Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin, Illustrated by Rosana Faria, Translated by Elisa Amado

Holly: The Black Book of Colors is amazing. I just keep thinking about how amazing it is. Combining English and Braille, does that qualify as bi-lingual? I’m not sure of the right term to use.

Cari: I loved how the author attempted to describe colors without being able to see, I loved it! The words are delicious.

Holly: Hmmm, I would venture to say that yellow tastes like lemon, not mustard, but it could taste like mustard, or lemon or banana. Which I guess are all delicious in their proper setting.

Cari: I really liked that it made you think differently and appreciate maybe what the world is like for someone who can’t see. I thought the author did an excellent job, and I want it in Spanish since it was orginally written in Spanish.

Holly: Really? It was done in Spanish first?

Cari; Yep, some of the other reviews said that the braille isn’t what a blind person really would read, it needs to be more raised. But it makes you think how important tactile books are for children who are blind because that is how they see the world.

Holly: I had my kids read the book with their eyes closed. (Of course, mine were open, so I could read). They wanted to peek so they could see, their favorite was the rain pouring down – they thought that felt like rain.

Cari: We should clarify that all of the pictures are black, they are not in color, The text is grey.

Holly: The most controversial ‘picture’ for us was the one that was hair and my littlest one adamantly insisted  that doesn’t feel like mommy’s hair.

Cari: I loved that part, I thought it felt like hair.

Holly: I thought it felt like hair too, or at least how hair would ‘feel’ like illustrated on paper.

Cari: I wonder what things felt like for Great Grandma B when she went blind?

Holly: She must have been able to tell quite a bit by the limited colors she could see and what she could feel . . .

Cari: . . .because we each got a quilt made especially for us as her great grandchildren.

Holly: Yep. I still have mine. . . but I won’t rub that little fact in or anything.

Cari: Go right ahead. It’s not like we’ve never brought up this subject before.

And now . . . for a trip down memory lane:

One of our favorite shows to watch growing up was Little House on the Prairie. We loved it so much that we actually played Little House on frequent occasions. A monumental day was when Mary Ingalls was actually declared blind. That changed everything. How would we pretend to be Mary if she couldn’t see? Shortly after this episode, we were hanging out with some friends when we decided to play Little House. Cari got to be the fun-loving rambunctious Laura while Holly (enraptured with the beautiful Melissa Sue Anderson) was thrilled to play Mary.

Cari: You can be Mary, Holly, but it has to be Mary before she was blind, you can’t pretend you can’t see, we all know you can see.

Holly: Oh yeah? I can be blind like Mary, I’ll just keep my eyes closed!

Cari: I’ll make a bet with you. If you can keep your eyes closed the whole time, I’ll let you . . .

Holly: What?

Cari: Um, I’m not sure. I guess I’ll let you be in charge next time.

Holly: Okay! Hey guys, do you want to come over to our house? We could all put on pioneer dresses and play Little House on the Prairie

Cari: Yeah, let’s go. I’ll race you there on my bike.

Friend #1: How are we gonna get there if Holly has to have her eyes closed?

Friend #2: Yeah, you can’t ride a bike with your eyes closed!

Holly: You wanna bet? I betcha I can ride my bike all the way to my house without peaking. Not even once.

Cari: All right! The last one there’s the rotten egg!

Holly: That’s not fair! I didn’t say I’d get there fast! Wait for me!!!

Friend # 1: Woah, Cari, look! I think Holly really has her eyes closed.

Friend # 2: Are you really closing your eyes?

Holly: Don’t my eyes look closed? I promise I”m not peeking. (okay, so honesty didn’t always work in my favor when it came to bets with Cari) Keep talking so I can follow your voices.

Cari: Woah! I think she’s really doing it! She must have learned how to tell where she’s going from that one pillowcase game we play. I didn’t know she’d gotten so good.

Holly: See, I told you I could do it. Now, I get to be in charge! Laura, you’re the younger sister so you have to do what I say. Now, go take care of Carrie!

