Tag: books

Kate DiCamillo Returns: RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE

Kate DiCamillo Returns: RAYMIE NIGHTINGALERaymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
Published by Candlewick Press on April 12th 2016
Genres: Middle Grade, Realistic
Pages: 272
Goodreads
five-stars

Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie's picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.

It’s high time I shared my thoughts with you about the new Kate DiCamillo book. Let me say this—when I heard a new book by Kate was coming out, my level of excitement spiked! You know that I adore her books, including THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE, THE MAGICIAN’S ELEPHANT, and THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX, among others.

And now we have RAYMIE. RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE.

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It’s true. Kate DiCamillo has created another endearing and delightful character that will remain in the hearts of readers for many days to come after they have turned the page of the newest book from Kate, published this past April.

I was lucky enough to borrow an ARC from Porter Square Books, and had to stop myself from devouring the book in one sitting. I wanted it to last so tried to take my time (I probably read it in three days!).

I can safely say, it’s wonderful! The story was everything I hoped it to be…and even more. Kate’s storytelling is masterful, and I would venture to say this is a strong contender for the Newbery…

The story is inspired by Kate’s own life, and though this is certainly a “made up” narrative as Kate says in the beginning of the book, it is “the absolutely true story of my heart.” In other words, this book gives us a glimpse even further into the author’s mind and heart, and I would say that the book carries a spiritual aspect for that very reason. In reading this book, I felt like I was connecting with Kate in a new way, and that can be a profound thing!

Quotes that Made Me Think

(Beverly) “I tell you what: Fear is a big waste of time. I’m not afraid of anything.”

“Just then, the sun managed to come around the corner of Isabelle’s window and throw itself into a small square of light on the floor. It was very bright. It shimmered. It looked like the window to another universe.”

“She could feel her soul. It was a tiny little spark somewhere deep inside of her. It was glowing.”

“For just a minute, she understood everything in the whole world.”

The story highlights the friendship among three girls—Raymie, Louisiana, and Beverly. Let me tell you: I love this trio! Beverly is snarky and interesting, Louisiana is surprising and persistent, and Raymie is seeking to fill up her soul. You can imagine that there are mishaps galore, but at the heart of it is a girl who wishes she could win a pageant so that her father will take note and return home. Along with this, though, and even more, is the desire of Raymie’s to fill up her soul. The language that Kate uses in the story to reflect what Raymie is thinking about and wondering reflects a spirituality that I found thought-provoking and authentic. I love the way Kate’s books get to the heart of the big questions in life, all through the window of these endearing child characters.

I don’t want to give away a lot from the story, because it’s just too much of a gem, so this review will be a bit short.

The fact is: you really need to buy a copy and read it. So…Tell me what you think when you do!

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This one is worthy of all the STARS!

five-stars
What Katie Read

A Dream Come True: Kate Morton Visits BOSTON!!

I know I’m a bit late on telling you about this BUT:

December 2015 was an epic month because….THE KATE MORTON BOOK SIGNING IN BOSTON!!

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Can you believe that at the end of last year I heard Kate Morton speak, spoke to her, and had four of my books signed!?!?!

It was an epic evening—Kate’s last North American tour stop just happened to be in Boston so you can bet I cleared my schedule in order to arrive at Brookline Booksmith early in order to secure a good seat for the talk.

I hadn’t been able to unpack all of my Kate Morton books in time for the big evening, but I bought a paperback of The Forgotten Garden at the store that night and skipped in with my hardbacks of The Lake House and The Secret Keeper and my paperback of The House at Riverton.

I was on pins and needles as we waited quietly for Kate to show up. At around 4:30pm I heard an accented female voice on the stairs and was certain that Kate was descending. Sure enough, I turned around to see a smiling Kate making her way down the stairs with several other people and soon they disappeared into a back room until the 5pm show.

That first sighting of Kate had me feeling like this:

amazed

It seemed as if I was so close to a life complete…hearing and meeting in person one of my favorite authors of all time….

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Then…5pm was upon us, and the person responsible for the bookstore’s events took the microphone to introduce the one and only Kate Morton. Kate stood just behind our row until it was time for her to step up and introduce herself.

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All I have to say: She is an amazing speaker, and her talk was interesting, engaging, and inspiring! She is definitely a kindred spirit, and the kind of person that would be a dear friend, I am certain. She shared an interesting and engaging talk about her writing process, her books, her inspiration, and the kind of books she grew up reading. One really interesting thing she talked about was the fact that she read British children’s literature growing up in Australia and when she traveled to England for the first time, she felt like she had been there before. It’s almost as if the books you read as a child become a part of your life geography, and I could completely relate because I had this same experience. I grew up reading a lot of British children’s literature, so that when I first journeyed to London as a college undergraduate to study abroad, I felt as if I had already been there….

