Violet and the Mean and Rotten Pirates by Richard Hamilton, Read by Bill Wallis

violetandthemeanandrottenpiratesThis is a book my whole family listened to on a recent road trip. Pirates find an abandoned ship and in their hopes to find treasure they find a baby instead. They decide to keep the baby and name her Violet and call her Vile for short. These pirates are not all bad as they do seem to manage to raise the baby, keep her alive and the pirate captain faints when he sees blood. The pirates don’t want to kill people. They teach her all kinds of things including how to use a sword, sail a ship and to read. Of course they also have lots of adventure and eventually go on land to try and be land loving people, but mostly so that Violet can meet some other people. The pirates aren’t really sure what to do though as they have spent most of their lives on the sea robbing and pillaging ships. So they come up with a pretty creative idea to earn money – a pirate circus.

I liked the idea of a baby being raised by pirates, but I the book seeemed a little awkward in places and odd, but I guess the whole idea of pirates being able to raise a baby is odd. My daughter liked the story.

Other reviews of this book Cindy Valler,


Caroling for Christmas


We are excited to participate in the Blog Advent Tour 2008 this year. Special thanks to Marg and Kailana for hosting this event and you really should go and see all the blogs that are particpating. Check out the other advent posts for today at Jane from Janezlifeandtimes, Memory from Stella Matutina, Debbie from Friday Friends Book Blog.

One of the most consistent traditions in our home growing up, was going Christmas caroling to all our neighbors – usually right before Christmas (like the 23rd or 24th), because our other big family tradition is procrastinating (and not just for Christmas). We grew up in a family with seven brothers, which made for powerful voices, once they hit puberty. The ones who hadn’t hit it yet balanced out our severely lacking soprano section. 3 female voices to 8 male voices doesn’t exactly equal surround  sound. Our Mom was hoping to have the next family Von Trapp, so we all were exposed to music at a young age, memorizing the Christmas carol our Mom had found in a 1987 children’s magazine called Christmas Day.

cari_holly_christmasOur mom would often spend several hours preparing homemade goodies usually fudge and cookies – yummy!! Cari often volunteered to watch the plates in the back of the van and really what she wanted to do was snitch on some of the goodies (and yes they were delicious). Actually this was one of our most effective ways to make friends with our neighbors. One year the family across the street had gotten upset because of pranks by some neighbor kids. When we went over and sang our song it was like magic. They loved it and the neighbors were friendly from then on out. Singing to us is another form of communication. Often what makes high quality literature or literature that people like is the same elements you find in music – rhythm, rhyme and wonderful cadences. Music to us is just way to share our love of words.

christmas86Singing was also part of our annual Nativity reenactment. Though one year we had learned some ‘fun’ alternative lyrics to We Three Kings which, when our parents were recording our singing scene on the new video camera, came out as, “We Three Kings of Orient are, Tried to Smoke a loaded Cigar, It went boom and we went zoom. . .” and then we all burst into giggles. So much for the family von Trapp!

We highly recommend trying your hand at caroling or if you’re a little voice shy at least pick a favorite Christmas carol to learn as a family and sing together. If you do plan to try some caroling Scholastic has some great tips and links to popular Christmas songs at Caroling with Kids.

We’ve added a list of movies and books with Holiday songs or singing. Please feel free to add to our list and if we get lots of recommendations maybe we’ll do a round-up.

Holiday books with music or tied to a Christmas song.

I want a Hippopotomus for Christmas by John Rox and Bruce Whatley

Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer by Alan Benjamin and Peter Emslie

Twas the Night  Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore

Holiday Movies with Singing

White Christmas

Mr. Krueger’s Christmas

How the Grinch Stole Christmas? (1966)

These are just a few of the ones we could think of. So what’s your favorite Holiday song, movie or story with music? Or do you have some first-hand experience with caroling? We’d love to hear from you.

We got a Blog Award!!!!!!!!!

award_butterflyBook Scoops has received the Butterfly for the Coolest Blogs I ever know from Jama Rattigan. We are honored and excited to receive this award. As such, we will be passing on the award to some of the blogs 5-10 blogs. Now there are lot of blogs we like and think are cool and it’s hard to just limit it, but here are the ones we chose.

