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Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams

Source: William Morrow
Hardcover, 384 pgs.
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Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams tells a twisted and dark tale reminiscent of Rebecca‘s Gothic nature and the secrets held back from the main character Virginia Fortescue — you may remember her sister, Sophie, from A Certain Age.  The narrative shifts between the early 1920s (Virginia’s present) and the Great War where as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross, she meets a charming doctor, Captain Simon Fitzwilliam.  Their relationship starts out as a friendship, but you can tell that there is a spark between them from the start — almost a magnetic pull.  Virginia, unfortunately, carries a great deal of baggage and has an inability to trust men because of her father and the death of her mother. Meanwhile, Simon is bent on protecting her by any means, including keeping secrets and telling lies.  Their relationship seems doomed from the beginning.

The pacing of this novel between the time lines, plus the additional twists and suspenseful moments, can leave the reader fatigued as they try to see through the lies and get at the truth.  Like Virginia, who is the main narrator, the readers is left wandering in a fog of lies with little light to guide them.  The relationship of Simon and Virginia is passionate, but the deeper connection they felt is so easily broken by the lies of others and the circumstances they cannot control.

Many years pass and the darkness has poisoned what was once between them.  It makes it difficult for the reader to have faith in the relationship at all given all that has happened and the inability to find even a little truth in the lies.  It’s like in all the years since WWI, Virginia remains that same naive girl who is easily lead astray.  Simon is a character who is hard to get a handle on because of Virginia’s inability to see who he truly is for nearly the entire novel.

What’s even more frustrating is the last third of the novel seems out of left field in places and overly dramatic (like a soap opera), which again may be related to the Gothic feeling of the novel.  Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams is enjoyable in many parts and definitely dramatic.  There is definitely a lot to discuss with a book club.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz Williams spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons, before her career as a writer took off. She lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore.

Find out more about Beatriz at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Annotated by Sophie Turner (Giveaway)

This is not precisely a review of Pride and Prejudice: A Novel. In Three Volumes. (Annotated and Restored to 1813 Egerton First Edition) by Jane Austen and Sophie Turner, as much as it is a look at why this revised edition was created. I’ve read this novel more times than any other, and because I do love it so much, I wanted to take a look at what Sophie Turner found in her endeavor to return the novel as close to Jane Austen’s original as possible. As grammar rules as we know them today were not as established when Austen wrote, there is a sort of free flow with her use of grammar and words.

This is particularly of interest, as the examples cited by Turner indicate how well placed Austen’s commas are in an effort to create a distinct voice for her characters. I also loved that the exclamation points we often think of as part of Mrs. Bennet’s character are not as plentiful as one would assume. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through this novel again, as well as Turner’s annotations. As an editor, I’m obviously fascinated with the choices that novelists make in word choice and punctuation.

Check out Pride and Prejudice: A Novel. In Three Volumes. (Annotated and Restored to 1813 Egerton First Edition) by Jane Austen and Sophie Turner to find Austen’s more authentic voice.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Book:

The novel needs no introduction. But readers may not have realised that we have been losing “Pride and Prejudice” over the years, particularly digitally. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation have eroded significantly from the 1813 Egerton first edition, and many digital copies suffer from poor formatting.

In 2017, the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, her “darling Child” has been painstakingly restored to the three-volume 1813 first edition. Adjustments have only been made where there were errors in the 1813 text, and are noted in detailed annotations at the end of the novel.

Please enjoy this beloved story, restored to Jane Austen’s original voice.

About the Sophie Turner:

Sophie Turner worked as an online editor before delving even more fully into the tech world. Writing, researching the Regency era, and occasionally dreaming about living in Britain are her escapes from her day job.

She was afraid of long series until she ventured upon Patrick O’Brian’s 20-book Aubrey-Maturin masterpiece, something she might have repeated five times through.

Alas, her Constant Love series is only planned to be seven books right now, and consists of A Constant Love, A Change of Legacies, and the in-progress A Season Lost.

