Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Introducing: Book Club Exchange

As part of BBAW, I admitted that I was feeling a little mopey about my blog. I threw around a few new ideas (and am still thinking through some other ones;) and I had some positive response to my idea about a feature on book clubs. I think I am ready to implement this, but I need some help from all of you!

My basic concept is to do a feature (not sure if it will be weekly, bi-weekly or monthly -- that will depend on participation) on book groups. I would love to have guest posts about book club experiences from my loyal followers, friends, fellow book club members, and even authors. I am really open to anything related to book clubs and I mean anything at all -- the more unique, the better!

As a member of three book clubs, I find a huge amount of enjoyment in each of these groups for very different reasons. I think book clubs are doing so many terrific things, and I'd love for Booking Mama to be a vehicle to share this information! Like many of you, I am always curious about what other book clubs out there are doing. I thought this feature would be a good way to get some new ideas and further discussion.

Here are some of my ideas for guest posts -- of course, there are tons of other ones out there:

- How your book club got started
- What books have you read
- What books generated the best discussion
- How does your group make a selection
- Author visits or chats
- Benefit of reading guides
- Food/Drink served at meetings - recipes
- Members of book club
- What your book group means to you
- Holiday festivities/celebrations
- Themed meetings
- How does your group handle "problem" members
- Format of meetings
- What books were flops
- How to get started
- Book club resources

What I'm asking of you is to consider writing a guest post about book groups. In fact, I'd love it if you'd leave a comment after this post telling me that you want to participate in this feature. You don't even have to be a member of a book club to write a guest post -- you can talk about why you want to join one or a possible book that you think would make for great discussion. I am just looking for people to share their thoughts and ideas about book clubs!

I am extremely excited about the Book Club Exchange feature and I hope you are too!

P.S. - I don't know anything about the technical side of blogs, so I am begging for some help with a cute little button. If anyone is willing to make a small graphic for me, I'd be forever grateful!

Update: A huge thanks to Beth Fish Reads for making me this adorable button!

Review: How Do You Wokka-Wokka?

Summary: Some days you wake up and you just gotta wokka. Wokka what? Wokka-wokka! It’s about movement. It’s about dance. It’s about shimmy-shakin’, be-boppin’, and more! It’s about gathering friends and joining the party. The creative team behind MY FATHER THE DOG returns with a call-and-response for preschoolers, an exuberant invitation to be part of the fun -- and show your stuff!

Say "HEY!" to your neighbors and get your dance on! Jazzy rhythms, silly rhymes, and welcoming images are guaranteed to entice little readers. -- Candlewick Press

HOW DO YOU WOKKA-WOKKA? by Elizabeth Bluemle and illustrated by Randy Cecil is a delightful book for preschooler and kindergartners. Since Booking Son is the ideal age for the book, I was very excited to read it to him yesterday afternoon. I definitely enjoyed reading this fun book, and I liked the message about just jumping in and doing the wokka-wokka with all your neighbors.

While Booking Son liked the book, he didn't go so far as to say that he loved it. When I asked him some questions about it, he said that the thought the book was silly -- I think that was the intent! He also said that he liked some of the crazy, mixed-up words and that I sounded funny when I read it. I asked him if he liked to wokka-wokka, and he just kind of shrugged. I thought that was ironic because he often copies his older sister while she practices her hip-hop dances!

Besides the cute story with the catchy rhythms, I also liked the appearance of the book. I thought the illustrations were very cute, and I loved how the illustrator managed to capture the essence of the fun times with the drawings of the kids. I also really liked the large font and the way the words curved around the pictures.

As a mother, I really appreciated the message in this story. I'm not sure my son picked up on it the first time we read it, but I like that kids will see that it's okay to just wokka-wokka -- by that I mean, it's okay to be yourself and let your personality shine. Another terrific thing about this book was that the story took place in an urban environment and the kids were of diverse ethnic backgrounds. I appreciated that the story showed a bunch of different people coming together, letting loose and just having fun.

I recommend HOW DO YOU WOKKA-WOKKA? for preschoolers, especially as a read-aloud book during story time. I think catchy jazz-like phrases and the message that you can show your individuality will appeal to many youngsters as well as adults. Thanks to The Picnic Basket and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.

Wondrous Words Wednesday - September 30, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy aka Bermuda Onion where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun.

appurtenances - They liked the dolls' appurtenances too. (p.146)

appurtenances: something subordinate to another, more important thing; adjunct; accessory.

HEAVEN TO BETSY by Maud Hart Lovelace
tony - "...They're certainly puny. They were tony too." (p. 57)

tony: high-toned; stylish

lugubriously - "Not as puny as that one, lovey," said Anna lugubriously, clearing the soup plates to make way for chocolate cake. (p. 197)

lugubriously: mournful, dismal, or gloomy, esp. in an affected, exaggerated, or unrelieved manner

Did you learn any new words this week?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Chat with Cathy Marie Buchanan

Last week, I reviewed THE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL by Cathy Marie Buchanan! I thought it was a well-written novel that also taught me a great deal about Niagara Falls. I was just thrilled when I received an e-mail telling me about this special event with Ms. Buchanan. Here are the details:

Hello and Welcome!

As many of you know, since the August 25th release of Cathy Marie Buchanan's THE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL, Cathy has been on a virtual blog tour. So many wonderful blogs showed her amazing hospitality, and Cathy's virtual stops and itinerary
can be found here.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Cathy's blog tour ends September 29th. However, we're wrapping up this blog tour with a unique chance to both chat with Cathy and listen to her give a virtual book talk. Yes! We are hosting a live teleseminar on Wednesday, September 30th at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. This call may be accessed anywhere by telephone, and you can even attend in your proverbial bunny slippers ;)

Plan to have some fun on our "party line" which will feature:
  • Cathy Marie Buchanan will give a short talk on the story behind the New York Times best selling The Day the Falls Stood Still
  • Bloggers who hosted Cathy joining in on the chat
  • Questions from you, the callers in the audience and
  • a visit from Special Guest, fellow historical fiction author Sandra Gulland!
You won't want to miss this live event! Again, we want to emphasize this is "low tech." You won't need to be near your computer. All you will need is a telephone. The call-in info you will need is:

Telephone number: 718-290-9983. You will then be prompted for your conference ID code, which will be 100925#. Please don't forget the pound sign after the numerals. OR register now to receive an email with the details on how to dial in (the long distance number will be given along with the same code to access the line. Remember, regular long distance charges apply according to your phone plan.) "See" you on September 30th!

Maud Hart Lovelace Reading Challenge

If you've visited my blog the past few days, you are already aware that Booking Daughter and I are huge Betsy-Tacy fans! So when S. Mehrens left a comment on one of my review posts telling me that she was starting the first ever Maud Hart Lovelace Reading Challenge, I just had to sign up. Of course I've been trying to get lots of women and girls to read these books; and this challenge is the perfect way to jump right in!