Nathan Hale at Space Station Nathan. At the risk of revealing how obsessed we  are with Rapunzel’s Revenge. He is the illustrator for Rapunzel’s Revenge and has awesome Dinosaur Advent Posts and paper doll printouts for Rapunzel’s Revenge. You need to check it out. 

Aaron Zenz at Bookie Woogie– Well okay so we already did a spotlight on this blog in November, but it continues to be one of our personal favorites. A dad and his kids talk about books and then draw pictures.

Deanna at Once Upon a Time. A teacher by day and an avid reader by night.  Gives detailed reviews of books. Her most recent review is of  Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Nancy Arruda and Kim Baise at Bees Knees Reads.We couldn’t resist this one because they are two sisters (remind you of anyone?) who also blog about books. There specialty is picture books. Right now they have some good Hanukkah Books.

Alisonwonderland mother and accountant who loves reading at So Many Books, So Little Time

I.N.K.Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. A blog that focuses on non-fiction for kids that Cari discovered last week. Great ideas for non-fiction reads.

Congratulations, all! Please pass on the Butterfly per these rules:

1. Put the logo on your blog. 
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
3. Award up to 10 other blogs.
4. Add links to those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message for your awardees on their blogs.

Brisingr by Christopher Paolini

brisingrI finally got a chance to read the third book in the Inheritance series. I put it on hold at the library and I was number 1,000 plus. So almost three months later I finally got to read it. Yeah!

For those of you who don’t know about the series Paolini became a New York Times bestselling author when he was nineteen with his book Eragon. Eragon is the name of the main character and his dragon Saphira are trying to defeat an evil dragon rider named Galboratrix who has taken over much of Alagaësia by killing dragons and riders alike. Galboratrix is nothing but evilness personified – he must be stopped. Basically the story is a mix of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings with Dragons. So if you like that sort of thing you would like this story.

I first discovered Eragon when I was teaching 8th grade history. I saw so many kids with this thick book that I finally had to check it out myself. I really enjoyed it. Since then I have recommended the series to several family members including my grandmother.

I have to admit I was a little aprehensive at first. My grandma said while she really liked the first two books, this one she did not – it was too bloody and too violent for her. My 19 year old brother really liked it. So I was not sure what to expect.

It is hard to do a review of a 700+ page book, where does one start? So I thought I would list a few of the things I didn’t like and the things I liked.

*****Some spoilers below*****

Continue reading

The Twelve Days of Christmas Reads

When we first set a goal to do do the Twelve days of Christmas on our blog, we had no idea that if we did it just like the song, that would be 364 books (albeit lots of repetition), and if we just do 12 books for the 12th day, 11 for 11 and so on . . . that would be 78 books! As much as we love books (and that’s an understatement), we just didn’t feel like it was quite necessary to go that crazy. So, to make it simpler, we each are doing one book for each of the Twelve days of Christmas- which makes 24 total books. I think that should be enough to keep us all busy. Although, I must admit, paring down our lists to just twelve has been difficult. In keeping with the festivities, Cari’s reviews are in red and Holly’s are in green. Rest assured, we have picked a variety to choose from in an attempt to satisfy everyone in your house- even the mouse!

On the 1st day of Christmas my true love read to me:

Flight of the Reindeer The True Story of Santa Claus & His Christmas Mission by Robert Sullivan, drawings by Glenn Wolff

Do you have a Santa doubter in your home? Are you struggling with scepticism this Christmas? Here is the best solution I have ever found! I’ve always been a believer, but this year, knowing we might be getting some serious questions on the home front, I decided to confront the questions head on. I found myself wondering, “Is this for real?” I flipped to the front and found that it’s so real that the Library of Congress categorized this book as non-fiction. When does that ever happen with a Christmas tale? A great coffee-table and reference book for the Santa-challenged parent. I don’t know if I can turn this back in to the library until I buy my own copy . . .

Holly Claus The Christmas Princess by Brittney Ryan and illustrated by Laurel Long & Jeffrey K. Bedrick

hollyclauschristmasprincessHolly Claus is none other then the daughter of Nicholas Claus and his wife Viviana. Holly is a beautiful princess of the land Forever and whose birth was long anticipated. Her existence is made possible by a young boy who writes a letter to Santa Claus and asks Santa what he would like for Christmas rather than asking for a list of presents. However Holly has a curse placed upon her by an evil warlock and her heart is surrounded by ice forcing her to stay in the cold unless she marries the warlock willingly.

thelegendofhollyclausOverall I liked this story and the illustrations are really quite beautiful. I call this the ultimate Christmas fairy tale complete with a princess and happy forever (especially since the North Pole is called Forever). There is a novel for middle readers also by Brittney Ryan and illustrated by Laurel Long – same story but much more fleshed out called The Legend of Holly Claus, which I really enjoyed.