She blogs about her writing endeavours at sophie-turner-acl.blogspot.com, where readers can find direction for the various social drawing-rooms across the Internet where she may be called upon. Visit her: Facebook, Twitter, Sophie Turner’s Blog, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Amazon.

International Giveaway:

To enter, leave a comment about why you’d like to read this new ebook edition of Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, annotated by Sophie Turner.  Enter by Sept. 15, 2017, 8 p.m. EST.

Good Luck, everyone.

To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts by Caitlin Hamilton Summie

Source: the author
Paperback, 216 pgs.
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To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts by Caitlin Hamilton Summie is a collection of short stories pregnant with emotion as characters deal with grief in a variety of ways.  From the WWII homefront to New York, Summie’s characters have experienced deep loss, whether it is the loss of a child or the loss of a father to war.  Grief comes in many forms, but its effects can be devastating, leaving you with a sense of hopelessness and emptiness.

“My father seemed vague and shadowy to me already.  I didn’t think I could lose him any more than I had, but I saw those tags, and touched them, and they were hard and smooth and warm from Jimmy’s constant agitation of them, and I knew this: that I could lose my father completely…” (pg. 14, “Tags”)

Summie has a deep sense of how grief can turn into inaction, reaction, and withdrawal.  She writes from a variety of perspectives, a young boy waiting for his father to return from war, a brother who has removed himself from his family, sisters who have grown apart after the death of a grandfather, and so many more.  These perspectives call to mind the universality of grief and how it impacts us all.  Lest you believe this collection of short stories is too depressing, it is not.

Summie offers characters a glimmer of hope, a moment of clarity, and a way through the grief.  We all struggle with loss, but we all must find a way to move on.  Through this collection, we find the solutions are not always the same, but the journey through grief is often possible with a little will and strength — either from within or through the help of others.

“February rolled in with a storm.  The snow came, and it hung in the air like a bad mood.” (pg. 99, “Patchwork”)

“We leaned against one another, against the pressure of what was coming as slowly and stealthily as that snow, wild in the wind outside yet silent.” (pg. 120, “Geographies of the Heart”)

Summie’s imagery is phenomenal; readers will be swept into the snowy landscapes, heavy with drifts.  Like the grief these characters experience, the snow weighs them down.  It’s devastatingly beautiful and poetic.  To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts by Caitlin Hamilton Summie is gorgeous in every word.  These stories remind us, “‘The grief never leaves. You just have to learn how to carry it.'” (pg. 199, “Taking Root”)

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Caitlin Hamilton Summie earned an MFA with Distinction from Colorado State University, and her short stories have been published in Beloit Fiction Journal, Wisconsin Review, Puerto del Sol, Mud Season Review, and Long Story, Short. Her first book, a short story collection called TO LAY TO REST OUR GHOSTS, was published in August by Fomite. She spent many years in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Colorado before settling with her family in Knoxville, Tennessee. She co-owns the book marketing firm, Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity, founded in 2003.  Discussion questions.

2017 New Authors Reading Challenge

Stitching with Jane Foster by Jane Foster

Source: QuartoKnows
Hardcover, 52 pgs.
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Stitching with Jane Foster by Jane Foster is similar to the Suzy Ultman book of stitching with its templates and fun designs.  Many of these are animals, which my daughter loves. You need the same materials for this: embroidery thread, embroidery needles, and a needle threader.  This one also has step-by-step instructions for cross-stitching.  We haven’t gotten to that step yet, but I’m sure we will.  There are other stitches as well, including seed stitching and back stitching.

This one includes bookmarks, which I’m hoping she’ll make me one.  Some of these designs also can be colored by the artist before they do the stitching.  This has so many possibilities for little artists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stitching with Jane Foster by Jane Foster is another great project book for kids as young as age 6.  She has a great time picking out her templates and matching the colors.  She creates her own designs with simple stitches.  Since her and nana started, she can’t seem to stop making them.  Right now, she’s working on a frameable one and it is only 9 a.m.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Jane Foster is an illustrator and screen printer living and working in south Devon. Her work, which is strongly influenced by Scandinavian and British design from the 1950s and 60s, has been featured in many publications including Vogue, Homes & Antiques, and Mollie Makes. She is a designer for Clothkits and has done commissions for Ikea. Jane’s products are stocked throughout the world.

