. People see her as innocent and take advantage of her, but she starts to learn, little by little. She makes mistakes with Peg and bone-setting. She lets the plaster harden, when she shouldn’t have.

Over time, Matilda watches Peg, and another woman who doctors people in the region, heal people. She thinks a physician in a nicer part of town knows more and would have more success, but it seems his ways are not necessarily the best ways. Matilda makes friends and starts to care for those around her. She learns that perhaps both life and religion are a little more complicated than she had first thought. Just because someone seems educated does not always mean they are wise.

What I liked

I have always thoroughly enjoyed Karen Cushman books. She writes for a very interesting time period in history. I love the characters in her books. They always end up learning important life lessons and skills that enable them to be adults in the real world. Karen puts a lot of research into her books. For this book, she did research medicine for the era. She read about healers of this nature or that nature.

I like that Matilda comes to be confident, or somewhat confident, in her own shoes. It’s difficult to find out who you are when you’re so young. What do you think about certain things? When do your opinions quit becoming the opinions of others and become your own opinions?

What I didn’t like

Let’s just be glad we’re not going to doctors back in the day. Some of their treatments still have their place in medicine, although rarely, but most of these treatments didn’t do a darn thing to help anybody. Leeches aren’t need for every ailment. There are truly some cases where you might need to use leeches in your healing process, but if you’ve just got a cold, you don’t need leeches.


Matilda is a great character and I loved all the folklore and medicinal talk.

Weigh In

Do you think people ever truly reach a point where their thoughts are solely their own thoughts and not the opinions of others?

At what point in life does a person start having their own real opinions?