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Bunjitsu Bunny Jumps to the Moon by John Himmelman

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 144 pgs.
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Bunjitsu Bunny Jumps to the Moon by John Himmelman is the third book in the series, and as you probably guessed, my daughter loved this one too. She now has me acting out the scenes using her favorite stuffed animals.

Here, Bunjitsu Bunny continues to learn lessons in kindness and patience, as well as the value of practice. In the same zen-like manner, this bunny tackles the challenges she faces with calm thoughtfulness. One great lesson is to look in front of you for the answers you seek before running around everywhere else to find the answers.

In addition to the Bunjitsu Code, which is in every book, there is an interview with the author. Kids can learn about Himmelman’s favorite subject in school, which just happens to be my daughter’s favorite — art. I loved learning about the origin story for Bunjitsu Bunny, especially since this talented martial artist is based on a real young woman who had similar talent in martial arts.

Bunjitsu Bunny Jumps to the Moon by John Himmelman is another fantastic installment. Isabel is the best bunjitsu student, but she also has a big heart and is willing to help others and be responsible. There are so many wonderful lessons for children, and they can read these books to you.

RATING: Cinquain

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Bunjitsu Bunny’s Best Move by John Himmelman

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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Bunjitsu Bunny’s Best Move by John Himmelman is the second book in the series and further explores how kids and bunnies can avoid fighting even when someone is determined to fight with you. The power of the mind and kindness are on full display in these adventures.

These are great beginning chapter books for kids. My daughter sometimes asks to read just one more chapter before bed, if she’s not really tired or really interested in what Bunjitsu Bunny is doing next. While many of these adventures just take one chapter from beginning to end, it gives kids a chance to see how longer chapter books continue a story with the same characters. It gives them an opportunity to see that longer books are not necessarily going to be too hard or boring.

One of my favorite adventures in this book teaches patience and the importance of practice. It involves a little bit of origami and even offers step-by-step instructions on how kids can make their own paper bunjitsu bunny. Bunjitsu Bunny’s Best Move by John Himmelman is wonderful second book that moves the series out into its own and away from revamped folk tales.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

The Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 12+ hours
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Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover explores Tara’s experiences as a child of survivalists in the mountains of Idaho who also have very restrictive views on Mormonism. As a child, all care was provided by her mother who was an herbalist and midwife. The children were not allowed to go to doctors, nurses, or hospitals. As the family prepared for the end of the world and tried to remain detached from public services, Tara helped her mother collect herbs and worked with her father in the scrap junkyard. Without any public education or barely any homeschooling, Tara entered the classroom for the first time at age 17.

The gaps in her knowledge became very clear to her and her thirst for knowledge propelled her career in education — taking her to Harvard and Cambridge — but she also noticed that her family’s Mormonism was very different from that of her classmates at Brigham Young University. Her will power to educate herself is amazing, as is her ability to learn things on her own or with very little help until she passes the ACT.

But as she becomes more educated, a sense of disconnect begins to emerge between herself and her family. While listening, it seems as though things between her brother and herself are glossed over and then overly dramatic. It’s like watching a train wreck, and I suspect that the things she’s writing about that she wrote journal entries about are a bit like “out of body” experiences for her in some ways. She’s disconnected from that self and her family. This memoir will have readers feeling that acutely, and its a grieving process that doesn’t seem to have reached a conclusion by the end of the book.

For some readers, this could be a trigger given the violence she witnessed and endured throughout her life. Readers will either believe all that occurs from Tara’s point of view, or believe the truth is somewhere in the middle. The family has different points of view on these incidents and Westover does the best she can in sharing those early on.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover is a deep dive into a family life that may seem impossible. For instance, the burns her father sustains and survives is nothing short of a miracle. This is just one incident and result that seems impossible to believe. The overarching theme of how education can set you free, however, should not be ignored. Westover is a talented writer.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Possible Lives by Chrissy Kolaya

Source: the poet
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Other Possible Lives by Chrissy Kolaya is an exploration of what if — the nature of the other and what it must be to immerse ourselves in those “other” lives. Would they make us long for our own lives more and appreciate them with grace? Or would an exploration of those lives lead us to make drastic changes in our own? These are just some of the questions that underlie these scenarios, ranging from the troubled house sitters in the opening of the collection to the forlorn lover at the end who is bound to make the same error again.