Cari: No, Mary. I’m too busy playing with my friends right now. We’re going to go fishing by the creek! Too bad you’re blind Mary, or maybe you could come with us. See you later!

Holly: Hey! Wait! I’ll be the Mary before she goes blind! I wanna go fishing too. Wait up!


Winter Lights by Anna Grossnickle Hines



In anticipation of Christmas, I selected one of my favorite books. Since it’s so cool and there is more than just Christmas about it, I really wanted to share it. One of my most recent hobby acquisitions is quilting and I was amazed, to say the least, at the beautiful quilts that illustrate this book. My favorite one is a double-page spread of a young child looking out over hills of snow as the sun is setting. The companion poem echoes the feelings my children have when they get home from school only to have, if they’re lucky, an hour to play in the snow before the sun goes down. The poems and quilts weave together to bring warmth and comfort no matter how that wind is blowing outside!


This unique way of illustrating a book through pictorial quilts has me in awe of the amazing Hines. Equally impressive are the demonstration pages at the back of the book where she shares how she makes her quilts and brings her books to life.



I finally have my first quilt finished. It took me two long years to embroider and piece. It was machine quilted by Joyce Ross, an amazing free-hand quilting artist. My boys and I love to curl up with our snowman quilt and read stories together (after they wash their hands of course). We call it our snowman quilt and creating a tradition of reading with a special quilt has my boys excited to snuggle up and read some winter stories together. They know this quilt is special- they’ve seen me working on it forever!

Breaking Through by Fransisco Jimenez

Breaking Through

Sequel to “The Circuit” (which I haven’t read)

My husband picked out this book for me- and I have to say, I wasn’t exactly attracted to the cover and probably wouldn’t have picked it out for myself, but I’m so glad he picked it, because I really enjoyed reading it. A biographical history of the amazing author of La Mariposa (one of my original reviews), Breaking Through documents the struggles of Fransisco’s family as they are deported and then readmitted to America. The humiliation of being taken out of school by immigration officials and the discomfort of the long journey to the border were palpable.

Jimenez documents his experiences as an immigrant, first illegal and finally legal. Fransisco and his brother face prejudice and hard work with determination. When told that he could easily pass for white, or say he is from Spain and thus escape the difficulties of being treated as a Mexican, Fransisco courageously replies that he is proud to be Mexican and has no reason to hide his heritage. The story reminded me of the stories of many people I met while we lived in Quincy, Washington- a small farming town with a large immigrant-worker population. Jimenez truly broke out of the poverty cycle and has done amazing things for himself, his family, and his friends. Have you ever put off reading a book because of the cover? Thank goodness I can’t resist a good book put right in front of me, because this one is worth the time and effort, even though I don’t like the cover.

Charlotte’s Rose by Ann Cannon

charlotte's_roseI need to preface this review with a bit of explanation. As many of you know I live in Utah and I grew up in western Idaho, which means we heard a lot about pioneer stories growing-up both the traditional Oregon Trail, ones complete with covered wagons, gold mines, buffalo and American Indians plus heavy dose of the Mormon Trail stories as well, being that I belong to the Mormon church or rather The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

So when I first saw Charlotte’s Rose was part of the selection for the Children’s Literature Book Club in June I was not too excited to read about another western migration story. However, the author, Ann Edwards Cannon, was going to be at our book club (it doesn’t look very good if you haven’t read the book). Plus I am not always a fan of historical fiction (and I taught U.S. History for 5 years and I made my students write historical fiction, funny  huh? ). The main reasons is I am picky when it comes to historical fiction. If an author hasn’t done their research and then written well enough tomake me believe I am in that particular time period than I just can’t get into the story.

But I have to say that I loved Charlotte’s Rose!!!I was with Charlotte the whole way and I wanted her to succeed. Charlotte’s Rose is about a Welsh handcart company full of Mormon immigrants who are making their way west to Utah. A handcart is similar to a wheelbarrow and is pulled by a person and were designed to allow immigrants who were too poor to afford a wagon to still make the trek across Great Plains. It was by in large a success allowing over 3,000 converts to move to Utah. 