Here are all of the details straight from S. Mehren's blog A Library is a Hospital for the Mind:

Welcome to the first ever Maud Hart Lovelace Reading Challenge!

If you are a regular reader of this blog then you already know I am a long time fan of Mrs. Lovelace's writing, particularly the Betsy-Tacy series. I was introduced to the Betsy Ray by my mother, who, had herself, read the books as a teenager. I immediately fell in love with the stories and over the years have reread them several times, but I've never had the chance to share how great these books are to more than a few readers and only then by word of mouth. Until now!

Thanks to Harper CollinsPublishers, who have chosen to republish the last six novels in the Betsy-Tacy series, readers everywhere can now have easy and affordable access to some of Mrs. Lovelace's best stories. And so I ask you, what better time is there to launch a reading challenge then the week the books are released after being out of print for the last decade? There isn't. It is my hope that the Maud Hart Lovelace Reading Challenge will not only allow me to share my love of Mrs. Lovelace's books, but give you a chance to discover for yourself how timeless these stories truly are. Now, without further delay, let's begin!

First, to start: Link your blog (main site or permelink to an introductory post for this challenge) on the Mr. Linky below. I am planning to leave the Mr. Linky open until Saturday, October 10, so there is still time to spread the word if you know of someone who might be interested in joining in the fun.

Then throughout the month of October I will post various reviews and tidbits about Mrs. Lovelace and her books.

On Saturday, October 31st I will put a new Mr. Linky which will conclude the reading challenge. At that time feel free to put up one or all of the permelinks to your Lovelace Reading Challenge posts.

Happy reading!

I would love for all of my "bloggy" friends to join this challenge as well as help spread the word! Let me know if you are planning on joining what's sure to be a very fun challenge!

Review: Viola in Reel Life

Summary: I'm marooned.


Left to rot in boarding school . . .

Viola doesn't want to go to boarding school, but somehow she ends up at an all-girls school in South Bend, Indiana, far, far away from her home in Brooklyn, New York. Now Viola is stuck for a whole year in the sherbet-colored sweater capital of the world.


There's no way Viola's going to survive the year—especially since she has to replace her best friend Andrew with three new roommates who, disturbingly, actually seem to like it there. She resorts to viewing the world (and hiding) behind the lens of her video camera.

Boarding school, though, and her roommates and even the Midwest are nothing like she thought they would be, and soon Viola realizes she may be in for the most incredible year of her life.

But first she has to put the camera down and let the world in. -- Harper Teen

When I was at BEA last May, one of the highlights for me was meeting Adriana Trigiani! I have been a huge fan of hers for years, and I have read everything she's ever written (except for her cookbook, but it's only a matter of time until I get that too!) She was signing ARCs of her new YA novel VIOLA IN REEL LIFE, so I made sure that I was one of the first in line (poor Amy!) She was everything that I imagined her to be -- only more! She is so nice to her fans and spent a few minutes talking with each of us -- I LOVE HER!

VIOLA IN REEL LIFE is Ms. Trigiani's first novel for Young Adults, and I think it's a fabulous start. This book was just a joy to read, and the main characters and lessons were all so sweet too. It is exactly the type of book that I can recommend to young girls. In fact, I think my 10 year old daughter could read it right now, and I'm pretty sure that she'd absolutely love it. While the book did deal with some very real issues that young girls face today, it was all handled in the nicest (and cleanest) way possible.

As a mother, it is so refreshing to find that there are so many good Middle Grade and YA books out there that my daughter can read -- like VIOLA IN REEL LIFE. Don't get me wrong -- I have thoroughly enjoyed some of the more "adult" YA books; however, I'm a little leery of recommending them to other moms. I'm not sure when my daughter will be "ready" for these books, but I want to protect her for as long as I can. With VIOLA IN REEL LIFE, there is no need to worry! It's just a very sweet story with a very wholesome message!

I absolutely loved the character of Viola. The story is told through her voice, and I think Ms. Trigiani has absolutely captured the essence of a 14 year old girl (or at least what I imagine a 14 year old girl to be.) That should probably come as no surprise to those of you who have read books by Ms. Trigiani because I think she always does a wonderful job of developing female characters. What I really loved about Viola was her honesty and sense of humor. She was a tad bit cynical (of course, she was from Brooklyn) but she still had an amazing perspective on life considering her young age. I couldn't help but fall in love with her. She has so many of the same insecurities and feelings that I can remember having at that age!

When I started reading VIOLA IN REEL LIFE, I thought it might just be another book where the young girl is sent away to boarding school. I admit that I was a little concerned that it wouldn't be any different from so many of those types of books; however, I found myself really enjoying it and not wanting to put the book down. I absolutely loved this adorable coming-of age story as well as the overall messages in this novel.

I think since I liked Viola so much, I really appreciated how much she matured throughout the novel. When she first arrived at the boarding school, she basically was counting down the days until she could go back home. She didn't really think the school could offer her anything, and she definitely didn't want to extend herself to her classmates. She decided that she wanted to be a loner and focus on her love of taking pictures and making films. It didn't help matters that she was really homesick! Despite all Viola's misgivings, it was only a matter of time before Viola began to appreciate her new school and especially her three roommates.

By the end of Viola's freshman year in high school, she had learned so much about herself. She had found (and lost) her first real boyfriend, she grew to appreciate her friends at home in new ways while also making some wonderful new friends, and she discovered that she had a real talent for filming. In addition, she learned some important things about her parents and began to see them in a new light. I love how this story demonstrated Viola's switch from focusing on herself to focusing on others -- I found it so heartwarming!

I am very anxious to see if VIOLA IN REEL LIFE is the first book in a series. I certainly would like to see more of Viola and her family and friends! I sincerely hope that Ms. Trigiani has plans to write additional books for the YA genre because I look forward to introducing her books to my daughter sooner rather than later! Of course, who am I kidding? I consider myself one of Ms. Trigiani's biggest fans, so I pretty much look forward to any new book she writes.

On Wednesday, September 30th at 7:00 p.m. (that's tomorrow night), Book Club Girl will be hosting Ms. Trigiani on BlogTalk Radio. You can set a reminder for the show or just listen to it live. Make sure you have your questions ready. I am sure this is going to be a show that you don't want to miss; and I, for one, can hardly wait to hear Ms. Trigiani talk about VIOLA IN REEL LIFE!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Review: Heaven to Betsy/Betsy in Spite of Herself

Summary: This brand-new edition of Maud Hart Lovelace’s beloved works brings together the first two books of Betsy and Tacy’s high school years, Heaven to Betsy and Betsy in Spite of Herself, along with a new foreword by New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman.

