Picture Book Review ~ Women’s History Month And Jane Austen

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It would be almost criminal to celebrate books and women’s history without acknowledging a woman who has done more to revolutionize books and literature than nearly any other in history. Born in 1775, Jane Austen lived a relatively simple life, the daughter of a rector/teacher, seventh of eight children, and a keen observer of the world around her.

She had some education but her family was never well-enough off to consistently provide a full education. But as a woman she was expected to learn more of the arts of needlepoint than how to make her way in the world. Instead she learned from books and experience. Using what she saw and wished for her own life she invented a new kind of story, focusing on the daily exploits of real people. In her short life she saw three of her six books published and found a bit of fame and fortune despite being a woman. Over 200 years later she is widely regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time.
Each of these fantastic books takes a slightly different tack in telling Jane’s story but both emphasize the subtle rebellion Austen displayed in writing how and what she did. Pliscou’s book has a more historical tone with lots of dates and details, while Hopkinson’s book is more story-like, echoing some of Austen’s famous lines throughout the text. Both have excellent back matter including timelines, brief synopses of her books, quotes about her from authors she inspired and sources for further study. (I have been known to judge a non-fiction book, particularly a biography, solely on the back matter…these ladies have done it right!) Both are excellent resources for getting a beginner’s look at Austen’s life.
 Jane Austen Picture Book Review
Written by: Lisa Pliscou
Illustrated by: Jen Corage
Number of Pages: 48
Age Range: 6-10
Rating: 5/5
Written by: Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrated by: Qin Leng
Number of Pages: 40
Age Range: 6-10
Rating: 5/5
I’d wager she’s been adapted nearly as often, if not more often than Shakespeare. There are the faithful adaptations (like the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice) and the countless variations (like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). And then the whole category of acknowledging the almost absurdity that is Austen fanaticism and fan-fiction (like Jane Austen Ruined My Life or Austenland). What’s your favorite take on the great lady’s work? Tell us in the comments!*
*I confess I absolutely love Persuasion, but who can pick just one?

Picture Book Review ~ Women Architects

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up my brothers and sister and I would spend hours playing architect. We designed floor plans for our dream homes (including pools in our basement, giant walk-in closets, and lofts in our bedrooms (mine was a reading nook/library, my brothers both had dreams of gaming and displaying their various collections and my sister always kept hers a secret—probably her plans to take over the world.)

I never followed that dream to fruition but I have a fascination with design and architecture to this day. I love to walk through model homes and critique the layouts and use of space. I’ve taken architecture tours in various cities around the world marveling at the things humans can imagine and create. I’m featuring two of those remarkable creators today.

Maya Lin Architect Book Review












Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines

Written by: Jeanne Walker Harvey

Illustrated by: Dow Phumiruk

Number of Pages: 32

Age Range: 4-9

Rating: 4/5

Maya had always been fascinated and surrounded by art. As an architectural student she entered a contest to design a new memorial honoring the soldiers killed during the Vietnam War. Her idea was chosen but she received much ridicule for being so young, being a girl, being an amateur. But she refused to back down and was rewarded with seeing her work come to life (and be greatly honored and respected by all who see it.) She continued to design works of art and architecture, combining the two with an element of interaction inviting people to not only look but touch, walk around, sit by and be a part of it.

I lived just outside of Washington, D.C. for many years and visited the “Wall” often. It’s an incredible experience to see and trace the names etched in the stone and see it stretching out almost eternally in both directions. It’s an amazing piece and I was inspired to learn it was created by a young girl with a dream! For a little more information there’s also an author’s note that gives a bit more background on the monument and what it represents.

The World is Not a Rectangle Book Review














The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid

Written and Illustrated by: Jeanette Winter

Number of Pages: 56

Age Range: 4-9

Rating: 4/5

Zaha Hadid was born in Baghdad. She was able to study architecture in London but as a Muslim woman she faced more obstacles than most. Her designs were revolutionary, based on patterns, colors, textures she observed in nature and the world around her from waving grasses, windswept dunes, wandering rivers, shells and cocoons. Her non-linear designs (and thinking) won her awards and respect in a male-dominated field.

I’d never heard Hadid’s name before but looking at the final spread of the book showing many of her designs I recognized her work. She has a fantastical touch, many of her buildings looking like they shouldn’t be able to stand or should be gracing the pages of a Dr. Seuss book. Because of her background as both a woman and a Muslim I’m dying to know more about how she made it. The book gives an overview appropriate for young readers and they’ll be fascinated by the illustrations of her buildings and older readers will appreciate the direct quotes from Hadid, and additional information in the back matter.

I’ve mentioned a million times how much I appreciate a great biography about a little known person and both of these books are fantastic examples; fascinating women, well-presented, and oh, how I love in-depth, useful back matter! Give these to the Lego/drawing/art obsessed girls in your life and watch their imaginations take flight!

Music Monday ~ Postmodern Jukebox

Radiohead is one of those bands I’ve tried and tried to like. I can appreciate what they do as long as I don’t have to listen to more than one song in a row. I’m not sure what it is but I just don’t love them. However, I absolutely love this version of their song, Creep. I’m a fan of what Postmodern Jukebox does, taking modern songs and rearranging them in a 20s/30s/big band style version. Great fun!

