Review: Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5

Almost completely adorable. I am 100% smitten with squirrel poetry. I am impressed by how anxious DiCamillo was able to make me feel, as a reader, that no one was ever going to get Ulysses any breakfast. But Flora’s mom’s sinister behavior felt dangerous and real and I am not able to forgive her at the end of the story. Should Flora?

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Review: Fortunately, the Milk

Fortunately, the Milk
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the story a dad tells his son and daughter about why it took him a bit long to get home from the store with the breakfast milk. It has pirates, a volcano prophet, and a time traveling Stegosaurus who is also an inventor. The illustrations hit just the right note of goofiness. This book is perfect for reading aloud – The language is funny and it’s great storytelling (as well as being a good story). I found myself yearning for some of my small people while reading this; it was almost wasteful to read it silently. I will absolutely be reading this again next time my 88 is visiting, and I look forward to experiencing it as an audiobook.

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Review: Undertow

Undertow
Undertow by Michael Buckley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

High Schooler Lyric gets debilitating migraine headaches, and she can no longer go down the the shore and practice yoga with her mom, which was the only thing that ever made her feel better. She can’t, because powerful and terrifying humanoid creatures from the bottom of the ocean have established a refugee camp on the beach, and it’s off limits to all others. Why have they come out of the ocean? What do they want?

Once you get past the first two chapters (which jarringly feel like they have nothing to do with one another), Undertow is a fine and exciting addition to the YA OMG-I’m-not-a-normal-teen genre. This is a very different book than any of the Sisters Grimm, aimed at an older audience and almost casually cruel. Of course, there’s a little romance, but there also is some political awareness that will appeal to many teen readers, and plenty to argue about. A sequel is coming.

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Review: Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen
Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mary Norris is delightful! Stories of obsessions with commas, apostrophes, and pencils. (Oh, pencils!) This book is for the fan of punctuation, not so much for anyone wanting to learn more about it.

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Review: Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania

Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania
Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania by Frank Bruni
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am loving this book. The tone is just right. And the advice Bruni is giving matches advice I have received at college admissions visits: let your kid find the school that is right for her. Size, course offerings, geography, political climate, community — so many things matter more than prestige.

p. 25: “There’s no equivalence between straight As in school and sharp professional tools, and that’s one of the many reasons to question the obsession with colleges that admit only students with the highest GPAs.”

Where will your child have opportunities to stretch? To grow? To meet interesting people and have new experiences?

p. 37: “Does a prestigious college make you successful in life? Or do you do that for yourself?”

I need this more than the kids does. I am the one who is freaked out about not being able to provide, not being able to promise. I feel so much calmer after having finished Bruni’s book.

p.112: “. . . too many kids get to college . . . make it as comfortable and recognizable as possible. . . They join groups that perpetuate their high school cliques.” Bruni suggests that students us college as a place for learning fresh outlooks and bridging divides.

Some good resources include Colleges That Change Lives and the The Gallup Purdue Index.

If prestige is truly important in your choice of college, look at which schools produce the most Rhodes Scholars, the most Fulbrights.

p. 140: “A good student can get a good education just about anywhere, and a student who’s not that serious about learning isn’t going to get much benefit.” (Krueger, Princeton economics professor who did a study on incomes as related to SAT scores and colleges attended)

p. 142: In terms of employment, the world cares more about your ability to get the job done and to learn how to do more than the actual college you attended.

p. 157: ” . . . an elite school composed almost entirely of young men and women who have aced the SATs or ACTs isn’t likely to be the most exciting, eclectic stew of people and perspectives.” – I agree somewhat. But if you’re a kid who’s loved learning and put in the efforts throughout to achieve while growing up in a culture that makes fun of that, it could be exhilarating.

I have to trust that the kid, who’s always had a fierce personality and known her own self, will do her research and make the most out of wherever she lands. Deep breaths mama bear, deep breaths.

p. 158: “Elite schools pride themselves on their diversity, but that diversity is almost entirely a matter of ethnicity and race. With respect to class, these schools are largely – indeed increasingly – homogeneous.”

p. 171: “It’s interesting to think about how this is shaping America. If our elite is to some extent being formed by this experience of frenzied admissions, does it suggest that we’re creating a culture in which the sale is more important than the product?” (Marx, former Amherst president)

p. 189: “You don’t become a great academic because you’re trying to become a great academic . . . You become a great academic when you look out the window and have something to say . . . that’s unique.” (Chodosh, Claremont-McKenna president.)

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Review: The Secrets We Keep

The Secrets We Keep
The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had to work a little to believe the premise of this book: Twin sisters get in a car crash; one dies, one lives. The one who lives decides to become the one who died, largely due to the belief that her parents and their community all will be happier that way.

Once I got past all that, (and maybe this is a spoiler), this was actually a pretty empowering story about the importance of being yourself and knowing your own self worth. I think teen readers will like this.

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Review: The Secrets We Keep

The Secrets We Keep
The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had to work a little to believe the premise of this book: Twin sisters get in a car crash; one dies, one lives. The one who lives decides to become the one who died, largely due to the belief that her parents and their community all will be happier that way.

Once I got past all that, (and maybe this is a spoiler), this was actually a pretty empowering story about the importance of being yourself and knowing your own self worth. I think teen readers will like this.

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