Heaven to Betsy: Betsy Ray is loving every minute of freshman year at Deep Valley High—with new and old friends all around her . . . not to mention boys! But most intriguing of all is the one she and her best friend, Tacy, dub "the Tall Dark Stranger."

Betsy in Spite of Herself: Betsy is at the center of every activity as a Deep Valley High sophomore—and suddenly, thanks to her old friend Tib, she's offered a golden opportunity for glorious transformation. But will she impress the special boy by becoming dramatic, mysterious Betsy—or would she be better off just being Betsy in spite of herself? -- Harper Perennial Modern Classics

I absolutely adored the first four books in the Betsy-Tacy series (you can read my reviews here and here), but I have to admit that I was a little anxious to get the Betsy's teen years! I enjoyed seeing Betsy and Tacy's friendship grow throughout their childhood, but I couldn't wait to read about their high school experiences. I wasn't exactly surprised that I loved the next two books in this series which covered Betsy's freshman and sophomore years in high school. I am so glad that Harper Collins decided to re-release HEAVEN TO BETSY and BETSY IN SPITE OF HERSELF by Maud Hart Lovelace together in one big book.

HEAVEN TO BETSY is probably my favorite Betsy-Tacy book to date. The book starts with Betsy feeling homesick because she is staying with another family the summer before she starts high school. She comes home to find that her parents have purchased a new house and that she will be moving away (albeit only a short distance) from her best friend Tacy. Between moving into a modern new house in the town, beginning her freshman year at Deep Valley High and having her friend Tib move away, Betsy was certainly facing a lot of change in her life.

In this book, the reader really gets to see Betsy blossom! It's apparent early on that Betsy is very social and definitely interested in the boys (you could almost say that she was a little boy-crazy especially when compared to her friend Tacy.) I was a little concerned that when Betsy moved to town and began hanging out with some new kids that she and Tacy weren't going to be as close. At times, I was very upset because I absolutely adored Tacy and her practical nature; however, I shouldn't have questioned Betsy. She absolutely appreciated Tacy and their friendship; and she was still the kind and sensitive young girl that I have grown to love. By the end of this story, Betsy learned a great deal about herself and what was important in her life. The book ended on such a hopeful note because Betsy realized the importance of her writing and she begins to really look forward to her future.

One thing that I found very interesting in this book was the decision of Betsy and her older sister Julia to convert from their Baptist religion to Episcopalian (another huge change in Betsy's life.) I imagine that this was probably a pretty controversial topic when this book was first released. I appreciated how Ms. Lovelace explored their faith and beliefs, and I especially liked how they eventually approached their parents with their decision to convert. Betsy's parents (and especially her father) listened to their daughters and even offered wonderful advice. In fact throughout all of the Betsy-Tacy books, I have been impressed over and over again with the portrayal of Betsy's family. They were an extremely close and affectionate family, and they all seemed to be so loving and supportive of each other.

As I read HEAVEN TO BETSY, I couldn't help but remember my own high school years. Even though Betsy and I had extremely different personalities, I could still see so much of myself in Betsy. I remember so clearly my concerns about school, friends, and especially boys. And, I could relate so well to her insecurities about her appearance. I love how the author explores these universal themes and shows how some things never change no matter how many years pass.

As you can see, I really loved HEAVEN TO BETSY; however, I also thoroughly enjoyed BETSY IN SPITE OF HERSELF. In fact, even though I didn't necessarily enjoy the stories in this book quite as much, I actually liked the overall message in this story even more. The ultimate theme of this book is summed up perfectly in the quotation at the beginning -- "This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man." -- Wm. Shakespeare

I think I could understand Betsy even more in this book than the prior ones. I think most teenage girls have gone through many of the same things that Betsy experiences in this book. When Betsy goes away for two weeks over Christmas to visit Tib in Milwaukee, she wants to come back a different person. She creates a list of things that she needs to change about herself so her friends (and the boys) will perceive her differently. She even adds and "e" to the end of her name and tries to smile less. My heart went out to Betsy because I remember having those same insecurities when I was a teen; however, I knew that Betsy would have to figure things out on her own - -just like I did.

In this book, the reader also sees Betsy fall for the wrong guy. I could see that he was a little self-absorbed and definitely not good enough for Betsy; and I was very worried that Betsy would end up getting hurt. What I loved so much about Betsy is that she was so sensible when it came to the end of her relationships with boys. It might not have always happened immediately, but eventually Betsy came to realize that she was better off without the guy. And by the end of BETSY IN SPITE OF HERSELF, she knew without a doubt that she had to be herself; and if the guy didn't accept her just the way she was, then he wasn't worth the time. What a fantastic message for young girls! I was so proud of Betsy because I don't think I realized that lesson until I was much older.

I have now finished six of the ten Betsy-Tacy books; and I can't wait to read the next four! I feel as if I have watched Betsy grow up and learn so much about herself, and I almost feel as if she's an old friend. I am so glad that I finally discovered these books -- even though I'm about 30 years late. I feel as if I missed out on them as a child, but I am so happy that I can now read and talk about them with my daughter. In fact, the other day Booking Daughter and I were in the car discussing Betsy's love life. We sounded as if we were talking about a real person whom we cared about very much. In so many ways, that's exactly what Betsy is -- a friend that we've grown to love!

It's pretty obvious that I highly recommend these books to girls of all ages because I can't imagine that anyone wouldn't love them. I intend to give away a lot of these books in upcoming years. I absolutely love that these books cover Betsy's entire childhood, from the time she is six years old until she eventually falls in love and gets married; and I think they are the perfect gift for young girls. I can't wait to buy the entire series for the young girls in our family so they can fall in love with Betsy just like Booking Daughter and I have!

There is so much wonderful material on Maud Hart Lovelace in the back of each and every Betsy-Tacy book; however, there is also a website where you can learn even more about the books and Ms. Lovelace's life. In addition to this background information, you can also become a member of the Betsy-Tacy society. There is also a Betsy-Tacy gift shop where you can purchase almost anything related to Betsy and her friends including the most adorable note cards, paper dolls, clothes and jewelry.

The Betsy-Tacy books all lend themselves to discussion for book clubs and especially mother-daughter book groups. There is a great reading guide available which covers the entire series; however, each books could be individually discussed as well. I like the idea of reading and discussing a few books at a time and talking about the changes the reader sees in Betsy and her friends as they grow up. I also think it would be so fun to hear young girls discuss how they relate to Betsy and/or Tacy!