She’s recently been working with the company Make International who are using her designs on ceramics, glasses and kitchen textiles. These are sold globally.  Jane is the author of Creative Craft With Kids (9781909397439) and Fun with Fabric (9781908449900), published by Pavilion. Jane’s recent two books (May 2015) are for pre-school children – 123 and ABC, published by Templar.  Follow her on Twitter. Visit her Website and check out her Instagram.

Fun with Stitchables by Suzy Ultman

Source: QuartoKnows
Hardcover, 36 pgs.
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Fun with Stitchables! by Suzy Ultman is a simple way to get kids interested in creating things through sewing. My daughter and I had to grab some essentials for this book, such as embroidery needles and embroidery thread.  It took me a while to grab these materials, but once we got them, she was off to the races.  She even learned how to use a needle threader when her nana was here visiting.  She already learned how to make knots at summer camp with the Girl Scouts, so she had that part down.

It was good to see her enthusiastic about these designs and learning to use different colors in the designs.  The book includes step-by-step instructions on how to thread the needle, how to tie the knot, and some stitching basics, as well as knotting the end.  The book includes frameable prints, ornaments, embellishments for greeting cards, and so much more.

Fun with Stitchables! by Suzy Ultman is a fun activity for kids to learn about sewing and coordinating colors and creating patterns.  My daughter and her nana had a fun time creating together, and I’m sitting here next to her while she does another one.  She must love it if she keeps going back for more.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Suzy Ultman was born in Pennsylvania, but colorful and vibrant Amsterdam also plays a large part in her work. She has lived on three different continents and embraced the culture and communities of each, allowing them to influence her visual aesthetic. Suzy’s style of illustration is influenced by her childhood, love of nature, and travel experiences. She enjoys being in beautiful habitats among nature’s playful palette of forms, textures, and colors. Suzy explores the worlds within our world, the little details that make us smile, and the connections that make us all part of the global community.

2017 New Authors Reading Challenge

The Inseparable Mr. and Mrs. Darcy by Jennifer Joy (Audio)

Source: the author
Audible, 9+ hrs.
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The Inseparable Mr. and Mrs. Darcy by Jennifer Joy, narrated by Nancy Peterson, takes place after the first two in this mystery series, and I would recommend reading these books in order. I love Joy’s turn of plot and her characterizations of Mr. Darcy and Lizzy Bennet. As grief appears to weigh very heavily on Mr. Bennet, Lizzy and Darcy must navigate their engagement and desire for a quick union. A secret correspondence is discovered, and Lizzy is concerned about the influence of her sister on Miss Darcy, who is taken with the cute pup Lydia has adopted.

But is her father merely ill with grief, is Mr. Collins plotting to gain his inheritance earlier, and is Lydia planning to tie her matrimonial fortunes to Miss Darcy?  Joy is adept at creating successful mysteries in this time period, while adhering to social norms and bending them slightly.  After solving several murders in Meryton, it would seem that Darcy and Elizabeth would never be separated by the likes of Lady Catherine. The intrigues are intricate, but the love between these main characters are never lost in the shuffle.

Elizabeth grows ever concerned about her father’s health, but when it appears to be more, she worries that someone has become incredible desperate because murder or attempted-murder has to be an act of desperation.  The Inseparable Mr. and Mrs. Darcy by Jennifer Joy, narrated by Nancy Peterson, is a wonderful diversion in the Regency era with two of the best classic characters created.  Joy’s mysteries are often very surprising in one way or another, which can be a breath of fresh air for people who can easily discern the perpetrator ahead of time.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

When Jennifer isn’t busy dreaming up new adventures for her favorite characters, she is teaching English, reading, perfecting her doughnut recipe, or going to the park with her family. She currently lives in Ecuador with her husband and 2 beautiful kids. All of them are fluent in Spanglish. Visit her Website.

