Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cinematic Saturday Earth Day!: The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

Instead of having our book/movie comparison on Saturday, we thought it would be appropriate to have it on Earth Day and do a book within such a theme! I present to you...The Lorax!

Title: The Lorax
Author: Dr. Suess
Publication Date: August 12th, 1971
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Genre: Children's
Pages: 72
Source: Amazon.com

Synopsis (from Goodreads): 
He's shortish.
And oldish...
And brownish. And mossy...
And he spoke with a voice...
that was sharpish and bossy.

Long before “going green” was mainstream, Dr. Seuss’s Lorax spoke for the trees and warned of the dangers of disrespecting the environment. In this cautionary rhyming tale, we learn of the Once-ler, who came across a valley of Truffula Trees and Brown Bar-ba-loots (“frisking about in their Bar-ba-loot suits as they played in the shade and ate Truffula Fruits”), and how his harvesting of the tufted trees changed the landscape forever. With the release of the blockbuster film version, the Lorax and his classic tale have educated a new generation of young readers not only about the importance of seeing the beauty in the world around us, but also about our responsibility to protect it.


Dr. Seuss has many great books. 
Many great books that make me want to look. 
They have pretty colors and many clever things, 
the cute little creatures make me want to sing! 
He sometimes has a message that makes you think, 
just like in the Lorax, it will tickle you pink! 
He liked to make things educational and fun,
Fun, Fun, Fun for everyone!

Okay so that's my sad attempt at reviewing in Dr. Seussian. Hardy har har. I love The Lorax. I love Dr. Seuss. Actually, I have every intention of decorating my children's nursery in Dr. Seuss trimmings. I know a lot of people have controversy about the message he's trying to send here, but honestly, I think people can be a little overly-critical of children's picture books. Unless the information is deliberately inaccurate, just take it at face value and look at it through the eyes of a child. Sometimes the simplest lessons are the best lessons, and you just need to enjoy the ride. My children will most definitely know who Dr. Seuss is! Also, did you know they have a pop-up book, too?

Title: The Lorax
Rated: PG 
Studio: Universal
DVD Release Date: August 7th, 2012
Run Time: 86 minutes

Synopsis (from Amazon): 
The imaginative world of Dr. Seuss comes to life like never before in this visually spectacular adventure from the creators of Despicable Me! Twelve-year-old Ted will do anything to find a real live Truffula Tree in order to impress the girl of his dreams. As he embarks on his journey, Ted discovers the incredible story of the Lorax, a grumpy but charming creature who speaks for the trees. Featuring the voice talents of Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Rob Riggle, Jenny Slate, and Betty White, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax is filled with hilarious fun for everyone!

So I really liked the movie, as cheesy as a lot of it was. However, I was glad they made Mr. Once-ler look more like a businessman rather than the Grinch's arms the whole time.

Not to mention the adorable Brown Bar-ba-loots that make you want to take them home and snuggle the marshmallows out of them. I want one. I shall call him squishy and he shall be mine.

I do wish they incorporated more of the "Dr. Seuss spirit" in the dialogue. Unfortunately, the movie was glamorized and at times overdone. Obviously they had to turn a 72 page book into an hour and a half long movie while fitting within the caliber of successful cinematics of today, so I give them snaps for trying.

Now let's tackle the real reason we're all here. Why on God's green earth didn't Zac Efron or Taylor Swift sing AT ALL in this movie? I don't even see them on the soundtrack! Apparently Hollywood thought it wise to simply pay for their names and not their talents this time around.
* * *
Also, in the spirit of Earth Day, I discovered this blog with The Lorax crafts for you and your kids to enjoy: The Classroom Creative - The gang over at Fifty Five Below also had some great ideas for games (this was actually for a birthday party, but it's just as fitting). - Enjoy!

Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Geisel in Springfield, Massachusetts on March 2, 1904.  After attending Dartmouth College and Oxford University, he began a career in advertising.  His advertising cartoons, featuring Quick, Henry, the Flit!,  appeared in several leading American magazines.  Dr. Seuss's first children's book, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, hit the market in 1937, and the world of children's literature was changed forever!  In 1957, Seuss's The Cat in the Hat became the prototype for one of Random House's best- selling series, Beginner Books.  This popular series combined engaging stories with outrageous illustrations and playful sounds to teach basic reading skills.  Brilliant, playful, and always respectful of children, Dr. Seuss charmed his way into the consciousness of four generations of youngsters and parents.  In the process, he helped kids learn to read.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 and three Academy Awards, Seuss was the author and illustrator of 44 children's books, some of which have been made into audiocassettes, animated television specials, and videos for children of all ages.  Even after his death in 1991, Dr. Seuss continues to be the best-selling author of children's books in the world.