Even though HEAVEN TO BETSY was the first Betsy-Tacy book that dealt with the teenage years, I didn't have any problem with Booking Daughter reading it because it was so nice and sweet. In fact, I actually thought she'd really enjoy reading about the older girls. Here are some of her thoughts about HEAVEN TO BETSY:

I liked the book HEAVEN TO BETSY. In the beginning, I thought Betsy was too old and not as fun, but by the end of the book, I realized it was the same old Betsy. Betsy went through a lot of changes throughout the year, but in some ways it made her stronger.

The author still added some funny things to the story. I liked how she included things that Betsy and Tacy did in the earlier books like some of their traditions. I also liked that there was a writing contest and that Betsy was eligible to compete.

I made a prediction about Betsy's new boyfriend, and I really liked that I was right even though it was a little sad. I really didn't think the boy was good enough for Betsy and he treated her kind of badly.
I definitely recommend the entire Betsy-Tacy series including this book. I can't wait to read the next book BETSY IN SPITE OF HERSELF.

I'm sure Booking Daughter and I aren't alone with our praise for the Betsy-Tacy books. Check out these other tour stops:

Monday, September 21st: 5 Little Monkeys
Tuesday, September 22nd: Six Boxes of Books
Wednesday, September 23rd: Here in the Bonny Glen
Tuesday, September 29th: The Brain Lair
Thursday, October 1st: She Is Too Fond of Books
Tuesday, October 6th: I’m Booking It
Wednesday, October 7th: Kate’s Book Blog
Thursday, October 8th: The Tome Traveller
Monday, October 12th: Red Lady’s Reading Room
Tuesday, October 13th: A High and Hidden Place
Wednesday, October 14th: The Well-Read Child
Thursday, October 15th: Diary of an Eccentric

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to participate in this tour.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Review: Betsy-Tacy Books #3 and #4

Summary: Betsy, Tacy, and Tib can't wait to be ten. After all, getting two numbers in your age is the beginning of growing up--exciting things are bound to happen. And they do! The girls fall in love with the King of Spain, perform in the School Entertainment, and for the first time, go all the way over the Big Hill to Little Syria by themselves. There Betsy, Tacy, and Tib make new friends and learn a thing or two. They learn that new Americans are sometimes the best Americans. And they learn that they themselves wouldn't want to be anything else.

Ever since their first publication in the 1940s, the Betsy-Tacy stories have been loved by each generation of young readers. -- Harper Collins

Summary: Betsy, Tacy, and Tib are twelve--old enough to do lots of things...even go downtown on their own. There they see their first horseless carriage, discover the joys of the public library, and see a real play at the Opera House. They even find themselves acting in one! Best of all, they help a lonely new friend feel at home in Deep Valley--the most wonderful place in the world to grow up. Ever since their first publication in the 1940s, the Betsy-Tacy stories have been loved by each generation of young readers. -- Harper Collins

Yesterday, Booking Daughter and I gave our review of the first two books in the Betsy-Tacy series written by Maud Hart Lovelace and illustrated by Lois Lenski -- BETSY-TACY and BETSY-TACY AND TIB. We absolutely fell in love with everything about these books. In keeping with our Betsy-Tacy mini-marathon, today we will be talking about Books #3 and #4 BETSY AND TACY GO OVER THE BIG HILL and BETSY AND TACY GO DOWNTOWN. I thought I loved the first two books, but I think I enjoyed Books #3 and #4 even more.

As far as I'm concerned, the Betsy-Tacy books just keep getting better and better. In Book 3, the girls were 10 years old; and in Book 4, they were 12 years old; and I really liked seeing these girls around the same age as my daughter. Even though these books were first released in the 1940, so much of the story is timeless. I could see so many similarities between Betsy, Tacy, and Tib and my daughter and her friends. I don't know how Ms. Lovelace managed to capture the essence of young girls so well, but she conveyed so many universal themes about girls and friendship that still exist today.

In BETSY AND TACY GO OVER THE BIG HILL, the reader sees how much the girls have changed since the last novel. The girls are ten years old and decide that they can now venture "over the big hill." Once they go over the hill and enter Little Syria, the girls quickly make new friends while also learning about an entirely different culture. I loved their innocence and willingness to embrace the differences rather than question them. In addition, I liked how the girls ultimately learned how fortunate they are to live in America!

I think my favorite book of the first four was BETSY AND TACY GO DOWNTOWN. I thought this book clearly showed how much the girls were growing up and maturing. I loved that despite growing up, all three girls still maintained their closeness -- it was just so heartwarming to see how nice the girls were to each other! In addition, I enjoyed the story of Betsy becoming friends with Mrs. Poppy, the ex-actress who had recently moved to Deep Valley. Mrs. Poppy didn't really have any close friends because so many of the townspeople considered her different; however, she and Betsy became wonderful friends. I loved how their relationship demonstrated how valuable and important a friend can be! And, I found it extremely heartwarming to see how much each one wanted to give the other something special to treasure.

As a member of a mother-daughter book club, I can't recommend these books enough! I so wish we would read these two books with our girls because I think both the daughters and the mothers would love them. (Maybe I could help make some more Betsy-Tacy converts.) In addition, I think everyone will relate to Betsy, Tacy and Tib; and there are certainly a lot of issues that warrant further discussion. I would like to hear the girls discuss the similarities and differences of the past and present -- I'm sure they'd offer some additional insight for me. I also would love for them to compare Betsy and her friends with some of their own friendships.

I was curious to see whether Booking Daughter would like these two books more than the first two in the series because the characters are closer to her current age. Here are her thoughts:

I actually liked these books just as much as the first two, but in totally different ways. In BETSY-TACY and BETSY-TACY AND TIB, I thought the girls were goofier and had crazier ideas. I laughed a lot more when the girls were younger.

In BETSY AND TACY GO OVER THE BIG HILL and BETSY AND TACY GO DOWNTOWN, I liked they were growing up. The girls seemed to do and think a lot of the same things as my friends and I do. I also liked that their friendship was so strong and they never had a fight.

In BETSY AND TACY GO OVER THE BIG HILL, I thought it was funny how the girls wrote to the King of Spain. I also really liked the ending when they threw a big celebration for their new friend Naifa. I thought it showed how sweet the girls were and how happy they were to live in America and be free.

In BETSY AND TACY GO DOWNTOWN, I enjoyed that the girls got to perform at the Opera House. I also liked how Betsy became friends with a woman who was lonely and felt like an outsider. This story showed how nice and kind Betsy was.

I definitely will be recommending these books to my friends and teacher at school. I think everyone will love Betsy-Tacy books as much as I do.

Thanks to Book Club Girl for sending us these books.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Review: Betsy-Tacy Books #1 and #2

Summary: There are lots of children on Hill Street, but no little girls Betsy's age. So when a new family moves into the house across the street, Betsy hopes they will have a little girl she can play with. Sure enough, they do--a little girl named Tacy. And from the moment they meet at Betsy's fifth birthday party, Betsy and Tacy become such good friends that everyone starts to think of them as one person--Betsy-Tacy.