Keto Craziness

Since getting married I’ve gained about 20 pounds. I made it through college without succumbing to the freshman 15 and I’ve been blessed with a pretty quick metabolism most of my life, but I hit 40 and everything went downhill. (It probably didn’t help that in the year and a half leading up to and after the big day I’ve moved 5 times, lost two grandparents, gained a teenager, changed jobs 8 times and dealt with long periods of unemployment, all of which helped trigger bouts with depression and anxiety among other things.)
I’ve chalked it up to all of those things and have whined about the pants that no longer fit (as my ever-patient husband assures me that of course I’m not fat.) But when the fat pants I bought to tide me over became too tight and some of my shirts started to become uncomfortable thanks to my batwing arms I knew I was going to have to do something. The last straw came when I could no longer get my wedding ring on (or back off!)
I have a love/hate relationship with the concept of dieting. I’ve watched my mom struggle with her weight due to health problems since I was a teenager. I know extremes can get the weight off but are rarely sustainable. I’m a true believer in balance. But when things are out of balance we might need to take some relatively drastic steps to get back in balance. And especially having the quick results to keep you going can be important. With that in mind I decided to try a ketogenic diet because I know that I’m definitely out of whack leaning to the side of too many carbs. And I figured a diet that let me eat cheese and bacon could be sustainable for a few months to get the bulk of the weight off since I likely wouldn’t feel too deprived or hungry.
It’s super popular right now and there’s a ton of information out there about what foods are ok and not (with a bit of discrepancies of course.) Because of the popularity I’m still waiting on books from the library and have gotten everything from online searches thus far. They say you don’t have to track calories, just the net carbs but I’ve been using my calorie tracker just to stay in the habit and I’m not super vigilant about counting the actual carbs each day but I use the carb counters and specified recipes in my meal planning and have stuck pretty close to the recommended <20 net carbs/day.
I’d like to say I’ve been perfect at following it. But that’s just not true.The first week I cheated a bit (I just couldn’t pass up the homemade brownies and cookies at book club but I only had one bite of each instead of loading my plate so I still consider that a success) but still ended up 5 pounds lighter. This week I overdid it one day on fruit which hadn’t been on the menu at all but I needed mentally to keep from bingeing on the chocolate I was craving. So far the loss isn’t as spectacular (only 2 pounds) but still happening.  Next week I’m upping the game and adding some exercise to the mix so we’ll see how that changes things and then after that’s not so tough I’m planning to work in some intermittent fasting.
The hubs and I are planning a trip to Chicago early in May so the goal is to have all the weight off by then so I can buy a new swimsuit, not have to buy all new clothes (but fit back into all the clothes I’ve stashed away), and be able to indulge in a little deep dish pizza without feeling super guilty!
But I’m curious if any of you have done this…any recipe suggestions? I’m not a super fan of meat. I tend to like it as an accent to the meal rather than the showpiece (though I do occasionally enjoy BBQ or a steak like once a month!) I do love the cheesy, creamy things but I know those aren’t really the best choices. And eggs are tough for me to swallow sometimes, literally. We’ve done a few varieties of smothered and stuffed chicken, a beef and broccoli with cauliflower rice, taco salad, Thai chicken lettuce wraps, and a lasagna using zucchini instead of noodles. I would love to hear what you’ve done and any favorites you’ve found along the way! Any suggestions are greatly appreciated! 🙂

Picture Book Review ~ Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird

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Alabama Spitfire Book Review


Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird

Written by: Bethany Hegedus

Illustrated by: Erin McGuire

Number of Pages: 40

Age Range: 5-9

Rating: 4/5

One of my absolute favorite books is To Kill A Mockingbird (I know, it sounds a little cliché but it’s true. It’s one of those rare books I’ll re-read every couple of years, interspersed with viewings of the equally fantastic movie version.)

This new picture book gives a brief biography of Harper Lee, the author of the classic book. Those familiar with the story will recognize scenes and characters taken from her actual life, which was the basis for the book. You’ll meet Truman Capote, her father Amasa, the citizens of Monroeville, Alabama, as well as a small cast of characters from New York City that help influence young Nelle and help bring Mockingbird to life.

Although she only published the one book during her lifetime, Harper Lee became an almost overnight sensation and then became shrouded in mystery as she shied more and more away from the spotlight. There’s a lot of controversy over her second book that some say was published without her consent and even more recently her will was made public which only added to the confusion of everything. But she’s a fabulously intriguing character and even those who’ve never read her books will appreciate her own story of perseverance and being true to herself.

Want to know more about Harper Lee and To Kill A Mockingbird?