The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel

Source: St. Martin’s Press
Hardcover, 356 pgs.
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The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel is loosely based on Jane Austen’s Persuasion.  Ruby Atlas is a tough young woman making her career in advertising on her own, while Ethan Bailey is a young, handsome billionaire who made a revolutionary app.  It has been 10 years since they’ve seen each other when they broke up.  Ruby is filled with anxiety at the reunion because she harbors a terrible secret about why she broke up with him after a wonderful summer of love.  Like Persuasion, Ethan (our modern Frederick Wentworth) is barely in the novel with many of his appearances happening in the past.  The novel alternates points of view between Ethan and Ruby and between the present and the past.

Both have lost their mothers — Ethan’s mother ran off and Ruby’s mother died when she was a young girl.  When her sister Piper decides to marry Charlie, Ethan’s best friend, neither one can avoid the inevitable, being once again in close proximity.  Ethan is a quiet and passionate man, and his dark handsome looks and big bank account make him a bit target at Piper’s wedding, and Ruby is incredibly jealous.  It’s at the wedding that she realizes she never stopped loving Ethan.

Pimentel’s characters are all incredibly nice and adult, though there are a few moments of female jealousy (tame at best).  There are some fantastic turns of phrase and bits of humor as well.

“We were rebranding them as the ‘Airline of Adventure,’ complete with GoPro footage of various lunatics jumping off buildings and abseiling down crevasses.  Because surely, at this point, it was only those lunatics who would willingly board one of their rickety planes.” (pg. 3)

“…she would sit upright and alert, like a gopher peering up and out of its hole.” (pg. 208)

This was the perfect summer read.  I enjoyed traveling to Europe with Ruby’s family and friends, and seeing Ethan and Ruby navigate their reunion with kid gloves.  There are Austenesque misunderstandings between them, and of course, there is the healing of Ruby who has been lost for the last decade.

“I had forced myself to love that place for so long.  The idea that I didn’t belong there — that I couldn’t belong — had been so crippling that I’d molded myself into someone who did belong, sharpening my elbows and edges every morning before I left the house.” (pg. 348)

The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel is about a young woman who strove to make it in the Big Apple because it was the last memories she had of her mother, and because of her independence, she molded herself to a life that left her less than satisfied.  But it is equally about the enduring rock of love where you can break yourself against it like Ethan and Ruby or embrace its strength and move forward together.  Pimentel had my attention from page one this summer, and the novel was more than satisfying.

RATING: Quatrain

Photo Credit: Ryan Bowman

About the Author:

MELISSA PIMENTEL grew up in a small town in Massachusetts in a house without cable and therefore much of her childhood was spent watching 1970s British comedy on public television. These days, she spends much of her time reading in the various pubs of Stoke Newington and engaging in a long-standing emotional feud with their disgruntled cat, Welles. She works in publishing and is also the author of Love by the Book.  Visit her on Twitter and on Facebook.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Hand Lettering A to Z: A World of Creative Ideas for Drawing and Designing Alphabets by Abbey Sy

Source: QuartoKnows
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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Hand Lettering A to Z: A World of Creative Ideas for Drawing and Designing Alphabets by Abbey Sy offers new letter artists a great deal of advice from what tools they can use to different types of fonts they can experiment with. I’ve never really considered creating new letters an art form, but as a teen, I used to do different kinds of bubble letters in notes to friends (yes, I’m dating myself). It was fun to make these notes visually interesting. I considered it a way to doodle when bored in class. In today’s high-tech world, it’s clear that lettering will be considered more of an art, rather than a way of writing.

Book Trailer:

Tools range from different types of paper and different types of pens and markers, but did you also know that you should have a good light source, a compass to ensure your lettering is on target, and clips. Carrying a sketchbook around can also be helpful when you have time to work on your lettering techniques, which reminds me of the small notebook I carry around for writing poems. Users will learn the technical terms for certain aspects of letters, such as those swashes or flourishes that are applied to certain fonts. There are techniques for slanting the letters and applying watercolors, among other things.