Betsy and Tacy have lots of fun together. They make a playhouse from a piano box, have a sand store, and dress up and go calling. And one day, they come home to a wonderful surprise--a new friend named Tib.

Ever since their first publication in the 1940's, the Betsy-Tacy stories have been loved by each generation of young readers. -- Harper Collins

Summary: Betsy and Tacy are best friends. Then Tib moves into the neighborhood and the three of them start to play together. The grown-ups think they will quarrel, but they don't. Sometimes they quarrel with Betsy's and Tacy's bossy big sisters, but they never quarrel among themselves.

They are not as good as they might be. They cook up awful messes in the kitchen, throw mud on each other and pretend to be beggars, and cut off each other's hair. But Betsy, Tacy, and Tib always manage to have a good time.

Ever since their first publication in the 1940s, the Betsy-Tacy stories have been loved by each generation of young readers. -- Harper Collins

I have no idea why I wasn't familiar with the Betsy-Tacy series of books as a child, but I am so glad that I have discovered them as an adult -- I have Book Club Girl to thank for that! I do admit that I majorly missed out as a young girl by not reading these books. I have a feeling that I would have loved Betsy and her friends, and that I would have read these books over and over again. But enough about that... I'm just especially grateful that I have these books now and can share them with my 10 year old daughter!

BETSY-TACY and BETSY-TACY AND TIB, written by Maud Hart Lovelace and illustrated by Lois Lenski, are the first two books in the series. BETSY-TACY begins when the girls are 6 years old and tells the story of how they become best friends. BETSY-TACY AND TIB takes place two years later, when the girls are 8 years old, and continues with stories about their friendship. Only in this book, the girls meet up with Tib, the new girl in town; and a threesome is formed. Both books are filled with little stories about the girls and their friendship that is sure to entertain girls of all ages!

One thing I especially loved about these books is that they are still relevant even though the books were originally published in the 1940s. It doesn't matter how much our lives have changed over the years, young girls today will still relate to these stories about Betsy and her friends. These first two books are filled with lots of playtime and adventures that little girls everywhere have experienced. I think that Ms. Lovelace definitely captured every young girls' feeling with the characters in these novels.

In each of the following books, the girls continue to get older and more mature. I love that these books follow Betsy and Tacy from the time they were six until the time that Betsy gets married. It's almost as if you watch Betsy grow up; and I think that definitely made me feel as if Betsy were someone I knew. Each of the books in this series can stand alone; however, I think they are best appreciated as a whole. Every time I read a sentence that referenced something in the prior novel, I felt as if I were reminiscing with a friend.

Besides the actual stories about the girls, I also really appreciated the author's note, foreword and appendices in these books. In BETSY-TACY, the author's note was especially interesting because I learned that so much of these stories were based on Ms. Lovelace's own life. I also enjoyed the foreword in BETSY-TACY AND TIB because it was written by one of my daughter's favorite writers Ann M. Martin. It's obvious that the Betsy-Tacy books had a lasting impact on young girls and encouraged many of them to become writers. And finally, I loved the last few pages of both books because there were lots of photos from Ms. Lovelace's childhood as well as additional information on her life and how it related to the particular book.

Booking Daughter absolutely loved these books too. In fact, she kept talking about Betsy as if she were real. And I have to say that my heart melted just a little when she started cutting up old magazines and playing paper dolls like Betsy and Tacy! Here are her thoughts about these first two books:

I loved BETSY-TACY and BETSY-TACY AND TIB! I thought all of the characters were hilarious and unpredictable, but I really liked Tacy because she was so shy. I also liked how Betsy was so confident in herself and what she believed in. I could relate to Tib (sort of) because she loved to dance.

I loved how Betsy made up stories and began writing them down. I thought it was interesting that the author based the stories and characters on her own life. I also liked learning things about an earlier time.

BETSY-TACY AND TIB was my favorite book so far that I've read. I enjoyed the funny things the girls did together when they were eight years old. I thought it was hilarious when they cut off each other's hair. I was LOLing!

I definitely recommend these two books to little girls. I think they will like the characters and their personalities.

Thanks to Book Club Girl for sending us these books and converting two new Betsy-Tacy fans!

Free Jewelry in Exchange for Book Reviews

What's that you say -- free jewelry for a book review? That's right, Becky from Books We Read sent me an e-mail asking me to share this information with you:

Have you read any new book lately and got something to say? Or have you seen any books listed in our blog that you want to comment on? You will get a free jewelry set when we publish your book review or comment on this blog!! Submit your comment on one of our listed books here, or email us a review of the latest book you read that is not here already.... If we decide to publish your comment or book review, we will send you an acceptance notification and a free jewelry set like below:

If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, then I suggest taking a closer look at this post on Books We Read!

Friday, September 25, 2009

I Won a Kindle from FSB!!!!

I am absolutely speechless -- and that rarely happens! Earlier this morning, I received an e-mail from Julie at FSB Associates telling me that I had won their Kindle Giveaway! I am just so excited and I'm really having a hard time expressing how happy I am! I can't wait to actually get my hands on it!

I have worked with FSB over the past year and a half, and they've always been great to work with. For those of you who didn't sign up for this giveaway, check out this wonderful letter that they wrote to honor book bloggers for BBAW:

Thank you, Book Bloggers!

In celebration of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, everyone at FSB Associates would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all book bloggers. We are so very grateful for your time and effort in helping us promote our books and authors. Your contributions to the book publishing industry are truly unquantifiable. Your caring, thoughtful reviews and attention have made so many authors very, very happy.

I thank you on behalf of all of us at FSB for your continued support of books and authors. As a token of our apprecaition, we are giving away a Kindle 2 to one blogger! Enter for your chance to win by clicking here. Please also enter to join our directory of bloggers, which will be online at next month and will allow us to give you additional attention and visibility.

Thank you again for your time and energy, and we look forward to working with you in 2010!

Best wishes,
Fauzia Burke

Of course, I want to give a huge thanks to FSB for offering this giveaway (and picking my name!) But I also have to thank my very good friend Kathy, aka BermudaOnion, for bringing this contest to my attention. I was at Disneyworld and she sent me a Twitter Direct Message just to let me know about it -- isn't she a great friend?

As soon as I have a chance to play with my new toy, I'll write a little review to let you know how much I love it! In the meantime, I'll just keep on doing my little "Happy Dance."

Review: Just Another Day in My Insanely Real Life

Summary: Twelve-year-old Cassie has a lot to cope with when her father moves "out of the picture." Her mom's constantly working overtime, her teenage sister's going AWOL, and her little brother seriously needs attention. It's up to Cassie to prevent total chaos at home -- or so she thinks.