On the 2nd Day of Christmas my true love read to me:

The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere

This one’s a real tear-jerker, so have a box of tissues on hand and don’t plan on going anywhere until the puffy eyes subside. Two tales intertwine to remind us what family and holidays are all about- love and togetherness. This book left me grateful for my dear ones and more determined to focus on what really counts.

Who will guide my sleigh tonight? by Jerry Pallotta Illustrated by David Biedrzycki

whowillguidemysleightonightI first saw this book at a book club’s mom and me Christmas brunch. I loved it! It goes through as Santa tries to determine what animal will make the best guide for his sled. Our kids loved this book. He goes through dolphins, skunks and elephants trying to decide which animal works the best. This one is great for children 2-5 and adults get a kick out of it too.

On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love read to me:

The Quiet Little Woman, A Christmas Story by Louisa May Alcott, presented by Stephen W. Hines

Three Enchanting Christmas stories by one of my favorite authors, rediscovered by industrious Mr. Hines, in a long-forgotten children’s magazine. I was thrilled to find that Alcott had stories I’ve never seen. Alcott works her magic in three short stories, The Quiet Little Woman, Tilly’s Christmas, and Rosa’s Tale. Definitely a medley that will please the palate.

Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco

christmastapestryHopefully based on a true story that the author heard once in homilies in the 1960s and again in the 1990s. If it is true its an amazing story if its not it’s still a great story and the book is classified as fiction so I guess it’s up to the reader to decide. The main character Jonathon is moving with his family to Michigan and he is upset over the move. His father is a preacher and the new church is not exactly new. In fact the whole area is run down and Jonathon wants to go back to his previous home. Through an unlikely series of events water damage in the church, a late bus, a tapestry, sharing tea with an old woman and the gentleman who comes to repair the wall. Jonathon and his father play a role in special Christmas miracle.

On the 4th day of Christmas my true love read to me:

The Great Santa Search As told to Jeff Guinn by Santa Claus himself

Number three in the Christmas Chronicles, I found this book to be hard going at first, but it sure finished up with a bang! Brimming with Christmas history and famous people. The history lover in the family, should enjoy this tale. And the children, and less ‘history’ loving people in the family, will enjoy the occasional illustrations, which will inspire them to read and find out what’s really going on. A nice explanation for the ‘why’ of Santa Claus and Christmas.

Auntie Claus by Elise Primevera

auntieclausThe first rule of Christmas is better to give than it is to receive or that’s what Sophie learns in this Christmas tale. Her whole family loves Christmas especially Sophie and her little brother and the more presents the better. Sophie’s curiousity gets the best of her when she wants to find out where their Auntie Claus disppears to every year around Christmas time and she stows away for an adventure and learns a very important lesson not to mention that Santa Claus has a sister!

On the 5th day of Christmas my true love read to me:

The Christmas Box by Eve Merriam illustrated by David Small

christmasboxbyevemerriamWe loved this hilarious tale reminiscent of Mary Poppin’sbottomless carpet bag. When Christmas morning comes, there is only one present under the tree. Can one present really be enough? What was Santa thinking?! Christmas simplified, sounds great to me and with this book it really is fun for the entire family.

Shall I knit you a Hat? a Christmas Yarn by Kate Klise Illustrated by M. Sarah Klise

shalliknityouahatI had to pick this book, it’s written and illustrated by sisters who apparently have collaborated before (I will be looking for more). This is a nice warm story as Mother Rabbit decides to knit a warm hat for Little Rabbit when a bad snow storm is supposed to blow in on Christmas Eve. Little Rabbit is so excited about his nice new hat that he wants to make sure that his friends will have a nice warm hat for Christmas so he and his mom go out and measure his animal friends and make hats for them for Christmas. When the winter storm comes in everyone has customized hat for the cold weather. I thought it would be fun to make a carrot cake as Little Rabbit and his mom have several pieces at the end of the book. Also if you had a child who was old enough you could teach them how to knit. Or if you give this book as a gift, give it with some knitting needles and yarn to go with it. Continue reading

Giving Books for Christmas

If you are dedicated to giving books for Christmas, then what do you do for those on your list who are not book people? Or who think they are not readers? Well, here are some ideas for including books in ways that just might inspire a new convert to literature.