Lol He looks so angry.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Review: Rain by Kathryn Hewitt

Title: Rain
Author: Kathryn Hewitt
Publisher: Createspace
Publication Date: October 28th, 2013
Pages: 224
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Paperback from Author

Summary (from the Author):  For every decision made there is a consequence that is certain to follow. Whether the consequence is beneficial or distressing, it must exist. 
Rain continues the story of Ruth three and a half years after the miraculous event that changed her life forever. Now a mother of a toddler, Ruth is found moving herself back in to the college dormitory for the second year. 
Feeling as though she isn’t worth the love of a good man, Ruth sabotages her relationship with James; the man she believes is her one true soul mate. Unable to accept his love and grace, she sends him away believing it is the right thing to do. But Ruth has much to learn about love and grace. Like she felt with James, so she feels about her faith; undeserved and unworthy.
Lost in a state of depression and feeling the effects of a raging storm, Ruth is desperate to find something of solidity to grasp ahold. After a traumatic sexual assault, she finds herself in a depression much deeper than she’d ever imagine. Feeling as though only bad things happen to bad people, she sets course a path of self destruction, determined to drown herself in the shame she believes she deserves. 
It’s been said, When it rains, it pours. And for Ruth, that statement couldn’t ring more true. When storm after storm brings pelting rain and raging winds into Ruth’s life, she gives up on ever regaining the innocence she’d once had. Blinded by depression and desperation Ruth can’t see the shelters continuously being provided for her. Though she turned her back on her faith, the One who extends mercy, gives Ruth the grace she desperately needs. Now, Ruth must find her way back and cling to the faith that saved her once before.  

Kathryn Hewitt was born and raised in the small town of Camden, South Carolina. Breaking away from becoming a stereotype, she was an Honors Graduate and went on to study British Literature and Sociology at Charleston Southern University, inspiring to be a High School English teacher. 
Kathryn has a passion for teaching teenagers and reaching out to those who seem as though the world has closed the door. 

Because of her own experiences, including becoming a teenage mother at fifteen, Kathryn knows the value of life and the blessings it contains. Understanding the importance of making wise decisions, Kathryn passionately seeks to instill that wisdom into the minds of every young lady she encounters. The inspiration for Kathryn's writings comes from her own experiences, and she is never afraid to speak the truth that others refuse to acknowledge.

Kathryn married in 2005 and is a stay at home mom with her four sons. She and her family currently live in the same town she grew up.

Like in her book Snow, Kathryn captures the essence of life through the pages of Rain. Even her credits touched my heart and I felt such deep compassion for her experiences, as well as those who have and will face similar circumstances and decisions. I stand by what I said about the previous book, this is a great read for teenage girls. It will break your heart and cause you rethink judging peoples' dispositions in life. I can totally relate to the feeling of knowing people are judging you, because from the outside things look differently than what they are.

I loved seeing how Ruth progressed through the story and how she was able to find God. In her darkest moments, she was able to develop courage and perseverance...even when she didn't know it. I also loved the ending, but I won't give that part away. ;) It made me smile.

This is such a beautiful story, and I hope we see much more from Kathryn Hewitt in the future. I think the only thing I would complain about is the font for the book. For some reason by eyes felt strained while reading it. I can't tell if it's too small or too light, but something about it was difficult. Other than that, this is a great book!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Review: Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Brian Pinkney

Title: Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra
Author: Andrea Davis Pinkney, Brian Pinkney (Illustrator)
Publication Date: March 3rd, 1998
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Genre: Children's
Pages: 32
Source: Private Library
Awards: Caldecott Honor 1999, 
Coretta Scott King Award for Illustrator Honor 1999 


Synopsis (from Goodreads): 
Hailed as the "King of the Keys," most people called his music jazz, but Duke Ellington said it was "the music of my people." A most fitting tribute to a great man who proudly celebrated the history of African-Americans, from slavery to civil rights struggles. Brian Pinkney's artwork swings and sways in a reflection of Ellington's music.


Andrea Davis Pinkney is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 20 books for children, including the Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book Duke Ellington, illustrated by Brian Pinkney; Let it Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and winner of the Carter G. Woodson Award; and Alvin Ailey, a Parenting Publication Gold medal winner.