She can't control everything, though. At school Cassie's two "best" friends are turning nasty, and a cute boy is sending mixed signals. And then there's Mr. Mullaney -- the weirdest, hardest English teacher in the seventh grade -- who hates everything she does. Since Mr. Mullaney isn't even reading her brilliant work, Cassie starts submitting journal entries like "A Virtual Tour of My Insanely Messy Desk." But her sassy humor isn't winning her any friends or helping her ailing grades. What's a girl to do when life gets totally insane?

Barbara Dee has created a witty, poignant portrait of an intense, honest, feisty girl who is ferociously funny and only too human. -- Aladdin Mix

I really didn't have any intention of reading JUST ANOTHER DAY IN MY INSANELY REAL LIFE by Barbara Dee right now (it's not like I don't have a lot of other books that I "should" be reading), but Booking Daughter was so excited about this book that I couldn't help but read it. She wanted to talk about it with me, so how could I resist her enthusiasm? I had enjoyed the other novel that Ms. Dee wrote, SOLVING ZOE (you can read my review here), so I dropped the other book I was reading and jumped in!

As was the case with SOLVING ZOE, I thoroughly enjoyed this middle-grade novel -- I can totally see why Booking Daughter was so anxious to have me read it! I think I enjoyed it even more than SOLVING ZOE and I really liked that book! JUST ANOTHER DAY IN MY INSANELY REAL LIFE is the story of Cassie, a seventh grader whose life is suddenly turned upside-down. When her father leaves (for no apparent reason to the kids), Cassie's and her family have to leave their house and move into a small apartment. In addition, Cassie's mother has to work long hours to support the family; and Cassie's older sister Miranda is always leaving Cassie with her younger brother and all the household responsibilities. To make matters even worse, she is having problems at school and making bad grades. With all that going on, no wonder Cassie feels that her life is a little insane!

As a mother, I couldn't help but love Cassie. She had so much responsibility thrown on her at such a young ago, and her personality made her try to protect everyone she loved. Of course, I felt sorry for her situation, but I loved her snarky sense of humor -- she was too funny! As a result of all the changes in her life, Cassie ended up having to give up extra-curricular activities and eventually some of her so-called friends. In fact, Booking Daughter made the comment to me that both of the young girls in Ms. Dee's books were outsiders and felt like they didn't have any real friends. I thought that was really insightful, but I'm a little biased, wouldn't you say?

I love how much this book made my daughter think! When she described the story to me, it was very obvious not only how much she liked the book, but also how much she took away from it. I can't help but recommend books like this one to every young girl (and boy!) I actually think JUST ANOTHER DAY IN MY INSANELY REAL LIFE would make an ideal selection for our mother-daughter book club. Ms. Dee has a fantastic website which provides some discussion questions not only for this book, but also SOLVING ZOE!

JUST ANOTHER DAY IN MY INSANELY REAL LIFE was Ms. Dee's first novel. It was a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and I can definitely see why. Ms. Dee has a third novel in the works that Booking Daughter and I can't wait to read (it's scheduled for April 2010!) If you'd like to learn more about Ms. Dee, you can read a Q&A with her here. Ms. Dee has also recently started a blog -- it's a lot of fun and you should really check it out, especially if you are a fan of middle-grade fiction.

Since I read this based on Booking Daughter's recommendation, here are her thoughts:

I was excited when my mom showed me JUST ANOTHER DAY IN MY INSANELY REAL LIFE because I liked SOLVING ZOE. I liked this book even better than SOLVING ZOEY because I thought it was funnier and more realistic. I liked Cassie but her older sister Miranda was way more interesting in some ways. I thought Miranda was hilarious because she was always expecting Cassie to be responsible. She would leave with lots of work while she went over to her friends' houses and waited for a boy to call.

Cassie was a nice girl who felt responsible for her little brother. I felt bad for Cassie because she had a difficult time in school and at home. She was a good writer but she still fell behind in English class. Her friends ditched her because she stood up for Bess. I was hoping that they would become friends because I thought Bess was a nice person and wouldn't hurt Cassie.

I liked the ending especially the last sentence because it surprised me. I am going to suggest this book to all of my friends.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My Book Club is Featured on Book End Babes

Head on over to Book End Babes and take a look at the nice little feature on my book club! The Preschool Moms Book Club were selected as the BEBabes Chapter of the Week -- how cool is that?

I absolutely love this new website, and I think it's going to be a very valuable resource for me and my book club. And while you are there, check out all the things BEBabes have going on right now. There are book recommendations, contests, author guest posts, and more! You might even want to sign up your current book club or consider starting a group if you aren't already a member of a one. You could win a bag of books just for signing up!

Review: Cleopatra's Daughter

Summary: The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony’s revengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt. Their three orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome; only two– the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander–survive the journey. Delivered to the household of Octavian’s sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian’s family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts.

The fateful tale of Selene and Alexander is brought brilliantly to life in Cleopatra’s Daughter. Recounted in Selene’s youthful and engaging voice, it introduces a compelling cast of historical characters: Octavia, the emperor Octavian’s kind and compassionate sister, abandoned by Marc Antony for Cleopatra; Livia, Octavian's bitter and jealous wife; Marcellus, Octavian’s handsome, flirtatious nephew and heir apparent; Tiberius, Livia’s sardonic son and Marcellus’s great rival for power; and Juba, Octavian’s watchful aide, whose honored position at court has far-reaching effects on the lives of the young Egyptian royals.

Selene’s narrative is animated by the concerns of a young girl in any time and place–the possibility of finding love, the pull of friendship and family, and the pursuit of her unique interests and talents. While coping with the loss of both her family and her ancestral kingdom, Selene must find a path around the dangers of a foreign land. Her accounts of life in Rome are filled with historical details that vividly capture both the glories and horrors of the times. She dines with the empire’s most illustrious poets and politicians, witnesses the creation of the Pantheon, and navigates the colorful, crowded marketplaces of the city where Roman-style justice is meted out with merciless authority.

Based on meticulous research,
Cleopatra’s Daughter is a fascinating portrait of imperial Rome and of the people and events of this glorious and most tumultuous period in human history. Emerging from the shadows of the past, Selene, a young woman of irresistible charm and preternatural intelligence, will capture your heart. -- Crown

If you are familiar with me and my blog, then you probably already know that I am a huge fan of Michelle Moran and her novels. I have been anxiously awaiting her latest novel CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER for quite awhile -- actually since my book club was fortunate enough to talk with her during one of our meetings last year. Not only did I love both of her prior historical fiction novels NEFERTITI and THE HERETIC QUEEN (you can read my review of THE HERETIC QUEEN here), but ancient Rome is absolutely my favorite place and time period as well.