From "How to Leave Behind" (pg. 15)

She said the way to do it was
to look at a photo of them.
Look at it until their faces
melt away into lines,
until words like brother fall away

and swirl around the shape that's left.
To focus on the mouth,
then the eyes,
then the arms and legs as if they all belonged
to different people.

Kolaya’s poems are rooted in the possible lives we could have and allows us to examine the truth of those lives and the truth in our own lives. Other Possible Lives by Chrissy Kolaya answers our “what if” questions but leaves us with so much more. There’s a greater insight here hearkening back to the adage “the grass is always greener on the other side’ at least from where you are viewing it.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Chrissy Kolaya is a poet and fiction writer, author of Charmed Particles: a novel and two books of poems: Any Anxious Body and Other Possible Lives (forthcoming fall 2019). Her work has been included in the anthologies New Sudden Fiction (Norton), Fiction on a Stick (Milkweed Editions), and Stone, River, Sky: An Anthology of Georgia Poems, as well as in a number of literary journals.

She has received a Norman Mailer Writers Colony summer scholarship, an Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies fellowship, a Loft Mentor Series Award in Poetry, and grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Lake Region Arts Council, and the University of Minnesota. As one of the co-founders of the Prairie Gate Literary Festival, she worked to develop the literary arts community in rural western Minnesota. She now teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 361 pgs.
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The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is the journey of Xiomara Batista, a young teen in Harlem who has secrets. She’s becoming a young woman aware of boys and a longing for acceptance — an acceptance of herself. She must come to terms with her religious mother and restricted upbringing and the reality that she does not fit the spiritual mold her mother had hoped for. The novel is told in verse.

The verse is reminiscent of childhood entries in a journal — rough and raw — full of emotion. Xiomara finds sanctuary in her words and her poems. She struggles with sexism and being a twin to a boy she feels disconnected from. Who is Poet X?

It is a journey of self-discovery. She finds strength from her pastor, despite her religious questions, and from her teacher who inspires her to read her words aloud. But all of this strength can be blown away by one woman who is also unclear about her life and her daughter and how things all went wrong.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is deliciously dramatic but it never loses its poetic center — the exploration of self and the journey toward a stronger self that can stand in the face of chaos.

RATING: Cinquain

The Guests on South Battery by Karen White

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 368 pgs.
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The Guests on South Battery (Tradd Street #5) by Karen White is another page turning mystery with Melanie and her husband, Jack Trenholm, on Tradd Street. Their twins are thriving and growing, but Melanie’s ability to communicate with the dead has been hibernating or intermittent at best. As a year has passed of maternity leave, Melanie is ready to return to her real estate work selling historic homes and more in Charleston.

A call in the middle of the night leaves Melanie questioning the quiet in her life and the possible return of ghosts. She and Jack seem to be on track as he works on a new book, but it is clear that they need more full-time help. A nanny just happens to fall into her lap when she returns to work.

Melanie reverts to her insecurities in this tale even as she strives to be a stronger woman and communicate with her husband. Jack also needs a bit of help in the communication department. While Melanie can be a frustrating character and this mystery is easy to resolve at least where the nanny is concerned, the tale is told in a sufficiently twisted way. The ghosts are malevolent and innocent here in a battle.

The Guests on South Battery (Tradd Street #5) by Karen White uncovers more family secrets that Melanie must deal with, and it is her maturity here that redeems Melanie a little bit. Readers will like the ghosts and mystery in this tale, but Melanie still has some growing up to do.

RATING: Quatrain

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About the Author:

Karen White is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and currently writes what she refers to as ‘grit lit’—Southern women’s fiction—and has also expanded her horizons into writing a mystery series set in Charleston, South Carolina. Karen hails from a long line of Southerners but spent most of her growing up years in London, England and is a graduate of the American School in London. When not writing, she spends her time reading, scrapbooking, playing piano, and avoiding cooking. She currently lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two children, and two spoiled Havanese dogs.