I’m a big fan of getting books that create memories- because these are the books that will be turned to again and again to bring back childhood joy. I think we all could use a little bit of that, at least I know I could! So here are three ideas to make the holidays a little more ag’read’able (full of agreeable reading).

Don’t tell my kids, but this year we will have not one, not two, but three hippopotami under our Christmas tree. I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas has always been my favorite Christmas song, so I was thrilled to find this beautifully illustrated, comical book at our library last year. Illustrated lyrics to your favorite Christmas song? You just can’t beat that! So, knowing that our lists were already long enough last year, I decided to plot and plan so that this year my boys wouldn’t just get a book, but a ‘value meal’ of good reading. In June, I happened upon a Beanie Babie estate sale and was thrilled to find three little purply hippos, yes! Now, all that’s left is to order the book . . . I found the CD at Walmart for $5. Definitely worth having in your home library, this classic will bring out the kid in you and thrill the kids you know. I also checked online, there are numerous books with hippopotamus characters. Our own fellow blogger, Bookie Woogie (this is his website, not his blog) has a great title Hiccupotamus if you want to add another book to the stack. His great illustrations are even done in similarly vivid pinks and purples.

Another common holiday tradition is new pajamas for the Holidays. Who doesn’t remember at least once getting new pajamas as a gift? I said I was giving books for the holidays, right? Well, for all you pajama lovers outpercy there, I have another favorite to share with you. My boys are getting  pj’s too, but that’s not all . . .  here is one of our favorites that has yet to be added to the family library: The Practically Perfect Pajamas by Erik Brooks. I love that Percy the polar bear teaches us all, through his not so fun (but definitely funny) experiences that there is a certain dignity to wearing pajamas, despite what others might say. My boys and I all met Brooks in 2007 at a library presentation that was amazing! We loved the story behind his first book (to see more of his work go here ). That was before my blogging days, so sad to say it, I don’t have any pictures. But we all enjoyed ourselves and I’ve been determined to buy us a copy of this great book ever since. (I wanted it before that, but you know, living out in the middle of 40 acres of sagebrush with dial-up? (sigh). I rarely make it to the bookstore and trying to order books online . . . ‘nuf said.) Hopefully it will become a tradition to read it out loud in front of the fireplace on winter evenings in warm, new pajamas, Percy style. I think we’ll start that tradition Christmas night, after all the excitement has died down and the kids are getting ready for bed. What a great way to kick off the long winter nights ahead. Or, if you want to spread the cheer further, this would make a great New Year’s party gift for the kids who want to watch the ball drop the way Percy would- decked out in a pair of warm, possibly even footed, pajamas.

For the military lovers, here is a great idea to get multi-generational interaction. Many grandpas and dads have an affinity for military stories. So, get grandpa or dad a great military read, and give them a package of ‘army’ guys, a tank or two and a book that illustrates military strategies such as You Are the General 2: 1800-1899 by Nathan Aaseng or something less strategic like The Marine Corps in Action also by Aaseng to share with the grandkids. Better yet, give the grandkids the strategy books and the toys and grandpa and Dad opposing colors so they can challenge each other in battle. Of course, you may need a few ground rules so that WWIII doesn’t start in your living room. Great Aunt Gertrude can supervise. This might just motivate a heretofore non-reader to do a little reading in the name of researching a way to conquer opposing forces.

This same concept can be applied over and over again with different interests and age groups. As we all know in the kidlitosphere, no one is ever too young for juvenile literature! If Dad is a train engineer and this is the year of the new model train, get a book about trains to go along with it. The kids just might have a great time looking at it with Dad. If there’s a chef in the family, a new cookbook and some kitchen gadgets would probably be a hit. How about the gardener? A flower catalog and some landscaping books will leave them salivating for that snow to melt. We all need something to fill those afternoon hours after the gifts have been opened when we are all saying, “Now what?” My answer is going to be found between the covers of some really great books!