Charlotte is a 12 year old girl traveling with her father and one of the women in the group dies in childbirth leaving an infant daughter. The father, struggling to deal with the grief of losing his wife refuses to care for the baby. Twelve year old Charlotte volunteers for the task, names the baby Rose and literally carries her across the Great Plains.

I have to say I really felt like I was in the 1800s and I thought that Ann Cannon did an excellent job, her research is superb and I thought this book appeals more to a national audience. Really I think she hit the nail on the head as to what it was like to be a poor immigrant coming to the United States. Like a lot of historical fiction, Charlotte’s Rose is based on a true story. Ann once met a man who said that a pioneer relative who at the age of 12  carried a baby on her back across the Great Plains as part of the Mormon migration to Utah and that became the inspiration for this story.

I learned a valuable lesson, that you can’t always judge a book based on previous experience with stories that are similar. I really do think this book appeals to a general audience, it’s not didactic or preachy, it really is about a girl who struggles to find herself while caring for this baby named Rose.

Charlotte’s Rose is currently out of print, used copies are available and at book club Ann stated she is hoping to get the rights to this book, which I truly hope she does.

Ann E. Cannon’s website and blog. (She really is a great lady and has a wonderful sense of humor so a visit to her blog is well worth it)

What books have you been surprised that you liked?

On Ambulance Ride #2 and The Young Adult Novel Writing Contest

You can probably guess for the title that my daughter, age 5 got another ride in an ambulance today, her second in less than a month. I dropped her off this morning at school and got a call from the school before I had even pulled into the driveway of my house. I think I got to the school in record time and when I arrived she was still having a seizure. This one lasted for about 15 minutes, which is really scary. If I was scared last time, this time was worse. She is home now and we have another type of medicine that we can give her to stop a seizure if it lasts longer than 5 minutes. Other than being tired and missing school today she is back to her normal self. The doctor believes that the daily medication she is currently taking has not had time to build up in her body yet. In fact we have to increase the dose slowly over a period of weeks in order to avoid some less than desirable side effects. It could take up to 6 weeks for the medicine to start working effectively. Needless to say I didn’t get any of my plans done today, but that’s okay. My daughter is way more important than doing laundry, grocery shopping, reading and even blogging.

Thank goodness I had read Natasha Maw’s post (which has some really great children’s books about going to the hospital) about when her little guy drank some paint thinner. She has to hand off her baby real fast so she could ride with the paint thinner drinker to the hospital. Because of that I had already thought of what to do with my toddler if something like this happened. I had a list of neighbors in my phone that I knew I could call in a crisis and within 5 minutes my neighbor was at the school and took my toddler home with her. It was a relief to know that I am surrounded by caring and willing people. I really have a lot to be grateful for good neighbors, good doctors and a caring school staff. I certainly wish my daughter didn’t have to deal with Epilepsy, but it could be a lot worse.

On another note, I am participating or plan to participate in the Young Adult Novel Writing Contest hosted by Gotham Writer’s Workshop as apart of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo),  which is a fabulous opportunity if  you would like to publish a YA novel.

The Grand prize is an opportunity to submit a whole manuscript to Regina Brooks and free writing course form Gotham Writer’s Workshop. There are some other really cool prizes as well, like getting a chance to pitch your book to a Ms. Brooks and some feedback from editors at some major publishing houses – Random House, Harper Collins, Penguin, Knopf Books, Harlequin, and Source Books. All you need to do is submit the first 250 words of your novel along with a title at their contest website.

If you’ve ever had an inkling of writing a YA novel or have one in progress here’s a chance at success. I know it’s certainly motivated me. I’ve been working on and off on a novel for several months, but needed something to help me get focused. I wish I could participate in the NaNoWriMo, but the stars are not aligning correctly so I do what I can.

Good luck and let me know if you decide to participate in the contest and I will keep you posted on my daughter and pray that she has no more seizures.