Trini’s Big Leap by Beth Kephart, Alexander de Wit, and William Sulit

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 44 pgs.
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Trini’s Big Leap by Beth Kephart, Alexander de Wit, and William Sulit is published by Penny Candy Books. Trini is a fearless gymnast and a kid with a can-do attitude. But how she faces a challenge will be a lesson to all her readers. When faced with a challenge, how do you react? Do you give up? Do you ask for help? Do you ask someone to do it for you? Or do you work with others who have different skills.

Trini spies her friends in another room building things with blocks, but no matter how hard she tries, she just can’t build the castle she envisions. When Mr. Ed asks if she needs help, she refuses, even though she’s discouraged and frustrated. She doesn’t understand why she can’t do it.

Sulit’s delightful illustrations bring the bouncy Trini to life, and kids will engage with her high-energy activity. The pages are colorful but soft, and are a great complement to the story.

Trini’s Big Leap by Beth Kephart, Alexander de Wit, and William Sulit is a delightful picture book with a great message about perseverance and discovery. Take a journey with Trini and her friends and see how teamwork can save the day and move mountains.

RATING: Quatrain

Please check out these great interviews at Penny Candy Books.

Good Crooks: Missing Monkey! by Mary Amato and Ward Jenkins

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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Good Crooks: Missing Monkey! by Mary Amato and Ward Jenkins is a story about kids whose parents are thieves, but they have other plans. Billy and Jillian Crook are happy to do good deeds, but one good deed lands them in hot water when their parents assume they are at the zoo to steal a monkey. Complete with funny lists of what taking care of a monkey is like, these two Crooks are sure to have kids reacting out loud — whether that’s with loud EWWs or laughter.

My daughter has been reading all summer, which is a plus given that last summer she flat out refused. We’re now in a nighttime reading routine, which I hope to continue in the fall when school starts. With this one she read 2-3 chapters per night because she wanted to see what happened next. It took her a few chapters to get into the story, which is told from Billy’s point of view. Razzle the monkey made the story even more funny, since he liked to cause mischief.

Good Crooks: Missing Monkey! by Mary Amato and Ward Jenkins is a delightful story with adventure, humor, and gross stuff that kids will relate to. There are a number of harder words that kids will have to sound out, but it is well worth the effort. There’s also an underlying message about the power of doing good deeds not only for your own community, but for yourself too.

RATING: Quatrain

Giveaway: Green Card & Other Essays by Áine Greaney

Source: the author
Paperback, 75 pgs.
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Green Card & Other Essays by Áine Greaney is a look at the immigration experience from an Irish American. Although many cite economics as the main impetus for immigration, there are always secondary factors that push people to leave the countries where they were born. And many, even after many years of productive lives as Americans, still have that fear that they will be sent home where they no longer have a connection.

From “Introduction”:

“In the dream, my American venture has suddenly failed and now, I must repatriate to rural Ireland where, in middle age, I have no country and no money. The dream startles me awake. As I lie there staring at the ceiling fan above my bed, I wonder how many of us immigrants live with this persistent fear that one day, all that we have built and loved in America will disappear.”

While not an immigrant myself, I can see how this would be a major concern today and before today. Some of my immediate family are immigrants and struggled hard in their jobs to make ends meet. There many stories about their sacrifices — how my grandmother gave the meet to my father and his brother and ate next to nothing herself every evening. These are the stories of our country. The underlying darkness of these struggles is that not only are immigrants working hard, but they also face discrimination and bias at every turn. Whether its the passing comment about an accent or more blatant comments about their work ethic.

Greaney touches on all of these issues based on her own immigrant experience and her “ah-ha” moment when she realized she carries her own biases against other immigrants. But she also touches on how we all strive to hold up a mirror to the life we wish to have, rather than the reality of our lives. This is ever more pronounced in letters home from immigrants who focus on the moments of joy rather than the daily turmoil in factories, restaurants, etc., which are the main focus of their new lives in America. But all of this struggle is to have that dreamed of better life. Green Card & Other Essays by Áine Greaney is a must read — we need more of these voices to educate us about immigrant experiences to dissipate our false perceptions.