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Kate also shared snippets from her tour in the UK, including a journey on a train down to Cornwall (where The Lake House is set!) that gave her an idea for another story. She read a passage from The Lake House, a chapter set in the perspective of Theo, and it was absolutely wonderful to hear the story read aloud from the author herself.

Then, a handful of questions came from the crowd, and they were all graciously answered by Kate. I was a bit star-struck, to be honest. Not only was my favorite author an amazing and creative writer, but she seemed like one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet!

At the end of the Q&A, we queued up for book signing, and we all happily and patiently waited while people chatted with Kate and had books signed. Kate is such a cheery and kind person–she took the time to talk with each person and it was delightful.

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Then my turn arrived! Here’s what we talked about–I told Kate I adored her books and that we have a fan club of hers (Morton Ladies) on Twitter. She said to say hello to all the gals in that club–Lindsey, Laura, Jess, and Morgan! I also told Kate I had studied for my M.A. in Children’s Literature in London and that I had read TOM’S MIDNIGHT GARDEN and THE CHILDREN OF GREEN KNOWE for the first time during that adventure. We chatted about those books and it was wonderful! She even listened to me share a little about my master’s thesis on the spirituality of children’s fantasy. Then of course I had a picture with Kate, and the evening was complete…

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What more could I ask for in the way of a wonderful December bookish event?!? Absolutely nothing!!

group excited

What Katie Read

Portals of History: ONCE WAS A TIME (2016) by Leila Sales

Portals of History: ONCE WAS A TIME (2016) by Leila SalesOnce Was a Time by Leila Sales
Published by Chronicle Books on April 5th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade
Pages: 272
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads
three-half-stars

In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley is sure of only one thing: Kitty McLaughlin is her best friend in the whole world. But when Charlotte's scientist father makes an astonishing discovery that the Germans will covet for themselves, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety. Should she remain with her friend or journey to another time and place? Her split-second decision has huge consequences, and when she finds herself alone in the world, unsure of Kitty's fate, she knows that somehow, some way, she must find her way back to her friend. Written in the spirit of classic time-travel tales, this book is an imaginative and heartfelt tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.

Time travel! England during WWII! Tea! A British protagonist! Two bosom friends…all these elements and more are what drew me to read Leila Sales’ new Middle Grade book, ONCE WAS A TIME.

The Book:

Charlotte and Kitty are the two friends we focus on in the opening pages of the narrative, and it’s Charlotte’s father who is actually researching time travel. Charlotte is aware of the importance of her father’s work and is curious about what the ability to time travel might mean, but she is not prepared for the dangerous situation into which she, Kitty, and her father are thrust. Lives are at stake, and Charlotte has to make a split decision about whether to stay with Kitty or to leave. In other words, the opportunity for time travel presents itself, and Charlotte has to decide whether to make the leap…or not.

What I Loved:

Awhile back, I read one of Leila’s Young Adult books, and when I heard that she wrote a time travel middle grade, I was intrigued, especially since it featured a British protagonist and opened in the great country of England during WWII. If you keep up with me on Goodreads or even this blog, you’ll know that I am especially fond of children’s and young adult literature set during the WWII period—historical fiction is one of my favorite genres—in the world of children’s, young adult, and adult books. So it’s no surprise that I snatched this one up on Netgalley as soon as it was available!

Readers with a passion for children’s literature in general might appreciate the many references to different children’s books and even the large role that a library plays in the story. Spoiler: Charlotte does travel through time, but it’s forwards, and not backwards.

Charlotte’s friendship with a librarian is a highlight of the story, and the notion of libraries closing due to lack of funding is brought up, bringing in a real life (and sad!) connection. If you were an avid reader as a young person (or if you are now), you will be delighted at the many books referenced in the story due to Charlotte’s great appetite for reading as many volumes in the library as possible.

The celebration of friendship and its capacity to be enduring and weather trials is strong in this story, and readers certainly have room to discuss the nature of authentic relationship and connection. I loved the connection between Charlotte and Kitty–especially in the last part of the book, but I wanted to read even more with them on center stage!

Finally, I love that cover! Well-done Chronicle books for a unique and intriguing design!

What I Didn’t Expect:

If you glanced at my Goodreads review, you would have seen that I made a comment about this story was not quite what I expected. While I assumed certain characters would take center stage in the narrative, that was not actually the case.

Also, I was surprised at the direction of travel that the transporting took place! I won’t give anything away here, but there was an interesting twist with who traveled where, and for how long they stayed in that time period. There might be some readers who are a little incredulous at the way the story is resolved, but I didn’t have too many issues with the ending, due to the readership and the scope and length of the book.

Are you planning to read ONCE WAS A TIME when it is released in April? What are your thoughts on time travel in Middle Grade titles? Other favorites to share?

three-half-stars
What Katie Read
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