Hand Lettering A to Z: A World of Creative Ideas for Drawing and Designing Alphabets by Abbey Sy can help you improve your lettering or just be a great way to relax and enjoy creating something new and colorful. Kids will love this as they learn their letters, allowing them to explore their alphabet in a new way and letting their creativity bloom.

RATING: Quatrain

Peek inside the book:

About the Author:

Passionate about both art and travel, Abbey is best known for her hand-lettering work and travel illustrations. She is also Founder and Creative Director of ABC Magazine, a magazine for artists, crafters, and makers. She has written best-selling books on hand lettering and journaling, and continues to explore ways to make art and share stories through her own eyes.

Weird But True Know-It-All: U.S. Presidents by Brianna DuMont

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Paperback, 192 pgs.
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Weird But True Know-It-All: U.S. Presidents by Brianna DuMont from National Geographic Kids is probably best suited to ages 8-12 and contains numerous weird facts about our nation’s presidents.  In addition to facts about the presidents, there are some fun facts about the White House, including information about what renovations were made by several presidents — one of the first being an indoor bathroom.  The White House also has a chocolate shop, a florist shop, and a dentist within its walls, and the fact that the White House was built on a swamp is actually a myth.  There’s a list of powers for each branch of government, but lest you think this book is boring, you just have to keep reading on.

Thomas Jefferson, for example, organized a contest to design the White House, and historians secretly think he entered and lost the competition.  James Monroe, our 5th president, once defended himself in an argument with his treasury secretary with a pair of fire tongs — talk about a heated argument.  Another interesting tidbit is that Andrew Jackson, our 7th president, fought more than 100 duels in his lifetime.  That’s a lot of disagreements.  And you can thank William Howard Taft, the 27th president, for that tradition of the president throwing out the first pitch in baseball.  One of my favorites, John F. Kennedy, apparently penned his own spy thriller and talked about how to deal with Cuba with Ian Fleming — yes, that Fleming.

Weird But True Know-It-All: U.S. Presidents by Brianna DuMont is really enjoyable for younger readers and adults.  I think it would be a great book to take on a trip and quiz each other about presidential facts.  Pick up a copy and start having fun on your next road trip.

RATING: Cinquain

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Stick It to ‘Em: Playful Stickers to Color & Create: 275+ Stickers with Sass for Family, Friends, and Frenemies by Bailey Fleming

Source: Quarto Books
Paperback, 104 pgs.
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Stick It to ‘Em: Playful Stickers to Color & Create: 275+ Stickers with Sass for Family, Friends, and Frenemies by Bailey Fleming is a unique collection of stickers and tools for doodling and creating your own stickers.  My daughter hasn’t created her own yet, but she’s had a great time coloring the pre-made stickers and sharing them with her parents — putting them on our phone cases and laptops.  I’m just happy they are not all over the house.  What’s great about this collection is that it is for young and old alike, as some of these stickers are for adults to deal with their own stresses through coloring and creating their own snarky comments and pictures.  Some recommended tools for creating colorful stickers include felt-tip pens, colored pencils, water color paints, and brush pens, among others.

There are techniques for adults and kids to use to create visually enticing lettering for logos and sayings on their stickers, as well as ways to enhance those statements with accompanying doodles.  There are even pages that break down images into simple steps to make them easier for kids to replicate in the blank sticker spaces.

Stick It to ‘Em: Playful Stickers to Color & Create: 275+ Stickers with Sass for Family, Friends, and Frenemies by Bailey Fleming is an excellent creative outlet for young and old.  Let your imagination soar with these stickers.