Children’s Books

Tru & Nelle

Adult Books

The Mockingbird Next Door

I Am Scout

Picture Book Reviews ~ International Women’s Day

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

Today’s a two-fer, overlapping last month’s Black History theme with this month’s theme of Women’s History. I’ve got two great little books about two amazing women who’ve spent a good deal of their lives in the spotlight and have used that light to illuminate the world around them. (And in a happy coincidence they are both authored by the same prolific author who has used her talent to bring to light the lives of many amazing people. For more info visit https://cbweatherford.com/)


Legendary Miss Lena Horne Book Review

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne

Written by: Carole Boston Weatherford

Illustrated by: Elizabeth Zunon

Number of Pages: 48

Age Range: 5-9

Rating: 4/5

Born in New York in 1917, Lena was raised primarily by her grandmother who taught her the importance of education and manners. Her parents, both show people, had other ideas and Lena felt the draw of the stage during the Depression working at the Cotton Club to help make ends meet. She was later able to make inroads in Hollywood for other black performers, contribute to the war effort and even perform at President Truman’s inaugural ball despite being blacklisted during the Red Scare. She advocated for racial equality and women’s rights all her life and was honored not only for her work but for her remarkable talent. Take a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJvYo5pZEfE

Oprah The Little Speaker Book Review

Oprah: The Little Speaker

Written by: Carole Boston Weatherford

Illustrated by: London Ladd

Number of Pages: 34

Age Range: 4-8

Rating: 4/5

I’d be surprised if there was anyone on the planet who didn’t know the name “Oprah Winfrey.” She’s won over audiences for years with her vulnerability, honesty, generosity and charm. I knew she had humble beginnings but I didn’t realize just how humble until reading this book.

Oprah grew up in on a small run-down farm in Mississippi where she hauled water every day (no indoor plumbing), tended to the animals, and learned to read from the Bible. Like Lena, she was raised by her grandparents. Her first public speaking appearance was in church and it sparked a fire that couldn’t be put out despite being teased by the other kids and reprimanded (“children should be seen and not heard”) by her grandma. Her tenacity in school helped her to skip a grade and make real friends for the first time.

The story ends with her still in childhood, showing the spunk and determination of spirit adult readers will recognize as the tools that got her where she is today but other than a brief mention of that in an author’s note there are no other details about her commercial success as an adult. I think this is a rather interesting choice by the author to focus on what those traits got her as a child, while leaving the door open to learn more about her later life from other sources. She’s a “normal” kid with “normal” struggles who worked hard to do her best, regardless of the adult she became.

We’ll have more amazing women to spotlight as the month goes on but today I want to give an extra-loud shout-out to all the amazing women in my own life. My incredible mom, sister, aunts, grandmothers, cousins, friends that have personally influenced who I’ve become; thanks for being strong and beautiful and smart and powerful and for urging me to be the same.

Share your own shout-out in the comments below. I’d love to hear about the amazing women in your life!


Read Across America Day

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What Was I Scared Of

Back in a past life I taught pre-school, Kindergarten and 2nd grade for several years and worked as a children’s librarian doing story times and programming and the like for years as well. Sometimes I really miss it. Today is one of those days.

I know there’s a lot of controversy behind the man known as Dr. Seuss. Some of his political leanings have come to light and been questioned relatively recently and I can’t say I condone everything he believed or stood for. But you can’t deny that the man was a genius who revolutionized the children’s book world. There would be no Elephant and Piggie or other modern-day classics if there hadn’t first been Green Eggs and Ham or The Cat in the Hat.

He wrote countless books under several pseudonyms ranging from those beginning reader classics to lengthier volumes such as Horton Hears a Who and And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. His grumpy Grinch is as familiar as Ebeneezer Scrooge around the holidays and is probably my favorite of his characters. But when it’s not Christmas-time my favorite story of his to read is a little-known tale that showed up in a compilation volume with The Sneetches. I found a bite-sized stand-alone copy of it several years ago that I snatched up and read to anyone who will listen. It’s got the power to send me into a fit of giggles like very few things in this world can do. I’m not even going to tell you anything else about it. But I encourage you to hunt down a copy, particularly if you’ve got any littles in your life.

And even if you don’t read this (or any other Dr. Seuss volume on what would have been his 114th birthday) book with your littles, I urge you to carve out a few minutes to read something together and celebrate the joys that reading can bring!

Welcome March


fringed tulip

February is the shortest month but by golly, it sure feels like the longest one! We haven’t had as brutal of weather here as many across the country have but it’s still been cold and dreary and well, to be honest, I’m over it! So, welcome March! I’m so glad you’re here! And here’s a lovely little verse from Emily Dickinson to say it better than I could.


Dear March – Come in –

How glad I am –

I hoped for you before –

Put down your Hat –

You must have walked –

How out of Breath you are –

Dear March, how are you, and the Rest –

Did you leave Nature well –

Oh March, Come right upstairs with me –

I have so much to tell –


I got your Letter, and the Birds –

The Maples never knew that you were coming –

I declare – how Red their Faces grew –

But March, forgive me –

And all those Hills you left for me to Hue –

There was no Purple suitable –

You took it all with you –


Who knocks? That April –

Lock the Door –

I will not be pursued –

He stayed away a Year to call

When I am occupied –

But trifles look so trivial

As soon as you have come

That blame is just as dear as Praise

And Praise as mere as Blame –


~Emily Dickinson