I am happy to report that I was not disappointed with CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER. It definitely met my expectations (and they were set pretty high.) Ever since back in high school (where I took four years of Latin and watched I Claudius every Friday), I have been extremely interested in ancient Rome. I have read a few books about Rome throughout the years and I was addicted to the HBO series Rome, but I still want more! I don't think I will ever get tired of these historical figures and their antics!

I love the way that Ms. Moran decided to tell the story in this novel. She wrote the book in first person through the voice of Selena, the daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Antony. The story begins when Mark Antony and Cleopatra take their own lives, and their remaining children -- Selena and her two brothers -- are taken away in chains from Egypt to Rome by their enemy Octavian. Selena was a wonderful young girl (and eventually a wonderful young woman) who seemed mature beyond her years. Of course, she grew up in the refined and cultured Egypt; and she spent a great deal of time being educated with adults. I thought the blend of Selena's maturity along with her naivete because of her age made this story and her insight extra-special. I especially loved Selena's reactions when she reached Rome -- that it wasn't anywhere near as sophisticated as Egypt!

I absolutely loved Selena and I truly appreciated her spunk! It was clear to her that she was living as a prisoner under Octavian's rule, and yet she still never forget her parents and her homeland. She wasn't afraid to say what was on her mind (at times to her detriment); however, she still had enough sense to know how to play the different characters against each other. In addition, I liked that Ms. Moran portrayed Selena as a young girl who was very bright and loved to study architecture. In this novel, Selena not only studied with a skilled teacher, but she also used her talent and knowledge about buildings to help design new structures.

Although Selena was a young girl and did make a few mistakes along the way, she still had many admirable traits. First and foremost, I loved how loyal she was to her family and friends. I don't want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that she was extremely generous and grateful to those who helped her. In many ways, CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER was a coming-of-age story about Selena, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing her mature throughout this novel. I especially liked the ending and how Selena came to realize who and what she should value.

It probably goes without saying that I loved all of the historical information that was woven into this novel. I'm sure Ms. Moran embellished the lives of the main characters, but it seems to me that many of the characters in ancient Rome needed little help. Everything I've ever seen or read about the lives of the early Romans is filled with all the elements of a good story (or at least, a soap opera) -- love, adultery, affairs, mystery, murder, etc. Much of this novel brought back memories of things I had already known, but I was amazed by how many new things I learned about this ancient civilizations of Egypt and Rome. I can't believe how advanced these societies were and how little some things have changed over thousands of years.

Michelle Moran is without a doubt one of my very favorite authors. I will read anything and everything she writes -- guaranteed. I think she is a master of historical fiction, and I believe that there are few writers that capture my interest like she does. The amount of research she conducts for each of her books is absolutely amazing; and what's even more astounding is how many ideas and projects she has going at one time. In addition to being a great writer, Ms. Moran is really as nice as can be too. She is extremely friendly (and generous) with book clubs and bloggers, and she even has a special place on her website just for bloggers. Make sure you visit her site and check out all of her beautiful photos from her travels around the world.

Of course, I highly recommend CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER, especially for book clubs. My group discussed NEFERTITI (along with a chat with Ms. Moran), and it was a wonderful meeting. I think that CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER would make for an equally interesting discussion. One thing that I found so special about this particular Ms. Moran novel is that it is geared towards both the adult as well as the YA audience. In fact, there are multiple reading guides for this novel - one for YA and one for adults. I can't wait until the girls in my mother-daughter book club are old enough to discuss (and appreciate) this novel! What I loved about both guides is that there was a great mix of historical questions about Rome and the culture as well as questions about the different characters and their actions.

Truth be told, I enjoyed CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER so much that I'm hoping for a sequel or a prequel! So many of the characters in this book were absolutely fascinating and could definitely provide enough material for their own story! In the meantime, if you know a good book about Ancient Rome that you think I might enjoy, would you please leave the title and/or author's name in a comment? Thanks!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Review: Goldengrove

Summary: After the sudden death of her beloved older sister, thirteen-year-old Nico finds her life on New England's idyllic Mirror Lake irrevocably altered. Left alone to grope toward understanding, she falls into a seductive, dangerous relationship with her sister's boyfriend. Over one haunted summer, Nico faces that life-changing moment when children realize their parents can no longer help them as she experiences the mystery of loss and recovery. Still, for all the darkness at its heart, Goldengrove is radiant with the lightness of summer and charged by the restless sexual tension of adolescence. -- Harper Perennial

I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up GOLDENGROVE by Francine Prose. I thought the description of the book sounded like one that I'd enjoy because I am always drawn to books about teenage girls; however, I had absolutely no idea how much I would adore this novel and Ms. Prose's writing style. This novel captivated me from the very start, and I really didn't want the story to end.

GOLDENGROVE isn't a very long novel (less than 300 pages) but it sure did pack a powerful punch for me. I actually read it in two sittings -- one half before bedtime and the other half the next morning after I put my daughter on the bus. I literally could not put the book down. What struck me as a little odd about my "need" to read this book is that the subject matter was extremely depressing. At times, this story broke my heart and brought tears to my eyes. The author had a very special way of writing this novel that just lured me in and immediately made me feel a closeness to the character of Nico.

There are so many wonderful things about this novel -- from the story to the character development to the writing! But I think I was most impressed with how much this book affected me. I think that's a definite credit to Ms. Prose. She created such memorable characters who were all in so much pain because of the loss of Margaret. I am just blown away by how real their grief seemed to me. I haven't dealt with a loss this intense in my lifetime; but as I read this book, I could truly understand each character's actions and how they handled his or her own grief.

While I appreciated all of the characters' reactions to Margaret's death, I absolutely adored the 13 year old Nico. As if being a young teenager isn't difficult enough, she was actually with Margaret when she died. Of course, she was experiencing guilt as well as the loss of her sister; and her parents became distracted as they dealt with their own grief. The only person Nico felt a closeness to was her sister's boyfriend Aaron; and she felt she had to keep their relationship a secret because her parents didn't like him. My heart broke over and over again for Nico as she tried to deal with so many of her own conflicting feelings as well as the absence of those she loved the most.

Prior to reading GOLDENGROVE, I was not familiar with any of Ms. Prose's books. I was aware that she was an award winning writer; but for some reason, I had never picked up one of her novels. I can honestly say that I've been missing out on an amazingly talented author. I am so glad that Ms. Prose has written 15 other novels because I will certainly be looking forward to reading them. I just love discovering a new-to-me writer. (And how cool is it that her last name is Prose and she's a writer? -- I couldn't resist!)