Alphabet Books 8-14

The Icky Bug Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta Illustrated by Ralph Masiello

ickybugalphabetI thought this book was okay. My daughter liked looking at the pictures of all the different “bugs”, which included spiders and insects. I liked that it had a little bit of information for each bug. My biggest complaint is that at the end of the book he says that “The Orb Spider, Water Spider and Tarantula are spiders. The Velvet Mite and the Scorpian are arachnids.” Spiders are arachnids too so I thought that was confusing. But that’s just me. So it could be a good book to begin a study of “bugs”, which I always thought of as insects. I am over analyzing too much?

The Disappearing Alphabet by richard wilbur Illustrated by david diaz

disappearingalphabetI think I got this book at a Scholastic Warehouse sale for a buck. It wasn’t worth it. The book idea is cute as they go through the alphabet asking the reader to pretend what life would be like without that letter. However, the rhymes seem forced at times and just odd. I did like the illustrations, colorful and fun. The book has great potential that didn’t materialize.

Miss Spider’s ABC Written and Illustrated by David Kirk

missspiderabc1This book was recommended by Bookie Woogie when I first posted a list of ABC books who said “the most vivid colors I’ve ever seen in a picturebook.” He was right. I cannot say enough about the pictures. They are vivid, vibrant and so full of color it’s easy to spend several minutes on each page admiring the art work. My 4-year old loved the book. The verse is fun creative and very buggy and compliments the illustrations very well. I would definitely buy this book.

Alphabet by Mathew Van Fleet Edited and Art Directed by Skip Skwarek

alphabetvanfleetThis is a very thick, pop-up book with lots of different textures to use. This is a good book to use with young children as it is very tactile – little ones love to lift flaps and touch things. Like the Velvety tall Giraffes are really – velvety. Great way to introduce reading to a young child.

G is for One Gzonk! by TINY DiTERLOONEY (aka Tony DiTerlizzi)

gisforonegzonk1This book claims to NOT teach you the alphabet and is written for children ages 4-7. It also includes number counting as well. Each letter is represented by an fictional monster created by TINY. My daughter loved the book. She thought it was fun and that the monsters where funny. It reminded my of Dr. Suess only for older kids.

Picture a letter by Brad Sneed

picturealetterThis is a wordless alphabet book for kids ages 4-7. In other words each page has pictures of things that start with that letter. For letter the letter A there is an acrobat. Loved the pictures which he did on watercolor paper with mixed medium. It took a while to go through the book and we have since read it at least 3 times. My daughter loves looking for pictures that started with the corresponding letter and each time we found more pictures that started with the corresponding letter. There is a key at the end of the book of all the different items, which helped because sometimes I didn’t know the name of a paricularly animal or illustration. Two mice accompany you on the journey – one to set up the letter and the other to watch. This is a fantastic book, great illustrations and a great way to teach beginning sounds.

Akira to Zoltán: Twenty-Six Men Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee Illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy

akiratozoltan1I saw this one when I checked out the author’s website and thought it looked like a great companion to Amelia to Zora which I did a review for last month. I loved this book. It talked about so many different men from athletes to artists to scientists to peace activists and more and their contributions to the world from all backgrounds. Loved it, loved it, loved it! Same format as the other book as it uses the gentlemen’s first names and includes a quote from each man. The pictures are all done with a mixed medium in a collage style. One of my favorites is B for Badshah who lead the larges nonviolent protest group ever of 100,000 in what is now part of Pakistan. This would be a good one for 3rd grade on up.

Bee & Me by Elle J. McGuinness illustrated by Heather Brown

Brilliant colored  illustrations combined with technology called animotion, will pull you in to this lovely book. For those ‘scanimation’ aficionados who enjoyed Rufus Butler Seder’s Gallop! Here is a similar book to enjoy. Bee Me goes a step beyond the primarily black and white moving pictures in Gallop! There are windows of multi-color flying bees, running dogs and moving humans in the midst of colorful illustrations. My children fought over control of this book the moment we got it home. We had to stretch the pages open wide to help get the mechanisms inside working, but once the thick pages were fixed, the action began! I loved that there was a storyline to follow (a lesson about fear and insects) in addition to the illustrations. I really enjoy the combination of animation and illustration and can’t wait to check out what this team comes up with next. Speaking of sequels . . . I can’t wait to check out Seder’s newest release, Swing! with a baseball player hitting a ball on the front cover. Baseball is a family past-time, not to mention one of America’s favorite sports, so I’m sure that this book will be a hit with my boys.