RATING: Quatrain

2017 New Authors Reading Challenge

Where Is North by Alison Jarvis

Source: Mary Bisbee-Beek
Paperback, 83
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Where Is North by Alison Jarvis, winner of the 2015 Gerald Cable Book Award, asks readers to think about where their own “north” is — where is their home or where do they feel most at home.  Many of us will conjure up memories of our mothers and fathers, siblings, or just the best friends we ever had.  There are some of us who have lived most of our lives alone, until we meet that special someone who becomes that home we’ve longed for.  Jarvis reaches out through her poems to remind us of these connections and their importance to our own well being and happiness, even as connections end or become distant.

Skaters (pg. 33)

We belonged to snow and ice,
to Dodd's Pond at Christmas, released
from classes, shining our way
through the morning dark, 
like miners.  We'd skate out
together, alone, to astonish ourselves;
past lunch, past supper
past any possibility
our numbed fingers could ever
untie our laces.

In “At the Diebenkorn Show Without You,” the poem speaks of the rural person eager to get out, to move beyond the prairie and its empty roads to a place that is bustling like California, but as it turns, the reader notes a redirection, attention called to the now, to the foreground, to the moment at hand.  Like the poem, the narrator has to self-correct, to refocus and be in the moment, rather than always looking out and at the distance.  Much of the collection moves like this — back and forth — between the now and the future or the now and the past.  In “Daylight Savings,” the changing of the clocks is a reminder that soon a spouse will not be there reminding the narrator not to be late, and in “Ask Me,” love is the actions we take for one another — the small and large — and when you can no longer be asked, how do you make those connections again? In this case, the narrator tells stories.

Time moves on and things change like the farm purchased in “Dakota” for the “young/To begin their purposeful suburban lives.”  It is easy to “map our love with loss” says the narrator of “75 Marshall Avenue,” but it is better to act with love and engage in that dance of life.  Where Is North by Alison Jarvis is the bumpy ride we all take and the love that we leave behind and are given along the way.  Not all of the journey will be good, but we need to remember that home is where the love is.

RATING: Quatrain

Read some of her poems:

About the Poet:

Alison Jarvis was born in Canada and grew up in Minnesota. She is a recipient of the Lyric Poetry Prize from the Poetry Society of America, the Mudfish Poetry Prize, the Guy Owen Prize from Southern Poetry Review, and a Fellowship from the MacDowell Colony. Her work has appeared in Cream City Review, Gulf Coast, New Ohio Review, Notre Dame Review, Seattle Review, upstreet, and other journals and anthologies, including Best Indie Lit New England. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and has been a practicing psychotherapist for 30 years.

2017 New Authors Reading Challenge

Benjamin Franklin’s Wise Words by K.M. Kostyal

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 128 pgs.
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Benjamin Franklin’s Wise Words: How to Work Smart, Play Well, and Make Real Friends by K.M. Kostyal offers kids a selection of 50 pieces of advice and anecdotes about one our nation’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin. Some of these wide phrases were adapted from other sources that inspired Franklin. They range from how to act in public to how to make real friends. These phrases are translated for more modern audiences, and they are accompanied by colorful and funny illustrations. The back even includes information on some of his inventions.

These phrases aim to promote self-improvement, mindfulness, and diligent work. In the introduction, readers will learn that Ben Franklin only went to school until age 10, but he invented a number of devices, ran his own newspaper, and became one of the founding fathers of America. One of the best pieces of advice is that you should always do what is right even when it is hard to do the right thing. He also advised that we cram every day with good things, good discussions, good work, and good times with friends. Something I’m always telling my daughter is to do what she says she’s going to do so that people know she can be counted on.

My daughter listened while I read some of these out loud, but much of her attention and questions were about the illustrations. Lest you think she missed the point, even though these illustrations are fun and colorful, they do illustrate the points in Franklin’s advice. I really love the reminder that you should pay attention to who and what is before you, rather than looking at your phone or checking messages, or playing video games. Attentiveness is important.

Benjamin Franklin’s Wise Words: How to Work Smart, Play Well, and Make Real Friends by K.M. Kostyal is a fun book to offer Franklin’s advice to kids.

RATING: Cinquain