Pinkney's newest books include Meet the Obamas and Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride, which has garnered three starred reviews and has been named one of the "Best Books of 2009" by School Library Journal. In 2010, Andrea's book entitled Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down, was published on the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro, North Carolina, sit-ins of 1960.

Her mother is a teacher and her father is a great storyteller, so growing up surrounded by books and stories is what inspired Andrea Davis Pinkney to choose a career as an author. The first official story she remembers writing was in second grade — it was about her family. Pinkney was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Connecticut. She went to Syracuse University, where she majored in journalism. After college, she followed her dream and worked as an editor for Essence magazine, but after watching her husband, Caldecott Award-winning artist Brian Pinkney, illustrate children's books, she decided to switch jobs and became involved in book publishing.

Andrea Davis Pinkney currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, (Jerry) Brian Pinkney was raised in an artistic household. "My two brothers and sister and I played musical instruments, and we were always drawing, painting, or building things," the illustrator once recalled of his childhood. While his mother, children's book author Gloria Jean Pinkney, would inspire all her children with a love of reading, it would be his father, illustrator Jerry Pinkney, who would serve as a mentor to young Brian. "I did everything he did," Pinkney would later admit. "My desk was a miniature version of his desk. The paintbrushes and pencils I used were often the ones from his studio that were too old or too small for him to use. I had a paint set like his and a studio like his. Except my studio was a walk-in closet, which made it the perfect size for me."

According to the book back flap, he has played the drums since he was eight years old. He still keeps a set of drumsticks in his studio where, when resting from his illustrations, he sometimes taps out rhythms on the back of his chair. 

With his wife, writer Andrea Davis Pinkney, he makes his home in Brooklyn NY.

Andrea: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Brian: Website | Twitter | Facebook

        First I'd like to point out what a fine-looking couple the author and illustrator are! You know you're blessed when your soulmate's calling in life coincides with your own. That is just so darn precious.

This children's book comes not only with funky artwork, but the language is also set to its own beat. You learn cool new metaphors like "spicier than a pot of jambalaya!" or slang terms like "swankiest." You and your child(ren) can have fun together enjoying the colorful movement of the pages while learning about Duke Ellington's musical legacy during a time of racism. Andrea Davis Pinkney does a masterful job of creating equal movement with her words throughout the book. 

Interestingly enough, the pictures are done by the scratchboard painting technique. Scratchboard painting is created by using a white board that is covered with black ink and taking a nib (a very sharp tool) to scratch wavy ink that creates an image. Once the image is designed, the scratched part is painted over with oil paints, Luma dyes, and acrylic paints. Voila! A beautiful masterpiece that is unique, colorful, and pleasing to the young eye.

      I loved the velvety rhythm and movement between the words and illustrations. This is a very unique book that can be used as an educational tool for both musical and African-American history. I would suggest playing some of Duke Ellington's music along with this book to enhance the learning experience. I look forward to discovering more books by these two!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Review: Snow by Kathryn Hewitt

Title: Snow
Author: Kathryn Hewitt
Publisher: Westbow Press
Publication Date: May 23rd, 2012
Pages: 308
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Paperback from Author

Summary (from the Author):  How do you know, at fifteen, what love and affection really mean? Ruth learned all too soon that love is commitment, and affection has a price. But who will ultimately make the commitment, and who will pay the price?

At fifteen, Ruth thought she had her life planned out. That is until she met Luke, a charming new cadet from the local military school. After entering into a seemingly harmless teenage romance, Luke's possessive attitude and subtle remarks begin to undermine Ruth's confidence, sending her into an emotional tailspin.

A beautiful young girl is suddenly lost in a grown-up world, trying desperately to hang on to a love she thought would last forever. Shattered dreams and hopeless tears become the bricks that build walls around Ruth; yet just below her broken heart, a beautiful vessel is being formed.

Join Ruth on her wedding day, five years later, as her childhood friend helps her journey back to face the demons of her past.


Kathryn Hewitt was born and raised in the small town of Camden, South Carolina. Breaking away from becoming a stereotype, she was an Honors Graduate and went on to study British Literature and Sociology at Charleston Southern University, inspiring to be a High School English teacher. 
Kathryn has a passion for teaching teenagers and reaching out to those who seem as though the world has closed the door. 

Because of her own experiences, including becoming a teenage mother at fifteen, Kathryn knows the value of life and the blessings it contains. Understanding the importance of making wise decisions, Kathryn passionately seeks to instill that wisdom into the minds of every young lady she encounters. The inspiration for Kathryn's writings comes from her own experiences, and she is never afraid to speak the truth that others refuse to acknowledge.