I actually decided to read this book because Book Club Girl is hosting a BlogTalk Radio Show with Ms. Prose tomorrow night, and I love participating in these interviews. I always think I gain a new appreciation for the novel after hearing the author speak. After completing GOLDENGROVE, I cannot wait to listen to Ms. Prose discuss her writing and inspiration behind the story. The show takes place tomorrow night, September 24th, at 7:00 p.m. EST. I have a feeling that it's going to be a very interesting show.

I can't recommend this book enough for a future book club selection. There is a reading guide available with extremely deep and thought-provoking questions. While this book naturally shows the effects that grief and loss have on a family, it also delves into other topics such as physical an emotional pain, parent/child relationships, sisterhood, and healing. In addition, there is so much to explore pertaining to Nico and her relationships with others -- especially her sister's boyfriend Aaron. I think book clubs could talk about this novel for hours!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel.

Wondrous Words Wednesday - September 23, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy aka Bermuda Onion where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun.

All of this week's words come from CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER by Michelle Moran:

cuirass - The king's face was beautiful in its three-hundred-year repose, his arms against the muscled cuirass were still pink with flesh and strikingly large. (p.25)

Cuirass: Also called corselet. defensive armor for the torso comprising a breastplate and backplate, originally made of leather.

fornices - Julia giggled. "The fornices. And they're always crowded, night or day." (p. 144)

Fornices: Archways or vaults. Roman prostitutes' habit of soliciting in archways leaves its trace in the word "fornicate."

gryphon - "Do I look like a gryphon in this thing?" he asked.

Gryphon: Also called griffin. a fabled monster, usually having the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion.

caryatid - He ran his hand lovingly lover a caryatid, pausing to rest it on the figure's marble cheek.

Caryatid: a sculptured female figure used as a column.

Did you learn any new words this week?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Guest Blogger: Cathy Marie Buchanan & Giveaway

Yesterday, I reviewed THE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL by Cathy Marie Buchanan. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel for so many reasons, but the historical aspect of the story really stood out to me. I knew next to nothing about Niagara Falls, and I thought Ms. Buchanan definitely brought the area to life. The descriptions of Niagara Falls were so well done that the Falls actually became another character in this novel.

I am so glad to welcome Ms. Buchanan today. She has written a guest post (along with some photos) that includes facts about Niagara Falls. I hope you enjoy learning about it as much as I did. Of course, you should still read the book because there is so much more to this beautiful novel than just the historical information about the Falls.

10 Things You Never Knew About Niagara Falls
(unless you’ve read The Day the Falls Stood Still)

1. The amount of water tourists see flowing over Niagara Falls is usually only twenty-five percent of the natural flow. Seventy-five percent of the water is diverted for hydroelectricity.

The Queenston powerhouse, built during the book’s timeframe, was the largest hydroelectric development in the world when it opened in 1922. Eight thousand men toiled day and night to build the canal diverting water from the Niagara River to the Queenston powerhouse.

2. The book’s inspiration, legendary riverman William “Red” Hill (1888-1942), hauled 177 bodies from the river, rescued 29 people, and was awarded four lifesaving medals—the first at age seven. He also shot the lower rapids in a barrel. Three times.

3. Created in 1885, Niagara Falls State Park is America’s oldest state park.

The park was the result of a sixteen-year, hard-fought battle by a group of prominent men led by Frederick Law Olmsted, most widely known for designing New York City’s Central Park.

4. In 1901, Annie Taylor became the first person to survive a trip over the falls in a barrel.

5. Niagara Falls has long been a source of inspiration:

“I have seen the falls and I am all rapture and amazement.” —Henry James

“Niagara was at once stamped upon my heart, an Image of Beauty.” —Charles Dickens

“Oh, it is lovelier than it is great; it is like the Mind that made it: great, but so veiled in beauty that we gaze without terror.” —Harriet Beecher Stowe

6. The term “the day the falls stood still” was coined back in 1848 to describe the day the Niagara River became jammed up with ice and ceased to flow over the falls.

With the falls standing still, the locals of Niagara Falls woke to quiet rather than the thunder of the river plummeting from the brink. With the cliff face of their falls and the riverbed bone dry, some ducked into churches, praying for their salvation with Armageddon so close at hand, and others headed out onto the riverbed, salvaging lost timbers and collecting relics from the War of 1812.

7. Toronto’s Archbishop saw a picture of the falls as a boy and conjured up prayers floating heavenward with the mist, a notion that years later led to the establishment of Loretto Academy at Niagara Falls and the tradition of perpetual adoration.

The Loretto Sisters came to Canada in 1861 and transformed a rundown country inn into a convent and school. The community struggled under severe conditions of deprivation and extreme temperatures until the archbishop deeded the sisters six acres of land overlooking Niagara Falls for a new convent and school for female boarders and day students. Afterward, for almost a century, a sister was always on bended knee in the academy chapel offering up prayers to rise with the mist.

8. A barge with two men aboard became lodged in the rapids just above the falls in 1918.

A barge dredging the entrance of a hydroelectric canal on the American side of the river had broken free of its tug and drifted toward the Horseshoe Falls. After becoming snagged on a rock shoal, William “Red” Hill rescued the two deckhands. The scow still remains at the same spot where it became stuck in 1918.

9. A trolley route, described as the most scenic trolley ride in the world, used to run along the rim of the Niagara Gorge on the Canadian side of the river and then along the teeming rapids at the base of the gorge on the American side if the river.

The Great Gorge Route ceased operation in 1935 after decades of accidents and landslides made the route too deadly and too costly to operate.

10. Niagara Falls was once felt to be at least as terrifying as it was beautiful.

In the mid-1800s many people believed Niagara Falls possessed the power to lure those who gazed at it too long into throwing themselves from the brink. Phrases like “awful grandeur” and “frightful beauty” were commonly used to describe the falls. In fact, in the oration delivered at the opening on the Niagara Falls State Park in 1885, the words “awful symbol of Infinite Power, in whose dread presence we stand” was used to invoke Niagara Falls.

Picture captions and credits:

• William “Red” Hill (right) – Niagara Falls (Ontario) Public Library

• Annie Taylor and her barrel – Niagara Falls Pubic Library, Niagara Falls, NY

• Great Gorge Route − Niagara, copyright 1902 by A. Wittemann, Brooklyn, N.Y.

I'd like to thank Ms. Buchanan for writing the very informative guest post. I just happen to have received an extra copy of THE DAYS THE FALLS STOOD STILL, and I'd like to pass it on to one of you. To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment with your e-mail address telling me something you learned about Niagara Falls. To double or triple your chances, you can blog and/or tweet about this giveaway with a link back to this post. This contest will be open until Tuesday, October 6th at 11:59 p.m. EST; and I will notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. or Canada mailing addresses only. Good luck!