RATING: Cinquain

GIVEAWAY:

  • Comment with your own immigrant story or one from your family or books that stuck with you or changed your viewpoint below.
  • 2 winners will be selected to win a copy of this collection.
  • US Entrants Only
  • Deadline is Aug. 30, 2019 at 11:59 PM EST

Wallace and Grace Take the Case by Heather Alexander and Laura Zarrin

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Wallace and Grace Take the Case by Heather Alexander and Laura Zarrin is the second book in the series of early chapter books for young readers. Wallace and Grace are the best of friends. Wallace loves facts and often takes notes in his notebook when they are working on unraveling a mystery, while Grace loves to puzzle things out based on those facts. In this case, Edgar, the rabbit, says there is a ghost preventing him from eating the kale in his garden.

My daughter likes this series of mysteries, which are not overly complicated, but do get her thinking about things differently and deductively. One complaint she had was that Grace likes to use big words like courageous, which she finds difficult to pronounce. This may be the case now, but as she grows as a reader I hope that complaint will disappear. Regardless, this does not detract from her enjoyment in reading these aloud at bedtime, and she’s told me she wants to go to the bookstore to buy the series. (I think there are only 3 at present)

Wallace and Grace Take the Case by Heather Alexander and Laura Zarrin is a delightful mystery series with my daughter’s favorite kind of character — animals with personalities. She enjoys reading these at bedtime, and sometimes doesn’t want to stop at just one chapter because she knows she’s close to finding out what the mystery is.

RATING: Quatrain

The Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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The Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman offers a variety of tales of Bunjitsu Bunny, who is a master of the arts. Isabel is a thinker, and she often finds a more peaceful solution to any challenge she faces. Although the Bunjitsu Code is at the end of the book, it is clear throughout the book that the code is Isabel’s guiding force. This early chapter book for young readers offers simple fables with a mix of Eastern philosophy and simple black and white drawings with red. These tales are a new twist on older stories like ‘Tortoise and the Hare.”

Isabel is the best in her class, but she rarely uses brute force to solve problems. My daughter has been looking for books to keep up with her reading this summer, but she initially balked at this story. She told me that she was not into ninjas, but she quickly changed her mind when she started reading. I think Isabel’s calm personality, intelligence, and ability to address problems without fighting interested her.

The Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman is a delightful early chapter book for young readers. It has enough illustrations to illicit laughs and interest from young readers. She’s eager to get the next book in this series.

RATING: Cinquain

We Will Tell You Otherwise by Beth Mayer

Source: Caitlin Hamilton Marketing
Paperback, 140 pgs.
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We Will Tell You Otherwise by Beth Mayer, winner of the Hudson Prize, is a collection of short stories with quirky characters. Readers will be exposed to the unexpected, as the dead teach us that there is not a moment to waste and the mentally ill provide us with greater clarity than we expect about our lives.

Characters in these stories are frustrated and lost, but they find directions they never expected. With sly irony, Mayer has crafted a set of stories that will open readers’ minds to new points of view, forcing us to examine our own lives and how we perceive others, especially those living just outside the mainstream. Many of these characters are on the verge of irrevocable change in their lives, and there are moments that happen that can change it all.

While of the stories in We Will Tell You Otherwise are vastly different, at their heart, Beth Mayer takes her readers on a journey to explore human fragility and faults, while not losing their sense of hope. These characters have a lot to tell readers.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Beth Mayer’s fiction has appeared in The Threepenny ReviewThe Sun Magazine, and The Midway Review. Her stories have been anthologized in New Stories from the Midwest (Ohio University/Swallow Press) and American Fiction (New Rivers Press), and have been recognized by Best American Mystery Stories among “Other Distinguished Stories.” Beth’s collection was a finalist for the 2016 Orison Book Prize and the 2015 Many Voices Project. The Missouri Review’s 2016 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize in fiction named her a finalist and her work in Jet Fuel Review has been nominated for the 2017 Best of the Net. Beth holds an MFA from Hamline University, was a Loft Mentor Series Winner in Fiction for 2015-16, and coordinates the Creative Writing Certificate at Century College. She lives in Minneapolis/St. Paul with her family and impossibly loyal dog.