Kathryn married in 2005 and is a stay at home mom with her four sons. She and her family currently live in the same town she grew up.

Every teenage girl needs to grab a copy of this book. "Do not awaken love until the time is right" is the underlying theme of this book, however, it also shows how there is still hope and redemption when our human druthers get in the way of this principal. You will be given a fresh perspective on the reality and consequences of our choices in life, along with the struggles and the strength that comes from them.

There is no sugar-coating for Kathryn, and you can sense her passion for her audience in the pages. She tackles the issues of abortion, teenage pregnancy, and premarital sex in a way that is real, but palatable. She opens you to the option of waiting or being born-again, and the beauty that can come from your ashes. 

I am so glad to see a book like this. We need a present-day role model who writes about present-day realities that young girls face and are unsure where to turn in order to face them. This is definitely a book I'm keeping on my shelf for my future daughter(s)!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Review: Mary's Diary: The life of Jesus through His mother's eyes by Marilyn Friesen

Title: Mary's Diary: The life of Jesus through His mother's eyes
Author: Marilyn Friesen
Publication Date: January 19th, 2012
Publisher: iUniverse
Genre: Historical
Pages: 256
Source: PDF from Author


Synopsis (from Goodreads): 
Mary was just one of the carefree young girls who went to the well at dawn to get water. I enjoyed watching her because she seemed unusually sweet and innocent- and sincere. No one knew what to think when she fled so suddenly to Elisabeth's place in Ain Karim. Rumor had it she had seen an angel, but I didn't put too much stock in that. After all, she was young and impressionable. But when she came back obviously pregnant, how the tongues did wag!

I watched her from a distance, all through the years. I heard about the remarkable flight to Egypt with her husband, Joseph, and was glad they chose to return to Nazareth after all was said and done. They had a cute boy; they named him Jesus. A person couldn't help loving him. I could tell she was really wrapped up in her children, especially that boy. I had to scratch my head a few times, though, when he started doing miracles-pretty uncanny, that.

But his preaching, well, that sure had a way of touching the heart. That same heart nearly broke when I saw her grief when her boy was crucified.

You'll read about it through Mary's eyes, through her words and her tears, in this, her diary.

To say that Marilyn has always loved writing may be a slight exaggeration, but not by much. Marilyn started churning out stories on her dad's old typewrite at the age of twelve, and the fascination with writing continues to grow. 

When talking about her writings, Marilyn says, "My goal is to make my writing as realistic as possible, no matter what the setting!"

Marilyn, who is a Mennonite, is mother to nine children and grandmother to four grandchildren. She and her husband, Stephan, have been happily married for over thirty-five years.

        What a beautiful book, and so fitting for Good Friday! This is the first of its kind that I have come across, and I could just feel the perspicacity pour off the pages. Marilyn Friesen conducts us through the journey of Mary's life from the moment she is visited by Gabriel, to the moment of rejoicing after the resurrection. There is no doubt that through reading this book, you will feel the effect if what it may have been like to walk with Jesus through His life here on earth.

Each journal entry has a consistent format that contains a "Dear Diary" and a date. It is clear the Friesen has made ample effort to do her research and not only make things as accurate as she could, but also keep things readable for those who may not understand what 27th Elul means (September 14th). She also includes many keywords accompanied by a glossary in the back to help readers maximize their reading experience. I would advise readers to look over the glossary BEFORE reading the book so they have an idea of what these words are when they stumble upon them, rather than having to flip back and forth, interrupting their reading. 

What I didn't necessarily like about the book are two things: 1) The cover. It is a lovely image, but I feel like the content of this book deserves better. It doesn't make me look at it and think I'm about to read a beautiful recount of history from the heart of the mother of Christ. 2) Consistency in the language. There were times the historical context was jumbled within modern language and it felt just a tad bit inconsistent.

As for content, I truly felt like I was right next to Mary during the years she spent with Jesus. It's so easy to feel so disconnected from that time in history that we look at it more as a "story" or just another event in history. But as today is Good Friday, let us remember that it is this very event that we are here and have hope for salvation. 

This was a perfect book for Easter Weekend. I was left feeling inspired, hopeful, and eminently grateful for the miraculous gift of life and freedom I have in Christ.

From a splendid throne He rules
With power to set men free
From Satan's bonds so cruel
 The resurrected King!"